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Browsing open houses can be a great way to see what’s on the market or to see a home up close and personal before you consider making an offer. That being said, it’s easy to get distracted by gorgeous staging or expensive furniture, or even just the excitement of being there. Make sure you watch out for some of these potential problems that could be hiding in plain sight.

Excess Candles or Air Fresheners
While a little ambience goes a long way, be wary of any space that seems overrun with scented candles or plug-in air fresheners. This is a common method of covering up unpleasant smells that linger, such as cigarette smoke, mould or pet odours.

Basement Problems
Basements in Canada are notorious for having code violations, water damage concerns and pest problems. Be suspicious of a real estate agent who tells you the basement is off limits at an open house, and, even if it’s dark and creepy down there, make sure you check it out for yourself. Be wary if you smell or feel dampness or mould, or if you see a dehumidifier working. Ask questions if you see rodent traps or evidence of droppings

Elevators Out of Service
If you happen to be checking out a condo, make note of how efficient the elevators are. Elevator maintenance is one of the top causes for high condo fees, so if your elevators need to be repaired or replaced in the near future, expect a rapid condo fee increase.

Large Trees Near the Home
While there’s something lovely about a stately oak tree standing sentinel over a home, a large tree close to a detached house can actually cause quite a bit of foundational damage. The roots can pose major complications, and there’s also the potential for the tree itself to fall or otherwise damage the house. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but you might want to have some additional inspections done around the foundation.

Condo Management
If you live in a condo, as more and more Canadians are, it’s likely you will be interacting with your concierge on a day-to-day basis. From organizing package deliveries to letting in guests, it’s their job to be on top of both maintenance and security, so pay close attention to how they behave when you arrive for an open house. Are they engaged and helpful? Can they answer basic questions about the building? Do they ignore you and just let a stranger walk into the suite? This might be a clue that security in the building is not a top priority.

None of these things necessarily have to be reasons for not pursuing the property, but they’re good starting points for negotiation, and a good opportunity to ask questions. While it’s fun to go to open houses, and even more fun when it turns out to be a property you can actually see yourself making an offer on, make sure you’re mindful of what could be hiding.

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