New Year's Resolutions: Homeowners Edition
While the New Year may have looked a little different this year, the one thing that remains the same is the renewed sense of hope you get as the calendar year rolls over. The start of a new year offers a blank slate or fresh start.
Instead of the usual New Year's Resolutions, this week we're looking at resolutions for your home.
1. Get Rid Of The Clutter
Throughout the year, most of us acquire a mountain of stuff—and too much stuff can clutter up your home, making it look untidy and dated.
This year, resolve to go room-by-room and gather anything that you don't use, wear, or love and donate it to charity.
And in 2022, think twice before bringing more items home. Try the 'one-in, one-out' rule. For example, if you buy a new pair of running shoes, donate the older pair. This will help keep your home free of clutter all year round.
2. Work Out A Weekly Schedule
Cleaning the house can feel like an overwhelming task; it only takes a few days for things to pile up. Make a resolution to work out a weekly system for keeping your home clean.
Resolve to put your dishes in the dishwasher every night before going to bed. Put your clothes away each day instead of piling them on the chair and fold laundry as soon as it's out of the dryer so it doesn't pile up in the laundry room.
Break things down into smaller, more manageable daily tasks so deep cleaning doesn't feel as overwhelming when you have the time to tackle it.
3. Reduce Utility Bills
Make a resolution this year to reduce your utility bills and conserve energy throughout your home. This could be as simple as turning off the lights when you leave the room, turning down the heat or AC when you go out and making a conscious effort not to leave the tap running when you're brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
Consider changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescents to help save up to 75% of your energy usage and upgrade larger appliances—like your washer, dryer, or oven—to energy-efficient appliances to save money on your monthly bill. If replacing appliances isn't in your budget, make sure to clean and maintain them as required so they perform at their best. (For example, if you clean your HVAC filters every 1-3 months, your system will be able to push that air through the filter easier, making sure the motor doesn't work too hard, thereby reducing its energy cost.)
You can also take this opportunity to also make sure air isn't escaping from your home. Warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer can escape through doors, windows, and ducts that aren't insulated properly. Make sure you're caulking and adding weather stripping to places that could be areas for drafts.
4. Organize Your Pantry
There's nothing quite like cleaning out kitchen cupboards and organizing your pantry after the chaos of the holidays. Check expiration dates, donate any extra food you don't normally incorporate into your meals—like the extra boxes of stuffing or canned green beans you didn't get to use this year—and organize your spices and baking goods.
Go one step further and add baskets and clear jars to organize your dry goods and make it easier for the whole family to keep the pantry organized moving forward.
5. Do A Safety Check
The beginning of the year is also the perfect time to do an annual safety check. Check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
And finally, set aside time to schedule inspections and cleanings for your heating systems. Whether it's a heat pump, furnace, boiler or fireplace, these systems all need regular maintenance and this way, you won't have to worry about them throughout the year.
This year, I'm excited to work with even more people to secure their dream homes in Nova Scotia. If you know someone looking to sell their current property or find their dream home, I'd love to schedule a free consultation to help them get started.
Having your offer accepted is only the first step in hanging the sold sign on your dream home. Once your offer is accepted, it's time to get your Real Estate Lawyer involved.
This week, I caught up with Charlotte Edwards, Associate Lawyer at Kennedy Schofield Lutz Lawyers to break down what your Real Estate Lawyer will do during this vital time in your home purchase:
1. What is the role of a real estate lawyer?
A real estate lawyer helps clients who have an accepted offer to buy or sell their property complete the transaction. The initial step is for the lawyer to review the purchase and sale agreement and discuss it with the client to confirm all details.
For a client who is buying a property, it is important for the real estate lawyer to review the title in detail with their client to make sure things like access, easements, and restrictive covenants are clear, and to answer any questions the client may have. The lawyer will also prepare all mortgage documents to sign with the client, in addition to the documents necessary for the purchase. The lawyer is responsible for collecting money from the client and bank, and transferring it to the other side in exchange for the deed and confirming that all mortgages and secured interests currently impacting the title will be cleared prior to closing.
For a client who is selling their property, the lawyer will prepare the deed for execution, as well as payout the mortgage. If the property is not migrated, it will also be important to migrate the property to the land registration system prior to closing. Regularly people are not familiar with migration, which requires a detailed title search confirming a clear root of the title. The migration process became a requirement on sale in the early 2000s.
Throughout the process, the lawyer works collaboratively with the real estate agent to ensure the transaction runs as smoothly as possible, including responding to questions from the opposing party and negotiating holdbacks or credits on closing day.
2. What is the process for finding and working with a real estate lawyer?
The most common way I find that people come to me is through recommendations of someone they know and trust – like a family member, friend, realtor, or mortgage broker. However, you can always search online for a lawyer as well. It is important for you to be comfortable with the real estate lawyer, and typically I organize an initial phone call to speak with the client to answer any questions they have. Throughout the process, there is an open dialogue that occurs through phone calls or e-mails to answer questions. Closer to closing, the lawyer will schedule a meeting in-person or by zoom to review all documents necessary for signature and collect everything needed to close.
3. Things you should have ready for your real estate lawyer.
A lawyer will often provide a list in their retainer letter of the specific items needed for your transaction. A lawyer will always need to see a valid government-issued photo ID to verify your identity.
For a purchase, some of the things your lawyer will need are contact information for your mortgage broker or bank, confirmation of insurance, copies of satisfactory water tests, proof of assumption of leased equipment, and a certified cheque or bank draft with your down payment and closing costs.
For a sale, some of the things your lawyer will need are a copy of your most recent tax bill and confirmation of payment, a recent statement noting your mortgage account number so a payout can be ordered, a fuel top-up slip if there is oil or propane as a heat source on your property, a septic pump-out receipt, and receipts for any renovations required to be completed prior to closing.
Every real estate transaction is unique, so these are just a few common items, but never be afraid to ask your real estate lawyer a question – it’s their job, and the job of your real estate agent to help guide you through the process of your real estate transaction and make it as smooth as possible.
Questions for your home inspector
Do you want to know the best ways to maintain your investment? If so, read on! I caught up with Ed Pottie from Greener Inspections for some home maintenance tips that will help keep your property looking its best as we head into this warmer weather.
What are 5 things every homeowner should do in the spring (that most people don't do)?
What are some common things homeowners forget about that are found during inspections?
Why should a homeowner do a pre-inspection for their home before listing?
A pre-inspection is great to do so that you can be aware of any issues that may pop up before a potential buyer does their own inspection. There are also times sellers can use the pre-inspection report as a selling tool.
If a seller chooses to share their inspection with potential buyers, it may sway the buyer from choosing to do their own inspection. I like to think that if there is any way to limit "surprises" during the home purchase process, it can only be beneficial for all parties involved!
How often should a homeowner have their home inspected?
I'd say maybe every 5 years or so. It always helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at your property for any potential issues.
Things to avoid as a buyer
Do you have your heart set on a new home? Well, as the summer months approach it may be the right time to submit an offer. But before you get too excited, the market is not showing any signs of slowing down. Here are my top tips for buyers trying to secure a home this summer.
Know what you can afford.
There’s more to buying a home than just the sales price. Changes in your interest rate can really add up. Even a small increase in that percentage can mean the difference in thousands of dollars in purchasing power.
Mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve ever been and if you’re pre-approved you’ve locked in that low rate for three months. But as interest rates start to climb your pre-approval amount may decrease once your pre-approval expires, eroding your purchasing power. [Not to mention changes in the stress test that came into effect 1 June 2021.] So if you're planning on putting in an offer, be sure to have a current preapproval and touch base with your lender about how changes in the stress test might have affected your upcoming purchase.
Don't skip the pre-approval.
The market is cutthroat right now and homes are selling within days of being listed. So if you see a property you want, you’ll have to offer on it ASAP. You may not have time to get a formal pre-approval from a lender between the time a property is listed and the offer deadline and this is something that most sellers will want to see along with your offer.
Don’t get your heart broken by scrolling Viewpoint, waiting to get pre-approved, or putting off finding an agent. If you find a home you love, you HAVE to be ready to act fast.
Don't offer the minimum deposit.
When you’re buying a home, your mind is wrapped up in a million different things. But if you’re buying in a hot seller’s market, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about deposits.
When you make an offer on a house, you will be asked to provide a deposit which is a promise to the seller that you won’t dip out on the purchase process.
A minimum of 1% of the offer price is expected for a deposit but a larger deposit will make the sellers take notice. That can make a big difference if your offer is swimming in a sea of other similar offers. The good news is that the deposit will form part of your down payment on closing day.
How much exactly should you put down as a deposit? That really depends on how much you’re offering for the property, what you can afford and how long the closing is. Talk with your agent to develop the right deposit strategy for you.
Work with an expert.
One of the most common real estate myths is that all real estate agents are the same. This myth can lead to buyers and sellers making big mistakes when selecting a real estate agent to represent their interests. Every agent has different skills, different experience levels, and different traits.
Make sure you work with someone who understands how the industry is right now, what pitfalls to look for and how to protect you during your viewings and purchase.
If you're thinking of entering the market and aren't sure what to start or how to craft an offer that gets accepted, hit reply to schedule a buyer's consultation.
If you're thinking of entering the market and aren't sure what to start or how to craft an offer that gets accepted, contact me to schedule a buyer's consultation.
5 reasons to build over buying
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
— Albert Einstein
This quote has come to mind a couple of times over the last few months—typically 6 months into a housing search or around offer number 8 for my buyer clients.
It's after several disappointments and stressful multiple-offers situations when it becomes apparent that we need to regroup and try a different strategy as the market continues to heat up.
Maybe it's paying down debt to increase their purchasing power, looking a little outside their desired neighbourhood, or becoming open to taking on a few more renovations (hey, pink carpet isn’t that bad).
A few weeks ago, I was standing inside a 3-year-old home on a very undesirable lot—no privacy, super long driveway, drainage ditch in the middle of the front yard—a home that would be very tough to sell in any other market, but in this market would sell for $50,000 over asking.
This was our 'time to regroup' moment. I realized they could build this home, brand new, on a nicer lot for the same price that this home would sell for.
If you are looking to make a move but don't want to wade into the current resale home market, here are the top 5 reasons to consider building in 2021.
Shrinking Inventory of Resale Homes
There are very few resale homes on the market; the number of active listings is actually at a 30 year low.
This limited selection of homes means you could be waiting a very long time for a home that suits your needs to come to market.
Choosing to build a custom home means that you can work with a builder to design your dream home or tweak existing plans to get exactly what you want – no need to wait for the perfect home to hit MLS
Avoid the bidding wars
Where multiple offers have become commonplace in the resale market, the supply of available lots in most new neighbourhoods exceeds the current level of demand. Meaning you can skip the bidding war and purchase a home for list price.
New construction homes are priced based on the market value and cost to build, meaning it's unlikely that you will overpay for a home.
Skip the renovations
When shopping for resale homes with buyers, there are very few times when a buyer walks in and says “I love absolutely everything about this house.”
They often have a laundry list of items that they plan to change after purchasing the home, whether it's something small like paint colour or something much larger like the layout.
By building, you have the opportunity to choose the finishes including flooring, cabinets, siding, trim, and paint colour to ensure the home is uniquely you, right from the start.
One of the most challenging aspects of buying a home in 2021 is trying to plan, especially if you have a home to sell—putting you into tough competition with new homebuyers moving from apartments at the home seller's convenience.
It's hard to know when the perfect resale home will come to market or if you will be the successful bidder. Building gives you the certainty of knowing what your next step will be and often gives you 8 months to plan.
Gain peace of mind
Most builders are partnered with a new home warranty program.
This often includes a 1 year bumper to bumper (or deck to deck) warranty which covers any issues that may arise in your first year of ownership plus a 7-10 year warranty on major structural defects, giving you peace of mind on your investment.
The New Year is the perfect time to reflect, so I wanted to take a look back at 2020 in Real Estate. Below are the top trends that dominated the Halifax Real Estate Market last year:
1. Record Prices
I started my first market update of 2020 with a series of news headlines:
In 2020, we saw the average house price in Halifax rise by 14.6% (compared to the norm of 4-6% annually) leaving first-time buyers with fears of being priced out of the market.
What didn’t happen: Back in the spring, CMHC CEO Evan Siddall forecasted a 9-18% drop in average house prices over the next 12 months. This prediction was based on the belief that we would see a high number of foreclosures once homeowners were no longer able to defer mortgage payments.
With prices on the rise and increasing homeowner equity, it is unlikely we will see a high number of foreclosures as sellers in financial trouble will opt to sell rather than foreclose. Several Canadian economists have spoken out and said the CMHC Housing Market Forecast is no longer relevant.
2. Record Low Inventory Levels
We started 2020 with record low inventory levels in Halifax, entrenching the sellers’ market that had been building in our city since 2018.
Add in a pandemic and we saw the number of new listings drop between 65-70% each week as sellers held off on listing their properties amid uncertainty in the market and fear of community spread.
What’s causing these record low inventory levels? Millennials.
The Demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z, are now 27-40 years of age and have entered their peak home-buying years. Millennials make up 31% of the population in North America and represent 45% of new mortgage applications. What we are experiencing is termed the Millennial Draw Down.
As such a significant portion of the population enters the housing market for the first time, we are seeing Millennials buy up home inventory at a faster rate than the inventory comes to market.
What slim pickings mean for buyers: Low inventory means you need to be on your toes when you go house hunting—the best homes will likely be snatched up fast. Check out my post on buying a home in a seller’s market for more tips.
3. Spring Market?
The timing of the first wave of COVID-19 in our province disrupted our Spring market which is usually considered the hottest season for real estate. We often see the highest number of new listings and highest number of sales in the spring, but this year people pushed pause on their real estate goals—unable to take advantage of the buying or selling process as it once was.
The lack of a traditional spring market didn’t hurt our overall annual sales numbers. A surge in home sales toward the end of 2020 actually made up for the spring market losses.
13,923 properties sold in Nova Scotia over the course of 2020. This was an increase of 13% from the same period in 2019 and marked the highest level of any year in history, beating the previous record set in 2019 by more than 1,500 sales.
4. Home Became More Important Than Ever
With Canadians spending more time at home, 2020 was the year that 'home' became more important than ever.
It became the office, the school, the gym, the restaurant, the movie theatre and even the bakery—as it seemed that record numbers of Canadians learned to bake sourdough during 2020.
What this meant for the Real Estate Industry is that we saw an increase of potential buyers shopping for homes online as they became keenly aware of the issues with their current home; visits to Realtor.ca were up 35% in 2020.
The type of home searched for shifted. We saw an increase in demand for bigger homes, further from the urban core, that provided the space for the multiple uses we began demanding of our home in 2020.
Commute time mattered less as offices transitioned to work from home – some permanently. And outdoor space became extremely valuable in the wake of public green spaces being shut.
Looking back on this year, 2020 will be seen as the year home became more important than ever.
I’ve talked about how to take advantage of the seller’s market to get the best price for your home, but what if you’re on the other side of the equation? Navigating a home purchase can be stressful on its own—but in a hot seller’s market, there’s even more to consider.
In a seller’s market, there are more people shopping for homes than there are listings for sale giving sellers the upper hand. A seller’s market is characterized by:
As a buyer, you need to be ready to move fast, negotiate generously, and prepare for rejection. Maybe more than once.
Having an agent working to support you makes the process easier, so here are my top tips for buyers looking to stay competitive in a seller’s market.
Get pre-approval before you start shopping
In competitive offer situations, the first thing the listing agent wants to know is if the buyer is pre-approved.
Being able to send in a pre-approval letter with your offer proves that you are serious and gives the sellers confidence that the deal won’t fall apart on financing down the road.
While you’re at it, be sure to gather the income documents your lender requires (proof of income, proof of assets, and employment verification) in advance of submitting an offer.
In order to make your offer more competitive, you will want to shorten the condition deadlines as much as possible, which doesn’t leave much time to track down these documents after your offer is accepted.
I’ve talked about lending questions with Alex Lavender, Mortgage Broker previously and you can find out more about getting pre-approved here.
Shop all winter long
Having a little less competition can go a long way in landing the right home. Some buyers tend to hibernate during the winter months in favour of waiting for the infamous ‘spring market’ when the real estate industry kicks it into high gear for the warmer months.
Winter is a great time to shop as sellers who list mid-winter are often more motivated and you’ll face much less competition.
Stay alert. Sign up for an e-notification.
This ensures that you get an email alert the minute a property that matches your search criteria hits that market. You don’t want to miss out on “the one” because you went out to grab a coffee on your work break instead of checking Realtor.ca.
Schedule house tours ASAP
Once a property you like becomes available, it probably won’t last long. Make sure you give yourself an opportunity to get in on the action by going to see it as soon as possible, even if it means being a little flexible in other areas of your schedule.
Write a strong offer
Unfortunately, a seller’s market is not the time to try and score a deal.
Ask yourself how upset you’ll be if you lose out on this house, and then write your offer accordingly. If you really love it, don’t be afraid to go in above the asking price. (And a heartfelt letter to the sellers included in the offer never hurts.)
Hire an Expert
Don’t get swept up in the seller’s market. Hiring a neighbourhood expert means having someone working in your best interest, so you’re not overpaying for a property or relying on over-offering to get the property you love.
There are lots of ways to write an attractive offer and working with a professional means having insight into the market to so that you can write a winning offer
Not sure where to get started in your house search? Set up a free buyer's seminar to learn what you can do to find a home in the current market.
Last minute gift guide for Nova Scotia
Giving can be one of the most rewarding parts of the Holiday season, but finding the perfect gift can also be quite stressful.
So if you're finding yourself in a situation where you need to grab a last-minute gift for your sister-in-law in time for dinner on Friday, I've got you covered. These are just a few of my favourite local gifts to give—and don't fret, I've already checked ahead to see if they still have gifts available for you!
Gift boxes from Obladee
Their Holiday Gift Boxes make the perfect gift for friends, family or colleagues to enjoy that holiday party vibe at home in their own bubble. Each box includes: a bottle of wine (choice of Sparkling, White or Red), 3 x 150g wedges of Cheese (that’s a lot!), their house-made Cold Snap Pear & Cranberry Chutney, house-made Chocolate, and their own Sea-Bound Coast Crisps. All tied up with a ribbon and personalized gift note! You can also upgrade your wine to a special Cellar Selection for $20 more.
Order yours here by December 22nd to receive it on the 23rd.
GIFT BOXES FROM Lucky penny
Lucky Penny is one of my go-to coffee places when I need a pick-me-up between showings. Their gift boxes feature locally made goods including freshly roasted coffee, local preserves, house-made granola and the hard-to-find King North chocolate. These gift boxes are great for giving the experience of a cozy morning cup of their favourite beverage when you can't be there to enjoy it together.
They have boxes for the coffee lover and tea lover, as well as one for the maritime pantry box for sending to friends away from home. You can check them all out right here.
Greeting cards and gifts from Inkwell
Nothing says Christmas quite like taking a stroll down to Inkwell to pick up greeting cards. I had mine custom created by Hello Sweetie this year, but if you're looking to get your hands on cards or gifts by local makers, Inkwell supports over 200 independent artists in this one location. They curate their products with a focus on illustrative items, the boutique showcases an array of handmade products—art prints, homewares, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, apothecary and other great gift ideas—that would make a perfect last-minute pick. Check out their website for details on how to arrange your order for curbside pickup or stop by in person.
Just be aware they're only allowing for 3 people in at a time and, as always, masks are mandatory. (Find there's a bit of a line? Check out Taiyaki52 next door for a warm cup of tea or coffee while you wait).
holiday bundles from good robot
Good Robot is a staple for summers in Halifax. Their beer garden is located at 2736 Robie Street in Halifax and their retail hours are between 12 pm-9 pm daily. While the taproom is currently closed, you can still pick up your favourite brews safely. If you have someone who loves craft beer, you can surprise them with Good Robot beer, gift wrapped and delivered right to their doorstep.
The last day for delivery is December 22nd so make sure you grab yours asap.
Gin Royal from compass distillers
You might know the name Compass Distillers from the beginning of the pandemic when they started producing hand sanitizer to help with shortages across Halifax. In a normal year, they're better known for Artisan Craft Spirits made from scratch, with locally sourced ingredients, by people who have a passion for the process and the result.
For the gin lover in your life, I recommend their Gin Royal.
Gin Royal is distilled with Nova Scotian wheat and classic gin botanicals. Slightly sweetened with royal jelly & local honey, this royal blue gin derives its regal colour from an infusion of butterfly pea blossom and a dollar from every purchase helps protect the bees!. Limited retail hours available for pick up.
Wine from benjamin bridge
Nothing says celebration more than sparkling wine and Benjamin Bridge makes internationally recognized sparkling wine right here in Nova Scotia. Produced essentially the same way as Champagne, with all the labour intensive rituals, craftsmanship, and care, their NV Brut is a premium sparkling wine for a fraction of the cost of Champagne. Enjoy a glass with your turkey or as a toast to 2021.
The winery is located in the Gaspereau Valley but for those in the Halifax Metro, they offer contactless free delivery, right up until Dec 24. Order online right here.
Gift boxes from Lightfoot & Wolfville
Lightfoot & Wolfville is owned and operated by the Lightfoot family who have been farming in the Annapolis Valley for eight generations. This year I've been enjoying their gift boxes, since it takes a lot of guesswork out of delighting my friends and loved ones. Gift boxes range in price from $50 - $100 dollars and include a bottle of their fantastic wine and some Lightfoot & Wolfville merchandise. Their soy wine bottle candle in Chardonnay, Lemongrass and Tea Tree is one of my favourite housewarming gifts. They are offering contactless delivery in HRM, the Valley and South Shore. The cutoff for Christmas Eve delivery is Tuesday at midnight.
Books from nimbus publishing
Nimbus produces more than fifty new titles a year on a range of subjects relevant to the Atlantic Provinces— children’s picture books and fiction, literary non-fiction, social and cultural history, nature photography, current events, biography, sports, and cultural issues.
I recommend 'If I Had an Old House on the East Coast.' for anyone who loves old houses or who might be away from home this holiday. With a deep appreciation for the East Coast, This book shares a dream of falling in love with an old house and breathing new life into it and is beautifully illustrated by Nova Scotia artist, Kat Frick Miller They're open until noon on the 24th via the Open Book Coffee next door who stocks their titles!
After a year that marked one of the hottest real estate markets on record in Nova Scotia, I'm looking forward to safe and happy holidays with my family while these local companies help with the contactless delivery of gifts to friends and loved ones across the province.
Real Estate Advisor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I help people buy and sell homes with Engel & Völkers.