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While a home inspection is always ideal and recommended before buying a home, there are times—particularly in highly competitive markets like Vancouver and Toronto, where a conditional offer upon home inspection just isn’t possible due to bidding wars. In this case, what’s a buyer to do? You will have to rely on visual cues or expand your own knowledge of home repair issues. You many not find out about potential mold or asbestos issues before purchasing the home, but there are some things you can spot as red flags.

Inspect for door, window and water issues. This is one of the easiest things to inspect on your own. Open and close each and every door in the home to ensure it isn’t creaky, cracked, or improperly hinged. Check windows—if they’re foggy, the seal is no longer there and the window or the glass needs to be replaced. Turn on all taps and flush the toilet to check that the water pressure is functioning the way it should.

Check the wiring. Look at the wiring to see if it’s the outdated knob-and-tube style that predated the 1940s, as it will be hard to get your insurance to approve a home with this style of electrical wiring. Rewiring the entire home will create expensive damage to floors and walls. You can also look to check if the home used the more modern circuit breaker electrical panel instead of the outdated fuse style.

Look out for water damage. Since water damage is usually fairly visible to even the most untrained laymen, look for water stains all over the house, particularly on basement walls, floors and ceilings. Ceiling stains may mean the roof is leaking and needs to be replaced, and any leaks could mean there are mold issues that could not only be costly to repair but are dangerous to your health if you can’t afford to fix the issue right away.

Have a budget set aside. Since you are at a disadvantage without the professional inspection, your best plan of action is to have some extra money set aside just in case the worst-case scenario plays out and you do have to repair the roof or the wiring. If you have the money to do the necessary repairs, it won’t be as scary buying a home with so many potential issues at play.

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