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What NOT to Do Before House Loan Qualification

Are you gearing up to qualify for a home purchase? It's an exciting journey but beware of certain pitfalls that can derail your dream. Here, we uncover the top 10 mistakes you should avoid to ensure a smooth path to homeownership. Perfect for those in the market for a new home, these tips are a must-read:

  1. Changing Jobs: Stability is key. Lenders favour a steady employment history. Avoid switching jobs, quitting, or starting self-employment until your purchase is complete.

  2. Shuffling Finances: Keep your finances steady. Moving money between accounts can complicate the lender’s verification process.

  3. Purchasing a Vehicle: A new car loan can impact your mortgage borrowing capacity. Postpone any vehicle purchases until after closing.

  4. Overusing Credit Cards: High credit card usage can lower your credit score. Keep your credit utilization in check and keep up to date with payments.

  5. Spending Closing Funds: Guard your closing cost savings. Using this money prematurely can risk your mortgage approval.

  6. Hiding Debts: Transparency is crucial. Disclose all debts and liabilities upfront to avoid surprises during the loan process.

  7. Big Purchases: Delay buying appliances or furniture. Such expenses can alert lenders and potentially disrupt your mortgage process.

  8. Excessive Credit Checks: Too many hard inquiries on your credit report can decrease your score. Limit credit applications before closing.

  9. Unexplained Deposits: Consult your mortgage broker before making large deposits. These need proper documentation and verification.

  10. Co-Signing Loans: Co-signing increases your financial obligations and can impact your loan eligibility.

Navigating the home-buying process can be complex and it is important to set yourself up for success. Avoiding these common mistakes can make your journey to homeownership smoother and more successful. For more insights and personalized advice, feel free to reach out to our team. Happy house hunting!

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Winter / Spring Home Maintenance Tasks

As a homeowner, it's important to stay proactive when it comes to maintaining your property. Whether you're planning to stay in your home for years to come or thinking about putting it on the market, the transition from winter to early spring is an ideal time to tackle essential maintenance tasks. These tasks not only help ensure the longevity of your home but also increase its resale value.

  1. Inspect Your Roof: Neglecting to inspect your roof after a harsh winter can lead to leaks and water damage. Small issues like missing or damaged shingles can quickly escalate into costly repairs if left unaddressed.

  2. Clean Gutters and Downspouts: Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause water to overflow and damage your home's foundation, resulting in expensive structural repairs.

  3. Service Your HVAC System: Skipping HVAC maintenance can lead to reduced efficiency and, ultimately, the need for costly repairs or replacement. Regular servicing keeps your system running smoothly and prolongs its lifespan.

  4. Check for Drafts: Failing to seal gaps around windows and doors can lead to higher energy bills as heated or cooled air escapes. It can also make your home less appealing to energy-conscious buyers.

  5. Inspect the Plumbing: A leaking faucet or pipe may seem minor, but over time, it can cause water damage and mold growth, necessitating extensive and expensive repairs.

  6. Clean and Repair the Fireplace: A neglected fireplace can become a fire hazard. A damaged chimney or flue can lead to dangerous situations and costly fixes. Regular maintenance ensures safety and functionality.

  7. Clean and Declutter: A cluttered and dirty home can give the impression of neglect and reduce your property's appeal to potential buyers. Professional cleaning, painting touch-ups, and decluttering can make a significant difference.

  8. Replace Light Bulbs and Clean Light Fixtures: Adequate lighting enhances your home's appearance and safety. Replace burnt-out bulbs and clean light fixtures to create a bright and welcoming atmosphere.

  9. Inspect Steps and Decks: Ensure that steps and decks are in good repair, free of loose boards, and sturdy. Safety is paramount, and addressing issues promptly prevents accidents and costly repairs.

  10. Power Wash Driveway, Steps, and Walkways: Over time, dirt and grime can accumulate on outdoor surfaces, making your home appear less inviting. Power washing can rejuvenate these areas and enhance your property's curb appeal.

  11. Landscape and Curb Appeal: Overgrown landscaping can obscure your home's beauty and potential. Neglecting your yard can lead to costly landscaping projects to restore curb appeal.

  12. Professional Home Inspection: Skipping a pre-listing home inspection can lead to surprises during the selling process. Undetected issues can delay or derail a sale, often resulting in the need for costly last-minute repairs.

Remember, regular maintenance not only preserves your home's value but also prevents minor issues from escalating into major and costly repairs. Whether you're staying put or preparing to sell, these winter/early spring touch-up tasks are important tasks. If you're thinking about selling, reach out to us for a personalized walkthrough and advice on maximizing your home's value in today's market.

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BC Assessment vs. Actual Market Values

The Cowichan Valley continues to be a popular destination for home buyers both as a place to raise families and a place to retire. Yet, navigating the real estate market in these regions can be perplexing, especially when BC Assessment values don’t align with actual market values. We will look at factors that cause these disparities and highlight why local realtors are often the best source for assessing property value.

  • Assessment Timing: Discrepancies between BC Assessment values and market values often stem from timing. BC Assessment values are determined based on property values as of a specific assessment date, which may not reflect current market conditions. Real estate markets can be highly dynamic, with property values fluctuating month to month.
  • Methodology Matters: BC Assessment employs various methods, such as the sales comparison approach, income approach, and cost approach, to estimate property values. While these methods aim for accuracy, they may not always capture specific factors influencing a property’s market value, such as unique features and recent renovations, and sometimes reflect the best use of land, not existing improvements.
  • Local Market Variations: The Cowichan Valley encompasses diverse neighbourhoods, each with its unique characteristics. Different areas experience varying rates of property value appreciation or depreciation. BC Assessment uses mass appraisal techniques that may not fully consider localized factors.
  • Property Condition: The condition of a property significantly impacts its market value. BC Assessment may lack up-to-date information on a property’s condition, leading to discrepancies between assessed values and market values.
  • Market Volatility: Real estate markets can be volatile, with prices subject to rapid fluctuations due to economic factors, differing interest rates and supply and demand. BC Assessment values rely on historical data and may not reflect short-term market changes.
  • Appeals and Assessments: Property owners can challenge their BC Assessment values through an appeal process. A successful appeal can lead to an adjustment that better aligns with the property’s market value.

As local real estate specialists familiar with the Cowichan Valley, we possess a deep understanding of the nuances within communities, including localized factors that impact property values.

We leverage our local knowledge and extensive experience to provide buyers and sellers with accurate assessments of a property’s market value, considering unique local trends, neighbourhood characteristics, market conditions, recent sales, and comparative listings.

Property value assessment can be a complex endeavour; while BC Assessment values play a role in property taxation, they may not always reflect real-time market conditions. Contact us today for a property market evaluation and allow us to market your home for all it’s worth.

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Benefits of Using a Cowichan Valley Realtor to Sell your Home

Selling your home is a complex process that can be stressful and time-consuming. An experienced Cowichan Valley realtor has the knowledge, skills, and connections to help you through the process every step of the way. Consider the following benefits of working with a local realtor.

Professional Experience

With knowledge and training in marketing strategy, negotiation tactics, and the workings of the current real estate market, a realtor will be able to guide you through the steps of the home-selling process and be able to explain exactly what to expect. S/he will make you aware of your rights and responsibilities, work with you to strategize the best moves according to your own goals, discuss financing options, and point you in the direction of other specialized professionals who will aid you in different stages of the process.

Best Price

Realtors have their fingers on the pulse of the current real estate market, and will know what comparable properties in your area are selling for. They have the resources and knowledge to establish the best asking price and to attract the highest selling price. With access to their company’s professional marketing resources and connections, they will ensure potential buyers are immediately made aware of your home and market the property to sell as quickly as possible and for the most money.

“Showcasing” Experience

Your realtor will know the importance of a property’s first impression. S/he will have experienced first-hand, for example, the impact a property’s “drive-up appeal” has on the rest of a potential Buyer’s experience of your home. Your Realtor will be able to offer you tips and information on how to get your home in the best selling shape possible, in order to sell your property quickly and for top dollar.

Access to Qualified Buyers

Realtors save time and effort by dealing only with qualified buyers. They have access to a pool of pre-screened and pre-qualified buyers who are serious about buying a home in your neighbourhood. Realtors work hard to develop this base of qualified buyers which will become an invaluable resource for you.

Negotiation Skills

Realtors serve many functions, but perhaps the most important is their role as primary negotiator on your behalf. Your realtor realizes your goal is to sell your home as quickly as possible, and for the most money possible, and will work closely with you during the negotiation process to facilitate this goal. Realtors bring to the process the knowledge and skills to draw up legally binding contracts, to assist in negotiating offers and counter-offers, and to offer counsel and perspective as you work toward your selling goals.

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Buy or Sell First?

If you are considering looking for a new house, and are a current home-owner, then chances are you’re wondering what your strategy should be: do you wait to find the perfect new home before you put your current home on the market; or do you sell first and then look around? You have a few options. Use the following as a guide to explore what might be the best move for you.

Sell First

There are several benefits to selling your current house before searching for your next home. First of all, once you have sold your house, you will know precisely how much money you have to work with. With a concrete price range, you’ll be able to narrow the pool of houses before you begin looking, and negotiate accordingly. This will allow you to immediately make firm offers on houses that you are serious about purchasing. You can be first in line with an unconditional offer you know you can afford, and this will grant even further negotiating leverage as sellers tend to take unconditional offers more seriously. When they counter or turn down an offer that’s conditional on the sale of a home, they usually think the buyer will come back with a better and more firm offer once they have sold their current home.

However, if you make an unconditional offer, the seller will usually give you more consideration, as they realize you’re probably looking at other properties and will move on if your offer is rejected. Likewise, if you have already sold your house, you probably do have a wider opportunity to look around, negotiate, and find the best deal and fit for you and your family.

The flip side of this scenario, however, is that if you don’t find the right property before the closing date of the house you’ve already sold, you may have to look for temporary housing until you do find what you’re looking for.

So, before you opt to sell first, you should determine whether you have alternate, temporary options, in case you have to move from your house before you’ve found a new one. How would you and your family deal with living in a transition home for an undetermined period of time?

 

Buy First

Buying a new house without having sold your current home may occur if you are interested in a specific property and will only sell your current home if this property comes on the market. It may be a matter of timing—grabbing hold of the home before it’s too late. The same might be said of a property you haven’t had you eye on previously, but that catches your attention due to its uniqueness or unbelievable price. If buying first means you don’t miss out on the real estate opportunity of a lifetime, it may be the best move.

However, be careful. If you buy another property and aren’t able to sell your current home quickly enough, you could end up having to finance both homes and shoulder the extra debt until you sell. You can get a financial appraisal or market evaluation of a home prior to selling, but this doesn’t guarantee the price you’ll ultimately receive for the home after the negotiation process has run its course. Since your selling price will be an unknown, jumping into a purchase could be a gamble, particularly if your budget is tight.

Make sure you’re familiar with all aspects of the financial reality this scenario would create before you purchase another home. You may be faced with owning two homes at once. What type of financial stress would this bring to your life and how would you deal with it? Consider the fact that if your current house doesn’t sell quickly enough, you may be forced to sell it off at a reduced price in order to align the closing dates of your two properties. What effect would this have on your financial situation?

Conditional Offer

An additional option involves making your offer to purchase conditional upon the sale of your current property within a specified period. Conditional offers usually include a clause that allows for the Sellers to keep their property on the market and remain open to other offers while you try to sell your home. If the Sellers receive another attractive offer before you’ve sold your home, they may accept and ask you to either remove your condition and firm up your offer, or to back down from the offer. A conditional offer forms a kind of middle ground, an area of compromise, for those who are afraid to sell or buy first—but doesn’t hold the advantages of the other two options.

One of the drawbacks of the conditional offer is that Sellers tend to take them less seriously. They definitely give stronger consideration to firm offers. This leaves you with less negotiating power. In fact, some Sellers will simply turn down or counter a conditional offer. Other Sellers will believe the Buyer will come back with a more serious offer when their home has sold. So, you may end up having to increase your offer in order to have your conditional offer accepted and keep your foot in the door of your desired house.

Even if your conditional offer is accepted, there is no guarantee another Buyer won’t step in and overthrow your offer before you have sold your current home, which would put you back at the starting line. Also, consider the fact that you cannot withdraw your conditional offer until the end of the period specified in the contract—which means that if a better deal comes along, you will have to wait to jump at it.

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How to Get Above Asking Price for Your Home

Setting a realistic price for your home that reflects current market values will help sell your home quickly and for top dollar. When you price your home properly, you increase the chances that the offer you receive will nearly match your asking price, and that there will be competing offers—which may net you even more in the long run.

Your property has the best chance of selling within its first seven weeks on the market. And, studies indicate that the longer a property stays on the market, the less it will ultimately sell for. A property priced 10 % more than its market value is significantly less likely to sell within this window than a property priced close to its actual market value. About three-quarters of homes on the market today are 5-10 % overpriced. Sellers will usually over-price their homes by this margin if, either, they firmly believe the home is worth more than what the market indicates, or if they want to leave room for negotiation. Either way, if you choose to over-price your home by this amount, you run the risk of increasing the amount of time your home spends on the market, and decreasing the amount of money you’ll ultimately receive.

At the other end of the selling spectrum are houses that are priced below a fair market value. Under-pricing often occurs when the owner is interested in a quick sell. You can bargain on these homes attracting multiple offers and ultimately selling quickly at—or above—the asking price.

The knowledge and skills of an experienced realtor will be invaluable when determining an appropriate asking price. It is the job of your realtor to know the current market and market trends inside and out, to be closely connected to the real estate market at large, and to be aware of other properties currently for sale in your particular area. Based on this range of connections and knowledge, your realtor should counsel you on how to price your home properly in order to attract the highest price possible, in the shortest period of time.

Before approaching this process, you should first do some homework yourself. You’ll need to know the workings of the current market before you even begin to think about setting an asking price. The market will always influence a property’s value, regardless of the state of a home, or its desirability. Here are the types of market conditions and how they may affect you

1. Seller’s Market

A seller’s market is considered a “hot” market. This type of market is created when demand is greater than supply—that is, when the number of Buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market. As a result, these homes usually sell very quickly, and there are often multiple offers. Many homes will sell above the asking price.

2. Buyer’s Market

A buyer’s market is a slower market. This type of market occurs when supply is greater than demand, the number of homes exceeding the number of Buyers. Properties are more likely to stay on the market for a longer period of time. Fewer offers will come in, and with less frequency. Prices may even decline during this period. Buyers will have more selection and flexibility in terms of negotiating toward a lower price. Even if your initial offered price is too low, Sellers will be more likely to come back with a counter-offer.

Remember, a realtor is trained to provide clients with this information about the market, helping you make the most informed decision possible. The right realtor will guide you through the ups and downs of the market and keep you up-to-date with the types of changes you might expect.

3. Balanced Market

In a balanced market, supply equals demand, the number of homes on the market roughly equal to the number of buyers. When a market is balanced there aren’t any concrete rules guiding whether a buyer should make an offer at the higher end of his/her range, or the lower end. Prices will be stable, and homes will sell within a reasonable period of time. Buyers will have a decent number of homes to choose from, so sellers may encounter some competition for offers on their home, or none at all.

Remember, a realtor is trained to provide clients with this information about the market, helping you make the most informed decision possible. The right realtor will guide you through the ups and downs of the market and keep you up-to-date with the types of changes you might expect.

Evaluate your house in the other main areas that affect market value:

1. Location

The proximity of your home to amenities, such as schools, parks, public transportation, and stores will affect its status on the market. Also, the quality of neighbourhood planning, and future plans for development and zoning will influence a home’s current market value, as well as the ways in which this value might change.

2. Property

The age, size, layout, style, and quality of construction of your house will all affect the property’s market value, as well as the size, shape, seclusion and landscaping of the yard.

3. Condition of the Home

This includes the general condition of your home’s main systems, such as the furnace, central air, electrical system, etc., as well as the appearance and condition of the fixtures, the floor plan of the house, and its first appearances.

4. Comparable Properties

Ask your realtor to prepare you a general market analysis of your neighbourhood, so you can determine a range of value for your property. A market analysis will provide you with a market overview and give you a glimpse at what other similar properties have been selling for in the area.

5. Market Conditions/ Economy

The market value of your home is additionally affected by the number of homes currently on the market, the number of people looking to buy property, current mortgage rates, and the condition of the national and local economy.

It’s time to list your home. What better way to set your asking prices than by looking at your tax assessment right? Not so fast. The value listed on a property tax assessment does not necessarily reflect the market value of your home. Basing your asking price on your tax assessment means you run the risk of incorrectly pricing your home. Your listing will have the greatest impact in the first few weeks on the market. Overpricing your home helps sell more accurately priced homes in the neighbourhood leaving yours unsold.

The longer a listing lingers on the market, the more likely it will become stagnant or stigmatized. David will provide you with recommendations and advice that will help you set a competitive price for your home, increasing the likelihood of serious buyers and multiple offers.

90% of buyers start their home search online to narrow down the properties they actually want to visit in person. David’s extensive marketing strategies ensure that your home stands out when viewed online and converts internet lookers into in-person shoppers.

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8 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

You’ve been saving for awhile, weighing your options, looking around casually. Now you’ve finally decided to do it—you’re ready to buy a house. The process of buying a new home can be incredibly exciting, yet stressful, all at once. Where do you start?

It is essential you do your homework before you begin. Learn from the experiences of others, do some research. Of course, with so many details involved, slip-ups are inevitable. But be careful: learning from your mistakes may prove costly. Use the following list of pitfalls as a guide to help you avoid the most common mistakes.

1. Searching for houses without getting pre-approved by a lender:
Do not mistake pre-approval by a lender with pre-qualification. Pre-qualification, the first step toward being pre-approved, will point you in the right direction, giving you an idea of the price range of houses you can comfortably afford. Pre-approval, however, means you become a cash buyer, making negotiations with the seller much easier.

2. Allowing “first impressions” to overly influence your decision:
The first impression of a home has been cited as the single most influential factor guiding many purchasers’ choice to buy. Make a conscious decision beforehand to examine a home as objectively as you can. Don’t let the current owners’ style or lifestyle sway your judgment. Beneath the bad décor or messy rooms, these homes may actually suit your needs and offer you a structurally sound base with which to work.

Likewise, don’t jump at a home simply because the walls are painted your favourite colour! Make sure you thoroughly the investigate the structure beneath the paint before you come to any serious decisions.

3. Failing to have the home inspected before you buy:
Buying a home is a major financial decision that is often made after having spent very little time on the property itself. A home inspection performed by a competent company will help you enter the negotiation process with eyes wide open, offering you added reassurance that the choice you’re making is a sound one, or alerting you to underlying problems that could cost you significant money in both the short and long-run. Your local Cowichan Valley realtor can suggest reputable home inspection companies for you to consider and will ensure the appropriate clause is entered into your contract.

4. Not knowing and understanding your rights and obligations as listed in the Offer to Purchase:
Make it a priority to know your rights and obligations inside and out. A lack of understanding about your obligations may, at the very least, cause friction between yourself and the people with whom you are about to enter the contract. Wrong assumptions, poorly written/ incomprehensible/missing clauses, or a lack of awareness of how the clauses apply to the purchase, could also contribute to increased costs.

These problems may even lead to a void contract. So, take the time to go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb, making use of the resources and knowledge offered by your Realtor and lawyer. With their assistance, ensure you thoroughly understand every component of the contract, and are able to fulfill your contractual obligations.

5. Making an offer based on the asking price, not the market value:
Ask your realtor for a current Comparative Market Analysis. This will provide you with the information necessary to gauge the market value of a home, and will help you avoid over-paying. What have other similar homes sold for in the area and how long were they on the market? What is the difference between their asking and selling prices? Is the home you’re looking at under-priced, over-priced, or fair value? The seller receives a Comparative Market Analysis before deciding upon an asking price, so make sure you have all the same information at your fingertips.

6. Failing to familiarize yourself with the neighbourhood before buying:
Check out the neighbourhood you’re considering, and ask around. What amenities does the area have to offer? Are there schools, churches, parks, or grocery stores within reach? Consider visiting schools in the area if you have children. How will you be affected by a new commute to work? Are there infrastructure projects in development? All of these factors will influence the way you experience your new home, so ensure you’re well-acquainted with the surrounding area before purchasing.

7. Not looking for home insurance until you are about to move:
If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be rushed to find an insurance policy that’s the ideal fit for you. Make sure you give yourself enough time to shop around in order to get the best deal.

8. Not recognizing different styles and strategies of negotiation:
Many buyers think that the way to negotiate their way to a fair price is by offering low. However, in reality, this strategy may actually result in the seller becoming more inflexible, polarizing negotiations. Employ the knowledge and skills of an experienced realtor. S/he will know what strategies of negotiation will prove most effective for your particular situation.

Let me know if you have questions.

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Where to Start: Begin to Prepare your Home for Showings

“You never get a second chance at a first impression.” We’ve all heard this expression before. And now, while you are preparing your house to sell, it should not be far from your mind.

While logical factors such as price and location narrow the pool of houses a potential buyer will look at, the ultimate decision to buy a particular house is fueled by a mixture of logic and emotion. And emotion often wins out. The same might be said for the process of selling a home. For this reason, real estate agents, when they talk to you about buying real estate, will refer to your purchase as a “home.” When discussing the sale of your current home, however, an agent will refer to it as the “house.” This is a conscious choice. The agent knows that buying a house is often an emotional decision, while, when selling a house, emotion should be separated from the process.

Buyers are searching for a “home”—a place in which they will feel comfortable, secure, and happy, a place in which they can imagine settling down and raising their family. As a seller, your goal is to cultivate these feelings through the property you’re selling. Look at your house as a marketable commodity. A buyer’s emotional response is triggered early, so you want to ensure you have done everything you can to encourage a positive response to your house from the outset. Within minutes—even seconds—of pulling into your driveway, buyers have formed an impression that they will carry with them through the rest of the showing, and beyond. Keep in mind, this impression will not only influence whether or not they make an offer, but also what they consider to be the value of the property.

If you’ve ever visited model homes, you’re familiar with effective presentation styles. Have you ever walked into one of these homes and immediately begun taking stock, planning how to get your home to look that good? Well, now is the time to take some of these steps. Of course, there are ways to achieve the same effect in your own home without incurring model home costs.

When homes create this immediate type of emotional appeal, they tend to sell quickly—and for more money. Use the following step-by-step guide to get your house into selling shape before you put the property on the market, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful sale!

 

1. Depersonalize

This should be one of your first steps when you begin preparing your house to sell. Over the years, a home inevitably becomes tattooed with the owners’ lives, covered with touches that have made it that special place for you. At this point, however, you want buyers to recognize it as a property they could make into their unique place.

When a homebuyer walks into a room and sees these personalizing touches—such as photos on the walls or trophy collections—their ability to picture their own lives in this room is jarred, impairing a positive emotional response. So, your first step will be to remove all the family photos, the trophies, collectible items, and souvenirs. Pack them all together, so you’ll have everything you need at your disposal when it comes time to personalize your new home. For the time being, rent a storage space and keep these items there. Do not simply transfer these items to another place in your house. Do not hoard them away in a closet, basement, attic, or garage, as the next step in preparing your home is to minimize clutter—and these areas of your house will all be targeted.

 

2. Remove all Clutter

The next step on the list is to purge your house of the excess items that have accumulated over the years. This is the hardest part for many people, as they have an emotional investment in many of these things. When you have lived in a house for several years, a build-up of personal effects occurs that is often so gradual that you don’t notice the space is becoming cluttered. If you need to, bring in an objective friend to help point out areas that could stand to be cleared.

Try to stand back yourself and see your house as a buyer might. Survey shelves, countertops, drawers, closets, the basement—all places where clutter often accumulates—to determine what needs to go. Use a system to help you decide: get rid of all items, for example, you haven’t used in the past five years, and pack up everything that you haven’t used in the past year. Although getting rid of some things might be hard, try to do it without conscience or remorse. You’ll be forced to go through this process anyway when you move, and with each box you eliminate, your storage space—and the room in general—begins to look larger.

We’ve broken down the process into specific areas of your house to help you concentrate your efforts:

Kitchen

The kitchen is an ideal place to begin, as it’s easy to spot and eliminate the type of clutter that tends to accumulate here. Homebuyers will open your drawers and cabinets as they’ll want to check if there will be enough room for their own belongings. If the drawers appear cluttered and crowded, this will give them the impression there is not enough space.

  • First of all, remove everything from the counters, even the toaster (the toaster can be stored in a cabinet, and brought out when needed).

  • Clean out all the cabinets and drawers. Put aside all of the dishes, pots and pans that you rarely use, then box them and put them in the storage unit you have rented (again, not in the basement or a closet).

  • If you, like many people, have a “junk drawer,” clear this out.

  • Get rid of the food items in the pantry that you don’t use. Begin to use up existing food—let what you have on your shelves dictate your menus from now on.

  • Remove all extra cleaning supplies from the shelves beneath the sink. Make sure this area is as empty as possible. You should thoroughly clean this spot as well, and check for any water stains that might indicate leaking pipes. Buyers will look in most cabinets, and will notice any telltale signs of damage.

Closets

  • Go through all clothes and shoes. If you don’t wear something anymore, get rid of it. We all have those clothes, too, that we wear only once in awhile, but can’t bear to give away. Box these items and keep them in the storage unit for a few months.

  • Go through all other personal items in the closet. Be ruthless. Weed out everything you don’t absolutely need.

  • Remove any unsightly boxes from the back of the closet. Put them in storage if need be. Get everything off the floor. Closets should look as though they have enough room to hold additional items.

Furniture

  • You may want to tour a few model homes in order to gauge the type of furniture chosen by design teams to create a spacious, yet comfortable atmosphere. Note how that furniture is arranged to cultivate a certain feeling.

  • After having armed yourself with some ideas, stand back and look at each of your rooms. What will you need to remove? Remember, most homes contain too much furniture for showings. These are items that you’ve grown comfortable with and that have become incorporated into your everyday routine. However, each room should offer a sense of spaciousness, so some furniture will likely need to be placed in storage.

Storage Areas

  • Basements, garages, attics, and sheds: these are the “junkyard” areas of any given home. It is possible to arrange simple clutter into a certain order, but junk is sent packing to these often-hidden rooms. First, determine which of these boxes and items you actually need. Can some of it be sent to the dump once and for all?

  • Hold a garage sale. You’ve heard the saying, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.” Let these items go to a better home.

  • Transfer some items to the rental storage unit. You’ll want to clear the storage areas in your house as much as possible, in order for them to appear spacious to potential home-buyers. Buyers want the reassurance that their own excess belongings will find places for storage in their new home.

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Top Legal Mistakes to Avoid

The process of buying or selling a house seems to involve a million details. It is important that you educate yourself on as many parts of this process as you can—this knowledge could mean the difference of thousands of dollars in the long-run. The legal issues involved in the process are often particularly intricate, ranging from matters of common knowledge to subtle details that might escape the untrained eye. Any of these issues, if not handled properly, could develop into larger problems.

With so many legal issues to consider, your first step should be to seek out experienced professionals to help educate you and represent your best legal interests. Begin with an experienced real estate agent, who can help guide you through the initial hoops. S/he should also be able to point you in the direction of a reputable local real estate lawyer to assist you in all legal matters involved in the purchase or sale of your house. While there are countless legal details involved in a real estate transaction, some seem to pose larger problems than others.

We’ve outlined two legal clauses that are commonly misunderstood and may cost you money if not worded correctly. Handle these carefully and you will be on track to a successful sale or purchase!

1. Home Inspection Clause

Some real estate transactions have been sabotaged due to the wording of the home inspection clause. This clause originally allowed that the buyer has the right to withdraw their offer if the home inspection yielded any undesirable results. However, this allowance was known to backfire, as buyers took advantage of it, using some non-issue stated in the inspection as an excuse for having changed their minds.

Of course, this was unfair to the sellers, as they’d poured time and money into what they believed was a sure deal. Not only might they have missed out on other offers in the interim, but their house might also now be unfairly considered a “problem home.” Additionally, they’d now have to shoulder the costs of continuing to market the property. All of this adds up.

In order to remedy this potential problem, the clause should indicate that the seller has the option of repairing any problems the home inspection might point to. With this slight change in the clause, both buyer and seller are protected. To ensure this clause is fair from one side of the bargain to the other, work closely with a lawyer experienced in these transactions and all the nuances that may affect the outcome for you.

 

2. Survey Clause

It is the right of a home buyer to add a survey clause to the real estate contract on the home they’d like to purchase. If you are on the selling end of the contract, be aware.

If you have added an addition or a pool to your property since the last survey was produced, your survey will no longer be considered up-to-date and the buyer may request that a new one be drawn up—the cost of which you will incur. The price of this process will run anywhere from $700 to $1,000.

Your real estate agent has the responsibility to provide you with the most recent survey of your home. It is then the Buyer’s right to decide if it is acceptable. An experienced agent should offer you reliable counsel if you encounter an issue with this clause, but it is advisable to talk to your lawyer if you’re unsure at all of the potential ramifications involved. Remember, the wording of this clause could cost or save you thousands of dollars.

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Tips for the Home Moving Process

It’s official: you’ve signed the papers, dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s—you own a new home! You’ve almost reached the end of your journey. However, now, faced with the daunting task of moving, it may seem as though the journey has just begun.

Moving can be a time-consuming and stressful experience if you let yourself be overwhelmed by the job. Remember, though, having a successful move means taking care of the details, one by one. If you break the process down into steps and arrange your time accordingly, you can make it manageable. Use the following checklist to ensure you’re covering all the bases, and you will be well on your way to a successful move!

Packing

  • Plan your packing. Start by purchasing or acquiring suitable containers. Most moving companies have specialized containers you can buy. Also, speak with others who have recently moved—they may be looking to get rid of boxes. You’ll need the following: small boxes for heavy items (books, tools, etc.); large boxes for bulky items (bedding, stuffed toys, etc.); medium boxes for bulky but less heavy items (towels, small appliances, etc.).

  • Begin to collect other packing materials. Decide which items you’ll need from the following checklist:

    • White paper

    • Tissue paper

    • Paper towels

    • Newspapers

    • Non-printed paper

    • Packing tape or twine to seal boxes and containers

    • Scissors

    • Labels and stickers (available from your moving company)

    • Felt marker to label boxes

    • Notebook and pen for listing contents

  • Set goals and deadlines for yourself. Aim, for example, to pack one room per week.

  • Attach a list of contents to each box. Separate and label boxes to be placed in storage.

  • Consider holding a garage sale to rid yourself of excess belongings.

  • Begin to use up the food in your pantry and freezer. Let the food you already have dictate your menus.

  • Have rugs cleaned that are to be moved, then roll and wrap them.

  • Make special arrangements for the moving of plants or pets.

  • Collect all personal items from local services (dry cleaning, storage, photos).

  • Service all appliances you are taking with you. Note that all gas appliances must be emptied, as it is illegal for movers to carry flammable substances.

  • Take inventory of all the boxes, and contents of the boxes, you have packed.

  • Have your car serviced and tuned up.

Community

  • Return library books.

  • Clean out your locker at any club you are leaving.

  • Determine how to transfer your children to a new school.

  • Return items you’ve borrowed to friends, and collect any you’ve lent.

  • Mail or email change of address notices to family members, friends, and office contacts.

Records

  • If needed, transfer medical and dental records, and fill prescriptions.

  • Change the address on your driver’s license.

  • Change the billing address for credit cards.

  • Change the address for banking statements.

  • Leave a record of security codes for new tenants.

Insurance and Legal Matters

  • Visit your lawyer and ensure all documents are signed.

  • Notify your insurance company well in advance of the move and ask them to review your policy.

  • Transfer insurance to your new home, or acquire new insurance.

  • Review your moving company’s insurance policy. If it doesn’t cover as much as you’d like it to, obtain your own.

  • If you are currently renting a house or apartment, give written notice to the landlord.

  • Have all keys to your old home delivered to your lawyer or realtor.

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Stop Paying Your Landlord! Own Your Own Home

The thousands of dollars in rent you’ve already paid to your landlord may be a staggering figure—one you don’t even want to think about. Buying a house just isn’t possible for you right now. And it isn’t in your financial cards for the foreseeable future. Or is it?

The situation is common and widespread: countless people feel trapped in home rental, pouring thousands of dollars into a place that will never be their own—yet they think they’re unable to produce a down payment for a home in order to escape this rental cycle. However, putting the buying process into motion isn’t nearly as impossible as it may seem. No matter how dire you believe your financial situation to be, there are several little-known facts that may be key to helping you step from a renter’s rut to home-owning paradise!

Initially, of course, the most daunting factor involved in buying a house is the down payment. You know you’ll be able to handle the monthly payments—you’ve done this for years as a renter. The hurdle, instead, seems to be accumulating the capital needed to put money down. However, this hurdle may be smaller than you think. Take a look at the following points and explore whether any of these scenarios may be possible for you.

1. Find a lender to assist you with your down payment and closing costs.
If you’re free of debt, and own an asset outright, your lending institution may lend you the money for a down payment by securing it against your asset. In this case, you won’t need to have accumulated capital for a down payment.

2. Buy a home even if your credit isn’t top-notch.
If you have saved more than the minimum for a down-payment or can secure the loan against other equity, many lending institutions will still consider you for a mortgage, despite a poor credit rating.

3. Find a seller to assist you in buying and financing the home.
Some sellers may be willing to bear a second mortgage as a seller take-back. The seller then assumes the role of the lending institution, and you pay him/her the monthly payments, rather than paying the price of the home in a lump sum. This is an additional option if you have a poor credit rating.

4. Buy a home with much less down than you’d think.
Investigate local and federal programs, such as first-time buyer programs, that are designed to help people like you break into the housing market. An experienced real estate agent will be equipped to give you all the information you need about these programs, and counsel you on which options are best for you.

5. Create a cash down payment without going into debt.
By borrowing money for specific investments, you may be able to produce a large income tax return that you can use as a down payment. Technically, the money borrowed for these investments is considered a loan, but the monthly payments can be low, and the money you put into both the home and the investments will ultimately be yours.

So, you know there are options out there. The next step is to educate yourself on what your own personal possibilities might be, and how to follow through with the means to achieve these goals. Keep in mind, too, that you can get pre-approved for a mortgage before you begin searching for a home. In fact, you should get pre-approved—the process is free and doesn’t place you under any obligation. You can be pre-approved over the phone. Or, take the next step and complete a credit application.

Once a credit application is submitted, you’ll receive a written pre-approval, which will guarantee you a mortgage to a specified level. When you have a concrete price range, you’ll know where to begin looking. Make a commitment to yourself to break out of the renting rut. Start today

Let me know if you need help getting started.

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Second Time’s a Charm! Sell the House that Didn’t Sell

Don’t get discouraged if your property hasn’t sold during its first appearance on the market. Your home may actually have been one of the most appealing listings of its kind and the reasons it didn’t sell may have nothing to do with the property itself or the market. Rather, a number of separate factors may have influenced the outcome.

Take a step back, break your original selling method into parts, and allow yourself time to evaluate each one. Make a commitment. Establish a new approach. Stick to it. A reassessment of your system, and a shift in perspective, may be just what you need to realize your ultimate goals in the sale of your home.

If your listing has expired, you will usually find weakness in one of the following areas.

1. Appearance and Condition of your Property

When preparing your home to show to buyers, always remember: the decision to buy a home is one coloured primarily by emotion, not logic. Every buyer has different ideas of what “Dream Home” means to them. Of course, your home won’t appeal to every buyer’s palate. But, how prepared are you? Is your home inspiration-worthy? Have you prepared each room with the goal that it leave a lasting impression? Have you cultivated ambiance?

For example, when a buyer stands in your kitchen, will she warm to the thought of drinking coffee at the table every morning? Does the décor in the master bedroom inspire feelings of comfort and relaxation? You should make every effort to make you home appear inviting and appealing.

This means covering all the bases:

  • Take care of any general repairs needed.

  • Tidy away the clutter; every room should appear well-ordered and neat

  • Maintain a strict level of cleanliness while showing. Everything should be clean, from shelves to carpets to furniture. While you may no longer notice that wine stain on the rug, it could be the first thing a potential buyer sees when she walks into the room.

  • Increase the brightness and warmth in your home: open curtains, turn on the lights, put out flowers, play soothing background music.

  • Don’t forget the exterior of the house. Concentrate on the “curb appeal” of your home. What impression will a buyer get when s/he first pulls into the driveway? Keep the lawn well-groomed and the rest of the property tidy.

  • Assess any major decorating or renovation projects that your property could be in need of. If your home could use a new paint-job, for example, consider taking care of this yourself, rather than offering a repair allowance to prospective buyers. Don’t leave such changes to their imagination—if they are looking at run-down walls, chances are they will incorporate this flawed experience of your house into the price they’ll be willing to pay. Ultimately, you’re better off checking these projects off the list before showing your home.

A house that is showcased well and offers a lasting impression will sell for the best price, going a step beyond the competition. Be sure to see if your agent will put together a no-obligation examination of your home to assist you in looking at the factors we’ve mentioned.

2. Pricing

The market value of your home is based on the price a willing prospect will pay, as well as the price a willing seller will accept. Pricing your home too high can be as financially dangerous as pricing it too low. Keep in mind, your listing does not include the price you paid originally for your home.

Often, sellers include this original price—or the amount of money they’ve invested in their home so far—into their selling price equation. This mistake may prove to be a costly one. Pricing your home too high can result in prospective buyers rejecting your home for larger homes listed at the same price.

Ask yourself: did your price work for you or against you? The “right” price balances upon a combination of competition within the market, the condition of the market, and the state of your home.

Request an up-to-date market analysis from your agent to help give you an idea of what an appropriate asking price for your home might be. This market analysis should give you an idea of the competition involved in the current market, offering an assessment of homes similar to your own that have recently sold or are currently on the market.

It should also show you how long other homes have been listed, in order to give you an idea of the average amount of time you can expect a home to stay on the market. And it should indicate the homes with expired listings, to help you glean some understanding of the reasons why this might occur.

3. Marketing and Communication

Your marketing plan begins with choosing the right realtor for your home selling needs. The local Cowichan Valley realtor you choose should be committed to selling your property, ensuring your home is marketed and showcased in the most effective way possible. So, when interviewing agents, it’s a good idea to ask them to give you a rundown of the marketing strategy they would use to sell your home.

Investigate and compare how much money each realtor spends on advertising a property and the types of media s/he employs. How effective is each brand of advertising? Your real estate agent should recognize the most effective marketing strategy for the unique offerings of your home. S/he should also articulate to you the most direct marketing route to the largest pool of potential buyers. Be wary of agents who rely on outdated advertising strategies.

The most successful agents on the market today are those who employ current, innovative marketing techniques. These are the agents you can rely on to have the skills and tools required to sell your home fast and for top dollar.

4. Operating as a Team

Communication between you and your realtor is essential. Your realtor should listen to your needs and goals, and be able to translate these into an active, effective home-selling strategy. Once this strategy has been put into play, you should receive detailed, up-to-date feedback on the status of the sale. Your realtor should be actively involved in every showing, speaking to agents who have shown your home, and relaying this information to you. You should be able to work together to build an effective strategy and alter the course if need be.

Evaluate the relationship you had with your realtor while your home was on the market. Did you feel as though your realtor involved you every step of the way? Were you given the information you needed to stay on top of progress? Did your realtor listen to your wishes and concerns and act upon them?

Let me know if you have questions.

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MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.