As a consumer, you take your time when making a major purchase, researching products, asking for opinions and weighing the pros and cons of the many different options available. When it comes to making life’s biggest purchase – a new home – you’ve likely done the same. You’ve visited the neighbourhoods you’re interested in and have an idea of the average market price. You may have toured a few open houses and have your mind set on the ideal floor plan and style of home you prefer.
It’s true – there’s a lot to think about and even more to understand when buying a home and what you see when you walk from room to room is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s for this reason that finding a seasoned professional to guide you every step of the way is a smart decision for house hunters. Even if you’ve owned a home before and feel confident in your ability to find “the right house”, a real estate salesperson has the breadth of knowledge and a special skill set that comes only with experience – they are dealing with the sale and acquisition of homes on a daily basis.
Here are just a few of the things that a realtor will be looking for during your hunt for a new home:
Wiring – Homes built up until the 1940’s were likely outfitted with knob and tube wiring. In the 60’s, aluminum wire became a popular choice. Both are considered a fire hazard and today many insurance companies will refuse to insure a home with one of these types of electrical wiring or will charge a higher premium. Your realtor will be able to tell if a home has knob and tube or aluminum wiring. Replacing the electrical wiring in an entire house can cost anywhere from $7,000 – $15,000.
HVAC system – A salesperson will be able to tell you the exact age of the furnace and air conditioner and may be able to tell you if these systems have been properly maintained.
Plumbing – Sump pumps, septic tanks, wells and sewer systems….your realtor will be able to explain each of these features in detail.
It’s true that the home itself is generally what will seal the deal when house hunting, but the neighbourhood in which that home is located is also important. Here are some questions you can ponder before beginning your hunt for a new home:
Is a rural or urban location right for you? Are you looking to buy a home with plenty of outdoor space and lots of privacy? Or would you prefer the hustle and bustle of city living? Both lifestyles offer many pros and cons. Living in a country home spares you from contending with the gridlock of busy urban centres but may actually increase your commute time overall. Living in a major city offers the convenience of nearby amenities, but homes are more expensive than those in a rural setting.
Do you require easy highway access? For those who commute to work, this should be at the top of your list of considerations. Purchasing a home with easy highway access can save you time and frustration during your daily commute.
Is there a specific school district you want to be in? For many families, this is an important factor when house hunting. Do you want your children to be within walking distance to their school? Is there a Catholic school close by as well? Is there a school in the neighbourhood that offers a French Immersion program?
Do you want to be within walking distance to parks and rec centres? For families who lead an active lifestyle, these amenities may be at the top of your want list when choosing a neighbourhood to call home. Find out if there are walking trails close by, team sports to get involved in and extracurricular activities for kids.
Which local neighbourhoods are considered safest? All it takes is a phone call to the local police department to get information about the crime statistics in your community. You can also make your own observations by simply driving around the neighbourhood. Are the homes well cared for? Are there signs of vandalism or graffiti?
How have property values and taxes changed in the past 5 years? Your realtor should be able to answer any questions you have about property values and market trends in the neighbourhood. Ask about future developments in the area that may increase or decrease property value. Your realtor will also be able to tell you the property tax rate and how much it has gone up in the past ten years.
The spring real estate market started early this year, so many buyers are gearing up for the big day – moving day, that is! If your closing day is fast approaching, the pressure is on to pack, wrap up loose ends and get your finances in order. While it can be a stressful time, tackling these tasks in an orderly fashion, without leaving everything to the last minute, will greatly reduce your stress level and help ensure that your next move is happy one!
Here are 10 tips for ensuring a stress-free moving day:
1. Hire a reputable moving company well in advance, asking friends and family for recommendations. Get quotes from a few companies. Once you’ve chosen a mover, get everything in writing. It’s the law. According to Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, all moving contracts worth more than $50 must be in writing.
2. Get packing. Collect necessary supplies and aim to pack two or three boxes every day during the month leading up to your move. Have a few boxes set aside for last minute items from your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.
3. Call your utility providers, doctor’s office and insurance company to inform them of your move. If moving to a new city, arrange for services to be initiated on moving day.
4. Call Canada Post to set up mail forwarding. For around $7 a month you can have your mail forwarded to your new address, giving you plenty of time to ensure all your contacts have your new address.
5. If you have children who will be changing school districts, notify their new school about their start date. It might help make the transition to your new community easier to get them signed up for the extra curricular activities that they’re used to.
6. If you have pets, make arrangements for them on the day of the move, whether with a family friend or kennel.
7. It’s a great time of year for a garage sale. You can make a few extra dollars and get rid of some stuff! Anything that doesn’t sell, pack it up at the end of the sale and take it to the dump.
8. A week or two before you move, start cleaning areas that won’t be used much again i.e. the basement, closets, the laundry room. It will be nice not to have to clean the entire house a day or two before moving!
9. Be sure to organize important documents (passports, financial statements, vaccination records, etc.) and keep them in an easily accessible spot that you won’t forget.
10. On moving day, keep house keys, alarm codes and garage door openers close by so you have them handy for passing on to the new owner.