Category: maintenance (4)

Home Appraisal

Home Appraisal

Selling your home is only half of the process – after the sale is conditional your home needs to pass the appraisal test. Given the importance of this step many clients ask ” How can I improve my Home Appraisal”?
It’s a common myth that “bank appraisals” are always conservatively low, but is that really true? Understanding the appraisal process can shed some light on home values and show you how you can enable your appraiser to substantiate the highest value possible.
First it’s important to understand the rules of engagement. Appraisals are based on recent sales usually limited to the past 6 months sales of comparable properties. In a rapidly rising market this explains why it is often difficult for appraisers to find evidence that proves the current values. Of course the opposite is also true and in a declining market often appraised values can tend to be overstated.

Here are a few ways ways you can help to improve your home appraisal:

  • Ensure the Appraiser is knowledgeable about your area. Especially in inner city communities where there are a myriad of factors that affect value and where values are extremely diverse.
  • Do your own homework. Appraisers rely on MLS data so if you are aware of private sales or the unique circumstances behind any MLS sales be sure to provide this information to the appraiser. You’ll be doing some of the appraisers work, but the payback could be well worth it.
  • Boast about the Calgary Neighborhood Information  If there are unique amenities or attractions that locals covet, now is not the time to keep them a secret. Be sure to inform your appraiser.
  • Document your improvements. If you’ve spent money on improvements be sure to document and show these to the appraiser. Especially important to point out are those improvements that are not readily apparent such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, insulation and other improvements hidden behind the walls. Don’t be hesitant to show receipts to prove the work you’ve done.
  • Understand which improvements add the most value. Kitchens and bathrooms provide the greatest return on your investment. Paint and flooring are next in providing the best bang for your buck, followed by curb appeal and landscaping.
  • Clean up. Ensure that the home is meticulously clean and the entryway shows well. Removing excessive furniture can make a home feel larger. Manicure the walkway to the home. Remove clutter and excess of photos and nik-naks. Remove all the magnets off your fridge and pack loose items in boxes that can be stored in the garage.
  • Understand your home size. MLS and Appraisal rules state that measured size must be area that is above grade. If adding size to your home understand how this will be measured and accounted for in the future. If you add space below grade, it will not count as added living area.
  • Give the Appraiser some space. As in showing any home to a potential client, don’t follow them around breathing over their shoulder. Provide the appraiser some space to let them make their own assessment and take their time to absorb and appreciate the beauty and value of your home.

Remember that appraisers prove value based on sales values in the past, but may not be attuned to market trends going forward. Understanding the current market and trends could enable you to extract many thousands of dollars of value from your home. This is where an expert real estate agent can help a tremendous amount. To ensure that you receive the highest value for your real estate investment before you sell contact Sano Stante Real Estate.

 

 

Fall Home Maintenance

Fall Home Maintenance

Each season home maintenance should be performed to prevent structural damage, save energy and keep your home’s systems running properly. To protect your home investment, try to follow an annual routine and you will discover that the work is easy and not very time consuming. By following a healthy maintenance schedule you will receive years of trouble free service from your home and avoid costly and unnecessary repairs.  To winterize your home, these are the most important items to attend to in the Fall.

Outdoors:

  • Deadhead plants, weed and rake leaves
  • Mulch over perennials and protect young or sensitive trees
  • Prune overgrown shrubs and trees
  • Store outdoor furniture
  • Shut off outdoor hose connections; Drain and store hoses
  • Clean eavestroughs, downspouts and clear leaves from all vents
  • Check chimneys for any obstructions such as nests
  • Ensure that all ground slopes away from the home – check settling
  • Cover outside air-conditioner units and shut off power
  • Check all doors and windows and repair any weatherstripping
  • Visually inspect all exterior flashing’s and caulked joints for any openings and re-caulk as necessary

Indoors:

  • Consider removing interior screens from windows to provide frost free air flow around windows
  • Check that all bath fans operate properly and to clean any hood fan filters
  • Check and test your sump pump and ensure discharge lines are clear
  • Check all fire and CO2 alarms and replace batteries
  • Test all ground-fault breakers
  • Clean furnace, heat recovery unit filters and replace if required
  • Check all pilot lights for furnaces and fireplaces and check operation
  • Bleed air from radiators (hot water heating systems)
  • Have your furnace or heating system serviced by a qualified service company every two years and clean ducts as required

Following a regular schedule of maintenance will save you energy, avoid costly repairs and provide you peace of mind over the winter months. If you have any questions about maintenance and ways to protect your home investment, don’t hesitate to contact us. At Sano Stante Real Estate we have a team of real estate experts that can help you get the most from your real estate investment.

 

 

Condo fees

Condo fees

Buyers often ask “what are condo fees” and have a tendency to shy away from condominiums because they question the value of paying condo fees.

We hear the concern that Buyers don’t want to pay condo fees and yet the fear is often based on misinformation, so let’s try to separate the myths from the facts.

First, understand that in condo ownership you typically own the space inside the drywall of your private living unit and perhaps your parking unit as well, plus a common share of ownership in the shared spaces such as hallways, lobby, amenities (gym, party room) and the exterior grounds of the building. To sort all of this out you need a mechanism to share the cost of the common area, so when the property was built the developer surveyed all the components of the building with a goal to divide the private living areas and apportion the cost of maintaining the common areas. This is your “registered size” and it determines your proportionate share in the cost of maintaining the total property.

These costs are not much different than when owning a home with the addition of some items such as management, security and a few items often found in larger buildings like elevators and pools. Otherwise they are similar items of maintenance that would normally would occur in a home. In fact one could argue that the cost of maintaining a larger property provides some efficiency of scale and saves money over owning a similar sized home aside from the often lower maintenance construction features.

Where the issues arise are typically in the deferred maintenance and replacement of items which are legislated to be spelled out in a reserve fund study. Every condo must have a reserve study completed which reviews the construction of the property and recommends a timeline and budgets for the repair and replacement of building components such as roofs, siding, and structural components. Because these are costly items to replace, this is an important document to study when purchasing a condo and determine what items are due for replacement and how much money is allocated in the reserve fund to pay for these items. Recall that a portion of the condo fee goes towards the reserve fund. If the study does not accurately predict the upcoming replacement reserves or the condo has not allocated a sufficient amount for these reserves then a shortfall occurs and the present condo owners could be required to top up the fund. This can have disastrous results when taken to the extreme and has occurred in buildings which were poorly constructed initially or had major failures of building components and owners were required to pay tens of thousands of dollars to repair them – often more than the equity they had in their home.

So we can see that analyzing the reserve fund study is a crucial aspect of purchasing a condo. Your real estate agent can be a tremendous ally in helping you to steer clear of projects that have the potential for this calamity.

For the positive side of condo ownership take a look at the following example: Take only two or three building components that you would replace in your home every 15 to 20 years.

Say, a roof has an expected life of 15 years at a cost of $8,000. Amortized over 15 years that equals a monthly cost of $44.00

You would paint and repair the exterior siding or other components (windows, doors) every 5 years at an average cost of $2,000. Amortize this over 5 years and it  runs $33 per month.

Add in grounds maintenance (lawn care and snow removal) at a typical cost of $200 per month for a modest home plus water and sewer utility costs at $120 per month.

This example illustrates that a homeowner is actually spending $397 per month compared to an equivalent condo – the homeowner often doesn’t  realize that they are spending it because his expenditures are sporadic rather than regular monthly condo payments.

The important point is when the condo board has been operating responsibly and abiding by the recommendations in the reserve study, they would have set the amount of their condo fees to cover building their reserve fund so there are no surprises to future owners. Where a condo board has set low fees then this act may prove harmful to future owners that may be responsible for “topping up” the reserve to pay for future repairs.

The lesson here is  to discount a condo due to higher apparent fees – these condos may simply be the properties that are the healthiest financially and well managed. When reviewing condo fees, dissect them to determine what is included and how much is allocated to the reserve fund. You may discover that you are quite happy to pay condo fees in order to have someone look after all these maintenance items for you. In the end, choosing a condo is more a lifestyle choice than a matter of cost and may be the best choice for you.

Sano Stante Real Estate has a wealth of experience marketing Calgary Condominium property. Call us to help you make the best real estate decision for your future.


Defects-in-homeYou’ve found your new home, negotiated a contract to purchase, completed your due diligence and finally moved in. Once you’ve settled in, you discover a defect. What should you do? Do you have any recourse?

Your first best course of action is to do everything possible to ensure that you uncover any possible defects at the earliest stage in the purchase process, so when engaging a real estate agent, ask about entering a Buyer Brokerage agreement to ensure that the real estate agent represents your interests as a client (and not a just customer). The difference here is that the real estate agent now has a higher duty to you and an obligation to not only disclose obvious defects but to seek all information that could uncover and warning signs. Also, the real estate agent under a Buyer Brokerage Agreement acts more as a consultant than a salesman and is ensured that when you locate the right home he will be compensated, so is naturally less anxious to sell you a home that is not ideal. This motivates the real estate agent to seek out defects to ensure his clients satisfaction rather than simply observe and point out the obvious. During the negotiation the Seller has an obligation to disclose any latent defects and it is often helpful to ensure that you ask the right questions to uncover and historical defects that were repaired (and could reoccur).

Second, when negotiating always ensure that you make any offer contingent on a home inspection. Obtain the services of a qualified home inspector by seeking recommendations from other satisfied buyers or your real estate agent. A proper home inspection can uncover most issues and also acts as a operating guide to your new home. To this point it is often helpful to attend the inspection so you can receive more valuable insight and instructions on how to operate and maintain your new home.

Now that you’ve done everything possible to  ensure an absence of defects ensure that the home is as viewed when you negotiated and that all appliances are operating properly at closing. Common terms require the home to be in the same state of repair as when you viewed the home so to best ensure this it can be helpful to take photos of the condition of the property when viewing or refer to the listing agents promotional material. Also ask to perform a walk-through inspection of the property just prior to closing (it should be written and included as a term of your contract). This often precludes issues by allowing the lawyers to negotiate a settlement if any issues occur but their is no expressed allowance in the contract to withhold monies so if the buyer will not rectify an issue the buyer still must perform their obligation to close and rely on civil action to find their remedy.

And  if all else fails legal action through the courts are your last recourse. The Seller is required to disclose any latent material defects that they are aware of and that may not be visible to a Buyer at the time of sale. Proving this can sometimes be a challenge so ensure that you are armed with well documented evidence to build your case and plenty of time (and money for legal fees) to wade through the courts.

Clearly the best prescription for defects is avoidance by ensuring you take the proper steps before your purchase your next home.