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A house is probably the biggest purchase you’ll make. So finding out all you can about the home-to-be is essential.

It’s all about the history of your home, and several companies have sprung up across North America to enlighten potential buyers as they begin their home search.

 

These organizations provide inexpensive reports that include a history of the home dating back years.

This means you can find out about additions and repairs through building permits, and about leaky roofs via insurance claims.

 

Previous selling prices and even some of the more unsavory aspects of the home, such as its history as a drug lab, are available.

 

Some firms will also provide names of the companies that made previous additions (such as pools), so you can follow up if you like (or dislike) the workmanship.

 

In Canada, a comprehensive property history is available from a new company, iVerify (www.iverify.com), or via real estate agents. But if you have the time and energy, you could also conduct searches yourself; virtually all the information is contained in official records, which are available to the public at little or no cost.

 

History reports such as these can help potential buyers avoid unpleasant surprises at closing time or further down the road.

 

A track record of problems might make a house a lot more expensive to insure, but if a potential buyer knows about the issues before purchasing, they can decide against buying the home or, at the very least, be prepared for the additional costs.

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When a hermit crab decides it’s time for a new home, it scopes out a new shell before vacating its current accommodation.


But for homeowners, the process is not so easy.


Whether you buy a new home before selling your current one – or the other way around – the choice of what to do first comes down to which option makes you the most comfortable.

Both have pros and cons, and here are some to consider:


Sell first

  • When you know what your current home has sold for you can zero in on exactly what you can afford in your next one. 
  • Because you already know the conditions of your own home’s sale, such as the closing date, you can make informed offers.
  • The downside: If you can’t get possession of your new house before leaving your current one, or even worse, can’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll need temporary housing. Can you afford a short-term rental, and what will you do with your furniture while you’re waiting?

Buy first

  • If you’ve found a home with unbelievable features in a great neighbourhood at an awesome price, the pressure is on. You really want this dream home, so in this case, you may have to buy before selling. 
  • If the local real estate market is hot, you might feel safer buying first.

    It’s probably a safe bet your home will sell fast, unless it’s out of step with its neighbours; if it’s a fixer, or if it’s the best home in the neighbourhood, it may languish or sell below asking.

  • The downside: If you buy first and your home does languish, the worst case scenario is you’re stuck with double mortgage payments.

And double stress.


Some families handle risk better than others. What kind and how much depends on your circumstances.

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Everyone knows that a home's features can make or break a home sale, and that's truer now than ever. But when it comes time to sell your home, not all home-improvement projects are created equal.

While some home improvements are worth the time and money that you put into them, just as many are not, and it's important to know the difference so that you can show your home in the best light while maximizing your return on investment.


If you're thinking about selling your house anytime soon, think twice before making any of these home improvements:


1. Extreme Additions: Strategic additions that make better use of home space and lot lines can help at selling time, but home improvements that are too personalized or elaborate may have the opposite effect.

"A lot of times we advise our sellers not to do any major additions to a property, because you could price yourself out of the market, as well as increase property taxes for the future buyer," says Renee Mayhall, RealEstate.com. "You want to sell the home and move on to a property that's going to better suit your needs, and let the buyer put their own personal touch on it instead, because you literally won't get that money back."

 

2. Enclose Porches and Sun Rooms: While these spaces hold interest for some, most buyers will see a lost opportunity for valuable outdoor space or a drain on home energy efficiency, thanks to often-leaky glassed-in walls. I've also seen sun rooms on dangerously poor footings, constructed on a thin patio slab. Instead, keep porches well-maintained and out in the open. An authentic outdoor room is more flexible and appealing to buyers.

 

3. Way-Out Wall Coverings: Experiments with bold paint colors and personalized patterns will translate either as far out or out-of-date. Remember, this isn't personal, it's real estate. Keep home interiors neutral so that potential buyers have an appealing canvas on which to draft their own stylistic vision and lifestyle.

 

4. Bad Basement Finishes: Basement finishes can lead to a host of problems for you, as well as for the future owner of your home. Address basement dampness issues before converting this valuable bonus space, and avoid the temptation to carpet your basement unless you want to start a mold farm.

 

5. Intricate Landscaping: An overabundance of landscape planting may initially appeal to a buyer's eye, but then they'll start thinking about the time and costs of maintaining a backyard paradise. So simplify your landscape plan with easy-care planting that deliver color and impact, and highlight water-wise irrigation systems in your home's listing and open-house tours.

 

6. Pools and Spas: "Some people love Jacuzzis and other spa-like improvements," notes RealEstate.com Atlanta agent Katrina Walker. "But if it's not a custom home, those may be things you put money into and don't get money back out of when you try to sell the house." Swimming pools also take up valuable backyard living space and add major maintenance and liability issues to a home's real estate profile. Only add one if you plan to be in your home for a very, very long time.

 

7. Home Office Remodels: Though many buyers tend to work from home at least part of the time, a full-blown office remodel can be an obstacle to other uses of valuable square footage. Avoid custom bookcase installations and bulky built-ins that are difficult and expensive to remove or change.

 

8. Unnecessary Improvements: Replacing a roof when it only needs a few repairs and upgrading plumbing systems are just a few examples of improvements that mean big money that you'll never get back. Instead, stay on top of routine home-maintenance tasks, and let the next owner decide what major improvements to make. Be careful not to let contractors supersize small repair projects by talking you into full-blown replacements.

 

9. Anything You Can't Finish: Projects-in-progress shouldn't be among the features of open houses and walk-throughs. If you have a few final improvements in mind, you'll either need to go with a pro or just say no when time and a home sale are of the essence.

"You want to get everything ready before you start to sell, instead of working it out in-between," advises Harrison Tulloss, a ZipRealty agent based in Releigh, N.C. "If you can do small changes and work with what you've got, it usually ends up working out better than totally re-creating or rearranging, and not getting any value out of the investment."

 

Article By Tom Kraeutler 

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One thing that most buyers are looking for is space. They want to know they're going to have room for everything (and everyone) and they're not going to grow out of their house too quickly. So here are some ways to make your house seem bigger than it really is.


Get rid of clutter

This is probably the most important secret to increasing the illusion of space. Remove items you don't need from surfaces, particularly in the kitchen. Keep shelves tidy and not stuffed with books and ornaments.


Paint the walls

Use white or neutral colors to make rooms appear light and spacious. Use tones of a neutral color such as brown or gray to avoid visual clutter and make your décor feel more harmonious.


Consider off-site storage

If you're running out of room for your possessions, move some of them into a storage unit while your house is on the market. Alternatively, have a yard sale to get rid of unwanted items — or donate them to charity. Otherwise, your house might look as if it's not spacious enough for a family.


Remove some furniture

Potential buyers need to be able to walk around your house without bumping into chairs and tables. Put some furniture into storage until you move. Leave a path through your rooms that buyers can walk through.


Organize closets

Make sure you've tidied your closets. Invest in an organizing system, if necessary. Remove clothing that you're not likely to wear from your closets.


Clean up the garage

People want to know they can fit a car (or two) in the garage and still have room for storing their possessions. So clear out your garage and neatly organize everything that must stay in there.


Mirrors and drapes

Place mirrors in strategic places and remove fussy window treatments to enhance the illusion of space.

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