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Posts tagged ‘warranty’

First Time Buyer Friday #8 – Do I Need A Home Inspector?

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.

What lurks in the attic? The home inspector knows!

What lurks in the attic? The home inspector knows!

Q. A friend said that if I decide to purchase a condo or a home with a warranty, I don’t need a home inspector. It that true?

A. I would always recommend that you protect yourself from unforeseen problems by hiring a qualified home inspector as a condition to buying the house. In fact, it’s so important that our standard-form Contract of Purchase and Sale has an inspection clause pre-written into the subjects page.

An inspector will cost you somewhere between $300-$500 and is money well spent. Some offer a lower rate for condos or townhouses, while others are the same for all property types. This is money that is spent before you remove your conditions, so it’s a good idea to get the final approval on your financing before you pay an inspector to look at the house. That way, you avoid the frustrating position of  knowing that the house your bank won’t let you buy is safe and sound.

As of March 31, 2009 all home inspectors are required to be licensed in British Columbia. This is a huge step forward in standardizing the industry and protecting consumers. Prior to this requirement, anyone could call him or herself a home inspector without any real knowledge about homes or any formal training! To be fair, most reputable home inspectors belong to a self-regulating professional organization such as the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI).

With a condo or townhouse, sometimes an inspector cannot get access to all areas of the exterior of the building, for example, the roof. It’s important that you get your REALTOR® to arrange access to these spaces. Otherwise, you only get a limited idea of the condition of the property by having the inspector examine only the strata unit you’re buying. Remember that when you buy a condo or townhouse, you are also buying an interest in (and responsibility for) the common property of the building, so it only makes sense to have it inspected to avoid any unforeseen expense.

If you buy a newer home, it will come with a warranty. The good news is that the warranty will cover many things that could go wrong. The bad news is that a warranty doesn’t prevent problems from occurring. Better to spend the money and get it inspected. Often, the current owners of the property can have any problems found remedied before you move in, saving you the hassle of making a warranty claim.

It can be disappointing to have an inspector examine the home that you really like, only to find some major issues that weren’t apparent to you when you first looked at the house. If you have to walk away, you can think of the fee you paid to the appraiser as an insurance premium that saved you from major financial difficulty down the road.

So, how can you find a reputable inspector? Well, it’s comforting to know that inspectors in BC are now licensed, so you could search Google for home inspectors, or look in the Yellow Pages. You may also ask your REALTOR® who he or she recommends. I have three or four inspectors whose cards I carry and would be happy to recommend any of them.

For more information about home inspection or any other real estate questions, call me 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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