Curb Appeal 101 for your Muskoka Property

Front Door EntranceSpring seems to have arrived at last and maybe you’re thinking about selling your home or cottage so here are some of my tips to enhance that ever important “Curb Appeal”.

  1. Have a front door that pops!Your front door should be an exterior focal point so ramp up the appeal by giving it a fresh look. Try painting it a rich colour and consider updating the hardware or adding a new knocker. Depending on the style of your home or cottage you may want to add a seasonal touch. Hang a spring wreath or craft item that shows your visitors a little of your creativeness but do not be tempted to make it too cluttered. Pots of bright and fragrant flowers are always a great addition if your entrance way has room but don’t make it difficult to enter and exit.
  1. Add some bright flowers or plants to the entrance side. Remember, in Muskoka curb appeal does not always mean there is a curb, but the exterior is the very first impression a potential buyer will have of your property—I suggest planting perennials and spring bulbs around your home especially on the entrance side. The extra layer of foliage and colour will create a sense of depth, making your front yard appear larger.
  1. Road numbers should be easy to see. If you live in a rural area make sure you can clearly see the 911 number as you approach from both directions. If you are in town, walk across the street from your home to get a better idea of how easy it is to find your house numbers. Pick large numbers in a clear font that are the easy to read from a distance. Try to install them where they are not blocked by trees, foliage or verandas and position the numbers horizontally rather than vertically as they are easier to read that way. If possible consider lighting your street number to make it easy to find when it is dark.
  1. Consider a front garden sitting area. If you have a large front yard and find you rarely use it, consider whether it would be a suitable location to put a sitting area that can work as a fun and functional hangout zone. A bench curved around an outdoor water feature or fireplace is sure to become a favorite gathering place for friends and family!
  1. Keep it neat and tidy. If you’re planning to sell, remember that an untended garden screams “work” to a potential buyer. If you have a lawn, early spring is a good time to reseed or add sod where it’s coming back patchy. Cover flower beds with a natural mulch to help retain moisture and give the beds a finished look.
  1. Look up! Make sure the roof is in good repair.If the shingles are curling at the edges or have crumbling bits, it is time to investigate further. Have a professional roofer take a look. If you need a new roof covering, check references and get at least three competing estimates before hiring someone for the job.
  1. Clean windows and siding. Give your siding a fresh start this spring by washing off the dirt, road salt and cobwebs using a power washer or a regular hose with washing attachment.  The latter can get windows shiny and clean but remember to clean inside windows as well for the most sparkle. 
  1. Remember the garage and driveway. If you can see it, it should look as good as the home. The garage and driveway often take up a lot of visual real estate, so if they don’t look good they can seriously detract from curb appeal. Have any driveway cracks repaired or the gravel graded and topped up. Freshen up the garage with a coat of paint and consider matching the door to the front door of the home. Don’t forget the finishing touches and add some sconce lighting and flower boxes.
  1. Make the garden path a feature. If your home’s walkway is a straight line from the sidewalk to the front door, you may be missing out on an easy curb appeal enhancement; the curving path. Even a slight curve in a front walk helps move the eye through the landscape, making the front yard seem more spacious and welcoming.
  1. Keep it in the spotlight.A well-lit porch is a welcoming sight to come home to and more fun to hang out on. It can also make the space look bigger. If your porch has a single light, consider installing one or two additional lights. If you have a long pathway leading to your door, consider adding landscape lighting as well — your guests will thank you.

In this current, highly competitive market, details matter.  The first time most prospective buyers see your property is when it is listed on www.realtor.ca Ensure that the exterior photo your Muskoka property makes a great first impression!

 

 

The Upside to Downsizing Your Muskoka Home

DownsizeYour children are grown and finally gone and settled into their own adult lives. You have gone through the woes of “empty nest” syndrome and you are now in the position to think about what is next for you!

Do you keep the big home and hope that you get to host the family holidays? Do you even want to do that?  Most of us eventually decide that a smaller home with less maintenance and overhead is the wiser thing to do, so here are some pros and cons to help you decide if there is an upside to downsizing for you.

Most often when I see clients downsize, they tend to move into into a smaller home or condo. Smaller homes very often are on smaller lots and both of these options can mean being closer to neighbours.

On the downside you can see and hear your neighbours.  This may be a negative but you can help moderate the effect by upgrading the window treatments in your home for privacy and strategically place screening plants in your garden or on your patio or balcony to make you new location more private.

The upside is you can get to know your neighbours. In most cases when you downsize you will find you have more time on your hands.  Less work to do around the home so having new friends in the neighbourhood is a great way to spend some of that time. Be social, old friends are great, but making friends next door will enhance the everyday enjoyment you have in your new home.

One of the things a larger home often has is storage space that smaller homes and condos usually lack.

On the downside storage becomes a premium. The double vanity in the old bathroom, the large hall closet, the full basement with a large utility room: these places may be gone in the new home. To counter-act this you may want to consider closet organizers and perhaps a bathroom makeover.

The upside is you can purge and then indulge: You may need to be a little brutal with yourself at first but pare down your “stuff” to only the things you need and love. Then give yourself permission to acquire only products you love as time goes on.  They may cost a little more but your new and efficient life style means you can afford to spend a little more on your favourite perfume and toiletries and use them every day rather than having 2 or 3 kinds and keeping the favorite one only for special occasions!

Most large family homes have formal sitting areas and family rooms. Often there is a craft room and a work shop. Lots of “hidey holes” for family members to have “me time” that may not exist in a smaller home.

The downside is that it is harder to have your own space. As a retired empty nester, you may have developed separate interests and activities from your partner so you will need to be intentional about giving each other the time and space needed to continue to do these activities.
The upside is that by being more exposed to your partner’s hobbies you may find you both enjoy them.  In addition, you will have a smaller home and fewer rooms that need cleaning so more time to spend together.

One of the biggest factors to consider when downsizing is what to keep and what to let go of.

The downside is your furniture may no longer work. Even if you’ve made careful decisions about what items you will keep and take to the new home there could be issues. A light-filled room can highlight stains you hadn’t noticed, the color or style may be all wrong for the space, and the way you find yourself using a room may mean that your furniture feels like a mismatch.

The upside is you are liquidating capital in the process and so can afford some new items: You have the perfect excuse to go shopping for new furniture and that is always fun!

The garden is usually a big adjustment whether you love to garden or not. Moving from a large home that likely has a larger garden to a smaller one with just a little one or even a condo with none can mean a big change.

The downside is your backyard shrinks, and your lifestyle changes along with it. For many this is a relief not a problem but if gardening is a passion for you, the solution is not as hard as you may think. There are often neighbours who can no longer manage their gardens who would love to allow you to help. Put a message on the community Facebook page and see how many replies you get. If you’re used to lazing by a back-yard pool and know you’ll miss it, consider a hot tub or a swim spa instead.

The upside is you have more time for you. Mowing the lawn will no longer be a time-consuming chore and the cost of the spring and fall turn around will be cut down considerably.  Remember, with some creative furnishings and plantings, a compact backyard can still meet your needs for a restful outdoor escape and a place to entertain family and friends.

By the time, you are ready to down size you have very likely been used to a large kitchen and cooking for a family. A smaller home or condo will usually mean a much smaller kitchen.

The downside is a compact kitchen changes the way you cook. When you have had oodles of counter tops and lots of storage perhaps even a pantry, cooking a family meal is relatively easy. A smaller kitchen will require you to clean as you go, plan your meals and shop for ingredients more often. It also means you need to reduce the quantities of serving dishes, glassware and kitchen gadgets that you keep.

The upside is that you can have fun learning new recipes. Embrace your downsized lifestyle and eat out more often. Meet friends out for dinner instead of having them over and when it comes to family events go to their home or make it pot luck and paper plates!

Another adjustment you will likely have to face is that your rooms need to serve more than one purpose. If you had a sewing room in your old home, you will most likely have to set up in a spare bedroom and pack things up for company.

The downside is rooms must serve more than one purpose. As an empty nester, you will have had the luxury of turning rooms the children once occupied into craft rooms, man caves, home offices and the like. When you downsize you will need to adjust to multipurpose rooms and make do, particularly when hosting guests.

The upside is less space less junk. You will be less tempted to accumulate stuff and buy only what you need or genuinely love.

Laundry rooms are often sacrificed in a downsizing move. Laundry rooms become laundry areas and in a condo may even be a community facility.

The downside is you need to plan your laundry day. If your kitchen and laundry become one or you need to leave your home to do laundry, figuring out what to do with baskets of washing can be a challenge. The typical laundry room is a prime dumping ground for all manner of items, such as shoes that need cleaning and stained items that are soaking in the sink, ironing board and so much more. You must find a way to eliminate this or “hide” it until laundry day.
The upside is small loads of laundry done frequently: Piles of laundry will become a thing of the past. Staying on top of washing, folding and ironing will become the norm.

Perhaps the biggest change and even the most difficult one to adjust to is how to handle house guests.

The downside is you have to plan well for company. Larger homes often come with guest rooms for visiting family but downsizing means you need to get creative to squeeze in more than one guest at a time. Bunk beds, wall beds, sofa beds and air mattresses are all options. It’s up to you how many guests you want to accommodate at once —and sometimes it will take a visit or two to see what will work.

The upside is smaller groups of visitors means more one-on-one time with them: If only a couple of family members can visit comfortably at once, quality time together is assured.

The decision to go from a large family home to a smaller one is not easy to make, but in my experience it is usually a good move with no regrets. I would be happy to help you with any questions you may have about the process and, of course, with the search for that new smaller abode.

5 Do’s and 5 Don’t When Renovating For Resale

renovating for resale - Karen ActonRealtors are often asked about what renovations need to be done to maximize resale value. In many cases I will tell my clients that other than some paint to freshen up things and a good declutter it is better to not spend money on a property simply for resale. Many Muskoka home and cottage renovations will only net a small portion of the cost to complete them. However that is not always the case, especially when a home owner intends to live in and enjoy the home for several years before selling. There are some renovations that will definitely add value to resale and some that will not.

My 5 Do’s

1. Kitchens. Updating your tired kitchen is one of the most lucrative methods of increasing the value of your home; however, there are some things to consider when planning a kitchen remodel.

It is important when making design decisions and selections for plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinets and countertop materials, to determine whether you are designing things to suit your own taste or choosing the best design for a return on your investment. Either option is perfectly acceptable, but you should understand that your design may not be the most effective one for making a profit. Try to strike a balance between the two that you can feel good about.

For example, using the existing kitchen layout and affordable cosmetic materials is a sure way to keep the cost of remodelling your kitchen manageable. When you start tearing out walls, bumping out the exterior home footprint to gain a few feet, or moving plumbing fixtures and appliances, the cost of the remodel will jump and your dollars will be less efficiently spent.

2. Adding living space. A straightforward addition of a new living space is typically a very good investment providing your property is in an area where the addition will not make you the “Cadillac on Chevy row”. That is, do not over improve the size of your property for the neighbourhood!

Larger square footage usually equals and increases your home’s value if the increase gives you additional rooms rather than bigger existing ones. This is NOT a small project, so if you are going to incur these expenses, it’s important to get some good advice on the effectiveness of the improvement. Again remember that you may be planning to enjoy this space for some time before you sell, but do not be tempted to make it so customized to your needs that a buyer will not appreciate it when you are ready to move on.

3. Curb appeal. You cannot make a second first impression! The front approach to your home or cottage is more than just a first impression; it is the only impression available to just about all of your home’s potential buyers.

Don’t despair, there are a number of very affordable things you can do to improve curb appeal, and a few more expensive ones that can likely pay off as well. Simply cleaning out overgrown brush and making a few new planting additions to your landscape can go a long way toward improving curb appeal. Making sure foot paths are level and have no loose stones is an inexpensive but vital improvement too. Repainting is another low-cost, high-impact improvement.

Bigger projects such as changing out old windows or the front door are things that potential buyers will notice and value. Occasionally more extensive renovations, such as added dormers and front porches, can prove wise, from an investment standpoint but you need to remember to not over improve for your neighbourhood.

4. Master suites.  Home buying decisions are in the hands of adults, and while they will want to be sure there is adequate space for children and guests, most adults care about the environment where they sleep. Updating a master bedroom or remodeling and adding a new master suite is usually money well spent.

5. Bathrooms. We all notice bathrooms, and all the bathrooms are important in your home or cottage. However, priority should be placed on the powder room and master bath, followed by a guest bathroom and any other secondary baths.

The same rules apply to a bathroom renovation as to the kitchen. Cosmetic changes are a safe bet for getting a good return on your investment. If the tub is in good condition but a dated colour, it can be painted – white or bone is easy to co-ordinate with a new toilet and sink. Make sure that the room is freshly painted, the colours simple and contemporary and the tile in good shape… no nasty black grout!

My 5 Don’ts

1. Kids’ spaces.  I do not want to be the Grinch here, but not all buyers will have children or children in the age group yours may be. Avoid creating specialty “Kid Zones” in your home and on your property. That rock climbing wall, which most kids would flock to, might actually be a negative to a buyer who sees no use for this feature and thinks only of the cost for removal. Make sure the spaces you create for your kids will pack up and leave when you do!

2. Pools.  Backyard pools are loved by millions, and while this appreciation is well founded, they should be constructed for their many virtues that are NOT investment related.

In Muskoka where we have an abundance of waterfront to visit and enjoy and long hard winters, a pool is very unlikely to increase the value of your home as such, is unlikely to pay for itself. Given our short summer season, many buyers may perceive the pool as a negative with ongoing maintenance work and related expense, or a significant cost to remove.

3. Wine rooms.  Currently a very popular item, the wine room may seem like a cool investment but unfortunately it is not a good one from a return perspective. It will capture the interest of only a very small percentage of potential buyers and wouldn’t appeal to someone who does not love wine. In fact it could represent a waste of space and a cost to retrofit, to many potential purchasers.

4. Removing features. Do not remove features for investment reasons. If you never use the fireplace in your basement, removing it might make perfect sense to you and your family. Just make sure you understand that the next homeowner might wish it were still there, and the money you spent demolishing the fireplace and reworking the space will not be reclaimed.

5. Minor additions. A small addition that results in the addition of a few square feet is very unlikely to increase your value. If you are not creating additional rooms but are simply expanding a bathroom or secondary bedroom you may be setting yourself up to lose money. The reason is simple. If you bump out a  bedroom wall by a few feet, that bedroom might be much more comfortable for your personal use, but the cost of the foundation, roof, framing, drywall and finishing will be substantial for a small gain in square footage.  Typically, a 3 bedroom 2,500 sq.ft. home will sell for very little more than a 3 bedroom 2,600 sq.ft. home when all the features and finishes are similar.

If you are thinking about a renovation of your Muskoa Home or Cottage, with resale in mind, I would be happy to meet with you and share my experience with the current market place. So please feel free to call me!

Doing an inventory of your Muskoka Home – Wise on so many levels!

Clutter - Karen ActonDocumenting your household’s contents is an important step we should all take. Of course the obvious reason for making this list is for your household insurance however, there is another significant benefit. Creating the list is an awesome way to help you streamline your belongings.

You may have heard of, or even created, a home inventory before but here are some tips to create a thorough home inventory and streamline your belongings at the same time.

Make Your Inventory List

Choose your checklist. The first step in making a home inventory is getting your hands on a comprehensive checklist — one from your own insurance company is best or you can use this free spreadsheet from Vertex42.

The simplest way to approach it is to walk through your home, room by room.  It can be a bit of a tedious process so you may want to divvy up the task over several weekends. Record a brief description of each item, how many you have, how much it cost and the year you purchased it to the best of your recollection. If you happen to know where the receipt is snap a picture of it.

Cover every room, closet, shed, the attics, the workshop, porches and garages. Everything should all be carefully examined and documented.

Add photos or videos to expand the list.  Whether you are taking photos or video, start at the front and work your way through each room — try to go in the same order used on your checklist.

Consider adding a map! By noting down where exactly in the house everything is stored you can easily find something, whether it’s an emergency or just time to hang the Christmas lights.  Use an actual floor plan if you have one; if not, you can create your own simple sketch of each floor of your house. Being as specific as possible, note where in each room boxes or other items are stored.

Keep paperwork in one place. Gather receipts, credit card statements, appraisal documents and the like, and keep them bundled with your other home inventory materials.  Consider taking the time to scan everything and store the digital archive in at least two places. Small household scanners are becoming easily accessible and are a very useful tool.

Use Your List to Declutter

Your newly created list is a fantastic tool. It will give you an overview of all your stuff and make seeing the duplicates and unnecessary items simple. It will also make it easier to purge as the checklist can give you some emotional distance that is sometimes hard to have when trying to give up things.

Read over your list and mark items that you have a lot of. Do you really need all of those extra dishes? Start a list of things you want to sell or donate. Highlight valuable items. Especially note valuable pieces you’ve been holding on to for a long time but are not necessarily using. Do online research and estimate what you could sell the pieces for. Would you rather have the extra space and money? If so, let those pieces go! If you have plans to give a special item to members of your family this is a great time to make a special note of that too.

Make a plan to have the “Junk” picked up or schedule a trip to the dump. There are many organizations that will happily accept your donations and some with pick them up. It will be hard work so don’t forget to schedule a reward at the end…but not one that involves buying more stuff!

Once you have gotten rid of the excess it is time to box up everything you are keeping and not using. Containers instantly make things look neater, and it’s also easier to shift items around or grab a box you need rather than trying to unload armfuls of loose stuff from a shelf.

Use storage for rotating items too. Free up space in cupboards, closets, shelves and counters for the items you actually use daily, and pack away the rest. This is one of the best ways to make your life easier, without getting rid of a drastic amount of stuff. Simply rotate in fresh dishes, linens and decorative items seasonally.

Plan to Revisit Your List

Update your inventory. It may seem like a bit of a hassle but it really will keep things decluttered and easy to manage. Anytime you buy something new or get rid of something on your list, pull out that inventory and note the change. Remember it is much easier to keep clutter at bay than deal with it after things have gotten out of hand.

The most important thing to do with your list is to keep a copy of your inventory offsite. Use a safe-deposit box or an online cloud-based storage system to keep your home inventory and all supporting documents secure.

Remember, a clutter free home is easier to sell and easier to move out of so if you anticipate selling your Muskoka home getting it organized, will be something you will really benefit from.

Buying a Home in Muskoka

Searching for a Muskoka Home - Karen Acton“Home Buying” when you Google that phrase you will find about 100,000,000 results. What on earth can all that information say?  How much real information is there on the topic of “Home Buying” you may ask?

Clearly a lot of this information will be repetitive and largely irrelevant to you if you are looking to buy a home in Muskoka. It will be largely from the USA or another English speaking country and not useful to Ontario based Canadians where our real property laws are different and in some cases the way we transfer title to property may even be different.

So let’s refine the search to “Home Buying in Ontario Canada”? The result will be a much better and more manageable number ….about 5,000,000 results! It will not take more than a month or so to scan that for some nuggets of value!

Seriously though, there is a great deal of good information available on-line but the time it takes to mine that information, out of the vast river of nonsense, makes the task of researching something as important as home buying a daunting one.

As a Realtor working and living in Muskoka I believe I am well qualified to assist you. As part of the team at Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka providing you with great information is a commitment we have made. It is my desire to save you from lost hours clicking through the internet seeking knowledge by providing it directly to you.

Here are my five most important things to think about before you buy.

MONEY

It seems like a no brainer but so often buyers jump the gun assuming that their finances are in place. They assume that they have enough down payment, good jobs, an inheritance, investments or just a mattress full of cash. But is that really all you need? NO you need a plan.

• You need to sit down and logically plan how you will finance your purchase. After all it is a large investment, for most, the largest investment they will make in many years perhaps even a life time.

• You need to determine if you need a mortgage and if so, speak with a bank or broker to see how much you qualify for and if there are any conditions your lender will place on you.

• If you do not need a mortgage perhaps you should still seek advice from a bank or investment advisor to determine if buying a property for cash is the best use of that money. You may find that it is better to invest the money in a different venue and still obtain a mortgage for the property purchase.

You need to make sure that you have all the funds you will need too. It is not just the down payment; there are legal fees, land transfer taxes and closing adjustments that will quickly add up.

LOCATION

Again this seems like a simple thing. You like this area and want to be there, what is the issue? But most property owners stay in one location for 10 years or more. What will you be doing in 10 years? It is impossible to predict accurately what our lives will hold for us, however we all have a vision of what we want and you should work with that.

• Will you have children? Will they go to school and is the school in the area a good one?

• Is being 10 miles out in the country for privacy, going to work when you have music lessons, soccer practice and karate 3 nights a week and only one family car?

• If your children are older will you want to be there when they are gone?

When trying to buy a waterfront property, people often spend months looking for a “child safe” lot, only to realize that in 3-4 years their children want a dock and deep water to jump into! Remember little children have to be watched at the water’s edge anyway, dock or beach makes no difference!

UTILITY

No not the utilities but the utility of the property you will need. The obvious things like number of bedrooms and bathrooms get taken care of easily but what about the less obvious?

• Do you work from home? Will good access to high speed internet be important? While internet access is not as big an issue as it used to be, there are still many rural locations where service is “slow” by today’s standards. Wireless and satellite options are often not available no matter what the supplier will tell you. In areas like Muskoka and Parry Sound the signals get deflected and there are some pockets that still have weak or intermittent service.

• Do you have family members with disabilities? Will they be able to visit and enjoy your home or cottage?

• Do you work shifts? What is the day time noise level like in the home for sleeping?

LIQUIDITY

Real estate is not always a liquid investment. This means that if something came up and you had to move, you cannot always sell your property quickly. Many factors will determine the time it will take to sell, some of which you cannot control. The current economic conditions will always be a factor you cannot control. You can however control a lot of things.

• Homes in desirable neighbourhoods will sell faster than those by train tracks or busy highways.

• Homes under power lines or close to landfills tend to take longer to sell although they may cost less to purchase. If you are not concerned by the proximity to the power lines you may be tempted to buy and get a great value. You do need to understand that you will likely take longer to sell when you decide that you want to move.

• Steep drive ways, lots of stairs to the lake, unusual floor plans all tend to make properties take longer to sell.

Again it is not possible to see the future but if you have a hectic life and feel that you may need to sell in a few years try not to put yourself in a property that is known to take longer to sell.

RESALE VALUE

Most people will want to increase their property value over the period they own their property. Time usually increases value and a home, which is simply well maintained, should still appreciate. However many of us plan on doing more. Finding a property that has the potential to be improved in a manner that will increase its resale value can be a great investment. When you are looking at properties keep in mind the potential it may have to be improved for eventual resale over time.

• If you are considering making a home larger be sure there is sufficient space on the lot to accommodate the improvements.

• Additional bedrooms, bathrooms and garage spaces will in most area increase value on a resale.

• Nice decks and patios are great but swimming pools can be a negative.

Remember to factor in the future development potential of your purchase. If you never do major improvements that is fine, but by knowing exactly what the potential is, you get to determine how much potential growth in value your property has.

Also, ongoing maintenance and upgrading of a home is imperative to keep up with the market. If you don’t spend, on average, approximately 2% of the value on your home per year, you’ll pay for it in a lower sale price when it comes time to sell.

Just to satisfy your curiosity if you Google “Home Buying in Muskoka Ontario” the number is reduced to a tiny 1.4 million.

Call me any time with your questions and I will not only be happy to help but will save you hours of “Google mining”.

Seller Beware!

Full Disclosure is Important when Selling your Bracebridge Home.

Seller Beware- Full Disclosure when selling - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaUntil the early 1990’s Caveat Emptor or “Buyer Beware” was a phrase used to describe the risk taken when buying a home. In plain English it meant tough luck if you had an issue after closing! So if the  Buyer had a problem with the home that they did not discover prior to closing, they had to deal with it, with little or no chance of any compensation, from the Seller or the Realtors involved. The Realtor thought to be “working” for the Buyer, was in fact, working for the Seller and was not obligated to give advice to the Buyer, even though the Buyer may have believed that they were being represented.

Fortunately, things are very different now. It is mandatory for Realtors to give a full explanation of the types of representation available to their prospective clients and who is being represented by which Realtor in any transaction. A Buyer can choose to be represented and receive advice that they can rely on to help them complete their due diligence when purchasing a property.

This also means that for Sellers, full disclosure of all known defects of the property is vitally important. It will assist your listing Realtor in marketing and it provides a potential Buyer and their Realtor with readily available answers about the property, thereby instilling them with confidence that they know everything they need to make an informed decision.

As a Seller there is an obligation to disclose not only the obvious “visible” issues that a buyer and their Realtor will be able to see, or the less obvious ones a home inspector should find, but also any “hidden” ones of which you are aware.

According to an article by Mark Weisleder a prominent real estate lawyer and regular Toronto Star writer.

“If you know there’s something seriously wrong with your house, something that might not be found in a home inspection and you don’t disclose it, you can be successfully sued later.”

Here’s why:

In October, 2011, Jason Pedlar and Mary Kalbfleisch agreed to buy a 35-year-old home in Caledon from Daniel McDevitt and Elizabeth Jakobczak. The couple had a home inspection done before they put in an offer, and the inspection found no sign of plumbing drainage problems.

The deal closed in mid-December. Two months later on Feb. 20, Pedlar found sewage backing up into the basement bathtub and sink. Roto Rooter cleared the drain, but could not get past a certain point in the pipe. A TV scope showed water pooling inside the pipe. A quote of $6,000 plus HST was given to repair the problem.

Pedlar contacted his insurance company and the work took longer to do and cost more because the basement had 36 inches of concrete. The buyers had to move out while the repairs were being done because of the dust and noise from the jack hammering. Ms. Kalbfleisch was also pregnant. The insurance company paid for them to stay in a hotel while the repairs were completed.

Pedlar contacted the Region of Peel and learned they had been out to the property twice in 2010 to inspect and clean out blockage from the same sewage line. The Region sent a letter to McDevitt after the second visit in July, 2010 suggesting other repairs be done.

Pedlar and Kalbfleisch sued for $14,945, which were the additional costs not covered by their insurance to repair the problem. They asked for $5,000 more in aggravated damages, because they had to move out and have their baby while outside the home. 

McDevitt admitted in court that he had a problem with the basement bathroom but that after the Region came out and cleared the blocked area, they told him that if he had no further problems for six months, he would be good to go.

McDevitt also said in court that they used the basement bathroom every day and did not have any problems from July 2010, until the sale in 2011. He stated in court that he did not mention this to the buyers because he felt that this was no longer a problem.

In a decision released in July 2014, Judge John Rose of the Barrie Small Claims Court used the law of hidden defects to reach his decision. He said that if the seller knows about a defect that has caused any loss of use or enjoyment of a meaningful part of the premises, then it must be disclosed to the buyer.

The Region inspectors testified that they discussed the potential sewer pipe problem with McDevitt. This together along with the letter convinced the Judge that McDevitt knew about a structural problem with the pipe which should have been disclosed.

He awarded the buyers $10,500 for the repairs to the pipes but nothing for aggravated damages as the sellers did not do this with any ill motive and there was no evidence of mental distress.

The buyers were fortunate to have uncovered the evidence from the Region of Peel to support their position. Without it, it would have been difficult to prove that the sellers knew anything about this.

SO, if you are selling your Bracebridge home that has had a problem in the past that you believe is repaired OR that you know might reoccur…. disclose it. Then if the Buyer proceeds they will not have an actionable claim against you. As a busy Realtor I can assure you that a Buyer will likely still proceed with a purchase on a property that has some issues, as long as it is disclosed and is priced accordingly. The extra money you may have “made” on a sale with an undisclosed defect will quickly evaporate in a law suit. The days of Caveat Emptor in real estate are long gone and that is a good thing.