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Home Staging Tips – Sell your Home Faster for More Money

Home Staging photoA Real Estate Investment – possible 5% return in 23 days!

If you’re wondering what Home Staging is all about, please read our blog post on why you should stage your Calgary home before Listing it on the MLS® System.  In summary, research has shown that staging will make your home more desirable to potential buyers.  You will sell your home faster and may avoid a series of painful price reductions.

Tips for Staging Your Home

There are as many ways to stage a home as there are homes.  Some of the examples given below are for illustration purposes; your imagination can take it from there.

1.  Start Outside:  You know about the “drive-by” – you’ve probably done it yourself.  You drive by a home for sale to decide whether you want to see the inside or not.  Draw potential buyers in with real curb appeal.

  • Keep the lawn mowed and garden areas weeded.
  • Make sure the exterior of the home looks in good condition.  Fix any rotting boards or fading paint.
  • Power-wash the outside of the home, sidewalks, and patios.
  • If the weather allows, add potted plants or flowers in the garden beds and accent your front doorway on both sides with large potted plants.

2.  Keep It Clean:  It may seem like a small thing, but buyers are extremely discouraged when they see a dirty house.  Pretend your boss or your in-laws are coming to stay for a few days.  The house needs to be that clean on a consistent basis. Buyers will also look in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets so clean and declutter them.

3.  Depersonalize and Declutter:  It’s true that you love the family photos that line both sides of the stairway and the awards in your home office, but buyers won’t. Take yourself out of the picture.  It’s easier for buyers to imagine themselves in your home. If you love to cook, you find the numerous small appliances on the kitchen counters very handy, but buyers will see your kitchen as smaller and closed-in.

How can you possibly get rid of all the personalized clutter?  You don’t have to.  You are planning to move anyway, so take this opportunity to start packing!  Until the house is sold, you may need to use a whisk rather than your blender, but you’ll be in your new kitchen a lot sooner!

4.  Bring Out the Best in Each Room:  This may require removing furniture, rearranging furniture, or replacing furniture that is worn out.  If you can’t afford to replace that worn-out couch, you can rent furniture for the time period when your home is listed.

  • If the fireplace is the focal point of the living room, make sure the furniture doesn’t obstruct the view and provide attractive accents on either side.
  • If your king-size bed and large furniture make the bedroom look small, put some of the furniture in another room, in storage, or in your garage.
  • If the hardwood or the carpet in the dining room has seen better days, rejuvenate by refinishing or replacing. Flooring and Painting bring the biggest returns for your investment.
  • If a room is dark, make it more attractive and appealing with a lighter more neutral paint color.  Dark rooms make a home appear smaller.
  • Replace the chandelier in the dining room if it’s dated. Your eating areas are some of the most important features to highlight in a home when selling.
  • Make sure there is sufficient light in rooms by opening blinds and drapes.
  • Breath new life into a room by investing in some Artwork.
  • If possible, replace dated lighting fixtures, door hardware, light switches and outlets.

5.  Freshen with a New Paint Job:  Nothing brightens up the rooms of a home faster than fresh paint.  Take this opportunity to depersonalize your color choices.  Stick to neutral colors to help buyers envision their own decorating taste in the house.

  • Your kids love their bright blue and red rooms, but buyers will spend their time worrying about how much trouble it will be to repaint while they’re moving in.
  • You’re sure your dining room doesn’t need paint?  The walls are a nice eggshell color and that one red wall just makes the room look more cozy.  Or does it? It may look that way to you, but don’t assume that potential buyers for your home will share your color tastes.

6.  Make Repairs as Needed:  Oil squeaky doors.  Replace that light switch cover in the kitchen that you’ve had on your to do list for months.  Reattach the molding or baseboards you were going to replace but never did.

When you stage your home yourself, the time investment will pay large dividends in a very short time-frame. Is there another investment that could potentially net you 5% more in as little as 23 days on the market? Look through the list again and add up the items that relate to your home.  What is the most it could cost? The money you spend on staging your Calgary home and/or doing minor repairs and painting will not be more than the price reductions you might end up making if you don’t!

7. Ask your REALTOR® for Assistance:  Experienced Real Estate Professionals know what buyers are looking for and can advise you on what the highest return for your investment dollar is. Give us a call or send us an E-mail!

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Home Staging: Is It Your Best Choice?

Calgary Home Staging Photo

Selling your home fast for the highest price possible.  Would home staging let you accomplish those goals?

Why Stage Your Home?

There are many reasons to stage your home.  One of the most important things staging accomplishes is that it shifts the focus away from the personal belongings that are in the house to the most positive features of the home itself.

Imagine a Calgary home for sale that has a pool table in the living room.  The family currently living in the home use the table a lot.  Overlooked is the fact that there is limited seating in the living room because playing pool is an activity the family uses to bring them all together.

When that home goes on the market, and a potential buyer walks into the living room, what would you imagine would be their first reaction?  Could it be something like “How would our furniture fit in this living room?”

Even without a pool table, it’s often very difficult for many people to look beyond the personal contents of a home to see the potential for moving their family into it.  When you stage your home, one of the goals is to “de-personalize” your living spaces to give a potential buyer the opportunity to think about how they will use the home.

Home Staging:  The Numbers Prove It Is Your Best Choice

According to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and Stagedhomes.com, on average, 95% of staged homes sell in 23 days or less. Statistics also show that home staging can increase a property’s value by 5-11% (RESA – Real Estate Staging Association), and that a home’s price is typically reduced by 1% for every month the home remains on the market (Zillow).  Using round numbers, let’s say a home was listed at $500,000 and took 4 months to sell.  The typical price reduction might be $20,000 or more for an unstaged home and a longer selling period versus a possible 5% increase in property value for a staged home which sells much faster. Moreover, the cost of maintaining an unstaged home on the market for longer may also be considerable if one factors in property taxes, mortgage payments, condo fees, etc.

Then you need to account for the fact that the longer the house is on the market, the harder it is to negotiate a selling price closer to listed price as buyers and their Agents will want to negotiate a much lower price so will often start lower than they normally would have for a home that was just newly listed. All this boils down to one fact: when a home doesn’t appear welcoming to buyers, it often sits on the market and goes through multiple price reductions.

As a seller, you have many choices available to maximize selling price, minimize selling time, and experience a more positive selling experience before you list your home so it’s important to consult with an experienced REALTOR® to explore the options available to you.  If you want to stage your home before it goes on the market to maximize selling price, your REALTOR® can recommend a home-stager for a complimentary consult. Some home-staging companies also have contractors available if your home needs some repairs or a quick paint job so that’s a huge benefit if you are too busy to coordinate all of this yourself.

Once you understand how beneficial staging is when you’re selling a home, you’ll find that home staging doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly.

Look for the second blog next week about home staging – learn how to do your own home staging to maximize selling price. Our Feng Shui articles will also give you helpful tips in preparing your home for sale.

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Living with an Older Home – Maintenance-Insurance-Energy challenges

The charms of living in an older home can be many – history, style, craftsmanship, quirks. But there’s no denying that living in such a home has its challenges. Maintenance can be tricky and expensive, especially if certain systems and features have been neglected over the years. Let’s take a look at some common situations found in many older homes:

  • Energy inefficiency is probably the number-one issue with older homes. Most older homes were constructed with single-pane windows; if these windows are still there, they likely don’t fit very well. Replacement windows can be very expensive, but will contribute immensely to reduced energy use and heating and cooling costs. Most replacement windows are available in several styles, so finding one that suits the look of your older home is easier than ever.
  • Like single-pane windows, poor (or no) insulation will also result in wasted energy and money. The most important and easiest area of the home to insulate is the attic, but walls and floors above ventilated crawlspaces should be insulated as well if possible. The attic may already have insulation but it may be inadequate by current standards.
  • If your home has older water pipes, have them checked to identify the material and determine if they need to be replaced. Some older materials such as galvanized steel, iron, and even lead are subject to deterioration and are still in use today even though new construction does not allow them. Replacement options include copper and CPVC piping.
  • Outdated electrical systems can still sometimes be found in older homes and may not only be dangerous, they can make the house uninsurable. Even if no danger is present, we use so much more electricity in our homes now that the capacity of your older system may be inadequate. Only a qualified electrician should attempt any repairs or updates to your home’s electrical system.

Reprinted with permission: Doug MacDonald, Registered and Certified Home Inspector
Proudly Serving Red Deer, Airdrie and Surrounding Areas. For more information, please contact your local Pillar To Post home inspector.

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Comment by Elke: We often get requests to show homes which were built before 1930. There are most definitely insurance concerns for many of the older homes in inner city Communities or in satellite towns so it’s best to be prepared for the questions you need to ask your insurance company before looking at the cute doll-houses you have seen on the MLS®. Call us for a free consult (403-295-3336), a referral to a local home inspector.

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Long-term Fixed Mortgage rates vs Short-term Rates

There is a compelling case to be made for not locking in a long-term fixed mortgage rates. Brokers often tout their 5-year rate, but it can honestly be a disservice to their clients and can hinder potential home re-sales with large penalty payout fees. A simple calculation of interest paid year-by-year will mostly likely show a substantial savings by going short-term mortgage rates rather than long-term.  A 5-year fixed mortgage rate can be a good strategy, but it is not the only strategy.When buying a home, it’s always a good idea to seek a second opinion about mortgages before choosing one option over the other. If you are with a bank, speak to a mortgage broker and if with a broker, talk to your bank. In any case, don’t hesitate to call Elke at 403-295-3336 if you have questions!

The latest Calgary Real Estate Market Stats can be found on our blog or visit our Website for Real Estate News on Calgary Market Trends.

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Canada Housing Market Stabilizing

According to CMHC’s Housing Market Outlook, Canada Edition, First Quarter, Canada’s Housing Market is Stabilizing.

“Housing starts will moderate in all areas of Canada except British Columbia and Alberta. In 2011, starts are forecast to increase by 1.6 per cent in B.C. and will remain steady in Alberta.”

“Measures recently announced for government-backed mortgage insurance will moderate housing starts activity. Some potential buyers will have to save a larger minimum down payment in order to qualify for mortgage insurance and thus postpone their purchase. Alternatively, some potential buyers may buy smaller, less expensive homes. The new measures, however, are only a few of the many factors that will affect the new housing market.”

“MLS® sales will decline in 2011
“After moderating in the first half of the year, sales of existing homes through the Multiple Listings Service® (MLS®) have rebounded since July 2010. On an annual basis, MLS® sales will edge lower in 2011. As is the case for housing starts, we have generated a range of forecasts for MLS® sales that reflect different economic scenarios. For 2011, we forecast that MLS® sales will be between 398,500 and 485,500 units. In 2012, MLS® sales will be between 406,300 and 519,700 units. CMHC’s point forecast is 441,500 MLS® sales this year and 462,900 next year, compared to 446,577 units sold in 2010.”

“Balanced to sellers’ market conditions
“By the second quarter of 2010, the resale market returned from sellers market conditions back into balanced market territory across most markets in Canada. During this time, new listings increased while existing home sales moved lower. Recently, MLS® sales have regained strength and markets have moved back towards sellers conditions. Consequently, the average MLS® price increased by the fourth quarter of 2010, with the average MLS® price of an existing home at $343,516 compared to $339,155 in the final quarter of 2009. For 2011, the average MLS® price is expected to move up modestly to $348,900 while 2012 will see a further increase to $358,200.”

For More information regarding the “Risks to the outlook” and “Trends Impacting Housing” like Mortgage Rates, please see CMHC’s report Housing Market Outlook, Canada Edition – First Quarter


Housing Activity to Move in Line with Demographic Fundamentals in 2011 – Ottawa, February 17, 2011

After trending lower in the second half of 2010, housing starts are forecast to stabilize at levels consistent with demographic fundamentals in 2011 and 2012, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) first quarter Housing Market Outlook, Canada Edition.1

Housing starts will be in the range of 157,300 to 192,900 units in 2011, with a point forecast of 177,600 units. In 2012, housing starts will be in the range of 154,600 to 211,200 units, with a point forecast of 183,800 units.

“Modest economic growth will continue to push employment levels higher this year and next. This, in conjunction with relatively low mortgage rates, will continue to support demand for new homes. Housing starts will remain in line with long term demographic fundamentals over the course of 2011 and 2012,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist for CMHC.

Existing home sales will be in the range of 398,500 to 485,500 units in 2011, with a point forecast of 441,500 units. In 2012, MLS® sales will move up and are expected to be in the range of 406,300 to 519,700 units, with a point forecast of 462,900 units.

Mr. Dugan also noted that the existing home market will remain in the balanced to sellers’ market range in 2011 and 2012. As a result, growth in the average MLS® price is expected to remain in line with economy-wide inflation in 2011 and 2012.

1. The forecasts included in the Housing Market Outlook are based on information available as of January 17, 2011. Where applicable, forecast ranges are also presented in order to reflect economic uncertainty.


January 2011 Housing Starts: Ottawa, February 8, 2011
The seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of housing starts was 170,400 units in January, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This is up from 169,000 units in December 2010. According to final figures, actual housing starts for 2010 totalled 189,930 units, with activity moderating towards demographic fundamentals by the final quarter of 2010.

“Housing starts moved slightly higher in January because of an increase in rural starts,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Single-detached and multiple starts showed a moderate decline.”

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts decreased by 1.7 per cent to 146,900 units in January. Urban multiple starts moderated by 1.5 per cent in January to 82,900 units, while single urban starts moved lower by 2.0 per cent to 64,000 units.

January’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts decreased by 19.0 per cent in the Prairie Region, by 7.9 per cent in British Columbia, and by 1.0 per cent in Québec. Urban starts increased by 13.3 per cent in Atlantic Canada and by 10.3 per cent in Ontario.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 23,500 units in January.

Click links for CMHC News Releases: Feb 17-2011, Feb 8-2011, Jan-2011 Dec-2010 Housing Report

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Building a Green Home

Benefits of building Green include lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and less exposure to mold, mildew and other indoor toxins which emit harmful Volatile Organic Compounds. Knowing that the lumber used is traceable to responsibly managed forests is Environmentally responsible and an even Deeper Shade of Green (Ottawa Citizen).

Building Green – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

LEED® Canada for Homes is a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes where the net cost of owning such a home is comparable to that of owning a conventional home. The system attempts to provide national consistency in defining the features of a green home and to enable builders anywhere in the country to obtain a green rating on their homes. It’s a consensus standard for green homebuilding and is part of the comprehensive suite of LEED assessment tools offered by the Canada Green Building Council to promote sustainable design, construction, and operations practices in buildings.

The LEED® Canada for Homes Rating System measures the overall performance of a home in eight categories:

  1. Innovation & Design Process (ID). Special design methods, unique regional credits, measures not currently addressed in the Rating System, and exemplary performance levels.
  2. Location & Linkages (LL). The placement of homes in socially and environmentally responsible ways in relation to the larger community.
  3. Sustainable Sites (SS). The use of the entire property so as to minimize the project’s impact on the site.
  4. Water Efficiency (WE). Water-efficient practices, both indoor and outdoor.
  5. Energy & Atmosphere (EA). Energy efficiency, particularly in the building envelope and heating and cooling design.
  6. Materials & Resources (MR). Efficient utilization of materials, selection of environmentally preferable materials, and minimization of waste during construction.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ). Improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the creation of and exposure to pollutants.
  8. Awareness & Education (AE). The education of the homeowner, tenant, and/or building manager about the operation and maintenance of the green features of a LEED® home.

The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings:

A recent study by California’s State and Consumer Services Agency concluded that there are indeed financial benefits to green-building design. The sustainability taskforce reviewed the construction costs of 33 green buildings across the U.S. and found that although it costs nearly 2% more on average to construct a green building than one using conventional methods, the cost premium yields savings of more than 10 times the initial investment during the life of a building (approx. 20 years according to the study).

RESOURCES:  Canada Green Building Council, LEED Canada for Homes

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Bigger down payments not an option for healthy housing market!

February 16, 2010

The Honorable James M. Flaherty
Minister of Finance
Department of Finance Canada
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G5
fAX: (613) 943-0938, E-mail:  jflaherty@fin.gc.ca

Dear Minister Flaherty,

RE: Discussions regarding raising minimum down payment requirements for home buyers

Given your initial interview with CTV and rumors currently swirling around Ottawa regarding potentially raising the down payment requirements for homebuyers and the resulting discussion this idea has brought about in real estate circles, among economists and in the media, we are writing to urge you to reconsider such potential measures.

We understand the government of Canada is concerned about the possible destructive impacts of a hot housing market. These concerns are not without some justification. However, as REALTORS® working on the front lines of this business, we believe raising the down payment requirements for homebuyers could not only have a disastrous effect on those Canadians looking to buy their first home, but also on the health of the entire housing market.

We are not economists. We are not claiming to be. However, given that we operate a real estate business in which first time homebuyers make up a significant percentage of our clientele, our very survival as a business depends on our sharp understanding of the needs of first time homebuyers, as well as their overall contribution to a healthy and prosperous Canadian housing market.

To use a crude analogy, if the housing market were a pyramid, first time homebuyers would make up the foundation on which the entire market is based. Placing unreasonable barriers to entry on those who would otherwise help to provide the market with a solid base will cause a destructive chain reaction that will reverberate throughout a significant portion of the entire economy. To illustrate this point, if first time homebuyers are prevented from entering the market, demand for starter homes will plummet. Current owners of starter homes looking to sell their houses in order to accommodate a growing family will certainly experience greater challenges in finding buyers for their current homes. As such, they may not be able to buy those homes for their growing families, as they have significantly less buyers to sell their current ones to. In this way, the entire housing market will suffer; first time homebuyers will merely be the first to feel the effects.

From our own experience with our clients, we know how difficult it is for them to raise enough money for their down payments, as they are often saving while also paying rent to reside in their current dwellings. We warn that any increase in minimum down payment requirements would bar more than just a few potential buyers from entering the market. As such, we worry that the government is underestimating just how destructive any increases in minimum down payment requirements could be for first time homebuyers and by extension, the entire housing market. Furthermore, creating unnecessary barriers to entry for first time homebuyers would naturally affect any business dependent on a healthy housing market. Not only would our business feel the effects, but contractors we work with, from renovators to builders to painters would take a hit, as would home staging companies and retailers that sell goods required to sustain a home. These include durable goods like furniture and appliances.

We believe it is also worth mentioning, that measures to raise minimum down payments could have large destructive effects while failing to provide an economic upside.

We would like to emphasize that there is still a great deal of diverging opinion among economists as to whether we need to fear a potential housing bubble at all, let alone whether raising minimum down payment requirements would help avoid one. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Benjamin Tal with CIBC World Markets expressed his worry that such measures could result in the government overshooting its goal. Tal communicated his belief that housing prices will moderate as new housing starts help to increase the supply of homes, thus stabilizing the market. New Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation figures on housing starts seem to support Tal’s argument, given that the country saw 174,500 new housing starts in December (seasonally adjusted annual rate), beating analyst expectations, and 186,300 units in January. On the heels of the December data, Canadian Real Estate Association chief economist Gregory Klump told the Canadian Press he believes such fresh infusions of supply will stabilize the market, particularly in the latter half of 2010 and that the current surging market represents a natural part of the real estate cycle, not a housing bubble. On the same day, Bank of Canada official David Wolf, delivering an address on behalf of deputy governor Timothy Lane, warned that talk of a potential housing bubble is premature.

Given our frontline industry experience, coupled with what Canadian economists are telling us, we believe that any potential decision to raise minimum down payments would be, at best, a perverse ‘solution’ to a temporary concern. As such, we strongly advise against adopting such measures. We welcome any further discussion on this matter from you, as well as from the general Canadian public as we strongly believe there are other options open to the Government.

Sincerely,

Elke Babiuk, REALTOR®,
Maxwell Realty, Maxwell Canyon Creek
Member, Calgary Real Estate Board,
Alberta Real Estate Association
Canadian Real Estate Association

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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Housing Bubble Talk Premature

So, if federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is set to potentially raise down payment requirements as a way to avoid a possible housing bubble, thereby making it harder for you to buy your first home, wouldn’t you expect he’d be reasonably sure that a bubble would actually be on the way?

Interestingly enough, he’s not. Nobody is.

Canadian Real Estate Association Chief Economist Gregory Klump recently stated very bluntly to 660 AM Radio News business reporter James Munroe that a housing bubble is not in store for Canada, even after receiving data showing December was the strongest month on record for Canadian real estate.

Klump also pointed out that a new supply of homes will help to stabilize currently surging prices due to high demand for housing. Figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation suggest new supply is on its way into the market. That new supply is no small number. We’re talking about 174,500 new units nationally in December alone. That figure beat analyst estimates by about 10,000 units. Klump argues this is just more evidence of a normal stage in the housing cycle, not the bubble Minister Flaherty fears. So, why is Minister Flaherty still toying with the idea of barring so many potential first time homebuyers from entering the market by buying their first home?

Klump isn’t the only dissenting voice out there either. Benjamin Tal with CIBC World Markets has also told The Globe and Mail that he too, believes new housing units coming into the market will help stabilize prices. He also warned that the government could overshoot its goal, saying: “You do not kill a fly with a hammer.”

Interestingly enough, there’s even dissension from the Bank of Canada itself! Bank of Canada official David Wolf recently delivered an address in Edmonton on behalf of deputy governor Timothy Lane. In the address, he warned that any talk of a housing bubble at this point was “premature.”

We hope Minister Flaherty is listening to the counsel he’s getting and does away with this idea, before it affects the dreams of so many first time homebuyers and our valued clients. We’ll have even more on this topic in the next little while so keep checking!

Elke Babiuk and Michelle Larcher
MaxWell Canyon Creek Realtors

 Selling Calgary Group     Elke Babiuk
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