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If you’re thinking of buying a home, you’ve come to the right place. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to buy, REALTOR.ca can guide you through the entire process and a REALTOR® can help take care of the rest.

Here’s an overview of what to think about:

Prepare to buy

Few joys can match the pride of owning a home, but the responsibility can also come with sacrifices – from the financial commitment to the required care and maintenance. You’ll want to be sure both fit within your current or preferred lifestyle.


Plan your finances

Buying a home is a big deal; it’s probably the largest purchase you’ll ever make. Being prepared means also understanding that expenses go beyond purchase price.

To secure your new home, you’ll likely need to arrange for a mortgage but before you do, take a look at how much you can afford each month. Based on your income and expenses, our affordability calculator can help you estimate your maximum affordable mortgage payments.

View properties

A REALTOR® can review your wants and needs to help you determine your price range, as well as answer questions about the markets you’re interested in and help you compare homes and neighbourhoods. Your REALTOR® can also provide access to exclusive listing information, preview properties to ensure you’re only shown homes that meet your needs and budget and make appointments and show you homes that interest you.

Make an offer

You’ve found the perfect home? Congratulations! Now, if you actually want to make it yours, you have to make a successful offer, one the seller will accept. REALTORS® can prepare the offer for you.

Close the purchase

Buying a home involves piles of legal documents. You need someone to translate the ”legalese” and ensure your best interests are protected.

There are many experienced real estate lawyers out there. Like choosing any other professional, ask your friends, family and co-workers for their recommendations. Your REALTOR® can also give you the name(s) of experienced real estate lawyers in your area.


Original Article from: Realtor.ca

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From virtual picnics to video-chat mimosas, you can still celebrate her from afar.


From birthday car parades to virtual happy hours, we're starting to navigate this whole "shelter in place" thing relatively well, all things considered. But a socially distanced Mother's Day feels particularly hard, doesn't it? After all, your mother's likely the very person you need most right now—for a reassuring hug, for her homemade lasagna, and, okay, for occasional supervision of the grandchildren. (They. Are. Climbing. The. Walls.) And while those things may not be possible at this given moment, you can find solace in her voice as you catch up during a virtual brunch, seek refuge in her laughter while tuning into the perfect mother-daughter television show or movie, and watch her light up with the grandkids—even if she has to watch them pick strawberries via video ("We love you so berry much, Nana!") After you've shopped for the perfect Mother's Day gifts and put together some sweet Mother's Day crafts (yes, there's still time!), consider embracing one of these stay-connected activities that will serve up some much-needed quality time during quarantine. Whether you're socially distanced in the same town (surprise her with a Love Actually-esque poster board message!) or toasting her from many miles away, one of these ideas will leave you feeling a little bit closer in these distanced times. And if there's anything Mom taught you, it's to stand up straight, mind your manners, and always, always, look on the bright side.


Go on a Picnic "Together"



Mother's Day falls during that magical time of year when the weather is pleasantly warm and the trees and flowers are blooming. Surprise mom with a pre-packed picnic basket—either via porch drop-off or a snack-filled mail delivery—and schedule a time to enjoy your alfresco fixins at the same time (either on speakerphone or video chat). For another fancied up twist, make it a "Rose & Croquet" Mother's Day, and gift her the fun lawn game.


Original Article from: Country Living


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Sure, you can afford your home now, but what if mortgage rates go up?


Low interest rates and mortgages have been a fact of life in Canada for some time now. At the time of publication, the 5-year average mortgage rate has hovered around 5% for nearly a decade. This is a far cry from late 1981 when mortgage rates were as much as 21%.


New mortgage rules

In 2017, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) took steps to help protect lenders and home buyers alike against future interest rate increases. Since January 1, 2018, new mortgages are subject to comparison with higher interest rates than the one issued at the time of the mortgage. Homeowners must be able to afford a mortgage at the Bank of Canada’s current five-year average posted rate or at an interest rate that’s 2% above what they’re currently applying for, whichever rate is highest.


Why OFSI made the move

Perhaps motivated by the foreclosure crisis in the United States, the OSFI felt Canadian consumers needed protection from forces deemed outside of homeowners’ control.


The effect of the stress test means you may not qualify for the home you desire. If you’re targeting a home with a $700,000 mortgage, for example, you may only qualify for about $550,000 under the new stress test rules. This could make a big difference in your choice of neighbourhoods in certain markets.


Working the stress test process

The new mortgage rules don’t have to be a barrier, however. First, there are ways around the stress test standard, which only applies to federally–regulated lenders. Credit unions, which are regulated at the provincial level, are exempt from stress test provisions. The same is true for private lenders. Alternatively, adding a co-signer to your mortgage can increase your mortgage target, even with the stress test rule in place.


How REALTORS® help

There’s always lots to consider, particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer. In addition to helping you find your dream home, your REALTOR® can also help you navigate the new stress test rules and requirements.


Start by downloading a copy of the Homebuyers’ Road Map—a guide covering virtually every aspect related to buying a home. Then, to get an idea of what you might be able to afford, our mortgage calculators include interest rate risk in its parameters, assuring your estimates will pass the mortgage stress test.


Armed with a little know-how and backed by the support and expertise of your REALTOR®, you’ll be on your way to holding the keys to your new home in no time!  


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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For free Real Estate Advice please call/text me at (604) 537-9791 

Summary Findings: 

  • While it’s unknown how the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak will impact the economy in the long-term, BC is facing a sudden stop in economic activity with little guidance to when things may return to normal. 
  • Based on our scenario analysis, BC home sales and prices will likely face declines in the spring and early summer but should recover along with the wider economy in the second half of the year, contingent on the outbreak resolving. 
  • The postponed change to the mortgage stress test rate, originally slated for April 6, 2020, will mute the impact of falling interest rates for the BC housing market. 

How will the COVID-19 outbreak impact the BC economy and, more specifically, the BC Housing market? The correct answer is a rather unsatisfying “nobody knows.” 


We have already seen a steep decline in interest rates, however it’s unknown how severe the impact will be on economic activity. Global supply chains will be impacted, as well as tourism and travel. The magnitude of impact is expected to vary by province but may be significant for the BC economy given the importance of tourism to our economy and our strong trade linkages with China. The additional shock to the Canadian economy due to a collapse in oil prices – itself the by-product of a price war between the world’s largest oil producers due to COVID-19 – makes the probability of a recession in Canada that much higher. 


An unfortunate but unavoidable product of recessions is losses in employment and incomes, which may put some financially vulnerable families in an even more precarious position. The CMHC announced that it would be working with lenders to defer mortgage payments by up to six months if needed, which should stem potential mortgage defaults and foreclosures. However, there is still a need to address lost income for those who cannot afford to practice social distancing by staying home from work and for those who have to make monthly rent payments and can’t take advantage of payment deferrals. For those individuals and families, cash is king. That means these households will need government cash transfers to meet their financial priorities during this time, and we hope this will be part of the yet-to-be-announced stimulus package from the Canadian government.


On the positive side, governments and central banks seem to be taking lessons from the last crisis and have implemented measures to ensure small businesses and the financial system have ample liquidity and access to credit. The Bank of Canada has reduced its overnight rate to 0.75 per cent and we expect they will follow the US Federal Reserve down to near zero in short order. This should help prevent a 2008 scenario of spiking borrowing costs due to rising risk premiums and credit rationing. 


These measures should help to dampen the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy. However, faced with an almost unprecedented paralysis of economic and social activity, monetary and fiscal policy can only safeguard against a worst-case scenario and hope the outbreak resolves in the coming months so we can all get back to normal. 

Of note, the Canadian government has postponed changes to the mortgage stress test. The qualifying rate for insured mortgages was set to change from the 5-year posted mortgage rate to the average 5-year fixed rate plus 200 basis points on April 6, with the B-20 stress test for uninsured mortgages to follow suit. By postponing that change, the government has muted the passthrough from monetary policy to the housing market, particularly since the 5-year posted rate has maintained at 5.19 per cent, despite the average 5-year contract rate falling to near historical lows. The impact of dramatically lower rates will still help those renewing or refinancing mortgages at lower rates by freeing up monthly cash-flow due to lower mortgage payments. 


Scenario Analysis: COVID-19, the BC Economy and the BC Housing Market 


The Canadian economy has endured three recessions since 1980. During those times, the BC economy has experienced an annual contraction of GDP or growth falling to near zero. In each of those periods, BC homes sales have experienced sharp declines that have lasted between 12 and 14 months. We will not begin to see the impact of COVID-19 in economic data until later in the spring due to lags in processing data, but we know based on our own tracking that the BC economy was growing slowly even before the outbreak, with estimated real GDP growth under 2 per cent for the last several months.


The COVID-19 outbreak is occurring at a time in which BC housing markets are recovering from a two-year slowdown in activity. Home sales are currently trending at a healthy pace, close to their long-term average, and growth in home prices has been strong due to a lack of inventory. 


With those initial conditions and historical precedents in mind, we have sketched out how the rapidly changing financial and economic environment may impact the BC housing market. 

Given the level of uncertainty, we limit our analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 to 2020, to concentrate on immediate short-run impacts and abstract from any potential supply-side impacts such as changes to residential construction that may occur over a longer time frame. To model the possible impacts for home sales and prices, we concentrate on how COVID-19 impacts factors that shift short-term housing demand. In particular, we are interested in whether lower interest rates will dominate the impact of slower, or even negative, economic growth. 


Real estate is a face-to-face business, so practices that are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus are at odds with buying and selling homes. This may produce stronger impacts than we can model using standard frameworks. As guidance, and reflecting on the immense uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook, we based our simulations on several scenarios: 



Results 

Unsurprisingly, the results of our simulations show a steep decline in home sales in the second quarter of this year as economic activity becomes eerily quiet. From there, home sales slowly recover, though remain below baseline for 2020. In the event of a deeper and more prolonged recession, home sales remain depressed for the remainder of the year, falling about 20 per cent below baseline. In contrast, in Scenario #1, where the fall in interest rates is passed through to the qualifying rate, home sales rise above baseline after an initial steep drop.  



As for home prices, the growth slowdown and associated decline in transactions will likely cause a temporary but modest swoon in home prices, which are then expected to recover to baseline over the next year as growth recovers. Again, the pass-through of falling interest rates to the qualifying rate makes a large difference in outcomes. Our simulations show that a much lower qualifying rate would lead to home prices in some BC markets ending the year higher than our pre-COVID-19 baseline. This result is likely why the Federal Government has opted to postpone the change. However, given the uncertainty surrounding the outlook, this may ultimately be a mistake. If the growth outlook deteriorates, the housing market may need a lower qualifying rate to fully recover. 



The results of these simulations are far from definitive, but they provide a framework for thinking through the potential magnitude of the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Most important to remember is that this period, no matter how unusual and anxious it is now, will pass and the economy and housing market will return to health.



For free Real Estate Advice please call/text me at (604) 537-9791 

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The idea of quitting your 9-to-5 and working from home, a beach or on the opposite side of the world may sound like a dream, but if you ask the 4.2 million Canadians who are either temporarily employed or self-employed (without employees of their own) they might tell you it's great—until you want to put down roots.

Buying a home is often seen as a milestone towards adulthood. But as the real estate market grows, mortgage criteria has become stricter and the path to homeownership more challenging—especially if you freelance.

Intuit Canada predicts 45% of Canadians will be self-employed by 2020, so whether you freelance by choice or by circumstance, knowing the ins and outs of getting a mortgage in the gig economy could have you into your dream home in no time. Here's what you need to know:

Have all your documents ready

a T1 tax document next to a calculator and a calendar


Before you even start looking at properties, you need to know how much you can borrow, which means you'll have to speak to a mortgage lender or a bank. The bank will look at the two most recent years' Notice of Assessment (NOA) and T1 Generals, and use either an average of the two years or the most recent year, whichever is lower.

Ramón Pérez, a freelance comic book artist based in Toronto, was rejected the first time he applied for a mortgage, even after nearly four years of self-employment. “My requests fell on deaf ears, even though I could prove to maintain a monthly rent that exceeded my monthly mortgage commitment,” he says.

This was before the mortgage stress-test that came into effect in 2018 (also known as B-20), which now requires banks to use one of two qualifying rates: the five-year benchmark rate (5.34% today) or the rate your lender negotiates with you plus 2%.

It wasn't until nearly a decade later Pérez was successful, but the path to homeownership remained rocky. “I had 15 years more experience and a higher income, but I still was given poor deals by my personal financial institution,” he says.

Most lenders are hesitant to approve a freelancer's mortgage application from the get-go — even with a high income and years of experience — so it helps to show up to your first meeting with as much proof as possible you can handle a mortgage. If you have clients on monthly retainer and you feel comfortable asking them for a letter confirming they pay you X-amount each month, it will strengthen your case in the eyes of the underwriters.

Declare your income

a woman at a desk working on tax forms


Many freelancers don’t declare 100% of their income, and while an extra hundred dollars here and there may not seem like a big deal, it can add up over the year. Not declaring enough of your income will hurt you when applying for a mortgage—especially now that most banks have tightened up their lending policies.

If you're planning to purchase a home shortly after starting your freelance career, it may be worth slowly transitioning from a full-time job to self-employed life rather than jumping straight into freelancing. Banks can only accept your income as stated on your NOA, so if your first year as a freelancer was slow, even if you're on track to meet your financial goals for the year, it won't make a difference to your application. You would have to wait until the following year when that income has been recorded on your NOA, to be considered for your mortgage.

Consider speaking to a broker

two businessmen in a meeting


Even if you're approved by a bank, your income instability may get you a higher interest rate. “As a freelancer, no matter how much you make, your income looks irregular and unstable—even though in today's economy I would consider it far more stable,” Pérez says. “I would say a freelancer has to prove themselves much more and will have a harder time acquiring a comparable mortgage to an individual with a comparable income.”

Ultimately, a less-than-ideal interest rate led Pérez to seek out a mortgage broker. “When I ended up getting what I thought was a poor deal, even though the bank touted it as great, I decided to go through a broker based on the recommendation of a friend.”

The broker will work with you and explain where you need to make adjustments, if any, to increase your chances of approval and they'll negotiate with lenders on your behalf to get you the best possible interest rate.

Talk to your accountant

a husband and wife in a meeting with a businessman


As soon as you've decided you want to buy a home, talk to your accountant. Tell them about your financial goals and give them an approximate timeline for when you think you'll be ready to buy. Your accountant can then begin preparing your taxes in an appropriate way to increase your chances of being approved when the time comes for your lender to submit your application.

Team up

two females seated on a bed looking through documents and on a laptop


If you have the option, you can always team up with someone you trust to either co-own the property or co-sign for you, which simply means they would help guarantee to the lender they will always get paid—if not by you, by them.

When it came time to buy his second property, Pérez opted for the former: “[B]y teaming up with a friend on the investment property—a friend who looked “better” on paper in the bank's eyes—the second mortgage went much smoother.”

If you're not quite ready to buy a home with your (full-time-employed) significant other but think you'd eventually like to, it may be worth it to hold off until you're both ready. Not only are two incomes better than one (and the closer you can get to your 20% down payment, the less you'll have to pay in mortgage insurance), but their income stability may get you a better term and lower interest rate.

Ultimately, if you're organized, know where to look and take the necessary steps to prove your ability to make your monthly payments, you'll be in your new home and adulting like a pro in no time.

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
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Are you thinking about breaking your fixed-rate mortgage? While traditionally considered a financial faux-pas, many Canadians choose to break their fixed-rate mortgage when they find their current terms and conditions no longer meet their needs.

“Breaking a fixed-rate mortgage occurs more often than you would think,” Jared Ksenica, Regional Vice-President, Mortgage Specialist, with BMO Bank of Montreal said.

Of course, there are penalties to pay for breaking a mortgage. When you break a mortgage contract, the penalty is supposed to cover the lender's costs related to unwinding the loan, while also recouping part of their lost profit. The amount is dependent on the interest rate and the mortgage balance.

According to Ksenica, some of the most common reasons for breaking a mortgage include refinancing for debt consolidation, purchasing a second property and helping children with their education or helping them buy a home.


an application for a fixed percentage rate mortgage application


Another reason to break a mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. If you've been watching rates lately, you may be wondering if you could break your fixed-rate mortgage to save money in the long-term with a cheaper interest rate.

This may sound like a good idea, but be forewarned: trying to figure out what you'll be charged for breaking a fixed-rate mortgage is very difficult, with homeowners often miscalculating the cost of their penalty.

What are the advantages of breaking a fixed-rate mortgage?

a calculator on top of a sheet of calculations

Via Pexels


John Tarnowski, Executive Vice President, Retail Financial Services at ATB Financial, says it's important customers look beyond the rate and compare the full mortgage package to determine what's best for them.

“If moving to a variable or new fixed-rate term will save interest costs over the remaining mortgage term, it might be worth doing, even if they have to pay a prepayment penalty,” he says. “If a person’s life or lifestyle has changed, it might also be a good time to consider this option.”

These kinds of decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly and it’s best to discuss options with a mortgage specialist. Despite paying the penalty upfront for breaking a mortgage, there may or may not be effective savings in the long-term—especially if you're facing high penalties.

What are the penalties for breaking a mortgage?

a person at a desk doing some financial-related work

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels


The biggest disadvantage of breaking a mortgage is the out-of-pocket penalties. And they're often much, much higher than you might have anticipated.

Fixed-rate mortgage penalties are always calculated based on whichever is greater: “the greater of a) three months interest or b) the interest-rate differential (IRD),” with the IRD being the difference between the existing mortgage rate and the interest rate currently charged.

However, there are key differences in the actual rates lenders use to calculate your IRD and this can greatly impact your penalties. The Standard IRD is what most people think of when breaking a mortgage, whereby the lender takes the difference between your contract rate and their current rate that most closely matches your remaining term.

But there's also the Discounted Rate IRD Penalty (used by RBC, BMO, TD, Scotia and National Bank). Banks who use this IRD format take your contract rate, compare it to the posted rate that most closely matches your remaining term and then subtract the original discount you got off of their five-year posted rate.

This small tweak that can make a huge difference in terms of the penalties you can incur. Using this calculation, it's possible for an IRD to jump from the Standard $1,500 to $9,000.

The Posted Rate IRD Penalty (used by CIBC) can have even steeper penalties. In this variation, the bank calculates your IRD penalty using the five-year posted rate they offered when you initially got your mortgage.

Get informed about the penalty calculators your particular lender will use before signing any mortgage contract so there are no nasty surprises down the road.


people at a table looking over contracts

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


If you decide to break your fixed-rate mortgage but you want to stay with the same lender, ask if they offer penalty discounts. While not all lenders offer this type of incentive, some may be willing to reduce your penalties if you decide to stay with them. mortgage contract but still stay with them. In this case, Tarnowski says you can break your mortgage “in conjunction with a new mortgage,” minimizing the penalty by making a lump sum payment on their mortgage.

Be sure to check out our affordability calculator to find out how much you can afford and use our handy mortgage calculator to determine your ideal amortization period and down payment options.

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


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There are many factors to consider when searching for your dream home, including cost, number of bedrooms, layout and neighbourhood. But if you have children—or plan to someday soon—you need to think about another important selling feature: schools.

After all, you don't want to buy a house only to discover the local schools don't get a passing grade.

Find the perfect school with REALTOR.ca Local Insights

REALTOR.ca Local Insights map


Home buyers can access comprehensive schools and catchment information across Canada while searching for properties on REALTOR.ca. To make finding the perfect school easier, you can narrow down your search by using filters like public or private, elementary or secondary, and language. To get started from the map page, click on the “stacked paper” icon found in the bottom left corner. Love a home but want to learn more about the neighbourhood? On a listing, it’s as easy as:

  1. clicking on the “Neighbourhood” tab;

  2. selecting the amenities to get a list view of nearby schools, groceries, transit routes and more; and

  3. clicking on a school to see nearby schools and their catchments.

You can also dive into demographic details like household income, population by age and number of children at home.

Here are a few more tips to help you find the right school for your children, whether you’re moving across town or to the other side of the country.

Do your homework

young children in a classroom with a teacher at the front of the class


Most provinces offer online directories of school boards and individual schools, which can be useful for learning about class sizes, student-teacher ratios and whether they can accommodate children with special needs. Just as you would research a hotel before going on vacation, you'll want to read what others have to say about a given school. Many parents rate schools online, based on teacher quality, curriculums and enrichment programs.

For academic information, the Fraser Institute's handy tool, CompareSchoolRankings.org, provides detailed school-by-school performance reports. In addition, don't forget to scroll through a school's social media feed, which can yield a wealth of great information, such as photos and newsletters.

Talk to your future neighbours

two families with young children sitting on stairs in front of an apartment


Take a walk through your prospective neighbourhood and check out the area's parks and community centres. Don't be afraid to approach parents pushing kids on a swing or watching their child's swimming lesson. Strike up a friendly conversation and tell them you're thinking about moving to the neighbourhood. Ask about schools in the area and if they have any advice for choosing the right one for your children. Find out whether the local schools encourage parent volunteers or how many field trips are organized each year.

Map out the commute

young students standing in a single file, waiting by a school bus


Is a home within walking distance of the school at the top of your priority list? Will your children need a drive twice a day? You can calculate your potential commute by walk, bike, public transportation or car using the neighbourhood tab on your favourite listings. Additionally, call the school board to find out if they offer bus services or if you'll be juggling carpool schedules as part of your morning routine.

Visit the schools

a father and daughter holding hand while walking out the gates of a school


Make an appointment with the principal to tour each school you're interested in and arrive with a list of questions, such as whether special programs are offered. Ask to see classes in progress, along with the facilities and grounds, to help you evaluate which school works best for your children. If your children are athletic, ask about extracurricular sports teams; if they're artistic, inquire about their music, arts or drama programs. Can't go in person? Set up phone calls with the principal, administration and ideally the teachers who'll be teaching your children.

Armed with all this information, you'll be sure to get top marks in your housing search.


Original Article from: Realtor

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Home buyers might assume there's no need to work with a REALTOR® when purchasing a pre-construction build. After all, the builders and developers have on-site representatives promising to take care of all the paperwork, right?

Not so fast. There are a number of advantages to working with someone who has your best interests in mind. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about buying a brand-new build.


A REALTOR® makes the sales process less overwhelming


GIF of a man saying: "Calm down, beathe."

Via Giphy


Buying a new build can be a lot more complicated than purchasing a resale. You'll benefit from working with a local expert who knows the project's neighbourhood, target audience, materials used and sales data. Enhance your search for homes by saving your search and getting notifications from REALTOR.ca favourites. Most importantly, they'll know which builders are most reputable for delivering on time. A REALTOR® can also offer information on what is the best time to buy—pre-construction, mid-construction or after the building is completed—since they might have intel on upcoming promotions. For example, builders may be a free parking spot during pre-construction or they may lower the purchase price when the building is unloading the last few units.

A REALTOR® can negotiate on your behalf

GIF of a woman in a store saying: "I'l give you a dollar for all of this"

Via Giphy


Sure, you can simply trust a sales representative to haggle with the builder, but that may not get you the best deal or added perks, like free upgrades or new appliances. Understanding the fine print in a purchase contract is not for the faint of heart. A real estate professional can point out the confusing clauses you're better off negotiating on.

You'll get the low-down on the up-sells

GIF of a man signalling to another man to not do/go for something

Via Giphy


Immaculately designed model homes offer all the bells and whistles, tempting buyers into adding all sorts of extras onto the standard price. Sometimes, these upgrades aren't worth it. Your REALTOR® can help you decide what's worth doing and what can wait.

You won't fall for sales pitches that seem too good to be true

GIF of a man in a suit asking: "Are you sure?"

Via Giphy


Buyers are led to believe if they don't use an agent, the builder will subtract the price of a REALTOR®'s potential commission from the purchase price. But since the seller (i.e. the builder) pays your agent's commission, it only makes sense to insist on having one. Builders are reluctant to reduce prices because those discounts are available for other buyers to see.

A REALTOR® will provide guidance and support throughout the transaction

GIF on a girl in a crowd cheering someone on

Via Giphy


When it comes to pre-construction, home buyers must navigate multiple steps and interact with several people before closing. In addition to making decisions around design, buyers must also make technical choices about electrical work or construction add-ons during the build. In addition, some buyers will be dealing with loan officers, appraisers, notaries and home inspectors. Having a trusted REALTOR® means you can access their vast network to find the best professionals.

Bottom line? The builder's rep has the builder's goals in mind, while your own agent is a valuable resource with just one person to satisfy: You.

a illustrated quiz about whether of not you should use a REALTOR when buying pre-construction


Original Article from: Realtor 

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Scroll through your Instagram feed and you'll likely see hundreds of photos documenting your friends' renovation progress, interior décor choices and house hacks. Social media has given us a sneak peek into the best parts of other people's lives. What were once intimate celebratory moments are now carefully-curated photo-ops to share with followers. REALTORS® are even setting up photoshoots for their first-time home buying clients to document the occasion (and subsequently post to their social media pages). And, the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is real; 27% of millennials report being inspired to buy after seeing photos of homes posted by their peers on Instagram. 

The dream of homeownership is alive and well with millennials–among those who don't yet own a home, 86% say they'd like to and more than two-thirds consider themselves passionate about owning. 

However, most millennials feel it has become more difficult to buy a residential property and consider the down payment, monthly payments and mortgage interest rates the biggest obstacles. But, don't be deterred … or get caught up in FOMO. If you aren't yet a homeowner but would like to be, make a plan and consider these next points. 

Do you have enough saved up? 

A woman stands in the kitchen pouring water from a kettle into a mug a mug


You can buy a home with as little as 5% down, but unless you put down at least 20% of the home's purchase price, you'll also be required to pay mortgage insurance. 

There are many mortgage calculators to help you determine what you can afford. REALTOR.ca’s mortgage affordability calculator can help guide you through this process. Remember, even if you have enough saved up for your down payment, owning a home comes with expenses beyond your mortgage. Up front, you'll have lawyer fees, closing costs and home insurance. Once you're moved in, you'll have monthly utility costs, maintenance and property taxes. You should also have an additional contingency fund set aside in case of unforeseen expenses.

How stable is your job? 

A couple sits on the couch, sharing earbuds, as they look at an iPad


If your goal is to travel the world in the next five years or if you're in the middle of a career change and don't know where you'll be working next, it might be wise to hold off buying a property. .

And who knows? If you've been eyeing a coveted promotion at work, that extra income might be the boost your budget needs to help land your “forever” home.

Do you plan to get married, have kids or get pets?

A couple and their baby are sitting together on the floor of their living room


A studio apartment might be all your single self needs, but a lot can change in five years. If you plan to have kids or get a pet anytime soon, take that into consideration when house hunting or hold off until you're ready to look for something better suited to your needs and lifestyle.

Turn FOMO into JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) 

Friends working on a laptop in the kitchen.


Remember, social media is like your “highlight reel.” Homeownership is an exciting milestone, but only when you're financially and emotionally ready for it. If you don't own yet, consider it an opportunity to save more toward your down payment, work toward your dream job and get to know the features of a home and neighbourhood that are important to you. REALTOR.ca listings offer enhanced neighbourhood information including, commute times, nearby schools, restaurants, parks, shopping and whether the community is pedestrian friendly.  

Another plus: if you're the last of your friends to buy a home, you'll have plenty of experiences to learn from.

When you're ready to start looking for your first or next home, a REALTOR® is your best ally to navigate the ins and outs of home buying … and maybe even help you capture that perfect Insta shot, too. Oh, and don't forget to create an account so you can save your searches, make notes on your favourites, and get access to our monthly newsletter that covers all things “home”.



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In 2017, 22% of Canadians (about 6.2 million people) reported having at least one disability but the real number is likely higher and growing. With such a staggering statistic, it's unsurprising the focus on accessibility is gaining traction in architecture, design, real estate—and even in outdoor public spaces.

Why is accessibility so important?


Accessible parks and playgrounds connect people through universal design by providing opportunities for people of all ages, sizes and levels of ability to participate in activities together.

What is universal design?

Universal design is an approach to accessibility aiming to create products, experiences and spaces that are accessible by default and usable by anyone regardless of their age, size or ability. When we consider the needs of the most extreme users at the outset, we save time and money by avoiding retrofitted inclusive design solutions and we make things that are better for everyone.



A great example of this is a sloped curb. Yes—a sloped curb is wheelchair accessible—but it's also stroller accessible, skateboard accessible, easier for small children learning to walk, can use less materials than a standard curb and generally safer and easier to use.

The StopGap Foundation raises awareness for universal design by building simple, modular ramps for businesses to make their shops wheelchair accessible. The focus is on accessibility but also how it benefits everyone.

What makes a park or playground accessible?


In their guide to creating accessible play spaces, the Rick Hansen Foundation says:

“Play spaces based on the principles of universal design are inclusive and offer a rich variety of physical and creative play opportunities. They are designed specifically to allow children of all abilities to play and enjoy the same activities together.”

Rick Hansen Foundation

This can include elements like: a shock absorbent surface with lots of room to manoeuvre around equipment safely and easily, wheelchair-accessible ramps leading up to elevated play structures and ground level features with a mix of sensory and physical interactive elements.

Some typical park equipment can be made accessible with minor design changes. For example, a sandbox, if elevated, becomes a sand table which can be accessed by children who use wheelchairs. The OmniSpin® Spinner is a carousel with high-backed seats offering support for kids with limited mobility, with alternating low spots to enable transfers to and from wheelchairs and walkers.



Kate's Place For Everyone in Elmira, Ontario is an accessible playground boasting a variety of shareable park equipment—slides with rollers, high-backed carousels and sensory ground-level equipment. The project was spearheaded in 2010 by Kelly Meissner, whose daughter Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Kelly, with the help of her community, raised the funds to build a playground that would be fun for anyone. 

How can I find a home near an accessible park?


Looking to live close to an accessible park? The REALTOR.ca search feature has a couple of great tools to help you find exactly what you're looking for. First, each listing has a “neighbourhood” tab that lists a number of nearby amenities, like parks and playgrounds. To narrow down your search results, you can filter by keywords like accessibility, universal design and wheelchair accessible.

The other benefits of accessibility

Research reflects that inclusivity can help us become more empathetic and learn to be better critical thinkers. Accessible parks and playgrounds provide this opportunity for people of all ages and abilities.



If you live near one, you're lucky! If you've never gone to one, you should! If you live in a community where parks are being updated or built, advocate for accessibility. There‘s no downside to spaces that are fun, safe and easier for everyone to navigate.




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Custom home exterior with contrasting wood and white finish tones


For most, the fantasy of building a dream home is just that—a fantasy: the perfectly styled gourmet kitchen, the shower big enough to fit an elephant and every tiny detail carefully considered to be exactly what you want.

As a trained architect, it haunts me that at my age I still haven't designed and built my own home. With so much to consider, where do you begin? As always, a good place to start is with your budget.

The Basics: what is a construction mortgage?

View looking down through scaffolding at construction crew working


If you want to build a home from scratch or if you're planning significant renovations or expansions to an existing property, a construction mortgage can help give you the financial framework to make it happen. Essentially, it begins as a loan to finance the build during the construction period. When the construction ends, the loan is due and it becomes a normal mortgage.

To qualify, you'll likely need:

  • good to excellent credit;

  • A stable income;

  • low debt-to-income ratio; and

  • a down payment of 20%

Loan funds, totalling the full amount needed to complete the construction, are given to you in stages called “draws” throughout construction. Common stages include: purchase of land, foundation, framing, lock-up (for example, doors, windows and roofing) and completion. The work is inspected by the lender at each stage to ensure it's complete before the next draw is made available. Most lenders charge a fee for this inspection that goes beyond the cost of the loan. Also, keep in mind this inspection is different from the ones you'll require as part of your permit, so be sure the work is up to code.

If you're buying a new construction home through a builder, your construction loan is secured directly with them so you won't need to get one yourself.

Starting point

Construction plans and blueprints on a desk with notes, coffee and a black marker pen.


First thing's first: you need to consider what type of home you plan to build and how large you want it to be. Specific rules vary by province, so make sure you're well informed before you start. You'll likely want to (and may be required to) enlist the help of a licensed architect and/or engineer to help develop your plans. 

When building, you might be inclined to align your build's design with your wildest desires and whims. That might be fine for your forever home and if you have no intentions of ever leaving but, if future resale is a consideration, you might want to avoid unusual elements or unconventional floor plans. A REALTOR® is a great resource to help guide you through the most common and sought-after features of your neighbourhood.


Custom designed open concept kitchen, living and dining room.


Another consideration is the land you're going to build on. Do you want to raise animals or have a farm? Is accessibility an issue or do you think it might be? How important is privacy? If you're building a custom home to retire in, think about the future of that location and how its accessibility could factor in later in life. 

Choose what you want, but choose wisely. If you are buying your own plot of land to build on (opposed to buying a new home through a builder with predetermined land) you may need a different type of loan. Vacant lots can come higher interest rates and require larger deposits. Be sure to discuss your intentions with your bank so you can look at all of your options.

Getting the mortgage

Couple consulting with a mortgage broker


A construction loan can be obtained at any major bank or broker. The loan can be a fixed or variable rate depending on your preference and payment needs. 

Pro tip: fixed rate vs. variable rate

The difference between a fixed rate and a variable rate mortgage is fixed rates set the interest rate for the term of the loan, whereas the interest rate of a variable rate mortgage may go up or down depending on market conditions. 

Be sure to ask your lender the draw dates and percentage payout of their loan, as well as their inspection fee at each phase.

Post-approval

Smiling couple looking over constructions plans


Once you're approved (congratulations!), the construction mortgage can secure the purchase of land with an initial draw or pay off any existing loan if the property has already been purchased. 

You'll be able to request subsequent draws from the lender as the construction moves forward, pending inspection.

Timing

Woman looking over construction plans


Timing is the key to ensure everything runs smoothly. Consider the schedule around the completion of your project, including payment of subcontractors and inspection fees. You'll also want to consider the sale of your current home or whether you'll need to find a place to live in the meantime.

Post-construction

Custom designed living room with overlook from the second floor.


Once the scheduled construction is complete and on-time, the bank or lender will convert the loan into a mortgage with regular interest and principal payments. 

A construction loan/mortgage, coupled with the assistance of licensed, professional trades and contractors could be the key to your dream home! Imagine the satisfaction from moving into a house tailor-made just for you. 

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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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 Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. A 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.



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People born between 1981 and 1996 (birth year definitions vary) who have reached adulthood in the early 21st century are dubbed “millennials”. It's an entire generation who have been collectively branded with a mix of stereotypes, including being smartphone-addicted avocado lovers who are content to live with their parents well into their 30s and who aren't interested in buying a home.

According to Statistics Canada, millennials’ economic well-being is quite varied as compared to previous generations.  But, millennials are still managing to buy their own houses and, subsequently, are impacting how real estate is bought, sold and marketed.

The demise of the starter home?

small interior view of kitchen, fridge and cupboards with light wood


Many millennials save money by living at home or taking advantage of affordable rental properties, even if it means getting into the market later. Others choose to dip their toes in the home buying waters with income and investment properties. By the time they're ready to buy a house of their own, they're in a better position to skip the traditional “starter” home.

Different priorities

photo of two millennial girls throwing hats off over a hilltop view


Being house poor isn't seen as a rite of passage by millennials. This doesn't mean they're not buying homes eventually, just that they also see value in prioritizing other things first, like travel, career opportunities and other investments. 

Government assistance

view of Parliament hill in Ottawa, ON


While it's too early to fully evaluate the effects of the federal government's latest efforts to help address housing affordability, the mortgage stress test, which came into effect in January 2018, added to millennials' worry they will never be able to own their own home because of tougher mortgage qualifying rules. It's expected changes to existing government programs and the introduction of others, like the First Time Home Buyers' (FTHB) Tax Credit and increase to withdrawal limits through the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP), will be tangible ways to make it easier for first-time home buyers looking to enter the market.

The internet economy

photo for 6 people's hands all on their cellphones

Millennials' affinity for technology – especially mobile devices – has helped change the way retailers operate. We've seen the shift on REALTOR.ca with 66% of visits to the site coming from mobile devices.  In general, the entire home buying journey is becoming more digitized: you can find open houses near you using smart home technology, take a complete tour of the properties that interest you without having to set foot in them and submit and accept an offer without a pen or paper. 

Now the largest generational segment of the Canadian population, millennials make up 27% of the Canadian population and are quickly becoming the largest segment of home buyers. All this ushers a new normal for the real estate industry, thanks to the changing values that accompany this influential generation's coming of age.



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Seasons come and go, as do houses on the market! Curb appeal, less competition and serious buyers are just some of the many benefits to listing your home in the winter. Surprisingly enough, the winter months may also be the most wonderful time of the year…to buy a home. In fact, there are many benefits to buying a home in the off-season. Now that we have entered subzero temperatures, here are five reasons why you should brave the cold this season and join the hunt for your dream home!


A woman gesturing towards the stove in front of two men

1. Motivated seller 

What type of seller lists their home in the winter? A motivated one! Sellers who list in the winter either likely didn't have much luck in the peak real estate season or are eager to sell. This means the seller might be more willing to negotiate on selling price, closing costs, closing date or even terms of the sale in the slow winter months. Work with a REALTOR® to determine a negotiation strategy to ensure you aren't making unreasonable demands and are coming in with a fair offer.


Couple looking at a clipboard

2. Less competition 

In the same way there are fewer sellers in the winter, there are also generally fewer buyers. Worried about a crowd full of competition at your dream home's open house? Lower market activity means you are less likely to fall into a bidding war with other buyers. Between holiday planning, vacationing and a natural urge to hibernate, fewer people are inclined to look for a house in the winter season.


House in winter with snow on the roof

3. Reality check

In the winter months, chances are impeccable landscaping and well-manicured shrubs are replaced with blankets of snow and icicles hanging from the gutters. Without obvious elements of curb appeal, the buyer will get to see the house for what it truly is and will be less likely to overlook key functional elements.


Man opening a window in winter

4. Winter durability

Buying a home in the winter lets you see first-hand how the home functions in the colder months. Are the windows and doors draft-proof? Is heating evenly distributed throughout the house? These are important factors that are more difficult to evaluate in the spring and summer. All major systems including plumbing, heating, roof and gutters are put to the test.


Men lifting boxes out of a moving truck

5. Hiring movers is easier 

While it may not be easier to move all of your possessions in inclement weather, hiring movers is. Moving in the winter months when there are less people buying means there are fewer moving households that you need to compete with, simplifying the logistics of your moving day.

Little girl jumping out of a cardboard box


The weather outside might be frightful, but searching for a home in winter can be delightful! While it is true the market slows down in the winter, there are still many benefits to buying a home in the off-season.



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For some people, living in a city loft is the epitome of style; think skyline views, plank hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and heritage features offering inimitable character. With open floor plans and central locations, lofts make ideal crash pads for downtown living. However, the loft lifestyle isn't for everyone. 


Here are a few things to know before deciding if a loft is the right home for you. 

The high rise of loft living  

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash


Lofts today are seen as upscale urban dwellings for city slickers, but this wasn't always the case. In the 1950s and ‘60s, New York City's decommissioned factories and industrial warehouses became popular housing alternatives for artists and bohemians. 

Lower costs and high ceilings made these spaces perfect canvases for galleries and workshops of large-format artists, like Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Warhol famously converted a loft on East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan into a studio called The Factory, which became a denizen for artists like David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry and Lou Reed. Rent cost $100 a month at the time. 


Andy Warhol at ‘The Factory’, 1966, via Kristine on Flickr


As uptown art buyers turned up for exhibitions and downtown happenings, the lure of the loft lifestyle prompted many to buy and retrofit lofts of their own. As the affluent moved in, market values went up and lofts became hot commodities. 

“Over the next few years, magazines praised the versatility and the creativity of loft design,” writes Sharon Zukin in Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. “In many lofts, the integration of work space, living areas, and art objects was paralleled by a fluid adaptation to structural features (primarily light, floor and volume) and “incidental” arrangements.”    

Loft living was instrumental in defining the Industrial aesthetic. And perhaps more importantly, the popularity of lofts redefined a way of living in the city. 

The difference between hard lofts and soft lofts 

Demand for the “loft look” has inspired many developers to replicate loft aesthetics in newly-constructed developments. Known in real estate as soft lofts, these constructions mimic characteristics of typical lofts, such as open concept spaces, large windows, high ceilings and exposed features. 


Photo by Yucel Moran on Unsplash


By contrast, hard lofts can be found in heritage buildings, vacant factories and other places that have been repurposed for residential living. While these industrial buildings tend to be a little rougher around the edges, they often abound with character via exposed brickwork, original wood beams and other inherited traits. 


Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

Two-storey lofts  

Photo by Antoine Gayraud on Unsplash


Unlike single-floor lofts, two-storey lofts have the advantage of offering occupants more privacy. Two-storey lofts often preserve the open concept feel by limiting the reach of the second storey. Often, this top tier overhangs the first floor and is finished with open walls, so the bottom floor is kept in view. Bedrooms are the most common use for the second floors, as added distance allows for more privacy. Two-storey tall ceilings and walls are often utilized for an expansive gallery of windows. 

Pros and cons of loft life  

Photo by Nathan Van Egmond on Unsplash


Because soft lofts tend to be more modern constructions, they're often equipped with more modern furnishings, plumbing and electricity. Hard lofts, on the other hand, may require more work and repairs, depending on the condition of the property. Tall ceilings can mean tall energy bills, too. 

While hard lofts were once located in rundown parts of the city, many of these areas have gentrified and transformed into vibrant urban centers thrumming with activity. For young professionals who work in city centers, lofts are often well connected and ideally located for short commutes and enjoying the cultural advantages city life has to offer. 

Arguably, the primary feature of a loft is an open-concept layout. This setup is ideal for those who feel at home in tall and airy spaces but, for others, it can lack privacy and coziness. These spaces are ideal for singles or couples but can become cramped when children enter the equation. Likewise, hosting company can pose the occasional challenge, especially for a more private person. 

Decorating your loft  

Lofts leave space for a fair deal of decorative freedom, but also pose some unique challenges. Here are a few design tips to help you make the most of your loft lifestyle. 

Define spaces

Via Jennifer D. Ames on Creative Commons


Use large pieces of furniture, such as L-shaped couches, bar counters, bookcases, or even folding screens to help divide and define spaces in your loft. In small spaces, curtains can make for good hanging room partitions. Install a curtain track so they can be easily drawn or closed. 

Opt for oversized art 


Stay true to the loft's legacy by investing in a large painting or sculpture. Small pieces tend to get lost on tall ceilings and in open spaces, whereas larger prints and installations have obvious impact and can help to organize space. 

Add contrast with soft furnishings 

Photo by Israa Hilles on Unsplash


A large area rug lends warmth to hardwood or concrete floors typically found in lofts. Try curtains instead of blinds for window coverings, as they can bring contrast to gridded industrial panes, while still exposing their character. Look to Urban Modern design for examples of how to embrace this aesthetic. 

Embrace character  

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst


Think twice before covering up raw features of your loft like exposed brick walls or open ducts and beams in the ceiling. These characteristics are prized by fellow loft buyers. 

Ready to embrace the loft living? Work with a REALTOR® to help you find the perfect space.


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You found your dream century home and your conditional offer has been accepted. But after receiving your home inspector's report, it turns out your charming Victorian cottage needs more than a fresh coat of paint.


Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash


While this doesn't mean you need to back out of the deal, it's important to know you can always head back to the negotiating table. Your REALTOR® is a great resource for knowing the repairs you might be in for—and what they could cost you—before buying an older property.

“Disposable” systems that need replacing



Roofs, air conditioners, furnaces and boilers don't last forever, so don't be surprised if you learn at least one is at the end of its lifespan, Graham Clarke, President of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors in Toronto said.

“For a 50- or 100-year-old house, there’s a really good chance one of those systems needs to be replaced in the short term,” he explains. “Buyers should really expect that and it shouldn’t taint the house as being a ‘bad' house.”

While having to replace multiple failing components at once can be a budget-buster, Clarke notes you'll typically get 15 to 20 years of use after replacing one of these systems. Here's what he estimates it could cost you.

Expect to fork out:

  • Between $5,000 to $15,000 for a roof, depending on the size and whether it's pitched or flat;

  • $3,000 to $8,000 for a new furnace;

  • $5,000 to $15,000 to replace the boiler;

  • $2,500 to $6,000 for a new air conditioning system.

Note: Costs for these systems can vary outside these ranges depending on the size and condition of the home and more.

Foundation cracks and sloping floors


Nobody wants to move into a house that's sitting on a crumbling foundation, but cracks aren't always a sign of doom, Clarke said.

“Foundational cracks, in some cases, aren't structurally significant, but may still have water leakage implications, a common finding during a home inspection,” he explains.

“However, more significant cracks are often the result of structural movement, which can be very difficult to determine during a home inspection, because there are so many invisible factors: The quality of the soil underneath the footings and the footings at the bottom of the foundation themselves, which are outside the scope of a home inspection.”

Because home inspectors base their professional opinion on what they can see or reach, they'll evaluate the performance of a house instead, Clarke adds.

“If I have a 100-year-old house that is dead level and dead straight, that’s good performance. But if it’s developed sags, slopes and leans, and the doors and windows aren't square, it's moved.”

Expect to fork out:

  • A few hundred dollars to repair cosmetic cracks and up to $10,000 or more for major structural fixes.

Plumbing and electrical elements


According to Clarke, many older homes include obsolete plumbing or electrical systems, whether that's knob-and-tube wiring or galvanized steel piping. Often, any remaining original wiring and plumbing are located in difficult-to-access areas.

“I may go into a Victorian house and see brand new wiring in the basement, but on the second or third floor, I'll see ungrounded receptacles indicating knob-and-tube,” he said. “The stuff that was easy and less expensive to replace was done, but the stuff buried in behind the plaster walls 30 feet up from the basement hasn't been.”

Expect to fork out:

  • For a two- or three-story house, it can cost between $20,000 to $30,000 to replace wiring, with a portion of that going towards making holes in plaster walls, patching and painting.

  • Galvanized steel pipes or cast-iron waste piping in upstairs bathrooms can run several thousand dollars to replace.

Windows

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Just because a home inspection report reveals a house still has its original windows, that doesn't mean you need to replace them if they're functioning properly, notes Clarke.

“A lot of people spend a lot of money replacing their windows, either for windows that are easier to open or to improve energy efficiency or to enhance the aesthetics of the house,” he says.

Expect to fork out:

  • A minimum of $500 per window, plus installation costs, for a less expensive model.

Other issues a home inspector might recommend outside tests for in older houses include checking for the presence of lead paint, mold, or asbestos tile or insulation.

“To determine whether there’s asbestos in a house, an environmental consultant has to take a lot of samples,“ says Clarke. “But even if a house has asbestos — and most homes built before 1970 do — that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a problem. If it’s in the drywall joint compound, that’s probably not a problem, but if it's in vermiculite insulation up in the attic, that can represent a hazard for people.”

If your home inspection report includes a number of issues, remember it’s not the end of the world. Trust your REALTOR® for guidance and support and together, you can make the right decision.

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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he question of whether to buy a condo or a house may be obvious to some, but for others, it's not so simple. Each comes with its own pros and cons as far as convenience, amenities, resale value and space is concerned.

It's important to start by identifying your goals, lifestyle and budget. A REALTOR® can help you navigate the different options in your desired market, including the factors to consider when choosing between a condo or a house. Get started on REALTOR.ca by using the property type filter and compare all the options in your neighbourhood.

Condo types

There are two main types of condos on the market, freehold and leasehold. Freehold condos can be buildings divided into a number of units, row townhouses and even standalone townhouses or homes. Within freehold condos, there are standard condominiums, in which you buy your unit and have an interest in the property's common elements but do not own the land. In common elements condominiums, there are no units but you own the property and the land on which it sits. The owners within the common elements condominiums community share ownership of common elements, jointly funding their maintenance and repair. There are also leasehold condominium corporations, in which the land is not owned by the condominium corporation, but where lease purchasers buy a leasehold interest in units and common elements.

Price


Photo by Liao Je Wei on Unsplash


Buying a standard condominium is a bit different than buying a house, as you're only purchasing a unit in a building, not a parcel of land. (This may not be the case for other kinds of condominiums). Generally speaking, a condo is more affordable than a house in the same area, however the gap is much wider in some markets than others, and may not be all that different if it's a common elements condominium, for example. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, your willingness to sacrifice a more central location for a lower price will play a big role in whether you opt for a house or condo.

Expenses



Condos come with monthly fees, which pay for services like security, maintenance and amenities. They're typically determined by the size of your unit and how many units are in the building. Some condos offer luxurious amenities, like a 24-hour concierge, pool, gym, sauna, big-screen theatres and in some cases, even a bowling alley. It's important to note, the more amenities offered, the higher your condo fees will likely be.


Photo by Casey Schackow on Unsplash


Condo fees also generally cover the costs if anything breaks within the building (not inside your unit). For homeowners, no such luck. A leaky roof or window upgrades are a few of the big-ticket items you'll be responsible for yourself, especially in an older home.

Insurance is another expense that varies between a house and condo. Typically, insurance rates for a condo are much less than a house as the walls are insured by the building. Same goes for heating and electric bills, which are typically higher with houses.

Maintenance

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash


If you hate mowing the lawn, shovelling snow or emptying out eavestroughs, a condo may be just the ticket. Houses require a lot more work and physical maintenance, which means more time on the homeowner's part.

Location and lifestyle

Photo by LinedPhoto on Unsplash


Condos usually have central locations, giving owners easy commutes and accessibility to public transit, as well as proximity to shops and restaurants. For professionals, these urban conveniences may be more of a priority than an extra bedroom or backyard. And while houses outside of the downtown core are more affordable, you'll sacrifice location and other conveniences associated with condo living. To help discover locations matching your lifestyle, get started with REALTOR.ca Local Insights.

If you have kids or plan on having them soon, you want to carefully consider things like space, noise and privacy. While two people might be content in a condo, if their family grows, a house may have a lot more appeal. Even a two-or-three-bedroom condo will generally have less room for a burgeoning brood than a house.

Freedom

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash


Condo boards have rulesall owners or tenants are expected to follow. These can limit the number or size of pets allowed, prevent smoking in common areas or private balconies, restrict the use of visitors in common elements (such as a pool or gym), prohibit owners from renting out their units (like on Airbnb), prevent using personal BBQs on patios or dictate certain decorative elements, such as hanging Christmas lights or even the colour of your curtains.

Pros of a condo:

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  • You won't be responsible for most repairs or maintenance outside of your unit.

  • You could have access to amenities like a gym, pool or 24-hour concierge.

  • They offer increased security.

  • They're often easier to rent in the short term.

  • They're more likely to be in a central or convenient location.

Cons of a condo:

Photo by Joseph Albanese on Unsplash


  • You generally have less privacy.

  • There's limited outdoor space.

  • You will have to pay monthly maintenance fees (on top of mortgage payments and property tax).

  • You might have to pay for amenities you don't use.

  • You'll face possible restrictions on things like usage of common elements, parking, pets, renovations and decorations.

Pros of a house:

Photo by Morgan Thompson on Unsplash


  • You typically have total freedom over how you decorate and renovate.

  • You have more control over your own space.

  • You'll likely have more outdoor space.

Cons of a house:

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash


  • You are responsible for all maintenance.

  • You are responsible for all repairs.

  • Utility bills and insurance is usually higher than in a condo.

 
a decision-tree graphic on wheether you should buy a house or a condo
 
Original Article from: Realtor
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Passive House via Construction Rocket


Passive houses are really anything but passive—the truth is, they're total powerhouses. They boast incredible energy efficiency, superb insulation and optimal temperature and comfort 12 months a year.

With that being said, passive homes aren't very common in Canada yet, as our intensely varied climate presents challenges for anyone trying to keep a home comfortable year-round. 

To learn more about these unique homes and their growing place in the Canadian home landscape, we spoke to two PHIUS-certified (Passive House Institute US) builders: Chris Weissflog of EcoGen Energy in Kemptville, Ontario and William Murray of Construction Rocket in the Eastern Townships in Quebec. 

What's the difference between a passive house and a passive solar house ?


As soon as you hear the words “passive house”, you're probably thinking about solar panels—but they're not always a necessary component. 

Passive solar homes are designed to get the maximum benefits from sunshine with solar panels and other systems that use sunlight to heat the air and water in the house.

Weissflog explains that, despite popular belief, passive homes don't need to rely on the sun and can actually perform well in the shade too. For a passive home, the ability to maintain a consistent ambient temperature, regardless of the season and without the help of mechanical systems, is more important than the use of solar panels. This is achieved by keeping the house well insulated, and appropriately sealed and ventilated.

What are the advantages of a passive house?


Passive House via EcoGen Energy


Comfort: Both builders agree, it's impossible to find a house more comfortable than a passive house. Whether it's -30 or +30, in the middle of a room or right next to a window—passive houses maintain a consistently comfortable inside temperature. Will Murray had a client who wanted to do yoga in front of her glass patio door in the middle of winter without freezing. In a passive home with effective ventilation, this is totally feasible.

Energy efficiency: Passive houses use very little energy and cost almost nothing to heat in the winter or cool in the summer. Murray reported the annual energy costs for a  1,980-square-foot PHIUS-certified passive home his company constructed were an impressive $700 (approximately $58 per month) and included—among other things—appliances, heating and cooling. 


Passive House via Construction Rocket


Air quality: Because passive homes are built to be extremely airtight, they require efficient and  regular ventilation and air filtering. This makes them a great choice for people with allergies or breathing problems. 

Predictable energy costs year after year: A passive home's strong seals and effective insulation help keep energy from varying dramatically so you'll likely avoid surprises like expensive heating and electricity bills through the winter months


Passive House via Construction Rocket


Durability: Passive homes are built to last. Mostly-sealed and built with high-quality materials, passive houses are generally less likely to deteriorate over time—which means lower maintenance costs, too.

Quiet:Another benefit of all that insulation and their thicker walls, triple-glazed windows and lack of forced-air systems for heating or cooling, passive houses can be incredibly quiet. 

They're ideal for apartments: For a multiplex or student residence, building a passive structure is a great option. By assuming most of the costs during construction, you'll save money on utilities long-term and the added insulation will make it harder for tenants to disrupt each other with noise. 

Before you build

Cellulose insulation. Passive House via EcoGen Energy


  • If you want your home to be certifiably passive, make sure you involve a PHIUS or Passivhaus certified expert from the get-go—even before hiring an architect. Make sure the involved professionals communicate the nuances of the process to avoid paying for plans and drawings more than once.

  • Keep in mind, renovating an existing house into a passive house can be more expensive than starting from scratch.

  • The up-front costs of building a passive house can be significant (a construction mortgage might help) but factor in the long-term savings on energy and maintenance when creating your budget.

  • While the topics of sealing or energy-efficient insulation aren't exactly sexy when compared with kitchen and bathroom design, they're essential to a passive home and too ensure comfort year-round.

Passive House via Construction Rocket


  • Various experts will need to collaborate on your passive house through design and building to ensure your home meets the standards for certification. 

Passive House via Construction Rocket


Interested? Try searching for homes for sale near you with the keyword search term, “passive”. 

More on green homes: Five Eco-Friendly Ways to Renovate More Sustainably, Eco-Friendly Ways to Get Rid of Renovation Waste, Using Thermostats to Reduce Your Heating Bill


Original Article from: Realtor

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Summer's warmth is now a fading memory and the inescapable and important task of winterizing your home before the first big freeze looms. Luckily, we've created a checklist of many things to consider before that first snowfall with help from Jim Fisher, a general contractor with 50 years experience in the industry.



1. Garden hoses

Disconnect any garden hoses, drain them of any residual water and store them away somewhere dry, protected from the weather.

Why? Garden hoses can become stiff and crack during the winter if left outside. Water in the tubing can freeze and expand, causing your hose to split and forcing you to replace it in the spring.



2. Outdoor taps

Turn off all valves inside the house, then open the taps outside to drain excess water. Be sure to leave the outdoor valves open through the winter.

Why? When water sits in the pipe feeding the outside tap, freezing temperatures can conduct along the pipe to create ice inside the pipes. This can cause cracks and damage the pipe's joints and valves, resulting in bursts and flooding.

3. Attic vents

Inspect and, if necessary, clean the venting from your attic to avoid ice dams.

Why? Attic vents allow moisture to leave the attic space, preventing mold and mildew. Your insulation and HVAC system will be more efficient when your attic is properly vented, allowing better temperature regulation in your home.

Pro Tip: Check your bathroom vents as they pass through the attic. It's easy to forget that if the piping is not insulated all the way to the exit point, this can create ice from condensation through the winter, causing water damage inside your home when it thaws.



4. Chimney

Sweep your chimney to remove any creosote buildup and ensure a clear airway for smoke and particles to exit the chimney. This may require the services of a professional chimney sweep.

Why? Blockages can cause smoke to backdraft into the home and creosote buildup will ignite under certain conditions, causing devastating chimney fires.

Pro Tip: Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually by a certified professional before you use it for the season. Some insurance policies require this.

5. Flower pots and planters

Empty flower pots and planters of all soil or water and store them where they will be protected from precipitation. A garden shed or garage will do.

Why? Sudden and severe changes in temperature and humidity will cause breaks in terracotta and ceramic pots, with plastic becoming brittle over time—especially if they have water or soil in them.

6. Gas grill or barbecue

Clean the interior of your grill and all its internal parts. Coat the metal parts of your burner in cooking oil. Store outdoors with a sturdy cover or wrapped in heavy plastic if stored in a garage or shed.

Why? Cleaning the grill prevents mould and using cooking oil prevents oxidation of your burner elements, while covering protects it from the elements. Wrapping in plastic for indoor storage helps keep critters from nesting inside.



7. Air conditioners

Turn off the power to any external AC unit. Now is also the time to remove any window or portable units, clean their air filters and store them for the season.

Why? Shutting off the power to external ACs prevents phantom power – the little bit of heat generated by running power to the unit. This small amount of heat can attract critters to use the unit as refuge against cold weather. While you can cover the unit during the colder months, this added layer of protection can be an added attraction for shelter-seeking critters. If your unit is in a location susceptible to snowfall, you can instead cover it with a piece of plywood and a rock to hold it down. If you do opt to cover the unit, be sure to use a specially-made cover that will wrap the unit tightly and not a tarp or other loose-fitting option that can create damaging moisture build-up. Removing window and portable ACs will help insulate your home against drafts, lowering utility costs.


8. Furnace

Have your furnace inspected and serviced by a certified HVAC technician. It is advised to do this annually. 

Why? This ensures your furnace is working optimally, preventing inconvenient breakdowns during winter.



9. Furnace filter

Replace your furnace filter, then set reminders to replace the filter as needed (check monthly). 

Why? Furnace filters remove dust, dirt and allergens from the air in your home. Replacing the filter also enables your furnace to operate more efficiently.



10. Gutters and eavestroughs

Once the trees around your home have shed their foliage, clean all leaves, twigs and debris out of your eavestroughs to ensure clear passage down the gutters.

Why? Clogged eavestroughing and gutters cause ice dams which apply unnecessary pressure and stress along the edge of your roof. This can lead to water incursions, as well as an excess of water close to your home when the snow on your roof thaws and runs off.

Pro tip: Low voltage heat wires (also called heat trace, heat tape or de-icing cables) can help prevent ice dams by warming the eavestroughing. For best results, turn them on after freezing rain or a heavy snowfall, or during a mid-winter thaw. These are especially effective with older homes because their dormer angles are prone to ice buildup.

11. Windows and doors

Install weather stripping around your doors and windows, removing any old material if not done annually. For older windows, applying shrink-wrap plastic can also help reduce drafts.

Why? Heat is lost through spaces around doors and windows. Applying this stripping will help prevent drafts and reduce heating costs.

Pro tip: Door sweeps placed on the bottom of doors really cut down on heat loss. Foam or rubber stripping for door frames and windows will also help reduce drafts, especially with older windows. 


12. Program your thermostat

If you have a programmable thermostat, now is the time to set your temperatures for the winter to save on heating costs. Now is also the time to check your thermostat's batteries and change them if needed.

Why? When you turn your thermostat up, you're not just heating the air in your home, it takes energy to heat the objects in your house, too. If you're planning to be away for an extended period, it makes sense to lower your home's temperature but otherwise, it's often more cost effective to set the temperature in your home and leave it there.

13. Hot water tank thermostat

Check your tank's thermostat and reduce it if necessary. In general, it's recommended that it be set to 60ºC, but homeowners with small children or eldery may choose to reduce it. If you do, the Canada Safety Council recommends a temperature no lower than 54ºC.

Why? If the temperature of your hot water is set too low, you could run the risk of not having enough when you need it or even growing bacteria within the stagnant water in your tank. If you're unsure, set the temperature to 54ºC and increase it incrementally until you're satisfied.  

14. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and replace the batteries with new ones. 

Why? These are life-saving devices and should always have fresh batteries. Used batteries can be repurposed as backups for alarm clocks or electronics.



15. Bushes and shrubs

Give your bushes, shrubs and hedges a final trim, then wrap or cover smaller or more fragile shrubs. 

Why? Pruning plants in the fall will save time and help manage their size if you wish to prevent them from overgrowing. Covering smaller and delicate shrubs and bushes prevents damage from heavy snow and ice.



16. Salt or sand supply

If you use salt, sand or another anti-slip substance to protect your driveway and walkways, be sure you have a hearty supply on hand.

Why? It's best to be prepared in case of an early freeze. It's easier to have a supply on hand before winter hits, than to run out after bad weather strikes and when supplies are in high demand.


17. Deck and porch

Check to see if you need to patch any worn spots with fresh weather protectant.


Why? Winter weather can be hard on wood and ensuring your deck's sealant is fresh will help extend its life.

Pro Top: If your deck is raised, placing lattice or skirting around the outside will prevent snow from blowing underneath and building up against the wall of your home. It is also possible for the ground to slope towards the home underneath the deck. Installing a vapour barrier under the floorboards—sloping down and away from the house—will prevent any ice from thawing and running towards your home. 



18. Lawn mower

Clean and service the engine of your lawn mower and remove any grass or mulch buildup underneath. Empty the gas tank or add a stabilizer and sharpen the blades before storing it in a dry, protected place for the winter.


Why? Like any machine, regular maintenance will help extend its life and ensure it will be ready to go in the spring.



19. Pest prevention

Ensure any possible entries into the home—spaces in the siding, under the eaves and vent openings—are sealed or adequately protected.

Why? Mice, chipmunks, squirrels and racoons will want to burrow in the warmest and safest place they can find for the winter. Keeping them out of your home will save you frustration and money resulting from any damage they might cause.

20. Insulation

Check the insulation in your attic to ensure it hasn't sagged and confirm its “R” value. R value indicates the insulating power and its ability to resist heat loss. The higher the R rating, the lower the heat loss will be. 

Why? Certain types of insulation (like fibreglass batting) can sag over time, reducing its effectiveness and allowing more heat to escape. Conversely, in the summer, the insulation in your attic is the barrier to keep the hot air from affecting the temperature in your home.



Winterizing your home may require a couple of weekends to complete, but taking these steps to secure your home before the cold weather hits will not only help save you money, it will allow for many more—warm and comfortable—years of enjoyment.


Original Article from:  Realtor


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You've been saving for a down payment, watching your credit like a hawk and are ready to make the big leap into homeownership. What now? And what steps should you take so you don't feel like you're wading through a jumble of details? We've put together 10 steps to guide you on your journey to holding your first set of keys. You can also download the Home Buyers' Road Map for more on what to expect.



1. Prepare to buy

One of the first things you should do is decide where you want to live. Is your heart set on the urban living or would a small town be preferable? Enlist the help of a local REALTOR® to research current market prices and get a sense of how much homes cost in your ideal location.

Consider what type of house you picture yourself in; are you leaning toward a house or condo? Both can be amazing places to live. Where condos are typically lower-maintenance but carry maintenance fees, houses, semi-detached homes and free-hold townhouses must be maintained by the owner.

2. Plan your finances

You'll need to plan for a down payment that's at least 5% of the total purchase price of the home. Keep in mind that mortgages with less than a 20% down payment will also require default insurance. 

Think about the impact of your mortgage payments on your budget. A good way to determine readiness is to use a mortgage affordability calculator to estimate how much you can manage based on your income and current debts. You'll also want to think beyond your mortgage payments to account for added monthly expenses for maintenance, repairs, upgrades and unexpected surprises.



3. Get pre-qualified

Now that you have a general idea of how much you can afford, it's time to get pre-qualified for a mortgage by a qualified lender. Any financial institution like a bank or credit union, or a mortgage broker will manage this process. 

Getting pre-approved doesn't guarantee you will be approved but it can be a good indicator of the price range to aim for. That being said, keep in mind pre-qualification amounts may overestimate affordability, so plan your budget accordingly. You will also need to account for additional costs when arranging a mortgage as well as a list of things to bring when you meet with a lender.



4. Find a REALTOR®

REALTORS®  are your home buying MVPs. They are the most familiar with the housing market and will work with you to find the best home based on your budget and needs.


Once you meet your REALTOR®, let them know in detail what you're looking for in a home, your preferred location and the price range you'd like to stick within so they can help you find and explore different options. From there, they can walk you through the entire home buying process and will be a great resource when it comes to getting to know a new neighbourhood.



5. View properties

You've done your due diligence and now comes the exciting part—browsing properties! Search listings in your price range, by location and preferred features and share any that catch your eye with your REALTOR® so they can set up a viewing.

While touring a property, consider:

  • Testing the plumbing fixtures.

  • Checking the light switches in each room.

  • Opening and closing the doors and windows and checking for moisture.

  • Looking at other homes on the block to see how well they are maintained.

  • Checking the traffic density in the area.

  • Confirming parking.

  • Is the driveway (if there is one) well maintained?

  • Checking proximity to nearby amenities (like schools, shopping, dining, parks or public transportation).


You can also use this House Hunting Checklist to track details about a prospective home. 



6. Select your mortgage loan

Now is the time to decide on the type of mortgage that's best for you. It may be helpful to get a good understanding of mortgage terminology and this payment calculator takes the guesswork out of determining different scenarios for interest, amortization period and payment frequency.

Your lender or broker can help you decide what's best for your unique situation, depending on factors like floating or fixed interest rates, your desired payment frequency and affordability or ensuring that your monthly payments never increase.


7. Make an offer

Now, for the moment of truth: it's time to make an offer. Your REALTOR® can help you come up with a strategy and prepare a fair offer based on their knowledge and experience,  your initial impressions of the home, observations made when viewing it and the asking price. Essentially, what you are willing to pay?


Your REALTOR® can also help you determine any conditions – like financing or inspections – you'd like to include as part of your offer and set a deadline. Generally, 24 to 48 hours is customary to accept or reject the offer.



8. Get a home inspection

Purchase offers generally hinge on a successful home inspection and your REALTOR® can arrange the inspection within a few days of the acceptance of your offer by the seller. It is always recommended that you have the home inspected by a professional before you buy. It will likely cost a few hundred dollars, but this small up-front investment can save you unpleasant surprises and financial woes down the road.

9. Hire a lawyer

Buying a home involves a great deal of legal paperwork. There are likely many qualified real estate lawyers your friends and family can recommend. Your REALTOR® can also share the names of lawyers in your area.

A lawyer handles all the paperwork for transferring the land title and can help you deal with possible pitfalls like zoning issues, unpaid taxes or liens, legislation or—in very rare cases—fraud. A transfer of title generally takes two weeks to complete.

Get a fee estimate from prospective lawyers with an outline of their fee structure and be sure to ask questions if you are unsure of anything. Translating legal verbiage into layman's terms is an important part of their job.



10. Close the purchase

You're on the home stretch! All that needs to happen now is to close the deal. Your REALTOR® and lawyer do most of the legwork here, but you should consider the following:

  • Start satisfying your end of any conditions of the agreement—your REALTOR® will confirm and document these;

  • Purchase homeowners' insurance to activate on the closing date;

  • Contact your lender or broker to finalize the mortgage documents;

  • Arrange to have any utilities and services to be connected or switched to your name upon close;

  • Meet your lawyer a day or two before closing to sign the closing documents.

Buying a home will likely be one of the biggest single purchases that you'll make and there's a lot to know, understand and do. These resources available on REALTOR.ca will help you along your journey to homeownership:

Happy house hunting, and don't forget to breathe and enjoy the process, you're about to be a homeowner!


Original Article from: Realtor


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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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