Friday, April 25, 2014

Why You Should Not Buy That House

Would I Buy That House?

Ok, I wrote a post to let you know if you were asking yourself the question  "Should you buy that house?" there was help available.

Here I am going to describe some common scenarios some of my investigations uncovered. My advice, you don't buy that house, or if you do want to make an offer, you need to factor in the risk of owning a non-compliant, damaged, or failing home because of the following reasons.

Location, location, location and your emotions aside, your decision to ignore the "tells" of a property may be very costly.


Take a look at this property.  The setbacks for the rear yard are indicated in red, the exterior side yard in tan, the front yard is yellow, and the interior side yard is blue.  The outline of the house is in dark brown.

The only setback not impacted by the location of the existing structure is the front yard.  Adding to the complication of this scenario is the detached garage owned by the neighbour towards the rear of the property. Their garage encroaches onto the property.

If you wanted to add to or modify the house, there would be a great deal of non-conforming issues impacting your ability to develop a plan or design easily. The cost to address the existing issues would probably be equivalent to building a new home.

The only reason to buy this property would be to demolish the existing house and start new, and build within the available allowable area defined by the setbacks.

Would I buy this house to live in?

I would, but the offer would just be for the value of the lot.


The foundation of this home has been so neglected and plagued by water issues over the years, it's starting to fail.  You can trace how the water flows along the outside of the foundation wall with the wettest area located at the window for some strange reason.

The damp conditions in the basement would make it unsafe to store anything down there since it would just become smelly and rot - perfect mold food. The moisture problems plaguing this home's foundation make it a serious risk to both the occupant's and home's health.

To fix this problem properly would require the demolition and replacement of the foundation at a cost of nearly $120K CAD.

Don't get me started on the rusty cast iron downspout or the wooden floor joists embedded in the concrete foundation wall either.

Would I buy this house to live in? No, but I would buy for the value of the lot only.

Structural Issues

There are some really weird structural issues out there.  Check this interesting scenario out.  What attracted my attention to the "beam" were a few things.  The first was it was bare, meaning unprimed, then there was the missing lateral support, and finally the rather odd shape to it too.

Upon closer inspection I was surprised to discover the "beam" was not your typical web and flange style configuration, instead the thing I was looking at was a salvaged train rail.

Then there is the questionable floor framing in the background for the stair opening.

This house had a great deal going for it, until you took the time to look at it just a little closer.

If I were to go ahead and renovate the basement later and have an inspection performed, as the owner I would be liable for the costs involved in making the floor structure compliant, and you can bet the pads for the posts are not adequately sized either.

This would be too risky a proposition for me unless, of course, the offer made discounted the risk I would be assuming as the owner.

Would I buy this house? Maybe, but there would be a big write-down in price because of the non-compliant framing and use of a non-approved building material.

Buyer Beware

These are just three examples of different houses with very big yet different issues.  If you are looking to purchase a property, be aware that the charm and uniqueness of the building also may also have its fair share of challenges and encumbrances too.

Before making an offer, determine the risk associated with the non-compliant work or failing infrastructure. 

If you are unsure what the risks are, then ask someone, like me, to help you find them.
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