Tag Archives: house

Plumbing In Your Home

Knowing about the plumbing in your home is a required skill when working as a Realtor. Being able to identify plumbing types is part of the job. Prior work experience in construction is definitely a big plus. Of course I learned about plumbing in Real Estate College too. But my biggest source of knowledge about plumbing when I first became a Realtor is the very old house I call home.

Having said all that I’m pretty quick to note what’s in a home, both the good and bad. So here’s a quick break down of the various types of plumbing in your home and your neighbours.

Plumbing Supply Types

On the supply side copper pipe is the most prevalent here in Ontario. I’d say it’s in 95% of the homes, with the balance being mostly PEX tubing. There are other types as well but they are way less common.

PlumbingCopper is an excellent material for water sources that are slightly alkaline in nature. A pH above 7 stops metal leaching and corrosion that occurs if a water source is acidic. This keeps your pipes intact and prevents lead from leaching out of the 50/50 lead/tin soldered joints common in older properties. Municipal water supplies are made intentionally alkaline for this exact reason. Alkalinity also protects against lead leaching in places where lead supply piping still exists such as the Beaches area of Toronto.

Plumbing

Pex Tubing Photo Claude Taylor

PEX tubing is the other popular choice for water supply. It’s easy to install and cheaper than copper which is why it’s found in so many modern homes. But there are several different manufacturers so it’s important to know which brand you are working with. Concerns about PEX center on chemicals leaching from the plastic over time. I think this is a valid worry due the relative newness of this material in supply piping.

Kitec is the other type of plastic supply piping. It’s bad stuff! You still find it from time to time unfortunately. This piping eventually ruptures if given enough time. It was used in Canada from 1995 to 2007. The manufacturer settled a class action lawsuit a number of years back. It’s big bucks to have it ripped out and you would be entitled to a hefty discount if you were buying a property with Kitec.Plumbing

The last type of supply piping you’ll find is galvanized steel. You can still get this stuff although it’s hardly ever used anymore. It rusts out over time both inside and out and can become clogged and even plugged up from internal corrosion. It can be hard to identify by sight alone. Using a magnet is a great way to find out.

Plumbing Drain Types

PlumbingIn Ontario the gold standard for single family residential waste plumbing is ABS plastic. It has been in use since the 1970s. It’s cheap, durable and really easy to work with. PVC is a great alternative too. It’s less common though and a bit more complicated to join together. The usage of one type or the other is dependent on your local building code.
Plumbing
You’ll often find other types of waste lines in older properties. Homes in the 1960s and early 70’s had sewer lines entirely of copper. This material can be a poor choice in many applications. Waste water is acidic and eventually corrodes copper from the inside out. Runs of line that hold standing water are especially problematic.

PlumbingIn many older homes cast iron was the material of choice. It’s durable due to its very thick walls but brittle and will rot out eventually due to corrosion. Cast iron was common in properties from early last century into the 1950’s. Large vertical sections of cast iron (called the stack) will often have galvanized steel or even copper coming in from sinks and bath tubs. Toilets are usually connected directly to the stack with bronze and lead.

I’ve come across many older homes with several types of waste plumbing from various repairs or renovations over the history of the property. Replacing the entirety of the waste system is an expensive and daunting proposition and it’s rarely done. So knowledge really helps. Get a good Realtor and an inspection too. And make sure you know what to look for when buying property.


Your Home Plumbing

Check Your Sump Pump!

It’s fall, check your sump pump!

Flooded basements make the news in the spring and fall each and every year. Neglect, power failures, poor drainage, changing seasons, and rapidly changing weather are almost always one or more of the causes of a flooded basement.

You can’t control the weather or the seasons. Sudden heavy rains, warm snaps in the dead of winter, the spring thaw and the onset of rainy fall weather can all cause wet basements.

sump pumpBut battling mother nature isn’t always hard. Checking your sump pump and making sure you’ve got good drainage for your eaves troughs is often all the work you need to do to keep your basement dry.

Living in a 130 year old home and working as a Realtor has taught me quite a bit about drainage and sump pumps. My 1889 property has a sump pump just like almost every new home built over the last 20 years.

sump pumpThese are installed in new homes as a preventative against water penetration and as remediation in old homes such as mine. The system consists of perforated piping (called weeping tile) on the outside of the foundation that directs ground water to a sump, which is a shallow pit in the basement that collects the water. The sump pump sits in the sump and periodically empties this water to the outside of the home.

Your sump pump has to work extra hard if you live in an area with a high water table, or have soil with poor drainage such as the clay that is quite common in Waterloo region. Ground water simply wants to go wherever it can, running as water does, from high places to low. Draining water away from the foundation is the weeping tile’s job since it sits lower than your basement walls, but it’s also a good idea to get the water away from your foundation so your sump pump doesn’t have to deal with it.

sump pumpYou can do this by adding extension pipes to the ends of your downspouts. 10 feet is a good distance, or you can get really ambitious like I did. A couple of years back I dug drainage piping for my eaves-troughs a good 20 or 30 feet from my house.

Prior to my hard work, the spring thaw and heavy thunder storms would often mean a wet laundry room but now the room is bone dry. As an added bonus my sump pump hardly comes on at all except for a couple of weeks in the spring.

Needless to say, having a working pump is even more important than good drainage. Pump failures definitely cause the vast majority of flooded basements. Check your sump pump now and keep your basement dry! Watch the video if you want to learn even more.


Everything You Need To Know About Sump Pumps

How Do Real Estate Commissions Work?

How Real Estate Commissions Are Paid


On the surface a commission arrangement on a real estate transaction seems pretty simple. But each transaction is unique and like many things the devil is in the details.

So how do real estate commissions work and how do we get paid?

I’ll start with the easy stuff first.

Commission Agreements Between Agents, The Seller And Buyer

The seller pays a commission to the listing agent, who works for the listing brokerage, and to the buying agent and brokerage that buys the property for their client. This commission is determined prior to listing the property.

Because of this arrangement a home buyer typically pays no out of pocket expense for using an agent to buy properties.

Here in Kitchener-Waterloo a buying agent usually gets paid between 2 and 2 ½ percent of the sale price of the property + HST.

The listing agent gets paid anywhere from 1 to 3 percent of the sale price + HST.

An agent working with both buyer and seller is engaging in multiple representation, or double ending as it’s known in the industry. A double ending agent will usually offer a discount on commission in an attempt to make the buyer and seller happy.

Some agents and brokerages will list your property for as little as 1% + HST but these offers more often than not include caveats and exceptions that end up costing you more.

To each his own, but I’m a firm believer in the saying you get what you pay for…

Anyways, the total commission that’s ultimately agreed to is paid out to the listing brokerage upon closing by the seller’s lawyer. The listing brokerage then pays out the buying agent’s commission to the buyer brokerage.

Commission Agreements Between Agents and Their Brokerages

The commissions are further divided depending on the individual arrangements of each brokerage and the agents involved. This is known in the industry as the split…

This is also the complicated bit where the devil is in the details…

At many brokerages the split percentage changes at set intervals based on the volume of business the agent generates, and resets at the end of each year. Depending on where an agent is in the fiscal year they may pay as little as 5% to the brokerage or as much as 35% or more.

Some brokerages only ever take 5% from the agent but have sky high desk fees of over $1,000 a month that the agent pays instead. There are also brokerages with very low splits that have no brick and mortar offices and thus lower business expenses.

If an agent is on a team or got the sale from a referral the commission is divided up even further. The standard referral fee from another agent is 25%, and teams often charge the agent 50% or more.

As an example, a referral that was early in the year netted me only $3,900 on a sale price in the mid 500,000’s. But another more recent transaction at the same price brought me $9,200. And both properties paid my brokerage a 2% commission.

Anyway, that’s how it works. Simple eh?

Waterloo Region House Prices One Year After The Tax


Our local market is doing great despite the turmoil seen in the latter half of 2017. House prices in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge have almost entirely recovered from the aftermath of last spring’s foreign buyers tax. KWAR news release

Waterloo Region house prices one year after the tax are even with the numbers from last spring. However on a city by city basis Waterloo and Kitchener prices are down slightly compared to May 2017 while Cambridge is sharply higher. Regardless the overall trend in valuation has been upward over the last year. In all three cities prices are considerably higher than the lows seen in the last half of 2017.

Waterloo Region house prices one year after the taxPerhaps unsurprisingly our market mirrors the activity seen in the GTA, albeit with lower prices and a stronger recovery. The GTA saw the same sharp falloff in prices after the introduction of the foreign buyers tax. Both markets saw a reduction in volume in combination with a recovery in prices that gained momentum this spring.

Despite the strong recovery here and the more muted one in the GTA it’s unlikely we’ll return to the market conditions of last spring any time soon. There are several factors at play preventing a steep run up in prices. Rising interest rates, the mortgage stress test and modest wage growth are three factors that undermine affordability. This limits the number of people entering the market and also moderates the activity of owners wishing to move up the property ladder.Waterloo Region house prices one year after the tax

These factors are the only thing keeping a check on demand and thus prices. Barring a major recession or a black swan event on the world stage there is little reason to predict lower prices in Waterloo Region any time soon.

Waterloo Region house prices one year after the tax are doing very well indeed. We are still strongly in a sellers’ market. Available housing stock in Waterloo Region sits at two thirds of the 10 year average. Unemployment is low with immigration to the GTA continuing unabated. Locally we’ve certainly seen an uptick in activity from buyers unable to afford the GTA’s high prices. This last point would certainly explain the big uptick in Cambridge prices last month. For city data see my House Prices Page

Should I Get A Home Inspection?

‘Should I get a home inspection?’ is actually a question for a lot of buyers, but I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want one. It’s a trivial amount of money to spend for some real peace of mind, and an inspection can save a buyer thousands of dollars if things are uncovered.

should I get a home inspection

US Navy photo Jimmy Johnson https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I’d never advise against getting an inspection but sometimes market forces make it impossible to secure a property with an inspection condition, or any conditions for that matter. This was the case in the multiple offer environment we saw in the spring of 2017.

Things are better now but a significant number of homes are still selling ‘firm’ with no conditions. It’s very much a sellers’ market and it can be difficult to buy conditionally.

Nevertheless the vast majority of my offers have inspection conditions. No doubt we’ve lost out on a few properties because of this. But I’m pretty certain several of my clients who answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Should I get a home inspection?’ are pretty happy having spent four or five hundred dollars.

should I get a home inspection

Photo Laura Scudder GFDL / CC-BY-SA-2.5

In one property the inspection uncovered some significant roof and siding issues. In two other cases asbestos was found. Lastly a supposedly rewired house had knob and tube hidden away between floors.

If significant issues are uncovered a buyer has the option of abandoning the deal, renegotiating on price or having the seller remedy the deficiencies. We’ve done all three of these things at one time or another, saving my clients tens of thousands of dollars as a result.

Even if nothing serious is found the inspectors have a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience to pass on to the buyer. My clients get a thorough education on every aspect of the home which is why it’s essential that they attend the inspection.

Should I get a home inspection? Yes, without a shadow of doubt you should. Getting a home inspection is a good thing.

Here’s three great inspectors I work with:
Canadian Home Inspection Services
Green Trust Services
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