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So you've decided you're ready to buy a home. Now the real work begins—saving enough money for a down payment.

“It's absolutely critical the down payment is a good size on a first home—somewhere in the range of 10 to 20%,” says Lesley-Anne Scorgie, a personal finance author. “The rationale simply being that the habit of saving is the same habit you'll need for actually owning a home—keeping up with the payments and preparing yourself and your bank account.”


There are many online mortgage calculators available to help you determine how much home you can afford. REALTOR.ca's mortgage affordability calculator can help guide you through this entire process. It's important to save a healthy down payment to avoid, what could be, steep mortgage insurance fees.


To help, the federal government has set up a number of tools you can use to build up sizeable savings, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Each offer benefits for first-time home buyers to help them achieve their home purchasing goals.

a woman with her baby on her lap while working on a laptop

“For most first-time home buyers who earn an income of over $60,000, the RRSP is a very good choice, as they're building up their down payment while they receive the benefits of a reduced tax bill,” said Scorgie. “That money can then be put towards further beefing up their RRSP, with the ultimate goal of taking out the money for buying a home.”


First-time home buyers can use their RRSPs towards their down payment, which again, isn't taxed. Recently, the federal government's 2019 budget increased the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000. The repayment period starts two years after the funds are withdrawn, and one-fifteenth of the withdrawn funds need to be repaid each calendar year (over a max of 15 years) or it will be taxed as income.


“When you pool that with a spouse or a partner, they can each take out that amount in their RRSPs. When you have 15 years, that's a nice length of time to pay it back,” Scorgie said.


There is one drawback: When money is withdrawn from an RRSP, it's not invested in any financial markets but rather in the real estate market. Home buyers are trading off one market exposure for another. In real estate, your investment is exposed to the fluctuations of the local market. Meanwhile, money invested for the long-term in stocks, bonds or mutual funds is exposed to the changes in the financial market.


“If you feel you'd be better off making more money in the stock and bond market, keep your money there. Consider instead taking the money you need for the down payment out of a TFSA,” says Scorgie, adding it can also be a better option when household income is lower.

Young woman moving to a new apartment

For example, if you've been over 18 since 2009, you would have TFSA contribution limit of $63,500 in total; $5,000 for each year from 2009 to 2012; $5,500 for each of 2013 and 2014; $10,000 for 2015; $5,500 for each of 2016, 2017 and 2018; and $6,000 for 2019. (TFSAs were not available before 2009).


“If you invest your money in a TFSA, there's no penalty for using that money for a down payment. You can also re-contribute all that money back because you get your limit back. You can keep saving. There aren't many drawbacks,” Scorgie said.


In the end, it really comes down to a personal preference between an RRSP and a TFSA. According to Scorgie, you could also use both to improve your savings power.


“In expensive markets, it's very common to use both,” explains Scorgie. I would say 90% of first-time buyers in expensive markets have to use both because of the limit of the RRSP.”


Saving for a down payment is hard work, no matter how you choose to do it. Be sure to take advantage of all the savings tools at your disposal and, before long, your dream of homeownership could become a reality. A REALTOR® can help recommend a mortgage broker, online tools, and make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck when negotiating the sale of your first home.


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


Original Article from: Realtor.ca

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Highlighting a space's best features and making it feel lived-in but also universally livable is in the details. You need potential buyers to see themselves in the space—knowing that it is staged—but still get drawn into the fantasy of making it their own. Staging is a proven tactic for increasing the value of your home and getting it sold faster.

Clever staging in high-end markets is even more crucial, with some professionals spending upwards of $400,000 to attract the right buyer—but for good reason! That spend can make a million-dollar difference in the sale. That budget might seem like an outrageous stretch for your listing, but applying similar methodology to houses in the average buying bracket can have powerful results.

These staging tactics—some fairly standard (scentlightingcurb appeal); some with more panache—could help you attract better buyers and sell your home for more.  

Universally livable

You're not just showing off the space, you're giving people a glimpse into the lifestyle they're buying. Potential buyers are more inspired to buy when they're able to see themselves in the home—so omit your family photos and personal keepsakes.

Personal items can be easily replaced with things like a cocktail making set, contemporary art or even a borrowed collection of rare vinyl. Just like in multi-million dollar listings, you want to fill your space with items that are desirable and aspirational.

Staging professionals have been known to replace personal family photos with striking landscapes and travel adventures. Some will even go as far as hiring actors and even pets to produce family photos to suggest a lifestyle to prospective buyers.

These tactics may seem a little extreme, but if you can think of simple ways to help the right buyers envision themselves in your space, you'll be off to a good start.

Rent a vintage or luxury vehicle

In one of the most expensive houses ever listed in the United States, the seller included a more than $30-million U.S. collection of classic and exotic cars, collectables and even a helicopter.

Okay, that's an extreme example, but exotic and classic cars can be rented from businessesrental apps or even local car owners to help strike a subconscious chord that gets buyers excited and attached to the listing. 

Add a bar

Multi-million dollar listings often have a wine cellar, complete with bottles on loan to impress buyers. 

Displayed properly, wine and spirits can help your listing punch above its weight class. If you are left with a variety of expensive bottles after the sale, you can put them towards a celebration in honour of all those who helped make it happen.

High-end staging gets results

In hot markets, staging might just mean a thorough cleaning and decluttering, but in other markets—especially in vacant or high-end properties—these extra details can have a greater impact.

Taking these tactics and applying them yourself with the input of your REALTOR® could make a surprising difference in the sale of your home.


Original Article from: Realtor.ca

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If you're a millennial considering buying your first home, congratulations! You're probably excited until you remember: houses are expensive and—regardless of your current financial situation—you'll likely need to save money to afford one.  

This can be intimidating for anyone but, according to a recent survey, millennials in particular say it's become more difficult to buy a home. And, those feelings aren't just isolated to millennials who live in expensive housing markets like VancouverTorontoand MontrealA majority from communities across the country agree

woman at kitchen table doing work

Do millennials struggle with short attention spans and a penchant for instant gratification? Who knows. Do they think saving for a down payment is the biggest hurdle to affording a home? They do. 

black man in a suit speed walking

Worry not! Where there's a will, there's a way and we hope these tips will help you exercise your delayed gratification muscles and save.

Set goals

Setting clear short and long-term goals can give you a roadmap towards your ultimate goal: homeownership.

It might start with bagged lunches and smaller investments but, in combination, those decisions can help bring you one step closer to where you'd like to be.

Pinpoint your priorities

Start by figuring out what you want in a home. Consider location, size and your desired current and future lifestyle needs. Compare your list with your preferred real estate listings to get an idea of what's available and how much it costs; this will help you adjust your expectations. 

Once you have a better idea of what you're looking for, find a REALTOR® to help you navigate the various stages of home buying and ownership. They're responsible for making the home buying process as easy as possible for you. They can also get you the information needed to make an informed decision: comparable prices, neighbourhood trends, housing market conditions and more.

Start saving

couple dancing in the kitchen

Once you know your price range, you can use a mortgage calculator to figure out how much you'll need to save for a down payment and an affordability calculator to see what you can comfortably afford in terms of monthly expenses (like living expenses and debt payments). 

birds eye view of person calculating and doing work on a laptop

From there, you can build a budget based on your goals. There are several tools, apps, techniques and systems for budgeting, but all of them start with tracking your income and expenses. For example, the envelope system helps you control your spending by putting a fixed amount of cash in an envelope every month for each expense category. Once you run out of money in your “groceries” envelope, you can't spend money on groceries until the next cycle. Whatever tools you choose, budgeting helps you clearly see how much your life costs, where your money is going and where there's room for adjustment. 

couple looking at finances

Saving money, working long hours and side-hustling requires discipline—so try to get comfortable with discomfort. When you feel burnt out, acknowledge it—give it space—but don't let it derail you. Practice things until they become good habits and prove the people who think you're wasting your life on Instagram and avocado toast wrong. Don't forget to reinforce your good behaviour by celebrating the small victories. 

Don’t be afraid to get help

girl at a bar staring at her phone

Does seeing your friends buy houses on social media make you feel isolated in your struggle? The truth is, you're not alone. 

According to Statistics Canada, despite being the most educated generation, concerns have been raised about millennials being “slower to launch.” 

young girl working as a barista

If you're struggling, open up about it. It might help relieve some of the pressure and hearing someone else's perspective could be a good reminder that everyone else is working hard to reach their goals, too. 

There are also programs and incentives to help make home buying easier, including: 

The new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (launching September 2, 2019) is intended to help qualified buyers reduce their monthly mortgage carrying costs. 

The Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) allows you to borrow up to $35,000 from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy or build a home.

The First Time Home Buyers' (FTHB) Tax Credit allows you to claim up to $5,000 for the purchase of a qualifying home, providing up to $750 in tax relief to eligible buyers.  

Saving for a home isn't easy, but if you have a plan and stick to it, you'll be on the right track to affording a home that's right for you. 

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


Original Article from: Realtor.ca

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Everyone loves walking into a home that smells amazing


Unfortunately, many products, such as aerosol room sprays, plug-in units or wax melts, also come with questionable ingredients and unnecessary packaging.  


If you crave a wonderful smelling space in a more natural and earth-friendly way, it's never been easier. We've compiled this handy list, along with a few simple DIYs that will be as delightful to your wallet as they are to your sense of smell. 

 
1. Reed scent diffusers

Reed diffusers, a low-maintenance home scent option, use natural hollow reeds that absorb a scented oil and naturally disperse the fragrance into the air. It's easy to dial the effect up or down by adding or removing the reeds and the vessel can easily be refilled when the oil has evaporated.


Pro Tip: Keep these out of the reach of pets and young children to avoid finding a giant puddle of oil on your living room rug.


2. Eucalyptus in the shower

There's nothing like the crisp smell of eucalyptus to add a refreshing element to your bathroom routine. This plant has long been touted as an anti-inflammatory, so it's especially helpful if you're feeling a cold coming on. Roll a few sprigs of fresh eucalyptus under a rolling pin to unlock their aromatic oils, then tie the bundle with an elastic and hang it over the back of your shower head. The warmth and humidity of the shower will release the leaves' healing essence. Bonus: this trick will also make your bathroom look even more Pinterest-worthy.


Pro Tip: Some research indicates eucalyptus can be dangerous for young children and babies, so skip this option if you share your bathroom with little ones.


 

3. Essential oil Diffuser

Purifies and humidifies while infusing your air with the healing power of plants. Releases negative ions to reduce dust, pet dander and other airborne allergens (like dust mite matter). Refreshes the air in your space using 100% natural essential oil blends. Preserves the full integrity and properties of your essential oil blends using a heat-free system. Gives your atmosphere the same refreshing feeling as standing near a waterfall


Pro Tip: You can purchase a diffuser from Homesense for about $30 but it's best to splurge on good quality oils 

4. Essential oils on your furnace filter or vacuum cleaner bag

A few drops of your favourite essential oil will easily diffuse throughout your home with a little help from the forced air of your furnace or vacuum.


Pro Tip: Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet before vacuuming to help deodorize at the same time.

5. Lavender linen spray

Refresh your linens between washes (and gain instant credit as the host with the most delightful-smelling sheets) with a DIY lavender linen spray. Believe it or not, low-priced vodka makes the best basis for this concoction: simply mix one part vodka (or witch hazel) with three parts water in a glass spray bottle, Next, add 10 drops (or more depending on your preference) of high-quality lavender essential oil. Spray whenever a sheet, curtain or closet is in need of refreshing.


Pro Tip: Lavender is known for its calming properties, so this spray can pull double-duty as a pillow spray to help you nod off to dreamland.


6. Cotton balls with essential oils

Adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to cotton balls is one of the simplest DIY home scent hacks that can also go pretty much anywhere. Stash them in your closet or drawers, in bathroom cupboards or behind your computer at the office (if scents are permitted). Be careful not to add too much oil or the ball may leave a stain on surfaces.


Pro Tip: Scented cotton balls are an easy swap for plastic car vent air fresheners. Simply wedge a few into your dash vent or under the floor mats. When the heat is on, the hot air will swirl the fresh aroma around your vehicle.

7. Vanilla or almond extract on light bulbs

Here's a sweet way to scent your space at the flip of a switch— remove a cooled light bulb from its socket and apply a few drops of pure vanilla or almond. Allow it to dry fully and replace it back in its fixture. Anytime you turn on the lights, you'll be rewarded with a yummy glow, as the warmth of the bulb spreads the scent throughout your room.


Pro Tip: This trick also works with lemon juice if you prefer the zing of citrus.

8. Simmering potpourri

This eco-friendly method fills your home with fragrance using only water and what you can find around the kitchen. All you need is a simmering pot of water on the stove (or in a slow-cooker). Add a blend of your favourite scents: apple cores, citrus peels, extracts or whole spices such as cinnamon sticks or star anise. In no time, your space will be infused with delicious, comforting or invigorating smells. 

Caution: The use of certain essential oils may be hazardous to young children or pets. Always research the safety of any essential oil before using it in your home.


Original article from Realtor.ca

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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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