PAMay2016DigitalMarketingCampaignSocialMediaImage-1462798790692 (2)

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

by Nancy | June 22, 2016 | Consumer Tips How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit... Read More April 2016 - Trevor Stuart & Associates Blog Image

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

by Nancy | April 15, 2016 | Seller Info, Uncategorized   Whether you’re putting your home on the market... Read More Trevor Stuart & Associates - Blog Post Image - March 2016

How to Buy a Home: 7 Tips and Tricks from Real Estate Insiders

by Nancy | March 15, 2016 | Buyer Info   No matter if you’re in a buyer’s or... Read More

If you’re in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “What can we afford?” Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don’t realize their total buying power—that is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

 

Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you’ve saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

 

What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it’s not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what’s affordable to the average buyer.

 

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home’s list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it’s important to look at the price tag, it’s essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn’t include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you’ll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you’ll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it’s the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming “house poor,” a common term for someone who’s put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

If you haven’t sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact our team for a FREE CMA or sign up online using the link below!

GET MY HOME VALUE
Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my buying power is?” Buying power is calculated by adding the money you’ve saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the mortgage amount you’re willing to finance and qualify for.

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 percent of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment, but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2 Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don’t have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It’s important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they’re willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

 

4 Things That Impact Buying Power
  • Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.
  • Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.
  • Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.
  • Down payment. The more you’re able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

 

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you’re thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

First-time buyers:

  • Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you’ll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.3
  • Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you’re saving.
  • Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses.
  • Check out home-buying programs. Federal, provincial and even local governments may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use.
  • Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.3

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.3 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.3 If you’re thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

  1. Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account.
  2. Make your money work for you. If you don’t plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals.

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you’re buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple tips to save for a down payment.

  1. Tap into your equity. If you’ve paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.
  2. Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who’s willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you’ll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

 

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What’s your buying potential? Click for a free printable worksheet that will help you get an estimate!

 

Monthly Payment on 25-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount 3% 3.5% 4% 4.5% 5% 5.5% 6%
$100,000 $473 $499 $526 $553 $582 $610 $640
$150,000 $710 $749 $789 $830 $872 $916 $960
$200,000 $946 $999 $1,052 $1,107 $1,163 $1,221 $1,280
$250,000 $1,183 $1,248 $1,315 $1,384 $1,454 $1,526 $1,600
$300,000 $1,420 $1,498 $1,578 $1,660 $1,745 $1,831 $1,919
$350,000 $1,656 $1,747 $1,841 $1,937 $2,036 $2,136 $2,239
$400,000 $1,893 $1,997 $2,104 $2,214 $2,326 $2,442 $2,559

 

Didn’t see your desired loan amount? We can connect you with a mortgage professional who will provide you with everything from a simple payment quote right through to a pre-approval that leaves you ready to buy.

Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage payment—the money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your local tax office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they’ll add to the above payment amounts.

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Give us a call!

Sources:

1 National Association of REALTORS https://www.nar.realtor/topics/housing-affordability-index/methodology

2 Moneyunder30.com https://www.moneyunder30.com/percentage-income-mortgage-payments

3 National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Contact us!



The current trends are all about utilizing rich color, maximizing texture and creating comfortable interiors you can’t wait to relax in. Use these trends to get inspired to makeover your home’s interiors and create spaces you love that also appeal to your personal style. Remember, if you plan to sell in the next few years, you may want to avoid doing anything dramatic and instead incorporate small changes that would appeal to buyers.

 

Why are these trends gaining popularity?

The underlying theme of these trends is creating a home environment you love; one that appeals to your emotions and feels like a retreat from the stresses of the world. Although the home is a place where you can relax and spend time with loved ones, work expectations are beginning to blur the line between work and home. Even if people don’t work from home specifically, many are stretching their work hours into their evenings and weekends to complete work projects.

It’s no wonder the Nordic concept of hygge (most often pronounced “hoo-gah”) has become a hot trend. A centuries-old concept, incorporating hygge in the home means creating simple and comfortable spaces that make you feel cozy and safe and appeal to your senses.1 The emphasis is on simplicity and fostering positive experiences, whether you’re spending time with family, reading a good book or catching up on work emails.

 

WARM AND RICH COLORS.

Whether you want to play with a bold color or stick with neutrals, one thing is clear—paint is the foundation of a great design. Painting your interiors has a return on investment of about 75 percent and is a relatively inexpensive project to complete, costing between $25 to $100 for paint alone.2 If you’re thinking of refreshing your home’s interiors with a coat of paint, popular colors include warm taupe, fresh green and dark tones. These colors are popular choices because they evoke feeling of warmth and coziness when you walk into a room.

Wondering how to pair these colors? Taupe is the perfect alternative to traditional neutrals, such as gray and white, and goes well with cool blues, earthy greens and deep shades of wine.  Green goes well with other earthy shades, such as copper and moss, as well as deep plum and bright pink. If you’re hesitant to paint your walls green, incorporate it into your home by way of accent pillows, rugs, lamps, vases and other accessories or add a few house plants.  

If you’re interested in adding more drama to a room, include bold, dark colors.  Dark shades add color and sophistication to any space. Plum and dark gray pair well with pale blues, warm whites and light gray.

 

Try one of these Colors of the Year:

Poised Taupe – Sherwin Williams

Greenery – Pantone

Shadow – Benjamin Moore

 

RICH MATERIALS.

Lux materials create a space in which you can’t wait to kick off your shoes and relax at the end of the day. The Danes use a mixture of materials and pattern as a way of adding character and interest; however the overall look still needs to adhere to a color palette to prevent it from looking distracting.

Natural materials and textures allow you to maximize the comfort of the bedroom, living room or family room. Wood accents give rooms an earthy feel. Incorporate rustic wood sculptures, trays and furniture into your space. Choose furniture made with sustainably harvested wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or use reclaimed wood for an environmentally friendly alternative.

If natural elements aren’t your style, but you want to add more visual interest to your room, try mixing patterns. Although it may have been avoided in the past, mixing stripes, florals and geometric prints actually help ground a space as long as the patterns feature complimentary colors or different shades of one color. If you’re worried about going overboard and making your room look “busy,” focus your mix in one area of the room. For example, add throw pillows in a variety of patterns to your sofa.

 

GOING GREEN.

According to a recent study from the American Psychological Association, people are more stressed than ever, with 24 percent of adults reporting they’re experiencing “extreme stress.”3

Top sources of stress include work and money. By incorporating small changes, like making your house more energy efficient, you can start to lower your bills and get back to relaxing and enjoying life like the Danish do (who consistently top the polls as the happiest people).

Save money on your energy bills by sealing the “envelope” of your home, which includes the windows and doors, walls, floor and roof. The better insulated your home is, the less heat will escape and the lower your energy bill (and stress level) will be.

The most heat loss occurs through the walls of the home: up to 35 percent of heat loss, to be exact.4 Ceramic insulating paint is a space-inspired coating of paint mixed with ceramic compounds and applied to interior or exterior surfaces. It seals your walls and prevents heat from escaping, which means reduced energy bills all year long.

 

THE FUNCTIONAL HOME OFFICE.

Twenty-four percent of employed people do some or all of their work at home.5 Since more people are working remotely than ever, home offices are becoming more popular. Even if you don’t plan on working from home, a home office gives you a place to pay bills, work on personal projects, plan your family’s schedule and more. Home offices tend to be multifunctional, serving as a guest room when family and friends visit, and have the potential to meet other needs that arise.

The key idea behind hygge is to enjoy the environment around you and for each room to be a sanctuary to sink into at any given moment. Your home office is no exception! Maximize your productivity, efficiency and focus by painting the walls shades of green or blue.6 If space is an issue, create a nook by installing docking and tech cabinets that are big enough to store a printer and other small office equipment and files without taking over the room.

If you don’t have room in your home for an office, look no further than your backyard. Shedquarters, small structures or sheds built in the backyard for use as an office or home-based business, are an attractive option for homeowners who don’t have a room to dedicate to an office and don’t wish to add on their homes. while the jury is out on how much value these structure add to a home, they can convert easily into a storage shed if you plan to sell in the future.

 

SPLURGING ON KITCHEN RENOVATIONS.

The kitchen is often the busiest, most hectic room in the house and one of the top renovation projects with a high return on investment.7 We do more than cook meals there; it’s where homework is done, bills are paid, weeks are planned and more.

Kitchen remodels consistently show a respectable return on investment. According to the 2017 Cost vs Value Report from Remodeling magazine, a minor kitchen remodel touts an 80.2 percent return on investment.8 You don’t need to overhaul your entire kitchen to make it more hygge. Smaller additions can transform it into a relaxing and functional space you enjoy spending time with friends and family in.

What does a “minor kitchen renovation” entail? In addition to replacing the fronts of your cabinets and drawers, it also includes replacing out-of-date appliances and fixtures. You may also consider replacing countertops. Quartz and quartzite are becoming more common as are other green laminate options, including ones that mimic stone, wood and concrete. Laminates install in less time, often over the existing countertop, make it an ideal choice for busy homeowners as well. Other hot kitchen trends include incorporating sustainable materials like bamboo into your countertops and floors and water filtration systems.

 

Want to improve the look and feel of your home’s interior? Are you thinking of upgrading to a home that better fits your changing needs?

Call us—we’d love to help you achieve all of your home-related dreams.

 




 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Time, Hygge, the Nordic Trend That Could Help You Survive 2016
  2. Quality Smith
  3. American Psychological Association, 2015 Stress in America
  4. Department of Energy
  5. Department of Labor
  6. Entrepreneur, How the Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity
  7. Realtor.com
  8. Remodeling Magazine, 2017

Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the neighbourhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or just want to make your home the envy of your neighbours, here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal.

 

Make your home’s exterior look like new.

For many potential buyers, the condition of the exterior of a home can offer clues to the condition of the interior. The first place to start when boosting curb appeal is the exterior of your house.

  • Paint. Paint is the best way to make your home appear newer. While you can paint your home yourself, if it’s large or more than one story, consider hiring a professional. Painting has a 55 percent return on investment.1
  • Maintain your siding. Over time, weather and the elements can make your home’s siding appear dull and dirty. Use a pressure washer to clean stains, spider webs and accumulated dirt and grime, or use a soft cloth and a household cleaner to get into those small nooks and spaces. Although the average life expectancy of siding ranges from 60 to 100 years, depending on the material, extreme weather may reduce this number. Replacing worn or damaged siding will boost curb appeal and may help your home sell for more.
  • Paint or replace garage doors. If your garage doors are in good condition, give them a new coat of paint. If they’re beginning to show their age, consider replacing them. Not only will new garage doors improve the look of your exterior, they’re also more energy efficient and better insulated than older models.
  • Maintain your fence. Replace rotted or worn posts and panels and freshen it up with a coat of paint. If you have a hedge that serves as your property’s border, keep it trimmed and in good shape.

 

Pay attention to the small details.

The small details tie your home’s exterior together and help it stand out from others in the neighbourhood.

  • Paint front door, trim and shutters. This inexpensive improvement adds brightness to a home, whether you choose a bold colour, a neutral tone or classic white.
  • Install new door fixtures and be sure they match in style and finish and complement the style of your home.
  • Update your house numbers. Make sure potential buyers and guests can find your home. If the numbers have faded or need an update, replace them. If choosing a metallic finish, make sure it matches the finish of your exterior light fixtures.

 

Tend to your driveway and lawn.

A well-designed and managed landscape may add up to 28 percent to the overall value of your home.2 Additionally, professionally done landscaping not only adds value, it may help your home sell faster as well.

  • Place a border along your driveway or walkway made of brick, stone, pavers or another hardscape element to add visual interest to a plain driveway.
  • Maintain your green space. If you have grass, a well-maintained, green lawn makes your home look inviting and picturesque. However, in many parts of the country, water conservation is becoming more important. Xeriscaped landscapes incorporate drought-tolerant, often native, vegetation with water-saving drip irrigation and mulch. Xeriscaping has a cost savings of 36 cents per square foot annually through reduced irrigation and maintenance costs.3 Additionally, these landscapes are virtually maintenance free, which makes it an attractive option for busy buyers.
  • Include trees and shrubs to create texture and add interest to your landscape. Planting a few types of trees and shrubs of varying heights, widths and flowering times boosts your home’s curb appeal year-round.

 

Make it feel inviting.

It’s no secret that emotions play a role in a person’s decision to purchase a home. Stage the outside of your home to evoke warm feelings.

  • Stage your porch. If you have a front porch, make it feel more inviting by including seating, such as a chair or loveseat, an outdoor rug and a small table. If space is an issue, incorporate small decorative touches, such as a festive wreath or potted plant.
  • Hang flower boxes on your front porch railings and/or below your windows. If you don’t want to affix flower boxes to your home, purchase nice planters and containers and place them around your porch or on your front steps.
  • Choose flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the year for year-round appeal. For example, bulbs not only bloom all spring, they also multiply and come up every year. Perennials often flower for most of the year and will prevent you from having to replant them every year.
  • If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low maintenance plants and flowers. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and zinnias are a few low-maintenance and drought-tolerant options.

 

Boost Your Online “Curb Appeal.”

For those interested in selling, it’s important to know the effect online curb appeal has on a home. The better impression your home gives online, the more likely buyers will want to see it in person. Here’s how to get your home ready for its listing debut.

  • Stage your home. Staging shows your home in its best light and helps potential buyers picture themselves living there.
  • Hire a professional to take photos. A photographer has the skills and equipment to shoot your home in the best light and make it look its best.
  • Include a short video tour of the home. Videos are becoming a popular way to give buyers a glimpse of the home before they step foot in it.

 

Before you start a home project, keep these four things in mind:
  • Why are you renovating? In other words, is your intention to update your home and get it show-ready or do you want to sell it for more money? Don’t fall into the trap of undertaking major renovations that may not pay off when you sell. If your home is in good shape, a few inexpensive updates may be enough to make your home attractive to buyers.
  • The style of the neighbourhood. Whenever you renovate your home, make sure the project fits with the style of the neighbourhood and rules of the homeowner association. For example, an HOA may limit the choice and number of trees you can plant on your property. Similarly, a tall hedge border may not fit in in a neighbourhood of low, picket fences.
  • Permits. If you’re planning an extensive exterior renovation, you may need a permit from your municipality or other authority.
  • Budget. A budget keeps your project’s costs and scope in check. Make a list of the improvements you’d like to make, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you’d like advice on improvements you can make to boost your home’s curb appeal, give us a call.

 

Are you thinking of boosting your home’s curb appeal or renovating your home before you list? Do you want help making your home more appealing to potential buyers online and in-person?

Give us a call and we’ll help you present your home in its best light.




 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Certified Staging Professionals
  2. Ottawa Citizen, July 17, 2015
  3. REALTOR.com

Wealth is within reach for many people; however, according to a recent study, 63 percent of Americans said it’s not likely they’ll become rich.1 While younger people are more likely to say they’ll achieve wealth one day, only 34 percent of people aged 30 to 49 and 21 percent of people aged 50 or older say the same. There is no secret to becoming rich: it takes time, sacrifice and good financial sense. Here are a few ways to build your household’s wealth.

 

Let Compound Interest Work for You

Compound interest is your interest earning interest. While the concept may work against you when you take out a loan to buy a car or use your credit card, it works in your favor when you’re saving money. For example, if your savings is growing at a rate of four percent, your investment will double in eight years and quadruple in 16 years. Your money will grow exponentially the longer you save: the more money you’ve saved, the more your money will grow.

 

Build Equity in Your Home

One of the most compelling reasons to own a home is it allows you to build wealth over time. According to one study, the average homeowner has a net worth of $200,000, which is 31 to 46 times the net worth of the average renter.4 Saving for a down payment, especially if you plan to put down more than 20 percent, helps you adopt good financial habits. The more you put down when you buy, the higher your share of equity when you close. Although for the first five to seven years, the majority of your payment will go toward interest, over time more money will be applied to the principal. There are many tools online that calculate your current and future equity in your home, including this one here.

Build equity sooner by choosing a shorter amortization term. While your payment may be higher, you’ll likely qualify for a lower interest rate and will pay less interest over the life of the loan.

 

Build Equity Faster in Your Home
Mortgage Term 30 Years 15 Years
Loan amount $118,000 $118,00
Months to pay 360 180
Annual percentage rate 4.0% 3.0%
Monthly payment $563 $815
Total interest $84,806 $28,680
Interest savings $56,126

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Building Wealth: A Beginner’s Guide to Securing Your Financial Future

 

Pay Down Your Mortgage…or Not

Many homeowners grapple with whether or not to pay down their mortgage. On one hand, if you pay it down, or pay it off early, you’ll save money on interest, which you can use to make other investments. On the other hand, if your goal is to be debt free, it’s better to pay off your higher-interest debt, such as credit card debt, first before paying down your mortgage debt. Additionally, if you’re saving for retirement, putting extra cash toward your retirement accounts will help you build a nice nest egg to enjoy later on.

 

If you decide to pay off your mortgage sooner, here are a few ways to do so:

  • Pay more money at the beginning of your amortization period and apply it to your principal.
  • If you receive a tax refund or other windfall, apply it toward your principal.
  • Make one extra payment each year. You’ll save money on interest and pay your loan off sooner.
  • Add an extra $50, or another amount you can afford, to the principal of your payment each month.
  • If you locked into a 30-year amortization, refinance to a shorter, 15-year amortization. Your payment may be higher, but you’ll pay it off sooner and pay a LOT less in interest.

Your financial advisor can help you decide if paying off or paying down your mortgage is right for your goals.

 

Purchase Investment Property

Investment properties provide passive income to your growing financial portfolio. More than 25 percent of Americans say real estate is the best way to invest money you may not need for the next 10 years.5 While many people flip houses to make money—that is, they buy a home at a low price, fix it up and sell it quickly—others purchase multifamily properties to create monthly cash flow to save or to reinvest in other properties.

The longer you own a property, the better investment it becomes as you’ll continue to build equity. While rental costs rise with inflation, your mortgage will remain the same. The best part? Once you pay off the mortgage, your cash flow will increase. Remember to create a budget for maintenance each month, between 10 to 20 percent of the rent you receive, or more if the home is older. This will help you save more money in the long run and allow you to prepare for unexpected repairs.

There are tax benefits to owning investment property as well. You may be able to claim deductions for depreciation, as long as it fits within the guidelines; repairs, travel expenses, interest and more. If you’re thinking of purchasing investment property, talk to your tax professional to get the details.

Achieve More Wealth by Creating Financial Goals

Setting a goal will help you achieve your desired level of wealth. Once you achieve one goal, reassess and set the bar higher.

  • What is your idea of wealth? Your idea of wealth will change as you earn more money. That’s why it’s vital to set goals along the way. What do you want your net worth to be in 5 years, in 10 years and in 20 years?
  • Write down your short-term and long-term goals. Once you have determined your goals, write them down. This is the first step towards getting your desires out of your mind and into motion and it will be easier to refer to them later on.
  • Develop a budget to help you reach these goals. A budget not only helps you understand where your money goes each month, it may also prevent you from overspending. That way you can have more money to save and invest. To increase the amount you can invest, make adjustments to your daily spending and monthly bills, if possible. Look for opportunities to save money and transfer that savings into your accounts.

 

It’s never too late to begin building your family’s wealth. Whether you’re interested in buying a first home, upgrading to a larger home or are thinking of renovating, we have you covered.

Give us a call and we’ll answer all of your real estate questions and offer suggestions to help you increase the value of your home.




 

 

 

Sources: 1. BankRate.com

  1. Pulsenomics, Home Price Expectation Survey Q4 2016
  2. Statistic Brain, August 1, 2016
  3. National Association of REALTORS, Economists’ Outlook, September 8, 2014
  4. The Motley Fool, July 30, 2016

 

A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter off-season. Perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter off-season not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers can also net more at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.

 

1 | Take advantage of low inventory.

Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the off-season. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, some of whom may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the off-season, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. Your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.

 

2 | Sell closer to listing price.

Homes sold during the off-season sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well. Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighborhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.

 

3 | You’ll receive more attention.

While our team always strives to give you the personal attention you deserve, when you list during the off-season, we’re able to work more closely with you to ensure your home is prepared for its debut on the market. We can also take more time to answer your questions, address your concerns and prepare you and your home for the sale.

Additionally, if you’d like to hire a trades person to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter off-season as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.

 

4 | Easier to maintain curb appeal.

Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

The off-season eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.

 

5 | Tap into the life changes of buyers.

Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a stronger demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.

Considering listing in the off-season?

 

3 Things to Do
Before You List

Get your home ready to list by following these tips.

 

 

1 | Schedule maintenance.

Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.

In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential buyer may want repaired. Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3

 

2 | Create light.

Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.

If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons.

 

3 | Give your home a thorough cleaning.

Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.

Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.

 

If you’re thinking of selling, give us a call! We’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market!




 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Time, October 30, 2015
  2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
  3. Forbes, August, 27, 2013

 

 

One of the most common questions we get at this time of year is, “What’s going on in the market?” It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners always want reassurance their home’s value is going up. While the state of the real estate market depends on where you live, one thing is for sure: Overall, the real estate market is healthy in most areas.

We often use national real estate numbers to give us a clearer view of our local market. However, real estate is local, and while statistics and predictions help us understand the overall real estate market, our local market may be different. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, or just want to know how much your home is worth, give us a call!

 

What to Expect in the Real Estate Market in 2017

Experts are “cautiously optimistic” about the Canadian housing market in 2017. The overall outlook for the Canadian economy is good, despite falling oil prices. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), job losses within the natural resources sector were offset by gains in manufacturing and construction in 2016. However, this has created dramatic differences in housing markets across Canada, with hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver continuing to see high demand and tight inventory and areas impacted by falling oil prices experiencing little growth. Nationally, housing starts are expected to fall below the 20-year average due to factors including housing affordability, limited income growth and increasing consumer debt.

 

The national market will moderate, but regional markets will vary.

According to RBC Economics, there’s minimal chance of a widespread and steep downturn occurring in the next year. Markets including Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal will remain strong in 2017 due to strong local economies, immigration and low interest rates. Additionally, prices in these markets will continue to increase. These cities are responding to the hot market in different ways. Vancouver issued a 15 percent tax on home purchases by foreign buyers in hopes of tempering the market. In Toronto, since many homeowners are choosing to remain in their homes and renovate, inventory will remain tight. Montréal is focusing on turning condominiums into mixed-used development, which is appealing to buyers of all ages, particularly millennials. In hot markets, like Toronto and Vancouver, experts have noticed some signs of cooling in 2016, which will improve the affordability of homes in 2017 if present trends continue, according to RBC Economics.

Other parts of Canada are recovering from the fall in oil prices. While Ottawa’s economy is growing modestly, the residential market is stagnant due to reduced demand for single-family homes. In Edmonton, the real estate market has softened due to low oil prices. However, sales here are faring better than in other markets in Alberta. Although Calgary experienced a recession due to the drop in oil prices, the economy is expected to grow in 2017. Many homeowners in Calgary are waiting to sell until the economy improves. Additionally, demand for smaller residential properties and townhouses have increased as millennials tend to prefer the advantages of small-space living.

 

Nationally, housing remains affordable.

RBC Economics measures housing affordability at 42.8 percent, meaning there’s greater-than-average market stress for buyers. RBC deems anything above 45 percent to be in the “danger zone” of affordability.  However, national housing affordability takes into account the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets. In most markets across Canada, homes remain affordable and on par with historical norms.

 

Demand will continue to increase as immigration significantly increases over the next five years.

Housing demand is high in Toronto and Vancouver, especially for condos, due to increased demand of foreign buyers and urban migration. According to PwC, in these markets, where demand for single-family homes is high, there’s an opportunity for condo and rental markets to absorb those who are now priced out of buying. Developers in Vancouver are beginning to turn their attention to mixed-use developments and high-density condos to meet growing housing demand.

 

How will the property transfer tax impact foreign buyers in British Columbia?

In 2016, the government of B.C. enacted a property transfer tax for foreign buyers purchasing property in the province. The tax is intended to help temper the market and prevent it from overheating. However, the experts at PwC say the tax may not impact foreign buyers, who are able to afford the area’s rising prices, regardless of new taxes imposed.

 

What’s the impact of new mortgage rules?

At the end of 2016, the Canadian government announced tighter rules on mortgage insurance. The new measure included an increase in the interest rate used to qualify borrowers with a down payment of less than 20 percent who selected a fixed rate mortgage with a term of five years or longer, which impacts a large share of the Canadian mortgage market. According to Mortgage Professionals Canada, 75 percent of new mortgages were fixed-rate with a five-year term. Qualifying standards for fixed-rate mortgages with terms of five years or more and portfolio-insured mortgages will be subject to the same “stress tests” as those for fixed-rate mortgages with terms less than five years and variable-rate mortgages.

While we’ve yet to see how the rules will impact the housing market, it’s expected they may impact home resales and prices in 2017. While the rules are unlikely to cause a crash, there is a chance they may dampen any growth in the market and may cause declines of 11 percent in home sales across Canada.

 

What does it all mean to you?  

If you’d like to know more about our local market and how it compares to national predictions and trends, give us a call! We’d love to discuss our local market with you.

 

3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Buy This Year
  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you’re like most buyers who plan to finance part of the home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will allow you to put in an offer on a home and may give you an advantage over other buyers. The added bonus: you can see how much home you can afford and budget accordingly.
  2. Start looking. While most buyers start their searches online, be sure to look at homes in neighbourhoods you’d like to live in as well. Keep a notebook to write down what you like and dislike about each home you view in person or online. This will help you narrow down where to look and what to look for in your next home.
  3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget. Give us a call to make an appointment today!

 

3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Sell This Year
  1. Make repairs. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs. While the repairs may or may not add value, making them will give your home a competitive advantage over other similar homes on the market.
  2. Get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it’ll also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us price your home to sell in our market. Call us for your free CMA!
  3. Start packing. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up items you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or a storage space. This will make your home easier to stage as well as make it easier to move later on.

 

Are you thinking of buying or selling?

Whether you’d like to buy or sell a home this year, want to know how much your home is worth, or have general questions about our local market, give us a call! We’d love to discuss the market with you.

 

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

Other protections from data breaches include:

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurance quotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: [email protected] for instance.

 

Fake Apps

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

Gift Card Scammers

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

Our world is full of risk at every turn—from perilous jobs to dangerous driving conditions. That’s why we all love to get back to our homes and not worry about everyday safety hazards. It’s great to feel comfortable and safe at home, but is it as safe as it can be?

Your home should be your haven: the place where you will be protected from harm. It should be a top priority, and yet every year 1200 people or more visit the emergency room during the holiday months due to accidents and unintended injuries sustained from hidden dangers around the home.

With a sharp eye and preventive action, you can reduce the chances of lurking safety dangers for everyone who visits your home.

 

The Top 12 Home Safety Tips

GOOD LIGHTING

Adequate lighting reduces the risk of tripping and falling both inside and outside your home. This is especially important in winters when days are shorter. Critical areas that need to be illuminated are the stairs, outdoors, and foyers. Make sure your street number is well lit and visible from the street to aid first responders find your home.

The fix: Make sure adequate wattage is utilized and long-life bulbs and motion detectors are in place.

 

ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS?

Electrical issues, like a flickering light or a dead outlet, can be mild annoyances that actually signal serious dangers. If not addressed promptly, a faulty electrical system can result in house fires and shocks.

The fix: If you’re experiencing any problems with your electricity, contact a professional right away. In your daily life, make sure electrical cords are not frayed or pierced and extension cords are securely connected. Do not run too many cords to a single outlet. Unplug small appliances, space heaters, and power tools when not in use.

 

DO ROUTINE CLEANING

Not maintaining your appliances leads to a greater chance of accidental home fires.

The fix: Do simple tasks regularly like cleaning grease off your stovetop, emptying the lint trap on your dryer, and keeping your chimney clean and clear.

 

SMOKE AND GAS DETECTORS

Every home needs functional warning devices that detect smoke and gases.

The fix: When purchasing smoke alarms, make sure they also detect carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is especially dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Replace the batteries every six months—or whenever you change your clocks. Create an emergency evacuation plan, build a preparedness kit, and practice regular safety drills with your family to ensure awareness of procedures.

 

SECURE YOUR HOME

Many homes now have the latest technological advancements but still rely on locks and hardware from decades ago to keep you safe from intruders.

The fix: Do an audit of all entry points to your home—doors and windows and screens. If any do not have secure screens, locks, and deadbolts, have them installed. For those entry points that do already have door knobs, handles, and locks, make sure that they are in good working condition.

 

WHEN YOU ARE AWAY

We all enjoy long weekends and out-of-town vacations, but unfortunately that leaves your home vulnerable to intruders.

The fix: Create the illusion that someone may still be there. Leave a TV or stereo on in the room where a burglar would most likely break in. Have neighbor pick up mail and the daily paper. Turn down phone ringers, keep blinds drawn, and don’t leave unsecured valuables in the home even if you think they are well-hidden. Never hide keys around the home or garden, and don’t leave notes on the door that suggest you are out of town.

 

HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS

Even if you are an expert and know your way around electrical, plumbing, car or other household repairs, proceed with caution. A poor repair could be a recipe for disaster.

The fix: Call a professional or ask me for a referral from our trusted sources.

 

VEHICLE CAUTION

Remember that there is danger even before you drive on the street. If you are backing your car up, watch out for children and pets on the sidewalk and road.

The fix: Be cautious and proceed slowly when driving vehicles in or out of your driveway. If your driveway does not have good visibility in both directions, walk down and look in both directions before you get in your car.

 

MAKE IT SAFE FOR VISITORS

If you are hosting friends and family, consider what additional safety challenges they may face.

The fix: Put yourself in the shoes of a small child and look for low, hard edges, sharp objects, easy-to-open cabinets with chemicals and cleaning agents. Look for falling and tripping hazards that may fell seniors.

 

BRACE YOURSELF

Heavy objects are rarely braced in the home. Appliances, artwork, televisions, and aquariums present real hazards if they are knocked down by a person or a natural disaster.

The fix: Strap and brace heavy objects and use security hardware for large artwork.

 

UNCOVER HIDDEN DANGERS

If your home was built before the late seventies, there’s likely lead in the paint under the top coats on your walls and windows, and there might be traces in the varnish used on many hardwood floors. In addition, asbestos often can be found in insulation and “popcorn” ceiling textures.

The fix: Hire a licensed contractor to test for possible contaminants and remove them safely, especially prior to a remodel.

 

MOTHER NATURE

Your homeowners insurance will cover you in many instances, but did you know that you may not be insured against natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes? They typically require an additional policy.

The fix: Contact your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate replacement coverage as home values escalate and coverage amounts can stay static. Discuss costs for adding disaster policies for the natural disaster most likely to hit your area. Finally, having a disaster and communication plan can minimize the risks.

 

Safety Dangers to Kids You May Not Think About

Do you have small children who live with you? Even if you don’t, with the holiday season rapidly approaching, your home may welcome friends with young children and older family members. This makes now the ideal time to survey home your home for potential safety problems.

 

OPEN WATER

Did you know that as little as an inch of water can be a major hazard? A pail of water in the yard, large puddles from a storm, even a washing machine can induce a small child to trip or fall into and become at risk.

The fix: Watch for open ice chests and other standing water, and don’t leave toilet seats open.

 

SMALL BATTERIES

Button-sized lithium batteries power small electronic devices, including remote controls, watches, musical greeting cards, and ornaments. When accidentally swallowed, they can get stuck in the esophagus and generate an electrical current that can cause severe chemical burns and tissue damage.

The fix: Only let small children play with mechanical devices and toys under supervision, and make sure to put these items away when not in use.

 

WINDOWS AND STAIRS

Every year, more than 5,000 kids end up in the emergency room after tumbling out of a window. Combat that by installing window guards or window stops so kids can’t fall out. Stairs are another potential hazard for youngsters with less-than-perfect balance.

The fix: Baby gates can prevent young kids from venturing up or down. Steps should always have firm footing and be clear of objects as even older people can slip and fall or trip on items left on the stairs.

 

FAMILY PETS

Cats can scratch a child not used to playing with finicky felines. The family dog may be big and loving but can outweigh a child by five times. Children can be easily knocked down, nipped, or even bitten by a dog not used to the activity of small children.

The fix: Monitor play activity and make sure your pet is not getting anxious or annoyed.

 

CORDS

Babies can be strangled by cords on blinds and shades.

The fix: Excessive cords of all types should be removed or secured down. Always keep cribs away from windows with loose cords.

 

Now’s the Time

With the upcoming holidays at hand, now is the perfect time to survey your home and address potential safety hazards to yourselves, your family, and your friends. It doesn’t take long, most fixes are very inexpensive and simple to do, and your efforts will pay dividends in peace of mind for years to come.

If you would like our advice on how to make your home safer and need a list of trusted sources for home repairs, please contact us today. It’s our business to ensure that your home is safe and secure for your family.

What is Home Equity?

Home equity seems to be a very simple calculation — the total amount of mortgages owed subtracted from the current market value of a home. Here is a simple example:

Current Home Market Value                  $325,000
Existing Mortgage                                  $225,000
Homeowner Equity                                 $100,000

One side of the equation is well defined, and it is found on the monthly mortgage statement, the loan balance. The other side is less obvious — the current market value of the property.

As a homeowner, your down payment purchases your initial equity, and your monthly (or additional) principal payments increase your equity. In strong real estate markets and in-demand locations, equity can increase quite rapidly as the property value increases, but the inverse can also happen — too much available inventory and market down-cycles can lead to falling home values and a reduction in homeowner equity.

It can be difficult to put an accurate value on something that you have emotional and monetary vesting in. It is safe to say that most people think their home is worth more than then it is.

Homeowners can make savvy assessments about their home’s current market value by following the sales of similar properties in the neighborhood, but should stay away from websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which provide inaccurate and outdated estimates. The most accurate measurement requires a comparative market analysis from a real estate professional or having the home professionally appraised. But, the bottom line — your home is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

 

Creating Value is in Your Hands

Maintaining the condition of a home is vitally important to retaining and increasing value. Homes are judged against their peers: how they compare to similar homes in the neighborhood. Another way to retain value is to not over upgrade, since it is rare to ever recoup the money spent if you exceed neighborhood value. Keep up the landscaping and do the little things to add curb appeal.

 

Putting Home Equity to Work

Home equity represents the largest single asset of millions of people, and because it represents so much of an individual’s net worth, it must be treated with respect. Home equity is not a liquid asset until a property is sold, or it is borrowed against.

There are two types of loans that tap into homeowner equity as collateral.

 

Home Equity Loan (Second Mortgage)

A home equity loan, also called a second mortgage, usually has a fixed rate and a set time to pay it back, generally with equal monthly payments. It works essentially the same way as the mortgage you got to purchase your property.

 

Home Equity Line of Credit

A home equity line of credit is similar to a credit card. The lender sets a maximum amount you can borrow, and you can draw money as you need it, though many home equity lines of credit require an initial draw. The interest rate varies daily, and is usually prime plus a set number, but the required payment is usually interest only. Once the loan has been paid down, the payment is reduced, and it can be paid off and initiated as many times as a homeowner requires.

 

How Much Equity can be Accessed?

Since the financial institution is lending money and using a home as collateral, they will not lend 100% of the home’s equity. The bank does not want to take the risk that if the house price drops, they would be carrying a loan for more than its market value. Therefore, most banks will allow a qualified homeowner to borrow approximately 80% of their equity. Check with your bank or mortgage broker for details.

 

It’s Important to Use Your Home Equity Wisely

Because it is likely the biggest asset most people have, losing your home equity is hard to overcome. It must be used in prudent ways, and the payments against the loan must be affordable. Using equity money to make the loan payment is only acceptable for a short-term solution.

There are number of good reasons to use money from a home equity loan… and some really bad ones. First, let’s cover smart uses.

  • Invest in Your HomeThe best way to use the money is create more equity in the home. Among the very best returns on your investment (ROI) include kitchen and bathroom remodels, adding square footage or an extra bath, enhancing curb appeal and repairing/keeping the existing structure sound. Making prudent investments in your home is a wonderful win-win: you enjoy the upgrades and the repairs can add value to the home.
  • Invest in your Children’s EducationUsing your home equity to finance a child’s higher education may be the greatest payoff of all. Not only is the rate much lower than a student loan, it is an investment in the child’s future.
  • Supplement Retirement NeedsOlder homeowners spent their working lives paying down their mortgage. At retirement, when monthly income is reduced, a home equity loan could pay for a dream vacation or an unexpected major expense.
  • Augment the Impending Sale of a HomeIf you’re planning to sell soon, a home equity line of credit may be the best way to finance improvements, and you can pay it off entirely when you sell. Investing wisely on upgrades and repairs may even reap a profit on your investment.

 

Here are some examples of some not very wise choices.

  • Adding luxury amenities like a swimming pool, a hot spa, lavish landscaping, expensive appliances and exotic counter tops and flooring rarely pay off.
  • Purchasing a car or boat or most any personal luxury items is a poor use of the funds, since these items quickly depreciate in value.
  • Also stay away from using money on risk-heavy investments. Financing stock purchases, start-up businesses and paying routine bills is not financially smart. If you cannot afford to purchase those items with available funds, using equity from your home means they should not be in your budget.

 

You should treat a home equity loan as an investment and not as extra cash when making financial decisions. If your intended use of the money doesn’t pay you back in some way, it’s not the best use of your valuable equity.

 

We Are Happy to Assist You

If you would like an assessment of the market value of your home and the current equity you can access, fill out the contact form below or give us a call for a comparative market analysis.




The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.

When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

 

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

 

Smart Smoke Detectors

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

 

Smart Sprinkler Control

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

 

Smart Solar Panels

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

 

Smart Home Security Systems

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

 

Smart Locks

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

 

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

 

Smart Appliances

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!