Category Archives: curb appeal

Preparing for a House Appraisal

How to Get a Home Ready for an Appraisal

Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.

 

Cleaning and Organizing

While these may not be the most desirable tasks, cleaning, organizing and removing clutter from your house are among the best ways to prepare for an appraisal. A clean home looks well-maintained – something the appraiser will be looking for. Organizing the garage, closets and cupboards helps them appear larger, which is a great way to add value. Finally, removing excess clutter from your house, such as items on counter tops, makes a room appear both larger and cleaner.

Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.

Curb Appeal

Check out how your home stacks up against those that have recently sold in the area insofar as its exterior appeal, also known as curb appeal. The outside of your house makes a first impression on the appraiser, so make it is as clean and de-cluttered as the interior. Tidy up the landscaping and spread some fresh mulch in the landscape beds. Remove any toys or other clutter from the front yard. A well-maintained yard gives the impression of a well-maintained home.

Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.

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Make Necessary Updates

Fresh paint is an easy and inexpensive way to add value to your house. This is especially necessary if you have wild or unusual wall colors, advises Loreen Stuhr, an appraiser with Appraisers of Las Vegas. She recommends painting the walls in neutral colors and replacing vinyl flooring with wood, laminate or tile. If it’s in your budget to do so, consider replacing laminate counter tops with tile, granite or other more upscale materials.

Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.

Repairs

Fix any maintenance issues that the appraiser is sure to notice, such as leaking or dripping faucets, running toilets, torn screens, missing trim and missing or wobbly stairway handrails. If the home buyer is using a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to purchase the house, keep in mind that FHA requires that the seller repair anything that affects the health and safety of the occupants. An FHA-approved appraiser is required to make note of such property conditions, including an assumption of the structural integrity of the property. Items that require repair before the close of escrow include providing adequate access and exit from the bedrooms to outside the home, leaky roofs, foundation damage and flaking lead paint.

Whether you are selling, purchasing or refinancing a home, the lender’s appraiser has the final word on how much money the home is worth. Therefore, the appraisal can make or break the real estate transaction. Unlike a home inspection, where the inspector determines any existing mechanical or system problems in the house, the appraiser’s job is to compare your house against comparable homes that have recently sold to determine its market value. Some items on the appraisers list you can’t change, such as location, but others, such as condition and updating, depending on your budget, may be appropriate tasks to perform to prepare your house for an appraisal.

Paperwork

Although the appraiser has numerous ways of finding information, she may have no way to know about improvements you’ve made to the home, which could have a positive impact on its value. A good way to let her know is to create a list of the home’s features and benefits, advises David Hesidenz of David Hesidenz Appraisals in Pennsylvania. Hesidenz suggests that you supply the appraiser with a page or two containing the exact street address of your home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the square footage and lot size. Then make a list of any improvements you’ve made to the home and the date they were finished. Some of these improvements may include a new roof, new windows, upgraded plumbing or electrical work, and room additions.

Source: PocketSense.com – Bridget Kelly

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Demographics driving key mortgage market

Industry insiders are attributing strong year-over-year growth in reverse mortgage originations to several factors – the most notable being human longevity.

“With the current demographic trends and extended life expectancy we project reverse mortgage originations to grow at 25-30 per cent annually over the next few years,” said Steven Ranson, president and CEO of HomEquity Bank. “Canadians are living longer, have underfunded pensions and insufficient savings. For many, their house plays a big role in a comprehensive retirement plan.”

The increase in consumer direct business as well as continued growth through referral partners including banks and mortgage brokers is producing record results in the industry. Brokers themselves are pointing to increased demand for a product many professionals were slow to refer on.

HomEquity Bank alone reported a record $41 million in reverse mortgage origination in the month of July, marking another month of record year-over-year growth for the reverse mortgage company. 

The reverse mortgage industry is booming in Canada, growing by 21 per cent in July compared to last year.

According to recent numbers from Statistics Canada, the 55-59 age group in the country make up 7.2 per cent of the overall population, with those age 60-64 making up 6.1 per cent.

The numbers that show how the reverse mortgage sector is ready to really take off are the percentage of people in the 55-59 age bracket, which make up 7.8 per cent of the total population – which places HomEquity Bank in the catbird seat, as is the only national provider of reverse mortgages in Canada available to those aged 55 and older.

The lender originates and administers Canada’s largest portfolio of reverse mortgages under the CHIP Reverse Mortgage and Income Advantage brands, and has been the main underwriter of reverse mortgages in Canada since its predecessor, Canadian Home Income Plan, pioneered the concept in 1986.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca Donald Horne | 07 Aug 2015
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Mike Holmes brings heightened integrity to home inspection business

Image supplied by Mike Holmes Inspections

When Canadian contractor Mike Holmes first appeared on his breakthrough TV series Holmes on Homes over 11 years ago, unscrupulous contractors everywhere started shaking in their steel-toe boots.

Holmes reminded skeptical homeowners what a building industry with integrity looked like, and it wasn’t long before he was determined to do the same for the home inspection industry.

“Working on Holmes on Homes, I was seeing a lot of problems that a home inspection should have caught — I’m talking major red flags,” says Holmes.
“When homeowners would tell me that they did get a home inspection [before buying], that really bothered me.”

Holmes didn’t like what he was seeing, especially when homebuyers tried to do their due diligence by getting a home inspection, then didn’t get the information they needed to make informed decisions about a prospective home.

“I’d look at a report and it wasn’t even worth the paper it was written on. And I was seeing this happen, over and over again. Couples would look at a house, get a home inspection, and then not even a year later — sometimes the same day they move in — the problems would start to show up. A leak here, mould there, dangerous electrical. These are not cheap fixes. Before you know it, the homeowners would practically go bankrupt just trying to make their home safe. That’s unacceptable.”

His plan was simple: ensure home inspections did what they were meant to do —protect the homeowner.

“I wanted a service that helped people make better choices for their health, their family and their future,” says Holmes. “You should be able to buy a home and have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to be worth five years down the road, 10 years. You should know if it has knob-and-tube wiring; if it’s losing heat; if the windows need to be upgraded or the roof replaced. To do that, you need good home inspectors: professionals who know what they’re doing and who know how to use the right tools. Because everything you see on the surface is the eye candy. What’s behind everything, that’s reality.”

So Holmes started a home inspection company, Mike Holmes Inspections, which brought heightened standards to the job.
inspector-crack

“Buying a home isn’t small potatoes,” he says. “It’s one of the biggest investments most people will ever make, and you’re leaving that up to chance? You need to know what you’re buying before you buy it. It’s like going to the grocery store and buying cans of food with no labels — you have no idea what you’re getting. And some people gamble their entire future that way. Not smart.”

Mike recruited top inspectors with the right credentials. This included everything from carrying liability insurance and having a background in home construction to being an accredited level 1 thermographer.

“It was important to me to set a standard that separated the professionals from the cowboys. You don’t want someone who was flipping burgers or balancing books last year to be checking out your house. You want a pro who understands how a home works, and who can spot the red flags; someone who knows how to use a thermal imaging camera and moisture meter to find the issues. That’s experience, plain and simple. You need someone who has experience — years of experience — working with homes.”

Once again, Holmes is changing the industry from the inside out, helping people who just want a home that is safe, healthy, and that lasts. And he’s doing it one home at a time thanks to a fleet of professionals across Canada —and soon in the United States — that share his determination to give homeowners what they deserve.

“This isn’t about saying that this guy’s good or this guy’s bad,” adds Holmes. “This is about doing what’s right.”

For more information, visit mikeholmesinspections.com.

This content was provided by Mike Holmes Inspections for commercial purposes. Postmedia had no involvement in the creation of this content.

Source: Special to National Post | August 1, 2015 | Last Updated: Aug 1 7:00 AM ET

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August long weekend 2015: What’s open and closed in Toronto

The August long weekend – Simcoe Day in Toronto – is a civic holiday and a long weekend for many people in the Greater Toronto area.

The holiday goes by many names across the province, and it goes by different names and is often celebrated with different traditions across the country. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island the day is known as Natal Day, while it is Regatta Day in Newfoundland. In Ottawa the Civic Holiday is often referred to as Colonel By Day.

Businesses are not required to close Monday under the provincial Retail Business Holidays Act, so they may open at the discretion of the municipality.

Below is a list of what’s open and closed in the GTA:

Open

  • Tourist attractions (ROM, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto Zoo, Ripley’s Aquarium)
  • Major malls (Eaton Centre, Yorkdale, Fairview, Sherway Gardens, Square One, Vaughan Mills)
  • Select Beer Store locations (Click here for a full list)
  • LCBO (378 stores across the province will be open. Click here to find your store)
  • Movie theaters
  • City-run facilities like pools, splash pads and golf courses. (Click herefor details)
  • Riverdale Farm
  • High Park Zoo
  • Toronto Islands and ferries

Closed

  • AGO
  • Banks
  • Government offices
  • Post offices and mail delivery
  • All Toronto Public Library branches

Weekend Events

Source: 680News.com by NEWS STAFF Posted Jul 31, 2015 5:07 am EDT

Mike Holmes: Mid-summer is the only good time to repair your driveway

Driveways help direct water away from the home but require regular maintenance, including resealing, which should be done in mid-summer for best results.

Most homeowners forget about their driveway, but it plays a big role when it comes to proper water drainage around the house.

Driveways and pathways around your home should be designed so as to help direct water away from it. They shouldn’t be completely level to the house, and they definitely shouldn’t be directing water towards it.

That’s why driveways and pathways should slant slightly away from the home, following the grading around the house. If they’re level ,you’re going to get water pooling around the home, and if they’re slanted towards the house you’re actually driving water directly to your garage and/or foundation, which increases the chance of a leak.

MATERIALS
When we talk about driveway materials the top three choices are asphalt, interlocking stone and concrete (or stamped concrete).

Asphalt is the least expensive. It performs well and it’s what most homeowners opt for. But if you’re going to have heavy trucks or toys sitting on your driveway, they can damage it and wear it out prematurely.

Repairing asphalt isn’t easy. In most cases, it’s a complete do-over, meaning it has to get ripped up and repaved.

Interlocking stone is a good option. Not only is it strong, but the gaps between the stones allow for water drainage and the natural expansion and contraction of materials, so it helps prevent buckling and cracks. Also, fixing and making any repairs is fairly straightforward because it’s usually just a matter of replacing damaged stones.

Concrete (and stamped concrete) is typically the top choice. It’s expensive but it can take the most beating. However, salt (a winter de-icer) eats away at concrete, and if there are no gaps for the salt to drain away with melting snow, it will just sit on your driveway, literally eating it away.

That’s why driveways should typically be sealed with a breathable, high-quality sealant — make sure it’s the right one for whatever material your driveway is made of. Just like we have different sealants for different kinds of tiles, we have different sealants made specifically for different kinds of driveways and interlocking stone.

SEALANTS
Sealing your driveway too often can cause problems, such as cracking and peeling, and not sealing it enough compromises its durability and protection. How often you reseal your driveway depends on the material, where you live, the climate, its installation, use and wear and tear; but as a guideline some pros suggest once every three years.

The best time to reseal your driveway is midsummer. Not only is it hot — so it dries faster and you can use your driveway sooner — but materials expand in summer’s heat, and if hit’s resealed when the driveway materials have fully expanded, the pores can take in the sealant better.

If you have an asphalt driveway, use a latex sealant — not oil. Oil sealants might look better — they make an asphalt driveway look shiny and black — and they last longer, but they can cause cracking. (That’s why oil stains from cars are not good for your driveway.) So your driveway might look great the first year, but by next year you might start seeing cracks.

IS IT A DO-OVER?
If your driveway is crumbling and you’re starting to see holes, it’s a do-over.

Asphalt driveways should have a minimum of 10 inches of gravel tamped every two inches — some pros say six to eight inches, but I like 10 to 12 inches — followed by a minimum of four inches of asphalt on top.

So, first we make sure we have proper grading. Then we lay the first two inches of gravel, tamp it; add the next two inches, tamp it again, until we have a total of 10 inches of gravel.

If you can do it, I would let that layer of gravel sit for an entire year, to give it time to properly compress and compact itself, and then do the asphalt on top. That gives you a solid base that protects against driveway cracks, dips and heaving.

It took me two years to do my driveway, so don’t rush yours. Have patience because sometimes that’s what it takes to make it right.

SOURCE:  Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | July 3, 2015 | Last Updated: Jul 3 9:58 AM ETWatch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.

Should You Sell Your House or Renovate It? Either way, it’s an expensive, time-consuming proposition.

A home for sale and a man working on a home renovation project.

Your house may not have changed much over the years, but you probably have. Maybe you were single when you signed your mortgage papers, and now you’re married with children (or divorced and sometimes with your kids). Perhaps you’ve added some pets and wish there were amenities like cat doors. Or maybe that cute, little starter home is simply little and no longer cute to you.

However your mind gets there, many homeowners find themselves pondering the big question: Should I sell my home or stick it out and renovate?

There’s really no wrong or right answer. So much depends on the homeowner’s point of view and the house itself. But here are some factors that may tip the scales.

The math may sway you. Sell or renovate? If you’re leaning toward selling, but are toying with making upgrades to increase the sticker price, know this: A major renovation won’t always spell a big payoff.

“My wife and I just went through this debate,” says Bennie Waller, a professor of finance and real estate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. They did their due diligence and collected estimates, but realized renovating would be very expensive. “We didn’t think we would ever be able to recoup the cost of the investment when it came time to sell,” he says.

So they decided to buy a new house – and keep the old one so they could rent it out for another income stream.

“I examined the decision purely from an investment perspective,” he says.

Or the math may not matter much. For some people, a house is their home for keeps. If you feel like staying put as long as you can, so that someday your adult kids can decide if they’d like to move in or sell their childhood home, recouping renovation costs may not matter to you. Especially if you’re young and plan to spend decades there.

Indeed, sentimentality can be a strong motivator to stay. Take it from Tracie Hovey, a Greencastle, Pennsylvania, resident and the president of a public relations and advertising firm. Though she has only lived in her house for a few years, she has no desire to pack up and go anywhere. She and her three children moved into the house when she remarried. Her husband had two of his own kids, and so they now live under a roof with five kids, ages 15 to 21. There are good memories here, and Hovey says they like their neighborhood and neighbors.

Still, it can get crowded. “We are short one bedroom when all the kids are home,” Hovey says. But it’s outside the house where the trouble really begins, especially during the summers and holidays, when the kids are on break.

Image result for images of renovate or sell

“When they are all home, it makes getting in and out of the driveway impossible, and I often find that I’m moving two cars just to get out of my garage,” Hovey says. Some of their kids end up parking on the street, which, she says, “can be irritating for our neighbors. It looks like we’re constantly having a party.”

So Hovey and her husband, a business executive, are currently shopping around for home contractors, hoping to build a three-car garage alongside the house and turn the existing garage into a master bedroom. She admits they’re a little nervous the home improvements might put the house above and beyond the value of neighboring homes, which could increase the pain come selling time.

It’s just one of those unwritten rules of real estate; it’s always easier to sell a house when it’s around the same price as the neighboring homes.

“But we aren’t the most expensive house in the neighborhood, even with the addition, so I think we would be all right,” she says. Plus, other houses in the area have three- and even four-car garages, so their home won’t be dramatically different than the others in the neighborhood.

You could buy and then renovate. That’s what Cosmo Macero Jr., a public relations consultant in Belmont, Massachusetts, did. His house seemed really large when it was just him and his wife. After two kids, it seemed a little smaller. When they decided to bring in Macero’s 89-year-old mother three years ago, they realized they had to make a change. They weren’t just housing another adult, but one with health care aides dropping by regularly.

But the cost of renovating was punishing. So Macero toyed with the idea of renovating his mother’s home and having them all move in there. That, too, was wildly expensive, and it didn’t feel like it would be a good investment. Macero’s main concern was spending a lot of money on improvements that wouldn’t be seen as improvements by anyone else.

“They might have become money pits for the sake of creating a living space that might feel very customized [and unappealing] to a buyer years down the road,” Macero says.

So he ended up leasing his home, since the market wasn’t great for selling, and purchased a new house with a vacant dentist’s office attached.

A dentist’s office? It sounds like the last thing a homeowner would want, but not in this case. “That office became the object of a major renovation that turned it into a wonderful in-law suite for my mother,” says Macero. His mother, now 92, loves her suite, which has its own entrance, thanks to its former purpose, and Macero believes the suite will be a selling point in the future.

Natalie Gregory, a real estate agent in Decatur, Georgia, took a similar path. She considered renovating her house but instead bought another one – and then renovated that.

“I work from home and wanted to have a basement where I could have a dedicated office, as well as a play room and media room for the kids. So we specifically looked for a home with a basement and a lot that would allow for expansion,” Gregory says.

She didn’t renovate her old house because it was built in the 1920s, and major changes would have adversely altered its character. The added amenities of a dedicated office, play room and media room, she says, would have added more to the home’s value and would have likely made it more difficult to sell in the future.

“You want to make sure you still have the value in your home,” Gregory says of considering a major renovation. “Some homes are what they are. It is right the way it is. For instance, if a home is a great two-bedroom, one-bath, maybe it needs to stay that way and you pass it on to the next people who need just that.”

So should you renovate or sell? Really, you could say it comes down to your frame of mind – and the frame of your house.

SOURCE: USNEWS.com  March 6, 2015 | 10:50 a.m. EST

Mike Holmes: Don’t kick back in your backyard until it’s got the all-clear

Smart backyard planning and landscaping can help you protect your home, as well as cut cooling costs.

We’re heading full force into summer, and for many of us, the idea of a great summer starts with a great backyard. But more than just a place to have some drinks, enjoy time with the kids and friends, it’s important that your backyard works for you — by that I mean it helps protect your home and save you money.

What’s the first thing we should look at when checking out a backyard? Grading — that’s the slope of the property surrounding the house that helps direct water away from the foundation, not toward it. This helps protect against basement leaks. For every foot away from the foundation wall, the ground should drop at least half an inch. So over a six-foot span, you should have at least a three-inch drop.

If you ever want to test it, you can do a hose test. Get the garden hose and point it horizontally to your foundation wall, about five inches away from it. Turn the hose on and as the water runs, check the direction of the water flow. It’s a quick way to make sure water is moving away from your home.

That’s also why I don’t like plants and shrubs right up against the foundation wall. Every time you water them, you would be driving water directly to your foundation. Any tiny cracks will allow water to penetrate through, and if your basement is finished this could require an expensive fix.

When they get bigger, shrubs against your foundation wall and exterior can also trap moisture against your home’s exterior, which could lead to mould, termites or other insects. You’re better off moving those garden beds and shrubs away from the house.

What about trees? I love them, and they can help block the summer’s heat and sunlight from entering your home if planted in the right spots. But again, don’t plant them too close to your home.

The extra foliage will direct water and precipitation to your home’s exterior and roof. This can increase the chance of a leak; it will wear down your exterior siding faster, and when the leaves drop in the fall they could end up in your gutters, potentially clogging them.

Ideally, you also want to keep trees away from any sanitary lines, too.

A tree’s roots can grow to be two to three times wider than its canopy, and the roots can wreak havoc on your plumbing and weeping tile, especially if your home still has clay pipes. If there’s a tiny crack in the plumbing underground, the leaking water will attract tree roots to it, because roots seek out water, and then they can grow into the pipe itself, causing a blockage and potentially a sewer backup in the basement.

Related

It’s one thing to protect your home, but it’s also important to make it work efficiently. One way is by helping block out heat so you don’t have to crank up the air conditioning as often (which saves you money). There are a couple of backyard projects that can help do that.

As I mentioned, you can strategically plant trees around your home to block out the heat, but you can also install awnings on your windows. Awnings are an old-school solution that can reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent. In some areas, awnings can save homeowners as much as 25 per cent on their energy bills.

You could also hire a pro to build a pergola on the sunny side of your house.

Pergolas are those wooden exterior structures, usually in the backyard against the house, that have vertical posts supporting large crossbeams and joists. (If the pergola is free-standing it usually has four support posts. If it’s built off the side of a house it will have two.) Pergolas are great because they can help block out the heat and cut cooling costs, and they look good, too.

Your backyard should be your sanctuary; the place where you can kick back and relax. But to do it right you have to plan it right, because what you do on the outside of your home will always have an impact indoors.

Source National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | June 12, 2015 

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.