Consider making a pipe inspection a condition on your offer.
My family is in the market for a home, and we’re considering a lot of older neighbourhoods. I’m worried we’ll end up in a house with lead pipes. How can I find out before I buy?
When you’re buying a home, there are a lot of factors to consider. Too often buyers get caught up in the granite countertops and hardwood floors, and forget to think about what’s beneath the surface. Kudos to you for seeing the bigger picture.
The guidance of a registered real estate professional will greatly assist you in the home-buying process, given your specific concerns. When you’re considering potential agents to represent you, ask them about their knowledge of older homes and the neighbourhoods you’re interested in.
Also, be sure to talk to them about your specific concerns. Find out how they’ll approach the process. After speaking to a few candidates, choose the person you’re most comfortable with.
It may not be long before you find a property you’re interested in. Before making an offer, there are some steps you should take. First, it’s a good idea to ask your representative to look into not only the age, but the state of the home’s systems and find out if there have been any upgrades.
If the pipes both inside and outside the house have been replaced recently, there should be a record of it. Although lead pipes were phased out in the 1970s, lead solder was used to join pipes together until the late 1980s.
In older neighbourhoods, the municipal pipes that bring water to the home could include lead, as well. For example, in Toronto, most homes built after the mid-1950s receive their water from lead-free pipes. But in some cases, only a licensed plumber will be able to find out for sure.
Some older homes might also have a small water main with a lower capacity. If you have to replace the line into the home anyway, you might consider increasing the capacity, as well.
If you want to be absolutely sure that the water supply in a home is safe, testing the water is your best bet. Your real estate representative can ask the sellers to consent to a test, possibly as a condition of your offer. Then you can have peace of mind.
While you’re looking into the presence of lead plumbing, you should also try to determine whether the property has any galvanized steel water pipes. Galvanized steel corrodes undetectably from within and can become obstructed or leak suddenly after many years of use. As a result, some insurers require that galvanized steel pipes be replaced before they will issue an insurance policy.
Of course, the plumbing is just one part of the picture. A home’s electrical, foundation, heating, cooling and other systems are just as important. That’s why, when you make an offer on a property, you should always consider making it conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. If you do not, you are accepting an element of risk.
Also, while it’s good that you’re concerned about what’s within the walls of the home, you shouldn’t forget to think about what’s outside the home, too.
When you buy a house you’re also buying a place in a community. Some places are lively, others are quiet. Some places are filled with kids while others are not. Visit the neighbourhood at different times of the day to see if it fits your lifestyle.
When it comes to buying a home, taking the time to consider each step is critical. Think carefully about what matters to you and don’t rush the process.
Joseph Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).