Information about local real estate market conditions

20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget

 Thursday, May 7, 2020     Marion Goard     Financial Health House and Home Real Estate Market

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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     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.


              2020 Outlook: Real Estate Market Forecast

               Tuesday, January 7, 2020     Marion Goard     House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling

              Featured Photo

              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     House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling Just Listed

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              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     House and Home Real Estate Market Buying and Selling Just Listed

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              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)