Real Estate Today

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Niagara Region Residential Home Sales Statistics for November, 2018

For the Niagara Region: 01-Nov-2018 to 30-Nov-2018 vs. Same Time Last Year*

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As seen in the above chart, 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. The drop in average sales price in four of the municipalities this month compared to the same time last year is not completely representative of the general market. Though there is some balancing out in some areas, sometimes the average prices can be skewed depending on what did or did not sell in a particular month.

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 has been consistently higher than last year’s prices for the past 6 months. This is a trend that is likely to continue with a moderate, but steady increase in home values.

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The number of days to sell a residential property in Niagara Falls has been relatively consistent over the past 12 months. The feverish market in the spring of 2017 has calmed and on average, your home in Niagara Falls will sell in approximately 38 days. 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.

Is Cannabis Still a Stigma When Buying?

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What is a Stigmatized Property?

In real estate a stigmatized property can be one that buyers, even tenants, may reject, prefer to avoid or devaluate for reasons not related to its physical condition. Stigmas can include murder, suicide, any criminal activity and some negative public perception not related to a home’s physical condition.

Despite the legalization of marijuana many sellers and buyers view it as a negative. According to a recent survey:

  • 64% of Sellers felt that smoking marijuana in the home would harm its resale value and 57% believe growing the legal limit of four plants would impact on their home’s value negatively.

  • 52% of Buyers said they would not consider buying a home that grew the legal limit.

So, smoking and/or growing cannabis in a home is viewed as a stigma for a majority of buyer and sellers.

Built-in Protections

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More and more, brokerages include a typical clause in agreements in which sellers represent and warrant that during their ownership, the buildings and structures on the property have not been used for the growth or manufacture of illegal substances. We have amended the clause to include the growth or manufacture of legal substances as a reference to marijuana’s new status and its continued negative perception with both buyers and sellers.

How Does This Warranty Effect Rental Property?

As or April 1st, 2018, landlords must use the new mandatory lease agreement for any tenancy from that date forward. Ontario also gives landlords the option to include as a schedule to the new agreement that can include a clause that prohibits the smoking, vaping or growing of cannabis. This restriction, however, cannot be added to tenancy agreements existing prior to April 1.

The Warranty When Selling Income Property

Recently an offer to purchase was presented on a four-unit apartment that included the clause referenced above about the property not being used for the growth or manufacture of legal or illegal substances. As part of the counter offer, the seller and his lawyer deleted the clause for valid reason. As rental units the seller was unaware of the tenants’ activities regarding cannabis. What’s more, with legalization, tenants with rental agreements prior to April 1 are entitled to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, and the landlord has little recourse if any.

Enforcement of Legal or Illegal Limits

Even if a new mandatory lease were in place that included the cannabis restriction, how could a seller warrant that the tenant did not abuse the agreement? It would be risky to do so as enforcement by the Seller is not easy.

Even enforcement by the landlord of limiting growth to four plants might be difficult in some instances.

Case Study: Disclosure of Leak and Remedies

A Leak was Discovered, Corrected and Disclosed

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After the deal was firm, the seller noticed a water leak in the basement. He then discovered a crack in the basement wall and had it corrected with a 25-year transferable warranty to the buyers. The insulation on half the height of the basement wall was partially removed and subsequently taped back once the correction to the wall was made. The seller now disclosed it to the buyers.

The Buyers Inspected; Seller Declined Request

On inspecting the remedial work the buyers noticed sweating on the insulation inside the vapor barrier. They became suspect and wanted the seller to remove all of the insulation on the damaged wall, to see whether other cracks existed. The seller declined the request and would not allow the buyers any further inspections. Though not agreed to in the contract, the seller felt they had already generously given the buyer a number additional inspections to measure the kitchen for a renovation quote, and to measure for flooring and other updating plans.

Extended Warranties are Unlikely

The seller said that once the deal closed and the buyers owned the property they could open it up themselves. If by chance other cracks were discovered, which they doubted, the seller suggested they could contact the concrete subcontractor that built the basement and/or the builder of the home. Typically, however, the basement subcontractor gives a 2-year warranty on the foundation and at this point the house is 10 years old. Though unlikely, if any such extended warranty existed, the seller should produce written evidence of its existence and transferability.

The Deal Closed with No Additional Problems

The buyers were instructed to talk to their lawyer. They, however, said that they didn’t want to complicate the matter with lawyers and wanted the sales representatives to help work it out. The respective sales reps, though, could do no more as the seller was firm on his position. On consulting with their lawyer, the buyers closed on the deal and subsequently no further problems were discovered.

Some Take-aways

The seller was forthright in making the buyer aware of the leak, the crack and the fix. As advised, the buyers were wise to close. Under our system, if additional cracks were found they could go after the seller, though the onus would be on them to prove the seller was aware of other cracks. If the buyers chose not to close they could be sued for breach.

Before Closing

Before closing lawyers typically ask if the buyers have performed a final viewing and whether they noticed any issues compared to when they initially saw the house. The buyers then tell about the crack and fix…as well as other concerns should they have any.

Some Possible Solutions:

  1. They can try to negotiate a holdback until they discover if other cracks are present.

  2. They might attempt a price reduction.

They could threaten not to close, leaving them open to legal action: a risky idea. Closing was the right approach.

Are Niagara Region House Prices Dropping?

It’s a Commonly Asked Question Today

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One of the questions homeowners continue to ask lately is, “Are prices dropping?” A legitimate question when they notice “New Price” and “Reduced” stickers on any number of for sale signs, not to mention homes lingering on the market, unsold compared to last year.

To date the answer is “no,” at least prices, that is to say, have not gone down overall. To the end of September, versus the same time last year, the number of sales is down by about 13% to 15%, yet average and median sale prices indicate positive numbers as follows:

  • The overall average price year-to-date for the Niagara Region is up by about 2.6%, and

  • The median price by and large is up by about 4%.

Of course average and median prices cannot determine how any one home or neighbourhood has performed. They do, however, point toward general market conditions and trends. As well, in certain districts within the region and in high-end properties average and median prices are down somewhat.

What has been going down are list prices

The hot seller’s market of 2017 brought about a sizable increase in sale prices. By the end of December 2017, the overall average sale price for the region was up by about 23.8% and the overall median price by 21.2%. Homeowners still have the benefit of this appreciation.

Yet in many cases, sellers this year have overextended their asking prices, possibly thinking that prices were going to continue to rise to a similar degree as last year. Such a strategy has not served them; hence the noticeable number of price reductions and listings that remain unsold. Market conditions change and experience has shown that there is often a delayed reaction to such shifts on the part of sellers.

Some of the following have contributed to this shift:

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  1. The mortgage stress test introduced in January of 2018 caused some buyers to opt out of the market;

  2. Home price increases contributed to reduced affordability;

  3. The number of out of town buyers coming to the region has dropped as sales of single family homes in and around Toronto have gone down as well as their average prices.

  4. Interest rates continue to inch up shrinking affordability and creating buyer concern.

In spite of this, and to reiterate, prices for the most part have gone up, and properly-priced homes continue to sell. Even during the hot seller market overpriced listing prices did not result in a sale. Today properties have to be priced to attract buyers and their representatives.

Fear Can Drive Many Buying Decisions

In a hot seller’s market buyers fear they might lose out. In a slower market buyers fear they might pay too much. They question whether their home purchase will maintain its value.

Niagara Region Residential Sales Prices and Statistics for October, 2018

Residential Sales, Average Sale Prices and Days to Sell for the Niagara Region

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

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Residential Average Sale Prices for the City of Niagara Falls

For the Niagara Falls: Month to Month comparison for 2017 and 2018 to October 2018

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Residential Sales Average Days to Sell for the City of Niagara Falls

For the Niagara Falls: Month to Month comparison for 2017 and 2018 to October 2018

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

Net Cost of Owning Versus Renting Your Home

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Mr. Will Dunning, Chief Economist for Mortgage Professionals of Canada, released an insightful report called, Owning Versus Renting a Home in Canada, release September 2018.

Increase in Home Prices vs. Renting:

  • According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, over the last twenty years, home prices in Canada have appreciated by an average of 6.2% per year.

  • According to CMHC, rents over the past twenty years have increased by an average of 2.7% per year.

Given the discrepancy, does home buying still make sense and are young people better off renting?

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Yet Home Ownership is at an All-Time High

Notwithstanding the perceived “deterioration in affordability” due to price increases, “Canadians remain highly interested in becoming homeowners, and they continue to succeed at buying homes.” Mr. Dunning reports that compared to renting, those able to invest in ownership would be better off in the long term as opposed renting. He agrees that upfront monthly costs for renting can be cheaper in most locations. However, the net cost of owning a home compared to the comparable rental cost is less and more cost effective over time. And that’s without considering a home’s appreciation.

The Net Cost of Owning Trumps Renting

Over time the cost of owning or renting will both rise. The net cost of owning, however, takes the following into account. The largest cost of ownership is the mortgage payment which typically becomes a fixed amount over the term of a mortgage contract, as in a five year term. During this period, and with each mortgage payment, a portion of the principal is paid down increasing the owner’s equity in the home. This savings effectively reduces cost resulting in a net cost savings.

Here is the Result On Average

According to Mr. Dunning, the result, based on a Canadian average price of $569,849, 20% down and a 3.25% over 25 years is as follows: On average, the cost of owning exceeds renting a similar home by about $541 per month. Yet once the “the principal repayment is considered, the net cost of owning is $449 less than the cost of renting.” Over 25 years or less, once the mortgage is paid off, he projects the cost of ownership at about $1,549 per month versus $4,655 for renting a corresponding dwellings.What’s more, because the lifetime costs of housing is lower than that of tenants, owners have a greater opportunity to accumulate more savings tend to be better off financially.

How Does This Pan Out in Niagara?

The regional overall average price year-to-date is about $470,000. Based on the same parameters as above, the net cost of owning exceeds the cost of renting by about $640. Minus the principal repayment, the net cost of owning is $380 less in the first month. Over year it’s about $6,400 less.

Other Housing Costs

Average annual increases for housing costs in Canada for the past 5 years: Property taxes 2.8%; Repairs: 1.9%; Home insurance: 5.4%; Utilities: 1.6%; Rents: 2.4%; Utilities: 1.6%; Rents: 2.4%. For full report, do an internet search on “Owning versus Renting in Canada-Mortgage Professionals.”

Abandoned Gas Wells and the Environment

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When an Abandoned Gas Well is Discovered?

The home purchased had an additional back piece of vacant land attached to the property. On viewing the home before buying, the buyer did not inspect the back parcel.  On searching title, the buyer’s lawyer obtained a copy of an old survey that indicated an abandoned oil well on a corner of the attached back parcel. With its discovery, the buyer inspected the back parcel found the well, visible from the surface and took a picture. He noted the smell of gas in and around the well. 

Disclosure of a Gas Well Should be Made

He was somewhat upset as he felt the gas well’s existence should have been disclosed. He discussed his concern with both his lawyer and real estate agent. His lawyer asked for a price reduction through the seller’s lawyer and some three days later still hadn’t received a response. The buyer now turned to his brokerage. He wanted the property but also wanted some resolution. Recognizing this as a problem, brokerage did some research and made some of the following discoveries.

According to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority,

  • “An abandoned oil and gas well on your property is a hazard to the environment and your health and safety.”

  • They can also be obstacles to new development and “can be a financial liability to the landowner.”

  • So it’s important to report and plug abandoned wells.

Information from the Ministry of Natural Resources

We learned that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has what’s called the Abandoned Works Program to help “Ontarians properly plug wells on their property.”  They will:

  • Establish as to whether a well qualifies for the program,

  • Rank the well according to its “risk to public safety and potential for environmental damage to determine when it should be plugged…,

  • “Arrange for a certified well contractor to plug the well.’

If there is no gas well operator to be found, the landowner is responsible for plugging the well. In our search, we thought we located the well in the Oil, Gas & Salt Resources Library and reported our findings to the Ministry. As they could not find it in their database, they recommended the buyer hire a consultant. Apparently unlicensed and abandoned gas wells, not properly decommissioned, abound in southwestern Ontario.

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Cost to Plug the Well

The cost of plugging a well can range from as little as $2,500 to thousands. In one reported case the landowner ended up being on the hook for $20,000. By now some days had gone by and the closing date was fast approaching. The buyer hired a contractor who estimated a cost of $28,500 to properly plug the well. Armed with this quote, the parties negotiated a reduction in purchase price of $25,000, with the buyer agreeing to take responsibility to plug the well after closing.

More Pre-Listing Research by REALTORS Needed

This should have been disclosed before the buyer made an offer. Luckily it was discovered before the deal closed. REALTORS would be wise to walk the property prior to listing and have the seller fill out the “OREA Property Information Checklist" to uproot any required disclosures.

Why It Is Better To Buy Now Rather Than Later

Buy Now Or Later

It’s More Important Than Ever:

As you know, the internet can be a great source of information. Some buyers though are too anxious to start looking at homes without confirming what they can afford with a lender. And with today’s mortgage stress test, the need for a buyer to confirm their mortgage affordability is more critical than ever before.

Don’t Assume Affordability:

In one such case, a young couple assumed they could afford their desired price range in spite of the salesperson’s encouragement to obtain a pre-approval. So they viewed some ten homes and signed a purchase agreement conditional on obtaining a mortgage and a home inspection.

Stress Test Failure:

After meeting with their lender they were told they did not qualify for the price of the home they were buying. Though they did qualify based on the current mortgage rate, they failed the stress test. Such an occurrence affects about 18% of prospective buyers today. They would have to reduce their expectations by about $30,000 to buy or increase their downpayment.

Other Possible Measures by the Salesperson:

As well, the salesperson, against his better judgment, was influenced by their confidence, enthusiasm and motivation to buy. He also did not want to lose them as a client. He might have taken one more step though and suggested that, though he cannot pre-approve them, he can certainly run through the same exercise a lender uses to find out what buyers can qualify for based on their income and debts.

Opting to Wait and Improve Downpayment:

The couple was initially upset with the bank but mostly at themselves. They felt the salesperson had done a good job and admitted they should have followed his advice before proceeding. Because of their let down, they decided to put a hold on buying. They did not want to reduce their expectations on the home they wanted. They wanted to save a larger downpayment, about $20,000 more, which they determined would take about two years at a savings of $10,000 per year.

Why it is Better to Buy Now:

Yet buying a lower-priced home today might turn out to be the better strategy, and here’s why: According to the latest statistics, the average house price across Canada has risen by about 6.2% per year for the last 20 years. As an example, barring a downturn and if things remain equal, a $300,000 house today would potentially be worth around $338,000 in two years.

How Equity Can Increase:

If the buyers purchased a home at a lower price today of $270,000 to qualify, after their downpayment of $30,000 they would have a mortgage of $247,440 with CMHC insurance of 3.10% added. Given the 6.2% average annual increase, this home might be worth about $304,500 in two years. That’s a potential gain of $34,500. As well, if they paid down the mortgage by the $10,000 per year they planned to save, their equity would increase again by $32,738.

Their Total Equity:

They would then have the following equity: the original $30,000 down, the capital gain of $34,500, plus an additional $32,738 from reducing the mortgage principal. That’s a total of $97,238 allowing them to buy a better home in two years. It’s worth pursuing.

Repairs and Upgrades: How Much Will They Cost?

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During the process of buying or selling a home, your clients often learn about recommended or required repairs and upgrades. This can happen as a result of the home inspection as well as your expert knowledge of your market and comparable homes. Of course, the first thing homeowners want to know is, “How much will that cost?”

Pillar to Post is pleased to offer our popular Residential Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, which provides estimated cost ranges for repair and/ or replacement of the major systems and components in a home. It also includes general guidelines for the life expectancies of those systems.

Request complimentary copies of the cost guide from your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector or download it at pillartopost.com/costguide.

 

Curious as to which upgrades will increase your home's value the most?  Which upgrades will get you the best return on investment?  Contact Barbara or Ashley today for the answers with their free, no obligation consultations.

Absorption Rate and Months of Inventory - June 2018

The DOM (Days on Market) indicates the market time of homes that have sold. It’s not necessarily reflective of a home’s actual market time though. In a number of cases and as a marketing tactic, when a home’s list price is reduced, the salesperson will relist the home to have it show up on MLS as a new listing. This distorts a home’s DOM: it may have sold within 30 days from the new listing date but could have been on the market for any number of days prior.

The Absorption Rate and Months of Inventory

The Absorption Rate helps resolve any distortion in the DOM. It indicates the following:

  • How many homes are absorbed (or sold) in the market on a monthly basis within a given period, say 6 months,

  • How many months it will take to sell the current listing inventory,

  • How the seller might position their listing to improve its marketability.

Positioning the Listing:

So, for example, if a seller wants to sell in one month and the months of inventory is 3, the seller would need to position the home in front of the market by pricing it more aggressively than its competition. This helps the seller to set realistic expectations and improve a reasonable buyer’s perception of value.

The following chart shows the absorption rate or average number of sales per month and the months needed to sell existing inventory.

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Buyers Want to Know Up Front Not After

There are a number of searches a lawyer may carry out when working for a buyer on a real estate purchase.

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There was a time when lawyers, by way of a requisition letter, would make inquiries to the municipality concerning the property to discover any issues affecting the property. Clause 10 of the standard Agreement of Purchase even speaks to the Buyer being allowed to satisfy himself that there are not outstanding work orders or deficiency notices affecting the property, a responsibility that was carried out by the lawyer.

Resolution of Certain Issues by Title Insurance

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Though some still do make a requisition to the municipality, many don’t since Title Insurance came into prominence some years ago. It saves the buyer the additional cost of requisitioning the city. As well, if an issue is discovered after closing Title Insurance would attempt to resolve it depending on what it is.

Yet Buyers Prefer to Know Up Front

In our experience Buyers want to know of any issues up front, or at least before they close and take possession of the property. That’s why the preprinted portion of the Offer to Purchase has certain provisions or built-in conditions. An issue discovered after closing tends to upset Buyers.

Here is an Example of a Municipal Drain Bill

Recently we received a call from one of our buyers who purchased his rural property in the fall of 2016. He was quite upset at having received a bill from the municipality for $2,635. It was noted as a “Drainage Maintenance Billing”. Under provincial legislation a Municipal Drain is part of a municipality’s infrastructure. The cost of repair and maintenance on the drain is “assessed to the lands within the watershed of the municipal drain; in other words to the affected property owners. The maintenance was performed between January 2010 and December 2016 and all land owners were notified.

The Previous Owner Was Notified but….

When the municipality notified all affected owners, the property was still owned by the seller yet the issue was not disclosed. This could easily happen as he seller could have forgotten about the notification. Further, the city letter went on to say that if the amount due was not paid it would be added to the property taxes. Upset, the Buyer felt that he should have been told at the time of buying and felt his lawyer should have discovered the matter. What’s more, in talking to the municipality, the buyer was informed that had a requisition been made, the matter would have been disclosed. This only frustrated the buyer more. We suggested enquiring with their Title Insurance Company to see if they would cover the cost of the billing.

Title Insurance: First No and then Yes

On contacting a representative of the Insurance company, the request was initially denied. The representative disagreed with the decision and went to bat for the buyer. The Title Insurance company reversed its decision and approved the payment. A happy ending but a requisition to the city before closing would have brought the matter to light.

Mandatory Lease Agreement in Ontario

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As directed by the Rental Fairness Act 2017, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing created the mandatory residential lease with 5 reasons in mind:

  1. To use “easy to understand language to help

  2. Landlords and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities,”

  3. To reduce illegal provisions,

  4. To reduce misunderstandings caused by verbal agreements, and

  5. To reduce dispute resolutions with the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The Act also introduced additional protections.  Here are some highlights.

Landlord’s Personal Use: Due to abuse of the Landlord’s own use provision, the landlord must give 60 days’ notice before the end of the tenancy, and pay the tenant one month’s rent as a penalty. Alternatively the landlord can offer another unit acceptable to the tenant.

What if a buyer requires a rental unit? The payment penalty of one-month’s rent is not required in this case, but the property cannot have more than 3 unit rental. Once an offer becomes unconditional, and notice to terminate is given to the tenant, the landlord can apply to the Landlord Tenant Board to affect the termination. The Buyer must sign an affidavit stating that they or a member of their immediate family will occupy the unit on closing, and be required to attend any court hearing to confirm.

Added Statement in Agreement of Purchase and Sale: In the notice of termination clause in the Offer, it should additionally state that the buyer intends to occupy the property for at least one year and to indemnify the seller for any damages suffered because the buyer did not move in. This is important because there are a number of penalties that can be imposed, as well as an administrative fine of up to $25,000.

You Can Add Additional Clauses to the Agreement.

As the lease agreement states, “An additional term cannot take away a right or responsibility under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. Any conflicting term will be void and not binding.

Smoking

In the lease, the landlord and tenant can agree to allow or prohibit smoking in the unit and on the landlord’s property. Even if smoking is allowed, the landlord can apply to the Board if it substantially interferes with “reasonable enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants, causes undue damage, impairs safety, or substantially interferes with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord.”

What About Marijuana?

 “Landlords will be able to spell out a ban on smoking marijuana in rental units for new leases post-legalization — the same as they do for tobacco use,” this according to a Toronto Star article dated January 22, 2018 by Peter Goffin of the Canadian Press.

Author and Lawyer, Mark Weisleader, recommends a number of additional terms to include with the Lease Agreement. In it, he recommends a No Smoking/Marijuana Clause to disallow smoking of any kind including marijuana, as well as prohibiting the growth of cannabis in a unit.

The mandatory agreement does not apply to month-to-month rentals and lease agreements prior to April 30, 2018.