Don’t forgo a house inspection

‘Do your due diligence,’ says realtor

Oak Bay is known for its character. Well-kept older homes tend to attract buyers, but local real estate agent Cassie Kangas warns there are many things to look out for when purchasing an older home.

“You definitely want to do your due diligence,” Kangas said. She insists on hiring a building inspector to go through any older home up for sale. “[Hiring] is tough in today’s market, because we’re seeing a lot of no conditions offers, but we still recommend it for your own peace of mind because you really don’t know what’s happening in those houses.”

She adds that houses often look tidy and undamaged on the outside, but can have infrastructure problems invisible to the untrained eye.

“One of the huge things we have an issue with in Oak Bay is buried oil tanks. You really need to investigate that. Look up documents through Oak Bay Fire because they hold all the records.” She cautions that the records are not always complete and recommends having a qualified company come out to scan regardless.

“Make sure you have good plumbing, good electrical, because we have some plumbing and electrical in Oak Bay that hasn’t been updated in some cases in 50, 75, 100 years.” Knob-and-tube wiring, popular from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, still lurks in some Oak Bay houses. “That can make it very difficult to get insurance, especially if the wiring has been mucked with over the years.”

Older roofs and chimneys also call for inspection. “We have a lot of old fireplaces. We have people who have been using their fireplaces thinking they’re fine, and they’re not really because the masonry is crumbling. A lot of the chimneys are within the walls of the house so they’re a big fire hazard,” she said.

Perimeter drains frequently pose an issue. “A lot of older homes still have the original clay tile drains which get old and tend to collapse, rendering them useless. It’s a big expense to replace them especially if the drain areas have been paved over in past years.” Older basements are often more susceptible to heavy rainfall and groundwater infiltration. With summer close approaching, Kangas emphasizes the need for basement inspection, as summer homebuyers can be taken off-guard during the winter when their previously dry basements see moisture infiltration. Sump pumps should be in working order to prevent wet basements.

Outdated infrastructure can have a substantial effect on the value of a property. Kangas said, “Even in this hot market a buyer would be wise to have an inspection done by a qualified building inspector.” She suggests additionally approaching a realtor who is familiar with older or heritage homes.