Characteristics of a Desirable Street

Sometimes you know a desirable street when you see one. For example, it’s obvious that a home on a cul-de-sac is enticing mainly because there isn’t any through traffic.

What are the other characteristics of a desirable street that may not be as obvious? Here are just a few:

Sidewalks. A sidewalk in front of your home is not only handy, it also adds to the property’s curb appeal. In addition, if you have kids, a sidewalk makes it easier – and safer – for them to play and visit neighborhood friends.

Mature trees. Trees lining the street add depth and beauty. Most homeowners value front yard trees and would miss them if they were gone.

Safety. Unfortunately, some streets are more prone to crime and other issues requiring police intervention than others. Clearly, homeowners appreciate a street that’s known for being safe and located in a community with a low crime rate.

Pride-of-ownership. When considering buying a home, take a walk along the street. Do homeowners take good care of their properties? If so, that sign of pride-of-ownership indicates it’s a great place to own a home.

Location. Where the street is located is just as important as its characteristics. Are things you want, such as parks, schools, shopping, etc. nearby? Is the street in a desirable area overall?

Noise. This is a characteristic that can be invisible to the home buyer. If the street is in a flight path, or near a busy highway used by rush-hour commuters, you want to know!

A great street can dramatically add to the enjoyment of a home.

What Home Inspectors See that You Can’t

When you make an offer on a home, it’s a smart idea to have a professional home inspector check it out from top to bottom. This inspection will ensure that the property doesn’t have any unexpected “issues”. After all, you don’t want to buy a home only to discover that the roof needs to be replaced, immediately, for thousands of dollars.

Nevertheless, you might question whether you really need to invest the few hundred dollars it costs for a professional home inspection. “The home we want to buy looks like it’s in very good shape,” you might be thinking. “I can’t see anything wrong with it.”

However, a professional home inspector can see things you can’t. When you view a property that’s on the market, you might be able to notice obvious issues, like a crack in the foundation or a dripping faucet. If you’re experienced with home maintenance, you might even notice roofing tiles that look like they’re overdue for replacement.

But, most people don’t have the equipment, knowledge or experience to identify all the issues a home inspector can.

A home inspector will, for example, use a special device to check for moisture build-up in the washrooms – which can be an indication of mold. A home inspector will also inspect wiring to make sure everything is safe and compliant with the building code.

That’s not all.

Like a determined detective, a home inspector will investigate the property’s structure, electrical and plumbing systems, insulation, and other components – and then report the findings to you. In the end, a professional home inspection gives you peace-of-mind and protects your investment. So, getting one is highly recommended – even for recently built homes.

Retrofitting Houses and Condos for Seniors

Many seniors are reaching the stage in their lives when they are choosing to downsize their homes for lifestyle or financial reasons. Other seniors are faced with a more difficult decision. Health and/or mobility concerns may require them to either retrofit their existing home to meet their changing needs, or to seek a more accommodating home.

The decision can be difficult because many simply don’t want to move. In such cases, especially if mobility challenges are arising, wheelchair accessibility may be necessary, not just at the home’s entrance, but under counters, in bathrooms, and through doorways as well. Ramps, elevators and stair-lifts may also need to be considered.

In addition, other small changes may need to be contemplated, such as easy-to-find and easy-to-use switches, possibly with remote or hands-free applications, as well as levers for all door handles. The addition of keyless entrances, remote control security and 24/7 monitoring devices will help put many family members at ease. However, in cases where a retrofit is cost-prohibitive, the logical option may well be to seek a bungalow or well-appointed condo that can be more easily adapted.

4 Cheap Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

If you want to improve how your home shows to potential buyers, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a costly remodeling or renovation. In fact, there are some simple – and relatively inexpensive – things you can do to make your property look significantly better.

Let’s take a look at some of the options available:

1. Paint it.

There’s no doubt about it. A fresh coat of paint will significantly improve the appearance of just about any area of your home. In fact, compared to other home improvements, painting will give you the highest return on investment when you sell your property. Think beyond walls. Painting a door, window frame, garage floor or deck can make those features look like new.

2. Declutter it.

Eliminating clutter will make your home look more attractive, roomy and comfortable to buyers. Do an inventory of each room. Ask yourself: “What can I throw out? Give away? Sell? Put into storage?”

3. Put up mirrors.

Mirrors are a relatively inexpensive design feature. Yet, according to an article in Style At Home magazine, they can make small rooms appear bigger and dark rooms seem brighter. You don’t necessarily need to buy wall-hanging mirrors. Standalone floor models will have the same effect.

4. Repair it.

In most cases, you will have to get any needed repairs done anyway. So, do them before you show your home. That way buyers will focus on the appealing features of your property, not the minor defects.

How to Decide if you Should Replace your Windows

One of the most prominent features of any home is the windows. If they are well maintained, they will have a positive impact on the impression potential buyers have of your property. Of course, the opposite occurs when your windows look old and worn.

So, does that mean you should replace your windows?

That depends on a number of factors. Window replacement can be an expensive renovation. Here are a few things to consider before making your decision.

  • Do you see water infiltration or mildew on the interior sides of any of the window sills? This means that moisture is creeping in from the outside, and you need to get those windows repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
  • If your windows are double-paned – (two panes of glass) – check for any signs of moisture in between the glass panes. Moisture indicates that the thermal seal is broken and, at a minimum, the glass will need to be replaced.
  • Take a look at your windows from the outside. Is the trim rotted or cracked anywhere? Are there dark spots or any signs of rotting on the wood frames? Repairs or replacement may be required.
  • Check the operation of your windows. Do they open and close easily? Some windows, such as those in bedrooms, are often designed to be big enough to use as an exit in case of a fire. It’s important to make sure those work properly.
  • Finally, are you happy with how your windows look? Do you feel that your property will look significantly better with new windows?

Although they are expensive, replacing windows can have a lot of advantages. Depending on the efficiency of your current windows, replacing them could cut your energy costs by 10-20%. In addition, new windows block out more exterior noise, making your home quieter.

How to Deal with a Low-Ball Offer

If you take care to price your home correctly – that is, at a price that is in line with what similar properties in the area have sold for recently – then you have a good chance of selling it at or near your asking price.

That doesn’t mean you won’t get a low-ball offer. You might. So, what do you do when that happens?

First, understand that the buyer may not necessarily be trying to steal away your home at a bargain-basement price. They might simply be mistaken about its true market value. Of course, they might also be coming in at a low price in the hopes they’ll get lucky.

You will never actually know the buyer’s motives. So, it would be a mistake to get angry or dismiss the offer out-of-hand. That low-ball offer might end up being the beginning of a negotiation that results in the sale of your home at a good price.

Your first step is to work with a Real Estate Professional to determine:

  • Whether the buyer is serious.
  • Whether the buyer is qualified. (For example, do they have a pre-approved mortgage?)
  • How amenable the buyer is to a counter-offer that reflects the true market value of your home.
  • What that counter-offer should be.

This isn’t an easy process. It takes the knowledge and experience of a professional real estate agent to get it right.

Avoiding Waste when Watering Your Lawn

The following tips will help you avoid waste when watering your lawn:

  • Use a low-angle, pulsating sprinkler. Water sprayed high into the air produces a mist that loses much of its moisture through evaporation.
  • Water the lawn, not the sidewalk or driveway.
  • Lawns need about an inch of water per week. To determine how much watering time that requires, place an empty tuna tin within your sprinkler’s range, and note how long it takes to fill.
  • When watering, account for recent rain.
  • Use an automatic sprinkler system that allows you to adjust the area, frequency and/or duration. Set the timer to operate just prior to sunrise.
  • Attach rain barrels to downspouts, in order to catch and hold roof runoff and then re-distribute it to your lawn, garden or container plants. Keep it covered for safety reasons, and to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. (Note: rainwater is actually better for plants because it doesn’t contain chlorine and has an ambient temperature).

Consumer Protection vs. Consumer Value

It has become standard for retailers to offer low cost supplementary “insurance protection plans” on appliances and electronics. These plans may seem like a good idea, but before you buy one, be sure the plan actually offers real added value. Often, these plans overlap with other protection programs you already have.

For example, reputable retailers usually sell products with solid manufacturer warranties, because they don’t want the bad reputation or the hassles that come from unhappy customers. In fact, in today’s competitive world, many retailers already have a “satisfaction guaranteed” policy built into everything they sell. In addition, if you are paying by credit card, you may have purchaser protection that is activated by simply using the card.

Of course, there are many consumer protection plans that do offer reasonable value. For example, some extended warranties offer a safety net after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out (similar to extended warranty automobile plans). In those cases, be sure the product is one you’ll want to keep and use for the duration of the warranty period. For example, it makes no sense to pay an extra thirty dollars on a one hundred dollar item, if you expect you will be able to buy a newer version in a few years for even less. Some “total care” service plans for complicated equipment, such as a car, computer or HVAC unit, are quite popular, as are “price freezing” plans on home utilities, such as electricity, gas and water. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your confidence in a product or service, and your willingness to put up with (or pay to avoid) the inconvenience of complaining, should it fail to meet your expectations.

Recognizing Potential Major Expenses in a New Home

When you see a new home you like on the market, it’s easy to get distracted by all the features you love – the wrap-around backyard deck or the spacious recreation room that has plenty of space for entertaining. You just need to make sure that in all your excitement you don’t overlook any expensive maintenance issues that could be just around the corner.

Nothing lasts forever. The major components of every home – from the furnace to the roof shingles – need to be replaced eventually. But, knowing when those maintenance issues are likely to arise can help you make a smarter decision about the home you’re considering.

How do you do that?

When viewing the property, ask for the age of the major components of the home, such as the roof shingles, furnace, air conditioner, water heater, and appliances. You might think the roof shingles look merely weathered in spots and have years of service left – when in fact, they’re due to be replaced next year.

Also pay close attention to the backyard deck, fencing, flooring, and windows. Do any of those components look aged, worn, and in need of repair or replacement sometime soon?

Finally, don’t forget to check the kitchen and bathrooms. Sinks, faucets, bathtubs, showers, and cabinetry have a life-span of about 10-15 years.

Of course, there are things you can’t see on your own, such as wiring, plumbing, venting, and other components of a property that may require maintenance. That’s why you should always make any offer to purchase a home conditional on passing an inspection by a qualified home inspector.

Deciding on a Discretionary Move

Sometimes we don’t get to choose whether or not to sell our home and buy another one. Circumstances, such as a job relocation, may make that decision for us.

However, most often, the decision to move is discretionary. Sometimes people move simply because they think it’s a good idea. They feel that “now” is the right time to find their next dream home.

You may feel you need to find a new home, because you’ve outgrown your current property. Perhaps you have a growing family and require more space. Maybe you’re doing more entertaining and need a larger backyard with a more spacious deck. It could be that the commute to work is arduous and you need to move to a place that’s closer.

Those “needs” may motivate you to move, but sometimes a “want” can play an important role too.

For example, you may want to live in a quieter area or in a newly built home that requires less maintenance. Maybe you simply want a change.

If you’re thinking of making a move, take a moment to write down a list of your needs and wants. Seeing them on paper will help make the decision easier.