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Everyone's dream home is just the right size, in the perfect neighbourhood, with exactly the features and amenities they had in mind. In reality, every home'even a brand-new one'will have flaws. The question is, are they reasonable issues or signs of an impending disaster? 

Defining a job as 'manageable' often comes down to a buyer's budget; just because a problem is standard doesn't mean you can afford to fix it right away. 'It's common for a house to need a new roof or siding. The roof is more critical because it keeps the weather out, while the siding is more of a cosmetic issue,' says Blaine Swan, owner of Goodeye Inspections in Truro, N.S. Asphalt-shingle roofs last about 25 years, and replacing one starts at $5,000, with costs rising according to roof area.

Some issues are smaller than they appear. Mark Benerowski, who owns The Inspection Consultant Inc. in Toronto, says first-time buyers are often disappointed when, during the preclosing inspection, a brand-new home in a housing development doesn't look exactly like the model suite they had seen. He'll remind them that many minor problems'like an imperfect finish on a staircase'are covered by a provincially regulated new-homes warranty and easily fixed within 30 days of their move-in.

Anything that could be a safety issue is worth looking into. Investigating a home's electrical system, for example, is crucial. Insurance companies don't like knob-and-tube wiring (found in homes dating back about 50 years), which they label a fire hazard. The system must often be upgraded within 30 days of closing in order to get insurance, and it's a messy job that starts at about $5,000 per storey. Also problematic are homes from six or more decades ago that have only 60-amp electrical service, which isn't enough to support today's appliances. 'That means new masks, new wiring and a new electrical meter and panel,' says Swan. 'It 'can get very expensive.'


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