Monthly Archives: September 2016

More Information About Summer Home Sales

r3With landscaping in full bloom, sunshine sparkling off a water feature or a pool, and the lawn a deep, inviting green, it’s easy to see why summer is a splendid time to sell. The warm weather and long afternoons cast the entire home in an attractive, golden light and showcase sunrooms, porches and decks—areas that shoppers would quickly pass over during the colder months. As well, families have extra leisure time to explore potential homes and vacation properties. Summer has all the elements of a perfect time to list with a few cautions. Consider this checklist:

1. Lawn and garden: A lush lawn and vibrantly-coloured flowers are key elements in curb appeal. If you don’t have a green thumb, pick up a fresh supply of annuals for your flower beds at your local nursery. Attractive potted plants can emphasize walkways and the front entrance. Avoid a collection of small pots; larger pots tend to look better and the soil will stay moist longer. To quickly bring some green into your lawn and plants, use bone meal. Refer to the package directions for quantity information then use only half that amount. Dissolve the granules in water overnight then mix it with enough water to cover the required area. This will quickly deliver nitrogen and phosphorus to your plants. Realistic artificial lawns are becoming a popular option for anyone wishing to save time and resources on grass cutting, watering, fertilizing and aerating.
2. Outdoor living areas: Few things can compare to a warm afternoon on the deck enjoying a barbeque and a dip in the pool. For anyone moving up from a condominium, your backyard oasis can be especially appealing! In some cases, a beautiful backyard is the deciding factor in a sale. Be sure that the deck is clean and painted or stained, if required. Cracks in concrete should be filled and sealed. Wipe down the barbeque splatter area. If your patio furniture is looking worn and weathered, consider replacing it or reupholster in a modern fabric. Be sure that gardening equipment and children’s toys are stored neatly.
3. Indoor/outdoor living space: On a hot day, a veranda or porch offers a breezy, shaded space while an enclosed sunroom is bright, warm and mosquito-free. These areas deserve care and attention when preparing a home for sale. Too often, clutter begins to build up and boxes of belongings make it difficult to enjoy the spaces as originally intended. Give these indoor/outdoor rooms a clean sweep, accessorize, wash the windows and add a fresh coat of paint.
4. ‘Summerize’ your indoor space: This relaxed time of year creates very positive feelings for most people so why not extend those sentiments to the indoors? Fresh flowers and bowls of fruit are simple ways to add colour and vitality. If your décor is generally dark, consider how you might brighten it up. For example, a cheery bedspread, pillows, attractive slipcovers for a couch or chairs, and a new area rug all add summery charm on a budget. Open the blinds or curtains during showings to make the rooms seem airy and spacious. Be sure that out-of-season decorations are tucked away.
5. Allergens: Chances are that some potential buyers who tour your home will be sensitive to dust, pet dander, pollen and/or chemicals. Simply walking across a carpet can send up microscopic particles that trigger a reaction. Wipe down surfaces with a duster that traps particles. Use a Hepa filter vacuum cleaner to capture allergens. Keep pets outside as much as possible and brush them outdoors to help keep their coats clean. When it comes to reducing plant pollen, it can be challenging. An international study conducted over several years by the Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in the United States determined that climate change is extending the timeframe when plant pollens fill the air, which extends the allergy season for sufferers. For indoor flower displays, choose low-pollen options such as roses, lilies, geraniums and tulips. Outdoors, pull out weeds or keep them trimmed so that they will not produce pollen. To reduce chemical sensitivities, use natural air fresheners (e.g., a squirt of fresh lemon juice added to cleaning solutions) and avoid artificially-scented sprays and candles.
6. Pests: Summer is the time of year when pests are active and noticeable. Insects, snakes, lizards and small mammals are all part of our natural environment, including backyards. Generally, they are only a concern when they move into our homes. Termites are among the most destructive of these pests. Termites eat not only wood but cloth, carpets, and other cellulosic materials. They also use soft plastics, rubber and plaster to build their nests. Become familiar with the species in your region and watch for signs of activity around porches and siding. A professional extermination is the efficient way to deal with an infestation. Most other pests require an opening to gain access to your home, so ensure that any openings are sealed. Keep garbage tightly closed. If you have fruit-bearing trees or bushes, be sure to collect ripe fruit regularly since it attracts a variety of critters!
These easy changes can make your home more beautiful and healthy—for you, your family and potentially a new owner!

Know More About Rental Vacancy Rates Create Opportunities

According to the most recent rental market information released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC), rental vacancy rates have fallen across the country creating new opportunities for homeowners. At the same time, economists and government officials are predicting economic improvement, which in turn is expected to nudge up mortgage rates. Rental income may become a financial necessity for many households while also providing needed housing.

The average rental vacancy rate in Canada’s 35 major centres decreased slightly to 2.6 per cent in October 2010, from 2.8 per cent in October 2009, according to a survey released CMHC. Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre, attributes the reduction in rental units to improvements in the economy, which allow more people to purchase and rent, and high levels of immigration.

These housing market shifts create opportunities for homeowners, particularly those in communities with the lowest vacancy rates: Winnipeg (0.8 per cent), Regina, Kingston and Québec (1.0 per cent each). At a provincial level, the survey found that Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador posted the lowest vacancy rates at 1.0 per cent or less. These tight rental markets make it much more attractive for homeowners to convert part of their home into secondary suite or add a garden suite. A rental unit can also allow prospective homebuyers qualify for a mortgage when their regular incomes would not be adequate. As a guideline, the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Canada was $860 in 2010 compared to $836 the previous year.

On the other hand, homeowners in Windsor, Abbotsford, Saint John and London are least likely to benefit from adding a rental suite. These Canadian cities have the highest vacancy rates: Windsor (10.9 per cent), Abbotsford (6.5 per cent), Saint John (5.1 per cent), and London (5.0 per cent). At the provincial level, the highest vacancy rates were in Alberta (4.6 per cent) and New Brunswick (4.5 per cent).

Regardless of statistics, many homeowners will continue to add secondary and garden suites for personal reasons. A suite can allow ageing parents to be part of the family and enjoy extra care and assistance when needed. Illness or accident can also create the need for wheelchair accessible housing for family members. The federal government provides some financial compensation for this type of construction (http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/prfinas/). Another common reason for adding a suite is simply to accommodate a growing family. Building an addition in the form of a suite creates space for a child or children now and perhaps a renter in the future.

Investing in a self-contained rental suite can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavour so it is wise to build for the long-term. Quality materials and design will add to the comfort and longevity of the unit and may justify higher than average rent. Lighting, flooring and layout are key considerations. Since many suites are constructed in basements or rooms that are partially below ground, proper drainage and a good subfloor structure can avoid flooding and uncomfortably cold floors. Adequate insulation, particularly in the ceiling and common walls, will give both parties privacy.

Aside from appearance and comfort, homeowners need to consider municipal guidelines for secondary and garden suites. Meeting these guidelines can help to avoid bylaw infractions and also allow homeowners to market their suite as a “legal suite”, which is generally more appealing to renters. Insurance companies should also be informed of the rental unit to avoid costly coverage lapses in the event of a flood, fire or other type of accident.

These important tips will help to protect the financial and physical health of both renters and owners:

– The height of the rooms should meet provincial building codes regulations

– If there are bars on the windows for security, these must be able to be removed or opened from the inside without tools or special knowledge in event of a fire

– Handrails and guards are needed on stairways as outlined in provincial building codes

– There must be at least one exit leading directly to the outdoors

– Occupants of secondary suites must be able to control the temperature of their unit

– A furnace must be separated from the rental unit with a wall

– There must be one smoke detector for each 300 square feet of space (this varies by municipality)

– Carbon monoxide detectors are necessary in suites with fireplaces or those heated by wood-burning stoves or gas furnaces

– Landlords should provide tenants with instructions on testing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors

– The walkways to the suite should be well light and kept clear of snow or other hazards

Once a secondary or garden suite is constructed or renovated, it can provide many years of extra income for relatively little effort. Quality materials and design can help to ensure that the suite remains rented even as vacancy rates fluctuate. A unit in a neighbourhood close to amenities, work centres or a college or university will almost always be in demand.

Let’s Learn About Costs and Value Benefits of Owning a Home

There is no doubt that one of the more pleasant and exciting times for most people is when they have decided to buy a home. This excitement exists whether or not you are buying for the first time or the fourteenth time.

There is no doubt that the experienced home buyer has a relatively good idea as to what it costs to buy a home today. However if it has been a long time since you last bought a home, you may have forgotten or not be aware of the associated costs involved

A lot of people think of the basic costs as legal fees, property tax adjustments, GST in some cases, the cost of movers, the set-up fees for utilities, new window coverings, etc. First timers should also consider home maintenance costs, like tools, a lawn mower, etc. Beyond the basic costs, are major cost factors like replacing flooring and roofs, or making additions. These costs may be necessary to give you everything you want from your new home.

On the opposite side, some buyers may gain a cost benefit from buying a new home. You could buy in a development that has a fitness centre, or a swimming pool. This means no more fitness club dues or transportation worries. Some developments offer more luxurious features like golf privileges or skiing benefits.

Just as the above features offer you a financial and non-financial benefit; there are non-financial costs to look at when buying your house.

A feature you must consider seriously when buying a home is its location. Look at location from many view points and perceptions. A suggested question would be:
where am I going to live relative to …………?

The relative to “what” includes work (my work, my spouses work), established leisure activities (golf membership, hiking trails, night school courses, children’s ballet or music classes), children school or daycare, proximity to family, best friends or the old neighbourhood.

Now to create a more interesting but realistic scenario, take all of the above factors and try to determine the likely disruptions to a perfect schedule.

How often do you or your spouse have to work late or work unusual hours? Does this mean that the public transit you plan to take at commuter time, is only viable 50% of the time? Does this mean that little Mary or John may have to miss a lot of soccer practices, or other activities that they enjoy?

Is the commuting experience likely to leave you too tired (physically or emotionally), when you get home?

How important is the ease of transportation for you, to be able to leave work to pick-up your sick child at school or at daycare?

If grandma or grandpa is in weak health; is being close by a true comfort?

Will you need to make new friends because you will only see our old ones at holiday occasions?

In summary; when buying a home, consider the value of your purchase in relation to the emotional costs imbedded in that purchase. Does a house 25 miles away from where you spend most of your waking hours (at work and with friends) have a non-financial cost? Is being anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes away (depending upon traffic volumes) from a valued and trusted daycare for your child a reasonable cost for you to deal with?

When you buy a home you want to be happy and satisfied on all counts, of which money is only one.

How to Planning for Retirement

Planning for a healthy, enjoyable retirement involves more than saving money. Our homes and the communities where we choose to live also have a significant impact on our quality of life.

Change in Lifestyle

Retirement can be a radical change in lifestyle, particularly for those who have worked outside of the home. When people retire, they often find themselves spending much of their time at home. It can seem like an isolating experience, but retirement can also be a wonderful time to pursue leisure activities. During our working lives, a common complaint is the lack of free time, so plan ahead to enjoy your retirement to the fullest. If you’ve always wanted to see Europe or some other destination, put aside money for travelling. If you enjoy woodworking or creating stained glass, for example, you may want to get started on setting up a workshop in your garage or basement. If you’ve always wanted to try painting, retirement presents the perfect opportunity. You never know – you may just end up being back in business selling your handiwork!

Another way to alleviate the feeling of being isolated is to become more involved in the community. Sharing your time, gifts and talents with others by volunteering can be deeply satisfying. Look under Volunteer Services, Community Services and Social Service in your local Yellow Pages to find organizations in need of volunteers. Going back to school is another way to get involved in the community. It can help maintain mental sharpness and provide a sense of belonging and opportunities for new friendships. Other options include learning a new language, gourmet cooking or learning to play a musical instrument.

Barriers in the Home

Another important aspect to consider is how well your home will age with you. Many of us will experience impaired vision, reduced mobility or reliance on a wheelchair at some point in our lives. These physical limitations may make it difficult for people to remain at home, particularly if their home presents certain obstacles such as stairs or narrow doorways. In some cases, people are forced to leave a home in which they have invested years of memories. By purchasing a home that can age with you and/or making renovations to an existing home, you will be able to enjoy the comforts of your own home for years to come. Consider the following:

Are the doors wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through? Doorways should be a minimum of 82cm (32 inches) wide and all entries should have a flat threshold. Allow a minimum width of 92cm (36 inches) for walkways.
Does your home have a sunken living room? Stairs are difficult or impossible to climb in a walker or wheelchair.
Is there room for a wheelchair in your kitchen? The open floor space should be 1.525 metres by 1.525 metres (5 feet by 5 feet) to allow a wheelchair to easily turn 360 degrees.
Location

Where a person chooses to live can also affect how much they enjoy their retirement years. Having family close by can make it easy for retirees to socialize with children and grandchildren. Close proximity to family means that assistance is nearby when it is needed. Another important source of support and social interaction is the local community. Check into the social programs offered by community centers (and churches, if applicable). Typically, there are numerous activities for seniors such as card games, art classes and trips.

Medical and other services

Proximity to medical services is another important consideration when choosing a location in which to retire. Check into the availability of in-home (or outreach) services such as nursing care and meal delivery. Consider the distance to family doctors and hospitals.

Internet and E-mail

Age is certainly not a limitation to computer usage. Even people who think they are too old to use a computer may find themselves hooked on surfing the net and e-mailing their grandchildren after a few lessons!

The Internet has also become and increasingly important source of information. Business and government offer information online, making it easy for seniors to gather information at their fingertips. Most banks and financial institutions now offer online banking services allowing people to streamline their financial matters. Retirees can look up information about medical conditions and medications and keep informed on the latest research.

One of the best gifts children can give older parents is a computer and some lessons on how to use it. (Lessons are also available at most community centers and at organizations such as the YMCA-YWCA.) Before you know it, they’ll be surfing the net and perhaps playing online card games with new friends around the world.

Advances in medicine and technology mean that people can now enjoy a healthier more active retirement than ever before. With some planning, these truly can be the best years of a person’s life!

Some Tips On Buying Your First Home

r2Here Some tips for you that want to buy the first home:

– Make a list of all the features you want in your new home such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, proximity to schools, shopping and workplace.
– Be sure you can afford your home. Your monthly housing costs should not be more than 32% of your gross monthly income and your entire monthly debt load (which includes other debts such as car loans and credit card payments) should not be more than 40% of your gross monthly income.
– Calculate your other monthly living expenses such as food, clothing, transportation, personals and childcare to ensure you can afford your mortgage payments.
– Call a REALTOR in your preferred area. They are trained professionals with knowledge about local conditions and the housing market in general. Through the Multiple Listings Service they have access to virtually every property listed for sale in the province. Your REALTOR can narrow down your search and provide you with information on properties for sale and those that have recently sold. This will allow you to make informed decisions about pricing. Licensed by the province and members of local real estate boards, REALTORS must adhere to high standards of ethical behavior.
– Obtain a pre-approved mortgage form the lender of your choice. This will help you determine the price range you should be looking in. With a pre-approved mortgage, your lender will guarantee the interest rate for up to 60 days.
– You may wish to have an independent appraisal done of a property before you offer a price. It can keep you from paying more than the market value.
– Ask your REALTOR for a copy of the Property Condition Disclosure Statement. This document is completed by the sellers and ensures the buyer gets complete information about the property they are about to purchase, and alerts buyers when they need to do more research on a property.
– If buying a new or existing condo, look beyond style and amenities and investigate whether the construction is of good quality. You can ask for a copy of the minutes to Strata Council Meetings to determine what kind of problems the condominium has had in the past, and the expenses.
– To assess potential water leakage problems, visit a condominium project immediately after a rainfall and check to see if flat areas such as roof deck and walkways have large pools of standing water on them. All building surfaces except specially designed ponds should drain freely and be immediately clear of water after a rainfall.
– It is always a good idea to have the home inspected from a professional home inspector. An inspector’s written report should include how well-built the home is and whether any repairs are necessary and the estimated costs.
– Don’t forget about other costs when you buy your own home such as legal fees (they will most likely be at least $500), property taxes and the GST (if purchasing a new home).