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Real Estate News

Top Ten Ways to Tell It's Time to Make a Move

Does the thought of changing your neighbourhood go through your mind more often than not? Here are some key indicators on when you really should consider making that move.

1. You Have Outgrown Your Neighborhood

Your über-trendy, urban borough seemed just the thing five years ago. But suddenly, you are annoyed by the loud music spilling out of bars, clubs, and your neighbor's stereo. You long to go window-shopping and not face alarmingly skimpy outfits you would never wear. It is time to face facts: you are growing up, but your neighborhood is not. Instead of wasting time judging your neighbors, consider a quieter or more sophisticated locale.

2. You Constantly Scan the Classified Ads

You have never been in a good position to sell your home, but have often dreamed of moving. A larger home. A smaller home. A country home. A city home. Lately, you find yourself scanning the classifieds, picking up home magazines, and even writing down phone numbers and website addresses. Speak with a professional and determine where you stand. It's probably time to make your dream home a priority.

3. You Are Starting a Family

Selling a home and moving is a big job, and starting a family an even bigger one. You do not want to be stuck doing both at the same time. If you are thinking seriously about having a child, it is also time to start thinking seriously about buying a family friendly home. There is nothing worse than packing and moving while pregnant, or worse, with a toddler underfoot.

4. Your Family Has Grown

Are your kids sharing a bedroom? Is your yard too small for a swing set? Do you often think wistfully of backward barbecues by the pool? Then the time has come to consider buying a home that will grow with your family. If you live in a city, it may be necessary to consider moving to the outskirts, where property is less dear.

5. You Have Made A Job Change

You have changed jobs and the commute is killing you. Although you are happy with your home, you are not happy with the extra hour you must travel to work each day. The reality is that the stress of a daily commute can subtract years from your life. If you want to have more time to spend patting yourself on the back for corporate successes, move closer to the office.

6. Home Renovation Is Not Enough

You are constantly working on a home improvement project, but are never satisfied. Perhaps you are simply a home-Reno junkie. Or perhaps, this endless fussing and fixing is a sign that your home just isn't doing it for you anymore.

7. Your Neighborhood Is Going to the Dogs

Crime is on the rise, you feel nervous when the children are at school, and barely feel comfortable walking to the corner store. Do not waste time waiting for the situation to improve. Sell before your property value goes down in tandem with the quality of your neighborhood.

8. Space Is An Issue

Moving into a one bedroom with your partner seemed like a good idea at the time, but you simply do not have enough room for all your stuff. There are plenty of good reasons to upgrade to a two bedroom. Consider moving up and out.

9. Properties In Your Neighborhood Are Selling High

Your neighbor stopped by last week and mentioned the Joneses sold their home on the corner for a handsome price. Your curiosity is piqued. Do some research - a home is an investment, and if you can reap some financial rewards, go for it.

10. Your Home Is Too Big For You

The kids have moved out, and a big house is no longer necessary. It may be difficult to let go of the family home, with all the fond memories it holds. But downgrading to a smaller home will make it easier as you grow older, and will also free up some money to make those retirement travel or cottage dreams come true.

Homes For Sale Information

Bidding War Basics For Buyers

When you’ve found that perfect little house you'd like to call your home, the last thing you want is to have to compete with other potential buyers. But bidding wars — especially in hot real estate markets and urban centers — are more of a reality now than ever. So what do you need to know to stand the best chance at signing on the dotted “sold” line? Winning a bidding war is always a roll of the dice, but read on for the real deal on how to prepare before entering the multiple-bid realty trenches.

Loan Logic
Get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know the maximal financing available to you. By pre-qualifying for a loan, you’ll not only be aware of your offer’s ultimate ceiling, but you’ll shop around — and bid — accordingly. Speak with a broker to evaluate your options before you settle. A thumbs-up from the bank, along with agreeing to put down the biggest deposit or down payment you can afford, can also help establish to sellers that you’re serious about buying their property.

Keeping Up with the Joneses
You don’t have to actually keep up with the Jones family, but when it comes to the houses you’re serious about bidding on, you do need to be aware of comparative market analysis. In other words, do research to learn what the fair market value for any house you’re interested in is considered to be, as well as the fair market value of similar houses that neighbor them. Real estate website's are good resources to get a sense of what's out there. When you find out what comparable houses to the ones you’re looking at are going for, you’ll know if you’re shopping way beyond your means, or well within it. Knowing the current market value a house will fetch may also help you determine what you think other bidders will offer, to in turn establish the bid you want to make.

Play Clean
Don’t add unusual requests, terms or conditions to your bid, like, for example, buying someone’s home on the basis that you’ll first sell yours. Additional clauses contingent upon any extenuating circumstances can cause headache to vendors, who may have another offer at the exact price you’re tendering, but one without any loopholes. Which one would you choose? By nixing the contingency plan and making a “clean” or firm offer, you stand a better chance at getting what you want.

Inspect the Goods
Set aside a fund for pre-buy home inspections, which should cost about 1 per cent of the house’s asking price. This is often money well spent. If it turns out that the house you think you want to buy has a roof that’s about to fall in, better to know before you bid — especially since it might make you look twice at a very similar piece of property around the corner that is going for the same asking price, but with, for example, a recently renovated roof. Consider setting up a home inspection fund in case you end up in a bunch of bidding wars on houses lost to other buyers, since you’ll also have lost your home-inspection fee.

Don't Get "Fluffed"
Fancy art, furniture that’s moving out with the homeowner and gorgeous draperies may make a formerly drab house look fab, but none of those things will be there when you buy the house. As soon as the showing’s over, the homeowner may well ship that Persian rug back to the prop rental store it was leased from. Also, the drama in the color of the paint in the living room, dining room and bedroom might look impressive, but might not suit your furniture…at all. Just because a house may show famously, doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Make sure you’re not being taken in by the smoke and mirrors of objects that are not part of the home’s innate architectural charm.

Uneven Steven
Don’t bid $250,000 on a house whose asking price is $250,000 when you’re in a bidding war and your budget could easily permit you to extend $251,200. It may seem as though bidding an odd number would make little difference, but not only will your bid stand out from the rest, it may just beat an offer that came in at a slightly lower figure with a more common-sounding bid.

Revisit Kansas
Try to go back to see the house that seemed so magical to you on first viewing more than once — and more than a couple of times, if possible. One reason is that what strikes you as a great first impression may make a poorer second or third impression. Another reason is that more than a few sentimental homeowners have sold their house to a young family that somehow reminds them of themselves when they were starting out. Often, if you are able to meet the homeowner and they establish a connection with you, they may look upon your offer more favorably than that of another bidder — even if your competitor’s bid is higher.

Pull the Trigger
Try to figure out the vendor’s “trigger” — what it is that would make them sell. If you know that the homeowner has a certain closing date in mind which differs slightly from yours, offer to meet their ideal terms — sometimes this is all it takes to be selected over another bidder, even if the competing offer is higher. If you can afford to, add incentives like agreeing to pay all closing costs. And if you know the sellers are not looking forward to moving their weighty piano or basement-assembled pool table because it’s expensive to move and the closing date is tight, inquire about buying it to see if that will sweeten the deal.

Hide Your Hand
Bidding wars are a lot like gambling — the stakes are high and a lot of luck is involved. Rather than trying to figure out how much you can afford to bid without breaking the bank, try to strategically figure out the highest competing bid you’re trying to beat. If you don’t have finely honed psychic abilities, what helps is knowing the true value of the house. Let’s say you’re pre-approved for a $400,000 loan and the house you’re interested in bidding on would, according to your realtor’s estimation, be fairly priced at $350,000 as compared to other similar houses in the same ’hood. If you know that the homeowners are not accepting offers ’til Saturday, and have listed the asking price at $345,000, and then find out Saturday that there are two other offers, think about what those two other offers might be. You may be smart to bid higher than their asking price and more than fair market value but still less than $400,000.

Know Right from Wrong
In the end, don’t get caught up in the excitement of bidding. There’s an age-old maxim: “buy the most expensive house you can afford.” This is a savvy real estate suggestion, because if you can afford a $325,000 three-bedroom home but instead settle for a $275,000 one-bedroom home thinking you’ve saved some money, you could regret it sooner than you think. Consider that if you need that extra bedroom space — like if you and your partner decide to have kids — you’ll be looking to buy a new house, sell your current living space and move house in a relatively short period of time. It’s just common sense to make the highest offer you can afford that you’re comfortable with. Every time you visit a new property ask yourself: Is this the wrong house? That’s right, the wrong house. Rather than falling blindly in love with any given dwelling, play devil’s advocate with yourself, scrutinizing how the house you’re looking at right now is any different from the one around the corner that you just looked at. In bidding wars, there’s a grave danger of overpaying if you get swept up in the auction-like fray — know when to fold ’em, walk away and run.

So before you engage in battle, arm yourself with credit pre-approval, a little research, an arsenal of financial strategies, heightened market value awareness and a great realtor. Then cross your fingers and go forth to find your own home sweet home.

Seller Information

Moving Checklist: What to do and when to do it.

Moving into a new home is an exciting time but it can also be stressful. Don’t despair. Whether you’re doing it yourself, asking friends for a little help or hiring professionals, here is your moving guide to help get you through it.

As Soon As Possible:

Start early. Investigate and research moving companies and/or truck rental companies.
Hire a moving company or if you're doing it yourself, reserve a moving truck. Be sure to get written confirmation of all your costs and details of your move for your records.
TIP: Weekends and holiday long weekends are busy times for movers and truck rental companies. Book far in advance (at least 2 to 3 months) to ensure you get a moving truck for the day you need to move.

2 Months Before Moving Day:

No sense moving what you don’t want to keep. Go through your home and determine what you want to keep and what you want to throw out or donate.
TIP: If moving in spring or summer, earn some extra cash and hold a moving sale to help get rid of items you don’t need or want for your new space.
Make a list of items in your home that need extra attention while moving or special packing instructions (i.e. computers, televisions, fine china, etc.)
If you have children and you are moving to a new school district, start arranging the school transferring process.
Order boxes and moving supplies (packing tape, bubble wrap, tissue paper, stock up on newspaper, etc.) required for your move.

1 Month Before Moving Day:

Time to start packing! To make it easier, begin with the items in your home you do not use regularly. Be sure to clearly label or number your boxes to make the unpacking easier.
As you pack, make note of items of significant value (i.e. stereo systems, flat screen televisions). Depending on your insurance agreement with your moving company, you will need to declare items of value in case items are lost or damaged.
At your local postal office, fill out a change of address form with your new address.
Inform the following companies and institutions about your new address:
o Banks
o Cable and phone providers
o Insurance companies
o Hydro and utility companies
o Credit card companies
o Doctor and dentist offices
o Any subscriptions you may have
TIP: Many companies now offer the convenience of changing address information online.

2 Weeks Before Moving Day

Confirm your reservations with your movers or truck rental company.
If required, cancel or transfer your newspaper delivery service.
1 Week Before Moving Day

Most of your packing should be done one week prior to moving day.
Set aside the items of importance you wish to transport to your new home yourself (i.e. jewellery and passports).

A Few Days Before Moving Day

Re-confirm arrival time of your moving truck. If moving yourself, re-confirm your reservations with the truck rental company.
Prepare a detailed map and directions for your movers including a cell phone number you can be reached at on moving day.
Pack a travel bag with the items your family may need on moving day such as tooth brushes, change of clothing, medications, hair bushes, soap, toilet paper, paper plates and cups, aspirin, etc.
If you are moving yourself, start dismantling beds and other large furniture.

Moving Day

Make a note of all utility metre readings (new and old home).
It’s important to be present when the truck is being loaded and unloaded just in case your movers have questions.
Before the movers leave, check your belongings and note on the inventory paperwork any damaged items.

Mortgage information

Finding the Right Mortgage

Choosing a mortgage is an incredibly arduous process. Fixed rates, variable rates, deposit percentages and repayment plan options can make your head spin. So, before you reach the end of your rope, check out these expert tips on getting through the minefield that is mortgaging with your sanity – and your dreams – intact!

Choose a Broker or Bank
A broker operates independently from banks, and has access to many different lenders and borrowing programs – which means he or she may often be able to find you the most competitive bang for your buck. A broker will originate a loan, process it and pass it along to the lender, who will then sell it to you for the negotiated rate. Particularly when an investor does not have perfect credit, and will likely have to shop around anyway, a broker is a good choice. But some investors feel ultimately uncomfortable with the fact that brokers find and negotiate loans, but are not involved thereafter - which means the investor is left to deal with the lender alone. In the end, it comes down to what you feel most comfortable with, and, perhaps more importantly, who can get you the best mortgage rate.

Plan Ahead
“Get pre-approved,” advises Monster Mortgage broker Kristian Harris. “This will protect the current rate for 120 days while you go look around for a home. Clients can also get pre-approved with one or two lenders, especially when rate specials are coming out.” To do this, contact your broker or lending institution. And don’t worry – you are under no obligation, and if the time limit on your pre-approval runs out you can simply sign on for another one.

Find Your Dream Home
The value of your home may very well dictate your financial security in the future, so choose this purchase carefully. Think hard about the stability and future of your home’s location, and always be realistic when it comes to the current state of your potential purchase. ‘Fixer-uppers’ make interesting choices, but you need to be practical about how much work needs to get done and whether or not you can afford it. If choosing to renovate, discuss working the costs into a mortgage with your broker or lender. Many institutions offer lines of credit for this very purpose.

Determine What You Can Afford
Most lenders set lending ratios that ensure mortgage payments never exceeds more than a third of a person’s income. However, this may still be too much of a stretch for some, especially if there are other expenses, potential future income changes or simply a lifestyle to uphold. Once you find a home you love, start crunching numbers. Can you really afford the mortgage payments, and are you willing to scrimp and save every month? Mortgage rates fluctuate, life situations change and the bottom line is this: strapping yourself with debt may not always be the best move.

Think About the Consequences
Harris recommends clients also review their current mortgage situations before entering into a new agreement. What are the penalties of exiting your current agreement, if you have one? Can you afford these penalties? Before you jump into a new mortgage, it’s key to understand how your next move may affect any agreements you may currently have with other lenders.

Learn About Fixed Mortgage Rates
The first and most conservative option for investors is a fixed mortgage rate, which means monthly mortgage payments on interest and principal balance do not change. The interest rate is set for a defined period of time, and thus homebuyers can rest easy if lending rates start to climb. However, if lending rates fall, those bound in a fixed rate agreement will not benefit. “A fixed rate is best for people who get very nervous,” says Harris. “We call it the ‘sleep factor’. If you can’t sleep the night before the federal government meets to discuss the mortgage rates, then it’s better to be in a fixed rate agreement.”

Learn About Variable Mortgage Rates
Rather than locking into a fixed rate agreement, investors who choose a variable rate agree to pay the current lending rate, which often changes. “We really try to educate clients, and show them the history of variable versus fixed over the past 15 years,” says Harris. “Historically, you’re better off taking the variable. We set up a strategy with clients, and suggest they set payments at a higher rate in order to build a cushion in case rates go up. In the long run, clients are often able to pay off their mortgage more quickly this way.” But, Harris admits, it’s impossible to tell what the next 15 years will bring in terms of rate fluctuation – so if you can’t stand the uncertainty, it’s better not to gamble.

Make a Decision
After reading through the descriptions of fixed and variable rates, doing further research and speaking to a broker or bank, you should have a fairly clear picture of the risks and benefits of both rate options. Go with your gut on this one. Brokers and banks will lay out the pros and cons of each option, but they will not lead you in any one direction. Remember, you don’t have to lock into one type of mortgage rate for the rest of your life. You can try out either one for a year or two, then switch over if it just isn’t working for you or lending rates appear to be taking a turn for the worse.

Establish a Deposit and Repayment Plan
“Once you buy, you need deposit money,” says Harris. Often, the best move is to put down as large a deposit as you can afford. This will lower your interest payments and get you started off on the right foot when it comes to paying off debt. It’s also a good idea to think seriously about a long term repayment plan. Rather than paying the minimum each month, search for ways to ramp it up. Being mortgage free is a beautiful thing, so make every effort to experience this freedom sooner rather than later!

With the home purchased, the mortgage arranged and the deposit paid, there’s little to do but relax and enjoy the ride. As the years go by, be sure to stick to your repayment plan and apply cash windfalls to your mortgage when possible, thus shortening the length of your days in debt. You may also decide to engage in home renovations, buy a second property or move up - so keep the number of your broker or bank on hand!

House Staging Information

Home Staging & Staging a House - What is Home Staging

Home staging is about illusions. It's how David Copperfield would sell a house. It's beyond decorating and cleaning. It's about perfecting the art of creating moods. Staging makes your house look bigger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, more loving and, best of all, it makes home buyers want to buy it.
Contrary to what you might think, it's about more than preparing the house for sale. Staging is what you do after you've cleaned, decluttered, painted, made minor repairs; it's all about dressing the house for sale.

It's about adding the small details: the lipstick, mascara and, for simplicity, a stunning, single strand of Tahitian pearls.

What is a Professional Home Stager?

Professional stagers are highly skilled artists. They can take a blank canvas and paint a sensuous portrait without ever lifting a paint brush. Stagers possess the skills of a top-level designer and they create dramatic scenery that appeals to all five senses. Here are some of their secrets:

Arrange sparse pieces of furniture in an appealing grouping known as a vignette
Showcase a generous usage of soft fabrics such as silk, lambswool, satin
Display unusual knickknacks in units of 1, 3 or 5
Drape window coverings with simple lines
Add unique elements to shelving, bookcases and fireplace mantels, which draw attention to predetermined areas

What Accessories Does a Stager Use?

Stagers bring in a vast array of items to spruce up the house. Here is a small sampling of items professional stagers often use to dress each room. How they are utilized is limited only by the creativity and vision of the stager.

Silk Flowers
Floor & Table Lamps,
Area and Throw Rugs
Small Love Seats
Inflatable Queen-Size Beds
Plastic Tables & Chairs

Professional Staging Tricks & Tips

An artist for 35 years, Dawna Johnson, is an Accredited Staging Professional Master (ASP) and owner of Sacramento Staging Solutions. She says the idea behind staging is to allow rooms to show themselves. "If your home is vacant, it's soulless," Dawna warns. "Without staging, it will probably remain on the market for many months." She calls the kitchen the "heart of the home," and offers this practical advice for making that space sparkle:

Apply orange oil to cabinets that appear dry, which will renew their original luster
Put out large bowls of fruit such as polished apples, bright oranges, luscious grapes
Arrange colorful and fun cookbooks on the counters
Dawna believes in bringing the outdoors inside through the use of greenery and plants; in creating clean, crisp spaces and arranging furniture with plenty of room to walk around. She says bathrooms are essential to dress well. "Bathrooms should look open, airy and delightful," says Dawna. One of her favorite tricks is to add baskets filled with spa treatments such as:

Towels, tied with ribbons
Scented soaps
Creamy lotions
Moisturizing & Facial jars
The back yard needs staging, too. For patios and decks, Dawna brings in plants and potted flowers, and adds additional color by setting the picnic table with bright, plastic dinner plates.

How Much Does it Cost?

Prices vary depending on where you live and the local demand for professional home staging. Coastal areas and large metropolitan cities where home staging has been prevalent for years command higher prices. Some real estate agents help sellers Stage® the home themselves. Most listing agents agree, however, that vacant homes show better with staging and will encourage sellers to hire a professional stager. Fees range from $500 to $5,000 or more, depending on square footage and the number of rooms staged.

Home Inspection

Can a Thorough Home Inspection Really be Conducted in an Hour?

No home inspector, in any case, regardless of qualifications, certifications, or experience, can perform a thorough home inspection in an hour or less. Hence the name Home Inspection – we are supposed to inspect the home. Any home inspection performed in an hour is not a thorough inspection. Moreover, any inspector who spends an hour inspecting a home is taking advantage of their clients, making a mockery of the profession, and acting negligent in the process.

Now, I will say that there are countless excellent home inspectors that offer a very good, thorough service for their clients. However, there are those inspectors who for some reason think they can give a thorough inspection in an hour or less.

The following are a couple or things you may want to watch out for to make sure you don’t hire the “1 hour inspector”.

The inspector performs numerous home inspections a day.
These home inspectors schedule too many inspections a day and rush through each home inspection to get to the next. Look out for this! A new friend of mine regretfully hired a home inspector who spent 40 minutes inspecting his home. Not surprisingly, this home inspector missed many conditions that should have been found. Not only is this irresponsible on the inspector’s part, but he left his trusting client with costly repairs. This is why it’s best to go with the home inspector that performs one or two inspections a day. This way he or she is not rushed and can spend the appropriate amount of time inspecting the home. Be sure to ask how many home inspections a home inspector performs a day, and if they give you a number that is higher than two – I would think twice.

The inspector is not licensed or certified.
This is a warning that the home inspector may not have the knowledge or experience to inspect a home properly. The reason this inspector is so fast is because he or she may not know what to look for. The inspector can end up missing conditions or they may even be oblivious to certain warning signs within a home. Here in California, home inspectors don’t need to be licensed, certified or anything else to perform a home inspection. So in theory anybody off the street can call him or herself a home inspector – scary isn’t it? This is why we have organizations like CREIA, ASHI or the ICC to certify inspectors through tests and education so you know you can gauge whether a home inspector is actually knowledgeable enough to inspect a home.

The inspector is priced low.
The inspector doesn’t charge enough for the inspection and ends up short changing their clients with the “1 hour inspection”. Basically you pay for an inspector’s time. This means if you pay a little you get a little, probably an hour. These inspectors are usually the ones that get first time homebuyers and agents because they are the cheapest. I know that a lot of homebuyer’s and particularly first timers and even some agents don’t understand the purpose of a home inspection and how to choose a good inspector. I am warning you right now don’t price shop - THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE! You must ask for qualifications, experience and certifications. If a home inspector charges $250 for a 2,000 square foot house, he or she cannot perform a thorough inspection and make enough money to break even - I guarantee it - they will end up giving you a 1 hour inspection.

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, it will only help you weed out the home inspectors you don’t want. Also, keep in mind that when you buy a home you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a shock to me that countless home buyers actually invest this amount of money in a home and look to hire the cheapest, or the fastest, home inspector they can find – it makes little sense.

I always suggest getting a good, thorough home inspection. Odds are it will save you much more money than it costs. And even if the home has only a couple minor conditions, then think of the inspection as some relatively inexpensive peace of mind.

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