Author Archives: Kevin Stokes

Real Estate Terms every Home Buyer should know

Buying a home should be an exciting event, not a stressful and confusing time.  With so many different factors attached to the purchase process, many home buyers seem overwhelmed and even unsure.  As your premier agent specializing in NOTL real estate, I would like to share the following key real estate terms that will help you better understand all the facets of the home buying process and give you ownership from start to finish.

Key Real Estate Terms

Appraisal – An assessment of the value of a property that is based on a variety of factors, including similar home prices in the neighbourhood.

Closing – A final meeting where ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.  Typically, the buyer, seller and both real estate agents attend the closing.

Closing Costs – A set of fees attached to the purchase of a property.  These are due before ownership is transferred.  Costs include all lawyers’ fees, title searches and home inspections. These fees are anywhere from 1% – 3% of the property’s original purchase price.

Days on Market – The number of days a specific property has been listed on the real estate market.

Escrow – A time period (30 days or more) after an offer has been accepted by the seller.  During the time in escrow, the property is inspected and appraised.

Foreclosure – A property that has been repossessed by the bank because the owner has defaulted on their mortgage payments.

Gentrification – Renewal and rehabilitation projects in an urban area that changes the demographics.  These areas typically see property values rise.

Home Inspection – An inspection of the various systems of a property (pipes, structure and electrical etc.).  This inspection takes place when the home is in escrow.

Homeowners’ Insurance – A policy that protects the owner’s contents, belongings and structure of the home.

Listing Price – The price of the property set by the seller.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – A database used by real estate agents that lists homes for sale.

Property Taxes – A tax that is based upon the value of the property. This tax is a municipal one that helps fund services such as sewer, water and garbage collection.

Walkthrough – The final inspection of a property done before the final closing date.

Key Purchasing Terms

Down Payment – A percentage of a homes’ purchase price that the buyer must pay.  A down payment is not part of the mortgage.

Equity – The percentage of the home’s overall value that the homeowner has paid off. The bank (lender) owns the rest.

Interest Rate – The cost attached to borrowing money (the mortgage).  The interest rate of a mortgage is set by the lender.

Mortgage – The type of loan that is used to secure payment of a home.  A mortgage is paid off over a specific period through set payments.

Mortgage Broker – A lender who works for the buyer to secure a loan (mortgage) either through a bank or another lending institution.

Pre-Approval – The total amount of money (mortgage) the buyer is approved for.  This amount is based upon the borrower’s credit score, their assets and the borrower’s income.

Principal – The outstanding balance of the loan (mortgage).  With each payment, the mortgage’s principal is reduced.

By understanding the language associated with purchasing a home, you will be able to be an active agent throughout the entire process. If you have any questions or would like clarification on any of these terms, please call or stop by.  I would love to help you find your perfect home and have a large inventory of exciting real estate options available in the NOTL region.  I look forward to working with you soon.

 

Common Home Selling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – Part 1

Have you been thinking about putting your home on the NOTL market?  Properly listing your home may be a little more complicated than you think, especially if you want to sell it for full market value.  As your premier agent specializing in the NOTL real estate market, I would like to discuss these common selling mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Lousy Photos

The importance of an effective online real estate portfolio cannot be understated.  Over 90% of potential home buyers find their home or at least narrow their list of potential homes online.  One of the most common selling mistakes is not representing your home with proper photographs.  Do not use dark or poorly lit photographs.  You will also want to stay away from unfocused and crooked or uneven pictures.  Instead, use crisp, well lit and clear photographs that capture the true essence of your home.

Here’s the deal:

If you want to sell your home quickly and at market value, you may want to hire a professional photographer or work with your real estate agent to take pictures that will not only be eye-catching but are sure to showcase your home on your online portfolio.

Improper Staging

A poorly staged home is a home that is not going to sell as quickly or at full market value.  Any potential buyer wants to envision their lifestyle and their belongings in your space.  If they cannot, you will be losing potential sales.  To effectively stage your home, you will want to do the following:

  • Depersonalize your home. Take down family photos and other personal belongings.
  • Move most of your furniture into storage so that each room showcases as much of its floorplan as possible.

Be sure to work with your real estate agent to come up with a staging plan before your next open house.  It can mean the difference between closing or another week on the NOTL real estate market.

No Repairs

Before listing your home, be sure that your entire home is in proper working order and is not in need of any repairs or upgrades.  No potential buyer wants to purchase a home that is full of repairs or is going to use these repairs as a bargaining chip.  If you want a fast sale at full market value, be sure to have your home in tip-top shape before putting it on the market.

These common selling mistakes can drastically affect the sale of your home either monetarily or the length of time that it sits on the market.  If you would like more information on these common pitfalls or have been thinking about listing your home on the NOTL real estate market, contact me today.  I would love to be a part of your sales team and look forward to working with you soon.

Is Summer a Good Time to Buy a Property in NOTL?

Summer is not only the best season in NOTL, it is also a great time to buy your dream home.  With so much to see and do, it is hard to believe that you can fit house shopping into your summer schedule – however, buying a home in the summer does have many advantages.  As your premier agent specializing in NOTL real estate, I would like to share the following tips to help you buy that perfect home this summer.

More Choice

Summertime means choices.  One of the key advantages of buying a home in the summer is the increased inventory.  This increased selection of homes can be attributed to the following factors:

  • Nicer weather and longer days mean more potential buyers are looking at homes.
  • A more flexible schedule with less events means more free time to view homes.
  • A mutual interest by both sellers and buyers to move their belongings during the warm dry weather.

The summer months are the perfect time to buy your home.  With all the extra inventory you should be able to find the home that meets and even exceeds everything that you are looking for.

Are you Ready?

Added inventory and warmer weather means more competition on the NOTL real estate market.  Before beginning your house hunting activities, make sure that you have been pre-approved for your mortgage.  Once you find that perfect home, you will want to move fast and put in an offer.  By moving quickly and having a pre-approved mortgage, you should be able to beat the competition and avoid the dreaded bidding war.

Count the Days

When putting in an offer on a home, it is a wise idea to look at how many days that specific property has been on the market.  If the home has been on the market for over 60 days, chances are the seller is going to be willing to negotiate.  By paying attention to this number, you may be able to land your dream house at a deep discount.

Go with the Right Agent

The right real estate agent can make all the difference in the world.  When choosing an agent, be sure that they have years of experience and are knowledgeable of not only the area and its neighbourhoods but with any quirks in the local market.  The right real estate agent should not only be able to help you find your dream home this summer, they should also be able to help you get you a fair deal as well.

These tips should help you buy your NOTL dream home.  If you would like other tips on buying a home this summer or would like to see some of the new and exciting properties that are available in NOTL please contact me today. I would love to help you find your perfect home this summer.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

Amazing Summer Events in NOTL

Long days, warm weather, a wide range of events and festivals – this is what summer is all about in Niagara.  Before you start clearing your calendar and planning the summer holidays, you may want to see what is going on in the Niagara region.  As the premier agent for all your NOTL realty needs, I would like to share the following list of these can’t-miss events and festivals taking place this summer.

Family Fun Fest 2019

This family-oriented event offers access to a thrilling waterslide, a 1-acre pool, a kid’s splash zone as well as a wide range of games and activities.  There will also be local bands performing throughout the day, face painting and a BBQ.  This is a wonderful family event in the heart of Niagara.

Canada Day in NOTL

Be sure to join in on the Canada Day festivities in Niagara this July.  The fun begins during the day at Simcoe Park and ends in the evening at Fort George.  There is a host of free events and live music during the day, so make sure to arrive early to take in all the action. The day concludes with a musical fireworks display at Fort George.  Come celebrate Canada’s birthday Niagara style this year.

Winery Tours

Summer in NOTL would not be complete without a winery tour or two.  The entire area is known for its amazing wines.  Each winery offers something unique from special tours to tastings and pairings during the summer months.  Book your favourite winery tour today.

Niagara Music 2019

Niagara Music is an all summer event that pairs some of Ontario’s finest musicians with a wide range of venues that include:

  • Local churches.
  • City parks.
  • A host of local wineries.
  • Select restaurants.

For a list of performers, event venues and ticket costs, please visit: http://www.musicniagara.org/.

Niagara Jazz Festival

The Niagara Jazz Festival boasts over 265 musicians performing at over 77 locations throughout the NOTL region.  Some of the more popular venues that are part of the festival include:

  • World Music on the Beach.
  • Jazz in the Park – this free event features various artists.
  • Niagara’s Summer Mardi Gras, featuring the Shuffle Demons.

For a detailed list of all the Niagara Jazz Festival performances, dates and ticket costs, please visit: https://niagarajazzfestival.com/.

These can’t-miss festivals and events are part of what makes the Niagara region such a special place to be in the summer.  If you would like more information about these or other great summer venues, or are interested in seeing some of the great real estate options available in NOTL, please contact me today.  I look forward to working with you soon.

 

Plant Your Family Flowerbed Today

A bright and colourful flowerbed is a great addition to any yard.  Not only does it complement the landscaping, it is an engaging family activity that will get your kids outside.  As the premier agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to share the following tips on how to get started on your family’s flowerbed today.

A Fresh Start

Weed free and debris free soil is a must if you are going to grow a vibrant and healthy flowerbed.  Before doing any planting, take the time to remove weeds or other plants and sift through the soil to remove rocks, sticks or other items.  Now it’s time to add a bag or two of top soil to provide extra nutrients.

Pick your Plants

Once you have properly prepared and weeded your bedding soil, it is time to go to your local nursery to pick out the flowers and plants that you will be adding to your bed.  Try to choose a wide variety flowers so that you will not only enjoy a host of colours, you will also be able to admire your flowers throughout the spring and summer.

Remember:

As soon as you have unloaded your flowers from your car, be sure to thoroughly water each flower as any type of transportation will add stress to your delicate plants.

Proper Planting

When planting your flowers, pay specific attention to each flower’s tag.  This tag will provide the following important information:

  • The total size the flower will grow to – this is important because you will want to plant the larger flowers in the back of your bed so that they do not overcrowd the smaller flowers.
  • How much sun and water each flower needs.
  • Proper planting space and depth.

By following the instructions on these tags, you should be able to plant and enjoy a healthy and vibrant flowerbed for the entire summer season.

Family Fun

After planting your flowers, it is important to water your flowerbed.  Transplanting flowers can be hard on the delicate root systems, so to give them a head start and make sure that they have ample water.  Once the initial work has been completed, you can put together a routine that includes the entire family.  This routine should include:

  • A regular watering schedule.
  • A consistent weeding routine.
  • Any other sporadic maintenance that may be needed such as removing dead flowers.

A flowerbed is a great way for you and your family to get outside and enjoy your yard this spring.  It will teach your kids responsibilities and foster a sense of ownership and accomplishment.  If you would like other tips on how to create a fabulous flowerbed or are interested in viewing some of the new and exciting properties that abound in NOTL, please contact me today.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

 

Increase your Home’s Curb Appeal with These Simple Steps

Thinking about listing your home this spring?  One surefire way to attract attention to your home and get it to stand out in the NOTL market is to increase its curb appeal.  As the premier agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to offer you the following tips on how you can improve the look of the exterior of your home.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

A fresh coat of paint on your home’s exterior is a great way to increase your value and appeal.  Any potential buyer will appreciate a newly painted home and it is a definite selling feature.  If a new coat of paint is not in your budget, there are smaller jobs that will also increase your home’s curb appeal.

  • Repaint the trim around your doors and windows and other accent areas on the exterior.
  • Paint your door. Add a splash of colour to your door to make your home a stand out.  This year’s popular colour choices are red and yellow.

Clean Up

The most inexpensive way to increase your worth is by dedicating a weekend and cleaning up your yard and the exterior of your home.

Remember:

When cleaning up the outside of your home, you will need to do more than just mow the lawn and sweep your driveway.

  • Wash the windows both inside and out.
  • Check for any damaged siding, or any areas that are in need of re-caulking.
  • Power wash your home’s exterior, driveway, walkways and fence. Be careful not to damage the caulking around your doors and windows or your roof’s shingles.

Added Details

Adding a few details to the exterior is another way to increase its value.  Some simple yet effective additions or changes include:

  • Replace or repaint your mailbox.
  • Add shutters to your home. Shutters are an effective way to break up a rather bland exterior wall while at the same time make your windows look bigger. To maximize their effect, try choosing a colour that contrasts that of your home’s exterior.
  • Plant flowers in your front yard or add planters and hanging baskets to the entrance and porch.
  • Replace or repaint your house numbers and exterior light fixtures.

These simple yet effective tips will greatly improve your home’s curb appeal and make your home more attractive to prospective buyers.  If you are interested in other ways to improve the look of the exterior of your home or are thinking about listing your property on the NOTL real estate market, please contact me today.  I would love to be a part of your sales team.  I look forward to working with you soon.

 

Tips for buying a Home in this Hot Spring Market

The added selection of homes available, coupled with sellers eager to make a deal makes NOTL’s spring real estate market the perfect time to buy your dream home.  With the large selection of homes comes added competition, so being prepared is important.  As the premier real estate agent for your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to offer you the following helpful tips on how to beat the competition and find your perfect home this spring.

Prepare

With the added chaos of the spring real estate market being properly prepared is key.  By being thoroughly prepared, you will be able to find your home and be one step ahead of the competition at all times.  Being prepared for NOTL’s spring real estate market can be broken own into the following three areas.

Ask for a Loan

Before starting your house search, take the time to go to your local banks and lenders to see for how much you will be pre-approved.  A pre-approved mortgage will give you an idea of the maximum price range you can afford.  This will help you narrow down your search and allow you to start making viewing appointments on houses that are in your price range.

Set your Criteria

Make sure that you know what is important to you before you start looking.  Make a list that includes all the factors that you want in your dream home.

Remember:

Your list needs to be realistic and flexible because you may have to make some compromises.

Besides the number of bedrooms or bathrooms in a home, don’t forget to include other criteria such as:

  • The distance of that home from your work and how long the commute is going to be.
  • Neighbourhood features such as parks, schools and even local grocery stores or restaurants.
  • The overall walkability score of the property as well as any nearby green space.
  • Any potential development in and around that home.

Make an Offer

Once you have found a home that is in your price range and meets the criteria you are looking for, be prepared to make a reasonable offer.  The faster you put in an offer, the better your chances are of landing your dream home.  The competitiveness of the spring real estate market does not give you the added luxury of thinking about a property.  There are other buyers who are also looking, so the longer you take to make an offer, the more opportunity you are giving other buyers to make an offer – so act quickly.

These tips should help you buy your perfect home this spring.  If you are interested in other helpful tips on buying a home in the competitive spring real estate market or would like to view some of the new and exciting homes that are available in NOTL, please contact me today.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

 

Tips for Hosting a Home Selling Open House

An open house will not only attract a wide range of interested buyers, it will also generate awareness in your home, and in many cases sell your home faster.  As the premier agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to share the following tips on how you can make your next open house a success.

Run a Successful Advertising Campaign

An effective advertising campaign will guarantee that your next open house is full of interested buyers.  The key to successful advertising is using a wide range of different mediums to get the word out.  These include:

  • Word of mouth – start spreading the word in your social circles that you are hosting an open house.
  • Social media – use your Facebook and Twitter account to advertise your open house throughout your media social circles.
  • Online – advertise your open house on a wide range of realty websites and include the dates on your online listing profile.
  • Canvas the neighbourhood – put up flyers around your neighbourhood that include the date, time and location of your next open house. You may be surprised at the amount of interest and foot traffic this type of advertising offers.

Prepare Your Home

Everyone knows the importance of a well-staged and properly cleaned home.  Some of the other attention to details that will make for a successful open house include:

  • Let in all the light you can by opening blinds and curtains and turning on all the lights in your house.
  • Don’t be afraid to add an extra touch such as a table centerpiece or a vase full of flowers in the kitchen or the bathroom.
  • Move the cars out of your driveway and try to keep the street parking in front of your home open for interested buyers. This convenience will be appreciated by open house visitors.

A Parting Gift

A great way to have your open house stand out among others is to provide visitors with a coloured brochure that highlights some of your home’s key selling features.  This will provide interested home buyers with a visual checklist and keep your home fresh in their mind.  Other points that you may want to include in your brochure include:

  • Your home’s square footage.
  • Any renovations or restorations that you or a contractor may have performed.
  • The year and, if applicable, the builder of your home.

These tips will ensure that your next open house brings in a wide range of potential buyers and will generate interest in your property.  If you would like other tips on how to host a successful open house or have thought about listing your home on the NOTL real estate market, please contact me today.  I would love to be a part of your sales team and help you turn that for sale sign into a sold sign.  I look forward to working with you soon.

 

Get your Fireplace Ready for Winter

A warm fire is a great way to stay cozy this winter.  Not only does a fire provide a certain ambiance, it is also a great way to heat your home on the coldest of days. Regardless of what type of fireplace you have, proper maintenance and upkeep is important to ensure your family’s safety.  As the premier agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to share the following ways to get your fireplace ready for the winter.

Wood Burning

A wood burning fireplace or stove is a great way to keep your heating bills down this winter and keep your house warm and inviting.  Before starting your first fire, however, there are a few important upkeep and maintenance issues that you will need to address.

Your main concern is creosote. This buildup is responsible for over 25,000 chimney fires annually and is a real safety concern in any home that uses wood heat.  Hire a professional to properly clean your chimney and remove this dangerous material.

Some of the more simple maintenance tasks that you can do at home include:

  • Cleaning the ashes out of the bottom of your fireplace or stove. This will create a better and hotter burning fire.
  • Check the doors for proper seals and look for any smoke leaking through these seals.
  • Inspect the damper to ensure that it opens and closes freely.

Remember:

A well-maintained and properly cleaned chimney and fireplace will not only allow you to enjoy a warm home this winter, it will also keep you and your family safe.

Natural Gas

Gas fireplaces are in many ways more convenient and more efficient than wood burning fireplaces.  Like wood, proper maintenance is an important step for gas burning fireplaces.  They need to be inspected and cleaned on an annual basis.

Hire a professional technician to inspect the ignition system and pilot light, to ensure that the venting and dampers are in proper working order.  They will also test and inspect all fittings and connections and clean the chimney if it is a part of the venting system.

Other maintenance tasks that you should perform at home include:

  • Vacuum and clean out the bottom of the gas fireplace to remove any debris or cobwebs that may plug or interfere with the gas vents.
  • Wipe down the fireplace logs to remove any dust or other flammable material.
  • Check the doors for a proper seal as well as all fittings and connections for any sign (or smell) of leaking gas.

Here’s the deal:

If you smell gas at any time, shut off your fireplace and immediately call a professional so that they can diagnose and fix the problem or leak.

These simple tips will have your fireplace ready for the winter and allow you to enjoy a safe and enjoyable source of heat.  If you would like any other tips on how to get your fireplace ready for the winter or are interested in some of the new and exciting real estate options available in NOTL, please contact me today.

 

 

 

3 New Year’s Resolutions for your Home

Each new year we set personal goals and resolutions; however, have you ever thought about setting some resolutions for your home?  Home improvement goals will make it more efficient, cleaner and a beautiful place to spend time.  As the premier real estate agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to share the following home New Year’s resolutions with you.

Take the Minimalist Approach

If you are feeling overcrowded in your home, disorganized or just want to reduce the amount of clutter, why not take a minimalist approach?  Over the course of a year (or many years) we tend to accumulate a lot of unnecessary items that can begin to take up the limited space in your home.  Set a New Year’s goal to either reorganize or remove all your excess items.  To start, make three piles that include:

  • A donation pile for the items that you are no longer using, have outgrown or just want to move on.
  • A throw away pile for the items that have either worn out, are broken or are no longer of any value or worth.
  • A recycle pile for the excess paper and electronic items or used batteries that cannot be put into a landfill.

Take the time to go through each room in your home thoroughly and be honest with yourself.

Here’s the Deal:

If you haven’t used an item in a year and it is not seasonal, it probably needs to be put in one of the three piles.

Go Green

A greener approach to your overall lifestyle is a great goal to set, not matter what the time of year.  A greener home will not only help you reduce your carbon footprint, but it may also save you some money in the long run.  Here are some very easy ways to become more energy efficient and save some money this winter.

  • Turn down the thermostat. Try turning down the heat when you go to bed or when you leave the house.  Even turning the temperature of your home down a few degrees will save you money on your next heating bill.
  • Turn off the lights in the rooms that you are not using. This simple tip will save you money and energy.
  • Turn down your hot water tank by a few degrees. You won’t even notice the difference and again, this simple trick will save you money on your next heating bill.

Set a schedule

Time management is always a popular New Year’s goal.  While you are setting schedules for yourself, why not set a schedule for your home as well?  A weekly cleaning schedule is a great way to designate family chores and keep your home in tip-top shape.  Try to break your home cleaning schedule into two parts:

  • Daily chores – tasks such as dishes, dirty clothes and hanging up or putting away clothes can all go under this list or schedule.
  • Weekly chores – vacuuming, cleaning the toilet and bathtub or shower, organizing or picking up a room and taking out recycling etc. can all go under this category.

By setting a schedule and creating lists, you should be able to enjoy a clean and well organized home.  Make it fun and make it an entire family activity.

This New Year’s make sure to set a few goals for your home – you will not be disappointed.  If you are interested in other New Year home goals or would like to see some of the exciting real estate properties that are available in the NOTL region, please contact me today.  I look forward to working with you soon.

Happy New Year.