Buying a House You Can't See

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by 3strim, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. 3strim

    3strim Professional Accidental Rater

    So, I'm planning to make a move almost 1300 miles away, crossing provincial lines, and buy a house for the first time. It's super exciting. The realtor is happy to want to work with me, but there's a couple of things I need to get in line first:
    • Down payment: Canada requires a very, very base-minimal of 5% of the cost in liquid assets, 20% being preferable. I actually already have this part done (albeit the 5%).
    • Home inspection: My bank won't actually approve the mortgage until I've had the place inspected. I have the contact information for a gentleman who is local to the home in question (He did an inspection on it ~two weeks ago) that I can contact thanks to my realtor, but I have no idea how I'd end up paying for his services. I assume he'd invoice me and I'd pay it that way?
    • Necessary upgrades: By which I mean, the home is wired on 60A. My realtor is recommending a minimum of 100A. The last person to offer on the home wanted the seller to take the hit on this and was refused, but I'm wondering if asking to split the cost of this is reasonable? Alternatively, is there any way that I can take a quote to my lender to work it into my mortgage?
    • Insurance: There is a place willing to insure the house as-is with the 60A. So I mean, I'm not actually terribly concerned about this.
    • The Legal Nonsense: My grandmother has a lawyer who specializes in real estate in the place that I'm moving to. From my understanding, I'll also need a lawyer or a notary on my end for signing things over and then play lawyer tag?
    • Getting the keys at the end of all this: Since it's incredibly unlikely I'll be there at closing, is it possible to allow local family members to take possession of the house, have them cut me an extra key so I can let myself in when I move, all that?
    And then additionally:
    • Pets: I'm working on this already, and I just need to confirm that the cargo flight and the passenger flight that just so happen to leave the same airport at the same time with an identical model of plane is, in fact, the same flight.
    • Moving Fees: Especially considering I don't have a license, I think my only option is to hire a professional company to come in and take everything.
    While I know I'm located in Canada and therefore, some of this information might be radically different to the US, I was wondering if anyone had any advice on buying a home that you can't personally see or handle due to distance. Anything else I need to keep in mind?
  2. turtleDove

    turtleDove Well-Known Member

    This is how that would work, yeah. He'd send you a report of the inspection, and invoice you for it and then you can just pay the invoice. As far as the inspection goes, get him to do as thorough of one as possible - if there's any mold or anything, you'll want to know about that ahead of time so you can either budget for remediating it yourself or get the sellers to remediate it.

    I don't see why you couldn't ask the seller if they're willing to split the cost for upgrading the wiring. Worst that can happen is they say 'no', after all. Additionally, I think that getting a quote for the work required and asking the lender if it can be worked into the mortgage would be pretty reasonable, if the seller isn't willing to split the cost of the wiring upgrade.

    Yyyyep, you are definitely going to want a lawyer of your own on this, just to make sure everything's handled and someone's authorized to sign for you when you can't be present.

    Also, afaik, the lawyer could probably handle this too! (Or at least you can ask if they can do that. It should be possible.) If they can take possession for you and get the keys, you can then pick the keys up from the lawyer when you get there. Barring the lawyer being able to do it, you could probably sign something allowing a local family member to serve as your agent in taking possession of the house, yes.
    Definitely run all this past the lawyer when you're able, though, and make it clear that you need someone who can take possession of the house and hold onto the keys for you until you're on-site.

    Yeah. But, good news: hiring a professional company means you're not going to be doing most of the loading/unloading yourself, and they'll have insurance to cover everything. And if you can arrange a booking ahead of time, it'll probably cost less than trying to do it same-day (especially for a move that'll take you to another province). All you'll need to do is pack things up, and you can get moving boxes and packing material for cheap from Uhaul.

    I'm not sure, exactly, how much the moving fees would be - but you should be able to get an estimate from the company and there should be a few companies that you can check their website or call them to get quotes.

    For other First off, make sure that the contract is really clear on what happens to anything left in the house after you/your agent have taken possession (or after the purchase date, either/or); if you want the seller to have all their stuff out before the purchase date, make sure that's noted in the contract - and I'd recommend requiring that, honestly, since it'll be less of a headache than trying to figure out how long you can reasonably hold onto anything they've left behind before you get to toss it. Plus, it means the sellers then can't come bugging you for things they claim they left behind, since they were clearly warned that anything theirs needed to be removed. Go for having the sellers have their stuff out at least a week before the purchase date, plus a walk-through by your agent after they should have their stuff out to make sure that's happened.

    Second, make sure the contract is clear on what's a fixture and what stays with the house. Appliances and such reasonably should stay, but it's better to have that in writing and know you can file a police report or sue over it if they take the fridge or the A/C unit, than to get a rude surprise when you move in. (Likewise for curtains and such: do those stay with the house or are those the seller's?)

    Third, contract should be clear on what condition the house has to be in when you/your agent take possession - I'd go for "broom-swept" or "move-in ready", both of which mean that the house needs to be clean and habitable when the sellers leave.

    Fourth, set up a P.O. box for yourself in the new town for directing mail to until you've moved in. You can contact Canada Post and have them set up a redirect for your mail, to go to that P.O. box, and have it start the day you'd move from your current place. It'll keep going for about a year or so unless you ask them to end it sooner. This way, you can have your mail heading to the right place already without needing to worry about the seller or anyone else touching it.

    Fifth, get lots of pictures. Have your real estate agent or your lawyer walk through the place and around it, and get lots of photos of what the place looks like before the sellers move out and what it looks like after they've moved their stuff out.

    Sixth, have the lawyer get a survey! If everything goes ideally, you won't need it - but if you need to fix the fences in the backyard or want to put in a shed or something, it'll be necessary for knowing exactly where your property lines are and what easements exist; you don't want to find out post-move that there's an easement for the local neighbourhood to walk through your backyard.

    Seventh, find out who you'll need to contact for gas, hydro, etc - it's better to have this hashed out beforehand, so you can handle it smoothly once you're moved in.

    Eighth, check if Skip The Dishes or another food delivery service exists in the area - moving's hard, and it'll be easier if you can order a pizza or something comforting and filling once all the boxes and furniture are unloaded, rather than having to get on unpacking the kitchen right away. (On a related note: try to avoid packing anything that needs refrigeration. Dry goods are fine, but you'll want to make sure the fridge and freezer for your current place are as empty as possible and don't have anything you're not willing to toss, on the day you move out.)

    (edited to make the list of stuff less of a dense wall of text)
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
    • Informative x 1
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