Blog

Mortgage Broker or Mortgage Specialist?

June 24th, 2020

When meeting with new Buyer clients, this is one of the most frequently discussed topics when reviewing the home search and buying process. It's important to have this conversation with your real estate agent at the beginning of the home search process so that you understand the possible pros, cons, and differences between a mortgage broker or mortgage specialist. It's also important to have this conversation before committing yourself to one or the other as there are many factors to consider and questions to be asked. Aside from choosing the home itself, the financing aspect is the most important element of the home purchase process and you should have a thorough understanding of the process before making a purchase.
 
So what are your options?
 
Mortgage Brokers
 
A mortgage broker is a licensed professional who can secure a mortgage for their client. Mortgage brokers don’t lend money directly to you, they act as an intermediary to arrange transactions by finding a lender for you. Some lenders only offer their products directly to borrowers, while some mortgage products are only available through brokers. Since mortgage brokers have access to a variety of different lenders, they may give you a wider range of mortgage products and terms to choose from.

Mortgage brokers don’t all have access to the same lenders. This means the available mortgages may vary from one broker to the next. When you consider working with a mortgage broker, ask which lenders they deal with and how many they have access to.

Mortgage brokers generally don’t charge fees for their services. Instead, they typically receive a commission or "origination fee" from the lender when they arrange a transaction. Mortgage brokers are required to update their qualifications regularly, though specifics vary by province.
 
Mortgage Specialists
 
Mortgage specialists work for the bank and specialize in mortgage loans. Mortgage Specialists select and present the bank's mortgage offerings and assist customers in completing applications and lead them through the process. Based on the borrower’s financial status, these specialists select the applicable offerings of their bank and present them to borrowers.
 
Banks may not have the same incentive to get you the lowest, most favourable rates like a mortgage broker does. If the bank acts as your financial services provider, they may have a better overall picture of your entire financial health and goals. Banks are keen to provide mortgages because it helps create a long-term and profitable relationship with the customer. They will often entice clients with perks like paying an appraisal fee, giving you cash back, and making it easier for you to get a home equity line of credit.
 
What you should know about mortgages:
 
Before considering the pros and cons of a mortgage broker or mortgage specialist, let's first take a look at some of the important elements to consider when shopping for a mortgage:

Pre-Approval

A pre-approval is when a potential mortgage broker or lender looks at your finances to find out the maximum amount they will lend you and what interest rate they will charge you.

With a pre-approval, you can:
  • know the maximum amount of a mortgage you could qualify for
  • estimate your mortgage payments
  • lock in an interest rate for 60 to 120 days, depending on the lender
The pre-approval amount is the maximum you may get. It does not guarantee that you'll get a mortgage loan for that amount. The approved mortgage amount will depend on the value of your home and the amount of your down payment. It may be a good idea to also look at properties in a lower price range so that you don’t stretch your budget to its limit.

Remember that you’ll also need money for:
  • closing costs
  • moving costs
  • ongoing maintenance costs
Rate
 
We all want the lowest interest rate possible in order to save money over the life of our mortgage, however the rates that are available to borrowers depend on different variables. The rate you receive can be influenced by your credit score, location, purchase price, loan amount, down payment amount, loan term, and loan type (variable vs fixed).
 
Loan Term
 
The mortgage term is the length of time you commit to the mortgage rate, mortgage provider, and associated terms and conditions that form part of your mortgage contract. The term you choose will have a direct effect on your mortgage rate. Shorter terms will typically have a lower interest rate. At the end of your mortgage term, you must renew your mortgage on the remaining principal amount. When you renew your mortgage you may renew at a different rate and/or term and you may renew with a different lender.
 
Amortization Period
 
The Amortization Period is the length of time it would take you to pay off your loan in full. The maximum amortization period for an insured loan (less than 20% down payment) in Canada is 25 years. If you use a 20% or greater down payment for your purchase, your lender may allow an amortization period of up to 30 years.
 
Variable Rate vs Fixed Rate
 
Variable mortgage rates are typically lower than fixed rates, but can vary over the duration of the term. Variable rate mortgages tend to follow market behaviour (via the prime rate) which will have an impact on your payment amounts. That means your payment amounts can vary over the term of your mortgage. While variable rates are generally lower, they are riskier than fixed rates as they can fluctuate up or down.
 
Fixed mortgage rates do not fluctuate during the term of your mortgage, thereby keeping your payment amounts the same over the term. For some borrowers, having a predictable and constant payment amount may provide more peace of mind and allow for more accurate budgeting.
 
Closed vs Open Mortgages
 
A Closed mortgage cannot be paid off early without paying a prepayment charge. A Closed mortgage limits your prepayment options, but usually offers a lower interest rate than an open mortgage.
 
An Open mortgage can be paid down at any time during the term, without having to pay a charge. The interest rate for an open mortgage may be higher than for a closed mortgage with the same term.
 
Conventional Mortgage vs Insured Mortgage
 
Conventional mortgages require a down payment of 20% or more of the property’s value. You are not required to get mortgage default insurance with a conventional mortgage.
 
Insured mortgages are required when the down payment amount is less than 20%. The borrower must purchase mortgage insurance in this case. The mortgage insurance premium can be paid in a lump sum or added into your mortgage payments.
 
Other Mortgage Features
 
Portable Mortgages
 
If you sell your existing home, you can transfer your mortgage to your new home while keeping your existing interest rate. You may be able to avoid prepayment penalties by porting your mortgage.

Prepayment Privileges
 
You can make lump‐sum prepayments or increase your monthly payments without having to pay a charge. This can help you pay off your mortgage quicker and save on interest penalties. Most lenders have different prepayment privileges available. Make sure to understand what prepayment option are available and which ones might appeal to you.
 
Payment Frequency

By switching from monthly payments to accelerated weekly or biweekly payments, you can pay off your mortgage faster. Explore your options for mortgage payments and see how much interest you could save using different payment frequencies.

Mortgage Penalties

You may have to pay penalties if you prepay large portions of your mortgage early or if you break your mortgage due to unforeseen life changes, such as marital breakdown, death of a spouse or relocating for a job. Read your mortgage contract carefully and make sure you understand how penalties will be calculated before you sign. Many people who terminate their mortgage early are surprised to find out they may owe thousands of dollars in mortgage penalties.

So what are some of the possible pros and cons of using a broker or specialist? 
 
Mortgage Broker
 
Pros
  • Access to multiple lenders to find the best rates and lowest fees.
  • Negotiation. Banks expect the client will negotiate with them, or accept the given rate. Mortgage brokers are more likely to go to bat for you, to get a lower interest rate.
  • May have more options for people with lower credit scores.
  • Access to more variety of mortgage options and features.
  • Have access to more loan programs to suit individual's different needs (self-employed, investment real estate, etc).
  • Flexibility. Brokers are often very flexible with meetings and communication. Many are available after business hours and are willing to deal with meetings and much of the necessary paperwork through text, email, phone, Facetime, etc.
  • Higher Chance of Getting Approved. They are often able to get their clients approved when banks can’t since they are able to work with more lenders and with those who are willing to take a little more risk. Under trickier financial circumstances, a mortgage broker can work with less traditional, B-lenders and private lenders, allowing them to take the details of each unique case into consideration, rather than considering numbers alone. Make sure to read the fine print though. While a deal with a B-lender or a private lender can get you the money you need, it might come with higher interest rates, unexpected brokers fees, lender’s fees and/or unfavourable mortgage terms such as penalties for extra payments.
Cons
  • You may not have a personal/long-term relationship with a broker.
  • Broker may not understand your overall financial situation
  • May not be able to offer certain products like HELOCs
Mortgage Specialist

Pros
  • Convenience . Some people may feel more secure using a known bank and it may offer convenience if you already have an existing relationship and accounts set up.
  • Location. Some people may appreciate a bricks-and-mortar branch located in their neighbourhood.
  • Face-to-Face Communication. Perhaps you are already familiar with a person who knows you and your family at the bank. If you already do your everyday banking at a specific branch, your mortgage specialist will be able to access information that gives them an overview of your entire financial situation
  • Combining Services. There may be extra benefits or perks to combining different bank services with your mortgage.
  • "A" lenders. Banks are A-lenders. They generally look for lower risk borrowers with the best credit scores. "A" lenders may provide great rates but also have the strictest policies. For that reason, your bank may not always be able to give you what you are looking for.
  • As your regular financial service provider, they may take more time to explain the fine details of a mortgage, like how to port a mortgage, penalty clauses, limits on lump sum payments and more.
Cons
  • May be motivated to sell clients a specific mortgage product rather than get them the best rate.
  • Rates are not as competitive as alternative banks that a broker may have access to, although this might vary depending on an individual's financial profile.
  • May be less likely to deal with someone with poor financial or credit history.
As you can see, when it comes to mortgages and financing the purchase of your new home, there is a lot to consider. Deciding whether to use a mortgage broker or mortgage specialist may depend on your individual situation. Oftentimes, the level of service and care you receive from either a broker or specialist depends on the individual person you are dealing with. Make sure to speak to a few different individuals, ask your realtor, family, and friends for referrals, and ask lots of questions before making a choice. 

There are many helpful websites and resources when it comes to mortgages. For more information and education click on the links below:

Financial Services Commission of Ontario (understanding mortgages) http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/understanding-mortgages/Pages/index.html

Ratehub.ca (general mortgage information) https://www.ratehub.ca/mortgages

Dominion Lending (mortgage brokers)  https://dominionlending.ca/

Kingston Mortgage Solutions (mortgage brokers) https://kingstonmortgagesolutions.com/

The Mortgage Professionals (mortgage brokers) https://mortgageprokingston.com/

The Mortgage Advisors (mortgage brokers) https://themortgageadvisors.ca/

RBC Mortgages Kingston (mortgage specialists) https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/mortgages/specialist-locator/
 
 

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

May 6th, 2020

🍂 SPRING HOME MAINTENANCE 🍂
.
Warming temperatures signal the need to assess winter damage and undertake any necessary repairs.These home maintenance tips will help save you time and money by protecting your investment and making it a more enjoyable place to call home
.
Survey your roof for cracks, moss, debris, or nail pops and replace cracked, curled, or missing shingles. If you suspect water damage, check from inside the attic for wet insulation or mould
.
Examine your brickwork, siding or stucco for damage that would allow moisture to get into the walls or foundation. Use applicable sealers to cover cracks and seal off exterior holes to prevent pests from entering
.
Clear clogged gutters, flush downspouts and check for joint separation and loose fasteners. Leader pips should extend at least 150cm to ensure water flows away from foundation
.
Remove storm windows, clean windows and screens, and repair any damaged sealing and weather-stripping. Make sure windows open and close smoothly, and lubricate if necessary
.
Audit your home's smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms. Clear dust from covers, replace batteries, and test for efficient operation
.
Check your air conditioning system and dehumidifier by switching the power on. Call for service if required. Replace filters if applicable. Service the air conditioning system every two to three years
.
Clean the kitchen exhaust and air filter. Dust off the bathroom fan grilles and ceiling fan blades. Vacuum out clothes dryer ducting, exterior vent and under dryer to remove excess lint
.
Regular maintenance ensures a safe and comfortable home environment for you to enjoy. It also safeguards your investment and helps prevent costly repair problems in future. Well maintained homes are easier to prepare for sale, give prospective buyers greater peace of mind and confidence in their purchase decision, and generally provide better resale value

2019 Full Year Review - Kingston and Area Real Estate Market


In 2019 the Kingston and Area real estate market experienced another substantial increase in the average sale price of single family homes. Throughout 2019 Kingston and surrounding area was firmly in "seller's market" territory for the 3rd straight year. A seller's market occurs when the demand for homes outpaces the available supply. This leads to increased competition amongst buyers, faster sales, and increased sale prices. In 2019 Kingston experienced all-time lows in the available supply of listings, leading to increased competition amongst buyers and higher sale prices.
 
So how do we know what type of market we are in and how do we measure it? There's a few common methods we can use that utilize existing sales data to assess the overall state of the market. Read on below to see what happened in the Kingston and Area market in 2019 and how it compared to 2018.
 
Please note: all figures represent data for the entire Kingston and Area Real Estate Association's territory which includes: City of Kingston, County of Leeds, Frontenac County, Greater Napanee, and Lennox and Addington. 
 
1) Months of Inventory (MOI)

This figure represents the number of months it would take to completely sell the homes that are currently listed for sale based on the area’s current rate of sales activity. MOI is calculated by taking: Total Active Listings (for a given month) / Number of Sales (for a given month) = MOI
 
4 -6 MOI = Balanced Market where supply and demand is fairly equal
 
4 MOI or less = Seller's Market where Sellers have gained asking price power
 
6 MOI or greater = Buyer's Market where Buyers have gained more negotiating power
 
When examining the MOI figures for Kingston and Area, we can see we were firmly in seller's market territory for both 2019 and 2018. You'll also note that the Monthly MOI figures in 2019 were lower than the monthly MOI figures for 2018 in 11 of 12 months which is astonishing based on the fact that inventory was already very low throughout all of 2018.
 
Below is a look at how the MOI figures compare in 2019 vs 2018. 
 
Month's of Inventory
 
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2019 3.77 3.49 3.06 2.31 2.31 2.61 2.77 3.02 2.93 3.08 2.89 3.68
2018 4.55 4.26 2.80 2.79 2.58 3.0 3.15 3.24 3.58 3.58 3.54 4.97

2) Sales-to-New Listings Ratio
 
Another way to determine what type of market we are in, is the "sales to new listings" ratio. The ratio is calculated by taking the number of sales in a given period (typically one month) and dividing the sales by the number of new listings for the period.
 
35% - 55% - considered to be a balanced market 
 
55% or greater - The market is considered to have entered the seller's market phase when the ratio of sales-to-new listings rises above 55% or greater. 
 
35% or lower - considered to be a buyer's market. 
 
- In 2019 the Kingston and Area market had a sales-to-new listings ratio above 55% in 10 of 12 months. 
 
- The sales-to-new listings rose slightly above 70% in November and December. The high ratio in November and December can be attributed to pent-up demand from buyers who were not able to purchase a home earlier in the year. Additionally, the months of November and December traditionally experience a lower number of new listings as winter arrives and the holiday season approaches.
 
3) Rising Prices
 
Significant "year-over-year" (YOY) increases in the average sale price can be a clear sign we are in a seller's market. As seen in the figures below, Kingston and Area experienced sharp  YOY increases in average sale prices with percentage increases well above Canada's inflation rate of 1.9% for 2019.
 
Here's a look at 2019 sale prices YOY for the Kingston and Area market:
 
- Average sale price of a single family home for all housing types increased by 8.3% YOY from $365,146 to $395,475 
 
- Average sale price of a Detached home increased 6.9% YOY from $381.797 to $408,222
 
- Average sale price of a Semi-Detached home increased 10.95% YOY from $292,017 to $323,995
 
4) Days on Market
 
A decrease in the average number of "days on market" (DOM) for sold homes doesn't necessarily signal that a market is in Seller's market territory, but a decrease in the DOM figure usually signals that competition and demand for housing is increasing. A decrease in the average DOM often coincides with an increase in average sale prices.
 
In 2019 the average DOM was 34 days for sold homes across all residential housing types. This was down from 37 days in 2018 and 47 days in 2019. 
 
2020 Outlook
 
Heading into 2020 the Kingston and Area real estate market is expected to experience continued low levels of inventory with demand from home buyers expected to remain strong. One might expect the significant increase in home prices to  start to temper demand from homebuyers. However, there are a variety of factors that are expected to keep demand near current levels as we move through 2020:
 
1) Low Mortgage Rates
 
After mortgage rates began to rise slightly in 2018, they then experienced a drop in the first half of 2019. Mortgage rates are still at historical lows with 5 year fixed rates currently below 3%. Although the federal government introduced new mortgage "stress test" rules in 2018 which had a slight dampening effect on buyer's purchasing power, mortgage rates have remained near historic lows, fuelling demand for housing.
 
2) Low Inventory
 
Without a significant increase in the available supply of housing for sale and for rent, sellers will continue to have pricing power as buyers compete for the available supply of housing. There were 5,883 new listings in the Kingston and Area for 2019, up only +0.3% from 2018 and down -6.6% in 2017. 
 
3) Demand from Outside of Kingston
 
Combined with demand from local residents, the demand from out-of-town buyers has also played a factor in the Kingston housing market. Even after reaching an average sale price of $395,475 in 2019, Kingston is still a more affordable city to purchase a home when compared to cities such as the GTA or Ottawa where the average home prices in 2019 were $819,700 and $447,000 respectively, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. For younger buyers priced out of the housing market in those cities and for retirees looking to downsize, Kingston still presents an attractive and more affordable option when compared to the GTA or Ottawa. 
 
The city of Kingston has also attracted real estate investors who are looking to capitalize on the rental property market. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the Kingston Census Metropolitan Area had the lowest vacancy rate in the province of Ontario at .6% in 2018. In 2019 the vacancy rate increased for the first time in five years to 1.9%. The low supply of rental units combined with higher home prices fuels greater demand for rental units along with increased rent costs which is attractive to real estate investors. An example of this was an article published in the Whig Standard in November 2017. According to the article, real estate agent Pravin Patel from the Greater Toronto Area, acted as purchasing agent for over 300 new homes built by Barr Homes and Caraco Development Corporation. According to Patel, two-thirds of those sales were to investors who planned to use the homes as rental properties. 
 
As we move through 2020 and beyond it will be interesting to see what happens with the Kingston and Area real estate market. Will we continue to experience a seller's market with low inventory levels and rising prices? Or will we see an eventual increase in inventory and levelling out of prices? At the moment, all indications are that we will continue to experience low inventory levels with strong demand from buyers. It's hard to imagine a dramatic shift taking place in the near future, but changing economic factors, interest rates, and government policies can all have an impact on inventory levels and prices moving forward so it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
 
If you have any questions about the Kingston and Area real estate market, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. All the best for 2020!

Jeff Elwood
jeffe@royallepage.ca
343-333-4338

Listing and Marketing Your Home for Sale

February 20th, 2018

The main objective when listing your home is to obtain a successful sale in a timely manner while respecting your personal goals and objectives. Here is what you can expect when listing your home with me as your salesperson:

LISTING

- Professional Photography provided by iGuide Kingston
- MLS Listing & Realtor.ca 
- Listing Preparation Checklist 
- Royal LePage Website (national and local) www.royallepage.ca 
- Personal Website www.elwoodrealestate.ca 
- Social Media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) 
- Feature Sheets & Brochures 
- Signage 
- Property Assessment & Compartive Market Analysis 
- 360 Degree Panoramic Photo Listing Enhancement by iGuide Kingston (photos, floor plans, property details, nearby amenities) 

MARKETING

- Individual Marketing & Pricing Strategy (marketing plan, comparative market analysis, and marketing timetable)
- Feature Sheets & Brochures 
- Virtual Tour (iGuide Kingston) 
- Paid Web Based Marketing via Facebook 
- Immediate Social Media Posts followed by Bi-Weekly Posts 
- SEO for website & Use of Google Analytics to direct marketing efforts 
- Open House Management (Weekend) 
- Email to database & “Tuesday Tour” brokerage presentation

LISTING AND SALES MANAGEMENT

- Facilitate showings with potential buyers
- Facilitate showings with buyer's agents 
- Provide showing feedback 
- Open House Feedback
- Offer negotiation
- Bi-Weekly statistical reports, website views (realtor.ca, personal website, MLS views), and social media statistics
- Calculating "Net Proceeds of Sale"
- Sale follow up by providing relevant documentation to legal professionals

Kingston Real Estate at a Glance in 2017

In 2017 the Kingston Area real estate market experienced a substantial increase in the average sale price of single family homes. Throughout 2017 the Kingston Area was considered a "seller's market". A seller's market occurs when the demand for homes outpaces the available supply. The market enters the "seller's phase" when the ratio of sales-to-listings hits 55-60% or greater. The opposite of a seller's market is a buyer's market, characterized by a ratio below 35%. A balanced market is when the sales-to-listings ratio is between 35-55%. Below are some quick facts about the Kingston Area real estate market for 2017:

  • Year over year (YOY) the average sale price of a single family home increased 7.7% from $309,273 to $333,219
 
  • # of listings across all types were down 15% YOY
 
  • Sales-to-listings ratio for single family homes was 66% for 2017 compared to 51% in 2016
 
  • 16 of 28 areas within the Kingston Area Real Estate Association's boundaries experienced a sales-to-listings ratio of 60% or greater for single family homes
 
  • Total dollar volume of sales across all types was $1,353,393,740 for 2017 vs $887,208,801 for 2016

The Royal LePage Peak Millennial Survey was released to media early this morning.

August 21st, 2017

Key highlights from the national release include:
 

  • High home values in Canada's largest urban markets and job uncertainty in other regions mean new strategies and different priorities for 'peak millennials.' A term coined to describe the largest cohort of the millennial demographic, 'peak millennials' also reflects the impact of their potential purchasing power. Whether this demographic chooses to rent or buy, their sheer volume will put pressure on entry-level homes and rental units.
 
  • Although the desire to own a home is strong among peak millennials, the obstacles they face on the path to homeownership are numerous. The cross-Canada survey conducted by Leger found that 87 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 30 believe homeownership is a good investment. Yet, while 69 per cent hope to own a home in the next five years, 57 per cent of those surveyed believe they will be able to afford one.
 
  • Over half (52 per cent) of those surveyed would look to the suburbs when purchasing a property. This is especially true when it comes time to raise a family as the supply of new developments and spacious residences are more abundant in these areas. In addition, 61 per cent stated that they would be willing to move to another city or suburb where property is more affordable.

Buyers: How do I make an offer on a new home before selling my current home?

June 1st, 2017

When current homeowners make the decision to move and purchase a new home, there are usually two ways to go about the process:

1) Sell your current home before looking for your next home and submitting any offers to purchase a new home.

2) Search for a new home with the possibility of submitting an offer while your current home is for sale on the market.

There are different reasons for taking one approach over another. Market conditions, timing constraints, financial situation, career demands, children's schooling needs, etc will all factor into the decision making process. This article will focus on option 2 and how to go about submitting an offer on a new home before your current home has sold. 

"Sale of Buyer's Property"

If a buyer submits an offer to purchase a home but must first sell their current home, it is necessary to include a clause that makes the offer conditional on the sale of the buyer's property. The typical clause might be worded as follows:

This Offer is conditional upon the sale of the Buyer's property known as ________. Unless the Buyer gives notice in writing delivered to the Seller personally or in accordance with any other provisions for the delivery of notice in this Agreement of Purchase and Sale or any Schedule thereto not later than ______ p.m. on __________, that this condition is fulfilled, this Offer shall be null and void and the deposit shall be returned to the Buyer in full without deduction. This condition is included for the benefit of the Buyer and may be waived at the Buyer's sole option by notice in writing to the Seller as aforesaid within the time period stated herein.

The above clause means that the sale of the home does not become final and binding until this condition and any other conditions have become fulfilled or waived.

Typically, the seller will also require the inclusion of an "escape clause" in the agreement of purchase and sale. The escape clause requires the seller to notify the first buyer if they accept another offer from a second buyer, and gives the first buyer a set time period (usually 24 or 48 hours) to meet the conditions of their own offer or walk away from the deal. If the first buyer is unable to sell their existing home and it is confirmed in writing, the first deal becomes null and void and the seller can continue with the sale to the second buyer. 

If the first buyer does fulfill the conditions included in the offer, the seller must sell the home to the buyer according to the original terms of the offer. This is known as giving the buyer the "right of first refusal."

These conditions can effect the the negotiations between the seller and first buyer, and if these conditions are accepted by the seller, can also effect negotiations with the second buyer. It is important to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these details with your sales representative.
 

Spring Home Maintenance

February 22nd, 2017

Warming temperatures signal the need to assess winter damage and undertake any necessary repairs. These home maintenance tips will help save you time and money by protecting your investment and making it a more enjoyable place to call home:

  • Survey your roof for cracks, moss, debris, or nail pops and replace cracked, curled, or missing shingles. If you suspect water damage, check from inside the attic for wet insulation or mould.
 
  • Examine your brickwork, siding or stucco for damage that would allow moisture to get into the walls or foundation. Use applicable sealers to cover cracks and seal off exterior holes to prevent pests from entering.
 
  • Clear clogged gutters, flush downspouts and check for joint separation and loose fasteners. Leader pips should extend at least 150cm to ensure water flows away from foundation.
 
  • Remove storm windows, clean windows and screens, and repair any damaged sealing and weather-stripping. Make sure windows open and close smoothly, and lubricate if necessary.
 
  • Audit your home's smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms. Clear dust from covers, replace batteries, and test for efficient operation.
 
  • Clean and fireplaces or wood stoves and turn pilot lights off where applicable. Service your chimney to remove built up soot and creosote, and check for cracks in your chimney's exterior caused by freeze-thaw of seasonal change.
 
  • Check your air conditioning system and dehumidifier by switching the power on. Call for service if required. Replace filters and close humidifier damper, if applicable. Service the air conditioning system every two to three years.
 
  • Clean the kitchen exhaust and air filter. Dust off the bathroom fan grilles and ceiling fan blades. Vacuum out clothes dryer ducting, exterior vent and under dryer to remove excess lint.

Regular maintenance ensures a safe and comfortable home environment for you to enjoy. It also safeguards your investment and helps prevent costly repair problems in future. Well maintained homes are easier to prepare for sale, give prospective buyers greater peace of mind and confidence in their purchase decision, and generally provide better resale value.

Are you a self-employed individual looking for a mortgage?

January 31, 2017

If you are self-employed it can be difficult to obtain financing for purchasing a home. I myself have been self-employed for the past 20 years and can recall the challenge of obtaining my first mortgage as a self-employed individual. Recently, I had a self-employed client whom was looking to complete his "pre-approval" before making an offer on home. He was dealing with one of the "Big 5" banks and the process ended up being frustrating and needlessly time consuming for him. The bank (who he already carried two other mortgages with) initially gave him the impression that he would easily be pre-approved for the desired amount and that the process would be fairly simple. They asked him for specific documents at the beginning of the process and then he heard nothing from them over the following weeks. When he initiated the next contact with the lender wondering where they were in the process, they then asked him for more documentation and had no input on the status. More than a week later, he still had no word as to the status of his pre-approval and decided to ask where they were in the process. They then asked him for more documentation. 

Of course any lender needs to perform their due diligence, and assess and manage the amount of risk involved with a particular client. They do this to protect themselves and to protect the borrower. Lenders have a set of calculations, ratios, and formulas that help them reach a final decision of whether a client can be approved for a mortgage and if so, for how much. Regardless of the applicant's financial situation, lenders should be able to clearly state what documentation they need from you at the outset of the process based on the information you provide them about your employment or business situation. Following that, a good lender should be able to educate you on the process and provide a rough timeline for the entire process. In the case of my client, it was only when he approached them wondering what the delay was, that they asked him for more documentation. To me this was poor customer service and it appeared that the lender lacked experience dealing with self-employed individuals. From my own personal experience and hearing from other self-employed individuals, this is a common experience.

My suggestion for self-employed individuals is to use a mortgage broker. Brokers have access to a variety of lenders, some of which specialize in dealing with self-employed individuals. Brokers also have access to many more options and tools to help you with the process of obtaining a mortgage. When working with any lender or broker as a self-employed individual, I suggest the following:

1) Ask for an overview of the process and educate yourself on the process before committing to anything.
2) Ask about the differences between different options. For example, rates, term, pre-payment options, variable vs fixed rate, early termination penalties etc. Different mortgage products and tools are available and some may suit your needs  or situation better than others.
3) Ask exactly what documentation is needed from the outset.
4) Ask for an estimate of time needed to complete your application.
5) Ask to be provided with more than one option for your mortgage from more than one lending company.

I hope you find this article helpful. If you have any questions about the process or would like a list of some local Mortgage Brokerages in the Kingston area, feel free to contact me at jeffe@royallepage.ca  and I would be happy to help.




 

Thinking of Selling this Spring?

January 17th, 2017

Thinking of selling your home this spring? Make sure you focus on the best strategies to attract buyers while keeping your costs low. Here are some suggestions on how to ready your home to for sale.

1) Home Improvements

In an effort to make the home more attractive for selling, many sellers will spend a lot of time and money renovating or upgrading various features of the home. Sellers often assume that these improvements will pay them back or earn them more money upon the sale of the home. On average, most sellers will only get back just over 60% of the cost of the improvements. Some “improvements” can actually work against you if they are unappealing or too unusual for the market you are in. Also, make sure you have the correct permits when undertaking any renovations that require them. Improvements done without the proper permits could leave buyers skeptical about the quality and safety of the work that was done.

Some examples of improvements with the best “Return on Investment” (ROI) are:

- Refinishing hardwood floors or installing new hardwood flooring
- Adding or improving insulation, especially in the attic
- Replacing old shingles on the roof
- Converting an unfinished basement to a living space
- Replacing old windows
- Installing new vinyl siding
- Installing a new garage door
- Installing new hardware on doors, cabinets, and drawers
- De-clutter and remove grunge
- Add a fresh coat of paint
- Add or rearrange lighting 
- Update your kitchen faucet

Ask your real estate agent for more suggestions on which home improvements give you the best bang for your buck and optimize your home’s appeal for successful sale.

2) Curb Appeal

The first thing buyers will see is the outside of your home. What kind of first impression will they get when they view your home from the outside? Remember that buyers will pull up and view your home from their car first before making their way to the front door and then inside the home. Some simple and inexpensive improvements to the exterior of your home can make a great first impression:


- Add a fresh coat of paint to any railings, steps, porches, exterior doors etc to help give a fresh and clean appearance
- Keep your lawn freshly mowed and free of any debris
- Adjust or repair any downspouts that are damaged or displaced
- Keep your windows and window frames clean
- Remove any weeds or unwanted plants from your garden and prune existing plants
- Replace, repair, or freshen up your mailbox
- Repair any damaged doors, steps, or porch areas


3) Showing the home 

Sometimes sellers will limit showing of the home to specific times. Buyers often have the challenge of juggling family and work life while searching for a new home. Sellers should remain flexible and make their home available for showings at all times of the day and evening. Limiting your showing times can cause you to miss a potential sale. Staying flexible and co-operate with buyer’s agents even when it is inconvenient.

 4) Use your agent’s experience 

Although you are likely to know more about your own home, your agent likely knows more about how to sell your home. Your agent has a wealth of experience and has bought, sold, and viewed hundreds of homes. Your agent likely has many great suggestions on how to best sell your home, even if you may not want to hear them. Your agent may suggest a new paint job, removal of personal items, or have a differing opinion on the listing price, which can sound offensive at the time. Agents know what makes a listing grow stale and they know what helps a listing sell quickly. You don’t have to follow all of their advice, but listen and analyze what your agent has to say. Most people will buy and sell 2 or 3 homes in a lifetime, whereas an agent will buy, sell, and view hundreds and that experience can be very beneficial to the seller when it comes time to list the home for sale.

If you would like more information or advice on how to prepare your home for sale feel free to contact me at jeffe@royallepage.ca

What are the Steps to Selling a House?

January 2nd, 2017

Selling your home is rarely something that happens overnight. Even in so called "seller's markets" listing and selling a home takes time. One of the challenges for sellers, is having a clear understanding of the steps involved and the amount of time needed to complete each step during a transaction. We all know that buying or selling a home can be both exciting and stressful at the same time. It can feel like an emotional roller coaster at times but having a clear understanding of the steps involved can help eliminate some of the uncertainty, stress and emotional ups and downs. Below we will look at the process of listing and selling a home and the time it takes to complete each step of the process. 

Step 1- Listing your home (3-5 days)

When preparing your home for listing, your listing salesperson will usually need a couple of days to gather information about your home. This includes taking measurements, taking note of the home's features, and taking photographs. From this information your listing salesperson and you, the sellers, will come up with a listing price. After gathering information and determining a listing price, the listing agent will then be able to prepare the listing for upload onto the Multiple Listing Service where it can be accessed by other salespersons. It will also be uploaded to other sites such as Realtor.ca. 

Step 2- Awaiting an offer on your home (*55 days)

The average DOM (days on market) for a single family home in the Kingston Area from October 2016 - December 2016 was 55 days.

*To be clear, the days on market can vary greatly based on a number of factors including listing price, location, time of year etc.

Step 3 - Accepting an offer on your home

Once you've accepted an offer on your home, you then have a specified period of time before the "closing date". The closing date is negotiated between the buyer and seller and is the date the transaction "closes" and the property changes hands. In many cases, sellers will have accepted a "conditional offer" from the buyers. At minimum, most buyers will submit their offer with the following conditions:

- Obtaining satisfactory financing for the property
- Obtaining a satisfactory home inspection report
- Obtaining satisfactory insurance for the property

Assuming the sellers accept the offer with the buyer's conditions, the buyer then has a specified and agreed upon time in which they must fulfill the conditions of the offer. Generally, a timeframe of 2-3 weeks is sufficient to meet the most common conditions.

Step 4- Receiving payment (0 days)

On the day of closing, the seller's lawyer will receive funds from the purchaser's lawyer. This money goes into the seller's lawyer's trust account to pay out any old mortgages, real estate commissions, and outstanding taxes. The remaining funds from the sale of your home go to you. Once the transaction is complete, your lawyer will then contact you to pick up your cheque. 

I hope you found this article helpful and informative. If you have any questions please contact me at jeffe@royallepage.ca
 

Understanding Property Taxes

When purchasing a home, one of the important considerations a Buyer must take into account, is the amount of property taxes they will need to pay as the new owner of the home. Property taxes are one of many recurring costs that homeowners need to consider when they are determining affordability of a given home.

During the home search process, the two most frequent questions Buyers ask regarding property tax are:

1)How are property taxes determined?

2) Why do property taxes vary (sometimes substantially) from property to property?

HOW PROPERTY TAXES ARE CALCULATED

ASSESSED VALUE OF HOME X LOCAL TAX RATE = PROPERTY TAX