10 things you need to know about buying a homeMay 21, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
Buying a home is probably the most significant purchase most people make in their lifetime. Whether you are buying your first house or you are a seasoned homeowner, it is important to understand your legal rights and obligations.
Buying and Selling a Home by The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA) and Buying or Selling Real Estate in Saskatchewan written by lawyer Kevin Rogers for The Lawyers Weekly are both excellent resources.
PLEA suggests that you keep the following 10 things in mind before you go house hunting.
- What can you afford? Generally mortgage lenders suggest that the cost of your mortgage payments, property taxes, heating and condo fees (if applicable), make up no more than 32% of your household’s monthly income before taxes. Lending institutions generally look at keeping total debt payments below 40% of a household’s gross income.
- Mortgage costs: It’s usually a good idea to shop for financing before you start house hunting to determine the maximum amount of money you can borrow and discuss payment schedules. Your lending institution may commit to a certain size of mortgage at a set interest rate. This is called a pre-approved mortgage and it will help you determine your price range.
- Down payment: Generally speaking, you will have to come up with a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price to qualify for a mortgage. However, if you can obtain mortgage loan insurance through government programs such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), or private mortgage insurers you may be able to obtain a mortgage with as little as a 5% down payment. Some restrictions apply.
- Ongoing Costs: In addition to mortgage payments you should budget for annual property taxes plus heating water and electricity bills. Therefore, the energy efficiency of the home may be one thing to keep in mind when you are considering properties. You may also have to buy furniture, appliances, window coverings and tools to do repairs and maintenance work.
- Closing costs: Closing costs are additional expenses that must be paid before the purchase is complete. Generally, buyers should budget 1.5% to 4.5% of the purchase price for these costs. Some of the closing costs include legal fees, including disbursements; pro-rated property taxes for the portion of the year the vendor paid for when you will be the owner; the GST for new homes or homes that have been substantially renovated or re-located; property insurance; mortgage life insurance; and, utility deposits and hook up charges.
- Real estate agent vs private sale: Generally speaking real estate commission is paid by the seller and free to the buyer. The advantage of using an agent is he/she can show you all of the suitable listed properties in your price range and preferred area. However, you can buy property directly from a seller and the price may reflect the fact that the seller does not have to pay a commission. But if you do purchase a home privately, have a lawyer review or draft the offer or any other documents to ensure that they are legally sound and contain only the terms you have agreed to.
- Caveat emptor: Generally when buying a home, the rule is “buyer beware.” Check out the home carefully and make the offer conditional on a home inspection. However, the seller must tell you about any defects he is aware of that could not be discovered by a reasonable inspection of the property. Things like past problems with water in the basement, windows that leak when it rains or faulty plumbing would likely be included in this category if the seller knows about the problem.
- Farmland or other non-residential property: Each type of purchase involves its own unique considerations. If you are considering the purchase of farmland, acreages, commercial, recreational or rental property, there may be additional things to find out about the property before making an offer to purchase. You should seek advice from a real estate agent or a lawyer to ensure that all the relevant factors are adequately considered.
- Building /renovating: If you are planning to purchase land where you can build a home, have the land inspected to ensure that it is suitable for the type of construction planned. Whether considering new construction or major renovations, it is important to find out if there are any municipal bylaws that may limit building plans. Whether you will be doing all or part of the work or using contractors, it is important to seek legal advice before signing contracts for materials or services.
- Condominiums: Condominiums are typically made up of individually owned units and common areas used by all the owners, as well as common areas that are set aside for the exclusive use of particular units (such as dedicated parking spaces). The cost of maintaining these common areas comes out of the condo fees all owners pay. The fund for major repairs is called the Reserve Fund. Satisfy yourself as to the state of repairs of common areas and the health of the Reserve Fund. Otherwise you may be in for a nasty surprise when you have to pay an unexpected levy of thousands of dollars.
Also read: Owning a home in Saskatchewan became more affordable in Q4 2014, RBC Economics
10 things you need to know about selling your homeMay 14, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
One sure sign of spring is the “For Sale” signs sprouting on lawns across the country along with the dandelions and tulips. Whether you are downsizing or upsizing, you want to get the best possible price for your home.
If you live in a house long enough it is easy to overlook the watermark on the ceiling where the shower leaked or the wear and tear on the kitchen cabinets. But prospective buyers will notice everything. Unless you spruce the place up a bit, your house may take a long time to sell and the proceeds of sale might be much lower than the listing price.
Here are 10 things you can you can do to increase the odds that you will get top dollar for your house:[i]
- Internet ready: Most prospective buyers let their fingers do the walking first on the Internet and they want to see pictures. That means you have to make ensure your home is photo-ready and even hire a professional photographer.
- When to list: Spring and fall are typically the best times to list. Families with children often prefer to move at the end of the school year. The curb appeal of homes can be higher in these seasons and buyers may be more in the mood to house hunt when they don’t have climb through snow. However, in prime time there also may be more competing listings in your area.
- Improve curb appeal: Take down the Christmas lights. Put away snow shovels. Make sure the grass is cut and either plant flowers or buy flowers in pots. If the paint on the outside trim or the garage door is worn, arrange for touch-ups. House hunters will very quickly form a first impression of your home when they drive up.
- Clean it up: Wash carpets, walls, dust the chandeliers, clean bathroom grout. A 2010 Home Sale Maximizer Survey by the blog HomeGain estimated the cost of scouring and organizing a house at about $200 and the resulting expected home price increase at $1,700. That’s an 870% return on your investment!
- Declutter: The larger and more open your home appears, the easier it will be for buyers to imagine living there. Get rid of piles of magazines or newspapers. Thin out the books on your bookshelves. Put away or store kitchen appliances that take up scarce space on your counters.
- Paint: If your paint job is in poor condition or you currently have distinctive or dark colours, consider a paint job in a neutral colour or white. It will make your home look larger, cleaner and brighter.
- Stage right: You may have either too much or too little furniture and other stuff on display. Take the advice of your real estate agent or a staging professional. Put items in storage if necessary and change the layout of the rooms. Get rid of small items on coffee tables and side tables. If you have moved out, rent furniture so prospective buyers can envisage where their things will fit.
- Upgrade the hardware: Are your light fixtures outdated with burned out bulbs? How about the handles on your kitchen and bathroom cabinets or the mirrors? Upgrading small things at a small cost can often enhance the look of your home.
- Relocate the pets: Fleecy and Fido may be much-loved members of your family, but that doesn’t mean somebody else’s family will feel the same way. During the period your house is for sale, give your pets a vacation. And make sure all sign of them like balls of fur growing in corners and the kitty litter are removed.
- Fresh smells: If your house smells musty, of cigarette smoke, pet odours or last night’s dinner, buyers will be turned off. Air out the house. Get rid of old smelly carpets. Avoid air fresheners because many people are allergic to scents or find them offensive. A real estate agent once told me to boil cinnamon or bake cookies (and leave them on a plate) before an open house.
Mar 25: Best from the blogosphereMarch 25, 2013
By Sheryl Smolkin
Our best favourite bloggers continue to explore a number of interesting themes this week.
The Blunt Bean Counter is an accountant and this week he presents valuable information on stress testing your finances so you are protected in the event of death or other unforeseeable events.
And finally, although you got a new job with a huge salary jump, you may wonder why you don’t seem to be able to save more. Krystal Yee calls it lifestyle inflation and discusses how you can manage it.
Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Send us an email with the information to so*********@sa*********.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.