Buyer beware is still the prevailing legal principle when buying a home

Allow me to draw your attention to Les MacPherson’s column, in today’s Star Phoenix titled, “Buyer beware when it comes to home purchase.”

The Buyers bought the condo and took possession in June of last year. In spite of a musty smell in the basement when they were shown the property, they did not have a home inspection done. Their Realtor told them an inspection was not necessary, they testified. Like quite a few other new homeowners, they soon would find out otherwise.

Soon after they moved in, the Buyers took out a wall between the kitchen and the den. Inside they discovered three dead mice. Exterminators later found in the basement walls a whole mouse city, with an estimated 100 nests. While no live mice were present, there were plenty of dead ones, some covered in maggots. Framing and drywall were ruined by mouse urine.

Read more here.

Like it or not, this story drives home the importance of conducting your own due diligence when purchasing a home. Most interesting, to me, is the reference to the newest Property Condition Disclosure Statement which urges buyers to have the property inspected. You simply can’t rely on the representations of a seller when it comes to property condition issues. No matter what your agent or the seller might say, courts expect buyers to take reasonable actions to protect themselves. Is a home inspection always a reasonable action? I think so. Apparently, the courts think so too.

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.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS® listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Summer time is home maintenance time

This summer home maintenance list was provided to me by Frank Browne and his crew at Pillar to Post Home Inspections. Hope you find it useful.

With summer’s kickoff on the way, it’s time to get your home in top shape for the months ahead. Whatever your weather, taking some time to take care of your home will help to ensure a worry-free, comfortable summer.

OUTDOORS
  • Inspect siding for cracks and make any needed repairs.
  • If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials.
  • Repair any damaged caulking around windows and doors.
  • Remove window screens and clean with a soft brush and soapy water. Repair any holes or tears before reinstalling.
  • Have air conditioning units serviced to ensure good operation. Promote good air circulation around the unit by keeping shrubs and plants trimmed.
  • Clear debris from gutters and eaves to allow rainwater to drain properly
  • Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants
  • Test irrigation/sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary.
  • Power wash decks and patios and seal surfaces as appropriate.
INDOORS
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils to help maintain energy efficiency.
  • Empty dehumidifier pans and clean hoses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out.
  • Adjust ceiling fans for proper balance.
  • Change filters in window-mounted air conditioning units.
  • Switch heavy bedding out for lightweight summer fabrics. Have the winter bedding cleaned before storing.
  • Close the chimney flue to prevent insects from entering and to help keep cool air in.
  • Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer.
  • Check door and cabinet hinges and lubricate any that stick or squeak.
  • Open windows on cooler days to keep fresh air flowing throughout 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.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

 

Obtaining proper home improvement permits is the only way to go

When I first entered the real estate business in 1993 it was common to find improvements in homes that were completed without a required permit. At the time, it just wasn’t a big deal to move ahead with your basement development without one. Almost everyone did it.

In recent years, the failure to obtain proper permits has become a much bigger deal, and in fact, a point of contention that has caused many residential sale transactions to collapse at the last minute. In instances where the transaction can be salvaged (the seller agrees to obtain and close the required permits and the buyer agrees to complete the purchase), it often involves lots of “jumping through hoops” for homeowners and real estate agents. Occasionally, these hoops are hard, if not impossible to clear in a short period of time.

Let’s not debate whether the government has a place in regulating what we do with our private property. As a real estate agent, I’m likely at least as geeked up about your property rights as you are. Insisting that the government has no place to tell you what to do and refusing to play by the rules may be an example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” when it comes to the resale value of your home.

Building codes are intended to ensure safe construction standards are met to protect occupants from structural failures, potential fire hazards and electrical shock. When a Saskatoon home owner, or a contractor acting on behalf of a home owner obtains a permit for home improvements they commit to completing the work in accordance with current building codes. Ultimately, they allow access to a qualified inspector who inspects the work and verifies that the improvements meet the code. Where deficiencies exist, the inspector will require adequate repairs before the permit can be closed.

When a potential home buyer discovers that improvements were completed in your home without the required permits, they lose the assurances that the work was done correctly and safely. Even if the buyer is comfortable moving forward on that basis, a lender may refuse to provide financing, or an insurer may refuse to insure the home. On the other hand, if the proper permits were obtained everyone who has an interest in the purchase can have some reasonable measure of confidence that the improvements are durable, valuable, and most importantly, safe. Simply put, your home improvements add more value to your property when they are completed with a permit.

More and more, home buyers who discover missing permits after entering into a conditional purchase agreement are insisting that the proper permits be obtained and closed by the seller before the purchase is completed. In most cases, this is completely possible but it is almost always far more difficult and costly to do after the fact. It’s not something that you want to be doing when you’re trying to coordinate a move.

In a short series of future posts we’ll talk about which home improvements require a permit and how home buyers might discover that your home improvements were completed without one.

Mean time, here’s some building permit information from the City of Saskatoon and some electrical/gas permit information from SaskPower.

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

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.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

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