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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

8 Tips for a Successful Muskoka Home Renovation

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeIn my role as a Muskoka REALTOR® I am frequently invited into homes and cottages to give an opinion of value. These properties are in various states of maintenance and repair and often have been renovated by the home owner. These renovations span the whole gamut, from elegant and value-enhancing to lamentable and wasteful. So here are some tips that I believe will be helpful if you plan to renovate your Muskoka Home.

Set a Realistic Budget

If you plan to do a home renovation you really should have a clear idea of what you can afford before you start looking in magazines and picking fixtures and countertops etc. Talk to a contractor about realistic costs. Even if you plan to do the work yourself be sure to have a contingency fund built into the budget to allow for the unexpected. In my experience, there is nearly always a “surprise” element to every project.

Things to make sure you budget for include:

  • cost of preparing the space before you start the actual work (disposal of old materials)
  • relocating plumbing and electrical
  • light fixtures
  • paint and PRIMER – often skipped but will save time and money if done right!
  • flooring – will the existing floor be damaged in the process and need replacing or refinishing?
  • Permits – most renos WILL need permits and skipping them means that you could have issues when reselling and in some cases, void your insurance.
  • HELP – can you do it all yourself or will you hire out some parts?

Will Your Reno Suit Your Neighbourhood?

While most renos are interior and you may think immaterial to the neighbourhood you do need to consider the investment you are about to make. If your dream is to install an ensuite bath with a steam room that is wonderful but none of the homes in your area have this kind of luxury feature, you should understand that it is purely for your enjoyment while you own your home. You will not likely get any return on the investment. In fact, in some cases over improvements can devalue a home.

Remember not to ignore your home’s style when renovating especially if the renovation includes an addition. If you have a traditional Muskoka waterfront property, then a modern addition with walls of glass may not look esthetically appealing and will not generally improve value. While it may be your dream to own, it may not be the dream of many protentional future buyers. Work with your builder and architect to come up with a design that gives you the features you want but still fits the rest of the home or cottage.

Avoid Going Too Trendy

People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. I would encourage you to consider that trendy often means short term. While some of the hottest and latest trends will turn out to be timeless many will burn out fast and not only will you stop loving them quickly but the next buyer of your home or cottage will see them as “dated”.

To keep any room “trendy” pick accent items you can add rather than physical and structural ones. That way when the trend is over you can replace them with something new.  A good example of this is shag carpeting.  Rather than doing wall to wall, do a more standard floor finish and add a shag area carpet  and perhaps some shag accent pillows.  When shag goes out of style, and it will, replace these accents with whatever is the next trend.

Buy the Right Materials

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when it comes to home renovation is to try to be frugal when choosing materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.  Inexpensive and cheap are definitely not the same thing. Price check and be wise but being cheap will often lead to having to spend more in the long run. Cheap fixtures and products end up looking that way and invariably you will be disappointed and probably choose to replace then with the product you wanted in the first place.

Remember that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait and do it later!

Do the Prep Work

Do it the right way the first time. Whatever the job get yourself ready before you start. Gather the right tools and prepare the space before you dip a brush in the paint or hammer in the first nail. You will be so glad you did.  I know it is the tedious part of any project big or small but if you fail to be prepared you will end up taking longer than needed and perhaps compromising on the quality of the finished job simply because you were too eager to get started.

One of the most important prep steps is the measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of the great contractor and you should make it yours.  You can burn through a budget quickly by making cutting mistakes in your lumber or trim work and if ordering flooring, buying too much or too little will lead to total frustration. If you are not sure how to measure properly ask someone who knows. A quick lesson will save you time money and frustration.

Paint and Light

People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on. It is important to use the correct type of paint for the surface. The best advice will come from the professional at the paint store but choose better quality paints with the right finish for the job.

Remember that your lighting needs to complement the colour palate you use and that typically most people gravitate to light and warm colours rather than dark and bold.

Get the Right Tools

If you are planning on doing the renovation yourself make sure you have all the tools you need to do it properly. This means that you may have to borrow or rent what you don’t have. Do not try to make the wrong tool do the job. This can lead to expensive mistakes and sadly even to injury to yourself or damage to the tool you are trying to make do the job. Knives are not screw drivers and chop saws are not miter saws so please be careful and make sure you have the right equipment to do the job safely.

You may even need to rent stand lights so you can properly see what you are working on and space heaters to keep you warm in the addition until the new heating is connected.

Embrace the Chaos

Once you have done the budget, designed and purchased the materials, sit down in and enjoy your last moment of calm for a while. Then take a big breath and embrace the chaos. While it is always best to try working in a clean and tidy space you need to accept that a clean and tidy work space is not a clean and tidy home. You will have disrupted meal times, dusty surfaces and hard to find possessions for the duration of the project. So embrace it, find humor in it and don’t get mad at each other or the kids over things that cannot change until the job is done.

 

I hope these tips will be useful and not too negative. Renovating your Muskoka home or cottage can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor and if done well, will bring you many years of enjoyment and a good return on your investment when the time is right to sell.

Understanding the Financing Clause when Buying Muskoka Home

What is a Mortgage - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaOur market in Muskoka has been very active this last few years and sometimes the temptation to make offers unconditional can be very strong.

As a buyer, you may have been pre-approved and feel that it is safe to buy unconditionally only to be caught up by a lender’s requirement that you cannot meet.  At the last minute, you may even have to come up with a larger down payment.  If you are unable to do so, this could leave you not only losing your dream home but potentially subject to the consequences of a breach of contract.

As a seller, an unconditional offer is always very appealing but if that buyer cannot produce funds on closing the results cannot only be heart breaking, but you may be faced with losing the home you hoped to buy and possibly being in breach of your contract with the seller of your future home.

As a Realtor® I always strive to guide my clients with good advice and protect them from making a mistake. I know that when a buyer finds the perfect home or cottage they want it and don’t want to be outbid.  My job is to be the voice of reason. Unless you have the resources to buy with cash or a very large down payment that well exceeds most lenders’ requirements, a financing clause is simply the best option.

In a recent article Mark Weisleder a Partner, author and speaker at the law firm Real Estate Lawyers.ca LLP covered the following important points.

1. Pre-approvals are no guarantee you will obtain your financing

Too many buyers are cavalier about submitting offers without a financing condition, especially during the pressure of a bidding war. You must understand that even with a pre-approval, the lender must be satisfied with its own appraisal. The foundation for most appraisals is what would a willing buyer pay a willing seller, WITHOUT pressure? In a bidding war, there is almost always pressure on the buyer. This is why the appraisal will likely be lower than what the buyer offered and the lender will offer you less money than you hoped for. The answer is always to have an extra 5-10% of the down payment in reserve to protect you. In a condominium purchase, if it is conditional upon review of a status certificate, use that time to also make sure your financing is in order.

 2. Lenders can change their mind right up until the day of closing

Even if you are approved after you sign your agreement, the lender can still change their minds based on anything which they may learn before they advance funds. There are usually many conditions attached to any loan approval, such as verification of income, down payment, employment. Make sure you work with your mortgage broker to satisfy all of these conditions and requirements as soon as possible in the process. The worst words a lawyer can hear from a lender on the day of closing is “The file is in underwriting”. This typically means that someone else is reviewing the entire file because issues have arisen. In some cases this can result in the entire loan being cancelled, right on the day of closing. In our firm, since we receive and send funds via wire transfer, we are fortunately able to complete deals even when lenders are late transferring funds to our trust account.

 3. Always know the net amount you will receive from your lender

Every mortgage commitment is different. Some may contain up-front fees for arranging the loan, appraisals, CMHC fees and HST, interest to the interest adjustment date. All of these fees are deducted right off the top, before the balance is sent to your lawyer on the day of closing. The bottom line is you must know the exact amount that will be sent to your lawyer on closing, to make sure you have enough to make up the rest of the down payment, land transfer tax and legal fees. At our firm we remind clients to send us their mortgage instructions early in the process so that we can get them the net amount they will need to complete the transaction in a timely manner.

In Muskoka lenders sometimes have requirements for additional documentation. Things like water potability certificates, septic use permits, proof of properly installed water treatment (disinfection) systems, road access agreements to prove year round access, final occupancy permits and zoning even an inspector’s statement regarding the type of wiring and insulation. A mortgage can’t be advanced without insurance on the property, so a W.E.T.T. inspection may be necessary for wood burning devices. Ultimately the underwriter at the lending institution is responsible for making sure that the lender’s investment is protected.  Sadly, they are not concerned with how much a buyer loves a property or how much the seller needs the transaction to close.

I hope that after reading this you will be cautious when buying or selling a Muskoka home or cottage. A good Realtor® will always put the interests of the client ahead of their own and encourage you to use a financing clause if there is any possibility you may need one.

February in Your Muskoka Home – How to Outsmart Winter!

Furnace FIlterEven in this La Nina winter, when things are not as harsh as a typical Muskoka winter, February can be long, cold and grey. Here are some tips to help you outsmart the weather by making your home inside a clean, bright, cozy and healthy haven. And since this is a leap year, you’ll have an extra day this month to get it all done.

Put a pot of soup on the stove Nothing will make your home or cottage smell better then the savory fragrance of a pot of homemade soup. Pick a family favorite or try something new and rest assured it will drive away the winter blah’s.

Show your home some love Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, so why not give your home a little extra TLC? Pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers just because, hang a new art print on the wall or host a cozy gathering with lots of candles and twinkle lights.

Plan a trip Even if you don’t book one, give your self an afternoon vacation scrolling through vacation sites or a travel magazine. Let your mind have an adventure in an exotic destination and totally ignore the grey skies outside.

Jump-start the spring cleaning Think of the advantage of doing it now! When the nice weather comes in just a few weeks you will be bale to get out and about and not be stuck indoors. Grab a mop, bucket, vacuum and duster and get to it. You will be glad you did.

Purify the air Winter means closed doors and windows and the furnace or fire on. This makes for a warm and cozy home but unfortunately means the air will get pretty stale and not very clean. So change the furnace filter and on the better days open a window for a little while to let in some clean air. It’s a great idea to invest in some air-cleaning houseplants or set up an air purifier too.

Do a home safety check This should be done several times a year and it only take a few minutes. Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors replacing old batteries and the units themselves it they are older. It is recommended that you change the units every 10 years as the sensors wear out. Refresh the emergency kit and the first aid kit. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on fire extinguishers and replace if needed.

Refresh or Create the Power Outage Kit La Nina years are often plagued with ice storms so power outages are definitely more likely. Have a kit with flashlights, fresh drinking water (at least 1 gallon per person per day for at least three days), foods that can be eaten without cooking and don’t forget food and water for your pets.

Make some great freezer dinners  A prepared dinner can be a great help when you have unexpected plans. If there is a nice bright February day get out and enjoy it and come back to a homemade dinner that’s already prepared! It’s a win, win for you and your family. A single afternoon spent cooking big- batch meals (think chili, soup, casseroles) can make it so much easier to get dinner on the table when you don’t feel like cooking.  There are lots of great ideas on line try Googling “Crock Pot” dinners.

Protect entry floors The muck and gunk of a soggy winter is especially hard on your entrance way. Road salt, sand and melting snow can wreak havoc on floors. Protect your flooring by using interior and exterior mats, and a tray to collect wet boots. Invest in a stack of washable rugs, so you can always keep a fresh, dry rug in the entry.

February is also a great time to stat thinking about selling your Muskoka home or cottage. If you think that 2016 will be the year you plan to sell, call me. I would be delighted to sit with you and help you make a plan of things to do during the last weeks of winter in preparation for a great spring market.

Is Your New Muskoka Home Making You Second Guess Your Decision?

Karen Acton Mew Home BlueAre you feeling little blue now that you are all moved into your new Muskoka home? Well don’t fret, it is not an unusual feeling. In a recent study as many as 1 in 4 homeowners said they went through a period of regretting purchasing their current home.

Why you may wonder? Well think about it, you spent months dreaming about a new home, you made plans in your head about things you would or could do in a new home. Now that you have selected one, most of these plans will have to be refined or even deleted. After all, your new home is a reality now, and not all of your plans and dreams will fit the actual spaces you have and some of the things you have been dreaming about will not be affordable.

Regardless of how much you might feel the urge to, you can’t just take a house back and get a refund. Even if you could the next one you picked would likely have similar issues for you. So what is the solution? I have taken a google tour and combined my findings with my experience and put together some tips to help you ease anxiety and start appreciating your home’s positive side.

It is OK to wallow a little.  Accept that it is totally normal to have second thoughts after committing to mortgage payments, moving expenses and the challenges of resettling your family. Instead of feeling disappointed that the house may not living up to your expectations, give yourself a break and wallow a little….but just a little! Call a friend and vent over a coffee or a glass of wine for a short time, even have a cry and let it all out, if that is what you need. Remember that these feelings will be more likely to pass if you deal with them so get it all out.  Try making a list of all the things you would like to change about your house and save it. One day years from now, you might look back on it when you’re packing up to move out of the house you have come to cherish, and laugh.

Put a positive spin on things. Pick out some art, with a warm and welcoming message, and hang it somewhere so you’ll see it each day. Muskoka is home to numerous lovely shops that sell all kinds of attractive items that have positive messages. Reading the sentiment you wish you had about your home will begin to rub off and shift your feelings about the new space.

Bring some familiarity.  Keeping some elements the same from one home to the next can help a new place feel more familiar, and it cuts down on stressful decision making. Don’t forget that part of what’s exciting about buying a home is the potential to make a fresh start, so be sure to leave room for the new and different too.

Do things slowly.  Settling into your new Muskoka home can be overwhelming. Don’t pressure yourself into doing it all at once. It is OK to leave some boxes unpacked in the basement for a week or even more! Start with the areas that affect your daily routines the most like the kitchen, medicine cabinet, and clothes closets. When they are neatly organized in a familiar way you will start to feel more settled. And when things start out neat and tidy and well organized, they are more likely to stay that way and more importantly you will feel like you are home.

Embracing the new. There are many traditions from around the world relating to inhabiting a new space. You could say a blessing for your new home or invite a spiritual leader to do it, you could symbolically sweep out traces of the past owners with a good old fashioned broom or even cleanse the air in each room with a sage bundle. Many of these symbolic rituals can help make the home feel like it is yours.

Buy flowers.  We buy flowers for the ones we love, so buying them especially for your home can be a surprisingly meaningful gesture. Don’t wait for things to be perfect to treat your new home to a beautiful bouquet do it NOW and as a bonus you will get to enjoy them too.

Be half full not half empty If you own a home, especially one in beautiful Muskoka, you have a lot to be grateful for. Try keeping a gratitude journal daily for a week listing all the things you appreciate about your new home. Form big things like the fact that you own it, to little things like you have enough closets for all your clothes, or the water pressure is great! You will be surprised as this journey will likely remind you of exactly why you wanted this home when you made the purchase.

Get help. Nothing drastic required, but if things are not coming together as easily as you would like, it may be time to call in reinforcements. Ask a design-minded friend over for coffee and pick their brain about the best furniture arrangement for your new living room or perhaps hire a designer to help make bigger changes. Having a trusted second opinion about your space can help move things forward.

Accept the imperfections. Yes, you made a huge investment and you were hoping that things would be perfect, but just like people, no home is perfect. Focus on getting to know your home’s quirks and making the most of its positive qualities instead of holding it up to an impossible glossy-magazine ideal. Even a custom-built home can turn out to have imperfections that the owner did not anticipate when it was designed.

In my experience as a Realtor no one would say their home is perfect. Enjoy and accept the things you did not see or expect during the showings you had before closing and soon you’ll
love the new Muskoka home that you were so excited to move into.

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!