Whether seeking solace, activity, schools, churches, or green space, every homebuyer looks for a different combination of attributes in a new community.  Choosing a neighbourhood that suits your needs and wants is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the home-buying process; your choice of environment will affect the way you experience your new home.  This is a very personal decision, influenced by countless unique factors colouring your own lives, but you should always keep the following in mind:

 

  1. If you’re considering buying a home in a community that is unfamiliar to you, get to know its lay-out, offerings, and ambiance.  Take some time to walk or drive through the neighbourhood, both during the day and at night, familiarizing yourself with the sights, sounds, and smells.

 

  1. What amenities does the neighbourhood have to offer?  Is public transportation readily accessible?  Are there schools, churches, parks, or grocery stores within reach?  Consider visiting schools in the area if you have children.

 

  1. What is the nature of the job market in the area?  Keep in mind that if area employers are producing more jobs, you can expect property values to increase, especially if the jobs offered fall within a higher salary bracket.

 

  1. Speak with the neighbours.  Ask questions.  They can offer you a wealth of information, from an inside perspective.

 

  1. How will you be affected by a new commute to work?  Drive the route between the new neighbourhood and your office during the appropriate times to gauge the volume of traffic you could expect to encounter, and the amount of time you’d need to put aside for daily travel.

 

  1. Contact local land-use and zoning officials to determine existing development plans or potential for development in the area.  A strong agenda for neighbourhood planning and local zoning will increase the value and draw of a neighbourhood.  Keep in mind that any large, tree-covered area may be a target for future development in popular communities.

 

  1. Determine whether financial resources have been put in place to support infrastructure projects in the area.  These construction projects might include building, replacing, or improving anything from schools to roads, and are usually part of a city or town’s long-term plan.  While disruptive, construction could also be a benefit to your experience of a community, influencing the long-term value of the area. 
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Buy or Sell First?

 

If you are considering looking for a new house, and are a current home-owner, then chances are you’re wondering what your strategy should be:  do you wait to find the perfect new home before you put your current home on the market, or do you sell first and then look around?  You have a few options.  Use the following as a guide to explore what might be the best move for you.

 

Sell First:

 

There are several benefits to selling your current house before searching for your next home.  First of all, once you have sold your house, you will know precisely how much money you have to work with.  With a concrete price range, you’ll be able to narrow the pool of houses before you begin looking, and negotiate accordingly.  This will allow you to immediately make firm offers on houses that you are serious about purchasing.  You can be first in line with an unconditional offer you know you can afford, and this will grant even further negotiating leverage as Sellers tend to take unconditional offers more seriously.  When they counter or turn down an offer that’s conditional on the sale of a home, they usually think the Buyer will come back with a better and more firm offer once they have sold their current home.  However, if you make an unconditional offer, the Seller will usually give you more consideration, as they realize you’re probably looking at other properties and will move on if your offer is rejected.  Likewise, if you have already sold you house, you probably do have a wider opportunity to look around, negotiate, and find the best deal and fit for you and your family.

 

The flip side of this scenario, however, is that if you don’t find the right property before the closing date of the house you’ve already sold, you may have to look for temporary housing until you do find what you’re looking for.

 

So, before you opt to sell first, you should determine whether you have alternate, temporary options, in case you have to move from your house before you’ve found a new one. How would you and your family deal with living in a transition home for an undetermined period of time?

 

 

Buy First:

 

Buying a new house without having sold your current home may occur if you are interested in a specific property and will only sell your current home if this property comes on the market.  It may be a matter of timing—grabbing hold of the home before it’s too late.  The same might be said of a property you haven’t had you eye on previously, but that catches your attention due to its uniqueness or unbelievable price.  If buying first means you don’t miss out on the real estate opportunity of a lifetime, it may be the best move.

 

However, be careful. If you buy another property and aren’t able to sell your current home quickly enough, you could end up having to finance both homes and shoulder the extra debt until you sell.  You can get a financial appraisal or market evaluation of a home prior to selling, but this doesn’t guarantee the price you’ll ultimately receive for the home after the negotiation process has run its course.  Since your selling price will be an unknown, jumping into a purchase could be a gamble, particularly if your budget is tight. 

 

Make sure you’re familiar with all aspects of the financial reality this scenario would create before you purchase another home.  You may be faced with owning two homes at once.  What type of financial stress would this bring to your life and how would you deal with it?  Consider the fact that if your current house doesn’t sell quickly enough, you may be forced to sell it off at a reduced price in order align the closing dates of your two properties.  What effect would this have on your financial situation?

 

Conditional Offer:

 

An additional option involves making your offer to purchase conditional upon the sale of your current property within a specified period.  Conditional offers usually include a clause that allows for the Sellers to keep their property on the market and remain open to other offers while you try to sell your home.  If the Sellers receive another attractive offer before you’ve sold your home, they may accept and ask you to either remove your condition and firm up your offer, or to back down from the offer.  A conditional offer forms a kind of middle ground, an area of compromise, for those who are afraid to sell or buy first—but doesn’t hold the advantages of the other two options.

 

One of the drawbacks of the conditional offer is that Sellers tend to take them less seriously.  They definitely give stronger consideration to firm offers.  This leaves you with less negotiating power.  In fact, some Sellers will simply turn down or counter a conditional offer.  Other Sellers will believe the Buyer will come back with a more serious offer when their home has sold.  So, you may end up having to increase your offer in order to have your conditional offer accepted and keep your foot in the door of your desired house. 

 

Even if your conditional offer is accepted, there is no guarantee another Buyer won’t step in and overthrow your offer before you have sold your current home, which would put you back at the starting line.  Also, consider the fact that you cannot withdraw your conditional offer until the end of the period specified in the contract—which means that if a better deal comes along, you will have to wait to jump at it. 

 

 

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Benefits of Using a Realtor to Sell your Home

 

Selling your home is a complex process that can be stressful and time-consuming.  An experienced Realtor has the knowledge, skills, and connections to help you through the process every step of the way.  Consider the following benefits of working with a Realtor:

 

Professional Experience:

 

With knowledge and training in marketing strategy, negotiation tactics, and the workings of the current real estate market, a Realtor will be able to guide you through the steps of the home-selling process and be able to explain exactly what to expect.  S/he will make you aware of your rights and responsibilities, work with you to strategize the best moves according to your own goals, discuss financing options, and point you in the direction of other specialized professionals who will aid you in different stages of the process.

 

Best Price:

 

Realtors have their fingers on the pulse of the current real estate market, and will know what comparable properties in your area are selling for.  They have the resources and knowledge to establish the best asking price and to attract the highest selling price.  With access to their company’s professional marketing resources and connections, they will ensure potential buyers are immediately made aware of your home and market the property to sell as quickly as possible and for the most money.

 

“Showcasing” Experience:

 

Your Realtor will know the importance of a property’s first impression.  S/he will have experienced first-hand, for example, the impact a property’s “drive-up appeal” has on the rest of a potential Buyer’s experience of your home.  Your Realtor will be able to offer you tips and information on how to get your home in the best selling shape possible, in order to sell your property quickly and for top dollar.

 

Access to Qualified Buyers:

 

Realtors save time and effort by dealing only with qualified buyers.  They have access to a pool of pre-screened and pre-qualified buyers who are serious about buying a home in your neighbourhood.  Realtors work hard to develop this base of qualified buyers which will become an invaluable resource for you.

 

Negotiation Skills:

 

Realtors serve many functions, but perhaps the most important is their role as primary negotiator on your behalf.  Your Realtor realizes your goal is to sell your home as quickly as possible, and for the most money possible, and will work closely with you during the negotiation process to facilitate this goal.  Realtors bring to the process the knowledge and skills to draw up legally binding contracts, to assist in negotiating offers and counter-offers, and to offer counsel and perspective as you work toward your selling goals.

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Tips for the Moving Process

 

It’s official:  you’ve signed the papers, dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s—you own a new home!  You’ve almost reached the end of your journey.  However, now, faced with the daunting task of moving, it may seem as though the journey has just begun.  Moving can be a time-consuming and stressful experience if you let yourself be overwhelmed by the job.  Remember, though, having a successful move means taking care of the details, one by one.  If you break the process down into steps and arrange your time accordingly, you can make it manageable.  Use the following checklist to ensure you’re covering all the bases, and you will be well on your way to a successful move!

 

Household

 

  • Arrange to have your mail forwarded to your new address.
  • Forward or cease all deliveries to your home, and forward or cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
  • Disconnect or take care of utility, cable and phone services and accounts.
  • Arrange for utilities to be connected at your new house.
  • Cancel pre-authorized bill payments.
  • Begin going through closets and discarding any unnecessary items.

 

Packing

 

  • Plan your packing.  Start by purchasing or acquiring suitable containers.  Most moving companies have specialized containers you can buy.  Also, speak with others who have recently moved—they may be looking to get rid of boxes.  You’ll need the following:  small boxes for heavy items (books, tools, etc.); large boxes for bulky items (bedding, stuffed toys, etc.); medium boxes for bulky but less heavy items (towels, small appliances, etc.).
  • Begin to collect other packing materials.  Decide which items you’ll need from the following checklist:

-White paper

-Tissue paper

-Paper towels

-Newspapers

-Non-printed paper

-Packing tape or twine to seal boxes and containers

-Scissors

-Labels and stickers (available from your moving company)

-Felt marker to label boxes

-Notebook and pen for listing contents

  • Set goals and deadlines for yourself.  Aim, for example, to pack one room per week. 
  • Attach a list of contents to each box.  Separate and label boxes to be placed in storage.
  • Consider holding a garage sale to rid yourself of excess belongings.
  • Begin to use up the food in your pantry and freezer.  Let the food you already have dictate your menus.
  • Have rugs cleaned that are to be moved, then roll and wrap them.
  • Make special arrangements for the moving of plants or pets.
  • Collect all personal items from local services (dry cleaning, storage, photos).
  • Service all appliances you are taking with you.  Note that all gas appliances must be emptied, as it is illegal for movers to carry flammable substances.
  • Take inventory of all the boxes, and contents of the boxes, you have packed.
  • Have your car serviced and tuned up.

 

Community

 

  • Return library books.
  • Clean out your locker at any club you are leaving.
  • Determine how to transfer your children to a new school.
  • Return items you’ve borrowed to friends, and collect any you’ve lent.
  • Mail or e-mail change of address notices to family members, friends, and office contacts.

 

Records

 

  • If needed, transfer medical and dental records, and fill prescriptions.
  • Change the address on your driver’s license.
  • Change the billing address for credit cards.
  • Change the address for banking statements.
  • Leave a record of security codes for new tenants.

 

Insurance and Legal Matters

 

  • If you are currently renting a house or apartment, give written notice to the landlord, generally 30 days in advance of the day your rent is due.  
  • Notify your insurance company well in advance of the move and ask them to review your policy. 
  • Transfer insurance to your new home, or acquire new insurance.
  • Review your moving company’s insurance policy.  If it doesn’t cover as much as you’d like it to, obtain your own.

 

  • Your lawyer’s office will contact you a few days before completion to attend their office to sign the transfer documents for your sale.  Ensure the cash required to complete your purchase is available for use as you will need a bank draft or certified funds a few days in advance of your completion date.   Your lawyer will advise you on how much you will need to bring in to complete your purchase and when. 

 

  • Make sure to retrieve any keys you have left with family and neighbours to transfer to your realtor upon completion of your sale.

 

  • Leave your home clean, free of personal items, removing all garbage from the premises.    Leave only the items you agreed to leave as part of your sale contract. 
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Buying or Selling Real Estate is probably one of the most important and potentially rewarding financial transaction you will make in your life.  So it is a good idea to consider the kind of relationship you might be entering into with a Realtor*.  The more you know the more satisfied you will be with the results.

 

Dedicated Buyer Agency

Dedicated Seller Agency

Dual Agency

No Agency

 

 

 

 

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“Drive-Up Appeal”:  Get your Property Ready to Show

 

When preparing your property to show, work your way from the outside in.  It is essential that your home possess a certain “drive-up appeal.”  Remember, a potential buyer’s first impression of your house is formed while s/he is still sitting in the realtor’s car.  So, first you need to view your house from this perspective.  Go stand on the opposite curb and observe your property.  Compare it to surrounding properties.  Concentrate on the following three areas:

 

Landscaping:

 

How does your landscaping measure up compared to the rest of the neigh"Drbourhood?  If you guess it would rate below-average, make a few adjustments.  You might want to consider buying some bushes and planting them around the property.  Do not buy trees, however—mature trees are expensive, so you will not see a return on your investment.  And immature trees don’t tend to significantly improve the immediate appearance of your home. 

 

If the problem with your yard isn’t a case of too little greenery, but rather too much, get out the pruning shears.  The purpose of landscaping is to complement the home, not hide it.  Overgrown shrubs should be sheared to a height near the bottom of the windows.  Remove any ivy clinging to the side of the house.  Tree limbs should be high enough that you’re able to walk beneath.  Trim any branches that bar the way.

 

Your lawn should be freshly cut and watered, and an even colour.  If there are brown spots, make sure you begin to remedy this well in advance of putting the house on the market.  You may want to re-sod areas, and you need to make sure these spots are given enough time to grow, so they will match the existing lawn.  Also, if you decide to use fertilizer, you’ll want to allow enough time for it to take effect.  Rake up any leaves or grass cuttings.

 

Planting a few flowers is an easy way to add colour and vibrancy to your yard, enhancing the first impression of your home.  Invest in a full flat of mature, colourful flowers, such as petunias or periwinkles, which last the length of the growing season.  Do not buy bulbs or seeds—they won’t necessarily grow enough by the time you begin showing to achieve the desired effect.  If you don’t have an area in which to plant flowers, consider purchasing a few flower pots for your porch and planting flowers or blooming plants.

 

If you have a pool, keep it sparkling and leaf-free.

 

House Exterior:

 

When you view your house from across the street, does it appear weathered or faded?  If so, it’s probably time to treat it to a fresh coat of paint.  This is usually a sound investment; new paint can do wonders to increase a home’s perceived value.

 

Stay away from unusual or loud colours.  The new colour should fit in with surrounding houses, and complement the style and structure of your house.

 

Examine the roof closely.  Old or leaking roofs should be replaced.  If there are leaks, you’ll have to disclose this detail to the homebuyer anyway, and they will want it replaced.  If there isn’t any apparent damage, however, wait for word from the home inspector before making repairs.

 

The Front Door and Porch:

 

The front door and surrounding area should look particularly fresh and welcoming, as this will be the buyer’s first up-close impression as they enter the house.  If you paint nothing else, at least give the door a new coat.  Replace the doorbell if it is broken and polish the door fixture until it gleams.  Wash the mail box.  Keep the porch swept and buy a new plush door mat.  All of these little things will contribute to the overall effect of a well cared-for and welcoming home.

 

Ensure the lock works smoothly and the key fits properly.  When a homebuyer visits your house, the Realtor will open the front door with a key.  You don’t want the buyers’ first experience to be of waiting on the doorstep while the Realtor fumbles with the lock.

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The Best Asking Price for your Home           

Setting a realistic price for your home that reflects current market values will help sell your home quickly and for top dollar.  When you price your home properly, you increase the chances that the offer you receive will nearly match your asking price, and that there will be competing offers—which may net you even more in the long run. 

 

Your property has the best chance of selling within its first seven weeks on the market.  And, studies indicate that the longer a property stays on the market, the less it will ultimately sell for.  A property priced 10 % more than its market value is significantly less likely to sell within this window than a property priced close to its actual market value.  About three-quarters of homes on the market today are 5-10 % overpriced.  Sellers will usually over-price their homes by this margin if, either, they firmly believe the home is worth more than what the market indicates, or if they want to leave room for negotiation.  Either way, if you choose to over-price your home by this amount, you run the risk of increasing the amount of time your home spends on the market, and decreasing the amount of money you’ll ultimately receive. 

 

At the other end of the selling spectrum are houses that are priced below a fair market value.  Under-pricing often occurs when the owner is interested in a quick sell.  You can bargain on these homes attracting multiple offers and ultimately selling quickly at—or above—the asking price.

 

The knowledge and skills of an experienced Realtor will be invaluable when determining an appropriate asking price.  It is the job of your Realtor to know the current market and market trends inside and out, to be closely connected to the real estate market at large, and to be aware of other properties currently for sale in your particular area.  Based on this range of connections and knowledge, your Realtor should counsel you on how to price your home properly in order to attract the highest price possible, in the shortest period of time.

 

Before approaching this process, you should first do some homework yourself.  You’ll need to know the workings of the current market before you even begin to think about setting an asking price.  The market will always influence a property’s value, regardless of the state of a home, or its desirability.  Here are the types of market conditions and how they may affect you:

 

  1. Seller’s Market:

 

A Seller’s market is considered a “hot” market.  This type of market is created when demand is greater than supply—that is, when the number of Buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market.  As a result, these homes usually sell very quickly, and there are often multiple offers.  Many homes will sell above the asking price.

 

  1. Buyer’s Market:

 

A Buyer’s market is a slower market.  This type of market occurs when supply is greater than demand, the number of homes exceeding the number of Buyers.  Properties are more likely to stay on the market for a longer period of time.  Fewer offers will come in, and with less frequency.  Prices may even decline during this period.  Buyers will have more selection and flexibility in terms of negotiating toward a lower price.  Even if your initial offered price is too low, Sellers will be more likely to come back with a counter-offer. 

 

  1. Balanced Market:

 

In a balanced market, supply equals demand, the number of homes on the market roughly equal to the number of Buyers.  When a market is balanced there aren’t any concrete rules guiding whether a Buyer should make an offer at the higher end of his/her range, or the lower end.  Prices will be stable, and homes will sell within a reasonable period of time.  Buyers will have a decent number of homes to choose from, so Sellers may encounter some competition for offers on their home, or none at all.

 

Remember, a Realtor is trained to provide clients with this information about the market, helping you make the most informed decision possible.  The right Realtor will guide you through the ups and downs of the market and keep you up-to-date with the types of changes you might expect. 

 

Evaluate your house in the other main areas that affect market value:

 

  1. Location:

 

The proximity of your home to amenities, such as schools, parks, public transportation, and stores will affect its status on the market.  Also, the quality of neighbourhood planning, and future plans for development and zoning will influence a home’s current market value, as well as the ways in which this value might change. 

 

  1. Property:

 

The age, size, layout, style, and quality of construction of your house will all affect the property’s market value, as well as the size, shape, seclusion and landscaping of the yard.

 

  1. Condition of the Home:

 

This includes the general condition of your home’s main systems, such as the furnace, central air, electrical system, etc., as well as the appearance and condition of the fixtures, the floor plan of the house, and its first appearances.

 

  1. Comparable Properties:

 

Ask your Realtor to prepare you a general market analysis of your neighbourhood, so you can determine a range of value for your property.  A market analysis will provide you with a market overview and give you a glimpse at what other similar properties have been selling for in the area.

 

  1. Market Conditions/ Economy:

The market value of your home is additionally affected by the number of homes currently on the market, the number of people looking to buy property, current mortgage rates, and the condition of the national and local economy.

 

 

  

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8 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

 

You’ve been saving for awhile, weighing your options, looking around casually.  Now you’ve finally decided to do it—you’re ready to buy a house.  The process of buying a new home can be incredibly exciting, yet stressful, all at once.  Where do you start?

 

It is essential you do your homework before you begin.  Learn from the experiences of others, do some research.  Of course, with so many details involved, slip-ups are inevitable.  But be careful:  learning from your mistakes may prove costly.  Use the following list of pitfalls as a guide to help you avoid the most common mistakes.

 

  1. Searching for houses without getting pre-approved by a lender:

 

Do not mistake pre-approval by a lender with pre-qualification.  Pre-qualification, the first step toward being pre-approved, will point you in the right direction, giving you an idea of the price range of houses you can comfortably afford.  Pre-approval, however, means you become similar to a cash buyer, with only the  property you are wanting to buy having to meet the banks approval. This makes negotiations with the seller much easier. 

 

  1. Allowing “first impressions” to overly influence your decision:

 

The first impression of a home has been cited as the single most influential factor guiding many purchasers’ choice to buy.  Make a conscious decision before hand to examine a home as objectively as you can.  Don’t let the current owners’ style or lifestyle sway your judgment.  Beneath the bad décor or messy rooms, these homes may actually suit your needs and offer you a structurally sound base with which to work.  Likewise, don’t jump at a home simply because the walls are painted your favourite colour!  Make sure you thoroughly investigate the structure beneath the paint before you come to any serious decisions. 

 

  1. Failing to have the home inspected before you buy:

 

Buying a home is a major financial decision that is often made after having spent very little time on the property itself.  A home inspection performed by a competent company will help you enter the negotiation process with eyes wide open, offering you added reassurance that the choice you’re making is a sound one, or alerting you to underlying problems that could cost you significant money in both the short and long-run.  As your Realtor® I can suggest reputable home inspection companies for you to consider and will ensure the appropriate clause is entered into your contract.                                                                                                                                

 

  1. Not knowing and understanding your rights and obligations as listed in the Offer to Purchase:

 

Make it a priority to know your rights and obligations inside and out.  A lack of understanding about your obligations may, at the very least, cause friction between yourself and the people with whom you are about to enter the contract.  Wrong assumptions, poorly written/ incomprehensible/ missing clauses, or a lack of awareness of how the clauses apply to the purchase, could also contribute to increased costs.  These problems may even lead to a void contract.  So, take the time to go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb, making use of the resources and knowledge offered by your Realtor® and lawyer or notary. With their assistance, ensure you thoroughly understand every component of the contract, and are able to fulfill your contractual obligations.

 

  1. Making an offer based on the asking price, not the market value:

 

Ask your Realtor® for a current Comparative Market Analysis.  This will provide you with the information necessary to gauge the market value of a home, and will help you avoid over-paying.  What have other similar homes sold for in the area and how long were they on the market?  What is the difference between their asking and selling prices?  Is the home you’re looking at under-priced, over-priced, or fair value?  The seller receives a Comparative Market Analysis before deciding upon an asking price, so make sure you have all the same information at your fingertips.

 

  1. Failing to familiarize yourself with the neighbourhood before buying:

 

Check out the neighbourhood you’re considering, and ask around.  What amenities does the area have to offer?  Are there schools, churches, parks, or grocery stores within reach?  Consider visiting schools in the area if you have children.  How will you be affected by a new commute to work?  Are there infrastructure projects in development?  All of these factors will influence the way you experience your new home, so ensure you’re well-acquainted with the surrounding area before purchasing.

 

  1. Not looking for home insurance until you are about to move:

 

If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be rushed to find an insurance policy that’s the ideal fit for you.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to shop around in order to get the best policy for your needs.  Usually this is a condition of your offer to purchase and will need to be investigated prior to your subject removal and after you have your building inspection done on the property as many of the questions from your insurance company can be answered by reviewing the inspection report.

 

  1. Not recognizing different styles and strategies of negotiation:

 

Many buyers think that the way to negotiate their way to a fair price is by offering low.  However, in reality this strategy may actually result in the seller becoming more inflexible, polarizing negotiations.  Employ the knowledge and skills of an experienced Realtor®.  She or he will know what strategies of negotiation will prove most effective for your particular situation. 

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