Dianne King

Sales Representative

Mobile: 905-751-9332

Phone: (905) 907-5464

Email: dianne.king@darylking.com

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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.

 
Photo by Rethink Design Studio - Look for living room pictures

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.

 

 

Photo by Wander Designs - Look for dining room design inspiration

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).

 
Photo by Halo Interior Design - More powder room ideas

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.

 

Photo by CplusC Architectural Workshop - Look for staircase pictures

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

 
Photo by Wickes - Browse kitchen ideas

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” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school. 

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighbourhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. I can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, I get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

You might guess that the VIP service I provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, I can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1

And although I've listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

Call 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. NAR 2019 Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-08-16-2019.pdf
  2. Architectural Digest – https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/this-is-how-long-you-should-live-in-your-house-before-selling-it
  3. Investopedia – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/twenty-eight-thirty-six-rule.asp
  4. Money Talks News – https://www.moneytalksnews.com/20-clues-youre-buying-home-the-right-neighborhood/

Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer” (October 2019)

Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes.

iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home.

While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many clients curious about them and how they work.

In this article, I explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home.


FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK?

While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home.

The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.(1) These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs.

Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.(2)

If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market.


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER?

Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date.

However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.(3)

In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.(2)


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER?

Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home.

However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.(4)

That’s one of the reasons I always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighbourhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.(5)

Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you!


HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER?

While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.(2) And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands.

Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way.

Overall, I think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.

Sources:
1. The Dallas Morning News - https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/07/11/so-called-ibuyer-real-estate-firms-pitch-programs-to-buy-your-house-help-you-hunt-for-another/
2. MarketWatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11
3. Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/08/16/study-shows-ibuyers-cost-home-sellers-thousands-is-convenience-worth-the-price/#697ac0c42269
4. US News & World Report - https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-expect-when-buying-a-home-from-an-ibuyer
5. Inman - https://www.inman.com/2019/09/11/police-arrest-couple-found-squatting-in-opendoor-home-with-their-kids/

National Snapshot: How’s the Real Estate Market? (September 2019)

The Canadian real estate market is heating up again!

After a cooldown in 2018, economists predicted a modest rebound this year. However, the housing market has exceeded expectations with total national sales volume on the rise since March. July sales were up 3.5% from the previous month and 12.6% higher than last year.(1)

So what triggered this faster-than-expected turnaround and renewed market activity? And is it sustainable?

To answer these questions, we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and explore what they mean for buyers, sellers, and homeowners.

HOME VALUES ARE RISING

The scenario varies by market, but nationally, home values are on the rise. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average sales price in July was up 3.9% from the same month last year. And CREA’s Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index—which can more accurately track pricing trends across comparable homes—shows a slow but steady climb since January.(1)

Toronto-Dominion Bank Economist James Marple attributes the increase in housing prices and sales activity to positive economic fundamentals. “As they have in the past, strong population growth, solid job growth and lower mortgage rates appear to be doing the job of supporting Canadian housing demand.”(2)

“The immediate downside risk to home prices have diminished considerably,” Marple added. “While affordability will remain a constraint in major high-priced markets, prices appear more likely to increase than decrease over the next year.”(2)

What does it mean for you? Those who were concerned about a market crash should take comfort in these latest numbers, which indicate that the cooling effects of the stress test are diminishing. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to buy, don’t let fear hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and home prices will continue to fluctuate. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE ON SALE

Historically, Canadians have had to pay a premium for a fixed-rate mortgage. Those who wanted to lock in a set payment for five years were charged a higher rate of interest. But a slide in the international bond market has made it cheaper for mortgage lenders to offer fixed-rate mortgages than variable ones.(3)

In fact, rates on standard five-year fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level in two years. Meanwhile, in July, the Bank of Canada dropped its five-year benchmark rate for the first time since September 2016. The rate, which is used in the bank’s mandated mortgage stress test, was dropped from 5.39% to 5.19%, making it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.(4)

These lower rates have given a boost to buyers and the market in general. “We’ve now had a reawakening of sales for several months,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “In addition, mortgage rates have been edging lower so the combination of the two is making for an active market.”(5)

What does it mean for you?
If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low fixed-rate mortgage. Not only will you save money, it will also guarantee you a predictable monthly payment (and peace of mind) over the next several years.

NEW INVENTORY IS ON THE WAY

Across the country, new home starts are on the rise. The uptick in construction is being led by Montreal and Vancouver, while Toronto—which tops the continent in number of active cranes—is beginning to see a decline in starts.(6)

July construction levels were 10% higher than the previous year and 17% higher than the median rate of growth over the last 10 years.(6)

Meanwhile, the number of new real estate listings in July declined slightly by .4%.(5) The Royal Bank of Canada predicts this will help balance the incoming pipeline of new construction. “Elevated levels of apartment construction in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raise some longer-term absorption issues. There’s little risk near term as unsold inventories are low at the present time.”(7)

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve had trouble finding the right property in the past, you may want to take a look at new options hitting the market. And if you’re planning to sell your current home, now may be a good time to list. Competition from new construction is likely to increase over the next few years.


HOMEOWNERSHIP IS BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE

According to the National Bank of Canada, housing is finally becoming more affordable. In fact, during the second quarter of this year, the cost of owning a home, relative to income, fell to its lowest level in a decade.(8)

An increase in wages, combined with falling mortgage rates, is helping to bring the relative cost of homeownership down. The average percentage of household income that went toward a mortgage payment fell from 48.7% to 45.1% in the 11 major cities included in the report.(8) Of course, it’s still significantly higher than the 30% benchmark that is generally considered optimal.

So, while many Canadian markets may be a long way from being considered “affordable,” the trend seems to be moving in the right direction.

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve previously been unable to afford or qualify for a mortgage, it may be worth another try. A decline in mortgage rates, an increase in housing supply, and a lower stress test benchmark rate could help put your dreams of homeownership within reach.


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 have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I'm here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

Sources:
1- Canadian Real Estate Association -
https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/stats/
2- CBC -
https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-home-sales-prices-up-july-1.5247892
3- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5666381/fixed-variable-mortgage-rates-canada-inverted-yield-curve/
4- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5659838/mortgage-stress-test-rate-bank-canada/
5- Global News -
https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/canadian-home-sales-rise-for-fifth-straight-month-as-mortgage-rates-decline
6- Better Dwelling -
https://betterdwelling.com/canadian-new-home-starts-jump-pushed-by-montreal-and-vancouver/
7- Royal Bank of Canada - http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/healthcheck-august18.pdf
8- Huffington Post -
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-affordability-canada_ca_5d4f5ef0e4b0820e0af6627d

 

5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home (August 2019)

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

In fact, the advantages of downsizing are being increasingly recognized. A “tiny house movement” has gained passionate advocates who appreciate the benefits of living simply at any age and stage of life. Not only does a smaller home typically cost less, it also takes less time and effort to maintain.(1)

Whatever your reasons are for downsizing, the process can seem overwhelming. That’s why I've outlined five steps to guide you on your journey. And in the end, I hope you’ll find that less is more … more comfort, more security, and more time and energy to spend on the activities and the people that you love.   

5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

2. Find the Perfect New Home
Once you’ve established your “wish list,” I can begin the search for your new home. As local market experts, I know the ins and outs of all the top communities in our area. I can help you determine the neighbourhood and type of home that will best fit your wants and needs.

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

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

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

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

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

Parting with personal possessions can be an extremely emotional process. Start with a small, unemotional space like a laundry or powder room and work your way up to larger rooms. Focus on eliminating duplicates and anything you don’t regularly use. If you have sentimental pieces, family heirlooms, or just useful items you no longer need, think about who in your life would benefit from having them. For large collections, consider keeping one or two favourite pieces and photographing the rest to put in an album.(2)

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

Allow yourself time to take breaks if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re helping a loved one with a move, try to be a patient listener if they want to stop and share stories about particular items or memories throughout the process.(3) This can be therapeutic for them and an opportunity for you to learn family history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

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

Seek out friends and family members who can assist with packing and decluttering. If that’s not an option, or if you need additional help, consider hiring a home organizer, full-service moving company, or even a senior move manager, which is a professional who assists older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation.(4)

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?
If your current home no longer suits your needs, maybe it’s time to consider a change. I would love to help you explore your options. Contact me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Sources:
1- The Tiny Life - https://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/
2- My Move - https://www.mymove.com/moving/senior-guide-downsizing/
3- Daily Caring - https://dailycaring.com/5-tips-to-downsizing-for-seniors-keepsakes-mementos/
4- National Association of Senior Move Managers - https://www.nasmm.org

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget (July 2019)

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

I've taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

Minor Kitchen Remodel
The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favourite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events.

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.(1)

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.(1)

Wood Deck Addition
A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.(2)

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.(1)

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%.(1) Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

Siding Replacement
Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.(1)

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.(1)

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

Major Kitchen Remodel
If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost.

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.(1)

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely …  and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

In-ground Pool    
Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%.(2) In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance.

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.(2)

Master Suite Addition
If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.(3)

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.(4)

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

GET A CUSTOMIZED ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

I've been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual return you can expect on a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighbourhood. If you have plans to remodel, call or send me the details. I'd be happy to conduct a free analysis to determine how the renovations will impact the value of your home!

Sources:
1- 2019 Cost vs. Value Report - https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
2- NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf
3- Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/
4- House Logic - https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/bedroom-closet/master-suite-addition-return-investment/

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block (June 2019)

We all want to be good neighbours. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why I’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbours!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential
The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.[1]

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

I can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighbourhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbours homes.[2]

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos
You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.[3] Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, I only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But I don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

I go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. I'm always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money![4]

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start
Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

I can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing
Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan
Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, I know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.[3]

That’s why I invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. My dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

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 prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact me to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. I would love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:
1. Real Estate Staging Association - https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
2. Home Staging Resources - https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
3. National Association of Realtors - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
4. RIS Media - https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate

Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades that “Spark Joy” for Buyers (May 2019)

Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “spark joy.”

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “spark joy” for you and your property value.

Boost Bathroom Storage Capacity
When was the last time you cleaned out your bathroom cupboards? If it’s been awhile, remove everything and take a look at each item. Toss any old or expired products—keep only what you actually use.

If your vanity has drawers, add drawer organizers, so you have a dedicated space for smaller items, like makeup and jewelry. For deep cabinets, install roll-out shelves or baskets to maximize the use of space.

And don’t forget about the walls! Mount open shelves to store towels. If you’re short on storage space, a cabinet over the toilet can offer additional room for supplies. These inexpensive additions can make your morning routine a little easier while giving your bathroom a more custom feel. And on average, minor bathroom remodeling projects like these see a 102% return at resale.[1]

Upgrade Your Laundry Room
Sort through the items in your laundry room and throw away or donate anything you no longer need or use. If you’ve been holding onto a collection of old washcloths and single socks, it’s time to say goodbye. Then give your laundry room an upgrade with some customized organizational features.

A mix of open cubbies and cabinets with doors will give you plenty of options for storing detergents and supplies. If you have space, a divided hamper or set of laundry baskets can provide a place to sort your clothes before washing. Install a hanging rod or drying rack for delicates and a flat work surface for ironing and folding clothes. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn this chore into a score!

Fully Utilize Your Basement or Attic
Basements and attics can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. If that’s the case in your home, you know what to do!

Once you’ve conducted a thorough clean out, think about how you can better utilize the space to meet your family’s needs. Install cabinets and a table so you can use the area as a craft room. Or you could turn it into a game room with a media center and ping-pong table. Investing in your basement will not only add function for your family, but also the average basement remodel can see up to a 70% return on investment when it’s time to sell.[2]

If you have an attic, consider adding a cedar closet to store your off-season clothing. The cedar lining will keep your clothes free from moths and smelling fresh year round.[3] Turning your attic into a more usable space will pay off down the road, too. A finished attic sees an estimated 60% return on investment.[2]  

Customize Your Closets
Cleaning out the closet is a chore most of us dread, but by now, you’re a pro! Get rid the clothes and shoes that don’t fit you, are uncomfortable to wear, or that no longer “spark joy.”

Then it’s organizing time. So where do you start? You’ll want to create a designated space for each type of clothing: high hanging rods for dresses and long jackets, lower rods for skirts and shirts, and shelves for folded items like jeans. Accessories need a place to go, too. Add racks for your shoes, drawers for jewelry, hooks for hats, and shelves or racks for handbags.

A well-equipped closet can be a major draw for buyers—the average return on a closet remodel is 57%.[4] But more importantly, it’ll improve your day-to-day life. Surveyed homeowners gave their closet remodel a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10, higher than kitchen or bath upgrades.[5]

Install Built-in Bookcases and Cabinets
Built-in furniture adds functionality and storage to a room while giving your home a high-end look. Built-in bookcases can turn an empty room into an office. Custom cabinets can be used in a living room to display media equipment while providing hidden storage for DVDs, board games, and family albums.

When designing any built-in feature, remember not to go too custom. A design that only fits your tastes or belongings could turn off future buyers. Instead, select standard sizes and classic finishes to appeal to a broad range of buyers when it comes time to sell.

Equip Your Garage
If you can no longer fit your car in your garage, it may be time for a clean out. Similar to an attic or basement, the garage can quickly become overrun with clutter. A thorough cleaning will help you assess which items are worth keeping.

When adding organizational systems your garage, start with a small rack to store yard tools and larger racks for bikes and sports equipment. Overhead racks are a great place to put seasonal items and bulky luggage. A workbench against a wall lined with pegboard and hooks creates a dedicated space to use and store tools. If you have children or pets, add a cabinet with a lock. This will give you a place to securely store harsh chemicals and sharp tools. With a little effort, you’ll be pulling in your car (and buyers) in no time!

SPRING INTO ACTION

If you’re searching for service providers to help with your spring cleaning or home organization efforts, let us know! I can connect you with our trusted network of local home improvement professionals. I can also help you determine which organizational upgrades will add the most value to your home. Call me today, and let me know how we can help!

Sources:
1. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/top-home-updates-that-pay-off-pictures
2. Nationwide - https://blog.nationwide.com/valuable-home-improvements/
3. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/maximum-home-value-storage-projects--attic
4. The Closet Doctor - https://www.closet-doctor.com/news/what-is-the-return-on-investment-on-closet-organizers
5. NAR Remodeling Impact Survey - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2017-remodeling-impact-09-28-2017.pdf




 

Top 10 Myths That Trip Up First-Time Home Buyers (April 2019)

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.

With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why I'm revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.

Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you’ll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.


DON’T FALL FOR THESE COMMON HOME BUYER MYTHS

Myth #1: You need a 20% down payment.
Plenty of buyers are purchasing homes with down payments that are much less than 20% of the total cost of the property. Today, you can buy a home with as little as 3-5% down.

There are multiple programs out there that allow you to have a lower down payment, and a lender or mortgage broker can talk you through which option is the best for you. Since you’re putting less money down, you’re a riskier borrower to your lender than people who put down a full 20%. Because of this, you will most likely need to pay mortgage insurance as part of your monthly payment.

Myth #2: Real estate agents are expensive.
Your agent is with you every step of the way throughout your home buying journey, and he or she spends countless hours working on your behalf. It sounds like having an agent is expensive, right? Well, not for you. Buyers usually don’t pay a real estate agent’s commission. Your agent’s fee is paid for at closing by the seller of the home you’re buying.1 The seller knows to factor this cost into the property’s total purchase price.

Myth #3: Don’t call a real estate agent until you're ready to buy.
The earlier you bring in an agent to help with the purchasing process, the better. Even if you’re in the very early stages of casually browsing, a real estate professional can be a huge help.

They can create a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so you get notifications for every house that meets your criteria as soon as it hits the market. The MLS is typically more up-to-date than popular home search sites like Realtor.ca. Setting up a search a few months before you’re considering buying gives you a good idea of what’s out there in your town that’s in your budget. Reviewing the MLS and speaking with an agent as soon as possible can help you set realistic expectations for when you actually start the house hunting process.

Myth #4: Fixer-uppers are more budget friendly.
We’ve all watched the shows on HGTV that encourage people to go after fixer-uppers because they’re more affordable and allow buyers to eventually renovate the home to include everything on their wishlist. But, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, homes that need a lot of work also require a lot of money. Big renovations, like add-ons, a total kitchen remodel, or installing a pool, take a lot longer than it looks on TV. If you’re really interested in a fixer-upper, ask your agent to show you a mix of newer homes and older homes. If you fall in love with an older home that needs a lot of work, get some quotes from contractors before you buy so you know the real cost of the renovations and see if you can work them into your budget.

Myth #5: Your only upfront cost is your down payment.
Your down payment is big, but it isn’t the only money you’ll spend during the home buying process. At closing, you’ll pay your down payment, but you’ll also bring closing costs to the table. Closing costs are typically anywhere from 2-4% of the total purchase price of the home.2 This amount includes the cost for items like homeowners insurance, title fees, and more.

You’ll also need to pay for an inspection before closing, which usually costs a few hundred dollars. This price will be higher or lower based on the size of your new property. Your lender will also require an appraisal. An appraiser will come in and inspect the home to determine how much it’s worth. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay this when the appraisal is conducted or it might be rolled into your closing costs.

Myth #6: You need a high credit score to buy a house.
You don’t need perfect credit to buy the perfect home. There are loans out there that buyers with lower credit scores can qualify for. These are good options for people who have had credit issues in the past, but some of them come with additional fees you will need to pay. Speak to a few local lenders or mortgage brokers to talk through which options might be best for you.

Myth #7: You can't qualify for a mortgage if you're still paying off student loans.
While some buyers may feel more comfortable paying off their existing debts before taking the leap into homeownership, it’s not a requirement. When you’re applying for a mortgage, the lender takes a close look at your debt-to-income ratio.3 If you want to calculate this on your own, add up all of your monthly debt payments and divide those by your monthly income. When you’re lender does this, they’re trying to make sure that you will be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments along with your other existing payments. If your income is high enough to allow you to make all of these payments each month, having a student loan will most likely not stop you from getting a mortgage.

Myth #8: You should base your budget on what your lender approves.
How much house you qualify for and how much you can afford are two totally different numbers. When you prequalify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, debt, assets, credit score, and financial history to determine how much money you might qualify for.4 For some people, this number might be much higher than you thought because lenders tend to approve for the highest amount they think you can afford. But that doesn’t mean that’s how much you should borrow.

Instead, figure out how much house you can actually afford. An online mortgage calculator can be a good first step in determining this number. We recommend thinking about what you want your monthly payment to be as a starting point. And remember to include your principal, interest, taxes, and, insurance. You should also think about ownership expenses that aren’t part of your monthly payment, like HOA dues and maintenance.

Myth #9: It's all about location.
You’ve heard the phrase. Location, location, location is basically the real estate industry’s motto, but I'll let you in on a little known secret: It’s not always true. Yes, location is great to consider when it comes to school districts and commute times, but you also need to think about how the home will function for you and/or your family’s lifestyle. If a family of five is choosing between a one bedroom condo in the bustling city center and a 4-bedroom home out in the suburbs, the latter is probably the best, most functional choice for them. Also, by buying in a less sought after neighborhood, your property taxes will most likely be much lower!

Obviously, you might still want to choose an area with great resale potential, and this is something that your agent can speak to you about. They’re an expert in your city and are constantly monitoring buying and selling trends.

Myth #10: If you look hard enough, you'll find a home that checks every box on your wishlist. You’ve seen that famous house hunting show. And while we have our suspicions about how real it is, the one thing they get right is that almost every buyer needs to compromise on something. Yes, the perfect house that meets every item on your wishlist is probably out there, but it’s also probably double or triple your budget.

A long wishlist can be a great starting point for figuring out what you want and don’t want, but we recommend narrowing that wishlist down to the top five things that are important to you in order of priority. We also recommend noting on your wishlist what your absolute deal breakers are, like “must have a yard for our dog,” and noting what you can live without, like “heated bathroom floors.”

This is a great list to discuss when you first start talking to an agent. A good real estate agent will be able to look at your list and find properties that might work for you. By coming to that first meeting with realistic expectations and knowledge about home buying rather than a bunch of myths heard here and there, you’ll be able to start the process off on the right foot and be in your new house in no time.

I'M HERE TO HELP

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, there’s no reason to go through the home buying process without an advocate on your side. I am here to answer your questions and do the hard work for you, so you can spend your time dreaming about your new home. Call me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Get a FREE copy of our Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

Now that we’ve cleared up these common homebuyer myths, find out if you know the steps you should take to prepare financially before you apply for a mortgage. Contact me to request a complimentary copy of our “Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready.”

Sources:

  1. Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/realtor-fees-closing-costs/
  2. BMO - https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/mortgages/closing-costs/
  3. StudentLoanHero - https://studentloanhero.com/featured/student-loans-buying-house/
  4. Loans Canada - https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/pre-approved-vs-pre-qualified/
 


 

What’s Your Home Actually Worth? (March 2019)

It’s easy to look up how much money you have in your savings account or the real-time value of your stock investments. But determining the dollar value of a home is trickier.

As a seller, knowing your home’s worth helps you price it correctly when you put it up for sale. If you price it too high, it may sit on the market. But price it too low and you may be losing out on a good chunk of money (nobody wants that!). For buyers, it’s important to know a home’s worth before you make an offer. You want your offer to be competitive, but you don’t want to overpay for the property.

Even if you’re not a buyer or seller right now, as a current homeowner you might just be curious about the value of your home. Keeping track of your home’s worth year over year helps you understand the trends in your market. So when you are ready to sell, you can take advantage of a good window of opportunity.

The good news is, a trained real estate agent—who understands the nuances of your particular neighborhood—can determine the true market value of your property … and at no cost to you!

THE THREE TYPES OF HOME VALUES
When you start the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently hear the words appraised value, assessed value, and true market value. It’s important to know the difference between each one so you can make better, informed decisions.

Appraised Value
A professional appraiser is in charge of determining the appraised value of a home. These appraisals are typically required by a lender when a buyer is financing the property. And while the lender is the one requiring this information, the appraiser does not work for the lender.1 Your appraiser should be an objective, licensed professional who doesn’t have allegiance to the buyer, seller, or lender—no matter who is paying their fee.

The number the appraiser comes up with (the appraised value) assures the lender that the buyer is not overpaying for the property. For example, imagine a seller lists a home for $900,000. They reach a deal with the buyer to sell the home for $875,000. However, if an appraiser evaluates the property and determines that the appraised value is actually $825,000, then the lender will not lend for an amount higher than that appraised value of $825,000.2

When figuring out this number, an appraiser will compare the property to similar homes in your neighborhood, and they’ll evaluate factors such as location, square footage, appliances, upgrades, improvements, and the interior and exterior of the home.  

Assessed Value
The assessed value of a home is determined by your local municipal property assessor. This value matters when your county calculates property taxes each year. The lower your assessed value, the less property tax you’ll pay.3

To come up with this value, your assessor will evaluate what comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for, the size of your home, age, overall condition, and any improvements or upgrades that have been made. However, most assessors don’t have full access to your home, so their information is limited.

Assessments are done annually to determine how much property tax you owe. Many counties use a multiplier (typically between 60%-80%) to calculate the final assessed value. So, if the assessor determines that the value of the home is $300,000, but the county uses a 70% multiplier, the assessed value of the home would be $210,000 for tax purposes.4

If your assessed value isn’t as high as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Many homeowners appeal their assessment in favor of a lower valuation so that they can save money on property taxes. If you’re interested in appealing your property tax assessment, let me know.

True Market Value
True market value is established by your real estate agent. It basically refers to the value that a buyer is willing to pay for the property. A good real estate agent is an expert in determining true market value because they have hands-on experience buying and selling properties. They understand the mindsets of buyers in your market and know what they’ll pay for a desirable house, townhouse, or condo.

As a seller, knowing your true market value is important because it helps you choose how much to list your property for. It can also help you decide if you want to make any improvements to your home before putting it on the market. Your agent can help you figure out which updates and upgrades will have the biggest impact on your true market value.

HOW AN AGENT FINDS YOUR HOME’S TRUE MARKET VALUE
So, how does an actual real estate agent determine true market value? They’ll start by doing a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means they’ll compare your home’s features to similar properties in your area. For the CMA, the agent looks at the below factors to influence their assessment of your home’s worth:5

Neighborhood sales - Your agent will look at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood to see what they sold for and what they have in common with your house.
The exterior - What does your home look like from the outside? Your agent will factor in curb appeal, the style of the house, the front and backyard, and anything else that impacts how the house looks to everyone walking and driving by.
The interior - This is everything inside the walls of the house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, appliances, and more all influence the overall market value.
Age of the home - Whether you have a newer or older home affects the number your agent comes up with as part of their assessment.
Style of the home - The style of your home is important because buyers in different markets have different tastes. If buyers prefer ranch-style homes and you have one, then your home may sell for a premium (aka more money!).
Market trends - Because a local agent has so much experience in your market, they have their finger on the pulse of your area’s trends and know what buyers are willing to pay for a property like yours.
Location, location, location - This one’s probably the most obvious. Your agent will think about how popular the area is, how safe it is, and what schools are like.

A computer algorithm simply can’t take all of these factors into account when calculating the value of your home. The reality is, nothing beats the accuracy of a real estate agent or professional appraiser when it comes to determining a home’s true market value.


YOUR AGENT IS THERE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Determining a home’s true market value is a real estate agent’s forte. If you’re a seller, your agent will help you find your home’s market value so you can list it at the right price.

For buyers, your agent will help you determine the value so you can come up with a fair offer. Your agent can also set up a personalized home search on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for you so you’ll receive emails of listings that meet your criteria. This will help you see what’s out there in your city and how properties are being priced.

Curious about your home’s true market value? Call me to request a free, no-obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out exactly how much your home is worth!

Sources:
1- Chicago Tribune - https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/chi-ugc-article-what-is-the-difference-between-market-value-a-2013-09-30-story.html
2- SFGATE - https://homeguides.sfgate.com/market-value-vs-appraised-value-1206.html
3- ValuePenguin - https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/what-is-the-assessed-value-of-a-house
4- Movoto - https://www.movoto.com/blog/homeownership/assessed-value-vs-market-value/
5- Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

 

Top 8 Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2019 (February 2019)

If you’re a current homeowner, or in the market to buy, you’re probably curious about the latest trends in home design.
 
Sellers who make strategic updates before listing a property can generate increased interest from buyers 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, we advise our clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel. Making over-personalized or unpopular design choices could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to sell. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your renovation to feel dated quickly.

To help, we’ve rounded up eight of the hottest home design trends for 2019. Keep in mind, not all trends will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, consult a professional who can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.
 

  1. WARMER PAINT COLORS
White and grey aren’t going anywhere, but expect to see warmer tones and more earthy neutrals popping up in 2019. Cold whites are being replaced by warmer, softer whites. And warmer tones of grey have become a popular alternative to the cooler grays we were seeing earlier in the decade. Dove grey—with a lilac undertone—is a particular favorite with designers this year.
 
Sherwin Williams chose Cavern Clay, a warm terracotta, as its 2019 color of the year, while Behr selected Blueprint, a mid-tone blue. Benjamin Moore’s selection is Metropolitan, a sophisticated grey.
 
If you’re preparing to sell your home, consider a light, neutral paint color. Neutral colors provide a blank canvas upon which a buyer can envision placing their belongings, and lighter colors make a room appear larger and brighter.
 
Photo by Sealy Design Inc. - Browse living room ideas
 
  1. MIXED METALS
Don’t feel limited to using one metallic finish throughout your home—or even throughout a single room. Designers are mixing metals in 2019, and their favorites include copper, brass, pewter, gunmetal, and matte black.
 
Experts suggest picking one metal hue to dominate your color palette and a contrasting tone to complement it. If your room has a warm color palette, choose a warm-hued primary metal, such as brass or copper. For cool palettes, choose a cool-toned metal, like pewter or stainless steel. You can also experiment with mixing finishes, such as polished and hammered copper.
 
From faucets to cabinet pulls to accent pieces, swapping out your old or dated fixtures is an easy—and relatively inexpensive—way to modernize your decor. Mixing metals adds depth and gives your room a more curated look.
 
 
  1. OUTDOOR ELEMENTS
Bringing outdoor elements into the home can help warm up a sterile space. And natural materials can soften a modern design esthetic.
 
Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate these materials throughout their home. Especially popular right now: stone, copper, concrete, and wood. From concrete showers to agate stone tiles, designers are finding unexpected ways to bring the outside in.
 
One notable exception: granite countertops. Engineered quartz—a combination of ground quartz and resin—overtook natural granite stone as the most popular countertop material in 2018. This durable, low-maintenance, highly-customizable product has won over homeowners and designers alike.
 
Photo by Radiant Homes - Browse kitchen ideas
 
  1. ALTERNATIVE APPLIANCES
Stainless steel has been the industry standard for years, but the market is trending toward variety and fresh alternatives. Homeowners have more options available than ever to personalize their kitchens with vibrant colors, black stainless, or modern white appliances. Another favorite? Integrated appliances that blend seamlessly into cabinetry. Built-in column refrigerators, which allow you to customize the design and size of your freezer and refrigerator, are becoming a “must-have” in high-end homes.
 
Advancements in technology have also brought a new wave of appliances to the market. Induction cooktops are replacing commercial gas ranges as a gourmet favorite. And french door ovens and steam ovens are also gaining in popularity—especially ones with smart features you can control from an app on your smartphone.
 
 
  1. COLORFUL KITCHENS
White will always be a classic choice, but color is finally coming back to kitchens. More homeowners are choosing cabinets in alternative neutrals like black, cream, and grey, along with colorful options like green and blue. Also popular? Wood cabinets in stains like warm chestnut and fruitwood.
 
Two-tone kitchen cabinets remain a homeowner favorite, as well. To incorporate this trend, try pairing darker lower cabinets with lighter upper cabinets or a colorful kitchen island with neutral-colored perimeter cabinets.
 
Photo by Loop Design - Browse kitchen ideas
 
  1. OPEN SHELVING
Swapping upper kitchen cabinets for open shelves continues to be a popular choice in 2019. It’s a cost-effective update that can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. However, it’s not a practical option for everyone. Before you commit, test it out by removing your cabinet doors for a few weeks. See how it feels to have your glasses and dishware on display.
 
Not ready to give up all your upper cabinet storage space? Replace just one or two upper cabinets with open shelves for a lower-commitment but still-updated look.
 
 
  1. STATEMENT TILE
The ubiquitous white subway tile is finally fading in popularity. In 2019, homeowners are gravitating toward more colorful choices, creative textures and finishes, and alternative shapes. Especially hot right now: hexagons, arabesques, diamonds, and Moroccan fish scales.
 
Natural stone remains a favorite, including marble, quartzite and river rock. But advancements in porcelain tile that mimics stone, and even concrete, has made it an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance alternative.
 
Photo by Valley Glass & Windows - Search bathroom design ideas
 
  1. SHOWCASE CEILINGS
Once an afterthought, ceilings are taking center stage. While 2018 was all about statement walls, statement ceilings are shaping up to be the darling of 2019. Designers are using bold paint colors, wallpaper, intricate moldings, fabric, and other materials to transform a ceiling into something truly special.
 
Want to incorporate this trend without going too bold? Choose a classic design, like coffered or wooden beams. Or stick with wood paneling or tin tiles for a more timeless look. Even something as simple as painting a ceiling the same color as the walls can make your space feel more modern.
 
 
DESIGNED TO SELL
Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Give us a call for a free consultation!
 
Buyer preferences can vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share the insights we’ve gathered from working with buyers in this market … and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your remodeling 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.
 
 
Want to learn more about how to stage your home to sell? To request a free copy of this report, see "Contact Me" (on the right of this page): Top 10 Rules for Staging Homes from The Stagers! 
 
 
 
Sources:
  1. Decor Mag – https://www.decoraid.com/blog/home-design-trends-2019
  2. Gates Interior Design –
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-new-kitchen-and-bath-trends-for-2019/
  3. House Beautiful – https://www.housebeautiful.com/home-remodeling/interior-designers/a24844028/home-trends-for-2019/
  4. Houzz – https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/114552119/list/32-home-design-trends-that-will-rule-in-2019
  5. Invaluable – https://www.invaluable.com/blog/mixing-metals/
  6. Real Simple – https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-tips-techniques/design-trends-2019-according-to-designers
  7. Sebring – https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-kitchen-design/

What’s ahead for real estate, housing prices, and interest rates in 2019? Our latest article answers those questions and more! (January 2019)

 As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”
 
The Canadian real estate market experienced a cooldown in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, we’ve summarized some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.
  
SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE
 A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.
 
“Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling constitutes as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver
and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Policy changes were put in place to cool down an overheated market that had led to increased debt levels, decreased affordability, and historically-low inventory levels. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability.
 
 PRICES WILL HOLD STEADY
 Economists expect prices to hold steady this year, rising slightly to keep pace with inflation. While the national average price declined by 4.2 percent in 2018, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts it will rebound slightly this year by 1.7 percent.
 
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also expects prices to remain high, but stable.  “By 2020, demand is expected to continue to shift towards relatively less expensive housing options such as apartment condominiums. This combined with slowing growth in economic conditions will lead to modest average price growth over the forecast horizon.”3
 
The Royal Bank of Canada agrees, cautioning that “would-be buyers hoping for a meaningful [price] break will likely be disappointed—we don’t expect aggregate prices to fall on an annual basis either this year or next.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to drop, you may want to reconsider. The current sales slowdown has made many sellers more willing to negotiate. Don’t miss out on the most favourable market we’ve seen for buyers in years.
 
 NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL SLOW
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts new home construction will trend down over the next two years from a 10-year high in 2017. “Single-detached housing starts are anticipated to decrease over the forecast horizon. Construction of this housing type will continue to be limited by residential lot availability, but also by elevated price and borrowing costs in some major CMAs that represent an important portion of national starts.”3
 
However, economists expect the decline to be gradual. According to Fotios Raptis, a senior economist at TD Bank, “a steep downturn in homebuilding nationwide appears unlikely. Canada's population is on the rise, medium-term income growth should remain healthy, and most markets are generally not overbuilt.”4
 
What does it mean for you? Buyers will continue to have options in new construction. But the decreased rate of supply should help prop up the resale market, which is good news for sellers.
 
 INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL TAKE A BREATHER … FOR NOW
After a prolonged series of interest rate hikes, the Bank of Canada announced in December that it will likely slow its pace of rate increases. “We no longer expect the Bank of Canada to hike its policy interest rate in January. Spring 2019 now appears to be the more likely timing, allowing for the bank to ensure that the growth narrative is back on track,” commented Brian DePratto, a senior economist with TD Bank.5
 
At the same time, the impact of the mortgage stress test has slowed the pace of new mortgages being issued by traditional lenders. So even as funding costs have risen, banks have been hesitant to raise the 5-year qualifying rate. In its latest Mortgage Rate Forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association predicts that the 5-year mortgage rate will hold steady this year—and may even decline in the first quarter.6
 
What does it mean for you? If you currently have a variable rate mortgage, the bank’s revised policy should offer some welcome relief. And if you thought rising interest rates would prevent you from buying a home this year, you may be pleasantly surprised.
  
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 sales and values in your particular neighbourhood.
 
If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our market, let me know! I'm here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape.
 

START PREPARING TODAY

If you plan to BUY this year:
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.

Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.

Come to my office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!  

If you plan to SELL this year:

Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.

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. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time an

MONTHLY BLOGS

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” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school. 

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighbourhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. I can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, I get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

You might guess that the VIP service I provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, I can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1

And although I've listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

Call 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. NAR 2019 Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-08-16-2019.pdf
  2. Architectural Digest – https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/this-is-how-long-you-should-live-in-your-house-before-selling-it
  3. Investopedia – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/twenty-eight-thirty-six-rule.asp
  4. Money Talks News – https://www.moneytalksnews.com/20-clues-youre-buying-home-the-right-neighborhood/

Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer” (October 2019)

Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes.

iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home.

While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many clients curious about them and how they work.

In this article, I explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home.


FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK?

While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home.

The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.(1) These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs.

Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.(2)

If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market.


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER?

Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date.

However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.(3)

In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.(2)


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER?

Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home.

However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.(4)

That’s one of the reasons I always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighbourhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.(5)

Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you!


HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER?

While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.(2) And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands.

Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way.

Overall, I think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.

Sources:
1. The Dallas Morning News - https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/07/11/so-called-ibuyer-real-estate-firms-pitch-programs-to-buy-your-house-help-you-hunt-for-another/
2. MarketWatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11
3. Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/08/16/study-shows-ibuyers-cost-home-sellers-thousands-is-convenience-worth-the-price/#697ac0c42269
4. US News & World Report - https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-expect-when-buying-a-home-from-an-ibuyer
5. Inman - https://www.inman.com/2019/09/11/police-arrest-couple-found-squatting-in-opendoor-home-with-their-kids/

National Snapshot: How’s the Real Estate Market? (September 2019)

The Canadian real estate market is heating up again!

After a cooldown in 2018, economists predicted a modest rebound this year. However, the housing market has exceeded expectations with total national sales volume on the rise since March. July sales were up 3.5% from the previous month and 12.6% higher than last year.(1)

So what triggered this faster-than-expected turnaround and renewed market activity? And is it sustainable?

To answer these questions, we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and explore what they mean for buyers, sellers, and homeowners.

HOME VALUES ARE RISING

The scenario varies by market, but nationally, home values are on the rise. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average sales price in July was up 3.9% from the same month last year. And CREA’s Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index—which can more accurately track pricing trends across comparable homes—shows a slow but steady climb since January.(1)

Toronto-Dominion Bank Economist James Marple attributes the increase in housing prices and sales activity to positive economic fundamentals. “As they have in the past, strong population growth, solid job growth and lower mortgage rates appear to be doing the job of supporting Canadian housing demand.”(2)

“The immediate downside risk to home prices have diminished considerably,” Marple added. “While affordability will remain a constraint in major high-priced markets, prices appear more likely to increase than decrease over the next year.”(2)

What does it mean for you? Those who were concerned about a market crash should take comfort in these latest numbers, which indicate that the cooling effects of the stress test are diminishing. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to buy, don’t let fear hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and home prices will continue to fluctuate. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE ON SALE

Historically, Canadians have had to pay a premium for a fixed-rate mortgage. Those who wanted to lock in a set payment for five years were charged a higher rate of interest. But a slide in the international bond market has made it cheaper for mortgage lenders to offer fixed-rate mortgages than variable ones.(3)

In fact, rates on standard five-year fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level in two years. Meanwhile, in July, the Bank of Canada dropped its five-year benchmark rate for the first time since September 2016. The rate, which is used in the bank’s mandated mortgage stress test, was dropped from 5.39% to 5.19%, making it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.(4)

These lower rates have given a boost to buyers and the market in general. “We’ve now had a reawakening of sales for several months,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “In addition, mortgage rates have been edging lower so the combination of the two is making for an active market.”(5)

What does it mean for you?
If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low fixed-rate mortgage. Not only will you save money, it will also guarantee you a predictable monthly payment (and peace of mind) over the next several years.

NEW INVENTORY IS ON THE WAY

Across the country, new home starts are on the rise. The uptick in construction is being led by Montreal and Vancouver, while Toronto—which tops the continent in number of active cranes—is beginning to see a decline in starts.(6)

July construction levels were 10% higher than the previous year and 17% higher than the median rate of growth over the last 10 years.(6)

Meanwhile, the number of new real estate listings in July declined slightly by .4%.(5) The Royal Bank of Canada predicts this will help balance the incoming pipeline of new construction. “Elevated levels of apartment construction in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raise some longer-term absorption issues. There’s little risk near term as unsold inventories are low at the present time.”(7)

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve had trouble finding the right property in the past, you may want to take a look at new options hitting the market. And if you’re planning to sell your current home, now may be a good time to list. Competition from new construction is likely to increase over the next few years.


HOMEOWNERSHIP IS BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE

According to the National Bank of Canada, housing is finally becoming more affordable. In fact, during the second quarter of this year, the cost of owning a home, relative to income, fell to its lowest level in a decade.(8)

An increase in wages, combined with falling mortgage rates, is helping to bring the relative cost of homeownership down. The average percentage of household income that went toward a mortgage payment fell from 48.7% to 45.1% in the 11 major cities included in the report.(8) Of course, it’s still significantly higher than the 30% benchmark that is generally considered optimal.

So, while many Canadian markets may be a long way from being considered “affordable,” the trend seems to be moving in the right direction.

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve previously been unable to afford or qualify for a mortgage, it may be worth another try. A decline in mortgage rates, an increase in housing supply, and a lower stress test benchmark rate could help put your dreams of homeownership within reach.


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 have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I'm here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

Sources:
1- Canadian Real Estate Association -
https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/stats/
2- CBC -
https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-home-sales-prices-up-july-1.5247892
3- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5666381/fixed-variable-mortgage-rates-canada-inverted-yield-curve/
4- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5659838/mortgage-stress-test-rate-bank-canada/
5- Global News -
https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/canadian-home-sales-rise-for-fifth-straight-month-as-mortgage-rates-decline
6- Better Dwelling -
https://betterdwelling.com/canadian-new-home-starts-jump-pushed-by-montreal-and-vancouver/
7- Royal Bank of Canada - http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/healthcheck-august18.pdf
8- Huffington Post -
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-affordability-canada_ca_5d4f5ef0e4b0820e0af6627d

 

5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home (August 2019)

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

In fact, the advantages of downsizing are being increasingly recognized. A “tiny house movement” has gained passionate advocates who appreciate the benefits of living simply at any age and stage of life. Not only does a smaller home typically cost less, it also takes less time and effort to maintain.(1)

Whatever your reasons are for downsizing, the process can seem overwhelming. That’s why I've outlined five steps to guide you on your journey. And in the end, I hope you’ll find that less is more … more comfort, more security, and more time and energy to spend on the activities and the people that you love.   

5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

2. Find the Perfect New Home
Once you’ve established your “wish list,” I can begin the search for your new home. As local market experts, I know the ins and outs of all the top communities in our area. I can help you determine the neighbourhood and type of home that will best fit your wants and needs.

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

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

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

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

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

Parting with personal possessions can be an extremely emotional process. Start with a small, unemotional space like a laundry or powder room and work your way up to larger rooms. Focus on eliminating duplicates and anything you don’t regularly use. If you have sentimental pieces, family heirlooms, or just useful items you no longer need, think about who in your life would benefit from having them. For large collections, consider keeping one or two favourite pieces and photographing the rest to put in an album.(2)

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

Allow yourself time to take breaks if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re helping a loved one with a move, try to be a patient listener if they want to stop and share stories about particular items or memories throughout the process.(3) This can be therapeutic for them and an opportunity for you to learn family history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

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

Seek out friends and family members who can assist with packing and decluttering. If that’s not an option, or if you need additional help, consider hiring a home organizer, full-service moving company, or even a senior move manager, which is a professional who assists older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation.(4)

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?
If your current home no longer suits your needs, maybe it’s time to consider a change. I would love to help you explore your options. Contact me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Sources:
1- The Tiny Life - https://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/
2- My Move - https://www.mymove.com/moving/senior-guide-downsizing/
3- Daily Caring - https://dailycaring.com/5-tips-to-downsizing-for-seniors-keepsakes-mementos/
4- National Association of Senior Move Managers - https://www.nasmm.org

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget (July 2019)

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

I've taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

Minor Kitchen Remodel
The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favourite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events.

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.(1)

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.(1)

Wood Deck Addition
A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.(2)

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.(1)

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%.(1) Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

Siding Replacement
Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.(1)

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.(1)

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

Major Kitchen Remodel
If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost.

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.(1)

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely …  and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

In-ground Pool    
Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%.(2) In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance.

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.(2)

Master Suite Addition
If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.(3)

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.(4)

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

GET A CUSTOMIZED ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

I've been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual return you can expect on a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighbourhood. If you have plans to remodel, call or send me the details. I'd be happy to conduct a free analysis to determine how the renovations will impact the value of your home!

Sources:
1- 2019 Cost vs. Value Report - https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
2- NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf
3- Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/
4- House Logic - https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/bedroom-closet/master-suite-addition-return-investment/

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block (June 2019)

We all want to be good neighbours. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why I’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbours!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential
The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.[1]

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

I can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighbourhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbours homes.[2]

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos
You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.[3] Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, I only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But I don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

I go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. I'm always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money![4]

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start
Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

I can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing
Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan
Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, I know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.[3]

That’s why I invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. My dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

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 prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact me to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. I would love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:
1. Real Estate Staging Association - https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
2. Home Staging Resources - https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
3. National Association of Realtors - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
4. RIS Media - https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate

Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades that “Spark Joy” for Buyers (May 2019)

Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “spark joy.”

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “spark joy” for you and your property value.

Boost Bathroom Storage Capacity
When was the last time you cleaned out your bathroom cupboards? If it’s been awhile, remove everything and take a look at each item. Toss any old or expired products—keep only what you actually use.

If your vanity has drawers, add drawer organizers, so you have a dedicated space for smaller items, like makeup and jewelry. For deep cabinets, install roll-out shelves or baskets to maximize the use of space.

And don’t forget about the walls! Mount open shelves to store towels. If you’re short on storage space, a cabinet over the toilet can offer additional room for supplies. These inexpensive additions can make your morning routine a little easier while giving your bathroom a more custom feel. And on average, minor bathroom remodeling projects like these see a 102% return at resale.[1]

Upgrade Your Laundry Room
Sort through the items in your laundry room and throw away or donate anything you no longer need or use. If you’ve been holding onto a collection of old washcloths and single socks, it’s time to say goodbye. Then give your laundry room an upgrade with some customized organizational features.

A mix of open cubbies and cabinets with doors will give you plenty of options for storing detergents and supplies. If you have space, a divided hamper or set of laundry baskets can provide a place to sort your clothes before washing. Install a hanging rod or drying rack for delicates and a flat work surface for ironing and folding clothes. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn this chore into a score!

Fully Utilize Your Basement or Attic
Basements and attics can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. If that’s the case in your home, you know what to do!

Once you’ve conducted a thorough clean out, think about how you can better utilize the space to meet your family’s needs. Install cabinets and a table so you can use the area as a craft room. Or you could turn it into a game room with a media center and ping-pong table. Investing in your basement will not only add function for your family, but also the average basement remodel can see up to a 70% return on investment when it’s time to sell.[2]

If you have an attic, consider adding a cedar closet to store your off-season clothing. The cedar lining will keep your clothes free from moths and smelling fresh year round.[3] Turning your attic into a more usable space will pay off down the road, too. A finished attic sees an estimated 60% return on investment.[2]  

Customize Your Closets
Cleaning out the closet is a chore most of us dread, but by now, you’re a pro! Get rid the clothes and shoes that don’t fit you, are uncomfortable to wear, or that no longer “spark joy.”

Then it’s organizing time. So where do you start? You’ll want to create a designated space for each type of clothing: high hanging rods for dresses and long jackets, lower rods for skirts and shirts, and shelves for folded items like jeans. Accessories need a place to go, too. Add racks for your shoes, drawers for jewelry, hooks for hats, and shelves or racks for handbags.

A well-equipped closet can be a major draw for buyers—the average return on a closet remodel is 57%.[4] But more importantly, it’ll improve your day-to-day life. Surveyed homeowners gave their closet remodel a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10, higher than kitchen or bath upgrades.[5]

Install Built-in Bookcases and Cabinets
Built-in furniture adds functionality and storage to a room while giving your home a high-end look. Built-in bookcases can turn an empty room into an office. Custom cabinets can be used in a living room to display media equipment while providing hidden storage for DVDs, board games, and family albums.

When designing any built-in feature, remember not to go too custom. A design that only fits your tastes or belongings could turn off future buyers. Instead, select standard sizes and classic finishes to appeal to a broad range of buyers when it comes time to sell.

Equip Your Garage
If you can no longer fit your car in your garage, it may be time for a clean out. Similar to an attic or basement, the garage can quickly become overrun with clutter. A thorough cleaning will help you assess which items are worth keeping.

When adding organizational systems your garage, start with a small rack to store yard tools and larger racks for bikes and sports equipment. Overhead racks are a great place to put seasonal items and bulky luggage. A workbench against a wall lined with pegboard and hooks creates a dedicated space to use and store tools. If you have children or pets, add a cabinet with a lock. This will give you a place to securely store harsh chemicals and sharp tools. With a little effort, you’ll be pulling in your car (and buyers) in no time!

SPRING INTO ACTION

If you’re searching for service providers to help with your spring cleaning or home organization efforts, let us know! I can connect you with our trusted network of local home improvement professionals. I can also help you determine which organizational upgrades will add the most value to your home. Call me today, and let me know how we can help!

Sources:
1. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/top-home-updates-that-pay-off-pictures
2. Nationwide - https://blog.nationwide.com/valuable-home-improvements/
3. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/maximum-home-value-storage-projects--attic
4. The Closet Doctor - https://www.closet-doctor.com/news/what-is-the-return-on-investment-on-closet-organizers
5. NAR Remodeling Impact Survey - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2017-remodeling-impact-09-28-2017.pdf




 

Top 10 Myths That Trip Up First-Time Home Buyers (April 2019)

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.

With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why I'm revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.

Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you’ll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.


DON’T FALL FOR THESE COMMON HOME BUYER MYTHS

Myth #1: You need a 20% down payment.
Plenty of buyers are purchasing homes with down payments that are much less than 20% of the total cost of the property. Today, you can buy a home with as little as 3-5% down.

There are multiple programs out there that allow you to have a lower down payment, and a lender or mortgage broker can talk you through which option is the best for you. Since you’re putting less money down, you’re a riskier borrower to your lender than people who put down a full 20%. Because of this, you will most likely need to pay mortgage insurance as part of your monthly payment.

Myth #2: Real estate agents are expensive.
Your agent is with you every step of the way throughout your home buying journey, and he or she spends countless hours working on your behalf. It sounds like having an agent is expensive, right? Well, not for you. Buyers usually don’t pay a real estate agent’s commission. Your agent’s fee is paid for at closing by the seller of the home you’re buying.1 The seller knows to factor this cost into the property’s total purchase price.

Myth #3: Don’t call a real estate agent until you're ready to buy.
The earlier you bring in an agent to help with the purchasing process, the better. Even if you’re in the very early stages of casually browsing, a real estate professional can be a huge help.

They can create a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so you get notifications for every house that meets your criteria as soon as it hits the market. The MLS is typically more up-to-date than popular home search sites like Realtor.ca. Setting up a search a few months before you’re considering buying gives you a good idea of what’s out there in your town that’s in your budget. Reviewing the MLS and speaking with an agent as soon as possible can help you set realistic expectations for when you actually start the house hunting process.

Myth #4: Fixer-uppers are more budget friendly.
We’ve all watched the shows on HGTV that encourage people to go after fixer-uppers because they’re more affordable and allow buyers to eventually renovate the home to include everything on their wishlist. But, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, homes that need a lot of work also require a lot of money. Big renovations, like add-ons, a total kitchen remodel, or installing a pool, take a lot longer than it looks on TV. If you’re really interested in a fixer-upper, ask your agent to show you a mix of newer homes and older homes. If you fall in love with an older home that needs a lot of work, get some quotes from contractors before you buy so you know the real cost of the renovations and see if you can work them into your budget.

Myth #5: Your only upfront cost is your down payment.
Your down payment is big, but it isn’t the only money you’ll spend during the home buying process. At closing, you’ll pay your down payment, but you’ll also bring closing costs to the table. Closing costs are typically anywhere from 2-4% of the total purchase price of the home.2 This amount includes the cost for items like homeowners insurance, title fees, and more.

You’ll also need to pay for an inspection before closing, which usually costs a few hundred dollars. This price will be higher or lower based on the size of your new property. Your lender will also require an appraisal. An appraiser will come in and inspect the home to determine how much it’s worth. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay this when the appraisal is conducted or it might be rolled into your closing costs.

Myth #6: You need a high credit score to buy a house.
You don’t need perfect credit to buy the perfect home. There are loans out there that buyers with lower credit scores can qualify for. These are good options for people who have had credit issues in the past, but some of them come with additional fees you will need to pay. Speak to a few local lenders or mortgage brokers to talk through which options might be best for you.

Myth #7: You can't qualify for a mortgage if you're still paying off student loans.
While some buyers may feel more comfortable paying off their existing debts before taking the leap into homeownership, it’s not a requirement. When you’re applying for a mortgage, the lender takes a close look at your debt-to-income ratio.3 If you want to calculate this on your own, add up all of your monthly debt payments and divide those by your monthly income. When you’re lender does this, they’re trying to make sure that you will be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments along with your other existing payments. If your income is high enough to allow you to make all of these payments each month, having a student loan will most likely not stop you from getting a mortgage.

Myth #8: You should base your budget on what your lender approves.
How much house you qualify for and how much you can afford are two totally different numbers. When you prequalify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, debt, assets, credit score, and financial history to determine how much money you might qualify for.4 For some people, this number might be much higher than you thought because lenders tend to approve for the highest amount they think you can afford. But that doesn’t mean that’s how much you should borrow.

Instead, figure out how much house you can actually afford. An online mortgage calculator can be a good first step in determining this number. We recommend thinking about what you want your monthly payment to be as a starting point. And remember to include your principal, interest, taxes, and, insurance. You should also think about ownership expenses that aren’t part of your monthly payment, like HOA dues and maintenance.

Myth #9: It's all about location.
You’ve heard the phrase. Location, location, location is basically the real estate industry’s motto, but I'll let you in on a little known secret: It’s not always true. Yes, location is great to consider when it comes to school districts and commute times, but you also need to think about how the home will function for you and/or your family’s lifestyle. If a family of five is choosing between a one bedroom condo in the bustling city center and a 4-bedroom home out in the suburbs, the latter is probably the best, most functional choice for them. Also, by buying in a less sought after neighborhood, your property taxes will most likely be much lower!

Obviously, you might still want to choose an area with great resale potential, and this is something that your agent can speak to you about. They’re an expert in your city and are constantly monitoring buying and selling trends.

Myth #10: If you look hard enough, you'll find a home that checks every box on your wishlist. You’ve seen that famous house hunting show. And while we have our suspicions about how real it is, the one thing they get right is that almost every buyer needs to compromise on something. Yes, the perfect house that meets every item on your wishlist is probably out there, but it’s also probably double or triple your budget.

A long wishlist can be a great starting point for figuring out what you want and don’t want, but we recommend narrowing that wishlist down to the top five things that are important to you in order of priority. We also recommend noting on your wishlist what your absolute deal breakers are, like “must have a yard for our dog,” and noting what you can live without, like “heated bathroom floors.”

This is a great list to discuss when you first start talking to an agent. A good real estate agent will be able to look at your list and find properties that might work for you. By coming to that first meeting with realistic expectations and knowledge about home buying rather than a bunch of myths heard here and there, you’ll be able to start the process off on the right foot and be in your new house in no time.

I'M HERE TO HELP

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, there’s no reason to go through the home buying process without an advocate on your side. I am here to answer your questions and do the hard work for you, so you can spend your time dreaming about your new home. Call me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Get a FREE copy of our Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

Now that we’ve cleared up these common homebuyer myths, find out if you know the steps you should take to prepare financially before you apply for a mortgage. Contact me to request a complimentary copy of our “Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready.”

Sources:

  1. Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/realtor-fees-closing-costs/
  2. BMO - https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/mortgages/closing-costs/
  3. StudentLoanHero - https://studentloanhero.com/featured/student-loans-buying-house/
  4. Loans Canada - https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/pre-approved-vs-pre-qualified/
 


 

What’s Your Home Actually Worth? (March 2019)

It’s easy to look up how much money you have in your savings account or the real-time value of your stock investments. But determining the dollar value of a home is trickier.

As a seller, knowing your home’s worth helps you price it correctly when you put it up for sale. If you price it too high, it may sit on the market. But price it too low and you may be losing out on a good chunk of money (nobody wants that!). For buyers, it’s important to know a home’s worth before you make an offer. You want your offer to be competitive, but you don’t want to overpay for the property.

Even if you’re not a buyer or seller right now, as a current homeowner you might just be curious about the value of your home. Keeping track of your home’s worth year over year helps you understand the trends in your market. So when you are ready to sell, you can take advantage of a good window of opportunity.

The good news is, a trained real estate agent—who understands the nuances of your particular neighborhood—can determine the true market value of your property … and at no cost to you!

THE THREE TYPES OF HOME VALUES
When you start the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently hear the words appraised value, assessed value, and true market value. It’s important to know the difference between each one so you can make better, informed decisions.

Appraised Value
A professional appraiser is in charge of determining the appraised value of a home. These appraisals are typically required by a lender when a buyer is financing the property. And while the lender is the one requiring this information, the appraiser does not work for the lender.1 Your appraiser should be an objective, licensed professional who doesn’t have allegiance to the buyer, seller, or lender—no matter who is paying their fee.

The number the appraiser comes up with (the appraised value) assures the lender that the buyer is not overpaying for the property. For example, imagine a seller lists a home for $900,000. They reach a deal with the buyer to sell the home for $875,000. However, if an appraiser evaluates the property and determines that the appraised value is actually $825,000, then the lender will not lend for an amount higher than that appraised value of $825,000.2

When figuring out this number, an appraiser will compare the property to similar homes in your neighborhood, and they’ll evaluate factors such as location, square footage, appliances, upgrades, improvements, and the interior and exterior of the home.  

Assessed Value
The assessed value of a home is determined by your local municipal property assessor. This value matters when your county calculates property taxes each year. The lower your assessed value, the less property tax you’ll pay.3

To come up with this value, your assessor will evaluate what comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for, the size of your home, age, overall condition, and any improvements or upgrades that have been made. However, most assessors don’t have full access to your home, so their information is limited.

Assessments are done annually to determine how much property tax you owe. Many counties use a multiplier (typically between 60%-80%) to calculate the final assessed value. So, if the assessor determines that the value of the home is $300,000, but the county uses a 70% multiplier, the assessed value of the home would be $210,000 for tax purposes.4

If your assessed value isn’t as high as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Many homeowners appeal their assessment in favor of a lower valuation so that they can save money on property taxes. If you’re interested in appealing your property tax assessment, let me know.

True Market Value
True market value is established by your real estate agent. It basically refers to the value that a buyer is willing to pay for the property. A good real estate agent is an expert in determining true market value because they have hands-on experience buying and selling properties. They understand the mindsets of buyers in your market and know what they’ll pay for a desirable house, townhouse, or condo.

As a seller, knowing your true market value is important because it helps you choose how much to list your property for. It can also help you decide if you want to make any improvements to your home before putting it on the market. Your agent can help you figure out which updates and upgrades will have the biggest impact on your true market value.

HOW AN AGENT FINDS YOUR HOME’S TRUE MARKET VALUE
So, how does an actual real estate agent determine true market value? They’ll start by doing a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means they’ll compare your home’s features to similar properties in your area. For the CMA, the agent looks at the below factors to influence their assessment of your home’s worth:5

Neighborhood sales - Your agent will look at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood to see what they sold for and what they have in common with your house.
The exterior - What does your home look like from the outside? Your agent will factor in curb appeal, the style of the house, the front and backyard, and anything else that impacts how the house looks to everyone walking and driving by.
The interior - This is everything inside the walls of the house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, appliances, and more all influence the overall market value.
Age of the home - Whether you have a newer or older home affects the number your agent comes up with as part of their assessment.
Style of the home - The style of your home is important because buyers in different markets have different tastes. If buyers prefer ranch-style homes and you have one, then your home may sell for a premium (aka more money!).
Market trends - Because a local agent has so much experience in your market, they have their finger on the pulse of your area’s trends and know what buyers are willing to pay for a property like yours.
Location, location, location - This one’s probably the most obvious. Your agent will think about how popular the area is, how safe it is, and what schools are like.

A computer algorithm simply can’t take all of these factors into account when calculating the value of your home. The reality is, nothing beats the accuracy of a real estate agent or professional appraiser when it comes to determining a home’s true market value.


YOUR AGENT IS THERE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Determining a home’s true market value is a real estate agent’s forte. If you’re a seller, your agent will help you find your home’s market value so you can list it at the right price.

For buyers, your agent will help you determine the value so you can come up with a fair offer. Your agent can also set up a personalized home search on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for you so you’ll receive emails of listings that meet your criteria. This will help you see what’s out there in your city and how properties are being priced.

Curious about your home’s true market value? Call me to request a free, no-obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out exactly how much your home is worth!

Sources:
1- Chicago Tribune - https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/chi-ugc-article-what-is-the-difference-between-market-value-a-2013-09-30-story.html
2- SFGATE - https://homeguides.sfgate.com/market-value-vs-appraised-value-1206.html
3- ValuePenguin - https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/what-is-the-assessed-value-of-a-house
4- Movoto - https://www.movoto.com/blog/homeownership/assessed-value-vs-market-value/
5- Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

 

Top 8 Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2019 (February 2019)

If you’re a current homeowner, or in the market to buy, you’re probably curious about the latest trends in home design.
 
Sellers who make strategic updates before listing a property can generate increased interest from buyers 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, we advise our clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel. Making over-personalized or unpopular design choices could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to sell. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your renovation to feel dated quickly.

To help, we’ve rounded up eight of the hottest home design trends for 2019. Keep in mind, not all trends will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, consult a professional who can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.
 

  1. WARMER PAINT COLORS
White and grey aren’t going anywhere, but expect to see warmer tones and more earthy neutrals popping up in 2019. Cold whites are being replaced by warmer, softer whites. And warmer tones of grey have become a popular alternative to the cooler grays we were seeing earlier in the decade. Dove grey—with a lilac undertone—is a particular favorite with designers this year.
 
Sherwin Williams chose Cavern Clay, a warm terracotta, as its 2019 color of the year, while Behr selected Blueprint, a mid-tone blue. Benjamin Moore’s selection is Metropolitan, a sophisticated grey.
 
If you’re preparing to sell your home, consider a light, neutral paint color. Neutral colors provide a blank canvas upon which a buyer can envision placing their belongings, and lighter colors make a room appear larger and brighter.
 
 
  1. MIXED METALS
Don’t feel limited to using one metallic finish throughout your home—or even throughout a single room. Designers are mixing metals in 2019, and their favorites include copper, brass, pewter, gunmetal, and matte black.
 
Experts suggest picking one metal hue to dominate your color palette and a contrasting tone to complement it. If your room has a warm color palette, choose a warm-hued primary metal, such as brass or copper. For cool palettes, choose a cool-toned metal, like pewter or stainless steel. You can also experiment with mixing finishes, such as polished and hammered copper.
 
From faucets to cabinet pulls to accent pieces, swapping out your old or dated fixtures is an easy—and relatively inexpensive—way to modernize your decor. Mixing metals adds depth and gives your room a more curated look.
 
 
  1. OUTDOOR ELEMENTS
Bringing outdoor elements into the home can help warm up a sterile space. And natural materials can soften a modern design esthetic.
 
Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate these materials throughout their home. Especially popular right now: stone, copper, concrete, and wood. From concrete showers to agate stone tiles, designers are finding unexpected ways to bring the outside in.
 
One notable exception: granite countertops. Engineered quartz—a combination of ground quartz and resin—overtook natural granite stone as the most popular countertop material in 2018. This durable, low-maintenance, highly-customizable product has won over homeowners and designers alike.
 
 
  1. ALTERNATIVE APPLIANCES
Stainless steel has been the industry standard for years, but the market is trending toward variety and fresh alternatives. Homeowners have more options available than ever to personalize their kitchens with vibrant colors, black stainless, or modern white appliances. Another favorite? Integrated appliances that blend seamlessly into cabinetry. Built-in column refrigerators, which allow you to customize the design and size of your freezer and refrigerator, are becoming a “must-have” in high-end homes.
 
Advancements in technology have also brought a new wave of appliances to the market. Induction cooktops are replacing commercial gas ranges as a gourmet favorite. And french door ovens and steam ovens are also gaining in popularity—especially ones with smart features you can control from an app on your smartphone.
 
 
  1. COLORFUL KITCHENS
White will always be a classic choice, but color is finally coming back to kitchens. More homeowners are choosing cabinets in alternative neutrals like black, cream, and grey, along with colorful options like green and blue. Also popular? Wood cabinets in stains like warm chestnut and fruitwood.
 
Two-tone kitchen cabinets remain a homeowner favorite, as well. To incorporate this trend, try pairing darker lower cabinets with lighter upper cabinets or a colorful kitchen island with neutral-colored perimeter cabinets.
 
 
  1. OPEN SHELVING
Swapping upper kitchen cabinets for open shelves continues to be a popular choice in 2019. It’s a cost-effective update that can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. However, it’s not a practical option for everyone. Before you commit, test it out by removing your cabinet doors for a few weeks. See how it feels to have your glasses and dishware on display.
 
Not ready to give up all your upper cabinet storage space? Replace just one or two upper cabinets with open shelves for a lower-commitment but still-updated look.
 
 
  1. STATEMENT TILE
The ubiquitous white subway tile is finally fading in popularity. In 2019, homeowners are gravitating toward more colorful choices, creative textures and finishes, and alternative shapes. Especially hot right now: hexagons, arabesques, diamonds, and Moroccan fish scales.
 
Natural stone remains a favorite, including marble, quartzite and river rock. But advancements in porcelain tile that mimics stone, and even concrete, has made it an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance alternative.
 
 
  1. SHOWCASE CEILINGS
Once an afterthought, ceilings are taking center stage. While 2018 was all about statement walls, statement ceilings are shaping up to be the darling of 2019. Designers are using bold paint colors, wallpaper, intricate moldings, fabric, and other materials to transform a ceiling into something truly special.
 
Want to incorporate this trend without going too bold? Choose a classic design, like coffered or wooden beams. Or stick with wood paneling or tin tiles for a more timeless look. Even something as simple as painting a ceiling the same color as the walls can make your space feel more modern.
 
 
DESIGNED TO SELL
Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Give us a call for a free consultation!
 
Buyer preferences can vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share the insights we’ve gathered from working with buyers in this market … and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your remodeling 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.
 
 
Want to learn more about how to stage your home to sell? To request a free copy of this report, see "Contact Me" (on the right of this page): Top 10 Rules for Staging Homes from The Stagers! 
 
 
 
Sources:
  1. Decor Mag – https://www.decoraid.com/blog/home-design-trends-2019
  2. Gates Interior Design –
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-new-kitchen-and-bath-trends-for-2019/
  3. House Beautiful – https://www.housebeautiful.com/home-remodeling/interior-designers/a24844028/home-trends-for-2019/
  4. Houzz – https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/114552119/list/32-home-design-trends-that-will-rule-in-2019
  5. Invaluable – https://www.invaluable.com/blog/mixing-metals/
  6. Real Simple – https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-tips-techniques/design-trends-2019-according-to-designers
  7. Sebring – https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-kitchen-design/

What’s ahead for real estate, housing prices, and interest rates in 2019? Our latest article answers those questions and more! (January 2019)

 As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”
 
The Canadian real estate market experienced a cooldown in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, we’ve summarized some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.
  
SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE
 A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.
 
“Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling constitutes as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver
and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Policy changes were put in place to cool down an overheated market that had led to increased debt levels, decreased affordability, and historically-low inventory levels. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability.
 
 PRICES WILL HOLD STEADY
 Economists expect prices to hold steady this year, rising slightly to keep pace with inflation. While the national average price declined by 4.2 percent in 2018, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts it will rebound slightly this year by 1.7 percent.
 
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also expects prices to remain high, but stable.  “By 2020, demand is expected to continue to shift towards relatively less expensive housing options such as apartment condominiums. This combined with slowing growth in economic conditions will lead to modest average price growth over the forecast horizon.”3
 
The Royal Bank of Canada agrees, cautioning that “would-be buyers hoping for a meaningful [price] break will likely be disappointed—we don’t expect aggregate prices to fall on an annual basis either this year or next.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to drop, you may want to reconsider. The current sales slowdown has made many sellers more willing to negotiate. Don’t miss out on the most favourable market we’ve seen for buyers in years.
 
 NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL SLOW
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts new home construction will trend down over the next two years from a 10-year high in 2017. “Single-detached housing starts are anticipated to decrease over the forecast horizon. Construction of this housing type will continue to be limited by residential lot availability, but also by elevated price and borrowing costs in some major CMAs that represent an important portion of national starts.”3
 
However, economists expect the decline to be gradual. According to Fotios Raptis, a senior economist at TD Bank, “a steep downturn in homebuilding nationwide appears unlikely. Canada's population is on the rise, medium-term income growth should remain healthy, and most markets are generally not overbuilt.”4
 
What does it mean for you? Buyers will continue to have options in new construction. But the decreased rate of supply should help prop up the resale market, which is good news for sellers.
 
 INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL TAKE A BREATHER … FOR NOW
After a prolonged series of interest rate hikes, the Bank of Canada announced in December that it will likely slow its pace of rate increases. “We no longer expect the Bank of Canada to hike its policy interest rate in January. Spring 2019 now appears to be the more likely timing, allowing for the bank to ensure that the growth narrative is back on track,” commented Brian DePratto, a senior economist with TD Bank.5
 
At the same time, the impact of the mortgage stress test has slowed the pace of new mortgages being issued by traditional lenders. So even as funding costs have risen, banks have been hesitant to raise the 5-year qualifying rate. In its latest Mortgage Rate Forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association predicts that the 5-year mortgage rate will hold steady this year—and may even decline in the first quarter.6
 
What does it mean for you? If you currently have a variable rate mortgage, the bank’s revised policy should offer some welcome relief. And if you thought rising interest rates would prevent you from buying a home this year, you may be pleasantly surprised.
  
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 sales and values in your particular neighbourhood.
 
If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our market, let me know! I'm here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape.
 

START PREPARING TODAY

If you plan to BUY this year:
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.

Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.

Come to my office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!  

If you plan to SELL this year:

Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.

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. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time an MONTHLY BLOGS - Dianne King, RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd.

Dianne King

Sales Representative

Mobile: 905-751-9332

Phone: (905) 907-5464

Email: dianne.king@darylking.com

Allow Us To HELP You!

MONTHLY BLOGS

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” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school. 

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighbourhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. I can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, I get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

You might guess that the VIP service I provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, I can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1

And although I've listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

Call 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. NAR 2019 Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-08-16-2019.pdf
  2. Architectural Digest – https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/this-is-how-long-you-should-live-in-your-house-before-selling-it
  3. Investopedia – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/twenty-eight-thirty-six-rule.asp
  4. Money Talks News – https://www.moneytalksnews.com/20-clues-youre-buying-home-the-right-neighborhood/

Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer” (October 2019)

Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes.

iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home.

While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many clients curious about them and how they work.

In this article, I explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home.


FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK?

While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home.

The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.(1) These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs.

Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.(2)

If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market.


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER?

Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date.

However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.(3)

In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.(2)


WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER?

Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home.

However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.(4)

That’s one of the reasons I always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighbourhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.(5)

Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you!


HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER?

While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.(2) And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands.

Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way.

Overall, I think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.

Sources:
1. The Dallas Morning News - https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/07/11/so-called-ibuyer-real-estate-firms-pitch-programs-to-buy-your-house-help-you-hunt-for-another/
2. MarketWatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11
3. Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/08/16/study-shows-ibuyers-cost-home-sellers-thousands-is-convenience-worth-the-price/#697ac0c42269
4. US News & World Report - https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-expect-when-buying-a-home-from-an-ibuyer
5. Inman - https://www.inman.com/2019/09/11/police-arrest-couple-found-squatting-in-opendoor-home-with-their-kids/

National Snapshot: How’s the Real Estate Market? (September 2019)

The Canadian real estate market is heating up again!

After a cooldown in 2018, economists predicted a modest rebound this year. However, the housing market has exceeded expectations with total national sales volume on the rise since March. July sales were up 3.5% from the previous month and 12.6% higher than last year.(1)

So what triggered this faster-than-expected turnaround and renewed market activity? And is it sustainable?

To answer these questions, we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and explore what they mean for buyers, sellers, and homeowners.

HOME VALUES ARE RISING

The scenario varies by market, but nationally, home values are on the rise. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average sales price in July was up 3.9% from the same month last year. And CREA’s Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index—which can more accurately track pricing trends across comparable homes—shows a slow but steady climb since January.(1)

Toronto-Dominion Bank Economist James Marple attributes the increase in housing prices and sales activity to positive economic fundamentals. “As they have in the past, strong population growth, solid job growth and lower mortgage rates appear to be doing the job of supporting Canadian housing demand.”(2)

“The immediate downside risk to home prices have diminished considerably,” Marple added. “While affordability will remain a constraint in major high-priced markets, prices appear more likely to increase than decrease over the next year.”(2)

What does it mean for you? Those who were concerned about a market crash should take comfort in these latest numbers, which indicate that the cooling effects of the stress test are diminishing. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to buy, don’t let fear hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and home prices will continue to fluctuate. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE ON SALE

Historically, Canadians have had to pay a premium for a fixed-rate mortgage. Those who wanted to lock in a set payment for five years were charged a higher rate of interest. But a slide in the international bond market has made it cheaper for mortgage lenders to offer fixed-rate mortgages than variable ones.(3)

In fact, rates on standard five-year fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level in two years. Meanwhile, in July, the Bank of Canada dropped its five-year benchmark rate for the first time since September 2016. The rate, which is used in the bank’s mandated mortgage stress test, was dropped from 5.39% to 5.19%, making it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.(4)

These lower rates have given a boost to buyers and the market in general. “We’ve now had a reawakening of sales for several months,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “In addition, mortgage rates have been edging lower so the combination of the two is making for an active market.”(5)

What does it mean for you?
If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low fixed-rate mortgage. Not only will you save money, it will also guarantee you a predictable monthly payment (and peace of mind) over the next several years.

NEW INVENTORY IS ON THE WAY

Across the country, new home starts are on the rise. The uptick in construction is being led by Montreal and Vancouver, while Toronto—which tops the continent in number of active cranes—is beginning to see a decline in starts.(6)

July construction levels were 10% higher than the previous year and 17% higher than the median rate of growth over the last 10 years.(6)

Meanwhile, the number of new real estate listings in July declined slightly by .4%.(5) The Royal Bank of Canada predicts this will help balance the incoming pipeline of new construction. “Elevated levels of apartment construction in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raise some longer-term absorption issues. There’s little risk near term as unsold inventories are low at the present time.”(7)

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve had trouble finding the right property in the past, you may want to take a look at new options hitting the market. And if you’re planning to sell your current home, now may be a good time to list. Competition from new construction is likely to increase over the next few years.


HOMEOWNERSHIP IS BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE

According to the National Bank of Canada, housing is finally becoming more affordable. In fact, during the second quarter of this year, the cost of owning a home, relative to income, fell to its lowest level in a decade.(8)

An increase in wages, combined with falling mortgage rates, is helping to bring the relative cost of homeownership down. The average percentage of household income that went toward a mortgage payment fell from 48.7% to 45.1% in the 11 major cities included in the report.(8) Of course, it’s still significantly higher than the 30% benchmark that is generally considered optimal.

So, while many Canadian markets may be a long way from being considered “affordable,” the trend seems to be moving in the right direction.

What does it mean for you?
If you’ve previously been unable to afford or qualify for a mortgage, it may be worth another try. A decline in mortgage rates, an increase in housing supply, and a lower stress test benchmark rate could help put your dreams of homeownership within reach.


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 have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I'm here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

Sources:
1- Canadian Real Estate Association -
https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/stats/
2- CBC -
https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-home-sales-prices-up-july-1.5247892
3- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5666381/fixed-variable-mortgage-rates-canada-inverted-yield-curve/
4- Global News -
https://globalnews.ca/news/5659838/mortgage-stress-test-rate-bank-canada/
5- Global News -
https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/canadian-home-sales-rise-for-fifth-straight-month-as-mortgage-rates-decline
6- Better Dwelling -
https://betterdwelling.com/canadian-new-home-starts-jump-pushed-by-montreal-and-vancouver/
7- Royal Bank of Canada - http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/healthcheck-august18.pdf
8- Huffington Post -
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-affordability-canada_ca_5d4f5ef0e4b0820e0af6627d

 

5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home (August 2019)

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

In fact, the advantages of downsizing are being increasingly recognized. A “tiny house movement” has gained passionate advocates who appreciate the benefits of living simply at any age and stage of life. Not only does a smaller home typically cost less, it also takes less time and effort to maintain.(1)

Whatever your reasons are for downsizing, the process can seem overwhelming. That’s why I've outlined five steps to guide you on your journey. And in the end, I hope you’ll find that less is more … more comfort, more security, and more time and energy to spend on the activities and the people that you love.   

5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

2. Find the Perfect New Home
Once you’ve established your “wish list,” I can begin the search for your new home. As local market experts, I know the ins and outs of all the top communities in our area. I can help you determine the neighbourhood and type of home that will best fit your wants and needs.

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

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

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

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

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

Parting with personal possessions can be an extremely emotional process. Start with a small, unemotional space like a laundry or powder room and work your way up to larger rooms. Focus on eliminating duplicates and anything you don’t regularly use. If you have sentimental pieces, family heirlooms, or just useful items you no longer need, think about who in your life would benefit from having them. For large collections, consider keeping one or two favourite pieces and photographing the rest to put in an album.(2)

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

Allow yourself time to take breaks if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re helping a loved one with a move, try to be a patient listener if they want to stop and share stories about particular items or memories throughout the process.(3) This can be therapeutic for them and an opportunity for you to learn family history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

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

Seek out friends and family members who can assist with packing and decluttering. If that’s not an option, or if you need additional help, consider hiring a home organizer, full-service moving company, or even a senior move manager, which is a professional who assists older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation.(4)

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?
If your current home no longer suits your needs, maybe it’s time to consider a change. I would love to help you explore your options. Contact me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Sources:
1- The Tiny Life - https://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/
2- My Move - https://www.mymove.com/moving/senior-guide-downsizing/
3- Daily Caring - https://dailycaring.com/5-tips-to-downsizing-for-seniors-keepsakes-mementos/
4- National Association of Senior Move Managers - https://www.nasmm.org

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget (July 2019)

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

I've taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

Minor Kitchen Remodel
The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favourite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events.

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.(1)

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.(1)

Wood Deck Addition
A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.(2)

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.(1)

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%.(1) Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

Siding Replacement
Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.(1)

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.(1)

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

Major Kitchen Remodel
If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost.

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.(1)

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely …  and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

In-ground Pool    
Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%.(2) In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance.

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.(2)

Master Suite Addition
If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.(3)

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.(4)

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

GET A CUSTOMIZED ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

I've been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual return you can expect on a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighbourhood. If you have plans to remodel, call or send me the details. I'd be happy to conduct a free analysis to determine how the renovations will impact the value of your home!

Sources:
1- 2019 Cost vs. Value Report - https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
2- NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf
3- Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/
4- House Logic - https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/bedroom-closet/master-suite-addition-return-investment/

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block (June 2019)

We all want to be good neighbours. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why I’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbours!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential
The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.[1]

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

I can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighbourhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbours homes.[2]

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos
You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.[3] Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, I only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But I don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

I go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. I'm always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money![4]

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start
Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

I can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing
Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan
Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, I know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.[3]

That’s why I invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. My dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

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 prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact me to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. I would love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:
1. Real Estate Staging Association - https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
2. Home Staging Resources - https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
3. National Association of Realtors - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
4. RIS Media - https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate

Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades that “Spark Joy” for Buyers (May 2019)

Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “spark joy.”

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “spark joy” for you and your property value.

Boost Bathroom Storage Capacity
When was the last time you cleaned out your bathroom cupboards? If it’s been awhile, remove everything and take a look at each item. Toss any old or expired products—keep only what you actually use.

If your vanity has drawers, add drawer organizers, so you have a dedicated space for smaller items, like makeup and jewelry. For deep cabinets, install roll-out shelves or baskets to maximize the use of space.

And don’t forget about the walls! Mount open shelves to store towels. If you’re short on storage space, a cabinet over the toilet can offer additional room for supplies. These inexpensive additions can make your morning routine a little easier while giving your bathroom a more custom feel. And on average, minor bathroom remodeling projects like these see a 102% return at resale.[1]

Upgrade Your Laundry Room
Sort through the items in your laundry room and throw away or donate anything you no longer need or use. If you’ve been holding onto a collection of old washcloths and single socks, it’s time to say goodbye. Then give your laundry room an upgrade with some customized organizational features.

A mix of open cubbies and cabinets with doors will give you plenty of options for storing detergents and supplies. If you have space, a divided hamper or set of laundry baskets can provide a place to sort your clothes before washing. Install a hanging rod or drying rack for delicates and a flat work surface for ironing and folding clothes. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn this chore into a score!

Fully Utilize Your Basement or Attic
Basements and attics can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. If that’s the case in your home, you know what to do!

Once you’ve conducted a thorough clean out, think about how you can better utilize the space to meet your family’s needs. Install cabinets and a table so you can use the area as a craft room. Or you could turn it into a game room with a media center and ping-pong table. Investing in your basement will not only add function for your family, but also the average basement remodel can see up to a 70% return on investment when it’s time to sell.[2]

If you have an attic, consider adding a cedar closet to store your off-season clothing. The cedar lining will keep your clothes free from moths and smelling fresh year round.[3] Turning your attic into a more usable space will pay off down the road, too. A finished attic sees an estimated 60% return on investment.[2]  

Customize Your Closets
Cleaning out the closet is a chore most of us dread, but by now, you’re a pro! Get rid the clothes and shoes that don’t fit you, are uncomfortable to wear, or that no longer “spark joy.”

Then it’s organizing time. So where do you start? You’ll want to create a designated space for each type of clothing: high hanging rods for dresses and long jackets, lower rods for skirts and shirts, and shelves for folded items like jeans. Accessories need a place to go, too. Add racks for your shoes, drawers for jewelry, hooks for hats, and shelves or racks for handbags.

A well-equipped closet can be a major draw for buyers—the average return on a closet remodel is 57%.[4] But more importantly, it’ll improve your day-to-day life. Surveyed homeowners gave their closet remodel a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10, higher than kitchen or bath upgrades.[5]

Install Built-in Bookcases and Cabinets
Built-in furniture adds functionality and storage to a room while giving your home a high-end look. Built-in bookcases can turn an empty room into an office. Custom cabinets can be used in a living room to display media equipment while providing hidden storage for DVDs, board games, and family albums.

When designing any built-in feature, remember not to go too custom. A design that only fits your tastes or belongings could turn off future buyers. Instead, select standard sizes and classic finishes to appeal to a broad range of buyers when it comes time to sell.

Equip Your Garage
If you can no longer fit your car in your garage, it may be time for a clean out. Similar to an attic or basement, the garage can quickly become overrun with clutter. A thorough cleaning will help you assess which items are worth keeping.

When adding organizational systems your garage, start with a small rack to store yard tools and larger racks for bikes and sports equipment. Overhead racks are a great place to put seasonal items and bulky luggage. A workbench against a wall lined with pegboard and hooks creates a dedicated space to use and store tools. If you have children or pets, add a cabinet with a lock. This will give you a place to securely store harsh chemicals and sharp tools. With a little effort, you’ll be pulling in your car (and buyers) in no time!

SPRING INTO ACTION

If you’re searching for service providers to help with your spring cleaning or home organization efforts, let us know! I can connect you with our trusted network of local home improvement professionals. I can also help you determine which organizational upgrades will add the most value to your home. Call me today, and let me know how we can help!

Sources:
1. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/top-home-updates-that-pay-off-pictures
2. Nationwide - https://blog.nationwide.com/valuable-home-improvements/
3. HGTV - https://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/maximum-home-value-storage-projects--attic
4. The Closet Doctor - https://www.closet-doctor.com/news/what-is-the-return-on-investment-on-closet-organizers
5. NAR Remodeling Impact Survey - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2017-remodeling-impact-09-28-2017.pdf




 

Top 10 Myths That Trip Up First-Time Home Buyers (April 2019)

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.

With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why I'm revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.

Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you’ll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.


DON’T FALL FOR THESE COMMON HOME BUYER MYTHS

Myth #1: You need a 20% down payment.
Plenty of buyers are purchasing homes with down payments that are much less than 20% of the total cost of the property. Today, you can buy a home with as little as 3-5% down.

There are multiple programs out there that allow you to have a lower down payment, and a lender or mortgage broker can talk you through which option is the best for you. Since you’re putting less money down, you’re a riskier borrower to your lender than people who put down a full 20%. Because of this, you will most likely need to pay mortgage insurance as part of your monthly payment.

Myth #2: Real estate agents are expensive.
Your agent is with you every step of the way throughout your home buying journey, and he or she spends countless hours working on your behalf. It sounds like having an agent is expensive, right? Well, not for you. Buyers usually don’t pay a real estate agent’s commission. Your agent’s fee is paid for at closing by the seller of the home you’re buying.1 The seller knows to factor this cost into the property’s total purchase price.

Myth #3: Don’t call a real estate agent until you're ready to buy.
The earlier you bring in an agent to help with the purchasing process, the better. Even if you’re in the very early stages of casually browsing, a real estate professional can be a huge help.

They can create a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so you get notifications for every house that meets your criteria as soon as it hits the market. The MLS is typically more up-to-date than popular home search sites like Realtor.ca. Setting up a search a few months before you’re considering buying gives you a good idea of what’s out there in your town that’s in your budget. Reviewing the MLS and speaking with an agent as soon as possible can help you set realistic expectations for when you actually start the house hunting process.

Myth #4: Fixer-uppers are more budget friendly.
We’ve all watched the shows on HGTV that encourage people to go after fixer-uppers because they’re more affordable and allow buyers to eventually renovate the home to include everything on their wishlist. But, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, homes that need a lot of work also require a lot of money. Big renovations, like add-ons, a total kitchen remodel, or installing a pool, take a lot longer than it looks on TV. If you’re really interested in a fixer-upper, ask your agent to show you a mix of newer homes and older homes. If you fall in love with an older home that needs a lot of work, get some quotes from contractors before you buy so you know the real cost of the renovations and see if you can work them into your budget.

Myth #5: Your only upfront cost is your down payment.
Your down payment is big, but it isn’t the only money you’ll spend during the home buying process. At closing, you’ll pay your down payment, but you’ll also bring closing costs to the table. Closing costs are typically anywhere from 2-4% of the total purchase price of the home.2 This amount includes the cost for items like homeowners insurance, title fees, and more.

You’ll also need to pay for an inspection before closing, which usually costs a few hundred dollars. This price will be higher or lower based on the size of your new property. Your lender will also require an appraisal. An appraiser will come in and inspect the home to determine how much it’s worth. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay this when the appraisal is conducted or it might be rolled into your closing costs.

Myth #6: You need a high credit score to buy a house.
You don’t need perfect credit to buy the perfect home. There are loans out there that buyers with lower credit scores can qualify for. These are good options for people who have had credit issues in the past, but some of them come with additional fees you will need to pay. Speak to a few local lenders or mortgage brokers to talk through which options might be best for you.

Myth #7: You can't qualify for a mortgage if you're still paying off student loans.
While some buyers may feel more comfortable paying off their existing debts before taking the leap into homeownership, it’s not a requirement. When you’re applying for a mortgage, the lender takes a close look at your debt-to-income ratio.3 If you want to calculate this on your own, add up all of your monthly debt payments and divide those by your monthly income. When you’re lender does this, they’re trying to make sure that you will be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments along with your other existing payments. If your income is high enough to allow you to make all of these payments each month, having a student loan will most likely not stop you from getting a mortgage.

Myth #8: You should base your budget on what your lender approves.
How much house you qualify for and how much you can afford are two totally different numbers. When you prequalify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, debt, assets, credit score, and financial history to determine how much money you might qualify for.4 For some people, this number might be much higher than you thought because lenders tend to approve for the highest amount they think you can afford. But that doesn’t mean that’s how much you should borrow.

Instead, figure out how much house you can actually afford. An online mortgage calculator can be a good first step in determining this number. We recommend thinking about what you want your monthly payment to be as a starting point. And remember to include your principal, interest, taxes, and, insurance. You should also think about ownership expenses that aren’t part of your monthly payment, like HOA dues and maintenance.

Myth #9: It's all about location.
You’ve heard the phrase. Location, location, location is basically the real estate industry’s motto, but I'll let you in on a little known secret: It’s not always true. Yes, location is great to consider when it comes to school districts and commute times, but you also need to think about how the home will function for you and/or your family’s lifestyle. If a family of five is choosing between a one bedroom condo in the bustling city center and a 4-bedroom home out in the suburbs, the latter is probably the best, most functional choice for them. Also, by buying in a less sought after neighborhood, your property taxes will most likely be much lower!

Obviously, you might still want to choose an area with great resale potential, and this is something that your agent can speak to you about. They’re an expert in your city and are constantly monitoring buying and selling trends.

Myth #10: If you look hard enough, you'll find a home that checks every box on your wishlist. You’ve seen that famous house hunting show. And while we have our suspicions about how real it is, the one thing they get right is that almost every buyer needs to compromise on something. Yes, the perfect house that meets every item on your wishlist is probably out there, but it’s also probably double or triple your budget.

A long wishlist can be a great starting point for figuring out what you want and don’t want, but we recommend narrowing that wishlist down to the top five things that are important to you in order of priority. We also recommend noting on your wishlist what your absolute deal breakers are, like “must have a yard for our dog,” and noting what you can live without, like “heated bathroom floors.”

This is a great list to discuss when you first start talking to an agent. A good real estate agent will be able to look at your list and find properties that might work for you. By coming to that first meeting with realistic expectations and knowledge about home buying rather than a bunch of myths heard here and there, you’ll be able to start the process off on the right foot and be in your new house in no time.

I'M HERE TO HELP

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, there’s no reason to go through the home buying process without an advocate on your side. I am here to answer your questions and do the hard work for you, so you can spend your time dreaming about your new home. Call me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Get a FREE copy of our Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

Now that we’ve cleared up these common homebuyer myths, find out if you know the steps you should take to prepare financially before you apply for a mortgage. Contact me to request a complimentary copy of our “Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready.”

Sources:

  1. Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/realtor-fees-closing-costs/
  2. BMO - https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/mortgages/closing-costs/
  3. StudentLoanHero - https://studentloanhero.com/featured/student-loans-buying-house/
  4. Loans Canada - https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/pre-approved-vs-pre-qualified/
 


 

What’s Your Home Actually Worth? (March 2019)

It’s easy to look up how much money you have in your savings account or the real-time value of your stock investments. But determining the dollar value of a home is trickier.

As a seller, knowing your home’s worth helps you price it correctly when you put it up for sale. If you price it too high, it may sit on the market. But price it too low and you may be losing out on a good chunk of money (nobody wants that!). For buyers, it’s important to know a home’s worth before you make an offer. You want your offer to be competitive, but you don’t want to overpay for the property.

Even if you’re not a buyer or seller right now, as a current homeowner you might just be curious about the value of your home. Keeping track of your home’s worth year over year helps you understand the trends in your market. So when you are ready to sell, you can take advantage of a good window of opportunity.

The good news is, a trained real estate agent—who understands the nuances of your particular neighborhood—can determine the true market value of your property … and at no cost to you!

THE THREE TYPES OF HOME VALUES
When you start the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently hear the words appraised value, assessed value, and true market value. It’s important to know the difference between each one so you can make better, informed decisions.

Appraised Value
A professional appraiser is in charge of determining the appraised value of a home. These appraisals are typically required by a lender when a buyer is financing the property. And while the lender is the one requiring this information, the appraiser does not work for the lender.1 Your appraiser should be an objective, licensed professional who doesn’t have allegiance to the buyer, seller, or lender—no matter who is paying their fee.

The number the appraiser comes up with (the appraised value) assures the lender that the buyer is not overpaying for the property. For example, imagine a seller lists a home for $900,000. They reach a deal with the buyer to sell the home for $875,000. However, if an appraiser evaluates the property and determines that the appraised value is actually $825,000, then the lender will not lend for an amount higher than that appraised value of $825,000.2

When figuring out this number, an appraiser will compare the property to similar homes in your neighborhood, and they’ll evaluate factors such as location, square footage, appliances, upgrades, improvements, and the interior and exterior of the home.  

Assessed Value
The assessed value of a home is determined by your local municipal property assessor. This value matters when your county calculates property taxes each year. The lower your assessed value, the less property tax you’ll pay.3

To come up with this value, your assessor will evaluate what comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for, the size of your home, age, overall condition, and any improvements or upgrades that have been made. However, most assessors don’t have full access to your home, so their information is limited.

Assessments are done annually to determine how much property tax you owe. Many counties use a multiplier (typically between 60%-80%) to calculate the final assessed value. So, if the assessor determines that the value of the home is $300,000, but the county uses a 70% multiplier, the assessed value of the home would be $210,000 for tax purposes.4

If your assessed value isn’t as high as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Many homeowners appeal their assessment in favor of a lower valuation so that they can save money on property taxes. If you’re interested in appealing your property tax assessment, let me know.

True Market Value
True market value is established by your real estate agent. It basically refers to the value that a buyer is willing to pay for the property. A good real estate agent is an expert in determining true market value because they have hands-on experience buying and selling properties. They understand the mindsets of buyers in your market and know what they’ll pay for a desirable house, townhouse, or condo.

As a seller, knowing your true market value is important because it helps you choose how much to list your property for. It can also help you decide if you want to make any improvements to your home before putting it on the market. Your agent can help you figure out which updates and upgrades will have the biggest impact on your true market value.

HOW AN AGENT FINDS YOUR HOME’S TRUE MARKET VALUE
So, how does an actual real estate agent determine true market value? They’ll start by doing a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means they’ll compare your home’s features to similar properties in your area. For the CMA, the agent looks at the below factors to influence their assessment of your home’s worth:5

Neighborhood sales - Your agent will look at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood to see what they sold for and what they have in common with your house.
The exterior - What does your home look like from the outside? Your agent will factor in curb appeal, the style of the house, the front and backyard, and anything else that impacts how the house looks to everyone walking and driving by.
The interior - This is everything inside the walls of the house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, appliances, and more all influence the overall market value.
Age of the home - Whether you have a newer or older home affects the number your agent comes up with as part of their assessment.
Style of the home - The style of your home is important because buyers in different markets have different tastes. If buyers prefer ranch-style homes and you have one, then your home may sell for a premium (aka more money!).
Market trends - Because a local agent has so much experience in your market, they have their finger on the pulse of your area’s trends and know what buyers are willing to pay for a property like yours.
Location, location, location - This one’s probably the most obvious. Your agent will think about how popular the area is, how safe it is, and what schools are like.

A computer algorithm simply can’t take all of these factors into account when calculating the value of your home. The reality is, nothing beats the accuracy of a real estate agent or professional appraiser when it comes to determining a home’s true market value.


YOUR AGENT IS THERE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Determining a home’s true market value is a real estate agent’s forte. If you’re a seller, your agent will help you find your home’s market value so you can list it at the right price.

For buyers, your agent will help you determine the value so you can come up with a fair offer. Your agent can also set up a personalized home search on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for you so you’ll receive emails of listings that meet your criteria. This will help you see what’s out there in your city and how properties are being priced.

Curious about your home’s true market value? Call me to request a free, no-obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out exactly how much your home is worth!

Sources:
1- Chicago Tribune - https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/chi-ugc-article-what-is-the-difference-between-market-value-a-2013-09-30-story.html
2- SFGATE - https://homeguides.sfgate.com/market-value-vs-appraised-value-1206.html
3- ValuePenguin - https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/what-is-the-assessed-value-of-a-house
4- Movoto - https://www.movoto.com/blog/homeownership/assessed-value-vs-market-value/
5- Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

 

Top 8 Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2019 (February 2019)

If you’re a current homeowner, or in the market to buy, you’re probably curious about the latest trends in home design.
 
Sellers who make strategic updates before listing a property can generate increased interest from buyers 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, we advise our clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel. Making over-personalized or unpopular design choices could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to sell. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your renovation to feel dated quickly.

To help, we’ve rounded up eight of the hottest home design trends for 2019. Keep in mind, not all trends will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate a property, consult a professional who can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.
 

  1. WARMER PAINT COLORS
White and grey aren’t going anywhere, but expect to see warmer tones and more earthy neutrals popping up in 2019. Cold whites are being replaced by warmer, softer whites. And warmer tones of grey have become a popular alternative to the cooler grays we were seeing earlier in the decade. Dove grey—with a lilac undertone—is a particular favorite with designers this year.
 
Sherwin Williams chose Cavern Clay, a warm terracotta, as its 2019 color of the year, while Behr selected Blueprint, a mid-tone blue. Benjamin Moore’s selection is Metropolitan, a sophisticated grey.
 
If you’re preparing to sell your home, consider a light, neutral paint color. Neutral colors provide a blank canvas upon which a buyer can envision placing their belongings, and lighter colors make a room appear larger and brighter.
 
 
  1. MIXED METALS
Don’t feel limited to using one metallic finish throughout your home—or even throughout a single room. Designers are mixing metals in 2019, and their favorites include copper, brass, pewter, gunmetal, and matte black.
 
Experts suggest picking one metal hue to dominate your color palette and a contrasting tone to complement it. If your room has a warm color palette, choose a warm-hued primary metal, such as brass or copper. For cool palettes, choose a cool-toned metal, like pewter or stainless steel. You can also experiment with mixing finishes, such as polished and hammered copper.
 
From faucets to cabinet pulls to accent pieces, swapping out your old or dated fixtures is an easy—and relatively inexpensive—way to modernize your decor. Mixing metals adds depth and gives your room a more curated look.
 
 
  1. OUTDOOR ELEMENTS
Bringing outdoor elements into the home can help warm up a sterile space. And natural materials can soften a modern design esthetic.
 
Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate these materials throughout their home. Especially popular right now: stone, copper, concrete, and wood. From concrete showers to agate stone tiles, designers are finding unexpected ways to bring the outside in.
 
One notable exception: granite countertops. Engineered quartz—a combination of ground quartz and resin—overtook natural granite stone as the most popular countertop material in 2018. This durable, low-maintenance, highly-customizable product has won over homeowners and designers alike.
 
 
  1. ALTERNATIVE APPLIANCES
Stainless steel has been the industry standard for years, but the market is trending toward variety and fresh alternatives. Homeowners have more options available than ever to personalize their kitchens with vibrant colors, black stainless, or modern white appliances. Another favorite? Integrated appliances that blend seamlessly into cabinetry. Built-in column refrigerators, which allow you to customize the design and size of your freezer and refrigerator, are becoming a “must-have” in high-end homes.
 
Advancements in technology have also brought a new wave of appliances to the market. Induction cooktops are replacing commercial gas ranges as a gourmet favorite. And french door ovens and steam ovens are also gaining in popularity—especially ones with smart features you can control from an app on your smartphone.
 
 
  1. COLORFUL KITCHENS
White will always be a classic choice, but color is finally coming back to kitchens. More homeowners are choosing cabinets in alternative neutrals like black, cream, and grey, along with colorful options like green and blue. Also popular? Wood cabinets in stains like warm chestnut and fruitwood.
 
Two-tone kitchen cabinets remain a homeowner favorite, as well. To incorporate this trend, try pairing darker lower cabinets with lighter upper cabinets or a colorful kitchen island with neutral-colored perimeter cabinets.
 
 
  1. OPEN SHELVING
Swapping upper kitchen cabinets for open shelves continues to be a popular choice in 2019. It’s a cost-effective update that can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. However, it’s not a practical option for everyone. Before you commit, test it out by removing your cabinet doors for a few weeks. See how it feels to have your glasses and dishware on display.
 
Not ready to give up all your upper cabinet storage space? Replace just one or two upper cabinets with open shelves for a lower-commitment but still-updated look.
 
 
  1. STATEMENT TILE
The ubiquitous white subway tile is finally fading in popularity. In 2019, homeowners are gravitating toward more colorful choices, creative textures and finishes, and alternative shapes. Especially hot right now: hexagons, arabesques, diamonds, and Moroccan fish scales.
 
Natural stone remains a favorite, including marble, quartzite and river rock. But advancements in porcelain tile that mimics stone, and even concrete, has made it an attractive, affordable, and low-maintenance alternative.
 
 
  1. SHOWCASE CEILINGS
Once an afterthought, ceilings are taking center stage. While 2018 was all about statement walls, statement ceilings are shaping up to be the darling of 2019. Designers are using bold paint colors, wallpaper, intricate moldings, fabric, and other materials to transform a ceiling into something truly special.
 
Want to incorporate this trend without going too bold? Choose a classic design, like coffered or wooden beams. Or stick with wood paneling or tin tiles for a more timeless look. Even something as simple as painting a ceiling the same color as the walls can make your space feel more modern.
 
 
DESIGNED TO SELL
Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Give us a call for a free consultation!
 
Buyer preferences can vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share the insights we’ve gathered from working with buyers in this market … and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your remodeling 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.
 
 
Want to learn more about how to stage your home to sell? To request a free copy of this report, see "Contact Me" (on the right of this page): Top 10 Rules for Staging Homes from The Stagers! 
 
 
 
Sources:
  1. Decor Mag – https://www.decoraid.com/blog/home-design-trends-2019
  2. Gates Interior Design –
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-new-kitchen-and-bath-trends-for-2019/
  3. House Beautiful – https://www.housebeautiful.com/home-remodeling/interior-designers/a24844028/home-trends-for-2019/
  4. Houzz – https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/114552119/list/32-home-design-trends-that-will-rule-in-2019
  5. Invaluable – https://www.invaluable.com/blog/mixing-metals/
  6. Real Simple – https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/decorating-tips-techniques/design-trends-2019-according-to-designers
  7. Sebring – https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-kitchen-design/

What’s ahead for real estate, housing prices, and interest rates in 2019? Our latest article answers those questions and more! (January 2019)

 As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”
 
The Canadian real estate market experienced a cooldown in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, we’ve summarized some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.
  
SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE
 A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.
 
“Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling constitutes as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver
and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Policy changes were put in place to cool down an overheated market that had led to increased debt levels, decreased affordability, and historically-low inventory levels. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability.
 
 PRICES WILL HOLD STEADY
 Economists expect prices to hold steady this year, rising slightly to keep pace with inflation. While the national average price declined by 4.2 percent in 2018, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts it will rebound slightly this year by 1.7 percent.
 
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also expects prices to remain high, but stable.  “By 2020, demand is expected to continue to shift towards relatively less expensive housing options such as apartment condominiums. This combined with slowing growth in economic conditions will lead to modest average price growth over the forecast horizon.”3
 
The Royal Bank of Canada agrees, cautioning that “would-be buyers hoping for a meaningful [price] break will likely be disappointed—we don’t expect aggregate prices to fall on an annual basis either this year or next.”1
 
What does it mean for you? If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to drop, you may want to reconsider. The current sales slowdown has made many sellers more willing to negotiate. Don’t miss out on the most favourable market we’ve seen for buyers in years.
 
 NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL SLOW
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts new home construction will trend down over the next two years from a 10-year high in 2017. “Single-detached housing starts are anticipated to decrease over the forecast horizon. Construction of this housing type will continue to be limited by residential lot availability, but also by elevated price and borrowing costs in some major CMAs that represent an important portion of national starts.”3
 
However, economists expect the decline to be gradual. According to Fotios Raptis, a senior economist at TD Bank, “a steep downturn in homebuilding nationwide appears unlikely. Canada's population is on the rise, medium-term income growth should remain healthy, and most markets are generally not overbuilt.”4
 
What does it mean for you? Buyers will continue to have options in new construction. But the decreased rate of supply should help prop up the resale market, which is good news for sellers.
 
 INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL TAKE A BREATHER … FOR NOW
After a prolonged series of interest rate hikes, the Bank of Canada announced in December that it will likely slow its pace of rate increases. “We no longer expect the Bank of Canada to hike its policy interest rate in January. Spring 2019 now appears to be the more likely timing, allowing for the bank to ensure that the growth narrative is back on track,” commented Brian DePratto, a senior economist with TD Bank.5
 
At the same time, the impact of the mortgage stress test has slowed the pace of new mortgages being issued by traditional lenders. So even as funding costs have risen, banks have been hesitant to raise the 5-year qualifying rate. In its latest Mortgage Rate Forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association predicts that the 5-year mortgage rate will hold steady this year—and may even decline in the first quarter.6
 
What does it mean for you? If you currently have a variable rate mortgage, the bank’s revised policy should offer some welcome relief. And if you thought rising interest rates would prevent you from buying a home this year, you may be pleasantly surprised.
  
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 sales and values in your particular neighbourhood.
 
If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our market, let me know! I'm here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape.
 

START PREPARING TODAY

If you plan to BUY this year:
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.

Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.

Come to my office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!  

If you plan to SELL this year:

Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.

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. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time an

MONTHLY BLOGS

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” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school. 

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighbourhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. I can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, I get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

You might guess that the VIP service I provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, I can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1

And although I've listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

Call 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. NAR 2019 Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-08-16-2019.pdf
  2. Architectural Digest – https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/this-is-how-long-you-should-live-in-your-house-before-selling-it
  3. Investopedia – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/twenty-eight-thirty-six-rule.asp
  4. Money Talks News – https://www.moneytalksnews.com/20-clues-youre-buying-home-the-right-neighborhood/