Advice tips and ideas for home owners

Mid Year Market Update for 2024: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know

  •  Saturday, June 8, 2024
  •  Marion Goarrd

Once again, the number one story in real estate this summer is mortgage rates. But unlike last year, when a surprise series of rate hikes from the Bank of Canada sent skittish buyers back to the sidelines, all signs now point to the opposite scenario. Instead of market-chilling rate hikes, economists now expect market-quickening rate cuts— starting as soon as this month. 

That means the housing market is likely to get interesting over the next few months. If fixed mortgage rates continue to drop in anticipation of a lower policy rate, more buyers are expected to show up looking for a deal before home prices take off in 2025 and 2026.   

Listings are also on the upswing and homeowners are feeling increasingly optimistic that their home values will rise over the next year, per a new Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) study. So we could see more sellers-in-waiting regain the confidence to list their homes at strong but realistic prices.

With pent-up demand continuing to build, housing market activity could pick up significantly. As TD Bank Economist Rishi Sondhi noted in an interview with The Canadian Press, Canada's housing market is “akin to a bit of a coiled spring.” Often when there's a market-moving event like a rate cut, home sales and prices jump quickly.

What does that mean for you? Read on for my take on this year's most important real estate news and get a sneak peek into what analysts predict is around the corner for 2024. 

MORTGAGE BORROWERS SHOULD FINALLY GET SOME RATE RELIEF

After more than a year of shifting forecasts and delays, it's finally happening: the Bank of Canada's first rate cut since 2020 is  here. The central bank is gearing up for two back-to-back meetings this summer to discuss monetary policy, plus three more meetings before year-end. We've seen our first rate cut on June 5. 

But with inflation still elevated in the U.S. and the job market showing surprising gains here at home, the total number of rate cuts we'll see in 2024 is anyone's guess. Market watchers are nervously eyeing warmer-than-expected economic data from both sides of the border, with some now second-guessing whether rates will fall as much as hoped. Previously, many economists thought federal rates would fall by at least a point this year. 

Sticky inflation down south is already putting pressure on bond yields, which help determine the fixed rates lenders charge. If the U.S. economy stays hotter than expected, the Bank of Canada may be forced to delay additional rate cuts, which could further impact mortgage rates.  

As Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem cautioned, Canada's central bank is ready and willing to cut rates before the U.S. Federal Reserve. But there's “a limit” to how much faster they can go. If too much daylight exists between the countries’ key interest rates, that could weaken the Canadian dollar and further boost inflation. 

What does it mean for you?  If Canadian homebuyers' past behaviour is any indication, any drop in the Bank of Canada’s policy rate—even a delayed one—is likely to fuel enthusiasm and spark competition. But with lenders already pricing in the first rate cut expected this summer, it could be a while before fixed mortgage rates drop further. If you're a buyer, ask for a referral  to a mortgage broker so you can lock in a competitive rate. It's been a tough year for mortgage originations, so lenders are hungry for new business and may be more willing to cut you a deal. 

PENT-UP DEMAND COULD SOON BURST INTO VIEW

With at least one quarter-point rate cut in the books and potentially a few more on the way, the last six months of 2024 are unlikely to mirror the first half of the year. 

As the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) noted in a recent market forecast, housing markets throughout the country have been unusually “quiet” this year thanks to still-high rates and lingering uncertainty. But that doesn't mean home sales will stay soft going forward.

On the contrary, market activity is expected to pick up once rates recede. According to new research from BMO, aspiring homebuyers' financial readiness is looking up. But 72% say they're waiting for lower rates before they get serious about buying a home. 

New federal measures could also juice the housing market by boosting demand from first-time buyers. New homebuyers, for example, can now borrow up to $60,000 from their RRSP to fund a down payment$25,000 more than the Home Buyers' Plan previously allowed. Beginning August 1, first-time buyers with insured mortgages will also be allowed a 30-year mortgage term if they purchase new construction.

Affordability constraints will still be a major sticking point, though, for many Canadian homebuyers, which could dampen sales if buyers and sellers continue to butt heads over prices.

What does it mean for you?  Get ready to move quickly. Increased competition almost always means faster home sales—and a need for quick decision-making. If you're a buyer, make sure your papers are in order and you have cash ready for a deposit. And if you're a seller, consider listing now before pent-up supply leads to an uptick in inventory. After all, budget-conscious home-buyers aren't the only ones who have been sitting on the sidelines for the past two years. 

PROPERTY VALUES WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE

The good news for home-buyers: Today's home prices are down significantly from where they were toward the tail end of the pandemic. The bad news: That's probably not going to last. Experts say that home prices have almost certainly bottomed out.

In fact, the CMHC thinks home values could return to peak levels as early as next year before hitting an all-time record high in 2026. As the CMHC notes, home prices and sales declined significantly after rates began to jump in 2022. But in the years since, Canada's population boomed at a record pace, while many people saw their incomes and savings increase. As a result, there's now a bigger pool of potential homebuyers. 

That doesn't mean, though, that home sales will be so strong that sellers can expect the same level of price gains they saw before. As researchers at TD Bank note, rate cuts will help boost prices for now. But “affordability pressures will likely keep the gains from being even stronger.”

The CMHC projects that lower-priced homes will enjoy the fiercest competition. But overall sales activity will be more modest than in 2020 and 2021 when rock-bottom rates made mortgage payments more affordable. 

What does it mean for you?  Even with rate cuts, a typical mortgage payment will be difficult for the average household to absorb, so expect affordability issues to limit overall price growth. Sellers will need to be realistic with their asking price and negotiation tactics—especially if they're looking to close quickly. Buyers, on the other hand, might not want to wait long if they can afford to make a deal. Increased competition could lead to a bigger-than-expected price surge. 

EVEN WITH MORE HOMES FOR SALE, INVENTORY WILL BE TIGHT

According to a winter survey by Dye and Durham Ltd., more than a quarter of Canadians have been holding out for a rate cut before buying or selling a home. So we could see a lot more homes go up for sale this year once rates decline. 

Already, inventory is picking up as more sellers come to market, giving new buyers more choices when comparing homes. The spring market, in particular, saw a notable jump in listings.  

But even if more homes come to market this summer and fall, the total number of Canadians who want to buy a home will still surpass the number of homes available. So both the resale market and new home market are likely to remain squeezed for some time.

In fact, TD Economics estimates that Canada will be short of more than 300,000 homes between 2023 and 2025. Adding to the problem: Housing construction continues to lag population growth and, despite some recent improvements, it is still far from catching up. 

Persistently high rates are also discouraging builders from starting new projects. So the inventory of available homes is likely to get tighter. The CMHC expects housing starts to decline in 2024 and drop even more significantly in 2025. 

What does it mean for you?  With inventory increasing and many prospective homebuyers still priced out of the market, buyers who can afford it may be able to retain some bargaining power—especially for premium homes. However, total inventory is expected to remain tight, so sellers are still more likely to have the upper hand. Competition for more affordable homes will be especially steep.

I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

With nationwide news like rate cuts still playing a big role in today's housing market, it can be useful to get a high-level overview of what's happening across Canada. But the most important factors behind most real estate transactions are local. So on-the-ground expertise is essential. 

As a local market expert, I can help you navigate your neighbourhood's housing market with ease and understand what's driving home values and sales. If you’re considering buying or selling a home, contact me for a free consultation so I can help you build a successful plan. 

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.


The Ultimate Relocation Guide: From Finding a House to Feeling at Home

  •  Sunday, May 5, 2024
  •  Marion Goard

May is “Moving Month,” as designated by the Better Business Bureau and Canadian Association of Movers. It also happens to kick off the peak moving season, which generally runs from May through September. 

According to a survey by Statistics Canada, respondents listed their top motivations for moving as “bigger or better housing” (28.0%) or “a more desirable neighbourhood” (16.8%). But no matter the reason, a relocation can feel stressful and overwhelming.

If you’re one of the many Canadians planning to relocate in the coming months, this guide is for you. I’ve outlined six steps to make your move easier. My hope is to alleviate some of the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the adventure ahead!

     1.   CHOOSE A COMMUNITY

When planning a relocation, one of the first things you’ll need to decide is where you want to live. This could be as broad as an area of town, or you might narrow it down to a specific neighbourhood. 

Depending on your priorities, you may want to start with communities that are close to work, friends, family and/or your preferred schools. If you commute, map out the route and check on the availability of public transportation, if you plan to use it. Then, if possible, try out the commute during rush hour to see what it’s like.

Next, it’s crucial to consider housing prices and cost of living so you don’t set your sights on an area that you can’t realistically afford. Don’t forget to look up local crime statistics to ensure the community is safe. Finally, visit any neighborhoods you’re considering to gauge the vibe and observe characteristics, like pedestrian accessibility, retail offerings, and population density.

Researching the ins and outs of various communities can be a time-consuming and sometimes difficult process, but we’re here to help! Give me a call to discuss your needs and aspirations, and I’d be happy to provide recommendations of neighbourhoods that may be a good fit for you.

     2.   FIND YOUR NEW HOME

Once you’ve chosen an area to settle, the next decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to rent or buy a home. Renting can be a good option if you’re new to town, especially if you’re still saving up for a down payment or you’re not ready to commit to a permanent location. Benefits include flexibility, less maintenance, and lower upfront costs. 

But, if you want to avoid multiple moves—and you’re financially able—there’s no reason to delay the benefits of buying a home. Not only has homeownership been shown to increase your quality of life, but it’s also one of the best ways to protect and grow your wealth.

The value of real estate will typically appreciate over time, and owners can build equity as they pay down their mortgage. Homeowners and buyers may also be able to benefit from certain tax incentives.

But, perhaps most importantly, homeownership offers stability, as property owners aren’t subject to the mercy of their landlords each year. According to Rentals.ca, average asking rent prices in Canada rose nearly 30% between February 2021 and February 2024. In contrast, many homeowners enjoyed a fixed mortgage payment during that same period.

If you decide to purchase a home and you choose me to represent you, you can rest easy knowing that I will be there for you throughout the entire journey, working hard to make the experience as easy as possible. Or, if you’re moving to a new area, I can refer you to a local agent in my network who shares my commitment to client service.

For more information about buying a home and a timeline of the home buying process, reach out to request a free copy of my Home Buyer’s Guide.

    3.   SELL OR RENT OUT YOUR CURRENT HOME

If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of either selling it or renting it out. I can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions.

In many cases, my clients choose to sell so that they can use the equity in their current home to make a downpayment on their next one. But selling your home while simultaneously buying a new one can feel daunting to even the most seasoned homeowner. 

Here are some of the most frequent concerns we hear from clients and  tips for addressing them:

  • What will I do if I sell my house before I can buy a new one?

Check out furnished apartments, vacation rentals, and month-to-month leases. You may even find that a short-term rental arrangement can offer you an opportunity to get to know your new neighbourhood better.

  • What if I get stuck with two mortgages at the same time?

Ask about conditions that can be included in your contracts. For example, it’s possible to add a condition to your purchase offer that lets you cancel the contract if you don't sell your current home. We can discuss the pros and cons of these types of tactics and what’s realistic given the current market dynamics.

  • What if I mess up my timing or burn out from all the stress?

Enlist support as early as possible. It's my job to guide you and advocate on your behalf, so don't be afraid to lean on me throughout the process. I'm here to ease your burden and make your move as seamless and stress-free as possible.

In addition to answering your questions, I’ll give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one. Part of that process will include a plan to maximize your current home’s sale price. I utilize a proven strategy that’s designed to achieve an efficient sale while boosting your profits.

    4.   PLAN YOUR DEPARTURE

Preparing for a move can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything in a day. You don’t have to do it all alone, either. When you work with me, I’ll be there every step of the way to help you navigate this process with ease. To that end, here are some tips to help you plan for your departure.

If you have children, we typically advise that you start by sharing news about the move in an age-appropriate way. If possible, take them on a tour of your new home and neighbourhood. This can alleviate some of the mystery and apprehension around the move. Don’t forget to contact their current and future schools, as well, to arrange for transfer and enrollment.

Next, you’ll want to start packing. To maintain order and make unpacking easier, we recommend packing one room at a time. Clearly label each box with its contents and the room it belongs to. And remember, there’s no use taking extraneous items with you. Use this opportunity to purge or donate possessions that you no longer need.

If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. Make sure you’re working with a reputable service, and try to avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered. Once you have a moving date scheduled, you should arrange to have your utilities turned off or, if possible, transferred into the new homeowner’s name.

Finally, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes.

Parting with a home and community you love can be hard, so try to stay focused on the exciting opportunities ahead. Feel free to reach out for referrals to moving companies, packing services, cleaner, or any other resources that will make your move easier. I’d love to help.

     5.   PREPARE FOR YOUR ARRIVAL

While it’s tempting to get wrapped up in the departure details, don’t forget to plan ahead for your arrival at your new home. To make your transition go smoothly, you should start preparing well before moving day. Here are a few pro tips to help you get started.

First, think about the utilities that will need to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity, and gas. Be sure to notify any relevant parties—banks, credit cards, subscriptions, etc.—about your change of address so you don’t miss any important bills, notices, or deliveries. You’ll also want to notify the postal service and submit a mail forwarding request.

If you plan to remodel, paint, or install new flooring, it’s often easier to have it done before you bring in all of your belongings. You may also want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. 

Don’t forget about the items you’ll need (think toothbrush, towels, bedsheets) to make it through the first night in your new home. Designate some boxes with “Open Me First!” labels. (Pro tip: Keep a tool kit front and center for all that reassembling.) 

Finally, create a list of all the restaurants you want to try and places you want to visit around your newly purchased home. Having a to-explore list keeps everyone’s spirits high and gives you starting points to settle into the neighbourhood.

If you’re relocating to my area, I can help! I offer “VIP Relocation Assistance” to all my clients. Contact me for a list of favourite restaurants, retailers, cleaning services, contractors, and more!

   6.   GET SETTLED IN YOUR NEW SPACE

Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects. Here are a few strategies to help you and your family get settled in the new space.

If you have children, start by unpacking their rooms first. Seeing familiar items will help ease their transition and establish a “safe zone” where they can hang out away from the chaos of moving day. If possible, let them have a say in how their room is decorated.

Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favourite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Try to schedule breaks to get out of the house and investigate your new area. If you travel by foot or bicycle, you’ll gain the mood-boosting advantages of fresh air and exercise. 

You can combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship, or volunteer for a cause. Don’t wait for friends to come knocking on your door. Instead, go out and find them.

To that end, make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbours, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it. Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighbourhood, it will truly start to feel like home.

LET’S GET MOVING

While moving is never easy, these steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. With a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—it is possible to have a positive relocation experience.

I specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with a referral network of moving companies, contractors, cleaning services, and other home service providers, I can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give me a call or message me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

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.

 

 

 


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/ 


Update Your Home With These 2024 Design Trends

  •  Saturday, March 2, 2024
  •  Marion Goard

One of the best parts of owning a home is the freedom to truly make it your own design choices that reflect your personality and lifestyle. Whether you lean toward contemporary design or a farmhouse aesthetic, your home is your canvas.

Even so, it's always smart to think about the long-term impact those decisions might have on your home's value. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular materials and finishes could make your home less appealing to future buyers. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

To help inspire your design choices, some of the top trends in 2024 were rounded up. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to list or renovate your property, give me a call. I can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

1.  Spa-Like Bathrooms

We could all use a little more relaxation in our lives - so why not bring the spa into your home? In 2024, more homeowners will remodel their bathrooms to turn them into personal oases.

If you're undertaking a renovation, consider upgrading fixtures and materials. Handmade tile and custom cabinetry can add a touch of style and luxury. Trade stark whites for warm neutrals to create a more relaxed feel - think light wood tones, creams and beiges. Complete the look with soft ambient lighting from a backlit mirror or pair of decorative sconces.

If you want to maximize the mind-body benefits of a relaxing bathroom (and have the budget to spare), you might consider installing a steam shower, infrared sauna, or cold plunge tub. Not looking to spend as much? Even minor upgrades like a massaging showerhead or heated towel bar can add some pampering to your morning routine.

But remember, if you're modifying your bathroom, it's always wise to work with experienced and licensed professionals to avoid water damage that could lead to costly repairs. I can refer you to a trusted contractor for help.

2.  Maximalist Decor

In 2024, maximalism is back in vogue, contrasting the neutral aesthetic that dominated design in recent years. While maximalism can be summed up as "more is more," there's nothing sloppy or cluttered about this look. Instead, it's all about intentional curation.

Hallmarks of maximalism style include rich and saturated colours, bold wallpaper, statement rugs and furniture, and lots of art. And forget matching - maximalist interiors often include plenty of contrasting colours, textures, and patterns selected to complement one another.

If you're trying to embrace maximalism on a budget, check out thrift stores. They're often a great place to find unique furniture, colourful rugs, and interesting art or collectibles. Before you invest in rolls of vintage wallpaper, though, it's important to note - if you plan to sell your home in the future, the maximalist look won't appeal to every buyer.

We typically advise sellers to remove clutter and personal items to help buyers imagine their future lives within the home. Sometimes, that means repairing or redecorating (staging) in a more neutral palette. Of course, this shouldn't stop you from embracing your own style now - just be aware that you may need to walk back your aesthetiic prior to selling. I can advise you when the time comes.

3.  Japandi Style

Not quite ready to embrace maximalism? Japandi style, which blends Japanese and Scandinavian influences, offers a more subdued approach that still has plenty of character. The look dates back about 150 years to a time when many Scandinavian designers were travelling to Japan for inspiration.

Japandi style brings together clean lines, simplicity, and a focus on natural elements and light. It emphasizes the beauty in imperfection, or “wabi sabi,” and a deep connection to Mother Earth. And like Scandinavian decor, the look prioritizes comfort and a sense of sanctuary in the home. 

Interested in playing with Japandi? Common features include calming colour palettes and organic materials like raw wood and bamboo. Try softening harsh edges with softer textures, like cozy blankets and ceramic pieces. 

The look also minimizes clutter, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a minimalist. Instead, Japandi style embraces storage solutions like baskets, folding screens, and sofas with built-in storage to give everything a place. 

4.  Mixed Metals

Mixing metals used to be a “no-no.” But in 2024, it’s definitely a “yes.” 

According to designers, mixing the colours and finishes of metal fixtures and hardware can bring visual interest to a room—as long as you go about it the right way. 

The most important rule to keep in mind is to stay away from near matches, like brass and gold—that’s more likely to look accidental than intentional. Instead, go for bold contrast: Think polished nickel and matte black. 

Some designers recommend using each metal at least twice in a room to make it look cohesive. Another good rule of thumb is to stick to two types of metals in a small room and two to three in a larger space.

Finally, you might think about playing with undertones (brass is warm, chrome is cool) to change the “temperature” of a room. And don’t be afraid of a little shine—many designers predict that a retro, high-polished look will replace matte finishes in 2024.

Want some help sourcing fixtures and hardware in a variety of finishes? Reach out for a list of local retailers.

5.  Wood Cabinetry and Accents

The all-white kitchen has been ubiquitous in recent years. But in 2024, classic wood cabinetry is back in a big way. In fact, industry professionals surveyed by the National Kitchen & Bath Association predict that wood cabinets will be more popular than white in the next three years.

Natural wood tones offer a sense of warmth and natural beauty. And today’s cabinets aren’t anything like the heavy, dated versions of the past. Instead, light to medium versions—like white oak and walnut—and warmer undertones are trending. 

The addition of wood-grain accents to painted kitchen cabinets—like with a contrasting island or range hood—is another popular option. And wood continues to be a favoured choice for flooring. A recent survey found that 40% of homeowners opted for either hardwood or engineered wood when renovating their kitchen floors.

You can also expect to see more wood in bathrooms in 2024. According to Houzz, last year, wood vanities surpassed white in popularity for the first time in recent years, and designers expect the trend to continue. While white countertops and walls still dominate bathrooms, a wood-grained vanity brings a relaxed, organic element into the space.

Dreaming about new cabinets or hardwood floors? I’d be happy to share a list of recommended trade professionals who can help.

6.  Timeless Renovations

In its latest Kitchen Trends Study, Houzz found that “nearly half of homeowners (47%) opt for a timeless design as a sustainable choice during renovations.” Respondents cited long-term cost-effectiveness and environmental consciousness as their main motivators.

In a rapidly changing, technology-driven world, it’s no surprise that homeowners want a nurturing space with lasting appeal—especially if they plan to stay in their homes for years to come.

Traditional materials and quality craftsmanship lie at the core of timeless design, which some designers are calling “quiet luxury.”  Think of enduring classics, like hardwood floors, hand-crafted tiles, and marble countertops. A timeless colour palette will also often include warm neutrals and muted shades of blue and green.

If you’re thinking about remodelling, it’s wise to incorporate as many classic elements as you can. These stylistic choices tend to hold up well over time, which can prolong the life of your investment and make it easier to sell your home down the road. If you’d like advice on an upcoming project, contact me for a free consultation.

BEAUTIFY YOUR HOME WHILE BOOSTING ITS VALUE

If you’re thinking about making design changes—whether that’s repainting or a full remodel—it’s important to be informed about how your choices could impact your home’s resale potential. Buyer preferences can vary significantly based on your home’s neighbourhood and price point. Before you begin your project, reach out to discuss your plans and how they could impact the value of your home.

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.

 


Grandparent Advice

  •  Wednesday, July 19, 2023
  •  Marion Goard

As the snowsuits start appearing in the stores (I wish I was joking), it’s a good time to plan ahead for grandparent’s day, which falls on the first Sunday after Labour Day. If you are lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life, why not take them out for lunch, ask questions about their youth, and ask for advice on whatever you need help with.

Grandparents are not only a treasure trove of love and candy, they have experiences beyond our comprehension. Some grandparents have seen the introduction of electricity into their Toronto homes (1911). Others recall when televisions started being sold (1952). Maybe your own grandparents remember when minivans started to replace station wagons (1983, off the Chrysler assembly line in Windsor).

My maternal grandfather died before I was born so I didn't get to know him at all. Both of my mother’s parents must have been incredibly strong individuals. They brought four of their five children with them to Canada from Ukraine in 1927. My mom was the youngest of the kids and they had left their older daughter in Ukraine as she had already married and had a child. They came to Canada, like others, to give their family a better life and escape communism.

Now that I am a parent and grandparent myself, I can better understand how much of a risk and how difficult it must have been for them all to pick up and leave. It certainly makes me even more sympathetic to those trying to flee the current war in Ukraine this past year.

My dad's mother was born in Canada as was my father and his siblings. My grandmother married my grandfather when she was 15 and he was 30! I can't even imagine how that relationship developed and survived till my grandfather's passing at age 89. They were also of Ukrainian heritage and early homesteaders in Manitoba.

Both of my parent’s families lived their lives focused around the church, religion and the Ukrainian culture. My parents brought this to their own marriage as well. It was very much entrenched in their identity and we lived this in our family life. I still refer to myself as Ukrainian. 

What I carry forward from my grandparents are the ties to tradition (including the great food) and the importance of family.

Our grandmothers may have taught us how to lattice the top of an apple pie; our grandfathers may have shown us the difference between augur bits and drill bits. Most of us have tid-bits of advice our grandparents shared, advice that we still carry with us.

Some wise advice others have shared:

Do what you can when that’s all you can do. 

What you carry in your head, you don't carry on your back.

Don’t try to fix someone else.

If you ARE the right person, you will find the right person.

Too often, we don’t take the time to really talk with our grandparents. It’s just as important to have meaningful conversations with your grandparents, as it is to have open communication with your own parents and children. Enjoy and cherish them—and their knowledge—while you still can.


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.


Great Opportunity to Purchase in a NEW 55+ Active Adult Lifestyle Community!

  •  Wednesday, November 2, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

River Crest Estates is a soon-to-be-built four storey 55+ Adult Active Lifestyle Community in Niagara Falls that will have 60 luxury condominiums units with sizes ranging from 740 sq. ft. to over 1800 sq. ft.

Listed exclusively with Marion for $659,900, Unit 109 is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 full bathroom, ground floor unit with in-suite laundry and 2 separate terraces accessible from each of the bedrooms. 1 underground parking spot.

Every unit in the building features a chic and modern design with nine-foot-high ceilings, including large open hallways, and well-appointed common areas, two private bedrooms, walkout to balcony or terrace, full bath and closet, along with an open style living, dining and kitchen. Each unit has individually controlled heating & air conditioning systems, along with a Smart Sub-metering for all utilities. 

This property offers security and peace of mind that come from knowing others are close at hand and for someone who lives alone!

Standard Features:

  • Nine-foot (9 +/-) ceilings
  • Exceptionally spacious light-filled homes inspiring indoor/outdoor living

  • Graceful foyers and open living rooms

  • 36” Solid core entry door

  • 36” Masonite 800 series interior doors

  • Chef style kitchen with solid surface countertops 

  • All major appliances including stacked Washer/Dryer

  • Acrylic walk-in tub/shower units  

  • Quality Flooring throughout

The units and development are suitable for someone who would like to live there themselves with 2 bedrooms - or - through co-ownership where 2 people purchase the unit together, yet separately, have their own bedroom, bathroom and patio and share the other spaces in the unit. If purchased as a co-owner, should the need arise in the future one of the owners could sell their portion of the unit separately from the other owner.  At River Crest Estates care and/or support services will be available a-la-carte from Water View Estates, a sister property to be built in St. Catharines and overlooking the Welland Canal.

River Crest Estates may be of interest to an investor who could rent out the unit to either 1 or 2 parties. There's also an opportunity for a non-resident owner to have River Crest Estates lease out and manage the unit on the owners behalf. As well, someone could buy a 2 bedroom unit, occupy one bedroom and lease out the other.
And the best part - pets are permitted (with restrictions)!
Memberships are currently available which affords the Member various benefits.
Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions you have or for additional information. 

List Price:  $659,900

Bedrooms:  2

Bathrooms: 2

Size: 1174 sq. ft. (based on builder plans)

Parking: 1 Underground

Taxes: To be determined

Condo Fees: To be determined. Includes Building Insurance, Common Elements, Ground Maintenance/Landscaping, Parking, Property Management Fees, Snow Removal.

Other models also available.


Potential Changes to Burlington Riding Boundaries

  •  Wednesday, September 14, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

This information below has been provided by Karina Gould, Member of Parliament for Burlington. 

After every 10-year census, our Constitution requires that federal electoral ridings be reviewed, to take into account any population changes. 

This review is undertaken by independent provincial commissions. Here in Ontario, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario published their proposal on August 19th, 2022.  

In relation to our community, the Commission’s report proposes to:  

- Remove sections of the Elizabeth Gardens neighbourhood to a new riding, Oakville Lakeshore; 

- Remove sections of the Tyandaga and Brant Hills neighbourhoods to a new riding, Burlington – Milton West;

- Add sections of the Headon Forest and Millcroft neighbourhoods, which are currently part of the Oakville – North Burlington federal electoral riding.  

As a community, we all want to be part of an electoral riding that is representative of who we are, and where we are. 

I am concerned about the subsuming of Tyandaga and Brant Hills into a Milton riding and Elizabeth Gardens into Oakville, as these neighbourhoods are served by schools, hospitals, and other services located in the City of Burlington. 

I encourage all residents to take a look at the proposed new boundaries put forward by the Commission. 

The Commission, in its initial proposal looks only at population, and not communities of interest, therefore when petitioning the Commission, it is important to explain why or why not a certain area should be a part of an electoral riding.   

Following the publishing of the new boundaries, the Commission will also accept written submissions from the public by mail and email until September 25th, 2022. There will then be both virtual and in-person hearings from September 26 – October 29th.  

In Halton, there will be a virtual hearing on September 28th, and an in-person hearing on October 12th. These require registration by September 25th in order to participate. I will be participating in both hearings.  

The Commission will then submit a report, consider objections from the public and the House of Commons, and prepare a final decision outlining the new boundaries for the province of Ontario.  

As these proposed changes will affect our community of Burlington, and neighbouring Oakville and Milton, it is important that residents be informed and have their say.  

You can view the proposed changes, complete and register your submissions, and learn more at redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca.


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.


10 Pro Tips for a Smooth Home Move

  •  Tuesday, August 9, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

The process of buying a new home can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But the journey doesn’t stop when you close on your property. On the contrary, you still have quite a bit to do before you can begin the process of settling into your new place. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything in a day. You don’t have to do it all alone, either. When you work with me to sell or purchase a home, you’ll have an ally by your side long after your transaction has closed. I’ll continue to be a resource, offering advice and referrals whenever you need them on packing, hiring movers and contractors, and acclimating to your new home and neighbourhood. 

When it comes to a life event as stressful as moving, it pays to have a professional by your side. Here are some of our favourite pro tips to share with clients as they prepare for an upcoming move. 

1. Watch out for moving scams.

Maybe you receive a flyer for a moving company in the mail. Perhaps you find a mover online. Either way, never assume that you’re getting accurate information. According to The Canadian Association of Movers, moving scams are on the rise — with seniors, in particular, being targeted.

How can you tell if a moving deal is too good to be true? Trust your instincts. If the price appears too low or you can’t pin down the mover’s physical business address, try someone else. The same goes for any moving company representative who dodges questions. Reputable movers should offer transparent pricing, conduct in-home estimates, and provide referrals and copies of their insurance documents upon request. For help finding trustworthy movers, reach out. I’d be happy to share our recommendations.  

2. Insure your belongings.

Your moving company promises to take care of your custom piano or your antique furniture. But don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see how much insurance they carry and talk about how the claims process works. That way, you’ll know what is (and isn’t) covered in case of loss or damage. If needed, consider paying extra to upgrade to full replacement value protection.

Of course, some items are priceless because they’re irreplaceable. You might want to move your more sensitive valuables (jewellery, documents, family heirlooms, etc.) in your own vehicle just to be safe. For added peace of mind, call your home insurance provider if you’re moving anything yourself. In many cases, your personal property will be covered while in transit for a limited period of time.  

3. Start packing when you start looking for a new home.

As soon as your house hunting begins in earnest, think about packing away things you won’t need for the next few months. These could include seasonal or holiday decor, clothing, and books. Tackling just one or two boxes a day will give you a head start.

If you're going to put your current home on the market, you'll want to de-clutter anyway. De-cluttering will make your home seem larger, and depersonalizing helps buyers envision their own items in the space. Consider selling, donating, or throwing out possessions you no longer need. The things you want to keep can be placed in storage until you officially start moving to a new place.

4. Pack to make unpacking easier.

Have you ever opened a packed box only to find that it’s filled with an assortment of items that don’t belong together? This isn’t efficient and will only make unpacking harder. A better way to pack is to bundle items from a single room in a labelled box. Labels can let movers know (and remind you) where to place each box, whether it’s fragile, and which side needs to be up. Some people like to assign colours to each room in their new home to make distributing colour-coded boxes a breeze. 

Feel free to unleash your inner organizer with this project. For example, you could create a spreadsheet and assign each box a number. As boxes are packed, simply fill in the spreadsheet with a list of contents. Anyone with access to the spreadsheet can log in and quickly find a desired item.

5. Think outside the box when transporting clothes.

Who wants to worry about boxing up clothes? If you plan on hiring professional movers, ask if you can leave clothing in your dressers. In many cases, they will use plastic to wrap the dresser so the drawers don’t fall out during transport. If keeping your clothes in your furniture makes it too heavy, the movers might be able to wrap and move drawers by themselves.

Another easy transport trick involves turning clean garbage bags into garment bags. Poke a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, turn the bag upside down, slide it over five to seven garments on hangers, and lay the items flat in the back seat or trunk of your vehicle. The bags will help prevent wrinkling, and your clothes will be ready to hang up when you get to your new home.

6. Document prior to disassembling appliances and furnishings.

Few things are as confusing as looking at a plastic baggie filled with nuts, bolts, and screws from your disassembled dining room table or sorting through a box of electrical wires and cords to see which ones fit your TV. 

The best work-around to easier reassembly is to document the disassembly process. Take photos and videos or thorough notes as you go. Whether it’s your headboard or treadmill, be very precise. And just a tip: Construct your beds first when you get to your new home. After a long moving day, the very last thing you want is to be assembling beds into the wee hours of the morning. 

7. Prioritize unpacking kids’ rooms.

Children can become very stressed by a big move. To ease their transition, consider prioritizing unpacking their rooms as their “safe zones.” You aren’t obligated to unpack everything, certainly. However, set up your children’s rooms to be functional. That way, your kids can hang out in a private oasis away from the chaos while you’re running around and moving everything else.

Depending upon how old your youngsters are, you might want to give them decorating leeway, too. Even if it’s just letting them choose where furniture goes, it gives them a sense of buy-in. This can help ease the blues of leaving a former home they loved.

8. Be a thoughtful pet parent.

Many types of pets can’t handle the commotion of moving day. Knowing this, be considerate and seek ways to give your pets breaks from the action. You might ask a friend to pet-sit your pooch or keep your kitty in a quieter room, like a guest bathroom.

Be sure to check in on your pet frequently. Pets like to know that you’re around. Give them treats, food, and water throughout the day. When it’s time to transport your pet, do it calmly. At your new property, give your pet access to just a room or two at first. Pets typically prefer to acclimate themselves slowly to unfamiliar environments.

9. Plan for your move like you’re planning for an exciting vacation.

When you plan vacations, you probably look up local restaurants, shops, and recreational areas. Who says you can’t do the same thing when moving? Create a list of all the places you want to go and things you want to do around your newly purchased home. Having a to-explore list keeps everyone’s spirits high and gives you starting points to settle into the neighbourhood. 

And don’t feel that you have to cook that first night. Once the moving trucks are gone, you can always pop over to a local eatery or order SkipTheDishes for major convenience. The first meal in your new home should be a happy, welcoming treat. And if you’re relocating to my neck of the woods, I would love to introduce you to the hot spots in town and recommend local favourites.

10. Pack an “Open Me First!” box.

You won’t be able to unpack all your boxes in one day, but you shouldn’t go without your sheets, pillows, or toothbrush. Designate some boxes with “Open Me First!” labels. (Pro tip: Keep a tool kit front and centre for all that reassembling.) 

Along these lines, use luggage and duffel bags to transport everyone’s personal must-have items and enough clothing for a couple of days. That way, you won’t have to rummage through everything in the middle of your move looking for sneakers or snacks.

When packing your “Open Me First!” boxes, think about which items you’ll need in those first 24 hours. For example, toilet paper and hand soap are musts. A box cutter will make unpacking a lot easier, and paper towels and trash bags are sure to come in handy. Reach out for a complete, printable list of “Open Me First!” box essentials to keep on hand for your next move!

LET’S GET MOVING

Getting the phone call from your real estate agent that your bid was accepted is a thrilling moment. Make sure you keep the positivity flowing during the following weeks by mapping out a streamlined, efficient move. Feel free to get in touch with me today to help make your big move your best move.


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. 


Seller's Checklist: A Timeline to Prep Your Home for Sale

  •  Tuesday, April 12, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

We’re still in a seller’s market, but that doesn’t mean your home is guaranteed to easily sell. If you want to maximize your sale price, it’s still important to prepare your home before putting it on the market.

Start by connecting with your real estate agent as soon as possible. Having the eyes and ears of an insightful real estate professional on your side can help you boost your home’s appeal to buyers. What’s more, beginning the preparation process early allows you to tackle repairs and upgrades that can increase your property’s value. 

Use the checklist below to figure out what other tasks you should complete in the months leading up to listing your home. While everyone’s situation is unique, these guidelines will help you make sure you’re ready to sell when the time is right. Of course, you can always call me if you’re not sure where to start or what to tackle first. I can help customize a plan that works for you.

AS SOON AS YOU THINK OF SELLING

Some home sellers want to plan their future move far in advance, while others will be required to pack up on very short notice. Whatever your circumstances, these first steps will help assure you’ll be ahead of the listing game.

  • Contact Your Real Estate Agent

I go the extra mile when it comes to servicing my clients, and that includes a series of complimentary, pre-listing consultations to help you prepare your home for the market.

Some sellers make the mistake of waiting until they are ready to list their home to contact a real estate agent. But I’ve found that the earlier an agent is brought into the process, the better the result. That often means a faster sale—and more money in your pocket after closing.

Real estate agents know what buyers want in today’s market, and we can help devise a plan to maximize your property’s appeal. I can also connect you with my trusted network of contractors, vendors, and service professionals, so you’ll be sure to get the VIP treatment. This network of support can alleviate stress and help ensure you get everything done in the weeks or months leading up to listing.

  • Address Major Issues and Upgrades

In most cases, you won’t need to make any major renovations before you list. But if you’re selling an older home, or if you have any doubt about its condition, it’s best to get me involved as soon as possible so I can help you assess any necessary repairs.

In some instances, I may recommend a pre-listing inspection. Although it's less common in a seller's market, a pre-listing inspection can help you avoid potential surprises down the road. We can discuss the pros and cons during our initial meeting. 

This is the time to address major structural, systems, or cosmetic issues that could hurt the sale of your home down the line. For example, problems with the foundation or roof are likely to be flagged on an inspection report. Issues with the HVAC system, electrical wiring, or plumbing may cause the home to be unsafe. And sometimes outdated or unpopular design features can limit a home’s sales potential. 

Remember, when you’re dealing with major repairs or renovations, it’s best to give yourself as much time as possible. Given rampant labour and material shortages, starting right away can help you avoid costly delays. Contact me so I can guide you on the updates that are worth your time and investment. 

1 MONTH (OR MORE) BEFORE YOU LIST

Once any large-scale renovations have been addressed, you can turn your attention to the more minor updates that still play a major role in how buyers perceive your home.

  • Make Minor Repairs

Look for any unaddressed maintenance or repair issues, such as water spots, pest activity, and rotten siding. This is the time to take care of those small annoyances like squeaky hinges, sticking doors, and leaky faucets, too.

Many of these issues can be handled by going the DIY route and using a few simple tools. Tackle the ones you can and be sure to call a professional for the ones you’re not comfortable doing yourself. I can refer you to local service providers who can help.

Remember that it’s easy to overlook these small issues because you live with them. When you work with me, you get a fresh set of eyes on your home—so you don’t miss any important repairs that could make a big difference to buyers.

  • Refresh Your Design

This is a great time to think about some simple design updates that can make a significant impression on buyers. For example, a fresh coat of paint is an easy and affordable way to spruce up your home. A recent survey of Canadian agents found that paint and landscaping were two upgrades that offered the highest return on investment. 

HGTV landscape designer Carson Arthur agrees. According to Arthur, landscaping is the best place to invest your money and has the potential to increase your home’s value by up to 7%. If weather permits, lay fresh sod where needed, plant colourful flowers, and add some new mulch to your beds.

Even just repositioning your furniture can make a huge difference to buyers. A survey published by the International Association of Staging Professionals found that staged homes often sell faster and for more than their list price. 

  • Declutter and Depersonalize

Doing a little bit of decluttering every day is a lot easier than trying to take care of it all at once right before your home hits the market. A simple strategy is to do this one room at a time, working your way through each space whenever you have a bit of free time. 

Start by donating or discarding items that you no longer want or need. Then pack up any seasonal items, family photos, and personal collections you can live without for the next few weeks. Bonus: This will give you a head start on packing for your move!

1 WEEK BEFORE YOU GO TO MARKET

With just one week before your home is available for sale, all major items should be crossed off your to-do list. Now it’s time to focus on the small details that will really make your home shine. Here are a few key areas to focus on during this last week. 

  • Check-In With Your Agent

I’ll connect again to make sure we’re aligned on the listing price, marketing plan, and any remaining prep. I will be there every step of the way, ensuring you’re fully prepared to maximize the sale of your home.

  • Tidy Your Exterior

You’ve already done the major landscaping—now it’s time to tackle the last few details. Make sure your lawn is freshly mowed, hedges are trimmed, and flower beds are weeded.

In addition, now is the time to clean your home’s exterior if you haven’t already. Power wash your siding, empty the gutters, and wash all your windows and screens.

  • Deep Clean Your Interior

Your house should be deep cleaned before listing, including a thorough deodorizing of the home’s interior and steam cleaning for all carpets. Consider hiring a professional cleaning company to ensure the space smells and looks as fresh as possible. 

In addition to cleaning, take some time to tidy up. Buyers will look inside your closets, pantries, and cabinets, so make sure they are neat and organized. Small appliances and toiletries should be cleared off the counter-tops.

DAY OF SHOWING

Now you’re all set to go and there are just a few small things you need to handle on the day of showings or open houses. Do a final walk-through and take care of these finishing touches to give potential buyers the best possible impression.

  • Pre-Showing Prep

Happy and comfortable buyers are more likely to submit offers! Make them feel at home by adjusting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Open any blinds and curtains throughout the house, and turn on all lights so buyers can see all the potential in your home.

Then tidy up by vacuuming and sweeping floors, emptying (or hiding) trash cans, and wiping down countertops. In the bathrooms, close toilet lids and hang clean hand towels. 

Don’t forget to secure jewelry, sensitive documents, prescription medications, and any other items of value in a safe or store them off-site.

Finally, it’s best to have pets out of the house during showings. If possible, you should also remove evidence of pets (litter box, dog beds, etc.), which can be a turn-off for some buyers.

DON’T WAIT TO PREP YOUR HOME FOR SELLING

If you want to get top dollar for your home, don’t put it on the market before it’s ready. The right preparation can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing the offers you get. The upgrades and changes you need to make will depend upon your home’s condition, so don’t wait to speak with an agent.

Call me if you’re thinking about selling your home, even if you’re not sure when. It’s never too early to seek the guidance of your real estate agent and start preparing your home to sell.


8 Popular Home Design Features for 2022

  •  Wednesday, February 9, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

There’s a lot to consider when selling your home, from market conditions and appraisals to where you’ll go next. Don’t forget, however, the importance of design. It’s often one of the first things buyers notice when they walk into a home, and it’s also a detail that you, as a seller, can easily control.

According to Realtor.ca’s 2022 housing market forecast, October of 2021 saw record home sales. Even with the pandemic igniting new restrictions in some provinces, the Canadian housing market is expected to remain hot. This means, if you’re looking to sell in the near future, now is the time to consider how you can stand out.

Updating your home design is one way to do that. Changes like eco-friendly fixtures or upgraded siding can add value to your home now and be highlighted when you market it for sale later. To get the most out of your updates, focus on these popular home design features that will wow buyers in 2022.

Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, give me a call. I can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

Eco-Friendly Fixtures

Canada’s largest demographic, millenniala, have been a driving force in the country’s real estate market for the past few years. One thing that remains top of mind for this cohort is sustainable living features. A recent Deloitte survey found that one-third of millennials initiate or deepen their consumer investment in products or services that help the environment—this also includes the houses they choose to live in.

Here are a few eco-friendly design features that will be attractive to these millennial buyers in 2022. Bonus: they can net a significant return on investment (ROI) for you, as a seller, too. 

  • Energy-Efficient Windows: Windows and doors account for up to 25 percent of home heat loss, according to nrcan.gc.ca. Therefore, upgrading to energy-efficient windows can help homeowners save money. 
  • Low-Flow Water Fixtures: National Resources Canada also recommends replacing your water-consuming fixtures like shower-heads, toilets, and faucets with ones that have flow rates of about 7.6 L/minute, 4.8L/flush, and 4L/minute, respectively. If you want to take it a step further, ENERGY STAR® certified appliances like dishwashers and washing machines will also make a dramatic difference in water bill savings. 
  • Native Landscaping: Perhaps unexpectedly, another eco-friendly ‘fixture’ is native flora. Local greenery helps combat biodiversity loss, creates a better habitat for wildlife, and has a greater resistance to pests, according to HGTV. These benefits of native plants add to the eco-friendly appeal of your home. 

Wellness Retreat Nooks

As many of our homes became “all-purpose” territory for the entire family, interior zoning efforts were in full effect. From designated offices to closed-door playrooms, everyone needed their own space. Add in mental health concerns, competing schedules, and reduced access to health and wellness facilities, and the result is a huge prioritization of personal care spaces.  

At-home wellness amenities, which were once viewed as luxuries, are now on many homeowners’ must-have lists. Intrigue buyers and improve your quality of life in your home with reading nooks, spa-inspired bathrooms, and exercise or meditation spaces. Even if your house doesn’t have the square footage to section off an entire room for relaxation, making simple tweaks to natural light, air purifiers, and indoor plants can help you feel better in your home now, while enabling future buyers to see the opportunity for their own space.

Calming Paint Colours

Paint colors that produce a calming atmosphere will also be a key selling point in 2022. Soft earth tones and natural hues will prevail this year, including various shades of blue, green, brown, and beige. Recent research suggests steering clear of trendy paint colors in favor of a more classic palette to bring the feel of nature indoors in a subtle and soothing way.

A survey of American homebuyers found that a certain paint colour was able to increase a home’s value by 1.6%. If we Canadians see even a 1% increase, that’s $7,208 more for the average home, which is priced at $720,850, according to the Financial Post. 

A crowd-pleasing hue to refresh the walls with is BEHR’s 2022 paint colour of the year, known as Breezeway. This shade of green with silver undertones was created to mimic sea glass. As the BEHR website describes it, Breezeway “evokes feelings of coolness and peace, while representing a desire to move forward and discover newfound passions.”  

Outdoor Living Updates

Don’t forget to think about your yard when considering design changes for your home. As interiors become more productive, many Canadians are looking to the outdoors for a break. HGTV predicts the “exterior living room” trend will continue in 2022, so making outdoor upgrades in the spring when the ground thaws could reap serious benefits. Whether your exterior square footage looks like a balcony, small patio, or expansive yard, it only takes some imagination and effort to turn it into a comforting oasis. 

Front porches, in particular, are seeing a big revival, says Greenhouse Canada. Power-washing your siding; adding a fresh coat of paint on the door, brick, or floorboards; and finishing it off with some exterior lighting will go a long way in upping the curb appeal. Don’t forget to add window boxes, big planters, and young trees that require minimal maintenance but add more life to the space. 

Finish off the space with some comfortable outdoor furniture to make the outdoors as well-designed as the indoors. If you need help deciding how to update your outdoor area, let me guide you.

Designated Work Spaces

It may come as no surprise that after the pandemic is over, 80 percent of new teleworkers want to continue to work at least half of their hours from home, according to Statistics Canada. However, this desire needs to be weighed against the availability of space in a home. 

If you can, try turning a bedroom or den into a work-from-home office. When designing the space, make it both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Position a desk near the window for natural light, install a bookshelf unit, arrange a few succulents on the work surface, and hang a few framed posters or a cork bulletin board on the wall. You want the space to foster productivity as well as be a place in your home you enjoy spending time.

When you get ready to sell, I can help you highlight your designated workspace. Given the high demand for this design feature, it can help you interest more buyers and attract more competitive offers—if marketed creatively. 

Plus, Canadians who transitioned to working from home because of the pandemic may be eligible to claim a $500 deduction for home office expenses—making this renovation that much more feasible.

Luxury Kitchen Retouches

The kitchen has always been a main focal point of interior design, and that’s no different in 2022. Families will always need this space to come together in their own homes. 

This year’s buyers want a kitchen with new upgrades and retouches, but you don’t have to renovate the entire kitchen to make an impact. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips on how to create a kitchen that buyers will love without spending too much money on renovations:

  • Repaint the kitchen, keeping the calm and nature-inspired colours in mind that are most popular right now. Taking a kitchen from dark to light by painting cabinets and walls can make all the difference.
  • Update the hardware. These kitchen “accessories” stand out and add personality to an otherwise standard kitchen. 
  • Update light fixtures to bring in more light while also adding a fresh look and feel in the space. 

Unique Accent Walls

An accent wall gives a home character while balancing it with the calming feel of natural- and neutral-coloured walls. But, we’ve seen accent walls before, so bolder moves are expected for 2022. Here are some on-trend options that go above and beyond a solid-colour accent wall:

  • Jewel or metallic tones
  • Textured wallpaper
  • Painted ceilings
  • Built-in shelves
  • Wood paneling
  • Sprawling wall tiles 

If you’re planning to sell in the next year, talk to me before adding an accent wall. Depending on your target buyer, it may be a design feature that actually hurts your home’s value. I can run a free Comparative Market Analysis on your home to help you understand what would resell best in your neighbourhood.

Exterior Siding Updates

An exterior siding refresh can make an old home feel entirely new and have a big impact on its resale value. This primarily affects curb appeal, but it’s also an important factor in keeping interiors warm and protected from Canada’s harsh winters. The average cost for new siding ranges from $4.80 - $51.60 per square foot. That variation depends on which of the many siding materials you choose, from fiber-cement to brick, wood, vinyl, metal, or stone. 

While all these options can infuse the exterior with character and curb appeal, there are a few other factors to consider before taking on this kind of project. While brick adds more sophistication, it is on the pricier end and is susceptible to salt erosion, making it a less enticing option for those on the coasts. On the other end of the cost spectrum, vinyl is a very popular option that does not fade, is easy to maintain, and comes in many colour options. However, vinyl will crack over time after facing harsh Canadian winters. 

Give your home a simple and attractive facelift before putting it on the market. If you’re not sure how to get started yourself, my team can connect you with a trusted vendor to guide you through the process. 

Keep These Home Design Features on Your Radar in 2022

These design features can infuse personality into your home while helping to close the deal if you plan to sell in 2022. The average buyer knows just what they’re looking for in a space they plan to call home, so with some investment and foresight, you can give your house an edge over the competition—and boost resale value in the process. 

However, you don’t need to make all these changes to attract more buyers. We can help you determine which design features you should add to your home by sharing insights and tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. I can also run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area, which will help us decide what changes need to be made. Contact me to schedule a free consultation!


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.


20 Unique Home Gifts for Every Person on Your List

  •  Tuesday, December 14, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Every year, it seems the holidays sneak up on us—and every year, that brings with it the dreaded last-minute gift panic. Finding a present that hits all the right notes can be surprisingly stressful, even when it comes to people you’ve known for years. 

But have no fear! Below is a line up a list of gifts for every “type” on your list. And since I work in real estate, they’re all centred around home life. From the coffee snob to the sports enthusiast, these presents are the perfect way to bring beauty, function or a touch of whimsy to your loved one’s home this holiday season.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE ALWAYS IN THE KITCHEN

We all know someone whose kitchen is their happy place—but once all the basics are covered, it can be hard to find the perfect present. These gifts will be a treat for the chef, baker, or food lover on your list, no matter how well equipped they are. 

1. The Coffee Snob

Glass Pour-Over Coffeemaker - $75

Have a java lover on your list who just can’t get their brew right at home? This high-end pour-over system makes a smooth brew that can even be refrigerated and reheated so your recipient can enjoy a perfect cup at any time. 

2. The Foodie

Pink Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit - $65

Help your favourite gourmand create restaurant-quality meals with this kit, which allows them to grow delicious mushrooms right in their cupboard. All they’ll need to do is soak the package and then mist it with water for a few days, and voila—delicious organic mushrooms! 

3. The Baker

Vintage Etched Cake Stand - $87

If you’re lucky enough to have a fabulous home baker on your list, give a gift that reflects the joy their treats bring to others. This lovely glass cake stand is the platform that a beautifully decorated dessert deserves. 

4. The Tea Aficionado 

Flowering Tea Set - $35

Your favourite tea lover may have tried all of the herbal blends out there, but we bet they haven’t seen tea like this. This set contains two “blossoms” of tea leaves hand-sewn around flowers that bloom when you place them in the included glass teapot and add hot water.

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD RATHER BE IN THE BACKYARD

For many of us, time outdoors is the ultimate source of rejuvenation. The nature-lover on your list is sure to appreciate these presents that help them maximize that joy in their daily lives. 

5. The Gardener

Large Garden Tote - $66

Dedicated gardeners all need a great bag to carry their gear. This tote is attractive and sturdy and will help them keep their home’s exterior beautiful and welcoming. 

6. The Flower Lover

Monthly Flower Subscription - starting at $60/month

If your loved one prefers to enjoy their flora without all the work, a delivery of farm-fresh flowers is sure to surprise and delight. And you can keep the joy blossoming year-round with a weekly, semi-monthly or monthly subscription.

7. The Environmentalist

Reusable Stainless Steel Straws - $14

Know someone who is trying to bring less plastic into their home? This set of reusable metal straws means they’ll never have to buy a box of plastic straws again. And the assortment of sizes ensures that they’ll work with anything from a tall glass of water to a to-go mug.

8. The Outdoor Adventurer

Solar Phone Charger - $50

Have a camper or adventurer on your list? This solar-powered phone charger, which comes with a built-in flashlight and compass, is a must-have. It will also make a great addition to their home emergency kit.

FOR THOSE WITH THEIR NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE

Like it or not, most of us spend a good chunk of our lives working—whether at a job or on projects and chores around the house. These gifts are designed to make that work a bit easier and more enjoyable. 

9. The Remote Worker

Home Office Lap Desk - $45

Working at home can be great—in part because you can work from anywhere in the house. The remote worker on your list will appreciate this lap desk with a built-in mouse pad and phone slot, which will allow them to work comfortably from the couch or the bed without overheating their computer.

10. The Back-to-The-Office Worker

Bento Lunch Box - $35

If your loved one is heading back to the office, it doesn’t mean they have to give up the healthy habit of a home-cooked meal. Send them to work with this stylish lunch box packed full of nutritious food.

11. The Do-It-Yourselfer

Laser Measure - $35

The handy person on your list can say goodbye to unwieldy tape measures with this nifty device. It’s perfect for DIY projects of any size.

12. The Clean Freak

UV Sanitizer and Charger - $70

In the COVID-19 era, we’ve all become a little germaphobic. This UV smartphone sanitizer kills bacteria while it charges. Plus, its clever design enables you to hear your phone notifications while the device is in use.

FOR THOSE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR HOBBIES

Of course, there’s a lot more to life than work. If you’re gifting a friend or family member who really lights up when they talk about their hobbies, we’ve got you covered. 

13. The Sports Enthusiast

Hockey Stick BBQ Set - $61

Looking for a gift for the sports enthusiast in your life that isn’t another jersey? These BBQ tools made from repurposed hockey sticks are a great pick. Perfect for cooking up food to watch with the game!

14. The Bookworm

The Book Lover’s Journal - $19

Know someone who loves to curl up on the couch with a good book? This journal will help the book-lover on your list keep track of what they’ve read, as well as their ever-growing “to-read” list. 

15. The Runner

Marathon Map Hydration Bottle- $49

Help the runner you love to stay hydrated (and motivated) with a water bottle inscribed with their favourite race route. It’s perfect for runs around the neighbourhood or just toting around the house.

16. The Tourist

Travel Backpack - $120

Make it easy for the travel lover on your list to bring back souvenirs. This lightweight backpack folds flat so it’s easy to pack but sturdy enough to carry their new treasures all the way home. 


FOR THOSE WHO PUT FAMILY FIRST

For many of us, the greatest joy in life comes from our relationship with our family. Help your recipient strengthen and celebrate those all-important connections with these thoughtful gifts. 

17. The New Parent

4-in-1 Baby Food Maker - $230

It’s hard to know what to buy for new parents once their registry is cleared out, but if they’re interested in making baby food at home, this tool is a must-have. It makes the process, from steaming to mixing, fast and easy.

18. The Genealogy Fan

DNA Kit - $129

Know someone interested in reconnecting with their ancestral home? This DNA kit can help them trace their geographical heritage and uncover their family history.

19. The Dog Person

Custom Printed Socks - $28

Is your friend’s dog their favourite family member? These adorable socks are sure to put a smile on their face as they cozy up on the couch with their pup. And since you can feature up to two pets on each pair of socks, no one needs to feel left out.

20. The Documentarian

Mini Link Printer - $130

We all have that relative who snaps a million photos at every family event. Help them capture each precious moment with this unique gadget that essentially transforms a smartphone into a Polaroid camera. It makes it easy to customize and print out snapshots to display around the house or insert into a scrapbook for posterity.

READY TO GIVE YOURSELF THE ULTIMATE GIFT?

I want to be your real estate consultants through every season of life. So please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to ask for recommendations or referrals any time of year. And when you’re ready to give yourself the gift of a new home, contact me to talk about your options. From finding the right neighbourhood to identifying the amenities that will make the biggest difference to your quality of life, I'm always eager to help.


Shut Down Home Intruders With These 7 Safety Strategies

  •  Monday, November 15, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

A break and enter occurs every 90 seconds in Canada.1 Fortunately, there are some proven tactics you can use to decrease your likelihood of a home invasion.

Most burglars won’t go to extreme lengths to enter your home. They are looking for easy access with minimal risk. A monitored security system can be an effective deterrent—homes without one are 300% more likely to be burglarized—but it isn’t the only way to protect your property.2 The strategies below can help to maximize your home’s security and minimize your chances of being targeted by intruders.

  1. Check Your Doors and Windows

According to insurance company SGI Canada, the most common entry point for a burglar is through a basement or ground floor door or window. So securing these points of entry is essential.

  • Evaluate the condition of your doors and locks. 

A steel door is generally considered the strongest, but many homeowners prefer the look of wood. Whatever material you choose, make sure it has a solid core and pair it with a sturdy deadbolt lock that is a minimum of 2.5 cm long when thrown.

  • Add window locks and security film.

Aftermarket window locks are an easy and inexpensive upgrade that can provide an additional layer of protection for your home. Choose a lock that is compatible with your window frame material and a style that is appropriate for the window type. And consider using a specialty film on windows that are adjacent to a door. Security film holds shattered glass in place, making the windows more difficult to penetrate.

  1. Landscape for Security

When it comes to outdoor landscaping, many of us think about maintenance and curb appeal. But the choices we make can impact our home’s security, as well. Thieves target homes that they can enter and exit without being detected. Here are a few tweaks that can make your property less appealing to potential intruders.

  • Increase visibility from the street.

A privacy hedge may keep out nosy neighbours, but it can also welcome thieves—so trim overgrown trees and shrubs that obstruct the view of your property. According to police officers, they offer an ideal environment for criminals to hide.

  • Place thorny bushes and noisy gravel below windows.

Don’t eliminate shrubbery altogether, though. Certain hedges can actually offer a deterrent to robbers. Plant thorny rose bushes or sharp-leaved holly beneath your first-story windows for both beauty and protection. Add some loose gravel that crunches when disturbed.

  1. Light Your Exterior

When it’s dark outside, criminals don’t need to rely on overgrown shrubbery to hide. Luckily, a well-designed outdoor lighting system can make your home both safer and more attractive.

  • Install landscape lighting.

Eliminate pockets of darkness around your yard and home’s perimeter with strategically placed outdoor lights. Use a combination of flood, spot, well, and pathway lights to add interest and highlight natural and architectural details. 

  • Use motion-activated security lights to startle intruders.

The soft glow of landscape lighting isn’t always enough to dissuade a determined intruder. But a motion-activated security light may stop him in his tracks. And if you choose a Wi-Fi connected smart version, you can receive notifications on your phone when there’s movement on your property.

  1. Make It Look Like You’re Home

Motion-activated lights aren’t the only way to make an intruder think you’re at home. New technology has made it increasingly possible to monitor your home while you’re away. This is especially important since most burglaries take place between 10 am and 3 pm, when many of us are at work or school.

  • Turn on your TV and leave a car in the driveway.

A survey of convicted burglars revealed that the majority avoid breaking into homes if they can hear a television or if there’s a vehicle parked in the driveway. If you’re away from home, try connecting your TV to a timer or smart plug. And when you travel, leave your car out or ask a neighbour to park theirs in your driveway.

  • Install a video doorbell.

In that same survey, every respondent said they would knock or ring the doorbell before breaking into a home. A video doorbell not only alerts you to the presence of a visitor, it also enables you to see, hear, and talk with them remotely from your smartphone—so they’ll never know you’re gone.

  1. Keep Valuables Out of Sight

Few home invasions are conducted by criminal masterminds. In fact, a survey of convicted offenders found that only 12% planned their robberies in advance, while the majority acted spontaneously. That’s one of the reasons security experts caution against placing valuables where they are visible from the outside.

  • Check sightlines from your doors and windows.

Don’t tempt robbers with a clear view of the most commonly stolen items, which are cash (think purses and wallets), jewelry, electronics, firearms, and drugs (both illegal and prescription). Take a walk around your property to make sure none of these items are easily visible.

  • Secure valuables in a safe.

Consider the possessions that are on display inside your home, as well. It’s always a good idea to lock up firearms, sensitive documents, and expensive or irreplaceable items when you have housekeepers or other service providers on your property.

  1. Highlight Your Security Measures

While it’s prudent to hide your valuables, it’s equally important to advertise your home’s security features. In surveys, convicted burglars admit to avoiding homes with obvious protective measures in place.

  • Install outdoor cameras.

Security cameras are the most common home protection device and for good reason. Not only do they help prevent crime (burglars are known to avoid them), they can offer peace of mind for homeowners who want to sneak a peek at their property while away. And if you do experience a break and enter, security camera footage can help police identify your intruder.

  • Post warning signs.

Security system placards and beware-of-dog signs are also shown to be effective deterrents. Of course, you should back up your threats with a noisy alarm and loud barking dog for maximum impact.

  1. Limit What You Share on Social Media

Social media platforms can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it’s easy to reveal more than you’ve intended. Be thoughtful about what you’re posting—and who has access.

  • Delay posting photos or travel updates.

It can be tempting to upload a concert selfie or pictures from your beach vacation. But these types of photos scream: “My house is unoccupied!” Try to wait until you’ve returned home to share the photos on social media. 

  • Set privacy restrictions on your accounts.

Think twice about connecting with strangers or casual acquaintances on social media. If you enjoy sharing family updates and personal photos, it’s safer to limit your followers to those you truly know and trust.

YOUR HOME IS SAFE WITH ME

I take home security seriously. That’s why I have screening procedures in place to keep my clients and their homes safe when they are for sale. I also remind our buyers to change the locks before they move into their new homes and provide referrals to locksmiths and home security companies that can help. To learn more about my procedures and how you can stay safe during the buying and selling process, contact me to schedule a free consultation!


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.

 


9 Tips for Buying and Selling Your Home at the Same Time

  •  Thursday, September 9, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Selling your home when you still need to shop for a new one can feel daunting to even the most seasoned homeowner––especially when the demand for new homes keeps rising, but the supply feels like it's dwindling. You're not alone either if you're already feeling drained by the complex logistics of trying to sell and buy a new home all at once.

Searching for a new home can be exciting, but many home-buyers admit that it can also be stressful, especially if you live in an unpredictable market with plenty of competitors. Unfortunately, waiting out a competitive housing market isn’t always the best idea either since homes are in notoriously short supply across Canada, and listings are expected to remain limited in the most coveted neighbourhoods for some time. 

That doesn't mean, though, that you should just throw up your hands and give up on moving altogether. In fact, as a current homeowner, you could be in a better position than most to capitalize on a seller’s market and make a smooth transition from your old home to a new one. 

I can help you prepare for the road ahead and answer any questions you have about the real estate market.  For example, here are some of the most frequent concerns we hear from clients who are trying to buy and sell at the same time.


“WHAT WILL I DO IF I SELL MY HOUSE BEFORE I CAN BUY A NEW ONE?”

This is an understandable concern for many sellers since the competitive real estate market makes it tough to plan ahead and predict when you'll be able to move into your next home. But chances are, you will still have plenty of options if you do sell your home quickly. It may just take some creativity and compromise. 

Here are some ideas to make sure you're in the best possible position when you decide to list your home:

Tip #1: Flex your muscles as a seller. 

In a competitive market, buyers may be willing to make significant concessions in order to get the home they want. In some cases, a buyer may agree to a sell and lease back agreement (also known as a "sell house and rent back" option) that allows the seller to continue living in the home after closing for a set period of time and negotiated fee. 

This can be a great option for sellers who need to tap into their home equity for a down payment or who aren’t logistically ready to move into their next home. If you're dealing with an investor rather than a traditional buyer, you may even be able to negotiate a lengthy lease and lower rent payment than your current mortgage. 

However, leaseback agreements can be complex, with important legal, financial and tax issues to consider.4 At minimum, a carefully-worded contract and security deposit should be in place in case of any property damage or unexpected repairs that may be needed during the leaseback period. 

Tip #2: Open your mind to short-term housing options. 

While it can be a hassle to move out of your old home before you’re ready to move into your new one, it’s a common scenario. If you’re lucky enough to have family or generous friends who offer to take you in, that may be ideal. If not, you’ll need to find temporary housing. Check out furnished apartments, vacation rentals and month-to-month leases. If space is an issue, consider putting some of your furniture and possessions in storage. 

You may even find that a short-term rental arrangement can offer you an opportunity to get to know your new neighbourhood better — and lead to a more informed decision about your upcoming purchase.

Tip #3: Embrace the idea of selling now and buying later.

Instead of stressing about timing your home sale and purchase perfectly, consider making a plan to focus on one at a time. Selling before you’re ready to buy your next home can offer a lot of advantages. 

For one, you’ll have cash on hand from the sale of your current home. This will put you in a much better position when it comes to buying your next home. From budgeting to mortgage approval to submitting a competitive offer, cash is king. And by focusing on one step at a time, you can alleviate some of the pressure and uncertainty.

“WHAT IF I GET STUCK WITH TWO MORTGAGES AT THE SAME TIME?”

This is one of the most common concerns that we hear from buyers who are selling a home while shopping for a new one, and it’s realistic to expect at least some overlap in mortgage payments. But unless you have a large enough income to comfortably carry two mortgages, you may not pass Canada's beefed up mortgage stress test until you have a contract on your first home. (You can use the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's Mortgage Qualifier Tool to check your odds.)  

Assuming you can secure financing, however, it's still a good idea to examine your budget and calculate the maximum number of months you can afford to pay two mortgages before you jump on a new home. Potential stopgap solutions, such as bridge financing, can also help tide you over if you qualify. 

If you simply can’t afford to carry both mortgages for any amount of time, or if you are concerned about passing the mortgage stress test, then selling before you buy may be your best option. (See Tip #3 above.) But if you have some flexibility in your budget, it is possible to manage both a home sale and purchase simultaneously. Here are some steps you can take to help streamline the process:

Tip #4: As you get ready to sell, simplify.

You can condense your sales timeline if you only focus on the home renovations and tasks that matter most for selling your home quickly. For example, clean and declutter all of your common areas, refresh your outdoor paint and curb appeal and fix any outstanding maintenance issues as quickly as possible. 

But don't drain unnecessary time and money into pricey renovations and major home projects that could quickly bog you down for an unpredictable amount of time. I can advise you on the repairs and upgrades that are worth your time and investment.

Tip #5: Prep your paperwork. 

You'll also save valuable time by filing as much paperwork as possible early in the process. For example, if you know you'll need a mortgage to buy your next home, get pre-approved right away so that you can shorten the amount of time it takes to process your loan.

Similarly, set your home sale up for a fast and smooth transition by pulling together any relevant documentation about your current home, including appliance warranties, renovation permits, and repair records. That way, you're ready to provide quick answers to buyers' questions should they arise. 

Tip #6: Ask me about other conditions that can be included in your contracts. 

Part of our job as agents is to negotiate on your behalf and help you win favourable terms. For example, it’s possible to add a contract condition known as a "subject to sale" or "sale of property" (SOP) condition to your purchase offer that lets you cancel the contract if you haven't sold your previous home. This tactic could backfire, though, if you're competing with other buyers. We can discuss the pros and cons of these types of tactics and what’s realistic given the current market dynamics.

“WHAT IF I MESS UP MY TIMING OR BURN OUT FROM ALL THE STRESS?” 

When you're in the pressure cooker of a home sale or have been shopping for a home for a while in a competitive market, it's easy to get carried away by stress and emotions. To make sure you're in the right headspace for your home-buying and selling journey, take the time to slow down, breathe and delegate as much as possible. In addition:

Tip #7: Relax and accept that compromise is inevitable.

Rather than worry about getting every detail right with your housing search and home sale, trust that things will work out eventually––even if it doesn't look like your Plan A or even your Plan B or Plan C. Perfecting every detail with your home decor or timing your home sale perfectly isn't necessary for a successful home sale and compromise will almost always be necessary. Luckily, if you've got a good team of professionals, you can relax knowing that others have your back and are monitoring the details behind the scenes.

Tip #8: Don't worry too much if your path is straying from convention.

Remember that rules-of-thumb and home-buying trends are just that: they are estimates, not facts. So if your home search or sale isn't going exactly like your neighbours' experience, it doesn't mean that you are doomed to fail. 

It's possible, for example, that seasonality trends may affect sales in your neighbourhood. So a delayed sale in the summer or fall could affect your journey––but not necessarily. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the housing market used to be more competitive during the fall and spring and less competitive during the winter. But it's not a hard and fast rule and real estate markets across Canada have seen major shifts in recent years. Every real estate transaction is different. That's why it's important to talk to a local agent about your specific situation.

Tip #9: Enlist help early.

If possible, call me early in the process. I'll not only provide you with key guidance on what you should do ahead of time to prepare your current home for sale, I'll also help you narrow down your list of must-haves and wants for your next one. That way, you'll be prepared to act quickly and confidently when you spot a great house and are ready to make an offer. 

It's my job to guide you and advocate on your behalf. So don't be afraid to lean on me throughout the process. I’m here to ease your burden and make your move as seamless and stress-free as possible.

BOTTOMLINE: COLLABORATE WITH A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL TO GET TAILORED ADVICE THAT WORKS FOR YOU

Buying and selling a home at the same time is challenging. But it doesn't have to be a nightmare, and it can even be fun. The key is to educate yourself about the market and prepare yourself for multiple scenarios. One of the best and easiest ways to do so is to partner with a knowledgeable and trustworthy agent.

A good agent will not only help you evaluate your situation, we will also provide you with honest and individually tailored advice that addresses your unique needs and challenges. Depending on your circumstances, now may be a great time to sell your home and buy a new one. But a thorough assessment may instead show you that you're better off pausing your search for a while longer. 

Contact me for a free consultation so that I can help you review your options and decide the best way forward.


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.


COMING SOON TO REALTOR.CA

  •  Wednesday, April 7, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Just in time to make the most of the summer months! Inground pool and hot tub!

Great family home in Burlington's Brant Hills! Over 3200 sq. ft of living space. 4 bedrooms / 3.5 bathrooms and a fully finished basement. 

Recent updates:

- most windows

- shingles. eaves and skylight

- pool heater, pool pump, safety cover

- hot tub pump

- granite counter in kitchen

MLS Date - Thursday April 15, 2021. Visit www.2452overton.ca for room sizes and details.

Offers, if any, reviewed on Monday April 19, 2021.

Don't miss out - make this one yours! Contact Marion Goard for additional details.

List Price:  $1,149,000

# Rooms (above grade):   8

Bedrooms:  4

Bathrooms: 3.5

Basement:  Full/Finished

Size: 2137 sq. ft.

Garage: Double Attached

Taxes: $5096 (2020)

Lot: 49.86 ft. x 104.08 ft.

 

 


Is the Real Estate Market Going to Crash?

  •  Monday, March 1, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

While many areas of the economy have contracted, the housing market has stayed remarkably strong. But can the good news last?

When COVID-related shutdowns began in March, real estate agents and clients scrambled to respond to the shift. Record-low interest rates caused some lenders to call a halt to new underwriting, and homeowners debated whether or not to put their houses on the market. However, those first days of uncertainty ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in the country's overall economic output.

Now, as the spring market approaches, you may be wondering whether the good times can continue to roll on. If you're a homeowner, should you take advantage of this opportunity by putting your home on the market? If you're a buyer, should you jump in and risk paying too much? Below I answer some of your most pressing questions.

Why are home prices rising during an economic downturn?

At the beginning of the pandemic, fears of an economic recession were top of mind for homeowners all across the country. Overall, credit product origination declined across a variety of sectors, including car loans and credit cards, and government forbearance programs were put into place to cushion the blow of anticipated economic hardships. However, strong demand - coupled with ultra-low inventory and interest rates - caused real estate prices to continue to rise. The national average resale price soared 17% during 2020, and mortgage originations showed year-over-year growth of almost 30% on the strength of renewals and refinancing in response to record-low interest rates.

According to the Bloomberg-Nanos Consumer Confidence Index, confidence in Canada's real estate industry reached its highest level on record during the thick of the pandemic. Montreal Chief Economist Douglas Porter attributes much of the ongoing strength of Canada's real estate market to a simple matter of consumer choice and priorities while noting that the downside of the resulting rise in home values in increasing consumer debt. 

Are we facing a real estate bubble?

A real estate bubble can occur when there is a rapid and unjustified increase in housing prices, often triggered by speculation from investors. Because the bubble is (in a sense) filled with 'hot air," it pops - and a swift drop in value occurs. This leads to reduced equity or, in some cases, negative equity conditions.

By contrast, the current rise in home prices is based on the predictable results of historically low interest rates and widespread low inventory. Basically, the principle of supply and demand is working just as it's supposed to do.

Effect of low interest rates

The Bank of Canada projects continuing low interest rates until sometime in 2023, aiding in economic recovery and increasing affordability. This helps offset the effects of high home costs even in markets where real estate might otherwise be considered overpriced. These low interest rates should keep the market very lively and moving forward for the foreseeable future.

Effects of low inventory

Continuing low inventory is the primary reason for higher-than-average home prices in many markets. This should gradually ease as an aggressive vaccination rollout and continuing buyer demand drive more homeowners to move forward with long-delayed sales plans and as new home construction ramps up to meet demand.

Aren't some markets and sectors looking particularly weak?

One of the big stories of 2020 was a mass exodus from attached home communities and high-priced urban markets as both young professionals and families fled to the larger square footage and wide-open spaces of suburban rural markets. This trend was reinforced by work from home policies that became permanent at some of the country's biggest companies.

Not surprisingly then, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the residential real estate market has been the rental market, especially in population-dense metropolitan areas. The rise in vacancies has been fueled by several factors, including less international migration, fewer student rentals, and less tourist demand for short-term rentals.

Interestingly, landlords have not responded to these vacancies with lower rental rates, which have actually risen nationally. Instead, most have used incentives like lower deposit fees, free utilities, and move-in bonuses to attract renters. This suggests that most property owners expect demand to return to normal quite quickly as the vaccine rollout begins to take effect.

Some analysts predict a decline in the Canadian housing market at large due to the impending end of government emergency measures and lender deferrals. However, others point to the increased demand for homes in smaller markets and lower-density areas outside of the country's urban centres as an optimistic indicator, especially since these distant suburban and rural enclaves don't normally benefit from increases in home values or an influx of new investment. As many of these new residents set up housekeeping in their rural retreats, they'll revitalize the economies of their adopted communities for years to come.

According to Susan Hosterman, a senior director of Fitch Ratings, another strength that may help to alleviate the effect of financial pressures brought about by the ending of emergency measures is the relationship lenders in Canada have with their borrowers. Canadian lenders tend to be proactive in offering modifications to make loans more affordable for struggling homeowners.

How has COVID affected the "seasonal" real estate market?

Frequently, the real estate market is seen as a seasonal phenomenon. However, the widespread shutdowns in March 2020, coming right at the beginning of the market's growth cycle in many areas, has led to protracted, seemingly endless "hot spring market."

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) revised its 2021 Market Forecast based on more robust than usual figures for the second half of 2020. The new projection anticipates improvements even over 2020's record-setting market figures, with potential sales limited only by the availability of inventory in most markets. Thus, we could be looking at another longer-than-ususal, white-hot real estate market.

What's next for the Canadian real estate market?

Projections vary widely, with some economists predicting a market connection and others predicting continuing strong growth. Overall, low inventory and lack of affordability appear to be the more negative factors applying downward pressures on the market, while pent-up demand and a return to normal employment and income levels, along with anticipated higher-than-average growth in the economy, point to ongoing good news in the sector.

According to most indicators, the real estate news looks overwhelmingly positive throughout the rest of 2021 - and possibly beyond. Pent-up demand and consumer-driven policies, along with a continued low-interest-rate environment and rising inventory, should help homeowners hold on to their increased equity without throwing the market out of balance. In addition, the increase in long-term work-from-home policies promises to give a boost to a wide variety of markets, both now and in the years to come.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

While economic indicators and trends are national, real estate is local. I'm here to answer your questions and help you understand what's happening in your neighbourhood. Reach out to learn how these larger movements affect our local market and your home's value.


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 


90 Dorchester Drive, Grimsby ON - Exclusive Listing - Coming Soon to Realtor.ca

  •  Sunday, February 7, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Great potential!  A rare opportunity for contractors, builders and nature lovers in Grimsby's Dorchester Estates. Spectacular 77 x 455+ foot, tiered lot with Bruce Trail owned land behind.

This 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1250 sq. ft. Hall Ogilvie bungalow was built with plaster construction and hardwood flooring (now under broadloom) in the principal rooms, a bright and spacious living room with fireplace (gas insert) plus a separate dining room. The primary bedroom includes a 2 piece en-suite bath. Full, unfinished basement.  Owned water heater. Furnace - 2021.

This tranquil property boasts majestic trees along with a stream and varied flora and fauna yet it's close to parks, schools and other amenities. Easy access to QEW.

The property is subject to authority of the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

Interior photo's will be available February 20, 2021.

MLS Date - Sunday February 21, 2021. Visit www.90dorchester.ca for room sizes and more pictures.

Offers, if any, reviewed Sunday February 28, 2021.

Don't miss out - make this one yours!  Contact Marion Goard for additional details.

List Price:   $774,900

# Rooms (above grade):  6

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 1.5

Basement:  Full/Unfinished

Size: 1250 sq. ft.

Garage: Single Attached

Taxes: $5843.68

Lot:  77.18 x 458.70 x 75.05 x 475.76


The Importance of Permits

  •  Tuesday, January 26, 2021
  •  Marion Goard

Is it okay for an electrical panel to be hidden behind a hinged mirror in a basement bathroom? The answer is obviously no but this is just one of the issues I've come across when renovations are completed without proper permits or inspections.

It may seem like a hassle to apply and get all the right permits for your renovation, but doing things the right way can save you from losing money down the road. Renovations can be complicated enough without having to consider all the permits - and permissions - you might need. A major kitchen renovation could mean living with your fridge in your dining room and being limited to what you can prepare on a hot plate or in a microwave. It might also mean not being able to remain in your house at all during the reno and having to relocate to other accommodations temporarily. Changing your flooring likely requires furniture to be moved out of the spaces they occupy. A new deck will mean people coming in and out of your yard for days or even weeks.

As someone who has undergone and experienced many home renovation projects first-hand in my own home and cottage, I understand the urge to get things done so you can get on with your life. As a real estate agent, I have also seen, first-hand, some of the perils of completing renovations without the proper permits.

The permitting process can be overwhelming, especially if you do not know where to start. Although generally the same, municipalities have different permitting processes and zoning by-laws are specific to each community. Provincial guidelines provide the building codes to be adhered to. If your home is near a conservation space, you'll need to check with with that conservation authority for their requirements and restrictions. The list of authorities to check with can be long, but it's very important to be aware of any potential by-laws, encumbrances or obstacles that might stop or slow down your renovation. 

Without obtaining the proper permits where required, you risk the potential of having to tear everything out and start over again - or put things back to their original state. When you are ready to sell your home, non-permitted renovations may hold up the sale, or worse, cause the sale to fall through entirely.

If you live in a condominium, whether condo apartment, townhouse or detached home, be sure to check with the condominium property manager or board of directors and review the condo by-laws to determine what is allowed and what permissions are required. The condo board will likely need to see the plans for your renovations to ensure all is adhering to their rules and there will be no breach in the agreement with their insurance providers. If you proceed without proper permits, you may be required to remove your improvements and restore the dwelling to it's original state.

A sample of some of the permits and reports you may require:

Electrical - for lighting, changes in type or location of wiring and perhaps the addition of new appliances

Plumbing - for moving or replacing water lines in or around the home

Structural - for moving or removing load bearing walls, building decks or additions

Engineering report - for record of plans, drawings and proper assessment of air flow for changes to the HVAC system.

Conversely, if you are purchasing a home that has undergone some renovations, you should ask whether permits were secured and proof of inspections. it's best to know what you are walking into should you decide to purchase a home that has been renovated without the proper permits and inspections. 


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.


1588 Kerns Rd. Unit 1 - Burlington ON - SOLD

  •  Monday, November 30, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

Welcome to Unit 1, 1588 Kerns Road.  There's over 1500 sq. ft. of living space in this well maintained and updated 3 bed, 3 bath, split-level end unit townhouse in Burlington's Tyandaga Mews, a mature townhouse complex complete with a swimming pool and party room.

The bright and spacious primary bedroom suite features a sitting area with gas fireplace, walk-in closet, 3 pc en-suite bath and private balcony. Walk-out from living/dining room combination to your private outdoor space with large stone patio. Or sit back and relax in the generously sized family room with a contemporary gas fireplace.

The basement provides for an office/den space plus tons of storage. There's hardwood flooring in living/dining, kitchen, main and upper hall plus 2 of the bedrooms. New broadloom has been recently installed in the primary bedroom and family room. The unit has been freshly painted throughout. All this and more - a great location close to shopping, GO Transit and easy highway access.

Perfectly suited for first-time home buyers, a young family, professionals or empty nesters.

MLS Date - Friday December 4, 2021.  Visit www.unit1-1588kerns.ca for details and more pictures.

Offers accepted anytime!

Don't miss out. Make this one yours!

Contact Marion to arrange your private showing.

List price:   $689,900

# Rooms (above grade): 5

Bedrooms:  3

Bathrooms: 3

Size: 1342 sq. ft. (above grade)

Garage:  Double  /  Double Private Drive

Basement: Partial / Large Crawl Space for Storage

Taxes: $2700

Condo Fee: $390/month (till mid 2021)

        

  


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.


5 Secrets Buyers and Sellers Must Know About Virtual Home Tours

  •  Sunday, October 4, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

For years now, virtual home tours have helped real estate buyers far and wide find the perfect home. From long-distance buyers, to investors expanding their portfolio, to homeowners looking for a vacation getaway, this technology makes finding a house that’s a bit out of driving distance much easier. And for real estate agents, virtual tours have been a useful way to help buyers with their home search and to assist sellers in creatively marketing their listings.

Because of the pandemic, virtual home showing options recently experienced a huge spike in popularity. One survey found that nearly 33% of recent home tour requests were for virtual tours, as compared to just 2% pre-pandemic. It's easy to see why.

Buyers want to quickly find their next safe haven, one that may need to serve as their office, gym, and even classroom for months to come. And sellers want to limit the number of strangers in their home, yet still have the ability to reach enough potential buyers to get the best offer on their property.

Virtual home tours are the popular thing right now, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re the only option for your home-buying or selling experience. In this post, I’ll reveal five important secrets behind the virtual real estate scene. Read on to learn how they impact today’s home buyers and sellers.

SECRET #1: Virtual Tours Have Evolved

Lots of real estate professionals who had never used virtual tours before were forced to quickly adapt when the pandemic struck. Because of restrictions on time and resources, not everyone is able to create what would have been deemed a “virtual tour” last year. So instead, we’ve expanded the definition of the phrase by creating innovative new ways to show homes while keeping our clients safe and socially-distanced. Here are some terms you might come across as you explore homes with virtual tours.

Traditional virtual tours use 360° Photos, which are images that allow you to see all angles of a space. These are what allow virtual tour viewers to look up, down, and all around the interior and exterior shots of a home. Using a software program, 360° photos can be stitched together to create a digital model that looks like a dollhouse. This is called a 3D Tour. Sometimes agents will also add Virtual Staging, which decorates rooms with digital furniture and accents like wallpaper or paint.

Traditional virtual tours allow you to click to move from room to room in the home, but Online Walk-throughs feature the actual action of walking around. Either the photographer or the agent (depending on factors such as time and safety requirements) will create a video by holding their camera or smartphone and simply moving through the home.

Online Walk-throughs can be filmed in advance or happen live. If they are live, they can also be referred to as Virtual Showings or Online Open Houses. A Virtual Showing is often a scheduled, one-on-one event that mimics an in-person tour of the home, in which the agent and viewer start at the exterior and move their way through the property. If your agent offers to FaceTime or Skype you from a home you’re interested in, for example, that would be a type of Virtual Showing. In contrast, an Online Open House is more free-form, allowing more viewers to pop in and out of a group video call on apps such as Facebook or Zoom.

SECRET #2: Virtual Doesn’t Mean Impersonal

All these styles of virtual tours showcase the property’s details better than static photos ever could. But for a purchase as intimate as your next home, details like a new refrigerator or the size of the master closet aren’t the only deciding factors. Luckily, virtual tours are exceptional tools for personal connection.

As a prospective buyer, virtual tours give you a feel for the property, inside and out, so you can easily picture yourself in the space and decide if the home’s flow and features work for your lifestyle. Live video walk-throughs with the real estate agent will give you insights on those crucial non-visual aspects, like creaky floors, super-fast internet speed, and neighbourhood dynamics. Plus, you’ll be able to ask questions and get an insider’s perspective on what’s so great about the home.

For sellers, if your agent recommends using a virtual tour to market your home, you could attract more buyers. You can also be sure that those interested buyers are still getting the up- close and personal look inside your home that will inspire their strongest offers.

SECRET #3: Virtual Is Just The First Step To Safe Home Sales

Despite the variety of virtual tours available, some buyers will still need to visit a home themselves in order to feel confident enough to submit an offer. In this situation, listing agents and sellers will work together to come up with a procedure that ensures everyone feels safe and comfortable. Some recommendations include requiring interested buyers to present a pre-qualification letter, conducting tours only by appointment and with essential parties, and asking buyers to self-disclose whether they have COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms.

The day of the in-person tour, agents might ask buyers to remain in their vehicle until they arrive at the property, and to wear protective gear such as face coverings and gloves. Many will provide hand sanitizer and will ask buyers to refrain from touching any surfaces in the home. Instead, the agent (or seller, prior to the buyers’ arrival) will turn on lights, open doors, and pull back curtains. Then, after everyone has left, the agent will return the home to its original state and disinfect it as needed.

SECRET #4: The Speed of Closing Depends on Your Goals

Though maybe not literally, virtual tours are opening doors for both buyers and sellers in terms of options available to them. In 2019, buyers viewed an average of 10 homes over a period of 10 weeks before submitting an offer but thanks to an increased prevalence of virtual tours saving them driving time, they’re able to peek inside that number of homes in a much shorter period to make their final choice.

With all this viewing activity, it makes sense that sellers whose listings feature virtual tours are receiving more offers on their properties. According to one study, virtual tours can add betweentwo and three percent to the sales price of a home, in part because increased buyer interest has made sellers feel confident waiting for the exact right offer.

Remember thought that if you’re a buyer luxuriating in viewing homes from your couch you’re not alone in your search. Your competition is virtually viewing the same properties you are, so it’s still important to work with your real estate agent to quickly submit a strong offer when you find the home of your dreams. And for sellers, if a speedy sale is important to you, carefully weigh that against the temptation to entertain more and more offers, which can keep your home on the market up to six percent longer. Your agent can help you decide the right strategy for your priorities.

SECRET #5: Virtual May Not Always Be the Right Choice

Creating, editing, uploading, and marketing virtual tours for a listing can be pricey. Packages through popular 3D imaging platforms like Matterport and Immoviewers can cost hundreds of dollars on their own.  Virtual staging will further bloat a listing’s marketing budget, and then there’s the advertising dollars needed. Even seemingly inexpensive options like video call walk-throughs still require time and energy on behalf of both the seller and agent.

These costs mean that a full virtual tour package might not always be the right choice for sellers. When you talk to your agent about marketing your home, it may be that an elaborate virtual tour, showing, and open house just don’t make sense. It could be that your potential buyers may not resonate with that type of marketing, that the investment-to-return ratio isn’t in your favor, or that there are more effective ways to get your listing seen by qualified buyers.

Buyers, you may notice that some listings within your search parameters don’t offer virtual tours. That’s because those for-sale homes might not have needed a full virtual marketing package to entice buyers to submit offers, or those homes are better marketed through more traditional tactics. Don’t close the door on your dream home because it doesn’t have virtual events and features. Stay open-minded so you can consider the wealth of home options that fit your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

ARE VIRTUAL HOME TOURS IN YOUR FUTURE?

As technology develops, it will become easier and less expensive to create virtual tours. Coupled with the high demand for them, this means that virtual tour options are likely not only here to stay, but will continue to grow into a common addition to listings.

If buying or selling a home is on your mind, I’d be happy to discuss how virtual tours can play a part in your real estate experience. Reach out to me today for help finding local homes for sale that have virtual tours, or to chat about if adding a virtual tour to your upcoming listing is the right fit.


Letting Go Of The "Stuff"

  •  Wednesday, September 16, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

If you’ve lived in the same home for a long time, you have very likely accumulated a lot of “stuff”. Like most people, over the course of a lifetime we collect a myriad of items: furniture, trinkets, books, china, silverware and other treasures. When you are preparing to move, especially if you are downsizing, you will be faced with the question of what to do with everything. This is a difficult choice, and one that most of my senior clients face when they are ready to make a lifestyle change and move from the home in which they raised their family to a smaller home, condo or retirement residence.

THE HISTORY OF YOUR THINGS

We form emotional attachments to the things with which we surround ourselves. For most people, the items in our homes have deep and meaningful memories attached to them. Glance at anything in your home and you can remember where you acquired it, or when, or who gave it to you. This is particularly true for figurines. If you have a large collection and you know your new home will not have the space for all of them, how do you choose which ones to let go?

The same holds true for everything you love. It’s impossible to give up the wooden spoon with the scorch marks slashed across its bowl that houses the memory of your youngest child learning how to cook. The Royal Doulton or Portmeirion tea cups with matching saucers reminds you of afternoons sipping tea with your sister. The heavy wooden coffee table may be the first piece of furniture you and your spouse purchased as a couple. These items hold joy for us, packaged neatly in our family history and our memory. It’s not an easy feat to let things go and it can be painful to release these items and to imagine them living in someone else’s home or worse, the dump.

HOW TO CHOOSE

The first step to sorting out what will move with you is to decide what you absolutely cannot live without and which items hold less of an attachment. If you know the dimensions of your new home, spend some time figuring out which items you wish to keep, but will not fit. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to approach your family and ask them what, if any, items they’d be interested in taking. Ideally, you can keep the heirlooms in the family, but you need to be prepared to hear that the items you hold dear have no value to anyone else. Young people are generally not very interested in anything from “grandma’s house”. Acknowledge that your items hold meaning for you, but someone else will not share that sentiment.

HOW TO DISTRIBUTE

Aside from handing off your things to family members, there are various ways to distribute the stuff you have to leave behind. Before giving away anything, you should assess what items have actual value. Auctioneers, appraisers and other experts can assess your items and tell what has financial value and is desirable on the market. They can also help you re-home those items and will sell them on your behalf for a commission.

Any items that are not sellable can be donated to various organizations. There may be some limits or restrictions on what an organization can take, so it's best to check beforehand. Which organization will take what may also be location-dependant. For example, Goodwill in one area may take furniture, while another will not. Some charities will gladly schedule a pick-up, while with others you may have to find a way to get your items to them. Give some thought to smaller organizations such as church groups or service clubs (like Optimist or  Kiwanis) that might be able to pick up your items and re-home them.

WHERE TO GET HELP

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent, I can walk you through the process of downsizing and offer some guidance on how to determine what you’d like to keep. I have a growing list of experts who can assist you with the valuation and distribution of your goods, as well as packing up your home and unpacking at your new home. The most important thing is to recognize that you had your enjoyment from the items you are letting go and it’s okay to free them to have a new life. It is possible to detach yourself from the items while still holding on to the memories and joy they brought you. If you need further assistance with downsizing, please reach out to me. I can help you manage this process and connect you with the right people who will make this transition a little easier.

As we shift from a trash economy to a repurpose economy, the list of organizations who will distribute your unwanted items continues to grow. Here is a list of resources.

Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga

Habitat for Humanity will take everything from household items to tools to clothes. Items are sold in their ReStore which funds the administrative side of Habitat's organization. All donations to Habitat directly fund the building of affordable homes. They will pick up items, salvage ones that might otherwise go to the dump and have recently launched a Revive program.

Downsizing and Moving

Downsizing and Moving is a 3rd Generation Family owned and operated company who will sort and organize everything in your home and ensure they are either set aside and placed in designated areas for moving, selling, recycling or disposing. They deal with a vast majority of people and organizations that accept all kinds of goods. Their goal is to divert anything away from the landfill.

Sell This For Me

Serving Toronto, Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, and Waterloo, Sell This For Me will auction your goods in an estate sale. They can come to your house, take photos of the items for sale and list them online or house them at another location to sell.

MaxSold

MaxSold sells items by online auction. This is another easy solution as they will come to your house, take photos of the items for sale and list them online. There is an Ontario Horseshoe branch serving the Horseshoe region. 

Aldershot Lions Club Garage Sale

Located in Burlington, the Lions Club will send someone to your home to determine what they'll accept and will pick up and deliver to the store to sell to others.

Goodwill

Accepts all manner of goods: household items, furniture, kitchen wares, books. Almost anything you want to give away, Goodwill is happy to take. They do not offer pickup service, so you will have to drop off donations on your own.

 

You can also check with your local library branch to determine if they are willing to take donations of books.

 

Consignment sales:

Zoey's Consignment

Millionaire's Daughter (Hamilton and Oakville)

Kerr Home Decor

Bogart Home & Decor Consignment

Downsizing Solutions

 

Service Providers:

Estate Concierge

Neat Spaces

Organize Me Please

Move Seniors Lovingly

The Company of Organizers

 

Facebook groups:

Too Good to Dump 

The link will take you to the Oakville and surrounding areas page, but there are various cities, towns and villages with their own Too Good to Dump Facebook pages.

As always, I'm happy to help in any way I can. Please don't hesitate to call or text me at 905-330-5201 or email mariongoard@kw.com.

 




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.


Just Listed - Exclusive

  •  Tuesday, August 11, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing! 

List Price:     $629,900

Bedrooms:     2 + Den/Sunroom

Bathrooms:    2

Square Feet:  1400 +/-

Garage:         Underground, 1 parking spots

Taxes:  $4,290 (2020)

Condo Fees:  $914.14

205-2121 Lakeshore Rd. Floor Plan


Unit 201-4000 Creekside Drive, Dundas ON

  •  Thursday, August 6, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

SOLD FIRM in 4 days! For details visit www.unit201-4000creekside.ca

Luxury condo living at it’s finest in this rarely offered Dundana model in the wonderfully maintained Spencer Creek Village. The minute you step into the welcoming foyer of this 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1500+ sq.ft. corner unit you’ll feel right at home and start to notice some of the many upgraded features the unit has to offer. 

As you head down the hall to the living and dining rooms don’t miss the built-in Avantgarde wine cooler, perfect for your finest wines. The fireplace with flanking cabinets makes the living room a cozy space to sit back and relax. You can also entertain in style in the generously sized dining room or enjoy the outdoors on your private balcony.

The gourmet eat-in kitchen is equipped with stainless steel appliances, centre island and wall to wall cabinets. Pendant and pot lights add yet more appeal. The king size master bedroom features a built-in wardrobe, walk-in closet and spacious 5 piece ensuite bath with separate shower, soaker tub and 2 sinks.

Custom cabinetry, California shutters, hardwood and granite flooring, crown mouldings and quality light fixtures are found throughout. The custom draperies add another element of elegance. A laundry room is conveniently located in-suite.  And, there’s more - two parking spaces! 

4000 Creekside Dr. is a sought after building with gym, library, party room, guest suite and car wash area. It's a short walk to downtown Dundas where you can enjoy great shops, dining, cafes, galleries and other amenities. 

This unit is in move-in condition and definitely one-of-a-kind. Don’t miss out!

Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing! 

List Price:     $729,900

Bedrooms:     2

Bathrooms:    2

Square Feet:  1520 +/-

Garage:         Underground, 2 parking spots

Building Ameneties:  Gym, Library/Craft Room, Party Room, Car Wash Area, Guest Suite. 

Taxes:  $5,114 (2020)

Condo Fees:  $762.88


192 Central Drive, Ancaster. Exclusive Listing - Coming Soon to Realtor.ca

  •  Tuesday, July 21, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

Welcome to 192 Central Drive, a charming home that sits on a 201 foot deep lot. It’s not often that opportunities like this become available! The choice is yours - live in as is, update with your own personal touches, or re-build on this spectacular lot to create your dream home.

Originally a 1 1/2 storey house, previous owners greatly expanded the living space with a 2 storey addition at the back. Now with 1853+/- sq.ft. above grade, the split level home features generously sized rooms, separate living and dining rooms, eat-in kitchen with fabulous views of the yard, a ground floor family room with gas fireplace and walk-out to the rear deck and private yard with majestic trees. The Master Bedroom features a 3 piece ensuite bath and walk-in closet.  All the must haves!

This property is located in Ancaster's Parkview Heights, a very quiet neighbourhood, yet it's just a few minutes to picturesque downtown Ancaster, shopping, schools, parks, transit, and highway access

MLS Date - Thursday August 6, 2020.  Visit www.192central.ca for more pictures and details.

Offers considered - Tuesday August 11, 2020. 

Don’t miss out. Make this one yours! 

Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing! 

New Price:     $699,000

# Rooms (above grade): 8

Bedrooms:     3

Bathrooms:    2

Square Feet:  1853 +/-

Garage:         None

Basement:     Full, Partially Finished 

Taxes - $4,349 (2020)

Lot:  56.38' x 201.00' 

             


Add Value To Your Home With These 9 DIY Improvements

  •  Wednesday, July 8, 2020
  •  Marion Goard

Whether you’re prepping your house to go on the market or looking for ways to maximize its long-term appreciation, these nine home improvement projects are great ways to add function, beauty, and real value to your home. 

The best part is, once you’ve secured the materials, most of these renovations can be completed over the course of a weekend. And they don’t require a lot of specialized skills or experience. So grab your toolbox, then get ready to boost your home’s appeal AND investment potential!

Spruce Up Your Landscaping

Landscaping improvements can increase a home’s value but which outdoor features do buyers care about most? According to a survey of Realtors, a healthy lawn is at the top of their list. If your lawn is lacking, overseeding or laying new sod can be a worthwhile investment.

Planting flowers is another great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal. And if you choose a perennial variety, your blooms should return year after year. For an even longer-term impact, consider planting a tree. 

Clean The Exterior

When it comes to making your house shine, a sparkling facade can be just as important as a clean interior. A rented pressure washer from your local home improvement store can help you remove built-up dirt and grime from your home’s exterior, walkway, and driveway. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully—and only use it on surfaces that can withstand the intensity. When in doubt, a scrub brush and bucket of sudsy water will often do the trick.

Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint 

New paint can have a big impact on both the appearance and value of a property. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to revitalize a home’s exterior, update its interior, and make it appear larger and brighter. The best part? Painting is relatively easy and inexpensive! 

To get the maximum return at resale, stick with a modern but neutral color palette that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. According to a recent survey of home design experts, cool neutrals are a safe bet when it comes to interior paint. And respondents chose white and gray as the best exterior paint colors to use when selling a home. However, it’s important to consider a property’s architecture, existing fixtures, and regional design preferences, as well.  

Install Smart Home Technology 

In a recent survey, 78% of real estate professionals said their buyer clients were willing to pay more for a home with smart technology features. The most requested smart devices? Thermostats (77%), smoke detectors (75%), home security cameras (66%), and locks (63%).6 

The good news is, many of these gadgets are fairly easy to install. And some of them, including smart thermostats and light bulbs, will pay for themselves over time by making your home more energy efficient. In fact, many manufacturers report that smart thermostats can cut back on heating and cooling costs by 10-20%.  

If you already own a smart speaker, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, choose devices that will pair with your existing technology. This will enable you to create a truly integrated (and in many cases voice-activated) smart home experience.

Modernize Your Window Treatments 

Smart—or motorized—blinds are also growing in popularity, and several manufacturers make models you can order and install on your own. But they’re not the only way to modernize your window treatments.  

If you have old aluminum blinds, consider replacing them with plantation shutters, which are energy efficient, durable, and have strong buyer appeal. Roman and roller shades are another stylish alternative, and they come in a variety of colors and fabrics, which you can personalize to meet your design and privacy preferences.

Fortunately, upgrading your blinds has gotten easier and less expensive in recent years. There are a number of retailers that specialize in affordable window coverings that are simple to measure and hang yourself.

Replace Outdated Fixtures 

Drastically transform the look and feel of your home by swapping out dingy and dated fixtures for contemporary alternatives. Start by assessing your current light fixtures, faucets, cabinet hardware, door knobs, and even switch plates. Then prioritize replacing those that are particularly outdated or in highly-visible areas, such as your entryway or kitchen. 

Even if your home is fairly new, consider trading your builder-grade fixtures for higher-end options to give it a more upscale appearance. And forget the old rule about sticking to one metal tone throughout your property. According to designers, mixing metal finishes can add interest and character to a space.

For more designer insights and decor trends, contact me for a free copy of my recent report: “Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade.”

Upgrade Your Bathroom Mirror

A minor bathroom remodel offers one of the best returns on investment. I’ve already explored several improvements you can make to your bathroom: new paint, fixtures, and hardware. Now complete the look by upgrading your vanity’s mirror. 

Before you purchase a new mirror, examine your existing one to see how it is attached to the wall. Some vanity mirrors are glued to the wall and difficult to remove without shattering the glass or damaging the drywall behind it.

If you prefer to keep your existing mirror, you can paint the frame—or add one if it’s currently frameless. There are several online retailers that will send you the frame components cut to your specifications, which you can assemble and mount yourself. Much like a work of art, your vanity mirror serves as a focal point for your bathroom, so let your creativity shine through!

Shampoo Your Carpet

Carpet is notorious for trapping dust, dirt, and allergens. It’s one of the reasons that most buyers prefer hard surface flooring. But if you love your carpet, or you’re not ready to invest in an alternative, make an effort to keep it clean and odor-free.

To properly maintain your carpet, you should vacuum it weekly. Experts also recommend a deep shampoo at least every two years. Fortunately, this is a cheap and easy DIY project you can knock out in about 20 minutes per room. According to Consumer Reports, you can rent a machine and purchase. It's well worth the effort and expense.

Customize Your Closet

Real estate professionals estimate that a closet remodel can add $2500 to a home’s selling price. Although a professional renovation can cost upwards of $6000, there are many high-quality DIY closet systems you can customize and install yourself.

Experts recommend taking a thorough inventory of your wardrobe and accessories before you get started. Make sure frequently-worn pieces are easy to reach, and store seasonal and seldom-used items on high shelves. Place shoe racks near the closet entrance so they are easy to access. A little planning can go a long way toward building a closet that you (and your future buyers!) will love.

GET A COMPLIMENTARY ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT 

We’ve been talking averages. The truth is, the actual impact of a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighborhood. Before you get started, contact me to schedule a free virtual consultation. I can help you determine which upgrades will offer the greatest return on your effort and investment.


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/

              Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade

              •  Monday, March 9, 2020
              •  Marion Goard

              Whether you’re planning a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in home design. Sellers who make tasteful updates can generate increased buyer interest and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget. 

              Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, I advise clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel, or even redecorating. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular options could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to list your property. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

              To help, I’ve rounded up five of the hottest home design trends for 2020. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give me a call. I can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

              1.  IN: Sustainability / OUT: Fast Furniture 

              Consumers have become increasingly eco-conscious. Many are shunning the mass-produced, “fast furniture” popularized by retailers like IKEA, opting instead for higher-quality pieces that are built to last. And the availability of non-toxic, environmentally-friendly furniture and decor options is set to grow in 2020 and beyond. 

              At the same time, there’s been a noticeable shift toward individuality in today’s interior design. Instead of following the latest fad, more homeowners are opting to embrace their personal style and invest in items they believe will “spark joy” (à la Marie Kondo) for years to come.

              Want to know more about Marie Kondo’s famous organization method and how it can increase your home’s value? Contact me for a free copy of my recent report, “Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades That ‘Spark Joy’ for Buyers.”

              To incorporate this trend, designers recommend layering old and new pieces for a curated look that you can build over time. Instead of purchasing a matching furniture set from a big-box retailer, buy one or two sustainably-sourced pieces that complement what you already own. Try searching estate sales and Craigslist for vintage classics or well-built furniture that can be refinished. And to accessorize your room, mix sentimental items with newer finds to create a truly personalized space.

              2.  IN: Cozy / OUT: Cold

              Designers are moving away from cool grays, industrial finishes, and stark modernism. In 2020, there’s a big emphasis on creating warm and cozy spaces through color, texture, and shape.

              Gray has dominated the color palette for the past decade. This year, expect to see a move toward warmer neutrals, earth tones, and nature-inspired shades of blue and green. Warm metals, like gold and brass, will also continue to trend. And hardwood floors are heating up, as cool gray and whitewashed finishes fade in popularity. Expect to see a rise in classic choices like walnut, mahogany, and oak in richer and darker tones. 

              Furniture will also get cozier—and curvier—in 2020. From rounded sofas and curved-back chairs to oval dining tables, softened-angles are dominating the furniture scene right now. And designers expect softly-textured fabrics—like velvet, shearling, and mohair—to be big this year, as homeowners strive to add a touch of “hygge” (the Danish concept of calming comfort). 

              Want to warm up your home decor? Try one of the top paint colors for 2020: Benjamin Moore’s First Light (soft pink), Sherwin Williams’s Naval (rich blue), or Behr’s Back to Nature (light green).

              3.  IN: Bold / OUT: Boring

              Bold is back! After years of neutral overload, vivid colors and prints will take center stage in 2020. Expect to see geometric designs, color blocking, and floral and botanical patterns on everything from pillows to rugs to wallpaper.

              The hottest trend in interior paint right now is bold trim and ceilings. Monochromatic rooms (e.g., walls, ceilings, and millwork painted the same color) will be big this year, as well as high-contrast pairings, like white walls with black trim. Colour is coming back to kitchens, too, and two-toned colour schemes continue to gain steam. In 2019, 40% of remodelers chose a contrasting colour for their kitchen island. While white was still the top choice for cabinets, blue and gray are increasingly popular alternatives.

              If you’re ready to “go bold,” separated spaces like laundry and powder rooms are great places to start. It’s easier to incorporate busy wallpaper or a bright wall colour in an enclosed area because it doesn’t have to flow with the rest of your decor.

              Of course, clients always want to know how design choices could impact their home’s value. The reality is, neutral finishes are still the safest bet for resale. If you’re prepping your home to go on the market, stick with non-permanent fixtures—like artwork and accessories—to brighten your space.

              4.  IN: Nature / OUT: Industrial

              Biophilic design has been big the past few seasons, and it isn’t going anywhere in 2020. It centers around the health and wellness benefits of connecting with nature, even while indoors, and it’s impacted the latest trends in colour, prints, and materials.

              As mentioned previously, floral and botanical patterns are hot right now, along with nature-inspired hues, like blues, greens, and earth tones. We’re also seeing a heightened use of organic shapes and sustainable materials in furniture and furnishings, including wood, wicker, rattan, and jute. This infusion of nature coincides with a decline in the popularity of urban-industrial fixtures. Designers predict that concrete floors and Edison light bulbs are on the way out. 

              Want to bring in elements of biophilic design on a budget? Houseplants are a great place to start. But you can also enhance your home’s natural light and create a visual sightline to the outdoors by removing heavy curtains and blinds. And when the weather is nice, open your windows and enjoy the breeze, sounds, and smells of nature. These simple acts are scientifically proven to help reduce stress, boost cognitive performance, and enhance mood!

              5.  IN: Functional / OUT: Fussy

              In 2020, homeowners want design that’s beautiful, but also liveable. With the rise in remote workplaces, online shopping, and virtual exercise classes, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before. Cue the growing appeal of multi-functional spaces, like a combination kitchen/office or gym/playroom. Real life—and rising housing prices—necessitates creative use of limited space.

              Durable, low-maintenance materials will also surge in popularity this year. Engineered quartz—which is more stain, heat, and chip-resistant than natural stone—is now the #1 choice for kitchen countertops. Waterproof, wood-look luxury vinyl is the fastest-growing segment in the flooring industry. And improvements to water and stain-resistant performance fabric has made it a mainstream option for both indoor and outdoor upholstery.  

              Now that functional is hot, what’s not? Designers say that mirrored furniture, open shelving, and all-white kitchens are too impractical for today’s busy families.

              So how can you start enjoying the time and energy-saving benefits of this design trend? Begin by structuring each room so that it best suits your needs. And when purchasing furniture or fixtures, choose options that are durable and easy-to-clean. The truth is, design fads come and go. But a comfortable and relaxed home (that you don’t spend every spare minute maintaining!) can help create memories to last a lifetime.

              DESIGNED TO SELL

              Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. I can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, I can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact me to schedule a free consultation!


              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.


              2020 Outlook: Real Estate Market Forecast

              •  Tuesday, January 7, 2020
              •  Marion Goard

              After a bit of a slump, the future's looking bright again for Canadian real estate. Economists expect positive growth in the national housing market in 2020, supported by low mortgage rates, a solid job market, and a rising population.

              In fact, in a recent report, RBC Economics called 2019 a “turning point for Canada’s housing market.” To understand why—and where the market is headed—we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and summarize expert predictions for the coming year.  

              More importantly, we explain what impact these changes will have on buyers, sellers, and homeowners in 2020 and beyond.

              SALES VOLUME WILL RISE

              After peaking in 2016, Canadian home sales volume fell in 2017 and 2018. Fortunately, we saw a turnaround last year as sales began to recover, and economists expect the trend to continue. In a recent “Housing Market Outlook” report, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts “home sales will increase in 2020 and 2021, offsetting the declines observed since 2016 by the end of the forecast horizon.” 

              The Canadian Real Estate Association expects to see a modest rate of growth this year. “Sales are forecast to continue to improve through 2020, albeit slowly. National home sales are forecast to rise by 7.5% to 518,100 units next year, with most of this increase reflecting a weak start to 2019 rather than a significant change in sales trends out to the end of next year.”

              What triggered this rebound in market activity? According to Rishi Sondhi of TD Economics,“The beneficial combination of solid job markets, rising household incomes, healthy population growth, further distance from restrictive government policies and low mortgage rates have given a boost to demand.” 

              RBC Economics believes the main impediment to growth will be a lack of supply to meet the reinvigorated demand. “In fact, low inventories in many local markets appear to be holding buyers back who are faced with fewer and fewer options,” noted RBC in its November housing report.

              What does it mean for you? The market is heating up as buyer demand grows. If you’re planning to purchase a home this year, be prepared to compete for the best listings. And if you’re a seller who has been waiting for the market to pick up, now may be a good time to act.

              HOME PRICES WILL INCREASE

              Home prices declined in many markets as sales volume fell. This year, however, sales are set to outpace the supply of new listings. That’s causing prices to increase as buyers compete for fewer available homes. “The rise in the sales-to-new listing ratio suggests that house price inflation will surge,” writes Stephen Brown of Capital Economics.

              Nationally, the CMHC expects the average sales price to exceed its peak 2017 level by the end of 2021, led by growth in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. “Other regions will generally see modest gains over the forecast horizon,” predicts the agency in its Fall 2019 Housing Market Outlook.

              Rishi Sondhi of TD Economics predicts that affordability challenges will temper price growth in the country’s most expensive markets.4 However, low mortgage rates, rising incomes, and government interventions—like the First Time Home Buyer Incentive program launched in September—could help eager buyers stretch their budgets.

              What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home, act soon before prices go up. Economists expect both home values and rental costs to rise this year, so you’re likely to pay more the longer you wait.

              HOUSING STARTS WILL STABILIZE 

              In 2017, Canadian housing starts reached a 10-year high. But as the real estate market slowed, builders pulled back. The CMHC expects both single-family and multi-unit construction activity to stabilize this year and to rebound by the end of 2021 to levels consistent with historical averages, although well below the 2017 peak.

              Economists at the CMHC speculate that “the support to new residential construction from the expected improvement in economic activity and incomes will be offset by the projected slowing in household formation over the forecast horizon.”

              According to PWC’s latest “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report, condominiums continue to dominate new construction in Canada. Their relative affordability has made them a favourite of both first-time buyers and investors looking to fulfill a growing demand for rental units. However, a narrowing price gap between condos and detached housing could shift builder momentum towards single-family homes.

              What does it mean for you? If you’ve had trouble finding a suitable home in the past, new construction may become an increasingly available option. I can help you assess both current and upcoming developments in our area.

              I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

              While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighbourhood.  

              START PREPARING TODAY


              If you plan to BUY this year:

              1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork. It's essential to have a pre-approval in place when you submit an offer to purchase.  In a competitive market, going in without a pre-approval is a sure way to loose out on your offer.  Another benefit: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow, You can budget and shop accordingly.
              2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
              3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. I’d love to guide you through it. I can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give me a call to schedule an appointment today!

               

              If you plan to SELL this year:

              1. Call me for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
              2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. I can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
              3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage ... and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

              If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2020, contact me now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work together to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.


              Gifts and Gadgets for Every Room in the House

              •  Sunday, December 1, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              For those searching for new and innovative gift ideas this holiday season you'll want to check out the list of this years hottest home technology offerings. I’ve selected a few favourites for every room in the house. Heads up though - included are items that likely are above the price most would pay for a 'gift' however these smart systems and devices add comfort, convenience, and a “cool factor” that will definitely delight.  

              Who you know who would love one of the latest gadgets … or perhaps add one to your own wish list! 

              ENTRYWAY

              Ensure the safety of your loved ones with these smart security upgrades.

              Smart Lighting

              Ring, a company best known for its video doorbells, has added smart lights to its series of integrated devices. The Ring Smart Light System includes motion sensors, pathlights, spotlights, and even step lights, which can be turned on and off using voice commands when paired with an Amazon Alexa device. Users may opt to receive a notification when motion is detected on the premises, and—if integrated with Ring security cameras—access a live video stream for an added layer of security. Systems start at $99.99.

              Smart Lock

              Smart locks are a great way to ensure your friends and family are never left out in the cold, and the August Smart Lock Pro+ Connect is among the most highly rated. It’s one of the easiest models to install because it pairs with an existing deadbolt. The Smart Lock Pro enables a user to lock and unlock their door remotely with an app on their phone. And with the auto-lock/unlock feature, it can be set to open automatically upon approach and relock after entry. Retails for $228.99.

              Video Doorbell

              Video doorbells have become an increasingly popular security enhancement for homes, and for a good reason. Homeowners can detect activity at their front door while away, view visitors via video stream, and communicate without opening the door. Since Ring released its first smart doorbell in 2013, a number of competitors have entered the market. The Nest Hello Video Doorbell has some unique features—like facial recognition, package detection, and pre-recorded quick responses—that place it near the top of the pack. Retails for $299.

              LIVING ROOM

              These fun and functional gifts are perfect for anyone who is big on style—but short on time.

              Automated Planter

              Caring for household plants is easier than ever with the latest advancements in technology. Perfect for frequent travellers or forgetful friends, the Dewplanter uses moisture in the air to water plants without manual intervention. Now nature lovers can enjoy the beauty and health benefits of houseplants without the hassle. Plus, for each unit sold, the company pledges to plant a tree somewhere it’s needed. Retails for US$69.50.

              Smart Art

              Instead of buying your favourite art lover a single painting, why not give him or her 30,000? With the Meural Canvas, you can access an extensive collection of artwork from around the world to display digitally in your own home. Meural utilizes proprietary technology to deliver an anti-glare matte display that automatically adjusts to the lighting in the room. Personal artwork and photographs can be showcased, as well. Retails for $799. 

              Motorized Shades

              Motorized window coverings aren’t new, but a lower price point and enhanced features have helped to boost their popularity. The latest Motorized Shades from Somfy can be pre-programmed to raise or lower at certain times of day or controlled on-demand via a remote, smartphone app, or voice command when paired with Amazon Alexa or Google Home. They can also be set to operate automatically in response to the amount of sunlight or temperature of the room. Contact a dealer for pricing.

              KITCHEN

              These kitchen gadgets make life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable. They’re perfect for your busiest friends and family members!

              Pressure Cooker

              Have you jumped on the multi-cooker bandwagon yet? If so, you know how fast and simple these multifunctional appliances make meal preparation. The InstantPot Duo is a pressure cooker, sauté pan, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, and yogurt maker all-in-one. It reduces cooking time and lowers energy consumption. Who wouldn’t love one of these versatile tools? With numerous cookbooks and blogs devoted to InstantPot recipes, the meal options are virtually endless. Retails for $129.99.

              Cocktail Machine

              Cocktail connoisseurs will appreciate the ease and convenience of the Bartesian Premium Cocktail Machine. Listed among “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for 2019, the Bartesian mixes drinks with the touch of a button. Simply fill the canisters with base spirits, choose a cocktail capsule, and the machine does the rest. Now you can mix a margarita, whiskey sour, cosmopolitan, and other favourites as easily as you brew a cup of coffee. Retails for $470. 

              Smart Refrigerator

              Kitchens are often called the “heart of the home,” and a new refrigerator from Samsung aims to be the hub. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator helps busy families stay organized. Grocery shopping becomes a breeze with built-in cameras that allow owners to peek inside their fridge from anywhere. The interactive touchscreen displays pictures, notes, and reminders for family members. And the integrated SmartThings app enables users to control smart devices and appliances from a central point. Retails for $2,999 and up.

              BEDROOM

              Almost nothing beats a good night’s sleep. Help your loved ones wake up refreshed with these smart devices for the bedroom.

              Baby Sleep Soother

              As any parent knows, when your baby isn’t getting sleep, neither are you. Help everyone in the family catch some z’s with a Bubzi Co Soothing Owl. This cuddly creature plays lullabies while projecting a starry scene on the bedroom wall to calm young children and help them drift off to sleep. And for every purchase, Bubzi Co makes a donation to Postpartum Support International. Retails for $42.95.

              Sunrise Alarm Clock

              Know someone who hates getting up in the morning? Alarm clocks that utilize light instead of a noisy alarm can provide a more peaceful transition in and out of sleep. The Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light includes customizable sunrise and sunset simulation, guided breathing exercises, and sensors that track room conditions, like temperature, humidity, noise, and light. Retails for $219.99.

              Smart Thermostat

              Temperature fluctuations during the night can disrupt sleep. The Nest Learning Thermostat uses smart technology to track a user’s preferences and build a schedule around them. Homeowners can place one of its integrated sensors in their bedroom to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the night. And Nest thermostats cut energy consumption, so they’ll rest easier knowing they’re saving the planet and money on utility bills. Retails for $329.

              BATHROOM

              Bathrooms don’t have to be boring. Technology can add flair to the daily routine.

              Waterproof Speaker

              Music enthusiasts and podcast fans will enjoy streaming their favourites in the shower with a wireless waterproof speaker. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is a mid-priced and versatile option that can go from the bath to the beach. It packs an impressive 13-hour battery life in a small, portable case that’s waterproof, dust-proof, and floatable. Retails for $99.99. 

              Digital Smart Scale

              A scale isn’t an appropriate gift for everyone, but health and fitness enthusiasts may appreciate the high-tech features available with the Withings Body+. It tracks weight, body water, and fat, muscle, and bone mass for up to eight users. It can also be set to display local weather and the previous day’s step count. Customized pregnancy and baby modes make this a suitable choice for a growing family, as well. Retails for $129.95.

              Vanity TV Mirror

              For a truly luxe bathroom addition, consider an integrated vanity television mirror. The Seura TV Mirror seamlessly incorporates video into a bathroom vanity. It’s vanishing glass technology makes it possible to view the television through a mirror. When turned off, the screen completely disappears. Add lighting or a custom frame to complete the look. Starts at US$3,099 for a 19” display.

              MY GIFT TO YOU

              Are you considering a permanent technology upgrade for your own home? Give me a call first! Buyer expectations and preferences vary depending on price point, architectural style, and neighbourhood. I can help you determine how the enhancement will impact the value of your home before you make the investment.


              New Exclusive Listing - SOLD in 1 day!

              •  Saturday, November 2, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              Sold in 1 day! Rarely offered end unit bungalow freehold townhouse.  Bright, spacious and impeccably maintained by the original owners.   

              Numerous updates include shingles, floors, furnace and air conditioner, kitchen and bathroom counters, gas stove and dryer. 

              Located in a very quiet area in Grimsby close to many amenities. 

              Price:            $559,000

              Bedrooms:     2

              Bathrooms:    1.5

              Square Feet:  1198 +/- above grade

              Garage:         Single

              Basement:     Partially finished with family room and den/office. Potential for additional room plus tons of storage space.

              Taxes - TF (2019)

              Lot:  33.60' x 98.10' 

              Don’t miss out. Make this one yours! 

              Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing before the property is listed on the Multiple Listing Service!


              Spectacular Ravine Lot

              •  Monday, September 23, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

                                     

              Welcome to 298 Gardenview Dr.! An opportunity such as this doesn't come around very often. They're just not making any more land!

              Located in a very quiet area in Burlington's Aldershot neighbourhood this large ravine lot backs onto the Hidden Valley Multi Use Trail and Hidden Valley Park.  It's a nature lovers dream! Quiet and peaceful are the most appropriate words to describe the setting.

              Located on the property is a 1250+/- sq.ft. bungalow with walk-out lower level. The home is being sold in ‘as is’ condition. Seller provides no warranties.

              Don’t miss out. Make this one yours! 

              Click here to view the listing details.

              Quick view video - https://player.vimeo.com/video/362351213  

              Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing!

              New Price:     $829,000

              # Rooms (above grade):      6

              Bedrooms:     3 +1

              Bathrooms:    2.5

              Square Feet (living space):  2500 +/-

              Garage:         Single

              Basement:     Finished with walk out

              Taxes - $4,021 (2019)

              Lot:  70.00 x 185.75 (irregular)


              Lovely family home in sought after south east Burlington!

              •  Tuesday, September 17, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              SOLD! - Exclusive - detached 3+1 bedroom home in south-east Burlington.  

              More pictures to follow soon!

              Welcome to 4317 Longmoor Dr.! This lovely 4 level back split, with approximately 2500 square feet of living space, is located in one of Burlington's prime South East neighbourhoods and offers plenty of room for a growing family.

              Upon entering the foyer you’ll immediately find the home has a more open feel than might have been expected. The main level features a spacious living/dining room combination and bright eat-in kitchen, plus access to the backyard and garage. Upstairs you’ll find three good sized bedrooms and a generously sized 4-piece bathroom.  

              The lower level, which is partially above grade, includes a family room with fireplace, additional bedroom and 2-piece bathroom. A large recreation room, finished laundry area, utility and storage rooms are a few more steps down on the basement level.  

              Enjoy the outdoors or entertain family and friends on the large deck in the private, mature backyard. Your garden tools and equipment can easily be stored in the shed at the rear of the yard. With the paved double driveway and single car garage there’s enough space to park up to 5 cars.  

              Walk to schools, parks, community centre, shopping and public transit. There's also easy access to major highways and Lake Ontario.  Don’t miss out. Make this one yours! 

              Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing!

              Price:            $784,9000

              # Rooms (above grade):      6

              Bedrooms:     3 +1

              Bathrooms:    1.5

              Square Feet (living space):  2500 +/-

              Garage:         Single

              Basement:     Fully finished

              Taxes - $3,778 (2019)

              Lot:  46.04 x 110.43

              
              


              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!

               


              11 Open House Selling Tips & Selecting The Right Agent

              •  Monday, July 22, 2019
              •  unknown

              1. THE RIGHT KIND OF REALTOR®

              Prepositioning your home prior to listing is the best way to optimize its sale price as well as the terms of sale in your favor and open houses, are one of the most common and effective ways to show and sell it. Open houses however, are not a favored tactic by all REALTORS® and obviously, among those that do use them, there are vastly different levels of capacity.

              With 60-70,000 REALTORS® in Southern Ontario alone and the market experiencing more difficulty moving properties than in recent years, selecting the right REALTOR® for you can have dramatic effects on whether your home even sells, as well as the sale-price and terms of sale if it does sell. This article can help you with both outlining some of the most powerful and proven prepositioning methods you and your agent should focus on, while also giving you some key aspects to consider and ask potential agents about to help you select the right representation.

              What would you invest in time and money to get an extra $7,000, $15,000 or $25,000 for your current house? The differences in how you handle the elements below can certainly add up to a lot more too, so go through this list carefully and consider both, what you’re willing to do yourself and pay for assistance with, as well as how well equipped your realtor® is to first properly preposition and then, sell your home using open houses.

              1. ARE YOU A DESIGNER? GET HELPFUL ADVICE OR HIRE ONE!

              Even if professional staging and design isn’t in the budget, you probably know a few people who can help in a major way - without even minor inconvenience to them or you. Your REALTOR® should really be your go-to guide for all elements discussed below, so again, make sure they offer you tons of helpful advice and suggestions on all fronts as well as perhaps a bit of help with the finer details on the staging side if you don’t end up hiring a professional. Also, ask your REALTOR® for help arranging for proper storage of all the furniture and items that end up being removed, from a properly prepared home for sale.

              Plus, if you know a photographer, designer of any kind or even someone with a seriously enviable sense of style, they can be a huge help for almost all of us who need it. So don’t be afraid to invite the right kind of friend over for a quick visit and walk-through to get their advice. Make sure to go through your property inside and out and consider using this article in addition to your realtor’s® checklist as a guide.

              1. CLEANING, DEPERSONALIZE, DECLUTTER & STAGE YOUR HOME

              Take this section seriously, because from cleaning and depersonalizing, to decluttering and staging (even if you do your own staging with the help of your REALTOR®) these items frequently make the biggest difference to sale-terms as well as overall sales success, of all topics discussed in this article!

              On cleaning, think fancy hotel standards. First, do as much as you want to yourselves, then seriously consider hiring professional cleaners as well as carpet cleaning pros. Below we’ll discuss the benefits of also hiring a handyman to attend to all the tiny repairs that often make a monster difference as well as perhaps, getting someone to help with curb appeal and landscaping the yard and exterior.

              When it comes to depersonalizing and decluttering your property (remember, it’s not your home anymore, you want a buyer and yourselves to start thinking about it as theirs) think minimalist and neutral. The idea is to create a blank canvas that will appeal to all possible senses of style as well as create the appearance of the largest possible amount of space, in each room of your house, the garage, each closet and even the yard outside. Allow minimalism and neutrality to be your two sole guides as you go through the entire home. Potential buyers can come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of varying tastes.

              Do you collect anything? If you do, when it’s time to sell your house and in preparation for successful showings and open houses, it’s now time to lovingly pack away all personal collections and unnecessary items that define your own unique taste. The tiniest of things that you love, as well as buyers impressions of the previous owners themselves, can easily turn people off and you’d be amazed how quickly the decision to NOT buy your home can come about. The simplest of things, such as for example, your collection of owl, horse or pig items and all kinds of subtle impressions and ideas about previous owners can turn buyers away.

              Most artwork from walls and floor pieces, should likely be removed and most certainly, remove all family photos! For artwork and knickknacks, leave only one or two well placed pieces for each room. Also remove every single item from all tables and countertops, including all appliances from the kitchen, everything from the bathroom counters (even everything from inside bathroom cabinets that’s not absolutely necessary) as well as completely clearing off coffee tables, end tables and table tops.

              What to keep? Make sure your REALTOR® is experienced and expert in this area enough so that that they can offer enormous help re-arranging furniture and picking those one or two paintings and pieces of art for the walls and centerpieces of tables and countertops.

              Make sure you also clean out all those closets, literally packing away all but the most necessary clothing items and leave the shelving bare or as close to as possible. Closets are often neglected, but can make a big difference when done right, to help people appreciate the amount of space there actually is. The human eye is a funny and strange thing. Most people can’t properly visualize the amount of empty space actually available in a room that’s packed (however cozily) full of furniture, items of all kinds filling corners, with knickknacks spread around and items hanging on the walls. Buyers also need the same kind of help with closet- spaces, so make sure your closets are as empty as possible!

              For staging, depending on your situation and property, hiring a professional stager with the help of your REALTOR® can give you a massive advantage and lead to a much higher sale price, as well as more beneficial terms in-line with your ideal preferences. Ultimately, even if you hire a stager, unless you’re accustomed to paying others to do all manners of work around the house and in life to save you time, you might want to expedite and lower expenses by doing as much as possible yourselves first, when it comes to cleaning, depersonalizing, decluttering and staging, with again, help and advice from a great REALTOR®.

              BOOST CURB APPEAL

              Green is gold! One of the most obvious and impactful ways to boost curb appeal is to add fresh greenery, flowers and take care of your lawn. Even without spending time and money on major gardening, you can add planters and window boxes in key accent areas to significantly enhance your property’s exterior appearance.

              Make the door standout! Painting a front door is an easy DIY job and even if you pay someone to do it, it’s a cheap way to make a big difference in curb appeal. Bold colours that enhance, versus clash with your existing exterior are recommended and don’t be afraid to go bright either. Just choose carefully before you paint and perhaps ask your REALTOR® or that design savvy friend for their recommendations.

              Light up buyers first impressions! Porch string lights, fresh fixtures around the door, even solar powered lanterns can all work wonders to light-up the walkway, front porch, door and front of the home. Bear in mind that potential buyers often drive-by at night before and after viewings, so consider lighting up the property at night while it’s for sale to increase viewings and help potential buyers choose your property.

              Mailbox makeovers and front door décor matter!  Consider swapping out a dated or drab mailbox for something stylish. Or once again, a fresh coat of paint is a cheap and easy way to turn a negative into another positive element to first impressions. Like many parts of our human awareness, first to even post-viewing impressions are often primarily subconscious and all tiny visual details matter more than you might think. For front door and entrance décor, ask your REALTOR® as always and depending on the property, everything from a small inviting porch table and chairs to planters on either side of the front door and the perfect rented entry-table for inside the entryway can all make a home much more attractive to buyers.

              Power-washing is a powerful, fast and fun must! Cleaning the outside of your home is almost as important as cleaning the inside. Power-washers make it fast and easy and depending on you, they can be pretty fun too. Not that most of you would need the reminder, but if you have children and depending on their age, this entire list from powerwashing and yard-work to packing, cleaning and staging are great ways to get the whole family involved, get things done faster and get better results.

              A freshly painted or stained garage door captures a lot of positive attention too! A new door is expensive, but fresh paint or stain, using once again a bold colour or the perfect tone to highlight the home’s exterior is a powerful, easy and cheap way to boost curb appeal. Like many of these items, this is another great DIY task, a good way to get the kids involved or a cheap item to add to your handyhelper’s list.

              Clear, clean, well-defined paths, the right balance of and selection of outdoor furniture and even new door hardware are important! Make sure you clear and ensure all pathways are well-defined and sharp looking. Consider a few solar powered lamps to help and add to the path and home’s overall visual appeal too. All outdoor furniture needs to be clean and in good condition. The right balance is key too, because too much outdoor furniture looks crowded and too little can look bare. Even a small table with a pretty planter and a few small ceramic stools, can go a long way for a garden corner or a smaller yard. Depending on the situation, new hardware can help make that front door look gorgeous.

              ADVERTISE ONLINE

              Online advertising and the quality of your listing online is as important as it gets in today’s digital world, where everyone looks online first and foremost. Aside from leveraging as many of the best online sites and ensuring the photos, video and listing write-up are of the best possible quality, FaceBook still reigns supreme in Canadian real estate for additional online help getting attention and securing more overall viewings and visitors to your open houses.

              Ask your REALTOR® if they plan on using Canvas, which is perhaps the best available tool for creative and interactive Facebook posts and ads, as well as utilizing the standard Facebook Live posting techniques & Facebook events.

              USE STRATEGICALLY PLACED PHYSICAL SIGNS

              Balloons attached to the normal physical signs are a great way to grab way more attention from people driving by. Drones with hanging signs have recently begun to be used to add powerful eye-catching attention, hovering above your open-house.

              Don’t underestimate the power of standard physical “Open House” signs. Make sure your agent places several, helping potential buyers to easily find your house (especially if you are located off of a main road). This basic tool which is often neglected can certainly attract more potential buyers who may just be driving by and haven’t seen your house online. You never know who will decide to poke in for a quick look and decide your property is their new dream home.

              INVITE THE NEIGHBOURS

              Sometimes, we can all feel frustrated by nosy neighbours. However, your open house is exactly the time you want every neighbor especially the nosy ones, to be checking out your home. Invite all your neighbors to your open house. They may know of someone looking to move to the area (family, friend, or otherwise), and could end up recommending your home to them. Think of your neighbours as some of your most effective scouts and connections. Frequently, the nosy neighbor-types will be the first to tell their friends about your amazing kitchen counters, that bathroom remodel and all the best features of your property. Your realtor® can often help with letting your neighbours know about open-house dates and also consider sending your neighbor's personal invitations or fliers yourself too. Or, if you prefer, emails and personalized electronic invitations work too.

              LOCK-UP VALUABLES

              Make sure you secure your valuables (and any medication), before potential buyers start viewing your home. Thefts are rare, but they can happen. Pharmaceutical theft is one of the more common issues that can arise, so ensure your medicine cabinets are clear. Dispose of any medications you no longer need and lock up the ones that are in use (or take them with you). Also, be sure to lock up anything else that may tempt someone, such as jewelry, cash, credit cards and valuable (even if only sentimentally) knickknacks.

              LEAVE

              Your realtor® and team are there to help you sell your home, so there is no reason for you to be present during your open house. In fact, it’s highly recommended and potentially beneficial for plentiful reasons if you take off. Pack up the kids, and the pets (if you have any) and go for a drive, visit with friends/family, or head to the park. This will lessen the stress on potential buyers, and help them to feel as though they can speak freely and candidly with the agent. If you can, take your pets items with you (dishes, litter box, etc.). If not, make sure they are spotless.

              PROVIDE INFORMATION PACKETS

              Make sure your realtor® either leaves informational sheets for potential homebuyers to take home with them, or does careful sign-in and gathering of email information to follow up with a digital package. Buyers are almost always looking at multiple to a great many houses and having all the right information easily accessible about your home, will help them to more easily recall and consider it.

              PROVIDE YUMMY TREATS

              Providing delicious and/or freshly baked treats has two advantages: one, it creates an inviting, enticing aroma and the power of smell is a big deal that retailers have been using for decades, and two, your potential buyers have a delicious snack to enjoy while they tour your home, which leaves them with another set of positive impressions. Giving them a special treat, ensures potential buyers are sure to remember your property and as discussed directly below, cliché cookies work, but you can also consider contacting a local bakery or restaurant for something extraordinarily special, scrumptious and memorable.

              CONSIDER A THEME OR CREATE AN EXCITING EVENT

              These days, hosting an open house is about an experience. This is in part especially because of and despite the fact that prospective homebuyers often don’t have the opportunity to spend a ton of time at any given property. People want to maximum their Saturday’s and Sundays and also often plan to preview as many properties as possible.

              For example—if the home happens to be designed with a regional theme, consider presenting them with similarly themed delicious treats. Also consider playing light music (e.g., bossa nova, smooth jazz or classical) which also cheers up the preview time and works to make a memorable experience.

              Depending on the value of the property and your need to sell, you and your REALTOR® can also try all kinds of more unique and inviting strategies to make your open houses fun, unusual and wildly successful. You might host an open house that features a local or visiting author doing a book signing, food from two top restaurants, pop-up shopping, and more. The home could also be staged with furniture from a well-known antique/estate-sale business. Your goal is to draw people to the home and give them a reason to tour all the rooms and linger. For these stronger types of tactics you may also want to secure a media partner or two for pre- and post-event local and social coverage.

              MARION GOARD’S A SEASONED PRO WHO LOVES USING OPEN HOUSES

              Call 905-330-5201 or email mariongoard@kw.com to arrange coffee or tea and your free consultation.


              Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

              •  Wednesday, June 5, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

              If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. In this article I’ve outlined proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.  

              Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

              STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

              The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

              Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.1

              So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

              Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

              I can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbors homes.

              STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

              You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.3 Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.  

              Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, I only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. At the same time I don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home. 

              I go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. I’m always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money!

              STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

              Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

              But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

              Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

              Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

              We can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

              STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

              Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

              The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

              Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

              STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

              Many agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, we know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.3

              That’s why I continually invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. My dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.  

              By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

              LET’S GET MOVING

              Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact me for a copy of my Seller’s Guide, which offers a complete guide to today’s home selling process. Or call me to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. I’d love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!


              Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades that “Spark Joy” for Buyers

              •  Wednesday, May 1, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “spark joy.”

              With spring in the air, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

              Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “spark joy” for you and your property value.

              Boost Bathroom Storage Capacity

              When was the last time you cleaned out your bathroom cupboards? If it’s been awhile, remove everything and take a look at each item. Toss any old or expired products—keep only what you actually use.

              If your vanity has drawers, add drawer organizers, so you have a dedicated space for smaller items, like makeup and jewelry. For deep cabinets, install roll-out shelves or baskets to maximize the use of space. 

              And don’t forget about the walls! Mount open shelves to store towels. If you’re short on storage space, a cabinet over the toilet can offer additional room for supplies. These inexpensive additions can make your morning routine a little easier while giving your bathroom a more custom feel. Properly done, bathroom remodeling projects do make a house that much more appealing to potential buyers.

              Upgrade Your Laundry Room

              Sort through the items in your laundry room and throw away or donate anything you no longer need or use. If you’ve been holding onto a collection of old washcloths and single socks, it’s time to say goodbye. Then give your laundry room an upgrade with some customized organizational features.  

              A mix of open cubbies and cabinets with doors will give you plenty of options for storing detergents and supplies. If you have space, a divided hamper or set of laundry baskets can provide a place to sort your clothes before washing. Install a hanging rod or drying rack for delicates and a flat work surface for ironing and folding clothes. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn this chore into a score!

              Fully Utilize Your Basement or Attic

              Basements and attics can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. If that’s the case in your home, you know what to do! 

              Once you’ve conducted a thorough clean out, think about how you can better utilize the space to meet your family’s needs. Install cabinets and a table so you can use the area as a craft room. Or you could turn it into a game room with a media center and ping-pong table. Investing in your basement will not only add function for your family, but also the average basement remodel can see up to a 70% return on investment when it’s time to sell.

              If you have an functional attic, consider adding a cedar closet to store your off-season clothing. The cedar lining will keep your clothes free from moths and smelling fresh year round. Turning your attic into a more usable space will pay off down the road, too. 

              Customize Your Closets

              Cleaning out the closet is a chore most of us dread, but by now, you’re a pro! Get rid the clothes and shoes that don’t fit you, are uncomfortable to wear, or that no longer “spark joy.”

              Then it’s organizing time. So where do you start? You’ll want to create a designated space for each type of clothing: high hanging rods for dresses and long jackets, lower rods for skirts and shirts, and shelves for folded items like jeans. And accessories need a place to go, too. Add racks for your shoes, drawers for jewelry, hooks for hats, and shelves or racks for handbags.

              A well-equipped closet can be a major draw for buyers. More importantly, it’ll improve your day-to-day life. Surveyed homeowners gave their closet remodel a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10, higher than kitchen or bath upgrades.

              Install Built-in Bookcases and Cabinets

              Built-in furniture adds functionality and storage to a room while giving your home a high-end look. Built-in bookcases can turn an empty room into an office. Custom cabinets can be used in a living room to display media equipment while providing hidden storage for DVDs, board games, and family albums.

              When designing any built-in feature, remember not to go too custom. A design that only fits your tastes or belongings could turn off future buyers. Instead, select standard sizes and classic finishes to appeal to a broad range of buyers when it comes time to sell.

              Equip Your Garage

              If you can no longer fit your car in your garage, it may be time for a clean out. Similar to an attic or basement, the garage can quickly become overrun with clutter. A thorough cleaning will help you assess which items are worth keeping.

              When adding organizational systems your garage, start with a small rack to store yard tools and larger racks for bikes and sports equipment. Overhead racks are a great place to put seasonal items and bulky luggage. A workbench against a wall lined with pegboard and hooks creates a dedicated space to use and store tools. If you have children or pets, add a cabinet with a lock. This will give you a place to securely store harsh chemicals and sharp tools. With a little effort, you’ll be pulling in your car (and buyers) in no time!

              SPRING INTO ACTION

              If you’re searching for service providers to help with your spring cleaning or home organization efforts, let me know! I can connect you with our trusted network of local home improvement professionals. I can also help you determine which organizational upgrades will add the most value to your home. Call today, and let me know how I can help!


              Top 8 Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2019

              •  Wednesday, February 6, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              If you’re a current homeowner, or in the market to buy, you’re probably curious about the latest trends in home design.

              Sellers who make strategic updates before listing a property can generate increased interest from buyers and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget.

              Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, clients are advised to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel. Making over-personalized or unpopular design choices could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to sell. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your renovation to feel dated quickly.           

              To help, I’ve rounded up eight of the hottest home design trends for 2019. Keep in mind, not all trends will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, consult a professional who can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

                    1.  WARMER PAINT COLORS

              White and grey aren’t going anywhere, but expect to see warmer tones and more earthy neutrals popping up in 2019. Cold whites are being replaced by warmer, softer whites. And warmer tones of grey have become a popular alternative to the cooler grays we were seeing earlier in the decade. Dove grey—with a lilac undertone—is a particular favorite with designers this year.

              Sherwin Williams chose Cavern Clay, a warm terracotta, as its 2019 color of the year, while Behr selected Blueprint, a mid-tone blue. Benjamin Moore’s selection is Metropolitan, a sophisticated grey.

              If you’re preparing to sell your home, consider a light, neutral paint color. Neutral colors provide a blank canvas upon which a buyer can envision placing their belongings, and lighter colors make a room appear larger and brighter.

                   2.   MIXED METALS

              Don’t feel limited to using one metallic finish throughout your home—or even throughout a single room. Designers are mixing metals in 2019, and their favorites include copper, brass, pewter, gunmetal, and matte black.

              Experts suggest picking one metal hue to dominate your color palette and a contrasting tone to complement it. If your room has a warm color palette, choose a warm-hued primary metal, such as brass or copper. For cool palettes, choose a cool-toned metal, like pewter or stainless steel. You can also experiment with mixing finishes, such as polished and hammered copper.

              From faucets to cabinet pulls to accent pieces, swapping out your old or dated fixtures is an easy—and relatively inexpensive—way to modernize your decor. Mixing metals adds depth and gives your room a more curated look.

                   3.   OUTDOOR ELEMENTS

              Bringing outdoor elements into the home can help warm up a sterile space. And natural materials can soften a modern design esthetic.

              Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate these materials throughout their home. Especially popular right now: stone, copper, concrete, and wood. From concrete showers to agate stone tiles, designers are finding unexpected ways to bring the outside in. 

              One notable exception: granite countertops. Engineered quartz—a combination of ground quartz and resin—overtook natural granite stone as the most popular countertop material in 2018. This durable, low-maintenance, highly-customizable product has won over homeowners and designers alike. 

                  4.   ALTERNATIVE APPLIANCES

              Stainless steel has been the industry standard for years, but the market is trending toward variety and fresh alternatives. Homeowners have more options available than ever to personalize their kitchens with vibrant colors, black stainless, or modern white appliances. Another favorite? Integrated appliances that blend seamlessly into cabinetry. Built-in column refrigerators, which allow you to customize the design and size of your freezer and refrigerator, are becoming a “must-have” in high-end homes.

              Advancements in technology have also brought a new wave of appliances to the market. Induction cooktops are replacing commercial gas ranges as a gourmet favorite. And french door ovens and steam ovens are also gaining in popularity—especially ones with smart features you can control from an app on your smartphone.

                  5.   COLORFUL KITCHENS

              White will always be a classic choice, but color is finally coming back to kitchens. More homeowners are choosing cabinets in alternative neutrals like black, cream, and grey, along with colorful options like green and blue. Also popular? Wood cabinets in stains like warm chestnut and fruitwood.

              Two-tone kitchen cabinets remain a homeowner favorite, as well. To incorporate this trend, try pairing darker lower cabinets with lighter upper cabinets or a colorful kitchen island with neutral-colored perimeter cabinets.

                 6.   OPEN SHELVING

              Swapping upper kitchen cabinets for open shelves continues to be a popular choice in 2019. It’s a cost-effective update that can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. However, it’s not a practical option for everyone. Before you commit, test it out by removing your cabinet doors for a few weeks. See how it feels to have your glasses and dishware on display.

              Not ready to give up all your upper cabinet storage space? Replace just one or two upper cabinets with open shelves for a lower-commitment but still-updated look.

                 7.   STATEMENT TILE

              The ubiquitous white subway tile is finally fading in popularity. In 2019, homeowners are gravitating toward more colorful choices, creative textures and finishes, and alternative shapes. Especially hot right now: hexagons, arabesques, diamonds, and Moroccan fish scales.

              Natural stone remains a favorite, including marble, quartzite and river rock. But advancements in porcelain tile that mimics stone, and even concrete, has made it an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance alternative.

                 8.   SHOWCASE CEILINGS

              Once an afterthought, ceilings are taking center stage. While 2018 was all about statement walls, statement ceilings are shaping up to be the darling of 2019. Designers are using bold paint colors, wallpaper, intricate moldings, fabric, and other materials to transform a ceiling into something truly special.

              Want to incorporate this trend without going too bold? Choose a classic design, like coffered or wooden beams. Or stick with wood paneling or tin tiles for a more timeless look. Even something as simple as painting a ceiling the same color as the walls can make your space feel more modern.

              DESIGNED TO SELL

              Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Give me a call for a free consultation!

              Buyer preferences can vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share the insights we’ve gathered from working with buyers in this market … and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your remodeling investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area.


              Want to learn more about how to stage your home to sell? Contact me at mariongoard@kw.com or by phone at 905-330-5201  to request a free copy of our report: 10 Staging Secrets From the Pros for a Quick Sale at Top Dollar!

              Sources:

              1. Decor Mag –
                https://www.decoraid.com/blog/home-design-trends-2019
              2. Gates Interior Design –
                https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-new-kitchen-and-bath-trends-for-2019/
              3. House Beautiful –
                https://www.housebeautiful.com/home-remodeling/interior-designers/a24844028/home-trends-for-2019/
              4. Houzz –
                https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/114552119/list/32-home-design-trends-that-will-rule-in-2019
              5. Invaluable –
                https://www.invaluable.com/blog/mixing-metals/
              6. Real Simple –
                https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-tips-techniques/design-trends-2019-according-to-designers
              7. Sebring –
                https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-kitchen-design/


              What's Ahead for Real Estate in 2019?

              As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”

              The Canadian real estate market experienced a cool-down in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, below are some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.

              SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE

              A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.

              “Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1

              What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Policy changes were put in place to cool down an overheated market that had led to increased debt levels, decreased affordability, and historically-low inventory levels. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability.

              PRICES WILL HOLD STEADY

              Economists expect prices to hold steady this year, rising slightly to keep pace with inflation. While the national average price declined by 4.2 percent in 2018, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts it will rebound slightly this year by 1.7 percent.2

              The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also expects prices to remain high, but stable. “By 2020, demand is expected to continue to shift towards relatively less expensive housing options such as apartment condominiums. This combined with slowing growth in economic conditions will lead to modest average price growth over the forecast horizon.”3 

              The Royal Bank of Canada agrees, cautioning that “would-be buyers hoping for a meaningful [price] break will likely be disappointed—we don’t expect aggregate prices to fall on an annual basis either this year or next.”1

              What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to drop, you may want to reconsider. The current sales slowdown has made many sellers more willing to negotiate. Don’t miss out on the most favourable market we’ve seen for buyers in years.

              NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL SLOW

              The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts new home construction will trend down over the next two years from a 10-year high in 2017. “Single-detached housing starts are anticipated to decrease over the forecast horizon. Construction of this housing type will continue to be limited by residential lot availability, but also by elevated price and borrowing costs in some major CMAs that represent an important portion of national starts.”3 

              However, economists expect the decline to be gradual. According to Fotios Raptis, a senior economist at TD Bank, “a steep downturn in homebuilding nationwide appears unlikely. Canada's population is on the rise, medium-term income growth should remain healthy, and most markets are generally not overbuilt.”4

              What does it mean for you? Buyers will continue to have options in new construction. But the decreased rate of supply should help prop up the resale market, which is good news for sellers.

              INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL TAKE A BREATHER … FOR NOW

              After a series of interest rate hikes, the Bank of Canada announced in December that it will likely slow its pace of rate increases. “We no longer expect the Bank of Canada to hike its policy interest rate in January. Spring 2019 now appears to be the more likely timing, allowing for the bank to ensure that the growth narrative is back on track,” commented Brian DePratto, a senior economist with TD Bank.5 

              At the same time, the impact of the mortgage stress test has slowed the pace of new mortgages being issued by traditional lenders. So even as funding costs have risen, banks have been hesitant to raise the 5-year qualifying rate. In its latest Mortgage Rate Forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association predicts that the 5-year mortgage rate will hold steady this year—and may even decline in the first quarter.6 

              What does it mean for you? If you currently have a variable rate mortgage, the bank’s revised policy should offer some welcome relief. And if you thought rising interest rates would prevent you from buying a home this year, you may be pleasantly surprised.

              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 a local market expert, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home sales and values in your particular neighbourhood.

              If you have specific questions or would like more information about where real estate is headed in our market, let me know! I’m here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape.


              START PREPARING TODAY


              If you plan to BUY this year:

              1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide you with more confindence in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.
              2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? I can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
              3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. I’d love to guide you through it. I can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give me a call to schedule an appointment today!

              If you plan to SELL this year:

              1. Call for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
              2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. I can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
              3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage ... and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

              Sources:

              1. RBC Canadian Housing Market Forecast –
                http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/housingforecastAugust2018.pdf
              2. CREA Resale Housing Market Forecast Update –
                https://www.crea.ca/news/crea-updates-resale-housing-market-forecast-4/
              3. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Housing Market Outlook –
                https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/housing-market-outlook-highlights
              4. TD Economics –
                https://economics.td.com/ca-housing-starts
              5. TD Economics –
                https://economics.td.com/ca-boc-interest-rate-announcement
              6. BCREA Mortgage –                                                                                                  http://www.bcrea.bc.ca/docs/economics-forecasts-and-presentations/mortgagerateforecast.pdfRate Forecast

              Small Space Solutions

              Sometimes small spaces are inevitable in our homes and it can be overwhelming trying to contain all of our belongings in these areas. Implement the following changes into your home and make the most out of your small living spaces. 

              Kitchen

              Small kitchens often mean limited storage. Consider storage options in places you may have never thought of. The inside of cupboard doors in your pantry, for example, are a great place to hide small items like cans, brooms, etc. Magnetic strips can be glued to hold knives or steel spice jars. Hooks can be added to hold the family calendar, kitchen towels and oven mitts. Small baskets can be hooked around the door for storing tin foil, saran wrap, baggies and other kitchen essentials.

              Living room

              Living rooms are often the hub of family get-togethers, slumber parties and games nights but in a small space things can feel cramped quickly. To make the space feel bigger and brighter, hang mirrors strategically, paint the room in lighter colours and declutter. Adding a console table behind the couch adds functional storage, and using canvas baskets to store magazines and throw blankets helps to keep the space organized in a flash!

              Bedroom

              To maximize space in a bedroom ditch the clunky dresser and opt for a bed with built-in drawers. Under-the-bed storage is great for bigger items like blankets, warm clothes, pajamas and seasonal clothing. By eliminating the need for a dresser you will have more walking space and your room won’t seem as cramped. This option is great for any room as beds with storage can be found in all sizes.

              Bathroom

              Be bold with your bathroom decor and try using large scale prints. Big patterns on your shower curtain, or wallpaper can trick the eye into thinking the space is much bigger than it actually is. It is also important to keep your bathroom accessories to a minimum. Keep toiletries stored away and consider only having a hand towel and soap visible. The more clutter there is the more cramped the bathroom will feel. 

              Closet

              If your closet is small, consider custom built-in storage. Built-in storage maximizes all of the space in the closet by using hanging rods, drawers and shelving systems. Custom closets allow for you to choose your preferred clothing storage and ensure that every space is being used effectively. 

              Small spaces don’t have to be a bad thing. By using these small space hacks you’ll be creating functional and open spaces to enjoy.


              Staging your home for the holidays

              The holidays are an exciting time for many and as a home seller you have the double duty of celebrating the season and selling your home at the same time. Check out these great tips and learn how to properly stage your home for showings throughout the holiday season.

              Clean it first

              Before you bring out the holiday decor be sure to clean your house from top to bottom. Vacuum, dust and reorganize the furniture to maximize the space in each room. After you clean, put away personal items such as family photos, personal trinkets, and other items that will make it hard for the buyer to picture themselves in your home. Once you’re done, you can begin adding some seasonal decor to your space. 

              Less is more

              Always remember that less is more when staging your home. The more that the buyer is able to visualize their belongings and style in the home, the better. Avoid displaying all of your holiday decorations over every surface and in every corner as it can be extremely overwhelming and take away from the home’s features. Consider picking a seasonal colour palette and using that as your inspiration. Use pillows, vases, blankets and other household items in these colours as your decor. Bring in some winter touches by displaying greenery and pinecones in vases and table tops. This decor won’t overwhelm buyers but still shows off your holiday spirit.

              Make your traditions your decorations

              Even if you aren’t displaying all of your favourite holiday decor, there are still so many ways to make your home reflect the holiday season while entertaining guests. Play classical or Christmas music throughout the house while guests are over, bake holiday treats for your family and friends to enjoy and keep the house warm by turning up the heat a little higher. These decor-less tips will make your home feel festive and fun.

              Think of your curb appeal

              Stay away from the oversized lawn ornaments and instead put lights around bushes or on the roof. During day, when potential buyers are coming through the house, the lights won’t be as noticeable but they will still make your home look like a winter wonderland when turned on in the evening. Remember to also have a salted walkway and a driveway clear of snow for safety during showings and open houses. 

              With these great staging tips your home will look great to potential buyers and still show off your holiday spirit when entertaining guests!

              Need more tips and advice? I'd be happy to help you on your real estate journey! Contact me anytime! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808. 


              How to make sure your home is winter ready

              The cooler nights and shorter days are a sign that it’s time to make sure your home is winter ready. We may not be able to predict what the winter will bring but we can definitely prep our home for whatever comes our way. 

              Seal the windows

              Sealing the windows is a very important task and for good reason. With the cold months quickly approaching you’ll want to keep the elements where they belong…outside! To prevent icy cold drafts from coming through the windows you’ll want to get a good quality silicon sealant. By sealing the windows you’ll save money on energy bills as your heater won’t have to work as hard to keep the house warm.

              Service the furnace

              After resting for the warm months it’s almost time to put the furnace back to work but before you do you’ll want to make sure to service it first. Tune-ups help to make sure everything is in good working order to ensure the most comfort for you and your family throughout the winter. By staying on top of furnace maintenance you will increase its life span, catch any potential problems and in the long run save time and money. 

              Protect the pipes

              Don’t forget to turn off all outdoor pipes and store away the hose. With below freezing temperatures, outdoor pipes can crack or even burst if left on during the winter. You’ll also want to make sure to store your hose properly too. All you have to do is drain it, coil it, and store it in a warmer area such as the garage or basement. If you forget to put away the hose, accumulated ice can create pressure in your pipes and cause some serious damage. To erase a major headache in the spring, be sure to include these simple tasks in your winter preparations.

              Run fans in reverse

              A great winter tip is to change the direction of your ceiling fan. By changing your ceiling fan to move in a clockwise motion (when you’re looking up at it) you will be creating an updraft. This helps the warm air that has risen to the ceiling to be pushed back down to those using the room. Don’t turn the fan up too high, a gentle and slow speed is all you need to do the trick. 

              By following these simple tips, you’ll enjoy a warmer and stress-free winter.


              Is your home a smart home?

              Smart home technology is making big waves in the home industry. It seems as though there’s always a new home gadget to try or buy. 

              If walls could talk

              Many companies have released smart devices that answer questions, play music, and tell you the weather. These smart speakers are small enough to hide so they aren’t noticeable. They are so discreet that when they talk and converse it seems as though the walls are talking. Google, Amazon, and even Apple are all up on the trend. Ask for recipes, traffic updates, the weather, or even to play music on command. Just speak to your device and it will do anything for you…except maybe not the dishes.

              Recharge and recharge 

              Sit back, relax and recharge…your phone. Furniture is now being designed to include built-in charging pads. Just place your phone or tablet on the secret spot and, voila, it’s being charged! No more worrying about finding a plug that reaches your favourite spot on the couch. Just place the phone beside you and let the furniture work its magic. This smart technology can be found in tables, desks and even lamps.

              Clean freak

              One of the most dreaded home chores is vacuuming. It’s loud, clunky and time consuming but did you know you can enjoy clean, hassle free floors with an automatic vacuum cleaner? These robots can navigate around spaces that often get missed. You can even schedule them to automatically start and finish the vacuuming before you get home from work! 

              Who let the dogs out?

              There are many smart home technologies geared to your furry friends. Automatic treat and food dispensers can include microphones, speakers and videos that you can control from your smartphone and allow you to chat and reward your pet from anywhere.  Attach a tracker to your pet’s collar and watch their whereabouts from an interactive map on your smartphone. This is great for those pets that like to wander. Hate cleaning the litter box? With a self-cleaning litter box you no longer have to worry about this stinky chore. This box automatically rakes through the litter and stores droppings into a closed container that’s easy to remove and empty.

              There is new smart home technology for all of our wildest dreams. It is easier now than ever to live smarter not harder.


              Top tips for hiring a home inspector

              Just because the home you have your eye on looks perfect at a glance, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues that need closer inspection. By hiring a home inspector you’ll get peace of mind and a full report on the home rather than being unpleasantly surprised by any costly issues that could occur after closing.

              Get Referrals

              Ask friends, neighbours and family whom they’ve hired for home inspections – and don’t forget to get recommendations from your own real estate agent. Your agent has likely worked with the same inspector(s) several times and can give them a good review.

              Interview the Inspector

              You should interview two or three inspectors before deciding on one. Spend some time chatting with the inspector to get to know them, and get a feel for whether or not you’ll want to work with them.

              Are they Insured?

              While surprisingly not mandatory to have, look for an inspector that has errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. An inspector that carries this insurance is likely to have more on-the-job experience.

              Hang out in the Home

              An inspector shouldn’t have any issues with the future homeowners – and their agent, too – wanting to be present for the inspection. Tell the inspector that you insist on accompanying them from room to room and have them point out features – and potential issues – as the inspection occurs. Also feel free to ask questions at the same time. After all, it will be your property and the inspector is supposed to work for you!

              Remember, a complete home inspection should:

              • Give you the peace of mind with your purchase
              • Reveal repairs and improvements needed before you buy
              • Provide invaluable details about every aspect of your purchased home
              • Reduce the risk of unpleasant “surprises” after closing.

              It’s the home inspector’s job to check the safety of the home and focus on the structure, construction, and its mechanical system. They should point out any issues or repairs that should be done so you’re not left emotionally and possibly financially frustrated after buying your dream home.

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Tips to clean green for an environmentally friendly home

              Those cleaning products we may all be used to are called ‘harsh’ for a good reason: they’re harmful to the environment and to us, humans. Incorporating ‘green’ cleaning methods keeps everyone in your home safe and still ensures you have a clean home. 

              Harmful chemicals aren’t necessary to get things spic and span. You can get the job done most often with natural ingredients. Create your own all-natural cleaning kit with the following: Borax (to disinfect, whiten and deodorize), baking soda (for scrubbing), white vinegar (to disinfect and loosen dirt), lemon juice (disinfects, degreases), olive oil (to polish wood) and castile soap (all-purpose foaming cleaner). There are many websites that offer recipes for make-your-own cleaning solutions. Apartment Therapy is a great option at www.apartmenttherapy.com. 

              There are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home – one easy way is to use less electricity. A well-insulated home retains heat and will reduce your heating costs. Double-glazed windows also help prevent heat loss from your home. 

              Turn your leftovers and kitchen scraps into compost. Place a compost bin in your garden and fill it with food waste. Your landscape will love you for it! Many cities sell compost bins and offers tips on how to get started. 

              Install a programmable thermostat. No more having to manually turn the dial one way during the day, then having to remember to turn it back on when everyone’s home during the evening. They’re easy to program (even from your own smartphone) and you’ll save on heating and cooling costs.

              Replace any old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They’re cooler to the touch, meaning no burnt fingers, and they don’t emit heat. A typical incandescent bulb only has 1,000 lifetime hours, whereas an LED bulb will last 25,000 hours. Think about having to replace those hard-to-reach fixtures in the stairwell way less often! 

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Fall Lawn Care

              Now’s not the time to ignore your lawn. Keep it healthy and help it overwinter with the following tips. With these lawn care tips you’ll have a healthier lawn in the spring and maybe even leave your neighbours a little green with envy.

              Feed your lawn. As temperatures cool, the top growth will slow down but the roots will continue to grow. Feeding your lawn now will give it the nutrients it needs over the winter. Giving your lawn two applications of fertilizer in the fall will help it recover more quickly. The first application is best done in mid-August to mid-September). Once the grass has stopped growing applying fertilizer in the late season will help it survive over the winter and green up in early spring.

              Seed away. Over-seeding the lawn will help fill in any bare spots and also thicken the grass. Go one step further by aerating the lawn after over-seeding to promote new growth and repair any troublesome patches. Don’t wait past late September to do this step.

              Keep calm and carry on – cutting your grass that is. Even though it starts to grow more slowly, continue cutting the grass and give it enough water to promote stronger root growth before winter. Root depth is proportional to mowing height: the longer the grass, the deeper the root. Raise the mower’s height slightly for fall cuttings. If Mother Nature isn’t watering your grass often enough, give it about a half-inch of water weekly.

              Finally, remember to remove any children’s toys that block sunlight and nutrients to your lawn. Rake the leaves too, since they can also block the sunlight it needs at this time of year. For larger properties, a leaf vacuum or blower will get the job done in no time, giving you some well earned time on the patio and the satisfaction of knowing your lawn is well taken care of until next spring.


              Five Tips for a Perfect Open House

              Your home’s exterior needs to make a good first impression. Tidy up landscaping and paint any features that look worn. If it’s in your budget to buy some new items for an even bigger wow factor, consider new garage doors, house numbers, and new light fixtures. Remember to remove all cars from the driveway on the day of the open house.

              Keep it clean. Hiring professional cleaners is money well spent, especially if cleaning isn’t your strong suit or you simply don’t have the time. This could include house cleaners, window washers and carpet cleaning services.

              Declutter. Make all rooms in the home look as spacious as possible by removing some furniture and knickknacks (pack them away so they’re ready for your new home). A clean, uncluttered space gives buyers a better idea of the home’s features.

              Stage the home. Paint in neutral colours and, if possible, replace cabinets and faucets with new hardware. Add in a few small touches such as crisp new towels in the bathrooms, and vases of fresh flowers throughout. No matter the weather on open house day, open up all blinds and curtains to let as much light in as possible. Also remember to hide toothbrushes and toiletries by stowing them under the sink. Remove anything personal. Items such as family photos, certificates and awards should be packed away. This allows home buyers to visualize their own family in the home.

              Keep pets at bay. If you’ve got a dog, it may be as easy as taking them out with you on the day of the open house. Other pets such as cats should be confined to less trafficked areas. Remember to put food bowls away until you return home.

              With these tips in mind, you’ll be providing a more marketable home that’s ready to show any and all potential buyers.

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Finding an agent that fits

              Buying and selling a home is a huge undertaking. You’ll want to work with a real estate agent that meets your goals and expectations and has your best interest in mind without any pressure tactics. There are many things to consider when hiring an agent.


              Ask for references. The agent should readily give you a list of past clients. Ask them if they encountered any issues while working with the agent, how well the agent performed and, on a more personal level, ask them if they worked together amicably.


              Check their credentials and find out how long they’ve been in business. What brokerage are they with? How long has it been in business? Has the agent received any awards or honours? Check their website to see if they have recognition in their field, such as being a top performer or received a high ranking of performance in Canada.

              Attend open houses and chat with the agent on duty. These situations are more relaxed so it’s a good opportunity for conversation. Collect their business card and take notes if you wish. You’ll also see how the agent shows the home, their mannerisms, and if the marketing material is professional. If the agent doesn’t engage with you and spends time on their phone or computer, that could be a red flag.

              Does the agent know your area well? If they have several years of experience selling in your area they’ll know the neighbourhood’s details and how your area is trending price wise. Even better is if they live in the same town or city where you live. Ask how they’ll market your listing: will it be posted online and in the newspapers? Will they post heavily on social media?

              Chemistry is key. Buying and selling a home can be stressful, so it’s important to get along. Any tension will not bode well when you’ll be spending so much time together.

              Keeping these factors in mind will help you find the agent that best suits your situation.

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Late summer lawn & garden care

              As summer dwindles you might be preoccupied with back-to-school routines, but don’t neglect your yard! Keep your landscaping healthy right up until you cut the lawn and trim the hedges for the last time this season.

              Well Water

              Give plants a deep watering once a week. A good single soak is better than a few smaller waterings here and there. Not only will watering keep your plants looking hydrated, the deep soak will promote a stronger root system. If they seem to dry out quickly with the heat, water every five days instead of weekly. 

              Forget the Fertilizer (for now)

              Fertilizing now isn’t necessary since greenery has been subjected to such a hot summer. Fertilizer isn’t beneficial at this time of year and instead burns roots or foliage if added too late into the summer. What your plants likely need most now is water.

              All the Trimmings

              Perennials that have any brown or wilted parts should be pruned. Once that’s done, give them some extra water, which will encourage new growth. Even if the plant doesn’t spring back to life right away, it will more than likely blossom well next spring.

              Mucho Mulch

              Wind and rain (and burrowing critters) can erode the mulch from around your plantings and in walkways. Mulch should be about two inches deep in order to help keep the area cool for the plants and help prevent weeds. If it’s low, add more to bulk up the areas that need it.

              In the Weeds

              Weeds can shoot up before you know it, maybe even taking your stress levels up a little too. If these pesky invaders take over or get too big they’ll be taking precious water, space, and sunlight away from your plants. Early morning or early evening weeding is best as temperatures cool down.

              A Cut Above

              It’s time to raise the cutting height of the lawnmower. Longer blades of grass keep the lawn’s roots cooler. Plus, cutting in the evening can also give the lawn more time to relax and recover from the cut and daytime heat.

              Once this is all taken care of, you can continue to enjoy your yard right up until it’s covered in snow!

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Sprucing up the Driveway

              Sprucing up the driveway

              Most times we settle for a ‘traditional’ driveway that’s plain old asphalt. Even though it’s practical and economical, there are many other ways to add more interest and elements of design. Take a look at these ideas for your pathway:

              Concrete

              Many options are available with concrete.  Stamps, patterns, and colours make these options almost limitless. A smooth texture looks very sleek but can be slippery in the winter. To prevent slipping most companies recommend a ‘broom finish’, which creates a rougher surface for better traction. For a more modern look, create a pattern with strips of grass between the concrete.

              Interlocking Stone

              A wide variety of colours and stones are available in different sizes and materials. Formed concrete pavers are the least expensive whereas higher-end granite cobblestone pavers are more expensive. Interlock can be cut into many different shapes to fit your driveway and can be assembled in a wide variety of patterns; including geometric, angles or circles.

              Gate Ways on Edge

              Add a gate to the end of your driveway for a distinguished look. Instead of plastic edging, use pavers to edge your driveway as an attractive way to keep planting areas neatly contained.

              Cool Heat

              In the winter, wouldn’t it be nice to have a driveway without ice? Heated driveways can be created with radiant floor heating systems and can be controlled with the flip of a switch from inside your home.

              Lighting

              Add warmth and charm by installing pathway lighting. LED lights recessed into the driveway cast a warm upward glow and highlight your home’s exterior. They’re also a practical safety feature for your home.

              If you’re considering a new driveway and your budget calls for more than just repaving with asphalt, consider one of these options for added curb appeal.

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808


              Weeding Tips and Tricks for Your Home

              Weeding Tips and Tricks

              Weeds can be aggressive and invasive to your beautiful lawn so it’s important to learn how to best get rid of them and keep them away. Even though it takes some work, it is worth it, in the end, in order to enjoy your lawn and gardens without pesky weeds.

              Uprooted
              First, the most important rule to remember when weeding is to not leave the roots behind. After you pull it out, if the roots are left the weeds will grow back. So be sure to grab it close to the ground and not leave any behind.

              Tug of war
              Another key trick to help make weeding easier is to do it when the grass is wet after the rain. This helps the weeds to pull out easier. If there is no rain in the forecast, you can water your garden and lawn yourself before you start pulling.

              Clean fill wanted
              When planting your garden remember to not leave bare spots for the weeds to move in. Space plants apart as recommended and fill in unused spaces with a liberal amount of mulch. Use mulch as much as possible as it retains the moisture and doesn’t let weeds grow.

              Natural weed killer
              To kill tough weeds you can make a solution with vinegar and water in a spray bottle, which works as a weed killer. Just be sure to only spray the weeds and not the plants.

              Keep away
              The last tip is after you pull the weeds out, do not throw them in a compost pile as any seeds that have already formed might spout. Keep on top of the weeding to make it a less tedious job and achieve that desirable weed-free yard you’ll love.

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Why Selling Privately Could be a Mistake

              Many people are tempted to sell a home on their own because they like the idea of saving that four to six per cent commission they’d otherwise pay a real estate agent. However, selling privately is a lot harder than you think and there are many downsides to offering your home as ‘for sale by owner’ (FSBO). 

              No mediation

              Consider all the aspects that go into selling a home yourself and know exactly what you’re getting into. Selling a home is hard work and will take up a lot of your time. You’ll need to book appointments and show the property to buyers, hold open houses, negotiate the offers, market the home and deal with all other administration required for the sale. It can be a full-time job, except it’s not! 

              Benefits of hiring a Realtor

              Real estate agents are the professionals who know exactly what your home needs to be the most appealing to potential buyers. They have the knowledge and experience to handle all aspects of the sale. They can guide you in choosing the best, most appropriate price at which to list your home. Agents have market knowledge and aren’t emotionally attached to the property. Going the FSBO route can lead to overpricing which could mean your house will sit on the market for too long. Negotiating the sale can be an awkward and difficult thing to do. A good Realtor can negotiate more favourable terms, price and conditions for you than you’ll likely be able to do on your own.

              Hiring a real estate agent also means you’ll benefit from the services they offer including, staging, professional photography and video, social media and exposure to a wide network of other Realtors through multiple listings services. 

              Think twice about skipping a real estate agent when you sell your home. They’re there to help!

              Contact me anytime to find out how I can help you on your real estate journey! Email me at mariongoard@kw.com or call 905-335-8808.


              Moving Tips For Seniors

              Moving can be such a stressful time for people and for seniors the job can affect them both physically and mentally. However sometimes it cannot be avoided, so here are some key things for seniors to keep in mind to help the move go as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

              Helping hands

              The most important thing is to ask for help! No one can do a move alone and the more helping hands the better. For seniors, lifting and bending can be challenging at times, so call in your family for help! Figure out how much of the move you’ll be able to manage on your own and what you will need help with. Hiring professional movers is something to consider if it’s in the budget. Don’t wait until the last minute to scramble help together, give people as much notice as you can to plan for the big day. You might need people to help you pack ahead of time too. 

              Make a plan

              Many seniors may have lived in their home for many years, saying good-bye can be emotionally difficult, so it’s best to give yourself plenty of time and make a plan. Break your move down into smaller tasks so it feels less overwhelming and more manageable. Give yourself lots of time… doing a small amount each day will help accomplish the tasks at hand, and will not be too emotionally overwhelming. Plan out which areas to do first and work from there. Make a timeline of required tasks from your moving date backwards, to make sure everything gets done leading up to your move.

              Purge

              As you work away around the house packing and organizing use this opportunity to declutter. It may be difficult to let go of some things but it will definitely help with the move and remember that it’s the memories that you carry with you that are most important. You could also consider giving these items to friends or family. Set up a sorting system for garbage, donating/giving away and what you’re keeping.

              Make your move an easier one by following these tips for a successful moving day.


              Real Estate Relocation Guide: 7 Steps to a Seamless Move

              Whatever your reasons are for relocating to a new area, the process can feel overwhelming.

              Whether you’re moving across across town or across the country, you’ll be changing more than your address. Besides a new house, you may also be searching for new jobs, schools, doctors, restaurants, stores, service providers and more. 

              Of course you’ll need to pack, make moving arrangements, and possibly sell your old home. With so much to do, you may be wondering: Where do I start?

              In this guide, I outline seven steps to help you get prepared, get organized, and get settled in your new community. My hope is to alleviate the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the exciting adventure ahead!

              1. Gather Information

              If you’re unfamiliar with your new area, start by doing some research. Look for data on average housing prices, demographics, school rankings and crime statistics. Search for maps that illustrate local geography, landmarks, public transportation routes and major interstates. If you’re moving across the country, research climate and seasonal weather patterns.

              Check out local newspapers and blogs for information on political issues and developments that could impact your new community. You may also want to search for online forums and Facebook Groups relevant to your new area. These can be a great place to find information, ask questions and just observe local attitudes and outlooks.

              If you’re relocating for a job, find out if your new employer offers any relocation assistance. Many large corporations have a designated human resources professional to assist employees with relocation efforts, while others may contract this service out to a third party. Some employers will also cover all or a portion of your relocation and moving costs.

              By gathering this information up front, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions down the road.

              Let me know if you’d like assistance with your information gathering process. I have a wealth of knowledge about this area, and have a number of reports and statistics on file. I would be happy to share information and answer any questions you may have.

              1. Identify Your Ideal Neighborhoods

              Once you’ve sufficiently researched your new area, you can start to identify your ideal neighborhoods.

              The first step is to prioritize your “needs” and “wants.” Consider factors such as budget; commute time; quality of schools; crime rate; walkability; access to public transportation; proximity to restaurants, shopping, and place of worship; and neighborhood vibe.

              If possible, visit the area in person to get a feel for the community. If you’re comfortable, strike up conversations with local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area.

              Still not sure which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family? Contact a local real estate agent for expert assistance. It’s usually the most efficient and effective way to narrow down your options.

              1. Find Your New Home (and Sell Your Old One)

              Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred neighborhoods, it’s time to start looking for a home. If you haven’t already contacted a real estate agent, now is the time. They can search for current property listings that meet your needs, typically at no cost to you.

              If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of selling it or renting it out. A real estate agent can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions. He or she can also give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one. 

              Your agent can also advise you on how to time your sale and purchase. While some buyers are able to qualify for and cover the costs of two concurrent mortgages, many are not. There are a number of options available, and a skilled agent can help you determine the best course given your circumstances.

              1. Prepare for Your Departure

              Allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your belongings. Before you start, gather supplies, including boxes, tape, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Begin with non-essentials—such as off-season clothes or holiday decorations—and sort items into four categories: take, trash, sell and donate/give away.

              To make the unpacking process easier, be sure to label the top and sides of boxes with helpful information, including contents, room, and any special instructions. Keep a master inventory list so you can refer back to it if something goes missing.

              If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. To ensure an accurate estimate of your final cost, it’s best to have them conduct an in-person walkthrough. Make sure you’re working with a reputable company, and avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered.

              Lastly, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule final get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes.

              1. Prepare for Your Arrival

              To make your transition go smoothly, prepare for your arrival well before moving day. Depending on how long your belongings will take to arrive, you may need to arrange for temporary hotel accommodations. If you plan to move in directly, pack an “essentials box” with everything you’ll need for the first couple of nights in your new home, such as toiletries, toilet paper, towels, linens, pajamas, cell phone chargers, snacks, pet food and a change of clothes. This will keep you from searching through boxes after an exhausting day of moving.

              Arrange in advance for your utilities to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity and gas. (And while you’re at it, schedule a shut-off date for your current utilities.) Update your address on all accounts and subscriptions and arrange to have your mail forwarded through the postal service. If you have children, register them for their new school or daycare and arrange for the transfer of any necessary records. 

              You may want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. If there are no window treatments, you may need to install some (or at least put up temporary privacy film), especially in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if appliances are missing, consider purchasing them ahead of time and arranging for delivery and installation shortly after you arrive. Just be sure to check measurements and installation instructions carefully so you aren’t stuck with an appliance that doesn’t fit or that requires costly modifications to your new home.

              1. Get Settled In Your New Home

              While staring at an endless pile of boxes can feel daunting, you should take advantage of this opportunity to make a fresh start. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can ensure your new house is thoughtfully laid out and well organized.

              If you followed the suggestion to pack an “essentials box” (see Step 5), you should have easy access to everything you’ll need to get you through the first couple of nights in your new home. This will allow you some breathing room to unpack your remaining items in a deliberate manner, instead of rushing through the process.

              If you have young children, consider unpacking their rooms first. Seeing their familiar items can help them establish a sense of comfort and normalcy during a confusing time. Then move on to any items you use on a daily basis.

              Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favorite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home.

              Although you may be eager to get everything unpacked, it’s important to take occasional breaks. Have some fun, relax and explore your new hometown!

              1. Get Involved In Your New Community

              Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. People who have recently moved tend to be isolated socially, more stressed, and less likely to participate in exercise and hobbies. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects.

              First, get out and explore. In a 2016 study, recent movers were shown to spend less time on physical activities and more time on their computers, which has been proven to lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, get out of your house and investigate your new area. And if you travel by foot, you’ll gain the advantages of fresh air and exercise.

              Combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship or volunteer for a cause. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it.

              Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighborhood, it will truly start to feel like home.

              LET’S GET MOVING

              While moving is never easy, these seven steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one step at a time. And don’t hesitate to ask for help!

              In a 2015 study, 61 percent of participants ranked moving at the top of their stress list, above divorce and starting a new job. It is possible though, with a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—to have a positive relocation experience.

              I specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with my referral network of movers, handymen, housekeepers, decorators, contractors and other service providers, I can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give me a call or message me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!


              Simple tips for home organization

              An organized home is a happy home! Having everything properly organized helps the home stay clutter-free. Remember there should be a place for everything. Here’s how to get started in your home.

              The first step is to tidy up the house and have everything cleaned and ready to start sorting. Go room by room and see what hasn’t been used in the last six months, as there are probably many items you can get rid of!

              Create piles of garbage/recycling or to donate. Once you know what you want to keep, everything will need a proper spot. If you have something that doesn’t have a spot on a shelf or basket it will always be left out looking messy. So a very important key to organization is having proper storage solutions. You can never have too many baskets and bins. Storage has come a long way from hiding under the bed — there are stylish storage options available that complement your decor.

              A great spot for extra storage is the back of your doors. This is useful especially in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and closets.

              Loose papers and magazines are a very common thing that pile up in the home and add clutter. Set up a filing system and stick to it to keep piles of paper at bay. Keeping this organized will also help you know where everything is.

              If you have young children then you know all about toys cluttering up the house. Choose one designated area in the corner of a room to keep their things organized in bins and shelves. It will keep your home looking better and also the kids will know what they have to play with.

              Keeping the house organized can be done easily and makes a huge difference for the whole family.


              A fresh coat of paint is a great selling tool

              Painting is one of the most affordable and easiest ways to make a difference in your home when it comes time to sell. Adding a fresh coat of paint can make the house more appealing and it looks great in photos and videos on listings. But you’ll want to make sure you choose the right colours. 

              A general rule is to go neutral. You want to have the house feeling natural, fresh and look newer as well. Choosing a light shade is important to brighten it up and make it look more spacious. Keeping it neutral helps potential buyers to better envision themselves in the space. 

              Some of the most popular shades to choose are beige, cream, soft white or “greige” - a light grey and beige tone. You can also add in other neutral tones such as warm browns, including oatmeal and taupe, and pale blues, which look especially good in bedrooms and bathrooms. 

              Choose areas of the home to paint that give off first impressions and are high-traffic, like your entranceway and main hallway, kitchen and family room. You’ll also want to include any rooms in the home that stand out as needing an update. In the kitchen, this might include an update to the cupboards and trim as well. This fresh new colour can make all of the difference to update the look of the kitchen. 

              Consider also the exterior of the home and front door. Darker shades on the door look great such as navy blue or a dark grey. 

              So grab a paintbrush as you prepare your home to sell, as it’s one of the most efficient ways to update your home.


              New Listing - Unit 20, 2282 Orchard Rd. Burlington ON L7L 0B5

              More pictures to follow soon!

              Stunning and exceptionally well maintained 3 bed/2.5 bath end-unit town-home, across from green-space in a quiet Burlington ‘Orchard’ enclave. Plenty of natural light in this extensively upgraded home where the quality workmanship is apparent throughout.

              Main level features a custom ‘Selba’ kitchen with ample work/storage space, quartz counters, deep sink, touch-less faucet & quality stainless steel appliances. Separate dining area & bright living room with walk-out to a private patio - perfect for family gatherings. 9 ft ceilings & pot lights on main floor, custom Levelor ‘Silhouette’ sheers in living & dining rooms, inside access to the garage.

              Hardwood floors are found in the bedrooms & upper hallway. The king-sized master bedroom with large walk-in closet features an exquisite 5-piece ensuite bath with a generously sized shower, stand alone soaker tub & his/her vanities. Two additional bedrooms (one will also accommodate a king-size bed) are with double closets. 4-piece main bathroom has also been updated.

              The list of quality features goes on - upgraded light fixtures, designer window coverings, ceiling fans with timers, tankless water heater (owned) & natural gas line for the BBQ. The basement is unfinished.

              Low condo fee includes building insurance, grass cutting, in-ground sprinkler system & common area maintenance.

              Conveniently located within walking distance to schools, close to shopping & highway access.

              Don’t miss this wonderful, move-in ready home. Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing!

              Price:            $710,000

              # Rooms:      6

              Bedrooms:     3

              Bathrooms:    2.5

              Square Feet:  1703 +/-

              Garage:         Single

              Basement:     Unfinished

              Taxes - $3,426 (2018)

              Condo Fee - $163.45/month


              Spring cleaning made easy

              When the weather warms up and the fresh spring air arrives it has become an annual tradition to take care of some spring cleaning. Often this includes the chance to do the chores we ignore on an everyday basis. But with busy schedules it can seem overwhelming. So here are a few ways to keep it simple while you get the job done.

              A good place to start is to create a plan. Knowing ahead of time what you need and want to accomplish will help you achieve those goals. Write down your list and make sure you allow enough time to get them done. Tidy your house first and pick up before you begin to clean. Once you begin, be sure to stick to one room and finish it before moving on to the next. This helps to be more efficient and stay focused. Clean from top to bottom - the floors are best left until the end!

              Here are some of the things that are good to include in your spring cleaning:

              • Clean the windows and wash the curtains
              • Dust all surfaces in the house
              • Vacuum upholstery and furniture
              • In the kitchen clean the oven and clean out the fridge
              • Wash all walls, cabinets and baseboards
              • Don’t forget ceiling fixtures and cobwebs on the ceiling 

              Don’t forget about outside too! Tidy your garage, clean out your car and get your gardens and grounds spring-ready. You can even clean up and put out your outdoor furniture. It’s so exciting to have a clean house and be ready for this lovely new season!


              Your home’s first impression

              We know how important first impressions can be and the same goes for your home! Giving your guests a warm welcome and making them feel great when they arrive at your home leaves a lasting impression. Make sure it’s a good impression you leave with the help of these tips. 

              The first place they will see when they arrive is your door and entryway. So the first step is to make sure this area is clean and welcoming. The door itself will make an impression. You’ll want to make sure it’s not in rough shape and worn down. It might need a fresh coat of paint and the colour your choose is important to set the tone for your entire home’s feel. The colour will say a lot about your style and personality. 

              Next, the entrance should be inviting! It needs to be clean, clutter free and well lit. Also make it comfortable by including a chair or bench for your guests to be able to sit to take off their shoes. 

              As people enter your home the small details will make a great impression. Having fresh flowers and plants around will add a fresh feel. Add comforting scents with diffusing essential oils or by burning candles. Playing some soft music in the background also adds to the perfect welcome. 

              Lastly, make sure to have your home in great shape - from keeping it clutter free and clean and making sure you keep on top of fixing things when they are broken. A well taken care of home definitely leaves the best impression.

              With these few small touches you will be certain to leave people with your home’s best first impression. 


              Selling your home with pets and kids - what you need to know!

              Selling your home when your family consists of pets and children is not always easy. However, there are some things you can do to help it go more smoothly and not have these beloved family members negatively affect the sale of your home. 

              Many homebuyers do not like when you have a pet. Animals make some people uncomfortable and nervous, so you do not want them to be present for any viewings. But even when they are out of the home, you’ll want to remove all evidence that they live there to leave a better impression with viewers. Clean up all fur by vacuuming floors and furniture and make sure there are no animal smells left behind to put people off. You might not notice the smells anymore, but they are there! Also put away any food dishes, litter boxes and toys laying around. 

              As for your children, first start with their safety and remove any photos of them or papers and schedules that might have their names etc. on them. Kids certainly come with a lot of mess! The best way to keep this at a minimum is to keep one area of the home designated for their toys and playing in, which can be easily tidied up at short notice. Keep only a minimal amount of their toys around during the sale of your home and pack away others out of sight. You don’t want lots of toys cluttering things up and making the home appear smaller. 

              Give the house a deep cleaning as pets and kids definitely know how to make a mess, like sticky fingers, scuffed walls and stained carpets. Do not let these things put off potential buyers!


              Using social media to market your home

              When selling your home you want to gain as much exposure in the market as possible. This day in age a good realtor is using social media to best market your home. Here are some of the ways they can gain a strong social media presence and how that will benefit you. 

              Social media creates a buzz around your home and makes it easy to get the word out. When hiring a realtor it is important to ask them how they market your home and make sure this includes a strong social media presence. Marketing on social media allows interaction with users and promoting your property and events like open houses. Homes can be marketed on many platforms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram. Your agent should be well connected in all of these areas, as buyers are on social media daily. 

              Realtors should start with posting the listing to all pages to get it out there. They can then add awesome online features like virtual tours, professional photographs and even live videos. These create hype and give people a more detailed inside look at your property for sale. 

              You should also take part in marketing your home on social media yourself. The realtor should set things up in a way that makes it easy for you to share the information on your own pages as well. Also the potential homebuyers out there will want to share their top picks with family and friends, so having it easily shareable is a must. 

              So get using your hashtags and posting your pictures and see how the world of social media can help you sell your home! 

               


              Your spring exterior home maintenance checklist

              Spring is a great time to inspect your home’s exterior to check for any damage that may have occurred over the harsh winter months. Staying on top of maintenance is the best way to keep your home in the best shape and prevent costly repairs. Use this checklist to help you discover any problems you may have and get them fixed!

              Clean out the gutters and downspouts

              Clogged gutters can cause water damage and prevent water from being directed away from your home, which of course with the spring thaw is very important. Remove all leaves and debris and patch any holes. Reattach gutters that have pulled away from the house.

              Check the roof

              Inspect the roof for any damaged or missing shingles or leaks that might become a problem for the whole home. Check flashings around all surface projections and sidewalls.

              Inspect the foundation 

              Clean out foundation vents by hand or a shop vacuum and check screens for damage. Walk around and check the foundation walls, concrete, siding and bricks for damage, cracking and deterioration. Also, be sure there are no areas with standing water. 

              Deck and porches

              Check over your decks, patios and porches for any loose or damaged parts and deterioration.

              Exterior windows and doors

              Inspect the seals on all windows and doors and fill cracks, caulk edges, repaint or replace where needed. Replace any broken or damaged screens. 

              Driveway and walkways

              Look over these areas to check for issues like cracks in the asphalt or concrete to have them repaired if necessary.


              SOLD - 2399 Coldstream Drive, Burlington ON L7P 3T2

              Welcome to this bright & spacious, well maintained Brant Hills home that's close to schools, parks, community centre, library, shopping and with easy highway access. The numerous updates throughout the home include roof shingles & eaves, furnace & AC, kitchen, baths, flooring, most windows, several appliances, staircase spindles, baseboards and central vac.

              The 3 bedroom home features hardwood floors in the main floor living areas, an eat-in kitchen with bay window, separate dining room, living room with built-in cabinetry and sliding doors to a private yard complete with stamped concrete patio, lovely yard with mature trees, pond and hydro equipped, garden shed. Two piece powder room and laundry room with side yard access complete the main level.

              On the upper level you'll find a master bedroom large enough to accommodate a king-sized bed, 3 piece en-suite bath and walk-in closet, two other generously sized bedrooms and a 4-piece bath. The basement offers additional living space with a family room and hobby room/office plus there’s plenty of storage space. Single car garage and room for 2 cars on the stamped concrete driveway!

              Don’t miss out. Call to book your private showing today!

              EXCLUSIVE

              Price:            $679,900

              # Rooms:      7

              Bedrooms:     3

              Bathrooms:    2.5

              Square Feet:  1521 +/-

              Garage:         Single

              Basement:     Full finished

              2399 Coldstream Dr. Burlington ON - Floor Plans

              2399 Coldstream Dr. Burlington ON - Map


              Common design mistakes: What you may be doing wrong

              Whether it’s the placement of your rug or too much clutter in your room, do you know the home design mistakes that are currently cramping your style? Knowing right from wrong when it comes to interior design can help your home not only have better style, but also have better balance and order. Here are a few things to check with your home design:

              Poor lighting

              Lighting is one of the most important elements to great design. Having the room too dark does nothing for the space. You’ll want to take advantage of as much natural light as possible, so do not block natural light sources. Also, be sure to have more than one light source in the room. Add table lamps and floor lamps. Adding dimmers as well is a great way to get the lighting just right.

              Clutter

              Seeing too much clutter in your home is a distraction and adds chaos to the space. Hide it away in storage to keep it out of sight! With accessories, remember less is more so be sure not to overcrowd the space, keeping it clear, which creates calm and order. 

              Rugs 

              Placing rugs in your room that are the wrong size or orientation is a common mistake. In large areas like the living room, area rugs should act as the base and be wider than the width of the furniture. In bedrooms, they should be perpendicular to the bed.

              Hanging art the wrong way

              Art that is hung incorrectly on the wall is very distracting. The most common mistakes are that the art is up too high and that it’s too small. Hanging it at eye level is correct as long as you don’t have low ceilings and you’re not really tall. A good rule is that if the wall was cut up vertically into four sections, from the ground up the art should be in the third quadrant. If you’re hanging a collection, think of the whole collection as one piece. 


              Top five things to prep your home for an open house

              When selling your home, there are several benefits to having an open house

              It gets eyes on your home, especially for potential buyers who otherwise may not book a showing. Some homebuyers prefer the less formal setting of an open house and it gives them the opportunity to easily bring along other family members or friends to view it with them. It is also a great opportunity to receive feedback on your home. 

              An open house allows you to set it up perfectly ahead of time as you can prepare for the day. Here are the top five things to do to get your home open house ready:

              1. Declutter

              Clear off countertops and shelves and leave minimal items out in view. Personal items like family photos and knickknacks should be put away before your open house. Don’t forget about your closets and cabinets, have them neat and tidy as well, as people will look in them.

              2. Clean, Clean, Clean! 

              Have your house spotless from top to bottom. No dust, no dirt, just a freshly cleaned home!

              3. Paint

              Freshly painted walls help show your home beautifully. Whether your walls are in need of a new colour, or just a touch up job, this small effort will make a big difference in how your home shows. 

              4. The Exterior

              In the warm months have your lawn mowed, shrubs and trees trimmed up, and make sure all tools, equipment, and lawn toys are stored out of sight. In the winter months ensure your driveway and walkways are cleared and safe. 

              5. Special Touches

              Set the scene to make your home inviting and pleasant to be in. Feature fresh cut flowers, freshly baked cookies, scented candles, oil diffusers or air fresheners for an added appeal to your home. Open up all curtains and have the lights on to make your home bright. 


              Home Design Trends to Watch in 2018

              Often clients are taking on decorating and remodeling projects and want to ensure their dollars are invested wisely.

              Which looks will last for years to come, and which ones will feel dated quickly? What colors and styles are most popular among buyers in our area? How can I add the most value to my home?

              Below are some of the hottest trends in home design to help guide you through the process. Whether you’ve planned a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, making smart and informed design choices will help you maximize your return on investment … and minimize the chance of “remodeler’s remorse” down the road.

                

              WHAT’S HOT NOW

              While 2017 was all about millennial pink, brass fixtures and bright white kitchens, this year expect to see a move toward warmer, cozier elements throughout the home.

              1. Warm Colors

              A cool color scheme has dominated home design in recent years, but this year warm neutrals like brown and tan are back, along with rich jewel tones. While the pastel craze of last year is still hanging on, expect to see alternative color palettes featuring deep, saturated shades of red, yellow, green and navy. Grey will remain popular, but in warmer tones, often referred to as “greige.”

              1. Cozy Elements

              Along with warmer colors, you can expect to see a shift from stark, modern design to cozier looks. Velvet upholstery, woven textures and natural elements, like wood and stone, will heat things up this year.

              1. Mixed Metals

              It used to be considered gauche to mix finishes, however the look of mixed metals will be very big in 2018. Brass will continue to trend, along with matte black and classics like polished chrome and brushed nickel.

              1. Bold Patterns

              Expect to see a lot of bright, bold patterns in the form of geometric shapes and graphic floral prints. These will be featured on everything from furniture to throw pillows to tile.

              1. Natural Elements

              Look for the use of natural elements throughout the home, including wood, stone, plants, flowers and grass. Botanical patterns will also be seen in prints, wallpaper and upholstery. Concrete accents will complement these additions in an effort to bring the essence of the outdoors inside the home.

              1. Feature Walls

              Also called an accent wall, a feature wall is one that exhibits a different color or design than the other walls in the room. Expect to see an increased use of feature walls showcasing rich paint colors, bold patterned wallpaper, and textures brought in through millwork and shiplap.

              1. Statement Lighting

              Lighting will take center stage with distinctive fixtures, including local artisan and vintage pendants and chandeliers. And smart lighting technology will enable homeowners to customize their lighting experience based on time of day, activity and mood.

              1. Hardwood Floors

              Hardwood floors will continue to dominate the market. The trend is toward either very dark stains paired with light-colored walls or light stains with darker walls. Greyish tones will remain popular, as will matte finishes, which are easier to maintain than high gloss. Expect to see frequent use of wider and longer wood planks, as well as distressed and wire-brushed finishes, which add texture and dimension.

              1. Smart Homes

              Everything is getting “smarter” in homes, from locks and lights to thermostats and appliances. And with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you can control many of these with voice activation from a central hub. We will see continued integration of and advancements in smart-home technology in 2018.

              KITCHEN TRENDS

              While white kitchens will remain popular in 2018, expect to see more color this year in everything from cabinets to tile to appliances.

              1. Two-toned Cabinets

              Two-toned cabinets are quickly overtaking the white-on-white look that has dominated kitchen design for the past few years. While white remains a classic, grey and bleached-wood cabinet variations are surging in popularity, along with darker neutrals like navy and green.

              1. Quartz Countertops

              Granite reigned as the top countertop choice for many years, but quartz is now king. It’s highly durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It’s also heat resistant, scratch resistant and non-porous (unlike granite and marble) so it doesn’t need to be sealed.

              1. Bold Backsplashes

              After years of dominating backsplash design, the white subway tile is officially on its way out. Expect to see it replaced with more elaborate shapes, patterns, colors and textures. Tile that mimics the appearance of wood, concrete and wallpaper is also gaining in popularity.

              1. Statement Sinks

              While stainless steel and white porcelain are always safe bets, the trend is moving toward sinks that make more of a statement. Look for unexpected pops of color and materials like natural stone and copper. Touch-free faucets are expected to gain favor with homeowners this year, too.

              1. Brass is (Still) Back

              Brass fixtures came back in a big way over the past couple of years and will continue to be a popular choice in 2018 along with matte black, black nickel, polished chrome and brushed nickel. Missing from the list? Rose gold, which is decidedly “out” this year.

              1. Multi-purpose Islands

              Kitchen islands have evolved from simple prep-stations into the “workhorse” of the kitchen. Many feature sinks, built-in appliances and under-counter storage while also serving as a casual dining area. They have become the focal point of the kitchen, and we expect to see more of them in 2018 and beyond.

              1. Black Stainless Steel 

              Black stainless steel is the hot new finish option for appliances, and it’s hitting the market in a big way. It offers a cutting-edge look and is easier to keep clean than traditional stainless steel. However, it’s harder to match finishes amongst different brands, so it’s probably only feasible as part of a complete appliance package.

              1. Appliance Garages

              Appliance garages are counter-level compartments designed to house small appliances like blenders, toasters and stand mixers. They make it convenient to have these items readily accessible, without the look of a cluttered counter.

              BATH TRENDS

              Expect to see many of the same kitchen design preferences carry over into bathrooms this year, including two-tone cabinets, quartz countertops and brass fixtures.

              1. Neutral Tones

              Neutral shades will continue to dominate in the master bathroom as homeowners seek a soothing and relaxing retreat atmosphere. But expect to see more options than just white. Shades of brown, grey, blue, green and tan will help to warm things up.

              1. Natural Elements

              Natural materials are particularly hot right now in bathroom design. This includes the use of wood and stone on walls, cabinets, counters and backsplashes, as well as the incorporation of botanical design elements.

              1. Large Tiles

              We expect to see a lot more large and slab-sized tiles in bathrooms, which have less grout so they are easier to clean and maintain. Wood-look porcelain tiles are also a favorite in wet areas, as they offer the warmth and rustic appeal of wood with the durability of tile.

              1. Stone Sinks

              Sinks will continue to be an area where homeowners like to exhibit creativity, and hand-carved stone sinks are especially fashionable right now. These may be more suited to powder rooms, where functionality isn’t as crucial.

              1. Freestanding Tubs

              There’s been a tub resurgence in bathroom design after years of preference for stand-alone showers. Modern tastes are gravitating toward freestanding tubs that serve as a showpiece for the bathroom.

              1. Smart Features

              Smart technology has entered the bathroom with the addition of features like wireless shower speakers and high-tech toilets, as well as digital shower controls that automatically adjust to your preferences in temperature and spray intensity.

              GENERAL ADVICE

              Style trends come and go, so don’t invest in the latest look unless you love it. That said, highly-personalized or outdated style choices can limit the appeal of your property for resale.

              For major renovation projects, it’s always a good idea to stick to neutral colors and classic styles. It will give your remodel longevity and appeal to the greatest number of buyers when it comes time to sell. It will also give you flexibility to update your look in a few years without a total overhaul. Use non-permanent fixtures – like paint, furniture and accent pieces – to personalize the space and incorporate trendier choices.

              If you’d like advice on a specific remodelling or design project, give me a call! I'm happy to offer insights and suggestions on how to maximize your return on investment and recommend local shops and service providers who may be able to assist you.

              Sources:

              1. Country Living –
                http://www.countryliving.com/home-design/decorating-ideas/g3988/kitchen-trends
              2. Elle Decor –
                http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g14486069/kitchen-trends-2018/
              3. Gates Interior Design –
                https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-interior-design-trends-for-2018/
                https://gatesinteriordesign.com/biggest-kitchen-bath-trends-for-2018/
              4. com –
                http://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/17-top-kitchen-design-trends-pictures
              5. House Beautiful –
                http://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/kitchens/g2664/kitchen-trends/
                http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13938283/2018-decor-trends/
                http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13820501/best-and-worst-decor-trends-from-2017/
              6. Houzz –
                https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/93399913/list/interior-design-trends-expected-to-take-hold-in-2018
              7. Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/09/25/the-kitchen-and-dining-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2018_a_23222693/
              8. Kitchen and Bath Design News –
                http://www.kitchenbathdesign.com/123995/year-end-look-and-new-trends-for-2018/
              9. com –
                https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/home-and-garden/12-flooring-trends-for-2018/ss-AAtp7QA
              10. com –
                https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/interior-design-trends-to-ditch-2018/
                https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/hottest-interior-design-decor-trends-2018/?is_wp_site=1
              11. Realty Times – http://realtytimes.com/advicefromagents/item/1007993-kitchen-design-trends-in-2018?rtmpage=MattLawler
              12. Sebring Design Build –
                https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-bathroom-design/
              13. The Flooring Girl –
                http://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/hardwood-flooring-trends-2018/
              14. Vogue –
                https://www.vogue.com/article/interior-design-trends-according-to-expert-designers-decorators

              A Valentine’s celebration at home - simple ways to impress your love!

              Instead of heading out to face the cold temperatures and busy crowds this year, why not stay in this Valentine’s Day? You can have the best night just staying home and celebrating in simple yet special ways. Not only will you save money, but you can plan a night in that is custom tailored for you and your love. Here are some ideas that will certainly impress:

              Food

              Make a dinner for two - something fancy and different or a classic favourite meal for the two of you share. If you don’t feel like cooking, order in! Stock up on all of your partner’s favourite snacks and drinks for the evening.  

              If you have a fireplace, why not have a romantic fireside picnic. Snuggle up with champagne, fruit and chocolate!

              Relaxation

              Enjoy some romance while unwinding and relaxing at the same time. Run a hot bath and fill it with rose petals! Light some candles, turn down the lights and play some romantic music with a glass of wine. After the bath, create a spa atmosphere, bring out some oil and give each other a back massage or foot rub. 

              Fun

              Add some fun to your evening! Play a game together, watch a movie, listen to music, clear some space and dance, set up a bar for drinks. Whatever it is you enjoy doing together, make some time for that too. You’ll be surprised how much you can enjoy yourselves just staying in the comfort of your own home together.

              Whatever you choose to do, it will be a perfect night in for just the two of you, and what better place to spend it than at home!


              Simple ways to warm up your home decor this winter

              Fur, fleece and everything cosy will help warm up your home this winter. These frigid temperatures cause the need to cosy up your space and add warmth to get you through this chilly season. There are some simple things to help that can be easily accomplished in no time.

              First, simply keep extra blankets handy. In rooms of your home where you relax and curl up, have lots of extra blankets in soft fabrics like fleece or soft wool. Faux fur especially is a great option to add warmth. You can store them in a basket or display throws on the back of the sofa or chair. Also, make your throw pillows cozier! Choose pillows in soft and fuzzy fabrics like velvet or fleece. 

              Next, think about your toes and add fluffy, cosy rugs to the room! A faux fur or sheepskin rug will certainly take the chill off your feet, and don’t forget about shag. Swapping out the floor covering for a shaggy rug adds softness and can immediately make you feel warmer.

              The windows need some warming up as well. Bare windows certainly are colder, and your window treatments can be made more winter-appropriate. Thin and sheer fabrics can be switched up for heavier, thicker drapes for the winter months. This appears cosier and actually helps keep out cold drafts too. 

              Of course, take advantage of your fireplace if you have one. If you don’t, setting up clusters of candles will definitely set a cosy scene. 

              You can also warm things up in your home visually. Add the impression of warmth with accessories in metallics like gold, copper and bronze, and use warm colours such as orange, gold, terra-cotta and red or muted and soft tones. 


              The Return of the Electric Fireplace

              Bringing you and your family warmth on a winter’s night, electric fireplaces are a flexible, safer and more economical way of enjoying a fire in your home. Electricity is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly energy solutions today.

              An electric fireplace is a heating element that looks like a traditional wood burning or gas fireplace, but it does not require a chimney or professional installation. It is an electric heater that mimics a fireplace burning coal, wood, or natural gas. It is a convenient way to bring heat into your home without a mess, fumes or dangerous gas.

              They can also be placed in conventional fireplaces that are no longer used for fires. The easiest part-they plug into the wall and are usually portable! You can use them to provide heat or you have the option to turn it to a flame-only setting, so you can enjoy it all year round. Another bonus is they do not require any maintenance like other fireplaces do. 

              Electric fireplaces are also very inexpensive to operate. They emit zero pollutants, are energy efficient and are safe for children.

              Another great feature to the electric fireplace is what they can add to your home decor. There are so many options to choose from and incorporate a decorative wall feature into your space. Modern fireplace designs are ergonomic and elegant. Trendy options like glass doors or even wall hanging electric fireplaces are beautiful ways to bring modern design into your home.


              The benefits of using essential oils in your home

              Essential oils are a multipurpose, natural option for cleaning your home and making it smell great. This natural alternative to harsher chemicals and cleaners is highly effective and easy to use, with many amazing benefits.

              Here are three essential oils that are excellent to use in your home:

              Lemon

              You'll want to use lemon for cleaning, as it is a natural disinfectant and can be used in place of bleach and alcohol. Its cleansing and purification properties make it effective for everything from getting dishes and surfaces sparkling clean to helping eliminate nasty odours. Add a few drops of lemon oil to water in a spray bottle to use as a room spray. As an added bonus, it's antiviral and antibacterial as well!

              Tea Tree

              Tea tree essential oil is a must-have in any home. It is purifying and a germ destroyer, making it perfect to use when cleaning your home. It is also the perfect solution for killing mould in places like the shower or tub. Mix one teaspoon of tea tree oil and one cup of water in a spray bottle. Spritz the affected areas and let dry. Do not wipe off. Easy peasy!

              Wild Orange

              Wild Orange is antibacterial and smells so good in the home too! Diffusing it not only makes your house smell amazing, but also kills bacteria at the same time. It's also great against grease. Use as a natural floor cleaner, and make into a kitchen spray.

              These oils can be added to your laundry routine, and incorporated into your daily kitchen and bathroom cleaning. Your house will be clean and smell great — all done naturally!

               


              The importance of good photos when selling your home

              What attracts more showings, increases online views and helps homes sell faster and for more money? Good quality pictures of your home! Getting a professional exterior and interior photo shoot is a must when selling your home.

              Most prospective home buyers these days search on the internet, and it's the pictures they see that draw them in. Listings that include professional photos receive many more online views and get more showings. But not just any photos will do. Listings with poor quality photos, for example those with low lighting, will work against you. Having no photos at all in a listing usually causes people to skip over it completely.

              Hiring a professional for the job is the best choice. A good real estate photographer has the right equipment, such as wide angle lenses to get the right angles of the room and make it look as spacious as possible without distorting it. Professionals know that proper lighting is crucial when photographing a home. Everyone wants to see a bright home, not a dark and dingy looking space. Lighting the photos correctly brings out the best in your home.

              You will want to stage your home and clean it well before the photo shoot. Remove all clutter from surfaces in each room. You don't need photographs of every room in the home, but you'll definitely want to include the kitchen, living room, master bedroom and master ensuite.

              Taking the time to invest in good quality photos of your home will most certainly pay off!


              Resolutions for your home

              As we begin a new year and make our lists of resolutions, you may want to include some for your home as well! There are several easy ways to improve your home to make it more beautiful, organized and clean this coming year:

              Declutter your space

              Add cleaning out the clutter to the list! This is an important step in improving your entire living space. Clutter makes a house look and feel dirty and busy. It is so easy to acquire too much stuff. Start purging room by room. Go through all closets, drawers and shelves. If you don't wear it or use it anymore, donate the item or throw it out. As you are organizing, make note of the storage needs you have in each room to ensure everything has a proper home moving forward. Pick up some plastic bins and shelves to expand your storage. Remember, decluttering your home takes time, so be patient as you work away at it.

              Deep clean the whole house

              Next give the whole house a good cleaning from top to bottom. The goal is to keep it clean! A messy house can lead to other more serious issues like mould and having a clean house makes everyone feel happier and more at peace. Make a weekly plan and set realistic goals to help achieve a clean home. Work on one type of cleaning at a time. This is a faster way of doing things and it will feel good as you cross each thing off the list.

              Complete simple fix-ups

              Another good thing to do is to go through your home and do any simple fix-ups the house may need to keep it in good shape. Improvements such as paint touch-ups or caulking windows and doors are easy ways to fix up your home.


              Selling your home in the winter

              Only you will know when the best time to sell you home will be – the weather does not change a thing! Selling your home in the winter compared to the traditionally sought after spring market can have many unforeseen benefits.

              The way we search for homes has changed, as we no longer drive around desired neighbourhoods searching for the perfect home that just happens to be for sale. According to the U.S.-based National Association of Realtors, nine out of 10 homebuyers now search for homes online – at their workplaces, on their smart phones and from the comfort of their homes after dark. The weather has no impact anymore.

              Contrary to popular opinion, there are several advantages to putting your home up or leaving it on the market during wintertime.

              Less competition – Sellers who stick out the market through the winter actually significantly increase their chances of selling because the inventory of available homes is smaller. Buyers that are looking in the winter are more likely to be serious about buying than those who roam open houses for the fun of it.

              Make it about you – You may think that taking your home off the market during the holidays will reduce the stress of unexpected showings; however you could chance missing a likely prospect. Rather than accepting showings at short notice, change your showing procedure to require advanced notice. This way you can still enjoy the privacy of your home during the holidays while keeping buyers interested.

              Relocation – More corporate moves occur during January than any other month of the year, so why not capitalize on those who need to relocate for work!

              Homes show well during the winter because they are festive and inviting both inside and out. Prospective buyers will be able to see themselves in your home feeling the same sense of celebration the next year, making the sale easier than you ever expected.


              Start preparing now for a smooth sale in 2018

              If you're thinking of selling your home in 2018, it's never too soon to start preparing. Now is the time to get your finances in order and begin working on those minor projects around the house that will help you realize top dollar when it comes time to list.

              When trying to zero in on where your money will best be spent, consider what most buyers are looking for. Some improvements may cost a few thousand dollars but are almost guaranteed to increase the value of your home, thus providing a high return on your investment. These include projects like replacing old, worn-out carpet, updating a dingy bathroom or finishing your basement.

              Repainting is one household update that will provide a 200% return on your investment. Nothing makes a home look updated, clean and ready for new owners like a fresh coat of paint! Stick to a neutral palette to appeal to the masses and be sure to repair walls first and paint high traffic areas like the front entry, kitchen and great room.

              Since we all know that kitchens sell homes, it's wise to do what you can to make yours more appealing to buyers, especially in an older home. You might be amazed at how easy it is to refinish or repaint cabinetry. There are some fantastic products on the market today that make this project a cinch – visit your local hardware store and ask an expert. Switching up your door hardware is another way to add dramatic impact without spending a fortune.

              Another area to focus on when it comes to wowing potential buyers this spring is your home's curb appeal. Before the snow starts falling, take a good look at your home's exterior, including siding, roof, windows, garage doors, outdoor lighting, porch, walkway, driveway and your fence and deck. If repair or maintenance is needed on some of these items it's best to wait until the winter weather is over, but it's a good idea to know where your attention may be needed so you can start saving and planning!


              Have the spookiest house on the street!

              Do you love driving around your neighbourhood during October, checking out the ghostly and gruesome Halloween decorations? Even though Halloween is just one day away, with these easy decoration ideas, there's still time to enter the running for your street's creepiest house!

              Here are 8 spooktacular ideas for creating a spine-chilling, Halloween home:

              1. Remove your doormat and use black duct tape to create a spider web on your front porch.

              2. Cut eye holes in empty toilet paper rolls, insert a glow stick in each and strategically place in bushes around your yard.

              3. Think large scale and drape spider webs from your eavestrough down to your front porch. Make or buy some massive spiders (you can find instructions for creating your own on Pinterest) and place the creepy crawlers in the web.

              4. Use some discarded Barbies or other dolls (you can find them at your local thrift shop) to create an army of zombie dolls. Use grey paint on their faces, mess up their hair and remove a few limbs for the full effect!

              5. Nothing says Halloween like swirling fog! Make your own fog machine with a few simple ingredients. You'll need pure gylcerin, distilled water, an empty 2 litre bottle, a small tin foil pie tin and a couple other easy-to-find supplies to create your DIY fog machine. Check online for detailed instructions.

              6. Instead of a red carpet entry, offer your guests a faux blood-stained pathway! Cut 3-foot strips from an old, white sheet or drop cloth and lay along your front walkway a few hours before trick-or-treaters start arriving. Step in red paint with bare feet and add some bloodied footprints and splatter some more red paint for a little extra gore.

              7. To create the illusion of desperate folks trying to escape your home, cut out forearm/handprints from black bristol board and affix to windows. Use dim lighting for the desired effect.

              8. For a weird and whimsical look, shape chicken wire into ghostly figures, spray with glow in the dark paint and place on your front lawn.

              You can find plenty of exciting ideas for Halloween decorating at http://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/g1370/outdoor-halloween-decorations/.


              Five essential fall tasks for homeowners

              It doesn't matter what the season, there is always an ever-growing list of chores on every homeowner's to-do list. Sometimes, there just isn't the time. If you're swamped with work, family and life in general and know it just isn't possible to get to every task on your list, take the short-cut route this fall and pick up the slack next year to get back on track.

              That said, here are five essential fall tasks that you absolutely should make time for in order to protect your lawn, garden and home for the upcoming season:

              1. Fertilize your lawn before the first frost to give grass the nutrients needed for the frosty winter months and add mulch to your flowerbeds. No time to prune trees and shrubs? Don't worry. Most shrubs and trees will be just fine waiting for spring for a good pruning. In fact, pruning too close to the arrival of sub-zero temperatures can actually damage plant life as cut branches will not have enough time to harden.

              2. Clean your eavestroughs and downspouts. With trees losing their foliage and plenty of windy days, your gutters are filling up quickly with leaves and debris. It's important to ensure that rainwater can flow easily through your eaves before freezing temperatures arrive. A blockage could mean water spilling down your home, causing roof and siding damage, dangerous ice build up and wood rot. Also ensure that water is flowing a safe distance from your home's foundation.

              3. Drain outside water lines and faucets. This is definitely one fall chore you don't want to skip. Turn off the shutoff valve inside your home, open the spigots to drain any water left in the lines and properly store your hoses for the season.

              4. Have your HVAC system serviced. You can hire a professional or do it yourself. Change the filter. Carefully vacuum any dust and debris. After you've turned your system on, check your burner flames – they should be blue and burning evenly.

              5. If you have a woodburning fireplace, have a chimney sweep come in to clean it out and check for safety. This is also a good time to check the batteries and functionality of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.


              Making your home more accessible for elderly family members

              It's no secret that Canada's population is getting older. Census data released earlier this year by Statistics Canada show that, for the first time ever, seniors make up a bigger share of our nation's population than children. By 2031, the agency predicts that nearly one in four Canadians will be over 65.

              Finding suitable and affordable housing for seniors is already proving to be an issue in some municipalities. And if decreasing mobility is a concern, the challenge is even greater. For some families, the only option is to invite aging parents or grandparents home to live with them. If you will soon be welcoming an elderly family member into your home, here are just a few of the ways that you can make adjustments to create a more accessible living space for the new arrivals.

              Anyone suffering from arthritis knows that it gets more and more difficult to squeeze and turn door knobs, so a simple first step in making your home accessible is replacing knobs with levers, which push down easily.

              Installing grab bars and handrails is another easy way to make your home safer without making a major change. Every staircase should have handrails on both sides and there should be grab bars near toilets and bathtubs. If you do have the option to renovate a bathroom to make it more accessible, leave out the tub and replace it with a shower. When tackling a major renovation, be sure to enlarge doorways to 32-36 inches in case wheelchair access is needed now or in the future. Swing-away hinges may work to widen a doorway slightly if a temporary solution is needed.

              Area rugs look nice but they can actually be a hazard for the elderly, causing trips and falls. Avoid placing small area rugs or runners in hallways, bathrooms or bedrooms.

              Household falls also happen when an individual can't see where they are going. Be sure to change light bulbs as soon as they burn out and add additional lighting to dark staircases, hallways or rooms.

              In the kitchen, make sure your cabinet door hardware is easy to grab (D-shaped handles on cupboards and drawers tend to be the easiest), daily use items are within easy reach and clutter is kept off the floor.

              With just a few small changes, you can make your home safer for elderly relatives!


              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.


              Closing your cottage and protecting it for the winter months

              September has arrived and, while we're still enjoying warm, sunny days, the end of summer is inevitable and it will soon be time to close up the cottage for the frosty winter season. There are also a number of tasks that recreational property owners need to tackle in order to protect their cottage from the elements, wildlife and would-be thieves.

              • Before turning off the electricity, go room to room to turn off and unplug all electrical devices.

              • Drain the plumbing system to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

              • Drain the water tank. Remember to turn off the power supply to the water heater before draining to avoid damage to the heating element.

              • Leave the refrigerator door open slightly to avoid nasty smells come springtime. Be sure to remove all food from the cottage.

              • Lock windows or board them and safely secure all entry points. Pay close attention to patio doors (use a security bar) and beef up your deadbolt and entry doors if they haven't been replaced in decades.

              • Remove all valuable possessions from your cottage. Prepare for the worst - do not keep jewelry, pricey electronics, family heirlooms or expensive artwork in your cottage during the off-season.

              • Turn to any neighbours who remain up north all year long and ask them to keep an eye on your property and do a closer inspection every so often.

              • Store boats, jet skis, paddle boats and any other recreational 'toys' in a secure, locked building. Add a couple motion-activated lights, which might help scare off unwanted visitors.

              • A security system is an excellent deterrent to would-be thieves. Do some research to find out if there is a local monitoring station that covers your area.

              By taking a few easy steps at the end of the season, you can ensure that your cottage will be just as you left it when you return next summer!


              Ontario's next step toward a waste-free province

              Did you know that, on average, every Ontarian produces more than 850 kilograms of waste every year? For the past 10 years, residents have only recycled about 25% of their waste, meaning that over eight million tonnes of waste is being sent to landfill each year.

              In an effort to improve these numbers, the government announced details about Ontario's Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy this past spring. This new initiative outlines the province's plan to fight climate change by reducing landfilled materials that could otherwise be reused, recycled, composted and reintegrated into the economy. The Waste-Free Ontario Act will make it mandatory to separate food and other organics from the waste stream with municipalities told to implement programs by the end of 2018. This means that families will need to start being more diligent about recycling and composting in their homes in the very near future.

              The good news? Composting is easy! You can find a composting unit in plastic or wood at your local hardware store, or you can make your own. Check online for step-by-step instructions.

              Here are some tips for ensuring that you have success with backyard composting:

              1. Place your composter in a dry, shady accessible location (remember, you can use it during summer and winter).

              2. Add your compost material in alternating layers of greens and browns. Greens are kitchen scraps, such as vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds and crushed eggshells. Browns are leaves, grass clippings, cut-up twigs, sawdust and shredded paper products.

              3. Occasionally you may need to add water. Your compost should be damp, but not soaking wet.

              4. Add a layer of soil every so often. This will introduce micro-organisms that will help break down the material and deter insects.

              5. Add air. Every month or so, turn the compost well. Some composters are even mounted on frames that allow for easy turning.

              For a backyard composter, avoid any fish, meat, dairy products, fats or oils. These materials may attract pests. If your area has a green bin system, these materials are still fine for pickup. After a few months, your compost will be ready for your garden. Its nutrient-rich qualities will keep your plants healthy and happy while reducing your household waste.

              Happy composting!


              How to care for pets during a home sale

              We all know that moving is considered one of life's most stressful events. Between preparing your home for photos and showings, dealing with negotiations and packing, it's a hectic time. Since they can't voice their concerns, don't forget one member of the family that shouldn't be overlooked during this whole process – your four-legged friends!

              The first thing to do is figure out a plan for keeping pets busy during showings. Animals are distracting and you don't want there to be anything sidetracking a potential buyer. Most realtors agree that pets (cats and dogs) should be removed from the home during a showing or open house.

              Things to consider:

              • Take your dog for a long walk or to a leash-free park and let them meet some new friends during showings.

              • If weather conditions are mild, consider a temporary pen outdoors. Your real estate agent will alert other sales people showing the home that your pet will safely stay in the pen. You can purchase a 6' × 6' pen that can go with you when you move. Temporary pens keep pets out of the rest of your backyard and away from landscaping while unsupervised.

              • Keep in mind that even when your pet isn't in the house, signs of their presence linger. Make sure you vacuum every day: pet hair is a major turnoff to most potential homebuyers. And keep the litter box squeaky clean and out of sight. If you notice a lingering pet odour, simmer a couple cinnamon sticks and orange peel in water for 30 minutes before showings.

              • If your realtor has scheduled an open house, arrange to have your pet stay at a friend or family member's house, or have them boarded at a kennel.

              Moving day itself will be stressful for pets, so plan ahead to minimize the trauma. Book them into a kennel for the day or arrange to have them stay with a family member. If they have to stay with you, keep them in a quiet room away from the action. Once in your new home, set them up with familiar belongings in one small area as they slowly adjust to their new surroundings.


              Maximize space in your home you didn't know was there!

              Have you ever seen the HGTV show Tiny Houses? It's absolutely fascinating watching how homeowners, sometimes families of four or five people, can make a 300 square-foot space functional AND comfortable for everyday living. While the style, layout and decor of these tiny homes vary drastically, there is one common characteristic that can be found in them all – incredibly smart space saving innovations.

              Even if you have an additional 2,000 square-feet of space at your disposal, every homeowner can benefit from clever space saving solutions. Here are a few ways that you can make the most of space in your home that you didn't even know was there!

              1. In a tight bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, add shelving in the spaces between wall studs. It's a simple DIY project that you can tackle yourself with a little online research. Simply cut away the drywall where you'd like your storage unit, build a box using plywood, add shelves and a back, and hang the box, attaching to the studs. Some trim around the edges will complete the look.

              2. Are your night tables taking up too much space in your bedroom? Get rid of clunky furniture and attach a small shelf to the wall. Find a cute wall sconce for bedside lighting.

              3. If your garage is busting at the seams, overhead ceiling storage is the way to go. Build your own shelves or purchase a ceiling mounted rack from your local hardware store.

              4. Look for inventive, double duty furniture. An ottoman that turns into a coffee table, a drop-leaf dining table or front entry benches with storage drawers are perfect for saving space while adding functionality.

              5. Under stair storage cupboards or stair drawers look incredibly cool and are perfect for keeping your family's belongings out of sight. Look for ideas online.

              There are also many ways to make a space feel larger. Use mirrors and other reflective surfaces, stay away from heavy drapery and use artwork or shelving to draw the eye upward in a room, creating the illusion of more space.


              Do's and don'ts for first-time homeowners

              Were you lucky enough to score the home of your dreams this past spring and are now blissfully settling into your new home? Congratulations, and welcome home! As a new homeowner, there are many ways that you can ensure that your first year as a homeowner is pleasant and stress-free. Take a look at these do's and don'ts for brand new homeowners:

              • DO enjoy the fruits of your labour. Make the most of the nice weather while it's here and host a housewarming party!

              • DO make an effort to meet your neighbours. Taking the time to develop a cordial relationship will benefit the entire community.

              • DO stay on top of lawn and garden care. Pride of ownership is important.

              • DO keep saving money, building up your reserve fund for ongoing and future maintenance costs.

              • DO upgrade your home with energy-saving features. Invest in low-flow shower heads, a programmable thermostat and replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFLs.

              • DO think about fire safety. Ensure there is a smoke detector on every floor of your home. Replace the batteries just to be safe. Carbon monoxide alarms are also mandatory in every Ontario home. One should be positioned near all sleeping areas. Talk to young children about your fire escape plan, designating a meeting place outside your home.

              • DO locate your main water shut off valve.

              • DON'T go crazy buying "stuff" for your new home. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day! It will take time to get your home exactly how you want it.

              • DON'T tackle a major renovation before moving in. Experts generally recommend living in a new home for a few months to see how you're utilizing the space and where improvements are most needed.

              • DON'T ignore issues, no matter how small. Taking care of problems when they're minor (i.e. a leaky faucet, small cracks in the foundation, old weather-stripping, a wobbly bannister) could save you the hassle of having to completely replace something down the road!


              Skip the A/C and try these tips for keeping cool!

              With the cool and wet spring we had in southern Ontario this year, many homeowners were able to keep the A/C turned off until at least mid-June. But now that the hot and humid days of summer have arrived, keeping cool at home has once again become a priority. If you're looking for ways to reduce the temperature in your home without blasting the central air, take a look at these tips:

              Since the sun's powerful rays are very effective at heating up a structure, the first step is to consider how you can effectively block some of those rays and deflect some heat away from your home. A strategically placed awning, pergola or a few trees will block the sun from hitting your windows and doors 12 hours a day.

              One of the easiest ways to keep the heat out is by closing blinds, drapes and shutters during the hottest part of the day. For those looking for a more permanent solution, exterior rolling shutters might be a good option. They are effective at helping to maintain a comfortable interior temperature, will reduce noise levels and also add an extra layer of your security to your home. The only downfall is price – good quality rolling shutters are expensive. "Double glazing" your windows can cut the intake of summer heat inside your home by as much as 30 per cent.

              Using fans is another simple and inexpensive option for keeping cool at home. Lightweight and portable, fans have come so far in the past 20 years, style-wise, and are still an extremely effective way of keeping a room cool. Place fans in a few rooms throughout the main level of your home to keep air circulating. During the summer, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down. This evaporates perspiration, creates a cooling wind chill effect, and makes a room feel up to eight degrees cooler without changing the temperature in the room!

              Still feeling the heat at home? Before you switch on the A/C, get rid of all the incandescent light bulbs in your home, barbecue as often as possible instead of turning on the oven, always use the bathroom fan to remove hot steam after showering and open the windows after the sun goes down to let in the cool evening breeze!


              How to improve a less-than-perfect outdoor space

              Nothing beats relaxing on your patio, porch or deck after a long day. With just a few months of warm, sunny weather, Canadians do like to maximize their outdoor space come the summer months. But not every home comes equipped with the perfect spot for enjoying a warm, evening breeze. Here are some tips for making the most of your home's outdoor space, no matter what the issue!

              The blank slate: If you've recently moved into a home with a bare backyard and your budget is tight, try making small changes every year rather than tackling the entire space in one summer. There are tons of affordable changes you can make to create a relaxing setting. The first mission to undertake is seating, a key element to any comfy gathering spot. Shop online garage sale sites and Kijiji to find a used patio set in good condition or look for some old, aluminum folding lawn chairs that you can upcycle. Simply remove the canvas or plastic webbing and replace by weaving some colourful craft cord across the frame! You can find step-by-step instructions online. Other options for DIY, budget-friendly furniture include pallets and cement blocks, tires and cable spools. You'd be amazed at what you can create with so little!

              The fishbowl: Some homeowners are reluctant to use their backyards because there is little privacy, especially in newer subdivisions lacking mature trees. If you're feeling a little exposed, there are many ways to make your space feel like a secluded oasis. For an immediate solution, use wood, outdoor fabric or plants to create a wall that will create a partially enclosed seating area. Thinking long term, a privacy hedge is the perfect solution for an exposed backyard. Good options include: arborvitae, boxwood, Golden vicary privet, forsythia and French lilac.

              Teeny tiny: Even tight spaces can be turned into a wonderful place to kick back and relax after a long day. When creating more livable space outdoors and square footage is tight, think first about how you want to utilize the space and plan accordingly. Would you like an entertainment/eating area? A spot for kids to play? A meditating garden with pond? You likely will only be able to choose one function for a small backyard so take the time to consider how you can get the most bang for your buck!


              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

              Canadian Home Sales Drop Sharply in May

              According to statistics recently released by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales posted a sizeable decline in May 2017. While May sales were down from the previous month in about half of all local markets, the sizeable national decline largely reflects a 25.3% month over month drop in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Activity was also down significantly from the previous month among other housing markets across the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, including Oakville-Milton, Hamilton-Burlington and Barrie.

              "Recent changes to housing policy in Ontario have quickly caused sales and listings to become more balanced in the GTA," said CREA President Andrew Peck. "Meanwhile, the balance between supply and demand in Vancouver is tightening up, while many places elsewhere in Canada remain amply supplied. All real estate is local, and REALTORS® remain your best source for information about sales and listings where you live or might like to."

              "This is the first full month of results since changes to Ontario housing policy made in late April. They provide clear evidence that the changes have resulted in more balanced housing markets throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region," said Gregory Klump, CREA's Chief Economist. "For housing markets in the region, May sales activity was down most in the GTA and Oakville. This suggests the changes have squelched speculative home purchases."

              The number of newly listed homes edged up a further 0.3% in May following April's jump of almost 10%. New listings in May remained high in and around the GTA; however, the York Region of the GTA posted the largest month-over-month decline in new supply. Similar percentage declines were also evident for new listings in Oakville-Milton and Barrie.

              With sales down considerably in May, the national sales-to-new listings ratio moved out of sellers' territory and back into balanced market territory for the first time since late 2015. The ratio stood at 56.3% in May 2017, down from 60.2% in April and the high-60% range over the first three months of this year.

              With new listings having surged and sales having declined in some markets within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the number of months of inventory in the region is up from all-time lows. That said, housing markets in the region remain among the tightest in Canada, with most urban centres in the region still registering less than two months of inventory.

              The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in May 2017 was $530,304, up 4.3% from where it stood one year earlier.

              The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which are two of Canada's most active and expensive housing markets. Excluding these two markets from calculations trims more than $130,000 from the national average price ($398,546).

              Further information can be found at http://crea.ca/statistics.


              How to decide on the right home

              In a market of opportunity, deciding to purchase a new home may offer you more choices than you initially expected. A successful home purchase is one that both your head and your heart agree on. Often a difficult task, it's a wonderful feeling when you finally find the perfect place to call home. But what if you are falling for every house you see?

              The first thing to know is that this is normal and even common for new homebuyers to let their emotions get the best of them. Purchasing a home is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make, and it is a difficult decision. The key is to invest the time needed to ensure you are making the best decision for you, your family and your financial situation.

              It's critical to determine a final list of wants and needs. Writing and rewriting a list of essentials, followed by a list of hopefuls is a great way to feel confident about your purchase. Be conscious not only of your current expectations, but also what may become more important to you in the future. Be picky and be thorough. This is a large purchase so don't let anyone try to pressure or sway you. Refer back to your list often during the househunting process.

              If more than one home meets your rigid criteria, compare the pros and cons of the added features. Consider commute times, yard sizes, proximity to schools, parks and shopping. Also weigh drawbacks of your neighbourhood choice. Fully understanding the implications of your choice will help you make the best decision.

              If you find that you're still having trouble deciding on a property, this may be a sign that you are not ready to commit to home ownership. Never make a home purchase you are not sure about. If you find you are unable to commit that to one purchase, it is wise to wait until you can.


              What NOT to do before buying a home

              We're always talking about what you should do before buying a home. Getting preapproved, finding a great realtor, determining needs and wants and researching neighbourhoods usually top the list when it comes to prepping for a new home purchase.

              It's also important to note a few crucial things that you should NOT do before making the largest purchase of your life. Even one of these missteps may affect your preapproval (which is never a guarantee) so avoid doing these five things until after you've closed on your new home!

              1. Don't change jobs. Lenders like to see employment stability so the months before you buy a home are not the time to start job hunting.

              2. Avoid making large purchases. This is definitely not the time to splurge on that new car, fancy jet ski or even the pricey bedroom set that you've been eyeing. Such major purchases will raise your debt-to-income ratio. Instead, keep building your savings and wait until after you've moved into a home to decide if this purchase is still possible.

              3. Don't co-sign a loan. Even if you're absolutely sure that the party you are co-signing for is financially secure, a lender will not look favourably on you co-signing a loan during the mortgage approval process.

              4. Don't let those due dates slide by. While paying your bills on time is always a good habit, it is especially crucial when lenders are closely examining your financial history and credit rating.

              5. Don't get emotionally attached. When that perfect home comes along, it will be easy to fall in love from the moment you walk through the front door. But this can be dangerous, especially with the current real estate market. Homes are selling for over asking price, so make sure that you are only looking at listings that fall within your budget and mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of being outbid.


              Protect your basement from a flood this spring

              With Ontario seeing its fair share of rainfall this spring, it's never too late to take some extra measures to protect your home, especially those who reside in flood-prone areas. If this is your first spring in a new home, ask around the neighbourhood to find out if the area has ever had issues with flooding during heavy spring rainfalls.

              Occasionally, improper home maintenance may be the culprit in a basement flood, so take the proper steps to prevent an expensive mess in your home!

              The first place to start is with your roof and eavestroughs. Take a look at your home's system and make sure things are functioning as they should. Gutters should be free of debris and correctly connected to downspouts to ensure that water is efficiently flowing from the roof. Also ensure that downspouts are carrying water far enough away from your home (about two metres is a good rule of thumb) and depositing it on a surface that slopes away from your foundation.

              Check the storm sewers on the street near your home, clearing them of any debris.

              If you have a sump pump, ensure that it is in good working order. Consider purchasing a generator, which will keep your pump working in the event of a power outage.

              If you do end up with a flooded basement this spring, stay safe and prevent greater damage. Don't run water or flush toilets if your basement drains are plugged, turn off any electrical circuits that are in danger of coming into contact with moisture and try to remove water as quickly as possible to prevent major mold damage.

              In addition, if you have children at home, be sure to talk to them about the dangers of flash flooding. Intense rainfalls – over 50mm of rain in a few hours time – can cause extremely hazardous conditions near rivers, creeks and low-lying areas very quickly. Warn children to keep their distance.


              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!


              Spring maintenance for homeowners

              As a homeowner, the arrival of each new season usually brings with it a few maintenance chores that will need to be tackled, so wait for a nice, sunny day and check these jobs off your to-do list!

              1. Repaint windows, siding and doors if needed. While wood will always be a popular material in home building, unfortunately it does require regular maintenance to keep it looking its best and realizing its life span. As with any job, take the time to gather the proper materials before getting started – it will make things run smoothly. Scrape away old, chipped or peeling paint from window and door frames and wood siding. Sand if necessary and finish by pressure washing on a low setting. Prime and paint as needed with a good quality exterior paint.

              2. Organize the garage. After a long winter, your garage may have become a drop-zone for gardening supplies, sporting equipment, toys, broken items, etc. Enlist the help of kids to help create piles, including one for items to throw out, one for items to sell and a third for items to keep. If storage is an issue, assemble some heavy duty shelving or hooks. If your garage floor has seen better days, consider sealing and painting the floor for a tidy, clean look that will also extend its lifespan.

              3. It's likely been a few months since your air conditioner saw the light of day, so remove the cover on your outdoor unit, shut off the power and give it a good cleaning, removing any dust and debris. Inside the house, you'll want to change the air filter and check for any leaks in the ductwork. Almost every HVAC company offers maintenance packages, so if you're not up to the challenge or just don't have time, schedule an appointment with a professional. Proper A/C maintenance will extend the life of your cooling unit and keep your energy bills down all summer long!

              4. Clean or pressure wash deck. Canadians certainly spend as much time as possible during the summer months enjoying their outdoor spaces, so start off the season with a fresh slate! Take great care when pressure washing soft wood surfaces – one would rarely need more than 1500 psi to complete this task – any more can damage the wood. You can skip the pressure washer and buy a good quality wood cleaner and use some good, old-fashioned elbow grease to get your deck gleaming for the season ahead!


              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!


              What's the deal with a pre-listing home inspection?

              Home inspections have become commonplace in the Ontario real estate industry. In fact, many deals hinge on the completion of a home inspection report that is satisfactory to the buyer involved. Traditionally, the buyer has been responsible for paying for and arranging an inspection after the offer has been accepted. The seller agrees to facilitate access to the home for the inspector, the buyer and usually the buyer's realtor during an agreed upon time frame before the deal becomes firm. 

              In recent years, however, some sellers have taken the reins and obtained a pre-listing home inspection before their home even hits the market. There are a number of reasons why a pre-listing home inspection can benefit sellers. 

              1. Be the first to find out about any problems. Obtaining an inspection before listing a home puts the seller in the driver's seat when it comes to necessary fixes, whether major or minor. Some buyers will get hung up on small repairs, especially if a few start piling up during a home inspection. By having a pre-listing inspection done, the seller can repair leaky faucets, secure handrails on staircases, improve inadequate insulation, etc. before buyers begin viewing their home. And if there are major issues discovered, the seller can decide how to proceed, attaching any repair estimates or paid invoices to the inspection report. 

              2. It encourages a firm deal. If a buyer can view a completed home inspection report before making their offer, they know exactly what they purchasing and will likely feel more comfortable forgoing a home inspection condition in the offer. 

              3. Convenience. By obtaining a pre-listing home inspection, the seller is able to hire a reputable inspector (choose one who is a member of the OAHI – the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors) and schedule the appointment at their convenience. 

              A pre-listing home inspection also benefits buyers. It will help them determine a fair offer price and decide if they are willing to repair any highlighted issues before making an offer. Buyers will also enjoy a savings of $350-$500 off their closing costs (the typical cost of an inspection).


              What forms are needed when buying or selling a home?

              When it comes to buying or selling a home, there are a few important documents that will come into play during the process. Some of these forms include pre-written clauses that your realtor will discuss and explain to you. Due to the nature of these contracts, be sure to read them thoroughly and always, always ask for clarification if needed.

              Seller Representation Agreement (Listing Agreement): The listing agreement serves a number of functions. It establishes the relationship between the brokerage (and real estate representative) and the seller, it outlines specifics about the property for sale and it explains the services that will be performed and remuneration agreed upon. A Data Input Form will also be completed, describing the property in more depth i.e. legal description, age, room dimensions, zoning, etc.

              Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS): Completing this form is optional for sellers. This form expands on information already provided about the property for sale, including items like restrictive covenants, known easements, details about past renovations, moisture issues, etc. If a SPIS has been provided by the seller, the salesperson should inform potential buyers of its existence. It is important to note that the SPIS is not a warranty or guarantee for buyers and should not replace a home inspection.

              Buyer Representation Agreement: This agreement is an authority granted by a buyer to a real estate brokerage to act on his or her behalf during the purchase of a property. It outlines and explains the responsibilities of both parties and the commission arrangement. While a realtor in Ontario is required to complete the agreement and submit it to the buyer before any offer is made, the buyer is under no obligation to sign it.

              Agreement of Purchase and Sale: An agreement of purchase and sale is like a conversation in writing that expresses the buyer's wish to purchase a property and the proposed terms of sale. It only becomes legally binding when everything is mutually agreed upon and signed by both parties. Commonly referred to as an offer, this document summarizes the terms that the buyer is seeking. Items always covered in the agreement of purchase and sale will be deposit amount and sale price, conditions, chattels and fixtures, completion (closing) date, etc.

              While the exact forms may vary from city to city across the province, the fundamental concept behind each is the same.


              5 Reasons to Sell Before the Selling Season Picks Up

              A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter off-season. Perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter off-season not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers also net more above their asking price at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.

              1. Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the off-season. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, some of whom may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you may have fewer showings in the off-season, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. Your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.
              2. Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the off-season sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well. Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighborhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.
              3. You’ll receive more attention. While I always strives to give you the personal attention you deserve, when you list during the off-season, I'm able to work more closely with you to ensure your home is prepared for its debut on the market. I can also take more time to answer your questions, address your concerns and prepare you and your home for the sale.

              Additionally, if you’d like to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter off-season as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.

              1. Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

              The off-season eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. You’ll have less to maintain. As we live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape may be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.

              1. Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.

              Thinking of Listing in the Off-season? 3 Things to Do Before You List

              Get your home ready to list by following these tips.

              1. Schedule maintenance. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.

              In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing, issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential seller may want repaired. Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3

              1. Create light. Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.

              If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons..

              1. Give your home a thorough cleaning. Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.

              Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.

              If you’re thinking of selling, give me a call! I’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.

              Sources:

                    1. Time, October 30, 2015

                    2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

                    3. Forbes, August, 27, 2013


              Prevent frozen pipes in your home this winter

              While burst water pipes aren’t extremely common, it does happen on occasion and it’s definitely something you want to do your best to avoid. Now that the winter weather has arrived, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you won’t have to deal with the mess and expense of a burst water pipe.

              Pipes burst because the water inside them freezes and expands. This is most likely to occur in pipes that are particularly vulnerable to cold weather, like those near outside walls and in crawl spaces, attics and in the garage. It can happen with both copper and plastic materials. If a pipe freezes and bursts, water will begin rushing into your home, potentially causing thousands of dollars in damage.  

              Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent this disaster in your home. Pipes in vulnerable places should be protected with insulation or heat. You can buy foam or fiberglass pipe insulation at your local hardware store to wrap around the pipes. For areas that you are particularly concerned about, pipe heat cables or tape can keep water flowing even in temperatures as low as -40 degrees.

              Other ways to prevent a burst pipe:

              • If you haven’t already done so, unscrew your outdoor hose; turn off the outdoor water supply and drain.

              • Keep your garage door closed at all times.

              • Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to let warm air circulate.

              • Don’t turn your heat down too low if you’re leaving for a vacation. You shouldn’t drop the thermostat below 55 degrees F (12 degrees Celsius).

              If you suspect your pipes are frozen, turn on a basement tap to cold. Apply heat to the suspected frozen area of the pipe using hot, wet rags, a blow dryer or an electric heating pad. Never use an open flame.
               
              Make sure you are aware of the location of your home’s main water shut-off valve. If a pipe does burst, you will need to shut off the water supply immediately and contact a plumber. Do your best to clean up any water quickly to prevent mold and mildew damage.


              What’s hot and what’s not in 2017 home trends

              Velvet, jewel tones, white marble and built-in bars are forecasted to be the biggest home design trends for 2017, according to the latest Zillow Digs® Home Trend Forecast. According to Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert, interior design this year will be about bringing warmth and comfort into the home. Homeowners will start to shy away from overly industrial designs that feel stiff or cold. Instead, they will incorporate plush fabrics like velvet and rich jewel tones into their home to make it feel more approachable and welcoming.

              Here they are in detail as well as 2016 trends to forget:

              1.  Velvet
              A hot fashion trend, velvet is also expected to make a big splash in interior design. Look for velvet fabrics and textures to weave their way into anything from throw pillows to upholstered couches and curtains.

              2. Jewel Colours
              Saturated colours like emerald green or sapphire blue will take centre stage. From artwork to furniture, these vibrate hues will be popping up everywhere, bringing life and richness to homes.

              3. Marble Surfaces
              Marble, especially in shades of white and light gray, will be one of the year’s biggest design trends. Experts predict marble to become an increasingly popular material for countertops, flooring and tabletops, as well as in everyday household items like serving platters or vases.

              4. Built-in Bars
              Stemming from 2016's popular bar cart trend, homeowners next year will look for a more permanent solution for entertaining within their home. From built-in shelving for craft cocktail fixings, to a small bar seating area, homeowners are enjoying decorating and hosting more classic parties and will seek ways to make these spaces more of a focal point within the home.

              Fads to Forget from 2016:

              1. Industrial Furniture
              While aspects of the industrial design trend like exposed brick will still be present in 2017, homeowners will start to shy away from its sometimes uncomfortable or impractical furniture. Instead, the 2017 design aesthetic will shift towards "steampunk," a unique hybrid of Victorian-inspired elegance boasting rich leather and plush fabrics, combined with machine-like accents for a modern twist.

              2. Cool Grays
              From wall colours to couches, shades of gray have been a safe, go-to choice for homeowners and interior designers alike. In the coming year experts predict homeowners to be more experimental and welcoming of brighter pops of colors on everything from walls to rugs in an effort to make their space feel more individualized.

              3. Quote Art
              The quote art trend is overdone, and a fad that will be forgotten quickly in 2017. Rather than decorating with words or cliché sayings, homeowners will start to incorporate artwork reminiscent of the colours and textures found in nature.


              10 tips for selling your home in the New Year

              Welcome to 2017! Now that the holiday season is behind us, you might be thinking ahead to a spring sale. How exciting! When it comes to real estate, making a great first impression is key, so it’s never too soon to start preparing your home for the market. A few basic elements can help you sell your home faster. Here are 10 tips for making your home more attractive to potential buyers, before and after it’s listed.

              1. Ensure everything from the sidewalk to the backyard is as clean, tidy and clutter-free as possible. Begin packing away personal items. Most buyers will make a decision whether to look at your home based on a few online photos, so wow them from the get-go!  

              2. Make sure your house smells as clean as it looks.

              3. Consider making an appointment with a home staging consultant.

              4. Complete any necessary repairs and repaint high traffic areas as needed. Things like broken faucets, missing light fixtures or holes in the drywall will give the impression your home is not well cared for.

              5. If you’re swamped with work, kids and other responsibilities, hire a cleaning agency for a few months to make sure that your house is sparkling and ready for every showing.

              6. Be reasonable when deciding on your price. Trust your realtor’s judgment and the comparables.

              7. Once your home is listed and on MLS, check your online ad for any errors.

              8. Do your best to work with prospective buyers. If they want to come and view your house at 8 a.m., make it happen!  

              9. Be flexible if a realtor shows up with prospective buyers and no appointment. Mistakes and miscommunication sometimes happen and buyers will understand if a few things are out of place.

              10. Finally, make sure you are ready to purchase your new home! Get pre-approved and start looking at homes on the market in your price range. If an offer comes in with a short closing date, you'll want to be ready move forward.


              SOLD - 2130 Winding Way, Burlington ON L7M 2X8

              Sought After Headon Forest - 4 Bedroom Home

              This bright and airy, 2 storey, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom ‘Costain’ built home is located in Burlington’s desirable Headon Forest neighbourhood. The house sits on a 129’ deep lot - larger than most in the area!  With generously sized principal rooms throughout there's plenty of space for daily living with a growing family - and for entertaining too! A grand two storey foyer with curved staircase offers a warm welcome. The main floor features separate living and dining rooms, a family room with wood burning fireplace and an eat-in kitchen with lots of cupboards and a full size pantry, plus a walkout to a raised deck and fully fenced yard. Also on this level are a powder room and laundry/mud rooms.  From there you can access both the garage and side yard. On the upper level, the master bedroom with walk-in closet and 4 piece ensuite can easily accommodate a king-size bed and several other pieces of furniture. Three additional bedrooms, two with double closets and a four piece bath with tub/shower combo complete the upper level. 

              The lower level feature two large recreation/games rooms, a bar area, 3 piece bath, and storage room with utility sink.

              The excellent location is a bonus!  It’s just a short walk to schools, parks, shopping and public transit. Highway access is also close by.

              This home has been well kept by the original owners yet there’s a great opportunity to update to your own taste! Call today to book your private showing! 

              EXCLUSIVE

              Price:                    $799,900

              # Rooms:              8

              Bedrooms:             4

              Bathrooms:           3.5

              Square Feet:         2420 +/- 

              Garage:                Double

              Basement:            Full; Finished

               


              There's plenty of fun happening this month in Burlington

              As always, November is shaping up to be a busy month. With craft shows, live entertainment, holiday excitement and more, it's sure to be a fun month for the whole family!

              34th Annual Holiday House Tour of Distinctive Homes - November 11 - 13
              Tickets are now on sale for the Junior League of Hamilton-Burlington's most popular annual event! The Holiday House Tour is a self-guided journey of some of the area's most lovely homes, each one professionally decorated by a team of talented designers, decorators and retailers for the holiday season. Find inspiration for your own home and get into the holiday spirit while helping to raise funds to support the Junior League Mission and community programs. Buy tickets online at www.holidayhousetour.ca.

              The Legendary Downchild Blues Band – November 18
              Get your tickets! Coming soon to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, The Legendary Downchild Blues Band is best known as the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's hit film The Blues Brothers. The will make their highly anticipated return to Burlington for one thrilling performance – don't miss it! Call the box office at 905-681-6000.

              The Auxiliary of RBG Christmas Show and Sale - November 19 - 21
              You will find fresh evergreen designs, boxwood wreaths, topiary boxwood trees, seasonal table designs, unique seasonal silk designs for your home décor and much more. The Christmas Show will feature many local artisans, one-of-a-kind gifts, holiday decor and fine foods. Visit www.rbg.ca for more information.

              Rotary Burlington Music Festival: 2016 Grand Festival Concert – November 19
              Aimed at cultivating the musical talent of local youth, the Rotary Burlington Music Festival will run during November, culminating in the wonderful Grand Festival Concert on November 19 at 7 p.m at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Visit http://www.rotarymusicfest.org for tickets.

              Roaring '20s PA Day Camp - November 25
              Campers can dress up in their best 1920's attire and enjoy baking a lemon cake, participating in a jazz club dance-off and solving a mystery! Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $35/camper. Call 905-332-9888.

              Harbourtown Sound Christmas Show – November 26
              Join Harbourtown Sound at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre! The region's This premier men's a cappella chorus will perform two shows entitled 'A Gift of Song'. Shows will take place at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and tickets are $30.

              Santa Claus Parade - December 4
              Bundle up the whole family and find your perfect spot along the parade route! Burlington's 51st annual Santa Claus Parade will feature bands, colourful floats, mascots and the big guy in red himself! The parade starts at 2 p.m. at the corner of Prospect Street and Guelph Line and travels south along Guelph Line to New Street, west along New Street to where it turns into James Street and continues along James Street to Brant Street. Find out more at www.burlington.ca/parade.


              5 tips to make an older home more energy efficient

              While new homes are being built to be more energy efficient than ever before, thanks to a growing green building movement and increasingly strict building codes, the age of existing dwellings continues to present challenges. More than half of Canada's housing stock was built before 1980 and simply wouldn't stand up to today's standards. Yet, much can be done to help homeowners improve their building envelope to reduce energy use and increase efficiency.

              Improving your home's energy efficiency can help save money, keep you more comfortable, reduce pollution, and prevent global warming. Try these five simple measures to maximize the energy efficiency of your home:

              1. Seal cracks and gaps around your home's windows, doors, and vents. These can be a considerable source of energy loss, allowing conditioned air to escape and unconditioned air to infiltrate your home, stressing your furnace and air conditioner in the process. An easy DIY solution is to caulk around windows, doors, and vents, and install or replace worn weatherstripping. An average home loses up to 30 per cent of its energy through air leaks, so sealing your home is a worthwhile exercise.

              2. Top up or replace old insulation in your attic. A poorly insulated attic is a primary source of energy loss. Also, over time, some types of insulation can settle and compact, allowing heat to escape through gaps. Experts recommend installing a dimensionally stable batt insulation. Aim for an r-value of at least R50 or roughly a depth of 16 inches (41 cm).

              3. Insulate basement headers. Uninsulated basement headers are common, especially in older homes. They can act as a gateway for heated air to escape. Fixing the problem is fast and easy. Simply cut stone wool insulation to fit the cavity and compress into place. Doing this throughout your basement will prevent heat loss and can potentially save hundreds of dollars each year.

              4. Switch to LED light bulbs. Some LED light bulbs have a lifespan of up to 10 years, and are 80 to 90 per cent more efficient than an incandescent bulb. They are generally more environmentally friendly than CFLs and safer, too, since they produce less heat. The return on investment is excellent, as LED bulbs often pay for themselves through energy savings within the first year.

              5. Consider a home energy audit. This will help you identify and target specific problematic areas of energy loss. A professional home energy audit will also provide a list of recommended solutions to help you maximize your energy efficiency strategy.

              Source: www.newscanada.com


              Winter home maintenance tips

              Those cold and snowy winter days will inevitably arrive just like clockwork. Here are some tips to get your property winter ready:

              1. Heating Check-Up: Have your heating system serviced by a qualified professional. A gas furnace should be serviced every two years and an oil furnace every year. Change your furnace filter because a dirty filter will cause inefficiency in a forced air heating/cooling system.

              2. Chimney Sweep: Ensure your fireplace (or any gas, oil, wood or coal heating appliance), chimney and vents are clean. A regular maintenance schedule can help you steer clear of chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home.

              3. Gut The Gutters: Leaves and other debris can collect up in your eavestroughs over the fall. Blockage causes all types of trouble and can even trigger ice dams. Ensure that downspouts extend at least six feet from your home's foundation.

              4. Repair The Roof: Roof repairs should be made before the temperatures drop and the damp weather makes proper repairs almost impossible.

              5. Seal It Up Tight: Look for any cracks in your home that need to be repaired. All exterior windows/doors should be closed tightly and repair, or replace weather-stripping as needed. Take down your insect screens so that your home's heating system can do its job and keep the glass condensation-free.

              6. Check Your Alarms: Help prevent a fire, or carbon monoxide poisoning in your home by regularly changing the batteries in these detectors. The Office of the Fire Marshal recommends replacing smoke alarms every ten years, or when it has exceeded the manufacturer's recommended life cycle. Remember, a carbon monoxide detector is now required to be in every home and batteries replaced every six months. Make sure they are positioned beside sleeping areas.

              7. Maximize Hot Air: Once your furnace is on, reverse your ceiling fans so that the blades run in a clockwise direction. Energy Star recommends this tip to help push the hot air down into the room.

              8. Turn Off Exterior Faucets: Frozen pipes are a nightmare. Avoid this by draining all the remaining water, turning off all the exterior faucets and disconnecting garden hoses.

              9. Winterize The Backyard: Prepare your gardens, cover and protect bushes and young trees and ensure that you've safely stored away all outdoor furniture and kids toys.

              10. Take Inventory: Make sure you have plenty of the winter essentials on hand. Salt or sand for ice melting and a good shovel or snowblower are must-haves for Canadian winters.


              Protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning

              It's been two years since regulations came into effect requiring the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in every home. Yet every year 50 Canadians still perish from carbon monoxide poisoning. Known as 'the silent killer', CO is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that is a product of combustion. If you're thinking that there's no way for carbon monoxide to enter your home, you may be surprised by some of the sources. It is found in fumes of automobiles, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, fireplaces, gas ranges and heating systems. Danger can occur when there is a 'problem with ventilation, creating a buildup in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space'.

              The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain and confusion, though many fall unconscious before they can remove themselves from the affected area. Over time, CO poisoning will cause irreversible brain damage and even death.

              If your home is still without a CO detector, head to your local hardware store and pick one up for under $50. There are a few different types of detectors on the market - some are battery operated, some are hard-wired into the wiring of your home and some simply plug into an electrical outlet. Because CO mixes with air and doesn't rise like smoke does, it can be placed at any height in a room but should always be located near sleeping areas.

              Be sure to have a conversation with children or elderly relatives living in the home so that they understand the purpose of a CO detector and what action they should take if they hear the alarm. The alarms typically emit a different sound than a standard smoke detector, so make sure your family knows the difference. Just like with smoke alarms, when the carbon monoxide detectors goes off, leave the building and call 911 from a safe place.

              For more information about carbon monoxide safety, visit the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs at http://www.oafc.on.ca/carbon-monoxide.


              Tips to sell your home quickly

              When your home goes on the market, it is always the goal to see fast results. There are certain ways to get your house in good shape and ready to sell. Here are five tips to follow to help your house sell as quickly as possible.

              De-personalize: The first thing to do in your home to get it ready for the market, is to de-personalize it. Look around in each room and remove all of the things that are personal to you and your family. As buyers view your home they will be trying to visualize it being their own house and that can be difficult if all they see is your family’s personal belongings. So take out family photos, trophies and awards, vacation souvenirs, any religious decor, etc., and save them for your next home.

              De-clutter: All clutter must go! It is an important step to make your home clutter free. This again will help buyers be able to see the space and picture themselves in it. You want to have clean and clear countertops, tables, flat surfaces, floors, cupboards and closets in your home to give the appearance of more space and have it easy on the eye.

              Improve Curb Appeal: It is important to stage the exterior of your home too. The outside appearance is the first impression people will have of your home and often potential buyers will do a a quick drive-by first to see if they feel the home is worth viewing on the inside.

              Make sure your front door has a fresh coat of paint on it, as well as repaint or stain your porch or deck if needed. Power wash the siding and walkways, and wash the windows.

              The landscaping needs to be in good shape and keep all bushes and your lawn well manicured.

              Have it in "Move In" Condition: Nobody wants to buy a new house that requires tons of work and adding up all of the dollars that you will need to spend on fixing it up.

              First have your house immaculately clean. From the floors to the windows, make it shine and hire professionals if needed. Fix all the things that are broken and need sprucing up in your house. Small repairs such as the leaky faucet and spots that need paint touch ups, etc.

              Choose Neutral Colours: Think beige, cream and grey for example as colour choices in your home. Bold and bright colours may be a turn off for some people and it is much easier to visualize it as their home with neutral tones, especially on the walls.


              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?


              Love every home you see?

              In a market of opportunity, deciding to purchase a new home can offer you more choices than you initially expected. A successful home purchase is one that both your head and your heart agree on. Often a difficult task, it's a wonderful feeling when you finally find the perfect place to call home. But what if you are falling for every house you see?

              Emotional Swaying

              The first thing to know is that this is normal and even common for new homebuyers. Purchasing a home is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make, and it is a difficult decision. The key is to invest the time needed to ensure you are making the best decision for you, your family and your financial situation.

              Wants vs. Needs

              Writing and rewriting a list of essentials, followed by a list of hopefuls is a great way to feel confident about your purchase. Be conscious not only of your current expectations, but also what may become more important to you in the future. Be picky and be thorough. This is a large purchase so don't let anyone try to pressure or sway you.

              Evaluate the Extras

              If more than one home meets your rigid criteria, compare the pros and cons of the added features. Consider commute times, yard sizes, proximity to schools, parks and shopping. Also weigh drawbacks of your neighbourhood choice. Fully understanding the implications of your choice will help you make the best decision.

              If you find that you're still having trouble deciding on a property, this may be a sign that you are not ready to commit to home ownership. Never make a home purchase you are not sure about. If you find you are unable to commit that to one purchase, it is wise to wait until you can.


              Housewarming gift ideas for new home owners

              It's always great news to hear that a friend or family member has bought a new house. It's such an exciting life event! If you're particularly close to the new homeowners, you'll more than likely be called on to help on moving day and perhaps even with the packing. But rest assured, there are some fun jobs for friends and family of brand new homeowners. The housewarming party for one, and shopping for the perfect housewarming gift!

              If you were familiar with the happy homeowners' previous abode, you probably have an idea of something they need. Your gift doesn't have to be functional, however - feel free to choose a decorative piece that you know the homeowners will love.

              • A monogrammed gift is always thoughtful: a doormat emblazoned with a family name, a cozy blanket, garden stones, a cutting board...anything is up for personalizing with today's technology!

              • Know a coffee-lover? What about surprising them with a single-cup brewing system, like a Tassimo, Keurig or Nespresso machine? If the new homeowners are first time buyers, there's a good chance they don't have cupboards full of appliances so this might be a good bet and it's something they will use often.

              • A great cookbook is an excellent option for a foodie friend. Find out if they have a favourite Food Network star or a certain type of cuisine they love.

              • A handmade piece of art. Print out a favourite quote, their initials or even the words to their wedding song on good card stock and go to Michael's to have it matted and framed. Look online for ideas!

              • Or keep it simple and buy a nice bottle of wine or a plant!

              When searching for that perfect housewarming gift, try not to come up with ideas of things YOU would want in your home and instead think of the new homeowners and their style.


              SOLD - 3100 Kirwin Ave. Unit 204, Mississauga ON L5A3S6

              Spacious condo in the heart of Mississauga!

              Welcome to Lynwood Lane on the Park! This bright, spacious and updated 2 Bedroom plus Den suite is located in a well maintained building nestled on a 4+ acre mature property, with a walking path and creek, in the heart of Mississauga!

              With a large living/dining room combo along with the adjacent den, eat-in kitchen and 2 bedrooms the unit has plenty of living space. The in-suite laundry and storage room complete the home. Add to that the fabulous building amenities (outdoor pool, tennis courts, games and party room), together with the park-like setting and proximity to shopping, hospitals, GO and public transit, it's no wonder this is a sought after property.  Don't miss out!

              EXCLUSIVE

              Price:                   $299,900

              Bedrooms:            2

              Bathrooms:           2

              Square Feet:         1130 +/- 

              Parking:                1

              3100 Kirwin Ave. Mississauga ON L5A 0S6 Map


              Are you ready to live the good life?

              You've probably seen the commercials on TV and the ads in the newspaper for adult lifestyle communities. They often depict a vivacious, grey haired couple strolling down the beach, biking through a park or waving to neighbours from their balcony. While they might seem cliché these advertisements may actually strike a cord with empty nesters feeling overwhelmed by their current home's maintenance.

              If your children have flown the coop and your home is starting to feel a bit cavernous, thoughts of downsizing are probably creeping into your mind. Or maybe your knees have had it climbing the staircase to your second floor several times a day. Whatever your situation, today's housing market offers a variety of excellent options for those reaching their golden years - one might be just right for you!

              If you enjoy maintaining a garden and a spacious backyard, a bungalow design is worth looking into. These single-floor homes feature main floor living areas, kitchen and bedrooms, eliminating all that stair climbing. Another option is the 'bungaloft' design, which features a second floor loft or bedroom, ideal for overnight guests…grandchildren, perhaps?

              Cropping up everywhere, adult lifestyle communities are geared towards residents 50 and over. Home styles vary from townhouses to condos to bungalows, or a combination of all three. Most often in a community life this, residents are able to take advantage of many on-site extras, including a clubhouse, pool and fitness facilities, games and party rooms, nearby golf courses, etc.

              Condominiums are ideal for couples that have had it with years of outdoor maintenance. Throw away the shovel and lawn mower and get set to embrace a new lifestyle! You will have more time and freedom for travel and new hobbies when you choose to downsize to a condominium.

              For those who find themselves needing a little extra help around the home, assisted living residences are another option for seniors. Despite your reservations, moving into a retirement home can actually be very liberating. They offer different levels of care depending on your needs and provide meals, amenities, a wide range of social activities and group outings.

              Testimonials

                Marion Goard is a great agent. We enjoyed working with her and would highly recommend her. She has great knowledge and experience. Listens to her clients wants and needs.

              Ivanka Chemij, Kitchener

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