November 13, 2015
10 Questions to ask your Mortgage Lender
The first step towards purchasing a home is knowing what you can afford. This all starts with getting pre-approved for a mortgage. From there, you can narrow down your search and eliminate those blue-sky homes if they are out of reach.
When you meet with a mortgage broker they will assess what you can afford at the best possible rate for you, the buyer. A lender has - and should have - your best interest at heart. However it’s okay to challenge them to make sure you are getting the best service and mortgage rate on the market.
Here are 10 questions you can ask your mortgage lender as you get started on your home-buying journey:
1. How long have you been in the business?
This is an important question to ask for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you want to be working with an experienced lender. It can take up to five years for a mortgage broker to learn the market, understand credit and be able to apply it. A new broker may not know how to effectively weigh the risk vs. reward. With experience comes the expertise to make the less obvious decisions when it comes to getting you a rate that works for your goals and lifestyle.
2. What factors can affect my approval?
For the lender to fully approve and agree to lend you money there are a few more numbers beyond the list price that they need to crunch into the total equation before go time: the total cost of the home, which includes property taxes, condo fees, maintenance fees – the actual agreed upon price – it all can affect what you are approved for. Any changes in your credit score and employment status can also impact your approval status.
3. What type of mortgage should I consider?
The two most popular options are fixed and variable interest rate mortgages. A fixed rate mortgage is offers a specific rate that is locked in for the term, which is appealing as you know exactly what to expect. Whereas on the other hand, a variable rate changes with according to market interest rates. Hard to predict, ask your broker to help give some research into historical market data and to determine how equipped you are for risk to advise you in the best direction to go.
4. What is the Interest Rate & Annual Percentage Rate?
And is the rate you’re quoting me the lowest rate for that term? There’s a thing called “scaled pricing” which is where a lender offers two rates for the same mortgage: a lower, competitive rate with fair commission to the lender, and a higher, less competitive rate which brings more money into the lender’s pocket. Do your research; know what the competitive rates are out there in the market. If you ever have any doubt – ask for a second opinion.
5. How much do I need for a down payment?
In Canada you can purchase a home with as little as 5% down on a home less than $1M. Homes over $1M require a minimum 20% down payment. The down payment is calculated as the dollar value of the down payment divided by the home price. Your mortgage broker can help you decide how much of a down payment you’ll need in order to get the home you want and stay within budget.
6. When can I lock the interest rate, and will this come at a cost?
Interest rates might fluctuate from the time you apply for a mortgage to when the sale is closed. Talk to your lender about locking in a good rate, and what fees may apply if you were to do so.
7. What documents will I have to provide?
Make the most of your meeting with your lender by coming prepared with any required documents. These may include bank statements, tax returns and a recent pay stub. Ask ahead of time to see what they will need you to bring.
8. What is the drop rate policy in respect to pre-approvals?
A good lender will pre-approve you for a rate that is valid for 120 days. If rates drop during that 120 day timeframe and you are about to close on a house, you should still be able to qualify for a lower rate.
9. Do you guarantee on-time closings?
The purchase contract on the sale of the house contains a date to close escrow. If the lender is not able to close on time, you as the buyer could face extra costs, for example an increased interest rate and additional expenses to reschedule the move. Avoid any problems ahead of time by ensuring your lender’s guarantee to close on time.
10. Is this really the best product for me?
Have your lender explain the pros and cons, take into account your financial situation and budget to make sure you are getting the best product to suit your needs.
November 13, 2015
Our 7 Steps to Selling Your Home
Want your home sold? Well you’ve come to the right spot. Turns out our team here knows a thing or two about what it takes to sell a property in a competitive, booming real estate market like Calgary’s. Averaging almost 2% more residential home sale price than the Calgary Real Estate Board average for the past nine years, you could say we’ve learned a few things along the way. This is post is a must-read if you’re looking to sell your home. Follow these seven steps and you’ll be well-prepared to make that sale:
- Attention to Detail
The first step in evaluating and pricing your home is to pay careful and unmatched attention to detail. How do you do that? Take my team for example. When a client comes to us ready to sell their home, before we draft up the property listing there’s a bit more research we need to do. We go beyond just honing in on your property - we tour other properties for sale in your neighborhood to better identify the true value of your home and the unique selling features that make it stand out amongst the sea of listings.
- Pre-Listing Overview
Uncover all the leaks, cracks or defects that can occur over the lifetime of a property by conducting a comprehensive pre-listing process and home inspection report. My team will do this for every one of our clients so we can uncover any potential problems early, giving them the time to make any repairs or provide full disclosure to potential buyers; saving them from any legal trouble that could result otherwise.
- Walk-Thru Ready
This is your home’s moment to shine - no corners should be cut when it comes to your homes showing potential. Would you be impressed if you went to view a home that wasn’t cleaned from top to bottom? I didn’t think so. When it comes to giving my clients the best chance at selling their property quickly and headache free, my team provides complimentary, professional cleaning services that polish their home so it will shine its brightest. Yes, this includes carpet cleaning (no cutting corners, remember!).
- Essential Property Documents
This service as mundane as it sounds has truly been one of the most beneficial for my clients.
Laser-accurate, insured residential measurements includes nearly everything you need to get your listing up, fast. A time consuming, and often difficult task for those unfamiliar with taking home measurements, helps provide proper certainty, and a true 2D rendering that more and more buyers are requesting, especially to Calgary’s vast out-of-region buyers market. All at zero cost and effort to the homeowners.
- Stage Your Home
Most buyers form an opinion on a home within the first 7-10 seconds of arriving. Staging your home means more than clearing clutter and tidying up. It’s taking your house to a new level, by incorporating new props, moving around furniture and adding a coat of paint, which can make the house appear bigger, brighter and cleaner. Staging your home is an excellent opportunity to create a warm, inviting atmosphere so that potential buyers can picture themselves living in your home. My skilled support team understands how important this is, and have helped our clients create the best first impression possible for when their house hits the market. You can bank on these expert services to deliver reliable, and surprising ROI.
- Professional Photography
Professional photography and videography will capture the maximum appeal of your home, and provide you with high-quality assets, which are a must-have, in a market where over 96% of buyers are now searching online first. Going that extra step can make all the difference in how your house is perceived online. Elements like lighting, angles, time of day, and the weather need to be taken into consideration when it comes to a professional portrayal of your home. Remember - you’re selling a commodity, and with selling you need to ramp up your marketing.
- Get Your Property Seen!
For your house to sell, it first needs to get seen. This starts with marketing. Strategic marketing is well-thought out to get the right eyes on your property utilizing online portals and print listings. When it comes to getting our clients’ properties seen, we develop a custom designed multi-channel marketing strategy that uses the best online conventional methods to ensure their home sells.
I invest more in my clients and their property, because I understand that’s what it takes to get you top dollar. Contact us to learn more about this customized approach to marketing your home.
November 13, 2015
5 Questions to ask Yourself when Considering Downsizing
Considering downsizing, but not sure if it’s the right time to do so? There are many factors to take into account, and many reasons why people feel compelled to move to a smaller house or condo. When there’s no more kids in the house to look after, a big house can seem a bit much for one or two people to live in. More space means more to clean. Bigger property might mean more equity that can be used towards retirement. And the list goes on!
Downsizing is obviously a lifestyle adjustment, and something to mull over in its entirety to make sure you are really ready for smaller living quarters. Ask yourself these five questions to give you peace of mind and assess if you are, in fact ready to downsize:
- How much might my house grow in value if I stay?
Timing is everything when it comes to selling your home. The longer you wait, the riskier it could be when there’s uncertainty around the markets. If the market is looking hot - it might be a good time to sell. If things are going south, it may be better to sell than to wait and wait. Consider your timelines and speak to a real estate agent to help you assess the current climate.
- Does the size of the house really matter to me?
Overtime your home becomes part of your identity. It’s where you’ve built memories, and a life. It’s brought you new friends, provided comfort; it becomes full of furniture, trinkets, scents and people that define you. So is moving going to be easy? Probably not. You probably would feel the same way if you were moving to a bigger or similar size house - it’s change, and change isn’t always an easy pill to swallow.
There will come a time when bigger factors come into play - like the health and safety of you and your loved one. Your future physical and medical needs will likely change. Will there come a time when the stairs are too much to handle? When there’s too many bathrooms to clean, the yard is too large to mow and shoveling the snow is no longer possible? These are not pleasant to think about, but they are important and difficult factors to really consider.
- What will it cost me to move to a smaller place?
Make a budget for yourself on what it will cost for a moving truck,moving company, new furniture (you’re moving to a smaller space remember - what worked well in the old place may not make the cut in a smaller living area), the cost to get rid of items (if you’re looking to sell old furniture or decor on Kijiji, expect that you won’t get as much for the item as what you paid for it), and any fees associated with selling your home such as realtor and lawyer fees.
- What would be my net gain from selling?
Reducing housing costs by selling your house is an easy way to increase funds; provided you make a gain on your home. Do the math to find out how much will end up back in your pocket after you sell to make sure you have the right amount of gain to make the move worth it for you. These are the numbers you should be looking at:
The value of your home, actual or anticipated balance remaining on your mortgage or line of credit, net gain after subtracting total moving costs, and the cost of a new home.
- How will other life events impact my living in a smaller home?
It is possible that a family member; son, daughter, grandchild, aging parent or sibling may need a place to stay for awhile. Is the house you’re considering equipped to fulfill your physical and emotional needs? Keep in mind that when downsizing it should be the right move that works for you long-term and can accommodate for the unexpected without impacting your comfort, and sanity.
If you’re looking to embark upon the downsizing journey, contact me today. My team and I are well-equipped to answer your questions and help you get your home sale ready to ensure get you top dollar to start this next chapter of your life.
November 13, 2015
4 Reasons why Winter is the Best time to Buy a House
Although the spring months may be one of the most popular times for the housing market, that doesn’t mean you need to wait for the flowers to bloom before you get to the shopping. There are several reason why you should consider purchasing a home in the winter, and here’s why:
- Take advantage of lower prices
According to market trends in Canada, the first two weeks of January are usually very s-l-o-w. People tend to be recovering from holiday shopping and returning from vacation; not exactly ready to start thinking about buying a new house.
A slower market may push motivated sellers to lower their prices - which can be a difference of tens of thousands of dollars compared to spring housing prices. There could be a number of reasons why the seller needs to get rid of their property during a less than ideal housing season; divorce, relocation, death in the family, and so on. Shopping around in January is an opportune time to take advantage of getting a discount.
- Less Competition
With fewer buyers during the winter, houses spend more time on the market. With less people on the house hunt, there is less competition for you as a buyer. Chances of risking multiple offers on house you’re keen on could be slim. Less offers can also help you in negotiating a lower price and take the time you need to find the house that is right for you, eliminating the pressure to scoop something up immediately.
- You’ll see the home’s true performance in the coldest of seasons
Everything just seems to look and feel better in the spring. The sun is out, you’ve shed your winter coat, flowers are blooming, leaves are on the trees and the grass is finally green again. This springy feel is a definite perk during the peak buying season.
In winter, however, the home is the truest version of itself. This is the best time to do a home inspection. You’ll see how well the heating works, how dark the house gets, any drafts, lack of insulation, how cold the floors are, what the yard looks like without the leaves on the trees. After a fresh snowfall you’ll notice if a house is losing heat if snow is melted on the roof, and the ones that are well insulated will have a a fresh layer of snow overhead.
If you like the house in the winter, chances are you will love it come summer.
- You’ll have the full attention of your Realtor and Lender.
Winter is a slower season for all parties involved in the home buying process. With less people buying and selling properties, you’re team has even more time to dedicate to you and make sure you get the best deals.
November 11, 2015
How to Sell Your Home in the Winter
Winter. We’re in the middle of it – and you’re getting ready to list your home. Despite what some may say, the winter months are still an opportune time to put your house on the market. There will always be reasons for people to buy – whether they are being relocated, need to downsize, upsize or are ready to purchase that first home – these people exist all year round. The fact that it is winter has its perks – this time is usually slower so you have more time to prepare and set the stage for the viewing experience, plus as we are dropping to below freezing temperatures, you can be sure that the ones house hunting in the snow and cold are serious buyers.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help sell your home during the winter months:
1. Make your entrance accessible
This means shovelling snow (consistently!) from the sidewalk, to the driveway to the walkway – any obstacle can be a deterrent to potential homebuyers. No one wants to trudge through snow or risk slipping on ice. Sprinkle salt on the exposed ice as necessary to mitigate any slips and falls; now that would really deter a would-be buyer.
2. Get your Mr. Clean on
That’s right – keeping your place clean, tidy and homey is going to be your top priority. With winter comes snow and slush – both unwanted elements that track their way into your home – especially when you have people trudging in and out on a regular basis. Although it may seem challenging – it’s nothing you can’t handle. How can you mitigate this? Place a “Shoes Off” sign as people walk in. Have absorbent rubber mats and/or a shoe tray in place for people to store their boots and shoes. Have your place look organized and tidy by setting up an aesthetically pleasing stand or coat rack for viewers to hang their outerwear that won’t take away from the beauty of your home. If you have pets, do your best to give the appearance of clean pets. Rid your home of pet hair, paw prints and the smell of wet dog. No one’s nostrils want to be graced with that.
3. Show off your homes “cozy-ness”
There are a few ways to bring a cozy, comforting feel into the home, and this can work pleasantly well during the winter months. Set the stage with some “mood” lighting. Romance your viewers with lights that set the stage for a cozy night in, so they can envision themselves sipping hot tea under the blankets in your living room. Keep things bright in the winter. Make sure all lights are on and do your own
tinkering to adjust the levels. If you have a fireplace, light a fire and let the crackle and glow swoon your viewers throughout the showing. Temperature is also a key component to consider. It’s fair to think that because it’s cold outside that the temperature in your house should be toasty warm, but be careful about going too warm. Remember, most of the buyers coming through your house are bundled in coats, have been running around from viewing to viewing, up stairs and in and out of their car. Keep the thermostat to a comfortable level to avoid any sweaty, heated buyers.
If you’re looking to list your home this winter, contact me today to get your home show-ready. We have a team equipped to get your house in tip-top shape before listing; from cleaning, to staging, photography and video – we leave no stone unturned in getting our clients a sale they deserve.
November 11, 2015
5 Ways to Keep Your Property Safe after Moving Out
Planning on moving out of your property before it sells? If so, there are a few measures you can take to convince passersby that the home is still occupied and keep it as safe as possible after you’ve left. Even if the property is completely empty of contents, thieves may still be on the lookout for valuable building components, or assume all of the homes contents are still inside. Void of contents or not, during a break-in the property is susceptible to vandalism, which is something no home owner wants to take on.
The five tips below provide a good checklist of what you can do to help keep your property safe after you’ve moved out:
1. Keep up the yard work
An unkempt lawn, snowy driveway and walkway are clear giveaways that the house has been empty for awhile. Be sure to pop by the property every now and again to mow the lawn, tend to the garden, rake the leaves or shovel the snow. Out of town? No problem. Hire someone to do the maintenance for you or ask a neighbor to help you out until the new owners move in. Be sure to thank them later!
2. Winterize your home
Moving out in the winter months? Make sure you take the right precautions to prevent potential damage from fire and freezing due to faulty heating and electrical systems. Just because the house is vacant doesn’t mean you should abandon it completely. The heating system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor and checked once a week to make sure the system is operating properly. Chimneys should also be inspected and cleared of any obstructions such as squirrels or nesting birds. Remove overhanging tree limbs that could cause damage from heavy snow or wind, and make sure windows are closed and locked shut. Clean out gutters and downspouts (these can cause basement flooding if clogged after the snow melts) and inspect the roof and shingles for any evidence of damage and leaks to prevent wind or water damage.
- Get eyes on the house
Let your immediate neighbors, realtor, police and fire departments know that your property will be vacant so they can keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior. Leave them with emergency contact information in case anything does happen so that they can reach you quickly. Ask neighbors to pickup any mail, flyers and newspapers that could start to build up - a clear sign that the property is empty.
- Turn on the lights
Nothing says “people are home” like lights on in the house. Of course, don’t leave them on all day; rather, invest in some lighting timers and strategically place lamps around the house. Set the timers to go on and off in different rooms at different times of the day. You can also keep curtains and blinds installed to give the illusion that people are still living in the home.
- Install or keep your security system
Alarms deter trespassers from entering your property and quickly alert the authorities when they go off. Alert the alarm company that the home will be vacant ahead of time, and display security signs in the window or on the lawn so passersby know the system is armed before attempting to break in. Security cameras (and even fake cameras) are a great way to monitor activity, or give the impression that the house is being monitored.
For more advice and help on securing your home as you transition into a new place, you can connect with me directly and we’ll make sure your home looks just how you left it, long after the moving trucks are gone.
November 11, 2015
How to Buy a House in Your Twenties
There are plenty of perks to owning your own home versus renting, especially as rental prices continue to creep up, often times costing the same if not more than a mortgage payment. So it makes sense why more and more adults in their twenties are starting to take a serious look at home ownership. Here are some tips on how to get started on becoming a first time home buyer in your twenties:
- Find out what you can afford
This is the first step before you start doing any major house hunting. Sit down with a mortgage lender to get pre-qualified. In this meeting you’ll go over your credit history, income and and any debts you may have to add up to one final equation of what the banks will be able to lend you. It’s important to note that although you may be approved for a home at say, $300,000.00 - that doesn’t mean you should be buying a house at that price. Make a budget and determine how much you can afford to pay monthly for the mortgage payment, condo fees and property taxes on top of your day-to-day living expenses.
- Find a Realtor
This is where it gets exciting. Once you’ve interviewed Realtors and found someone you can trust, connect with and can see yourself partnering with throughout the home buying process, you are ready to start the journey, however short or long you choose to make it. A reliable Realtor will keep on top of new listings as they come up, make themselves available for a viewing as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and go to bat for you when it comes to negotiations and signing the papers. Be sure to communicate what you are looking for in a house (neighborhood, preferred characteristics and any must-have’s) so they can send you listings that hit the mark.
- Be realistic about your expectations
Buying your first home is exciting! You’ve been waiting for this moment for a lonnggg time - like any young adult who’s been cooped up with their parents or feeling sick about how much money they’re throwing away by renting. It’s easy to get carried away and have high expectations of the home you want. This is where you need to reel it in. It is after all, your first home. Building equity takes time, and patience. Buy a house you can comfortably afford now and be willing to sacrifice some of those “like-to-haves” in favor of paying down a mortgage that suits your (current) lifestyle.
- Let your Realtor do the heavy lifting
Being a first time home buyer can be daunting. I mean, you’re putting a lot of money on the line - it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Realtors are experts at navigating their field and will always work to get you, the client, what you deserve. Be open to their recommendations and watch them work their magic when it comes to negotiations. I assure you, if you’ve done your due diligence, you should be in quite competent hands.
Good luck on this new adventure of home ownership. Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions about the above, or home ownership and the Real Estate market in general. My team and I have been at this for over 11 years and are happy to help guid you through this new and exciting time in your life.
Call us today 403.701.7139