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Three Myths About Home Inspections and Condos

A new home is one of the largest purchases you’ll make in your life—but unlike cars, electronics, or furniture; it doesn’t come with a warranty if something goes wrong post-purchase.

You’d never buy a car without test driving it, and you shouldn’t purchase a home without “testing” it by turning on taps, checking the electrical outlets and ensuring everything is in proper working order.

Factoring a home inspection into your closing costs and including it as a condition in your Offer to Purchase is an important step in the home buying process. An inspection allows you to find out what kind of condition the home is in before you’re locked into the purchase price and mortgage: you have the right to make your offer conditional on a satisfactory home inspection, even when dealing with a condo.

Hiring a home inspector allows you to easily note deficiencies within the home, whether it’s as small as a cracked window or as big as a wiring issue or pest problem, and even better, it gives you an unbiased, professional opinion on the situation.

Today, we’re here to debunk three common myths about home inspections and condos.

MYTH #1: You don’t need to do a home inspection on a condo unit

THE TRUTH: Getting a qualified home inspector to examine your potential home prior to the deal closing is a great idea – yes, even if you’re looking at condos. While home inspections on condos are not common, they are worthwhile. A home inspector can look for things you might not think about or have the knowledge to find, like the signs of moisture in the walls, electrical issues, or plumbing problems.

“I had one case where a home inspection wasn’t done, and it was discovered the bathroom sink had not been working for months,” said Mark Savel , a Toronto-based realtor who specializes in the downtown condo market. “Turns out, it was a massive hair clog and they had to call in a plumber to deal with it – it ended up costing $300, and that hassle could have been avoided by hiring an inspector.”

While Toronto home inspectors don’t necessarily look at the exterior of the building or the common areas, they can look for problems within your unit that might be related to the exterior. Savel recalls one instance where a home inspector recognized the telltale signs of water damage in a unit in an older condo building before it was too late – it turned out the water wasn’t draining off the balconies properly.

“I’ve only had home inspections done on two condos out of the hundreds I’ve sold,” said Savel, “but I always suggest it’s a good idea to get one.”

MYTH #2: You have to do a pre-delivery inspection, so you don’t need a home inspection

THE TRUTH: It’s true that when buying a freehold home or condominium, a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) is mandatory. Before or on your possession date, you’ll meet the building’s representative at the home and conduct the PDI, which records any damaged, missing, or incomplete items that existed before you took ownership. However, a PDI should not be viewed as a replacement for hiring a home inspector – an inspection is more in-depth than a PDI.

“A PDI is really only done for the material things that you can physically see,” said Savel, “and the majority of times the developer doesn’t check the outlets, the plumbing – things like that.”

During your PDI – and especially if you decided to forgo a home inspection – Savel recommends bringing a roll of green painters tape to mark any issues that need attention during your PDI, as well as creating a list documenting any and all issues. Be sure to test the outlets (bring something to plug in), turn on all the taps, check the hot water, and ensuring you’re diligent about photographing any major issues you find.

Remember, the PDI representative is working for the developer, not for you, so it’s a good idea to bring a friend, realtor, or inspector with you to be a second set of eyes.

MYTH #3: You don’t need a home inspection on a condo unless it’s over five years old

THE TRUTH: Newer, and even brand-new, condos are not exempt from infrastructure issues or damage. Savel recommends all his clients get a home inspection, regardless of whether the condo they’re buying is brand-new or fifteen years old.

On Canadian Money Forum, one buyer shared that he thought he didn’t need to get an inspection done when purchasing a two-year old condo.

He writes:

“If we had invested in an inspection, the inspector might have [discovered that] the balcony railings were not up to code, and that ‘simplified’ construction around the balcony sills allowed water infiltration into the walls.”

According to the poster, these building issues ended up costing over $15,000 per unit in special assessments – a hefty price tag when compared to the few hundred a home inspection would have cost.

“While a lot of things that could go wrong are covered by the condo board, like lighting or pipe issues, you’ll want to find out if there’s been an issue before, or if there’s a history of problems in the building,” said Savel.

Both a home inspection and the reserve fund study, which comes as part of your status certificate package , can help you properly assess the situation. It’s important to remember that even though certain things are the condos responsibility to repair, you might have to foot a portion of the bill if there’s not enough money in the reserve fund to cover the necessary maintenance.