More and more these days, we are hearing stories of seniors being scammed out of their money in what authorities have labeled “elder scams”. Typically, this kind of fraud comes in the form of a phone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild or another family member. The caller may pretend to be calling from a local tax authority, law enforcement official or computer software service. The fraudsters are deliberately targeting seniors, but there are ways you can protect yourself and prevent the scammers from extorting money from you.
How it Starts
This kind of scam involves a phone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild or other family in distress or a desperate situation. The caller may start the call by asking “Do you know who this is?” tricking you into giving them a loved one’s name. Once the caller has identified themself fraudulently as a grandchild they will proceed to tell you they are in an unusual or dangerous situation and require funds to help them. They’ll ask for money for medical bills, bail or travel expenses, claiming they were in an accident or placed under arrest or need to get home. In some cases, the fraudster will put someone else on the phone to impersonate an authority figure such as a police officer, lawyer or other government official.
What they ask for
The scammers may ask you to withdraw money from your account and send it to an unknown account via wire transfer. They may even send a courier to pick up a cheque directly from your home.
How to protect yourself
Scammers will use emotional manipulation to tug at your heartstrings and really make you think you have a grandchild in distress. They are highly skilled at being evasive with details while simultaneously convincing you to send money without checking if what they are saying is true. Their goal is to make you panic into making a rushed decision. Some things you can do to protect yourself and your money:
- Ask for a phone number you can call back, then call the known number for your grandchild to verify the situation.
- Never give our your personal, banking or credit card information. When you are asked “Do you know who this is?” simply answer “no”.
- Ask for details. Fraudsters will not have clear details about the situation and will likely stumble over their words when you ask questions.
- Be wary when asked to buy a gift card. This is a preferred method of fraudulently getting funds and is untraceable. A government agency will never ask for a gift card as a form of payment.
Scammers are trained to use every method of manipulation to encourage you to send money. Their goal is to keep you on the phone, escalating the situation and your emotions so you feel pressured into helping. Do not try to engage in a conversation. The best course of action is to hang up and contact a family member to find out the truth.
Service-tech support scams
How it starts
This kind of scam involves the caller alerting you to an issue with your computer or internet service. The fraudster will tell you they are acting as a representative of a large software company. They’ll inform you they have “detected” security issues with your computer, or have “confirmed” your internet has been breached and all your passwords may have been compromised. The fraudsters can frequently “spoof” the phone number of a major corporation, so you call display will show the company name or a legitimate phone number from the software company.
What they ask for
These scammers want access to your computer. Using remote access, they can make it appear as if your computer is experiencing problems. Alternatively, scammers might initiate contact by displaying fake error messages or pop-ups on websites you are trying to visit. These fake errors are meant to entice you to call their fake “technical support hotline”, allowing them to access your computer and steal your private information. They use lots of technical terms to convince you that the problems with your computer are real. They may ask you to open some files or run a scan on your computer. The fraudsters will offer solutions to your problems and ask for a payment or a subscription to their service to prevent further issues.
How to protect yourself
If the caller says they have detected a problem with your computer, hang up. Do not give out your credit card number. Do not call the number that pops up on your computer screen, since this is how the scammers will gain access to your computer.
How it starts
The fake prize scam usually starts with a phone call, email or pop-up on your computer telling you that you haven a significant prize. Also called a sweepstakes or lottery scam, these fraudsters also use text messages to let you know you’ve won a big prize, with a link to follow in order to claim your prize. The scammers usually tell you they are calling from a well-known lottery, or a “national sweepstakes bureau” in order to gain your confidence that what they are saying is credible.
What they ask for
These scammers want your money and your credit card. In some cases, they will tell you in order to claim your prize, you have to pay a small administrative fee, or shipping costs, or taxes on the prize. They may ask that you go to your bank, get a bank draft or a cashier’s cheque and wait for their courier service to pick it up at your home. Fraudsters will use language to pressure you too make a rushed decision, to act fast before someone else claims the “prize”.
How to protect yourself
You never have to pay for a prize you’ve won. No credible lottery or sweepstakes will contact you with a demand for payment. If you are unsure, hang up, and call the real company and ask for clarification. Never call a number sent to you blindly in a text message, an email, or a pop-up.
For more information about recent scams and tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's website.
It's understandable that as adult children, we may not fully appreciate the sentimental value that our parents attach to certain possessions, yet it's so very important to recognize that these items may represent cherished memories, milestones, and accomplishments for our parents. As they age and face the inevitability of their own mortality, it's natural for them to reflect on their lives and the legacy they will leave behind.
By holding onto these items, our parents may feel that they are preserving a part of their own personal history, and passing down a piece of their story to future generations. As their children, it's important to be respectful and understanding of this emotional attachment, and to approach the process of downsizing or cleaning out their home with compassion and sensitivity.
When my parents were moving from their condo to a retirement home, although they had already downsized from a larger home, the upcoming move meant more sorting and purging of items. I recall that my mom was very disappointed that I had no interest in taking some of her pot lids. Of all things - pot lids! She told me they had belonged to her mother and that when she used them, or even looked at the lids, they were reminders of her mother. I felt no need at all to keep them to hold on to memories of my mom, or my grandmother. To me, these items were old, bashed and served no purpose in my life. In my mind, they were junk and in fact, ended up being thrown away.
Several years later, my dad was doing the same with things that meant a lot to him - all kinds of trinkets and other stuff he had collected over the years. Of these the one that stands out the most to me was a collection of lapel pins. All of these items had little meaning to me, but certainly were very meaningful to him.
I wish now that I had been more understanding and had realized what those conversations were really all about - or should have been about.
One way to approach this situation is to try to understand the meaning behind each item and have an open and honest conversation with our parents about why these possessions are important to them. By doing so, we can gain a deeper understanding of their personal history and values, and find ways to honour their legacy and memory that are meaningful to both them and us. It's important to remember that our parents' belongings may represent more than just physical objects, but rather a connection to their past, their identity, and their sense of purpose in life.
It's also important to recognize that our parents' attachment to certain possessions may not always be practical, but it is deeply emotional and tied to their memories and sense of self. As we grow older and face our own mortality, we may find ourselves valuing different things than we did in our younger years, and may come to cherish the sentimental connections we have to certain possessions.
When helping our parents downsize or move, approach the process with empathy and patience. Allow them the time they need to sort through their belongings and reminisce about their past. By encouraging them to share their stories and memories, we can not only help them to process the emotions tied to their possessions, but also gain a deeper understanding of their personal history and values.
In the end, it's not about the physical objects themselves, but rather the emotional connections and memories they represent. By honouring these connections and respecting our parents' attachment to their possessions, we can help them to feel valued and loved, and ensure that their legacy and memory are preserved for generations to come.
Moving to a new home can be exhausting at any age. For boomers and seniors, moving can take more than just a physical toll, it can trigger emotions such as grief and sadness. Later-in-Life moves don’t have to come with stress and overwhelm. If you take the time to plan ahead, determine what is right for you and explore all your options, you will be well-equipped to take on a later-in-life move.
If you follow these six simple steps to downsizing, you can map out your journey and your move. Whatever you decide about your later-in-life move, you can count on me to be beside you every step of the way.
1. Should I Stay or Should I Go?
There are some very important questions you need to answer before you make the choice to move.
- Do I have problems going up or down the stairs?
- Do I need held doing things such as dressing, walking, bathing?
- Is my house just too big for me?
- Can I financially carry the house expenses?
- Is the house a safe environment for me?
- Do I have family or friends nearby?
- Do I truly enjoy my home?
You can get the full checklist here.
A useful exercise is taking the time to create a list of reasons to stay in your home and explore the benefits of going someplace else.
2. Know Your Options
The choices for where you can spend the next stage of your life are vast. Before you make any final decisions, consider the following:
- Are you and your spouse ready for a new community?
- Do you want to continue your vibrant and active lifestyle?
- Are your adult children encouraging you to downsize or move?
If you are just starting to navigate the world of adult communities and senior living, it can be a confusing journey. There are so many different options to consider for your next stage of life, so choosing the right home for now and for your future is critical.
Some of the options you can explore:
- Ageing in place
- Downsizing to a smaller house or condo
- Retirement Residences
- Sell ‘n Stay™
- Rental Suites
Remember, moving does not mean you're compromising your freedom or independence.
3. Involve Your Family in the Conversation
A family meeting is a wonderful way to share that you’ve made the the decision to move. Use this as an opportunity to bring your loved ones together to share your wishes and plans with your very important people. Plan to have the conversation outside of the normal celebrations. Make it a special event on its own.
Some ways you can make this a positive experience for everyone:
- Tell your family members the purpose of the meeting ahead of time.
- Express your reasons for the move.
- Ask for their input and support.
- Invite them to participate in any upcoming tours.
Like you, they have strong emotional ties to the family home and should be made aware of your plans. It's essential that they understand what matters to you, but ultimately, this is your decision and you are making the right choice for you.
4. Get Your Home Ready for Sale
Before your home goes on the market, you should take some initial steps to get it ready.
There are certain ways to get your house in good shape and ready to sell. A coat of fresh paint goes a long way to update and brighten your home. Decluttering and clearing counters can make a kitchen appear larger. Pulling weeds or adding plants indoors can change curb appeal or make the home more inviting. You don't have to undertake major renovations to get your home ready for sale. Minor adjustments -indoors and out - can make your home appealing to buyers.
Downsizing inevitably requires you to sort through all your possessions, and decluttering is much more manageable if you tackle it bit-by-bit over time. You have a home full of memories and many of the items within its walls are attached to those memories.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to start, consider hiring a decluttering specialist. They can help you make decisions about what you want to and can keep and what to let go.
A good place to start is by making decisions about what to keep, what to pass on to family, what to sell and what to donate.
6. Claim Your Free Comprehensive Guide
Making the decision to downsize is not easy. It can be an overwhelming process, filled with fear and uncertainty. But it doesn't have to be that way.
As a Lifestyle 55+ Master and Senior Real Estate Specialist, I am here to offer my support and my services. I am pleased to offer you The Ultimate Senior’s Guide to Downsizing, a comprehensive document that helps you plan, map, and assess your future move. You can count on me to help you navigate the next stage of life without compromising your independence and all that is important to you.
Get the Ultimate Downsizing Guide here.
Last year, one factor drove the real estate market more than any other: rising mortgage rates.
In March 2022, the Bank of Canada began a series of interest rate hikes in an effort to pump the brakes on inflation. And while some market sectors have been slow to respond, the housing market has reacted accordingly.
Both demand and home prices have softened, as the primary challenge for buyers has shifted from availability to affordability. And although this higher-mortgage rate environment has been a painful adjustment for many Canadians, it should ultimately lead to a more stable and sustainable real estate market.
So what can we expect in 2023? Will mortgage rates continue to climb? Could home prices come crashing down? While no one can forecast the future with certainty, here’s what several industry experts predict will happen to the Canadian housing market in the coming year.
MORTGAGE RATES WILL EVENTUALLY STOP CLIMBING
Over the course of 2022, we saw the benchmark rate rise at a record pace—a whopping 400 basis points in just nine months. Fortunately, there are signs that the central bank’s series of rate hikes may be coming to an end.
After last month’s half-point rate increase, Bank of Canada officials struck a noncommittal tone about future rate hikes, prompting economists to speculate that the central bank may pause hiking rates by early spring, if not sooner.
According to Stephen Brown, a senior economist at Capital Economics, the central bank is likely to hike rates at least one more time before it shifts gears. “We would not rule out a final 25 basis point interest rate hike in January,” said Brown in a client note. “But the Bank is very close to the end of its tightening cycle.”
What impact will this have on mortgage rates? Variable mortgage rates could finally stabilize. However, buyers hoping for a big drop later in the year may be disappointed. Although some market analysts are betting on lower rates, CIBC economist Benjamin Tal thinks that's unlikely as long as inflation remains a factor. “I think that the Bank of Canada is determined to make sure that they will not touch interest rates in terms of cutting them before inflation is totally dead,” said Tal in an interview with Canadian Mortgage Professional.
Fixed mortgage rates, on the other hand, could continue to trend lower as bond yields crumble. James Laird, co-CEO of Ratehub.ca, predicts that Bank of Canada’s benchmark rate will hold steady through 2023, but fixed mortgage rates may tick down because of bonds. “Bond yields will decrease throughout the year, allowing fixed rates to follow suit,” said Laird in an interview with Canadian Mortgage Professional. However, those rate decreases may be fairly muted as long as banks’ borrowing costs stay higher overall.
It's also possible that rates on both variable and fixed-rate mortgages will climb instead. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem has made clear that the central bank is prepared to keep hiking rates aggressively if inflation fails to dissipate. “If high inflation sticks, much higher interest rates will be required to restore price stability,” said Macklem in a recent speech to business leaders.
What does it mean for you? While no one can predict the future of mortgage rates with certainty, an end to interest rate hikes could bring some much-needed relief for borrowers. If you have plans to buy a home or renew your mortgage in the coming year, you’ll want to weigh your options carefully when deciding between a variable or fixed rate. Reach out for a referral to a mortgage professional who can help.
BUYERS WILL RETURN TO THE MARKET
The pace of home sales fell steeply last year as higher mortgage rates priced would-be buyers out of the market. However, some industry experts predict that the Canadian housing market is poised to turn a corner.
Although many buyers and sellers are currently in a stalemate over housing prices, market dynamics may shift this spring as more homes go up for sale.
“Zooming in on demand and supply conditions, the drop in unit sales has been the steepest on record, but the pace of the decline is starting to slow,” write CIBC economists, Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge, in a recent forecast. Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, projects that existing home sales will fall through the first half of 2023 and then reverse course and begin to rise in Q3.
Victor Tran, mortgage expert at Ratesdotca, also speculates that a stabilization in mortgage rates will bring home buyers back out. He told the Financial Post in a December interview: “We may be seeing the bottom of the housing market trough before buyers begin to enter the market in spring of 2023.”
Buyers’ purchasing power will still be constrained by higher mortgage rates, though, as well as by a stringent mortgage stress test for uninsured mortgages and a hefty monthly payment for insured ones. So a buyer’s ability to participate in the market will depend, in part, on a seller’s willingness to negotiate.
What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer who has been waiting for conditions to normalize, now may be an ideal time to start your home search. As more buyers begin to enter the market, you’ll face steeper competition and reduced negotiating power.
And if you’ve delayed selling your home, this could be the year to make a move. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and home value assessment.
HOME PRICES WILL STABILIZE LATER THIS YEAR
Canadian home prices have fallen roughly 10% from their peak, and analysts expect they could fall further before moderating in the second half of this year.
A Reuters poll of industry experts found a wide range of predictions. But on average, the analysts surveyed project that home prices could fall another 7.5% or so. However, the majority report that the risk of a market crash is low.
A nationwide housing shortage is expected to prop up prices even as sales volume falls. According to Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, “We have a unique situation where demand has cracked and buyers can’t qualify for, or afford, early-year prices. But, outside some areas, there’s not a bounty of listings to choose from, and sellers are still able to say ‘no thanks.’”
Economists at CIBC speculate that home prices will hit a floor in the coming months: “A lower 5-year rate and pent-up demand amplified by demographics will work to establish a bottom in prices by the spring of 2023,” write Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge.
RBC Assistant Chief Economist Robert Hogue offers a similar projection: “We expect prices will keep falling until a bottom [this] spring. Our forecast calls for the national benchmark price to drop 14% from (quarterly) peak to trough.”
What does it mean for you? It can feel scary to buy a home when there’s uncertainty in the market. However, real estate is a long-term investment that has been shown to appreciate over time. And keep in mind that the best bargains are often found in a slower market, like the one we’re experiencing right now. Contact me to discuss your goals and budget. I can help you make an informed decision about the right time to buy.
RENT PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO CLIMB
While home prices have fallen, rent prices have surged—rising around 12% year-over-year, according to data from Rentals.ca.
The average monthly cost to rent a home in Canada is now higher than ever and some analysts are growing increasingly concerned that renters won't be able to keep up with the higher payments. “We're getting close to a point where rents are just simply becoming unaffordable for renters,” said Urbanation president, Shaun Hildebrand, to CBC News.
But that's not stopping landlords from collecting higher rents. In 2023, affordability challenges for would-be buyers, inflationary pressures, and an overall lack of housing are expected to continue driving up rent prices in much of the country.
“Interest rates are actually working to elevate rent inflation because many people are not buying, so they are renting more,” CIBC Economist Benjamin Tal told CBC News.
And according to Tal, the higher rates have also disincentivized builders and developers from investing in rental properties. That, in turn, has exacerbated the under-supply of available units.
It's possible rent prices could ease if Canada's economy deteriorates, says Urbanation's Hildebrand. “But over the medium and longer term with aggressive immigration targets and rental construction that's been stalling recently due to high costs, it's pretty clear that rents are going to continue to rise higher.”
What does it mean for you? Rent prices are expected to keep climbing. But you can lock in a set mortgage payment and build long-term wealth by putting that money toward a home purchase instead. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your options.
And if you’re planning to sell this year, you’ll want to chart your path carefully to maximize your profits. Contact me for recommendations and to find out your home’s market value.
I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate forecasts can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. Local market experts can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighbourhood.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2023, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.
Over the past few years, a real estate buying frenzy bid up home prices to eye-popping amounts. However, as mortgage rates have risen, buyer demand has cooled. Consequently, home sellers who enter the market today may need to reset their expectations.
The reality is, it’s no longer enough to stick a “for sale” sign in the yard and wait for buyers to bang down the door. If you want to net the most money possible for your property in today’s market, you’ll need an effective game plan and a skilled team of professionals to implement it.
Fortunately, I’ve developed a listing strategy that combines my proven approach to preparation, pricing, and promotion—all designed to help you get top dollar for your home. But you will play an important role in the selling process, as well.
Here are some crucial steps you can take to set yourself up for success as a home seller in this market:
- Make Strategic Repairs and Improvements
When you sell something, it’s important to consider what your customer wants to buy. And according to a recent survey, 83% of Canadians view “affording necessary renovations” as a major hurdle to buying a home. If you can present buyers with a move-in-ready option, they will feel more confident in making an offer.
Before your home goes on the market, we’ll conduct a thorough walk-through to identify any problems that could prevent it from selling. In some cases, I may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. Finding and addressing issues like leaks, rot, and foundation problems up front can pay off in the final sale price. Plus, it prevents sales from falling through because of a red flag on the home inspection, a scenario no seller wants to face.
Beyond repairs, I’ll also help you identify the simple upgrades that offer the highest return on your investment. For example, new paint can give your home a fresh look at a reasonable cost. And according to a recent report, it’s one of the top renovations for return at resale. Similarly, minor landscaping improvements can pay off in a major way. A healthy lawn offers an estimated 256% ROI.
2. Declutter and Depersonalize
This is high on my list of ways to create appeal. When buyers look at a home for sale, they’re trying to envision themselves living there. That’s hard to do if it’s chock-full of the current owner’s family photos, children’s artwork, and souvenir collections. Plus, cluttered homes look smaller, and older items can make them feel dated.
Decluttering before you put your home up for sale will help you in the long run—after all, you’ll need to move all your things to your new home eventually. Now is the time to shred, digitize, or organize old documents, donate old clothes, or move bulky furniture into storage. At a minimum, you’ll want to pack away excess items neatly before potential buyers view the home. Remove personal photos and other trinkets to create a blank slate that viewers can imagine decorating with their own prized possessions.
If you feel overwhelmed by this process, I’d be happy to make recommendations or refer you to a local service provider who can help.
3. Stage Your Home for Success
Just as you take care to dress professionally for a job interview, you should always ensure your home looks its best for potential buyers. Like it or not, home shoppers today are used to scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, and they want to see the same wow factor when touring a home.
The process of making your home look its best and appeal to potential buyers is called staging, and it can be a game changer. According to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, an average priced staged home sells 5 to 11 times faster than its unstaged counterpart. Even better, the majority of staged homes sell for 4% to 20% over list price!
It’s also important to consider what buyers in your neighbourhood are likely to be looking for in a home. I will the staging choices with local market insights. For example, in neighbourhoods where a large share of residents work from home, it may be effective to stage one room as an office space so potential buyers can envision their day-to-day routine.
4. Prep for Each Showing
Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect that (sometimes messy) reality. But when your home is on the market, it’s important to ensure that it is ready for viewers, even on short notice. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home!
Before your home hits the market, it may be worth hiring professional cleaners to get in all the nooks and crannies. After, try your best to keep things spic and span. Just a few minutes a day wiping down counters, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming can make a big difference.
It’s also worth noting that most buyers will open cabinets, drawers, and closets—so try to make sure everything is as neat and organized as possible. Keep toiletries and small appliances off countertops, and secure valuables and sensitive documents in a safe or off-site. In today's market, average days on market has increased. Be prepared for a bit of a longer haul.
Want help finding a cleaning service to make your home shine for buyers? Reach out for a referral!
5. Price Your Home Correctly From the Start
In the past few years, you may have seen homes in your neighbourhood sell for shocking amounts and wondered if you could get a similar price for your property. The temptation to list your home on the high side can be strong, but it’s best to be realistic from the start. Even in a strong market, some homes will sit for months. And the longer a property is listed, the more buyers worry that something is wrong with it.
Of course, you also don’t want to set your price too low and lose out on potential profit. That’s why it’s essential to work with real estate agents (like me!) who knows the ins and outs of our local market and what buyers are willing to pay today. In a quickly-evolving market, comparable sales from a few months ago can lag the current market reality.
Fortunately, if you’ve owned your home for several years, chances are good that it’s worth much more today than you paid for it. That means you stand to walk away with a handsome profit.
6. Avoid Acting on Emotion
The past few years of over-asking-price offers with few conditions have set certain expectations for many sellers. It’s only natural to feel hurt or even offended if an offer comes in lower than what you think your home is worth.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that those market conditions were unprecedented, and we are now returning to a more typical market. Home sellers who act rationally, rather than emotionally, are going to get the best results.
Remember: You can always counter a low offer. The same goes for repair requests and conditions—everything is negotiable. However, it’s important to accept that the market is adjusting and flexibility is key. Keep your expectations reasonable, and remain open-minded. And you can rest assured knowing that I’ll be by your side every step of the way to help you navigate the process and negotiate a great deal.
7. Work With a Local Market Expert
The economics impacting mortgage rates may be national, but real estate markets are hyperlocal. That’s why working with a professional agent who understands your neighbourhood’s dynamics is essential. Through experience, we’ve gathered insights that can help us position your home for success in this market. Plus, we have the resources to connect with qualified buyers searching for a home like yours.
Working with a knowledgeable agent is also the secret to getting as much money as possible for your home. We have access to extensive data on recent sales in your neighbourhood, which we use to price and promote your property. That’s one reason why homes sold by agents draw much higher prices than those sold by their owners alone. The U.S.-based National Association of Realtors found that for-sale-by-owner homes went for a median price of $260,000 in 2020, while the median for homes sold by agents was $318,000. That’s a difference of $58,000—and money you don’t want to leave on the table.
YOUR AGENT AND ADVOCATE
Selling a home in a changing market can be stressful. You’re likely to hear conflicting advice and opinions from people in your life, and decisions like what colour to paint your front door or how much to list your home for can be overwhelming.
That’s where I come in. The market may be adjusting, but I'm here to help you make the most of it. As a listing expert I know what steps you need to take for a smooth, profitable transaction.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home, I invite you to reach out to schedule a free consultation. I'm happy to talk through your specific situation and goals and help you identify your next steps.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.