Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a Home

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Published on: April 23, 2011

Question: “How can I compare my monthly rental payments to mortgage payments?”

Answer
Of course, the amount of your mortgage payments will depend on the price of the home you buy, the size of your down payment, prevailing mortgage rates, and the term and amortization you choose. But it’s actually quite easy to estimate typical payments using the mortgage calculators available online.  One I like to use is: www.rbcroyalbank.com/rentorbuy

Question: “How do I know how big a mortgage I will qualify for?”

Answer
A pre-approved mortgage is a great way to know how much you can borrow for your home.  This, in turn, helps you set a price that’s realistic for your financial situation.  It’s important to note that having your mortgage pre-approved doesn’t obligate you to buy a home: it’s simply a way to know how much your mortgage lender will approve you for.   A mortgage specialist will be able to answer your questions and address your concerns.

Question : “I want to become a homeowner as quickly as possible but I haven’t saved a large down payment.  Any suggestions?”

Answer
You will be glad to know there are different options available, depending on how much of a down payment you can afford.  A low down payment mortgage is required when your down payment is less than 20%.  You can purchase a home with as little as 5% down.  All low down payment mortgages require mortgage default insurance.  Mortgage default insurance premiums can either be paid up front or added to the amount you borrow. 

With the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan, you can use up to $25,000 in RRSP savings ($50,000 for a couple) to help pay for your down payment on your first home.  You then have up to 15 years to repay your RRSP.

Question:  “Where can I find up-to-date information on home prices and the Real Estate market in my area?”

Answer
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) offers an easy to browse through home listings in every part of Canada.  Easy links let you look at the housing market in specific cities by neighbourhood, price range, type of home and other parameters.  It’s a great way to get a sense for the types of homes available in your community and their features and price ranges.  Visit www.mls.ca today and see what properties are currently available. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) website helps you look at average home prices in communities across Canada and locate a realtor in your area.  The site also includes useful home-buying tips and a glossary of common real estate terms.  Go to www.crea.ca and check out what is happening in your local real estate market. 

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides a content-rich website with detailed, step-by-step information on buying, selling, and renovating a home, as well as up-to-the-minute news of interest to homebuyers and sellers.  Visit www.cmhc.ca and click on “Buying or Renting a Home”. 

Don’t forget about  MyHomeFinder.ca either. We have easy links to listings and great information on neighbourhoods as well.

Angela Slager is with CENTURY 21 Heritage House Ltd. in Woodstock, ON.

Conserve your Energy

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Published on: April 23, 2011

This Good Friday (April 22) is also Earth Day, reminding us that we need to take actions to help save our planet and to perhaps save a bit of money along the way.

More than 6 million Canadians will join 1 billion people in over 170 countries to bring environmental awareness through local events and presentations. Earth Day was first launched in 1970 as an environmental awareness event in the United States.

Canada has been participating in Earth Day for over 20 years and has grown it into Earth Week and even Earth Month to accommodate all the events and projects taking place. Events range from small community initiatives to large public events, like Victoria’s Earth Walk (April 16, 2011), Edmonton’s Earth Day Festival at Hawrelak Park, and Oakville, Ontario’s Waterways Clean-up (April 16, 2011). Do you know what you’re community is doing for Earth Day or Week?

As a part of Earth Day, I’d like to remind you of some things that you can do to green your household.

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. This uses about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. 
  • Use low-flow shower heads or aerators on faucets. According to Statistics Canada, a family of three could save between 80-$100 a year on energy costs
  • Weatherstrip your windows and doors. Air leaks in your home can account for 30 to 40% of the home’s overall heat and cooling loss.
  • Wash full loads of clothes in cold water and hang to air dry. If you wash 80%, or four out of five loads, on cold/cold, you could cut two-thirds of a kilogram of greenhouse gas emissions per month.
  • Take short showers instead of baths. In the end how much water you save or whether you save water at all depends on the length of your showers. Baths usually require about 20 gallons (80 litres), the same as a ten-minute shower.
  • Close water taps while brushing your teeth. According to WaterSense, the average bathroom sink faucet flows at a rate of two gallons a minute.
  • Choose natural, non-toxic cleaning products. Make simple, natural cleaners with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and water.
  • Donate, reuse and recycle items before throwing them into the trash. Harmful materials like chemicals, batteries, electronics, etc. should be taken to local hazardous waste depots or recyclers.

Historic Charm

There’s something about a home that tells stories of yesteryear through its creaks and carved mouldings, in its worn bricks and scuffed floors. It’s not just a building, but also a part of our social and architectural history.

Lyn and Dick Mullen know all about historic charm. They welcome visitors into their 19th century home on a regular basis to experience the history and stories behind the faded yellow brick exterior. The Mullens run a bed and breakfast out of part of their heritage home and are continuously searching deeper and deeper for every bit of the structure’s story to share with their guests.
They even had the tiles of the gothic revival mansion’s 17th-century fireplace in the main living room, depicting Queen Elizabeth I and the Duke of Essex, authenticated by the Royal Ontario Museum as dating back to the beginning of the 15th century.

Living amongst such rich history gives the Mullens a feeling of connectedness to the past that they wouldn’t feel otherwise. Each artifact, every room, the old wood and bricks hold its own story and finding out about the story is an exciting journey for homeowners like the Mullens who invest in a piece of history.

Historic houses are truly the embodiment of home, having supported growing families and weathered storms for decades and sometimes centuries. Though they do require more  care and awareness to preserve, becoming a steward of Canadian history is a reward many find worth the work.

According to the Heritage Canada Foundation, Canada has lost more than 20 per cent of its pre-1920 buildings in the last 30 years. However, with the  increased demand for these one-of-a-kind homes in the real estate market, the trend of letting these beauties fall into disrepair may be changing for the good.

Whether it’s a stately home, the birthplace of a famous person or a structure with historic architecture and design, if it’s a historic home you’re looking for, you’ll find it amongst the available homes across the country.

A great bonus to owning and respecting a piece of our past is eligibility of designated buildings for special grants for maintenance, preservation and restoration. Check with your local municipal or provincial department to find out about grants and rebates available to you. In Ontario, the  Heritage Property Tax Relief is one example of monetary assistance for owners of historic homes.

Before you take a leap into the past, make sure you’re ready for the investment and demands of owning a historic home before you buy. You’ll be happy you did extensive planning before buying.

To find out more about the home, visit your county and city courts, city archives and local registry offices for information on deeds, mortgages, land grants and more. Getting to know your home inside and out will strengthen your sense of place and help you to feel more at home.

The Mullens are proof of the pride and education resulting from owning and preserving a piece of history. Lyn and Dick wouldn’t feel at home without the romantic chandeliers hanging from their soaring ceilings and the grand, curved staircases cascading from the strong, steady structure of their high-Victorian heritage home. And now they’re adding their bit of history to its intriguing story.

Paul Baron is with Leading Edge Realty Inc. in Scarborough, ON

How Working with a Realtor Can Benefit YOU

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Published on: April 3, 2011

Buying or selling a home can be one of the most important and complicated transactions you make in your lifetime.  With this transaction comes plenty of paperwork, endless decisions to be made, and unknown obstacles.  A Realtor can help you through the process of buying or selling a home from beginning to end, and ensure your financial and legal protection along the way.  Realtors differ from other licensed or registered real estate agents or brokerages in that they are member of The Canadian Real Estate Association, and as such must adhere to the REALTOR® Code and Standards of Business Practice.  These regulations, ethics and high standards ensure you will receive the best possible assistance while buying or selling your property.  Below is an explanation of ways in which a Realtor can help you.

Skill

Realtors have professional marketing and negotiating skills that can help you buy or sell your home at a price that works for you. 

Knowledge

A Realtor knows the ins and out of the industry and uses his or her education and experience to your advantage.  In addition to their training, Realtors constantly update their knowledge through professional education programs

Resources

Realtors have a plethora of resources at their fingertips, which can help you buy or sell a property faster and broaden your options.  Realtors have access to the Multiple Listing Service; thus if you are buying a home, a Realtor can find properties other Realtors are selling, or if you are selling they can list your home so other buyers can discover it through the Realtor with whom they are working.  Realtors can also post signs which can direct buyers’ attention to a home that is for sale and being handled professionally.

Protection

Realtors must follow strict regulations and adhere to a code of ethics that is designed to protect you, the client.  A Realtor is bound to client confidentiality and also must offer you his or her undivided loyalty; he or she must “protect the client’s negotiating position at all times, and disclose all known facts, which may affect or influence their decision.”  Realtors must also “obey all lawful instructions of the seller” and “account for all money and property placed in a brokerage’s hands while acting for the client.”  Furthermore, a realtor can legally incorporate a Property Disclosure Statement into a Contract for Purchase and Sale, ensuring you buy a home with full knowledge of any defects of which the seller may be aware.

For more information, talk to your local CENTURY 21 real estate professional.

Jules Seaman is with CENTURY 21 In Town Realty in Vancouver, BC.

Canadian Retail Sales, December 2010 Release

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Published on: April 3, 2011

Date: February 22, 2010

Canadian Retail Sales, December 2010 Release

Source: Statistics Canada

Link to Release: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/110222/dq110222a-eng.htm

Summary: The dollar value of Canadian retail sales edged down 0.2 per cent after six consecutive monthly gains. The small decline was based on a 2.7 per cent decline in sales at new car dealerships. The value of sales in most other retail categories was up. The value of sales at gasoline stations experienced the largest increase, up 7.6 per cent on higher per liter prices. The value of retail sales in Ontario was unchanged in December.

Analysis: Retail sales have generally been trending upwards over the past two years. In 2010, the value of retail sales was up by 5.1 per cent over 2009 as consumers remained confident in their economic outlook and were willing to spend on small and large ticket items. From the perspective of the housing market, retail sales are most important as an indicator of consumer confidence. Generally improving retail sales numbers coupled with improving labour market conditions bode well for a healthy residential real estate market through 2011.

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