Reverse mortgages – what’s the scoop?

For many Canadians, the prospect of retirement holds more questions than it does answers. However, if you’re a homeowner, the equity you’ve built up in your property could provide the answer that helps turn your dreams of retirement into a pleasant reality. With a reverse mortgage, you can unlock the equity that’s present in your home and use it to generate an income to supplement your reduced earnings after retirement.

With a reverse mortgage, instead of paying the bank or lender, they pay you. The payment is based on a percentage of the amount of equity that’s present in the home. For example, if your home is valued at $300,000 and your mortgage is paid off, you have your home’s full value to work with. If you took out a reverse mortgage for 40% of your home’s value – in this case, $120,000 – this amount is then set up in a fund that pays you a stated amount, usually monthly. This regular payment – or annuity – can then be used toward your living expenses while you’re earning less money. There’s usually an age requirement – say 60 or 62 years of age to qualify, so you should ask your lender about this.

Eventually, your home equity is also used to discharge the loan. You don’t have to make loan repayments while you’re living in the property, since that would defeat the whole purpose of the loan. The reverse mortgage loan doesn’t come due for as long as you live in your home. You’re under no obligation to sell by any given time, but when you do, the reverse mortgage loan is paid in full from out of the proceeds of your home sale.

Wondering what your home is worth today? Your Coldwell Banker professional can help you determine your home’s worth in today’s market and how much equity you can expect to draw on. It’s all part of our full service philosophy. We want to be there to help with all your real estate needs and that goes far beyond the actual real estate transaction. Your local Coldwell Banker sales professional has developed trusted contacts in the financial sector and together they can offer you creative financing solutions to help you realize your goals. Whether you’re dreaming of early retirement, financing a higher education, renovating your home or even buying an income or vacation property, we can help. Why wait to make your dreams come true? Contact your Coldwell Banker professional for their expert advice, and start putting your home equity to work for you!

Seven home Staging tips for First-Time HOMEBUYERS

 

When it comes to staging a home for sale, it’s important that sellers create an inviting atmosphere that will appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Today, due to historically low interest rates and government incentives such as raising the Home Buyer Plan maximum to $25,000, first-time buyers account for a substantial portion of Canada’s home buying prospects.  The good news is, sellers looking to attract this coveted demographic group don’t need to do a complete design overhaul. Staging a home for first-time homebuyers is easier than you may think.

Below are seven simple staging tips from Coldwell Banker to help boost a home’s appeal and give owners the competitive edge necessary when selling a home.

  • Stage rooms with one purpose. Extra rooms that have a jumble of mixed uses can confuse and even deter first-time homebuyers.  Staging rooms with one purpose is vital. Keep in mind that these buyers are generally young couples with few or no children, so rooms should be presented as areas well equipped to meet their current needs. So turn those playrooms into dens, storage rooms into a home office or the second kids’ bedroom into a guest room.

 

  • Tackle the easy “do-it-yourself” projects. In a recent Coldwell Banker survey, 81 percent of brokers said today’s first-time home buyers consider move-in conditions to be very important when searching for homes. To ensure that a home is in tip top shape, make sure to replace outdated kitchen and bathroom fixtures, apply a fresh coat of paint to a worn wall and refinish the kitchen cabinets. Providing a sleek and modern look wherever possible can make a huge difference in the eyes of first-time homebuyers.

 

  • Be informed about current style trends:  Ask your local Coldwell Banker sales representative about the styles seen in homes that are selling in the area, and purchase a current interior design magazine for ideas.

 

  • Focus on the living areas. A living roomis an area in which potential first-time buyers should be able to envision themselves entertaining friends or gathering with their family. With that in mind, homeowners should make the area appear as large and functional as possible by removing any unnecessary furniture and decorations.

 

  • Make sure the master bedroom appeals to both sexes. The master bedroom of a couple’s first home is often the first bedroom they will share. When staging this room, make sure that it appeals to buyers of both sexes.  Remove any feature that seems too gender-specific and paint the walls a neutral colour.

 

  • Clear the room of family portraits. First-time homebuyers are looking for a home they can picture their family living in, not the previous owners. Coldwell Banker recommends taking down family portraits, personal collections and knickknacks. Removing these items will also eliminate clutter and ensure that people are looking at the house for sale, not at the photos from the last family vacation.

 

  • Don’t forget to spruce up the yard. First impressions often play a role in a consumer’s decision-making process. In fact, 21 percent of participants in a recent Coldwell Banker survey knew their home was the one for them before even walking inside. Make sure the home’s exterior is inviting by trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn and painting faded window trim. Couples looking for their first home often have less yard work under their belts and will appreciate the seller’s attention to detail.

 

Professional home inspections protect home buyers

For most Canadians, buying a home is the single largest investment you’ll ever make, so you want to get good value for your money. That’s why more and more buyers today are turning to professional Home Inspection experts before they firm up their transaction. What was once a seldom-used option in residential real estate has moved into the mainstream, especially since house prices have escalated to record levels in recent years.

A professional Home Inspector takes a close and expert look beneath a home’s surface and then reports on their findings in a detailed written report for the prospective buyer. The report will advise on the condition of such things as the foundation, electrical service, roof, insulation and many other factors. If work needs to be done, either now or in the near future, the report identifies what work will likely be required and the approximate time period before the homeowner will have to incur the expense. If there are substantial costs involved to put things right, the buyer can take this into consideration before proceeding with the purchase. Your Coldwell Banker real estate professional can help you connect with an experienced and trusted Home Inspection service in your community.

Although costs will vary, you can probably expect to spend in the area of three hundred dollars for an inspection of a single family home. And who pays for it? Well, since the benefit of the home inspection is almost entirely for the buyer, it’s usually the buyer who pays the cost. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind it provides and the negotiating power it can give you — especially if it indicates major repairs are required but you make an offer anyway.

When it comes to making your offer to purchase, your Coldwell Banker professional can advise you how to include a home inspection as a part of the home buying process. Subject to the homeowner’s permission to grant access to their home, you can arrange for a Home Inspection to be completed and reviewed by you before you finalize your offer to purchase. This is done by having your Coldwell Banker salesperson prepare an offer that’s conditional upon you receiving a Home Inspection report that’s acceptable to you. This type of general wording allows you to decide whether or not you want to proceed after reviewing the report.

Including a satisfactory Home Inspection as a condition of your offer to purchase has some distinct advantages : if your conditional offer is accepted, the property is temporarily held against other offers at your agreed price and terms, yet you still have a legal escape route if the report turns up some major negative surprises, such as a bad roof or a crumbling foundation. On the other hand, if the conditional offer isn’t accepted, then the need to pay for a home inspection never arises. Your Coldwell Banker professional can counsel you on the best approach to suit your market and your individual situation.

Real Estate is a cyclical business

Canadian homebuyers and sellers across the country have at least one thing in common, no matter where they’re located. Everyone wants to know where real estate sales and home values are headed and how to use that information to their best advantage. Well, if you’re one of those people, here are a few facts that you might want to consider as you make your decisions.

Real estate is – and always will be — a cyclical business and according to many industry experts, this year we can expect to see the beginnings of a new cycle. Very low interest rates have been in place for a few years now and this has already attracted many people out of the rental market. To a large extent, any pent-up demand for housing has now been satisfied as those renters wanting to step up into home ownership have already made their move. Further proof of this is the fact that rental vacancy rates are now on the rise in many urban centers across the country. Just a few years ago, it was very difficult to find good rental housing, but now it’s becoming commonplace to the see the ‘vacancy’ sign posted out front of apartment buildings. That’s a sign of a new cycle.

So what does it mean when the rental vacancy rate starts to rise and there are potentially fewer home buyers entering in the market? It usually means that you will start to see more inventory of homes for sale. It also means what has been a purely sellers market will start to cycle into a more buyer-friendly environment. That’s good news for buyers, because there’s more to choose from and perhaps even a little less competition for available listings. But if you’re a buyer, don’t be too confident of capitalizing on this shift. Smartly priced homes in desirable locations will continue to be snapped up quickly, and at a good price. As the cycle starts to swing from the frenzied, red hot market of recent times towards a more moderate market, home values are still projected to climb in the coming year, just at a more reasonable pace. One bit of good news for buyers is that this mature market cycle will probably see fewer multiple offer scenarios and the bidding wars that can characterize a sizzling sellers’ market.

A larger inventory of listings tends to extend the length of time a property is on the market before it sells. That may not come as good news to home sellers. However, while it may take your home a little longer to sell than in the height of the boom, the good news is that homes will continue to command good prices. In fact, most economic indicators predict further increases in average home values over last year’s record-breaking levels. Just be prepared to give it time!
Of course, these general predictions don’t take into effect the special conditions that will exist in your own local marketplace. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, why not call your Coldwell Banker real estate professional. There’s no cost or obligation and you could benefit from their expert advice.

Ten ways to attract Buyer interest

In today’s highly competitive real estate market, the key to selling your home is being able to attract buyers to your listing.  When you’re selling your home, it’s important to remember that you’re in competition with every other similarly priced listing in your area.  To win buyers, you need your home to stand out from all the rest.  Here’s a Top Ten list of things a seller can do to win buyer interest:

 Create ‘curb appeal’ — Buyers decide whether they like a property within the first few minutes of arrival.  Make a great first impression with well trimmed and cared for lawns and walkways.  A small investment in new lighting at your front door, an urn planter, a new mailbox or street numbers can all upgrade the look of your home and win big dividends.

  1. Give them a warm welcome – Make the most of those first few critical minutes as buyers enter your home.  A foyer or entranceway is typically one of the smallest areas of your house, so upgrading the flooring with hardwood or slate can be a very worthwhile and cost-effective investment.  Add a mirror to visually increase the space and clear out shoes and mats.
  2. Let there be light – Create a bright and cheerful atmosphere by opening the blinds and curtains and turn on all the lights for showings.  If you have a fireplace, have a fire burning if the weather’s not too warm.
  3. Show you care – Properties that aren’t well maintained send up ‘red flags’ to buyers that larger problems may be lurking beneath the surface.  Complete all those minor repairs jobs that you’ve been putting off.
  4. Create space – Buyers want a spacious interior, so do everything you can to create space, even if it means moving several items offsite while you’re showing. Send those extra chairs to Mom’s for now or rent a storage unit.
  5. Depersonalize – You need buyers to picture themselves living in the house, so pack everything that’s distinctly yours, including photos, awards, mementos and religious artifacts.  It’s your first step towards moving out.
  6. Appeal to all the senses – Some of the strongest emotional reactions are created by smell, not sight or sound.  Before showings, open windows to air out rooms, light scented candles, and put out a bowl of fresh lemons.  
  7. Upgrade for maximum impact and return – Kitchens and bathrooms are the most important rooms when selling a house, so they’re the areas where upgrades will likely get the best return on your investment.  Even simple changes like new faucets or a lighting fixture can have big impact.
  8. Present a neutral interior – A fresh coat of paint is always a good idea. Choose pale, neutral colors that won’t clash with a buyer’s furnishings.
  1. Let the professionals do their job – As your Coldwell Banker® real estate professional will tell you, one of the best ways you can help get your house sold is to leave home when showings are underway.  Buyers will be more inclined to linger and ask questions, and it gives your sales representative a chance to counter objections and offer solutions.

 Call usl to learn how to turn interest into offers!

Preparing for a far-away move

Moving can be a complicated process, especially when the new home is far away, whether its to another part of the province, or right across Canada.  Buyers must research the town, school systems, job market, and neighbourhood all before settling on a new location.  The real estate professionals at Coldwell Banker recommend taking the following steps to ensure that when it comes time to move to a distant location, the process goes as smoothly as possible.

First, Get Organized. When moving many miles away it makes sense to compile a list of the key information required before deciding where to live.  Other Important questions include:

What is the cost of living? How does it compare against where we’re living now?

  • What is the price of a similar sized house in the new location?
  • What is the community like? Are the neighbourhoods safe?
  • Where are the schools located?
  • What is the noise factor?
  • Will this be a good area for my spouse to find work?
  • What is the public transportation system like?
  • How long will the commute be?

Due Diligence. To learn about the typical lifestyle of the town, as well as community events and safety, get a few back copies of the local newspaper, or log on to their Web site.  This third party information, and more facts from the local Chamber of Commerce, will give a sense of the area.

Use the Internet. When it comes to the home itself, the Web is an invaluable tool. Web sites such as www.coldwellbanker.ca can provide visitors with a wealth of useful information. Features like the Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index can help you approximate how much a comparable house will be worth in the new market.  This information also provides some insight into the local cost of living.  Visitors can find a variety of community information including median age and income, percentages of married couples and children, recent home sales, and more.

Find a local real estate professional.  Begin to work with a real estate sales representative early on when visiting the new city. If you don’t have a real estate representative in your target area, your local Coldwell Banker representative can help put you in touch with an experienced professional who will be a good ‘fit’ for you and your needs.

Feet on the Street.  Look to see how much new construction and renovation work is taking place. This will indicate whether the neighbourhood is growing and developing, and whether current residents plan to stay. Let your sales representative take you through the neighbourhood “after hours” to see what it looks like when all have returned from work and school.

Chat time.  If possible, try to have a few conversations with local residents who live nearby.  They have their fingers on the pulse of the neighbourhood and the community at large.

Want to know more about choosing the right community? Talk to a Coldwell Banker professional.

High gas costs prompt ‘stay-cation’ living

Outdoor and leisure features have growing appeal as families change their vacation strategies

If you’re like most Canadians, you probably wince when you pull up to the gas pumps these days.  It’s already having an impact at how many ‘day trippers’ drive out of the city each weekend for visits to the beach or lake.    And it doesn’t look like the situation is going to improve any time soon.  The latest news comes from Air Canada, announcing that it is eliminating several flights due to the high cost of fuel.  With these cut-backs comes a warning that we can expect airfare prices to rise dramatically over the next short span of time.  It leaves me wondering if more crowded seating and luggage surcharges can be far behind.

So with all these rapid changes and escalating costs, where does that leave the average Canadian family when it comes to their vacation plans?  Many of my customers are already telling me that they’re changing their vacation strategies.  And not too surprisingly, that brings us back to the subject of real estate.  Many homeowners are opting to take their vacations at home.  They’re planning to put their holiday budget back into their property, to create their own restful oasis from their daily stress.  Luxury features like saunas, home theatres, hot tubs, entertainment size kitchens, swimming pools, outdoor rooms, water features and extensive landscaping are all part of this scenario.  Such appealing amenities are going to be increasingly sought after by discriminating home buyers in the future.   If you’re thinking of similar improvements, I’d be glad to tell you how your renovation plans might improve your property’s resale value.

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But what about those people who still crave a change of scene for their vacation plans?  Here’s where a real estate solution can also be the answer.  Think about it!  A family cottage or chalet can grow in value and create an asset you can enjoy for years to come, and even provide rental income if you don’t want to use it for the whole season.  When you’re situated in an area with multiple leisure activities all around you, you won’t be burning gas and spending most of the day driving to get to some outdoor area attraction just to spend a few hours there.

A vacation property can be a sound investment if you have the help of a specialist to do it right.  Your local Coldwell Banker® sales representative can help you do the groundwork right here at home, helping you to determine how much you can afford, offering creative financing solutions and much more.  And when the time is right, I have a network of experienced colleagues in resort locations to help you find the right property for you and your family.  So why not give me a call and let’s see if we can put a new spin on your family’s vacation strategy?  The high cost of fuel could send you in an exciting new direction!

Honesty is the best policy – when viewing Open Houses

The weather’s heating up and so is the real estate market. The warmer temperatures – along with special events such as Coldwell Banker® International Open House Month in April – are bringing Canadians out in droves to view a wide range of properties.

If you’re a serious buyer and are viewing properties by appointment, you’ll be accompanied by your sales representative. You’ll have someone there who knows your needs and is looking out for your best interests. In situations like that, you feel free to be completely open and candid with your salesperson. But what if you’re visiting an Open House?

Many potential buyers enjoy touring Open Houses, but this type of more informal viewing is typically done without your own sales representative in attendance. Instead, the showing is handled by the salesperson that holds the listing on the property, or a member of their sales team. In these situations, buyers often tend to be less than honest in their reaction to a property. Their reasons could be anything from just wanting to be polite and not offend the salesperson, right on down to not wanting to disclose how much they actually like it. Whatever your reason, you could actually be losing out if you hold back in your comments.

When touring an Open House, be direct and ask questions. Remember, this is no time to be diplomatic. The real estate professional showing the home fully realizes that this property will not be right for everyone. More importantly, he or she will have access to many more listings….and one of them may be just the one you’re looking for. Keeping your comments open and direct, allows the sales professional to better understand your needs, and offer solutions to meet them. What you perceive to be a major drawback could in fact be easily remedied.

Even if your reaction isn’t a positive one, the sales representative marketing the property will appreciate your honest feedback. They need to know buyers’ reactions and the reasons behind it, so that they can effectively counsel their vendor. If you feel that the home doesn’t compare favourably to other homes in the area in that price range, you’re not offending the agent by telling them so – you’re helping them. You could also be helping yourself. If enough buyers have the same reaction and there are no offers on the property, your comments might actually help result in a change in vendor’s offering – including a price reduction.

Finally, if you do have a positive reaction to the property, don’t be too concerned about showing your interest. The listing agent wants this deal to happen and so do you, so in a sense you’re working towards the same goal. Just clarify if you have your own sales professional to represent your interests at negotiation time and you can defer any questions you don’t want to answer to them.

Get your house ready to sell

Now that September’s here and the kids are back to school and out from underfoot, it’s a great time to start getting your home ready for a future sale. Whether you’re thinking of getting in on the active spring market, or even putting it on the market later next year, there are many things that can be done now to help you earn top dollar for your home when the time comes. Here are some inexpensive but effective ideas that are perfect for fall weather:

  • Plant bulbs this fall: You can maximize your curb appeal next spring by planting bulbs in fall. Daffodils, Hyacinth and Crocus planted close together will provide a dramatic burst of colour. Avoid flowers with a short blooming window, such as iris or bulbs that will bloom later in the summer such as Day Lilly or Dahlia.
  • Hold a Garage Sale: Take advantage of the weather while it’s still warm and foot traffic is at it’s best. Be ruthless and put out anything that you don’t want to pack to take into your next home. Remember, buyers are looking for spacious interiors, so that clutter could be costing you money!
  • Complete any exterior painting: You’ll be too busy with other priorities next spring to take on this time-consuming task. Why not ease your stress by tackling it now? There’s also the added bonus that there are fewer bugs around right now to annoy you and complicate the painting process.
  • Use landscaping to improve a view: Do you want to screen the view of your neighbour’s property? Fall is an ideal time to plant evergreen trees, or transplant shrubs that have entered their dormant phase. Remember to prune and trim those trees and shrubs that are obscuring your windows.
  • Organize your garage: Buyers will want to see space, not all your stuff. It’s hard to visualize a nice car or two being parked in the midst of clutter. Invest in some shelving, wall racks, or even cupboards and get organized!

Some work now can really reduce your stress later, when you’re ready to put your home on the market. With these tasks out of the way, you’re ready to move to indoor tasks over the winter. If you’re wondering what’s worth doing, contact your Coldwell Banker real estate professional and get the benefit of their expert advice. There’s no obligation to you and you’ll learn how to maximize your time and your dollar investment to get a great return when sale time comes around. Who knows? By the time the kids are finished this school year next June, you could already have sold and be moving into your next home!

Home Safe Home

The New Year is a time for changes and fresh starts. So why not start the year off right by making some changes within your home to keep it safe. With just a few very affordable adjustments, you can make your home a safer haven for you and your loved ones.

A good place to start is by ensuring you have working smoke detectors installed throughout your house. The current standard calls for at least one on every floor of your house and additional units in enclosed areas with open flames or heat sources are also recommended. Make sure you test each detector to ensure the unit is functioning properly and the alarm can easily be heard in surrounding areas. You should also consider installing carbon monoxide detectors, particularly in the furnace area of your home. If your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors are battery-powered versus hard-wired, be sure to replace the batteries regularly. A simple way to do this is by timing your replacement with a regular event, such as twice a year when daylight savings time starts and stops.

Another home safety tactic that is cost free is to make an escape plan with your family. Draw up a plan that sets out the preferred exits to take in case of fire. Make sure it identifies alternative exits if the usual path to the outside is blocked. Each family member should know every exit that is available from every room of the house. Finally, you and your family should have a rehearsal of different exit routes. You should also agree on a pre-determined meeting place outside the home where all family members will meet should you ever need to flee your home. Make sure everyone, especially young children, understands they are to get to this pre-arranged site, and once they are out of the house, to stay out. Your local fire department will have other helpful advice on fire prevention and home safety. A visit to the local fire hall can be an enjoyable way to reinforce the fire safety plans you put in place at home.

In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors, you should inspect your furnace every year to be sure it is running safely and efficiently. Your gas or oil providers will offer this service, as do other private heating contractors. In addition to the safety factor, you could also save on energy costs by keeping your heating system running efficiently. In fact, your energy savings may even cover the cost of the inspection and the peace of mind it delivers is priceless.

Perhaps you’ve considered a Home Security system, but have put it off due to the expense of installing or operating such a system. You may be surprised to learn that some home insurance companies will offer lower premiums if you have an approved security system in place. As well, there are other home security measures such as motion sensor lighting that are affordable and easy to install. If you’d like some expert advice on how various security measures may impact your home’s resale potential, contact your local Coldwell Banker professional.

With You Every Step Of The Way

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