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8 Things to Consider Before Selling Your Home

Mon, 26 Feb by Pauline Relkey

As winter moves closer to the finish line, the annual spring real estate market heats up. There are many things to consider before you put your home on the market – here are 8 of the more critical ones.

1. Budget

Know what you can afford so that you don’t stretch yourself thin. Talk to your mortgage person.

2. Know the costs.

There are plenty of expenses when selling your home. Some are straightforward such as renovations and paying for movers. Others may not be as obvious – nor who pays for them – such as land transfer taxes (buyer pays), real estate agent commissions (seller), mortgage insurance (buyer), legal fees, bank fees and possibly capital gains taxes.

3. Find out your home’s worth.

Knowing how much you’re likely to get for your home can dictate how much you may be able to afford when buying another house. Do your research by checking what similar homes have sold for in your neighbourhood. The best way to do this is to meet with your Realtor who will be listing your house for sale.

4. Choose a real estate agent.

You can choose to sell your home yourself to save the commission fees – but you also incur all the responsibility for writing legal contracts. Of course, I suggest that you choose a trusted real estate agent who knows your area and by asking for referrals. If your Realtor helped you find your present property and has stayed in touch with you, give her/him a call.

5. Decide when to sell.

Do you sell during the traditional peak markets of spring and summer or or off-season? Selling during the peak means more buyers and possible bidding wars, while selling off season means fewer homes competing with yours. As the saying goes, 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

6. Add visual appeal.

Creating curb appeal is an obvious benefit, but don’t forget to freshen up the interior as well. Make any minor renovations, declutter and consider staging, because professionally staged homes typically sell faster and for more.

7. Get a home inspection done.

While buyers will probably get their own inspections done, having one ready says that you’re confident in your home and have nothing to hide because you have taken care of what work is needed – it provides peace of mind for everyone.

8. Coordinate closing dates.

Being able to move from one home to another on the same day can be hectic and cause you stress. Hopefully you can take possession of your new place before you have to be out of your present one. If not, you may have to either rent another home short-term, put belongings in storage and generally cause unnecessary upheaval in your life. Talk to your bank about bridge financing.

Questions to Consider Before Meeting With a Home Designer

Wed, 13 Sep by Pauline Relkey

Designers typically charge an hourly rate for design services, so clients should do their homework before meeting with one. Think about what you want, what you NEED and what you can afford. If you think about these things before you meet with your designer, it can save you time and money.

To create a home that best serves you and your family, designers need to know your lifestyle, how you use your space, who uses the space and more. In other words, a designer needs to get inside your head. To help you prepare, here are things you should be able to answer about your space before meeting with your designer.

1. Who uses the space, and what activities will take place there? Having a list of all the uses for the space will help your designer get a feeling for the overall function. Is the room a personal space, like an office or a bedroom? If so, s/he might need to focus on creating an inspiring or a calming atmosphere.

Or maybe it’s a family room that is used by the entire family and needs to be a multifunctional place where teens do homework and everyone watches tv and plays games. Answering those questions will allow your designer to hone in on the function of the space, who uses it and why.

Also look at how big the space is. Does it allow for segregated areas or do we need to use a table as a multipurpose piece for both dining and homework?

Furniture that has multiple functions is a big space saver. A coffee table with a top surface for playing games and for extra seating, as well as a storage area below for books and toys, provides versatility.

2. Does the traffic pattern work in the space, or does the space feel cramped or underutilized? A major walkway should be at least 40 inches wide and the larger the walkway, the better. If you report that you often feel as though it’s a tight squeeze when multiple people are using a space, then a designer may remove the furniture and reconfigure it to accommodate a better flow.

For a kitchen usually islands are preferred over peninsulas if possible. An island opens up the space from every direction of the kitchen, whereas a peninsula allows for only one walkway. Again, it depends on the space, and your designer will be able to help you configure the best traffic flow. Sitting down and thinking about those times you’ve bumped into a family member as you’re cooking will give us clues to the right solution for you.

3. What kind of tasks do you need lighting for? Do you read a lot? Crochet? Or do you watch movies in the dark? The right lighting scheme will make your space more functional for all your tasks. If you tell your designer what you intend to do in your space, s/he can formulate the best lighting approach using task, pendant, undercabinet, recessed, ambient or natural light (via light tubes, skylights or a window), along with wall sconces and uplights.

For recessed lighting, use dimmer switches, which are great for low light while watching movies and giving off a soft ambient glow for entertaining. A table light or floor lamp is good for tasks or reading. Uplights are accent lights that can highlight artwork and collectibles.

4. What items are kept in this room? Let’s say you have one bathroom that’s shared by several family members, and you’re looking to remodel it. When you describe all the things that are stored in the space, the number of people who use it and so on, a designer will help you come up with the right storage solutions while keeping style in mind. For example, open shelving with baskets would give each family member his or her own basket, and would look great. Shallow wall built-ins, such as a medicine cabinet, would provide storage for shampoos, creams and toiletries.

A good designer can help solve storage issues but needs to know what issues should be addressed.

Here’s another example. If your counters are full of mail, keys, homework, magazines, electronic devices and so on, then maybe a main station is for you. A piece of furniture that has numerous compartments or drawers can help store those miscellaneous items.

If clutter collects in your family room, you might consider side tables with drawers or open side tables with a large basket or wooden crate for magazines, books and knitting supplies. Or maybe an ottoman that allows for storing items inside, such as blankets, pillows and things that are used sparingly.

Or maybe the solution is to add a functional piece of furniture storage in one room to help clear out space in another room, like a large armoire in your dining room that can store infrequently used dishware to free up space in your kitchen.

Think of how you do laundry. Do you need one hamper or four? Maybe you prefer to hang clothing rather than fold items after they come out of the dryer. Do you like to stand and fold clothes, or do you put them in a basket and fold them in another room? Do you need a place to iron or just the storage space to keep the iron and ironing board? Again, these are things that will help a designer quickly come up with the right design for you.

5. What look or feel do you want the space to have? Think of what you like in terms of colors, style and overall feel. If you’re looking for a calming environment in the bedroom, then maybe white walls, bedding and furniture are a good approach.

Ii’s recommended that clients create their own ideabook for each space and add comments on each photograph. Think about what it is in each photograph that inspires you, such as the color on the walls, the artwork, a piece of furniture or the overall feeling. Include information and pictures of appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, cabinet and door hardware, and flooring materials if these will be elements in your project.

Consider what speaks to you. Is there anything you personally cherish, example a colorful silk scarf that you love. This could set the tone for your family room. Paint the walls white to provide a neutral backdrop that allows you to add color throughout. Then add a tan sofa with colorful pillows and an accent piece of furniture painted a color taken from the vibrant scarf. A neutral rug can ground the space, and you can bring the scarf colors into other areas of your home through art and accessories, making it a cohesive home.

Don’t box yourself in with one design style, either. Be open to hearing a designer’s pitch on a combination of styles that might surprise you and also save time and money. For example, they might consider looking in other rooms of your home to swap out furnishings that will refresh and bring a new feeling to a room rather than buying all-new pieces. That old vintage chair in the basement could be just the piece you were searching for to break up a modern room.

6. What do you like about the space, and what do you most want to change and why? Not every room needs a total overhaul. In one room you may like a few things, such as the furniture and size of the room, but not the wall colors and rug. Sometimes just adding a few pillows and accessories is all a room needs.

You may like the overall feel of a space, but it may feel cramped with too much furniture. Designers can put together a floor plan for the best use of your space while considering focal points, large windows, art and so on. They know the space requirements for furniture and can map out the best traffic path.

A good designer will work with your list, making it a space that is right for your lifestyle while keeping the things you like and removing the things you don’t. Don’t be shy. Make clear what your likes and dislikes are. This is your space, after all.

7. How much money do you want to devote to your project? Setting budget expectations is important to the success of any remodeling or new construction project. Be realistic. A total average kitchen remodel can run as much as $80,000 and up. A basic kitchen remodel, keeping existing cabinets and floors, can cost about $16,000, depending on a variety of factors. If you’re on a strict budget, consider changes you need to have and which would be nice to have.

Share your budget right away with your designer, as this will set the tone of the makeover and will eliminate unnecessary backtracking later.

8. How much do you want to be involved in your project? Do you want a designer who will work with you, or do you want the designer to take charge and provide you with options? Clarifying your expectations will help you and the designer communicate well and ensure the result you want.

In the end, doing your homework will save you money that you can then put back into your project.

Home Fixes Before Selling

Thu, 13 Jul by Pauline Relkey

Prioritize the projects that will bring the most value

Fix it to sell.

Structural is just as important as cosmetic.

Give the buyers what they want — create the “wow” factor.

The process of getting a property ready to put on the market can seem daunting enough. There is clearing the clutter, cleaning, organizing and scrutinizing your property with a fine-tooth comb. What needs attention and what can you leave alone?

Welcome to the new world of “fixing to sell.” Gone are the days of throwing it on the market and seeing what happens. Prepping for sale is a highly choreographed dance of repair along with a bit of renovation and presentation.

Pay attention to these 7 areas.

1.Structural and mechanical
It might not be glamorous, but buyers are looking at big-ticket items like the age and condition of the roof, air conditioning and heating systems, electrical panel and pipes.

You don’t have to replace all, but if any of these components are on their last leg, you might seriously need to consider replacing them as these items could factor into the kind of financing the buyer is able to obtain as well as insurability of the property.

Appraisers can be notorious for requiring a roof to be replaced, for example, as a condition of a loan. Replacing a roof that is at the end of its life before putting your home on the market will go a long way to solidifying buyer confidence in deciding to make an offer. The buyer (and you) won’t have to sweat what an inspector says, deal with a potential renegotiation before closing or face a price reduction. The last thing you want to be doing is putting on a new roof in the midst of trying to pack.

If you lack the budget to replace these items, get estimates on the cost involved to replace. You can always offer to contribute to the replacement cost in the form of a credit to the buyer’s closing costs.

2. Exterior

How does the exterior of your home look? Is there any wood rot? When was the last time it was painted? Are there any stucco cracks that need attention?

First impressions start from the outside, and the exterior will show up in photos across a multitude of websites, etc. This is definitely an area worth spending the money.

3. Landscaping

Speaking of the exterior, how does your landscaping look? Are the trees and shrubs overgrown, worn and wilted? What about the ground cover? Are the planting beds in need of some fresh mulch, pine straw, rock, etc.? Are there any overgrown tree limbs hanging over the house or blocking the home’s view? For a relatively inexpensive investment, you can transform how your exterior looks by trimming back and freshening things up with new plants and landscaping.

4. Cosmetic

Buyers buy with their eyes, so now is the time to go through the interior in detail. Are there dents and dings on the walls, scratched moldings or worn paint? Now is the time to spruce up the inside with a fresh coat of paint. Pick light, neutral and on-trend colors. Choose a neutral palette that will transition well with any buyer’s furniture. The latest trend is a combination of grey and beige.

Look at your light fixtures, ceiling fans and light switches — these are relatively inexpensive things to update and replace, yet they go a long way toward creating value. The front door? This is critical! Does it need a fresh coat of paint or new hardware? Consider adding a glass panel to create light that evokes a sunny and warm space.

5. Kitchen

This area is always huge with buyers. Even if the buyers barely know how to boil water, they always envision themselves in the kitchen cooking and entertaining or perhaps auditioning to be the next Food Network TV star surrounded by sleek appliances and cabinetry.
Here’s where you need to give them the look for less. Think new hardware on cabinets, adding or changing out a dated tile backsplash and updating appliances. Also, consider changing out counters — you might be able to find a reasonably price remnant of a granite slab.

6. Bathrooms

Simple and clean rules the day. Sprucing up your bathrooms to sell can be as simple as having the grout on the existing tile steam cleaned or regrouting where needed. Caulking, new plumbing and light fixtures along with mirrors can create value.

7. Flooring

What you walk on creates value. If you can only afford to make the investment in one significant part of your home, consider updating the flooring. There are a ton of low-cost options to choose from that include wood plank tiles and highly upgraded laminate flooring — think wide plank, light colored or hand-scraped styles. New flooring can totally transform the look of your space and give it the “wow” factor that buyers desire. New flooring can transform the look of your space and give it the ‘wow’ factor that buyers desire.

In undertaking for sale preparation, strike a delicate balance between what to fix and what to leave alone, but in the end, make the right improvements that will result in a faster sale for top dollar.

Don’t all Realtors do the same thing?

Tue, 25 Oct by Pauline Relkey

Yes and no.

I was crushed when one of my very nice past clients said this to me recently. She had asked about the going commission rates and was checking around with other agents and companies before she and her spouse listed a property of theirs for sale. I know to never assume anything, but hearing this come from a past client of mine who had dealt with me a couple times and referred people to me to buy and sell, was still a shock to me.  I guess I shouldn’t assume because someone has dealt with me, that they will automatically deal with me over and over.  I really try to give my loyalty to businesses that treat me well and to also send them other business because I am grateful for great service and I hope that people will do the same for me.

Yes I think it is wise to check around and get 2 to 3 quotes for any ‘big’ job such as renovating, selling or buying a property, landscaping, etc, so that you feel good about your decision. But I firmly believe you tend to get what you pay for.

And yet this conversation made me think about the subject – don’t we do the same thing?

Yes – when you list a property for sale, the object is to get the property sold so agents really do the same thing. BUT how we do it is another thing.

Does your agent SHOW you, in writing, listings and sales in your area so that you feel comfortable knowing what is going on in your particular neighbourhood and how your property will compare with others? Does your agent take the time to give you advice on how to best get your home ready for sale or accept it in ‘as is’ condition and not say anything? You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to when it comes to repairs or staging or cleaning, but most sellers tend to want to get as much on the price as they can, and doing some of these things will tend to help you get that better price.

Does your agent have a list of tried and true contacts to share with you, whether it is a painter, a real estate lawyer, mortgage broker or a landscaper? Over 25 years I have collected and maintained such a list that comes in handy for me and my clients. These are people and businesses that have helped either me or my clients with a job and because they did a great job, they now come highly recommended and the list is continually updated because things change.

Does your agent tell you what he/she is going to do to sell your property BEFOREHAND and actually do what they promised? It’s easy to make promises, but it’s another story when it comes to carrying them out.  Where will your property be advertised? How many pictures will there be online for buyers to look at? Where do most of sales come from and is that where your property will be advertised?

Does your agent take the listing for your property, then not contact you for days, weeks and even months? Or are you kept in the loop by phone calls, texts and/or emails keeping you informed (telling you what the showing feedback is, how many inquiries have come in about your property and from where, suggestions on what to do with the property to make it appeal to buyers, what not to do when your property is listed such as staying in the property during a showing, sharing details about why you are selling, where you are moving, etc – anything that could hurt your chances for a sale).

Does your agent share their past records of their sales to show you what they have done? Or do they just tell you they are successful?

Is your agent willing to share references with you so that you can call them to ask about their experience with this agent?

Does your agent stay up to date with training and education or get their license and only do the bare minimum to stay licensed?

Does your agent discuss things like alarm systems, home insurance, rentals in the property (furnace, water heater, water softener, etc) and how to best handle these things or are you left alone to figure this out?

Does your agent show you statistics on how she/he compares to the average agent? or do you even care?

Does your agent explain the commission (rate, how it is divided, how you compare to other listings, etc)?

Does your agent take the time to listen to you, ask questions as to what you have enjoyed about this property, know where to find buyers for your property?

Does your agent get as much info ahead of time so that you aren’t rushed later (surveyors certificate/real property report, tax bill, utility bills, pictures of the property, real estate lawyer, mortgage info, etc)?

Does your agent show you stats on what works to sell a property and what is fluff?

Is your agent honest in pricing your house or an order taker who just agrees with you to take the listing?

Is your agent up to date on the latest CMHC changes, interest rates, home buyer plans?

Let me tell you about my ‘getting what you pay for’ story that happened years ago.

I questioned why I was paying so much for a haircut or color at my regular hairdresser’s shop.  I liked her.  She seemed to know what she was doing.  She always had suggestions on what was in style, what cut would look good on me, hints on how to style it myself, etc.

But I wanted to be the wise shopper and decided to get a haircut at one of those less expensive places.  So I walked into the place of business.  The business is nowhere to be found today, so that is hint number 1.  I asked for a haircut and was politely greeted and told to sit in the chair and the lady started cutting my hair.  I was surprised that she didn’t have me sit at the sink to get my hair washed first.  I questioned her about this and she said “for another $2 or $3 she could wash it.”

“Yes please” I said.  So she washed my hair.  Then she told me to go sit in her chair again.  I asked her if she was going to use any conditioner. She said that if I wanted some, that would be a few dollars more.  “Yes please” I said.

Now we were at the cutting hair part.  She cut my hair, then said “we’re done.”  I was sitting there with a haircut but still with wet hair.  “Aren’t you going to blow dry my hair?” I questioned.

“Sure” she said “for more cost.”

“Yes please” was becoming my saying at this point.

Then she said “you’re done” after she blow dried my hair.

“Aren’t you going to style it?” I questioned.

“If you want it styled, that will be more cost”, she said.

Here we go  with “yes please” again.

So after all that, I learnt that yes you can usually get things gone cheaper, but do your homework and find out exactly what is included and what isn’t included.  Sometimes that big savings turns out to not be a savings after all.

Why For Sale by Owners don’t Sell

Tue, 19 Jan by Pauline Relkey

10 reasons Why For Sale by Owners Fail

Homeowners trying to sell their homes on their own, also known as for-sale-by-owners (FSBOs) – are driven by several reasons. Although most of them want to save money that they would have otherwise spent on real estate commissions, a few others take the FSBO route because they feel they don’t need a professional to sell their home.

Whatever the reason for attempting to sell solo might be, data from a recent National Association of Realtors survey shows that less than 10 percent of FSBOs actually sell.

There are a lot of reasons why FSBOs fail and do not sell. Some of the top among these are:

1. Too many people to negotiate with
Those deciding to take the FSBO route often have to negotiate with many people. Some of them are likely to be:
• The buyer, seeking the best possible deal.
• The buyer’s agent, who represents the buyer’s best interest.
• The buyer’s lawyer.
• Home inspection companies, working for the buyer, which are likely to find a problem or two with the property.
• Your bank, in case it’s a short sale.
• The appraiser, if the home’s value needs to be assessed.

Without the help of experienced real estate agents, dealing with so many different parties alone is often a tough task for homeowners.

2. Homeowners do not know how to prepare the home for sale.
A majority of homeowners don’t know about the pre listing tasks that FSBOs should do before they list their home for sale. These usually include:
• Decluttering.
• Painting.
• Getting necessary repairs done.
• Getting the floors and carpets cleaned by professionals.
• Ensuring curb appeal of the home.
• Replacing outdated light fixtures.
Homes for sale whether by owners or listed with an agent, just have one chance to impress potential buyers. Neglecting these home sale preparation tips often reduces the homeowners’ chances of selling the house.

3. Owners do not know how to screen potential buyers
FSBOs often have no idea about the difference between pre qualification and pre approval, and they don’t know that buyers should ideally be pre approved or at least pre qualified.
No wonder they let unqualified buyers inspect the house and waste their precious time. Not knowing if a buyer has the ability to purchase the home acts as a big deterrent for homes for sale by owners.

4. Owners fail to solve buyer’s queries
Handling inquiries from buyers on their listings and coordinating showings for their homes are pre requisites for making a sale. However, many homeowners either aren’t able to handle such inquiries on their homes or don’t have the time for them.

Even organizing showings might become an uphill task at times. Because these days potential buyers and their agents want quick responses to their inquiries, they don’t think twice before moving on to the next potential property if their inquiries and requests are unanswered.

5. Owners don’t understand the concept of golden time
According to this concept, homeowners get the most money for their
homes in the first week of putting the property on the market. The longer homes stay on the market, the less money people will be willing to offer for them.

If a buyer tries FSBO first and then hires an agent, the buyer would have already lost the “golden time” window. This will eliminate the buyers who have already viewed the home, might have offered unrealistically low prices and have already moved on.

6. Owners fail to understand the contract procedures
The contract to buy a home involves much more than just the price offered by the buyer. Also, real estate contracts have lots of time lines and clauses and involve several common contract contingencies, such as inspections and mortgages.

Many FSBOs don’t have a firm understanding of such contracts and might not know what they are agreeing to or how to negotiate particular parts of the contract.

7. FSBOs don’t know how to handle the home inspection findings
Home inspections almost always find some issues with houses even when they are relatively newer built. In such cases, the buyer requests problems be fixed or corrected before moving forward with the transaction.

However, many FSBOs believe that there is nothing wrong with their home, which is why they refuse to address the issues brought forward by home inspections. As a result, the sale falls through.

8. FSBOs incorrectly price their homes
FSBOs often price their homes incorrectly due to lack of experience. They set the price too high, which hinders their chances of closing the deal.

9. FSBO homes lack exposure
Homes for sale by owners are sometimes listed on only one website. Thus, FSBOs are unable to give their homes adequate exposure in the market.

However, when buyers hire a real estate agent, the professional can give a property online exposure as well as exposure in the local real estate segment of the newspaper. The agent even has tools to extend the exposure further, which FSBOs don’t have.

10. FSBOs fail in the closing process
Even after an offer is accepted, many things still need to be done prior to the closing. For instance:
• Get the inspections completed within the allotted time.
• Ensure the lawyers approve contracts.
• Check if the buyer has obtained written mortgage commitment.
• Changing the title with land titles

With so many things acting against FSB0s, it’s natural to find many of these properties being sold by real estate agents.

for sale by owner

Why Your Property Should Be Furnished When Selling

Mon, 27 Apr by Pauline Relkey

Imagine it’s Oscar night. A movie star is wearing a gorgeous designer gown but decides she doesn’t need to do anything with her hair or makeup. Does everyone talk about the incredible gown? No way! All they can remember is how unfinished and horrible she looked inside the gown!

1. People don’t buy houses, they buy homes they can picture themselves in. They want to feel like it’s move in ready.  Move in Friday, take the weekend to unpack and organize then back to work on Monday.

2. It is difficult to understand the size of a room when there’s nothing in it to use as a reference point.  Will my table fit? Is my king size bed ok for the master bedroom?

3. Only 10% of people can visualize what furniture may look like in a home, 90% can’t. Since they can’t visualize how furniture will fit in an empty space and if they’re unsure, they don’t buy.

4. Prospective buyers focus on negative details when a room is empty, instead of falling in love with the overall space.  Think of this as looking in the bathroom mirror when you are naked.  All you see are your flaws and nothing positive.  All that buyers can think about are things like, “What is that little divot in the drywall? I don’t like the colour on the wall.  Why doesn’t the closet have shelves? Why doesn’t that moulding fit perfectly? Why is the light switch on that side of the wall?

5. Prospective buyers can get distracted from paying attention to the property when even a few rooms are empty and can’t shift their focus to being home owners.  Instead of focusing on whether this is the home for them, they may be busy wondering: Is this a divorce? Have they left town? Are they selling because they have money problems? This train of thought can then prompt buyers to starting thinking, “maybe I can put in a low ball offer since the seller might be desperate.” Definitely not the picture you are trying to paint as a seller.

Packaging a home to show off its best features and downplay the flaws is what home staging is about. You attract and romance the most buyers and entice them into making an emotional connection with your house.  Bringing in some furnishings and accessories and knowing where and how to place them will add character and warmth to the home.  Even if your home is furnished, a home stager can help by moving some of your furniture and accessories around plus adding some of hers to just give your home that perfect touch.  It is proven that these final details will translate into a higher return on your investment.

staging before and after

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