WHERE GETTING GOOD SERVICE IS THE ‘NORM‘

Norm Merz

Sales Representative

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CELL 905-541-4917

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Should you buy a fixer-upper?

Should you buy a fixer-upper?

After dedicating months to searching for the perfect house that checks off every box on your want and need list, it might be time to pursue another avenue. We’ve all seen the reality shows where homeowners purchase an old, run down house and then at the end of the hour you see it transition into a spectacular, dream home. If they can do it, why can’t you?

It is important to remember that you don’t always see the good, the bad and the ugly while watching a TV show, so be prepared for some hard work and possibly unexpected situations. Here are just a few things to consider before signing on that dotted line:

You don’t have to out source everything – One of the best and easiest ways to save some money when working through an expensive renovation project is to get your own hands dirty and take on some of the work. Whether you are taking on a larger demolition, refinishing hardwood floors, painting or assembling cabinetry, any task you take on yourself saves you money on labour costs.

Living in chaos – If you are forced to live in your house while renovating, be prepared to live in chaos, especially if you have children. Dust, microwavable meals, take out and living out of boxes are just some of the crossroads you may cross. But if you can fight through the undesirable for a short time, you will have memories to last you a lifetime in a new space you will love!

Budget and then budget some more – If you are a fan of HGTV you know that something unexpected almost always happens, which results in unforeseen expenses. Any number of issues can come up whether it be plumbing, electrical or foundation, so be sure to set aside some money in a reserve fund should something come up.

Sometimes the only way that you can find the house of your dreams is to put in some old fashioned hard work, but be sure you understand everything you could be getting yourself into before finalizing the deal.

Do you need a mortgage broker?

Do you need a mortgage broker?

When it comes to buying a home or renegotiating your mortgage come renewal time, you have a couple of options. You can visit the bank that currently holds your mortgage and speak with a mortgage specialist. Or, you can visit a mortgage broker, who will look at current rates from lenders across the country and offer you a few options to choose from.

So which is better?

It’s really a personal preference. A mortgage broker is a trained professional who will represent you and find the best borrowing rates from hundreds of lenders such as chartered banks, credit unions, trust companies and private lenders. Their services are free to homebuyers as they are paid by the lender, and therefore privy to the lowest borrowing rates.

A broker may be particularly beneficial to buyers with lower credit or high debt as brokers are often able to secure loans from alternative lenders. In addition to their connections and experience, they also offer convenience. Brokers do the legwork for you. They can help with every aspect of a mortgage, from determining out how much you can afford, to choosing the best mortgage product, to finding ways to save money and pay off your mortgage faster. Something to keep in mind: since brokers are paid by the very lenders who you are trying to get the best deal from, lenders may pay financial incentives to brokers who send them a certain amount of volume. In addition, if you are a long-term customer with a financial institution, you may have already developed a strong relationship with your own bank. As a loyal customer, you may be rewarded with lower borrowing options, special interest rates or waived home appraisal fees, as gratitude for committed service.

When it comes to choosing a mortgage broker, talk to someone in the know. Ideally, contact your real estate salesperson and ask who their preferred vendors are. They will be able to provide you contact information for one or two reputable brokers in your area.

Getting pre-approved

Getting pre-approved

With interest rates on the rise and many housing policy changes over the past year, it’s more important than ever for first-time home buyers to have their mortgage pre-approval in hand when beginning the search for a new home.

There are a few reasons why getting pre-approved is so important as you begin the journey towards home ownership. For one, it takes the guesswork out of house hunting! There’s no sense in viewing and falling in love with a home you can’t afford. You can streamline the process and keep only true contenders in the running when you are aware how much you can afford to spend on your new home. Another reason to get pre-approved is that it shows that you’re a serious buyer. Both real estate sales persons and sellers will recognize that you have done your homework and are truly ready to buy. In fact, having a pre-approval in hand may give you negotiating power over another buyer who has not been pre-approved.

Getting pre-approved will also help things move along quicker and smoother during a negotiation. It will allow you to act fast when placing an offer on a home. By getting pre-approved you have started the application process for the mortgage. They will provide you with a pre-approval letter, though it is important to remember that this is not a guarantee of financing. Most realtors will still recommend that you include a condition on financing in any offers you submit. What is a mortgage commitment letter? A little more in-depth than a mortgage pre-approval, a mortgage loan commitment letter means that a full mortgage application was taken, the loan has passed through underwriting and the borrower was approved. A commitment letter is a document that lets everyone in the real estate transaction (real estate sales persons, sellers, etc.) know that the lender is prepared to take on a loan that will cover the cost of a home.

The simple step of getting pre-approved will make your home buying experience run smoother.

Why you should work with a realtor when buying a home

Why you should work with a realtor when buying a home

As a consumer, you take your time when making a major purchase, researching products, asking for opinions and weighing the pros and cons of the many different options available. When it comes to making life’s biggest purchase – a new home – you’ve likely done the same. You’ve visited the neighbourhoods you’re interested in and have an idea of the average market price. You may have toured a few open houses and have your mind set on the ideal floor plan and style of home you prefer.

It’s true – there’s a lot to think about and even more to understand when buying a home and what you see when you walk from room to room is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s for this reason that finding a seasoned professional to guide you every step of the way is a smart decision for house hunters. Even if you’ve owned a home before and feel confident in your ability to find “the right house”, a real estate salesperson has the breadth of knowledge and a special skill set that comes only with experience – they are dealing with the sale and acquisition of homes on a daily basis.

Here are just a few of the things that a realtor will be looking for during your hunt for a new home:

Wiring – Homes built up until the 1940’s were likely outfitted with knob and tube wiring. In the 60’s, aluminum wire became a popular choice. Both are considered a fire hazard and today many insurance companies will refuse to insure a home with one of these types of electrical wiring or will charge a higher premium. Your realtor will be able to tell if a home has knob and tube or aluminum wiring. Replacing the electrical wiring in an entire house can cost anywhere from $7,000 – $15,000.

HVAC system – A salesperson will be able to tell you the exact age of the furnace and air conditioner and may be able to tell you if these systems have been properly maintained.

Plumbing – Sump pumps, septic tanks, wells and sewer systems….your realtor will be able to explain each of these features in detail.

Making your home more accessible for elderly family members

Making your home more accessible for elderly family members

It’s no secret that Canada’s population is getting older. Census data released earlier this year by Statistics Canada show that, for the first time ever, seniors make up a bigger share of our nation’s population than children. By 2031, the agency predicts that nearly one in four Canadians will be over 65.

Finding suitable and affordable housing for seniors is already proving to be an issue in some municipalities. And if decreasing mobility is a concern, the challenge is even greater. For some families, the only option is to invite aging parents or grandparents home to live with them. If you will soon be welcoming an elderly family member into your home, here are just a few of the ways that you can make adjustments to create a more accessible living space for the new arrivals.

Anyone suffering from arthritis knows that it gets more and more difficult to squeeze and turn door knobs, so a simple first step in making your home accessible is replacing knobs with levers, which push down easily.

Installing grab bars and handrails is another easy way to make your home safer without making a major change. Every staircase should have handrails on both sides and there should be grab bars near toilets and bathtubs. If you do have the option to renovate a bathroom to make it more accessible, leave out the tub and replace it with a shower. When tackling a major renovation, be sure to enlarge doorways to 32-36 inches in case wheelchair access is needed now or in the future. Swing-away hinges may work to widen a doorway slightly if a temporary solution is needed.

Area rugs look nice but they can actually be a hazard for the elderly, causing trips and falls. Avoid placing small area rugs or runners in hallways, bathrooms or bedrooms. 

Household falls also happen when an individual can’t see where they are going. Be sure to change light bulbs as soon as they burn out and add additional lighting to dark staircases, hallways or rooms.

In the kitchen, make sure your cabinet door hardware is easy to grab (D-shaped handles on cupboards and drawers tend to be the easiest), daily use items are within easy reach and clutter is kept off the floor.

With just a few small changes, you can make your home safer for elderly relatives!

Is condo living right for you?

Is condo living right for you?

Buyers have plenty of choice when it comes to choosing the type of home they will buy. You can purchase new from a builder, or shop around for a resale townhouse, single family home or condominium.

The latter is an excellent option for first-time buyers, young professionals and retirees or those looking to downsize. That’s not to say that all condos are affordable. A spacious unit in a well-appointed building can easily boast a price tag well into the millions with maintenance fees approaching $1,000 per month.

Whatever your price range, there are a few things to consider and research before settling on a condo purchase.

The first factor to consider is those condominium fees.  Possibly one of the great mysteries of homeownership, these fees can turn an outright purchase into what seems like a rental, with monthly payments to factor into your budget for as long as you live at that address. If you have never paid condo fees before and the concept has you running scared, take a few minutes here to understand what they are and what they cover:

• The cost of keeping common spaces (elevators, indoor and outdoor gardens, lobbies and hallways, etc.) clean and in good working order.

• The upkeep of amenities such as fitness rooms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, theatre rooms, spas and party rooms.

• Snow removal, roof repair and insurance.

You’ll also want to think about the building’s amenities. Before you move into a condo, decide whether its in-house bells and whistles are perks you’ll use often enough to warrant the fees you’ll be paying for them each month.

A final consideration is the condo corporation’s status certificate. A status certificate is a prospective condo owner’s first look into the financial health of their potential investment. This comprehensive report gives all the details on the current fees that owners pay, any large fee increases that may be on the horizon and any liens or arrears owed by particular owner(s). Financial statements are also a part of the status certificate and will show the trends in expenditures and receipts of the past, and provide comparisons of a corporation’s actual and expected costs. To get your hands on a condominium’s status certificate, you must submit a written request to the condo board’s management company, plus a $100 fee. They have 10 days, as required by law, to provide the certificate.

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