Consider the price of the average Toronto home today, and you’ll realize that an imperfect house represents an opportunity, not a liability.
The perfect home exists in our minds and in our dreams, but in reality, you’ll never find it no matter how long and hard you search. The 2013 spring market is proving to be just as competitive as previous years, so buyers need to learn the word “compromise” now more than ever. Low supply coupled with high demand for entry-level homes means that many buyers are being shut out of the market, and in some cases this disappointment could be avoided if they’d just ease up on expectations in terms of what a house “should” offer.
Every home has something wrong with it. I’ve never seen a home inspection that comes back in a one-pager that consists of a smiley-face, a thumbs-up, or a quick note saying, “Nothing to see here, folks!” Consider your own house or condo for a moment, and be honest: Isn’t there something wrong with it? Sure, there are always catastrophic problems and red flags just waiting to sink you deep into the money pit, but then there are hundreds of little things that the average buyer need not fear.
The minor problems that home inspections reveal aren’t really problems, per se. Virtually every one points out that the attic insulation might not be efficient, but that’s because you can always add another layer, and you can always keep a little more heat from escaping. You can also extend your downspouts another foot from the foundation to keep water from seeping into the basement, and you can add some caulking around windows. There’s probably a crack in the stucco that needs to be filled, and there’s bound to be one electrical outlet in the house that doesn’t work. None of these things are going to cause financial or emotional burdens.
As for the larger issues, knob-and-tube wiring is thought of as one of the worst situations for a buyer to come across, but an electrician might tell you that insurance companies use knob and tube as an excuse to charge higher premiums. Its presence should not dissuade you from purchasing a house; just know that it’s going to cost a few thousand dollars to fix, and budget accordingly.
If the furnace or air-conditioner is 20 years old, with a 15-year life expectancy, so what? Maybe it’ll cost $5,000 or $10,000 to replace, but that doesn’t mean your house is going to blow up. Just know that, eventually, you’ll need to invest in a new system—one that adds value to your home.
Unless the house is brand new, you’ll likely have older windows. But if you think about it, every window is “older” unless it’s brand new, and unless you’ve got windows that open with a rope and pulley, you’ll be fine.
I often have clients who remark, “The home inspection was really serious stuff. There was a lot in there!” That’s a good thing. A home inspection isn’t just a “pass” or “fail”—it’s a collection of large, medium, and small problems, the latter of which are really just suggestions on how to improve the home’s efficiency and value.
Sure, there can be major problems: If the foundation is crumbling, and there’s no way to get a machine between the houses to fix it, or if the entire house is wired with knob-and-tube, plumbed with lead piping, and heated with oil. But everything else can be repaired, rectified, and resolved.
A buyer who holds out for a perfect home is likely never going to pull the trigger, so I urge my clients to set aside a budget for renovations and repairs before they begin their housing search. The seemingly perfect family home might need $2,000 in wiring upgrades, three new windows at $500 a pop, and a $400 repair to the flashing on the side of the roof that was damaged by raccoons. Weigh these nominal costs against the price of the average Toronto home today, and you’ll realize that an imperfect house represents an opportunity, not a liability.
David Fleming is a Realtor with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, and author of the best known real estate website in the city: www.torontorealtyblog.com. A constant thorn in the side of condominium developers, David’s sarcastic, opinionated, outlandish thoughts can be read daily, although for some people, that’s far too often.