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Alpha Murray’s Calgary Real Estate Blog

Every year our clients receive a newsletter which features an update on the Calgary Real Estate market and various industry news and tidbits. We have reprinted a few articles pulled from past issues of that newsletter which we think hold ongoing relevance to Calgary home owners, buyers & seller.

If you would like to receive our annual newsletter, feel free to contact us with your name and postal address and we'll gladly add you to our mailing list. If you have any questions about the articles below or anything Real Estate related, again, please feel free to contact us.

Bonus Rooms – More Expensive Than You Think

July 25, 2015 by Alpha Murray

Go into any show home parade in the city today and you are almost certain to find a "bonus room" above the garage. They’re wildly popular with buyers and builders alike, but buying a home with one could be costing you more than you think.

One of the biggest factors affecting home design in the last 40 years in Calgary has been the ever shrinking size of the lots. Where once we had districts full of single level "bungalows" and "bi-levels" we now see almost exclusively "two storey" homes and the reasons are obvious. In my current home in the suburbs I can literally touch both my house and my neighbor’s house at the same time. It was only natural that attaching the garage and then building over the garage to increase space would become more common.

2nd level floor plans have been creeping further and further out, and in the newest communities they actually extend beyond the front of the attached garage! You could build anything there, but who wants 5 bedrooms upstairs? The bonus room is the answer and people love them! What normally would be in the basement and would often require the home owner to develop, the family room, is now ready made and move-in ready.

The rub is that the total space available in the house is actually shrinking and most people don’t realize it because of the confusing way this city discloses house sizes. The Calgary Real Estate Board, for reasons I’ll never understand, forces Realtors to only include "above grade square footage" as the "Total SQFT" field of the MLS.

Basements are expensive to build. They require a larger lot and more concrete, and therein lies the secret to builders profits and your loss because you can’t build basements under garages. Combine this with the mysterious practice of excluding basements when calculating house size and you begin to see how people may be getting less house than they think when they buy one with a bonus room.

Take the following example of two homes, both of which are advertised as having a Total Square Footage of 2000 sqft, remembering that you can only build basement under the main floor, not under the garage:

Image illustrating how a bonus room floorplan affects total square footage.

If you buy a home with a developed basement or you plan to develop the basement then you will want to pay particular attention to the MAIN FLOOR square footage. Unfortunately you can’t search for that on the Internet but it is a field all Realtors have access to search. Whenever you have need to search the MLS, let me know and I can setup an automated profile with specific criteria which sends listings to your email.

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Flooding Issues

January 25, 2014 by Alpha Murray

Given the unprecedented rain and flooding we had in Calgary in 2013, I wanted to take a moment to discuss water issues with you.

As a buyer, it is vital to have a home inspection. Last year I had two cases where buyers found mould and water seepage in basements during a home inspection. In one case the home was only a few years old and in both cases the homes were nowhere near a flood plain.

Quality home inspectors have a variety of specialized tools such as moisture meters and infrared cameras that can detect water behind drywall and insulation.

Home inspections are not cheap. Depending on the property they can be up to $1000 or more, but compared to the cost of remediation and health risks it is money well spent regardless of age of home or location.

The most important thing you can do in your own home to prevent these issues is to make sure your eaves trough downspouts are always fully extended. When they’re up, water will drain straight down the foundation. You should also resist the urge to plant flowers or vegetables against your house. Watering these plants has the same effect.

Another good practice is to ensure the ground immediately surrounding your home slopes away from the house. When the ground slopes towards the house the water will flow across the surface straight towards the foundation. Dirt is cheap, basement repairs and mould remediation are very expensive.

On that note, it’s always a good idea to periodically look in the corners of your basement corresponding to the downspout locations to check for signs of water intrusion. Soft drywall or staining is a clear sign you have a problem.

In winter be sure to temporarily reduce humidity levels if ice buildup occurs on windows, and in summer be sure to check the soil next to the house to ensure it doesn’t slope towards the house.

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