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Boosting Your Curb Appeal

You’ve heard of the term “curb appeal”. It refers to the initial impression buyers get when they first see your property from the street. If the impression is a good one, it sets the right tone for the rest of the home viewing. How do you boost curb appeal? Here are some proven ideas that you can get done in a reasonable amount of time: • Wash both the inside and outside of the front windows. You’ll be amazed at the difference that can make. • Sweep the walkway leading up to the front entrance. Add a new welcome mat. Also, wash down the front door. • If possible, remove cars from the driveway. Let buyers imagine their own cars parked there! • Mow the lawn. Lightly trim the hedges. Weed flower beds. • Remove anything from inside window sills that may look unsightly from the outside. Try putting a couple of flowering plants there instead. • Place any trash bins out-of-sight. For example, put them neatly at the side of the house. • If the entrance door hardware is old and worn, change it. New hardware can make a bigger difference than you might think. • Make sure the outdoor lights are working, especially if you’re showing your home in the evening. • Add some flowering plants to flower beds, or buy a couple of portable potted plants and place them strategically. • Clean your mailbox. If it’s rusted, replace it. • If you have a power washer, give the walkway and driveway a quick blast. Just be sure it will be dry before the buyers arrive. These are some of the improvements that may seem minor, but anything that helps buyers form a more positive first impression of your home is worth the effort.

Thinking Of A Home Office?

When you decide it’s time to install or replace a deck surface, you may find there are more choices than you had expected.  There are many new materials and installation options that have come to the market over just the past few years.  For example, in addition to traditional wood decking, there are contemporary synthetic and composite materials that possess properties that are remarkably similar to natural wood species – in terms of texture, appearance, density and workability – but offer superior weather endurance and a wider range of colours than natural surfaces.  In addition, manufactured decking surfaces provide barefoot comfort without worry of splinters, as well as water-shedding properties that help improve traction after a rainstorm.  Synthetic materials are also very popular when it comes to railings and steps thanks to innovative installation systems that are easy enough for most industrious homeowners to tackle. Many offer pre-cut and/or interlocking pieces.   As well, certain aluminium installations are enjoying renewed popularity thanks to new options that are clad in vinyl for extended protection and reduced maintenance.  Who Needs a Home Office? With the availability of more and more powerful mobile technology, it’s reasonable to presume that there is less need to dedicate time and space to a permanent home office. However, we also know that, from time to time, we need the opportunity to isolate ourselves at home, in order to get certain tasks accomplished. Getting “down to business” is a part of life, whether it’s for a student cramming for exams or a homeowner budgeting for a new mortgage.  Getting these tasks done can require much less time if they’re easily accommodated. Fortunately, thanks to new modern furnishings that are flexible and adaptable, it’s no longer necessary to create a space that is uniquely dedicated to work.  Nowadays, a homeowner can create a convertible workspace that allows a room to serve a dual role. By installing shelving that can fold out to a desktop, a worktable with an adjustable height, or a bed that folds up into the wall, any room can have the flexibility to serve as a quiet place to read, study or pay monthly bills, and convert into a cozy,welcoming guest room.  So, the truth is, we all need a home office – but we don’t necessarily need it to be a dedicated single-use space.

Taking Precautions With Fire Safety

It’s incumbent upon homeowners to ensure that fire safety is top-of-mind at all times. An all-encompassing approach should include steps for preventing, detecting, extinguishing and escaping potential fires. Prevention entails careful monitoring of any ignition procedure, whether it’s in the kitchen, utility room, workshop or garage, and ensuring that any active flame (or burning cigarette) is never left unattended. As well, prevention should include making fire safe decisions when buying renovation materials, appliances, drapery, upholstery and mattresses.

As for detection, there are various types of alarms to consider. Be mindful that all battery-operated alarms should have their batteries replaced twice a year. Fire extinguishers, of course, can limit costly damage and prevent a small fire from getting out of control. Strategically place a fire extinguisher in key locations throughout your house. Be sure each extinguisher is designed for the type of fire it is designed to extinguish (i.e. A, B or C grade fires). As with all safety equipment, check that operational dates are not expired. If you’re ever unsure, invest in a new one.

Finally, every household member needs to know multiple exit paths in case of fire, especially from above or below the entrance level or ground floor. Be sure to designate a safe meeting area as part of your escape plan, and have a fire drill and/or conversation about it once a year.

Solar Energy Adds Powerful Options

As technology becomes more advanced, solar panels using
photovoltaic cells to absorb sunlight and create electricity
are becoming more affordable, portable and efficient. They
are readily available in various sizes to serve a range of
needs. Smaller self-powered units are now very common
– think of wireless patio lights with solar panels on their
tops. But other types are also gaining wider use.
For example, you can buy flexible solar panels small
enough to roll up and carry on a backpack, and then
roll out to capture sunlight for powering a computer or
smartphone while camping, hiking or boating.
On a larger scale, any rooftop, balcony or yard with
reasonably consistent exposure to direct sunlight, might
be a potential site for a solar panel that provides free
energy for home use. Such installations, of course, would
require further investigation, as the upfront costs can be
quite high. To begin, check your current electricity bill to
see how much you consume in order to determine the
size of panels you would need. Next, speak to an expert
to find out if your exposure gets enough sunlight to
generate sufficient electricity to be worthwhile. Finally,
find manufacturers and installers and look for government
agencies that may provide discounts, rebates or credits for
the electricity you generate.

Managing The Cost of Air Conditioning

As temperatures begin to rise in the Fraser Valley, you’ll want to be sure your air
conditioning is operating at maximum efficiency. Beyond maintaining the
basic operation of your A/C unit, there are several ways to reduce the
load on your system, and ensure your home air temperature is optimal.
For example, opening window awnings or closing heavy drapery can
help keep the heat out. This will make a significant difference in the
temperature inside your home and will reduce the burden on your A/C.
Also, a dehumidifier will lower moisture levels making the air inside your
home feel more comfortable, while a ceiling fan will increase circulation,
making rooms more bearable at higher temperatures.
To further reduce costs, consider localizing your central cooling so you
can isolate and close doors to rooms that are not in frequent use. Also,
reducing your use of heat generating major appliances such as your
oven, cook top, dishwasher, laundry machines and non-LED lighting will
cut down on the ambient heat in your home.

Canada’s Mortgage Stress Tests Just Got A Little Easier

The interest rate used in Canada’s mortgage stress tests has fallen for the first time since 2016, making it slightly easier to become a homeowner.

The mortgage qualifying rate dropped to 5.19 per cent from 5.34 per cent, where it had been locked since May of 2018, according to new figures from the Bank of Canada. The rate is derived from the most frequently occurring five-year, fixed posted rates at Canada’s Big Six banks. (Market rates are much lower, and some discount lenders offer five-year fixed rates as low as 2.47 per cent.)

The qualifying rate had increased several times during 2017 and 2018 as the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate, and as bond yields headed higher.

But there’s been a notable shift in lending conditions as many central banks across the globe look to ease policies. Moreover, Canada’s five-year bond yield, which influences the direction of five-year fixed-rate mortgages, has tumbled this year. As a result, those mortgage rates have plunged roughly 70 basis points, according to a recent research note from BMO Nesbitt Burns.

The stress tests are used to ensure homeowners and prospective buyers could continue to afford their mortgage payments at higher interest rates, and apply only to federally regulated lenders. The Department of Finance first imposed a stress test on insured buyers, or those who typically make a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the home’s purchase price, starting in the fall of 2016. Canada’s banking regulator followed suit with a similar test on uninsured buyers, which went into effect in 2018.

The second test is widely credited as one of the factors that has weighed on resale activity in Canada’s real estate market.

The new qualifying rate will have a tangible impact on a home buyer’s purchasing power. For someone making a 20-per-cent down payment, and who earns $50,000 a year, the lower rate will allow them to afford a home that is roughly $4,000 more expensive, according to calculations from RateSpy.com. For those earning $100,000 a year, with the same down payment, they can buy a home about $8,300 pricier. (RateSpy assumes no other debts and a 30-year amortization.) Matt Lundy-Globe and Mail

 

 

Should You Replace your Windows

Here’s a surprising statistic. Less than 30% of window replacements are the result of the old windows being worn, broken or otherwise in need of replacement.  Clearly, there are other good reasons to consider new windows!  One of the most popular motivations is cosmetic. Brand new windows have a huge impact on the overall look of a home, both on the inside and the outside. New windows can improve curb appeal — an important element when you sell a home. From the inside, new windows can dramatically improve the look of a room.

Another reason to replace windows is to address energy costs. Modern windows are packed with technologies that lower heating/cooling bills. From low-e/argon to special spacer bars to high-insulating construction, these technologies can provide savings you’ll notice, especially if you’re replacing very old windows.

A third reason is window style and characteristics. Simply put, you may not like your current windows!  You may want more glass and less frame to enhance your view.  Maybe your windows pull up (vertical sliders) when you’d rather have them open like a door (casements).
Perhaps you’d like fancy blinds in-between the panes of glass. Replacing windows lets you get exactly the look and features you want.  Will new windows boost the resale value of your home? They might, at least a little. But there’s one thing for certain: upgraded windows definitely make your home look more appealing to buyers

Secret Doors…Add Intrigue and Usable Space

For those of us who have enjoyed the intrigue of secret passages in mystery books and movies, it may be a pleasant surprise to discover that they needn’t be confined to our imaginations. Nowadays, homeowners can actually buy precut kits that allow them to disguise access to another part of their home without a typical visible door or archway. Often called “Murphy” doors, in reference to the hideaway beds of the same name, these doors use undetectable hinges and latches to completely hide passageways.

Some of these kits are designed to blend in with a continuous wall covering material, such as wood panels.  Others take the form of a bookshelf, thereby creating added functionality to a space that would be expected to simply provide access to another part of the home. They can hide a closet or even an entrance to a bathroom or private den, while creating usable wall space. In fact, these hidden door kits are given credit for changing the way designers approach the use of interior spaces