Are You Fit To Sell? – Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home says a lot about how well your home is maintained both inside and out. When a buyer drives by your home or views photos on line this will create a lasting impression, so show them that your property is well cared for. When buyers see an attractive exterior they will be eager to stop and excited to view the interior as well. Curb appeal is the sizzle that helps to sell the steak.

Preparing your home for sale can be a daunting task. A check list can help focus your efforts in the most productive manner. Please review the list below and be as objective and realistic about the current condition of your home.

Things to consider:

[] What major repairs are needed?

[] What minor repairs are needed?

[] Make a list of what needs to be done

[] Sweep walkways, driveways, patios and decks

[] Maintain front, back and side yards

[] Add flower arrangements on your front porch, in front of your garage and on your decks and patios

[] Is your lawn lush and green?

[] What shape are your flower beds in?

[] Are there any visual distractions?

[] Are the kids toys stored neatly away?

[] What condition is your drive way in?

Committing twenty minutes to honestly review and answer each of the points above will help you increase the curb appeal of your home. Should you wish to discuss any of the points above I am always available at 905-330-1241 or by email at . Best of luck!


Are You Fit To Sell? – Upgrades & Repairs

New Years resolutions often involve getting the measuring tape out, taking a hard look at ourselves and setting some new goals. It is a great idea for yourself and an even better idea for your home. Even if you are not considering selling in 2010 there are a couple of key questions that can help you create a plan to get your home in tip-top shape.

ReMax has comprised a program called “Are You Fit to Sell?” to aid you in your plans to get your home in its best possible condition. I have included the “Updates & Repairs” list to give you an idea of the kind of assistance we might provide:

Take an objective look at your house to determine what updates and repairs are necessary. Based on your timeline and budget you will be able to determine what needs to be completed to improve the overall presentation of your home. Buyers today are looking to purchase a home that does not require work. They are also willing to pay more for a house that has been well looked after, so show them that your home is in turn-key condition.

Things To Think About?

[ ] What is your timeline and budget?

[ ] What updates have you been putting off?

[ ] What repairs are needed?

[ ] Repair or replace even the smallest items.

[ ] What conditions are your windows in?

[ ] What condition are your permanent light fixtures in?

[ ] What conditions are your doors and trim in?

[ ] Do you have any holes or cracks in your walls?

I will provide more of these lists on the 905 West Word for your use. Should you have a question about any of the material please feel free to call me at 905-330-1241 or email me at .

The Resale Home Warranty – Coming Soon to a Home Near You

I attended an interesting class this week titled “Understanding Home Warranties”. This course was put on by the Oakville Milton And District Real Estate Board. Initially, when I received the invite, I assumed the course would be about Tarion Home Warranties for new construction properties. This course was actually focused on a Real Estate trend that has become quite popular in the U.S.: Resale Home Warranties.

The concept is an interesting one. A client purchasing a home can buy a resale home warranty for a year at a time. This warranty will often cover the major mechanical components and systems in the home including the plumbing, ducting, stove, dishwasher, fridge, garage door opener, furnace, boiler and more. The warranties start at $250 per year. These policies are offered by insurance companies and contain stipulations as to the extent of coverage, often dictated by the age of the system in question. The coverage will usually have a deductible for each claim submitted in the range of $50. The policies will not cover pre-existing conditions in the home however there is no qualification of the home in advance.

If a system or appliance that covered by the policy experiences problems, the insured calls the provider to inform them. They will recommend a repair professional for the system, should you not have one of preference. There are limitations on the amount of coverage and the insurer will often provide a cash payout amount if the system or appliance is not worth fixing – based on physical condition or age. While this approach does not cast a protective net over the entire home, it does offer a level of comfort knowing that you have some protection in the event of a major break down during the first 365 days of home ownership.

This approach has generated considerable following in the United States. In California alone 92% of homes sold last year involved resale home warranties. In fact, sellers often provide a resale home warranty as selling feature to the would-be purchasers. A purchaser looking at two comparable homes that are similarly priced may be swayed toward the property with a one year security blanket.

How likely it is that a home owner would use the policy in that first year? Most policy holders make 1.7 claims per year on average. 1.7 visits by a home repair professional each year will justify the $250 cost of the policy. Keep your eyes open readers, I believe the resale home warranty will become much more prevalent in the Canadian real estate market in the years to come. Who doesn’t enjoy some extra cost-effective protection? If you have any questions about this interesting idea please feel free to contact me at 905-330-1241 or .

Town of Oakville Snow Removal

Are you familiar with the Town of Oakville’s snow removal policies and guidelines? This information will help you gain a better understanding of the snow removal and sanding/salting priorities.

Sanding and Salting

Sand and Salt trucks will be deployed at the beginning of a snowfall at the first sign of the roads beginning to ice. Priority will be given to the primary roads with the greatest volume of traffic, such as Lakeshore, Trafalgar, Spears and Upper Middle. Secondary roads — the roads which lead to primary roads — will be salted/sanded next . Examples of secondary roads would include Glenashton and Bridge Road. Once the primary and secondary roads are salted/sanded residential streets will typically be sanded at intersections and on sharp curves and hills. This proactive process helps keep Oakville roads as safe as possible while the snow begins to fall.


When snow begins to accumulate primary and secondary roads will be plowed first. Once they are clear the Town will focus on clearing residential streets if the accumulation is at least 10 centimetres. When accumulations are substantial enough that all roads will be plowed the Town of Oakville plans to have all streets cleared within 24 hours of the termination of the snow fall. This period may be extended by heavy snowfalls or successive storms so please be patient.


Sidewalks will be cleared only following accumulations of 5 centimetres or greater and following the clearing of snow from the streets. Sidewalks located on primary and secondary streets with schools will be cleared first followed by residential sidewalks. The sidewalks on primary and secondary streets may be salted/sanded when extremely slippery conditions prevail.

Do Your Part

This is what you can do to help the Town clean up efficiently:

• Remove snow from fire hydrants and drainage catch basins near your property
• Pile snow on the right side of your driveway (when facing the road) when shovelling. This helps minimize the ridge of snow created by the snowplow at the end of your driveway
• Remove plowed snow at the end of your driveway. Snowplow operators must push snow to the curb or shoulder, possibly covering recently shovelled driveways
• Park vehicles off the street when possible. By-law 1984-1 prohibits parking of vehicles on town streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. from November 15 to April 15

The Town of Oakville has a Snow Information Line that you can call with any questions at 905-815-5999. They also seem to be leading the way in snow removal technology with on-line Current Snow Clearing Status updates. This page provides progress updates for where the plows have and have not been. Check out the link below and stay warm.

Click Here for Current Snow Clearing Status

Burlington Snow Removal Guidelines

My neighbour and I were recently joking about the fact that it had been a week since the most recent snow storm and our residential street was still snow covered. I decided it might be worth a quick call to the City to gain a thorough understanding of snow removal policies and expectations. This is what I found.

When a winter event starts the sand and salt trucks are dispatched on primary roads followed by secondary roads. After the snowfall reaches 2” on primary and secondary roads the snowplows are sent out to clear them. Once snowfall accumulations reach 3” on residential streets the plows will be sent to clear these streets. The City of Burlington’s aim is to have all roads in the City plowed within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. The City’s first priority is to keep the main roads clear. They ask you not to call to report your residential street unplowed until 24 hours have passed since the end of a snowfall.

Sidewalk Snow Removal

I was surprised to learn that the City of Burlington is responsible for clearing snowfall from all sidewalks – including residential sidewalks – once accumulation reaches 2”. When snowfalls accumulate less than 5” of snow the City’s goal is to have all sidewalks plowed within 24 hours of the conclusion of the snowfall. Priority will be placed on primary and secondary sidewalks followed by residential sidewalks.

Snowfall accumulations between 5” and 12” alter the City’s goal for sidewalk clearing as follows:

• Primary Sidewalks – 18 hours after snowfall conclusion
• Secondary Sidewalks – 36 hours after snowfall conclusion
• Residential Sidewalks – 72 hours after snowfall conclusion

When snowfalls accumulate in excess of 12” the City will do its best to clear the snow as soon as possible. The City will salt and sand primary and secondary sidewalks only when extremely slippery conditions exist.

Now that I have done the leg work I have realistic expectations of the City of Burlington with regard to snow removal. I hope this has given you similar perspective. Should you need to get in touch with the City to report an unplowed street based on the above guidelines they can be reached at 905-335-7777.

Multiple Offers – Dare I Take Part?

There has been considerable press lately about the real estate market being over heated, feeding fears of a “market bubble” situation. Those that support these views often cite the prevalence of multiple offer situations – driving sale prices $50,000 and $100,000 over asking prices in hot market centres – as a key contributor. What exactly is a multiple offer?

A multiple offer situation presents itself when a property is so desirable that more than one offer for the property comes in at the same time. It may be only two competing offers, however, it can be more as I have personally experienced the misfortune of being one of 15 competing offers on the same property in a certain trendy west Toronto neighbourhood. As you might imagine, the more offers on the table, the stiffer, more emotional and less logical the competition often becomes. How does a property become so desirable that multiple offers occur?

Multiple offer situations can happen on their own, as a result of a premium property being offered when supply is low, but more often than not they are created. They can be created a couple of different ways:

• A significant price drop by a Seller may entice more than one set of buyers who were “on the fence” about the property at the previous
• Holding offers until a specific date (often 7 days after listing it) in order to generate the most possible interest
• Pricing the property well under market value to create a buzz with today’s well informed buyers the moment it hits the market (often
combined with holding offers until a certain pre-determined date)

How does a multiple offer situation proceed? When a home has more than one offer registered on it, the offers will be presented in the order in which the offers were registered – a phone call to the listing brokerage to let them know the papers are signed. The sellers will review all of the offers at a specified time and then decide on their course of action. The sellers may accept the best offer, negotiate with the best offer and reject all others, negotiate with one buyer and inform the other buyers their offers are being set aside while the negotiation takes place or reject all offers completely. Often, the listing agent will inform the competing buyer’s agents before the presentation that it will be one round of offers and the best offer will be dealt with.

What about conditions? The winning bid may not always be the highest price. In some instances it may be a bit less money, however, it could have no conditions or be “clean”. An offer containing a home inspection or financing clause provides an “out” for purchasers, which in the eyes of the seller weakens their bid. That being said these conditions may be essential to your comfort level putting a bid in on the property and a home purchased without an inspection can reveal a range of post sale surprises. Should the home be bid up considerably over fair market value, it may not appraise for the amount you are looking to finance. In this instance the inclusion of a financing clause might have cost you the house or, if you are successful with your bid, saved you financial distress should it not appraise.

What is the best strategy in preparing for a multiple offer? Unfortunately, there is no “best strategy” that blankets every situation. Each home and multiple offer situation is unique. I often meet with my clients and create an offer plan. We determine what we feel the value of the house is and a logical limit on what they are willing to pay for this specific home. It is also beneficial to determine a price at which the clients feel someone else can have the home. This way expectations and intentions are clear and some of the emotional lack of logic can be removed from the process. In the instance that your agent also has the listing on the property, be sure to review the Buyer Representation Agreement section on Multiple Representation.

Luckily, multiple offers are less prevalent in Burlington and Oakville than some other centres such as Toronto. However, I have experienced them in the Halton Region as well, albeit less often. My best advice is to be realistic about what you feel the home is worth. Keep in mind that other inventory will eventually become available. Create an offer plan and stick to it. Good luck!

The Regional Municipality of Halton Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program

A flooded basement is one of the worst surprises a homeowner can come home to realize. Water can find its way in to your home in a number of different ways. I am always an advocate of being proactive to keep your home tight and dry. As such, I feel it is important to share the news that the Regional Municipality of Halton is currently offering a Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy, for as much as $2,725.

This Subsidy is available to:

• Halton residents who have a history of basement floods caused by a backup or surcharge of the sanitary sewer system.


• Halton residents who have not experienced flooding but would like to correct improper storm water connections and install a backwater valve.

A surcharge is an overloaded sewer as a result of severe rainstorms. The sewers become overloaded due to excessive water flow from downspouts, weeping tiles/Foundation Drains and sump pumps that are connected to lines designated for sanitary sewer flows.

A backwater valve is a valve installed where the main-sewer clean out is located. The Mainline Fullport backwater valve is the only one that can be used in Ontario. It allows the sewer line to still vent gasses caused by positive or negative pressure, but will close to protect the home in the event of a surcharge.

What Subsidy Amounts Are Available to Homeowners?

Disconnection of Downspouts that used to tie in to the weeping system then into the sewer: ½ of all costs up to a maximum $250.

Weeping Tile Disconnection/Sump Pump Installation: ½ of the invoiced total by the contractor up to a maximum of $1,800.

Backwater Valve purchase and installation: ½ of the invoiced total by contractor up to a maximum of $675. In order to qualify for the Backwater Valve portion for the subsidy homeowners must demonstrate they do not have any downspout or weeping tile/foundation drain connections to the sanitary sewer.

The funding available for the Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy is limited and will only be distributed while funds last. This funding is also on a first come, first-served basis so be expedient in the process if you wish to take part. Would be participants start with a Household Drainage Survey to evaluate the extent of the work to be done and eligible subsidy amounts. It is worth mentioning that if you do proceed with the program reimbursement is not provided for interior finishes such as drywall, paint or flooring or exterior restoration such as landscaping, gardening, porches, decks concrete or asphalt etc;

Should you wish to proceed with this process you should contact the Program Coordinator Matt Stefanik at 905-825-6000 ext. 7918. The link below will provide all of the specific details on the Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy program. This generous offer from the Regional Municipality of Halton is time sensitive. Should you have concern about your basement flooding, call soon.

CLICK HERE for Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program Details Specifics

Residential Real Estate Reefer Madness – How to Avoid Purchasing a Grow House

We are often told that there are three important things to consider when purchasing a property: “Location, Location, Location”. While this carries considerable weight, I would like to add “History, History, History” to the list. The history of any given property can have a substantial impact on a property’s value, especially if that property has been a marijuana grow house. It is the responsibility of any homeowner or Listing Agent to disclose any Latent Defects of a home – known flaws in the property not easily discovered by a thorough inspection — to potential purchasers. This latent defect is in fact a stigma that must be disclosed to future buyers if you decide to purchase the former grow house.
This is why:

Marijuana grow houses pose considerable health and security risks to potential buyers. Often these homes have had the wiring altered by non-licensed “electricians” to meet the excessive power requirements. These alterations range from illegal power hook ups to increase supply – which overloads the electrical system — to cutting the power meter to avoid detection. Often a dangerous fire hazard for would be inhabitants.

Indoor marijuana cultivation demands excessive amounts of water. Plumbing is frequently altered to meet this requirement. Excess moisture is often improperly vented into the attic where, in the short term, it can generate dangerous levels of mould and spores in the attic and throughout the house – a considerable health risk. In the longer term excessive moisture in the attic can compromise the structure of the very roof and home. The growing process also creates noxious gasses which compliment the use of pesticides. Air quality can remain poor long after a grow house is shut down, contaminating the walls, carpets and ceilings.

Add to the this list the fact that the foundation is often damaged when electrical hook ups are altered behind meters and floor joists and load bearing walls are cut and removed to allow the necessary alterations. It quickly becomes clear that there is extensive and expensive damage done to the average marijuana grow house which is why the stigma must be disclosed. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (2004), the average claim to repair the damage caused to a former marijuana grow house was $41,000.

An identified marijuana grow house is often given a “prohibit occupancy” order until a plan of remediation of the property can be executed and inspected. Should the plan be accepted and executed to allow occupancy it may prove challenging to find mortgage financing. It is much more simple to avoid the whole situation, but how?

Using a Realtor that is familiar with the physical signs of a marijuana grow house is a good place to start. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association CREA these signs include but are not limited to:

mould where ceilings and walls meets in corners, signs of irregular roof venting, painted concrete basement floors with rings showing through where pots once rested, electric meters that have been tampered with (including the ground around the meter), modified wiring outside the home, brownish stains around the soffit bleeding down/along siding, concrete masonry patches or alterations on inside of garage, patterns of screw holes in walls, alteration of fireplaces, front door dented (police forced entry).

Should you be considering purchasing a home in Burlington, Oakville or other parts of Halton Region that you suspect may have been a marijuana grow house, you have a great resource provided by the Halton Regional Police Services, a list of Identified Marihuana Grow Houses dating back to 2004:

Click here for list.

This list is dynamic and I am unsure how frequently it is updated, so should you suspect a potential property that you are considering purchasing and it does not show up on this list contact them directly 905-825-4747. Knowledge is key in the battle against marijuana grow houses.

Should you be looking for further information on the battle against marijuana grow houses in Ontario be sure to tune in to catch Mike Holmes on the season premiere of Marketplace on the CBC Friday January 8th, 2010 at 8:30pm EST.

Click here for Mike Holmes Marketplace Preview

Halton Region H1N1 Flu and Seasonal Flu 2010 Clinic Schedule

The H1N1 Flu pandemic created quite a stir in Halton Region and the rest of the world. Although there has been criticism of everything from the production to the administration of the vaccine, it seems to me that the Region of Halton has done a good job vaccinating those that wanted the H1N1 vaccine. I am the proud father of 1 year old identical twin boys. They were on the early list of those allowed to receive the vaccine. My family and I spent a solid hour and fourty five minutes patiently waiting for the vaccine, which can seem like an eternity with two toddlers that do not like to sit still. The volunteers at the Halton Regional Centre on Bronte Road provided water and colouring books for those in line to make it a pleasant as well as efficient experience.

It is January 7, 2010 and the Halton Region re-opens their flu immunization clinics today. Halton Region’s flu immunization clinics are offering the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine. These vaccines are being offered to those that want them over the age of 6 months. Please go to the link below in order to review the clinic schedule.

In order to continue the smooth and efficient administration of the vaccines in Halton here is what you can do to help as an attendee:

• Wear a short-sleeved shirt
• Be prepared to present your Ontario Health Card/Driver’s License
• Be on time, the clinic doors close promptly on schedule – those inside the doors will be immunized
• Come prepared for: weather as you may be outside in line (umbrellas/blankets), your children’s needs – bring books, toys, snacks/drinks etc;

Following the immunization, the Region of Halton has a couple of suggestions on how to keep yourself and your family from getting sick:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15 seconds or use a 60-90% alcohol based hand sanitizer
• Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with hands that have not been washed/sanitized
• Should you have flu-like symptoms please stay home and get better
• Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or a tissue, not your hand, and disgard tissue immediately and clean your hands
• Keep commonly touched surfaces clean and disinfected

We have all done a great and responsible job to combat the H1N1 flu virus, lets continue to do our part.

The New HST: What It Means To You.

July 1, 2010: Be sure to note that date in your Blackberry, iPhone or gadget du jour. This is the date that the new provincial harmonized sales tax (HST) is set to come into effect. In the simplest sense the HST combines the 8% PST and the 5% GST into one 13% HST. This extra 8% will apply to a list of goods and services that were previously exempt from PST.

One large item of interest will be new construction homes. New construction homes have been subject to GST since its introduction in the early 1990’s. The government did create a GST Rebate to first time home buyers of new construction to help ease the burden. With the introduction of the HST, there is an additional 8% tax added onto the price of a new construction home.

To help offset this cost, the government has created the New Housing Rebate. The rebate will be 75% of the provincial portion of the HST payable on the purchase of a new home, up to a maximum rebate of $24,000 (i.e., $400,000 purchase price × 8% provincial component = $32,000 ×75% rebate = $24,000). This results in a maximum rebate of $24,000 if a vendor spends $400,000. A recent update in legislation has made the rebate available to homes of any sale price, to a maximum of $24,000.

What will the HST mean to Ontario resale home purchasers and sellers?
Should you be purchasing or selling a home on or after July 1, 2010, it makes sense to budget an additional 8% more for legal fees, moving costs, real estate commissions, appraisals and home inspection fees to name but a few. The Ontario Real Estate Association estimates that an additional $1,449 in new taxes would be added to a transaction for a home valued at $302,354. This is estimated to add $262 million in new taxation of resale homes annually in Ontario. Even if you are not planning a move in the next couple of years, all homeowners need to take note.

The 8% PST increase in taxation will apply to services required to maintain your home as well. Many of these services would have previously been exempt from PST including utilities, home renovation labour, landscaping, snow removal and more. Should you be renting, you may think that the HST increase would not apply to you. Please take a step back and think about whether your landlord will be willing to take an 8% increase in operating costs or whether he or she might pass as much of that along to you as possible. In fact, condominium residents will experience a similar effect with maintenance fees as these 8% cost increases will need to be passed along or eventually eat away at reserve funds.

Love it or Hate it, the HST is going to be a Canadian reality as of July 1, 2010. (I have an idea which way you might be leaning.) Be aware of the looming increased costs and make smart decisions with the money you have in hand.

Please feel free to call me direct if I can be of any further assistance: 905-330-1241.