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Consider the pros and cons carefully before purchasing a condo.

Condos appeal to everyone from young urbanites who want to be in the heart of the action to seniors who just want to relax and enjoy their golden years playing tennis and relaxing by the pool.

Families are also starting to gravitate towards condos as they’re an affordable way to escape the suburbs and move to a vibrant downtown atmosphere where various amenities are only steps away.

Aside from being affordable, condos are low maintenance as you don’t have to spend your weekends cutting the grass and cleaning the gutters.  They also offer enhanced security features which are perfect for those who like to travel.

Convenience, however, comes at a price in the form of condo fees which can be costly depending on the amenities offered by the complex.  That said, condos are often very affordable compared to single family homes, especially for those who are downsizing.

When you buy a condo, you don’t own the land beneath you but instead share a common interest with others in the complex.  This means you’ll be subject to rules and regulations that can dictate anything from the type of planters you’re allowed to display to the kinds of blinds you can hang.

Joint ownership also means you’ll be in close contact with your fellow condo owners.  Some people love the sense of community offered by condos but for those who value their privacy, it can be a difficult adjustment.  Pets are another key consideration as Fido may not be welcome in some buildings.

If your real estate vision includes extensive renovations, condo living may not be for you as your options could be limited.  If however, you’d rather spend your time chilling by the pool instead of painting shutters, the low maintenance factor may be just what you’re after.  It’s really a choice of freedom vs. freedom.

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Creating good feng shui around your home is easier than you think!

Fung ShuiFeng shui is an ancient Chinese practice that helps achieve a harmonious living environment in order to promote happiness and prosperity.  Here are a few ideas to enhance the energy flow around your home:

  1. Think Outside the Nest – Birds bring great energy; so add a few feeders and a birdbath in your backyard.
  2. The Right Path – Place a few plants and wind chimes on your porch and make sure the path to your front door is unobstructed.
  3. Fire & Ice – Essential oils, crystals, candles and water features such as fountains and fish bowls will bring calm and balance into your home.
  4. Mirror, Mirror – The strategic placement of mirrors helps improve feng shui by drawing more sunlight into otherwise murky rooms and by expanding narrow areas such as hallways.
  5. De-clutter – Clearing your home of clutter will introduce a smoother flow of energy.  Clutter is a sign of trapped energy so be ruthless and get rid of everything you don’t need.

Feng shui emphasizes that our physical surroundings have an impact on our emotional well-being so it’s important to be aware of how we arrange our space.  Buyers often feel certain vibes when they enter a home so a “harmonious feel” could be the difference between a quick sale and one that drags on.

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ONLINE FRIENDS, FOES AND FACEBOOK WOES 

FRIENDS, FOES AND FACEBOOK WOES
A few simple precautions can secure your page against hackers.

Imagine if someone hacked into your Facebook account, changed your password and started posting inappropriate content.  You’d be forced to sit and watch your reputation go down the drain.  Here are a few ways to avoid a hack:

  1. ix38wq%Pc – Make sure you have a strong password with a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.
  2. Play Hard to Get – Visit the Privacy section under Settings to limit who’s able to view your profile details.
  3. Catch a Hacker Early – Select Settings and then Security and Logins and turn on get alerts about unrecognized logins.
  4. Extra Security – Visit Two-Factor Authentication in the Security and Logins section to choose an extra layer of security.
  5. Best Friends – Designate a few friends under Your Trusted Contacts that can help you get back into your account if you get locked out.

Facebook has various security features but they usually have to be manually activated.  Once done though, it’ll be much harder for a hacker to gain access to your account and much easier for you to regain control in the event it does happen.

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The Canadian Housing Market: When the Fog Clears by Benjamin Tal

Benjamin Tal, the chief analyst recently wrote about the Canadian housing market saying,”The level of activity is likely to stabilize and perhaps soften in the coming quarters as markets adjust to recent and upcoming regulatory changes. But when the fog clears it will become evident that the long-term trajectory of the market will show even tighter conditions. The supply issues facing centres such as Toronto and Vancouver will worsen and demand is routinely understated. Short of a significant change in housing policies and preferences, there is nothing in the pipeline to alleviate the pressure.”

Housing market Correlated CitiesCertainly, in 2017, the Toronto and Vancouver housing market has been the driving force behind the economics in recent years with no real change in store. Tal goes on to say, “The affordability issue in those cities that are leading to the “drive until you qualify” phenomena works to amplify their influence on neighbouring real estate markets.” In other words, more and more homebuyers are looking further and further outside of Toronto and Vancouver for more affordable real estate options. This only drives up prices not only in the suburbs but in towns and cities within 1 to 2 hours drive of the major centres.

The knock-on effect relative to Toronto is that homebuyers are looking to our region in and around Orillia, Barrie and Midland. These buyers are typically well paid and can afford to pay more for a home than their counterparts who live and work in the region. This complicates and inflates the cost of living for many more local residents looking to either get in or move up in the home buying market. This is continuing good news for home sellers in our region but not at all good for many families looking to buy.

A qualified real estate representative who is on top of the local and national market trends is still the best choice to provide homebuyers with accurate data to buy or sell in this foggy market. We at Lakeview Realty Inc. would be pleased to discuss your real estate needs.

Benjamin Tal’s complete article on the Canadian housing market can be read at CIBC World Market In Focus.

 

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Major Changes to Canada’s Housing Mortgage Rules

percent sign - mortgagesIn an effort to keep Canadians from taking on a larger mortgage than they can afford the Liberal government has announced significant changes to the mortgage qualification rules. Finance Minister Bill Morneau also noted these changes should help stem some of the concerns about foreign buyers buying and flipping houses such that they drive up housing costs for Canadians.

Beginning on October 17, 2017, the stress test used to approve high-ratio mortgages will be applied to every new insured mortgage, including buyers who have more than 20% down payment. This change assures lenders that the borrower will still be able to afford the mortgage payments even if the interest rate increases

Another aspect of the change requires that the home buyer will be spending no more than 39% of their income on house-related costs like the mortgage payments, heat, and taxes. The TDS ratio must not be more than 44%.

The home borrower would not only have to qualify at the lenders’ interest rate but also at the Bank of Canada’s five-year fixed posted mortgage rate, which is an average of the posted rates of the big six banks in Canada.

These changes affect a broad range of mortgage consumers assuring safety for both the borrowers and lenders in the midst of the current low-interest rate market.

Further changes are outlined in the Globe and Mail article here

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DIY Apps

DO-IT-YOURSELF APPS
Your smartphone should be an essential part of your DIY toolkit!

If you’re constantly procrastinating over household projects, you should check out a few home improvement apps for some inspiration!

You’ll soon become a DIY master with the thousands of how-to guides at WikiHow complete with illustrations and videos on every imaginable topic.

There’s also iHandy Level which will help keep you on the level if you’re hanging a picture or if you need to measure a precise angle.

These are just a few examples of the many apps that are available.  From picking paint shades to renovating your home, a smartphone will be the lightest and most versatile tool you’ll ever own!

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The Lowdown on Radon Gas

 

THE LOWDOWN ON RADON
Do you know if you and your family are protected against radon?

Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks.

It doesn’t present a concern outdoors but when radon becomes trapped inside a house, it can be very harmful to your health as it increases the risk of lung cancer.

Radon can seep into your home through gaps in floors, walls and foundations.  The only way to know if you have high radon levels is to purchase an inexpensive testing kit or to install a radon detector.

Radon concentrations vary from home to home so don’t take any chances — protect your family by testing your home for radon today.

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ECONOMY NEARS FULL EMPLOYMENT IN 2017

Excerpt on Economy Posting by DR. SHERRY COOPER,
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

“The Canadian economy has grown at a stronger-than-expected annual rate of 3.7% in the past year, taking the jobless rate down to its lowest level in nearly a decade. With Canada’s economy the strongest in the Group of Seven countries, Ottawa now projects much smaller deficits than it did in March. The Liberal government cut its deficit projection for the fiscal year that ends March 31 to just under $20.0 billion, down from $28.5 billion in the March budget. It now expects a cumulative deficit over the coming five fiscal years of $86.5 billion, compared with $120 billion previously.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced new spending today totalling $7.7 billion over six years, bringing the total new spending since the March budget to $19.1 billion over six years. This additional stimulus comes as the economy is running far faster than its long-run potential noninflationary pace, rapidly approaching full capacity.” Read More

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Mortgage Rules Change

OSFI extends ‘stress test’ to all new mortgages
  • The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) released revised “B-20” guidelines for residential mortgage underwriting at federally regulated financial institutions. As was widely expected, the updated ‘stress test’  will be applied to all new mortgages beginning on January 1, 2018. Currently, the test applies only to mortgages requiring insurance (i.e. those with low down payments) and those whose term is less than five years.
  • This change requires that borrowers qualify for mortgages at the greater of the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or the contracted rate plus 200 basis points. For reference, as of this morning, the Bank of Canada posted rate was 4.89%. It should be noted that OSFI will not apply the more stringent requirements in the case of mortgage renewal.
  • While the extension of qualification guidelines will likely draw the most attention, OSFI introduced two other changes:
    • Loan-to-value limits must be established and lenders will be required to ensure that they “are reflective of risk and are updated as housing markets and the economic environment evolve”
    • Lending arrangements designed to get around loan-to-value limits are restricted with the updated guideline explicitly forbidding ‘co-lending’ or ‘bundling’ arrangements.
Key Implications
  • As expected, OSFI has expanded the scope of the ‘stress test’ to include anyone taking out a mortgage at a federally regulated institution regardless of the term and whether they are insured. Perhaps underscoring the logic behind the change, OSFI bank data for August of this year showed insured mortgages (which were already subject to the stress test) were down 4.5% year-on-year, while uninsured mortgage credit grew 17.3%. While this is partly related to the rising prices of Canadian real estate, with more and more of it priced above the insurance caps, it also likely reflects the skew stemming from the past stress test requirements. As such, today’s change, alongside the explicit guidance around co-lending arrangements, will together help address the shift as far as those borrowing from federally regulated institutions.  
  • As discussed in our regional housing outlook, broadening the stress test will likely further slow housing activity, depressing demand by 5% to 10% once implemented, with some pull-forward of activity likely to take place ahead of the January 1st implementation date. Price growth will also be impacted, with these changes expected to exert a drag of between 2% and 4% over 2018. On balance, these changes should help enhance the resilience of the Canadian banking system in a rising interest rate environment.
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Keep Emotion in Check in Real Estate Transactions

PREPARING FOR THE REAL ESTATE ROLLER COASTER RIDE
Never wear your emotions on your sleeve during the real estate ride.

Selling your home is a huge financial transaction that can trigger a roller coaster of emotions.  When you’re being tossed around at every turn, you need to hang on and stay on track.

Although you’ll likely have a strong connection to your home, try not to get offended if a potential buyer wants to rip up your kitchen or paint over the wood trim.

Also, never take comments personally.  It’s natural for people to complain when they’re interested in something so while criticisms may seem negative, they’re actually a sign that the buyer’s interested in your home.

If you receive a “low ball” offer, remember that it’s often just a starting point but be aware of tactics such as “low balling” where an attractive price is initially offered only to be adjusted at a later point on the basis that circumstances have changed.  Recognizing these strategies will help you keep a balanced perspective.

If you’re able to generate multiple offers, make sure you consider more than just the price.  There’s nothing worse than accepting a conditional offer just because it’s over the asking price only to have it fall apart a month later when you could have accepted a firm cash offer that was almost as good.

It’s completely natural for both buyers and sellers to experience a wide range of intense emotions as they navigate through the complex real estate process.  However, if you hop on the real estate roller coaster with a competent agent by your side, you’ll not only enjoy the ride but you’ll look forward to doing it again!