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Tips and Tricks...more tips than tricks

Check in often to see the latest in home improvements and general home care tips

Egress Window

5 Tips for Home Buyers

December 07, 2017

Did you know that the majority of first-time homebuyers are Millennials? That’s right; Canadians born between 1980 and 1995 now represent a full 77 per cent of first-time homebuyers. If you fit the mold, then get a leg up on the competition as we enter the year’s hottest real estate month. Here are our five top tips for first-time homebuyers.

First-Time Homebuyers’ Tip #1: Prioritize your house (or condo) hunt

April is the busiest month for real estate transactions. The MLS is on fire; your real estate agent will be texting you non-stop, and other prospective buyers will be out in full force. If you’re looking to buy this spring, now’s the time to take a few personal leave days to house hunt.

Sit down with your partner to hammer out priorities so you’re on the same page when it comes to your house hunt. Then, once you see a strong candidate, be ready to act fast.

First-Time Homebuyers’ Tip #2: Get pre-approved

It’s important to launch your house hunt having already obtained pre-approval for a mortgage. This marks you as a serious buyer, and lets you jump on a property you are interested in without losing time applying after the fact. Mortgage pre-approval also helps narrow your search as you have your price range established.

Use our handy Financial Planning Calculators to get an idea of how much of a mortgage (and home) you can afford.

First-Time Homebuyers’ Tip #3: Search the hot new neighbourhoods

Millennials are more committed to car-free lifestyles than the average Canadian. Accordingly, many condo developers have planned communities geared at diehard urbanites, with proximity to public transit, supermarkets, well-lit bike and running paths, dog-friendly green spaces and amenities such as bike lockers. Be sure to check out high-density condo communities to see what they have to offer for you.

You may be able to achieve homeownership sooner than you think. 

First-Time Homebuyers’ Tip #4: Consider moving out of town

Many first-time homebuyers are trading big metropolises for smaller cities that are in the early waves of urban renewal. These emerging markets offer great deals, particularly on detached houses. For born-and-raised urbanites, these emerging cities can mean less culture shock versus heading to the ’burbs. Often these locations offer extensive public transit, a thriving cultural and retail scene, and easy access to the larger urban hub (which can be handy if you still work there).

First-Time Homebuyers’ Tip #5: Use social media to help find a home

Finally, don’t limit your house hunt to the MLS or real estate agent websites. The real estate market is a fascinating subject – as any HGTV junkie will attest! – and a number of bloggers are probably busy covering the very neighbourhoods in which you are house hunting. Googling “real estate blog” and your city, or specifically your dream neighbourhood, will yield a variety of options. They’re a great way to get sneak peek of exclusive listings and private sales, and to survey comparables and get a feel for your desired community.

Egress Window

Mortgages...What about them?

December 15, 2017

Arranging a Mortgage

What is a Mortgage?

A mortgage is made up of two parts: principal and interest. Principal is the actual amount borrowed. Interest is the lender's fee you are charged for borrowing.

You'll have to decide on an amortization period (the length of time it will take to completely pay off the mortgage) and the term, or length of time each mortgage agreement guarantees the interest rate.

Before you go to a financial institution or mortgage broker, keep in mind that there are many mortgage options available. Shop around for the best rates and the best terms. Negotiate. Everyone wants your business, but it's up to you to look after your interests. Of course, the key thing to remember is to negotiate a mortgage that fits into your lifestyle, and doesn't take over your life! Your mortgage broker can help guide you through this process and supply you with information.

Amount of the Mortgage

With lower interest rates, you may qualify for a larger mortgage because your monthly payments will be lower. But always keep in mind that the larger your mortgage, the more interest you'll pay in the long run. That simply means your house will cost more. Also, what if interest rates rise? Will you still be able to carry the payments comfortably?

Down Payments

Before considering any mortgage, consider your down payment. If you're a qualified home buyer, you can purchase a house with a minimum 5% down payment. On a $160,000 home that would be an $8,000 down payment, leaving you with a $152,000 mortgage. Assuming you negotiate an interest rate of 8% for your mortgage, you're monthly payment for principal's interest would be $1160. Now let's say you decide to wait until you save another $10,000 before you buy because you think the bigger down payment will lower your monthly payments. Well, at 8%, putting $10,000 more down on your house will only save you $76.32 per month, you might be better off saving $10,000 for a rainy day or a vacation or that hot tub you've been dreaming about. With today's interest rates, it just doesn't make sense to tie up your cash to save $76.32. You might be better off putting your extra money to work for you in another investment with a higher rate of return.

Conventional and High Ratio Mortgages

To qualify for a conventional mortgage, you simply have to have a 25% down payment of the purchase price, with the mortgage not exceeding 75% of the appraised value. If your down payment is less than 25%, then you qualify for a high-ratio mortgage. This type of mortgage requires loan insurance, which can cost an additional 0.5% to 3.75% of the mortgage amount. With this type of mortgage you could also be limited to a maximum house price.

Pre-Approved Loans: Obtaining a Pre-Approved Mortgage

Why go house hunting only to find that you don't qualify for a mortgage on the dream home you've found? Having a pre-approved mortgage will give you the confidence of knowing exactly what you can spend on a home before you start looking. You will also be protected against interest-rate increases while you look for your new home.

Once you've done your homework and shopped for the best rate, meet with the loans officer to arrange a pre-approved mortgage and discuss the features you're looking for to tailor payments to your needs. It could take a few days, but give your lending institution about two weeks. It will eliminate potential headaches down the road.

Pre-Approved Mortgage Features to Look For

Competitive interest rates. You may be willing to pay a little more to get the flexible features you desire.

A 90-120 day rate guarantee. This will protect you against rising interest rates while allowing you to take advantage of falling rates.

Flexible payment options. These enable you to tailor the mortgage to your lifestyle. Discuss payment frequency and lump-sum payment options. Find out if your lending institution will allow you to skip a payment in special circumstances or double-up on your payments.

Closing Costs: ask about the lender's policy with respect to realty tax holdbacks on closing.

Egress Window

Renovation Tip #1 Don't Underestimate

February 7, 2018

Tip #1: Don’t underestimate the cost of renovations

From data compiled from over 2 million users’ search behaviour and project posts, TrustedPros.ca, a site that helps homeowners find and rate home reno contractors, found that homeowners consistently set unrealistically low budgets for a few of the most popular renovation projects.

For instance, the national average budget for a kitchen renovation came in at just under $14,480—at least $5,000 under-budget for the average Canadian kitchen renovation, explains Nicole Silver, spokesperson for TrustedPros. “It takes licensed electrical, plumbing and gas experts to install bare necessities in a kitchen,” explained Silver, “and these experts come at a price.” Add in the extra cost of durable or high-end finishes and budget costs start to creep up quickly.

Another renovation project that homeowners tend to underestimate is fence construction. On average, Canadians budgeted just under $4,200 for a new fence, but average actual costs came in closer to $11,700—about $39 per linear foot.

Homeowners also underestimated the cost of new floors and new windows, with average household reno budgets coming in at just over $3,250 and just over $8,520, respectively. “The anticipated floor budget is only realistic for very small spaces using low-end materials,” explains Silver. “While the anticipated window replacement budget covers five regular sized windows and no door replacements,” explains Silver, who suggests that homeowners budget about $1,600 per window (more if installing or replacing specialty or large windows).

Egress Window

Renovation Tip #2 Seriously consider whether or not you are over-renovating

February 22, 2018

Tip #2: Seriously consider whether or not you are over-renovating

Many homeowners are convinced that the only way to increase the value of their home is to spend a lot of money on high-end finishes and expensive home remodels. But home renovations rarely, if ever, offer a $1 for $1 return. In fact, sometimes the simplest or least expensive updates can give the best returns.

For instance, according to Remodel magazine, re-insulating your attic can recoup as much as 117% on the reno dollars you spent, while you can expect a 92% recoup on the cost of replacing your garage door and a 91% recoup on the cost of replacing your front, entry door.

Yet, these simple upgrades are not at the top of the reno-desire list, according to the data collected by TrustedPros.ca. In 2016, the top three reno projects across Canada were: bathroom remodels, basement renovations and the installation of a new deck.

To get the most out of your renovation budget, then, you must first be honest: When completing a home renovation, you are spending money, not investing money. With this in mind, consider the reasons why you want to update and remodel and then spend accordingly.

Egress Window

Renovation Tip #3  Do the leg-work to set a realistic home reno budget

March 17, 2018

Tip #3: Do the leg-work to set a realistic home reno budget

Still, in order to avoid unnecessary or unexpected costs when it comes to home renovations, you must first start with an accurate, honest budget. Here are four tips to get you there:

No. 1: Get multiple quotes

Never settle on a contractor before first interviewing and getting a quote. Better still, ask what their contract covers and how they handle ongoing communication and potential problems (remember, surprises can mean extra costs, so you want a clear-cut plan of how this will be handled, before it happens).

No. 2: Stop comparing your home to HGTV

Nobody renovates their kitchen, never mind their entire home, in just two weeks. Yet, the home shows on TV can leave us with the impression that renovations can be done either quickly or cheaply or both. If you find your the type that likes to compare your house with the glossy mags the home reno reality shows then stop. Turn off the TV and put the magazines away. Now, consider why you want the renovation and what problem it will theoretically fix. Answer these questions and you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to be done and what budget you can afford.

No. 3: Answer questions honestly

Are you handy? If so, you could cut some costs by doing the work yourself. But be honest with yourself: Do you have the time or the aptitude? If not, then you’ll need to pay someone to do the work. That means taking all expenses into account—not just labour and materials, but also permits, as well as additional overhead. Remember, the people you hire will make a profit. That’s their job. If that doesn’t sit well with you, consider learning how to do the job yourself.

No. 4: Always add more

There are always extra costs. That’s because home renovation planning takes a little bit of guess work. How do you know if you have lead pipes or that your oven in a potential fire hazard? To avoid blowing your household budget, due to unexpected reno costs, add a contingency fund. Most contractors suggest adding 10% but larger projects may need a 20% contingency fund. Talk to your contractor for a better understanding of what this extra money could potentially cover.

Tips and Tricks...more tips than tricks

Check in often to see the latest in home improvements and general home care tips

Egress Window

Curious about Egress Windows?

November 27, 2017

Safety is a primary concern to buyers so when a home inspector brings to the attention a problem that deals with safety it will likely become a sticking point in negotiations.

A frequent concern is that of small bedroom windows, particularly in the basement, not meeting the building code for egress. Window size in the basement is often restricted due to the foundation elevation however windows in other rooms which are being utilized as bedrooms may also not meet the required code. Specific minimum standards have been established for bedrooms so that a person can safely exit or a firefighter can enter in case of an emergency. This is referred to as meeting egress. Requirements for a room to qualify as a bedroom are set out in the National Building Code and apply not just to basement bedrooms but apply, as well, to any room being utilized as a bedroom.

Unless there is a door that provides direct access to the exterior, you need a window that meets egress requirements of the code. It is not just size that determines whether a window meets the code for an egress window, the style and location of the window will be important as well

In addition to the size specifications for the window, it must be operable from the inside “without the use of tools or special knowledge” The window must also be accessible. If the window is too high to reach from the floor in order to open, then a bench, chair or step must be fixed below the window. If the window opens into a window-well, the well should not block the opening of the window and a minimum clearance is needed in front of the window. Even if you do have an exit door to the outside of your home from a bedroom there is still a requirement for a window. For all bedrooms, there is a requirement for a 5% glass area of the area served

As the building code does change, you should check with your local planning department and verify with them the current code for windows.