Hiring a Real Estate Agent in Toronto: How to Choose the Right One

In Canada, hiring a real estate agent is much more important than in the United States. This is because of a recent trend of recycled listings distorting our market.

Real estate agents have begun to pull their listings offline after they become stale, and then relist them for a reduced price a few weeks later.

That means that if you aren’t familiar with the market over the last year, you could end up paying more for a house than you have to, thinking that it’s a hot listing that will soon go off the market.

The right agent can be the difference between getting your asking price and walking away leaving money on the table or paying full price for a nine-month-old listing instead of cashing in on a seller’s desperation.

But not all real estate agents are created equal. Learn to select the best one, read on.

Do Market Research

Before you begin interviewing real estate agents, you should take the time to get your bearings on the local housing market. Drive around your neighborhood and consider the names on the for sale signs you see. Make note of the ones that say “Sold”, in particular.

Another way to find a high-quality agent is by popping into an open house especially if you are a seller. This can be a great way to see how other home sellers are pricing and staging their homes.

For buyers, going into an open house is a great way to find out about the personality and professionalism of a real estate agent.

Research Your Real Estate Agent

Before you hire an agent, you need to make sure you search them online. Look for any ratings, reviews, or references you can find about them. This person is a public figure in the community, so if there is little to no information available on their real estate activity, then this should be a red flag.

Read and find out what people in your area are saying about various agents, but more importantly, take a look at how the agents respond to their disgruntled clients.

An agent that is professional and cares about their business will take the time to address any negative reviews in a helpful and patient manner.

Interview Real Estate Agents

Walking into an open house and liking the real estate agent is nice, but if you want to be sure you have the best agent for your situation, you should interview multiple agents and ask them for referrals.

A good number of agents to meet with is three. You don’t want to settle for the first agent, but you also don’t want to waste your time with a bunch of interviews. Compare the responses the agents give to the following questions.

Questions to ask:

  • Have you been in real estate long?
  • Is most of your experience in buying or selling?
  • How many clients do you carry at a time?
  • Do you function as part of a real estate team?
  • What kind of real estate do you specialize in?
  • Are you equipt to handle short sales or the purchase of foreclosures?
  • What tactics will you use to market my home?

Set Your Expectations

Real estate agents are very busy people who are constantly on the go. They have to handle appointments for showings, updating listings, stage homes, be present for inspections, handle closings, and more.

But that doesn’t mean that they are off the hook when it comes to handling your sale or purchase. Your real estate agent needs to be available to you and take the time to listen to your insights throughout the process to ensure you find the home of your dreams or sell your home for the best price.

Communication Preferences

As mentioned, agents are very busy. That means it’s very important for you to agree on when and how you will speak to your agent. Get on the same page from the start so you won’t be frustrated later in the process.

Motivations

Make sure that your real estate agent understands your motivations to buy or sell. If you are on some sort of timeline or desperately need a specific price for your home, then they need to know that information.

Strategies

Before you sign a contract with a real estate agent, you should agree on the strategies that will be used to sell your home.

Will there be open houses? How many showings are you willing to have a week? How much time will you need notification in advance of a showing?

All these factors should be considered in detail.

Consider the Other Roles of the Real Estate Agent

Your real estate agent is not just the person who lists your home or finds one for you to purchase. They can also help you with staging your home so that potential buyers have an easier time envisioning themselves in it.

That means that your real estate agent should have an eye for interior design, or at least know the right person to hire to get the job done.

Your real estate agent will also play a role in the inspection process of your home. Make sure you choose an agent that is trustworthy. Some agent will act counter to a buyers interest to hide details about a home that are less than stellar so the sale doesn’t fall through.

You want an agent who will be upfront with you about any potential problems you could have in the future. They should be willing to take the time and energy to find you a home that meets all of your needs.

Thinking of Hiring a Real Estate Agent?

Hiring a real estate agent is a great way to speed up your home buying or selling process.

Are you ready to sell your home fast or purchase the home of your dreams for the best price? Contact us today.

Personal Letters and How They Can Help You Score Your Dream Home

Once you find the right home in the right neighbourhood, it’s time to put in an Offer!

Most Sellers like to hear that their house is going to someone who will cherish it and make new memories in it, the same way that they did. By writing a personal letter to present with your Offer, you can provide some additional insight to the Seller about why you love their home and wish to purchase it. Whether it is sharing your plans to raise a family in the house or expressing your desire to be in that specific neighbourhood, your letter could contribute to making the Seller feel more comfortable selling the house to you.

It’s important to:

  1. Build a connection

Look for something you and the buyer have in common and work from there.

  1. Keep it short

While you might be motivated to share your entire life story to get your point across, it’s generally not a good idea.

  1. Stay positive

Writing about all the Offers you have lost in the past can put the Seller in an uncomfortable position.

  1. Show, don’t tell

The idea here is that you want the Seller to experience your emotions. Don’t be afraid to show your attachment to the home; Sellers like to know it will be more than just an investment to you.

  1. Leave out remodelling plans

People are naturally protective of their homes, so be mindful of their feelings when composing your letter.

  1. Finish strong

Finish with a short paragraph supporting one or two key points you made in the letter.

  1. Proofread it

There are grammar police everywhere. To be safe, assume the Seller is one of them!

How to Prepare for the Fall Real Estate Market

Real estate is sold 365 days a year; it’s the new norm!  Fall can be a great time to sell your home. Below are some of the best tips for selling a home during the fall.

Analyze the Market & Price Your Home Right

Analyze the current state of your local real estate market. Understanding the type of market your area is experiencing is important: Is your local market type a sellers’ market, a buyers’ market, or a balanced market. It’s important when it comes to pricing your home accordingly. If you don’t know ask your Real Estate Agent!

 

Perform Applicable Inspections & Cleanings

If you’re planning on selling your home in the fall, tackle the inspections and cleaning part prior to listing your home for sale.

 

Decorate & Embrace the Fall

The most exciting part about fall! If you decide to sell your home during the fall, there are many decorating tips, staging tips, and ways to embrace the fall season. Be tactful with your decorating and try to appeal to the masses!

 

Clean Up the Exterior

The least exciting part about fall…is raking leaves. Don’t neglect the exterior of your home. Tasks that should be completed when selling a home during the fall include:

Raking leaves

Removing loose sticks

Weeding flower beds

Trimming flowers, bushes, and shrubs

Aerating the lawn

 

Prepare Your Home for Showings

When selling in the fall, ensure your home smells good. Popular ways to make your home smell warm and cozy while selling in the fall include:

Brewing a fresh pot of pumpkin spice coffee

Boiling cinnamon sticks

Burning fall scented candles

 

Selling a home in the fall is not for everyone, however, these tips can help expedite the sale of your home and maximize the sale price!

Additional Costs To Consider When Buying A Home

The purchase price of your home is only one of the costs you’ll encounter. Here are other possible costs you need to consider:

  • Mortgage loan insurance:
    If you are putting less than 20 per cent of the house value down, you’re going to need mortgage loan insurance. Depending on the lender, the premium can be added to mortgage payments. Note: as of January 1st, 2018, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI) is setting a new minimum qualifying rate, or “stress test,” for uninsured mortgages (if you are putting more than 20 per cent of the house value down). The guideline, applying to all federally regulated financial institutions, now requires the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages to be the greater of the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or the contractual mortgage rate +2%.   
  • Appraisal fee: 
    Lenders typically loan a percentage of the home’s purchase price or the market appraisal of the property. Cost depends on the size and complexity of the assignment.
  • Land survey: 
    The lender may ask for a current survey or certificate of location before signing off on the loan. There can be a substantial cost for having a new survey done on the property.
  • Deposit:
    A deposit normally goes with the formal offer to purchase.
  • Insurance: 
    The lender will require proof of property insurance for the replacement value of the house and its contents from the day you take ownership.
  • Title insurance: 
    Provides coverage in case of problems with the property title among other things. The cost is relatively low, usually a few hundred dollars.
  • Application fee: 
    Some lenders will pass on the cost to process your application. These fees vary and some lenders will waive them entirely if you have other accounts with them.
  • Mortgage broker’s fee: 
    If you use a mortgage broker, a fee may be charged to arrange a mortgage on your behalf.
  • Home inspection fee: 
    An inspection protects the buyer by revealing any problems in the property that you’d want to know before you move in.
  • Legal fees: 
    You can save some of the legal fees usually charged by the lender if your lawyer draws up the mortgage. You’ll also pay for disbursements which are the costs involved in drawing up the title deed, conducting a title search, and preparing and registering the mortgage.
  • Land Transfer Tax: 
    Use the land transfer tax calculator accessible from the home page of this website to calculate both your Ontario and City of Toronto (if applicable) land transfer taxes. First time home buyers qualify for a maximum $4,000 provincial rebate and a maximum $4,475 City of Toronto rebate.
  • Harmonized Sales Tax: 
    Resale (used) homes are exempt from HST but it does apply to newly constructed homes and may qualify for a partial rebate depending on the sales price and if the home is going to be your primary place of residence.
  • Other costs: 
    These include moving costs, fees charged by utilities for service hook-ups, property tax and other adjustments (an adjustment takes place when the seller has already paid for something in advance and wants to be credited for the unused portion on the date the house becomes yours), and ongoing maintenance (condo fees, etc.), and utility costs.

 

Written and Published By: Toronto Real Estate Board

5 Tips for Stress-Free Moving with Kids

When you finally decide to take a big leap and move, it can be one of the most exciting and stressful periods of your life. And if you’re a parent, double that excitement and stress based on the number of children you have.

There are just so many things to consider, especially if you are both buying and selling a home. From the exciting parts like deciding where you want to live and the house hunting, to the more mundane parts like signing contracts and dealing with lawyers about land transfer taxes, it’s really a mixed bag of emotions.

Here are five tips on how you can make your move an easy and relatively carefree and –dare I say– even fun!–experience for your whole family.

  1. Declutter, declutter, declutter

Long before you ever decide to put your home on the market, it’s critical that you first declutter your entire home. When you are selling, it’s important that you showcase your home as beautifully as possible and typically, having minimal items on display will help do just that. When we live in our homes, especially if you have kids, “stuff” tends to pile up in every nook and cranny.

The thought of decluttering an entire house can feel daunting, so start small, with one room at a time

Tip: Take two garbage bags and one large box into the room. Label one bag “Donation” and the other bag “garbage.” In the box, place items you want to keep but don’t necessarily need out for everyday life (think stuffies or old school projects).

  1. Hire a cleaning company

I can remember one of my first stressors when we decided to move was the thought of having to clean our home. While I would never say that our home was grossly dirty, it has never had a good, deep cleaning in the four years we’ve lived here. And with five people living here, you can image how the dirt has piled up. I’m talking all the neglected areas like baseboards, light fixtures and blinds – the areas I just never have had time to clean but knew dirt had been accumulating.

Hiring in a professional cleaning service was one of the best decisions we made during this process. They came in with a crew of four people and spent almost five hours cleaning our 2,500-square-foot home. Every nook and cranny was wiped, dusted, shined and left squeaky clean!

Tip: If you have carpet in your home, it’s a good idea to have the carpets cleaned before listing your home, too. Especially if you have kids or pets, the carpets are bound to get dirty. In our case, we had some unfortunate makeup spills, including a dark red nail polish on our almost-white carpets! Having a professional come into the space and give the carpets the deepest clean not only freshened things up, it also brightened the overall look.

Bonus tip: Along with cleaning, if you can hire a painter to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, especially in high-traffic areas like the foyer, kitchen and kids’ rooms, it will help the space feel fresh and clean!

  1. Stage your home

One of the lessons I’ve learned through the process of selling our home is: not everyone will care for the décor I’ve chosen for each room.

Removing personal items such as family pictures and expensive pieces of artwork or collections is a good idea so the focus remains on the home and not the stuff you’ve put into it.

Tip: Working with a home stager could help breathe new life into the space before listing your home. Especially in hallways or transitional spaces, stagers can add in or suggest items that might help make the space flow a bit better.

Bonus tip: When you have showings booked for your home, make sure to turn on all the table and floor lamps. This helps give a warm and inviting touch to the space while allowing ample light to showcase the room.

  1. Hire a Realtor

One of the best decisions we made throughout this process of buying and selling was to hire a Realtor. As a busy, working mom of three young kids, I couldn’t imagine going through this process without a professional’s help. For many of the above tips I’ve given, like hiring a cleaning company or painter, our Realtor had all of those services lined up for us, so we didn’t have to worry about finding and vetting different companies.

  1. Get the kids involved

At the end of the day, the process of buying and selling a home with kids doesn’t have to be stressful. Keeping your kids involved from asking them what they’d like in a new home, to getting them to help with the decluttering of their room, to rewarding them for keeping their spaces clean every day, it’s fun to watch your kids work together to make your home the best it can be during this time.

Tip: Give your kids incentives to help keep the home clean. Make it all about teamwork and empower them to be vital part of the process. Getting them involved not only teaches them responsibility but also helps lessen the burden of cleaning the entire home yourself.

Moving can be a stressful time in your life, as it’s one of the biggest transitions you can go through. But implementing these tips can really help reduce the stress of a move – especially one with kids – and help strengthen your family dynamic.

 

Written By: Christine Martin, Real Estate 101, Relator.ca

How to Find a Great Neighbourhood When Looking for a Home

Finding the perfect home can be challenging, but deciding which neighbourhood to live in is perhaps even more important. After all, you’ll never love a house if you don’t like your community, right? Your location affects everything from affordability to your quality of life. A great neighbourhood maintains or raises your home’s value, making it easier to sell down the line. Here are some of the features to look for during your search for the ideal place to move.

Check out the area schools, parks and community centres

If you have or are planning to have children, living in an area known for its sought-after schools and daycare centres increases your property value. Having lots of green space, playgrounds and sports complexes for extra-curricular activities also boosts a home’s cachet.

Figure out your commute

Whether you’ll be driving to the office, cycling or taking public transportation, you’ll want to be sure you’re not spending hours on the road twice a day or more if you and your family participate in sports or other activities. Do a trial run of your commute, or find out if you’ll be driving with or against traffic during peak hours. Choosing a house near a subway or bus stop or commuter train station is a smart move.

Use your senses

Many homeowners opt to live on a quiet street as a respite from urban noise and traffic. Walk through the neighbourhood you’re considering and pay attention: Can you hear birds chirping, or cars honking and planes flying overhead? Are the homes well maintained and the streets well lit? Do the local shops and eateries seem like places you want to hang out in? Take a deep breath: Do you smell any weird industrial odours? Be sure you can picture yourself living here.

Evaluate an area’s “walkability”

Want to be able to pick up some groceries on foot or hop on your bike to get your morning coffee? See if the home you’re looking at is located in a walkable neighbourhood. Having to get in the car and drive 15 minutes when you run out of milk works for some folks, but not everyone.

See if your potential ‘hood offers cultural and outdoor options

Whether you love going to plays, movies, art galleries or concerts, or staying active by hiking, biking or jogging, you’ll want these activities to be located close to your new home. If you have a dog, be sure there are plenty of dog runs or open areas nearby.

Talk to the neighbours

Sometimes the best way to get the lay of the land is by chatting with people who can guide you. Ask your Realtor and/or ring a few doorbells surrounding the house you’re interested in, and ask these potential neighbours what they love about where they live. Find out where they shop, eat and go out on the town.

Asking the right questions and evaluating all your options using the best resources will help you find your ideal community!

 

Written By: Wendy Helfenbaum, Real Estate 101, Relator.ca

What Does The Change In The Market Mean For Sellers?

The recent changes being reported in the news can paint a negative picture, particularly for detached homes in the city. But the truth is that this market is very much alive and capable of fulfilling your real estate goals. It might just take a little bit of elbow grease!

Selling is no longer as simple as putting a sign on the lawn

This time last year, selling a home the same day it went on the market was far from unusual. But the market has changed, and we are in a much more balanced market than we saw in all of 2017. That doesn’t mean your home WON’T sell, but it may require that you stage it, hire a professionals cleaning company, declutter and plan for plenty of open houses.

Your home needs to be priced competitively

Let’s say you remember a sale that happened in your neighbourhood last summer, the house was similar to yours and sold for $250,000 above asking, so logically, you could price your home at the asking price plus $250,000 and it might even sell for more (inflation!), but the hard truth is that your home is priced based on the most recent sales. If there hasn’t been much activity in your community then it may be time to test the market. The most important thing to do when testing the market is to react quickly to a price change. A good thing to consider is how much traffic your agent anticipated? If they expected much more than you have been seeing, that is a clear indication that it is time to reassess the asking price.

You may need to make some upgrades before you list

The truth is in this market, to get the money you’re looking for, it may be worth your while to consider some upgrades. Big ticket items such as kitchens and bathrooms can be a great way to increase the bottom line on your home. If such a big undertaking isn’t something you’re ready for, redoing trim work or painting and changing light fixtures is a great way to add some appeal on a budget! Whether you’re planning a big or small renovation, the first thing on your list of to-dos should be to address any issues that could come up during a home inspection. Your potential sale could depend on it!

Choose the right agent who will do the necessary work to market your property effectively!

There are a lot of things to think about when selling your home, choosing the right agent is one of them! While their sales history, list of services provided and list of contacts are crucial aspects of your decision to hire an agent, it is also important to find out how they plan to market your home. According to a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors, 44% of people start their search for their next home online. It is important that your agent has a strong online presence, and that they will be sharing your property with their vast audience, as well as advertising throughout the community and neighbourhood. Choosing the right agent can make the sale either a breeze or a nightmare. Choose wisely!

Farmers’ Markets To Visit This Summer

Toronto is a wonderful city known for many things including farmers’ markets!

Toronto neighbourhoods offer many farmers’ markets throughout the year for community members to enjoy. Below is a collection of some of Toronto’s best. Head out to discover all that they have to offer and leave the market with a bag full of fresh produce and fun memories!

Annette Farmers’ Market

When: Every Wednesday from May to October, 3pm-7pm
Where: Runnymede Presbyterian Church parking lot
680 Annette Street, Toronto, ON, M6S 1V9

Etobicoke Civic Centre Farmers’ Market

When: Every Saturday from June 2 to October 27, 2018, 8am-2pm
Where: Etobicoke Civic Centre
399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON M9C 2Y2

Humber Bay Shores Farmers’ Market

When: Every Saturday from May 26 to October 6, 2018, 9am-2pm
Where: Humber Bay Park West
2225 Lake Shore Blvd W, Etobicoke, ON M8V 3X7

Stonegate Famers’ Market

When: Every Tuesday from June to October, 4pm-7pm
Where: Christ Church St. James Anglican Church parking lot
194 Park Lawn Rd, Etobicoke, ON M8Y 3J1

Market Days at Montgomery Inn

When: Every Wednesday, year-round, 2pm-6pm (Indoor during the winter)
Where: Montgomery’s Inn
4709 Dundas St. W, Etobicoke, On M9A 1A8

Weston Farmers’ Market

When: Every Saturday from May 12 to October 27, 2018, 7am-2pm
Where: The GO Parking lot
1865 Weston Rd (South of Lawrence Avenue), York, ON M9N 1V9

Four Places To Take A Day Trip This Year From Toronto

Just like our license plates state, Ontario is “Yours To Discover”!

Scandinave Spa – Collingwood, ON

Spend the day relaxing in the heart of nature! Treat yourself to a massage or spend the day in the Scandinavian baths; either way, you are in for a day of quiet relaxation. Phones and electronics are prohibited during your stay, so be prepared to unplug and enjoy every minute of the tranquil environment situated on 25 acres of natural Ontario birch, Canadian maple and pine trees.

Rattlesnake Point – Milton, ON

Rattlesnake Point is one of the most beautiful places in Ontario: spend the day there in any season and you’ll see what we mean! Home to some of the best cliffs for climbing in Ontario offering a variety of different climbing levels. With three designated sites and more than 235 routes, you will enjoy scaling the cliffs under a canopy of rich woods.

Wine Country – Niagara-On-The-Lake, ON

Enjoy wine country with a tour of one of the many wineries in the area. Offering a wide variety of events, concerts, shops and attractions, wine tasting isn’t the only way to enjoy this Ontario gem!

Wasaga Beach, ON

Enjoy a day at the longest freshwater beach in the world! Wasaga is home to starting points for hiking trails over 50 km long, including the Pine Trail and sections of the Ganaraska Trail. Wasaga offers something for everyone. If you are planning a day trip make sure you stick around to enjoy one of the breathtaking sunsets!

How to Prepare Your House for a Home Inspection

Having a close knowledge of your home’s nooks, crannies, and weak spots is important. Whether you’re preparing for a pre-home inspection as a Seller or expecting a Buyer’s home inspection to be performed, it’s always best to be prepared! Home sellers will have an easier time by preparing for a home inspection and are less likely to encounter any surprises and can take measures to prevent future problems. So grab a broom and get ready to make some improvements.

  1. Clean the House

Simple but always overlooked. A clean home speaks for itself; it shows you take care of the house and always makes a good impression.

  1. Be on Time

Be on time because the inspector will be. Sometimes they tend to arrive early and begin inspecting the exterior of the home, so leave the drapes or shades down till you are dressed and prepared. There’s nothing more awkward than a surprised and unprepared seller being spooked by a stranger walking their lawn.

  1. Leave the Utilities Connected

The inspector will need to run the appliances, furnace and air conditioning as a part of the inspection. This is very important if you’re selling a vacant home – the last thing you need is another appointment to complete the inspection or a fee to pay, that’s just more money down the drain.

  1. Provide Access

To the garage, attic and basement. Inspectors will need to check every little detail of the house, so give them access and make sure you’ve given them space to navigate themselves around; remove boxes, clear access and move any storage that cannot grant them access.

  1. Prepare to be away for Three Hours Minimum, Many inspections can take up to 3 hours to complete. Get the kids, dogs, cats in the car and go for a long drive – like approximately 3 hours long. Go to the movies or grab a meal; try to schedule a time for the inspection when you can be out of the house and feel prepared rather than rushed.