Friday, March 30, 2007

The Listing Agent Marketing Your Home to Other Agents

Office Preview

If your listing agent belongs to a fairly sizable office, an "office preview" will introduce your house to other agents working in the same office. In effect, they get a "head start" on selling your property. Once a week, the office’s agents will get together, share vehicles, and "caravan" to all of the new listings. They generally pull up in front of your house at about the same time (some even use a bus) then file quickly through your home like some bizarre "follow the leader" game.

It can be amazing to watch.

They go through very quickly, since most of them are familiar with similar models of your house. They are usually looking for anything memorable or different and to determine if your house is one they would be proud to show their clients. Then they all pile back into their cars and move on to the next house on the tour.
But some of them come back…with buyers.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Listing Agent - Preliminary Marketing of Your Home

The "For Sale" Sign

It seems fairly obvious that when you put your house up for sale that your agent will put a "for sale" sign in the front yard. The sign will identify the agent’s company, the agent, and have a phone number so prospective buyers can call and get information.

Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few actually purchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens when someone calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder?

You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is "hot." When buyers call the number on the sign, the call should go to a live person who can answer questions immediately. A potential buyer may be on the street outside your home, placing the call using a cell phone.

Also, take a look at the sign and see if it seems more interested in generating calls from buyers, or if it seems more oriented toward advertising your agent’s listing services to your neighbors.

Flyers and a Brochure Box

Your agent should prepare a flyer that displays a photo and provides details about your house. There should also be a phone number so buyers can contact your agent to get additional information. The flyers should be displayed in a prominent location in your home and also in a brochure box attached to the "for sale" sign.

The brochure box is convenient for those buyers who drive by and just happen to see the "for sale" sign in front of your house. It provides enough information so they can determine if they want to follow up with a phone call or inform their own agent they are interested in your house.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Listing Agent - Preliminary Marketing of Your Home

The "Real" Role of a Listing Agent When you bought your home, you probably used the services of a real estate agent. You found that agent through a referral from a friend or family member, or through some sort of advertising or marketing. The agent helped you in many ways and eventually you found the house of your dreams, made an offer, closed the deal, and moved in.

For whatever reason, now it is time to sell your home and you need a real estate agent again. Many home sellers, especially those selling their first home, tend to think all agents are similar to the one that helped them buy their home.

Although real estate agents can (and do) work with both buyers and sellers, most tend to concentrate more on one than the other. They specialize. When you bought your home, you probably worked with a "selling agent" – an agent that works mostly with buyers. Because of the nature of real estate advertising and marketing, the public’s main image of the real estate profession is that of the selling agent (buyer's agent).

As a result, many homeowners expect their listing agent to do the same things that a selling agent does – find someone to buy their home. After all, they do the things you would expect if they were searching for buyers. A sign goes up in the front yard. Ads are placed in the local newspaper and real estate magazines. Your agent holds an open house on the weekend. Your house is proudly displayed on the Internet.

But this is only "surface" marketing. More important activity occurs behind the scenes. After the "for sale" sign goes up and flyers are printed, your agent’s main job is to market your home to other agents, not to homebuyers.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Monday, March 26, 2007

Details of a Listing Contract


A lockbox is a basically a padlock with a cavity inside where a key to your home can be placed. Only someone with a key (electronic or mechanical) or the combination can get into the lockbox and access the key to your home. Having a lockbox available at your house makes it easy for other agents to get access to your house.

Without the lockbox, agents representing buyers would have to set appointments to meet you or your agent at the house so they could gain access and view the home. This would be inconvenient. Since almost every other house does have a lockbox available, if you do not allow one most agents will simply not show your property. You will miss out on lots of potential buyers.

The listing contract specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. It is locked into place, usually on the front door and cannot be removed. Only other agents can access the key that is located within the lockbox.

copyriight by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Listing Agent Marketing Your Home to Other Agents

The Multiple Listing Service

Even before the sign is up and the brochures are ready, your agent should list your property with the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS is a database of all the homes listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is practically all of the local agents.

Important information about your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage and number of rooms, to such details as whether you have central air conditioning or hard wood flooring. There should also be a photo, and a short verbal description of what makes your house "special."

Agents search the database for homes that fit the price range and needs of their clients. They pay special attention to homes that have been recently placed on the market, which is one reason you get a lot of attention when your house is first listed. Many agents will want to preview the home before they show it to their clients.

The main point about having your house listed in the MLS is that you expand your sales force by the number of local MLS members. Instead of having just one agent working for you, now you may have hundreds or more, depending on the size of your community.

The listing agent’s main job to make sure that the other MLS members know about your house. This is accomplished through listing your house in the Multiple Listing Service, broker previews and advertising targeted toward other agents, not homebuyers.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting The House Ready To Sell - Step 12

The Back Yard

The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of "debris." If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more sense to remove them than to leave them in place. They take up room, and you want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are not as large.

The Front Door & Entryway

The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.
If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your family name on it, remove it. Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always put it up again once you move. Get a new plush door mat, too. This is something else you can take with you once you move.

Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective homebuyers.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting The House Ready To Sell - Step 11

House Exterior

The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers.

When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house, too. For some reason, different shades of yellow seem to illicit the best response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the house.

As for the roof, if you know your roof leaks, repair it. If you do not repair a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer will want an entire new roof. If you know your roof leaks and you don't repair it and don't disclose it, look forward to hearing from lawyers at some point in the future.

Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Getting The House Ready To Sell - Step 10

The Exterior of the House

Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the house first, but unless there is a major project involved, it is probably best to save it for last. There are two main reasons for this. First, the first steps in preparing the interior of the house are easier. They also help develop the proper mind set required for selling - beginning to think of your "home" as a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important.

A homebuyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s car. They call that first impression "curb appeal."

So take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares. Then it may be time to go to work.


Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. Do not put in trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much to the appearance value of the home.
If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of brown earth for homebuyers to view.

Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need to be re-sod, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.

Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting The House Ready To Sell - Step 9

Windows and Doors

Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home.

Do the same things with the doors – make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.

Odor Control

For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. Actually, it is best to move smoking outside. You could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.

Apologies to pet owners, but pets come with odors. You may have become used to them, but they are immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned olfactory senses.
For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily and use plenty of baking soda. For dog owners, keep the dog outdoors as much as possible, even those adorable lovable little dogs. You might also try sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.

Copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 8

Ceilings, Walls and Painting

Check all the ceilings for water stains, whether the leak is caused by plumbing or a faulty roof. Find the leak and repair it and make sure a proper job is done. Nothing irritates a buyer more than finding out - after the fact - about plumbing or roofing leaks. They will be talking about calling a lawyer faster than your car engine starts when you turn the ignition key.
If a water stain is left after something you have already repaired, do the cosmetic work necessary to improve the desirability of your home. That means painting.
You may have to paint anyway, especially if dirt has accumulated in spots or you have an outdated color scheme. Painting makes a home look fresh and new on the inside and never fails to impress.
Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.

Carpet and Flooring

Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 7

Ceilings, Walls and Painting

Check all the ceilings for water stains, whether the leak is caused by plumbing or a faulty roof. Find the leak and repair it and make sure a proper job is done. Nothing irritates a buyer more than finding out - after the fact - about plumbing or roofing leaks. They will be talking about calling a lawyer faster than your car engine starts when you turn the ignition key.
If a water stain is left after something you have already repaired, do the cosmetic work necessary to improve the desirability of your home. That means painting.
You may have to paint anyway, especially if dirt has accumulated in spots or you have an outdated color scheme. Painting makes a home look fresh and new on the inside and never fails to impress.
Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.

Carpet and Flooring

Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Friday, March 16, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 6

Costs of Repairs

Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, use savings to pay for any repairs and improvements – do not go charging up credit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home. You do not want to do anything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your ability to qualify for your next mortgage.

Plumbing and Fixtures

When looking at a house, prospective home buyers often do not really know what to do. So they play with things. They flick light switches. They open everything with a handle. They turn on all the faucets and flush all the toilets. Having nice shiny fixtures makes an impression.
All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, buy new ones. If you don’t buy something fancy, this can be accomplished inexpensively. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers.

It sounds like hard work, but it's pretty easy -- even for the inexperienced.
Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at making stains go away.

By Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Getting Your House Ready to Sell - Step 5

Uncluttering the House

Closet Clutter

Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes – things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look "crammed full." Sometimes there are shoeboxes full of "stuff" or other accumulated personal items, too.

Furniture Clutter

Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in the model homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your house.

Storage Area Clutter

Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to the storage area.
Or have a garage sale.
copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Septic system trouble may be underestimated.

Story Tools

Should buyer accept seller credit or get second opinion?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
By Ilyce R. Glink
Inman News

Q: I'm in the process of buying a home. Both the sellers and I have signed contracts stating that the water purity and septic system must be in passing condition in order to sell. However, when we did our testing, the property failed because the septic dye test failed.
A plumber gave an "inspection" to diagnose the problem. In his letter, he "assumes" the problem is in the leach field. The estimate to fix the problem ranges from $3,600 for a short-term solution to $5,800 to replace the leach field.
The seller wants to give us a credit for only $3,600. I don't want to accept this offer and told my lawyer I wanted a septic engineer to actually diagnose the problem before I would make a decision.
What is the correct course of action and what are my rights?

A: Of course the seller wants to get out with the smallest amount of cash. If he can offer you $3,600, that saves him $2,200 over the estimated cost of fixing the problem.
But the real issue is that you have no idea what's wrong with the septic system. While you have had one plumber go through the property, I suspect having a septic specialist come through to give you a second opinion is a good course of action.
At that point, you and the seller must negotiate a deal that makes you comfortable.
Clearly, taking the offer on the table isn't making you comfortable. And with so many properties on the market, you don't need to be bullied into accepting this deal. You'll need to review your contract and what your options are with your real estate attorney.

Q: A developer expressed interest in buying my home. We talked casually on the phone and he arranged to stop buy and talk with me in person. In short, after his visit I am feeling like I am in over my head. I did not sign anything (nor did he ask me to), but he wants to return with a letter of intent, which I would be completely uncomfortable signing.
I have no experience in this area and want to just pull back and think this over. How would you advise me to proceed if I wanted to end negotiations or if I wanted to keep it open? Thank you!

A: When the developer comes back, thank him for his time and effort and tell him that you never sign legal documents without your attorney looking them over. Tell the developer you'll need some time to review your options and discuss the offer with your attorney. Make sure you get the developer's contact information and his attorney's contact information.
Then, get on the phone and hire a real estate attorney to handle the negotiations for you.
Have you discussed price? If not or if you've just talked in generalities, you may even want to pay a local real estate agent to tell you what your house is worth (or you can hire an appraiser to do a quick appraisal of your property).
Telling the developer that you need seven days or more to get the contract to your attorney for review buys you some time and allows you to keep the door open while you consider your next move.

Q: My husband is being relocated to an old New England town. We are planning to buy a home in the next several months in this new town and hope to stay in this next house we buy for 15 to 20 years.
Our agent told us that because the town is old many home buyers and developers are tearing down smaller houses and replacing them with larger houses.
We looked at two such homes that were very nice. However, I am worried that both of these new homes are much larger than -- and cost more than twice as much as -- the neighboring houses on the block.
Our agent tells us that because both of these houses are in great locations in the town, and there really are no areas in the town left for new construction, over time the surrounding homes will also be torn down and larger homes will be built in their place. He said that builders have already purchased one or two of the older, smaller houses to tear down and rebuild.
I know that we shouldn't buy the biggest, most expensive house on the street. But how should we weigh the risks and benefits of buying a new construction property against buying a much older, smaller home?
Our agent is confident that when we are ready to sell, the rest of the neighborhood will match the new construction homes of today. Is there anyway to know for sure?

A: Your timeline is 15 to 20 years. While no one really knows how long it will take for a neighborhood to complete a turnaround, it would seem that you've got the time to wait it out.
In addition, your agent has demonstrated a remarkable ability to understand the nuance of neighborhood regeneration and has painted a fairly compelling picture of what life will be like in your neighborhood down the line. She has given you proof that the change is already happening, by pointing out the houses developers intend to tear down. You can find out more about teardowns in the area at the local village hall (ask for the building department).
The question is, do you want to buy a house that's already been renovated or do you want to pick out a small house, tear it down and build in the profit for yourself?
If you decide to move and not build your own house, then I think the agent has found a neighborhood in which the housing stock will continue to change. I'd agree that if the current trajectory for neighborhood redevelopment continues, you'll likely be more than fine when you cash out in 15 to 20 years.
Many neighborhoods around the country are in the same situation as the one you describe. Older, smaller homes are being torn down to put up larger homes. In many cases, the value of the land alone is the same as the value of the land plus the house. It's as if you buy the land and get an old home for free.
If you find that vacant lots in the neighborhood you are looking at are about the same cost as some homes, you'll know the neighborhood, like many others, is transitioning, and new homes may continue to be built there for some time to come.
The question you have to answer is what happens if your life changes sooner and you have to sell in, say three or four years. While neighborhoods can seemingly change "overnight," the reality is that it will take five to seven years for a wave of teardowns to take hold and begin to really change the character of a neighborhood. If you sell before that happens, you could get hurt unless the price of land in that area is so desirable that values continue to go up.
This has to be a risk you're willing to take. Talk it over with your spouse before you make the next move.

Monday, March 12, 2007

How To Avoid Overpaying When Defects Are Discovered.

I recently found a first-floor condo that I was ready to make an offer on. However, when my buyer's agent took me for a second viewing, we discovered water dripping from the ceiling in one of the bedrooms and a small pool of water in the second bedroom. The condo, in a completely renovated building, comes with a two-year builder's warranty. The unit has not been lived in since the renovation was recently completed. Besides repairing the leaks, I expect replacement of the hardwood floors where the water damage occurred. With the current slow "buyer's market," I planned to make a "lowball offer." But I worry the builder won't want to lose any money and will refuse to replace the floors. I want to make a strong offer but am afraid I will lose bargaining power when making repair requests. Any negotiation advice on this?

You can always raise your purchase offer, but you can't lower it. Make a low offer with the repair conditions you want. If the renovator says "no," you can then either raise your offer or choose not to buy.
By Robert J. Bruss
Inman News

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 4

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place to start.
First, get everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage.
You see, homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their "stuff." If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much "empty space" as possible.
For that reason, if you have a "junk drawer," get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create open space.
If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a new house, anyway – or paying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the shelves determine your menus and use up as much as you can.
Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.
copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Friday, March 9, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 3

Uncluttering the House

This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it.

Clutter collects on shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements. You want as much open clear space as possible, so every extra little thing needs to be cleared away.
Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter, as long as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let your agent help you, too.

copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Getting the House Ready to Sell - Step 2

Getting the House Ready to Sell

Make Your Home "Anonymous"
If there is a new home sales project near your home, go visit. It doesn't matter what size the homes are. What you will find are some wonderfully (but sparsely) furnished homes that anyone could live in -- with the emphasis on "anyone." They are anonymous. There may be a baseball glove in the boy's room, but no family photos on the walls.
There may be "personality" - but no person.
The reason you want to make your home "anonymous" is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about living in the house themselves.
Put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.
Do not just put the box in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of preparing a house for sale is to remove "clutter," and that is the next step in preparing your house for sale.
copyright by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Getting the Hourse Ready to Sell - Step 1

Getting the House Ready to Sell

Disconnect Your Emotions

When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a "home." Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a "house." There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.
You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.
The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to "de-personalize" it.

copyright 2000 by Terry Light and RealEstate ABC, revised 2002

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Canola crops considered for biofuel plant proposal

Citizen staff

Unprecedented kinds of cash crops might be grown in the Prince George area if a proposed biodiesel plant goes forward as planned in northeastern B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Bell said the plant may mean canola, a large part of the landscape in the Peace country, could be grown in the Prince George area for the first time. It is contingent, though, on the fuel factory. "It looks very promising," said Bell, MLA for Prince George North. "The entire production of canola in the Peace does not meet the requirements of a plant of that size, but certainly with our proximity to the canola fields of Alberta and other parts of the province, we would certainly be able to feed that plant."Bell is casting his gaze directly at the Prince George area, where no canola farming currently exists. "The reason canola has not been done here in the past is because there is too much moisture to dry the grain out," said Bell, referring to canola used for food production. "That is not an issue if you are producing canola for biodiesel, so it presents an interesting opportunity." Local farmers are considering the option. Nancy Loreth is with the Mud River Farmers' Institute, which hosted a social day recently at the Loreth farm with Bell in attendance. It was there the dialogue about local canola began between government and industry. "Even for ourselves, it has been talked about," Loreth said. "It has been talked about for years, but how accessible would the market be? The group out here is talking about biodiesel, but we need to see the plant built first and how long will that take? No one is ordering seed, let's put it that way, but if that plant is actually built..."A feasibility study recently completed on the proposed plant shows strong signs for going ahead, along with the announcement by Energy Minister Richard Neufeld, a Peace-country resident, that the B.C. government will demand some of the highest biodiesel usage in the world in the coming years. "We hope that means they will want to put a plant in B.C.," said Garnet Berge, chair of the B.C. Grain Producers' Association biodiesel committee. "Our consultants have started working on the business plan already in the hopes that it will come together. Equipment is hard to get quickly because there are numerous plants being announced in other jurisdictions, so we want to get our work done and save us that time on the ordering, if we get the go-ahead."The plant, said Bell and Berge, would cost in the neighbourhood of $25 million to build and would be capable of producing about 22 million litres of diesel per year. To do that, the plant would need about 56,000 tonnes of canola. The bulk of that would come from the immediate area around the plant, likely situated in Dawson Creek, but the rest could easily come from the Prince George region with the close road and rail links, and any shortfall could be made up by the ample canola shipments that already flow through Dawson Creek from Alberta. Loreth's main concern, from the farmer's perspective, is profit potential. Berge said the answer to that is a dreaded word to most food farmers: subsidy. A new kind of farmer is emerging, the energy grower, and subsidies are already a reality in that industry, he said. Government in the United States underwrites its biodiesel production at a rate of 30 cents per litre. He said the BCGPA has hopes the Canadian government will kick in 20 cents per litre and the B.C. government will kick in nine cents per litre, matching Alberta's offer for biodiesel plants to set up shop in that province.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Moving List

Moving Checklist

8 Weeks before the move.

Call for estimates from three professional movers.
Draw a floor plan of your new home. Use the decorating charts and grid to place furniture to scale in each room and decide which furniture to move, which to dispose of and which to replace or add.
Call Chamber of Commerce in your new town for their "residential information packet."

6 Weeks before the move.

Inventory all possessions now. Decide what to move, sell, replace or donate to charity.
Complete Canada Post change of address forms; mail to media, stores, organizations.
Obtain copies of all medical, dental, legal, accounting, veterinarian records.
Make arrangements for record transfers between schools on both ends of the move.
Itemize moving related costs with mover including packing, loading, special charges, insurance, etc.

4 Weeks before the move.

Repair, send out for reupholstery, or clean furniture, drapes, carpeting as necessary.
Advertise a garage/yard/tag sale to dispose of unneeded furniture, accessories, clothes, etc.
If a professional mover is packing your goods, schedule packing day(s) one or two days before the move.
If you move yourself, order adequate boxes, packing materials and tape now.
Arrange for short-term or long-term storage if you will need it.
Make travel arrangements for pets, including necessary medical records, immunizations, etc.

3 Weeks before the move.

Assemble sufficient supply of packing materials, equipment.
Pack items you won't use immediately or that will go into storage.
Contact utilities on both ends of the move, order termination or turn-on for occupancy date.
Confirm final travel arrangements for family and pets.

2 Weeks before the move.

Prepare auto(s) for trip to new home. Check tires and have car(s) serviced before the move.
Terminate newspaper and other delivery services.
Confirm new bank accounts by phone or FAX.
Schedule an appliance service firm for moving day to prepare major appliances for the move.

1 Week before the move.

Gather important papers, records, valuables, for protected shipment to new home or safe deposit box.
Notify friends and neighbors of new address, (and phone number if possible).
Make plans for young children to be cared for on moving day.
Fill any necessary prescriptions, medications needed for the next two weeks.

Week of the move.

Defrost refrigerator and freezer. Give away all food in both units.
Plan simple meals for moving day (or take out food) to avoid using the refrigerator.
Pick up cash for your trip and a certified check for the mover's invoice.
Pack items you need to take with you including valuables, financial records, personal papers.
Pack signed bill of lading and inventory where they can be easily reached at your destination.
Carefully mark LAST BOX PACKED-FIRST BOX UNPACKED containing tools, flashlights, etc.
Give the mover a telephone number and address where you can be reached in your new town.


There are many television shows today that focus on home staging. If you have not watched any, do yourself a favour and tune in. They all say the same thing: do not even consider putting your house on the market until you have taken a close look at its condition. Experienced agents know that you only have one shot at impressing potential buyers, so take some time to prepare your home for showings. You will be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher offer.

Start with the Basics.

Everything from floors to windows must be spotless. Remember to clean the oven and other major appliances.
Skylights should be crystal-clear, too.
Kill the offensive odors. They're the first thing buyers notice, and often a permanent turnoff.
Eliminate clutter.
Put away small kitchen appliances and other items that are sitting on countertops and tables.
Remove photographs from table-tops.
Organize the closets.

Outside Tasks

Clean the drain gutters. Buyers almost always comment if gutters are full of leaves and it makes them question other maintenance issues.
Store or organize items that make the yard look messy.
Make your front entry inviting. Decorate it, paint the door or buy a new door. It's the first look at your house, so make it a good one.

Tips for Vacant Homes

Vacant homes often greet agents and home buyers with a blast of stale or mildew-laden air. As soon as buyers smell mildew, they are out the door. Deal with the mildew before you list the house. Have you ever noticed that during colder months the interior of a house without heat always feels colder than it is outside? Leaving the heat or air conditioning running while a home is on the market reduces odors and makes the house more inviting. Keep the lawn and landscaping tidy, even if you have to hire someone to do it.

Don't Take it Personally.

The first step is to separate yourself from any personal feelings you may have about your home. It's not your home now; it's a commodity you intend to market. As the seller, you must trust your own instincts. Try to evaluate your house as if you are seeing it for the first time.If you were a home buyer, what would you think about the house? What changes would make immediate improvements? What are the home's best features and how can you show them off?How about a look that says "comfort" or a popular decorating theme, such as the vintage, casual look of Shabby Chic.

Create a Mood

Is there a mood that you’d like to create? If you're near water, how about breezy fabrics and blue-green colors that remind us of the beach? If you're in the mountains, perhaps you could go rustic. Study the house, brainstorm, and speak to your friends or family members about possible ideas.

Pack It Up

Pack away most of your family photos. Buyers should be able to imagine their own possessions in the home. When home buyers start deciding how their furniture will fit into your rooms, you're on your way to a contract.Pack up the bulk of large, personal collections, so that buyers don't get so distracted by them that they forget to look at the house.

Make It Spacious

Remove excess furniture to make rooms appear more spacious. Clean and organize the closets. Store boxes in an out of the way location or rent a temporary storage unit so you can de-clutter every part of the house.

Expose Desirable Features

Remove rugs if they’re covering up nice hardwood floors.Remove heavy drapes that keep out natural light, especially if there's a great view out the windows.

Add Some Life

Living (not artificial) plants go hand-in-hand with nearly any home staging theme.Freshen UpHow about a coat of fresh paint? Are walls in the house dingy? Are the colours dated? Should you clean curtains or other window ornaments?

Create a Mood

Bake bread during showings, or place a fresh loaf in a basket on the counter to create a warm and homey atmosphere.Classical music playing softly in the background is nice, but choose something that enhances the mood you are trying to create. For example, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, locals and out of town buyers react positively to Appalachian folk music playing softly in the background.

Essential Curb Appeal

In addition to keeping the lawn nicely trimmed, there are other elements you can add to grab a buyer's attention before they walk in the door:
Use outdoor lighting. It does wonders in the evenings when many homebuyers do drive-bys of properties.
Buy an attractive doorknob set.
Sweep the driveway; pressure wash the house or sidewalks if necessary.
Enhance landscaping.A great overall impression is often enough to make a buyer more lenient about minor repairs that may be required. You want them to fall in love with the house as soon as they see it from the street.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Buying fixer-upper homes

Buying a fixer-upper home can certainly be profitable. But if you're not careful, it can also lead to a financial misstep. Here are tips to keep you on the right track.

Many first-time buyers are attracted to fixers as a way to buy a home in a choice neighborhood that would otherwise be unaffordable. A successful fixer turnaround requires time, money and expertise. If you're a first-timer who works full time, is short of funds, and has little or no previous contracting experience, you should reconsider this strategy.

Regardless of whether you're a first-time or seasoned home buyer, you should seriously consider if you're well suited to the task before you buy. Remodeling is challenging and disruptive. It can end up taking longer and costing more than anticipated. Many relationships have crumbled during renovation projects.

Buyers who are convinced that buying and renovating a distressed property will be a personally and financially rewarding endeavor need to make sure that the property they buy is worth the price they pay. Overpaying for a fixer can jeopardize your equity. In fact, if you overpay and then overimprove for the market, you cand end up with negative equity.

Beware of overpaying for fixer properties in hot markets with limited inventory. Some buyers get cought up in the frenzy of a bidding war and pay more than they should because they perceive an opportunity to make even more money.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Gambling on appreciation is riskly. It's impossible to perfectly time the market. If oil prices were to suddenly skyrocket, sending interest rates higher, a rep-roaring market could be brought to a halt. To decrease the risk factor, make sure you pay no more than fair market value, regardless of how fast you think market values will climb.

In a slower market, a listing that has been on the market for awhile might be a good buy if the seller's ready to negotiate. But, if a fixer has been of the market for some time with no offers, ask yourself if it's a good deal at the price if no one else wants it.

Find out why the property hasn't sold. Is it the price, current market conditions or the condition of the property? If it's the latter, make sure that you have a keen understanding of the property's condition and the cost to correct defects before you buy.

Some fixers need epensive infrastructure improvements, like a new drainage system or a foundation retrofit. These improvements, while necessary, won't return 100 percent of the cost when you sell. If you buy a home that needs system upgrades, make sure that you will be able to offset the costs you won't recoup with cosmetic enhancements that will return more than you invest. Cosmetic fixers provide the greatest opportunity in terms of return on your investment.

If possible, get multiple estimates for significant work during the inspection contingency time period. In most cases, fixed-price contracts are a good idea if you are working with minimal funds. Time a material bids could run less than a fixed-pice bid. However, they could also run over what you've budgeted.

Budget carefully and then add at least 10-15 percent for cost overruns due to delays, increases in the costs of materials, changes and additions. Save all reports and receipts for work done. Use licensed contractors for significant work and take out permits when required. Do it yourselfers with no prior building experience should limit their participation to less complicated projects such as painting and yard cleanup.

THE CLOSING: Save copies of old reports and documentation of defects you've repaired and improvements you've made. They will be useful when you sell.

Dian Hymer is author of "House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbood for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide," Chroncile Books.

By Dianf Hymer
Inman News