Buyer’s Guide – House Hunting

Begining Your Search

Now it’s time to begin your informed search for that “right” home. You have gathered all the information you need to make a rational decision rather than an emotional one, but it may not be easy! You, like everyone else, will probably want what you can’t afford. Try not to become discouraged. Every homeowner started somewhere and it is most likely that there is a place for you!

Be systematic; browse through newspaper ads; look on real estate internet sites; drive around and talk to residents in your chosen neighbourhood; visit open houses; discuss your requirements with agent; pick up a list of properties available from your local real estate office; and most importantly, take a careful look at each home.

My System For Finding Homes

I have developed a system to help Buyers find the home of their dreams at the price that fits their budget. I will set you up with your own personal WEBSITE which gives you real-time access to all the homes that fit your search criteria. You will be updated on all activity within your search. When a home sells you will know what it sold for and how long it took to sell. You will also have access to information not available through the public sites. To get started now please contact me.

Buyer Beware!
If you think you have found the right house, but you have some concerns about its structural soundness, now is the time to call in an expert. Consider having the house inspected by a building inspection service which will prepare a written report. Your purchase is a big investment, so think of the fee for this service as an insurance premium.

What should you look for?

Don’t be shy! You are about to invest a lot of money and you should investigate each property thoroughly. Pay particular attention to the following:

  • 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 are there? How many rooms?
  • Condition and age of the roof: Are there any leaks or recent repairs? If only part of the roof was repaired, will the rest cause trouble?
  • Are there proper roof gutters and adequate downspouts which are properly connected to storm drains?
  • Are the interior walls and ceilings solid? drywall or plaster? Is there any evidence of leaks or cracks?
  • Are floors firm and level? What about the condition of the floor boards and supports?
  • Does the ceiling sag?
  • Is there evidence of termites or dry rot?
  • What types of floors are beneath the carpeting?
  • Are stairs and door frames level and well joined?
  • Is the natural lighting to your liking?
  • Which way does the front face – north, south, east or west?
  • Are the room sizes adequate for your family’s needs? Is the layout compatible with your habits?
  • Is the kitchen suitable? Are there enough outlets and space for appliances? What about cabinets?
  • Are storage areas and closet space adequate?
  • What is the condition of the plumbing system? Is it noisy? Have there been recent repairs?
  • What about satisfactory ventilating equipment? Are there exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms?
  • What type of heating system is it (forced air, gravity, etc.)? What kind of fuel is used? Is there a heat pump?
  • Is there sufficient electrical wiring? Is there enough power for your electrical equipment? Are there adequate outlets in the house? What is the fuse arrangement?
  • Can the wall space be utilized to suit your needs? Check the locations of doors and windows.
  • Drainage—is the property well drained and has landscaping been done to prevent erosion?
  • What is the condition of the basement and foundation? You should check the walls and floors. Is the floor dry? Are there hookups for a washer and dryer?
  • 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?
  • How large is the garage? Is the driveway adequate? Is there cracking or lifting and is drainage satisfactory?
  • What is the condition of caulking on windows and doors? What kind of storm windows are there and what condition are they in? Do windows and doors open and close easily?

Each house is unique. Keep some notes to enable you to remember the details later!

What should you ask?

Is a Property Disclosure Statement available? In British Columbia, sellers may be required to complete (or may voluntarily complete) a Property Disclosure Statement in a prescribed form. This statement provides information about the state of the property to all potential buyers.

What is the zoning on this property? The zoning on a property is established by the local government. Zoning sets the type of buildings which may be built on any particular piece of property and how those buildings may be used: single-family residential, duplexes, multi-family residential, commercial, or industrial. You may also wish to ask about the zoning on the surrounding properties to determine if, for instance, a factory or a park could suddenly appear
nearby.

Is a Land Title Search available?
A Land Title Search will allow you to see who is registered as the current owner of the property and if there are any registered mortgages, easements, restrictive covenants, rights of way, etc. which may affect the use or value of the property.

Are there any restrictive covenants?
A restrictive covenant places a specific limitation on the owner’s use or occupancy of property. Such things as a prohibited type of exterior finish, the minimum size of the structure, or the maximum height of the structure are only a few examples of the type of restrictive covenants you may encounter. The act of purchasing a property which has a restrictive covenant compels you to abide by it.

Are there any easements?
An easement is a right or privilege one party has to use the land of another for a special purpose. Examples are: easements given to telephone and electric companies to erect poles and run lines over private property, easements given to people to drive or walk across someone else’s land, and easements given to gas and water companies to run pipelines to serve their customers.

How much are the property taxes?
As stated earlier, the amount of property taxes payable will figure in the calculation of how much money you can borrow to finance your purchase.

Is the structure covered by any warranty?
Homes built by a licensed residential builder under a building permit applied for on or after July 1, 1999, or where construction began on or after July 1, 1999 in areas where no building permit is required, are subject to the mandatory third-party warranty insurance provisions of the Homeowner Protection Act. The licensee with whom you are working can assist with acquiring warranty information. The Homeowner Protection Office (HPO) can assist with questions regarding warranty issues. The HPO can be reached through their toll-free information line at 1-800-407-7757 or you can refer to their web site at www.hpo.bc.ca

Fixtures vs. Chattels
Things contained in a building or on the land are classified as either fixtures or chattels. The difference between a fixture and a chattel is very important to you because fixtures stay with the property when it is sold, but chattels depart with the old owner. If you see an attractive fireplace insert, a “murphy bed” in the spare bedroom closet, a vacuum canister in the utility, or custom window blinds which you think should stay, but are not certain if the seller agrees, ask if it is a fixture.

What about strata and cooperatives?

If you are contemplating the purchase of a home which involves the strata or cooperative type of ownership, there are some additional points to consider:

  • What are the charges for common area maintenance? What services or utilities are included?
  • Does the building have a good reputation for honesty and successful operations? Are units not controlled by the developer being successfully resold?
  • Who controls the recreational facilities? Will you be required to pay extra fees for using any of the facilities or amenities? If it is a new development, is there a certain date when your unit will be ready for occupancy? Will the swimming pool and recreation facilities be completed by that date?
  • Who manages the property? Is it managed professionally or is it an owner’s responsibility?
  • What contingency reserve fund is maintained for roof replacement, decorating, repairs and maintenance?
  • Are owners permitted to rent their units to tenants? How many rental units will be allowed in the project?
  • Are pets allowed in the building? Are there any other restrictions on use?
  • Have any special assessments been agreed upon or have any structural problems been noted which may lead to a special assessment in the future?
  • Has the building envelope been renovated in the past? Since October 1, 2000 all building envelope renovators who engage in, arrange for, or manage a building envelope renovation in BC must be licensed as a building envelope renovator with the Homeowner Protection Office and must provide applicable warranty insurance on the building envelope renovation.
  • What about parking stalls and storage lockers? All strata property is either part of a strata lot or common property. Common property can then be designated as limited common property for the exclusive use of one or more strata lots. In strata developments, the strata plan usually contains one of the following arrangements for parking stalls and storage lockers.
  • The parking stall or storage locker is part of a separate strata lot. Parking stalls can exist as separate strata lots with their own strata lot number.
  • The parking stall or storage locker is part of the strata lot. A parking stall or storage locker that is designated as “part of the strata lot” will share the same strata lot number as the main strata lot which uses the stall or locker.
  • The parking stall or storage locker is party of the common property. If the parking stall or storage locker is part of the common property, the strata corporation has ultimate authority over it. In these instances the parking stall or storage locker may be under a lease or licence agreement that can normally be assigned to subsequent buyers. The parking stall or storage locker may also be designated under short-term exclusive use agreement. Under a short-term exclusive use agreement, the strata corporation allows the owner to exclusively use a parking stall or storage locker. Such an arrangement is limited to a period of one year. Although the strata council can renew the arrangement, it could choose not to renew. A key element of short-term exclusive use agreements is that the right to use only attaches to the owner and not to the strata lot. Sellers, therefore, cannot contractually assign their right to use a parking stall or storage locker to new owners as with a lease. This means that if a seller has an exclusive use arrangement concerning a parking stall or storage locker, the new owner, upon taking title of his or her strata lot, will not automatically acquire the right to use the parking stall or storage locker.
  • The parking stall or storage locker is limited common property. Limited common property means property designated for the exclusive use of the owners of one or more strata lots.
  • What information should you obtain about building? Ask to see the current bylaws, rules, annual budget, Information Certificate (Form B prescribed under the Strata Property Act) and at least the last two-years’ minutes of all meetings (including strata council meetings, annual general meetings, extraordinary meetings, special general meetings and meetings of the executive or the members of any section to which the strata lot belongs.) You should also ask to see any applicable warranty information, envelope inspection reports or remediation reports, the registered strata plan and any amendments or resolutions dealing with the common property and any correspondence to owners from the strata council over the last twelve months. These documents will govern the manner in which your unit and the common areas may be used. They will also advise you of what has been going on in the building. Read these documents very carefully as they may reveal potential problems in the building.

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