Tag Archives: home buyers

This smart doorbell lets you video chat with visitors from your phone

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Ever ignored the doorbell because you didn’t know who was there or weren’t expecting any visitors? Now thanks to a Chicago-based company, you can see who is at your doorstep and even talk to them from your phone.

Smart video doorbell and motion detector, Xchime, is app-enabled and allows users to see anyone at their door from virtually anywhere. Launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo last week, the innovative doorbell includes a 1080P HD camera with night vision, a smart light and a convenient garage door opener.

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Photo: Xchime/Facebook

Developed by Chicago’s Wireless Input Technology Inc., Xchime is a small, weather-resistant gadget made with stainless steel. Using their phones, Xchime users can have live video chats with visitors, like telling the mailman where to leave a package if you’re not home. Also, visitors can leave  recorded video messages, which can be viewed later on the app.

Xchime also includes features intended to help secure homes. The doorbell is built with a discrete security camera and, whenever motion is detected within a 140 degree field of view, users will be notified through the app. Xchime also has Integrated smart light technology. When motion is detected, the doorbell’s light will turn on automatically in an effort to deter unwanted visitors.

As an add-on accessory, users can purchase a garage door opener kit allowing them to open and close their garage with a push of a button from Xchime’s app. The doorbell retails at $129 USD and the first shipment is scheduled for August 2017.

Source: BuzzBuzz News – 

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Why your credit score matters

And how to improve it

Despite holding multiple credit products (like credit cards or lines of credit) many Canadians don’t understand how debt and their behaviour around it affects their credit score in the eyes of the credit bureau—or why it’s important; on top of that, 47% of Canadians don’t know where to check their credit score.

Your credit score is a three-digit number, between 300 and 900, that measures your creditworthiness. The higher your score the better, as it’s used by lenders and financial institutions to determine whether your credit-worthy or not. In general, a low score could mean you’re declined on a loan or receive a higher interest rate, while a higher score allows for lower interest rates and better options when it comes to things like getting a mortgage and borrowing money. Your credit score number essentially indicates how likely your are to repay money you borrow, based on how you’ve handled past financial obligations.

How is your credit score determined?

Most lenders want to see two forms of active credit for at least two years. The longer the history reporting, the better.

Your credit score is made up of the following:

  • 35% payment history. It’s important to make your payments on time. Missing a $4 dollar payment on a credit card could be as bad a missing a $400 payment, so don’t skip the minimum payment. This also includes collections. Some creditors (even city parking ticket collectors) may report that you haven’t paid them to your credit bureau, or even use a third-party collection agency to get their money back. These collections on your credit bureau can lower your score.
  • 30% utilization ratio. This is your level of indebtedness, or how much of your total available credit you’re using.
  • 15% length of credit. The longer you have an account open, the better. It shows you’re capable of managing credit responsibly.
  • 10% types of credit. It’s good to have a mix of different types of credit (revolving credit like credit cards and lines of credit are riskier than personal loans so it’s better to have fewer of those in your mix) to show that you can handle your payments.
  • 10% inquiries. These happen every time you agree to a “hard credit check”. Hard checks usually happen even when opening a chequing account with a bank or a new phone plan.

3 things that can help improve your score:

1. Practice good utilization ratio habits

A relatively fast way to improve your credit score is to start practicing good utilization ratio habits. Once you start doing this, it could improve in as little as 30-60 days. If your credit card limit is $1,000 and your balance is $1,000, your utilization ratio is 100 per cent — and this not good in the eyes of the credit bureau. Credit bureaus base credit scores on behaviour with credit. If you’re constantly maxing out your credit cards, it could imply that you’re not far away from defaulting on your minimum payments. It looks like your income is stretched. Set an imaginary limit of 70 per cent and don’t go over that. Doing this will keep your credit score healthy. For example, if your credit card limit is $10,000, don’t borrow over $7,000.

2. Think twice about closing an unused credit card

It may seem like a good idea to close a credit card that you’re not using, or have paid off and are trying not to use. But, closing a card, or leaving it inactive can negatively affect your credit score. This goes back to the length of credit factor that the credit bureau reports on which makes up 15% of your credit score. Rather than closing the card, consider using it for a monthly subscription, like Netflix or Spotify, and set up an automatic monthly payment from your bank account to ensure it’s covered. This trick will also improve your utilization ratio and payment history, since you’ll be staying far under your limit, and making on-time payments.

3. Consolidate credit card debt

Credit cards are considered revolving debt; meaning when you pay them down you can keep borrowing against them. This type of debt is psychologically proven to keep people in debt. Many revolving credit products allow you to pay back only the interest, which is a major reason why so many people find themselves stuck in what feels like an endless cycle of debt. If you’re like 46% of Canadians* and you carry a credit card balance every month, you could benefit from a personal instalment loan to help get out of the revolving debt cycle. Unlike credit card debt, an installment loan has a specific term and requires you to pay back interest and principal in every payment, which means you have a set deadline for paying it off and getting out of debt.

The first step in improving your credit score is knowing it. Mogo offers Canada’s only free credit score with free monthly monitoring. Check your score at mogo.ca.

Source: Special to Financial Post | May 6, 2017 |

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Waterloo Region real estate: What you can get for $300,000, $500,000 or $800,000

Not all that long ago, it wasn’t hard to get a grasp on what was happening in Waterloo Region’s real estate market.

Prices were going up, sure – but at stable, predictable rates. Once a buyer knew how much they could afford, or a seller knew how much they were hoping for, it wasn’t hard to figure out what sort of house would sell for $250,000, or $450,000, or – for the dreamers among us — $1 million, even if it wouldn’t be for a couple years.

Now? Forget it. With homebuyers flocking in from Toronto in record numbers, with average sale prices rising by several per cent on even a month-to-month basis, it’s virtually impossible to do any advance planning around real estate deals, or to even predict what a house might sell for in a few months’ time.

This, then, is a snapshot. Not of where things will be in 2018, or even this fall, but of where Waterloo Region’s residential market stands as of May 2017, and of what sort of house is likely to sell around three price points.

$300,000: The starter home

With the average sale price of a detached home in Waterloo Region edging closer to $600,000, some buyers might think that cheaper homes are simply out of the question.

Not so, says real estate agent Kevin Reitzel.  While $300,000 may be associated with condos and townhouses these days, there are still some detached homes listing in that range.

“They’re just going to be smaller than they were a few years ago,” he says.

Reitzel estimates that a $300,000 detached home is now typically between 900 and 1,000 square feet, with two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms.

He says homes of that sort are becoming more popular with first-time buyers who may have been looking a little further upmarket until recently.

“They’ve become less picky,” he says.

$500,000: The family home

If you’re looking for the sort of home that’s traditionally been just out of reach for the typical first-time buyer, paying half a million dollars for it may be the new normal.

Reitzel says a typical $500,000 sale is now a house featuring three or four bedrooms, two or three bathrooms, 1,800 to 2,200 square feet of space, and a single or double garage.

In many cases, houses priced in this range will now sell as-is, without renovations designed to increase the home’s value.

“The house will sell itself in this market,” Reitzel says.

Part of that drive is coming from Toronto-area buyers, as they realize that their money takes them a lot further in Waterloo Region than in the cities they’re used to looking in.

$800,000: Living in luxury

It wasn’t that long ago that paying $800,000 meant you weren’t just getting one of the nicest homes in the region – you were getting one of the nicest of the nicest.

Now, though, that mark seems to be the running price in higher-end neighbourhoods like Waterloo’s Colonial Acres – and once again, newcomers to the area are part of the reason why.

“If you look on a map, it’s one of the furthest (neighbourhoods) from the 401 – but it’s a very, very popular area for Toronto people. They love it,” says Reitzel. At the other end of Waterloo, the same principle applies to Laurelwood.

Eight hundred thousand dollars is the current going price for the sort of house that would have fetched $500,000 or so at the beginning of the decade.

These are homes with larger lots and at least 2,400 square feet of space. They’re the sort of homes Reitzel refers to as “more of a lifestyle choice” than a pure housing decision.

Source: Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener Published Monday, May 15, 2017

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Establishing your homebuying goals

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The first step to purchasing your dream home, is determining what “dream home” means to you. Is it a spacious suburban house with a big yard? Or a sleek downtown condo just steps away from the city’s cultural attractions? Maybe it’s a country house where your family will have room to roam. Once you know what your homebuying goals are, you can plan how to get there. Here’s a three-step guide to getting started.

Step 1: Identify your homeownership goals

Not everyone has the same homeownership goals. What are yours?

Are you looking to buy a starter home? Will you resell it, in order to upgrade to a bigger family home? Or will you hold onto it as investment property?

Are you looking for a family home? Is it for your family alone, or will members of your extended family also be residing with you?

Is your plan to pay off your mortgage aggressively, or to take advantage of longer repayment terms? If you plan to pay your mortgage down fast, are you planning to host tenants in an income-generating unit within your property?

All these factors will influence your homebuying goals and homebuying criteria, so be sure you and your spouse are on the same page before you start house hunting.

Step 2: Create your new-home criteria

Think about your big-picture homeownership goals, as well as family lifestyle, when itemizing the criteria that will drive your homebuying goals.

Think about:

  • Bedrooms: Will your children share a room or each get their own?
  • The Kitchen: Do you need extra space for entertaining or for busy family meals? What about a breakfast nook where kids do homework while you cook?
  • The Bathrooms: How many baths and half-bathrooms do you need to handle morning rush hour?
  • Living/Dining: Do you have enough room? Would you prefer an open-concept space or separate rooms that can be closed off from one another?
  • Extra space: Is there room to expand into as your children grow? Could you finish the attic or basement?
  • Outdoor space: Does it suit your lifestyle? Can it be altered if this is not currently the case?
  • If you want an income-generating apartment within your home, does the space currently exist? Will it be easy to carve out, if not? What about zoning approval?
  • And of course, location, location, location: come up with search boundaries that work with your desired proximity to work, schools and local conveniences.
Step 3: Access the tools that can help you reach your home buying goals

Once you know what kind of home you’re searching for, use Genworth Canada’s online tools to crunch the numbers and make a plan for getting there.

Use the What Can I Afford calculator to determine how much of a mortgage you can carry. Use this info to fine-tune the geographic boundaries of your house search, or to reconsider some of your new-home criteria.

Keep on top of your homeownership and homebuying goals and plans by creating a profile with Genworth’s My Home Planner.

Finally learn about the Genworth Canada financial products available to you. Compare mortgage options to find the one that will turn your homebuying goals into your homeownership reality.

 

Sourece: Genworth.ca
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Ontario to place 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers to cool GTA housing market: Sources

Ontario to place 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers to cool GTA housing market: Sources

The Canadian Press has learned that the Ontario government will place a 15-per-cent tax on non-resident foreign buyers as part of a much-anticipated package of housing measures to be unveiled today.

The measures are aimed at cooling down a red-hot real estate market in the Greater Toronto Area, where the average price of detached houses rose to $1.21 million last month, up 33.4 per cent from a year ago.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa have said the measures will target speculators, expedite more housing supply, tackle rental affordability and look at realtor practices.

Sousa says investing in real estate is not a bad thing, but he wants speculators to pay their fair share.

He says the measures will also look at how to expedite housing supply, and he has appeared receptive to Toronto Mayor John Tory’s call for a tax on vacant homes.

Sousa has also raised the issue of bidding wars, and has suggested realtor practices will be dealt with in the housing package.

The Liberals have also said that the government is developing a “substantive” rent control reform that could see rent increase caps applied to all residential buildings or units. Currently, they only apply to buildings constructed before November 1991.

Source: The Canadian Press – April 20, 2017

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As uncertainty sets in, Toronto homeowners are cashing out

A pedestrian walks between homes for sale in the Leslieville neighborhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, March 4, 2017. In Toronto prospective buyers have found themselves in bidding wars, due in part to the largest price surge in almost 30 years and coupled with an ever tightening inventory supply. (Mark Sommerfeld/Bloomberg/Getty Images): A pedestrian walks between homes for sale in the Leslieville neighborhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Mark Sommerfeld/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

TORONTO – Sarah Blakely recalls feeling some trepidation when she and her husband shelled out more than $300,000 for a modest 1 1/2-storey house in a less-desirable part of Toronto.

Seven years later, they found themselves on the right side of a hot housing market, with values tripling in a ‘hood suddenly considered up-and-coming for young families seeking detached homes.

They recently sold that renovated three-bedroom for more than $1 million and now expect to live mortgage-free in a four-bedroom purchase in their hometown of Ottawa.

The 34-year-old says it made sense to cash out of a city that was draining their finances, energy and family time.

“My husband and I saw an opportunity to take advantage of the recent gains in real estate and to move to a less expensive city to live mortgage-free, support our savings for retirement and also to be closer to family,” says Blakely, whose new home has nearly twice the square footage.

And they may have taken action at just the right time.

Blakely’s real estate agent Josie Stern says the market appears to be cooling, and doubts Blakely could fetch that same jackpot sale today.

“A little bit of air has been let out of the bubble,” she says.

Many buyers and sellers are waiting to see what will come of Tuesday’s scheduled meeting between Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who are expected to discuss ways to rein in Toronto’s hot housing market.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government is promising to announce affordability measures soon.

Stern says some buyers are delaying their purchase in anticipation of possible fixes.

“Buyers have been in such a stressful situation for so long that now they think somebody is going to save them and they’re waiting,” says Stern. “They’ve dug their heels in, they’re tired of competition and then there’s those that are still proceeding, but there’s been quite a big pullback from buyers.”

Sellers who’ve bought new homes are rushing to list their old property, she adds, but many are not getting the high bids seen a month ago.

The Toronto market has been astonishing, with the average sale in the Greater Toronto Area skyrocketing last month to $916,567. That’s up 33.2 per cent from a year ago.

With strong demand and limited supply, it wasn’t uncommon for bidding wars to result in sales hundreds of thousands of dollars above asking. And a lot of those sellers took those dollars out of the Greater Toronto Area where they can get more acreage, less congestion and still pocket a fair bit of cash.

“We’re finding that a lot of people are leaving the city,” says Stern, who estimates that about a third of her 35 sales this year involved sellers either downsizing to condos or moving to more affordable markets.

“It’s empty-nesters, it’s (couples with) babies, it’s all kinds of people that are doing this.”

Toronto skyline (Shutterstock)© Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2017. Toronto skyline (Shutterstock)

Even with a new uncertainty in the air, it’s still a seller’s market, she adds.

One of her biggest sales was a $2-million listing that went $575,000 over asking in February. The sellers moved to the commuter city of Burlington, Ont.

They’re joining buyers priced out of the Toronto market who have gone looking for cheaper housing in smaller communities across the Golden Horseshoe, spurring other sales spikes in the region – Hamilton-Burlington homes jumped 22.6 per cent during the first two months of 2017 compared to a year earlier.

Still other buyers are looking farther afield.

Remember that relatively inexpensive Nova Scotia mansion that dominated Facebook last month?

Real estate agent Wanda Graves of Eastern Valley Real Estate says it’s sparked more inquiries from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. house hunters suddenly hip to Eastern Canada’s charms.

Nova Scotia sellers are taking notice, and are marketing to out-of-province buyers now considered increasingly likely to make an offer.

“They know that there are buyers out there and now it’s, ‘How do we reach them?”’ says Graves.

Before selling for $455,000, the mansion in Newport Landing, N.S., drew more than one million views on her company’s website and 36,000 shares on Facebook.

It’s a story Vancouver real estate agent Melissa Wu knows well.

Years of record-setting sales saw Vancouver homeowners cash out for smaller markets with more space.

But that changed after the B.C. government introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax last summer, which Wu says especially soured interest in west Vancouver luxury homes priced at more than $4 million.

Detached homes in the $1-million to $2-million range in east Vancouver are doing well and still notching close to record highs, says Wu.

Her recent sales included a $2-million get for a century-old home owned by a retired couple. Their plan is to downsize to an older condo costing less than $500,000. The rest of the proceeds will go to their kids and retirement fund.

She says the sale was a record high for the neighbourhood, but it took an agonizing three weeks to secure – longer than it would have last year, she says.

She advises Toronto homeowners thinking of selling to take advantage while they can.

“There’s always a shift coming in,” she says of this hot market. “Sell before it corrects.”

Stern would like to see a crackdown on real estate speculators in Toronto, citing one buyer who bought 15 properties in the last two years.

And she cautions those tempted to cash out that there’s always a risk the market won’t co-operate.

“People have been asking themselves that question since the year 2000: Should I sell? Should I cash out?

“And there have been people who have cashed out and have regretted it because they’ve seen what the market has (done) – they’ve never been able to rebuy the houses that they’ve sold.”

 

Source: MSN Money

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InFocus: The Role of Appraisals Why accurate appraisals are more important than ever before

As certain Canadian real estate markets reach dizzying new heights, homebuyers are loading themselves with debt in order to secure their place on the housing ladder. Paying over the asking price is no longer an exception to the rule and, as a result, many Canadian homebuyers are playing a risky game with their financial futures. Brokers have an important role to play in ensuring that their clients don’t buy something they can’t afford and, in these tumultuous times of economic and real estate uncertainty, securing an accurate appraisal has never been more important.

“One of the opportunities that appraisers bring to the table when asked to give their opinion is not just understanding the dynamics of the valuation, but also understanding what that means within the current market conditions,” says Dan Brewer, President of the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) and licensed mortgage and real estate broker. “There appears to be a situation where people are willfully under listing properties to create a frenzy, which is potentially misleading. It makes an appraisal all the more critical in the current market.”

Brewer has been monitoring a region in Ontario where homes are consistently selling for 15 – 30% more than list price; where paying a premium is the new norm. These premiums are being driven by current supply-demand issues, and in a situation where 20+ buyers are vying to purchase a property there really is only one winner: the seller.

Despite homes selling consistently over asking and accurate valuations becoming increasingly important, Brewer still notices a lack of broker knowledge around the appraisals process and the bodies who govern the industry. “The mortgage agent world had exploded in recent years and many people don’t have the specific training they need,” Brewer says. “The AIC has several professional development programs designed specifically for broker organizations to help them train agents and investors in the market place. It’s important that everyone, including brokers and agents, gets the education they need.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca

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