Vermiculite: How it can affect health and resale of your home

Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of products including insulation. Vermiculite mined from the Libby Mine in Montana between 1920 and 1990 is known to contain asbestos, which can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in people who are exposed to airborne particles.

Vermiculite was one of a number of loose fill insulation products approved for installation under the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP) that provided grants to home owners who improved energy efficiency in their property between 1977 and 1984. Health Canada believes that vermiculite was installed in approximately 250,000 Canadian homes during that time. There is no information available as to where vermiculite use was most common but I can tell you that I have run across Saskatoon homes containing vermiculite insulation a number of times during my sixteen-year real estate career.

Health Canada’s position is this; “If vermiculite-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.” Perhaps this provides some comfort to homeowners who have vermiculite insulation in their home, but in my own experience, the presence of asbestos is a growing concern for home buyers. Asbestos which is contained and undisturbed may never cause you or others in your home health problems but there is some significant likelihood that it could cause problems in completing a home sale when you’re ready to move. Some home buyers may be totally disinterested in purchasing a home that contains such a potentially toxic substance insisting that it be remediated as a condition of the sale, or they may walk away from the deal all together once they know.

It’s important to note that not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If you suspect that you may have vermiculite insulation in your home you should avoid disturbing it. Contact a qualified expert for assistance in obtaining a sample for testing. In Saskatoon, Pillar to Post Home Inspections is qualified to gather samples and they can submit them to a lab on your behalf for testing. Testing costs can vary from one day to the next, but generally, a range of $150-$200 is what you should expect to pay for the service.

If vermiculite is present in your home and it does not contain asbestos, a lab report will be helpful in eliminating the concern that potential buyers for your home may have when you’re ready to sell. If it does contain asbestos, you can decide to remediate now, begin saving for an eventual remediation, or you can choose to leave it and deal with it at the time of sale. Remember though, leaving it until that late stage almost certainly raises significant concerns for your prospective buyer and could derail your sale.

One should probably consider that knowing your home contains asbestos might require you to disclose its presence when you offer the home for sale. The Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PCDS), which is not mandatory for home sellers, but is commonly used in Saskatchewan, has the following question. “To the best of your knowledge does the dwelling contain asbestos or urea formaldehyde insulation?” If you know asbestos exists, you are legally required to answer this question in the affirmative, if you choose to utilize the form. Home buyers are often suspicious of sellers who refuse to complete a PCDS. Even if you choose not to use the form a buyer could argue that disclosure is required based on the potential health implications of asbestos. In any case, professional home inspections are so common that it’s doubtful that vermiculite in your home could escape scrutiny when selling.

Health Canada has some good information online about vermiculite and asbestos including precautionary steps you can take to avoid contaminating your living space if vermiculite containing asbestos is present in your home. Check it out here.

Related posts: Asbestos in the home.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Tips for staying safe in your community and in your home

Perhaps you’ve already heard that it’s Realtor® Community Safety Week in Saskatoon. If you haven’t, let it be known that His Worship Mayor Donald Atchison has declared it so, and so it is.

You’ll be reminded that it’s Realtor® Community Safety Week by a series of safety tips airing on C95FM and Rock102. I’ve also noticed some service announcements in the Star Phoenix. The highlight event for the week is a Neighbourhood Safety Fair that happens on Saturday, September 12 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. It will be held at Sonnenschein Way, just south of the Farmer’s Market. If you can find the time, it’s probably worth attending. Apparently, there will be children’s activities and prizes, self-defense demonstrations, home safety products and lots of good safety related information.

Whether or not you can attend you should check out a free publication that’s being offered by the City of Saskatoon. It’s called “Safe at Home” and it contains about a dozen pages of great tips for staying safe in your community and in your home. Please read it and be safe, this week and every other.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Asbestos in the home

Citizens of Canada’s are no strangers to asbestos problems. Used throughout the 20th century as a prominent building material and insulator, health hazards related to asbestos has affected millions worldwide. Highly regarded for its qualities as heat and fire resistant, homes, buildings, and other products built before 1980 could still contain asbestos materials.

If you are a potential homeowner or are seeking to remodel an older home, exposure can cause many health concerns for you and your family. If you are interested in living in a safe, healthy environment, free of health damaging materials, here is some information to get you on that track.

Asbestos exposure can cause a debilitating lung ailment known as mesothelioma. This asbestos-related illness is one of the hardest for physicians to diagnose for a variety of reasons. The disease typically has a latency period lasting anywhere from 20 to 50 years when it has already reached its later stage of development. Its symptoms also resemble many of other less serious conditions. Mesothelioma treatment is usually limited to a handful of procedures and results vary from patient to patient. If your home or jobsite has had asbestos removed, exposure may have occurred previously and receiving a medical checkup is of the upmost importance.

Health Canada offers assistance and information in the prevention, disposal and removal of asbestos. They are federally responsible for helping citizens maintain and improve health at home and the work place. Homeowners should not disturb any suspected asbestos themselves as this makes its fibers airborne. The inspection and removal of toxic substances must be performed by licensed abatement contractors who are trained in handling dangerous materials. They work under provincial and federal regulations to ensure no health concerns arise from improper removal.

Once the area is asbestos free, environmentally sustainable materials should be considered including cotton fiber, cellulose and lcynene, water based spray polyurethane foam that can reduce energy costs annually. With the constant growth in technology, there is absolutely no need for health damaging materials such as asbestos.

Click for a larger image displaying potential problem areas for asbestos in the home.

A qualified home inspector can often detect the presence of asbestos and other potentially dangerous products that may have been used in home construction over the years. Put “healthy living environment” for your family at the top of your “wants and needs” list when shopping for a new home.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Jack Grover goes back to prison

Surely, there is a God!

The Supreme Court of Canada today reinstated Jack Grover’s obstruction of justice conviction, ruling that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals was wrong to overturn the guilty verdict. Grover was charged following a deadly fire in one of his properties which left two children dead and an adult man suffering permanent brain damage. In June of 2006, Grover was found guilty of falsifying smoke detector maintenance records. On August 31 he was sentenced to serve one year in prison for his actions but he was released the following December when the conviction was set aside by the provincial appeals court.

Grover has a lengthy history of problems related to his real estate holdings which include single family homes and apartment buildings in Saskatoon.  In one five year period over 30 fires were reported at his properties.  He’s been convicted of making a false or misleading statement, obstruction of justice, as well as other infractions under the Fire Prevention Act and Saskatoon’s fire bylaws. This is the first conviction which came with a prison sentence. Sadly, it’s far too short.

Saskatoon housing shortage: Some people are really hurting

Saskatoon housing shortageIt’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of this booming real estate market. If you’re not careful, you can miss some really important stuff.

Some people are really hurting.

He’s here. She’s there, with the kids. They can’t find a home, but they have to be out of the one they currently own in less than a month. They’ve tried hard, sometimes bidding up to $20,000 over the asking price. Someone always seems to outbid them and the next home that comes on the market always seems to be more money. They don’t know where they’ll end up.

Meantime, investors are sending money from all over the country. They all want a little piece of the Saskatoon real estate action.  It’s the “next Calgary,” don’t you know?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t resent you and I recognize your right to invest in this community. I just know where I want to focus my efforts right now and it’s not on spreadsheets.

If you want to talk cap rates, income and expenses, and property management, please, call another agent.  I’ll be busy helping someone find a home.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate