Mike Holmes: House-hunting starts ramping up now — here’s my No. 1 tip when buying

Homebuyers should always get a home inspection and look for inspectors that offer thermal imaging with a minimum Level 1 certification in thermography.

April marks the start of home buying and selling season across much of the country, and when it comes to buying you’ve got two options: buying new or buying used.

Everyone thinks if they buy new they’re safe because a new home will be built right; technically it should be, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

I’ve seen homes just five years old where the entire exterior needs to be redone because materials weren’t properly installed the first time and led to rot, mould and moisture intrusion. Or the roof needed major repairs because it started leaking after the first big storm. It happens, and it’s a huge waste of money and materials, and harms the environment, too.

If you are planning to buy new, the first thing to do is research the builder.

What’s their track record? Are previous buyers happy with their home? Have you spoken to people who have bought a house from the builder (and not just recently)? Check out homes that are two, five or even 10 years old. What issues have buyers run into, and what has the builder done to solve them?

 

Don’t just look at online reviews. Go to see the houses for yourself and talk to people. Online reviews give you a general idea, but your homework doesn’t stop there. You need to dig more, and as you’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s worth your time. I’ve never heard a homeowner regret spending too much time researching, but I have heard hundreds of homeowners regret not doing it.

Most important, does the builder offer an inspections program? That means their homes are inspected during key stages of construction — on top of the regular municipal inspections that every new home has to go through.

To some buyers it might seem like overkill to have stage inspections on top of regular inspections, but it makes a big difference.

First, municipal inspections make sure the house meets minimum code, but a third-party, stage-inspection program takes into account best building practices and warranty protection. That’s huge for homebuyers and future value, especially if they want to sell down the road.

Second, a third-party inspection program should include thermal imaging done by inspectors with Level 1 certification in thermography. These inspectors have the training and experience to use tools such as thermal-imaging cameras and moisture metres properly to get information that can save you money, time and trouble.

When construction is complete, you get a binder with photos and inspection summaries. This gives you the proof your home was built right, which helps with warranties and if you ever want to sell, it can help increase value. Regular municipal inspections don’t do that.

Another essential to look for are builders who allow you to visit the site and check out the construction of your home as it moves forward. Call the builder and book an appointment. They will schedule a time when it’s safe for you to visit — after all, it is a construction site.

Never visit the lot on your own. There might be live electrical wires, faulty floors or other hazards. Always wear the proper safety gear when you visit, including a hard hat, steel-toe work boots and possibly safety eyewear. And follow the builder’s guidelines for safety during your visit.

If the builder brings you in only after everything’s been closed in, all you will see are the finishes, not the construction behind them. Good builders appreciate that you want to be more involved because they are proud of their work.

Old or new, the No. 1 rule to buying a house is to get it inspected by an experienced pro. Find someone who:

• Is an accredited Level 1 thermographer;
• Uses a moisture metre;
• Has a background in construction;
• Carries liability insurance;
• Has completed at least 1,000 inspections (or has five years experience in the industry).

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. The last thing you want is to find out you bought a lemon. Be smart and buy it right.

 

Source: National Post, 04/04/2015

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Sharon Chung

Sharon Chung

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CENTURY 21 Atria Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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