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Use your offer to purchase to prevent unpleasant surprises after closing

Margaret Kerr & JoAnn Kurtz

Home buyers often think that the only important part of their offer to purchase is the dollar figure. Once their offer is accepted, they think their only worry is paying the mortgage after the closing. Making mortgage payments certainly is a problem to worry about - but it's not the only one when you're buying a house.

Yours to Love... and Repaint

When you buy a resale house, normally you're buying it "as is". After closing the house is yours to love; and its also yours to re-paint, re-roof, re-wire... The list can be endless if you buy a house that's not good in condition. To be sure you know what you're getting into before you take possession of the house and have to start fixing it, you should put a clause in your offer to purchase that makes the agreement conditional on getting a professional home inspection. If the inspector's report is not satisfactory, you can get out of the agreement.

Buyers and sellers sometimes have different ideas about what's being sold with the house and what's being taken away by the seller. Real property law says that the seller has to take all "chattels" when she moves, but has to leave behind "all fixtures." A fixture is something that's attached to the house and that can't be removed without damaging the fixture and the house. That means the seller can't take the marble countertops in the bathroom, the parquet floor in the dining room when she goes. A chattel is personal property of the seller that's removable – like curtains, blinds, mirrors, light fixtures, and built-in dishwashers, and like the huge broken freezer in the basement and the rusty ‘62 Ford in the backyard.

If you like the draperies and blinds, or if you want to get the fridge, stove and dishwasher with the house, you have to say in your offer that you want them included in the sale. Don't just assume that they come with the house. If the seller wants to keep anything you've asked for, she'll sign back a counter-offer removing those items from the deal.

You don't want to arrive at you new home on closing day and find that the Freezer and the Ford have been left for you as housewarming presents. If you have any concern that the seller might leave something behind that will be difficult or expensive for you to get rid of, say in your offer that it is to be removed. This won't absolutely guarantee that the seller will take it away, but at least it will be a reminder to her.

Real property law also says that the seller must hand over the house to the buyer in the same condition it was in when the agreement of purchase and sale was made, "less normal wear and tear." If you think the seller and his family might spend the pre-closing period having wild parties or finger-painting the walls, you can make it a condition of your offer that you have the right to inspect the house the day before closing, to satisfy yourself that the house is in more or less the same shape as when you viewed it.

Time to Take Measurements

You can also put it in a condition that you have the right to visit the house one or more times before closing to take measurements - for new blinds, kitchen cabinets, etc. – so that you can get started on renovation and redecoration projects before you move in.

Take a little extra time preparing your offer to purchase to decide what conditions will benefit or protect you. The time you spend at this stage could save you money in the future.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.