Archive for November, 2014

Shop From Your Spruce Grove Home This Holiday Season!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Shop From Your Spruce Grove Home This Holiday Season! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamEdmonton, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland County have some great shopping venues, as local residents know. From West Edmonton Mall’s vast array of stores that includes many world-class retailers to Whyte Avenue’s one-of-a-kind treasures to unique and interesting shops in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, there is something for everyone. (Check out Spruce Grove and Stony Plain shops in my Community Connections Business Directory. Under Jump to Category, click on Shopping, Spruce Grove and Shopping, Stony Plain.)

During the holiday shopping season, though, with time short and weather unpredictable, wouldn’t it be nice to find an easier way than traveling from store to store?

Google “Canada online shopping” and you’ll discover that almost every brick and mortar store has an online presence from which you can order products. Which online stores will give you the best deal on the best quality merchandise and get it to you in a timely and low-cost manner? Once you get hooked on online shopping, you’ll soon learn the answer to this question through personal experience.

Instead of driving to the mall, hunting for a parking spot, being jostled by crowds and waiting in lineups, start by educating yourself about the policies of the online retailers you discover. You can expect that major retailers like Sears, The Bay, IKEA, Best Buy, the Apple store, Costco, Walmart, and the like will work hard to keep customers happy, but this should be true for lesser-known retailers too.

Some things to consider about online shopping:

  • Do the prices appear to be comparable to what you’d pay in a store? (Compare prices by reading The Best Price Comparison Sites in Canada from How to Save Money.ca.)
  • Even better, does the retailer offer special pricing deals to entice you to buy online? (For example, the Body Shop offers 50% off a wide variety of merchandise ordered online during the holiday shopping season, plus free shipping.)
  • Shipping costs can be a killer. Look for deals on shipping. Free is good! Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a wonderful place to buy anything connected to outdoor recreation, regularly offers free shipping during the holiday season when you purchase a certain dollar amount. Excellent service too with fast delivery and accuracy of orders. (Note that you do have to buy a $5 lifetime membership to purchase from them.)
  • When you order online, you want to know that the goods will arrive when you need them and when promised. Amazon Canada, with its enormous selection of goods, is very speedy in the fulfillment of orders. Staples offers next-day delivery.
  • Be sure to read through the returns policies of online retailers you’re considering doing business with. Sears Canada, for example, briefly considered instituting a re-stocking fee, but customers irate at that idea soon persuaded them to keep the current policy of free returns at catalogue sales offices.
  • An important consideration:  What security measures do companies have in place when you hand over your credit card number online? Most of us know to look for the “s” denoting a secure webpage after http in online addresses, but check out the retailer’s security and privacy policies also. Read the article Online Shopping from the Canadian Consumer Handbook for tips on how to protect yourself online.
  • Does the retailer participate in any kind of loyalty or cash-back program? For example, Sears allows you to earn AirMiles or get cash back through Ebates (see below).
  • Tip: Once you become a seasoned online shopper, you may want to shop internationally, but I suggest sticking with Canadian retailers you know to begin with.

Other good sources of information and deals:

  • A good article featuring reviews of some online retailers: Shop Online in Canada from the Huffington Post.  Look for the bonus article about online shopping scams.
  • Groupon:  Get your name added to their emailing list and get ready to save big bucks on all kinds of items, from goods like watches and bed sheets to 50% off restaurant meals to adventure experiences like a hot air balloon ride to vacation trips around the world.
  • AirMiles. If you are already a collector of Air Miles, you know that you can redeem those Air Miles, not just for trips and hotel rooms, but for a huge variety of goods and services that make great gifts.
  • Ebates. Shop at a variety of big-name online retailers, like Amazon, Sears, Walmart, the Bay and many others, and get real cash money back, sent to you by cheque. Heck of a deal!
  • Shop.ca is basically an online shopping mall where you can save money and earn Aeroplan Miles.
  • Beyond the Rack is an online only retailer handling mostly clothing, accessories and home décor items.
  • RedFlagDeals offers flyers, deals, coupons, lists of stores, etc.
  • At SmartCanucks.ca find coupons and all sorts of other deals.
  • Great Canadian Rebates:  As the name suggests, get rebates by shopping at the retailers listed through this website.

Also good to know: Many Canadian retailers present their own version of the US Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales following the American Thanksgiving which just happens to fall this week. Hard to escape the ads but easy to take advantage of the deals!

Got your own online shopping stories or secrets to share?  Please call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Buying Your First Home? 8 Tips to Guide You Through the Process

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Buying Your First Home? 8 Tips to Guide You Through the Process | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHome ownership, whether in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area or elsewhere, is a dream of nearly everyone. Buying that first home can be an exciting but stressful process with many, many things to consider and do. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to be sidetracked by emotional issues instead of focusing on what is practical and long-term.

If you haven’t already done so, please read my previous article “Buying Your First Home? Start With Your Lifestyle” as a sort of “prequel” to the best advice I can give you for making the purchase of a lifetime!

1.  Analyze your lifestyle

Based on your analysis of your lifestyle, make a list of everything you need and want in a home and its location. Split this list into features you absolutely have to have (needs) and features you’d really like to have but could live without (wants). As you create these lists, take special note of things in a home that could be changed. Let’s say you have your heart set on hardwood floors. Once you start actually looking at homes, don’t exclude those that have carpet; flooring is a feature that’s fairly easy to change. On the other hand, if peace and quiet is one of your must-haves, be aware that you can’t change a home’s location on a busy street. You’ll be revisiting these lists often as you start reconciling your needs and wants with what you can afford to buy!

2. Get your finances organized

  • Take a look at your debt situation, because rest assured, potential lenders certainly will! Whatever you do, DON’T make any major changes during the home-buying process, such as changing jobs, buying a new vehicle, or even applying for a new credit card.
  • Any lender is going to want to see a stable employment record and evidence of ongoing steady income, as well as evidence of the amount and source of your down payment.
  • As a first-time buyer, you have the option to use the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan to increase your down payment. This program allows you to take $20,000 out of your RRSP tax-free with 15 years to pay it back. This sounds like a good way to get into a home when money for a down payment is tight but consider this move very carefully. Not only must you pay the money back (and if you don’t, you’ll get a tax wallop), but taking the money now could affect you adversely in your later years.
  • Although it’s possible to get into your own home with much less, it’s recommended that you save a down payment of 20% (that equates to about $50,000 to $100,000 for most people) and that you have an emergency living fund equivalent to 3 months’ income because….
  • Buying a home goes well beyond the purchase price you’ll end up negotiating and your monthly mortgage payment. Aim to buy the house you can afford, which may not be the same as the house you’d like or the house your mortgage broker will lend you money for. Don’t let yourself be house poor. Let’s say you learn from your mortgage broker or specialist that you are approved to purchase a home valued up to $500,000, so … you immediately start looking at houses in that price range. Bad idea! The actual purchase price of your new home is only one of many, many factors that determine its affordability and how that fits into your life. Besides your monthly mortgage payment (which is in a class of its own in terms of complexity since different interest rates, time periods and other terms of your mortgage can make a huge difference in both your monthly payment and the total amount you’ll pay by the time the loan is done), you’ll need ready cash for a long list of things:
        • fees of all kinds, including legal, home inspection, utility hook-ups, etc.
        • moving expenses
        • purchase of furnishings, appliances, home accessories, equipment and tools
        • cost of any changes you’ll want or need to make to your new home (such as removing ugly wallpaper, changing paint colors, repairs of various kinds,landscaping,  even adding things like wall-hung shelves or towel racks)
        • property taxes
        • home insurance
        • utility costs: water, sewer, garbage pickup, recycling, power, gas (renters, especially of apartments, typically don’t pay for many of these things separately from their rent)
        • condo fees, if that is the type of home you’re buying
        • ongoing maintenance costs
        • and, of course, basic living, such as food, clothing, entertainment…!

3. Talk to a lender

This might mean a mortgage specialist at your bank or a mortgage broker. (A REALTOR® can recommend someone to you.) This person will advise you on what you need to do to be pre-approved for a mortgage and will let you know how much house you can afford to buy. Set your upper price limit well below the maximum your lender tells you that you qualify for – about 15 to 20% below. That way, if – no, when – mortgage rates rise, you’ll still be secure in your home instead of scrambling to make the payments. You can thank me later when you find you actually have a bit of money each month to live on!

4. Educate yourself about the local market

Learn about what’s out there in the housing market and location you’re considering. There are two ways to approach this step. In the old days, you would contact a real estate agent and that person would start showing you homes based on what you tell him or her about your needs and financial situation. In this day and age, the search for a home often starts by looking at homes online, either through a site such as realtor.ca, or through the website of a real estate agent (such as mine).  Learn what properties are available, what features they have, and what prices are being asked.

5. Contact a REALTOR®

Look for someone who is experienced, trustworthy and reliable, and who will represent your best interests in order to get you the right house for the right price. (You may have already done this!)

6. As you look at houses with your REALTOR®:

  • Your Realtor should be able to help you see the best features in the homes you view. Even more important is that person’s ability to point out any shortcomings and steer you away from potential problems. How confident are you in your own abilities to see these things? If there’s someone in your life who knows how important buying a home is to you and has the experience to see property clearly, it’s OK to bring that person along!
  • Remember your lists of have to haves, would be nice to haves, and especially things that can be changed. Do not allow glitz and glamour, or the lack thereof, to colour your view of a property. As with people, what’s on the inside may be far more important than surface looks. A good roof, solid construction, a dry basement, and a good neighbourhood count for far more than fancy decorating, finishing and staging. Likewise, don’t allow yucky paint colours, other people’s furniture and ho-hum landscaping to prevent you from getting a good house.
  • Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your financial stomach! It’s not a good idea to even look at homes beyond your price limit (your Realtor can give you some advice here regarding homes new to the market that might have some price wiggle room vs. homes whose prices have already been reduced, and so on). Sure, reality bites, but at least you’ll be able to have steak once in a while instead of wieners and beans!
  • Consider bringing along a camera, making notes about the details of the homes you see, and rating the homes on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • This is the biggest purchase of your life. It’s perfectly OK to take your time in looking and even to ask to view a home that interests you a second time.
  • Funny thing to consider at this time, but also an important thing: Think long-term and think resale. Eventually, you’ll leave this house. Will it pay you back?
  • When you find the right house, stop looking! Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.
  • BUT… Don’t fall in love with that house just yet.  Be prepared to walk away from a deal if things don’t fall into place. There will always be another property.

7. Make an offer

Listen to your Realtor’s advice in making an offer that will be agreeable to the seller. It is almost always wise to write in a home inspection as a buyer’s condition. (Your Realtor can help you with interpreting the home inspector’s report and any necessary follow-up.) Read the Purchase Contract and other documents all the way through before you sign anything, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

8. Get your financing approved and get ready for moving day!

 

I’m happy to help get you into your first home! Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Buying Your First Home? Start With Your Lifestyle

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Buying Your First Home? Start With Your Lifestyle | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamBuying a first home is one of the most exciting yet daunting decisions young couples or single people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region and elsewhere make. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the thousands of things to consider. It’s also easy to be swayed by emotion instead of focusing on the practical.

But, to begin the process, go ahead and dream a little! What does your perfect house look like? What kind of home is it? What features does it have? What do you need to live the life you want to live? What does your home have to have so that you can show the world how mature and responsible you are, what great personal style you have?

But…  Stop right there and step back for a minute. Before you settle on type of home (single family, duplex, townhouse, condo, etc.) or style of home (2-storey, bungalow, bi-level, etc.) or the number of bedrooms or the style of faucets in the bathrooms or the color of paint on the walls… The list of features is endless and every single house, like every person you’ll ever meet in your life, is unique. You can no more order the exact house you believe you want (unless you’re a trust fund baby and I’m assuming you’re not!) than you can order the perfect mate. So let’s approach this from a different angle.

Let’s talk about lifestyle and how it impacts your home, as well as how you foresee your lifestyle evolving over time. Which home buyer are you? Young and single, likes to be in the centre of things, no vehicle? You’re going to need a different style of home and probably neighbourhood than a family of two working parents with kids involved in school and many activities, or an older retired couple who like to travel. Some things to consider:

  • Your occupation (work space needed at home?)
  • Your leisure time pursuits (space for working on hobbies? storage for leisure time equipment? entertaining at home?)
  • Sociability (do you enjoy having many people living close by or do you need space and quiet?)
  • Access to amenities (do you want things like restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, health facilities, parks to be in close proximity, maybe even walking distance?)
  • Your vehicle situation (public transit user or someone who drives everywhere?)
  • The number of people (or pets) you envision living with you (how do you see your life changing in the next few years?)
  • The length of time you expect to live in this home (if less than 6 years, buying a home might not be the best option financially)
  • Your “handiness” level (do you need a home where everything has been done, or are you willing to take on a home that needs some fixing up? What about your skill in maintaining the property?)

I’m sure you can think of many things to add to this list. The point is that the person you are today and the person you see yourself becoming have a huge influence on the type of home that is just right for you.

Notice I haven’t said a word about the financial requirements for getting into home ownership. That aspect will follow in due course once you have a clear idea about what you need and want in a home. Once you have completed your lifestyle analysis, please read my companion blog article “Buying Your First Home? 8 Tips to Guide You Through the Process”.

Ready to start looking at homes to make the purchase of a lifetime? I would be pleased and honored to help you! Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

The DIY Guide to Replacing Your Broken Bathroom Faucet in Just Six Easy Steps

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The DIY Guide to Replacing Your Broken Bathroom Faucet | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIf you own Parkland County real estate or a home in the Stony Plain, Spruce Grove or Edmonton area, you’re probably familiar with a whole host of around-the-house handyman strategies for completing minor repairs. One type of repair that many homeowners overlook is replacing a bathroom faucet. Bathroom faucets can and do break, and knowing how to replace a broken bathroom faucet can save you the time, effort and money it would take to hire a handyman for the job. Here’s how you can replace a broken bathroom faucet in six easy steps.

Step #1: Finding a Replacement

First, examine the sink. After removing the faucet attachment, you’ll see several openings. Look at the openings, and check to see how far apart they are. Bathroom faucets might have two handles that spread apart, or they might be a single unit. Knowing the configuration of your sink will enable you to select the correct replacement faucet.

When choosing a replacement faucet, it’s important to keep in mind that not all faucets are created equal. Faucets costing less than $100 are often made from chrome-plated plastic parts, and they have valves and seals that wear out quickly. These faucets might be able to withstand light usage, but they will not last over the long term. Faucets that cost $100 or more usually use a firm brass body. This kind of faucet is leak-resistant and does not break easily. A number of faucets come with lifetime warranties – opting for one such faucet is a great way to avoid further expenses down the road. A good sink replacement can add value to a Spruce Grove real estate property.

Step #2: Reviewing the Instructions

Every faucet has a unique set of instructions, and they range from highly detailed and useful to minimal and maddening. Read the instructions thoroughly, and ensure you have all the necessary tools and components to do the job. Make sure you review any and all diagrams and appendices to ensure you have a good mental picture of what it is you’ll be doing.

Step #3: Prepare the Workspace

Next, remove all the objects from under the sink. Fetch a portable lamp and shine it underneath the sink. Under the sink, you will see two supply lines that come out of the wall and reach up to the faucet. Turn off both these valves by twisting clockwise. Once the valves have been turned off, it is safe to loosen the tube nut and to lift the tubes out of the valves. Additionally, there will be one, two or three large nuts holding the faucet in place. Use a basin wrench to remove them.

Step #4: Lift the Old Faucet Up and Out

Lift the old faucet out of the sink, and examine the tubes to see if they have been damaged. If there is damage to the tubes, you will need to replace them. You can find plastic tubes, as well as end fittings and nuts, at your local hardware store. Ensure the new plastic tubes are the same length as the old ones.

Before installing the new faucet, be sure to clean the area. You can dissolve hard water deposits using an acid-based cleaner or vinegar.

Step #5: Installing the New Faucet

When installing the new faucet, check to see if the faucet base has a soft gasket. The soft gasket seals the base and prevents water seepage. If there is no such gasket, you can create one using plumber’s putty. Stick the putty around the base and start tightening the large nuts. Some of the plumber’s putty may squeeze out onto the faucet – if this occurs, you can remove it using rubbing alcohol

Step #6: Attaching New Tubes to the Faucet

Attach the new tubes to the faucet before installing the sink. Then assemble the new faucet and slip it through the hole in the sink. Then, simply tighten the nuts below the sink, and voila! Your Edmonton property has a beautiful new faucet. Before you use this new faucet, be sure to turn on the valves underneath the sink and ensure all the nuts are tight. Check for leaks when you run the water, and tighten connections as necessary.

***For even more help, see the YouTube video from RONA “How to Install or Replace a Bathroom Faucet“.

Repairing bathroom faucets and completing other repairs at your Stony Plain real estate properties or Parkland County acreages doesn’t have to be a challenge. With a little bit of knowledge and the right tools, you can carry out minor repairs throughout your home and feel confident in your ability to care for your property.

For more great information and to discover all that Edmonton real estate and Edmonton acreages have to offer, please get in touch with me today.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Well Water Testing in Alberta: Why, Where and How

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Well Water Testing in Alberta: Why, Where and How | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamTesting Well Water Before Buying an Acreage

If you are thinking of buying an acreage in Parkland County near Spruce Grove, Stony Plain or Edmonton, or elsewhere in Alberta, you probably know that you’ll be responsible for your own water supply and sewage system. When you write an offer to purchase an acreage home, one of your Buyer’s Conditions will likely be a Water Condition, which will require the seller to prove that the acreage’s water is potable and free of bacteria. Your mortgage lender will also want to see this proof. How does the seller in the deal go about meeting this condition?

Luckily, for people in our area, DynaLifeDX (the medical lab located in the Queen St. Centre in Spruce Grove), will test the water for real estate purposes, and your REALTOR® can arrange for the testing. DynaLife supplies the container in which the specimen is collected, and processes it for a fee of $60. Please visit DynaLife’s Well Water Testing webpage for the details.

Living on an Acreage with a Well

If you are new to acreage living in our area, take a look at the Parkland County webpage on Water Systems to learn about how water can be accessed by acreage owners.  As you’ll see, a well on your property is just one possibility.

My blog article of April 2011 entitled “Well Water Testing” notes how critical it is to maintain the health of the well on your acreage property. Today’s article updates and expands the information in that article.

The Provincial Government’s Role: Getting well water tested for real estate and mortgage purposes comes at a cost, is limited in scope and must be done by a private agency, as noted above, but testing of water for human consumption once you live on the property can be done for free by the provincial government and includes more in-depth analyses. It is currently recommended that bacteriological analyses be performed up to 4 times per year, and a chemical analysis every 2 to 5 years. For more details about this, please read Alberta Health Services helpful pamphlet “Frequently Asked Questions About Well Water Testing”.  This pamphlet also lists the circumstances when testing will not be done by the province.

Testing for bacteria is done at the Provincial Laboratory of Public Health at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton (Walter Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, 8440-112 St, Edmonton AB T6G 2J2 – water testing done in the Environmental Microbiology Laboratory), and chemical analyses are done at the Centre for Toxicology at the University of Calgary (3030 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary AB T2N 4W4 – water testing done in the Environmental Waters Laboratory). ProvLab’s Guide to Services is a large publication detailing the many public health services they offer, with water sampling being one of them.

You don’t have to travel to either of ProvLab’s locations for this service. Spruce Grove’s Environmental Public Health Office is located in the Stan Woloshyn Building at 205 Diamond Avenue. Here, you can pick up special containers in which to collect your samples and drop them off. Hours of operation are weekdays 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. BUT, note that drop-in service is not available so be sure to call them first at 780-342-1380.

Other information about water quality

Health Canada: What’s in Your Well? A Guide to Well Water Treatment and Maintenance  (an excellent and concise article about well health)

Western Direct Insurance: Check Your Water Quality

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development: New online tool for water well owners

Environmental Public Health Field Manual for Private, Public and Communal Drinking Water Systems in Alberta (how to sample, how to interpret the results, how to design, construct, manage and maintain wells, dugouts and cisterns, water treatment, etc.)

Health Canada:  Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Water Quality Testing

Looking to buy an acreage? Let me help! Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Automate Your Spruce Grove Area Home With Your Smartphone

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Automate Your Spruce Grove Area Home With Your Smartphone | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamThose of us who live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region have come to rely on the amazing pocket-sized computers that are our smartphones for just about everything from getting us up in the morning, to answering virtually every question we might have through the day, to providing us with entertainment in slack moments (oh, and keeping in touch with friends, family and business associates too!).

But did you know that there are smartphone apps that will allow you to control and monitor just about every system and piece of equipment in your home? Turn your coffeemaker on, turn off the curling iron you left on, adjust the thermostat, turn off the video game your child is playing instead of doing his homework, turn lights on and off, record TV programs for later viewing, feed your pets, lock and unlock doors, monitor your home’s entrances, act as a home security system… Wow, the future really is here.

Check out these great articles that give you the details of the apps, what they do and how much they cost.

11 Smart Apps for Your Home
Top Best 11 Gadgets for Home Controlled by Smartphone
Houzz.com: Turn Your Smartphone Into a Home Security System

And some apps to keep your home organized:

10 Apps That Will Help You to Organize in the Smartphone Age

Do you know of other great apps that can simplify daily life? I’d love to hear from you. Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, 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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