Last time I wrote about what to avoid when buying your first house and not to rely on your real estate agent or home inspector . I know of a lot of honest, hard working real estate agents that will go to the wall for their client. I am just trying to give a heads up based upon my experience. Today I am going to elaborate and give you some more tips on insulation, surveys, electrical and septic systems.

This is a big one to be aware of especially if your in the market for a older home. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying an older home. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia bought a all brick bungalow built in 1935. After a year it was discovered that the insulation in their attic was asbestos and the ceiling tile in the bedrooms was also asbestos tile. The problem with asbestos is when it becomes airborne, the tiny particles of asbestos gets into your lungs and it won't come out. There have been a ton of lawsuits involving asbestos and the use of asbestos materials. If you notice asbestos insulation be careful as the cost to remove it is not cheap. You may want to pass on this house and go to the next one on your list. If the house is cheaper than anything else you've seen, there is always a reason. Spend the extra money on a home that doesn't have asbestos insulation. What may seem as a money saving move, may end up costing more than the price of the house including one's health. A quick Google search will reveal a list of companies that will remove the asbestos for you and safely.

Urea formaldehyde foam insulation or uffi for short is a type of insulation that was used in the 70's to insulate homes. It has been unfairly demonized as a type of insulation and is alleged to be 'unsafe'. Independent testing has proved otherwise, although it still suffers from a bad reputation in the market place today, this not a problem anymore. Although as a purchaser you could use this as leverage on that list price. I personally know people who own a cottage property with uffi insulation and there is nothing wrong with it. It is warm in winter and cool in summer.

Survey says
Ask for an up to date survey when purchasing a property this will really come in handy when a neighbour wants to put up a fence. A survey will identify the boundary lines of the property and eliminate potential future disputes. A local real estate lawyer friend makes a nice living off these disputes. Also its a good idea to get title insurance as well. The title insurance company guarantees clear as in no liens, encroachments on the title of the property. Remember, litigation is expensive and time consuming. Having a survey and title insurance will keep more money in your pocket. Otherwise my lawyer friend will enjoy a nice, (read wealthy) retirement on the golf courses in Europe because some purchaser didn't care about an up to date survey or title insurance.

Septic tanks
Its a good idea to check the septic system. A septic system takes the waste water from the house and treats the waste water to a safe level and returns the effluent to the ground water system. Typically a septic system comprises a septic tank and a leeching bed. Also known as a soil filter.

This is a costly repair bill if it needs to be replaced. Check to see if the septic tank is in good working order. This can be found by simply walking around the leeching bed and see if it is spongy. If the leeching bed area is spongy, it means that the septic tank is plugged and will back up into your toilet and floor drains. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony bought a house in a rural area. Things were great when they bought the house in October, everything was working great. Great until the spring when they realized they needed a new septic system. The spring runoff meant that the extra water from the melting snow had gone into the tank and caused a backup into their house. As it turns out, they had to call someone in to pump out the septic tank and replace the leeching bed as it had become filled with clay and sand. The total cost of replacing the septic system was $30,000 +/-.

A a good rule of thumb for septic systems is to have them pumped out every 2 or 3 years. Also it is a good idea not to plant trees, bushes or shrubs near the leeching bed. Trees have deep roots and in the case of willow and poplar trees, the roots travel great distances to get water and interfere with the drain pipes. Don't drive any vehicles like snowmobiles, as they will reduce the insulation from the snow and cause the pipes to freeze.

The electrical in your home is also very important. I had a lot of emails about this one and I want to address some questions that were asked since I last wrote my article.

If you see an open panel fuse box, it's a good idea to have the electrical checked by a bona fide electrician to make sure it is safe. Open panel fuse boxes if not installed properly, may cause arcing, which means there is a gap between the fuse and the electrical wire which may cause a fire. Although this is a rare occurrence is still a good idea to be aware of this.

Aluminum wiring if not installed properly can cause house fires. This is due to improper installation. Back in the 70s, aluminum wiring was the 'in' thing because the cost of copper was going up, while aluminum was much cheaper. Guess which one builders started to use for electrical wiring? Copper and aluminum heat up at different temperatures causing 1 to heat up faster than the other. Also aluminum when it heats up and then contracts, looses a bit of it its tightness. Aluminum also corrodes making the path for the electrical current more difficult to travel. Electricity always chooses the path of least resistance. Copper on the other hand heats up doesn't suffer as much as aluminum does as for tightness nor does it corrode. Building codes for wiring are more stringent than they were back then. Today's wiring has copper and aluminum individually wrapped in a plastic casing then a final plastic casing to bind them together.

This is just a partial list of the most important points of buying a house. A home inspector is also a good idea when purchasing your first house. Don't be afraid to give the house your interested in a thorough once over. If you not comfortable with the house for any reason, walk away from the deal and trust your gut instincts. Remember you the purchaser have to live there not the home inspector or the real estate agents. It's okay to be a bit picky on the important aspects such as heating equipment, etc. Cosmetics such as colour of paint or ceramic tile back splashes can be replaced.

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Mathew Jazenko is CEO of MRJ Financial Solutions and is dedicated to improving YOUR bottom line. Questions/comments: or visit us at: