Remodeling 101: Understanding the Kitchen Work Triangle

Fri, 23 Sep by realtyexecutivesnw

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-29-47-pm

When you’re about to embark on a kitchen remodel, it helps to understand the inner workings of the space, particularly “the kitchen work triangle.” The kitchen triangle is the space between the sink, the range and the refrigerator. By knowing the tips and tricks designers use to enhance the functionality of the kitchen triangle, you can create your ideal kitchen without limiting its visual allure or practicality.

Here are five key concepts to consider when planning your space and keeping the kitchen work triangle top of mind.

1. Lighting

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-30-05-pm

 

First and foremost, lighting is key to the function and safety of every space in your home, especially in the kitchen. When preparing food, cleaning the floors or finding your way to the fridge for a midnight snack, kitchen lighting is essential to keeping you and your family safe and making sure you’re able to use every square inch of your space.

Lighting can be hidden under cabinets, recessed on the ceiling or come from a fixture that’s a genuine work of art. Make sure lighting above the stove can be easily cleaned and withstand warm temperatures. Your refrigerator should have ample light when opened, but also near the top so that you can see when you’re reaching for the handle at night. Making sure there is light directly above the sink is a great way to ensure safety and visibility when cleaning the dishes or preparing a family meal.

2. Traffic patterns

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-30-13-pm

Starting with a good floor plan ensures that logical pathways between entrances and exits are kept clear. This is especially important in the kitchen, where walkways are generally narrower. Avoid a cramped kitchen by opting for an open concept. It’s the perfect way to make sure the kitchen is an enjoyable space for everyone, from dining and cleaning to cooking to entertaining.

Appropriate space for the kitchen work triangle should be taken into consideration when establishing the floor plan and the space between all of the appliances. Not only does this make the space more usable, but it also becomes more visually appealing.

3. Work surfaces

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-30-21-pm

A well-designed interior should provide adequate work space. In the kitchen, work surfaces nearest to the kitchen triangle are key aspects of the kitchen, as they are often used for food preparation. Some work surfaces are more obvious than others (like countertops and tables) and others may be subtler (like fold-down spaces or tables with extendable leaves). Durable and low-maintenance surfaces make for easy cleanup after family dinners and can prevent more remodeling in the future, if you accidentally set a too-hot pan on the counter or cause any major damage.

4. Storage

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-30-31-pm

With function in mind, a homeowner should make sure to include as many storage spaces as possible, when designing their kitchen. Storage near the sink could look like an extra rack for drying dishes or open-face cabinets to store glasses. When arranging storage near the range, make sure the material of the space is durable and heat resistant. This includes any tables with drawers and storage benches.

5. Streamline

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-30-39-pm

A floor plan maximized for function can appear crowded. While it may make sense to use every inch of your kitchen for a specific function, extra storage space, or usability, doing too much can actually make the space look sloppy and unrefined, and sometimes even unsafe. Add decorative appeal with quality furnishings, flooring and a subtle wall color, while avoiding multiple accessories, extraneous storage containers and excessive wall decor, especially near the kitchen triangle.

With these five tips in mind, any homeowner can create a safe and enjoyable kitchen space with a work triangle that plays well both functionally and fashionably.

This guest post was written by Kerrie Kelly, an expert on design related to the kitchen work triangle and other kitchen design points for homeowners. Kerrie advises homeowners via her California interior design firm, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. Kerrie also writes on decor topics online for The Home Depot.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Room-to-Room Remodeling: Popular Ideas that Will Transform Your Home

Fri, 16 Sep by realtyexecutivesnw

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-46-26-am

Home remodeling allows homeowners to be creative and show off their design aesthetic. Give your home a one-of-a-kind appeal by building your ideas around these popular remodeling trends and ideas:

1. Living Room

The way you design and plan your living room can make a huge difference in the presentation of your home because the living room is usually the default space for hospitality. Although most remodeling projects in the living room focus on windows, flooring and creating a focal point, current trends favor a modern and contemporary flair.

For example, digital fireplaces and gas-fed flame fireplaces are showing up in many living rooms because of their attention-catching ambiance. As design expert Brian Patrick Flynn explains, “Fireplaces provide far more than heat and a cozy place to curl up. They can fulfill architectural roles and become artistic accouterments.”

Homeowners are also investing in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and other built-in projects to promote a spacious, streamlined impression.

2. Kitchen

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-46-45-am

Because the kitchen is usually a busy place for food preparation, functionality and convenience are the two key considerations behind every remodeling project. Aside from smart and accessible appliances replacing traditional appliances, kitchen drawers and cabinets will be maximized for storage purposes.

“Smart homeowners are utilizing every inch of space when it comes to their kitchen cabinets. Don’t neglect the space above your cabinets, below your cabinets, between your cabinets or in those tight corners,” according to ImproveNet’s Jacob Hurwith.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-47-06-am

Other functionality upgrades include installing a toe-kick drawer under your lower cabinets for personal convenience, adding containers or extra drawers above your upper cabinets for special culinary tools, and integrating a Lazy Susan in your corner cabinet for quick accessibility.

3. Bathroom

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-47-20-am

Designed to be more like elegant art décor than traditional tiles, three-dimensional tiles add a modern and contemporary flair to your bathroom, making a strong statement.

And for homeowners who are tired of cold tiles in the bathroom, designers suggest installing a heated floor. According to Green Building Specialist Joe LoConte, “an electric mat under the tile floor is the affordable heating method,” and can be accomplished for approximately $1,500.

4. Master bedroom

Finally, upgrading your master bathroom by expanding this space into a luxurious suite is an excellent way to increase the value of your home. According to HGTV, updating your master bathroom not only gives it a fresh look and feel, but it can also it can also bump your return on investment up by 40% to 85%.

Remodeling the room to integrate expanded closets and a reading corner will further improve suite appeal and make the master bedroom more versatile and upscale.

This guest post by Paul Kazlov, a green home remodeling enthusiast and industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for Global Home Improvement and strives to educate people about green products. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulKazlov.

Images courtesy of Encore Group and Myles Burnett/TourFactory.

FAMILY SAFETY TIPS TO CONSIDER WHEN YOUR HOME IS FOR SALE

Sun, 11 Sep by realtyexecutivesnw

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-11-28-00-am

When you’re selling your home and your house is on the market, it’s almost inevitable that strangers will enter your house. Even if you don’t host an open house or showing, there may be strangers coming in and out to appraise your home, do renovations, clean the house or perform other necessary jobs related to the sale of your house.

Although the vast majority of these folks will be well-intentioned potential buyers, you have no way of knowing for sure who is and is not targeting homes for sale for all the wrong reasons. The good news is, you can take precautions in order to keep your home and family safe. Here are a few things you can do to protect your home and family:

De-personalize your home

Remove all family photos, diplomas, kid’s drawings and other display items that may inadvertently give away personally identifiable information. For example, while a school photo may seem innocuous, it could give away information like what school your child goes to, what sports they play, or what grade they’re in – all of which can be used by a stranger to potentially track down and approach your child.

Check all of the walls, shelves and display areas of your home to be sure you’ve cleared the house of all such items to help keep your family life private.

According to home staging expert Darlene Parris, depersonalizing your home also allows buyers to “picture themselves making their new home out of your home for sale,” so you’ll be helping to make your home more presentable to potential buyers too.

Speaking of photos, taking pictures of each room before and after showings is also recommended. This should help you quickly identify any out of place or missing items, especially for children’s rooms, since kids may be less likely to notice if things have gone missing. If necessary, they can also be used as evidence for a police report or insurance claim.

Protect your confidential information

Things like prescription medications, checks, or bills and letters that contain confidential information should be locked away or removed from your home completely. Don’t forget to check your trash as well, especially if you don’t shred your bills or take special precautions when it comes to sensitive data.

And be vigilant; monitor all of your accounts for fraudulent activity and consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. In the United States, this can be done by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus and is free of charge.

“An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In Canada, report fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center by calling them toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or by using their online reporting system.

Secure your devices and other valuables

Computer security expert Avi Rubin warns that “anything that has software in it is going to be vulnerable” and can be compromised, so tablets, phones, memory drives with personal data or any electronic devices that are connected to your email and social accounts should be removed from the house completely.

Your smart TV or refrigerator could also make you vulnerable to more tech-savvy criminals.

“Attacks such as those launched by smart TVs and fridges do not at this point threaten people’s lives. However, they do compromise people’s privacy insofar as they reveal information about victims that they might not otherwise want disclosed,” says security journalist David Bisson.

Upgrade the password and login information for all of your devices, and consider installing locator apps on all of them as well.

Other valuables like family heirlooms, jewelry and fur coats should also be locked away in a safe, safety deposit box or other secure location.

Talk to your agent

Ask your real estate agent to walk you through what they do during an open house and go over the details of the safety procedures that they follow. Check to see if they keep a visitor’s log, whether they use a lockbox to store your house key and how often they change the code, etc. Suggest enhancements if you’re unhappy with any of their policies.

“As an industry, we collectively work very hard to promote safety awareness among our members,” says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors.

Real estate agents are particularly knowledgeable when it comes to safety and will have your best interests at heart as well, so an honest conversation voicing any concerns will be beneficial to both parties.

In case of emergency

If there is an incident at your home, or you suspect theft or vandalism, call the police immediately. The police should also be able to work together with your real estate agent, using visitor logs and other information gathered during showings.

You can also go online to create an emergency or safety profile to help expedite the information gathering process when you dial 9-1-1. Tools like Smart911 allow you to create profiles with information about your home and family that may be valuable to first responders.

“Even the simplest of details can help our officers during an emergency,” says Sgt. Brent Kock of West Des Moines Police. “From knowing the access points to the home, whether there is a pet we need to be aware of when approaching or entering the home, or just knowing the name of the person in distress can enhance the safety of our citizens and our officers.”

Check with your city or local police department to verify which tools or apps are available in your area. For example, in Toronto the police have an app that allows users to file damage to property reports, amongst other things. Edmonton and Ferguson also have similar apps.

Taking practical steps to eliminate any opportunities for wrongdoing is the best place to start. Work with your real estate agent to establish an action plan, and maintain an open channel of communication so you can alter the plan as needed.

10 Common Deck Defects: Solved

Fri, 12 Aug by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.15.49 PM

Summer is upon us and the outdoor living season is in full bloom. In neighborhoods all across the country, people are using their backyard decks for grilling, sunbathing and entertaining, day and night.

However, it’s important to make sure your deck is safe and structurally sound before using it. Start by conducting an annual visual inspection of the entire deck. You don’t have to be a professional builder or home inspector to spot trouble; you just have to know where to look. Listed below are 10 common defects that can cause a deck to fail.

When inspecting your deck, pay particular attention to these 10 areas. Then, if you find anything suspicious, you can either fix it yourself or hire a professional carpenter. However, if you notice any serious structural problems, cordon off the deck and call a licensed engineer to evaluate the situation and offer a solution.

1. Loose Ledger

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.12.32 PM

When a deck is attached directly to the house, it’s supported by a long, horizontal, pressure-treated board called a ledger. The end of each floor joist is fastened to the ledger, usually by a metal hanger. Most catastrophic deck collapses occur because the ledger is either badly decayed or not properly fastened to the house.

To prevent water from seeping behind and rotting the ledger, there should be a continuous length of metal flashing running along the ledger. The flashing must extend up behind the house siding and overlap the top edge of the ledger. If the ledger on your deck has no flashing, you must install one, which is a relatively easy job if the decking runs parallel to the house. Simply pry up one or two rows of decking, install the flashing and replace the deck boards. If, however, the decking runs perpendicular to the house, you’ll have to raise every deck board to expose the ledger.

It’s also important to confirm that the ledger is bolted tightly against the house along its entire length. It should be fastened with lag screws or, better yet, carriage bolts. Check to be sure the lags or bolts are fastened into solid house framing, not just plywood sheathing. If your ledger is attached with just nails or decking screws, install half-inch-diameter lag screws or carriage bolts, spaced 16 to 24 inches apart. If the ledger is badly split or cracked, replace it.

2. Cracked Concrete Piers

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.17.21 PM

Most elevated decks have vertical wood posts that rest on top of concrete piers or extend down into concrete-filled holes. Either way, inspect the condition of the concrete to make sure it hasn’t cracked in half or begun to crumble and disintegrate. You should also measure the diameter of the piers. To provide proper support, each one should be about three times wider than the post.

If you have an on-grade deck that sits close to the ground, it’s probably propped up by concrete blocks, bricks or poured-concrete piers. Take a flashlight and peek beneath the deck to confirm that none of the supports has shifted out of position, cracked or sunk into the ground. If necessary, jack up the deck, install temporary bracing and then replace any damaged supports.

3. Weak Posts

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.18.26 PM

Elevated decks are typically supported by tall vertical wooden posts. In the past, 4×4 posts were commonly used, but most modern decks are supported with 6x6s, which are much stronger and more dimensionally stable, meaning they’re less likely to bend, twist, warp and split.

Carefully inspect each post to ensure that it’s firmly attached to the concrete pier at the bottom and to the deck frame at the top. Check the base of the post for water damage by poking around with an awl. If the awl sinks deep into the wood or the wood fibers are soft and spongy, then the post is rotting. If a post shows any signs of decay or damage, replace it immediately.

4. Bad Beams

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.19.45 PM

All but the tiniest decks have large horizontal beams resting on top of the support posts or piers. The beams, in turn, support all the floor joists. Therefore, the structural integrity of the entire deck is dependent upon the condition of the beams.

Check the beams for large cracks and water damage. Confirm that the beams are securely fastened to the tops of the posts or piers. Peer down the length of each beam to be sure it’s not sagging under the weight of the deck. If it is, you’ll need to shore it up by installing one or more supports. If the beams are made of untreated lumber, they must be at least 12 in. above the ground.

5. Faulty Floor Joists

As mentioned earlier, the ledger board and beams support all the floor joists, which are usually spaced 16 in. on center. The ends of the joists often sit in metal joist hangers. Be sure that each hanger is firmly fastened in place with hanger nails, not screws or common nails.

Replace any joist that’s badly cracked or has extensive water or insect damage. Pay particular attention to the ends of the joists, which have a tendency to rot and split. Check for joists that are sagging or badly bowed.

If the joists are cut from untreated lumber, they must be at least 18 in. above the ground.

6. Defective Decking

While composite lumber and PVC (plastic) decking are growing in popularity, a vast majority of decks are still covered with wooden deck boards. Walk back and forth across the deck and inspect each board for signs of rot, insect infestation, water damage, splinters, large cracks and popped fastener heads.

Also, make note of any boards that are badly twisted, cupped or warped. Remove and replace all damaged decking.

7. Rickety Railings

In most municipalities, decks higher than 30 in. above the ground must have a perimeter guardrail. It’s critically important that railings be kept in good, sound condition.

Start by confirming that each railing post is firmly attached to the deck frame and free of large cracks, rot and insect damage. Railing posts should be fastened with lag screws or carriage bolts, not nails or decking screws. If the bottoms of the posts are notched around the rim joist, check to be sure the posts aren’t splitting at the notches.

Each vertical baluster must be securely fastened to the horizontal rails. They must also be in sound condition and spaced no more than four inches apart. The handrail should be free of rough spots and splinters. Sand or plane the handrail, as necessary, to create a smooth surface.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.21.08 PM

Measure the height of the guardrail from the decking to the top of the handrail. It should be at least 36 in. high, although some towns require deck railings as high as 42 in. Check with your local building department for the correct railing height in your town.

8. Unsafe Stairs

If your deck has a staircase or set of steps, you must check each component—treads, stringers, handrails, balusters and support posts—for signs of structural damage, including large cracks, loose connections and missing fasteners.

The bottommost step and the bottom ends of the stringers are most susceptible to moisture-related problems, including water damage, rot, bug infestation, mold and mildew. Check the top of the steps or staircase to ensure it hasn’t pulled away or slipped down from the deck frame.

Make sure your handrails are in working order and aren’t coming loose. The building code requires all staircases to have graspable handrails measuring between 1¼ in. and 2¼ in. wide.

9. Busted Bracing

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.22.13 PM

 

Most tall decks have diagonal bracing angling up from the support posts to the deck frame. The braces help stabilize the deck and deter it from swaying back and forth. Inspect each brace for large cracks or rot, especially at the ends. Replace all damaged braces. Then, confirm that each brace is securely fastened with lag screws or carriage bolts, not nails or decking screws.

10. Hardware Trouble

Chances are good that your deck was built with some sort of metal hardware item, which helped to speed construction and create strong joints. However, these pieces of hardware can’t do their job if they’re not in sound condition.

If the ends of the floor joists sit in metal joist hangers, inspect each hanger to be sure it’s not rusted or loosely attached. It’s also important that a nail be driven through every mounting hole in the hanger. If you see any open holes, drive in a hanger nail, not a common nail.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.23.44 PM

Metal post anchors are often used to secure the bottom end of a support post to a concrete pier. Confirm that the anchors are free of rust and in firm contact with both the pier and post.

Metal straps or hangers are often used to reinforce the connection between the top of a staircase and the deck frame. Carefully inspect the hardware to be sure it hasn’t ripped, rusted or pulled loose.

By conducting an annual deck inspection and making all necessary repairs as soon as possible, you can rest assured that your deck is safe for family and friends all summer long.

This guest post was written by Joseph Truini, a home-improvement expert who provides advice about all types of DIY projects, including how to fix your deck. To find wood decking boards and other materials that you may need for deck repairs, visit The Home Depot.

6 Renovations That Can Add Value to Your Home

Fri, 05 Aug by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 12.38.12 PM

A lot of people get excited at the idea of a home renovation. They have grand ideas of how they want their home to look. But one thing to keep in mind is how those ideas will affect your home’s value once it comes time to sell after a tenure of nine years, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

It’s important that you do some research before committing to any home renovation project. A good place to start is with a cost versus value report. The report is based on information gathered from real estate agents and RemodelMAX, an online remodelers estimator tool. It will will help you outline the average cost, resale value, and cost recouped for a number of home renovation projects, providing both national and regional estimates. City estimates are also available, but you have to register to access these reports.

To help you determine what renovation projects could add value to your home, here are seven renovations that are worth considering:

1. Bathroom

When renovating a bathroom there is no need to go overboard with a complete overhaul. In fact, according to Remodeling’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report simple low-cost renovations on average yield a 10% higher return on investment compared to upscale renovations. Instead, consider adding new light fixtures and some paint to revitalise your bathroom.

2. Kitchen

According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 53% of real estate professionals believe that the kitchen is one of the most important rooms to prepare before putting your home on the market, so this isn’t a room that you want to ignore. However, the national average for a minor kitchen renovation is likely to set you back $20,122 with a resale value of $16,716. Since you’re only likely to recoup 80% of the cost, be sure to consider minor repairs and a gentle spruce up before undertaking any major kitchen renovations.

3. Income Suite

One of the most direct ways of adding value to a home is to have an income suite. Whether you have a beautifully finished basement or an attic/apartment living space, having the option for a tenant (or even just a guest room), will no doubt boost your value.

4. Make A Good First Impression

First impressions count and they also generate a higher return on investment. Entry and garage door improvements feature near the top of the Cost vs. Value rankings, so if your entrance way looks a little dated this may be a good place to start.

5. Energy Efficient Windows

The real estate world continues to go green, so the more energy efficient your home is, the better. Energy Star claims that adding Energy Star-rated windows can save you up to $500 a year. If your windows look like they’re from the 1970s, it could turn off potential buyers.

6. Energy Efficient Insulation

Attic insulation has the highest return on investment of any project listed on the 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, with a 116.9% return on investment. If your attic lacks proper insulation, the average cost of installation is estimated at $1,268 with a resale value of $1,482.

Do some research before making any major renovations and you’ll be more likely to make decisions that will pay off when it comes time to sell.

This guest post was written by Sara Luckman of CityBlast. The team at CityBlast helps over 10,000 agents and brokers with their social media marketing, keeping their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn up-to-date and professional.

HOME SELLING TIPS: GOING ON VACATION WHILE YOUR HOUSE IS ON THE MARKET

Sun, 17 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 7.32.47 PM

Your home is on the market and ready to sell – it could be snapped up any day now, but you have a vacation coming up or would like to take a trip out of town. So what do you do?

Consult your real estate agent

“Communication is at the center of real estate,” insists Todd Mobraten, former president and CEO of USRES Inc. and its subsidiary, RES.NET Inc.

Good communication between you and your real estate agent is key. Be upfront and tell your agent that you’re planning a vacation, well in advance. Your agent can tell you your options and help you develop a plan for how to handle any queries or issues in your absence.

Check in with your loan officer, lawyer, home stager, photographer, handyman, escrow officers and any other real estate professionals that you’re working with. They need to be looped in case they have to jump in to help while you’re away. Let everyone know that they may receive a call from you or your real estate agent.

If you have not already done so, give your agent the contact information of all the players on your home-selling team. In the interest of home safety, ask that all parties involved keep your trip confidential, to lessen your home’s vulnerability as a target for burglars.

Develop a plan of action

Once everyone on your home-selling team is on the same page, make sure you’re aware of what is expected of you, so you have a game plan for handling anything that comes up and know what you can manage remotely. Some things can be coordinated over the phone, via email or using signature software and other tools, but for those that can’t, make sure you have a proxy or a clear set of instructions for your real estate professional.

Your plan should also include check-ins and status updates, as well as expected response times to prevent a communication breakdown.

“The real estate transaction centers on the negotiation. It is during the offer negotiation process that communicating accurately and in a timely manner is absolutely paramount,” adds Mobraten.

Prepare your home

Before you leave, make sure your home is set to make a great first impression. Staging your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be effective, and goes a long way to keep a prospective buyer interested versus turning them off immediately. Ensure your home is clean, and don’t neglect the exterior. Your yard should be extra tidy and well-maintained too. Even if you normally DIY, you may need to schedule landscaping services if your vacation will be a lengthy one.

Same goes for the inside; consider hiring a cleaning service, even if you just have them come by right before you leave for vacation or just before any open houses your agent may have planned while you are away.

Owner of Accent Maid Service, Inc. Cheri Forslund says, “Using a cleaning service regularly while your home is on the market will pay off. But if you are on a tight budget use a cleaning service just for your open houses.”

And if you have pets, placing them in a pet hotel so your real estate professional and housekeeper won’t have to worry about them when entering your house may be a good idea.

Don’t forget about security

Call your security provider to let them know you’ll be out of town. Ask about off-site monitoring, video surveillance and patrols. Your provider should also have some tips on how to make it look like your home is occupied, such as the use of timed lights, and other suggestions on how best to secure your home while you’re away.

“Burglars often target unoccupied homes. Therefore, whether you’re gone for two weeks or two months, it’s important to make it seem like you never left,” Jeff Bates, CEO of Vector Security.

Piled up mail is a sure sign that there’s no one home, so be sure to have someone collect it for you or have the post office hold it until you get back.

For showings, give your real estate agent a separate alarm code for the house and ask that a list of visitors is maintained so you know who enters your home at all times. Also, ask your agent to ensure all windows and doors are locked before leaving the home.

Final thoughts

Check your homeowner’s insurance to make sure it’s up-to-date and your coverage is comprehensive and includes personal liability coverage.

“Homeowners insurance covers the structure of your home and your personal property, as well as your personal legal responsibility (or liability) for injuries to others or their property while they’re on your property,” according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

In the off-chance that there is damage to your property or somebody has an accident while you’re away, you want to make sure that you’ll be covered.

This is a great opportunity for your real estate agent to schedule multiple showings because with you out of town, your house will be like a model home. Keeping this in mind, you can relax and enjoy your vacation knowing that you’ve left your home in the care of competent professionals who have your best interests at heart.

MOVING DURING THE SUMMER WITH KIDS

Sat, 09 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 1.17.06 PM

Approximately 17 to 20 million people are expected to move this summer, and according to U-Haul, the majority of Americans move between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“People feel more comfortable with the idea of moving house during these three to four months because of the favorable weather conditions, the summer holidays, and various other seasonal factors that seem to promise a safe, comfortable, and efficient relocation,” says relocation professional Ethan Greenfield.

If you’re planning on relocating your family during peak moving season, start planning as early as possible in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

Here are some tips to help make your move stress-free:

Have a moving checklist

Your moving checklist should cover all aspects of the move, from filling out a USPS change of address and notifying all relevant parties of your move, to unpacking and organizing your home on arrival. Break your tasks down into manageable phases starting several weeks out.

Once you’ve covered all of the necessary detail, create a version of this list for every member of your household. You can create a printable coloring checklists for young ones and have them color in each item in lieu of checking it off the list, and create a digital task list for your teens using an app like Moving Planner.

Help your kids pack

Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to help you — or even independently pack up their own rooms. Determine what they can handle and give them some age-appropriate tasks. Make packing fun by turning it into a game or offering them rewards as they complete their assigned tasks. Apps like Chore Wars that gamify chores will help you keep track of everyone’s progress.

For little ones, Bright Horizons Family Solutions® suggests letting children pack and label one box of their favorite things that they can look forward to opening upon arrival at their new home.

U-Pack moving expert Brittney Lee also suggests packing some surprises for your kids. “Sneak a few surprises into your kid’s moving boxes. In their clothing box, leave a new shirt for their first day of school. Or add a new toy to the toy box. These fun surprises will make unpacking much more enjoyable!”

Get professional help

If you’re planning on managing the move yourself, consider enlisting the services of movers, cleaners, and baby and pet sitters, especially for moving day. Although they may try to sell you on their full services, keep in mind that you can typically customize packages to fit your needs. If you don’t need help packing, just hire movers to collect and deliver your belongings.

Don’t be afraid to ask about deals and discounts. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, movers are required by law to observe the 110 percent rule, so they have to deliver your possessions for “no more than 10% above the price of a nonbinding estimate.” Shop around for the best deal for you and then be sure to negotiate based on what you can afford. The FMCSA also suggest protecting yourself by being aware of your rights and responsibilities when moving.

Pro Tip: If you don’t plan on hiring a cleaner, don’t pack your cleaning supplies.

Have a moving day plan

“Moving day is one of those tasks we all want to get done with as fast as possible, [so] it’s best to have a solid, uncomplicated plan to make moving day as easy as it can be,” says real estate and finance expert Craig Donofrio.

Make a list of everything that needs to get done on the day of your move, including who is responsible for what tasks. Don’t forget to incorporate time for breaks, meals and refreshments into your plan. Building buffer time into your schedule will also help you stay on track in case any last minute tasks or issues pop up.

If you’re donating any clothing or household items, today is also a good day to schedule pickups. Organizations like Donation Town (in the U.S and Canada) and Pick Up My Donation (just in the U.S.) allow you to look up nearby non-profits and schedule a pickup online.

And don’t forget to designate a safe spot for any items that you plan to travel with. Make sure that the movers know you’ll be handling them yourself.

“Have your essentials with you – [keep] in mind that your shipment may be delayed considerably during the peak moving season. You may have to survive for a week or so in your new home without your belongings, so make sure all your valuables and essentials travel with you,” adds Greenfield.

What about the kids?

Keeping your children safe and busy on moving day will be a priority. Consider enrolling them in a summer program or daycare for the day, or hiring a sitter to watch them while you’re working with the movers and checking things off your to-do list. Scheduling a farewell playdate with their friends, having friends or family watch them, or even asking your neighbor to watch them while the movers are at the house are also viable options.

USING GOOGLE MAPS TO HUNT FOR YOUR NEXT HOME

Fri, 24 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.10.50 AM

According to comScore, Google Maps is one of the top 10 smartphone apps in the country. Globally, approximately one billion people use Google Maps to perform one billion searches every day. It’s a popular and useful tool, but how can you use it in your search for a new home?

Explore the neighborhood

Go for a virtual walk around your target suburb with Street View. This feature allows you to take a virtual tour of the city streets, even letting you to step into local businesses like restaurants and stores that have indoor maps available.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.01 AM

Google Earth lets you zoom out to get a better idea of the surrounding area. You can map out nearby parks, grocery stores, and essential services like the fire department and police station. Get an idea of where they are in relation to the properties you’re considering and how they’ll affect service or even noise in the area.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.18 AM

Create custom maps

As you come across homes that you’re interested in visiting, mark them on a map. My Maps not only allows you to pin places of interest, but you can also add notes on each location and include directions to each listing in case you’re planning an offline visit.

My Maps also lets you upload photos and videos that you’ve taken at these locations to your map, making it into a multimedia guide. You can change the titles of markers, marker colors and shapes on your map to indicate different things, making it easier to distinguish between places that you’ve visited or even color-coding homes by category or some other designation (i.e. green homes, multi-generational homes etc.).

Collaborate in your search

Once you’ve created your annotated map and marked any attractions in the area that you’d like to visit, you can share the map with your family and have them weigh in and comment on it. They can share what they like and dislike, add homes to the map, and easily eliminate undesirable properties without even having to leave the house.

You can also share the map with your real estate agent, who can add newly listed houses that might not be on your radar, remove homes that have sold, or even add commentary based on their area expertise.

Other features

Google Maps also has mashups, where other sites present their data in ways that may be useful to you during your search for a new home:

Walk Score: Find out how walkable your target neighborhood is. Walk Score also lets you evaluate your transportation choices and get a commute report, explore safety and area amenities, and plug into what the locals are saying about the neighborhood.
Instant Street View: Instantly displays any address in Google Street View without you having to access the actual Google app.
Satellite View of My House: Pulls up a satellite view of any location.
Area Calculator: This tool lets you calculate area, which you can use to determine the area of a plot of land, measure a roof, or even to measure a perimeter if you’re trying to figure out how much fence you’ll need for your new home.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.43 AM

Most of these features can be accessed online and via mobile as well, so you don’t have to be glued to a computer. And since you can visit any city in the world, using Google Maps is especially useful if you’re relocating.

 

How Much Home Can You Afford?

Fri, 17 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 4.11.18 PM

According to a Google Consumer survey, 50% of prospective home buyers start searching between six and 12 months in advance. Because purchasing a home is the largest lifetime financial investment for many, if not most consumers, it comes as no surprise that a wealth of research usually comes before deciding on a home.

Search the neighborhood and the school district. Define which features are the highest on the family’s priority list.

Recent research, however, found that many people might not have spent long enough studying how much home they could afford. Newsday reported that 1 in 3 American homeowners – a total of 19 million people – spend 30 percent or more of their income on their mortgages and other housing expenses.

So how can you figure out how much home you can afford?

Make sure you have a few financial safeguards in place

-Get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) for a mortgage
-Ensure you still have a rainy day fund before sinking all your savings into a home
-Be certain you are ready to stay in one place for several years before tying up money in a somewhat illiquid asset

Calculate a reasonable percentage of your income

Aim for between 25 and 30 percent of take-home pay on housing (this means your net pay, not your gross income). Lenders like Wells Fargo recommend something right in the middle — 28 percent. This includes any extra monthly income you might earn from freelancing, side jobs or investments. This should not include savings or retirement accounts.

Assess your current debt payments

Are you paying on student loans? How much are your car payments? What about your monthly credit card payments? Do you have any other mortgages? What other debts do you have? This is a short list of the expenses you should add up. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, the amount of debt you hold in comparison to your income, should not exceed 36 percent, according to Wells Fargo. That DTI ratio will also include the mortgage and associated expenses you are applying for, so include that as well.

Figure out how much your down payment will be

The recommended amount for a down payment is 20 percent of the total cost of the house. (Remember to include closing costs!) However, buyers can access Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages where you can put just 3.5 percent down. Keep in mind: most mortgages with less than 20 percent down will incur private mortgage insurance (PMI), which you’ll need to add to your overall expenses. Whatever the amount of the down payment, calculating it will let you know how much you’ll need to borrow.

Find out your interest rate

A combination of your credit score, your DTI ratio and your down payment amount will all figure into the interest rate on your mortgage. Adjustable-rate mortgages tend to start out with lower initial interest rates but can flex with time, tracked by indices such as the Federal Reserve Board. Fixed-rate mortgages might start out a little higher but remain fixed throughout the life of the loan. The length of your mortgage can also impact your interest rates.

Tools to help you with the math

Doing the math to understand the true cost of buying a home can be challenging. Fortunately, online calculators can help you make the entire process easy. Happy house hunting!

4 Features of an Energy Efficient Home

Sat, 11 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 3.45.34 PM

When shopping for a new home, the importance of finding energy efficient digs might be high on the list. Energy efficiency helps reduce the amount of energy you use in your home and in turn can reduce your energy bills as well as your home’s environmental impact. But there are options for energy efficiency beyond a roof covered in solar panels — and could lead to a higher resale value, too.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), there are a host of things to consider for an energy efficient home.

Energy-reducing appliances and electronics

The easiest way to identify energy efficient appliances is with the Energy Star logo. The Energy Star signifier is bestowed upon appliances and electronics that are meaningfully more energy efficient than the government standard. Energy Star-branded refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers as well as air conditioners, televisions and heating units can all increase the efficiency of your home. For example, an Energy Star washer alone can save you $70 a year in utility bills. Plus, you’ll use 10 fewer gallons of water.

Insulation and temperature control for heating and cooling

The DOE found 56 percent of home energy costs go to heating and cooling. Spray foam insulation can help reduce the amount of lost heat or cooling by filling in holes in attics, near wiring, behind small walls, in basements and around plumbing vents. You can also save by using a digitally programmable thermostat to bring down expenses and keep homes efficient. The DOE found homes saved up to 15 percent by dialing thermostats back as little as 10 to 15 degrees during the average 8-hour workday.

Water heating

After heating and cooling your home, your water heater can be another large cost, accounting for as much as 18 percent of your utility bill. After the basics – repairing leaks and updating pipes – be sure to buy an energy-efficient model heater and set your heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should give you comfortably warm water for most uses within your home. Draining water from the heater can also remove build up to help it run more efficiently.

Lighting

Burning an incandescent bulb costs between five and ten times more than the purchase price of the bulb. Energy-efficient lighting like Light Emitting Diode (LED) or Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs can transform energy usage in your home. Both LED and CFL lights can last ten times as long as incandescent bulbs and use less than half the energy.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Grande Prairie Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.