Outdoor lighting has come a long way from the days of patio lanterns and strings of lightbulbs. These days, there's an exhaustive array of options available to illuminate your outdoor space, and make it more appealing and comfortable, particularly in the evenings.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Solar garden lights. These lights are on stakes that can be easily inserted throughout the garden. Powered by the sun, they generate enough energy to cast a soft, pleasant glow along walkways or in flower beds in the evenings.
- Deck post lights. These are easy to install because they're designed to sit on top of a standard 4x4 wood deck post. Most are solar powered.
- Street-style lamps. As the name implies, these look similar to old-fashioned street lamps. Installation is a little more complex, but still DIY-friendly. They're eye-catching and have a dramatic impact on the look of your outdoor space.
- Portable lantern lights. These are outdoor lights that are portable and often made to look like a decorative fixture for a coffee table or side table. They can be placed anywhere.
- LED walkway lights. These are small lights that fit neatly and almost invisibly under stairs and around walkways. Walkway lights not only look good but also improve safety. Most are battery powered.
- Planter lights. This is one of the most interesting options. Each one is both a flower pot and a light in one! The pot itself is translucent which allows the light inside to shine through.
Design experts say you should treat your outdoor space as you would any room in your home. Lighting it up for evening comfort and enjoyment is a good place to start.
Imagine your coffee maker switching on by itself, staying on for hours, overheating and becoming a fire hazard. That's not science fiction. As more and more appliances incorporate WIFI, the opportunities for hackers to play havoc with your home gadgets increase.
How do you prevent that from happening? Here are some safety tips:
- If your gadget uses a password to access the settings, change that password frequently. Ideally, change it once every 3 months.
- Some gadgets, such as alarm systems, come with their own connection to the internet. Learn how to turn that connection off if it becomes necessary to do so.
- Don't leave an internet-connected appliance or other gadget on constantly unless it’s necessary. For example, you don't need your home speaker system connected to your digital music providers all the time.
- Baby monitors with video are a common target for hackers. Use a password unique to that device and change it often. Never leave the monitor on when not in use.
- Never share passwords with anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. Most home WIFI systems have a "guest" feature with a separate password and limited access. Use it.
In this age of internet connectivity — from coffee makers to stereos and even washing machines — it's smart to play it safe. Know what's connected and protect yourself.
Do you have only a few weeks to search for your next dream home? Don't panic. There are things you can do to find the perfect (or, at least, almost perfect) property — without getting too stressed out!
Consider these tips:
- Pre-arrange your mortgage. You want to be able to make a good offer on a home right away, without worrying about financing. So, talk to your mortgage advisor or lender about getting a mortgage pre-approval. Sellers will take your offer more seriously if you have financing in hand.
- Decide what you want. What type of home are you looking for? What type of neighbourhood do you want to live in? The narrower your focus, the less time you’ll waste looking at properties that don’t fit your needs.
- Be open to possibilities. There are probably terrific homes on the market — right now — that are close to what you're looking for. So be prepared to consider properties that are less-than-perfect. Remember, what a home lacks today may be remedied with a renovation later on.
- Be flexible with your schedule. When you see a home you like, schedule a viewing immediately, even if it's at an inconvenient day/time, such as a weekday after work. Finding a great home, quickly, is worth some inconvenience.
- Get alerted to new listings. As they say, the early-bird gets the worm. So arrange to be alerted to new listings the moment they come on the market. That way, you can see these properties right away.
Want more tips on finding a home, quickly? Give me a call.
It can be tough to make the decision to sell. In fact, for many homeowners, it's overwhelming. If you're considering making a move and struggling with the decision, here are five helpful questions to ask yourselves:
1. "What are our practical reasons for selling?"
This question refers to what you'll get by moving to a new home. The reasons could include a bigger backyard, shorter commute to work, an extra bedroom, a more desirable neighbourhood, etc.
2. "What are our emotional reasons for selling?"
This question refers to how you'll feel about living in a new home. For example, you might feel safer, less cramped, less worried (because the local schools are better), or happier (because the shorter commute means more time with your family.)
3. "What type of new home can we afford?"
This question involves finding out how much you'll likely get when you sell your existing home and how much of a mortgage you qualify to receive. With that information, you'll have a price range within which you can comfortably shop plus a clear idea of what your mortgage payments will be.
4. "In what ways will our lifestyle be better in a new home?"
This ties in closely with emotional reasons for selling. It relates to what your life will be like in a new home. Try to paint a picture in your mind. For example, you might want to be able to spend Saturday afternoons relaxing in your bigger backyard or Sunday nights entertaining friends and family in your larger living room.
5. "What else do we need to know before we decide to sell and move?"
Sometimes people are hesitant about selling simply because they have unanswered questions. So, if there's any part of the selling and buying process that’s not clear, be sure to ask me.
Did thinking about these questions help make the decision easier? If you
Imagine driving through a desirable neighbourhood and, just as you turn a corner, you see the absolutely perfect home. Guess what? It's for sale! But, there’s a problem. Your current property isn't on the market. In fact, until this moment, you hadn’t seriously considered moving. So what do you do?
Your first step is to find out more about the listing. Get a description of the property. Find out the listing price. Check out the size, layout, number of bedrooms and other features. If it all looks good, schedule a viewing. Chances are, you can do all that in less than a day.
If you go to see the property and still love it, your next step is to determine if it fits within your budget. To do that, you'll need to quickly find out the Current Market Value of your home — what it will likely sell for — so you can determine how much money you'll have available after your outstanding mortgage and any other costs are deducted. It’s a smart idea to speak to your lender about getting a pre-approved mortgage at this point too.
Next, you'll need to make an offer on the new home. Depending on the competitiveness of the neighbourhood, and the likelihood of multiple offers, you might need to list your home first. That, along with a pre-approved mortgage, will make your offer more credible.
You might end up buying the new home before your current property sells. Although that might cause some jitters, this scenario happens all the time in real estate. If you do the right things, and prepare your home properly, there's a good probability it will sell in time and that everything else regarding the two transactions will go smoothly.
But, you do need to move quickly and make some fast decisions if you want to get that perfect home.
I can help. Call me.
You've probably heard the expression, "The early-bird gets the worm." It refers, of course, to those who get in early and reap the rewards. For example, if you arrive early to a retail store for a big blowout sale, you're likely to get the deals before the inventory runs out. The stragglers who come later miss out.
Well, this same wisdom can be applied to selling your home. Starting the process early — even if that means simply doing some initial planning — gives you the edge in several ways.
First of all, you get extra time for preparation. That means you can get your home cleaned, uncluttered and staged without feeling rushed. You also get more time to find out how much your property will likely sell for on today's market. That's important information, especially if you're also looking to finance a new home.
Secondly, there's less stress. You'll have more time to make the right decisions. The last thing you want is to be scrambling around, last minute, trying to get your home ready for sale.
Finally, with your initial preparations done, you'll be able to put your home on the market at a moment's notice. That's a huge advantage that's likely to lead to selling your property more quickly and for the best price. In fact, by getting an early start on the process, you might even find that right now is the best time to list -- and you'll be able to do so, with confidence.
Want help getting an early start on selling your home? Call me.
Ideally you should have a week or two available before you list your property in order to stage your home and make it look its best for buyers. But, what if you listed quickly and within hours of the For Sale sign going up a buyer wants to view your property?
In that scenario, you need to do some quick "staging" to get your home ready. Let's assume your property is already clean and tidy. Here are some other things you can do.
- Open the curtains, even at night. This will make each room seem brighter, more appealing and more spacious.
- Pull out some boxes or storage bins. Put away personal knick-knacks (like that bowling trophy) and other personal items to reduce clutter on shelves and countertops.
- Clear countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. Put the old toaster oven out-of-sight.
- Make sure lighting throughout the house is bright and comfortable. In darker areas, plug in a lamp.
- Clear away as much as you can in the foyer. Make that space look open, uncluttered and welcoming.
- Move cars out of the driveway. Give the buyer a convenient place to park!
- Make the beds. Fluff pillows on sofas.
- Clear away as many items as possible from the closet floors (such as shoes.)
- Open a window and air out the kitchen, especially if you just finished cooking.
- Make sure your pet is in a crate or, if possible, out for a walk. Not everyone loves pets.
These staging tips take only a few minutes each, but can make a big difference in the impression your home makes on a buyer.
Want more home selling advice? Call today.
Imagine you've found the perfect home. You love it. You've made an offer that's been accepted. So far so good! The only catch? You've wisely made the offer conditional on passing a professional home inspection.
What happens if that home inspection reveals a major issue?
First, you should know that, depending on the age of the property, a home inspection will typically turn up at least a few areas of concern. The inspector might find loose insulation in the attic that is thinning out or roofing shingles that will need replacing in two or three years.
Issues like those are not usually deal-breakers.
However, if the home inspector finds a major issue — such as old wiring that's worn and presents a safety concern — then you're facing a potentially high cost of repair should the deal go through.
In a situation like that, as your real estate agent, I will address the issue with the seller, usually through the seller's agent. Since neither of you will want to lose the deal, the seller often agrees to get the repair done at his own expense or, have some or all of the estimated repair cost deducted from the sale price.
Will the deal be in jeopardy? Usually not. In most cases, if you have a real estate agent like me working in your best interests, it all works out.
For some people, the thought of listing their home for sale is stressful. They worry about all the things they have to do — and all the things that might go wrong.
Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. Here are some tips for making your home sale go smoothly:
- Give yourself time to prepare. If you're thinking of selling six months from now, start preparing your property now. Do any necessary staging, and get it looking its best. Avoid doing these tasks at the last minute.
- Set the right price. Pricing your property too high will likely result in few, if any, buyers coming to see it. You might end up having to lower your price later, causing your home to linger even longer on the market. That's stress you don't need!
- Have a flexible viewing schedule. If you make it too difficult for buyers to see your property, they might lose interest or simply choose to buy another home. Be as flexible as possible when a buyer wants to view your property.
- Plan get-away activities. When a buyer comes for a scheduled viewing, don't be home. Instead, plan some fun activities for your family. Think: playground, shopping, cycling, the zoo, etc.
- Accept the ups and downs. Prospective buyers might say they love your home and plan to make an offer. Then you don't hear from them again! It happens! Accept the inevitable ups and downs of selling your home.
- Get help with repairs. You'll probably have things that need to be fixed around the home, like a dripping faucet that needs repair or a room that needs painting. If possible, hire a professional to do some of that work.
- Finally, work with a great real estate agent. That will make the biggest difference in ensuring your move goes smoothly and stress-free.
Looking for a real estate agent like that? Call me!
Wouldn't it be nice if you had all the time in the world to find your next dream home? You could leisurely browse the current listings, select homes you'd like to see, schedule visits on dates that are most convenient for you, and make an offer on a property only after you've had plenty of time to consider all the alternatives.
Sure, that sometimes happens, but it's not typical. Often, people shopping for a home are on a timeline. Sometimes a very tight timeline.
So how do you find your next dream home when you don't have all the time in the world?
First, you need to develop a clear picture of the home you're looking to buy. How many bedrooms? What size of property? What type of structure (two story, back split, etc.)? Then, you need to list your preferences. These might include "large kitchen" or "main floor office".
Once you've completed that exercise, you'll have a more detailed profile of the type of property you want. That will make it easier to decide which of the listings on the market you want to see.
You should also narrow down the area in which you'd like to live. If you have three or four targeted areas, and only consider listings in those areas, your home search will be much faster.
What if you don't know the neighbourhoods well? Visit a few. Drive around. Explore. Get as much neighbourhood data as possible, such as demographics, recreational activities, parks, shopping, schools, etc. Then choose the neighbourhoods that fit your lifestyle.
Finally, the best way to find a new home on a tight schedule is to work with the right real estate agent — someone who, like me, is experienced in the local market.
Call me anytime.
When you're having a garage sale, one of the toughest tasks is pricing your items. If you put a price tag on your old golf clubs that’s too high, no one will buy them. If you make the price too low, they might sell quickly, but you’ll spend the rest of the day wondering if you could have gotten more!
It's similar to selling your home — except with your home, the stakes are much higher. You want to price your property to sell, but you don’t want to leave any money on the table.
How do you accomplish that?
Setting the right list price for your home requires a combination of skilled calculation and industry savvy.
Let's start with the "calculation" part...
When you work with me, I'll review recently sold properties that are similar to yours in type, size, features and location. Then, using that data, we’ll calculate a range that represents your property's "current market value."
For example, consider a spacious 15-year-old bungalow in a nice neighbourhood. If similar homes in the area have sold for $475,000-$550,000 in the last six months, then it's obvious that your home should sell in that range too. A list price above or below that range would be in the danger zone.
But skilled calculation is only half the task.
Setting your list price also requires expertise in the local market, combined with good old-fashioned gut instinct. That instinct comes from being on the front lines of many property transactions.
That's why working with a good real estate salesperson is so important, when you’re deciding on the list price for your home.
Want to discuss selling your home? Call me.
If you're working with a landscaping contractor, you want to develop a good working relationship with that professional, so you can avoid delays, stress and other issues. After all, the last thing you want is a tree planted in the wrong spot because of a misunderstanding!
The same holds true when working with a real estate agent. Whether you're buying, selling, or both, you want the process to go smoothly and successfully. Creating an ideal working relationship with your agent is an important step toward making that happen.
How do you do that?
First, ask your agent to go over the process with you. If you're selling your home, you want to understand the steps the agent is going to take. That way, there will be fewer surprises. In particular, you’ll want to discuss how viewings will be handled. You'll need to come to an agreement as to when your home will be available for viewings, how short-notice viewings will be handled, and whether or not "lockbox access" will be needed.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if you're worried about seeming to be naive. (You won't!) You don't want to have unanswered questions or concerns between you and your agent.
Also, know that misunderstandings and mistakes can happen in any relationship with a professional. So if an issue comes up, discuss it right away. Don't let it fester.
Finally, remember that your agent should be a professional like me, with expertise in buying and selling in this market. When I make a recommendation regarding pricing, prepping your home, viewings, etc. remember that I am working in your best interest. I want to sell your property, quickly and for a good price, just as much as you do!
Looking for an agent you can trust? Contact me today!
If you need to upsize or you’re simply ready for a change, it’s tempting to consider a major renovation. After all, renovating means you don’t have to go through the process of selling your property and buying another more suitable home. You just fix up the one you’ve got!
However, you need to carefully consider the pros and cons of renovating before going this route. You don’t want to invest in a costly renovation only to end up with a home that still doesn’t meet your needs.
Say, for example, your current property doesn’t have a home office. Since all the bedrooms are taken, you decide to renovate a portion of the basement. Building that new home office may seem like a simple project, but once you consider new electrical, flooring, lighting, etc., it really isn’t. Like most renovations, it will probably cost more than you think. Plus, you’ll need to consider whether you’ll really want to work in the basement.
In this case, it might make more sense to find a new home with an extra bedroom that can be converted, or, better still, a dedicated home office space — with windows!
Of course, there are many circumstances in which a renovation may be the best way to go. If you don’t like your kitchen, for example, upgrading it may not only get you the kitchen you want, but also add value to your property.
Basically, you need to ask yourself: "Which is more likely to get me the home I really want – a renovation or a new home?"
If your answer is a new home, then there is probably a property on the market right now that would meet your needs. Let’s talk.
There are many good reasons to put your property on the market. Some examples include a relocation, the kids leaving the nest, the need for something bigger or smaller, and the list goes on and on.
However, there are also some less-than-obvious indicators that it may be time to sell. Consider the following:
1. Your Property is no longer a Good "Fit"
Your home may have been perfect for you when you bought it. But things change. Families grow. Needs evolve. For any number of reasons, your property may no longer be a good fit for you. If that's the case, it makes sense to at least take a look at what's available on the market. Who knows? Your next "perfect" home may be for sale right now — within your price range!
2. The Neighbourhood is Changing
You may have been in love with the neighbourhood when you first moved in. But, over time, the characteristics of any area can change. Those changes don’t necessarily mean the neighbourhood is getting worse. In fact, it may be changing in a positive way; perhaps becoming more urban. But, "more urban" may not be what you want. So take a look at the direction your neighbourhood is heading. Ask yourself, "Do I still want to be living here in two years?"
3. You're Ready for Your Dream Home
Remember when you purchased your current property? Did it have every feature you wanted? Was it your dream home? Or, did you have to compromise on a few things, such as the size of the kitchen? If you had to make some tough choices back then, it might be time for you to finally get the home of your dreams.
Those are just three indicators it may be time for you to make a move. Of course, there are many others.
If you've been entertaining the idea of selling your property and finding your next dream home, give me a call. I can show you what's available on the market, and keep you informed of new listings that match what you're looking for. Contact me anytime.
Online shopping is growing by an average of 20 million new shoppers each year. That's a lot of people clicking and buying! You may be one of them.
However, there's a cost to online shopping that's all too easy to overlook. Shipping fees. Imagine saving $10 on a luxury cookware set, only to be hit with a $15 delivery charge. Ouch.
So how do you avoid those fees?
First of all, always check the fine print on the checkout screen. Notice what the shipping cost (if any) will be before you click the final purchase button. Keep in mind that the base shipping fee shown may update — and become higher — once you've typed in your address.
Some e-tailers offer free delivery for orders over a certain threshold amount; for example, $50. If there's more you can add to an order to get the shipping fee waived, it may be worth it.
There are a few e-tailers, most notably Amazon, that offer yearly memberships where one of the benefits is free delivery on all orders. Those kinds of memberships may be worth checking out if you do a lot of online shopping with a particular company.
A final tip: Always check for multiple delivery options. Some e-tailers, list an express shipping charge as the default option on the check-out screen, but have a free standard delivery option if you choose it.
Takeaway: Shipping fees take the fun out of online shopping. Do what you can to reduce or eliminate them!
When you think about looking for a new home, one of the first questions that probably comes to mind is: "What type of property can I afford?" That's an important question because your price range is a major determining factor in the types and sizes of homes you should be viewing.
You don't want to waste time looking at properties that are beyond your price range. At the same time, you don't want to purchase a less-than-ideal home, only to realize later on that you could have afforded more.
So how do you determine what type of new home you are qualified to purchase?
The first step is to find out what your current property would likely sell for in today's market. I make that calculation for clients all the time. It involves reviewing what homes similar to yours have sold for recently, as well as other data — such as special features your home may have that are likely to boost the selling price.
Once you know the current market value of your home, subtract any outstanding mortgages and estimated selling expenses, and you’ll end up with an amount that can be applied to the purchase of your next home. (You may also have other funds you want to use.)
The next step is to talk to a lender or mortgage broker to see how much of a new mortgage you qualify for. (Call me if you need a recommendation.) It's important to get a Pre-Qualification or Pre-Approval. That makes the offer you make on a new home more credible.
If you want to find out the types and sizes of homes you can get into, give me a call. I'd be happy to show you the possibilities!
Buying a new pair of shoes is relatively easy. Once you find the style you like, all you need to do is try them on and see if they fit. If they do, you go to the cash register and pay.
When it comes to size, buying a new home can be trickier! Whether your intention is to upsize or downsize, figuring out the right size can be especially challenging.
Say for example, you’re downsizing from a large two-story home to a smaller bungalow. You don’t want to underestimate the space you need and end up in a place that feels tight. If you’re going the other way and upsizing, you don’t want to end up sinking extra money into a property that’s larger than you really need.
So how do you avoid these scenarios?
One of the best ways is to start by considering your current home. Do you use all the rooms in your home regularly? Is there a bedroom that’s rarely occupied? Has the recreation room become simply a storage area? If you’re downsizing, subtracting rooms you scarcely use can give you a better idea of what you need in a new home.
Upsizing is a bit more challenging because you have to anticipate what you will need in the future. For example, if you have young children, and your place is feeling cramped, then a home with a recreation room or separate family and living rooms may be a good idea. You may also need a bigger kitchen with a spacious eating area (in addition to a separate dining room.) Think about the extra room you’ll need and how you’ll use that space.
When I work with a client, I typically sit down with them and discuss the type of home they want in detail — and, based on needs and circumstance, I make expert recommendations. Bottom line, I help clients find the perfect fit in a new home. Contact me if you’d like to learn more.
For some homeowners, the process of listing, showing and selling their home can be stressful. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to make it much less nerve-racking—and even exciting and enjoyable. Here are some ideas:
- Make a plan. Decide when you’re going to show your property, search for a new home, view listings, etc. Block out these times in an agenda book or calendar. That way, you and your family can see what’s coming up.
- Be flexible. Few things go exactly as planned! So, it’s important to build in flexibility. For example, you may plan to see homes for sale on Saturdays, but if an opportunity comes up on a weeknight, give yourself room in your schedule to jump on it.
- Eat well. There are numerous studies that connect poor nutrition with increased stress. When people are selling and moving, there’s a tendency to rely on quick fixes, such as hot dogs and pizza! Try to plan more nutritious meals that will keep everyone healthy and energized.
- Get stuff done early. Doing things last minute, such as finding a real estate lawyer or getting rid of clutter, can quickly lead to stress and frustration. Whenever possible, get tasks done early. That way, you won’t have to worry about them.
- Hire the right professionals. By far, the surest way to a stress-free move is to get the right professionals working for you: everyone from contractors to mortgage brokers to movers.
By the way, a big part of what I do for clients is help make every aspect of buying, selling and moving go smoothly. Contact me to learn how I can help you.
An Open House is an event. And, like many events, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement and energy. In fact, when you visit an Open House, you might even end up rubbing elbows with other buyers who are there at the same time. It can feel like a party!
In an environment like that, it’s not unusual to forget to ask important questions about the property. Here are some of the most common:
- How old is the roof?
- How old is the furnace, air conditioner and other HVAC equipment?
- How does the price compare to similar properties in the neighbourhood? (You don’t want to make an offer that’s too high.)
- What are the characteristics of the neighbourhood? (Amenities, safety, traffic, access to public transit, property turnover, etc.)
- What doesn’t come with the home? (Ask specifically about kitchen appliances, gas-connected BBQs, chandeliers, window coverings.)
- Are there any potential impediments to the sale? (Tenants, outstanding liens, etc.)
- Are there any outstanding maintenance issues, or repairs that need to be done? (For example, cracked ceramics on the foyer floor.)
- Are there any issues that impact the full use of the property? (Ask specifically about shared driveways or walkways, public “right of way” through the property, water drainage rights from neighbouring homes, etc.)
Yes, an Open House can feel like a frenzy, and if it’s a home you love, you might feel pressured to make an offer. But, it’s important to take the time to ask the right questions and consider your decision carefully. You don’t want to find out, too late, that there were questions you should have asked.
Want more tips on finding the home of your dreams? Call today.
Watch any TV cooking show, and you’ll notice that a chef’s kitchen looks quite a bit different than what you’d find in most homes. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one just like it in your home! With a little remodeling, and splurging on some new items, you too can have a kitchen worthy of Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, or Rachel Ray.
Chefs love counter space. So, when remodeling, plan to create as much as possible. If you have an existing island, for example, you can replace the countertop with a larger one. Just adding eight inches in both directions will make a big difference.
Most chefs have more than one oven. If that’s impractical for you, consider buying a double-oven stove. Also, chefs prefer gas burners for quicker heat-up times and exacting control of cooking temperature.
One thing you’ll notice about chefs is they love stainless steel.
That’s because it’s easy-to-clean, hygienic and durable (assuming you take care of it).
Finally, because chefs spend so much time in the kitchen, they want the space to be attractive and comfortable. So, when remodeling, keep decor
Even if you’re just an amateur chef, creating a chef-worthy kitchen will make the foodie in you smile.
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