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Archive for the ‘Selling a Home’ Category

Why Selling in Winter is a Smart Move

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Just because your house in covered in snow and ice doesn’t mean you need to wait for spring to put it on the market.

In fact, some real estate experts believe the December-through-March months actually pay off when selling your home because at least one study by an online brokerage firm suggests that’s when sellers net more above asking and that’s also when houses move more quickly. The reason? Buyers trudging through frost and snow piled knee-high are motivated. They are looking at houses during the deep freeze because they have to. It’s as simple as that.

With fewer homes on the market in winter, your house could become a hot commodity, particularly if it’s in a desirable neighbourhood or if it has good bones and features today’s home buyers want.

Another big advantage to selling in winter is that the outdoor maintenance on your house is much reduced. With the exception of shoveling snow and keeping walkways clear and slip-free, you save time on the grass cutting and weed pulling typically done in spring and summer.

Be sure to keep pathways, stairs and driveways clear of snow and ice. Nothing is more off putting to a potential buyer than having to slip, slide and slog through ice and snow. If need be, make sure you scrape up the ice especially in areas where potential buyers might walk. Be sure to clear a path in snow banks and snow drifts that form due to shoveling and plowing. So whether they’re parking on your driveway or on the street try to clear an area so they can step out of their vehicle easily. You don’t want to annoy house hunters by forcing them to climb over a three-foot mound of snow.

It’s a good idea to warm up your home during viewings. While setting your thermostat above 20 degrees C might seem wasteful and not the most eco-friendly thing to do, keeping your space a degree or two warmer than usual is good practice for showings as buyers will enjoy the warmth and coziness of your home. If you have a fireplace, light it. That adds warmth and ambiance. Just be sure not to leave a wood fireplace unattended for too long.

Winter buyers will be especially on the watch for issues relating to heating so it’s a good idea to have your furnace and HVAC inspected. Be sure to change air filters and weather strip windows and doors. As heating costs will be on their minds, don’t leave signs around that your house is cold and drafty. For example, hide those piles of heavy blankets in your living room and tuck away that draft stopper you keep at the foot of your door.

Add a pop of colour to your home to compensate for the dull, gray days of winter. A seasonal wreath on your door or topiaries at your entrance can lend some excitement. Also ensure your windows are clean as the disappearance of summer foliage means your home is put under the glare of winter sunlight which shows every mark, fingerprint and scuff.

Sources: www.time.com, www.thebalance.com, www.realtor.com

Why Condos Are Having a Moment

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Condos often fit the bill where other housing is either too large, too expensive, too far from the action and often, for many, too much work.

That the Toronto condo market is having a moment right now makes sense. With an average selling price of just over $500,000, condos are a very affordable option for buyers seeking to own their own living space.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), approximately half of those hunting for a house in the city are comprised of first-time home buyers. It can be assumed then that these buyers are typically younger and, as such, possess less money and earnings to carry a single-family home in the million-dollar range. Condos are the perfect entry point to owning real estate in Toronto. As you pay off your mortgage, the value of your investment goes up, allowing you to eventually use your increased capital to buy a larger home or perhaps fund a vacation home or some other such comfort.

The average selling price for condos in the city was $510,206 in the third quarter of 2017, up by nearly 23 per cent compared to the average price of $415,894 that condos sold for during the same period a year earlier.

“The condominium apartment market segment has exhibited the strongest average rates of price growth since the spring, relative to other major market segments,” says TREB president Tim Syrianos. “Competition between buyers remains strong, as listings remain below last year’s very constrained levels.”

Syrianos also touched on the fact that the condominium apartment housing market is not protected from the ravages of a listings shortage. And this factor is also likely driving the condo market.

According to TREB, there were 5,684 condominium apartment sales reported through the MLS system in the third quarter of 2017. This was down from 7,991 sales reported during the same period in 2016.

New condominium apartment listings were also down on a year-over-year basis by 10 per cent to 9,845 in the third quarter of 2017 compared to 10,967 in 2016.

A consumer poll taken for TREB by Ipsos last spring indicated more interest in buying condos.

“Condominium apartments will likely account for a greater share of home sales as we move forward,” says Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis. “With this in mind, it is not surprising that we have continued to see robust price growth, as demand has remained strong relative to available listings.”

As with any type of housing, there are issues with these vertical homes, but if you’re looking for a space that is centrally located, low-maintenance and affordable, condos can’t be beat.

See Freeman Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – Condos to learn more about our condo listings.

How Technology Helps Green Our Homes

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

There’s no doubt that when historians look back on this time it will be deemed the Age of Technology or some such name that indicates the era as a whirlwind of rapidly changing automation.

Perhaps nowhere is that revolution more evident than in our homes with how technology has served to make them warmer yet more eco-friendly. Let’s take a look at some of the tech advances that are helping green our homes:

Temperature-Controlled Living

Saving us money and time, but perhaps most importantly, saving our planet from environmental ruin are home automation systems that allow you to cool or warm your home remotely. What’s unique about smart thermostats is that technology allows you to be eco-smart so that you are not heating or cooling a space when you’re not there. Sync these thermostats with your iPhone so that your habits are remembered. Some tech companies allow you to use your smartphone to link your temperature controls with your lighting for added savings. Just think: no more fiddling with tricky timers or leaving lights on at all hours to fool people into thinking you’re home. With this technology, you can easily control the timer from anywhere with a simple click.

Tiny Bubbles

While laundering your clothes will never be a snap, there are smart washing machines now that don’t guzzle energy like their predecessors. Equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, these machines also allow you to use your smartphone to detect any issues that crop up with your washer.

Ditch the Dryer

While that is much easier said than done, dryer chugs through an inordinate amount of energy that rivals your washer, dishwasher and refrigerator combined. Try using folding racks to hang and air dry your laundry or simply hang clothes such as shirts from hangers. Or consider hanging half your laundry and machine drying the other half. Just be sure to air dry the heavier items and let the lighter loads in the machine, which will cut down drying time.

Skip to the Loo

Dual-flush toilets are all the rage and with good reason. Instead of flushing away six gallons of water with each flush, dual-flush toilets only use up either.8 or 1.6 gallons. Let’s say a family of three each uses the toilet five times a day. If they are using an older style toilet then they are flushing nearly 100 gallons of water down the drain each and every day. Dual-flush toilets allow you to select the level of water required for each flush. Another great technological advancement is the toilet that uses gray water from your bath and shower in order to flush.

Eco Padding Your House

While spray polyurethane foam insulation is a workhorse of a product in terms of helping keep homes draft free and temperature controlled, environmentalists don’t look too kindly on it for its greening properties. Soybean-based spray foam is a good alternative as it does not contain the chemical (MDI or diphenyl diisocyanate) that causes off-gassing. Castor-oil based lcynene is also a good option. Cotton denim batting is a good green insulation, though it can be expensive to install and not nearly as easy as foam. Similarly, sheep’s wool is a good eco-friendly alternative, but like denim, it is not as easy to install.

Sources: Mother Earth News, Better Homes & Gardens, Organic 4 Greenlivings, Eco Building Pulse, Green High Five

Move over Toronto, Vancouver has you beat

Friday, December 1st, 2017

When it comes to a city as great as Toronto it’s easy to have a little hubris. And with that, its inhabitants are sometimes accused of the short-sighted belief that the city is the centre of the universe.

And while on some level that may hold true, it doesn’t when it comes to house prices. In fact, a recent study by Century 21 Canada shows that seven out the country’s 10 most expensive neighbourhoods belong to our friends out west in and around Metro Vancouver.

Downtown Toronto made the number three spot on the list, while Oakville placed fifth and Richmond Hill, tenth. All the remaining seven spots belong to our friends in Vancouver.

The study measured price-per-square-foot (PPSF) for typical homes in cities and towns across Canada. Using information from Century 21’s independently owned and operated franchise offices, the study gathered information on house prices in the years 1997, 2006 and 2017.

Downtown Montreal ranked as the 12th most expensive neighbourhood, while Victoria was 18th, Saskatoon placed 31st, and Ottawa was 41st.

According to the study, Oakville leads the pack when it comes to escalating house prices, outstripping every other Canadian area. The price for a detached home in Oakville in 1997 was $105.77 PPSF. By this year, that number had ballooned to $627.33, a 493 per cent jump in 20 years. After Oakville, downtown Montreal is the community that claims the second fastest PPSF house growth with hikes in that city of 468 per cent over the same time period.

The data also showed that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were the only provinces to experience falling prices in the past decade. Windsor followed by Moncton and Halifax came in at the least expensive cities in which to buy.

A house in Vancouver’s west side is priced at $1210 PPSF. Downtown Vancouver has a PPSF of $962.75. Downtown Toronto comes in with $818.86 PPSF. West Vancouver is at $816.61 PPSF. And Oakville comes in at $627.33.

If you think Canada’s numbers are high, take a look at other countries. The average PPSF in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong is over $3500. This number is 3.5 times pricier than Beijing, which is deemed the second-most expensive city with a PPSF of just over $1000. Shanghai comes in third with $955.39.

Lowest price on the list?  Maricaibo-Zuila in Venezuela at an average PPSF of $10.17.


Pros & Cons of Owning versus Renting a Water Heater

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

When making a significant purchase the decision to rent or to own can be an easy one. Own or rent your house? If you live in Canada, most people would say it’s better to own. How about a car? Again, many would say owning is the better option, unless, of course, you use your vehicle for work. You may want to lease it then.

In Ontario, most of us rent our water heaters, paying in the neighbourhood of $15 to $30 per month. According to Rob Engen of the Toronto Star, most Ontarians rent their water heaters, while most Albertans buy theirs. Why? It’s force of habit.

The top argument for buying your own water heater is that over time you end up paying less than if you rent yours indefinitely. Let’s say you spend $1600 to buy and install your own water heater. The average lifespan is about 15 years, so providing nothing goes wrong with the water heater, you are paying $8.88 per month to own that appliance.

According to Direct Energy, a water heater requires servicing every five years.  And parts and labour can escalate, costing several hundred dollars. But know what repairs and breakdowns to water heaters aren’t all that commonplace.

Even if your water heater leaks and creates damage to your home, rest assured that your house insurance policy will cover the repairs.

According to Hoerner Heating & Plumbing, the beauty of owning your own heater means you can make the switch to a tankless water heater, which thanks to its on-demand system, will save you money in energy costs. At $4000 to $45000, they are at least double the cost of conventional tanks, yet they are more efficient as they provide households with an infinite supply of hot water.

The other benefit is that a tankless heater has about double the lifespan of a conventional one. Finally, a tankless system means more space in your home as these heaters are tiny compared to the tank size of a standard hot water heater.

Companies that are in the business of renting water heaters naturally offer numerous arguments in their favour. They say the advantages range from a rental fee that is affordable, same-day service, no charge for parts and labour and peace of mind.

What you decide on will depend also on how long you plan to live in your home. If it’s only for a few years, renting your heater might be a better choice. If you intend to stay longer, you can finance the appliance so your payments are the same as a rental fee.  Either way, be sure to take the time to read rental plans and compare contracts. If you’re thinking of buying, talk to an experience plumber.

Sources: www.torontostar.com, www.hoerner.ca, www.yellowpages.ca

Are New Mortgage Rules Overkill?

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

It’s about to get tougher to qualify for a mortgage thanks to new rules recently proposed by Canada’s federal banking regulator.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is taking aim at uninsured mortgages or those who have down payments of 20 per cent or more. The regulator wants to see stress tests for those borrowers similar to what is happening in the insured market.

That would mean buyers now need to qualify based on the highest posted five-year fixed rate, which is a rate of 4.64 per cent, about two per cent higher than the rate offered by most lenders.

Since buyers will have to qualify for a higher interest rate under this new proposal that means their purchasing power will diminish some estimate by as much as 20 per cent because they won’t be able to borrow as much as before.

But is extending tougher mortgage rules to all borrowers the right tact to take? Or is this another heavy-handed measure that will pop another air hole in the housing market and possibly flatten the wider economy?

This would definitely be a more controversial policy change than those made in the past, says Toronto mortgage broker David Larock. It impacts the borrowers with large down payments who don’t need mortgage default insurance, and that’s a large swath of the market. It’s starting to seem like our regulators are going to keep making changes until they put our real estate markets on their backs.

The new rule not only affects home buyers but also home owners looking to refinance.

About four out of five Canadian mortgages are conventional, uninsured loans with the big six banks holding 32 percentage points of that total. Credit unions have eight percentage points and six percentage points are held by small to medium-sized institutions, including mortgage investment corporations.

The proposal comes following a move by Ottawa last year to require that all insured mortgages undergo a stress test to establish if borrowers could make their payments in the event of such changes as a job loss or interest rate hike. The move is Ottawa’s response to the growing debt of Canadian households, the highest among G7 countries.

Expect the new rule to be in place by next spring at the latest.

Under One Million: New GTA Benchmark

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

What goes up must inevitably come down and for the first time in months the average sale price in Toronto did just that with detached homes dipping in July to below $1 million.

That figure is notable for more than just psychological reasons. With price tags below a million dollars, the real estate market is open to more consumers and that’s good news for everyone.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), August figures show the average detached home in the GTA sold for $972,212. That’s down from $1,000,336 at the end of July.  The average price in August has fallen about $230,000 or 19 per cent since the market’s peak in March.

It’s widely believed the provincial government’s new housing rules introduced in April put the brakes on the city’s red-hot real estate market, controls some believe were necessary to calm out-of-control housing prices.

While the price drop is great news for buyers, TREB says the market in the GTA is expected to post a record year nevertheless. According to TREB, the average sale price of a detached home in July was $996,970, which is still a 13.3 per cent hike over house prices from one year ago.

Says TREB’s board president Mark McLean:  As we move towards a new record for home sales this year, it is important to point out that home ownership demand has been driven not only by low borrowing costs, but also by the fact that the greater Toronto area economy has been performing quite well, with the unemployment rate lower compared to last year.

The under one million figure is an average that combines house sales numbers from across the GTA. If you’re looking at detached homes strictly in Toronto you are likely still paying in the seven-figure range. Based on TREB figures from August, single-family homes there still average about $1.2 million, though that figure is down considerably from March when it hit a peak of $1.56 million.

The $1 million mark is significant because of changes introduced in 2014 which excluded government-backed mortgages on homes sold for more than seven figures. The ban targeted hot real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver.


Green Ways to Control Outdoor Pests

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Summertime can’t be beat for backyard barbecues, enjoying the cottage and tending to your lawn and garden. But that’s not to say that summer doesn’t come without its challenges and perhaps one of the most annoying are pesky pests.

To be fair, most lawn and garden insects are beneficial with some naturalists claiming that fewer than two per cent are considered harmful. In fact, many insects, including ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps will actually keep harmful insects from devouring your lawn and will also help to pollinate your plants. But it’s that two per cent that can wreak havoc on your plants, flowers and grass, making your best gardening efforts a big waste of time and money.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to handle unwanted pests without hurting beneficial insects and the world in which we live.

If your lawn is victim to a small infestation of unwanted bugs, you can try picking them off by hand. If that sounds unbearable, you can try homemade garlic and pepper sprays. You can also try insecticidal soap on pests.

Traps are another good eco-friendly option. The kind that allow an insect to enter and not leave are best for wasps and other bugs. Place insect traps around the periphery of your property so that the pests are taken out of commission before they’ve chewed up your grass and plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis or more commonly named BT is a naturally occurring soil bacteria ideal for controlling cabbageworm, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, tomato hornworm and other leaf eating caterpillars.

To control beetles and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of already minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans. Different bugs are susceptible to different extents (even beetles differ somewhat), so check before buying.

To identify a grub problem in your lawn, look for brown patches. If you’re still uncertain, dig up a bit of sod near the brown patch. If you see more than ten grubs per square foot, you should take action. Below that, there’s no need.

Use beneficial nematodes, which are tiny worms that feed on the larval, or grub, stage of the beetle. It takes a few weeks for nematodes to establish themselves in the soil and to parasitize their grub hosts, so it’s best to apply them before the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Be sure to carefully read the instructions for applying nematodes. Since they are living things they can also die. Follow the directions otherwise your time and money will be wasted.


Toronto’s Housing Looking Up Again

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The dip in Toronto’s housing market is expected to bounce back soon, says the federal housing agency.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) says the city’s current decline will be short-lived and real estate prices will pick up again as demand returns. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, prices in the city fell from an average of $919,589 in April to $793,915 in June; however, the CMHC expects a rise in prices again due to a strong economy and a lack of housing supply.

Toronto’s red-hot real estate market was curbed in the spring when the Ontario government introduced measures designed to cool an overheated market. Included in the measures was a controversial 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers.

The CMHC said similar taxes imposed against foreign buyers in Vancouver worked to calm the market there by reducing the number of foreign buyers. However, the Vancouver market has since picked up again.

“The response we’re seeing in the Toronto market seems almost emotional and a knee-jerk reaction to some of the changes, which suggests that these impacts will be short-lived,” Dana Senagama, CMHC’s principal market analyst for Toronto, told the Canadian Press.

The province’s measures also include more rent controls and legislation that allows municipalities to tax vacant homes.

“If job creation continues in Toronto … and the economy continues to fuel the housing demand, we can expect some of the pressures on house prices in Toronto to resume,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.

In the CMHC’s recently released housing market assessment, the agency ranked its overall risk rating for the national housing market at strong. The quarterly report is based on information collected from the first quarter of 2017.

Staging Your Home

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Staging your house for a quick and lucrative sale might sound like a daunting and expensive task but there are ways to do so that don’t break the bank or test your patience.

Here’s how:

Curb appeal

Enhance your house’s outside appearance by making sure all is clean and tidy. Wash your front windows, power wash siding and walkways, make sure your lawn is trimmed, weed flower beds and sweep up fallen debris. If your porch needs freshening give it a lick of paint or stain. These simple efforts will help lure in potential buyers.

Welcome visitors

Keep your porch lights on at night. Make sure your doormat is clean and keep an arrangement of blooming flowers or pretty plants by the entrance. Don’t clutter your entrance with too many pieces of outdoor furniture. Select a few nice pieces and arrange them artfully.

Elbow grease

A clean home is a happy home and potential buyers will be thankful for your efforts. This is one of the most inexpensive ways to prepare your home for staging. Clean and polish floors, scrub grout, remove cobwebs from corners and make sure the bathrooms gleam.

Clear the clutter

This is also fairly inexpensive but it is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. You’re used to living the way you do and that may mean jam-packed countertops and closets loaded to the brim. Get rid of unnecessary and unsightly things. Potential buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your space and your mess makes that more difficult.

Rearrange the deck chairs

Is your furniture inviting or oddly laid out? Use symmetry to balance it. Pairs of chairs, lamps, even sofas work well at creating a cozy conversation area. Use sophisticated neutral shades to paint walls and pull your furnishings together. This also applies to bedrooms and bathrooms. And don’t forget to add different types of lighting, ambient, task and accent.

Clean out your closets

Clear out excess junk so that closets and storage areas have some open and unused space. Store stuff outside your home if you have to. The point is to make your space lived in, but not too lived in.

Kids and pets

Don’t leave toys strewn around because that looks messy. Find a good storage bin that you can tuck away under a bed or in a corner or closet. Same goes for pet toys. Also be sure to tackle pet odors by cleaning carpets and kitty litter.

Spare rooms

It’s not unusual to have a spare bedroom or other room that becomes a catch-all for household odds and sods. Transform the room into something usable by adding an armchair and a table or turn it into a yoga studio. Giving the room a purpose will add value to your home.

Add natural colour

Fresh flowers, plants and clippings from your lilac tree or forsythia add splashes of colour. You can bring nature indoors in the fall and winter, too, with fall foliage and a poinsettia.

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.