Caution! Stories from Inside the Real Estate Market

Life is very different in May 2020, but surprisingly the Toronto real estate market continues to be fairly active. We are even witnessing multiple offers and homes selling over list price, again!

The fact that homes and condominiums are continuing to sell is a testament to the overall strength of our housing market and the underlying economic factors that drive it.

At the start of the pandemic some homes, in particular condominiums sold completely virtually. Some condo buildings banned any outside visitors from accessing the building. Buyers relied on video tours, floor plans and Zoom or FaceTime appointments.

Even if you buy a home virtually you can take comfort in the fact that sellers have a legal obligation to disclose any known defects.

On that note, I have a little story for you, that highlights what can go wrong when hidden defects come to light.

Once upon a time a couple submitted an offer conditional on home inspection to buy a beautiful home with a stunning rooftop deck. The inspection went well, they waived the condition and they bought the house. A few months after they moved in, they came home to find the rooftop deck had collapsed into the master bedroom below. What a disaster!

So, guess what they did next? You’re right, they sued everyone involved in the transaction.

On the day of mediation everyone sat around the table.

The seller said, “I’m not responsible, there was no problem when I owned the house.”

The home inspector said, “I’m not responsible, I flagged the deck in the report and told you there could be an issue with the way it was draining.”

The Insurance company said, “We’re not paying the claim, this was a pre-existing problem, before the home belonged to you, so we’re not insuring it.”

The listing agent said: “I’m not responsible, they never told me about any issues with the deck, I didn’t hide anything”.

Then the new owners produced a letter written by a neighbour. Turns out the sellers knew there was a leak from the deck. They had asked neighbour to come into the house while they were away for March break, to make sure the bucket collecting water from the leak wasn’t full!

They were caught red handed, covering up a known defect. The sellers had to pay a fair sum to settle the lawsuit, far more than had they just fixed it before selling the home.

A few important lessons can be learned from this story.

  1. Don’t lie! Before you market your home for sale, repair it, or at least disclose any defects. It’s better to disclose defects than try to cover them up and pay the price later.
  2. A home inspection is visual, non-intrusive, they can’t see under deck boards or behind walls, under carpet. It’s a very general overview of the major components of a home, don’t rely too heavily on it.
  3. There is no perfect house. All homes require regular maintenance and can easily require 1% of the purchase price as a budget annually for improvements and repairs.
  4. Don’t talk to your neighbours! Well, you can talk to them, just be careful what you tell them because one day that could bite you in the butt!

In closing, I would like to remind you that I’m Icelandic, which makes me a Viking. The Toronto real estate market is fast paced with many twists and turns. If you if you plan to buy or sell a home in Toronto, take a Viking with you.

Helga Teitsson, RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd., Brokerage