Essential home cleaning tips for pet owners

Even the biggest pet-lovers know furry friends can leave an endless mess around your home. Fortunately, an effective home cleaning routine can minimize the mess left behind on your floors, furniture and guests. Try these tips to keep your home happy, healthy and clean so both two- and four-legged family members can flourish.

Stop dirt on sight. Rain, leaves, mud and mischief are a recipe for disaster when pets are coming back in from some outdoor playtime, but it’s possible to keep dirt and debris outside. Think ahead and keep all-natural pet wipes at the door to capture dirt and moisturize paw pads and fur at the same time.

Say no to furry furniture. You want your living spaces guest ready, not full of fur and pet hair. With Beam Central Vacuum accessories like a pet grooming brush, upholstery brush and hand power brush cleaning those favourite pet nap spots is effortless, removing fur along with any dirt, dust and allergens they brought in from outside.

Roll hair away. Even once furniture and floors are clean, fur is likely to stick to clothes. Keep a lint roller in an accessible place near the front door. This is especially helpful for sending appreciative guests on their way as fur-free as they arrived, with fond memories not fur balls.

Protect what matters. Curious teeth and paws can wreak havoc on valuable home items. To stop pets in the act and keep them away from areas where they aren’t allowed, use furniture-safe products like bitter-tasting pet sprays. Keep non-toxic wood fillers on hand to mend scratches and gashes in case of an incident.

Learn more about keeping your home clean with pets at www.buybeam.ca.

Moving on up: Should you buy or sell first?

Moving on up: Should you buy or sell first?In Canada’s evolving real estate markets, both buying and selling a home are very personal decisions. Add buying and selling at the same time, and the process becomes even trickier. The path up the property ladder is different for everyone and which to do first depends on your unique circumstances.

“Buying and selling a home at the same time is no small endeavour and involves extensive research and a clear understanding of all the steps involved,” explains Nicole Wells, vice-president of home equity finance at RBC.

Here are some things to consider before making a move:

Should I sell first? The upside of selling first is that you will know how much money you have to work with, and it’s also easier to get new financing when you need it. However, if there are delays or challenges finding the right new home for you, you may incur additional rent and storage costs in the interim.

Should I buy first? In this case, you will have time to plan your move and get your current home ready to sell. However, closing dates on both the purchase and sale may not line up and if your home doesn’t sell for a while, you’ll be stuck with two mortgages at once and a higher debt-to-income ratio.

Add a contract contingency. Whether you’re buying or selling, try to add a contingency to your contract that lines up the closing dates to bridge the in-between period. This isn’t always possible, as it depends on the market and whether the buyer/seller is willing to agree to an extended or reduced period of time.

Know the markets. Research prices in the areas where you’re buying and selling. Does the market favour buyers or sellers? This is the best way to decide which move to make first. As a rule of thumb, you want to sell first in a buyers’ market and do the contrary in one that favours sellers.

Consider rental revenue. Research the rental market in your area and calculate the cost versus profit ratio of renting out your home to tenants, rather than selling it. It could be financially advantageous, and real estate could be a great way to diversify your investment portfolio.

Find more information online at rbc.com/home.

www.newscanada.com

Your first home may not be your forever home

Your first home may not be your forever homeHome ownership is a goal for most of us, and millennials appear to be the most optimistic group. According to an RBC poll, two in five millennials said they intend to buy a home in the next two years. But the cost of home ownership and things like regulatory changes can make saving for a downpayment more difficult and, for many, put the dream of home ownership out of reach.

Sometimes, however, first-time buyers may not be looking at all their options. A little flexibility and compromise can help make ownership more accessible when considering the following:

Begin with a starter home. Few people spend 50 years in one home these days. Think about your lifestyle for the next five to 10 years and make a decision based on that. Your dream home in your dream neighbourhood may still be yours, just a bit later in your life.

Get a renter. Could you afford the home you want if you rented out part of it? Many people create a basement apartment or rent out a second bedroom as a way to offset their mortgage payments.

Consider co-ownership. Buying a property with family or friends is a great way to get your foot in the door. Discuss options with your mortgage specialist and be sure to establish a solid contractual agreement that will help avoid or mediate any future disagreements when selling the property, renegotiating terms or buying each other out.

Be realistic. Don’t expect perfection. Every home has some issues and you may have to compromise or decide what you can and can’t live with. What is a permanent feature versus something that’s an easy aesthetic fix? Set your priorities, but be realistic and flexible.

Be patient. Style your home slowly and resist the temptation to furnish it from top to bottom the day after you move in. Get creative with chic but less expensive, gently used furniture or pieces that may not last a lifetime but will save you money today.

Find more information online at rbc.com/home.

www.newscanada.com

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.

www.newscanada.com

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.

www.newscanada.com

Deciding who to hire for your renovation

Deciding who to hire for your renovationYou’ve been planning your home renovation for months, attended all the home shows and spent countless hours online looking at inspiration boards and photos. You’ve also interviewed numerous contractors, checked their references and received written price quotes from those you are interested in hiring. Now it’s time to decide who will be doing the job.

Once you have met with the contractors who are bidding on your job, you should review each set of bid documents carefully. Compare every aspect of their bids — the description of the work, specifications (materials and products), price and allowances, deposit and payment milestones, project schedule and any additional recommendations or ideas.

While overall price is important, it is only one factor. Many homeowners who have successfully completed major home renovations speak about the importance of peace of mind and working with a renovator they trust and feel confident in.

If you have a particularly strong sense of confidence in one of the renovators, they are probably your best choice, even if their price is not the lowest. In the end, you should choose the renovator based on your sense of the overall value they can provide.

If any prospective contractors suggest they can offer a better price if you pay them in cash and skip the paperwork, you should eliminate them from further consideration. They are essentially saying they cheat on their taxes and lie to the government, and you shouldn’t expect they will treat you any better. You may also be implicated in future audits.

Before you hire a contractor, get informed. 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.

www.newscanada.com

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.

www.newscanada.com

Questions every homeowner should ask about their property

Questions every homeowner should ask about their propertyDid you know that homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and replacement of service lines on their property when they fail? The costs associated with digging up, repairing or replacing service lines can run into thousands of dollars. More than that, any damages to trees, shrubs and driveways due to repairs must be paid out-of-pocket by homeowners.

Alarmingly, many homeowners are not aware that service line failures — including water, sewer, septic, electrical and telecommunications lines — are not covered by most home insurance policies.

“Every homeowner needs to be knowledgeable on what they’re covered for and what they’re not,” advises Isabelle Bientz, insurance expert from Aviva. “Most service lines run underground, making it easy to forget the importance of getting them checked for repairs. A lot of homeowners are also not aware that they own the outdoor service lines from their property line to their house, and behind their house to a well, septic tank or out-building.”

Before the unexpected break, leak, tear, rupture or collapse occurs, homeowners need to ask themselves these questions about their service lines:

1. How old are your pipes? The average lifespan of water pipes is 25 years, but the average age of pipes in many areas in Canada is over 50 years old, and several municipalities have water systems of comparable age. Knowing the age of your own water pipes will help you determine whether they’re due for a repair or replacement.

2. What are your pipes made of? Depending on what your pipes are made of, the life expectancy will differ. It’s important that you check the material of your sewer and water pipes in order to make an educated assessment, or consult an expert to see when they’re due for a repair or in need of a replacement.

3. Do you have mature trees near your property? If you own a home with mature trees on or near your property, the roots could cause serious damage to your service lines. Clay pipes, which are most commonly used to build water and sewer lines in older homes, can be easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. If you suspect a tree root problem, contact a professional to investigate before the situation worsens.

Not sure if you need coverage for your service lines? Find more information from your insurance broker or online at www.avivacanada.com.

www.newscanada.com

5 Key Things to Know When Buying a Home

5 key things to know when buying a homeIn Canada, most of us put off searching for a new home until the spring or summer, when the snow has long melted away. But purchasing real estate in the winter can be a smart move since the market is often cooler and there’s less competition from other buyers. If you do decide to buy this winter, here are some tips from the Ontario Real Estate Association to keep in mind.

1. List your priorities. Before you start searching, write up a list of things that truly matter to you in a home, so you can be sure to get what you want and avoid getting sidetracked with features that may be impractical. Things like public transportation, cultural diversity, entertainment hubs and space for a home office can be deciding factors depending on your unique needs and preferences.

2. Start with an expert. While DIY is a great option for many tasks, finding your dream home is not one of them. Real estate transactions can be complex and often involve lawyers, bankers and surveyors. A Realtor is an expert in matching people to their ideal residences and can help you navigate the process from start to finish. Your Buyer Representation Agreement outlines the details of the relationship with your Realtor.

3. Scope out the neighbourhood. You will want some serious intel on the area you’re going to be calling home. Take some time to explore the neighbourhood — walk the streets, strike up conversations with passersby, eat at local restaurants and check out community amenities like parks and recreation centres. If you have kids, be sure to visit the local school.

4. Get pre-approved. You don’t want to wait until you find the perfect place to make an appointment with your bank to know if you can afford it. Before you book any viewings, schedule a visit with your mortgage broker to get pre-approved for a mortgage and set a realistic housing budget that you can manage.

5. Blend emotion with logic. Our emotions can sometimes play a big role in deciding whether something feels right. Although it’s important that your new home inspire positive feelings, ensure you are making a smart, well thought-out decision. Get an inspection, verify the list price, and ensure your offer is fair and reasonable for the current market.

Find more information at www.orea.com.

www.newscanada.com

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.

www.newscanada.com