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5 Design Trends You May Want to Avoid in Staging

Stagers are embracing some of the latest home design trends in freshening up homes for-sale (view this “Dressed to Sell” slideshow). But some trends, they’re thinking twice about incorporating.

“If you’re too trendy, you run the risk of not being able to sell a home for the top-dollar you want for it,” warns stager Patti Stern with PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating in Cheshire, Conn. “When you stage a home, you want it to appeal to as many buyers as possible.”

Staging in trendy fabrics, colors, and finishes may offer up buyers a feeling that the home is up-to-date and move-in-ready. But getting too trendy can also backfire, particularly if it’s too personalized, stagers say.

Here are some popular interior design trends that some stagers are staying clear of:

1. Wallpaper: Wallpaper is gaining popularity once again in interior designs, from black and white damask prints to bronzed and antique silver metallics, earthy dimensional weaves and more. Wallpaper can add more personality to a room — but maybe too much for homebuyers envisioning moving in their own belongings. Instead, many stagers are sticking with paint.

2. Bright-colored walls: Not so fast with the Radiant Orchid, the bold purple-pink hue that Pantone has crowned as this year’s color of the year. Using the hottest color trends – like navy and purples — to paint an entire room may be too bold for the majority of buyers. Instead, stagers are using a neutral wall color, such as in soft tones of grays or white, and then bringing in the on-trend colors through small accents, like toss pillows, throws, lamps, and bedding or rugs.

file92012414568103. Brass fixtures: Brass is back, but tread cautiously — at least for now. Most stagers aren’t ready to swap out the fixtures for brass, which had its last heyday in the ’80s. But stagers are starting to welcome back brass in small doses, such as a gold-vintage mirror, lamp, or accent table.

4. Doorless cabinets: Open shelving is a big trend in interior design. Designer magazines are showing off simpler kitchens without doors on the cabinets. The look puts perfectly organized dishes on display. While it can offer a sleek look, some stagers don’t want to field questions from buyers: “Where are the doors?”

5. Tuscan-themed: The Tuscan design style – featuring browns and earthtones – has been a popular interior trend, but it may be showing signs of waning in popularity. The National Kitchen and Bath Association noted the highly ornamented Tuscan – as well as French Provincial – styles are decreasing in popularity, as well as country and rustic styles. Instead, more remodelers are showing a preference for contemporary designs, featuring clean, simple lines, less clutter, and less ornamentation, according to NKBA. Transitional styles – a mix of traditional and contemporary – remain the most popular, NKBA notes. But NKBA notes that contemporary styles may soon overtake the popularity of transitional.

  By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Buying a Cottage : Here are 6 Things to Ask ?

6 things to ask when buying a cottage

Buying a house in the city or suburbs can be complicated enough, but buying a cottage or vacation property outside of town requires even more due diligence.

In town, you probably wouldn't ask if the water coming out of the tap is drinkable. Nor would you wonder if the plumbing was hooked up to the sanitary sewer.  But these are exactly the sorts of questions you should ask when buying a cottage, plus a few more.

1. Get an inspection:  Cottages are usually occasional residences and so may not be as properly maintained as they should be. This is why every purchase should be conditional a satisfactory professional home inspection. 

If the cottage has a wood-burning stove or fireplace, then a certificate must be requested from a Wood Energy Technical Transfer specialist, to confirm that the system was installed and is operating correctly. To find out more about this, go to www.wettinc.ca.

2. Is the water drinkable? There are two areas of potential concern when it comes to water - the quantity and quality. Is there enough to satisfy family needs and is it good enough to pass the local health department requirements.

Ask the sellers for these things:

A potability certificate from the local health authority, confirming the water is safe to drink;
  • Confirmation that the well, the pump and related equipment have performed adequately during the Seller's occupancy;
  • Confirmation that there is an adequate rate of flow for normal household use;
  • Provision of a well driller's certificate, if available; and
  • The location of the well.
A separate inspection may be needed by a well specialist. If nothing else it gives you an idea of what it would cost to replace the well if it fails.

3. How's the septic system? Septic systems present their own difficulties because it is usually difficult to tell during an inspection how long the system may last. The replacement cost can be up to $20,000, especially if there are stringent environmental regulations in effect in your area.

Buyers should ask for confirmation that: 
  • The system was installed with all necessary permits;
  • The system has been adequately maintained;
  • The seller is not aware of any malfunctions;
  • The seller will provide copies of any inspection or approval reports in their possession;
  • The seller agrees to pump out the tank at their expense prior to closing; and
  • There are no work orders on file with the Ministry of the Environment or the local municipality.
The buyer should arrange for their own separate inspection of the system itself.

4. What's the road allowance? Even if your cottage fronts on water, this does not give you ownership of the land up to the lake. The first 66 feet fronting onto the lake is typically owned by the local municipality and is referred to as the shore road allowance.

Although you have access to the water, you can't stop others from using it. Nor can you build anything on that 66-foot piece of land. Many cottagers have found out afterwards that either all or part of their cottage was built on land that they do not own. In addition, if the water at the shore has receded through natural causes, then the owner may have acquired ownership of this extra land. 

Conversely, if the water line has advanced, you may have lost land to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

You may be able to buy the land from the municipality or the Province, as the case may be, but it is a process and the cost can be approximately $10,000.  If you can get an up to date survey from the seller, this should answer your questions. Also inquire to make sure that any required permits were obtained to build a dock or boathouse, as there is no automatic right to do this. 

In all cases, make sure you have title insurance, which should assist with most of these types of issues.

5. What about Hydro easements? Check to see if there are any hydro poles or lines on the property. It is possible that Hydro has easements which could affect where your cottage can be built that are not registered on title. 

Lawyers typically do searches with the appropriate hydro authority to find out.

6. Access to the cottage: If you do not have year round access by a city road, then you must ask how you get from the road to your property. If it is a private right of way over a neighbour's land, you must understand the terms of this agreement to ensure it is year round access and it is clear who is responsible for maintaining the road. 

If there is no registered right of way, it can be a nightmare, with owners fighting over who has the right of way and who owns it.   

In addition, check the local zoning by-laws to make sure the property is not zoned only for "seasonal" use. In these cases, the municipality may not be providing road maintenance, snow removal, garage pick up or emergency services during the winter.

For all of these reasons, it is recommended that buyers work with a local real estate agent who should be familiar not only with each of these issues, but more importantly, will be able to recommend the professional inspectors and town officials who can satisfy a buyer's concerns.
By being properly prepared before buying a cottage, you will avoid unwelcome surprises after closing.

Courtesy : Mark Weisleder

Toronto Real Estate: How to play safe during bidding war

 Real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver are still red hot with bidding wars driving up prices, mainly for detached homes under $1 million. One reason is that listings are in short supply.

In at least one case, I know of, more than 20 offers were received and in others buyers are paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price. What’s worse, many buyers are putting in offers without any conditions, hoping this will help them clinch the deal.

In this kind of market, buyers can still protect themselves.

Don’t bid without an inspection: In an environment of bidding wars, odds are that you will lose up to five times before you get the house you want.

Even if you make a bid without a condition, the home should be gone over by a home inspector before the bid. This can get expensive, since the average inspection report costs between $350 — $550, depending on the size of the house.

As such, you may pay up to $2,500 in inspection fees before you get an accepted offer. In my opinion, when buying a million dollar property, this is a worthwhile investment. I have heard too many stories of people who bought without an inspection, only to discover major problems later.

Interview a few inspectors first: Doing so means you’ll get an idea about what they look for when inspect a home. You may also be able to make an arrangement whereby if they do multiple inspections, the costs per inspection drops. The main things to watch for are the age of the furnace, roof, water penetration issues and the wiring. The inspector will also look for cracks, slopes in the floors and doors that do not close properly, which all could point to potential foundation issues.

The five bidder rule: I would consider backing out when there are more than five bidders on a home. You will likely seriously overpay for the home, based on the irrationality of the other bidders. Even if you win, there may be problems financing your purchase. Just because you may have qualified for a million dollar home, if your lender figures you paid too much, you will not get the loan you expected, which may result in your not being able to close your deal.

Inspections done by sellers: Some sellers have their own inspections and make the report available to buyers. It is dangerous to rely on this and not conduct your own. These seller’s reports usually come with a disclaimer that it is for information purposes only, so you won’t be able to sue anyone after closing if the information turns out wrong. You would have to prove the seller actively concealed major defects.

The 10 per cent effect: Foreign investors continue to love Canadian real estate as a safe haven. With the fall of the Canadian dollar, our houses just got 10 per cent cheaper in U.S. dollar terms. The focus tends to be condominiums, so don’t expect a crash in the condo market any time soon.

When you are looking for a home, even at these prices, make sure you are close to public transit, and have good amenities around you. You are not a stock day trader, buying a home and selling it shortly afterwards for a quick profit. If you are buying for the long term and can afford the payments, you do not have to worry about any changes in the market or in interest rates — if you lock in your rate for an extended period.

Even when those around you are going crazy, be prepared and you can be successful, even in a bidding war.

 Courtesy Toronto Star ....  Articles by Mark Weisleder