Buying a Home? 5 Ways to make it a smooth adventure

Buying a home is an exciting experience. Whether it’s your first of your fifth time, it’s best to be prepared and to stack the deck in your favour. Here are 5 ways to do so in the year leading up to your purchase.

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1. See a mortgage broker or agent. In fact, see at least two mortgage agents and become familiar with your current options for terms, rates and other benefits such as pre-payment options.

2. If you’re not familiar with your credit score, order a free report from Equifax or Transunion. Don’t like what you see? Make a commitment to pay down your debt, and put any extra cash in savings. Another advantage of checking your score is to make sure that your record is valid and correct and that you have not been a victim of identity fraud.

3. If it’s your first time buying a home, take advantage of investing in your RRSPs. Put up to $25,000 in your RRSPs and then “borrow” this money as part of your down payment. Ask your financial advisor for more details and benefits.

4. Contact a real estate agent you feel you can trust, discuss your plans with them, and get on the same page. As your REALTORS® we act in your interest in finding you a home, negotiating and, and working with you through the buying process. If you also plan to sell your existing home, we can also help to prepare you in that respect.

5. Before your feet hit the home buying strip, ask us how we can connect you with homes that fit your minimum criteria. This includes matching your budget (which you have greater confidence in after contacting a mortgage agent), the minimum number of bedrooms, and whether you want a freehold or condominium property. This way, you can see what the market has to offer in your price range, and get a feel for what options are available to you at different price points. We can send an updated list of properties (some that are not yet listed publicly) to your inbox daily, weekly or even immediately, depending your buying timeline. Ask us how.

Highlights on Skylights

Skylights are often overlooked when we are renovating or building a new home. It is typical to maximize our use of windows, but if we consider the many benefits of a skylight, you may find that having one installed is in your next renovation or new-build plans.

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Here are 5 benefits of skylights:

1. The overhead natural light provides a calm ambience that can’t be replicated, connecting you to the outdoors. This means you can see birds flying above you, rain beating down in a storm or the stars at night.

2. You will find yourself turning on the lights less often, reducing the use of artificial lighting.

3. Skylights conveniently provide light without sacrificing privacy, such as in a bathroom.

4. They can be used strategically in a dark stairwell or other room not surrounded by an exterior wall, to keep your whole home balanced and well-lit.

5. Skylights provides a comfortable warmth, increasing the natural average temperature of your home.

If you do move forward with a skylight, have it installed by a reputable company who can advise you on the best location both in respect to your home and in a room, which will affect how much light you would get and how long it is sustained. When used strategically, skylights can truly enhance a homes interior and value.

Get Green!

A dark, plain or dreary room can be livened up immediately with the right plant. Big or small, plants create a pleasing addition any room and there is one out there for you. In addition, certain plants can remove up to 89 percent of harmful volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde found in building materials and furnishings, as well as xylem found in permanent markers. Particularly in the winter, when we have our doors and windows shut for the most part, air filtering plants will help brighten your spirits and revive you. From orchids to palms, check out this list of 7 indoor plants that will effectively filter your air.

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For those of you who know yourself well, and have had many a plant die in a dark corner, these 15 indoor plants may surprise you— perhaps even making it to your next birthday. Hey, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Check out these hardy home dwellers.

Staying On Top of Energy Costs

Make a Power Switch! If you’re looking for ways that you and your family can reduce your energy use, keep track of your consumption by saving your bills, and noting the dates of any major changes (eg. severe weather, new appliance, change of routine, etc.). Then compare your consumption and spending to previous years’ results.

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Meanwhile, here are some “electrical switches” you can make right away, for a noticeable cost reduction:
• Switch to newer, LED or fluorescent bulbs.
• Switch large or multi-light fixtures to dimmer controls.

And, if you have an electric hot water heater:
• Switch to water-saving showerheads.
• Switch your laundry wash to cold water – most washing energy is spent making hot water.

When the Home Inspector Finds Something Wrong

You shop for a home. You find one you like. You make an offer — conditional on a satisfactory home inspection.

Okay so far.

Then the inspector discovers a problem with the home that may require an expensive repair or renovation. Perhaps the frame in the front door is cracked; or there’s a leak in the roof; or the furnace is due to be replaced.

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What do you do?

You don’t want to pass up an opportunity to purchase what could be your dream home. On the other hand, you don’t want to have to deal with potentially costly repairs.

First, keep in mind that you did the right thing.

It’s always a good idea to get a home inspected by a professional before the offer is finalized. A qualified home inspector will go over the property with a fine tooth comb, top to bottom, inside and out, inspecting the structure, electrical systems, HVAC systems and more.

It’s their job to find any deficiencies in the home and alert you to them.

If a deficiency is found, your next best step is to discuss the issue with your REALTOR®, and go over your options. Those options may include amending the offer price to cover some or all of the costs of the repair, or requiring the seller to get the repair done before you move in.

Don’t worry. This is a normal part of the negotiation process. Chances are, an agreement can be reached that is satisfactory to both parties — and gets you the house you want!

And, because you had a home inspection done, you’ll know the true condition of your home when you buy it. That’s peace of mind.

Mold. An unwelcome guest.

Mold can become an issue in your home if you overlook some basic maintenance and care. Often recognized as a black stain or smudge that smells musty, it grows on materials that have moisture, and are most often found on window sills, carpets, and walls in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. In addition to being an unpleasant sight, mold releases tiny spores that can get inhaled and can cause various ailments including coughing, wheezing, allergic reactions, and general unease. Depending on the individual, the effects of mold may be more serious for seniors, children or those with compromised immune systems.

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It is important to address moisture right away and be proactive in preventing mold. You can do so by making sure your bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry rooms are properly ventilated; that downspouts and gutters are directed and connected correctly; and keeping your home warm with good air circulation.

If you do inspect your house and find mold covering less than a square metre, you can take the necessary precautions to remove and clean it yourself. By using rubber gloves and a dust mask, you can help reduce the impact on your health.

One product that we have come across that not only cleans up the mold, but kills the spores and treats the surface to prevent recurrence is Concrobium Mold Control. It has yielded excellent results time and time again and find it has good value. It is available at several hardware stores, and sells for about $10 per litre.

If you have mold in your home, review more information here.

But remember if you have an extensive mold problem, call a professional to have it removed and don’t risk your health. Contact us for a referral to a trusted mold remediation company.

The Greatness of Grey

Oftentimes, fresh paint is all that’s needed to take a room from drab to dreamy, and that has definitely been the case with the resurgence of grey. The popularity of grey paint in homes over the past couple of years, has created a stylish sense of minimalism, drama, or elegance. But if you’ve ever tried to match your grey towels to curtains, you know that grey can be a challenging colour to master. With so many undertones, grey also tends to blur the lines between blue, green, and purple depending on lighting and the items around it.

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Choose the right grey the first time. Before you run out to the hardware store, consider these fantastic tips from House Beautiful on picking the perfect grey paint so that your room doesn’t fall flat.

The Decorologist, a phenomenal interior decorator and Psychological Stager also cautions the use of neutral grays in rooms with lots of wood furnishing such a dining rooms, which may cause the whole room to lose its lustre. Make sure you check out her ideas for keeping your future grey or grey-inspired colours looking gorgeous.

Happy painting!

5 Secrets To Selecting Interior Lighting

Lighting is, perhaps, the most important element in decorating. The right lamp, chandelier or ceiling fixture can instantly make a room more attractive and inviting. The wrong lighting, unfortunately, can have the opposite effect. Here are five secrets to making the right choice:

1. How much lighting is required in a room? To calculate, simply multiply the square footage by 1.5. Therefore, a 12′ x 16′ living room would require 288 watts of lighting (12 x 16 x 1.5 = 288).

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2. How big a chandelier do you need? Simply add the dimensions of the room together. So a 12′ x 16′ area could accommodate a chandelier that is 28 inches in diameter (12 + 16 = 28).

3. How far apart should lighting fixtures be installed in a hallway? Experts say that ideally a light should be positioned every 8 to 10 feet.

4. How do I create ambience? In the dining area for example, select a light fixture that can accommodate a dimmer switch. The ambiance of the room improves if you can soften the lighting during meals or when entertaining.

5. Using floor lamps? The bottom of the lampshade should be around 42 inches from the floor.

Redecorating On A Budget

Getting bored of the four walls that surround a particular room? Want to redecorate, but worried that you don’t have the budget? Here are some low-cost ideas for revitalizing the look of just about any area of your home.

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Paint. It’s amazing what a $30 dollar can of paint can do. Changing the shade of a wall, or even just the trim and baseboards, can have a dramatic effect on a room.

Lighting. How a room is lit has an impact on its overall design. Consider replacing any lamps and ceiling light fixtures. Don’t forget that the brightness and location of the lighting can also make a big difference.

Sofas and chairs. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars replacing furniture. If your sofas and chairs are still in good shape, just replace the fabric and pillows.

Shelving and other organizers. Stuffed bookshelves and cluttered surface areas can make a room feel uncomfortable. Consider installing extra shelving and using other products available on the market to help you organize your space.

One final tip: Take stuff out. People often think of redecorating as changing or adding things. But often just taking some stuff out of a room can significantly improve its look and comfort. When it comes to decorating, less is often more.

Staging Tips #1-5

When it comes to “staging” your home for sale – which basically means ensuring it looks clean and uncluttered – you probably already know the basics: clean the counters, vacuum the floors, mow the lawn, etc. But there are some home staging tips that are less obvious, yet can help to sell your property faster and for a higher price. For example:

#1 The Kitchen
Obvious: The stove, sinks and countertops should be spotless.
Not-so-obvious: The contents of your cabinets and refrigerator should be facing face forward.

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#2 The Bathrooms
Obvious: They should be clean and uncluttered. Have fresh towels hanging neatly on the rack. (The “hotel bathroom” look.)
Not-so-obvious: All towels should match. Ensure toilet lids are closed.

#3 Your Bedroom
Obvious: Make the bed neatly. Check that the closet is organized and uncluttered. (If your closet is bulging with clothes, put some in storage.)
Not-so-obvious: Don’t leave any clothes out. Even clean clothes neatly folded in a hamper can seem untidy to some people.

#4 Kids’ Bedrooms
Obvious: They need to be clean and, especially, uncluttered. (Good luck!)
Not-so-obvious: Arrange stuffed animals, games and other toys like an attractive display in a toy store. It’s okay to have a toy, like a race track, out of the box. Just make sure it’s completely put together. (No pieces lying around.)

#5 The Garage
Obvious: Make sure the floor is clean and that things are put away.
Not-so-obvious: If possible, get everything (except the car!) off the floor and onto shelves and hanging hooks. This will make a dramatic difference in how roomy the garage will look.

These not-so-obvious staging tips may seem minor, but they add up to a home that is much more attractive to potential buyers.