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This house in Kingsland, one of Calgary’s middle-ring neighbourhoods, was completely stripped and rebuilt by Corefront Custom Homes & Renovations over a seven-month period. Courtesy Corefront Custom Homes & Renovations

There are tens of thousands of Calgary homes built from the 1950s through the early 1970s in what were then new suburbs. One thing many of those homes have in common is the need for updating to modern tastes.

When Lewis Cowie bought a home in Kingsland about six years ago, it was as if time had stood still in the classic, 1950s bungalow. Most of the home was still original, right down to the bathroom fixtures, so a major renovation project was in order.

Luckily, Cowie is a director with Corefront Custom Homes & Renovations, and his company was ready for the challenge.

“We completely gutted it down to the studs, which is common for houses of this era,” he said. “We put in all new wiring and plumbing, and changed some plumbing locations to make the floor plan work out better.

“THEY COME INTO THIS KIND OF HOUSE PARTLY BECAUSE THEY LOVE THE CHARACTER OF A MID-CENTURY, VINTAGE HOUSE, AND ARE LOOKING AT HOW MUCH OF THAT CHARACTER THEY WANT TO KEEP.” – KEITH MCTAGGART, BENROSS HOME SERVICES LTD. OWNER AND PRESIDENT

“(Then) we took out some interior walls to open the space up, enlarged the kitchen, did up the basement really nice.”

Cowie says the dining room and kitchen were combined, and one of the spare bedrooms was used to create a master bedroom ensuite with walk-in closet – both common renovations for an older home.

He says the result “really felt like a brand-new house,” but in a location with schools, mature trees, homes “that don’t all look the same,” and only a 10-minute drive to his office near the Saddledome.

“That’s a big part of Corefront’s market, renovations of those middle-ring homes from the 1950s to ’70s,” he said. “They’re fun projects to work on.”

Keith McTaggart, owner and president of Benross Home Services Ltd., says some people actually buy a middle-ring home with a view towards keeping some aspects of the original design in a renovation.

“They come into this kind of house partly because they love the character of a mid-century, vintage house, and are looking at how much of that character they want to keep,” he said. “So I think it’s a good idea to live in the house for a while and see what it has to offer you in its original design.”

McTaggart says a comprehensive renovation to an older home – taking out some walls to create a more open concept, and redoing the kitchen and bathrooms – might cost $100,000 to $150,000.

Meanwhile, something simpler like a basic new kitchen starts around $15,000 to $20,000, and a basic bathroom reno starts at about $10,000.

These backyard ideas will make your small space look and feel BIGGER.

Don’t think of your microscopic yard as a curse. So what if it’s technically a small concrete slab that barely accommodates a half-sized Weber grill? Or if your flagstone patio is just big enough for you, a lounge chair, and a good book? Your tiny outdoor spot is actually an opportunity to get creative.

To live large with a small footprint, try these functional tweaks to make your minuscule outdoor space feel like a palatial retreat.

1. Divide the Space

Wait, what? That’s right. Even if your square footage is relatively small, dividing your outdoor space into two areas can actually make it seem bigger.

“Creating a space within a space makes it seem larger because it gives you a separate experience,” says Joy Diaz, chief marketing officer at Land Care Inc.

Diaz recommends a small wood pergola, which you can purchase at home improvement stores or even build yourself without too much effort. You can also use walls to divide the space. We’re not talking about bulky concrete barriers here — try using short trellises, arbors, or vine-covered wooden fences to separate your loungers from your patio table.

“It says, ‘I’m in one place, that’s another place, and if there’s room for two places it must be big,’” says J. Scott Williams, a landscape architect at YardApes in New Milford, Conn.

As an added bonus, walls prevent visitors from walking in a straight line from one end of the patio to another, instead creating a winding path that makes your small space feel expansive.

2. Plant a Privacy Screen

A peaceful space always feels roomier than one crowded with noise and other distractions — like the pressure to strike up an awkward conversation every time you lock eyes with the nice lady next door. Keep your evening soirées and morning coffee blissfully secluded with a few cleverly positioned plants.

There are a few ways to achieve this goal. Along the very edges of your space, plant a tall, wide bush, like the purple smoke bush, a fantastic, easy-to-care-for container plant that can grow six or seven feet every year. Just be sure to keep on top of trimmings to keep it from overgrowing your patio — you want it growing up, not out — but as long as you do so, it makes an excellent privacy screen.

“A larger plant in a small space is dramatic,” says Williams.

You can also privatize your patio without sacrificing any square footage with the oldest trick in the book: Install some climbing vines on a trellis to clearly tell your neighbors, “This is my special space.”

3. Add a Water Feature

A dramatic focal point can really add some intrigue to a mini yard. And a water feature, like a bubbling birdbath or wall fountain, can do just the trick.

Williams suggests choosing an element with a black bottom, which will create a darker surface that reflects sky and trees, making your outdoor space feel bigger. Just make sure your water feature doesn’t overwhelm your porch — you can skip the long, vanishing edge-style pool.

“I wouldn’t put a longer element in a small space, which might make it look smaller,” Williams said. “Add a smaller water element into a small space, and make it seem larger.”

4. Use Vertical Space

Vertical planter in a back yard
Image: Deborah Silver, photo/Barry Harrison of Art | Harrison, design

Distract from your lack of horizontal yardage by really maximizing your outdoor space’s most abundant dimension: vertical space.

Use your walls, fence, or railings as extra space by adding vines or a living wall filled with flowers, herbs, and other eye-catching greenery. For a simple change, prop an attractive ladder — think barnyard chic, maybe? — against the wall and use its rungs as shelving for plants or other decor. The internet is bursting with other vertical planter and shelving ideas, too, using everything from pallets to chicken wire.

“It draws the eye up and outwards, and gives it a green and completely different look,” says Diaz. “It can change the atmosphere of the area. You’ve walked into a different experience from your home — it’s a psychological and emotional change.”

5. Expand Space with a Mirror

A mirror on a fence in an outdoor space with patio furniture
Image: Stacy Risenmay

“Mirrors really make space feel more expansive,” Williams says. On a small porch, place a tall mirror on the ground behind a portico or a patch of greenway, which “makes it look like a doorway into another garden.”

You don’t need to go huge on the mirror to have a huge impact. Even hanging a normal-sized mirror, like one you might find over a dresser, can make a tiny space feel much larger. But whichever you choose, make sure to weatherproof your mirror first using a mirror edge sealer (you’ll also want to add sealant to the frame, especially if it’s made from wood) to prevent moisture damage — unless you like the weathered look, that is.

Small spaces don’t have to be limiting. With a little bit of creativity — and perhaps a reflective surface or two — there’s no reason you can’t feel like you’re living in your very own Versailles.

 
Offers: Which One Is Best for You and Why illustration
Image: HouseLogic

And on that day, you’re going to face a question you may not have previously considered: How do you know if an offer is the best one for you?

Your listing agent will be a big help here. They will understand and help you suss out the merits and faults  of an offer because — believe it or not — it’s not always about price.

One buyer’s beautifully high offer might not look so good anymore, for example, if you discover that it’s contingent upon you moving out a month earlier than planned. Or, conversely, you may prefer speed over price, particularly if you’re moving to a new city. 

Your listing agent will have a sense  of what you want financially and personally — and can help you determine whether the offer at hand satisfies those goals. 

Before the first offer rolls in, here’s what you need to know about the offer evaluation process, including the main factors that should go into making a decision — accept or reject? — with your agent.

5 Important Things — Other Than Price — to Consider When Evaluating an Offer

Want to fetch top dollar for your home and walk away with as much money in your pocket as possible? Of course you do. You’ve gone through the time-consuming process of setting your asking price, staging your home, promoting your listing, and preparing for open houses — and should be rewarded for your efforts.

Your first instinct may be to just pick the highest bid on the table. But the offer price isn’t the only thing worth considering.

When vetting offers, evaluate these five areas in addition to price:

1. The earnest money deposit. One important consideration when weighing an offer is the size of the earnest money deposit. The EMD is the sum of cash the buyer is offering to fork over when the sales agreement is signed to show the person is serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying your home. This money, which is typically held by a title company, will go toward the buyer’s down payment at closing.

A standard EMD is 1% to 3% of the cost of the home (so, that would be $2,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 house). If a buyer tries to back out of an offer for no good reason, the seller typically keeps the EMD. Therefore, the higher the earnest money, the stronger the offer.

2. The contingencies. Most offers have contingencies — provisions that must be met for the transaction to go through, or the buyer is entitled to walk away from the deal with their earnest money. Contracts with fewer contingencies are more likely to reach closing, and in a timely fashion.  

Here are five of the most common contingencies:

  • Home inspection contingency. This gives the buyer the right to have the home professionally inspected and request repairs by a certain date — typically within five to seven days of the purchase agreement being signed. Depending on where you live, you may be required to make home repairs for structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues. Most repair requests are negotiable, though, so you have the option to haggle over which fixes you’re willing to make.
  • Appraisal contingency. For a mortgage lender to approve a home buyer’s loan, the home must pass appraisal — a process during which the property’s value is assessed by a neutral third party. The appraisal verifies that the home is worth at least enough money to cover the price of the mortgage. (In the event the buyer can’t make their mortgage payments, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell the property to recoup all — or at least some — of its costs.) Generally, the home buyer is responsible for paying for the appraisal, which typically takes place within 14 days of the sales contract being signed.
  • Financing contingency. Also called a loan contingency or mortgage contingency, a financing contingency protects the buyer in the event their lender doesn’t approve their mortgage. Although the timeframe for financing contingencies can vary, mortgage lenders report that buyers generally have about 21 days to obtain mortgage approval. 
  • Sale of current home contingency. Depending on the buyer’s financial situation, their offer may be contingent on the sale of their home. Usually, buyers have a window of 30 to 90 days to sell their house before the sales agreement is voided. This contingency puts you, the seller, at a disadvantage because you can’t control whether the buyer sells their house in time. 
  • Title contingency. Before approving a mortgage, a lender will require the borrower to “clear title” — a process in which the buyer’s title company reviews any potential easements or agreements that are on public record. This ensures the buyer is becoming the rightful owner of the property and the lender is protected from ownership claims over liens, fraudulent claims from previous owners, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or forged signatures.

These contingencies are standard for most real estate sales contracts. There’s one exception: the sale of current home contingency, which tends to be used more often in strong buyer’s markets, when buyers have greater leverage over sellers. 

That being said, contingencies are always negotiable. (The caveat: Mortgage lenders require borrowers to have appraisal financing contingencies, or they won’t approve the loan.) It’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable agreeing to, and your agent can help you make that decision.

3. The down payment. Depending on the type of mortgage, the buyer must make a down payment on the house — and the size of that down payment can affect the strength of the offer. In most cases, a buyer’s down payment amount is related to the home loan they’re taking out. Your chief concern as a seller, of course, is for the transaction to close — and for that to happen, the buyer’s mortgage has be approved.

Generally, a larger down payment signals the buyer’s financial wherewithal to complete the sale. The average down payment, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is 10%. Some mortgage products, such as FHA and VA loans, allow for even lower down payments. 

If, by chance, the appraisal comes in higher than your contract’s sale price, the buyer with a higher down payment would more likely be able to cover the difference with the large amount of cash they have available.

4. The all-cash offer. The more cash the buyer plunks down, the more likely the lender is to approve their loan. That’s why an all-cash offer is ideal for both parties. The buyer doesn’t have to fulfill an appraisal contingency — whereby their lender has the home appraised to make sure the property value is large enough to cover the mortgage — or a financing contingency, which requires buyers to obtain mortgage approval within a certain number of days. As always, having a sales contract with fewer contingencies means there are fewer ways for the deal to fall through.

5. The closing date. Settlement, or “closing,” is the day when both parties sign the final paperwork and make the sale official. Typically, the whole process — from accepting an offer to closing — takes between 30 and 60 days; however, the average closing time is 42 days, according to a report from mortgage software company Ellie Mae. 

Three days before closing, the buyer receives a closing disclosure from the lender, which he compares with the loan estimate he received when he applied for the loan. If there are material differences between the buyer’s loan estimate and closing disclosure, the closing can’t happen until those amounts are reviewed and approved. But this is rare.

Some transactions can take more time, depending on the buyer’s financing. For example, the average closing time for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is 43 days, according to Ellie Mae. 

Whether you want a slow or quick settlement will depend on your circumstances. If you’ve already purchased your next home, for instance, you probably want to close as soon as possible. On the other hand, you may want a longer closing period — say, 60 days — if you need the proceeds from the sale to purchase your new home.

When Should You Make a Counteroffer?

Depending on the circumstances, you may be in the position to make a counteroffer. But every transaction is different, based on the particular market conditions and your home. In some circumstances, you can be gutsy with your counteroffer. In others, it might serve your goals better to give in to the buyer’s demands. Your agent can provide helpful insight about when and why a counteroffer will be the right thing for you.

For instance: If you’re in a seller’s market — meaning that homes are selling quickly and for more than the asking prices — and you received multiple offers, your agent may recommend you counteroffer with an amount higher than you would have in a buyer’s market. 

If you choose to write a counteroffer, your agent will negotiate on your behalf to make sure you get the best deal for you.

A caveat: In many states sellers can’t legally make a counteroffer to more than one buyer at the same time, since they’re obligated to sign a purchase agreement if a buyer accepts the new offer.

When Does an Offer Become a Contract?

In a nutshell, a deal is under contract when the buyer’s offer (or seller’s counteroffer) is agreed upon and signed by both parties. At that point, the clock starts ticking for the home buyer’s contingencies — and for the sweet moment when the cash — and home — is yours.

 

© Copyright 2018 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Courtesy the Landscape Artist Inc.

 

April 20, 2018

Article by Gerald Vander Pyl

Embracing the possibilities of outdoor living

Given Calgary’s sometimes seemingly endless winters, it’s important to make the most of summer. That’s why people have embraced landscaping trends that create outdoor living spaces in their own backyard.

Peter Van Seggelen, owner of the Landscape Artist Inc., says one definite trend is outdoor spaces with a built-in fireplace.

“People are gravitating towards that, because having a heat source can really extend the time that you can use your outdoor living space,” he said.

He even has clients who use their outdoor fireplace in midwinter, when temperatures get near freezing.

“People tell me they’re out there at Christmas time having a glass of wine,” he said. “It makes life just so much nicer.”

“PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO BE A SLAVE TO THEIR GARDEN, BUT WANT TO ENJOY THEIR OUTSIDE SPACES.” – PETER VAN SEGGELEN, THE LANDSCAPE ARTIST INC.

Also popular, says Van Seggelen, are low-maintenance landscape choices, such as putting greens and “lawn” areas that use artificial turf, so people don’t have to cut the grass.

“People don’t want to be a slave to their garden, but want to enjoy their outside spaces,” he said.

Van Seggelen adds that a basic landscape project that can really make a difference is a patio, which is less expensive than a deck and requires almost zero maintenance.

“You feel like you’re nestled in the garden as opposed to sitting on a deck (high) above,” he said. “And that’s what people are looking for, a space that they can go into and feel private and secluded.”

Mumtaz (Taz) Mirza, owner of Tazscapes Inc., says a broader trend is that homeowners are realizing the value of good landscaping.

“People are starting to understand the concept of outdoor living, and are investing a lot more money into landscaping in general,” said Mirza.” They want outdoor spaces they can actually use.”

The trend towards concrete products, such as paving stones, that mimic natural surfaces also continues, and now even includes wood grain.

“It’s a manufactured stone, but looks like wooden slabs,” said Mirza.

His company is currently finalizing a design that will include a huge deck area with a pergola, outdoor kitchen with retractable screens for year-round use, rock walls, patio, fire pit, putting green and water feature – all for a cool $500,000.

 

April 20, 2018 – Article by Geoff Geddes

Given our climate, it’s no surprise that Calgarians spend a lot of time indoors. Fortunately, the latest design trends offer some exciting ways spice up your home’s interior. From colours to curves, let Alykhan Velji of Alykhan Velji Designs and LeAnne Bunnell of LeAnne Bunnell Interiors walk you through a range of options to keep you on the cutting edge.
 

Colour

 
“Muted colours in pale pinks, greens, blues and terracotta are becoming very on trend,” said Velji. “They help provide a more organic look to a space and can be used as accents or on all walls. The light tones make them easy to use as neutrals or paired with other colours.”
 
Another popular approach to colour these days is also turning heads.“Along with classic black and white, we are finding ourselves selecting more saturated jewel tones like deep dark teal, rich masculine oxblood and strong sapphire blue,” said Bunnell.
 
“These colours show up in paint, wallpaper and textiles, and create a vibrant, sophisticated palette. Mix in a strongly patterned area rug and a signature piece of art and you have instant character.”

 

Ethnic Influences

 
“Introduction of more ornate or tribal pieces mixed with modern is a look that you are seeing a lot in design,” said Velji. “The mix adds some contrast and a little friction so that spaces don’t look boring. I love using textural elements, such as carved side tables, or textiles, such as kilims (flat tapestry-woven carpets or rugs), to add a textural element to a space and help break things up.”
 
With her clients, Bunnell is finding Persian rugs, especially vintage and traditional styles, making their way back into interiors.“Whether it’s a runner in the kitchen or a statement-making area rug in an office, we love them all!” she said.

 

Curves

 
According to Velji, curved furniture pieces are a hot item these days.“You are seeing the curve design detail on chairs, coffee tables and even accent pieces like mirrors,” he said. “It is a very organic look and brings softness to spaces. I think for so long we were all about clean, square lines and now we are moving away from this.”
 
Velji is also seeing the influence of curves in architectural elements.
 
“I think we are so used to seeing curved entryways in architecture from either traditional homes or in late-’90s architecture, but now it is done in a more modern way,” he said. “Helping to break up the hard lines of modern design, the curves create a softer look.”The return of curve appeal is seconded by Bunnell.“Sinewy curved furniture is all the rage,” she said. “We are designing a curved kitchen nook banquette for a project right now, and with the organic trend we are seeing a softening of previous crisp, rectilinear lines.”

 

Greenery

 
From succulents to large palm trees, Bunnell finds that greenery is really growing on her clients.
“Calgarians are embracing life back into their homes – fun planters and vessels only serve to personalize our green friends more,” she said.
 
It’s a trend that Velji is embracing in a variety of ways.
 
“Plants are everywhere, especially tropicals,” he said. “They are a fantastic way of adding in a natural element to a space, and just as every space needs a hit of black, it now needs some greenery. From large tropical plants with big palms, to succulents done in a terrarium style, they are as low or high maintenance as you choose.”

 

Pattern


 
Whether in floors, textiles, showers or backsplashes, Bunnell sees Calgary homeowners becoming more tolerant of adding interest through checks, hexagons, stripes and herringbone. For his part, Velji says that’s a good thing. “Patterns are my favourite element. We use them in all different ways for designing,” he said. “However, you are seeing more and more patterns being introduced with tile. Patterned tile is where it’s at when it comes to design trends in entryways, mudrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. It’s a great way to add either a geometric look or a Moroccan vibe to a space.” Overall, with interiors, Bunnell finds that a more pared-down aesthetic is resonating for many people.
 
“Personalized style and tailored living is strong, with less spaces identifying as a specific design ‘style’ as was the norm in the past,” she said. “There is evidence of a move to more casual living and entertaining when we develop floor plans, as we see an emphasis on creating a strong character in each home. Our climate increasingly impacts our interiors, and we see comfort as the leading request.”
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