Moving? Here’s a Checklist to Help Get You Started

No matter how many times you’ve moved house or how near or far you’re moving, the actual moving process rarely becomes a walk in the park. If you go in unprepared, it can become much more stressful than it needs to be. So with that in mind, here is a checklist to help make your move as smooth as possible.

Lose anything you don’t need while there’s time. A couple of months before the move is a good time to declutter and clear out the things you really don’t need. It will mean less energy wasted moving things that will eventually be discarded anyway as well as giving you fewer items to worry about transporting.

Think realistically about how you will move. If you don’t have a huge amount of stuff, you can save an expensive move by transporting it on your own. But be realistic about how feasible this is, and do plan ahead if you’re going to need movers after all, as they can book up or raise their prices nearer the time.

Get packed early. A month might seem very early to start packing, but in reality, it very often takes much longer than you expect, leaving you stressed and overwhelmed as the clock ticks down on the final days. Packing what you can as early as possible removes a whole lot of hassle later down the line and gives you breathing space.

Save essential items until last. Toiletries, cleaning items, pens and tape should be some of the last things you pack, as you’ll definitely still need them right up to the day of your move. It’s also a good idea not to pack tools such as screwdrivers or Allen keys too early, as there could be some last-minute furniture you forgot to take apart.

If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming house move, call us for some advice on how to make it stress-free.

Buying a Home? Here Are 5 Tips for Negotiating

Before negotiating the purchase of a home, you have to look closely at the seller’s motivation and the current market conditions. Whether it’s a seller’s or buyer’s market, these tips should help you successfully negotiate a deal on a home.

1. Begin by knowing what you want in a home. Decide on what kind of property you want and create a detailed list of what amenities need to be part of your new home. This will narrow your search and help you negotiate to get what you want.

2. Get preapproved for a loan so you know your budget and can negotiate within your financial limits. Account for your cash funds so you can factor in projected closing costs, needed renovations and other fees.

3. So you can make a reasonable offer on any properties of choice, first check out the real estate market to see what may fulfill your wants and stay within your budget. Get to know the sales history of comparable properties and the active competing inventory so you can substantiate any reasonable offer.

4. Find out the seller’s motivation for selling and how long the property has been on the market. The price will be easier to negotiate with this information.

5. Think of your negotiating as trying to close on a business deal. Refrain from letting your emotions get in the way of your decision-making so you can get the best result.

Please contact me so I can help prepare you to successfully negotiate on the purchase of your next home.

Get Your Decluttering Started with These 5 Easy Tips

If you’re preparing to put your house on the market, it’s good to begin with a declutter. It will help to make it as presentable as possible to prospective buyers as well as giving you some calming peace of mind. Here are some helpful tips for decluttering.

Neaten up your counters. Go along your kitchen counter and get rid of everything that really shouldn’t be there, whether it’s pans that have a cupboard to call home, left-out cups or spices you know you’ll never actually use.

Spruce up the fridge. While you’d hope home viewers won’t go into your fridge, giving it a good thorough clean can prevent unwanted smells from dissipating through the house. Clear out any out-of-date, forgotten foodstuffs lingering at the back and create more space for fresh ingredients you’ll actually use.

Get that entry hall decluttered. It’s the first place prospective buyers will see when they come to view your home, so having it nice and clutter-free will help create a good first impression. Put stray shoes on the rack, shred old junk mail lying around and hang up coats and hats.

Organize your living room. You may have accumulated way too many cushions, throws or wall hangings over the years without even realizing it, unwittingly giving a slightly claustrophobic feeling to the living room. Go through each item and decide whether you could do away with it without sacrificing comfort.

Keep the bathroom tidy. Stick to one of each essential toiletry item to keep your bathroom countertops neat and tidy rather than having multiple brands of shower gel and numerous different deodorant options. This will keep your bathroom nice and presentable.

If you are selling your home, call or email me for ideas on what to declutter that will make the most impact.

4 Ways to Set Up Your New Year for Financial Success

New year, new you? Make sure that your resolutions for a positive fresh start also extend to your monetary situation with these four tips for a successful financial new year.

Don’t live beyond your resources.

Think intelligently about your spending. Just because you can afford something, do you really need to spend money on it? You could find your finances being sapped by unimportant instant gratification, whereas you’ll thank yourself later if those incremental savings help you make a down payment on a new house.

Have multiple savings pots.

It’s all well and good to add to your savings, but splitting it up into different pots will help you keep track of what you’re saving for and how much more you need. For example, have one pot for vacations, one for shopping and one for that house down payment.

Prioritize saving.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t spend anything, but when your paycheck comes in, allocate your savings amount before you consider how much you’ll spend on other things. Doing this will help you keep your finances in shape and ready for the important payments instead of accidentally frittering them away too soon.

Keep tabs on your spending.

There are many apps and tools that help you look back on what types of things your money goes to each month and how much. Many online banks also have the feature built into online accounts so you can properly budget and keep track of where you might want to pull back or have leeway to increase.

What Is Involved in the Closing Process?

While the settlement is the final step in the closing process, there are a few events that must occur first before buyer and seller can officially complete the sale.

A final buyer walk-through will trigger the closing process. The purpose of the final walk-through is to check the condition of the property and to confirm that any agreed-upon repairs have been done. This typically happens within five days of closing. The seller should have the house move-in ready with all manuals and operating instructions available for the buyer.

The lender then gives the buyer the final loan estimate with the closing loan fees and the closing disclosure to satisfy the three-day review period.

A title or escrow company will typically be where the closing takes place. Which state the transaction is occurring in will determine which parties will attend the closing. Attendees may include the title or escrow officer, the loan officer, the listing and selling agents and any real estate attorneys. In states that allow electronic closings, involved parties will execute required documents remotely and digitally.

The buyer must present funds for closing costs and the down payment. This is typically 3% to 5% of the loan amount for loan fees plus the down payment amount. On the seller side, the net proceeds to the seller will reflect deductions for a loan payoff, real estate commissions, escrow and title costs, and prorated taxes and fees.

For in-person closings, buyers need to bring photo IDs and proof of closing funds. The seller will bring all keys and remotes to the table. Buyers and sellers should have some communication regarding the transfer of utilities and any agreed-upon services.

A successful closing is the goal of every transaction. Please contact me for assistance with any buying or selling questions.

Do These 5 Things Before Decorating for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get those boxes full of decorations down from the attic. Before going wild, though, here are a few tips to take note of to make adorning your home a calming experience.

Vacuum thoroughly before putting anything up. Once your floor space is taken up by a tree, gifts and other holiday ornaments, vacuuming will become a bit of a logistical nightmare. Save yourself the stress by doing it now to minimize the need later on.

Dust off your tables and surfaces. Similar to floor space, you’ll likely find clear surface space to be at a premium over the holiday period. Getting these as sparkling as possible beforehand will reduce the hassle once all the decor is up.

Put your regular decorations into temporary storage. It can be tempting to start decorating and work out how to reposition your current decorations afterwards. Instead, before putting up a single garland, get your current decor items out of the way to make space.

Sweep your front porch. A nice clear entrance to your home will make your holiday wreath look even more beautiful on your front door. Put away any unnecessary signs or unseasonal plants to help give your house the full holiday feeling.

Only bring down one decoration box at a time. Don’t get so overexcited that you cause chaos with your decorations. Be methodical and take out one box at a time to keep the decorating experience as stress-free as possible.

Does the Buyer or the Seller Pay for Closing Costs?

When it comes to who pays for closing costs in a real estate transaction, there will be closing costs that are unique to both buyer and seller. The buyer can incur costs that are equal to 3% to 6% of the sales price of the property. Each party is responsible for paying their own costs at closing. However, if the market is in the buyer’s or seller’s favour, it may determine if either party negotiates paying some of the other’s fees and costs in order to make a deal.

Most of the buyer’s costs are associated with the loan. The biggest costs incurred for a loan will be the loan origination fee and any discount points paid to buy down the interest rate. Other costs may include those for an appraisal, HOA assessments, prorated insurance and taxes.

The seller’s biggest closing cost liability is paying the real estate commission. Other fees would include paying the title insurance, transfer taxes and prorated property taxes.

In a buyer’s market, it may have been negotiated that the seller pay for some of the buyer’s closing costs, called seller concessions. In a seller’s market, a buyer may offer to pay for some of the seller’s closing cost liability, such as the title insurance or the home warranty plan. If a buyer does this, it increases the seller’s net proceeds and gives the buyer an advantage in a seller’s market.

Whether you are a buyer or seller, I can help you use the anticipated closing costs to help complete a sale to your advantage. Call or email me today and we can go over your specific goals and circumstances. I am always here for you to provide guidance and help you navigate all aspects of the sale.

Do These Additions Add to Your Property Value?

There is no guarantee that every addition or upgrade that you make to your property will give you a positive return on your investment. If you are considering selling your home in the near future, note that these additions may not enhance the value of your property. Also, keep in mind that do-it-yourself projects, if not done professionally, could detract from the value of your home.

Remodelling your basement to add bedrooms or living areas may be a detriment to value if you haven’t checked with government entities as to proper ceiling heights or legal egress or if certain added square footage counts if it is below grade. It is important to obtain the necessary permits for any such alterations.

While a garage conversion may seem like a good idea to provide extra room for the kids or a place for your mother-in-law, it may take away from the value when you sell in the future. You may lose those buyers who need ample garage space.

Buying or leasing solar panels for your home may increase its marketability but not necessarily increase its value dollar for dollar invested. If you have leased the solar panels, some buyers may not want to assume the responsibility of the expense of the lease, which could also affect their loan approval.

Upgrades to your home may enhance your lifestyle but not the value of your home. If you’re considering any upgrades, call or email me to check. I am here to help you make the right decisions when investing in your home.

6 Expert Tips for Furnishing Your First Home

The purchase of your first home comes with the opportunity to personalize your living spaces. Your home is unique to you. With endless possibilities for every budget, these six tips from design experts will get you started on making your new house your home.

1. Give yourself some time in your new home to realize what types of furniture will suit your needs and fit the spaces. Start with the basic necessities of a bed, a few chairs, a sofa and a table. You can then start prioritizing the purchase of your furnishings based upon where you spend the most time.

2. If you have a tight budget, consider buying and refurbishing used furniture.

3. Study the interior floor plan and the measurements of wall spaces prior to purchasing any furnishings. Furniture size and placement will be dependent upon location of outlets, air vents, door openings and stairways.

4. Before you begin selecting your interior décor, determine what your personal style is so you can more easily find what brings you comfort. It may be contemporary, traditional or a mix of both.

5. Accessories will help establish who you are in your new home. Decorative items will also tie your design elements together. For little investment, you can add candles, wall art, plants and cozy linens to create a warm and inviting ambience.

6. Good lighting will enhance your home’s interior, highlight your furnishings and improve its functionality. Control the natural light with appropriate window treatments and add smaller artificial light sources to create intimate spaces.

The thought of furnishing your vacant new home can be overwhelming. Call or email me so I can give you more guidance and tips. I am always here to help every step of the way as you navigate buying and moving into your new home.

Here Are 4 Ways to Meet Your Neighbours

Whether you’re getting settled in a beautiful new home or you’re a longtime resident looking to make new friends, meeting your neighbours for the first time can be as daunting as making new friends in a new school. Here are four ways to help smooth out the process and make it as easy and natural as possible.

Get out of the house.

It sounds obvious, but if you spend plenty of time sprucing up your front yard or walking around the local area, you’re bound to cross paths with your neighbours eventually. Introduce yourself and be open about the fact that you’re new to the area; you’ll likely get some good tips on the neighbourhood.

Look for online local community groups.

Many neighbourhoods have Facebook groups, Nextdoor.com pages, WhatsApp groups and other online communities residents can join. Especially during the pandemic, these became important places for neighbours to cooperate, ask for help and share updates.

Offer a helping hand.

If you notice a neighbour pruning their garden or fixing a fence, offer to help them. Not only will your kindness be greatly appreciated, you’ll also be able to chat and get to know each other while you’re working on the task at hand.

Host a housewarming party.

Everyone loves being invited to a party, and what better way to make friends with your new neighbours than to host one of your own? Not only will it help you meet other residents, but it could also help others get to know each other too!

Ask These Questions when You’re House Hunting

When you are house hunting, there are important questions you should ask so you can determine if the spaces you are viewing will truly fit your needs, without you having to make costly changes after you move in. Everything is not always as it seems. First impressions may be cosmetic and not be indicative of the true condition of a home.

When touring the main living area, ask what the flooring is like. Consider its age, appearance and maintenance requirements. Is new flooring going to be needed in the near future and do you have the budget for it?

Pay close attention to the number, size and placement of the windows. Is there enough light and airflow for the activities of you or your family? Check for any condensation between the window panes and how well they operate.

Since the kitchen gets a lot of use, it is important to ask how old and what condition the appliances are in. You need to know what appliances are included with the house sale. Answers to these inquiries will determine what appliances you may have to replace now and in the future.

The bathrooms serve many functions. It is important to find out if the toilet, sink and shower work properly. Is there any evidence of an excessive moisture condition that will be a problem later? Are the bathrooms well-vented?

When looking at the bedrooms, be sure and ask about closet and storage space. Will you have ample space to store your family’s stuff without having to add storage components to the house?

These questions address just a few areas of concern. Call or email me and we can discuss in more depth what other important questions you should be asking when you are house hunting. I am always here to help.

Transform Your Bathroom into a Spa with These Ideas

Today’s bathroom remodels feature spa-inspired designs. The good news is that you can transform your bathroom into a relaxing spa with a budget as low as $2,500, while adding value and marketability to your home. Here are some ideas to transform your bathroom into a luxury spa escape.

Taking a shower can be a revitalizing experience by simply replacing the showerhead with a rain showerhead or one that has adjustable massaging heads. You can easily install it yourself with a $200-$400 showerhead.

An inviting feeling of warmth can be achieved by replacing the chrome, silver and nickel fixtures and trim with brass and gold. Warmer-toned metals are taking the place of colder feeling metals in today’s spa bathrooms.

Rather than take on the cost of replacing your vanities, you can achieve the spa look by transforming your existing ones with new matte black paint and new shiny brass pulls. Replace the countertops with white slab marble or quartz to compliment your other spa features.

A warm towel will make you feel like you are in a spa when you step out of the shower. Installing a towel warming rack in your bathroom will add value to your home at a cost of $200-$500 depending on the style and how it needs to be installed.

Create a wood look with your bathroom floors and extend it by installing open wood shelving. These two additions will add warmth and coziness to your spa bathroom experience.

Contact me so I can guide you on creating your own spa oasis.

Simple Yard Improvement Ideas that Will Increase Home Value

Yard improvement doesn’t have to be complicated for you to get the benefit of up to $4 in increased value for every dollar you spend, according to the Remodelling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors. Here are a few ideas to help increase the value of your home.

If you are comfortable with DIY projects, make and install flower boxes. Prefab boxes will be just as successful when filled with colourful plants. The curb appeal of your home will immediately liven up.

Trim out your mulched flower beds with rock borders to help contain the mulch. Adding rock and mulch around your foundation will help divert water away from your home’s perimeter. This DIY project can be taken further by creating rock stream beds. Trench the ground and fill the spaces with rock to take water where it won’t be destructive. Done properly, the result will also enhance the overall look of your landscaping.

To visually tie together the different areas of your yard, install pavers or stepping stones to get from one area to another. Lighting these pathways will bring you the best return on dollars spent and give your home personality at night.

Be sure to care for all of your plants because they add more value to your home as they mature. The return on your investment in a yard full of healthy flowers, plants and trees will never be in question. You also get to enjoy the colour, fresh air and shade that vegetation brings.

If creative DIY landscaping projects are not your thing, then be sure you at least fill your outdoor space with a well-maintained lawn. Bags of fertilizer can be purchased for between $30-60, depending on the size needed.

Contact me for other simple yard improvement ideas that will increase the value of your home.

Is It Possible to Reduce Your Closing Costs?

A large part of the cost of buying a home is the amount of funds it will take to close the sale. The good news is that the amount of your closing costs can be negotiable. Since closing costs on a loan can total 3-6% of your loan amount, it would be beneficial to try and get them reduced.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will provide a loan estimate outlining what your approximate closing costs will be. The loan fees will include everything from the loan origination fee to homeowner’s insurance and your down payment.

You can lower your down payment to reduce your closing costs, but keep in mind that a lower down payment can result in having to pay mortgage insurance. Paying a higher interest rate may allow the lender to rebate some of your closing fees. The trade-off is that it will cost you more over the life of your loan.

If you choose to negotiate to pay fewer discount points for your loan, your closing costs could be significantly less. Your interest rate will be higher as a result.

You can’t make closing costs go away, but having an open conversation with your lender may help you in reducing the cost to buy a home. Additionally, some sellers may adjust the sale price of their home to you in exchange for paying some of your closing costs.

Call or email me, and we can go over these possibilities in more detail and help reduce your closing costs.

7 Tips for an Organized and Stress-Free Move

Even if you choose to make your next move with professional movers, there will still be plenty to do on moving day while the professionals do the heavy lifting. Here are a few tips to make your moving day go more smoothly.

1. Start by letting the movers know where to park on moving day. Make it clear as to what you want moved and where in your new home you would like it placed.

2. Make sure the movers have unlocked access throughout the day to every area they will be packing and clearing out.

3. When the move begins, stay out of the movers’ way. This would include having a plan for your kids and pets to be occupied somewhere other than where the moving is taking place.

4. Fragile and valuable items should remain with you. Consider transporting your treasures in your car.

5. Have your cleaning supplies ready and do the final clean of each room as it is emptied. If you don’t have the time, have a professional cleaning company come in and do the cleaning once the move is complete.

6. While it is important to stay out of the way of your movers, you still want to be sure that someone is always around to answer any of their questions.

7. Do a thorough check of every nook and cranny of your home to be sure no personal item is left behind.

Call or email me for more tips to help make your move stress free and for mover recommendations.

Plan for These Unexpected Costs when Buying a Home

Coming up with a down payment to buy a home is the primary cost that buyers account for. Closing on a home purchase doesn’t end with the down payment, so you want to be prepared and save for these additional costs that you may not have anticipated.

There will be closing costs that are associated with your loan. Plan on paying 2%-3% of your loan amount for loan application fees, attorney fees, appraisal fees, homeowners’ insurance and other assorted costs.

The $375 to $500 cost of a home inspection should also be factored in. Without a professional home inspection, you will not know what defects the home may have nor be able to negotiate with the seller on repairs.

If the house you are considering is in need of new landscaping, check with a landscaper for the cost to bring it up to your standards. Ask for an estimate for monthly yard maintenance if you don’t plan to do it yourself. Budget for at least $100 per month.

Exterior and interior cosmetic updates will likely be on your to-do list. Decide if you need a plan for working on one renovation at a time. Painting the entire exterior or interior of a home all at once can put a big dent in your finances.

Adding small décor items to your new home can quickly absorb funds from your budget. Bigger-ticket items like appliance repair or having to buy new replacement appliances is your responsibility and can also increase your cost of home ownership.

You can never have too much cash on hand to comfortably close on your new house to make it the home you want it to be. Give me a call so I can guide you through the home-buying process without any surprises.

Closing on a Home? Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes

If you can properly prepare yourself ahead of time for closing on your home, you won’t be so overwhelmed with the process. Watch out for these typical missteps in your preparation.

1. All contracts and agreements are legal documents, so take the time to carefully review them prior to signing. Any email or document that you receive from your agent, lender or title officer demands your attention prior to moving forward. Don’t fall prey to just scanning materials that require electronic signatures.

2. Pay full attention to what the sellers have stated on their property disclosures. Look for ambiguities and vague responses and investigate any concerns prior to closing. The same care should be part of your thought process when reviewing the title report.

3. A simple but costly mistake is having your name appear in conflicting versions on different documents. Many signatures require notarization, so be sure your driver’s license matches your name on your paperwork. The lender and title officer must be in sync on your legal name, or delays will result from having to have documents redrawn.

4. It is important to have your closing funds ready to wire to the title company upon request. If you don’t allow enough time for the transfer to take place, you won’t be closing on time. If you are planning on handing over your funds drawn on a cashier’s check, it is a good idea to see if the closing agent will accept a cashier’s check. Many do not.

5. Constant communication with your agent, lender and title rep about any financial or life changes will help avoid last-minute modifications in your loan documents and any needed adjustments on other closing paperwork.

Call me anytime with questions regarding your closing so we can avoid any possible delays.

Get Your House and Yard Ready for the Summer

Summer has finally arrived. It is a good time to sit back and relax but also a good time to address a few maintenance items around your home. Take advantage of the warmth and sunshine by doing some sprucing up.

The best way to prepare for your home prep tasks is to visit your local hardware store and reap the benefits of the Father’s Day tool sales, possibly saving as much as 30% on package deals that will make your spruce-up jobs easier.

Start with cleaning the mould and dust off the siding of your home. To make sure your siding lasts for years and years, use a soft cloth or a soft-bristle brush with a long handle. A jet nozzle on your hose will help you be more efficient when you rinse.

Due to weather changes and general wear and tear, your asphalt driveway could be ready for a makeover. Since sealing asphalt is more successful in warmer weather, June is the perfect time to do the job. New asphalt sealer needs at least a 50-degree outside temperature to effectively seal your driveway.

Your deck is where you will spend many hours relaxing and entertaining. Give it a facelift with a fresh coat of paint or stain if it needs reviving. Early summer is best for this job because the deck surface temperature shouldn’t get above 90 degrees.

Please call or email me for other ideas to take advantage of the early summer warmth to help maintain your home and its value.

Here’s How to Host an Open House

While advertising, the MLS and social media are great tools to get your home sold, probably the best way to introduce your home to prospective buyers and their agents is to host an open house.

The expertise of your agent will be the key to the success of your open house. Let your agent help you with the setup of your home and scheduling the open house dates. As with everything, timing will be important. In order to maximize the traffic through your home, don’t plan an open house on holidays or during special events.

Your agent will be the greeter who will welcome prospective buyers. The agent’s experience will provide the tools to answer questions and show buyers the standout features of your home. Any buyer feedback will be communicated back to you.

Since a homeowner’s presence is a distraction at an open house, it will be best if you disappear for a few hours. This will allow buyers to speak freely and make their own judgements. Your agent is the best one to take prospects through your home and point out the details.

Your role in hosting your open house begins with getting your home sparkling clean. Eliminate clutter and organize your closets in preparation for inquisitive buyers. Stage your home by first removing family photos and personal items. Allow as much natural light to shine in as possible. Display some flowers, set the dining room table and determine what furniture needs to be removed or added. Since first impressions are so important, be sure to have your landscaping manicured.

As your agent, I regard open houses as one of the most valuable marketing tools if you are selling your home. Call or email me to discuss how to make the most of your open house.

4 Ways to Bring Tranquility into Your Home

Your home is more than just a place to hang your hat, eat and sleep. A home is a place of refuge where you should feel safe and accepted. It also can be your sanctuary, a place where you feel you belong. Here are four ways to bring tranquility into your home and make the most of it being your sanctuary.

1. Create that perfect spot to chill. Decorate a small space with bright wall coverings and add some furniture so you have a tranquil place to lie back, meditate or just listen to some relaxing music. Your escape could also be a tropical paradise on a patio filled with plants and a small waterfall.

2. Conquer the clutter that produces physical and emotional chaos. Construct attractive storage bins at your front door to keep things easily organized.

3. Lots of natural light will be the best contributor to adding tranquility to your home. It improves your mood, boosts productivity and also highlights your interior design details.

4. The location and exterior of your home can offer a place to decompress. A good walkable location offers more activities, like bike riding and walking to a park. A nicely landscaped yard will encourage you to go out and embrace the power of plants and the warmth of the sun.

I can help you escape the craziness of everyday living by suggesting ways to customize elements of your personal lifestyle so you can successfully bring tranquility into your home. Please give me a call.