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  Inspect Before You Seal the Deal

Many buyers in Ottawa's hot real estate market are jumping in without the home-inspection safety net. As David Stonehouse reports, they run the risk of falling into a nightmare.

David Stonehouse
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, February 24, 2001
Homes Section Front-page The Ottawa Citizen

Four times, Tracey Ross was on the brink of buying what she thought was the perfect family home.

But advice from a home inspector pulled her back every time -- saving her thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs.

At first blush, each of the homes looked well kept and in good repair, says the 31-year-old Ottawa lawyer.
Paul Wilson, RHI
"And then we got Paul; he crushed my dreams,'' laughs Ms. Ross.

Joking aside, she is grateful to home inspector Paul Wilson for his advice, which, in one case, spared her about $100,000 in repairs.

"He saved me every time,'' Ms. Ross says, "because there were things I couldn't see.''

He spotted serious problems such as a shifting foundation, pervasive mold, electricity that was not grounded, plumbing that was not up to snuff, missing or hanging insulation.

But in the sizzling hot Ottawa real estate market, where homes are snapped up within moments, some buyers are opting to skip the inspection.

"Yes, people are buying houses without having the inspections done first,'' says Ren Molnar, a longtime Ottawa home inspector known for his weekly home-improvement radio shows.

He says buyers who skipped the home inspection have been calling him in a panic after discovering major repairs needed to be done.

Mr. Molnar says there isn't much he can do if the home has already been sold.

"Every day, I meet stressed-out individuals buying a home, being forced to make the largest purchase of their lives in minutes rather than days,'' says Mr. Wilson, who has never witnessed such a hot market in his 20-year career.

"Many naive and unsuspecting purchasers have bought nightmares recently, and they are kicking themselves for not having had a home inspection done as part of the condition of purchase,'' he says.

"I've had clients crying,'' says Mr. Wilson, adding that some buyers are considering legal action against vendors.

"We're getting calls now from lawyers who want us to go and inspect houses that their clients bought in good faith, assuming that their house was in good order, and now they are finding all kinds of problems,'' he says.

He urges prospective home buyers to walk away if a bidding frenzy is putting pressure on them to skip an inspection.

"It's a tough market,'' he says, ``but you would not buy a used vehicle without having it safety-checked would you?''

A home inspection usually costs between $300 and $400 and includes a written report.

Mr. Wilson says inspectors don't just focus on the negative: They also point out the positive aspects of the home too.

"We're not deal killers or deal busters. We just want to give people an accurate picture".

Paul Wilson, CHI
Certified Home Inspector

"People walk into the house and see a fireplace, they (imagine) themselves lying by the fireplace, sipping wine ... but you go around to the other side of the wall and the tile is falling off in the bathroom, the toilet is leaking, there is wood rot on the floor.''

Ian Robertson, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board and a manager at a local real estate firm, says agents urge their clients to have an inspection done.

"We always have the agent recommend the building inspection to clients.''

Clients who refuse must sign a statement acknowledging that they turned down the offer of an inspection.

Ms. Ross and her husband, Claude Boucher, a 38-year-old manager in the high-tech industry, started the hunt for their first home last summer.

After what Ms. Ross describes as a "very nasty roller coaster ride"' they finally settled on a house a few weeks ago.

The Riverside South home has everything they wanted: four bedrooms, a main floor family room, hardwood floors and a basement free from the mold Ms. Ross is allergic to.

And even though there were five other prospective buyers booked to look at the home the day she and her husband went to see it, they never considered trying to sweeten their offer by dropping the condition for a home inspection.



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