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.

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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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