{ Create an Account }   { Login }   { Contact }

Archive for the ‘Featured Articles’ Category

Know Thy HELOC

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Know Thy HELOC

What makes Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) so attractive for so many is that these credit lines are so abundant, so cheap and so easy to get.

As house prices continue to rise, a HELOC can be a great option for cheap and easy money to fund home renovations, consolidate debt or pay for pricey post-secondary educations. But don’t approach these loans carelessly. There are still things to consider when borrowing against the equity in your home.

untitled

According to the Globe and Mail, for many Canadians, HELOCs have replaced credit cards as their number one source for borrowing. Outstanding balances on lines of credit hit $266-billion in March of 2015. According to Statistics Canada, they were just $35-billion in 2000 and $100-billion in 2005. Today, HELOCs comprise 59 per cent of Canadians’ non-mortgage personal debt.

Major banks generally offer home equity lines of up to 80 per cent of the equity in a home. And some lending thresholds automatically increase with each mortgage payment creating a growing credit source potential.

Credit counsellors caution that home equity lines of credit allow people to borrow sums far greater than ever before. And since most financial institutions require payment only on the interest of the credit lines, the principal can grow quickly over time.

They worry what will happen to debt-ridden Canadians should interest rates rise or if the economy goes south. Some say events far less catastrophic such as an illness or decline in the housing market could ruin highly indebted Canadians.

According to the CBC, homeowners could face big problems with interest rate hikes as the increases would apply to variable-rate lines of credit and mortgages. If interest rates jumped by two or three per cent, those who pay only interest on their lines of credit would see payments jump by a whopping 50 per cent.

More Pros of HELOCs:

  • The money is cheap cheap.
  • The money is flexible as you can borrow as much or as little of what you need up to your limit.
  • ou can pay off any time in full without penalty
  • – HELOCs offer the lowest possible payment and flexible payment plans, including an interest-only option.

Cons:

  • It’s easy to borrow more than you initially intended.
  • It’s much harder to switch a HELOC to another lender without paying legal fees.
  • HELOC rates are not fixed. They can always be arbitrarily increased by the lender, even if the prime rate doesn’t change.
  • Lenders can reduce your HELOC borrowing limit for any reason, even if you have a perfect repayment history. This may happen when you carry a large balance and continually rack up debt and/or make only small payments. It may happen more if home prices start falling or unemployment starts rising notably.
  • Title insurance fees can be higher on a HELOC than on a regular mortgage.
  • HELOCs are more difficult to transfer to a new property. It’s common to have to discharge or pay them off completely.
  • There can be a negative impact on your credit score if you borrow a large percentage of your approved HELOC limit.

 

 

Vacant Homes Hit All-Time High

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

You may have read the story about that vacant home in the city’s west end that’s been empty for more than 25 years. Neglect and suffering centre on that tale of woe but that’s not the kind of unoccupied homes we’re talking about here.

Newly released 2016 Census numbers from Statistics Canada show that 99,236 homes in Toronto are not regularly occupied. Again, that’s nearly 100,000 dwellings in the city that are left empty for the most part. These numbers are identified by the owners of the residences.

untitled

According to Better Dwelling, this represents 4.5 per cent of all homes in the city, and a 10.5 per cent change over the past 5 years. The general population grew by 4.5 per cent during the same period, which means this trend appears to be accelerating.

A large part of the city comes in with dwelling vacancies under five per cent. However, a few concentrated areas skewed up the numbers such as the Concord area of Vaughan, which showed unoccupied dwellings at 35.27 per cent.

The downtown averaged higher than the rest of the city. South of Bloor Street, east of Roncesvalles Ave. and west of Yonge Street showed an average of 8.79 per cent unoccupied. King St. West, also known as the fashion district, showed 21.81 per cent or 3,316 units not regularly occupied, while the stretch going up Yonge Street also had a higher than normal concentration compared to the rest of the city.

While you might think foreign buyers are responsible for the vacancies, remember that the numbers comes from census takers, who are Canadian residents and not offshore investors. Some believe owners are using their properties for short-term rental uses such as the type you might list with Airbnb or a pied-a-terre. Still others believe they are owned by speculators who are waiting for the right time to sell.

According to the Census released in February, Canada is home to 1.3 million temporarily unoccupied residences. That’s enough to house 3.2 million people. The Toronto numbers have tripled since the 2001 census. They are followed by Montreal and Vancouver.

But it is smaller cities, towns and rural areas that lay claim to having the most empty homes percentage-wise with St. John’s, Saskatoon, Halifax and St. Catharines leading the pack.

In 2015, Paris implemented a tax that has since tripled to 60 per cent on vacant dwellings. And last year, Vancouver issued an empty home tax aimed at making properties available for lease in a city that has near-zero vacancy rentals.

 

Foreign Ownership in the GTA

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Throughout history when a scapegoat can be conveniently blamed for something negative it’s human nature to point a finger. When that scapegoat is foreign, even better goes the thinking. Far-off culprits are much easier targets thanks to distance and unfamiliarity.

Could that thinking be behind the GTA’s high house prices?

untitled

It depends who you talk to. For some time, foreign investment in real estate has been blamed for the rising cost of housing in the Toronto real estate market. Fuelled in large part by the Vancouver market, offshore investors were slapped there last year with a 15 per cent tax. The result of which has been a big drop in foreign buying.

So the question is, is the same true of the GTA market? The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) recently released new research refuting that theory. The TREB information showed that fewer than five per cent of the 113,133 residential real estate transactions in 2016 involved foreign buyers. The data showed that more than half were buying homes for themselves or family members. According to a November Ipsos survey of TREB agents, about 25 per cent of the homes purchased by non-Canadians were rental investments.

Despite calls for a foreign buyer tax like the one in Vancouver, TREB believes such a move would be misguided. Should a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax be implemented in the GTA, TREB fears the move may hike real estate prices outside of the GTA, where the tax doesn’t exist. It also warns that such a tax could reduce the already limited supply of rental housing and discourage immigration to the GTA.

But not everyone buys the TREB findings. Some say the TREB figures are not a true picture of foreign ownership in the GTA because the numbers don’t account for new construction sales, which could up the figure from TREB’s estimate of 4.9 per cent by another five to 10 per cent.

The Vancouver tax seems to have worked. In January, sales were down about 40 per cent from the same time last year. But Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that the province will not follow British Columbia’s move to introduce a tax on foreign homebuyers.

Meanwhile, don’t look for price relief in the near future. TREB reported that the average home price in the GTA skyrocketed at the end of 2016. The average home price hit $730,472 in December, which is a 20 per cent increase compared to December 2015. Prices are estimated to rise again substantially in 2017 with hikes in the neighbourhood of 10 to 16 per cent.

 

5 Reasons Why Selling Early Means you’re a Wise Owl

Friday, February 10th, 2017
  1. Inventory, what inventory?

Your home will be the belle of the ball in the current market which is crying for stock. It’s pretty simple economics: when supply is low, with high demand, you are in the most enviable driver’s seat imaginable. Given the bevy of buyers on the market, competition for your house will be fierce. So worries about keeping your home ship-shape for weeks or months on end while strangers roam through need not concern you.

  1. Mortgage rates

Too bad there wasn’t a crystal ball that could tell us what was coming. For years, forecasters have been crying about a rise in interest rates and rightly so. They really don’t have much room to go the other way so up seems a likely option. The question is when? When rates rise it will impact consumers’ buying power. Putting your house on the market while rates are low is a smart move as more buyers will be attracted to your property than if rates rise a point or two. More interest means more competition and more competition usually always means more money for you.

untitled

  1. It’s urgent

You could say that about buyers in February and March. Who else wants to trudge through snow, ice and cold, bundling up and unbundling with each new viewing? Those are some determined purchasers. Maybe they’re the result of a job transfer or an inheritance. Who knows? Just know that they’re more motivated.

  1. It’s speedier

In wintertime, many of those who support the housing industry are not nearly as busy as at other times of the year. We’re talking about banks and lending institutions, mortgage brokers, lawyers, home inspectors, contractors, realtors, surveyors, architects. Finding the professional for the task or service you need will be easier and quicker now as, quite simply, they’re not as swamped.

  1. House prices go up, up and away

High demand and low inventory add up to one thing: higher housing prices. That’s good news if you’re selling. Since you likely plan to buy another home, though, it may be best to sell now so that you aren’t affected by rising house prices or mortgage rates. Waiting could cost you more.

 

Radon: An Invisible Menace

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The cold winter weather traps many of us inside our homes till the first sign of spring. And being inside all that time may lead you to wonder about the quality of your indoor air.

In Canada, radon gas is something of a concern. In 2014, the CBC obtained data that showed over 1,500 homes had radon levels above Health Canada’s safety guidelines following a testing of approximately 14,000 homes across the country.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It’s estimated that radon is responsible for 3,000 deaths in Canada each year.

Radon is a radioactive gas created in nature that seeps into poorly ventilated basements and crawl spaces. Radon is created by decaying uranium found in soil, rock and water. Because these three elements are found in the ground, they are more likely to leach into their first point of contact which would be cellars and crawl spaces.  Radon filters into a home through cracks in the foundation and gaps around pipes.

The scary thing about radon is that it’s invisible, odourless and tasteless. The only way to know for sure if you have it is to do a DIY test or call in a professional at your own expense.

According to the CBC, recommendations that the government help fund homeowners in need of testing and cleaning up their radon issue have not been addressed. Nor has a recommendation that homes undergo mandatory tests for radon levels as a condition of sale, as is the case in several American states.

Radon gas levels are measured in units known as the Becquerel (Bq). One Becquerel is described as one event of radiation emission per second and it is minute.

radiation_warning

The old Canadian standard considered 800 Bq per cubic metre to be a safe standard. But ten years ago following a push to tighten guidelines the federal government changed its standard to 200 Bq per cubic metre, the same level considered safe by Russia and China. The U.S. pegs its safe level at 150.

For more information or to learn more about testing for radon visit Health Canada.

Head over Heels about Real Estate

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

There’s good reason why buying real estate is considered such an emotional roller coaster of an experience.

It has something to do with the mechanics of the heart and how we respond to what we adore. Falling in love with a house or a neighbourhood happens all the time. It’s socially acceptable, expected even, to hear people talk about their affection for their home or the area in which they live.  Expressions of worship should be saved for big-ticket items that represent sentiment. When was the last time you heard someone say they became lovestruck by those blue bath towels or that vinyl siding stole their heart because it was the perfect shade of beige?

Exactly.

As we observe Valentine’s Day this month, we thought it would be apropos and fun to draw parallels between the worlds of real estate and love.

Falling in love with a house happens all the time and no one can fault you or prepare you for it. The feeling comes over you like a soft breeze of fresh air in spring. You’re smitten and everything about the house comes into focus. Imperfections start to fade and suddenly you’re getting a clear picture of the joy you will feel living there. From the dappled light filtering through the living room window to the subtle street noises to the home’s layout and sight lines, it’s perfect. Your heart rate picks up a little.

House hunting is a lot like dating. You keep trying one on until it fits. And realtors are in the enviable position of playing matchmaker, introducing clients to a number of possibilities until they find the right one.

To play matchmaker, real estate agents must possess a laundry list of traits that might include persistence, friendliness and a sense of humour. They also need to read people well so that begs the question are they superior at dating and finding a mate themselves? In the spirit of sweethearts everywhere, let’s look at what online dating website eHarmony has to say about the benefits of dating a realtor:

  • You’ll learn more about your city. Date a real estate agent, and you’ll get an education in thriving neighborhoods, up-and-coming areas to watch, zoning laws and gentrification.
  • Can’t handle awkwardness? Real estate agents depend on their people skills to survive financially. Invite a realtor to a dinner party, and he/she will bring out the charm.
  • Real estate agents are smart — and good at math. They’re always updating courses and intentionally learning more about their business and the neighborhoods they sell in.
  • No 9-to-5 here. If you’re also a freelancer, a real estate agent’s unconventional schedule might appeal to you. Sure, she might be busy tomorrow evening, but she might also be able to swing a weekday brunch.
  • For realtors, beauty is more than skin deep. They can see the potential in a property that others can’t.
  • He probably doesn’t live in his parents’ basement.
  • According to Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, “Every realtor is just a ninja with a blazer.”

 

 

Burglar Proofing Your Home

Monday, August 8th, 2016

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.

download

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

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

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 and Your Home

Friday, July 15th, 2016

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

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

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.