What’s Included in a Condo Inspection in BC?


Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here talking about building inspection with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m doing great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: I’m good. As you can see I’ve got a little bit of sun this morning. I was doing some building inspection on my home, building repairs, I guess. So we’re talking about condo inspection today, so what’s the difference? What’s included in a condo inspection when you do it here in BC?
David: So what we do with our Condo Inspection is very similar to a Home Inspection, Mark. We’re obviously we’re going to concentrate on seeing things that are going to be important to the person moving into the property. So one of those, you know, you’re going to test all the components of the house just like you would, you know like your heating system, your plumbing system, your bathrooms, your kitchen. One of the things that we do a little bit differently that not all home inspection companies do is test appliances and that’s with all our home inspections; testing the stove, the garburator, dishwasher, can even do the microwave oven. So these are the kind of thing we are looking at especially in a condo and we’re going to inspect the areas that surround the unit like for instance if you have a balcony, if you’ve got a roof top deck, any of these limited common areas. I’ve actually run into a couple of condos where there’s an attic. You don’t see it a lot, there’s actually a couple in Burnaby and they actually have full attic space that you can open up the attic and it runs all the way down the length of the condo and of course that’s part of the inspection. So everything that we can get our hands on, the more we can learn about the condo the better for you.
Mark: So, do you like flush the toilet and run water into the tub and the sinks and those sorts of things?
David: Absolutely, we test what we call functional drainage and functional flow, especially when you’re on the thirty-second floor of a high-rise building. We want to make sure your water pressure and your hot water is going to be available so when you move in there that first shower, you’re not calling me, cursing my name, so this is the kind of stuff that we want to make sure, we’re in the business of surprise mitigation. We want to make sure there’s no surprises when you move in.
Mark: So, what about common areas like parking garages and outside drainage of the building, or the building envelope, those kinds of things, since we had all those leaky condos here in BC.
David: Exactly, and our Condo Inspection includes all the common areas, so that’s your roof, parkade, your boiler room, your electrical vaults, your elevator room. Myself, I’m a Commercial Certified Inspector so I do commercial buildings inspections as well, I know what I’m looking at with these large buildings and if we can get access to those areas from the strata and not always, you know, sometimes they’ll say well o.k., we can’t let you in there right now or we can’t get you on the roof due to liability reasons, that’s fine, but if we can get access that we also have a look at it. I also like to go to the storage areas and the parking stalls to make sure there’s no moisture problems down there because that the thing you may not find out about until you’ve moved in. So, if you’ve got a, you know, a huge oil in your parkade and the strata’s going to assign you or you know, there’s a leak above your car, you know, it’s the kind of stuff we want to find out ahead of time.
Mark: Yeah, so how about strata minutes and that sort of thing. Are you checking into those?
David: Yeah, it’s part of the Condo Inspection, yeah, a free strata minute review. It’s just a, if you have an engineering report or a, you know, a depreciation report or anything like that and you may read through it and may have, maybe there’s a red flag in there and you don’t know what it means, you know, I speak English and I speak Strata so I can translate it for you and go through and help you out with that. Obviously you know, time permitting, you know, the sooner you can send it the better. I always prefer if you can send it ahead of the inspection but, absolutely, that’s something I do on a regular basis.
Mark: So, I guess that’s where you might see things like depending on, like I mean there’s all sorts of, and types of strata like, we lived in a strata for a while where we had, they were like duplexes essentially and there were only twelve units or sixteen units in the complex but there was a budget and a time frame where we had to replace the roofs for all the sixteen units.
David: That’s a big job.
Mark: So that, but it’s in the strata minutes of well we’re in year ten and at year twenty we’re replacing all the roofs and here’s the budget number. So are you looking for those sorts of things as well as kind of ongoing maintenance or surprises?
David: Yeah, exactly, yeah, I think you pretty much hit it on the head, you know a roof assessment, you know, you pretty much assume that in every building’s life, every twenty to twenty-five years there going to put a new roof on, so we want to know how old the roof is and if you just have your strata minutes, you know, there might be just a mention in there of o.k., you know what, you know, we had a leaky roof and that might kick off a roof replacement that you didn’t know that so, you know, so if you can get your hands on a depreciation report like you’re saying where it’s actually broken down by year, o.k. you know what, in 2018 we actually going to put a new roof on; let’s start saving now. That’s usually a good sign actually, that shows that you’ve got a proactive strata. But, if you’ve got reactive strata they’re going to panic in 2018 and put out a huge levy on everybody as they weren’t prepared, right? So, that’s the kind of stuff we’re looking at and the strata minutes usually supports where that’s going to turn up, you know, so obviously we’re going to do our visual inspection, but you want to go behind the scenes and find out what the problems are.
Mark: So, what’s the best way to make sure I don’t buy a leaky condo?
David: There’s two ways to do that, you’re going to, you know with every, even just looking around at different condos you’re going to want to enlist a trained person who knows what to look for, that’s a home inspector, realtor who has experience with that, and you’re going to want to get your strata minutes, and your engineering reports. These are the kind of things that are going to help you determine if there’s a leaky condo problem. So, get it inspected every single time, get an inspector who’s familiar with commercial building construction and who’s familiar with leaky condo and envelope issues who can maybe point out a, you know there might be a problem here, why don’t you go look at your strata minutes and depreciation report and have a look at it and see if there’s any talk of maybe you know, redoing one of the elevations and you know that can be pretty expensive. So that probably the best ways to surround yourself with people who are familiar with that type of building and to read your minutes, read all your strata minutes, every single line, everything you can get, you know sometimes it’s every two years, get more if you can, look through everything, you never know what’s hiding in there and it’s going to be a huge financial difference for you, possibly, right.
Mark: So what would, like let’s talk about that. Maybe not everyone is familiar with the whole, cause it’s kind of died down a little bit, so what is, what’s the ramification if you buy a place that they suddenly they find that it’s leaky and what are we saying, what are we mean by leaky and then what are the ramifications, what could they be as big as, say, financially?
David: Yeah, good question. I should elaborate on the leaky condo crisis. There was a problem that lasted from about 1982 to 1998 in Vancouver where we built buildings that leaked and they had huge, huge moisture problems. You know, a lot of them were designed similar to the buildings they had in California where there was a lot of, you know you had a lot of, interfaces, usually like a California style stucco, low rise, four story building with a, you know, a flat roof kind of looks like a cube with a bunch of stucco on the outside of it. Kind of risky buildings that, they get really spectacular failure, you know, they leaked, we had mold, they had structural rot in a lot of these buildings and we were looking at multi-million dollar repairs and it’s been a problem, only recently sort of tapered off around 2000 and prior to that, if you’re looking at a condo let’s say you want to look at a condo that’s built in 94, you know, in the Fairview Slopes area, that was a bad area; you definitely want to get a depreciation report, find out if there’s a rain screen installed which is the solution for a leaky condo and also call around. Call a home inspector, have the place inspected, ask a realtor, you know, these are the kinds of things that . . . . .
Mark: Awesome, and in some cases this was, that could be, you know, you can throw numbers like millions but it could have, in some cases it was two, three, four hundred thousand dollars per unit to get repaired.
David: Yeah, I think the highest, the highest that I ever had direct experience with was a hundred and twenty thousand dollars per unit. In some cases in Port Moody there’s a building that they actually, the strata went bankrupt, they became insolvent and they actually, everybody just sort of left the building, they walked away from the mortgage. The bank bought it, did the work they needed to do and resold it, where they took it back. So, go to Google, we’ve got a great article on our blog, ‘How to Identify a Vancouver Leaky Condo’ and there’s a lot of good information if you go to Fairbairn Inspections.com. There’s a blog post on there that’s going to show you exactly, you know, what a rain screen looks like, why you need one and you know, if you educate yourself a little bit you’ll be able to walk down a street and actually go hey o.k. maybe that one’s got a rain screen and maybe that one still needs it and you know, if you can educate yourself on this issue, especially type condos in the Vancouver area in that time period, you know, you could dodge bullets, so . . . give me a call anytime. My number, I think I forgot to put that number but you can go to our website, email or phone number and give me a call. Happy to help you out.
Mark: So, we’ve been talking about condos and what’s included in a Condo Inspection in Vancouver, BC with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections.com. You can reach him at 604-395-2795. Next time he’ll turn his little ghost machine on so he has his number on there. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Mark: O.K., bye.

About the Author DavidFairbairn

Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has been featured in the media and has contributed to "24" Newspaper, and Global TV. He has spent years working with residential and commercial building projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection? Call 604 395-2795 or email david@fairbairninspections.com today!

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