April 5th - 2010

Learn how to spot structural deficiencies in homes

What should be one of the happiest moments in a person's life can sometimes be spoiled by the discovery of structural defects that were unknown or undisclosed at the time of purchase.

What should be one of the happiest moments in a person's life can sometimes be spoiled by the discovery of structural defects that were unknown or undisclosed at the time of purchase. Having some knowledge about common structural deficiencies can help REALTORS® to shield themselves from liability as well as protect their clients’ best interests. OREA’s e-learning course called, Recognizing Structural Deficiencies in Homes can help REALTORS® tell the difference between a house with major structural deficiencies and a house with “character.”

“For example, most houses have cracks, but some are more serious than others,” says Graham Clarke, VP Engineering for Carson Dunlop and Associates and OREA Instructor. “Knowing the difference allows a REALTOR® to say to a client, “I don’t think we need to be too concerned about these cracks, although I would still recommend getting a home inspection done.’ However, if a REALTOR® takes a listing and the house has a long, horizontal crack along the foundation, that’s a scarier situation. As the listing REALTOR® I would get that home inspected before it even goes on the market. It’s better to have the home pre-qualified before it’s listed and a potential buyer comes on the scene.”

Clarke says REALTORS® should have a good understanding of the geography of the neighbourhoods they specialize in as the terrain will hold many clues about the potential structural problems you will encounter there. “If the houses are on a ravine or in close proximity to water, these things can lead to moving soil which is never good for a home’s longevity,” he says. “Clues can be as simple as the name of the street – Riverside Drive, Bayview or Edgehill for example.”

Check out the house from a distance
One reason many people don’t see a home’s defects is because they stand too close to it. Clarke recommends before taking a listing or showing a house to a client that you look at the house from a distance. “Stand across the street and you will be able to see if the house or the porch is leaning or if there are any bows or sags in the structure.”

A tip from the course is to line up the front corner of the house with the back corner of an adjacent house - if the house leans, it will be evident from this perspective. Look at the whole vertical edge up and down the corner. What you are looking for is a widening of the gap between the houses. If you can’t line up with an adjacent house, line up with a large building in the distance.

Another common issue, especially in older homes is floor sagging. However, there is a difference between floor sag and floor slope. “The design of the floor structure incorporates some floor sag – and some sag is normal,” says Clarke. “But a slope means one end is lower and could indicate a settlement problem.”

According to Clarke, finding structural defects – even major ones – doesn’t need to spell the end of a real estate deal. “It really depends on the price of the house. Even a home with a major flaw could still be a good deal if it’s listed low enough. It’s never black and white and a home inspection is only one part of the puzzle. The REALTOR® needs to bring all the pieces together in terms of their client’s situation and decide if the deal is worthwhile.”

Knowing something about structural deficiencies can also really be helpful in a multiple offer situation. “When deals get very heated, the home inspection often gets dropped. Depending on the condition of the home, a REALTOR® will be able to advise their clients if that’s a bad idea.”

While OREA’s course will offer lots of tips to help you identify potential problem areas, it’s not meant to turn REALTORS® into home inspectors. However, knowing up front if there is a structural defect can be advantageous for everyone involved. For more information or to register for Recognizing Structural Deficiencies in Homes, visit Continue Your Education on www.orea.com.

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations


416-445-9910 ext. 246