Monday, 30 January 2012

Must BC Builders Provide New Home Maintenance Manuals?

According to The Homeowner Protection Office (HPO), BC Homeowners must be provided with a new home maintenance manual, or builders risk having to pay warranty claims out of their own pockets.

The HPO Fall 2011 newsletter recently highlighted a key section of the Homeowner Protection Act (HPA); mandatory new home maintenance. Under the act, every new home requires homeowners to perform routine operation & maintenance or risk having their new home warranty compromised. It goes on to say that if the home owner is not given proper Maintenance instructions by the builder then the home owner is not responsible for doing the maintenance. Presumably, the builder would now be responsible for doing the maintenance and if they do not, then the item may not be covered under the new home warranty coverage.

HPO states, “Under BC law, residential builders and warranty providers have a responsibility to provide maintenance information to the original buyers of a new home, if they want to make home warranty coverage conditional upon proper maintenance. If they don’t provide a maintenance manual, the homeowner cannot be held responsible for not doing the maintenance.”

It appears a maintenance manual is mandatory, but what does it need to contain to satisfy the requirement? Is a Maintenance Manual the same as or part of a Home Owner Manual? Part 2 of our blog series will examine what a maintenance manual means to homeownership, and ultimately what it must provide to a homeowner.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Building Green Is HIP - BC's First Net Zero Home

As a BuiltGreen and LEED certified supplier, Conasys is proud to contribute to the advancement of more sustainable building practises in our industry. Home Information Packages (HIP) have been provided to over a thousand homes across the country that have achieved various levels of both certifications. The product documentation stored in the HIP allows homeowners to properly operate and maintain the home based on the manufacturer's recommendations, reducing wasted energy.

Another milestone was reached recently with the announcement that one of our longest standing clients, RDC Fine Homes based out of Whistler, BC has built British Columbia's first Net Zero home. The BuiltGreen Platinum certified home has received a lot of attention lately as it was featured in the Globe and Mail this week.

Among the "green" features are triple glazed windows, fibre-cement siding and 600 square feet of solar photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into electricity. Due to the unique components used in the home, operation and care is slightly more complicated than a conventional one.

"The Home Information Package is especially important when you are dealing with new technology such as the photovoltaic system we used in this home," says Paul Nicholas, Operations Manager at RDC. "The online information guide keeps everything organized and it gives the homeowner piece of mind that all information is on one area, easy to find and access."

Congratulations to RDC Fine Homes for setting this historic milestone! Here are a few pictures of the home.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Warranty Advisor added to Home Information Packages

Conasys is pleased to announce the addition of "Warranty Advisor" to its core product, Home Information Packages. The feature was launched with all Home Information Packages delivered in the latter part of 2011.

In conjunction with "Maintenance Advisor," the two advisor features serve as the communication platform of Home Information Packages, automated based on the province of the home as well as the new home warranty provider.

"Warranty Advisor" automatically emails homeowners directly before and after major new home warranty milestones occur, ensuring homeowners fully understand what needs to be done prior to deadlines, as well as the remaining coverage of their new home. Maintenance Advisor periodically emails the homeowner when their scheduled maintenance is due, ensuring homeowners understand what their responsibilities are to keep their new home warranty in tact.

Home Information Packages (HIP) are tailored web-based manuals for new homes. They provide new home buyers with a product inventory of everything installed in the home, complete with manufacturer documents such as Operating Manuals, Maintenance & Care Guides and Extended Warranty Information. Here is a short video overviewing the package:

When combined, Home Information Packages form the most comprehensive new home information package in the industry. Please Contact Us for a list of builders and developers in your area who provide HIP's with their new homes.

Average Canadian Home Price Over-Valued by 10%: TD Economics

TD Economics released their annual Special Report on Regional Housing Markets in late December, recapping 2011 and looking ahead to 2012.

Highlighting 2011, the national housing market was described as "turning in a respectable performance despite notable hurdles." Tightened rules surrounding insured mortgages, the HST being rejected in BC and both the Euro Debt Crisis as well as the slower than expected US Economic recovery all posed significant risk to the housing industry. Historically low interest rates are seen as the reason why the housing marketing "over performed" in spite all of the hurdles.

Based on multiple metrics such as price-to-income and price-to-rent, the report states that assuming more normal interest rates, the degree of overvaluation would be in the 10-15% range, although our housing market does not share bubble-like characteristics such as those in the US pre-2007.

Interest rates are forecasted to remain unchanged through 2012, with gradual increases starting early 2013. Similarly to 2011, 2012 will likely be a "wait and see" kind of year.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Why a Better Maintenance Manual Means a Better Homeowner Experience

The term “maintenance manual” will be open for interpretation but as outlined in the previous blog it is generally required that builders give one to new home owners. Instead of debating the definition of the term, we should examine how a builder can position themselves to reduce their liability and benefit from providing a better homeowner experience at the same time.

A new home consists of parts manufactured by the builder, as well as parts installed by the builder from third-party manufacturers. The homeowner is responsible for maintaining both in order to receive new home warranty coverage or manufacturers direct warranties. More importantly the home owner wants everything to work properly to achieve maximum value and enjoyment out of the home. Therefore, operating instructions, maintenance tips, and warranty rules about everything in the home is important to the home owner.

A Home Owner Manual ultimately is an opportunity for builders and developers. By providing a comprehensive New Home Manual with all necessary information regardless of who produced it, a builder benefits by:

· Positive Homeowner Expectation: A new home, regardless of type or price is a significant investment. If a homeowner is not provided with the tools they need to protect that investment, the blame will ultimately fall on the builder. A happy homeowner is rational, easy to deal with, provides referrals and the possibility of repeat business.

· Keeps Value of the Home: A well-built home is ultimately a builder’s best promotional tool. Homes change hands much more frequently than in the past due to increasing real estate prices. A well maintained home is a positive reflection on the builder; the same can’t be said for a poorly maintained home. A buyer will like a comprehensive manual, so it can help with resale.

· Fewer Resources Required: An educated homeowner is empowered to do what is required of them and requires less of the builder’s time & resources.

· Reduce Liability: By providing all maintenance material you eliminate any liability that could result from improper operation & maintenance by the homeowner.

Regardless of how you define “maintenance manual,” what is true for every home is that proper operation & maintenance is necessary for both the builder and the homeowner to benefit from the transaction.

What is a New Home Maintenance Manual?

Every province mandates something different in terms of what homeowners must receive from their builder when purchasing a new home. Ultimately, builders pass responsibility of the home and its various components to the owner. Of course, if homeowners are to be held accountable, they must be given a fair opportunity to understand their responsibilities. This begs the question, what must a maintenance manual include for it to satisfy this condition?

The name “maintenance manual” sounds straight forward but there is plenty of room for interpretation. Traditionally, a manufactured product (including a home) has three components that are important to ownership: operation, maintenance and warranty. The “manual” for the product should provide clear operational instructions, maintenance requirements and warranty details. Manufacturers provide these detailed documents for their products for various reasons including regulatory, consumer expectations, and good customer service. In the home building industry, this is complicated by the fact that the builders “manufacturer” some parts of a new home and also use, or pass through, components manufactured by other companies. This can lead to a considerable amount of operational, maintenance, and warranty information to pass on to the home owner.

Major warranty providers like Tarion Home Warranty & Alberta New Home Warranty and have developed generic maintenance manuals that they provide for homeowner use. CMHC also has a Home Maintenance Manual. Many builders develop their own. These “maintenance” manuals outline standard maintenance for many components of a new home. However, as many components are “pass through” the home owners are commonly told to “see manufacturer’s documentation for proper maintenance procedures”.

Ultimately, how we define “maintenance manual” must be determined by accountability. If the builder is to transfer accountability to the homeowner for the home’s maintenance, the home owner should be given detailed instructions on how to maintain every part or component that makes up the home. Logically we can conclude the product specific documents from the manufacturer is the only way to accomplish this.

New Home owners might be confused by the difference between a “maintenance manual” that focuses on mandatory maintenance, and a Home Owner Manual that offers operating instructions, care and maintenance tips, and warranty info on their “new home warranty” as well as product warranties. Once again, from the builder perspective the former is mandatory and the later is perhaps just good business practice.

This leads us to Part 2 of this blog series where we will examine why providing both “mandatory” and “best practise” documents combined will ultimately be the best solution for the builder.

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