How to avoid real estate fraud

How to avoid real estate fraudAs housing prices climb in many markets across the country, real estate fraud can become a much more enticing prospect for scammers. While it’s one of the lesser known kinds of fraud in Canada, its impact can be devastating.

There are two types of real estate fraud that may result in financial losses — title fraud and foreclosure fraud.

Title fraud happens when a fraudster steals the title to a home — usually after stealing the owner’s identity — then sells the home or applies for a new mortgage against it.

Foreclosure fraud happens when homeowners having difficulty making their payments mistakenly turn to a fraudster, who convinces them to transfer their property title in return for a loan. Often, the fraudster keeps their loan payments and resells or remortgages the victim’s home.

Protect yourself from becoming a victim of real estate fraud with these simple tips:

Safeguard your personal financial information.

Contact your mortgage lender first if you are having difficulty making your mortgage payments.

Consult your lawyer before giving another person a right to deal with your home or other assets.

Research the company or individual who is offering you a loan.

Do a land title search with your provincial or territorial land registry office. This search will show the name of the property owner and any mortgages or liens registered on the title.

Consider buying title insurance to protect against title fraud.

Find more information online at canada.ca/money.

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Modern plumbing makes renovations easier

Modern plumbing makes renovations easierWater supply pipes aren’t what they used to be — and that’s a good thing. Innovations have made water supply systems easier to install and more durable because of something called PEX pipe.

PEX is easier to install because it’s flexible. This lets your plumber install water supply lines where it would otherwise be impractical or highly disruptive to do with rigid pipe.

Flexible pipe connected to manifolds also makes it easier to control everything from a central location. Instead of shut-off valves at each fixture, a manifold installation puts all your shut-offs in one handy and easily accessible spot.

Finally, PEX won’t crack if it freezes with water in it. While you’ll still want to drain water from cottage pipes that will drop below freezing temperatures over the winter, if some water remains, it won’t mean a plumbing disaster in the spring.

When you hire a plumbing contractor to work on your home, make sure they do business the right way with a full written contract or work order that covers the work to be done, its cost and the warranty. The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free, unbiased information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

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Must-have guide for selling your home

Must-have guide for selling your homeWhen you put your home on the market, you want to be offered top dollar and enjoy a smooth seamless sale from start to finish. For the best experience, use this guide full of expert tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Start with an expert. Realtors are experts in your local housing market; they know the current market conditions, local data and details about other houses in your neighborhood. A Realtor will help you price your home competitively and, if you plan to renovate, they can advise whether the expected return on investment is worth your time, money and effort.

Prepare your home. Create an environment that allows potential buyers to imagine themselves living happily and comfortably in your home. This means removing personal mementoes and photographs, presenting a clean and organized space, and keeping the décor neutral. If you’re selling during the winter, snow can hide backyard imperfections and the cooler weather is a great opportunity to showcase how cozy your home can be — light the fireplace, stockpile fuzzy blankets and use lightly scented candles.

Close wisely. Work with your Realtor to make sure the buyer’s paperwork is in order and any clauses are reasonable. Choose a closing date that’s convenient for you — for example, consider a closing date during the spring when the weather is nicer or on a long weekend so you have more time to move.

Find more information about selling your home and using a Realtor by visiting www.orea.com.

Attention editors: This article is for distribution in Ontario only.

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Realtor-approved tips for buying or selling a home

Realtor-approved tips for buying or selling a homeWhether you’re a millennial buying your first home or a boomer downsizing, entering the housing market can be stressful and challenging. To make the process smoother, here are five helpful tips that Realtors use from the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Understand industry lingo. From the Buyer Representation Agreement to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, there are a number of legal documents with technical names that you need to know. Work together with your Realtor to make sure you understand these documents and what to expect throughout the process of buying or selling.

Think outside the box. If you’re looking for a new home, don’t limit yourself with a strict checklist of must-have features. Try to be flexible because you might find that your dream property isn’t exactly what you imagined. For example, a larger home isn’t necessarily better, since a great layout and the right combination of rooms and storage space can have a big impact on the comfort and flow of everyday living. Similarly, when selling a home, decorate and choose furniture to create multifunctional spaces. For instance, kids’ bedrooms can be reimagined as guest rooms or home offices.

Consider winter. Many people flock to buy or sell in the spring and summer when the weather is warmer, but entering the market during the winter has its advantages. As a buyer, you’ll have less competition and may be able to negotiate a better deal. As a seller, there may be fewer properties on the market, which can help your home stand out; also you’ll attract more serious buyers for viewings since house hunting is more of an effort when it’s cold and snowy outside.

Get your plans in order. Having a well-thought-out plan is a must for both buyers and sellers. Planning ensures a seamless transaction once an offer is made and accepted. For sellers, this means making sure each homeowner listed on the deed is in agreement to sell and that a move-out date has been arranged for tenants (if you have them). For buyers, it’s wise to have your mortgage pre-approved and a home inspector chosen, this way you’ll have your finances and someone who can evaluate the property ready for closing.

Stage the interior. Sellers should stage their homes to attract greater interest. By focusing on curb appeal, decluttering and making sure the home is well lit, your property will stand out to potential buyers. On the flipside, if you’re shopping for a home and the seller hasn’t put any effort into staging, a Realtor can help you cut through the clutter to envision the home’s full potential.

For more information about buying or selling a home visit www.orea.com.

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Buying a home? 5 forms you need to understand

Buying a home? 5 forms you need to understandIf you’re house hunting this season, you want the process of finding and buying your dream home to be an enjoyable, stress-free experience. To help, we’ve made a list of five essential forms that you’ll encounter along the way.

Buyer Representation Agreement. If you’re being represented by a brokerage then you’re considered their client and this form outlines the legal agreement between you and your brokerage. It contains an explanation of the many items, including the services the brokerage will provide to you, fees for those services, the obligations you have as a client and the expiry date of the agreement.

Customer Service Agreement. If you prefer not to enter into a client contract with a brokerage, then you may choose to be a customer and will receive a different service than if you were a client. As a customer, you will be treated fairly & ethically and will be provided honest information while your Realtor takes care not to misrepresent any facts.

Confirmation of Co-operation and Representation. This form confirms representation or customer relationships between the brokerages and the buyers and sellers. This form also details remuneration to be paid. You’ll be asked to sign a CCR before making an offer or any negotiations on a property.

Agreement of Purchase and Sale. This form is used initially by a buyer when making an offer on a property. Once the offer is made and accepted, the offer becomes a legally binding contract. Be sure you understand what’s in your offer before you sign it. Agreeing on a price is important, but make sure you speak to your Realtor about other details like the possession date, conditional terms, and which chattels or fixtures will be included or excluded with the home.

Listing Agreement. This form is the agreement between a seller and their real estate brokerage. The Listing Agreement forms the basis for drafting an offer on a home and includes directions about negotiations.

Find more information about essential forms and using a Realtor by visiting www.orea.com.

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Top 5 ways to turn your bathroom into a spa-like retreat

Top 5 ways to turn your bathroom into a spa-like retreatToday’s busy lifestyles leave many of us craving a quick recharge. And there’s no place like home to relax and unwind, so why not create a spa-like sanctuary where you can do just that? Here are some top tips on how to make it amazing.

Start with what’s behind the walls. There’s nothing less relaxing than dealing with a mould problem –– a common issue in bathrooms. The wrong type of insulation can be especially vulnerable, so look for one that contractors trust just for this purpose. I recommend an insulation called Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound. It’s made from stone, so it repels water and won’t promote mould, mildew or rot. It’ll also help create a peaceful retreat, thanks to excellent sound absorption.

It’s all about the water feature. Whether it’s a multi-head rain shower set against a backdrop of luxurious stone tile or a large, free-standing tub, nothing melts tension away and relaxes the muscles like water. Options abound and can be pricey, but remember, the water feature is the centrepiece of the space, and you’ll use it every single day for years.

Create a warm space. A cold floor can abruptly end your calming experience. Radiant in-floor heating is one feature that, once you have it, you’ll never know how you lived without it.

Let nature inspire. Recreate a spa aesthetic with natural materials like teak, bamboo or stone.

Lighting and music. Incorporating waterproof wireless controls for music and lighting let you set the mood and tone for the ultimate unwind. If you’re on a budget, add a pop of elegance with a beautiful light fixture on a dimmer and complement with aromatic candles.

Accessorize. From plush towels and robes to fresh flowers or greenery, add some elements that make your bathroom feel like a five-star hotel. Reduce visual clutter by storing toiletries or other items in decorative baskets or jars.

My advice is to relax, unwind, and tune out the world for a little while. Make it a guilt-free indulgence, because after all, we take better care of others when we take care of ourselves, too.

Scott McGillivray is the host of the hit HGTV series Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays, a full-time real estate investor, contractor, author, and educator.

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