Do you need a home inspection when you buy a condo?
Originally posted in the Vancouver Sun
We all think buying a condominium will make our lives a lot easier and more convenient, right? No driveways to shovel; no leaking roofs; no broken furnaces or HVAC's in the summer heat. But believe me, things go wrong with condos, too, which is why I have advised on countless occasions that condo buyers get what potential home owners almost always get: a professional inspector.
Condominium suite inspections are a limited subset of a standard home inspection, and typically include the electrical system, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, window and door operation, and functional condition of finishes. Most common elements are excluded with the exception of suite balconies or what is known as “exclusive use” common areas. These inspections can cost from $250 and up, depending upon the size of suite and the time required.
The status certificate on the general state of the condo and condominium corporation isn’t enough: an inspection gives added legal, financial and emotional security and cannot be more emphatically recommended. The right inspector will examine all of the interior systems of the suite and provide a detailed report which will help you predict and anticipate your future maintenance costs and may uncover deficiencies which may lead you to renegotiate your purchase price before going firm.
Choose your inspector carefully -- one that has the qualifications and who has done many condo inspections. Ensure in advance that they are qualified to and will look at the structure of the building, electrical systems, plumbing systems, walls, floors, ceilings, furnace and air conditioning systems, as well as the plumbing fixtures in your entire suite, and a sampling of lighting and electrical receptacles.
A recent horror story is the existence and discovery of Kitec, a brand of PEX plastic water piping that has a history of leakage, a class action lawsuit, and that is no longer being manufactured. It was installed from 1995 to 2007 and it is difficult to find in a condo suite as it is covered by interior finishes. Costs to replace it range from $ 5,000 to $ 20,000 and it must be looked for.
Here are some of the other things inspectors and potential owners need to look for:
• Spotting on floors and walls, or floors that are sloped or warped, or loose carpets and tiles, all allude to water damage.
• Cracked walls suggest a structural problem
• Spotting on walls and windows may indicate mold in the unit.
• Check for cracked glass panes, and screens that work, cabinetry drawers and doors that are level, easily opened and closed and fully operational.
• Ensure there are no gaps or missing caulking in all of the tile work.
• Check the exterior and common areas of the building to see what maintenance has been done by the building’s ownership.
• Ensure there is enough water pressure with both hot and cold taps, and that all drains are working well.
• If you notice any foul smells in the unit, trust your instincts. Can the source be identified? Is the unit properly ducted and vented?
• Ensure that the electrical systems and HVAC systems work, if there is an HVAC in your unit AND a central building system unit, have both inspected. Find out if and when the HVAC filters were changed and the ducts cleaned.
And a few more things from the to-do list for potential condo owners …
Ask if there has been a technical audit of the building, done in connection with the reserve fund. This will help you determine the actual condition of the building.
Obtain and read the minutes of the condominium corporation meetings for the last few years as this will disclose signs of exterior and/or maintenance problems. Ask for proof of all major structural repairs, the fees incurred and the relevant repairs that were done. Remember, you you will be liable for repairs once you become a partial owner of the condominium corporation.
You must ask if the condominium corporation is involved in any ongoing and pending litigation. Conflict among condo boards, owners and property managers have become increasingly more common with a rising number of condo lawsuits happening.
New condominium buyers are protected by Provincial regulations during the warranty period. This is when you can inspect your suite during the pre-delivery period, and this is the time for you to sort out the issues still covered by the builder and the new home warranty. Any building beyond warranty and especially if older than 10 years should always have a condominium inspection to identify potential problem areas.
Make sure your inspector reviews the most recent status certificate to determine the general condition of the building and its’ potential deficiencies. Most importantly, determine if there is enough working capital in the condo reserve fund for immediate and/or future repair items and other contingencies without you being subjected to a new assessment and cash call.
Of course, all of this inspecting doesn’t guarantee to eliminate future issues with your condo, but it will surely make you a much more informed owner.
Stephen Moranis, B.Comm., MBA, FRI, CMR has been active in the North American Real Estate Industry for more than 40 years. He is a former President of the Toronto Real Estate Board and a former Director of the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Do you have a real estate question or topic that you would like to know more about? Email Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org or text him at 416-818-3110.
Date : 5/30/2016