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.

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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.

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Should you rent or buy a house for your student?

Should you rent or buy a house for your student?With high school students across the country deciding on their post-secondary education right now, where they will live while at school should play an important part in the decision. Given that more than two-thirds of post-secondary students plan to live away from home during their studies and parents often foot the bill, have you considered how much it will cost?

While many rent, some parents opt to invest by purchasing a home for their kids to live in while away. But when does this option make sense? According to Nicole Wells, vice-president of home equity finance at RBC, there are five questions you should ask yourself when deciding.

1. What is the market is like? The conversation will be different depending where the school is located. In a more urban market, prices may be high compared to smaller towns, where you might find a better deal. Is the market volatile or stable? Do your research first.

2. Do I want to be a landlord? If you’ll be renting to your kid’s roommates as well, make sure you look into the logistics and legalities of being a landlord. Are you prepared to handle the maintenance on the house? What if someone doesn’t pay their rent on time?

3. When do I plan to sell? Will you sell as soon as your child finishes school, or continue to rent it out? You may get more value by holding on to it as a rental unit. Being a university town, there likely won’t be a shortage of renters.

4. Who will benefit? Is this a short term play, or are you planning ahead for other siblings that might go to the same school? Think about holding onto the property for longer to gain more value and plan ahead.

5. Have I run the numbers? Calculate the break-even point and when you would see profit. Don’t forget to include “extras” such as maintenance, repairs, taxes and insurance. You also need to put yourself first and ensure you aren’t drawing on retirement savings that might put your future in jeopardy.

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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

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.

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Kids still living at home? Help them take the next step.

BetwKids still living at home? Help them take the next step.een a competitive economy and an expensive housing market, today’s young people are staying in the nest longer than ever before. In fact, more than a third of Canadian young adults live with their parents rather than alone or with a spouse or partner in their own household.

While this trend can offer certain benefits to parents and kids living under the same roof, there are positive ways you can encourage your children to take the next step in their lives and careers. Here are some ideas for parents of kids in post-secondary and beyond.

Create a realistic plan. Work together to set key goals and milestones that are achievable. For example, if their goal is to find a job, strategize on how to get the ball rolling. Career counselling available on campus or information interviews with professionals in their field are great places to start. If your son or daughter is hoping to move out, help him or her establish a budget and find ways to meet it. Even while still in university or college, a part-time job or on-campus research position can help.

Set clear house rules. You want to be your children’s parent, not their roommate. Set boundaries and responsibilities that help them understand exactly what goes into running a household, which will prepare them for when they do leave the nest. Decide who will purchase the groceries each week, set curfews and quiet hours, and establish what they need to do to contribute to certain expenses such as the Internet bill. Beyond doing their own laundry, make sure your kids are contributing to chores that benefit everyone in the household, like preparing dinner, shoveling snow or making repairs.

Encourage a working holiday or internship. Travelling and working abroad can help your child become more independent and confident while gaining international work experience that can be very valuable when they come back and start job hunting. A great resource to obtain work permits quicker and easier is International Experience Canada, a government program that allows youth ages 18 to 35 to travel and work abroad for up to two years in one of more than 30 partner countries and territories.

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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

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.

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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.

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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