Category Archives: Real Estate

This Tips To Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

Finding the right real estate agent for you is important. You need to be able to trust them, so it is crucial that your personality is well matched with theirs. Just because you see an agent’s “for sale” and “sold” signs throughout the neighbourhood doesn’t necessarily mean they are the “right” real estate agent for you.

When you are selling in a competitive market, you need to be working with someone who is anexpert in your area of focus. One of the best strategies for finding your agent, above and beyond word of mouth and referral, is to attend a prospective real estate agent’s open house. Here you can get a hands-on feel for how they operate and see if it matches what you seeking.

When you narrow down your search and are ready to interview an agent, please consider these key questions:

1. What types of properties you do specialize in selling?

2. How long have you been in the business? What is your track record? Can you provide references?

3. What is your commission rate?

4. What do you do to market the property? Do you have a website? Do you advertise, and where?

5. How familiar are you with the area in which my home is? How familiar are you with the area in which I’d like to purchase?

6. Are you willing to hold open houses? How many are reasonable to expect? Are you present for showings? Do you use lockboxes?

7. Can I expect regular feedback from showings?

8. If you were to list my property, what price would you suggest? Why?

9. What would you suggest I do to increase the asking price in my home?

10. Will you terminate the listing if I am not happy?

You need to be comfortable with your realtor and be able to ask them anything. If your inner voice is whispering or yelling “No” then you need to listen to it before you sign the listing contract. If you feel any pressure at all then do not sign it.

When you sign this contract, you are giving permission to the listing agent to gather and obtain any information concerning the property from any persons, government or corporations and to share this information with other parties. In the contract you will also be agreeing on the terms and details regarding commission and duties.

At the same time, the Property Disclosure Statement (PDS) is generally completed. PDS’ tend to vary according to province but it is ultimately a snap shot of the property from the owner’s perspective. This article is vital, as it is incorporated into the purchase contract and can be used against the property owner if any information is omitted or misleading. Ultimately, you need to remember that you are signing contracts, so you need to make sure you review thoroughly and ask questions when you are unsure. Only when you are satisfied with said answers should you sign on the dotted line.

This What a Property Survey

A property survey shows the boundaries of the property indicating the lot size, and includes a written description of the property. Property surveys, which resemble a map, are carried out during the original construction of a house and are provided to the buyer at that time. However, if the house you are buying is older you may find that the original survey has long been lost. Sometimes a copy has been kept at the city planning department and they will gladly give you a copy, but I’ve never been that lucky.

Surveys indicate right-of-ways and easements. Right-of-ways detail the right of others to access certain areas of the property (for example, it may allow access to hydro or telephone companies for servicing or a shared lane or driveway). Easements are a right that’s assigned to the property and cannot be removed very easily, if at all. Surveys may also indicate issues such as a fence located outside the property line or an overhanging roof from a detached garage and in these instances, the buyer can ask the seller to correct the problem before closing.

If you’re thinking of buying a home, you may be wondering if you need an up-to-date property survey. It’s definitely in your best interests to have one as your lender may insist on one before approval of your financing, however, Title Insurance may suffice. Your lawyer will most likely suggest that you purchase Title Insurance anyway, and it may soon be mandatory for all real estate property purchases. If you are buying a condo you won’t need a survey, not even for a condo townhouse as essentially the condo corporation will own the land, not you. A simple way to find out if it’s a requirement is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you buy and quite frankly I insist that all of my clients get pre-approved before we start looking at homes.

Over time, you may want to add a fence, a pool, a deck or even an extension and you will need a survey when you make these improvements. Many times such changes have occurred since the last survey making it out of date and therefore it has little value in the real estate transaction, but could still be suffice for your own needs.

It should be noted that not every transaction requires a new survey, and Title Insurance may satisfy your lender. Ask your real estate lawyer to verify this before you purchase the property. It can also depend on when the last survey was completed and what physical changes have taken place since the survey was done. If a new survey is needed, you need to determine who will pay the cost in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

Do You Really Need a Home Inspection

As a homebuyer, you’ll want to make sure that you make a wise investment choice, and that’s why professional home inspections are becoming an essential part of the buying process. In fact, more and more buyers are using specialized inspections based on location or the property itself, in addition to the standard home inspection.

A professional home inspector reviews the operating systems and structure of a home of any age—even new homes—and leaves a written report for the client to keep as a reference guide. Typically, the home inspector will comment on the condition of the foundation, heating and cooling systems, electrical service, roof, plumbing, and other significant structural factors and will outline costs of repair or replacement where needed, as well as comment on the condition of the property compared to others of the same age. The few hours that you spend with your inspector are the best time to learn the ins and outs of taking care of your property, and you should keep the reference book for as long as you live there.

With rising home prices and a subsequent rise in the use of home inspectors, in recent years, the field has actually become more specialized to suit specific needs of certain markets or properties. For example, some offers to purchase may require the services of a swimming pool inspector, termite inspector, electrician to inspect wiring, or a water-quality inspection for a property with a well.

Inspection costs will vary based on the size of the home, but you can expect to pay in the area of three to five hundred dollars for a typical home inspection of a single family residence. In many cases, it’s the buyer who pays the cost of the home inspection, and most agree that it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. However, some home sellers are using pre-listing home inspection reports as a marketing tool. A home inspection report can also give you additional negotiating power if it unearths some significant problems that must be remedied, but may not have been visible.

Your real estate professional can advise you on how to incorporate a home inspection as a condition of buying a property. Your offer can be conditional upon a professional home inspection being conducted and a satisfactory report being received by you the home buyer. If the inspection report indicates some big expenses, or problems you don’t want to deal with, your offer can either be terminated or possibly re-negotiated to help cover the cost of any major remedies. Your realtor will advise you of any risks associated with renegotiating the deal and will protect you during the process so that the seller cannot accept an offer from another buyer.

Real Estate for Women Love To Shop

The demographics of the typical first-time homebuyer are changing these days. More and more women today can afford to purchase a property on their own to build up valuable equity and are no longer waiting to find a life partner before they pursue the financial and lifestyle benefits of home ownership. One in four buyers these days is a single female, and new home marketing is actually starting to reflect that. We may be ready to jump into the commitment of home ownership but not all of us are willing to give up our valuable free time to outdoor chores. So single girls tend to look for homes that require little or no maintenance with an option to plant container gardens. Sound familiar girls?

The easiest and most popular way to hold on to our maintenance free lifestyle is to purchase a condominium. Its problem-free upkeep and unencumbered lifestyle is an obvious benefit to people who don’t want to be tied up every weekend with chores—there are no lawns to water and mow, and no leaves to rake. No yard means there’s no fence or deck to repair, and no driveway to shovel in winter. Choose a condo and you’ll never have to worry about this stuff. Condominium members are charged a flat monthly fee to cover maintenance of the common areas as well as provide prompt service by reliable tradespersons if there are maintenance problems in your individual unit. Heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical problems are handled by maintenance staff or service agreements set up by the condo association, so good help is available at a moment’s notice.

Security is also an important consideration for single women living alone, and the condo lifestyle can offer such measures as restricted access, a concierge on duty screening visitors, closed circuit TV monitors, patrolling security guards and panic buttons in garages to add to peace of mind.

Some single women still prefer a more traditional home as their first property. The appeal of having an outdoor space of your own to entertain, putter about in a garden and relax in can be inviting. A single family home sometimes offers more privacy and is also better suited to larger pets. Make sure to check if your pet will be warmly received by the condo board—they uphold the rules that the condo owners have set in place.

Top Five Things To Think About Before You Buy House

Buying a home is generally an exciting adventure – the thrill of finding a home that you and your family can enjoy, where you will raise your children, make friends – all the good things that home ownership. But there are several things that you should consider before setting down your hard earned money on a home purchase.

  1. Does this home make sense? Now when I say that, I mean will this home make sense for you and your family in the long run? Are you a young family and hope to expand? Maybe a two bedroom townhome is not the right buy. Sure, with one child it may be very manageable, but if baby number two is just a year away – you may be forced to move within a couple of years. With transfer taxes and realtor fees, you could eat up any profits made, and that’s just not a smart buy. Ideally you should look for a home that will accommodate you for at least five years. This may mean forgoing some fancy upgrades, but ultimately the cosmetics of a home can be changed, whereas adding square footage is a whole different ball game.
  2. Have I fallen in love with the finishings, not the home? This often happens with buyers. The reason show homes are so inviting is that the developers want you to fall in love with an ideal. However with all the fancy furniture gone, you may find the home you bought is not the home you need. You may have ignored all those stairs in that three level townhome because you loved that open concept living area. But if you noticed it when you visited, think about how it will affect your daily life. Do you have small children? Imagine carting baby buggies, strollers, and small children up and down those stairs. Suddenly, that home might not be such a great idea after all.
  3. Do you see yourself in the neighbourhood? If there are tons of children in the neighbourhood, and you are a professional couple who crave quiet, then you might be in the wrong place. Conversely, if you have children, but there are no schools within walking distance, and no basketball hoops in the driveways, then they may not have any friends to play with. Make sure you pick an area that fits your lifestyle, whether you’re looking in the city or the suburbs.
  4. Don’t buy the best home in a not so great neighbourhood. Ideally, you want to buy in the best area you can, even if that means buying a home that may not have all the extras that you want. Your home is your investment, and ultimately the old saying “Location Location Location” will always hold strong. You can’t make more land, no matter how hard you try. However, you can invest in the home that you purchase through renovation. It doesn’t have to be all at once. But if you buy a home with “good bones” – i.e.: good sized rooms, a practical floor plan, and structurally sound – all within a desirable location – you will be making a sound purchase.
  5. Can I really afford this? If you are a dual income couple and are planning on starting a family, you may have only one income for a while. Will the home put undo financial pressure on you? If your income was to go down, would you be able to afford the home? Just because you “can” afford to purchase a home, doesn’t mean you should. Sit down and think about your lifestyle. Do you like to travel extensively? If you do, make sure you budget that into the equation. Are you planning to send your children to private school? Factor in the annual tuition to your costs. Don’t forget to speak with your mortgage broker. Any changes in interest rates could change your mortgage payment in the years to come. Make sure you can handle any upticks in the interest rates.

These are just a few things to consider when you enter the world of real estate. But ultimately common sense will rule the day. Always make sure that when you are shopping for your new home, you leave your rose coloured glasses at home!

This Top Five Renos for Return on Investment

Adding value to your home is the number one concern for most homeowners. It doesn’t matter if you’re prepping to sell or looking to build long-term equity, knowing the right renos to invest in is important to ensure you get the most bang for your reno buck.

5. Flooring
Ever wonder about the number one request from both homeowners and tenants when they’re looking for a home? Hardwood floors. And why not? Hardwood looks amazing, is timeless and is incredibly durable. It’s also expensive, so it’s wise to weigh your options before shelling out big bucks for the big impact that hardwood delivers. You can go with traditional hardwood or engineered hardwood, or if hardwood isn’t what you’re looking for (or if it isn’t in the budget) there are plenty of great laminate options available to you as well. Regardless of your choice, a flooring update always brings new life to a space and instantly gives the impression of a renovated and redecorated space.

4. Hardware & Fixtures
It sounds like a simple little update that doesn’t mean a lot, but replacing relatively inexpensive items like faucets, sinks, toilets and drawer pulls can make a big impact.

Let’s face it: Switchplates are $.49 at your local hardware store, so there’s no excuse. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also a drop in the bucket and things like doorknobs, light fixtures and faucets are also inexpensive, minor updates that can really improve the entire feel of a room. A small investment can equal a big return, making the space feel fresh and modern.

3. Bathrooms
The first rule of bathroom renos: If it’s pink or blue, rip it out! Pastels, seashell tiles and fuzzy toilet seat covers scream ‘grandma’s house,’ and while you probably have fond childhood memories from grandma’s house, chances are you don’t sit around reminiscing about the décor.

When you ask people to describe their perfect bathroom, about 95% of people use the words “spa like.” What does that mean exactly? From my experience it means a soothing colour palette, clean lines, modern materials and chic finishes. You may be hearing “cha-ching”, but keep in mind that bathrooms are small and therefore require less material. Consider making a statement with a stand-out tile or funky sink or faucet to set the tone of the space – a little goes a long way.

2. Kitchens
Kitchen remodels are notoriously expensive. When you start throwing around words like “granite,” “stainless steel,” and perhaps the scariest – “custom,” it can make a lifetime courting takeout menus sound like a good idea. But don’t panic – I have good news on two fronts: Not only can you do a great kitchen renovation on realistic budget, but kitchens also give you the biggest return on investment far beyond any other room in the house.

Don’t believe the hype – there’s almost never a need to invest in custom cabinets. Out of all theIncome Property reveals over the years, only two have been custom. The trick? You can customize standard, out-of-the-box cabinetry to almost any kitchen layout.

When it comes to counters, while stone is still the number one choice, there are more and more affordable alternatives that look expensive – butcher block, composite, and high-end laminates are all great options.

1. Income Suites
No shock here, but it’s true – there’s no renovation you can do to your home that will increase its value as adding an income suite. Whether it’s your basement, a third floor or loft conversion, or even a coach house style suite in a garage, income suite renovations, when done correctly, easily allow you to double your investment. The extra bonus?  Not only will an income add a huge amount of value to your home, but it’s an investment that will actively make you money while you build equity. What more could you ask for?

Here Income Property FAQs

With 100 episodes of Income Property under my belt, I’ve learned that there are certain questions that come up over and over again. Below are the answers to some of my most frequently asked questions so you never have to wonder again!

Do the homeowners get to keep the furniture?

This is easily the number one question I get asked about the show. The answer? No. We stage the spaces so homeowners can see their new income suite at its full potential. We also give our homeowners photos of the staged space to use for their listings so prospective tenants can see all the potential it has to offer.

Can Scott come and renovate my house?

Listen, I wish I could help everyone who writes and asks for help. The reality is that because of theIncome Property filming schedule I’m unable to take on any projects outside the show. The best way to get me to renovate your house is to apply for the show. Go to www.hgtv.ca/castingcall for more information and good luck!

Can you recommend a contractor in my area?

I get an overwhelming amount of requests for recommendations for tradespeople, and while I can’t suggest an individual contractor in your area, I always start by doing my research. Check out the website www.homestars.com for reputable contractors in your area.

I’ve also provided a checklist below that I use to find good trades:

  1. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Word of mouth is often the best and most honest advertising.
  2. Phone the tradespeople on your list, interview each of them and include the following questions:
    Are they licensed?
    Do they have insurance?
    How long have they been in business for and what is there area of expertise?
    How much money do they require as a down payment for the work?
    How much time do they expect the project to take?
    Can they provide you with a number of references and photos of recent projects?
    Do they guarantee their work?
  3. Think about the interaction you had with the company or individual during your interview – were they courteous, knowledgeable and forthcoming with information and references? A first impression is a pretty good indicator of your future interactions.
  4. Next, follow up on the references provided. Ask about their experiences and if the work met the expectations of the contract.
  5. Get bids from a number of different companies and when you’re ready to proceed, be sure to get all of the details in a written contract and review it carefully. Ask questions if you have them.
  6. Finally, never pay the full amount until the job is completed and you are satisfied with the work.

Do you pick the properties that the homeowners tour or do they?

It depends. We have lengthy meetings with our homeowners before we ever start filming and really try to get a grasp of their house-hunting journey. Sometimes they have properties to bring to the table and sometimes we like to throw in properties that either complement their search or show them something they never would have considered on their own.

What computer program to you use to create the options layouts?

We use a CAD (computer-aided design) program to create the floorplans for the two options. Once the homeowners choose an option the CAD drawings are animated by a graphics company into what you see on the show.

Tips How to Make a Smart Real Estate Purchase

We’ve all heard the horror stories – people paying way too much for a house, not getting an inspection and then finding a million (expensive) problems with the place. I’ve seen it countless time with homeowners on Income Property and from talking to eager real estate investors.

Here are my top five tips for making a smart real estate purchase so you don’t get burned!

  1. Stick to Your Budget
    It’s easy to get carried away here, especially if you make the mistake of looking at houses outside your price range. The important part is to have a plan. Don’t just think about your mortgage payments every month; also think about your monthly carrying cost and be honest about your lifestyle. Consider how much you spend every month on eating out, clothing, etc. There’s nothing worse than being house poor because you weren’t honest about your spending habits.
  2. Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away
    A house is an emotional purchase, since it’s where you’ll be living, raising your children and making a home for yourself. But it’s crucial to keep emotions out of the equation as much as possible. You should love your house, but you should love it because it’s in good condition and because the numbers work. Always get a home inspection and if you can’t afford it (or the work it requires), walk away!
  3. Give Every House a Chance
    I do most of my real estate browsing online, as do most people now, but you can’t always judge a house by the virtual tour – good or bad. If you see something online and it has bad pictures (or no pictures) but it’s in the right neighbourhood or in your price range, go look at it! Chances are you can get a good deal because so many people will skip it without photos online.
  4. Think Long-Term
    Before you jump into a real estate purchase, ask yourself: “What is the purpose of this property for the next 5-10 years?” Depending on your mortgage, you may have to lock in for a certain number of years, and if you think you’ll be moving in less than 5 years, I’d suggest looking at alternatives. You never want to be forced into selling your house.
  5. Have a Support System
    Having a real estate agent who understands your financial and personal situation is key, and great advice from a mortgage specialist and lawyer can be invaluable to the home-buying process. But what many people forget is to have a personal support system in place when they go house hunting. Advice from those close to you – family members, a partner, friends – is just as important to help keep you on track and avoid getting carried away. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a house, so having the personal support will keep you grounded.

Here Scott McGillivray on Vacation Properties as Income Properties

So You Want to Buy a Vacation Property…

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about sun and sand. Fall is actually a great time to start thinking about next year’s vacation and where you’re going to stay. Cottages are a big part of the Canadian vacation experience, and buying one might be a great investment if you go about it the right way.

Smart investment or luxury item?

The answer? It’s a bit of both. An inherited cottage or one you bought decades ago during the golden age of affordable lakefront properties could make you a pretty penny today. If you’re in the market to buy though, you have some factors to take into consideration that will drastically affect the price. Buying a property that is accessible, usable and desirable year-round is a much better investment than a property that you can only get to in the summer, isn’t insulated and doesn’t have any merit in the winter. Take advantage of winter sports enthusiasts, as their options for winter rentals are usually pretty limited.

Being less than a 2-hour drive from a city is also going to command a higher price tag, but don’t be afraid to go a little off the beaten track or settle on a smaller lake. There are still deals to be had if you look a little further out and are willing to put in some work. There’s always going to be more work involved with maintaining a cottage, so keep that in mind when setting a budget. Don’t put yourself into a “cottage-poor” situation where you can afford the cottage, but not all the other fun accessories that go along with it, like building a dock for a boat.

Fractional ownership

Want all the perks of a cottage without all the costs? Fractional ownership might be the answer. Of course, the catch is that you only “own” the cottage for half the year. Fractional ownership may not be for everyone – but it is certainly something to consider if it suits your needs and wallet. Buying a property with friends or family may be a way to put cottage ownership within reach. While it sounds like a great way to pool resources and leverage your buying power, have a lawyer draw up an agreement that clearly states who is allowed to use the cottage when and other expectations such as upkeep, mortgage payments and property taxes and how to manage other unforeseen expenses. Also make sure you come to an agreement about the rules on renting out the property during the weeks you “own” the property, but aren’t using it. The best way to maximize a cottage purchase is to maximize the income potential.

Owning a cottage is an amazing idea but before you sign on the dotted line, do your homework. Cottages, unfortunately, are not exempt from taxes, and just like at home, require regular maintenance, cleaning and grass cutting. And while it’s hard to put a price on those summertime memories by the lake, making a smart investment should be your number one goal.

This Staging Tips from Scott McGillivray

Inexpensive staging tips guaranteed to help you sell your home.

1. De-clutter & De-Personalize:
Buyers generally want two main things out of a potential property: they want it to be roomy, and they want to be able to see themselves living in it. Neither of these things can happen if the house is full of your stuff. Clear out a minimum of 50% of your personal belonging when you stage your home – more if possible. Take down all family photos and mementos. Clear out closets as much as possible. Take the kid’s drawings off the fridge. The cost? A few hours and some boxes for storage.

2. Clean, Clean and Clean Some More:
I’ve toured hundreds of properties and there have been times when I wouldn’t touch anything. And while I can see past the pink slime in the shower, dirty doorknobs, and carpet full of pet hair, a lot of prospective buyers can’t. Your home may have tons of potential, but if it’s dirty, the percentage of buyers who can see that potential drops significantly. Clean like you’ve never cleaned before. And when you think it’s as clean as it can get, clean it one more time.

3. Paint:
A fresh coat of paint helps your cause in two ways: First of all, it can neutralize rooms (such as a very pink little girl’s room) so that buyers can picture it as what they’ll need it to be. Secondly, new paint always makes a home look cleaner. Painting isn’t a big financial commitment if you do it yourself. And, the time it takes to paint will pay dividends when buyers walk through your neatly staged home.

4. Minor Repairs (change light bulbs, fill holes, repair screens, clean up exterior):
You might not care that one of your vanity lights is burned out or that your attempt to hang a painting resulted in six holes in your living room wall, but those little things can be a huge red flag for potential buyers. The biggest advice I have is just don’t be lazy. Take the time to replace a window screen or a cracked outlet cover. The cost is minimal and it shows that you take pride in your home. And, maintaining the small things can help reassure buyers that you’ve maintained big tickets items, like your roof or HVAC system as well.

5. Every Room Has a Purpose:
A lot of people have spare space in their homes that are turn into “dead zones” – rooms, closets, corners where “stuff” ends up getting thrown. But when you’re prepping to sell your home, not only should every nook and cranny be clean and clutter-free, they should also have a purpose. That spare room with your old treadmill and drum kit could be staged as an office space. If your basement is unfinished, put up some inexpensive shelving units to showcase how much storage is available. Buyers shouldn’t have to work to picture a rooms as functional for their needs.