Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Are you ready?

Hello everyone.  Haven't had a chance to update the blog recently as summer has been crazy busy with house sales and renovation projects.  Been a great summer for real estate.  The market is HOT, HOT, HOT!  It's still very strong so make sure to contact myself if you are looking at selling or buying.

Speaking of summer we had quite a little surprise yesterday.  We went from sunny and +25 to +2 and snow in 24 hrs.  5-10 cms of the white stuff actually.

Enough for my kids to start singing the Disney's Frozen song "Do you want to build a snowman".  Yes, middle of Sept in Calgary.  It is forecast to get hotter (+20) by the weekend again but it also got me thinking...

It is never to soon to start getting ready for.....wait for it.......................winter.  Yes I said that.  There are a few things that as a home owner you want to take care of before the white stuff starts flying to make your home as comfortable as possible.

One of the first things that I strongly recommend, if it's within the budget, is new updated windows.  They will do 2 things for you: give you a great return on investment and make your home much more comfortable.  Buyers love hearing  "This house comes with newly updated windows".  The new windows that are available now are much more efficient than the ones manufactured 10-15 yrs ago.  You have many options available from dual pane to triple pane, low E glass, triple glazing, tinted, metal or vinyl colour matched brickmold for low maintenance, etc.  They will keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Your pocket book will thank you too!

The next thing I recommend is checking the insulation in your attic.  You know that square piece of drywall on your kids bedroom ceiling that you've always wondered about?  It's called an attic access.  Get a flash light, a tall ladder, dust mask and googles, if you like, and push the access up.  Take a look at the insulation.  Is it filled above the joists or does it look like it's settled over the years? 

You would like to optimally see about 14" of insulation to be adequate giving you an R50 value.  If it's less than 8" of blown cellulose you would be at about an R30 or less which would mean you could definitely benefit from adding more.  Again your home will not only be warmer in the winter but it will also be cooler in the summer.  The insulation in the attic keeps all the heat that builds up in your attic from transferring into your home.

Something else that one should also check on a regular basis is your furnace filter.  This is a very inexpensive piece that will definitely benefit from having regular maintenance.  It basically keeps all the dust and other pollutants from getting into your furnace and also your lungs.  Your furnace will last longer and run more efficiently if this is changed periodically.  Studies show that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 - 5 times higher than outdoor levels. 

The typical guideline is every 3 months for changing your furnace filter.  If not, at least twice a winter is highly recommended.  There are other things that may cause you to need to change it more often.  If you are doing construction in your home (sanding drywall or wood projects), if you burn a lot of candles, if you use a wood burning fireplace, if you have pets with hair.  Any of these things can cause your filter to look like the one on the left, in the picture above, much quicker than normal.  Something else that will also help with the overall air quality of your home is to get the ducts professionally cleaned.  You would be amazed at what these guys pull out of your ducts.  Most have some super high powered vacuum system with a rotary brush that they insert into your ducts to suck out the ancient Cheerios and balls of Fluffy hair. 

With these few tips your home can be more comfortable in the coming cold months than before.  Your bank account will like it as well ;)

Stay warm everyone.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Time to Sell!!!

It’s a seller’s market… but that doesn’t mean a house shouldn’t show nice

When listing a house for sale, there have always been a few small efforts that are incredibly worthwhile to make a house look better.  A house that looks better shows better, and the better a house shows the more potential buyers will be able to envision that house as a home.  Granted, this can be difficult if the house is a rental and the tenants are not on board with assisting in showcasing the house, but do what you can!

Cleanliness and clutter. 
Even an outdated place, or a place in disrepair, will show much better if the dishes are put away and beds are made.  If you are planning on moving before your out-of-season clothes are needed, pack them up and see if you can store them at a friend or family member’s house.  Potential buyers will be looking in the closets to assess storage capacity and jam packed spaces are discouraging.  This goes double-whammy for nick-knacks; potential buyers have no attachment to your “stuff”.

Now once your space is a little less cluttered, keep horizontal surfaces wiped clean, floors swept, toys put away.  The better the place looks the quicker it should get sold and the hassle of strangers looking through your home will be over.
Small repairs.

You don’t have to undertake a large scale renovation to sell your home.  Often times, renovation costs are not fully realized in the final selling price of a home, although they can go a long way to make a place stand out against the competition.  If there’s a hole in the drywall, fix it!  Replacing burnt out lights is also important as the first thing people do when entering a room is turn on lights.

Top 10 Checklist before showing your home:

Here is a list of low cost, easy to complete tasks that will make your home more attractive to potential buyers and easier to show for your Relator. 

1: Winter time: Shovel walkways and driveway; Summer time: mow lawn

2: Put away dishes

3: Put away clutter and children’s toys

4: Put away any personal items (ie: credit card bills)

5: Clean bathrooms

6: Remove pets from home and backyard if at all possible

7: Vacuum

8: Briefly light scented candle (cinnamon or vanilla) MAKE SURE TO EXTINGUISH BEFORE YOU LEAVE!  Or use a plugin. 

9: Turn all lights on (replace any burnt out bulbs)

10: Vacate premise half an hour before showing time and stay away half after (in case the potential buyers show up early or take longer to view)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Keep it Cozy

With this recent cold spell, so common for mid-November in Calgary, we are getting a sneak peek of the winter that is in front of us.  The next few months will bring us more snow and more cold, but what else do we expect, this is the Canadian prairie, we’re built for cold, right?
Okay, let’s talk about what I just said; “built for cold”, are we or our homes really prepared for what lays ahead?  Sure, every year we spend hundreds of dollars buying new jackets, boots, mitts and hats for our families so that we are prepared to go out into the cold when we have to; but what about those Saturday mornings when we just want to weather the blizzard inside our cozy home? 

How do we turn this drafty shack into a cozy sanctuary for those occasional Saturday blizzardy mornings when we have no other plans?  Not to mention we are also concerned about those energy bills too, right?  There are quite a few things we can do to stay warm and save a few bucks.

Do you know if you have enough insulation in your attic?  Take a look at your roof on a snowy day.  If it’s not warm and sunny, the snow should not be melting off your roof.  Over time blown in insulation packs down making it less effective.  Getting more insulation blown into the attic is a quick solution if your home’s heat is escaping through the roof. 

Other common problem areas are windows and doors.  While it is not the ideal time of year to replace windows, you can temporarily install plastic window film to get you through the season.  Look at it like a crutch that will get you through the winter, and maybe look into replacing the windows when the snow stops flying.  Though it isn’t ideal some companies do replace windows even in the dead of winter.   The sooner the better.   New Low-E windows will save you literally hundreds of dollars in heating bills and keep you toasty warm.
Weather stripping can be the best investment in fixing a drafty door.  After the wear and tear that we put our doors through on a daily basis, after a few years the exposed weather stripping can become tattered and useless. 

For under $50, bit of time and a few simple tools you can keep the cold out and the warmth in.

Stay warm everyone!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Here come the Holidays

As fall marches on are you starting to make Christmas plans?  Where will the family be gathering this year? Will you be entertaining? Does this scare you a little?

The Home Depot's current commercial has got me thinking with their play on words to call this season 'The Fallidays'. It really is true that in preparing your home for the winter Holiday season, fall is the time to start! If you are planning a full scale renovation or just a couple minor fixes, chances are you will want it all finished and buttoned up before winter entertaining.

Kitchens and bathrooms are common projects to take on in this season. Depending on the magnitude of the project you may be considering, renovating these spaces may take weeks to complete.  With this being said these areas for renovation are a great idea for 2 reasons.  First, kitchens and bathrooms are a good return on investment when it comes to increasing the value of your home as these are the 2 areas that sell houses.  Second, when it comes to entertaining the kitchen tends to be the place where people always congregate during get-togethers.  Take a look next time you have a party or attend one and you'll see what we mean.  And an updated bathroom always wows.

Whichever "sprucing up" you decide on there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind before you start... 

Timeline - as it is nearing the holidays you will want to make sure that you get a commitment from your contractor on finish date.  Give yourself some leeway for any surprises that might arise.

Budget - as with any renovation, unless you've just won the lottery, keep your eye on the dollars.  It's easy to get carried away upgrading this for that and then the next thing you know everyone is getting popcorn for Christmas (not that there is anything wrong with popcorn).

Vision - what do you want the finished product to look like?  Not just the area that you are currently working on, but more importantly how does it tie into the rest of your home?  If you want your new kitchen to have an ultra modern look and feel are you planning on renoing the rest of your house to this same style at some time?

A little planning and fore thought will have your home ready to entertain or allow you to just kick back and relax for the holidays ;)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

It's fall... and that means yard cleanup

It's hard to say goodbye to summer, especially in Calgary where we get such a short amount of it, but there is no denying that fall is upon us.  Now is a good time to do a bit of work around the yard to put it to bed cozy for the winter.

It's a great time to fertilize your lawn with a winterizing fertilizer with a moderate level of nitrogen and high in potassium (the last of the 3 numbers).  The grass should be left a little longer for the winter, think of it as the warm blanket for the roots below, and raise the mower blades to about 7-9 cm.  Rake up fallen leaves or mulch with a mulching mower and leave them in place.  If there is a large layer of thatch, it may be a good idea to aerate or dethatch the lawn.  It's also a great time to put down some grass seed.  Even if it doesn't sprout before the snow flies, it will be laying in wait for springtime!

Now is also the time to plant bulbs such as crocuses, tulips, and daffodils.  Plant them with the tip pointing up in well drained soil.  Generally they should be positioned 3 times deeper than their height.  Note that squirrels may be prone to digging up and eating freshly planted bulbs and deer are fond of them in the spring; since both these critters are common to the Calgary area, you may want to do some additional critter-proofing.

To deter critters from using your materials as their winter nests, wait until the ground is frozen to cover tender perennials with mulch or compost.  Cut out blackened stems and foliage as it dies from overnight frost.  Also remove any diseased foliage as this will weaken the entire plant, and trash it, do not compost!  Attractive seed pods can be left for winter interest as well as to attract birds.

Early fall is a good time to plant new trees, but once the ground freezes it can be hard to deliver the amount of water a new tree needs.  It may also be getting hard to find strong trees from the nursery as they try to clear their stock in the later part of the summer and early fall.  Try to avoid pruning trees in the fall unless absolutely necessary as cuts seem slower to heal and it is such a prevalent time for mildew and fungi.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Tile: Go big or go home!

The trend in tile for bathrooms and kitchens changes regularly just like every other home finishing.  Over the last few years the larger the better has became the trend.  Now the price point for large tiles has made this look become affordable as well.  Don't get too scared off if you are comparing price per tile, instead do the math and compare price based on square foot. 

It's worth noting that many of the larger tiles are also thicker tiles.  This has its pros and cons.  Because they cover a greater space, a thicker tile should be less likely to break.  However, if you are looking at combining different tiles, such as adding a border or inlay, extra care will be required to ensure that the faces of the tiles are all the same level.  A thicker tile may also become an issue if you are tiling up to other surfaces; keep in mind that if you are removing linoleum and replacing with tile that the level of your floor will change and may require a different transition strip into adjoining rooms.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Renovations that give the best return on investment

Are you thinking about listing your home and want to do some renovations to make your home more appealing to purchasers?  Even if you are not looking at selling in the short term it is valuable to consider your home as an investment and therefore return on investment (ROI) is a worthwhile consideration since cash is, in most cases, a limiting factor.  ROI is calculated as return (increase in the value of your asset) divided by investment.  An ROI greater than 100% results when the value increase is greater than the cost of the project.

Often a renovation is undertaken solely due to the desires of the homeowner, while the resale market may not value it highly.  If you are looking to enjoy your home for some while, resale value may not be a deciding factor.  But, the accountant in me would still encourage you to acknowledge ROI. 

ROI can vary based on your specific home and neighbourhood, as well as decisions made through the renovation process (upgrades, for instance).  It will also vary depending on what the potential purchasers value, and the market conditions at the particular time you go to sell your home.  If you are looking at selling in the near future, a low ROI project may still be something to consider, especially in a highly competitive market.  Renovations can also set your property apart from other properties on the market competing for the same pool of purchasers.  Still, though there are projects that tend to provide greater return and projects that provide less value to the typical home.

Paint, paint and more paint!  The best bang for a limited budget is undoubtedly paint.  In the real estate profession, Peter would encourage any client looking at a potential home to look past the color of the walls.  However, even if buyers are fully aware that paint is the easiest thing to change, its still part of the first impression that they walk away with.  Neutrals will appeal to the greatest majority of viewers, and damaged walls should be repaired.  Given the low material cost and relative ease of completion, a motivated homeowner can realistically undertake small drywall repairs and painting, and can realistically expect a ROI of 100% or even more on this project.

Bathroom and kitchen renovations may require a hefty budget, but these rooms can literally sell the house by putting your home in a different class and allowing you to compete with brand new construction.  Since the magnitude of this type of project is beyond the scope of the average homeowner, a licenced contractor may be required.  If the costs are well managed on such projects and upgrades kept under control, an ROI in the neighbourhood of 100%  which recovers the investment cost is possible.

Smaller projects may be more within the budget.  Updating the flooring, while typically only returning an ROI of 50 to 75%, according to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, can entirely change the look of a room.

Continuity is important and if there is a glaring issue in your home, buyers (or the home inspectors) will notice this and can result in a lost sale.