How Much Home Can You Afford?

Budgeting your Carrying Costs

Finding the right property at an affordable price can sometimes be a challenge.  When it comes to deciding just how much home you can afford, there are two kinds of expenses you’ll need to consider – the ongoing or ‘carrying’ costs of the home, and your closing costs.

The first step in determining your carrying costs is to get pre-approved for a mortgage.  By pre-qualifying for a mortgage, you can find out up front what your maximum mortgage payment might be, even before your home search begins.  Your lender will look at your earnings, credit history and any outstanding debt, and help you determine what size loan you qualify for, at what rate, and what your regular mortgage payments would be.  Being pre-qualified offers another advantage, since it puts you in a stronger negotiating position when you go into an offer with pre-approved financing.

Once you’re pre-approved, the next step is determining what you actually want to spend on your mortgage payments.  Remember, your pre-approved mortgage establishes the maximum amount of loan you’d qualify for, but you may decide that you want to aim at a smaller loan, with a lower payment.

Be realistic and think about your lifestyle.  Although it may seem feasible to handle a sizable mortgage payment at first, keeping it up may eventually require cutting back on other expenses, such as clothing, or entertainment.  Make sure that if you plan to make any concessions in these areas, you’re prepared to live with your decision until there’s a change in your income.  Owning a home can give you a tremendous amount of pleasure and personal satisfaction, as long as you plan for adequate resources to enjoy it with some peace of mind.

With your estimated mortgage payment in mind, the next step is to determine your total carrying costs.  Add up all your estimated monthly costs, such as the mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, heating costs and other utilities.  Then add a figure to cover yearly maintenance and upkeep.  Consider both the interior and exterior of the house, as well as the garage, driveway, landscaping and all other aspects of the property when you arrive at this figure.

When preparing your budget, be sure that you also make allowance for a “contingency fund” to cover unexpected expenses such as a major repair or the replacement of a large ticket item, such as an appliance. Life sometimes has a way of surprising us, and you don’t want to start out with a budget that’s so tight, there’s no room for the unexpected.


Get your property ready for Fall

While some people equate Fall with a time of ending and relative quiet, for many savvy blackberry 660homeowners, it’s anything but! Whether landscaping or exterior tasks, Fall is the ideal time to invest some effort to pay you big dividends next year.

Fall is the best time to take stock of how your lawn and garden fared over the summer and determine what needs adjustment. Don’t wait until spring to try to remember what didn’t do well in its current position. Evaluate what changes you need to make to optimize the beauty and function of your garden and do it now. Transplant what needs to move to more sunny or shady locations and cut back on overgrown beds. Don’t forget a good weeding to stop them from reappearing with a vengeance. Write down the tasks you postpone until next year and pack it away on top of your gardening tools, so you won’t forget when Spring arrives!

Fall isn’t just a time for raking up; it can still be a time for new plantings too. Evergreen trees and shrubs can add to your enjoyment of your property during the winter months and autumn is the optimum time for such plantings. Since they’re in a more dormant phase, evergreens have a far better chance of surviving if planted now versus in hotter months. Check with your nursery for details on evergreen care. Most will recommend that you wrap new evergreens and bushes in burlap to protect them, at least for their first winter.

Fall can also be a good time to plant many varieties of perennials – most of which are on sale now at local garden centres at greatly reduced prices. If you’d like a burst of late season colour, some of the hardier, late-blooming perennials such as asters or mums can extend your garden’s beauty right into Thanksgiving! Of course, planting bulbs such as daffodils and tulips will deliver a gorgeous floral display to herald the arrival of Spring. Your Fall landscaping efforts should also include renewing your soil’s resources to ensure healthy growth next year. A Fall fertilizing treatment of your lawn and garden will bring your soil to optimum levels and ensure a welcoming environment when things come back to life!

In addition to landscaping, your exterior plan should include a walk-around to see what’s in need of maintenance or repair before harsh winter months set in. A thorough power-wash of your walk and driveway will remove harsh chemicals and loose material and let you inspect for cracks and fissures. These should be sealed before freezing temperatures turn water into ice and cause more damage. Do-it-yourself driveway sealers are available from most home improvement outlets or you can contract the job out for a reasonable cost. Your exterior wood surfaces also need protection. Fall is the optimum time for painting and staining, untroubled by insects and oppressive heat. Most paints and stain will dry in any temperature above 10 degrees Celsius. Make sure you ask your paint store manager about the minimum temperature required for the product you choose.


“His and hers” homebuyer tips for couples  


For most couples, buying a home is the most significant purchase they will ever make together.  While the prospect of owning a home is an exciting one, it can often seem overwhelming, especially for those who are new to the real estate process.   From selecting a neighbourhood to deciding how to use a spare room, navigating the world of homeownership together requires some extra work. However, couples will be thankful they put in the additional time and effort when the “sold” sign is posted on the home of both of their dreams.

For those couples looking to purchase a home, Coldwell Banker offers seven simple tips for ‘His and Hers’ homebuying that will help to ensure a “harmonious house hunt” without rocking the relationship:

Get pre-approved for a mortgage. There are few things worse than finding the perfect home, only to find out that it costs more than you can afford. Before beginning the house hunt, Coldwell Banker recommends getting pre-approved for a loan. A pre-approval lets you know where you fall financially while informing the mortgage company that you’re ready to buy. Additionally, being pre-approved for a loan can help speed up the closing process once an offer has been accepted.

Set a budget. Beyond basic income and savings, there are a number of other financial elements to consider before setting a price range for the new home. Once a couple has decided on a location, they should consider its proximity to their family, jobs and children’s school and then gauge travel costs. The next step is to add up monthly bills, including the couple’s car payments, phone bills, insurance costs, groceries, and credit card payments. This total estimated cost of living should be factored into the couple’s overall budget.

Get on the same page. Whether it is a quiet neighbourhood or a two-car garage, everyone has their own “must haves” when it comes to the home of their dreams. For a couple looking for a home to share, it is important to discuss each of their essentials before beginning the search. Keep in mind that agreeing on all of the features of a future home will likely be impossible, so be prepared to compromise. Once the list of “must haves” is finalized, your Coldwell Banker real estate professional can help you determine if your expectations are realistic given the homes currently on the market. 

Allocate additional funds. The down payment on a new home is just one of the significant financial aspects of a move.  Even after both people’s belongings are combined there will likely still be a need to purchase furniture and other items like a washer and dryer which will require additional budget. The last thing a couple will want to do is start out their life together with nothing in the bank! 

Be patient. A recent Coldwell Banker survey found that women are likely to make up their minds faster than men. Almost 70 percent of women surveyed decided the day they walked into the house that it was right for them, while 32 percent of men needed two or more visits. It will likely take multiple trips to the home before both members of the couple decide it is “the one.” If a spouse needs more time, be patient and try not to pressure them.

Take inventory of everyone’s belongings. Before a couple moves into a new home together, each person should make a list of the furniture they plan to keep and compare it with their partner’s. There may not be a need (or a place) for three televisions and two kitchen tables in the new house. Consider selling unwanted pieces of furniture online, or holding a garage sale.  The money made is sure to be put to good use on purchases for the new home.

Sign a contract. For a couple who has yet to walk down the aisle, it is important to contact a real estate attorney before closing on a home. A contract should be drawn up outlining who is responsible for what expenses and how assets will be divided in the event of a split.


Home Energy Saving Ideas

Energy costs can take a big bite out of any homeowner’s budget, so you need to know how to be energy-wise.  Here are a few quick and easy ways to cut your energy bills with a minimum of time and effort.

One of the biggest energy expenses is your home heating bill, so let’s start there.  You can significantly reduce your energy costs by installing a thermostat with an automatic timer that allows you to set the temperature back by a few degrees at bedtime, and returns the temperature to a more comfortable level before you get up.  After all, why heat the whole house, when an extra quilt will keep you toasty and warm for a lot less money?  On the flip side, when the temperatures ramp up, pre-set timers can reduce air conditioning costs too.

Similarly, if you have a room that isn’t used every day, such as a guest room or workshop, consider shutting the air register, and closing the door until you plan to use the space. Your furnace or air conditioning system won’t have to work so hard and you’ll pocket the savings while the rest of your home environment stays in the comfort zone.

You can also reduce the effect of ambient solar heating in summer and heat loss in winter with lined draperies or installing window blinds.  Adding weather-stripping to seal drafts around doors can also result in big energy savings.

Insulation is an energy saver that works hard for you all year long.  A one-time investment keeps your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter and the cost of installation can be recaptured in energy savings.  Many local utilities and  government bodies offer special incentives or rebates to help offset the cost of energy-saving improvements, so be sure to investigate what options are available in your market.  Your Coldwell Banker real estate professional may also be a helpful source of information about local programs.

Old appliances may also be draining more power than you might think.  Did you know that a refrigerator is one the biggest energy users in the house?  So, if you have an old appliance that needs repair, don’t just look at the cost of fixing it, also think about how much energy it uses. Today’s newer appliances are far more energy efficient than their predecessors, so buying used appliances or repairing an old unit may not be the bargain that you think it is!


family_with_signriderprevTop Six Personal, Social and Emotional Benefits Highlighted For many people, owning a home marks a significant step on the path to achieving the “Canadian Dream.”  

Investing in a home offers immeasurable benefits that reach far beyond financial gains.  When you purchase a home, you are making an investment in yourself, your family and your future.

  1. Pride of Ownership: Pride of ownership is possibly the greatest benefit of all when it comes to owning a home. The feelings of accomplishment, safety and security that result from home ownership cannot be matched by any other purchase or investment.
  1. Shelter: Buying a home is more than the sum of mortgage payments.  Shelter is a basic need of human beings, yet the concept is often overlooked in the home buying process.  Remember, a home is a place where one lives and raises a family.  Plus, it’s the only investment you can live in!
  1. Independence: A key difference between renting and owning is the flexibility a homeowner has in adapting a living space to individual tastes and needs. That means being able to decorate, renovate, landscape and add personal touches to one’s surroundings– without having to check in with a landlord first.  Home improvements also have the potential to increase the value of a home, making “independence” a personal and financial benefit of homeownership.
  1. Stability:  One of the biggest rewards of being a homeowner is the financial stability it provides.  Knowing exactly what your payments will be each month throughout the term of your mortgage enables you to budget and plan for other things you’ll want to do in life.  While certain factors such as real estate taxes may fluctuate in some communities, the bulk of home-related expenses will remain stable and predictable.   
  1. Community: When you buy a home, you buy a share in a community – a social benefit rarely experienced by renters who are often considered “transient’, even after living in the same place for many years.  Developing friendships with neighbors and feeling one has a place in the community fosters a safe and secure environment for oneself and one’s family.   Furthermore, findings published by the NAR, reported that communities with higher home ownership had better educational performance, lower crime rates, more household participation in civic affairs and better household health.
  1. Improved Quality of Life: Without question, owning a home has its financial advantages.  The true benefit of which is the improved quality of life a boost in personal finances can provide.  Whether that means having additional money to spend on necessities like food and utilities or being fortunate enough to afford luxuries like a new car or a vacation, purchasing a home is making an investment in a better future.

Staging your Home for First-Time HOMEBUYERS

House Appeal:

When it comes to staging a home for sale, it is important that sellers create a warm and inviting atmosphere that will appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.  Staging a home for first-time homebuyers is easier than one might think.

Below are seven simple staging tips from The Mash Team to help boost a home’s appeal and give owners the competitive edge necessary when selling a home.

Stage rooms with one purpose. Extra rooms that have a mishmash of uses can confuse and even deter first-time homebuyers, so staging rooms with one purpose is vital. Keep in mind that these buyers are generally young couples without children, and rooms should be presented as areas equipped to meet their needs. So turn those playrooms and storage dens into a home office or the kids’ bedroom into a guest bedroom. 

  • Tackle the easy “do-it-yourself” projects. To ensure that a home is in tip top shape make sure to replace outdated kitchen and bathroom fixtures, apply a fresh coat of paint to a worn wall and refinish the kitchen cabinets. Providing a sleek and modern look wherever possible can make a huge difference in the eyes of first-time homebuyers. To learn more about what home styles are “in fashion,” ask a local Coldwell Banker agent about the styles seen in homes that are selling in the area, and purchase a current interior design magazine for ideas.
  • Focus on the living areas. A living roomis an area in which potential first-time buyers should be able to envision themselves entertaining friends or gathering with their family. With that in mind, homeowners should make the area appear as large and functional as possible by removing any unnecessary furniture and decorations. 
  • Make sure the master bedroom appeals to both sexes. The master bedroom of a couple’s first home is often the first bedroom they will share. When staging this room, make sure that it appeals to buyers of both sexes.  Remove any feature that seems too gender-specific and paint the walls a neutral color. 
  • Clear the room of family portraits. First-time homebuyers are looking for a home they can picture their family living in, not the previous owner’s. Coldwell Banker (DBA) recommends taking down family portraits, personal collections and knickknacks. Removing these items will also eliminate clutter and ensure that people are looking at the house for sale, not at the photos from the last family vacation. 
  • Furnish the home, but don’t overdo it. While an empty home looks spacious, it is hard for new buyers to visualize their belongings in a home if they are staringat ceilings, floors and bare walls. Leave the basic components of each room, but make sure there is still plenty of open space. 
  • Don’t forget to spruce up the yard. First impressions often play a role in a consumer’s decision making process.  Make sure the home’s exterior is inviting by trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn and painting faded window trim. Couples looking for their first home often have less yard work under their belts and will appreciate the seller’s attention to detail.

When Less Is More: Downsizing With Style

While moving into a home of any size can be a large undertaking, for buyers looking to downsize, the transition is often more challenging. But whether they are empty nesters requiring less space, young professionals moving to a new city for job opportunities or families looking to save, more and more buyers in today’s real estate market are opting to downsize.

Though moving to a smaller space may involve making a few sacrifices, having less room does not mean having to scale back on style. In fact, a homeowner with minimal square footage to work with can maximize their home’s overall charm just by using a bit of creativity.

Below are eight effective tips from The Mash Team for how to downsize with style: 

  • Keep, sell, donate, and trash. Although it is difficult to part with possessions, doing so is often a must for anyone planning to move into a smaller home. Begin by dividing belongings into keep, sell, donate, and trash categories. Post items for sale online, or hold a garage sale; offer unwanted furniture and clothes to a friend or family member or donate it to local charities. Knowing that others will appreciate these things might make parting with the items a bit easier.
  • Scale it back. Unless a homeowner is trying to make a dramatic statement with an extra-large couch or coffee table, a small space will likely look and feel better with moderately-sized or even slightly smaller furnishings. In fact, a room with furniture that appropriately fits the space will actually seem larger. It is all about scale.
  • Look for multipurpose living room furniture. A piece of furniture with more than one purpose is a downsizer’s dream. Coffee tables and ottomans that double as storage cubbies allow guests a place to rest their drinks and feet while the host’s belongings remain hidden underneath. And who needs a guest room when the couch has a pull-out bed?
  • Don’t just dream of storage, dream on it. Platform and storage beds are ideal for storing items that are used infrequently such as seasonal clothing, spare bedding and linens. Plus, they free up valuable space in bedroom closets, especially those that are shared!
  • “Build” a wall with a simple screen.  The smaller the home, the more purposes each room serves. But this does not mean a homeowner must eat where they sleep. Buyers opting to downsize should consider putting up a screen to divide a room with more than one use into sections. The room will still feel open but the screen will provide some much needed privacy and separation.
  • Consider hanging curtains. Just because the new home has fewer windows does not mean its owner has to settle for boring window treatments. Hanging curtains on the side of the window pane can make it appear larger, and curtains that run from floor to ceiling can create the illusion of height.
  • Maximize wall space.Homeowners who have run out of floor space and need additional room should look to the walls. Shelves that are hung on walls or above doorways will provide more space and serve as stylish room accents.  Furthermore, while it sounds simple, the addition of a mirror on any wall will add depth and light to a room, making even the smallest space seem larger. Mirrors also add elegance and charm to a home’s décor, often at a reasonable price.
  • Utilize new technology. New technology, such as flat screen televisions and laptop computers, allows for more space in the living or office areas while adding a modern touch to the home.



Home value is top of mind for many homeowners, particularly as the housing market begins to show early signs of recovery from the recent downturn.  Renovations and remodeling can play a critical role in both increasing the value of a home and ensuring that it stands out to potential buyers.

At a time when most consumers are looking to do more with less, few homeowners may be ready to commit the thousands of dollars it can take to fully redo even a single room.  Before breaking out the tool belt, The Mash Team advises homeowners to check out the free online tools that can help them chart their home remodeling efforts, such as “HomeTracker” available at

The professionals at The Mash Team suggest the following eight affordable home improvements for potentially increasing the overall value of a home, without breaking the budget:

  • Reface Kitchen Cabinets. Kitchen updates are among the smartest remodeling projects when it comes to “upping” the resale value of a home. But homeowners do not need to spring for an entire new cabinet set to improve the room’s appeal. Refacing existing cabinets, applying a fresh coat of paint or replacing tarnished pulls and knobs with new hardware might be just the quick fix a kitchen needs to make it look and feel like new.  
  • Improve the Lighting. Updating lights and lighting fixtures is another simple enhancement that does not require a major investment. Replacing old bulbs with stronger, more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs will brighten up the house and make it more inviting – while cutting down on energy costs over the long term. In addition, replacing recessed lights in a dining or living room with an affordable chandelier or installing accent lighting to draw attention to artwork or other room features can create an entirely fresh ambiance.
  • Freshen up a Fan. An updated ceiling fan can give a room a more contemporary feel, but purchasing a new one isn’t always a necessity when looking to upgrade. Improving an existing fan is simpler than homeowners might think and does not have to come at a high price.  First, try unscrewing the fan blades and turning them over. Typically, blades have alternate colors or patterns on the reverse side. If not, simply add a coat of paint and reattach. One can even install new pull chains to complete the look as well as match the fan accents to new lighting fixtures or cabinet hardware. 
  • Hang More Mirrors. It sounds simple, but the addition of a mirror on any wall adds depth and light to a room, making even the smallest space seem larger. Mirrors also add elegance and charm to a home’s décor, and often at a reasonable price. 
  • Break Out the Paint Brushes. Applying a couple coats of paint can make a remarkable difference and is always a low-cost, high-return project. The Mash Team recommends a warm, neutral wall color that can make a room seem more spacious, create a more modern feel and appeal to a wider variety of buyers. 
  • Install Laminate Flooring. Even if the cost of hardwood or tile floors is out of the question, for under $5 per square foot, homeowners can easily install laminate flooring in their kitchens, hallways and bathrooms – provided that floors are level with those in adjacent rooms. Laminate flooring can hide chipped tiles or old linoleum and give the room a more modern feel.
  • Refinish Your Appliances. Purchasing brand new matching appliances can cost thousands of dollars. However, for a few hundred dollars, an appliance refinisher can re-enamel the surfaces of appliances covering up any out-dated colors that may be ruining the look of your kitchen.
  • Spruce up Your Home’s Exterior. When planning to put money into a house, homeowners should not overlook simple exterior renovations that can add substantial worth and attract more buyers. A freshly-mowed lawn, a clean, even walkway and a few well-placed bushes can make a huge difference. If you don’t have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper on a one-time basis to plant some shrubs or give the front yard a good cleanup.

*Homeowners who are not comfortable taking on a home improvement project themselves should always hire a qualified professional.


The Mash Team Provides Consumers with a ‘Cheat Sheet’ to Understand Common Terms of the Trade

 Entering into the world of real estate can be very exciting, but often times, understanding the terminology can be complicated.  To help consumers better understand real estate terminology, the The Mash Team has prepared a short summary to assist home buyers and sellers in navigating their way through the housing marketplace. The following is a list of 10 common terms or phrases associated with the real estate process.

  1. Appraisal: A home appraisal is a survey of a home by a licensed professional for his or her opinion of the property‘s value (i.e., what a home will likely sell for on the open market). In most cases, an appraisal is done for a bank when a home buyer is applying for a loan for the home. The home appraisal is a detailed report that looks at such items as the condition of the home, the neighborhood and what similar homes in that neighborhood are selling for. An appraisal is not a home inspection (see #7 below). Appraisers only look for major concerns; they do not examine the home’s full condition (i.e., examine the roof, appliances, etc.). An appraisal also differs from a Broker’s Price Opinion (BPO) or Competitive Market Analysis (CMA), which provide an estimate of a home’s value by making comparisons to similar properties in the area and what they were listed and sold for.  This is usually done for free by the prospective listing agent.  To learn more about appraisals, visit the consumers section of 
  1. Commission:  Commission is the compensation or fee that a real estate agent charges for performing the agreed-upon terms under a brokerage contract.  The commission due for a real estate transaction is negotiable and usually paid from the seller’s funds at closing.  The fee is typically calculated as a percentage of the total sales price and commissions vary from market to market.  Commission is shared between the listing agent and the agent who represents the buyer, but the division is not always a 50/50 split. [Also, agents split their commissions with their brokers.] 
  1. Closing: Closing, or settlement as it sometimes referred to, is the final step in completing a real estate transaction.  The closing date, set during the negotiation phase, usually takes place several weeks after an offer is formally accepted. At this time, ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer and any costs incurred by either the buyer or the seller beyond the price of the property itself are paid.  These additional expenses are known as closing costs and might include recording fees, attorney fees, title insurance premium, etc. Closing typically takes three weeks to 45 days depending on variables such as delays in obtaining documents, clearing title defects, inspection repairs, etc.   
  1. Existing Home Sales: Existing home sales is an economic indicator of both the number and prices of single-family homes, condos and co-op sales over a one-month period – this figure does not include new construction.  Each month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases statistics on sales and prices of existing single-family homes for the nation and four regions. The existing home sales report, which includes footnotes on how the numbers are derived, is available at 
  1. Home Appreciation: Home appreciation is the increase in value of a property over a period of time.  Short-term increases or decreases in value are triggered by factors such as employment rates, interest rates, housing supply, demand, affordability, crime rate, quality of schools in the area and proximity to a city.  Additional factors such as upgrading a home can also result in home appreciation.  What a home is worth depends on these elements, as they directly impact what a buyer is willing to pay for a particular property.While real estate moves in cycles and home values fluctuate regularly, real estate has consistently appreciated over the long term.
  1. Home Equity: Home equity is the value of ownership in a home that represents the current market value of the house — minus any remaining mortgage payments. This growing value is contingent on the property owner paying off the mortgage and the market value of the property appreciating.  When a home is purchased, every dollar put towards the down payment is immediately transferred to the equity in the home.  This is one of the many reasons why saving for a down payment is so important – a significant down payment helps homeowners build equity more quickly.   For example, a home buyer who puts nothing down needs a year of 20 percent appreciation to have as much equity in his property as a buyer who put 20 percent down in a stable market. 
  1. Home Inspection:  Home inspectionis a visual inspection of the structure and components of a home by a qualified professional to find items that are not performing correctly or items that are unsafe. A home inspector’s report will review things, such as the condition of the home’s heating and cooling systems, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure. While the inspection is not meant to be a tool for re-negotiations, many times it becomes one.  Homebuyers should be sure to make a list of items they think should be addressed and present them to their real estate agent in a timely manner.  Often times, the seller will agree to have the problems repaired before closing or accept a new offer that deducts the cost of repairs.
  1. Housing Market: The housing market refers to the supply and demand for houses in a particular country or region.  Factors that affect the housing market include interest rates, the mortgage industry, economic growth, incomes, unemployment rates and population demographic trends.  More specific definitions of “market” include:
  • Buyer’s Market: A buyer’s market occurs when there is a larger inventory of homes available.  In some cases, home appreciation has slowed in the short term, which means that homebuyers have the opportunity to purchase a home at lower prices.
  • Seller’s Market: A seller’s market occurs when demand of for homes is great. In a seller’s market, potential sellers have the opportunity to sell their home at a higher price than in the past due to a limited amount of properties available and a large number of potential buyers demanding them at current prices.  Sellers and home owners are also likely to experience higher appreciation in a seller’s market.
  • Time on Market: The length of time in which a home is listed for sale is known as “time on market.”  On many MLS listing sheets, this is also noted as D.O.M. – Days On Market.
  1. Inventory: Housing inventory is the number of existing homes available for sale each month.  The most closely watched housing inventory measure is a months’ supply, which measures the latest housing supply in relation to housing demand.  A decrease in homes for sale is a sign that the housing market is on its way to recovery, while a large supply of homes still available gives potential buyers more options in choosing the home that best fits their specific needs and wants.
  1. Real Estate Agent:  A real estate agent is a professionally trained and licensed real estate expert who is involved in real estate sales and transactions. Though it is not required to hire an agent when buying or selling a property, the tasks an agent performs can be extremely complex and time-consuming. Therefore, it is in a consumer’s best interest to work with a seasoned real estate professional who can offer invaluable expertise and assistance, as well as insight into the local real estate market and neighborhoods of interest.    
  • A Seller’s Agent: An agent who is hired to sell a home is responsible for marketing the home to potential buyers as well as other agents who are working with buyers. The seller’s agent ensures that the property is in proper viewing order and that he/she is familiar with everything about the property.  Some specific responsibilities include:

o   Assisting the seller in pricing the property appropriately

o   Suggesting any necessary repairs to be taken care of prior to listing

o   Exposing the property to a maximum number of buyers; arranging showings and providing feedback from prospective buyers

o   Explaining all the contingencies, helping the seller to remain objective and make informed decisions based on current trends, market data, and individual needs

o   Presenting and negotiating offers on the seller’s behalf

o   Following through on the contingencies all the way to closing (e.g. making sure that the mortgage loan is applied for and granted within a certain timeframe, the home inspection is done according to schedule, and any necessary repairs are made prior to closing). 

  • A Buyer’s Agent: An agent representing a buyer will need to focus on what the buyer’s needs are, establish what amenities the buyer is looking for, what geographical area(s) are being considered, how prepared the potential buyer is to buy and how much he/she is willing to spend. A buyer’s agent must also have a firm grasp of the surrounding area’s real estate market so that he/she can recommend alternative properties to the buyer. Once the home buying process begins, a buyer’s agent will be responsible for the following:

o   Providing an honest analysis of each property, including both good and bad points

o   Preparing an offer to purchase the property with terms favorable to the buyer

o   Negotiating with the seller to obtain the property at the best price and terms for the buyer

o   Providing the buyer with an estimate of the costs involved in the transaction and assisting the buyer in contacting the professionals necessary to complete the purchase, including mortgage services, title insurance and escrow companies, and home inspectors

o   Monitoring performance of all others involved in the transaction to make sure all services are promptly and professionally carried out

o   Accompanying the buyer to the closing to verify that all terms and conditions of the purchase agreement are met


While moving to a new home is very exciting, relocating can be a stressful process for every member of the family – including pets.  More often than not, a move means that all familiarity is gone.  From where to hide a bone to where to nap in the sun, the pet’s sense of security and comfort has suddenly been altered.

Below are five suggestions from The Mash Team and for how to make moving a little less ruff for four-legged members of the family.

Plan ahead. From start to finish, moving to a new home involves a lot of planning. Pet parents should decide as soon as possible where their pet’s belongings – toys, water dishes, etc., — will go in the new home.  If the pet’s only car ride has been to the veterinarian, pet parents should get him or her accustomed to traveling by bringing them along on visits to the future home, as well as to other places with a more positive association, like a dog park or pet store. 

Take them on a walk-through to get them acclimated. For home buyers with pets in tow, it is important to help their companions become acclimated to their new life early on. During a visit to the future home, pet parents should take their four-legged friend on a personal tour, showing them their new play area and “bathroom.”  By scoping out all of the new scents and sights the pet will start to acquaint itself with their new digs.  Cats may feel more comfortable exploring one room at a time so start in the bathroom, a smaller space, and let them take their time coming out of the carrier to explore. 

Get new pet tags. With doors opening and closing and people entering and exiting, pets will likely have more opportunities to get loose during a move than they did while living in the previous home.  As soon as the contract is signed, home buyers should purchase a new tag with their pet’s name, new address and phone number.  If the pet has a microchip, pet parents should also contact the company and have their pet’s ID information updated in their database. If a pet escaped during the move, it would be very difficult for them to find their way back to a home they barely know. 

Be extra security conscious. The first few days in a new home can spook even the most laid-back pet. Pet parents should make sure their pet’s collar fits securely and, unless the backyard at the new home is securely fenced in, keep their pet on a leash when heading outdoors.   Also, take a full inspection of the house looking for openings a pet can crawl into or other safety hazards before letting the animal explore. Once they are off their leash or out of their carrier, be sure to keep a close eye on them.

Continue with business as usual.  After moving into the new home, pet parents should try to stick to their pet’s daily routine as closely as possible by feeding them, playing with them and walking them at the same times they did while living in the previous home. Such consistency will enable pets to get used to their new life more quickly.

*These tips were adapted from a chapter in The Adopted Dog Bible, written by Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach for, the largest online database of adoptable pets.





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