Advice to tips and advice to improve your finances and long term goals

6 Strategies to Save on Home Insurance Premiums

  •  Sunday, April 7, 2024
  •  Marion Goard

From extreme cold to wildfires and floods, the past few years have brought a historic number of devastating climate and weather events to Canada. In 2023 alone, unusually harsh weather and a string of natural disasters caused more than $3.1 billion in insured damages, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, making it the fourth most expensive weather year on record.

These events delivered a huge influx of home insurance claims, and analysts expect the increase in both catastrophes and claims to continue. Adding to the problem, construction labour and supply costs have risen, making it more expensive to repair affected homes. Consequently, homeowners' insurance rates have surged: In 2024, My Choice Financial reports that premiums are already up 7.66% since last year and are likely to climb further still.2,3   

In disaster-prone regions, the situation is even more challenging. According to Public Safety Canada, flooding is especially common now, accounting for roughly $2.9 billion a year in residential damages. Yet, a rising number of Canadian homes are located in areas so flood-prone that owners can't get affordable protection.4,2

For most homeowners, comprehensive home insurance coverage is crucial for financial security—but massive rate increases can turn a once-affordable home into a financial burden. They can also pose a serious challenge for sellers. Although homebuyers who are willing to risk inadequate coverage may be able to skip optional add-ons, such as flood protection, a standard home insurance policy is still required for most mortgages. In some hard-hit regions, we’re also seeing homes sit longer on the market or decline in value because climate risks are higher.5,6

But don’t panic! While these broader trends may be out of your control, there’s still plenty you can do to save. Here are our top six strategies to slash insurance premiums while maintaining the protection you need. 

      1.   INCREASE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE

The size of your deductible—which is the amount you pay before your insurance coverage kicks in on a claim—is a major factor in your insurance cost.

A low deductible, such as $500, comes with higher premiums, while a higher deductible, like $2,500 or even $5,000, costs less on a monthly basis. In some cases, you may be able to customize your insurance further by designating a different deductible for add-on coverage.

If you are confident that you have enough in savings to cover that initial outlay if needed, choosing a higher deductible can help you save significantly over the long term. According to Ratehub, raising your deductible from $500 to $5,000, for example, could save you an estimated 15% each year.7

      2.    BUNDLE MULTIPLE TYPES OF INSURANCE

Insurers want to get as much of your business as possible, so most offer significant discounts if you bundle your home and auto insurance, meaning that you package the two policies together. With some insurers, you can get even higher savings by bundling more than home and auto—RV, boat, jewelry, and life insurance are potential options to consider. 

According to Ratehub, insurers typically offer customers who bundle home and auto insurance up to 25% or more in savings on monthly premiums. This approach also has other advantages: It cuts down on your paperwork, and in some cases—like if a storm damages both your home and car—you may be able to pay just one deductible instead of two when you file a claim.

However, before you sign on the dotted line, remember strategy #1 and be sure to shop around. In some cases, bundling isn’t the cheaper option, and bundling deals vary between companies. It’s also critical to carefully check that the bundled coverage offers everything you need.

      3.    ASK ABOUT AVAILABLE DISCOUNTS

Did you know that being a non-smoker might qualify you for a home insurance discount?9 Some insurers offer some surprising incentives for policyholders who pose a statistically lower risk of filing a claim. In the case of non-smokers, that’s because of the decreased risk of a home fire.

Some carriers also offer discounts to first-time homebuyers, “mature” homeowners, or affiliated group members, such as college alumni or union workers. Sometimes, you can also save by upgrading your home's protective systems, paying off your mortgage, or paying your premiums for a full year upfront.

Since available discounts vary significantly between insurers, the best strategy is to simply ask a representative for the full list of available discounts so you can see what cost savings might be available to you.

      4.    AVOID MAKING SMALL CLAIMS

Worried that your premiums will rise significantly in the future? Try to avoid making a claim unless truly necessary. Many insurers offer discounted rates to policyholders who go a certain number of years without filing a claim, and filing multiple claims often results in big increases. If you file too many, you may even risk nonrenewal of your policy.10,11

Since the cost of even a small premium increase can add up significantly over time, if you have minor damage to your home—for example, if a few shingles blew off your roof in a windstorm—it may be a wiser long-term financial decision to pay out of pocket instead of filing a claim.

If the cost of the repair is less than your deductible, it never makes sense to file, and if it’s just slightly above your deductible, it’s also usually best to pay for the repairs yourself. Additionally, always be sure to review your policy before you make a claim. Even claims that are denied can count against you, so it’s not worth filing if the damage is clearly excluded from coverage.11 

If you find yourself in this situation, feel free to reach out for a list of reasonably-priced professionals who can help with home repairs.

      5.    BE STRATEGIC ABOUT HOME IMPROVEMENTS

Insurance premiums alone may not be the deciding factor for a home improvement project, but it’s important to know how renovations could impact your rates—for better or worse.

For example, some upgrades and repairs can reduce your premiums by making your home safer or less prone to certain types of damage. These include:10

  • Upgrading your electrical system
  • Updating your plumbing
  • Installing a monitored security system
  • Investing in a sewer backup valve and sump pump
  • Replacing the roof

On the other hand, some upgrades can raise premiums significantly, either because they increase the value of your home (and therefore the cost to replace it) or because they pose a hazard. These include:12

  • Installing a swimming pool or other water features
  • Building an extension or expanding your living space
  • Upgrading materials, like flooring or countertops
  • Adding a fireplace or wood stove

Whether or not your planned renovations are on either of these lists, it’s wise to inform your insurer about changes you make to your home—otherwise, you may risk gaps in coverage. And you’re always welcome to check with me before you begin any home improvement project to find out how it could impact the value and resale potential of your home.

BOTTOMLINE: Protect Your Investment Without Sacrificing Enjoyment of Your Home

Getting the coverage you need for financial security without overpaying can be a tricky balance, especially in today’s environment. But remember, while it’s important to find the best deal you can, home insurance isn’t an area to skimp on. 

For advice on your specific risks and the type of coverage you need, I recommend consulting with a knowledgeable insurance professional. I'm happy to connect you with a trusted adviser in my network. And if you’re considering a home renovation, feel free to reach out for a free consultation on how it might affect your property value.  

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, insurance, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Insurance Bureau of Canada -
    https://www.ibc.ca/news-insights/news/severe-weather-in-2023-caused-over-3-1-billion-in-insured-damage 
  2. MoneySense - https://www.moneysense.ca/spend/insurance/home-insurance/how-climate-change-affects-home-insurance/ 
  3. My Choice Financial - https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/home-insurance-rates-increase-7-66-in-canada-in-2024-876966380.html 
  4. Public Safety Canada -
    https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2023-nrp-pnr/index-en.aspx 
  5. Nerdwallet Canada -
    https://www.nerdwallet.com/ca/mortgages/what-is-home-insurance 
  6. Waterloo Climate Institute - https://uwaterloo.ca/climate-institute/news/homes-sell-82-cent-less-after-catastrophic-floods 
  7. Ratehub.ca -
    https://www.ratehub.ca/blog/how-home-insurance-deductibles-work/ 
  8. Ratehub.ca -
    https://www.ratehub.ca/insurance/home-and-auto-bundle 
  9. LowestRates.ca - https://www.lowestrates.ca/resource-centre/home-insurance/12-home-insurance-discounts-can-help-you-save-money
  10. MoneySense -
    https://www.moneysense.ca/spend/insurance/how-to-get-lower-home-insurance/ 
  11. Rates.ca -
    https://rates.ca/guides/home-insurance/claims
  12. CREA -
    https://www.creacafe.ca/can-housing-upgrades-affect-insurance/ 


Knowing the Signs to Avoid Fraud - Beware of Elder Scams

  •  Monday, April 3, 2023
  •  Marion Goard

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.

Grandparent scams

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. 

Fake prizes

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.


A Story About Pot Lids - and Self Preservation

  •  Wednesday, March 8, 2023
  •  Marion Goard

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.


6 Easy Steps to Downsizing

  •  Thursday, February 16, 2023
  •  Marion Goard

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.

5. Decluttering

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.


2023 Real Estate Outlook (And What It Means for You)

  •  Thursday, January 5, 2023
  •  Marion Goard

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.


7 Tips to Maximize Your Home's Sale Price

  •  Wednesday, November 9, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

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:

  

  1. 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.


8 Strategies to Secure a Lower Mortgage Rate

  •  Thursday, September 8, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

Interest rates have risen rapidly this year with the latest increase announced on September 7, 2022. These increases have been triggered by the Bank of Canada’s efforts to curb inflation. And the July MNP Consumer Debt Index found that 59% of Canadians “are already feeling the effects of interest rate increases.” 

Why has the impact been so widespread? In part, due to the rising popularity of variable rate mortgages. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in the latter half of last year, the majority of mortgage borrowers opted for a variable over a fixed interest rate.

Variable mortgages are typically pegged to the lender’s prime rate, which means they are immediately affected by rising interest rates. Homeowners with fixed mortgages aren’t impacted as quickly because their interest rate is locked in, but they will face higher rates, as well, when their mortgages are up for renewal. And many home-buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to afford or even qualify for a mortgage at today’s elevated rates.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to strengthen your position if you have plans to buy a home or renew an existing mortgage. Try these eight strategies to help secure the best available rate:

1. Raise your credit score.

Borrowers with higher credit scores are viewed as “less risky” to lenders, so they are offered lower interest rates. A “good” credit score typically starts at 660 and can move up into the 800s. If you don’t know your score, you can access it online from Canada’s primary credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Borrowell. 

Then, if your credit score is low, you can take steps to improve it, including:

  • Correct any errors on your credit reports, which can bring down your score. You can request free copies of your reports through the credit bureau websites. 
  • Pay down revolving debt. This includes credit card balances and home equity lines of credit.
  • Avoid closing old credit card accounts in good standing. It could lower your score by shortening your credit history and shrinking your total available credit.
  • Make all future payments on time. Payment history is a primary factor in determining your credit score, so make it a priority.
  • Limit your credit applications to avoid having your score dinged by too many inquiries. If you’re shopping around for a car loan or mortgage, minimize the impact by limiting your applications to a two-week period.

Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

2. Keep steady employment.

If you are preparing to purchase a home, it might not be the best time to make a major career change. Unfortunately, frequent job moves or gaps in your résumé could hurt your borrower eligibility. 

When you apply for a new mortgage, lenders will typically review your employment and income history and look for evidence that you've been financially stable for at least two years.6 If you’ve earned a steady paycheck, you could qualify for a better interest rate. A stable employment history gives lenders more confidence in your ability to repay the loan.

That doesn’t mean a job change will automatically disqualify you from purchasing a home. But certain moves, like switching from corporate employment to freelance or self-employment status, could force you to delay your purchase, since lenders will want to see proof of steady, long-term earnings. 

3. Lower your debt service ratios.

Even with a high credit score and a great job, lenders will be concerned if your debt payments are consuming too much of your income. That’s where your debt service ratios will come into play.

There are two types of debt service ratios:

  1. Gross debt service (GDS) — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering housing expenses (mortgage, property taxes, utilities, and 50% of condo maintenance fees)? 
  2. Total debt service (TDS) — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering ALL debt obligations (housing expenses, credit cards, student loans, and other debt)?

What’s considered a good debt service ratio? Lenders typically want to see a GDS ratio that’s no higher than 32% and a TDS ratio that’s 40% or less.7

Low debt service ratios will also help you pass a mortgage stress test, which is required by all Canadian banks and some other types of lenders. The stress test is designed to help ensure you can continue to afford your mortgage payments even if interest rates rise. You can use the government of Canada's Mortgage Qualifier Tool to calculate how much you can afford to borrow. 

If your debt service ratios are too high, or you can’t pass a mortgage stress test, you may need to consider purchasing a less expensive home, increasing your down payment, or paying down your existing debt. A bump in your monthly income will also help.

4. Increase your down payment.

Minimum down payment requirements vary by loan size and property type. But, in some cases, you can qualify for a lower mortgage rate if you make a larger down payment.

Why do lenders care about your down payment size? Because borrowers with significant equity in their homes are less likely to default on their mortgages. That’s why you will be required to purchase mortgage default insurance if you put down less than 20%. 

It’s important to note that some lenders offer discount rates for borrowers who put down less than 20% – because the required default insurance protects them from any potential loss. However, the cost of CMHC or private mortgage default insurance will typically exceed any interest savings. You'll also have to pay interest on that insurance if you add it to your mortgage. The bottom line: you’ll save money in borrowing costs if you can afford a larger down payment.

Fortunately, there are a couple of government-initiated resources designed to help eligible first-time home buyers with a down payment, including:

  • Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) – Buyers may withdraw up to $35,000 (tax-free) from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan(RRSP). The money must be used to build or purchase a qualifying home and repaid to the RRSP within 15 years.
  • First-Time Home Buyer Incentive – Buyers can take advantage of a shared-equity mortgage with the Government of Canada. Essentially, the Government will put 5% or 10% towards your down payment, interest-free, in exchange for a limited equity share of your property. The repayment is due in 25 years or when you sell your home. 

I’d be happy to discuss these and other programs, tax rebates, and incentives that might help you increase your down payment.

5. Weigh interest rate options.

All mortgages are not created equal, and some may be a better fit than others, depending on your priorities and risk tolerance. For starters, there are several interest rate options to choose from:1

  • Fixed — You’re guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire length of the loan. Many buyers prefer a fixed rate because it offers them predictability and stability. However, you’ll pay a premium for it, as these mortgages typically have a higher interest rate to start. And if rates fall, you’ll be locked into that higher rate.
  • Variable — Your interest rate will rise or fall along with your lender’s prime rate. You can choose either an adjustable or a fixed monthly payment. However, if you opt for a fixed payment, the amount that goes towards principal and interest each month will fluctuate depending on the current rate. Variable-rate mortgages typically offer lower interest rates to start but run the risk of increasing.
  • Hybrid – Can’t decide between a fixed or variable rate? Hybrid mortgages attempt to address that dilemma. A portion of the mortgage will have a fixed rate and the remainder will have a variable rate. The fixed gives you some protection if rates go up, while the variable offers some benefit if rates fall.

What’s the best choice if you’re looking for the lowest mortgage rate? The answer is…it depends. If mortgage rates don’t rise much higher, or drop back down in a couple of years, you could win by opting for a variable rate. However, if they continue to climb, you may be better off with a fixed rate.

Keep in mind that the spread between variable and fixed rates has narrowed as rates rise.  However, it's still easier to meet the stress-test requirements for a variable mortgage, since the threshold is lower. So, your choice may be limited by your ability to qualify.

6. Compare loan terms.

A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. At the end of the term, a mortgage holder will need to either pay off their mortgage or renew for another term.

There are three major types of mortgage terms:

  • Shorter-term – These can range from 6 months to 5 years, and they are the most popular type in Canada. Borrowers can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate.
  • Longer-term – These are longer than 5 years but generally no more than 10 years in length. Longer-term mortgages are more likely to feature fixed-interest rates and hefty prepayment penalties.
  • Convertible – Offers the option to extend a shorter-term mortgage to a longer-term mortgage, typically at a different interest rate.

Which loan term offers the lowest rate? A shorter-term mortgage will typically feature a lower interest rate than a longer-term mortgage. However, the rate on a 1-year or a 3-year mortgage could be higher or lower than a 5-year mortgage depending on the current economic climate and whether it’s fixed or variable. 

Many lenders offer especially attractive rates for 5-year mortgages due to their popularity. But to find the best rate, you’ll need to compare your options at the time of purchase or renewal.

7. Get quotes from multiple lenders.

When shopping for a mortgage, be sure to solicit quotes from several different lenders and lender types to compare the interest rates and fees. Depending upon your situation, you could find that one institution offers a better deal for the type of loan and term length you want.

Ideally, you should begin this process before you start looking for a home. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, in most cases, you can lock in the mortgage rate for 90 to 120 days. This is especially important when interest rates are rising.

Some borrowers choose to work with a mortgage broker. Like an insurance broker, they can help you gather quotes and find the best rate. They’re paid a commission by the lender, so it won’t cost you anything out of pocket to use a broker. However, make sure you find out which lenders they work with and contact more than one so you can compare their recommendations.

Don’t forget that I can be a valuable resource in finding a lender, especially if you are new to the home buying process. After a consultation, we can discuss your financing needs and connect you with loan officers or brokers best suited for your situation.

8. Ask for a discount.

When shopping for a mortgage, don’t be afraid to negotiate. In Canada, it’s commonplace for lenders to discount their advertised interest rates, which are called posted rates. And in many cases, all you have to do is ask. Of course, the strength of your application will come into play here – so don’t neglect strategies 1 through 4 above.

Keep in mind that interest rates aren’t the only thing on the table. You can negotiate other contract terms, as well, like prepayment options and rebates. And if you get a great offer from one lender, you can leverage it by asking your preferred institution to match or beat it.

Getting Started

Unfortunately, the rock-bottom mortgage rates we saw during the height of the pandemic are behind us. However, today’s 5-year fixed rates still fall beneath the historical average — and are well below the all-time peak of 20.75% in 1981.

And although higher mortgage rates have made it more expensive to finance a home purchase, they have also ushered in a more balanced market. Consequently, today’s buyers are finding more homes to choose from, a better value for their investment, and sellers who are willing to negotiate.

If you have questions or would like more information about buying or selling a home, reach out to schedule a free consultation. I’d love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!


Finding a New Home for Your Next Stage of Life

  •  Wednesday, September 7, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical. A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase. 

While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbour’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.

The Newly Married or Partnered Couple

The financial and legal commitment of both traditional and common-law marriage has provided a springboard to home-ownership for centuries. And while the average age of first marriage in Canada is around 30, the average age of first home purchase has shifted even later to 36. No matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider when you are ready to enter into your first home purchase together.

Affordability is Key

There’s no doubt about it—with home prices that just keep climbing, many first-time buyers feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to home-ownership. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s relatively low mortgage rate environment. 

While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors. In fact, that’s a popular approach for first-time home-buyers to take. Fifty percent of first-time Canadian buyers report that they plan to eventually upgrade to a larger home. 

Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launch-pad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up in the future if your needs change.

Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates

Canadian mortgage rates hit record lows in summer 2020, and while they are now rising, it is still an ideal time to purchase your first home together.  A lower interest rate can save you a bundle over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money. 

But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 35% of your limit can go a long way. But if that’s not enough to raise your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.

Commute and Lifestyle Considerations

Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. There are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship. 

Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? I can match you with some great neighbourhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability.

 

The Growing Family 

Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,200 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family. 

The Importance of School Districts

For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, homebuyers report that schools are one of their top concerns. Of course, homes in the best-rated districts tend to be more expensive and harder to nab. But when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.

When you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings don't tell the whole story. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a game-changer. I don’t just work in this community; I know it inside and out.

Lifestyle Considerations

For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself). 

A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably. 

Functionality

Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day routines. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.

Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. I can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.

The Empty Nesters 

When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer with young kids is most likely to trade up to a larger home, older buyers often sell the family home and move into a smaller, less expensive home. In fact, more than half of Canadian Baby Boomers consider the area where they live too expensive for retirement.

Maintenance and Livability

What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. It’s not surprising that condos are among the most popular types of homes for Baby Boomers given they require less upkeep than single-family homes.

Lifestyle Considerations

Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless. 

Ability to Age in Place

Let’s face it—we can’t escape ageing. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be top-of-mind. This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of ageing) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.

Finding the Right Home for Right Now

One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In fact, the average Canadian homeowner will own 4.5 to 5.5 houses over their lifetime.8 At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.

Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, we’re here to help. Our insight into local neighbourhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. We’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so we know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but we’re here to support you every step of the way.


7 Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

  •  Sunday, July 10, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

No matter what’s going on in the housing market, the process of selling a home can be challenging. Some sellers have a hard time saying goodbye to a treasured family residence. Others want to skip ahead to the fun of decorating and settling in a new place. Almost all sellers want to make the most money possible. 

Whatever your circumstances, the road to the closing table can be riddled with obstacles — from issues with showings and negotiations to inspection surprises. But many of these complications are avoidable when you have a skilled and knowledgeable real estate agent by your side.

For example, here are seven common mistakes that many home sellers make. These can cause anxiety, cost you time, and shrink your financial proceeds. Fortunately, we can help you avert these missteps and set you up for a successful and low-stress selling experience instead.

MISTAKE # 1: Setting An Unrealistic Price

Many sellers believe that pricing their home high and waiting for the “right buyer” to come along will net them the most money. However, overpriced homes often sit on the market with little activity, which can be the kiss of death in real estate — and result in an inevitable price drop.

Alternatively, if you price your home at (or sometimes slightly below) market value, your home can be among the nicest that buyers have seen within their budget. This can increase your likelihood of receiving multiple offers.

To help you set a realistic price from the start, I will do a comparative market analysis, or CMA. This integral piece of research will help us determine an ideal listing price, based on the amount that similar properties have recently sold for in your area.

Without this data, you risk pricing your home too high (and getting no offers) or too low (and leaving money on the table). I can help you find that sweet spot that will draw in buyers without undercutting your profits.

MISTAKE #2: Trying To Time The Market

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “Buy low and sell high.” But when it comes to real estate, that’s easier said than done. 

Delaying your home sale until prices are at their peak may sound like a great idea. But sellers should keep these factors in mind:

  1. Predicting the market with certainty is nearly impossible.
  2. If you wait to buy your next home, its price could increase, as well. This may erode any additional proceeds from your sale.
  3. If mortgage rates are rising, your pool of potential buyers could shrink—and you will have to pay more to finance your next purchase.

Instead of trying to time the market, choose your ideal sales timeline, instead. This may be based on factors like your personal financial situation, shifting family dynamics, or the seasonal patterns in your particular neighbourhood. We can help you figure out the best time to sell given your individual circumstances.

 

MISTAKE #3: Failing To Address Needed Repairs 

Many sellers hope that buyers won’t notice their leaky faucet or broken shutters during a home showing. But minor issues like these can leave buyers worrying about more serious — and costly — problems lurking out of sight. 

Even if you do receive an offer, there’s a high likelihood that the buyer will hire a professional home inspector, who will flag any defects in their report. Neglecting to address a major issue could lead buyers to ask for costly repairs, money back, or worse yet, walk away from the purchase altogether.

To avoid these types of disruptions, it’s important to make necessary renovations before your home hits the market. I can help you decide which repairs and updates are worth your time and investment. In some cases, I may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. 

This extra time and attention can help you avoid potential surprises down the road and identify any major structural, system, or cosmetic faults that could impact a future sale.

MISTAKE #4:  Neglecting To Stage Your Home

Staging is the act of preparing your home for potential buyers. The goal is to “set the stage” for buyers to help them envision themselves living in your home. Some sellers opt to skip this step, but that mistake can cost them time and money in the long run. A 2021 survey by the Real Estate Staging Association found that, on average, staged homes sold nine days faster and for $40,000 over list price.

Indoors, staging could include everything from redecorating, painting, or rearranging your furniture pieces to removing personal items, decluttering, and deep cleaning. Outdoors, you might focus on power washing, planting flowers, or hanging a wreath on the front door.

You may not need to do all of these tasks, but almost every home can benefit from some form of staging. Before your home hits the market, I can refer you to a professional stager or offer insights and suggestions if you prefer the do-it-yourself route.


MISTAKE #5: Evaluating Offers On Price Alone

When reviewing offers, most sellers focus on one thing: the offer price. And while dollar value is certainly important, a high-priced offer is worthless if the deal never reaches the closing table. That’s why it’s important to consider other factors in addition to the offer price, such as:

  • Financing and buyer qualifications
  • Deposit size
  • Contract contingencies
  • Closing date

Depending on your particular circumstances, some of these factors may or may not be important to you. For example, if you’re still shopping for your next home, you might place a high premium on an offer that allows for a flexible closing date.

Buyers and their agents are focused on crafting a deal that works well for them. I can help you assess your needs and goals to select an offer that works best for you. 

MISTAKE #6: Acting On Emotion Instead Of Reason 

It’s only natural to grow emotionally attached to your home. That’s why so many sellers end up feeling hurt or offended at some point during the selling process. Low offers can feel like insults. Repair requests can feel like judgments. And whatever you do — don’t listen in on showings through your security monitoring system. Chances are, some buyers won’t like your decor choices, either!

However, it’s a huge mistake to ruin a great selling opportunity because you refuse to counter a low offer or negotiate minor repairs. Instead, try to keep a cool head and be willing to adjust reasonably to make the sale. I can help you weigh your decisions and provide rational advice with your best interests in mind.


MISTAKE #7: Not Hiring An Agent

There’s a good reason 90% of homeowners choose to sell with the help of a real estate agent. Homes listed by an agent sold for 22% more than the average for-sale-by-owner home, according to a recent US-based study.

Selling a home on your own may seem like an easy way to save money. But in reality, there is a steep learning curve. And a listing agent can: 

  • Skip past time-consuming problems 
  • Use market knowledge to get the best price
  • Access contacts and networks to speed up the selling process 

If you choose to work with a listing agent, you’ll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent’s commission.

I can navigate the ins and outs of the housing market for you and make your selling process as stress-free as possible. You may even end up with an offer for your home that’s better than you expected.

BYPASS THE PITFALLS WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE GUIDE

Your home selling journey doesn’t have to be hard. When you hire me as your listing agent, I’ll develop a customized sales plan to help you get top dollar for your home without any undue risk, stress, or aggravation. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, reach out today to schedule a free consultation and home value assessment.


Higher Rates and Short Supply: The State of Real Estate in 2022

  •  Monday, June 6, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

Canada's housing market hit a boiling point last year as homebuyers clambered for real estate in regions with significantly more demand than supply. But now that homeowners and buyers alike are feeling the pinch of rising interest rates and record inflation, the market appears to finally be simmering down.

That, in turn, could create a welcome opening for shoppers to be more selective with their searches. However, buyers hoping for a major downturn in prices may be left disappointed. Although home values in some segments are beginning to sag under the weight of higher borrowing costs, a persistent housing shortage is expected to keep prices high.

Read on for a closer look at some of the top factors impacting Canada's real estate market and how they could affect you. 

RISING MORTGAGE RATES ARE COOLING AN OVERHEATED MARKET

Over the past couple of years, home-buyers have faced record-high price appreciation and intense competition—in part due to historically low mortgage rates that were a result of the Bank of Canada’s efforts to keep the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), in 2021, both the number of sales and average home price hit at an all-time high, with demand for new homes far exceeding supply. This trend continued through early 2022, despite widespread predictions that the Bank of Canada was gearing up to increase interest rates.

But now that the central bank has officially begun pushing its key interest rate back up from emergency levels, the housing market is responding, with the pace of home sales cooling in March, April and May. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts that the housing market will continue to moderate in the coming year.

The feds plan to keep raising interest rates as necessary to fight inflation, which means target rates could rise by another 1 to 2% or more over the next year. That, in turn, will cause both fixed and variable mortgage rates to rise.

As Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Rogers noted in May: “We need higher rates to moderate demand, including demand in the housing market. Housing price growth is unsustainably strong in Canada.”

What does it mean for you?

If you’re shopping for a new home, expect mortgage rates to keep rising into 2024. So, you’ll need to act fast if you want to get in at a lower rate. However, the cooling effect should make for a less competitive market. I can help you chart the best path.

If you’ve been thinking about selling, higher mortgage rates may shrink your pool of potential buyers, so don’t wait too long to list. And if you are up for a renewal, you should also act quickly or risk paying a higher rate. Contact me to discuss your options.

DEMAND AND PRICES ARE STARTING TO SOFTEN IN SOME SEGMENTS

Nationally, home prices soared a record 26.6% last year, an unsustainable rate of appreciation by any measure. But now that the Bank of Canada has put rock-bottom rates in the rear view window, sales have begun to slow.

Soon after the Bank of Canada began raising interest rates in early March, the real estate market responded. According to the CREA, in March, home sales fell by 5.4% on a month-over-month basis and the Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) ticked up just 1%, “a marked slowdown from the record 3.5% increase in February.” 

By April, home sales dropped by another 12.6% over the previous month as homeowners and buyers continued adjusting to higher rates.. “Following a record-breaking couple of years, housing markets in many parts of Canada have cooled off pretty sharply over the last two months, in line with a jump in interest rates and buyer fatigue,” said CREA Chair Jill Oudil. Meanwhile, prices are still rising in some markets, but are sagging in others, causing the HPI to dip in April for the first time since 2020.

As the Bank of Canada continues pushing up rates, more buyers may give up on their home-ownership dreams if they feel too squeezed by the combination of high rates and high prices. Still, many experts say a major downturn in prices is unlikely. That's in part due to the fact that there still aren't enough homes available to meet the demands of a growing population, says CREA CEO Michael Bourque. “The supply of new homes is not even close to keeping up with demographic changes and population growth.” As long as housing remains a scarce asset, prices will remain relatively elevated.

What does it mean for you?

If you’ve been waiting to buy a home, now may be the perfect time to jump in the market. There are deals to be found if you know where to look. But don’t wait too long, or higher mortgage rates will erode any cost savings. I can help you find the best opportunities in today’s market.

For homeowners, the outlook is still bright. Governmental interventions are being put in place to stabilize the market–not crash it. And demand for housing and a strong job market should help protect your investment. 

INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT

According to the CMHC, housing starts trended higher in April after a small downturn in March. Overall, new homes are still being built at a faster clip today than in the past, but at a slower pace than we saw in 2021, noted CMHC Chief Economist Bob Dugan. Home-builders are facing a wide range of challenges, including persistent inflation, rising rates, and ongoing labour shortages.

Increased federal investment could help counteract at least some of those challenges. The federal government recently announced plans to help double the pace of housing construction over the next decade by funding significantly more new and affordable housing. It also announced additional relief measures, including a temporary ban on foreign investment, doubling first-time buyers' tax credit, and halting blind bidding wars.

In addition to fewer homes being built, new listings are also down, according to the CREA’s sales report. But a decrease in demand is offsetting the impact in some areas. “A little more than half of local markets were balanced markets…a little less than half were in seller's market territory.”

What does it mean for you?

While supply remains at historically low levels, even a modest bump in inventory can help take pressure off of buyers. If you’ve had trouble finding a home in the past, give me a call to discuss what we’re currently seeing in your target neighbourhood and price range.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s still a great time to sell and cash out those big equity gains. Contact me to find out how much your home is worth in today’s market.

I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate trends can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighbourhood.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home, contact me now to schedule a free consultation. I can help you assess your options and make the most of this unique real estate landscape.


Retirement Homes versus Long Term Care (Nursing) Homes

  •  Tuesday, May 10, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

With more than 32 percent of Canada’s population over the age of 55 (as of September 2021), it’s reasonable to expect that many of us in that demographic will be looking for alternative living arrangements sometime in the next 10 to 15 years.

For anyone just starting to navigate the world of adult communities and senior living, it can be a confusing journey. There are so many options available, so choosing the right home for now and for your future is critical. Senior living and care options come in various forms, but the most distinction needs to be made between how retirement homes and nursing homes, also known as long term care (or LTC), are very different.

It is crucial to understand what services each type of home can provide, who they cater to and what costs are involved. It’s also important to understand the process of securing space in either of these options. There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately, your decision will be based on your needs today, consideration for your future care, your desired lifestyle and financial situation.

Not only will the costs vary, the environments will be different in each. There will be variances in the level of care, the activities, and the living spaces. Be prepared to do some research, or talk to someone who specializes in senior moves.

Retirement Homes

Retirement homes are typically private, offering a variety of services and living arrangements. Many have suites, similar to condominiums although generally much smaller, allowing residents to maintain a certain lifestyle and enjoy their independence. Retirement homes usually work best for anyone who wants to maintain or build an active social life with other individuals in the same age group. They vary widely on what they offer and you’ll have to ask some questions and explore the options and add-ons which you might want or need. You’ll want to examine the fees to determine exactly what is included (such as food) and what à la carte services can be purchased as you need them (such as laundry and light housekeeping).

Retirement homes have become their own wonderful communities over the years, offering self-contained units where your privacy is paramount. Retirement homes have a large list of amenities at your disposal: 

  • Some or all of your meals
  • Planned activities on-site, such as yoga, musical programs and social activities
  • Regular outings (think field trips!) to various entertainment venues and shopping venues/malls
  • On-site health care staff
  • Weekly clinics and appointment for personal care, mental health, and medical check ups, including dental

Some retirement homes have guidelines around how long you can stay there. As your needs change, or in the event of a health crisis, the home may not be equipped to give you all the care you need. If the home cannot provide you with the services you need, you may find yourself at a loss. Be proactive and have a plan in place for future care and be prepared for another move should the retirement home be unable to provide services due to a change in your circumstances.

Most retirement homes will allow a short stay so you can test the lifestyle to ensure it's a for a good fit for you. You can book a tour to view the living options and amenities. If an offer to come for lunch is made, take advantage of this. It will give you a chance to meet some people and test the food yourself. Ask for a floor plan of the living space and an activity calendar to take home with you. Having the floor plan will help you plan where your furniture and belongings could be placed, should you decide to move. The activity calendar will give you a better idea of what is offered and can be a good indicator of what daily life might be like. 

Questions To Ask A Retirement Home

  • What floor plans are available?
  • Are there other locations within this chain?
  • Are meals included? How many?
  • Can I see some meal menus? How often do the menus change?
  • How, when and where are meals served? What happens if I don' like the food choices at any meal?
  • Are there options for additional care? What are the fees? What services must I outsource?
  • What kind of social events happen? Is there a schedule I can see?
  • How often do prices increase?
  • What is the policy for changing suites within the community?
  • What utilities are included?
  • What are some costs I may need to budget for?
  • Are there laundry services?
  • Which appliances are included in the suites?
  • What are the move-in rules?
  • What housekeeping services are provided? How often?
  • How many staff members are on duty at any given time? Are there medical staff on site?
  • How many residents/units are in the community?
  • Are pets allowed? Are there any restrictions?
  • What is the current availability? How quickly will I need to make a decision when a suitable suite becomes available? Is a deposit required?
  • Do you maintain waiting lists?

Long Term Care (Nursing) Homes

Nursing homes, also called long term care homes, or LTCs, are designed for people who need more support in their day-to-day care. Nursing homes in Ontario are government controlled, with placements into homes and access to community services controlled by Home and Community Care Support Services (formerly LHIN, or Local Health Integrated Network). This system is needs-based, meaning people are moved to nursing homes when their medical status deems it necessary. Throughout Ontario, waiting lists are long, and while you can choose 3 to 5 preferred homes, there is no guarantee that you will get space in a home of your choice.

Unlike retirement homes, where rates will vary depending on amenities, living spaces and services, the pricing at nursing homes is consistent. Because the costs are set by the Ministry of Long-Term care, everyone pays the same price, regardless of financial situation. At the time of writing (2022) the basic monthly costs are $1891.31 for a basic room  (shared with up to 4 beds), $2280.04 for semi-private, and $2701.61 for private. There is a government subsidy for basic rooms only available to those who qualify. Residents usually pay for any medications or other services not covered by their private insurance plans or the provincial drug benefit program.

Tips for Touring LTCs

  • Visit the facility on different days and at various times.
  • Take note of staff morale, resident activities and interactions between staff and residents.
  • Talk to nursing staff about how long they’ve worked there.
  • Ask to meet with the administrators.
  • Ask about staff-to-resident ratios.
  • Read and review the resident care plan.
  • Search online for reviews of your preferred LTCs.
  • Make note of how meals are served.
  • Pay attention to the level of functioning of current residents.
  • Look for activity boards or ask to see a list.

Whatever type of senior living facility you choose, your post-retirement life can be comfortable, safe, and enjoyable. Understanding your needs, priorities, and preferences is key to choosing an option that is best suited to you. If you are looking for an active environment, want to be surrounded by people your age, and want the flexibility to come and go as you please, a retirement home may be the right choice for you. And while a nursing home space is driven by a qualification process, you can be assured you’ll have access to care when you need it.

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent, I can walk you through the process of choosing the adult community that is right for you. When the time comes to make a move I can assist with the sale of your current home as well as offer some guidance on how to determine what furnishings and other goods you’d like to keep for your new residence. My goal is to provide you with all the specialized information and professional guidance in the most patient and caring way possible. I’ll work with you to create a personalized plan, to give you peace of mind and help you make the best decision possible.

For further resources, visit my resource page for Burlington retirement homes. 


Avoiding the Crises of a Sudden Move

  •  Thursday, March 3, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

Are you prepared to take action should an ageing parent suddenly need to move from their home? Most people have never had a conversation with their parents about what they see as their long-term living plan. With some careful planning and consideration you can certainly avoid having to make the decision of where to move mom or dad while in crisis mode.  Here are two very different client stories.

 

SEO Shopping:

Dad had a bad fall and sadly, passed away a few days later. We knew Mom couldn’t stay alone in the house. She was frail, had some dementia. Dad had been taking care of her for years, failing to truly address Mom’s physical and mental state. His thinking was that he would outlive her, so alternative living arrangements didn’t need to be addressed. After Dad’s passing, decisions for and about Mom had to be made quickly. How would she manage? Where would she live? How would we handle things?

Once we got over the shock of dad’s death and realized we needed to move quickly, mom went to live temporarily with a daughter in another city, in a less than ideal environment for her.  After mom and dad’s house was sold the attention turned to finding suitable accommodations for Mom. Without a network of friends who already had parents who were living in retirement homes, we did what most people would do: we turned to Google. We searched the internet for retirement homes close to our parents' neighbourhood, hoping Mom would feel more comfortable living in a community she was familiar with. We took space available at one of the retirement homes we found online. We made the choice without investigating all the options available to us.

In hindsight, we should have anticipated that our parents would have to move eventually. We should have encouraged them to take the time to consider some alternative housing options and even look for a home that could care for someone with dementia. We ended up picking a place without really having the opportunity for any due diligence, and quite likely the home with the best SEO (search engine optimization) and not the place best suited for Mom’s lifestyle and needs.

We regret not seeking help from someone like Marion. Her vast experience in helping seniors move, and her extensive knowledge of all the options, could have saved us the headache and heartache of making a rushed and uninformed choice.

 

A Family Affair:

After Mom, who is very spry and alert, had a fall, Mom knew herself that it would be best for her to move sooner than later to another location where other people were around and where she could find the support she needed. While the fall didn’t impact her physically very much, she knew this was another warning sign for the future.

As a family, we spoke about what mom wanted. These conversations can often be daunting and we anticipated some apprehension on her part, but we let her drive the conversation. We discussed some options in finding her a new place to live, taking a proactive approach to what her needs might be in the next five to ten years. Mom was fully on board and made the final decision herself. We had the luxury of planning the timeline and Mom moved on her terms,

We hired Marion to sell her condo and help facilitate the transition to a retirement residence. Marion was able to help us with many other services such as finding trusted professionals to help mom prepare for downsizing. The process was seamless, making it much easier for all of us. We can all rest assured that Mom will be in the perfect spot for her and the transition was made with minimal stress.

 

Marion’s Philosophy:

Moving onto the next home requires a holistic approach, something I proudly do every day. We need to assess the big picture: where you are now, where you see yourself in the future, what you anticipate you’ll need and how you want to live your life. Forward thinking about how you want to spend your days will be helpful in determining the right living arrangement. It’s also important to consider how long you’ll be able to live in your next home and/or whether it’s just a stepping stone to when your needs change. This is a process that takes time, but making informed decisions while you have the time removes the stress of having to make choices under pressure or during a crisis.


A Return to ‘Normal’? The State of Real Estate in 2022

  •  Wednesday, January 5, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

Last year was one for the real estate history books. The pandemic helped usher in a buying frenzy that led to a record number of home sales and a historically-high rate of appreciation, as prices soared by a national average of 19.9% year over year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

There were signs in the second quarter that the red-hot housing market was beginning to simmer down. In June, the pace of sales slowed while the average sales price dipped 5.5% below the springtime peak.

But just when the market seemed to be cooling, home prices and sales volume ticked up again in the fall, leading the Royal Bank of Canada to speculate: “Canada’s housing market run has more in the tank.”

So what’s ahead for the Canadian real estate market in 2022? Here’s where industry experts predict the market is headed in the coming year.

MORTGAGE RATES WILL CREEP UP

The Bank of Canada has signalled that it plans to begin raising interest rates in the “middle quarters” of this year. What does that mean for mortgage rates?

Expect higher variable mortgage rates to come. In fact, according to industry trade blog Canadian Mortgage Trends, some lenders have already begun raising their variable rates in preparation. And according to the site, “Current market forecasts show the Bank of Canada on track for seven quarter-point (25 bps) rate hikes by the end of 2023, with Scotiabank expecting eight rate hikes.”

Since September, fixed mortgage rates—which follow the 5-year Bank of Canada bond yield—have also been climbing. Fortunately, economists believe the housing sector is well-positioned to absorb these higher interest rates.

Derek Holt, Scotiabank vice president and head of capital markets economics, told Canadian Mortgage Professional magazine in November, “The large increase in cash balances that occurred over the pandemic combined with the record-high amount of home equity on Canadian balance sheets, to me, paints a picture of a household sector that can manage the rate shock we’re likely to get.”

What does it mean for you? Low mortgage rates can reduce your monthly payment, make it easier to qualify for a mortgage, and make home-ownership more affordable. Fortunately, there’s still time to take advantage of historically-low rates. I’d be happy to connect you with a trusted lending professional in our network.

VOLUME OF SALES WILL DECREASE

A record number of homes were sold in Canada last year. The Canadian Real Estate Association estimates that 656,300 home purchases took place, which is an 18.8% increase over 2020. So it’s no surprise that the pace of sales would eventually slow. Don't forget though that these stats reflect national averages and number for every community vary. You're best to check with a real estate sales representative in your area for specific details.

The association predicts that, nationally, the number of home sales will fall by 12.1% in 2022, which would still make 2022 the second-best year on record.

It attributes this relative slowdown to affordability challenges and a lack of inventory but expects sales volume to remain high by historical standards. “Limited supply and higher prices are expected to tap the brakes on activity in 2022 compared to 2021, although increased churn in resale markets resulting from the COVID-related shake-up to so many people’s lives may continue to boost activity above what was normal before COVID-19.”

What does it mean for you? The frenzied market we experienced last year required a drop-everything commitment from many of our clients, so a slower pace of sales should be a welcome relief. However, buyers should still be prepared to compete for the best properties. I can help you craft a compelling offer without compromising your best interests.

THE MARKET WILL BECOME MORE BALANCED

In 2021, we experienced one of the most competitive real estate markets ever. Fears about the virus, a shift to remote work, and economic stimulus triggered a huge up-tick in demand. At the same time, many existing homeowners delayed their plans to sell, and supply and labour shortages hindered new construction. 

This led to an extreme market imbalance that benefited sellers and frustrated buyers. According to Abhilasha Singh, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, “almost all indicators of housing market activity shot through the roof.” But, she continued, “The housing market is now showing signs of returning to earth.”

The Royal Bank of Canada expects to see demand soften gradually as rising prices and interest rates push the cost of home-ownership out of reach for many would-be buyers. And while the supply of available homes continues to remain low, according to Singh, “the pace of building in Canada remains elevated compared with historical averages thanks to low interest rates.”

What does it mean for you? If you struggled to buy a home last year, there may be some relief on the horizon. Softening demand could make it easier to finally secure the home of your dreams. If you’re a seller, it’s still a great time to cash out your big equity gains! And with less competition and a slower pace of sales, you’ll have an easier time finding your next home. Reach out for a free consultation so we can discuss your specific needs and goals.

HOME PRICES LIKELY TO KEEP CLIMBING, BUT AT A SLOWER PACE

Nationwide, home prices rose an average of 19.9% in 2021 however the rate of appreciation is expected to slow down in 2022. The Canadian Real Estate Association forecasts that the national average home price will increase by 5.6% to $718,000 in 2022.

Singh of Moody’s Analytics agrees that price growth will slow this year and could “reach a near standstill in late 2022 but avoid any significant contractions.”

At the same time, some experts caution against a “wait and see” mentality for buyers. “Affordability is unlikely to improve [this] year as prices should march higher, even as interest rates creep upwards as well,” Rishi Sondhi, an economist at TD Economics, told Reuters. “We think rate hikes will weigh on, but not upend, demand, as the macro backdrop should remain supportive for sales.”

What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer who has been waiting on the sidelines for home prices to drop, you may be out of luck. Even if home prices dip slightly (and most economists expect them to rise) any savings are likely to be offset by higher mortgage rates. The good news is that decreased competition means more choice and less likelihood of a bidding war. I can help you get the most for your money in today’s market.

 I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighbourhood. 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2022, 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.


How to Bridge the Appraisal Gap in Today's Real Estate Market

  •  Monday, November 15, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

If you're searching for drama, don't limit yourself to Netflix. Instead, tune in to the real estate market, where the competition among buyers has never been fiercer. And with homes selling for record highs, the appraisal process - historically a standard part of a home purchase - is receiving more attention than ever. 

Whether you're a buyer or a seller, it's never been more important to understand the appraisal process and how it can be impacted by a quickly appreciating and highly competitive housing market. It's also crucial to work with a skilled real estate agent who can guide you to a successful closing without overpaying (if you're a buyer) or overcompensating (if you're a seller). Find out how appraisals work -and in some cases, don't work - in today's unique real estate environment.

APPRAISAL REQUIREMENTS

An appraisal is an objective assessment of a property's market value performed by an independent licensed appraiser. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to lower their risk of loss in the event a buyer stops paying their loan. It provides assurance that the home's value meets or exceeds the amount being lent for its purchase.

In certain circumstances, an appraisal might be avoided. For example, when a buyer purchases mortgage insurance because they have a down payment of less than 20%. In that instance, the mortgage insurance would cover the lender's loss in a case of default. Or, if a buyer makes a large down payment, a lender may waive their right of appraisal. 

Additionally, sometimes a lender will use an automated valuation model (AVM) to estimate the property's value. According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, "AVM's are computer programs that provide real estate market analysis and estimates of value." if the sale price falls comfortably within the AVM's range of value, a lender may skip a formal appraisal.

However, in the event a formal appraisal is required, it will need to be conducted by a licensed and authorized appraiser. In most cases, the appraiser will analyze the property's condition and review the value of comparable properties that have recently sold. Using this information, they will determine the home's current market value. Mortgage borrowers are usually expected to pay for the cost of the appraisal.

APPRAISALS IN A RAPIDLY SHIFTING MARKET

Problems can arise when the appraisal comes in lower than the sale prices. And, while low appraisals are not common, they are more than likely to happen in a rapidly appreciating market, like the one we are experiencing now. That's because appraisers use comparable sales (commonly referred to as comps) to determine a property's value. These could include homes that went under contract weeks or even months ago. With home prices rising so quickly, today's comps may be lagging behind the market's current reality. Thus, the appraiser may be basing their assessment on stale data, resulting in a low valuation.

According to Kevin Lonsdale, Executive Director of the Canadian National Association of Real Estate Appraisers, the best valuations should be based on 'data, not emotion. This emotional process where people are outbidding each other creates a disconnect and that then becomes a comparable six months down the road. It's very difficult to value properties based on what the market wants to pay for them."

HOW ARE BUYERS AND SELLERS IMPACTED BY A LOW APPRAISAL?

In a balanced market, a financing condition is a standard inclusion in a home purchase offer. It enables the buyer to make the closing of the transaction dependent on their ability to secure a mortgage. And in many cases, the loan is configured on a satisfactory appraisal, wherein the value of the property is at or near the purchase price. 

But in today's market, sellers often hold the upper hand because the current demand for homes exceeds the available supply. That's why many buyers are choosing to exclude the financing condition altogether, as a way to sweeten their offer in a competitive bidding process. 

However, this approach can leave a buyer vulnerable if the appraisal comes back lower than expected. Without a financing condition, the buyer will be obligated to come up with enough cash to bridge the gap between the contract price and the appraised value - or be forced to walk away from the transaction and potentially lose their deposit. 

It may seem, then, that a buyer carries the sole risk of a low appraisal. However, the sellers will have wasted time and money with little to show for it. And they run the risk that the market may have cooled or interest in their home may have waned by the time they relist.

Sellers should keep this in mind when evaluating offers. The offer price should never be the sole consideration. We weigh a range of factors when advising our clients, including a buyer's conditions, mortgage qualifications, financial resources, and deposit size, among others.

According to Lonsdale, overheated blind bidding in Canadian real estate means that there is additional pressure on everyone involved in the transaction. With a tight timeline, there's not always enough time for proper due diligence, putting stress on the transaction and on the buyer and seller involved.

MITIGATE YOUR RISK WITH THE BEST REPRESENTATION

There's never been a market quite like this one before. That's why you need a master negotiator on your side who has the skills, instincts, and experience to get the deal done.. no matter what surprises may pop up along the way. If you're a buyer, I can help you compete in this unprecedented market... without getting steamrolled. And if you're a seller, I know how to get top dollar for your home while minimizing hassle and stress. Contact me today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

 


How to Combat Decision Fatigue When Downsizing

  •  Monday, June 7, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Moving from one home to another requires so many careful considerations along the way.

Not only do you need to decide whether to work with a real estate agent, you need to decide how you want to price your current home to get it sold, all while planning ahead for your future home. Your budget, which neighbourhood you want to live in, potential maintenance needs, along with how your lifestyle will be impacted are just a few of the important decisions that need to be made in the process. 

Now, combine that with downsizing. Consider having to determine your ability to keep every single item in your home. For seniors especially, this can mean having to sell or give away valued furniture and family heirlooms, going through years worth of collected items, and essentially dismantling an entire life within their beloved home. 

How do you prioritize those sentimental items and memories along with the necessities? This can feel incredibly overwhelming, and may ultimately lead to decision fatigue.

We have all experienced decision fatigue at some point in our lives. Picture this: You have just spent a long day at work, taking care of every task meticulously. Perhaps you’re also a parent that must coordinate multiple extra curricular activities, keeping track of more than one schedule at a time. You arrive home in the evening, and a member of your family asks what will be for dinner, and your brain quite literally shuts down. You do not want to, and simply cannot make that decision.

The Seniors Real Estate Institute (SREI) describes decision fatigue as the inability to make quality decisions when you have had to make too many in a short period of time. The brain can block the function that allows decisions to be made, regardless of whether you have more to make, or not. Tasks can start to pile up, and apathy can set in — halting the entire process of downsizing.

Making multiple significant decisions is challenging at any age, but even more so for our seniors. This means that the job of a real estate agent isn’t simply to look after the care and safety of their homes, but of their well-being as well. Fortunately, there are some things that can be done to combat decision fatigue.

 

1. Complete Paperwork in Increments

Spreading out signing various documents can lighten the workload to remove some stress. These do not necessarily need to be completed all at once, and taking advantage of that flexibility can make or break a downsizing process when decision fatigue is setting in.

2. Access Available Resources

If possible, encourage your clients to bring family members on board to provide support while going through sentimental items in the home. Hiring movers, packers, and cleaners can provide comfort and convenience. Looking into storage facilities may mean not having to sell or give away precious items.

3. Watch for Signs

Knowing the signs of decision fatigue and recognizing them as early as possible can make all the difference in cultivating a smooth downsizing process. Some of these signs include, but are not limited to procrastination, impulsivity, avoidance, indecision, irritability and/or anxiety. 

4. Encourage and Celebrate

Sometimes making the tiniest decision can feel like a big win, so celebrate that! If your clients feel encouraged and empowered as they make the smaller decisions, they will have an easier time tackling the larger ones.

 

The care and safety of our seniors as they downsize is of the utmost importance. Having a Master Accredited Senior Agent (M-ASA) like myself  involved ensures a smooth process where nothing gets overlooked.

Thank you to the Senior Real Estate Institute for providing some of the valuable information I’ve included in this blog post.


Finding a New Home for Your Next Stage of Life

  •  Thursday, May 6, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Imagine the first place you lived as a young adult. Now imagine trying to fit your life today into that space. Not pretty, right? 

For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical. A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase. 

While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbour’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.

The Newly Married or Partnered Couple

The financial and legal commitment of both traditional and common-law marriage has provided a springboard to home-ownership for centuries. And while the average age of first marriage in Canada is around 30, the average age of first home purchase has shifted even later to 36. No matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider when you are ready to enter into your first home purchase together.

Affordability is Key

There’s no doubt about it—with home prices that just keep climbing, many first-time buyers feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to home-ownership. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s low mortgage rate environment. 

While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors. In fact, that’s a popular approach for first-time home-buyers to take. Fifty percent of first-time Canadian buyers report that they plan to eventually upgrade to a larger home. 

Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launch-pad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up in the future if your needs change.

Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates

Canadian mortgage rates hit record lows in summer 2020, and while they are gradually creeping back up, now is still an ideal time to purchase your first home together.  A lower interest rate can save you a bundle over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money. 

But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 35% of your limit can go a long way. But if that’s not enough to raise your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.

Commute and Lifestyle Considerations

Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. But there are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship. 

Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? We can match you with some great neighbourhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability. 

The Growing Family 

Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,600 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family. 

The Importance of School Districts

For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, home-buyers report that school district is one of their top concerns. Of course, homes in the best-rated districts tend to be more expensive and harder to nab. But when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.

But when you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings don't tell the whole story. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a game-changer. We don’t just work in this community; we know it inside and out.

Lifestyle Considerations

For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself). 

A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably. 

Functionality

Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.

Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. We can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.

The Empty Nesters 

When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer with young kids is most likely to trade up to a larger home, older buyers often sell the family home and move into a smaller, less expensive home. In fact, more than half of Canadian Baby Boomers consider the area where they live too expensive for retirement.

Maintenance and Livability

What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. It’s not surprising that condos are among the most popular types of homes for Baby Boomers given they require less upkeep than single-family homes.

Lifestyle Considerations

Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless. 

Ability to Age in Place

Let’s face it—we can’t escape ageing. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be top-of-mind. This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of ageing) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.

Finding the Right Home for Right Now

One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In fact, the average Canadian homeowner will own 4.5 to 5.5 houses over their lifetime. At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.

Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, I'm here to help. My insight into local neighbourhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. I’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but I'm here to support you every step of the way.


Money-saving credits and helpful tips for seniors this 2020 tax season and beyond

  •  Wednesday, April 14, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

When it comes to filing your income tax return, making sure you claim potential benefits and credits is important, as often it can help put more money back into your pocket. With tax season upon us, it's worth setting aside some time to do a bit of homework on the benefits that you may be able to take advantage of.

The great news for seniors is that there are many wonderful tax credits and benefits available. And, even if you have no taxable income, you could still be eligible to receive tax-free money. For many seniors in their retirement years, any opportunity to save money is one you wouldn't want to miss.

As a senior (65 and older) and depending on your total 2020 income, you may be able to file your income tax returns claiming a number of refundable tax credits - and for prior years as well, if you have not previously filed. Let's look at some of the 2020 tax-free credits that are payable to seniors who file income tax returns.

8 Tax credits that are available to seniors in Ontario/Canada in 2020

1. Ontario Senior Homeowners' Property Tax Grant

The OSHPTG is available to Ontario senior homeowners who pay property taxes and who have low or moderate incomes. It is an annual payment that seniors must apply for each year when they file their income tax and benefit return. The maximum 2021 payment is the lesser of $500 and the eligible property tax paid by or for you for 2020. If you are single, separated, divorced, or widowed, the 2021 grant will be the maximum payment reduced by 3.33% of your adjusted net income over $35,000. If you adjusted net income is $50,000 or greater, you are not eligible for this grant.

2. Ontario Sales Tax Credit

The Ontario sales tax credit (OSTC) is a tax-free payment designed to provide relief to Ontarians with low or moderate incomes for the sales tax they pay. Beginning July 2021, seniors whose 2020 income does not exceed $24,115 (individual) or $30,143 (couple) are eligible to receive $26 monthly ($52 monthly for couples). This credit is eliminated for individuals with 2020 income over $41,940 and $45,793 for couples.

3. Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit

The Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit to help seniors with public transit costs. This tax credit is based on 10% of eligible Ontario transit costs, and are fairs paid for short haul or day trips by bus, subway, train, and specialized public transit services for seniors with disabilities. Fares for using long haul services like Via Rail or Grayhound are not eligible for this tax credit, and the maximum claim is $3000 for maximum credit of $450.

4. Federal Goods and Services Tax Credit

The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset the GST or HST that they pay. If your income doesn't exceed $38,507 beginning July 2021, and every three months following until April 2022, you are eligible to receive $74 every three months. In addition, if your spouse or partner's income also doesn't exceed $38,507, you are eligible to receive $142 every three months. This credit, however, is reduced by 5% of the amount of your income and if your spouse or partner's income exceeds $38,507. This tax credit is calculated by Revenue Canada based on the information in yours and your partner's tax return.

5. Federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC)

Available for seniors or individuals with disabilities that are eligible to claim the Disability Tax Credit, this tax credit reduces federal income taxes payable to a maximum of $1,500. This credit is also available to the individual’s spouse or common law partner if that individual has no net income for 2020. The credit is calculated at 15% of qualifying renovation expenditures to a maximum of $10,000 to a person’s owned or occupied housing residence (and share of the capital stock of an occupied unit of a co-op housing corporation) to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury.

6. Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit

Seniors may be eligible for the Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit if a qualified medical practitioner certifies on form T2201 that they have a prolonged impairment and that the effects are such that they’re markedly restricted in their ability to speak, hear, see, walk, eat, dress, perform the mental functions necessary for everyday life, and/or have impaired bowel or bladder functions preventing them from proper elimination.

This non-refundable tax credit reduces income tax payable by $1,719 for 2020. If the person applying has no taxable income, the credit can be transferred to another relative who provides support to them.

7. Canada Caregiver Credit

If you support a spouse, common-law partner, or a dependent with a physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to receive this non-refundable tax credit. You may also be eligible to claim this credit for one or more individuals — including you or your spouse or common law partner’s child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew — if they depend on your support because of a physical or mental impairment. An individual is considered to depend on your support if they rely on you to regularly and consistently provide them with some or all of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing.

The amount you can claim depends on your relationship to the person for whom you are claiming the credit, your circumstances, the person’s net income, and whether other credits are being claimed for that person.

8. Property tax relief for homes that are built or modified to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities

Property taxpayers who inform the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) that they’ve built or modified their home to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities, and who have had their expenditure(s) verified by MPAC, may qualify for a property tax exemption.

The exempt portion, however, is not included in the assessment roll for the next taxation year, and taxes are not charged against it. If MPAC assessed the home as entirely taxable for the current or previous taxation years and the owner is applying for the exemption now, then the owner is encouraged to contract their local municipality to determine if they qualify for a tax rebate for said previous years.

Tips for preparing your income tax return 

There’s no question that preparing to file your income tax can feel daunting, stressful, and overwhelming. But remember, there are plenty of tax-free benefits that are available to seniors that can reduce the amount of money you owe. In addition to those mentioned above, remember that there are other benefits as well, such as the Age Amount Tax Credit, the Pension Income Amount Tax Credit, and of course tax refunds for Medical Expenses

Another important thing to remember is that if you received COVID-19 benefits, it might affect your tax return. In particular, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is considered taxable income, therefore the total amounts that you received from this benefit will have to be included on your tax return. 

If you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, fortunately there are volunteers near you that may be able to complete your tax return free of charge. This year, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, volunteers may be able to complete your return by video conferencing or phone, or through a document drop-off arraignment. To determine if you’re eligible and to find a tax clinic near you, visit canada.ca/taxes-help

A big thanks to the Burlington Age Friendly Council and Community Development Halton for making much of the information featured in this blog post available.

If you or an elderly loved one are looking for more support in the way of preparing to file your income tax return, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at mariongoard@kw.com and I’d be more than happy to connect you with a reputable and trusted accountant in the area who may be able to support your needs and help take the guesswork out of preparing your income tax return.


Can I Buy or Sell a Home Without a Real Estate Agent?

  •  Sunday, April 11, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Today's real estate market is one of the fastest-moving in recent memory. With record-low inventory in many market segments, we're seeing multiple offers (with bidding wars) for homes in the most sought-after neighbourhoods. The has led some sellers to question the need for an agent. After all, why spend money on a listing agent when it seems that you can stick a For Sale sign in the yard then watch a line form around the block?

Some buyers may also believe they'd be better off purchasing a property without an agent. For those seeking a competitive edge, proceeding without a buyer's agent may seem like a good way to stand out from the competition - and maybe even score a discount. Since the seller pays the buyer's agent commission, wouldn't a do-it-yourself purchase sweeten the offer?

We all like to save money. However, when it comes to your largest financial asset, forgoing professional representation may not always be in your best interest. Find out whether the benefits outweigh the risk (and considerable time and effort) of selling or buying a home on your own - so you can head to the closing table with confidence.

SELLING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT

Most homeowners who choose to sell their home without any professional assistance opt for a traditional "For Sale By Owner" or a direct sale to an investor, such as an iBuyer, Here's what you can expect from either of these options.

For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

For sale by owner or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo) offers sellers the opportunity to price their own home and handle their own transaction, showing the home and negotiating directly with the buyer or his or her real estate agent. While Canadian statistics on FSBO's are limited, according to data compiled by the US-based National Association of Realtors (NAR), approximately 8% of homes were sold by their owner in 2020.

In an active, low inventory real estate market, it may seem like a no-brainer to sell your home yourself. After all there are plenty of buyers out there and one of them is bound to be interested in your home. In addition, you'll save on the listing agent's commission and have more control over the way the home is priced and marketed.

One of the biggest problems FSBO's run into, however, is pricing the home appropriately. Without ongoing access to current information about comparable properties in your area, you could end up over pricing your home (causing it to languish on the market) or underpricing your home (leaving thousands of dollars on the table).

Even during last year's strong seller's market, the median sales price for FSBO's was 10% less than the median price of homes sold with the help of an real estate agent. And during a more balanced market, like the one we experienced in 2018, homes sold for 24% less than agent-represented properties. This suggests that, while you may think that you'll price  and market your home more effectively yourself, in fact you may end up losing far more than the amount you would pay for an agent's assistance.

Without the services of a real estate professional, it will be up to you to get people in the door. You'll need to gather information for the online listing and put together the kind of marketing that today's buyers expect to see. This includes bringing in a professional stager and photographer, writing the listing description, and designing marketing collateral like fliers and mailers - or hiring a writer and graphic designer to do so.

Once someone is interested,  you'll need to offer virtual showings and develop a COVID safety protocol. You'll then need to schedule an in-person showing (or in some cases, two or three) for each potential buyer. In addition, you'll be on your own when evaluating offers and determining their financial viability. You'll need to thoroughly understand all legal contracts and contingencies and discuss terms, including those regarding the home inspection and closing process.

While you're doing all this work, it's likely that you'll still need to pay the buyer's agent's commission. So be sure to weigh your potential savings against the significant risk and effort involved.

If you choose to work with a listing agent, you'll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent's commission.

iBuyer

iBuyers have been on the Canadian real estate scene since around 2018, providing sellers with the option of a direct purchase from a real estate company rather than a traditional direct-to-consumer sales process. iBuyer companies tout their convenience and speed, with a reliable streamlined process that may be attractive to some sellers.

The idea is that instead of listing the home on the open market, the homeowner completes and online form with the information about the property's location and features, then waits for an offer from the company. The iBuyer is looking for a home in good condition that's located in a good neighbourhood - one that's easy to flip and falls within the company's algorithm.

For sellers who are more focused on speed and convenience, an iBuyer may offer an attractive alternative to traditional real estate sales. That's because iBuyers evaluate a property quickly and make an upfront offer without requesting repairs or other accommodations.

However, sellers will pay for that convenience with, generally a far lower sale price than the market will provide as well as feed that can add up to as much or more than a traditional real estate agent's commission. According to a study conducted by MarketWatch, iBuyers netted, on average, 11% less than a traditional sale when both the lower price and fees are considered. Other studies found some iBuyers charging as much as 15% in fees and associated costs, far more than you'll pay for a real estate agent's commission.

In a hot market, this can mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table since you won't be able to negotiate and you'll lose out on rising home prices caused by low inventory and increased demand. In addition, iBuyers are demonstrably less reliable during times of economic uncertainty, as evidenced by the halt of operations for most iBuyer platforms in early 2020. As a seller, the last thing you want is to start down the road of iBuying only to find that the corporate mandate is stopping your transaction in its tracks.

If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you can still explore iBuyers as an option. That way you can take advantage of the added convenience of a fast sale while still enjoying the protection and security of having a professional negotiating on your behalf.

BUYING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT

According to the most recent statistics, 88% of home buyers use a real estate agent when conducting their home search. A buyer's agent is with you every step of the way through the home buying process. From finding the perfect home to submitting a winning offer to navigating the inspection and closing processes, most homebuyers find their experience and guidance invaluable. And the best part is that, because they are compensated through a commission paid by the homeowner at closing, most agents provide these services at no cost to you!

Still you may be considering negotiating your home purchase directly with the seller or listing agent, especially if you are accustomed to deal-making as part of your job. And if you are familiar with the neighbourhood where you are searching, you may feel that there is no reason to get a buyer's agent involved.

However, putting together a winning offer package can be challenging. This is especially true in a multiple-offer situation where you'll be competing against buyers whose offers are carefully crafted to maximize their appeal. And the homebuying process can get emotional. A trusted agent can help you avoid overpaying for a property or glossing over 'red flags' in your inspection. In addition, buyer agents offer a streamlined, professional process that listing agents may be more likely recommend to their clients. 

If you decide to forgo an agent, you'll have to write, submit, and negotiate a competitive offer all on your own. You'll also need to schedule an inspection and negotiate repairs. You'll be responsible for reviewing and preparing all necessary documents, and you will need to be in constant communication with the seller's agent and your lender, inspector, appraiser, title company, and other related parties along the way.

Or, you could choose to work with a buyer's agent whose commission is paid by the seller and costs you nothing out of pocket. In exchange, you'll obtain fiduciary-level guidance on one of the most important financial transactions of your life. If you decide to go it alone, you'll be playing fast and loose with what is, for most people, their most important and consequential financial decision.

SO, IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT RIGHT FOR YOU?

It is important for you to understand your options and think through your preferences when considering whether or not to work with a real estate professional. If you are experienced in real estate transactions and legal contracts, comfortable negotiating  under high-stakes circumstances, and have plenty of extra time on your hands, you may find that an iBuyer or FSBO works for you.

However, if, like most people, you value expert guidance and would like an experienced professional to manage the process, you will probably experience far more peace of mince and security in working with a reliable real estate agent or broker.

A real estate agent's comprehensive suite of services and expert negotiation skills can benefit buyers and sellers financially, as well. On average, sellers who utilize an agent walk away with more money than those who choose the FSBO or iBuyer route. And buyers pay nothing out of pocket for expert representation that can help them avoid expensive mistakes all along the way from contract to closing.

According to NAR's profile, the vast majority of buyer (91%) and seller (89%) are thrilled with their real estate professional's representation and would recommend them to others. That's why, in terms of rime, money, and expertise, most buyers and sellers find the assistance of a real estate agent essential and invaluable.

QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING? WE HAVE ANSWERS

The best way to find out whether you need a real estate agent or broker is to speak with one. We're here to help and to offer the insights you need to make better-informed decisions. Let's talk about the value-added services we provide when we help you buy or sell in today's competitive real estate landscape.


Estate Planning Should Be Legacy Planning

  •  Wednesday, February 17, 2021
  •  Christine Brunsden

This article is reproduced with permission. Originally written and published by Christine Brunsden (TEP, CEA, EPC, MFA-P), Founder of Trusted Legacy & Co-Founder of Legacy You.

For decades people have talked about 'estate planning' - the act of devising a plan to distribute stuff upon passing. Increasingly, it is an outdated notion - one that is being replaced by a more powerful idea. It is called 'legacy planning.'

Legacy planning encompasses estate planning - the distribution of assets - as well as the morals, ideals, beliefs, philosophies, and core values they would like to impress upon their heirs. It also sets the state to craft a family narrative that speaks to much more that just the distribution of assets on death. We call it creating a 'legacy mission statement.'

For many, legacy planning places an emphasis on philanthropy, which is driven by contemplating one's social capital. Social capital is defined as the relationships between individuals and organizations that facilitate action and value. Luckily, Canada's tax system is very generous in support of philanthropy; yet, most people are unaware of the rules and laws designed to encourage us to give, especially on death.

What is a legacy plan?

Think of your legacy plan as the road-map you carefully design to achieve your objectives and to provide important information to those who will act on your behalf when you are no longer capable or have passed away.

Here are some of the essential elements to be considered when planning your legacy:

  • Self-reflection and determination of your core values and beliefs as they relate to personal family and community relationships important to you
  • Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Beneficiary and guardianship designations
  • Charitable foundations or donor-advised funds and your recognition preferences
  • Personal information
  • Beneficiary information
  • Inventory of assets and liabilities
  • List of digital assets, computer information, social media platforms and passwords
  • Memberships, subscriptions and loyalty programs
  • Instructions for location pertinent documents and/or assets

Letters of Wishes, memorandums, care plans, living arrangement preferences, pet provisions, funeral/burial wishes.

Some additional elements you may wish to include in your legacy plan are:

  • Medical history information
  • Legacy stories
  • Letters or video messages for loved ones (how would you like to be remembered?)

Why do I need a legacy plan?

Without a valid power of attorney, someone will need to apply to a court for permission to act as your legal representative or guardian.

Without a valid Will, you are deemed to have passed 'intestate' and provincial legislation will set out how your estate will be distributed, which may not align with your wishes. You will not have the ability to appoint executors, trustees, or guardians for your children under the age of 18. You will also not have the ability to engage in effective tax planning or provide gifts to the individuals or charities of your choice. By failing to plan, you leave your affairs in limbo, until a person or governmental body can be appointed, which results in further delay and potential increased cost to your estate.

If you are comfortable doing so, communicate your plan ahead of time to the individuals who will act on your behalf. It is also advisable to communicate your plan to your heirs when they are of an appropriate age. The will allow those who are impacted by your plan to ask questions and seek clarification from you while you are still able to provide it.

Keep your plan in a secure location (not a safety deposit box) and provide its location to those who will require access to it.

When is the best time to start planning?

Planning should be considered a lifelong activity - one that begins when you are legally able to sign documents and ends upon death.

Can you imagine if each of us decided today it was important to make a plan for the loved ones we leave behind? Imagine what could be achieved if we led by example and engrained in future generations how important it is to plan, organize, and communicate all aspects of a legacy plan. It would be empowering for our loved ones and the causes we love.

Who can assist me in developing my plan?

You can engage a legacy planning professional, wealth advisor, accountant or lawyer to assist you in planning your legacy. The TEP designation (Trust and Estate Practitioner) demonstrates the professional has an advanced understanding of trust and estates, and they take a proactive approach, working at the forefront of the latest developments in the industry.

Remember that the best planning allows for collaboration amongst all your trusted experts. It is important to ensure your plan is reviewed regularly and updated over your lifetime, based on changes to your individual circumstances and legislation.

If you have questions about legacy planning, please reach out to Christine Brunsden.  She can be reached at christine@trustedlegacy.ca 


New Year, New Home? Set Homeownership Goals Whether You’re Buying, Selling, or Staying Put

  •  Sunday, January 3, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

The start of a new year always compels people to take a fresh look at their goals, from health and career to relationships and finance. And now, with historically low mortgage rates, increased home sales and price growth and a tight housing inventory, the time is right to also make some homeownership resolutions for 2021.

Home buyers, is this is the year you work to improve your credit score, pay down some debt, or save for a down payment?

Home sellers, I've laid out plans for you to get top dollar for your property, including timing of your home sale, making your property stand out from the crowd, and investing in your extra living space.

Even if you're staying put for a while, homeowners, you can resolve to improve your status quo by evaluating your home budget, finalizing your home maintenance schedule, or maybe investing in a second property.

So no matter your home ownership status, below are some ideas and advise for you to make this year your best one yet. Read on to learn more.

HOME BUYERS

Resolution #1: Qualify for a better mortgage with a higher credit score.

Your credit report highlights your current debt, bill-paying history, and other key financial information. Importantly for your home-buying journey, it is also used by lenders and companies to calculate your credit score, which partly determines if you are qualified to obtain a mortgage. Therefore, before you start house-hunting, make sure your finances are in the best possible shape by checking your credit report and credit scores, available directly from Equifax and TransUnion.

Your credit score will be a number ranging from 300-900. Generally speaking, a credit score of 725 or higher is considered very good to excellent. If your score drops below 725, you might need to work at boosting your score for a few months before you begin house-hunting. Ways to do this are to pay your bills on time every month, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid applying for new credit.

Resolution #2: Improve your credit health by paying down debt.

Do you have student loans, credit card debt, or car payments tying up your income each month? That debt is hurting your 'buying power,' or the amount of home you can afford. Not only is it money that you can't spend on your new home, your debt-to-income ration also affects your credit score, which is discussed above. The less debt you have, the higher your score and the better mortgage you can obtain.

If you can, pay off some debt in its entirety - like a low balance on a credit card. Then apply that 'extra' money you previously paid on that credit card to pay off bigger debt, like a car loan. Even if you can't pay off all (or any) of your debt in full, reducing the balance of each account will help you qualify for the best possible mortgage terms.

Resolution #3: Create a financial safety net before applying for a mortgage.

Don't forget that buying a home requires some cash as well. This down payment depends on the home's price, but the minimum is 5% for a purchase price under $500,000, and closing costs range from 2-3%. You'll also need money for moving expenses and any initial maintenance tasks that might pop up. And as the pandemic taught us, you never know when an unforeseen event might cause a job loss, drop in income, or health scare, so having some liquid savings will ensure that you can still pay your mortgage if a crisis occurs.

Dedicate some effort to building up your reserves. Cut down on unnecessary expenses, and consider having a portion of each paycheque automatically deposited into your savings account to avoid the temptation to spend it.

HOME SELLERS

Resolution #4: Decide on the right time to sell your home.

In a typical year, spring is when home sales spike in Canada. This might be the best time to take advantage of the price increase predicted by the Canadian Real Estate Association, which says, "The national average price is forecast to rise by 9.1% in 2021 to $620,400."

But sales price isn't the only thing to consider. You might not be ready to sell your home yet because you don't want to uproot your kids during the school year or because you need to tackle some minor upgrades before placing your home on the market.

This means that there is no one month or season that is the perfect time to sell you home. Instead, the right timeline for you takes into account factors such as when you'll earn the highest profit, personal convenience, and whether your home is even ready to put on the market. A trusted real estate professional can talk you through your specific needs to clarify when to sell you home.

Resolution #5: Boost your home's resale value by making your property shine.

Housing inventory is at historic lows across the country, and that means the market is fiercely competitive. Selling your home in 2021 has the potential to net you a huge return right now and you can maximize that amount with some simple fixes to make sure your property outshines your neighbours for sale down the street.

In your home, you might need to tackly a minor remodelling project, such as upgrading the flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint. According to one remodelling impact report, simply refinishing existing hardwood floors recoups 100% of the cost at resale, and completely replacing it with new wood flooring recovers 106% of the costs.

Outside, you might consider improving your curb appeal by removing a dead bush, trimming a tree that block the front window, or power-washing your moldy driveway and sidewalks. In fact, real estate agents say cleaning the exterior of you house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to a home's sale price. And improving a home's landscaping may increase its value by 15-25%.

A good agent should provide custom-tailored suggestions to ensure your property pops inside and out. Ask me about my local insider secrets that will make you home stand out from others on the market.

Resolution #6: Invest in your "extra" living space to meet current buyers' needs.

Due to COVID-19, more people are staying at home to work, go to school, exercise, and stay entertained. And these lifestyle changes are showing up in home buyer preferences. For example, according to one study, buyers are looking more and more for homes with formal, outfitted home offices, private outdoor spaces, and updated kitchen appliances.

So if you've got an underutilized room, consider turning it into an office, home gym, schoolroom, or multi-purpose room to meet current home buyer needs and attract better offers on your home. Got some underwhelming space outside?  You could turn it into an outdoor entertainment area by adding a firepit, upgrading the patio furniture, or installing a grilling area. Be sure to consult with a local real estate professional before investing in a renovation, however as each market's buyers have different tastes.

HOME OWNERS

Resolution #7: Evaluate your household budget to reflect financial challenges.

After this past year, in particular, your financial picture may have changed. Maybe you were furloughed, had your hours reduced, or got a new job further from home. Perhaps you've kept the same job, but you're now working remotely. A work-from-home arrangement could mean less money spent on gas, tolls, a professional wardrobe, and dining out for lunch.

But this could also mean new (or increased) expenses now that you're working at home, such as new tech-related purchases, faster WI-FI, and higher energy bills. January marks the perfect opportunity to update your income and expenses and review last year's spending habits, tweaking as needed for 2021.

For more specific ideas, contact me for my free report "20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget."

Resolution #8: Save money now (and earn more later) with a home maintenance plan.

Having a schedule of regular home maintenance projects to tackle will save you money now and in the long-term. You'll avoid some surprise 'emergency fixes,' and when you're ready to eventually sell your home, you'll get higher offers from buyers who aren't put off by overdue repairs.

Even if nothing necessarily needs fixing right now, you can lower you energy costs by maintaining and upgrading your home. For example, consider upgrading some features to ENERGY STAR high-efficiency products. You could save up to 45% in energy costs if you change your outdated windows.

For a breakdown of home maintenance projects to tackle throughout the year, contact me for my free report "House Care Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home."

Resolution #9: Invest in real estate for a better standard of living.

Even if you don't plan on leaving your current residence, real estate is a great way to improve your quality of life in 2021.

Have cabin fever from the long quarantine? A vacation home in a getaway location you love lets you safely spread your wings. And if you've been looking for a second stream of income, an investment property might be your answer. Just be sure to consult with a real estate professional to get a realistic sense of a property's true income potential.

Want more information on how a second property fits into your 2021 plans? Request my free report, "Move Up vs Second Home: Which One Is Right For You?"

LET ME HELP YOU WITH YOUR 2021 GOALS

Without a plan and a support system, 73% of Canadians will break their new year's resolutions. Whether you're looking to buy, sell, or stay put in your home, it helps to connect with a trusted real estate agent to keep you motivated and on track.

As a local market expert, I have the knowledge, experience, and network to help you achieve your home ownership goals. whatever they may be. Reach out to me today for a free consultation and commit to a happy and prosperous new year.


30 Documents You Need Before You Die: Part IV - Life Insurance and Retirement, Accounts & Licenses

  •  Monday, November 23, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

In the first three blogs in this series, we discussed the list of essential, health care and ownership documents that need to be part of your death dossier. In this post, I am outlining the remaining documents that are important to collect and organize so your heirs will have everything needed following your death.

Life Insurance and Retirement

This folder is home to all policies regarding insurance, both life and car. A copy of your most recent policy renewals should be in this folder. If you have instructions for your vehicle outside of what is indicated in your will, this is the place to make a note of that. If your vehicle is old with little value, ask that your heirs donate it to a cause that will issue your estate a tax credit in return.

Financial information around your retirement should also be organized here, such as bank or investment firm statements for your RRSP, RRIF, or TFSA accounts. Details of what banks or investment firms manage your holdings should be included, especially if you invested in more than one place. Take the time to highlight any pertinent information, such as maturity dates and any special instructions. If you collect a pension - private and/or government - copies of statements or assessment should be in this folder.


Bank and Credit Accounts

Inside this folder, a list of all bank accounts, credit cards and debit cards will be helpful for your heirs. In addition to this list, add the following:
     * A few void cheques
     * List of safe boxes and their corresponding keys
     * Any loan or line if credit information
     * Business cards of any bank or investment advisors


Marriage and Divorce

This folder is the right place for any prenuptial or postnuptial documents. Whether or not you are still married, a copy of your marriage certificate and licence will be important to add to your death dossier. If you are divorced, add a copy of any judgments, your divorce order and divorce certificate.

Getting these documents ready is an important step in building your death dossier. Please visit my blog for other posts outlining the documents that should be sorted and organized for your heirs.


As a Master Accredited Senior Agent® (M-ASA) and Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), I specialize in helping seniors and their families through every stage of the decision process surrounding a potential move. Whether you are downsizing, moving to a retirement home or want to explore your options, please feel free to contact me. I am ready to answer your questions.


30 Documents You Need BeforeYou Die: Part III - Proof of Ownership

  •  Thursday, November 12, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

In the first two blogs in this series, we discussed the essential and health care documents that need to be part of your death dossier. While nobody wants to think about their own mortality, being prepared with all the pertinent documents organized in one place will save a great deal of frustration for your heirs. In this post, I am outlining the proof of ownership documents.

House, land and cemetery deeds

Gather together all the documents pertaining to your home ownership, and land you may own, domestically and abroad, as well as any paperwork pertaining to cemetery plots you may have purchased. If you own property outside your home country, be sure to include any relevant tax documents. Time share agreements and deeds should also be in this file.

Mortgage documents

Connected to the documents above, include any mortgage documents from your bank and other lenders. If you have them, property tax forms can be added to this file, as well as any payments for maintenance fees or international taxes that you have paid for a time share.

Vehicle Titles

All titles to your vehicles - cars, recreational vehicles, boats - would fall under this category. Include copies of ownership and insurance for all the vehicles you own or lease. It is also a good idea to file any paperwork pertaining to warranty repairs or recalls.

Corporate/Partnership Agreements

If you own a business, your corporation documents, trade name registration and any agreements to partnerships will be important if your heirs decide to dissolve or sell the business. Include a copy of the latest corporate tax return and the contact information for your accountant and bookkeeper.

Stocks, bonds, brokerage account info

If you have any investments, collect all stock certificates, savings bond certificates and all information regarding your brokerage accounts and your financial advisor if you have one. If you manage all your investments online, add a list of the websites you use and the login information for all of them.

Getting these proof of ownership documents ready is an important step in building your death dossier. In the next post, we will outline the documents pertinent to life insurance and retirement.

Contact me by phone or email (905-330-5201 / mariongoard@kw.com) for a copy of all the articles in this series plus the 30 Documents You Need Before You Die document.

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent® (M-ASA) and Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), I specialize in helping seniors and their families through every stage of the decision process surrounding a potential move. Whether you are downsizing, moving to a retirement home or want to explore your options, please feel free to contact me. I am ready to answer your questions.

30 Documents You Need Before You Die


The New Normal: A Strong Housing Market Expected to Continue into 2021

  •  Sunday, November 8, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

Circumstances like a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic and historic inventory shortages might have made you assume that the housing market would lose steam, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. As Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) senior economist, Shaun Cathcart noted, “records [are continually] being broken” in the residential property market.

FEWER LISTINGS EQUALS A SELLER’S’ MARKET

Inventory, meaning the number of homes for sale, is at a record low across the country. 

According to statistics from RBC Economics, the majority of Canada is experiencing tighter demand versus supply conditions than the country has seen in nearly two decades. At the end of September, there were just 2.6 months of inventory on a national basis. That restricts supply, which increases prices if demand remains unchanged. In terms of the local market, at the end of the October in Burlington, there was less than 1 month supply of inventory listed for sale. Hamilton had even less inventory. 

Fewer listings creates a housing market that is advantageous for sellers for several reasons. For one, buyers have to act fast to snap up available homes. Across the country, the median number of days listings now spend on the market is 26 days. The stats for October 2020 indicate the average number of days on market in Burlington was 17.1  

Another benefit is that sellers are enjoying higher net returns on their listings. This is thanks to the tough competition for homes, which often results in bidding wars between buyers. The average price of a home sold on the Canadian Real Estate Association's (CREA’s) MLS service went for a record $604,000 (17.5% more than last year). Continued home-price growth is anticipated for the remainder of the fourth quarter, and the median national home price is expected to rise 7% over last year.

This sellers’ market is not simply a product of the pandemic. In fact, Cathcart cited the steady decline in home inventory over the past five years—not COVID-19—as the cause for higher prices. “Heading towards records and record type conditions was something that we had already expected for 2020,” he said. This means that even if construction was to ramp back up, buyers can’t simply wait for things to go back to normal before re-entering the market. Rather, all signs indicate that this is the new normal.

Indeed, rather than a slowdown, we are continuing to experience a surprisingly robust real estate market across the country. And experts estimate that these conditions are likely to last into the new year. TD Bank Group Economist Rishi Sondhi predicts that high home prices will persist for the rest of 2020. 

Market conditions like fewer available listings, changing criteria for desired homes, and record-low mortgage rates are changing the way people buy and sell homes, most likely in a lasting way. But this sustained activity, even in the uncertainty that is 2020, proves Canadians still view real estate as a sound investment. The only question now is how you can take advantage of the housing market’s “new normal.” In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know to achieve your goals.

What It Means for Homeowners: These higher home prices show that buyers are willing to spend more on a    home right now than they did last year. So, if there ever were a time to list for top dollar—and expect to receive asking price quickly—that time is now. Ask me for a free consultation of your home’s value today.

What It Means for Homebuyers: Due to low inventory, buyers could easily find themselves in a bidding war. Time is of the essence in a seller’s market, so you’ll need to get your financing in order and be pre-approved for a loan before you begin your home search. I can connect you with a trusted mortgage professional to get you started.

BUYERS BENEFIT FROM LOW MORTGAGE RATES AND A BIGGER PLAYING FIELD

Don’t worry, homebuyers. This “new normal” of real estate has benefits for you too. 

For example, people used to base their next home purchase on how far the commute was to work or in which school was preferred. But now, thanks to the pandemic shifting the locus of jobs and work, they are free to consider what they need from a home to make it a place they really want to work, teach, exercise, cook, and live.

Often, this equates to needing more space in different types of areas. The search for these criteria is driving residents out of densely populated metropolitan areas and into the suburbs. This exodus from cities is good news for buyers: it opens up more possibilities for inventory that they could not have considered pre-pandemic.

Another advantage for buyers is the record-low mortgage rates. The average five-year fixed rate fell to a record low of 1.99% in September, down from 3.04% at the end of 2019 and 3.74% at the end of 2018.

Thanks to these rates, buyers are afforded the opportunity to buy much more home than they could before. Consider this example. If a buyer can afford a $500,000 home by putting $120,000 down (25%), the monthly payment on a standard 25-year mortgage would be $2,210. Conversely, with a lower rate (say, 2.8%) that buyer can now afford a $600,000 home—$100,000 more purchasing power—at a cost of only $12 additional per month.

The good news is that interest rates are not expected to rise anytime soon—and may hover at these record lows until 2023.

What It Means for Homeowners: If you’re locked into a higher fixed-rate mortgage for the next several years, you’re probably wondering if it’s a good idea to refinance. With those additional funds, you could even choose to invest in a second home in a new desirable location. Reach out to me for a referral to trusted mortgage professionals. 

What It Means for Homebuyers: The time is now to determine how much home you can comfortably afford and make a plan to find it. We can set up a search for you to find homes that best meet your new needs, even if they’re in neighborhoods you wouldn’t have considered before.

A RECORD-SETTING YEAR FOR HOME SALES IS JUST THE BEGINNING

Despite the seemingly adverse buyer conditions, 2020 experienced a record-breaking number of home sales. According to CREA, home sales activity jumped 46.5% year-over-year in September. With an additional 20,000 transactions logged, it was the busiest September thus far. Moreover, “many Canadian housing markets are continuing to see historically strong levels of activity as we enter into the fall market of this very strange year,” CREA chair Costa Poulopoulos said in a statement.

Part of the reason for these continued sales is that the pandemic has created a paradigm shift in the patterns of real estate. For example, housing needs are typically resolved by late summer and early fall to coincide with the commencement of the new school year. With home-schooling and remote work, however, buyers have been freed to continue their home search into the traditionally slow winter months.

Another reason for the robust market is that household savings grew to 28.2% of household income during the pandemic, an extraordinary level that Statistics Canada said the country has not seen since the 1960s. Canadians who were able to keep their jobs, as well as those on unemployment, have evidently made growing their savings a priority. And it seems as though Canadian home-buyers are using that cash on real estate. 

All this indicates that the housing market is in a strong position heading into the new year. So though it looks different than it ever has before, it’s clear that consumers consider real estate to still be a good investment. The coming months should provide more clues about the market’s direction in the year ahead, such as whether low interest rates and changing housing needs can keep demand levels high, or whether the exhaustion of pent-up demand will cool things off.

What It Means for Homeowners: It’s tempting to believe that homes will basically sell themselves in a market like this. But we’re still seeing properties that are overpriced and under-marketed sit unsold. I can help you optimize the process of selling your home so you can get the best possible offer.

What It Means for Homebuyers: Preparation is key to success in a sellers’ market like this, but don’t let yourself become paralyzed. I'm here to answer your questions and offer sound advice to guide you through all the options that are available to you.

I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

National real estate numbers can give us a pulse on the market, but real estate happens in our own backyard. As your local market expert, I can help you understand the finer points of the market that impact sales and home values in your own neighborhood.  

If you’re considering buying or selling a home before the new year or in early 2021, contact me now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work together to develop an actionable plan to meet your goals.


The 30 Documents You Need Before You Die - Part II - Health Care

  •  Wednesday, October 28, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

While our own death is not a topic anyone really wants to talk about, it’s critical that you have all your affairs in order for your heirs. Your family should be able to access all the pertinent information they will need after your passing. In my last post, I shared the essential document you need in your death dossier. In this post, I am addressing the health care documents you should have sorted and filed.

Personal Medical History

Your personal medical history should include a list of all the doctors you have been seeing within the last five years. Contact information for your family doctor, specialists, and surgeons and pharmacists will be helpful if any future appointments need to be cancelled or if you need access to any of the medical files. Medical documents may be crucial for insurance purposes or any other financial issues linked to your personal health. If you have them, be sure to include diagnostic reports, x-rays and sign-in information for health-related websites. Don’t forget to add other practitioners such as dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, physiotherapists and others. While your doctors have your medical records, your personal medical history should include a list of all ailments, medications and allergies. This can be valuable information for your descendants down the line.

Family Medical History

In addition to your own personal medical history, sharing the family history is important as well. Leave a record of any family illnesses - cancer, heart conditions, mental health issues and allergies. If you have information about treatments and outcomes, you can include that as well.

Health Care Insurance

Have copies of your healthcare insurance documents in this file. This includes any private policies or drug plans. If you have receipts from health care expenses, file them here as well for tax purposes.

Power of Attorney (Personal Care)

The personal care Power of Attorney allows someone you appoint to make decisions

On your behalf regarding your medical treatment should you be unable to do so. Personal care may also include decisions about shelter, clothing, hygiene, social activities, support services, routine management of your financial affairs, legal matters, and safety. Include a copy of this document in your health care folder and another in your essentials folder.

Organ Donation Information

If you have any special requests or instructions for organ donation, be sure to include them here. Depending on where you live, official documents might be required before your organs can be harvested and donated.

 

Living Will

A living will is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. Should you fall ill and be unable to communicate, the living will is the directive for physicians, informing them of your desired treatment. This document can offer invaluable guidance to family members, eliminating the need to guess what you would prefer in terms of treatment.

Do Not Resuscitate Order

A Do Not Resuscitate - or DNR - order lets medical professionals know that you do not wish to have excessive interventions to keep you alive. Generally, a DNR will prevent CPR from being attempted as well as other resuscitative measures that follow it (such as electric shocks to the heart and artificial respirations by insertion of a breathing tube). Be sure to check your region’s rules for what is an acceptable DNR order.

Getting these health-related documents ready is an important step in building your death dossier. In the next post, we will outline the documents pertinent to proof of ownership such as mortgage documents, business partnerships and investments.

Contact me by phone or email (905-330-5201 / mariongoard@kw.com) for a copy of all the articles in this series plus the 30 Documents You Need Before You Die document.

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent® (M-ASA) and Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), I specialize in helping seniors and their families through every stage of the decision process surrounding a potential move. Whether you are downsizing, moving to a retirement home or want to explore your options, please feel free to contact me. I am ready to answer your questions.


30 Documents You Need Before You Die: Part I - The Essentials

  •  Tuesday, October 13, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

It’s not a topic people want to really think about, but it’s an inevitability we all will face. Setting up your death dossier - a file of documents your heirs will need following your death - can prevent frustration and financial pain.

This post is the first in a series that will help you prepare and organize the documents you should have in your death dossier. We will cover the essential documents, proof of ownership, health care documents, insurance and retirement forms, accounts and other important documents.

The Essentials

This file should hold all the documents and information your heirs will need to access immediately after your death. Consider adding the following to this file:

  • Passwords for all your online accounts
  • A copy of last year’s tax return
  • Contact information for the funeral home if you pre-arranged any details
  • Funeral Plan documents such as your wishes for your remains, floral preferences, preferred charities for donations, people you’d like to be notified of your death and any other details that are important to you (such as wardrobe, speakers, music and prayers)
  • Contact information for your lawyer

Perhaps the most important documents in this folder will be updated wills and codicils, trust documents and Powers of Attorney.

The Will and codicil

A will is more than just an inheritance document. It’s the outline for what should happen when someone dies. Wills can cover everything from how money and property should be distributed,  to who should take care of minor children in the event of a fatal accident. A living will is a valuable document that shares the plan for what you – or your parents – would like should they become incapable of making critical decisions regarding medical care and interventions. Codicils are legal documents that outline a minor change, or addendum to your last will and testament. Consider having your will notarized as this acts as verification of its validity.

Estate Trust

A trust is another method of estate transfer, a way for you to determine how the family property will be disbursed or held for your beneficiaries. A trust agreement is a document that spells out the rules that you want followed for property held in trust and it gives an outside party (the trustee) the authority to handle your estate. Common objectives for trusts are to reduce the estate tax liability, to protect property in your estate, and to avoid probate.

The Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is the document you need to have in place in order to instruct your beneficiaries about how to take care of your wishes should you be unable to do so. It’s also good to plan ahead for your own needs later in life.

You will have to meet with a lawyer who will determine if you - the person granting the power of attorney - is mentally capable of doing so. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s prudent to visit a lawyer before any signs of illness, memory or cognitive issues.

You will want a power of attorney for personal care and for property, each of which is laid out in its own document.

Getting these basic documents ready is the first step in building your death dossier. In the next post, we will outline the documents pertinent to health care.

Contact me by phone or email (905-330-5201 / mariongoard@kw.com) for a copy of all the articles in this series plus the 30 Documents You Need Before You Die document.

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent® (M-ASA) and Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), I specialize in helping seniors and their families through every stage of the decision process surrounding a potential move. Whether you are downsizing, moving to a retirement home or want to explore your options, please feel free to contact me. I am ready to answer your questions.


Lowest Mortgage Rates in History: What It Means for Homeowners and Buyers

  •  Wednesday, August 19, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

The interest rate on Canada’s most popular mortgage, the five-year fixed rate, has fallen to its lowest level in history. In early June, HSBC made headlines when it began offering Canadians a five-year fixed-rate mortgage below 2%. Multiple brokers followed suit, and some are now advertising even lower rates. And while many Canadians have rushed to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity, others question the hype. Are today’s mortgage rates really a bargain?

While discounted five-year fixed mortgage rates have hovered between 2% and 4% for the past decade, they haven’t always been so low. For a period of 18 years, from 1973 to 1991, the posted five-year mortgage rate never fell below 10%. At the time, the Bank of Canada was hiking interest rates to try to stem a rising tide of inflation. It’s hard to imagine now, but the five-year fixed rate peaked at over 21% in 1981. Fortunately for home buyers, inflation began to normalize soon after, sending mortgage rates on a downward trajectory that has helped make homeownership more affordable for millions of Canadians.

So what’s causing today’s five-year fixed rates to sink to unprecedented lows? Economic uncertainty. 

Fixed mortgage rates move in sync with the yield offered on government-backed bonds. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to dampen the economy and inject volatility into the stock market, a growing number of investors are shifting their money into low-risk bonds. This increased demand has driven bond yields—and mortgage rates—down.

Quantitative easing measures taken by the Bank of Canada are also helping to bring down mortgage rates. The federal bank dropped its overnight lending rate to .25%, and it continues to inject billions of dollars into the economy, giving financial institutions the confidence and ability to continue lending.

Of course, you’ll need to factor in prepayment penalties and any fees associated with your new mortgage. In some cases, these can cost as much as 4% of the mortgage amount. You can use an online refinance calculator to estimate your potential savings, or I’d be happy to connect you with a mortgage professional in my network who can help you decide if refinancing is a good option for you.

 

HOW DO LOW MORTGAGE RATES BENEFIT HOME BUYERS? 

I’ve already shown how low rates can save you money on your mortgage payments. But if you can meet the mortgage stress-test requirements,* they can also give a boost to your budget by increasing your purchasing power. 

For example, imagine you have a budget of $1,500 to put toward your monthly mortgage payment. If you take out a 5-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.0% amortized over 25 years, you can afford a loan of $285,000.

HOW LOW COULD MORTGAGE RATES GO?

No one can say with certainty how low mortgage rates will fall or when they will rise again. But the Bank of Canada has signaled its commitment to keeping the policy rate at its effective lower bound of .25% for the foreseeable future, and many economists expect it to remain there through 2022.  

The real estate technology firm Mortgage Sandbox compiled forecast data from Bank of Montreal, Central 1, Desjardins, National Bank, Royal Bank, Scotiabank, and TD Bank. According to their analysis, the consensus was that the fixed 5-year mortgage rate will rise modestly over the next two years, averaging between 2.3% and 2.88%. 

While forecasts may differ, many experts agree: Those who wait to take advantage of these unprecedented rates could miss out on the deal of a lifetime. Positive news about a vaccine or a faster-than-expected economic recovery could send rates back up to pre-pandemic levels.

SHOULD I CONSIDER BREAKING MY CURRENT MORTGAGE? 

If you have a variable rate or recently renewed your mortgage, you may already be enjoying the benefits of falling interest rates. But if you’re locked into a higher fixed-rate mortgage for the next several years, you’re probably wondering if it’s a good idea to refinance.

Reduced interest rates can save homeowners a bundle on both monthly payments and interest over the term of a mortgage. The chart below illustrates the potential savings when you decrease your mortgage rate by just one percentage point. When it comes to refinancing, the bigger the spread, the greater the potential savings.

Estimated Monthly Payment On 5-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

25-Year Amortization

Loan Amount 3.5% 2.5% Monthly Savings

Interest Savings Over   5 Years

$100,000 $499 $448 $51 $4,720
$200,000 $999 $896 $103 $9.441
$300,000 $1,498 $1,344 $154 $14,161
$400,000 $1,997 $1,792 $205 $18,861
$500,000 $2,496 $2,240 $256 $23,601

Now let’s assume the mortgage rate falls to 3.0%. At that rate, you can afford to borrow $317,000 while still keeping the same $1,500 monthly payment. That’s a budget increase of $32,000! 

If the rate falls even further to 2.0%, you can afford to borrow $354,000 and still pay the same $1,500 each month. That’s $69,000 over your original budget! All because the interest rate fell by two percentage points. If you’ve been priced out of the market before, today’s low rates may put you in a better position to afford your dream home.

On the other hand, rising mortgages rates will erode your purchasing power. Wait to buy, and you may have to settle for a smaller home in a less-desirable neighbourhood. So if you’re planning to move, don’t miss out on the phenomenal discount you can get with today’s historically-low rates.

(*This scenario assumes you can meet the current mortgage stress-test requirements.)

HOW CAN I SECURE THE BEST AVAILABLE MORTGAGE RATE?

The best mortgage rates are typically reserved for only highly-qualified borrowers. So what steps can you take to secure the lowest possible rate?

 

  1. Consider a Variable-Rate Mortgage 

If you’re looking for the lowest rate possible, and you don’t mind the added risk, a five-year variable mortgage may be right for you. Even though the prime rate has held steady at 2.45% since April 10, lenders are gradually increasing their discount rates. And interest rates are expected to remain low at least through next year.

    2. Opt for a Closed Mortgage

Closed mortgages usually come with hefty penalties if you opt to prepay or refinance your mortgage before the term ends. However, they offer lower interest rates than convertible or open mortgages. It’s important to note that not all closed mortgages are created equal. Before you commit, make sure you understand exactly how much you’ll be expected to pay should you need to break your mortgage mid-term.

    3.  Give Your Credit Score a Boost 

You may have heard that the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has raised its minimum credit score requirement from 600 to 680. And while there are plenty of banks willing to lend to borrowers with a lower score, their best rates go to those with excellent credit. Unfortunately, there’s no fast fix for bad credit, but you can take steps to give your score a boost before you apply for a loan:

  • Dispute inaccuracies on your credit report.
  • Pay off debt, or spread it across multiple credit facilities.
  • Charge small amounts and then quickly pay off any dormant credit cards.
  • To lower your utilization rate, pay your credit card bill before the statement date.
  1. 4.  Make a Large Down Payment 

You may be surprised to learn that the lowest advertised rates often go to insured borrowers who put down less than 20%. That’s because these “high-ratio borrowers” must pay for mortgage default insurance, which protects the lender from any financial loss. So while “conventional borrowers” who make a down payment of 20% may be charged a slightly higher interest rate, their total borrowing costs are lower because they don’t have to pay for mortgage default insurance. A down payment larger than 20% can bring down borrowing costs even further.

    5.  Shop Around

Rates, terms, and fees can vary widely amongst lenders, so do your homework. If you’re renewing an existing mortgage, start with your current lender. Then contact several others to find out which one is willing to offer you the best overall deal. But be sure to complete the process within 45 days—or else the credit inquiries by multiple mortgage companies could have a negative impact on your credit score.

READY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE LOWEST MORTGAGE RATES IN HISTORY? 

Mortgage rates have never been this low. Don’t miss out on your chance to lock in a great rate on a new home or refinance your existing mortgage. Either way, I can help.

I'd be happy to connect you with the most trusted mortgage professionals in our network. And if you're ready to start shopping for a new home, I'd love to assist you with your search - all at no cost to you! Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.

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


Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate?

  •  Monday, July 6, 2020
  •  Marion goard

Traditionally, spring is one of the busiest times of the year for real estate. But the coronavirus outbreak—and subsequent stay-at-home orders—led many buyers and sellers to put their moving plans on hold. In April, sales volume fell to its lowest level since 1984, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.1

However, while sales have fallen, prices have remained stable. Nationally, the average home price in April was down just 1.3% from the same month last year.1 And in many metropolitan areas including Hamilton-Burlington, prices have continued to rise. The Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures 11 major Canadian markets, showed home prices in April were up 5.3% from a year earlier.2 

Despite the stats, given safety concerns and the current economic climate, is it prudent to jump into the real estate market now?

Before you decide, it’s important to consider where the housing market is headed, how the real estate process has changed, and your own individual needs and circumstances.

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE HOUSING MARKET?

In response to the economic slowdown, the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates.3 That’s good news for homebuyers who have struggled to afford a mortgage in the past. Lower mortgage rates can bring down monthly payments or increase a buyer’s purchasing power while making it easier to qualify for a loan.

And at a recent press conference, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told reporters that interest rates would likely remain low for the foreseeable future. He also noted that the country is on track to meet the central bank’s “best-case scenario for recovery” as outlined in April, and he didn’t predict damage to the economy would be as “dire” as some have speculated.4 

While many buyers are eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, some wonder if recessionary pressures could drive down home prices, too. Economists at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predict that prices will decrease over the next 12 months.5 However, many real estate industry veterans expect supply and demand fundamentals to prevent a drastic drop in home values.6

There’s been a shortage of affordable homes on the market for years, and that inventory shortage has helped to prop up prices—even as sales have slowed. That’s because supply and demand have fallen at around the same pace.7 Of course, some market segments have fared better than others. For example, demand has softened for urban condos in some areas, which has caused prices to drop. Whereas, the supply of single-family homes in many neighbourhoods has dried up, leaving eager buyers to compete for listings.7 

There are certainly opportunities out in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers. But now more than ever, it’s crucial to have a professional real estate agent who understands your local market dynamics and can help you assess the best time to buy or list your home.

HOW HAS THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS CHANGED?

The safety of our clients and our team members is our top priority. That’s why we’ve developed a process for buyers and sellers that utilizes technology to minimize personal contact.  

For our listings, we’re holding online open houses, offering virtual viewings, and conducting walk-through video tours. We’re also using video chat to qualify interested buyers before we book in-person showings. This enables us to promote your property to a broad audience while limiting physical foot traffic to only serious buyers. 

Likewise, our buyer clients can view properties online and take virtual video tours to minimize the number of homes they step inside. Ready to visit a property in person? To decrease surface contact sellers are asked to turn on all the lights and open doors and cabinets before your scheduled showing. 

The majority of our “paperwork” is also digital. In fact, many of the legal and financial documents involved in buying and selling a home went online years ago. You can safely view and eSign contracts from your smartphone or computer. 

While these new ways of conducting business may seem strange at first, keep in mind, many out of town buyers and others have utilized virtual methods to buy and sell homes for years.

IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO MAKE A MOVE? 

The reality is, there’s no “one size fits all” answer as to whether it’s a good time to buy or sell a home because everyone’s circumstances are unique. But now that you know the state of the market and what you can expect as you shop for real estate, consider the following questions:

Why do you want or need to move?

It’s important to consider why you want to move and if your needs may shift over the next year. For example, if you need a larger home for your growing family, your space constraints aren’t likely to go away. In fact, they could be amplified as you spend more time at home.

However, if you’re planning a move to be closer to your office, consider whether your commute could change. Some companies are rethinking their office dynamics and may encourage their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. 

How urgently do you need to complete your move? 

If you have a new baby on the way or want to be settled before schools open in the fall, we recommend that you begin aggressively searching as soon as possible. With fewer homes on the market, it’s taking longer than usual for clients to find and purchase a home.  

However, if your timeline is flexible, you may be well-positioned to score a deal. There may be some highly-incentivized sellers who are willing to negotiate on terms and price. Talk to us about setting up a search so we can keep an eye out for any bargains that pop up. Most importantly, get pre-qualified for a mortgage now so you’ll be ready to act quickly.

If you’re eager to sell this year, now is the time to begin prepping your home for the market. Prices could fluctuate, and experts predict a second wave of infections may necessitate another lockdown.8 If you wait, you might miss your window of opportunity. 

How has your particular market segment been impacted? 

Certain segments will weather this economic downturn better than others. It’s important to understand the market dynamics of your particular area, price point, and housing type. The truth is, broad macroeconomic projections rarely paint an accurate picture of the day-to-day market realities of a given neighbourhood.

How long do you plan to stay in your new home? 

During times of market uncertainty, your best bet is to buy a home you can envision yourself keeping for several years. Fortunately, with decreased competition and ultra-low mortgage rates, you’ll be well-positioned to score a great deal.

Is your income stable? 

If there’s a good chance you could lose your job, you may be better off waiting to buy a home. The exception would be if you’re planning to downsize. Moving to a less expensive home could allow you to tap into your home equity or cut down on your monthly expenses.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MOVE—I'M READY TO HELP

While uncertain market conditions may give pause to some buyers and sellers, they can actually present an opportunity for those who are willing, able, and motivated to make a move.  

Your average spring season would be flooded with real estate activity. Right now, motivated players are out in the market. That means that if you’re looking to buy, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. And today’s low mortgage rates could give a big boost to your purchasing power. In fact, if you’ve been priced out of the market before, this may be the perfect time to look.  

If you’re ready to sell, you’ll have fewer listings to compete against in your neighbourhood and price range. But you’ll want to act quickly—a second wave of coronavirus cases could be coming later this year. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have to face another lockdown in your current home.

Let’s schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your individual needs and circumstances. We can help you assess your options and create a plan that makes you feel both comfortable and confident during these unprecedented times. 

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

Sources:

  1. CTV News -
    https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/canadian-home-sales-fall-to-record-breaking-36-year-low-1.4940984
  2. House Price Index -
    https://housepriceindex.ca/2020/05/april2020/
  3. CBC -
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bank-of-canada-interest-rate-1.5512098
  4. Financial Post -
    https://business.financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/bank-of-canada-governor-says-interest-rates-will-probably-stay-low
  5. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation -
    https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/media-newsroom/speeches/2020/supporting-financial-stability-during-covid19-pandemic
  6. RE/MAX -
    https://blog.remax.ca/no-nosedive-ahead-for-canadian-real-estate-prices-re-max/
  7. Global News -
    https://globalnews.ca/news/6943727/coronavirus-housing-market-good-time-to-buy/
  8. CTV News -
    https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/the-second-wave-will-come-and-experts-say-canada-is-not-prepared-1.4948733

20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget

  •  Thursday, May 7, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

These days, it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their income further. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your household expenses without making radical changes to your standard of living. When combined, these small adjustments can add up to significant savings each month. 

Here are 20 things you can start doing today to lower your bills, secure better deals, and begin working toward your financial goals. 

  1. Refinance Your Mortgage - For prime borrowers, mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Depending on your current mortgage rate and the terms you choose, refinancing could save you a sizable amount on your monthly payments. There are fees and closing costs associated with refinancing, so you’ll need to talk to your lender to find out if refinancing is a good option for you.
  2. Evaluate Your Insurance Policies - If it’s been a while since you priced home or auto insurance, it may be worthwhile to do some comparison shopping. Get quotes from at least three insurers or independent agents. Try bundling your policies to see if there’s a discount. And inquire about raising your deductible, which should lower your premium.1
  3. Bundle Cable, Phone, and Internet - You can also save money by bundling your cable, phone, and internet services together. Shop around to see who is willing to give you the best deal. If switching is too much of a hassle, ask your current provider to match or beat their competitor’s offer.
  4. Better Yet, Cut the Cord on Cable - In many cases, you can save even more if you cancel your cable subscription altogether. An antenna should give you access to the major stations, and many of your favorite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.
  5. Revisit Your Wireless Plan - You can often save by switching from a big brand to an independent, low-cost carrier. If that’s not feasible, ask your current provider for a better deal or consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.
  6. Adjust Your Thermostat - Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can have a noticeable impact on your monthly heating and cooling costs. To maximize efficiency, change your filters regularly, and make sure your windows and doors are well insulated.
  7. Use Less Hot Water - After heating and cooling, hot water accounts for the second largest energy expense in most homes.2 To cut back, repair any leaks or dripping faucets, install low-flow fixtures, only run your dishwasher when full, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.
  8. Lower Overall Water Consumption - To decrease your water usage, take shorter showers, and turn off the sink while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, retrofit your current one with a toilet tank bank or fill cycle diverter. And irrigate your lawn in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.3
  9. Conserve Electricity - Save electricity by shutting off your computer at night and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs. You can minimize standby or “vampire” power drain by utilizing power strips and unplugging idle appliances.4
    1. Purchase a Home Warranty - While there is an upfront cost, a home warranty can provide some protection and peace of mind when it comes to unexpected home repair costs. Most plans provide coverage for major systems (like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) and appliances (such as your dishwasher, stove, or refrigerator).
    2. Outsource Less - From lawn care to grocery shopping to minor home repairs, we pay people to do a lot of things our parents and grandparents did themselves. To save money, try cutting back on the frequency of these services or taking some of them on yourself.
    3. Prepare Your Own Meals - It costs nearly five times more to have a meal delivered than it does to cook it at home.5 And home cooking doesn’t just save money; it’s healthier, cuts down on calorie consumption, and can offer a fun activity for families to do together.
    4. Plan Your Menu in Advance - Meal planning is deciding before you shop what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can help you lower your overall food bill, eliminate waste, and minimize impulse purchases. When possible, buy produce that is in season, and utilize nutrient-rich but inexpensive protein sources like eggs, beans, ground turkey, and canned tuna.
    5. Plant a Garden - You can save even more on produce by growing it yourself. If you have space in your yard, start-up costs are relatively minimal. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable (not to mention delicious) hobby for the whole family. And it could save you around $600 per year at the grocery store!6
    6. Review Memberships and Subscriptions - Are you paying for services and subscriptions you no longer need, want, or can utilize? Determine if there are any that you should suspend or cancel.
    7. Give Homemade Gifts - Who wouldn’t appreciate a scratch birthday cake or tin of cookies? And if you enjoy crafting, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas. Show your recipient how much you care with a homemade gift from the heart.
    8. Minimize Your Debt Payments - The best way to reduce a debt payment is to pay down the balance. But if that’s not an option right now, try to negotiate a better interest rate. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer to a 0% or low-interest rate credit card. Keep in mind, the rate may expire after a certain period—so be sure to read the fine print.
    9. Get a Cash-back Credit Card - If you regularly pay your credit card balance in full, a cash-back credit card can be a good way to earn a little money back each month. However, they often come with high-interest rates and fees if you carry a balance. Commit to only using it for purchases you can afford.
    10. Ask for Deals and Discounts - It may feel awkward at first, but becoming a master haggler can save you a lot of money. Many companies are willing to negotiate under the right circumstances. Always inquire about special promotions or incentives. See if they are able to price match (or beat) their competitors. And if an item is slightly defective or nearing its expiration date, ask for a discount.
    11. Track Your Household Budget - One of the most effective ways to reduce household expenses is to set a budget—and stick to it. A budget can help you see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. By setting reasonable limits, you’ll be able to reach your financial goals faster.

        Want more help getting a handle on your finances? Use the budget worksheet below to track income and expenses—and start working towards your financial goals today! Please reach out to me for a downloadable version.

        I'M HERE TO HELP

        I would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, I am happy to provide my insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to financially prepare. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation!

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

        Sources:

        1. Insurance Information Institute -
          https://www.iii.org/article/twelve-ways-to-lower-your-homeowners-insurance-costs
        2. Department of Energy -
          https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings
        3. Money Crashers -
          https://www.moneycrashers.com/ways-conserve-water/
        4. Harvard University -
          https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/poster/top-5-steps-reduce-your-energy-consumption
        5. Forbes -
          https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/#2c53b2f35e54
        6. Money -
          https://money.com/gardening-grocery-savings/

         

         

         

         


              #StayHome: How to Create Functional Spaces in Your Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

              •  Monday, March 30, 2020
              •  unknown

              Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways we can modify our homes and lifestyles to make the best of this difficult situation.

              Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. I also share some good ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.

               

              Begin with the Basics 

              A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity. 

              Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, if you haven't already, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them.

              Ready to start building an emergency kit for your home? Contact me for a free copy of my Home Emergency Preparation Checklist!

              Working From Home 

              Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.

              Of course, with schools and daycares now closed, if you have children who are home with you all day  separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings. 

              If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work1. A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.

              Homeschooling Your Children

              Parents with school-aged children may be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed. 

              If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible, and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area. 

              If the weather is nice, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and when the weather is suitable gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum.  

              In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones2. And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.

              Staying Fit 

              With gyms closed and team sports canceled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both.

              If you live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible. If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides.

              Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups.

              And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.

              Socializing From a Distance 

              Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbors and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now. 

              And while parties and playdates are prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.

              There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbor’s porch. Or organize a neighborhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork. 

              Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever.

              YOU ARE NOT ALONE

              Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. I'm not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. I want to be a resource to my clients and community through good times and bad. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let me know how I can help.

              Sources:

              1. CNBC -
                https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/16/how-to-work-from-home-with-your-kids-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html
              2. com -
                https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/benefits-of-homeschooling-2/

              Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner's Guide

              •  Tuesday, February 11, 2020
              •  Marion Goard

              Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.

              One of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families, and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters in some areas.

              So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.

              Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, in pretty simple terms, if your home would sell for $250,000, and the balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you would have $50,000 in home equity.

                     $250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

              -      $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)

              __________________________

                     $50,000 (Home Equity)

              The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.

              HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH? 

              A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.

              Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.

              WHAT CAN I DO TO GROW MY HOME’S EQUITY FASTER? 

              Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:

                   1) Pay down your mortgage.

              I shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home.

              Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, gift, or inheritance. 

              Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal.

              Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.

                   2) Raise your home’s market value.

              Boosting the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.

              For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can come with significant costs —average less than a 60% return on investment. 

              Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.

              HOW DO I ACCESS MY HOME EQUITY IF I NEED IT?

              When you put your money into a chequing or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.

               The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.

              But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.

              There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:

              1)  Second Mortgage - A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is         structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly. 

              2)  Cash-Out Refinance - With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.

              3)  Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) - A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a chequebook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.

              4) Reverse Mortgage - A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.

              4) Sell 'n STAY® - This is a program where to access the home equity without having to move, the owner sells their house to an investor buyer and then leases the property back from the new owner. The funds generated from the sale of the home become available to the seller.

              Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you.

              I'M HERE TO HELP YOU 

              Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, I can help. I work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey. I also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to help determine whether to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, I can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact me today to schedule a complimentary consultation!

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


              5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home

              •  Tuesday, August 27, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              In our “bigger is better” culture, there’s an expectation that each home should be larger and grander than the last. However, life changes like divorce, kids leaving for college, or even the simple act of growing older can prompt us to find a smaller home that better suits our shifting needs and lifestyle.

              In fact, the advantages of downsizing are being increasingly recognized. A “tiny house movement” has gained passionate advocates who appreciate the benefits of living simply at any age and stage of life. Not only does a smaller home typically cost less, it also takes less time and effort to maintain.

              Whatever your reasons are for downsizing, the process can seem overwhelming. Because of this, people tend to put it off and then find themselves in a crisis situation, necessitating a unplanned move.  To help take away some of the fear, I’ve outlined five steps to guide you on a downsizing journey. In the end, I hope you’ll find that it's not so scary after all and that less is more … more comfort, more security, and more time and energy to spend on the activities and the people that you love.  

              5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

              1. Determine Your Goals and Limitations

              The first step is to figure out your goals for your new living environment. Do you want to live closer to family? Are you hoping to cut down on home maintenance? Are you looking for a community with certain amenities?

              You should also consider any limitations that will impact the home you choose. For example, are stairs an issue? Do you need access to medical care? In the case of divorce, are there child-custody issues you need to take into account?

              Estimate how long you plan to stay in your new home. Do you expect your needs to change during that time?

              Make a “wish list” of features and prioritize them from most to least important. If you’d like any assistance with this process, give us a call! I’d be happy to sit down with you for a free consultation. I can also help you assess the value of your current home so you can set a realistic budget for your new one.

              1. Find the Perfect New Home

              Once you’ve established your “wish list,” we can begin the search for your new home. As a local market expert, I know the ins and outs of all the top communities in our area. I can help you determine the neighborhood and type of home that will best fit your wants and needs.

              From family neighborhoods to retirement communities, I serve clients in all stages of life. If you or a loved one are in need of extended support, I can also share my knowledge of the assisted living facilities in town and help you identify those that offer the optimal level of care. 

              Are you planning to relocate out of town? Through my network of other Master Accredited Senior Agents I can refer you to a reliable, competent and trusted real estate professional in your target area who can help you with your search.

              1. Sell Your Current Home

              If you’re ready to sell your current home, we’ll begin the process of preparing to list it as we search for your new one.  

              I have a special interest in helping homeowners who are facing major life transitions, and offer a full-service real estate experience that aims to remove as much of the stress and hassle of selling your home as possible. I also understand that many of my clients choose to downsize for financial reasons, so I employ tactics and strategies to maximize the potential sales revenue of your home.

              My approach focuses on optimum preparation, pricing, and promotion. As part of that plan, I invest in an aggressive marketing strategy that utilizes online and social media platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents. This ensures your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

              1. Sort and Pack Your Belongings

              Even before you find your new home, you can begin preparing for your move. A smaller home means less space for your furniture and other possessions, so you will need to decide what to keep and what to sell or donate. Sorting through an entire house full of belongings will take time, so begin as early as possible.

              Parting with personal possessions can be an extremely emotional process. Start with a small, unemotional space like a laundry or powder room and work your way up to larger rooms. Focus on eliminating duplicates and anything you don’t regularly use. If you have sentimental pieces, family heirlooms, or just useful items you no longer need, think about who in your life would benefit from having them. For large collections, consider keeping one or two favorite pieces and photographing the rest to put in an album.

              Make sure the items you keep help you achieve the goals you outlined in Step 1. For example, if you want a home that’s easier to clean, cut down on knickknacks that require frequent dusting. If you’re moving to be closer to your grandchildren, choose the shatterproof plates over the antique china.

              Allow yourself time to take breaks if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re helping a loved one with a move, try to be a patient listener if they want to stop and share stories about particular items or memories throughout the process. This can be therapeutic for them and an opportunity for you to learn family history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

              1. Get Help When You Need It

              Moving is stressful in any situation. But if you’re downsizing due to health issues or a major life change, it can be an especially tough transition. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

              Seek out friends and family members who can assist with packing and de-cluttering. If that’s not an option, or if you need additional help, consider hiring a home organizer, full-service moving company, or even a senior move manager, which is a professional who assists older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation. Through my extensive network of exceptional specialists I'm confident we can find just the right support for you. 

              If financial constraints are holding back, let me know. I can help you explore the possibility of tapping into the equity in your current home now. That way you can afford to get the assistance you need to make your transition as smooth as possible.

              ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?

              Later-in-life housing decisions really do deserve a customized transition plan, extra time, patience and highly specialized guidance. Working with someone like myself - a Master Accredited Senior Agent and Senior Real Estate Specialist - is your best route. Call or email me today at 905-330-5201 or mariongoard@kw.com to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and receive your own tailor made transition plan!

               


              The new mortgage rules in Canada - What you need to know

              At the beginning of this year, new tighter mortgage rules were put out by The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). This has made it more difficult for some homebuyers to get mortgages this year. 

              The new rules have stricter qualifying criteria as the requirement for a mortgage stress test is now extended to all homebuyers. Even borrowers with a down payment of twenty per cent or more now face a stress test, as has been the case since January 2017 for applicants with smaller down payments who require mortgage insurance. This is aimed at limiting the amount of debt that Canadians and financial institutions take on.

              So what is the stress test? It means that financial institutions would use either the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or the customer's mortgage interest rate plus 2 per cent - whichever is higher. This is to ensure that borrowers’ housing expenses compared to their income remain below a certain threshold even if rates rise. Financial institutions look at the size of the loan compared to the price of the house as well as credit scores.

              For some first-time homebuyers these stricter mortgage lending rules mean you might need to rent for longer before you can buy a home. Or you might need to consider getting a co-signer to qualify under these stricter rules. This may cause others to have to settle for a less expensive home than they would have qualified for in the past, and some people may choose to wait and save up for a larger down payment.

              Are you a first-time homebuyer? Get in touch to discuss how I can help you on your journey to home ownership! Call me at (905)330-5201 or by email at mariongoard@kw.com


              Getting pre-approved is more important than ever

              With interest rates on the rise and many housing policy changes over the past year, it's more important than ever for first-time home buyers to have their mortgage pre-approval in hand when beginning the search for a new home.

              There are a few reasons why getting pre-approved is so important as you begin the journey towards home ownership. For one, it takes the guesswork out of house hunting! There's no sense in viewing and falling in love with a home you can't afford. You can streamline the process and keep only true contenders in the running when you are aware how much you can afford to spend on your new home. Another reason to get pre-approved is that it shows that you're a serious buyer. Both real estate sales persons and sellers will recognize that you have done your homework and are truly ready to buy. In fact, having a pre-approval in hand may give you negotiating power over another buyer who has not been pre-approved.

              Getting pre-approved will also help things move along quicker and smoother during a negotiation. It will allow you to act fast when placing an offer on a home. By getting pre-approved you have started the application process for the mortgage. They will provide you with a pre-approval letter, though it is important to remember that this is not a guarantee of financing. Most realtors will still recommend that you include a condition on financing in any offers you submit.

              What is a mortgage commitment letter? A little more in-depth than a mortgage pre-approval, a mortgage loan commitment letter means that a full mortgage application was taken, the loan has passed through underwriting and the borrower was approved. A commitment letter is a document that lets everyone in the real estate transaction (real estate sales persons, sellers, etc.) know that the lender is prepared to take on a loan that will cover the cost of a home.

              The simple step of getting pre-approved will make your home buying experience run smoother.


              Is condo living right for you?

              Buyers have plenty of choice when it comes to choosing the type of home they will buy. You can purchase new from a builder, or shop around for a resale townhouse, single family home or condominium.

              The latter is an excellent option for first-time buyers, young professionals and retirees or those looking to downsize. That's not to say that all condos are affordable. A spacious unit in a well-appointed building can easily boast a price tag well into the millions with monthly maintenance fees approaching $1,000 per month.

              Whatever your price range, there are a few things to consider and research before settling on a condo purchase.

              The first factor to consider is those condominium fees. Possibly one of the great mysteries of homeownership, these fees can turn an outright purchase into what seems like a rental, with monthly payments to factor into your budget for as long as you live at that address. If you have never paid condo fees before and the concept has you running scared, take a few minutes here to understand what they are and what they cover:

              • The cost of keeping common spaces (elevators, indoor and outdoor gardens, lobbies and hallways, etc.) clean and in good working order.

              • The upkeep of amenities such as fitness rooms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, theatre rooms, spas and party rooms.

              • Snow removal, roof repair and insurance.

              You'll also want to think about the building's amenities. Before you move into a condo, decide whether its in-house bells and whistles are perks you'll use often enough to warrant the fees you'll be paying for them each month.

              A final consideration is the condo corporation's status certificate. A status certificate is a prospective condo owner's first look into the financial health of their potential investment. This comprehensive report gives all the details on the current fees that owners' pay, any large fee increases that may be on the horizon and any liens or arrears owed by particular owners. Financial statements are also a part of the status certificate and will show the trends in expenditures and receipts of the past, and provide comparisons of a corporation's actual and expected costs. To get your hands on a condominium's status certificate, you must submit a written request to the condo board's management company, plus a $100 fee. They have 10 days, as required by law, to provide the certificate.


              Save money AND pay down your mortgage faster

              Even homeowners who do all their homework before buying are occasionally surprised by how quickly the many expenses of home ownership add up each and every month. But rest assured; if you stick to your budget and make a few sacrifices here and there, it is possible to save money and maybe even pay off your mortgage a few years early!

              Mortgages are compounded with hundreds of payments to slowly reduce both your principle loan as well as interest charges, so you can expect interest-heavy payments for the first five to seven years as your bank makes lending you all that money worth their while. But there are ways to pay down your mortgage faster and save money in the long run!

              Bi-weekly is best - Opting for an accelerated biweekly payment schedule will not only allow you to make 26 payments a year, it will also reduce both your interest rates and principle amount faster. Lenders may charge you an additional fee, but this is money well spent.

              Round it up – Did you know that a hypothetical increased payment of $1,000 instead of $830 could save up to $48,000 over the course of the mortgage? That's nearly eight years of payments! Ask your lender if this is an option for you.

              Make a lump payment – If you get an annual bonus or consistently receive a substantial income tax return, consider using the windfall as a lump payment at the time of your mortgage renewal or sooner if your lender allows it.

              When it comes to saving money, it's common to have difficulty during your first few years of homeownership as you adjust to the added expenses. But it can be done. Here are a few simple ideas to help you cut back:

              • Online grocery shopping. How many times do you walk into a grocery store with nine or ten items on your list and leave with a cart full? Instead, do your shopping online and simply drive to the store to pick up your order – no more impulse buying! Check your local retailers to see if the service is offered.
              • Make your own lunch and coffee every day.
              • Use public transportation if available
              • Install a programmable thermostat to save on energy bills

              What do you know about renting to own?

              Renting to own, also known as a lease option, is another choice in today's real estate market. Traditionally, if you were looking to purchase a home, you would save 20 percent of a home's cost for a down payment and get a mortgage up front from a financial institution.

              That option may be challenging if you have a bruised credit history, or you don't have an adequate down payment, if you are new immigrants with little or no credit history or are self-employed.

              Renting to own means you can save for a down payment while actually living in the house you want to buy. Usually, a portion of the monthly rent is set aside toward the down payment and there is often a significant deposit as well. At the end of two to four years, the down payment is collected and the renters apply for a mortgage.

              Although it sounds like a win-win, there are pitfalls to watch for. Your monthly rental costs, due to the down payment portion, will usually be substantially higher than a regular rental. If you're a renter in this kind of arrangement and you must break the agreement, you risk losing your deposit and the monthly savings in order to walk away. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. If you still don't qualify for a mortgage at the end of the rental period, you may have to walk away from the home and from your money too. If you're late on a monthly payment, you could be evicted, forfeiting your cash.

              As with any contract that involves large amounts of money, make sure you obtain legal counsel before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure your investment is protected and that there is a clause for breaking the rental agreement that won't break you!


              First-timers: Are you ready to buy?

              While interest rates remain low, there have been a few changes in recent months and some even bigger changes in recent years that have made purchasing a home tougher for first-time buyers. Prices across most of the country are on the rise and housing stock is low in many areas, creating a fast-paced, red-hot real estate market that is leaving some in the dust.

              Here are three things you should consider before you start the hunt for your first home:

              Can you afford it? Without a doubt, this is the most important question of all when planning the largest purchase of your life. In addition to mortgage payments, be sure to factor in all the added costs that homeowners face. Closing costs, property tax, monthly utility bills, home maintenance and repairs will add up quickly and with the new mortgage rules that went into effect last fall, getting pre-approved is tougher.

              Is your down payment sufficient? While it's ideal to put down 20 percent (to avoid paying mortgage insurance, which can tack an extra $50 to $100 per month onto your debt load) the law in Canada requires purchasers to pay, up front, at least five percent of the purchase price. If you're having trouble coming up with this amount, talk to your lender or a financial planner for suggestions on saving money faster.

              Is home ownership right for you, right now? This is a valid question for Millennials who are considering taking the leap into owning real estate. Buying a home is a major life event and, while owning real estate is always a wise investment, if you have a career that could include a transfer a year down the road or there's a chance you may return to school to further your education, the timing might not be right. Location is another factor to consider. Do you foresee yourself in this town or city for a number of years? Buying and selling a home and moving are costly steps, so be sure you've found the right location to set down your roots.

              With some thoughtful consideration, you will make the right choice. Having a trusted realtor on your side will always be a benefit, so take some time to find the professional who's right for you!


              Is buying a house with a friend or family member a good idea?

              Buying a house with a friend or family member, is it a good idea? The first step is outweighing the pros and cons to see if this is the right decision for you.

              Many young people can't afford to purchase a house on their own. Teaming up with another buyer might just put their dreams within reach. But buying a home with a close friend or family member takes what is already a very big life decision and creates a unique dynamic. How will major decisions be made and agreed upon? It certainly is not right for everyone, but with the right pairing and some serious planning, it might be the perfect solution for two parties who are unable to afford a home on their own. 

              There are positive factors as well as some risks that need to be carefully examined before entering into joint ownership.

              Here are some of the benefits. You can share the responsibility of finances, including the deposit, mortgage payments, monthly expenses, legal and real estate fees. You may also qualify for a larger mortgage, which will mean a bigger home or maybe a more desirable location. You can also share the burden of maintenance costs, furnishings and decor.

              Here are some of the drawbacks. You might encounter a number of disagreements when sharing ownership - for example, what if one person wants to sell the house before the other? What if one owner wants a few pets and the other doesn't? There could also be complications when it comes to working out how to split up the costs, managing household responsibilities and determining household rules. 

              Before you purchase, make sure that everyone involved signs a co-ownership agreement. This will set the ground rules ahead of time and act like a pre-nuptial agreement to ownership.


              Easy Ways to Save Money on your Household Expenses

              Cut down on your household expenses and put your savings to better use with these tips:

              • The small stuff adds up. Turn the lights off when you leave a room, and skip the daily coffee run, trip to the vending machine and lottery ticket booth.
              • Make a shopping list before you go to the grocery store and stick to it. You'll buy what you truly need and eliminate unnecessary purchases.
              • Utility costs. Set your programmable thermostat so that it automatically cools down your house when you're asleep or out of the house.
              • Invest in ceiling fans to circulate air more efficiently and help reduce your heating and cooling costs.
              • Buy energy efficient light bulbs and turn off your computer/laptop, television when you're not using them.
              • Vacuum the dust off the coils in your refrigerator to improve the efficiency of one of the larger consumers of energy in your household.
              • The dryer is the other big energy-sucking appliance in your house. When you can, hang your clothes to dry in the laundry room and use the dryer sparingly.
              • Switch to a low-flow showerhead, repair leaky faucets and toilets and cut down on watering your lawn.
              • Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 Fahrenheit.
              • Borrow movies from the library, or watch shows online.
              • Same goes with telephone charges for your landline or your cellphone. Reassess your use every year and see if there's a cheaper plan that fits your needs.

              These are just some of the ways to save. Have any additional tips to share?


              Financial Spring Cleaning

              Spring heralds the will to tidy up and may include any financial messes you may have. With the picture of the year passed still fresh in your mind, courtesy of those requisite tax returns, this is the perfect time of year to review your finances to see where improvements can be made in terms of savings, goal-setting and budgeting for expenses.

              Organize your files
              If you don’t have a file system set up yet for bills, income, bank statements and investments, do it. By this time next year you’ll be able to do an annual review much easier. And you’ll have a system down to create next year’s folders.

              Draft a budget
              It is essential to understand where your money goes. Spend a month keeping track of your spending by recording every which way cash leaves your hand or bank account. Now, put it all down on paper into categories from rent/mortgage to clothing, food, transport and cable/cell, among other expenses. Make sure you set up an emergency fund for those car/home repairs etc. that unceremoniously pop up.

              Review your budget
              At the end of every month make sure you are staying on track to meet your financial obligations and to reach your long- and short-term goals. Monthly reviews will keep you disciplined and avoid falling into bad habits.

              Review your investment portfolio
              Review and if necessary, re-balance your portfolio so that it aligns with your comfort of risk and percentage of cash to bonds and stocks. It is also a great time to increase your contribution amount by even the smallest amount. It will make a difference in the long term.

              Lower your interest rates and plans
              Now is the time to talk to your credit card company and your Internet, cable and cell phone providers asking for lower rates and plans. Assess whether you really need the plans you have, research the competition and then get on the phone and negotiate a better, cheaper deal with the service provider and credit card company. Even if you manage to shave just $5 off each of those bills every month, that extra money can go a long way to boost your savings account or retirement portfolio.

              With interest rates at historical lows, you may also want to take a look at whether there are any opportunities to renegotiate your mortgage. I work with several very competent mortgage specialists and would be happy to connect you with these individuals.


              Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit

              It's no secret that the population is ageing and that each of us hopes that our elder years are happy, healthy and safe. The number of seniors choosing to remain in their own homes as long as possible is significant yet they may be wondering how long they can safely continue to live in their own home. They might be finding stairs difficult, or worry about getting in and out of the tub.

              There is good news from the Ontario government. The Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit is a personal income tax credit for seniors over 65 to help them make safety and accessibility changes to their homes. This tax credit is also available to those who live with a senior family member and want to make their home safer and more comfortable. As my own elderly parents are fortunate enough to be living independently, the ability to enhance safety features through the Healthy Homes Tax Credit is a welcome benefit.

              New in 2012, this tax credit is calculated as 15% on a maximum of $10,000, or $1,500, of the annual eligible expenses you claim. For the 2012 tax year only, the eligible expenses would be incurred between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2012. For future years, you can claim expenses within that calendar year. For example, you can claim that walk-in bathtub you installed in November 2011 on your 2012 tax return. When you add the grab bars in the bathroom and handrails in the hallway in April 2013, you can claim these on your 2013 tax return.

              Some examples of eligible work include non-slip bathroom flooring, installing a hand-held shower, easy-to-operate door locks and levered taps and door handles, and grab bars around toilets and tubs. More extensive renovations, such as those for wheelchair accessibility, are also included in the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. Wheelchair ramps, wheel-in showers, widening of doorways and corridors, accessible light switches and lowering of counters and cupboards in kitchens and bathrooms are all included as eligible expenses. For family members, providing a first floor or secondary suite for a senior family member would also be covered under this program. And the best part is this tax credit is available regardless of your annual income.

              If you’re handy, you can do the work yourself and still qualify. Be sure to check the list of eligible expenses before you begin. Remember to check with your local building department for any permits you may need. Save all your receipts for Revenue Canada to verify your expenses. If you’re hiring a contractor, exercise due diligence and do your research for any work done on your home. Make sure contractors are specifically qualified and experienced in accessibility renovations.

              With the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit, more seniors will be able to make the changes they need to stay in their homes longer and live safer and with more self-sufficiency. Families with a senior member will be able to make changes to make their lives easier and safer. It’s win-win!

              To learn more about this new program, visit The Ontario Government's Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit page.

              Testimonials

                "Thank you so much for all your help and guidance with my purchase. It was a big relief knowing that you were working with me. Your advice, guidance, knowledge, patience, and friendship was greatly appreciated throughout the whole process."

              Annette Giannini, Guelph ON

              Read More Client Testimonials