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Two Minute Tuesday – Top 5 Romantic Restaurants in Sudbury

January 30, 2018 Tips

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Have you made plans yet? If not, I have you covered, here are your top 5 most romantic restaurants in our city for you to take your loved one!

Simple Ways to Invest in Your Yard for Big Returns

May 18, 2017 Tips

To potential buyers, what’s out in the front yard and in behind a house can be just as important as what’s inside it. Spending a little time (and money) elevating the outdoor areas can have a significant payoff when the offers start rolling in this selling season.

When it comes to outdoor living spaces, small investments can make a really big impact.

Colour Blocking

Take a page from a popular fashion trend and transpose its traits into your landscape design. Pick out a patio wall and paint it a bold colour (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, two or three in the same tonal family) or colour block your flower beds! It creates a visual frame to highlight any outdoor amenities such as an outdoor fire pit or row of potted plants.

More Than Just A Lawn

Instead of investing hundreds of dollars trying to fix a neglected lawn, take the path less trodden. Lawn alternatives, such as wild grasses and wild-flower mixes, are starting to sprout up everywhere, thanks to growing awareness around traditional lawn maintenance (fertilizers, water usage, etc.)

Light It Up

Give the backyard a boost with a set of cafe string lights crisscrossing just so. Illuminating outdoor spaces with these trendy trestles creates an inviting vintage vibe that begs potential buyers to pull up a chair and settle in for the night (and every night after that).

Eat Up

Harness the momentum of the “foodscaping” movement and plant a vegetable garden. A couple of box planters brimming with fresh parsley, salad greens and zucchini vines shows that this home is all about homegrown.

Should We Sell Our Home When We Retire?

April 3, 2017 Tips

Downsizing can free up funds for your retirement and cut down on day-to-day expenses. But do the pros really outweigh the cons?

What will your life look like once you retire? Do you plan to travel? Visit grandchildren more often? Maybe retirement is something you do more on paper because you still plan to work. Whatever your particular retirement looks like, you have to think about your home. Some people elect to downsize from a house that was once full of kids. Others would stay forever, if possible. Here’s a look at which option might be right for you.

The Benefit of Selling

There are plenty of reasons to put your house up for sale. If you own your home outright or have a lot of equity, selling could be the boost your retirement accounts need. Many people today are going into retirement without enough money saved. To avoid being caught in a future housing crisis, selling while the market is healthy might be wise.
Homes, of course, come with maintenance. The older your home, the more maintenance it’s likely to require. And the larger it is, the more time and money you’ll have to sink into taking care of it.
What about utilities? Did you purchase your home to meet the needs of a larger family? Are all of those extra rooms now only used when grown children or grandchildren come to visit? You’re still paying to heat and cool them. Plus, the larger your house, the more property taxes you’re paying on it. Are you wasting crucial retirement funds on a large house when you’re really only using a few of the rooms?
As you age, your home might have a feature that could become a real problem: stairs. Stairs can create mobility challenges for seniors later in life. You may be forced to remodel your home if you choose to stay in it through retirement.
Think back on when you were looking for the perfect home. You might have looked for one in the best school district, near the office or in a more affluent neighborhood. As a retiree, some of what you were looking for then may not apply now. Moving even a small distance could dramatically lower your property taxes or put you closer to things (or people) that are important to you now – like your children and grandchildren.
Alternatively, you could be looking to move to an entirely different state or country. You could plan to sell your home and rent for a year to see if you really enjoy living in that new area. Sometimes what you thought would be the perfect place to retire to ends up not being the fit you thought it would be.

Why You Might Want to Stay Put

All this depends on the equity you have in your home. If you didn’t or no longer have a mortgage – or you’re close to paying it off – carefully weigh the financial implications of both decisions. If your equity is low or you’re nowhere near owning the home outright, you may lower your payment by selling and then renting. Don’t forget that renting often means that all the maintenance and possibly some of the utilities are included in your rent.

The Bottom Line

In retirement planning, there is no one answer. It all depends on you and your financial picture. That’s why it’s so important to find a financial advisor/planner whom you trust to help walk you through decisions like this. He or she will know the questions to ask and can show you how each decision looks on paper. After that, it’s ultimately up to you.

 

What is Land Transfer Tax?

March 23, 2017 Tips

The best kinds of dreams are the ones floating right in front of you. The worst kinds of dreams are the ones that end as soon as you wake up. While it may not cause your home ownership dreams to come to an end, discussing things like Land Transfer Tax will have you floating back to reality in no time.

In an attempt to help you get back to your dreams of walk-in closets and luxurious living spaces, we have summarized the most important Land Transfer Tax facts you need to know so you can get back to the dream world as soon as possible.

What is Land Transfer Tax?

This is the tax you pay when you buy land or an interest in land in Ontario. This includes any buildings, buildings to be constructed, and fixtures.

Who Pays Land Transfer Tax?

Once the transaction closes, the buyer is responsible for paying the land transfer tax.
What are the Land Transfer Tax Rates?
  • 0.5% up to and including $55,000
  • 1% above $55,000 up to and including $250,000
  • 1.5% above $250,000
  • 2% above $400,000 where the land contains one or two single family residences.

Do I Pay Land Transfer Tax as a First Time Buyer?

You are still required to pay the land transfer tax as a first time buyer however, you may be eligible for a refund of all or part of the land transfer tax.  You can find out what rebates you are eligible for on your provincial government website.

Land Transfer Tax for First-Time Buyers:

NEW in Ontario! As of January 1, 2017, the Ontario government is doubling the tax break for eligible purchases from $2,000 to $4,000. This means that there will be no land transfer tax on the first $368,000 on the cost of a home, benefiting more than half of all first-time home buyers who will not have to pay any provincial land transfer tax. As a first-time buyer, you are eligible for many other benefits, and the best way to learn about them is through the advice of a trusted REALTOR.

How Home Appraisals Are Calculated

Tips

Home appraisers value property by doing a walk-through of the house and then using one of two standard valuation methods: either the “sales comparison approach” or the “cost approach.” Occasionally, an appraiser might apply both valuation methods in an effort to pinpoint an extremely accurate value. A home appraisal provides the best determination of a home’s value.

 

The Walk-Through

Unlike other forms of home valuation, such as reports put together by real estate agents, home appraisals are prepared by licensed home appraisers. These professionals look at a variety of factors when valuing real estate. Among other things, they consider a home’s size, layout, and how well it has been maintained. They also factor in surrounding properties and recent sales of similar homes.
The walk-through is the first step in a residential home appraisal and easily the most important part of the entire process. During this step, the appraiser visits the home and performs a visual inspection of the inside and outside of the property. They also note things that add value such as amenities and upgrades.

Exterior 

The appraiser usually begins by visually inspecting the house’s exterior, examining the overall structure and assessing the materials used to construct the home. He will pay close attention to the home’s foundation to determine if there are any cracks or signs of water damage. Although a home appraiser is trained to look for obvious signs of disrepair, they are not a home inspector.

Interior 

Although the appraiser doesn’t assess a home’s value based on décor, a clean, well-maintained home will show better than one that is cluttered and dirty. Staging the home can dramatically increase its value. Appraisers look at the essential building materials used to construct the inside of the home, including flooring, light fixtures, windows, and doors. The appraiser also considers the square footage and number of bedrooms.

Amenities 

While the appraiser is inside, he will look at the home’s amenities, which include all the little extras that make a house more comfortable. Amenities like central air conditioning, carbon monoxide detectors, security systems, and custom window treatments set a house apart from other properties and can increase market value.

Upgrades 

Major upgrades can dramatically raise a home’s price. The home appraiser will consider things like new kitchen cabinets, appliances, or countertops. Likewise, a recently remodeled bathroom can add thousands of dollars to a property’s appraised value. If you upgrade your home, it’s important to keep your receipts and invoices so you can prove how much you spent on materials and labor.

Home Valuation Methods 

After the walk-through, the home appraiser will apply one of two valuation methods to assign a final value to the home. In some cases, an appraiser might use a combined approach to get the most accurate number possible.

Sales Comparison Approach 

By far the most popular appraisal method, the sales comparison approach determines a home’s fair market value by comparing it to similar homes that have recently sold in surrounding neighborhoods. Professionals in the industry often refer to these properties as “comparables” or “comps.”
Because no two houses are exactly alike, the appraiser factors in price adjustments for all the differences between the comp homes and the house being appraised, which is referred to as the “subject property.” For example, if “comp A” has granite countertops and the subject property has laminate, the appraiser subtracts the value of the granite from the subject property’s total value. The appraiser continues to make adjustments for several comps, raising or lowering value based on differences in lot size, amenities, fixtures, appliances, finishes, and overall upkeep.

Cost Approach 

The cost approach attempts to calculate the cost of replacing the entire home using local construction materials and labor. Using the following steps, the appraiser calculates what it would cost to rebuild the home from the ground up.
  1. First, the appraiser determines the value of the lot.
  2. They estimates the cost of reproducing the home.
  3. They consider the home’s age and condition to calculate depreciation.
  4. They subtract the depreciation figure from the total replacement cost of a brand new structure.
  5. They add in any external improvements, such as pools, landscaping, storage sheds, and decks.
  6. They add the lot value to the total value of improvements and depreciated value to arrive at an accurate replacement cost.

When the Report Is Finished 

Home appraisals cover a home both inside and out and every detail in between. The goal is to get the most accurate snapshot of the house’s current condition. When the appraiser is finished, they prepare a detailed analysis of the property and assigns it a market value. At minimum, the home appraisal report will include:
  • A description of the exterior and interior of the property and any major improvements
  • A brief description of the home’s setting, such as a new development or rural property
  • The home appraiser’s opinion of the quality of the neighborhood and surrounding area
  • A statement regarding available area amenities, such as access to parks, shopping, schools, and public transportation
  • A list of at least three comparable homes that have recently sold in the area and an analysis of their features
  • Identification of any problem areas that seriously detract from the home’s value, such as mold or a structural defect
  • The appraised value

Comparative Market Analysis vs. Home Appraisal 

Home appraisals are sometimes confused with another form of real estate valuation called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Although both ultimately put a price tag on a piece of property, a CMA is prepared by a real estate agent, whereas home appraisals are performed by licensed real estate appraisers.
The two reports also vary in detail and preparation methods. Depending on an agent’s experience, a CMA might range from basic to very comprehensive. A home appraisal, on the other hand, will always include a detailed analysis of a home’s value using professional real estate appraisal methods.
For homeowners looking to list their house for sale, a CMA is a way to estimate an accurate listing price. As the name implies, real estate agents assemble a CMA by comparing homes in the surrounding area and analyzing recent sales of similar properties. By contrast, mortgage lenders use home appraisals to approve financing for real estate purchases, so the value must be as accurate as possible. If you plan to buy a new house or refinance your current home, your lender will require a home appraisal before approving the loan. Some homeowners also go the extra step of hiring a licensed real estate appraiser to value their property so they know exactly how to price it on the real estate market.
How Much Will it Cost to Buy a House

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a House?

March 6, 2017 Tips

Buying a home is a big investment – likely the largest one you will ever make. The cost to buy a home should be carefully considered to avoid the risk of financial difficulty in the future.

Since this decision has a large impact on your wallet, you should take some time to explore the many costs associated with buying a home. Doing your homework and knowing the average cost of these services in your neighbourhood will help you choose a home within a realistic price range.

 

Deposit:

Depending on your location and the price of a home, you may need to put a deposit on a home as a security measure to ensure you don’t lose it to another interested buyer. If you are required to pay a deposit, it will become part of your down payment once you have purchased the home.

Down Payment:

In Canada, the minimum amount you need to put down on a home is 5%. While this is realistic for most first time home buyers, having a down payment of 20% or more will help buyers avoid paying Mortgage Loan Insurance.

Land Transfer Tax:

When you buy a home, you are required to pay a land transfer tax to the province upon closing. This tax is normally based on the amount paid for the land, as well as the remaining amount on any mortgage or debt assumed as part of the arrangement to buy the land. Cost will vary depending on your municipality, the size of the land and other factors.  Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of Nova Scotia do not have Land Transfer Tax at all, while other provinces use a tiered system.

Appraisal Fee :

An appraisal will normally cost between $200 and $300 but can vary depending on your location. This will help prevent you from borrowing more than you need to, and will prevent lenders from giving you too much.

Home Inspection:

A home inspection is a necessary step in your home buying process and will normally cost an average of $350 depending on the size, age, and condition of the home. This helps ensure there are no unexpected maintenance or home improvement costs upon purchasing the home.

Property Insurance:

While property insurance is likely already something you have factored into your budget, it’s important to do your research and find a reasonable quote that will ensure you are covered should anything unexpected happen.

Mortgage Insurance:

There is mortgage life insurance, which is designed to protect the repayment of a mortgage if anything were to happen to you. There is also mortgage loan insurance if your down payment is less than 20% of the total house cost. Premiums for this type of insurance range from 0.5% to 3% and increase if you are self employed.

Lawyer Fees:

The fee you will be charged by your lawyer will vary depending on the person representing you and must be paid upon closing. Ask your real estate agent for advice as they likely have a preferred trusted lawyer they can refer you to.

Title Insurance:

Title insurance is a one-time-fee that provides protection from losses related to the properties title or ownership.

Property Taxes:

The cost for property taxes is expressed as a dollar rate for every $1,000 estimated to be the market value of your property.

Maintenance and Energy Costs:

Potentially your largest ongoing homeowner expense, these costs include lawn care/ yard work, professional services, additions/upgrades and the cost of keeping the house running year-round.

Moving Expenses:

It’s easy to forget about the small things when moving, but it’s important to remember they can add up quickly! Consider the cost for phone, electricity, and other utility installations and don’t forget about movers, a moving truck and feeding your friends who are helping out!

 

Now that you have a better idea of the cost to buy a home, it’s time to hit the books to find out how much these services will cost in your area. Make a list, create a budget, and get started!

Buying vs Renting, What’s Better?

February 21, 2017 Tips

Should you rent, or should you buy? It’s a question that most Canadians will ask themselves at one point or another in their lifetime. Those who choose to rent often wonder if they’re wasting money. Those who buy may wonder whether or not their investment will be worth it in the long run.

Though it’s clear home ownership offers many benefits, the decision to buy or rent is a personal choice. Here are a few factors to consider:

 

Market Conditions

What is the price of real estate in your local market? It’s important to understand the market conditions and how they may affect prices before you decide to buy or rent.

Job Stability

Do you have a stable job and roots within your community? If your plan is to continue living in your community for the foreseeable future, home ownership may be the best option for you.

Down Payment

Do you have enough money saved up for an adequate down payment?

3 Benefits of Home Ownership:

1) Financial investment – Your monthly mortgage payment creates equity for you, not your landlord.
2) Quality of life – Owning a home can provide a sense of stability and control that you don’t often get from renting. There is a great feeling about coming home to a place that you own.
3) Do what you want – When you own your own home, there’s no need to get approval before you paint a wall or hang a piece of art. You can choose what minor and major renovations you make to the place you live in.

4 Ways to Save a Down Payment

January 20, 2017 Tips

Have you ever asked yourself “how am I ever going to save enough money for a down payment on a house”? Well there are a lot of ways that you can save for a home, here are a few ways to start saving!

1 | Prioritize

When saving for something important like a home, start by going through your regular routine. Do you go out to eat often? Are you an avid online shopper? Take frequent vacations? Buy the latest ATV or boat? You should be willing to cut back on unnecessary expenses and then try to identify other areas where you can cut back so that you can put more money into your savings.

 

2 | Settle Your Debt

One of the first things you should do is pay off all debts. If you try to apply for a mortgage with too much consumer debt, you won’t qualify. In order for most people to qualify for the house they would like, they usually have to lower or remove their credit card debts first.

 

3 | Look for Cheaper Alternatives

There’s nothing wrong with being frugal, especially if it means saving money. Here are some examples of finding the cost efficient option:
-Buy new clothes often? Try sticking with your current wardrobe a bit longer, or visiting thrift stores.
-Take expensive trips? Try something less expensive or closer to home.
-Eat out lots? Try eating out less or look for cheaper places to eat, or collecting coupons.
-Use up your data? Try turning your phone to wifi mode when away from home.

 

4 | Take Advantage of a First Time Homebuyers Program

Programs like this are usually designed to make it easier for first time home buyers to afford a new home by slightly lowering the required down payment percentage. These programs usually have very specific requirements.

How the Internet Can Help Sell Your Home

Tips

If you’re looking for ways to increase awareness of your property and attract potential buyers, consider advertising your home online.  The internet can have a large influence when it comes to selling your home.

Promote Your Listing Online

The internet’s largest contributing factor in selling your home is the increase in potential viewers. By uploading your property’s information and photos online you now give access to thousands of potential buyers to look at it.
Real Estate agents generically take care of putting your listing online, which depending on what reliable company you choose, can result in a dramatic increase in views due to the regular and returning traffic of that company’s website. Although you are not limited to just their website audience, you can integrate other strategies such as sharing the link to your listing onto your Facebook profile to help spread the word.
 If you do share the link to your listing through social profiles be sure to monitor the reactions and to answer any questions that may pop up in the comments.

Hiring a Home Inspector

December 13, 2016 Tips

Buying a home is the largest investment most consumers will ever make. Before buying, you should know what condition the home is in and what repairs might be needed. Hiring a qualified home inspector to examine a home can help you to make an informed decision about its condition.

 

What Should I Expect From a Home Inspector?

The home inspector’s role is to tell you the physical condition of the home. The inspector should walk through the home with you and point out any problems. This normally takes at least two hours. The inspector must give you a contract before the inspection and a written report after an inspection.

 

The inspector must not damage the home during the inspection unless the owner agrees in writing to allow an invasive inspection. If the inspector causes damage during the inspection and the seller has not agreed, the inspector must pay for the damage. For example, this means that the inspector usually can’t drill holes to look inside walls, ceilings or behind tiling. An inspector can look for signs that there might be problems with a home and suggest any areas that should be looked at by an expert. For example, mould and wiring behind walls usually cannot be seen directly, but there might be other signals that a trained eye would notice.

 

Before starting the home inspection, the inspector must give you a copy of the signed contract that includes a list of what will and won’t be inspected.

 

What to Ask Before Hiring a Home Inspector

Make sure you ask the following questions, even if the home inspector you are considering is highly recommended by a person you trust:

 

1. Education, training, qualification and experience

Ask the home inspector about his or her educational background, years of experience, courses taken, and quali cations. Many inspectors have a background in the construction trades. Has the inspector taken any continuing education courses to keep up with new construction materials and requirements?

 

2. Knowledge of the Building Code

Ask the inspector if he or she knows and understands the Ontario Building Code and the way it has changed over time. An old home will meet the code in the year it is built; however, new homes will have to meet today’s building code.

 

3. Conflict of interest

Is the inspector being paid to inspect the home
by anyone other than you? For example, if the inspector has received a fee from the realtor, your bank or mortgage broker, there would be a con ict of interest. The inspector is not allowed to carry out an inspection where there is a con ict of interest.

 

4. References

Ask the inspector to give you the names and phone numbers of at least three recent customers, then ask those customers for their comments. Would they recommend that inspector? Another way to nd out about a home inspector is to call your local Better Business Bureau to check the business complaint history. If there were complaints, how did the business deal with them?