Montreal has best start to real estate market in 4 years

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Montreal has best start to real estate market in 4 years

Greater Montreal’s real estate market is off to the best start in four years, with the number of residential sales up 10 per cent in the first quarter.

About 10,600 sales were concluded in the first three months of the year, with sales increasing in all five main geographic areas in and around Canada’s second-largest city, the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board said Thursday.

Sales of residential buildings with two to five units increased 20 per cent. Condominium sales grew 12 per cent and single-family home sales were up eight per cent.

Properties valued at $500,000 or more jumped 21 per cent.

The median price of plexes grew five per cent to $455,000. Single family homes prices rose two per cent to $285,000 overall and up three per cent to $395,000 on the island which includes the city of Montreal. Condo prices fell one per cent to $230,000 overall, but increased four per cent to $276,540 on the island.

There were 34,208 properties for sale during the quarter, down five per cent from a year ago.

Across Quebec, there were 20,308 sales during the quarter, up eight per cent from the prior year.

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Selling or staying: 4 tips to set your remodel budget

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Selling or staying: 4 tips to set your remodel budget

When it comes to home improvements, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher question is figuring out how much you can afford. Follow this four-step plan to arrive at the answer:

1.  Ballpark the costs: First, get a handle on how much your remodeling dreams will cost. In general, major upgrades, such as a bathroom remodel or a family-room addition, run $100-$200 per square foot.

Remodeling magazine gives national cost averages for 38 common projects—you’ll find many of those project costs and other good info at Realtor.com's Cost vs. Value section.

2.  Figure out how much you have to spend: Once you’ve zeroed in on a project, the next question is whether you have the money. If you’re paying cash, that’s easy to answer. But if you’re borrowing, you need to assess how much a bank will lend you and what that loan will add to your monthly expenses.

There are three basic types of loan options:

    • A cash-out refinance
    • A home equity loan
    • A home equity line of credit (HELOC)

For the vast majority of homeowners, the best way to borrow for a home improvement is a home equity line of credit. A HELOC is a loan that’s secured by your home equity, which means that it qualifies for a lower rate than other loan types, and you can deduct the interest on your taxes.

Because a HELOC is a line of credit rather than a lump-sum loan, it comes with a checkbook that you use to withdraw money as needed, up to the maximum amount of the loan.

For help shopping for a HELOC, download a free worksheet.

The catch is that the minimum payment on a HELOC is just that month’s interest; you’re not required to pay back any principal. Like only paying the minimum due on a credit card, that’s a recipe for getting stuck in debt.

Instead, establish your own repayment schedule. You can do this by paying 1/60th of the principal (for a five-year pay down) or 1/120th (for 10 years) in addition to the monthly interest. If you can’t afford that much, then you should reconsider your project.

3.  Get quotes from contractors: Before seeking bids, determine exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen countertop material and the type of faucet. By specifying these details up front, you ensure that prospective contractors are all pricing the same items.

Get recommendations for at least three contractors from friends, neighbors, and other tradesmen you trust. Give each one your project description and specific product lists and request an itemized bid. To find the right contractor, do these things to make sure all is right:

    • Ask to see their recent work
    • Check references
    • Look at online sites that provide peer reviews of contractors

Reality Check: Cost Overruns

Take the winning contractor’s bid and add a 15%-20% contingency for the unforeseen problems and changes that occur on every project. Is the total still within your ability to pay? If so, you’re ready to get started. If not, it’s time to scale back your plans.

4.  Set priorities and trim the project to fit your budget: Dreams and budget not in alignment? Carefully scale down your dream—chances are you’ll end up satisfied and solvent. Enlist your contractor for suggestions on cutting costs—that way, he’ll be an ally in helping you stick to your budget.

Possibilities include these ideas:

    • Low-cost alternatives. For example, specify laminate countertops instead of granite.
    • Keeping older items that are still in working condition.Appliances, furnaces, and lighting fixtures can be upgraded later.
    • Making the project smaller. Trim that bathroom addition from 100 square feet to 80 square feet.
    • Buy it yourself. You’ll save up to 20% on your project costs if you buy materials and appliances yourself. Be sure to coordinate your BIY efforts with your contractor.

Originally published on HouseLogic.com.

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7 Awesome Features That (Surprise!) Might Make Your House Harder to Sell

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7 Awesome Features That (Surprise!) Might Make Your House Harder to Sell

Ahhhh, you’ve finally found your dream home. Right?

Before you commit to buying, make sure you consider whether some of your favorite features might actually hold back your house when (way down the line) it comes time to sell. Some design and architectural details—such as pools and multiple stories—split homeowners evenly, with half considering them a no-go and the other half completely obsessed.

So be informed! While these features won’t necessarily be the main factors determining whether or not you sign on the dotted (home-purchase) line, it’s best to know exactly what you’re getting into. Here’s what to look for in your future home.

1. A school next door

If you have young kids, living next door to their school might seem like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t love letting their children walk a mere block or two to school every day?

But buyers without school-age children won’t see it that way.

“The younger set love it because their kids can walk to school,” says Realtor® Amy Cook in San Diego. “Buyers over 50 seem to be not so happy because of the traffic and kids wandering everywhere through their streets.”

With schools come endless lines of cars and yellow buses—as well as a tempered speed limit that might make getting to work each morning a monumental pain. Oh, and all that joyful, exuberant noise from the playground? Not so joyful when you’re working or relaxing at home.

“Having your kid walk across the street to school might be an awesome thing for particular buyers,” says Bob Ripp, a real estate appraiser in Fort Collins, CO. “Then again, the traffic implications might not be something that appeals to everyone.”

2. Middle-of-the-action location

Some people love to look out their windows and see the world going by: restaurants and bars within walking distance, your favorite vintage shop just three doors down, and easy access to major thoroughfares.

But think again before buying. Unless your city veers strongly urban, it might be difficult later to sell the home. Not everyone wants to live directly adjacent to a busy street.

“Homes that are on busy streets command less value than interior homes,” says Ripp. So while you might be intrigued by the activity, potential buyers may not. If you go into your purchase knowing the risk, you’re far less likely to be surprised 10 or 20 years down the line.

3. Upstairs, downstairs, or in between?

There’s something inherently romantic about a multistory home: grand staircases leading into the foyer, curling up in a bay window reading nook overlooking your lawn from the second story. But when it comes time to sell, your two-story home might offer its own unique challenges—especially if it doesn’t have the master bedroom on the first floor.

“A downstairs bedroom seems to be a go or no-go item,” says Cook. “A lot of buyers won’t even look at a home unless it has one.”

The staircase alone might be a problem for some buyers who might be older, have bad knees, or just don’t want to dash up and down a flight of stairs whenever they need something in another room.

“In general, one-story ranch homes are highly sought after in certain age groups” such as baby boomers or seniors, says Ripp.

4. A swimming pool

If you live in a city where an in-ground pool is a must-have, you can skip this advice—as always, the rules vary by location. But if you live in a mild or cold climate, don’t expect a swimming pool to help you out much when you put your home on the market.

“There are several instances where pools detract from the home,” says Ripp, such as when it requires significant maintenance compared with the amount of year it is usable.

Bottom line? If you want a pool, great. But don’t expect it to add value when it comes time to sell. Accept that the only return on this feature could be fun, not money.

5. Over-the-top renovations

So you’re in love with this home’s fancy-pants kitchen—and who wouldn’t want a double oven? But if no other homes in your neighborhood offer features such as high-end granite countertops or an elaborately landscaped yard, they could be overkill when it comes time to sell.

“People do overimprove, and there can be consequences to that,” says Ripp.

For one, if these features are really high-end, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the market. Plus, if you’re in a modest neighborhood, no one wants to be the people who bought that ostentatious home. You know, that one with the double oven.

6. Big (or small) backyard

An acre of land? All for you?! Zut alors!

Backyard size can be a huge divider. You might love your giant backyard with room for a garden, playhouse, and seating area, but some buyers might not want to deal with the upkeep.

“The size of the yard can be a very big factor,” Cook says. “Some people actually don’t want any maintenance and prefer to have a very small yard. Others want a yard for their kids or want privacy.”

If this makes you finally glad you went for less acreage, think again. Both options have their downsides. If your lawn is small without any kind of barrier that mimics seclusion, it too might be difficult to sell.

“Many homes get nixed because of the lack of privacy with other houses right beside it,” says Cook.

7. Tile flooring

If you love the tiling, that’s fantastic; however, future potential buyers of your home may not agree. Because tiles are one of the most difficult flooring types to remove—turn on any renovation TV show and you’ll find frustrated homeowners hacking at tiles for hours—they can easily dismay prospective buyers.

“Tile is very difficult and expensive to change, and often what owners choose just isn’t very attractive,” says Cook. “Basic white, dated tile is usually a big turn-off for buyers.”

Not that you should go in and remove pre-existing tile—especially if you love it—but just know that not everyone will swoon like you. A better bet is the ever popular basic hardwood.

originally published on REALTOR.COM

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Three tips to sell your house this fall

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Three tips to sell your house this fall

Although the real estate business tends to slow down in the fall, the season still can be an attractive time to put a home on the market. If you want to sell your house in the next few months, it can be done.

Potential buyers—such as empty nesters or millennials who aren’t worried about moving after the school year has started—will compete for fewer homes on the market and will likely want to seal a deal before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Here are three tips to help make your home more attractive in autumn, so you can sell your house before winter comes.

1. Clean Up

As many regions slowly shift from a sellers’ market to a moderate or buyers’ market, you’ll want to do everything you can to make your house look its best.

Pay particular attention to eliminating clutter and safety hazards that can crop up with cooler weather:

  • Make sure your yard, walkways and gutters are free of leaves and debris.
  • Mow your lawn so it looks neat.
  • Trim trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody.
  • If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so visitors can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.
  • If you already have snow, be sure stairs and walkways leading to your front door are not icy.
  • Wash decks and wipe down windows so they sparkle instead of appear streaked by rain.
  • Vacuum and wash down the fireplace, especially if it hasn’t been used in months.
  • If you live in a region where it’s still warm enough to use the patio, make sure the area is inviting and arranged with the views from indoors in mind.
  • Above all, make sure your doorway and the rest of the house is clear from knick knacks, bicycles and toys that make your home appear cluttered.

2. Create Autumn Curb Appeal

If your house’s exterior looks drab, you may want to consider painting it a warm color, planting seasonal flowers, or placing pumpkins strategically along your walkup to accent your home’s appeal with instant color.

Potential buyers will make an instant judgment when they see your home, and you want to be sure it’s positive.

While you don’t want to go overboard with fall decorations that detract from the home itself, a few displays like a festive front-door wreath—and lighting so people can clearly see the path to your front door—can make your home feel fresh, even in the fall.

3. Keep the House Cozy

Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. So warm up your home with a fresh coat of paint and set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.

Another way to warm up a home is with light, especially as days get shorter leading into winter. Be sure to open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.

A few embellishments like red, orange or golden yellow pillows can breathe new life into dull sofa—or a fall centerpiece can highlight a certain area of the home.

While you don’t want your home to look like the latest department store display, well-chosen embellishments that give potential buyers the impression you’ve paid attention to the fine details and taken care of any problems with the home will help you put your best face forward.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with trying to sweeten the deal with the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie or pumpkin cupcake to leave a lasting impression of your home as the potential buyer takes a bite.

Originally published on REALTOR.com

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How to price your home to sell

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How to price your home to sell

It’s time to move on. You’ve decided to sell your home and embark on a new adventure.

Unfortunately, potential buyers don’t care about how long you obsessed over choosing the perfect bathroom tiles or the number of carpenters you interviewed to make the perfect built-in bookcase. To the buyer, those items may not matter to the value of the home, even if you think they should.

When it’s time to sell, you have to price your home right, using tangible factors. Here are six rules to remember:

1. Price is king

Your asking price determines how long the home will sit on the market. Pricing the home too high may reduce the number of interested buyers, which can cause your home to sit on the market too long. If your house is on the market too long, it may create the perception that there’s something wrong with it. It can also lead a buyer to think that you’re desperate for an offer. You want to avoid these outcomes and not overvalue your home.

On the flip side, pricing the home too low may create some skepticism and raise unwanted questions about the home’s true value. This will hit you in the bank account if multiple offers don’t drive the price up to its true market value.

2. Use comparable sales 

The simplest way to figure out the right price for your home is to compare similar homes that have sold in your neighborhood. Instead of skulking in the shadows and casing the neighbor’s house, ask a professional Realtor to help you out.

Compare your house with those with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. If you find comparable homes with similar floor plans and outdoor space, all the better. See how many homes in your area have sold recently and what they went for. You can also work with a real estate agent to help you compare houses.

3. Compare fairly

Make sure your comparison is fair. If there are neighborhoods in your city that are more desirable, consider that in your comparison. Also consider your location and what buyers want. If a similarly sized new-construction townhouse sold for top dollar down the block, you may not get the same amount for your cute ’40s bungalow.

4. Check the market history

To get a more comprehensive picture of the real estate market in your neighborhood, check the listing history of a home. Compare the original asking price with the final sale price, and note the amount of time the house was on the market until it sold. A Real Estate Broker can help you with this step.

If you’re looking to speed up the process, you may want to price your house a bit lower. However, if profit is your motive, you may need to wait a few months for a sale on the high end of the spectrum.

5. Consider special improvements

Consider whether major improvements you’ve made warrant a higher asking price. If you’ve remodeled the kitchen and put down a new parquet floor, or if you really feel the special woodwork details will clinch the sale, make sure those enhancements are reflected in the price of the home. Be reasonable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get as much money as you expected—improvements don’t always recoup their cost.

6. Don’t ignore supply and demand

In a buyer’s market, with many homes for sale and sellers competing for attention, you may want to ask a bit less for your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers. In a seller’s market, where there is little home supply and much buyer demand, you may want to ask a bit more and maximize your profit.

Originally published by Realtor.com

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Now is the time to buy in Montreal

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Now is the time to buy in Montreal

Montreal’s residential market is on the upswing as a result of slight decreases in house prices and low interest rates, according to real estate analysis reports.

Detached bungalows saw a slight decrease in average price of 0.2 per cent, year-over-year to $295,786, while standard two-storey houses saw a decrease of 1.5 per cent to $398,214 in the second quarter in the Greater Montreal Area (GMA). 

With prices decreasing, sales have increased in the second quarter. “Sellers have adapted to the reality of the market and have lowered their expectations for prices,” Dominic St-Pierre, director of Royal LePage for the Quebec Region said. “The market has become more favourable for buyers and has seen a boost in sales volumes, supported by more competitive prices.”

The West Island

House prices in the West Island are trending upward, house study's indicate.

The average price of a detached bungalow in Beaconsfield in the second quarter was $335,000, $9,000 more year-over-year. Detached homes in Dorval, too, experienced a price growth with 1.1 per cent (average of $312,000), year-over-year.

The average price of the said home is more than the Montreal average of $295,786.

House prices in Pierrefonds dropped 1.3 and 1.2 per cent for detached bungalows and the standard two-storey home, respectively. 

Condo resurgence

The standard condominium saw a 2.1 per cent price increase – the most significant increase in the last 10 years.

The average price of a condo in the GMA was $244,556, up from $239,611.

 “The property market in Montreal continues to be favourable for buyers, and we remain optimistic that the market will stabilize further in the coming months,” noted St-Pierre.

Canadian market

While homes in Montreal are experiencing a generally-small decrease in prices, the average price of a home in Canada rose between 3.9 per cent and 7.5 per cent year-over-year in the second quarter for detached bungalows and two storey-homes.

The cities enjoying the biggest price increases were Toronto and Hamilton.

In the second quarter of 2015, Toronto saw a 12.9 per cent year-over-year average price increase in detached bungalows and an 11.6 per cent increase in the price of standard two-storey homes. During the same period Hamilton saw 10.9 per cent and 13.0 per cent increases in the same two categories.

Forecasting Montreal market

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is forecasting price growth as a result of high demand in Montreal for 2015 and 2016, according to its second quarter Quebec highlights report.

Prices of resale homes will post growth ranging from minus 2.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent in 2015, and from minus 3.7 per cent to 8.4 per cent in 2016. The average price of a home recorded by Centris’ real estate listings will range from $260,000 to $280,000 in 2015 and from $262,000 to $295,000 in 2016, according to the CMHC report.

Originally published by The West Island Chronicle

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7 Home Tax Deductions

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7 Home Tax Deductions

Unlike our U.S. neighbours, we can’t claim the cost of our home as a tax deductible expense. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save at tax time. Here are seven tips on how to save money, using your home, this tax season.

1) Sell, make a profit, and don’t pay a nickel in taxes.
Most people are already aware that any capital gain on the sale of your principal residence is considered tax-free profit. But in order to not step out of bounds with the Canada Revenue Agency make sure you and your family unit only designate one property as a principal residence.

A family unit, for tax purposes, consists of you, your spouse (or common-law partner) and any unmarried children under the age of 18.

Ordinarily you have to inhabit a place regularly to call it your principle residence, although there are options to designate a recreational property as a primary residence. This is best done when there’s been little appreciation on your city-home, but a spike in value on your cottage. But talk to a tax specialist to confirm the best way of going about this.

2) Get a 15-year tax-free loan from yourself.
The Home Buyer’s Plan allows you to borrow, tax-free, up to $25,000 from your RRSP for the purpose of buying or building a home. The great news is that each half of a couple can withdraw up to $25,000, tax-free, from their own RRSPs. But you must be first-time homebuyers. And you cannot have owned or occupied your own home up to four years before the year you made the withdrawal.

You will be required to pay 1/15th of the loan each year for the next 15 years. But there will be no interest charges and no taxes incurred.

3) Cash in on being a first-time homebuyer.
In 2009 the federal government introduced a new tax credit for first-time home buyers:
o If you buy a home and you and your spouse haven’t owned a home in the last five years then you are entitled to a tax credit.
o The maximum credit is worth $750 and may be claimed by either spouse, or both, as long as the total doesn’t exceed $750.

4) Live the dream and work from home.
By creating a home-based business—even a part-time business—you are entitled to claim a deduction for a portion of home costs. This includes: mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, repairs, landscaping and maintenance costs.

Just remember that you have to have a reasonable expectation of profit in order for the business to be legitimate, according to the tax man.

5) Make your home pay you.
Another way to claim a deduction for a portion of home costs is to rent out a room or part of your residence to a tenant.

Your property is still considered your principal residence (even it’s used to earn income) as long as the revenue-generating portion of your home is not the main use of your home.

Also, don’t make any structural changes to your home or claim any capital cost allowance deductions.

6) Move to get a bigger tax deduction.
If you move 40 kilometres closer to work or school and you could be eligible for some serious deductions.

That’s because almost every expense associated with moving can be deducted. This includes the cost of selling your old home and purchasing your new home, including realtor commissions, legal fees, even your mortgage penalties are dollar-for-dollar tax deductible.

You can also deduct all travelling expenses, such as fuel and maintenance for your car as well as transportation and storage costs, including insurance, for your household effects. This includes up to 15 days of meals and temporary accommodation, while travelling to the new home, as well as the cost of revising legal documents, such as driver’s license or utility hook-ups.

But be forewarned: a teammate on my brother’s hockey team, who is also a tax lawyer, confessed that the deductions can be so lucrative that people who claim moving expenses will often get red flagged by the CRA. Of course, if everything is above board, a little scrutiny may be worth it for a $5,000 or more tax deduction.

7) Renovate for medical reasons.
If you have mobility issues and you require renovations you may be able to claim this expense. Just remember that medical expense reimbursements need to fall within a 12-month period ending in the current tax year.

by Romana King

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7 Things Your Home Inspector Wishes You Knew

No matter whether you’re buying or selling, the home inspection process can be somewhat terrifying: For sellers, it’s a stark reminder of the nagging issues you might have turned a blind eye to over the years. And for buyers, it’s a recipe for pure heartbreak—falling in love with a home that might just end up making no sense to buy.

But don’t let the inspection stress you out. And remember, that’s not what your inspector wants either—all he or she wants is a comprehensive to-do list and a happy client.

So form a team with your home inspector to make the process easier and more effective. Knowledge is key! Here are seven essential things you keep in mind.

For sellers

1. Move your pets

We know your puppy is adorable—but even if your home inspector loves dogs or cats, pets running underfoot makes the job much more difficult.

Inspections often require opening exterior doors again and again, offering pets far too many opportunities to dash to freedom. When you leave the premises for the inspection—and many inspectors ask sellers to do so—take your pets with you. Please.

With animals out of the way, “every time I walk in or out, I don’t have to worry about losing a cat or a dog,” says Alan Singer of Sterling Home Inspections in Armonk, NY.

2. Don’t forget to clean

Whether you plan on being there for the inspection or not, make sure to clean up beforehand. No, you don’t need to scrub—an inspector won’t ding you because your stove’s grimy. But all that clutter? Yeah, that’s all got to go.

“It makes a huge difference when I walk into a house where everything’s put away,” Singer says. “It’s a game changer not just for me, but for the home buyer.”

Often, the inspection is the first time the buyers are (almost) alone in the house for an extended period of time.

“If it doesn’t feel like how it did before—if we’re trying to dig through items—it can sour their experience,” Singer says.

For buyers

1. Your potential home will have problems

Your home inspector will likely come up with a seemingly endless list of problems after the walk-through. Don’t panic!

“I’m on their side, but still, I’m judging the house fairly,” Singer says. “Even my home has problems, issues, maintenance things.”

Yeah, there are times when you should worry (we’ll get to those a bit later). But not every issue is mission-critical, and your inspector will know which problems you should tackle first.

2. Almost anything can be fixed

There are a few starkly frightening home inspection terms that seem to be in everyone’s vocabulary: mold, radon, and asbestos.

And yes, they’re scary—but no scarier than a roof that needs replacing, home inspectors say.

“People who write articles tend to scare homeowners about mold or radon,” Singer says.

So let us—your humble (and rather defensive) writers—take a moment to correct that assumption: Don’t worry so much about mold and radon!

Singer, who started his career in homebuilding, says, “everything is upgradable, fixable, or replaceable. You just need to have a list of what those things are.”

Not convinced yet? Check out this Washington Post article about a couple who got a discount on a four-bedroom Colonial because they weren’t terrified by mold.

3. One thing you should worry about is water

Here’s one problem we give you permission to stress out about (just a little): water. No, it’s not a deal breaker (remember that part where we wrote almost anything can be fixed?). But it’s important to address any water-related issues before the deal closes—or at least immediately afterward.

Make a note of issues such as puddles and leaky ceilings. And give special attention to the basement. Addressing water problems in the basement can be an expensive and difficult proposition, Singer says. “A wet basement can be hard to fix.”

4. Home inspectors can’t predict the future

You might want to know how many more years the roof will hold up—and while your inspector might be able to give you a rough estimate, he can’t give you a precise timeline.

“People think that we as inspectors have a crystal ball,” Singer says. “Or that we have X-ray vision” to see through walls or examine the inner circuitry of your kitchen stove.

Sorry, folks: They don’t, and they can’t.

“We can’t tell you how long it will last,” Singer says. “We can just tell you if it’s in good shape.”

5. Find the balance between your heart and brain

It’s easy to forget your love for the home when you’re counting the dollar signs and hours you might have to spend on repairs. But just remember to take a deep breath, think rationally, and consider whether it’s a smart investment in your future.

Singer empathizes: “The justification can sometimes be a horrible process, because our brains are all about money and time and (asking) ‘What kind of mistake am I making?’”

Barring any major renovations needed—such as a new roof or mold removal—your inspector’s visit will simply provide a to-do list. But not everything needs fixing immediately, so don’t let a long list dampen your love for the home. Just take things one at a time.

Jamie Wiebe has written about home design and real estate for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and more. 

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Thinking of Buying a Riverside Retreat? You’d Better Read This

Having a river or a creek running near your home completes a picture of rustic tranquility—think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. That is, unless it floods. You don’t even have to be near a body of water to experience flooding, as some homeowners in Texas and Oklahoma learned this spring.

If you’re buying in a flood plain—the rather frightening term used to describe areas close enough to rivers, lakes, or an ocean to feel their devastating impact when the going gets tough—you need to know the rules. Here are four things you need to know before you buy. 

Find out if you’re in the zone

There are many ways to do this, and a quick first step is to examine a map of local flood zones.

“You live next to the creek, you expect it to flood,” says David Schein, a regional flood insurance specialist in FEMA Region 5 in Chicago. “If you’re two, three, four blocks away, you don’t expect it. But all creeks flood. All streams flood.”

While flood plains are often found near rivers, lakes, and coastlines, many are low-lying areas where water naturally pools after heavy rains.

Investigate insurance

Banks usually require properties in a flood plain to have insurance in the amount of the loan, up to the maximum of $250,000, says Jeffrey Gleich, an Illinois Allstate agent who writes policies under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Most homeowner insurance policies do not protect against flood damage.

Get friendly with a surveyor who will know your property’s flood zone classification. Gleich has a client who fought FEMA for years because he has a couple of square yards located in a flood zone. 

The bank is adamant that he needs coverage. “He’s gone back and forth with elevation certificates,” says Gleich.

Ask about flooding

In most states, sellers must disclose if there are any water leakage issues of any type. So you’d think you’d know if there was a problem.  Sometimes disclosures can be tricky to interpret. Talk to a property casualty agent if you’re buying near a body of water—even if you’re on the fringes of the flood plain.

“Your agent may say you’re outside the flood plain [and] don’t need flood insurance,” says Schein, but that’s only because the bank might not require it. That alone doesn’t mean you don’t want to shell out for that protection. “People need to look at the available risk information out there and make the appropriate decision.”

“If a flood seeps into the basement or entry level of your home, in all likelihood you’re going to have a little bit of time to get out the more expensive items like your TV or computer equipment,” says Gleich, who sees plenty of people outside high-risk zones who purchase insurance simply for peace of mind.

Employ a home inspector for a second opinion. “They can take a look to see if things are installed correctly,” says John Flor, a Realtor with Six Lakes Realty in Chetek, WI. “If it’s necessary to have drain tile, if there are any potential water problems there.” 

Check the rules

Know your flood plain status before you start any new construction. In some places, a setback of a certain distance is required for new construction. 

“Different townships say you can’t build on a flood plain,” Flor says. Flor knows a developer who bought land on a lake. The city told him that as long as the new structure was above the flood plain, he could build, bring in landfill, and elevate the structure.

If everything checks out, full speed ahead! Prepare to enjoy the sound of a babbling brook, and not that of a sump pump going off every 30 seconds.

Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, IL, where he covers law, health, education, and the retail industry.

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The main steps of buying a house

Dream of owning your own home? Need space for your growing family? There are many steps involved in getting you from where you are to owning your new home: the search for a property that meets your needs and requirements, visits, negotiations, the pre-purchase inspection… so many elements to consider and coordinate! But when you enlist the help of a broker, you don’t have to manage all these aspects, and you can find yourself in your new home before you know it.

Here is a list of the main steps involved in a real estate purchase.

A REAL ESTATE BROKER IS A VALUABLE ASSET FOR YOU AS A BUYER

Did you know that it is a very good idea to be represented by a real estate broker when purchasing a home? You will benefit from their professional expertise for what could very well be the most important transaction of your life.

Once you have chosen a broker to guide you in the purchase of your home, you could sign a brokerage contract - purchase, which will clearly establish the terms under which your broker will act as well as your rights and obligations. It can be advantageous, especially if the property you are considering is being sold without the services of a broker.

However, a broker can also guide you through the purchase process and represent you without a brokerage contract.

It is possible for you to use the services of the seller’s broker, who has an obligation of loyalty towards his client: this means that this broker may not disclose confidential or strategic information concerning the seller. However, they have an obligation to treat you fairly, to inform and advise you objectively, including by recommending the inclusion of the usual clauses regarding inspection and financing in your promise to purchase.

CHOOSING A HOME

First, consider your financial situation

It is always tempting to search the internet, look at inspiring photos and compare prices… But the first thing you have to do is determine how much you can invest in the purchase of a home. 

Define your needs

List your priorities and your must-haves for your future home. City or suburb? Single-family or income property? Do you need a yard, or will a balcony suffice? It’s up to you! Use the list of priorities to begin the thought process.

This way you will avoid wasting time looking at properties that are too expensive or too large, or that simply do not meet your requirements.

Organize your search and take notes on each visit

This is probably the longest step, but it is also the most important. Set your priorities and identify the features on which you might be prepared to compromise, and discuss them with your broker, who will coordinate visits for you.

Because your broker has tools enabling him/her to see properties for sale as soon as they come on the market, they can facilitate your search by suggesting properties that meet your criteria as they become available.

During visits, review your list of priorities and note the features of the home and the impression you get as you go along. Your broker’s observations and advice will also be very useful to you throughout the visit.

To help jog your memory, use the documents your broker gave you prior to the visit, i.e. the detailed description sheet and the Declarations by the seller of the immovable form. Afterwards, take the time to think back and compare your notes, as all this information could play a key role in your decision, especially if you are hesitating between two properties.

Asking price vs. actual value

If you are interested in a property and can afford the asking price, it is important to find out what its true market value is in order to offer a price that will be attractive to the seller while being in line with the property’s estimated value.

Your broker can help you with this because he/she knows the area and has tools at his disposal to evaluate the market value of a property. They will identify factors that can affect the selling price of a property, such as year of construction, condition, landscaping, etc.

READY TO MAKE AN OFFER?

You have found your ideal home? You are now ready to make an offer! Your broker will draft your offer using a mandatory promise to purchase form, designed by the OACIQ to ensure your protection. The promise to purchase serves to inform the seller that you wish to buy his property. If he accepts, he undertakes to sell it to you.

Your broker will take the time to review the content of your promise to purchase with you to give it the best chance of being accepted. The promise to purchase must indicate:

  • the price you are offering to the seller for his property;
  • the deadline by which you will have the property inspected prior to purchase;
  • the inclusions and exclusions, i.e. the items you wish to see included in or excluded from the purchase (such as an above-ground pool or a dishwasher);
  • the date and time by which the seller must accept your promise to purchase (after which it becomes null and void).

A real estate broker has the skills and expertise to help you assess the impact of each of these conditions in order to find the right balance with your offering price.

DEALING WITH COUNTER-PROPOSALS

Of course what you would like is for the seller to simply accept your promise to purchase as presented. The reality is that they may refuse it, or may issue a counter-proposal, which essentially refusing your promise to purchase, but is making a new proposal that would be acceptable, for example by asking for a higher price. You can then accept it or refuse it.

In response to this counter-proposal, your broker can help you draft your own counter-proposal using the mandatory form to this effect. A counter-proposal has the effect of cancelling all previous counter-proposals made by either the buyer or the seller. The agreement that will bind you to the seller consists in the promise to purchase as amended by the last counter-proposal only, without regard to any previous counter-proposals.

Your broker will manage all these document exchanges, making sure deadlines are met, in addition to representing you in the negotiations.

HERE ARE THE KEYS TO YOUR NEW HOME!

Once the promise to purchase or the counter-proposal has been accepted and all the conditions have been fulfilled, the next step is to make the transaction official by signing the deed of sale before a notary.

Even at this final step, your broker will still be there for you. Ask him or her any questions you may have so that no doubt remains in your mind. You can also contact the OACIQ Info Center with any additional questions.

That’s it, you are now a homeowner. Congratulations!

Originally published by the OACIQ

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Bidding on a property with multiple offers

In many areas across Canada, local real estate markets continue to experience a trend toward a relative lack of home listings and an influx of active buyers. As a result, those ready to sell are in a favourable position to generate multiple offers on their home – often leading to buyers paying over market value for a property.
 
If you’re in the market to purchase a new property in an area that is experiencing this robust sellers' market, then the reality is that you may ultimately get into a bidding war with other buyers. There are certain strategies that can help position yourself and your offer above others.

1. Get pre-approved. Don’t rely on what the internet tells you or a simple pre-qualification from a lender. Take the extra step and get mortgage pre-approval. By doing this and discussing your personal financial situation in depth with your lender, you’ll have more confidence in your buying power. This is paramount if you plan to not include a finance condition in your offer.

2. Understand the sellers' needs. Buyers often make the mistake of wanting to “win” in negotiations. However, in a hot sellers' market it is the seller that has the upper hand, not the buyer. Aim for a “win-win” situation. You can partly accomplish this by understanding what contractual components are important for the seller. For instance, if the seller is looking for a specific closing date, try to give them their preferred date – or something close to it.

3. Have fewer conditions. If you’re putting an offer on a home that has generated a lot of interest, you may need to consider not including some standard conditions (financing, home inspections). Although this is not a recommended approach, it is a reality. All things being equal, a firm offer in a bidding war will typically win over a conditional offer.

4. Include a large deposit. Your ability to put a large sum of money down on a home will provide the seller with confidence in your purchasing power. This can ultimately give you an advantage over other buyers in a bidding war.

5. Make a strong offer. Every local market differs in terms of what a strong offer may look like, but each market will typically have a trend that can be analyzed. For example, a trend may dictate that for every additional offer, your offer should be increased by $5,000 to $7,000 above asking price.

Be sure to discuss these trends in your area with your realtor. Keep in mind these are only rules of thumb, so you’ll need to use your discretion based on the particular situation.

Dustin Graham is a sales representative with Re/Max and the leader of The Graham Partners team located in the west Greater Toronto Area.

 

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