House Shopping 101: Free info on houses for sale.
by Keith Tripp, 2020
To prepare quotes and to prepare for inspections, the more I know about the house, the better. Today you can have almost as much info as the real estate sales people, and at no cost. You should have this same level of info when house shopping and doing your own research.
As a home inspector, age of the house is extremely important. The age will determine risks related to older electrical and plumbing components, energy performance, and foundation (basement) leakage risk. The true age of the house is often not highlighted in the selling material. Age indicators include: street date (on the sewer caps, installation tags inside the house, window manufacture dates, HVAC equipment dates, type of construction, construction materials used and location. Always find out the year of construction of the OLDEST part of the house when house shopping.
Here are some of the (FREE!!!) tools I use to get info on the property here in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
- This is the public version of the MLS info. It does not show all the info the real estate sales people can see, for example names of owners and age of house. Search by address on the map, or by listing number: shows house description and names of listing agent.
- Bungol.ca : UPDATE: BUNGOL HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN SINCE AUGUST 5, 2020 I AM NOW USING HOUSE SIGMA, SEE BELOW.
- This is the new kid on the block, arriving when laws were changed to allow for access to the MLS info. This is a powerful tool that real estate sales people wish did not exist. All of the info from realtor.ca except not the name of listing agent. The big plus with Bungol is it shows previous listing history such as terminations, price changes, and previous sales. It shows listing date and time on the market. It also shows when a conditional offer is in place and the expiry date of that condition. Age is shown but the range is quite broad.
- HOUSESIGMA.COM Similar to Bungol above. This is now my “go to” site. It has bigger and better photos than realtor.ca. there is also an alert system that will email you when status of a listing changes.
- Google maps:
- Photos over previous years can show dates of exterior renovations and even date of construction for newer homes. Click on Street View and the option to look at photo view going back over the years. I can often determine the approximate date that a roof was redone, or significant changes to exterior cladding by looking at this feature. Also good to look at proximity to highways, bodies of water, railroad tracks, industrial areas.
- MPAC is the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. This organization does thee property assessments to determine property taxes. You can sign on by using the tax roll number of your existing property. Use the “About My Property : My Neighbourhood” function to search the map. This is the best place to confirm year built, as the sales info likes to keep a low profile on that. Also shows: Square Feet, Lot size, Number of storeys, Current Value Assessed, Sales Indicator (date of previous sales only back to 2012, not amount).