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Terminating Termites: Make Sure This Pest Won't "Be Back"

 

NewsletterMany people know what April showers bring, but what about May flowers? What do they bring? One word: bugs. Warm weather invites many out of hibernation, and that includes insects. June's pleasant temperatures have bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering, ants picnicking, and termites getting ready to feast. Most can appreciate the need for bees pollinating, enjoy a butterfly's beauty, and love to hate ants, but termites illicit a very different reaction. These pests have the potential to inflict serious damage to your home, and are the bane of homeowners. 

One of the major things termites need to thrive is warm climates. As the temperature rises, so too does the potential for termite infestations. With spring turning into summer, it's important to be able to recognize the conditions conducive to termite infestations and learn how to protect your home from these unwanted inhabitants. 

Subterranean termites typically cause the most structural damage and are most prevalent in the southern coastal areas, the dry climate of the Okanagan areas of British Columbia, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and the Maritime provinces. Though each species of termite thrives in different climates and eats different types of food, all termites require four things to survive: 

1. Food
2. Moisture
3. Shelter
4. Optimal temperatures

Termites

These conditions can be found in all buildings, regardless of their construction type. However, older homes typically face increased termite threats as wood rot is more common in them. 

As with the normal approach taken when dealing with other pests, the best way to prevent a termite infestation is to reduce access to food and water sources. For termites, this means eliminating moisture and removing wood sources, including wood piles and mulch close to the home. Rotted wood is by far the most common way for termites to gain entry into the home. The soft, pulpy material gives termites easy access to both food and moisture. If you have concerns about a termite infestation in your home, consider: 

  • Removing all wood debris in contact with soil and store any firewood away from your home and off the ground.
  • Fixing any leaks in pipes and drains - damp wood creates ideal conditions for a healthy, large, and robust termite colony.
  • Making sure the soil around the structure of your home is sloped away from the home, and that drainage from the roof doesn't collect near the property.
  • Trimming dense vegetation from around the siding and foundation of your home.
  • Insulating or putting down a moisture barrier to help limit the humidity and condensation in your crawl space, as this can be inviting to termites.
  • Replacing mulch that is close to the home with gravel. If mulch is used around the home, make certain to keep the mulch layer as shallow as possible; thick mulch beds create soil moisture conditions that encourage termite activity.

Unlike other pests, termites are typically very hard to detect. With the exception of annual swarms, when reproductive termites move to start new colonies, termites live primarily out of sight. So how can you tell if something you can't see is occupying your home? There are a few termite signs that can indicate an infestation. Watch out for:

  • Hollow-sounding wood - if wood sounds hollow when tapped it may be because termites are eating the wood from the inside out
  • "Swarmers" (a group of winged insects), or discarded wings - reproductive termites, also known as "swarmers", take flight to create new colonies; swarming termites, or groups of discarded wings is a fairly conclusive sign of an infestation
    Tip: Subterranean termites typically swarm in the spring
  • Mud tubes on walls - termites construct mud tubes to travel between their home in the soil and the wood that they feed on; these tubes also provide moisture which the termites search for food 
Mud tubes
  • Frass" - termites produce this wood-coloured dropping as they eat their way through wood rot

If you have termites in your home, it's essential to reach out to a professional pest control company to help you address the issue - quickly. Termites can cause the most structural damage of any insect and, based on the extent of the damage, remediation expenses can run well into the thousands of dollars. Treatment methods vary based on the species of termite, size of infestation, and other factors. The required chemicals for termite treatment are not for sale to the public, and must be used in strictly controlled conditions. Your licensed pest management professional can set up the best corrective steps if you have a termite infestation.

Orkin Canada, a leading name in pest control in Canada and our Specialty Services partner, can assist Carson Dunlop clients and real estate partners with termite-related inquiries, including termite inspections and treatment plans. To learn more please call 800-268-7070.

House Hunting Have You All Atwitter? Home Inspectors Can Help

 

ComputerIn an effort to help better inform first-time home buyers, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has developed an initiative on Twitter to provide users with easy access to real estate experts and resources. RBC runs #RBCFirstHome Twitter chats frequently, and they’ve graciously asked us to contribute to the last few sessions. These chats aim to assist with the home buying process by allowing home buyers to communicate with professionals who specialize in various areas related to real estate (REALTORS®, mortgage specialists, home stagers, real estate lawyers, and Home Inspectors). Participants can tweet with the #RBCFirstHome hashtag and ask experts questions related to buying a house and the housing market.

We’ve learned a lot during these sessions, and not just about technology (Twitter is fun, but it sure isn’t intuitive #whatisahastag). Connecting with first time buyers reminded us that home buying is a complicated process that many people have questions about.

To help eliminate some of this knowledge gap, we combed through the questions asked throughout the chats we’ve participated in, and compiled a list of the inquiries and comments we feel will help home buyers most. If you’re in the process of buying your first home, or if you just want to refresh your knowledge, consider the information below – you might have some similar questions.

  • What kind of things are inspectors typically looking for?

A professional Home Inspection is a visual assessment of a property. Inspectors will investigate the interior and exterior of the home, evaluating its major components – for example, the roof, the structure, the electrical and plumbing, the heating and cooling system, and the insulation. Their task is to determine how the systems in the home are operating and whether there are any large expenses the buyer will be facing should they move forward with the purchase. The focus is on functionality, lifespan, and safety. Your Home Inspector’s goal is to give you a concrete understanding of the home so you can make an informed decision on the purchase.

  • If you find issues during the inspection, who fixes them?

This is more situational. When a major expense is discovered it is up to the potential buyer to determine what their recourse will be, if any. Some buyers use the discovery to negotiate the price, or have the seller repair or replace the item. In other cases the buyer decides to walk away from the deal. Every case is different and it’s best to get the information you need from the inspector and then work with your real estate agent to figure out what your next step will be.

  • Should you have more than one type of inspection?

This depends on the home and your concerns. Over the last couple of years we have seen an increasing number of clients opt to make a more informed decision by using specialists to look at specific items or specific areas of the home. These services are usually provided by specialists in their field to examine areas that fall outside of the scope of a normal Home Inspection. Some examples of these specialty services are environmental testing like mold, asbestos and indoor air quality, pool, pest, chimney and sewer camera inspections and many more. If you are buying a rural property you may also want or need to have a well and septic inspection. As well, Thermal Imaging Inspections, where an inspector uses an infrared camera to test for moisture issues in the home, have become very popular in the last few years. It really comes down to what makes you the most comfortable as a buyer.

  • How do you find a qualified inspector?

MovingYour real estate agent will usually provide a list of three companies that they recommend, but will leave the final decision up to you. You do not have to choose an inspector from that list, but it does give you a good place to start. In terms of evaluating an inspector to see if they are right for you and your home there are many qualities to consider. We recommend that you focus on experience and education, and ensure that the report includes the information that you require in an easy to understand format. Many people tend to focus on the cost of the inspection, and while we understand that it’s important to stay within your budget, going with the least expensive option can sometimes cost you in the long run. Buying a home is arguably the biggest investment you will ever make in your life, so spending the money on a qualified professional to educate you on the home you're buying is an essential part of the buying process. If you aren't sure what to consider, check out our guide on how to choose a Home Inspector.  

We hope this information has helped to shed some light on questions you were afraid to ask, or didn’t know you had. If you want some more expert advice as you prepare to buy your first home make sure to join us (@carsondunlop) for the next #RBCFirstHome Twitter chat on June 17th at 9:00pm ET. Twitter not your thing, or need some more immediate answers? Call our office at 800-268-7070 or send us an email, our customer service representatives are always available to help.

Father's Day: Tips for Treating Dad

 

FamilyIt’s mid-June, and you know what that means: Dad’s big day is just around the corner. That’s right; Father’s Day is this Sunday. Are you ready to celebrate? Or are you having difficulty buying for the man that apparently, especially when you ask him, wants for nothing? Instead of opting for the traditional tie and coffee mug, this year, try doing something for Dad.

Sure, a new tie can really bring a look together and a mug letting everyone know you’re the World’s Greatest Dad can definitely boost the ego, but helping with the chores that Dad is usually responsible for can be a thoughtful gift too. This weekend use the tips below so you can take care of the yard work and grilling, and give Dad a relaxing Father’s Day.

Yard Work

  • Mowing

When it comes to maintaining your yard, one of the most time-consuming tasks is mowing the lawn. This is a fairly straightforward, albeit annoying, chore. Make sure you clean away sticks and other items that may interfere with the mower before you begin. You don’t need to give your lawn a buzz cut. Try to keep the grass at least 6-8cm long so that the roots are shaded and able to hold water well. As with other outdoor activities in the summer, it’s important to be weather-prepared. Wear a hat, put on sunscreen and bug spray, and stay hydrated.

  • Watering

You may not have to help with this, as healthy lawns usually only require about 2.5cm of water on a weekly basis to thrive. Check to see when the last time your lawn was watered before taking any action. If it has been more than a week since your lawn was watered grab the hose or sprinkler. Water slowly to both make sure that the ground actually absorbs the water, and to limit the amount of run-off that occurs. It’s also important to water thoroughly – a shallow sprinkling doesn’t do as much good as soaking down into the roots.

  • Trimming

ShrubsLike the individuals who create and take care of them, every yard or garden is different. Some are a testament to organization; others cultivate a more natural aesthetic. Depending on the way your garden is laid out you may have to do some minor trimming. If you have any shrubs, hedges, or trees near the foundation of your home, it’s a good idea to pull branches and trim excess leaves away from the home. This will help to let sunlight into the home, curb the bugs that wish to access the home, and assist with water management.

  • Downspouts

While you’re by your foundation, take a look at your downspouts. How far do they extend? They should reach approximately 6 feet away from your home. If they fall short of this you may see wet or eroded patches where rainwater has been pooling. When not properly directed away from your home via a downspout, water remains on the ground by your foundation, slowly seeping into it. A minor repair to your downspouts can save you major expenses in the future.

Grilling Safety & Maintenance

  • Cleaning

Make sure your barbeque is clean before firing it up. Dirt, debris, bugs, and cobwebs can get lodged inside the grill – especially if you don’t use it frequently. This is not the sort of seasoning you want on your burgers, so always check to see how clean your grill is before putting food on it.

  • Propane Tank

Take a look at your propane tank. Of course, it’s important that there’s enough fuel to cook your food, but it’s also important to assess the condition of the tank. Is your tank damaged or rusty? If so, it might be time for a replacement. You should be replacing your tanks approximately every decade.

  • Charcoal

If you use charcoal as fuel, it’s important to make sure your barbeque is vented properly. Carbon monoxide is released when this fuel source is lit, and poses a threat when inhaled. Keep the barbeque at least 3 metres away from windows and doors.

Father's Day

When you’re done grilling, do not dispose of the used charcoal unless you are confident that the coals are fully extinguished. Hot coals can easily start a fire and are very dangerous.

  • Safety Tips

Do not leave your barbeque unsupervised, especially if you are grilling with your children and pets nearby.

Keep the barbeque out of range of combustible items like wooden fences and trees and shrubs.

Do not get too close to the grill and make sure to wear appropriate clothing like a thick apron and short sleeved shirt to help minimize the potential for having your clothing catch fire. As well, use long tongs and brushes to protect you from the open heat source.

Whatever you end up doing with Dad, we hope you have a safe and fun Father's Day. Looking for more summer tips? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook

Air Conditioner Maintenance: Beat the Heat Before it Gets Here

 

Newsletter

May GraphThere's no denying it, spring has sprung. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and the birds have returned to nest. Though we now appreciate this perfectly-temperate weather, ideal for picnics and baseball, experience tells us it will not last long. The extreme heat of summer is coming - you know, the record highs you swore you wouldn't complain about when you were knee-deep in snow, shoveling your driveway through gritted teeth. Although most of us are thrilled to be free of winter's ice and snow, heat waves and severe humidity are not the most comfortable weather systems either, and soon the complaints will start to flow.

While our aim is not to appear pessimistic in the face of this pleasant spring season, we do encourage homeowners to be aware of, and plan for, the realities of the coming weather cycles. We aren't exactly calling for the hatches to be battened down, but just as you performed furnace maintenance to prepare it for the winter, it's important to consider the effects the summer heat will have on your cooling system. Like the majority of your home's systems, proper maintenance can help to increase your air conditioner's lifespan and ensure that it works properly. Check out our guide to cooling systems below to learn more.  

Air Conditioner 101

There are many types of air conditioning systems; however they all work on the same principle: moving heat from a relatively cool space to a relatively warm space. In the summer, air conditioners take heat from the house air and transfer it to the exterior. This heat may be transferred to the outside air, a body of water, or into the ground. 

Air-Cooled Air Conditioning Systems

Air-cooled air conditioning systems are the most common. They have two main components:

1.  The evaporator - which may be in the ductwork immediately above the furnace or in a fan coil in the attic. 

2.   The condenser - which is outdoors. 

When most people picture an air conditioner they envision a large metal box that sits just outside of the home. It's an item you have to carefully rake around in the fall and clear snow off of in the winter - sometimes it even comes with its own special plastic cover. This box is the condenser unit.

Air Conditioner Schematic
The evaporator is inside the home. It is used to turn the refrigerant, the medium which carries the heat, from a liquid into a gaseous state.

Inside the condenser is the compressor: a pump that moves the refrigerant through the system and compresses the refrigerant, raising its temperature significantly. The compressor is the heart of the system.

Severe damage can occur to air conditioning compressors if they are turned on when the outside temperature is below 65º F (16º C). The life expectancy of a compressor is typically 10 to 15 years in moderate climates and as little as 8 to 10 years in hot climates. Depending on the age of the unit, replacement of a failed compressor may not be cost-effective. The unit may be so old that replacement parts are not readily available or the system might use an older refrigerant. In these cases, it may be better to replace the entire condenser unit, rather than just the compressor. 

Air ConditionerIt's important to make sure the condenser is on level ground (within roughly 10 degrees). The compressor or the refrigerant lines may be damaged if the unit is not level. So if your unit is on ground that is sloping towards or away from your home, this should be addressed.

You should also check to make sure that the condenser is positioned a safe distance away from exhaust discharge vents. Hot air discharging from a water heater exhaust vent or a dryer vent can affect the operation of air conditioning systems. These should be kept several feet from the condenser. 

If your condenser is running loudly, the best course of action you can take is to contact a service specialist to diagnose and correct the issue. There are several causes of noisy condensers; a technician will be able to assess the problem and offer remediation advice. In fact, due to the complexity of air-cooling systems, if you suspect there is any kind of problem with your unit (noise-related or otherwise) engaging a service specialist is usually a good idea. Many of the complications you can encounter with your air-cooling system will be hard for the majority of homeowners to identify; working with a reputable technician can be very valuable. We recommend having a service person check your system annually to help ensure that everything is functioning normally. 

There are also some air conditioner maintenance tasks homeowners can assume themselves. These include:

  • Changing the filter - dust and dirt can build up on the filter, affecting the efficiency and performance of the unit. The cost of filters can range from $5 to $30, depending on the type you select. In most cases, the filter can be found in the ductwork near your furnace.

Helpful tip: write down the size of your filter before going to buy a new one.

  • Keeping your condenser clear of dirt and debris - dirt outside your condenser quickly becomes dirt inside your condenser as the fan draws air through the coils. A build-up of dirt, dust, leaves, and grass around the outside of the condenser will reduce airflow through the coils, compromising the functionality of the unit.

At Carson Dunlop, we are committed to our clients for the long-run. The Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association helps reduce costs on everyday home expenses, like air conditioner maintenance. Our association member, AtlasCare, offers Carson Dunlop clients and real estate partners preferred pricing and exclusive deals on heating and cooling system work.    

Spring Cleaning Checklist: Chores To Help Keep Your Home Dry

 

HomeMany homeowners will have taken this past long weekend as an opportunity to get some much needed spring cleaning done. The beginning of warmer weather brings with it many chores – some cosmetic (like cutting the grass and pulling weeds), and some more practical (like cleaning the gutters and changing the screens on your windows). When it comes to spring cleaning, we encourage homeowners to focus on function over fashion, and ensure that their home systems are working well and ready for the change in season, before tending to their gardens.

Spring is usually a rainy season, and this one is shaping up to be on par with typical precipitation trends. As such, most of the practical spring chores we advise homeowners to undertake relate to water management and keeping your home dry. As the skies start to darken and the air becomes more humid, consider the following items and make sure they’re checked off your spring cleaning checklist before it pours:

  • GuttersGet the dirt and leaves out of your gutters – We mention your gutters almost every time we address water issues and maintenance tasks to complete around your home, but that’s because clean gutters can make a huge difference to your roof and your home. If your gutters are full (of dirt, leaves, garbage, twigs, etc.) then water can’t pass through them, causing it to build up and pool over onto your roof. Taking the time now to clear your gutters can help to decrease the frequency of roof leakage and keep your shingles in good shape. 
     
  • Make sure your downspouts are doing their job – Gutters and downspouts go hand in hand, or at least they should. When you’re cleaning your gutters, check the status of your downspouts. They should extend all the way down to the ground and then at least 6 feet away from the home. A downspout’s task is to direct the water that has collected in the gutters away from your home. If your downspout extension is not long enough or facing the wrong way, that can be the difference between a wet and a dry basement.

  • Lot GradingKeep your home on higher ground – Having a properly extending downspout is one thing, but your lot has to have the grading to back it up. If your downspout directs water away from your home and your lot slopes towards your home, despite the downspout’s direction, the water is going to follow the slope of your lot – back to your home.  To combat these grading and drainage issues, make sure your lot slopes away from your home.

  • Ensure your window wells are more window, less well – Like your gutters, window wells can get clogged with all sorts of debris. And it’s similarly important to make sure that you keep your window wells clean. However, unlike gutters, window wells don’t have a downspout. They drain from the bottom, and should have several inches of gravel to facilitate this. If you are consistently having difficulties with window well drainage, consider installing a drainage pipe. This pipe, filled with gravel (to prevent it from collapsing, but still allowing water to pass) will extend down to the drainage tile around the perimeter of the footing (if one exists). Alternatively, you could install a clear plastic dome to keep water and debris out of the window well altogether.

We know we preach the importance of maintaining your water management systems regularly, but in our 36 years leading the Home Inspection industry we’ve come to understand that water is the number one enemy of homes. These systems should receive your attention at every season change, especially during the spring as it is typically a very rainy time. For more spring advice connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Home Maintenance Tips for Spring

 

Living RoomSpring has arrived and although it’s not as warm as some of us would like, we are still counting our blessings that it’s rain and not snow falling from the sky – sorry Eastern Canada, we know it will stop snowing over there soon, probably. As the increase in temperatures has you setting aside your winter wear for more seasonally-appropriate garb, it’s equally important to make sure your home is ready for the change in weather.

Consider the following ways to maintain your home for spring. Some of these items will fall under some simple spring cleaning, and some are more safety-oriented. We’d encourage homeowners to approach each task with the same enthusiasm, as we often see safety items overlooked for other chores, and then ultimately forgotten. 

Exterior

Check your Gutters & Downspouts

As you perform maintenance around your home this weekend, take some time for gutter cleaning to ensure your gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves, twigs, or excess snow, so water can effectively drain through them. The extreme snow, wind, and ice storms we experienced this winter may have rendered your gutters and downspouts ineffective – either breaking or moving them, or filling them with debris. While checking your gutters, look at your downspouts to see if they’ve suffered any damage. They should extend at least six feet from your home, so that they can effectively direct water away from your foundation.

Keep your Window Wells Free of Debris

Water and debris can get trapped in your window wells, allowing moisture to intrude into your basement. Clear out any debris, and to avoid this in the future, a clear plastic dome can be installed over the window well to keep water and debris out.

Assess your Roof

RoofRoofs take the brunt of winter weather abuse. Now that your roof is free of ice and snow, it’s a great opportunity to see what condition it is in.

Roofing can be damaged by hail, raccoons, or other animals, and should be regularly inspected by a professional. Localized repairs are often an option, but as a general rule, when more than 10% to 15% of the roof requires repairs, it is best to replace the roof covering.

It’s important to know that roofs do not last forever. As roof materials grow old, they lose their ability to keep water out of the house. Asphalt and wood roofing can crack, curl, and shrink. Wood roofing rots, or burns through from the sun. Shingles, or tiles may fall off as the materials or fasteners deteriorate. By knowing the signs of potential problems, you can have a professional complete necessary roof repair or replacements without the major costs associated with water damage.

Ensure your Home has Proper Lot Grading

No foundation wall system is completely waterproof. Water accumulating in the soil outside your home will leak through eventually. To combat this, it is essential to keep the soil outside your home dry. Achieving dry soil can be done by ensuring the ground around your home slopes away from your home, rather than towards it. The ground around the home should slope down six inches for the first ten feet away from the home; this can often be achieved by adding topsoil. The theory is simple – if there’s no water in the soil on the outside of the foundation wall, no water will get into the interior. 

Interior

Test your Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide DetectorWe recommend testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a monthly basis, and changing these devices’ batteries twice a year. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, although having more is encouraged. When testing to make sure your smoke detector is working, check the expiry date printed on the smoke detector. If the unit is past this date, or if it is more than ten years old, it should be replaced. If there is no expiry date, it’s probably more than ten years old.

Not every home comes equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, which means you might not have one. If you don’t have one, it’s not only a good idea to get one, the Ontario government passed a law a few months ago making these devices mandatory in every home. Carbon monoxide detectors help to protect homeowners from the dangers related to carbon monoxide poisoning. If your detector finds there is an unsafe level of carbon monoxide in your home it will notify you in a manner similar to a smoke detector: loud beeping. And like a smoke alarm, it requires the same degree of regular maintenance, so check your carbon monoxide detector on a monthly basis, change its batteries twice a year, and check the expiry date. Carbon monoxide detectors often have only a seven-year life span.

Check your Furnace & Air Conditioner Filters

Do you know how often to change a furnace filter? Your furnace and air conditioner filters should be checked monthly to determine if they need cleaning or changing. Typically located in the air return duct adjacent to the furnace, making sure your furnace filter is in good condition can help improve both comfort and heating costs. You will need to see if you should purchase a cleanable or disposable furnace filter – most homeowners choose to have a disposable filter, for convenience, but both are good choices. Furnace filters generally range from $5 to $30 depending on the type of filter you select.

Helpful tip: Note the size of your filter before heading out to buy a new one.

Good luck to all the homeowners starting their spring cleaning projects! We know that for many it can be a dreaded chore, but it means we’re that much closer to summertime lounging.

Looking for more home maintenance tips in 140 characters or less? Connect with us on Twitter.

Choosing a Home Inspector: What To Look For & Why

 

Bright HomeSpring is known as one of the busiest seasons for real estate and this one is no exception. Fresh sunshine and warm temperatures are bringing home buyers out of hibernation in droves. In a recent News Release, Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President, Dianne Usher said, “the spring market started off on a strong note in the Greater Toronto Area [GTA], with a 10.8 per cent year-over-year sales increase reported by Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® during the first two weeks of April.”* Although many predicted that this year’s spring market would be slower than normal due to the consistently fewer number of homes for sale, record sales numbers challenge this assumption. Usher explains, “While the persistent listings shortage in the GTA, coupled with strong demand, has led to a brisk pace of price growth, very low advertised mortgage rates have gone a long way to mitigating the effect of upward trending home prices.”*

The fast pace of this busy market, combined with the fierce competition for homes, means most individuals who are buying a house have to move very quickly to get the property they want. Some believe that “moving quickly” translates to waiving conditions – a decision we strongly advise against; especially skipping the Home Inspection. A Home Inspection is a very important part of the real estate process, as these professional consultations provide buyers with a comprehensive evaluation of the home from the roof to the basement to give them a better understanding of the home they are buying. To move quickly without compromising on quality or information we encourage home buyers to make strategic preparations when they first enter the real estate market.

Just as you choose your real estate agent before you start looking for a new home, why not do the same with your Home Inspector? Choosing your Home Inspector early in the game can put you at a considerable advantage. Instead of making multiple phone calls to determine which inspection company you would like to work with and then figuring out everyone’s availability (yours, your agent's, the seller's, their agent's, and the inspector’s) all while you’re trying to secure the home (talking to your bank, confirming your mortgage, and remaining competitive compared to other interested buyers), selecting your inspector early on can save you some stress and make the buying process more efficient.

How to Choose a Home Inspector

When looking for a Home Inspector, many buyers focus on the three Es: education, experience, and expense. While we do agree that it’s important to ensure that the inspector you’re working with is well-trained and very familiar with the industry, we believe that when it comes to one of the biggest investments you will ever make, the cost of the inspection should not be your primary concern. The emphasis should instead be on the quality of service you receive. In addition to the training and knowledge of your inspector, here are a few other items to consider:

  • Report Quality

Most Home Inspectors will have a sample of their inspection report available for prospective clients, either online or by request – make sure to review this as it will be the roadmap to your new home. Can you read it? How detailed is it? Are there pictures? And, most importantly, how soon after your inspection will you receive it? If the report falls short in any of these areas you should reconsider working with this company. An inspector may be great on site, but if they don’t provide you with a valuable report, it might be time to find someone else. 

  • Standards of Practice

Reputable Home Inspection Companies will adhere to a Standard of Practice (if they don’t that is a bad sign) – familiarize yourself with this document. It will outline the way the inspector will inspect, and what is and is not covered in their inspection. Reading this will help you to understand what your inspector will be assessing in the home and what to expect from the inspection. 

  • Accessibility

Looking for an inspectorWhen vetting your Home Inspector it’s important to make sure that they’re available when you need them – before and after the inspection. You should know how much notice you have to give the company to get an inspection when you need it; do they need more than 24 hours? It’s also good practice to discuss their post-inspection policy. Can you contact them if you have questions about the report? What about if you run into an issue after you close, or if you want to do a renovation a few years into homeownership? Beyond these factors, it’s very important to consider how accessible they are. Is it hard to get in touch with them? How quickly do they or their company get back to you? These questions point to the relationship you’ll have with your inspector after they’ve done their job, and it’s valuable to be aware of their commitment to their clients.

Selecting your Home Inspector before you’ve found your home means that when you do find your dream home you’ll have one less thing to worry about. At Carson Dunlop, our Customer Service Team is available to answer questions about our Home Inspection services and more seven days a week. Contact us via email or call 800-268-7070 to see how we can help you. We’d love to help welcome you to your new home.

 

*SOURCE: Toronto Real Estate Board - http://www.torontorealestateboard.com/market_news/release_market_updates/
news2014/nr_mid_month_0414.htm

Reno 911: The Hidden Hazards of Homeownership

 

April Newsletter

April Graph

Spring has sprung, and with it comes more than just the pitter patter of raindrops on your roof. As we begin to see the temperature consistently above zero, and climbing, many homeowners will dive into their next home improvement project 

If you're one of the many homeowners undertaking a spring project, consider the following: renovations can be a disruptive activity and it's important to be aware of what it is you're disrupting. Some projects create a mess of dirt and debris, and some create, or rather expose, more dangerous substances. 

In last month's March Poll we asked you to look at a picture and tell us what was or wasn't wrong with it. Although everyone polled did agree that the photo showed a problem, only 30% identified the possible presence of asbestos in the tiles. In light of the limited knowledge homeowners have with respect to asbestos and mould, and the start of renovation season, we thought it was a great time to discuss the more hazardous materials home construction can unearth.   

Asbestos

Asbestos

Prior to the mid-1980s, asbestos was commonly used in many household items, like flooring, insulation, and around pipes. Asbestos minerals tend to separate into microscopic particles that become airborne and are easily inhaled. As long as it is undisturbed, neither the asbestos fibers nor the dust will be released into the air. However, when it is disturbed, it becomes dangerous. Exposure to asbestos can cause individuals to develop several types of life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer. Like any hazards, length and intensity of exposure are major factors in the risk of asbestos-related respiratory illness.

If the renovations that you're doing involve areas or items that may contain asbestos, it's important to have an asbestos inspection performed. An asbestos inspection includes: 

  • A complete visual inspection of the entire home for materials suspected to contain asbestos
  • A sampling of materials that are suspected to contain asbestos - according to O. Reg. 278/05
  • A report summarizing the results of the sampling and investigation

If there are asbestos containing materials that are going to be damaged, disturbed or removed by the renovation, the safe approach is to have the materials removed by a qualified contractor.

Think this is a DIY project? Think again! Disposable respirators or dust masks are not appropriate for asbestos - always hire a professional. Never do this work on your ownCarson Dunlop can help by providing a qualified inspection partner to test areas of your home that may be of a concern for you. Call 800-268-7070 to learn more.

Mould

MouldIf you're performing renovations in your basement, bathroom, or any area of your home that sees a lot of moisture, you may encounter mould. Mould can easily hide behind tiles and drywall, and can be found anywhere in the home.

You can't rely on the naked eye, or on mould colour, to identify moulds and their threat to your health and the health of your family. Home test kits can be unreliable too. Not only are you not an expert but the tools can often be faulty if not used correctly. 

Since it's normal for mould to be present in the air and in buildings, its mere existence is not necessarily a cause for alarm. But if mould is present in indoor air at levels higher than would be found in outdoor air, or if a significant mould colony is growing on building surfaces, it could be cause for concern. For this reason, we advise homeowners to have a mould inspection performed if there is any indication that a substantial amount of mould is present in the home. A mould inspection includes: 

  • A complete visual inspection of the entire home from the basement to the attic for signs of water intrusion and mould growth
  • Moisture readings collected throughout the home
  • Two indoor air samples and one outdoor air sample (for reference)
  • A report, which summarizes the results of the samples and investigation

An environmental specialist will help to identify the type of mould in your home, its concentration, and advise you on remediation costs and approaches. Call 800-268-7070 to book a mould inspection. 

How we can Help Home Buyers & Homeowners

ConsultationThe scope of a Home Inspection, as defined by both the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors and the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, does not include environmental testing. This means that items like asbestos and mould are not covered in a Home Inspection as these materials require sampling and testing that Home Inspectors are not equipped to perform. In addition, they are usually hidden behind walls or under carpet, completely out of sight, so a non-invasive inspection would not encounter them.

We recognize that even though they aren't included in a Home Inspection, mould and asbestos can be a major concern for homeowners. We offer environmental testing through our partners that can be scheduled at any time through our service centre. We have even redesigned our Home Buyer's Inspections to include the option to have clients get their new home tested for hazardous materials at the same time as we do a regular Home Inspection.

Hazardous materials can be encountered during any stage of homeownership, and we're committed to our clients for as long as they own their homes. An environmental assessment can be performed prior to the Home Inspection, during the inspection, or several years after the inspection has taken place. If you are planning on undertaking a renovation this season and haven't had your property assessed for hazardous materials, we'd encourage you to do so.

Interested in more home renovation advice? Check out our useful resource on Home Improvement Costs. Have a more detailed question on Spring renovations? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and we'll do our best to help out.  

Bidding War Advice: Should You Waive Your Home Inspection?

 

HomeThe spring real estate market has begun, and as it heats up many home buyers are preparing to go to war. Bidding wars are not a new phenomenon – especially in Toronto - however the public’s willingness to participate in these wars is starting to shift. The Globe and Mail recently reported on a survey conducted by Pollara for BMO, which showed that “34 per cent of Canadians surveyed are willing to enter a bidding war when it’s time to buy a home, an increase of six points, or 21 per cent, from a year ago.”* These figures are even higher when you look exclusively at Toronto, where “the appetite for competitive bids among major cities is the highest in Toronto, at 44 per cent.”*

A bidding war is when more than one prospective home buyer puts in an offer on a property. Each buyer does not know what the others are presenting, and makes their offer based on a combination of what they believe the house is worth and what the other buyers may offer. You don’t want to bid too high and overpay, but you don’t want to bid too low and not get the house. In most instances, bidding wars drive the price of the home up, with many properties in the Greater Toronto Area closing for several thousand dollars more than the original asking price.

The Globe and Mail described the recent sale of a home in The Beaches neighbourhood which sparked a 12-way bidding war, causing the home to sell for $58,000 over the listing price - despite the fact that the property required several major upgrades.** Due to current market conditions, this is not an uncommon occurrence, and buyers should be prepared to encounter this type of situation. As Mark Weisleder explains, “Real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver are still red hot with bidding wars driving up prices…One reason is that listings are in short supply.”*** It is easy for buyers to put themselves and their investment at risk by doing whatever they can to stay competitive in bidding wars. Consider the information below if you find yourself engaging in a bidding war.

HouseWhen buying a home in a multiple-offer situation, many buyers feel that opting out of their Home Inspection will help them to gain the upper hand in negotiations, and that this decision could save on some of the many expenses they will encounter during the real estate transaction. However, this is not the case; not having a Home Inspection isn’t advantageous, nor is it financially responsible. In addressing bidding wars and the ways in which buyers can protect themselves, Weisleder urges, “don’t bid without an inspection”.*** He describes the climate in Toronto, saying “buyers are paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price. What’s worse, many buyers are still putting in offers without any conditions, hoping this will help them clinch the deal.”***

New HomeBidding wars can be both discouraging and expensive. Weisleder advises buyers that, “in an environment of bidding wars, odds are that you will lose up to five times before you get the house you want.”*** While it can be devastating to fall in love with a house, only to have another individual purchase it, and then have that happen over and over again, you shouldn’t start waiving your conditions – especially your Home Inspection. “You may pay up to $2,500 in inspection fees before you get an accepted offer. In my opinion, when buying a million dollar property, this is a worthwhile investment. I have heard too many stories of people who bought without an inspection, only to discover major problems after.”***

A Carson Dunlop Home Inspection and inspection report help to provide homeowners with the critical information they need. Check out a sample of our report to see how we can help you. The report includes:

  • A summary page with key findings
  • Improvement recommendations for conditions within the home, with timeframes and cost estimates
  • Photos and colour illustrations for clarity
  • A check for manufacturer recalls on appliances through RecallChek

We recognize that house hunting in a competitive market can be hectic and stressful. As such, we try and make it as easy as possible to get the information you need to make an informed decision about your home. Not only do we offer sameday and weekend inspections, we also have discounts available to Carson Dunlop clients who have had to do several inspections due to unsuccessful bids.

Our inspection report is delivered to you via email the same day your inspection is completed. Our inspectors are available multiple times a day, seven days a week. You can schedule your inspection online or over the phone at 800-268-7070.

Feel free to call or email us anytime with questions or concerns. We look forward to welcoming you to your new home!

 

*SOURCE: Globe and Mail - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/mortgages/more-canadians-willing-to-enter-bidding-war-to-buy-a-home-survey/article17311905/
**SOURCE: Globe and Mail, Sydnia Yu - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-garden/real-estate/beaches-house-sparks-12-way-bidding-war/article17136141/
***SOURCE: Toronto Star, Mark Weisleder - http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/2014/03/14/toronto_real_
estate_how_to_play_safe_during_bidding_war.html

High Home Prices May Mean More Complex Home Inspections

 

Save MoneyThe Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has released its resale market figures for the month of March, reporting that “the average selling price for March 2014 sales was $557,684 – an increase of almost eight per cent compared to the average report for March 2013. The average price for the first quarter of 2014 was up by 8.5 per cent year-over-year.”* For the most part, home prices across Canada are on the rise, as demonstrated by the hot markets in major cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.

These high prices are especially prevalent in the Greater Toronto Area where the demand for houses is much greater than the supply. TREB President, Dianne Usher, explains the effects this equation has had on the real estate market: “Sales activity in the GTA accelerated last month. Compared to last year, a greater number of buyers found affordable home ownership options, as evidenced by sales growth for all major home types. Against this backdrop, however, overall inventory at the end of March remained lower than last year. This means competition between buyers increased, which is why the average selling price continued to climb.”*

Kitchen

With only a small number of new listings available, especially in spring, which is the busiest season for real estate, buyers are entering a frenzied market. The Toronto Star is reporting that, in an effort to combat the extreme measures home buyers feel they must go to, “the Real Estate Council of Ontario [RECO] has launched a public education campaign to warn buyers about the dangers of letting emotion get out of hand.”** Unfortunately, this trend of high prices as a response to limited listings isn’t expected to shift anytime soon. TREB’s Senior Manager of Market Analysis, Jason Mercer, says, “With borrowing costs remaining low, and in fact declining, strong home ownership demand will continue to butt up against a constrained supply of listings. Strong price growth will be the result for the remainder of 2014.”* So what does this mean for home buyers? How can they protect themselves?

We recognize that having to pay more for a home means having a greatly reduced budget for repairs – especially unexpected ones. And just as RECO’s attempt to quell the frustration brought on by current market conditions focuses on education and encourages home buyers to be home smart, we have redesigned our Home Buyer’s Inspections to further inform and protect our clients. We now offer multi-tiered inspections to address whatever concerns that buyers may have, and at cost-effective prices. Our clients now have a choice of three Home Buyer’s Inspection packages: Basic, Essential, and Enhanced.

 

BasicThe inspection includes:
  • A summary page with key findings.

  • Improvement recommendations for conditions, with time frames and ball park costs.

  • Photos and colour illustrations for clarity.

  • A free Home Reference Book, to help you understand how your home works. ($59 value)

  • A check for manufacturer recalls on appliances through RecallChek. See a sample report.

  • Free enrollment in the Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association.

EssentialThe inspection includes:
  • The same components as the Basic Package.

  • A HomeVerified Home History Report which will provide information on: grow op and meth lab records for the area, local school rankings, neighbourhood amenities, and political representation.

  • A Thermal Imaging Inspection with an infrared camera to help to identify hidden water problems within the home.

  • Free technical support for as long as you own your home.

EnhancedThe inspection includes:
  • The same components as the Essential Package.

  • An environmental assessment, which covers mould, air quality, and asbestos.

  • A specialist will test:

    • Three materials for asbestos

    • Two indoor air samples

    • One outdoor reference sample

    • One surface sample for mould

 

Our Home Inspectors are available to perform these inspections seven days a week. You can schedule your inspection over the phone at 800-268-7070 or online. All of our packages start with a great one-on-one inspection experience and a clear inspection report to guide you, then increase in scope and depth. Buyers select the package that best fits their needs.

If you have any questions about Home Inspections or our new packages, give us a call or reach out to us via email. You can also connect with us on Twitter or Facebook – we’re always here to help.

 

*SOURCE: The Toronto Real Estate Board - http://www.torontorealestateboard.com/market_news/release_market_updates/
news2014/nr_market_watch_0314.htm
**SOURCE: Susan Pigg, The Toronto Star - http://www.thestar.com/business/real_estate/2014/04/03/gta_house_prices_hit_
new_record_in_march.html
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