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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Canadian Buyers Demand Maintenance of Value

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 11 March 2003 00:00

With all this talk about Canada's aging population, Canadians often overlook the fact that our homes are aging, too.

Nothing lasts forever. Roofs, wiring, windows, plumbing, even landscaping all age and need replacement at some point. Your commitment to cost-effectively maintaining the physical structure that you call home will determine your success at preserving and improving value or home equity.

Your home is ultimately worth exactly what someone will pay for it.

When home buyers were less sophisticated and all real estate professionals worked for sellers, maintenance issues often went undiscovered until buyers moved in. Today, home buyers expect to base their offer to purchase on the full cost of a property. They want to know how much more they must invest as owners to bring a property up to their standards.

Home maintenance is on the negotiation table for a number of reasons. Since 1995, more and more buyers have their own real estate agent to research the suitability of potential purchases. An increasing number of real estate boards require sellers to provide written disclosure on the condition of their property before it is listed on the Multiple Listing Service or MLS. Resale buyers consider it standard practice to have a home inspection, a professional analysis of the condition of the home which reveals the cost of necessary and imminent repairs.

The gap between old homes and new homes is continually widened by new maintenance and modernization standards and products. Buyers wooed by vaulted ceilings, ground-floor family rooms, ensuite bathrooms, built-in appliances, attached garages and a dazzling array of new home upgrades are not impressed by tired, care-worn houses and condominiums that lack the features today's home buyers see as essential. Buyers do not expect to reward owners who have not maintained or modernized their properties.

Maintenance and mortgages also go hand in hand. To protect their investment, lenders insist that property be kept in good repair. Mortgage contracts give lenders the right to regular inspection and to undertake repairs at the owner's expense although most lenders do not intervene unless the property is badly neglected. A poorly-maintained property may be hard to finance which in turn lowers its value to buyers.

Building codes, first introduced in the forties, established continually-improved standards for construction and design to ensure safe, healthy houses and condominiums. However, buildings constructed more than fifty years ago may not have had the benefit of professional inspection to ensure high-quality construction and materials. Older homes may harbour a host of problems: poorly-laid foundations, inadequate wiring, lack of insulation and inferior building techniques.

Don't be lulled into a false sense of security if your home is still a teenager. New home warranty programs exist because mistakes, sub-standard workmanship and negligence continue to be a problem. Homes built during the frenzy of housing booms are particularly vulnerable.

It won't be long before a permanent, regularly updated electronic maintenance record will be standard documentation for determinations of value and transfer of ownership. In the meantime, the value of your greatest financial asset lies in your hands.

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PJ Wade

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