10 Upgrades Your Home Needs

Whether you are concerned about resale value or have just purchased your home and want to make some improvements, there are some upgrades that are more worth your time and money than others. We have compiled a list of ten upgrades every homeowner should consider, based on both the eventual return on investment for resale/home equity and the immediate impact to your enjoyment of your house.

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Kitchen

The kitchen and bathroom are the two biggest areas to make or break your resale value. Many experts recommend any homeowner looking to upgrade should start with the kitchen.

There are many options upgrading your kitchen on many different budgets:

  • Upgrade to stainless steel appliances
  • Re-stain or paint your cupboards
  • Update your hardware
  • Invest in a quiet, quality dishwasher
  • Add a kitchen island, if space permits

Paint

Giving the interior (or exterior) of your house a fresh coat of paint is an easy and instant way to give it a facelift, both aesthetically and financially. Choose fresh, modern colours that will rejuvenate and lighten up the area.

If you have the budget for it, hiring a painter is a great way of getting the job done quickly and to a high quality. However, interior painting is not a difficult task for the amateur DIY-er. You can also do just one room at a time, which is not only a more budget-friendly option but allows you to slowly get the whole house done yourself and skip the expensive professional.

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Lighting

Again, the kitchen and bathrooms are big when it comes to home value. If you’re looking to improve your home’s lighting, it’s a good idea to start with those rooms.

The experts suggest you focus on overhead and task lighting for the majority of your upgrades. It’s also great to grab as much natural light as possible, especially in areas like the living room and bedrooms.

HVAC

Upgrading your HVAC system not only is great for resale, but can save you money on your utility bills, having an immediate impact on your wallet.

If your system is a bit older, get it up and running smoothly again. However, replacing an outdated system with a more modern version – especially “green” options like solar power – will give a major boost if/when you put it on the market.

Some places also offer tax breaks and rebates for HVAC upgrades, which is definitely something worth looking into.

Attics & Basements

Your attic may be often ignored but it’s a great place to get some bang for your buck. Upgrading or replacing its insulation with a good-quality fiberglass can save money on heating and A/C and is a major boost to your home value.

If you’ve been thinking about remodelling your basement, it’s time to commit. Finishing and modernizing your basement is a draw on the real estate market, plus you can find more space to utilize and enjoy.

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Flooring

If your house is full of carpets, a great upgrade would be to make a switch. Hardwood floors never go out of style and are a great investment for any home.

Is budget a concern? Start with replacing the flooring in the communal areas – kitchen, living rooms, etc. – to make the most impact right away.

Appliances

Your appliances could be costing you a fortune. Wherever possible, you want to be making sure you have the most energy-efficient appliances available.

Two appliances to especially focus on are your washing machine and water heater. Tankless water heaters are suggested as long as they are in your budget.

Outdoor Living

More and more people are wanting to create and enjoy an outdoor living space for their home. Whether it is a deck, screened porch or patio, a well-designed outdoor living space can add quite a bit of value into your home.

Just make sure to consider seasonal weather patterns and how they will affect your use of the space. For those of us constantly dealing with the colder weather, built-in fireplaces are all the rage!

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Closets

Take a look around your house and find any unused or under-used areas. You might want to strongly consider turning those areas into more closet space. In the world of home value, there seems to be no such thing as too much closet space!

Even if you can’t actually add more closets, consider how you are using your closet space. Investigate storage options to make the most of every nook and cranny. Add lighting. Update the hardware. And one thing many people overlook – repaint.

Electrics

A great upgrade is to add more outlets to increase the convenience and comfort of your home. One popular suggestion is adding ‘his and hers’ outlets on either side of the bed. You may also want to consider adding more outlets in the kitchen to increase appliance use; adding outlets within pantry spaces can help get your small appliances cleared off the countertop.

Our last piece of upgrade advice is to add extra outlets in the garage, particularly for an extra fridge or freezer that can be stored out there. This adds great convenience – which translates into value – for any home.

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Every Picture Tells a Story: The Importance of Photography When Selling

They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and when you’re selling your home, that truth will make the difference between a quick sale and another home sitting on the market for longer than it should.  The lasting impression a good photo leaves on your potential buyer is one of the most effective ways to convey value and desirability.

With 80% of buyers starting their house hunt online, it’s more important than ever to make sure you present your property in its best light.

One of our agents had TWO photographers go through the SAME property (24 hours apart). One was Donna Beckman, our Virtual Tour/IGuide expert, the other one was a popular local photographer.

None of the photos were edited by our office, each are how they appeared when they arrived. 

Donna Beckman Real Estate Virtual Tour:IGuide expert

According to Realtor.com, a company working closely with real estate agents in the U.S. did a study and found that homes featuring professional photography sold 50% faster and were viewed 118% more than comparable listings without professional photos.

If hiring a professional photographer is not in your budget, keep these tips in mind.

Before you photograph:

  • Use the correct equipment
    • A digital SLR provides you with settings and lenses
      • Take your camera off AUTO, learn to use the other settings and shutter speeds
      • Invest in different lenses, including a wide-angle
      • Invest in professional lighting including off-camera flash
    • A tripod
  • Prepare the house
    • Otherwise known as “Staging”, make sure the home is clutter-free and clean.

While you photograph:

  • Use as much natural light as possible
    • Open the curtains and turn on all the lights. Don’t rely on the built-in flash, it can often cast unwanted shadows and reflections off glass surfaces.
  • Choose the best angles and compositions
    • Check your verticals! a photo that is slightly off-kilter could cause people to wonder what’s wrong with the space. Never shoot from chest height or above, unless you’re 5’4″ or under. When taking the photo, fill the image with the contents, watch out for photos with too much dead space.

 

After you photograph:

  • Edit your photos
    • Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Picmonkey, and Ribbet are a few photo editing software or online options available.

If that seems like too much work for yourself to have to worry about, check out your local listings for a professional photographer who is experienced in architecture / real estate photography. If you’re in southwestern Ontario, we highly recommend Donna Beckman from Homeplan Virtual Tours.

What You Should Know about Purchasing a Home in the Fall and Winter

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As with anything, there are busier and slower times to the real estate markets. Spring and summer are often bustling, while autumn and winter can be considered “off season” by many. If you are in the market for a new home, though, there can be distinct advantages to purchasing in the fall and winter.

  1. You may be able to find a good deal. Homes that were listed in the spring and summer are sometimes overpriced in the excitement of the busy season. Those that remain for sale may now be priced more equitably or even under-priced as sellers become more anxious to sell.
  2. You may have less competition in the home buying arena. Most people with younger children want to buy prior to the beginning of the school year. Millennials, singles, baby boomers, and those without children can use this to their advantage.
  3. Sellers are generally highly motivated at this time of year. They usually would like to sell before the holiday season is in full swing and they may be trying to take advantage of a tax gain or loss before year end.
  4. Homes often don’t show as well as they do in spring and summer. The landscaping isn’t as vibrant and again this often motivates sellers. However, the lack of landscaping is a distinct advantage to the buyer as it is much more difficult to hide a house’s flaws behind the foliage and plant life. You are far more likely to be able to see any cracks or other defects in the façade.

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What are some things you need to consider when purchasing a home in the fall or winter?

  1. Be sure to check on things that you might normally forget in the fall and winter – like the air conditioner. Remember to ask about it – does the house have one, is it in good working condition, how old is it? Look it over and see if the filter has been changed recently, does it appear to be in good condition or is it beginning to rust, does it make funny noises when turned on? Check out the ductwork and vents – is air flowing through evenly?
  2. Think about the drainage system. Even in fall and winter, you may still be able to see areas of water pooling which could indicate a problem.
  3. Consider the slope of the driveway. How easily is it navigated on an icy day? Check out the sidewalk and walkway to your home. Also look at the pitch of the yard. Are there any slopes heading towards the house? This could mean trouble in the spring when the snow begins to melt as it could drain right into your basement and cause flooding.
  4. Remember that if you purchase a property with a body of water – living on the edge of a lake or having a pond on your land – that water will attract more insects such as mosquitoes. Just something to consider before purchasing as you won’t see those bugs in the winter when you’re looking at the property.
  5. What are the windows like? Fortunately, in fall and winter, you are likely to be able to check them out for how well they keep drafts out of the home. Unfortunately, if you discover an issue in the fall, you may not have time to have it taken care of and new windows installed before winter.
  6. Check out the roof. If it’s covered by snow, ask for documentation of how recently it has been replaced and of course, have your home inspector check this out for you as well. If the home has a fireplace, be sure to check out the chimney as well.
  7. Which way does the house face? It’s hard to tell how much light you will get coming into your home and to your gardens in the fall and winter when it tends to be overcast anyway. Take a compass in with you and find out for sure!
  8. Speaking of the lack of light in fall and winter, try to schedule your visit during the day when you can properly see the house and any of its flaws.

Although there are factors you need to consider when making a home purchase in the fall or winter, there can certainly be some advantages to it as well that make it well worthwhile.

 

 

 

Infographic – 20 Ways to Add Curb Appeal to your Home

You know what they say about first impressions! Certainly, when selling your home, you need to make sure that the outside looks inviting or prospective buyers might just drive on by without even stopping to take a walk through. Even if you aren’t selling your home, we all want our homes to look great inside AND out. Some of the issues preventing us from having homes with beautiful curb appeal are glaring and obvious but it’s easy to overlook others – especially when our homes are something we look at every day.

Think about your roof, chimney, gutters, windows and trim. What does your driveway look like? How about your front door? Perhaps you need a new paint job, a few simple repairs, or maybe some landscaping. If you’re selling your home, your real estate agent can be a valuable source of advice on how to make your home look as appealing as possible from the first moment a prospective buyer sees it.

This infographic courtesy of Build Direct will get the ball rolling with 20 good ideas for improving the curb appeal of your home.

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Buying Your First Home – What You Should Know Now

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Buying your first home is such an exciting time but it can be filled with questions and if you aren’t fully prepared, there can be unexpected problems to deal with.

We polled some of our favourite bloggers and asked them, “What do you know now that you wish you had known before you bought your first home?”

Brittany of The Modern Mommy and Jennifer of Mom vs. the Boys both stress hiring a reputable home inspector as they shared similar stories of home inspections gone wrong. A home inspector who seemed credible was hired but he missed all the cracks in the foundation. Within 2 months of moving into the home, the entire basement flooded. They sued the inspector for damages and won but wish that they had looked further into his credentials and references.

Stacie of Simply Stacie echoes their thoughts and says to always be sure to make the sale conditional on the home inspection so you can walk away if needed.  She also says to be sure to find out how much the property taxes are so you can add that into your budget. And, if you rely on the internet (for example, if you work from home), be sure to look into services available ahead of time. Some regions aren’t as technologically established as others.

Kathryn of Mommy Kat and Kids spoke of many friends who were in for a big surprise when they bought their homes because they weren’t prepared for many of the costs of home ownership. Utilities are expected but having to pay homeowners’ insurance and property taxes on top of the mortgage payment can come as a shock when you’re not used to it.

Paula of Product Junkie wishes that she had known more about the pros and cons of buying a new home in winter. The backyard of her home was covered in snow and when the spring thaw came, there were surprises back there that they hadn’t know about before.  Cathy of Cathy Thinking Out Loud agrees with Paula. She says if considering a purchase in the winter, don’t let the snow deter you from checking the outside of the house as thoroughly as possible. Go in the backyard and look around!

Julie of Sober Julie was that she was lucky. She was looking at a century home and was able to find a reputable home inspector who actually specialized in homes of this type. He caught some issues with the foundation that were hidden and could have been missed by a regular home inspector. This issue would have cost them $40,000. She also advises, based on her experience, that you should assume anything you can’t see could be an issue. So, along with hiring a good inspector, be sure to have check the lot plans with the town to see any sewers and other such items you might not be aware of.

She also stresses the importance of checking not only the house, but the neighbourhood as well. Look into local school performance ratings and the number of police calls in the area.

Margarita of DownshiftingPRO suggests you drive by the property at all times of day. Is it a well lit street? What does the house look like at night? What do the other houses in the area look like?

She also says she never thought about all the closing costs – the cost of lawyers, home inspection, bank costs for home appraisal, the cost of the deed transfer and so on. These can really add up and you need to be prepared.

Shari of The Knit Wit by Shair says to look at everything. Look up and check the ceiling, carefully check the paint job, and question any inconsistencies you see. Open up appliances and look inside.

She also suggests that you get pre-approved for a mortgage but then, look for a home under that amount by as much as you comfortably can. Her family was pre-approved by $50,000 more than what they spent – if they had gone with the pre-approval amount, they never would have been able to handle the mortgage along with all the other expenses like property taxes and home maintenance. Note: Remember to plan ahead for other possibilities like a loss of job or unexpected medical expenses that could affect your ability to afford your home. 

Shannon of Shasher’s Life says that before buying a brand new build, you need to factor in the cost of landscaping. Trees, fences, and decks can all be expensive. She also suggests that if you’re purchasing a home in a new development, you should check the plans for future development. Friends of hers purchased a home on a dead end street not realizing that the city had plans in place to open it up as a main artery.

Deanna of Maple Leaf Mommy suggests that you ask to see the hydro bills for both winter and summer. Her family bought a home with a pool but had only seen fall and winter bills. She says, “Imagine my surprise when I discovered just how much the summertime bills were, with the air conditioning and pool pump. I about fainted.”

Kim of Tales of a Ranting Ginger suggests you look into local building permit laws before buying. She bought a home with plans to add on, not realizing permits would have so many hoops to jump through and so many restrictions on them.

Melanie of MBA Mama Musings suggest that there can be problems with buying the biggest/nicest/most expensive home in the area as property taxes can increase rapidly and resale becomes quite difficult. She also advises that you become familiar with MPAC and the house valuations in the area to make sure the house you’re buying is assessed fairly.

Ann of Kick-Ass Living says she bought a condo on her own and unknowingly broke 3 rules within the first month she lived there! She stresses the importance of reading through all of the condo rules carefully before purchasing. And don’t forget to factor in those condo fees!

Cyn of Creative Cynchronicity echoes Ann’s ideas and adds on that as with buying any home, it’s crucial that you have a budget set aside for home maintenance. She had planned ahead for the condo fees but didn’t realize that the condo corporation was just in the process of adding an additional assessment to take care of a much needed roof replacement for the whole complex. Her condo fees for the first two years that she lived there were three times what she had anticipated.

Jennifer of One Heart One Family says, “Don’t buy for now. Think of the future.” She says that their two bedroom home looked like plenty of space until they had two kids. Note: according to Trulia, 34 per cent of homeowners wished they had chosen a larger home.

Carla of Working Mommy Journal says that when checking out the neighbourhood look for all the things you’ll need while living there. How close are the schools and day care centers? Is there a bus stop nearby? What about grocery stores, fitness centers, libraries, or walk-in clinics? Anything of importance to you should be considered. Note: According to Trulia, 15 per cent of homeowners wish they had chosen a home closer to work. 

Merry of Merry About Town says to make sure to get a real property report. A seller who is reluctant to do one is a big red flag. Also, know that if there’s a “future school” listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will build a school there in a timely manner.

Kyla of Mommy’s Weird wishes she knew that she could negotiate more with her mortgage.

Julie of Coffee with Julie reminds us not to let those rose coloured glasses and excitement of purchasing a first home get in the way of a careful, detailed look at each and every room in the house. They were so over the moon about buying a home that they didn’t realize until after they moved in that none of the bedrooms had doors on them! Note: RECO found that 21% of home owners wish they had looked at more options before choosing to buy. 

Bottom line – Be as prepared as you possibly can and build in some contingency plans because surprises do happen.  One of the best ways to ensure that you are informed buyers well prepared for what’s ahead is to start by choosing a good real estate agent. We can help with that.

If you’re a home owner, what do you wish you had known before buying?

Privacy Considerations When Selling Your House

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It’s an odd feeling, having potential buyers walking through your house to get a feel for it. You want to sell, but in the meantime you still hold ownership. When you’re ready to start showing your home, you may feel apprehensive about the process. With these straightforward precautions in place, you can preserve your privacy while also effectively showing your home.

Remove Photographs
Start packing up photographs, diplomas, yearbooks and baseball trophies early on in the game. You don’t need to leave information about your life lying around; it’s not going t help sell your house. Seeing too much of the life you’ve built in your home leaves potential buyers focused on what type of people you are, instead of focusing on the condition of your home.

Clear Out Closets and Cupboards
A desk or dresser drawer isn’t really fair game (though you may want to err on the side of caution when it comes to inviting strangers to your home), but structural parts of the house such as cupboards and closets or kitchen drawers are bound to be inspected. Even if you’re in a hurry to sell, you need to take the time to empty any and all personal effects from these areas in your house.

Protect Your Mail
There are plenty of reasons not to leave your mail in an easily located spot, but one of the main reasons is that your mail can contain sensitive information about your financial affairs or the value of your home. Protect these assets as though they were cash.

As a seller, your objective is to create a staged home that says nearly nothing about your life or personality. This means that you should basically remove all trace of yourself from the place that you live, which is difficult but beneficial. If your house offers insight into the life that you’ve lived while inside it, it’s saying more than you want it to.