Sunday, September 30, 2012

Those Pesky Rules

A home is your castle, right? It's your very own real estate and private property in these United States is sacred. You can paint it, remodel it, and drape the ceiling a different color... pretty much anything, right? Usually. If you live on acreage out in the country somewhere you can put in a ferries wheel in your backyard and choose to paint your entire home a bright orange if you so choose. But most neighborhoods have rules.

Depending upon where you live those rules may be implemented by a city ordinance or written and enforced by the homeowners association in which you live. A city ordinance will typically define setback and impervious cover restrictions. A setback requirement means how close to your property lines your structures may be. Impervious cover means how much of your property can be permanently covered by your home, sidewalks or driveways.

In a homeowners association, or HOA, those rules can be whatever the HOA and its members agree upon. Those rules can be rather lazy or they can be rather strict. It depends upon your interoperation.

Such rules are put in place in order to maintain a consistent neighborhood look and feel and help to maintain property values. For example, you spend a lot of time on your favorite hobby, maintaining your meticulously cared-for lawn. It's beautiful and you even won "yard of the month" last year. But your neighbor has just pulled a pickup truck and a tow-truck and parked them both on their front lawn. Just a few feet away from your begonias. Would you be happy about that? Of course not.

But HOA guidelines will typically ban such a parking travesty and say so in the HOA rules. Other HOA guidelines can require your lawn to be a certain height or restrict the type of fa├žade that decorates your home. Do you want to color your door a fluorescent pink? Check with your HOA as many associations limit colors to a certain few.

And while your home may indeed be your castle, you'll still need to follow some basic rules. Before you remodel, paint or build... check to make sure you're in the right.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First Time Home Buyers: 5 Tips

1) Know your financial picture. Buying a home is one of the most significant purchases and investments most Americans will make in their lifetime. Financial experts agree that housing costs should not exceed 28% of your budget. Your monthly payment will consist of your mortgage's principle and interest as well as taxes and insurance, also called PITI. When housing exceeds 1/3 of your budget, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain other parts of your budget (utilities, food, transportation, etc) and to save for your home's emergency fund. Every home for sale that you consider will need maintenance and repairs, regardless of whether it's a new custom build or an older, established home. Be conservative when deciding what you can comfortably pay each month in PITI and use this number when deciding how much home you can afford.

2) Be credit score savvy! Just as you must know your budget and how much you can afford, you need to be 100% knowledgeable of your credit score. There are three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The absolute best practice is to pull your report from each (there are companies that pull all three at one time for a single fee) and to thoroughly review the report and understand what your score means. If there is incorrect information on your report, it is your responsibility to correct this. Be aware that it can take 1-3 months for your credit report to update.

3) Must haves and can't tolerates. When beginning to look, you will undoubtedly review lists of homes for sale. By knowing what you desire not only in a home, but also a neighborhood, you can quickly and easily narrow the lists to more effectively hone in your home search

4) Trusted partners are key. A first home is intimidating on many levels. Whether buying or building, it is crucial that you have complete trust and rapport with your realty partners. Your realtor, home builder, loan officer and inspector should all be people you can be completely honest with and will work to bring you to your home dreams.

5) Enjoy the process! As with any large purchase, don't expect to find your dream house the first day out. You've done your research, you're prepared, so don't rush into a home that doesn't feel just right, this is true for buying or building. There are many homes for sale, and you may have more than one first choice and that's a good thing! Having options means that you will be able to negotiate from a point of strength, finding your dream home while staying within your budget.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's With the Increasing Trend in London to Build Homes Underground?

Last week I saw an episode of Grand Designs where a wealthy couple bought a rather large basement in a rather posh part of London and dug down many metres to extend their home in a world where the m2 of land is at its most expensive. It seems, however, that a wealthy Canadian called David Graham has gone one step (or 4 storeys!) further and has submitted plans to triple the size of his mansion by digging down a whopping 50ft. He wants to create a four-storey, 15 bedroom basement mansion complete with its own private swimming pool, spa, ballroom and gymnasium.

The former Magistrates' court was purchased by Mr Graham in 2000. However, after failing to find a more substantial home in the Knightsbridge area of London, David Graham, a multi-millionnaire after selling his cable tv company, decided to follow recent trends and extend his home towards the earth's crust.

Many residents have complained about these plans to extend Mr Graham's home downwards. However, the question is whether this new kind of construction does actually cause any social or economic problems to the public. In the short-term of course residents will have to endure the annoyance of having building works going on at their doorstep, which in this case could last up to 4 years. Yet, the work is underground so are these complaints just made by jealous people who wished they had thought of the same idea? Land in the Knightsbridge area is extremely expensive so it makes sense to make the best of what you have.

What would residents prefer, a monstrosity of a building that is visible to the public, or a discrete underground mansion that most people are unaware even exists? I think this is an ingenious idea and in many years to come it will probably be the norm for people in crowded cities and towns to start extending their homes further underground.

In saying that, however, could you actually live in a bunker? Is land so precious to us that we have to resort to living like foxes where any sign of daylight is four storeys above us? Personally, I take great enjoyment in appreciating our natural surroundings and no amount of extra space could compete with living in a home where light, sky, trees, etc are in abundance. As seen on the recent Grand Designs programme, the basement mansion looked amazing but it still felt like a basement and no amount of artificial lighting could change that.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Much Did You REALLY Pay For Your Home? How to Reduce the Amount of Mortgage Interest You Pay

Have you ever sat down and calculated how much money you are actually paying for your home? If asked, most people will quote their purchase price as how much money they paid for their house. However, the amount of money that you actually pay for your house is significantly more than that.

Confused? Well consider this: A $300,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years at a rate of 3.29% will end up costing you an extra $139,423.88 in interest payments. With some help from your Real Estate Agent and your bank or mortgage broker, you can find ways to drastically reduce the interest you will pay on your mortgage and become mortgage free quicker.

Consider our happy newlyweds Dick and Jane. They live in Burlington, Ontario and their Burlington Real estate Agent has found them a three-bedroom, two-storey home. They owe $300,000 on their 25 year mortgage at 3.29%. Right now, they are making monthly payments of $1,464.76. Let's see what happens if Dick and Jane decide they wanted to pay off their mortgage a little quicker.

1st scenario: If Dick and Jane simply increase their monthly mortgage payment by doubling up 1 payment/year, they can pay off their mortgage in 22.2 years and save $18,113.96 in interest costs. By doubling up 2 payments/yr, you can pay the mortgage off in 19.9 years and save $31,972.12 in interest payments.

2nd scenario: If Dick and Jane paid every two weeks instead of monthly, they pay off their mortgage in 22 years instead of 25 years, and save $18,723.44 in interest costs.

3rd scenario: If Dick and Jane keep making their current monthly payment, but add an additional payment of $5,000 once a year, they pay off their mortgage in 17.3 years and save $47,159.25 in interest.

NOW, if Dick and Jane are really ambitious and set forward a very aggressive plan to make 2 double up payments a year (4 Bi-Weekly payments), switch to paying every 2 weeks and make an additional annual payment of $5000 towards the principal of the mortgage, how much would they save and how quickly would they be mortgage free?

Well, instead of paying $139,423.88 in Interest payments over 25 years, Dick and Jane will pay $70,581.44 in interest and be mortgage free in 13.7 years! That is an interest savings of $68,842.12.

If you are thinking of taking advantage of the low variable mortgage rates available right now, consider making payments on the mortgage at the 5 year fixed rate. This way you will put a significant dent in the principal of the mortgage and you won't feel the pinch once interest rates climb up to that level down the road... because these rates won't stay this low forever!

If you are looking for a Real Estate agent who can, not only find you your dream home, but show you how to pay off your mortgage quicker, please call me today and I can walk you through all of your options so you know what is available to you. You can reach me, Sean Kavanagh, at 905-220-9198 or by email at

My goal is to create lasting relationships and exceed your expectations of what services a realtor provides. I am here to take the stress out of buying and selling real estate. I will listen to your needs and work tirelessly until you are 100% satisfied with my service. I will always provide friendly, reliable, and professional service of the highest standard in a timely fashion.

I hope you will consider my services when you begin looking at your real estate options. I am confident that I can offer you an attractive plan to serve your best interests.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

5 Interior Home Improvements That Make Home Values Soar

It's no secret that the real estate market has been tough over the last few years, and improving the value of a home can make the property sell sooner and for a higher value. Home improvements can make a big difference in the resale value, however not all home improvements are equal. Beware; some renovations may make little or no difference raising home values, while others have a major effect on the final sale price. Let's take a look at 5 home improvements that can have a major impact on property values. By shopping around you will find attarctive pricing and contractors willing to provide competitive pricing.

Kitchen Remodeling

Replacing appliances and upgrading the kitchen may have the biggest effect of interior home improvements on raising the value and desirability of any given home. In 2008 Realtor Magazine reported that both major and minor kitchen repairs resulted in the biggest return on investment between 70 to 79.5% of investment, depending upon the extent of the repair. Midrange kitchen remodeling was reported to have the biggest impact nationwide.

Bathroom Remodeling

Bathrooms can be either a negative or positive selling point. Bathroom fixtures that look old or outdated can taint a prospective buyer's view of the entire house. Conversely, fresh and modern sinks, tubs, and commodes can help convince home shoppers to send in a bid.

Bathroom Additions

Many older homes have just one or two bathrooms and that can be a deal breaker for many modern families. Expanding half baths and adding full baths to the master bedroom, basement, and other areas in the house may drastically improve the desirability of older houses.

Attic Bedrooms

Home buyers are interested in useable space so attic remodeling makes sense. These rooms often have a quaint and charming quality that buyers notice, and a remodeled attic room usually costs less than an addition so the seller can offer more bedrooms without drastically increasing the sale price to recoup costs.

Refinished Basement