New Year's Resolutions: Homeowners Edition
While the New Year may have looked a little different this year, the one thing that remains the same is the renewed sense of hope you get as the calendar year rolls over. The start of a new year offers a blank slate or fresh start.
Instead of the usual New Year's Resolutions, this week we're looking at resolutions for your home.
1. Get Rid Of The Clutter
Throughout the year, most of us acquire a mountain of stuff—and too much stuff can clutter up your home, making it look untidy and dated.
This year, resolve to go room-by-room and gather anything that you don't use, wear, or love and donate it to charity.
And in 2022, think twice before bringing more items home. Try the 'one-in, one-out' rule. For example, if you buy a new pair of running shoes, donate the older pair. This will help keep your home free of clutter all year round.
2. Work Out A Weekly Schedule
Cleaning the house can feel like an overwhelming task; it only takes a few days for things to pile up. Make a resolution to work out a weekly system for keeping your home clean.
Resolve to put your dishes in the dishwasher every night before going to bed. Put your clothes away each day instead of piling them on the chair and fold laundry as soon as it's out of the dryer so it doesn't pile up in the laundry room.
Break things down into smaller, more manageable daily tasks so deep cleaning doesn't feel as overwhelming when you have the time to tackle it.
3. Reduce Utility Bills
Make a resolution this year to reduce your utility bills and conserve energy throughout your home. This could be as simple as turning off the lights when you leave the room, turning down the heat or AC when you go out and making a conscious effort not to leave the tap running when you're brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
Consider changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescents to help save up to 75% of your energy usage and upgrade larger appliances—like your washer, dryer, or oven—to energy-efficient appliances to save money on your monthly bill. If replacing appliances isn't in your budget, make sure to clean and maintain them as required so they perform at their best. (For example, if you clean your HVAC filters every 1-3 months, your system will be able to push that air through the filter easier, making sure the motor doesn't work too hard, thereby reducing its energy cost.)
You can also take this opportunity to also make sure air isn't escaping from your home. Warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer can escape through doors, windows, and ducts that aren't insulated properly. Make sure you're caulking and adding weather stripping to places that could be areas for drafts.
4. Organize Your Pantry
There's nothing quite like cleaning out kitchen cupboards and organizing your pantry after the chaos of the holidays. Check expiration dates, donate any extra food you don't normally incorporate into your meals—like the extra boxes of stuffing or canned green beans you didn't get to use this year—and organize your spices and baking goods.
Go one step further and add baskets and clear jars to organize your dry goods and make it easier for the whole family to keep the pantry organized moving forward.
5. Do A Safety Check
The beginning of the year is also the perfect time to do an annual safety check. Check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
And finally, set aside time to schedule inspections and cleanings for your heating systems. Whether it's a heat pump, furnace, boiler or fireplace, these systems all need regular maintenance and this way, you won't have to worry about them throughout the year.
This year, I'm excited to work with even more people to secure their dream homes in Nova Scotia. If you know someone looking to sell their current property or find their dream home, I'd love to schedule a free consultation to help them get started.
Having your offer accepted is only the first step in hanging the sold sign on your dream home. Once your offer is accepted, it's time to get your Real Estate Lawyer involved.
This week, I caught up with Charlotte Edwards, Associate Lawyer at Kennedy Schofield Lutz Lawyers to break down what your Real Estate Lawyer will do during this vital time in your home purchase:
1. What is the role of a real estate lawyer?
A real estate lawyer helps clients who have an accepted offer to buy or sell their property complete the transaction. The initial step is for the lawyer to review the purchase and sale agreement and discuss it with the client to confirm all details.
For a client who is buying a property, it is important for the real estate lawyer to review the title in detail with their client to make sure things like access, easements, and restrictive covenants are clear, and to answer any questions the client may have. The lawyer will also prepare all mortgage documents to sign with the client, in addition to the documents necessary for the purchase. The lawyer is responsible for collecting money from the client and bank, and transferring it to the other side in exchange for the deed and confirming that all mortgages and secured interests currently impacting the title will be cleared prior to closing.
For a client who is selling their property, the lawyer will prepare the deed for execution, as well as payout the mortgage. If the property is not migrated, it will also be important to migrate the property to the land registration system prior to closing. Regularly people are not familiar with migration, which requires a detailed title search confirming a clear root of the title. The migration process became a requirement on sale in the early 2000s.
Throughout the process, the lawyer works collaboratively with the real estate agent to ensure the transaction runs as smoothly as possible, including responding to questions from the opposing party and negotiating holdbacks or credits on closing day.
2. What is the process for finding and working with a real estate lawyer?
The most common way I find that people come to me is through recommendations of someone they know and trust – like a family member, friend, realtor, or mortgage broker. However, you can always search online for a lawyer as well. It is important for you to be comfortable with the real estate lawyer, and typically I organize an initial phone call to speak with the client to answer any questions they have. Throughout the process, there is an open dialogue that occurs through phone calls or e-mails to answer questions. Closer to closing, the lawyer will schedule a meeting in-person or by zoom to review all documents necessary for signature and collect everything needed to close.
3. Things you should have ready for your real estate lawyer.
A lawyer will often provide a list in their retainer letter of the specific items needed for your transaction. A lawyer will always need to see a valid government-issued photo ID to verify your identity.
For a purchase, some of the things your lawyer will need are contact information for your mortgage broker or bank, confirmation of insurance, copies of satisfactory water tests, proof of assumption of leased equipment, and a certified cheque or bank draft with your down payment and closing costs.
For a sale, some of the things your lawyer will need are a copy of your most recent tax bill and confirmation of payment, a recent statement noting your mortgage account number so a payout can be ordered, a fuel top-up slip if there is oil or propane as a heat source on your property, a septic pump-out receipt, and receipts for any renovations required to be completed prior to closing.
Every real estate transaction is unique, so these are just a few common items, but never be afraid to ask your real estate lawyer a question – it’s their job, and the job of your real estate agent to help guide you through the process of your real estate transaction and make it as smooth as possible.
Questions for your home inspector
Do you want to know the best ways to maintain your investment? If so, read on! I caught up with Ed Pottie from Greener Inspections for some home maintenance tips that will help keep your property looking its best as we head into this warmer weather.
What are 5 things every homeowner should do in the spring (that most people don't do)?
What are some common things homeowners forget about that are found during inspections?
Why should a homeowner do a pre-inspection for their home before listing?
A pre-inspection is great to do so that you can be aware of any issues that may pop up before a potential buyer does their own inspection. There are also times sellers can use the pre-inspection report as a selling tool.
If a seller chooses to share their inspection with potential buyers, it may sway the buyer from choosing to do their own inspection. I like to think that if there is any way to limit "surprises" during the home purchase process, it can only be beneficial for all parties involved!
How often should a homeowner have their home inspected?
I'd say maybe every 5 years or so. It always helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at your property for any potential issues.
The New Year is the perfect time to reflect, so I wanted to take a look back at 2020 in Real Estate. Below are the top trends that dominated the Halifax Real Estate Market last year:
1. Record Prices
I started my first market update of 2020 with a series of news headlines:
In 2020, we saw the average house price in Halifax rise by 14.6% (compared to the norm of 4-6% annually) leaving first-time buyers with fears of being priced out of the market.
What didn’t happen: Back in the spring, CMHC CEO Evan Siddall forecasted a 9-18% drop in average house prices over the next 12 months. This prediction was based on the belief that we would see a high number of foreclosures once homeowners were no longer able to defer mortgage payments.
With prices on the rise and increasing homeowner equity, it is unlikely we will see a high number of foreclosures as sellers in financial trouble will opt to sell rather than foreclose. Several Canadian economists have spoken out and said the CMHC Housing Market Forecast is no longer relevant.
2. Record Low Inventory Levels
We started 2020 with record low inventory levels in Halifax, entrenching the sellers’ market that had been building in our city since 2018.
Add in a pandemic and we saw the number of new listings drop between 65-70% each week as sellers held off on listing their properties amid uncertainty in the market and fear of community spread.
What’s causing these record low inventory levels? Millennials.
The Demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z, are now 27-40 years of age and have entered their peak home-buying years. Millennials make up 31% of the population in North America and represent 45% of new mortgage applications. What we are experiencing is termed the Millennial Draw Down.
As such a significant portion of the population enters the housing market for the first time, we are seeing Millennials buy up home inventory at a faster rate than the inventory comes to market.
What slim pickings mean for buyers: Low inventory means you need to be on your toes when you go house hunting—the best homes will likely be snatched up fast. Check out my post on buying a home in a seller’s market for more tips.
3. Spring Market?
The timing of the first wave of COVID-19 in our province disrupted our Spring market which is usually considered the hottest season for real estate. We often see the highest number of new listings and highest number of sales in the spring, but this year people pushed pause on their real estate goals—unable to take advantage of the buying or selling process as it once was.
The lack of a traditional spring market didn’t hurt our overall annual sales numbers. A surge in home sales toward the end of 2020 actually made up for the spring market losses.
13,923 properties sold in Nova Scotia over the course of 2020. This was an increase of 13% from the same period in 2019 and marked the highest level of any year in history, beating the previous record set in 2019 by more than 1,500 sales.
4. Home Became More Important Than Ever
With Canadians spending more time at home, 2020 was the year that 'home' became more important than ever.
It became the office, the school, the gym, the restaurant, the movie theatre and even the bakery—as it seemed that record numbers of Canadians learned to bake sourdough during 2020.
What this meant for the Real Estate Industry is that we saw an increase of potential buyers shopping for homes online as they became keenly aware of the issues with their current home; visits to Realtor.ca were up 35% in 2020.
The type of home searched for shifted. We saw an increase in demand for bigger homes, further from the urban core, that provided the space for the multiple uses we began demanding of our home in 2020.
Commute time mattered less as offices transitioned to work from home – some permanently. And outdoor space became extremely valuable in the wake of public green spaces being shut.
Looking back on this year, 2020 will be seen as the year home became more important than ever.
How to get the best price for your home in 2021
Over the last few weeks, I have been taking calls from several homeowners who are looking to take advantage of this sellers’ market. But maximizing your sale price during a hot market means more than sticking a “for sale” sign on your lawn and hoping for the best.
In order to maximize your sale price, you need to create a high level of demand when listing and position your home for multiple offers. Below are my top tips for sellers hoping to score multiple offers.
In a sellers’ market, there is always the temptation to push the envelope on pricing; to price slightly above the market and set a record price for your home and the neighbourhood.
However, pricing your home above market value will decrease the number of showings your home gets when it hits the market—and the key to getting multiple offers on your home is having multiple showings.
When you price your home slightly lower, it can often create a frenzy among buyers and drive up the price.
Have you ever watched an auction? It's like that, where everyone wants to acquire the home for a bargain, but the demand and attention it gets from other buyers increases the resulting sale price and maybe sets a record price for your neighbourhood.
This doesn't mean you have to give away the farm. When looking at recent solds for your neighbourhood, it’s best to list your home as a slight discount—not at a slight premium—to attract the most buyers' attention.
2. Give potential buyers and agents lots of time to view.
As I mentioned above, in order to maximize the sale price—we need to maximize the number of showings.
You don’t want to miss a qualified, motivated buyer because you had too many other showings booked or too many restrictions around showing your home.
Only a year ago it was common for homes to list and accept offers on the same day. Which sounds great in theory, but this limited the number of agents and buyers who were able to view the home before offers were reviewed and accepted.
Accepting the first offer to come in limits the opportunity for multiple offers and can prevent you from maximizing your sale price.
Is each day your home sits on the market inconvenient? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes. A challenge to keep the place clean and ready to view? Absolutely.
I recommend listing your home and setting a specific day and time to review offers. And then make yourself scarce for those days in between.
That means you can get your home show-ready once, and don’t need to re-clean and re-stage in between each showing.
This also gives potential buyers lots of time to view your property. Thursdays are great days to list as buyers often have more flexibility to view homes on the weekend.
3. Preparation! Preparation! Preparation!
In Real Estate, they say Location! Location! Location! But as a seller looking to maximize your sale price, the phrase should be Preparation! Preparation! Preparation!
You're not trying to create a situation in which your home barely edges out the listing down the street in the hearts and minds of your target buyer. If you want multiple offers, you need multiple buyers to fall deeply in love with your home—enough to bid above the list price and enough to compete with others for it.
And this work starts weeks before you hit the market.
To generate multiple offers, prepare your home by ensuring it is:
And get ready to sing your homes’ praises. If you've done any major home improvements or replaced any appliances or systems lately, market that! Show off how immaculate, adorable and move-in ready your home is now—and tout its great working condition for the long run.
4. Expose it to the market.
Have a plan to maximize your property’s exposure on the market. The first step is sharing your property BEFORE you list.
‘Coming Soon’ messaging can double your marketing exposure and have buyers lining up the day it lists.
Coming soon or pre-list marketing could include a “for sale sign” with a coming soon rider, a social media teaser campaign or direct mail to your neighbours since they already know how great it is to live on your street.
With effective pre-list marketing, you can start racking up the showing requests even before you hit the MLS.
Pro tip: Host an agent pre-view the day before you hit the market. Agents love the opportunity to share off-market properties with their clients so an agent pre-view can help generate that buzz you’re looking for.
If you’re thinking of listing your property and you aren’t sure if right now is the best time, I’d love to chat about some things you can do to prepare your home for listing.
Last minute gift guide for Nova Scotia
Giving can be one of the most rewarding parts of the Holiday season, but finding the perfect gift can also be quite stressful.
So if you're finding yourself in a situation where you need to grab a last-minute gift for your sister-in-law in time for dinner on Friday, I've got you covered. These are just a few of my favourite local gifts to give—and don't fret, I've already checked ahead to see if they still have gifts available for you!
Gift boxes from Obladee
Their Holiday Gift Boxes make the perfect gift for friends, family or colleagues to enjoy that holiday party vibe at home in their own bubble. Each box includes: a bottle of wine (choice of Sparkling, White or Red), 3 x 150g wedges of Cheese (that’s a lot!), their house-made Cold Snap Pear & Cranberry Chutney, house-made Chocolate, and their own Sea-Bound Coast Crisps. All tied up with a ribbon and personalized gift note! You can also upgrade your wine to a special Cellar Selection for $20 more.
Order yours here by December 22nd to receive it on the 23rd.
GIFT BOXES FROM Lucky penny
Lucky Penny is one of my go-to coffee places when I need a pick-me-up between showings. Their gift boxes feature locally made goods including freshly roasted coffee, local preserves, house-made granola and the hard-to-find King North chocolate. These gift boxes are great for giving the experience of a cozy morning cup of their favourite beverage when you can't be there to enjoy it together.
They have boxes for the coffee lover and tea lover, as well as one for the maritime pantry box for sending to friends away from home. You can check them all out right here.
Greeting cards and gifts from Inkwell
Nothing says Christmas quite like taking a stroll down to Inkwell to pick up greeting cards. I had mine custom created by Hello Sweetie this year, but if you're looking to get your hands on cards or gifts by local makers, Inkwell supports over 200 independent artists in this one location. They curate their products with a focus on illustrative items, the boutique showcases an array of handmade products—art prints, homewares, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, apothecary and other great gift ideas—that would make a perfect last-minute pick. Check out their website for details on how to arrange your order for curbside pickup or stop by in person.
Just be aware they're only allowing for 3 people in at a time and, as always, masks are mandatory. (Find there's a bit of a line? Check out Taiyaki52 next door for a warm cup of tea or coffee while you wait).
holiday bundles from good robot
Good Robot is a staple for summers in Halifax. Their beer garden is located at 2736 Robie Street in Halifax and their retail hours are between 12 pm-9 pm daily. While the taproom is currently closed, you can still pick up your favourite brews safely. If you have someone who loves craft beer, you can surprise them with Good Robot beer, gift wrapped and delivered right to their doorstep.
The last day for delivery is December 22nd so make sure you grab yours asap.
Gin Royal from compass distillers
You might know the name Compass Distillers from the beginning of the pandemic when they started producing hand sanitizer to help with shortages across Halifax. In a normal year, they're better known for Artisan Craft Spirits made from scratch, with locally sourced ingredients, by people who have a passion for the process and the result.
For the gin lover in your life, I recommend their Gin Royal.
Gin Royal is distilled with Nova Scotian wheat and classic gin botanicals. Slightly sweetened with royal jelly & local honey, this royal blue gin derives its regal colour from an infusion of butterfly pea blossom and a dollar from every purchase helps protect the bees!. Limited retail hours available for pick up.
Wine from benjamin bridge
Nothing says celebration more than sparkling wine and Benjamin Bridge makes internationally recognized sparkling wine right here in Nova Scotia. Produced essentially the same way as Champagne, with all the labour intensive rituals, craftsmanship, and care, their NV Brut is a premium sparkling wine for a fraction of the cost of Champagne. Enjoy a glass with your turkey or as a toast to 2021.
The winery is located in the Gaspereau Valley but for those in the Halifax Metro, they offer contactless free delivery, right up until Dec 24. Order online right here.
Gift boxes from Lightfoot & Wolfville
Lightfoot & Wolfville is owned and operated by the Lightfoot family who have been farming in the Annapolis Valley for eight generations. This year I've been enjoying their gift boxes, since it takes a lot of guesswork out of delighting my friends and loved ones. Gift boxes range in price from $50 - $100 dollars and include a bottle of their fantastic wine and some Lightfoot & Wolfville merchandise. Their soy wine bottle candle in Chardonnay, Lemongrass and Tea Tree is one of my favourite housewarming gifts. They are offering contactless delivery in HRM, the Valley and South Shore. The cutoff for Christmas Eve delivery is Tuesday at midnight.
Books from nimbus publishing
Nimbus produces more than fifty new titles a year on a range of subjects relevant to the Atlantic Provinces— children’s picture books and fiction, literary non-fiction, social and cultural history, nature photography, current events, biography, sports, and cultural issues.
I recommend 'If I Had an Old House on the East Coast.' for anyone who loves old houses or who might be away from home this holiday. With a deep appreciation for the East Coast, This book shares a dream of falling in love with an old house and breathing new life into it and is beautifully illustrated by Nova Scotia artist, Kat Frick Miller They're open until noon on the 24th via the Open Book Coffee next door who stocks their titles!
After a year that marked one of the hottest real estate markets on record in Nova Scotia, I'm looking forward to safe and happy holidays with my family while these local companies help with the contactless delivery of gifts to friends and loved ones across the province.
7 Tips for selling your home around the holidays
When you think about the holidays, buying or selling a home might not be at the top of your holiday list. But here in Nova Scotia, the market has continued to see strong demand from buyers and many homeowners are taking advantage of the market to get the best price for their home. If you're thinking of listing this holiday season, here are my top tips for selling your home during the holidays.
One of the advantages of selling your home over the holidays is that cozy decorations can make your home feel extra welcoming. Wrap a string of twinkling lights around the bannister, drape a garland over the mantelpiece—but be careful not to overdo it. Large decorations can crowd your home and distract buyers.
Bonus tip: Pack away some of your year-round décor before adding any holiday decorations to avoid overcrowding.
Your home’s exterior can appear starker and less inviting in the winter months. Take advantage of this warm late-fall weather to enhance your home’s curb appeal by touching up paint, cleaning the gutters, and sprucing up the yard.
And be sure to keep buyers’ safety top of mind if we end up with a 'White Christmas' by keeping stairs and walkways free of snow and ice.
Bonus tip: Take it easy on the inflatable lawn decorations and Griswold-style light displays. Less is more when it comes to exterior decorations. Simple string lights can help play up your home’s architecture and won’t come across as tacky.
Now is not the time to save a few dollars on your heating bill. Make sure you crank the heat to make your home feel warm and inviting for buyers escaping the cold. A cozy home will encourage buyers to linger and admire your home’s best features.
In a seller’s market, it can be tempting to try to push the envelope on price but around the holidays, when fewer buyers are searching, you run the risk of spending too many days on the market and making it harder for serious buyers to find your home.
Looking for more information on pricing? We did a whole newsletter on different pricing strategies: Read it here.
Homebuyers are pickier about booking showings when they start to hibernate during the colder months. Make a good impression by offering lots of flattering, high-quality photos of your home.
Bonus tip: Have spring and summer photos of your home available so buyers can see how your home looks year-round.
Life can be hectic during the holidays, and it may not be convenient to show your home if you’re cooking a holiday meal or if you have plans to celebrate with your bubble. It’s better to block off times that you are unwilling to show your home in advance so that buyers can plan accordingly versus declining showings after you have received the request.
You may receive fewer viewings during the Christmas period—but viewing requests are more likely to be from committed buyers. Remain cool, and refrain from jumping into the first sale.
As we work our way toward the holidays, I'm looking forward to coming up with even more great articles for you to read in the new year. Is there a question we haven't covered yet? Comment below with your top questions on buying and selling homes in Nova Scotia!
Real Estate Advisor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I help people buy and sell homes with Engel & Völkers.