Rooting Out Fraud & Tax Avoidance

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13% of Canadians Would Lie Applying for a Mortgage

A survey by Equifax Canada, a leading consumer credit company, indicated the following regarding mortgage fraud:

  • 13% of Canadians felt when applying for a mortgage, a white lie to get the house they want is okay.

  • 16% believe “mortgage fraud is a victimless crime.”

  • 8% “admitted to misrepresenting the facts on credit or loan application.”

Equifax further noted that since 2013 there has been a 52% increases in “suspected fraudulent mortgage applications.

What is Mortgage Fraud?

CMH defines mortgage fraud as deliberately misrepresenting in order to obtain a mortgage. It cites the following 8 deceptive acts::

  1. “Misstating your work position, your income or the length of time you’ve held your job

  2. “Stating you’re a full-time salaried employee if you are not

  3. “Misrepresenting the amount or source of your down payment

  4. “Claiming a rented property is owner-occupied

  5. “Not disclosing other mortgages or debts

  6. "Omitting information to inflate the value of the property

  7. “Adding purchasers’ names on the mortgage application who do not intend to take responsibility for the mortgage

  8. “Acting as or using a “straw buyer” – a person whose good credit is used to get a mortgage for someone else”

Fraud May Create Liability and Criminality

Such acts, CMHC warns, make the borrower liable for financial shortfalls should default occur, and they can be held criminally responsible. Aside from some borrowers inflating their income, CMHC believes that notices of assessment from Canada Revenue Agency can be printed and easily falsified.

CMHC Asks CRA to Verify Incomes

CMHC recently asked CRA to take a more active role in verifying income borrowers are claiming on mortgage applications. CMHC sees this association as necessary due to sophisticated increases in fraudulent threats. So CRA is looking into secure ways to share information with financial institutions conditional on client consent. Such direct access by lenders should speed up income accuracy and verification, speeding up the approval process.

Budget: CRA to Crack Down on Tax Avoidance

To address tax non-compliance in real estate, the Feds are giving CRA $50,000,000 to create audit teams to ensure the following:

  1. Taxpayers report the sale of their principal residence,

  2. Any capital gain from a property sale is identified & taxed,

  3. Ensure money on real estate flipping is reported as income,

  4. Commissions earned are reported as taxable income,

  5. Builders of new residential properties remit the appropriate amount of tax GST/HST to the CRA.

To Deter Financial Crime in Real Estate, including mortgage fraud and money laundering, the Budget is strengthening enforcement by expanding its “outreach and examinations in the real estate sector.”

Share Equity First Time Buyer Incentive

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To Help First Time Buyers: the Liberal Government Budget included a First Time Home Buyer Shared Equity Incentive, and an increase in the RRSP Home Buyer Plan.

1. The First Time Home Buyer Shared Equity Incentive: One catch about this new initiative is that details of the plan won’t be out until sometime in September of this year, 6 months down the road. This may actually cause first-time buyers to wait it out until more details become available on how the plan will work.

The basic information: Through Canada Mortgage and Housing, the government will contribute 5% for a resale home and 10% for a newly built home to bring down the mortgage on a shared equity basis. The money is interest free and there is no monthly payment. You can choose to pay it back at any time or when you sell the home down the road.

What still needs to be unraveled is how the money is to be paid back. Will you simply be required to give the money back without interest or will the repayment include an equity share in the home’s value? With the second option, if for any reason the home’s value goes down will CMHC take a proportionate share of the loss?

To qualify the down payment required is 5%, the minimum for an insured mortgage and a household income of $120,000 or less. As well, the mortgage including the equity loan is restricted to 4 times the household income. So at an income of $120,000, the maximum mortgage loan would be limited to $480,000. A household income of say $100,000 would qualify for a mortgage loan of $400,000.

No Stress Test Relief or 30-Yr Mortgage

The hope prior to this announcement was that the government would ease up on the stress test and/or increase the amortization to 30 years from 25 years. Instead the stress test to qualify for a mortgage remains unchanged and the maximum amortization stays at 25 years. Here is a comparison in savings if the government had simply increased the amortization to 30 years vs. the Equity Plan of 5% & 10%:

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A Significant Savings with 30-Yr Plan

The 30-year mortgage gives a savings of $247.85 versus $119.88 and $239.65 per month. The 30 year versus the 5% assistance for resales ($247.85 - $119.88) gives a savings of $127.97 more per month. That would be especially significant for first-time buyers.

2. The RRSP Home Buyer Plan for first time buyers now allows a withdrawal of up to $35,000 per individual to purchase a home. Two first-time buyers in the same household can withdraw up to $70,000 for a downpayment to be repaid over 15 years.

People in marriage or common-law partner breakdowns will also be able to participate in the Home Buyer Plan as of this year.

How to Create an Urban Garden

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Having plants in your home not only brings life to a room but they also have incredible health benefits. They can make you feel less tired, decrease your chances of catching a cold and purify the air. It is recommended to have one potted plant per 100 square feet to feel the benefits. Whether you live in the country with acres of land or in a condo downtown Toronto, you can enjoy the pure and simple joy of gardening. Here’s how to create a plant oasis, regardless of how much space you have.

Tips for backyard gardens:

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  1. Prep the beds: Before you plant, loosen the soil and remove rocks so the space is ready for plants.

  2. Channel your inner landscape architect: Think about what you want to grow and then decide where to plant based on sunlight and shade.

  3. Learn their names: It can be hard once you plant everything to keep track of all your new plant babies. To help you remember, put the tags alongside each plant until you can distinguish the plants and know their names.

  4. Discover the secret of perennials: Save yourself some work next year by planting perennial plants; these are plants that will come up year after year. Some beautiful perennials to try are peonies, lavender and black-eyed susans.

  5. Maintenance: It is important to stay on top of watering, weeding and adding organic matter to keep your soil nourished.

Tips for Condo/ Apartment Balcony Gardens:

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  1. If you don’t have a backyard an herb pallet garden is ideal for a condo. Wood pallets are the perfect size to home most household herbs such as basil, mint and chives.

  2. Vines and fast-growing climbers are good for a small space because they lend vertical visual interest quickly.

  3. Layer plants that bloom at different times on top of one another in containers–and fertilize once a month. This will allow each plant to get the adequate amount of sunlight they require.

  4. Plants need different nutrients when they are grown in containers rather than in the ground. Use synthetic soils such as wood chips, peat moss and sawdust when you are planting in containers on your balcony gardens.

  5. Hanging flower baskets are a great alternative and take up very little room. Try to keep with the same colour scheme as you don’t want it to look chaotic and busy in a small space.

Solutions to gardening problems:

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  1. Now that you know the basics of gardening there are some common problems you will come across. Fortunately, they have easy solutions.

  2. Weeds: Weeds are the bane of any gardener’s existence. But they can be easily combated with the right tools! There is no need for harsh chemicals when fighting weeds. You can make your own natural pesticide by combining 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup rock salt, 2 tablespoons dish soap and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

  3. Pests: Unwanted garden guests like slugs or birds can ruin all the fruits (and veggies of your labor) if you don’t protect your garden. Scatter egg shells and used coffee grounds to prevent creepy crawlies from attacking your plants.

  4. Watering: For a first-time plant mum/ dad it can be hard to take care of new plant babies. Create a watering schedule for your plants so you can keep track of when your plants have been watered. When you go on vacation, a C21 hack for keeping your plants well hydrated is to fill a jar full of water and put a string from the jar to the plant. This will act as a straw so your plants can keep hydrated while you are away.

2019 Federal Budget

The 2019 Federal Budget came out yesterday!

It is always interesting to see the types of changes that the Federal Governments make each year. Attached is a summary of those changes.

Here is a list of the highlights for your reference:

  1. Employee Stock Option changing (taxes)

  2. Home Buyers’ Plan Changes for RRSP limit and Plan Incentive

  3. Canadian Training Credit for working adults 25-65 years old

  4. Canada Student Loans – Lowering Interest Rates

  5. Change in use rules for Multi-Unit Residential Properties

  6. Canada Pension Plan and Guaranteed Income Supplement Changes

  7. Registered Disability Savings Plan updates

  8. Individual Pension Plans

  9. A new ALDA (Advanced Life Deferred Annuity) program

  10. Medical Expense Tax Credit expansion to Cannabis

  11. Zero-Emission Vehicle enhancement of Capital Cost Allowance for those cars

  12. More Support for Canadian Journalism

  13. Enhanced small business deduction for farmers and fishers

  14. Enhancement in the Scientific Research and Development Program

If you have any questions or concerns in regarding the budget changes, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me or call me. If you would like to review your financial plan or if any changes have taken place recently, please let me know and we can have a meeting.

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Niagara Region Residential Home Sales Statistics for February 2019

For the Niagara Region: 01-Feb-2019 to 28-Feb-2019 vs. Same Time Last Year*

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As seen in the above charts, the real estate market in the Niagara Region is very stable. The number of sales year over year are consistent and generally the prices are increasing at a steady rate. There are a few noticeable % changes (positive and negative) in several municipalities, but the fluctuations can be easily explained by the small sample size. When looking at the 12 month rolling average prices, the market shows a steadier increase in prices.

The market is balanced, which is good news for both buyers and sellers. It is a great time to upsize or downsize your home. To learn more about how the market might affect you contact Ashley Czinege or Barbara Grumme for a no obligation, no charge consultation.

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The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls in February 2019 has continued the trend of being higher. The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls has been consistently higher than last year’s prices for the past 9 months. This is a trend that is likely to continue with a moderate, but steady increase in home values.

*The above statistics are based in whole or in part on the MLS® System data owned by the Association.

3 Inventive Ways to Repurpose Your Furniture

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It’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but why not turn your trash into your own treasure? We don’t mean your actual trash, just your old, neglected furniture that is laying around gathering dust. Here are three inventive ways you can repurpose your furniture:

1. Side table to Ottoman Transformation:

As nice as it is to dream about that new kitchen backsplash, safety should take top priority when planning renos. Go through this list to see what your top priorities should be:

Materials

  • Side table

  • Foam

  • Utility knife

  • Saw

  • Fabric

  • Staple gun

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Directions

  1. Measure and cut the foam Measure your table and find a piece of foam with the right dimensions to cover the top of the table. Cut the foam with a utility knife to be the correct dimensions.

  2. Cut the table to ottoman height What is ottoman height you ask? Take a seat on the sofa, stretch out your legs and get someone to measure the height that your legs are off the ground and that is approximately the height you want for your ottoman. Take a saw and cut your table legs to be the desired height. Just make sure they’re even!

  3. Attach fabric Cut your fabric a bit bigger than the dimensions that you cut for the foam. Cover the foam with the fabric, staple the fabric to the table and trim the leftovers. Stretch out on the sofa and rest your legs on your new ottoman!


2. Distress Furniture

Although it sounds counter intuitive, you can make something look modern by aging it. For furniture that no longer fits the style of your house, there are countless ways you can repurpose it to get the style you desire. Here’s a simple way of how to do it and what you’ll need:

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Materials

  • Sandpaper

  • Paint

  • Paint brushes

  • Paint thinner

  • Steel wool

  • Stain (optional)

  • Drop cloths/ newspaper

Directions

  1. Clear a workspace It is best to do this outside if possible. If the space or weather doesn’t permit it, clear a workspace in your house. Lay down drop cloths and remove anything that could potentially get damaged by the project.

  2. Paint the Piece and Distress with Sandpaper and Steel Wool You can add a second layer of paint if you want the piece to have a two tone look (the first layer will come through after you distress the furniture).Paint the piece and leave it to dry overnight. Now comes the fun part, distressing the furniture! Take your steel wool and sandpaper and scrub away! Scrub as much as you want depending on how distressed you want it to look.

  3. Finishing touches Add a stain if you want the piece to look vintage. When you are happy with how it looks, apply a clear polyurethane to seal the piece and protect the color. Let it dry and then the compliments will roll in!


3. Chalkboard mirror

Chalkboards are always useful. Make your own with an old mirror and some chalkboard paint. Here’s how to do it:

Materials

  • Mirror

  • Glass cleaner

  • Painter's tape

  • Spray primer

  • Chalkboard spray paint

  • Newspaper

  • Microfiber cloth

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Directions

  1. Clean and prime the mirror Use a microfiber cloth to clean the surface and dry completely. Cover any parts of the frame that are still exposed with newspaper or paper towels and secure. Take the mirror outside, place it on newspaper and cover any areas of the mirror that you don’t want to be painted. Then apply the primer to the mirror.

  2. Paint the mirror Let the primer dry, then paint it with the chalkboard spray. Use two coats of paint and let it dry.

  3. Enjoy! Let the paint dry for 24 hours and then it is ready to use! Pick up some chalk and write down those to-do lists!

At Home In The Kitchen

Tamara McIntyre - Good Nature’d Health Food Store

Visit Tamara at her website: https://www.goodnaturedhealth.ca/

Digestion and Gut Health

Before eating follow these steps:

  1. Always eat in a calm, tranquil environment. Tension and strain tangle digestion.

  2. Always take a moment to reflect the food that has given its life to nourish your body.

  3. Take 3 deep breaths before beginning to eat.

  4. Consider where your food comes from. If you can’t identify where your food came from should you be consuming it?

  5. Chew slowly and many times. The breakdown of food begins in the mouth, the more you chew the easier it is for your stomach to get the most out of your food and prevent digestive upset.

  6. Eat only when hungry.

There is HOPE!

Following the steps above before eating is step one!

HOPE: Following the acronym HOPE. Which stands for High fibre, Omega Oils, Probiotics and Enzymes is a great way to heal the gut through supplementation. Depending on how severe your gut issues are most people on a western diet should follow the HOPE protocol.

Breakdown HOPE

High Fibre: eating food high in fibre such as flax seed, chia, psyllium fibre, raw fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, plant proteins such as millet, barley and oats. If you are not able to eat enough of these foods, Renewlife makes a great product called Fibresmart. Fibre is important to keep the bowels moving regularly to carry both food stuff and toxins out of the body.

Omega oils: cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, plants like: nuts and seeds, olive oils, flax, borage, primerose and more. Omega Oils are important for reducing inflammation, cellular health, tissue healing, and lubrication. Again, these oils can be supplemented.

Probiotics the fight between good vs evil.

Why are probiotics important? Well, two reasons. One, they help to protect the gut from foreign invaders and two they help balance the gut microbiome. This is important because an imbalance can lead to IBS, leaky gut, autoimmune disease, thyroid issues and more. If you suffer from any of these issues an 80 billion or more multi-strain probiotic is recommended.

Enzymes: Enzymes are the spark of life, they assist our guts in the breakdown and assimilation of our food stuff. They also act as catalysts to help carry nutrients to other areas of the body. We get them naturally from our fruits and vegetables, however if our diet is lacking these foods, then we need to supplement with a multi-enzyme blend.

You Must Report Sale of Your Principal Home

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Important Reminder for Sellers

With tax season upon us, this is an important reminder: if you sold your home in 2018, you must report the sale of your principal residence on your tax return. The following is from an article we published previously.

On October 3rd, 2016 the Government announced a change to the reporting requirements. From the 2016 taxation year and thereafter, when you principal residence, or when you are considered to have sold it, “it must be reported to [Canada Revenue Agency] CRA in order to qualify for the tax exemption.”

Why the Change?

As reported in 2016, the intent of this mandatory reporting, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is to:

  • “Improve tax fairness for Canadian homeowners,”

  • Improve compliance and administration of the tax system, and

  • Close this loophole thus preventing foreign investors from flipping homes and fraudulently taking advantage of the capital gains exemption.

To be clear, reporting the sale of investment property and payment of capital gains tax has always been a requirement. But because some have evaded their tax obligations, Canadian residents are now required to report all sales, including their tax-free principal home.

How and What to Report

On the sale of your principal residence, you will be required to complete Schedule 3 and file it with your income tax and benefit return for the taxation year in which the residence has sold. This form will ask for the year the home was acquired, the proceeds of the sale, and a description of the property. Of course, you must own the home, you and your family must ordinarily inhabit it, and you must designate it as your principal residence if the property was your principal residence for every year that you owned it. Understand that you can have only one principal residence in a particular year.

It is likely that requiring the home’s description helps determine its use as a residence and any portion that may have an investment or commercial application.

For sales in 2017 and later, you also have to “complete page 1 of Form T2091 (or Form T1255) if the property you sold was your principal residence for all the years, or for all but one year, that you owned it.” As well, a late filing might raise a red flag and result in a possible audit.

Penalties for Failing to Report

CRA will only allow the tax exemption if you report the sale and the designation, as your principal residence in your tax return.

So what if you forget to Report the Sale?

If you forget to report the sale, you must amend your return though a penalty may apply comprised of $100 “for each month from the original due date to the date your request was made” or $8,000 whichever is less. So claim your exemption and avoid any penalties or even a possible audit by reporting your sale.

$500 Charitable Donation to the Alzheimer's Society from Ashley and Barbara's Refer a Friend Program

One of our happy clients recently referred a friend as part of Barbara and Ashley's Refer a Friend Program. In addition to providing top notch service and helping this new client find their dream home, we also made a donation of $500 to the Alzheimer’s Society Niagara Region which was the charity of the referrer's choice.

Click on the image above to watch the video or click here.

Niagara Region Residential Home Sales Statistics for January, 2019

For the Niagara Region: 01-Jan-2019 to 31-Jan-2019 vs. Same Time Last Year*

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As seen in the above charts, the real estate market in the Niagara Region is very stable. The number of sales year over year are consistent and generally the prices are increasing at a steady rate. There are a few noticeable % changes (positive and negative) in several municipalities, but the fluctuations can be easily explained by the small sample size. When looking at the 12 month rolling average prices, the market shows a steadier increase in prices.

The market is balanced, which is good news for both buyers and sellers. It is a great time to upsize or downsize your home. To learn more about how the market might affect you contact Ashley Czinege or Barbara Grumme for a no obligation, no charge consultation.

Average Sales Price Stats Niagara Falls - 2019-01.jpg

The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls in January 2019 has continued the trend of being higher. The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls has been consistently higher than last year’s prices for the past 8 months. This is a trend that is likely to continue with a moderate, but steady increase in home values.

*The above statistics are based in whole or in part on the MLS® System data owned by the Association.

Valentine's Day Date Ideas for Any Budget

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The holiday we love to hate and hate to love is fast approaching. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be an extravagant night out; simple and thoughtful often beats expensive and impersonal. Decide which budget bracket is realistic for you and plan a romantic night with your special someone.

Under $25.00

It’s true that the best things in life are free. Show your loved one that you care by planning a thoughtful evening that will create long lasting memories.

1. Ice skating and après skate

Search the skate times for your public rink or better yet find an outdoor rink in your neighbourhood. Dust off your old skates or rent a pair (rentals typically range from $5.00- $10.00 per pair). Hold hands and skate around as if you were in the movie Serendipity. Warm up after skating with a nice glass of wine and some cozy blankets at home.

2. Living room Karaoke

No need to head out in the cold to an overpriced Karaoke bar when you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Download a Karaoke app and sing your heart out. The best part about doing Karaoke at home is that no one can hear you screeching out Backstreet Boys and Cher. Plus, the money you save on going out can go towards a bottle of wine.

3. DIY Gifts

Skip the expensive gifts and make your own homemade presents. Some great options are candleholders, personalized photo frames or Valentine’s Day themed baking. If you aren’t crafty or gifted in the kitchen, make a playlist for a little romantic nostalgia.

Ideas under $25
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$25.00 -$50.00

1. Be your own TV Chef!

A home cooked meal almost guarantees admiration. Take a look through old recipes from your favourite TV chef and find one that will dazzle the taste buds of your date.

2. Recreate your first date

Because Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday this year, it only seems fitting to have a “Throwback Thursday” themed date. Depending on how elaborate your first date was you can always scale it back to remain on budget.

3. Local Tourists

Be tourists in your own backyard. Web search “top ten things to do in (name of your city/town)” and see the sites that you never have time to see. Plan to see as many you can (depending on admissions prices), and if you have some wiggle room in your budget then throw in a couple stops at breweries or wine bars.

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Over $150.00

1. Attend a cooking class

As the proverb goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”-- or as we like to say “give a man a lasagna and you feed him for day. Teach a man to make a lasagna and (hopefully) he will make it for a lifetime.” There is truly nothing more romantic than sipping on wine and cooking together. Take a look at cooking classes in your area, the average price ranges from $75.00- $200.00 for making a full-course Italian meal.

2. Scavenger hunt / restaurant crawl

Why sit still at one restaurant when you can cruise around from place to place? Instead of eating one big meal, sit at the bar and have a few appetisers at a couple of the restaurants on your list. Make a fun scavenger hunt with challenges for you and your partner to do at each place. Some fun challenges to add to your list are:

  • Strike up a conversation with a stranger

  • Take a selfie with the bar staff

  • Take a shot in a restaurant/bar you’ve never been to

3. Get scared

Find something neither of you have done before such as a trapeze class, comedy/improv or a singing lesson. Not only will it be hilarious to scare the pants off your partner, it will be a great bonding activity for you both. The average price of a trapeze class is $75.00 for a private 1-hour class.

Video/Audio Surveillance of Buyers: Not Cool!

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What Buyers Want Viewing Homes

Most buyers, when viewing a home, want to feel comfortable and relaxed so they can focus on looking at the home and what it has to offer.

Anything that makes them feel discomfort or at all uneasy will detract from the showing.

Four Behaviours Seller Should Avoid:

  1. When the sellers are home, buyers can feel constrained as they can’t speak freely with their sales representative or between themselves.

  2. Even if sellers do their best to stay out of the way, buyers might take less than the time needed to have a good look and get a good feel for the home.

  3. In some cases the sellers’ dog follows the buyers around. In spite of the sellers’ insistence that the dog is friendly one of two things can happen: the buyers are looking down and behind not sure whether the dog might nip at them; or they give the dog playful attention.

  4. To add to the discomfort, some sellers shadow the buyers and follow or lead the buyers around pointing out all the wonderful things they’ve done to the house. They seem unaware that they are coming off somewhat aggressive and, if anything, turning the buyers off.

Today’s Surveillance Technology in Homes Calls for Caution

Home surveillance devices are becoming increasingly common and this too can make buyers uncomfortable. What’s more, if buyers and their reps aren’t aware of video and/or audio scrutiny, they might say something that can give sellers an advantage when negotiating; or even say something that might offend sellers.

RECO (The Real Estate Council of Ontario) has advised salespeople “to caution homebuyers…that there may be a recording device in the home.”

Buyers Deserve a Little Time, Space and Privacy

In most of these scenarios, buyers are distracted from looking at the house. With surveillance, they can also feel a bit creepy. Their reason for being there in the first place is to determine whether the home suits them and is worth buying. So they might find surveillance offensive.

With homes being the biggest purchase in most people’s lives, they deserve a little privacy and freedom to view without feeling impaired. They are, after all, accompanied by their licensed real estate person. What’s more, most often they have looked at the pictures, read the information and discussed the property before viewing. Now they simply want to take a hassle-free look, see whether they get a positive feel for the home, as well as voice concerns or questions their REALTOR® can get answers to in a timely manner.

Realtors® are Wise To Advise Sellers

REALTORS® already ask sellers not to be present during showings. They should also ask whether they have video/audio devices that buyers should be told about in advance of seeing the home. Understanding honoring that buyers prefer a certain level of privacy is also a good marketing practice and can promote showings. Looking over a buyer’s shoulder by any means is anything but cool. Allow them to converse with themselves and their salesperson while viewing, even opening the cupboards to see how much room they would have for storage.

Local Cold Remedies from Around the World

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“In Canada, the peak times for colds are at the start of school in the fall, in mid-winter, and again in early spring. Adults catch approximately 2 to 4 colds a year, and children catch even more.”

Coughing, sneezing and fevers- oh my! ‘Tis the season to get sick, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, the winter cold takes no mercy. Between chugging cough syrup to eating nothing but lozenges it can feel like nothing will work. Ready to try something a little different? Take a world tour of some weird and wacky cold remedies from around the globe.

Snail Syrup, Germany

A little different to maple syrup, snail syrup is used in Germany to soothe sore throats. The syrup is made of snail extract (not the whole snail), just the slime from the trail. You’ll never know if it works if you don’t try!

Raw Garlic, Russia

If you are about to go on a date, then maybe don’t try this one! Eating raw garlic or having plates of chopped garlic around the house is a common cold remedy in Russia. Parents will put garlic cloves in their children’s pockets to fend off colds (and vampires, of course).

Salty Liquorice, Netherlands

The Dutch have a special salty treat called “salmiak liquorice” which has surprising healing powers. The salt and the liquorice root mix together to make a soothing throat lozenge. Plus, if you like liquorice then you’re basically just eating candy while curing your cold!

Dried lizard soup, Hong Kong

What do you get when you mix dried lizards, yams and dates? You get a popular cure for the common cold in Hong Kong. The catch is you have to both genders of lizard in one soup for it to work. Would you give this a try?

Turmeric Milk, India

This is like hot cocoa but different in almost every way. Add turmeric, ginger, honey and peppercorns to some warm milk and say bye-bye to your cold. Turmeric is a super food so if you like the taste sprinkle it on pretty much everything (maybe not ice cream but you get the idea).

At Home With Barbara and Ashley Survey Results

In November, 2018 we asked you to participate in our “At Home with Barbara and Ashley Survey.” We had 45 people complete the questionnaire. Here are the results.

Question 1: Would you prefer a walk-in shower or a bath tub?

67% of respondents preferred to have a walk-in shower.

Question 2: How much more would you expect to pay for another garage bay? ($1,000 - $8,000)

Based on the responses, the average was:

$4,240

Question 3: How much more would you expect to pay for an in-ground pool? ($1,000 - $8,000)

Based on the responses, the average was:

$5,200

Question 4: How many bedrooms do you need in a home?

60% of respondents said they only needed 3 bedrooms.

Question 5: Is a basement bedroom of value to you?

61% of respondents said "Yes."

Question 6: What interior paint colour will you paint your next home?

36% of respondents said a shade of grey. Responses also included generic "Neutral tones."

Barbara and Ashley's Refer a Friend Program - $500 Donation to BIC Church

One of our happy clients recently referred a friend as part of Barbara and Ashley's Refer a Friend Program. In addition to providing top notch service and helping this new client find their dream home, we also made a donation of $500 to the BIC Church in Port Colborne which was the charity of the referrer's choice.

The BIC church in Port Colborne is more than just a church. They offer many programs throughout the community to people of all ages. They value  integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance. They were thrilled to receive this donation and will be using it to purchase new equipment for their youth programs.

Wondering how you can help your community? If you can think of anyone in the area who might be interested in moving in the near future, please refer them to us.  If they list or buy with us, upon the successful completion of their sale, we will make a $500 donation to the charity of your choice, providing you with the charitable tax receipt.

Niagara Region Residential Home Sales Statistics for December, 2018

For the Niagara Region: 01-Dec-2018 to 31-Dec-2018 vs. Same Time Last Year*

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As seen in the above charts, the real estate market in the Niagara Region is very stable. The number of sales year over year are consistent and generally the prices are increasing at a steady rate. Looking at the December comparison chart, although there are significant swings in several municipalities, when looking at the annual averages (2018 versus 2017) the data shows a steadier market. Only Niagara-on-the-Lake and West Lincoln have shown an annual average drop in sales prices and that can be misleading due to the small sample size and number of sales.

The market is balanced, which is good news for both buyers and sellers. It is a great time to upsize or downsize your home. To learn more about how the market might affect you contact Ashley Czinege or Barbara Grumme for a no obligation, no charge consultation.

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The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls in December 2018 has continued the trend of being higher. The average sales price for residential properties in Niagara Falls has been consistently higher than last year’s prices for the past 7 months. This is a trend that is likely to continue with a moderate, but steady increase in home values.

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The annual average number of days on market in Niagara Falls is 36 with a slightly slower December which is historically consistent with previous Decembers. The spring 2017 was a very active market, but it has evened out to a steady pace. This is great for people who are looking to sell and buy a new property, giving you time to find the right property for you.

*The above statistics are based in whole or in part on the MLS® System data owned by the Association.

Checklist for Home Renovations

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The start of a new year is a great time to delve into your to-do list and start crossing things off before the motivation starts to slip. Your home reno to-do list might look overwhelming and scary but don’t let the unfinished jobs of 2018 haunt you. Follow this checklist so you can prioritize your home renovations.

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1. Initial Assessment

Clean out anything you don’t need so you can properly assess what needs to be done. This includes getting into the deep, dark corners of your cupboards to check for mold and water damage.

2. Safety First

As nice as it is to dream about that new kitchen backsplash, safety should take top priority when planning renos. Go through this list to see what your top priorities should be:

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3. Develop a Budget

Now that you know what the damage is, establish your budget for repairs. Be realistic and factor in that home renos often cost more than what you originally budgeted for. Remember, you don’t have to fix everything this year, focus on the most important repairs for 2019.

4. Assess your abilities

We are all for DIY but there are some projects you simply shouldn’t do yourself. Decide what you can do yourself and what should be done by a contractor. It can be hard to know what to look for in a good contractor so here is a list of questions to ask a contractor before you hire them:

  • Do they take on projects of your size?

  • Can they give you a list of previous clients?

  • How many other projects would they have going at the same time?

  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

  • How flexible are their work schedules?

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5. Enjoy the “fun stuff”

Once all the important projects are taken care of and it’s time for the fun stuff like remodeling and decorating. For a quick but dramatic change, paint/ wallpaper an accent wall. Cleaning/ dusting will work absolute wonders to brighten your house and it won’t cost you a dime.

 
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6. Remember a post-project analysis

The reality of home renos is that the work is never done. Take note of how much you spent on each project and the date that you completed the renovation. For DIY projects evaluate the time, effort and money spent on the project and assess if next time you should invest in a contractor. If you hired a professional, do a thorough evaluation of the work and projected vs. real costs. Write your post-project analysis down and keep it safe for the next reno so you don’t make the same mistakes twice!

5 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell in 2019

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­­­It takes time to prepare your home for the marketplace. Here are 5 ways to get your home market ready, attract buyers and fetch your best market price with the fewest hassles.

1. Stage Your Home for Maximum “Showability”

This includes cleaning and getting rid of clutter; depersonalizing by removing an over abundance of family photos; decorating inexpensively such as applying a fresh coat of paint as it can make a big impact; performing maintenance and repairs on the home’s systems (plumbing, heating, air, etc.); and maintaining your home’s exterior curb appeal by keeping the lawn cut and trimmed, even touching up exterior paint.

2. Prepare for a Home Inspection

This step is important because a home inspection can cause a buyer to change his mind or ask for a price reduction. Here are just a few of the items from our 29-point checklist. Divert all water away from the house by making sure the grading slopes away from the house and all downspouts and drains are in proper working order. Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around the trim, chimney, windows and doors. Avoid quick, cheap repairs as they can raise questions, unfairly causing great concern to buyers and inspectors.

3. Perform Prelisting Research

A good agent will take the time to make sure important aspects of the home are properly researched. Here are a few of the questions that need to be answered to create transparency and a sale that closes with the fewest hassles, if any. Are the legal description and property taxes correct? Is the lot rectangular or irregular? Are there any encroachments, registered easements, or rights-of-way? Are zoning regulations and uses complied with? Are there any conditional sales contracts, leases, rental agreements or service contracts for furnace, alarm system, hot water tank, propane tank, etc.? If you made any renovations, additions or improvements to the property, was a building permit obtained and has a final inspection been approved? Are you aware of any deficiencies with any fixtures and appliances?

4. Price the Home to Attract Qualified Buyers

A good agent will take an upfront approach when pricing your home to achieve best market price, and will take steps to determine if buyers are ready, willing and financially able to buy. He/she won’t under-price the home, or over-price the home scaring buyers away. He/she will properly research comparable sales and competing listings, then combine experience with appropriate valuation methods. Aside from market conditions, your motivation or reason for selling is a key to your setting a competitive price.

5. Choose the Agent

The importance of a good salesperson has already been mentioned. Moreover you want a full time professional to represent you, one who will provide an array of marketing tools, possess market and product knowledge and employ good negotiating skills on your behalf. You want an agent that is patient, flexible and a good listener, a pro you can count on, and who will cooperate fully with all REALTORS® and their buyers.

Contact Barbara Grumme or Ashley Czinege for your no obligation, free market assessment of your property.

Ashley and Barbara Donate to Heartland Forest

Heartland Forest is a nature education centre whose mission is to provide an interactive nature experience for all, building lifelong connections with nature through dynamic and inspiring programs. With a goal of preservation and sustainability they engage the hearts and minds of their staff, volunteers and visitors.

This year, Barbara Grumme and Ashley Czinege had one of the programme groups create artwork that were used in the creation of Niagara Executive Homes’ holiday cards. In return, Ashley and Barbara donated $1 for every card they sent out to Heartland Forest.

Heartland Forest is a valuable member of the Niagara Falls community and if you would like to find out more about them, visit the nature trails or make a donation, please visit their website at: www.HeartlandForest.org.