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4 Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for a New Home

A home is likely the most costly asset you will ever own, and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. The dream of homeownership can quickly turn into a nightmare, leaving you with a lifetime of financial regrets.


Don’t let the home-buying process make a financial fool out of you. Here are four of the biggest home shopping mistakes to avoid:


  1. Treating a home solely as an income generating investment

A house should first and foremost be for living in. Rental income is never a sure thing, so the home should be able to serve you if you fall short of the returns you expected. Buying a home in order to use it as rental or guesthouse is not always financially wise, and often yields undesirable results.


  1. Comparing your rent to a mortgage payment

Just because you pay a certain amount in rent does not mean you can afford the same amount as a mortgage payment. There are multiple costs associated with purchasing and owning a home that should be taken into consideration.


  1. Maxing out your loan

Life can be unpredictable, and it is easy to find yourself suddenly living in a house you can no longer afford. Skip the large mortgage payment and decide on security instead. You can’t put a price on knowing you can stay in your home even if you face a financial crisis or life change.


  1. Taking too long to make a decision

Don’t let cosmetic issues like paint colors or outdated décor keep you from putting an offer in on a home. You can take your time later to upgrade the physical imperfections. If a house is priced well, structurally sound, in your desired location, is the right size and has a great layout make an offer.

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Use the Sun to Naturally Make Your Home Brighter

Natural lighting conserves electricity, creates a connection with the outdoors, and gives a space a lively feeling. We should attempt to have light come into a building from as many directions as possible. The quality of the light and connection to the outside is what people feel the most, even more than the size of a space. Here are some of the techniques architects use to bring light in and control it for the best effect.


Tracking the sun’s path

If you like to wake up to the sun, you can build the bedrooms on the east side of the house. If you prefer maximum light in the living/dining quarters later in the day, you can choose to put them on the west side.


Funneling light into the center of a home

One common technique many architects use is to create a central stairwell, for multiple storey buildings that doubles as a light well, lit by a nearby window or skylight. This makes the stairs light and open.



Adding more windows to your home or building allows for the maximum capitalization of sunlight. The more windows there are, the more light enters and fill the entire room.


Replace Interior Solid Doors with Glass

Living, dining, laundry rooms with solid interior doors can be replaced with glass doors which not only allows light to easily pass through but also reflects light back into the room.


Paint Your Rooms Deep Colours

The most common thing to do with dark rooms is to paint them light to increase brightness, but sometimes the best thing to do is to embrace the shadows and go for deeper, moody colors.


Hang a Well-Placed Mirror

Another tool for reflecting light is with the use of mirrors. The addition of mirrors in living rooms allows captured light to be reflected in the opposite direction.


Trimming Trees and Other Plants

Trees are beneficial to the home in that it blocks the sun from directly heating the home. However they reduce the amount of light entering the room. By effectively trimming the leaves and branches they can achieve both functions.

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Tips on Making Your Home Energy Efficient

With the effects of climate change and global warming around us increasing, it is important to be environmentally friendly and aware of the impact our domestic activities have on the environment. It is also highly beneficial when you consider how much money can be saved by building or making your home energy efficient. In order to have a productive energy efficient home, you need to be able to cut costs when required. This means using less electricity and trying to eliminate the products that have a negative impact on the environment, which eliminates the stress that comes with paying high monthly bills. Here are few ways you can convert your home into one that is more energy efficient:


Smaller is Better:  A small home built with eco-friendly techniques has less environmental impacts compared to a larger home.  A house that is too large is likely to cost more to heat and cool. Try to keep your home manageable and cost effective.

Energy Efficient Equipment:  ENERGY STAR label on a piece of equipment states that particular product has been deemed as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Switching to these appliances offer significant cost and energy savings without compromising performance.

Use Sustainable Building Materials:  Use environmentally or eco-friendly products to reduce the impact of construction on the environment. Each and every part of your house such as roofing material, building material, cabinets, and counters to your flooring can be environmentally friendly. Use products such as recycled glass or natural products such as bamboo which are made of natural, renewable materials.

Install Solar Panels:  Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of energy. Solar panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you can put into your pocket is worth the upfront costs. By taking advantage of solar power you can bring down your energy consumption and supply more energy.

Water Conserving Fixtures:  Low flow faucets, toilets, showerheads are few of the ways that you can use while building a green home to conserve water. They can cut down on your water bill cost and make your home much more environment friendly.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Install a rain-water harvesting system while building your energy efficient home to collect rainwater from roofs and then storing it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as flushing toilets.

Tank-less Water Heaters:  Tank-less water heaters heat only the amount of water needed as it is passed through electric coil. This provides two benefits. Firstly, it eliminates excess energy costs as it heats up only that much amount of water that is needed and secondly, you can get ample storage space by eliminating the hot water tank.

Eco-Friendly Lighting:  Both LED and CFL cost more upfront but use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Since they offer significant cost savings in the long run, they can be ideal for your energy efficient home.


The Importance of Hiring an Architect

Designing and building a home, office or investment property can be particularly complicated.  Each task entails exceptional skills and disciplines in order to get the job done perfectly.  If you are planning a home extension, conversion or are building a new property, it is more than likely that you will need the assistance of an architect.


  • An architect works with you on an intensive examination of your requirements, to help you accomplish your vision. He will help you characterize and create what you want to build, as well as present options you may never have considered.


  • An architect will help you set a practical and rational budget, and help guide you through the planning process. They design in accordance with set standards and provide assistance in obtain permission from the necessary authority, in Dominica, Physical Planning Division.


  • They are knowledgeable about building materials and practices and are also familiar with new building technologies and materials, and their application, to create efficient buildings that are airy, comfortable and stylish.


  • An architect knows how to plan rationally for best environmental performance, they can give advice about placing the building on the site to enhance views and features, to catch the sun, provide shade, promote natural cross-flow ventilation, reduce and conserve energy.


  • Architects produce outstanding solutions to often complex residential and commercial needs. Creative thinking, attention to detail and functional performance underpin everything an architect does.


  • An architect manages the construction phase and all the work if necessary. They manage consultants like surveyors. Critically, your architect will inspect the work right through the construction period to facilitate you in getting the quality and level of finishes you deserve.
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Consider These When Buying a Home

Real estate purchases most times involve borrowing a large sum of money (mortgage) usually above $100,000 and therefore calls for making informed decisions.  These decisions you don’t have to make on your own.  If you are considering a mortgage we advise you to consider these three points below to assist you in making the best decision.


Take note of your finances:

Figure out what you can spend. Taking a simple inventory of your wallet can help you understand your financial ability and speed up the process. Know your financial limits to prevent potential pitfalls.  For example, if you bring home $3,500.00 per month and have outstanding loans and bills with payments totaling $1,800.00 and the bank requires a monthly payment of $1,400.00 for the mortgage then it’s likely you may eventually default on one of your loans or bills with just $300.00 cash left in hand.


Find a real estate agent:

The search for a home could be very tedious because of limited time and market information.  Use a professional in the real estate field as they will have the time to search for a suitable property and will be aware of available properties for sale in their territory.  They will come with added benefits such as access to properties, understanding of prices, taxes and the buying process etc.


Have a home inspection:

Have an inspection even if the property appears to be in good condition or is relatively new.  In the event that the selling price does not reflect the property flaws, a home inspection may give you a chance to negotiate your offer or withdraw your offer preventing you from making a costly mistake of purchasing a home that needs major repairs you didn’t budget for.



Don’t do it alone, purchasing real estate is a major financial investment.   Assembling a team of knowledgeable professionals such as a financial advisors, lawyers, property inspectors and realtors can provide much needed advice.

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5 Common Rationales for Designing and Building Your Own Home

The decision of whether to buy a home or to build a home is one faced by many individuals.  Being involved in the real estate component of our businesses, we come across many people looking to buy a home, most with the justification that it will be much more convenient to buy the house and move in immediately, avoiding the construction process and period.  On the other hand, we have the privilege of witnessing our architects serving clients who are adamant that building their home is the best way to go.  Today we share with you five (5) common rationales from clients choosing to design and build their own home.


  1. You get your dream home

The biggest advantage is that you can build your dream home or something very close to it. When you are searching for a home, it is often impossible to find one that has everything you desire, you most likely have to make compromises.  When building your own home, there will be far fewer, if any compromises to be made. You have a lot more control over the design and function of your home.


  1. Your home will be brand new

When you work with design and building companies, they will build you a beautiful brand new home. Whereas, when you buy an existing home, you may find that it has not been treated with care by its previous owners or that it has alterations that are not pleasing to you. A new home is a blank canvas with which you can do whatever you want.


  1. New homes are more efficient

Any property built these days must adhere to the current efficiency standards. These standards cover elements such as heating, cooling and ventilation, and many others which results in more efficient and stronger homes being built.  Not only does it lead to comfortable living conditions but it can also be an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to live.


  1. Choice of materials

With the increase in availability of different types of building material including environmentally friendly material you get to choose your building materials.  Most new homes are designed to use more environmentally friendly materials and energy efficient systems to create a home that is far more sustainable.


  1. Government Fees

The government fees payable by a buyer on a typical property transfer is 7.5% of the sale price or value, whichever is greater.  You can buy land and pay associated fees on it then build, avoiding payment of government fees and often lawyer fees on land plus house price or value.


If finding that perfect home has proven to be difficult so far, why not consider having it built?

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Save For a Home While Renting

There are so many benefits in owning a home that not even these hard economic times can deter its appeal.  Saving for a house, on the other hand, can be challenging for many apartment dwellers and tenants.  The truth is it is difficult to save for a house, when a big chunk of your income goes toward rent. The cost of renting can make the idea of owning a home seems like a fantasy, but saving for a house can be well within your reach.


Follow these five (5) tips to help save up for a house while renting:


Budget first, save later:

Making a list of your expenses and working out a budget seems like the oldest financial advice in the book, probably because it is.  People should take the time to learn where their finances are at, and then save as much as they can comfortably afford.


Stick to your savings:

A weekly savings account contribution of $50 adds up to $2,600 after a year.  After just five years, that gives you $13,000 to put towards purchasing your own home.



Move to a cheaper apartment for a few years.  You’ll save money on rent that could be put to better use, like buying your home.  A $100 to $200 savings per month goes a long way in giving your housing fund room to grow.


Start negotiating:

Consider negotiating rent with your landlord or property manager.  Emphasize to them your high value as a reliable tenant who pays his/her rent ahead or on time, and that it might be hard to find a new tenant of the same quality.



Find a roommate through friends, internet sources, social media, or newspaper advertisements, to cut down on your $1,200 monthly rental payment.  Put your money saved toward your housing fund.

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Saving Energy in Your Home Office

In our last column we discussed saving energy around the home and saving money as a result.  We touched on ways to reduce costs contributed by lighting and appliances; more specifically, the refrigerator and washing machine.  In a previous article we talked about the home office.  Today we provide a few tips on reducing energy costs in the home office.


Persons working from home will most likely use electronic devices and may use them very frequently.  These normally include a computer, fan or air condition, printer/copier etc.  Although it saves on transportation cost it increases your home energy bills, so in order to actually realize savings there are a few things we should bear in mind.


  1. Selecting energy-efficient office equipment and turning off machines when they are not in use can result in significant energy savings.


  1. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.


  1. Using the power management settings on computers and monitors can cause significant savings.


  1. It is a common misperception that screen savers reduce a monitor’s energy use. Use automatic switching to sleep mode or simply turn it off.


  1. Another misperception is that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power while switched off so unplug appliances not in use and unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.


  1. Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and digital cameras.


  1. Turn on air conditions and fans at hotter times of the day.


  1. Reduce the use of paper. Do double-sided printing and use printed paper with errors for scrap.


  1. Make use of emails and free or cheap calling systems like Skype.
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Saving Energy Around the Home

Right in your own home, you have the power to save energy and money.


Maintaining an energy-efficient home will save you money.  Saving energy will also contribute to the reduction in our nation’s overall resources needed to produce and provide energy.


An average household dedicates about 5% – 6% of its energy bill to lighting.  Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to lower your energy bill.  You have many choices in energy-efficient lighting; the most popular ones being halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  Switching to these may seem to cost more money initially but the cost saving benefit will be realized during its lifetime.


Appliances account for about 13% of a household’s energy costs, with refrigeration and laundry at the top of the list.


To reduce the amount of energy costs refrigeration and laundry account for, the following could be practiced:



  • Ensure your refrigerator door seals airtight
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Regularly defrost freezers and refrigerators. Frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit.
  • Ensure your refrigerator or freezer is not kept at a very cold temperature.




  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Don’t over-dry your clothes.
  • Air-dry clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.


Whether you take simple steps or make a large investment to conserve energy it will ultimately be beneficial to you and your family.