If you own a car, you know there’s more to the cost-of-ownership than just finance payments and gas. You also need to budget for maintenance and repairs. If your car is older, those costs are going to be higher. That’s just common sense.
The same is true of your home. It’s wise to budget for anticipated repairs and maintenance. Otherwise, you might be caught by surprise when you find that your furnace stops working and needs to be replaced. That can easily be a four-figure expense.
Experts recommend that you set aside 1% of the value of your home for repairs and maintenance. For a $500,000 property, for example, that would be $5,000. That is, of course, merely a rule of thumb.
If your home is older, you may need to budget more.
Another recommended method is to budget $1 a square foot. If you have a 2,500 square foot home, that would be a budget of $2,500. Again, that number would need to be higher for older properties.
When budgeting, consider things that are getting old and will likely need to be replaced within the next three years.
Examples include roof shingles, furnace, A/C unit, deck, fence, plumbing, and windows. Depending on the size and model, a new A/C unit will cost at least $5,000.
Anticipating that expense will help you plan accordingly and avoid the shock of an unpleasant and costly surprise.
Keep in mind that budgeting $2,000 for repairs and maintenance doesn’t mean you’ll actually spend that money this year. But, if needed, the budget will be there, and that’s peace-of-mind.
When you purchase a home, you’re hoping it will continually go up in value — just like a good investment.
However, there’s something else that you want to see go up in value as well: the neighbourhood. In fact, the neighbourhood plays a key role in what the home will be worth in years to come.
If the neighbourhood goes down in terms of desirability, so will the market value of the home.
That’s why, when shopping for a new home, it’s important to get a feel for the value of the neighbourhood, and whether or not it’s on the upswing.
How do you do that? One way is to simply take a walk. Look at the properties. Are they well maintained? Is the landscaping groomed and attractive?
Those are signs of “pride of ownership” — a clear indication that owners value their homes and the neighbourhood.
Another way is to do some research. Has crime gone up in the neighbourhood?
Are there improvements planned, such as new parks?
Is the neighbourhood attracting the kind of people you want as neighbours?
How does the neighbourhood school rank?
Some of this information may be difficult to get on your own.
A good REALTOR® can help you.
Closing day is an exciting time. After all, you’re moving into your new home! However, it can be stressful as well.
The last thing you need is to be confronted with something you don’t understand. So here is a quick list of common “closing day” terms.
Disbursements. This is the allocation of funds to the appropriate parties, such as the seller. Your lawyer will take care of this for you.
Possession. This is the moment on closing day when you are legally able to take possession of your new home. It’s usually when your REALTOR® or lawyer hands you the keys.
Title. This is a legal document that identifies the property and its owner.
Closing costs. These are expenses, excluding the selling cost of the property, that are due on closing day, such as legal fees, reimbursement for pre-paid utilities, utility deposits, insurance, and taxes.
Closing adjustments. These are expenses pre-paid by the seller that need to be reimbursed on closing.
There may be other terms you come across on closing day as well. Don’t worry, a good REALTOR® can help make the day go smoothly for you and your family.
Looking for a good REALTOR®?
Do you have a renovation project in mind – and wonder how much value it will add to your home?
Remodeling Magazine recently did a study of renovation projects, comparing costs to added value. Here are some of the results:
Replacing a main entry door has a return on investment of over 95%. After all, the entrance to a home is one of the first things a prospective buyer notices.
Adding a new deck also adds a lot of value. Depending on the materials used, you can expect to get back three-quarters of the money invested.
Another high-payback project is the garage door. This once again demonstrates the importance of a home’s “curb appeal.”
If you’re tackling a big project, such as a basement renovation, you’ll be glad to know that, according to the study, a project like this adds a lot of value.
Finally, minor improvements to bathrooms and kitchens – such as adding new countertops or cupboards, can also be good investments that mostly pay back when you sell your home.
Of course, these figures are averages and can vary widely depending on location, type of property, and other factors.
Need help determining how a particular home improvement might impact the selling price?
If you’re relaxing on a Caribbean beach, or enjoying a bus tour through historic Paris, the last thing you want to worry about is your home.
Most people know the basics of keeping a home secure while away. Here are some additional tips that are easy to miss:
Tell your kids not to boast about your fabulous vacation plans, especially on social media. The fewer who know that the house will be empty, the better.
Ask a neighbour to pick up any mail and flyers dropped at your doorstep. But don’t rely on that alone. Also call the newspaper and post office to temporarily halt delivery.
You can buy timers to automatically turn lights on and off. However, most will stop working if the power goes out and restart with the incorrect time when the power comes back on. That’s why you should keep at least a couple of lights turned on continuously, and not connected to timers.
If you’re leaving in the evening, or before dawn, don’t forget to open the blinds. Closed blinds during the day are a dead giveaway that the owners are away.
Finally, experts recommend creating a home security checklist, so you don’t forget anything. That will give you peace-of-mind.
Usually when you list your home, you would prefer to sell it quickly. It’s like being the first one served at a crowded ice cream parlour. It’s satisfying.
However, sometimes there’s more to it than that. There may be a truly urgent reason why you need to find a buyer for your property as soon as possible, such as a sudden job relocation.
If that’s the case, it’s important to explain your situation to your REALTOR®, who will be able to put together an action plan for selling your home quickly and for the best price possible.
During that conversation, ask what you can do to help the process along. For example, you may be able to:
Spread the word to your friends and other connections on Facebook.
Canvass your neighbours and tell them about your listing.
Stage your home so that it’s more attractive to prospective buyers.
When it comes to price, be prepared to be flexible. That doesn’t mean you must settle for a price far below your home’s market value. However, you do need to be prepared to accept a good offer rather than try to hold out for a great one.
Also be open to as many viewings and open houses as possible. Having many prospective buyers come through your home within a short period of time may be a little inconvenient, but the payoff might be an offer!
Finally, work with your REALTOR®. A good REALTOR® will know the local market well and have many ideas for selling your property fast.
Looking for a good REALTOR® like that?
There are many hidden sources of moisture in your home that can lead to serious problems, such as mould. To keep moisture levels in check, consider these tips:
Bathrooms are an obvious source of moisture build-up. Contractor and TV personality Mike Holmes recommends keeping the fan going for at least a half hour after a shower.
Check regularly for water infiltration around window and door sills, as well as other intakes into the home, such as dryer vents and cable wiring.
Determine the humidity level in your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it should be 30-60%. (Keep in mind that humidity may vary greatly from room to room.)
Regularly inspect caulking around sinks, tubs and showers. Even a tiny break can cause water to leak gradually into the wall or floor, causing damage you may not notice for months.
Clean up wet spills as soon as possible. On hardwood floors especially, water can seep through and become trapped.
Repair leaking faucets, toilets and pipes immediately. A drip can quickly become a shower.
Being mindful of moisture today can help you avoid potentially high repair bills later on.
If you’re thinking of shopping for a new home, one of the first considerations is price range. You want to know what you can reasonably afford.
How do you figure that out?
First of all, you need to determine the initial out-of-pocket costs you will need to cover. There are often more costs associated with purchasing a home than its actual price.
You need to take into account such additional expenses as moving costs, legal fees, and a home inspection, not to mention the costs of prepping your current property for sale.
Experts say you should budget 5-10% above the purchase price for these items. So if you can afford to spend $470K on a new home, you should be shopping in the $425-445K range.
Another factor to consider are the potential proceeds from the sale of your current home. Your REALTOR® can help you determine how much your property will likely sell for in today’s market.
Any existing mortgage will need to be subtracted from that amount to determine how much cash will be left.
Of course, you should speak to a mortgage broker or lender who can compute how much of a mortgage you qualify for. Remember, qualifying for a big mortgage doesn’t necessarily mean you should have one. You also need to consider your personal finances and desired lifestyle – and whether or not having a large mortgage is a good idea for you.
Once you have gathered all of your information, you can add any potential sale proceeds to the amount of mortgage you qualify for, add other sources of cash available for this purpose and subtract 5-10% for initial expenses, and you’ll have an idea of the price range you should be considering.
Finally, it’s important to take the time to decide what kind of home you want. Do you want a large backyard with trees? A quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood? Four bedrooms and a finished basement?
Once you decide what you want most in a new home, it becomes much easier to find one that’s in your price range.
Need help deciding how much you can afford when shopping for a new home?
One of the most important decisions you make when selling your home is setting the listing price. That can be tricky. After all, if you price your property too low, you leave money on the table — perhaps thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, if you price your home too high, many buyers won’t even bother to see it, believing it is too expensive.
Even with that reality, there are some sellers who contemplate setting a high listing price in the hopes of a windfall. They want some unsuspecting buyer to fall in love with the home and buy it — even though it’s overpriced.
That rarely, if ever, happens.
Instead, the listing often languishes on the market because its listing price is conspicuously much higher than its market value.
Think about it. If two similar homes, side-by-side, are for sale, and one is priced $40,000 higher than the other, wouldn’t you wonder what was going on?
That’s exactly what the market thinks. “Why is that home priced so high?”
Of course, many buyers, who might otherwise be interested in the property, won’t even consider seeing it, simply because it’s outside their price range.
It gets worse. When an overpriced home sits on the market with no offers for several weeks, the price will often need to be adjusted down. That helps the situation a little. However, you’ve lost the excitement created by a “new listing.”
Yours is now an old listing struggling to get attention.
There’s a better way...
Setting your list price at or near the market value is much more likely to generate interest from qualified buyers and maximize how much you make on your home.
That market value may even be higher than you think! Interested in finding out how much?
Many homeowners think there’s not much they can do about telephone, heating, water and other utility expenses. Sure, you may grumble about a high heating bill one month, but what can you do about it?
Turns out, you can do plenty. There are several ways to reduce monthly utility costs that can save you tens or even hundreds of dollars. For example:
Shop around for a better phone plan. Then contact your phone company. They might match the rates.
Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. You likely don’t need tap water to be that hot.
Clean the screen on your outside air conditioning unit regularly. (Gently with the water hose.) Dirt and leaves can build up on it, reducing the unit’s efficiency.
Leverage the sun. Open curtains in the winter to gain heat. Block direct sunlight in summer to keep the cool air inside.
Scrutinize your bill. There may be extras you’re paying for that you don’t need.
Play with the thermostat. Experiment with setting the temperature a couple of degrees lower. You might not notice any difference.
It’s worth paying attention to your utility costs. Just a few smart moves can save you some serious money.
You may love animals, but with the exception of your family pets, you don’t want them in your home. Here are some tips for keeping the wildlife around your property where it belongs: outside.
Don’t place bird feeders too close to your windows. Doing so may cause birds to associate a window with food and therefore try to peck their way inside.
Make sure window screens are secure. If you can push a screen loose with your hand, so can a bird or other animal.
Check screens on dryer vents and chimneys. If they are damaged, fix or replace them.
To determine how animals are entering your home, stuff wadded paper in the suspected entry point. If the paper is disturbed the next day, you’ll know where they got in.
Never leave food outside, unattended. After a barbeque, for example, take all remaining food inside.
If you do find an animal in your home, never try to pick it up. It may bite or have rabies. Instead, call a professional.
When would you talk to a car salesperson? Probably only once you’re ready to buy a new car. You would do some initial research (perhaps on the internet), get an idea of what you want, and then go to the dealership to meet a salesperson, test drive the car and make the purchase.
Although that approach may work when you’re buying a car, it’s not the best approach when it comes to real estate.
You see, successfully buying or selling a home requires a lot of planning and legwork.
You want the process to go smoothly, the right decisions to be made, and the best possible deal to be negotiated.
After all, this is the purchase and/or sale of your home!
So, the best time to talk to a REALTOR® is as early in the process as possible.
In fact, even if you’re just thinking of buying or selling — and simply want to explore the possibility of making a move sometime this year — you should have a conversation with a good REALTOR®.
A REALTOR® will answer your questions, provide you with the information and insights you need, help you avoid costly mistakes, and make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
When you are ready to buy or sell, having worked with a REALTOR® early in the process will help ensure you get what you want.
So talk to a good REALTOR® when:
• You have a question about the local market.
• You want to know what your home might sell for today.
• You’re interested in checking out homes currently available on the market. • You’re in the midst of deciding whether or not to make a move.
• You’ve decided to buy or sell.
Getting a good REALTOR® on your side early in the game makes everything a lot easier for you.
Looking for a good REALTOR®?
You’ve no doubt noticed the occasional news report about a product being recalled for safety reasons.
For example, a car model with a brake problem, or a children’s toy that, under some circumstances, may cause injury.
You may not know that these news reports are merely the tip of the iceberg.
For each product recall you hear about in the media, there are dozens that get little, if any, publicity.
That means there may be products in your home that have been recalled — and you don’t even know about it. It’s a scary thought.
How do you find out about recalled products that may affect you? Here are two tips.
Alwayscompletetheregistrationthatcomeswithmanyproducts. This is typically done by mailing in a registration card or filling out an online form. When you register, you’ll be alerted by the manufacturer if the product is recalled for any reason.
BothCanadaandtheUnitedStateshaveagenciesthatlistrecalled products on their websites. In Canada it’s the Healthy Canadians website at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca. In the United States it’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.CPSP.gov. It’s a good habit to check these sites every season.
If you discover that a product in your home has been recalled, contact the manufacturer immediately. Never assume that the reason for the recall won’t apply to you.
When you put your home up for sale, you want it to look its best to potential buyers. That’s why you clean, tidy and de-clutter every room.
Some sellers, however, miss the backyard. You need to pay just as much attention to that space as you do to the interior of your home.
The backyard is as important a living space as the family room. To some buyers, even more.
Buyers want to see an attractive backyard space, with the grass cut and the hedges trimmed. The more neat and tidy you can make it, the better.
Be sure to sweep walkways and wipe down patio furniture.
Also, watch out for the following things that buyers do not want to see:
Bags of garage and other waste.
Doggie do-do. (Be sure to stoop and scoop!)
Rakes and other tools piled in the corner.
Cluttered and disorganized storage sheds, pool huts and other
Weeds in the flower beds.
Items stored underneath the deck.
Hoses not stowed neatly.
Electrical outlets and water faucets that don’t work.
These are not difficult issues to fix. Doing so will positively impact the impression the buyer gets of your backyard.
Do you have a backyard that shows particularly well in the summer? Here’s a tip: Take pictures. Those photos will help buyers be able to appreciate how it looks should you list your home in the winter.
Want more tips on making your home show well so that it sells fast?
If you see a haze of condensation on your window, should you be concerned? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on a number of factors.
First of all, an occasional build-up of condensation is normal and often the result of fluctuating humidity in the home. Usually, it’s nothing to worry about. If you’re using a humidifier, try adjusting the levels. If the humidity is being generated naturally, try placing a dehumidifier nearby. Also, remove any plants and firewood from the area, as they can release a surprising volume of moisture into the air.
Do you see moisture in between the panes of glass that make up the window? If so, that means the seal has failed and moisture has crept in. Double and triple pane windows often contain a gas (argon, for example) that boosts the insulating qualities of the window. When the seal fails, the gas disappears, making the glass colder and often allowing condensation to creep in. Eventually, you’ll want to get it replaced.
If you see moisture build-up anywhere on the frame of the window, particularly at the joints, that could be a sign of water leaking through. That’s an issue you should get checked out immediately by a window contractor.
If you take care to price your home correctly — that is, at a price that is in line with what similar properties in the area have sold for recently — then you have a good chance of selling it at or near your asking price.
That doesn’t mean you won’t get a low-ball offer. You might. So what do you do when that happens?
First, understand that the buyer may not necessarily be trying to steal away your home at a bargain-basement price. He might simply be mistaken about its true market value. Of course, he might also be coming in at a low price in the hopes he’ll get lucky.
You will never actually know the buyer’s motives. So it would be a mistake to get angry or dismiss the offer out-of-hand. That low-ball offer might end up being the beginning of a negotiation that results in you selling your home at a good price.
Your first step is to work with your REALTOR® to determine:
How serious the buyer is.
How qualified the buyer is. (For example, does he have a pre-
How amenable the buyer is to a counter-offer that reflects the true
market value of your home.
What that counter-offer should be.
This isn’t an easy process. It takes knowledge and experience to get it right. That’s why working with a good REALTOR® is essential.
Looking for a REALTOR® who is an expert at this stuff?
There are many reasons why the air quality in your home may not be at its best. A faulty furnace or an aged carpet are just two potential culprits.
Until you get those issues addressed, how do you make your indoor air healthier — today?
Here are some ideas:
Check the furnace filter. This is one of the most overlooked maintenance items in the home. Any furnace repair person can tell you stories about filters they’ve seen caked in dust. Make sure those aren’t yours. Air passes through those filters before circulating throughout your home. Replacing a filter takes less than five minutes.
Clean the drains. Drains are a surprisingly common source of odour in the home. Most people only clean them when they’re clogged, but they should be flushed thoroughly with a good-quality cleaner at least once a season.
Turn on the bathroom fan. Not only do bathroom fans remove odour, they also reduce moisture build-up. About 50% of air pollutants originate from some type of moisture; mould being the worst. Professionals recommend you keep the bathroom fan on for at least 30 minutes after a shower.
Clean your doormat. Even if your doormat doesn’t smell, it can be a source of air pollutants. When people wipe their shoes, they transfer pesticides and other outside ground pollutants from their shoes to your mat.
Of course, you can always open a window. That’s the most popular way to freshen the air, and it works.
Say you’re viewing a home and are impressed with how it looks. The walls are freshly painted. Everything seems bright and new. You’re considering making an offer.
Then, while standing on a mat in the kitchen, you hear a squeak below your feet. You lift the mat and see that some tiles are broken. Obviously the mat was there to, literally, cover up that defect.
A few broken tiles are not a big deal. But now you’re thinking, “What else might be wrong with this house?”
There’s no reason to worry that every home will have maintenance issues hidden from view. However, it’s smart to do your due diligence to ensure the home you’re considering is truly as good as it looks.
One way is to have a professional home inspector check out the property as a condition of your purchase offer. He or she will inspect the home from top to bottom, inside and out, and point out any issues you should address.
It’s also smart to ask questions. Find out the age of certain features, such as the roof, furnace, and appliances. Ask about any recent renovations, and determine whether they were done by a professional or by the homeowner.
Most importantly, work with a good REALTOR® who can provide you with information on the property that you would have difficulty getting on your own.
Your REALTOR® has a stake in making sure you buy a home with your eyes wide open — knowing all the potential maintenance issues you’re likely to encounter.
Want to talk to a good REALTOR®?
More fires start in the kitchen than in any other room. Those fires can be expensive; since even a minor incident, with no injuries, can result in significant damage. That’s why it’s important to keep up with the latest in fire prevention.
The most recent research tells us:
Never leave cooking food unattended. Doing so is the number one cause of kitchen fires.
Make sure cooking appliances, especially deep fryers, are safety certified by the appropriate government agency.
When using oil in a frying pan, always heat slowly at no more than a medium heat setting.
Always turn off stove burners and other cooking appliances immediately after cooking.
Never attempt to put out a grease fire with water. Use baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
Never remove or cover up a smoke detector due to nuisance alarms. The one alarm that isn’t a nuisance may save your life.
Finally, experts say that if you can’t put out a fire immediately, get everyone out of the home and call emergency services.
As you’re probably aware, the list price you set for your property has an impact on how quickly it sells — and how much you earn on the sale.
What you may not realize is just how significant an impact it has. Consider the following examples.
You price your property well above its current market value. As a result, many buyers don’t bother to see it because it’s outside of their price range. Those who do see it are confused by the high price tag, (and may even be suspicious.) They may wonder, “What’s going on?”
In this scenario, the home will likely languish on the market for weeks or even months. You might even have to lower the price dramatically to re- ignite interest.
You price your property just a couple of percentage points lower than what is necessary to gain the interest of qualified buyers. That might not seem like much of a problem. How much can a couple of percentage points matter?
Those points matter a lot.
On a $400,000 property, pricing your home just 2% lower than necessary could cost you $8,000 on the sale. That’s a serious amount of money!
So, as you can see, pricing your home right is serious business. Fortunately, a good REALTOR® knows how to set the right price.
Looking for a good REALTOR®?
Home safety is more than locked doors and alarms
When it comes to home security, most homeowners think about door locks and alarms. These are, of course, very important. However, there is also a lot you can do around your property to prevent the possibility of a break-in.
One important part of home security is outdoor lighting. Your home doesn't need to be lit up like a baseball diamond at night, but your exterior lighting should illuminate your yard enough to be a deterrent to burglars.
Some burglars hide around the property and wait for someone to arrive and open the door so they can use that opportunity to force their way into your home.
Security experts suggest that you walk around your property and look for areas where someone could hide, such as behind tall shrubbery like a cedar hedge or behind a tool shed. Make sure these areas are well lit.
Pay particular attention to lighting around exterior doors, especially the back door.
Home security experts also recommend that exterior lighting be installed with a timed dimmer. The lights can then be set to cast a bright light in the early evening, and then a dimmer light throughout the rest of the night.
Lights installed with motion detectors can also be effective in certain areas. The sensors will cause the light to turn on or brighten when someone comes onto that part of your property. Generally, thieves will flee as soon as they see a light turn on.
Do you hide a spare key under the front door mat or in a flower pot? No matter how clever you think you are, experienced thieves know all the common hiding places. So, if you need to have a spare key available, put it in a small combination lock box and hide the box. That way, if a burglar finds the box, he still won't be able to open it and access the key.