What upgrades are worth adding to your new home?

When it comes to new home upgrades, some choices will add a lot of value. What I mean is that they may actually increase the value of your home, but will also likely make your home more sellable and attractive to new buyers. Some new home upgrades are worth every dollar because you’ll get that money back in the form of increased sale price when you go to sell it.

At the same time, not every upgrade is worth it, and not every homeowner agrees on what an “upgrade” is. As always, it’s your home and you’re the one living in it, so you should customize it to your liking. But if you are considering moving up to a bigger or different home in a few years, you’ll want to makes sure you choose wisely when it comes to upgrades.

new home upgrades

New home upgrades every buyer wants

I believe every new home buyer wants certain upgrades. You can probably guess what they are. Upgraded counter tops in kitchens and bathrooms, flooring throughout the home, and appliances are all good places to start.

How those items are upgraded makes a difference, though. Granite or quartz counter tops make a great choice for new home upgrades. So do hardwood or laminate wood flooring. Many buyers specifically look for these upgrades and will filter out homes that don’t have them, even before going to take a look at the home.

As for appliances, the primary desire in today’s real estate market continues to be stainless steel. It’s true that there are plenty of options out there for appliances that are more expensive than stainless steel. But the overwhelming majority of home buyers are looking for stainless steel appliances.

Will these upgrades always add value? They could, but it’s not a guarantee. Even if they don’t add financial value, they will make your home more attractive to buyers, which gives you an edge.

New home upgrades that potentially add value to your home

I want to premise this section by saying that no one can predict which way the market is going to go or that any upgrades you make to your home will automatically result in increased value. However, there are some upgrades that do tend to increase the value of homes.

In addition to flooring and counter top upgrades, structural upgrades, including something like attic insulation upgrades, window, and fencing upgrades can add value to a home. These upgrades are desirable and check one more thing off a new home buyer’s list. Expanded rooms or open floor plans in a home may also increase value. Additionally, separating the tub and shower into a spa with a separate shower may pay off.

In brand new homes, choosing nine foot ceilings can pay off in the long run, as well as choosing an upgraded underlay. Energy efficient upgrades, depending on what they are, may add value, too.

If you have the choice to go with higher end lighting that increases the light in a space – particularly in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, or living room – go for it. Lighting upgrades increase the perception that your home is high value.

Closet space upgrades or even high end closet installations may increase value but beware of spending too much on shelving and organization. While the space itself is an asset, not everyone feels the same way about closet design.

New home upgrades I don’t recommend

Sometimes, an upgrade doesn’t end up adding value when it’s all said and done. Why? Because some upgrades are so custom that only the current homebuyer finds value in them. Other upgrades cost so much that they cannot possible be recouped when the house is sold. At the end of the day, the market still determines the value of the home. It’s not necessarily the sum of all of the money that was put into it.

Be careful about color choices and wallpaper. When it’s time to sell your home, you’ll need to create a neutral environment that appeals to all sorts of tastes. Buyers may not like your choice of wall color or paper, and if it’s used extensively, they may not buy the house because of it.

When considering appliances, beware of diminishing returns. A moderately priced stainless steel refrigerator and a very high end stainless steel refrigerator may end up yielding the same value on the market.

Even landscaping can reach a point where the value is maximized. Nicely manicured lawns will sell a home; adding a lot of very expensive additions to your landscaping may not yield the return that you think.

Conclusion

If you’re upgrading your home with the intent to sell it at maximum value, you should consult with someone who knows the market. Some upgrades are going to be great choices, regardless. Timeless, classic upgrades to flooring and counter tops, as well as stainless steel appliances will almost always pay off. But extremely custom homes and very vibrant decor are another story. When in doubt, ask!

Reference

  1. Buying a New Construction Home – Process, Upgrades, & New Construction Costs (http://www.moneycrashers.com/buying-new-construction-home-process-upgrades-costs/)

Featured Properties

What are the Differences in New Communities in Calgary and How do I Pick?

How do you choose one new community over another? In the past few years, builders have created several new communities in Calgary for you to choose from. They’re similar in one major way: they each offer brand new homes or customized floor plans you can choose from. When you buy a brand new home, no one else has ever lived in it before, and it’s tailored for you and your family. That much is the same for every new community.

But beyond the home and land you buy, what other differences are there in new communities in Calgary? This is a common question I know prospective home buyers have. Below, I’ll cover the three main ways the new communities in Calgary are different from each other, and then I’ll list some new communities with houses for sale. Call me if you want to find a home in one of these!

1. New Communities in Calgary Differ in Price

It probably goes without saying that price differs between new communities in Calgary. A common situation new home buyers run into is knowing why prices range so much, but not quite understanding how it impacts them.

Unless you are an investor, always approach real estate and pricing from your own personal or family’s objective. In other words, figure out what will work for you in terms of features, amount of space, location, and amenities and then prioritize all of that. Everything has a cost. When shopping for homes in new communities in Calgary, avoid just going for the cheapest one, believing that new homes are all the same.

If you do that, you might be compromising on something that really matters to you down the road. Or, you might find yourself with a home that doesn’t increase in value as much as you planned. Then, when it comes time to move into another house, it could be harder than you thought to sell the inexpensive one you bought.

2. Amenities May Be Different Between Communities

Think about your needs as a single person, couple, or family. Amenities in new communities impact price, but also lifestyle. Some developers add parks, green spaces, or meridians with trees and flowers. Others offer community centers. These things may not seem important now, or even necessary. Later, though, the value of a community with amenities is going to increase faster than one without them.

Examples of Amenities in New Communities in Calgary

Lifestyle Amenities: Parks, pathways, and ponds make great examples of lifestyle amenities. Some builders also create clubs and recreation facilities within the community. Community pools and kids play places add to the value of the community.

Neighbourhood Amenities: Grocery shops, restaurants, recreation centers, retail stores, schools, and easy access to transit. A note on schools: some communities may even have schools within the community itself, now or in the future.

In addition to the traditional “amenities,” some builders have made the home buying process, including selecting a lot and customizing the home, very different. A creative buying process that is fun and simple is another way new communities in Calgary are different from one another.

3. Location of New Communities Makes a Big Difference

Along with amenities, consider other things that are important to your daily life. New communities that are strategically placed near shops, schools, transit and environmental parkways, cost more than other new communities. Many people enjoy living next to provincial green spaces like Fish Creek, Nosehill Park, and Edworthy Park. Because of that, buying a home in a new community near one of those places will be more expensive.

Also consider whether you want a new community in an urban setting or suburban setting, since both are possible in Calgary and will differ in price.

Think twice, though, when a new home in a new community is priced lower than you would think. Some developers price new communities lower, because they are closer to undesirable factors, such as landfills, water treatment facilities, or noisy areas. It may seem like a good idea now, but the value of the new home you purchase may be negatively impacted.

New Communities in Calgary

Evanston. Amenities include: Green spaces, a neighbourhood gazebo, and playgrounds. Conveniently located near Nose Hill park, schools, and shopping (including CrossIron Mills). Active community association.

new communities in calgary

Evanston Home for Sale – Click here for more details

Symons Gate. Amenities include: A four acre environmental reserve for walking and gathering, a walking or biking trail/pathway that will connect you to downtown, and Curious Park. Curious Park includes a playground, picnic tables, and landscaping. Nearby recreation centres including Calgary Inland Athletic Park, transit, and several shopping centers.

symons gate new community in calgary

Symons Gate Home for Sale – Click here for more details

Looking for a home in a new Calgary community?

Contact me to discuss your options and individual community pros and cons. My expertise is in new home sales and working with first time home buyers. I can help you distinguish between the various new communities in Calgary. I’d love to help you get into the home of your dreams!

15 Facts About Calgary Real Estate That Most People Don’t Know

Even if you’ve been living in Calgary your entire life, you may not know these really interesting real estate facts. Every day, homes are bought and sold in the Calgary real estate market. But you do know as much as about Calgary real estate as you thought?

As you’ll see below, the Calgary Real Estate market offers a lot of opportunity for both buyers and sellers. Thousands of homes are added to the market every month here in Calgary. Additionally, new home construction continues to be very strong. Because of that, whatever kind of home you’re looking for, you will find in Calgary.

Below the list of facts is an infographic you can share on Facebook or LinkedIn.

15 Interesting Facts About Calgary Real Estate

#1: Over 11,600 people work in the Calgary real estate industry.

#2: More than 2,000 businesses offer real estate services in Calgary.

#3: Downtown, there is more than 41 million square feet of office space.

#4: On average, Calgary buildings are the youngest of all major Canadian cities.

#5: In April 2017, 2,393 home sales were recorded through the MLS.

#6: Home buyers and sellers in Calgary contributed to $1.1 billion in homes sales in April 2017. alone

#7: In April 2017, houses in Calgary sold, on average, for $475,516 (Residential Average Price).

#8: Year to date, over $3 billion in home sales in Calgary have been recorded.

#9:  MoneySense Magazine ranked Calgary the second best large city to live in.

#10: Construction companies started building 3,178 new homes year to date, and completed 3,908 year to date.

#11: In Oct 2016, the average renter paid $1,258/month for a two bedroom apartment.

#12: Home buyers can still choose from 1,275 new construction homes that haven’t been absorbed yet.

#13: On average, in May 2017, homes spent 38 days on the market, down 11% year over year.

#14: Also in May 2017, 3,866 new listings were added to the market.

#15: Apartments stayed on the market, on average, 24 days longer than detached homes in May 2017.

Calgary Real Estate Facts Infographic

calgary real estate facts

Buying or Selling a Home in Calgary

Now that you have some facts to work with, if you’re ready to buy or sell your home in Calgary, give me a call. If you need any additional information or help making a decision, I’ll gladly sit down with you over coffee and talk about my experiences here as a Calgary realtor. I want you to make the best decision for your family, and anything I can do to help, I will.

 

Contact me here, or at (403) 998-5535.

 

References

  1. Real Estate | Calgary Economic Development
  2. Alberta Real Estate Association – Housing Market Stats
  3. Life in Calgary
  4. Alberta Housing Market Stats
  5. CMCH Housing Information Portal

 

How To Add Home Improvements To Your Mortgage In 4 Easy Steps

If you are able to find the perfect home that has everything on your list, is completely up to date, and is 100% move in ready, consider yourself very lucky! For most people, the perfect home for them sometimes needs a little TLC to make it just right. Perhaps the backyard isn’t complete or fenced in, or the basement has a lot of space, but it’s just a slab of concrete. It could be that the wiring in the home or the plumbing is up to code, but not necessarily up to date.

how to add home improvements to your mortgage

When you’ve found the ideal home but it needs repairs, how can you get the money to pay for them? There are a few ways:

  • Using a line of credit you already have
  • Paying cash up front/dipping into your savings account
  • Using a home renovation loan

What Is a Home Renovation Loan?

Generally, a home renovation loan is any loan that is designed to help you pay for home improvements. There are several different types of home renovation loans. All of these loans are provided in consideration of a home’s equity – its value minus the amount still owed. Loans that allow you to add home improvements to your mortgage are available, but many home buyers do not understand how they work.

With a qualifying down payment, some banks will allow you to finance home improvements when you purchase a new home. For the most qualified buyers, banks may offer to lend up to 95% of the value of the home after renovations.

This is good news for many home buyers. For one thing, the ability to add home improvements to a mortgage means that you can buy an older home that needs a lot of work, and not have to pay for those improvements up front. And for some people, that also opens up more possibilities for potential homes.

You might think that the process to add home improvements to your mortgage is complicated, but it’s really not. Your lender and your real estate agent will be there to guide you every step of the way. Here are the four steps at a high level.

How to Add Home Improvements To Your Mortgage

Step 1. Determine which improvements to include.

When you walk through the house you want to buy, make sure you consider all of the home improvements you want to make. Create a list of them, and discuss them with your real estate agent. You can only include permanent improvements in a home loan (improvements that will stay with the house).

Consider improvements that will really add a lot of value to your home. For example, you may be able to be finance a basement project – finishing or a completing a basement space. The reason is that it will increase the amount of livable space in the home, which in turn adds significant value.

Step 2. Get quotes for the work you want to do.

Meet with contractors and service providers as soon as possible, and have them provide quotes for the work you intend to finance. This is a good time to shop around, because the cost of the improvement is a major factor in the mortgage approval. Because of that, you should communicate with your real estate agent and ask them for referrals. In these cases, you should choose a contractor who’s trusted and comes with many referrals.

Once you have the quotes, decide whether or not they will add value to the home and how much. Then, decide if you want to finance those improvements as part of the mortgage. You have other options when it comes to financing, it’s just that sometimes, it makes sense to include the improvements in the mortgage (especially if the interest rate is lower than other financing methods).

Step 3. Complete the mortgage approval process.

You submit the quotes for the improvements along with the rest of the loan application. The request for the additional money has to be made at that time; otherwise, you’ll have to submit a new application.

Important: Make sure that your offer has a financing contingency. This will protect you if your mortgage application is denied due to the improvement quotes. If you don’t have a financing contingency, you will be legally committed to buying the house, with or without any additional money for improvements.

A financing contingency simply states that your offer to buy the house is contingent upon financing, and if you are not able to secure financing you will be able to walk away from the sale.

It can typically take up to 5 days to complete the financing approval, but be prepared for it to take longer when renovation estimates are part of it.

Step 4. Complete the improvements and have the home appraised.

Banks will not pay for the entire cost of the improvement upfront. Instead, you’ll give your contractor or tradesman a down payment. Then, the work will begin.

Once the work is complete, the bank will send someone to appraise the house and inspect the finished work. Then, if everything goes as planned, the bank will pay the balance due on the improvements.

Though simplified, those are the four steps to add home improvements to your mortgage. Keep in close communication with your lender and agent, because every situation is different.

Additional Tips:

  • Complete a pre-approval with a mortgage lender. Jennifer Lloyd, a local mortgage specialist and friend of mine, recommends getting a pre-approval before putting in your offer. This way, you’ll be better prepared and will be able to ask your lender important questions about the renovation financing process.
  • Find out about home improvement rebates. Last month, I wrote a post on the new Alberta Home Improvement Rebates program. Make sure you look into that, as the cost of making improvements to your new home may be much less than you think, depending on what you’re trying to do.
  • Utilize your real estate agent. Your agent has a wealth of knowledge about the market. Be open about what it is you really want, whether it’s a certain location, a finished basement, a fenced in yard, etc. Together, you can look at a number of different ways to get into the house of your dreams, maximize value, and minimize cost.

If this is your first visit to my blog, welcome! My name is Jennifer McIntosh and I am a real estate agent here in Calgary. If you’re considering buying a new home, I’d love to meet with you. You can contact me at (403) 998-5535 or send me a message.

5 Essential Steps to Buying A House

You’ve saved your money, and you’ve figured out where you want to live. And now, you know you’re finally ready to buy your first home. Buying a house is a big step, but there are a lot of great resources to help you every step of the way.

buying a house

While there are a lot of little details in between, there are really just 5 key steps in the home buying process. Whether it’s your first home, or you’re an experienced buyer, these steps are always the same.

In addition to this step-by-step guide, I’ve also included a list of resources at the end of this list. If you have any questions, contact me. I’m a Calgary real estate agent, and I specialize in helping first time home buyers find and buy their dream homes. I would be happy to help you.

Step 1. Find out how much mortgage you can afford.

I recently published a blog post on how to figure out how much mortgage you can actually afford. Usually, the first thing people do when they set out to buy a house is find out how much house they can buy. Otherwise, you might get wrapped up in the idea of owning a home you won’t be able to purchase. Or, you could end up with a house you really can’t afford after all.

The main things to consider is how much you really want to borrow. It’s also important to consider the maximum amount a lender will lend to you. If it turns out that you can’t qualify for the home you want, you have options. You can save money for a bigger down payment, or, you could also adjust what you’re looking for in a house.

Step 2. Find a good real estate agent.

Find a real estate agent who will listen to you, guide you, and communicate with you every step of the way. Good real estate agents go out of their way to provide great service. An agent is there to ensure that your real estate transaction goes smoothly, and to help you make decisions when things don’t go that smoothly. Experienced real estate agents know the market well, but they are also great with people. At the end of the day, you want someone you can call about anything, anytime. Sometimes people are surprised about how many things come up during the transaction. Even if your agent doesn’t have all of the answers, they should know who to ask or where to look.

If you’re in or around Calgary, I’d love to meet with you and talk about your needs. You can contact me directly at (403) 998-5535.

Step 3. Search for the home you want.

This is the fun part. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation published a list of things that you should consider when searching for a home. They are:

  • Location/neighbourhood
  • Size
  • Type of home (duplex, row house, condo, etc.)
  • Travel distance
  • Special features
  • Lifestyle needs – now and also in the future
  • New home, Custom-built home, or resale

Ask yourself what kind of home you want. Be honest about the things that are absolute musts, versus things you can be flexible about. Take your list to your real estate agent and talk through it together. Also, keep an open mind.

If you’re buying a home together with your spouse or someone else, listen to each other and stay open and willing to negotiate. It’s tough to find a single home that checks every box off of everyone’s lists. Keep in mind that once you buy a home, it is yours. Some things that are not there now can be added later. The same is true for things you don’t like (carpet, for example) that can be removed once you buy the house.  

Step 4. Make an offer and secure a mortgage loan.

Once you’ve found the home you want, you’ll work with your real estate agent and make an offer. Making an offer involves filling out a purchase agreement that includes the amount you’re willing to pay for the house, along with any other stipulations. This is the part of the process where you’re really going to want a good agent.

When you make an offer, the seller will review the offer and decide whether or not to accept it. Sometimes, the seller will counter offer, which just means they will change some terms and send it back. You can counter back, or accept the counter.

This process can go back and forth until both parties agree. Or, the buyer can decide not to accept a counter from the seller, or vice versa. If there’s no agreement, the buyer can walk away and the seller can find another offer.

If there’s an agreement, the house is then under contract at that point. You’ve committed to buying the home. At this point in time, you tell your mortgage company (or find one) and complete the mortgage loan application and fulfillment process.

During this part of the process, you’ll communicate often with your mortgage company and also with your agent.

Step 5. Close on the home and move in.

The last step of the process is the home closing. At the closing, you’ll pay any funds that are due at close. You’ll sign many documents, so be ready for that! Buying a house involves several documents and acknowledgements. Most people feel excited and relieved on closing day. All of the nervousness is gone, and you’ll finally get the keys!

Conclusion

These are the five key steps to buying a house. As you can see, it’s not incredibly complicated. Rather, it’s just involved, because there are many details in each of the steps. My job as a real estate agent is to make sure you’re aware of everything that’s going on, so that you don’t feel like you’re in the dark. I spend time making sure every detail is taken care of so that you can focus on your family and on getting ready to move into the home you eventually buy.

Contact me if you’re looking for a real estate agent in Calgary. You can also find me on Facebook, or take a look at the current featured properties on my website. If you have any questions on buying a house, leave me a comment below!

How Much Mortgage Can I Really Afford?

The first question people have after making a decision to start looking for a house is usually, “How much can I/we afford to borrow?” It’s a good question, and there is a lot that goes into it. You’ll need to work with a lender to determine how much you can technically afford. But then you’ll also need to think about how much mortgage you can realistically afford given how comfortable of a lifestyle you want to have.

how much mortgage

You start by determining how much you can repay every month based on your debt, income, and expenses. Then, you’ll want to look at some other factors so that you don’t end up in a situation that’s uncomfortable financially. Once you have that information, you’ll be able to clearly see how much mortgage you can afford. When you know your price range, the home buying process will be much easier and more enjoyable overall!

How much can you repay?

What lenders look at

Lenders will consider a number of different factors to determine how much mortgage you can afford. What they want to know is, “Can you afford to repay the loan?”

That means a lender is going to look at your credit history, your income, and potentially your future income as well. Lenders will also look at the cost of your home, its value, and its forecasted value. Finally, and probably most importantly, lenders are going to look at how much you already owe to other creditors, including credit card companies.

Lenders will use all of this information to calculate a debt-to-income ratio. By definition, debt-to-income is “a measure of how much of what you earn goes to pay debts each month.” (Read morea about it at Whichmortgage.ca).

In doing this, lenders will come up with two figures: a Gross Debt Service ratio and a Total Debt Service ratio. The Gross Debt Service ratio includes only the direct costs of homeownership, which include things like potential mortgage payment, property taxes, heating costs, fees, etc. The Total Debt Service ratio adds in any existing debt you owe.

The simplest way to think about this is “how big is your debt compared to your income?” If your debt is more than your income, you probably won’t have much ability to repay it all.

What you should be looking at

You should also be looking at and considering some things before you take out what will probably be the biggest loan of your life. When considering how much mortgage you can afford, ask yourself if you will feel comfortable with the proposed monthly payment. Maybe you can technically afford it. But paying it every month might be difficult because you’ll have to work more hours or won’t be able to take vacation very often. Or you won’t be able to travel as much as you’ve done in the past.

Hidden costs of homeownership

If you’re used to renting, living with your parents, or living with a roommate, you might be surprised at how much it actually costs to own a home!

Here’s just a short list of the things you’ll be required to pay for. Remember, when you own a home, you are responsible for every part of it, from the foundation to the roof. Even when you have an association that takes care of certain issues, the fee you pay is still what covers the cost.

  • Heating, cooling, and plumbing costs
  • Property taxes
  • Condo or association fees
  • Appliances (washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, etc.)
  • Maintenance of appliances
  • Landscaping and lawncare
  • The driveway or garage
  • Upgrades
  • Installation

Pros and Cons of Using Mortgage Affordability Calculators

You can use a mortgage affordability calculator to help you determine how much mortgage you can really afford. Like most free tools out there, there are pros and cons to using them. Overall, they are great to use if you need a quick picture of whether or not home ownership fits in your budget or not.

Here are the pros:

  • You can play with the numbers to get a range of how much mortgage you can afford.
  • Using a calculator, you can quickly compare different home values against each other.
  • You can get a realistic picture of your total expenses.
  • Some calculators will provide realistic interest rates so you don’t have to hunt for them.

On the flip side, there are just a few downsides to mortgage affordability calculators. For example:

  • The results of a mortgage calculator can be deceiving, especially if you make a mistake while entering information and you don’t realize it.
  • You may overestimate your financial needs, and then be discouraged and think you can’t afford a mortgage.
  • Or worse, you may overestimate your ability to repay by not being realistic about your existing and future expenses.

At the end of this article there is a list of five different mortgage affordability calculators you can use. Play around with a few – it never hurts to use more than one.

3 Tips on Taking Out a Mortgage Loan

  • Factor in the hidden costs. Remember to think through the fact that homeownership is going to change your finances dramatically. There are property taxes to pay, and you may have condo fees if you buy a condo. Also, unless you buy a brand new house where everything is under warranty, you have to assume that you’ll have maintenance costs. And even when you buy a brand new house, everything in it is still yours. If it breaks, you have to fix it. You’ll have to be ready for anything and everything that might come up.
  • Keep in mind your need to live comfortably. Don’t take on a huge mortgage loan at the cost of everything else. You still want to have some money left over to live. Don’t forget that you have to eat, buy clothes, shop for the holidays, and take the occasional trip. If you have school tuition or expenses to pay, consider those costs, too.
  • When in doubt, keep saving for a better down payment. If you realize that you can’t afford the type of house you really want because the mortgage is too high, then save more of a down payment. (Tip: See my article on Creative Ways to Save for a Down Payment). The more you put down, the smaller your monthly mortgage payment will be.

Mortgage Affordability Calculators

Here’s a list of mortgage affordability calculators you can use to determine how much mortgage you can afford. If you have questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

Conclusion

Home buying is a long process with a lot of steps, and many of the steps have to do with securing your financing. Hopefully this article gives you some good places to start. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your homeownership expenses are going to go beyond the mortgage payment, so make sure you are ready financially.

Ask Jen: Are you a first time home buyer with questions about the process? I’d love to answer it for you. Send me your question and I’ll feature it on my blog. Also, if this article was helpful to you, subscribe to the blog so that you get notified of new posts when they are published.

How the New Alberta Home Improvement Rebates Program Works

On April 28, Energy Efficiency Alberta launched a brand new Home Improvement Rebates program that could save you money every month in energy costs. Not only that, you could get reimbursed for your investment – up to $3,500.

Alberta Home Improvement Rebates Program

The Home Improvement Rebates program is a new initiative to help homeowners reduce energy consumption by installing home improvement products or buying certain energy efficient appliances. Not all of them are eligible for the program, but examples include insulation, water heaters, LED lights, timers, and programmable thermostats.

I think this is a useful program for a couple of reasons.

  1. These types of products and appliances are smart buys regardless of whether or not you get a rebate. They save money because they save energy, and they usually last longer. Upfront they may costs a little more, but down the line, they are always worth it.
  2. More and more people want to invest in energy efficient homes that have upgraded appliances and systems. If you’re even considering selling in the near future, this program is a way for you to make your home more desirable without costing you much.

How to Get Low-Cost or Free Home Improvement Rebates

The new Home Improvement Rebates program actually has three different types of rebates you can get. The first is a rebate for having certain energy saving appliances or systems installed in your home. You have to use a certified Alberta-based contractor, but if you do, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in installation costs by going through the program.

The second type of rebate is an online rebate. Certain appliances, including refrigerators, thermostats, and washer/dryers qualify for online rebates. That means that even if you don’t have something installed by a certified contractor, you could get a rebate just for purchasing it.

The program also includes a third type of rebate, which is an instant rebate. Some products – ones that you and I use all the time – are now going to have “instant” rebates which just means that they have a built in reduced cost. You can now buy “LED lights, programmable thermostats, water-saving devices, smart power bars, and heavy-duty timers” and receive instant rebates at certain retail stores (Source).

There’s a lot more detail to the home improvements rebate program than I cover here. If you’re interested, they have a web page that can answer all of your questions: https://www.efficiencyalberta.ca/home-improvement/.

No-Charge Energy Efficient Products and Installation

Another offering by Energy Efficiency Alberta is the Residential No-Charge Energy Savings Program. With this program, you don’t even have to purchase anything – the products are completely free.

If you qualify, an installer from Energy Efficiency Alberta will upgrade old appliances or products to new, more energy efficient ones. You’ll get to keep any products they install free of charge. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the benefits of having a reduced energy bill. That’s incredible news for homeowners who need to upgrade their homes but can’t because of the cost.

Not everyone will qualify, but it’s worth registering so that you can see if you do. The process involves having someone come out to your home to walk through it and determine if there are opportunities to upgrade to more energy-efficient products.

To register, click this link and follow the instructions. If you’re curious about the list of no-charge products, you can review it here: https://www.efficiencyalberta.ca/residential-no-charge/products/.

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

I touched on this a little earlier, but one of the reasons it’s so important to consider upgrading your home is that doing so now may help you resell later. No one can predict the market, of course, but the reality is that a lot of homebuyers are looking for ways to cut costs and save energy. Energy-efficient homes cost less to heat, cool, and maintain. That makes them more desirable.

1. Switch to LED lights

Energy efficiency can be as simple as changing the lighting choices. LED lights are popular and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent (traditional) light bulbs. They use less energy, also, which is the main reason so many people are buying them. They do cost more money than regular lights, but the savings is realized over time.

2. Upgrade your appliances

Upgraded, energy-efficient appliances are a good investment for your family as well as for the future sale of your home. Like lights, they will last longer and use less energy. As an example, you can buy washers that use half the amount of water that less efficient ones use. That wasn’t an option not too long ago, but in recent years, companies like Energy Star have come up with ways to make appliances more efficient. Less water and less energy consumption can mean more money in our pockets as homeowners.

3. Get a programmable thermostat (or start using the one you have)

There’s no reason to keep your house at the same temperature all day unless you’re always home. Instead, you can program a thermostat to lower or raise the temperature in your home at certain times of the day. For example, in the summer, you can set the thermostat to a higher temperature when you leave for work, and then have it automatically begin cooling the house as you’re driving home. This is one of the easiest, yet often overlooked, ways to save energy and money.

Many people have programmable thermostats in their homes already, but just don’t know how to use them. If you’re one of those people, I get it! Some of them are really tricky to figure out. But it’s worth finding out how to program your thermostat so that you are not wasting energy. Here’s a very useful article that explains how to program most thermostats.

Conclusion

The reason people tend to shy away from making the necessary upgrades is that these products and appliances can cost way more than people typically want to spend. Fortunately, the new Home Improvement Rebate program should help with some of that cost. If you’ve previously considered upgrading but decided not to, the new program might be worth looking into.

What do you think about the new Home Improvement Rebates program?

Ask Jen: Do you have a question about home buying, selling, or home ownership in general? I’d love to answer your question and feature it here on my blog. Just send your question to me via my contact page, or connect with me on Facebook. I’ll be publishing a new post every week.

 

10 Creative Ways to Save for a Down Payment on Your First Home

If you’re a first time home buyer and you’re not quite sure how you’re going to afford a home, you’re not alone. A new home is a huge investment that most people have to save up for. The good news is that there are so many creative ways to save for a down payment. Some of the ways take longer than others. But believe me when I say this: you will get there!

creative ways to save money for a down payment

These ten are just the beginning. A couple of things to keep in mind are that you will likely need more than just the down payment. There are other costs to consider, including the cost to move your things to your new place. Legal fees and property taxes are also paid upfront, so you will need money to cover those costs. You’ll also likely want new furniture inside the home and outside, too. So make sure you consider everything and come up with a realistic amount.

10 Creative Ways to Save for a Down Payment

1) Open a TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account)

If you’re looking for a simple way to put money away for your new house, open up a tax free savings account at your local bank. You can have the money auto debited from your cheques every month, so that you don’t even have to think about it. You might find it’s easier to do it this way. Eventually you won’t notice the money coming out. You can go to your bank and set this up.

2) Start an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan)

If you start a registered retirement savings plan, and begin contributing to it regularly, you’ll find that this is a great way to save for you house. The reason is simple: the government will allow you, as a first time home buyer, to borrow from it, tax free, so long as you pay it back within 15 years. You may have already started an RRSP. If so, definitely consider using that as a way to put money toward your house.

3) Give up a coffee a day.

How much do you spend on a cup of coffee at Starbucks? $3? $5? If you buy a cup a day, imagine how much money you’d have at the end of the month. 30 days times $5 is $150. This is probably the easiest of ways to save money.

Finding little ways to cut costs is one of the most creative ways to save for a down payment. Even if you don’t drink coffee, think about saving $5 a day. You can put it in a coffee jar or something at home. Or, you can enroll in an auto-save option at your bank. $5 a day doesn’t seem like much but it really adds up.

4) Pack a lunch instead of buying one.

Eating out is expensive over time. Lunch is something you can easily make at home and take to work. Unless working lunches are part of your job, try making your lunch at home and bringing it to work. While you’re trying to save for a new house, every little bit counts.

This is a small thing that can have a big impact. If you’re not creative in the kitchen, it’s okay. There are some really interesting ideas online for packed lunches. Of course, the simplest thing is to just eat left overs. If you’re truly looking for creative ways to save for a down payment, you have to consider all of your options and the things you might need to do differently.

5) Pay cash instead of credit (saves on interest).

When you’re saving up to buy a new house, the last thing you want to do is go into more debt. Unless you make a very good habit of paying off your credit card balance every month, avoid using credit while you’re trying to save. You’ll pay more for things you buy on credit.

Also, think about this: when you make yourself pay with cash, you tend to be more frugal. Studies have shown that people are actually less conscious of their spending habits when they use credit cards. But when using cash, you’re likely to feel it more, because the money is physically leaving your hand or bank account. In this way, you may save money just by making fewer purchases.

6) Hold a garage sale or sell items on Kijiji.

Try selling some of the things you no longer need. You can have a garage sale if you have the space, or use Kijiji to list your items for free online. You might even be able to talk your parents or friends into letting you sell some of their old stuff, too!

Consignment can be a good way to make a little cash, too. Old wedding gowns you no longer need or nice clothing that will sell for a lot of money does well on consignment, and so do antiques and nice furniture.

 7) Ask for money instead of gifts.

If your birthday is coming up or Christmas is coming soon, ask your relatives to send money instead of gifts. Most people are happy to give you what you need, they just don’t always know what that is unless you ask. Let them know you’re trying to save up for a new house, and in lieu of gifts this year, you would really appreciate cash.

The same is true if you’re getting married and plan to buy a house right away. Tell your wedding guests your plans, and instead of registering for gifts, ask them to donate toward your down payment. You may end up very surprised at how generous your friends and family can be!

8) Get a second job.

Working just a few extra hours every week can help you save money for a house very quickly. If you were to save all of the money from a second job at $15/hr, and you work 5 hours per week, you’d have $1,800 in 6 months. Put all of the money from your second job into your new home – not a vacation, or eating out, or extra pampering. Even though you might really want those things, you have to focus in order to save money.

If you can work a second job in the evening, great. Serving/bar-tending, landscaping, pet sitting, driving an Uber, etc. are all creative ways to save for a down payment. But you can also try working online for more flexibility. Virtual assistant work is easy to find and usually pays well. Remember, just a handful of hours per week is all you need to earn some money to use for your new house.

9) Negotiate down payment plans with builders.

While this might not be one of the most creative ways to save for a down payment, it’s one of the best. One reason new home sales are great is that you can often work with builders regarding financing. Some builders will allow you to pay as little as $5,000 in cash upfront. Then, you would pay them a separately monthly payment for the remainder.

I actually specialize in new home sales and can help you understand this a little bit more, so if you have questions about this, reach out to me so I can help!

10) Talk to mom and dad.

You know your parents better than I do, but I can say from experience that it’s not uncommon for first time home buyers to get a little gift or loan from their parents to help buy a house. Get creative! Maybe there’s something you can do for them to offset the cost, or perhaps there is a gift or inheritance coming that you can get a little bit early.

Buying a home is such an accomplishment, and many parents are proud when their children buy their first one. Therefore, your parents may be happy to help you into your first home and may give you or loan you some money toward it.

Conclusion

You know that buying a home is a big investment. And, it takes cash upfront. Again, it’s not abnormal to have to take time to save money for a house, so don’t feel alone. Most people have to. Hopefully, you’ve gotten some new, creative ways to save for a down payment from this post. If you try more than one of them at the same time, you’ll have savings in the bank before you know it.

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! My name is Jennifer McIntosh and I am a real estate agent specializing in new home sales and first time home buyers. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook or check out houses for sale

My New Blog is Live!

I’m so excited to launch a brand new blog here on my website, The Heart of Real Estate. This has been a long time coming! If you know me, you know I’ve been an agent for over 23 years. So, I have a ton of insights to share with home buyers, sellers, and investors about buying and selling homes here in Calgary.

ask jennifer mcintosh

The first post will go live tomorrow morning (May 2) so be sure to bookmark my website so you can get back here easily. I’ll also share my posts on my Facebook page.

Curious about what I’ll be posting here? Well, I’ll be sharing a lot of helpful advice about the home buying process. Over the years, I’ve been asked hundreds of questions from home buyers and sellers. I’ll cover a lot of those questions on this blog.

Here are some examples of the posts that are coming soon:

  • What are some creative ways to save for a new home?
  • How can you add home improvements to a mortgage?
  • How do I get a mortgage, and what should I be looking for?
  • Why are some communities are better than others?

Another really fun thing I’m going to be doing is a series called “Ask Jen.” This is where I’ll answer YOUR questions about home buying and selling, mortgages, communities, and more. I’m always looking for new content on this blog, so send me your questions and I’d love to answer them here. If you know someone who is getting ready to buy or sell a house and has a question, send that to me, too!

In the meantime, connect with me on Facebook if you haven’t already, and be on the lookout for my upcoming post!

Hey! Do we know each other? If you’ve landed here and we haven’t had a chance to meet, I’m Jennifer McIntosh. If you’re a homebuyer, seller, or investor in need of a real estate agent in Calgary, I’d love to meet you.

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Testimonials

An Ambitious and very hard working lady! Refreshing to be around her with her hilarious and down to earth personality! Wouldn’t trust any other person when it comes to looking for or selling my home.

Palvisha Khah

Most personable, down to earth and caring agent I’ve met!  Truly one of a kind – always has customers best interest at heart.

Emily Prue’homme

What a breath of fresh air to deal with. Jennifer is the perfect mixture of friendly and professional.  She’s my go-to for selling my home, and recommending to friends and family.  Love her!  You won’t be disappointed.

Kerri Seguin

Jennifer – what can I say!! Amazing to deal with, very knowledgeable, professional and friendly! Building our home with her taking care of us was great!  I would recommend her to all my family and friends to work with

Teresa Heatley – Rudoski

Jennifer keeps her clients interests at the forefront of her listings. She understands how stressful a move can be, and does her best to ensure her customers’ listings stand out from the crowd.

Ellen Harris Mann

Jennifer – my deal closed and the owner took possession (as you know) on Friday. THANK YOU!  For all you did in taking this crazy journey with me in selling my place. We met you in the purchase of our new home, and selected you as our agent to sell our old home.  You have been professional, honest, caring and a wonderful to help navigate the difficult 2016 real estate landscape. You have exceeded my expectations in a real estate agent. Thank you so much.

Adam