When to listen, when not

I'm in the middle of renovating my house. It was build in 1947 and there are "problems". I am glad I bought this house. It has been wonderful.

I was thinking back to the Home Inspection. The home inspector found so many problems it was depressing. I liked the house and the area and decided to ignore his advice - a great decision.

Really good Home Inspectors should not be giving any advice - simply there to tell you what is wrong with the property. Some Home Inspectors overstep their job description.


Home Staging

Like pre-listing home inspections, home staging is becoming better understood and encouraged by Realtors for properties that are somewhat "lacking".

Shows like HGTV's "The Stagers" have really helped consumers see exactly what a professional Home Stager can do for certain properties. Some of the before and after pictures are amazing.

Statistics from 2005 show hiring a Home Stager can reduce a listing's time on the market by one-third and can increase the selling price by 10-15%.

I doubt those statistics still hold in the present market. Though I suspect a professional home staging will still have a positive impact on the selling price of most properties. At minimum, the cost of staging will be recovered when the property sells. I don't see how it could hurt.

Building Science

Dr. John F. Staube is a building science engineer and professor at the Department of Civil Engineering and the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo.

Dr Staube is also one of the principals behind Building The site has a great collection of articles and reports pertaining to building physics and system designs. The purpose of Building is to encourage the construction of more durable, healthier, and sustainable buildings.

Winter is coming and the article "The Perfect HVAC" might be of interest to Calgary home owners looking to better understand their heating system.


Home Renovation Shows Evolve

I wrote before that I am not a fan of the show "Flip This House". It was too much about the "money". It could be argued this glorification of money over substance contributed to the American subprime crisis.

I was happy to read in the Globe and Mail,

"... reality-TV executives have been forced to wise up to the sensitivities of the market. Flipping is out and nesting is in".

I welcome this news and look forward to watching programs like HGTV's "Family Renovation" and "Income Property". It is interesting to note, HGTV's most balanced Home Renovation programmes come out of Canada.

Read the rest at the Globe and Mail

An American Home Inspector

Jim Morrison is a second generation home inspector. After University he joined his father at Allan Morrison Home Inspector, Co. Inc. and is now the President. Recently, Jim described part of the home inspector's job. He wrote,

"A home inspector’s job is to diagnose and document major problems in houses. Most of the time, the people who live in these houses are unaware that the problems exist, making our job more difficult".

"It’s analogous to a physician trying to diagnose an illness in a patient who has no complaints. You have to look closely to pick up on the symptoms and exercise judgment based on your experience in order to figure each puzzle out. It’s even harder for the average person to recognize signs of trouble..."

Read the rest at

Standards of Practice - Section 12


12.1 The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the system components.
2. the vent systems, flues, and chimneys.

B. describe:
1. the fireplaces and solid fuel burning appliances.
2. the chimneys.

12.2 The inspector is NOT required to:
A. inspect:
1. the interiors of flues or chimneys.
2. the firescreens and doors.
3. the seals and gaskets.
4. the automatic fuel feed devices.
5. the mantles and fireplace surrounds.
6. the combustion make-up air devices.
7. the heat distribution assists whether gravity controlled or fan

B. ignite or extinguish fires.
C. determine draft characteristics.
D. move fireplace inserts or stoves or firebox contents.

Greg Williams - Motor Writer

This post has nothing to do with home inspections. It has every thing to do with Calgary. My favorite Canadian motorcycle journalist is Calgary's own, Greg Williams. His writes for the Calgary Herald, Inside Motorcycles, American Iron Magazine, Antique Motorcycle and at his blog Greg Williams Motor Writer.

Below is a photo taken by Amee Reehal for the July/August 2009 Issue of Inside Motorcycles. Greg writes about a very cool 1954 BMW R25/3 and it's Calgary owner.


Standards of Practice - Section 11


11.1 The inspector shall:

A. inspect:
1. the insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces.
2. the ventilation of attics and foundation areas.
3. the mechanical ventilation systems.
B. describe:
1. the insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces.
2. the absence of insulation in unfinished spaces at conditioned surfaces.

11.2 The inspector is NOT required to:

A. disturb insulation or vapor retarders.
B. determine indoor air quality.

Holmes Inspection

Oct 1st at 8pm Eastern Standard Time, the first episode of Holmes Inspection will air. I'm a big fan of Holmes on Homes and look forward to Mike's new show.

If you feel your are a victim of a home inspection gone wrong contact Mike and maybe - he'll Make It Right.


Standards of Practice - Section 10


10.1 The inspector shall:

A. inspect:
1. the walls, ceilings, and floors.
2. the steps, stairways, and railings.
3. the counter tops and a representative number of installed cabinets.
4. a representative number of doors and windows.
5. garage doors and garage door operators.

10.2 The inspector is NOT required to:

A. inspect:
1. the paint, wallpaper, and other finish treatments.
2. the carpeting.
3. the window treatments.
4. the central vacuum systems.
5. the household appliances.
6. recreational facilities.

Source: National Certificate Authority Website

Price of Oil Going Up?

I recently read that Fort McMurray is Alberta's most expensive residential real estate market. Today, I read about Alberta on Bloomberg News,

"The government of Alberta said today it plans to spend C$241 million ($221 million) in the next five years to develop land for new housing and industrial uses near Fort McMurray, the site of Canada’s oil sands.

"The government will spend C$166 million to develop 450 acres (182 hectares) of [state-owned?] land that will include more than 2,000 new homes and accommodate 6,500 people.."

While it is actually province-owned land, not [state-owned], it is still nice to read about Alberta on Bloomberg News.

Some of the world's largest Oil Sands deposits are situated around Fort McMurray. It looks like our government is betting on a strong demand for oil.

Standards of Practice - Section 9


9.1 The inspector shall:

A. inspect the installed central and through-wall cooling equipment.
B. describe:
1. the energy source
2. the cooling method by its distinguishing characteristics.

9.2 The inspector is NOT required to:

A. inspect electronic air filters.
B. determine cooling supply adequacy or distribution balance.

Sources: National Certificate Authority Website

Toxic Drywall not Chinese Drywall.

It is old news, there are problems associated with some drywall manufactured in China. The problems are real and documented. While there are a few cases in Canada, the majority of complaints come from American home owners. It is not right. Unsuspecting home owners have been saddled with an unfair financial burden.

Though in the 'Big Picture' I am a bit suspicious. This controversy might be about more than just drywall. I think it is partly about China, "the Chinese" and trade with China. Before I am labeled a left wing nut let me explain.

I read a lot on home inspection, home renovation, real estate, economics, trade and government policy. First, it seems it is always the "Chinese Drywall" problem. Never, the problem with dry wall manufactured in China. Okay, on the surface it is the same and I'm splitting hairs. Though, I think you know what I am talking about.

My point is, I rarely read about toxic drywall manufactured in Canada and America. Recently, Florida Senator Dave Aronberg said,

"We have families that have been victimized by drywall that was made not in China but in Canada and the United States,"

Calgary Realtor Jim Sparrow has been contacted by families from the States claiming their new homes have toxic drywall (suspected sulphur contaminated) manufactured in and by American companies.

This is not just about "Chinese Drywall". It is about Toxic Drywall manufactured by Canadian, American and Chinese companies. Pointing fingers is uncivilized.

Standards of Practice - Section 8


8.1The inspector shall:

A. inspect
1. the installed heating equipment.
2. the vent systems, flues, and chimneys.
B. describe:
1. the energy source.
2. the heating method by its distinguishing characteristics.

8.2 The inspector is NOT required to:
A. inspect:
1. the interiors of flues or chimneys which are not readily accessible.
2. the heat exchanger.
3. the humidifier or dehumidifier.
4. the electronic air filter.
5. the solar space heating system.

B. determine heat supply adequacy or distribution balance.

Source: The National Certificate Authority Website

More Tax Relief Requested

Mario Toneguzzi recent article at the Calgary Herald looks at a study prepared for the Canadian Real Estate Association. The study documents the millions of dollars of spin off benefits and direct and indirect employment created as a result of multi-unit residential property transactions.

This is expected and does not come as a surprise. Possibly, the underlying motive of the study was to provide a foundation argument for some kind of tax relief for real estate investors. To quote the article,

"CREA says many income property owners are reluctant to sell and re-invest because of the capital gains tax and recaptured capital cost allowance".

The Home Renovation Tax Credit has been a huge success and it would be nice to see some kind of tax relief passed on to multi-unit residential property owners.

Source Calgary Herald

Standards of Practice - Section 7


7.1 The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the service drop.
2. the service entrance conductors, cables, and raceways.
3. the service equipment and main disconnects.
4. the service grounding.
5. the interior components of service panels and sub panels.
6. the conductors.
7. the overcurrent protection devices.
8. a representative number of installed lighting fixtures,
switches, and receptacles.
9. the ground fault circuit interrupters.

B. describe:
1. the amperage and voltage rating of the service.
2. the location of main disconnect(s) and sub panels.
3. the wiring methods.

C. report:
1. on the presence of solid conductor aluminum branch circuit wiring.
2. on the absence of smoke detectors.

7.2The inspector is NOT required to:

A. inspect:
1. the remote control devices unless the device is the only control device.
2. the alarm systems and components.
B. the low voltage wiring, systems and components.
C. the ancillary wiring, systems and components not a part of the primary electrical power distribution system.
B. measure amperage, voltage, or impedance.

Source: The National Certificate Authority Website

Real Estate Equity Index

As of September 25, 2009, of all Canadian Mutual Fund Indices - The Real Estate Equity Index has the highest 3 month return. An impressive 18.4% return with the Global Small/Mid Cap Equity Index coming second at 16.5%.

I realize the majority of Fund's holding are real estate equities held outside of Canada. These returns do not directly reflect the Canadian market. That said, it is nice to see the Real Estate Market coming back strong on an International level. One can have confidence that the Canadian market will tail the international market.

Real Estate Equity Index (Sept. 25, 2009)
3 month return
Source: Morningstar Canada

Standards of Practice - Section 6


6.1The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the interior water supply and distribution systems including all fixtures and faucets
2. the drain, waste and vent systems including all fixtures.
3. the water heating equipment.
4. the vent systems, flues, and chimneys.
5. the fuel storage and fuel distribution systems.
6. the drainage sumps, sump pumps, and related piping.
B. describe:
1. the water supply, drain, waste, and vent piping materials.
2. the water heating equipment including the energy source.
3. the location of main water and main fuel shut-off valves.

6.2 The inspector is NOT required to:
A. inspect:
1. the clothes washing machine connections.
2. the interiors of flues or chimneys which are not readily accessible.
3. wells, well pumps, or water storage related equipment.
4. water conditioning systems.
5. solar water heating systems.
6. fire and lawn sprinkler systems.
7. private waste disposal systems

B. determine:
1. whether water supply and waste disposal systems are public or private.
2. the quantity or quality of the water supply.

C. operate safety valves or shut-off valves.

Source: The National Certificate Authority Website

Developing your Basement

Are you thinking of developing your basement? You might want to check out Mike Holmes article 'This Room Leaves Me Cold ' at the National Post.

Most try use the space in their basement more efficiently. Sometimes we develop the whole basement or just add a new room. Mike Holmes, one the Nation's top renovations experts, concludes, "...when people try to finish the basement they almost always do it wrong ...".

It is something to think about before you try to do-it-yourself or hire a contractor.

Standards of Practice - Section 5


5.1 The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the roof covering.
2. the roof drainage systems.
3. the flashings.
8. the skylights, chimneys, and roof penetrations.
B. describe the roof covering and report the methods used to inspect the roof.

5.2The inspector is NOT required to:
A. inspect:
1. antennae.
2. interiors of flues or chimneys which are not readily accessible.
3. other installed accessories.

Lowest Rates in 30 years

I just read at Canadian Mortgage Trends that the Bank of Montreal lowered it's 5-year variable rate to prime today - 2.25%. It the lowest rate in more than 30 years.

The Bank of Montreal is the first of the big banks to take this step and I imagine others will soon follow.

Standards of Practice - Section 4


4.1The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the exterior wall covering, flashing and trim.
2. all exterior doors.
3. attached decks, balconies, stoops, steps, porches, and their associated railings.
4. the eaves, soffits, and fascias where accessible from the ground level.
5. the vegetation, grading, surface drainage, and retaining walls on the property when any of these are likely to adversely affect the building.
6. walkways, patios, and driveways leading to dwelling entrances.

B. describe the exterior wall covering.

4.2The inspector is NOT required to:
A. inspect:
1. screening, shutters, awnings, and similar seasonal accessories.
2. fences.
3. geological, geotechnical or hydrological conditions.
4. recreational facilities.
5. outbuildings.
6. seawalls, break-walls, and docks.
7. erosion control and earth stabilization measures.

Source: The National Certificate Authority Website

Memorial Benchs

A few months ago I was walking along the Elbow River path from Erlton to Roxoboro Park. I stopped at bench along the River. As I sat down I read the memorial inscription on the small plaque.

It was an unforgettable moment. The bench was dedicated to the elderly couple who lived next to us when I was growing up. They passed away many years ago. Sincerely, they were the most lovely couple. I had a wonderful moment, sitting quietly at the river, reminiscing.

If you wish to purchase a memorial bench or tree for a loved one, contact City of Calgary Memorial Sales

Standards of Practice - Section 3


3.1 The inspector shall:
A. inspect:
1. the structural components including foundation and framing.
2. by probing a representative number of structural components where deterioration is suspected or where clear indications of possible deterioration exist. Probing is NOT required when probing would damage any finished surface or where no deterioration is visible.
B. describe:
1. the foundation and report the methods used to inspect the under-floor crawl space.
2. the floor structure.
3. the wall structure.
4. the ceiling structure.
5. the roof structure and report the methods used to inspect the attic.

3.2 The inspector is NOT required to:
A. provide any engineering service or architectural service.
B. offer an opinion as to the adequacy of any structural system or component.

Source: National Certificate Authority Website


Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors

Home Inspectors will make note of the absence of smoke detectors but will hesitate to speculate on their working order and service life. Most inspectors will do the same for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.

CMHC recommends every home have at least one CO detector. If you live in an older house with an older furnace, I suspect CMHC would strongly recommend the installation of a detector.

The quality and service life of CO detectors vary considerably but minimum performance standards must be met by manufactures. On top of reading the warranty it is suggested the CO detector be replaced every 5 years.

Installing a CO detector does not mean you don't have to inspect and maintain your gas and wood burning appliances. Installation should be viewed as a back-up precaution.

Calgary is a cold city and our furnaces go hard during the winter. That time of the year is approaching and it might be a good idea to give some thought to checking, replacing or buying a new detector.

Standards of Practice - Section 2


2.1 The purpose of these Standards of Practice is to establish a minimum and uniform standard for private, fee-paid home inspectors who are members of one of the provincial/regional organizations of CAHPI. Home Inspections performed to these Standards of Practice are intended to provide the client with information regarding the condition of the systems and components of the home as inspected at the time of the Home Inspection.

2.2 The Inspector shall:
A. inspect

1. readily accessible systems and components of homes listed in these Standards of Practice.
2. installed systems and components of homes listed in these Standards of Practice.

B. report:
1. on those systems and components inspected which, in the professional opinion of the inspector, are significantly deficient or are near the end of their service lives.
2. a reason why, if not self-evident, the system or component is significantly deficient or near the end of its service life.
3. the inspector’s recommendations to correct or monitor the reported deficiency.
4. on any systems and components designated for inspection in these Standards of Practice which were present at the time of the Home Inspection but were not inspected and a reason they were not inspected.

These Standards of Practice are not intended to limit inspectors from:
A. including other inspection services, systems or components in addition to those required by these Standards of Practice.
B. specifying repairs, provided the inspector is appropriately qualified and willing to do so.
C. excluding systems and components from the inspection if requested by the client.

Source: The National Certificate Authority Website

CMHC Loans - Full Recourse

I wrote in a previous post that I was unaware that mortgages in the States were non recourse loans. Essentially, the home owner or speculator defaults - they can walk away and the house and loan, becomes the Bank's problem.

It is easy to see how this lack of personal responsibility can lead to reckless speculation. Unless one has filed personal bankruptcy we don't have this luxury in Canada. Which of course makes our Banks happy and stable.

A Calgary reader looking to buy a new home does not care about any of this. Take out a mortgage and it is understood - you are on the hook.

But did you know loans made by the Canadian Mortgage and Home Corporation (CMHC) are also full recourse loans? I never knew this but it makes sense. It helps stabilizes our real estate market by keeping unqualified home buyers and speculators on the sidelines.

Standards of Practice - Section 1


1.1 The Canadian Association of Home Inspectors (CAHPI) is a not for profit association whose members include the following seven provincial/regional organizations: CAHPI-B.C., CAHPI-Alberta,CAHPI-Sask., CAHPI-Manitoba, OAHI (Ontario), AIBQ (Quebec), and CAHPI-Atlantic. CAHPI’s objectives include promotion of excellence within the profession and continual improvement of inspection services to the public.

Source: National Certificate Authority Website

Canadian Mortgage Bonds

Canada Housing Trust certainly has confidence in the Canadian Real Estate market. They recently offered five year Canadian Mortgage Bonds with 2.75% coupon and a 2.793% yield. These bonds were priced at 21 basis points above Canadian Bonds. The tightest spread in 2 years.

It looks like there will be sufficient funds available to Canadian home buyers at fairly low and steady rates.

Source: National Post

Standards of Practice - Overview

Canadian Home Inspectors who are National Certificate Holders and/or members of CAPHI adhere to the January 1st, 2000 version of The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Standards of Practice.

These standard consists of 13 sections: Introduction, Purpose & Scope, Structural System, Exterior, Roof System, Plumbing System, Electrical System, Heating System, Air Conditioning System, Interior, Insulation & Ventilation, Fireplaces and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances, and General Limitations and Exclusions.