I’ve been reading a lot in the news about lead pipes. I’m currently in the market to purchase a home — what questions should I ask of my salesperson and the current homeowner?

Media has reported extensively on lead piping in recent days; highlighting several areas throughout the province where municipal lead piping feeds into residential dwellings.

While many homes built after the mid-1950s were constructed with lead-free pipe, you should not make any assumptions without taking steps to confirm that a house is free of lead pipes. You are correct to be bringing this concern to the attention of your salesperson or broker.

Too often buyers are so focused on cosmetic features and “upgrades” within homes, like granite countertops and hardwood floors, that they forget to think about what is behind the walls and beneath the floors.

As a first step, you should give careful consideration to selecting a real estate professional to assist you in your search – and help you to assess neighbourhoods and properties you are interested in. When considering which salesperson or broker you would like to work with, ask them about their knowledge of older homes and how they’ll help you to perform due diligence on houses of interest to you. Be direct with them about your specific concerns and choose to work with someone whom you are confident will investigate your concerns.

Before making an offer there are some preventative steps you should take. It’s a good idea to ask your representative to find out if there have been any upgrades to the home’s plumbing systems. If the pipes both inside the home and running to the building have been replaced recently, there should be a record of it from the seller or the municipality. Even if all the lead piping has been replaced inside the house, it’s possible that the supply pipe from the water main to the house is lead.

Keep in mind that, in Ontario the legal doctrine of caveat emptor (buyer beware) prevails. Buyers are generally responsible for ensuring that the property is suitable for their needs. Sellers do have an obligation to disclose hidden defects, of which they were aware, that may endanger the health of the occupants or render the property dangerous.

Work with your representative to identify the questions you want asked of the seller regarding the systems in place. Creating a list of specific questions that directly address your concerns may give you the peace of mind you may be looking for. If the seller declines to answer your questions, that may be a sign that more investigation, such as having an experienced contractor look closely at the house, may be necessary to address your concerns.

If you want to be absolutely sure that the water supply in a home is safe, testing the water is the best approach. Your real estate representative can ask the sellers to consent to a test, possibly as a condition of your offer.

Of course, the plumbing is just one part of the picture. A home’s electrical, foundation, heating, cooling and other systems are also important areas for investigation.

When it comes to buying a home, taking the time to consider each step is critical. Think carefully about what matters to you and don’t rush the process.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.


Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

 

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