What You Need To Know Before You Buy: Condos, Houses, Investment Properties

What You Need To Know Before You Buy: Condos, Houses, Investment Properties

Whether you are purchasing a condo or a house the task can seem daunting at times.  Each presents a different set of challenges when if not recognized and understood can become costly to a buyer. After 15 years and over 1000 properties sold I still come across situations which are new to me and which can require additional language in an Agreement of Purchase and Sale to protect my clients and at times change their decision to move forward and purchase a certain property. Fortunately,  unfamiliar situations have become less and less frequent over the years.

When looking to buy a condo:

To start with there are literally hundreds of buildings to choose from when you are in search of a new condominium.  Where does one start? This is where an experienced agent can help.  Listening to buyers needs and then using the knowledge I have gained over the years of experience working in the condo market enables me to find the best options for my clients. Location, amenities, square footage, budget, floorplans are all important when searching for the right fit for a client. 

Doing your diligence on a condo board is an essential part of assessing  a condo

Doing your diligence on a condo board is an essential part of assessing  a condo

  • Heat pump rental agreements
  • status certificates
  • reserve funds
  • special assessments
  • condo fees
  • condo corporation by-laws
  • financing restrictions

for certain buildings are all important and if they are not known or addressed they can all cost a buyer a lot of money. Choosing the right agent should be the first and also the most important step for any condo buyer.

When looking to buy a house:

Tuckpointing

Tuckpointing

No two houses are alike and each house can present a unique set of challenges. Through the years I have watched so many agents walk right up to the front door of the house they are about to see without even taking a moment to inspect the home from the outside. If you stand across the street you can tell if a house is straight you can tell if the chimney is in good repair or not. If the shingles are in good shape or if the roof is sagging. You can see if the gutters are in good shape or if they are overflowing at places and causing spalling of the brick. Does the brick need tuckpointing? Is there any indication of differential settling (diagonal running cracks in the mortar) that are an indication the foundation is sinking? Do the downspouts move water far away from the foundation? Is the grading around the house effective in moving water away from the foundation? How old is the air conditioning unit? Is there a big tree in the front yard which may have interfered with the waste water pipe going out to the street? Has the waste water pipe been upgraded? How old are the windows (a knowledgeable agent will know and in many cases in windows manufactured since the late 70’s, the year of manufacture is stamped in between the panes of glass)? Is the driveway mutual or private? Many times listings say there is parking when in fact the driveway is mutual and cannot be parked on at all. All of this can be determined before even entering the house.

An example of subpar basement wiring that can cost you big time

An example of subpar basement wiring that can cost you big time

Once you are inside the house there are an entire other set of issues which only a trained eye will recognize. The basement is the least glamorous part of the house but that is where I spend a lot of my time. Is there knob and tube or aluminum wiring present?  Is it 100 amp service? Are there “double taps” in the panel and is the panel too small and in need of replacement? How are the wires run? Are they messy as if done as a D.I.Y. job or are they neat, tidy and properly tacked down as if done by an electrician? Are there too many holes drilled too close together in the floor joists in a way which could compromise the structural integrity of the home? Is there any evidence of termites (especially in the areas of the city which are known to have termite problems)? Are the floor tiles potentially old asbestos based tiles? Speaking of asbestos, is the house lath and plaster. Most people do not know this but plaster was originally mixed with horsehair as a binder but later with asbestos so removal can be costly and a great health hazard if asbestos is present. Can any asbestos be seen on boiler pipes? Is the water supply galvanized or copper? Galvanized water supply pipes are those which leave the rust stain in the toilet bowl and even worse they contaminate your tap water. Is the waste water piping cast iron or plastic? Is there the smell of moisture or any evidence of foundation leaks or cracks? Has a sump pump been installed particularly in areas prone to flooding. How old is the furnace? Is the water tank owned or rented? All of this and we have not even gotten out of the basement yet.

Noticing smaller things like a door gap can be an indicator of much larger issues

Noticing smaller things like a door gap can be an indicator of much larger issues

Once upstairs, you can look to see if the floors are straight and if the house has sagged. Looking around the top of the door frames can give you a clue. Are there proper traps installed under sinks as per building code? This will give you an idea of whether or not it was done by a professional plumber or if it was a D.I.Y. job.  Is there adequate water pressure? By running the shower, bathroom faucet and then flushing the toilet at the same time you can see if the water in the shower slows to a trickle. If this is the case then the house may not have adequate water supply. The ceiling on the second floor should be inspected to see if there are signs of any current or past water leaks. Sometimes the patching is new and has been done just to hide a leak.

The lot location and size can be an issue as well. If renovations or additions have been completed it is a good idea to see building permits and to contact the City of Toronto to make sure all permits have been closed and there are no outstanding work orders on the property. If your intention is to renovate or add on to a structure then a knowledge of lot coverage guidelines, soft landscaping guidelines as well as conservation authority and ravine authority restrictions can be very important in determining what can be added if anything.

When looking for an investment:

Access is everything these days. The insider gets the best choice at the best price. Having access to new development opportunities at the very first opportunity if very important. Also, understanding what is a good investment apartment and what is not is very important. Cash flow, size, floorplan all play a key role in determining whether a property is a suitable investment. This is an area where I have a lot of experience which I am happy to share with my clients.

Read my investment guide here.

After all, your realtor should not be just your tour guide. If that is the feeling you are getting then you are working with the wrong person and putting yourself at risk. Let my experience and knowledge help you to become an informed and educated consumer to ensure you make the right choice when purchasing a new condo, home or investment property.

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