A cautionary tale
Karen Brady, Special To The Star</SPAN>| Sep 18, 2013 | Last Updated: Sep 18, 2013 - 8:08 UTC
Whether it’s helping unskilled handymen or families having trouble prioritizing their renovation needs, HGTV personality Bryan Baeumler isn’t beyond employing a little tough love to bring families back on track. But in the case of the Jamiesons of Windsor, he says the tough talk is better reserved for the professionals who helped them buy a home.
Baeumler, host of DIY Disaster and Leave it to Bryan, says the south Windsor home was marketed to the Jamiesons as newly renovated, and they fell in love with the layout. But he maintains there were obvious warning signs that the home had serious issues - ones that have left the Jamiesons virtually homeless.
Baeumler visited the family last month to assess the damage. The home has to be gutted to the studs and rebuilt, he says.
“Everything in the house that had been renovated looked very amateur, says Baeumler. “That right there is a pretty good indicator that the flnishes aren’t flnished well, there’s more than likely something signiflcant going on underneath the surface.”
Cindy Jamieson believes she trusted the wrong people.
The family of flve thought they were purchasing their ‘forever’ home on Acorn Crescent last year. They picked their realtor for his 25 years of experience, and hired a home inspector based on his recommendation, Jamieson says.
“So we assumed he knew what he was doing.”
Jamieson says the inspector told them they were getting an “awesome” home, except for two minor repairs, and the agent suggested they go ahead with the purchase.
But just months after moving in, Jamieson found black mould growing in her basement bathroom. She also started to smell methane gas.
The next thing she knew, the whole ceiling had collapsed in her downstairs bathroom with “water like Niagara Falls coming through the ceiling.”
The Jamiesons had an environmental assessment done on the home and were told it wasn’t safe to live there, due to the mould now encircling the home’s lower level.
“The methane gas was coming from not properly ventilating the downstairs bathroom so everything was being backed up into our home,” says Jamieson.
The family ended up living in a rented trailer in their backyard. In August, they moved into the Holiday Inn.
The Baeumler Family Foundation, an organization meant to assist families in need of home security, helped secure the Holiday Inn sponsorship for the family. It is also helping to coordinate with suppliers willing to donate labour and materials to help with the mould removal and re-building of the home.
PERMITS ADD VALUE
According to Jamieson, who made an inquiry to city hall, the previous owners had done major renovations to the house without a permit - turning a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home into a fourbedroom, two-bathroom home. “It’s so obvious that no permits were pulled,” says Baeumler. “I hope that when people are selling their home that they’re aware that the real value in a home is in having building permits and having things done properly.”
Jamieson believes her realtor and home inspector should have known better. She tried to contact both when she learned of the problems, but says neither one called her back.
“We went to them for help,” says. the mother of three “We trusted their professionalism when it comes to the jobs that they are doing for us.”
Baeumler says there are a lot of great inspectors out there, but he believes it was a conflict of interest for the agent to recommend the inspector.
In some provinces realtors are not permitted to give out the name of just one inspector for that very reason, according the Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s website.
But Jamieson also blames herself.
She was scared to question the inspector’s assessment because she didn’t feel knowledgeable enough, she admits.
There is no provincial regulation of home inspectors except in B.C. and Alberta, meaning almost anyone can call themselves a ‘certified’ home inspector in Ontario.
“It’s a very difficult thing to navigate as a home buyer,” says Paul Mailloux from Mailloux Home Inspections in Windsor. “You can go on the Internet and there is varying levels of requirements to be certified by these Internet sites. (For) some of them it’s a matter of just sending them money.”
Find out what training and experience are required of a home inspector to call himself ‘certifi ed’, he advises. “Compared to real estate, compared to the lenders, compared to the lawyers, we are a relatively new industry so we still are evolving and we are still learning.” Mailloux, a 15-year industry veteran, belongs to the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors. “It took me four years to get to their top level - it required a certain amount of training every year,” says Mailloux. “I wouldn’t be fooled by a five-minute phone call where you call and you find the person is certified and he’s got a good price.”
Adds Baeumler: “I think it’s a flawed industry. It’s certainly not where it needs to be.”
The Ontario government seems to be in agreement. In August, it began a consultation process aimed at creating minimum qualifications for home inspectors. The Ministry of Consumer Services has promised to issue a report in November. Once released, it will be available online for public comment and review, says a ministry spokesperson.
Mailloux says technology is making his job easier - computer programs allow for more detailed reporting to the homeowner, and digital cameras provide visual examples from the walk-through. “A picture is worth 1,000 words, so I can show people pictures of the roof and the attic, and places like that. It’s much better than sitting at a table and trying to explain what I saw.”
Mailloux says customers should be aware that because he can’t see behind the walls, a standard inspection is not a guarantee that a home is problem-free. But he believes an inspector should stand behind his work if something obvious is overlooked.
He has even paid to repair things he’s missed, he says.
Baeumler takes it one step further, saying if you’re going to bother getting a pre-purchase home inspection, tools like infrared cameras that can spot problems behind drywall, or a moisture meter for identifying leaks, should be included. “If you are going to make such a massive investment into a home, spend some extra money to have some extra inspections done.”
According to the CMHC, a prepurchase inspection usually takes around three hours and costs about $500. The buyer should receive a written report including all the details of the inspection, and the inspector should be willing to answer any questions the buyer asks. CMHC also encourages buyers to accompany the inspector on the home tour.
If she had to do it all again, Cindy Jamieson vows, 'I would ask way more questions and if I really wasn’t sure about something… get a second opinion.”
The Jamiesons still need donations of clothing and gift cards and have set up a trust account at TD Canada Trust in the Devonshire Mall. Visit any TD branch and make out the donation in the name of Cynthia and Michael Jamieson.
- Source out your own home inspector and find out what training was required to be ‘certified’.
- If the ‘fit and finish’ of a renovation looks questionable, be cautious about what might be lurking behind the walls.
- Be wary of emotionally attaching yourself to a home before you determine if it is a sound investment.
- Ask your inspector if they use infrared cameras or moisture meters during the home inspection.
- Ask if permits were issued for any renovation work. Work with your real estate agent to check municipal permit records.