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Anat Papp Real Estate Broker

The Art of Packing               Mortgage Pre-Approval               5 Tips to Getting More For Your Property              Become Mortgage Free                                Home Ownership Incentives

HST & Your New Home      Moving With Pets                          Moving With Plants                                                   Selling Your Home: Where To Begin           Is It Better To Buy A New or Older Home?

The Art of Packing

There is something uplifting about moving: a new home is a new beginning and packing becomes a purifying ritual, a time to decide what you will take and what you will leave. Packing for a move is the packrat’s only true redemption. When else are they likely to discard, recycle or donate the mountains of clothes, unread magazines, and knickknacks? Packrat or not it can seem like a daunting task. Take a deep breath and meditate on this phrase: packing can be pleasant. All you need to know are a few tricks from the masters.


Whether you are moving across town or across the country, it’s a good idea to pack a box of basic necessities and if possible transport the box with you to your new home rather than putting it in the moving truck. In case of any unforeseen delays in the arrival of your belongings, you won’t be completely inconvenienced. Keeping the box with you also means you won’t have to dig through stacks of boxes when you get to your new house. Some ‘must-haves’ are shampoo, soap, coffee mugs, tea or instant coffee, pens, paper, a small box of laundry detergent, scissors, a few washcloths and towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, plastic utensils and paper plates. (If you have not mastered the Zen of unpacking you may also want to add aspirin to your box of essentials!)

Packing breakables can be the most time consuming part of preparing for your move. Each glass, cup, plate, and bowl must be wrapped. Most of us use old newspaper but the ink can become messy. Try wrapping your plates in tablecloths, dishtowels, clothes or bath towels. Using fabric items as the actual wrapping material saves space and weight-you would have had to pack them up regardless but this way you do not transport unneeded newspaper which will just end up in a crumpled pile in your new kitchen.


You may be surprised at how expensive boxes can be if you decide to buy them from your movers or other packing suppliers. Veteran movers are in the know on the best places to find free, sturdy boxes: grocery and furniture stores receive most of their inventory in boxes which must be disposed of. These merchants are usually happy to give these away but try to ask for boxes in the first two weeks of any month; lots of other people have the same idea and there may be none left if you wait until the end of the month. If you work in a large office which frequently updates its computer equipment, ask for these particularly strong boxes in anticipation of your move. If you have storage space and plan to move again within a few years, hold onto the coveted computer boxes.

A great way to save time is to use a system of coloured labels. Even if you don’t consider yourself ultra-organized, it’s a simple time-saver. Buy large office labels in four or five colours and use different colours to denote different parts of the house (ex. yellow for the kitchen, blue for the bathroom etc.) Colour coding can be a quick visual reference.

No self-respecting mover would ever admit to it but sometimes boxes get left in the rain just a little too long. The result is wet belongings and occasionally clothes get ruined when colours bleed from dark to light fabrics. It’s a good idea to place any moisture-sensitive items in clean plastic bags before packing in boxes.


A few reminders:

– Always pack the heaviest objects on the bottom and work up to those which are light and breakable.

– Chemical cleaners should never share a box with food even those items which are canned or unopened.

– Criss-cross tape across the bottom of boxes then up the sides to prevent boxes from breaking open.

– Hopefully, by keeping these tips in mind, you will manage to avoid any moving mishaps and make the first days in your new home as special as they should be.





Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home is probably one of the biggest emotional and financial decisions you’ll ever make. So it’s not surprising that moving is rated as one of the most exciting and stressful times in one’s life. Not only are there a lot of things to think about: location, affordability, mortgage term and rate, etc; but there are also quite a few people you’ll need to deal with: real estate agent, lender, lawyer, seller, etc. Fortunately, there are a number of tools to help make buying a home an easier and more enjoyable process, one of which is the pre-approved mortgage certificate.


What is a pre-approved mortgage certificate?

This is a certificate that secures a mortgage amount at a guaranteed rate (for fixed-rate mortgages) for a specific length of time. Consider for example the one you can obtain from your mortgage representative: if interest rates increase, your rate will not. And, if interest rates fall, you get the lower rate. You’re under no obligation to purchase a home within the time period. If your Pre-Approved Mortgage Certificate expires before you’ve found a home, you can apply for a new one by calling your mortgage representative.


Why is it important in buying a home?

A pre-approved mortgage certificate allows you to shop confidently and provides you with the security of negotiating a house price that falls comfortably within your budget. Many real estate agents will encourage you to get a pre-approved mortgage certificate before they begin working with you. The fact that you already have your mortgage financing arrangements in place indicates to prospective vendors that you are a serious buyer. The certificate outlines the maximum amount that can be borrowed, the interest rate to be charged, and the monthly payments. Of course, the confirmation is subject to a few conditions such as an appraisal of the property being mortgaged and satisfactory credit review. What do I need to get one?

Here are some things you’ll need to have ready to obtain a pre-approved mortgage certificate:

– Personal information, including identification such as your driver’s license
– Details of your job, including confirmation of salary in the form of a letter from your employer
– Sources of income
– Information and details on all bank accounts, loans and other debts
– Proof of financial assets
– Source and amount of down payment and deposit
– Proof of source of funds for the closing costs (these are usually 1.5% of the purchase price)


It’s not easy losing out on the home you set your heart on. So before you fall in love and start bargaining, make sure you have a Pre-Approved Mortgage Certificate. With most banks or mortgage brokers, it’s absolutely free, with no cost and no obligation. Knowing what you can afford makes buying a home less stressful.





5 Tips to Getting More for Your Property

Here are five recommendations to give your home an immediate face lift and help you get more for your property. These tips are an inexpensive way to help you bring big returns when the FOR SALE sign goes up on the lawn.


Tidy it up!
Have a garage sale to dispose of unwanted and unused furniture and appliances, odds and ends you’ve been saving for a rainy day, and generally anything you haven’t used in the last five years. Clear out every closet mercilessly and don’t forget the garage. Keep only the things you use regularly. Your home will look more spacious, more organized and more inviting.



Fix it up!
Take care of all the little maintenance tasks you never seem to have time for. Go through the house, room by room, and make a list. Open every door and window, turn on every faucet and check every lamp. 
Repair leaky faucets, oil squeaky hinges, tighten loose doorknobs, make sure windows and doors open and close smoothly, and change the burnt light bulbs. Buyers notice.


Spruce it up!
It’s amazing how much better your home can look with a fresh coat of paint and how much value it can add, for little cost. You don’t have to repaint everything, but do consider freshening up the rooms that need it most. Use neutral colours inside. 
Outside, a gallon of paint on exterior trim, wooden stairs and banisters can also do wonders for your home’s appearance. Label leftover paint cans for the new owners.


Pretty it up!
Curbside appeal is a big drawing card for home buyers. Not only is it the first thing they notice when they arrive, it’s the face they’ll present to the world if they buy.

Make the most of this opportunity and spend a Saturday tending to your lawn and garden. Mow the grass, trim the hedges, plant some flowers and weed the garden. Make sure the driveway and walkways are clear and obstacle-free. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed.


Tidy it up!
Now that you’ve been through cupboards and removed all the needless clutter, get everyone in the family involved and clean the house from top to bottom.

Make sure everything sparkles and – here’s the hard part – vow to keep it that way! Make sure beds are made and dishes are done before you leave the house in the morning. Interested buyers might stop by on short notice.





Become Mortgage Free

Are you feeling weighed down by the years remaining on your mortgage? Worried about when you should lock in your variable rate, or unsure of refinancing with rates on the rise? Getting a good interest rate is crucial, but there’s a lot more you can do to ensure that you are mortgage free sooner. Flexibility and options are key – and the advice of an unbiased mortgage professional can help you make the most of these alternatives.


The experts suggest the following:

– Match your mortgage payments with your pay periods. Not only does it make budgeting easier, but if you have bi-weekly payments you’ll be making an extra payment each year (and you won’t even feel it!)

– Shorten your amortization. If you can budget for the higher monthly payments, this will help you build equity faster and take years off your mortgage.

– Use your pre-payment option. Many people get a mortgage with this feature, but only 3% actually take advantage of it. A few hundred here and there can add up to thousands saved later on.

– Income increasing? Consider permanently increasing your payments to match. Again, you won’t feel the strain, but your equity is increasing and interest decreasing with every extra dollar you put in.

– Most mortgages allow a lump sum payment in any one calendar year – and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Just because you don’t have a huge sum to put away doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Even small extra payments could pay big dividends later.

– Shop around for better terms at renewal. Although it seems easier to just sign the form your bank sends, most people renew at rates higher than what they could have achieved if they had negotiated. Your mortgage professional is not just there for the purchase, but throughout the life of your mortgage.





Home Ownership Incentives

“Government Programs to help you save”

Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP)

The Government of Canada’s Home Buyers’ Plan allows qualified buyers to withdraw a maximum of $25,000 from their RRSPs to purchase or build a house.  If your spouse is also eligible, you can each withdraw up to $25,000 towards the down payment, for a total of $50,000. No income tax is deducted from these funds, as long as they are repaid to the RRSP according to the government’s repayment schedule.


How the Plan Works
You may participate in the plan if you (or your spouse) have not owed a home which you occupied as your principal residence in the last five years.


Repayment Schedule
The money you withdraw from your RRSP must be repaid over a period of no more than 15 years to retain its tax deferred status.  Your repayment period starts the second year you made your withdraws. For example, in October 2003 you withdraw $15,000 from your RRSP to finance the purchase of your home.  Your first annual repayment of $1,000 ($15,000 divided by 15 years) is due December 31, 2005.


For more information  go to the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency web site at www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca and search for ‘Home Buyers Plan’


CMHC’s Five Per Cent Down
With as little as five per cent down, all home owners now have access to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) mortgage insurance.  This means CMHC may insure the mortgage on your home (against default in payments) for up to 95% of the lending value of the home. This helps make home ownership a reality for many Canadians who can afford monthly mortgage payments but would have trouble saving for a larger down payment.  The program is open to both new and repeat home buyers who buy a home in Canada and occupy it as a principle residence. Maximum house prices apply to loans greater then 90% of the value of the home.

The mortgage insurance premium is based on a sliding scale.  The premiums can be added to the mortgage paid on a monthly basis.

Comparable mortgage insurance may also be offered through other financial services providers.


For more information, go to CMHC’s web site at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca and search for ‘Mortgage Loan Insurance’.


Help the Planet, Help Your Wallet

CMHC has added environmentally friendly features to the Mortgage Loan Insurance it offers. If you use CMHC insured financing to buy an energy-efficient homepurchase a house and make energy-saving renovations or renovate your existing home to make it more energy-efficient, a 10% refund on the Mortgage Loan Insurance premium may be available. You could also have the added flexibility of a longer amortization (the period of time required to repay your mortgage) from 25 years to a maximum of 40 years, significantly reducing your monthly payments.


The Government of Canada actively promotes energy conservation and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.


How It Works

Obtaining an energy assessment through an NRCan qualified energy advisor.

NRCan has developed an energy assessment and labeling system to help homeowners make energy-saving choices when buying a home or renovating. For a fee, a NRCan qualified energy advisor will evaluate the house to determine its energy efficiency rating on a scale of 0  100.

For more information, including information on the Government of Canadas ecoEnergy initiatives, visit http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca


Land Transfer Tax (LTT) Rebate
First-time buyers of new and re-sale homes are eligible to receive rebates of the provincial and Toronto land transfer taxes. The maximum provincial land transfer tax (LTT) rebate for first-time buyers is $2,000 and the maximum Toronto LTT rebate for first time buyers is $3,725.


To be eligible as a first-time buyer for the provincial LTT rebate and/or Toronto LTT rebate,

  • The purchaser must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The purchaser must occupy the home as his or her principal residence no later than nine months after the date of the conveyance or disposition.
  • The purchaser cannot have previously owned a home, or had any ownership interest in a home, anywhere in the world, at any time.
  • If the purchaser has a spouse, the spouse cannot have owned a home, or had any ownership interest in a home, anywhere in the world while he or she was the purchaser’s spouse. If this is the case, NO refund is available to either spouse. Note: If a purchaser’s spouse owned an interest in a home BEFORE becoming the purchaser’s spouse, but not while the purchaser’s spouse, the purchaser may be eligible for some rebate.

For more information, contact the Ontario Ministry of Finance at 1-800-263-7965.




HST and Your New Home

When you buy a newly constructed home, condominium or town home, the entire purchase price including land is taxable. If the property is to be rented to tenants, the full 13% HST is charged on the purchase price. However, if the home is going to be your primary place of residence, it may qualify for a partial HST rebate, depending upon the sale price.


For homes costing $400,000 or less, you will qualify for a tax rebate of 6%.


HST and the Resale home
You do not have to pay HST on the purchase price of a used residential home.  In other words, the purchase is ‘exempt’ from HST. 
The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency defines ‘used residential property’ to include a previously occupied house, condominium, apartment, summer cottage, vacation property or non-commercial hobby farm, that has been occupied as a residence before you bought it.


Used property can also mean a recently built house that is substantially complete and has been sold at least once before you buy it.  For example, if a new house is purchased and resold before being occupied, the new home’s resale price will normally be exempt from HST. An owner-occupied home is considered a residential property when it’s used primarily as your residence.  So, if you are self-employed and purchase a resale home that includes a room used as an office, the entire home still qualifies for the HST exemption. However, if your owner-occupied home is not used mainly for residential purposes (ie. A retail store with a small apartment upstairs), only the residential portion is exempt from HST on resale.  The non-residential portion of the purchase price is taxable.



If you are planning to purchase a resale home, the seller can make a declaration on the deed stating that the property qualifies as ‘used’ for HST purposes.

As with most taxes, there are exceptions to the HST rules regarding resale housing.  For instance, most sales of real property by charities, non-profit organizations and other public service agencies are except from HST.


HST and the Real Estate Transaction
HST applies to most of the services provided in completing the real estate transaction.  For example, 13% HST is applied to the commission a REALTOR charges for facilitating a sale.  The tax is paid by the person responsible for paying the commission – usually the seller.


REALTOR commissions are taxable even if the HST owed is reduced by a rebate, or the sale of the property is exempt from HST.  For example, if you sell a used home, the sale price is exempt from HST but the REALTOR’s commission is still taxable.


HST applies to many other services involved in the real estate transaction, such as fees for appraisals, referrals, surveys and legal assistance.  Again, HST is charged on these fees regardless of whether the house you purchase is exempt from the tax. One exception is that mortgage broker fees are exempt from HST if the fees are charged separately from any taxable real estate commissions.  Additionally, mortgages and interest on mortgages are HST exempt.


HST and RENT
No HST is payable on residential rents.  However, if you employ a REALTOR or another professional to find and arrange a tenant for your rental property, HST applies to the fees and commissions they charge for providing this service.  HST also applies to the fees charged to the landlord for the property management, as well as repair and maintenance services. Monthly fees charged by condominium associations are not subject to HST.


When is HST Payable?
HST is normally due and payable when the real estate transaction is completed.  This is usually referred to as the closing date. In some cases, HST could be payable on transfer of possession.

  • For buyers, HST owed on the purchase price of non-exempt property, as well as fees and commissions for professional services is also paid at closing.
  • For sellers, HST owed on fees and commissions for professional services is also paid on closing.

Your REALTOR can answer your questions about the closing date and HST payments.  For additional HST information, contact your local Canada Customs and Revenue Agency office.





Moving With Pets

Making your pets comfortable in your new home. You may not know this, but dogs and cats can encounter many of the same problems people have, in moving into a new home.


They must become used to a new house, neighborhood, unfamiliar sounds and strange postal carriers. They may need to get used to different water, that does not agree with them, and even colder or warmer climates. But with a little help from a friend, your pet will soon settle down and enjoy their new surroundings!


Although it may seem cruel, it is advisable to keep your pets confined for a few days – even a few weeks, until they realize that this is their new home, and that the family is going to stay. Otherwise your pet may wander off and try to return to their old home. This is especially true of cats – they should be watched for several weeks.


To speed up that “at home” feeling, use familiar food and water dishes, your pet’s bed, blanket and toys etc. Also, try to put things in the same sort of location, as they were in your old house – like putting their water dish in the kitchen, or at the back door. As for birds, keep them in a quiet room, where they will be undisturbed until they become used to their new surroundings.


Other small pets, like hamsters and rabbits, usually have few or no adjustment problems other than becoming used to a change in their water supply. This is also true of fish. To avoid harming them, test the water for similarity to that of the water in your old home, and adjust it to the particular requirements of your fish.

With a little bit of care, your pets will soon enjoy their new home as much as you!




Moving with Plants

Moving your houseplants can be hazardous to their health.


If you have plants and are planning to move homes, you’ve got 3 options. You can give them away, throw them or take them with you.

If you happen to be one of us that can’t bear the thought of abandoning our precious plants, you’re in luck. The National Gardening Association has some great advice:

Going airborne? If your belongings will be shipped by plane, your first step should be to contact the airline. Most airlines have strict regulations when it comes to transporting plant life. They will tell you what you can and can’t take, and how they should be packaged. Another worthwhile phone call would be to the Department of Agriculture, in the area that you are moving to. Some provinces and states forbid the importation of plants, to prevent the spread of pests (harmful insects) and agricultural diseases.


Hitting the highway? If your belongings will be shipped by car (truck), you should check the containers in which you are planning to transport them in. Terra cotta pots for example are very fragile and may break. It would be wiser to transplant them into plastic pots. But be careful when transplanting. Make sure you do not cut or tear the roots, and always sterilize the pots before replanting. Some pots, especially used ones, may still have bugs or bacteria in them, thriving on old soil.

Regardless of your method of transportation however, the most important thing to do is keep your plants moist throughout their journey. Aside from giving them a good watering, you can try wrapping the soil tops with sphagnum moss soaked overnight. Also, wrap your pots in newspaper and then burlap. Leaves and stems can also be wrapped (loosely) in burlap, to avoid breakage.


An alternative to transporting the entire plant, would be to take only ‘cuttings’ of your favorites. Cuttings (small clippings of your plants) can be wrapped in wet moss and again in newspaper. Then place the wrapped cuttings in unsealed ziploc bags and put them into cardboard boxes ready for transportation.

With a little special attention, your plants will soon continue to grow and flourish in their new home.




Selling Your Home: Where to Begin?

First Impressions
Remember what first attracted you to your house when you bought it? What excited you about its most appealing features? Now that you’re selling your home, you’ll need to look at it as if you were buying it all over again. 
A spruced up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive property grabs their attention and makes them excited about finding a house that looks and feels well-cared for. Because buyers know they’ll encounter fewer problems if they buy it, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. So if you prepare your home correctly, you’ll save time selling it when it’s on the market.


A good first impression makes an impact on a number of levels. It’s not just the way your house looks to potential buyers, but how it feels and smells to them, how their friends and family will react, how they imagine it would be to live there. With simple improvements throughout your house, you can grab the attention of potential buyers and help them see why your house is right for them.


Plan Ahead
Create a plan to enhance your property. Keep a notebook for your selling project, and as you stroll through your yard, make a list of what needs to be done. Consider what your property looks like to people driving by or walking through your door. What will they like or dislike? What needs fixing, painting, cleaning? What can you improve? Whether you paint your house or fix up the yard, your efforts don’t need to be costly; even inexpensive improvements and minor repairs go far toward attracting serious buyers. But remember, those seemingly insignificant problems you’ve learned to live with can actually discourage potential buyers. Here are ideas for increasing your home’s appeal in order to sell it quickly at the best price.


Interior

Clean Everything
Buyers expect a spotless house, inside and out. So clean everything, especially your windows and window sills. Scrub walls and floors, tile and ceilings, cupboards and drawers, kitchen and bathrooms. Wash scuff marks from doors and entryways, clean light fixtures and the fireplace. Don’t forget the laundry room. And put away your clothes.


Cut the Clutter
People are turned off by rooms that look and feel cluttered. Remember, potential buyers are buying your house, not your furniture, so help them picture themselves and their possessions in your home by making your rooms feel large, light, and airy. As you clean, pack away your personal items, such as pictures, valuables, and collectibles, and store or get rid of surplus books, magazines, videotapes, extra furniture, rugs, blankets, etc. Consider renting a storage unit to eliminate clutter in your garage and attic. It’s hard to get rid of possessions, but cleaning and clearing out the clutter can really pay off in the end. Packing away your clutter also gets you started packing for your next move. Make your garage and basement as tidy as the rest of your house. Simple little tasks such as storing your tools and neatly rolling up your garden hose suggest that you take good care of your house. Don’t let anything detract from making your best first impression.


Closets
They’re an important consideration to many buyers. By storing clothing you won’t use soon, you’ll make closets look spacious.


Paint
A new coat of paint cleans up your living space and makes it look bright and new. To make rooms look larger, choose light, neutral colors that appeal to the most people, such as beige or white.


Carpet
Check its condition. If it’s worn, consider replacing it. It’s an easy and affordable way to help sell your home faster. Again, light, neutral colors, such as beige, are best. If you don’t replace it, you can suggest to potential buyers that they could select new carpet and you’ll reduce your price; buyers like to hear they’re getting a deal. At the very least, have your carpet cleaned.


Repairs and Renovations
It’s best to avoid making major renovations just to sell the house since you’re unlikely to recoup those costs from your selling price. Make minor repairs to items such as leaky faucets, slow drains, torn screens, gutters, loose doorknobs, and broken windows. Make sure repairs are well done; buyers won’t take you seriously if your home-improvement efforts look messy, shoddy, or amateurish.


Leaks and Moisture
Water stains on ceilings or in the basement alert buyers to potential problems. Don’t try to cosmetically cover up stains caused by leaks. If you’ve fixed the water problem, repair the damage and disclose in writing to the buyer what repairs were made.


Exterior

Curb Appeal
The “Wow” factor (that first visual, high-impact impression your home makes on potential buyers) can turn a looker into a buyer. To determine your property’s curb appeal, drive through your neighbourhood and note other properties; then approach your own house as if you were a potential buyer. How does it look? Does it “wow” you? Will its curb appeal attract buyers? Note what needs improving, such as trimming trees, planting shrubs, or painting gutters. Little things convey that you’ve cared for your home, and this is your opportunity to sell that important message to buyers who are shopping from the street, simply cruising neighborhoods just looking for houses for sale. To get them through your door, do what you can to make your property look like someone’s dream home.


Paint/Stain
If its peeling or blistering and you can’t remember the last time you painted it, your house needs some attention. That also goes for stain that is significantly faded. A newly painted or stained exterior will help sell your house faster. And whether you do it yourself or hire someone, you’ll also increase your home’s value.

In the Yard

Grab people’s attention by enhancing your yard and landscaping. If your house looks inviting and well-maintained from the street, people will imagine that it’s attractive on the inside, too.

  • Prune bushes and hedges; trim trees.
  • Keep you lawn looking healthy and green by mowing it often, fertilizing it, and keeping it edged and trimmed.
  • Clean up and dispose of pet mess.
  • Weed your gardens; add fertilizer and mulch; then plant colorful flowers.
  • In winter, keep your driveway and sidewalks shoveled, de-iced, and well-lit.
  • Stack firewood, clean out birdbaths, repair and paint fences.

The Front Door
An attractive entry catches a buyer’s eye and says, “Welcome,” so highlight this area of your house with decorative touches, such as a wreath on the door or new shrubs and flowers around the steps. For an even grander entry, clean and paint your front door, or replace it with a new one for a few hundred dollars. Don’t forget to fix and polish doorknobs, repair torn screens, and then put out that new welcome mat.


Keep yourself organized with the following checklist.

Clean and Maintain

  • Windows, sills, and screens
  • Walls and floor
  • Tile
  • Ceilings
  • Cupboards and drawers
  • Kitchen
  • Bathrooms
  • Light fixtures
  • Ceiling fans
  • Carpet and rugs
  • Mirrors
  • Garage
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Laundry room
  • Yard
  • Gutters
  • Replace furnace filter
  • Dust furniture, TV and computer screens
  • Closets
  • Remove clutter
  • Pack personal items

Repair

  • Leaky faucets and plumbing
  • Torn screens
  • Slow drains
  • Gutters
  • Loose doorknobs
  • Deck boards
  • Broken windows
  • Electrical fixtures
  • Water stain damage
  • Broken appliances
  • Damaged walls and ceilings
  • Worn carpet and rugs
  • Damaged sidewalks and steps

Improvements

  • Stain or paint deck
  • Store tools
  • Roll up garden hose
  • Paint or stain exterior
  • Prune bushes and hedges
  • Trim trees
  • Mow lawn, fertilize, edge, and trim
  • Weed gardens, plant flowers
  • Shovel driveways, de-ice
  • Stack firewood
  • Clean out birdbaths
  • Caulk windows and doors
  • Repair and paint fences
  • Seal asphalt driveway
  • Make sure doors close properly
  • Enhance entryway
  • Replace welcome mat





Is It Better to Buy a New or an Older Home?

New homes tend to cost more than older homes, but the sticker price doesn’t tell the whole story. For instance, the price of a new home usually doesn’t include window coverings or landscaping, and the flashy upgrades that caught your attention in the model home cost extra. However, new homes are built to current building code requirements, they’re energy efficient, and they’re free of the deferred maintenance that can result after years of use and neglect.

A well-built new home should be relatively maintenance-free for the first ten years or so. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have any problems with a brand new home. A new roof can leak if a skylight or vent pipe isn’t properly sealed. You should expect there will be a number of little items that need fixing within the first few months of buying a new home.


It’s often said that a new home is only as good as its builder. Be sure to investigate the builder carefully before buying one of his or her homes. You’re looking for a builder who has a good track record for taking care of problems promptly. Although minor problems are to be expected, you want to find a builder who has a history of building homes that don’t develop major problems.


One couple bought a new home in a small development. Soon after moving in, serious problems developed which the builder refused to fix. Windows leaked, the drainage system didn’t work properly and water seeped through the exterior walls. Unfortunately, by the time the buyers decided to sue the builder, he was bankrupt.

First Time Tip: Any home you buy, new or old, should be thoroughly inspected by licensed professionals before you complete the purchase. Don’t make the mistake of foregoing an inspection just because a home is new. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a new home inspected twice: once during construction and again when it’s completed.

The big disadvantage of buying an older home is that it may need refurbishing. Although an older home may cost you less than a new home initially, it may end up costing you much more when the expense of updating is taken into account.


To evaluate the true cost of buying an older home, find out the age of the roof, appliances and major systems like plumbing, heating/cooling and electrical. Ask your home inspector to estimate how long each of these items is likely to last. Then get replacement estimates from licensed contractors.

Ask sellers for documentation on any major work they’ve done to the property. For example, if they put in a new drainage system, ask for copies of the work proposal and the paid invoice. This will be useful when it comes time for you to sell. If the roof was replaced recently, find out if the roofer will extend any remaining warranty to you. Also find out how much the utility bills are in an average summer and winter month.

Older homes require more maintenance than new homes. This takes time and money. However, older homes often have more character and architectural distinctiveness than new homes. Older homes usually have mature landscaping and they are often more conveniently located. Older neighborhoods may also offer better schools. And, while older homes may need updating, they have withstood the test of time which is not the case with new homes.

The Closing: From an investment standpoint, your best choice is either a quality-built new home or an older home that has been meticulously maintained.