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.

Do These Things in April to Prep for a Stress-Free Summer

April is the month to set the wheels in motion to get your home ready for a carefree summer. Summer is one of the best times of the year, so by doing some simple preparations now, you will be able to enjoy those times without any homeownership worries.

Start your prep by checking the toolshed to make certain that your yard maintenance tools will be up and running for the summer months. Be sure the lawn mower engine has new plugs, a new air filter and a fresh tank of gas. Sharpen the blades of the mower and all of your gardening tools.

An efficient AC will be your best friend when you crank it up, so schedule a springtime preventative maintenance tune-up. If it’s determined that your AC has limited life expectancy, then be prepared and get an estimate for a new unit.

Don’t let pests ruin your summer fun. Seal up any openings that could allow insects to take refuge in warmer weather. Before it gets too hot, check your attic for signs of animals that may have taken up residence there during the winter.

April also signals a good time to tend to bird feeders. To keep rodents away and to safeguard the birds of summer from disease, dismantle your feeders and give them a deep sanitizing. Do this for any birdbaths, and clean up under the feeders as well.

Since summer can bring heavy rains that can lead to water damage, make April your time to check if winter left behind any roof or gutter damage. Examine the basement for any leaks or cracks, and take time to create water diversions away from your foundation on the outside of your home.

Call or email me for other springtime prep ideas so you can have a stress-free summer. I am always here to help.

How to Go About Pricing Your Home

When you are ready to sell your home, it is important to work with your real estate agent to arrive at a competitive listing price. You have an idea of what your home is worth, but it will be your agent who will help you objectively price your home. Depend on the expertise of a real estate professional to be able to research the market and be receptive to your input. Your team effort will result in a price that will sell your home.

An agent will start by finding recent sales that are comparable to your home in age, location, square footage, amenities and number of bedrooms and baths. Since no two homes are identical, the agent will make value adjustments to the features of the comparables (also known as comps) that differ from your home. An average selling price will then be taken from the newly adjusted comps to help determine the estimated value of your home. Similarly, active listings will contribute to how your home is priced.

Accurate pricing can’t take place without also factoring in market conditions. Take advantage of online data that breaks down sales by area. Median sales price and the average number of days for past sales will be valuable information when deciding on the final price tag for your home.

Pricing your home to sell in a reasonable amount of time in any market is my goal as your real estate agent. Call or email for an appointment so we can team up to get your home sold.

Buyer Love Letters to Home Sellers: What to Watch Out For

In a competitive real estate market, buyers want to give as much strength to their offers as possible in an effort to try and edge out other offers for the same property.

One creative way to try and get a seller’s attention is for a buyer to write a letter to the seller explaining why the seller should select their offer. In the industry, these letters are referred to as love letters. These letters often include family photos.

While you may think this is a great idea, you need to know that love letters can be a detriment.

A letter to a seller that unintentionally reveals your status in one of the seven protected classes of the Fair Housing Act could result in a violation if the seller makes a decision based on information pertaining to your race, colour, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin provided in your letter.

Writing a personal letter can also hinder your negotiating power because a seller could view your letter as you “showing your hand” before negotiations even begin.

A seller can become uncomfortable if you divulge too much information in a love letter. You would be weakening the strength of your offer position because the seller can no longer be objective in negotiating with you.

You want to think twice before you put pen to paper to create a love letter. Instead, find ways to improve the content of your offer to give it as much strength as possible. The seller views the sale as a financial transaction that should not be emotion-driven.

You want to buy a home based on the merits of your offer. I can help you put your best offer on the table. Call or email me, and let’s make your home-buying experience a positive one.

Here’s How to Refresh Your Home This Spring

Springtime should be an inspiring time for you. Inspiration can often give way to the desire to create a fresh look for your home. But busy schedules don’t always accommodate the traditional deep cleaning that everyone associates with springtime. If you find yourself short on time, here are ideas to freshen up elements of your home with some easy visual changes and tidying up.

Starting with your entry, your home’s first impression will improve by washing down the front porch and adding a new doormat. Decluttering the entry hall or mudroom of any remnants of winter by adding attractive storage bins is an easy way to freshen up the space you and your visitors first see.

Rotate some of your décor and use the addition of flowers and plants to any area of your home to give it that fresh springtime feeling. The change of the season is the time to create a new centrepiece for your table. This can be as simple as having a fruit bowl or houseplant be your new inspirational theme. Table clutter seems to disappear when you have an attractive centrepiece.

You will find that lightweight cleaning will brighten up the interior of your home and complement other suggested visual tweaks. Take some time to clean light bulbs, lamps and mirrors. Your mood will brighten up as the inside spaces of your home lighten up.

Give me a call, and I will help you create a plan so you can enjoy freshening up your home with other nonintimidating fine-tuning ideas.

15-Minute DIY Home Insulation Projects

Weather need not be your nemesis when it comes to efficiently heating your home. For a few minutes and a few dollars, here are some do-it-yourself home insulation projects that will improve the comfort of your home.

1. Some of the biggest sources of the loss of warm air are gaps around windows and doors. Weather stripping, rope caulk or foam tape can easily be put around windows or doors to prevent conditioned air from escaping.

2. Appliances and bathrooms that vent to the outside may have air leaks. A simple bead of caulk applied on the outside outer edge of the vent where it meets the wall prevents air loss.

3. Drafts coming from under a door can be quickly remedied by pushing a door snake along the opening under the door. In a pinch, save $20 and use a rolled-up blanket.

4. For an added layer of insulation, apply cold-blocking window film to your windows. You don’t lose any light, and you will reduce heat loss by about 10%.

5. Wrapping your pipes in fibreglass pipe sleeves will keep them from losing heat and aid in preventing burst pipes on extremely cold days. An additional result will be warmer water in your home.

6. An open fireplace can cause a big heating bill. Insert an inflatable fireplace plug into the opening when not in use to keep out cold air and keep warm air inside.

7. Adding an insulation blanket to an older water heater or one that is located in a cold drafty area will reduce the energy needed to heat water for your home.

Call or email me, and I can help you pinpoint where additional insulation will help reduce your energy usage, making your home more comfortable and saving you money at the same time.

Buying a Home? Make Sure You Ask These Questions

It’s always good to be ahead of things, especially when buying a home. If you are, there will be fewer surprises during the first few months after you take possession. Start asking some of these maintenance-related questions so your budget will be better prepared for remedies later.

1. How old is the roof? The age and type of the roof will help determine when you can expect replacement. Asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing and have an average life of 15 to 20 years. Shake roofs have life expectancies of 20 to 40 years. Metal and concrete tile roofs can last 30 to 50 years.

2. Has there ever been a major plumbing break? It is not uncommon to have a pipe burst or for an old house to have a leak. Water damage can be a costly thing to remedy. If there has been a leak, a mould inspection is recommended.

3. How much is being spent on utilities? Knowing the energy sources and the average monthly utility costs will help you determine if you will need to upgrade to more energy-efficient appliances.

4. What is the capacity of the water heater? You need to know how big the water heater is so your family will have enough hot water at peak times. Water heater sizing guides will help you determine if you have to budget for a larger water heater.

Give me a call, and I will help you communicate with the seller and the neighbours, who will be your best allies in getting the right answers.

Watch Out for These 5 Decluttering Myths

With spring around the corner, this is a good time to start planning to purge your home. To have your decluttering efforts be a success, you need to know that there is a wrong way and a right way to declutter your home. Check out these myths before you proceed to purge and organize.

1. You don’t need a plan of attack before proceeding with your organizing. To avoid being overwhelmed, have a checklist so you can manage the project at hand. Tackle one room at a time with a list of tasks for each room.

2. You only should keep things that make you happy. If you keep essential items and those that bring you joy, you can more easily differentiate between those things you should keep and those that you should discard.

3. Dwelling on what stays does not make for a successful declutter. It is better to take a few extra moments to think about what goes than to have regrets later. A good rule of thumb for a debatable item is that if you haven’t used it in a year, then it’s probably worthwhile to discard it.

4. Stock up on organizing supplies before you begin. When it comes down to it, these supplies don’t help you purge. Do your sorting and purging before you decide how to set up your storage.

5. Decluttering is a task that only needs to be done once or twice a year. In reality, minimizing your belongings should be done on a maintenance basis. After your initial purge, go through your home once a week to put things back where they belong and make decisions to get rid of things that no longer have a place in your life.

Call or email today for more resources and information to assist your decluttering efforts.

Don’t Make These 4 Foyer Faux-Pas When Decorating

The first space a visitor sees is your entryway. It creates the first impression of your home, so don’t allow a crowded and dark foyer to turn off your guests or prospective buyers. Why not take advantage of January being International Creativity Month to refocus your attention on creating an inviting entryway? Here are some design features that could take you in the wrong direction when trying to create an inviting foyer for your home.

1. Placing a side table that’s too large in your entry will eliminate the feeling of spaciousness. Living room furniture usually doesn’t work in the entry due to its size. Shop for smaller-proportioned furniture for this space.

2. Insufficient lighting or walls that are too dark are not good for first impressions. Lighting plays a big role in how inviting your entryway will be. Be sure you have lighting from the ceiling and bright walls and décor.

3. Having no place to sit to remove shoes is a common mistake. Consider an attractive bench that isn’t imposing.

4. Clutter isn’t a desirable thing to view in an entry. Use some imagination in creating a place to hang keys and stash your mail so they look like they belong.

Visitors and prospective buyers will form immediate opinions of your home by how you design your entryway. We have been in many homes and can share what design elements can complement your foyer. Call or email us today. We’re always here to help.