Tag Archives: home renovations

GO PUBLIC ‘My heart was in my stomach’: Homeowner learns too late she bought a former grow-op

Claudette Charron bought her fixer-upper bungalow as an investment, but she didn't know there had been a grow-op in the basement. Cleanup costs have totalled $30,000 to date.

Claudette Charron thought she bought her perfect house — a fixer-upper in need of a little TLC, at a good price in a small community — until she discovered there used to be a marijuana grow-op in the basement and the house needed tens of thousands of dollars of work to make it safe to live in.

“It was a foreclosure, so you know it was at a decent price because I couldn’t afford very much,” says Charron, who is a carpenter.

Claudette Charron's home in Limoges, Ontario

The real estate listing for the bungalow in Limoges, Ont., said ‘with a little bit of love this home can shine bright!’ (CBC)

“But it was a nice fixer-upper … with some work and with my skills, I was going to fix it and resell it in two years. It was an investment.”

Charron, her boyfriend and her 16-year-old son moved into their new home in Limoges, Ont., at the end of June 2016, one year after there had been a drug bust at the house.

A day after moving into the community just east of Ottawa, she talked to a neighbour who asked about damage to the basement.

Ethel Manns, neighbour of Claudette Charron in Limoges, Ontario

Claudette Charron’s neighbour, Ethel Manns, is the one who told Charron her newly purchased house had formerly contained a grow-op. (CBC)

“I said, what do you mean how bad is the basement? She’s like ‘What? They didn’t tell you that there was a big drug bust here and that they took 148 [pot] plants out of the basement,'” Charron says.

“It was disbelief. My heart was in my stomach and I was sick.”

Go Public found there is a long list of failed attempts to implement grow-op registries that would publicly identify the locations of drug houses.

Instead, many provinces are left with a mishmash of rules and guidelines around who’s responsible for identifying and disclosing former drug houses in real estate transactions.

Experts say the lack of a workable tracking system and clear rules can leave homebuyers facing health risks, diminished home value and huge cleanup costs.

$30,000+ in cleanup costs

The home inspector Charron hired before buying recorded no evidence of a grow-op, even though home inspectors in Ontario are obligated to look for signs.

After learning of the home’s history, Charron got another inspection done.

Charron's taped basement windows

Charron’s environmental home inspection noted several sign of grow-op activity, including this taped-off basement window. (Paul Battle)

A report from Enviro Pure First Response says there were “telltale signs” of a former grow-op, including marijuana leaf debris under the stairs and evidence of windows in the basement “being taped off with staples still in place and foil tape.”

Mould growth on the wall of Claudette Charron's home

The environmental home inspector held a flashlight beam parallel to the walls to reveal mould growth. (Paul Battle)

The company also tested for mould and moisture in the air and behind the walls. “The counts in this house were probably in the top five or six per cent of anything that we have encountered for an indoor spore count directly in the vicinity of the grow operation,” says Richard Sticklee, who works for Enviro Pure First Response.

Marijuana leaves on Claudette Charron's floor

The environmental home inspection found marijuana leaf debris on the basement floor. (Paul Battle) (Paul Battle)

He estimated the cost to clean up Charron’s home would range from $25,000 to $100,000, depending on what has to be done.

Charron has spent more than $30,000 so far on the house she paid $265,000 for.

Richard Sticklee, remediation expert with Enviro Pure First Response

Richard Sticklee, a remediation expert who worked on Charron’s house, says the first thing he noticed was the mould odour, then he saw live mould growing on the walls. (CBC)

Sticklee says the system should work like this:

  • Police notify the city of the location of a grow-op.
  • The city tags the home.
  • The homeowner takes specific remediation steps.
  • The city oversees the cleanup to ensure it’s done safely and properly.
  • The house can be sold, but the seller needs to disclose its history.

Seller denies knowledge of grow-op

In Charron’s case, Street Capital Bank of Canada was the seller. It took possession of the house after the people who had the grow-op declared bankruptcy.

Office building of Street Capital Bank of Canada, Toronto

Street Capital Bank of Canada (Toronto office pictured) sold the house to Claudette Charron in June 2016. She has filed a lawsuit against the company. (CBC)

Charron is now suing Street Capital, its realtor, and the original home inspector she used.

In its statement of defence, Street Capital “denies having knowledge that the property was used as a grow-op” and denies it “was aware and/or failed to disclose any latent defects.”

The mortgage company did not answer Go Public’s questions, but in an email from its lawyer, David Ward, it says circumstances like this are rare and “we always work towards resolving issues amicably which we are working on doing in this case as well.”

The case is now heading toward mediation and Street Capital says it’s “hopeful that all matters can be fairly resolved.”

Tracking systems failing

Go Public found tracking systems that should alert potential buyers of a home’s drug history are either failing or nonexistent.

Ottawa police do list dismantled illegal grow-ops online, but only five locations have been listed over the past five years.

In Ontario, there is a provincial guideline that says police should notify municipalities, in writing, of grow-ops so the municipality can oversee the remediation and ensure it’s done safely and properly.  That didn’t happen in Charron’s case.

In some other provinces, like B.C., that’s the rule, not just a guideline.

On a national scale, the RCMP tried to launch a website in 2010 that was supposed to list addresses of homes across Canada where marijuana grow operations and illegal drug labs were found and dismantled. That too went bust.

Go Public also found no provinces require sellers to disclose a home’s history as a former drug house. The closest to it is in B.C. where it’s “strongly recommended” sellers disclose a house’s drug history.

In most provinces, sellers don’t have to mention a marijuana grow-op specifically, as long as it didn’t do damage. If it did, it is considered a material latent defect, which does have to be disclosed.

Buyer beware

Barry Lebow has been a real estate broker and agent and now works as an adviser for brokerages and the public.

“I think that a registry makes sense. I really do. I think that withholding information from the public isn’t a good thing and it would make it so much easier,” he says.

Barry Lebow, real estate expert

Real estate expert Barry Lebow advises prospective home owners to talk to neighbours before buying. (CBC)

Lebow notes that realtors in a lot of provinces are responsible for making their “best efforts” to find out the history of a house.

He says marijuana grow-ops are more common than most people realize, saying buyers need to use different search engines to look up the address and owner’s names of a property they are interested in buying and searching news archives for reports on grow-ops.

He also suggests talking to neighbours. Go Public canvassed Charron’s neighbourhood after she contacted us, asking if anyone, real estate agents or the mortgage company, had come by to ask about the home’s history before or after the sale.

“Nobody. The only person that came over was the new owner,” says Ethel Manns, the neighbour who told Charron about the drug history of her new home.

“I’d be really upset,” she says. “It’s somebody’s fault. It had to be reported. You can’t have a grow-op and not tell anybody.”

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Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories they want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at Go Public.

Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter.

Source: Rosa Marchitelli, CBC News 

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Why Canadians who own Florida homes need both hurricane and flood insurance

About 3 million Canadians visit Florida every year, and thousands own property there. So with Hurricane Irma threatening to do heavy damage to the state, should those property owners have flood or hurricane insurance?

The short answer is yes, they need both.

The latest forecasts suggest Irma’s winds could carve up much of Florida’s coast, damaging property from the Florida Keys through Jacksonville, and some experts say this could become the costliest storm in U.S. history.

For Canadian owners of property in Florida, the one bit of good news is that Irma is moving swiftly and should bring less than a quarter of the rain that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Texas when it stalled over the state. South Florida is also used to flooding and has a better flood control system than Texas.

Still, Irma could still cause significant water and wind damage. That’s why property owners need to be sure they have both hurricane and flood insurance – two distinct policies, says Brad Hubbard of National Flood Experts, a U.S.-based company that helps homeowners decide what kind of disaster insurance they need.

“If you have home insurance or even hurricane coverage, it does not cover flood. And flood insurance does not cover hurricane (damage). They are two, totally separate policies,” he told CTV Toronto from Tampa, Fla.

For Canadian snowbirds hoping to buy last-minute coverage before Irma hits, they will find they are out of luck. Most flooding polices must be purchased 30 days before a storm.

Property owners in areas known as Special Flood Hazard Zones are required to have federal flood insurance, through the National Flood Insurance Program (only a few private insurers offer flood insurance in Florida.).

In fact, U.S. mortgage lenders are required to make sure property owners living in flood hazard zones have the insurance in order to qualify for federally-backed loans.

Yet, according to an investigation by The Associated Press, just 42 per cent of homes in Florida’s 38 coastal counties are covered. In the counties currently under partial evacuation orders, only 34.3 per cent have proper coverage.

With storms becoming more severe and arriving more unpredictably, purchasing flood insurance is simply a smart investment for Canadians, says Hubbard.

Because Florida is particularly vulnerable to hurricane damage, many private insurance companies are reluctant to offer coverage to property owners who live in southern, coastal areas of the state.

That’s in part why the Florida state government created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a non-profit government agency that provides insurance to owners unable to find insurance in the private market.

Citizens’ spokesperson, Michael Peltier, says insurance premiums can vary depending on the type and the location of a property. He says premiums for “multi-peril insurance” — which includes hurricane coverage — in Miami-Dade County, for example, can range from an average of US$930 for a condominium unit, to $3,400 for a single-family home.

The same insurance in Orlando, Orange County, will cost an average of $1,400 for a single family home, simply because the county is further inland.

He recommends that Canadians who own property in Florida should ensure they are fully protected, before storms like Irma arrive.

“We would urge them to contact their insurance agent to make sure they have the coverage they need,” he told CTVNews.ca.

Source; With a report from CTV Toronto’s Pat Foran and files from The Associated Press

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Ten ways to make buying a fixer-upper worth it

Before buying a fixer-upper, consider these tips to ensure this option is right for you, and planned renovations prove profitable.

1. Consult a real estate agent to find out more about the neighbourhood

The real estate history (recent sales, pricing) of a neighbourhood will tell you if investing in a fixer-upper is worth your time and money. An agent can advise you on community news, including property development, environmental projects and other factors that will have positive and negative effects on your home’s resale value.

2. Schedule an extensive home inspection

Houses that need work may contain structural or cosmetic concerns, so it is important to know what elements need to be fixed in order to work those costs into your budget. Invisible upgrades (electrical, plumbing and heating) can be expensive fixes that don’t always increase a house’s value because they are naked to the eye of a potential homebuyer.

3. Request an estimate from a contractor

Based on an assessment by a certified contractor, determine how much money you’ll need to set aside for desired upgrades.

4. Know what you’re getting yourself into – both financially and personally

When buying any house, it is important to stay afloat and avoid swimming in debt. Fixer-uppers aren’t just hard on your wallet. Renovations can be disruptive, stressful and time-consuming, so it is imperative to have a solid financial plan in place and your family’s lifestyle taken into consideration prior to purchase.

5. Work out a schedule

Knowing if and when you plan to buy [?] your house can help you manage your renovation schedule and budget accordingly.

6. Know the law

Contact your local municipality office and request information on your city’s building permit laws before undergoing any renovations. Many large structural changes (additional storeys, extensions, decks) require a building permit. Future buyers might request proof of permits on condition of sale.

7. Don’t over-improve for the market

Once the renovations start rolling, you might not want them to stop. Designing your dream home is tempting, but only if the housing market will reimburse you for your efforts. Finishings (wood, stone, hardware) should be in line with houses in the neighbourhood.

8. Stretch your money

Forgo expensive wooden kitchen cabinets in lieu of higher quality countertops. Prime features of a home (luxury work surfaces, flooring, appliances, lighting) hold their value more than cosmetic fixes (paint, cupboards, carpet). Opt for energy efficient appliances that will save you money during residency and will be an attractive detail on resale.

9. Avoid over-customization

Remember that people’s tastes vary, so pull back on any customization that might discourage potential buyers.

10. Challenge yourself

Renovating is an excellent opportunity to try do-it-yourself projects. Simple changes like paint colour or swapping cabinet hardware are easier ways to be involved in your renovation and can also save you on labour costs.

Source: Homeownership.ca

 

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This smart doorbell lets you video chat with visitors from your phone

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Ever ignored the doorbell because you didn’t know who was there or weren’t expecting any visitors? Now thanks to a Chicago-based company, you can see who is at your doorstep and even talk to them from your phone.

Smart video doorbell and motion detector, Xchime, is app-enabled and allows users to see anyone at their door from virtually anywhere. Launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo last week, the innovative doorbell includes a 1080P HD camera with night vision, a smart light and a convenient garage door opener.

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Photo: Xchime/Facebook

Developed by Chicago’s Wireless Input Technology Inc., Xchime is a small, weather-resistant gadget made with stainless steel. Using their phones, Xchime users can have live video chats with visitors, like telling the mailman where to leave a package if you’re not home. Also, visitors can leave  recorded video messages, which can be viewed later on the app.

Xchime also includes features intended to help secure homes. The doorbell is built with a discrete security camera and, whenever motion is detected within a 140 degree field of view, users will be notified through the app. Xchime also has Integrated smart light technology. When motion is detected, the doorbell’s light will turn on automatically in an effort to deter unwanted visitors.

As an add-on accessory, users can purchase a garage door opener kit allowing them to open and close their garage with a push of a button from Xchime’s app. The doorbell retails at $129 USD and the first shipment is scheduled for August 2017.

Source: BuzzBuzz News – 

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How to determine if a fixer upper is worth the work

should-you-buy-that-fixer-upper

“I love it, but it needs work!”

Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself saying that about a potential property. Even the best homes may require a few tweaks to get them move-in ready. For first-time homebuyers, fixer-uppers offer amazing value. Identify the great bones hiding behind dated wallpaper or lighting, and you can save money, while custom decorating your property to your liking. Here are 5 property flaws that are fairly easy to fix.

 

Flaw #1: Unstylish wallpaper or a unattractive paint colour

Fix: One of the cheapest and easiest ways to refresh a space is to paint it a clean, neutral colour. That’s why it’s so surprising when a home seller skips this step. Unflattering walls, from unappealing paint shades to outdated wallpaper, can elicit a visceral response in certain viewers: “Not. This. Home.” That gives savvy house-hunters an advantage: more homes to choose from, and possibly a bargaining chip when it comes to sales price.

Lacklustre walls are easy to fix. Repainting a room takes just hours, and even if you have to strip old wallpaper beforehand, it’s a straightforward weekend project.

TIP: If possible, tackle chores like painting before you move into your new home.

 

Flaw #2: Dark, gloomy rooms

Fix: Dingy rooms are often the result of bad lighting. Upping the wattage of light bulbs can make a big difference, but installing new light fixtures is the surest way to give a darker room a bright new outlook.

Well-lit rooms combine ambient lighting with task lighting. A solid lighting strategy pairs overhead illumination such as modern recessed lighting or a traditional chandelier with additional light sources like table lamps, floor lamps or desk lamps.

Lighting is an easy fix so don’t let this flaw deter you from making an offer on a fixer-upper. Basic lighting installation can be tackled by DIYers, while a pro can make short work of installing recessed lighting.

Flaw #3: Damaged hardwood or a musty carpet

Fix: Old carpets put off potential buyers, but don’t let that stained floor covering deter you. Ripping out wall-to-wall broadloom takes elbow grease, but isn’t difficult.

If you’re lucky, you may find well-preserved hardwood underneath. If not, don’t stress: stained or scratched-up hardwood can be refinished by sanding, re-staining, and varnishing. Ambitious DIYers can tackle this, otherwise, you can hire a pro to do it for less than it would cost to have new hardwood installed.

If the carpet was hiding linoleum, consider today’s next-generation engineered hardwood or budget-friendly laminate: it looks like hardwood, and features basic, glue-less, click-in installation.

Flaw #4: Out-of-date kitchen cabinetry

Fix: Nice kitchen, not-so-nice cabinetry? Not a problem: Wood cabinets are easy to update! Just give them a cheap-and-cheerful facelift via a couple coats of hardwearing enamel paint and new knobs or pulls.

Or, for a more radical makeover, have your cabinetry refaced by a kitchen specialist. New doors, drawer fronts and hardware provide a kitchen makeover, minus the hassle and waste of ripping out serviceable cabinetry.

Flaw #5: Zero curb appeal exterior paint palette

Fix: Curb appeal is huge. And when a house is seriously lacking, you may think twice about the investment. But take a few minutes to analyze a house’s exterior before you cut it from your list. Would a new exterior paint palette for the walls, porch, window shutters and front door transform the house from drab to delightful?

Source: Genworth.ca

 

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When planning home improvements, finding a reliable contractor is an important first step

Hiring the right contractor can make all the difference when renovating your home

Skyrocketing Toronto real estate prices are motivating many existing homeowners to improve their homes, rather than replace them. “We’re seeing a big trend to add value to homes through renovations and to increase living space by building ‘up or out,’” said Kris Potts, president of Toronto’s Norseman Construction & Development. “In doing so, existing homeowners are achieving the living space improvements they would normally seek by moving to another home, but at a much lower cost.”

Whether the homeowner’s goal is to add living space by ‘building up or out’ or just to bring kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms up to 2017 standards, their biggest challenge is often finding a contractor who can be trusted to do the job right; on time and on budget.

With an impressive 83 per cent score on the consumer rating site HomeStars.com, Norseman Construction & Development is one such contractor. Established in 2005, this family-owned-and-operated company listens to its customers throughout the design and build process; keeping them constantly informed about their project’s progress until it is completed, and each customer has received exactly what they asked for.

“We do our best to take each homeowner’s vision and make it a reality, ensuring that the finished product exceeds their expectations,” said Potts. “We do this by keeping on top of the perpetual advancements in the field, and by addressing the constantly changing needs of local homeowners. Add Norseman’s wealth of experience, superior workmanship and unparalleled attention to detail, and we are able to provide our customers with innovative solutions, competitive pricing and timely results on all their home improvement projects.”

Norseman’s attention to customer needs starts with the company’s consultation process. “Book an appointment on our website, and one of our skilled estimators will come to your home to provide a free quotation on whatever you have in mind,” said Kevin Potts, Norseman’s Operations Manager. “We will do our best to come up with a plan that not only meets your needs, but also fits within your budget and schedule.”

Once the home improvement project is underway, Norseman keeps customers ‘in the loop’ about the project’s progress on a daily basis. “Our people use a program called Buildertrend to upload status reports and photos of each day’s work,” Kevin Potts said. “Our homeowners can log into it as often as they wish to see firsthand how their build is going, and to get answers to any questions they may have.”

“Today’s homeowner is very savvy, thanks to all the home improvement shows on TV,” said Becky Potts, Norseman’s Marketing Manager. “Here at Norseman, we respect this level of awareness by giving homeowners open access to information about their projects at all times. Check out our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, and you will see our customer-first values in action!”

‘Customer-first values’ is a phrase that means something at Norseman Construction & Development. It is why this contractor provides a two-year warranty on its work – many other contractors only provide a year’s coverage.

It is also why the Potts family insists on alerting customers to project-related issues should they occur. All construction projects carry with them some element of the unknown. Opening walls or floors can bring to light new information not present at the project’s beginning. “Setbacks happen,” said Kris Potts. “When they do, we tell the customer about them upfront, and we fix them in consultation with the customer.”

As well, customer-first values drive Norseman’s approach to its skilled tradespeople. “Unlike some other contractors who are focussed on profits first, Norseman treats its trades fairly,” said Kevin Potts. “In return, we inspire loyalty in the most skilled tradespeople in the industry. The payoff is the best quality work on our customers’ homes.”

That’s not all: Norseman invests money and time in ‘giving back’ to the GTA community. Its charitable efforts include underwriting the annual free Messiah for the City Christmas concert for clients and staff of the United Way. This much-loved music is performed by the Toronto Beach Chorale and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Norseman also supports Habitat for Humanity, which aids low-income families in attaining affordable housing; serves hot meals at the Scott Mission, and funds numerous local sports and charity events in the GTA.

“The way we treat our customers and our community underscore what Norseman Construction & Development stands for,” concluded Kris Potts. “When you hire us for your home improvement project, you will receive quality-oriented, customer-focussed service from a stable firm that truly puts you first, and who cares about the community we all live in.”

For more information about Norseman & Construction & Development, visit their website or connect on Facebook.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Norseman Construction.

Source: National Post

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Ontario’s 16 new housing measures

Houses are seen in a suburb located north of Toronto in Vaughan, Canada, June 29, 2015.

The Ontario government has announced what it calls a comprehensive housing package aimed at cooling a red-hot real estate market on Thursday. Here are the 16 proposed measures:

  • A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.
  • Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.
  • Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for “landlord’s own use” evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.
  • A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.
  • Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.
  • A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.
  • A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.
  • More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.
  • The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.
  • An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.
  • A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.
  • The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed
  • Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.
  • A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.
  • Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.
  • Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.

Source: The Canadian Press – April 20, 2017

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