A Drayton Valley, Alta, man is warning homebuyers not to rely solely on the advice of real estate agents and home inspectors after he lost his home because he couldn’t afford both the mortgage and costly repairs.
"I blame just about everyone who helped us," said Mark Eve. "The bank, the realtors, the home inspectors, the previous owners."
When Eve went looking to buy his first home he settled on a house on five acres near Tomahawk, Alta.
"We actually fell in love with it, especially inside," he said. "It was done up really nicely."
In 2010, Century 21 Hi-Point Realty of Drayton Valley listed the house for $298,900.
The company described it as having four bedrooms, built in 1978, with multiple upgrades.
"Perfect for a large family and/or entertaining," read the ad. "Great potential for a bed and breakfast."
Eve hired a building inspector who found problems with the two-year-old roof and newly-installed windows, along with the home’s septic system.
Eve decided he could cope with most of repairs and, after the sellers hired a local contractor repair the roof, removed the conditions of purchase and signed the papers.
Problems with house surfaced immediately
After the Eves moved in however, they discovered the house needed tens of thousands of dollars in repairs they didn’t know about.
They also learned it was several decades older than advertised.
Within a week Eve says, insects began crawling out of the wall.
Then, during a rainstorm the kitchen ceiling collapsed, revealing rot and mould in the ceiling and walls.
During subsequent repairs to the roof, a professional engineer’s report found "the roof and main floor construction methods that were used did not follow the details of the Alberta Building Code or good construction practices in effect at the time of construction, circa 1977."
Realtor defends 1978 construction date
The decision to list the house as 1978 was made by Roger Coles, the sellers’ realtor and a partner at Hi-Point Realty.
He based his decision on a large addition to the house that he believes was built in 1978.
The addition makes up about three-quarters of the structure today.
When the same house was sold in 2001 it was listed as having been built in 1960.
After Scotiabank foreclosed on Eve in 2012, it listed the home as 1940.
"I got advice from an accredited appraiser on this particular property saying that since the 1978 portion comprised so much of the house, that that was the effective age of the property," Coles said.
He says the dual-nature of the building was disclosed verbally to Eve through his agent, who also works for Cole, and that in any event it would have been obvious to Eve and to his building inspector.
A second building inspection, completed after the engineer’s report, estimated the original house was built in 1930, the addition in 1965.
No definitive date of construction is filed with Brazeau County.
Coles believes he did nothing wrong by listing the house as 1978 and defends his company’s reputation.
"We’ve spent almost 30 years here," Coles said. "To go and misrepresent the age or the size of a house on purpose wouldn’t make any sense. Thirty years of work coming down around your ears because somebody misrepresented the size of an older home doesn’t make any sense."
Eve complained to the Real Estate Council of Alberta, (RECA) the industry regulator. It said "there is insufficient evidence of breach of the Act", and that no further action was warranted by RECA, and closed the file.
1978 construction date wrong, says lawyer
"It’s not so much accuracy as honesty," said Shari Elliott, a lawyer who specializes in, and writes about real estate from her office in Barrie, Ont.
Elliott believes it wasn’t good enough to simply tell Eve the house was built at different times.
"That should have come out in the contract somehow," Elliot said. "It should have said ‘the buyer acknowledges being advised that parts of the house were built in 1960.’ Then we wouldn’t be worrying about was he told or wasn’t he told."
Elliot says, given the known uncertainty about the age of the house, it should never have been listed as built in 1978.
"I think the listing agent has to say ‘I don’t know something if I don’t know’", Elliott said. "And if they do put a fact forward that’s a representation, and it has to be true. And in this case it wasn’t true."
After the bank foreclosed, it described the house as being in poor condition. It sold for about half what the Eves paid.
Mark Eve says it will take at least five years before he will get his credit back to where he could apply for another mortgage.
"I’d hate to see another family go through what we’ve gone through in the last 2½, 3 years," he said.