Spring, for many Canadians, is the long-awaited reprieve from winter’s frigid grip. The days are longer, the sun is warmer, and the snow is melting to make way for green grass and new beginnings.
It’s also the time when real estate booms with the return of open houses. Sure, houses are bought and sold throughout the winter months too, but homebuyers who aren’t pressed for time usually wait for spring because, well, EVERYTHING seems so much harder to do in the winter.
Buying a house in the spring isn’t always easy to do either—it can be tricky if you don’t know what to look for or what questions to ask. Read on for some tips and tricks you can use when house hunting in the spring. Using this handy-dandy checklist can avoid costing you more in the future.
1. Know Exactly What You Want
- If you’re looking for a large fenced-in backyard, but what you see is just a nicely laid-out big backyard with no fence—is that a deal breaker? Or is it something you can afford to add on down the road?
- Are you looking to avoid renovations at all costs? Or are you willing to see the potential in houses with a change of paint color, new carpets, or tearing down and opening up an inside wall?
Knowing what you want ahead of time can narrow or widen your options and can cut down on wasted time (and gas—have you seen the recent gas prices).
2. The Lay of the Land
Landscaping. In a perfect world, the grade of the yard should slope away from the house. But over time as the ground settles, the grade may wind up sloping toward the house. This can pose problems during spring melt or heavy rainfalls, as having the wrong slope can lead water directly to the house. When the ground around the house is always saturated, even the finest crack can allow water into the basement and potentially become larger when temperatures drop and the ground freezes.
3. Inspect the Exterior
- Cracks in the stucco
- Peeling Paint
- Mold or stains on siding
- Condition of window frames
- Missing or damaged eaves troughs
Keep in mind that the north side of houses will show signs of damage before the others because it’s the coldest side. When inspecting any fencing or decking, look for soft spots—this usually means wood-rot is present. Does the wood need fresh paint or stain?
4. Examine the Shingles
No, you don’t need to bring a ladder to go up on the roof—that’s your house inspector’s job (if you decide you want to put an offer in). But do bring binoculars so you can get a closer look at the condition of the shingles—look for lifting and curling edges, missing shingles, and any damaged areas.
5. Look For Water Damage
Spring is the time of year when water damage will be most prominent because of melting snow and thawing ground. Some indicators that water damage has occurred are yellow stains on walls, in corners, and on baseboards, and mold, mildew, and musty odors.
6. Check ALL Areas of the House
From crawlspaces and hidden corners of the basement to utility rooms and attics—these are all places that need to be examined. These areas usually receive less attention and care than the livable spaces of the house, so moisture has a better chance of going unnoticed.
No visual indications of moisture doesn’t mean there isn’t any—if there’s a musty smell, it may mean there was previous moisture, or that moisture is hiding behind the framework or insulation.
7. Test the Plumbing
When the ground freezes, thaws, and shifts, there’s potential for drainage pipes to pull apart, break, or collapse. Test the plumbing by turning on the cold water taps at the tub and sink to see if the drainage can keep up and if the drains are clear and unobstructed. Another good test is to flush the toilet when running the bathroom sink to see if there’s a reduction in water pressure—this may indicate a water-main issue.
8. Water Heater and Furnace
The water heater and furnace were working overtime throughout the winter. Look for any water pooling or evidence that there has been water in the past. Are there water stains on the floor? Does the furnace look dusty, like it hasn’t been touched in years? Check for stickers that show the age of the appliances and when they were last serviced. If this information is not readily available, your real estate agent can get copies of any requested documents.
Once you decide to put an offer on a house, it’s time to hire a professional home inspector. The tips and tricks that you just read are only a starting point—anyone can use this checklist to get a feel for obvious issues or damage—so you should still invest in having a home inspector do a thorough exam of the property to see if there are any immediate issues, or potential future issues that can be used as a bargaining chip in your offer to purchase.
Looking For a Knowledgeable Realtor This Spring?
Looking for a house in the spring can be tricky. Knowing what potential problems to look for will avoid unwanted surprises in the future. Here’s where working with an experienced real estate agent can make a world of difference. A trusted realtor will have the knowledge and expertise to save you from unwanted surprises down the road.
If you’re in the Toronto or GTA area and are looking to start house hunting, let’s chat!
Hi, I’m Joel, a real estate professional based in Toronto.
My approach is simple—I put you first. I believe in open communication, total transparency, and meaningful results. I’ll guide you through the real estate process, market values, and always keep the focus on you—and your needs.