FINDING THE PERFECT NEIGHBORHOOD
Choosing the right neighborhood is an important part of finding a home. If you love the house but hate the neighbors, or have the perfect kitchen but have an agonizing two-hour commute, you’re never going to feel completely comfortable living there.
Your best bet is to figure out if your neighborhood is a good fit with your family before you start looking for a home there (or certainly before you put in an offer). Spend some time there; take a walk through the streets, visit local shops and restaurants, and pick up a community paper to get a sense of the area’s personality.
Here are few questions that can help you figure out if a neighborhood is right for you:
1) What does the area look like? Do homes look cared for? Even in moderately-priced areas, pride of ownership helps keep property values up. Keep an eye out for signs of neglect like overgrown laws, houses in need of paint and vacant lots (which can be zoned for commercial use, or end up getting used as dumps). On the other hand, if an area has a lot of neglected-looking homes but you notice that a number look like they’ve been recently renovated, that may be a sign that the neighborhood is becoming gentrified; buying a home there and fixing it up can be a good long-term investment.
2) What types of people live there? Families? Retirees? First-time homeowners? Professionals with no kids? An area populated mainly by young families, for example, will feel very different from one with lots of college and university students.
3) How convenient is it? Figure out how far you’ll have to travel to do everyday stuff like grocery shopping. Where’s the closest gym? Dry cleaner? Post office? What about parks and recreational facilities? Being close to amenities isn’t important to everyone, but it’s a real day-to-day time saver and can make the difference in the feel of a neighborhood; a place where people walk to the store and the library has a very different flavor than an area where people have to drive everywhere they need to go.
4) Is it a safe place to live? Vandalism and deterrents like “Beware of dog” signs or bars on windows can mean there’s a high crime rate in the area. Keep an eye out for graffiti, too – it could be a sign of gang activity. Check with local police for info about crimes in the area; they’ll also be able to tell you about how active area residents are in terms of crime prevention and community policing.
5) Are there schools nearby? If you have kids, proximity and quality of schools is a major consideration. Talk with people who live in the area, and call local schools or check online to get test scores and ratings. Figure out exactly where schools are located to see if your kids can walk or if they’ll have to be driven or bussed.
6) How long will it take to get to work? Do a dry run of your commute in rush hour. Figure out how often buses run past your house or how far you are from a major highway. If you need access to the airport, is it easy to get there by car, bus or taxi?
7) What are the property values like? Your home is an investment, so it pays to buy in an area where properties will increase in value. Ask your REALTOR® for info on property values in the area for the last 10 years so you can get a sense of how much they have gone up over time.
8) What’s in store for the area? Development can change the personality of a neighborhood, and increase taxes and traffic. Look for new construction in the area and check with city hall or the local chamber of commerce for planned housing developments, new facilities, new retailers, etc.
9) Is it quiet or noisy? Visit the area at different times of day to get a sense of the noise level. A quiet street may be party central once the sun goes down, and an area near a highway may be fine at most times, but noisy at rush hour. Listen for barking dogs, traffic noise, overhead planes, and loud music.
Finding a neighborhood you like is just as important as living in a home you love. Good neighbors, great amenities, nice schools and cool shops can make or break how you feel about your house or condo. So talk to a REALTOR® who specializes in the area you’re interested in, do your research, and you should be able to find a community that fits your needs and your lifestyle.
First Time Buyers
FIRST TIME BUYERS
When you’re shopping around for a new home, it’s easy to let your emotions take over. This quick list of dos and don’ts can help you keep a level head while you look, and ensure you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse down the road.
DO a drive-by. Check out the exterior, the street and the neighbourhood. If you can, stop by during the day and in the evening to get a sense of what it’s like at different times. See if there are any good shops and restaurants in the area, and if it’s a place where you feel comfortable walking around. Check walkability scores of different neighbourhoods here.
DO come prepared. Show up to showings and open houses armed with a list of questions. Take plenty of photos. Sketch out layouts. Measure spaces to ensure your furniture will fit. Write down all the things you love, items that require repair or renovation, elements you’re not so keen on. When you’re looking at multiple homes, it’s easy to get confused – having detailed notes of each visit will help you keep track.
DO look at homes in your price range. It’s easy to fall in love with a place you can’t afford. Don’t bother looking at the ones that are priced out of reach – you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment, and make yourself feel like you’re settling for less than you deserve.
DON’T forget to take stock of storage. There’s nothing like moving into a new place and realizing there’s nowhere to stow your stuff. Look at closets, basement storage, attic space and outdoor sheds. Where will you keep your vacuum cleaner? Your spare linens and towels? Sports equipment and off-season clothes?
DON’T sweat the small stuff. That harvest gold fridge and the stained basement carpet can both be replaced at a relatively low cost. The scary turquoise dining room can easily be repainted. Watch out for high-cost fixes instead, like outdated electrical or bathrooms that require a complete overhaul.
DO check the water pressure.Run the taps and flush the toilets (separately and at the same time). See if the showerhead blasts water or just gives off an unsatisfying drizzle. And don’t forget to check how fast the water heats up. If it’s really slow, there could be issues with the heater.
DON’T forget to check the exterior.Look for damp or buckled spots on the siding, peeling paint, loose shingles, cracks in the foundation. A quick look can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
DON’T overestimate your DIY capabilities. Fixing that leaky faucet? Sure, almost anyone can do that. But renovating the kitchen? Ripping out drywall? Putting in new plumbing? Before you make an offer on a house that’s not move-in ready, make sure you’re not getting too enthusiastic about what you can actually accomplish. If you think you can do it yourself, then realize you need outside help, you’ll be facing some serious costs you didn’t factor into the purchase price.
DON’T be afraid to move on. So many buyers get stuck on the idea that another home as perfect as this one will never come along. That’s simply not true. New listings come on the market every day, so never assume that there’s nothing as good as – or better – out there. Be patient.
Finding a property you love is exciting, but it’s a little like falling in love with a person. That initial glow can make you overlook faults that will drive you around the bend a few years down the road. Keeping emotions in check and the long-term future in mind can help you make a smart buying decision – and finding the home that’s perfect for you.
10 WAYS TO CONQUER CLUTTER
Clutter. It creeps into crawl spaces, fills up cupboards and, when we least expect it, overflows into the garage. Whether you’re trying to stage your home for an open house, want to reduce the number of items you’ll have to pack, or you just want to live in a cleaner, more organized space, here are some steps to help you pare down those piles.
Work in threes
Working with bags or boxes, place items into one of three piles: keep, donate or trash. You can always sift through the piles later to decide what to recycle or sell at your next yard sale.
The best way to exercise your clutter-busting muscles is to start with a manageable area like a desk drawer or small closet. Give yourself a time limit (15 minutes) and get it done, then pick another area and try to do it even faster.
Reject the need to collect
Just say no to stuff you really don’t need. As hard as it might be, pare down your collection of figurines, matchbooks or Ming vases to five favourite items only. Or, if you can’t bear to part with any of them, make a plan to only have five items on display at one time and keep the rest packed in boxes. Simpler looks and feels better – and having too much of anything out in the open will only require more dusting.
Keep your paper sorted
Organize paper as it enters your home by sorting mail near the front door with a three-way filing system: bills, reading materials and recycling. Place it near a calendar so you can mark down important events right away. If the urge to hang onto items is too strong, get yourself a nice basket to hold all of these oh-so-necessary documents and go through them once a month to see what really needs reading or keeping.
Aim to lose a third
While most professional organizers will insist you cut your belongings in half, try for a third. If you have 30 scarves, trim them down to 20. Four shelves of books? Go for less than three. Do you really need five fondue sets? If getting rid of your items is painful, remember: less is more…more space, more time, more peace. And if you’re moving, more savings on moving costs.
One in, one out
Try this rule to keep clutter at bay: if something new comes in, something old has to go. Clothes, books, shoes, cars, shampoo bottles, tools…nothing is exempt. Note that “new” means new to you, not necessarily brand new. So those hand-me-downs count too.
Put it in its place
Once you decide to keep an item, honour it by giving it a designated spot. That way you’ll always know where to find it and where to put it back when you’re done using it.
Use it or lose it
If you can’t think of the last time you used a small appliance (like that bread maker that’s stowed under the sink) or wore a particular outfit (shoulder pads, anyone?), it might be time to give it to someone who can really appreciate it. Still not ready to give it up? Place the item in question in a box or a cupboard for six months. If it hasn’t been used by then, give it away.
Keep at it
Conquering clutter isn’t something that you can accomplish in a single afternoon; you have to work at it every day. The more often you do it, the less you have to do. Plus, living in a clutter-free home just feels better since you’re not digging through drawers and cupboards looking for lost keys or important warranty documents, and you’re not dealing with piles of stuff everywhere you turn.
As you can see, there’s no one cure-all for clutter, but by applying just a few of these methods you’ll be able to turn yourself into a clutter conqueror!
First Time Sellers
FIRST TIME SELLERS
Making your home appealing takes more than just a quick cleanup and some scented candles. When you’ve got your place on the market, here are some tips for creating a great experience for prospective buyers, and really showing off your property to its fullest advantage.
1. Depersonalize. This is one of the most important rules of home staging. Store the kids’ artwork, your family photos, religious items and toiletries. Buyers don’t want to see the space as someone else’s – getting rid of your personal stuff helps them visualize it as theirs.
2. Be a minimalist. Having less stuff on display makes your place look bigger and more appealing. Pack up the knick-knacks, clear off the countertops, pull half the stuff out of your closets and organize what’s left. If you’re tempted to throw all the extra stuff into the garage, don’t. Buyers will be looking in there too. If you need to, rent a storage unit while your house is on the market.
3. Ensure your house is spotless. One of the biggest turnoffs for buyers is a place that isn’t clean. Steam the carpets, mop the floors, corral the dust bunnies, and make sure windows and mirrors are gleaming. And don’t forget about the small everyday stuff, like crumbs on the table, rumpled beds, toothbrushes left by the sink or half-full trash cans. Details count – people will notice.
4. Always be show-ready. Yes, this is a hassle. But showings sometimes happen with very little notice, so make sure your place is always clean and ready to go. Don’t put dirty dishes in the sink – wash them right away or put them in the dishwasher. Keep your valuables stored away, and make sure personal info isn’t in plain sight. Ensure your key is always in the lockbox. Follow a checklist so you don’t miss anything.
5. Be flexible. Be open to last-minute showings and other inconveniences. The more flexible you can be now, the less time it should take to sell your house. And don’t stick around when potential buyers are there – there’s nothing more uncomfortable than looking at a house while the current owners are there, watching you. Go out for dinner, take the kids to the park, hang out in a coffee shop or visit friends.
6. Keep things fresh. A house that looks clean should smell clean, too. Cooking smells, mildew, pet odours – they’re all serious turnoffs. Open the windows, use air purifiers, put out some lightly scented candles. But be careful about using plug-ins, room sprays or other artificial fragrances. A lot of people are sensitive to them, and having an overwhelming scent can make it seem like you’re trying to mask an odour problem. Less is definitely more.
7. Relocate your pets. Fido or Fluffy might be friendly, but don’t leave them at home during a showing. Not everyone is an animal lover, and no one wants to see the litter box or a bowl of dog food on the kitchen floor. Have a plan for taking your pet with you for showings, or better yet, ask a friend to pet-sit while your house is on the market.
8. Make a great first impression. Ensuring the inside of your house looks great is important, but don’t forget about the part they see first: the exterior. Up your curb appeal by making sure windows are clean, trim is painted, and decks are power washed. Adding some colourful plants to your garden or having containers on your porch is a wonderfully cheap and cheerful boost. And don’t forget the entryway. Get rid of coats, shoes and keys, put out some fresh flowers, and make it a welcoming space that offers the perfect intro to the rest of your home.
9. Lighten up. Create a bright, cheery atmosphere by turning on all the lights and opening up the curtains and blinds (or removing them completely). Trim back any bushes that block the light, and don’t forget to clean the windows.
10. Show off your assets. Do your best to really maximize the best features of your home. Do you have beautiful hardwood floors? Put the area rugs away. Want to highlight a nicely renovated kitchen? Get rid of the dishtowels and put countertop appliances out of sight to emphasize how great it looks.
It all boils down to this. If you do everything you can to make your space look its best and be flexible about showings, your property will appeal to more buyers – and sell faster.
A MOVING DECISION: HIRING PROS OR DOING IT YOURSELF
Congratulations, you’re moving! (Or thinking about it, anyway.) Whether you’ve just bought your first condo or are upgrading to a larger home, you basically have two choices: do it yourself or hire a mover. Here are some questions that will help you figure out your best option:
How much do you want to spend?
Doing it yourself is cheaper than hiring pros, but the time savings can be worth using movers.
How much time do you have?
If you’re doing a DIY move, you’ll have to pack, rent a truck, load it, drive it to your new place, unload, feed your helpers, return the truck, unpack – then collapse in utter exhaustion. Movers can do it all for you with no pizza or beer required.
How far are you moving?
Factor in the cost of gas (Google “mileage calculator” to estimate fuel costs), and remember that truck rental companies charge more for one-way rentals.
How much stuff do you have?
If all your earthly possessions will fit into the back of a pickup truck, that’s probably your best option. If you’re relocating a 4-bedroom home, it gets a bit more complicated; unless you have a huge, loving family filled with strong men who own trucks, movers might be your best bet here.
Your moving options
A. Do it yourself
It’s the cheapest alternative, especially for smaller moves.
- It may not be as cheap as you think. Be prepared to spend money on truck rental, gas, and food and drinks for your helpers.
- It’s A LOT of work for everyone involved.
- Remember that free labour is never actually free. Unless it’s your adoring, selfless mother carrying that sofabed up five flights of stairs, you’ll end up owing some favors.
- Your friends and family could end up breaking your belongings or hurting themselves.
- If items get broken, you (or your home insurance) will be on the hook for it.
B. Hire movers
Go for full-serve.
They pack it, they load it, they drive it there and unload it into your new home. All you have to do is stand by with a check or credit card ready.
- It’s EASY. Someone else does all the work for you and saves you serious time, hassle and muscle strain.
- If anything gets damaged, the movers’ insurance will take care of it.
- Full-service moving is by far the most expensive option.
- Having someone pack your stuff can feel invasive.
- You don’t get a chance to purge your stuff. When we pack, we naturally throw away things we don’t want, like old clothes, chipped dishes, those books we’ve been meaning to give away. If someone packs for you, all of that stuff comes with you to your new home. “After our move,” recalls one homeowner with a laugh, “we unpacked half a loaf of bread and a wastebasket that still had garbage in it.”
You pack, they load and move.
Pack up all your stuff in the weeks leading up to your move, then sit back and relax (or supervise)on moving day as large, capable men haul your boxes and maneuver your sofa out the door.
- No heavy lifting. Capable, experienced people take all the furniture and boxes out of your home, load it into their truck and deliver it to your new place.
- If anything gets broken, most reputable movers are insured.
- Still a more expensive option than doing it yourself.
You pack and load, they deliver.
The moving company drops off a container in your driveway/front yard/parking lot, and you load it at your leisure. Then they take it away, drop it at your new place, where you unload it yourself.
- You have the comfort of knowing you’re packing and unpacking your own belongings.
- You don’t have to worry about driving a big truck.
- You can take a few days to load or unload your container – you don’t have to rush to fill a truck that’s only been rented for the day.
- Don’t worry about tripping over boxes as you pack. Just load them into the container as soon as you pack each one. (This is a great option for people living in small spaces.
- It’s almost as much work as a do-it-yourself move.
- You have a container on your lawn or in your parking spot for a period of time, which may annoy you or your neighbors.
Need more information about your moving options? Your REALTOR® will be happy to offer ideas and recommend good truck rental operations and moving companies that are proven and dependable.
Marketing Your Home
MY PLAN FOR MARKETING YOUR PROPERTY
When you’re selling your house or condo, you want to sell it fast and make as much money as possible. A good marketing plan can help you do that. Here’s how I will work with you to market your property. I will:
1. Advise you on getting your home sale-ready. I will walk through your home with you and give you staging tips – everything from furniture placement to wall colour to clutter control – to help your place appeal to more potential buyers and maximize marketability.
2. Give you a sense of the market. To help you decide on a fair price that’s based on market value, I will provide you with information on how much other properties in your area have sold for.
3. Submit the listing to MLS®. I will include multiple quality photos of your property – and plenty of information to entice buyers.
4. Promote your listing. I’ll get the word out in as many ways as I can. Your listing will be featured on my website, my newsletter, in feature sheets, “Just Listed” postcards, slideshow presentations, targeted emails, and any other marketing vehicle that makes sense for your property – and the target market of potential buyers.
5. Promote your property to other REALTORS® via phone calls, emails personal meetings – whatever it takes to reach potential buyers.
6. Follow up after every viewing. I will contact you after every showing to let you know the potential buyers’ level of interest, and tell you what types of comments they made about your property.
7. Keep in touch throughout the process. You’ll never have to guess where things stand with the sale of your property – I will contact you regularly with updates. And if you have any questions, I’m available to answer them – seven days a week. I welcome your calls or emails anytime.
8. Negotiate the best possible price and terms for you.