Buying a condo can be one of the most exciting purchases. For many people, investing in this kind of asset can signify a move forward—into adult independence, freedom, and the next stage of life. But if you are unprepared, you can easily become caught off guard by some surprising and disturbing deficiencies that will cost you much more later on down the road.
It can be tempting to rush into closing once you’ve found the perfect condo within your price range, in your ideal location, and with all the amenities you were hoping for. Unfortunately, no building is completely perfect. The decision to inspect or not to inspect is ultimately up to you, but there is a great deal of evidence that condo inspection is beneficial.
The Myth Prevails
While realtors typically encourage home buyers to factor a home inspection into their closing costs, condo buyers often falsely buy into the prevailing myth that condos don’t require inspection—or if they do, they require less. Many condos are new, and buyers assume that they are likely to be in good condition. But according to some unnerving new research by Rate Hub, skipping out on routine condo inspection can lead to terrible financial burdens in the long term.
You may believe, after watching a number of HGTV shows, that you can spot potential problems, or you may be willing to overlook them in the thrill of the moment. You may have heard that unless your condo is over half a decade old, it’s likely that it won’t have any glaring issues. You may simply wish to forgo the expense of condo inspection, or you may not believe it’s necessary because it’s not as common as home inspection.
However, despite what you might have heard, most experts would strongly advise against skipping a condo inspection, especially if your condo unit is over five years old. Something as seemingly inconsequential as a hairline crack in a window can lead to immense hardship down the road—for example, during a Toronto snowstorm, when keeping your condo warm and protected from the vicious elements is paramount.
While condo inspection does require some extra time, energy, and cost, it is crucial to ensuring that your property does not have any secret hidden problems that you will have to confront on your own later on.
Most people, after weighing the odds, would agree that it is wiser to invest in condo inspection beforehand. Learning the ins and outs of the property beforehand—with the guiding hand of a professional—can help you to make an informed and rational decision. Even if your dream condo turns out to have insurmountable problems and you decide not to close, it’s better to know the truth upfront.
What About Pre-Delivery Inspections?
Another reason why many condo buyers choose to forgo condo inspection is a misleading process known as the pre-delivery inspection, or PDI, which involves examining the property before or immediately after your possession date. During a routine PDI, a representative for the condo developer will meet with you to discuss any and all damaged or missing items on the property before you are able to take possession.
While on the surface, these inspections can appear thorough and quite practical, it is important to keep in mind that they are not done for your sake—they are done for the developer and the developer alone. Even as your representative walks you through the condo unit and helps answer your questions, they will likely not test every single tap or outlet or examine every single nook and cranny of the unit.
Depending on how detail-oriented your representative is, you may miss a very obvious issue, such as a faucet that doesn’t turn on or a shower that won’t heat up. On the other hand, if you have a condo inspection done before your PDI, you will already be aware of any issues and won’t be caught by surprise.
Being as diligent as possible during a condo inspection and pre-delivery inspection is advised. Buyers should bring electronics to plug in, to see if all the unit’s outlets are working properly, and wield a roll of green painter’s tape to visibly mark out problems. Photographing issues can be useful, too—and in the smartphone era, there is no excuse to leave glaring problems undocumented.
Differences Between Condo and Home Inspection
Condo and home inspections are fairly similar in that they both attempt to locate and eliminate potential hazards. They can both be used to provide the buyer with a more nuanced perspective on a home or condo they may have felt certain was perfect, and potentially encourage them to renegotiate the selling price.
The main difference is that a home inspector will review the interior of an entire home, while a condo inspector will only examine your single unit. Some may wish to inspect the entire building, but the vast majority will only focus on the unit the buyer is interested in. After all, the PDI, done alongside the condo developers, is intended to ensure that everything is in full working order for all of the residents. A condo inspection, on the other hand, is tailored to the potential buyer.
Any systems that are shared by the entire building will be covered during the PDI, but for added peace of mind you may wish to pay for your condo inspector to do a once-over themselves. For instance, if a condo is very old, you may have concerns about the condition of the furnace. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the PDI to cover all bases, as the developer may not wish to put forth the expense to update a seemingly unnecessary unit.
Keep in mind that systems that are specific to your unit will be reviewed during a condo inspection. In that way, it is very similiar to a home inspection.
What to Expect During Condo Inspection
A recent report by the Ottawa Citizen further emphasizes the value of a condo inspection, and explains that a status certificate, no matter how accurate, is hardly enough to bring a condo owner peace of mind. Even if a condo seems to be in perfect condition, a professional inspection is the only way to provide "legal, financial, and emotional security."
If you have made the decision to move forward with a condo inspection, you may be wondering a few things, such as how much it is likely to cost you, how to ensure you hire the most qualified person for the job, and what types of documents you will receive once the inspection is complete.
The Ottawa Citizen estimates that an inspection will set you back around $250, with rates leaning slightly lower or higher depending on the size of the condo unit and the length of time it takes for your inspector to do his or her job.
Overall, it’s a fairly inexpensive process, and considering how many condo owners have been faced with costly and time-consuming plumbing and electrical emergencies due to their reluctance to pay for an inspection, it’s probably worth the expense.
How can you be sure your condo inspector is the best man or woman for the job? A typical reliable condo inspector has extensive experience in condo inspection specifically, and is qualified to complete all manner of interior examinations. Feel free to inquire about your potential inspector’s qualifications in regards to electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and lighting systems. Most inspectors will be more than happy to provide you with proof of their qualifications and testimonials from former happy clients.
What will your condo inspector do? Typically, you can expect that they will spend a few hours closely examining all of the interior systems, seeking out potential problems, and compiling a detailed report for you to review. There is usually specific detail paid to the electrical and plumbing systems—things that you probably won’t immediately notice until you’ve taken possession of the unit and lived in it for a while.
Once you have reviewed the report from your inspector, you will be able to sit down with him or her to discuss renegotiating the purchase price.
In the best case scenario, your inspector will have found no major issues that will impact the price, and you will be able to close on the deal immediately and move into your new dream unit. In the worst case scenario, your inspector will have found a serious issue lurking behind your unit’s aesthetically pleasing exterior, such as the discovery of Kitec plastic water piping. Replacing this popular ‘90s piping which has since been recalled can cost up to $5,000.
Whether it’s good news all around or a disturbing reality about the condition of your seemingly perfect unit, you cannot obtain true peace of mind without opting for a thorough professional condo inspection. Don’t believe the hype—even if your condo is less than two years old, you’re better off getting it inspected.