Category: Buyer Info (10)

Don’t wait until you’re ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.

If you’re like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) issued new mortgage guidelines, which went into effect at the beginning of the year and raised the standards for mortgage applicants. The requirements may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But we’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to approval.

It’s never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!

 

STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.

There are five factors that impact your credit score: history of payments (35%), debts (30%), credit length (15%), new inquiries (10%), and diversity (10%).1

Credit scores range from 300 to 900. A higher credit score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2

The two major credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax Canada and Transunion Canada. For information on how you can request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-reports-score/order-credit-report.html. The bureaus may charge you a fee to access your actual credit score.

 

Minimum Score Requirements

The new OSFI rules require a minimum credit score of 600 for a mortgage under $1,000,000. However, many lenders prefer to see a score of at least 650.

Generally speaking, banks and other traditional financial institutions have the strictest requirements. If you have a credit score below 600, you may still be able to secure a loan through a credit union or private lender, however you should expect to pay a higher interest rate and additional fees.3

 

Increase Your Credit Score

There’s no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.4

  1. Make Payments on Time

At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it’s crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.

If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up payment reminders through your online banking platform, a free money management tool like Mint, or an app like BillMinder.

 

  1. Avoid Applying for New Credit You Don’t Need

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.

The exception to this rule? If you don’t have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. The credit bureaus attempt to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.

 

  1. Pay Down Credit Cards

When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.

Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it’s paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.

 

Debt Interest Rate Total Payoff Minimum Payment
Credit Card 1 12.5% $460 $18.40
Credit Card 2 18.9% $1,012 $40.48
Credit Card 3 3.11% $6,300 $252

 

 

  1. Avoid Closing Old Accounts

Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you’ll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.

Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.

 

  1. Correct Errors on Your Report

Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada posts instructions for disputing errors on your report.

While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.

 

 

STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS

 The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.

 

Down Payment

When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage).

The minimum amount you’ll need for your down payment depends on the purchase price of the home.

 

PURCHASE PRICE MINIMUM DOWN
$500,000 or less ●     5% of the purchase price
$500,000 to $999,999 ●     5% of the first $500,000 of the purchase price

AND

●     10% for the portion of the purchase price above $500,000

$1 million or more ●     20% of the purchase price

Source: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

 

It’s important to note that these are the minimum requirements for securing a mortgage. If you’re self-employed or have a low credit score, your down payment requirements may be higher.

Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, if your down payment falls below 20 percent, you will be required to purchase mortgage loan insurance, which will cost you between 0.6 to 4.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount.5

If you don’t have the minimum requirements for a down payment, the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) might be an option for you. It enables you to withdraw up to $25,000 (or $50,000 if you are buying as a couple) from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy or build a qualifying home. You have up to 15 years to repay the amount you withdrew. Click here for more information and to find out if you are eligible to participate.6

 

Current Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!

 

Closing Costs

Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These typically include legal fees and other administrative fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs typically range between 1.5 to four percent of the purchase price.7

If you don’t have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add a portion to your mortgage balance and pay it over time. However, you’ll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you’ll pay interest on the fees.

 

STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER

Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.

It’s important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you’ll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.

Your gross debt service ratio (GDS) and total debt service ratio (TDS) are the two primary measurements mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you.

 

Gross Debt Service Ratio

Your GDS ratio is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing each month, including principal, interest, taxes, heat and 50 percent of condo fees (if applicable).

To calculate your GDS ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum GDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 32 percent.8

 

Total Debt Service Ratio

The TDS ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child and spousal support, and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.

To calculate your TDS ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum TDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 44 percent.8

 

New “Stress Test” Requirements

Under OSFI’s new rules, all mortgages issued by federally-regulated lenders are required to undergo a “stress test.” Under this test, applicants must fall below the GDS and TDS ratio maximums at either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark interest rate, or at their qualified contract interest rate plus two percent, whichever is higher.8

The purpose of the stress test is to ensure that home buyers will still be able to afford their mortgages if interests rates rise.

 

Home Affordability Calculator

To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.ca/Residential/calculator.aspx?tab=3.

 

This handy tool will help you determine how much you can afford to borrow depending on your income, debt, property taxes, condo fees, heating costs and interest rate. It also offers a projection of your monthly mortgage payment. Add the “maximum mortgage” estimate to your down payment amount to find out your total home purchasing power.

When you enter the interest rate, be sure to use either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or two percentage points above your estimated rate (whichever is higher) to ensure you can meet the “stress test” requirements.

If the monthly cost estimate is significantly higher than what you’re currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.

If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to reflect a more conservative TDS ratio.

(Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)

 

Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?

Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it’s time to find out which neighbourhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.

If there are homes within your price range and target neighbourhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It’s time to begin your home search.

If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.

 

START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY

 It’s never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!

And if you are ready to buy now but still aren’t sure if you meet the minimum requirements, don’t get discouraged. You may be able to secure a loan through a credit union or a private lender. We can connect you with one of our trusted mortgage providers.

 

Want to find out if you’re ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We’ll help you review your options and determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

  1. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/credit/what-your-credit-score-range-really-means/
  2. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02179.html
  3. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/minimum-credit-score-required-mortgage-approval-2018/
  4. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02178.html
  5. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/down-payment.html
  6. Government of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/rrsps-related-plans/what-home-buyers-plan.html
  7. Which Mortgage –
    https://www.whichmortgage.ca/article/the-truth-about-closing-costs-118698.aspx
  8. Deposit Financing –
    http://depositfinancing.ca/mortgage-stress-test-calculator-canada-2018/

We frequently get questions from clients who are taking on decorating and remodeling projects and want to ensure their dollars are invested wisely.

Which looks will last for years to come, and which ones will feel dated quickly? What colors and styles are most popular among buyers in our area? How can I add the most value to my home?

So we’ve rounded up some of the hottest trends in home design to help guide you through the process. Whether you’ve planned a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, making smart and informed design choices will help you maximize your return on investment … and minimize the chance of “remodeler’s remorse” down the road.

 

 WHAT’S HOT NOW

While 2017 was all about millennial pink, brass fixtures and bright white kitchens, this year we expect to see a move toward warmer, cozier elements throughout the home.

 

1. Warm Colors

A cool color scheme has dominated home design in recent years, but this year warm neutrals like brown and tan are back, along with rich jewel tones. While the pastel craze of last year is still hanging on, expect to see alternative color palettes featuring deep, saturated shades of red, yellow, green and navy. Grey will remain popular, but in warmer tones, often referred to as “greige.”

image

 

2. Cozy Elements

Along with warmer colors, we can expect to see a shift from stark, modern design to cozier looks. Velvet upholstery, woven textures and natural elements, like wood and stone, will heat things up this year.

 

3. Mixed Metals

It used to be considered gauche to mix finishes, however the look of mixed metals will be very big in 2018. Brass will continue to trend, along with matte black and classics like polished chrome and brushed nickel.

image

4. Bold Patterns

Expect to see a lot of bright, bold patterns in the form of geometric shapes and graphic floral prints. These will be featured on everything from furniture to throw pillows to tile.

 

5. Natural Elements

Look for the use of natural elements throughout the home, including wood, stone, plants, flowers and grass. Botanical patterns will also be seen in prints, wallpaper and upholstery. Concrete accents will complement these additions in an effort to bring the essence of the outdoors inside the home.

image

6. Feature Walls

Also called an accent wall, a feature wall is one that exhibits a different color or design than the other walls in the room. Expect to see an increased use of feature walls showcasing rich paint colors, bold patterned wallpaper, and textures brought in through millwork and shiplap.

 

7. Statement Lighting

Lighting will take center stage with distinctive fixtures, including local artisan and vintage pendants and chandeliers. And smart lighting technology will enable homeowners to customize their lighting experience based on time of day, activity and mood.

image

8. Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors will continue to dominate the market. The trend is toward either very dark stains paired with light-colored walls or light stains with darker walls. Greyish tones will remain popular, as will matte finishes, which are easier to maintain than high gloss. Expect to see frequent use of wider and longer wood planks, as well as distressed and wire-brushed finishes, which add texture and dimension.

 

9. Smart Homes

Everything is getting “smarter” in homes, from locks and lights to thermostats and appliances. And with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you can control many of these with voice activation from a central hub. We will see continued integration of and advancements in smart-home technology in 2018.

 

 

KITCHEN TRENDS

 While white kitchens will remain popular in 2018, expect to see more color this year in everything from cabinets to tile to appliances.

 

1. Two-toned Cabinets

Two-toned cabinets are quickly overtaking the white-on-white look that has dominated kitchen design for the past few years. While white remains a classic, grey and bleached-wood cabinet variations are surging in popularity, along with darker neutrals like navy and green.

 image

 2. Quartz Countertops

Granite reigned as the top countertop choice for many years, but quartz is now king. It’s highly durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It’s also heat resistant, scratch resistant and non-porous (unlike granite and marble) so it doesn’t need to be sealed.

 

3. Bold Backsplashes

After years of dominating backsplash design, the white subway tile is officially on its way out. Expect to see it replaced with more elaborate shapes, patterns, colors and textures. Tile that mimics the appearance of wood, concrete and wallpaper is also gaining in popularity.

image

4. Statement Sinks

While stainless steel and white porcelain are always safe bets, the trend is moving toward sinks that make more of a statement. Look for unexpected pops of color and materials like natural stone and copper. Touch-free faucets are expected to gain favor with homeowners this year, too.

 

5. Brass is (Still) Back

Brass fixtures came back in a big way over the past couple of years and will continue to be a popular choice in 2018 along with matte black, black nickel, polished chrome and brushed nickel. Missing from the list? Rose gold, which is decidedly “out” this year.

image

 

6. Multi-purpose Islands

Kitchen islands have evolved from simple prep-stations into the “workhorse” of the kitchen. Many feature sinks, built-in appliances and under-counter storage while also serving as a casual dining area. They have become the focal point of the kitchen, and we expect to see more of them in 2018 and beyond.

 

7. Black Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel is the hot new finish option for appliances, and it’s hitting the market in a big way. It offers a cutting-edge look and is easier to keep clean than traditional stainless steel. However, it’s harder to match finishes amongst different brands, so it’s probably only feasible as part of a complete appliance package.

 

8. Appliance Garages

Appliance garages are counter-level compartments designed to house small appliances like blenders, toasters and stand mixers. They make it convenient to have these items readily accessible, without the look of a cluttered counter.

 image

BATH TRENDS

 Expect to see many of the same kitchen design preferences carry over into bathrooms this year, including two-tone cabinets, quartz countertops and brass fixtures.

 

1. Neutral Tones

Neutral shades will continue to dominate in the master bathroom as homeowners seek a soothing and relaxing retreat atmosphere. But expect to see more options than just white. Shades of brown, grey, blue, green and tan will help to warm things up.

image

2. Natural Elements

Natural materials are particularly hot right now in bathroom design. This includes the use of wood and stone on walls, cabinets, counters and backsplashes, as well as the incorporation of botanical design elements.

 

3. Large Tiles

We expect to see a lot more large and slab-sized tiles in bathrooms, which have less grout so they are easier to clean and maintain. Wood-look porcelain tiles are also a favorite in wet areas, as they offer the warmth and rustic appeal of wood with the durability of tile.

image

 

4. Stone Sinks

Sinks will continue to be an area where homeowners like to exhibit creativity, and hand-carved stone sinks are especially fashionable right now. These may be more suited to powder rooms, where functionality isn’t as crucial.

 

5. Freestanding Tubs

 There’s been a tub resurgence in bathroom design after years of preference for stand-alone showers. Modern tastes are gravitating toward freestanding tubs that serve as a showpiece for the bathroom.

image

6. Smart Features

 

Smart technology has entered the bathroom with the addition of features like wireless shower speakers and high-tech toilets, as well as digital shower controls that automatically adjust to your preferences in temperature and spray intensity.

 

 

OUR ADVICE

Style trends come and go, so don’t invest in the latest look unless you love it. That said, highly-personalized or outdated style choices can limit the appeal of your property for resale.

For major renovation projects, it’s always a good idea to stick to neutral colors and classic styles. It will give your remodel longevity and appeal to the greatest number of buyers when it comes time to sell. It will also give you flexibility to update your look in a few years without a total overhaul. Use non-permanent fixtures – like paint, furniture and accent pieces – to personalize the space and incorporate trendier choices.

If you’d like advice on a specific remodelling or design project, give us a call! We’re happy to offer our insights and suggestions on how to maximize your return on investment and recommend local shops and service providers who may be able to assist you.

 

Sources:
  1. Country Living –
    http://www.countryliving.com/home-design/decorating-ideas/g3988/kitchen-trends
  2. Elle Decor –
    http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g14486069/kitchen-trends-2018/
  3. Gates Interior Design –
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-interior-design-trends-for-2018/
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/biggest-kitchen-bath-trends-for-2018/
  4. com –
    http://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/17-top-kitchen-design-trends-pictures
  5. House Beautiful –
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/kitchens/g2664/kitchen-trends/
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13938283/2018-decor-trends/
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13820501/best-and-worst-decor-trends-from-2017/
  6. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/93399913/list/interior-design-trends-expected-to-take-hold-in-2018
  7. Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/09/25/the-kitchen-and-dining-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2018_a_23222693/
  8. Kitchen and Bath Design News –
    http://www.kitchenbathdesign.com/123995/year-end-look-and-new-trends-for-2018/
  9. com –
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/home-and-garden/12-flooring-trends-for-2018/ss-AAtp7QA
  10. com –
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/interior-design-trends-to-ditch-2018/
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/hottest-interior-design-decor-trends-2018/?is_wp_site=1
  11. Realty Times – http://realtytimes.com/advicefromagents/item/1007993-kitchen-design-trends-in-2018?rtmpage=MattLawler
  12. Sebring Design Build –
    https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-bathroom-design/
  13. The Flooring Girl –
    http://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/hardwood-flooring-trends-2018/
  14. Vogue –
    https://www.vogue.com/article/interior-design-trends-according-to-expert-designers-decorators

When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s crucial to work with a qualified real estate agent. Not just a professional, but an amazing agent and a market expert. So how do you ensure you’re hiring an amazing real estate agent?

There are currently more than two million real estate professionals in North America.1,2 With so many options to choose from, how does a prospective home buyer or seller choose the right agent or broker? According to the National Association of Realtors®, trust and reputation are the top deciding factors consumers use when hiring an agent.3

But how do you measure trust and reputation … and what criteria can be used to help you make your decision?

In this guide, we’ve outlined the top attributes that amazing agents possess, as well as the questions you can ask to make sure you’re working with the right market expert to achieve your real estate goals.

 

5 ATTRIBUTES OF AN AMAZING AGENT

As we mentioned above, not all real estate professionals are the same. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options and information about working with real estate professionals to buy or sell your home. In fact, many real estate markets are oversaturated with agents.

To help you understand what makes top agents and market experts stand apart from the competition, following are five key attributes of an amazing agent:

 

1. A Pricing Specialist

If an agent has their real estate license, they know the basics of the transaction process. They know what goes into buying and selling a home. However, there’s a difference between knowing the process and navigating it for an ideal result. This ideal result often means buying or selling a home for the best price.

For buyers, amazing agents have a strong understanding of market trends, competition, and how to make your offer attractive to sellers. They can help you identify and secure a deal to ensure you get the home you want, within your desired budget.

If you’re selling a home, market experts have experience pricing homes optimally for the market, and creating pricing plans to minimize the time spent selling the home. This will help you sell for your desired price, and avoid costs like additional mortgage and utility payments.

Takeaway:
Whether buying or selling a home, pricing can be tricky. Market experts can help navigate best-possible pricing strategies, and also secure the home you want within your budget.

 

2. An Effective Time Manager

It’s common to underestimate the amount of time it takes to buy or sell your home. The average real estate agent may not be utilizing the latest tools and technology to make the transaction easier and more cost effective for their clients. Market experts have tools and strategies at their disposal to minimize the amount of time you spend on the process.

For sellers, market experts can make sure you only deal with qualified buyers, not the “window shoppers” who can waste your time. We also utilize the latest marketing practices to advertise and price your home effectively, ensuring it gets sold quickly.

When looking to buy a home, inexperienced agents may waste your time by showing you homes that are not a good fit for you. A market expert knows how to prioritize your needs and wants to find you the ideal home within your budget. They also know how to spot “red flags” and can steer you away from homes that are likely to turn up major issues in a real estate inspection, saving you time and money.

In addition, well-networked Realtors can gain access to the hottest listings before many websites do. Their extensive professional networks can help identify “pre-list” homes before they’re officially on the market. This can be invaluable in a highly-competitive real estate market.

Takeaway:
Even a well-intentioned agent may not have the skills, tools or technology to make the experience easy for you. There are lots of hidden activities that may take up unexpected time, and a market expert will save you time and energy.

 

3. A Market Insider

While most agents can pull market stats about a neighborhood, community or city, they may not understand important trends or developments that would affect your transaction. These can include the state of the school district, issues with a homeowner association, new businesses in the area, zoning rules or trends in home prices.

Market experts live and breathe local real estate and know the trigger points for buying and selling in this market. We also stay current on effective marketing and negotiation practices, resulting in our track record of success.

For sellers, we understand what features of your home and neighborhood are assets in the selling process. And for buyers, we share a deep understanding of market factors, including school and neighborhood quality, crime statistics, speed of sales and more.

Takeaway:
Getting relevant and specific market knowledge can be difficult and time consuming, which is why many real estate agents don’t have it. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, an experienced real estate agent is often the best source of information about a city, neighborhood, or even street … we’re literally conducting market research every day.

 

4. A Strong Negotiator

Amazing agents truly set themselves apart in their ability to negotiate. Unfortunately, a large portion of agents don’t commit their full time to increasing this key skill.

Real estate negotiations can be challenging, even for seasoned professionals. It takes skill, experience and a knowledge of how to fight for your client’s best interests. While any agent can enter negotiations to buy or sell a home, they may not know the effective strategies to exit those negotiations with the result you want.

Experienced Realtors focus on negotiation as a key skill. We understand what to do before entering negotiations (establishing the upper hand to set up the best outcome), as well as during the process (when to offer or accept concessions).

Takeaway:
Many agents can feel the stress of the negotiation process, and may agree to terms of the buyer/seller. Working with a market expert will help ensure you get the best deal, not just the fastest deal.

 

5. An Effective Closer

Closing a deal fast is often a good thing. For buyers, it means you found the home you wanted quickly. For sellers, it often means you can avoid the added expenses of mortgage and utility payments, and maximize the value of your home sale.

However, an agent solely focused on speed can make decisions that aren’t in your best interests. Top real estate professionals know how to not only achieve your real estate goals quickly, but in the right way to avoid potential pitfalls.

Just like negotiations, the paperwork and process of closing a real estate transaction are complicated. And they can be overwhelming for the average agent who hasn’t handled a lot of transactions. Sales contracts, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and even lead paint records need to be executed with precision. Your agent not only needs to be familiar with these, but also stay current on any changes in requirements or regulations.

Market experts have a strong understanding of real estate contracts, timelines, clauses and contingencies within the closing process. In fact, avoiding pitfalls during the closing process is where many sellers find an experienced Realtor is a huge asset.

Takeaway:
Many agents don’t have a firm understanding of contracts. Because a real estate transaction often involves a significant investment, even a small mistake can mean serious trouble. With that in mind, it’s often best, and most responsible, to work with a true market expert.

 

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT

So how do you know if you’re working with an amazing agent?

The first step would be to “shop around.” Many people work with the first agent they come across without a firm understanding of their level of experience. It’s always a good idea to interview a number of agents before selecting one. If you’ve gotten referrals from people you trust, then you may only need to interview 2-3 agents.

However, it can be tough to know what to ask in the interview process. Here are some questions that can help you qualify the best agent to help you achieve your real estate goals:

 

1. Can you send me some information about yourself?

Look for professionalism and consistency. What are their professional accomplishments? Also, try to identify how they approach their work. Look for a business person who has a strategy and solid support system. If they’re a newer agent, ask about their team’s dynamic and accomplishments.

 

2. How long have you been in real estate?

The average Realtor has 10 years of experience4. But while longevity is important, even more telling are the number of transactions they have closed or been involved in. So feel free to also ask: “How many homes have you sold in this area?”

 

3. What will you do to keep me informed?

Do you want daily or weekly reports from your agent? Will the agent be able to meet these expectations? Determine how much communication you want, and then find an agent who will give you the attention and time you want and deserve.

 

4. Can you provide me with further resources I may need?

From market reports and pricing trends to school performance and crime statistics, top agents have resources at their disposal. In addition, market experts have built strong relationships with their extended team of professionals, and can often get expedient service or be able to “cash in a favor” for you should a need arise.

 

5. Seller only: Can you share with me your plan to market my property?

Many agents will simply put your home in the MLS and wait for it to sell. An amazing agent should have a detailed plan of how to get your home exposure on social media, to their local networks, and more.

 

GET STARTED

Now that you’re armed with the 5 Attributes of Amazing Agents and the Top Questions to ensure you work with the best possible real estate agent, you’re ready to start interviewing agents.

We’d love an opportunity to win your business. Schedule a free consultation with us to find out how true market experts can help you achieve your real estate goals!

 

 

Sources:

  1. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics
  2. Financial Post – http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canada-housing-bubble-agents/wcm/b49d4e3a-bd8d-4d1c-9566-bd3d80c8e23a
  3. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers
  1. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics

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!



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.

 

Okay, you made one of the most important decisions in your life: you’re buying a home! You found your ideal home. It’s in your desired neighborhood, close to everything you love, you dig its design and feel, and you’re ready to finalize the deal.

But, whoa … wait a minute! Buying a home isn’t like buying a toaster. If you discover something’s wrong with your new home, you can’t return it for a refund or an even exchange. You’re stuck with your buying decision. Purchasing a home is an important investment and should be treated as such. Therefore, before finalizing anything, your “ideal” home needs an inspection to protect you from throwing your hard-earned money into a money pit.

A home inspection is a professional visual examination of the home’s roof, plumbing, heating and cooling system, electrical systems, and foundation.

There are really two types of home of inspections. There is a general home inspection and a specialized inspection. Most general inspections cost around $400. The cost of a specialized inspection varies from type to type. If the inspector recommends a specialized inspection, take that advice because buying a home is the single most important investment you’ll make and you want extra assurance that you’re making a wise investment.

By having your prospective new home inspected, you can:

  • Negotiate with the home seller and potentially get the home sale-ready at no cost to you
  • Help prevent your insurance rates from rising
  • Opt-out of the purchase before you make a costly mistake
  • Save money in the short and long run

 

How Much Money Can a Home Inspection Save You?

A home inspection helps to find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation. If there are any issues discovered during the home inspection, buyers can stipulate that the sellers either repair them before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. If the sellers do not want to front the money to complete the repairs, buyers could negotiate a drop in the overall sales price of the home!

Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind. Your first days and months in a new home will set the tone for your life there, and you don’t want to taint that time with worries about hidden problems and potential money pits.

To help you understand how much money a home inspection can save you, here are some estimated cost from HomeAdvisor to drive the point home … so to speak.

Roof – Roofing problems are one of the most common issues found by home inspections. Roof repair can range between $316 and $1046, but to replace a roof entirely can cost between $4,660 and $8,950.

Plumbing – Don’t underestimate the plumbing. Small leaks can cause damage that costs between $1,041 and $3,488 to repair. Your home inspector will look for visible problems with the plumbing such as leaky faucets, water stains around sinks and the shower, and noisy pipes. Stains on walls, ceilings, and warped floors show plumbing problems.

Heating and Cooling – Ensuring the home’s heating and cooling system is working properly is very important. Your home inspector will make you aware of any problems with the existing system and let know you whether the system is past its prime and needs replacing. You don’t want to throw down $3,919 to replace an aged furnace. Nor do you want to spend $5,238 replacing an ill-working air conditioner. Replacing and repairing a water heater gets pricey too. Wouldn’t you rather use your savings for a vacation?

Electrical Systems – When thinking of the electrical system, no problem is better than even a small problem. Electrical problems might seem small, but they can blossom into thousand-dollar catastrophes. Make sure your home inspector examines the electric meter, wires, circuit breaker, switches, and the GCFI outlets and electrical outlets.

Foundation – If your home inspector sees that the house is sinking, that means water is seeping into the foundation; cracks in walls, sticking windows, and sagging floor also indicate foundational problems. The foundation is so important that if the general inspection report shows foundation problems, lenders will not lend money on the home until those issues are solved. Foundation repairs can reach as high as $5,880 to repair.

As you can see, a small investment of a few hundred dollars for a general home inspection can save you tons of money and future headaches. To save even more money, you might consider investing in a specialized home inspection as well. A specialized inspection gets down to the nitty-gritty of all the trouble spots the general home inspection might have located.

 

How Much Money Can a Specialized Inspection Save You?

A general home inspection can trigger a need for a specialized inspection because the general home inspector spotted something off about the roof, sewer system, the heating and cooling system, and the foundation. If humidity is high where you’re buying your home, a pest inspection is recommended. Usually, a pest inspection will check for mold as well as pests. Some homebuyers have a Radon test done to ensure air quality.

Roof – Roof specialists examine the chimney and the flashing surrounding it. They also look at the level of wear and tear of the roof. They can tell you how long the roof will last before a new one is needed. They’ll inspect the downspouts and gutters. The average cost of a roof inspection is about $223. Most roof inspections will cost between $121 and $324.

Sewer System – Making sure your sewer system has no problems should happen before the closing because what might look like a small problem can turn into a large problem in the future. If any issues pop up, you can negotiate with the seller about needed repairs or replacements before closing. Cost of inspection will vary; on the low side, it might cost you around $95, and on the high side, it might cost you $790. Compare these numbers to repairing a septic tank, which can cost, on average, $1,435 (though it could reach as high as $4,459), and you can see that the cost of an inspection is worth it when you catch the problem before you buy.

Heating and Cooling System – A HVAC specialist will check the ducts for blockage and for consistent maintenance of the unit. The repairs needed might be small or they might be big, but this small investment will save you headaches and lots of money down the road.

Foundation – A foundation specialist will pinpoint the exact problem with the foundation. The specialist will look at the grade or slope of the home. The ground should slope away from the home in all directions a half inch per foot. Most homeowners have spent between $1,763 and $5,880 to repair their foundation. And the average cost to re-slope a lawn is at $1,705. Most homeowners paid between $933 and $2,558 to re-slope their lawn.

Pest Inspection – Termites eat a home’s wood structure from inside out and can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home. Other pests can turn your dream home into a nightmare. Depending on the humidity of where you live, you should a pest/termite inspection every two years or so. You can start with your potential new home. Most inspections are extensive and cost between $109 and $281. The good news is that most pest management company will guarantee the pest inspection if bugs show up.

Radon Test – Radon is a naturally occurring invisible odorless gas that is the second leading cause of cancer. A radon test is a good test to have done as a good habit. The cost of radon test is low and its cost varies from state to state. Here’s more information about Radon.

Steps You Can Take to Save Money Using a Home Inspection

To help yourself save with a home inspection, you will need to:

Attend the inspection – Attending the inspection is important because it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Check utilities – Checking utilities let’s know the energy efficiency of your potential home.

Hire a Qualified Home Inspector – We work with home inspectors all the time! If you’re not sure who to call, we can recommend bona-fide home inspectors to you.

 

While the decision of who you work with is always yours, we can educate you so that you make a wise homebuying decision. Feel free to contact us with any questions; we’re here to help!

 




 

Maybe your dream home has the intricate details that you usually find only in older construction – wainscoting and crown molding in the interior, the front porch with a swing, an older tree shading the back yard, and the white picket fence.

Or maybe your dream home has all the conveniences of modern living – open floor plan in the living and dining spaces, large windows, connected, “smart” appliances and security systems, and minimalist design elements.

Whether you go for a brand new construction or an existing home, both types of properties have their pros and cons when it comes to purchasing. What type of home is right for you will depend on which factors are most important for your lifestyle.

 

Build your dream home with new construction

If you’re making a home purchase that’s still in the pre-construction phase, you may be able to customize many of the details. Many home builders will give you the option to add design elements that will give you the exact dream home you desire. If it’s a new subdivision, you may even be able to pick which lot you like best.

Very early in the building process, you may have more room to customize. For example, if the walls aren’t complete, you may be able to add extra outlets in each of the rooms or custom wiring for surround sound in the media room. Perhaps you could move the laundry room to the top floor instead of the basement. You might be able to get a separate mudroom entrance.

Later in the building process, you may be able to add granite countertops, an island, and custom cabinets in the kitchen. Your master bathroom could be upgraded with a steam shower, spa tub, and European fixtures. You will want to check with the builder to understand which features are included, and which ones are extra.

 

New homes save money with fewer repairs and more efficiency

Once your home is complete, all you’ll need to do is move in. New appliances will be under warranty for a few years if they need repairs, and will likely work well for several years without needing fixes. Often, new construction is under a builder’s warranty, so any repairs needed in the first year should be covered.

New homes often contain energy efficient and green appliances, like high-efficiency stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, furnaces, or air conditioning units. These energy-saving appliances, along with good insulation and energy-efficient windows, will help you save money on monthly utility bills.

New homes also often use new building materials that require less maintenance — for example, using composite siding and trim (instead of wood), which doesn’t need annual repainting. You won’t need to spend as much to maintain your new home.

If you customized it during pre-construction, you won’t need to spend any money on renovations or upgrades for several more years. You can just enjoy it and not worry about saving for major home repairs.

 

What you need to do to make a good new home purchase

Before you put in your offer, do some research on the builder. Do they have a good reputation? What else have they built? Did their other new properties have issues such as poor construction or unfinished details?

You like the model home, but will you like where it’s situated? After you look at the home itself, come back to the neighborhood to see what it’s like at different times of the day. Walk around during the day and in the evening, and see how you like the area.

Brand new communities usually attract similar types of buyers—urban professionals, couples, or young families, for example. These will be your neighbors, so you’ll want to make sure that you want to be part of this new, homogeneous community.

You may also need to be flexible with your move-in date. Builders will only be able to let you move in if they can meet their construction schedule. If the wiring is delayed, the walls can’t be finished. And because there are so many construction tasks that are dependent on the completion of prior tasks, schedules tend to slip.

 

Get more variety and established neighborhoods with an existing home

With older existing homes, you will get more variety in home styles, as different types of construction have gone in and out of style throughout the decades. Within one neighborhood, you may be able to find a mix of different styles like Victorian, modern Tudor cottages, tract style, ranch or split-ranch, or contemporary homes.

Existing homes are often situated in established neighborhoods, which may have more amenities nearby that a new home in a brand new subdivision may not have. Your new neighborhood may have restaurants, cafes, and boutiques within walking distance.

You might also have access to more supermarkets, dry cleaners, discount stores, and gas stations nearby. An established neighborhood might have a nice park, running path, or playground for the kids to enjoy. You might also be closer to a library or the post office.

 

Resale homes can be a less expensive purchase

If you’re considering a resale home, you may be able to get into a beautiful, unique property at a lower purchase price than a new home.

There are many more resale homes available than there are new homes — according to the National Association of Homebuilders, about 10 times as many. With such a large pool to buy from, the market for resales can be more competitive. You may have more room to negotiate the selling price of the home. With a brand-new construction, you won’t likely be able to have the same kind of negotiating power.

Before putting a home on the market, sellers often make home renovations or remodel parts of their homes to make them more attractive to buyers and to be able to potentially increase the list price. If the resale home has a brand new, modern kitchen, an updated bathroom, or even a new roof or upgraded windows, you could end up getting a home that’s comparable to new construction without having to pay the potential more expensive new-home list price.

 

What you need to do to make a good resale purchase

Before you go too far down the road to a purchase, you can protect your purchase by first having the home inspected. A good home inspector will document all flaws, no matter how small they appear. If the inspector finds any major problems, like foundation cracks or leaky roofs, you may be able to counter offer and get the seller to either fix it or reduce the selling price.

Even if the inspection doesn’t uncover any major issues, you will need to expect the unexpected. Older homes will eventually need replacement appliances, a new air conditioning unit, or a plumbing repair. As long as you know that before you buy a resale home, you can plan for surprise repairs.

With an older home, you may want to eventually remodel parts of it. Will you be happy living in your house while you’re doing major work on the living room or the kitchen? If you know that it would disrupt your lifestyle too much, you may want to consider whether you really want to buy an older property.

Whether you choose to buy a new home or an existing home, the best way to get started is to speak with your trusted real estate professional. We will have access to both new properties and resale homes that may fit your goals, and will know which neighborhoods will serve your needs.

Download this month’s report here.

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And don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or want more information.




Despite somewhat grim predictions for the greater Canadian housing market, economic fundamentals in Lethbridge remain strong.

The city enjoys low (4%) unemployment. Housing demand shows a year-over-year increase, with both the number of properties sold (14.9%) and average home values (17.3%) up versus June 2015. Conversely, supply is slightly down (4.7 months of inventory in June versus 5.9 in June 2015) with 12.1% fewer listings coming on the market versus June of last year. Homes under $300,000, in particular, are selling quickly and average selling prices overall are within 97% of the asking price.

These trends means that real estate may be a smart place for you to make an investment and grow your wealth. A housing shortage means that flipped homes tend to sell quickly and for high prices, and a growing population and increasing demand for rental properties makes finding tenants for your buy-and-hold properties easier.

Of course, real estate investment is a long-term investment strategy. If you want to make a foray into real estate investing, you’ll need to educate yourself and be strategic in who you work with and where you look for investment opportunities. Read on for our beginner’s guide to real estate investing.

 

Assemble your real estate team before you buy

Building relationships with your team will empower you to make serious offers that will more likely get accepted by sellers. Among your team members, you will want to include:

● A mortgage broker or banker, who can help you get the financing for your deal
● A real estate attorney to protect you by reviewing and revising contracts
● An appraiser who can help you get a correct appraisal for your potential property
● An accountant who is well versed in real estate investments
● A good contractor, for repairs whether you’re renovating or buying rental property

 

How to find real estate deals

You can buy properties to fix up and resell (flip) or you can buy and hold properties that you rent out for monthly cash flow.

The advantage of flipping properties is that you can end up with a good return on investment (ROI) in the short term. For example, you buy a property for $100,000, and invest $50,000 into repairs. Once it’s renovated, your property is valued at $200,000, and you sell it for a $50,000 profit.

This is an extremely simplified version of ROI. There are many other factors that you need to determine to see if the numbers work in your favor — that is, you’re not overpaying initially when you buy the properties or for the renovations or holding costs.

Flipping properties means that you will need to spend more time looking for fixer uppers that may be under market value. These may be more difficult to find in a hot market with rising property prices. Beyond the actual purchase price, you will also need to factor in fixed purchase costs for inspections, closing, and lender fees.

You’ll also need to factor in holding costs. Your budget should include funds for making repairs, whether you are doing them yourself or hiring contractors. While you’re upgrading the property, you’ll need to carry mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.

In markets with rising property values, fix-and-flip deals in good neighborhoods can be hard to find. But once you know where to find flip-worthy opportunities, you can easily repeat the process by reinvesting proceeds from a previous flip into the next property, which can be bigger, in a more desirable neighborhood, or finished out more luxuriously, and therefore sold for more cash!

Working with the right real estate professionals will help you learn which neighborhoods to consider and determine where you should focus your search. We can help you find the right fixer-uppers that may be under market value. Also, a Realtor may have access to properties that are not publicly available.

Finding buy-and-hold rental properties

A buy-and-hold rental property is one that your purchase with the intent of renting it out to tenants. If you find the right long-term buy-and-hold rental property, you can earn consistent cash flow each month, which can be a great source of supplemental income.

You’ll need to carefully review the operating expenses on the property and what tenants are willing to pay for the space to know if you’ll make or lose money each month. For example, say your total costs to buy a duplex was $20,000, including down payment and closing costs. You can rent each of the units for $600. Assuming your building is 100% occupied, you’ll make $1200 per month in income. Your expenses include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, and management fees, and you want to set aside some cash each month for capital expenditures and routine repairs. You calculate that your expenses add up to $1100 per month. Once you subtract your expenses from your income, you’ll have a positive cash flow of $100 per month.

Of course, this is a very simplified example, and it doesn’t take into account that problems will inevitably arise. Emergency roof repairs, heating system breakdowns, broken windows that need replacing, and other unexpected expenses can eat away at your profits. One of your units may be vacant for a month or more — for example, vacancies are high in the summer months in buildings around universities — or you could have a tenant who fails to pay their monthly rent.

The more you can anticipate problems before they happen, however, the easier it will be for you to recover from setbacks! Moreover, rent isn’t the only way to make money on a buy-and-hold property. You can also add amenities, such as coin laundry and vending machines, to increase your potential monthly income. If your property has space to add a billboard, you can earn advertising revenue from renting that space, too. And when you decide to sell, your property’s value will likely have increased both from the overall rising property values and by the improvements you made to increase the cash flow.

Once you find and invest in your rental property, you’ll need to decide how you want it managed from month to month.

 

Getting the right property manager

Do you want to manage your own property or hire a manager? Property management can become a full-time job. As a property manager, you’ll have to deal not only with maintenance, repairs and tenant issues, but also with insurance, landlord-tenant regulations, and building code compliance. So if you’re not an expert in these areas, managing your own properties may not be worth your time and effort.

Hiring a professional manager can save you headaches over the long term. While you’ll have to factor in management as a fixed expense, your property manager will likely know how to better take care of routine repairs, tenant issues, and keeping your property near 100% occupancy.

Your real estate professional can refer you to reputable property management companies to help you take care of your investment.

 

Where should I start investing in local real estate?

Work with a knowledgeable real estate professional who knows about the different neighborhoods. We can help you find properties that will fit into your budget and your overall goals. Whether you’re seeking a duplex or multifamily property so you can maximize your rental income or whether you want a condo or single-family home to improve for resale, we can guide you to the best property to suit your needs.

 

Contact us to learn more about investment properties in our area.



 

How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.70% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $52,946. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $90,110 for the same mortgage – that’s an extra $37,164 over the life of the mortgage! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

 

Talk to a mortgage professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a mortgage professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. You can also purchase a copy of your credit report with your credit score from a credit reporting agency, like Equifax or TransUnion – but the advice a professional can provide you is invaluable! Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

 

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to mymoneycoach.ca. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are about 30% of your credit score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to less than 75% of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2005 study by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 18% (almost one in five) of people identified at least one error on their credit report.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has some great resources for understanding your credit report, reading a report, and contacting the primary credit reporting agencies in Canada.

 

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

● Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
● Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
● Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
● Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

 

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report. Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

 

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

 

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

 

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. TransUnion and Equifax both have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

 

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

 

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with us. We can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.

 




 

No matter if you’re in a buyer’s or seller’s market, there are a few critical steps you can take to make a smarter purchase. Since buying a home is likely the biggest single investment you will ever make, being prepared will help you make a better purchase. Here are our best tips to buying a home.

 

Know your buying power

What is your buying power? It is the combination of your credit-worthiness and how much you can realistically pay for a home.

First, you need to understand the hidden costs of buying a home. You will need to save not only for the down payment of your home — which is typically between 5% – 20% of the offer price — but also for additional costs, like legal fees & disbursements, property tax adjustments, appraisals & inspection fees, moving expenses and utility set-up fees & deposits – to name just a few.

Then you need to know what you can realistically afford each month to understand how much house you can buy. Your mortgage rate will depend on your creditworthiness — if you have a high credit score, your lender will likely approve you for a lower mortgage rate, which can save you thousands of dollars per year in interest.

How much of your budget should go to your monthly home costs? According to Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC), you can use the 32% rule as a rough guideline. This means that your monthly housing obligation (principle, interest, taxes & heating expenses) shouldn’t be more than 32% of your monthly gross income.

A qualified mortgage professional can help you figure out how much house you can afford.

 

Fix your credit with the help of a loan professional

According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a credit score between 725 – 759 would be considered “very good”. If yours is not in this range, you’ll want to clean up your credit as soon as you can, and definitely before you go to a lender for a mortgage pre-approval.

When you apply for your mortgage pre-approval, you don’t want to have anything to hide on your application. So don’t lower your credit score by doing anything that will originate more inquiries into your credit. For example, don’t open any new credit cards. Also, don’t omit any debts or loans when you apply. If the lender discovers them in the application process, they may deny you a pre-approval.

Get a mortgage professional to check your credit score for you. A professional can give you a clearer idea if your score is in the ‘good’ range, or if you need to do some credit cleanup before getting a mortgage pre-approval. You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report and purchase a copy with your current credit score on the Equifax Canada website.

 

Work with a knowledgeable buyer’s agent

Do you understand what kind of market you are buying into? Even within a city’s limits, there can be micro markets that are increasing or decreasing in value.

That’s why it’s important to hire a highly competent real estate agent who knows the specific market. You want to make sure that the professional who you’re working with really understands what the market is like and will help you find the home that you desire.

How can you tell if your agent knows the market? See if they can provide you with a buyer’s market analysis. A buyer’s market analysis report outlines which neighborhoods are still up and coming — with potential for increased property value — versus those that have peaked with inflated home prices. Having this analysis at your fingertips will help you know if a home’s list price is above comparable properties so you don’t overpay for a home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references. And consider working with an agent who holds an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation – they’ve received extra training specifically around representing home buyers.

 

Don’t try to time the market…

Even in a hot market, there’s never a perfect time to buy a home. It can take a while to know exactly what you like, and you may have to look at 10 or more homes before you can recognize what suits your lifestyle best. While you’re shopping, take photos of your favorite properties and the details that you liked the best so that you can remember what you liked.

When you start shopping, have a one-hour initial consultation with your realtor. Give them every single detail that you know about your lifestyle, buying power, needs, wants and desires for your home. The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for them to help you find your future home. Your agent may also know of exclusive listings not available to the general public.

 

… But make the offer as soon as you find the right home

If you love it, make the offer. Otherwise, that dream home may disappear faster than you think, especially if you’re buying in a hot market.

Your buying agent may contact the listing agent before you submit an offer so that they can decide what’s important to include in the offer. If you’re serious about it, you want to increase the chances that your offer is accepted.

 

Get a home inspection

Once you’re in the negotiation process, it’s essential that you get a professional third-party inspector to run a thorough home inspection. The inspector will be looking for major structural issues, including problems with the foundation, plumbing, and electrical systems. Your inspector should be extra picky, pointing out the most minor faults.

Make sure to have the inspection conducted before it is too late to back out of a deal. If there are any major structural issues, you may be able to make the seller repair them as a contingency to solidifying your offer. Minor issues that you can repair on your own may be points for negotiating a lower offer.

 

Protect your credit before you close

Don’t raise any red flags with your creditworthiness in the weeks before closing. Any one of these moves could mean that you’re denied the loan and the deal falls through — even if you’ve already been pre-approved!

● Keep your spending to a minimum and don’t make any major purchases before closing — that includes buying furniture, or a car, truck, or van, or any excessive charges on your credit card.

● Keep your bank accounts stable. Don’t change banks, spend any of the money you have set aside for closing, or make any large deposits to your accounts without checking with your loan officer first.

● Keep your employment situation stable — do not change jobs, quit your job, or become self-employed. Any sudden change in your income can have that pre-approval offer rescinded.

● Do not cosign a loan for anyone. It will open an inquiry into your credit and add to your debt, which could raise your mortgage rate and cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

 

Looking for a home in our area? Check out CMHC’s Home Buying Step by Step for some great guidance. Then, let us help you find the home of your dreams. We’re well versed in the our local real estate market, and we can provide you with a buyer’s market analysis to help you find the right neighborhood for you. Contact one of us today.