Archive for August, 2012

How Not to Get Ripped Off When You Renovate Your Home

Monday, August 20th, 2012

How Not to Get Ripped Off When You Renovate Your Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamLooking for a contractor to tackle the renovation of your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home?  We often hear news reports of consumers who have been ripped off by unethical contractors, or left with a huge mess by incompetent and unlicensed workers.  How do you go about finding somebody who will do a great job for a reasonable price?

My assistant recently had two bathrooms in her home upgraded by a contractor.  “We put off the work for far too long because we didn’t know who could do the job for us and were afraid to just pick somebody at random.  Luckily, a friend of mine who is very particular about how her home looks had just had her bathroom renovated.  She recommended we try the fellow she’d used, and we were thrilled with the results.”  Getting a recommendation from someone you know, and seeing the contractor’s work first-hand is by far the best way to hire a contractor for similar work.  But what if you don’t know anyone who has had recent work done?

Two excellent sources of advice for finding a contractor, dealing with the contract, estimates, permits, overseeing the work, payment and everything else that goes with a renovation are the following:

Get written estimates

Check references

Warning flags

Hire qualified tradespeople

Signing the contract

Working with prepaid contractors

Also included is a section explaining what to do if you run into problems, along with a handy contract checklist, and where to find more information.

  • Hiring a Contractor – Fact sheet from Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).  Topics include:

Who do you hire?

Finding and choosing a contractor [excellent list of questions to ask]

Getting estimates or proposals

Get it in writing

The contract

Completion certificate


Working with your contractor

Consumer protection laws

About insurance

Checklist – Hiring a contractor

Scroll down to the bottom of the webpage for even more resources, including a Sample Renovation Contract and a video on Hiring a Contractor.

The Better Business Bureau is also a good source of information.  Take a look at their article “Quick Tips for Hiring a Home Contractor – Do You Know the Red Flags?” and use their database to check out contractors.

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

House Hunting Tips

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHouse Hunting TipsWhether you are seriously in the market to buy a house in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region, or just like to look at pictures and dream, you might find an article about the HGTV show House Hunters informative and entertaining.  

HGTV show inspires tips for real-life seekers(published in the July 28, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal, and other newspapers, as well as online) is a tongue-in-cheek commentary by columnist Mary Beth Breckenridge about her addiction to the TV show House Hunters, in which she notes that buyers seem to toss their common sense when viewing property for sale.  Here is what she advises would-be home purchasers:

“-Granite countertops do not make a kitchen. Yes, they’re lovely, but maybe you should open the drawers to make sure they don’t require the kind of force that dislocates elbows, and turn on the faucet to verify that the water flows in more than a trickle.  Oh, and by the way, there are other kinds of countertops. Very nice ones, in fact.

– Location, location, location. It didn’t become a real-estate cliché without good reason. You can replace carpet and reconfigure rooms, but that freeway noise? You’re stuck with it.

– For the love of God, price a couple of cans of paint before you reject a house over the blue in the baby’s room.

– You might want to think twice about going right from an efficiency apartment to a McMansion. Furniture costs money, you know.

– Five bedrooms for two people? Really?

– Two-storey great rooms look dramatic, but check the heating bills if you live in Minnesota.

– Don’t give the yard short shrift. It takes hours to knock down a wall but years to grow a tree.

– After a few months of two-hour commutes, you’re going to kick yourself for choosing the sparkly new Colonial on the outer reaches of exurbia over the fixer-upper 10 minutes from your job. Even if it does have hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.

– And remember what I said about countertops? Ditto appliances.” 

So, what do you go for when you’re searching for new digs?  Are you one of those people who falls for something shiny, or can you look beyond what’s pretty (or, for that matter, what’s not so pretty) to find what’s practical?  Home stagers exist for a reason, and it’s the wise buyer who is able to resist their tricks!  Learn to distinguish what you absolutely must have from what would be nice to have.  Separate things that can be changed (paint color, counter tops, appliances, other decorative items) from those that can’t (street on which the home is built, its orientation on the property, other permanent construction details).  Do this and you’re sure to find the right home that you’ll be happy to live in for a long time.   (See also my blog article from April 5, 2012 entitled “That Perfect House”.)

Still a little confused about what to look for?  Let me help you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

HELOC Rules Changing

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Do you have a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) against your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere?  This valuable lending tool has many practical uses:

  • Investment borrowing
  • Borrowing for education
  • Rental property investment
  • Home improvements
  • Debt consolidation
  • Alternative to higher-rate loans
  • Down payment source for a second property
  • Emergency backup fund

HELOC Rules Changing | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAt the moment a HELOC can allow homeowners to borrow up to 80% of their home’s appraised value at very reasonable interest rates.  But that is about to change within as short a time period as 3 weeks.

Fran Jenkins, Mortgage Specialist at ATB Financial in Spruce Grove, advises that the OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in Canada) has set out new lending guidelines for all federally regulated lenders to limit new HELOCs to 65% Loan-to-Value.  Banks have until the end of their fiscal years to comply, and for most banks in Canada, that means October 31, 2012 (up to March 31, 2013 for other institutions such as credit unions).  Expect to see most banks moving on this well before the official deadline.

While OSFI says that existing HELOC holders will be grandfathered, you may want to check with your bank to ensure that your HELOC is set up the way you want it, especially if you need a HELOC equaling 66% to 80% of your home’s value.

The new rules also affect readvanceable mortgages.

For more details on the new mortgage rules, read the article “OSFI Toughens Mortgage Underwriting” from Canadian Mortgage

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Flooded Basement? Prevention and Cure!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Flooded Basement? Prevention and Cure! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow dry is your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area basement?  With one of the wettest summers on record upon us, you might be one of those unfortunate homeowners dealing with a flooded basement.  Whether you’re in the process of cleaning up, or you’ve been spared so far and want to stay that way, check out the following for some good advice:

Preventing the Problem

Steps you can take to prevent basement flooding”, published in the Saturday, July 21, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

The Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Prevention”, produced by the City of Edmonton.

Before Flooding”, concise and comprehensive factsheet from Alberta Municipal Affairs, Emergency Management Alberta.

Avoiding Basement Flooding”, factsheet from CMHC.

Protect Your Home From Basement Flooding”, from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction  (includes a handy score sheet to determine your risk for flooding).  View their video “Reduce basement flooding”.

Check out also “City of Spruce Grove Homeowner’s Guide to Lot Grading”  and Spruce Grove’s “Residential Lot Grading and Maintenance” information sheet and regulations.

What to Do After a Flood

Cleaning your home after a flood”, Alberta Health Services.

Flood Disaster: What to do before, during and after flooding”, excellent and detailed booklet from Alberta Municipal Affairs, Emergency Management Alberta.

After the Flood:  A Homeowner’s Checklist”, factsheet from CMHC.

Cleaning Up Your House After a Flood”, CMHC free download.

A Guide to Fixing Your Damp Basement”, available from CMHC for $9.95.

Cleaning Up After the Flood: a guide for homeowners”, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.

City of Spruce Grove Disaster Recovery Program 

See also my blog article entitled “Spring Run-off”, posted April 10, 2012.

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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