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A Foreclosure Ain’t What it Used to Be

September 29th, 2016 by freemanrealty

At one time in Canada finding a power of sale or foreclosed property could provide deep discounts for buyers wanting to pick up real estate for the cost of a car. Okay, not always quite the cost of a car, but certainly bargain- basement prices.

On the heels of the 2008 financial crisis, Americans were losing their shirts in the real estate market. Homes were going for much less than the mortgages people held on them so what did they do? They walked away. Some left behind big palatial houses, while others were more modest. Either way, at the height of the housing crisis streets were lined with vacant homes and the only run on anything was for plywood used to board up windows.

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But that saying that from tragedy comes triumph certainly applies to those who snapped up foreclosure sales in the U.S. for a song. And plenty did. But foreclosure sales south of the border are quite different than in Canada. There, foreclosed homes need only collect the amount that’s outstanding on the loan and buyers stand to make sweet deals at cut-rate prices.

Selling real estate far below what it’s worth won’t cut it in Canada. That’s because lenders are mandated to sell power-of-sale properties for fair market value following strict guidelines that prove the foreclosed building is being sold for a fair and reasonable price.

Buyers of foreclosed properties in Canada bear more of the burden because these homes are sold as is, with no warranty or representation. That means you get what you see so hidden deficiencies, chattels such as appliances and issues around encroachments or land surveys all fall on your back. While these issues can happen with any purchase, a buyer can list these items as conditions in the offer to purchase, which pushes the responsibility back onto the seller. Ensuring all appliances are in working order, disclosing the home’s serious defects and allowing the buyer the time to obtain home inspections and reports that check for encroachment and building codes then become the responsibility of the seller.

While there’s no guarantee, foreclosed homes are often in sub-standard shape in terms of coming with appliances, fixtures and other items you might expect in a regular home purchase. Often this is because the when homeowners are alerted that their lender is foreclosing on their home, angry homeowners sometimes respond by damaging the home and taking everything with them.

The courts typically give the foreclosed homeowner six months to repay the loan and reclaim their property. Sometimes, though, a home will go on the market in that time so the new buyer could be left high and dry if the original owner pays up.

That power of sale you’ve been thinking about isn’t as appealing as you may have thought. Unless you’re buying south of the border, you may be better off purchasing a fixer-upper that’s been on the market for a long time.

Smaller Families = Smaller Homes

September 14th, 2016 by freemanrealty

The 1950s might have been a good decade for traditional families comprising a mom, a dad and, let’s say, two or three children.

But today, the family that gathers around the kitchen table comprises a diverse make-up of individuals that include common-law couples, a stepfamily, gay couples, single parents, and a household with grown kids and grandparents, according to the 2011 census.

It’s perhaps no surprise that families have grown smaller.  In 1961, the average family size was 3.9. In 2011, that number shrank a full percentage point to 2.9. In fact, the most typical family in the census was a couple with no kids, which represented 44.5 per cent of Canadian families.

This may surprise you but did you know one of the fastest growing family sizes are those Canadians that live alone? One-person households comprise 27.6 per cent of all homes. The census showed that there are more people living alone in Canada than there are couples with children.

So what does the country’s shrinking family size mean for real estate? Believe it or not, but in the early 2000s, Canadians lived in some of the world’s biggest dwellings, even though the typical family size was one of the world’s smallest. Those monster homes of the 1990s will ultimately fade away or exist only for the very wealthy. House sizes are getting smaller and less elaborate. According to the National Post, the post-2008 U.S. housing crisis resulted in the elimination of mud rooms, home theatres and outdoor living rooms. In Canada, builders are witnessing the slow demise of walk-in closets and hobby rooms. Living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens have morphed into great rooms. And, unless you’re Donald Trump, forget large landings and grand sweeping staircases.

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McGill architecture professor Avi Friedman told the newspaper that homebuyers are physically and psychologically ready to live in smaller spaces. He predicts more growth in condo towers and row houses. And as baby boomers retire, moving out of their larger suburban dwellings, he foresees apartments, duplexes and laneway houses in their place.

According to the Toronto Star, Vancouver is the leader in Canada with more than 1,000 downsized laneway homes, many of which are located where unattractive garages one stood. The building concept, which was approved by Vancouver in 2009, allows for smaller homes to be built on pre-existing lots, typically in backyards. They are named laneway houses because they open onto back lanes.

In Vancouver, where single-family house prices have skyrocketed well beyond affordability, the city receives 50 new applications each month for laneway houses, says the National Post.

While laneway houses are a tougher sell in Toronto, proponents believe this form of small-scale housing is an affordable means to help people live near transit.

Prepare Your Home for Winter Savings

September 9th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Now is the time when we slowly begin to close up shop on our lawns and gardens, and start to prepare for winter’s big chill. But given the warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing, it may seem more like the start of summer as opposed to the end.

Still, as we wait for the show of fall colours and the leaves to drop, there are still plenty of chores we can tackle in anticipation of winter.  And with the rising costs of energy, let’s focus our attention on those jobs that help use conserve energy and trim costs.

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 Weather stripping should be installed now. If yours is old, bent and/or loosened replace it with new material. Double-pane windows may not need weather stripping but if you feel cool air coming in, head down to the nearest hardware store.

Seal cracks and crevices in which mice can enter. Now is the time to inspect your home’s exterior and foundation. Look for openings large and small and be sure to cover them properly. Use a strong screening material or hardware cloth to cover exterior vents. Consider installing door sweeps to prevent pesky bugs and critters from invading your residence and preventing warm air from escaping.

Clean and install storm windows. They will help you prevent warm inside from escaping outdoors and they are a good deal less expensive than installing brand new double- and triple-pane windows.

Inspect your furnace and chimney. If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with hire a professional. Chimney fires can be especially dangerous so don’t give in to temptation on a chilly night before have your fireplace checked and, if needed, cleaned.

Dress up your windows with heavier window treatments. Thicker fabrics and materials will help your home retain its heat and save on your heating bills. Consider layering curtains over your blinds or swapping out lighter window coverings for heavier materials.

Install a programmable thermostat. These help you save on heating and cooling because the thermostat can be set to automatically change your home’s temperature, allowing temperatures to reduce when you’re not home or sleeping

Host a yard sale. Take advantage of the milder temps to rid your home of unwanted clutter. You likely won’t earn boatloads of money, but you will free up space in your home and garage and recycle once-loved items. If you are so inspired, get your neighbours in on the action and hold a mass end-of-summer lawn sale.

Earlier this year the province of Ontario announced a new program to help Ontarians improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The province is investing $100 million from the Ontario Green Investment Fund to provide rebates for home owners who conduct an energy audit on their property and then complete retrofits recommended by the auditor. See http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/saving-energy-for-home/energy-saving-rebates-and-resources/ for more info.

In addition, many of Ontario’s electricity and natural gas utilities also offer incentives to help you save energy and save money on your electricity bill. Contact your local electricity or natural gas provider to learn more.

Falling For Fall

September 8th, 2016 by freemanrealty

You’d have to be living the life of a hermit to not know that when it comes to buying and selling residential real estate the spring market is a fierce one.

There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps the largest of which is that most families want to move into their new home by summer. But September and October can also be great markets and a prime time to sell or buy a home. Here are the reasons why:

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The Beauty of Autumn – They say spring is the optimum time to show off your house thanks to springtime blooms but we beg to differ. At no other time is our landscape a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colour than in fall. Rust, gold, red, green, orange are nature’s way of giving back and transforming neighbourhoods into picture-perfect communities. In many ways, the show of colour is evocative of fall’s many pleasures – fires, crisp cooler temperatures, warm sweaters, football and brandy.

The Rascals are Occupied – We’re referring to school-aged children, of course. There’s a fair bit involved whether buying or selling a home and having children to contend with only makes it more complicated. A lot can be done while they’re occupied at school or with extracurricular activities.

The Living is Easy –While fall has its fair share of festivities and holidays what with Labour Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween, these celebrations aren’t too disruptive or intrusive such as, say, Christmas. So your day-to-day living is actually pretty normal. What better time than to sell or buy a home?

Less Competition – The bulk of sellers list their properties in the springtime so that means there’s less on the market if you’re thinking of selling during the fall. That puts you in the driver’s seat, especially given the crush of buyers clamouring for a home.

Move in Dates are Flexible – Many people buy in September and October with the hopes of being in their new home by the Holidays. Typically, though, sellers tend to be more flexible because they understand families don’t want to move on Christmas Eve so expect more wiggle room on dates and deadlines.

Motivated – Homeowners who list in fall are known to be more motivated. They are also more likely to negotiate a little more with buyers.

The Benefits of Mulch

August 23rd, 2016 by freemanrealty

Mulch, thanks to its many benefits for your soil and plants, can be a gardener’s best friend.

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Generally speaking, mulch is spread or laid on the surface of the soil as a type of covering. Its benefits are many, from retaining moisture in the soil to suppressing weeds to keeping the soil cool and improving the aesthetics of your flowers beds. If you use organic mulch, you also have the added benefit of improving the soil’s fertility as the mulch decomposes.

There are many different kinds of mulch — bark, wood chips, sawdust, hulls of cocoa, straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, crushed stone, gravel or volcanic rock, black plastic and landscape fabric all qualify as effective mulches for your garden.

Characteristics of good mulch are mulches that are economical, readily available, easy to apply and remove, one that stays in place, mulch that provides your soil with organic matter and one that is free of weeds, insects and diseases.

Summer or growing mulches are normally applied after the soil begins to warm in the spring. The primary roles of summer mulches are to warm the soil, reduce weed growth, and retain soil moisture.

Other considerations for selecting the right mulch include the type of location you are covering. Vegetable gardens or small fruit plantings suit black plastic and straw. The area around shrub beds and trees is well suited to mulch made from wood chips, bark and pine needles. Flower beds of annuals and perennials are best covered in finer mulches such as bark granules, wood shavings, cocoa shells and buckwheat hulls. In rock gardens, fine gravel or crushed stone look best and most natural.

As for what quantity to apply, it depends largely on your soil, how much rainfall you get, the type of mulch and the quantity of weeds your garden produces. Generally speaking, you’re safe to go with a three- to -four inch depth of mulch. If you have dry soil, be sure to water it before applying the mulch so those weeds pull out easier.

As for timing, you can lay mulch just about any time. Just be mindful that if you apply it in early spring the earth might be slower to warm up.

If you use mulch in winter, wait until the ground is frozen. Mulch could delay this process and cause roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damage them. Winter mulch is great for weed control and reducing the ravages of cold weather on your garden beds.

Sources: www.gardening.about.com, www.bhg.com, www.gardening.cornell.edu

The Right Way to Investigate a New Neighbourhood

August 19th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Your kitchen is too small and awkward for even the simplest of meals. Three kids and two adults fighting for a single bathroom put undue stress on your family’s morning routine. The neighbours regularly hold weekend jam sessions in their yard and not only do you hate the music you also work shifts.

These are all good reasons to think about moving. But a move comes with certain fears and apprehensions, a big one of which is wondering if you will like living in the new neighbourhood. Are there things about the neighbourhood that might affect the resale value of your home down the road? Will you enjoy the vibe?

Never fear because there are ways you can investigate a neighbourhood before signing on the dotted line. Here’s how:

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Question Potential New Neighbours – While that might seem a bit intrusive, so is spending your life’s savings on a house in a neighbourhood you don’t enjoy. So buck up and introduce yourself and tell them flat out why you’re investigating the neighbourhood. They’re bound to understand. Ask the neighbours if they know of any problem neighbours. Ask them their opinion of the neighbourhood. Do they know of people who have home businesses on the street such as a daycare that might impact noise levels or other businesses that might take up street parking? Ask them if they know of any other neighbours who might be considering selling their home. Who knows? That place may be even better.

Drop by at All Hours – Okay not really but you should see what your neighbourhood is like at different times of the day. Is your street noisy or quiet in the evening? Do cars use it as a thoroughfare during rush hour? It’s a good idea to visit the area on weekends too. If you can, also check it out in early morning.

Visit the Town Crier – Neighbourhood news might be available in a local newspaper or online blog or newsletter of some kind. Find out. Read up on the community and find out its stories, its highs and its lows.  Pay close attention to crime stories or reports of break ins and sexual assaults. Read the classified section if there is one. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot about a community thanks to the wide assortment of ads found usually at the back of the paper.

Find the Crimes – Last year, the Toronto Police Service unveiled a new tool for tracking crime throughout the city. The Toronto Police Service Maps and Data Portal provide an interactive map of the city and show a variety of major crime indicators for each week. The map includes information about such crimes as sexual assault, robbery, break and enters and auto theft, among others.

Schools – Whether you have kids or not, don’t underestimate the value of good schools. You may eventually have a family and you’ll want them to get a good education. But even if children aren’t in your plans, schools, especially good ones, add value to your home. There are plenty of websites on which to explore the best city schools.

There is nothing like living in a neighbourhood to get a real sense of what the community is all about. While that’s usually not possible, doing your homework before you move into a new neighbourhood is the next best thing.

 

Burglar Proofing Your Home

August 8th, 2016 by freemanrealty

August is often a favourite holiday month for cottagers and families looking to take a summer vacation outside of the city. Many homes will be left vacant this month so what better time than now to talk about home security.

There are countless gadgets and gizmos available from those within the home security industry. They are usually costly and sometimes vexing but security equipment can include video surveillance cameras, wireless alarms and infrared motion sensors.

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Fortunately, Toronto is a relatively safe city. In fact, the rate of break and enters in the city declined in 2015 and hasn’t grown at all in the first half of 2016, according to Toronto Police Service crime statistics.

Still, it pays to play it smart and there are some simple, relatively easy and economical ways to help protect your family and secure your home.

  1. Cover Up – Install window and door coverings that make it hard for someone to peek inside. The shades, blinds or curtains should let some light in so that at night the house looks occupied.
  2. Lights On, Lights Off – Pretend there is someone living in your house by using timers that will turn TVs, lights and radios on and off.
  3. Control Outdoor Lights – Nothing says we’re not home more than a porch light that’s been left on all night long. Install infrared or motion-controlled lighting.
  4. Prune It – Shrubs, trees and plants that block your front door and window makes for a great hiding space for thieves. Get rid of them and create a more open setting.
  5. Never Leave a Tip – Giving out info about your whereabouts on your answering machine is simply looking for trouble. Also, never leave notes for friends, family or service people on your door. Who knows who’s reading them? And never announce on social media how charming your Lake Rosseau cottage is.
  6. Garages and sheds – They may not be as big as your house but they certainly contain valuables. Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home so burglars are prevented from seeing items they find attractive. It’s a good idea to lock up expensive grills and bicycles separately with a chain and padlock.
  7. A Clean Sweep – Get neighbours or friends to pick up flyers, newspapers and mail. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign you’re away.
  8. Tell the Neighbours – Let your neighbours know that you’re going away. It never hurts to have another set of eyes keeping watch.
  9. Spare key – If you’ve thought of a clever hiding spot, likely so has the robber. You’re better to leave it with a neighbour.

Install Window Stops — These prevent windows from being opened more than six inches — perfect for ventilation, but not for a criminal who wants to slip inside.

Fake Your Trash — Intruders have been known to watch on garbage days to see which houses aren’t putting out any trash. Ask a neighbour to occasionally put out your trash so it looks like you’re home.

Fake Your Signage — A “Beware of Dog” sign or a bowl and chain by your back door can be enough to scare off burglars. Also think about posting a sign that your home is protected by a security system, even if it’s not.

Sources: Bob VilaHGTV, Home – How Stuff Works

 

 

 

Roll Out the Barrel

August 4th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Given the hot and dry summer we’re experiencing, keeping your lawn and garden fresh, healthy and hydrated can be a costly and time-consuming chore.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. In fact, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, more than 40 per cent of residential drinking water goes to watering lawns and gardens. And while many of us know that using tap water is something of an environmental no-no, it’s hard not to turn on the tap when thirsty plants and flowers are crying for a drink.

Just know that your tap water didn’t get there easily. By the time it reaches your home, it’s been tested and treated and purified and distributed via a complex system of water treatment plants that treats more than one billion litres of potable water a day in Toronto alone.

You may want to think about using a rain barrel to capture and store rainwater since it’s one of the kindest things you can do for your wallet and the world. Here’s why:

  • Not only will you cut down on the quantity of water that undergoes costly and energy guzzling sewage treatment, you will also save on your water bill. The typical gardener can save 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season thanks to a rain barrel’s catch.
  • During a dry summer, a rain barrel allows you a water source during times of water restrictions or drought.
  • The pollutants from rainwater runoff increase the growth of algae in lakes, changing the habitat for fish and in extreme cases making bodies of water dangerous for recreational vehicles. Using a rain barrel helps reduce this runoff.
  • The use of rain barrels contributes to the prevention of erosion efforts. The runoff created by rain can be an issue where land erosion is a concern.
  • Your rain barrel water is one of the freshest and greenest ways to wash pets and your car.  Believe it or not, but rain water is free of salt and other chemicals found in municipally treated water.
  • Collecting rain water around your house helps reduce moisture so dampness, flooding and mold are reduced.
  • Rainwater is good for your plants and soil as it is highly oxygenated and free of the salts, inorganic ions, and fluoride compounds contained in tap water that accumulate in the soil over time and potentially harm plant roots. Rainwater dilutes this impact, making plants more drought-tolerant, healthy, and strong.
  • Keep in mind that the overflow from the rain barrel should be directed to a suitable discharge area. During winter months, remove and store your rain barrel to avoid freezing and breaking. After removing the rain barrel, add an extension to your downspout to ensure proper drainage away from your home.

You can purchase a rain barrel at just about any large home and garden supply store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

If you’ve been thinking about reducing your municipal water usage, you may want to gauge how much you use thanks to a city website that lets residents and businesses track their water use online. Log on today at www.toronto.ca/mywatertoronto

 

Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, Epoch Rain Barrels, City of Toronto

 

Window of Opportunity for You & Your Home

July 15th, 2016 by freemanrealty

If it’s true that windows are like the eyes of a house, then it’s time to take those peepers a little more seriously.

At Freeman Real Estate, we’re a bit obsessive about windows and eaves, so much so, in fact, that we’re offering a 20 per cent discount on window and eaves trough cleaning when services are purchased through Maple Window & Eaves Cleaning.Image result for cleaning windows

“Windows really lend character and aesthetics to a home,” says Elden Freeman, president of Freeman Real Estate.”And while their shape, size and colour all contributes to the overall appeal of a home’s exterior, one of the easiest and cheapest things a homeowner can do to improve the look of their house both inside and out is to clean their windows.”

The FreemanTeam, which comprises more than 30 full-time realtors, is sponsoring the discount offer, which expires July 31, 2016. Ranked number one for real estate services in midtown/downtown, according to sales data from the Toronto Real Estate Board, the acclaimed real estate team is co-headed by broker Daniel Freeman and broker of record Elden Freeman.

The family-run boutique realtor has been a fixture in Toronto real estate since 1972 and is part of an exclusive community as one of a small number of family-owned and operated brokerages in Toronto.

The FreemanTeam offers a different approach to the Toronto real estate market, specializing in the unique homes, character properties, and condo developments that make up the city’s downtown, midtown, and uptown areas.

The team’s style is distinctly urban in flavour, and its team of professionals are in tune with the diverse lifestyles and opportunities that make up Toronto’s most colourful communities in the core of Canada’s largest city.

Call 647-222-5678 or visit www.maplewindowcleaning.com to schedule an appointment. The discount is available only when doing both window and eaves trough cleaning to your home.

Brexit & Canadian Real Estate

July 13th, 2016 by freemanrealty

Instability in the UK in the wake of the recent Brexit vote could actually crank up the heat on Toronto’s real estate market, say experts.

The uncertainty in global markets thanks to England’s decision to leave the European Union could serve to fuel Canada’s red-hot housing market because interest rates will likely remain low, according to BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“In that event, the Fed will remain on ice even longer and Canadian rates will again probe all-time lows, keeping mortgage rates at an extremely low ebb and thus further fanning the flames in the domestic housing market,” said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter and senior economist Robert Kavcic.

The pair issued the warning in their latest report, which dealt with the various factors driving the out-of-control price increases in Vancouver and Toronto.

Brexit could be good news for those interested in investing.  According to Mortgage Broker News, there is a phenomenal amount of capital looking for commercial real estate and those foreign investors think an investment in Canadian real estate is a sure thing. Expect foreign investment in Vancouver and Toronto to continue.

As for how Brexit will impact mortgage rates, Toronto’s mortgage planner David Larock suspects the vote would not have any damaging effects on Canadian borrowers, at least not for the foreseeable future.

“Over the longer term, while the Brexit heightens global financial risks and raises the potential for increased volatility in financial markets, any related flare ups should trigger a capital flight to safety that would be expected to put downward pressure on our bond yields and therefore our mortgage rates,” the analyst wrote.

Given the state of Canada’s economy, which the Bank of Canada warned will push the country back into a recession in the second quarter, it’s very likely interest rates will remain at historically low levels.

“As we’ve grown to expect, rock bottom interest rates are expected to keep mortgage lenders busy for the foreseeable future,” wrote Sam Bourgi at www.canadianmortgages.ca

 

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.