Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Getting ready to sell? 10 staging tips to wow home shoppers

Lucie Brand Special to The Globe and Mail Sep. 03 2013
Preparing any property for sale can be a daunting and often overwhelming task, even for a seasoned investor. Whether you are living in your current investment property or if it has been tenanted for years there are some key staging strategies that can help get your property open house read.
1. Start with a change of mind
Too often investors/home owners become either too emotionally attached or not attached at all. I have worked with investors who were renovating a property and blew their budget on some obscenely expensive tile they “had to have” and had nothing left for furnishing the place. On the other hand I’ve worked with landlords who did not see the value in painting a place that had gone through 3 tenants! Looking at a property from a buyer’s perspective is key.
Take a tour with a realtor or a staging professional and get some outside opinions on what areas you should focus your dollars on and what’s needed to get the maximum offers.
2. Maximize curb appeal
The outside should draw people inside. Neatly trimmed bushes, mulched beds, weeded lawns all help make that crucial “first impression”. Freshly painted front doors with new mailboxes and house numbers are easy ways to create maximum impact without breaking the bank. Adding seasonal urns by the front door for some colour are another way to brighten up concrete steps or boring brick.
3. Choose neutral colour palette
Bold colours are great for living, but not for selling. Light and Bright should be your motto! Stick with a warm, neutral palette like tans, taupes and greys. Avoid dark colours, especially in small spaces (like powder rooms). Keep the ceilings white to keep walls looking tall. Rule of thumb, if the walls haven’t been painted in over 2 years, now is the Time!
Return on investment: 109 per cent*
4. Let there be light
Lighting plays a vital role and is often overlooked when getting a property ready for sale. Dark hallways, rooms with little natural light, basements and bathrooms should be addressed. A minimum of a 2-bulb overhead fixture with maximum watt bulbs can transform a dingy area. There should be NO overhead receptacles without a light fixture! Consider adding pendant fixtures in dining rooms and eating areas. Big box stores offer affordable options in brushed nickel or silver fittings.
Adding ambient lighting is essential especially in areas where there is no overhead outlets. Adding table lamps and floor lamps will help brighten up any room and help your property appear as “light-filled” as possible.
Return on investment: 303 per cent*
5. Flooring
This is the other main area that always increases the value of a home. It will ALWAYS cost you less to replace worn carpet or add new flooring then to leave it to the new home owners.
Most purchasers are looking for reasons to discount their offers. Flooring is one of the first things buyers see when they walk in. If their first thought is “I will need to replace these floors”, I guarantee they are discounting their offers $5000-$10000 for condos and $7000 – $15000 for houses. Doing the work yourself will cost you a fraction of that amount.
Return on investment: 107 per cent*
6. It’s all in the details
Replace all burnt out bulbs, touch up any nicks and dents in high traffic areas, replace torn screens and fix leaking faucets. Once the fix ups are done it’s time to focus on the pretty stuff. Fresh linens in the bathrooms, a bowl of fresh green apples on a kitchen island, fresh flowers on a dining table or in the entrance way.
Adding live or silk greenery to bathrooms and adding a new crisp bedding set to the Master all help create the impression of a well-cared for home.
7. Clean, clean, clean
This may seem like common sense, but unfortunately it’s still the one area owners tend to try and shortcut. This is the time to hire a professional cleaning company. Special attention should be placed on appliances, inside and outside of cupboards, baseboards and windows. Bathrooms should be scoured and if necessary use grout cleaner to get the tiles looking spotless!
8. Highlight best use of the space
Tenants may have liked to use the dining room as an office, but it should be shown with it’s intended purpose. Giving a room more than one function (i.e. guest room and office) is a great way to effectively show the space. In condos this becomes essential when space is at a premium.
Using small glass desks with a stool you can tuck in can creatively introduce a “work space” where one wouldn’t think possible. Adding a daybed to a den/office creates extra sleeping space. Determine what adds the most value to potential buyers in your neighborhood and showcase the space accordingly.
9. Kitchens and bathrooms are the place to invest
If you have dated cabinetry, cracked and worn laminate counters, chipped or broken tiles, consider investing in repairing and upgrading these rooms.
If your budget is limited, changing cabinetry hardware to brushed nickel or silver knobs and handles will give it an immediate appeal. Consider painting cabinetry instead of replacing them.
Depending on the price point of your property it is often worthwhile to install stone counters. This immediately adds value and is very durable for long term use. If stone is not in the budget, consider a “stone– like” laminate counter. Re-caulking around sinks and bathtubs is a simple improvement that can greatly improve the look of a bathroom.
Return on investment: 172 per cent*
10. Vacant properties sit, staged properties sell
Staged homes sell 2 – 3 times faster and up to 6 per cent more than unstaged ones**. People perceive staged units that are well decorated as worth more. Professional stagers know how to highlight the features of the unit and distract from any “not so desirable” features.
If your budget is limited consider focusing on the main living areas and at least one bedroom. If you can’t borrow furniture and artwork, rental companies carry everything from furniture to linens. Just keep in mind that the goal is to show people how to use the space effectively.
Return on investment: 299 per cent*
Remember that 79 per cent of buyers have already viewed your property on the MLS, make sure that your property stands out among the competition! Staging is your key to getting noticed and getting SOLD.
*Homegain Survey 2011
** Joy Valentine Coldwell Banker Survey of 2772 homes  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Do Not Renew With Your Closed

If a renewal is in your financial future, bring us your renewal notice four months prior to your renewal date. There are some great options out there; we’ll help you look around. When your mortgage comes up for renewal, your lender will send you a letter suggesting you renew at their current offer. If you do, you’ll be renewing your mortgage with your eyes closed! This is your moment of opportunity to negotiate the best possible deal, either with your current lender or with a new one. Do you know if the same lender remains your best choice? If you don’t, you aren’t alone.

At the end of 2011, Manulife Bank of Canada released the results of their latest consumer debt survey.  They found that two-thirds of homeowners (65 per cent) did not compare products from several different lenders to make sure they were getting the best deal the last time their mortgage came up for renewal. Twenty per cent stayed with their current lender and did not negotiate, while 45 per cent stayed and negotiated but did not shop the market.  Interestingly, the youngest age group surveyed (30-39) were the most likely to shop around (41 per cent) but also the most likely to stay with their current lender and not negotiate (24 per cent). This age group is in the most hectic period of balancing work and children, which often causes things to be left to the last minute and it’s easier to follow the path of least resistance.

You could save a considerable amount of money if you renew at a lower rate.  A half percent difference on a $225,000 mortgage with a 20 year amortization can mean over $5,200 in interest savings over five years.  Wouldn’t it be better to put that amount towards reducing your mortgage principal?

You also need to consider that your mortgage needs may have changed.  This may be a good time to roll your high-interest credit cards and other debt into your mortgage to get one lower payment, boost your cash flow and save on interest costs. Or you may want to take some equity out for renovations, a second property or for investing. 

Keep in mind that there are some administrative details and costs when switching your mortgage to another lender, but don't let this discourage you from finding out more. It doesn’t cost you anything to investigate your options or get a second opinion. When you switch your mortgage to a new lender, you will go through an approval process similar to when you took out the original mortgage. You can either assign your existing mortgage or you can apply for a new one should you want to borrow a larger amount to consolidate your high interest debt or complete some renovations.

Your lender may charge a discharge fee, and you may need to pay legal and appraisal fees if you are getting a completely new mortgage instead of switching your existing one. At that point, you should assess if the money you will save by switching to a better interest rate offsets those costs. The cost for your mortgage life insurance may also change. You won’t have to pay for your mortgage broker’s service (oac) because the lender selected pays compensation for the services and mortgage solution provided to you.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? Here's How To Tell

The Huffington Post  |  By Carolyn Gregoire Posted: 12/05/2013
What makes some people more successful in work and life than others? IQ and work ethic are important, but they don't tell the whole story. Our emotional intelligence -- the way we manage emotions, both our own and those of others -- can play a critical role in determining our happiness and success.
Plato said that all learning has some emotional basis, and he may be right. The way we interact with and regulate our emotions has repercussions in nearly every aspect of our lives. To put it in colloquial terms, emotional intelligence (EQ) is like "street smarts," as opposed to "book smarts," and it's what accounts for a great deal of one's ability to navigate life effectively.
"What having emotional intelligence looks like is that you're confident, good at working towards your goals, adaptable and flexible. You recover quickly from stress and you're resilient," Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, tells The Huffington Post. "Life goes much more smoothly if you have good emotional intelligence."
The five components of emotional intelligence, as defined by Goleman, are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills and empathy. We can be strong in some of these areas and deficient in others, but we all have the power to improve any of them.
Not sure how emotionally intelligent you are? Here are 14 signs you have a high EQ.
1. You're curious about people you don't know.
Do you love meeting new people, and naturally tend to ask lots of questions after you've been introduced to someone? If so, you have a certain degree of empathy, one of the main components of emotional intelligence. Highly Empathetic People (HEPs) -- those who are extremely attuned to the needs and feelings of others, and act in a way that is sensitive to those needs -- have one important thing in common: They're very curious about strangers and genuinely interested in learning more about others.
Being curious about others is also a way to cultivate empathy. "Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own," Roman Krznaric, author of the forthcoming Empathy: A Handbook For Revolution, wrote in a Greater Good blog post.
2. You're a great leader.
Exceptional leaders often have one thing in common, according to Goleman. In addition to the traditional requirements for success -- talent, a strong work ethic and ambition, for instance -- they possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. In his research comparing those who excelled in senior leadership roles with those who were merely average, he found that close to 90 percent of the difference in their profiles was due to emotional intelligence, rather than cognitive ability.
"The higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness," Goleman wrote in Harvard Business Review.
3. You know your strengths and weaknesses.
A big part of having self-awareness is being honest with yourself about who you are -- knowing where you excel, and where you struggle, and accepting these things about yourself. An emotionally intelligent person learns to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and analyze how to work most effectively within this framework. This awareness breeds the strong self-confidence that's a main factor of emotional intelligence, according to Goleman.
"If you know what you're truly effective at, then you can operate from that with confidence," he says.
4. You know how to pay attention.
Do you get distracted by every tweet, text and passing thought? If so, it could be keeping you from functioning on your most emotionally intelligent level. But the ability to withstand distractions and focus on the task at hand is a great secret to emotional intelligence, Goleman says. Without being present with ourselves and others, it's difficult to develop self-awareness and strong relationships.
"Your ability to concentrate on the work you're doing or your schoolwork, and to put off looking at that text or playing that video game until after you're done ... how good you are at that in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of your financial success in adulthood than either your IQ or the wealth of the family you grew up in," Goleman says. "And we can teach kids how to do that."
5. When you're upset, you know exactly why.
We all experience a number of emotional fluctuations throughout the day, and often we don't even understand what's causing a wave of anger or sadness. But an important aspect of self-awareness is the ability to recognize where your emotions are coming from and to know why you feel upset.
Self-awareness is also about recognizing emotions when they arise, rather than misidentifying or ignoring them. Emotionally intelligent people take a step back from their emotions, look at what they're feeling, and examine the effect that the emotion has on them.
6. You can get along with most people.
“Having fulfilling, effective relationships -- that's a sign [of emotional intelligence]," says Goleman.
7. You care deeply about being a good, moral person.
One aspect of emotional intelligence is our "moral identity," which has to do with the extent to which we want to see ourselves as ethical, caring people. If you're someone who cares about building up this side of yourself (regardless of how you've acted in past moral situations), you might have a high EQ.
8. You take time to slow down and help others.
If you make a habit of slowing down to pay attention to others, whether by going slightly out your way to say hello to someone or helping an older woman onto the subway, you're exhibiting emotional intelligence. Many of us, a good portion of the time, are completely focused on ourselves. And it's often because we're so busy running around in a stressed-out state trying to get things done that we simply don't take the time to notice (much less help) others.
"[There's a] spectrum that goes from complete self-absorption to noticing to empathy and to compassion," Goleman said in a TED talk on compassion. "The simple fact is that if we are focused on ourselves, if we're preoccupied -- which we so often are throughout the day -- we don't really fully notice the other."
Being more mindful, in contrast to being absorbed in your own little world, plants the seeds of compassion -- a crucial component of EQ.
9. You're good at reading people's facial expressions.
Being able to sense how others are feeling is an important part of having a good EQ. Take this quiz from UC Berkeley to find out just how skilled you are at reading others' emotions.
10. After you fall, you get right back up.
How you deal with mistakes and setbacks says a lot about who you are. High EQ individuals know that if there's one thing we all must do in life, it's to keep on going. When an emotionally intelligent person experiences a failure or setback, he or she is able to bounce back quickly. This is in part because of the ability to mindfully experience negative emotions without letting them get out of control, which provides a higher degree of resilience.
“The resilient person isn’t papering over the negative emotions, but instead letting them sit side by side with other feelings," Positivity author Barbara Fredrickson told Experience Life. "So at the same time they’re feeling ‘I’m sad about that,’ they’re also prone to thinking, ‘but I’m grateful about this.’”
11. You're a good judge of character.
You've always been able to get a sense for who someone is pretty much right off the bat -- and your intuitions are rarely wrong.
12. You trust your gut.
An emotionally intelligent person is someone who feels comfortable following their intuition, says Goleman. If you're able to trust in yourself and your emotions, there's no reason not to listen to that quiet voice inside (or that feeling in your stomach) telling you which way to go.
13. You've always been self-motivated.
Were you always ambitious and hard-working as a kid, even when you weren't rewarded for it? If you're a motivated self-starter -- and you can focus your attention and energy towards the pursuit of your goals -- you likely have a high EQ.
14. You know when to say "no."
Self-regulation, one of the five components of emotional intelligence, means being able to discipline yourself and avoid unhealthy habits. Emotionally intelligent people are generally well equipped to tolerate stress (a bad-habit trigger for many of us) and to control their impulses, according to Goleman.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kevin O'Leary ‘Really Hates' Bank Of Canada's Rate Cut

The Huffington Post Canada  |  By Daniel Tencer  07/16/2015
Kevin O’Leary can’t state strongly enough how much he disagrees with the Bank of Canada’s decision to cut interest rates.
“There’s nothing good about what happened yesterday,” the famed investor and TV personality told CTV News, referring to the Bank of Canada’s decision Wednesday to cut its key lending rate.
“It signals to the world that we have a weak economy, that we’re worried about it, and our dollar is devalued,” O’Leary said on Canada AM.
“I really hate this decline [in rates], I thought it was a big mistake,” he said.
Many say the point of the rate cut was to lower the value of the Canadian dollar. Lowering Canadian interest rates below U.S. ones makes the loonie less attractive to investors. And a lower dollar should make Canada’s exports more competitive.
But O’Leary says a lower dollar is bad for Canada because it will hurt productivity by making it more expensive for companies to buy new equipment.
“You want to produce your widgets for less by buying a piece of equipment. You can’t do that now, because the dollar has gone down because of the rate decline,” he said.
O’Leary doubted the rate cut would make much difference to consumers, for whom the two major issues, he said, are job creation and wage inflation. “On both of these measures, we’re failing.”
“Does a 25 basis point decline in rates change any of that? The answer is no. We have more systemic problems in our Canadian economy that aren’t going to be affected by [the rate cut]. There is more damage done by this rate decline than good.”
O’Leary isn’t the only one who feels this way, though he may be making his case more strongly than others.
“If you need to borrow you are already in the market and another 25 basis points will do little to make or break a financing decision,” CIBC economist Benjamin Tal wrote recently.
“And so far, the money that is borrowed goes largely to cash as opposed to investment and thus adds little to economic growth.”
But consumers might not even see the full 0.25 percentage point decline in lending rates, however little difference it makes.
All the big Canadian banks followed the BoC’s rate cut and dropped their prime lending rates on Thursday, but they all dropped them by 15 basis points, or 0.15 percentage points — only three-fifths the BoC’s rate drop.