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.

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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

Tips for buying a home in a hot Saskatoon real estate market

Tips for buying a home in the hots Saskatoon real estate market

Cass poses a question in another post regarding the hot Saskatoon real estate market. By the time I finished my response I realized that I had written a whole new post so I brought it up front for the rest of you.

If any of my real estate friends have something to add I would really appreciate your input and I’m sure Cass would as well.

Cass said: My husband and I have put offers on 3 different houses and 2 were in bidding wars.  The last house we offered $7,000 over asking price and the house went for $26,000 over asking.  This house had a basement suite and the buyer came in and paid cash and is most likely using it as full revenue property.  This is the 2nd house we lost due to another buyer using it as revenue property.  Can you please give us some advice on how a young married couple with a baby on the way is supposed to compete in a market like this?  It tends to be very frustrating and discouraging when the houses in our price range are being scooped up by investors, as there isn’t too many decent houses on the east side for around the $200,000 mark.  We are fully aware and prepared to place an offer over asking, but how can you compete with someone paying cash?

Norm said: Cass, thanks for stopping. Cash sounds pretty impressive but when I’m reviewing offers it only goes so far with me. The seller is not normally very concerned with how the home is being financed.  However, cash offers do often come forward without any conditions attached and the thought of having a good offer completed right now is very attractive to most sellers. One of our sellers just accepted an unconditional offer which was $4,000 lower than the second best. They see some value in knowing that the sold sign goes up right now and that there aren’t going to be issues that have to be sorted out.

Perhaps you could see your mortgage person and tell them that you want to write your next offer without a finance condition. If that person can assure you that you’re good for $225,000 for instance there is probably little risk in eliminating that condition.

Request and review the Property Condition Disclosure up front. It’s always a good idea to ask your agent to “incorporate” the disclosure but if you view the statement prior to writing, you don’t need to include it as a condition.

The biggest gamble is the home inspection. Do you have the guts to write an offer that is not subject to an inspection?  It’s a tough call but the truth is that it’s rare that significant problems are found. Most commonly we see busted furnaces, grade issues, and other items which are relatively easy fixes. I don’t ever feel good about suggesting a buyer not have a property inspected, but the fact is this one is always a big concern for sellers, even those who are confident in their property. Do you have someone who could help you do a cursory inspection of a property prior to writing an offer? If you can’t get around this gamble, you might consider writing the home inspection condition in a different way which would allow you to back out if major problems are discovered but also provides the seller with assurance that you aren’t going to nickel and dime. “This offer is subject to a professional inspection of the property to determine structural integrity of the improvements. The buyer agrees that they shall have no right to rescind this offer for discovery of defects which do not exceed (insert amount here) in repair costs.”

Conditions like “satisfactory gas line inspection” or “review of local bylaws,” etc are bound to doom your offer. Do your homework in advance.

Scrape together as much money as you can for a deposit and show the seller your good faith. A $10,000 is a strong sign and it’s totally appropriate in this market.

Try writing the seller a personal note to include with your offer. Let them know who you are and how much you love their home. Tell them that you are very confident in the house (if you are) and how much you look forward to raising your family there. Ask them, “Is there anything else which we can do to have you favour our offer? We are open to discussing ways in which we can come to agreement. We really want to make your house our family’s home. We are available at a moment’s notice to address any concerns which you may have.”  Place the note in an envelope with the seller’s name on it and enclose it with the offer in another envelope.  Have your agent deliver it to the house when offers are presented. Go with him. Wait outside in the car. Be sure that the seller’s agent knows you are there; ready to deal with issues which concern the seller.

All other things being equal, most sellers would prefer to see their home go to a family instead of an investor. Try to use that to your advantage by giving the seller a little insight into who you are.

Good luck.  I really hope you get the next one.

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