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

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

 Tuesday, February 11, 2020     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

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

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

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

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

       $250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

-      $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)

__________________________

       $50,000 (Home Equity)

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

HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH? 

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

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

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

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

     1) Pay down your mortgage.

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

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

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

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

     2) Raise your home’s market value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'M HERE TO HELP YOU 

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

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


5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home

 Tuesday, August 27, 2019     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home Buying and Selling

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

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

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

5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

  1. Determine Your Goals and Limitations

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

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

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

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

  1. Find the Perfect New Home

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

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

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

  1. Sell Your Current Home

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

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

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

  1. Sort and Pack Your Belongings

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

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

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

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

  1. Get Help When You Need It

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

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

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?

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

 


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

 Monday, May 14, 2018     Marion Goard     Financial Health Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

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

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

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

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

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


Getting pre-approved is more important than ever

 Monday, November 20, 2017     Marion Goard     Financial Health Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

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

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

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

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

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


Is condo living right for you?

 Monday, September 25, 2017     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Snow removal, roof repair and insurance.

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

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