3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a House

Whether you’re thinking about buying or are already in the market for a new home, make sure you ask yourself these questions before making a move:

1. What are my “musts”? As you start your home search or are considering a particular home, make a list of your “must-haves.” These are your top priorities. They might include a certain number of bedrooms, a garage, or a specific school district. Note which items are not up for negotiation so you can refer back to this list as you look at homes.

To maximize your options, limit your “must” list to items you can’t easily change after purchasing the home. For example, you can’t change the home’s location, but you could easily switch out the flooring.

2. How long do I plan to stay? Consider various life factors that might influence how long you’ll live in your next home. Will you likely relocate due to a job transfer? Are you getting ready to settle down in the next couple of years? Is your family growing?

The answers to these questions will help you determine if it’s a good time to buy and, if so, what size and style of home to include in your search.

3. How’s my credit? If you’re planning to take out a mortgage to buy a home, your credit score will be a crucial factor. Lenders look at this number to determine the amount of money they are willing to loan you and at what interest rate.

Credit scores range from 300 to 900.  Scores below 650 are considered weak. You can get a free copy of your credit report annually from the three consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Examine these reports carefully to determine if everything is correct and if you’ll need to raise your credit score before you can qualify for a home.

If you need assistance with your credit, feel free to give me a call. I can provide additional resources to help put you in a buy-ready position.

Rising Debt is Stealing Homeowners’ Dreams

The average cost of a home in Vancouver is $1.5 million. Toronto’s average home price is $1.2 million. While these cities offer a majority of the job opportunities in Canada, these home prices are far beyond what most Canadians’ salaries could buy.

A significant factor in this affordability issue is student loan debt. If potential homeowners weren’t saddled with this burden, they would have a lot more funds for down payments and mortgage installments.

But, according to National Observer reports, the average student loan debt among Canadians is $26,819. While working hard to pay off this debt, it can be challenging to break into the real estate market.

As a result, rates of homeownership for those under age thirty has been dropping, while student debt continues to rise. Many Millennials are looking at celebrating their fortieth birthdays as renters who are still shouldering mounds of student loan debt. Making their large monthly debt payment on top of a mortgage payment would be too much.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost for first-time home buyers. One possibility is the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, which was introduced by the Canadian government in 2009. If your home qualifies, you could enjoy a $5,000 income tax credit and $750 in tax relief under this program.

The Home Buyers’ Plan is another option, which allows buyers to draw on their registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a home.

If you’d like to make a move from renting to owning, feel free to contact me for additional first-time buyer resources and personal assistance with your home search.

Hottest Housing Markets for 2020 Across Canada

Where can we expect to see the greatest real estate activity next year? Realtor.com  recommends keeping an eye on several markets that are poised for success.

You might not be surprised to discover where some of these hot markets are located, but you may be surprised at why they made the list. The top five (Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Montreal) each offer unique opportunities and appeal that have made them a must-watch market for 2020.

A strong and growing economy is one of the leading factors in most of the hottest markets. For example, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax are all experiencing solid economic growth.

Movement is another common denominator that is affecting housing markets across Canada. In Ottawa, some residents are streaming in from other areas, such as Toronto, in search of more affordable housing. At the same time, immigration continues to make Toronto one of the fastest-growing cities in North America. On a smaller but significant scale in Halifax, an influx of immigrants is increasing the demand for homes.

A third factor affecting the residential market in these top cities is success in other real estate markets. As places like Toronto experience healthy growth in industrial and office sectors, overall appeal and price of real estate improve. Winnipeg (number nine on the list) also has a strong industrial property market, which is benefiting the city overall.

If you’d like to learn more about current housing trends or where to make your next real estate investment, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

A home purchase is likely one of the largest financial investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s important to get this one right. For the best financial outcomes, avoid the following mistakes.

Taking on too much: You think you’ve found your dream home, but it’s outside your housing budget. So, you try to stretch that budget and simply take out a bigger mortgage. This decision can be disastrous. Taking on more debt than you can afford will leave you struggling to pay utilities and zap any other financial goals. A good rule of thumb is to limit the cost of your house payment (including taxes, insurance and any other fees) to 25 percent of your take-home pay.

Skipping the preapproval: Getting preapproved will help you with not taking on too much, as it will provide guidelines for what you can realistically afford. It will also give you a financial advantage when negotiating for a home. Sellers prefer to work with buyers that they know can afford their home, so get preapproved before you shop, so you can submit your pre-approval with any offers.

Skimping on the down payment: The more money you pay up front, the less interest you’ll pay over time. If you save at least 20 percent for a down payment, you can also avoid PMI, which is a fee to cover insurance that protects lenders when a buyer has little equity in the home. And don’t forget to include closing costs and moving expenses as you save up for your purchase.

Going it alone: An experienced agent helps you determine a reasonable price for any home you are considering. We can also negotiate the best price for the home. Plus, the seller pays the agent’s commission, so you get all the expertise at no cost to you. When you’re ready to start your home search, just give me a call!

Protect Your Privacy (and Your Curb Appeal Too)

A 50-foot fence would provide plenty of privacy. A moat will keep people out of your yard. But I’m guessing you probably want something a little more attractive for your property.

Fortunately, there are tasteful, appealing options that will allow you to keep nosy neighbours at bay. The two main areas to focus on are windows and landscaping.

Windows provide sunlight, outdoor viewing, and fresh air, but they can also provide your neighbours with a play-by-play of what’s going on inside your home. If your property is feeling more like a fishbowl than a house, try adding a privacy feature to the windows.

Window tinting can be a great option. These tints can block visibility from the outside while allowing you to enjoy your views. As a bonus, some window tinting can also reduce sun exposure, which can help keep your home cool and protect décor from fading.

Of course, window treatments such as curtains and blinds can also provide privacy, but these can make your home feel like a cave. To maintain privacy and natural light, choose cellular shades or lightweight and light-coloured curtains that keep rooms bright.

The right selections in your yard can also provide privacy. Plan your landscaping to include features that block neighbours’ views into your yard and home.

Attractive trellises are a good choice. These create wonderful privacy screens while adding greenery to your surroundings. Choose your favourite vine or other decorative plant and arrange it so that it adds beauty to your backyard and privacy to your home.

Potted plants are an alternative to trellises and can be just as effective in making your home less visible to prying eyes. Place tall plants strategically in your space to create a private backyard oasis or shield your living room window from the world.

What else is nice about all of these options? They are versatile. While fencing is a fairly permanent fixture and can be expensive to install, these privacy options are easy to switch out at any time, and they can fit budgets of any size.

Remodels: What’s Good for Resale and What’s Not

You want to get the best price for your house. You’re willing to do some remodeling – if it will deliver significant ROI. What’s worth the effort? Here are three projects worth considering and three that you can skip.

The kitchen: Kitchens sell homes. If your culinary centre is looking worse for the wear, it will likely turn off potential buyers. Updating your kitchen is a good way to increase the value and appeal of your home.

Bathrooms: These areas are also high on buyers’ priority lists, so they should be on yours, too. Focus efforts on the master bath and the powder room.

Curb appeal: First impressions are important and the front of your home is the first thing buyers see. Make efforts that will boost curb appeal, such as repainting the exterior, adding plants, and sprucing up the entry with a new door. These projects can often be completed at low cost but offer high return.

Pools: While you may enjoy countless hours of fun in your pool, this feature probably won’t pay for itself in home value increase. In fact, it could be a turnoff for some buyers.

Wine rooms: While they may sound elegant, wine rooms or other original-design spaces are often too niche. Their limited audience makes them a poor investment choice.

Removals: Just because you never use that fireplace doesn’t mean you should demolish it. Removing features is typically not a good investment. Potential buyers may wish it were still there, and you aren’t likely to recoup the cost of removing the feature.

For expert input on your remodeling efforts, contact our office. We can discuss the projects that could get the best return on investment and what I’ve seen in demand in your market.

5 Buyer Turn-Offs to Avoid This Summer

When you’re in the process of selling a house and moving, you have a lot on your plate. You might be job-searching, researching your next home, and doing everything you can to keep your kitchen spotless for the next showing.

With so much going on, it can be easy to let seasonal maintenance items slide, but this would be a mistake. It’s crucial to care for these items to keep your home in top shape. The exterior provides the first impression of your home, so put forth the effort to boost your curb appeal. Here’s how.

1. Manicure the yard. Keep your landscaping tidy. Sweep walkways, cut the grass and pull weeds. A well-kept yard with attractive flowerbeds and an inviting front porch are appealing to buyers. Dead tree limbs, piles of leaves and overgrown lawns are not. In fact, they can be instant turn-offs.

2. Clean the gutters. This task is easy to forget about, but its neglect can lead to significant issues. Clogged gutters can cause drainage issues that damage your landscaping and your foundation. If buyers see puddling water and piles of debris on the roofline, they won’t get a good impression of your home. Let them know it’s a well-cared-for property by keeping gutters clear.

3. Check for critters. Uninvited guests are a sure turn-off for buyers. Make sure no pests have made your home their own this season. Inspect any attic, basement and crawl spaces. Cover vents with wire mesh and plug any holes or cracks that could allow animals access to your home.

4. Wash the windows. That’s right – this isn’t just a spring-cleaning project. To attract buyers, keep those panes sparkling all summer. Be sure to wipe them down after storms to keep windows looking sharp.

5. Stay in season. You never want to let your home look out of season. It gives the impression that you no longer care about the home and it is not well maintained. Be mindful of what is in the yard, on the deck or sitting on the front porch. Keep furniture, plants and decor in season. Let potential buyers know your property is well cared for by staying on top of these seasonal tasks.

Hey, That’s My Stuff! How to Avoid Mover Scams

According to the Better Business Bureau, the moving industry is one of the most complained-about industries in Canada. How can you avoid negative experiences? Be aware of common scams, and take steps to protect yourself from these fraudulent activities.

Get it in writing: It might be tempting to get a quick quote and schedule your move over the phone. Don’t do it. This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed. Since you have nothing in writing, the movers can easily charge whatever they want once they begin, and they may hold your belongings hostage until you pay an outrageous amount. Always schedule an in-house walk-through to get an accurate quote, and get the agreed-to amount in writing.

Read the fine print: When you sign a contract with a mover, read all the fine print. Make sure you understand the terms of payment before you sign. Unscrupulous movers may include terms that allow them to hijack your belongings after demanding more money. If you’ve signed anything that allows for these practices, the police will be unable to intervene.

Vet the movers: Before you agree to work with a moving company, research its reputation. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s rating. Ask for recommendations from friends. Read online reviews. Ask movers for proof of registration, proof of insurance and an office address. Take the time to vet the mover, so you know you are working with someone you can trust.

Try a hybrid approach: Consider renting and driving the truck yourself, and hiring movers for loading and unloading only. This will keep your possessions under your control to prevent hijacking scams. (It can also reduce the cost of the move!)

5 Things You Need to Know about Your Future Neighbourhood

Are you currently on the home hunt? You probably have a list of needs and wants. Have you included anything about the neighbourhood?

In addition to bedrooms, baths, and interior upgrades, it’s a good rule of thumb to ask a few questions about the potential neighbourhood you may want to call home. When you’re thinking about buying, here are some questions you can ask to help determine if the neighbourhood will be a good fit for you.

1. Is the area well-maintained? Take a walk around the block. Drive through the neighbourhood. Are properties well-maintained? Are roads in good condition? The appearance of the lawns, homes, and public spaces can reveal a lot about the area.

2. Are there any rules and regulations you need to be aware of before you commit? Do you mind if your renovations and landscaping are restricted by homeowner association bylaws? Find out if the neighbourhood has any rules and regulations, and what they are.

3. What is the reputation of the school district? Even if you don’t have children, the school district’s status can affect property values. Get the scoop on the district’s rankings in academics and financial stability.

4. What’s the crime rate? Oftentimes you can find maps provided by the city that show what crimes occur in the area and how often. The FBI may also have reports available for the area. Do a little research to make sure you’ll feel safe in your new home.

5. What amenities are nearby? For some homebuyers, access to public transportation is important. Others want to live near parks, shops, or restaurants. Find out what amenities the area offers to ensure that you choose a neighbourhood that suits your lifestyle.

3 Real Estate Myths Television Has Taught Us

Jim and Suzy Homebuyer just found their dream property for $50K and fixed it up in three weeks.

Stories like this have skewed viewers’ expectations of real estate reality.

Shows about home buying and renovation projects can be fun to watch, but we may not realize that they often don’t depict the realities of buying, selling, and owning a home.

Here are three common myths popularized by today’s TV lineup.

“Three homes will do.”

On TV, a couple looks at three homes and is able to find the property of their dreams. This isn’t how things work in the real world.

The number of homes buyers must look at before finding the right one for them differs in each situation. It’s not uncommon to look at 20 homes. It may even work out that you look at just one (but it’s not likely).

“I can afford that.” 

Shows that depict real estate purchases and renovations rarely reflect prices that are realistic for viewers. We may witness a bargain deal on TV and assume we could get something similar.

The fact is, markets vary greatly. The price of a home or a remodel in the area where the show is filmed may be completely different from what we can expect in our home town – either much higher or much lower.

“This will be a cinch.” 

While some DIY projects can be completed quickly, the amount of time most renovations take is longer than TV would have you believe. Homeowners shouldn’t expect to dive into a basement remodel on Friday and wake up Monday morning with the project behind them. Even if you hire professionals, they may encounter unexpected delays or simply need more time to do the renovation right.

If you’re considering buying, selling, or renovating, the more information you have, the better prepared you can be. Contact me for some professional input – I’m happy to help.

Modern Homes Are Getting Smarter by the Second

Innovative technology is transforming the real estate marketplace. As they design and select homes, today’s buyers are weighing options that were nonexistent for homeowners 20 years ago. Modern houses, enhanced with smart technology, have become more than rooms and walls. They are integrated systems of efficiency, entertainment, and security, designed to cater to a high-tech lifestyle.

These technological advances are adding value to homes in creative ways.

Convenience: Control centres allow owners to manage almost everything in the home remotely. They can turn up the heat, turn on the lights, or turn off the television from around the globe. With remote access, homeowners no longer have to worry about misplaced or stolen keys. They can even grant entry to others while they are away from home.

Security: Wireless technology and video surveillance options have transformed home security. Systems can be added without drilling holes and hiding wires. Cameras and video technology allow personal, remote observation of the home inside and out. In addition to securing their home against crime, owners can check on Fido, confirm a package delivery, or enjoy peace of mind that the kids arrived safely home from school.

Efficiency: Smart technology can provide greater efficiency for utilities, which can provide significant savings over the years. Improved temperature control technology, remote access to thermostats, and better utility sensors can create a highly efficient home.

Linkage: The internet of things has added multiple new features to homes. Homeowners can link smart appliances, security systems, and more to connect every facet of their lives. The connectivity a home offers can boost its value to plugged-in buyers who are seeking modern networking capabilities.

These smart technologies are becoming more affordable and more accessible. It’s likely that more and more buyers can expect to find high-tech options listed among standard home features.

If you’re considering a smart upgrade to your home, reach out to our office so you can get the best information to determine which innovations make the most sense for your market.

Real Estate Secrets: Why (and How) Kitchens Sell Homes

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s a bustling centre of activity where people gather to cook, eat, socialize, and entertain.

As the central hub, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the home. This space will immediately attract buyers or turn them off. It’s much easier to look passed a small bedroom or an outdated powder room than to get over an undesirable kitchen. The kitchen must be designed to meet the needs of their lifestyle. If it’s not a good match, the buyer will likely eliminate the home as an option.

To prevent this from happening, homeowners can make strategic efforts that will improve their property’s culinary appeal.

Refurbish rather than replace: Cabinetry is a significant factor in a kitchen’s appeal. Since replacing cabinets is an expensive endeavor, many homeowners are reluctant to take on this project. Fortunately, other options won’t break the budget. Consider repainting the cabinetry or replacing only the doors. New cabinet hardware can also create a brand-new look.

Invest in appliances: Modern, matching appliances offer immense appeal. They look sharp, offer convenient features, and typically provide high efficiency to reduce utility bills.

Make it sparkle: Cluttered countertops have never helped sell a home. Buyers want to see the kitchen, not the mess. Keep counters clear and clean and ensure the entire space shines.

Consider the market: When considering kitchen improvements, homeowners should always consult with a trusted real estate agent to ensure upgrades are in alignment with their neighbourhood, the target buyer, and current trends. Reach out with your questions. We are happy to help.

Negotiation: There’s More to it Than You Think!

When you think of real estate negotiations, what comes to mind? For most buyers and sellers, price tops the list. While this is certainly an important part of any real estate deal, did you know there are at least six others areas of potential negotiation?

Closing costs: In addition to the price of the home, buyers must pay closing costs that cover lender fees and other charges. Buyers may ask sellers to help pay for these costs with a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the fees.

Closing date: Do you need to close on a home quickly? Perhaps you need a little more time to search for your next home. There are also different advantages to closing at the beginning and end of the month.

Personal property: What will be included with the four walls and roof? Negotiations will be worked out on whether the seller includes the washer and dryer, kitchen appliances, and even items such as living room furniture or that pool table in the basement.

Contingencies: Many real estate contracts are contingent on financing or other home sales. The buyer may need to complete their lender requirements by a certain date or complete their current home sale before the contract is in full force. These details must be worked out and agreed to up front.

Home repairs: Most contracts include a stipulation that the buyers can complete a home inspection. Once the buyers receive this report, they can ask the sellers to fix items that were found to be in disrepair. Each of these items must be negotiated.

Home warranty: This can be provided as an incentive to buyers to offer peace of mind. It can be particularly appealing for older homes. It typically provides coverage for the home’s HVAC system, appliances, and other major items in the event that they need repair soon after the purchase.

Does this sound like a lot to negotiate? It is. Fortunately, real estate agents are expert negotiators and can handle all of these points for you! Your agent will identify your top needs and work hard to get you the best deal.

Why Flexibility Is the Watchword for Today’s Homes

Let’s roll back the clock to around 1900. If we take a tour of the average home, we’ll find layouts of about 900 square feet. Fast forward to the year 2000, and we’ll find that number has more than doubled, to just over 2,000 square feet.

However, the trend toward “bigger is better” has not carried into 2019. The past few years have seen a slow decrease in median home size. By the end of 2017, it was just over 2,400 square feet.

While this shrinking home size may be significant, what’s even more noteworthy is the change in style. Gone are the days of formal living and dining rooms. The trends for extravagant game rooms, wine cellars and media rooms also seem to have faded into the history books.

Today’s homeowners are seeking something different. They want rooms that serve multiple purposes and homes that serve multiple generations.

This latest concept offers a home within a home. A common layout includes a great room that serves as both living and dining rooms and a suite that adjoins to the main house. This attached one-bedroom living space includes its own kitchen and bathroom and can function as a teen suite, college student’s pad, home office, or in-law apartment.

The idea is that it can be whatever the homeowners need it to be. As parents age or adult children bounce back home, the layout offers suitable living arrangements to accommodate a variety of situations. It creates a space that allows the property to meet homeowner needs, not just for many years but for many generations.

Attention Sellers: What Buyers Want

Today’s television lineup is packed with shows about property ownership. From remodeling to purchasing to flipping homes, HGTV and other similar channels have inundated homeowners with ideas about real estate.

As a result, many buyers now have high expectations as they search for a potential home. They’ve seen the magazine-worthy houses on TV and that’s what they want to find when they view a home. Things should be picture perfect to grab their attention. Fresh paint, new kitchens and bathrooms, neutral décor, and modern conveniences top the lists of many buyers.

It’s important for sellers to keep these standards in mind as they prepare to place their homes on the market. To get that coveted buyer, sellers must give buyers what they want. If they are looking for a picturesque setting, then give them one.

Invest in upgrades for outdated interiors. Allow a professional to stage the home. Take the time to boost curb appeal. Ask a real estate agent for recommendations to decide what changes would make the best investment.

As sellers make these changes, one concept is essential to keep in mind: location. While upgrades can help sell a home, it’s important that sellers not price themselves out of their neighbourhood. Remodeling and redecorating should be appropriate for the location.

If a seller builds an addition and updates a kitchen with all the bells and whistles, the home might be beautiful, but also overpriced. The seller may have created a $250,000 home in a $150,000 neighbourhood.

Again, it’s important to consult with a local real estate agent who is familiar with the area. He or she can determine what projects should be completed to properly prep the home for the market.

With the right upgrades at the right budget, sellers are more likely to sell the home quickly and get top dollar for their property.

Big-Ticket Items: When’s the Best Time to Buy?

From furniture to refrigerators, big-ticket items are often a major consideration during the home-buying process. For sellers, investing in some upgrades could make their home more attractive than the competition. Buyers settling into a home may be on the hunt for good deals to fill their new space. On either side of the transaction, it’s helpful to know when and what to buy to get the most bang for your buck. Here’s the scoop.

Kitchens sell homes: Sellers, keep this in mind if you’re wondering where to invest your dollars to boost your home’s appeal. If your kitchen features outdated appliances, spend the budget here rather than in the laundry room or guest bedroom. Consult with your real estate agent to determine the best upgrades for your price range and budget.

Seasons offer savings: If you have some flexibility with the timing of your purchase, look for big-ticket items when they are most likely to be on sale. Appliance manufacturers typically introduce new models in the fall, so consumers can often find good deals on previous models at this time. The exception to this trend is refrigerators, which are usually marked down in the spring. To furnish a new home, try to hold off until January or July. These months generally see the most furniture sales.

Discounts are available: As you shop, watch for potential discounts. If a store is selling floor models, you may be able to get a great deal. Many stores also offer competitor price matching. Lastly, look for savings even after you buy. Some retailers offer price adjustments if your item is reduced soon after your purchase.

Five Interior Design Disasters to Avoid

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that saying rings true for how one chooses to decorate one’s home. Therefore, one person’s love of leopard print could be another person’s decorating disaster. If you are looking to sell your home this year, change up or avoid these top five no-nos.

Wall-to-wall carpeting. Having wall-to-wall carpet is the number one no-no. According to Jonathan Scott of the famed Property Brothers, no one is looking to buy a house with carpet – which can hold many of life’s unsavoury side effects like dirt, stains, and hair.

Mirrored walls. In theory, this decorating idea should make a small space appear larger. However, according to Scott, the effect can actually make your room look like an “’80s dance hall.” Let the dance hall die and opt for full-length mirrors instead.

Clutter. When it comes to decorating to sell, less is almost always more. Be particularly picky about the foyer, since this provides the initial impression of the interior. Keep shoes, winterwear, bags, and other daily-use items organized and out of sight. Rearrange or remove furniture and décor throughout the home to make each room appear as spacious and inviting as possible.

Loud wallpaper. Although wallpaper can add that pop of colour that a room desperately needs, a loud or dizzying pattern can turn off buyers. If you want to add appealing hues, stick with paint.

White on white. Although beautiful, the colour white is not realistic when it comes to life’s many mishaps. Realtor.com recommends that homeowners gravitate toward rich shades such as rust browns, black, and forest green.

Could Driverless Cars Drive Real Estate Values?

Imagine a world where humans never have to worry about wasted commute times. Imagine being able to use that time to work, spend quality time with your kids, plan dinner, or catch up on some much-needed z’s.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? That magic could be coming to a street near you, as driverless cars are poised to become mainstream technology worldwide.

As Tesla, GM, and BMW clamber to get their fleets on the streets, these autonomous cars could have a far-reaching effect on industries other than auto.

When the human is removed from behind the wheel, the potential for error diminishes. Therefore, safety precautions such as auto insurance, parking tickets, speed traps, and law enforcement may no longer be needed.

These vehicles could also have a significant impact on the real estate market. When autonomous cars become the new norm, public transit will no longer be the go-to for those who are unable to drive.

The loss of public transit could have a domino effect on the real estate industry, since cities would no longer be built around transit systems. What was once considered less desirable residential real estate may become more popularbecause of the distance from transit hubs. According to an article in Forbes, these areas could offer a “greater appeal [that] could translate into increasing demand and rising property values.”

The long-reaching impact these cars will have on society is still being mapped, but it should make for an interesting ride.

What You Need to Know before Becoming a Landlord

Thinking of becoming a landlord? While this can be financially and personally rewarding, you must do your homework before you take the leap.

To help you learn the ropes and avoid any costly missteps, here are some handy tips of the trade.

It cannot be overstated how important it is for landlords to do their pre-closing homework.

During the home inspection, remember to take a thorough look at the property to see what will need to be repaired or replaced.

For example, you might want to change the toilets to low-flow models. You’ll also probably want to invest in essential upgrades to three common areas: water, door locks, and flooring.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of underestimating the costs of fixing and maintaining the property, both before and after a tenant has moved in.

Most landlords account for insurance and taxes, but it’s easy to miss expenses like garbage, gardening, and regular maintenance.

According to Money, you should set aside at least 35 to 45% of your annual rental income to cover these costs. (And when you’re calculating this income, it’s a good rule of thumb to account for only 10 or 11 monthly payments per year.)

When it comes to finding a tenant, don’t be too relaxed. Interview prospective tenants on the phone first to find out if they meet your requirements. Then, it’s important to check your potential tenants’ credit and speak to their references. Confirm the source and amount of their income. It should be at least 2.5 times the annual rent. You should also learn what’s legal in your town. For example, can you ban pets?

Once you’ve found a great tenant, act fast to get the lease signed. From there, never forget that you’re running a business and your tenant is a customer. Treat your customer right, and success is more likely to come your way.

 

Prepping Your Home for Sale: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Every seller wants to maximize his or her profit. Partnering with a real estate agent is a great start. Homeowners can further increase their bottom line with a few simple steps. To get the most out of your house, complete the following before you list.

Hire your own home inspector. If a buyer’s inspector finds issues with your home, you can expect your profit to shrink. Stay one step ahead by hiring your own home inspector to unearth any potential issues.

Invest in repairs. In addition to addressing any trouble the home inspection reveals, it’s a good idea to have cosmetic issues addressed. Prospective buyers notice things like cracked tile, chipped baseboards, or a squeaky floorboard, and this will be reflected in their offer.

Upgrade where it counts. You don’t have to renovate your whole house to turn a healthier profit. Make small, impactful swaps, such as switching out lighting, cabinet hardware, or shower heads for cleaner, more contemporary options.

Add a few new accessories. Fresh flowers and potted plants go a long way in making a room feel inviting. For a cozier living room, drape a cable-knit blanket over the couch. String Edison bulb lights over a patio and put an Adirondack chair on the front porch. These small touches add major warmth.

Treat it like a model home. To sell your house quickly and for the most money, treat it like a house you’ve been hired to stage. Put personal effects into storage, declutter, remove artwork that could be seen as too loud, and make sure the house is absolutely spotless.