Advice tips and ideas for home owners
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Financial Health House and Home
It’s not a topic people want to really think about, but it’s an inevitability we all will face. Setting up your death dossier - a file of documents your heirs will need following your death - can prevent frustration and financial pain.
This post is the first in a series that will help you prepare and organize the documents you should have in your death dossier. We will cover the essential documents, proof of ownership, health care documents, insurance and retirement forms, accounts and other important documents.
This file should hold all the documents and information your heirs will need to access immediately after your death. Consider adding the following to this file:
- Passwords for all your online accounts
- A copy of last year’s tax return
- Contact information for the funeral home if you pre-arranged any details
- Funeral Plan documents such as your wishes for your remains, floral preferences, preferred charities for donations, people you’d like to be notified of your death and any other details that are important to you (such as wardrobe, speakers, music and prayers)
- Contact information for your lawyer
Perhaps the most important documents in this folder will be updated wills and codicils, trust documents and Powers of Attorney.
The Will and codicil
A will is more than just an inheritance document. It’s the outline for what should happen when someone dies. Wills can cover everything from how money and property should be distributed, to who should take care of minor children in the event of a fatal accident. A living will is a valuable document that shares the plan for what you – or your parents – would like should they become incapable of making critical decisions regarding medical care and interventions. Codicils are legal documents that outline a minor change, or addendum to your last will and testament. Consider having your will notarized as this acts as verification of its validity.
A trust is another method of estate transfer, a way for you to determine how the family property will be disbursed or held for your beneficiaries. A trust agreement is a document that spells out the rules that you want followed for property held in trust and it gives an outside party (the trustee) the authority to handle your estate. Common objectives for trusts are to reduce the estate tax liability, to protect property in your estate, and to avoid probate.
The Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is the document you need to have in place in order to instruct your beneficiaries about how to take care of your wishes should you be unable to do so. It’s also good to plan ahead for your own needs later in life.
You will have to meet with a lawyer who will determine if you - the person granting the power of attorney - is mentally capable of doing so. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s prudent to visit a lawyer before any signs of illness, memory or cognitive issues.
You will want a power of attorney for personal care and for property, each of which is laid out in its own document.
Getting these basic documents ready is the first step in building your death dossier. In the next post, we will outline the documents pertinent to health care.
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.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
House and Home Buying and Selling
For years now, virtual home tours have helped real estate buyers far and wide find the perfect home. From long-distance buyers, to investors expanding their portfolio, to homeowners looking for a vacation getaway, this technology makes finding a house that’s a bit out of driving distance much easier. And for real estate agents, virtual tours have been a useful way to help buyers with their home search and to assist sellers in creatively marketing their listings.
Because of the pandemic, virtual home showing options recently experienced a huge spike in popularity. One survey found that nearly 33% of recent home tour requests were for virtual tours, as compared to just 2% pre-pandemic. It's easy to see why.
Buyers want to quickly find their next safe haven, one that may need to serve as their office, gym, and even classroom for months to come. And sellers want to limit the number of strangers in their home, yet still have the ability to reach enough potential buyers to get the best offer on their property.
Virtual home tours are the popular thing right now, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re the only option for your home-buying or selling experience. In this post, I’ll reveal five important secrets behind the virtual real estate scene. Read on to learn how they impact today’s home buyers and sellers.
SECRET #1: Virtual Tours Have Evolved
Lots of real estate professionals who had never used virtual tours before were forced to quickly adapt when the pandemic struck. Because of restrictions on time and resources, not everyone is able to create what would have been deemed a “virtual tour” last year. So instead, we’ve expanded the definition of the phrase by creating innovative new ways to show homes while keeping our clients safe and socially-distanced. Here are some terms you might come across as you explore homes with virtual tours.
Traditional virtual tours use 360° Photos, which are images that allow you to see all angles of a space. These are what allow virtual tour viewers to look up, down, and all around the interior and exterior shots of a home. Using a software program, 360° photos can be stitched together to create a digital model that looks like a dollhouse. This is called a 3D Tour. Sometimes agents will also add Virtual Staging, which decorates rooms with digital furniture and accents like wallpaper or paint.
Traditional virtual tours allow you to click to move from room to room in the home, but Online Walk-throughs feature the actual action of walking around. Either the photographer or the agent (depending on factors such as time and safety requirements) will create a video by holding their camera or smartphone and simply moving through the home.
Online Walk-throughs can be filmed in advance or happen live. If they are live, they can also be referred to as Virtual Showings or Online Open Houses. A Virtual Showing is often a scheduled, one-on-one event that mimics an in-person tour of the home, in which the agent and viewer start at the exterior and move their way through the property. If your agent offers to FaceTime or Skype you from a home you’re interested in, for example, that would be a type of Virtual Showing. In contrast, an Online Open House is more free-form, allowing more viewers to pop in and out of a group video call on apps such as Facebook or Zoom.
SECRET #2: Virtual Doesn’t Mean Impersonal
All these styles of virtual tours showcase the property’s details better than static photos ever could. But for a purchase as intimate as your next home, details like a new refrigerator or the size of the master closet aren’t the only deciding factors. Luckily, virtual tours are exceptional tools for personal connection.
As a prospective buyer, virtual tours give you a feel for the property, inside and out, so you can easily picture yourself in the space and decide if the home’s flow and features work for your lifestyle. Live video walk-throughs with the real estate agent will give you insights on those crucial non-visual aspects, like creaky floors, super-fast internet speed, and neighbourhood dynamics. Plus, you’ll be able to ask questions and get an insider’s perspective on what’s so great about the home.
For sellers, if your agent recommends using a virtual tour to market your home, you could attract more buyers. You can also be sure that those interested buyers are still getting the up- close and personal look inside your home that will inspire their strongest offers.
SECRET #3: Virtual Is Just The First Step To Safe Home Sales
Despite the variety of virtual tours available, some buyers will still need to visit a home themselves in order to feel confident enough to submit an offer. In this situation, listing agents and sellers will work together to come up with a procedure that ensures everyone feels safe and comfortable. Some recommendations include requiring interested buyers to present a pre-qualification letter, conducting tours only by appointment and with essential parties, and asking buyers to self-disclose whether they have COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms.
The day of the in-person tour, agents might ask buyers to remain in their vehicle until they arrive at the property, and to wear protective gear such as face coverings and gloves. Many will provide hand sanitizer and will ask buyers to refrain from touching any surfaces in the home. Instead, the agent (or seller, prior to the buyers’ arrival) will turn on lights, open doors, and pull back curtains. Then, after everyone has left, the agent will return the home to its original state and disinfect it as needed.
SECRET #4: The Speed of Closing Depends on Your Goals
Though maybe not literally, virtual tours are opening doors for both buyers and sellers in terms of options available to them. In 2019, buyers viewed an average of 10 homes over a period of 10 weeks before submitting an offer but thanks to an increased prevalence of virtual tours saving them driving time, they’re able to peek inside that number of homes in a much shorter period to make their final choice.
With all this viewing activity, it makes sense that sellers whose listings feature virtual tours are receiving more offers on their properties. According to one study, virtual tours can add betweentwo and three percent to the sales price of a home, in part because increased buyer interest has made sellers feel confident waiting for the exact right offer.
Remember thought that if you’re a buyer luxuriating in viewing homes from your couch you’re not alone in your search. Your competition is virtually viewing the same properties you are, so it’s still important to work with your real estate agent to quickly submit a strong offer when you find the home of your dreams. And for sellers, if a speedy sale is important to you, carefully weigh that against the temptation to entertain more and more offers, which can keep your home on the market up to six percent longer. Your agent can help you decide the right strategy for your priorities.
SECRET #5: Virtual May Not Always Be the Right Choice
Creating, editing, uploading, and marketing virtual tours for a listing can be pricey. Packages through popular 3D imaging platforms like Matterport and Immoviewers can cost hundreds of dollars on their own. Virtual staging will further bloat a listing’s marketing budget, and then there’s the advertising dollars needed. Even seemingly inexpensive options like video call walk-throughs still require time and energy on behalf of both the seller and agent.
These costs mean that a full virtual tour package might not always be the right choice for sellers. When you talk to your agent about marketing your home, it may be that an elaborate virtual tour, showing, and open house just don’t make sense. It could be that your potential buyers may not resonate with that type of marketing, that the investment-to-return ratio isn’t in your favor, or that there are more effective ways to get your listing seen by qualified buyers.
Buyers, you may notice that some listings within your search parameters don’t offer virtual tours. That’s because those for-sale homes might not have needed a full virtual marketing package to entice buyers to submit offers, or those homes are better marketed through more traditional tactics. Don’t close the door on your dream home because it doesn’t have virtual events and features. Stay open-minded so you can consider the wealth of home options that fit your lifestyle, needs, and budget.
ARE VIRTUAL HOME TOURS IN YOUR FUTURE?
As technology develops, it will become easier and less expensive to create virtual tours. Coupled with the high demand for them, this means that virtual tour options are likely not only here to stay, but will continue to grow into a common addition to listings.
If buying or selling a home is on your mind, I’d be happy to discuss how virtual tours can play a part in your real estate experience. Reach out to me today for help finding local homes for sale that have virtual tours, or to chat about if adding a virtual tour to your upcoming listing is the right fit.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
House and Home Buying and Selling
If you’ve lived in the same home for a long time, you have very likely accumulated a lot of “stuff”. Like most people, over the course of a lifetime we collect a myriad of items: furniture, trinkets, books, china, silverware and other treasures. When you are preparing to move, especially if you are downsizing, you will be faced with the question of what to do with everything. This is a difficult choice, and one that most of my senior clients face when they are ready to make a lifestyle change and move from the home in which they raised their family to a smaller home, condo or retirement residence.
THE HISTORY OF YOUR THINGS
We form emotional attachments to the things with which we surround ourselves. For most people, the items in our homes have deep and meaningful memories attached to them. Glance at anything in your home and you can remember where you acquired it, or when, or who gave it to you. This is particularly true for figurines. If you have a large collection and you know your new home will not have the space for all of them, how do you choose which ones to let go?
The same holds true for everything you love. It’s impossible to give up the wooden spoon with the scorch marks slashed across its bowl that houses the memory of your youngest child learning how to cook. The Royal Doulton or Portmeirion tea cups with matching saucers reminds you of afternoons sipping tea with your sister. The heavy wooden coffee table may be the first piece of furniture you and your spouse purchased as a couple. These items hold joy for us, packaged neatly in our family history and our memory. It’s not an easy feat to let things go and it can be painful to release these items and to imagine them living in someone else’s home or worse, the dump.
HOW TO CHOOSE
The first step to sorting out what will move with you is to decide what you absolutely cannot live without and which items hold less of an attachment. If you know the dimensions of your new home, spend some time figuring out which items you wish to keep, but will not fit. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to approach your family and ask them what, if any, items they’d be interested in taking. Ideally, you can keep the heirlooms in the family, but you need to be prepared to hear that the items you hold dear have no value to anyone else. Young people are generally not very interested in anything from “grandma’s house”. Acknowledge that your items hold meaning for you, but someone else will not share that sentiment.
HOW TO DISTRIBUTE
Aside from handing off your things to family members, there are various ways to distribute the stuff you have to leave behind. Before giving away anything, you should assess what items have actual value. Auctioneers, appraisers and other experts can assess your items and tell what has financial value and is desirable on the market. They can also help you re-home those items and will sell them on your behalf for a commission.
Any items that are not sellable can be donated to various organizations. There may be some limits or restrictions on what an organization can take, so it's best to check beforehand. Which organization will take what may also be location-dependant. For example, Goodwill in one area may take furniture, while another will not. Some charities will gladly schedule a pick-up, while with others you may have to find a way to get your items to them. Give some thought to smaller organizations such as church groups or service clubs (like Optimist or Kiwanis) that might be able to pick up your items and re-home them.
WHERE TO GET HELP
As a Master Accredited Senior Agent, I can walk you through the process of downsizing and offer some guidance on how to determine what you’d like to keep. I have a growing list of experts who can assist you with the valuation and distribution of your goods, as well as packing up your home and unpacking at your new home. The most important thing is to recognize that you had your enjoyment from the items you are letting go and it’s okay to free them to have a new life. It is possible to detach yourself from the items while still holding on to the memories and joy they brought you. If you need further assistance with downsizing, please reach out to me. I can help you manage this process and connect you with the right people who will make this transition a little easier.
As we shift from a trash economy to a repurpose economy, the list of organizations who will distribute your unwanted items continues to grow. Here is a list of resources.
Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga
Habitat for Humanity will take everything from household items to tools to clothes. Items are sold in their ReStore which funds the administrative side of Habitat's organization. All donations to Habitat directly fund the building of affordable homes. They will pick up items, salvage ones that might otherwise go to the dump and have recently launched a Revive program.
Downsizing and Moving
Downsizing and Moving is a 3rd Generation Family owned and operated company who will sort and organize everything in your home and ensure they are either set aside and placed in designated areas for moving, selling, recycling or disposing. They deal with a vast majority of people and organizations that accept all kinds of goods. Their goal is to divert anything away from the landfill.
Sell This For Me
Serving Toronto, Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, and Waterloo, Sell This For Me will auction your goods in an estate sale. They can come to your house, take photos of the items for sale and list them online or house them at another location to sell.
MaxSold sells items by online auction. This is another easy solution as they will come to your house, take photos of the items for sale and list them online. There is an Ontario Horseshoe branch serving the Horseshoe region.
Aldershot Lions Club Garage Sale
Located in Burlington, the Lions Club will send someone to your home to determine what they'll accept and will pick up and deliver to the store to sell to others.
Accepts all manner of goods: household items, furniture, kitchen wares, books. Almost anything you want to give away, Goodwill is happy to take. They do not offer pickup service, so you will have to drop off donations on your own.
You can also check with your local library branch to determine if they are willing to take donations of books.
Millionaire's Daughter (Hamilton and Oakville)
Kerr Home Decor
Bogart Home & Decor Consignment
Organize Me Please
Move Seniors Lovingly
The Company of Organizers
Too Good to Dump
The link will take you to the Oakville and surrounding areas page, but there are various cities, towns and villages with their own Too Good to Dump Facebook pages.
As always, I'm happy to help in any way I can. Please don't hesitate to call or text me at 905-330-5201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling
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
Interest Savings Over 5 Years
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?
- 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.
- 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.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
House and Home Real Estate Market Just Listed
Contact Marion today to arrange your private showing!
List Price: $629,900
Bedrooms: 2 + Den/Sunroom
Square Feet: 1400 +/-
Garage: Underground, 1 parking spots
Taxes: $4,290 (2020)
Condo Fees: $914.14