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Posts tagged ‘leaky’

First Time Buyer Friday #11 – When To Walk Away

In my continuing series, First-Time-Buyer Fridays, I answer a common question from a first-time buyer. If you have a question to submit, first-time-buyer or experienced investor, put one in the comments below, or fire me an e-mail at Tim@TimAyres.ca.

Broken house

“Needs TLC”

Q. I made an offer to purchase a house and my inspector found a few problems. How do I know when to walk away?

A. Unfortunately, not all houses are created equal, and you may find that after finally getting an offer accepted on your first home, that the inspection report turns up some issues you missed on your initial viewing of the property. This is normal – it’s the inspector’s job to pick apart the various systems of the home and point out to you everything you’re taking on when you buy the house. The big question is – what is acceptable and what’s too much?

When I bought my home, it was only 11 years old. Everything that I needed to change was merely cosmetic, and if worse came to worse, I could always wait (and suffer through the pastel pink walls and mint-green carpet). But if you’re buying an older home, things like knob-and-tube wiring, a faulty roof, or a cracked or leaking foundation might be a reality and turn your dream home into a nightmare – and this is why an inspection is the best $400 you can spend when you’re shopping for a home.

You should be prepared to replace a few things and make a few changes once you move in, but you’ll probably want a good idea as to how much money this is going to cost. For example, if your inspection report finds that the roof is failing and you’ll soon need to replace it, it’s not hard to get a roofing contractor over for a quick drive-by estimate. It’s another thing altogether if your inspector suspects there may be substandard wiring, cracks in the foundation, or failing stucco or other exterior cladding. These repairs are often much more costly – and sometimes cover up other problems not visible to your inspector. It’s not necessarily the cost of the repairs that is the greatest cause for concern.It’s what you don’t know that can cost the most. If you aren’t comfortable with this, it might be a signal that it’s time to be glad you had an inspection, walk away, and move on to another property.

Your REALTOR® has probably seen lots of similar houses in his or her career and can certainly help counsel you, but you should always get reliable repair estimates from reputable contractors – they are the ones you’ll be writing a cheque to for repairs. The decision to walk away or not has to be your own; you need to be comfortable with any repairs or upgrades that may be necessary when you take ownership of the house.

A smart buyer will also consider if the house will be difficult to sell in a few years’ time if these issues are not looked after when he or she owns the house. The roof might not be leaking now, but the last thing you want is to take a hit on the price of your home because a subsequent buyer doesn’t want to fix the problems you inherited from the previous owner!

As with dating, there are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to buying houses, and your REALTOR® will help you find the right house. And, also like dating, you’ll probably find that you love that house even more than you did the one you let get away.

I’d love to answer your questions about buying or selling a house. Give me a call at 250-885-0512, e-mail me at Tim@TimAyres.ca or fill in my contact form. Connect with me on Twitter at Twitter.com/TimAyres.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #6 – Leaky Condos Part III

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

A building awaits new landscaping after membrane replacement.

A building awaits new landscaping after membrane replacement.

Q. I’m considering buying a condo in an older building here in Victoria, BC – it was built in 1978. Do I need to be worried about leaky condos and expensive repairs?

[Read Part I of this post here, and Part II here.]

A. Yes and no. While older condos built in the ’70s and ’80s are not usually subject to the systemic problems that caused premature building envelope failure, there are still things you need to know. First, “leaky condos” were caused by premature building envelope failure – with an older building there might be problems with the building envelope related to its age, necessitating a renewal project. Hopefully, over the life of the building, the strata corporation has been doing the necessary preventative maintenance.

Increasingly common with buildings of this era are problems with the underground parking garage. Leaks develop and water slowly trickles down through the suspended slab of the parkade roof and into the garage. You might wonder what the big deal is; there are always drains and no one lives down there. But over time, if left uncorrected, the water will corrode the reinforcing steel embedded in the concrete, causing concrete decay and eventual structural damage – and the condo building is built upon the garage, after all.

The footprint of the building is smaller than the footprint of the parking garage, like this:

Finally, a use for MS Paint.

Finally, a use for MS Paint.

When the building was constructed, the parking garage was built first, and then the foundation of the building on top of the suspended slab roof of the parking garage. To prevent water leakage, a waterproofing membrane was attached to the sides of the building and over the top of the parking garage. On top of the membrane, the finishing landscaping and walkways, etc, were placed:

No, I didn't even TRY to draw a car.

No, I didn't even TRY to draw a car.

Over time, depending on the quality of the membrane originally installed, leaks will develop. Roots from trees could penetrate the membrane, there could have been small holes when it was originally installed, or it could just be breaking down after so long. The only real solution to the problem is to replace the membrane. The only way to do this is to dig up all the landscaping and other surface finishing, tear off the old membrane, replace it and then re-finish the landscaping. As you can imagine, this is not cheap – it’s not like you can re-use the  the excavated trees, concrete, and dirt – there’s no room on the property. It all has to be trucked away, and then new landscaping trucked in. I know of one building in Victoria whose residents had to shell out $20,000-$30,000 to have this done.

There are cheaper “solutions” sometimes floated by strata councils who don’t want to bite the bullet and replace the membrane. If the source of the leak can be identified, the area can be excavated, and the membrane patched. However, this is a temporary solution that may or may not work, and it will only prolong the inevitable, pushing up the cost when there are no more patches to do.

So, as a condo buyer, you should carefully examine the strata council minutes and find out if parkade waterproofing is an issue. If there has been an engineer’s report in the last few years you should carefully examine it. If there is no evidence in the strata records, you should specifically as your property inspector to have a look at the underground parking for potential leaks. You could also ask your REALTOR® if he or she knows whether or not the parking waterproofing has been replaced.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #5 – Leaky Condos Part II

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

Q. I’ve heard that most of the systemic problems that caused the leaky condo crisis in the 90’s have been fixed. What’s changed since 1999? Are there still leaky condos being built?

A. [Read Part I of this post here] Changes in building design and technology and the building code have come into effect since the end of the 1990’s. Instead of thinking of the building as one system that needs to be sealed up to prevent air loss and thus reduce energy costs, we now consider two separate systems: the exterior wall and the building envelope. The building envelope includes the roof and exterior cladding. Building codes now require an airspace between the exterior cladding (such as hardi-plank siding or stucco) and the exterior wall (covered by a water-tight membrane like building paper or Tyvek®). The idea is to allow airflow in behind the cladding to dry out  any accumulated moisture, while at the same time creating a means by which any wind-driven rain can drain out via gravity. See below:

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

It should be noted that you can’t blame the leaky condo crisis in BC entirely on the building code. It has been discovered in many court cases regarding leaky buildings that the exteriors of some buildings were not built to the code that was in place at the time. However, it certainly was a contributing factor.

Many of the leaky buildings built during the leaky condo era have been remediated at great expense to the owners. Typically they now employ some sort of rainscreen construction as detailed above. Most will be without problems, as long as a regular maintenance programme is put into place and followed. In fact, the warranty that comes along with a remediation is usually contingent upon a proper maintenance schedule.

When shopping with a REALTOR® for condos, especially those built in the 1990s, you should ask whether or not the building has undergone remediation, and inspect all documents that lead up to the work being done, including the engineer’s report. There are some buildings in Victoria and vicinity that have not been remediated, but instead opted for a “preventative maintenance” programme that will end up costing them more money in the end.

In British Columbia, anything built with a building permit filed after July 1, 1999 must come with a ten year new home warranty. Usually these come in a 2-5-10 or 2-10-10 format: 2 years materials and labour on the home – this would cover things like nail pops, cabinetry, and other deficiencies. 5 or 10 years on the building envelope system, the exterior cladding and weather barrier of the home, and 10 years on the major structural components of the home.

What about condos built these days? Do they still leak? Hard to say. I’d tend to reason that if there was still widespread and systemic premature building envelope failures happening in modern construction, we’d be hearing a lot more about it on the news. I’m sure there are probably a few recently built buildings where there has been water ingress issues, but nowhere near the magnitude experienced last decade.

Check back next Monday for Part III, when we’ll talk about another type of leaky condo you don’t always hear about!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #4 – Leaky Condos Part I

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

Leaky Condo being repaired

Leaky Condo being repaired

Q. I’ve heard the term “Leaky Condo” from my friends and family, and that I should avoid buying one. What is a leaky condo?
A. Put simply, a leaky condo is an attached strata unit (condominium or townhouse) that suffers grossly premature building envelope failure (water ingress/leaks) that causes major damage to the exterior and sometimes interior of the building. The end result is extremely costly repairs, some of which have yet to be carried out today, 10 years after the end of the”leaky condo era.”

The leaky condo crisis emerged in the late 1980s through the 1990s in coastal British Columbia as a result of two major factors. First, the design craze of the time was Californian style architecture. Second, new rules in the building code required builders to seal up exterior walls, in an attempt to increase energy efficiency.

In Coastal B.C. it rains a lot. California-style architecture is mostly stucco buildings with flat roofs, and little or no overhang from the top of the roof over the walls. If you look at most traditional buildings in Vancouver and Victoria, you’d find pitched roofs and/or good overhangs over the top of the exterior walls.

The new building code required builders to seal up the buildings to keep air out, to increase energy efficiency. The problem is that by doing this, water can still seep in. Without adequate ventilation to dry out the moisture, the wooden exterior wall starts to rot. Balconies were often worse – water would seep in and rot the support beams creating a safety hazard.

Rotten balcony supports

Rotten balcony supports

Often, the only real solution was complete building envelope replacement. This involved tearing off the entire face of the building, replacing most of the plywood sheathing, properly weather screening it, and replacing the exterior cladding with something more suitable to the design of the building and the climate in which it stands. This is extremely expensive, and it’s not unheard of to hear of owners having to shell out $30,000-$50,000 or even more in special assessments to get it right. Some stratas were able to successfully sue the developers and recover some of the money they paid, but many were on the hook for the repairs. But most of these buildings had warranties, right? Well, many did, but unfortunately the unraveling of the leaky condo crisis caused most of the home warranty outfits to disappear into bankruptcy, further leaving owners in the lurch.

Check back next Monday for Part II, when we’ll cover what’s changed since 1999.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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