SHOULD YOU FOREGO THE HOME INSPECTION?

Homebuyers and sellers will do well to know a thing or two about the process of home inspections. Making informed decisions about the home you hope to buy, or the one you plan to sell, is an important step as part of your financial considerations.

“You’ll want to be aware of the processes around home inspections and know what they do and do not normally cover,” says Lincoln Thompson, a broker-owner with Royal LePage Gardiner Realty in Fredericton, New Brunswick. “Defects or problems can factor into your pricing considerations and negotiations. Conversely, as a seller, you may choose to have an inspection and undertake repairs before you list your home. As a buyer, you can include repairs identified in the inspection to amend the purchase agreement in a variety of ways.”

Here are key guidelines to help along the way:

• A home inspection is a visual assessment and report based on what is observed on a certain day. As such, a home inspector cannot see or find everything. For example, they may not be able to inspect certain areas concealed by snow.

• As a buyer, you are paying for an objective opinion on the home. If the inspector comes on referral from your agent, a good agent will ensure the inspector understands that you are the client.

• Understand the parameters of the home inspection and that having one is not a warranty or guarantee.

• There is no such thing as a perfect house. Don’t be concerned if the inspection reveals some problems. Use this information as part of your negotiations, or as a seller, have an advance inspection and take care of necessary repairs before you list the home.

Buying or selling a home can be a rewarding experience. When you get the facts and can expect the best from the people who are there to advise you, a home inspection is an important tool in your decision making.

More information is available at www.royallepage.ca.

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Selecting the right countertop for your home

When replacing your countertop, you need to consider both your individual style and your budget before choosing a surface. To help you with your project, Rose DiFonzo, kitchen and installs expert at The Home Depot shares a few helpful insights.

Lasting durability. If your last countertop took a beating and you are not looking to make the same mistakes, invest in Silestone, a combination of natural quartz, raw minerals and resin. This extraordinarily resilient, non-porous work surface is completely maintenance-free, and holds up against staining, scratching and scorching and requires no sealing or polishing.

Classic elegance. For centuries, granite has been the material of choice for builders and sculptors alike. This stone comes in a wide range of natural colours and is resistant to heat, scratches and stains. Its rich veining and unique specks mean that each countertop features its own one-of-a-kind pattern, making it no surprise why many think granite is the perfect kitchen countertop material.

Versatile design. For the aspiring interior designer, Corian countertops offer homeowners the option to use in both horizontal and vertical applications. The sky’s the limit, allowing you to cut, mould, rout or carve to suit all your design needs. With an expansive selection of colours, this is also stain-resistant surface.

Greener footprint. If you prefer eco-friendly alternatives when shopping, look no further than. ECO. It’s an original product manufactured from 75 per cent recycled materials such as mirror, glass and porcelain — even 94 per cent of the water used in its manufacturing process is re-used. Embrace this scratch-resistant, easy-to-maintain surface while reducing landfill waste.

Lasting performance. For the chef on the move, your work surface needs to be virtually indestructible. Consider Dekton countertops, which are created by simulating the metamorphic change that natural stone undergoes when subjected to high temperatures and pressure over thousands of years. As a result, this sophisticated blend of the raw materials holds up under extreme temperatures and refuses to scorch or crack.

Budget conscious. If you are looking for a cost-effective way to give your kitchen an update, laminate countertops are the material for you. With the widest selection offered, you can choose from a myriad of colours, patterns, textures and finishes, making this the perfect option to satisfy all kitchen styles. Laminate countertops also offer a DIY option, so you can save money on installation.

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Think carefully before paying a contractor up front

 

You've decided to get going on your dream renovation and worked out the details with a contractor. Now you're anxious to get the work started. But the contractor wants half the money up front. What should you do?

Think very carefully before paying. Then think about finding a different contractor.

Outside of specific circumstances — such as pre-ordering high-value custom products that cannot be returned, paying for permit fees, road cuts, tree removal, building demolition, or moving hydro wires — down payments for work not yet completed should never amount to much more than 10 per cent of the total cost. If your contractor is providing design services separately from renovation services, these may also need to be paid for prior to the construction work starting.

Reputable reno professionals shouldn't need your money to finance their business and should bill you in proportion to what has been completed. A deposit serves mainly to confirm your good faith commitment to the project, as set out in your contract.

If a contractor wants most or all the money up front (and often in cash), they may be running an under-the-table operation, cheating on their taxes, skipping building permits and proper business insurance — all of which put you at risk. These are situations where fly-by-night contractors may not do the work promised and the homeowners may never see their money again. And without a written contract, there will be almost nothing they can do about it.

Most renovation contracts, particularly for larger projects, have a clear payment schedule laid out that ties payments to progress milestones, so you pay an amount proportionate to the percentage of work completed. That's fair to both you and the contractor. Small jobs may only require a small deposit and full payment upon completion. In no case should you have to pay a large percentage or all of the costs before the work is done.

For consumers, the key to renovating the smart and safe way lies in being informed about how the renovation business works. You can find a wealth of practical information from the Canadian Home Builders' Association at www.getitinwriting.ca.

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Outdoor upgrades that add value to your property

During the warmer months, there’s often nothing better than spending a weekend outside working in the garden or fixing up the house. Sharon Grech, Colour & Design Expert at Benjamin Moore, shares some ideas for weekend summer projects that add value to your property.

Deck it out. A great way to make a fresh statement in your backyard or breathe new life into an aging deck is to give it a colour makeover. Grech recommends Benjamin Moore ARBORCOAT, a premium stain available in several colours and varying opacities, designed to enhance and protect the appearance of decks, siding and outdoor wood furniture. The stain also penetrates into the wood to provide excellent UV protection. “For a modern contemporary look, I love Rustic Taupe or Westcott Navy. For a more classic look, try Leather Saddle Brown,” she says.

Curb appeal. The front of your home is the first thing people notice, so keep your front yard looking fresh with budget-friendly landscape projects like adding decorative stepping stones, a small garden or window boxes. Painting your front door is another simple yet impactful project that enhances your property’s curb appeal. When choosing front door colours for a dark or brick house, Grech recommends Concord Ivory HC-12 or a classic red like Dutch Tulip to brighten it up and coordinate with bright flowers. If your home is painted in a lighter colour, try a more fashion forward option like Wythe Blue HC-143 and complement with a garden of flowers in simple whites and lots of green.

Get your home picture perfect. Thinking of selling? The summer is the best time to photograph your home. Even if you’re not planning on listing it until later in the year, arrange to take photos now when it’s looking its best.

Find more information at www.benjaminmoore.ca.

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Tips To Get Your Yard Ready For Spring

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Spring cleanup doesn’t have to be a chore — becoming familiar with just a few easy tasks can help make that enviable lawn seem effortless.

“Even just keeping on top of a few regular jobs is enough to make a difference,” explains John Ladds, operations manager at Weed Man Canada. Ladds recommends incorporating the following tasks into your home’s spring check-up:

1. Tools and equipment review. Before beginning anything, give all your equipment a once-over. Taking a few minutes at the start of the season to check hoses for leaks and mower blades for sharpness ensures that the rest of the year runs smoothly.

2. Cleaning and raking. Once all the winter wetness has finally dried, that first initial clean up and deep raking helps to open up airways and establish a healthier root system.

3. Professional fertilization. Scheduling a good slow-release fertilizer to be applied soon after grass has started growing for the season is strongly recommended.

4. Aeration. Professional mechanical core aeration works wonders to increase accessibility to nutrients, water, sunlight and oxygen and provides a noticeable difference when it comes to your lawn’s growth.

5. Try something new. A novel project around the house can invigorate not only your yard, but also your spirits. Whether it’s setting up a rain barrel or beginning a yard waste compost system, these kinds of DIY projects are sure to improve efficiency.

Find more information online at weedmancanada.com.

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What’s Trending In Home Décor This Season?

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Freshening up your home for spring and summer is simple with a few strategic changes, inspired by top trends from design experts and Pinterest boards. Here are some ideas to make your home magazine cover-ready.

Contemporary colours. Colour is having a major moment, with new hues shaking up classic design. Navy is the new black and works as a great neutral in the kitchen or living room, while jewel tones are perfect for decorative accents. Greenery is Pantone’s colour of the year and will make any space instantly fashionable. The fresh and zesty yellow-green hue is symbolic of new beginnings, but any shade is a design win this season.

Floral fabrics. Embrace spring and summer with flowery prints. Play with a variety of patterns and sizes and stick to a unifying colour scheme for a look that says modern chic, not antiquated grandmother.

Tiles with texture. Subway tiles are so 2016, now replaced by rustic materials like wood, terracotta and cork. Keep the look crisp and lines clean by using a matte finish and placing tiles on an accent wall or item, like the fireplace.

Picturesque plants. Take a cue from Pinterest and green your interiors with indoor vines — climbing plants have risen in popularity on the platform by over 200 per cent since last year. Pretty Heartleaf Philodendron is easy to grow and ideal for beginners.

Wow-factor windows. Create drama, dimension and interest not only at the window, but also in the light that cascades into the room with the right window treatments. From solids to textures to stripes to small-scale designs, new Designer Banded Shades from Hunter Douglas offer a fabric to fit your style. Top it off with a sophisticated colour palette featuring fresh neutrals, greys and pops of colour that excite. Intelligent design enables the shade to transition from open to closed seamlessly, providing a modern solution for view-through, light control and privacy.

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How to get your best looking deck

With summer on its way, now’s the time to start thinking about maintaining the look of your deck. Before you start the process of cleaning and staining, it’s important to know the differences between oil and water-based stains, and which is most suited to your needs.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a stain, says the research and development team at Thompson’s WaterSeal, who are experts at deck care.

The first thing to do is determine the type of wood you are working with and what kind of stain base it needs. Some woods, like cedar, have a natural resistance to rotting, so a water-based stain may work better. Weather exposure is another factor to consider — if the wood is going to be in direct exposure to wind, rain and sunlight, an oil-based stain is the best choice.

Oil-based finishes penetrate deeper into the wood, nourishing it and reducing imperfections and scratches. They are also better at preventing water damage and are long lasting. Oil-based finishes are formulated for all exterior wood types, including hardwoods.

There are also benefits to a using water-based stain, which hide blemishes that might already be on your deck, like scratches and nicks from chairs. These stains also have a less potent odour than the oil-based finishes. Clean up is easy, simply with soap and water.

The stain types also have some commonalities. Both protect exterior wood from the elements by preventing water damage, resisting mildew and providing UV protection, while extending the life of your exterior wood. Both can enhance your deck’s appearance by adding some fresh colour. Thompson’s WaterSeal offers both oil-based and water-based stains.

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Top 5 Pitfalls Of Kitchen Renovations

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A gorgeous kitchen can definitely make your life better, but before you start your reno, find out more about five common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1. Kitchens are expensive. It’s easy to spend $25,000 to $50,000 on a mid-range kitchen makeover. Even budget remodels of a small kitchen can run up to $15,000. Expert do-it-yourselfers can cut these costs in half, but most of us don’t have the required skills and will likely need a professional contractor to deliver the best results. Given the cost and lifestyle impact a kitchen reno has, avoid dealing with contractors who promise a low price but want to be paid in cash with nothing written down.

2. Cabinet hardware varies a lot in quality. Before you sign any kitchen remodelling contract, make sure it specifies the type and brand of hinges, drawer slides, handles and accessories that’ll be used.

3. Fancy countertops can be troublesome. High-end stone and solid surface countertops deliver powerful bragging rights, but they’re not necessarily more durable than less expensive options like laminate or solid maple. Some elaborate materials require regular sealing, while others can be damaged by a hot pot. Research your options before deciding.

4. Ask for great materials. Even expensive kitchen cabinets are often made of the cheapest material possible, melamine-coated particleboard. Think of sawdust bonded with glue and a factory coating on top. Truly high-end cabinets are made with veneered cabinet-grade plywoods and solid hardwoods. These are stronger, lighter in weight and more durable.

5. New kitchens don’t always pay off at resale. According to an annual survey run by Remodeling Magazine since 2002, mid-range and high-end kitchen remodels deliver only 60 to 65 cents of increased resale value for every dollar spent. If you’re planning to move in the near future, make sure the investment makes financial sense.

Find more information on the Canadian Home Builder’s Association’s website, www.getitinwriting.ca.

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