Spring Maintenance Checklist – If You Don’t Have One Get One!

Last week Ann was talking about choosing a Home Inspector and it reminded me about a Spring Maintenance Checklist because most good home inspectors include maintenance checklists as part of their service.

 Every home owner should have some sort of maintenance checklist  to ensure all the elements of the home are receiving the required attention. I always refer to a house as a living organism with many little parts that need to be serviced on a regular basis to ensure the organism is operating at its peak.

 Many home owners ensure their automobile is maintained on a regular basis but neglect their largest investment – their home. Little things like cleaning eaves troughs and down spouts and making sure they are properly attached to the house can help to avoid serious water problems in the future. Another minor item that, if left unattended could become costly is all the caulking around your home. Over time caulking will shrink, dry up, and crack exposing the home to weather conditions and possible damage to the exterior and interior of the home.

 These are just a couple of examples of maintenance items. Check out the following websites for more great tips on home maintenance:




 My best advice to any home owner is to put your house on a regular maintenance schedule as soon as possible. Remember, a little bit of work and a few dollars now could save you thousands of dollars in damage repairs in the future.

 If you have any good home maintenance tips you would like to share please do. I’m sure our readers would appreciate it.

Making Home Buying Decisions with Head and Heart

Coldwell Banker Real Estate Survey Finds Women and Men Make Home-Buying Decisions with Head and Heart

BURLINGTON, ON, (March 27, 2012) – Square-footage and price are important elements to consider when selecting a home but according to a new survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate of 1,000 men and women, they both also rely on how they feel and how their lifestyle fits into a home when looking for a place to live. The survey found 28 percent of women and 25 percent of men put more emphasis on their feelings about a home than they do on the layout, square footage, or price. The majority of women (62 percent) and men (61 percent) also know within the first visit if the home is right for them.

“A home is much more than just bricks and mortar, it truly is where the heart is, and this survey shows just what an important role emotions can play when buying a home,” says Susanita de Diego, Coldwell Banker Canadian consumer specialist. “Whether a buyer is located in the U.S. or Canada, the emotional considerations of buying a home are borderless. The ‘feel’ of a home is a critical part of the process, no matter where you’re buying, or whether you’re a man or a woman. I’ve experienced similar responses from my own buying customers here in Canada.”

The survey also reveals insights into the roles men and women play at home and finds some interesting differences between age groups.

Women Take Charge of Making a House a Home:
• Over half of women (54 percent) say that they take the lead when it comes to decorating.
o However, younger men play a larger role in décor decisions than their older counterparts. Forty-eight (48) percent of younger respondents, age 18-44, say decorating is mutual; this decreases to 36 percent for respondents 55 and over.
• Women also cook it up in the kitchen. Sixty-eight (68) percent of women say they are the “primary chef” for their household.
o Not to be outdone, some men are also putting on the apron – occasionally. Nearly a quarter of men (23 percent) say cooking is their job.

Age Changes How Men and Women Feel “At Home”
• Sharing financial decisions may get easier over time. Fifty-four (54) percent of people age 18-44 say major financial decisions are mutual, compared to 60 percent of those 45-54. This increases to 70 percent for people 55 and over.
• Interestingly, as age increases, so does contentment with the current status of the home. Almost half (45 percent) of those older than 55 say they are very happy with their home just the way it is, compared to 25 percent of those age 18-44.
o More men seem to be focused on making significant changes to the home (9 percent) compared to women (5 percent).
• Feeling “at home” in the bedroom seems to decrease with age. Younger men and women, age 18-44, are more likely to say they “feel the most at home” in the bedroom (34 percent) than those age 45-54 (21 percent) and those older than 55 (11 percent).

For couples entering the home-buying process, here are some tips for harmonious house-hunting:
• Each person should come up with a list of a few things that are most important and then come together as a couple to decide on a list of the top three to five things that are important for the home.
• When looking for a home, communication is key. Consider designating a point person for different aspects of the home-buying process, so that information is not delayed or communicated to just one part of the couple.
• Don’t get too many people involved; typically more people means more stress and what is most important is that the couple is happy with the decisions being made.
• Don’t forget to have fun! Remember that this home will be the place to build memories and a life together.

“Following these simple, common-sense guidelines can help couples keep the home-buying process fun,” said de Diego.

For more information please visit ColdwellBanker.com.

Survey Methodology: Coldwell Banker Real Estate engaged SSRS to conduct an omnibus survey via telephone in February 2012, among more than 1,000 U.S. respondents.
This study was conducted in SSRS’s EXCEL Omnibus. EXCEL is a national, weekly telephone omnibus service designed to meet the standards of quality associated with custom research studies. The EXCEL survey consists of a standard set of introductory and demographic questions supplemented by a changing series of questions on various topics as contracted by participating companies.

Sample Design: Each EXCEL survey consists of 1,000 interviews, with 50% men and 50% women. EXCEL uses a fully-replicated, stratified, single-stage random-digit-dialing (RDD) sample of telephone households. Sample telephone numbers are computer-generated and loaded into on-line sample files accessed directly by the CRT system. Within each sample household, one adult respondent is randomly selected using a computerized procedure based on the “Most Recent Birthday Method”.
Respondents answering questions in an EXCEL insert specifically designed for this survey were 1014 men and women ages 18 and older.

Margin of Error: Because this is a sample, and not an actual population, an associated margin of error applies. At a 95% level of confidence, the margin of error for this sample of 1014 is +/- 3.08%. This essentially means that we can be 95% certain that, for any percentage result for the total sample, the “true” percentage is within 3.08 percentage points of that which is actually reported.

Significant Differences: Within this report, significant differences are reported at the 95% level of confidence.

About Coldwell Banker®
Since 1906, the Coldwell Banker® organization has been a premier provider of full-service residential and commercial real estate. Coldwell Banker is a leader in Canadian real estate with a national network of 265 independently owned offices, operating in every province across Canada except Quebec, and also has offices in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Globally, Coldwell Banker has a network of approximately 85,000 sales agents working in approximately 3,100 offices in 51 countries and territories. The Coldwell Banker brand is known for creating innovative consumer services as recently seen by being the first national real estate brand to create an iPad application and the first to fully harness the power of video in real estate listings, news and information through its Coldwell Banker On LocationSM YouTube channel. The Coldwell Banker system is a leader in specialty markets such as resort, new homes and luxury properties through its Coldwell Banker Previews International® marketing program.

In Canada, Coldwell Banker pioneered Ultimate Service®, a unique customer service program that has earned a 98% overall customer satisfaction rating for 15 consecutive years from over 60,000 Canadian home buyers and sellers. For further information on Coldwell Banker Canada or to search for individual offices, sales representatives, or property listings, visit http://www.coldwellbanker.ca. Each office is independently owned and operated.

How to Select a Home Inspector

We have all heard that radio commercial ‘you finally find your dream home, but oh no! there’s vermiculite insulation!’

Odds are, the home inspection is what discovered this potential problem. When you decide to hire an inspector there are many factors to consider. If you have ever tried to chose one you no doubt discovered there are more inspectors than you ever imagined, but like REALTORS®, they are not all equally good choices. As always, recommendations from people you trust are a good place to start. If you have used the services of a REALTOR® to find your home, they should be able to provide you with at least 3 inspectors that they have worked with and found to be thorough and professional. Also, ask friends who have recently bought. They will likely have used a home inspector and know whether they did a good job. The most important thing to keep in mind is that price is not a good way to make your choice. You are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the home you plan to live in, perhaps raise your family in – don’t cut corners on the service that should provide you with piece of mind that you have bought a home, not a money pit of problems.

A recent article in REALTOR® Magazine listed 10 Questions you should ask before you have your home inspected.  Here they are:

1)    Will the inspection meet recognized standards?

2)    Does the inspector belong to a professional home inspector association?

3)    How experienced are they?  Ask how long they have been in the profession and how many inspections they have completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.

4)    How do they keep their expertise up to date?  Their commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service.

5)    Do they focus on residential inspections?  Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or construction sites.

6)    Do they offer to do repairs?

7)    How long will the inspection take?  On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single family home in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough.

8)    What’s the cost?  Costs can vary dramatically, depending the size and age of house and the scope of services. Customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

9)    What type of report do they provide?  Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector’s reporting style. Also ask when you will receive the report.

10)Will you be able to attend the inspection?  The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector’s refusal to let you attend should raise a red flag.

One other thing to keep in mind when you are buying a resale home is that it is not new!    That may seem like an unnecessary comment to make, but many buyers after a home inspection are surprised to find there are maintenance items and sometimes small repairs that need to be made. You must keep in mind that homes always have little things that need done. As they say “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

If you have an experience you would like to share, or any further advice, I invite you to comment.




Choosing your mortgage provider – It’s not that easy!

I always say that when you are buying a house, whether it be your first home or you are upsizing, you need to get your financing in place first. Many people prefer to use their current financial institution, but it may be to their advantage to speak with a good mortgage broker as they may be able to find you a better mortgage product at a better rate.

To find a good mortgage broker just ask your REALTOR®. He or she should be able to provide you with at least three names of reputable mortgage brokers. Many consumers tend to shy away from mortgage brokers because they don’t understand how they work. Mortgage brokers get paid by the lender. Most often they have access to more than 100 lenders and have the ability to place your mortgage with the mortgage product that most suits your needs. It is not always just the interest rate that makes a good mortgage.

 I once had a situation where my client was upsizing and the current financial institution they were using wanted to charge them a penalty and give them a blended rate for making changes and adding to their mortgage. I referred them to a mortgage broker who was able to negotiate with their lender and the penalty was waived as well as receiving a lower interest rate. All this at no cost to them and the mortgage broker was paid by the lender!

 Home buyers purchase a home for many reasons. Some may be buying a home as an investment and are not concerned with locking it in for a long period of time. Their mortgage needs will be different than a young couple buying their first home as these buyers are early in their careers and will be upsizing in a few years so they will need a product that has more flexible terms. Someone buying a move up home may be more established in their career and would prefer a product with more payment flexibility. The number of situations is endless.

In my opinion anyone considering mortgage financing for their home purchase should do their due diligence to make sure they have the right mortgage for them. We all know, ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL!!

 We would like to hear your mortgage financing experiences, good or bad. Please send us your comments.



February Hamilton-Burlington REALTORS Association Statistics

Average Sale Price Continues to Rise

(March 6, 2012 – Hamilton, Ontario)  The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) reported 1126 property sales through the RAHB Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) for the month of February, a 4.9 per cent increase in sales over the same month last year.  RAHB also reported a 9.2 per cent increase in average sale price and an 8.3 per cent increase in the number of new listings in the month  of February this year compared to February of last year.

Seasonally adjusted* sales of all property types were virtually the same as February 2011, with the average sale price increasing 7.9 per cent for the month.  Seasonally adjusted numbers of new listings, however, were 14.5 per cent lower from the same month last year.

Home Staging? Is it Really Worth it?

I have invited Judi Caplan, a Broker with Coldwell Banker PInnacle Real Estate to be our guest blogger this week.  Judi has been a member of our team for almost 15 years, providing Ultimate Service, and more, to her customers and clients.  I will have Judi tell you a bit about herself:

I have been selling real estate in and around Hamilton since 1997.  In any profession the focus should be on the client.  So, even though I am proud that I have received many sales awards from Coldwell Banker, what I am most proud of is keeping my clients more than satisfied with my services.  I believe that awards that recognise my sales achievements and even more importantly Coldwell Banker’s Ultimate Service® award are a reflection of my belief that the customer should always come first.

 As part of my efforts to continually improve my ability to serve you, I successfully completed a detailed course to achieve the designation of Accredited Staging Professional® (ASP®.)  Working with me as your REALTOR® I can help you prepare and stage your property. Homes that are staged, or prepared for sale, by an Accredited Staging Professional look better than other homes on the market by being clean, clutter-free, and ready to show to prospective buyers.  Staged homes traditionally sell faster and for more money in today’s real estate market.

The ASP® designation is a benchmark of true excellence in customer service for home sellers.  I am dedicated to the principles and practices of Staging® and the many benefits this service will bring to my clients. The combination of selling and staging skills will help me sell your home for the most money in the shortest period of time. 

When you select a real estate Broker to assist in a transaction as significant as purchasing or selling a home, or real estate investment – choose your representative with care.


Why Should my Agent have studied “Staging”?

When you are looking for “the right” real estate agent what skills or traits should you look for? Many trainers and coaches in the real estate industry suggest that agents should develop a unique “selling advantage.” The most successful sales people in Real Estate acquire a skill or philosophy that sets the salesperson apart from the competition. As a consumer of Real Estate services, clients you should decide if the “selling advantage” of an agent is one that will help you sell your property in the shortest amount of time, avoid any problems, and put the most amount of money in your pocket.

There is some pretty convincing data that indicates that a REALTOR® who is also an Accredited Staging Professional (ASP®) helps to sell houses in less time and for more money than agents who have not studied staging. (* See the chart at the end of this article.)

The best definition I know of for determining the value of real estate is “What a willing buyer will pay to a willing buyer given sufficient time and exposure on the market, without any undue influence.” In other words, it is the marketplace that determines value, not the REALTOR®, not the homeowner, not even an appraiser sets the value of a house. It is ultimately what a buyer will pay after comparing your property with others in the marketplace that determines its price. That means that you and your REALTOR® need to make your house “feel” better than the competition to a prospective client.

De-cluttering your home with the help of a REALTOR® who has training in assisting you in those tasks will almost always earn more money and shorten the time on the market. But even more important than removing clutter and arranging furniture to help make your home look more spacious is giving it a warm and inviting feeling that lets a prospective buyer feel that they can make your house their home.

As an Accredited Staging Professional (ASP®) I discovered that knowing what the results my clients and I wanted – a property that sold for more money in a shorter time – were even more achievable by going a bit further than de-cluttering. Staging – removing, replacing, and rearranging furniture and lighting are all part of the process. Depersonalising while still keeping a warm homey feeling is vital. As well, a stager or an experienced REALTOR® will be able to advise you on how to brighten and lighten your house.

Repainting is the least expensive renovation and often results in rewards that are many multiples of the cost and effort involved. By using light neutral warm tones in the beige and taupe families your property will seem more cheerful and “homey” to prospective buyers.

A real estate professional should also be able to council you about how to increase curb appeal with inexpensive touches that will greatly improve first impressions.

Other REALTORS® and I are often asked by our clients about whether or not to update kitchens and bathrooms before offering a property for sale. Don’t you just hate our answer? It depends. Most of the time, however, it is far more sensible and productive to invest money in staging rather than costly updating. Most of the time, the only substantial improvements that pay for themselves are those that a prudent buyer would do within a very short time. So, unsafe wiring, fireplaces, stair rails, and plumbing repairs should be taken care of before marketing your property. While bathroom and kitchen updates bring back the best returns on investment in major improvements they almost never bring back their cost.

Many REALTORS® without the ASP designation may provide excellent advice, but, when you see the ASP designation after your agent’s name, you know you will be dealing with an agent who has taken the time to educate themselves in order to serve you better.

Judi Caplan ASP®, Broker
*The following data is from the Stagedhomes.com web site and was derived from US sources. We make no claims as to the accuracy of the following information.

Return on Staging Investment
The following is a summary of the results of HomeGain’s national survey, based on the ten areas of home improvement identified by real estate agents in HomeGain’s survey. They are listed from the highest to lowest returns on investment:

I am sure Judi would be glad to answer any questions you may have.  Either write a comment here, or contact her at her office, 905-522-1110.

Generation Blue! What an Experience!

I just got back from a trip to our Coldwell Banker Generation Blue Conference in New Orleans. A few of us went down a couple days early, and did the tourist thing, experiencing the French Quarter, yes, including the nighttime fun on Bourbon Street, enjoying our beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, and touring the rest of the area. What a fantastic place!

It was the perfect setting for our conference. The opening session, included a presentation by the New Wave Group out of South Beach. They are a group of young professionals, new to the real estate business that realize that by working together and collaborating with one another along with their unique use of social media they can become a dynamic force in their real estate market. Hearing about their successes so far convinces me that they will be an influential force in the market.

The breakout sessions over the two days of conference focused on building your business through the use of technology and social media. I found it extremely interesting to hear how some view social media to be the future of communication, while others outlined how the use of social media reinforces the most important tool we each have, and that is our personal commitment to serving our customers to the very best of our ability. However you look at it, social media plays very important part in our day to day business, and it is constantly changing and evolving. By attending this conference I am now suffering from information overload on all the new choices, and also somewhat overwhelmed with learning about, much less utilizing, all the opportunities out there.

The closing session of the conference focused on where technology is going in 2012, with presentations by The New York Times Research and Development Group, who highlighted where they see our communication needs driving us, by YouTube, who showed us how to leverage our use of the Coldwell Banker Channel On Location to position ourselves as the go to place for real estate information, and by Google +, who showed us the exciting new things Google has brought to the marketplace.

The closing session wrapped up with Coldwell Banker showing us where we are going in 2012. Consumers have shown that they no longer buy houses, they buy lifestyle, and as such it is time we started selling lifestyle. The 2012 television commercial was unveiled to the audience, and received overwhelming approval from all present with its theme of “Home”.

To my mind the conference was a huge success, and I am looking forward to implementing some, if not all, the new ideas I picked up!

So, I wonder where Gen Blue will be next year? Wherever they chose, I’m pretty sure I’ll be there, getting lots of great new ideas!

Choosing a REALTOR® – What should you consider?

 When it comes to choosing a REALTOR® there are many things to consider. I usually recommend you start your search by talking with family or friends who have had a rewarding experience with their REALTOR®. You should definitely interview more than one sales representative as all REALTORS® are not created equal.

 I often suggest you work with a sales rep you feel comfortable with, one you feel you can trust, one that really cares about you needs, desires, and understands the anxieties you are experiencing during the entire process. Any good REALTOR® should have a list of references of past clients readily available upon request. Talking with these past client references will give you a bird’s eye view of what the sales rep is all about.

One should always remember, it is not always the sales rep that sells the most houses, is the right choice. The question your need to ask is how many homes have they listed and how many of those homes actually sold? Your REALTOR® should also be well versed on what is happening in your marketplace and possess a strong knowledge of all services provided in your neighbourhood such as shopping, education, health, and recreational facilities.

 I think one of the most important factors to consider when hiring a REALTOR® is how they plan to communicate with you. Do they have a system in place to keep you informed during the process? One of the most common complaints by consumers is their REALTOR® never let them know what was going on and they always had to call their sales rep to find out. A big tip for all you REALTORS® out there – KEEP YOUR CLIENTS IN THE LOOP! – don’t leave them at home wondering what’s going on.

 I’m sure, by now, you all know I can’t talk about how to choose a REALTOR® without mentioning Coldwell Banker’s Ultimate Service® Guarantee. This written service guarantee ensures your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle sales rep will do what they say they are going to do or you can FIRE them! If I was looking for a REALTOR® I would certainly check out one that gives me a written service guarantee.

 Good luck choosing your next REALTOR®. Then again, you don’t need luck if you choose a Coldwell Banker Pinnacle REALTOR®!!