What You Should Check During a Home Inspection

When it comes to buying a new home, you want a house in top condition. That is why home inspections are important in the home buying process. Now, like any careful home buyer, you know that your home inspector is always on the lookout for any error during his/her inspection. However, before the official inspection, it’s a good idea to do a quick evaluation yourself.  Knowing any of this before buying a house can save you time and money which you won’t regret. So what are the things you need to look out for when you’re inspecting a home?

A home inspection is necessary because it can keep you safe. By inspecting the electrical system, you will know if it’s faulty or not and this is important because a faulty electrical system can lead to fire hazard. A recent post from Medium explains why checking the electrical is a priority:

Check the Electrical

Always check the wiring and appliances inside any house that you want to buy. First, locate the electrical panel of the apartment or that of the entire building and look inside it. If it looks neat, new and organized, then it’s good to go. A strong red flag would be a panel where there are plenty of loose wires and nothing makes any sense.

Second, you will need to assess all the electrical appliances that the house comes with. Flip all the switches on and off a few times to see if they all work. The same is true for lighting fixtures and their adjacent switches. Via medium.com

Checking the electrical system of the house not only helps you to be safe but also knowing whether it needs fixing or not will help you spend less money. Electrical systems can be expensive to repair so you could end up spending a huge amount of money for repairs.

Inspect the electrical system of the house.

Next on our list is to look for signs of pests. They can be annoying and a real hassle to deal with. A new post from The Odyssey Online shares why it is crucial to inspect the house of pests:


Inspections are an important part of the home-buying process and can save you from a lot of heartache and grief. An independent inspector can tell you what’s wrong with the home (if anything), and refer you to a specialist to find out how much it will cost to fix the problem.

Pests can be both a nuisance and a threat to your home’s structural integrity. A termite infestation, if left unchecked, can render a home uninhabitable.

An inspector will look for signs of pest damage, and refer you to a professional exterminator if necessary. An exterminator can eliminate most pests, even those that aren’t wood-destroying. h/t theodysseyonline.com

Ants are one of the pests which can cause nuisance in your house and they can cause a lot of damage to your property which you won’t like at all. It is important that you get rid of the pests first if ever you decide on buying the house as it can ruin your house if it is not dealt with early on. You can always hire an exterminator in order to get rid of the pests.

Lastly, molds. It’s not safe to have mold in a house because it can badly affect health, and also indicates that there may be issues with other parts of the house. A recent post from Mashvisor discusses why it is important to do a mold inspection:


Mold and mildew are not only hazardous to health, but they are strong indicators of water problems with the foundation, roof, or plumbing system of a fixer upper. Besides visibly seeing the mold, there are a few ways a real estate investor can discover if mold removal should be on his/her list of home improvements:

1.) Put your hand on multiple walls during a home inspection of a fixer upper. Try to detect if there is dampness by noticing different temperatures of the walls.

2.) Mildew and mold usually give off a smell in the rooms that they are found in. Pay attention to these smells during the home inspection of a fixer upper.

If there are any signs of mold or mildew in a fixer upper, make sure not to end the home inspection of a fixer upper until the cause is discovered. Revisit the foundation, plumbing, and roof inspection if your inspector indicated no problems or issues requiring home improvement. If you plan to only remove the mold as a home improvement, you’ll find it quickly returns. This will lower the value of your investment property in the long run. read more at mashvisor.com

A house having mold indicates that there could be problems with the water, roof, foundation, etc. which is a big red flag. You don’t want to live in a house where you could get sick. If you decide on buying the house, it is important that the cause for the mold be determined and resolved as soon as possible.


What You Should Check During a Home Inspection is republished from The A-Team YMM Blog


5 Things To Know About Fort McMurray’s Residential Market in 2018

How Has 2018 Been for Real Estate So Far?

If you or your friends are looking for up-to-date information[note]The interpretations of the MLS® data are my own and don’t reflect the opinions of the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board or its members. There is plenty of my opinion in here, but the data we are using is super accurate. Not intended to solicit clients currently under contract with a competing real estate brokerage.[/note] on our local housing market, then here you go:

1) Fort McMurray REALTORS® Are Busier This Year

In the urban market area that we normally study[note]The data covers sales of all property types only the following areas: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Dickinsfield, Downtown, Eagle Ridge, Grayling Terrace, Henning Ridge, Parsons North, Prairie Creek, Stone Creek, Thickwood, Timberlea, Waterways and Wood Buffalo.[/note], we have noticed that more sales are happening so far this year. Here’s a table:

Number Of All Property Types In The Urban Market Area In The Last 10 Januaries (2018 is unclear)

As you can see, the total number of transactions so far this year is up. This is likely a response to lower prices. It may also be related to increasing interest rates, which incentivises buyers to bring forward their purchases to lock in in the 90-120 days before their pre-approval expires.

2) New Listings Are Down

In our area of study, the number of properties hitting the market was down this January (159) compared to the number listed in January 2017 (230). That’s a 31% decrease in the rate of homes hitting the market. In our experience “on the ground”, these are more likely to be foreclosures and rebuilds than last year’s new listings.

3) North Of The Bridge Still Most Popular

If we remove the seven lot sales, then we can plot January’s sales on a map as follows:

map of fort mcmurray home sales in january 2018
Map Of Non-Lot Sales In Fort McMurray in January 2018

You can see that Eagle Ridge and Timberlea are proving most popular so far this year. If this trend continues as 2018 continues, then it could have an impact on the distribution of prices of homes north versus south of the bridge. That could provide opportunities for buyers south of the bridge and sellers north of the bridge.

By the way, if you want to know your RMWB winter maintenance zone to avoid getting a parking ticket, you can find that out in the above map, too. You’re welcome! 😉

4) Expiries Down

As you can see in the chart below, the number of expiries is down this January vis-a-vis last January. A couple of possible explanations is that these listings are instead selling, or because sellers are more determined to keep their listings marketed as opposed to expiring.

Number of Monthly Expiries Over The Last Two Years

5) High-End Sales Up

A sign of confidence – luxury sales can be quite interesting. In January this year, there were 3 sales for homes over $900,000. Last January there was only 1.


It’s important, I think, not to draw too many conclusions because it’s early days, and the dataset is small. It will remain to be seen if these changes are temporary or more significant. The market is looking and feeling more balanced though. Subscribe to the blog, or check back through our social media. We’ll keep you posted!

5 Things To Know About Fort McMurray’s Residential Market in 2018 See more on: https://ateamymm.ca

Boom & Bust or Balanced Future: Facebook Poll Results

What Does Fort McMurray Think of the Housing Market?

I posted a fun little poll on Facebook recently.

Actually, I posted two.

This is NOT the post I’m talking about (see comments for results):

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FATeamYMM%2Fposts%2F1428771620582419&width=500 In fact, what I asked was:

What do YOU think the future of the Fort McMurray housing market looks like?

Option 1: Boom & bust cycles

Option 2: A balanced future

I was surprised by the results, and found them very fascinating! If you are thinking of buying or selling,[note]Not intended to solicit clients currently under contract with a competing real estate brokerage.[/note] the results will probably be very interesting to you, too! Here’s what I mean…

Since the start of the Fort McMurray real estate correction (late 2014), we’ve kept an eye on the mood around town.

As we surmised in recent blog posts, ultimately the real estate market is underpinned by economic fundamentals, but it’s affected on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis by confidence. As you’ll see in the examples below, these two are related to each other, but not perfectly so.

What do I mean by this? I’ll give some examples[note]The interpretations of the MLS® data are my own and don’t reflect the opinions of the Fort McMurray Real Estate Board or its members. There is plenty of my opinion in here, but the data we are using is super accurate.[/note].

Example 1: At The Start: Mood Lagged Fundamentals

In early 2015, there was a general sense that, much like the first world war, the oil crunch would be over by Christmas:

Even with a sharp downturn in oil prices in 2008-2009, the city’s population has grown more than 70 per cent since the year 2000. Recent census figures set Fort McMurray’s population at about 73,000, with another 39,000 people living in work camps and surrounding communities.

“Certainly, when we had a setback in mid-2008 it was the best time we had as a municipality to get our plans articulated and put into place,” says Blake, who has served as mayor since 2004.

“When I look at this one, I see it as a time where we can reassess some of the assumptions that we made and see if we need to take a different perspective. Via edmontonjournal.com

The sad reality (that the fundamentals suggested far worse) had not yet formed part of the public consciousness. In fact, the previous correction (2008/2009) had been short-lived, and so that event dominated memory and expectations. Looking back, it is surprising that there weren’t more listings in those early days.

Example 2: Oil Prices Immediately Affecting Sentiment

It’s really hard to show what I mean by just using charts, so I’ll also try to explain what we feel as REALTORS® in such an important oil town.

While the WTI oil price over the last three years has been under about $60 a barrel, as you can see from the following chart, there have been ups and downs as the market has ebbed and flowed.

Source: NASDAQ http://www.nasdaq.com/markets/crude-oil.aspx?timeframe=3y)

For example, check out the green circle on the chart: Oil took its time to really find its bottom. There was hope, even in the oil market for parts of 2015. This arguably contributed to the hope in example 1 (above).

At other times (the red circle), the oil market itself was in despair: I’ll never forget the brutally long winter of 2015/2016, for example. Oil sank to gut-wrenching lows; even Syncrude employees started to fret about job security, everyone we talked to was worried. Here’s a chart of monthly real estate sales[note]The data covers sales of all property types only the following areas: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Dickinsfield, Downtown, Eagle Ridge, Grayling Terrace, Henning Ridge, Parsons North, Prairie Creek, Stone Creek, Thickwood, Timberlea, Waterways and Wood Buffalo.[/note]: 

2016 Urban Fort McMurray Real Estate Sales

As you can see, in the 4 months before the fire, the town’s real estate market was paralyzed. Real estate sales volumes were now down 50-80% on a monthly basis vis-a-vis a boom year like, for example, 2013.

Even The A-Team only sold 13 listings in 2016 in the four months before the wildfire (compared to, for example, 11 pending and sold so far this year [and it’s only the start of February]). Prices were in freefall.

It’s hard to explain confidence: Usually, confidence in the local market undulates with the oil price, but not always. The volume of sales in our local real estate industry rises and falls with the mood, sometimes, it seems, weekly. As a local real estate team fortunate enough to have an approximately 10% market share, we can feel these undulations. We discuss the market weekly in our agent meetings and it’s everyone’s favourite part!

So. What About The Facebook Poll??

Here are the poll results:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FATeamYMM%2Fposts%2F1424026554390259&width=500 Wow! Confidence is back, and it feels great.

I really really regret not polling this every quarter for the last few years. The only reason we posted this poll was in response to what we have been feeling since late November: people seem to have more confidence in buying in the local real estate market these days.

Prices have fallen so much that it’s hard to imagine them falling that same dollar amount again (in many cases, that would be impossible). There are plenty of signs of recovery.

But there is definitely a large minority of our followers who don’t expect another boom anytime soon.

Anything to Learn?

What have I learned? Well, for one thing, while hope is a beautiful part of human nature, it pays to have it at the right times. The market is dominated by the fundamentals, and as decision-makers for our families, we serve those families by being as right as possible as much of the time as possible.

I’d be really interested to ask people what their preference would be as opposed to their expectation; would they want more booms or a more balanced future, like the Municipality’s slogan?

I suspect the answer would depend on when they purchased their home… The idea of a balanced future is really appealing, given the roller-coaster we have been through, but that surely comes second to personal financial considerations.

I’ll leave you with the news that, in the market area we study (see footnotes), Fort McMurray has seen 79 sales so far this month versus 55 in Jan 2017, 47 in Jan 2016 and 45 in Jan 2015.

Did you miss the poll? If so, please feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below or on social media. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Whichever group of poll respondents later turns out to be correct, here’s to a happier, safer and healthier year for our beloved town than the sad years we’ve seen lately. We’ve been through the worst, and together, we’ll get through the rest. Cheers!

The following post Boom & Bust or Balanced Future: Facebook Poll Results Read more on: The A-Team YMM Blog

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of February 2)

It’s time for another edition of our weekly column from the A-Team. Here is some important news for this week.

A memorandum of understanding was signed last January 26 to address housing issues in Fort Chipewyan. From Mix News:

Affordable Housing Coming to Fort Chipewyan

WBHDC President and CEO Henry Hunter tells Mix News the two organizations will be developing an affordable action plan to address the housing concerns in the community.

“Once we’ve identified what the needs are we then need to look for land and finances to build housing or buy housing if that’s the way we go forward.”

They will also be looking to maximize the effectiveness of affordable housing investment, analyze of program and service gaps between the hamlet, RMWB, and the province, as well as prioritizing new opportunities for better living conditions.

In a release, President of Métis Nation 125 Cameron MacDonald says this is the first step in fixing the gaps in their housing situation. Via mix1037fm.com

Hopefully, the signed memorandum will achieve its purpose and make Fort Chipewyan a better place to live.

Credit: http://www.mix1037fm.com

After years of construction, the Fort Hills Project has achieved its first oil, according to Vincent McDermott of Fort McMurray Today:

Fort Hills achieves first oil

“With operations at Fort Hills now in continuous production, we’ve brought one of the best long-term growth projects in our industry into service and we’re now focused on the safe and steady ramp up through 2018,” said Steve Williams, the company’s CEO and president, in a Monday morning statement. “Fort Hills will provide energy and employment and generate returns for decades.”

Construction began in 2013, after the global recession halted the project in 2008. The project was again delayed due to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire and design changes. Production was originally expected to start in late 2017.

At peak construction, Fort Hills employed an average of 7,900 people. There are currently 1,400 direct employees at the site. h/t fortmcmurraytoday.com

The project is expected to produce 194,000 barrels per day in its full capacity, which it should reach by the end of the year.

Lastly, a special council meeting was held last Tuesday with topics regarding the 2018-2021 Strategic plan, 2020 Canda 55+ Games and many more. From My McMurray:

Plenty of new business for Tuesday’s council meeting

The Municipal Management Team has reviewed the previous strategic plan and the organization’s vision, mission and values and identified potential strategic priorities.

Four key strategic priorities include:

1.) Responsible government
2.) Downtown revitalization
3.) Regional economic development
4.) Rural and Indigenous communities and partnerships

The proposed plan outlines the steps the municipality will need to take, as well as indicators to measure the plan’s success.

Council will also introduce the proposed 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Strategy, an update from the first strategy which was created in 2010. read more at mymcmurray.com

Positive feedback from stakeholders tell that there would be several benefits including boosting tourism and local economy. In particular, downtown revitalization will have a considerable effect on the town’s fortunes. Information was lacking on the promised fight against Bill 21.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

The blog post Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of February 2) is courtesy of The A-Team YMM Blog

Leaving Your Home Vacant: A Checklist for Out-of-Town Sellers

Selling a Vacant Home

So you are planning to sell your Fort McMurray property? – Very exciting!

You may be planning to leave town. Perhaps you left a while ago and rented your place?

Maybe your tenants just moved out? Maybe both?

Whichever is true, this post is for you, as long as you intend to leave the property vacant for some or all of the listing (it can be a good idea).

Below you will find a checklist of what to do if you are selling your home vacant and still want to attract buyers to get the best possible price for your home[note]Please note: This checklist is just a good start. There may be other things to think about, depending on your situation and the home itself![/note].

Over half of the homes that I have listed for sale today are vacant. This seems to be a common theme in Fort McMurray, at least these days. There are pros and cons to having a vacant home while listed for sale, actually!

It is really convenient for showings because we can get REALTORS® and buyers in easily to see the home (don’t have to worry about giving notice to the occupants), but there are some extra things that will need to be looked after while it is for sale.

It is important to know that buyers will still expect certain things to be done, even if you aren’t living there. Check out the checklist below so you can be prepared. This way you can enjoy the benefits of a vacant listing, and hopefully, avoid some of the headaches!


1.) Shovel your driveway/walkway or cut the grass/weed. Snow shoveling is very important as we don’t want buyers to get frustrated with wet feet before they even reach your front door! In the warmer months, if you don’t keep the grass trim, then this can give buyers the impression that the home is not well maintained.

Buyers (and everyone else) prefer shoveled driveways

2.) Park vehicles (if applicable) away from the front door. If you need to leave a vehicle at the home, then do your best to either park it in the garage or on the far side of the driveway (away from the front door) so that the buyers can park close to the front door. We want to make it easy for them!

3.) Have it cleaned before you list the home for sale and have it dusted every few weeks or so. Again we want buyers to be impressed and to show them that you take good care of your home, so having a cleaner in every once in a while to dust and wipe down windows/mirrors will go a long way.

4.) Leave the front porch light on at all times so REALTORS® and their buyers can find the front door lock when they are heading in. This removes frustration (we don’t want the agent showing your home to be frustrated before they even enter!). Even if you are listed for sale in the summer, a light on at the front door can be warm and be inviting. Yes, your electricity bill will be a tad bit higher, but it will be worth the small investment. You could even put a small label on the light switch for the front light asking buyers to leave it on.

5.) Leave some kind of air freshener in the home to stop it from smelling musty. If your home is vacant, it may end up smelling a bit musty due to stale air.  Be sure not to put in too many air fresheners though as buyers might suspect that you are trying to hide some other smell. There is definitely a fine balance here and your friendly A-Team listing agent would be happy to help if you are looking for a second opinion…

6.) Leave the temperature in your home set to 21 degrees Celsius. We want your home to be warm and inviting, even when it is -20 degrees outside! If it is summer, then be sure your air conditioning is on so it doesn’t get too hot inside. Again your utility bill will be a tad higher because of this, but you will not regret it! In summer, consider leaving blinds half closed and in winter, consider leaving them open to let in plenty of natural light.

7.) Cancel your newspaper and consider leaving a “no junk mail” sign on your door to avoid papers piling up on your front porch (which will only be in the way when buyers come to visit). This would also be good to do for security reasons (don’t want to make it obvious that your home is vacant).

Canceling flyers and newspapers clears the clutter

8.) Replace light bulbs that are burned out and leave some extras in an obvious place in your home for whomever it is looking after the house to be able to replace them easily. Again this goes back to ensuring your home is warm and inviting, but also shows that the home is well maintained.

9.) If it is winter, consider having your home winterized so that there are no issues with pipes freezing and unwanted flooding or other headaches.

10.) Keep in mind that your insurance company will likely also require that you have someone checking on your home regularly. To find out how often you need to check in so that your insurance remains intact, contact your insurance company directly.

There are property management companies in town that can help with these items, however, we can also help if you are listed with The A-Team – please just ask! I hope you find this list helpful! Please feel free to share with friends and to reach out if you’d like personalized advice.

Leaving Your Home Vacant: A Checklist for Out-of-Town Sellers was originally published on The A-Team LLC

Questions You Should Ask a Home Seller

What Should You Ask Home Sellers?

Going home-hunting is both enjoyable and complicated. There’s nothing more satisfying than owning your own house, but without proper experience in the market trends mistakes can be costly on your part. However, there are things you can do that make it easier for you to find your perfect home: namely, asking the right questions. Here’s more on that:

First, the best question you can ask a home seller is the reason they’re selling their home. There are many reasons why people sell, but some are worse than others. A recent post from Investopedia explains why this is important:

Why are you selling?

There are many reasons why people move, including job relocation, desire to get into a smaller/larger house, life events (marriage, birth of a child, death of a spouse) and retirement. While you may not always get a truthful answer, asking why the seller is moving can be helpful in determining how much room there is for negotiating.

Depending on the reason for moving, the seller may be willing to accept a lower offer if it means he or she can be out of the home faster. Of course, if the seller is in no hurry to sell, there may be little room for negotiation. Via investopedia.com

It’s good to know the reason the seller’s are selling because it helps you identify whether there are major issues in the house.

Next is to ask how long the home has been on the market. This is something your agent should be able to tell you, as it has a considerable effect on the buying process:

How long has the house been on the market?

While you can glean information from the internet and your broker, there are details that only the seller can provide. However, there are sellers who would provide only the basic information about his property and try to avoid consequential questions that might affect the potential sale. To know the right answers, you must ask the right questions.

If the house has been on the market for more than six months, either it or its neighborhood has problems that turn off potential buyers. More so, if it is inappropriately priced, it won’t draw much attention. When a property becomes stale for staying on the market for a long time, the seller knows he needs a new strategy and must be open to negotiation. h/t hoppler.com.ph

It is important to know because it can help you determine if the house is priced too high. You can take advantage of this because most sellers are willing to negotiate in order to sell their home.

Ask how old the house is!

Lastly, be sure to ask how old the house is. A recent post from Property Checklists explains why the age of the home matters:

How old is the house?

Once you’ve found a property you like, it’s time to start asking the important questions to make sure it really is your dream home.

This can guide you about timescales and maintenance costs for any renovations or any parts that may need replacing after you’ve moved in. read more at propertychecklists.co.uk

Knowing how old a home is can help you identify issues or problems with the house that needs maintenance or repair. If you’re looking online though, most MLS® listings will include the build year, so it’s not too hard to find the info yourself.

The post Questions You Should Ask a Home Seller is available on The A-Team Real Estate Blog