PACKING TIPS TO HELP YOU MOVE LIKE A PRO

Fri, 15 Sep by realtyexecutivesnw

 

With all the hustle and bustle involved in the moving process, it can be easy to forget about the little details that make for a smooth move – like making sure your valuables are protected and you have enough moving boxes.

Here are a few packing tips to help you reduce your moving stress and make sure everything gets to your destination in one piece.
Declutter before you pack

What’s the use of moving old clothes you’ll probably never wear, CDs, DVDs, or old electronics? These items are going to just get in the way. Before you start the packing process, separate old items into three categories: donations, items to sell, and a throw-away pile.

One way to help you decide what goes into which category is by using a few simple rules. Anything that’s damaged should be tossed. If you haven’t used something in six months or more, get rid of it as well. Same with clothes.

If you have an emotional connection to something, but it doesn’t have any practical purpose, consider getting rid of it. Be methodical and make your way through one room at a time.
Clear plastic makes for an easier move

When possible, it helps to use clear plastic storage bins when moving. They’re sturdy, and most importantly, see-through, so you won’t have to hunt around to find what you’re looking for. There are many brands that make see-through bins – try to get ones with strong latches.
Labels are your friends

Label your boxes in large, legible letters so you know exactly where each box belongs in your new place. According to Samantha Raynovich, National Sales Program Manager at PODS Moving & Storage, it’s not a bad idea to number your boxes and keep a notebook inventory of contents. That way, you can keep track of what’s packed.
Pack the right way

Place heavy items in smaller boxes for easier lifting, and put lightweight items in larger boxes. Reinforce the bottom of all boxes with tape and fill to capacity, using paper or bubble wrap to fill the empty spaces. The top and sides of boxes shouldn’t bulge or cave in when closed.

Moving accessories are key. Consider getting moving blankets, moving bands, and moisture absorbers. Your moving company may offer these for sale, or you can purchase them from your local home improvement store.

“Smart packing is an important and often overlooked part of the moving process,” says Raynovich. “Careful planning on the front end can save headaches in the long run.”

This guest post was written by PODS®. PODS® makes moving and storage more convenient and less stressful through its innovative solution of delivering a level container and providing the customer all the time they need to load and unload their container.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A PROFESSIONAL MOVING COMPANY

Fri, 08 Sep by realtyexecutivesnw

If you are preparing to move soon and trying to decipher whether or not hiring a professional moving company makes sense for your situation, take a look at some of the services that they can provide:
Packing

Perhaps the most dreaded task associated with moving, packing involves placing all your items in boxes, labeling the boxes, and then lifting and moving those boxes only to unpack them once more. For an additional fee, professional movers can help to ease the stress of this part of the moving process by showing up at your home with all the necessary supplies.They will pack your belongings safely (ensuring to delicately handle and wrap valuable items), securely (taking special care to protect the items packed in boxes), and efficiently (packing items with speed and labeling boxes).
Furniture disassembly and reassembly

This service is usually billed at an hourly rate when moving locally and a flat rate or predetermined fee when moving long distances.

Moving professionals will arrive prepared with all the items required to complete the job safely and efficiently. They will have:

  • The correct disassembly tools
  • Quality packing materials and supplies
  • Moving equipment
  • Personal protection gear
  • Property protection equipment
  • Experience handling furniture and other delicate pieces

Items that are typically disassembled by moving companies are extremely heavy or fragile, highly valuable pieces, glass or large furniture and other difficult to handle items.

Items that furniture movers may avoid disassembling include antiques, furniture that is glued or nailed together, pool tables, and other items that are not structurally sound.

Any furniture pieces that they disassemble at your old home, they will reassemble upon delivery to your new home.
Safe a secure transportation of goods

Reputable companies take extra precautions to protect your belongings and home from damage. They use wall and corner guards to prevent dings, scrapes and scratches in hallways, on moldings and walls. They also use carpet protectors, moving blankets, padding and plastic wrap to safeguard your home from damage.

While loading items onto the moving truck, movers work to protect items from breaking, moving and shifting during transport. They have access to securing equipment and they know how to properly use them.
Organization

While unloading, moving crews can effectively coordinate and place each piece of furniture in the correct room, as well as placing corresponding boxes where indicated, aking sure that each piece is properly arranged to your preference. Since movers are tasked with this job every day, they can assist with organizing items in your new home without damaging ceilings, floors, or walls.
Clean up

After the moving truck has been emptied out, the crew typically gather empty boxes, blankets, carpet protectors, dollies, and any other items used to secure furniture and belongings during the move. They should leave no trace of ever having been present in your home.
Storage

Moving companies can also provide the option to have your items unloaded at a storage facility, either their own or one designated by you. They will often take additional care to protect your possessions from moisture damage, pests or rodents, and other unforeseen annoyances.

Some companies will provide portable storage units for you to fill up with boxes on your own before they arrive on moving day.
Insurance

Professional moving companies are required by law to provide insurance for damage that can take place during the move (the rules are slightly different in Canada).

With that being said it important to make sure that the company you plan to use will provide enough coverage for your belongings. Prior to contacting the company compile a list of all your significant items of value (i.e. antiques, appliances, artwork, cameras, electronics, furniture, etc.) then give each item a replacement value and total it up. Take pictures of these items for proof that will be useful if a claim has to be filed.

Before hiring a moving company thoroughly investigate their insurance coverage:

  • Find out the type and the amount of liability insurance they provide.
  • Carefully assess the moving contract for the estimated value of your possessions, then compare their value to that of the list you compiled.
  • Establish the maximum value the moving company’s insurance will cover in the event that your items are damaged or destroyed. Then compare that amount to the amount on your list and determine whether it’s enough to replace your items.
  • Ask the company about the details of their process for submitting an insurance claim.
  • Do your own research and investigate if the moving company has any pending or unresolved claims.

Provide in-home estimates

Most moving companies will send a relocation specialist to your home to take inventory of the items that you plan on moving to your new residence. This procedure is done so that the company is clear on the scope of the work involved. Taking inventory before moving day saves time, ultimately benefiting both you and the movers alike. The relocation specialist should be assessing and taking note of the following key elements:

  • The approximate weight of the items you intend to move
  • Packing challenges that may arise, such as antiques, cumbersome furniture, or large appliances etc.
  • Moving day challenges like driveways with restrictions, long flights of stairs, or out-of-order elevators etc.

The in-home estimate also provides the moving company with the opportunity to assess the overall condition of your property and provide an accurate estimate or quote, in most cases free of charge.
There is more to the moving process than what actually meets the eye, and partnering with a professional moving company has advantages that can reduce stress while saving time and energy.

This post was written for Realty Executives by Ashley Neal. Ashley is a freelance content strategist focused on writing about, real estate, interior design, health, fitness and luxury for almost a decade. Ashley’s work has appeared in a number of digital and print publications including Blasting News, CBS Local Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle and Huffington Post. She has also contributed to and/or been mentioned on a number of well respected media platforms including; Forbes, Small Biz Trendz and Biz Sugar.

7 HOMEBUYER COSTS TO FACTOR INTO YOUR SAVINGS PLAN

Fri, 04 Aug by realtyexecutivesnw

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments you will make in your entire lifetime. However, it can be difficult to evaluate exactly how much you will need out of pocket to purchase a home. Although much of the home is financed, you likely will still be responsible for additional home purchase costs. Some of the most common homebuyer costs are listed below.

 

1. Home inspection fees

Many lenders require a home inspection prior to closing. The inspection protects both the loan and your investment. The inspector looks at the important parts of the house, including electrical, foundation, plumbing, and structure. Because any problems with these areas of the house could be extremely expensive, it is important to know about them ahead of time. Your inspector will provide you with a list of required and recommended repairs. The lender will focus on the required repairs.

 

2. Home repairs

In many cases, a loan may be dependent upon the completion of certain home repairs. Home repairs may also be needed to safely live in the house. Carefully evaluate the inspector’s report and make any required repairs before moving in. Recommended repairs that do not affect safety can be made over time and turned into DIY summer projects.
3. Closing costs

Closing costs are costs that are not financed by the lender. These may include down payment requirements, transactional fees, title insurance, taxes, land surveys, lender appraisal fees, and loan origination fees. Your lender might also roll credit applications and insurance costs into your closing costs. Closing costs are often the most unknown expense of purchasing a home. However, inputting your information into a closing cost estimate calculator can help you to better prepare.
4. Property taxes

Property taxes are the funds that you pay to the city for your property. Depending on your loan, these taxes could be rolled into your monthly mortgage payment and collected into Escrow. However, it is also possible that you will have to budget for these costs on your own. Property taxes are broken up into summer and winter taxes and can be identified by looking at the listed taxes on the original real estate listing. The prices of taxes should be considered along with the listing price.
5. Home insurance

Lenders want to know that their investment is protected. You also want to protect your investment. For this reason, many lenders will require a home insurance policy prior to closing. Home insurance costs can be affected by location, size of the home, year the home was built, and any common weather conditions for the area. The insurance company may also factor in safety features of the house, including an alarm system or fencing.
6. Moving costs

A lot of people underestimate what it costs to move. Depending on the distance of your move; you might have to factor in truck rental charges, moving service fees, and boxes and other moving supplies. For a better estimate of your moving costs, try out this moving calculator.
7. Homeowner association fees

Some homes are located in homeowner associations. Purchasing a home in a home association means you will be responsible for the monthly homeowner association fees. These are fees charged to keep up common areas within the community. You can obtain the exact amount of homeowner’s fees by looking at the listing or by communicating with the HOA.

Purchasing a home is an exciting investment. You finally have a place to call your own. However, it also requires a good amount of planning and understanding of your loan terms and the additional costs of purchasing a house. You will need to factor in all of the added and extra costs to fully prepare yourself for the price of home ownership.

This post was written for Realty Executives by Heather Hardy. Heather is an avid writer who has contributed to numerous blogs and internet news sources. While she writes on a variety of topics, her specialties include real estate, home improvement, and travel. After obtaining two degrees, Heather has found her passion in writing content that improves both readability and knowledge.

THE FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER’S GUIDE TO APPLYING FOR A HOME LOAN

Fri, 28 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Purchasing your first home can be one of the most exciting and overwhelmingly stressful experiences of your life. Yet, armed with the appropriate knowledge and information, you can define your budget, get pre-approved for your home loan, shop for the perfect house and close the transaction with confidence.

1. Assess the amount of money that you can afford to pay each month for your mortgage

At the beginning of your homebuying journey it is vital to calculate your finances to determine how much house you can reasonably afford on your income.

Pro Tip: In addition to factoring in the mortgage payments also be sure to include all housing costs for each month.

Your monthly housing budget should consist of mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and property taxes. When calculating the amount of your income that can go toward monthly mortgage payments keep in mind the more money you spend on the monthly payments, the less money you have accessible to spend on anything else. Things in your life could change drastically for example having children, purchasing a new vehicle, paying for college, losing a job or going out of business.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Keep your mortgage payments below 25 percent of your pretax monthly income.
  • Your mortgage payments should be equivalent to one week’s pay check.

It is vital to crunch your own numbers before shopping for a mortgage. Lenders may pre-approve your loan amount at 30 to 35 percent of your pretax income, enticing you to take on more home debt than you can actually afford. Never presume that just because the bank endorses it, you can bear the cost of it.
2. Verify that your finances are in order to move forward with the mortgage process

To guarantee that now is the best time to purchase your first home the bank will require that you have a good credit score, money to cover closing costs and verifiable income.

Assess your credit

It should be no surprise that good credit is needed to secure a home loan. If you’re based in America, get all three of your credit reports free of charge from AnnualCreditReport.com to verify that there are no errors on them. If you’re based in Canada, check the two national credit bureaus, Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.

If you need to enhance your score quickly consider doing the following:

  • Pay down any outstanding credit card balances
  • Stop using credit cards two months prior to applying for a home loan
  • Avoid applying for a new credit card or car loan until after you have closed on your new home
  • To significantly improve your credit score, keep in mind that it may take up to six months so get started as soon as possible

Set money aside to cover the down payment, closing costs and other expenses

In addition to ensuring that your credit is in good standing it is also important to make sure that you have the cash required to make buying your first home a reality. In general a conventional loan will require a down payment amount of 5 to 20 percent of the sale price of the home. Government issued loans such as an FHA loan or VA mortgage loan can require as little as 3.5 percent down.

Example

If the purchase price of the home is $250,000, and you are required to pay a 10 percent down payment, you will need 25,000 cash to move forward with your purchase.

To avoid paying additional private mortgage insurance (PMI) most lenders will require a 20 percent down payment, instantly doubling the cash amount used in the previous example to $50,000. PMI protects the bank in the event that you default on your loan and your home’s value significantly decreases.

Closing costs can raise the upfront costs substantially and many first time homebuyers are not aware of this added expense. Closing costs can be up to 3 percent of the total loan amount. Which means on a $250,000 mortgage an additional $7,500 in closing costs is added — on top of your down payment.

Closing costs fluctuate from state to state or province to province, but they often are based on the following expenses:

  • Application fee charged by the lender (amount varies from lender to lender)
  • Appraisals
  • Attorneys
  • Government taxes collected based on a percentage of the mortgage loan amount
  • Real estate transfer tax
  • Title insurance
  • Total of percentage ‘points’ of the mortgage loan amount charged by the lender

Key facts about lender points

One kind of point that a lender can charge is called an origination fee or money charged to the lender for originating or placing the loan. There are also discount points, or compensation paid to the lender to decrease interest rates permanently.

Pro Tip: There are two ways to significantly reduce or even eliminate closing costs:

  • Arrange for the seller to pay the closing costs.
  • Consult with your lender about premium pricing (with this method you agree to pay a higher interest on your home loan in exchange for the lender covering the closing costs).

 

Additional expenses to be aware of:

  • Prepaid expenses or payments made in advance of the money being due. Most commonly this will consist of mortgage interest that will accrue between the closing date and month-end, real estate taxes and homeowners insurance paid into an escrow account. This expense can be equivalent to 2 percent of the total loan amount or more.
  • Utility expenses (i.e., heating, sewer, trash removal and water)
  • Homeowners’ Associations (HOA) Fees
  • Lenders cash reserve requirement (after all expenses are paid for the home the lender requires that you have a specified amount of cash left over, usually at least two months of mortgage payments, to avoid the risk of defaulting on the loan early. The funds are not directly deposited with the lender however they must be available in a verifiable source (i.e., a checking or savings account or a money market fund).
  • Home Inspection

Total of amount of cash needed to purchase a $250,000 with a 10% down payment:
Cash needed upfront to purchase $250,000 home
Down payment 10% of $250,000 $25,000
Closing costs 3% of $225,000 $6,750
Prepaid expenses 2% of $225,000 $4,500
Utility expenses Approximate estimate $600
Required cash reserves $1,000 mortgage payment x 2 $2,000
Total cash required                $38,850

Using the example above the numbers can add up quickly when buying a home. This is why it is very important to add up all of your upfront costs when planning your home buying budget. Doing so will provide you with a realistic snapshot of how prepared you are to move forward with the home buying process.
3. Compile important documentation

After preparing a realistic assessment of your housing budget, it is important to gather documentation that will aid in verifying your finances to accompany your mortgage application. You will need the following items:

  • Bank statements
  • Copy of your credit report
  • Copies of your last two tax returns
  • Paystubs
  • Proof of freelance or self employment income (if applicable)
  • Proof of Identification (driver’s license, passport or state issued ID)
  • Social Security Number or Social Insurance Number
  • W-2 Forms (wage and tax statements from your employer)

4. Shop for your home loan

Do not wait until the last minute to shop for your mortgage, you could essentially lose your dream home if another applicant already has their financing in place. Getting a mortgage pre-approval is a free and non-binding process that can make the home buying process smoother in the following ways:

  • Knowing exactly how much you are approved to spend
  • Positions you as the buyer with the advantage if the home has multiple offers, thus giving you negotiating power.
  • Positions you as a serious qualified first-time home buyer

Get familiar with mortgage rates

There are fixed mortgage rates and adjustable mortgage rates. With a fixed mortgage rate the interest stays the same as long as the borrower is paying down the loan. With a fixed rate mortgage the interest is not dictated by the market. With an adjustable mortgage rate (ARM) the interest fluctuates, going up or down based on the interest rate of the market.

Home loans can be paid over a period of 5 to 30 years, with 30 years at a fixed rate being the norm.

Mortgage fees

But wait there’s more! Mortgage lenders charge additional fees that are not associated with the interest rate. For example you may be assessed fees for:

  • Credit check
  • Document preparation
  • Home appraisal fees

Some lenders may provide you the option to pay mortgage points at closing that can lower your interest rate. Points are basically prepaid interest that could save the borrower money over the duration of the home loan. One mortgage point is equivalent to 1 percent of the overall mortgage value. Using our previous example of $250,000 mortgage, 1 mortgage point is equivalent to $2,500.

It is best to pay mortgage points in the following circumstances:

You can afford to pay out the added cash expense
You expect to hold the mortgage for a long period of time
You have less than stellar or poor credit and the lender requires it

Where to shop for mortgage rates

A good starting point is your bank because you already do business with them, but do not stop there. You can shop online and compare rates with leading industry mortgage lenders or partner with a local mortgage broker that can place your application amongst multiple lenders within his or her network. Your licensed real estate professional should be able to provide local mortgage broker referrals if you need assistance.

Purchasing your first home can be a very fun and exhilarating experience.It is also an experience that can be confusing and frustrating if you are not adequately prepared. Before you go house hunting do your homework, get your finances in order and shop around for the best mortgage rates to be adequately prepared for the overall process.

This post was written for Realty Executives by Ashley Neal. Ashley is a freelance content strategist focused on writing about, real estate, interior design, health, fitness and luxury for almost a decade. Ashley’s work has appeared in a number of digital and print publications including Blasting News, CBS Local Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle and Huffington Post. She has also contributed to and/or been mentioned on a number of well respected media platforms including; Forbes, Small Biz Trendz and Biz Sugar.

3 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU MOVE INTO A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD

Thu, 13 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Whether you’re planning ahead, in the process of moving, or have already moved into your new home, these three tips will help you get settled.

1. Setup utilities

If you haven’t already set up all of your utilities before moving, checking these off your list will probably be your first priority:
Utility – Service Provider
Electricity – Search by city for Canada, and by state for the US
Natural gas – Search by state for the US, or by accredited organizations if you live in Canada
Water and sewer – Search by state for the US, or by city if you live in Canada
Trash collection – Search by city for Canada, and by state for the US
Cable, satellite TV, Internet and telephone – Search by zip code for the US, and by city in Canada

 

Websites like MyUtilities.com and AllConnect.com allow you to set up multiple utilities under one account, but you’ll most likely be creating accounts online and calling to schedule appointments.

“Pay any overdue bills, but also collect any refunds or utility deposits. Many people forget that they may have served up a substantial chunk of change months and sometimes years back,” suggests The Moving Team.

This is also a good time to update your address and set up your security and alarm systems.

2. Review neighborhood ordinances and codes

City codes are ordinances and put in place to promote health and safety within neighborhoods, as well to protect the community. They may differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, but familiarizing yourself with them is the best way to keep from being in violation of local laws.

Neighborhood codes typically cover issues like dead trees, high weeds, trash, deteriorated fences, junk and commercial vehicles on private properties, operating a business out of a residence, and keeping animals.

“Neighborhoods that follow their covenants and standards tend to be safer, look better, maintain better relationships with local governments, and better retain or increase the investments that homeowners have made in their properties,” reports online legal platform FindLaw.

And if you live in an HOA community, this is a good time to go over those rules as well.

3. Explore your neighborhood and meet your neighbors

As you’re unpacking and getting settled in, find opportunities to explore your neighborhood and meet your neighbors.

“You meet a lot of your neighbors while doing activities like gardening,” says Antoine Daher, founder of friend making app Patook.

Daher suggests introducing yourself to your new neighbors as you encounter them, and taking the time to exchanging phone numbers or e-mail addresses in case of emergency. “Ask some questions both about the neighborhood, like when the recycling pick-up is, and later on, about them,” he says.

Going online to find opportunities to connect with your neighbors is also an option.

“A few years ago, using apps or online websites to meet people was considered unusual. But the latest polls show that many connections between people now start online, whether for friends, activities or dating,” explains Daher. “This makes sense because many people spend a lot of their time online or at work, which reduces the number of opportunities to meet people.”

Joining your neighborhoods Facebook groups and following all of their social accounts is not only a good way to find out what’s going on in the area, but it’s also a good way to find neighbors with common interests and connect with them.

Read more about Helping kids adjust to a new home or Moving during the summer with kids

HOW TO SECURE YOUR SMART HOME DEVICES

Fri, 16 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Smart home devices are quickly becoming the norm, with IT research firm Gartner predicting consumers will have 5.2 billion internet-connected products in 2017 – an average of four devices per household.

“The connected home is coming to fruition and it’s coming now,” says Yonomi co-founder and CEO Kent Dickson.

We’re using smart devices to control the lighting, temperature and ambiance of our homes, to lock our doors and watch for intruders, to feed and play with our pets. There seems to be a smart device for every conceivable home need, but how secure are these devices?

“The biggest issue with smart devices in the home is that many can be accessed directly from the internet,” says Bruce Snell, Cybersecurity and Privacy Director at Intel Security, adding, “Securing the smart home requires that you think a little more about security than you may have in the past.”

What can you do to secure your smart home tech?

Secure your devices

One of the first things you should do when setting up devices is change the factory-default password to something unique. “We have seen many attacks against smart devices that succeed because the owner of the device never changed the password,” explains Snell.

Make sure this is security feature you’ll be able to control when you’re shopping for devices. If not, consider upgrading to a device that won’t leave a hole in your home security.

Family safety tips to consider when your home is for sale

Turn off the broadcast feature so your smart home devices aren’t discoverable to anybody but you. This could interfere with the functionality of hub devices like Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home, so be sure to check their specs.

And when you’re setting up, consider hard-wiring your devices to the internet through your router, rather than via a wireless connection. This will make it even more difficult to get to your devices without authorization.

There are also smart home security devices that take into account the limitations of your individual devices and operate as a shield, securing and monitoring interactions with them in real-time.

Secure your networks

“It’s important to take advantage of the security features of your home internet router to help keep the bad guys out,” suggests Snell.

These may include the latest wireless encryption (WPA2), a firewall, and Virtual Private Network (VPN), amongst other features. Look up your router to see built-in security features it has, and turn them on if you aren’t already using them. At the very least, if you use a wireless network, ensuring that it’s password protected is key.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set up a VPN

A VPN ensures that the connection between the internet and any connected devices is secure, offering a better encryption format than standard wireless encryption protocols.

You can pay for a VPN service or upgrade to a router with built-in VPN software and set up a network yourself.

Implement a guest network

Creating a network exclusively for guests reduces the possibility of users with lax security protocols accidentally introducing hackers or malware into your system. It also means you don’t have to share your private password and you can limit their access to certain devices in your network.

In addition, hiding your personal network so it isn’t broadcasting is another security measure to consider.

Perform regular security checks

“You should regularly check to see if there are any new updates for your devices and if there are, make sure you install them. Keeping your devices up to date can help prevent your smart home from being hacked,” says Snell.

And if you suspect that any of your devices have been hacked, Snell recommends taking it offline immediately.

“Once a device has been hacked, turn it off and then look for instructions from the manufacturer on how to restore your device to factory settings. Once you have done that, then apply the latest software update before using your smart device again. Don’t forget to change the password while you’re at it!”

5 TIPS FOR BUYING AN AC UNIT ONLINE

Fri, 02 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

The lifespan of an air conditioner is 15 to 20 years, depending on how often it’s used. But chances are you’re going to need to replace your AC unit at one point or another, and when you do you’ll probably have some questions. For example, is buying an air conditioner online safe? Or is it safe to buy a second-hand or refurbished AC unit? We asked a 25-year veteran of the HVAC industry all of the important AC questions so you don’t have to.

We spoke to Erik Bryan, a licensed HVAC contractor and owner of NewACUnit.com, and asked what you need to know about buying an air conditioner online.

1.Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ pricing

If a low-priced unit looks too good to be true, it probably is. According to Bryan, most AC units sold online are sold by resellers and are not manufacturer endorsed, which can result in seemingly attractive pricing. “The consumer can purchase a new AC unit at a deep discount, but those generally do not include the product warranty,” explains Bryan. “Then they still need to find an installer and most licensed contractors will not install equipment from third-party sources,” he adds.

Be sure to verify exactly what is included with the air conditioner if the retail price is significantly lower than competitors.

2.Double-check the warranty

Read the full warranty before you make your purchase so that you’re aware of how long it will last, whether it’s a seller or manufacturer warranty, what it covers, and whether there are any limitations or conditions on the warranty.

“One of the most common mistakes that consumers make is not checking out the warranty details. You want the product warranty intact on such a large expenditure,” says Bryan.

Warranties for air conditioners range from one to 10 years and can cover everything from complete parts and labor, to the compressor. However, installing the unit improperly can void the warranty, so Bryan suggests securing a licensed contractor for the job.

How to maintain your appliances without voiding the warranty

Your Guide To Buying A New AC Unit Online Infographic

3.Second-hand units might not be worth the savings

“Having a used unit without being able to register a warranty with the manufacturer, gives you absolutely no recourse on repairs or breakdown issues. Just like buying a used car, or a used appliance, you don’t know what you are really getting and there are no guarantees on how long it will last,” warns Bryan.

If you’re considering purchasing a second-hand or refurbished unit, try to avoid buying it ‘as is.’ Check if the seller has a current manufacturer’s warranty that is transferable, and what the terms of that warranty are. If the air conditioner is refurbished, ask the seller for details on what changes have been made to the unit.

4.Know what upgrades are required vs. recommended

While shopping for an air conditioner online, be sure to distinguish between required and recommended upgrades.

“Recommended upgrades might include the power system for the unit with things like a disconnect, whip, and plenum box, a new thermostat, or possibly some ductwork modifications. In most cases, if these are recommendations, you can choose to add them on at the time of your installation or defer them until later as your budget permits,” explains Bryan.
Ask your HVAC professional about any add-ons prior to the installation to avoid any costly surprises.

5.Replacing broken parts may not be the best solution

Replacing broken components of your old unit may not be the most cost effective solution. According to the Department of Energy, today’s best air conditioners are 30% to 50% more efficient than units built in the 1970s, using significantly less energy to produce the same results.

“A 15-year-old condenser unit may not be compatible with a new air handler or vice versa. They might work, but the efficiency and lifespan of the unit can be greatly compromised,” adds Bryan.

Be sure to test the efficiency of your current unit along with the energy costs required to cool your home, and compare this to the cost of a new unit with installation. If you’ll be spending more money to maintain an old unit long-term, it may be worth installing a newer and more efficient unit.

How long will your home and everything in it last?

5 HOME RENOVATION PROJECTS TO TAKE ON THIS SUMMER

Fri, 19 May by realtyexecutivesnw

Whether you want to update your home, customize it, or integrate smart technology into your design, you can’t go wrong these high-value home renovation projects:

1. Remodel your kitchen

Kitchen renovations are the most common remodeling projects being undertaken right now, with 81% of remodelers working on kitchens and 80% on bathrooms, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

On average, a minor kitchen remodel costs $20,830, with homeowners recouping 80.2% of the cost at the time of sale. Major kitchen remodels average $62,158, with a significantly lower resale value of $40,560 (65.3% of the cost).

Before you dive into your renovations, award-winning interior designer Kerrie Kelly suggests taking the time to consider the kitchen work triangle – the space between your sink, range and refrigerator.

“Any homeowner can create a safe and enjoyable kitchen space with a work triangle that plays well both functionally and fashionably,” says Kelly, adding that key concepts to take into account during the design phase include lighting, traffic patterns, work surfaces, storage and streamlining.

“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,” she adds.

2.Upgrade your bathroom

Bathroom remodels cost $18,546 on average, with homeowners typically replacing fixtures and surrounding tiles, shower controls, the toilet, sink and vanity, cabinets and vinyl wallpaper. Upgrading a bathroom to a more accessible universal design (e.g. widening the doorway, adding grab bars etc.) costs slightly less at $15,730. In both cases, homeowners may recover 64.8% of the job cost when they sell.

Regardless of your design, toilet placement is an important but often overlooked aspect of a good bathroom layout, according to Kelly.

“The toilet can be considered the ‘problem child’ of the bathroom because of its unwavering ability to impact all the other design elements, like whether or not a larger vanity can be accommodated or if certain plumbing can be shifted around,” explains Kelly.

And since it’s rarely economical to move existing toilets, Kelly recommends smart fixes like building a separate water closet within your bathroom to keep it out of line of sight, or opting for an in-wall toilet to provide extra space.

3.Add extra rooms to your home

Room additions can be costly, ranging from $43,232 for an extra bathroom, to $176,108 for a two-story addition. However, up to 71.1% of these costs can be recovered, depending on the nature and design of the renovation.
PROJECT                          JOB COST               RESALE VALUE               COST RECOUPED
Master suite addition              $119,533                         $77,506                                    64.8%
Family room addition             $89,566                          $62,055                                    69.3%
Bathroom addition                  $43,232                          $23,283                                    53.9%
Two-story addition                $176,108                          $125,222                                   71.1%

 

One of the biggest mistakes that Voitek Klimczyk, owner of SimplyAdditions.com, warns homeowners against when they take on home addition projects is buying into trends.

“Every day, new materials and the latest gadgets for a remodeling project or room addition come to a store near you. But unless it’s a tried and true classic, then you may want to avoid it,” he cautions.

If you’re looking at home and design trends for inspiration, be sure to consider the functionality and resale value of these solutions as well.

4.Replace your windows and doors

Replacing your front door has the second-highest return on investment when compared to other remodeling projects. According to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs Value Report, homeowners who spent an average of $1,413 recouped 90.7% of the cost. Garage door replacement jobs recovered 76.9% of the cost, while upscale window replacement projects recovered 73.9% and 73% for vinyl windows and wood windows, respectively.

In addition to improving curb appeal, upgrading windows and doors typically makes homes more energy efficient, which you can finance with the help of provincial credits and grants if you live in Canada, and local, state or federal tax credit programs if you live in the United States.

5.Finish your basement

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to add extra living space to your home, a basement remodel can offer a 70% return on investment, in addition to being a flexible space as far as functionality. Whether you convert it into a rental unit, home gym, or multi-functional living space for the whole family, home improvement expert Alex Pascal says that you should factor soundproofing into your plans.

“You should soundproof your basement, not only because you’re going to turn it into a studio or an entertainment hub. But most of the house’s mechanical systems are underground and near your basement,” Pascal insists.

6 Renovations that can add value to your home

What home renovation projects are you taking on this summer?

IS IT WORTH BUYING A VACATION HOME?

Fri, 12 May by realtyexecutivesnw

Does owning a vacation home make sense in today’s market? Or is this a practice of a bygone era?

Vacation homes as investment properties

According to a consumer trend report, three out of every 20 vacation accommodations are now booked at private vacation homes. And vacation rental platform HomeAway found that 54 percent of their users were able to cover at least three quarters of their mortgage with profits from renting.

Many homeowners seem to have found a middle ground and are turning their vacation homes into investment properties. From Airbnb to VRBO, there are several different platforms where homeowners can make extra money by renting out first or second homes.

Using a vacation home as an investment opportunity also offers up several tax benefits, including writing off expenses in your home as business-related while still having a place to stay during your own vacationing every year.

“You can donate a weekend at your vacation home for a school fundraiser,” suggests property manager and real estate investor Sabrina Robinson. “Additionally if you rent it out to cover costs, you can write off all of the expenses of the home.”

It won’t be a walk in the park

Tim Touchette, owner and CEO of Attache Corporate Housing, says that making money off of a vacation property can be tricky. “It’s hard to use a vacation property and still make money on it, because it’s typically most desirable during the peak season, which eats away at your income if you use it during that time,” he explains.

Once you purchase a home in particular location, it can also feel like “you’re cheating on your vacation home” if you travel to a different location, according to Touchette.

Through his more than 15 years of rental experience, he’s also found that many times, visits to the vacation home can turn into fix-it expeditions rather than relaxing experiences, suggesting that a management company might be the best way to mitigate those experiences.

Robinson echoes this sentiment, adding that purchasing a condo is the best way to have someone taking care of the outdoor maintenance as well.

Finding a vacation home

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, financial market volatility and tightening inventory are making vacation homes harder to come by. “With fewer bargain-priced properties to choose from and a growing number of traditional buyers, finding a home for vacation purposes became more difficult and less affordable last year,” said economist Lawrence Yun. Finding an affordable home that meets your needs could be a lengthy process depending on the local housing market, but if you’re working with a real estate agent they’ll likely be doing all of the heavy lifting for you.

NAR also noted that 18 percent of vacation property buyers plan to use the home for future retirement. So, if you plan to incorporate this purchase into your retirement plan, your future needs should be considered while hunting for your second home.

Vacation homes have evolved from a more permanent home during a holiday season, to a profitable investment and future retirement housing. If you can leverage your finances to take advantage of the benefits of owning a vacation home, then yes, it does seem worth it.

IS BUYING A STARTER HOME A GOOD IDEA?

Fri, 05 May by realtyexecutivesnw

Is it worth buying a starter home? Or should you be prioritizing your long-term needs and searching for a “forever home” instead? Here are some things to consider before you take the homeownership leap:

What’s your budget?

Calculating how much home you can afford is the first step in deciding what type of home is best suited for you.

“Starter homes typically have a lower home price value, meaning your down payment will likely be less than that of a forever home,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank.

Can you afford the down payment on a forever home? If yes, proceed to the next question. If no and you do plan to buy a starter home, keep in mind that sticking to your budget when you’re shopping for a house will determine the difference between your home being an investment or a financial leak.

“Buying too much home can decrease your savings and deplete your investments. It can also cut into how much you have left to save, invest and use to enjoy other aspects of your life,” says financial planner Louis Scatigna.

However, keeping your starter home small and affordable, and limiting any improvements that you make to renovations that will increase your return on investment will tip the scale in your favor.

Buying an affordable home also gives you the ability to get a shorter-term mortgage, which means less money spent on interest in the long term.

What’s your long-term plan?

Do you plan to sell the home for a profit in a few years? Or keep it as an investment property to rent out when you’re ready to move onto something bigger?

If you plan to live in the home for less than five years, the closing costs may offset any profit that you make with the sale. And because you just pay off the interest on your mortgage for the first few years, you could end up building very little equity if you move too early in the lifespan of the loan.

“During the first half of a 30-year fixed-rate loan, most of the monthly payment goes to paying down interest, with very little principal actually paid off. Towards the last 15 years of the loan you will begin to pay off a greater amount of principal, until the monthly payment is largely principal, and very little interest,” says mortgage loan expert Colin Robertson.

Ultimately, your end-goal should be written into your master plan to reduce risk and minimize financial loss.

What are your homeownership goals?

Are you looking for a home or an investment? Do your short-term housing needs outweigh your long-term needs? Once you’ve fleshed out your home-buying goals, discuss your needs with your real estate agent to get a better idea of what your options are. Your agent may have information and insights on the local housing market that could affect your decision.

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.