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Avoid Latent, Undisclosed Home Defects: 5 Home Buying Tips Everyone Should Know

Avoid Latent, Undisclosed Home Defects: 5 Home Buying Tips Everyone Should Know

Buying a home is an exciting proposition that signals the beginning of a new phase in your life. It’s also likely the most expensive purchase you will ever make. Here are 5 key tips all homebuyers should consider to avoid latent or undisclosed home defects:

1. Survey the Property

It is very important to survey your property before making a purchase, so you know exactly what is yours. Knowing your property lines may save you from a future dispute with your new neighbours. The last thing you want to do is get in to a dispute with your neighbour because, for example, a tree fell on their garage following a windstorm. You may not have known the tree was on your property, but a quick look at the property line would have confirmed the fact.

2. Inspect the Home

Before purchasing a home, you must hire a home inspector. Their responsibility is to search the home with you in order to find any issues or defects. Not all defects are readily apparent, even to a trained home inspector. These are called latent or undisclosed home defects, as opposed to patent defects which are readily apparent. Some defects fall into a gray area, which may be a matter of contention down the road.

These problems become a legal issue when they are knowingly undisclosed by home inspectors, real estate agents, or the sellers themselves. The negligence involved in failing to disclose these defects can cause you serious financial loss. These undisclosed home defects can also compromise the structural integrity of the home and put the safety of you and your family at risk.

3. Familiarize yourself with the neighbourhood 

You have to be sure the location you are moving to will be right for you. You should drive your potential new work commute to see if it’s something you would be willing to do ten times a week. Check and see how far essential amenities such as grocery stores, hospitals and schools are from the home. You may also want to inspect the neighbourhood at night to determine noise levels, location of streetlights in proximity to your new home, whether the headlights from passing cars flash into the home, and any other potential disturbances.

4. Leave your emotions at the door

Do not let your emotions guide you in a home purchase. Do not forgo a home inspection. Realtors will often try to convince you that competing offers exist and that your offer would be more attractive if an inspection was not required by you. Do not fall for this sales tactic. Have the home inspected thoroughly, including:

  1. the use of moisture meters on all interior surfaces and thermal imaging cameras (FLIR) on both interior and exterior surfaces (including the roof);
  2. make certain the home inspector gets up on to the roof to inspect it, as opposed to just visually inspecting it from the street using binoculars;
  3. snow should be removed from exterior foundation walls to rule out any indications of structural issues, such as cracks in the foundation.

If any problems are discovered during the inspection, they must be investigated thoroughly before you agree to purchase the home to rule our major defects.

We would suggest that you find your own home inspector and that you not use any inspector recommended by a realtor. Similarly, we would suggest that you engage your own real estate agent to assist you in completing the purchase, as opposed to using the same agent as the seller.

5. Seller Property Information Statement

Lastly, you must ask the seller to provide you with an SPIS (Seller Property Information Statement), which must be attached to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, where it is listed as a Schedule thereto. This last point is crucial and we would advise that you seek legal advice in relation to it because, if done improperly, you may be left with little recourse if the property contains a serious defect.  

If you have any questions regarding latent or undisclosed home defects, or require further information on this topic, don’t hesitate to contact us. (613) 670-5736, www.mullowney.com

Mullowney’s Law, Ottawa Law Firm, Ottawa Lawyers

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