Renovation & Design
Question: I was wondering what your advice is regarding home inspections. I know right now it’s a real seller’s market and people are very reluctant to say they want an inspection before closing, for fear of loosing the home they are attempting to buy. Any comment on this would be appreciated.
Answer: Forgoing the inclusion of a home inspection clause in a typical offer to purchase of a home can be a poor decision, even in a hot seller’s market. That choice may not prevent buying a home with serious and costly issues, but also prevent you from learning a great deal about your future home.
I don’t know how many times I have been asked your question in the last couple of years, by friends, potential clients, family, and almost anyone I talk to. It seems that the combination of the COVID pandemic, historically low mortgage rates, and the lack of homes for sale have created a trifecta of conditions conducive to a scorching hot real estate market for resale homes. Some people assume home inspectors may follow the lead of bankers and realtors, with very increased business during this time. Unfortunately, the lack of conditions included in offers is severely restricting the inspection side of the equation. Many buyers are choosing to inspect a home prior to making an offer, but that can become difficult with limited time due to fixed offer dates. Past COVID restrictions on gathering sizes also didn’t help.
The various theories I have heard for the busy market starts with many people wanting to move out of their small apartments or homes, because that is now also their workplace. In that same vein, many people did not venture far from home until recently, so the inventory of homes for sale was very low. Older homeowners that would typically move to a condominium, apartment, or assisted living facility appear to be staying longer in their homes. Also, lending institutions competing for business are offering long-term mortgages with extremely low rates, which is very appealing to first-time buyers and others looking for a bigger house. These, combined with not much to do during the extended pandemic, has led to this situation.
Many potential homebuyers have done all the right things in their due diligence prior to purchasing, only to become very frustrated when their offers are repeatedly not accepted. Many sellers, wanting to ensure a completed offer when they accept, are disregarding those that contain any conditions which may cause the deal to later be withdrawn. The two most common of these are financing and home inspection. So, buyers are swaying toward clean offers, even above those that may be higher in price. In that situation, those offers conditional on a satisfactory home inspection are being discarded.
Exclusion of a pre-purchase home inspection may seem like it is only negatively affecting the buyer, but it can also have adverse effects on the seller, as well. The best outcome of a home selling transaction is when the buyer is aware of the true condition of the property and they pay fair market value. This is obviously beneficial for the purchaser, but also favours the seller, as well. When a home is sold and the buyer becomes aware of issues in need of immediate attention after possession, they can feel duped by the seller, especially if they feel they paid too much. Even if some items were in the property disclosure statement prior to selling, others may not have been thought of as critical by the seller and not included. An air-conditioner that was not working, because the elderly seller never turned it on as it made the home too cool, is one common example. They would not have even known it was damaged, but that would have been tested and discovered as part of a standard inspection.
There are many other examples of items of that nature, which sellers don’t regard as defects, that would be discovered and identified by a competent home inspector in a pre-purchase review. Many of these would not be significant enough for the potential buyer to withdraw their offer, but it would allow them to budget for remediation after moving in. Knowing all that information, ahead of time, would prevent ill feeling toward the seller and could prevent a potential lawsuit. No seller wants the people that just bought their home to take them to court, so preventing that is very important. If the buyers hire a Registered Home Inspector (RHI) to complete a visual inspection, with written report, prior to closing they will be made aware of any potential pitfalls. They are then much more knowledgeable about the home’s condition and not able to claim ignorance about problems, afterward. That protects the seller just as much as the buyer and reduces the risk of nuisance lawsuits by new homeowners.
So, how do you avoid this all too common recent phenomenon when looking to buy? The best way is still to include the inspection condition in your offer and otherwise sweeten the deal with other details. Offering a little higher price is the most straightforward way to make the offer more palatable. Taking possession of the home at a time more conducive to the seller may be another option. Including a larger deposit with the offer is another way of showing the seriousness of your intentions, which can also help sway the sellers. Otherwise, doing a complete home inspection before making an offer, if possible, will still allow you to be properly informed.
Waiving the inclusion of a home inspection condition in your offer to purchase of a home may be the norm rather the exception in the current market, but doing so is not beneficial for those on both sides of the transaction. It will not only prevent you from learning the true condition of the home, but could lead to bad feelings and potential lawsuits for the sellers, as well.
Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.
Question: What is the difference between bleach and colour safe bleach? My socks look dingy after I play soccer. How can I keep my white and orange socks looking new? — Cathy
Answer: Colour safe bleach is made using hydrogen peroxide while bleach is made using sodium hypochlorite. Colour safe bleach is the easiest method for keeping coloured fabrics bright and fresh looking, without damaging the colour.
Question: What is the secret that hotels use for keeping their towels white? — Cathy
Answer: While not all hotels subscribe to the same practice in cleaning towels, the following is common among many. They begin by treating all stains using stain remover, if the stain disappears the towels move on to the next stage. Some hotels soak the towels in a solution of a half-cup of baking soda, half-cup of laundry detergent and enough cold water to cover the towels. Other hotels use a combination of cold water and bleach. Finally, the towels are transferred into a washing machine and washed using warm water. An important rule is not to overstuff the machine so that all fabrics have room to swim. Washing soda or borax are also options for pre-treatment. When fabric softener is not used, vinegar is often an alternative.
Question: What is the fastest way to peel potatoes? — Syd
Answer: Like me, you may not have access to a commercial potato peeler, but don’t be too upset because they are a pain to clean after use. Here is a method that does not require extra purchases. Use a sharp knife to score the skin/peel of each potato around the middle. Leaving the skins on, boil the potatoes in water until cooked. Drain the potatoes and transfer them into a bowl of ice water. Use clean rubber gloves to pull the skin off the potato. Depending on how you are preparing the potatoes, you may want to boil them once more to heat them.
Question: How can I clean spider webs off of the light fixtures in my backyard? Thank you, Joanne
Answer: The swish of a broom is an easy way to remove webs because brooms are small and easy to store nearby. A shop vacuum is another option. Even though you get rid of the web, it won’t prevent them from rebuilding.
Question: What is the easiest way to ice cupcakes if you don’t have piping bags or frosting tips? — Braya
Answer: Make sure that your icing is not runny. Use a retractable ice cream scooper or melon baller to portion the icing. Scoop, plop and smooth. Done in seconds, and every cupcake will have an equal amount of icing. Don’t forget the sprinkles!
Manitoba tips — keep ’em coming!
— To prepare meatballs all the same size, roll the mince into a log, slice off pieces of equal size and roll with your hands. — Anonymous Winnipegger
— I hate wasting food, so when I finish a product sold in plastic containers (mayonnaise, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup, jam, etc.), I cut the container opener using a carpet cutter (watch your fingers). I cut them open at the mouth and scoop out the rest with a spatula. You’ll be surprised at the quantity you would have thrown away. I also cut toothpaste tubes open using scissors and find enough paste for several days. — Anonymous Winnipegger
— I use heavy-duty Velcro strips to prevent my bathmat from slipping. I can’t risk another fall, and this handy hint gives my confidence that the mat won’t move. — Robert
Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.
Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: reena.ca. Email your tips and questions.
Question: What can I use indoors to clean my oven racks? — Avril
Answer: For people who do not own a self-cleaning oven, the oven mess does not have to become a dreaded chore. The world’s easiest way to clean an oven is to sprinkle the bottom with baking soda, the pour white vinegar over the baking soda and let it bubble and soak for 30 minutes. Wipe and rinse with water. In the meantime, put an old towel on the bottom of your bathtub, fill it with hot water and one-cup of washing soda. Let oven racks soak overnight and, in the morning, (while wearing gloves) rinse the racks and wipe with vinegar. Clean as a whistle! Regarding a self-clean oven, reading the manufacturer’s guidelines is the first step. If the self-clean feature does not clean the oven sufficiently, and you do not have the manufacture’s guidelines, consider sprinkling the floor of the oven with baking soda and water and using the techniques outlined above before activating the self-cleaning feature. Note: Do not leave water in the tub if small children reside in the home.
Question: If I could, I would eat Caesar salad for breakfast, lunch and supper, but I’ve heard it’s really unhealthy. What’s so bad about this salad? — Mark
Answer: I’m with you, I love Caesar salad, but if you compare something like a Big Mac with 550 calories and a traditional Caesar salad at 470 or more calories, they are too close for comfort. It is the oil used in the dressing that makes this salad a fatty delight. One tablespoon of dressing equals a minimum of about 60 calories. For a main salad dish, the rule of thumb is three tablespoons per portion. Next add the croutons, anchovies, cheese and bacon and boom— just like a credit card bill — it all adds up quickly. Light dressing is an option, but there are indeed healthier salad choices.
Question: What is the best tip to keep squirrels from getting into my bird feeder? — Bachdud
Answer: There are squirrel proof bird feeders available on the market, as well as manufactured covers for existing feeders. However, the easiest strategy for keeping those cute critters at bay is to fashion a hanging bird feeder, away from branches and anywhere else squirrels are able to climb. The same goes for hummingbird feeders, in my case, ants kept climbing onto the feeder. The solution was to secure a string under the roof, attached to the string was a chain, the ants and squirrels can no longer invade.
Friendly Manitoba Feedback
Re: Aching Feet
I worked for many years at the airport and was on my feet, either walking or standing for nearly the whole shift. I agree with your advice, but would also add one more solution. If you must spend extended time on your feet, it usually helps to have another pair of shoes to change into. Just the step of changing shoes and putting on a fresh pair will relax the foot significantly, especially if you are able to change the heel height even a small amount. The muscles in your feet and legs will thank you! Thanks for your column — Margaret
Polly Put the Kettle On
The best and world’s easiest way to clean the inside of a kettle is to boil white vinegar for five minutes. Rinse a few times with water before use (I learned that the hard way).
Clean the exterior of an electric kettle by scrubbing it with dish soap and water. Rinse with water.
To clean the outside of a burnt tea kettle, soak the kettle in hot water for 20 minutes. Scrub with baking soda and an abrasive, non-scratching cloth. Rinse and polish to dry. Another option is to wet a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and scrub the kettle.
Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.
Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups — check out her website: reena.ca.
QUESTION: I’m a single woman who purchased an older home 16 years ago. When I purchased it, the previous owners left me the home inspector’s binder, outlining the state of the home when they purchased it a few years earlier. I often referred to it, it was excellent and very thorough, and used the advice as I considered and did repairs and maintenance over the years. Now, however, it’s 15 years later. That binder and its advice are about 18 years old. I have no plans to move, but would love that kind of current state-of-affairs snapshot that this inspector gave on my house. That way I can be aware of deterioration or concerns that may not have existed years ago. I don’t have the expertise to know what to look for as my house ages.
Do home inspectors do this kind of checkup without a house sale coming up? It seems ironic that I get maintenance advice from my car mechanic every six months, but don’t do the same for my house.
Thanks very much. I have enjoyed and learned from your column for years! — Ann
Answer: Hiring a registered home inspector (RHI) to do a periodic inspection on an older home is an excellent idea, for guidelines on maintenance and repair requirements. Some home inspectors may not be used to providing that type of service, so ensure you ask about their qualifications and background, which should include construction-related experience for the best advice.
Having a home inspection done before purchasing a home should be a normal part of the buying process. While this is frequently being omitted in the current seller’s market, the value cannot be questioned. Many buyers think the sole purpose is to identify items of immediate major concern, and that is a major focus, but not the only benefit. A good home inspector will also take the time to educate the future homeowner on items related to maintenance, specific to that property. These often include obvious advice on regular maintenance of the mechanical systems, but also should identify lesser-known items for that particular residence.
Issues related to grading, water management, vegetation, structural movement, and of course safety-related items may not be immediate concerns, but could be in the future. Deferred maintenance may be the most insidious cause of failure of various systems. For a recent example, lack of watering the area around the home has caused moderate to severe erosion of soil in many homes this summer. I have seen sidewalks, driveways, patios, decks, and even foundations affected by this loss of soil moisture. True, most of it is related to the recent drought conditions, but regular wetting of grass and gardens adjacent to the foundation can minimize the soil shrinkage. Replenishment of lost soil with new topsoil is also a low-cost regular maintenance solution to prevent movement related to dryness.
In normal years, water management and good drainage is equally as important to prevent foundation and leakage issues. Too often I observe loose or damaged eavestroughs and downspouts on many homes. Simple downspout extensions, to divert water to drainage swales and away from the foundation, are often loose, missing, or too short to provide adequate protection. Having roof rain water dump directly on or beside a house or foundation wall can have disastrous consequences. These repairs may only require a few sections of low-cost downspout pipe and a few screws. Even regular cleaning of eavestroughs, to remove leaves and other debris, may prevent seepage due to overflowing during a heavy rainstorm. Even in the recent dry conditions, water running toward the foundation from the few recent rains can find its way inside, especially if there is a gap between the dry soil and the concrete walls.
Other areas that are too often neglected are the wood-based items on the exterior of the home. Wooden trim on windows, soffits, fascia and siding must be regularly stained or repainted to prevent damage. While these areas are becoming much more maintenance-free in newer homes, there are still thousands that require regular work. Many of these are older, already, and exposed wood will be subject to premature rot if left untended. Even decks and fences, if not constructed of pressure-treated wood or composite products, should be recoated every few years. The cost of replacement has escalated exponentially in the last decade, due to higher lumber prices and wages for tradespeople. A hundred dollars’ worth of paint or stain and some elbow grease every few years can save thousands in replacement costs.
So, how often should a maintenance inspection be ordered? Somewhere between every five and 10 years should be a good guideline. Many items and systems on homes are designed to last 20 to 25 years, with proper attention. Lots of these can become prematurely deteriorated if neglected longer than a few years. Other low-maintenance products may last for decades, but still should be inspected periodically, to ensure they don’t need attention. Since the report you have is almost two decades old, much of its content may have already been attended to, otherwise it would be toast. It is surely time to update your knowledge of the current condition of your home.
Periodic inspection of your home, with an emphasis on maintenance issues, is a very good way to budget and plan for the future. Make sure you contact an RHI who has a construction-related background, for the best advice on prioritizing your home maintenance items identified in the new inspection report.
Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.