Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Home Inspections: Top Ten Problems

Each homebuyer has different ideas of what will constitute the ideal home for them, these notions often based on particular aesthetic preferences.  But one thing that unites all potential homebuyers is the desire to find a home that is fundamentally sound—in areas beyond the immediate sweep of the eye—and that will provide a safe, comfortable, and efficient foundation for their life behind a new door. 

This is where the services of a home inspector come in.  During a home inspection, at least 30 areas of the home are placed under the home inspector’s “microscope.”  We’ve compiled the ten most common weaknesses uncovered in a typical home inspection.  If not addressed, these problems could cost you thousands of dollars in the long-run.  So, knowing what to look for, and performing your own thorough pre-inspection, will help you to identify areas for repair or improvement before they grow into costly problems.

1.     Damp Basement:

If a mildew odour is present, the inspector will be able to detect it, as this smell is impossible to mask or eliminate.  Mildew odour is often the first indication of dampness in the basement.  The inspector will also examine the walls, checking for any signs of whitish mineral deposit just above the floor, and will note whether you feel confident enough to store items on the floor.

Repairs can run anywhere from $200 to $15, 000, this cost ultimately influencing the calculation of your home’s value, so consider enlisting the help of an expert to ensure you have a firm grasp on the bottom line before moving forward with the sale of your home.

2.     Poorly Installed/ Defective Plumbing:

In older homes, plumbing problems and defects are very common.  The inspector will determine whether your home’s plumbing is subject to leaking or clogging.  Signs of leakage can be visibly detected.  The inspector will test water pressure by turning on all the faucets in the highest bathroom and then flushing the toilet.  If the sound of water is audible, this indicates that the home’s pipes may be too narrow.  The inspector will also check for signs of discolouration in the water when a faucet is first turned on.  The appearance of dirty water is usually an indication that the pipes are rusted—a water quality problem that should be dealt with immediately.

3.     Older/ Poorly-Functioning Heating and Cooling Systems:
Heating/ cooling systems that are older or haven’t been properly maintained can pose serious safety and health problems.  An inspector will determine the age of your furnace and, if it is over the average life span of a furnace (15-20 years), will likely suggest you replace it, even if it is still in good condition.  If your heating system is a forced air gas system, the heat exchanger will be examined very closely, as any cracks can result in the leak of poisonous carbon monoxide gas.  These heat exchangers are irreparable; if damaged, they must be replaced.  While replacing these components may seem expensive, a new system will yield heightened efficiency, reducing monthly heating/ cooling costs substantially, and benefiting your long-term investment.

4.     Older/ Unsafe Electrical System:

In older homes, it is common to find undersized services, aluminum wiring, knob-and-tub wiring, or insufficient/ badly-renovated distribution systems.  When an electrical circuit is over-fused, more amperage is drawn on the circuit than what the circuit was intended to bear, creating a fire hazard.  You’ll typically find a 15 amp circuit in a home, with increased service for larger appliances such as dryers or stoves.  If replacing your fuse panel with a circuit panel, expect a cost of several hundred dollars.

5.     Older/ Leaking Roof:

An asphalt roof will last an average of 15 to 20 years.  Leaks through the roof could be a sign of physical deterioration of the asphalt shingles caused by aging, or could indicate mechanical damage caused by any number of factors, such as a heavy storm.  If you decide your roof requires new shingles, you’ll first need to know how many layers are beneath, in order to determine whether the roof must be completely stripped before installing the new shingles.

6.     Minor Structural Problems:

Common in older homes, these problems range from cracked plaster to small shifts in the foundation.  While this variety of problem isn’t large enough to cause any real catastrophe, they should be taken care of before they grow.

7.     Poor Ventilation:

Unvented bathrooms and cooking areas can become breeding areas for mold and fungus, which, in turn, lead to air quality issues throughout the house, triggering allergic reactions.  Mold may additionally cause damage to plaster and window frames.  These problems should be identified and taken care of before any permanent damage is caused.

8.     Air Leakage:

A cold, drafty home can be the result of any number of problems, such as ill-fitting doors, aged caulking, low-quality weather strips, or poor attic seals.  This nature of repair can usually be taken care of easily and inexpensively.

9.     Security Features:

An inspector will look at the standard security features that protect your home, such as the types of lock on the doors/ windows/ patio doors, and the smoke or carbon monoxide detectors and where they’re located throughout the home.  Check with an expert if your home is lacking in any of these areas, in order to determine what costs to expect.

10.  Drainage/ Grading Problems:

This may be the most common problem found by home inspectors, and is a widespread catalyst of damp and mildewed basements.  Solutions to this problem may range from the installation of new gutters and downspouts, to re-grading the lawn and surrounding property in order to direct water away from the house.

I am the GUY that will make a difference!
 I specialize in selling homes in the in the Okanagan Valley including Westbank, West Kelowna, Peachland with a focus on Rose Valley, Lakeview Heights, West Kelowna Estates and Shannon Lake.

Karen Guy, REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty
C 250.878.3605 O 250.768.8001


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hire the Right Agent, For the Right Reasons: 8 Questions to Ask

Finding a real estate agent who is right for you requires doing a little homework, and
asking the right questions. Choosing an agent is a decision that could ultimately cost or
save you thousands of dollars. Keep in mind the individual you choose will be handling
almost every maneuver in the biggest financial investment of your life. Experience,
interests, and expertise vary from agent to agent, so you should be asking very specific
questions in order to align your own needs with the abilities of an appropriate

Use the following list of questions as a guide to finding the agent that is
right for you:

1. How long have you been involved in residential real estate in this area?

If the agent hasn’t been connected to the residential real estate market for several
years, s/he will be out of touch with the cyclical nature of the current market.
Your agent must be familiar with trends of the local market and have an eye for
the ways in which it will change. This knowledge could mean the difference of
thousands of dollars in the long-run.

2. What is your marketing strategy for my home?

A realtor should be able to lay out for you, in detail, a marketing plan to sell your
home. Examine this plan carefully. How much money does the realtor allot to
advertising? What type of media does s/he use? S/he should be able to
demonstrate the effectiveness of one form of media over another, explaining why
his/her particular marketing strategy will sell your home faster and for top dollar.
The realtor should employ current, innovative marketing techniques that indicate
creativity and a willingness to market outside of the box. Stay away from realtors
who rely on traditional, dated forms of advertising. They simply won’t work in
the current real estate market.

3. How do you support a buyer throughout the process?

A realtor should be able to indicate how s/he will support you through each step
of the home-buying or selling process, offering you a unique system to suit your
needs and goals. Also, ask if a specialist will be available at each level of the
sale. Your realtor should always be on hand to answer questions, but the specific
resources of an expert can be invaluable during different stages of the process.

4. What other properties has your company sold in my area?

The realtor should be able to provide you with a complete, detailed listing of their
own sales in your area, as well as other comparable sales. You should get a clear
idea of what you might be able to expect both from the realtor and from the
current market.

5. What is your experience with financing options? How would you suggest I
approach my own financing plan?

Each buyer requires a different financing strategy. A realtor should be able to
suggest a plan catered specifically to your financial background and needs. Don’t
just depend on your lender for information and guidance on financing a new
home. Let your agent lead the way.

6. On average, how close is the selling price of your listings to their asking
price, and how long do they take to sell?

You can contact the Real Estate Board to obtain information on the selling record
of an agent. The Board also has statistics on a broader scale, so you can see
whether an agent’s selling performance is higher or lower than the board average,
and whether s/he tends to sell faster or slower than the board average. Placing the
realtor’s performance on a scale will help you get an idea of how much you might
expect your home to sell for, and how long it might take to sell.

7. What is your philosophy/method of negotiation and how will you apply it
when selling my home?

Your realtor should be able to articulate effective and informed negotiation tactics
that demonstrate a commitment to securing the best price for you.

8. Do you have a reference list of clients I could contact?

Do some homework! Choose a few names on the list and call them. The stories
of others who have gone through the home-selling process can be a valuable
source of information.

I am the GUY that will make a difference! 

I specialize in selling homes in the in the Okanagan Valley including Westbank, West Kelowna, Peachland with a focus on Rose Valley, Lakeview Heights, West Kelowna Estates and Shannon Lake.

Karen Guy, REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty
C 250.878.3605 O 250.768.8001


Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to Set an Offer Price

There is no set equation to determine how you’ll reach an offer price.  Rather, the process involves a range of research and comparison that will vary with each situation.  You’ll need to look at sales of comparable properties, and factor in additional data such as the condition of the property, the current market, and seller circumstances.  With this information in hand, you will be able to determine a fair price range and, from there, establish the price you’re willing to offer.

Concentrate on the following areas to help you determine an offer price:

Comparable Sales

  • Compare prices of homes that are similar to the property you’re considering in the following areas:  number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, lot size, type of construction, and garage space.
  • The most comprehensive and in-depth information can be accessed through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  Your Realtor, who will be working closely with you to set your offer price, can help you navigate this service. 
Property Condition

  • Observe how the property compares to the rest of the neighbourhood.  Is it average, above average, or below average?
  • Look at structural condition:  walls, ceilings, windows, floors, doors.
  • Pay close attention to:  bathrooms, bedrooms, condition of plumbing and electricity.
  • Also check the fixtures:  light switches, doorknobs, drawer handles, etc.
  • What is the condition of the front and back yards?
Home Improvements

  • Cosmetic changes can be largely ignored, but any major improvements should be taken into account.
  • Take special note of:  room additions (especially bedrooms and bathrooms).
  • Items such as swimming pools may be taken into account, but usually won’t affect your offer.  Your Realtor can offer your guidance in these matters.
Market Conditions

  • Seller’s Market:
A seller’s market is considered a “hot” market.  This type of market is created when demand is greater than supply—that is, when the number of Buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market.  As a result, these homes usually sell very quickly, and there are often multiple offers.  Many homes will sell above the asking price.

  • Buyer’s Market:
A Buyer’s market is a slower market.  This type of market occurs when supply is greater than demand, the number of homes exceeding the number of Buyers.  Properties are more likely to stay on the market for a longer period of time.  Fewer offers will come in, and with less frequency.  Prices may even decline during this period.  Buyers will have more selection and flexibility in terms of negotiating toward a lower price.  Even if your initial offered price is too low, Sellers will be more likely to come back with a counter-offer. 

  • Balanced Market:
In a balanced market, supply equals demand, the number of homes on the market roughly equal to the number of Buyers.  When a market is balanced there aren’t any concrete rules guiding whether a Buyer should make an offer at the higher end of his/her range, or the lower end.  Prices will be stable, and homes will sell within a reasonable period of time.  Buyers will have a decent number of homes to choose from, so Sellers may encounter some competition for offers on their home, or none at all.

Comparable sales information helps you establish a price range for the home you’re interested in.  Adding in the additional factors mentioned above will guide your decision of whether you consider a “fair” price to be near the upper or lower limit—or the middle—of that range.  Keep in mind, this price should be the one you’d be happy with once all negotiations are said and done.  The price you decide to begin with depends on your particular style of negotiation.  Most Buyers begin the negotiation process with a number lower than the “fair” price they’ve come up with.

I am the GUY that will make a difference!

 I specialize in selling homes in the in the Okanagan Valley including Westbank, West Kelowna, Peachland with a focus on Rose Valley, Lakeview Heights, West Kelowna Estates and Shannon Lake.

Karen Guy, REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty
C 250.878.3605 O 250.768.8001

Kelowna Real Estate Agent West Kelowna Karen Guy Realtor