September 26, 2012
What is interior design? As the name implies, it's all about designing a living area – such as a bathroom or
basement – while taking into account your needs, tastes, and budget, as well as the characteristics of the space
If you've ever sketched out an idea for a renovation – to add a wall, install hardwood floors, or paint – then you've done
interior design, as least at an amateur level. Home improvement contractors, when they make suggestions about
how to renovate a room, are also acting as interior designers.
According to the Association of Registered Interior Designers, "Interior Designers will analyze your needs and
budget, prepare and present conceptual solutions and then manage the implementation of the project."
Although hiring an interior designer may seem like a luxury for many homeowners, it can actually be quite affordable.
Plus, consider that your interior designer can manage your project from concept and design all the way through to a
finished renovation – including managing the renovation work itself.
How do you find a good interior designer?
In Canada, check out Interior Designers of Canada at www.IDCanada.org. In the U.S., visit the American Society of
Interior Designers at www.asid.org. Both websites have search tools to find qualified registered interior designers in
A REALTOR® who is an expert in the local market can also give you a recommendation.
When reviewing possible interior designers, take a close look at their portfolios, which are usually in the form of
pictures of completed projects. Consider the style of work they've done for other clients, as it is likely that’s what
you can expect for yours.
According to an article in The Epoch Times by Lloyd Princeton, it's also important that you get along with the
interior designer. You'll be working closely with that person. If you have a gut feeling that you're not going to like
him or her, then you won't be satisfied with the result – even if the design is actually good.
September 23, 2012
The asking prices of most homes on the market indicate the current state of the market, and usually mirror the
prices for which other similar homes in the area have recently sold. In deciding upon a selling price, a home-
seller must establish a balance between the desire to draw the highest offer and finding a price that will be
reasonable enough to attract an appropriate pool of prospects, and competitive offers. While most selling agents
counsel their clients to consider this equation when pricing their home, keep in mind that some homes are not
It’s important to educate yourself about the current market before approaching the purchase of a home. The
market will always influence a property’s value, regardless of the state of a home, or its desirability. Here are the
types of market conditions and how they may affect you:
- Seller’s Market:
A seller’s market is considered a “hot” market. This type of market is created when demand is greater than supply
—that is, when the number of buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market. As a result, these homes
usually sell very quickly, and there are often multiple offers. As a buyer, you need to consider that many homes will
sell above the asking price; in other words, you may have less room to negotiate, and may encounter competing
offers. Though most buyers want to get a home for the lowest price possible, reducing your offer could mean
opening the door for another buyer instead.
- Buyer’s Market:
A buyer’s market is a slower market. This type of market occurs when supply is greater than demand, the number
of homes exceeding the number of buyers. Properties are more likely to stay on the market for a longer period of
time. Fewer offers will come in, and with less frequency. Prices may even decline during this period. As a buyer,
you will have more selection and flexibility in terms of negotiating toward a lower price. Even if your initial offered
price is too low, the seller will be more likely to come back with a counter-offer, so you can begin the process of
- Balanced Market:
In a balanced market, supply equals demand, the number of homes on the market roughly equal to the number of
buyers. When a market is balanced there aren’t any concrete rules guiding whether you should make an offer at
the higher end of your range, or the lower end. Prices will be stable, and homes will sell within a reasonable
period of time. You will have a decent number of homes to choose from, and may encounter some competition for
offers on the home of your choice, or none at all.
Before you make an offer to purchase a home, establish whether the current market is a Buyer’s, Seller’s, or
Balanced market. Also, evaluate the price similar properties have sold for in the area, and the length of time these
properties spent on the market. Determine how the home you’re considering compares to these other sales. Is
this one over-priced, under-priced, or a fair price? By establishing this information prior to making an offer, you will
be in a position to negotiate the best price for the home and be prepared for any additional opportunities that may
come your way.
Keep in mind, a realtor is trained to provide clients with this information about the market, helping you make the
most informed decision possible. The right realtor will guide you through the ups and downs of the market and
keep you up-to-date with the types of changes you might expect. These realtor resources and connections will
prove to be invaluable as you navigate the real estate market.
The other main factors that affect market value are:
The proximity of the home to amenities, such as schools, parks, public transportation, and stores will affect its
status on the market. Also, the quality of neighbourhood planning, and future plans for development and zoning
will influence a home’s current market value, as well as the ways in which it might change.
The age, size, layout, style, and quality of construction of the building will all affect a property’s market value, as
well as the size, shape, seclusion and landscaping of the yard.
- Condition of the Home:
This includes the general condition of the home’s main systems, such as the furnace, central air, electrical
system, etc., as well as the appearance and condition of the fixtures, the floor plan of the house, and its first
- Comparable Properties:
Examine the selling and asking prices of similar homes in the neighbourhood. Ask your Realtor to prepare you a
general market analysis of the neighbourhood you’re interested in, so you can determine a range of value for a
particular property. A market analysis will provide you with a market overview and give you a glimpse at what other
similar properties have been selling for in that area.
- Market Conditions/ Economy:
The market value of a home is additionally affected by the number of homes currently on the market, the number of
people looking to buy property, current mortgage rates, and the condition of the national and local economy.
September 19, 2012
The process of buying or selling a house seems to involve a million details. It is important that you educate
yourself on as many parts of this process as you can—this knowledge could mean the difference of thousands of
dollars in the long-run. The legal issues involved in the process are often particularly intricate, ranging from
matters of common knowledge to subtle details that might escape the untrained eye. Any of these issues, if not
handled properly, could develop into larger problems
With so many legal issues to consider, your first step should be to seek out experienced professionals to help
educate you and represent your best legal interests. Begin with an experienced real estate agent, who can help
guide you through the initial hoops. S/he should also be able to point you in the direction of a reputable local real
estate lawyer to assist you in all legal matters involved in the purchase or sale of your house.
While there are countless legal details involved in a real estate transaction, some seem to pose larger problems
than others. We’ve outlined two legal clauses that are commonly misunderstood and may cost you money if not
worded correctly. Handle these carefully and you will be on track to a successful sale or purchase!
- Home Inspection Clause
Some real estate transactions have been sabotaged due to the wording of the home inspection clause. This
clause originally allowed that the buyer has the right to withdraw their offer if the home inspection yielded any
undesirable results. However, this allowance was known to backfire, as Buyers took advantage of it, using some
non-issue stated in the inspection as an excuse for having changed their minds. Of course, this was unfair to the
Sellers, as they’d poured time and money into what they believed was a sure deal. Not only might they have
missed out on other offers in the interim, but their house might also now be unfairly considered a “problem
home.” Additionally, they’d now have to shoulder the costs of continuing to market the property. All of this adds up.
In order to remedy this potential problem, the clause should indicate that the seller has the option of repairing any
problems the home inspection might point to. With this slight change in the clause, both buyer and seller are
To ensure this clause is fair from one side of the bargain to the other, work closely with a lawyer experienced in
these transactions and all the nuances that may affect the outcome for you.
- Survey Clause
It is the right of a home buyer to add a survey clause to the real estate contract on the home they’d like to
purchase. If you are on the selling end of the contract, be aware. If you have added an addition or a pool to your
property since the last survey was produced, your survey will no longer be considered up-to-date and the Buyer
may request that a new one be drawn up—the cost of which you will incur. The price of this process will run
anywhere from $700 to $1000.
Your real estate agent has the responsibility to provide you with the most recent survey of your home. It is then the
Buyer’s right to decide if it is acceptable. An experienced agent should offer you reliable counsel if you encounter
an issue with this clause, but it is advisable to talk to your lawyer if you’re unsure at all of the potential
ramifications involved. Remember, the wording of this clause could cost or save you thousands of dollars.
September 12, 2012
The thousands of dollars in rent you’ve already paid to your landlord may be a staggering figure—one you don’t
even want to think about. Buying a house just isn’t possible for you right now. And it isn’t in your financial cards for
the foreseeable future. Or is it? The situation is common and widespread: countless people feel trapped in
home rental, pouring thousands of dollars into a place that will never be their own—yet they think they’re unable to
produce a down payment for a home in order to escape this rental cycle. However, putting the buying process into
motion isn’t nearly as impossible as it may seem. No matter how dire you believe your financial situation to be,
there are several little-known facts that may be key to helping you step from a renter’s rut to home-owning
Initially, of course, the most daunting factor involved in buying a house is the down payment. You know you’ll be
able to handle the monthly payments—you’ve done this for years as a renter. The hurdle, instead, seems to be
accumulating the capital needed to put money down. However, this hurdle may be smaller than you think. Take a
look at the following points and explore whether any of these scenarios may be possible for you:
- Find a lender to assist you with your down payment and closing costs.
If you’re free of debt, and own an asset outright, your lending institution may lend you the money for a down payment by securing it against your asset. In this case, you won’t need to have accumulated capital for a down
- Buy a home even if your credit isn’t top-notch.
If you have saved more than the minimum for a down payment, or can secure the loan against other equity, many
lending institutions will still consider you for a mortgage, despite a poor credit rating.
- Find a seller to assist you in buying and financing the home.
Some sellers may be willing to bear a second mortgage as a seller take-back. The seller then assumes the role
of the lending institution, and you pay him/her the monthly payments, rather than paying the price of the home in a
lump sum. This is an additional option if you have a poor credit rating.
- Buy a home with much less down than you’d think.
Did you know you can own a home with as little as 5% down? Investigate local and federal programs, such as
first-time buyer programs, that are designed to help people like you break into the housing market. An
experienced real estate agent will be equipped to give you all the information you need about these programs, and
counsel you on which options are best for you.
- Create a cash down payment without going into debt.
By borrowing money for specific investments, you may be able to produce a large income tax return that you can
use as a down payment. Technically, the money borrowed for these investments is considered a loan, but the
monthly payments can be low, and the money you put into both the home and the investments will ultimately be
So, you know there are options out there. The next step is to educate yourself on what your own personal
possibilities might be, and how to follow through with the means to achieve these goals. Keep in mind, too, that
you can get pre-approved for a mortgage before you begin searching for a home. In fact, you should get pre-
approved—the process is free and doesn’t place you under any obligation. You can be pre-approved over the
phone or via email. Or, take the next step and complete a credit application. Once a credit application is
submitted, you’ll receive a written pre-approval, which will guarantee you a mortgage to a specified level. When
you have a concrete price range, you’ll know where to begin looking. Make a commitment to yourself to break out
of the renting rut. Start today!
September 8, 2012
There is no set equation to determine how you’ll reach an offer price. Rather, the process involves a range of
research and comparison that will vary with each situation. You’ll need to look at sales of comparable properties,
and factor in additional data such as the condition of the property, the current market, and seller circumstances.
With this information in hand, you will be able to determine a fair price range and, from there, establish the price
you’re willing to offer.
Concentrate on the following areas to help you determine an offer price:
- Compare prices of homes that are similar to the property you’re considering in the following areas: number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, lot size, type of construction, and garage space.
- The most comprehensive and in-depth information can be accessed through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Your Realtor, who will be working closely with you to set your offer price, can help you navigate this service.
- Observe how the property compares to the rest of the neighbourhood. Is it average, above average, or below average?
- Look at structural condition: walls, ceilings, windows, floors, doors.
- Pay close attention to: bathrooms, bedrooms, condition of plumbing and electricity.
- Also check the fixtures: light switches, doorknobs, drawer handles, etc.
- What is the condition of the front and back yards?
- Cosmetic changes can be largely ignored, but any major improvements should be taken into account.
- Take special note of: room additions (especially bedrooms and bathrooms).
- Items such as swimming pools may be taken into account, but usually won’t affect your offer. Your Realtor can offer your guidance in these matters.
A seller’s market is considered a “hot” market. This type of market is created when demand is greater than supply
—that is, when the number of Buyers exceeds the number of homes on the market. As a result, these homes
usually sell very quickly, and there are often multiple offers. Many homes will sell above the asking price.
A Buyer’s market is a slower market. This type of market occurs when supply is greater than demand, the number
of homes exceeding the number of Buyers. Properties are more likely to stay on the market for a longer period of
time. Fewer offers will come in, and with less frequency. Prices may even decline during this period. Buyers will
have more selection and flexibility in terms of negotiating toward a lower price. Even if your initial offered price is
too low, Sellers will be more likely to come back with a counter-offer.
In a balanced market, supply equals demand, the number of homes on the market roughly equal to the number of
Buyers. When a market is balanced there aren’t any concrete rules guiding whether a Buyer should make an offer
at the higher end of his/her range, or the lower end. Prices will be stable, and homes will sell within a reasonable
period of time. Buyers will have a decent number of homes to choose from, so Sellers may encounter some
competition for offers on their home, or none at all.
Comparable sales information helps you establish a price range for the home you’re interested in. Adding in the
additional factors mentioned above will guide your decision of whether you consider a “fair” price to be near the
upper or lower limit—or the middle—of that range. Keep in mind, this price should be the one you’d be happy with
once all negotiations are said and done. The price you decide to begin with depends on your particular style of
negotiation. Most Buyers begin the negotiation process with a number lower than the “fair” price they’ve come up
September 5, 2012
September Market Update
Summer is traditionally a slower time for real estate and 2012 was no different. Lower sales activity had several
prognosticators predicting that Canada's housing market would see a correction; however, to date, prices have
remained relatively stable in most jurisdictions. In fact, Vancouver's seemingly inflated Westside saw its average
price rise by 15% over August 2011 thanks to a relatively low sales volume and several significant transactions (this
is why last month we talked about how misleading 'average' statistics can be).
But aside from internal market forces, it's hard not to ignore how problems in the US and Europe and the resulting
economic turmoil will influence our housing market. And while it's true that consumer confidence plays a big role in
the overall health of housing, it's important to remember that Canada continues to look like an economic oasis in a
desert of bad financial news.
As you know, the US housing market has been in a severe recession for the past several years. And while there's
been talk of a possible correction in the Canadian housing market, it is unlikely we will experience anything near as
painful as our neighbours to the south.
There are 3 main reasons for this.
- (1) Government Tax Policies
- (2) Loan Qualification Policies
- (3) Bank Lending Policies
Government Tax Policies
The US Government has long had a policy of encouraging home-ownership. Government-sponsored entities Fanny
Mae and Freddy Mac received most of the headlines during the US housing crisis for agreeing to purchase mortgage
loans that encouraged unsound lending. However, the US Government's tax policy of allowing homeowners to
deduct mortgage interest payments may be more significant, as it has encouraged Americans to maximize their
debt-loads in order to minimize their tax burdens.
Canada, of course, has no mortgage tax break for homeowners, with interest payment deductions only applying to
investment properties, meaning that Canadian homeowners don't have an incentive to take out larger loans than they
Loan Qualification Policies
The secondary mortgage market in the US allowed the originators of mortgages to pass on the mortgage notes to
investors throughout the world. Because of this, lenders became incentivized to originate as many mortgages as
possible, with little-to-no regard for risk. These perverse incentives led to 'liar loans' - where individuals would simply
lie to their mortgage broker about their income or employment knowing that there would be no incentive to conduct a
background check - and 'NINJA loans' - where mortgage brokers offered mortgages to individuals with No Income,
No Job or Assets.
In Canada, the originators of loans (typically the Big Banks) tend to hold on to them. Because of this, the correct
incentives are in place to ensure that only individuals who can afford the mortgage receive them.
Bank Lending Policies
Another unintended consequence of the secondary mortgage market in the US has been the creation of extensive
Adjustable-Rate Mortgage products with attractive 'teaser' rates to take advantage of sub-prime borrowers. These
products allowed mortgage-holders to pay an unrealistically low rate for a period of time before 'resetting' to a much
higher, unaffordable, rate.
In addition to this, loans in the US tend to be 'non-recourse' meaning that the only collateral that a lender would have
on a mortgage is the house itself. In Canada, mortgages tend to be 'full-recourse', with many banks demanding
personal guarantees. This difference has resulted in people walking away from their homes in the US at a much
higher rate than in Canada.
In the end, the result of all of these policy differences means that Canada is fairly well-insulated from the carnage that
occurred south of the border. In addition, the Federal government, in coordination with the Bank of Canada, changed
the mortgage rules on July 9th to lower the amortization period to 25 years (from a peak of 40 years), effectively
making it harder for Canadians to borrow more than they can afford.
Interestingly, our conservative, low-competition banking environment may have saved our housing market from a
If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me at the email address or phone number above.
||(Click chart to see larger image)
*This communication is not intended to cause or induce breach of an existing agency agreement.
*Although this information has been received from sources deemed reliable, we assume no responsibility for its accuracy, and without offering advice, make this submission to prior sale or lease, change in price or terms, and withdrawal without notice.
September 5, 2012
Each homebuyer has different ideas of what will constitute the ideal home for them, these notions often based on
particular aesthetic preferences. But one thing that unites all potential homebuyers is the desire to find a home that
is fundamentally sound—in areas beyond the immediate sweep of the eye—and that will provide a safe,
comfortable, and efficient foundation for their life behind a new door.
This is where the services of a home inspector come in. During a home inspection, at least 30 areas of the home
are placed under the home inspector’s “microscope.” Here are the ten most common weaknesses
uncovered in a typical home inspection. If not addressed, these problems could cost you thousands of dollars in
the long-run. So, knowing what to look for, and performing your own thorough pre-inspection, will help you to
identify areas for repair or improvement before they grow into costly problems.
1. Damp Basement:
If a mildew odour is present, the inspector will be able to detect it, as this smell is impossible to mask or eliminate.
Mildew odour is often the first indication of dampness in the basement. The inspector will also examine the walls,
checking for any signs of whitish mineral deposit just above the floor, and will note whether you feel confident
enough to store items on the floor.
Repairs can run anywhere from $200 to $15, 000, this cost ultimately influencing the calculation of your home’s
value, so consider enlisting the help of an expert to ensure you have a firm grasp on the bottom line before moving
forward with the sale of your home.
2. Poorly Installed/ Defective Plumbing:
In older homes, plumbing problems and defects are very common. The inspector will determine whether your
home’s plumbing is subject to leaking or clogging. Signs of leakage can be visibly detected. The inspector will test
water pressure by turning on all the faucets in the highest bathroom and then flushing the toilet. If the sound of
water is audible, this indicates that the home’s pipes may be too narrow. The inspector will also check for signs of
discolouration in the water when a faucet is first turned on. The appearance of dirty water is usually an indication
that the pipes are rusted—a water quality problem that should be dealt with immediately.
3. Older/ Poorly-Functioning Heating and Cooling Systems:
Heating/ cooling systems that are older or haven’t been properly maintained can pose serious safety and health
problems. An inspector will determine the age of your furnace and, if it is over the average life span of a furnace
(15-20 years), will likely suggest you replace it, even if it is still in good condition. If your heating system is a forced
air gas system, the heat exchanger will be examined very closely, as any cracks can result in the leak of poisonous
carbon monoxide gas. These heat exchangers are irreparable; if damaged, they must be replaced. While
replacing these components may seem expensive, a new system will yield heightened efficiency, reducing monthly
heating/ cooling costs substantially, and benefiting your long-term investment.
4. Older/ Unsafe Electrical System:
In older homes, it is common to find undersized services, aluminum wiring, knob-and-tub wiring, or insufficient
badly-renovated distribution systems. When an electrical circuit is over-fused, more amperage is drawn on the
circuit than what the circuit was intended to bear, creating a fire hazard. You’ll typically find a 15 amp circuit in a
home, with increased service for larger appliances such as dryers or stoves. If replacing your fuse panel with a
circuit panel, expect a cost of several hundred dollars.
5. Older/ Leaking Roof:
An asphalt roof will last an average of 15 to 20 years. Leaks through the roof could be a sign of physical
deterioration of the asphalt shingles caused by aging, or could indicate mechanical damage caused by any
number of factors, such as a heavy storm. If you decide your roof requires new shingles, you’ll first need to know
how many layers are beneath, in order to determine whether the roof must be completely stripped before installing
the new shingles.
6. Minor Structural Problems:
Common in older homes, these problems range from cracked plaster to small shifts in the foundation. While this
variety of problem isn’t large enough to cause any real catastrophe, they should be taken care of before they grow.
7. Poor Ventilation:
Unvented bathrooms and cooking areas can become breeding areas for mold and fungus, which, in turn, lead to air
quality issues throughout the house, triggering allergic reactions. Mold may additionally cause damage to plaster
and window frames. These problems should be identified and taken care of before any permanent damage is
8. Air Leakage:
A cold, drafty home can be the result of any number of problems, such as ill-fitting doors, aged caulking, low-quality
weather strips, or poor attic seals. This nature of repair can usually be taken care of easily and inexpensively.
9. Security Features:
An inspector will look at the standard security features that protect your home, such as the types of lock on the
doors/ windows/ patio doors, and the smoke or carbon monoxide detectors and where they’re located throughout
the home. Check with an expert if your home is lacking in any of these areas, in order to determine what costs to
10. Drainage/ Grading Problems:
This may be the most common problem found by home inspectors, and is a widespread catalyst of damp and
mildewed basements. Solutions to this problem may range from the installation of new gutters and downspouts, to
re-grading the lawn and surrounding property in order to direct water away from the house.
September 4, 2012
Our Fall seminar will be held at Country Meadows Golf Course in Richmond on September 25th, it will be a great opportunity for anyone who may benefit from learning about the buying process and the various incentives for first time buyers! Refreshments and appetizers will be provided.
Guest speakers include: Chelsea Young - financial advisor at SunLife Financial, Jacklyn Saunders - Mortgage Specialist at Dominion Lending Centres and Kristy Just - REALTOR at Macdonald Realty.
Tuesday September 25th
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Country Meadows Golf Course
8482 No. 6 Rd, Richmond BC
RSVP to Kristy at kristy@justrealty or 604-644-8918 to reserve your seat!