How to Choose a Great Muskoka Handy Man

Karen Acton - Muskoka Handy Man

We all know how busy the skilled handy man in Muskoka is and how hard it is to find one when you need one. The temptation is always there to go the route of letting the friend of a friend fix or renovate for you. But when things go wrong you are left in a difficult position. Whether it’s a big project such as a bathroom remodel, something small like putting up shelves, or just simple repairs and routine maintenance, many busy home and cottage owners need to turn to a capable handy man to get the job done. Finding a qualified, professional, and reliable handy man can be a real challenge.

Here are some tips for you to help ensure that you find the right person for the job:

ARE THEY QUALIFIED FOR THE WORK

Unfortunately, all handy men are not created equally! If your project requires specific skills make sure that the handy man you hire has the qualifications and experience to do the job. Don’t forget that in Ontario some jobs require that a person, other than the home owner, performing certain work must be licensed; electrical and plumbing often fall into this category.

GET REFERENCES

Request at least two local references from previous customers. Any good handy man should be willing to do this without hesitation as his reputation is his stock in trade. Don’t just ask for them, check them! Inquire about the quality of the work, timeliness, professionalism, and how the handy man handled any changes that may have occurred during the project.  I find it good to ask if they would hire him or her again.

PUT IT IN WRITING WITH A PROPER ESTIMATE AND A CONTRACT

If you can find 2 or 3 handy men with good references then you should ask them for written estimates for the work you have in mind. Be sure that each estimate contains enough detail that you can make a comparison between them, after all it is not fair to compare apples with cabbages. For example, are the specified materials of the same quality? Does the cost include cleanup and hauling away any debris or old/broken items? Read all contracts carefully and be sure to ask about anything that you are unsure of.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT INSURANCE COVERAGE

Liability insurance is always important. If the handy man or maybe an employee of his/hers is injured while working on your property, you may be held liable for their medical costs and other expenses. Ask for evidence of their WSIB coverage before agreeing to any work. If they only work directly for home owners they do not have to have WSIB and may be depending on your policy for protection. They should also have insurance against their errors and omissions so you are protected if they do damage to your home or cottage accidently when working on the project. Uninsured handy men often charge less for their services because they lack the overhead expense of insurance, but using them could cost you in the long run.

BE CLEAR ABOUT THE PAYMENT SCHEDULE BEFORE YOU SIGN

Be cautious if you are asked to pay for the entire job up front – this is not an accepted business practice and could leave you open to fraud. Handy men will often ask for 50% up front to allow for the purchase of materials. You may have agreed to a “Time and Materials” contract with a weekly invoice being submitted or you may have even set up an account at the supply store so the materials can be billed directly to you and only need pay the handy man his weekly labour cost. Whatever the details are, be sure you are all clear on them and request receipts for all payments.

Whatever your project once you have found that great Muskoka Handy Man you will keep him or her close to your heart! A capable honest and dependable handy person is golden – someone you will recommend to friends being confident they will not let you down.

 

 

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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!

Prepare Your Bracebridge Home for Fall and Winter

Fall Maintenance in your Bacebridge Home - Karen ActonAs much as we may want to resist, the leaves have fallen in most of Muskoka and Thanksgiving is this weekend! It’s time to start preparing our homes for the cooler weather. Here is my check list of things to do so that you won’t have any nasty surprises as Jack Frost starts to nip at our noses!

  • Check for drafts. Feel for drafts around the edges of windows and doors. A good tip is to use a lighted candle and watch for the flame to flicker. If necessary, replace seals and repair caulking around window and door frames. Consider buying heavier or insulated drapery for especially drafty windows.
  • Clean your furnace by vacuuming it in the areas you can get to safely and change the filter. If you furnace has not had regular maintenance consider hiring an HVAC professional to test for leaks and check heating efficiency. They can also do a carbon monoxide check to ensure air safety. It’s also a good idea to stock up on extra filters and change them every few months.
  • Winterize air conditioning. If your wonderful Bracebridge home has central air conditioning you won’t be needing it again until late spring or summer. It may be necessary to cover your outdoor unit for winter. If you use window air conditioning units, remove them or cover to prevent air leaks.
  • Programmable thermostat. Buy a programmable thermostat, if you don’t have one. If you already have one, check the temperature settings. Setting your thermostat to lower the temperature automatically at night and when you’re not home, can result in substantial cost savings.
  • Test home safety devices. Replace the batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices and test to make sure they’re working properly. I know that the clocks do not go back until the end of the month but get a jump on it and do it now!
  • Clean humidifiers. Replace old filters and clean inside compartment. Vinegar is inexpensive and works well or use a lime/calcium removal product.
  • Take a look at the roof and make sure the shingles do not look badly worn especially in the valleys. Ice is very invasive and can lift a tired shingle causing a leak. A repair now is likely much less expensive than one after there is a leak.
  • Check the gutters to make sure they are not full of leaves. Leaves will hold the water and could cause a backup or freeze causing expansion and possible splitting and leaking.
  • Turn off outside plumbing so that it cannot freeze. Properly drain the garden hose and store in a dry place.
  • Test the snow blower if you have one. The first snow storm is not the best time to find out the belt is broken. Getting it serviced now if it is older can save you some heartache and some back ache!

These are some of the items that need doing. I‘m sure I have missed 1 or 2 others but once you get started you’ll fill in the blanks. Remember if there is anything I can assist you with, I am only a click or a call away.