We’ve all heard the horror stories – people paying way too much for a house, not getting an inspection and then finding a million (expensive) problems with the place. I’ve seen it countless time with homeowners on Income Property and from talking to eager real estate investors.
Here are my top three tips for making a smart real estate purchase so you don’t get burned!
- Stick to Your Budget
It’s easy to get carried away here, especially if you make the mistake of looking at houses outside your price range. The important part is to have a plan. Don’t just think about your mortgage payments every month; also think about your monthly carrying cost and be honest about your lifestyle. Consider how much you spend every month on eating out, clothing, etc. There’s nothing worse than being house poor because you weren’t honest about your spending habits.
- Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away
A house is an emotional purchase, since it’s where you’ll be living, raising your children and making a home for yourself. But it’s crucial to keep emotions out of the equation as much as possible. You should love your house, but you should love it because it’s in good condition and because the numbers work. Always get a home inspection and if you can’t afford it (or the work it requires), walk away!
- Give Every House a Chance
I do most of my real estate browsing online, as do most people now, but you can’t always judge a house by the virtual tour – good or bad. If you see something online and it has bad pictures (or no pictures) but it’s in the right neighbourhood or in your price range, go look at it! Chances are you can get a good deal because so many people will skip it without photos online.
Buying a home is generally an exciting adventure – the thrill of finding a home that you and your family can enjoy, where you will raise your children, make friends – all the good things that home ownership. But there are several things that you should consider before setting down your hard earned money on a home purchase.
- Does this home make sense? Now when I say that, I mean will this home make sense for you and your family in the long run? Are you a young family and hope to expand? Maybe a two bedroom townhome is not the right buy. Sure, with one child it may be very manageable, but if baby number two is just a year away – you may be forced to move within a couple of years. With transfer taxes and realtor fees, you could eat up any profits made, and that’s just not a smart buy. Ideally you should look for a home that will accommodate you for at least five years. This may mean forgoing some fancy upgrades, but ultimately the cosmetics of a home can be changed, whereas adding square footage is a whole different ball game.
- Have I fallen in love with the finishings, not the home? This often happens with buyers. The reason show homes are so inviting is that the developers want you to fall in love with an ideal. However with all the fancy furniture gone, you may find the home you bought is not the home you need. You may have ignored all those stairs in that three level townhome because you loved that open concept living area. But if you noticed it when you visited, think about how it will affect your daily life. Do you have small children? Imagine carting baby buggies, strollers, and small children up and down those stairs. Suddenly, that home might not be such a great idea after all.
- Do you see yourself in the neighbourhood? If there are tons of children in the neighbourhood, and you are a professional couple who crave quiet, then you might be in the wrong place. Conversely, if you have children, but there are no schools within walking distance, and no basketball hoops in the driveways, then they may not have any friends to play with. Make sure you pick an area that fits your lifestyle, whether you’re looking in the city or the suburbs.
It’s a done deal. You’re finally moving into a new home. But while the excitement builds, so does the anxiety about your getting your stuff to your new digs. Whether you’re relying on your own muscle-power or hiring professional help, a little moving know-how will get you there with as little stress and few unnecessary expenses as possible.
Start early. Make a checklist of things that need to be done before moving day. First off, there’s a whole list of companies and organizations that need to know your new address and when it will take effect. Arrange for change-of-address notification with Canada Post. Update any government documents, such as your driver’s license. Call your insurance company to update your homeowner’s policy. Inform utility companies (including cable and phone), newspaper and magazine subscription departments, and often-missed health-care professionals (such as your doctor and dentist) about your move.
Put Canada Post’s online service to work for you. At www.smartmoves.ca you’ll be able to file your change-of-address notification with a few clicks of the mouse. Pick an E-card to send to friends and family, let Canada Post know which government offices and business your want to notify, and generate helpful checklists to keep your move on track. You’ll also have access to exclusive offers and special discounts.
Trash it or save it. Moving is the perfect time to edit your belongings. Make a list of the things you don’t want to move with you. Dispose of those shabby university-dorm bookcases, that haggard flea market easy-chair, or meaningless memorabilia before you buy packing tape. If your pile of rejects is high, arrange for a trash removal service to cart it away for you.
If you’re moving into a smaller space and not ready to part with larger items that you don’t have room for, consider putting them in storage. Check under “moving and storage” in the Yellow Pages for a local facility. Also note that if you’re using professional movers, they may offer storage services.
Hire your wheels. If you’re moving on your own, arrange for your van or truck as early as possible, especially if you’re moving during summer months. The rental company will be able to advise you on what size of truck you’ll need and offer moving equipment for an extra fee. Things like a dolly, furniture pads, and proper packing material might be worth the extra cost.
You’ll also want to take the time to sign a contract and know exactly what you’re paying for. Moving day is not the time to be quibbling over a verbal agreement.
Get professional help. If you’ve decided to hire movers, don’t go with the first moving company you contact. Get estimates from a few companies since you’ll be trusting them with practically everything you own. When you review the estimates, make sure you’re getting prices for the same services and take special note of how precious items will be handled. Some moving companies will not move pianos, chandeliers, or sensitive electrical equipment but may recommend a special service for you to investigate. You’ll also want to note their insurance coverage. Exactly what will you get if your inherited dining suite is chipped or scratched?
Pack it up. If you’re hiring a professional mover, you may be lucky enough to avoid packing since some will pack everything for you. If, on the other hand, packing is a chore with your name on it, invest in proper packing supplies. You may even want to check the Yellow Pages under “moving supplies and equipment” to rent or buy supplies. Some even offer plastic bins for the environmentally-minded.
The recent 17th annual Interior Design Show, known fondly as IDS15, had mental sparks flying for interior designers, media, and exhibitors alike.
Here’s 4 Insider IDS15 Design Inspiration Trends to spark creativity and insight while buying or selling dream real estate:
- Local Adds
IDS15 demonstrated the 21st-Century strength of “local” by showcasing a wide range of accessible innovation. The emphasis on local and regional manufacturers has never been stronger. Now that everything is available everywhere, local gems can represent the exotic elements in design. There’s also the affordable quality factor. PARIS KITCHENS, established in 1902, is an example of a regional resource that commits to quality and competitiveness on all the levels that matter. 2. Design Swings
CAESARSTONE stole the show and proved its point with “Swings,” an interactive installation of 12 “jump-on-board” swings set in a large, minimalist environment. Collaborating with designer Philippe Malouin, CAESARSTONE demonstrated “their ongoing commitment to creating new platforms for design” and put their premier quartz surface materials to work to emphasize strength, durability, and design. “Swings” illustrated the trends toward more playful environments in essential corners of home and toward surprising juxtaposition of form and function in everyday settings.
3. Beyond the Usual
Dave Hill of ROMAN BATH CENTRE emphasized that it’s not just hot pinks, greens, and other hues that have popped up to replace white for bathrooms, it’s time for a material change. Now, it’s vibrant, back-painted tempered glass fixtures and accessories, available as components which facilitate customization.
4. Thinking Outside The Pot
AGA MARVEL showcased AGA cast iron cooking where the stove surface itself replaces the skillet, frying pan, saucepan…for cooking outside the pan. Although the first AGA installation took place more than a century ago, these luxury appliances have remained environmental (70% recyled) and lifestyle trendsetters. The new slim cast iron range comes in a condo-friendly 24″ and 15 decor-inspiring colors.
What differentiates vacation home insurance from a homeowners’ policy? Here are three things you need to know about insuring your vacation home, and why you may need to add vacation home coverage to guarantee you’re fully protected.
1. Consider that your vacation home may serve as a temporary residence.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average consumer spent $258.59 annually on vacation costs (food, housing and other living expenses) in 2014. But as a vacation homeowner, you’ll likely need to account for these costs and many others.
For instance, if you spend only a few weeks each year at a summer home on the beach, you’ll still need to ensure this residence is protected against hurricanes and other inclement weather year-round. You’ll also need to insure your summer home based on the fact that this residence may provide only temporary housing, which means you’re not present to maintain this residence in the same way an “average” homeowner would take care of his or her house regularly.
Homeowners insurance covers the “average” homeowner, i.e. someone who spends the majority of his or her time at a residence. Since your vacation home serves as a temporary residence, however, you’ll need an insurance policy that accounts for the fact that you may spend only a portion of the year at this house.
2. If you rent your vacation home, you may need additional coverage.
Vacation homes may provide supplemental income because they enable you to rent your residence to guests at various times throughout the year.
In fact, market research firm Statista reported U.S. vacation home rentals topped $22 million annually last year, and this total may surpass $37 million by 2020.
But consider this: Would an average homeowner rent his or her house to visitors? Of course not! As such, you’ll need insurance that accounts for guests who stay at your vacation residence temporarily.
Your homeowners’ coverage will likely not apply to vacation home damage caused by a renter, so you may want to add extra coverage against damage to your vacation house. You also might consider additional liability, bodily injury and medical payment insurance to minimize your risk when visitors stay at your vacation home.
3. You’ll want to account for insurance costs before you purchase a vacation home or rent your vacation home to guests.
Before you dot the i’s and cross the t’s on your vacation home purchase agreement, consider your insurance costs. By doing so, you’ll know exactly what it will cost to guarantee you’re protected against a wide range of dangers that otherwise could damage your vacation home and its long-term value.
Purchasing a vacation home represents a major investment, one that should not be taken lightly. If you understand your vacation home insurance options, you should have no trouble optimizing the return on your investment.
Vacation home insurance costs may vary based on risk factors such as the location of your residence, the age of your home and its amenities—all factors that could impact the cost of your homeowners’ policy, too.
Comparatively, with your vacation home insurance, you’ll need to account for problems that could arise when your home is unoccupied, including theft, vandalism or undetected damage like when a water pipe bursts.
Keep in mind that these issues may occur in an average home as well. On the other hand, an average homeowner is more likely to detect and address such problems immediately as opposed to a vacation homeowner who spends only a few weeks a year at a particular residence.
Like any residence, your vacation home represents both an opportunity and a risk. If you devote the time and resources to evaluate rental home dangers, you can learn about these risks and insure your vacation home accordingly.
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.
Many people complain about small kitchens but tiny spaces aren’t always to be dreaded. If you’re selling your home and your kitchen is, well, compact, know that you can find ways to achieve big appeal with a little creativity.
- Bring in the light.Sometimes small kitchens can be dark, making them feel even smaller. But if you remove the curtains from any windows in your small kitchen, it’ll let light in and open up the area. Instead of curtains, you can use small blinds that are recessed inside the frame of the window. These are easy to clean and still provide some privacy even when the blinds are open.
- De-Clutter the counter tops and the walls.Most people have a tendency to let kitchen clutter build up on the counter tops and walls. Removing items from the counters, kitchen table, and even off the walls will make the space feel bigger. Yes, I know these items on the counters are useful but when you’re selling your home, a little inconvenience may help you receive a higher offer and you’ll probably agree, that’s worth it! Take the appliances and either store them in the kitchen cabinets or, if there isn’t enough room, pack them up. You’re moving soon, anyway.
Clearing off photos and miscellaneous papers that are stuck on your refrigerator door or kitchen walls will also help make your kitchen look bigger. If you’re tight for space, mounted storage units can be added to your kitchen walls to free up limited counter-top space. But again, too many storage units, even the decorative kind, will give people a feeling like the walls are closing in on them. The same goes for hanging pot racks from the ceiling. Be sure to leave some open wall space and to use storage units that aren’t completely solid. The open units, if the shelves aren’t stuffed, will give a less closed-in feeling.
- Opt for lighter and brighter wall color.Going with lighter colors tends to open up a room. Light and bright colors are also very inviting and friendly, making them a perfect choice for the kitchen. You can use a darker accent trim to create some contrast. You can also use decorations including floral arrangements or even some colorful kitchen appliances to add spice to the kitchen.
What is a tiny house?
Tiny homes lie in stark contrast to the megamansion ideal, with “modest quarters” measuring “as small as 90 square feet complete with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and living quarters,” said Design Boom. Many tiny homes are built on wheels—the new RV—but many are fixed on a piece of land, acting as a small-scale guesthouse and also a year-round home for some.
While the homes can and do include all of the basic features, living in a tiny home means that bedroom space is often relegated to a sleeping loft accessed by a steep ladder, the kitchen is miniscule, and bathroom facilities leave something to be desired.
Who lives in a tiny house?
“To inhabit a tiny house, you have to remodel your sense of what success is and how important it is to you to convey to the outside world ‘Hey, I have a big house and big car and I’m successful,'” said Tiny House Blog. “A tiny-house builder describes this group as including people who ‘want to live off the grid. A lot of vegans. The younger people are idealists. They’re big into off-the-map and sharing their experience.’
That includes Dee Williams, whose memoir about building a tiny 84-square-foot home in Washington state,The Big Tiny, was excerpted in Slate.
“The only major unknown was the shower,” she said. “There wasn’t any room for it inside the house; there wasn’t an easy way to heat up the water, deliver it to a showerhead, and dispose of it safely. I was stuck, and after staying up till three in the morning one night, thumbing through the Lehman’s catalog, a book that included photos of all the ways the Amish and off-grid settlers bathe, I decided to buy a membership to a gym. I figured I could get a membership at one of those big national gyms, so wherever I went from town to town, I could shower as much as I wanted.”
A property survey shows the boundaries of the property indicating the lot size, and includes a written description of the property. Property surveys, which resemble a map, are carried out during the original construction of a house and are provided to the buyer at that time. However, if the house you are buying is older you may find that the original survey has long been lost. Sometimes a copy has been kept at the city planning department and they will gladly give you a copy, but I’ve never been that lucky.
Surveys indicate right-of-ways and easements. Right-of-ways detail the right of others to access certain areas of the property (for example, it may allow access to hydro or telephone companies for servicing or a shared lane or driveway). Easements are a right that’s assigned to the property and cannot be removed very easily, if at all. Surveys may also indicate issues such as a fence located outside the property line or an overhanging roof from a detached garage and in these instances, the buyer can ask the seller to correct the problem before closing.
If you’re thinking of buying a home, you may be wondering if you need an up-to-date property survey. It’s definitely in your best interests to have one as your lender may insist on one before approval of your financing, however, Title Insurance may suffice. Your lawyer will most likely suggest that you purchase Title Insurance anyway, and it may soon be mandatory for all real estate property purchases. If you are buying a condo you won’t need a survey, not even for a condo townhouse as essentially the condo corporation will own the land, not you. A simple way to find out if it’s a requirement is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you buy and quite frankly I insist that all of my clients get pre-approved before we start looking at homes.
Over time, you may want to add a fence, a pool, a deck or even an extension and you will need a survey when you make these improvements. Many times such changes have occurred since the last survey making it out of date and therefore it has little value in the real estate transaction, but could still be suffice for your own needs.
More and more women today can afford to purchase a property on their own to build up valuable equity and are no longer waiting to find a life partner before they pursue the financial and lifestyle benefits of home ownership. One in four buyers these days is a single female, and new home marketing is actually starting to reflect that. We may be ready to jump into the commitment of home ownership but not all of us are willing to give up our valuable free time to outdoor chores. So single girls tend to look for homes that require little or no maintenance with an option to plant container gardens. Sound familiar girls?
The easiest and most popular way to hold on to our maintenance free lifestyle is to purchase a condominium. Its problem-free upkeep and unencumbered lifestyle is an obvious benefit to people who don’t want to be tied up every weekend with chores—there are no lawns to water and mow, and no leaves to rake. No yard means there’s no fence or deck to repair, and no driveway to shovel in winter. Choose a condo and you’ll never have to worry about this stuff. Condominium members are charged a flat monthly fee to cover maintenance of the common areas as well as provide prompt service by reliable tradespersons if there are maintenance problems in your individual unit. Heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical problems are handled by maintenance staff or service agreements set up by the condo association, so good help is available at a moment’s notice.
Security is also an important consideration for single women living alone, and the condo lifestyle can offer such measures as restricted access, a concierge on duty screening visitors, closed circuit TV monitors, patrolling security guards and panic buttons in garages to add to peace of mind.
Some single women still prefer a more traditional home as their first property. The appeal of having an outdoor space of your own to entertain, putter about in a garden and relax in can be inviting. A single family home sometimes offers more privacy and is also better suited to larger pets. Make sure to check if your pet will be warmly received by the condo board—they uphold the rules that the condo owners have set in place.
You’ll find that financing requirements will be affected when you come to buy a condo. For example, your lender will include half the condo fee (which covers maintenance and repairs to the building and common elements, but more on that later!) in your debt calculation when you apply for a mortgage. There’s nothing quite comparable when you’re purchasing a single-family property. That condo fee will be added to the monthly expenses that you’ll have to carry—a figure that always includes mortgage payments and interest, municipal taxes, and utilities—and that higher figure will have an impact on the total amount the lender will approve for your mortgage. However, that initial drawback can also be a blessing in disguise for the condo buyer, because by knowing the fixed monthly maintenance cost in advance, you can budget accordingly.
Hey, Where Did My View Go?
Only pay for “protected” views! Before purchasing a condo in the sky, verify that your unit’s breathtakingly gorgeous view is lawfully protected. Are municipal zoning laws, building regulations or environmental restrictions on the books to prevent someone else from destroying your fabulous view? Don’t pay a premium for that view only to lose it a few years later—along with some of your investment. Never assume that your view will last forever. Check into the area’s future plans, and get written assurances from the developer.