Information about local real estate market conditions

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.


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.


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.


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.


Avoiding the Crises of a Sudden Move

  •  Thursday, March 3, 2022
  •  Marion Goard

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

 

SEO Shopping:

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

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

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

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

 

A Family Affair:

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

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

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

 

Marion’s Philosophy:

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


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.


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.


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)

        

  


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.


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/

         

         

         

         


              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.


              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

              
              


              National Snapshot: How's the Real Estate Market

              •  Saturday, September 14, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              The Canadian real estate market is heating up again!

              After a cool-down in 2018, economists predicted a modest rebound this year. However, the housing market has exceeded expectations with total national sales volume on the rise since March. July sales were up 3.5% from the previous month and 12.6% higher than last year.1

              So what triggered this faster-than-expected turnaround and renewed market activity? And is it sustainable?  

              To answer these questions, we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and explore what they mean for buyers, sellers, and homeowners.

              HOME VALUES ARE RISING

              The scenario varies by market, but nationally, home values are on the rise. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the average sales price in July was up 3.9% from the same month last year. And CREA’s Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index—which can more accurately track pricing trends across comparable homes—shows a slow but steady climb since January.1

              Toronto-Dominion Bank Economist James Marple attributes the increase in housing prices and sales activity to positive economic fundamentals. “As they have in the past, strong population growth, solid job growth and lower mortgage rates appear to be doing the job of supporting Canadian housing demand.”2

              “The immediate downside risk to home prices have diminished considerably,” Marple added. “While affordability will remain a constraint in major high-priced markets, prices appear more likely to increase than decrease over the next year.”2

              What does it mean for you? Those who were concerned about a market crash should take comfort in these latest numbers, which indicate that the cooling effects of the stress test are diminishing. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to buy, don’t let fear hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and home prices will continue to fluctuate. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

              FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE ON SALE

              Historically, Canadians have had to pay a premium for a fixed-rate mortgage. Those who wanted to lock in a set payment for five years were charged a higher rate of interest. But a slide in the international bond market has made it cheaper for mortgage lenders to offer fixed-rate mortgages than variable ones.3

              In fact, rates on standard five-year fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level in two years. Meanwhile, in July, the Bank of Canada dropped its five-year benchmark rate for the first time since September 2016. The rate, which is used in the bank’s mandated mortgage stress test, was dropped from 5.39% to 5.19%, making it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.4 

              These lower rates have given a boost to buyers and the market in general. “We’ve now had a reawakening of sales for several months,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “In addition, mortgage rates have been edging lower so the combination of the two is making for an active market.”5

              What does it mean for you?

              If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low fixed-rate mortgage. Not only will you save money, it will also guarantee you a predictable monthly payment (and peace of mind) over the next several years.

              NEW INVENTORY IS ON THE WAY

              Across the country, new home starts are on the rise. The uptick in construction is being led by Montreal and Vancouver, while Toronto—which tops the continent in number of active cranes—is beginning to see a decline in starts.6

              July construction levels were 10% higher than the previous year and 17% higher than the median rate of growth over the last 10 years.6

              Meanwhile, the number of new real estate listings in July declined slightly by .4%.5The Royal Bank of Canada predicts this will help balance the incoming pipeline of new construction. “Elevated levels of apartment construction in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raise some longer-term absorption issues. There’s little risk near term as unsold inventories are low at the present time.”7 

              What does it mean for you?

              If you’ve had trouble finding the right property in the past, you may want to take a look at new options hitting the market. And if you’re planning to sell your current home, now may be a good time to list. Competition from new construction is likely to increase over the next few years.

              HOMEOWNERSHIP IS BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE

              According to the National Bank of Canada, housing is finally becoming more affordable. In fact, during the second quarter of this year, the cost of owning a home, relative to income, fell to its lowest level in a decade.8

              An increase in wages, combined with falling mortgage rates, is helping to bring the relative cost of homeownership down. The average percentage of household income that went toward a mortgage payment fell from 48.7% to 45.1% in the 11 major cities included in the report.Of course, it’s still significantly higher than the 30% benchmark that is generally considered optimal.

              So, while many Canadian markets may be a long way from being considered “affordable,” the trend seems to be moving in the right direction.

              What does it mean for you?

              If you’ve previously been unable to afford or qualify for a mortgage, it may be worth another try. A decline in mortgage rates, an increase in housing supply, and a lower stress test benchmark rate could help put your dreams of homeownership within reach.

              I'M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

              While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As a local market expert, I 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.  

              If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I'm here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

              Sources:

              1. Canadian Real Estate Association -
                https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/stats/
              2. CBC -
                https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-home-sales-prices-up-july-1.5247892
              3. Global News -
                https://globalnews.ca/news/5666381/fixed-variable-mortgage-rates-canada-inverted-yield-curve/
              4. Global News -
                https://globalnews.ca/news/5659838/mortgage-stress-test-rate-bank-canada/
              5. Global News -
                https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/canadian-home-sales-rise-for-fifth-straight-month-as-mortgage-rates-decline
              6. Better Dwelling -
                https://betterdwelling.com/canadian-new-home-starts-jump-pushed-by-montreal-and-vancouver/
              7. Royal Bank of Canada - http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/healthcheck-august18.pdf
              8. Huffington Post -
                https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-affordability-canada_ca_5d4f5ef0e4b0820e0af6627d

              Burlington’s & Hamilton’s HOTTEST NEIGHBOURHOODS It’s Official – Both Are Strong Seller’s Markets

              •  Friday, July 26, 2019
              •  Marion Goard

              Two infographics released yesterday and shown below, reveal the hottest housing markets within Hamilton and Burlington, evidencing how most nieghbourhoods in both cities are sizzling sellers markets and which are not, as hot, or in rare cases, favor buyers.

              Both Hamilton and Burlington have seen explosive growth over the past decade, with 147% growth for Hamilton and 31% for Burlington and demand continues to rise. Sources indicate “Surging demand in these cities is likely driven in part by their comparable affordability; despite home prices more than doubling over the past decade in each, the average hit $526,762 in Hamilton and $738,905 in Burlington in June – considerably lower than the average of $915,481 in the neighbouring City of Toronto.”

              Although significantly lower house prices than Toronto are certainly attractive and may indeed be a large contributor driving-up interest in both cities, buyers are now more likely to face steeper competition, “as new data reveals Hamilton and Burlington remain steeped in scorching sellers’ markets.”

              Burlington’s Hottest Neighbourhoods – Infographic

              Most Popular Hamilton Markets Located On Mountain – Infographic

              Curious what your house is worth or thinking about selling? Call or email me today for a free consultation and home evaluation!
              905-330-5201 or mariongoard@kw.com

              Original source: https://www.zoocasa.com/blog/buyers-sellers-markets-hamilton-burlington-june-2019/


              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!


              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

              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.


              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.


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

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

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

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

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

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


              Understanding housing options for seniors

              By: Marion Goard, Sales Representative, Master Accredited Senior Agent, Senior Real Estate Specialist

              This article was originally published in Silver Links News' spring issue.

              Understanding later-in-life housing options or discovering what is best for yourself or an aging relative can be a daunting task. Often, seniors find that just thinking about a move is overwhelming so they simply avoid the matter completely. As a Master Accredited Senior Agent and Senior Real Estate Specialist, my goal is to help seniors and their families become familiar with all their housing options and to encourage that important conversations take place sooner rather than later to help circumvent crisis situations. In this article, I demonstrate the difference between reverse mortgages and a unique program called Sell ’n STAYTM. 

              We know that living costs are continuing to increase and we also know that many seniors fear they’ll outlive their money. As a result, Reverse Mortgages are currently capturing seniors’ interest. A reverse mortgage is a way for homeowners to access up to 55% of the current value of their home as a tax-free cash loan. The amount of the loan is based on the age of the homeowner(s) (who must be 55 or older), the appraised value of the property, it’s sale-ability and the amount of equity the owner has in the property. In general, the older you are and the more home equity you have when you apply for a reverse mortgage, the bigger your loan will be.  Funds from a reverse mortgage can be made available to you in a lump sum, in planned advances, or a combination of the two. Money from the loan can be used for anything you choose. Although with some exceptions, you have the option to repay the principal and interest in full at any time; with a reverse mortgage regular mortgage payments are not required. Instead, interest will be added to the original loan amount, which over time, increases the loan amount. When you or your estate sells your house or if you move out the loan will need to be paid out. 

              A reverse mortgage may be an appealing option, however, it’s important to note that the interest rate charged for this type of mortgage is notably higher than for other types of mortgages; the equity you hold in your home may go down as the interest on your loan adds up over the years; there are prepayment penalties if you sell your house or move out within 3 years of getting a reverse mortgage; your estate will need to repay the loan and interest in full within a set period of time when you die; given the probate process, the time to settle an estate can be longer than the time allowed to repay a reverse mortgage and, the costs associated with a reverse mortgage are usually higher than for other mortgages.  The senior continues to own the home and remains responsible for property maintenance and repairs, utilities, insurance, municipal taxes as well as condo fees if the property is a condominium.

              Sell ’n STAYTM is an option where seniors sell their home to a qualified investor buyer at its fair market value or the price negotiated between the seller and the buyer. Together with the sale, the senior enters into a lease agreement with the new owner. The terms of the lease vary with each transaction. As a tenant, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) protects the senior. Among other things, the RTA outlines tenant rights, clearly states landlord responsibilities and protects the senior against unlawful eviction and rent increases. An added benefit is that home maintenance, repairs and taxes etc. are now the responsibility of the new landlord allowing the senior to remain in a home they love and are familiar with, without the costs associated with home ownership.  It’s also a way of leveraging the property’s equity without having to move and/or search out alternative housing or face a market with low vacancy rates for rental properties.

              Sell ’n STAYTM provides the senior with 100% of the equity established in the home (minus closing costs). Other than making rent and utility payments, the senior is no longer responsible for house related expenses. In contrast to a reverse mortgage where interest is accumulating, by opting to Sell ’n STAYTM seniors can invest the funds realized from the sale to earn interest income. Depending on how the funds are invested, the interest earned can go a long way to covering the rent payments. The funds from the sale of the property could be used for other ‘bucket list’ items and/or to be able to afford homecare or other services an older adult may find necessary or beneficial as time passes. Lastly, the senior’s estate is not affected in the same way it would be with a reverse mortgage. In a nutshell, you do not pack, you do not move, you do not change your address -  you simply change the ownership status.

              In Canada, reverse mortgages are available from HomEquity Bank as the Canadian Home Income Plan (CHIP) and can be accessed from HomEquity Bank directly or through mortgage brokers.  Equitable Bank offers reverse mortgages as well, as the PATH Home Plan, also available through mortgage brokers in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. As noted above, age is a primary qualifying factor.

              Sell ‘n Stay Inc. is a Mississauga based company that is federally incorporated and has been vetted by lawyers, financial advisors and mortgage brokers.  The company trains and certifies real estate sales representatives across the country to offer this unique program. As Sell ‘n STAYTM is not age dependent, it is not limited to seniors and can be valuable in various other scenarios.

              Should you choose to pursue either of these options, please be sure to consult with your own professional advisors, primarily your financial planner and lawyer.  For more information on Sell ’n STAYTM or other housing options for seniors you can trust that I will competently help you consider all your options so the best possible decision and plans can be made.


              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. 


              Spring is a great time to sell your home

              When spring has sprung, so has the housing market! Spring is typically considered a hot period to sell your home, as it’s the beginning of the busiest season in most areas. 

              One reason is that people like the warmer weather. Homes look better and days are longer. Families also usually prefer to purchase a home this time of year to be settled before the next school year begins. Homes do not have as much curb appeal during the harsh winter months. Blooming flowers and fresh gardens make the house beautiful and inviting and first glance. 

              Another major benefit to selling in the spring is that prices are usually highest during this prime season, when the most homes are listed. So you’ll be able to get the best price, in the shortest amount of time. 

              During the spring market you’ll reach a wide variety of potential buyers, and they will be eager buyers. With more buyers in the market, your listing will reach a greater number of people and you’ll have more exposure. This may mean you will get better offers. It also helps you to be more selective with offers and you’ll be less likely to have to settle so you can stay firm on your price. Spring is a seller’s market, giving you the upper hand. 

              Finally, selling a home can be stressful, so getting it done early in the spring allows time for you to enjoy your summer! So if you’re selling, spring is the optimal time. 


              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


              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. 


              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!


              Why Real Estate Investing Makes Dollars and Sense

              There are a lot of “gurus” out there who promise to teach you how to “get rich quick” through real estate investing. While much of what they’re selling are high-risk schemes, there is a way to make predictable, low-risk income through real estate investing. In this report, we’ll examine the tried-and-true tactics that can be used to increase your income, pay off debt ... even fund your retirement!

              Why Invest In Real Estate?
              One of the basic principles of real estate investment lies in this fact: everyone needs a place to live. But there are other reasons why real estate is a great investment choice:

              1. Appreciation
              Appreciation is the increase in your property’s value over time. History has proven that over an extended period of time, the value of real estate continues to rise. That doesn’t mean recessions won’t occur. The real estate market is cyclical, and market ups and downs are natural. However, in the vast majority of markets, the value of real estate does grow over the long term.

              2. Hedge Against Inflation
              Inflation is the rate at which the general cost of goods and services rises. As inflation rises, prices go up. So the money you have in your bank account is essentially worth less because your purchasing power has decreased. Luckily, real estate prices also rise when inflation increases. That means any money you have invested in real estate will rise with (or often exceed) the rate of inflation.

              3. Cash Flow
              One of the big benefits of investing in real estate over the stock market is its ability to provide a monthly cash flow. If you choose to rent out your investment property to a tenant, you can expect to receive a rent payment each month. If you’ve invested wisely, the rent should cover your debt (i.e. mortgage payment), as well as any repairs and maintenance that are needed. Ideally, you will have some additional cash left over each month to supplement your income.

              4. Leverage
              Leverage is the use of borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment. That means you can put a small amount down, take out a mortgage to finance the remainder of your investment, and profit on the entire combined value. That’s the power of leverage!

              5. Tax Advantages
              One of the top reasons to invest in real estate is the tax benefit. There are many ways a real estate investment can save you money each year on taxes. Be sure to consult a tax professional, but if structured correctly, the profits you earn on your real estate investments can be largely shielded from liability. Just another reason to choose real estate as your preferred investment vehicle.


              Types of Real Estate Investments
              While there are numerous ways to invest in real estate, here are the top three methods we’ve helped our clients use to start making money as investors:

              1. Remodel and Resell
              Commonly referred to as a “Fix and Flip,” investors purchase a property with the intention of remodeling it in a short period of time, with the hope of selling it quickly for a profit. Investors need to understand the risks involved and be prepared financially to cover additional expenses that may arise.

              2. Traditional Rental
              One of the more conservative choices for investing in real estate is to purchase a rental property. The appeal of a rental property is that you can generate cash flow to cover the expenses, while taking advantage of the property’s long-term appreciation in value, and the tax benefits of investing in real estate. It’s a win-win, and a great way for first-time investors to get started.

              3. Short-term Rental
              Platforms that facilitate short-term rentals, like Airbnb and HomeAway, are booming. Their popularity has spurred a growing trend toward dual-purpose vacation homes, which owners use themselves part of the year, and rent out the remainder of the time. There are also a growing number of investors purchasing single-family homes for the sole purpose of leasing them on these sites

              Get Started
              However you choose to invest in real estate, make sure you’re working with a real estate agent who has knowledge of the investment market and can guide you through the process. While no investment is without risk, a conservative and well- planned investment in real estate can supplement your income and set you up for future financial security.

              If you are considering an investment in real estate, please contact me to set up a free consultation. I have experience working with investors and can help you determine the best strategy to meet your investment goals. 


              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!


              Getting pre-approved is more important than ever

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

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

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

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

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


              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.


              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


              Real Estate 2017: What to Expect

              One of the most common questions we get at this time of year is, “What’s going on in the market?” It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners always want reassurance their home’s value is going up. While the state of the real estate market depends on where you live, one thing is for sure: Overall, the real estate market is healthy in most areas.

              We often use national real estate numbers to give us a clearer view of our local market. However, real estate is local, and while statistics and predictions help us understand the overall real estate market, our local market may be different. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, or just want to know how much your home is worth, give me a call!

               

              What to Expect in the Real Estate Market in 2017

              Experts are “cautiously optimistic” about the Canadian housing market in 2017. The overall outlook for the Canadian economy is good, despite falling oil prices. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), job losses within the natural resources sector were offset by gains in manufacturing and construction in 2016. However, this has created dramatic differences in housing markets across Canada, with hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver continuing to see high demand and tight inventory and areas impacted by falling oil prices experiencing little growth. Nationally, housing starts are expected to fall below the 20-year average due to factors including housing affordability, limited income growth and increasing consumer debt.

              The national market will moderate, but regional markets will vary.

              According to RBC Economics, there’s minimal chance of a widespread and steep downturn occurring in the next year. Markets including the Greater Toronto Area, Vancouver, and Montréal will remain strong in 2017 due to strong local economies, immigration and low interest rates. Additionally, prices in these markets will continue to increase. These cities are responding to the hot market in different ways. Vancouver issued a 15 percent tax on home purchases by foreign buyers in hopes of tempering the market. In Toronto, since many homeowners are choosing to remain in their homes and renovate, inventory will remain tight. Montréal is focusing on turning condominiums into mixed-used development, which is appealing to buyers of all ages, particularly millennials. 

              Other parts of Canada are recovering from the fall in oil prices. While Ottawa’s economy is growing modestly, the residential market is stagnant due to reduced demand for single-family homes. In Edmonton, the real estate market has softened due to low oil prices. However, sales there are faring better than in other markets in Alberta. Although Calgary experienced a recession due to the drop in oil prices, the economy is expected to grow in 2017. Many homeowners in Calgary are waiting to sell until the economy improves. Additionally, demand for smaller residential properties and townhouses have increased as millennials tend to prefer the advantages of small-space living.

              Nationally, housing remains affordable.

              RBC Economics measures housing affordability at 42.8 percent, meaning there’s greater-than-average market stress for buyers. RBC deems anything above 45 percent to be in the “danger zone” of affordability. However, national housing affordability takes into account the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets. In most markets across Canada, homes remain affordable and on par with historical norms.

               

              Demand will continue to increase as immigration significantly increases over the next five years.

              Housing demand is high in Toronto and surrounding communities as well as in Vancouver, especially for condos, due to increased demand of foreign buyers and urban migration. According to PwC, in these markets, where demand for single-family homes is high, there’s an opportunity for condo and rental markets to absorb those who are now priced out of buying. Developers in Vancouver are beginning to turn their attention to mixed-use developments and high-density condos to meet growing housing demand.

               

              How will the property transfer tax impact foreign buyers in British Columbia?

              In 2016, the government of B.C. enacted a property transfer tax for foreign buyers purchasing property in the province. The tax is intended to help temper the market and prevent it from overheating. However, the experts at PwC say the tax may not impact foreign buyers, who are able to afford the area’s rising prices, regardless of new taxes imposed.

               

              What’s the impact of new mortgage rules?

              At the end of 2016, the Canadian government announced tighter rules on mortgage insurance. The new measure included an increase in the interest rate used to qualify borrowers with a down payment of less than 20 percent who selected a fixed rate mortgage with a term of five years or longer, which impacts a large share of the Canadian mortgage market. According to Mortgage Professionals Canada, 75 percent of new mortgages were fixed-rate with a five-year term. Qualifying standards for fixed-rate mortgages with terms of five years or more and portfolio-insured mortgages will be subject to the same “stress tests” as those for fixed-rate mortgages with terms less than five years and variable-rate mortgages. 

              While it's still too soon to tell how the new rules will truly impact the housing market, it’s expected they may impact home resales and prices in 2017. While the rules are unlikely to cause a crash, there is a chance they may dampen any growth in the market and have the potential to cause declines in home sales in some communities across Canada.

               

              What does it all mean to you? If you’d like to know more about our local market and how it compares to national predictions and trends, give me a call! I’d love to discuss our local market with you.

              3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Buy This Year

              1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you’re like most buyers who plan to finance part of the home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is essential to submitting an offer on a home. The added bonus: you can see how much home you can afford and budget accordingly.  
              2. Start looking. While most buyers start their searches online, be sure to look at homes in neighbourhoods you’d like to live in as well. Keep a notebook to write down what you like and dislike about each home you view in person or online. This will help you narrow down where to look and what to look for in your next home.
              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. Give me a call to make an appointment today!

                

              3 Things to Do Now if You Plan to Sell This Year

              1. Make repairs. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs. While the repairs may or may not add value, making them will give your home a competitive advantage over other similar homes on the market.  As most homeowners do have financial constraints, be sure to check with your Real Estate Sales Representative to discuss which repairs will bring the greatest return on your investment.
              2. Get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it’ll also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help price your home to sell. Call me for your free CMA!
              3. Start packing. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up items you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or a storage space. This will make your home easier to stage as well as make it easier to move later on.

               

              Are you thinking of buying or selling?

              Whether you’d like to buy or sell a home this year, want to know how much your home is worth, or have general questions about our local market, give me a call! I’d love to discuss the market with you.


              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.


              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.


              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.


              Buying a home? Here's a step-by-step guide!

              The prospect of making the biggest purchase of your life can be daunting, especially as a first-time buyer. Even for the world's greatest free spirits, it just isn't something you can decide to do on a Monday and have completed by Friday. Buying a home takes planning and involves some necessary steps to help you avoid disappointment, unnecessary costs and getting in over your head.

              Step #1: If you haven't already done so, sit down and figure out your budget. Do this before getting pre-approved. Remember, just because the bank says you can afford a $500,000 home doesn't mean you have to buy a $500,000 home. Don't just consider your mortgage payment. As a homeowner, you have to think about property taxes, utilities, maintenance, furnishings and unexpected expenses.

              Step #2: Get pre-approved. Once you have a good grasp of how much you can afford, visit a few lenders and determine which one you want to work with. And always keep in mind that a pre-approval is NOT a guarantee of financing.

              Step #3: Find a Realtor. Ask friends or family members to recommend someone who is familiar with the area where you will be buying a home. Meet with two or three agents and choose someone who you feel comfortable working with. Make sure your Realtor is aware of your budget and the key features you are looking for in a home.

              Step #4: Start your search! Your Realtor will get the ball rolling by sending you listings of homes for sale in your desired neighbourhoods. If you're not sure what to look for when house hunting, don't stress. Your Realtor will be examining the 'big ticket' items (heating and air conditioning, electrical, windows etc.) and you will quickly get a feel for the style of home you want to live in and features you like and dislike.

              Step #5: Make an offer! Once you have found the perfect home, you will make an Agreement of Purchase and Sale. There are many items covered in the agreement, details like the price you are offering to pay, your deposit amount, what you would like included with the home (typically anything affixed, such as window coverings and light fixtures), your desired closing date and any conditions to the purchase.

              Step #6: You just bought a house, so there's only one thing left to do - get packing!

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                Marion, is now like family to me. She understands me and is patient and thorough with explanation of the details.

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