The Search

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Now it is time to begin your informed search for that “right” property. You have gathered all the information you need to make a rational decision rather than an emotional one. You know how much you can spend, and you have a good idea of what and where you want to buy.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • What is the property zoning?
  • Does the property title have any restrictive covenants?
  • Does that property title show any easements?
  • How much are the property taxes?
  • Does the property have an existing warranty?
  • What is included with the property in the sale (fixtures vs. chattels)
  • Will the seller provide a Property Disclosure Statement and are there any concerning notes on it?
  • What size and shape is the lot? Is it fully serviced with sewage, water, gas, and electrical lines?
  • How many square feet of living space is there?
  • Condition and age of the roof: Are there any leaks or recent repairs?
  • Is there any evidence of leaks or cracks?
  • Is there evidence of termites or dry rot?
  • Does it look like renovation work has been done?
    • If so, are there copies of building, electrical and gas permits for this work? Plumbing work is covered by a building permit, however, gas and electric work require separate permits.
  • What is the condition of the electrical wiring?
    • Are there cables visible in the basement or close to the electrical panel that are not fastened at regular intervals to the floor joists or walls?
      If so, that may be an indication that work was done on the electrical system without a permit.
  • Is there a hot tub or swimming pool installed?
    • If so, check for evidence that there are electrical permits for these installations — it is very important for you and your family’s safety that proper grounding of the electric systems for these devices is in place.
  • Has a gas fireplace insert been added at some stage? Is there a gas permit for this installation?
    • Proper clearances from combustibles for these installations are critical and evidence that a permit was taken out for this work is confirmation that the work was done by a licensed contractor and/or inspected by a qualified person.
  • What type of heating system is it (forced air, gravity, etc.)? What kind of fuel is used? Is there a heat pump?
  • What about the attic or crawl space? Is there evidence of leaks? Dry rot? Is there proper ventilation and insulation? Does the insulation meet current specifications?
  • Are there severe cracks in or excessive or uneven settlement of the foundation?
  • Has the property been tested for radon?

Each home is unique. Keep some notes to help you to remember the details later!

The Importance of a Home Inspection

Did you know that when you are ready to make an offer on a new home there are certain types of defects that a property owner must disclose to you, and others that are your responsibility to discover?

For a detached home, a home inspection and information from the seller and perhaps the municipality are the best ways to discover issues with a property. If the property is a strata property, such as a condominium unit, you can also request documents from the strata management company, such as the strata meeting minutes and other forms which indicate if there has been damage to the building, or upcoming repairs or renovations being planned.

Material Latent and Patent Defects

Patent Defect

A patent defect is any defect in a property that can be discovered upon reasonable inspection. These types of defects include broken windows, damaged floors and anything that a buyer or a home inspector could find through a typical home inspection. These defects are your responsibility to discover and do not need to be disclosed by the seller voluntarily. Having a home inspection is a great way to ensure you are aware of any patent defects that may require repairs and will help you and your real estate licensee ensure you are fully informed of the additional costs associate with buying the home. Your real estate licensee can also discuss options with you to request that the seller contribute to the repairs.

Material Latent Defect

A material latent defect is defined in the Real Estate Services Act which governs the conduct of real estate licensees. These defects cannot be discovered upon reasonable inspection of the property and render the property potentially dangerous to occupants and/or can involve a great cost to repair. These defects must be disclosed by the seller to you before you enter into a contract of purchase and sale. Many sellers will use a form called a Property Disclosure Statement to make disclosures about material latent defects to buyers. Go through this form with your real estate licensee and make sure you understand any disclosure being made by either the seller or their real estate licensee.

Learn More About Material Latent Defects

Be aware that home inspections are primarily visual inspections and they may not reveal problems with electrical or gas systems. If there is evidence that there are some issues with the electrical or gas systems and/or work has been done without appropriate permits, you should consider having people with qualifications in those areas inspect those systems.

Stigmatized or psychologically impacted properties

A stigma occurs when a consumer expresses a concern about a property for reasons that do not affect the structure or land. In fact, most stigmas are related to a person’s beliefs, values and perceptions, ethnic background, religion, gender, age, and other individual concerns. Examples of stigmas include:

  • A death on the property;
  • A haunted property;
  • Specific numbers in the property address that could bring good or bad luck; or
  • A criminal living in a neighbourhood

While this list is not exhaustive, sellers are not obligated in BC to disclose the existence of a stigma. A seller must, however, not provide false or misleading information if you ask them about the existence of one. For instance, if you ask about any known deaths in the home, a seller has two options. They can answer truthfully with a “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know” or refuse to answer the question. If you receive false or misleading information, you may have legal recourse. Speak with your real estate licensee or get legal advice if needed.