7 Homes A First-Time Buyer Should Avoid

First Time Home Buyer Hazards

From hidden damage to crummy neighbours, beware these 10 signs that your dream home may turn into a nightmare before you sign the contract as a Buyer.

Too good to be true?
You’ve scraped together a down payment, with just enough money left over to pay closing costs. What you’re unlikely to have, as a first-time home buyer, is a big pot of cash to pay for repairs or a clear understanding of how much certain home flaws can cost you down the road.

Novices should be particularly cautious about “bargain” homes, they may come with problems that are expensive to repair or impossible to fix.

Avoid the killer deal, as the chances are good there is some issue that made the other owner walk. Buying a dog of a house will always be less desirable than the cream puff with a good location.

1. Foundation problems
The old-school method of detecting foundation problems still works: Drop a marble on the floor and see how far (and how fast) it rolls. Sloping or sagging floors can indicate serious foundation problems that can cost a fortune to fix.

Cracks in the foundation can be no big deal or a very big deal.

Minor vertical cracks may just need a sealant to prevent water from getting in, while bigger, horizontal cracks indicate ‘something a little more severe. Structural problems can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

If an inspection reveals any kind of foundation issue, you need to call in specialized help to assess how bad the problem is.

Don’t trust your home inspector, get a structural engineer to be safe.

2. Bad Neighbours
Sometimes the problem isn’t the house; it’s the neighbourhood. You won’t be shelling out for repairs, since the issues typically can’t be fixed. The real cost is the reduction of your home’s value and how difficult your home may be to sell in the future.

Neighbours who are slobs or hoarders can knock up to 10 per cent off adjacent home values. Getting them to clean up their acts can be difficult, even if your area has zoning and public-health officials who are on the ball.

Some neighbourhood features can be ‘eye of the beholder’ issues that may cost you or not. Some people will object to being near a cemetery, for example, while others will like the peace and quiet. Some will object to the sounds of shrieking children from nearby schoolyards or playgrounds, while families with young kids may appreciate the proximity of such features.

Other neighbourhood problems, such as a bad school district or a lot of traffic (more on that later), are likely to cost you to some extent.

Remember, you can always modernize or change the structure but you can’t change the school district or the view of a busy highway.

3. Special Assessments
Any project, repair or unexpected cost such as a big hike in insurance premiums can trigger special assessments on members of a condo or homeowners association. Residents of unfinished developments, older condo complexes and projects gutted by foreclosure can be particularly vulnerable to such assessments. For example, builders may have gone bankrupt before finishing a development, which means remaining residents may be assessed to pay for amenities the builder failed to provide. A high foreclosure rate may mean higher assessments on remaining residents to pay for needed maintenance and repairs.

Sellers typically would have to reveal any special assessments that are pending but those that are merely rumoured or not yet settled by the association board may not have to be disclosed. Talk to current or former residents of the development to see what might be on the horizon.

4. Busy Streets
Traffic noise ranges from a virtual nonissue in urban neighbourhoods, where it’s expected, to a potential deal killer in otherwise quiet suburban areas. Even if you’re willing to overlook a busy street, other buyers may not be and that could affect your ability to sell.

5. Water Damage and Mould
Most of the serious problems that home inspectors see have to do, in some way or another, with water: water seeping into basements, pooling in crawl spaces, leaking in from siding or trickling down from roofs. Left alone, water causes rot and mould. All too often, homeowners don’t discover the problems or if they do, they ignore them. Either way, unsuspecting buyers can inherit expensive repairs.

Some of the worst damage is caused by black mould, which is suspected of causing health problems and which can spread fairly quickly throughout a house.

It can cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to remediate a bad case of black mould, you might have to tear out all the cabinets and treat every surface in your home.

Any sign of water damage or mould should be traced to its source, so that potential homebuyers can get a realistic idea of how extensive repairs will be. Mould should also be tested to determine what type, and how virulent, it may be.

6. Hard-to-Insure Homes
Homes in flood plains or adjacent to wildfire zones can be difficult and expensive to insure. The same goes for homes that are simply in out of the way places. Unless you’re looking at an all-cash deal, going without coverage usually isn’t an option, since mortgage lenders require homeowners insurance. Even then, failing to buy homeowners insurance is foolhardy.

But even the best policies don’t cover every eventuality. There is no coverage available for overland floods, but flooding due to plumbing and sewage problems can and probably should be purchased. The rules on property damage can vary sharply among insurance carriers so be sure to read your policy carefully.

At a minimum, potential buyers should ask to see recent insurance bills to see what they’re likely to be charged. However, if you plan on making changes after you buy, be sure to factor in higher costs from the outset. Canadian insurers, caught offside by generally higher claims, have been working hard to reassess existing policies to bring them in line with current costs.

Buyers also should keep in mind that if a disaster hits, their premiums will certainly shoot up even higher. While storm damage is generally not as severe a problem in canada, canadian insurers are usually equally quick to bring costs in line with actual claims experience.

7. Hard-to-Finance Homes

A unique home may stir your soul, but you may have a tough time persuading a lender to give you a mortgage. Even if you succeed, the next buyer may not, which could make it tough to sell the house someday.

Unusual houses geodesic domes or homes built from straw bales or old car tires, for example can be hard to value, since there usually aren’t other comparable properties nearby. Without ‘comps,’ it can be tough to find a lender willing to make a loan, even in boom times. When lenders are shying away from risk, it can make financing virtually impossible.

This isn’t a complete list of things that can go wrong with a home purchase. Construction defects, aging systems, broken sewer lines and a laundry list of other problems can cost you big time. That’s why it’s so important to have a thorough, professional home inspection before you buy, and to make your purchase contingent on that inspection. You should know what you’re getting into before it’s too late to back out.

Staging Your Home To Sell

Staging Your Home

In preparation of putting your home on the market, investing some time in the art of staging (detach, depersonalize and declutter) can attract buyers interested in your home. Aspiring sellers can test their creativity and redecorate on a budget to create a whole new look to appeal to the market.

The goal for most people is to make their home appear to have ample room. Painting a room with light and bright colors will help make it appear larger. Keep the colors neutral, however, so buyers aren’t distracted by the choice in color and will be able to envision their belongings in the home. It also helps to tone down any dated finishes in the space. Paint adjacent rooms the same color so they feel like one, seamless space.

Matching your drapery and paint will also help open up the room. Grouping your furniture into cozy, conversational groups away from the walls will open up a room and make the space more user-friendly.  If you have a larger space that you would like to make cozier, choose a neutral darker tone to make the room more intimate. Adding an accent wall can draw attention to any special features you want to showcase in your home as well.

A reasonably inexpensive addition you can add to open up a room is to improving the lighting. To keep costs low you can update an old lamp with a new lampshade, get crafty and take to Pinterest for some refinishing ideas or hit up second-hand venues for trendy, vintage finds. Also, increase the wattage in your lamps to create a welcoming feel. Try to aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet. Attempt to have three types of lighting per room: ambient (overhead), task (reading) and accent (table or wall).

Feel free to move furniture once bought for a specific purpose to repopulate any rooms that were primarily used to gather junk. The more, different uses a buyer can see for a room, the more open their imagination will be to envision their items in those spaces.

Display your art creatively to show off your home. Break up pieces that are hung highly, encircling the room into different patterns and groupings.

Adding home decor accessories can make a room more inviting. Odd numbers are preferable, especially in threes. For maximum effect group accessories by color, shape and texture and arrange them by varying height and width. Objects should be placed with the largest at the back and the smallest at the front. If purchasing new decorations is out of your budget you can also incorporate foliage from outdoors to add some seasonal decor to your home.

Creating a relaxing bedroom setting with an organized closet can really draw in a buyer. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a new bed you can buy a bed frame and an inexpensive air mattress to cover with nice linens.

Redoing a kitchen can be quite expensive. An affordable way to give your kitchen a new look is to get new cupboard doors and drawer fronts, paint everything to match and add new hardware. If your dishwasher is an eyesore you may be able to find a new front panel to put on it. If not, laminate paper can always be used to re-cover the existing panel.

Well placed mirrors can create a whole new look in your space also helping it look larger. You can angle your mirrors toward a focal point to draw attention to it and add depth. Placing mirrors near natural light will help reflect it to brighten a room.

REALTORS® have seen houses of all shapes and sizes. You can speak with Adam Humenuik to help lead you in the right direction for what buyers are looking for when preparing your home for the market. If your creativity falls short, they may be able to steer you in the right direction or toward a professional who would.

8 Essentials For Cooling Your Home

Keeping Home Cool

When the temperatures spike, most families crank up the air conditioning to keep their homes cool. While blasting the AC is often viewed as the first step in cooling a home, there are a number of other ways to keep your home comfortable in the summer.

#1 Open Windows at Night

If you live in a region of the country where nighttime temperatures tend to dip into the lower 70s and upper 60s, open your windows at night and turn off the AC. Once the sun is down, that cool air can flow into your home overnight and help maintain a cooler starting point for the next day. Turning on any fans you have around the house will help circulate that cool air.

#2 Leave Interior Doors Open

During the winter months, it’s a good idea to close doors to unused rooms to avoid wasting money heating those spaces. But closed-off rooms can become heat blankets in the summer if you don’t open them up and allow for even airflow throughout your home. To help keep the house cooler, open your interior doors.

#3 Close Blinds During the Day

It’s nice to open the shades and let in some sunlight, but up to 30 percent of the unwanted heat in your home comes from windows. Shut your shades to limit the house-warming sunlight allowed into your home. Focus on closing only west- and south-facing windows to still give your home the benefit of natural light. This can help lower the mid-day temperature of your home by almost 20 degrees.

#4 Using Appliances at Night

Your oven, washer and dryer are the primary culprits when it comes to unwanted heat in your home. Using your grill to cook is a simple way of keeping unwanted heat outdoors. As for your chores involving laundry, leave those for the nighttime hours when temperatures are naturally lower.

#5 Keep the Furnace Fan On

The vast majority of thermostats give you the power to manually control the fan that blows hot air through your home in the winter. If you turn this fan on during the summer, it can help to distribute the cool air from your basement to the other levels of your home. This provides better airflow in your home and an overall cooler feeling.

#6 Leave the Bathroom Exhaust Fan On

The steam from your shower will create a pocket of hot air in your home that will exit the bathroom the moment you open the door. It’s already a good idea to run the exhaust fan while you’re in the shower, but consider leaving it on for 20 to 30 minutes after your shower to help blow out the hot air.

#7 Consider Upgrades Outdoors

There are two big things you could do to the outside of your home to help keep it cooler in the summer months. First, you could repaint the siding of your home with a lighter color to deflect more of the sun’s rays. The siding on your home is just like any dark surface or dark clothing. The darker it is, the more heat it attracts and retains. The same can be said for your roof. Slate, concrete, clay and various tiles offer better protection from heat than standard shingles.

#8 Install New Windows

Old, single-pane windows are a significant source of heat gain in your home during the summer months. These old, outdated models make it too easy for hot air to creep in and cold air to leak out. Replace your older windows with newer models if you can. Or, install new weather stripping to reduce the temperatures in your home.

Conclusion

These seven house-cooling tips are sure to keep you comfortable and lower your utility bills — all without resorting to the constant use of your AC.

10 Worst Home Upgrades For Resale

Worst Upgrades For ReSale

Find out which home upgrades are least likely to return their full investment when you sell your home.

Some renovation upgrades, such as kitchens and bathrooms, are usually fairly reliable for adding to a home’s resale value. But there are others (and if you’ve gone house hunting in the last few years, perhaps you’ve seen a few) that are just plain bone-headed. What’s worth the cost and what isn’t?

Wall-to-wall broadloom
Once considered a selling feature, this is now a liability in many buyers’ eyes. Broadloom is incompatible with pets and people with allergies, and is perceived as hard to clean. If you have hardwood floors, have them refinished or consider installing them if you don’t.

Whirlpool baths, saunas and indoor hot tubs
Once considered chic, these are now often seen as just expensive, energy-guzzling extras. A house once had a hot tub installed in the living room!

Expensive built-in sound systems and home theatres
Some buyers will be attracted to this, but not everyone is an audio/cinephile, nor will they pay a premium for a house with this feature.

Colourful bath fixtures
These went out with poodle skirts. Chances are the buyer will just see them as a renovation to-do and will plan to get rid of them after the purchase.

Ornate chandeliers, wallpaper and paint treatments
Taste is very individual and idiosyncratic decorating can turn buyers off; stick with neutral, simple decor.

Odd rooms and walls
A wall bisecting a large bedroom into two unusably small ones or a cramped powder room under the stairs or in a closet … many buyers will see these as merely a future renovation expense. (Same goes for inexplicably missing walls, such as a bathroom that is open to the adjacent bedroom.)

Overly fancy appliances
Stainless steel-finish appliances are worth paying a few more dollars for (compared to equivalent white or colour models), but six-burner professional stoves, double dishwashers and a fridge big enough for a restaurant rarely recoup their initial cost.

Cheap laminate or vinyl tile flooring
Some types of laminate are attractive and practical; others just look cheap and fake. Especially avoid peel-and-stick vinyl tiles or be prepared to replace them when you put the house on the market. For not much more money, choose hardwood, stone, bamboo or cork.

Swimming pool
There is some debate about this among real estate agents; to some buyers, a swimming pool is a selling feature. But a pool rarely recoups its entire cost, and it will reduce the number of potential buyers interested in your home.

Turning a three-bedroom into a two-bedroom home

Even if that third bedroom is miniscule, it’s still a bedroom. No matter how spacious your newly enlarged master bedroom or how luxurious that new spa bath, the demand for two-bedroom homes is significantly smaller than for three-bedrooms, and they command considerably lower prices.

10 Cheap Home Selling Tips Every Seller Should Consider

Interior Painting

Easy ways to make your home more attractive to potential buyers.

Getting ready to sell? Move your property fast – and for the highest selling price possible – with these easy, affordable staging tricks. These deal-sealing changes will make your home attractive to the largest pool of potential buyers, and the best part is, you can start at any stage in the game. Who knows – you may love your home’s new look so much that you decide not to list after all!

1. Paint!

Dollar for dollar, a fresh coat of paint gives you more bang for your decorating buck than anything else. Even if your current palette is relatively new, any scuffs or wear marks will channel an unkempt vibe. And an unusual colour choice – even if the height of fashion – may limit your home’s appeal. So break out that roller and slap on a couple coats of crowd-pleasing warm white or sand paint.

2. Improve The Lighting
Replace any dated light fixtures ASAP. How can you tell if it has to go? If it’s over 15 years old and looks it – yet isn’t a vintage (50-75 years old) or antique piece (older) – it should probably go. “Retro” is not something most home buyers are looking for. You don’t need to break the bank, just head to IKEA or Canadian Tire.

3. De-clutter
Take the collectibles off the mantel, put the mismatched armchair into storage (or better yet, donate it) and pare your closets down to what you’re actually wearing this season, packing away the rest. Ideally, all this extra stuff would head to charity (if in good, saleable condition), the garbage dump, or into storage. The more you store onsite, the more cluttered and small your home appears.

4. Give Dated Bathrooms A Facelift
A nice bath helps sell a house but, don’t invest in a total renovation. Renos are costly, and you won’t recoup your costs unless you find your exact décor doppelganger. Bring an out-of-date bath up to speed with gleaming white walls whether via a fresh coat of white bath and kitchen paint or ceramic tile and new lighting (Home Depot excels at affordable, stylish bathroom vanity lighting). Buy neutral new shower curtains, a simple new bath mat and vanity set, and have fresh flowers in the room during open houses.

5. Take Down Curtains
Dated window treatments need to come down, pronto (if it’s over 10 years old, get rid of it). If privacy isn’t an issue, just leave the windows bare to maximize natural light and make the room’s dimensions seem more generous. Otherwise, buy basic-issue cotton or linen drapes from any well-priced retailer. Always tie drapes back during viewings and open houses.

6. Put Up Mirrors
Make small rooms appear bigger and dark rooms seem brighter by adding an attractive wall mirror. A boxlike dining room will benefit from a leaning floor mirror and an entrance way more welcoming with a console mirror.

7. Update Porch Hardware

Increase your home’s curb appeal by updating the hardware on your front porch. Buy a doorknocker or bell, mailbox, kick plate, doorknob and lock set in a set or in complementary styles. Brushed nickel is a neutral finish that will never date, while oil-rubbed bronze is another favourite.

8. And The Porch Light
Update your porch light to coordinate with the new hardware, if needed. They don’t have to be an exact match or even come from the same period, but the finishes and styles should look pleasing together.

9. Spiff Up The Front Yard
Refresh your front yard according to the season. In spring, summer and fall, trim back dead plants and foliage and plant attractive annuals or perennials in flowerbeds. In winter, keep the walkway shoveled and cut back any tree or shrub branches damaged by heavy snowfall. A pair of planters flanking the front door and filled with seasonal arrangements instantly conveys pride of ownership.

10. Tend The Backyard

Simple fix-its will make the most of your existing yard layout. Replace any damaged boards on your deck or fence, and apply a fresh coat of paint, or stain and sealant if the finish needs it. Weed and groom your garden and add some perennials for colour when in-season. If kids’ toys are taking over the space, put some in storage. Think “tidy,” “update” and “refresh”: never do anything costly or major like adding a swimming pool or pond, which may put off potential buyers.