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Home Renovations: The Money You Can’t Afford to Spend

All home owners will face home repairs at some point or another

Home renovations involve the act of updating, repairing, or overhauling your home. They are a task that requires time, careful consideration, decision making, patience, and money. Sometimes a lot of money, depending upon the extent of the home renovation project you undertake. It is important that you decide beforehand how much money you wish to spend, as well as how much of your home you plan to renovate. The process may only amount to a small task, or conversely turn into a huge project, but whichever direction you choose, home renovations can take a financial and emotional toll on even the most savvy home owners going.

Sadly sometimes we need to undertake home renovations, whether we plan on it beforehand or not. It could be a matter of flooding, fire, lightning strike, tree damage, vandalism, or any number of reasons why home renovations need to occur immediately. While some renovations are inexpensive, there are plenty of others that can be downright costly though. Do you have an emergency fund set up for rainy day expenses? Approximately 1/3 of Canadians have nothing left in their bank accounts after bills are paid. That means that when unexpected expenses arise, money becomes a major issue.

Some home repairs need to be taken care of sooner rather than later

There are ways to combat the cost of emergency home repairs though.

If you have a mortgage, more than likely you also have home insurance. Most banks insist upon it to protect their investment, ie. your home. Home insurance covers the building, contents, and outbuildings, with some limitations depending upon your carrier. Therefore, if a tree falls on your home and damages it, your insurance company covers the cost of your repairs, depending upon your policy’s conditions. You will have to pay a deductible (anywhere from $100-$2000 as per your insurance company’s rates), but that is a far cry from the potential thousands of dollars that some emergency home repairs cost.

For those folks that struggle day-to-day and still find themselves in a low-income state, home repairs might seem like the end of the world. That does not always need to be the case, if you know where to look for assistance though. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers an Emergency Repair Program (ERP) for eligible individuals. Emergency items such as;

    • heating systems;
    • chimneys;
    • doors and windows;
    • foundations;
    • roofs, walls, floors and ceilings;
    • vents, louvers;
    • plumbing;
    • electrical systems

are some of the items that are taken under consideration for those who qualify. While you have to be approved for the repairs before the work is done, once approval is given any funds offered do not need to be repaid.

CMHC logo

CMHC logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Likewise the Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (Homeowner RRAP) from CMHC is another avenue to explore for low-income families that are faced with major repairs to their home. As noted on the CMHC website states;

“In general, mandatory repairs related to heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety are eligible for funding under Homeowner RRAP. The quality of the repairs should ensure the useful life of your home for at least 15 years.”

Another place to look for help is the Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario program. It also offers funding for low-income individuals to help renovate their homes. There is paperwork to be filled out for eligible people, but with the potential to receive upwards of $25,000, it just might be worth it to get that financial assistance, as well as a new energy-efficient furnace, low-flow toilet, or window replacements.

Branding image of the Government of Ontario, s...

The Ontario government also helps seniors in need of undertaking home renovations by offering a Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. Seniors aged 65 and older are eligible for a tax credit on their income taxes of up to $10,000 come tax time. While that doesn’t put money in your pocket instantly, it does help to ultimately reduce costs of necessary home improvements that increase safety and accessibility to your home. Your income doesn’t matter, and if you have a senior living with you, you are still eligible. You can receive 15% of eligible expenses back, so save your receipts!

Do you know other ways to reduce costs of home renovation projects? Are you aware of other programs or grants that help people cover the cost of unexpected home repairs in Canada? Leave me a comment, so that I can help spread the good word to those in need!

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So you’ve decided to go ahead and renovate your home. I hope you have thought long and hard about this decision, plus taken my helpful hints into consideration before starting out. Home renovations are a major undertaking. They put your life in turmoil, physically, emotionally, financially, and even socially. The hope is that at the end of the day, it is all worth it. And hopefully it is. But sometimes that depends upon who you get to do the job for you.

Here is a list of potential people you could get to take care of your home renovation projects;

What is your relationship with your Father-in-law? Is it wise to turn your back on him when he has power tools in hand?

  • Yourself
  • You & your father and/or father-in-law
  • Your son & his friends
  • Your unemployed neighbour that has some time on his hands (and has hung a picture or two at his house)
  • A contractor that your Aunt Sally recommended
  • A contractor that you found in the Yellow Pages

Some of these people might be good options. Some may not be. Does your Dad really know what he is doing, despite his insistence that he wants to help? Can you get along with your father-in-law long enough to get the project completed? Does your son and his friends have enough experience to deal with any potential problems they might come across? How about that neighbour? Will he keep up with your project if a new job comes his way? You might be in better hands with a contractor, and recommendations can go a long way, but aren’t always reliable. All of these options might be feasible, or might spell disaster. It depends upon the extent of your home renovation project, and more importantly on the competency of the people whom you get to do the job.

If you can hire someone cheaply to work for you, isn’t that worthwhile though, you might wonder.  Sometimes, but not always. What might seem like a deal, might end up costing you more in the long run if problems arise. Regardless of a person’s ability, problems can and do arise during home renovations. Here are just a few problems that you might come across;

How skilled are the people you are thinking about hiring? Will they do more harm or good?

  • Costs become more than originally anticipated
  • Timelines get extended beyond the first date
  • Contractors walk away from the job
  • Materials don’t fit (ie. counters too long, space for toilet too small, etc.)
  • Workmanship is shoddy
  • Job is not completed

I am sure that you have heard a few horror stories of your own. Before settling on anyone to undertake home renovations to your house, make sure they are the right people for the job. Check to see if they have insurance, references, a record with the Better Business Bureau (good or bad), guarantees on their workmanship, warranties on any items installed, and sufficient trades that they work with to get the job done. You should also make sure that they have time to complete the job at hand. It is bad enough living through a home renovation, let alone having to extend living in a mess because there are unforeseen delays to the job.

Friends and relatives are sometimes better kept in that class, versus walking the slippery slope of erstwhile contractor

So before you hire Uncle Seamus and his retired buddy Larry to create your dream “Man Cave”, decide if it is worth the headache that might ensue. Will that project ever reach fruition, and will it end up looking like what you envisioned it would? Even if you are paying in beer, is that really the cheapest option?

Just saying…

Are you tired of looking at your chipped counters? Are the kitchen cabinets older than you are? When was the last time those shower doors have come completely clean? Did your kids just learn that toilet handles don’t always need to be jiggled when they had a sleepover at their friend’s house last week? Does this sound familiar – You can’t make toast, run the microwave, and run the ceiling fan all at the same time. Do you have to seat people in the kitchen, dining room AND living room when they come over for family dinners? Do they have to enter the house through the back door, because chancing the front porch just isn’t worth it anymore?

Time for Home Renovations?

Do these problems sound familiar? Have you had enough? Is it time for a few home renovations at your house?

HOLD ON!

Before you grab that sledge-hammer to knock down walls in the dining room, the chisel to knock off loose tiles in the bathroom, or the pry bar to push the porch off the house, take some time to make a plan. And then take some more time to discuss it with a few more people. Namely, your spouse, your financial advisor, a contractor, a designer, an electrician, a plumber, a drywaller, a real estate agent, your house insurance company, and the municipality in which you live (think permits, bylaws, etc).

Home Renovations = STRESS

Now, are you still ready to undertake a home renovation project? Good for you! Did you go and see your therapist for some quick tips on how to handle the stress that comes along with home renos too? You should, as a change in living conditions (ie, trying to live in the middle of a renovation project) comes in at #28 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. That is out of 43. And you have to keep in mind that no matter how easy-going a person you are, a home renovation project is bound to put some stress on your finances, on your amount of free time, on your eating habits, possibly on your sleeping habits, and more than likely on the number of arguments with your spouse. Those rank at #16, #36, #40, #38, #19, which add up to a moderate risk of becoming ill in the near future.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tackle a home renovation project though. It can add value to your home from a resale perspective. It brings you pride in ownership afterwards from a job well done. It improves your living conditions once the dust has settled and been erased from memory.

A written design provides a blueprint for smooth renovations

If the pluses outweigh the temporary drawbacks of taking on a home renovation project, then make a plan and get started. Make sure you get at least three written estimates from contractors for the work to be done, check references for those contractors, write up a contract before the work starts, have a lawyer look over the contract before signing anything for major work to be done, obtain any necessary permits, look into whether you are eligible for any potential tax credits, check warranties and guarantees for the work to be done, and think about anything else that you may come up against.

And my best advice to you if you can afford it; move out while renovations are going on to improve the chances that you will survive the mess that goes with a project of any magnitude. Your sleep, comfort, and sanity make it a worthwhile consideration. Good luck!

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” ~ Hans Christian Andersen

Well today, we have that sunshine! Glory be, but it is well received and needed in these parts. It is a wonder that us poor Canadians make it through the winter at all some years, when sunshine is such a fleeting thing. I tell you though, it has given me some pep in my step and the will to want to tackle a home renovation project. And isn’t Spring one of the best times to freshen up your home, after the long dark winter months have left us cramped inside?

Who’s with me? Time to grab your paint brushes and paint a new palette in your home. And what colour would that be? Well lets took a look at what some of the experts are recommending this Spring;

SPRING COLOURS 2013

paint roller beside paint brush at paint reservoir

Over at Style at Home, designers Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman suggest a little daydreaming before picking up that paint brush. Their mantra in colour selection is “mood, match and sample”. They recommend you think about what mood you want to set in a room, before deciding on the actual colour. Psychologists suggest that colours play a big role in our physiological response to stimuli, so the hue of a room can in fact make a big difference. For example, in your bedroom you might want to have a relaxing mood (think blues or greens) conducive to sleeping, but your game room’s colour palette could kick it up a notch with a shade of red (heightens excitement).

Before breaking the bank on entirely refurnishing your room to give a fresh look, take into consideration existing pieces within it. Sabados and Hyndman realize that paint selection has more to do with the colour of the furniture you already have. Their suggestion is to “match” your new colour scheme to larger items that cannot be replaced so easily. Figure out what other shades might go with your favourite easy chair or be daring with a contrasting colour to your couch. Just make sure to work with the items that aren’t easily replaced in your room before selecting this year’s new hue.

Is this your look for Spring?

And lastly, sample. They are talking about trying out an actual colour sample on your walls here. Unless you plan to tack up 30 or more paint chips to give you an idea of how your room might actually look in that tone, why not try painting a sample square, or better yet a cardboard section to move around the room to see how it works. It will save you time and heartache when the work is through.

If you are wondering about some of the exact shades that the professionals are suggesting for this spring’s palette, look no further than HGTV and their Spring Colour Guide. The word on the street is that pastels are where it’s at this year. You don’t have to sample from the Easter egg dying kit here people. Think pastel yellow in your living room to welcome everyone home and pastel purple in the spare room to give an airy feel. Even pastel pink in the right tone has a place this season. All you have to do is try it on to see.

Blue walls, accents and decor; who could ask for anything more!

Even the folks at Huffington Post have weighed in on the hottest colours this year. Their take is that blue is a versatile colour well worth looking into (and I bet you can find it in pastel too!). And that can go for anything from the walls to cupboards, or drapes to accent pieces in your home. That’s right, colour can be found in lots of places within a room or even your home as a whole. They see playful cobalt blue in a kid’s room, teal as a great accent colour for lamps and doormats, and sofas in tropical turquoise. Don’t be afraid of texture either, as it gives depth to a colour, like when you pair it into a jute rug or shiny ceramic vase. You might want to draw the line at a popcorn ceiling in the suggested complimentary colour of nectarine though. Monaco blue for your trim is another thing entirely though!

Whatever you choose, make sure that you love the colours you pick. Your home is your sanctuary and it deserves a little love this Spring after suffering through a long, dark winter. Just like you do. So while you are off to the paint store to pick up your new spring colour palette, why not stop to smell the flowers and enjoy some of the brilliant sunshine we are receiving today.

Have you ever wondered what some of the real estate descriptions truly mean when you read a real estate listing? While some descriptions are straight forward, like “3 bedrooms” or “”1 bath, what does “unspoiled” mean? How about “classic”? When you are searching for that perfect home, it can be hard to know what a house might have to offer from the few short sentences and 1″ square picture that is your first impression. If you really want to know, call me and we can discuss real estate whenever you want. If you want to do a little homework first, here’s my coles notes on a few real estate terms unmasked.

REAL ESTATE TERMS UNMASKED

    Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper (Photo credit: kcnickerson)

  • Needs some TLC – Watch out unless you are a ready for a lot of work. While you might think tender loving care comes in the form of paint, more often than not, TLC stands for “tonnes of labour to come“. Beware the fixer upper!
  • On the edge of… – While the surrounding neighbourhood might have a draw, the one this house is situated in isn’t quite there. It might be cheaper, but there might be a reason for that. Sometimes location is everything.
  • English: Starter home? One-up, one down, no ma...

    English: Starter home?

  • Starter home – We all have to start somewhere, but usually that means smaller and with less bells and whistles. Don’t expect an executive master or custom kitchen here. The “basics” are what you get when you are starting out folks.
  • Move-in ready – Hope you like the paint scheme, because the present owners just painted. Some upgrades might have been done recently, so no big projects are glaringly obvious to the potential buyer.
  • Cute – Much as babies and puppies are cute when they are small, so too does a house look cute when it is compact. Your square footage probably won’t be through the roof on a “cute”, but small house.
  • Nice sized – You won’t find measurements as small as in your last “cute” house, but a nice-sized room often isn’t overly large. You’ll be able to fit in the basics to a nice-sized home, but there won’t be tonnes of room left over.
  • Larger than it looks! – At first glance, again this home might not break the bank on exterior measurements, but layout has probably been optimized to maximize what square footage there is.
  • Basement potential

  • Basement potential – In a word; unfinished. The nice thing though is that most times the height of the basement ceiling should be high enough to potentially finish the space to create livable space with a little work.
  • Unspoiled – Similar to the above entry, “unspoiled” means that the described item is original to the house. No work has been done to it either properly or to mar the historical aspect of it. Mold this “unspoiled” item to your own designs!
  • Classic – Anything that is “classic”, usually also translates to it being old. Whether it is a classic neighbourhood with older homes dating back a century or more, or classic features, like crown mold or wide base boards, you can bet that you won’t be finding these classic features on a newly built model.

What are you looking for in a house?

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Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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