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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

Energy Efficiency: Tips to Save Money & Reduce Consumption

 

EnergyThe Ontario Energy Board has approved Enbridge Gas Distribution's application to increase the price of the rates it charges for natural gas by 40%. This increase is set to come into effect on April 1, 2014. Enbridge cited the recent ice storm, and the duration of this winter, as the reasons for this raise. As CBC News Toronto reports, “Enbridge said the higher costs are the result of colder than normal weather over the past winter and higher natural gas prices forecast for the next year.”* Enbridge is not alone in its increase as “Union Gas and NRG, Ontario's two other natural gas distributors have also applied to increase their rates.”*

Homes with gas-fueled heating systems are not the only ones affected by this weather-driven price increase. “Propane customers in eastern Ontario and western Quebec saw their home heating bills nearly double in January and February compared with what they were paying in November.”**

The Toronto Star is also reporting that Toronto Hydro has increased its rates, and that “residents can expect their hydro bills to jump by about a $1 a month in May.”*** While that figure is much less than Enbridge’s proposal, there are more raises to come, as “the company wants to charge increases more than double that amount in each year from 2015 to 2019.”*** Although their proposal for annual price increases has not yet been approved by the Ontario Energy Board, the mere fact that it is on the table further shows that there is a change coming in the price of household services.

Although homeowners can’t fight these increases on a larger scale, they can change their behavior at home to limit the new costs they may incur. Consider the energy-saving tips below as you see your heating and hydro bills increasing.

Heating SystemControl Your Heating & Cooling Systems - Turn down your furnace (and air conditioner, if summer ever arrives) when you go to bed and when you leave your home.

While we’re not suggesting that you sleep in your winter coat, most people don’t require the same temperature to sleep comfortably as they do when they’re awake and out of bed. Take advantage of your blanket and turn the heat down when you get under the covers. We don’t encourage homeowners to lower their furnaces to below 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit as this creates the threat of frozen pipes and flooding. That said, do turn your heating system down to a responsible level when you’re going to bed or leaving house for an extended period of time.   

Don't Forget Your Filter - Check and change your furnace and air conditioner filters on a monthly basis.

Furnace filters help to protect the system and the air it heats from dust, dander, spores, and pollen. Keeping these particles out means they collect on the filter. When not dealt with regularly, this build-up makes the filter less effective, making it work harder and not achieve the same results – clean air!

Most furnace filters are located in the fresh air return, which can be placed on either side of the furnace. You’ll first need to determine whether or not you should purchase a cleanable or disposable filter. Furnace filters can range from $5 to $30 depending on the type of filter you select.

Helpful Tip: Write down the size of your existing furnace filter before going to purchase a new one.

Time Matters - If you have a "smart meter", only use your major appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc.) during off-peak times.

If your house has a “smart meter”, your utility has the option of charging different rates throughout the day, depending on whether they are popular or unpopular times for usage. As such, it’s important to be aware of peak and off-peak times to use your appliances. Mondays after work might be the most convenient time for you to do your laundry, but it’s also one of the most expensive.

PeakHours

Check out our infographic above to note peak and off-peak times to use your appliances. Visit the Ontario Energy Board website to learn more about “smart meters” and how peak times are determined.

ComputerPull the Plug - Unplug your appliances at night and when not in use for an extended period of time to avoid phantom energy consumption.

You might not know this, but many of your appliances will continue to draw a small amount of power when they aren’t turned on or in use. This is called “phantom power”. To limit the amount of ghosts in your home, unplug your appliances, like your TV, computer, or toaster (not your stove or fridge). It may be a bit of a hassle to plug in your TV every time you want to watch it, but this is a good method of conserving energy and saving money. 

Stop Losing Heat & Air - Improve the weatherstripping around your doors and windows, and, where possible, seal the cracks around your home.

Homes aren’t airtight – we need air to breathe! They are, however, usually a little draftier than we (and your wallet) would need. Check the exterior of your home and seal any unnecessary openings with weather-resistant sealant. Make sure doors and windows are flush against their frames and sill, and use weatherstripping to fill any gaps. This will help to keep your home the desired temperature without having your heating and cooling systems working harder than they have to.

We hope the items above help to keep your home running more efficiently and your wallet to stay a bit fuller. If there are home maintenance issues we’ve yet to discuss, comment below or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out.

 

*SOURCE: CBC News Toronto - http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/enbridge-s-400-per-year-gas-hike-approved-by-regulator-1.2589608#00546033
**SOURCE: CBC News Toronto - http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/enbridge-seeks-40-natural-gas-price-increase-1.2572366
***SOURCE: Toronto Star, John Spears - http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/11/pay_up_or_spend_more_time_in_the
_dark_toronto_hydro.html

Do Condos Need a Home Inspection?

 

CondominiumsMany real estate boards and organizations are predicting that 2014 will be a strong year for real estate in Canada, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. This assessment is not exclusive to low-rise properties, as sales of residential homes were not the only real estate sector to see growth in the latter part of 2013. According to the Toronto Star, “Almost 4,300 new condos sold in the fourth quarter of 2013, the best quarter in one and a half years.”* This upward trend is expected to continue, with the spike in condo sales “coupled with growing signs of consumer confidence, has developers gearing up for the launch of new projects, largely concentrated in the sought-after downtown core, close to transit lines.”*

Moreover, the steady rise in prices for low-rise homes in the Greater Toronto Area may have an influx of individuals considering condo ownership. The Toronto Star reports, “Sky-high house prices, and a shortage of low-rise homes in the City of Toronto in particular, is also likely to drive more buyers to condos this year.”* With more people expected to pursue condo ownership over home ownership, there is additional emphasis being put on the following concerns: what is a Condo Inspection, and do I need one?

Is Your Unit Protected

The Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services has released a helpful guide for those new to the condo market, outlining what to expect when buying a condo, including a comparison of new versus resale units, condo fees and association memberships, and much more. With reference to inspections, the Ministry of Consumer Services says, “We recommend that buyers of resale condos get a Home Inspection. A quality Home Inspection will help you make an informed decision before buying a home. It will help you to understand a home’s condition and value.”** 

Many do not see the value in having a Condo Inspection performed. Condos are so different from low-rise homes, and this can lead condo buyers and real estate agents to conclude that they don’t require an inspection. There’s no roof to get on, no basement, no visible structure, and often no separate heating and cooling system - so what’s the point of an inspection?

While a condo does differ from a low-rise home, it still possesses the potential for issues, which buyers should be made aware of. Your inspector won’t get on the roof, but they will be looking for evidence of what is happening in the unit above yours – is there any leakage or moisture seeping into your unit? There may or may not be a complex heating system in your suite, but there are many other systems within your unit that will benefit from being assessed by a professional, like the electrical and plumbing systems. Your inspector will also check your appliances, both for functionality and safety. Are they working properly? Have they been recalled for safety issues? At the end of your inspection, you will receive a detailed report of the issues that have been uncovered, with cost estimates and timelines for maintenance.

Get a Condo Inspection

Although many people consider a condominium to be low-maintenance, this is generally only true with respect to the common elements. Electrical, plumbing and heating problems that crop up within the unit can surprise many new condo owners. A leaking shower stall, water-damaged hardwood floor, and aging heating coil can each cost thousands of dollars to repair. 

Having a Home Inspector go through your condo with you, letting you know of any existing issues, or areas where issues may arise, will help you gain a more complete understanding of what to expect should you become the owner of the unit.

At Carson Dunlop we have Home Inspectors on staff who have been specially trained to assess condos. They do not inspect a condo as if it were a home, but recognize that it is a very different type of dwelling, and perform their inspection accordingly. Our Condo Inspections include:

  • An inspection of and consultation on the systems within your unit, focusing on their current condition and how they should be maintained
  • A detailed investigation of all major appliances
  • A check for manufacturer recalls on appliances
  • A detailed inspection report that documents the condition of systems, components, and appliances, including illustrations, technical diagrams, and helpful maintenance information
  • Membership in the Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association
  • An optional warranty plan for the unit - the Horizon Home Warranty

We also recommend that condo buyers have a Thermal Imaging Inspection performed with their condo inspection.

Scheduling a condo inspection is easier than you think. Book your inspection online or over the phone at 800-268-7070. Request the time you need - weekday or weekend, our condo inspectors are available to help you.

 

*SOURCE: Susan Pigg, Toronto Star -  http://www.thestar.com/business/real_estate/2014/01/17/gta_condo_market_
likely_to_grow_in_2014.htm
**SOURCE: Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services - http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/condo3.aspx

Preventing a Spring Break In: Protecting Your Home When You're on Vacation

 

Newsletter

Graph

Although Spring technically begins on March 21st, the snow, bitter winds, and extremely cold temperatures we're currently experiencing suggest that the change of seasons is likely more than a few days away. Since warm, sunny days aren't quite on the horizon, many will be travelling to escape Old Man Winter's chilly grasp. 

If you're choosing sun and surf over shoveling your driveway, there are some maintenance items you should perform around your home to help limit your energy consumption and keep your property safe. As you pack sunscreen and sunglasses instead of scarves and mittens, consider the following chores to protect your home and your wallet.

Energy Consumption

  • Change the Setting on your Water Heater

Turning down your water heater while you're away can help reduce overall costs and energy consumption. Newer units will usually have a "vacation mode" so you can easily adjust your setting. However, if yours doesn't have this feature, simply adjust the unit to its lowest setting to achieve the same results. 

Do not turn your unit off completely! Restarting it can sometimes require a technician, and tends to be a bit of a hassle.

  • Lower your Furnace TemperatureFurnace

If you know your home is going to be vacant for at least a week, it's a good idea to keep your furnace on, but at a low setting. We recommend keeping it above 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit - this will help to save money and energy, without the threat of freezing water, burst pipes, or flooding.

  • Pull the Plug on your Electronics

You might not know this, but many of your appliances will continue to draw a small amount of power when they aren't turned on or in use. If you're going to be away for an extended period of time, we'd advise that you unplug your appliances, like your TV, computer, or toaster, (not your stove or fridge), to help to curb energy loss and protect these items from getting damaged in power surges.

Home Protection

  • Reroute your Mail

Letters, newspapers, and magazines piled up on your front porch or step can easily alert criminals to your absence. If you know you're going to be out of town long enough to amass a collection of mail, we advise that you arrange with your carriers to have it rerouted or held until you return. This will help to keep your empty home under the radar, and keep you organized - it's a win-win.

  • Put your Front Lights on a Timer

This next tip may seem counter-productive for those focused on energy consumption and efficiency, but it is a good idea to put your front lights on a timer if you are going to be away for several days. This is another measure to protect your home from being the target of criminals. If your home stays dark for a prolonged period, it can alert people to your absence. Having your front lights set to turn on for a few hours each evening will provide the illusion that your home is occupied - without wasting too much electricity. 

  • Be Smart about your Social Sharing

FacebookNothing tells the world "I'm on vacation for a week!" like Tweeting "I'm on vacation for a week! #Aruba #OMGThisBeach #YoureAllJealous". Social media is a large part of many people's lives, which has positives and negatives. It's a great tool to connect and share, but there is such a thing as too much information - especially when it comes to your safety. You may want to Tweet a countdown to your trip, Instagram the sights, and let everyone on Facebook know how awesome the beach is, but if you aren't careful, you could be sending a very different message. To combat your information getting into the wrong hands, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with each platform's privacy settings and ensure that you are only sharing what you want with whom you want. 

  • Use the Buddy System
While we do believe that planning and preparation are key components in maintaining your home, there are some things that are simply out of your control. Major storms and power outages can have an impact on your property, and being on the beach means you likely won't be able to address the damage right away. We encourage homeowners to enlist the help of a friend, family member, or neighbour to check in on their home while they're away. Should your area experience any extreme weather, it's valuable to have someone who can either confirm that your home's systems are functioning normally or assist you in dealing with any issues that have arisen.

We hope that everyone who is travelling this season has a safe and fun trip. Already got away this Spring? March break might be over, but we feel these tips are valuable year-round, so remember them on the next vacation you take. If there's a Home Inspection topic that we've yet to cover on our blog or in our newsletters, make sure to reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook and we'll do our best to help.

Furnace Fun Facts: Getting to Know your Favourite Winter Appliance

 

WinterLast month Punxsutawney Phil retreated into his hole after seeing his shadow, indicating that unfortunately an early Spring is not on the horizon. Whether or not you believe that a groundhog can predict when the change of seasons will happen, most people can agree that this severe winter does not show any signs of stopping. Unprecedented amounts of snowfall and record-breaking low temperatures across North America have left many wondering when this weather will end.

As we curse Old Man Winter under our breath and see if there is any way we can afford a last minute trip to the Bahamas, it might be time to accept our fate: winter is here to stay, for at least a little while longer. So let’s show appreciation where appreciation is due and high-five our heating systems – metaphorically, of course -by taking great care of them. Please consider the following furnace “fun facts” as you enjoy the comfort of your warm home.

How do furnaces work?

FurnaceFurnaces distribute their heat by warming the house air as it passes through the furnace. The furnace fan draws cool air in from the rooms through the return registers and ducts. The air is warmed as it passes over a hot metal box inside the furnace cabinet called a heat exchanger. The warm air is pushed out to the rooms through the supply ducts. The house air can be thought of as moving in a loop, passing by the furnace periodically to be reheated.

Gas and oil furnaces have three major components: a heat exchanger, a burner, and a blower. Electric furnaces have a heating element rather than a burner to generate heat. Furnace life expectancies depend on many things, but there are some averages:

  • Conventional and mid-efficiency furnaces typically last about 18 to 25 years.
  • High efficiency furnaces typically last about 15 to 20 years.

Furnaces are usually stored in a cabinet. There are also operating and safety control, and an air filter in the furnace. Gas and oil furnaces have a vent to get rid of the exhaust products. Some furnaces have accessories such as humidifiers or central air conditioning systems. Electronic air cleaners may replace conventional filters.

Why do they sometimes not work?

describe the imageFor most furnaces and boilers, terminal failure is usually a crack or hole in the heat exchanger. Since most of the heat exchanger is not visible, the heat exchanger cannot be fully inspected during a Home Inspection. Because a Home Inspection is not technically exhaustive, the likelihood of failure is based on probability rather than testing or equipment tear-down.

A conventional gas-fired furnace, for example, contains a heat exchanger having an average life expectancy of 18 to 25 years. There are, however, manufacturers of gas-fired, forced-air furnaces whose heat exchangers have a reputation for failing sooner.

Most high efficiency furnaces require more air flow across the heat exchangers than conventional furnaces. Replacing a conventional furnace with a high efficiency furnace can be tricky. Older, smaller ductwork and/or an air conditioning coil can restrict air flow, increasing the temperature rise within the furnace. This can result in premature failure of the heat exchangers and void the warranty. This condition may not be identified in the Home Inspection.

Electric furnaces and boilers contain electric heating elements and controls for the elements. Every single component can be replaced. With age, however, electric systems get to a stage where replacement of the entire unit makes sense due to lost reliability and a lack of available replacement parts.

With individual electric heaters, failure probability is not meaningful, since replacing individual heaters is not a significant expense. Electric heating elements are like light bulbs. Their life expectancy is not well defined, and their failure can’t be accurately predicted.

If you want to learn more about your home and enjoyed these tips, order a copy of the Home Reference Book. Was there another home maintenance item you haven’t seen us cover yet? Comment below or let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out. 

Are You Ready to Spring Forward?

 

SpringThough it may seem like winter will never end, we will soon be trading our winter coats for light jackets, and wind chill warnings will be a thing of the past. It may not feel like it, but Spring is right around the corner. In fact, this weekend is the beginning of Spring time - Sunday, March 9th marks the start of daylight savings time. We will be losing an hour of sleep, but gaining sunlight, which, many would agree, is definitely a fair trade.

As we mentioned last November, our semi-annual clock changes can serve as excellent reminders for home maintenance and safety items. They occur right as the weather starts to change, and their frequency helps with important tasks that can easily get overlooked. So before you begin to think about spring cleaning, consider these chores:

Test Your Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide Detector

We recommend testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a monthly basis, and changing these devices’ batteries twice a year. The upcoming time change is a great opportunity to get this task out of the way. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, although having more is encouraged. As you go around your house adjusting various clocks – on the microwave, on the stove, by your bed – change each detector’s batteries as well. While you are doing this, 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 three months ago making these devices mandatory in every home. Carbon monoxide detectors help to protect homeowners from the dangers related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas, and high concentrations of it can be deadly. Because of its nature, it is very hard for people to identify its presence. Carbon monoxide detectors sample the air of your home at specific time intervals. A microchip inside the detector stores the reading and keeps track of the level of carbon monoxide that the detector is exposed to over time. If it detects an unsafe level 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 Attic for Evidence of Leaks & Condensation

How often do you go into your attic? You might think it’s a bit spooky up there, or it may be tricky to access, but start feeling brave and do some stretches, because we advise that homeowners check their attic at least twice a year to see if there’s any evidence of leakage or condensation build-up. The seasonal freeze/thaw cycle can be hard on houses, and the brunt of winter weather abuse is taken on by your roof. Damaged shingles and flashings can leave your home vulnerable to water intrusion and leaks. In addition, improper venting can allow condensation to build up. From your attic you’ll be able to roughly determine how your roof is doing, and if the venting is working, by the amount of moisture you encounter. You should investigate your attic at least twice a year, preferably during the Spring and Fall, to see what effect the more dramatic seasons can have on your roof. 

Keep Your Downspouts, Gutters & Storm Drains Free of Debris

GuttersOne of the most important ways to prepare your home for Spring is to ensure that your water management systems are intact and functioning properly. The extreme snow, wind, and ice storms we experienced this winter may have rendered your gutters, eavestrough, and downspouts ineffective – either breaking or moving them, or filling them with debris. As you perform maintenance around your home this weekend, take some time to check your gutters to make sure they are clear of leaves, twigs, or excess snow, so water can effectively drain through them. 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.

Spring is a time of heavy rain and rapidly increasing temperatures, and although presently it’s still cold and frozen, this will not last. As you prepare your own water management systems for the change of season, it might also be valuable to check the City’s. The same snow and debris that can obstruct your gutters and downspouts can also affect your storm drain. When checking your gutters and downspouts make sure your storm drain is unobstructed so that your curb or sidewalk doesn’t experience any flooding during periods of major rainfall.

Additional Spring Chores

When the weather does finally warm up and there is no question that spring has arrived, there will be some additional maintenance for homeowners to perform. These chores can include:

  • Turning exterior water faucets back on
  • Cutting back trees and shrubs from your house walls, roof, and air conditioning systems (as needed)
  • Changing your window and door panels from glass to screens

Although we are losing an hour on Sunday, that does mean we’re one step closer to Spring. We’d like to encourage homeowners to complete the tasks above to ensure that their home is ready for the change in seasons. Want more Spring tips? Check in with us on Twitter & Facebook for more home maintenance advice. 

Blame it on the Rain: What the Latest Storm Could Mean for your Home

 

Basement LeakageThe Weather Network has issued a “Rainfall Warning” for the Greater Toronto Area, with an estimated 25 to 50 mm of rain expected to fall over the course of today and Friday.* In addition to this excessive downpour, southern Ontario is also beginning to experience warmer temperatures, resulting in melting snow and ice. As snow banks turn to slush and snowmen lose their luster, the feeling that Spring is finally here might have to wait. The sheer volume of precipitation being forecast combined with the melted snow and debris that has collected around houses, over sewer grates, and in eavestroughs, means you may have more to worry about than just finding an umbrella this afternoon.

Wet Basement

While no one is anticipating a repeat of the major rainfall and flash-flooding Toronto experienced in July, today’s “Rainfall Warning” does bring with it the threat of high waters, minor flooding, and water intrusion. The slush that lines most sidewalks in Toronto covers sewer grates, and its mixture of snow, dirt, and debris does not allow for much water to pass through it. If we see a lot of rain, (say 25 to 50 mm worth), it may have difficulty traveling down to the storm sewer due to these blocked grates. This could result in minor flooding.

Houses could face a similar phenomenon. Eavestroughs filled with slush and debris are hardly effective, making it difficult for water to pass through them. As a result, copious amounts of rain can spill over onto the frozen ground around your foundation. Since the frozen ground cannot absorb any of this water, it is likely to leak through your foundation and into your basement. To combat this, pay attention to your home’s water management systems: your gutters, downspouts, and window wells.

  • Keep your eavestroughs clear of debris like leaves, twigs, and excess snow.
     
  • Make sure your downspouts extend at least six feet, directing water away from your home.
     
  • Walk around your home regularly to clean out your window wells that have collected leaves and dirt.
     
  • If you have a sump pump in your basement, test it to make sure that it is working.

Home maintenance means proactively protecting your home. Listen to weather reports and consider how storms may affect your property. Check your systems on a semi-frequent basis to ensure they are working properly. Remember how your home performs in different seasons, and act accordingly – if you experienced a leak last Spring, was it because of heavy rainfalls? What could you do this Spring to prevent it from recurring? Homeownership can sometimes be a challenge, but we’re always here to help. If there’s an issue that we’ve yet to cover or something you’d like help with, comment below or find us on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out.

*SOURCE: The Weather Network - http://www.theweathernetwork.com/alerts/high-alert/canada/ontario/toronto

Generation Why: How To Use Your Generator Safely

 

Homeowners NewsletterGraphMany do not consider power outages to be a major cause for concern. Getting to use candles is exciting, you might finally get to see the stars, and you can always spend less time on the internet, right? Most outages last only a few minutes, sometimes stretching to a few hours, and they don't cause much harm. However, last December, when hundreds of thousands of individuals in the Greater Toronto Area and most of Southern Ontario were without electricity for days, power outages were no longer a minor inconvenience. 

Hydro employees worked tirelessly to restore power, but the sheer volume of those without, and the threats of more severe weather, made for a slow process. Many suffered feelings of uncertainty and frustration amidst chattering teeth. As hours turned into days and numerous homes remained in the dark, the proximity to the holidays and the extremely cold weather made what is normally a joyous time feel bleak. 

It has been reported that during the height of the ice storm, 350,000 homes were without power in the Greater Toronto Area. In last month's January Poll, we asked who of our readers were affected by power loss in the wake of December's storm. Of the homeowners and real estate partners who participated in our poll, slightly more than half were affected. 

Generator

Despite not having utility-supplied electricity due to downed wires and fallen trees, many households were virtually untouched because they had backup power sources to run their systems and appliances. Having access to woodstoves and generators kept families comfortable while they waited for their power to be restored. However, these are not items that come as standard equipment in most homes, and, as reported by several news outlets, many homeowners without backup power sources sought them out, compromising on convenience, efficiency, and safety.

Improperly installed, vented, and run generators can be inefficient, ineffective, and in extreme cases, life-threatening. Prolonged power outages usually result in several fatalities related to carbon monoxide inhalation from gas generators. These are avoidable deaths, caused by lack of resources and poor planning. It's important that homeowners buy their backup power sources well in advance of any outages, so they can select the model that works best for their type of dwelling and familiarize themselves with its functionality - know how your unit works before, not during, an emergency. With that sentiment in mind, we went through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's "Backup Power for Your Home" to develop a simple guide to generator safety

Essential Rules for Using Your Generator

  • One of the most important things to note is that the majority of generators were not designed nor intended to work inside your home. If you are using a gas or propane fueled generator, run it outdoors, never indoors. The carbon monoxide gas from these devices could kill you.
     
  • For additional security, make sure to purchase a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector that you can use when you run your generator. It will alert you when there are high concentrations of carbon monoxide gas, so that you can adjust your generator as needed. During December's ice storm a family almost passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning, even though their generator was outside. Their carbon monoxide detector saved them.
     
  • Never fuel your generator while it is running - this is a very serious fire safety issue.

  • Never leave your generator unattended while it's running, it may overheat and start a fire. It is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher near your generator while it's in use.

  • If you are connecting your generator to your home's electrical system, you must use a transfer switch - a direct connection can result in fatal accidents for Hydro workers.

  • After starting your generator, do not turn on all of your appliances at once. Instead, turn them on one at a time. Backup power sources are not meant to simulate utility-supplied electricity, but to help give you access to the appliances you can't live without - remember, you really can afford to spend less time on the internet.

  • If you are experiencing a prolonged power outage, change your unit's oil approximately five hours into use and continue to check and change oil approximately every 50 hours. Use synthetic oil to help extend engine life and make starting easier in cold weather.

Annual Generator Maintenance

When not in use, generators require regular care. The tasks below should be performed on an annual basis. Fall is the best time to complete this maintenance to ensure you're prepared for prolonged power outages in the winter. 

1. Start engine and run with an electrical load until the fuel is completely used up.  

2. Refuel with fresh fuel.   

3. Clean and lubricate battery terminals with a wire brush and petroleum jelly if there is any corrosion.   

4. Inspect air and fuel filters, as well as fuel shutoff for cleanliness. 

Sometimes preventative maintenance is not enough. Should you use your generator extensively, or if it begins to run poorly, schedule a tune up with a licensed professional.

We hope the above information will help to encourage homeowners to exercise caution when it comes to generator usage. For a more detailed guide on generator care as well as more information on alternative backup power sources, please check out the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's informative report.

Do Luxury Homes Require Luxury Home Inspections?

 

luxury homeReal estate associations and groups have begun to release their data and analyses from 2013, and it’s evident that the Canadian real estate market is doing well, and that this trend is expected to continue. With home prices and sales up almost across the board, save for certain anomalous regions, many are throwing the notion of a “soft landing” out the window.

One of the areas that saw the most growth was the luxury home market. A recent article in Macleans, citing a document produced by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, reported that “luxury home sales in most of the country’s biggest cities rose higher than expected…Calgary saw the highest year-over-year sales growth, with a 33 per cent gain, followed by Vancouver with 19 per cent and Toronto with 13 per cent.”* In light of the dramatic increase 2013 saw in sales of luxury homes and the projection that this trend will continue we felt it was important to address what to expect from the Home Inspection when you’re buying a luxury property.

Luxury Homes Vs Residential Homes: What’s the Difference?

A property usually receives the designation of “luxury home” when it meets requirements related to: 

  • Listing price - luxury homes are typically at least a million and a half dollars
  • Size - luxury homes are at least 4,000 square feet
  • Features - luxury homes may have any number of amenities including pools, spas, or wine cellars (to name just a few)

Your average residential home, especially one that is located in an urban area, does not meet these requirements. It may hit the million dollar asking price, but that is usually due to location; for the most part these homes definitely do not possess comparable square-footage or amenities. The difference in these types of properties equates to a difference in the type of Home Inspection they need.

What to Expect From the Home Inspection

A Home Inspection isn’t an invasive or destructive exercise; it’s a purely visual investigation of a property at a specific point in time. It is intended to identify components of the home that are significantly deficient, unsafe, or near the end of their life. The inspector will provide a general overview of the home, focusing on performance rather than cosmetic, code, or design issues.

In a recent Toronto Star article, columnist Mark Weisleder suggested that Home Inspections may require what he calls a “team approach”. He argues that homebuyers should consider the different systems their home may have, such as well and septic, chimney, and HVAC. Weisleder believes there is a benefit to having these areas inspected by a specialist in addition to the Home Inspector, claiming that “when you are about to make one of the largest purchase decisions in your life, it is important to have as much information that you need in advance. A Home Inspection team may supply the answer.”**

Though Weisleder penned this article because “when you now consider that the average price for homes in the GTA is now over $500,000, and with a majority of homes being over 20 years old, it may be time to take a…team approach when it comes to inspecting a home prior to any purchase decision,”** we feel the idea of using a team speaks more to the way luxury properties should be inspected. That is not to say a “team approach” isn’t valuable with the average home, but that it is an absolute necessity for luxury homes.

Consultation

Due to the sheer magnitude of these types of properties and the extent to which they are customized, the need for specialists to examine them in conjunction with the Home Inspector increases. Weisleder notes the fireplace "should be inspected by a qualified wood energy technology transfer professional once a year” and that “homeowners should have their furnaces and HVAC systems checked once each year.”** Most luxury homes have multiple fireplaces and furnaces – as well as many more extravagant features which also require regular inspection. For example, a pool should be inspected twice a season (upon opening and closing). The complexity of these types of homes calls for a more complex Home Inspection, one that includes a “team approach”.

How Do You Achieve a “Team Approach” to Home Inspection?

The Carson Dunlop Specialty Services program provides clients and real estate partners with fast, easy, and cost-effective access to qualified specialists, so they can conveniently arrange for a Home Inspection and additional property assessments with a single phone call. Specialty services can be added before, during, or after the inspection. Carson Dunlop client care representatives will manage the booking, coordination, and payments of any of the inspections you require.

While we feel that a “team approach” to the Home Inspection is necessary when purchasing a luxury property, it is also beneficial when buying a smaller-scale home, especially when it has unique features, like well and septic system or wood burning stove and fireplace. To discuss the complete list of Specialty Services we offer, and what would be valuable for your home, please email us or call 800-268-7070.  

*SOURCE: Macleans - http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/01/09/housing-prices-rise-in-4th-quarter-demand-continues-for-luxury-homes-reports/  
**SOURCE: Mark Weisleder, Toronto Star - http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/2014/01/05/home_inspection_may
_require_a_team_approach.html
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