As if there wasn’t already enough to consider when shopping for a new home, it’s essential to keep your eyes peeled for signs that a property isn’t as pristine as it seems with sneaky home seller tactics. While the “buyer beware” nature of the real estate market means that the majority of vendors simply don’t offer any information about a property, some sellers will go out of their way to mislead would-be buyers.
It’s always recommended that you arrange for a home inspection before you finalize a purchase contract. A professional that inspects a house can not only find potentially expensive defects but, very often, help you assess what maintenance will be required to continue the upkeep of a re-sale home despite any seller cover-ups.
Another document to consider obtaining is the home or building survey. While obtaining a land survey is quite common in places like Toronto or Calgary (it’s actually a legal requirement in Albertan property transactions), many other cities in Canada will not include this as part of the sale transaction. Talk to your local realtor or land registry office to find out what is available and to determine what you should expect. Keep in mind, if you want to do any major renovations you will probably need an updated land or building survey, an out-of-pocket cost that starts at $1,000 and goes up.
But how do you know if you should even make an offer or request (or pay) for these additional inspections and documents? Before taking the leap and investing a significant amount of time and money into a property, go back and visit it again, this time, keep an eye out for these seven signs of a cover-up:
- Very specific times
The seller is insisting that the only time you can conveniently view the property is on a certain day of the week or during a particular time. Is that because they are busy at other times, or because there’s something that makes the property a whole lot less appealing outside of those periods?Insisting on seeing the property at multiple times of day will give you a chance to assess potential problems, such as rush hour traffic, the parking situation after work and noisy neighbours.
- Roofing issues
Before you even walk into the property, take a look at its roof (you may need to stand back on the other side of the road to get a good view) so you can spot tiles that are obviously new. If this happens, quiz the vendor about why that’s the case. Also look out for damaged flashing around windows and chimney, and signs of moisture if you can get up into the attic.Replacing damaged tiles is all well and good, but it could be a shortcut to covering up a larger issue with the roof. Considering it can cost about $8,700 CDN to re-roof a house, it’s worth questioning and, if you’re worried, getting a surveyor to inspect it.
- Odd placements
Does a painting, wall hanging or rug look like it’s oddly placed? Maybe the vendor simply has quirky tastes, or maybe it’s being used to cover-up stains, cracks or unevenness. If there’s nothing to hide then they won’t mind you peering underneath a few things to check.
- Sweet scents
Don’t let pleasant smells deceive you; even if that warm baking, a vase of fresh flowers or brewing coffee seems inviting, it may also be a warning. Overwhelming air fresheners or perfumes might be masking more unpleasant odours from cigarettes or pets. If so, you could find yourself forking out for new carpets and curtains much sooner than you expect or face battling the stench for months.Keep a sniff out for fresh paint, too. Maybe buyers have just decided to freshen a room up for viewings, or maybe they’ve painted over evidence of damp or cracked bricks – serious structural defects.
- Your very own soundtrack
Is the TV or radio turned up just a little too loud? Ask them to turn it off for a few moments. It might be being used to muffle noise from next door or outside. Once it’s quieter, you should be able to listen for barking dogs, shrieking children, nearby traffic or just general noise through paper-thin walls.
- Green fingers
Japanese Knotweed is a pretty sinister character, lying dormant in winter before shooting up seven feet in summer and slowly but surely destroying any masonry in its path. Getting rid of it entirely takes several years of intensive chemical treatments, and even if it’s properly managed, will probably scare off potential buyers of the affected property in the future.This is exactly why a vendor may do what they can to prevent their Japanese Knotweed from being spotted. The plant is naturally dormant in winter, so homeowners might put their home on the market then. Alternatively, the shoots can be cut down to the ground during viewings, making them impossible to identify. Make sure you talk to your solicitor and surveyor early on about Japanese Knotweed so they can conduct the appropriate investigation.
- You’re locked out!
It’s understandable for a seller to stash his clutter in a cupboard or shed, but if you’re not allowed to take a look inside, red flags are waving. No room should be entirely off-limits to a buyer, who should be able to see exactly what he is getting.There’s no way to guarantee that you won’t encounter some issues when you move in – unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the house-buying process. However, between a professional survey and your own scrutiny, you should be able to save yourself a lot of time and money by identifying potential problems sooner, rather than later.