Your home is probably the largest purchase you will ever make. House hunting is a time of excitement, fear, nerves and joy; a commingling of intense feelings. Among them is often the feeling of being overwhelmed. If you’re a first-time buyer, it can be nerve-wracking trying to navigate the process and the systems, all while trying to find your perfect home.
Having an experienced, knowledgeable, and well-connected real estate agent is a great first step. However, doing your own research can help to assuage your anxieties, and this is a good place to start!
First Things First – Do I Need An Inspector?
If you live in Canada and are looking to buy, you’ve almost certainly heard about the housing crisis. Home prices have reached record highs after soaring 22% in the last year alone. Before you’ve even opened your new front door, you’ll likely incur costs that you wouldn’t have ever known about had you not taken this journey. As you watch the dollar signs double and triple, it can be tempting to ask yourself if you even need an inspection done. Plus, if you skip this step, it could make your offer more attractive to the seller, right? While the last part might be true – emphasis on the “might” – skipping the home inspection is a huge risk that could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future.
Inspect the Inspector
Neither the real estate agents nor the seller is expecting you to have a degree in construction engineering, but neither should you take their word for it. When you are looking for a qualified inspector, keep in mind that they are trained to do a home inspection, so they know what to look for, such as cracks in the foundation, outdated electrical grids, and failing to plumb. They should have an educational background and practical experience in the field of building sciences and construction, as well as fairly in-depth knowledge and understanding of other trades such as electrical and plumbing. Spend some time learning about the association they are affiliated with, as you will want to hire an inspector who is up to date on the latest in building codes and other legislative and health and safety requirements. You can also ask them for references. The inspector is on your side, and their job is to give you the whole picture so that you can make an informed decision when and if you decide to make an offer.
Is It Winterized?
Winter is a reality we all face in Canada, and no matter how long it lasts, your home needs to be prepared. Whether you’re searching for a cottage along the coast of Gander, Newfoundland, a bungalow in Courtney, BC, or looking at prime real estate in Brampton, your home is going to go through four drastically different seasons, and you need to be aware of what steps have already been taken, and which haven’t. You want to look at things like the roof – will the materials hold up against heavy winter weather? Is the slope optimal for melting snow, or will you be facing challenges? What is the overall condition? Windows are also a big factor. In colder climates, you want to have double or triple-glazed windows. These are not necessarily things your building inspector will point out, so long as they meet code. So do your own homework, and get insight from your hired professionals.
The Not So Obvious
A lot of first-time homebuyers get caught up by the outdated kitchen cabinets or the pink and purple bathroom tiles. However, your home is a long-term buy, and these sorts of decorative or superficial elements can easily be updated now or down the road. The important things you want to look for are those things that will make your home secure, safe, and easy to maintain (understanding that this is a relative concept). Window replacements, age of appliances, load considerations for future renovations, and an internal layout (load-bearing walls, electrical, and plumbing) are all important factors to consider. Here’s a list of things to have a look at:
- Doors and wood trim
- Exterior surfaces
- Electrical systems
- Yard and landscaping/outdoor spaces
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’re on your way to purchasing a home. Being informed is one of the best steps you can take to prepare yourself for the final decision, and an important part of being informed is a home inspection. It doesn’t have to happen in one go. If you haven’t yet found your perfect home, keep these tips as you view properties, and soon enough, you’ll find the right one!