January 29, 2017
5 Essentials About Home Lighting - research and do your homework!
“Lighting is everything. It creates atmosphere, drama, and intrigue in a room. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a dinner switch. I always use dimmers, even in the powder room”
- Martyn Lawrence Bullard
UK Born / L.A. Based Interior Designer extraordinaire
ELI Table Lamp, Robinson Lighting, Calgary, AB
As a real estate agent, and previously as a destination service consultant (helping expatriate families find corporate rentals), I have seen the interiors of many a home over the past several years. Most homes come and go without much impression, but then there are those that really stand out. I started to ask myself, why did I really notice this interior? What was special about this home? Several factors, but one for sure was the lighting. I decided to learn more about lighting myself, and then to share what I have learned with my readership.
My good friend, Angela McQueen, works for a well-known lighting store here in Calgary. Recently I was able to interview Angela about lighting. Here are 5 important points from that interview session on lighting a home, regardless of whether you are planning on improving your living space or lighting to sell:
1) WHAT ARE SOME KEY/ GENERAL POINTS ABOUT LIGHTING IN TERMS OF
MAKING A ROOM MORE COMFORTABLE, READING AND NOT COSTING TOO MUCH?
Lighting is best layered- meaning you will have task lights paired with ambient lighting, paired with accent lights. This is the most pleasing to the eye and the best to providing a suitable amount of light for rooms. For example - in a kitchen, you may have pot lights (ambient lighting), paired with island pendants (task lighting) paired with under cabinet lighting (accent lighting). By having them on different switches for control, you can use as much or as little as you need for the given task and layer the light as needed.
Dimmers are also a fantastic option for most spaces- you can adjust them to better suit the mood of the space. For instance, above a kitchen island, you can turn the dimmer all the way of for the highest lumen (measure of light) output for tasks such as cooking or cleaning, and you can dim them down when it’s more appropriate, such as getting a glass of water late at night.
Adding Lamps is also a great way to add both a layer of light and some beauty to a space. They can be used for reading, multi purpose, decoration etc. They can add some softer, light, making even the most sterile of spaces seem more inviting. As well, like most things, will come in a variety of price points.
2) HOW CAN SELLERS ENHANCE THE ‘FEELING’ OF THEIR HOME WHEN LISTING A PROPERTY TO SELL? WHAT AR SOME KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WITHOUT INVESTING TOO MUCH?
Updating changeable items, such as hardware and lighting can be a great way to enhance the feeling of their home. It's amazing how much drastic some simple changes can be! A seller may opt for wanting to add some glamour to their home by adding a crystal chandelier to their dining room, or bedroom, or a more modern feel with a new vanity fixture or some fun with sassy pendants over an island. Lighting has often been described as the jewelry to ones’ home, and with that- it's amazing what the result is with some final touches!
Lighting, like most things is available in a variety of price points, I always suggest people allocated more of their budget to the larger key pieces - a foyer or dining room piece. This is something what's going to be enjoyed and admired by everyone who enters the house. I don't recommend putting budget busting fixtures in placed where they are not appreciated, such as a hallway. In my experience, most people don't look up right away (hence why spending more on a dining room piece which is typically hung at 5-6' from the floor) is not unnoticed...
Other places to have some ' fun' and break the 'rules' is Powder rooms and Island Pendants. I find Powder rooms can be more dramatic and depending on the client, you may be able to get away with something which doesn't emit as much light to enhance the space. Typically, and this will always depend on the occupants of the home, but there is no major grooming going on in the 1/2 bath- it's mostly hand washing, hence why we can get away with a more dramatic light fixture, maybe paired withe some fantastic wall paper, or a beautiful colour of paint to complete the space.
There are many beautiful options available for Pendant lights, which would typically be placed over islands in a set of two or three, also hung at about the 6' mark from the floor. You may fall in love with some that are hand blown glass or a stunning metallic finish. It's a great way to add some impact with either a punch of colour, glamour, industrial vibe or what ever catches you eye, and your heart while out shopping.
By only changing a few key pieces in your home, such as the dining room, island pendants and maybe the main floor 1/2 bath locations, it's possible to enhance the feel or flavour of your home.
3) ANY COMMENTS ON LIGHTING FOR A DINING ROOM?
Dining rooms are important rooms for various reasons, it's where the family connects with each other and friends with good food, cooked from the heart and hopefully paired by nice wine and favourite beverages. A dining room fixture can set the mood for the space, while grounding the room. It's important to look at the rest of the furniture when selecting a fixture, I ask people for colours of the room, what the table & chairs look like (is the set more modern or more traditional? Heavier or lighter?)
In terms of size there are a few tips and tricks I use, if you add the length and the width of the room together (i.e., 10' x 10’) the fixture can be as large as 20" in diameter. If it's an open concept area - you'll need to use the dimensions from where the dining room would start. Another way to size the fixture is to select something 1/2 the width of the table. A common table width is 42" so again, you'd be looking for something approximately 20"-21" in diameter, if would fit the dimensions of the room. Dining room fixtures are typically hung between 5' -5.6" from the floor, or 30" from the table- something to keep in mind if you have a raised table. These are not hard and fast rules, but good ' rules of thumb' to uses as a guide line.
A dimmer is also a great addition to any space, especially dining rooms- you can adjust the light output to better suit the mood of the occasion. They are generally inexpensive and can be changed rather easily with minimal tools.
Finally, don't be afraid to use height! If you have higher ceilings in the dining room, you may opt for a fixture which has the width requirements to beautifully finish the space, however you may come across a fixture with a taller body height.
4) FOCUS ON KITCHEN LIGHTING, WHAT ARE SOME KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR A KITCHEN THAT IS OPEN CONCEPT? WITH AN ISLAND? NOT OPEN CONCEPT? NO ISLAND?
Kitchens are the heart of the home- and such, need to be well lit! For kitchens that are part of open concept homes- Island pendants are a great way to add some flair- as previously mentioned. They can also add an ‘end point’ to an open space- where as they may seem to be adding a busy-ness to a non-open concept space. Be mindful of shadows - nothing is worse than a dark, uninviting kitchen.
5) UNDER CUPBOARD LIGHTING, WHEN AND WHY TO USE?
Under cabinet lighting is always a good idea- and can sometimes be added to a kitchen or space after the fact. It can act as a task light or an accent light. It can be used for both highlighting special dishes or cupboards with glass doors and actual counter top work areas. There are lots of options available, bulb type, installation type, dimmable and not. It can act as a welcoming night light for a kitchen space if you have guest staying over, or family members who perhaps venture to get some water in the wee hours of the night. It can also be used in different applications such as highlighting a tow kick area under the lower cabinets, or as cove lighting in a ceiling to highlight a dining room, master bedroom or foyer.
Thank you for reading and if you have further questions about lighting, please feel free to contact Angela McQueen directly @ Robinson Lighting and Bath - SE Calgary location, in the areas of:
ALA Lighting Specialist
For information on a free evaluation or other real estate related questions, please contact Karen directly @ email@example.com.
January 23, 2017
Attempting to Solve the Schools Puzzle - buyer beware
“A person without education is like a building without foundation”
“Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I was young, it used to be that parents bought a house and the kids went to the local school, usually within a few blocks walk from the front door. There was a choice between the Calgary Board of Education ‘regular’ program school and a Calgary Catholic School District School. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that the concept of ‘bilingual’ education came to Calgary, and even then, it was limited to French and English. Not many families in my world considered busing across town for a program, attending a Charter school, or going private. If they did, they were the rare exception.
Calgary today is a very different kettle of ‘education’ fish. There is almost more to choose from and access in terms of education for our school age children than there are districts to move into, as the expansion has been mind boggling to say the least. It is an awesome place to raise and educate kids, you just need to be mindful of what is out there and what you want. Off the top of my head, the Calgary Board of Education alone offers: regular, bilingual (French, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian), science, traditional model (which focuses on higher academic standards in math and sciences), arts focus, sports focus, full year calendar, and more. That’s not even looking at what the CCSD offers or any of the many private schools around the city and province.
From a real estate perspective, it is worth your while to find a realtor how has a good grasp of this, so to prevent future disappointment or nightmarish situations. It isn’t simply that your child will be able to attend the school around the corner from the house you want to buy. Presently several areas of the city have small to long wait lists, EVEN for the child who moved in across the street from the school! Crazy, but true.
Working for several years in Calgary as a professional Destination Service Consultant (Dwellworks), and before obtaining my real estate license, I was required to have a very firm knowledge of this topic, as I was paid to assist corporate families moving to Calgary from elsewhere and they were usually searching not only for a particular community, but definitely a certain school. I had to work to make this puzzle work for them. I summarize some important points and tools that I learned and have used with positive results in my real estate practice:
Find a School Calgary Board of Education (CBE) - type in this link, http://www.cbe.ab.ca/schools/find-a-school/Pages/default.aspx in order to find if the home you are looking to buy is in the walking or busing zone (collectively known as the ‘catchment’ area). You will need the address of the home, name of the community you want to live in, or the name of the school to figure out if it is the right match. HOWEVER, most important, always phone the school to CONFIRM, as the school makes the final decision, as the map on the school website often change. Furthermore, boundaries can be very frustrating, as it isn’t always that you move in to a community and automatically have the right to attend the local school.
Find a School Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) - type in this link, https://www.cssd.ab.ca/School/Pages/default.aspx. I found that the CCSD is more about community boundaries, as opposed to sides or ends of a street. The CCSD offers parallel programs as the CBE, such as French bilingual, learn through the arts, and others.
Private Schools - they are not administered under the CBE nor the CCSD, and so best is to conduct a full google search for private schools in the City of Calgary or ask around for recommendations from friends/relatives/neighbors. There are private schools that focus on academics, have a religious theme, or have some other key characteristic that sets them apart. Just really depends on what you are looking for. Prices vary, as do admission requirements. The private schools don’t offer ESL programs like the CBE and CCSD schools do.
Fraser Institute Schools Ranking and other ranking - all schools in Calgary (and every other city in Canada) is ranked per this well-known ranking system. However, it is to be taken with a grain of salt, as it really focuses on test scores above all else. It doesn’t, for instance, pay much attention to the quality of the band program, or the size of the ESL program in the school. Having said that, perhaps something can be said for the quality of the overall teaching if the ranking is too low or very high. Again, it is another tool that can help in our overall search for the right school. Click on the following link, https://www.fraserinstitute.org/school-performance. The Eight Leaves data analysis company ranks high schools in Alberta each year, based on exam scores, http://www.eightleaves.com/alberta-high-school-rankings.
Other points and considerations before buying a home to fit a school:
- Elementary schools have quite strict class size restrictions, and so even if you move in across the street, your child may have to bus to an alternative school if they have reached the capped size; however, this is not the case for jr high and sr high, as they are more fluid with their enrolment sizes. Always phone the school that you are interested in prior to submitting an offer to make sure that you know where their enrollment levels are at and that you would be ok with being put on a waiting list (sometimes these can be several years long);
- To prove to a school that you live in the catchment, you will need to show either a rental agreement, purchase contract or some other documents to show that your child is entitled to attend the school in question. Always best to contact the school PRIOR to submitting an offer to make sure that you can provide the proof that they require;
- If you know of an ‘open house’ that a school is organizing, do attend, as most CBE and CCSD schools do not offer tours to walk in inquiries. However, you will have more luck with this at private schools. Many open houses for schools are in January or February of the calendar year, but check the website of the school in question;
- If your child requires ESL programming and support, always check with the school that you are interested in attending as not all schools have the same level of ESL support. It can really depend from school to school.
Good luck in navigating this part of the home purchasing puzzle. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or need more information about this topic.
Thank you for reading and sharing.
Have a great day!
January 16, 2017
Home Inspections Part Two - what to look for in a home inspector?
“Not every home inspector is truly qualified to perform an inspection. And it can be tough for a home owners to judge the professional qualifications and experience of a home inspector”
- Thomas Byrne, Irish Land Sales Auctioneer
Last week I looked at why a home buyer should have a home inspection on the property that they have put an offer on, regardless of whether it is a detached property, row or condo apartment. A home inspection is the best defense against not knowing what you are buying, not to mention smart due diligence.This section looks at what a home buyer/owner should look for in a home inspector. As carry on from my interview with Tyrone Mellon of Mellon Real Estate Inspection, I asked the following questions and got very useful information in what to look for:
What should a buyer look for in a home inspector to insure they are getting the best value?
That the inspector is a CAPHI (Canadian Association of Property Home Inspection) member. In March 2016, the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) made for the first time in Canada’s history a Standard for home inspecting. The CSA chose CAPHI and the Carson Dunlop program as the new standard for home inspecting. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, the decision to chose CAPHI and Carson Dunlop was very easy. Additionally, CAPHI members continuously educate and acquire so many credits annually to stay in good standing as an association member. Inspectors should be FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radio thermography, used to visually detect moisture in walls etc.) trained and have the certification if they are using thermography. As inspectors come from a wide variety of backgrounds, ensure that you understand what they bring to the table, how their experience, thoroughness, knowledge and professionalism will benefit you.
What further qualifications should a good home inspector have?
Three years ago, the Alberta Government enforced that Home Inspectors must be licensed, bonded and insured. Previously, this was not the case.
For more information about home inspections and what to look for, please do not hesitate to contact Tyrone Mellon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403.993.8006
To discuss your real estate goals, please feel free to Karen at email@example.com or 403.370.6442.
Have a great day!
January 8, 2017
Let's Skip the Home Inspection - what, are you crazy?
“a full home inspection … is the best defense against future liability for the seller and the most assured way a buyer can feel comfortable with the home purchase”
- Tory Graham, CEO, Managing Partners at Weichert Realtors. Kansas, Missouri
Buying a home can be a very challenging and stressful time, especially when it comes to deciding whether to conduct a home inspection. As a professional real estate agent, my feeling is that it is part of the process, and shouldn’t be an option, regardless of the type or style of property being purchased. I feel so strongly about this topic that I decided to write about it, so that others can learn how important a home inspection is and why it is worth every penny.
Recently I had the good fortune to sit down with a professional home inspector based in Calgary and chat about what he does and how it is an important part of due diligence before waiving conditions on a home. Tyrone Mellon has a 19+ year background in residential and commercial construction, and has been a fully licensed inspector for several years in and around Calgary. I hope that this information adds weight to your decision to professionally inspect you investment.
Why is a home inspection important to buying a home?
A home is most likely your largest investment in your lifetime. By having a bonded, insured and qualified inspector inspect the house components (roofing, structural, electrical, plumbing, cooling, heating, exterior and interior) will give the home seller the piece of mind and confidence when purchasing the home in question. This will also allow you and your family to sleep better at night knowing you have made the right decision.
Why is a home inspection important for a condo purchase?
Purchasing a condominium, ether brand new or resale, can have water damage or construction defects. These concerns can and will equal a future cash call that may not be on your radar. Understanding the facts and ages of the components (including the air conditioning units on the condo property) allows you to budget or negotiate the purchase price to factor any surprises.
Of course, a condominium document review is strongly suggested to compliment the home inspection, as a way of understanding the condo corporation and if any special assessments are on the horizon for the building and the workings inside and outside. I will address the condominium document review in a future blog post.
What are three issues that you see come up the most in home inspections?
- Settling concrete foundations (small cracks, large cracks)
- Poor moisture management in homes - i.e. possible mold in the walls/ceiling
- Older components in furnaces, hot water tanks, boilers, humidifiers, electrical panels (i.e. aluminum wiring, loose connections, etc.) all requiring long over due maintenance or replacement.
Home owners can also call for an inspector to inspect their home prior to listing, as a way of knowing what state the home is presently and to give a sort of heads up and knowing what might come up with the buyer’s inspection.
Stay tuned for part two when we look at what a person should look for in a home inspector and why.
If you would like to book a home inspection with Tyrone Mellon, please contact him directly:
If you have real estate related questions, please feel free to contact me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org or 403.370.6442.
Thank you for your time and have a great day, stay warm!
December 31, 2016
My Vision Board - preparing for 2017!
"Create a Vision Board ... pictures of what you want to attract. Everyday look at it and get into the feeling state of already having acquired these wants"
- Rhonda Byrne, Australia Author, most famous work THE SECRET
A few months ago, I got up the courage and joined a club that I have been wanting to join for some time, Toastmasters. There are literally hundreds of clubs in Calgary, but I chose one that was conveniently located at the Calgary Real Estate Board and one that was attended by both realtors and others who were looking to improve their speaking and leading skills. My second speech was about my entrepreneur activities back when I was a small business entrepreneur in Beijing, China, and at the end of the 8-minute speech I ended with a very timely quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”, by Antoine de Saint Exupery, the author of the LITTLE PRINCE. Interesting, as that is what I was hoping I could have before heading into the New Year for 2017.
Having my daughter with me full time during the holidays, we came up with a plan for her time off school, in between festivities with family and friends around Christmas Even, Christmas Day and other events. We decided that we would have a rather chilled New Year’s Eve and stay at home, followed by an even more chilled day on January 1st creating and making Vision Boards for 2017. We both sort of started to think about the basic design and concept a few days before, however, not really collecting the paper bits and photos etc. until the morning of.
A few weeks ago, while at Ikea, I had purchased a discount ‘AS IS’ frame and so we took that apart, Hannah using the back board for her board and me using the clear plexiglass with matte frame to mount my vision. We also made use of images off Facebook and the internet, printing out photos that we would want to include to represent different ideas, people, concepts, etc. Cutting and pasting was also the theme of the day as we went through birthday and Christmas cards and cut out words, names and cool images that meant something. We didn’t really have any limitations, as there is a ton of resource around us and we didn’t buy a single magazine!
As there is no rules really to creating a vision board, we just did what looked and felt good at the time, taping images on to the core board and then when certain parts overlapped. Hannah’s has a lot more definition of space between her images, whereas mine is more like a collage with very little space between images. In fact, none at all.
We mounted the boards on to our walls, mine in my office in front of where I sit at my computer and Hannah’s in her bedroom downstairs. We will be viewing this boards and images on a very daily basis, which is the very point. I tried to focus on my career, such as being a realtor and a cross cultural consultant, in terms of success and reminding myself about where I am going with the career part of my life. Another part is all about my daughter and our dog, Lucy. The third would be the interests and ‘loves’ that I have in my life, for example, reading and attending the opera, art and enjoying nature. The space is quite limited and so must use certain images to represent entire genres of my life, in some cases.
Overall, a very successful activity for mom and daughter to work on together, especially that the weather was not really suited to being outside. What is your vision for 2017?