You see a great home. You pull out your mortgage calculator and start punching in the numbers. The estimated monthly payment is displayed on the screen. You think, “Yep, we can afford that!”
It’s easy to be seduced by a mortgage payment calculation. However, mortgage payments aren’t the only costs of owning a home. You also need to consider:
- Property taxes
- Home insurance premiums
- Electricity costs
- Maintenance (especially a factor in older homes.)
- And more.
If you don’t, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars more per month than you originally expected.
Make a Power Switch!
If you’re looking for ways that you and your family can reduce your energy use, keep track of your consumption by saving your bills, and noting the dates of any major changes (eg. severe weather, new appliance, change of routine, etc.). Then compare your consumption and spending to previous years’ results.
Meanwhile, here are some “electrical switches” you can make right away, for a noticeable cost reduction:
- Switch to newer, smaller fluorescent bulbs.
- Switch large or multi-light fixtures to dimmer controls.
- Switch to water-saving showerheads.
- Switch your laundry wash to cold water – most washing energy is spent making hot water.
Imagine this scenario. You hire a Home Inspector to inspect a house you’ve made an offer on. The inspector goes over everything with a fine tooth comb, outside-to-inside, basement-to-ceiling.
Great so far.
Then he presents you with his findings, points out areas that need repairs – and then offers to do this work himself because he’s also a contractor!
That’s called a “conflict of interest”. You cannot confirm whether the home inspection was done honestly, or with the aim of getting more work from you.
When hiring any professional, make sure that the advice or opinion you’ll be relying on is unbiased.
No one buys or sells a home alone. You need the help of a professional – and likely a whole team of professionals – to assist you in achieving your goals and protecting your interests.
A real estate transaction can be stressful enough. So when it comes to choosing professionals to help you – before, during and after the transaction – be selective.
Typically, you will require a REALTOR® and a lawyer to complete the purchase and/or sale. But you may also need a lender, home inspector, insurance broker, home improvement contractor, landscape specialist, tradesperson(s), interior designer, etc. Here are three important factors to consider when making your choices:
Before you hire any professional, make sure they have the appropriate qualifications. Ask specifically what degree, certification or training they’ve received. Many professionals in the home industry are licensed or certified by their respective professional or trade associations. Ask to see these documents.
As author Douglas Gray points out in Home Buying Made Easy, a lawyer with ten years experience may only have spent six months handling real estate transactions. Remember, you’ll be relying heavily on the skill, advice and insights of each professional you hire. Make sure they have experience in the specific field you require.
Ask for client testimonials and references. Be sure to call these people and ask for their candid opinions of the services provided. Talk to others in the industry. Word of a good, as well as a bad, reputation gets around.
Choosing the right professional is like picking the right players for a baseball team. The better you choose, the more likely you are to win the game. (Or, in this case, the home of your dreams.)
Getting bored of the four walls that surround a particular room? Want to redecorate, but worried that you don’t have the budget? Here are some low-cost ideas for revitalizing the look of just about any area of your home.
Paint. It’s amazing what a $30 dollar can of paint can do. Changing the shade of a wall, or even just the trim and baseboards, can have a dramatic effect on a room.
Lighting. How a room is lit has an impact on its overall design. Consider replacing any lamps and ceiling light fixtures. Don’t forget that the brightness and location of the lighting can also make a big difference.
Sofas and chairs. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars replacing furniture. If your sofas and chairs are still in good shape, just replace the fabric and pillows.
Shelving and other organizers. Stuffed bookshelves and cluttered surface areas can make a room feel uncomfortable. Consider installing extra shelving and using other products available on the market to help you organize your space.
One final tip: Take stuff out. People often think of redecorating as changing or adding things. But often just taking some stuff out of a room can significantly improve its look and comfort. When it comes to decorating, less is often more.
An effective technique to help you sell your property quickly and for the best price is to put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer. Don’t just visualize this. Actually do it!
Drive to your property and imagine that you’re seeing it for the first time. What’s your impression? Is the landscaping attractive? Are the walkways clear? Is the front door welcoming?
Now walk up to the front door, open it, and step inside. Does the foyer seem neat and uncluttered? Is there anything unsightly from that vantage point?
Take a walk through your home, starting in rooms that a potential buyer would predictably view first: the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. Do you notice anything you could change or improve, that would make those areas more appealing?
Next, check out the washrooms, closets and basement. Are they clean and tidy?
Finally, think about the price you want for the home. As a buyer, would you be enticed to make an offer at that level? Are there any nagging doubts about the property that would hold you back?
Understanding the impression your home will make on potential buyers will help you sell it faster.
When you put your home on the market, it’s important that you make the indoor living space as attractive as possible to potential buyers. The foyer should look spacious and inviting. The bedrooms, neat and uncluttered. The basement, clean and well lit.
All good advice.
But don’t forget the outdoor living space. That too has a significant impact on how quickly your home sells and for how much. You want to make the area around your property, from the front walkway to the backyard deck, as attractive as possible.
How do you do that? Here are some tips for sprucing up your outdoor living space that can be easily implemented.
- Trim the hedges. Like a haircut, it gives your landscaping a clean, styled look.
- Place flower pots in strategic locations, such as next to the front steps and on the deck or patio.
- Fix anything that’s loose or squeaking, such as fence gates, shutters and deck railings.
- Remove anything unsightly, like garbage bags and piles of garden cuttings.
- Sweep all walkways, especially the one leading to your front door.
- Wash the outsides of your windows. (No need for ladders, buckets and scrub brushes. Most home improvement stores now sell window washing kits that hook up to your garden hose.)
- Check to make sure everything works: water taps, electrical outlets, exterior lights, etc.
You can probably get most of this work done in a single weekend. It’s worth it. Making your outdoor living space look great will dramatically increase your home’s appeal to potential buyers.
There’s a long list of ingredients needed to sell your home quickly. Obviously, you want to make your home as clean and uncluttered as possible. You should also make sure any outstanding repairs are done. And, of course, all the little things you can do to make your home “show” well are important, too.
But the number one ingredient needed to sell your home quickly is the right price tag. If you set the price of your home just right, buyers will come to see it, and there’s a good chance you’ll get some good offers. If you price your home too high, however, few buyers will take an interest in your property and it might languish on the market for months. Worse, it might not sell at all.
So how do you determine the right price at which to list your home?
One of the best ways is to do an analysis of what similar properties in your area have sold for recently. What people are actually paying for homes like yours — in communities like yours — is the best indicator of the true market value of your home.
When shopping for a new home, create a wish list of the features and characteristics you want. After all, there’s no sense looking at properties with kitchenettes when you won’t settle for anything less than a full-sized kitchen that Julia Child would envy.
But there are probably some features that are nice-to-haves but not must-haves. For example, you might like a large wrap-around deck in your backyard, but would settle for a home that doesn’t have one. (After all, you can always install one later.)
That’s why it’s a good idea to create two wish lists. One list would include all the features you absolutely would not do without in your new home, and the other would list all those things you’d like to have, but are not necessities.
With two lists, you’ll make better decisions. Your shopping will be easier because you won’t be wasting time viewing homes that don’t meet the criteria on your “must have” list. The second list will come in handy when you’re comparing properties and deciding which one to buy.
Two lists also help to ensure you get most, if not all, of what you really want in your new home. And that makes all the difference.
Lighting is, perhaps, the most important element in decorating. The right lamp, chandelier or ceiling fixture can instantly make a room more attractive and inviting. The wrong lighting, unfortunately, can have the opposite effect.
Here are five secrets to making the right choice:
- How much lighting is required in a room? To calculate, simply multiply the square footage by 1.5. Therefore, a 12′ x 16′ living room would require 288 watts of lighting (12 x 16 x 1.5 = 288).
- How big a chandelier do you need? Simply add the dimensions of the room together. So a 12′ x 16′ area could accommodate a chandelier that is 28 inches in diameter (12 + 16 = 28).
- How far apart should lighting fixtures be installed in a hallway? Experts say that ideally a light should be positioned every 8 to 10 feet.
- How do I create ambience? In the dining area for example, select a light fixture that can accommodate a dimmer switch. The ambiance of the room improves if you can soften the lighting during meals or when entertaining.
- Using floor lamps? The bottom of the lampshade should be around 42 inches from the floor.