Saturday, April 18th15.5°C
About The House

Home buying seminar

When you buy a home, it isn’t like most things that if you don’t like it you can’t simply return it. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of my clients have bought less than a handful of houses over their lifetime, with most being first, second or third time buyers. Having just been through the home buying process ourselves after some 14 years, I can tell you first hand that good solid advice is a major bonus and certainly handy during a home purchase.

Where does a person obtain the knowledge to purchase a home? Well it’s not taught in high school, or hands on anywhere that I know of. Sure, homebuyers can seek out the answers they need from individual professionals, but wouldn’t it be great to have them all accessible in one group? Where does the average person go for basic real estate information and tips and tools? Well, on Saturday, April 18th there is a free Real Estate Rookie Event.

Things change and evolve in real estate transactions and like most things, knowledge is power. Thank goodness, here in the valley, we have some excellent professionals that are eager to help, get the answers you need and have your back. has assembled a team of experts to guide the average rookie on their real estate journey and give them the tools, confidence and information to navigate their real estate transactions.

There are so many things to know. From help finding your dream home, qualifying and down payments, mortgages and mortgage insurance, property purchase taxes, commissions, and insurance.

Come down and meet industry experts to help you consider all available options and important issues before you take that critical first step onto the property ladder. Real estate continues to be a hot topic in the Okanagan, so attendance is expected to be great.  I’ll see you there this Saturday the 18th!


Be careful out there

I’ve always said that anything about a house can be fixed except for its location. Once a house is completed for occupancy, it is pretty much set for its expected lifespan. It is when we want to improve or change the purpose of the home that we need to recognize and comply with local regulations and manufacturer’s instructions.

“Good enough” doesn’t cut it with mechanical changes to a home. For example, if you’re going to put a kitchen in a basement suite in for some revenue make sure that the work is completed properly. Sure, the obvious safety hazards in the photo accompanying this article are a tad doozey, but the simple fix is to install an electrical receptacle above the kitchen counter and route the gas line to code. Both aren’t a big deal, routinely undertaken and nothing to make a federal case out of. Repair and move on.

It’s interesting what people’s expectations and concerns are as depicted in the picture. The elderly owner of this home sees the natural gas line and electrical cords hanging inches from her gas flame burners as acceptable because her husband did the work and nothing has ever happened. I’m afraid that Torched Chicken & Electrical Fried Rice is on the menu in the future. But seriously, what really matters is what the local building authorities think; after all, they are the ones that are in charge of determining what is safe for occupants in our homes. Take those permits out homeowners.

The odds are stacked

Q. How close to the house can firewood be stored for a fireplace?


A. That stack of firewood you had up against the house all winter needs to be moved. When it gets damp it will be the perfect breeding ground for a variety of insects. With the Spring rain and snow melt, wood left on the ground will absorb moisture that can create a favorable environment for insects to nest.

If you have a wood burner you’ll appreciate the added convenience of having your wood pile handy, but it can lead to an open door for termites or carpenter ants. If you do happen to bring in a chunk of infested firewood indoors to burn chances are very, very slim that it will cause an infestation indoors, but firewood stacked against the house unused and left for the next burning season creates a real risk of infestation from carpenter ants, termites and other pests. If there is an infestation in wood that has been transported inside for burning it likely contains some workers and not the queen. Usually the wood is dry and there is insufficient moisture indoors to sustain wood destroying insects outside the wood they are protected in.

Keep your firewood off the ground, and don’t stack it against the house to limit rot and keep those nasty critters away. Most of the bugs found in wood piles are classified as nuisance insects and won’t do serious harm to your home.

Carpenter ants and termites can cause damage. They like a wood pile that is wet and undisturbed. If there is a colony, chances are the colony will be disturbed when you bring wood in to burn, so they’ll likely scatter and won’t become a problem in the house, unless the pile is too close to the house for too long. Once wood destroying insects establish themselves inside a structure extermination is a costly process, so the best plan is to prevent an infestation from ever occurring. To minimize the risk of insects, store wood away from the house, especially from the foundation.

Proper storage of firewood is not a mystery. Store firewood it in a dry, airy location away from the house and off the ground for best results. Experts say that firewood should be stored about 20 feet away.

For wood burners, stacking wood is full of lore. For some, a woodpile is a public display thing. Wood piles are regarded as a statement much like your garden or home maintenance. In the rural country, they say that a reliable, hardworking man will stack his wood square and straight like Rodney Bell, who by all accounts is one of the Okanagan’s firewood experts.


New home inspections

Q: We are buying a new home. Do we really need to pay for an inspection?

A: If you are buying a new home, if you consider what could possibly go wrong, the answer is more complex than you might think.


The fact is, any home, whether it is large or small, new or old, is an intricate maze of structural, heating, electrical and plumbing systems. Today’s brand new homes have many features that are specifically engineered for our health and comfort and may be compulsory because of building code requirements. Having a fresh set of eyes to evaluate these systems is plainly a good move as it’s not unusual for even the most responsible and dedicated subcontractor to inadvertently miss something that could evolve to be a real problem.

For the most part, the finishing work in a new home is very good and small flaws are easy to spot. However, it’s not the aesthetics that we are too concerned about with new home inspections. The problems you need to worry about are those that occur behind the scenes.

Sure new homes come with a new home warranty, but most problems don’t become apparent until several years after construction was completed. If you’ve ever bought a new home that experiences a problem and you sought relief through a builder-funded warranty, (the home buyer pays the premium in the purchase price) then you know that it can sometimes be like a bureaucratic filing cabinet. You see, builders apply for warranty coverage on your behalf through a warranty provider. The builder then constructs the home to an agreed recognized standard. Should the standard not be met and a claim is filed, the builder is called on to correct the problem first. When a builder fails to satisfactorily correct a problem or that avenue is exhausted, only then the warranty provider steps in to take over. So be prepared for a bit of a journey in the event of a claim.

Although the vast majority of homeowners buy new construction and experience no problems, the cost of an inspection is small compared to detecting and potential costs for repairing defects. Plus, most builders are quick to correct any defects once they have been identified by a professional building inspection report.

Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles

About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with for DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding and turn your home a nicer comfortable place to live and increase its value. Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency this column is here to guide you with some useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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