Tips on hiring a contractor to renovate your home

Renovate your Saskatoon Home

I’m hearing that more people are considering renovating their Saskatoon homes as a result of the limited selection of properties available in our new and resale real estate market so this seemed like a timely post.


An interesting video clip appears on New York broker Barbara Corcoran’s blog. “Dump to Dream House” features Barbara on ABC’s Good Morning America and chronicles one home owner’s quest to turn their dump into a dream home and it provides some good tips on how to hire a contractor for home renovation projects.

Barbara had a new tip I hadn’t heard before which I thought was an excellent idea. She suggests that you walk the contactor back to his truck as he leaves your home and take note of its condition. “If it’s a mess, the job he’s going to run will be a total mess. You have to appreciate that the truck is that contractor’s office and how he manages his truck is exactly how he’s going to manage your job.” Good one Barbara!


Barbara also points to the importance of asking good questions. You might want to check out CMHC’s tips as well which provides a list of questions and other items you should be thinking about when you hire a contractor.


Check Barbara’s appearance on Good Morning America here. (no longer available)

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

Saskatoon home builders make case to city council for more lots

Alan Thomarat, Executive Director of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association made an impassioned plea before city council on Monday for the availability of more serviced lots in 2007.


Before a full capacity council chamber, Thomarat argued that while Saskatoon has consistently ranked in the top three Canadian cities for economic growth in recent years, we are under performing miserably as far as new home starts are concerned, ranking last in the country behind Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.


Thomarat, on behalf of his association and a chamber full of local builders donning white hard hats as a show of their support, made the following recommendations:


  • The city approves servicing plans for 2,000 units of single family and multi family serviced land for 2007.
  • Once approved, the city must act quickly to prepare and post appropriate tender calls.
  • That builders be offered the opportunity to develop theme oriented neighbourhoods in city owned subdivisions.
  • That the city considers releasing lots to builders prior to servicing if required so that they might be able to work with their customers.
  • That the city work with existing developers in Stonebridge, Rosewood and Blairmore to mitigate delays, expedite approvals at all levels and ensure that the private development community is not hindered in its effort to serve their builders and customers.
  • That the city assesses the retail value of long held inventory and discount these properties to levels that are market appropriate to satisfy the need for more affordable lots.
  • That the city work with the industry, community associations, the fire department among others, to develop an aggressive neighbourhood revitalization strategy that includes existing housing stock, enforcing safety requirements, conducting inspections on marginal rental properties, and working with industry stakeholders to develop meaningful infill, core area housing strategies.

Speaking in support of those recommendations, Harry Janzen, Executive Director of the Saskatoon Real Estate Board, provided a statistical overview of the resale real estate market presenting evidence that many consumers wishing to purchase Saskatoon homes are “settling” for homes in outlying communities as a result of low inventories within the city. He reinforced the general belief in the resale industry that many more families are interested in moving to Saskatoon, and many already have, using figures from Statistics Canada which indicate 3,700 families have moved to Saskatchewan since June of last year.


I also had an opportunity to speak in support of our home builders and I expressed the following points to council:


  • The current lack of resale listings is tied more to increased demand than it is to a low supply. Listings taken through 2006 by Saskatoon REALTORS®, though down slightly from 2005, were actually above the five year average.
  • That the five year average of unit sales in our “bedroom communities” was up 31% over the previous five year average indicating that more and more buyers are considering these areas because of low housing inventory in Saskatoon.
  • That many of these people will work and access services in Saskatoon, utilizing our infrastructure while paying property taxes in a different municipality.
  • That a lack of new housing inventory is putting pressure on the resale housing market spurring price increases which are far exceeding income growth in the province. The average price of a Saskatoon home increased over 50% in the last five years while income growth has likely been somewhere below 20%.
  • That Saskatoon is poised to see even larger increases in coming years if new housing opportunities are not fully explored and exploited.
  • That many prospective home buyers, particularly those at the entry level are displaced and forced into substandard housing if resale property values are permitted to “skyrocket.”
  • That the current challenges in meeting increased demand can only be met through the development of more land and the construction of new homes. Simple math would indicate that if more families wish to reside in Saskatoon, we’ll need more homes to accommodate them.

Finally, Pearl McNevin, an employee of North Ridge Development Corporation delivered an emotionally charged address on the impact that the current land use policies are having on employees of local builders and their families.


Political will to bring more lots to the market seems to exist. Mayor Don Atchison and a number of Councillors are clearly in favour of capitalizing on this opportunity to grow Saskatoon. Let’s hope that the Land Bank bureaucracy can rise to the challenge and deliver the goods.

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

Special considerations for Saskatoon condo buyers, part 2

This is part two of Special Considerations for Saskatoon Condo Buyers. Part one is here.

In part one of this post, I discuss the various documents that are normally available for your review when purchasing a condominium. These documents are traditionally requested by the buyer as part of their offer and are provided following acceptance of your offer. If you have made your offer through a REALTOR® in Saskatchewan it will include terms that provide a “right to rescind” the offer should you discover facts about the condominium corporation which cause you to want out of the deal. The mandatory Schedule “C” used by real estate registrants in our province provides ten days for the seller to deliver the documents and five days for the buyer to review them. Part two is an overview of what those documents are.

The current Bylaws of the Condominium Corporation

The Bylaws define how the condominium corporation is structured and managed, including details on how the board of directors is formed and what authority the board has to act on behalf of the condo corporation. It should explain your rights as a voting partner in the corporation. It also details the rules and regulations of the corporation which all unit owners must agree to as well as what remedies exist when someone breaks those rules.

The latest financial statements of the Condominium Corporation and the last audited statements

This is an overview of the financial affairs of the condominium corporation including a statement of income and expense. You should be able to determine what assets are owned by the corporation, what liabilities exist and how the corporation has been utilizing the contributions made by its unit owners. Complex financial statements should probably be reviewed by your accountant who will have some expertise in identifying area of weakness or concern.

The current policy of insurance

The Condominium Property Act, 1993 requires that condo corporations carry insurance sufficient to cover the replacement cost of buildings and improvement in the event that a condo property is destroyed.

Any current management agreement regarding the Condominium Corporation

If the condo corporation has elected to use a property management service to perform certain functions on behalf of the corporation, details of that arrangement should be provided to you.

The current recent budget of the Condominium Corporation

An overview of estimated expenses of the condo corporation for the current year.

Written confirmation of parking/storage facilities and exclusive use areas included in the purchase price, any related costs or charges and any special rules regarding those areas

This one is pretty obvious but do be certain that you receive written confirmation of any areas which are designated for your exclusive use. In most cases, the title to your unit only includes your actual unit. Parking stalls are most often part of the common area, portions of which are designated for exclusive use of specific residents. You must have written confirmation of your right to use a specific parking stall.

A current Estoppel Certificate issued by the Condominium Corporation pursuant to the regulations of The Condominium Property Act, 1993.

The Estoppel Certificate will normally include details on the following items: 

· the amount of the monthly contribution (condo fees) levied against the unit you are purchasing;

· the extent to which that contribution has been paid;

· the manner in which the contribution must be paid;

· the portion of the contribution which is deposited to the reserve fund;

· the current balance of the reserve fund;

· proposed amendments to the Bylaws of the Condominium Corporation;

· amounts of any special levies which may be proposed which would affect the unit you are purchasing and;

· in most cases, exclusive use provisions for parking and storage are detailed here.

Reserve Fund Study

Perhaps the most difficult item to assess of all of those detailed above is the reserve fund. If a condo corporation encounters a significant expenditure which cannot be adequately covered by reserve funds, the corporation will issue a cash call and unit owners will be required to make up the difference. One cannot simply look at the balance of the fund and say, “Oh, that’s a lot of money,” or “That’s not very much money.” One must consider the overall condition of building and improvements and any possible costs which the corporation may encounter in the future to determine if the reserves are sufficient, and even then, it’s often a best guess for most people. This is a particular challenge with larger projects like high rise condominiums. I recently assisted a purchaser who bought a condo in downtown Saskatoon high rise. One of the budget items for this condominium was new caulking for the windows. The estimated cost was in the range of $70,000. This is something neither he nor I could have possibly considered or understood had that item not been disclosed to us. Apparently, neither could the condo corporation and consequently this item was dealt with through a cash call.

Recent changes to the Condominium Corporation Act requires all condo corporations with 12 units or more conduct a reserve fund study by January 31, 2008. The study must be updated every ten years thereafter. The study will be completed by an engineer who will assess the remaining life expectancy of the major components of the buildings and improvements, estimate the future cost to maintain, repair or replace those components and determine if the current reserves and the monthly contributions are sufficient to cover those costs. Many corporations have already completed their surveys. When shopping for a condo, you may prefer to consider those condos where the reserve study has already been completed, particularly if you’re purchasing part of a large project like a high rise.

Other Actions You Might Take

  • Have the property inspected by a professional inspector who is qualified to assess the condition of major components of the buildings.
  • Speak with directors of the condo corporation and ask questions about improvements they’ve been discussing. Ask specifically if there are pending decisions on major financial items.
  • Speak with some of the current owners.
  • Start reading the Condominium Corporation Act when you’ve decided to purchase a condo.
  • Ask if a reserve fund study has been completed and if so, make your offer conditional upon receiving, reviewing and approving it.
  • Work with an agent who is experienced in condo purchases and can guide you through this complex process.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Special considerations for Saskatoon condo buyers

When you purchase a condominium you’re buying more than just a home. You’re also purchasing shares in a corporation which is responsible for managing the affairs of the property. Your “share” of the corporation is normally based on the size of your condo unit, as a percentage of the whole. These shares are often referred to as a “unit factor.”

Of course, you enjoy exclusive use of your condo unit and pretty much everything that goes on inside of it, including improvements you wish to make are your responsibility and are done at your discretion provided these things do not contravene the Bylaws of the Condominium Corporation.

In addition to implementing and enforcing Bylaws for the condominium, the corporation is responsible for setting budgets, record keeping, maintaining adequate insurance on the building and other improvements and maintaining the property. Each unit owner makes a monthly contribution, based on their unit factor, to cover expenses incurred by the corporation. In most cases, some money is also collected and set aside for “reserves,” which will generally be used for unexpected expenses and expenditures which are not included in the general operating budget. Like any other property, major expenses are incurred when a roof needs to be replaced or a boiler system fails. Generally, these items are paid from reserves. If the reserve fund cannot cover the expenditure unit holders are called upon to make up the difference through what’s known as a “cash call.”

Just like companies which operate in the market place, some condo corporations manage the affairs of their property better than others. As a prospective buyer, you owe it to yourself to make certain that you have a reasonably good idea of what you’re getting yourself into. The doctrine of caveat emptor or buyer beware applies as much to condos as any other type of home and prudent buyers take appropriate actions to protect their interests.

If you offer on a condo unit through a REALTOR® some actions have already been taken to help protect you. All real estate registrants are required to use mandatory forms as directed by theBylaws of the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission. One of those forms is called a Schedule “C” Special Terms for Contract of Purchase and Sale of a Condominium Unit. This form, when completed by a buyer and accepted by the seller, binds the seller to provide you with various documents within 10 days of acceptance. You may review these documents and if you are concerned about anything you discover to the extent that you wish to cancel the agreement, you may do so by serving written notice to the seller of your intention to rescind your offer. That written notice must be delivered to the seller within 5 days of receipt of the documents.

The Schedule “C” requires the seller to provide the buyer with the following documents:

  • the current Bylaws of the Condominium Corporation;
  • the latest financial statements of the Condominium Corporation and the last audited statements;
  • the current policy of insurance;
  • any current management agreement regarding the Condominium Corporation;
  • the current recent budget of the Condominium Corporation;
  • written confirmation of parking/storage facilities and exclusive use areas included in the purchase price, any related costs or charges and any special rules regarding those areas; and
  • a current Estoppel Certificate issued by the Condominium Corporation pursuant to the regulations of The Condominium Property Act, 1993.

 In my next post, I’ll go a little deeper on these documents, explaining what the purpose of each is and what steps you may take to protect yourself.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Premium Saskatoon houses sell while market is still at work

I did a routine search of today’s MLS® listings at about 4:00 pm. There are two new listings showing up in all of Area 1, which for Saskatoon real estate agents includes all neighbourhoods which are East of Circle Drive East. Both of these new listings are in Briarwood. One is priced at only $248,000; the other at $419,900. This small number of listings comes as no surprise. It seems to be the way it has been lately.

Meantime, the number of potential buyers continues to mount. There are plenty of motivated buyers waiting in the wings for these types of premium homes. One of those buyers is certainly prepared to pay more than anyone else for one of these two homes. At least, that’s pretty much how it works in most cases. The only problem is, both homes are currently sold, pending unknown conditions. At the time I write this blog, neither listing has yet found its way to MLS® Online. The listings will appear there tomorrow, a day late and a dollar short.

Of course, the question running through my mind is, how much money did these sellers miss out on by accepting an offer before most of the market could even get away from work? This, we’ll never know. Perhaps they somehow managed to connect with that buyer who was willing to pay the most, but I doubt it. Why would anyone accept an offer before the market knows their house is for sale? To me, it’s simply mind-boggling. Any thoughts?

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra