Advice tips and ideas for home owners

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

 Sunday, January 3, 2021     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

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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     House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling Just Listed

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

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

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

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

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

Offers accepted anytime!

Don't miss out. Make this one yours!

Contact Marion to arrange your private showing.

List price:   $689,900

# Rooms (above grade): 5

Bedrooms:  3

Bathrooms: 3

Size: 1342 sq. ft. (above grade)

Garage:  Double  /  Double Private Drive

Basement: Partial / Large Crawl Space for Storage

Taxes: $2700

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

        

  


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

 Monday, November 23, 2020     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home

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

Life Insurance and Retirement

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

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


Bank and Credit Accounts

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


Marriage and Divorce

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

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


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


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

 Thursday, November 12, 2020     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home

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

House, land and cemetery deeds

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

Mortgage documents

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

Vehicle Titles

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

Corporate/Partnership Agreements

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

Stocks, bonds, brokerage account info

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

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

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

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

30 Documents You Need Before You Die


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

 Sunday, November 8, 2020     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

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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.

Testimonials

  Marion kept me informed about all the activity regarding the possible sale. She was always willing to help in making phone calls etc.

Henry Mimee, Burlington, ON

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