Archive for Home Ownership – Page 2

Is Home Ownership Right for You?

 

Things to consider before making this big decision

Things to consider before making this big decision

 

Purchasing a home can be a big, scary decision. It means not only committing to a mortgage payment but to a town, a neighborhood, a particular place in the universe for (in all likelihood) a fairly long time. The financial commitment is no joke – it’s probably the biggest investment you will make. But the emotional commitment might be enough to put you off of a purchase for years as well. It’s not the kind of thing you jump into unprepared!

You need to get yourself ready in several ways before choosing to buy a home. You’ll need to have more than one area of your life under control before deciding that home ownership is for you. Your finances of course need to be in order and not just for the down payment. Your life needs to be in a certain place too. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website has a thought-provoking worksheet to help you consider the pros and cons of homeownership (you can find the worksheet here). If you’ve decided that home ownership is your dream, here are a few ways to determine if that dream could be realized now or if it’s better left for a little later down the road.

Financial Considerations

Owning a home is typically a good move in terms of improving your personal finances. Your mortgage interest is deductible, you have real property that will increase in value, and your monthly payments are going towards an investment that is yours. Part of your mortgage payment goes to the principle, which is like putting those funds away for your future. Many people think that their mortgage payment and rent could or should be roughly the same, but that’s only a starting point.

Although you can do it with a lot less, a down payment of around 20% will secure financing at a reasonable interest rate. So saving up is of course a priority. If you haven’t been able to stash away enough for a down payment, then getting an affordable mortgage may not be possible. Saving up that kind of money takes concerted effort and time, especially if you are paying rent while trying to save. However, it’s essential to securing financing.

Saving won’t stop after you’ve purchased a home. You’ll also need to plan for the extra expenses that home ownership requires and which means your savings account needs a little padding. If you’ve been renting, you probably haven’t had to worry about taxes, repairs and maintenance. Your landlord has dealt with all those things for you but as a homeowner, this will become your responsibility.

A home has no sense of timing! If the roof springs a leak or the water heater goes kaput two weeks before Christmas and you haven’t finished your shopping, you still have to take care of these issues. Plan your price point so that you’ll still have a little leftover to save up for emergencies and yearly taxes.

If your finances are unstable or insufficient, there is help out there for you. Talk to your favorite banker or financial advisor about getting on track. There could be low or no-cost options in your town as well; ask your realtor for a referral. Look for financial counseling if you’re having trouble putting your money in the right places. You may have to make some adjustments to your lifestyle but when you move into your new home, you’ll know it was worthwhile.

Emotional Considerations

Choosing to buy a home certainly involves a great deal of financial planning but your emotional matters weigh heavily on the choice as well. You’re looking for a place where your life will unfold, not just a place to hang your hat. Make sure your mind and heart are ready for homeownership as well as your bank accounts. Ask yourself a few important questions.

Are you settled in your city, town or region?

If you aren’t sure you want or will be able to stay in your city or town for at least a few years, buying a home may not be wise. It takes a little time to build up equity in your investment. If you have to sell rather quickly it can affect you financially. Of course, you can’t account for sudden life changes like a job transfer or a death in the family but you can take an honest look at your life as it is right now.

Do you have the time and means to care for a home?

A home takes care and maintenance. From fixing a running toilet to mowing the lawn, all the little tasks will be up to you to manage. Ask yourself if you’re ready to manage these responsibilities and if you have the time to. If you are handy or if you’re willing to learn, you’ll need to make time to get the job done.

Is this what you really want right now?

Undeniably, this is a big step. It’s probably not the best idea to purchase a home just because someone else expects it of you, says that it’s what you need to do, or that you have to because “you’re married now.” Conversely, don’t let anyone else deter you by saying you’re too young or too old, inexperienced or single. This is your life and your dream! Make your plans, get your finances in order and find a good realtor if you’ve decided homeownership is right for you right now.

Renovating Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

 

renos for my home in Kitchener

If you’re looking for a contractor, read this first

 

What you need to know before you hire a contractor

In 2011, $63 billion was spent in the renovation sector in Canada, exceeding new home construction expenditures by approximately $20 billion. You can create the home of your dreams by taking a solid home in a neighborhood you love and renovating the interior. Changing out finishes and moving walls seems easy on TV but there’s a great deal involved in a renovation. You will most likely need (or want) to hire a contractor, especially if you’re dong major work like taking out walls or changing the floorplan. All of the work requires permits and will need to be performed to code, so for that you need an expert.

A general contractor is the site boss of your renovation project. He or she is the manager, the overseer and the coordinator for the project. Some will be onsite swinging a hammer along with the tradespeople but another might spend most of his time in the office managing the details. The contractor deals directly with the architect (if there is one involved), the inspector and the tradespeople to get everything done right in your home. A good contractor will make sure the work stays on schedule and on budget, too. There are a lot of contractors in Waterloo region so we put together a list of questions you can ask, when you’re calling around looking to hire one for renovating your Kitchener-Waterloo home.

How long have you been in business in Waterloo Region?

Everyone has to start somewhere but do you really want to be your contractor’s first job? You want an established contractor with experience in your area so that he has good relationships with tradespeople and suppliers. Someone commuting from Toronto may not have these relationships in place.

Don’t be afraid to politely ask a contractor where he lives. Chances are if he lives in Waterloo Region, most of his projects have been closer to home. Local is usually the better choice not just for services but for building supplies too.

Do you have a license?

I know it seems like a no-brainer but I have to state it anyhow: always hire a licensed contractor. Not ALL contractors require licenses for all jobs. You can find contractor license requirements in Ontario here.

Is your price an “estimate” or a “fixed price?”

There’s a big difference between an estimate and a price. If you think your contractor has given you a fixed price and you get a call that something now costs more or has to be changed, it could be an unpleasant surprise.

Keep in mind that changes in prices aren’t always a sign of a bad contractor. Some costs can legitimately rise due to market fluctuations or shortages in materials. Demand goes up and supply becomes diminished causing a spike in price. Then there are instances where the unforeseeable occurs – like a compromised structure. In these cases it’s only reasonable that your contractor may have to make adjustments, but he should also have ideas about how to stay within budget too.

There will be a certain amount of “unknowns” involved in any renovation. It’s impossible to know that the floor joists are compromised until you start removing materials. However, you can start to eliminate the unknowns if you have an open discussion with a quality contractor.

Who are your major suppliers and workers?

Talking to your contractor’s suppliers will give you a better idea of his reliability. If he isn’t paying them on time, you should look elsewhere. Suppliers will be able to tell you if a contractor buys top quality materials or if he skimps. If it’s a hefty renovation, take the time to talk to the tile shops, lumberyards and home improvement centers to get a feel for how he does business. If he’s left a long string of unhappy tradesmen behind, he might not be a good hire for you. Your contractor needs to have solid relationships with skilled workers to give your home the best results.

Are you insured? What does your policy cover?

The last thing you need after an expensive home reno is an insurance claim or lawsuit over an injury sustained on your property. The contractor should have current insurance for workers’ compensation and general liability. That way, if someone gets hurt or if your property is damaged, it won’t be you or your insurance company that has to pick up the bill.

Can I see a project in progress or speak with a recent reference?

A contractor should have references that you can call or a project that you can see to show the quality of his work. Satisfied customers are happy to show off their homes. If you are looking at photos on a website, make sure this is their actual work and not stock photos.

This is just the start of the many questions you should be asking your contractor. Talk to friends and coworkers who have been through the process and find out who they used and what they wish they had known. You can also ask your Real Estate Agent for advice and referrals.

Links to Helpful Renovation Information

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a free “Renovators Green Guide” which you can find here.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited contractor listing: http://go.bbb.org/1QBP2NT  At the bottom of this page the contractors are broken down into categories (e.g. Kitchen and Bath; Interlocking Stone; Concrete Contractors)

Engaging in DIY renos? The Bob Vila’s site is “chaulk” full of useful renovation information here.

From “how to de-stress wood” to “renovation mistakes to avoid” to “budget room makeovers,” Pinterest is a treasure chest of great renovation ideas and information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allergy Season Outside AND Inside Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

Fighting Allergens Outside AND Inside of Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

Fighting Allergens Outside AND Inside Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

Allergy season has arrived, and allergy sufferers don’t just have to worry about heading outside. Instead, even the indoors hold problems for those who suffer from allergies. From your office to your home, you could be dealing with allergens almost everywhere you go, but there are a number of things you can do to prevent problems so your home (and/or office environment) will be the respite you need at the end of a long day.

The Air Quality Equation

Those who suffer with allergies struggle with various allergens in the air. The more allergens in the air, the poorer the air quality. Air quality literally refers to the state of the air that surrounds us. Good air quality is clean, clear air. Poor air quality can result from all sorts of things, both natural and “human-caused.” You may hear about two different kinds of air quality – ambient air quality and indoor quality. You can do very little about the ambient air quality. That’s the quality of the outdoor air. It’s usually measured near ground level. Indoor quality is unique to your location. Your home may have different air quality than your office does.

Think the indoor air quality is naturally better? Not necessarily. The indoor air quality is affected by a number of different kinds of pollutants. Tobacco smoke, the chemicals that synthetic fabrics release, household products, and even animal dander can all contribute to the indoor air quality. Make no mistake, those who suffer with allergies will suffer just as much inside as they might out if you maintain a poor air quality in your home.

Changing the Air Quality In Your Home

Fortunately, there is something you can do about your air quality inside the house or your office. These tips can help you get there.

  • Replace the Filters: The filters in your furnace and air conditioner should be replaced on a regular basis. They have to be your first line of defense. In most cases, you’ll want to replace those filters monthly so they have the power to trap any pollutants in your home and keep them from continually circulating.
  • Clean Regularly: Keeping your home as clean as possible can help to eliminate those allergens too. If you vacuum, damp mop, and dust all of your belongings on a weekly basis, you’re going to keep more than 90% of the dust out of your home. Make certain, though, that you have the right vacuum. Those that have a HEPA filter can help to trap tiny particles of dust that may be playing host to dust mites that could be making you sneeze.
  • Keep it Dry: If you have a basement, it’s already an allergen’s paradise. Many basements tend to be fairly damp, and that may mean musty odors or something more serious like mold and mildew. This one is fairly easy to fix, though. You can install a dehumidifier to help remove the moisture from the air. It will also help to prevent mold buildup. There are two different types to buy. You can get a single room unit or you can get one that is designed for your entire house.
  • Scrub the Air: Think you can’t literally clean the air? Think again. An air purifier will literally help you clean the air in your home. As with the dehumidifier, you can get a number of different sizes with this one. You can get one as small as a tabletop or one that is ideal for your entire home. They work to circulate the air, then capture the dust. To keep it effective, though, you’ll have to change or clean the filters as often as possible.
  • Don’t Even Consider Under the Bed: If you’re utilizing all of your space and storing stuff under your bed, stop it. You’ll need to clean under the bed on a regular basis, and using that storage space is going to make it far harder to clean under that space. Vacuum there too regularly.
  • Dump the Carpeting: If you currently have carpeting, it may be time to redecorate your home and go with wood or tile flooring. Carpeting can hold pounds of dirt and dust, and that’s only going to make it harder to breathe.

It is possible to change your indoor air quality, but it may take a bit of work to get there. You may also want to investigate other options with your physician if you are suffering from seasonal allergy symptoms.