Original Article:

Everyone knows not to leave cash on the kitchen counter or jewelry sitting on your nightstand before an open house but there are other things besides valuables you should think about stashing away. Thankfully, with a bit of due diligence, it's unlikely you'll run into any issues.

“I've only had one screwdriver stolen during a property visit in my 23-year real estate career,” says Katia Samson, a REALTOR® and certified real estate broker with Group Sutton Centre Ouest in Montreal. “I always do a tour of the property before any showings and if I think an item should be put away, I tuck it in a drawer.”

With lots of visitors coming and going, you still want to be sure to secure, hide or remove these nine items. Your REALTOR® can help guide you through the process to make sure you've checked off the various items on this list.

1. Mail, private documents and passwords

a man sitting with bills at a table

If identity thieves don't mind rooting through your garbage to find personal information, they will happily swipe it off your desk. Tuck away your mail, social insurance card, banks statements, passport, utility bills and credit cards. If you can't take these things with you, hide them somewhere visitors won't find them. This goes for your online passwords, too. Don't display your Wi-Fi password and avoid leaving a list of your personal passwords taped next to your computer.

2. Ashtrays

an ashtray with cigarettes in itImage by Sebastian Ganso from Pixabay

You may already know the smell of smoke is a huge turnoff to home buyers, but even the suggestion people light up in your home is enough to make them move on to the next property.

“If a property smells like tobacco or marijuana, it will be very difficult to sell,” says Samson.

3. Plug-in air fresheners

an air freshener plugged into a kitchen wall

Yes, you want your house to look and smell fresh, but buyers might be sensitive to that flowery mist. Worse, they might wonder if you're trying to cover up a bigger problem. While you're at it, avoid sloshing bleach or other harsh chemical cleaners everywhere before the open house begins–buyers might think you're concealing mould issues and could be turned off by the harsh smell.

4. Fans or space heaters

a heater

Neither of these items will do you any favours in the décor department, but buyers who see spot heaters plugged in everywhere may also wonder if something is wrong with the heating system or if your home is poorly insulated. On the flipside, fans may suggest the house can get too hot.

5. Pets and their stuff

a dog on a dog bedImage by Ira Lee Nesbitt from Pixabay

We know you'd never leave your dog–even in its crate–during an open house, but you may also want to pick up food dishes, slobbery toys, litter boxes and other things that suggest an animal lives in the house. Buyers who don't like cats or dogs don't want to wonder if your pet has peed all over the basement carpets.

“Any signs that an animal is part of the household should be removed from sight for visits,” says Samson. Which means, don't forget to thoroughly vacuum furniture if your furry friend sheds everywhere.

6. Prescription drugs

pillsPhoto by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash

Thieves are more likely to steal valuable medication than wander off with a piece of jewelry, so don't make it easy for them to find any. That means clearing out the medicine cabinet, your night table drawer and your kitchen cupboard if you usually store meds there.

7. Fridge magnets and family photos

Family drawing on refrigerator door

Take down the wedding photos, kids' awards, plaques, school photos and even magnets on your fridge. “Items that might make clients uncomfortable should be put away as well, such as toothbrushes, sponges in showers, hygiene items and dirty laundry,” adds Samson.

Not only is this a good way to declutter, but buyers will be able to see themselves living in the space if it doesn't seem so personal.

8. Valuable paintings, sculptures or heirlooms

a room with paintings and vinyl recordsPhoto by Jose Soriano on Unsplash

Electronics are not the only items that can mysteriously disappear during an open house, so keep expensive things away from view. Even if thieves can't walk out with a large sculpture, don't tempt them to come back and steal it another time.

9. Your keys and remotes

car keys and stationary on a deskPhoto by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Nothing screams, “Come back some time and rob our house or steal our car!” more than extra keys dangling from hooks in your entry hall; ditto for the garage door opener. Store these items in a safe, secure place or bring keys and remotes with you when the open house begins.

Anything else? 

a living room shelf with many artifactsPhoto by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

While it's very unlikely you'll encounter any issues during an open house, it's good common sense to take precautions. Listen to your REALTOR® and use your best judgment for a safe and successful experience.

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Original Article:

So you've decided to purchase your first home with your significant other. But wait—you and your partner haven't tied the knot. Instead, you're cohabitating, perhaps as common-law spouses.

What kinds of challenges are likely to arise when buying property with someone to whom you're not married? And what happens if (heaven forbid) you split up after you've bought a place together? Let's take a look at some of the issues unmarried couples typically face when purchasing a home together.

Mortgage and down payment

A couple paying bills online at home using a laptop computer

Ideally, you'll be splitting your mortgage and down payment equally. However, lopsided arrangements are common because it's rare for two individuals to be in the same financial situation. Sharing the financial burden has a lot of benefits, such as increased affordability and lower down payments, but it also has its risks. When Josh, 42, and Suzy, 37, purchased their first home together, Suzy paid half of the purchase price outright. Josh, however, put down 25% of the value and took out a mortgage for the remaining 25%. Yet their bank required Suzy to co-sign the mortgage. This is because lenders typically insist both owners take responsibility for debt on the property. “Even though Josh is technically paying the mortgage,” Suzy explained, “I'd still be on the hook for his portion if we broke up and he couldn't, or wouldn't, pay.” To find out what you and your partner can afford, try the affordability calculator.

Property title

a man and woman having a meeting outdoorsPhoto by from Pexels

This is where marriage and common law diverge sharply. Being married means you're automatically entitled to 50% of your home's value, whether you're listed as the owner or not. This is not the case with cohabitating couples. As a result, it's crucial for unmarried couples to co-own any property they're both paying for, even if finances are uneven. If only one person is listed on the title, then any contributions from the other person will essentially be seen (in the eyes of the law, at least) as paying rent to the owner. Furthermore, according to Toronto-based tax and estate lawyer Ed Esposto, “if you're in a common-law relationship and one spouse is not on the title, then he or she has no right to the home upon separation.”

Sign a cohabitation agreement

a man and woman looking over a contractPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document between two unmarried individuals who wish to live and own property together, but who want to protect their individual interests and assets in the event of a split. Along with documenting the details of the down payment, title and mortgage you've already hashed out, a cohabitation agreement should address how other expenses—taxes, maintenance fees, utilities, and repairs—will be handled. Bear in mind a cohabitation agreement needs to be reasonably fair in order to be valid.

What happens if you split?

a man and woman in a meetingPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

Now for the awkward part. Cohabitating with someone, even if you're common-law spouses, does not afford the same legal protections as being married, especially when it comes to your shared home. You'll want to spell out in your cohabitation agreement exactly how the home value will be divvied up if you part ways, or in the event one person passes away (in the latter case, the surviving owner typically inherits the portion of the property belonging to the deceased). If you break up, you might choose to sell your home and split the proceeds 50/50. Or perhaps one person wants the opportunity to buy the other out, in which case a reasonable scenario would be to offer the exiting partner's half to the remaining partner at fair market value for a predetermined window of time.

Build your support team

two women and a man in a meetingPhoto by from Pexels

You and your partner will undoubtedly have a lot of questions, so be sure to find an experienced REALTOR® to help you pick the right home and a knowledgeable lawyer to assist you in drawing up a cohabitation agreement. Lastly, be sure to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of common law in Canada, which vary greatly by province.

Ready to take the leap into homeownership? Explore the latest listings near you today.

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel

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Moe Pourtaghi

"Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my buyers & sellers have success in their Real Estate endeavours. I hope you find the articles on my blog inspiring and educating in your ventures." - Moe Pourtaghi

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