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Archive for the ‘Selling a Home’ Category

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.

Renovate or Relocate?

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Deciding if it’s time to renovate your home or buy a new one can be a hand-wringing exercise that has you changing your mind from one hour to the next.

Yo-yoing from one plan to another is not a great way to live but it means you’re open to options and that you’re carefully mulling over possible scenarios before taking the plunge either way.

There are a number of factors that should go into your decision to move on or remodel your current home. For starters, how emotionally attached are you to your neighbourhood? Can’t live without your neighbours? Think the area schools are the bomb? Feel a strong and abiding connection to your local dry cleaner, burger joint and chiropractor?

Typically, though, when families and possessions grow, elderly parents move in or working from home means it’s time to create an office space the decision to love it or list it comes down to cold hard cash. How much would a home reno cost versus purchasing a bigger or more suitable house?

According to Money Sense, contractors quote in the $90 to $225 per square foot range, though bathrooms, kitchens and additions involving your basement foundation can cost more. Plumbing, granite, new fixtures and appliances will push costs up while just dry walling your basement will bring the price down.

Unless you’re a wizard at design and architecture, you might want to consider hiring a professional to help you plan your renovation. They often see things you don’t. For example, your attic space. Is that usable, as-yet-untapped square footage? If you have an attic with open space and plenty of headroom building stairs to get to it might just be worth it.

Additions can reveal expensive surprises such as old knob-and-tube wiring so try to be as prepared as possible before the work begins. It’s also a good idea to have a contingency fund for unexpected work in the order of 25 per cent of your reno budget.

Also, be prepared to either move out and then back in or share your home with workers and trades people for some time. According to Realtor.com, a kitchen remodel can take three to six months. If ductwork, plumbing or wiring has to be addressed, it could take longer. A bathroom remodel can consume two or three months, while a room addition can require one or two months. Patience is clearly a virtue here.

Bear in mind that not all renovations are equal. Most upgrades do not pay for themselves in terms of higher resale value. Some do manage to recover 80 to 90 per cent of their costs while others only see a return on investment of 50 per cent.

Are you the type who can oversee a big renovation project? Does talking to architects and contractors intimidate you? You may not be suited for a home improvement.

Moving, on the other hand, can also be costly, especially given Toronto’s overheated prices. Realtor fees are about five to six per cent, while lawyer fees run about $1,200 to $1,500. Then there are the land transfer taxes plus actual moving costs.

One clear way to save money is by moving to a city or town in which house prices are considerably less than the GTA. Think Hamilton or Pickering.

Any which way you go, there is a sizable price to pay. Probably the best advice is to really know yourself and the needs of your family so you can determine the best and least disruptive path.

 

 

Are Home Inspections Worth It?

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

There was a time not too long ago when homes were bought and sold without the assistance of a professional home inspection. Your trustworthy and handy brother-in-law kicked the tires, so to speak, and his opinion was pretty much all that mattered.

Then all that changed in the ‘90s when home inspections became more and more common, to the point where the majority of Ontario resale home buyers (nearly 65 per cent) hire an inspector.  But Toronto’s red hot real estate market saw the trend change again as buyers skipped inspections to present clean, condition-free offers in an effort to win bidding wars. In this market, homes come with a pre-list home inspection obtained by the seller, which meant a significant drop in the number of home inspections overall.

There has been a good deal of controversy swirling around the profession. Critics say its lack of regulation means unqualified inspectors can set up shop and perform inspections with little expertise. And up until now, home buyers had little recourse if a problem was later discovered that a home inspector should have red flagged.

In April, the Ontario government finally passed a law that will impose new rules on the profession. The Putting Consumers First Act will require home inspectors to be licensed, carry insurance and abide by a code of ethics. The legislation will introduce minimum standards for home inspection reports, contracts and disclosures. Inspectors who breach the code of ethics could face fines of up to $25,000.

According to the Toronto Star, there are an estimated 1,500 home inspectors in Ontario charging between $350 and $600 for a home inspection.

So is spending a few hundred dollars for a home inspection worth it?

That depends.  Many believe it’s a relatively small investment given the cost of real estate. Home inspectors are especially useful for first-time home buyers, who know little about the process. A home inspection can help calm the nerves of a buyer who has no idea what shape the roof is in, where the water shutoff is or how to replace a furnace filter.

But if you’ve bought a few homes in your life, you can probably make due with a Seller Property Information Statement instead. Also known as an SPIS, these optional forms protect the seller down the road should the new owner try to pin a problem on the seller.  Filling one out also demonstrates to buyers that you’re being honest and open because you’re willing to disclose defects or issues.

The SPIS is a two-page document that covers questions regarding zoning, taxes and encroachments. Questions are asked about soil contamination, flooding, oil tanks and grow houses. Other questions focus on moisture problems, types of insulation and renovations or addition made to the house.

So get a home inspection if you’re new to real estate of feeling a bit leery about a property. If you know what to look for, skip the inspection and request an SPIS.

8 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Leave Your Home

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Leaving behind the family nest is never easy.

But there are circumstances when the need for a new nest becomes quite apparent. Let’s look at signs that it’s time for a move:

There’s no room

Space is tight and you’re practically tripping over each other. Simple everyday chores turn into a big production as you reorganize your possessions just so you can find a butter knife.   Maybe you’ve had another child or maybe dad has moved in, making space all that much more precious. It’s probably time for a bigger place.

Too much space

When you call your partner’s name do you hear an echo? As empty nesters, leaving behind the family home with its many years of memories is never easy. But when you think about the time, money and effort spent on maintaining a large, empty home, it seems kind of wasteful. Think about all the other activities and pastimes you could be enjoying by moving to a smaller home.

Better schools

It’s not uncommon for families to move into neighbourhoods that are known for having good schools. The education of children is high on the priority list for many households. If you think your son or daughter isn’t getting a top-grade education, then maybe it’s time to find a neighbourhood that’s known for its high marks.

Is your neighbourhood safe and sound?

Safety is of paramount concern so if you feel your neighbourhood falls short on this count, you might need to consider moving. Are your neighbours noisy and disruptive? Do dogs bark at all hours? Time to get out.

The suburbs

Lifelong city dwellers may find it hard to imagine, but sometimes a slower pace is welcome. You’re bound to get more real estate bang for your buck in the suburbs with comparably greater square footage and outdoor space in addition to a lower cost of living and increased safety.

Time to upgrade

Maybe you want an extra bathroom, more storage space, a newer kitchen or perhaps it’s amenities such as an in ground pool, bigger yard or garage that you’re after? Rather than renovate, it may actually be more practical to move.

Downsizing

Do your bills cause you grief? Are you tired of being short on cash in order to pay your mortgage, utility and repair bills? It might be time to move to a cheaper home. Just think of the things you can do the equity you’ve built up.

Shorter commute

Tired of long drives to and from work? Does your Monday to Friday routine feel like a miserable treadmill from which you can’t break free? You might want to think about moving closer to work. If your job prospects are good, why not consider a shorter commute.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

The Ontario government introduced a housing plan late last month that aims to protect home buyers and renters from being priced out of the turbo-charged Toronto real estate market.

The 16-point plan targets actions that are expected to cool the city’s overheated market with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help more people find affordable homes, increase supply, protect buyers and renters and bring stability to the real estate market.

Included in Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan is a 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax, similar to the one introduced last year in Vancouver. The tax in Ontario will be levied against all foreign-bought properties within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as they too have been affected by unprecedented price growth.

Home buyers should like the plan as it is expected to cool the housing market, which has experienced double-digit gains in the past few years. In April the average Toronto house price hit nearly $921,000, almost 25 per cent more than a year ago.

Renters may like it even more so as rent control will be expanded to buildings constructed after 1991, which were previously not covered by rules. Given the city’s tiny vacancy rate – 1.3 per cent, the lowest in 12 years — some landlords were commanding astronomically high rents, even doubling rents once a lease came due.

Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan includes additional measures, such as introducing a targeted $125-million, five-year program to encourage the construction of new purpose-built rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.

The government will also work to better understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market, such as “paper flipping” — a practice that includes  entering into a contractual agreement to buy a residential unit and assigning it to another person prior to closing.

The province is also introducing legislation that will allow Toronto and potentially other municipalities to introduce vacancy taxes.

The Fair Housing Plan will also include a new Housing Supply Team of dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.

Toronto: Home to World’s Fastest Growth in House Prices

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

 

Toronto is number one for many reasons. The New York Times deems it a first rate travel destination. It’s also pretty good on the scales of diversity and gender equality. And – no surprise here – it earns high marks as one of the best cities in the world to live.

That could be why it also is number one when it comes to having the world’s fastest pace of house price growth.

According to research conducted by analytics firm CoreLogic, Canada’s largest city beat out Sydney, New York, even Tokyo in terms of how quickly its house prices escalated last year.

According to the research which was carried out for The Daily Telegraph in Australia, Toronto’s median house price climbed 19 per cent in 2016, surpassing next-in-line Sydney at 18.4 per cent and third-place Vancouver, where house prices rose by 14 per cent.

According to the Huffington Post, the survey measures median house prices, which is a different measurement than the average figures used by real estate boards in Canada. And average prices show even stronger growth in the GTA with a year over year hike of nearly 28 per cent in February to almost $876,000.

Naturally, these figures are not sustainable. House prices will begin to slow. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) is forecasting slightly lower house prices over the next three years and the strong possibility of a market correction.

The FAO envisions a correction that could see house prices decline by 10 per cent within three years or a worst-case scenario of a 20 per cent drop, says the Huffington Post.

In its report, the FAO expects “a leveling out in residential investment over the next several years, consistent with a modest decline in housing prices,” but “a sharper housing price correction remains a significant risk, both for the economy and the province’s tax revenues.”

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.