Aluminum Wiring, Cost Plus Improvements Mortgage, Asking for Chattels


Dear David, 

Is aluminum wiring safe? — WIRED

DEAR WIRED: Aluminum wiring is not uncommon in homes built in the mid-1960s to late 70s, as it was an affordable alternative to copper at the time. Though there has been some debate about it, aluminum wiring is safe to use and is still allowed by the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. But if you have it in your home, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Aluminum wiring must be in good condition and free of corrosion; it’s imperative that all connections, receptacles, switches and fixtures be approved for use with this type of system. To ease your mind (and that of your insurance company), have the wiring inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). Should repairs be necessary, they should be performed by a licensed Electrical Contractor who is familiar with aluminum wiring specifically.  Once the inspection and/or repairs are complete, obtain a copy of the Certificate of Inspection; you’ll want it for your records and may need to submit a copy to your insurance company.


Dear David, 

We fell in love with a home that has an 80’s arcade built into the Rec Room. We want to put in an offer, and would really like the games as well. Is it OK to ask for things in a house that aren’t normally included? – EAGER TO PLAY

DEAR EAGER: It’s fairly common for certain chattels (a.k.a. “seller’s possessions”) to be included in a home sale. Many sellers are willing to consider parting with their appliances or kitchen barstools. That said, these games sound more like a personal collection and are likely to have sentimental value. I suggest you tread lightly. While this is a business transaction for you, bringing a “shopping spree” mentality to the negotiation process can have emotional repercussions and may alienate the sellers. I would suggest having your Realtor ask whether the sellers might be willing to part with the games before you put it in writing. If the idea is not well received, you may do better to focus on purchasing the home instead of the chattels. You can build your own games collection once there’s an agreement in place.


Dear David,

We are first time buyers with 10 percent down. We think we have found a house but it needs all new carpets and a furnace. Our estimates for those things are about $10,000 and we don’t have the extra money. Should we keep looking? – SO CLOSE

DEAR CLOSE: Ask your mortgage advisor about a “Cost Plus Improvements” mortgage. If you’re working with a major bank, this approach may allow you to amortize the cost of repairs over the life of your mortgage, rather than having to pay for them upfront.

The program is designed so that approved buyers can build renovation costs into their mortgage (to a maximum of 10 percent of the purchase price) as long as the total amount borrowed falls within their lending limit. Qualifying renovations need to add value to the property and be completed within a set time period. Expenses are commonly paid through the buyer’s lawyer, then amortized into mortgage payments by the bank.

Rather than having to save $10,000 upfront to cover repairs, a “Cost Plus Improvements” approach could end up costing you about $50/month (which might even be less than your coffee budget). Talk to your mortgage advisor as soon as possible — they can explain the available options and help you plan realistically.