Spring lawn care tips

 Friday, April 21, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

Featured Photo

In last month’s blog we spoke about tips for your garden that will help get your yard back on the right foot after the ravages of the winter season. This month we’re going to provide you with some tips for a healthy lawn that will make it the envy of the neighbourhood and create the oasis you can enjoy throughout the summer.

1.     Raking

Once an annual rite of spring, raking the lawn has gone the way of the dodo bird for many simply because it’s a time-consuming and exhausting job! And as you’ll see below, the growing prevalence of aeration has made raking one’s lawn less of a concern. Nonetheless, if your lawn is or has been suffering from thatch (grass and other organic material at the base of your grass), this material may need to be removed through raking before it chokes out your lawn. Often times you’ll just need to rake the problem areas where thatch is most prevalent so it shouldn’t be as difficult a task as you might think.

2.     Lawn aeration

One of the best things you can do to kick-start a healthy lawn is through the process of aeration, which involves using a specialized machine to make small holes in your grass. The winter months can ravage your grass and the soil underneath, compacting it and making it difficult for water, air and nutrients to penetrate and reach its roots. Aeration helps to alleviate this problem and speeds up the return of a beautiful green lawn. Mid-spring is the best time to do this so act soon on this job.

3.     Overseeding and top dressing

Older lawns are bound to get bare or dead patches simply due to its age and the stresses of the summers and winters. The best way to alleviate this problem is to overseed these areas with new grass seed along with a 2 centimetre layer of black earth to provide a fertile environment for water retention and seed germination. It’s best to do this as early as possible in the spring while the weather is still cool and there is plenty of natural precipitation to help these seeds take root.

4.     Fertilizing

Another important step in getting your lawn in shape is to apply a quality fertilizer early on. A phosphorous-rich fertilizer is usually what is recommended at this time as your soil has been depleted of its nutrients over the winter and needs a push in the right direction. Many experts also recommend a weed-and-feed product at this time due to the inherent weaknesses in your lawn and the prevalence of those pesky weeds during these cool and wet days. Whichever fertilizer you use, be sure to fertilize as early on during the cool and wet conditions. And remember to apply a second round in late spring just before the real heat begins!

If you follow these four tips, you should be well on your way to a healthy and beautiful lawn. Combined with the beautiful garden you would have created with the help of our previous blog, your yard is bound to be the talk of the street. Just be prepared to have your neighbours come up to you and ask you for your ‘green thumb secrets’. We know you’ll be more than willing to share the knowledge!

If you’re looking for some more tips on getting your grass prepped this spring, be sure to check out this great blog on the topic.


4 Winter Home Maintenance Tips

 Friday, January 13, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Buyers Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

Featured Photo

With Christmas now a distant memory, we’re officially into the heart of the winter season. In fact, January has traditionally been the coldest month of the year so it’s important that your home is prepared for anything Mother Nature might dish out in the coming months. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a list of the more common issues homeowners face in the winter, along with some possible solutions.

  1. Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed from the build-up of snow and ice on your roof. Through a process of thawing and freezing, ice begins to accumulate in and around your gutters and eavestroughs.

This accumulating ice can add significant weight to your eaves, thus damaging them and causing them to separate from the roof. It can also loosen your shingles and cause water to back up on your roof, leading to leaks in your home.

The only solution for ice dams is to be extra vigilant and inspect your roof on a regular basis, especially when the temperature swings above and below freezing within a short period of time. You can learn how to prevent ice dams by reading this article.

  1. Furnace care

High-efficiency furnaces have two PVC pipes that vent through your foundation to the exterior of your home. One is an exhaust pipe while the other brings clean air into your home to help with the combustion process.

When either or both of these pipes are blocked by snow or ice, serious problems can occur, including your furnace shutting itself off to prevent damage. It’s best to inspect this area regularly to ensure it’s free of ice and snow. You can also do the same to the area around your natural gas and electricity meters while you’re at it!

The cold winter weather can also make your furnace work overtime to keep you warm. This may result in your furnace filter getting dirtier more quickly than normal, particularly if you live in an area prone to dirt and dust. It’s a good idea to inspect your furnace filter monthly during the winter months to make sure it isn’t too dirty, which could cause it to stop working.

  1. Frozen water pipes

Nothing can be more frightening to a homeowner than the thought of returning home to a flooded house due to a burst water pipe from the cold weather. Unfortunately this is much more common occurrence than many people realize. And it doesn’t only happen in older homes either.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you never turn your thermostat below 16ºC (60ºF) when you’re away from the house, even for just the day. Colder houses are more likely to cause your pipes to freeze and burst. You can also insulate your water pipes, particularly those on exterior walls of your house.

There is one other thing homeowners can do if they know they’ll be away for an extended period of time - turning off the water in your house at the main valve (usually located in the basement next to the water meter). This will greatly reduce the likelihood of flooding due to a burst pipe.

  1. Snow, ice and your roof and trees

Wet snow and ice can cause considerable damage to your home and in particular to your roof due to its significant weight. If you don’t have a high peaked roof, inspect your roof after big snowfalls and especially after a series of snowstorms.

If there appears to be too much snow on it, you may need to remove some or all of it. Just be careful when doing so as the shingles on your roof could be very icy and slippery. If in doubt, hire a professional to take care of this for you. They will have the proper equipment and experience to do it safely.

The trees around your house are no different than your roof. In many cases they are even more vulnerable to wet snow and ice depending on their size, type and age. If you experience an ice storm or wet snow, inspect the trees around your house, taking special attention to those in close proximity to your dwelling. This includes any trees in your neighbour’s yard.

Watch out for bowing tree limbs due to the excessive snow and ice. If necessary, call an arborist to cut down these limbs if you’re concerned they may come crashing down on your house.

We hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. They should you give you a better idea of things to be on the lookout for when winter strikes.  


Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

 Wednesday, November 2, 2016     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

Featured Photo

It’s almost here. The month of November means we’re that much closer to winter and our first snowfall. Is your home prepared for whatever Jack Frost might have in store for us this winter?

The ultimate to-do list

To prepare your house for winter while also saving some money requires careful planning and organization on your part. That’s why we developed the checklist below. It will help you better organize your time so you can complete these important tasks before the cold arrives.

Windows, doors and roofs

  • Check the weather-stripping and caulking around your windows and doors for excessive wear and/or leaks that will lead to heat loss.
  • Remove all window screens to prevent excessive wear and to allow the maximum amount of sunlight to get into your house, thus increasing its temperature.
  • Check for missing or damaged shingles on your roof and have them replaced if possible before winter hits. Cold winds and the weight of snow can make matters worse.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts and make sure they’re properly secured to your house and aren’t loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off your house. Melting snow also needs somewhere to go.

Garden and yard

  • Rake the leaves on your lawn. A leaf-covered lawn can ‘choke’ your grass, hastening root rot and slowing its growth in the spring.
  • Reseed any bare patches on your lawn as soon as possible. Use a fall fertilizer to ensure deep root growth come spring.
  • Clean all flower beds, cutting back your perennials. Remove and store any pots and decorative items that may get damaged by the snow and cold temperatures.
  • Store your garden hoses and shut off all exterior water faucets to prevent any freezing during the colder weather.
  • Store all patio furniture in a garden shed or garage, or at minimum in a protected area covered by a durable tarp with bungee cords.

Inside the home

  • Remember to adjust your vents for colder weather. Open up any vents and cold air returns in your basement to keep the entire house warm.
  • Reverse the flow of any ceiling fans you may have to a clockwise rotation. This will bring warm air down from the ceiling so you can enjoy it more.
  • Reset your programmable thermostat for the colder weather. Also be sure to change your furnace filter now to ensure optimal efficiency for your home.

 

Outside the home

  • Make sure your snowblower is tuned up and ready to go. At least make sure to run it now for a few minutes so you know it will start when you’ll need it most.
  • Snowblower owners should have some gas on hand (with gas stabilizer). If a snowstorm does hit, it may be difficult to get to your local gas station for a fill up!
  • Adjust any timers you might have for your exterior lights to account for the shorter days. Replace any old or burnt out bulbs now before it gets too cold.

 

This checklist should help you identify some of the things you’ll need to do before winter rears its ugly head in The Orchard and the rest of Burlington and area. Feel free to add to this list with go-to winter preparation tasks by commenting on our blog.


Disclosure requirements when selling a home: Patent vs. Latent Defects

 Wednesday, September 21, 2016     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Buyers Advice for Home Selling General Real Estate Advice

Featured Photo

It may not be evident to some but when you sell your home, you have a legal obligation to disclose certain issues or ‘defects’ within your home to prospective buyers. Failure to do this could result in legal action by the buyer, resulting in additional costs and delays in closing the sale of your home.

Two Types of Defects

When it comes to a home, there are two types of defects that buyers and sellers need to be aware of. The first is known as a “patent defect” while the other is referred to as a “latent defect”.

Patent Defects

Patent defects refer to items that should be easily noticeable to a buyer (like a broken window or railing or a cracked tile). Under the legal principle of caveat emptor (“buyer beware”), buyers are deemed to have accepted these deficiencies when they purchase a home as they are not hidden and can be seen in a normal inspection.

However, if a seller knowingly deceives a buyer by trying to hide these defects or provides false information about them to a buyer, legal recourse would exist against the seller to recover the costs associated with these deficiencies.

Latent Defects

On the other hand, a “latent defect” refers to those that are hidden from view and thus cannot be easily observed. If the latent defect is deemed to be “material” (i.e. something that could influence a purchase decision at a given price), it should be disclosed (if the seller knows about it).

Examples of material latent defects would include mold or other environmental hazards, basement apartments that don't meet zoning or fire regulation codes, structural problems or major basement or roof leaks.

Example of a Latent Defect – Radioactivity

As noted above, there are many factors that can lead to a latent defect in a home. Whether a given defect is an issue depends on if it makes the property unfit for habitation or is considered inherently dangerous.

In the legal case of Sevidal vs. Chopra, the seller failed to disclose the existence of radioactive materials in neighbouring properties that was discovered prior to closing. While the seller had no knowledge if radioactive contamination existed on his property, the courts sided in favour of the buyer as they felt the seller fraudulently concealed this information.

What sellers must do

As you can see from the above example, when in doubt home, sellers should always disclose any issues with their house to prospective buyers. Remember, you have a legal obligation to disclose these deficiencies.

Non-disclosure is the #1 reason real estate cases go to court. A neighbour is likely going to tell the new buyer about the pedophile down the road or the suicide in the home, the major flood two years ago, etc. So you’re better off to tell them yourself!

Insurance claims history can also be obtained on a home and has been entered as evidence in court in cases where sellers did not disclose material latent defects to buyers. There are certain responsibilities, legal and otherwise that home sellers need to be aware of and abide by when they sell their home.

To protect yourself, it’s critical that you go over any potential latent or patent defects with your realtor prior to listing your home for sale. They will be able to give you the advice you need to ensure you’re providing all the pertinent information required to prospective buyers to avoid any unforeseen legal disputes down the road.


Overheated real estate market creates challenges for buyers

 Tuesday, June 14, 2016     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Buyers Advice for Home Selling Market Conditions General Real Estate Advice

Featured Photo

As we rapidly approach the end of the school year and the official start of summer, all signs indicate that the very hot real estate market in Burlington, Hamilton and most of the Greater Toronto Area will continue for some time to come. Very low home inventories in Burlington and area continue while demand from prospective buyers remains steady, indicating a significant disparity from a supply and demand perspective. There’s no clear indication when and if this will change.

With this in mind, we thought our readers who are contemplating buying a house in the coming months would appreciate some helpful advice regarding how to navigate this competitive market.

1.     Be realistic

Home buyers need to enter into this process with realistic expectations for how things will evolve. It’s quite likely you won’t get the first house you bid on, and with prices rising steadily you may need to pay a little more than expected. You need to enter the buying process with the mindset that a home’s list price is merely a starting point for negotiations. With homes often going for tens of thousands of dollars over asking price, buyers need to factor in an additional 5-10% as a possible selling price when making an offer on a home.

2.     Be prepared

You need to be prepared to do battle if you’re planning on buying a house (maybe not in the literal sense!). This includes doing your homework in advance regarding where you want to live, a realistic list of the amenities your home must have and ones that are nice to have, and what you can afford and are willing to spend. Being pre-approved by your lender is now a must. You also need to be aware of any conditions that are part of this approval. Only then will you be able to act quickly once the time comes.

3.     Be flexible

One of the most difficult scenarios for any home buyer (and their realtor) is when they enter the process with a long list of ‘must have’ features for their house. This gets even more difficult when housing inventories are low. You have to be flexible in a hot housing market. This includes being prepared to complete a home inspection prior to putting in an offer or even doing without one. This way you can submit an offer with no conditions that might hamper your competitiveness.

4.     Make it easy for the seller to say yes

In a hot market, low ball offers just don’t work, no matter how tempting it may be. If you’re determined to get your house for the best possible price, it may be best to sit on the sidelines until the market cools off. If you’re committed to buying now, realize that putting in a reasonable offer shortly after viewing a house and potentially just after it goes on the market is an excellent strategy. By acting quickly and having one of the first offers you may be able to capitalize on the exhilaration you provide to the seller. You may be able to entice them to accept your offer and end the drudgery and headaches of having a house on the market (like keeping it pristine!). Try to uncover any other factors that might motivate the seller to sell to you.

5.     Use a knowledgeable local real estate agent

While competency and professionalism are critical to the role, one thing many buyers forget when choosing a realtor are the relationships and connections they have that can be leveraged for your benefit. For example, if they’re familiar with the listing agent for a house you’re interested in, they can leverage that relationship to buy you some additional time or provide you with a favourable perspective in the eyes of the seller. Having a realtor that has a thorough understanding of the local real estate market is another critical factor as they can advise you on the relative value of a particular home.

In a hot real estate market, buyers need to be organized and have a clear plan that their real estate agent can execute. If you enter this process with the right frame of mind and with realistic expectations, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding and having a positive outcome.