Many of us have a rather cavalier attitude about home improvements. We are convinced that we can tackle the project from start to finish and that no harm will befall us--even though we may be amateurs working with power tools or electricity at dizzying heights.

You can greatly reduce your risk of injury by employing these proven safety techniques:

*Do your own electrical work only if you have the necessary skills and knowledge
* Keep a tidy work area to avoid creating your own hazards
* Dress for safety: wear sturdy clothing, boots, gloves and safety glasses
* Keep drill bits, blades and cutters sharp; dull tools are dangerous
* Make sure your ladder is on a flat, firm surface and never stand on the top two rungs
* Wear a mask to avoid breathing dust and fibers and learn how to handle hazardous materials
* Equip your house and garage with fire extinguishers
* Keep a good first-aid kit on hand

Eliminating risky practices will free you to enjoy your home improvement project and the results of your work.  If you'd like information on which home improvement projects may increase your home's value, please don't hesitate to call or send me an email.
Ryan Gillen

When it’s time to make a move, one of the first decisions most people think about is whether to buy a brand new house or a previously-owned home. Here are some distinct advantages of each choice:


New house:


  • Modern floor plans that could include a “great room,” bigger closets, more baths,

entertainment room, etc.

  • The opportunity to choose upgrades and customize floor coverings, colors and more
  • More energy-efficient insulation, windows and heating/cooling systems
  • The added protection of a warranty from the home builder


Resale home:


  • Existing features, including window treatments and mature landscaping
  • Location -- existing homes are often closer to metropolitan areas instead of farther out in the suburbs
  • Established neighborhoods and sense of community
  • The opportunity to use an existing home as a base to remodel and create a unique property


Only you can decide if a brand new home or one with a few years on it is right for you. If you would like additional information on which option might work best for you, don’t hesitate to reply to this email or call me with any questions.

Ryan Gillen

Homeowners look for one set of criteria when buying – school district, curb appeal, low crime rate, proximity to job, number of bedrooms, right layout, perfect-sized yard. While location is still a primary factor when you invest in real estate, most investors also add these to their checklist:


1.    New single-family construction

2.    A neighborhood that is mostly a primary-home community (rather than renters)

3.    Square footage between 1400 and 1600

4.    3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with 2-car garage

5.    Nice yard but no pool (too much of a liability)

6.    Safe neighborhood with little or no graffiti on public structures, fences, etc.


Another factor to consider is close proximity to your own home. Especially when starting out, you may need to visit your rental properties frequently—to pick up a check, make minor repairs, etc. For these reasons, any property more than 45 minutes away becomes less desirable.


It is important to remember you are not purchasing for your own use but to attract a high quality renter. Savvy investors choose properties based on the criteria above rather than their personal preferences. Doing so lets them pick from a wider base of homes and find the better bargain.


If you have more questions on which properties would make the smartest buys for you as a real estate investor, please don’t hesitate to call or send an email.


Ryan Gillen

While serial investors (who buy additional rental properties without selling their current ones) are likely to invest with only the help of a real estate agent, other investors benefit from having a team of experts.


In addition to a real estate agent (and your tax advisor), some team members for you to consider are:


1.    A builder or general contractor who can evaluate the structural integrity of a unit

2.    A specialist in leases who is experienced in writing contracts

3.    An attorney who practices in real estate law

4.    A mortgage professional who can offer you different financing options


Having a team of investors gives you more knowledge as well as more financial resources as well. One word of caution: while friends or family may be interested in joining your real estate investment team, it is best to pick individuals based on the experience they offer.


In addition to helping you find investment properties, please feel free to call me or email for the names of people who might be interested in becoming a member of your team.

Ryan Gillen

Many real estate investors earn a living out of renovating run-down properties and reselling them, or holding onto them for rentals. Commonly known as the fixer-upper, it offers you two paths to real estate investment.


Buy a Fixer-Upper and Sell Again

In addition to offering a handsome profit, fixer-uppers can offer a true sense of satisfaction as you transform a dilapidated property into one with true appeal. But before you take the plunge, ask yourself three questions:


1.    Can I buy it far below market value?

2.    Can I do much of the work myself (or contract it out at reasonable rates)?

3.    Can I get the job done quickly?


Remember, every month you add to the project is costing you in lost rental income, taxes, insurance, utilities and more.


Buy, Raise the Rents, and Sell Again

Quite often the tenants in a rental property are paying below market rates simply because the landlord hasn’t raised the rent in years, or perhaps the property is not maintained well.


Both scenarios present you a great opportunity to buy the building, raise the rents (making upgrades if necessary) and resell the apartment building at a higher price. This raises the GPI—the gross potential income—which is the maximum gross income generated from the rent if all the units were occupied.


If you would like more information on these types of investment properties in our area, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or send an email.


Many homeowners get into real estate investing by buying a home and using this home as a rental when they upgrade to a larger home. Called “serial purchasers”, they continue to buy (and hold onto) additional properties.


Other investors prefer to find a quicker path to real estate riches through one of the following ways.


Buy and Flip

Flipping means selling the property you just bought for a higher price as soon (or in some cases before) you take title on the property. While flipping allows you to make money fast in a hot market (or on a property you purchased well below market value), you may need to pay capital gains (talk to your tax advisor).


Buy and Scrape

Scraping is tearing down an existing home and building a new home. To capitalize on this idea look for areas where home prices are rising, vacant lots are few, and there’s an inventory of older homes. While there are many permits you need to obtain, scraping can be a very lucrative process.


Buy and Split

Just as you can buy one lot and split into two, you can also buy one house and subdivide into two homes right down the middle, or buy a larger house and develop each floor into several condominiums. Another variation is to buy a house with a large lot, subdivide the lot, rent out the house, and sell off the land.


Smart real estate investors look at existing properties with new uses in mind (and they check into all building and zoning regulations). I can help you by identifying potential rental properties in our area. Please call or email with any questions you have.
Ryan Gillen

House prices in Canada increased by almost 7 per cent a year since 2000, according to ReMax, as tight inventories helped drive prices higher across the country.

The real estate brokerage examined sales data from 18 major Canadian markets and found that the annually compounded rate of return was 6.82 per cent. ReMax said the market has been skewed toward sellers for most of the last decade, except during 2008 and early 2009 when prices sagged through the recession.

Ryan Gillen

Real estate prices cycle through highs and lows. Tracking the following market indicators will help you decide if it’s a good time to invest in real estate in your area.


Job Growth

People go where the jobs are, and home prices follow jobs. A strong local job market is a sure sign of a healthy real estate market. While the Wall Street Journal gives you insight into the nation’s overall economy, check your local newspapers for statistics in your area.


Housing Inventory

The housing inventory is the number of houses for sale at one time in the area. If there are more houses than buyers, prices tend to fall and if there are more buyers than houses, the opposite happens. Also look at the number of months or days it is taking to sell a home. If it’s less than 60 days the market is considered hot.


Number of Repos on the Market

A repo is a house that has been taken over by the bank because the owner failed to meet the loan payment—in other words, it’s a foreclosure. The more foreclosures in your area, the weaker the real estate market.


Number of Multiple Offers on Homes

Multiple offers are when two or more buyers “bid” at the same time for the same house. It’s a sure sign of a hot market, usually resulting from a limited inventory creating the need for buyers to compete on price for the same property.


To learn about the local conditions in our market, please don’t hesitate to call or send an email. I will be happy to get you the information you need.
Ryan Gillen

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) second-home sales (for vacation homes and investment homes) accounted for four out of 10 homes sold in 2009. While vacation-home buyers purchase primarily for enjoyment, investment-home buyers are looking to generate income in the following five ways.


#1: Appreciation

Returns of 10 percent and more are not uncommon if you select good real estate properties.  It’s a return rate you won’t find on bank products or with most stocks.


#2: Cash Flow

More than half of all investment-home buyers rent out their properties. Month in and month out these properties create income from renters AND gain long-term appreciation.


#3: Less volatility

While real estate cycles through periods of highs and lows, it doesn’t change dramatically day-to-day like stocks. Investing in real estate is viewed as being less speculative than stocks.


#4 Tax Advantages

Your real estate investments offer you two tax advantages: you can deduct property expenses and depreciation. Plus doing a 1031 exchange lets you avoid paying tax on profits from the sale of rental property if you roll it into another real estate investment property (talk to your tax advisor).


#5 Value-Added Improvements

The saying “buy it low and sell it high” applies to stocks and real estate. The advantage with real estate is you can buy inexpensive property, fix it up, then raise the rent or sell it for more money.


If real estate investing is a path you are interested in pursuing, please feel free to call or email with any questions you have.


Ryan Gillen

A bright and well-lit home can dramatically change the mood of your home and help you feel relaxed and comfortable all year long. Here are some tips to lighten up your home and make the rooms look big and inviting:

  • Choose different types of lighting to avoid the expense of installing windows or skylights. Lamps or other accent lighting can make a dull room appear elegant or small rooms seem larger.


  • If you have a room with a dark wall or a narrow, dark hallway, hang a group of pictures and light them with adjustable halogen track lighting to create the effect of a photo gallery.


  • Paint ceilings a light color to avoid making them seem lower than they are and give the room a cramped feel.


  • Use color to add cheer to a room. Pink and green tones have a calming effect while darker colors, such as red, tend to cause agitation. Neutral wall tones create a harmonious environment. Bright colors should be used as accents in pillows, artwork or flowers.


  • When selecting paint, tape large color chips together on a wall to get a better idea of the shades you like. When you’ve narrowed your choices down, buy a quart of 2 or 3 colors and paint 1 or 2 foot squares next to each other on both shaded and brightly lit walls. Choose the color that looks best in both kinds of light.


Call or send me an email if you’d like the names of decorators, contractors, or other service providers.
Ryan Gillen

When you’re thinking of buying a home, you may wonder what your mortgage payment will look like. When you have a mortgage, you’ll have several different portions of your payment each month.


Your mortgage payment consists of principal, interest, taxes and insurance (often abbreviated as “PITI”), and sometimes additional fees, such as homeowners association dues.


Principal is the money you borrowed to purchase the home.


Interest is the cost of borrowing money.


Taxes are paid by homeowners to local governments, and are usually a percentage of the assessed property value.


Insurance helps protect against financial loss from fire, natural disasters or other hazards. Most lenders require you to have a homeowner’s insurance policy on your home because it will help protect their investment as well as yours.


Remember, many loan quotes will only include your principal and interest. You’ll also need to factor in the taxes and insurance to calculate your total monthly mortgage payment.


When you’re ready to take the next step to buying your home, please give me a call. I’ll be happy to explain the process further and help you narrow your home search.
Ryan Gillen

An important aspect of getting a home loan is saving money for your down payment. You have many choices to make your home more affordable to you.


Lenders used to require a down payment of at least 20 percent of the home’s price. These days, however, many lenders offer flexible home loan programs allowing you to put very little down -- three percent or less of the home price. For some buyers it’s possible to buy a home with no down payment at all, or to receive help from local down payment assistance programs.


If you decide to pay make a down payment less than 20 percent, your lender may require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which protects the lender in case you cannot repay the mortgage. Talk with your mortgage professional to find out the smartest deal for you.


You’ll also need to pay for closing costs, which are costs associated with initiating a loan. These can include loan origination fees, discount points, attorney fees, recording fees and pre-paids. They often will total from three to five percent of the price of the home.


Once you have you down payment and loan pre-approval, it’s simply a matter of finding the right house. Please call or email when you’re ready to take this next step towards owning your own home.


Ryan Gillen
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