A client recently booked an inspection for a house built in the 1920’s. This property certainly has the ‘wow factor’ with ocean views and craftsman style features. Vancouver is relatively a new city compared to others in North America, so this gem is really special. I would guess that there are less than 1% of buildings of the vintage still standing. Prior to any inspection I do an online property listing review. I especially focus on what can be gleaned from the photos. In this case, it was clear that the property was extensively renovated, but with sensitivity to its heritage. A home inspection can only cover so much in a three hour site review but there are important items that the prospective buyer needs to follow-up as part of their own due diligence. Here’s what I recommended to this buyer:
- Check with the municipality and verify that the plumbing and electrical permits were issued and signed-off. This is a buyer’s assurance that the work was performed according to code.
- Check also if there is anything on file for structural. From the photos it was apparent that walls had been moved or removed with columns added, in order to achieve a contemporary open floor plan.
- There was a retaining wall on the property. In our area, a structural engineer is required to sign-off on the design of any retaining wall over 1.5 meters (4 feet) high. These documents should also be on-file with the municipality.
- The house has new siding and roofing. I would expect that the insulation was upgraded as well. Since wall and cathedral ceiling insulation is typically not visible during an inspection, it would be worthwhile for the buyer to question the seller on this issue.
- Review the seller’s disclosure statement for an underground oil storage tank. There should be a clear statement of its existence or not. If it is not clear, then this is a red flag for further investigation, as it can be a major cost to remove and remediate the soil.
- Finally, be sure to ask for all warranty documents, both for the new works and appliances, upon completion of sale.
All this homework for the buyer and the inspection has yet to be done! The above recommendations can apply to any older home but are especially relevant to vintage properties.