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6 Strategies to Save on Home Insurance Premiums (April 2024)

From extreme cold to wildfires and floods, the past few years have brought a historic number of devastating climate and weather events to Canada. In 2023 alone, unusually harsh weather and a string of natural disasters caused more than $3.1 billion in insured damages, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, making it the fourth most expensive weather year on record.1 

These events delivered a huge influx of home insurance claims, and analysts expect the increase in both catastrophes and claims to continue. Adding to the problem, construction labour and supply costs have risen, making it more expensive to repair affected homes. Consequently, homeowners' insurance rates have surged: In 2024, My Choice Financial reports that premiums are already up 7.66% since last year and are likely to climb further still.2,3   

In disaster-prone regions, the situation is even more challenging. According to Public Safety Canada, flooding is especially common now, accounting for roughly $2.9 billion a year in residential damages. Yet, a rising number of Canadian homes are located in areas so flood-prone that owners can't get affordable protection.4,2

For most homeowners, comprehensive home insurance coverage is crucial for financial security—but massive rate increases can turn a once-affordable home into a financial burden. They can also pose a serious challenge for sellers. Although homebuyers who are willing to risk inadequate coverage may be able to skip optional add-ons, such as flood protection, a standard home insurance policy is still required for most mortgages. In some hard-hit regions, we’re also seeing homes sit longer on the market or decline in value because climate risks are higher.5,6

But don’t panic! While these broader trends may be out of your control, there’s still plenty you can do to save. Here are our top six strategies to slash insurance premiums while maintaining the protection you need. 

SHOP AROUND

Getting multiple quotes is a smart move for many major purchases, including home insurance. We recommend reviewing at least three estimates before you commit to a policy. You can get quotes either by reaching out to insurers directly or by working with an independent insurance broker.5 You’ll need to provide detailed information about the property you’re insuring and your claims history.

Make sure you read policies carefully before you choose. Sometimes, a policy can look like a better deal at first glance but turn out to have important coverage gaps. Be sure to consider how much the policy will pay out to repair or replace your home and review caps on personal possession and liability claims. It’s also smart to read reviews from policyholders (Trustpilot is a good place to start) and ratings published by organizations like the Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power. 

For help choosing the right policy, reach out to us for a list of trusted insurance professionals.

INCREASE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE

The size of your deductible—which is the amount you pay before your insurance coverage kicks in on a claim—is a major factor in your insurance cost.

A low deductible, such as $500, comes with higher premiums, while a higher deductible, like $2,500 or even $5,000, costs less on a monthly basis. In some cases, you may be able to customize your insurance further by designating a different deductible for add-on coverage.

If you are confident that you have enough in savings to cover that initial outlay if needed, choosing a higher deductible can help you save significantly over the long term. According to Ratehub, raising your deductible from $500 to $5,000, for example, could save you an estimated 15% each year.7

BUNDLE MULTIPLE TYPES OF INSURANCE

Insurers want to get as much of your business as possible, so most offer significant discounts if you bundle your home and auto insurance, meaning that you package the two policies together. With some insurers, you can get even higher savings by bundling more than home and auto—RV, boat, jewelry, and life insurance are potential options to consider. 

According to Ratehub, insurers typically offer customers who bundle home and auto insurance up to 25% or more in savings on monthly premiums. This approach also has other advantages: It cuts down on your paperwork, and in some cases—like if a storm damages both your home and car—you may be able to pay just one deductible instead of two when you file a claim.8 

However, before you sign on the dotted line, remember strategy #1 and be sure to shop around. In some cases, bundling isn’t the cheaper option, and bundling deals vary between companies. It’s also critical to carefully check that the bundled coverage offers everything you need.

ASK ABOUT AVAILABLE DISCOUNTS

Did you know that being a non-smoker might qualify you for a home insurance discount?9 Some insurers offer some surprising incentives for policyholders who pose a statistically lower risk of filing a claim. In the case of non-smokers, that’s because of the decreased risk of a home fire.

Some carriers also offer discounts to first-time homebuyers, “mature” homeowners, or affiliated group members, such as college alumni or union workers. Sometimes, you can also save by upgrading your home's protective systems, paying off your mortgage, or paying your premiums for a full year upfront.9 

Since available discounts vary significantly between insurers, the best strategy is to simply ask a representative for the full list of available discounts so you can see what cost savings might be available to you. 


AVOID MAKING SMALL CLAIMS

Worried that your premiums will rise significantly in the future? Try to avoid making a claim unless truly necessary. Many insurers offer discounted rates to policyholders who go a certain number of years without filing a claim, and filing multiple claims often results in big increases. If you file too many, you may even risk nonrenewal of your policy.10,11

Since the cost of even a small premium increase can add up significantly over time, if you have minor damage to your home—for example, if a few shingles blew off your roof in a windstorm—it may be a wiser long-term financial decision to pay out of pocket instead of filing a claim. 

If the cost of the repair is less than your deductible, it never makes sense to file, and if it’s just slightly above your deductible, it’s also usually best to pay for the repairs yourself. Additionally, always be sure to review your policy before you make a claim. Even claims that are denied can count against you, so it’s not worth filing if the damage is clearly excluded from coverage.11 

If you find yourself in this situation, feel free to reach out for a list of reasonably-priced professionals who can help with home repairs.

BE STRATEGIC ABOUT HOME IMPROVEMENTS

Insurance premiums alone may not be the deciding factor for a home improvement project, but it’s important to know how renovations could impact your rates—for better or worse.

For example, some upgrades and repairs can reduce your premiums by making your home safer or less prone to certain types of damage. These include:10

Upgrading your electrical system
Updating your plumbing
Installing a monitored security system
Investing in a sewer backup valve and sump pump
Replacing the roof

On the other hand, some upgrades can raise premiums significantly, either because they increase the value of your home (and therefore the cost to replace it) or because they pose a hazard. These include:12

Installing a swimming pool or other water features
Building an extension or expanding your living space
Upgrading materials, like flooring or countertops
Adding a fireplace or wood stove

Whether or not your planned renovations are on either of these lists, it’s wise to inform your insurer about changes you make to your home—otherwise, you may risk gaps in coverage. And you’re always welcome to check with us before you begin any home improvement project to find out how it could impact the value and resale potential of your home.


BOTTOMLINE: Protect Your Investment Without Sacrificing Enjoyment of Your Home

Getting the coverage you need for financial security without overpaying can be a tricky balance, especially in today’s environment. But remember, while it’s important to find the best deal you can, home insurance isn’t an area to skimp on. 

For advice on your specific risks and the type of coverage you need, we recommend consulting with a knowledgeable insurance professional. We’re happy to connect you with a trusted adviser in our network. And if you’re considering a home renovation, feel free to reach out for a free consultation on how it might affect your property value (and your premiums). 


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, insurance, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Insurance Bureau of Canada
  2. MoneySense
  3. My Choice Financial
  4. Public Safety Canada
  5. Nerdwallet Canada 
  6. Waterloo Climate Institute
  7. Ratehub.ca 
  8. Ratehub.ca
  9. LowestRates.ca
  10. MoneySense
  11. Rates.ca
  12. CREA 

Downsize Your Home, Rightsize Your Life: How to Choose the Ideal Smaller Home (March 2024)

When you've lived somewhere for many years, it can be tough to say goodbye. But if you (or a loved one) currently have a home that is bigger than necessary or is too high maintenance, it may be time to trade unused square footage for a smaller, more manageable space. 

Take it from the downsizers who’ve been there: Although living small might require some adjustments, it can also be liberating––especially if you're in a stage of life where past responsibilities have given way to new possibilities and adventures.  

In fact, many downsizers report feeling invigorated by the change, according to American journalist and real estate writer Sheri Koones. “It scares people to think of moving into a smaller space,” said Koones to the Associated Press. “But every single person I interviewed who has made the transition says they are so happy they did.”1

The key is to find somewhere you can live well and move around comfortably, without feeling overly restricted. If you like the idea of aging in place or are already in your golden years, you may also want to look for signs that a new home can conveniently age with you. 

With that in mind, we recommend focusing your search around three key factors: desired lifestyle, optimal design, and long-term accessibility. Read on for specific tips, then call us for a free consultation. We can help you identify the types of homes that are best suited to living large with less.

Do you have a loved one whose housing needs have changed? 
Share this information to help start a conversation about the benefits of downsizing.


DESIRED LIFESTYLE 

The best part of downsizing is the lifestyle you unlock when you trade square footage for convenience. With fewer chores and home maintenance tasks to worry about, you can instead channel your energy into other pursuits. 

For example, instead of spending your afternoons working in the yard or cleaning, you can catch up on the news, read a bestseller, start a new craft project, or pursue other hobbies. You may even be able to travel or spend more time with friends and family. 

Research has found that Canadians over the age of 65 tend to have higher life satisfaction when they have more time available for the things they “like doing.”2 But regularly engaging in favourite hobbies and activities can be hard to do when you've got a home that needs constant attention or you live far from your community.

As you compare potential homes, keep in mind the type of lifestyle you envision. Do you plan to travel? If so, a home with extra security, such as a condominium or gated community, may give you some welcome peace of mind. Or do you plan to have friends and family stay overnight? In that case, you may want to look for a floor plan with flex space or a property that has access to separate guest suites. 

Alternatively, a senior community that offers catered meals and housekeeping may be a better choice if you or a spouse need extra support. 

Action item: Grab a pen and take some time to envision what your ideal future might look like. Write down the activities and hobbies you hope to add to your life or continue with going forward, as well as the chores and responsibilities you'd love to drop. We can use those answers to help shape your house hunt.


OPTIMAL DESIGN

Even though your new home will be smaller, that doesn't mean it has to feel cramped. As Koones explains, “The key is to have a home that is efficiently designed, both in terms of energy use and in terms of space.”

Look for features that can help make a space feel bigger, like high ceilings, large windows, and an open layout. 

Built-in shelving that extends all the way to the ceiling can also make a small room feel more expansive by helping to draw the eye upward. The same goes for highly placed window treatments and striped or mural-style wallpaper.3  

Efficient layouts with flexible, multi-purpose rooms and few, if any, hallways work especially well for small-scale living. You can also limit dead space in a home by steering clear of layouts with awkward corners, unusable nooks, and other space-eating design elements. 

In addition, look for features that support a simpler, lower-maintenance lifestyle, such as easy-care floors, durable countertops, and bare walls with little, if any, crown moulding. 

Don’t write off a home too soon, though, if it feels narrow or congested because of outdated design or poor staging. Cosmetic issues that visually shrink a space are often easy to fix. 

For example, you can instantly make a room feel bigger just by painting it a lighter shade. Adding mirrors and swapping out heavy curtains for sheer ones can also be effective. Plus, utilizing multipurpose furniture with hidden storage is a great way to maximize space. 

Action item: Make a note of your must-keep furniture and other items. Then pull out a measuring tape and write down the dimensions. Once it's time to visit homes, we'll have a more accurate sense of what will fit and how much space you’ll need.

To get your creative juices flowing, you may also want to flip through some design magazines that specialize in compact living or catalogues that feature space-saving furniture and accessories. If you give us a list of your favourite features, we can use it to pinpoint homes that are a good match. 


LONG-TERM ACCESSIBILITY

Buying a home that you can age well in can be a great way to boost your health prospects and happiness. According to the National Institute on Ageing, research shows that homeowners who age in place instead of in an institutional environment not only save money over time, they also enjoy greater health and emotional benefits.4,5

Aging in place is also popular. A survey by Ipsos found that the vast majority of Canadians over the age of 45 would prefer to age in their own homes.6

But even though many adults want to age in place, few currently live in a home with the features to make it possible. According to research by Statistics Canada, only half of adults over the age of 55 say their current home is accessible to someone with a physical limitation.7  

If you're already in the second half of your life, then it's smart to prioritize accessibility now, even if you're highly mobile. 

Choosing an accessible home will improve your odds of staying put for longer. Plus, you never know when you might need an accessible light switch, handrails in the bathroom, or a seat in the shower, says Koones. “Yes, older people with disabilities need them, but even younger people break a leg skiing, or have situations where they want a barrier-free shower.” 

As you consider your options, try to imagine what your needs might be as you get older and be proactive in identifying potential obstacles, recommends the Government of Canada.

For example, a single-level home or one with wide enough stairs for a stair lift or access to an elevator may be a more practical choice than a home with lots of narrow stairs. Alternatively, a home with at least one ground-level bedroom and bathroom may also work well for you. 

Consider your needs outside the home, as well: If you frequently visit the doctor, grocery store, or community centre, for example, then you may benefit from choosing a property nearby. 

Action item: Review the checklist below, adapted from the accessibility standards developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Accessibility Standards Canada, or download the full booklet from the CSA Group's website.9 Highlight the items that are most important to you. We can reference these guidelines as we consider potential homes and suggest ways to adapt a property to meet your current or future requirements.


HOME ACCESSIBILITY CHECKLIST 9

  • If a walker or wheelchair is needed, can the entrances to the house be modified — perhaps by putting in a ramp to the front door?
  • Are there any tripping hazards at exterior entrances or inside the house?
  • Are outdoor areas level and textured to prevent falls in wet or icy weather?
  • Are the hallways and doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, cane or walker if needed?
  • Does the home have at least one ground-floor bedroom and bathroom?
  • Are there any staircases, and if so, could they accommodate a stair lift?
  • Is the house well-lit, inside and out, particularly at the top and bottom of stairs?
  • Does the home's interior make use of colour contrasting to help prevent falls? 
  • Do the stairs have uniformly-sized, gap-free risers and level treads?
  • Could handrails be installed on both sides of the staircase?
  • Is there at least one stairway handrail that extends beyond the first and last steps on each flight of stairs?
  • Does the washroom have at least 1,500 to 1,800 millimetres of turning space to accommodate an assistive mobility device?
  • Are there grab bars near toilets and in the tub or shower?
  • Have a shower stool and hand-held shower head been installed to make bathing easier?
  • Are operating controls, such as light switches, thermostats, door handles and locks, set no higher than 1,100 millimetres from the floor?


BOTTOMLINE

You don't have to compromise on comfort to downsize successfully. We can help you strategize your next move and identify the best new home for you—whether that's a smaller home for rent or another one to call your own. We take pride in offering a full-service real estate experience and assisting our clients through all stages of the real estate journey. And we’ll go the extra mile to maximize your current home's sales price so that you’re set up for financial security.


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:
  1. Associated Press (AP)
  2. Statistics Canada
  3. Washington Post 
  4. National Institute on Ageing
  5. CTV
  6. IPSOS
  7. Statistics Canada
  8. Government of Canada
  9. CSA Group

Upgrade Your Home With These 2024 Design Trends (February 2024)

One of the best parts of owning a home is the freedom to make it truly your own with design choices that reflect your personality and lifestyle. Whether you lean toward contemporary design or a farmhouse aesthetic, your home is your canvas. 

Even so, it’s always smart to think about the long-term impact those decisions might have on your home’s value. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular materials and finishes could make your home less appealing to future buyers. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

To help inspire your design choices, we’ve rounded up some of the top trends we’re watching in 2024. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to list or renovate your property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.


Spa-Like Bathrooms

We could all use a little more relaxation in our lives—so why not bring the spa into your home? In 2024, more homeowners will remodel their bathrooms to turn them into personal oases.1,2

If you’re undertaking a renovation, consider upgrading fixtures and materials. Handmade tile and custom cabinetry can add a touch of style and luxury. Trade stark whites for warm neutrals to create a more relaxed feel—think light wood tones, creams, and beiges.3 Complete the look with soft ambient lighting from a backlit mirror or pair of decorative sconces.2,3
 
If you want to maximize the mind-body benefits of a relaxing bathroom (and have the budget to spare), you might consider installing a steam shower, infrared sauna, or cold plunge tub. Not looking to spend as much? Even minor upgrades like a massaging showerhead or heated towel bar can add some pampering to your morning routine.3 

But remember, if you’re modifying your bathroom, it’s always wise to work with experienced and licensed professionals to avoid water damage that could lead to costly repairs. We can refer you to a trusted contractor for help. 

Maximalist Decor

In 2024, maximalism is back in vogue, contrasting the neutral aesthetic that dominated design in recent years.4 While maximalism can be summed up as “more is more,” there’s nothing sloppy or cluttered about this look. Instead, it’s all about intentional curation.5

Hallmarks of maximalist style include rich and saturated colours, bold wallpaper, statement rugs and furniture, and lots of art. And forget matching—maximalist interiors often include plenty of contrasting colours, textures, and patterns selected to complement one another.5 

If you’re trying to embrace maximalism on a budget, check out thrift stores. They’re often a great place to find unique furniture, colourful rugs, and interesting art or collectibles. Before you invest in rolls of vintage wallpaper, though, it’s important to note—if you plan to sell your home in the near future, the maximalist look won’t appeal to every buyer.

We typically advise sellers to remove clutter and personal items to help buyers imagine their own future lives within the home. Sometimes, that means repainting or redecorating in a more neutral palette. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from embracing your own style now—just be aware that you may need to walk back your aesthetic prior to selling. We can advise you when the time comes.

Japandi Style

Not quite ready to embrace maximalism? Japandi style, which blends Japanese and Scandinavian influences, offers a more subdued approach that still has plenty of character. The look dates back about 150 years to a time when many Scandinavian designers were travelling to Japan for inspiration.6

Japandi style brings together clean lines, simplicity, and a focus on natural elements and light. It emphasizes the beauty in imperfection, or “wabi sabi,” and a deep connection to Mother Earth. And like Scandinavian decor, the look prioritizes comfort and a sense of sanctuary in the home.6 

Interested in playing with Japandi? Common features include calming colour palettes and organic materials like raw wood and bamboo. Try softening harsh edges with softer textures, like cozy blankets and ceramic pieces. 

The look also minimizes clutter, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a minimalist. Instead, Japandi style embraces storage solutions like baskets, folding screens, and sofas with built-in storage to give everything a place.7 If you’d like some help implementing Japandi-style organization in your home, contact us for a list of recommended professionals.

Mixed Metals

Mixing metals used to be a “no-no.” But in 2024, it’s definitely a “yes.” 

According to designers, mixing the colours and finishes of metal fixtures and hardware can bring visual interest to a room—as long as you go about it the right way.1,8 

The most important rule to keep in mind is to stay away from near matches, like brass and gold—that’s more likely to look accidental than intentional. Instead, go for bold contrast: Think polished nickel and matte black.

Some designers recommend using each metal at least twice in a room to make it look cohesive. Another good rule of thumb is to stick to two types of metals in a small room and two to three in a larger space.8

Finally, you might think about playing with undertones (brass is warm, chrome is cool) to change the “temperature” of a room. And don’t be afraid of a little shine—many designers predict that a retro, high-polished look will replace matte finishes in 2024.9

Want some help sourcing fixtures and hardware in a variety of finishes? Reach out for a list of our favourite retailers.


Wood Cabinetry And Accents

The all-white kitchen has been ubiquitous in recent years. But in 2024, classic wood cabinetry is back in a big way.10 In fact, industry professionals surveyed by the National Kitchen & Bath Association predict that wood cabinets will be more popular than white in the next three years.11
 
Natural wood tones offer a sense of warmth and natural beauty. And today’s cabinets aren’t anything like the heavy, dated versions of the past. Instead, light to medium versions—like white oak and walnut—and warmer undertones are trending.12 

The addition of wood-grain accents to painted kitchen cabinets—like with a contrasting island or range hood—is another popular option. And wood continues to be a favoured choice for flooring. A recent survey found that 40% of homeowners opted for either hardwood or engineered wood when renovating their kitchen floors.13

You can also expect to see more wood in bathrooms in 2024. According to Houzz, last year, wood vanities surpassed white in popularity for the first time in recent years, and designers expect the trend to continue.14 While white countertops and walls still dominate bathrooms, a wood-grained vanity brings a relaxed, organic element into the space.

Dreaming about new cabinets or hardwood floors? We’d be happy to share a list of recommended trade professionals who can help.

Timeless Renovations

In its latest Kitchen Trends Study, Houzz found that “nearly half of homeowners (47%) opt for a timeless design as a sustainable choice during renovations.” Respondents cited long-term cost-effectiveness and environmental consciousness as their main motivators.15

In a rapidly changing, technology-driven world, it’s no surprise that homeowners want a nurturing space with lasting appeal—especially if they plan to stay in their homes for years to come.14

Traditional materials and quality craftsmanship lie at the core of timeless design, which some designers are calling “quiet luxury.”16 Think of enduring classics, like hardwood floors, hand-crafted tiles, and marble countertops.14 A timeless colour palette will also often include warm neutrals and muted shades of blue and green.17

If you’re thinking about remodelling, it’s wise to incorporate as many classic elements as you can. These stylistic choices tend to hold up well over time, which can prolong the life of your investment and make it easier to sell your home down the road. If you’d like advice on an upcoming project, contact us for a free consultation.

BEAUTIFY YOUR HOME WHILE BOOSTING ITS VALUE

If you’re thinking about making design changes—whether that’s repainting or a full remodel—it’s important to be informed about how your choices could impact your home’s resale potential. Buyer preferences can vary significantly based on your home’s neighbourhood and price point. Before you begin your project, reach out to discuss your plans and how they could impact the value of your home.


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.


Sources:

  1. HGTV
  2. The Spruce
  3. The Spruce
  4. Calgary Real Estate Board
  5. Homes and Gardens 
  6. The Spruce
  7. House Beautiful
  8. The Spruce
  9. The Spruce 
  10. Toronto Sun
  11. Good Housekeeping
  12. Better Homes and Gardens 
  13. Houzz
  14. Houzz
  15. Houzz
  16. Better Homes and Gardens

Real Estate Market Forecast: Opportunities for Home Buyers and Sellers in 2024 (Jan 2024)

Home buyers surprised everyone last spring when they shook off higher borrowing costs and showed up to new home sales in droves. The surge in competition for a still-limited pool of properties helped home prices pop and renewed sellers' confidence in their ability to get top dollar for a home. But experts caution that the 2024 housing market could unfold quite differently, especially if Canada's economy experiences another dip later this year.1  

Ever since the Bank of Canada hiked interest rates last summer, home sales have dropped in many areas as buyers and sellers alike struggle to close deals.2 Canada’s economy has also softened, prompting some home buyers to move forward more cautiously.3 But with the Bank of Canada now widely expected to cut rates in the spring, competition could reheat quickly.4 

Not every neighbourhood is cooling at the same rate either, making the familiar adage that “all real estate is local” especially relevant.5 With a market this fluid, the home buyers and sellers with an edge will be those who proactively leverage a real estate agent’s on-the-ground expertise and stay flexible so that they can quickly adapt to hyper-local changes.
 
What does that mean for you? Read on to learn more about the current state of the Canadian housing market, the potential opportunities for buyers and sellers, and economists’ predictions for the coming year.


MORTGAGE RATES MAY DROP SOONER THAN EXPECTED

The best news we've got incoming for 2024? The extra high mortgage rates that have weighed heavily on Canadian real estate for some time may finally be headed south.

Citing a global economic slowdown and improving inflation, policymakers at the Bank of Canada opted to leave the central bank's key rate unchanged in December after pushing rates to a 22-year high last summer.6 The feds cautioned that another rate hike was still possible in 2024. But now that Canada's economy is slowing down, market watchers widely predict that the central bank is more likely to cut rates instead—possibly as soon as March.7 

Fixed mortgage rates could slide even more quickly. Market expectations have a big impact on bond yields. So, if traders expect a rate cut from the feds, bond yields are likely to drop even further. “It's all about expectations,” said Ratehub CEO James Laird to Global News.
 
Already, the bond market has cooled significantly since autumn. As a result, Canadians with great credit may now be able to secure rates closer to 5% than 6%—and possibly even lower. 
 
If rates fall as expected, that could have an energizing effect on the housing market. As mortgage expert Clay Jarvis told Nerdwallet in 2023: “If fixed rates dip below 5% next year—and we’re not in a full-blown recession—it’s likely Canadians will return to the market fairly enthusiastically. The pent-up demand and FOMO will be too strong for many to resist.”10 

What does it mean for you? If you're a prospective home buyer, declining mortgage rates could give you the opening you've been waiting for to purchase a home with a more affordable monthly payment. And if you buy before the market reheats, you could secure an especially good deal. To find the lowest rate, it pays to compare lenders. Ask us to refer you to a mortgage broker who can negotiate a competitive mortgage rate. 

Sellers also have reason to celebrate buyers' lower interest rates: As the barriers for entry to the housing market decline, sellers could enjoy more or better offers. Reach out to discuss how we can help you maximize your home’s sales potential.


DESPITE LOWER RATES, A WEAKENING ECONOMY COULD CHILL DEMAND

As pent-up demand continues to build, surveys show that Canadians are still deeply interested in real estate. For example, a recent survey by Dye and Durham found that a growing number of Canadians are thinking seriously about buying a home in 2024.11 
 
But with interest rates so high, buyers with typical household incomes often need either a substantial amount of cash saved or a lot of home equity to buy at today's prices. And the softening economy may be shaking buyers' confidence. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canadians are feeling more pessimistic about their employment and finances.12 

Meanwhile, many home sellers remain stuck in the recent past and are slow to let go of outdated prices. As a result, home buyers and sellers in many regions are locked in a persistent stalemate and the volume of home sales has dropped considerably.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), new listings are now outpacing purchases in some of the country's biggest housing markets as market loosening spreads.13 However, the softening is uneven, with some areas still highly competitive.5

As rates continue falling, experts predict that demand for housing will increase, helping fuel a tighter market. But a slowdown in Canada's economy could complicate that scenario. “We now think that most major markets will experience softer sales and prices through the spring months, as weakness has spread significantly,” forecast economists at Desjardins.14 

What does it mean for you? The days of easy home sales with minimal, if any, prep work are long gone––at least until the market rebounds. Instead, home sales are more likely to take some legwork and planning to stand out from the competition. We can help you maximize your home’s appeal to attract serious buyers.
Home buyers, on the other hand, will have a distinct advantage in the coming months––especially if they jump into the market early while competition is limited. Call us for a consultation so we can help you plot your strategy.  


HOME PRICES WILL FACE HEADWINDS, BUT MAY CLIMB WITH LOWER RATES

Home buyers who have faced both persistently high prices and historically high rates may finally get a much-needed break this year.

With Canada's economy cooling, experts are now actively revising their pricing forecasts. For example, economists at TD predicted in November that home prices would drop 10% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the third quarter of 2023––twice what they had previously forecast.15  

As sales dwindle, the home buyers who are still around “are taking advantage of their stronger bargaining position,” said economists from RBC. “They’ve successfully extracted price concessions from sellers.” As a result, the MLS Home Price Index is slipping.16 

Analysts still expect home prices to remain higher than they were before the pandemic. However, fewer sales amid rising levels of inventory could dampen prices in some regions.16 In fact, eagle-eyed home buyers may find the best bargains in previously hot neighbourhoods that had overheated amid frenzied competition.

But with Canada’s historic supply crunch still ever-present, home buyers who wait too long to score a deal could wind up settling for a bigger mortgage in the future. As CIBC's Tal put it: “A year to two years from now when things will be back to normal—and they will be back to normal, with one million newcomers and non-permanent residents—guess what will happen? The supply will not be there, the demand will be there. The market will be crazy.”17

What does it mean for you? Homeowners with a property to sell may want to put it on the market sooner than later while there are relatively few homes for sale.  We can help you chart the best course to maximize your profits, starting with a professional assessment of your home’s current market value. Reach out to schedule a free consultation.

Meanwhile, savvy buyers with an eye for opportunity will be thrilled to know that the affordability challenges that have made home buying so difficult are expected to ease significantly. In fact, there could be a brief window when mortgage rates and home prices are both on the decline, giving home buyers who are ready to pounce a rare opportunity.  Contact us if you’re ready to begin your home search.


BUYERS SHOULD HAVE MORE CHOICES, BUT A SUPPLY SHORTAGE WILL PERSIST 

Home buyers who are eager for options should have more homes to choose from this year than they did in 2023. The share of existing homes for sale is already up in many regions as new listings outpace purchases, and more inventory could be added to the market in the coming months.13 

Many sellers out there have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for rates to fall or for the market to pick up. If a greater share of those sellers decide they can no longer wait, the number of resale homes on offer could quickly increase. 

In addition, a growing number of Canadian mortgage holders are expected to experience some payment shock in the coming year as they renew with rates that are several points above their current rates.1 If more homeowners then default on their loans or choose to list because they can no longer afford their monthly payments, that could also lead to an uptick in homes for sale. 

But given Canada's severe housing supply crunch, the chances of a market oversaturation are low. As economists at TD Bank note: “Canada could be short over 300,000 housing units from 2023-2025 as population growth collides with a slower pace of homebuilding.”18 

​​What does it mean for you? With the market cooling this winter, there's more supply opening up. In the short term, buyers who can afford to jump quickly should benefit from this winter's temporary buyer's market. Contact us to discuss your goals and budget, and we can help you make an informed decision about the right time to buy.

While sellers will continue to benefit from the overall supply shortage, they should be prepared for increased competition. We can help you prep your property for the market and highlight the features most likely to appeal to today’s buyers.


WE'RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU 

While national real estate forecasts can give you a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we know what's most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your neighbourhood. As a trusted partner in your real estate journey, we'll keep our ears to the ground so that we can guide you through the market's twists and turns.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2024, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. Let’s work together and craft an action plan to meet your real estate goals.


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:
 

  1. Financial Post 
  2. Financial Post
  3. Global News
  4. Canadian Mortgage Trends
  5. Global News
  6. Bank of Canada
  7. The Globe and Mail
  8. Global News
  9. Canadian Mortgage Trends
  10. Nerdwallet
  11. Dye and Durham
  12. Conference Board of Canada
  13. CREA
  14. Desjardins
  15. Global News
  16. RBC
  17. RENX
  18. TD Economics

Celebrate Sustainably: 5 Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Holiday at Home (December 2023)

It's the most wonderful time of the year. But for many families with festive plans and hectic schedules, it's also the most wasteful. 

According to one survey, for example, 60% of respondents admitted to throwing away more than usual during the holiday months as they filled up their trash bins with uneaten food, wrapping paper, gift bags, and commercial packaging.1

The reality is, Canadians routinely toss about 25% more trash during the holidays, according to Zero Waste Canada.2 In fact, we throw away so much wrapping paper that the waste, combined with castoff shopping bags, is estimated to weigh as much as 100,000 elephants.2,3

As our holiday schedules grow busier, many of us also forget to take simple steps at home to shrink our carbon footprints or prepare for a more energy-efficient winter. 

Luckily, it’s not that hard to shift our habits and plan for a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly celebration. Here are five ideas for ringing in the holidays this year without overstressing Mother Nature.


1. PREP YOUR HOME FOR WINTER

Depending on the amount of time and resources you have available, you could cut your carbon emissions significantly this season just by winterizing your home. According to Natural Resources Canada, around 61% of the average home's energy usage goes to heating.4
 
Investing in a more sustainable way to warm up your surroundings, such as a conventional or cold climate heat pump, could be especially impactful if your current HVAC is underperforming. The Canadian Climate Institute's Heat Pump Calculator estimates that homeowners can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by switching from a gas furnace to a more energy-efficient heat pump.5 Replacing old appliances or things like chronically leaking windows with newer, more energy-efficient solutions can also save you money over the long term.6 Plus, you may qualify for a federal grant or loan to help fund certain upgrades.
 
You don't necessarily have to spend a lot upfront, though, to prep your home for winter. Even simple tweaks—such as sealing windows and doors or upgrading to more energy-efficient window coverings—can lower your energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint.8 

Incorporating environmentally healthier habits into your routine can also make a meaningful difference. For example, Natural Resources Canada recommends dialling back your thermostat to 17 C when you're sleeping or away and otherwise leaving it at 20 C.4 

Consider an EnerGuide home evaluation to help you pinpoint what needs fixing and see if you qualify for a federal grant. An energy advisor registered with Natural Resources Canada will audit your home's energy efficiency and provide you with a report and score.


2. DECORATE SUSTAINABLY

Decking your home's halls is one of the most jolly seasonal activities of all. There's something special about gathering 'round with friends and family and relaxing in the comforting glow of a festively decorated space. 

But since so much of the holiday-themed decor that's sold in stores is notoriously disposable, it can be a challenge to spruce up your home sustainably. Cheaply produced and rarely recyclable, store-bought decorations are often made with plastic, styrofoam, and other environmentally unfriendly materials that can crowd landfills for generations.10 

Luckily, you don't have to trade style for sustainability when making your holiday decor. Thrifting is still in vogue, so consider crafting new and on-trend decorations out of secondhand finds or upcycling items already in your closet. 

For example, you could transform an ill-fitting sweater into a holiday-themed pillow, turn teacups into candles, or turn leftover shipping boxes into creative decorations. Alternatively, natural decor foraged from your yard—such as dried leaves, flowers, pine cones, and branches—can make for especially beautiful wreaths and centrepieces. 

If you do purchase store-bought decor, proactively look for the most environmentally friendly options. LED lights are now ubiquitous in stores and use far less energy than incandescent versions.11 Similarly, if you celebrate with a Christmas tree, think twice about choosing an artificial option. Plastic trees may be reusable, but natural trees are generally thought to have a smaller carbon footprint.2


3. CUT BACK ON HOLIDAY SHOPPING

Shopping online or at the mall may be convenient, but it can be costly for the environment. The greenhouse emissions from shipping and transportation alone add up fast, as do the emissions that are produced when an item is first made. According to the online consignment and thrift store, thredUp, around 4.5 billion pounds of carbon emissions could be saved if every consumer bought just one used item instead of new this year.12 

Splurging on brand-new products also makes it more likely that the gently used but still functional items that you've got at home will wind up in the trash. 

Rather than buy new, check vintage stores and consignment shops for unique gifts that you and your recipient can both feel good about. According to research by thredUp, most people are open to receiving gently-used presents, especially if they're socially-conscious members of Gen Z.12 In fact, research by Value Village found that at least 80% of Gen Z members in Canada and the U.S. have already bought second-hand clothing.13 Alternatively, consider regifting items that you haven't used, upcycling something you own, or try crafting gifts by hand. 

Giving away special experiences, such as concert tickets or community memberships, may also be a more eco-friendly option. So is donating to a favourite charity in a gift recipient's name or offering gifts of time, such as promising to help a loved one clean out their garage or fill their freezer with home-cooked meals. 

Research shows that gift recipients often value thoughtful gifts with sentimental value, especially if they're homemade or nostalgic or will provide them with a unique experience.14 

And if you prefer to buy something tangible, look to local businesses that source or manufacture their goods nearby. Craft fairs and community markets are a great place to start. Or, give us a call and we’d be happy to share a list of our favourite local stores, depending on the type of gift and your budget. We make an effort to patronize the independently-owned shops and restaurants around town and would love to share our recommendations.


4. GREEN YOUR HOLIDAY DINNER

Do you hail from a family of passionate carnivores? If so, trading your meat for a vegetarian option may seem like a step too far—especially for a holiday dinner. 

But swapping your meat for beans isn't the only way to “'green” your holiday meal. For example, you can consciously source your meat from ethical sellers, prioritize local producers for seasonal sides, and serve enough filling vegetables to satisfy a large portion of your appetite.

You can also minimize food waste by planning ahead so that you don't cook more than necessary. According to MoneySense, the average Canadian family of four tosses roughly 10% of their groceries in the trash, adding up to hundreds of dollars in wasted spending.15 To avoid buying more than necessary and throwing out good food too soon, check out Good Harvest's Still Good to Eat Guide.16 The Natural Resources Defense Council's dinner party “Guest-Imator” can also help you narrow down how much food you and your guests will actually need.17 

Once you're finished eating, clear the table immediately and either freeze the leftovers you'd like to keep or send guests home with reusable containers. Or, if you have untouched food that's still whole or in unopened packaging, take it to a local food bank or homeless shelter. We’d be happy to share a list of options in our area.


5. DONATE OR RECYCLE WHAT YOU CAN

Once the festivities are over, the real work on behalf of Mother Nature begins. This is the time when taking a few minutes at the end of your holiday celebration to swiftly collect wrapping paper and ribbons, unwanted packaging, and other discarded items can make a real environmental difference by reducing what you send to landfills. Your goal should be to reuse what you can and compost or recycle what's left over. 

For example, if you upgrade any electronic gadgets over the holidays, you can conserve resources and limit pollution by donating or properly recycling your old versions. According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, the average Canadian generates about 25.3 kg of e-waste every year, including discarded cell phones, laptops, and appliances.18 But you can help trim that number by repairing or refurbishing products instead.

It can also help to reimagine new ways to make old traditions more eco-friendly. For instance, if lighting candles is part of your holiday celebration, consider choosing beeswax candles this year instead of the typical paraffin wax, which is a petroleum derivative. Not only are they cleaner burning and less toxic, but the leftover wax is biodegradable and can be composted, unlike traditional candle wax.19

There are also plenty of earth-friendly ways to dispose of a natural Christmas tree without kicking it to the curb. Trees that are sent to landfills release a potent greenhouse gas called methane.2 So, it’s important to properly dispose of a live tree, if you have one, so it can be recycled or composted. If you’re not sure how, reach out for a list of local options.


BOTTOMLINE

We can still celebrate a fun and festive season without draining our community’s resources or sending leftovers to the landfill. And remember, we’re here to lend a helping hand, now or in the new year. This is the perfect time to strategize your next move or set some real estate resolutions with personalized guidance from an expert. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation.


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Eco Watch
  2. CBC 
  3. Global News
  4. Natural Resources Canada
  5. Canadian Climate Institute 
  6. Natural Resources Canada
  7. Natural Resources Canada
  8. Canadian Geographic
  9. Natural Resources Canada
  10. Architectural Digest
  11. Statistics Canada
  12. ThredUp
  13. BNN Bloomberg
  14. The Conversation
  15. MoneySense
  16. Good Harvest
  17. Natural Resources Defense Council
  18. University of Waterloo
  19. CanICompostIt.com

35 Tips to Furnish Your New Home for Less (November 2023)

Buying a new home is one of the most exciting experiences in life. And if you’re like most homebuyers, you’ll be planning your furniture placement and decor before the ink dries on your offer letter.

But before you run to the nearest home goods store, take a deep breath. First, you’ll need to delay any major purchases before you close on your new home. A large outlay or additional line of credit could affect your credit rating and, thus, impact your mortgage terms.1 Second, moving and closing costs can add up quickly, so it’s important to be strategic with your remaining budget.

But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to save on home essentials, and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites to share with you. 

PRIORITIZE WHAT YOU REALLY NEED BEFORE YOU START SHOPPING

According to the nonprofit Furniture Bank, you could spend around $8,300 to outfit a one-bedroom apartment with the essentials, and the costs only go up from there for larger homes and higher-end items.2 That’s why we recommend starting with a thorough assessment of what you already have and what you actually need to start life in your new place. Here are some steps to help you prioritize your purchases and keep spending in check. 

Make a list of everything you need. Going room by room could help you brainstorm—for example, you might list items ranging from a mattress to blackout curtains for your new primary bedroom. 

Inventory what you already have. Cross the big (dining table) to the small (kitchen knives) off your list as you go. 

Divide the remaining items into three groups: things you need right away (a mattress), items you’d like to have in the near future (a coffee table for your living room), and pieces that can wait (an area rug). 

Calculate your budget. Figure out how much money you’ll have available for immediate purchases after the sale has closed, and start researching the items on your priority list to understand how they’ll fit into your budget.

Don’t rush the process. Bringing older items to your new space doesn’t mean you need to keep them forever. Consider hanging onto pieces that can tide you over for a year or two until your bank account has recovered from the costs of a home purchase. 

Before you start shopping, make sure you know which appliances and fixtures are included with your home purchase. We can inform you of the standard contract terms when you’re making an initial offer and note any additional items that you would like to request.

TIME YOUR PURCHASES TO MAKE THE MOST OF SEASONAL SALES

Did you know that some home items predictably go on sale at certain times of the year? If you can wait to buy these pieces when prices are lower, you could save significantly. Here are some of the best times to buy household essentials:3

Carpeting: January
Indoor furniture: January and July
Linens: January
TVs and home theatres: February and November
Appliances: May and September
Office furniture: May
Mattresses: May 
Tools: June
Flatware and dishes: June
Outdoor furniture: September
Electronics: November 

Generally speaking, holiday weekends (as well as Black Friday and Cyber Monday) tend to be great times to find deals. If the item you’re looking for is seasonal—like patio furniture or holiday decorations—waiting until the end of that season usually pays off.

FIND ALTERNATIVE SHOPPING SOURCES

Can’t wait for a sale? It’s time to think outside of the box (the big-box stores, that is). There are plenty of surprising places to find great furniture and houseware deals. 

Check out overstock and liquidation stores. These stores purchase items other retailers haven’t sold and offer them at a steep discount. The inventory can be hit or miss, but you can often get a great deal if you find what you’re looking for.4

Try private membership/warehouse stores. These retailers often have great deals on home goods. If you’re not already a member, ask family or friends if they are willing to take you to look around before you commit.

Consider open-box items.  When buyers return items like furniture or electronics, retailers can’t always sell them as new, even if they haven’t truly been used. Look online for open-box deals from retailers like Wayfair and Amazon Warehouse or visit local retailers to see what they have in stock.

Give scratch-and-dent appliances a chance. These appliances are brand new but sold at deep discounts because their external packaging was damaged. Typically, this means that flaws are purely cosmetic—but it’s always possible that the merchandise has suffered more serious damage. So, be sure to check out the appliances carefully and ask about included warranties.5

Expand your window treatment search. Window treatments can be surprisingly expensive, but it’s often possible to save by buying off-the-shelf offerings in standard sizes. If you need a custom size or material, consider ordering online from a discount supplier and installing them yourself. 

Shop secondhand. In addition to thrift stores and garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, and Kijiji are all great places to find deals in your area.

Are alternative shopping sources still a stretch for your budget? Check out local Freecycle or “Buy Nothing” groups, which are often hosted on Facebook. Participants offer big and small items they no longer need—everything from furniture to clothing hangers—for free to other members.6,7

DON’T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE FOR A BETTER DEAL

Many people don’t realize that prices for home goods, from furniture to appliances, are often negotiable. While asking for a discount can be intimidating, it’s common practice in many industries, although more so at independently-owned stores than chains. Here are a few tips:8,9

Comparison shop before you walk into a store. If you can find a lower price for the same item elsewhere, many retailers will match it.

Ask the store associate or manager for the best price available. They may be able to offer additional discounts or coupons. 

If you can pay in cash, ask if you can get a discount for doing so. The seller may be happy to offer a small price reduction to avoid paying processor fees. 

Call ahead to ask about applicable discounts. Some retailers offer price reductions for active military, veterans, teachers, first responders, or senior citizens on certain days or times of the year.

Point out scratches or dings to the sales associate. They may be willing to offer a discount to compensate for the imperfection. 

Ask about floor models. Many stores offer these pieces at a lower price, even if they’re in like-new condition. 

After you’ve negotiated a killer deal, don’t forget to ask for free or discounted delivery! Sometimes furniture and appliance stores will offer complimentary delivery or installation if you spend a certain amount or purchase multiple items.


MAKE THE MOST OF REWARD PROGRAMS AND COUPONS

Every penny counts when you’re on a budget—and spending a little extra time maximizing reward programs and discounts is usually worthwhile. 

Make sure you never miss a sale. Sign up for your favourite retailers’ email lists and follow them on social media for discounts and sale alerts. 

Take advantage of loyalty programs. If you’re making a big purchase or getting multiple items from one store, ask about free loyalty programs. Signing up often comes with an introductory coupon. 

Consider store credit cards (carefully). Store credit cards can offer significant discounts—but only charge items you can pay off right away to avoid interest, and never open new lines of credit until your home purchase is complete, since it can affect your credit score.

Enroll in coupon and cashback programs. When you’re shopping online, programs like Rakuten and Great Canadian Rebates can help you find coupon codes and give you cash back on purchases.

While you’re at it, why not set up a housewarming registry?10  You can share the link with family and friends if they ask what you need—and you can also use it to score discounts. Many stores offer a percentage off to help you buy unpurchased items on your registry. 
 

GET CREATIVE

If you want to avoid a cookie-cutter home aesthetic—and save a few bucks—try reimagining your existing furniture and how it could fit into your new space. Here are a few of our favourite strategies. 

Repurpose what you have. Instead of buying a new item to fit a specific purpose, ask yourself if you can use what you have in a different way. For example, repurpose an old dresser as a television stand or use a mismatched dining chair in your home office.

Upgrade existing items. Sometimes, a new coat of paint or varnish, or simply swapping out drawer pulls and handles, can lend a new lease on life to an old piece of furniture. You can also keep this strategy in mind if you see second-hand items that would be just right if they were a different colour or had nicer fixtures.

Reupholster instead of buying new. If you have a tired-looking sofa or chair that’s still comfortable and stable, think about getting it reupholstered in new fabric instead of replacing it.

Get handy. Building furniture is certainly not for everyone, but with some basic tools and help from the internet, you may find that simple items like headboards are well within your grasp. You might also be able to repair pieces you already have and avoid shopping altogether. 

Do-it-yourself projects can be fun, but they aren’t for everyone. If you’d like some professional help, reach out for a list of our recommended service providers.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

We know budgeting for a new home can be overwhelming, and we want to make the process easier for you. If you’re considering a home purchase, we can advise you on a realistic budget and help you review your options. We can also offer insights on other financial considerations and programs and incentives that can help make homeownership more attainable. Reach out for a free consultation. 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources: 

  1. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
  2. Furniture Bank
  3. Global News
  4. Business Insider
  5. CNET
  6. Global News
  7. Freecycle
  8. Consumer Reports
  9. Realtor.com
  10. Taste of Home

Income Properties Are Trending, But Is Landlord Life for You? (October 2023)

If the thought of investing your money into brick and mortar—or perhaps some stylishly-painted siding—excites you, join the club. 

Investing in real estate has long been one of Canadians' favourite ways to grow their wealth. According to a poll by CIBC, 15% of Canadian homeowners already earn some rental income, while another 11% aspire to it. What's more, over a third of current homeowners (37%) say they'd look for a property with income potential if they were buying a new home.1 

Baby boomers over the age of 55 are especially likely to own an income property these days.2 But according to Statistics Canada, a growing share of millennials in their 30s and 40s have also cashed in on the real estate investment trend.3 The Bank of Canada estimates that at least 20% of newly purchased homes are now owned by individual investors, up from 18% in 2015.4 

Canadians have historically embraced real estate, in part, because of the strong return on investment it can offer—especially to investors willing to stick with a property over time. It's also a popular way to hedge against inflation since both rental income and property values tend to rise in tandem with overall prices.5 

But how do you know if you’re well-suited to take advantage of real estate investment opportunities? Here are three signs that owning a rental property could be right for you.

 YOU'RE A HOMEBUYER WHO WANTS HELP COVERING THE MORTGAGE

If you're looking for a creative way to buy a home without overspending, “house hacking” could be the answer. Increasingly popular with first-time homebuyers and budget-conscious investors, house hacking simply means buying a home that you intend to live in while renting out a portion of it to one or more tenants.6 

In addition to padding your monthly income, buying a home with a self-contained income suite can make it easier for you to qualify for a mortgage. If a secondary dwelling is move-in ready, a lender may be willing to add half of the rental payments you can plausibly collect from future tenants to your qualifying income, making it easier to pass the mortgage stress test.7  

House hacking also tends to be simpler to break into than traditional real estate investing since you don't need as large a down payment to qualify for a mortgage. For example, if you buy a home you only intend to rent, you'll need to put down at least 20%, regardless of whether or not your mortgage is insured. But if you intend to move into the property yourself and only rent out a part of it, you can put down as little as 5%.7 Plus, your mortgage rate will be lower and you may still qualify for a principal residence exemption for some or all of the home if you later sell it.7 8 

When it's time to start your search, we can help you find a property that's ideal for house hacking, such as a house with a walkout basement, a multifamily unit, or a home with enough outdoor space to build a laneway or garden suite.


YOU'RE AN INVESTOR LOOKING FOR STEADY AND RELIABLE INCOME

If you’re not crazy about the idea of a live-in tenant but still desire an additional stream of income, a dedicated long-term rental property could be a better option for you. Besides the monthly proceeds, purchasing a rental home can also add diversity and long-term stability to your investment portfolio and help you build wealth over time.9

According to data from the Canadian Real Estate Association, real estate owners have historically prospered. In early 2020, for example, the average home price was 120% higher than just 15 years prior. Then, during the pandemic-era real estate boom, average home prices grew at an especially frenzied clip, climbing by more than 60% in less than two years.10 

However, the rate of appreciation can be hard to predict, so it’s prudent to invest in a property that also offers positive cash flow, which means the rent you take in exceeds your expenses. This strategy helps to ensure that you’ll put money in your pocket each month, even if the property’s value takes time to grow.

While today’s higher mortgage rates can make it more challenging for landlords to turn a profit, a tighter rental market also means you can demand higher rents. Turnover on your rental unit may also be lower as many would-be buyers remain priced out of the purchase market.9  

Plus, research by Statistics Canada suggests that many landlords now earn significantly more than they once did. In 2020, for example, more than 76 percent of independent landlords reported earning more rental income that year than they spent on upkeep, taxes, mortgage payments, and other annual expenses. That's up from 63 percent in 2008.3

If you want to explore opportunities for a residential rental property that's good for your wallet and attractive to renters, we can help. 
 

YOU'RE AN EXPERIENCED INVESTOR LOOKING TO MAXIMIZE YOUR POTENTIAL RETURNS

Another increasingly popular way to draw income from an investment property is to convert it to a short-term vacation rental. But beware: This strategy can be riskier as some municipalities have tightened rental restrictions and others are suffering from market oversaturation.11 

With that said, if you're an experienced investor who can afford to take on some uncertainty, then investing in a short-term rental could make sense for you. 

If you find the right property, for example, you could earn significantly more renting it short-term on a platform like Airbnb than if you rented the home to a long-term tenant.12

The key is to keep it occupied as much as possible at a premium nightly rate. To do that, you’ll need some marketing savvy, hospitality skills, and business acumen. Of course, you can always hire a professional property manager, but you’ll need to factor the cost into your budget.

Vacation rentals have boomed in recent years, and some inexperienced investors are finding they bit off more than they can chew.13 As a result, there's an opportunity to snap up some of these properties, but you'll need some cash on hand and a willingness to learn the business.

We can help you scout opportunities in our local market or, if you’re interested in investing in another area, we can refer you to an agent there for assistance.


BOTTOMLINE

Investing in real estate can be a great way to build your wealth long-term and earn some extra income. But to make the most of your investment, it pays to be strategic. 

Call us for a consultation so we can discuss your goals and budget. We'll help you discover neighbourhoods with the best income potential, point out the homes most suited to renting, and help you brainstorm the best investment strategy for you.  

Before you take the plunge, make sure you can answer “YES” 
to these three questions:

Are you ready to be a landlord?

Owning a rental property can take a lot of time and energy. You're not just buying passive income, you're also building sweat equity since the time you spend maintaining, marketing, and managing your rental can add up quickly. So be prepared to do some soul-searching to ensure you’ll not only flourish as a landlord, but actually enjoy it. 

If you want to invest in real estate but aren’t prepared to put in the day-to-day effort required, we can refer you to a property management service for help. 
 
Can you afford to invest in real estate?

The last thing you want is to get over-extended with your new real estate venture. Besides the cost of purchasing the property, you’ll need to consider additional expenses, like property taxes, insurance, administrative costs, and maintenance and repairs. You will also need a cash reserve for unexpected issues or potential vacancies.

We can help you run the numbers to determine if you can charge enough rent to offset your expenditures.

Have you found the right income property?

Even if you’ve got your finances in order and are emotionally ready to invest, your success as a landlord will also depend on the property you buy. The criteria for a good rental home and a good family home are often different, so it’s important to lean on professionals for advice. 

We can help you find an ideal rental property, taking into account your budget, risk appetite, and investment goals. If you decide to invest in a different area, we'll connect you with an agent who's more plugged into that community. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. CIBC
  2. Statistics Canada
  3. Statistics Canada
  4. Bank of Canada
  5. Canadian Real Estate Magazine
  6. HGTV.ca
  7. Wowa.ca
  8. CTV News
  9. MPA Magazine
  10. Canada Real Estate Association (CREA)
  11. The Canadian Press
  12. TurboTax Canada
  13. Statistics Canada

Top 7 Tips To Attract the Best Offers for Your Home (September 2023)

Not long ago, home sellers were in their heyday, as historically-low mortgage rates triggered a real estate buying frenzy. However, the Bank of Canada shut down the party when it began raising interest rates last year.1

Now, it’s not as simple to sell a home. While pandemic-era homebuyers were racing the clock—trying to lock in a low mortgage rate and gain a foothold in the market—current buyers are much more discerning. Higher prices and mortgage rates have pushed their limits of affordability, leading them to prioritize cost, condition, and overall value.

The reality is, home inventory remains low, so most properties will still sell with some basic prep, the right price, and a good real estate agent. But owners who go the extra mile are more likely to sell faster and for a higher amount.

If you have plans to sell your home and want to net the most money possible, this list is for you. Here are our top seven strategies to attract the best offers and maximize your real estate returns.


UNDERGO A PRE-LISTING INSPECTION

Many homebuyers hire a professional to complete a home inspection before they close. But did you know that a seller can order their own inspection, known as a pre-listing inspection, before they put their home on the market? 

Having a pre-listing inspection on hand and ready to share shows interested buyers that you’re committed to a transparent transaction. This can help you market your home, strengthen your negotiating position, and minimize roadblocks to closing.2 

Of course, it’s always possible that a pre-listing inspection—which looks at the home’s major systems and structures, among other things—could turn up a significant problem. This does carry some risk, as you’ll be required to either fix or disclose any issues to potential buyers. However, in most cases, it’s better to know about and address deficiencies upfront than to find out mid-transaction, when it could cost you more in the form of repair credits, a delayed closing, or a cancelled sale.

We can help you decide if a pre-listing inspection is right for you. And if it identifies any concerns, we can advise on which items need attention before you list your home.


CONSIDER STRATEGIC UPGRADES

Embarking on major renovations before putting your home on the market doesn’t always make financial (or logistical) sense. However, certain upgrades are more likely to pay off and can help elevate your home in the eyes of buyers.

For example, new flooring can generate up to a 150% return on investment at resale and a countertop upgrade could pay for itself.3  Similarly, research shows landscaping features can increase a home’s value by up to 12%.4

Often, even simpler and less expensive fixes can make a big difference in how your home comes across to buyers. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral colour, modern light fixtures and hardware, and new caulk around the tub or shower can help your property look its best.

But before you make any changes to your home, reach out. We know what buyers in your neighbourhood are looking for and can help you decide if a particular investment is worthwhile.


HIRE A HOME STAGER

To get standout offers, you need potential buyers to fall in love with your home—and they’re much more likely to do so if they can envision themselves in the space. 

That’s where home staging comes in. Staging can include everything from decluttering and packing away personal items to bringing in neutral furniture and accessories for showings and open houses. 

According to the U.S.-based National Association of Realtors, home staging can both increase the dollar value of home offers and help a property sell faster. In fact, 53% of seller’s agents agree that staging decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, and 44% of buyer’s agents see higher offers for staged homes.5 

There’s plenty of strategy and research behind the process, so it’s smart to consider a professional. Reach out for a connection to one of our recommended home stagers who can help your property show its full potential.


EMPLOY A COMPETITIVE PRICING STRATEGY

While it’s tempting to list your property at the highest possible price, that approach can backfire. Homes that are overpriced tend to sit on the market, which can drive away potential buyers—and drive down offers.6

Alternatively, if you price your home competitively, which is either at or slightly below market value, it can be among the nicest that buyers see within their budgets. This can ultimately lead to a higher sales price and fewer concessions.

To help you list at the right price, we will do a comparative market analysis, or CMA. This integral piece of research will help us determine an ideal listing price based on the amount that comparable properties have recently sold for in your neighbourhood.

Without this data, you risk pricing your home too high (and getting no offers) or too low (and leaving money on the table). Combined with our local market insights, we’ll help you find that sweet spot that will attract the best offers while maximizing your profit margin.


OFFER ALTERNATIVE FINANCING

Conventional mortgages, while widely used, may not be accessible to everyone. For example, higher mortgage rates and home prices have made it difficult for some homebuyers to pass the required mortgage stress test.
 
Consequently, certain alternatives, like vendor take-back (VTB) mortgages, are becoming increasingly popular.7 A VTB mortgage is a unique financing arrangement in which the seller of a property provides a loan to the buyer for all or a portion of the purchase price.

Buyers who don’t qualify for a traditional mortgage can be highly motivated to purchase from a seller offering a VTB loan. Sellers, consequently, can benefit too, by commanding a higher price or collecting more interest on their capital than they could from a standard investment. Depending on the seller's circumstances, there may also be certain tax advantages.8

It’s important to note, however, that there are risks involved. Therefore, both buyers and sellers should seek legal and financial advice before entering into a VTB mortgage agreement to ensure all aspects are properly structured and understood. If interested, we can refer you to the appropriate professionals for help.


USE A PROVEN PROPERTY MARKETING PLAN

Gone are the days when it was enough to put a “for sale” sign in your yard and place a listing on the MLS. A strategic marketing plan is now essential to get your home in front of as many interested and qualified buyers as possible. 

The truth is, buyers who don’t know about your house can’t make an offer. That’s why we utilize a multi-step approach to marketing that starts with identifying your target audience, effectively positioning your home in the market, and communicating its unique value. We then use a variety of distribution channels to connect with potential buyers and performance-based metrics to monitor and improve our campaign results.

Our proven approach can have a big impact on the success of your sale. Reach out to learn more about our multi-step marketing plan and discuss how we can use it to generate interest and offers for your home.


WORK WITH AN AGENT WHO UNDERSTANDS YOUR AREA

To get the best offers possible, you need a real estate agent who knows your area inside and out. 

Any agent can pull comparable sales data, but in a quickly-evolving market, even the latest comps can lag the current market reality. We have our fingers on the pulse of the local market because we’re working directly with sellers like you. We also represent local buyers who are active in the market, searching for homes like yours.

That puts us in an ideal position to help you price your home for a quick sale and maximum profit. And since we hear first-hand what local buyers want, we can help you prep your home to broaden its appeal and highlight its most-coveted features. Additionally, we can use our extensive network of local agents to solicit feedback and get your home in front of more potential buyers. 

All of these factors can add up to a significant difference in your profit: According to a U.S.-based study, in 2021, the typical home sold by owner went for $225,000 compared to a median price of $330,000 for agent-assisted home sales.9


LET’S GET MOVING

Are you ready to get a great offer for your home? Our multifaceted approach can help you maximize your real estate returns. Reach out for a free home value assessment and customized sales plan to get started!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. National Post
  2. Bankrate
  3. RE/MAX Canada
  4. Journal of Real Estate Research
  5. National Association of Realtors
  6. The Balance
  7. Real Estate Magazine 
  8. RE/MAX Canada
  9. National Association of Realtors

7 Common Homebuyer Regrets (And How To Avoid Them) (August 2023)

To avoid buyer's remorse, be sure to consider your future self when shopping for a home. 

Most new homebuyers don't regret becoming homeowners. In fact, according to a recent survey by Zolo, 80% of Canadians who purchased a home during the pandemic say they're glad they bought their current homes.1 But that doesn't mean newly-minted homeowners don't have any regrets about their buying choices. 

On the contrary, research shows that even the most-satisfied homeowners would change some aspects of their home purchase if given the opportunity.2 Some question their decision to move to a neighbourhood they still don't love. Others wish they had been less picky about where they lived so they could have paid less. Many are afraid they overspent or think they sacrificed too much in their rush to buy a home. 

According to a new survey by Mortgage Professionals Canada, nearly 80% of Canadians still see real estate as a favourable long-term investment. But a growing number of Canadians also admit to being more financially stressed in the short-term due to lingering fallout from inflation. 

Here are some of the most common homebuyer regrets we see, along with our professional advice on how to avoid them.

REGRET #1: Spending More Than Necessary 

No one wants to overpay for their new home purchase (and, luckily, with the right guidance, doing so is avoidable). But even if you've secured a winning purchase price, there are still plenty of ways to accidentally overspend. 

One of the most common ways to overpay? Choose the wrong mortgage. In fact, in today's higher-rate environment, this can be one of the riskiest mistakes a new buyer can make. 

According to another survey by Zolo, for example, 75% of Canadian homebuyers leave money on the table by not bothering to shop around for the best rate.4 Depending on your mortgage terms, this mistake alone could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.  

Many Canadians also put off learning more about their mortgage options and don't take the time to fully understand their loans. As a result, more than a third of survey respondents told researchers at TD Bank last year that they were “confused” about how rising rates would affect them.5 

Lesson Learned:  As long as you stick to what you can afford, buying a home can be a boon for your financial health. The longer you live in it, for example, the more your home is likely to appreciate in value and boost your long-term savings. 

But to get the most value from your purchase, it's worth your time to compare financing options and shop around for the best deal. We also recommend getting a mortgage pre-approval before you start your home search so you know what's within reach. We can refer you to one of our trusted lending partners for help.


REGRET #2: Rushing Into a Home Purchase

In a competitive housing market, it's often necessary to act fast to secure a home. But don't let a need for speed tempt you into making an offer before you've thought through or fully vetted a new property.   

Rushing into a home purchase isn’t just risky, it's also one of the most commonly cited sources of homebuyer regret. According to a survey of U.S. homebuyers, for example, more than 1 in 4 felt remorse over how quickly they sped through the purchase process.

Getting swept away by your emotions can also lead to buyer's remorse. If you've found a home you love and are competing with other buyers, it can be tempting to overlook key details or bid more than you can afford. That's one reason it helps to have a skilled professional by your side to calmly guide you through the process and ensure you act with reason, rather than emotion.

Lesson Learned:  Buying a home is exciting. But if you don't keep your emotions in check or act too impulsively, you could make poor choices in the moment that are hard to undo later. 

To avoid making last-minute decisions that could backfire, know what you want, what you need, and what you can afford before you start your home search. We can help you set priorities so you’ll be able to move forward with confidence when the time is right.


REGRET #3: Miscalculating the Costs of Homeownership

Though real estate is a great long-term investment, it can be pricey in the short-term, often surprising homeowners who aren't prepared for it. According to some estimates, for example, annual maintenance could cost as much as 1% or more of your home's purchase price.6 Some buyers also forget to factor in additional ownership expenses, such as property taxes, insurance, and repairs.

Failing to think through the costs of homeownership is one of the most common sources of homebuyer regret. According to the survey of U.S. homebuyers, for example, nearly half of the buyers who regret their purchase said they underestimated how much they would spend to live in it.2 Similarly, Zolo's March 2023 survey of Canadian homeowners found that nearly half of recent homebuyers didn't bother to create a budget before they bought their homes.4

However, some homes cost more to live in and maintain than others. So even if you're certain that you can afford the average cost of homeownership, that doesn't necessarily mean that every home in your price range will fit neatly into your budget. For example, very old homes with unique maintenance requirements could be extra pricey to keep up. Similarly, homes with high condo fees or above-average utility bills could also eat into your monthly budget. 

Lesson Learned:  A home should help you build your wealth, not drain it. So it's important to factor in all the potential costs of living in a home—not just obvious ones like your mortgage payment and taxes. To ensure you don't get overextended, add up your estimated maintenance and repair costs, as well as any miscellaneous expenses that are unique to a particular home. 

We can help you with these estimates—and, if needed, present you with some less-costly alternatives.


REGRET #4: Underestimating the Time Required To Maintain or Renovate a Home

One of the most joyful aspects of homeownership is getting to relax in a home that's all your own. But if a home is too high maintenance, then you may not have time to savour it. 

Many homeowners love to spend their weekends puttering in their gardens or undertaking home improvement projects. But if that's not you, then you may not like living in a home with a big yard or with high-maintenance features, like a pool.

According to another survey of U.S. homebuyers, for example, 47% of buyers who feel some regret about their home purchase complain that too much maintenance and upkeep is required.7 

Similarly, buyers who purchase fixer-uppers are often surprised by how much time it takes to rehab their new homes. Although buying a fixer-upper is a great way to save on the purchase price, you could come to resent it if it eats up all your free time.

Lesson Learned:  Renovation and maintenance projects are often time-consuming and stressful. So beware of committing to a property that requires too much of your attention if you don't have the time or patience for it. With that said, home improvement projects can also bring a lot of joy and satisfaction to owners who like rolling up their sleeves.

We can talk through the realities of homeownership with you and help you choose a property that will fit your personality and schedule.


REGRET #5: Ignoring or Skipping a Home Inspection

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of buying a home. Sometimes, buyers will agree to skip a home inspection to sweeten their offer in a competitive market. In fact, according to Zolo's survey, only 36% of Canadian homebuyers hired a home inspector last year.4  However, if you skip out on a home inspection, you could come to regret it.

When you hire a home inspector, you get a professional, in-depth examination of the property’s structures and systems before you buy it. It’s a worthwhile investment that can save you money in the long run, either by warning you away from a bad purchase or by providing a list of deficiencies you can use to negotiate with the sellers. 

But even the most thorough home inspection isn't going to be worth much if you don't take the time to carefully consider it. If at all possible, make sure you’re on-site during the inspection so you can observe and ask questions. And don’t forget to re-evaluate any repairs that the seller agrees to make to ensure they’ve been properly completed prior to closing.

Lesson Learned:  A home inspection can reduce your risk and save you money in the long run. But to maximize its effectiveness, you will need to be an active participant in the process.

We’d be happy to share a list of experienced and trustworthy home inspectors in our area. And when the inspection report is complete, we can help you decide if the purchase is worthwhile and negotiate any relevant seller concessions and repairs.


REGRET #6: Choosing a Home That Doesn't Fit 

Homeownership is often a better investment if you’re willing to stay put for at least five years.8 But if your newly purchased home isn’t a good fit, then you may not want to stick around that long. 

Many homeowner complaints come down to simple lifestyle issues: Although a mismatch may seem small at first, the problems can magnify if you make so many compromises that they interfere with your quality of life.

Or, sometimes homebuyers can fall in love with a beautiful home and forget about practicalities. For example, a stunning kitchen can’t replace a needed bedroom or bathroom. And a sparkling pool may sit empty if the home requires a lengthy commute to your office.

Make sure you set some guardrails during your home purchase so you don’t over-compromise or accidentally prioritize your wants over your needs.

Lesson Learned:  When you’re dealing with limited inventory or a fixed budget, it may be necessary to sacrifice some items on your home wish list. In fact, a newly released survey by CIBC found that nearly a quarter of hopeful homebuyers have revised their expectations of a home.9 But if you fail to secure your must-haves, you could come to regret your home choice.

We can help you avoid an ill-fitting home purchase by working with you to set (and stick to) priorities and parameters before you begin your search. 


REGRET #7: Purchasing Without Professional Help

Another path to homebuyer regret? Foregoing the expert guidance and market insight that you can only get from a licensed real estate agent.

Buying a home without professional representation can be extremely risky. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most Canadian homebuyers enlist the help of an agent when purchasing a home.4 And the vast majority find their assistance to be invaluable: According to a survey of U.S. homebuyers, 89% say they would use their agent again or recommend them to others.10

Real estate is hyperlocal and extremely fluid—especially these days when the market is in constant flux. So it pays to have a knowledgeable expert by your side who can guide you through an often-complicated process. 

We can help you avoid expensive mistakes that could lead to buyer’s remorse, all while making your home purchase as seamless and stress-free as possible. And since the home seller typically pays our commission, there’s no added expense for you!

Lesson Learned:  When you work with a real estate agent, you benefit from a wealth of expertise and on-the-ground insight that you can't get anywhere else. We’ll help you steer clear of the missteps that so many homebuyers make, so you can focus on enjoying your new home instead of questioning your choices down the road.

The best part? Since the majority of home sellers pay us a commission at closing, in most cases, we offer our invaluable guidance and assistance at no additional cost to you!


BOTTOMLINE

No one wants to look back on their home purchase and realize they made a big mistake. We can help you avoid the pitfalls so you can buy with confidence. To learn more about how we work to ensure our clients’ satisfaction, reach out today to schedule a free consultation.


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Zolo 
  2. Anytime Estimate
  3. Mortgage Professionals Canada
  4. Zolo
  5. TD Bank 
  6. Scotiabank
  7. Hippo
  8. Wealthsimple
  9. CIBC
  10. National Association of Realtors

Renovate or Relocate? 3 Questions To Help You Decide (July 2023)

Does your current home no longer serve your needs?

If so, you may be torn between relocating to a new home or renovating your existing one. This can be a difficult choice, and there’s a lot to consider—including potential costs, financial implications, and quality of life. 

A major remodel can be a major commitment. From hiring contractors to selecting materials to managing a budget, it can take a tremendous amount of time and energy—not to mention the ordeal of living through construction or relocating to a temporary residence.

On the other hand, moving is notoriously taxing. In fact, in one survey, 60% of respondents viewed moving as “one of life’s most stressful experiences.”1

So which is the better option for you? Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you should consider before you decide.


What Are Your Motivations for Making a Change?

It’s possible that some of the limitations of your current home can be addressed with a renovation, but others may require a move. 

Renovate
Certain issues, like dated kitchens and bathrooms, are fairly easy to remedy with a remodel—and the results can be dramatic. In many cases, a relatively minor renovation can significantly increase your enjoyment of your home. 

Other shortcomings can be more challenging to fix but are worth exploring so that you know your options. For example, if your home feels cramped or it lacks certain rooms, you might be able to make changes like installing an extra bathroom, adding a dedicated office, or finishing an attic or basement. You may even be able to build an accessory dwelling unit or extension to accommodate a multi-generational family. 

However, the feasibility and cost of these larger changes will depend on factors ranging from zoning and permitting to your home’s current layout. Speaking with an architect or a contractor can help you make an informed decision. Let us refer you to one of our trusted partners to ensure you receive the best possible service.

Relocate
Of course, sometimes, even rebuilding your home from the ground up wouldn’t solve the problem. For example, moving may be the only solution if you’ve switched jobs and now face a lengthy commute or if you need to live closer to an aging family member. 

Conversely, if the shift to remote work has opened up your location options, you may wish to seize the opportunity to relocate to a new locale. In fact, a 2022 survey of Canadian workers found that 1 in 10 respondents had moved to a new community due to the flexibility of remote work. 

Moving may also be the best option, even when you’re happy with your geographic location. A local move may make sense if you’re looking for a larger backyard or significantly more space. Similarly, some frustrations—like living on a busy street or a long way from a grocery store—can’t be addressed with a renovation. We are well-versed in this area and can help you determine whether another neighbourhood might suit you and your family better.

Which Option Makes the Most Financial Sense?

Renovating and relocating both come with costs, and it’s wise to explore the financial implications of each choice before you move forward.

Renovate
The costs of a renovation can vary widely, so it’s vital to get several estimates from contractors upfront to understand what it might take to achieve your dream home. 

Be sure to consider all of the potential expenditures, from materials and permits to updates to your electrical and plumbing systems. It’s also prudent to add 10-20% to your total budget to account for unexpected issues.3  If you plan to DIY all or part of your renovation, don’t forget to factor in the value of your time.

Renovations can also come with hidden expenses. These might include:
Additional home insurance
Short-term rental or hotel if you need to move out during the renovation
Storage unit for possessions that need to be out of the way
Dining out, laundry service, and other essentials if you can’t access appliances at home

Remodelling choices can also impact the long-term value of your home. Some projects may increase your home’s value enough to outweigh your investment, while others could actually hurt your home’s resale potential. 

For example, although you may enjoy the additional living space, garage conversions aren’t always popular with buyers.4 New flooring, on the other hand, can bring a return of up to 150%  at resale.5  The specific impact of a renovation will depend on a number of factors, including the quality of work, choice of materials, and buyer preferences in your area. We can help you assess how a planned project is likely to affect the value of your home.

Relocate
The cost of a new home, of course, will vary significantly depending on the features you’re seeking. However, you may find that it’s cheaper to move to a home that has everything you want than it is to make major changes to your existing one. 

For example, adding a downstairs bedroom suite or opening up a closed floor plan could cost you more than it would to buy a home that already has those features. On the other hand, simpler changes and updates probably won’t outweigh the expense of a relocation.

If you’re considering a move, speak with a real estate agent early in the process. We can assess your current home’s value and estimate the price of a new home that meets your needs. This will help you set an appropriate budget and expectations. 

It’s important to remember that the cost of buying a new home doesn't end with the purchase price. You’ll also need to account for additional expenditures, including closing and moving costs and the fees involved with selling your current home. And don’t forget to compare current mortgage rates to your existing one to understand how a different rate could impact your monthly payment. 

However, keep in mind that the interest rate on a mortgage is typically lower than the rate on other loan types—so you could pay less interest on a new home purchase than you would on a large renovation.6 We’re happy to refer you to a lending professional who can help you explore your financing options.


Which Option Will Be the Least Disruptive to Your Life?

A final—but critical—consideration is the time and hassle involved with each option since both renovating and relocating involve a significant amount of each.

Renovate
Don’t underestimate the time and effort involved in a large-scale renovation, even if you choose to hire a general contractor. You will still need to consider and make a number of decisions. For example, even a fairly basic kitchen remodel can involve a seemingly-endless selection of cabinets, tile, countertops, paint colours, fixtures, hardware, and appliances.

And don’t assume that you will get out of packing and unpacking if you stay in your current home. Most renovations—from kitchens to bathrooms to flooring replacement—require you to remove your belongings during the construction process.

The time frame for a remodel is another consideration. High demand for contractors and ongoing material shortages can mean a long wait to get started. And once the project is in progress, you can expect that it will take a couple of weeks to several months to complete.7

Contemplate whether you will be able to live in your home while it’s being renovated and how that would impact your routine. For example, being without a functional kitchen for months can be frustrating, inconvenient, and expensive (since you’ll need to purchase prepared food). Remember that delays are inevitable with construction, and consider what additional challenges they could present. 

Relocate
Of course, finding a new home and selling your current one also takes a significant amount of time and energy. However, in many cases, the timeline can still be shorter than a major renovation. 

Once you find a home that works for you, it typically takes between 30 and 60 days to close, depending on the terms of the contract.8  Plus, you can look for your dream home without the inconvenience of living in a construction zone.

However, a move comes with its own stress and disruptions. If you’re selling your current home, you’ll need to prep it for the market and keep it ready and available for showings. Once you’ve found a place, the packing and moving process takes time and work, as does settling into a new home—especially if it’s in a different neighbourhood. 

Fortunately, we are here to help make the moving process as easy as possible, if you choose to pursue that route. We can help you find a property that meets all your needs, sell your current one for top dollar, and refer you to some excellent moving companies that can help pack and transport your belongings.


WHATEVER YOU DECIDE, WE CAN HELP

The decision to renovate or relocate can be overwhelming—but this choice also presents a powerful opportunity to improve your quality of life.

There’s a lot to consider, from how renovations could impact your home’s resale value down the road to your neighbourhood’s current market dynamics. We’re happy to help you think through your options. Get in touch for a free consultation!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Global Newswire
  2. Future Skills Centre
  3. HGTV Canada
  4. National Post
  5. RE/MAX
  6. RATEDOTCA
  7. House Beautiful
  8. Ratehub.ca

National Real Estate Market Update for 2023 (June 2023)

There’s an old adage in real estate: location, location, location. But ever since the Federal Reserve began its series of inflation-fighting interest rate hikes last year, a new mantra has emerged: mortgage rates, mortgage rates, mortgage rates.

Higher rates had the immediate impact of dampening homebuyer affordability and demand. But this year, we’re seeing further repercussions. While analysts expected listing inventory to swell as sales declined, instead, homeowners have been pushing off plans to sell because they feel beholden to their existing, lower mortgage rates.

So what impact is this reduced demand and low supply environment having on home values? And what can we expect from the real estate market in the coming months and years? Here are several key indicators that help to paint a picture of the current market and where it’s likely headed.

HOME SALES ARE EXPECTED TO PICK UP BY EARLY NEXT YEAR

The weather isn’t the only thing that heats up in the spring and summer. Nationally, it tends to be the busiest time in real estate. But this year, the peak season got off to a slow start, with sales declines in both March and April.1,2 Existing home sales in April were down 3.4% from the previous month—and 23.2% from a year earlier.2

What’s causing this market slowdown? Industry experts attribute it to several factors, including near-record home prices, high mortgage rates, and low inventory.

According to National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, “Home sales are trying to recover and are highly sensitive to changes in mortgage rates. Yet, at the same time, multiple offers on starter homes are quite common, implying more supply is needed to fully satisfy demand. It's a unique housing market.”1

However, some industry experts believe the market is poised for a comeback. Forecasters at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) predict that home sales will continue to fall through Q3 before rising in Q4 and throughout next year.3  Analysts at Fannie Mae expect the recovery to take a bit longer, picking up in early 2024.

Meanwhile, home builder confidence is already up, as purchases of new single-family homes surged in March and April to a 13-month high.5 Builder incentives are helping to boost sales: According to the National Association of Home Builders, in May, 54% reported using them to win over budget-conscious buyers.6

What does it mean for you?  A slower pace of sales has given buyers some breathing room. If you hated the frenzy of the pandemic-era real estate market, now might be a better time for you to shop for a home. We can help you evaluate your options and make an informed purchase.

If you plan to sell your home, prepare yourself for less foot traffic and a longer sales timeline than you may have found a year ago. It will also be crucial to enlist the help of a skilled agent who knows how to draw in buyers. Reach out for a copy of our multi-step Property Marketing Plan.
 
PROPERTY VALUES REMAIN RELATIVELY STABLE

Some good news for buyers: While home builder sales climbed in April, the median new-house price fell to $420,800, an 8.2% decrease from a year ago.5 Meanwhile, the median existing-home price dropped to $388,800, down 1.7% year-over-year. Notably, existing-home prices rose in parts of the country but fell in the South and West.2 

“Roughly half of the country is experiencing price gains,” explains Yun. “Multiple-offer situations have returned in the spring buying season following the calmer winter market. Distressed and forced property sales are virtually nonexistent.”2

The average national home price remains about 40% higher than it was in early 2020, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index.7 A tight housing supply has helped to buoy prices amidst a slowdown in sales.

“While it varies from region to region, home prices at the national level may fall 1% or 1.5% by the end of the year, so not much,” Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, told Yahoo Finance in April.8

Record levels of home equity will help to stabilize the sector and prevent a wave of foreclosures, even as prices moderate, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.9

“But for those who have owned a home for more than a year or two, their home will remain a rock-solid investment. And once affordability is restored, the next generation of households can become homeowners. Getting there is critical to the financial well-being of those households, their communities, and the broader economy,” writes Zandi in The Washington Post.9

What does it mean for you?  Prices have softened in certain market segments—and motivated sellers are out there and willing to make deals. We can help you find your next home and negotiate a great price.

If you’re a homeowner, the surge in home values has slowed, but you’re likely still sitting on a nice pile of equity. Reach out for a free assessment to find out how much your home is currently worth.

LISTING INVENTORY IS LOW, BUT NEW CONSTRUCTION IS ON THE RISE

Unsold existing home inventory rose 7.2% from March to April, according to NAR. At the current level of demand, this equates to 2.9 months of supply, which is still well below the 5 to 6 months of inventory required for a “balanced” market.2

Inventory remains tight despite the market slowdown because many would-be sellers are reluctant to give up their lower mortgage rates. “Affordability is not only an issue for first-time homebuyers, but also for many repeat buyers who still need to take on a mortgage,” explains Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.10

In a recent survey by the home listing site, 82% of respondents who are planning to both buy and sell a home said they feel “locked in” by their low rate.11

In some areas, new home construction is helping to fill the supply gap. “Currently, one-third of housing inventory is new construction, compared to historical norms of a little more than 10%,” according to National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.12

And more new homes are in the pipeline, after a builder slowdown last year. Single-family housing starts rose 1.6% from March to April (seasonally adjusted) and new construction permits hit a seven-month high.13

What does it mean for you?  Inventory remains tight, but less competition means more choice and negotiating power for buyers. If you’ve had trouble finding a home in the past, it may be time to take another look. We can help you explore both new and existing homes in our area.

Sellers are enjoying reduced competition right now, as well. However, the longer you wait to list, the more competition you’re likely to face. And if you feel locked in by your current, lower mortgage rate, consider this: If you roll your equity gains into a down payment on your next home, you could possibly lower your monthly payment. Reach out to discuss your options.

MORTGAGE RATES MAY FINALLY COME DOWN

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a peak of 7.08% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and since then it’s primarily floated between 6 and 7%.14 However, there are signs that rates could trend lower later this year.

“Calmer inflation means lower mortgage rates, eventually,” Yun predicted in a recent statement. “Mortgage rates slipping down to under 6% looks very likely toward the year’s end.”15

Other leading economists agree. In its May forecast, Fannie Mae speculates that 30-year fixed mortgage rates will continue to decline, averaging 6.0% in Q4 2023 and 5.4% by Q4 2024.4 Meanwhile, the MBA predicts rates will fall even faster, averaging 5.6% by Q4 2023 and 4.8% by Q4 2024.3

On May 3, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark borrowing rate by another quarter point—its 10th consecutive increase since March 2022. However, in its corresponding statement, the Fed omitted language from its previous release about “additional policy firming,” leaving some analysts to speculate that the rate hikes may be over.16 

Although mortgage rates aren’t directly tied to the federal funds rate, a decision by the Fed to pause rate increases could have a positive effect. In the meantime, buyers should shop around multiple lenders to find the best rate—and buckle up for what could be an exciting ride.

What does it mean for you?  Mortgage rates may finally trend down, which would be great news for buyers. But, a decrease in rates could correspond with an increase in competition and prices. If you start searching now, you’ll be prepared to make an offer when the time is right. We can help you negotiate a great deal and potential seller incentives.

If you’re planning to sell, this is good news for you, too. But, there are several factors to consider when determining the right time to list your home. Reach out for a consultation so we can help you chart the best course.


WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate forecasts can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighborhood. 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors
  2. National Association of Realtors
  3. Mortgage Bankers Association
  4. Fannie Mae
  5. U.S. Census Bureau
  6. National Association of Home Builders
  7. New York Times
  8. Yahoo Finance
  9. The Washington Post
  10. CNBC
  11. Realtor.com
  12. National Association of Home Builders
  13. United State Census Bureau
  14. Freddie Mac
  15. National Association of Realtors
  16. CNBC

How to Become a Homeowner on a First-Time Buyer’s Budget (May 2023)

It's not easy being a first-time home buyer right now. At the end of last year, housing affordability hit an all-time low.1 Additionally, mortgage rates have risen significantly since 2021, while inventory remains tight for many property categories, but especially for starter homes. Even lower-priced condos are harder to snag these days, as investors and downsizers muscle out first-timers by offering stronger, often cash-heavy bids.

As a result, many first-time home buyers are finding that they need to get creative to afford a home or risk renting for longer than they planned. If you, too, are struggling to afford homeownership, here are some workarounds to consider as you plot your first home purchase.


1. Try House Hacking

“House hacking” is a real estate investment strategy in which participants use their homes to generate income in order to offset their expenditures. 

For example, renting out a basement apartment or accessory dwelling unit (ADU)—such as a detached garage that's been outfitted with a washroom and small kitchen—counts as house hacking. So does splitting housing costs with a roommate or converting a part of your home into an Airbnb.

House hacking isn’t new. But, it’s grown in popularity as a new crop of digital platforms has entered the market and made it easier than ever for homeowners to generate income from their property.

In some cases, house hacking may make it possible for you to qualify for and afford your first home. A lender, for example, may approve you for a larger mortgage if you purchase a home with immediate income potential, such as a legal duplex or a property with a secondary suite that has a kitchen and full washroom.3

In addition, house hacking could help you pay your mortgage once you move in. Here are just a few of the ways you could use your home to earn some extra cash if your neighbourhood or municipality allows it:

Offer paid parking in your driveway on a site like CurbFlip or SpotHero.
Rent out your swimming pool for a few hours on Swimply.
Make your home available for photoshoots or events on Giggster or Peerspace.
Turn your backyard into a pay-by-the-hour dog park on Sniffspot.
List your garage space on Kijiji. 

But before you make plans to house hack, make sure you fully understand an area's bylaws and homeowner restrictions. We can help you find a property with income potential in a neighbourhood with more flexible rules or less restrictive zoning.


2. Team Up With Friends or Family

If you aren't wild about the idea of welcoming strangers to your home, you may want to consider co-purchasing with a friend or family member instead. This unconventional housing arrangement is also growing more popular as friends and family members cope with higher living costs by pooling resources. 

According to Statistics Canada, multigenerational households in Canada have nearly doubled since 2001. Meanwhile, the number of households shared by roommates has grown even more rapidly, climbing by more than 50% during the same period.4

Arrangements can be customized to fit your circumstances. For example, you could purchase a home and then rent a portion of it to a loved one. Or you might consider co-buying a home with friends or family members so that you can step onto the property ladder and start building equity together. 

Co-ownership could work out especially well for you long-term if it helps you to buy a home that's bigger, has more investment potential, or is located in a high-demand area and so appreciates at a faster rate. Plus, you'll get to see your loved ones more often and enjoy the coziness of shared living with people you like having around. 

On the other hand, sharing a big financial responsibility, like a mortgage, with friends or family could get messy—especially if you don't create a clear-cut co-ownership agreement beforehand that outlines your mutual expectations. So plan carefully before you proceed. 

In addition, you may need to rethink the type of home you pursue. For example, a smaller home might be cheaper, but do you really want that much togetherness all the time? We can help you set priorities and search for a suitable property.


3. Tap Your Network for Help With Funding

Another established method for affording a first home is to lean on family or friends for financial help. Getting assistance with the down payment or other borrowing costs can go a long way toward making your homeownership dreams come true.

As long as you don't mind asking for help, a free-and-clear gift that's intended for your down payment is an ideal arrangement, since it will allow you to borrow less overall. Or, if that’s too big an ask, your loved ones could pitch in toward closing or moving costs.

Alternatively, your loved ones could help by co-signing your loan. For example, if their credit score is a lot higher than yours, it could enable you to secure a lower interest rate so that your monthly payment is more affordable. 

You certainly wouldn't be the only one leaning on family to help afford a home at today's prices. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's latest Mortgage Consumer Survey, around a third of recent home buyers used gift money to help buy their homes. What's more, 22% admitted that they wouldn't have been able to afford to buy without it.5 Meanwhile, a CIBC study from 2021 found that many parents are gifting increasingly large amounts to their children to help fund down payments.

Just be sure your parents or other generous loved ones are aware they're giving a gift, not a loan, and are willing to put that in writing. A lender will want proof that this money isn't adding to your debt burden and may require documentation from your benefactors. 

Another way to tap your network for help is to crowdfund part of your down payment or ask for monetary gifts instead of tangible ones. For example, if you're getting married soon, you could skip the wedding gift registry and ask guests to contribute funds to your hoped-for home purchase instead.


4. Look for Special Programs and Assistance

You could also cut some of your upfront mortgage costs by taking advantage of government programs, tax rebates, and other funding opportunities. 

For example, the Government of Canada's new First Home Savings Account (FHSA) initiative could help you trim your next year's tax bill as you gather money for your down payment. When you open an FSHA, you can route up to $8,000 per year of income to the account, tax-free (up to a maximum of $40,000).7 And if you co-buy with a partner and you both open FHSA accounts, you can squirrel away a combined $16,000 per year. 

You may also be eligible for a First Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit up to $1,500, as well as other home buyer rebates, depending on the type of home you buy and where you move. For example, you could get a substantial rebate on some of the GST/HST taxes you pay when you buy a newly-constructed or heavily-renovated home.

First-time home buyers can also borrow up to $35,000 tax-free from their individual Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to help beef up their down payments.7 And eligible buyers can take advantage of the Government of Canada's First-Time Home Buyer's Incentive, which offers 5% to 10% of a new home's purchase price in exchange for a cut of the home's equity.8 We can connect you with a lender or mortgage broker who can educate you about your options and help shepherd you through the process. 


5. Expand Your Home Search

If you’re having trouble finding a home within your budget, consider broadening your search criteria. You may be surprised by the kinds of deals that are available when you're willing to compromise. 

For example, if you're struggling to find an affordable home in your target neighbourhood, expand your search area and consider homes that are further out of town or that are located in up-and-coming areas with lower starting prices. We would be happy to introduce you to some great but lesser-known neighbourhoods that we consider hidden gems.

You could also save money on your home purchase simply by dropping or revising some of your must-haves and settling for OK-to-haves instead. For example, do you really need two washrooms and a large backyard? Or could you settle for a single washroom with space to add a second one in the future? And would a small garden, cozy balcony, or rooftop terrace still give you the outdoor time you crave? These types of compromises can sometimes shave tens of thousands off your purchase price. 

Similarly, if you don't mind rolling up your sleeves or working with a contractor on minor jobs, you can look for homes that need a little TLC. Just because a house looks dated doesn't mean it's destined to stay that way or that it will take a ton of money to spruce up. In fact, a home with good bones but cosmetic flaws could be a perfect match: With less competition, you'll have a better chance of purchasing the home at an affordable price. You can then take your time to save more and fix it up to your taste. 

Keep in mind, starter homes are rarely forever homes, but merely a first step onto the property ladder. By gaining a foothold in the real estate market now, you can set yourself up to afford a more expensive property in the future.

According to Statistics Canada, the net worth of a typical Canadian homeowner has more than doubled since the start of the new millennium, climbing from $323,700 in 1999 to $685,400 by 2019. The average renter's net worth, by contrast, grew far more slowly during the same period, rising from $14,600 to just $24,000.9 We can help you find an affordable first home so you can start building equity to reach your long-term financial and real estate goals.


YOU CAN DO IT—AND WE CAN HELP 

Buying a first home is challenging, but it's not impossible—especially when you have a savvy real estate professional in your corner. We will work with you to devise a plan to overcome your financial constraints. Then, we’ll help you find a home that not only excites you but also fits your budget and lifestyle. Give us a call to get started with a free exploratory consultation. 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.


Sources:

  1. Financial Post
  2. CBC
  3. MoneySense
  4. Statistics Canada
  5. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
  6. CIBC
  7. Government of Canada
  8. A Place to Call Home
  9. Statistics Canada

Stress-Free Home Cleaning: 27 Practical Tactics for Busy Households (April 2023)

Keeping a clean and orderly home is a challenge for many of us. Between busy work schedules, social obligations, and family commitments, it’s tough to keep up with daily chores—let alone larger seasonal tasks.
 
The effort is worthwhile, however. A sanitary environment can keep you and your family healthier by minimizing your exposure to germs and allergens.1 Plus, researchers have found that organized, uncluttered homes have quantifiable mental health benefits, too, including reduced stress, improved emotional regulation, and increased productivity.2 

The reality is, we enjoy our homes more when they are in good order. It’s much easier to relax without piles of unopened mail or a messy kitchen reminding us of work to be done. And don’t we all feel more inclined to entertain family and friends when our homes are well-kept?

That’s why we’ve rounded up our favourite tactics—from overall strategies to little tips and tricks—for keeping things tidy without spending all our spare time cleaning. 


Set a Schedule for Daily and Weekly Cleaning

We’ve all been there—you put off vacuuming or mopping your floor for a few days, only to realize that weeks have passed. Creating a cleaning schedule that works for you is the best way to stay on top of things and avoid overwhelm. Here are a few of our favourite strategies:

Designate a day of the week for each task—then, add them to your calendar so you can’t forget. 
Create a shared schedule that assigns specific responsibilities to each member of the household. Post it in a prominent place, like on the refrigerator, or create a shared digital calendar.
Carve out 15 minutes a day for cleaning and decluttering. Set a timer on your phone and get as much done as you can before it goes off. 

It may take some trial and error to find the tactics that work best for you. The most important thing is to make a habit of cleaning so that clutter and grime don’t have a chance to build. And if you’d like some professional help, reach out for a referral to one of our favourite cleaning services!


Tackle Bigger Chores Seasonally

Many home care tasks are seasonal by nature and only need to be completed once or twice a year. But when we don’t have a plan to tackle them, it’s all too easy to put them off. Here are a few tips to stay on top of these chores:

Mark days on your calendar in advance to attend to annual or semi-annual chores, like cleaning gutters, washing windows, turning mattresses, and shampooing carpets
Schedule just one primary task each weekend instead of blocking out a full two days. This will help ensure a good balance between chores and relaxation. 
Designate a date two to four times a year, depending on your lifestyle, to put away out-of-season items like clothes, holiday decorations, and sporting goods.
Take some time to sort through your seasonal items when you pack them away. Then you can toss, sell, or donate things that you no longer need or enjoy. 

Remember—breaking down these larger tasks can make them less overwhelming. If you space them out so that you can handle them one by one, even the most time-consuming chores become a lot more manageable.

And since all your time is valuable, don't hesitate to delegate these larger home care tasks to professionals. Give us a call for a list of our recommended service providers.
 

Reduce the Barriers to Cleaning

Set yourself up for success by ensuring you have the tools on hand to tackle small tasks with ease. Here are a few ways to make your cleaning supplies more accessible:

Store a broom, dustpan, and vacuum on each floor of your home so they’re easy to reach.
Stash containers of disinfecting and glass wipes under every sink for a mid-week wipe-down.
Place extra bags beneath the liner of your garbage pails, so you’ll have a replacement ready when you take out the trash.
Keep a paper shredder and recycling bin handy so you can dispose of unwanted mail as it’s opened.

By strategically placing your tools and supplies in the locations where you’re most likely to need them, you’ll make cleaning less of a chore and more of a habit.


Stop the Clutter Before It Starts

From coats to shoes to mail, it’s all too easy to find clutter taking over your home. Once these piles start to form, they can feel overwhelming—which only makes it harder to address them. 

To avoid this problem, stop the clutter before it starts. Assign every item a home and create storage spaces and “drop zones” in key locations.3 Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Install coat hooks and shoe racks in the entryway for easy access.
Add a key caddy or shelf for essential items to get you out the door.
Hang a letter bin to capture mail and newspapers as soon as you walk into the house.
Place a donation box in each closet for items you no longer want or need.

It can take a little time to get in the habit of returning items to their assigned space. But once you do, staying on top of clutter will become far more manageable. 

Are you considering a larger organizational upgrade, like a custom closet or pantry system? Reach out for a free consultation to find out how the investment could impact the value of your home!


Tackle Small Tasks Right Away

Sometimes, the mental load of thinking about a chore you need to do is worse than the chore itself. Plus, handling small tasks right away can reduce the need for lengthy cleaning sessions.

Try working these changes into your routine:

Learn to clean as you cook, rather than piling it all up for later. As you wait for water to boil or food to cook through, wash the bowls and utensils you used for prep.
Hang bath towels on a bar immediately after use. By allowing them to properly air dry, you can cut down on the frequency of laundering.
Bring items with you when you leave a room. For example, return plates and cups to the kitchen right away rather than letting them stack up in your home office. 
Take out the trash when you leave for work, school drop-off, or errands. This will save you the time and hassle of a second trip.

If you implement these small changes, your home will stay neater—and you’ll minimize the number of dedicated cleaning sessions you need to take on each week.


Embrace an Evening “Shutdown” Routine

Kitchens can get dirty and cluttered fast. But a few minutes spent cleaning up each evening can prevent the mess from getting out of control.

Imagine your kitchen is a restaurant and you’re tidying it up before closing down for the night. These simple steps will prepare you for the morning rush:

Wipe down all surfaces, including countertops, stove, microwave, and sink. Then toss your soiled washcloth in the hamper and lay out a fresh one for tomorrow.
Load and run the dishwasher every night so you can empty it the next morning.
Prepare for breakfast by programming your coffee pot and setting out some grab-and-go options.

We all know it can be hard to find the energy for chores in the evening. But if you complete these small tasks each night, you’ll start the next day off right in a tidy, clean kitchen.


Think Outside of the Box When It Comes to Storage

Most of us have limited storage space. Unfortunately, without the right spots to stash our items, it’s easy to become disorganized. 

But we’ve found that using household items in innovative ways can help keep mess and clutter under control.5 Here are a few of our favourite swaps:

Place a magazine file in your kitchen for cookbooks, takeout menus, and meal kit cards.
Hang a pocket-style shoe organizer inside your pantry door to store granola bars, spice jars, and other small items.
Separate dress and athletic socks by turning an old shoe box into a drawer divider.
Repurpose jam jars by using them to store office supplies or bathroom essentials.
Store out-of-season clothes inside rarely-used suitcases, so all that space doesn’t go to waste. 

A little creativity goes a long way when it comes to making the most of your space. Just be sure that you’re creating systems you can stick with and not putting things where you might forget about them later!


WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HOME

Keeping your home clean and organized can be a continuous struggle—there’s no need to feel ashamed of that. But taking the time to implement systems that work for you can make life more pleasant and less stressful in the long run.

Remember, we’re not just here to help you buy or sell a home. We want you to love living in it, too. Reach out if you need referrals for house cleaners, window washers, or other service providers that can help you make the most of your space. 


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Healthline
  2. Forbes
  3. My Domaine
  4. Housewife How-Tos
  5. Better Homes and Gardens

My Home Didn’t Sell! Now What? (March 2023)

When it comes to listing your home, most home sellers want three things: 1) to make a lot of money, 2) to put in minimal time and effort, and 3) to sell quickly. But the reality is, selling a home is rarely that simple. And homeowners who try to do it themselves—or receive bad advice—can end up stuck (months later) with a property that hasn’t sold. 

If that’s you, don’t panic! We’ve outlined the top five reasons a home doesn’t sell—and action steps you can take to overcome each of these issues. 

Not sure why your property didn’t sell? If you’re not already working with an agent or your listing has expired or been withdrawn, give us a call! We’d be happy to offer a free, no-obligation assessment and create an action plan to get your home SOLD. 

This marketing piece is not intended as a solicitation for properties currently in an exclusive agreement with another Broker.


BAD TIMING

If your home didn’t sell after several months on the market, timing could’ve been a factor. Markets are driven by the law of supply and demand, and real estate is no exception. 

When there are a lot of people who want to buy homes (demand) and a shortage of inventory (supply), it’s considered a seller’s market. During a seller’s market, listings tend to get snapped up quickly. In a buyer’s market, however, there are more homes for sale than active buyers. This can cause homes to sell for less money and to sit on the market for a longer period of time before receiving an offer.

What causes the shift between a seller’s market and a buyer’s market? Economic factors like interest rates, affordability, domestic growth, and the unemployment rate can all impact buyer demand. Over the past year, for example, higher mortgage rates have not only made it harder for some borrowers to qualify for a home loan, they have also sharply pushed up homebuyers' anticipated monthly payments.1 So even if a buyer was interested in your home, they may have passed on it if they couldn’t qualify for a mortgage at your asking price. 

Seasonal factors like weather, holidays, and school schedules can also increase or dampen the activity and motivation of buyers. Additionally, unexpected events, such as a natural disaster or a stock market crash, can cause some buyers to put their purchasing plans on hold until conditions normalize.

Now What?
If timing does appear to be a factor, it may be advisable to delay relisting your property. Of course, that’s not feasible (or desirable) for every seller. 

In most cases, buyers can be motivated to act with a combination of improvements, incentives, and pricing. Where there’s a will to sell, there’s usually a way. Fortunately for sellers, people will always need a place to live, and there will be a percentage of the population that is motivated to buy quickly. 

If you suspect timing played a role in your inability to sell, consult with a knowledgeable real estate agent. We’re in the field every day and have access to the latest market data. We can estimate how long a home like yours should take to sell given current market conditions and help ensure that your asking price is competitive.


INEFFECTIVE MARKETING

Did your home get a steady stream of showings when it was on the market? If not, you may need to try a new promotional strategy.

Take a look at the listing description. Did it entice buyers to visit your property? A well-written description should be clear and compelling while highlighting your home’s most desirable features. Additionally, it should have utilized best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that it was found by buyers who were looking for homes online.

And how well did the listing photos showcase your property? Many buyers use photos of a home to decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, in an American survey, 85% of buyers who browsed online found photos “very useful” in their home search.2 Poor quality or a low quantity of listing photos could have kept potential buyers from stepping through your door.

Another factor to consider is whether your listing reached the right audience. This can be especially important if you have a unique or highly-customized home. Working with your agent to make your listing available through your local Multiple Listing Service® System is a great place to start, but some properties require a more robust marketing approach.

Now What?
If you suspect ineffective marketing, consider turning to a skilled professional with a proven approach. We employ a strategic Property Marketing Plan that uses the latest technologies to seed the marketplace, optimize for search engine placement, and position your home for the best possible impression right out of the gate. 

For example, we know what buyers in this market want and can craft a persuasive description to pique their interest. And since good listing photos are so crucial, we work with the top local photographers to ensure each shot is staged to your home’s advantage. 

We also know how to get your listing in front of the right audience—one that will appreciate its unique features. By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to your target market. 

Want to learn more about our multi-step marketing strategy? Reach out for a copy of our complete Property Marketing Plan.


POOR IMPRESSION

If your property received a lot of foot traffic but no offers, you may need to examine the impression you made on buyers who visited your property.

Start with your home’s structure and systems. Are there large cracks in the foundation? How about doors and windows that don’t properly close? Are there water stains on the walls or ceiling that could signal a leak? These can be major “red flags” that scare away buyers.

Next, examine your curb appeal. Does the yard need mowing or do the hedges need trimming? Are there oil stains on the driveway? Any peeling paint or rotted siding? If your home’s exterior looks neglected, buyers may assume the entire house has been poorly maintained.

Now move on to the interior of your home. Is it clean? Is there a noticeable odour? Have you taken the time to depersonalize and declutter each room? Buyers need to be able to picture their items in your home, but that’s difficult to do amongst your family photos and personal collections. And oversized furniture and packed closets can make a space seem small and cramped.

Now What?
When we take on a new listing, we always walk through it with the homeowner and point out any repairs, updates, or decluttering that should be done to maximize its sales potential. We also share tips on how to prep the property before each showing. 

In some cases, we will recommend that you utilize staging techniques to highlight your home’s best features and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to stagedhomes.com, for example, staging could cut in half the amount of time it takes to sell and bump up your sale price by as much as 20%.3 In addition, a survey of American real estate agents suggests that staging not only helps spark buyers' imaginations, it can also inspire higher quality offers.4

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, while others opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent. We can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to get your home sold. 


PRICE IS TOO HIGH

Many homeowners are reluctant to drop their listing price. But the reality is, buyers may not seriously consider your property if they think your home is overpriced.

Attitudes have changed since the Bank of Canada started hiking interest rates. Many of today's homebuyers are no longer willing or able to pay as high a price on a new home as they might have when borrowing costs were lower.5 If your home’s original asking price was set using sales data from the market's peak, then you may need to rethink your pricing strategy.
 
Economic factors aren't the only reasons, though, for why a home's asking price might not match its market value. Pricing a home can be tricky, regardless of the economic climate, because so many factors can impact how much buyers are willing to pay. For example, unique, highly customized, and luxury properties are particularly difficult to price because there aren’t a lot of comparable homes with which to compare them. 

Regardless, if your home sat on the market for months without an offer, then chances are good that your asking price needs to be reevaluated.

Now What?
If you aren’t in a rush to sell your home, adjustments to timing or marketing may bring in a new pool of potential buyers. And repairs, upgrades, and staging can increase the perceived value of your home, which may be enough to bring a buyer to the table at your original list price.

However, if you need to sell quickly, or you’ve already exhausted those options, a price reduction may be necessary to get your home the attention it needs to sell. 

We are local market experts and have access to the latest market data and comparable sales in your neighbourhood. We can help you determine a realistic asking price for your home given today’s market conditions. Just reach out for a free home value assessment!


YOU HIRED THE WRONG AGENT (OR WORSE, NO AGENT AT ALL)

If you suspect that your previous real estate agent didn’t do enough—or used the wrong approach—to sell your home, you’re not alone. Many sellers whose listings languish until they expire or are withdrawn feel this way. 

While most agents have the best of intentions, not all of them have the skills, experience, instincts, or local market expertise to devise a winning sales strategy in this challenging market.

Or, perhaps you chose not to hire a listing agent at all and have been trying to sell your home yourself. This can be an equally frustrating endeavour.

Although selling your home independently can help cut some costs, it can also be extremely risky and may even lose you money in the long run. For example, research by the Canadian real estate intelligence firm, Insightt, found that For Sale By Owner (or FSBO) homes took more than twice as long to sell in some real estate markets as homes represented by an agent. Insightt's data also showed that FSBO homes were more likely to sell for less than asking price.6

Now What?
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, you need to ask yourself: “Would I still be interested in selling my home if I could get the right offer?”

If so, we should talk. We understand how frustrating it can be when you’ve put a lot of time, money, and effort into prepping your property for the market and it doesn’t sell. We also empathize with how disruptive a delayed home sale can be to your life.

By now, don’t you owe yourself more than the status quo when it comes to your real estate representation? Our multi-step Property Marketing Plan can help you sell your home for the most money possible, and in the process re-connect you with the excitement you originally felt upon first listing. It’s time for a new agent, new marketing, new buyers, and most of all… new possibilities. 


READY TO MAKE A MOVE? 

Let's talk. We can help you figure out why your home didn’t sell and how to revise your sales strategy and set your home up for success. 

The housing market has experienced a shift and the waters may be choppier than usual for a while. But there's still plenty of opportunity in the current market: You just need a guide who knows where to look and how to find it.


This marketing piece is not intended as a solicitation for properties currently in an exclusive agreement with another Broker. The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA.


Sources:

  1. Financial Post
  2. National Association of Realtors
  3. CREA
  4. Money Sense
  5. The Globe and Mail
  6. Real Estate Magazine

Top 6 Home Design Trends To Watch in 2023 (February 2023)

Over the past few years, many of us have spent extra time at home—and that means we appreciate the personal design touches that make a house cozy and comfortable more than ever. Some of us have adapted our dwellings in new ways, from creating functional home offices to upgrading the appliances we use most. 

But while it’s important to make your home your own, it’s also smart to think about the long-term impact your renovations could have on its value. Choosing highly-personalized fixtures and finishes can make it harder for future homebuyers to envision themselves in the space. Even if you don’t plan to sell your home soon, investing in popular design choices that are likely to stand the test of time will make things easier down the road. 

And if you’re in the market for a new home, it’s wise to keep an eye out for features that might need to be updated soon so you can factor renovation costs into your budget.

We’ve rounded up six trends that we think will influence interior design in 2023, as well as ideas for how you might incorporate them in your own home. Remember, before taking action, it’s always wise to consult with a real estate professional to understand how specific updates and upgrades will affect your property’s value in your local market. 


Separate Kitchen, Dining and Living Areas

For years, home design has been dominated by open-concept floor plans, particularly for kitchen, dining, and living areas. However, as the pandemic forced families to work and study from home, many struggled to find the privacy and separation they needed. As a result, designers report that more families are choosing to bring back walls to break up the space and create quieter areas.1 

That doesn’t mean that we’re returning to an era of dark and cramped spaces, however. Even as walls make a return, it’s important to take care to retain a sense of flow and openness within the home and to prioritize natural light. 

If you’re buying or building a new home, consider how you will use the space and whether or not an open floor plan will suit your needs. If you already live in a home with an open floor plan and it isn’t working for you, try rearranging furniture and strategically placing pieces like bookshelves, room dividers, or rugs to create distinct areas within the home and reduce noise.

Nature-Inspired Design

In the past few years, we’ve seen the “biophilia” trend explode, and there are no signs that it will be any less popular in 2023. This trend is all about bringing the outside in by adding natural touches throughout your home.2 

This year, design experts predict that natural, sustainable materials like bamboo, cork, and live-edge wood will lend character without being overwhelming. Natural-wood cabinets and accents are also back in vogue.3 Designers emphasize that you shouldn’t be afraid to mix contrasting tones, like white oak and rich walnut, to create a custom and inviting look.1

Colours inspired by nature (think mossy greens and desert hues) will also play into this trend and will blend seamlessly with wood tones. We’re also seeing a return to natural stone countertop materials like quartzite, marble, and soapstone.4

If you’re planning to add new shelving or redo your kitchen, consider turning to these materials to embrace the biophilic look. Or, incorporate elements of the trend by choosing nature-inspired paint colours and adding to your houseplant collection.

Lighting as a Design Feature

Spending more time at home has shown us the importance of having the right lighting for specific tasks and times of the day. As a result, many homeowners are reconsidering the ways they light their homes and using light fixtures to change the usability and mood of their spaces.

In particular, homeowners are rejecting bright, flat overhead lighting and replacing it with lamps and task-specific options. A layered approach to lighting—such as using a combination of under-cabinet, task, and ambient lighting in a kitchen—enables homeowners to tweak the level of light they’re using based on the time of day and what they are doing.4 

In 2023, we expect to see more statement chandeliers, pendants, and wall sconces in a variety of shapes and materials.5 Thinking about switching up the lighting in your home? Start by adding floor or table lamps and swapping out fixtures before you invest in rewiring your space. Take note of what works and what doesn’t and watch how the light in your home changes throughout the day. You can then use that information to make lighting decisions that require a bigger investment. 

More Vibrant Colour Palettes

After the long dominance of whites and grays, more vibrant colours are coming back as a way to add character and dimension to homes. 

This year, warm and earthy neutrals, jewel tones, and shades of red and pink are particularly popular.6 If your style tends toward the subtle, consider options like light, calming greens, blues, and pastels.

Major paint brands have responded to these homeowner preferences with their newest releases. Sherwin William’s 2023 colour of the year, Redend point, is an earthy blushing beige, while Dulux is embracing jewel tones with Vining Ivy, a rich teal.7,8 Behr’s choice of the year, Blank Canvas, is a creamy off-white that's a warmer version of the stark whites that have been trending over the past few years.9

If you’re planning to put your home on the market soon, it’s better to play on the safer side and avoid extremely bold or bright colour choices when it comes to paint or fixed finishes like tile and countertops. Instead, try incorporating pops of colour through throw pillows, art, and accessories.

Curved Furniture and Architectural Accents

Goodbye, sharp corners. In 2023, arches and curves lend a sleek feel that draws on classical design and retro trends while remaining modern.6 Rounded corners feel more relaxed and natural than sharp edges, lending more of a sense of flow and comfort to a home. 

If you want to incorporate the trend into your new build or remodelling plans, curved kitchen islands and bars and arched alcoves are all good options—or you can take it a step further with arched windows and doorways. You can also carry this trend through to your light fixtures by incorporating a bubble chandelier or globe pendants.

It’s easy to embrace this look without renovations, too. Look for a softer feel in furniture, with sofas, chairs, and tables that showcase curved edges. Or, break up your space with an arched folding screen and a circular rug.

Art Deco Revival

Art Deco, the architecture and design style that took hold in the 1920s and ’30s, is enjoying a resurgence.1

As a style, Art Deco is marked by bold geometry, textures, and colours, as well as an emphasis on art. But the 2023 interpretation of this style is likely to be a bit less splashy than its historical roots. Designers predict that instead of incorporating all of the elements of the style, which could feel overwhelming, homeowners will pick bursts of colour or bold accessories to bring some whimsy to their space. 

Keep an eye out for vintage mirrors, lamps, or vases that bring a touch of Art Deco glam to your home, or embrace bold colours and fabrics like velvet. Choose pillows and throw blankets in bright colours and geometric patterns to nod to the look without diving in all the way. 

DESIGNED TO SELL

Are you thinking about remodelling or making significant design changes to your home? Wondering how those changes might impact your future resale value? 

Buyer preferences vary significantly based on your home’s neighbourhood and price range. We’re happy to share our insights on the upgrades that will make it easier (or more difficult!) to sell your home. Give us a call for a free consultation!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.


Sources:

  1. Realtor.ca
  2. Sudbury.com
  3. Home Builder Canada
  4. Realtor.ca
  5. The Spruce 
  6. HGTV.ca
  7. Sherwin Williams
  8. Dulux
  9. Behr

​2023 Real Estate Market Outlook (And What It Means for You) (January 2023)

Last year, one factor drove the real estate market more than any other: rising mortgage rates. 

In March 2022, the Bank of Canada began a series of interest rate hikes in an effort to pump the brakes on inflation.1 And while some market sectors have been slow to respond, the housing market has reacted accordingly.

Both demand and home prices have softened, as the primary challenge for buyers has shifted from availability to affordability. And although this higher-mortgage rate environment has been a painful adjustment for many Canadians, it should ultimately lead to a more stable and sustainable real estate market.

So what can we expect in 2023? Will mortgage rates continue to climb? Could home prices come crashing down? While no one can forecast the future with certainty, here’s what several industry experts predict will happen to the Canadian housing market in the coming year.

MORTGAGE RATES WILL EVENTUALLY STOP CLIMBING

Over the course of 2022, we saw the benchmark rate rise at a record pace—a whopping 400 basis points in just nine months. Fortunately, there are signs that the central bank’s series of rate hikes may be coming to an end.2

After last month’s half-point rate increase, Bank of Canada officials struck a noncommittal tone about future rate hikes, prompting economists to speculate that the central bank may pause hiking rates by early spring, if not sooner.3 

According to Stephen Brown, a senior economist at Capital Economics, the central bank is likely to hike rates at least one more time before it shifts gears. “We would not rule out a final 25 basis point interest rate hike in January,” said Brown in a client note. “But the Bank is very close to the end of its tightening cycle.”3
 
What impact will this have on mortgage rates? Variable mortgage rates could finally stabilize. However, buyers hoping for a big drop later in the year may be disappointed. Although some market analysts are betting on lower rates, CIBC economist Benjamin Tal thinks that's unlikely as long as inflation remains a factor. “I think that the Bank of Canada is determined to make sure that they will not touch interest rates in terms of cutting them before inflation is totally dead,” said Tal in an interview with Canadian Mortgage Professional.

Fixed mortgage rates, on the other hand, could continue to trend lower as bond yields crumble.5 James Laird, co-CEO of Ratehub.ca, predicts that Bank of Canada’s benchmark rate will hold steady through 2023, but fixed mortgage rates may tick down because of bonds. “Bond yields will decrease throughout the year, allowing fixed rates to follow suit,” said Laird in an interview with Canadian Mortgage Professional.6 However, those rate decreases may be fairly muted as long as banks’ borrowing costs stay higher overall.  

It's also possible that rates on both variable and fixed-rate mortgages will climb instead. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem has made clear that the central bank is prepared to keep hiking rates aggressively if inflation fails to dissipate. “If high inflation sticks, much higher interest rates will be required to restore price stability,” said Macklem in a recent speech to business leaders.

What does it mean for you?  While no one can predict the future of mortgage rates with certainty, an end to interest rate hikes could bring some much-needed relief for borrowers. If you have plans to buy a home or renew your mortgage in the coming year, you’ll want to weigh your options carefully when deciding between a variable or fixed rate. Reach out for a referral to a mortgage professional who can help.

BUYERS WILL RETURN TO THE MARKET

The pace of home sales fell steeply last year as higher mortgage rates priced would-be buyers out of the market. However, some industry experts predict that the Canadian housing market is poised to turn a corner. 

Although many buyers and sellers are currently in a stalemate over housing prices, market dynamics may shift this spring as more homes go up for sale. 

“Zooming in on demand and supply conditions, the drop in unit sales has been the steepest on record, but the pace of the decline is starting to slow,” write CIBC economists, Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge, in a recent forecast.8 Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, projects that existing home sales will fall through the first half of 2023 and then reverse course and begin to rise in Q3.

Victor Tran, mortgage expert at Ratesdotca, also speculates that a stabilization in mortgage rates will bring home buyers back out. He told the Financial Post in a December interview: “We may be seeing the bottom of the housing market trough before buyers begin to enter the market in spring of 2023.”10

Buyers’ purchasing power will still be constrained by higher mortgage rates, though, as well as by a stringent mortgage stress test for uninsured mortgages and a hefty monthly payment for insured ones. So a buyer’s ability to participate in the market will depend, in part, on a seller’s willingness to negotiate.  

What does it mean for you?  If you’re a buyer who has been waiting for conditions to normalize, now may be an ideal time to start your home search. As more buyers begin to enter the market, you’ll face steeper competition and reduced negotiating power.

And if you’ve delayed selling your home, this could be the year to make a move. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and home value assessment.

HOME PRICES WILL STABILIZE LATER THIS YEAR

Canadian home prices have fallen roughly 10% from their peak, and analysts expect they could fall further before moderating in the second half of this year.11

A Reuters poll of industry experts found a wide range of predictions. But on average, the analysts surveyed project that home prices could fall another 7.5% or so. However, the majority report that the risk of a market crash is low.11

A nationwide housing shortage is expected to prop up prices even as sales volume falls. According to Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, “We have a unique situation where demand has cracked and buyers can’t qualify for, or afford, early-year prices. But, outside some areas, there’s not a bounty of listings to choose from, and sellers are still able to say ‘no thanks.’”11

Economists at CIBC speculate that home prices will hit a floor in the coming months: “A lower 5-year rate and pent-up demand amplified by demographics will work to establish a bottom in prices by the spring of 2023,” write Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge.8

RBC Assistant Chief Economist Robert Hogue offers a similar projection: “We expect prices will keep falling until a bottom [this] spring. Our forecast calls for the national benchmark price to drop 14% from (quarterly) peak to trough.”12

What does it mean for you?  It can feel scary to buy a home when there’s uncertainty in the market. However, real estate is a long-term investment that has been shown to appreciate over time. And keep in mind that the best bargains are often found in a slower market, like the one we’re experiencing right now. Contact us to discuss your goals and budget. We can help you make an informed decision about the right time to buy.

And if you’re planning to sell this year, you’ll want to chart your path carefully to maximize your profits. Contact us for recommendations and to find out your home’s market value.

RENT PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO CLIMB

While home prices have fallen, rent prices have surged—rising around 12% year-over-year, according to data from Rentals.ca.13

The average monthly cost to rent a home in Canada is now higher than ever and some analysts are growing increasingly concerned that renters won't be able to keep up with the higher payments. “We're getting close to a point where rents are just simply becoming unaffordable for renters,” said Urbanation president, Shaun Hildebrand, to CBC News.14 

But that's not stopping landlords from collecting higher rents. In 2023, affordability challenges for would-be buyers, inflationary pressures, and an overall lack of housing are expected to continue driving up rent prices in much of the country. 

“Interest rates are actually working to elevate rent inflation because many people are not buying, so they are renting more,” CIBC Economist Benjamin Tal told CBC News.13

And according to Tal, the higher rates have also disincentivized builders and developers from investing in rental properties. That, in turn, has exacerbated the undersupply of available units.13

It's possible rent prices could ease if Canada's economy deteriorates, says Urbanation's Hildebrand. “But over the medium and longer term with aggressive immigration targets and rental construction that's been stalling recently due to high costs, it's pretty clear that rents are going to continue to rise higher.”14 

What does it mean for you?  Rent prices are expected to keep climbing. But you can lock in a set mortgage payment and build long-term wealth by putting that money toward a home purchase instead. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your options. 

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate forecasts can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighbourhood. 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2023, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. CP24 News
  2. Reuters
  3. CBC
  4. Canadian Mortgage Professional
  5. Reuters
  6. Canadian Mortgage Professional
  7. Global News 
  8. CIBC Capital Markets
  9. BMO Capital Markets
  10. Financial Post
  11. Financial Post
  12. RBC Special Housing Reports
  13. CBC News
  14. CBC News 

Home for the Holidays: How To Stretch Your Budget in a Season of Inflation (December 2022)


You don't have to break the bank to celebrate the holidays in style—even in this season of inflation. Prices may be higher on everything from food to gifts to decorations, but there are still plenty of opportunities to eke out extra savings. 
 
For example, you can trim your energy bills by up to 20% just by sealing air leaks in your home.1 Other small fixes—such as swapping old light bulbs for LEDs and plugging electronics into a powerstrip—can boost your yearly savings enough to pay off some of your holiday budget.
 
And thanks to a pandemic-era boom in online shopping, it is easier than ever to find deals on new and pre-owned furniture, thrifted gifts, DIY decor, and more. Even secondhand stalwarts like Goodwill have joined the digital fray, making it a cinch to score gently-used treasures at extra-low prices.2 
 
You won't be the only one bargain-hunting your way to a more financially-stable New Year. Multiple surveys have found that inflation is not only chilling people's spending, it's also prompting shoppers to search for better deals and creative ways to reduce their bills.3 
 
Here are some strategies you can use to boost your holiday budget by trimming household expenses: 

Hunt for Deals on Groceries
 
If you're finding it harder than it used to be to serve your family dinner on a budget, you're not alone. With grocery prices rising at a record pace, many families are struggling to control costs on food staples, such as meat, dairy, produce, and grains.
 
That's made pulling off holiday gatherings especially stressful lately. But don't despair: Even with inflation, retailers are still giving motivated shoppers plenty of opportunities to whittle down their bills. 
 
The key is to pay attention to the cost of each item on your shopping list—not just the most expensive—and look for easy swaps and discounts. For example, try buying non-perishable items in bulk, especially when they’re on sale, and only in-season produce. Or trade name-brand goods for less expensive options from a store's private label. As you tap into your inner bargain hunter, you could be surprised by what you save when you’re more mindful of your selections. 
 
And unlike in the old days, you no longer have to clip your way through paper flyers to snag a bargain. Instead, you can save both time and money by scouting for deals online, digitally clipping coupons, and earning cash back through special apps and browsers. For example, coupon aggregation sites, like Flipp, and shopping apps—such as Checkout 51 and Rakuten—make it easy to score discounts and cash back on a variety of purchases, including groceries.
 
Also, check to see if your neighbourhood grocer posts their weekly flyers online or if Save.ca has published flyers from other nearby stores. If you're hosting a holiday party, the markdowns you find can help you narrow your food and recipe choices, based on what's currently on sale.

 Prep Your Home for Holiday Guests With Pre-Owned Finds 
 
You don't have to sacrifice style for the sake of preserving your holiday budget either. If you're expecting company this year and would like to add some festive flair to your home, you can do so inexpensively—especially if you're willing to decorate with items that are secondhand. 
 
Thrifting is back in vogue, with an increasing number of shoppers preferring pre-owned furniture and home goods. The number of Canadians who shop secondhand has grown.5 In fact, one study found that nearly three-quarters of Canadians now buy pre-owned goods of some type. 6 Plus, buying used isn’t just a great way to save money, it also helps the environment by keeping reusable items out of landfills.
 
Fortunately, it’s become easier to score secondhand deals online. For example, you can scout consumer marketplaces on Facebook and Kijiji. Or you can take advantage of neighbourhood freecycles and “Buy Nothing” groups. And a number of thrift shops now have e-commerce sites, including major chains, like Goodwill. 
 
If you're handy with a paintbrush or have some basic carpentry skills, you can also modernize some of your existing furniture by upcycling it yourself. Or, if you enjoy crafting, search through your own recycling or sewing bin for raw material to make one-of-a-kind decorations.
 
Don't stress yourself out, though, if you don't have the time or money to dress your home the way you hoped. Your house can still feel festive and inviting, even if it's not completely done up.
 
Forgo Major Renovations in Favor of DIY Home Improvements 

 
Holidays are always a tricky time to undergo big renovations. But with ongoing worker and material shortages, now is an especially bad time to commit. Inflated costs can add thousands to your reno budget—and unnecessary stress to your holiday. 
 
Instead of suffering through an ill-timed remodel, you're better off saving this time of year for simpler, less expensive projects you can do yourself. 
 
One winter-perfect upgrade to consider: Build a DIY fire pit so that you and your guests can roast marshmallows and relax in the cozy comfort of your backyard. You can also add some extra ambiance by hanging energy-efficient LED outdoor string lights that change from white to colourful. These are festive enough for the holidays, but also versatile enough to use year-round.
 
Or, if you'd rather curl up by an indoor fire, channel your DIY energy into a fireplace upgrade. Adding a wooden beam to the top of your mantel can add an extra layer of coziness. Alternatively, re-tiling or painting your fireplace surround can lend contemporary flair. 
 
Just be sure to stick to DIY projects that you know you can do a quality job on—especially if your changes will be difficult to reverse. Feel free to reach out for a free assessment to find out how your planned renovations could impact your home’s resale value.
 
 
Invest in Home Maintenance Projects That Cut Your Utility Bills 
 
You can save money by completing basic home maintenance tasks, such as swapping your furnace filter and updating your lightbulbs. But if you really want to lower your bills this winter, consider projects that make your home more energy efficient. 
 
Research by the trade group NAIMA found that most homes in Canada are under-insulated, which wastes energy and money.7 The group estimates that Canadians can potentially save hundreds of dollars per year just by retrofitting their homes. Luckily, there are plenty of DIY insulation projects that you can complete in just a few days. For example, some projects you can do relatively quickly include:
Insulating your attic or basement crawl space
Weatherstripping doors and windows
Sealing areas around the house that may be leaking air, including electrical outlets and fireplaces
 
The savings you get from these projects can really add up. Natural Resources Canada estimates that walls alone account for roughly 20% of heat loss in homes, so they’re a rich target for tackling costly sources of air leakage.8 And thanks to the Canada Greener Homes Initiative, you can also save a bundle this year by investing in certain energy-efficient upgrades and claiming a tax rebate.9 Be sure to check with us about any municipal or provincial rebates and incentives that may be available, too, before getting started on a project. 
 
 
Use Expense Tracking to Boost Your Holiday Budget 
 
To avoid overextending yourself during the holidays, one of the best things you can do is track your income and expenses. If your monthly budget is usually tight, you may need to make some adjustments to free up cash for holiday expenditures.
 
For example, here's a sample budget worksheet that we created. Start by adding in your expenses: Under the “Typical” column, you can list your standard expenses, and under the “Adjusted” column, list any areas where you could cut back on spending. 
 
Then consider how your standard wages may be adjusted this month by extra shifts, additional tips, or an end-of-year bonus. By decreasing your spending and/or increasing your income, you can build room in your budget for holiday gifts and gatherings.

 

  Typical Adjusted Difference (+/-)
       
HOUSING      
Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent      
Utilities (hydro, water, gas, trash)      
Phone, internet, cable      
Home maintenance and repairs      
FOOD      
Groceries      
Restaurants      
TRANSPORTATION      
Car payment/insurance      
Gas, maintenance, repairs      
OTHER      
Health insurance      
Clothing and personal care      
Childcare      
Entertainment      
Charitable contributions      
Savings, retirement, college fund      
INCOME      
Salary/wages      
Bonus, tips, other      
MONTHLY TOTALS      
Total Adjusted Income      
Total Adjusted Expenses      
EXTRA SAVINGS      

Feel free to utilize this worksheet as a template that you can customize to your needs, or ask us for a PDF copy that you can print out and use right away. 
 
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
We would love to help you meet your financial goals now and in the year ahead. Whether you want to find lower-cost alternatives for home renovations, maintenance, or services, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. 
 
And if you’re saving up to buy a new home, we can help with that, too. This is the perfect time to score a great deal because only the most motivated homebuyers and sellers are active in the market right now. So reach out to schedule a free consultation. We can fill you in on some of the exciting programs and incentives we’re seeing that help make homeownership more affordable.
 
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.
 
Sources: 
  1. CTV News
  2. CBC News
  3. MoneyWise
  4. Statistics Canada
  5. Statista
  6. Retail Insider
  7. NAIMA Canada
  8. Natural Resources Canada
  9. Government of Canada
 
 

7 Tips to Maximize Your Home’s Sale Price (November 2022)

Over the past few years, a real estate buying frenzy bid up home prices to eye-popping amounts. However, as mortgage rates have risen, buyer demand has cooled.1 Consequently, home sellers who enter the market today may need to reset their expectations.

The reality is, it’s no longer enough to stick a “for sale” sign in the yard and wait for buyers to bang down the door. If you want to net the most money possible for your property in today’s market, you’ll need an effective game plan and a skilled team of professionals to implement it. 

Fortunately, we’ve developed a listing strategy that combines our proven approach to preparation, pricing, and promotion—all designed to help you get top dollar for your home. But you will play an important role in the selling process, as well. 

Here are some crucial steps you can take to set yourself up for success as a home seller in this market:

Make Strategic Repairs and Improvements

When you sell something, it’s important to consider what your customer wants to buy. And according to a recent survey, 83% of Canadians view “affording necessary renovations” as a major hurdle to buying a home.2 If you can present buyers with a move-in-ready option, they will feel more confident in making an offer.

Before your home goes on the market, we’ll conduct a thorough walk-through to identify any problems that could prevent it from selling. In some cases, we may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. Finding and addressing issues like leaks, rot, and foundation problems up front can pay off in the final sale price. Plus, it prevents sales from falling through because of a red flag on the home inspection, a scenario no seller wants to face.

Beyond repairs, we’ll also help you identify the simple upgrades that offer the highest return on your investment. For example, new paint can give your home a fresh look at a reasonable cost. And according to a recent report, it’s one of the top renovations for return at resale.3 Similarly, minor landscaping improvements can pay off in a major way. A healthy lawn offers an estimated 256% ROI.

 Declutter and Depersonalize

When buyers look at a home for sale, they’re trying to envision themselves living there. That’s hard to do if it’s chock-full of the current owner’s family photos, children’s artwork, and souvenir collections. Plus, cluttered homes look smaller, and older items can make them feel dated. 

Decluttering before you put your home up for sale will help you in the long run—after all, you’ll need to move all your things to your new home eventually. Now is the time to shred, digitize, or organize old documents, donate old clothes, or move bulky furniture into storage. At a minimum, you’ll want to pack away excess items neatly before potential buyers view the home. Remove personal photos and other trinkets to create a blank slate that viewers can imagine decorating with their own prized possessions.

If you feel overwhelmed by this process, we’d be happy to make recommendations or refer you to a local service provider who can help.

Stage Your Home for Success

Just as you take care to dress professionally for a job interview, you should always ensure your home looks its best for potential buyers. Home shoppers today are used to scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, and they want to see the same wow factor when touring a home.

The process of making your home look its best and appeal to potential buyers is called staging, and it can be a game changer. According to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, an average priced staged home sells 5 to 11 times faster than its unstaged counterpart. Even better, the majority of staged homes sell for 4% to 20% over list price!5

Some sellers hire a professional stager, who may bring in furniture and decor to increase the home’s appeal. Others choose to stage their homes themselves. We can help advise you on which route to choose and how much to invest in the process. 

It’s also important to consider what buyers in your neighbourhood are likely to be looking for in a home. We can help guide your staging choices with our local market insights. For example, in neighbourhoods where a large share of residents work from home, it may be effective to stage one room as an office space so potential buyers can envision their day-to-day routine.

Prep for Each Showing

Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect that (sometimes messy) reality. But when your home is on the market, it’s important to ensure that it is always ready for viewers, even on short notice. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home!

Before your home hits the market, it may be worth hiring professional cleaners to get in all the nooks and crannies. After, try your best to keep things spic and span. Just a few minutes a day wiping down counters, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming can make a big difference. 

It’s also worth noting that most buyers will open cabinets, drawers, and closets—so try to make sure everything is as neat and organized as possible. Keep toiletries and small appliances off countertops, and secure valuables and sensitive documents in a safe or off-site.

Want help finding a cleaning service to make your home shine for buyers? Reach out for a referral!

Price Your Home Correctly From the Start

In the past few years, you may have seen homes in your neighbourhood sell for shocking amounts and wondered if you could get a similar price for your property. The temptation to list your home on the high side can be strong, but it’s best to be realistic from the start. Even in a strong market, some homes will sit for months. And the longer a property is listed, the more buyers worry that something is wrong with it.

Of course, you also don’t want to set your price too low and lose out on potential profit. That’s why it’s essential to work with real estate agents (like us!) who know the ins and outs of our local market and what buyers are willing to pay today. In a quickly-evolving market, comparable sales from a few months ago can lag the current market reality. 

Fortunately, if you’ve owned your home for several years, chances are good that it’s worth much more today than you paid for it. That means you stand to walk away with a handsome profit.

Avoid Acting on Emotion

The past few years of over-asking-price offers with few conditions have set certain expectations for many sellers. It’s only natural to feel hurt or even offended if an offer comes in lower than what you think your home is worth. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that those market conditions were unprecedented, and we are now returning to a more typical market. Home sellers who act rationally, rather than emotionally, are going to get the best results. 

Remember: You can always counter a low offer. The same goes for repair requests and conditions—everything is negotiable. However, it’s important to accept that the market is adjusting and flexibility is key. Keep your expectations reasonable, and remain open-minded. And you can rest assured knowing that we’ll be by your side every step of the way to help you navigate the process and negotiate a great deal.

Work With a Local Market Expert

The economics impacting mortgage rates may be national, but real estate markets are hyperlocal. That’s why working with a professional agent who understands your neighbourhood’s dynamics is essential. Through our experience, we’ve gathered insights that can help us position your home for success in this market. Plus, we have the resources to connect with qualified buyers searching for a home like yours. 

Working with a knowledgeable agent is also the secret to getting as much money as possible for your home. We have access to extensive data on recent sales in your neighbourhood, which we will use to price and promote your property. That’s one reason why homes sold by agents draw much higher prices than those sold by their owners alone. The U.S.-based National Association of Realtors found that for-sale-by-owner homes went for a median price of $260,000 in 2020, while the median for homes sold by agents was $318,000.6 That’s a difference of $58,000—and money you don’t want to leave on the table.

YOUR AGENT AND ADVOCATE

Selling a home in a fast-changing market can be stressful. You’re likely to hear conflicting advice and opinions from people in your life, and decisions like what colour to paint your front door or how much to list your home for can be overwhelming. 

That’s where we come in. The market may be adjusting, but we’re here to help you make the most of it. We’re listing experts in our area, and we know what steps you need to take for a smooth, profitable transaction.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home, we invite you to reach out to schedule a free consultation. We’re happy to talk through your specific situation and goals and help you identify your next steps.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources: 

  1. Global News
  2. Chartered Professional Accountants Canada
  3. RE/MAX Blog
  4. Angi
  5. International Association of Home Staging Professionals
  6. National Association of Realtors

Buy Now or Rent Longer? 5 Questions to Answer Before Purchasing Your First Home (Oct 2022)

Deciding whether to jump into the housing market or rent instead is rarely an easy decision – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. But in today’s whirlwind market, you may find it particularly challenging to pinpoint the best time to start exploring homeownership.  

 A real estate boom during the pandemic pushed home prices to an all-time high.1 Add higher mortgage rates to the mix, and some would-be buyers are wondering if they should wait to see if prices or rates come down.
But is renting a better alternative? Rents have also soared along with inflation – and are likely to continue climbing due to a persistent housing shortage.2 And while homebuyers can lock in a set mortgage payment, renters are at the mercy of these rising costs for the foreseeable future. 
So, what's the better choice for you? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to buying versus renting. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and we'll help walk you through your options. You may also find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

How long do I plan to stay in the home?

You'll get the most financial benefit from a home purchase if you own the property for at least five years.3 If you plan to sell in a shorter period of time, a home purchase may not be the best choice for you.

 There are costs associated with buying and selling a home, and it may take time for the property’s value to rise enough to offset those expenditures. 
Even though housing markets can shift from one year to the next, you’ll typically find that a home’s value will ride out a market’s ups and downs and appreciate with time.4 The longer you own a property, the more you are likely to benefit from its appreciation. 

Once you’ve found a community that you’d like to stay in for several years, then buying over renting can really pay off. You’ll not only benefit from appreciation, but you’ll also build equity as you pay down your mortgage – and you’ll have more security and stability overall.

 Also important: If you plan to stay in the home for the life of the mortgage, there will come a time when you no longer have to make those payments. As a result, your housing costs will drop dramatically, while your equity (and net worth) continue to grow.

Is it a better value to buy or rent in my area?

If you know you plan to stay put for at least five years, you should consider whether buying or renting is the better bargain in your area.
One helpful tool for deciding is a neighbourhood’s price-to-rent ratio: just divide the median home price by the median yearly rent price. The higher the price-to-rent ratio is, the more expensive it is to buy compared to rent.5 Keep in mind, though, that this equation provides only a snapshot of where the market stands today. As such, it may not accurately account for the full impact of rising home values and rent increases over the long term.
According to data from the Canadian Real Estate Association, a homeowner who purchased an average-priced Canadian home 10 years ago would have gained roughly $285,000 in equity — all while maintaining a steady mortgage payment.6,7 
In contrast, someone who chose to rent during that same period would have not only missed out on those equity gains, but they would have also seen average Canadian rental prices increase by around 34%.8 
So even if renting seems like a better bargain today, buying could be the better long-term financial play.

Ready to compare your options? Then reach out to schedule a free consultation. As local market experts, we can help you interpret the numbers to determine if buying or renting is a better value in your particular neighbourhood.

Can I afford to be a homeowner? 

 If you determine that buying a home is the better value, you’ll want to evaluate your financial readiness. 
Start by examining how much you have in savings. After committing a down payment and closing costs, will you still have enough money left over for ancillary expenses and emergencies? If not, that’s a sign you may be better off waiting until you’ve built a larger rainy-day fund.

 Then consider how your monthly budget will be impacted. Remember, your monthly mortgage payment won’t be your only expense going forward. You may also need to factor in property taxes, insurance, association fees, maintenance, and repairs.
Still, you could find that the monthly cost of homeownership is comparable to renting, especially if you make a sizable down payment. Landlords often pass the extra costs of homeowning onto tenants, so it’s not always the cheaper option. 
Plus, even though you’ll be in charge of financing your home’s upkeep if you buy, you’ll also be the one who stands to benefit from the fruits of your investment. Every major upgrade, for example, not only makes your home a nicer place to live; it also helps boost your home's market value. 
If you want to buy a home but aren’t sure you can afford it, give us a call to discuss your goals and budget. We can give you a realistic assessment of your options and help you determine if your homeowning dreams are within reach.

Can I qualify for a mortgage?

If you’re prepared to handle the costs of homeownership, you’ll next want to look into how likely you are to pass Canada's mortgage stress test and get approved for a mortgage.

 Every borrower who applies for a mortgage from a federally-regulated lender, such as a bank, must pass a mortgage stress test – even if you have an ample down payment. (Some smaller lenders that aren't federally regulated, such as credit unions, may also put your mortgage application through a stress test, but they aren't required to do so.)9 
To conduct the test, a lender will consider your qualifying income, estimated expenses (such as condo fees or non-mortgage-related debt), and prospective mortgage amount and calculate whether you'd still be able to afford the mortgage if your rate rose by a certain amount. You can also conduct your own mock stress test by inputting some income and expense estimates into the Government of Canada's Mortgage Qualifier Tool.10 However, be aware the government's minimum qualifying interest rate could change by the time you’re ready to buy.
Every lender will also have its own approval criteria separate from the feds' minimum. But, in general, you can expect a creditor to scrutinize your job stability, credit history, and savings to make sure you can handle a monthly mortgage payment.
For example, lenders like to see evidence that your income is stable and predictable. So if you’re self-employed, you may need to provide additional documentation proving that your earnings are dependable. A lender will also compare your monthly debt payments to your income to make sure you aren't at risk of becoming financially overextended. 

 In addition, a lender will check your credit report to verify that you have a history of on-time payments and can be trusted to pay your bills. Generally, the higher your credit score, the better your odds of securing a competitive rate. 

 Whatever your circumstances, it’s always a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. Let us know if you’re interested, and we’ll give you a referral to a loan officer or mortgage broker who can help.
Want to learn more about applying for a mortgage? Reach out to request a copy of our report: “8 Strategies to Secure a Lower Mortgage Rate”

How would owning a home change my life?

Before you begin the preapproval process, however, it’s important to consider how homeownership would affect your life, aside from the long-term financial gains.
In general, you should be prepared to invest more time and energy in owning a home than you do renting. There can be a fair amount of upkeep involved, especially if you buy a fixer-upper or overcommit yourself to a lot of DIY projects. If you’ve only lived in an apartment, for example, you could be surprised by the amount of time you spend maintaining a lawn.

 On the other hand, you might relish the chance to tinker in your very own garden, make HGTV-inspired improvements, or play with your dog in a big backyard. Or, if you’re more social, you might enjoy hosting family gatherings or attending block parties with other committed homeowners. 
The great thing about owning a home is that you can generally do what you want with it – even if that means painting your walls fiesta red one month and eggplant purple the next.

 The choice – like the home – is all yours.   

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS? WE’VE GOT ANSWERS
The decision to buy or rent a home is among the most consequential you will make in your lifetime. We can make the process easier by helping you compare your options using real-time local market data. So don't hesitate to reach out for a personalized consultation, regardless of where you are in your deliberations. We'd be happy to answer your questions and identify actionable steps you can take now to reach your long-term goals.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources: 

  1. Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA)
  2. Financial Post
  3. Wealthsimple 
  4. Trading Economics
  5. Investopedia
  6. CBC
  7. Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA)
  8. CMHC
  9. Government of Canada
  10. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

8 Strategies to Secure a Lower Mortgage Rate (Sept 2022)

Interest rates have risen rapidly this year, triggered by the Bank of Canada’s efforts to curb inflation. And the July MNP Consumer Debt Index found that 59% of Canadians “are already feeling the effects of interest rate increases.”1  
Why has the impact been so widespread? In part, due to the rising popularity of variable rate mortgages. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in the latter half of last year, the majority of mortgage borrowers opted for a variable over a fixed interest rate.2 

Variable mortgages are typically pegged to the lender’s prime rate, which means they are immediately affected by rising interest rates. Homeowners with fixed mortgages aren’t impacted as quickly because their interest rate is locked in, but they will face higher rates, as well, when their mortgages are up for renewal. And many homebuyers are finding it increasingly difficult to afford or even qualify for a mortgage at today’s elevated rates.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to strengthen your position if you have plans to buy a home or renew an existing mortgage. Try these eight strategies to help secure the best available rate:

1. Raise your credit score.
Borrowers with higher credit scores are viewed as “less risky” to lenders, so they are offered lower interest rates. A “good” credit score typically starts at 660 and can move up into the 800s.3 If you don’t know your score, you can access it online from Canada’s two primary credit bureaus, Equifax and Transunion.4 
Then, if your credit score is low, you can take steps to improve it, including:5
Correct any errors on your credit reports, which can bring down your score. You can request free copies of your reports through the Equifax and Transunion websites. 

Pay down revolving debt. This includes credit card balances and home equity lines of credit.

Avoid closing old credit card accounts in good standing. It could lower your score by shortening your credit history and shrinking your total available credit.

Make all future payments on time. Payment history is a primary factor in determining your credit score, so make it a priority.

Limit your credit applications to avoid having your score dinged by too many inquiries. If you’re shopping around for a car loan or mortgage, minimize the impact by limiting your applications to a two-week period.
Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

2. Keep steady employment.

If you are preparing to purchase a home, it might not be the best time to make a major career change. Unfortunately, frequent job moves or gaps in your résumé could hurt your borrower eligibility. 
When you apply for a new mortgage, lenders will typically review your employment and income history and look for evidence that you've been financially stable for at least two years.6 If you’ve earned a steady paycheck, you could qualify for a better interest rate. A stable employment history gives lenders more confidence in your ability to repay the loan.
That doesn’t mean a job change will automatically disqualify you from purchasing a home. But certain moves, like switching from corporate employment to freelance or self-employment status, could force you to delay your purchase, since lenders will want to see proof of steady, long-term earnings.6 

3. Lower your debt service ratios.

Even with a high credit score and a great job, lenders will be concerned if your debt payments are consuming too much of your income. That’s where your debt service ratios will come into play.
There are two types of debt service ratios:7

Gross debt service (GDS) — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering housing expenses (mortgage, property taxes, utilities, and 50% of condo maintenance fees)? 

Total debt service (TDS) — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering ALL debt obligations (housing expenses, credit cards, student loans, and other debt)?
What’s considered a good debt service ratio? Lenders typically want to see a GDS ratio that’s no higher than 32% and a TDS ratio that’s 40% or less.7 
Low debt service ratios will also help you pass a mortgage stress test, which is required by all Canadian banks and some other types of lenders. The stress test is designed to help ensure you can continue to afford your mortgage payments even if interest rates rise. You can use the government of Canada's Mortgage Qualifier Tool to calculate how much you can afford to borrow. 
If your debt service ratios are too high, or you can’t pass a mortgage stress test, you may need to consider purchasing a less expensive home, increasing your down payment, or paying down your existing debt. A bump in your monthly income will also help.

4. Increase your down payment.

Minimum down payment requirements vary by loan size and property type. But, in some cases, you can qualify for a lower mortgage rate if you make a larger down payment.
Why do lenders care about your down payment size? Because borrowers with significant equity in their homes are less likely to default on their mortgages. That’s why you will be required to purchase mortgage default insurance if you put down less than 20%.8 
It’s important to note that some lenders offer discount rates for borrowers who put down less than 20% – because the required default insurance protects them from any potential loss. However, the cost of CMHC or private mortgage default insurance will typically exceed any interest savings. You'll also have to pay interest on that insurance if you add it to your mortgage.9 The bottom line: you’ll save money in borrowing costs if you can afford a larger down payment.
Fortunately, there are a couple of government-initiated resources designed to help eligible first-time home buyers with a down payment, including:9
Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) – Buyers may withdraw up to $35,000 (tax-free) from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan(RRSP). The money must be used to build or purchase a qualifying home and repaid to the RRSP within 15 years.

First-Time Home Buyer Incentive – Buyers can take advantage of a shared-equity mortgage with the Government of Canada. Essentially, the Government will put 5% or 10% towards your down payment, interest-free, in exchange for a limited equity share of your property. The repayment is due in 25 years or when you sell your home. 
We’d be happy to discuss these and other programs, tax rebates, and incentives that might help you increase your down payment.

5. Weigh interest rate options.

All mortgages are not created equal, and some may be a better fit than others, depending on your priorities and risk tolerance. For starters, there are several interest rate options to choose from:10
Fixed — You’re guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire length of the loan. Many buyers prefer a fixed rate because it offers them predictability and stability. However, you’ll pay a premium for it, as these mortgages typically have a higher interest rate to start. And if rates fall, you’ll be locked into that higher rate.

Variable — Your interest rate will rise or fall along with your lender’s prime rate. You can choose either an adjustable or a fixed monthly payment. However, if you opt for a fixed payment, the amount that goes towards principal and interest each month will fluctuate depending on the current rate. Variable-rate mortgages typically offer lower interest rates to start but run the risk of increasing.

Hybrid – Can’t decide between a fixed or variable rate? Hybrid mortgages attempt to address that dilemma. A portion of the mortgage will have a fixed rate and the remainder will have a variable rate. The fixed gives you some protection if rates go up, while the variable offers some benefit if rates fall.
What’s the best choice if you’re looking for the lowest mortgage rate? The answer is…it depends. If mortgage rates don’t rise much higher, or drop back down in a couple of years, you could win by opting for a variable rate. However, if they continue to climb, you may be better off with a fixed rate.
Keep in mind that the spread between variable and fixed rates has narrowed as rates rise.11  However, it's still easier to meet the stress-test requirements for a variable mortgage, since the threshold is lower.12 So, your choice may be limited by your ability to qualify.

6. Compare loan terms.

A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. At the end of the term, a mortgage holder will need to either pay off their mortgage or renew for another term.
There are three major types of mortgage terms:13


Shorter-term – These can range from 6 months to 5 years, and they are the most popular type in Canada. Borrowers can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate.

Longer-term – These are longer than 5 years but generally no more than 10 years in length. Longer-term mortgages are more likely to feature fixed-interest rates and hefty prepayment penalties.

Convertible – Offers the option to extend a shorter-term mortgage to a longer-term mortgage, typically at a different interest rate.
Which loan term offers the lowest rate? A shorter-term mortgage will typically feature a lower interest rate than a longer-term mortgage. However, the rate on a 1-year or a 3-year mortgage could be higher or lower than a 5-year mortgage depending on the current economic climate and whether it’s fixed or variable. 
Many lenders offer especially attractive rates for 5-year mortgages due to their popularity.14 But to find the best rate, you’ll need to compare your options at the time of purchase or renewal.

7. Get quotes from multiple lenders.
When shopping for a mortgage, be sure to solicit quotes from several different lenders and lender types to compare the interest rates and fees. Depending upon your situation, you could find that one institution offers a better deal for the type of loan and term length you want.
Ideally, you should begin this process before you start looking for a home. If you get preapproved for a mortgage, in most cases, you can lock in the mortgage rate for 90 to 120 days. This is especially important when interest rates are rising.15

Some borrowers choose to work with a mortgage broker. Like an insurance broker, they can help you gather quotes and find the best rate. They’re paid a commission by the lender, so it won’t cost you anything out of pocket to use a broker. However, make sure you find out which lenders they work with and contact more than one so you can compare their recommendations.16
Don’t forget that we can be a valuable resource in finding a lender, especially if you are new to the home buying process. After a consultation, we can discuss your financing needs and connect you with loan officers or brokers best suited for your situation.

8. Ask for a discount.
When shopping for a mortgage, don’t be afraid to negotiate. In Canada, it’s commonplace for lenders to discount their advertised interest rates, which are called posted rates. And in many cases, all you have to do is ask. Of course, the strength of your application will come into play here – so don’t neglect strategies 1 through 4 above.17
Keep in mind that interest rates aren’t the only thing on the table. You can negotiate other contract terms, as well, like prepayment options and rebates. And if you get a great offer from one lender, you can leverage it by asking your preferred institution to match or beat it.17

Getting Started
Unfortunately, the rock-bottom mortgage rates we saw during the height of the pandemic are behind us. However, today’s 5-year fixed rates still fall beneath the historical average — and are well below the all-time peak of 20.75% in 1981.18
And although higher mortgage rates have made it more expensive to finance a home purchase, they have also ushered in a more balanced market. Consequently, today’s buyers are finding more homes to choose from, a better value for their investment, and sellers who are willing to negotiate.
If you have questions or would like more information about buying or selling a home, reach out to schedule a free consultation. We’d love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!

Sources:

  1. MNP Consumer Debt Index - https://mnpdebt.ca/en/resources/mnp-consumer-debt-index
  2. Global News - https://globalnews.ca/news/8970237/canada-mortgages-variable-fixed-cmhc/
  3. Loans Canada - https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/minimum-credit-score-required-for-mortgage-approval/
  4. Government of Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-reports-score/order-credit-report.html
  5. Government of Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-reports-score/improve-credit-score.html
  6. RATESDOTCA - https://rates.ca/resources/how-long-at-job-before-applying-mortgage
  7. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/ca/mortgages/what-are-debt-service-ratios
  8. Royal Bank of Canada - https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/mortgages/mortgage-default-insurance.html
  9. Government of Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/down-payment.html#toc2
  10. Government of Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/choose-mortgage.html
  11. Canada Mortgage Professional - https://www.mpamag.com/ca/mortgage-industry/industry-trends/what-do-falling-bond-yields-mean-for-fixed-rates/416463
  12. The Globe and Mail - https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-the-best-mortgage-strategies-for-a-rising-interest-rate-environment/
  13. Government of Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/mortgage-terms-amortization.html
  14. WOWA.ca - https://wowa.ca/mortgage-rates
  15. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/ca/mortgages/what-is-mortgage-pre-approval
  16. Government of Canada -https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/preapproval-qualify-mortgage.html
  17. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/ca/mortgages/negotiating-mortgage-fees
  18. RateHub.ca - https://www.ratehub.ca/5-year-fixed-mortgage-rate-history

10 Pro Tips for a Smooth Home Move (Aug 2022)

The process of buying a new home can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But the journey doesn’t stop when you close on your property. On the contrary, you still have quite a bit to do before you can begin the process of settling into your new place. 
Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything in a day. You don’t have to do it all alone, either. When you work with us to sell or purchase a home, you’ll have an ally by your side long after your transaction has closed. We’ll continue to be a resource, offering advice and referrals whenever you need them on packing, hiring movers and contractors, and acclimating to your new home and neighbourhood. 

When it comes to a life event as stressful as moving, it pays to have a professional by your side. Here are some of our favourite pro tips to share with clients as they prepare for an upcoming move. 

1. Watch out for moving scams.

Maybe you receive a flyer for a moving company in the mail. Perhaps you find a mover online. Either way, never assume that you’re getting accurate information. According to The Canadian Association of Movers, moving scams are on the rise — with seniors, in particular, being targeted.1 

How can you tell if a moving deal is too good to be true? Trust your instincts. If the price appears too low or you can’t pin down the mover’s physical business address, try someone else. The same goes for any moving company representative who dodges questions. Reputable movers should offer transparent pricing, conduct in-home estimates, and provide referrals and copies of their insurance documents upon request.1 For help finding trustworthy movers, reach out. We’d be happy to share our recommendations.  

2. Insure your belongings.

Your moving company promises to take care of your custom piano or your antique furniture. But don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see how much insurance they carry and talk about how the claims process works. That way, you’ll know what is (and isn’t) covered in case of loss or damage. If needed, consider paying extra to upgrade to full replacement value protection.2
Of course, some items are priceless because they’re irreplaceable. You might want to move your more sensitive valuables (jewellery, documents, family heirlooms, etc.) in your own vehicle just to be safe. For added peace of mind, call your home insurance provider if you’re moving anything yourself. In many cases, your personal property will be covered while in transit for a limited period of time.  

3. Start packing when you start looking for a new home.

As soon as your house hunting begins in earnest, think about packing away things you won’t need for the next few months. These could include seasonal or holiday decor, clothing, and books. Tackling just one or two boxes a day will give you a head start.
If you're going to put your current home on the market, you'll want to declutter anyway. Decluttering will make your home seem larger, and depersonalizing helps buyers envision their own items in the space. Consider selling, donating, or throwing out possessions you no longer need. The things you want to keep can be placed in storage until you officially start moving to a new place.

4. Pack to make unpacking easier.

Have you ever opened a packed box only to find that it’s filled with an assortment of items that don’t belong together? This isn’t efficient and will only make unpacking harder. A better way to pack is to bundle items from a single room in a labelled box. Labels can let movers know (and remind you) where to place each box, whether it’s fragile, and which side needs to be up. Some people like to assign colours to each room in their new home to make distributing colour-coded boxes a breeze. 
Feel free to unleash your inner organizer with this project. For example, you could create a spreadsheet and assign each box a number. As boxes are packed, simply fill in the spreadsheet with a list of contents. Anyone with access to the spreadsheet can log in and quickly find a desired item.

5. Think outside the box when transporting clothes.

Who wants to worry about boxing up clothes? If you plan on hiring professional movers, ask if you can leave clothing in your dressers. In many cases, they will use plastic to wrap the dresser so the drawers don’t fall out during transport. If keeping your clothes in your furniture makes it too heavy, the movers might be able to wrap and move drawers by themselves.
Another easy transport trick involves turning clean garbage bags into garment bags. Poke a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, turn the bag upside down, slide it over five to seven garments on hangers, and lay the items flat in the back seat or trunk of your vehicle. The bags will help prevent wrinkling, and your clothes will be ready to hang up when you get to your new home.

6. Document prior to disassembling appliances and furnishings.

Few things are as confusing as looking at a plastic baggie filled with nuts, bolts, and screws from your disassembled dining room table or sorting through a box of electrical wires and cords to see which ones fit your TV. 
The best workaround to easier reassembly is to document the disassembly process. Take photos and videos or thorough notes as you go. Whether it’s your headboard or treadmill, be very precise. And just a tip: Construct your beds first when you get to your new home. After a long moving day, the very last thing you want is to be assembling beds into the wee hours of the morning. 

7. Prioritize unpacking kids’ rooms.

Children can become very stressed by a big move. To ease their transition, consider prioritizing unpacking their rooms as their “safe zones.”3 You aren’t obligated to unpack everything, certainly. However, set up your children’s rooms to be functional. That way, your kids can hang out in a private oasis away from the chaos while you’re running around and moving everything else.
Depending upon how old your youngsters are, you might want to give them decorating leeway, too. Even if it’s just letting them choose where furniture goes, it gives them a sense of buy-in. This can help ease the blues of leaving a former home they loved.

8. Be a thoughtful pet parent.

Many types of pets can’t handle the commotion of moving day. Knowing this, be considerate and seek ways to give your pets breaks from the action. You might ask a friend to pet-sit your pooch or keep your kitty in a quieter room, like a guest bathroom.
Be sure to check in on your pet frequently. Pets like to know that you’re around. Give them treats, food, and water throughout the day. When it’s time to transport your pet, do it calmly. At your new property, give your pet access to just a room or two at first. Pets typically prefer to acclimate themselves slowly to unfamiliar environments.4

9. Plan for your move like you’re planning for an exciting vacation.

When you plan vacations, you probably look up local restaurants, shops, and recreational areas. Who says you can’t do the same thing when moving? Create a list of all the places you want to go and things you want to do around your newly purchased home. Having a to-explore list keeps everyone’s spirits high and gives you starting points to settle into the neighbourhood. 
And don’t feel that you have to cook that first night. Once the moving trucks are gone, you can always pop over to a local eatery or order SkipTheDishes for major convenience. The first meal in your new home should be a happy, welcoming treat. And if you’re relocating to our neck of the woods, we would love to introduce you to the hot spots in town and recommend our local favourites.

10. Pack an “Open Me First!” box.

You won’t be able to unpack all your boxes in one day, but you shouldn’t go without your sheets, pillows, or toothbrush. Designate some boxes with “Open Me First!” labels. (Pro tip: Keep a tool kit front and centre for all that reassembling.) 
Along these lines, use luggage and duffel bags to transport everyone’s personal must-have items and enough clothing for a couple of days. That way, you won’t have to rummage through everything in the middle of your move looking for sneakers or snacks.
When packing your “Open Me First!” boxes, think about which items you’ll need in those first 24 hours. For example, toilet paper and hand soap are musts. A box cutter will make unpacking a lot easier, and paper towels and trash bags are sure to come in handy. Reach out for a complete, printable list of “Open Me First!” box essentials to keep on hand for your next move!

LET’S GET MOVING

Getting the phone call from your real estate agent that your bid was accepted is a thrilling moment. Make sure you keep the positivity flowing during the following weeks by mapping out a streamlined, efficient move. Feel free to get in touch with us today to help make your big move your best move.

Sources:
Mover.net
Mover.net
Aha! Parenting
Ontario SPCA

7 Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make (And How to Avoid Them) (July 2022)

No matter what’s going on in the housing market, the process of selling a home can be challenging. Some sellers have a hard time saying goodbye to a treasured family residence. Others want to skip ahead to the fun of decorating and settling in a new place. Almost all sellers want to make the most money possible. 
Whatever your circumstances, the road to the closing table can be riddled with obstacles — from issues with showings and negotiations to inspection surprises. But many of these complications are avoidable when you have a skilled and knowledgeable real estate agent by your side.
For example, here are seven common mistakes that many home sellers make. These can cause anxiety, cost you time, and shrink your financial proceeds. Fortunately, we can help you avert these missteps and set you up for a successful and low-stress selling experience instead.

MISTAKE # 1: Setting An Unrealistic Price

Many sellers believe that pricing their home high and waiting for the “right buyer” to come along will net them the most money. However, overpriced homes often sit on the market with little activity, which can be the kiss of death in real estate — and result in an inevitable price drop.1
Alternatively, if you price your home at (or sometimes slightly below) market value, your home can be among the nicest that buyers have seen within their budget. This can increase your likelihood of receiving multiple offers.2
To help you set a realistic price from the start, we will do a comparative market analysis, or CMA. This integral piece of research will help us determine an ideal listing price, based on the amount that similar properties have recently sold for in your area.
Without this data, you risk pricing your home too high (and getting no offers) or too low (and leaving money on the table). We can help you find that sweet spot that will draw in buyers without undercutting your profits. 

MISTAKE #2: Trying To Time The Market

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “Buy low and sell high.” But when it comes to real estate, that’s easier said than done. 
Delaying your home sale until prices are at their peak may sound like a great idea. But sellers should keep these factors in mind:
Predicting the market with certainty is nearly impossible.

If you wait to buy your next home, its price could increase, as well. This may erode any additional proceeds from your sale.

If mortgage rates are rising, your pool of potential buyers could shrink—and you will have to pay more to finance your next purchase.
Instead of trying to time the market, choose your ideal sales timeline, instead. This may be based on factors like your personal financial situation, shifting family dynamics, or the seasonal patterns in your particular neighbourhood. We can help you figure out the best time to sell given your individual circumstances.

 
MISTAKE #3: Failing To Address Needed Repairs 

Many sellers hope that buyers won’t notice their leaky faucet or broken shutters during a home showing. But minor issues like these can leave buyers worrying about more serious — and costly — problems lurking out of sight. 
Even if you do receive an offer, there’s a high likelihood that the buyer will hire a professional home inspector, who will flag any defects in their report. Neglecting to address a major issue could lead buyers to ask for costly repairs, money back, or worse yet, walk away from the purchase altogether.
To avoid these types of disruptions, it’s important to make necessary renovations before your home hits the market. We can help you decide which repairs and updates are worth your time and investment. In some cases, we may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. 
This extra time and attention can help you avoid potential surprises down the road and identify any major structural, system, or cosmetic faults that could impact a future sale.3 

MISTAKE #4:  Neglecting To Stage Your Home

Staging is the act of preparing your home for potential buyers. The goal is to “set the stage” for buyers to help them envision themselves living in your home. Some sellers opt to skip this step, but that mistake can cost them time and money in the long run. A 2021 survey by the Real Estate Staging Association found that, on average, staged homes sold nine days faster and for $40,000 over list price.4
Indoors, staging could include everything from redecorating, painting, or rearranging your furniture pieces to removing personal items, decluttering, and deep cleaning. Outdoors, you might focus on power washing, planting flowers, or hanging a wreath on the front door.
You may not need to do all of these tasks, but almost every home can benefit from some form of staging. Before your home hits the market, we can refer you to a professional stager or offer our insights and suggestions if you prefer the do-it-yourself route.

MISTAKE #5: Evaluating Offers On Price Alone

When reviewing offers, most sellers focus on one thing: the offer price. And while dollar value is certainly important, a high-priced offer is worthless if the deal never reaches the closing table. That’s why it’s important to consider other factors in addition to the offer price, such as:
Financing and buyer qualifications

Deposit size

Contract contingencies

Closing date
Depending on your particular circumstances, some of these factors may or may not be important to you. For example, if you’re still shopping for your next home, you might place a high premium on an offer that allows for a flexible closing date.
Buyers and their agents are focused on crafting a deal that works well for them. We can help you assess your needs and goals to select an offer that works best for you. 

MISTAKE #6: Acting On Emotion Instead Of Reason 

It’s only natural to grow emotionally attached to your home. That’s why so many sellers end up feeling hurt or offended at some point during the selling process. Low offers can feel like insults. Repair requests can feel like judgments. And whatever you do — don’t listen in on showings through your security monitoring system. Chances are, some buyers won’t like your decor choices, either!
However, it’s a huge mistake to ruin a great selling opportunity because you refuse to counter a low offer or negotiate minor repairs. Instead, try to keep a cool head and be willing to adjust reasonably to make the sale. We can help you weigh your decisions and provide rational advice with your best interests in mind.

MISTAKE #7: Not Hiring An Agent

There’s a good reason 90% of homeowners choose to sell with the help of a real estate agent. Homes listed by an agent sold for 22% more than the average for-sale-by-owner home, according to a recent US-based study.5 
Selling a home on your own may seem like an easy way to save money. But in reality, there is a steep learning curve. And a listing agent can: 
Skip past time-consuming problems 

Use market knowledge to get the best price

Access contacts and networks to speed up the selling process 
If you choose to work with a listing agent, you’ll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent’s commission.
We can navigate the ins and outs of the housing market for you and make your selling process as stress-free as possible. You may even end up with an offer for your home that’s better than you expected.

BYPASS THE PITFALLS WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE GUIDE

Your home selling journey doesn’t have to be hard. When you hire us as your listing agent, we’ll develop a customized sales plan to help you get top dollar for your home without any undue risk, stress, or aggravation. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, reach out today to schedule a free consultation and home value assessment.

Sources:
Realtor.ca
Royal Bank of Canada
Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors
Real Estate Staging Association
National Association of Realtors

Higher Rates and Short Supply: The State of Real Estate in 2022 (June 2022)

Canada's housing market hit a boiling point last year as homebuyers clambered for real estate in regions with significantly more demand than supply. But now that homeowners and buyers alike are feeling the pinch of rising interest rates and record inflation, the market appears to finally be simmering down.

That, in turn, could create a welcome opening for shoppers to be more selective with their searches. However, buyers hoping for a major downturn in prices may be left disappointed. Although home values in some segments are beginning to sag under the weight of higher borrowing costs, a persistent housing shortage is expected to keep prices high.

Read on for a closer look at some of the top factors impacting Canada's real estate market and how they could affect you. 

RISING MORTGAGE RATES ARE COOLING AN OVERHEATED MARKET

Over the past couple of years, homebuyers have faced record-high price appreciation and intense competition—in part due to historically low mortgage rates that were a result of the Bank of Canada’s efforts to keep the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.1 
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), in 2021, both the number of sales and average home price hit at an all-time high, with demand for new homes far exceeding supply.2 This trend continued through early 2022, despite widespread predictions that the Bank of Canada was gearing up to increase interest rates.3 
But now that the central bank has officially begun pushing its key interest rate back up from emergency levels, the housing market is responding, with the pace of home sales cooling in March and April.4 The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts that the housing market will continue to moderate in the coming year.5
The feds plan to keep raising interest rates as necessary to fight inflation, which means target rates could rise by another 1 to 2% or more over the next year.6 That, in turn, will cause both fixed and variable mortgage rates to rise.
As Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Rogers noted in May: “We need higher rates to moderate demand, including demand in the housing market. Housing price growth is unsustainably strong in Canada.”7

What does it mean for you?

If you’re shopping for a new home, expect mortgage rates to keep rising into 2024.8 So, you’ll need to act fast if you want to get in at a lower rate. However, the cooling effect should make for a less competitive market. We can help you chart the best path.

If you’ve been thinking about selling, higher mortgage rates may shrink your pool of potential buyers, so don’t wait too long to list. And if you are up for a renewal, you should also act quickly or risk paying a higher rate. Contact us to discuss your options.

DEMAND AND PRICES ARE STARTING TO SOFTEN IN SOME SEGMENTS

Nationally, home prices soared a record 26.6% last year, an unsustainable rate of appreciation by any measure.9 But now that the Bank of Canada has put rock-bottom rates in the rear view window, sales have begun to slow.

Soon after the Bank of Canada began raising interest rates in early March, the real estate market responded. According to the CREA, in March, home sales fell by 5.4% on a month-over-month basis and the Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) ticked up just 1%, “a marked slowdown from the record 3.5% increase in February.”10 

By April, home sales dropped by another 12.6% over the previous month as homeowners and buyers continued adjusting to higher rates.. “Following a record-breaking couple of years, housing markets in many parts of Canada have cooled off pretty sharply over the last two months, in line with a jump in interest rates and buyer fatigue,” said CREA Chair Jill Oudil. Meanwhile, prices are still rising in some markets, but are sagging in others, causing the HPI to dip in April for the first time since 2020.11

As the Bank of Canada continues pushing up rates, more buyers may give up on their homeownership dreams if they feel too squeezed by the combination of high rates and high prices. Still, many experts say a major downturn in prices is unlikely. That's in part due to the fact that there still aren't enough homes available to meet the demands of a growing population, says CREA CEO Michael Bourque. “The supply of new homes is not even close to keeping up with demographic changes and population growth.”12 As long as housing remains a scarce asset, prices will remain relatively elevated. 

What does it mean for you?

If you’ve been waiting to buy a home, now may be the perfect time to jump in the market. There are deals to be found if you know where to look. But don’t wait too long, or higher mortgage rates will erode any cost savings. We can help you find the best opportunities in today’s market.
For homeowners, the outlook is still bright. Governmental interventions are being put in place to stabilize the market–not crash it. And demand for housing and a strong job market should help protect your investment. 

INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT

According to the CMHC, housing starts trended higher in April after a small downturn in March. Overall, new homes are still being built at a faster clip today than in the past, but at a slower pace than we saw in 2021, noted CMHC Chief Economist Bob Dugan.13 Homebuilders are facing a wide range of challenges, including persistent inflation, rising rates, and ongoing labour shortages.

Increased federal investment could help counteract at least some of those challenges. The federal government recently announced plans to help double the pace of housing construction over the next decade by funding significantly more new and affordable housing. It also announced additional relief measures, including a temporary ban on foreign investment, doubling first-time buyers' tax credit, and halting blind bidding wars.14 
In addition to fewer homes being built, new listings are also down, according to the CREA’s sales report. But a decrease in demand is offsetting the impact in some areas. “A little more than half of local markets were balanced markets…a little less than half were in seller's market territory.”11

What does it mean for you?

While supply remains at historically low levels, even a modest bump in inventory can help take pressure off of buyers. If you’ve had trouble finding a home in the past, give us a call to discuss what we’re currently seeing in your target neighbourhood and price range.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s still a great time to sell and cash out those big equity gains. Contact us to find out how much your home is worth in today’s market.

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate trends can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighbourhood.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We can help you assess your options and make the most of this unique real estate landscape.

Sources:

1. Bank of Canada 

2. Global News

3. CBC

4. Canadian Real Estate Association

5. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

6. Bank of Canada

7. Reuters

8. Better Dwelling

9. CBC

10. Canadian Real Estate Association

11. Canadian Real Estate Association

12. Global News

13. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

14. Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

5 Ways to Write a Winning Offer (May 2022)

Our nation is in the midst of a shifting real estate market. But even as the buying frenzy begins to slow, many properties are still receiving multiple offers.1

So what’s the best way to compete as a buyer–especially if you’re wary about overpaying?
While a high offer price gets attention, most sellers consider a variety of factors when evaluating an offer. With that in mind, here are five tactics you can utilize to sweeten your proposal and outshine your competition.

We can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each tactic and craft a compelling offer designed to get you your dream home—without giving away the farm.

Demonstrate Solid Financing

The reality is, no one gets paid if a home sale falls through. That’s why sellers (and their listing agents) favour offers with a high probability of closing. 
Sellers particularly love all-cash offers because there’s no chance of financing issues cropping up at the last moment. But all-cash offers are rare, and if sellers are assured that financing will come through, buying with a mortgage doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. 
The most important step you can take as a buyer is to get preapproved before you start looking for homes. A preapproval letter shows sellers that you are serious about buying and that you will be able to make good on your offer.2 

It’s also important to consider the reputation of your lender. While sellers may not know or care about a lender’s reputation, their agents often do. Some lenders are much easier to work with than others. If you’re unsure who to choose, we are happy to refer you to reputable lenders known for their ease of doing business. 

Put Down a Sizeable Deposit

Buyers can show sellers that they’re serious about their offer and have “skin in the game” by putting down a large deposit. This, however, is not the same as a down payment. 
The deposit is typically held in a trust account by the seller’s brokerage or lawyer.3 If the purchase goes through, it is applied to the down payment and closing costs. If the sale falls through, however, the buyer could lose some or all of that deposit, depending on the contract terms.

Deposit amounts vary, but offering a higher deposit can help demonstrate to the buyer that you are serious about the property. We can help you determine an appropriate deposit to offer based on your specific circumstances.

Ask for Few (or No) Conditions

Most real estate offers include conditions, which are clauses that allow one or both parties to back out of the agreement if certain requirements are not met. These conditions appear in the purchase agreement and must be accepted by both the buyer and seller to be legally binding.
Two of the most common conditions are:4

Financing: A financing condition gives the buyer a window of time in which to secure a mortgage. If they are unable to do so, they can withdraw from the purchase and the seller can move on to other buyers.

Inspection: An inspection condition gives the buyer the opportunity to have the home professionally inspected for issues with the structure, wiring, plumbing, etc. Typically, the seller may choose whether or not to remediate those issues; if they do not, the buyer may withdraw from the contract.

Since conditions reduce the likelihood that a sale will go through, they generally make an offer less desirable to the seller. The more conditions that are included, the weaker the offer becomes. Therefore, buyers in a competitive market often volunteer to waive or exclude certain conditions.
However, it’s very important to make this decision carefully and recognize the risks of doing so. For example, a buyer who chooses to waive a home inspection condition may find out too late that the home requires extensive renovations. If you back out of a home purchase without the protection of a condition, you could lose your deposit.5 We can help you assess the risks and benefits involved.

4. Offer a Flexible Closing Date

When it comes to selling a house, money isn’t everything. People sell their homes for a wide variety of reasons, and flexible terms that work with their personal situations can sometimes make all the difference. For example, if a seller is in the process of planning a significant move, they may appreciate an option to advance or postpone their closing date.

This flexibility can provide a powerful advantage for first-time homebuyers. If you have a month-to-month or easily transferable lease, for example, you may be able to offer a more flexible timeline than a buyer who is simultaneously selling their existing home.

Of course, the value of these terms depends on the seller’s situation. We can reach out to the listing agent to find out the seller’s preferred terms, and then collaborate with you to write a compelling offer that works for both parties. 

5. Work With a Skilled Buyer’s Agent

In this real estate market, one of the greatest advantages you can give yourself is to work with a skilled and trustworthy real estate professional. We will make sure you fully understand the process and help you submit an appealing offer without taking on too much risk. 

Plus, we know how to write offers that are designed to win over both the seller and their listing agent. The truth is, listing agents play a huge role in helping sellers evaluate offers, and they want to work with skilled buyer’s agents who are professional, communicative, and courteous. 
Once your offer is accepted, we’ll also handle any further negotiations and coordinate all the paperwork and other details involved in your home purchase. The best part is, you’ll have a knowledgeable, licensed advocate on your side who is watching out for your best interests every step of the way.

Helping You Get to the Right Offer

In many cases, a competitive offer doesn’t need to be condition-free or significantly above asking price. But if you’re serious about buying a home in today’s market, it’s important to consider what you can do to sweeten the deal.

If you’re a buyer, we can help you compete in today’s market without getting steamrolled. And if you’re a seller, we can help you evaluate offers by taking all the relevant factors into account. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

Bloomberg
NerdWallet
Nesto
Real Estate Council Alberta
Loans Canada

Seller’s Checklist: A Timeline to Prep Your Home for Sale (April 2022)

We’re still in a seller’s market, but that doesn’t mean your home is guaranteed to easily sell.1 If you want to maximize your sale price, it’s still important to prepare your home before putting it on the market.
Start by connecting with your real estate agent as soon as possible. Having the eyes and ears of an insightful real estate professional on your side can help you boost your home’s appeal to buyers. What’s more, beginning the preparation process early allows you to tackle repairs and upgrades that can increase your property’s value. 
Use the checklist below to figure out what other tasks you should complete in the months leading up to listing your home. While everyone’s situation is unique, these guidelines will help you make sure you’re ready to sell when the time is right. Of course, you can always call us if you’re not sure where to start or what to tackle first. We can help customize a plan that works for you.

AS SOON AS YOU THINK OF SELLING

Some home sellers want to plan their future move far in advance, while others will be required to pack up on very short notice. Whatever your circumstances, these first steps will help assure you’ll be ahead of the listing game.
Contact Your Real Estate Agent
We go the extra mile when it comes to servicing our clients, and that includes a series of complimentary, pre-listing consultations to help you prepare your home for the market.
Some sellers make the mistake of waiting until they are ready to list their home to contact a real estate agent. But we’ve found that the earlier we’re brought into the process, the better the result. That often means a faster sale—and more money in your pocket after closing.
We know what buyers want in today’s market, and we can help devise a plan to maximize your property’s appeal. We can also connect you with our trusted network of contractors, vendors, and service professionals, so you’ll be sure to get the VIP treatment. This network of support can alleviate stress and help ensure you get everything done in the weeks or months leading up to listing.
Address Major Issues and Upgrades
In most cases, you won’t need to make any major renovations before you list. But if you’re selling an older home, or if you have any doubt about its condition, it’s best to get us involved as soon as possible so we can help you assess any necessary repairs.
In some instances, we may recommend a pre-listing inspection. Although it's less common in a seller's market, a pre-listing inspection can help you avoid potential surprises down the road. We can discuss the pros and cons during our initial meeting. 
This is the time to address major structural, systems, or cosmetic issues that could hurt the sale of your home down the line. For example, problems with the frame, foundation, or roof are likely to be flagged on an inspection report. Issues with the HVAC system, electrical wiring, or plumbing may cause the home to be unsafe. And sometimes outdated or unpopular design features can limit a home’s sales potential. 
Remember, when you’re dealing with major repairs or renovations, it’s best to give yourself as much time as possible. Given rampant labour and material shortages, starting right away can help you avoid costly delays.2 Contact us so we can guide you on the updates that are worth your time and investment. 

1 MONTH (OR MORE) BEFORE YOU LIST

Once any large-scale renovations have been addressed, you can turn your attention to the more minor updates that still play a major role in how buyers perceive your home.
Make Minor Repairs
Look for any unaddressed maintenance or repair issues, such as water spots, pest activity, and rotten siding. This is the time to take care of those small annoyances like squeaky hinges, sticking doors, and leaky faucets, too.
Many of these issues can be handled by going the DIY route and using a few simple tools. Tackle the ones you can and be sure to call a professional for the ones you’re not comfortable doing yourself. We can refer you to local service providers who can help.
Remember that it’s easy to overlook these small issues because you live with them. When you work with us, you get a fresh set of eyes on your home—so you don’t miss any important repairs that could make a big difference to buyers.
Refresh Your Design
This is a great time to think about some simple design updates that can make a significant impression on buyers. For example, a fresh coat of paint is an easy and affordable way to spruce up your home. A recent survey of Canadian agents found that paint and landscaping were two upgrades that offered the highest return on investment.3 
HGTV landscape designer Carson Arthur agrees. According to Arthur, landscaping is the best place to invest your money and has the potential to increase your home’s value by up to 7%.4 If weather permits, lay fresh sod where needed, plant colourful flowers, and add some new mulch to your beds.
Even just repositioning your furniture can make a huge difference to buyers. A survey published by the International Association of Staging Professionals found that staged homes often sell faster and for more than their list price.5 We can refer you to a local stager or offer our insights and suggestions if you prefer the DIY route.
Declutter and Depersonalize
Doing a little bit of decluttering every day is a lot easier than trying to take care of it all at once right before your home hits the market. A simple strategy is to do this one room at a time, working your way through each space whenever you have a bit of free time. 
Start by donating or discarding items that you no longer want or need. Then pack up any seasonal items, family photos, and personal collections you can live without for the next few weeks. Bonus: This will give you a head start on packing for your move!

1 WEEK BEFORE YOU GO TO MARKET

With just one week before your home is available for sale, all major items should be crossed off your to-do list. Now it’s time to focus on the small details that will really make your home shine. Here are a few key areas to focus on during this last week. 
Check-In With Your Agent
We’ll connect again to make sure we’re aligned on the listing price, marketing plan, and any remaining prep. We will be there every step of the way, ensuring you’re fully prepared to maximize the sale of your home.
Tidy Your Exterior
You’ve already done the major landscaping—now it’s time to tackle the last few details. Make sure your lawn is freshly mowed, hedges are trimmed, and flower beds are weeded.
In addition, now is the time to clean your home’s exterior if you haven’t already. Power wash your siding, empty the gutters, and wash all your windows and screens.

Deep Clean Your Interior

Your house should be deep cleaned before listing, including a thorough deodorizing of the home’s interior and steam cleaning for all carpets. Consider hiring a professional cleaning company to ensure the space smells and looks as fresh as possible. 
In addition to cleaning, take some time to tidy up. Buyers will look inside your closets, pantries, and cabinets, so make sure they are neat and organized. Small appliances and toiletries should be cleared off the countertops.

DAY OF SHOWING
Now you’re all set to go and there are just a few small things you need to handle on the day of showings or open houses. Do a final walk-through and take care of these finishing touches to give potential buyers the best possible impression.
Pre-Showing Prep
Happy and comfortable buyers are more likely to submit offers! Make them feel at home by adjusting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Open any blinds and curtains throughout the house, and turn on all lights so buyers can see all the potential in your home.
Then tidy up by vacuuming and sweeping floors, emptying (or hiding) trash cans, and wiping down countertops. In the bathrooms, close toilet lids and hang clean hand towels. 
Don’t forget to secure jewelry, sensitive documents, prescription medications, and any other items of value in a safe or store them off-site.
Finally, it’s best to have pets out of the house during showings. If possible, you should also remove evidence of pets (litter box, dog beds, etc.), which can be a turn-off for some buyers.

DON’T WAIT TO PREP YOUR HOME FOR SELLING
If you want to get top dollar for your home, don’t put it on the market before it’s ready. The right preparation can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing the offers you get. The upgrades and changes you need to make will depend upon your home’s condition, so don’t wait to speak with an agent.
Call our team if you’re thinking about selling your home, even if you’re not sure when. It’s never too early to seek the guidance of your real estate agent and start preparing your home to sell.

Sources:

RBC
ConstructConnect
RE/MAX
National Post
International Association of Staging Professionals
 

Hedge Against Inflation With These 3 Real Estate Investment Types (March 2022)

The annual inflation rate in Canada is currently around 5.1%—the highest it’s been in 30 years.1 It doesn’t matter if you’re a cashier, lawyer, plumber, or retiree; if you spend Canadian dollars, inflation impacts you. 

Economists expect the effects of inflation, like a higher cost of goods, to continue.2 Luckily, an investment in real estate can ease some of the financial strain. 

Here’s what you need to know about inflation, how it impacts you, and how an investment in real estate can help.

WHAT IS INFLATION AND HOW DOES IT IMPACT ME?

Inflation is a decline in the value of money. When the rate of inflation rises, prices for goods and services go up. Therefore, a dollar buys you a little bit less with every passing day.

The consumer price index, or CPI, is a standard measure of inflation. Based on the latest CPI data, prices increased 5.1% from January 2021 to January 2022. In comparison, the CPI increased 1.0% from January 2020 to January 2021.3 

How does inflation affect your life? Here are a few of the negative impacts:

Decreased Purchasing Power
We touched on this already, but as prices rise, your dollar won’t stretch as far as it used to. That means you’ll be able to purchase fewer goods and services with a limited budget.

Increased Borrowing Costs
In an effort to curb inflation, the Bank of Canada is expected to raise interest rates.4 Therefore, consumers are likely to pay more to borrow money for things like mortgages and credit cards.

Lower Standard of Living 
Wage growth tends to lag behind price increases. Even as labour shortages persist in Canada—which would typically trigger pay raises—wages are not increasing at the same pace of inflation.5 As such, life is becoming less affordable for everyone. For example, inflation can force those on a fixed income, like retirees, to make lifestyle changes and prioritize essentials.

Eroded Savings 
If you store all your savings in a bank account, inflation is even more damaging. As of February, the national average deposit interest rate for a savings account was around 0.067%, not nearly enough to keep up with inflation.

One of the best ways to mitigate these effects is to find a place to invest your money other than the bank. Even though interest rates are expected to rise, they’re unlikely to get high enough to beat inflation. If you hoard cash, the value of your money will decrease every year and more rapidly in years with elevated inflation.


REAL ESTATE: A PROVEN HEDGE AGAINST INFLATION

So where is a good place to invest your money to protect (hedge) against the impacts of inflation? There are several investment vehicles that financial advisors traditionally recommend, including:

Stocks
Some people invest in stocks as their primary inflation hedge. However, the stock market can become volatile during inflationary times, as we’ve seen in recent months.7

Commodities
Commodities are tangible assets, like gold, oil, and livestock. The theory is that the price of commodities should climb alongside inflation. But studies show that this correlation doesn’t always occur.8 

Inflation-Protected Bonds
Real Return Bonds (RRBs) are inflation-protected bonds issued by the Canadian government that are indexed to the inflation rate. Bonds are considered low risk, but returns have not been rising at the same rate of inflation, making them suboptimal investments.9

Real Estate
Real estate prices across the board tend to rise along with inflation, which is why so much Canadian capital is flowing into real estate right now.10

We believe real estate is the best hedge against inflation. Owning real estate does more than protect your wealth—it can actually make you money. For example, home prices rose 20% from 2021 to 2022, nearly 15% ahead of the 5.1% inflation that occurred in the same timeframe.11 

Plus, certain types of real estate investments can help you generate a stream of passive income. In the past year, property owners didn’t just avoid the erosion of purchasing power caused by inflation; they got ahead. 

TYPES OF REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS

Though there are a myriad of ways to invest in real estate, there are three basic investment types that we recommend for beginner and intermediate investors. Remember that we can help you determine which options are best for your financial goals and budget. 

Primary Residence

If you own your home, you’re already ahead. The advantages of homeownership become even more apparent in inflationary times. As inflation raises prices throughout the economy, the value of your home is likely to go up concurrently. 

If you don’t already own your primary residence, homeownership is a worthwhile goal to pursue.
Though the task of saving enough for a down payment may seem daunting, there are several strategies that can make homeownership easier to achieve. If you’re not sure how to get started with the home buying process, contact us. Our team can help you find the strategy and property that fits your needs and budget.

Whether you already own a primary residence or are still renting, now is a good time to also start thinking about an investment property. The types of investment properties you’ll buy as a solo investor generally fall into two categories: long-term rentals and short-term rentals. 

Long-Term (Traditional) Rentals

A long-term or traditional rental is a dwelling that’s leased out for an extended period. An example of this is a single-family home where a tenant signs a one-year lease and brings all their own furniture.

Long-term rentals are a form of housing. For most tenants, the rental serves as their primary residence, which means it’s a necessary expense. This unique quality of long-term rentals can help to provide stable returns in uncertain times, especially when we have high inflation.

To invest in a long-term rental, you’ll need to budget for maintenance, repairs, property taxes, and insurance. You’ll also need to have a plan for managing the property. But a well-chosen investment property should pay for itself through rental income, and you’ll benefit from appreciation as the property rises in value.

We can help you find an ideal long-term rental property to suit your budget and investment goals. Reach out to talk about your needs and our local market opportunities.

Short-Term (Vacation) Rentals

Short-term or vacation rentals function more like hotels in that they offer temporary accommodations. A short-term rental is defined as a residential dwelling that is rented for 30 days or less. The furniture and other amenities are provided by the property owner, and today many short-term rentals are listed on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

A short-term rental can potentially earn you a higher return than a long-term rental, but this comes at the cost of daily, hands-on management. With a short-term rental, you’re not just entering the real estate business; you’re entering the hospitality business, too. 

Done right, short-term rentals can be both a hedge against inflation and a profitable source of income. As a bonus, when the home isn’t being rented you have an affordable vacation spot for yourself and your family!

Contact us today if you’re interested in exploring options in either the long-term or short-term rental market. Since mortgage rates are expected to rise, you’ll want to act fast to maximize your investment return.

WE’RE INVESTED IN HELPING YOU

Inflation is a fact of life in the Canadian economy. Luckily, you can prepare for inflation with a carefully managed investment portfolio that includes real estate. Owning a primary residence or investing in a short-term or long-term rental will help you both mitigate the effects of inflation and grow your net worth, which makes it a strategic move in our current financial environment.

If you’re ready to invest in real estate to build wealth and protect yourself from rising inflation, contact us. Our team can help you find a primary residence or investment property that meets your financial goals. 

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

Sources:

1. 
Reuters
2. MacLeans
3. Statistics Canada
4. Bloomberg
5. The Globe & Mail
6. Trading Economics
7. Reuters
8. Research Gate
9. Maple Money
10. Storeys
11. WOWA

8 Popular Home Design Features for 2022 (February 2022)

There’s a lot to consider when selling your home, from market conditions and appraisals to where you’ll go next. Don’t forget, however, the importance of design. It’s often one of the first things buyers notice when they walk into a home, and it’s also a detail that you, as a seller, can easily control.

 

According to Realtor.ca’s 2022 housing market forecast, October of 2021 saw record home sales.1 Even with the pandemic igniting new restrictions in some provinces, the Canadian housing market is expected to remain hot. This means, if you’re looking to sell in the near future, now is the time to consider how you can stand out.

 

Updating your home design is one way to do that. Changes like eco-friendly fixtures or upgraded siding can add value to your home now and be highlighted when you market it for sale later. To get the most out of your updates, focus on these popular home design features that will wow buyers in 2022.

 

Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

 

Eco-Friendly Fixtures

 

Canada’s largest demographic, millennials, has been a driving force in the country’s real estate market for the past few years. One thing that remains top of mind for this cohort is sustainable living features. A recent Deloitte survey found that one-third of millennials initiate or deepen their consumer investment in products or services that help the environment—this also includes the houses they choose to live in.2

 

Here are a few eco-friendly design features that will be attractive to these millennial buyers in 2022. Bonus: they can net a significant return on investment (ROI) for you, as a seller, too. 
 

  • Energy-Efficient Windows: Windows and doors account for up to 25 percent of home heat loss, according to nrcan.gc.ca.3 Therefore, upgrading to energy-efficient windows can help homeowners save money. 

  • Low-Flow Water Fixtures: National Resources Canada also recommends replacing your water-consuming fixtures like showerheads, toilets, and faucets with ones that have flow rates of about 7.6 L/minute, 4.8L/flush, and 4L/minute, respectively.4 If you want to take it a step further, ENERGY STAR® certified appliances like dishwashers and washing machines will also make a dramatic difference in water bill savings. 

  • Native Landscaping: Perhaps unexpectedly, another eco-friendly ‘fixture’ is native flora. Local greenery helps combat biodiversity loss, creates a better habitat for wildlife, and has a greater resistance to pests, according to HGTV.5 These benefits of native plants add to the eco-friendly appeal of your home. 
     

Wellness Retreat Nooks

 

As many of our homes became “all-purpose” territory for the entire family, interior zoning efforts were in full effect. From designated offices to closed-door playrooms, everyone needed their own space. Add in mental health concerns, competing schedules, and reduced access to health and wellness facilities, and the result is a huge prioritization of personal care spaces.  

 

At-home wellness amenities, which were once viewed as luxuries, are now on many homeowners’ must-have lists. Intrigue buyers and improve your quality of life in your home with reading nooks, spa-inspired bathrooms, and exercise or meditation spaces. Even if your house doesn’t have the square footage to section off an entire room for relaxation, making simple tweaks to natural light, air purifiers, and indoor plants can help you feel better in your home now, while enabling future buyers to see the opportunity for their own space.

 

Calming Paint Colours

 

Paint colors that produce a calming atmosphere will also be a key selling point in 2022. Soft earth tones and natural hues will prevail this year, including various shades of blue, green, brown, and beige. Recent research suggests steering clear of trendy paint colors in favor of a more classic palette to bring the feel of nature indoors in a subtle and soothing way.6 

 

A survey of American homebuyers found that a certain paint colour was able to increase a home’s value by 1.6%.6 If we Canadians see even a 1% increase, that’s $7,208 more for the average home, which is priced at $720,850, according to the Financial Post.7 

 

A crowd-pleasing hue to refresh the walls with is BEHR’s 2022 paint colour of the year, known as Breezeway.8 This shade of green with silver undertones was created to mimic sea glass. As the BEHR website describes it, Breezeway “evokes feelings of coolness and peace, while representing a desire to move forward and discover newfound passions.”  

 

Outdoor Living Updates

 

Don’t forget to think about your yard when considering design changes for your home. As interiors become more productive, many Canadians are looking to the outdoors for a break. HGTV predicts the “exterior living room” trend will continue in 2022, so making outdoor upgrades in the spring when the ground thaws could reap serious benefits.9 Whether your exterior square footage looks like a balcony, small patio, or expansive yard, it only takes some imagination and effort to turn it into a comforting oasis. 

 

Front porches, in particular, are seeing a big revival, says Greenhouse Canada.10 Power-washing your siding; adding a fresh coat of paint on the door, brick, or floorboards; and finishing it off with some exterior lighting will go a long way in upping the curb appeal.11 Don’t forget to add window boxes, big planters, and young trees that require minimal maintenance but add more life to the space. 

 

Finish off the space with some comfortable outdoor furniture to make the outdoors as well-designed as the indoors. If you need help deciding how to update your outdoor area, let us guide you.

 

Designated Work Spaces

 

It may come as no surprise that after the pandemic is over, 80 percent of new teleworkers want to continue to work at least half of their hours from home, according to Statistics Canada.12 However, this desire needs to be weighed against the availability of space in a home. 

 

If you can, try turning a bedroom or den into a work-from-home office. When designing the space, make it both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Position a desk near the window for natural light, install a bookshelf unit, arrange a few succulents on the work surface, and hang a few framed posters or a cork bulletin board on the wall. You want the space to foster productivity as well as be a place in your home you enjoy spending time.

 

When you get ready to sell, we can help you highlight your designated workspace. Given the high demand for this design feature, it can help you interest more buyers and attract more competitive offers—if marketed creatively. 

 

Plus, Canadians who transitioned to working from home because of the pandemic may be eligible to claim a $500 deduction for home office expenses—making this renovation that much more feasible.13

 

Luxury Kitchen Retouches

 

The kitchen has always been a main focal point of interior design, and that’s no different in 2022. Families will always need this space to come together in their own homes. 

 

This year’s buyers want a kitchen with new upgrades and retouches, but you don’t have to renovate the entire kitchen to make an impact. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips on how to create a kitchen that buyers will love without spending too much money on renovations:
 

  • Repaint the kitchen, keeping the calm and nature-inspired colours in mind that are most popular right now. Taking a kitchen from dark to light by painting cabinets and walls can make all the difference.

  • Update the hardware. These kitchen “accessories” stand out and add personality to an otherwise standard kitchen. 

  • Update light fixtures to bring in more light while also adding a fresh look and feel in the space. 

 

Unique Accent Walls

 

An accent wall gives a home character while balancing it with the calming feel of natural- and neutral-coloured walls. But, we’ve seen accent walls before, so bolder moves are expected for 2022. Here are some on-trend options that go above and beyond a solid-colour accent wall:
 

  • Jewel or metallic tones

  • Textured wallpaper

  • Painted ceilings

  • Built-in shelves

  • Wood paneling14

  • Sprawling wall tiles 15

 

If you’re planning to sell in the next year, talk to us before adding an accent wall. Depending on your target buyer, it may be a design feature that actually hurts your home’s value. We can run a free Comparative Market Analysis on your home to help you understand what would resell best in your neighbourhood.

 

Exterior Siding Updates

 

An exterior siding refresh can make an old home feel entirely new and have a big impact on its resale value. This primarily affects curb appeal, but it’s also an important factor in keeping interiors warm and protected from Canada’s harsh winters. The average cost for new siding ranges from $4.80 - $51.60 per square foot.16 That variation depends on which of the many siding materials you choose, from fiber-cement to brick, wood, vinyl, metal, or stone. 

 

While all these options can infuse the exterior with character and curb appeal, there are a few other factors to consider before taking on this kind of project. While brick adds more sophistication, it is on the pricier end and is susceptible to salt erosion, making it a less enticing option for those on the coasts. On the other end of the cost spectrum, vinyl is a very popular option that does not fade, is easy to maintain, and comes in many colour options.17 However, vinyl will crack over time after facing harsh Canadian winters. 

 

Give your home this simple and attractive facelift before putting it on the market. If you’re not sure how to get started yourself, our team can connect you with a trusted vendor to guide you through the process. 

 

Keep These Home Design Features on Your Radar in 2022

 

These design features can infuse personality into your home while helping to close the deal if you plan to sell in 2022. The average buyer knows just what they’re looking for in a space they plan to call home, so with some investment and foresight, you can give your house an edge over the competition—and boost resale value in the process. 

 

However, you don’t need to make all these changes to attract more buyers. We can help you determine which design features you should add to your home by sharing insights and tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. We can also run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area, which will help us decide what changes need to be made. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!

 

Sources:

  1. Realtor.ca

 

  1. Deloitte

 

  1. NRCAN

 

  1. National Resources Canada

 

  1. HGTV

 

  1. Zillow
     

  2. Financial Post

 

  1. Behr
     

  2. HGTV

 

  1. Greenhouse Canada

 

  1. Toronto Sun 

 

  1. Statistics Canada

 

  1. Government of Canada

 

  1. Accent Walls

 

  1. Accent walls 

 

  1. Reno Assistance

 

  1. D’Angelo and Sons

 

A Return to ‘Normal’? The State of Real Estate in 2022 (January 2022)

Last year was one for the real estate history books. The pandemic helped usher in a buying frenzy that led to a record number of home sales and a historically-high rate of appreciation, as prices soared by a national average of 19.9% year over year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.1

 

There were signs in the second quarter that the red-hot housing market was beginning to simmer down. In June, the pace of sales slowed while the average sales price dipped 5.5% below the springtime peak.2

 

But just when the market seemed to be cooling, home prices and sales volume ticked up again in the fall, leading the Royal Bank of Canada to speculate: “Canada’s housing market run has more in the tank.”3

 

So what’s ahead for the Canadian real estate market in 2022? Here’s where industry experts predict the market is headed in the coming year.

 

MORTGAGE RATES WILL CREEP UP

 

The Bank of Canada has signalled that it plans to begin raising interest rates in the “middle quarters” of this year.4 What does that mean for mortgage rates?

 

Expect higher variable mortgage rates to come. In fact, according to industry trade blog Canadian Mortgage Trends, some lenders have already begun raising their variable rates in preparation. And according to the site, “Current market forecasts show the Bank of Canada on track for seven quarter-point (25 bps) rate hikes by the end of 2023, with Scotiabank expecting eight rate hikes.”5

 

Since September, fixed mortgage rates—which follow the 5-year Bank of Canada bond yield—have also been climbing.5 Fortunately, economists believe the housing sector is well-positioned to absorb these higher interest rates.

 

Derek Holt, Scotiabank vice president and head of capital markets economics, told Canadian Mortgage Professional magazine in November, “The large increase in cash balances that occurred over the pandemic combined with the record-high amount of home equity on Canadian balance sheets, to me, paints a picture of a household sector that can manage the rate shock we’re likely to get.”4

 

What does it mean for you? Low mortgage rates can reduce your monthly payment, make it easier to qualify for a mortgage, and make homeownership more affordable. Fortunately, there’s still time to take advantage of historically-low rates. We’d be happy to connect you with a trusted lending professional in our network.

 

VOLUME OF SALES WILL DECREASE

 

A record number of homes were sold in Canada last year. The Canadian Real Estate Association estimates that 656,300 home purchases took place, which is an 18.8% increase over 2020.6 So it’s no surprise that the pace of sales would eventually slow.

 

The association predicts that, nationally, the number of home sales will fall by 12.1% in 2022, which would still make 2022 the second-best year on record.1

 

It attributes this relative slowdown to affordability challenges and a lack of inventory but expects sales volume to remain high by historical standards. “Limited supply and higher prices are expected to tap the brakes on activity in 2022 compared to 2021, although increased churn in resale markets resulting from the COVID-related shake-up to so many people’s lives may continue to boost activity above what was normal before COVID-19.”6

 

What does it mean for you? The frenzied market we experienced last year required a drop-everything commitment from many of our clients, so a slower pace of sales should be a welcome relief. However, buyers should still be prepared to compete for the best properties. We can help you craft a compelling offer without compromising your best interests.

 

THE MARKET WILL BECOME MORE BALANCED

 

In 2021, we experienced one of the most competitive real estate markets ever. Fears about the virus, a shift to remote work, and economic stimulus triggered a huge uptick in demand. At the same time, many existing homeowners delayed their plans to sell, and supply and labour shortages hindered new construction. 

 

This led to an extreme market imbalance that benefitted sellers and frustrated buyers. According to Abhilasha Singh, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, “almost all indicators of housing market activity shot through the roof.” But, she continued, “The housing market is now showing signs of returning to earth.”7

 

The Royal Bank of Canada expects to see demand soften gradually as rising prices and interest rates push the cost of homeownership out of reach for many would-be buyers.3 And while the supply of available homes continues to remain low, according to Singh, “the pace of building in Canada remains elevated compared with historical averages thanks to low interest rates.”7

 

What does it mean for you? If you struggled to buy a home last year, there may be some relief on the horizon. Softening demand could make it easier to finally secure the home of your dreams. If you’re a seller, it’s still a great time to cash out your big equity gains! And with less competition and a slower pace of sales, you’ll have an easier time finding your next home. Reach out for a free consultation so we can discuss your specific needs and goals.

 

HOME PRICES LIKELY TO KEEP CLIMBING, BUT AT A SLOWER PACE

 

Nationwide, home prices rose an average of 19.9% in 2021. But the rate of appreciation is expected to slow down in 2022. The Canadian Real Estate Association forecasts that the national average home price will increase by 5.6% to $718,000 in 2022.6 

 

Singh of Moody’s Analytics agrees that price growth will slow this year and could “reach a near standstill in late 2022 but avoid any significant contractions.”7

 

However, some experts caution against a “wait and see” mentality for buyers. “Affordability is unlikely to improve [this] year as prices should march higher, even as interest rates creep upwards as well,” Rishi Sondhi, an economist at TD Economics, told Reuters. “We think rate hikes will weigh on, but not upend, demand, as the macro backdrop should remain supportive for sales.”8

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer who has been waiting on the sidelines for home prices to drop, you may be out of luck. Even if home prices dip slightly (and most economists expect them to rise) any savings are likely to be offset by higher mortgage rates. The good news is that decreased competition means more choice and less likelihood of a bidding war. We can help you get the most for your money in today’s market.

 

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

 

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighbourhood. 

 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2022, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

 

Sources:

1. Toronto Sun

2. National Post

3. Royal Bank of Canada

4. Canadian Mortgage Professional Magazine

5. Canadian Mortgage Trends

6. Canadian Real Estate Association

7. Moody's Analytics

8. Reuters

 

20 Unique Home Gifts for Every Person on Your List (December 2021)

Every year, it seems the holidays sneak up on us—and every year, that brings with it the dreaded last-minute gift panic. Finding a present that hits all the right notes can be surprisingly stressful, even when it comes to people you’ve known for years. 

But have no fear! We’ve lined up a list of gifts for every “type” on your list. And since we work in real estate, they’re all centred around home life. From the coffee snob to the sports enthusiast, these presents are the perfect way to bring beauty, function or a touch of whimsy to your loved one’s home this holiday season.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE ALWAYS IN THE KITCHEN

We all know someone whose kitchen is their happy place—but once all the basics are covered, it can be hard to find the perfect present. These gifts will be a treat for the chef, baker, or food lover on your list, no matter how well equipped they are. 

1. The Coffee Snob

Glass Pour-Over Coffeemaker - $75
Have a java lover on your list who just can’t get their brew right at home? This high-end pour-over system makes a smooth brew that can even be refrigerated and reheated so your recipient can enjoy a perfect cup at any time. 

2. The Foodie

Pink Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit - $65
Help your favourite gourmand create restaurant-quality meals with this kit, which allows them to grow delicious mushrooms right in their cupboard. All they’ll need to do is soak the package and then mist it with water for a few days, and voila—delicious organic mushrooms! 

3. The Baker

Vintage Etched Cake Stand - $87
If you’re lucky enough to have a fabulous home baker on your list, give a gift that reflects the joy their treats bring to others. This lovely glass cake stand is the platform that a beautifully decorated dessert deserves. 

4. The Tea Aficionado 

Flowering Tea Set - $35
Your favourite tea lover may have tried all of the herbal blends out there, but we bet they haven’t seen tea like this. This set contains two “blossoms” of tea leaves hand-sewn around flowers that bloom when you place them in the included glass teapot and add hot water.

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD RATHER BE IN THE BACKYARD

For many of us, time outdoors is the ultimate source of rejuvenation. The nature-lover on your list is sure to appreciate these presents that help them maximize that joy in their daily lives. 

5. The Gardener

Large Garden Tote - $66
Dedicated gardeners all need a great bag to carry their gear. This tote is attractive and sturdy and will help them keep their home’s exterior beautiful and welcoming. 

6. The Flower Lover

Monthly Flower Subscription - starting at $60/month
If your loved one prefers to enjoy their flora without all the work, a delivery of farm-fresh flowers is sure to surprise and delight. And you can keep the joy blossoming year-round with a weekly, semi-monthly or monthly subscription.

7. The Environmentalist

Reusable Stainless Steel Straws - $14
Know someone who is trying to bring less plastic into their home? This set of reusable metal straws means they’ll never have to buy a box of plastic straws again. And the assortment of sizes ensures that they’ll work with anything from a tall glass of water to a to-go mug. 

8. The Outdoor Adventurer

Solar Phone Charger - $50
Have a camper or adventurer on your list? This solar-powered phone charger, which comes with a built-in flashlight and compass, is a must-have. It will also make a great addition to their home emergency kit.

FOR THOSE WITH THEIR NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE

Like it or not, most of us spend a good chunk of our lives working—whether at a job or on projects and chores around the house. These gifts are designed to make that work a bit easier and more enjoyable. 

9. The Remote Worker

Home Office Lap Desk - $45
Working at home can be great—in part because you can work from anywhere in the house. The remote worker on your list will appreciate this lap desk with a built-in mouse pad and phone slot, which will allow them to work comfortably from the couch or the bed without overheating their computer.

10. The Back-to-The-Office Worker

Bento Lunch Box - $35
If your loved one is heading back to the office, it doesn’t mean they have to give up the healthy habit of a home-cooked meal. Send them to work with this stylish lunch box packed full of nutritious food.

11. The Do-It-Yourselfer

Laser Measure - $35
The handy person on your list can say goodbye to unwieldy tape measures with this nifty device. It’s perfect for DIY projects of any size.

12. The Clean Freak

UV Sanitizer and Charger - $70
In the COVID-19 era, we’ve all become a little germaphobic. This UV smartphone sanitizer kills bacteria while it charges. Plus, its clever design enables you to hear your phone notifications while the device is in use.

FOR THOSE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR HOBBIES

Of course, there’s a lot more to life than work. If you’re gifting a friend or family member who really lights up when they talk about their hobbies, we’ve got you covered. 

13. The Sports Enthusiast

Hockey Stick BBQ Set- $61
Looking for a gift for the sports enthusiast in your life that isn’t another jersey? These BBQ tools made from repurposed hockey sticks are a great pick. Perfect for cooking up food to watch with the game!

14. The Bookworm

The Book Lover’s Journal - $19
Know someone who loves to curl up on the couch with a good book? This journal will help the book-lover on your list keep track of what they’ve read, as well as their ever-growing “to-read” list. 

15. The Runner

Marathon Map Hydration Bottle- $49
Help the runner you love to stay hydrated (and motivated) with a water bottle inscribed with their favourite race route. It’s perfect for runs around the neighbourhood or just toting around the house.

16. The Tourist

Travel Backpack - $120
Make it easy for the travel lover on your list to bring back souvenirs. This lightweight backpack folds flat so it’s easy to pack but sturdy enough to carry their new treasures all the way home. 

FOR THOSE WHO PUT FAMILY FIRST

For many of us, the greatest joy in life comes from our relationship with our family. Help your recipient strengthen and celebrate those all-important connections with these thoughtful gifts. 

17. The New Parent

4-in-1 Baby Food Maker  - $230
It’s hard to know what to buy for new parents once their registry is cleared out, but if they’re interested in making baby food at home, this tool is a must-have. It makes the process, from steaming to mixing, fast and easy.

18. The Genealogy Fan

DNA Kit - $129
Know someone interested in reconnecting with their ancestral home? This DNA kit can help them trace their geographical heritage and uncover their family history.

19. The Dog Person

Custom Printed Socks - $28
Is your friend’s dog their favourite family member? These adorable socks are sure to put a smile on their face as they cozy up on the couch with their pup. And since you can feature up to two pets on each pair of socks, no one needs to feel left out.

20. The Documentarian

Mini Link Printer - $130
We all have that relative who snaps a million photos at every family event. Help them capture each precious moment with this unique gadget that essentially transforms a smartphone into a Polaroid camera. It makes it easy to customize and print out snapshots to display around the house or insert into a scrapbook for posterity.

READY TO GIVE YOURSELF THE ULTIMATE GIFT?

We want to be your real estate consultants through every season of life. So please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to ask for recommendations or referrals any time of year. And when you’re ready to give yourself the gift of a new home, contact us to talk about your options. From finding the right neighbourhood to identifying the amenities that will make the biggest difference to your quality of life, we’re always eager to help.

New Build or Existing Home: Which One Is Right for You? (November 2021)

Homebuyers today are facing a huge dilemma. There simply aren’t enough homes for sale.1

Nationwide, the number of newly listed homes dipped slightly in September, down 1.6% from August. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, that’s only about 2.1 months of inventory, which is far less than the five to six months that is generally needed to strike a healthy balance between supply and demand.2

Given the limited number of available properties, if you’re a buyer in today’s market, you may need to expand your search to include both new construction and resale homes. But it can feel a little like comparing apples to oranges.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you should take into account when choosing between a new build or an existing home. 


TIMEFRAME

How quickly do you want (or need) to move into your next home? Your timeframe can be a determining factor when it comes to choosing between a new build or resale.

New Build
If you opt for new construction, you may be surprised by how long you have to wait to get the keys to your new digs. Nationally, the average timeline has more than doubled over the past 20 years from 9 to 21 months.1 And according to a survey by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, nearly 60% of builders are reporting delays—averaging six weeks—due to supply-chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic.3

These supply shortages have led to soaring prices, causing some builders to cancel contracts or demand more money from unsuspecting homebuyers long after agreements were signed.4 Unfortunately, this scenario can throw a major wrench in your moving plans and delay your timeline even further.

To minimize these types of surprises, it’s crucial to have a real estate agent represent you in a new home purchase. We can help negotiate contract terms and advise you about the potential risks involved.

Existing Home
If you're in a hurry to move into your next residence, then you may want to stick to shopping for an existing home. 

You can typically move into a resale home on your closing date.5 While closing on an existing home can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, it’s almost always faster than the time it would take to build a new one. 

If you need to move even sooner, it’s sometimes possible to close faster, especially if you’re a cash buyer. In fact, many sellers prefer a quick closing, so it can give you an advantage in a competitive market. 


LOCATION

From commute to construction to walkability, there’s a lot to consider when choosing your next neighbourhood.

New Build
Canada is currently undergoing a major residential construction boom, and rural and smaller urban communities have been the first to benefit—primarily because the single-detached homes located in those areas take less time to build.6 That means, if you opt for a new single-family home, you could be facing a longer commute and ongoing construction for some time.

If you prefer a multifamily unit, there should be an increased supply coming on the market soon. Over the past year, condos and apartments have accounted for 55% of the housing starts. A growing number of these are located in master-planned communities that combine residential, retail, restaurants, and office space—enabling residents to live, work, and play in a single space.7 

Existing Home
An existing home is more likely to be located in a neighbourhood with mature trees, established schools, and a deeply-rooted community. As a result, you may find the neighbourhood's trajectory to be more predictable than an up-and-coming area. 

But the amenities may be lacking and the infrastructure dated when compared to newer communities. And while some homebuyers love the charm and eclectic feel of an older neighbourhood, others prefer the sleek and cohesive look of a newer development.


MAINTENANCE

Are you a DIY enthusiast, or do you prefer a low-maintenance lifestyle? Set realistic expectations about how much time, effort, and money you want to devote to maintaining your next home.

New Build
When you build a home, everything is brand new. Therefore, in the first few years at least, you can expect less required maintenance and repairs. A 2019 survey found that millennials' homebuying regrets often came down to maintenance issues, rather than other concerns.8 So if you would rather spend your weekends exploring your new neighbourhood than fixing a leaky faucet, you may be happier buying a turnkey build. 

That doesn't mean, though, that a new home will be entirely maintenance-free. In fact, depending on the builder, you could find yourself repairing more than you expected. Some home builders have reputations for shoddy construction and subpar materials, so it's important to choose one with a solid reputation. We can help you identify the quality builders in our area.

Existing Home
No matter how good a deal you got when you purchased it, you could come to regret buying an older home if it later costs you heavily in unexpected maintenance and repairs. For example, according to the home service professional network HomeStars, the average price to replace an HVAC system is $4,995. And you can expect to pay a similar amount ($4,750) for a new asphalt shingle roof.9

Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for these large expenditures ahead of time. We always recommend that our buyers hire a certified home inspector, whether they buy a new or existing home. Once we have the inspector’s report, we can negotiate with the seller on your behalf for reasonable repairs or concessions.


ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

On a quest for greener living? If so, there are several factors to consider when deciding on your next home.

New Build
There’s a growing demand for energy-efficient housing, and many builders are rising to the challenge. Currently, more than one million homes in Canada have received an EnerGuide Rating, which measures a home’s energy performance against a benchmark.10 While all newly-constructed housing must meet the National Building Code requirements, there are a number of certifications that homes can earn if they receive an EnerGuide rating that exceeds these minimum standards.

Examples include the Net Zero label from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, which is awarded to homes that are 80% more energy efficient than conventional homes and utilize a renewable energy system to fulfill their remaining energy needs. ENERGY STAR and R-2000 are other well-regarded certifications that can be earned by homes that meet certain performance standards. So if energy efficiency is a top priority, a new home with a low EnerGuide rating or recognized designation may be a good choice for you.10

Existing Home
Of course, a basic tenet of sustainable living is: reduce, reuse, recycle. And since a resale home already exists, it automatically comes with a lower carbon footprint. Research has also shown that remodelling or retrofitting an older home is often greener than building one from scratch.11 

With some energy-conservation effort and strategic upgrades, environmentally-conscious consumers can feel good about buying an existing home, as well.


DESIGN

Double vanity? Kitchen island? Whirlpool tub? Must-have design features could drive your decision to build or buy resale.

New Build
With a new home, you can bet that everything will look shiny and perfect when you move in. Builders tend to put a lot of emphasis on visual details and follow the latest design trends. For example, newly-built homes are likely to include features that the majority of today’s buyers want, such as double bathroom sinks, kitchen islands, and walk-in pantries. They’re also less likely to include home theatre rooms or whirlpool tubs, both of which have lost mass appeal.12 

However, some buyers complain of the cookie-cutter feel of new homes since they are often built with a similar aesthetic. That doesn't mean, though, that you can't incorporate your own style. We can help you negotiate custom features and upgrades to personalize the space and make it feel like your own.

Existing Home
In some of the most coveted neighbourhoods, an older home with classic styling and character can be highly sought after. But unless the previous homeowners have invested in tasteful updates, an existing home is also more likely to look dated. 

While some buyers prefer the traditional look and character of an older home, others prefer something more modern.  If that’s the case, we can help you find a resale home that leaves enough room in your budget to renovate it to your liking.


WHICHEVER PATH YOU CHOOSE, WE CAN HELP

When it comes to choosing between a new build or an existing home, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There are numerous factors to consider, and you may have to make some compromises along the way. But the homebuying process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming.

We’re here to help. And in many cases, our homebuyer guidance and expertise are available at no cost to you! That’s because the home seller or home builder may compensate us with a commission at closing.

Some new-construction homebuyers make the mistake of visiting a builder’s sales office or even purchasing a home without their own real estate representative. But keep in mind, the builder’s agent or “sales consultant” has their best interests in mind—not yours. 

We are knowledgeable about both the new construction and resale home options in our area, and we can help you make an informed decision, negotiate a fair price, and avoid mistakes that can cost you time and money. So give us a call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation—and let’s start searching for your next home!


Sources:

1. RBC
2. Canadian Real Estate Association
3. Financial Post
4. Better Dwelling
5. Legal Line
6. Financial Post
7. BC Business
8. Bankrate
9. HomeStars
10. Canadian Home Builders’ Association
11. Advanced Materials Research 
12. Canadian Home Builders’ Association

Shut Down Home Intruders With These 7 Safety Strategies (October 2021)

A break and enter occurs every 90 seconds in Canada.1 Fortunately, there are some proven tactics you can use to decrease your likelihood of a home invasion.

Most burglars won’t go to extreme lengths to enter your home. They are looking for easy access with minimal risk. A monitored security system can be an effective deterrent—homes without one are 300% more likely to be burglarized—but it isn’t the only way to protect your property.2 The strategies below can help to maximize your home’s security and minimize your chances of being targeted by intruders.

Thinking about listing your home? We have some additional recommendations for you. Contact us to find out the procedures we use to keep our clients and their property safe and secure during the buying and selling process.

Check Your Doors and Windows

According to insurance company SGI Canada, the most common entry point for a burglar is through a basement or ground floor door or window.1 So securing these points of entry is essential.

Evaluate the condition of your doors and locks. 

A steel door is generally considered the strongest, but many homeowners prefer the look of wood. Whatever material you choose, make sure it has a solid core and pair it with a sturdy deadbolt lock that is a minimum of 2.5 cm long when thrown.3

Add window locks and security film.

Aftermarket window locks are an easy and inexpensive upgrade that can provide an additional layer of protection for your home. Choose a lock that is compatible with your window frame material and a style that is appropriate for the window type. And consider using a specialty film on windows that are adjacent to a door. Security film holds shattered glass in place, making the windows more difficult to penetrate.4

Landscape for Security

When it comes to outdoor landscaping, many of us think about maintenance and curb appeal. But the choices we make can impact our home’s security, as well. Thieves target homes that they can enter and exit without being detected. Here are a few tweaks that can make your property less appealing to potential intruders.

Increase visibility from the street.

A privacy hedge may keep out nosy neighbours, but it can also welcome thieves—so trim overgrown trees and shrubs that obstruct the view of your property. According to police officers, they offer an ideal environment for criminals to hide.5

Place thorny bushes and noisy gravel below windows.

Don’t eliminate shrubbery altogether, though. Certain hedges can actually offer a deterrent to robbers. Plant thorny rose bushes or sharp-leaved holly beneath your first-story windows for both beauty and protection. Add some loose gravel that crunches when disturbed.

Light Your Exterior

When it’s dark outside, criminals don’t need to rely on overgrown shrubbery to hide. Luckily, a well-designed outdoor lighting system can make your home both safer and more attractive.

Install landscape lighting.

Eliminate pockets of darkness around your yard and home’s perimeter with strategically placed outdoor lights. Use a combination of flood, spot, well, and pathway lights to add interest and highlight natural and architectural details. 

Use motion-activated security lights to startle intruders.

The soft glow of landscape lighting isn’t always enough to dissuade a determined intruder. But a motion-activated security light may stop him in his tracks. And if you choose a Wi-Fi connected smart version, you can receive notifications on your phone when there’s movement on your property.

Make It Look Like You’re Home

Motion-activated lights aren’t the only way to make an intruder think you’re at home. New technology has made it increasingly possible to monitor your home while you’re away. This is especially important since most burglaries take place between 10 am and 3 pm, when many of us are at work or school.

Turn on your TV and leave a car in the driveway.

A survey of convicted burglars revealed that the majority avoid breaking into homes if they can hear a television or if there’s a vehicle parked in the driveway.7 If you’re away from home, try connecting your TV to a timer or smart plug. And when you travel, leave your car out or ask a neighbour to park theirs in your driveway.

Install a video doorbell.

In that same survey, every respondent said they would knock or ring the doorbell before breaking into a home. A video doorbell not only alerts you to the presence of a visitor, it also enables you to see, hear, and talk with them remotely from your smartphone—so they’ll never know you’re gone.

Keep Valuables Out of Sight

Few home invasions are conducted by criminal masterminds. In fact, a survey of convicted offenders found that only 12% planned their robberies in advance, while the majority acted spontaneously.8 That’s one of the reasons security experts caution against placing valuables where they are visible from the outside.9

Check sightlines from your doors and windows.

Don’t tempt robbers with a clear view of the most commonly stolen items, which are cash (think purses and wallets), jewelry, electronics, firearms, and drugs (both illegal and prescription).5 Take a walk around your property to make sure none of these items are easily visible.

Secure valuables in a safe.

Consider the possessions that are on display inside your home, as well. It’s always a good idea to lock up firearms, sensitive documents, and expensive or irreplaceable items when you have housekeepers or other service providers on your property.

Highlight Your Security Measures

While it’s prudent to hide your valuables, it’s equally important to advertise your home’s security features. In surveys, convicted burglars admit to avoiding homes with obvious protective measures in place.7,8

Install outdoor cameras.

Security cameras are the most common home protection device and for good reason.10 Not only do they help prevent crime (burglars are known to avoid them11), they can offer peace of mind for homeowners who want to sneak a peek at their property while away. And if you do experience a break and enter, security camera footage can help police identify your intruder.

Post warning signs.

Security system placards and beware-of-dog signs are also shown to be effective deterrents.8 Of course, you should back up your threats with a noisy alarm and loud barking dog for maximum impact.

Limit What You Share on Social Media

Social media platforms can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it’s easy to reveal more than you’ve intended. Be thoughtful about what you’re posting—and who has access.

Delay posting photos or travel updates.

It can be tempting to upload a concert selfie or pictures from your beach vacation. But these types of photos scream: “My house is unoccupied!” Try to wait until you’ve returned home to share the photos on social media. 

Set privacy restrictions on your accounts.

Think twice about connecting with strangers or casual acquaintances on social media. If you enjoy sharing family updates and personal photos, it’s safer to limit your followers to those you truly know and trust.

YOUR HOME IS SAFE WITH US

We take home security seriously. That’s why we have screening procedures in place to keep our clients and their homes safe when they are for sale. We also remind our buyers to change the locks before they move into their new homes and provide referrals to locksmiths and home security companies that can help. To learn more about our procedures and how you can stay safe during the buying and selling process, contact us to schedule a free consultation!

Sources:
  1.  SGI Canada
  2. Bankrate
  3. Square One
  4. SafeWise
  5. Toronto Police Department
  6. Canadian Security Professionals
  7. KGW News
  8. Science Daily
  9. Security.org
  10. SafeWise
  11. The Guardian

9 Tips for Buying and Selling Your Home at the Same Time (September 2021)

Selling your home when you still need to shop for a new one can feel daunting to even the most seasoned homeowner––especially when the demand for new homes keeps rising, but the supply feels like it's dwindling.¹ You're not alone either if you're already feeling drained by the complex logistics of trying to sell and buy a new home all at once. 

Searching for a new home can be exciting, but many homebuyers admit that it can also be stressful, especially if you live in an unpredictable market with plenty of competitors. Unfortunately, waiting out a competitive housing market isn’t always the best idea either since homes are in notoriously short supply across Canada, and listings are expected to remain limited in the most coveted neighbourhoods for some time.² 

That doesn't mean, though, that you should just throw up your hands and give up on moving altogether. In fact, as a current homeowner, you could be in a better position than most to capitalize on a seller’s market and make a smooth transition from your old home to a new one. 

We can help you prepare for the road ahead and answer any questions you have about the real estate market.  For example, here are some of the most frequent concerns we hear from clients who are trying to buy and sell at the same time.

“WHAT WILL I DO IF I SELL MY HOUSE BEFORE I CAN BUY A NEW ONE?”

This is an understandable concern for many sellers since the competitive real estate market makes it tough to plan ahead and predict when you'll be able to move into your next home. But chances are, you will still have plenty of options if you do sell your home quickly. It may just take some creativity and compromise. 

Here are some ideas to make sure you're in the best possible position when you decide to list your home:

Tip #1: Flex your muscles as a seller. 
In a competitive market, buyers may be willing to make significant concessions in order to get the home they want. In some cases, a buyer may agree to a sell and lease back agreement (also known as a "sell house and rent back" option) that allows the seller to continue living in the home after closing for a set period of time and negotiated fee. 

This can be a great option for sellers who need to tap into their home equity for a downpayment or who aren’t logistically ready to move into their next home. If you're dealing with an investor rather than a traditional buyer, you may even be able to negotiate a lengthy lease and lower rent payment than your current mortgage.³ 

However, leaseback agreements can be complex, with important legal, financial and tax issues to consider.⁴ At minimum, a carefully-worded contract and security deposit should be in place in case of any property damage or unexpected repairs that may be needed during the leaseback period. 

Tip #2: Open your mind to short-term housing options. 
While it can be a hassle to move out of your old home before you’re ready to move into your new one, it’s a common scenario. If you’re lucky enough to have family or generous friends who offer to take you in, that may be ideal. If not, you’ll need to find temporary housing. Check out furnished apartments, vacation rentals and month-to-month leases. If space is an issue, consider putting some of your furniture and possessions in storage. 

You may even find that a short-term rental arrangement can offer you an opportunity to get to know your new neighbourhood better—and lead to a more informed decision about your upcoming purchase.

Tip #3: Embrace the idea of selling now and buying later.
Instead of stressing about timing your home sale and purchase perfectly, consider making a plan to focus on one at a time. Selling before you’re ready to buy your next home can offer a lot of advantages. 

For one, you’ll have cash on hand from the sale of your current home. This will put you in a much better position when it comes to buying your next home. From budgeting to mortgage approval to submitting a competitive offer, cash is king. And by focusing on one step at a time, you can alleviate some of the pressure and uncertainty.

“WHAT IF I GET STUCK WITH TWO MORTGAGES AT THE SAME TIME?”

This is one of the most common concerns that we hear from buyers who are selling a home while shopping for a new one, and it’s realistic to expect at least some overlap in mortgage payments. But unless you have a large enough income to comfortably carry two mortgages, you may not pass Canada's beefed up mortgage stress test until you have a contract on your first home. (You can use the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's Mortgage Qualifier Tool to check your odds.⁵)  

Assuming you can secure financing, however, it's still a good idea to examine your budget and calculate the maximum number of months you can afford to pay two mortgages before you jump on a new home. Potential stopgap solutions, such as bridge financing, can also help tide you over if you qualify. 

If you simply can’t afford to carry both mortgages for any amount of time, or if you are concerned about passing the mortgage stress test, then selling before you buy may be your best option. (See Tip #3 above.) But if you have some flexibility in your budget, it is possible to manage both a home sale and purchase simultaneously. Here are some steps you can take to help streamline the process:

Tip #4: As you get ready to sell, simplify. 
You can condense your sales timeline if you only focus on the home renovations and tasks that matter most for selling your home quickly. For example, clean and declutter all of your common areas, refresh your outdoor paint and curb appeal and fix any outstanding maintenance issues as quickly as possible. 

But don't drain unnecessary time and money into pricey renovations and major home projects that could quickly bog you down for an unpredictable amount of time. We can advise you on the repairs and upgrades that are worth your time and investment.

Tip #5: Prep your paperwork. 
You'll also save valuable time by filing as much paperwork as possible early in the process. For example, if you know you'll need a mortgage to buy your next home, get pre-approved right away so that you can shorten the amount of time it takes to process your loan.⁶

Similarly, set your home sale up for a fast and smooth transition by pulling together any relevant documentation about your current home, including appliance warranties, renovation permits, and repair records. That way, you're ready to provide quick answers to buyers' questions should they arise. 

Tip #6: Ask us about other conditions that can be included in your contracts. 
Part of our job as agents is to negotiate on your behalf and help you win favourable terms. For example, it’s possible to add a contract condition known as a "subject to sale" or "sale of property" (SOP) condition to your purchase offer that lets you cancel the contract if you haven't sold your previous home.⁷ This tactic could backfire, though, if you're competing with other buyers. We can discuss the pros and cons of these types of tactics and what’s realistic given the current market dynamics.

“WHAT IF I MESS UP MY TIMING OR BURN OUT FROM ALL THE STRESS?” 

When you're in the pressure cooker of a home sale or have been shopping for a home for a while in a competitive market, it's easy to get carried away by stress and emotions. To make sure you're in the right headspace for your homebuying and selling journey, take the time to slow down, breathe and delegate as much as possible. In addition:

Tip #7: Relax and accept that compromise is inevitable.
Rather than worry about getting every detail right with your housing search and home sale, trust that things will work out eventually––even if it doesn't look like your Plan A or even your Plan B or Plan C. Perfecting every detail with your home decor or timing your home sale perfectly isn't necessary for a successful home sale and compromise will almost always be necessary. Luckily, if you've got a good team of professionals, you can relax knowing that others have your back and are monitoring the details behind the scenes.

Tip #8: Don't worry too much if your path is straying from convention.
Remember that rules-of-thumb and home-buying trends are just that: they are estimates, not facts. So if your home search or sale isn't going exactly like your neighbours' experience, it doesn't mean that you are doomed to fail. 

It's possible, for example, that seasonality trends may affect sales in your neighbourhood. So a delayed sale in the summer or fall could affect your journey––but not necessarily. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the housing market used to be more competitive during the fall and spring and less competitive during the winter. But it's not a hard and fast rule and real estate markets across Canada have seen major shifts in recent years.⁸ Every real estate transaction is different. That's why it's important to talk to a local agent about your specific situation.

Tip #9: Enlist help early.
If possible, call us early in the process. We'll not only provide you with key guidance on what you should do ahead of time to prepare your current home for sale, we'll also help you narrow down your list of must-haves and wants for your next one. That way, you'll be prepared to act quickly and confidently when you spot a great house and are ready to make an offer. 

It's our job to guide you and advocate on your behalf. So don't be afraid to lean on us throughout the process. We’re here to ease your burden and make your move as seamless and stress-free as possible.

BOTTOMLINE: COLLABORATE WITH A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL TO GET TAILORED ADVICE THAT WORKS FOR YOU

Buying and selling a home at the same time is challenging. But it doesn't have to be a nightmare, and it can even be fun. The key is to educate yourself about the market and prepare yourself for multiple scenarios. One of the best and easiest ways to do so is to partner with a knowledgeable and trustworthy agent.

A good agent will not only help you evaluate your situation, we will also provide you with honest and individually tailored advice that addresses your unique needs and challenges. Depending on your circumstances, now may be a great time to sell your home and buy a new one. But a thorough assessment may instead show you that you're better off pausing your search for a while longer. 

Contact us for a free consultation so that we can help you review your options and decide the best way forward.

Sources:
1. 
Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) National Statistics
2. Scotiabank Global Economics Housing Note
3. CBC News
4. Appraisal Institute of Canada
5. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
6. Government of Canada
7. RBC Bank
8. Canadian Real Estate Association

5 Factors That Reveal Where The Real Estate Market Is Really Headed (August 2021)

In a July release, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported that home sales had fallen for three months in a row after reaching an all-time high in March.1 So could one of the world’s hottest real estate markets finally be headed for a downturn?


We wouldn’t bet on it. That’s because even though sales have slowed, it was still the strongest June on record—and 13% higher than last year.1

"Don't be fooled — this is still an extremely strong level of demand," Bank of Montreal Economist Robert Kavcic told CBC News. "Home sales have backed off extreme levels seen in recent months, but demand is still historically strong and driving strong price growth. We believe that sales activity will continue to gradually cool in the year ahead, but it's going to take higher interest rates to soften the market in a meaningful way."1

So what can we expect from Canadian real estate? Here are five factors that illustrate where the housing market is today and is likely heading tomorrow.


HOME PRICE INCREASES MAY LEVEL OFF NEXT YEAR

The Canadian Real Estate Association predicts the national average home price will reach $677,774 by the end of 2021, which would be a 19.3% increase over last year. “While market conditions have eased a little in recent months, they nonetheless continue to favour sellers to some extent in virtually all local markets,” the association says.2

But for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, the association anticipates pricing trends will head toward more normal territory. “Limited supply and higher prices are expected to tap the brakes on activity in 2022 compared to 2021,” according to the association.2

That translates into the association’s forecast of only a 0.6% uptick, to $681,500, in the national average home price for 2022.2 If that happens, it could prompt some buyers who had been reluctant to make purchases this year to enter the market next year.

What does it mean for you?

If you’re a homeowner, now might be the time to look at selling. That’s because the number of available homes continues to be relatively low, and price appreciation has begun to slow. We can help you prepare and market your home to take advantage of the current seller’s market.


HOME SALES ARE TAPERING OFF

If the 2021 home market in Canada is a wildfire, then 2022 could be more like a campfire. The Canadian Real Estate Association anticipates a slowdown in home sales activity in 2022 following an extremely busy 2021.3

An estimated 682,900 properties are expected to trade hands through Canadian Multiple Listing Service systems in 2021, which would be an increase of 23.8% from 2020, the association says.3

Next year is shaping up to be much less active, with national home sales forecast to decline 13% to around 594,000 properties in 2022.

“This easing trend is expected to play out across Canada,” the association says, “with buyers facing both higher prices and a lack of available supply, while at the same time the urgency to purchase a home base to ride out the pandemic continues to fade alongside the virus itself.”3

The “easing trend” is already happening. Across the country, a record-high 69,702 homes were sold in March. But just a month later, the national number of homes sold slipped 12.5% to 60,967.⁴ Home sales volume dropped another 7.4% in May to 56,156.⁵

“One of the world’s [most active] housing markets appears to be slowing down,” the Bloomberg news service proclaimed in June in a report about the Canadian home market.⁶

What does it mean for you?

Are you struggling to buy a home in today’s highly competitive market? If so, 2022 might be a good time to pursue a purchase because you may face less competition. However, one drawback of waiting is that mortgage rates are expected to go up. We can help put you on the right path toward homeownership, whether you want to buy now or next year.


SUPPLY OF HOMES REMAINS LOW

The housing shortage in Canada persists. 

Before the pandemic, the number of available homes nationally sat at a 14-year low and the number of months of inventory had fallen below four months, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.3

Inventory below four months puts the supply in “seller’s market territory,” the association says.3 Inventory refers to the number of months it would take for the current supply of homes on the market to be sold at the existing pace.⁷

In June, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported the national inventory of available homes was close to two months, reflecting an “unprecedented imbalance of supply and demand.”3 National inventory hit a record low of 1.7 months in March, compared with the long-term average of more than five months.⁷
 
“At a time where so many markets are struggling with historically low inventory, sales activity depends on a steady stream of new listings each month,” the association says.⁷

What does it mean for you?

A tight supply of available homes puts sellers in a strong position as long as demand stays high. So, if you’re a homeowner, placing your home on the market when demand exceeds supply could bring you a higher price. We can help you figure out when to sell so that you extract the maximum value from your home.


HOME CONSTRUCTION ON THE VERGE OF STABILIZING

Newly built homes add, of course, to the supply of homes available to buyers. And it appears that home construction in Canada is on the upswing.⁸

For all of 2021, construction is projected to begin on as many as 230,000 new homes in Canada, up from a little over 217,800 in 2020, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC). Even more homes could get underway in 2022 (as many as 234,500) and 2023 (231,900).⁸

“Housing starts will stabilize at levels consistent with household formation by the end of 2023,” according to CMHC.⁹

What does it mean for you?

More newly built homes coming on the market could mean an opportunity for buyers, as construction boosts the supply of available properties and eases the strain on demand. Bottom line: An influx of new homes may open more doors to homeownership. We can give you a hand in locating a new or existing home that fits your budget and your needs.


MORTGAGE RATES ARE SET TO RISE

Low mortgage interest rates help entice buyers to make a home purchase. That’s certainly been the case in Canada in recent months. However, mortgage rates are poised to creep up this year and next year, and even into 2023.10

An analysis from Mortgage Sandbox indicates five-year Canadian mortgage rates are expected to remain low by historical standards, but they are expected to continue rising in 2022 and 2023. The analysis indicates the fixed rate for a five-year mortgage could climb to 3% in the third quarter of 2022.¹¹

Low mortgage rates typically make it easier for homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage, as well. But on June 1, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions raised the mortgage “stress test” qualifying rate from 4.79% to 5.25%.12

According to the Toronto Sun, “It was intended in part to slow down the overheated housing market and likely in part because inflation (and higher interest rates) are on the horizon.”12

In a recent report, the British Columbia Real Estate Association forecast, “rising Canadian inflation — and the extent to which that inflation is a temporary phenomenon — is set to shape how rates evolve over the next year.”13

What does it mean for you?

Given the prospect that Canadian mortgage rates may go up during the rest of this year and into 2022, now might be the right time to think about borrowing money to buy a home. When interest rates rise, you pay more to borrow money. Whether you’re buying a new home or up for a renewal, you can lower your risk by locking in a fixed-rate rather than variable-rate mortgage.


ARE YOU THINKING OF BUYING OR SELLING?

It can be tough to sort out the Canadian housing market—where are home prices heading, are mortgage rates going up, is it the right time to buy or sell? We can help you answer all of those questions, and more. We then can work with you to come up with a plan tailored to your unique situation. Let us be your partner in the homebuying or home-selling journey.

Sources:

1. 
CBC
2. Canadian Real Estate Association 
3. Canadian Real Estate Association
4. Global News
5. Global News 
6. Bloomberg
7. Canadian Real Estate Association
8. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
9. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
10. Global News
11. Mortgage Sandbox
12. Toronto Sun
13. British Columbia Real Estate Association

​How to Bridge the Appraisal Gap in Today’s Real Estate Market (July 2021)

If you’re searching for drama, don’t limit yourself to Netflix. Instead, tune in to the real estate market, where the competition among buyers has never been fiercer. And with homes selling for record highs,1 the appraisal process—historically a standard part of a home purchase—is receiving more attention than ever. 

That’s because some sellers are finding out the hard way that a strong offer can fizzle quickly when an appraisal comes in below the sales price. Thus, many sellers favour buyers who can guarantee their full offer price—even if the property appraises for less. For the buyer, that could mean a large down payment or extra cash on hand to cover the gap.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, it’s never been more important to understand the appraisal process and how it can be impacted by a quickly appreciating and highly competitive housing market. It’s also crucial to work with a skilled real estate agent who can guide you to a successful closing without overpaying (if you’re a buyer) or overcompensating (if you’re a seller). Find out how appraisals work—and in some cases, don’t work—in today’s unique real estate environment.

APPRAISAL REQUIREMENTS

An appraisal is an objective assessment of a property’s market value performed by an independent licensed appraiser. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to lower their risk of loss in the event a buyer stops paying their loan. It provides assurance that the home’s value meets or exceeds the amount being lent for its purchase.

In certain circumstances, an appraisal can be avoided. For example, when a buyer purchases mortgage insurance because they have a down payment of less than 20%. In that instance, the mortgage insurance would cover the lender’s loss in a case of default. Or, if a buyer makes a large down payment, a lender may waive their right of appraisal.
 
Additionally, sometimes a lender will use an automated valuation model (AVM) to estimate a property’s value. According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, “AVMs are computer programs that provide real estate market analysis and estimates of value.” If the sales price falls comfortably within the AVM’s range of value, a lender may skip the formal appraisal.3

However, in the event a formal appraisal is required, it will need to be conducted by a licensed and authorized appraiser. In most cases, the appraiser will analyze the property’s condition and review the value of comparable properties that have recently sold. Using this information, they will determine the home’s current market value. Mortgage borrowers are usually expected to pay the cost of an appraisal.2


APPRAISALS IN A RAPIDLY SHIFTING MARKET

Problems can arise when the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price. And while low appraisals are not common, they are more likely to happen in a rapidly appreciating market, like the one we’re experiencing now.4 That’s because appraisers use comparable sales (commonly referred to as comps) to determine a property’s value. These could include homes that went under contract weeks or even months ago. With home prices rising so quickly, today’s comps may be lagging behind the market’s current reality. Thus, the appraiser may be basing their assessment on stale data, resulting in a low valuation.5

According to Kevin Lonsdale, Executive Director of the Canadian National Association of Real Estate Appraisers, the best valuations should be based on “data, not emotion. This emotional process where people are outbidding each other creates a disconnect and that then becomes a comparable six months down the road. It’s very difficult to value properties based on what the market wants to pay for them.”6

HOW ARE BUYERS AND SELLERS IMPACTED BY A LOW APPRAISAL?

In a balanced market, a financing condition is a standard inclusion in a home purchase offer. It enables the buyer to make the closing of the transaction dependent on their ability to secure a mortgage. And in many cases, the loan is contingent on a satisfactory appraisal, wherein the value of the property is at or near the purchase price. 

But in today’s market, sellers often hold the upper hand because the current demand for homes exceeds the available supply. That’s why many buyers are choosing to exclude the financing condition altogether, as a way to sweeten their offer in a competitive bidding process.

However, this approach can leave a buyer vulnerable if the appraisal comes back lower than expected. Without a financing condition, the buyer will be obligated to come up with enough cash to bridge the gap between the contract price and the appraised value—or be forced to walk away from the transaction and potentially lose their deposit.

It may seem, then, that a buyer carries the sole risk of a low appraisal. However, the sellers will have wasted time and money with little to show for it. And they run the risk that the market may have cooled or interest in their home may have waned by the time they relist.

Sellers should keep this in mind when evaluating offers. The offer price should never be the sole consideration. We weigh a range of factors when advising our clients, including a buyer’s conditions, mortgage qualifications, financial resources, and deposit size, among others.

According to Lonsdale, overheated blind bidding in Canadian real estate means that there is additional pressure on everyone involved in the transaction. With a tight timeline, there’s not always enough time for proper due diligence, putting stress on the transaction and on the buyer and seller involved.6

MITIGATE YOUR RISK WITH THE BEST REPRESENTATION

There’s never been a market quite like this one before. That’s why you need a master negotiator on your side who has the skills, instincts, and experience to get the deal done...no matter what surprises may pop up along the way. If you’re a buyer, we can help you compete in this unprecedented market—without getting steamrolled. And if you’re a seller, we know how to get top dollar for your home while minimizing hassle and stress. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Sources:
1. 
Financial Post
2. Mortgages.ca
3. Appraisal Institute of Canada
4. Teranet–National Bank House Price Index™
5. The Globe and Mail
6. Personal Interview: Kevin Lonsdale, Executive Director, Canadian National Association of Real Estate Appraisers. 4 Jun 2021.

Could Rising Home Prices Impact Your Net Worth? (June 2021)

Learn how to determine your current net worth and how an investment in real estate can help improve your bottom line.

Among its many impacts, COVID-19 has had a pronounced effect on the housing market. Low home inventory and high buyer demand have driven home prices to an all-time high.This has given an unexpected financial boost to many homeowners during a challenging time. However, for some renters, rising home prices are making dreams of homeownership feel further out of reach.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s important for you to understand how your home’s value contributes to your overall net worth. If you’re a renter, now is the time for you to figure out how homeownership fits into your short-term goals and your long-term financial future. An investment in real estate can help you grow your net worth, build wealth over time, and gain a foothold in the housing market to keep pace with rising prices.

What is net worth?

Net worth is the net balance of your total assets minus your total liabilities. Or, basically, it is what you own minus what you owe.2

Assets include the cash you have on hand in your chequing and savings accounts, investment account balances, salable items like jewelry or a car and, of course, your home and any other real estate you own. 

Liabilities include your total debt obligations like car loans, credit card debt, the amount you owe on your mortgage, and student loans. In addition, liabilities would include any other payment obligations you have, like outstanding bills and taxes.


How do I calculate my net worth?

To calculate your net worth, you’ll want to add up all of your assets and all of your liabilities. Then subtract your total liabilities from your total assets. The balance represents your current net worth. 

Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Worth

Ready to calculate your net worth? Contact us to request an easy-to-use worksheet and a free assessment of your home’s current market value!

Keep in mind that your net worth is a snapshot of your financial position at a single point in time. Your assets and liabilities will fluctuate over both the short term and long term. For example, if you take out a loan to buy a car, you decrease your liability with each payment. Of course, the value of your asset (the car) will depreciate over time, as well. An asset that is invested in stocks or bonds can be even less predictable, as it’s subject to daily fluctuations in the market.

As a homeowner, you enjoy significant stability through your monthly real estate investment, also known as your home mortgage payment. While the actual value of your home can fluctuate depending on market conditions, your mortgage payment will decrease your liability each month. And unlike a vehicle purchase, the value of your home is likely to appreciate over time, which can help to grow your net worth. Right now, your asset may be worth significantly more than it was this time last year.3

If you’re a homeowner, contact us for an estimate of your home’s market value so that you can factor it into your net worth calculation. If you’re not a current homeowner, let’s talk about how homes in our area have appreciated over the last several years. That way, you can get an idea of how a home purchase could positively affect your net worth.

How can real estate increase my net worth?

When you put your real estate dollars to work, it’s possible to grow your net worth, generate cash flow, and even fund your retirement. We can help you realize the possibilities and maximize the return on your investment.

Property Appreciation

Generally, property appreciates in one of two ways: either through changes to the overall market or through value-added modifications to the property itself.

Rising prices

This type of property appreciation is the one that many homeowners are enjoying right now. Buyer demand is at an all-time high due to a combination of low interest rates and limited housing inventory. At other times, rising home prices have been attributed to different factors. Certain local conditions—like a new commercial development, influx of jobs, or infrastructure project—can encourage rapid growth in a community or region and a corresponding rise in home values. Historically, home prices have been shown to experience an upward trend punctuated by intermittent booms and corrections.5

Strategic home improvements

Well-planned and executed home improvements can also impact a home’s value and increase homeowner equity at the same time. The type of home improvement should be appropriate for the home and in tune with the desires of local buyers.

For example, a tasteful exterior remodel that is in keeping with the preferences of local home buyers is likely to add significant value to a home, while remodelling the home to look like the Taj Mahal or a favourite theme park attraction will not. A modern kitchen remodel tends to add value, while a kitchen remodel that is overly expensive or personalized may not provide an adequate return on investment.

Investment Property

You may be used to thinking of investments primarily in terms of stocks and bonds. However, the purchase of a real estate investment property offers the opportunity to increase your net worth both upon purchase and year after year through appreciation. In addition, rental payments can have a positive impact on your monthly income and cash flow. If you currently have significant equity in your home, let's talk about how you could put that equity to work by funding the purchase of an investment property.

Long-term or traditional rental

A long-term rental property is one that is leased for an extended period and typically used as a primary residence by the renter. This type of real estate investment offers you the opportunity to generate consistent cash flow while building equity and appreciation.

As an owner, you don’t usually have to worry about paying the utility bills or furnishing the property—both of which are typically covered by the tenant. Add to this the fact that traditional tenants translate into less time and effort spent on day-to-day property management, and long-term rentals are an attractive option for many investors.

Short-term or vacation rental 

Short-term rentals are often referred to as vacation rentals because they are primarily geared towards recreational travellers. And as more people start to feel comfortable travelling again, the short-term rental market is poised to become a more popular option than ever in certain markets. In fact, with travellers continuing to seek out domestic options in lieu of international travel, this may be the perfect time to consider an investment in a short-term rental property.7

Investing in a short-term rental offers many benefits. If you purchase an investment property in a top tourist destination, you can expect steady demand from travellers while taking advantage of any non-rented periods to enjoy the home yourself. You can also adjust your rental price around peak demand to maximize your cash flow while building equity and long-term appreciation. 

To reap these benefits, however, you’ll need to understand the local laws and regulations on short-term rentals. We can help you identify suitable markets with investment potential.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Ready to calculate your personal net worth? Contact us for an easy-to-use worksheet and to find out your home’s current value. And if you want to learn more about growing your net worth through real estate, we can schedule a free consultation to answer your questions and explore your options. Whether you’re hoping to maximize the value of your current home or invest in a new property, we’re here to help you achieve your real estate goals.

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

Sources: 

1. 
Financial Post
2. Forbes
3. Global Property Guide
4. Canadian Real Estate Association 
5. Trading Economics
6. Canadian Apartment
7. MoneySense

Finding a New Home for Your Next Stage of Life (May 2021)

Imagine the first place you lived as a young adult. Now imagine trying to fit your life today into that space. Not pretty, right? 

For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical. A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase. 
While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbour’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.

The Newly Married or Partnered Couple

 

The financial and legal commitment of both traditional and common-law marriage has provided a springboard to homeownership for centuries. And while the average age of first marriage in Canada is around 30, the average age of first home purchase has shifted even later to 36.1,2 No matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider when you are ready to enter into your first home purchase together.

Affordability is Key

There’s no doubt about it—with home prices that just keep climbing, many first-time buyers feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to homeownership. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s low mortgage rate environment. 

While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors. In fact, that’s a popular approach for first-time homebuyers to take. Fifty percent of first-time Canadian buyers report that they plan to eventually upgrade to a larger home.3  

Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launchpad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up in the future if your needs change.3

Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates

Canadian mortgage rates hit record lows in summer 2020, and while they are gradually creeping back up, now is still an ideal time to purchase your first home together.4 A lower interest rate can save you a bundle over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money. 

But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 35% of your limit can go a long way.5 But if that’s not enough to raise your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.

Commute and Lifestyle Considerations

Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. But there are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship. 

Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? We can match you with some great neighbourhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability. 

The Growing Family 

Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,600 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family. 

The Importance of School Districts

For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, homebuyers report that school district is one of their top concerns.6 Of course, homes in the best-rated districts tend to be more expensive and harder to nab. But when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.

When you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings leave a lot to be desired. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a gamechanger. We don’t just work in this community; we know it inside and out. We’ll be happy to share our first-hand knowledge of the local schools and which neighbourhoods are most welcoming to families.

Lifestyle Considerations

For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself). 
A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably. 

Functionality

Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.
Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. We can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.

The Empty Nesters 

When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer with young kids is most likely to trade up to a larger home, older buyers often sell the family home and move into a smaller, less expensive home. In fact, more than half of Canadian Baby Boomers consider the area where they live too expensive for retirement. 

Maintenance and Livability

What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. It’s not surprising that condos are among the most popular types of homes for Baby Boomers given they require less upkeep than single-family homes. 

Lifestyle Considerations

Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless. 

Ability to Age in Place

Let’s face it—we can’t escape ageing. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be top-of-mind. This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of ageing) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.
Finding the Right Home for Right Now

One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In fact, the average Canadian homeowner will own 4.5 to 5.5 houses over their lifetime.7 At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.

Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, we’re here to help. Our insight into local neighbourhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. We’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so we know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but we’re here to support you every step of the way.

We support the Fair Housing Act and equal opportunity housing.

Sources:
1. 
The Canadian Encyclopedia
2. Mortgage Broker News
3. Savvy New Canadians
4. Mortgage Broker News
5. Government of Canada
6. Housing Sentiments and Trends Report 2017
7. Zolo

Can I Buy or Sell a Home Without a Real Estate Agent? (April 2021)

Today’s real estate market is one of the fastest-moving in recent memory. With record-low inventory in many market segments, we’re seeing multiple offers—and sometimes even bidding wars—for homes in the most sought-after neighbourhoods. This has led some sellers to question the need for an agent. After all, why spend money on a listing agent when it seems that you can stick a For Sale sign in the yard then watch a line form around the block?

 

Some buyers may also believe they’d be better off purchasing a property without an agent. For those seeking a competitive edge, proceeding without a buyer’s agent may seem like a good way to stand out from the competition—and maybe even score a discount. Since the seller pays the buyer agent’s commission, wouldn’t a do-it-yourself purchase sweeten the offer?

 

We all like to save money. However, when it comes to your largest financial asset, forgoing professional representation may not always be in your best interest. Find out whether the benefits outweigh the risks (and considerable time and effort) of selling or buying a home on your own—so you can head to the closing table with confidence.

 

SELLING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT 

Most homeowners who choose to sell their home without any professional assistance opt for a traditional “For Sale By Owner” or a direct sale to an investor, such as an iBuyer. Here’s what you can expect from either of these options.

 

For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

For sale by owner or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo) offers sellers the opportunity to price their own home and handle their own transaction, showing the home and negotiating directly with the buyer or his or her real estate agent. While Canadian statistics on FSBOs are limited, according to data compiled by the US-based National Association of Realtors (NAR), approximately 8% of homes were sold by their owner in 2020.1

 

In an active, low inventory real estate market, it may seem like a no-brainer to sell your home yourself. After all, there are plenty of buyers out there and one of them is bound to be interested in your home. In addition, you’ll save money on the listing agent’s commission and have more control over the way the home is priced and marketed.

 

One of the biggest problems FSBOs run into, however, is pricing the home appropriately. Without access to information about the comparable properties in your area, you could end up overpricing your home (causing it to languish on the market) or underpricing your home (leaving thousands of dollars on the table).2

 

Even during last year’s strong seller’s market, the median sales price for FSBOs was 10% less than the median price of homes sold with the help of a real estate agent.1 And during a more balanced market, like the one we experienced in 2018, FSBO homes sold for 24% (or $60,000) less than agent-represented properties.3 This suggests that, while you may think that you’ll price and market your home more effectively yourself, in fact you may end up losing far more than the amount you would pay for an agent’s assistance.

 

Without the services of a real estate professional, it will be up to you to get people in the door. You’ll need to gather information for the online listing and put together the kind of marketing that today’s buyers expect to see. This includes bringing in a professional photographer, writing the listing description, and designing marketing collateral like flyers and mailers—or hiring a writer and graphic designer to do so.

 

Once someone is interested, you’ll need to offer virtual showings and develop a COVID safety protocol. You’ll then need to schedule an in-person showing (or in some cases, two or three) for each potential buyer. In addition, you’ll be on your own when evaluating offers and determining their financial viability. You’ll need to thoroughly understand all legal contracts and contingencies and discuss terms, including those regarding the home inspection and closing process. 

 

While you’re doing all of this work, it’s likely that you’ll still need to pay the buyer agent’s commission. So be sure to weigh your potential savings against the significant risk and effort involved. 

 

If you choose to work with a listing agent, you’ll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent’s commission.

 

iBuyer

iBuyers have been on the Canadian real estate scene since around 2018, providing sellers with the option of a direct purchase from a real estate company rather than a traditional direct-to-consumer sales process.4 iBuyer companies tout their convenience and speed, with a reliable, streamlined process that may be attractive to some sellers.

 

The idea is that instead of listing the home on the open market, the homeowner completes an online form with information about the property’s location and features, then waits for an offer from the company. The iBuyer is looking for a home in good condition that’s located in a good neighbourhood—one that’s easy to flip and falls within the company’s algorithm.

 

For sellers who are more focused on speed and convenience, an iBuyer may offer an attractive alternative to a traditional real estate sale. That’s because iBuyers evaluate a property quickly and make an upfront offer without requesting repairs or other accommodations. 

 

However, sellers will pay for that convenience with, generally, a far lower sale price than the market will provide as well as fees that can add up to as much or more than a traditional real estate agent’s commission.4 According to a study conducted by MarketWatch, iBuyers netted, on average, 11% less than a traditional sale when both the lower price and fees are considered.5 Other studies found some iBuyers charging as much as 15% in fees and associated costs, far more than you’ll pay for a real estate agent’s commission.6 

 

In a hot market, this can mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table since you won’t be able to negotiate and you’ll lose out on rising home prices caused by low inventory and increased demand. In addition, iBuyers are demonstrably less reliable during times of economic uncertainty, as evidenced by the halt of operations for most iBuyer platforms in early 2020.6 As a seller, the last thing you want is to start down the road of iBuying only to find out that a corporate mandate is stopping your transaction in its tracks.

 

If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you can still explore iBuyers as an option. That way you can take advantage of the added convenience of a fast sale while still enjoying the protection and security of having a professional negotiating on your behalf.

 

BUYING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT

 

According to the most recent statistics, 88% of home buyers use a real estate agent when conducting their home search.1 A buyer’s agent is with you every step of the way through the home buying process. From finding the perfect home to submitting a winning offer to navigating the inspection and closing processes, most homebuyers find their expertise and guidance invaluable. And the best part is that, because they are compensated through a commission paid by the homeowner at closing, most agents provide these services at no cost to you!

 

Still, you may be considering negotiating your home purchase directly with the seller or listing agent, especially if you are accustomed to deal-making as part of your job. And if you are familiar with the neighbourhood where you are searching, you may feel that there is no reason to get a buyer’s agent involved.

 

However, putting together a winning offer package can be challenging. This is especially true in a multiple-offer situation where you’ll be competing against buyers whose offers are carefully crafted to maximize their appeal. And the homebuying process can get emotional. A trusted agent can help you avoid overpaying for a property or glossing over “red flags” in your inspection. In addition, buyer agents offer a streamlined, professional process that listing agents may be more likely to recommend to their clients.
 

If you decide to forego an agent, you’ll have to write, submit, and negotiate a competitive offer all on your own. You’ll also need to schedule an inspection and negotiate repairs. You’ll be responsible for reviewing and preparing all necessary documents, and you will need to be in constant communication with the seller’s agent and your lender, inspector, appraiser, title company, and other related parties along the way.
 

Or, you could choose to work with a buyer’s agent whose commission is paid by the seller and costs you nothing out of pocket. In exchange, you’ll obtain fiduciary-level guidance on one of the most important financial transactions of your life. If you decide to go it alone, you’ll be playing fast and loose with what is, for most people, their most important and consequential financial decision.

 

SO, IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

It is important for you to understand your options and think through your preferences when considering whether or not to work with a real estate professional. If you are experienced in real estate transactions and legal contracts, comfortable negotiating under high-stakes circumstances, and have plenty of extra time on your hands, you may find that an iBuyer or FSBO sale works for you. 

 

However, if, like most people, you value expert guidance and would like an experienced professional to manage the process, you will probably experience far more peace of mind and security in working with a real estate agent or broker. 

 

A real estate agent’s comprehensive suite of services and expert negotiation skills can benefit buyers and sellers financially, as well. On average, sellers who utilize an agent walk away with more money than those who choose the FSBO or iBuyer route.3,5 And buyers pay nothing out of pocket for expert representation that can help them avoid expensive mistakes all along the way from contract to closing.

 

According to NAR’s profile, the vast majority of buyers (91%) and sellers (89%) are thrilled with their real estate professional’s representation and would recommend them to others.1 That’s why, in terms of time, money, and expertise, most buyers and sellers find the assistance of a real estate agent essential and invaluable.

 

QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING? WE HAVE ANSWERS

 

The best way to find out whether you need a real estate agent or broker is to speak with one. We’re here to help and to offer the insights you need to make better-informed decisions. Let’s talk about the value-added services we provide when we help you buy or sell in today’s competitive real estate landscape.

Sources:

1. National Association of REALTORS
2. Washington Post
3. National Association of REALTORS
4. CBC
5. MarketWatch
6. Forbes

Is the Real Estate Market Going to Crash? (March 2021)

While many areas of the economy have contracted, the housing market has stayed remarkably strong. But can the good news last?

 

When COVID-related shutdowns began in March, real estate brokers and clients scrambled to respond to the shift. Record-low interest rates caused some lenders to call a halt to new underwriting, and homeowners debated whether or not to put their houses on the market. However, those first days of uncertainty ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in the Canadian residential real estate market, which currently accounts for a record-setting 9% of the country’s overall economic output.1

 

Now, as the spring market approaches, you may be wondering whether the good times can continue to roll on. If you’re a homeowner, should you take advantage of this opportunity by putting your home on the market? If you’re a buyer, should you jump in and risk paying too much? Below we answer some of your most pressing questions.

 

Why are home prices rising during an economic downturn?

 

At the beginning of the pandemic, fears of an economic recession were top of mind for homeowners all across the country. Overall, credit product origination declined across a variety of sectors, including car loans and credit cards, and government forbearance programs were put into place to cushion the blow of anticipated economic hardships. However, strong demand —coupled with ultra-low inventory and interest rates—caused real estate prices to continue to rise. The national average resale price soared 17% during 2020, and mortgage originations showed year-over-year growth of almost 30% on the strength of renewals and refinancing in response to record-low interest rates.1,2

 

According to the Bloomberg-Nanos Consumer Confidence Index, confidence in Canada’s real estate industry reached its highest level on record during the thick of the pandemic.3  Montreal Chief Economist Douglas Porter attributes much of the ongoing strength of Canada’s real estate market to a simple matter of consumer choice and priorities while noting that the downside of the resulting rise in home values is increasing consumer debt.1

 

Are we facing a real estate bubble?

 

A real estate bubble can occur when there is a rapid and unjustified increase in housing prices, often triggered by speculation from investors. Because the bubble is (in a sense) filled with “hot air,” it pops—and a swift drop in value occurs. This leads to reduced equity or, in some cases, negative equity conditions.

 

By contrast, the current rise in home prices is based on the predictable results of historically low interest rates and widespread low inventory. Basically, the principle of supply and demand is working just as it’s supposed to do. 

Effects of low interest rates

The Bank of Canada projects continuing low interest rates until sometime in 2023, aiding in economic recovery and increasing affordability.4 This helps offset the effects of high home costs even in markets where real estate might otherwise be considered overpriced. These low interest rates should keep the market lively and moving forward for the foreseeable future.

Effects of low inventory

Continuing low inventory is the primary reason for higher-than-average home prices in many markets.5 This should gradually ease as an aggressive vaccination rollout and continuing buyer demand drive more homeowners to move forward with long-delayed sales plans and as new home construction ramps up to meet demand.6

 

Aren’t some markets and sectors looking particularly weak?

 

One of the big stories of 2020 was a mass exodus from attached home communities and high-priced urban markets as both young professionals and families fled to the larger square footage and wide-open spaces of suburban and rural markets. This trend was reinforced by work from home policies that became permanent at some of the country’s biggest companies.

 

Not surprisingly then, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the residential real estate market has been the rental market, especially in population-dense metropolitan areas. The rise in vacancies has been fueled by several factors, including less international migration, fewer student renters, and less tourist demand for short-term rentals.7

 

Interestingly, landlords have not responded to these vacancies with lower rental rates, which have actually risen nationally. Instead, most have used incentives like lower deposit fees, free utilities, and move-in bonuses to attract renters. This suggests that most property owners expect demand to return to normal quite quickly as the vaccine rollout begins to take effect.7

 

Some analysts predict a decline in the Canadian housing market at large due to the impending end of government emergency measures and lender deferrals. However, others point to the increased demand for homes in smaller markets and lower-density areas outside of the country’s urban centres as an optimistic indicator, especially since these distant suburban and rural enclaves don’t normally benefit from increases in home values or an influx of new investment.8 As many of these new residents set up housekeeping in their rural retreats, they’ll revitalize the economies of their adopted communities for years to come.

 

According to Susan Hosterman, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, another strength that may help to alleviate the effect of financial pressures brought about by the ending of emergency measures is the relationship lenders in Canada have with their borrowers. Canadian lenders tend to be proactive in offering modifications to make loans more affordable for struggling homeowners.8

 

How has COVID affected the “seasonal” real estate market?

 

Frequently, the real estate market is seen as a seasonal phenomenon. However, the widespread shutdowns in March 2020, coming right at the beginning of the market’s growth cycle in many areas, has led to a protracted, seemingly endless “hot spring market.”

 

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) revised its 2021 Market Forecast based on more robust than usual figures for the second half of 2020. The new projection anticipates improvements even over 2020’s record-setting market figures, with potential sales limited only by the availability of inventory in most markets.9 Thus, we could be looking at another longer-than-usual, white-hot real estate market.

 

What’s next for the Canadian real estate market?

 

Projections vary widely, with some economists predicting a market correction and others predicting continuing strong growth. Overall, low inventory and lack of affordability appear to be the more negative factors applying downward pressures on the market, while pent-up demand and a return to normal employment and income levels, along with anticipated higher-than-average growth in the economy, point to ongoing good news in the sector.10

 

According to most indicators, the real estate news looks overwhelmingly positive throughout the rest of 2021—and possibly beyond. Pent-up demand and consumer-driven policies, along with a continued low-interest-rate environment and rising inventory, should help homeowners hold on to their increased equity without throwing the market out of balance. In addition, the increase in long-term work-from-home policies promises to give a boost to a wide variety of markets, both now and in the years to come.  

 

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? WE HAVE ANSWERS

 

While economic indicators and trends are national, real estate is local. We’re here to answer your questions and help you understand what’s happening in your neighbourhood. Reach out to learn how these larger movements affect our local market and your home’s value. 

  
Sources:

1. Huffington Post

2. Global Newswire

3. Weekly Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index

4. Bank of Canada

5. Toronto Star

6. Bank of Canada Monetary Policy Report

7. CTV News

8. Huffington Post

9. Canadian Real Estate Association

10. Canadian Mortgage Trends

5 Inspiring Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2021 (February 2021)

 

We’ve all spent a lot more time at home over the past year. And for many of us, our homes have become our office, our classroom, our gym—and most importantly, our safe haven during times of uncertainty. So it’s no surprise to see that design trends for 2021 revolve around soothing colour palettes, cozy character, and quiet retreats.

 

Even if you don’t have immediate plans to buy or sell your home, we advise our clients to be mindful of modern design preferences when planning a remodel or even redecorating. Over-personalized or unpopular renovations could lower your property’s value. And selecting out-of-style fixtures and finishes could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

 

To help inspire your design projects this year, we’ve rounded up five of the hottest trends.  Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

1. Uplifting Colours


Colours are gravitating toward warm and happy shades that convey a sense of coziness, comfort, and wellbeing. This year’s palettes draw from earthy hues, warm neutrals, and soothing blues and greens.1
 

While white and gray are still safe options, expect to see alternative neutrals become increasingly popular choices for walls, cabinets, and furnishings in 2021. For a fresh and sophisticated look, try one of these 2021 paint colours of the year: 

 
  • Aegean Teal (coastal blue) by Benjamin Moore
  • Urbane Bronze (brownish-gray) by Sherwin-Williams 
  • Soft Candlelight (muted yellow) by Valspar 
 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, indigo, ruby, sapphire and plum are showing up on everything from fireplace mantels and floating shelves to fabrics and home accessories. These classic, rich hues can help bring warmth, depth, and a touch of luxury to your living space.

 

To incorporate these colours, designers recommend using the “60-30-10 Rule.” Basically, choose a dominant colour to cover 60% of your room. For example, your walls, rugs, and sofa might all be varying shades of beige or gray. Then layer in a secondary colour for 30% of the room. This might include draperies and accent furniture. Finally, select an accent colour for 10% of your room, which can be showcased through artwork and accessories.2

 

 


2. Curated Collections

After a decade of minimalism, there’s been a shift towards highly-decorative and personalized interiors that incorporate more colour, texture, and character. Clearly-defined styles (e.g., mid-century modern, industrial, modern farmhouse) are being replaced by a curated look, with furnishings, fixtures, and accessories that appear to have been collected over time.3 
 

This trend has extended to the kitchen, where atmosphere has become as important as functionality. The ubiquitous all-white kitchen is fading in popularity as homeowners opt for unique touches that help individualize their space. If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, consider mixing in other neutrals—like gray, black, and light wood—for a more custom, pieced-together look. And instead of a subway tile backsplash, check out zellige tile (i.e., handmade, square Moroccan tiles) for a modern alternative with old-world flair.4

 

 


3. Reimagined Living Spaces

The pandemic forced many of us to rethink our home design. From multipurpose rooms to converted closets to backyard cottages, we’ve had to find creative ways to manage virtual meetings and school. And designers expect these changes to impact the way we live and work for years to come.
 

For example, some home builders are predicting the end of open-concept floor plans as we know them. Instead, buyers are searching for cozier spaces with more separation and privacy. Cue the return of walls and, in some cases, alcoves and sliding partitions that enable homeowners to section off rooms as needed.5

 

The necessity of a home office space is also here to stay. But what if you don’t have a dedicated room? Alternative workspaces have become increasingly popular. In fact, one of the biggest trends on Pinterest this year is the “cloffice”—essentially a spare closet turned home office. Searches for “home library design” and “bookshelf room divider” are on the rise, as well.6

 

 


4. Staycation-Worthy Retreats 

With travel options limited right now, more homeowners are turning their vacation budgets into staycation budgets.7 Essentially, recreate the resort experience at home—and enjoy it 365 days a year!
 

Bedrooms should provide a soothing sanctuary for rest and relaxation. But this year, minimalist decor and muted colours are giving way to bolder statement pieces.3 To create a “boutique hotel” look in your own bedroom, start with a large, upholstered headboard in a rich colour or pattern. Layer on organic linen bedding and a chunky wool throw, then complete the look with a pair of matching bedside wall lights.7

 

Carry those vacation-vibes into your bathroom with some of the top luxury upgrades for 2021. Try a large, zero-entry shower for two, a floating vanity with hand-free faucets, or a radiant-heated floor for the ultimate spa-like experience.9

 

 

From exercise to gardening to safer options for entertaining, the pandemic has led homeowners to utilize their outdoor spaces more than ever. In fact, backyard swimming pool sales skyrocketed in 2020, with many installers reporting unprecedented demand.10 But a new pool isn’t the only way homeowners can elevate their outdoor area this year.
 

Composite decks have become a favourite upgrade for their low-maintenance and durability. And in 2021, creative design elements are on the rise, including unique inlays, wider planks, and multiple deck board colours. Add stair or bistro lights for a touch of ambiance while enhancing safety and visibility.7

 

 


DESIGNED TO SELL

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighbourhood and price range. We can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!
 

Sources:

  1. HGTV Canada
  2. The Spruce
  3. The Kit
  4. Houzz
  5. HGTV Canada
  6. Pinterest
  7. Canadian Contractor
  8. Homes & Gardens
  9. Canadian Interiors
  10. CTV News

New Year, New Home? Set Homeownership Goals Whether You’re Buying, Selling, or Staying Put (January 2021)

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. But 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 the year you work to improve your credit score, pay down some debt, or save for a down payment? 

 

Home sellers, we’ve laid out plans for you to get top dollar for your property, including timing your home sale, making your property stand out from the crowd, and investing in your extra living space. 

 

And even if you’re staying put for awhile, 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 homeownership status, we’ve got some ideas and advice 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 score, available directly from Equifax and TransUnion.1

 

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.2 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.3

 

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, but your debt-to-income ratio also affects your credit score, which we 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 entiretylike 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 balances 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. The down payment depends on the home’s price, but the minimum is 5% for a purchase price of under $500,000, and closing costs range from 2-3%.4,5 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 paycheck 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.”6

 

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 your 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 your 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.7 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 tackle a minor remodeling project, such as upgrading the flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint. According to one remodeling 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 costs.8

 

Outside, you might consider improving your curb appeal by removing a dead bush, trimming a tree that blocks the front window, or power-washing your moldy driveway and sidewalks. In fact, real estate agents say cleaning the exterior of your house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to a home’s sale price.9 And improving a home’s landscaping may increase its value by 15 to 25%.10 

 

A good agent should provide custom-tailored suggestions to ensure your property pops inside and out. Ask us about our local insider secrets that will make your 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.11

 

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.

 

HOMEOWNERS

 

Resolution #7: Evaluate your household budget to reflect financial changes.

 

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 us for our 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 your energy costs by maintaining and upgrading your home. For example, consider upgrading some features to ENERGY STAR high-efficiency products. You could save 10% in energy costs if you switch out your gas broiler, and up to 45% if you change your windows!12,13

 

For a breakdown of home maintenance projects to tackle throughout the year, contact us for our 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 have 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 our free report, "Move Up vs Second Home: Which One Is Right For You?"

 

LET US HELP YOU WITH YOUR 2021 GOALS


Without a plan and a support system, 73% of Canadians will break their new year’s resolutions.14 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 local market experts, we have the knowledge, experience, and networks to help you achieve your homeownership goals, whatever they may be. Reach out to us today for a free consultation and commit to a happy and prosperous new year.



 

Sources:

10 Ways to Give Back to Our Local Community This Holiday Season (December 2020)

This year has demonstrated, perhaps more than ever, the importance of our family, friends, neighbours, and community. It truly “takes a village” to keep a community functioning effectively, whether that’s by keeping our waterways clean, feeding the hungry, teaching our kids, or supporting small businesses. 

 

With the holidays right around the corner, December offers the perfect opportunity to give back to the place we call home. You might want to focus your efforts near home, expand to our larger community, or even help support the people closest to you. Whether you’re passionate about a particular cause or just want to get more involved in general, let these 10 ways, both big and small, inspire you to do good in your town. 


GIVE BACK NEAR HOME
 

1. Attract local wildlife. By making your neighbourhood more wildlife friendly, you’re helping to  create a balanced and healthy ecosystem. Plus, many of the animals you can attract help with pest control and pollination.1

 

Ideas: 

  • Add a birdbath to your backyard or create a rain garden to attract wildlife (and filter out local pollutants). 
  • Place bird feeders on your property to feed birds all year long. 
  • Tie corncobs to tree branches to feed squirrels. 
  • Hang birdhouses on your property to provide shelter. 
  • Use native plants in your landscaping to provide food and shelter for birds, bees, butterflies, and other critters.
 

Take action: While you might not be able to “break ground” until spring, start researching native plants now to design a landscaping plan that provides food, shelter, and water for local wildlife.


2. Clean up our community. Besides beautifying the area, picking up trash keeps it out of our local waterways, which means a cleaner water supply for all of us.
 

Ideas: 

  • Whether you make this a solo effort or join in an organized group event, pick up trash in your neighbourhood, at a local park, or elsewhere in our community. 
  • Depending on your community’s regulations, you can recycle many home items such as paper, glass, and aluminum. 
  • And don’t forget to clean the exterior of your home, where water runoff (such as on your driveway and sidewalks) can carry debris into the local sewer system.2
 

Take action: Check with your local municipality to learn about environmental clean-up efforts in our community, as well as recycling and composting.  


3. Organize or join a neighbourhood watch. According to a recent report, neighbourhoods with Neighbourhood Crime Watch programs experience roughly 16 percent less crime.3 Keeping an eye out for each other instills a sense of safety and security in your neighbourhood by increasing surveillance, reducing opportunities, and enhancing information sharing among residents. Even if your neighbourhood doesn’t have an official program, you can still share crime information via a neighbourhood Facebook group or apps like NextDoor.
 

Ideas: 

  • Make a point of looking out for each other and being observant of what’s going on. 
  • You can even make it official by joining a neighbourhood watch program. 
  • Don’t have one? Consider launching a neighbourhood watch program with the help of other interested neighbours.
 

Take action: Some police forces use online mapping tools that provide crime alerts to people in neighbourhoods where recent criminal activity occurred.3 Share this information with your neighbours.


HELP OUT LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS
 

4. Boost your civic engagement. Regardless of your politics, you can get more involved as a citizen to make a positive difference in our community.

 

Ideas: 

  • Sign a petition to make a needed change in our community. 
  • Join a peaceful march, protest, or rally to support a cause dear to your heart. 
  • Attend local school board meetings, town halls, or city council meetings to understand (and have a voice in) local issues.4 
  • Watch (and read) a variety of local news sources to get balanced reporting on what’s happening in our community. 
  • If you don’t know your neighbours very well, introduce yourself. 
  • Then make a commitment to check in on those who might need help, such as an elderly neighbour. 
  • Get plugged into the resources and events in our town by visiting local museums, taking historical tours, borrowing materials from our local library, and attending community festivals.
 

Take action: Do you know who our local leaders are, such as our mayor or city councilwoman? Get to know their names, their policies, and their stand on issues that affect our community. Subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social media.


5. Support local businesses. Our community has been impacted by the pandemic, with many businesses being forced to limit capacity, instill social distancing efforts, and even shutter entirely in some cases. Help keep money in our local economy by shopping local instead of relying on online shopping from national chains.
 

Ideas: 

  • From handcrafted soaps and one-of-a-kind apparel to locally produced chocolate and small-batch wines, you’ll find plenty of unique gifts at the small businesses that dot our community. 
  • Consider purchasing tickets to attend live-streamed holiday concerts and shows. 
  • Buy cookies and other baked goods from our local bakery. 
  • Get takeout from our local restaurants. 
  • Support local farmers by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at community farmer’s markets.
 

Take action: If you’re concerned about shopping in person right now, many of these businesses, though small, offer online shopping, with options for in-store pick-up, curbside delivery, and/or mail options. 


6. Donate to local charities. Nonprofits could always use your financial support, so consider making a monetary donation to help them carry out their mission in our community. But if money is tight (or you want to support in other ways), think beyond just donating dollars. 
 

Ideas: 

  • Consider donating to a charity in someone else’s name as an altruistic gift on behalf of a friend or relative. 
  • Give blood to our local blood bank.
  • Donate new or used books to our community library.
  • Send school supplies to our neighborhood elementary school.
  • Help struggling neighbors by donating blankets to the homeless.
  • Pick out toys to give to a charity that caters to families. 5
 

Take action: Many collection efforts run by charitable organizations and businesses take place during the holidays. Look to see what’s already taking place in our community and choose one or more to give to this season.  


CARE FOR YOUR NEIGHBOURS
 

7. Organize a holiday food drive. This year, in particular, people are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. The pandemic has caused many businesses to close or reduce their staff size, putting many people out of work.

 

Ideas: 

  • If you personally know someone who needs help buying groceries, reach out and offer to help that one family. 
  • If not, partner with a local food bank, soup kitchen, nonprofit or community organization that feeds people in need. 
  • Round up a few friends, family, co-workers, or neighbours to collect food for a few weeks. Then deliver the bounty in time for the holidays.
 

Take action: Take advantage of your grocery store coupons and buy-one-get-one offers to inexpensively stock up on nonperishable goods.


8. Adopt a family or an individual. The holidays can be a struggle, especially financially, for some families. They might not be able to buy a Christmas tree or presents for their children. Maybe their holiday meal consists of boxed macaroni and cheese because they can’t afford a turkey and fresh vegetables. You can make a difference by “adopting” a particular family (or even just a child) to help make their holiday special.
 

Ideas: 

  • If you know a needy family, help them directly. 
  • If not, ask a community group for the name of a family or individual in need. 
  • Some businesses even sponsor toy drives or “angel trees” where you can pick the name of a needy family off the tree and buy from their wish lists.
 

Take action: This works great as a family project. Get the kids in your life involved to help make holiday cards and pick out toys to give to the children in the adopted family.

 

9. Volunteer. Depending on your schedule and your preferences, you might be able to volunteer in-person or from home, whether it’s a one-time effort or ongoing project. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in your community as you make a positive impact together for a shared cause.

 

Ideas: 

  • Give your time to a cause or organization that really matters to you, such as your local school, animal rescue organization, mental health awareness group, or environmental nonprofit.6
  • Tap into a skill you already have, like creating videos, and offer your services.
  • Or learn a new skill (like fundraising) to benefit your cause of choice.
 

Take action: Start with your local community to see where its needs are the greatest. Make a point to help this holiday season, perhaps extending your commitment throughout 2021.


10. Perform random acts of kindness. Don’t think you need to “go big or go home” in your give-back efforts. You can make a big difference one small act at a time.
 

Ideas: 

  • Give a generous tip to a waitress. 
  • Pay for the coffee of the car behind you in the drive-through. 
  • Take care of a neighbour’s pet while they’re out of town. 
  • Send holiday cards to deployed military personnel. 
  • Deliver a plate of homemade holiday cookies to our local fire or police station. 
  • Smile at a stranger. 
  • Rake leaves for an elderly neighbour. 
  • Thank your child’s teacher for all their hard work this year. 
  • Send an uplifting text to a friend. 
  • Compliment someone. 
  • Help a coworker with an unpleasant task.   
 

Take action: Need more ideas? Visit randomactsofkindness.org for hundreds of inspiring ways to make someone’s day a little brighter.

 

HOW WE CAN HELP YOU?

 

As real estate experts in our local community, we’re tuned into the unique needs of the place we all call home. Reach out to us today to discuss more ways to make a positive impact in our community—this holiday season and beyond. And we want to make sure you’re taken care of, too. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home now or in the near future, let us help you!

 

Sources:
  1. Redfin
  2. The Groundwater Foundation
  3. The Globe and Mail
  4. Parade
  5. MentalFloss
  6. Together We Rise

The New Normal: A Strong Housing Market Expected to Continue into 2021 (November 2020)

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.1
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 2020.2

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, we’ll explain everything you need to know to achieve your goals.

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.3 And 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.4

There has been a bit of relief in terms of inventory. New-home construction hit levels in August that the country had not seen since 2007, but then waned somewhat in September with housing starts down in eight of 10 provinces.5 Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montréal, also predicts some “building headwinds” that will further cool the influx of new inventory coming on the market.6

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. The median number of days listings now spend on the market is 26 days.

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).7 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.8

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 reentering the market. Rather, all signs indicate that this is the new normal.9

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 us 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 preapproved for a loan before you begin your home search. We 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 public school district it was. 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.10 And 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 2018.11

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.12

The good news is that interest rates are not expected to rise anytime soon—and may hover at these record lows until 2023.13
 
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 us for a referral to a trusted mortgage professional or an agent in those markets.

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 neighbourhoods 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, “[m]any 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.14

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 homeschooling and remote work, however, buyers have been freed to continue their home search into the traditionally slow winter months.15

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.16 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 homebuyers are using that cash on real estate.17

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. We 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. We are here to answer your questions and offer sound advice to guide you through all the options that are available to you.

WE’RE 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 experts, we can help you understand the finer points of the market that impact sales and home values in your own neighbourhood.
 
If you’re considering buying or selling a home before the new year or in early 2021, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an actionable plan to meet your goals.

Sources:
1. Georgia Straight
2. TD Economics
3. RBC Economics
4. Yahoo Finance
5. CTV News
6. Financial Post
7. MSN Money
8. BNN Bloomberg
9. Halifax Today
10. Global News
11. Financial Post
12. Yahoo News
13. Bank of Canada
14. CREA
15. PwC
16. The Globe and Mail
17. CBC/Radio Canada

5 Secrets Buyers and Sellers Must Know About Virtual Home Tours (October 2020)

For years now, virtual home tours have helped real estate buyers far and wide find the perfect home. From long-distance military personnel being relocated, 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.1 And 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 homebuying 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 Walkthroughs feature the actual action of walking around. Either the seller 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 Walkthroughs 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 freeform, 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 walkthroughs with the real estate agent will give you insights on those crucial non-visual aspects, like creaky floors, super-fast internet speed, and neighborhood 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.2 And you can 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
Even as government restrictions begin to ease in some areas, virtual tours are still recommended as a safer way to buy and sell real estate.3 Buyers don’t have to worry about exposure to anyone who previously visited the property, and sellers cut down on the foot traffic in their home. Some data even suggest that virtual tours keep agents safer as well, since they’re hosting fewer in-person showings and open houses.4

But 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.3

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.3
 
 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.5 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 between two 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.2

So if you’re a buyer luxuriating in viewing homes from your couch, just remember that 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.2 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.6 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 walkthroughs 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 favour, 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 cheaper 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.
 
Sources:
1. Rocket Mortgage

3. NAR Showing Guidance During Reopening
4. NAR 2020 Member
5. NAR 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
6. Realtor.com

Move-Up vs. Second Home: Which One Is Right For You? (September 2020)

The pandemic has changed the way many of us live, work, and attend school—and those changes have impacted our priorities when it comes to choosing a home.

 

According to a recent survey by The Harris Poll, 75% of respondents who have begun working remotely would like to continue doing so—and 66% would consider moving if they no longer had to commute as often. Some of the top reasons were to gain a dedicated office space (31%), a larger home (30%), and more rooms overall (29%).1 

 

And now that virtual school has become a reality for many families, that need for additional space has only intensified. A growing number of buyers are choosing homes further from town as they seek out more room and less congestion. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly 40% of urban dwellers had considered leaving the city because of the COVID-19 outbreak.2

 

But not everyone is permanently sold on suburban or rural life. Instead, some are choosing to purchase a second home as a co-primary residence or frequent getaway. Without the requirements of a five-day commute, many homeowners feel less tethered to their primary residence and are eager for a change of scenery after spending so much time at home.

 

If you’re feeling cramped in your current space, you’ve probably considered a move. But what type of home would suit you best: a move-up home or a second home? Let’s explore each option to help you determine which one is right for you.

 

WHY CHOOSE A MOVE-UP HOME?

 

A move-up home is typically a larger or nicer home. It’s a great choice for families or individuals who simply need more space, a better location, or want features their current home doesn’t offer—like an inground pool, a different floor plan, or a dedicated home office. 

 

Most move-up buyers choose to sell their current home and use the proceeds as a downpayment on their next one. If you’re struggling with a lack of functional or outdoor space in your current home, a move-up home can greatly improve your everyday life. And with mortgage rates at their lowest level in history, you may be surprised how much home you can afford to buy without increasing your monthly payment.3,4

 

To learn more about mortgage rates, contact us for a free copy of our recent report!
“Lowest Mortgage Rates in History: What It Means for Homeowners and Buyers”

 

One major benefit of choosing a move-up home is that you can typically afford a nicer place if you spend your entire budget on one property. However, if you’re longing for that vacation vibe, a second home may be a better choice for you.

 

WHY CHOOSE A SECOND HOME?

 

Once reserved for the ultra-wealthy, second homes have become more mainstream. Home sales are surging in many resort and bedroom communities as city dwellers search for a place to escape the crowds and quarantine in comfort.5 And with air travel on hold for many families, some are channeling their vacation budgets into vacation homes that can be utilized throughout the year. 

 

A second home can also be a good option if you’re preparing for retirement. By purchasing your retirement home now, you can lock in a low interest rate, start paying down the mortgage, and begin enjoying the perks of retirement living while you’re still fit and active. Plus, it’s easier to qualify for a mortgage while you’re employed, although you may be charged a slightly higher interest rate than on a primary home loan.6

 

One advantage of choosing a second home is that you can offset a portion of the costs—and in some cases turn a profit—by renting it out on a platform like Airbnb or Vrbo. However, be sure to consult with a real estate professional or rental management company to get a realistic sense of the property’s true income potential.

 

WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

 

You may read this and think: I’d really like both a move-up home AND a second home! But if you’re dealing with a limited budget (aren’t we all?), you’ll probably need to make a choice.  These three tactics can help you decide which option is right for you.

 

1. Determine Your Time and Financial Budget

 

You may meet the bank’s qualifications to purchase a home, but do you have the time, energy, and financial resources to maintain it? This is an important question to ask yourself, no matter what type of home you choose.

 

Most buyers realize that a second home will mean double mortgages, utilities, taxes, and insurance. But consider all the extra time and expense that goes into maintaining two properties. Two lawns to mow. Two houses to clean. Two sets of systems and appliances that can malfunction. Second homes aren’t always a vacation. Make sure you’re prepared for the labour and carrying costs that go into maintaining another residence.

 

Of course, some move-up homes require more work than a second home. For example, if your move-up option is a major fixer-upper, you’ll probably invest more energy and capital than you would on a small vacation condo by the beach. Have an honest discussion about how much time and money you want to spend on your new property. Would a move-up home or a second home be a better fit given your parameters?


2. Rank Your Priorities
 

If you’re still undecided, make a wish list of the characteristics you’d like in your new home. Then rank each item from most to least important. This exercise can help you determine your “must-have” features—and which ones you may need to sacrifice or delay. Here’s a sample to help you get started:

 

#

FEATURE

 

Dedicated home office

 

Extra bedroom

 

Pool

 

Walk to the beach

 

Big backyard

 

Close to friends and family

 

Short commute to the office

 

Investment potential

 

3. Explore Your Options

 

Once you’ve determined your parameters and priorities, it’s time to begin your home search. If you’re still not sure whether a move-up home or a second home is right for you, I can help.

 

Contact me to schedule a free consultation. I’ll discuss your options and help you assess the pros and cons of each, given your unique circumstances. 

 

I can also send you property listings for both move-up homes and second homes within your budget so you can better envision each scenario. Sometimes, viewing listings of homes that meet your criteria can make the decision clear.

 

LET’S GET MOVING

 

Whether you’re ready to make a move or need help weighing your options, I’d love to help. I can determine your current home’s value and show you local properties that fit within your budget. Or, if your heart is set on a second home in another market, I can refer you to an agent in your dream locale. Contact me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

 

Sources:

  1. Zillow
  2. The Harris Poll
  3. MarketWatch
  4. Toronto Star
  5. Kiplinger
  6. The Press-Enterprise

 

Lowest Mortgage Rates in History: What It Means for Homeowners and Buyers (August 2020)

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.1 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.2 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 1981.3 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.4 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.1

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.1

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 signalled 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 2022.4

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%.5

While forecasts may differ, many experts agree: Those who wait to take advantage of these unprecedented rates could miss out on the deal of a lifetime. Positive news about a vaccine or a faster-than-expected economic recovery could send rates back up to pre-pandemic levels.

SHOULD I CONSIDER BREAKING MY CURRENT MORTGAGE?

If you have a variable rate or recently renewed your mortgage, you may already be enjoying the benefits of falling interest rates. But if you’re locked into a higher fixed-rate mortgage for the next several years, you’re probably wondering if it’s a good idea to refinance.

Reduced interest rates can save homeowners a bundle on both monthly payments and interest over the term of a mortgage. The chart below illustrates the potential savings when you decrease your mortgage rate by just one percentage point. When it comes to refinancing, the bigger the spread, the greater the potential savings.

Estimated Monthly Payment On 5-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
25-Year Amortization

Loan Amount 3.5% 2.5% Monthly
Savings
Interest Savings
Over 5 Years
$100,000 $499 $448 $51 $4,720
$200,000 $999 $896 $103 $9,441
$300,000 $1498 $1,344 $154 $14,161
$400,000 $1,997 $1,792 $205 $18,881
$500,000 $2,496 $2,240 $256 $23,601

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.6 You can use an online refinance calculator to estimate your potential savings, or we’d be happy to connect you with a mortgage professional in our network who can help you decide if refinancing is a good option for you.

HOW DO LOW MORTGAGE RATES BENEFIT HOME BUYERS?

We’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.

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.1 And interest rates are expected to remain low at least through next year.

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.

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:7
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.

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.8 A down payment larger than 20% can bring down borrowing costs even further.

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.9

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!

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. Canadian Mortgage Trends
2. Rate Hub
3. The Globe and Mail
4. Canadian Mortgage Trends
5. Mortgage Sandbox
6. Financial Post
7. Canadian Mortgage Trends
8. Integrated Mortgage Planners
9. Equifax
 

Add Value To Your Home With These 9 DIY Improvements (July 2020)

Whether you’re prepping your house to go on the market or looking for ways to maximize its long-term appreciation, these nine home improvement projects are great ways to add function, beauty, and real value to your home.

The best part is, once you’ve secured the materials, most of these renovations can be completed over the course of a weekend. And they don’t require a lot of specialized skills or experience. So grab your toolbox, then get ready to boost your home’s appeal AND investment potential!


1. Spruce Up Your Landscaping
Landscaping improvements can increase a home’s value by 10-12%.1 But which outdoor features do buyers care about most? According to a survey of Realtors, a healthy lawn is at the top of their list. If your lawn is lacking, overseeding or laying new sod can be a worthwhile investment—with an expected return of 417% and 143% respectively.1

Planting flowers is another great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal. And if you choose a perennial variety, your blooms should return year after year. For an even longer-term impact, consider planting a tree. According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, a mature tree can add up to $10,000 to the value of your home.2

2. Clean The Exterior
When it comes to making your house shine, a sparkling facade can be just as important as a clean interior. Real estate professionals estimate that washing the outside of a house can add as much as $15,000 to its sales price.3

A rented pressure washer from your local home improvement store can help you remove built-up dirt and grime from your home’s exterior, walkway, and driveway. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully—and only use it on surfaces that can withstand the intensity. When in doubt, a scrub brush and bucket of sudsy water will often do the trick.

3. Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint
New paint can have a big impact on both the appearance and value of a property. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to revitalize a home’s exterior, update its interior, and make it appear larger and brighter. The best part? Painting is relatively easy and inexpensive!

To get the maximum return at resale, stick with a modern but neutral color palette that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. According to a recent survey of home design experts, cool neutrals are a safe bet when it comes to interior paint. And respondents chose white and gray as the best exterior paint colors to use when selling a home.4 However, it’s important to consider a property’s architecture, existing fixtures, and regional design preferences, as well.   

4. Install Smart Home Technology
In a recent survey, 78% of real estate professionals said their buyer clients were willing to pay more for a home with smart technology features.5 The most requested smart devices? Thermostats (77%), smoke detectors (75%), home security cameras (66%), and locks (63%).6

The good news is, many of these gadgets are fairly easy to install. And some of them, including smart thermostats and light bulbs, will pay for themselves over time by making your home more energy efficient. In fact, many manufacturers report that smart thermostats can cut back on heating and cooling costs by 10-20%.7  

If you already own a smart speaker, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, choose devices that will pair with your existing technology. This will enable you to create a truly integrated (and in many cases voice-activated) smart home experience.

5. Modernize Your Window Treatments
Smart—or motorized—blinds are also growing in popularity, and several manufacturers make models you can order and install on your own. But they’re not the only way to modernize your window treatments.

If you have old aluminum blinds, consider replacing them with plantation shutters, which are energy efficient, durable, and have strong buyer appeal.8 Roman and roller shades are another stylish alternative, and they come in a variety of colors and fabrics, which you can personalize to meet your design and privacy preferences.

Fortunately, upgrading your blinds has gotten easier and less expensive in recent years. There are a number of retailers that specialize in affordable window coverings that are simple to measure and hang yourself.

6. Replace Outdated Fixtures
Drastically transform the look and feel of your home by swapping out dingy and dated fixtures for contemporary alternatives. Start by assessing your current light fixtures, faucets, cabinet hardware, door knobs, and even switch plates. Then prioritize replacing those that are particularly outdated or in highly-visible areas, such as your entryway or kitchen.

Even if your home is fairly new, consider trading your builder-grade fixtures for higher-end options to give it a more upscale appearance. And forget the old rule about sticking to one metal tone throughout your property. According to designers, mixing metal finishes can add interest and character to a space.9

For more designer insights and decor trends, contact us for a free copy of our recent report: “Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade.”

7. Upgrade Your Bathroom Mirror
A minor bathroom remodel offers one of the best returns on investment, with a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1 you spend.10 We’ve already explored several improvements you can make to your bathroom: new paint, fixtures, and hardware. Now complete the look by upgrading your vanity’s mirror.

Before you purchase a new mirror, examine your existing one to see how it is attached to the wall. Some vanity mirrors are glued to the wall and difficult to remove without shattering the glass or damaging the sheetrock behind it.11

If you prefer to keep your existing mirror, you can paint the frame—or add one if it’s currently frameless. There are several online retailers that will send you the frame components cut to your specifications, which you can assemble and mount yourself. Much like a work of art, your vanity mirror serves as a focal point for your bathroom, so let your creativity shine through!

8. Shampoo Your Carpet
Carpet is notorious for trapping dust, dirt, and allergens. It’s one of the reasons that most buyers prefer hard surface flooring.12 But if you love your carpet, or you’re not ready to invest in an alternative, make an effort to keep it clean and odor-free.

To properly maintain your carpet, you should vacuum it weekly. Experts also recommend a deep shampoo at least every two years.13 Fortunately, this is a cheap and easy DIY project you can knock out in about 20 minutes per room. According to Consumer Reports, you can rent a machine and purchase cleaning fluid and supplies for around $90. With an average return on your investment of 169%, it’s well worth the effort and expense.14

9. Customize Your Closet
Real estate professionals estimate that a closet remodel can add $2500. to a home’s selling price. And while a professional renovation can cost upwards of $6000., there are many high-quality DIY closet systems you can customize and install yourself.15

Experts recommend taking a thorough inventory of your wardrobe and accessories before you get started. Make sure frequently-worn pieces are easy to reach, and store seasonal and seldom-used items on high shelves. Place shoe racks near the closet entrance so they are easy to access.16 A little planning can go a long way toward building a closet that you (and your future buyers!) will love.


GET A COMPLIMENTARY ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT
I’ve been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual impact of a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighbourhood. Before you get started, contact me to schedule a free virtual or in person consultation. I can help you determine which upgrades will offer the greatest return on your effort and investment.


Sources:
1. HomeLight
2. National Association of Realtors
3. HouseLogic.com
4. Fixr
5. T3 Sixty
6. Consumer Reports
7. American Council for Energy Efficient Economy
8. Forbes
9. Insider
10. Zillow
11. Lowes
12. HomeLight
13. Angie’s List
14. HomeLight
15. National Association of Realtors
16. EasyCloset

Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate? (June 2020)

Traditionally, spring is one of the busiest times of the year for real estate. But the coronavirus outbreak—and subsequent stay-at-home orders—led many buyers and sellers to put their moving plans on hold. In April, sales volume fell to its lowest level since 1984, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.1

However, while sales have fallen, prices have remained stable. The average home price in April was down just 1.3% from the same month last year.1 And in many metropolitan areas, prices have continued to rise. The Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures 11 major Canadian markets, showed home prices in April were up 5.3% from a year earlier.2

But given safety concerns and the current economic climate, is it prudent to jump back into the real estate market?

Before you decide, it’s important to consider where the housing market is headed, how the real estate process has changed, and your own individual needs and circumstances.

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE HOUSING MARKET?

In response to the economic slowdown, the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates.3 That’s good news for homebuyers who have struggled to afford a mortgage in the past. Lower mortgage rates can bring down monthly payments or increase a buyer’s purchasing power while making it easier to qualify for a loan.

And at a recent press conference, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told reporters that interest rates would likely remain low for the foreseeable future. He also noted that the country is on track to meet the central bank’s “best-case scenario for recovery” as outlined in April, and he didn’t predict damage to the economy would be as “dire” as some have speculated.4

While many buyers are eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, some wonder if recessionary pressures could drive down home prices, too. Economists at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predict that prices will decrease over the next 12 months.5 However, many real estate industry veterans expect supply and demand fundamentals to prevent a drastic drop in home values.6

There’s been a shortage of affordable homes on the market for years, and that inventory shortage has helped to prop up prices—even as sales have slowed. That’s because supply and demand have fallen at around the same pace.7 Of course, some market segments have fared better than others. For example, demand has softened for urban condos in some areas, which has caused prices to drop. Whereas, the supply of single-family homes in many neighbourhoods has dried up, leaving eager buyers to compete for listings.7

There are certainly opportunities out in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers. But now more than ever, it’s crucial to have a professional real estate agent who understands your local market dynamics and can help you assess the best time to buy or list your home.

HOW HAS THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS CHANGED?

The safety of our clients and our team members is our top priority. That’s why we’ve developed a process for buyers and sellers that utilizes technology to minimize personal contact.

For our listings, we’re holding online open houses, offering virtual viewings, and conducting walk-through video tours. We’re also using video chat to qualify interested buyers before we book in-person showings. This enables us to promote your property to a broad audience while limiting physical foot traffic to only serious buyers.

Likewise, our buyer clients can view properties online and take virtual video tours to minimize the number of homes they step inside. Ready to visit a property in person? We can decrease surface contact by asking the seller to turn on all the lights and open doors and cabinets before your scheduled showing.

The majority of our “paperwork” is also digital. In fact, many of the legal and financial documents involved in buying and selling a home went online years ago. You can safely view and eSign contracts from your smartphone or computer.

While these new ways of conducting business may seem strange at first, keep in mind, many military clients, international buyers, and others have utilized virtual methods to buy and sell homes for years.

IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO MAKE A MOVE?

The reality is, there’s no “one size fits all” answer as to whether it’s a good time to buy or sell a home because everyone’s circumstances are unique. But now that you know the state of the market and what you can expect as you shop for real estate, consider the following questions:

Why do you want or need to move?

It’s important to consider why you want to move and if your needs may shift over the next year. For example, if you need a larger home for your growing family, your space constraints aren’t likely to go away. In fact, they could be amplified as you spend more time at home.

However, if you’re planning a move to be closer to your office, consider whether your commute could change. Some companies are rethinking their office dynamics and may encourage their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.

How urgently do you need to complete your move?

If you have a new baby on the way or want to be settled before schools open in the fall, we recommend that you begin aggressively searching as soon as possible. With fewer homes on the market, it’s taking longer than usual for clients to find and purchase a home.

However, if your timeline is flexible, you may be well-positioned to score a deal. We’re seeing more highly-incentivized sellers who are willing to negotiate on terms and price. Talk to us about setting up a search so we can keep an eye out for any bargains that pop up. And get pre-qualified for a mortgage now so you’ll be ready to act quickly.

If you’re eager to sell this year, now is the time to begin prepping your home for the market. Prices could fluctuate, and experts predict a second wave of infections may necessitate another lockdown.8 If you wait, you might miss your window of opportunity.

How has your particular market segment been impacted?

Certain segments will weather this economic downturn better than others. It’s important to understand the market dynamics of your particular area, price point, and housing type. The truth is, broad macroeconomic projections rarely paint an accurate picture of the day-to-day market realities of a given neighbourhood.

How long do you plan to stay in your new home?

During times of market uncertainty, your best bet is to buy a home you can envision yourself keeping for several years. Fortunately, with decreased competition and ultra-low mortgage rates, you’ll be well-positioned to score a great deal.

Is your income stable?

If there’s a good chance you could lose your job, you may be better off waiting to buy a home. The exception would be if you’re planning to downsize. Moving to a less expensive home could allow you to tap into your home equity or cut down on your monthly expenses.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MOVE—I'M READY TO HELP

While uncertain market conditions may give pause to some buyers and sellers, they can actually present an opportunity for those who are willing, able, and motivated to make a move.

Your average spring season would be flooded with real estate activity. But right now, only motivated players are out in the market. That means that if you’re looking to buy, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. And today’s low mortgage rates could give a big boost to your purchasing power. In fact, if you’ve been priced out of the market before, this may be the perfect time to look.

If you’re ready to sell, you’ll have fewer listings to compete against in your neighbourhood and price range. But you’ll want to act quickly—a second wave of coronavirus cases could be coming later this year. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have to face another lockdown in your current home.

Let’s schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your individual needs and circumstances. I can help you assess your options and create a plan that makes you feel both comfortable and confident during these unprecedented times.

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

Sources:
1. CTV News
2. House Price Index
3. CBC
4. Financial Post
5. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
6. RE/MAX
7. Global News
8. CTV News
 

20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget (May 2020)

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.

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.

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

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.

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 favourite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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).

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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? Please reach out to me for a downloadable version of a household budget worksheet


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, we are happy to provide our 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
2. Department of Energy
3. Money Crashers
4. Harvard University
5. Forbes
6. Money

 

#StayHome: How to Create Functional Spaces in Your Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak (April 2020)

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways you can modify your home and your lifestyle to make the best of this difficult situation.

 

Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. We also share some of our favorite ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.

 

Begin with the Basics

A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity.
 

Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them. 

 

Working From Home

Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day. 

 

Of course, if you have children who are home with you all day (given many schools and daycares are now closed), separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings.

 

If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work.1 A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.

 

Homeschooling Your Children

 Many parents with school-aged children will be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed.
 

If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible, and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area.

 

 If the weather is nice, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum. 

 

In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones.2 And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.

 

Staying Fit

With gyms closed and team sports cancelled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both.

 

If you live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible. If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides. 

 

Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups. 

 

And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.

 

Socializing From a Distance

Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbours and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now.

 

And while parties and playdates may be prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.

 

There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbour’s porch. Or organize a neighbuorhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork.

 

Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever. 

 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

 Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. I’m not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. I want to be a resource to my clients and community through good times and bad. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let us know how we can help.

Sources:

1. CNBC - https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/16/how-to-work-from-home-with-your-kids-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html

2. TheHomeSchoolMom.com - https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/benefits-of-homeschooling-2/

Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade (March 2020)

Whether you’re planning a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in home design. Sellers who make tasteful updates can generate increased buyer interest and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget.

 

Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, I advise my clients to be thoughtful about the colours, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel, or even redecorating. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular options could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to list your property. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

 

To help, I’ve rounded up five of the hottest home design trends for 2020. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give me a call. I can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

 

1. IN: Sustainability / OUT: Fast Furniture 

Consumers have become increasingly eco-conscious. Many are shunning the mass-produced, “fast furniture” popularized by retailers like IKEA, opting instead for higher-quality pieces that are built to last. And the availability of non-toxic, environmentally-friendly furniture and decor options is set to grow in 2020 and beyond.

 

At the same time, there’s been a noticeable shift toward individuality in today’s interior design. Instead of following the latest fad, more homeowners are opting to embrace their personal style and invest in items they believe will “spark joy” (à la Marie Kondo) for years to come.

 

Want to know more about Marie Kondo’s famous organization method and how it can increase your home’s value? Contact us for a free copy of our recent report, “Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades That ‘Spark Joy’ for Buyers.”

 

To incorporate this trend, designers recommend layering old and new pieces for a curated look that you can build over time. Instead of purchasing a matching furniture set from a big-box retailer, buy one or two sustainably-sourced pieces that complement what you already own. Try searching estate sales and Craigslist for vintage classics or well-built furniture that can be refinished. And to accessorize your room, mix sentimental items with newer finds to create a truly personalized space.

 

 

2. IN: Cozy / OUT: Cold

Designers are moving away from cool grays, industrial finishes, and stark modernism. In 2020, there’s a big emphasis on creating warm and cozy spaces through color, texture, and shape. 
 

Gray has dominated the color palette for the past decade. This year, expect to see a move toward warmer neutrals, earth tones, and nature-inspired shades of blue and green. Warm metals, like gold and brass, will also continue to trend. And hardwood floors are heating up, as cool gray and whitewashed finishes fade in popularity. Expect to see a rise in classic choices like walnut, mahogany, and oak in richer and darker tones.

 

Furniture will also get cozier—and curvier—in 2020. From rounded sofas and curved-back chairs to oval dining tables, softened-angles are dominating the furniture scene right now. And designers expect softly-textured fabrics—like velvet, shearling, and mohair—to be big this year, as homeowners strive to add a touch of “hygge” (the Danish concept of calming comfort).

 

Want to warm up your home decor? Try one of the top paint colors for 2020: Benjamin Moore’s First Light (soft pink), Sherwin Williams’s Naval (rich blue), or Behr’s Back to Nature (light green).

 

3. IN: Bold / OUT: Boring

Bold is back! After years of neutral overload, vivid colors and prints will take center stage in 2020. Expect to see geometric designs, color blocking, and floral and botanical patterns on everything from pillows to rugs to wallpaper.
 

The hottest trend in interior paint right now is bold trim and ceilings. Monochromatic rooms (e.g., walls, ceilings, and millwork painted the same color) will be big this year, as well as high-contrast pairings, like white walls with black trim. Color is coming back to kitchens, too, and two-toned color schemes continue to gain steam. In 2019, 40% of remodelers chose a contrasting color for their kitchen island.1 While white was still the top choice for cabinets, blue and gray are increasingly popular alternatives.

 

If you’re ready to “go bold,” separated spaces like laundry and powder rooms are great places to start. It’s easier to incorporate busy wallpaper or a bright wall color in an enclosed area because it doesn’t have to flow with the rest of your decor. 

 

Of course, clients always want to know how design choices could impact their home’s value. The reality is, neutral finishes are still the safest bet for resale. If you’re prepping your home to go on the market, stick with non-permanent fixtures—like artwork and accessories—to brighten your space.

 

4. IN: Nature / OUT: Industrial

Biophilic design has been big the past few seasons, and it isn’t going anywhere in 2020. It centers around the health and wellness benefits of connecting with nature, even while indoors, and it’s impacted the latest trends in color, prints, and materials. 
 

As I've mentioned previously, floral and botanical patterns are hot right now, along with nature-inspired hues, like blues, greens, and earth tones. I'm also seeing a heightened use of organic shapes and sustainable materials in furniture and furnishings, including wood, wicker, rattan, and jute. This infusion of nature coincides with a decline in the popularity of urban-industrial fixtures. Designers predict that concrete floors and Edison light bulbs are on the way out.

 

Want to bring in elements of biophilic design on a budget? Houseplants are a great place to start. But you can also enhance your home’s natural light and create a visual sightline to the outdoors by removing heavy curtains and blinds. And when the weather is nice, open your windows and enjoy the breeze, sounds, and smells of nature. These simple acts are scientifically proven to help reduce stress, boost cognitive performance, and enhance mood!2

 

5. IN: Functional / OUT: Fussy

In 2020, homeowners want design that’s beautiful, but also liveable. With the rise in remote workplaces, online shopping, and virtual exercise classes, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before. Cue the growing appeal of multi-functional spaces, like a combination kitchen/office or gym/playroom. Real life—and rising housing prices—necessitates creative use of limited space.
 

Durable, low-maintenance materials will also surge in popularity this year. Engineered quartz—which is more stain, heat, and chip-resistant than natural stone—is now the #1 choice for kitchen countertops.1 Waterproof, wood-look luxury vinyl is the fastest-growing segment in the flooring industry.3 And improvements to water and stain-resistant performance fabric has made it a mainstream option for both indoor and outdoor upholstery. 

 

Now that functional is hot, what’s not? Designers say that mirrored furniture, open shelving, and all-white kitchens are too impractical for today’s busy families.

 

So how can you start enjoying the time and energy-saving benefits of this design trend? Begin by structuring each room so that it best suits your needs. And when purchasing furniture or fixtures, choose options that are durable and easy-to-clean. The truth is, design fads come and go. But a comfortable and relaxed home (that you don’t spend every spare minute maintaining!) can help create memories to last a lifetime.

 

DESIGNED TO SELL

 

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighbourhood and price range. I can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, I can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact me to schedule a free consultation!

 

Sources:

1. Houzz - https://www.houzz.com/magazine/2020-us-houzz-kitchen-trends-study-stsetivw-vs~129594531

2. Terrapin Bright Green - https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/

3. Remodeling Magazine - https://www.remodeling.hw.net/products/vinyl-ceramic-and-hardwood-oh-my-todays-popular-flooring-trends_o

4. Elle Decor - https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g29859422/design-trends-2020/?slide=1

5. Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/amandalauren/2019/12/23/twelve-interior-design-trends-well-see-in-2020/#43f81f044a5f

6. Wall Street Journal - https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-top-6-interior-design-trends-for-2020-11577460357

7. Good Housekeeping - https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decorating-ideas/g29849170/home-decor-trends-2020/

8. Architectural Digest - https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/top-design-trends-of-2020

9. Los Angeles Times -  https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2020-01-11/2020-home-design-trends

Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner’s Guide (February 2020)

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.1 

But 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,2 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.3
 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.
 

WHAT IS HOME EQUITY?

 Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you 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 cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4 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 checking 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:5

 
  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 checkbook 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.6
 

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 me 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 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 us 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.

 

Sources:

1. National Association of Realtors - https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/highlights-from-social-benefits-of-homeownership-and-stable-housing
2. Urban Institute - https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/homeownership-still-financially-better-renting

3. Census Bureau - https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/gaps-in-wealth-americans-by-household-type.html

4. Remodeling Magazine - https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/

5. Investopedia - https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/heloc/home-equity/

6. Bankrate - https://www.bankrate.com/mortgage/reverse-mortgage-guide/

2020 Outlook: Real Estate Market Forecast (January 2020)

After a two year 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.”1 To understand why—and where the market is headed— I take a closer look at some of the key indicators and summarize expert predictions for the coming year. 

 

More importantly, I 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.”2

 

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.”3

 

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.”4

 

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.5

 

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.6
 

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.2

 

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.2
 

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.7

 

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, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighbourhood. 

 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2020, contact me now to schedule a free consultation. I'll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

 

START PREPARING TODAY


If you plan to BUY this year:

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.
  2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? I can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
  3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. I’d love to guide you through it. I can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give me a call to schedule an appointment today!
 

If you plan to SELL this year:

  1. Call 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 me determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help me price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
  2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. I can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
  3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage ... and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!
 

Sources:

1. RBC Economics -https://royal-bank-of-canada-2124.docs.contently.com/v/november-monthly-housing-update

2. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation - https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/housing-market-outlook-canada-and-major-centres
3. Canadian Real Estate Association -https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/quarterly-forecasts/

4. Huffington Post -https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/home-sales-canada_ca_5d91eefae4b0ac3cddabd25c

5. RBC Economics -http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/canadian-housing-forecast.html 

6. Huffington Post -https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/house-price-forecast-canada_ca_5dde94f2e4b00149f727d91b

7. PwC - https://www.pwc.com/ca/en/industries/real-estate/emerging-trends-in-real-estate-2020/property-type-outlook.html#single

Gifts and Gadgets for Every Room in the House (December 2019)

Are you searching for new and innovative gift ideas this holiday season? If so, check out my list of the hottest home technology offerings. I’ve selected a few favourites for every room in the house.

These smart systems and devices add comfort, convenience, and a “cool factor” that will delight your friends and family.  So think about who you know that loves the latest gadgets … or add a few of these to your own wish list!

ENTRYWAY
Ensure the safety of your loved ones with these smart security upgrades.

Smart Lighting
Ring, a company best known for its video doorbells, has added smart lights to its series of integrated devices. The Ring Smart Light System includes motion sensors, pathlights, spotlights, and even step lights, which can be turned on and off using voice commands when paired with an Amazon Alexa device. Users may opt to receive a notification when motion is detected on the premises, and—if integrated with Ring security cameras—access a live video stream for an added layer of security. Systems start at $99.99.

Smart Lock
Smart locks are a great way to ensure your friends and family are never left out in the cold, and the August Smart Lock Pro+ Connect is among the most highly rated. It’s one of the easiest models to install because it pairs with an existing deadbolt. The Smart Lock Pro enables a user to lock and unlock their door remotely with an app on their phone. And with the auto-lock/unlock feature, it can be set to open automatically upon approach and relock after entry. Retails for $228.99.

Video Doorbell
Video doorbells have become an increasingly popular security enhancement for homes, and for a good reason. Homeowners can detect activity at their front door while away, view visitors via video stream, and communicate without opening the door. Since Ring released its first smart doorbell in 2013, a number of competitors have entered the market. The Nest Hello Video Doorbell has some unique features—like facial recognition, package detection, and pre-recorded quick responses—that place it near the top of the pack. Retails for $299.

LIVING ROOM
These fun and functional gifts are perfect for anyone who is big on style—but short on time.

Automated Planter
Caring for household plants is easier than ever with the latest advancements in technology. Perfect for frequent travellers or forgetful friends, the Dewplanter uses moisture in the air to water plants without manual intervention. Now nature lovers can enjoy the beauty and health benefits of houseplants without the hassle. Plus, for each unit sold, the company pledges to plant a tree somewhere it’s needed. Retails for US$69.50.

Smart Art
Instead of buying your favourite art lover a single painting, why not give him or her 30,000? With the Meural Canvas, you can access an extensive collection of artwork from around the world to display digitally in your own home. Meural utilizes proprietary technology to deliver an anti-glare matte display that automatically adjusts to the lighting in the room. Personal artwork and photographs can be showcased, as well. Retails for $799.

Motorized Shades
Motorized window coverings aren’t new, but a lower price point and enhanced features have helped to boost their popularity. The latest Motorized Shades from Somfy can be preprogrammed to raise or lower at certain times of day or controlled on-demand via a remote, smartphone app, or voice command when paired with Amazon Alexa or Google Home. They can also be set to operate automatically in response to the amount of sunlight or temperature of the room. Contact a dealer for pricing.

KITCHEN
These kitchen gadgets make life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable. They’re perfect for your busiest friends and family members!

Pressure Cooker
Have you jumped on the multi-cooker bandwagon yet? If so, you know how fast and simple these multifunctional appliances make meal preparation. The InstantPot Duo is a pressure cooker, sauté pan, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, and yogurt maker all-in-one. It reduces cooking time and lowers energy consumption. Who wouldn’t love one of these versatile tools? With numerous cookbooks and blogs devoted to InstantPot recipes, the meal options are virtually endless. Retails for $129.99.

Cocktail Machine
Cocktail connoisseurs will appreciate the ease and convenience of the Bartesian Premium Cocktail Machine. Listed among “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for 2019, the Bartesian mixes drinks with the touch of a button. Simply fill the canisters with base spirits, choose a cocktail capsule, and the machine does the rest. Now you can mix a margarita, whiskey sour, cosmopolitan, and other favourites as easily as you brew a cup of coffee. Retails for $470.

Smart Refrigerator
Kitchens are often called the “heart of the home,” and a new refrigerator from Samsung aims to be the hub. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator helps busy families stay organized. Grocery shopping becomes a breeze with built-in cameras that allow owners to peek inside their fridge from anywhere. The interactive touchscreen displays pictures, notes, and reminders for family members. And the integrated SmartThings app enables users to control smart devices and appliances from a central point. Retails for $2,999 and up.

BEDROOM
Almost nothing beats a good night’s sleep. Help your loved ones wake up refreshed with these smart devices for the bedroom.

Baby Sleep Soother
As any parent knows, when your baby isn’t getting sleep, neither are you. Help everyone in the family catch some z’s with a Bubzi Co Soothing Owl. This cuddly creature plays lullabies while projecting a starry scene on the bedroom wall to calm young children and help them drift off to sleep. And for every purchase, Bubzi Co makes a donation to Postpartum Support International. Retails for $42.95.

Sunrise Alarm Clock
Know someone who hates getting up in the morning? Alarm clocks that utilize light instead of a noisy alarm can provide a more peaceful transition in and out of sleep. The Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light includes customizable sunrise and sunset simulation, guided breathing exercises, and sensors that track room conditions, like temperature, humidity, noise, and light. Retails for $219.99.

Smart Thermostat
Temperature fluctuations during the night can disrupt sleep. The Nest Learning Thermostat uses smart technology to track a user’s preferences and build a schedule around them. Homeowners can place one of its integrated sensors in their bedroom to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the night. And Nest thermostats cut energy consumption, so they’ll rest easier knowing they’re saving the planet and money on utility bills. Retails for $329.

BATHROOM
Bathrooms don’t have to be boring. Technology can add flair to the daily routine.

Waterproof Speaker
Music enthusiasts and podcast fans will enjoy streaming their favourites in the shower with a wireless waterproof speaker. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is a mid-priced and versatile option that can go from the bath to the beach. It packs an impressive 13-hour battery life in a small, portable case that’s waterproof, dust-proof, and floatable. Retails for $99.99.

Digital Smart Scale
A scale isn’t an appropriate gift for everyone, but diet and fitness enthusiasts may appreciate the high-tech features available with the Withings Body+. It tracks weight, body water, and fat, muscle, and bone mass for up to eight users. It can also be set to display local weather and the previous day’s step count. Customized pregnancy and baby modes make this a suitable choice for a growing family, as well. Retails for $129.95.

Vanity TV Mirror
For a truly luxe bathroom addition, consider an integrated vanity television mirror. The Seura TV Mirror seamlessly incorporates video into a bathroom vanity. It’s vanishing glass technology makes it possible to view the television through a mirror. When turned off, the screen completely disappears. Add lighting or a custom frame to complete the look. Starts at US$3,099 for a 19” display.

MY GIFT TO YOU
Are you considering a permanent technology upgrade for your own home? Give me a call first! Buyer expectations and preferences vary depending on price point, architectural style, and neighbourhood. I can help you determine how the enhancement will impact the value of your home before you make the investment.

 

5 Steps to Finding Your Next Home (November 2019)

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that “finding the right property” was the most difficult step in the home buying process.1

Buying a home is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.

Follow these five steps—and complete the corresponding worksheet offered below—to assess your priorities, streamline your search, and choose your next home with confidence.

STEP 1: Set Your Goals and Priorities

The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move can help you assess your priorities for your home search. 

Don’t forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family’s needs for at least the next five to seven years.Be sure to set your goals accordingly.

STEP 2: Determine Your Budget

Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).3

Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.

STEP 3: Choose a Location

When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.

Do you prefer a rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighbourhoods feed into your favourite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.

Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighbourhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.4

 

STEP 4: Decide Which Features You Need (and Want) in a Home

Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want a swimming pool?

Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all of your “wants,” or even all of your “needs