Love It Or Leave It?
Valentine's Day presents an opportunity to cherish the people you hold near and dear, but what about the thing that truly keeps you warm at night… your own home?
What do you appreciate most about your house? If you can't come up with a list of "Top 10 Reasons Why I Love My House", then maybe it's time to make a list of what you DO want in a home, then make some time for us to review it together and see if there's a better fit for you in today's market.
While quality of the neighborhood and convenience to employment are important factors in today's purchasing decision, your new home itself must also fit your specific needs. For example, families with children need room to grow, and quality of the school district and proximity to schools, parks and recreational facilities will also rank high on their lists. At the other end of the spectrum, families whose children have grown up and moved on may be happier with a smaller home requiring less upkeep, or may be looking for a different layout – less stairs in the house or even a condo, for example – or closer proximity to health facilities. Affordability, of course, is important for every age group and housing type.
If you're ready to split from your current home and find one that better suits your needs, please call today to find out how to get back on the market!
While you can't control the economy, you can make choices in buying and maintaining a home that will help ensure it retains value and sells more quickly even in a slow market.
As always, choose your location carefully. Homes in good locations are always in demand, even when markets are slow. What makes for a good location? A safe, low-crime neighborhood in which properties are well maintained, proximity to good schools, public transit and/or major transportation routes, and amenities like shopping and essential services.
Don't buy the most expensive home in the area. When markets soften, the disparity in price between the most expensive home and comparable homes will be even more apparent (and off-putting) to buyers. As well, buyers are even more likely, when markets are soft, to pass over a more expensive property in favor of a less costly home that's in a better neighborhood.
Don't over-improve. High-end upgrades like chef's kitchens can be difficult to sell to the average buyer at any time, but especially when the market takes a downturn. If you want to improve your home, the savvy move would be to stick to renos that appeal to the greatest possible number of buyers, like modernizing outdated kitchens or adding a second or third bathroom.
Stay on top of upkeep. It can be tempting to defer general repair and maintenance around the home, but doing so could really cost you, particularly in a slow real estate market. Like properties that boast a good location, homes that have been well maintained are always sought after – as such, they sell faster and for more money in markets both hot and cool.
"Retire" To Your First Home
Mention an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) and most young peoples' eyes glaze over, as retirement savings are usually the last thing they would consider putting money aside for early in their working lives. But if you know of someone who will eventually be in the market for a first home, you'll want to pass this article onto them as it highlights how a "retirement" vehicle can double as valuable down-payment assistance when the buyer needs it most.
Under the Home Buyers' Plan, a couple may withdraw up to $25,000 each from their RRSPs for a downpayment on their first home, with the stipulation that they repay the money back into their RRSPs over the subsequent 15 years. The RRSP withdrawal money provides a higher down-payment, allowing the couple to qualify for their first home sooner, have lower mortgage payments and possibly even avoid paying CMHC mortgage insurance fees if their down-payment is large enough. First-time buyers may also qualify for a government "First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit" and "Land Transfer Tax Rebate".
First-time homeowners would be wise to place "learn about first-time buyer benefits" high on their list of New Year's resolutions! Remember, there's never any obligation for calling with your questions!
The Whole Nine Yards
The idyllic image most people have of a house includes a big backyard. But how big a yard do – or don't – you need? The following questions will get you thinking about your answer.
- Do you have, or are you planning to have kids? What about pets? Big backyards can accommodate entertainment like playground equipment, pools and trampolines and make for an ideal spot to let your dog run around. But you may not need a big yard if your home is of walking distance to parks, playgrounds and other recreational facilities, where your kids – and you – have greater opportunity to socialize.
- Do you have a green thumb? Big yards obviously offer more room for gardening and landscaping, as well as outdoor storage space for tools and supplies. But green thumbs can be accommodated in small yards, too, thanks to the growing trends of container and vertical gardening – so think twice before writing off that otherwise perfect house with the modest yard.
- Do you like to entertain? If so, your ideal backyard may include features like a deck, room for a barbeque, outdoor furniture, fire pit, pool, hot tub, or even an outdoor kitchen! To meet these needs, you'll want a generously sized yard.
- How much time do you have for maintenance? If the answer's "not much", a small yard may be just the ticket. But a big yard needn't scare you away from an otherwise great house; with some smart planning – planting native species; including more "hardscape" elements like rocks and paving stones – you can have a large and lowmaintenance yard.
Inspections are a crucial part of the homebuying process. Should the inspection results be less than perfect, don't panic. Here's why an imperfect inspection shouldn't send you running scared.
First, understand that no home is perfect. Even newly constructed homes often have flaws (which is why they, too, should be professionally inspected). A home can be perfect for you, in that it meets all your requirements, but no home will be in perfect physical condition, so be prepared for your inspector to find some fault. The nature of that fault is another matter, which leads us to another important point…
Inspectors don't just check out the big stuff, like a property's foundation, roof, and electrical and plumbing systems (problems in these areas may be justifiable cause to withdraw from a sale); they look for problems big and small. Minor issues like appliances that don't work or faucets where hot and cold are reversed, for example, will be noted by the inspector, but are easily remedied and shouldn't frighten you away from a home that otherwise matches your criteria.
Lastly, the wording on inspection reports can be rather technical and, to limit liability, exceedingly cautious; plus, some reports are little more than checklists wherein items are simply marked as being in good, fair, or poor condition. As a result, inspection reports can seem considerably scarier than they really are. This is why it's recommended buyers attend the inspection and shadow the inspector instead of just reading the report once the examination is finished – if you're present, the inspector can explain to you, in layman's terms, the exact nature of the problem and how severe it is – or isn't.
On The List
As a homebuyer, your "needs vs. wants" list is one of your most important documents. Here's how it can serve as a valuable tool at different stages of the home-buying process.
- Creating a "needs vs. wants" list helps you – and your real estate representative – figure out exactly what it is you're looking for in a property, thus narrowing the scope of your home search. Creating that list before you start shopping will save you (and your rep) a lot of time and energy, and make the process shorter and less stressful for you.
- During showings, your list can help prevent you from falling "in love" with (and, as a result, overpaying for) a home by keeping you focused on your priorities and providing objective criteria against which you can measure each property. Take a copy to each showing and use it as a literal checklist to help you remember and distinguish between properties.
- If you feel your home search has gotten off track (e.g. it's taking too long or the homes you're looking at are out of your price range), your "needs vs. wants" list can help you correct your course. You may simply need it to remind you of your home-buying goals, or you may need to reassess and revise your list.
- After signing a purchase agreement, it's not uncommon to get cold feet. Reviewing your "needs vs. wants" list can be helpful here too. Compare the property you've chosen with the list you've made – if this home satisfies all or most of your criteria, and if any compromises you made still make sense, you'll no doubt find yourself reassured in your decision.