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Smart home, smart investment?

Dear Renovating Realtor, I am a bit of a techie and I am considering taking the plunge into home automation, any recommendations and does this add value to my home?  Sincerely Swarslover5

Hey Star Wars lover, home automation is very cool!  I myself have a lot of devices and enjoy them very much.  There are a lot of cool gadgets that can take care of tasks around the home, especially if you forget to do something like shut the garage door. 

I am a big fan of smart thermostats, they are a great way to ensure you are maximizing the use of your home HVAC system while you are home and help you save money when you are not.  My favorite aspect is that I can control my HVAC system from my phone.  For example, when I was at the cottage this summer  before I headed home I turned on the AC before I hit the road so my home was nice and cool when I got home.  The best part is that while my family and I were gone for two weeks, the system was not turned on which saved us money.  Smart thermostats are a bit expensive; however, there always seems to be rebates you can apply for that will help with cost.

The next product I would recommend is not necessarily ‘home automation’, but LED lighting.  LED’s last a very long time and use minimal power.  They really help with the electric bill.  Switching your whole home over to LED’s is a bit pricey; however, you see savings on your electric bill overtime and eventually they pay for themselves.  

Now does home automation add value to your home?  Not really…. The reason being is that most of the items that automate your home can be taken with you when you move.  Now there are exceptions to this.  If you spend around 20-50k for a true home automation system, meaning that everyone in the home has a special fob that when they swipe it the home changes completely to their personal preferences, then that can add value since that is very particular and high end.  But having things to turn the lights on and off, open and close your garage and water your plants are fun to have, but they do not really enhance your property value.  The value you will see is in your pocket book with savings on utilities and allowing you to free your mind of little tasks that would otherwise keep you from your day to day activities.  May the force be with you.

A Winter Ready Home

Dear Julien, my husband and I finally took the plunge and bought our first home in Aurora this past summer. We are both not mechanically inclined whatsoever and do not know what to do to get our home ready for the winter, are there things we need to do? Can you provide some guidance?
-Sincerely, two left hands.

Good day two left hands. Congrats on the purchase of your new home! At Big Tuna Realty we are always excited when we assist first-time home buyers find their first home. In today’s market, it takes years of saving and, in many cases, family support to make that transition from tenant to home owner. Celebrating the purchase of that first home is always a thrill.

So yes, you are correct, there are some things you need to consider when getting your home ready for these cold months ahead. First off, you need to think about your outside water faucets. Failing to locate the shutoff valve in your home to the outside tap could potentially lead to a pipe burst when it gets cold out. This in turn will cause water to rush into your home and could be very costly to repair. Out of all the preparations you and your husband could do, this would be the most advisable.

There are things you can do to your landscaping now so that in the spring you have a thick green lawn. The fall and spring are some of the best times to seed, fertilize and aerate. This will help a patchy weedy lawn look its best come spring. Also, some plants like tulips need to be planted now so they will bloom in the spring.

Lastly, make sure to store or cover your outdoor furniture, hoses and any other tools with rubberized parts. The cold and snow can cause rubber and some fabrics to deteriorate and even crack. Additionally, have a look at the location of your air conditioner. Is it well protected? Does it appear that a lot of snow could build up on the unit? If so, you may want to invest in an inexpensive winter cover that could help protect the lifespan of the unit.

Mr. and Mrs. Left hands, you’ve got this! You will get the hang of home ownership and preparing your home for winter will seem like second nature in no time. If you are still in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out. Have fun, stay warm and enjoy this upcoming winter season!

bigtuna.ca official sponsor of gearhead country radio

Big Tuna Official Sponsor

Dear Julien: I was at Boots and Hearts in August and I heard you are becoming an official sponsor for Gearhead Country Radio? Is this a new venture for Big Tuna Realty? Why would a Real Estate agent sponsor a music station?
-Sincerely, Curious Country Listener

Hello Curious Country Listener! Yes you are correct, Big Tuna Realty is becoming an official sponsor of Gearheadcountry.com. Gearhead Country Radio is a local Canadian Country music station broadcast from our own backyard in York Region. Big Tuna Realty is partnering with Gearhead to promote local business and local events happening in your community.

Why a radio station? Music is an important part of home sales and renovation, how is that you ask? As a renovating realtor, I spend a lot of time listening to music when I am working to help motivate me on those tough jobs. When I show a home I always have music playing in the background to create a more inviting environment- yes that is a tip from the Renovating Realtor! If you are showing your home and want to make it more appealing to a prospective buyer consider music playing throughout the home. I love Country music, but often classical music or jazz in the background has a calming effect.

I always support Canadian artists, especially local talent, when I use music to create ambiance in my listings; this is how I came to love Gearhead Country Radio. I encourage all sellers to create a playlist of their favourite songs to cultivate a “vibe” for the home, be sure to run it by your agent before you plug and play, as you do not want to turn off a prospective buyer!

So now you know the connection and my passion for local radio. I encourage all my readers to log on to Facebook @bigtunarealty on Friday, September 14th . We will be with Gearheadradio.com and you can watch our live announcement and you might even see a few shots and videos of the The Road Hammers!

More Sale Signs in Aurora?

Dear Renovating Realtor: I have a two part question for you. I live in Aurora and I am seeing a lot more for sale signs in various neighbourhoods around town, are there neighbourhoods in Aurora that are selling better than others? Also, why is it that Aurora homes seem to be more expensive then other towns? My girlfriends and I have debated this over a game of cards and would like you to weigh in.
-Sincerely, Local Dog Walker

Hi Dog walker! Yes you are correct, there is an increase in homes for sale. Economists are predicting that we may have finally rounded the corner of the market slump we experienced after the springtime boom of 2017. Year to date, Aurora has had a total of 448 home sales and has had more then 1300 listings. In comparison to the same period last year there were 656 home sales and 1400 listings. 2018 is already almost at par with 2017, that’s great news!

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) breaks up Aurora into 10 large neighbourhoods. The two highest selling areas in the first quarter of the year are Aurora Highlands and Bayview Northeast. Aurora Highlands is in the west part of Aurora roughly Wellington to Henderson, this neighbourhood experienced a total of 31 sales in the first quarter. The second most selling neighbourhood is Bayview Northeast, this community is part of the newer developments that are across from the Magna headquarters, showing a total of 30 sales in quarter one. Also, in case you were curious, the highest selling street in Aurora is Hollidge Blvd. That street alone has had a total of 17 sales on it.

Why is Aurora more expensive then neighbouring communities? That is a tough one as there is a lack of data to explain this trend. Aurora appears to carry a higher price tag then surrounding areas and I would attribute this lot and home sizes as well as supply and demand. Demand exceeded supply for many years, which in turn kept prices higher, which remained the case even when stock increased with new build developments that have accrued over the years.

I hope this information gives you some insight into the Aurora market, and perhaps a way to wow your friends at your next card game!

ROI Home Improvements

Dear Big Tuna- My husband and I recently came into a bit of money, not a lot, but enough that we would like to make some home improvements. We are long time residents of Aurora and are also considering downsizing in a couple of years. What do you recommend?
-Sincerely, Flower Lover

Hi Flower Lover, that is a great question! Every budget is different, but for all levels there are always some affordable options for home improvements to ensure you maximize your Return on Investment (ROI). A warning with improvements: these are not fool proof as they are subjective. A classic example is installing a backyard pool, typically this is a lifestyle decision for the family and not the next buyer. However; there are some areas that you can focus on that do improve both enjoyment and resale of your home.

A great place to start would be with a minor bathroom renovation. What is minor? Well, it can be as simple as changing the bathroom fixtures, painting, upgrading the lighting, changing the vanity and in some really dated homes remove the carpeting! Minor projects are those that do not require a lot of work and can be done in a weekend. This type of upgrade can often provide with over 100% ROI versus doing a major renovation. Major projects such as; removing walls, making the room larger, changing the location of shower, will yield about a 93% ROI upon resale of your home. The difference in return is due to increased costs in construction.

Two other big ROI improvements areas to consider are landscaping and outdoor entertainment spaces. Upgrading or improving the landscaping of your home typically will provide you with a 100% ROI. Adding or improving a deck or patio space will give you an average 90% ROI. These are popular options as they do not interfere with your indoor living space.

A word of caution, the ROI data is based on the “average” finishes I discussed. No matter what room or area you decide to spend your money on remember this golden rule: Do not spend more than necessary to get your investment back! It is a balance.

Flower Lover, if you are concerned with ROI rather than your enjoyment factor and if you’re not working with a Realtor; who can help advise you – call Big Tuna! – you can always go online and review previous sales that are comparable to your home and in your neighbourhood. I always tell my clients to consider the next buyer when preparing a home for resale. Unique and extravagant is not always best option!

Is the Greenbelt in Aurora?

I just moved to Aurora and have heard quite a lot about the Greenbelt in this past election. What is the Greenbelt and is it in Aurora?
-Sincerely, Green Thumb

Hi Green Thumb, Welcome to Aurora! The Greenbelt was created in 2005 to permanently protect areas of the Golden Horseshoe from urban development and sprawl. The Greenbelt protects 2 million acres of wetlands, farmlands, forests and watershed areas throughout the Golden Horseshoe.

The Greenbelt does protect areas in both Aurora and King City; however, the Greenbelt covers a larger area in King City. If you go to www.greenbelt.ca you will find the most up-to-date maps for your own reference. Aurora is primarily surrounded by the Greenbelt to the west and east of the city limits.

The Greenbelt is a hot topic in this provincial election as it surrounds a part of Ontario that has one of the fastest growing populations. When the Greenbelt was created in 2005 the population of the Golden Horseshoe was 8.4 million and according to greenbelt.ca, it is estimated that the population will jump to 13.5 million by 2041. That is almost a 61% increase! (www.greenbelt.ca).

There are reports that candidates in this election may have been supportive of developers who advocate for sections of the Greenbelt to be dissolved so that homes and business can be built for the growing population of the Greater Toronto Area and/or the Golden Horseshoe. Depending on what side of the political fence you sit, you and possibly your candidate will either be in favour of protecting the current boundaries or exploring dissolution.

Green Thumb, the dust has now settled from last week’s election and it is always best to talk to your local MPP to understand their perspective on this protected land. I would also encourage you to visit Greenbelt.ca where you can explore the many resources provided; including maps for the over 10,000 kilometers of hiking, biking and even brewery trails throughout the belt. It’s a great way to learn about your new community where you have decided to call home!

Is This Wall Load Bearing?

Dear Renovating Realtor: My husband just opened a wall and we are unsure if the wall is load-bearing, how can we tell?
-Sincerely, Doubtful Nancy

Hello Doubtful Nancy: If you are in doubt you should stop what you are doing and seek out a professional before moving forward with your renovation dreams. However, in the spirit of education there are a couple quick, but not definitive ways to identify a load-bearing (LB) wall.

Should you open up the wall and find the wall was built with 2 x 6 lumber instead of 2 x 4’s, it is likely LB. Alternatively, if when you open that same wall and you find a steel post or beam, it is most certainly load bearing. Finally, if the wall in question has another wall directly above or below it on the other floors of your home, it could be LB. It is important to note, LB walls can be moved but a permit is needed and plans must be drafted by an Architect or Engineer and submitted to the appropriate authority for permit approval before proceeding with the project.

There are many factors to consider when removing walls and it takes some serious know how. These are just some very quick and simple ways to identify LB walls to avoid major issues that could arise. If you do not have the skill or experience, it is not worth risking your biggest asset. Hire a professional!

Key Reno Considerations

Dear Renovating Realtor: I am about to undergo a minor renovation of my property to make it more appealing for resale. What are some key things to consider when undergoing a renovation?
-Thanks, Stressed Owner.

Hi Stressed Owner: I understand this time can be stressful, but if you look at it from the perspective of an opportunity to really bring out your own lifestyle in your space- this is your chance! Before you start make sure you plan, plan, plan! Some things to consider: never accept a quote over the phone when hiring a contractor; a good contractor will always need to see the project before quoting the job.

Have a plan and set a clear budget with wiggle room built in for upgrades and unexpected issues that arise. A good rule of thumb is to leave about 10 – 20 % in your budget for this. If you need to hire a tradesperson, it is your right to request to see their certifications and credentials.

Finally, should you require anything to be significantly altered, an Architect or Engineer may be necessary; be sure to check your local by-laws to see when this may be the case. If time is an issue, build this into your planning phase as city and town by-laws can hold up your project if you do not plan for them. Hiding your head in the sand and not being aware of what is happening with all aspects of project is what causes stress.

If you have your finger on the pulse it will hopefully decrease your anxiety level and in most cases the improvements you have decided to do will add value to your home on resale. It will be worth it in the end!