Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Tips for Listing on AirBNB When You’re Away

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

First launched in 2008 in San Francisco, California, AirBNB virtually invented a business category with its online listings for short term rental opportunities, a way for everyday property owners to let their homes make money for them while they were out of town. While the idea of renting one’s house out to strangers for a few days or weeks at a time seemed bizarre and risky to many at first blush, the practice has become mainstream in recent years, prompting competitors like VRBO to pop up. Despite the occasional scary story, the vast majority of patrons of these services – renters and landlords alike – have positive experiences; indeed, many entrepreneurs have found success listing several properties and acting as a full time landlord to short term tenants. Renting a room, basement suite, or entire home from one of these services can be a cost effective way to travel to many parts of the world whether alone or with a family, enjoying familiar creature comforts and taking advantage of kitchen access to avoid eating every meal in restaurants. Backed by stringent security measures, a transparent ratings system, and, in the case of AirBNB, a $1,000,000 insurance policy for landlords, most would agree that these kind of rentals are safe and attractive.

With summer vacation season approaching, you may be tempted to list your own property on one of these services – what could be better than having your home pay for your vacation while you’re away? Depending on size and amenities, some properties can earn hundreds of dollars a day, of which a small percentage is taken off the top by the booking service. Sounds like major profit with minor effort, but there are some things to keep in mind before making your listing:


Consider the tenant’s perspective

If you were renting a property for a week-long family vacation, what would you expect to see when you opened the door? Probably the basics would be impeccable cleanliness, an above-average level of upkeep, new-looking sheets on the bed, well stocked consumables like toiletries, and so on. All these things represent an investment you should make before becoming a landlord. A shoddy-looking property in a poor state of repair will certainly garner lousy reviews right off the bat, and those don’t go away – every tenant’s review stays with the landlord’s profile, so first impressions matter.


Treat it as a business

By renting out your property, you are effectively becoming a small business owner, with all that that entails. You may need licensing (check with your city’s information desk), and you certainly need to claim and pay tax on income that you make; those earning over $30,000 in a year need to collect and remit GST as well, just like any other business. On the flip side, expenses incurred by the business may act as write-offs against your income. To be successful, you’ll need to keep receipts, track income, and otherwise follow good accounting practises.


Call your insurance company

While the listing service likely offers a form of insurance coverage during your rental, you should have a chat with your insurance broker to ensure you are covered for all possibilities at appropriate levels, and that renting out your property doesn’t invalidate some clause in your policy. You’re absolutely better off knowing these things before a problem arises.


Do your research

Are there many properties listed in your area? What are they priced at, and what does that include? If you want to be really thorough, consider renting a comparable property for a night or two with a well-regarded landlord, and make notes about the experience. Use this information to maximize your guests’ experience.


Consider hiring a professional

Many property management companies will do all the heavy lifting for you, pricing and promoting your property, for a piece of the profits. If you don’t have time to focus on your listing, and you really want to make a go of it, this may we well worth the investment.


Make yourself available

Prompt communication is key to making your tenants feel safe and looked after, so only consider joining one of these services if you’ll be able to respond to both those looking to book and those staying at your property. Most successful listers guarantee responses to inquiries within 24 hours – with some boasting a 1 hour turnaround, no matter the time of day – and either meet tenants personally on the beginning of their stay or have a trusted family member/friend do so. The personal part of the transaction is part of the appeal for some, so don’t neglect this element.

Property rental services like AirBNB are just going to continue to get more popular in this increasingly connected world, and that’s great news for industrious sorts looking to make some income on the side. With careful forethought and some hard work at the outset, you too could be successful in this endeavour.

Want to talk about my experiences with AirBNB? Contact me today!

Summertime Home Renovations

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Summertime brings to mind rest and relaxation, sunny patios and cold drinks. If you have a few home renovation projects on your list, it can also be the best time to get cracking. There are myriad reasons why this is the ideal season for upgrading your home: the nice weather means mud and snow don’t get tracked into your home by contractors; your heating system’s usually sitting idle, so changing out an old furnace (and maybe adding an air conditioner) couldn’t be more convenient; your home’s exterior and landscaping are uncovered, making it easy to spot and remedy problems; and vacation time is often more easy to come by in the summer months, meaning you can be around to supervise work and answer questions.


So what sort of things can you tackle right now? Here are a few popular projects:

Upgrade the windows

New windows can have a substantial impact on energy efficiency and home comfort, especially if your property is more than ten years old. Modern window technology can keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter for a one time cost that may pay for itself with the reduction in furnace use.

Add an air conditioner

While this might seem like an extravagance in a city like Calgary, where summers aren’t usually excruciatingly hot, incorporating an air conditioner into your home’s heating system may not be as expensive as you think, and the improvement in your sleep and overall comfort throughout the summer may well be worth it. When selling your home, an integrated AC system can also be very attractive.

Redo your deck

Spending a weekend stripping and re-staining your deck, accompanied by a few beers and a stereo, can be a surprisingly enjoyable summertime project; doing this regularly will vastly extend the life of your deck, too. Just make sure there’s no rain in the forecast, as having an unexpected shower lift your stain right after you finish is a real bummer.

Update the landscaping

Most of us, at the very least, plant some annuals and tidy up the yard. But if you have a vision of a more substantive overhaul – which can boost curb appeal and just make you smile when you come up the driveway – summer’s the time to do it. Hiring a trusted landscape contractor, with good references and a solid portfolio, can save you time, money, and aggravation in the long term.

Power wash the house

A winter’s worth of grime can make your home’s exterior dull and uninviting: an hour with a power washer can rectify this, making your property look like new again. Depending on how thick the dirt is, power washing can even keep your home cooler, as lighter colours reflect the sun’s rays more efficiently.

Organize the garage

For most of us, the garage can quickly become a repository for stuff we don’t want to deal with, and throughout the winter it’s hardly an inviting environment in which to spend a few hours organizing. So do it in the summer! Raise the garage door, put on some tunes, and get your space clean and itemized so you can find what you need when you need it. Then call the charity of your choice to pick up all the things you discovered you haven’t needed in the past year.

Those are just a few ideas of summertime improvement projects. Have some that I missed? Mention them in the comments! Want to talk to an expert on the best places to put your time and money to make your home sale-ready for the fall? Contact me today!

Cheap Renos That Boost Home Value

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Home Renovation

Whether it’s a short term goal or long term maybe, many of us spend time considering what renovations we could do to our home that would have a significant impact on its value. With tax return season right around the corner, you may have a little extra cash coming in that you could invest in your property.

Global News has posted an excellent article detailing five home renos you can undertake that can have a significant return on investment. Check it out here!

The Calgary Renovation Show Cometh!

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Home Improvement to Sell

Premiering a couple months before the Calgary Home + Garden Show, the Calgary Renovation Show is a new event geared toward both do-it-yourselfers and homeowners looking to hire trades in 2017. It features some big name (for the HGTV set) guests including Jillian Harris, Mike Holmes Jr., and Danielle Bryk, along with furniture and cabinet rehab workshops, and more than 40 exhibitors. Sponsored by Ikea, Cloverdale Paint, and Sleep Country, among others, this show is a great way to spend what’s sure to be a chilly weekend, sparking ideas on how you can improve your home for comfort and maybe even profitability.

I’ve got a promo code to share that will get you 2-for-1 tickets if you buy before January 11 – simply click here and use the promo code SHOWWEEK when checking out.

Forecasters are predicting a stable real estate market this year, with home prices staying pretty much the same as they are right now throughout 2017. If you’re thinking of making a move, well considered renovations can make a significant difference in both how long it take your property to sell, and on the final selling price. Please feel free to contact me with any questions as to what renos tend to have the greatest return on investment, then attend the Calgary Renovation Show for inspiration as to just what you can accomplish on a small budget.

Canadian Black Friday Shopping Tips

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Black Friday

While our Thanksgiving weekend is merely a turkey-flavoured memory, our neighbours to the south are quickly approaching theirs, and with it comes that most venerable of shopping days, Black Friday. In an effort to keep Canadian snowbirds from flocking to border cities with their holiday shopping dollars, recent years have seen many large local retailers come up with their own Black Friday sales, offering substantial discounts on popular products for one day – or one weekend – only. The perils of rampant consumerism and ballooning household debt aside, Black Friday is an ideal time for the organized and disciplined shopper to quickly take care of his Christmas list quickly. Here are a few suggestions to make your Black Friday experience a little less stressful.

Have a plan

The sheer volume of deals available can be overwhelming and paralyzing, which can result in regret second guessing about opportunities missed and decisions made. As the Scouts say, “Be prepared.” Have a list of everyone for whom you plan to shop, and some ideas of what those people may like, then start planning where to go to get those items. Research the promotions being advertised in the days leading up to the sale, and prioritize the ‘lightning deals’ that may sell out quickly.

Make a budget

Confronted with an abundance of savings, those without a pre-established budget may fall prey to overspending on things they neither need nor planned to buy. It can be easy to think an item is so discounted you just can’t pass it up, but remember: a purchase is only a deal if you were planning to buy it in the first place. You won’t be saving money if you just buy more stuff.

Consider online shopping

As online shopping became more popular, Cyber Monday became an unofficial companion to Black Friday: a day when retailers cleared out leftover stock through their websites. While Cyber Monday sales persist, most larger stores offer their Black Friday deals online as well, and places like can be one stop shopping for some. With free shipping and generous return policies abound, Black Friday shopping online can be considerably easier, quicker, and less stressful than standing in lines at bricks-and-mortar locations. Just be careful that your items will indeed be received in time for gift giving, and watch that something you intend on purchasing isn’t ‘in-store only’.

Have some perspective

Popular items are going to sell out, especially when they’re heavily discounted and promoted, so there’s a good chance you will experience some disappointment in the middle of Best Buy. Don’t take it out on the staff, or fellow shoppers.The reality is, many stores continue sale prices throughout December to try and drive consumer spending, and discounts will surely be the norm this year as unemployment weighs heavily on Christmas budgets, so you just might be able to get the same item at the same price in a couple of weeks.

Have fun

I don’t know about you, but for me there’s nothing quite like the feeling of saving money thanks to clever shopping and a little patience. Completing your Christmas shopping and saving a few bucks at the same time is reason to celebrate, so plan a lunch stop with a friend during your shopping day, or at least add some Bailey’s to your coffee if you’re shopping at home in your housecoat. Checking out the deals, and being in the midst of a mob of like minded shoppers can be fun with the right attitude, so lean into it!

Why not put those Black Friday savings into a down payment? Contact me to find out why now’s a great time to get into Calgary’s housing market.

Fall Furnace Tune-Up Time

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Home care

Despite the mid- to high-twenty degree temperatures, fall is upon us, and with the change in seasons comes a little preventative maintenance for your home before winter hits. Among the most important ways you can winterize your home is the annual furnace tune-up.

If you’re like me, your furnace has been rather dormant since June. When the cold weather hits and you are depending on it to work, though, the last thing you want is a blinking service light. Just like your vehicle, moving parts in your furnace need regular adjustment and/or replacement, while anything involved with a combustion system will need to be cleaned out from time to time to keep things humming along. An unserviced furnace is a furnace that’s going to break down, it’s just a matter of when; Murphy’s Law suggests it’ll probably be in the middle of the night, when the temperature dips below -30, and you’ll be paying steep emergency call fees to your trusted repair person.

So how do you go about booking a tune-up? The best place to start is by asking friends and relatives if they have any HVAC professionals with whom they have a good relationship. Word of mouth is the best way to ensure a good experience when it comes to hiring trades. Once you have a company in mind, give them a call and book an appointment. Prices for fall tune-ups are usually between $75 and $150, depending on what’s included.

You’ll need to be present while the work’s being done, mostly to approve any additional expenses that could come up: burners and belts wear out, chimneys become clogged with soot, and it’s better to fix these things before they cause major problems.  The whole thing should take about an hour. Furnace tune-ups usually involve cleaning and adjusting the furnace itself, as well as the hot water tank, which is another appliance that can break down without warning and cause serious headaches.

Furnaces and hot water tanks are big ticket items, so if the recommendation is to replace either of these, take the time to do some research and find the best product for the best price. Technology for both of these appliances has come a long way in the past fifteen years, so you may decide to pay a little extra to improve your home’s efficiency, and save money on utility bills down the road.

Getting your home ready for winter is a necessary inconvenience that can prevent some real hassles down the road, so don’t let it fall to the bottom of your to-do list. I have some vendors that I know and trust, so to chat about it, just Contact me!
The annual Home + Design Show is quickly upon us, running from September 22-25, and I have a promo code for 2-for-1 tickets to pass along. Simply purchase online here, and use the code TODD. The code expires September 20, so don’t wait!

The Expectation Gap

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Expectation Gap

Even as Calgary’s home market continues to slow, bit by bit, we’re seeing a remarkable increase in the number of homes on the market – supply is up nearly 24 percent from a year ago. This completely makes sense: there’s a wide variety of homes in styles and price ranges to suit nearly every potential buyer in neighbourhoods across the city, and that’s making homeowners who maybe weren’t even planning to move get the upgrade bug, so they put their own property on the market to see if it’ll sell. Add in our economic troubles forcing some to downsize, and you’ve got an abundance of supply.

This can, and is, leading to an expectation gap between some buyers and sellers. While some sellers are still hoping to get prices in the range they might’ve seen a year or two ago, thrifty buyers are using the current situation to pressure for deep discounts. It’s a bit of an impasse that may take some time to smooth out.

So what’s a person to do? My advice is this: if you’re looking to sell, you may need to, as Calgary Real Estate Board president Cliff Stephenson put it recently, “lower your expectations on price.” Calgary’s real estate market remains very healthy and sustainable, but you can’t grow the inventory the way ours has in the past several months without putting downward pressure on asking prices. Consider how quickly you’d like your property to sell, as attractive pricing can help a home stand out in today’s market. There’s no need to drastically undervalue your listing, but you’re not going to get 2014 prices today.

For buyers, don’t expect a fire sale mentality amongst sellers, as our market’s just not there. While there’s a lot to choose from, benchmark prices really haven’t dropped that much, and mid-range homes are still changing hands in a couple of weeks. While there may be a bit more wiggle room than there would’ve been last year, appealing properties are still highly sought after, and bidding wars are not out of the question.

Overall, our market continues to adjust to the new reality, but the fact that it remains relatively stable is a testament to how healthy and realistic it has remained over the past several years. As our economy improves over the rest of the year, we may see some of the downward pressure let up, but really what happens next remains to be seen.

Contact me today for a comparative market analysis today!

Spring Market Trends

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Spring House Market

RE/MAX has released its annual Spring Market Trends report, which gives a good look at how Calgary’s market compares to the rest of the country, and predicts what the rest of 2016 will be like. It’s available here, and I suggest taking a look if you’re thinking about buying or selling this year.

Of particular note is the slowdown in residential construction across our city, which should help the resale market absorb its abundance of inventory. Further, we’re likely looking at a slight increase in average selling price by the time 2016 comes to a close. For April, we had an increase in both the median and the average selling price, with the total number of sales only dropping about 10 percent from last year, so don’t believe the pessimists who think our real estate market is in a serious decline; it remains, and will remain, strong.

The next couple of months are typically the busiest for buying and selling, so if you’re considering putting your property up for sale I’d suggest getting on it sooner rather than later. The unseasonably warm weather has prospective buyers out and about more than they might’ve been in a more typical spring, and that means your For Sale sign can have even more impact. Contact me today for an assessment of your property, and maybe some suggestions on enhancing your curb appeal for those evening strollers.

Be the Fresh Ginger Beef

Monday, April 18th, 2016

house on a plate

I often get asked about the importance of pricing your property right, so it sells in a relatively short period of time – if a seller’s not in a big rush to move, why not price it a bit high and hope the right buyer comes along eventually?

I like to address this with a little analogy:

The real estate market is like a Chinese food buffet (stay with me here!): there are lots of options from which to choose, and most of them look pretty good.  However, when a chef comes out of the kitchen carrying a steaming, fresh bowl of ginger beef, everyone takes notice; even diners on their way back to their seats may turn around to check out the good stuff. Some diners have been waiting and watching for the fresh ginger beef to come out of the kitchen, refusing to leave without it!  Meanwhile, those sad looking spring rolls that have been under the heat lamp for half an hour will just get less and less attention as time goes by.  No one’s taking them, so there must be something wrong with them.

And so it is with the housing market. The first wave of interest is the biggest and best opportunity to find your buyer. Buyers are waiting for the fresh “meat” to come out of the kitchen.  If a property is priced well the sellers can take advantage of that attention and bring an offer in earlier than later.  The longer a property sits on MLS, the less ‘fresh’ it looks, and the more likely it is that potential buyers will assume something is wrong with it.  It’s just the way buyers think, especially in a market like Calgary’s, where business is often booming.

While the days of homes selling on the same day they’re listed may be behind us (for now), a property that’s been listed for a long time is just going to appear stale.  You’re much better off to list according to comparables in your area, rather than shooting high to see what you can get.

For a free, no obligation evaluation of your home, please contact me today!

Pricing Your Home in Today’s Market

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

How much is your property worth - Small

Competitive pricing has been a cornerstone of successfully selling one’s home for as long as there’s been a real estate market. In Calgary, however, pricing is now more important than it has been in years due to moderate sales and an abundance of supply. While our market remains relatively solid and stable, many buyers simply don’t have the same sense of urgency as they may have had a couple years ago, and taking more time to shop around means having a better idea of where comparable properties are listed, price-wise.

The best place to start, now and always, is with a trustworthy Realtor. When I am preparing to list a client’s home, I do a thorough cataloguing of its most attractive features, recent upgrades, popular amenities, and unique characteristics that will make it stand apart. Armed with this detailed description, I do an intensive comparison among recently-sold properties in the same and similar neighbourhoods. Thinking as a buyer, I look at what other properties the ideal buyer of my client’s home might have come across, and see how they stack up. Examining the selling price and condition of these properties gives me a solid range to present to my client.

Next, I deliver a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to my client featuring the information I gathered above, along with a recommendation for where I think their property should be priced. This is simply a recommendation, of course; my job, as a real estate professional, is to carry out my client’s wishes to the best of my ability, and if they wants to list at ten percent over what comparables have sold at, that’s what I’ll do. However, I’m bringing more than fifteen years of experience to bear on this relationship, and so I would advise my client of the current market conditions, pricing trends, and the potential ramifications of coming in too high: when a home sits on the market for too long, potential buyers and other Realtors can begin to assume something’s fishy, and pressure to drastically lower the price to make a sale can be significant.

The best strategy is to price wisely right out of the gate. A properly priced home tends to sell faster, and for a higher percentage of asking, than one with a more wishful price tag.

So, what is pricing wisely in today’s Calgary market? There are plenty of properties available throughout many attractive communities in our city, and the length of time the average home sits on the market is going up each month, so if you’re looking to sell sooner rather than later, an aggressive pricing strategy is probably called for. While selling prices haven’t taken a nosedive, the abundance of choice means an attractive price can really make your property stand out among the competition. Review your Comparative Market Analysis with your Realtor of choice (contact me to get me started!), and discuss what your home might go for on the low end. Add a couple of percentage points to build in some wiggle room in negotiations, and you should arrive at a price that keeps your home from sitting on MLS for too long.

Of course, there are no guarantees, and each client’s personal situation is different. Patient sellers who don’t need to sell as quickly as possible may find their patience paying off in a higher selling price. The risky part of looking for top dollar in a buyer’s market, such as Calgary’s, is that the property may take an extended period to sell, or may not even sell at all without concessions. Before deciding on a strategy, have a frank discussion with your Realtor about your goals and your tolerance of risk. Listen to his professional opinion, and then make an informed decision. In the end, the best pricing strategy in this, or any, market, is the one that fits your personal situation.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Calgary Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.