How to Pick Out Your Perfect Home

When you find your dream home, it’s only natural for your heart to beat a little faster. But you still need to get the best value for your dollar. Following are six ways to make you a happy and savvy homebuyer:

1. Find the Right Real Estate Agent:

An agent can be your most valuable asset. Word of mouth is good, but if you’re interested in a particular location take note of sold signs in the area to find a real estate agent who has special knowledge of the neighborhood.

2. Make a List of Needs and Wants:

Prioritize them because you likely won’t find a house with everything. Lenders, agents and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have online checklists that will help you focus on the important things.

3. Define What Value Means to You and Your Family and Follow Through:

If you believe you’ve found the right neighborhood, don’t just proceed with an offer. Make personal visits on different days and times. Talk to the neighbors and research the facilities and schools in the area.

4. Look Closely at the Boring Things:

Updated wiring in an older home is a great plus, and a basement that’s been flood-proofed is all-important in certain areas. However, that shiny, new siding you see could be hiding a not-so-new problem.

5. Energy Efficiency:

Power is only going to cost more in  the future, so look for an energy-efficient home. Some homes have an energy rating tag on the electrical panel. Look for a high rating. If there isn’t a rating tag, ask to see previous utility bills.

6. Don’t Overbuy for the Neighborhood:

Sellers may feel their $100,000 kitchen renovation should net them a 90% return, but if the neighborhood comprises modest 1970s bungalows with small kitchens, you may have trouble getting back the premium you paid when it comes time for you to sell.

Thinking of Buying a Rural Getaway? Three Vital Tips

For many, the dream of owning a rural “home away from home” is something that began in childhood.

Before you buy, however, you might want to answer the following questions:

How Far Away Is It? If you must travel two days by rail, then take a four-hour hike through the woods with a toddler strapped to your back, you may want to seriously reconsider the purchase. Ideally, you should be within a few hours of your home. If electricity is a serious consideration, you should make it clear to your real estate agent that you are not interested in properties off the grid.

How Close Are the Neighbors? Buyers typically want a private retreat as they’re trying to get away from the crowded urban sprawl. It’s okay to have neighbors as long as the surrounding trees give a reasonable illusion of privacy.

Is It Worth It? As a buyer, you must determine whether the value you’re paying is worth the return for your family. There are annual property taxes and insurance as well as the cost of upkeep to consider. Many buyers consider renting the property out for some additional income. However, there may be tax implications to renting your home, so seek professional advice from your tax advisor

By taking a good, hard look at the travel requirements, the modern luxuries and the financial aspects of rural home ownership, the dream of spending peaceful summers at the cabin can come true.

Seven Ways to Spend Your Renovation Buck

Renovating your home is all about adding value to the property. But it can be a jungle out there. Following are seven ways to maximize the return on your renovation investment so that you see a payback and not a loss when you sell:

1. Make Your Kitchen or Bathroom Sing: A sparkling up-to-date kitchen or bathroom with high-end materials, lots of moving-around room and a neutral color scheme will net you a return of between 75% and 100%.

2. Change Up Your Surfaces: Painting the inside or outside or both is an inexpensive fix with a big payback of 50% to 100%. Even better, replace the siding. It’s an excellent way to add value to your home.

3. Install Hardwood Floors: Some experts say you’ll get a return of  only between 50% and 75% for taking up the old carpeting and laying down hardwood or high-end laminate, but anecdotally real estate agents say clients are looking for hardwood and  that old, stained carpets may be a deal breaker.

4. Renovating the Unglamorous: Replacing a furnace or roof actually pays off big-time, with a return of 50% to 80% of your investment.

5. Add-ons: Make the attic into a bedroom to die for, or add a family room. You could get back 50% to 75% when you sell. Turning an unused room into a home office can also raise the value of your home in the eyes of potential buyers.

6. Outdoor Living: Buyers are looking for beautiful outdoor spaces. The addition of a deck alone can net you a 50% to 75% return. A sunroom can also add square feet to your living space, but don’t forget to make the transition between indoors and outdoors positively seamless.

7. Pay Attention to the Don’ts: Don’t follow the latest trend when planning your renovation. Go for timelessness in paint, fixtures and countertops. But don’t add a $100,000 kitchen to a $250,000 house and expect to recoup your investment. A renovation that suits your house and is done well with quality materials will make your family happy while adding value for future buyers.

Buying a Home? Find Out What an Agent Can Do For You

Thanks to the Internet, virtual tours and Google Maps, it’s easier than ever to locate prospective properties when searching for real estate. But before you try to go it alone, it’s essential to understand the other advantages real estate agents bring to the table.

Experience: One of the biggest benefits of working with a local real estate agent is the level of experience brought to the table. Agents make it their business to know upcoming changes, the latest listings and even important trends that can influence your purchase.

Excellent Service: From skilled negotiations to compiling a list of prospective properties, real estate agents save time and money throughout the entire transaction. The average real estate agent is often able to negotiate substantial savings from the price of a home while increasing the ability of both parties to obtain the most meaningful milestones.

Education: The real estate market has undergone dramatic changes in recent years, with many more on the horizon. Real estate agents must take a specified number of continuing education credits every year to remain up-to-date on legislative changes and other procedures.

Expert Advice: Real estate agents do more than just list homes on the Multiple Listing Service. They also act as experts within the local market. In fact, the more specialized the type of property, the more important an agent tends to become. From condominium to commercial building, farm or single-family home, it’s essential to obtain advice provided by a reputable agent.