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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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 tips to create an ideal income suite

Top tips to create an ideal income suiteFrom the condominium craze to the rise of multigenerational living, the climbing cost of homeownership across Canada continues to spawn new trends. The transformation of basements into rental suites is a big one that can help offset mortgage costs. There are plenty of advantages, as well as some important considerations to ensure the best result.

Do your homework. Check zoning, bylaws and adhere to your local building code. As with any new construction or renovation, building permits must be obtained, and all work must be code compliant. This will protect you and any future tenants.

Waterproof it. Check the interior foundation and floors for existing moisture issues, water damage or mould problems. Address any primary moisture issues before finishing the space.

Insulation is key. As a landlord, it’s wise to invest in smart renovations that can improve efficiency and bolster your bottom line. For the best results, insulate well. I recommend installing a rigid board insulation, like Rockwool ComfortBoard 80, against the concrete foundation before you stud the wall. The board is mechanically fastened or adhered to the concrete foundation wall, which prevents thermal bridging through the studs, providing better thermal performance. Finish with a moisture-resistant and dimensionally stable insulation between the studs, like R14 Comfortbatt, to protect against common basement issues such as mould, mildew and rot.

Consider fire safety and soundproofing. Select building materials with a high fire-resistance rating that will not off-gas or contribute to toxic smoke in the event of a fire. Soundproofing is also a must when you plan to share space. Install sound absorbent insulation between floors with resilient channels to reduce sound transfer between living areas. Contractors love stone wool fire and soundproofing insulation, because it protects against fire and noise and is easy to install.

Spend wisely. Keep the renovation budget reasonable. Spending no more than two years’ worth of rent to convert your space is a good general rule of thumb. Forego high-end finishes. Instead, create focal points that will “sell” the suite.

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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Moving? How to find the right neighbourhood

Moving? How to find the right neighbourhoodThe search for the perfect house begins with the search for the perfect neighbourhood, which can be daunting. Searching for something so open-ended and with so many variables can be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to know where to start your search and where you can take it from there. Get ready to find that dream neighbourhood.

Search yourself. You can’t really know what to look for in a neighbourhood until you know exactly what you want. Make a list, take your time. Write down the things that really matter to you. Decide priorities. Order your list from most to least important. Moving in with your partner? Have them do the same, and see where your priorities line up and where you diverge. Now that you know what you want, it’s time to go get it.

Search the streets. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. You really can’t know a neighbourhood until you’ve walked its streets at several different times of day. Get a feel for the level of traffic and noise, decide if you’re okay with it. See how the streets feel. Are they lit enough at night? Would it be nice to go for a run through your neighbourhood? Make sure you visit each of your candidate neighbourhoods.

Search the stats. While you hunt at street level, make sure you take your research to a bird’s-eye view at the same time. You would be amazed at the kinds of things you can learn about a neighbourhood just from its census data. How old are people there? How many kids are in the neighbourhood? How many people are home owners? How much are the average monthly costs to live there? What languages are spoken in the neighbourhood? Combine your research with your street-level hunting and you’ll soon find yourself walking through the perfect neighbourhood for you and your family.

Find more information at www.statcan.gc.ca/census.

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What millennials want in a home

What millennials want in a homeWhen entering the residential market, it’s important to appeal to as many people as possible, especially young, first-time homebuyers. They’re one of Canada’s fastest-growing markets, but their tastes and priorities are quite different.

“The next generation of first-time homebuyers knows exactly what they want in their first major investment,” explains Christopher Alexander, regional director at Re/Max Integra. “Sellers need to be strategic before putting their home on the market to appeal to these needs.”

Here are the top three factors influencing millennials’ purchasing behaviour:

Location, location, location. It’s widely known that finding a home in the right neighbourhood can significantly increase ROI long-term, and millennials are taking extra note. But homes in communities where new schools and amenities are being built are attracting young buyers looking for “what’s next,” rather than what’s hot now. Up-and-coming neighbourhoods that are slated to receive investment from the city or are under redevelopment are prime for real estate investments as smart millennial buyers realize their value will only continue to rise. If the neighbourhood is walkable, that’s a bonus.

Smarter living. With exciting advancements in the ever-growing tech industry, preparing your home to appeal to a hyper-connected millennial market is easier than ever. From installing fridges that text you when you’re low on milk to wireless light switches, sellers who make even a small investment in a smarter home will instantly attract tech-savvy first-time buyers. Adding innovations such as a programmable thermostat will not only make your home appealing to the eco-conscious young buyer — the remotely adjustable tech can also help lower your utilities bills as you wait for your closing date.

Looking ahead. As a home is typically the first major investment most millennials make, it needs to be able to suit their growing list of needs. While young buyers may not have children now, many are already considering multi-bedroom homes and properties with backyards in anticipation of a soon-to-be expanding family. Investing in backyard landscaping and clearing out clutter to make space for a possible play area or nursery is a great way to appeal to young families looking for a home they can see themselves grow in.

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7 Secrets to Sell Your Home Successfully

7 secrets to sell your home successfully

Here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association that will help your home stand out when you decide to sell.

Here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association that will help your home stand out when you decide to sell.

1. Focus on first impressions. You only get one, so make sure everything potential buyers see first is in top shape. During winter, keep your driveway shovelled and hats and mittens neatly stored for a clutter-free entryway.

2. Empty your closets. A great trick is to create the illusion of extra storage space with half-empty closets, drawers and cabinets.

3. Upgrade strategically. Skip costly major overhauls — quick fixes are cheaper, easier and can often deliver a better return on your investment. Things like a fresh coat of paint, cleaning the carpets, and replacing door and cabinet handles in the kitchen are big-impact projects that can be accomplished in a weekend.

4. Edit personal touches. Buyers are more likely to make an offer if they can visualize themselves living in your home, so put away family photos and kitschy personal mementoes. Stick to simple artwork and accessories that make the space feel lived-in, but neutral.

5. Understand legal documents. When you list and sell your home, there are several real estate documents you need to complete the transaction, like the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and the Listing Agreement. Work with your Realtor to make sure you understand the important information in these agreements and that they contain the specific wording that suits your needs.

6. Make sure the price is right. You don’t want to leave money on the table but you also shouldn’t set the price unreasonably high, or you may scare away buyers and keep your house on the market longer than necessary. Your Realtor can help you determine what’s right for your local market.

7. Light it up. A home that looks bright, airy and spacious is more welcoming and feels larger. Get the look by opening the curtains before viewings, choosing pared-down window treatments in light colours, and adding a few strategic lamps, which you can borrow from a friend until you sell.

Find more information at www.orea.com.

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Exploring New Opportunities for Affordable Home Ownership

As more millennials look to become first-time homebuyers and boomers search for housing that better fits their needs, smart solutions are needed to ensure home affordability for years to come.

One idea being recommended by Ontario Realtors is more housing supply. To meet the needs of diverse families, it’s important to add more variety of homes to the market, such as townhouses, stacked flats and mid-rise buildings — and government can support these efforts.

“Over the past year, Ontario Realtors have been sounding the alarm on the lack of housing supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It is imperative that governments work collaboratively with municipalities and developers in reducing the barriers that have impeded necessary growth in the housing market,” says Ettore Cardarelli, President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

According to Ontario Realtors, increasing housing supply in the province is the best long-term solution to keep home ownership within reach for young buyers and future generations.

“OREA’s plan for increasing housing supply in Ontario includes speeding up building approval processes, encouraging building more ‘missing middle’ type homes and making sure infrastructure funding is targeted towards water, sewer, roads and transit to land already designated for development,” says Cardarelli.

Find more information at www.orea.com.

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Major changes coming to new home building methods

Major changes coming to new home building methodsAcross Canada, home builders are adopting new approaches to construction to create greener homes with better resale value. One major change that’s tackling energy consumption and rising fuel costs is the use of an air-tight, solid concrete system to replace inefficient wood-framing. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) erect a building with an interlocking system, similar to Lego.

“It’s a switch for builders, but those who have switched over tell us it’s quite easy to build with ICFs,” says Natalie Rodgers of Nudura, a leading name in the field. “Customer demand has driven this change and builders are now seeing how green construction options can have a positive impact on their business.”

The ICF system is now the number one choice of wall-building methods for “net-zero” construction projects south of the border. The term net-zero applies to buildings that are so energy efficient, they don’t tap into any public utility fuel supplies. The goal is for as many homes, schools and public buildings as possible to be designed to be net-zero. Here are some advantages of net-zero construction using ICF.

Building guide. Underscoring these proactive measures, the non-profit organization, LEED also reminds us that constructing a green home leaves a much smaller carbon footprint due to less demand on natural resources. It will create less waste and be healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.

Fuel savings. Walls built with ICFs are proven to reduce energy bills up to 60 per cent; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and reduce or eliminate exposure to mould, mildew and other indoor toxins. The net cost over time is comparable to owning a conventional home and the resale return is generally assured.

Durability. Concrete is strong. Due to high-impact resistance, these concrete walls assure maximum safety in high wind areas. Fire resistance is also reported to be maximized at four hours.

Comfort. Unlike in conventional wooded frames, air gaps are eliminated in ICF, minimizing the potential for mould growth and draft. The end result is an airtight structure enabling the mechanical systems to heat, cool and ventilate the structure more efficiently, creating a healthier living and working environment.

Responsibility. The materials are recyclable and the system is designed to create less landfill waste during the construction process. Combined with other eco-construction methods, this concrete system will significantly reduce carbon emissions by lowering the amount of fossil fuels needed for heating and cooling.

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How mortgages have changed

How mortgages have changedIf you’re like millions of Canadians, you’re busy paying down your mortgage. It could take 25 years or so, but it can be a great way to accumulate personal wealth, especially if house prices rise. However, with changes to mortgages in recent years, it’s important to understand just how they are different if you want to fully benefit from your home’s potential to build your personal wealth over the long term, rather than your debt.

Today, to finance your house most banks will offer you a readvanceable mortgage if you have a down payment of 20 per cent or more. It combines a traditional mortgage with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). There’s a big difference between these two forms of debt.

First, your mortgage debt only goes one way — down — because you must make regular payments against both the interest and the principal borrowed. This increases the equity you have in your home, meaning the difference between what you still owe and the value of your home.

But as you pay down your mortgage, a HELOC lets you borrow against your growing equity as part of your mortgage. Unlike your mortgage, you only have to make regular payments against the interest. You can ignore the principal until you sell the house. This short-term credit advantage can mean a long-term debt problem.

With flexible repayment terms, low interest rates and a credit limit that rises with your equity, a HELOC can be used to pay off other, higher-interest debt or home renovations.

But would a HELOC tempt you to use your home like an ATM? Mounting HELOC debt could put you at increased risk if you lose your job, get sick or injured, interest rates go up or your home decreases in value. If it consumes too much of your equity, you might end up owing more than your home is worth, lose your home or have to sell it to pay down your debt.

To use this borrowing tool wisely, stick to a plan to pay it off fully and avoid continually borrowing against your home equity.

Learn more online at canada.ca/it-pays-to-know.

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Buying or Selling a home? Now is a good time for both.

Buying or selling a home? Now is a good time for bothThe second busiest season for buying and selling homes is upon us, but what is it about autumn that causes an upswing in real estate activity?

According to Patricia Verge, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, a variety of factors may be responsible for the increase in sales. “Much like spring, fall offers a great climate in which to show your home. Also, many buyers are back from summer holidays and getting back to business.”

Some of the benefits for buying a home in the fall include:

• More choices – There is a wider selection of homes available during this period so that you can visit a wide variety of open houses.

• Good weather – Mild temperatures make moving much easier. Assessing the quality of a home’s exterior is less complicated when it’s not raining or snowing.

• Tax breaks – If you purchase a home before the New Year, you can claim deductions on your 2015 taxes.

Some of the benefits for selling a home in the fall include:

• Climate – Mild temperatures and beautiful fall colours create the perfect setting for showing a home.

• More time – Come fall, people tend to settle back into routines, allowing a better dedication for the home selling process.

• Serious buyers – Most buyers want to be moved in and settled into their new home before the holidays and winter hit, so any interest you receive will generally lead to action.

Even with the increase in activity at this time of year, there really is no wrong time to list your home. According to Verge, “If you price your home appropriately and make every effort to present it in a superior way, chances are you will sell your property in a timely manner regardless of the season.”

More information is available at www.wedothehomework.ca.

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