Your experience shopping for a new home can be amazing, especially if you love to learn, and feel more powerful and decisive because of it.
Your team makes a crazy amount of difference in your overall experience. Experts: Realtor, Mortgage Broker, Lawyer, Property Inspector, potentially Master Electrician, HVAC, Roof, Plumbing…
Influencers: direct family, and indirect family and friends. This has to be managed because the danger is they cause you to follow their advice over the advice of experts. Others always have their own experiences, which often guide their ever-ready opinions. Listening and considering is fine, but this is your journey, make it yours and own your decisions. This is for many reasons one of the biggest decisions in your lifetime – where you will live, and how you spend your money. So you don’t really get a do-over if you’ve not put enough considered effort into this process.
So our tour included 5 properties, very spread apart because in our case we had an acceptably wide geographic region to consider. It was in our case, all about how well the house could serve two couples, related by marriage to share, thus leveraging their ability to get into the market and grow their equity. In fact, one couple had already done this with another sister’s family and was now “moving up” and taking on a new family partner. I am so proud of these clients – truly.
All of our pictures are from the day, I missed getting some key shots of things we found but I will talk you through it.
Foundations and Slope
In terms of the type of foundation, the relatively newer homes (this century) would be either poured concrete or concrete block. So the home that has used too much concrete all sloping to the house (described below) was a poured concrete (looks smooth) versus concrete block shown here from a different house. There are pros and cons to each so it always needs to be taken into context on a case by case basis. The house we actually bought for this family has a great concrete block foundation and good waterproofing on the exterior.
Buildings do not do well when water starts hovering around their walls and foundations. So the slope of land should be away from the house. Also, landscaping should not abut the house. This strives to stop water from pooling against the building. This house looked very good inside and had an almost perfect (albeit unique) layout for my clients. But the deal breakers started to add up.
In this case, the neighbour’s land all around them was higher than this property, which means water naturally migrates to this property. Unfortunately, this property had also used a lot of concrete pathways, ending right up against the house. That concrete was showing signs of the ground settling underneath (causing breaks in the concrete), in addition to sloping significantly to the house as originally installed.
Grading issues are not uncommon, especially over time. In context, this issue would require breaking up concrete, regrading, and replacement which would be outside our budget. This house was already at top of the budget, so this issue plus the need to change/add the laundry situation was too much and we had to take a pass. It was a very pretty house inside, with a layout that was near perfect for my clients.
Beware the magazine-worthy facelift of very old houses.
Just like the body and face photoshop work on people, a flip property is not all it appears…it is so much more! And not in a good way. My clients really wanted to see this property at any cost in time and logistics. I knew it was a poor choice because it’s my job to interpret the market and the properties. Once we got on-site, it wasn’t hard to see through the pretty lipstick. This was one of the biggest learning experiences of the whole day, so I would never flat out refuse to show something to an inexperienced buyer because there is a learning curve we all need to experience.
I don’t have the right pictures for this, I was more interested in explaining the hidden issues at the time, but there were crazy big problems you might not recognize at first.
1) Clearly this was a “renovate to flip” example of a very old property. Pictures draw you to come to look and some areas did seem good. But even in the good parts evidence of poor quality was showing up everywhere. So now, you really don’t know what is behind those pretty walls inside or out.
2) The pretty exterior wall on the back of the house, in steel grey siding combined with original brick elsewhere, looks very contemporary. BUT, it was plastic and I could apply gentle pressure and push the siding to different depths all around the area it covered. Imagine big gaping holes underneath in some spots and less in others! This was a cheap cover, which at a minimum was not correctly installed. More importantly, it really draws into question the condition of the wall behind. This could be a structural issue – structural issues are your biggest concern.
3) The magnificent 100+-year-old tree growing one inch from the back of the house. Literally. They had pruned the tree so it’s a little away from the roof, but too much pruning on one side, and over she goes at a certain point. So you’re a smart reader – where do you think all those big, strong, old roots are going? And if the tree falls, the owner is responsible. Sadly the tree should go. My guess from everything combined, this house should have been demolished and start over. It was a small lot, so, unfortunately, I don’t think there would be a way to save that tree.
So in between recognizing specifics of good and bad aspects of the building and property, we also considered each of the 5 properties from our lifestyle objectives. In this case, two separate families who have some overlapping interests but many separate interests. And, they did a huge amount of work together to assess whether they could handle this collaboration. We also had a communication system in place, where we could collaborate and share assessments and thoughts on different properties BEFORE we selected our targets and went on a tour. This really worked well because on that day, I knew exactly what each couple needed out of this deal, and they knew, so vetting the properties was somewhat easy once we got out there.
Lifestyle can not be underestimated or under-represented in where you live. Some people take many elements of their lifestyle for granted and can’t always answer the question. It takes time and patience, but I guide the conversation until I eventually get the full scoop! To get a great experience, you (the Buyer/Client) must be engaged too. If you are not engaged and working with your experts, with good communication and collaboration, you are setting yourself up for failure and mistakes. Bummer, you might only be able to place blame on yourself. :- (
Look to the experts first, and well in advance. I am biased because of the integrated way I work for my clients. So I say the right Realtor is the most important key. Because that person can also help vet and manage the right mortgage broker, educate you, help manage your influencers. The Realtor is closest to your needs and desires, and the deal itself, so allowing them to be key and the leader is the best shot at success and mitigating any problems along the way. I for example don’t allow any disconnects to happen like a mortgage broker not acting in a timely manner, or misleading you in terms of what they can do and when they can do it. Collaboration people – that is where the magic happens!