Ever wonder why your REALTOR® is looking in the closet?  When I'm showing a buyer a property that I have never been in, they always catch me opening closets to peek around.  No, I'm not some fashionista,  I'm checking for signs that the home may have been used for the illegal manufacture of marijanua.  


Some of the warning signs that I am keeping an eye out for, are any fresh drywall patches that may be present heading towards the attic space, as this is often where they will run vents to help mask odours coming from the property.  I will always take a look around the pipes coming into the water meter, to see if there's any evidence of tampering to bypass the meter.  Take a peek at the venting around the hot water tank to see if it looks like it has ever been used to supply additional Co2.  I'll also try and observe the foundation walls, especially around the breaker panel, and where the main power enters the property to see if it has ever been altered.  


There are a few other key indicators that we are looking for when browsing a property.  Active signs of aggression in the home can be a sign of methamphetamine contamination.


While these quick inspections are by no means a replacement for a proper home inspection by a licensed home inspector, they are a great way that I can help my buyers identify a stigmatized property long before writing an offer or paying for a home inspection.


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In 2016 Calgary’s city council approved an additional secondary suites in the city. Out of 26 applications 21 were approved and 5 were rejected. Though the current lengthy approval process requires city council to approve each application individually, a process Mayor Naheed Nenshi clearly detests. However, the process is unlikely to change soon.


Legal secondary suites can be a boon to cities facing housing shortages and can offer a lower cost alternative to students and low income individuals seeking housing. It also allows homeowners to earn some extra money, which can be used to pay of debts like mortgages. 


A secondary suite refers to an additional separate dwelling on a property that would typically only accommodate one dwelling unit. Secondary suites can take a variety of forms including Granny Suites (which are located above a detached garage) or single floor dwellings in a multiple floor home. Some landlords, particularly those with families, choose to rent out the basement and live in the upstairs portion of the home. Other landlords, such as childless couples or single individuals, may choose to live in the basement portion and rent out the larger upstairs area in order to maximize their rental income.


All secondary suites in Calgary must be approved by city council. If you are considering moving into a secondary suite you should ask the landlord if the suite is legal. Registered secondary suites are issued a registration sticker. The individually issued sticker will correspond with the address of the suite and can be verified online. Verified secondary suites meet all the minimum safety requirements, including:


  • Having at least one window in each bedroom. The window must be able to be opened to the outside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. The window also must be unobstructed. This ensures that occupants can escape safely in case of a fire or other emergency. 

  • Smoke alarms and fire detectors. Each unit must have its own smoke alarm and fire detector, and the alarms and detectors of all units must be connected so that if one is triggered the others will sound as well. All smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be inspected, tested and maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions.  

  • At least one exit. Each unit within the building should have at least one exit that leads directly outside and every exit door should be able to swing inwards.


If you are considering creating a secondary suite on your property you can begin your application for a permit here.   


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What is a Rental Scam?


A rental scam typically involves a scammer trying to steal money from a prospective tenant by for an apartment that the scammer is not in a legal position to rent. 

Common Red Flags


There are several things that can tip you off to whether or not someone is trying to scam you. You should pay close attention to these red flags. A potential scammer may:


  1. Ask you to send money without having met anyone or seen the apartment. One variation on this tactic may be a prospective renter claiming they are out of town and cannot show you the apartment, but insisting you pay a deposit and fees in order to “hold” the apartment for you. Never rent a property without seeing it for yourself.

  2. Seem too eager to lease the apartment to you. A reputable renter will at the very least want to know your Credit Score (which can be obtained from Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada. You should get your score from both. Most renters will also request that you verify that you are employed, which you can do by presenting your latest pay stub. You may also be asked to submit to a Criminal Background Check. If a renter doesn’t ask for any of these but is still willing to rent a unit to you you should be suspicious.

  3. Ask you to pay an unusually high security deposit or too many upfront fees. A typical deposit is one month’s rent, though many legitimate rental companies are offering reduced deposits, discounts on your first month’s rent or other incentives in order to try and entice renters during the downturn. 

  4. Try to pressure you. Before you sign any paperwork you should ask if you can take it home and review it thoroughly before making a final decision. If you feel like the renter is trying to pressure you into signing documents or paying fees and deposits before you have decided to rent the unit you should be wary. 

  5. Tell you that you don’t need a lease. Though some apartments are rented on a month to month basis most rental agreements typically include a lease, at least for the first six months to one year. After your lease is up your renter may allow you to switch to renting month per month or request that you sign another lease. If the renter is acting suspicious and avoiding discussing a lease it may be because they don’t have the right to lease the property. Remember, a lease is designed to protect both you and the renter, so having one is beneficial to both parties. 


If you feel uneasy, or you spot any of the red flags listed above, do not hand over any money to the renter and do not sign any paperwork. If you do not speak English fluently you can also enlist the help of a translator or interpreter through non profit organizations such as Immigrant Services Calgary. Make sure you thoroughly understand the document you are signing before you commit to anything.

What to do if you do get scammed


If you have been scammed you should contact the police to report the scam. You may do this in person at any police station or using their non emergency phone line: 403.266.1234. Reporting scammers not only help police to catch them, but also help protect other potential renters. The police will help you press charges, but you will need to sue the fraudulent renter on your own in order to recover any money you have lost. 


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Avoiding Nasty House Purchase Surprises
 
Buying a new home is an exciting, and stressful, time. Small disappointments, like an undisclosed leak or a broken power outlet cause frustration and cost money to fix. To help avoid pitfalls like these it helps to have a REALTOR® on your side, and follow these 3 rules.
 
1. Hire a certified home inspector
 
You may be tempted to skip this step, since it can seem to be costly and unnecessary. However, it can save you money in the long run. By hiring a qualified, independent inspector you can accurately verify information provided by the seller and their agent. Knowing things such as what items need to be repaired, what items have been recently repaired are important for determining the accurate worth of a home. 
 
2. Get it in writing
 
Ask the seller and their agent to provide you with written copies of documentation regarding any repairs the property requires. This is called a Property Condition Disclosure Statement, and is designed to protect both the seller and the buyer by documenting what information has been disclosed by the seller. 
 
3. Be thorough and vigilant
 
Purchasing a home is a huge investment, so make sure you do your homework and thoroughly investigate any properties you are considering purchasing. A little extra work now could end up saving you thousands of dollars in surprise repairs down the road. 
 
Hiring a REALTOR® is an excellent way to ensure that the home you purchase meets your needs and that you pay a fair and accurate price for it. Having a good REALTOR® means you get to benefit from their extensive experience and expert knowledge. 
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Whether you are fixing up your home before it goes on the market or making your new home your own you don't want to forget about the bathroom. Rarely thought about, this often used space is an important one. Here are some important tips for when you choose to remodel
 
1) Choose appropriate materials 
 
The bathroom gets a lot of use, and as such the surfaces need to be durable. Porcelain is always a safe bet, and can be found in a variety of colours and textures to suit your style.
 
2) Choose appropriate colours and lighting 
 
Bathrooms are often small, so you will want to avoid anything that makes them seem cramped. Choosing bright or light colours will help to make the space feel bigger. If you have your heart set on dark, bold colours you can still incorporate them by doing things like tiling the floor or backsplash in that colour, choosing it as your shower curtain or painting a feature wall. For a feature wall, pick one with a window or the shower so it doesn't feel overpowering.
 
3) Tub, Shower or Both?
 
You want to create a space that you will actually use. If you aren't really going to use the tub you may consider ditching it in favour of a more spacious shower. Then again, if you have a dog or small children the bathtub may be essential. Base your choice on what you will actually use. If you are looking to sell consider a bathtub/shower combo (room permitting) since you want to appeal to as many people as possible.
 
4) Lighting
 
You want the room to be well lit, using both natural lighting sources and artificial ones. Natural light from a discrete window can make the lighting less harsh. Opt for a frosted window, or a window with a curtain light enough to allow light in while still maintaining privacy.
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So you have decided to sell your home and you are prepping for your home to go on the market. Here are some handy tips to help entice potential buyers.

 
1) Half empty closets 
 
The point of an open house is to show off your home's assets and convince potential buyers to become definite buyers. To show your home in its best light avoid any clutter, especially in places people expect it like storage rooms and closets. By keeping these areas tidy (an ideally almost empty) you make the space seem bigger and more enticing.
 
2) Hide your pets 
 
Not everyone loves animals. To avoid putting off potential buyers ( and reduce clutter) put away any pet related items, especially things like pet food and litter boxes, which smell. Arrange for a pet sitter or animal play date for the day, hide Fluffy's litter box and Fido's ratty tennis ball and be sure to vacuum up any pet hair!
 
3) Don't overdue the upgrades 
 
Remember, you are planning on leaving and you don't really know what the next family to live in this home is like yet. So while you may want the marble countertops they may not. Doing some touch ups is fine, but don't pour money in unnecessarily. You may not get a good return on the investment, and the new home owners may redo your renos anyways.  A general rule of thumb is you will receive most of your investment back on Kitchens and bathrooms.  While the other upgrades may not result in a positive net return on your investment, they will enhance the saleability of your property.
 
4) Make it neutral
 
When potential buyers go to an open house they are picturing what it would be like if they lived there instead of you. To help them get into this mind set make your house as neutral as possible. Hide any family photos, take down the mechanical singing fish from the wall and (as mentioned before) hide any evidence of pets. This also helps reduce clutter and make them space feel more spacious.
 
5) Don't forget the kitchen!
 
People spend a lot of time in their kitchens, so make sure yours is up to snuff!  Dated or unattractive kitchen can drastically reduce the price point of your home. Invest in a coat of fresh paint and make sure your cupboards, light fixtures and counter tops don't look dated.
 
6) Always be ready for a surprise showing
 
You never know when a potential buyer may ask to see your home. To avoid a last minute panic keep your home in "open house standby mode". Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink, dirty laundry on the floor or let the bathrooms and kitchen get dirty. Do a quick clean each day in the off chance your realtor calls and asks to show your home on short notice.
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