‘We bought a dud’: How Winnipeg buyers can avoid homes with hidden horrors
A Winnipeg couple is sharing their story of a disaster real estate deal.
James Abott and Sherry Bosa wanted an old home with charm and character. Instead, the couple said they bought a house riddled with hidden problems.
Abott and Bosa paid $130,000 for a three-bedroom, century-old home in the West End. They now believe it will cost $190,000 extra just to fix the house and make it livable.
Black mould, rodents, faulty-installed windows and plaster falling off walls are just some of the hidden problems James Abott and Sherry Bosa have been trying to fix.
Since moving to the home this summer, the pair has dealt with rodents, falling plaster, windows installed without permits and a house littered with black mould under floors and lurking in walls.
“There’s been times where I come home and there are chunks of walls or ceilings that have fallen down,” said Bosa. “It’s just been disgusting.”
“It’s devastating,” said Abott. “We bought a dud of a house.”
The couple said they didn’t get a home inspection before the purchase because they didn’t see a point; however, they said the seller had signed a disclosure agreement indicating the home was virtually problem free.
“I’m a real estate agent and I would never hold back this kind of information,” said Bosa, who acted as her own agent in the purchase of her new home.
If Abott and Bosa don’t make the costly upgrades, the city could issues fines or take legal action. The couples said they hope to make the repairs, rather than move.
“We have to disclose this if we ever sell the home; we have to disclose the problems that were here," said Abott.
Technology uncovers potential for mould
Winnipeg home inspector Jed Cox said homeowners shouldn’t rule out hiring a professional to investigate a property before purchase.
Cox said moisture readers and air testing machines help inspectors gather clues about potential problems hidden in a home.
He said photos taken with thermal imaging technology can be even more telling, and reveal temperature changes in a wall or ceiling; displaying red for dry, blue for possible air leaks or water.
“It’s saying there’s the potential for mould. Neither of those machines are a mould detector, but they tell you the potential for mould is there,” said Cox, with River City Home Inspection.
Cox told CTV News it’s important for homebuyers looking to hire an inspector, to ensure the person is certified.
He advises buyers look up an inspector’s educational and work backgrounds, and find out the extent of his or her professional experience in the field.
“Make sure it’s not someone who just took an online course,” said Cox.
Winnipeg market shifting
Element Realty agent Monica Kessler said finding a solid home for under $150,000 is challenging.
“You don’t want to be buying a dump…because there are just too many unknowns,” she said.
Kessler said in the last three years, the real estate market in Winnipeg has shifted. Now that bidding wars are mainly a thing of the past, she suggests taking the time to hunt for surprises behind the walls.
"Buyers have the luxury to get home inspections and be able to have more information at their disposal before having to jump into the purchase of a home,” she said.
Another shift, Kessler said, is the disclosure agreement. Just like the one Abott and Bosa depended on, disclosure agreements are becoming a way to hold more sellers and real estate agents accountable.
While Kessler said disclosure agreements are signed in good faith, she said they are starting to carry more weight in court.
Abott and Bosa said an insurance company is looking at covering some of damage from construction before they took possession.
The couple said they plan to sue the real estate broker, agent and previous owners of the home.
The real estate agent who sold the house did not want to take part in the story, but told CTV News in a phone call that the couple viewed the house four times and did have a home inspection.
Abott and Bosa said they only viewed the house twice; once as a regular showing, another time with an appraiser.
Despite everything they’ve gone through, Abott and Bosa said they don’t want to move and still hope to renovate and live in their new home.
[FONT=“Arial”]Real estate complaints[/FONT]
CTV News asked the City of Winnipeg if it tracked complaints about real estate deals; it does not.
According to the Manitoba Real Estate Association, “There are complaint processes in place for disputes between realtors. A complaint between realtors would be investigated and enforced based upon a complaint being lodged with the relevant board or association.”
“MREA advises all buyers of real estate to seek the services of a qualified home inspector before making a purchase and strongly advises.”
Protection for buyers
The city said buyers can call 311 to find out if there were permits for renovations on a home.
In the case of Abott and Bosa, the couple said they checked with the city and none were flagged or available.
Looking at original building plans on a house can also help provide information on the history of home, which a buyer can access with permission from an owner. Information on this can be found on the city’s website.](http://winnipeg.ca/ppd/permits_general.stm#7)
“To request a search, you must be the legal owner of the property or submit a written authorization signed by the owner when you make your request. The written authorization should give you permission to access the building plans for the specified address,” the online information reads.
The city told CTV News it doesn’t have the building plans for every house, but it does have plans dating back to the early 1900s.
Abott said he could not access the original building plans of his new home because the documents were destroyed in a flood