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Buying a Previously Owned Home

When looking to buy a previously-owned home, make sure you know when it was built, if warranty is attached to the home and who built it.

You can learn more about a home that you are considering buying by looking it up on our New Homes Registry.

Third-party home warranty insurance

All builders in B.C. must be licensed by BC Housing and arrange for third-party home warranty insurance before starting construction on a new home or to obtain a building permit.

Minimum coverage and allowable exclusions for third-party home warranty insurance are set by legislation. As a minimum, homes built by licensed residential builders must have 2-5-10 Year Home Warranty Insurance. This coverage includes a minimum of:

  • 2 years on labour and material (some limits apply)
  • 5 years on the building envelope, including water penetration
  • 10 years on the structure of the home

The warranty is attached to the home, not to the owner of the home. Thus it stays in effect upon the re-sale of the home until the coverage expires.

Strata-titled homes have two policies of home warranty insurance: one on the home and the other on the common property. Sometimes when the coverage of a new strata-titled home starts, the coverage on the related common property has already started — or expired. Coverage on the common property of strata-titled buildings starts when the first unit in the building is occupied or sold.

Before buying a previously owned home, you should find out if there is any existing home warranty insurance. Ask about the expiry dates and make sure you get the information in writing.

Owners of homes with remaining home warranty insurance can get a claims history from the warranty insurance provider. The fee is no more than $25. If you are a potential buyer of a home like this, try asking the owner to get a copy of the claims history. This will help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

Our Home Warranty Insurance on New Homes page gives more information, including commencement dates, exclusions and limits on coverage.

Owner-built homes

An owner builder is an individual authorized by BC Housing to build a new home for personal use. An owner builder doesn’t need a residential builder’s licence or to arrange for third-party home warranty insurance on that home. Instead, he or she must get an Owner Builder Authorization from us before starting construction.

However, when an owner builder sells a home within the first 10 years of occupancy, he or she stays liable for defects to any purchasers during that 10-year period under the statutory protection provisions of the Homeowner Protection Act:

  • 2 years for labour and materials
  • 5 years for defects in the building envelope
  • 10 years for structural defects

Any issues regarding defects should be settled directly with the owner builder. However, these provisions also let later buyers take legal action against an owner builder to correct defects as set out in the provisions. There are some reasonable exceptions to the statutory protection, such as defects caused by someone other than the builder or natural disasters. The Act and regulations explain those in detail.

These requirements cover all areas of B.C. to strengthen protection for buyers of new homes.

You should be mindful that any owner builder who builds and markets a home as “new” without having lived in the home themselves first may have contravened the Act.

Check out our regulatory bulletin, Buying or Selling an Owner-built Home , to learn about:

  • Illegal sales or listings of owner-built homes
  • Occupancy and disclosure requirements for owner-built houses
  • Statutory protection requirements for owner-built homes

Homes with completed building envelope renovations

Before buying a previously owned home that has had building envelope renovations, you should find out if there’s any existing warranty insurance on the repair. You should also ask about the extent of any existing warranty and the expiry dates. Make sure you get all the information in writing.

Repair contractors who perform building envelope renovations must be licensed by BC Housing. They must also provide third-party warranty insurance in order to get a permit for building envelope renovations, subject to the Homeowner Protection Act and Regulation.

Even in geographic areas where building permits are not required for such building envelope renovations, the contractor must be licensed and have warranty insurance before starting those renovations.

The regulations for building envelope renovations do not apply to these categories:

  • Buildings with only one or two self-contained dwelling units
  • Buildings covered with Homeowner Protection Act legislated warranty insurance
  • Buildings when the dollar threshold — greater than or equal to $10,000, or $2,000 per unit in the building — and/or when the percentage of cladding surface renovated threshold — 60 per cent or more of any cladding surface is not met
  • Care facilities
  • Dormitories
  • Floating homes
  • Hotels and motels
  • Multi-unit rental buildings
  • Multi-unit buildings in which first occupancy occurred 25 or more years before the building envelope renovation started or, if applicable, the issuance of a building permit for the renovation, whichever is earlier
  • Repairs carried out by the original builder at no cost to the owner(s) or when there is a cost-sharing agreement between the original builder and the owner(s)
  • Social housing

Minimum coverage and standards for warranty insurance covering applicable building envelope renovations are set by regulations, not by warranty providers. That coverage includes:

  • 2 years on labour and materials (some limits apply)
  • 5 years on the building envelope, including water penetration