Category Archives: home inspection

5 tips for insuring your first home

Photo: James Bombales

Before you take ownership of the property, your mortgage provider will likely want to see proof that the home is insured. This protects their interest in the building in case of damage or loss. Here are 5 tips for insuring your first home:

1. Be honest during your application

Buying insurance is not like buying a candy bar. It’s a contract with requirements from both parties. The most important thing to remember when purchasing insurance for your first home is to answer the application questions with as much openness and honesty as possible. This will help to ensure that the policy you purchase will be valid in the event you need to make a claim.

It’s worth doing some research on your home at this stage so that you’re prepared to answer any questions that may arise during a quote. For example, you may need to know about your home’s construction or the age of key systems, like the roof or furnace. Also, be clear about who’s living at the property and in what capacity. Any tenants occupying rental suites should be disclosed upfront.

Photo: James Bombales

2. Consider if you’d like to make renovations

Similarly, if you’re thinking about making changes to your home, be sure to let your insurance provider know before you start renovating. For most renovations, Square One will simply update your policy to cover the renovations, and follow up every now and then to check on your progress. There’s typically no need to buy a new policy to ensure your home remains protected. Just be sure to update the value of your home to include the renovations. That way, you won’t be forced to pay for them twice in the event of a total loss.

3. Check for lender-specific requirements

Most mortgage providers require confirmation of insurance before they’re willing to release the funds for your purchase. The terms of requirements differ with each lender, so be sure to identify what’s needed before you sign the dotted line.

For example, your mortgage providers will need to be listed as a “mortgagee” on your policy. This means you can’t simply cancel the coverage without the mortgage provider finding out. Most will also require an appraisal of the home’s value. Some mortgage providers will require a home inspection, or might have specific coverage requirements, such as Guaranteed Building Replacement coverage. This coverage guarantees that your home will be rebuilt in the event of a total loss, even if the cost to do so exceeds the limit of your coverage.

Photo: James Bombales

4. Pay attention to your home’s systems

Your home inspector should identify the type, age and condition of your home’s systems. If your home contains older or less reliable systems such knob + tube wiring or Kitec plumbing, you may want to consider upgrading to a more modern alternative. Not only will this provide some leverage for you to re-negotiate the purchase price, but upgrading to copper wire and pipes (considered the gold-standard) could help safeguard your home. Many providers, including Square One, offer a reduction in your home insurance premium if you’re willing to upgrade your home’s systems. (However, not all providers do – so if this is part of your decision-making process, check with your provider to be sure.)

5. Qualify for discounts to your premium

Homeowners with a history of continuous, claims-free coverage will often qualify for discounts on their premium– even if they’ve only previously held a policy for tenant’s insurance. Your insurance provider wants to see that you’re responsible and proactive about managing the risks associated with your home. And, because tenant insurance policies are typically cheaper than homeowner’s policies, the discount that’s applied to your future homeowner’s insurance premium may help to offset the cost of your tenant insurance today.

Source: Livabl.com – SPONSORED 

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8 HOME INSPECTION RED FLAGS

8 HOME INSPECTION RED FLAGS:

Our gallery of home inspection nightmares (below) is good for a laugh, but a home inspection is serious business. It’s the buyer’s opportunity to make sure that the house they’re about to purchase doesn’t hold any expensive surprises.

A typical home inspection includes a check of a house’s structural and mechanical condition, from the roof to the foundation, as well as tests for the presence of radon gas and the detection of wood-destroying insects. Depending on the seriousness of what the inspection uncovers, the buyer can walk away from the deal (most contracts include an inspection contingency in the event of major flaws) or negotiate with the seller for the necessary repairs.

These are the red flags that should send a buyer back to the negotiating table, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit.

1. Termites and other live-in pests: The home you’ve fallen in love with may also be adored by the local termite population. The sooner termites are detected, the better. The same goes for other wood-devouring pests like powder-post beetles. Keep in mind that getting rid of the intruders is just the first step. Once the problem has been addressed, have a pest control expert advise you on what needs to be done in order to prevent their return.

2. Drainage issues: Poor drainage can lead to wood rot, wet basements, perennially wet crawlspaces and major mold growth. Problems are usually caused by missing or damaged gutters and downspouts, or improper grading at ground level. Correcting grading and replacing gutters is a lot less costly than undoing damage caused by the accumulation of moisture.

3. Pervasive mold: Where moisture collects, so grows mold, a threat to human health as well as to a home’s structure. Improper ventilation can be the culprit in smaller, more contained spaces, such as bathrooms. But think twice about buying a property where mold is pervasive — that’s a sign of long-term moisture issues.

4. Faulty foundation: A cracked or crumbling foundation calls for attention and repair, with costs ranging from moderate to astronomically expensive. The topper of foundation expenses is the foundation that needs to be replaced altogether — a possibility if you insist on shopping “historic” properties. Be aware that their beautiful details and old-fashioned charms may come with epic underlying expenses.

6. Worn-out roofing: Enter any sale agreement with an awareness of your own cost tolerance for roof repair versus replacement. The age and type of roofing material will figure into your home inspector’s findings, as well as the price tag of repair or replacement. An older home still sheltered by asbestos roofing material, for example, requires costly disposal processes to prevent release of and exposure to its dangerous contents.

7. Toxic materials: Asbestos may be elsewhere in a home’s finishes, calling for your consideration of containment and replacement costs. Other expensive finish issues include lead paint and, more recently, Chinese drywall, which found its way into homes built during the boom years of 2004 and 2005. This product’s sulfur off-gassing leads to illness as well as damage to home systems, so you’ll need to have it completely removed and replaced if it’s found in the home that you’re hoping to buy.

8. Outdated wiring: Home inspectors will typically open and inspect the main electrical panel, looking for overloaded circuits, proper grounding and the presence of any trouble spots like aluminum branch circuit wiring, a serious fire hazard.

The McMillan Group/Centum Supreme Mortgages Ltd.

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10 Signs to Watch out for to Avoid Renovating a Money Pit

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12 home inspection issues buyers can leverage to negotiate the sale price

Photo: James Bombales

Waiving a home inspection is like purchasing a used car on Craigslist without taking a look under the hood — you’re likely to run into issues down the road. A new survey from the online home improvement marketplace, Porch, reveals that 86 percent of home inspections uncover one or more problems that need to be addressed. While hiring a home inspector will set you back about $377 on average, their expertise could save you from buying a lemon or shelling out thousands of dollars in future repairs.

Prospective homebuyers can use the information provided by a home inspector to negotiate a lower sales price, accounting for the cost of repairs or replacing a feature altogether. Of the 1,000 individuals surveyed by Porch who hired a home inspector, 37 percent submitted a revised offer with help from their real estate agent, saving an average of $14,000 off the listing price of their new home. That’s no small chunk of change!

Here we examine the most-flagged home inspection issues buyers can use to negotiate the best sale price.

Photo: James Bombales

1. Roof – flagged in 19.7% of reports

Roofs with asphalt or cedar shingles have an average lifespan of 20 years whereas metal roofs only need to be replaced every 50 to 75 years. Your home inspector will look for signs of water damage, mold or algae, and take note of any sagging or missing shingles.

2. Electrical – flagged in 18.7% of reports

If you’re looking to purchase a home built prior to the 1950s, you’ll want to inquire about its electrical wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring, which was popular from the 1880s to the 1940s, can cause electrical shocks and fire. Other issues to take note of include exposed wiring, ungrounded wire receptacles and paint on electrical outlets.

Photo: James Bombales

3. Windows – flagged in 18.4% of reports

While broken windows are a pretty obvious spot, your home inspector may conduct a simple test to check for air leaks. However, there’s no guarantee the home owners will agree to repair the window seals — some consider this cosmetic, rather than structural.

4. Gutters – flagged in 16.9% of reports

Your home inspector will want to make sure the gutters are in good working condition, assessing their size, any damage, and how far water is directed away from the house.

Photo: James Bombales

5. Plumbing – flagged in 13.6% of reports

Plumbing problems can quickly add up, costing an unsuspecting homeowner thousands of dollars. With a flashlight in hand, your home inspector will scan for potential leaks, polybutylene piping, DIY projects gone wrong, tree root damage, and more.

6. Branches overhanging roof – flagged in 13.3% of reports

Having an old-growth tree in your front yard might seem like a selling point, but it can actually cause a lot of damage if not properly maintained. Branches can rip off roof shingles, leaves can pile up and clog up your gutters, and heavy limbs can come crashing down into your living room.

Photo: James Bombales

7. Fencing – flagged in 12.6% of reports

Home inspectors will evaluate the condition of a fence that lines the property. But again, this is one of those “choose your battles” situations. Are you willing to risk losing out on your dream home because a few pickets have gone missing? Probably not.

8. Water heater – flagged in 12.2% of reports

While a rickety fence may be no big deal, a busted up water heater certainly is. Home inspectors check for things like water leaks, sediment buildup, corrosion on the pipes, and low water pressure.

Photo: James Bombales

9. Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landing – flagged in 11.9% of reports

Cracks in your driveway or patio are pretty much inevitable. That being said, you’ll want the home inspector to ensure water isn’t seeping into those crevices. If major issues do turn up, you may be able to seek compensation for those repairs.

10. Air conditioning – flagged in 9.9% of reports

According to the Porch survey, most homebuyers negotiate only $500 for AC repairs, but the actual costs are much higher — think thousands of dollars, not hundreds.

Photo: James Bombales

11. Exterior paint – flagged in 9.6% of reports

If the house was constructed before 1979, your inspector will likely conduct a lead paint test. Additionally, if the exterior paint is peeling, some lenders (like the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs) will not approve the loan due to concerns over health and safety.

12. Foundation issues/cracks – flagged in 8.9% of reports

Home inspectors can look for obvious signs of foundation problems like cracks in basement walls, damaged bricks and uneven floors. If you and your home inspector suspect the problems are serious, you may want to bring in an engineer. But consider it money well spent — foundation fixes can cost $10,000 or more. Gulp.

Source: Livabl.com –  

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Mike Holmes: How to control mould in your home, whether it’s visible or not

If mould in your home covers an area more than 10 sq. ft., or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company. Any surface with over 10 sq. ft. of mould should  be cleaned by licensed professionals.

Mould can present a serious health issue and it can also eat away at building materials, insulation and support structures. Unfortunately, homes and the materials inside them can provide the right food source and the right conditions for mould to grow. It’s important to know what to do if you detect mould in your home.

Mould needs an organic food source to grow, such as drywall, wood, paper, carpet, grout, wallpaper and fabrics — the kinds of materials you find in most homes. It also needs moisture and warmer temperatures.

Areas in the home where mould tends to grow include the basement, bathrooms, walls, ceiling corners, the attic, crawl spaces and on windowsills. If you live somewhere humid, the garage can also be place for mould to thrive. When you do your seasonal maintenance, make sure to check these areas for mould.

There are thousands of different types of mould. It can be green, black, yellow, white, even pink and, depending on the conditions, a single type of mould spore can be any number of colours.

It’s extremely difficult for homeowners to detect what type of mould is growing in their home and whether or not that type of mould poses a danger to their health.

A lot of people are sensitive to mould spores; they may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms when inhaled. Typically, the mould found in homes is not toxic, but it can still present a health risk. There’s no real standard for a mould level that is ‘OK’ or ‘safe’ — every individual reacts differently to mould.

According to a Mayo Clinic study conducted in 1999, 93 per cent of chronic sinusitis cases were attributed to mould. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to the effects of mould exposure. If anyone in your home is experiencing headaches, sinus problems, sore throats or other respiratory symptoms, speak to your doctor. The cause could be mould.

If the mould in your home covers an area
more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved,
bring in a professional remediation company.

In most cases, you can tell if your house has mould by its musty smell and black stains. Other signs include water damage and black mould around baseboards, walls and ceilings. If there is a musty smell in your home but you can’t see any stains, mould could be behind your walls. In that case, I recommend having a certified professional home inspection done that includes thermal imaging, and possibly an indoor air quality assessment that includes mould testing.

If you find a small amount of mould that covers an area 10 square feet or less, you can typically remove it yourself. Use a solution of strong soap or detergent and water. I use a product that is non-toxic, anti-microbial, requires no scrubbing and kills mould at the root, not just the surface. Whatever you use, remember to wear the proper protective gear, such as goggles or safety eyewear, a mask and gloves, and keep the area well ventilated. And do not use bleach! Not only is bleach toxic, but the mould will come back anyway.

If the mould in your home covers an area more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company.

If you bring in a professional, do your homework and ask the right questions. What are their credentials? What training have they gone through? What kind of professional accreditation do they have? Do they have references? Mould remediation is a fairly new industry, and like anything new, it’s the frontier. To make sure the job will be done right, find someone with Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

The best way to get rid of mould is to control the moisture in the house and remove the mould. It could be something you can remove yourself, or you might have to bring in a professional. If you’re not sure, hire a professional, because when it comes to your health, it’s not worth the risk.

Source:  Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | May 28, 2016 | Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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Legal battle pushing Vaughan homeowner into poverty

Sydney Walters in the backyard of his Vaughan home. Walters' home is now vacant, and he lives in a rented apartment as the home is now contaminated with mould and inhabitable.

Sydney Walters in the backyard of his Vaughan home. Walters’ home is now vacant, and he lives in a rented apartment as the home is now contaminated with mould and inhabitable.

Every weekend, Sydney Walters spends hours mowing the lawn, and cleaning up the yard of a home he owns but hasn’t lived in for years.

His family fled the semi-detached home in Vaughan four years ago, when mould spread in his home due to the missing insulation in the attic. But he returns to the home every few days, to keep it looking habitable.

“I don’t want it to look unkempt,” said Walters. “It’s a beautiful house from the outside, but inside it is hell.”

The Vaughan resident says it breaks his heart when he sees the neighbours near his home on Hollywood Hill Circle sitting on their decks, enjoying the weather and holding barbecues with their families and friends.

Sydney Walters pulls a lawn mower over the grass in his Vaughan home's yard.

COLE BURSTON/TORONTO STAR

Sydney Walters pulls a lawn mower over the grass in his Vaughan home’s yard.

“That should be me. That should be my family,” said Walters. “But instead, we are on the verge of losing everything.”

For Walters, “everything” refers to the home he bought in 2004, in the hopes of giving his family a taste of the suburban dream. But it’s a dream that has become entangled in a web of lawsuits, that Walters says have brought him to the brink of bankruptcy and will soon cost him the only asset he has.

In the meantime, Walters has been living in a cramped one-bedroom basement apartment a street away, with his wife and teenage son — who sleeps on the couch. The burden of paying for and running two households is proving to be just too much.

“I’m still paying my mortgage, and we pay almost a thousand dollars to rent this,” said Walters, pointing at the small apartment around him. “Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” he said.

The Star profiled Walters in 2012, when he was living in a tent in the backyard of his home because of the mould inside. He had just filed a lawsuit against the city of Vaughan, the builder Villa Royale Homes Inc., and Tarion Warranty Corporation — alleging the parties are responsible for the damage to his home as a result of the bare attic and should be responsible for the costs of the cleanup.

In 2013, Walters initiated a new lawsuit against the parties, seeking $2 million in damages to their home and personal injuries. The lawsuit has sparked a handful of others, with the city suing the builder and the builder suing the city, the original homeowners and a subcontractor, who in turn sued the insulation company.

With the agreement of all parties, the claims against Tarion and the insulation company were dropped after recent mediation.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Since then, the case has hit a standstill as nobody can agree on who is at fault. And each party Walters is suing says the other should pay, if a judge rules in his favour. Court mandated mediation failed in June. Walters’s lawyer, Wendy Greenspoon-Soer, says the case is headed to trial early next year.

 “Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” Walters said.

COLE BURSTON/TORONTO STAR

“Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” Walters said.

According to the lawsuit, Walters and his wife Olivia bought the home in 2004 for $320,000 from the original homeowner, who bought the new build in 2002.

As first time buyers, Walters admits he was naïve. Because it was only two years old, he moved in without a home inspection. He dutifully paid heating bills — upwards of $400 a month — even though he noticed the home was “extremely hot during summer months and extremely cold during the winter months, with poor ventilation and ice buildup where the walls meet the roof,” according to the suit.

In the winter, when he turned up the furnace, heat would escape through the top and melt the snow and cause leaks. In the summer, the house was hot, and the mould began to grow and spread because of the moisture.

According to his claim, the family began to have health issues, and specialists and doctors advised Walters and his family to move elsewhere. Even now, he says he enters the home only if he’s wearing protective gear.

Walters complained to the city after a contractor he hired said the attic lacked insulation. During legal examination in 2011, notes from a city of Vaughan building inspector confirmed that “no attic ceiling insulation” was ever installed.

As a result of the investigation, the city of Vaughan sent Walters and Villa Royale an order to complete the insulation in 2011.

In a statement of defence, the city claims any damages should have been rectified by Walters, and that he has “exacerbated their own damages by suing Vaughan rather than fixing the problem.” They also say the damages were caused by the negligence of Villa Royale. Vaughan cites an independent contractor who said the cleanup and repair would cost around $15,000.

In the reply to defence, Walters says his house will need to be completely demolished and rebuilt. He blames the builder for not installing the insulation and the city building inspector for failing to ensure it met the Ontario Building Code.

Neither Villa Royale nor its lawyer responded to a request for comment for this story. Last week, days after the Star started asking questions about the matter, Vaughan’s legal counsel sent Walters a settlement offer “to retain and pay a contractor to complete interior repairs to his home… including the installation of attic insulation.”

Walters said he can’t comment on the offer.

Since 2011, Walters says he has gathered documents that try to find answers to how his house was approved, if insulation was never installed. A city document Walters obtained through an Access to Information request show a city inspector approved the home, including its insulation, a day after the house was sold. Normally, a home must pass city inspection before it is cleared for sale.

The city did not respond to questions about whether any internal investigation was conducted as a result of Walters’ 2011 complaint, as is required by the building inspector’s code of conduct protocol created in 2005.

The city of Vaughan said it could not comment on the matter because it’s before the courts.

“Our family, we are living in poverty. We are not poor. We are hard-working people, but we have no money. We go to bed hungry some nights,” said Walters, his eyes wet with tears. “We have a house, but we are living in these substandard conditions,” he said.

“That is just not right.”

Source: Toronto Star By: News reporter, Published on Wed Aug 19 2015

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