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.
If you’re thinking of selling your home in the next six months, year or even two years, it’s never too soon to start thinking re-sale value. Improvements to your home will almost always add value so it’s in your best interest to choose upgrades that are of good quality and have universal appeal – converting a spare bedroom to a luxurious master suite will attract a select few potential buyers but may actually be viewed negatively by the majority of buyers. Here’s a look at some household features that many buyers are looking for in 2017.
- Smart Home Technology – More and more buyers are looking for a home that boasts smart home features and technology. Included are items in three general categories: features for practical and functional use (i.e. kitchen appliances with LED touchscreen displays, NEST thermostats and remote-controlled shades), features for lifestyle and entertainment (i.e. built-in sound systems and automated lighting systems) and items for safety and security (i.e. smart locks, Wi-Fi video doorbells and security cameras).
- Hardwood Flooring – It’s estimated that 80% of buyers have hardwood floors included in their list of must-haves when house-hunting. Durable, long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing, hardwood is one of the most expensive flooring options available but also one of the best investments from a resale value standpoint.
- Updated Kitchen and Bathrooms – We all know that kitchens and bathrooms sell a home, so if you have reno dollars to spend, it’s wise to shell out the cash to upgrade the heart of the home and bathrooms. Updated cabinets, quartz or granite countertops and newer appliances are all something that potential buyers will be looking for when house-hunting. When it comes to bathrooms, more and more buyers are seeking a little luxury. Freestanding tubs, high-tech toilets, unique tile shapes and heated floors will appeal to discerning buyers.
- Outdoor Living Space – With such a short hot and sunny season here in Canada, many homeowners want to take advantage of the summer weather while it’s here, making fancy outdoor kitchens and living spaces a hot commodity.
We all know that moving is considered one of life’s most stressful events. Between preparing your home for photos and showings, dealing with negotiations and packing, it’s a hectic time. Since they can’t voice their concerns, don’t forget one member of the family that shouldn’t be overlooked during this whole process – your four-legged friends!
The first thing to do is figure out a plan for keeping pets busy during showings. Animals are distracting and you don’t want there to be anything sidetracking a potential buyer. Most realtors agree that pets (cats and dogs) should be removed from the home during a showing or open house.
Things to consider:
• Take your dog for a long walk or to a leash-free park and let them meet some new friends during showings.
• If weather conditions are mild, consider a temporary pen outdoors. Your real estate agent will alert other sales people showing the home that your pet will safely stay in the pen. You can purchase a 6′ × 6′ pen that can go with you when you move. Temporary pens keep pets out of the rest of your backyard and away from landscaping while unsupervised.
• Keep in mind that even when your pet isn’t in the house, signs of their presence linger. Make sure you vacuum every day: pet hair is a major turnoff to most potential homebuyers. And keep the litter box squeaky clean and out of sight. If you notice a lingering pet odour, simmer a couple cinnamon sticks and orange peel in water for 30 minutes before showings.
• If your realtor has scheduled an open house, arrange to have your pet stay at a friend or family member’s house, or have them boarded at a kennel.
Moving day itself will be stressful for pets, so plan ahead to minimize the trauma. Book them into a kennel for the day or arrange to have them stay with a family member. If they have to stay with you, keep them in a quiet room away from the action. Once in your new home, set them up with familiar belongings in one small area as they slowly adjust to their new surroundings.
Even homeowners who do all their homework before buying are occasionally surprised by how quickly the many expenses of home ownership add up each and every month. But rest assured; if you stick to your budget and make a few sacrifices here and there, it is possible to save money and maybe even pay off your mortgage a few years early!
Mortgages are compounded with hundreds of payments to slowly reduce both your principle loan as well as interest charges, so you can expect interest-heavy payments for the first five to seven years as your bank makes lending you all that money worth their while. But there are ways to pay down your mortgage faster and save money in the long run!
Bi-weekly is best – Opting for an accelerated biweekly payment schedule will not only allow you to make 26 payments a year, it will also reduce both your interest rates and principle amount faster. Lenders may charge you an additional fee, but this is money well spent.
Round it up – Did you know that a hypothetical increased payment of $1,000 instead of $830 could save up to $48,000 over the course of the mortgage? That’s nearly eight years of payments! Ask your lender if this is an option for you.
Make a lump payment – If you get an annual bonus or consistently receive a substantial income tax return, consider using the windfall as a lump payment at the time of your mortgage renewal or sooner if your lender allows it.
When it comes to saving money, it’s common to have difficulty during your first few years of homeownership as you adjust to the added expenses. But it can be done. Here are a few simple ideas to help you cut back:
- Online grocery shopping. How many times do you walk into a grocery store with nine or ten items on your list and leave with a cart full? Instead, do your shopping online and simply drive to the store to pick up your order – no more impulse buying! Check your local retailers to see if the service is offered
- Make your own lunch and coffee every day
- Use public transportation if available
- Install a programmable thermostat to save on energy bills
When it comes to buying or selling a home, there are a few important documents that will come into play during the process. Some of these forms include pre-written clauses that your realtor will discuss and explain to you. Due to the nature of these contracts, be sure to read them thoroughly and always, always ask for clarification if needed.
Seller Representation Agreement (Listing Agreement): The listing agreement serves a number of functions. It establishes the relationship between the brokerage (and real estate representative) and the seller, it outlines specifics about the property for sale and it explains the services that will be performed and remuneration agreed upon. A Data Input Form will also be completed, describing the property in more depth i.e. legal description, age, room dimensions, zoning, etc.
Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS): Completing this form is optional for sellers. This form expands on information already provided about the property for sale, including items like restrictive covenants, known easements, details about past renovations, moisture issues, etc. If a SPIS has been provided by the seller, the salesperson should inform potential buyers of its existence. It is important to note that the SPIS is not a warranty or guarantee for buyers and should not replace a home inspection.
Buyer Representation Agreement: This agreement is an authority granted by a buyer to a real estate brokerage to act on his or her behalf during the purchase of a property. It outlines and explains the responsibilities of both parties and the commission arrangement. While a realtor in Ontario is required to complete the agreement and submit it to the buyer before any offer is made, the buyer is under no obligation to sign it.
Agreement of Purchase and Sale: An agreement of purchase and sale is like a conversation in writing that expresses the buyer’s wish to purchase a property and the proposed terms of sale. It only becomes legally binding when everything is mutually agreed upon and signed by both parties. Commonly referred to as an offer, this document summarizes the terms that the buyer is seeking. Items always covered in the agreement of purchase and sale will be deposit amount and sale price, conditions, chattels and fixtures, completion (closing) date, etc.
While the exact forms may vary from city to city across the province, the fundamental concept behind each is the same.