Monday, January 11, 2010

Your Niagara Home Assistant!


Well, the time has come: I have hired an Administrative Assistant! Coming with a lengthy resume of sterling accomplishments, as well as a long list of supportive contacts and enthusiastic references is Evelina Sikkema. Evelina will be working with Your Niagara Home handling a lot of the advertising, book-keeping, and administrative work. She will also be using her wealth of talents to assist in keeping our web presence up-to-the-minute fresh and our information vital. Not to mention, my office is already a lot cleaner. :) I look forward to 2010 being a year of growth for our little team here, and trust that Evelina and I will be kept busy helping all of you buy, sell, or find, Your Niagara Home!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The St. Catharines Office

Our offices are located in the Lake & Carlton plaza in St. Catharines, a central location to all of Niagara, with easy access to the QEW or 406 highways.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn Affairs


This is, in my humble opinion, the best time of year... Autumn. The colours and splendour of the Niagara Region and especially the Niagara Escarpment areas are nothing short of spectacular. Corn, soy beans, grapes, and sunflowers in the fields, and the whole array of reds, browns, and yellows along the tree-lines make for a beautiful backdrop for photos. I also like wood fires and putting that favorite sweater on again, as the nights get cooler. Add to that, as a sports fan, there is a virtual cornacopia of choices - football, baseball playoffs, hockey just started, and basketball just around the corner. My oldest son and my mother were born in October, and we reflect on the blessings we receive from our Almighty God during the Thanksgiving weekend in October. This is the start of the last quarter of the year, and 2009 has been a fabulous year for real estate in Niagara in general, and for me as a real estate sales representative in particular. The home resale market is as brisk as an autumn evening, with all the fear and trepidation of last fall well behind us. With interest rates holding at amazingly low levels, and stimulants such as first time homebuyer rebates helping keep things keep moving, I look forward to topping off this incredible year throughout the last 3 months. Let's go tour some homes, take in the sights, and see if this is the time for you to make your move... with Mulder :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Preparing To Sell Your Home? Here's Some Tips!


Getting Your House Ready to Sell
When getting your home ready to sell, you need to look at your house in a new way. Think of your house as a product about to go on the market where it is probably competing with brand new housing. It needs to show well – which means clutter-free and well kept.
Today’s homebuyers lead busy lives and may not be interested in taking on major repairs or improvements upon moving in. You need to make your house a “10”. This document will help you spot what is right and what is not so good about your "product". It will give you the opportunity to take corrective action to ensure your house looks fresh, clean and well maintained when the “For Sale” sign goes up.
Fix It First
If you need to make improvements to your home, do the work before it goes on the market. Potential buyers are not interested in hearing about your good intentions to look after defects before a transfer of ownership takes place. Even if fix-up work is underway, buyers may not be able to visualize what your home will look like when the work is finished. They will just remember it being in a state of disrepair.
Professional Inspection: Yes or No?
A serious buyer may want to have a professional home inspector check your house from top to bottom before making an offer. Even though this guide will help you identify problems on your own, the option of hiring a professional home inspector is open to you as well. If you can afford it, an inspection in advance of putting your home on the market is a good idea. It is your best way of finding and taking care of serious deficiencies before an inspector hired by a potential buyer discovers them.
Your Niagara Home's Homeowner’s Inspection Checklist
This practical, easy-to-follow guide for homeowners will help you identify common house problems and deal with them. In it, you will find illustrated how-to tips offering effective solutions for every room of your house. Use the ordering instructions on the back page of this fact sheet.
Let’s Begin Outside
Check Your House’s Curb Appeal
How does your house look from the street? That is where prospective buyers will be when they first see your home; and, that is where they will form that all-important first impression. Stand at the curb in front of your house and note what you see.
Remove any clutter in your yard.
Repair cracked or uneven driveway or walkway surfaces.
If your lawn has bald spots, apply some top dressing and re-seed. Prune trees and shrubs of dead wood. Weed and mulch flower beds, if you have them. If it is the right time of year, consider buying some flower-filled planters to enhance the eye appeal of your property. Make sure your lawn is mowed regularly. Ensure that the composter area is tidy.

Are your windows and walls clean?
Does your front door need paint?
Ensure your eaves and downspouts are clear of debris and in good repair.
Are your backyard deck and walkways clean? If not, use a power washer and do any necessary painting, staining or sealing.
If you have a swimming pool, are the deck and pool clean (when in season)?
Do all outside lights work? Replace any burned out bulbs, and clean fixtures of dirt and cobwebs.
Is there a shed? Does it look presentable?
Do windows and exterior doors need recaulking? Even at 6-7 years of age, the caulking may be dried out and in need of replacement.
Do you have decorative wooden poles on the porch? Is the wood at the bottom in good condition? Overall, does it need a new coat of paint?
If you have a gate, is it well oiled?
When you have completed the curb appeal inspection, carefully check the rest of your home’s exterior.


Will Your Roof and Chimney Pass Inspection?
If you are uneasy about climbing onto your roof, you can inspect most items from the ground using binoculars. Otherwise, be careful when working or moving about on your roof. Unless roof repair is a simple matter of applying new caulking, you will probably need the services of a professional.
Check the general condition of your roof. Sagging sections, curled shingles, pooled water on flat roofs and corrosion on metal roofing mean it is time for repair or replacement.
Both masonry and metal chimneys need to be straight and structurally sound, have proper capping on top and watertight flashing where they penetrate the roof.
All roofs undergo stress from snow and rain loads, so a truss or rafter may become damaged, resulting in a noticeable small depression. A professional should do this inexpensive repair.


Examine Your Walls
The condition of your exterior walls directly affects the look and curb appeal of your home.
Replace old caulking. You may have to cut or scrape away old caulking to get a good seal. Do not seal drainage or ventilation gaps.
Is your exterior paint looking good? If you see faded colours and cracked or peeling surfaces, you need to repaint. Be sure to get competitive bids if you hire professional painters.
You can clean vinyl siding but defects or damage to it and to metal siding usually means replacement.
Stucco can be repaired but some skill is required to blend patches with existing stucco.


Now, Let’s Go Indoors
A prospective buyer will usually enter through your front door; so, that is where you should begin your interior inspection. You want your buyer to see a neat, clean, well-lit interior. Get clutter out of sight; ensure that carpets are clean and floors are scrubbed and polished; and that walls and trim show fresh paint (preferably neutral or light colours).
Take a sniff. Are there any unpleasant odours in your home? If so, track them down and eliminate them. Ensure all your lights work and are free of cobwebs. You want your home to look spacious, bright and fresh.
If you have considerable family memorabilia, consider thinning it out. Your objective is to help potential buyers feel as if they could live in your home. That mental leap becomes more difficult for them if your house resembles a shrine your family.
Professional realtors and decorators say the most important areas of your home to upgrade and modernize are the kitchen and bathrooms. Buyers also want to see new or recently installed floor coverings throughout.


General Interior

Check stairs for loose boards, ripped carpeting, and missing or loose handrails and guards.
Most problems with interior walls are cosmetic and can be repaired with spackling compound and paint.
Ensure doors open and shut properly. Minor sticking is normal but excessive binding indicates possible structural problems.
Open and close all windows to ensure they work properly. Fogging between the panes of a sealed window indicates the seal is broken and the unit needs to be replaced.
Keep furniture to a minimum so rooms do not appear smaller than they are. Ensure that traffic can flow in or through rooms unimpeded. If they contain bookshelves or cabinets overflowing with books, magazines and knick-knacks, remove some of these items.
Ensure closets look spacious, organized and uncluttered. Create space by getting rid of old clothes and junk.
Remove or lock away valuables such as jewellery, coins, currency, cameras and compact discs.

Kitchen and Bathrooms

People splash water around in the kitchen and bathrooms so check around sinks, tubs and toilets for rotting countertops and floors. Problems could be due to poor caulking or plumbing leaks. Fogged windows, molds and sweating toilet tanks indicate high humidity levels, which you can remedy with exhaust fans.
In the kitchen, clean all appliances, including your oven. Clean or replace your greasy stove hood filter. Clean your cabinets inside and out, as well as your countertops and backsplashes. Repair dripping faucets.
Remove anything stored on top of your fridge and remove artwork and magnets.
Remove any items stored on countertops.
Remove items stored under the sink.

In bathrooms, scrub sinks, tubs and toilets, taking care to remove any rust stains. Remove mildew from showers and bathtubs. Fix dripping faucets or trickling toilets, and vacuum your fan grill.
Clean mirrors, light switch plates and cupboard handles.
Consider installing new 6-litre toilets if you currently have water-guzzlers.
If you have ceramic tile in either your kitchen or bathroom, ensure grouting is intact and clean.

Basement
The condition of the foundation and main structural members in the basement are critical to the fitness of any house. The purpose of your inspection is to make sure these are sound and durable.
Look for cracks, water seepage, efflorescence (white powder-like substance), crumbling mortar or concrete, and rotting wood. If any of these problems are present, you need to do further research to learn about causes and possible solutions.
If your basement is damp or musty, consider using a dehumidifier.
Like all other areas of your home, your basement should be organized and clutter-free.
Change the filters in the furnace and have it cleaned–this is the number one item purchasers want done after a home inspection.
If you have a pet with a litterbox, ensure the litterbox is clean.


Garage

Get rid of the broken tools, old car parts, discarded bicycles, empty paint cans and the hundreds of other useless items that accumulate in garages. Again, you want a clutter-free zone.
Use cleaning solutions to remove oil stains from the floor.


When It’s Showtime!
You have inspected your house and taken care of problems. Now you are ready for showings. You will need a plan of action that assigns duties to each family member so the place can quickly be whipped into shape.
Open all drapes, blinds, etc. and turn on lights to make the house bright.
Air out the house to get rid of cooking, pet odours, and so on.
Have fresh flowers in view.
Pick up clutter, and empty garbage.
Make sure everything is spotless.
Set your thermostat at a comfortable level.
Remove pets from the house or put them outside.
In poor weather, provide a place for boots, overshoes and umbrellas.
Display photos of the house in summer to show landscaping if selling in the winter months.
Leave out heating and hydro bills.
For those on a septic system and/or well, leave out inspection and maintenance information.


I know... that's a lot of information, but in the end, having your home at it's best is the way to sell it the fastest, and for the most money. Keep smiling!

ATTENTION FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS!


Canada’s Economic Action Plan Offers Incentives for HomeownershipBuying your first home is one of the largest investments of your life. Canada’s Economic Action Plan introduces the First-Time Home Buyers’ (FTHB) Tax Credit and the expansion of the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to provide you with additional benefits and help you realize your dream of homeownership.
First-Time Home Buyers' (FTHB) Tax CreditThe costs associated with purchasing a home, such as legal fees, disbursements and land transfer taxes, can be a particular burden for first-time homebuyers who must pay these costs, as well as save money for a down payment. To assist first-time homebuyers with the costs associated with the purchase of a home, the Government of Canada introduced a FTHB Tax Credit in 2009 — a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009. For an eligible individual, the credit will provide up to $750 in federal tax relief starting in 2009.
Expansion of the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)To provide first-time homebuyers with greater access to their RRSP savings to purchase or build a home, the Government of Canada has increased the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit to $25,000 from $20,000 per person for withdrawals made after January 27, 2009.
To obtain more information on the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit and the Home Buyers’ Plan, call 1-800-O-Canada or visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at http://www.cra.gc.ca/.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Christian Real Estate... can it be?


I received some rather distressing news a couple weeks back. The Christian Real Estate Network (CREN) that I had been a member of for the last 3 years has had to close it's doors. Though there were apparently a number of issues, the main one was disturbing. They were, for all intents and purposes, attacked by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), claiming that since it was a Christian Realtor to Christian Realtor referral network, with membership requirements that included a statement of faith, non-Christians and their rights were being trampled. These accusations have been dogging the network since 2007. Incredible that a government agency, during the Bush administration, no less, would decide that Christians referring Christian clients to other Christians is illegal. Unfortunately, this potentially valuable Christian tool has been eliminated.
Now for the good news. I'm sure that most of you have heard the saying, "when one door closes, another opens." Well, the Lord has indeed opened another door for us. I searched the internet, and found the Exodus Real Estate Network, and they too have been providing referral services for Christians looking to use a Christian Realtor. Through this organization, I discovered that a group of Christian Realtors was meeting quarterly in Oakville, sharing fellowship, prayer, success stories, challenges, and friendship. Today I attended my first of what I hope will be many meetings, and was blessed to be amongst fellow believers who share my love for the Real Estate profession, but more importantly, acknowledge the Triune God, and Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The founders of the Exodus Network were there as guest speakers, and I was also encouraged to meet them and hear first hand their story, their goals for the network, and that I can find in their organization a place to share my love for the Lord, and the ups and downs of real estate. What it all shows me, once again, is the power of prayer. I ask that you pray for both the members and leaders of the Christian Real Estate Network, and their ongoing fight, as well as the Exodus Network. I am sure that challenges await them (us?) as well.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Whose Niagara Home?

Folks, this post was originally from 2008. I just wanted to bring it back up to the top of the heap again, and remind readers/viewers what it is I do, and why. Here are the basic building blocks of my real estate career:

Well... a little about the biz. In the last couple weeks, I have been communicating with people all over the world about homes for sale in Niagara. I have spoken with people in Britain, Scotland, The Netherlands, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand and Colombia... all interested in information about real estate in the beautiful Niagara region of Ontario. We are a worlwide phenomenon! But why wouldn't we be? Look at all that Niagara has to offer! Is there anywhere else in the world that can boast of the easy proximity to major Canadian and American cities (Toronto and Buffalo within 1/2 hour to 45 minutes) high quality access to sports for all 4 seasons (skiing, hockey, golf, baseball, basketball, tennis, football, soccer, you name it), hiking that is breathtakingly beautiful (Bruce Trail, Short Hills, etc), biking, a great Community College (Niagara), a world class University (Brock), theatre (Shaw Festival), historically significant sites (Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Fort George, the Underground Railroad, Laura Secord House, etc), a world wonder in Niagara Falls which is maintained wonderfully by the Niagara Parks Commission, festivals and cultural celebrations of all sorts, a world famous wine industry, one of the largest commercial floral industries in the world, environmentally friendly green spaces that are enchanting and diverse, a Great Lake waterfront, incredible restaurants... you know, this could go on and on. What a place to live! One significant bonus is: no hurricanes, earthquakes, tidal waves, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, ... just the odd picturesque snowstorm. Hey, come join us! Your Niagara home awaits you!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Harmonized Tax - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

The plan of the McGuinty Government at Queen's Park to harmonize the provincial sales tax (PST) with the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) may sound like a good idea when you first hear it. Why not save people a pile of administrative work... not to mention a few trees? In reality, though, citizens of Ontario will be facing a huge increase in their taxes. Not the kind you pay annually, but the kind you pay every single time that you make a purchase, or make use a service. There are many examples why this "Hamonized Sales Tax (HST) is a bad idea, and nothing short of the government clawing even more from the hard working people of Ontario. One example is the purchase of a home, land, or real estate. Following is an article from the Ontario Association of Realtors (OREA):

OREA says harmonized taxes will cost $2,000 per sale. The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) says the provincial government’s plan to harmonize the GST and PST will add over $2,000 to the cost of a real estate transaction, hurting the resale home market and prolonging the housing industry’s recovery from the current economic downturn. “Now is not the time to be erecting barriers to homeownership,” says Pauline Aunger, president of OREA. “We need consumers to invest in housing to help get our economy going again.” Under a harmonized sales tax (HST), homebuyers and sellers will have to pay extra tax on a range of services associated with real estate transactions such as legal fees, moving costs, real estate commissions and home inspection fees. Currently, consumers only pay the five per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) on these services. “These additional taxes could price some homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers, right out of the market,” says Aunger. “Harmonizing will not help homebuyers in any way.” For a resale house priced at $360,000, a HST could add over $2,000 in new taxes to closing costs. In total, a HST will add $313 million annually in new taxes to resale home transactions. “In the last decade, Ontario’s homeowners have faced a barrage of new costs,” says Aunger. “From municipal land transfer taxes to sky rocketing property taxes, homeowners are being pushed to the brink to accommodate increasing demands from government. A harmonized sales tax is yet another cash grab on Ontario’s already overtaxed homeowners.”

Let's do something about this! Contact your local MPP and let him know that you strongly oppose this tax grab. If we don't do something, and just let this slip by us, we have only ourselves to blame Ontario!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marching to Zion Blog

Discovered a very cool mom with a very cool blog. Christine Valk has been regularly updating a unique blog named "Marching to Zion" about the joys and trials of being a wife and mother of 6 youngsters. Interesting and funny, deep and thoughtful. Great job Christine, and keep it up! You can link to it here:
http://wearemarchingtozion.blogspot.com/

One Fundraiser SOLD! One to go!


The beautiful home for sale on the corner of 23rd Street and Tallman Drive in Vineland has been sold! It is a fundraising property, with proceeds going to support Jordan Christian School. I would like to congratulate the builders, headed by Brouwer Construction, and all the tradespeople who donated their time to make this a stunning modern bungalow. I can't begin to tell you the number of compliments I heard over the course of listing the property and hosting open houses there. Thanks also go to Renee from Staging Niagara for furnishing the house so invitingly, and participating in the project. The buyers are very excited, and you should all be very proud of the finished product. Thanks for the opportunity of representing the school community at Jordan Christian School... it was indeed my pleasure! Next door to this is the Heritage Christian School fundraising home. I hope to be able to put a SOLD sign there this summer as well. For details on that property, look below, or visit http://www.yourniagarahome.com/