Category Archives: Real Estate

Five Real Estate by Agent Gimmicks and How to Avoid Them

1. “I have a buyer for your home.”

Whether it’s delivered in a letter or by phone, this a common trick some real estate agents use to get their foot in the door with a potential home seller.

“When I first started in real estate, that was one of the first things we were taught,” says Carl Seier, a real estate agent with Sigmar MacKenzie Real Estate in Winnipeg. “They told us that there’s an agent out there who will have a buyer for that area, so technically you’re not lying. But that’s not the reason to hire a real estate agent. You want one with the best marketing plan.”

If a real estate agent really has a buyer for your home, he or she should arrive with an offer. Otherwise, that agent is probably just trying to get your attention – and your business. What you really want is an agent who’s willing to price your home competitively and market it to sell.

2. “This is definitely the property for you – but it probably won’t last.”

Good real estate agents don’t sell houses; they help buyers through the process of finding the best home they can afford. So, if you feel serious pressure from your agent to buy a particular house, something’s up.

“Agents want to make a sale. A lot of agents are living paycheck to paycheck, so the quicker they can close a buyer, the quicker they get paid,” Seier said.

Plus, in some provinces, agents may be looking to “double-end” a real estate deal. This happens when they represent both the seller and the buyer, and therefore cash in on both commissions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if an agent pressures you to buy one house over another, you should be wary.

3. “If your house doesn’t sell, I’ll buy it.”

Offering to buy an unsold house is another common tactic some real estate agents use. It isn’t dishonest (sellers will have to sign a contract with all the details), but while it may help agents attract more clients, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The problem? The price you’ll get for the home in this case is much lower than list price – often as little as 85 percent of the home’s appraised value, Seier says.

“It’s not a reason to list your home. List your home because your agent has devised a thorough marketing plan,” Seier said.

4. “This price will get you a bidding war.”

A bidding war happens when buyers get competitive with each other while making offers on a property. This often drives the home’s price up well beyond list price. This is an outcome many sellers (and, let’s face it, agents) fantasize about, but Seier cautions that it’s exceedingly rare. Plus, the strategy often involves listing the home for less than it’s worth, and that, says Seier, is a big risk to take.

“Agents are promising bidding wars, but when they don’t happen, the agent increases the home’s price. That’s the kiss of death,” Seier said. “Choose a list price you can actually live with, not one that might get bid up.”

5. “I’m the biggest, I’m the best.”

Every city has at least one big-shot real estate agent. Maybe it’s someone who’s been working in the business for decades. Maybe he or she has invested a lot of time and money into high-quality advertising. Or maybe that individual is just a great agent who gets a lot of referrals. Or…maybe not. While a lot of clients can be a sign of an agent with a track record for getting the job done, it might also be a sign of what you might call “incumbent advantage”.  Everyone likes a winner, so they pick the biggest agent, the one everyone else is hiring.

The problem is that this can often mean poorer service. If an agent is listing 40 to 50 houses at one time, chances are he or she isn’t going to have much time for you. Plus, many of the biggest agents use a team approach. So, while you might think you’re hiring the guy whose face you see on bus benches, what you really get is one of his assistants.

Forget the Gimmicks

So, with all these sales gimmicks, how can you find a real estate agent you can trust? You probably didn’t (or shouldn’t) hire your accountant or financial advisor (even your hairdresser) on a whim. Your real estate agent’s no different. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’re dealing with big money. A good agent can make a big difference; a bad one can make for a very bad experience. So shop around. Ask your friends for referrals. Look for reviews online. Then sit down with your top prospects and ask them what they’ll do to make sure you’re informed, you’re advised and that you get the most for your money – or the most money for your house. Accomplishing that isn’t a gimmick; it’s hard work. And that’s something worth paying for.

What Which Season is the Best Time To Sell A Home

Talk to any real estate agent, and they will tell you that there are certain seasons that are more favorable to sell your home than others. Often, the best time to list and sell a single family detached home is in the spring, followed by early to mid fall.

Most families want to make the purchase of their home and complete the transaction before the summer months, when the kids and family are on summer vacation. Parents are keenly aware that school registrations need to be dealt with — and who wants to be loading a moving truck in the middle of August?

Sensibly, spring also offers the best time of year to showcase your home. After a long winter, the first hints of cherry blossoms and crocuses seem to trigger the “moving bug” in many people. Gardens tend to look their best in fresh bloom, when the leaves are on the trees. Homes appear more appealing when the weather is warming up and buyers tend to be in high spirits.

It’s also usually easier to get your home ready for sale at this time of year — from painting inside or out, to the simple ability to keep the house cleaner without the winter muck being traipsed throughout every time someone walks through the front door. Just remember, when you sell at the busiest time of the year you will face more competition, so make sure your home shows at its best!

If you’re selling anything over a certain price (and that depends on where you live — but we’ll say anything in the top 20% price range of your community), expect the summer months to be particularly slow. Expensive homes require buyers with big pockets — and where are they in the summer? Most likely away on vacation, not looking for a home….so that’s where the early to mid fall selling season comes in.

Fall is considered the next best time to list your home on the market– especially if it’s a nice long Indian summer. Linked to the “back to school” mentality, with the leaves turning fabulous colors and nice cool crisp temperatures, you’ll have another good shot at selling a family home — often to someone who’s already in your neighbourhood. That being said, be prepared to keep up thatcurbside appeal as the weather changes.

Some properties will sell at any time of year — such as those aimed at first time home owners, especially condominiums and town homes. Often these buyers are not faced with the constraints of school catchments, and are much more interested in amenities like underground parking, recreation facilities and the nearest coffee shop. These buyers are happy to shop at any time of year, so sales will often be a bit steadier throughout.

Vacation properties always do their best in the spring and summer months, because that is when buyers visit these destinations. They benefit from the fact that vacationers will actually be where these listings are, and not just looking at pictures online or in a brochure. It’s also hard to imagine water skiing when the temperature is hovering at zero and the cottage for sale has had the water and power shut off for the season.

Having said this, there really is no wrong time to list your home, because if you price your home right, and make every effort to present it in a superior way, chances are you will sell your property in a timely manner. However, if you find that you have to list in December because of a change in career or what have you, remember to be realistic. The holidays in particular can be the hardest time to sell, when everyone’s minds are on other things. Don’t be frustrated though — you never know. After all, one of my listings sold last year on Christmas Eve.

The Inside of Scoop on the Best Season to Sell Your Home

1. The Best Time to Sell

Spring is most commonly believed to be the best time to sell. It’s the most agreeable weather for showings, most people want to get settled before summer, it’s easiest logistically for moving (who wants to move boxes and furniture through snow?), provides longer days and daylight, avoids the school season and shifting schools mid year for kids, and shows off the landscaping and gardens. However, this is also statistically the time with the most competing sellers on the market. This will affect you most if your home is one of many identical houses in a subdivision. Consider professional staging as a way to make your home stand out if forced to sell in this high-competition season.

2. The Worst Time to Sell

Yes, the holiday season is not the ideal time to sell. People are busy or stressed out and are prioritizing family and holidays rather than home buying or selling. Mid December to mid January is the highest travel season, and thus there are fewer buyers around to view homes. There’s also the perception that you are desperate or need to sell if you are listing your home during this time. Buyers will try to be more aggressive with you as a result.

However, it is a misconception to say that January and February are not ideal months to sell. The Toronto market has shown great sales in these months and these tend to be high transaction periods for my team.  There are tons of buyers and activity on the market, and especially if the weather is moderate.

3. Show Off Your Home’s Best Assets

Sell when the features of your home have the most impact. If you have a pool with beautiful stone work or tiling, be sure to sell your home in appropriate weather. Buyers will love your pool when they are viewing on a hot day or be dazzled by pool lights at night versus a pool cover with piles of leaves or melted snow in the winter.

If you have tons of windows and skylights, show your home when the sun is shining and you can have the longest showing days (spring and summer).

If you have a small bungalow, but an amazing landscaped garden, show when your garden is in full bloom. Buyers may be swayed by the sight of your garden and overlook other shortcomings.

If you don’t have central air, and you like your house hot and use lots of standing fans, sell your home in the fall or early spring when the weather is more moderate and appealing to the general masses. You can have the windows open for fresh air and avoid the clutter and noise of fans.

If you have a showpiece fireplace, have it burning for late fall and winter viewings. Buyers will want to make some cocoa and curl up in your living room.

4. The First Weeks of Summer—Take Caution

Cocktails, patios, and cottages, in no particular order or combination, are the holy trinity for Torontonians once the weather shifts into summer. After being cooped up all winter and during the wet spring, Toronto becomes obsessed with the outdoors and socializing. Good luck tearing potential buyers away from their summer holidays to come view your home during early summer. You will have a lot less action on your listing during this time.

5. Condos and Lofts

Typically, condos and lofts have a longer sales period as freehold homes, given that the buyers are typically first-time home buyers, or do not have kids. The buyers are not restricted by school seasons and landscaping issues, and moving is less impeded by weather, as they have loading bays and elevators.

You can always sell you home, regardless of the season, but you need to be realistic about the circumstances of your sale. Sometimes life forces your hand, but as long as you are realistic with your expectations and smart about your strategy, you should be able to maximize your value.
Speak to your realtor to advise you about the sellable features of your home, what is sought after in your neighbourhood, and what season will best showcase your home!

Big Design Trends For Your House to Try Right Now

Every year home design trends come and go but it’s never too late to try something new. Update your décor and impress your friends (and yourself) at the same time, by including some of this year’s hottest design trends.

Pantone Colour of the Year

Year after year the iconic people at Pantone come up with their colour of the year, inspiring not only home décor trends but fashion and other design areas across the board as well. For 2014, the colour du jour is: Radiant Orchid, a gorgeous pinky purple-hue. An infusion of this beauty would be a welcome breath of colour anywhere—from kitchen to bedroom and every room in between.

Florals

Florals are holding strong and continuing to be on-trend this year, but they’re definitely growing in size. Now, pretty blooms, the bigger the better are a force to be reckoned with. What lovelier way to add some vibrant colour and bold patterns to your home than throw pillows, sheets or duvet covers with big bright florals. (Try to find some with radiant orchid for a double-dose of style.)

Blue & Blue

Black’s younger, lighter cousin grey has certainly had its heyday, but this is the year for something far more dramatic. Black walls are en vogue—think entire living and dining rooms–but if you’re not ready to go all in, try one accent wall or the always-in-style coupling with white. And when it comes to blue, think every shade–from lovely sky blue dishes displayed in your kitchen, to darker navy and white striped towels in your bathroom.

Vintage

Everything old is new again but the good news is mixing and matching is totally ok. A distressed old-trunk serving as a coffee table or impressive antique maps framed and hung on the walls, not only serve as beautiful, on-trend décor pieces, but add a lot of intrigue (and conversation starters) to the room.

Warm Metals

Especially in the kitchen. Seems grey isn’t only taking a backseat in the living room, but in the kitchen this year as well. Warmer bronzes, golds and black are replacing sleek chrome and stainless steel when it comes to lighting and cabinetry accents. And if you’re really looking to make a big splash, try some bronze sconces in the kitchen.

This Easy Ways to Update a Room

You don’t have to hire a decorator (or break the bank) to give a room a quick update with lots of impact. So whether you’re getting ready to sell, have just moved in or feel like a mini overhaul, these five tips will have you enjoying the room of your dreams in no time.

Change Your Fabrics

Replace your curtains, re-cover your throw pillows, buy a new rug, Any one of these easy fixes can make a big impact; but all three will completely change the entire room! And if it’s a bedroom you’re tired of, same rules apply: Replace the duvet cover, re-cover the headboard, and toss a few new pillows on the bed.

Freshen Up With Paint

Whether you tackle an entire room, or maybe an accent wall or two, a new coat of paint is probably the easiest way to change a room. From light and bright to dark and dramatic, paint can completely alter the mood.

Re-Organize A Bookshelf

Bookshelves are amazing; not only do they keep your books organized, but they can also serve as great focal pieces. Try colour-coding your books or arranging them in stacks instead of side-by-side. Remove an entire row of books and replace them with framed family photos or bright accent pieces. Sometimes all a room needs is a shift in thinking about it.

Update Your Art

Updating the art on your walls is a great way to showcase the family talent. Frame your daughter’s sketches from high school (no one will know it’s not a real Picasso) or your son’s first finger painting. Or grab a blank canvas and paint it a bright colour to hang in the kitchen (you don’t have to be a Fine Art grad to add some basic pops of colour!). And the best part of this approach is once you’ve bought the frames, the art can be rotated throughout the year at no extra cost.

Add An Accent

Is your bathroom feeling boring or your living room giving you the yawns? Pick bright, colourful wallpaper and add an accent wall! Paint stripes in your dining room, or buy a chandelier for your front hallway. Adding an impressive accent is a fun way to give the room some personality without a complete overhaul (of the room OR your bank account).

Here What To Fix and What to Forget When Downsizing

Figuring out how much work needs to be done to your home before selling it and downsizing is stressful stuff. Add in the costs of relocating, the hassle of culling your possessions and the emotional hardship of saying goodbye to a beloved home, and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. So, let’s take some of the panic out of moving by outlining what should be done before packing up.

Think the buyers of your home will love the new carpeting as much as you did? Think again. Sellers are often shocked to learn new carpeting was ripped out shortly after selling, in favour of hardwood or laminate.

Sellers need to ask themselves, “Is this to the buyer’s taste? Will I recover the funds spent?” A lot of the time, the decision to do pre-sale renovations is up to how much time, money and disruptions the seller is willing to put up with.

There are certain must-fixes, such as a leaky roof, broken windows or an ineffective septic system. Anything that would cause buyer concern, or be seen as a liability, should be fixed.

For cosmetic fixes, buyers will value different things about the house, and it’s important for the seller to be open to this and not let their own feelings guide decisions too strongly.

Downsizers will typically sell their large home to “upsizers,” who are in the tightest budgetary times of their lives. A home that has the big-ticket items completed in the past five years: Roof, furnace, air conditioning and windows, is most attractive.

If you still feel like an update is needed to catch the eye of a prospective buyer, focus on the bathroom and kitchen. White is a huge kitchen trend right now, so consider a coat or two of paint, and definitely replace any broken appliances or fixtures.

A ton of money doesn’t need to be spent. There are many inexpensive finds on Kijiji or local community buy and sell pages. You can also update accessories, like towel racks or changing light fixtures or faucets, to give your home a fresh appearance without spending a fortune.

Heritage designation may play a role in what you can and can’t do to a home. With lead pipes, asbestos abatement, insulation issues and roofing profiles having significant legal impediments and oversight by governments, renovations may be legally necessary.

In areas of Canada, such as Vancouver, where property prices outweigh the value of the house sitting on the land, improvements may be a waste, so make sure you research the market trends in your area before replacing or gutting anything. Why put money into a renovation when all a buyer sees is the land it’s sitting on?

Keep in mind the cardinal rule of selling: De-clutter and depersonalize. Buyers open cupboards and drawers all the time. Go through your cupboards, organize things and pack up stuff to show there is plenty of storage.

Moving is a lot a work no matter how you look at it, but it doesn’t have to include a disruptive renovation on top of it. Spend smartly and you’ll be settled in your new downsized home in no time.

There is Five Things to Consider Before Tackling a Home Renovation

Renovating your home can be thrilling and when the results are exactly what you wanted, there’s nothing more satisfying. But they can also be stressful and costly, in both time and money. Here are five things to consider before undergoing a renovation, whether the job is big, or small.

Does The Renovation Require Permits?

Generally, small changes can be done on your own, but larger projects involving additions or altering the existing structure, electrical or plumbing may require permits. It’s important to be aware of the rules of your city, as undergoing renos without the required permits can mean timely delays, fines and ultimately stretching your budget. Sites like the Ontario Ministry of Housing and Affairsare a great resource and a good idea to bookmark.

Has Your Contractor Been Vetted?

It’s always smart to get a few quotes for every job, and references are essential. There are too many horror stories out there to make absolute sure that anyone who’s working on your home has been thoroughly vetted. Ask to see a portfolio of their work, or call a referral or two, this could save you a lot of heartache down the road.

Should You Relocate During the Job?

Packing up (especially if you have kids) might seem like a complete pain, but trying to live through a renovation might be an even bigger one. Add to that the dust and dirt that’s loosened (which can be a lot more than you’d expect), and you may be breathing easier if you choose to stay with family or at a hotel.

Do You Have a Buffer?

Often, the reality of renovating seems to be it costs more money, and takes longer (sometimes a lot longer) than expected. Building in a buffer of both time, and money is a great idea and a good way to set proper expectations. (And hey, sometimes they do finish on time, for the actual quote!)

So Do You REALLY Want This?

After weeks of researching design ideas, vetting contractors and saving the money you’ll need (plus a little buffer), now’s the time to really weigh the pros and cons. Do you really want to do this? And if the answer is yes, good luck! Renovating, whether it’s something small, or a big, can mean one step closer to living in the home of your dreams (once the nightmare of the renovation ends of course).

Nine Steps to Staging Your Home

You don’t have to break the bank to have your house looking as though it was professionally staged. These tips and tricks will have your house sell-ready and gorgeous before you can say “why hasn’t it always looked this way?!”

1) De-Clutter

The first step in getting ready to sell is de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter so potential buyers aren’t overwhelmed by your stuff, but rather impressed by your home. Counters and other surfaces should be kept clear and any furniture that isn’t needed stored away. The good news about this tedious task is packing and purging will make moving day that much easier.

2) Lights and Mirrors

Warm lighting and well-placed mirrors can make your home feel bright, inviting and even bigger. Mirrors placed over fireplaces, and along hallway walls will make rooms appear larger than they are. Table lamps, and overhead lighting like chandeliers and sconces will brighten rooms and add some flair to your decor.

3) It’s Nothing Personal

Any personal effects should be packed away; family photos and mementoes, framed degrees, anything that’s a link to the current owner. Buyers want to imagine themselves in the house, so the more the house is a blank slate, the easier that is.

4) But Don’t Touch the Nursery!

Although the nursery and childrens’ rooms should be de-cluttered and tidied as well, personal effects can remain as they are. There’s something reassuring and touching about seeing a baby’s room that can mean all the difference to a potential buyer (especially ones that are starting a family).

5) Neutrals

Although you love that fuchsia accent wall, some buyers may not. A fresh coat of bright, neutral paint will not only enlarge the house and make it feel airy and more spacious, but it will also help buyers with their vision (there’s that blank slate again).

6) Accents and Colour

To complement the neutral house, a few well-placed bright pops of colour will bring the decor together. Bright throw pillows, or a canary yellow kettle on the stove will be noticed as soon as you enter the room and will stick in buyers minds once they leave. Fresh flowers are another great idea, and single flower arrangements are most effective.

7) Inviting Scents

Warm inviting scents will help your house be remembered. Taking the time to bake cookies or mull cider on the stove may not be in the cards (and the stove and elements should be off for open houses) but a safely placed candle or air freshener will do the trick.

8) Draw Attention to Selling Features

As a general rule closet doors should be kept closed, but if there’s a walk-in that should be noticed, a small note to alert potential buyers is ok.

9) Freshen Your Linens

Now’s the time to use your spare “good” set on beds, and ensure your towels and hand-towels are in tip top shape. And if it’s perhaps time to replace them, think neutral again.

Following these tips will have your house in tip top selling shape and make it the most appealing to the most potential buyers faster than you can say “SOLD!”

The Ways Maximize Your Selling Potential During Winter

Some say winter is the worst time to sell a home. Given the cold and stormy weather we have been experiencing, there are definitely challenges, but don’t be discouraged. First impressions and lasting impressions are key to progress potential buyers into active buyers. Be very wary as the slightest discomfort or issue can sour this experience and turn a buyer away from your home, but by addressing a few key areas, any winter woes can be easily avoided.

Here are five simple tips to maximize the showing potential of your home during the winter months.

1. Don’t Let Winter be an Obstacle

It’s storming or just post-storm, but you have showings booked for your home. (You must have motivated buyers to go out in that weather!) Don’t make it even more of a chore for them, be sure to shovel your drive or walkway so that the first impression is a clean and accessible entry. Buyers have been known to turn away, rather than hike to the doorway in knee deep snow and risk snow in their shoes, wet pants, and wet socks.

2. Consider Your Home’s Temperature

Remember, buyers are usually viewing more than one home at a time, and thus traveling around and running in and out of cars or up and down elevators in condos. Typically they will be dressed for the great outdoors, so although having the heat way up is great for lounging on the couch, it can be oppressive for visiting buyers. Be sure to monitor the temperature of the entire house and set it appropriately.

3. Get Buyers Out of the Dark and Into the Light

The winter months also mean shorter days and less natural light. Be sure to have adequate lighting in every room. Dark rooms are depressing when coming in from the cold. Keep it bright in the winter. Some may object for energy saving reasons, but it is best to leave all the lights on before showings or use timers. This allows you to set the mood lighting, and saves the buyers fumbling for light switches.  Remember first impressions.  Is your home a sanctuary or an oasis from the cold?

4. Preparation is Key

Be sure to prepare for those wet and snowy shoes and boots. No one likes having snow and dirt tracked around there home by shoes or wet socks, just as no one enjoys having wet socks and dodging puddles in the doorway.  Be sure to have a “Shoes Off” sign. Place an absorbent mat protecting your stone or wood flooring. Be sure to have a shoe tray or appropriate storage area for shoes, not only to avoid the puddles but to show off the organization of your home.  Apply this also to winter jackets, hats and scarves. Show functioning and organization by thoughtfully arranged set ups, don’t just have outerwear exploding out of closets or haphazardly hanging on hooks or coat racks.

5. Pet-Friendly—and Groomed!

If you do own pets, be sure to have the appearance of clean pets…especially dogs. We love our furry friends, but it’s best not to leave those dirty slush-soaked towels and doggy outfits laying around. The last thing you want is the smell of wet dog greeting your buyers at the front door.

The Gavin Chen Team offers FREE pre-listing consultations for all Sellers. Contact them to learn more about this offer and other Services for sellers.

This Mistakes of First Time Buyers (And How to Avoid Them)

Buying your first home can be exciting and amazing, and scary. But knowing the common mistakes of first-time buyers will ensure you don’t make the same ones, and can help make the transition to “New Home Owner!” that much smoother.

1) Spending Too Much

It’s important to be realistic about what you can afford. The final sale price isn’t the only cost to take into account when owning a home. Houses come with plenty of bills like heating and property taxes, future renovations and occasional unforeseen costs like burst pipes or city trees needing to be trimmed.

What you can do about it: Take a close look at your finances. Be aware of your current fixed costs and always leave some breathing room. Ask the homeowners what they spend in a year on their bills so there aren’t any surprises. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has plenty of useful online budget calculators to help. As a general rule your monthly housing costs (mortgage, property tax and heating expenses) should be no more than 32% of your gross monthly income.

2) Spending Too Little

Yes, this can also be a mistake! If you spend too little on a home that you’ll outgrow quickly, you’ll incur the expense of moving (which can be quite pricey) perhaps before you need to.

What you can do about it: Think ahead. Are you planning on starting a family soon? Will you outgrow the house? Perhaps stretching your money a little bit to stay in a house for longer is a more sound financial decision.

3) Buying With Your Heart

Sure the house is gorgeous, fully renovated and painted your favourite shade of cream and has an ensuite bathroom for every bedroom. But it’s on a busy road and you have three young kids and two cats who like to run outside.

What you can do about it: Be smart! Visit the house at least twice (you’d be surprised at how your opinion can change on a second and third visit) and think critically. Go through every aspect of the house, every room, every floor, its location and neighbourhood and really try to picture yourselvesin the house for years down the road.

4) Missing Hidden Closing Costs

The final sale price of the house isn’t the only cost of buying a home. There are many “closing costs” that should be taken into account when deciding what price range you can afford. Your realtor’s commissions, lawyer fees, transfer taxes and moving costs can all add up.

What you can do about it: Closing costs can be anywhere from 1.5-4% of the final sale price, so be aware and take this into account when determining your budget.

5) Not Doing Your Research

Blindly buying a home can be a big mistake. Whether you’re paying too much attention to your realtor and family “who just LOVE the place!” or are feeling the pressure to make a quick buy, moving into a house that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted can be a big, expensive, regretful mistake.

What you can do about it: Do your research! And do it first-hand. No realtor or family member can know exactly what you want more than you. Spend a day walking the neighbourhood, learn about your neighbours, research the local school and visit the parks. As for the house itself, get an inspection report. These can uncover unseen things like termites and flooding, two expensive undertakings.

Buying a home is exciting and daunting. But doing your due diligence can make the process a little easier, and get you into your dream home with (little) stress.