Vancouver Home Mysteries

Where Is The Whatchimacall-It?

Buying a home is replete with mystery. Most Vancouver home mysteries can be sorted out if you know the questions to ask in advance. Your Vancouver Realtor®, mortgage broker and legal counsel will help sort through the majority of the critical ones in advance of moving in.

Once you move in there are however, an entire new set of questions that will arise. It’s a good idea to use this list to help you sort through the ones that may be overlooked.

Other Things You Need to Know About Your New Home

Make a point of asking the Seller and your Vancouver Realtor® to help take the mystery out of the following items:

  • Where is the main water shut off?
  • Where is the electrical panel, main shutoff?
  • Where is the closest hospital/emergency?
  • Are there copies of any appliances under warranties?
  • Are there copies of product manuals for appliances?
  • Is there a landscape plan or a list of outdoor plants and how to care for them?
  • What are the names and phone numbers of immediate neighbours?
  • Are there children living on the street?
  • Do the neighbours have a dog(s)?
  • Where is the school bus stop?
  • What day is trash pickup?
  • What do I do with recyclables?
  • What are the neighbourhood favourite restaurants, stores and parks?
  • Can you recommend a dry cleaner, salon, mechanic, gardener etc.?
  • Who did you use for lawn care, snow removal etc.?
  • Is there an electrician, plumber or technician familiar with the systems in the house?
  • What are the names of the paint colours used in the house?
  • Are there any light switches that operate something unexpected?
  • Is there a sump pump? Is it alarmed? Where is the switch?
  • What is the alarm code and the alarm company’s phone number?

Last, don’t forget to ask about the room at the top of the stairs. 🙂

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About Larry Yatkowsky

Larry is a recognized real estate expert. A veteran professional, his experienced counsel leads Vancouverites in his west side community to place their trust in a man passionate about his work. Uncompromising ethics bring a balanced approach to realizing your real estate dreams.

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*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

stats don't lie Says:
May 28th, 2011 at 6:16 am

You forgot 1 question, critical to all Vancouver buyers:

“How can I get my money out of mainland China?”

jesse Says:
May 29th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I am bookmarking this post. A great checklist for prospective buyers. I remember one place we saw a few years ago had a nasty pit bull next door. During the open house it was inside and we didn’t see it. We returned to walk around the neighbourhood and noticed the thing through the fence in the back, barking away. I would NEVER live there with kids, too much chance of the dog getting out or the kids climbing into the yard to retrieve a ball or something.

jesse Says:
May 29th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Oh yeah, these should be questions BEFORE you buy, not after. If owners can’t competently answer these questions it tells you something about the owners, how well they tended the property, and their relationship with neighbourhood. If they fail these “interview” questions it’s a warning sign IMO. The neighbourhood could be dysfunctional or full of transient renters/owners, the owners weren’t maintaining the place properly, or worse.

It does raise an interesting point, though. Should previous owners be involved in the sales process? There is a very good argument that, if they are responsible owners, took pride in their house, and are actively part of a vibrant neighbourhood, this should be highlighted as a positive sales point. Yes I’m sure Realtors will disagree with me on this but there is an inherent mistrust of salespeople — getting a sense of the previous owners goes a long way to finishing the deal.

Of the places I looked at when I was looking for property, the ones that we shortlisted almost invariably involved us seeing and briefly talking to the current owners, to get a sense of the type of people they were. Some even showed their handiwork and let us know of problems off the top, which an inspector would have found anyways. Yes, thinking outside the box.

May 30th, 2011 at 7:28 am


“an inherent mistrust of salespeople”

Jesse, this applies at all levels. I don’t disagree with your premise but reflect if you will that not only does mistrust exists between buyers, sellers and salespeople, but also between salespeople themselves. Were I safe from slander, libel or any number of other litigious actions there are stories from each relationship that could be told.

Should previous owners be involved? That is a judgement call. I have involved the seller and buyer in direct negotiation acting as mediator. In a few instances this proved to be a wonderful experience for all. The same has also proved to be a disaster. It really depends on circumstance and the individuals involved. When the idea is put forth to sellers odds are that 99% will say “absolutely not.”

Further note – As we all become more computerized, face to face meetings between buyer and seller or agent to agent is disappearing. Example: in three transactions this year I never met the seller or the seller’s agent in real life. Everything was completed by email via a portable scanner, printer and laptop.
To be clear, I did touch the walls in the house. 🙂

vangrl Says:
May 30th, 2011 at 11:42 am

I wish you were allowed to sleep one night in an apartment before you bought it:)

also, being that I’ve been president of strata on more than one occasion I would totally ask to talk to the president if I was buying a place. Not once have I been called by an actual owner to inquire about anything, many times realtors have called me to ask questions but as a buyer I would make sure that I called myself.
People move into buildings without evening knowing who lives next door or whether or not there are barking dogs next door, or babies, or smokers etc…
It’s such a crap shoot, I would try and hangout in the building for as long as possible to get a “feel” for the building. I’d even knock on my potential neighbors doors to meet them before I put in an offer.

Great points that you make though Larry.

May 30th, 2011 at 12:03 pm


Good stuff to add to the list of things to do before you buy.

As a matter of curiosity, as a seller, would you make a point of introducing all “potential” buyers to your neighbours and would you also let them know that there is a dog, babies or a smoker next door? Would you do this if you anticipated that this would reduce your final sale price?

Note: being a president of strata council is a volunteer position. I’m quite certain most of them have no idea that they may have signed up for personal calls from strangers (potential buyers). 10 or 20 of these types of calls at 9 pm might send you over the top. I can share with you that a couple of times I’ve had my ears scalded for handing out a president’s phone number to buyers and as a result I’m reticent to pass out their numbers without their express permission.

As for the other points you mention; all are valid but practicality is another issue. Re smoking – more and more buildings are changing their by-laws to incorporate a non-smoking building.

jesse Says:
May 30th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“Should previous owners be involved? That is a judgement call. ”

Yes I agree it will not always work out. But in my view — and this is just me — I can see a great many buyers discriminating based on how well the house was looked after, and to be honest that is difficult to ascertain without involving the people who actually, you know, looked after the place.

Let’s call a spade a spade: sell-side Realtors are slated with selling a property for as much money as possible. There is nothing wrong with that, but if the previous owner is not present I am going to ask why. Is there something that won’t sit right if I meet them?

Maybe it’s nostalgia but my grandfather owned and ran a farm for years. When he sold it, the person who bought it needed to see first-hand how the business was run before he bought and that involves interfacing with the previous owner. Any reasonable due diligence would require it. A residential property deep in the urban forest is a microcosm of this and the same DD applies. Today’s commonly-accepted techniques of salesmanship can have downsides, especially when there is significant competition.

May 30th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I’m on your side on this one but I am left to ask – how many Realtors® have the skill set to conduct themselves as arbiters in face to face meetings between buyer and seller?

You cannot dismiss that to most people the selling or buying of a home creates a highly charged environment. Add to this the potential for a buyer to make comment to a seller about how much they dislike the chartreuse drapes and brown stuff hits the fan.
Keeping that buy/sell discussion in perspective for either party is difficult in the extreme.

It is I believe the fundamental reason why ‘agents’ for both parties are enlisted to secure the transaction.

It would be nice if we all had more grandpa’s. 🙂

jesse Says:
May 30th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

“You cannot dismiss that to most people the selling or buying of a home creates a highly charged environment”

This isn’t an attack on the skillset of Realtors. It is ultimately up to the buyer and seller to conduct themselves properly and develop a thick skin. I am stating that if sellers want to get to the front of the line, in my opinion they should make themselves available to the discriminating buyer. They should not be disappointed if their labour of love is treated skeptically and discounted if they aren’t around to validate it.

May 30th, 2011 at 3:05 pm


You weren’t attacking the skillset, I was. Sorry for the confusion.
Re: the seller’s. Most of mine hide or leave the house during showings – even on days when there is snow. Not terribly encouraging for a buyer in terms of getting some answers to their check list.

vangrl Says:
May 30th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

as a seller I wouldn’t make it a “point” to introduce potential buyers to my neighbors, but if they asked I of course would try to set it up, and if they asked all the appropriate questions (dogs, smokers etc..) I would of course answer honestly.
Being president of council subjects you to calls from other owners (rarely happens). I would not want a Realtor to ever give out my number but if another owner called and asked if it were all right that a potential buyer (a serious one) was to call me, I’d be happy to except that phone call. We are probably talking about one or two calls from interested parties, certainly not 20 at 9 p.m at night. If I were buying and wanting to talk to someone on strata council i would certainly call at a reasonable hour.

Another alternative is to talk to the Live-in Caretaker, with the sellers approval of course. They would know more than anyone what issues the building has. A lot of strata condos have live-in caretakers.

In this market it might be hard to have the seller agree to allow a potential buyer to do these things but in a tougher market maybe not so much, regardless, I would not buy unless they allowed me to (hot or cold market).
Just talking to the owner and the realtor doesn’t feel safe enough for me, obviously their going to be a little bit one sided if you know what i mean:)

vangrl Says:
May 30th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

they’re not their 🙂

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