My wife and I recently fell in love with an older house that probably needs a lot of work because it’s being sold “as is.” What should we know before we make an offer?

When you see the term “as is” in a listing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the home is in a state of disrepair, or that you’re going to get a deal on the price. Your real estate salesperson can provide you with an informed opinion about the home’s market value. “As is” simply means the seller has chosen to sell the property without making any representations that everything in the house works as expected. It could mean the homeowner has to sell the home quickly, or they aren’t interested in making any repairs or updates.

Considering your intended use, you need to know what you’re buying. It’s a good idea to arrange for a home inspection by an experienced home inspector. A home inspection is an on-site examination of visible features and major systems of a property. The inspector will base their evaluation on what they can see with their naked eye and possibly with non-invasive tools like an infrared thermometer or a wood moisture meter. An inspection does not involve poking holes in the structure or moving heavy items to access parts of the house they may obscure.

Even an experienced home inspector can sometimes miss a critical problem. To lessen the chance that you might be faced with unanticipated defects, you may also consider hiring a general contractor or a structural engineer to assess the home. If you aren’t sure where to find reputable professionals, ask your salesperson.

You could make your offer conditional upon the results of the home inspection. If the seller doesn’t wish to consider conditional offers, however, I strongly recommend conducting a pre-offer home inspection so you can make an informed decision about the property before you provide a deposit or finalize an agreement to purchase.

If you’re thinking about undertaking major renovations, talk to your salesperson about the longer-term value they may add to the property. Remember that nearly all renovations involving the replacement or addition of major systems to a property, or moving walls, require applying for municipal building permits and while they interest you, they may make the home less desirable to future buyers. A lawyer insured to practise real estate law may be able to tell you if the renovations you’re considering, as well as the property itself, are in line with local zoning bylaws.

Renovations, repairs and permits can be expensive. Practice due diligence when selecting a contractor. This may involve, interviewing several contractors about their qualifications and experience, requesting and reviewing written estimates, checking client references, and discussing a mutually acceptable payment schedule. Consumer Protection Ontario encourages homeowners to search through the Consumer Beware List before they select a contractor.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

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, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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