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Chris

Smart Home Technology

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Smart home technology in Toronto has come a long way in recent years. In just the last little while we have gone from only having home lighting systems being controlled by smart technology to having everything from security systems to home amenities now with built-in smart home capabilities. The one thing all of these systems have in common is the requirement to have access to the internet as that is the means by which you are able to control the system remotely. Each networked device will have it’s own app to help control the settings. Although now with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Home, automation is becoming more centralized as many devices can now be controlled through the “home assistants”. Naturally, every technology has its pros and cons and we will take a look those inherent in a Smart Home over here.

 

The Pros

There is no denying that smart technology is very convenient. It can drastically simplify your life. The small daily tasks that we have to remember can easily be taken care of by programming or can be done remotely in case you forget to do them before leaving the house.

Another big pro for smart home technology is the cost and energy savings that can be derived from it. Once installed and programmed, you can easily cut down on your energy consumption. Adaptive thermostats respond to your family’s habits and schedule and adjust accordingly thereby reducing your energy consumption.

Smart home technology also allows you to monitor your home remotely – which is very convenient if you have to travel or leave for extended periods of time. Additionally, smart home technology can increase the resale value of your home and some insurance providers do offer reductions on premiums for smart homes.

 

The Cons    

Although smart homes are very convenient and can be programmed to do everything from opening your blinds in the morning and closing them at night to starting your coffee maker, monitoring your crock pot and even locking your door remotely, the one big drawback with these advancements is that they all rely on a working internet connection. If the internet goes down, then so do the services.

Another drawback is the initial cost of installing such a system in your home. Yes, you will likely make up that cost in the long run, but you will have to outlay a considerable sum of money to get a good system in place.

If you are not technologically inclined, then the complex programming that these systems require can also be seen as a con. As many devices work on different platforms or through different apps, this reality will require to you know how to download, set-up and operate all of these programs.

Lastly, safety is a concern when it comes to smart home technology. The same programs that make it possible for you to lock your doors from across the world, means that, unless your network is absolutely secure, you can be vulnerable to being hacked.

Smart home technology is not yet seamlessly integrated into our lives – but it is certainly getting there.

Job Posting

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We are looking for an energetic graphic designer to work in our fast pace office environment full time between the months of March – June and September – October.
There is also the possibility of part time during July, August and November.

Qualifications:

Candidate is required to have completed a college degree in graphic design and be proficient in Lightroom, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.
Printing experience is an asset and knowledge of Adobe Premiere or After Effects would be a plus.

Training will be supplied to get the selected candidate up to speed.

Candidate must be:

  • On time
  • Reliable
  • Energetic
  • Team player
  • Able to meet strict deadlines
  • Attentive to details
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Work with minimum supervision
  • An excellent oral and written communicator

 

Roles:

  • Photo retouching
  • Brochure/postcard layout as per requirements
  • Other graphic design or multi-media related work
  • Printing
  • Following up with clients

If you believe that you have what it takes to be part of Imaginahome and would like to be considered for this position, please email your resume to [email protected] with links to portfolio/samples of relevant work completed.

Only selected candidates applying will be contacted for an interview.

Tips for Buying in a Hot Toronto Market

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Anyone looking to buy a home in Toronto will want to know anything they can do to get the edge on their competition – especially given how hot the market it and how it really doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

While it is true that you can always find a deal or two during the dog days of summer or the coldest months of winter, selection will be limited and you will have to fall in love with whatever is on offer or wait until the busy selling season starts.

One of the best least known ways to close a deal in a hot market without too much competition is to make an offer on days when no one else would even consider being in the market – Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving weekend and Labor Day – in that order.

While it might seem sacrilegious to suggest making an offer on a holy day, for non-Christians, the first two are just regular days and open for business. Most people would rather be celebrating with family and friends but if you want to jump the queue and get in at the front of a line on a new listing, then making an offer when no one else is likely to do so is the best way to do it. By making an offer on a holiday day or weekend, the sellers are going to be in a more open and receptive mood and are more apt to entertain all kinds of offers.

 

Other tips for buying in a hot marketing include:

Having all of your finances in order. Make sure you are pre-approved for a mortgage so that sellers can see that you are serious and have come to play.

Know what you want in a house and be prepared to make an offer when you find it. Waiting for even a day can push you to the back of the line and drag you into a bidding war.

Showing the sellers that you are serious by scheduling a home inspection and providing all of the necessary paperwork.

If you find yourself in a bidding war, make the seller’s life easier. Offer to pay their closing costs, offer to take the home off their hands sooner if needed, offer to rent it back to them if they need to find a new home themselves; in short do whatever necessary to get the edge on the competition.

Finding a house in a sizzling market can be tricky and sometimes heartbreaking, but knowing how to go about securing your dream home can mean homeownership regardless of the hurdles.

Best Time to Buy A House in Toronto

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With Toronto’s housing market showing no signs of slowing down, it is not surprising that home buyers might be wondering just when the best time to buy a home might be. Although the housing market in Ontario is cyclical – much like any market is, when it comes to real estate, there is no definitive best time despite having distinct busier and slower months. However, there are a couple of things to consider when you plan on jumping into the housing fray:

1) Are you looking for the best deal possible
2) Do you want the most selection from which to choose

Answering those two questions honestly will likely determine when the best time would be to buy for you.

Here are the considerations when it comes to looking for a house – the busiest buying months are in the spring and the fall when listings abound and it seems like every realtor’s phone is ringing off the hook. During the high summer months sales tend to languish as people are off on holiday – the same holds true for December, January and early February, so listings are few and far between.

If you want plenty of selection, then you will want to begin your property search in late February/early spring when homeowners start polishing up their listings to cash in on the buying frenzy that starts when the warmer weather rolls around. If you start your search early, then you might get some of those choice pickings that come on the market before the others and you’ll have more options from which to choose. Should you find nothing to your liking during the spring season, then you can always look forward to the fall season when homeowners are again thinking about selling.

If you simply want the best deal possible and don’t really care about selection then looking during the months of July and August or December to early February is your best bet. However, be prepared for very limited selection. Regardless of what is on offer, you will be able to more likely make a deal with sellers during these months as they are probably wanting to sell their homes for specific reasons and will be more willing to entertain low offers.

So, while there is no definitive answer as to when the best time to buy a house in Toronto is, there are better times depending on your needs.

First Time Fixer-Upper In Toronto

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First-time homebuying in any city can be stressful, when it’s in a city like Toronto where the property market is sizzling, the pressure to find a good deal is even greater. Many buyers who want the best value for their money opt to invest in a fixer-upper. Here are some answers to the concerns you may have as a first-time home buyer of a property with potential.

The number one piece of advice for anyone buying a fixer-upper is to find a good inspector in your area qualified for the type of house you are buying. If you are thinking about buying an older home, make sure you tell the inspection service that you are in need of someone who is knowledgeable about homes of that age. If you suspect that there are structural problems, then calling in a contractor to check out the property is a good idea. In fact, having a contractor take a look at the house will also get you get a better estimate of what you might expect to spend.

When it comes to renovating a fixer-upper, be sure to know your budget and how much each project will cost. The very first thing you should do is to ensure that your infrastructure is solid. If there are any electrical problems to address or plumbing kinks you want to work out, then that is what you should tackle first. Once your infrastructure is good, then you will want to start with the projects that are most important first. Kitchens and bathrooms are where the bulk of your money should go after infrastructure as these two areas will immediately boost the resale value of your home. Budget according to what each project should cost, but allow room for unforeseen problems that might arise.

While renovating a home may seem like the easy route to your dream house, you have to be aware of your financial boundaries. Over budgeting or cost overruns can creep up on you and can cause major dilemmas. Making sure that you do not face these potential problems can be as simple as planning for contingencies, paying a lot of attention to project planning and constantly tracking your progress. If you do get in over your head, take a deep breath and consider the following options: seeking more funding, reducing the project scope, and reassigning your resources to lower cost ones.

The next crucial piece of advice to remember is to be realistic about how long it will take to renovate – usually double what you estimate as most projects will take longer than anticipated. Deciding if you want to live in a house under construction or want to find somewhere else to stay while doing major work is essential to maintaining your sanity and relationship (if you are in one) intact. Unless you’re okay with sleeping in an unfinished house with sawdust and power tools hanging about, finding a place to recharge comfortably every night would be a good idea.

For some couples, rebuilding a home is a fantastic bonding experience, for others it can cause tension and tears. Couples often forget or may not even know that remodeling a home is extremely taxing on a relationships and can put a huge strain on the people involved. Your tolerance will be put to the test through the demanding and strenuous work in renovating your first house together. Making compromises, communication, picking your battles, knowing your limits and not being afraid to ask for help are some key factors in having your relationship survive a remodel.

Choosing to buy a fixer-upper has its rewards; while it may involve hard work, careful planning and patience, it will all be worth it in the end when you have the house of your dreams at the price you wanted.

Hidden Defects and Your Toronto Home

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Buying a home in Toronto can be expensive enough as it is – the last thing any new homeowner needs is to suddenly find themselves faced with the unenviable task of repairing a hidden defect. If you are not familiar with this term, hidden defects are faults with a property that cannot be seen through regular visual inspections. Usually they involve incorrectly wired electricity, mould problems, plumbing issues, roofing defects, foundation cracks, etc… While discouraging, the potential of having to deal with such defects can be minimized by doing your due diligence.

In Ontario there are two types of defects that can crop up on a property sale – patent and latent. A patent defect is something that you can see easily when you walk into a home or that can be uncovered by a good inspector. For instance, if a window latch is broken and the window does not close fully, you cannot then claim damages from the seller to have it either changed or fixed. A patent defect is covered by caveat emptor, which basically means that you are soley responsible for ensuring the quality of the property you are buying.

The other form of defect is the latent defect, which is something that you cannot see easily. Regardless of the problem, you will need to establish whether the seller was aware of the issue and tried to conceal it from you during the sale. If you can prove that the seller was aware of it and either did not declare it or tried to hide it from you, then you can pursue the seller for the cost of repairs and/or damages.

For buyers, it is essential to request that the seller fill out a form called Seller’s Property Information Statement (SPIS). The form requires sellers to fill out “yes” or “no” answers to questions regarding different aspects of the home. While these forms used to be regularly filled out previously, in recent years, sellers have been cautioned away from them for liability reasons. However, these forms can work for the seller’s benefit as well. It is also essential to have insist that the sale only be concluded once a proper home inspection has been done to ensure to surprises down the road.

For sellers, by declaring whatever you know about your property, you are actually protecting yourself by demonstrating good faith. It is best to be upfront because it will minimize the chances of being sued after the fact and of having to return to repair or pay damages. It will also allow you to ask for a higher asking price.

In the end, it is hard to completely protect yourself from defects, but by doing your homework you should be good to go!

For some good reads on this topic go //bit.ly/1xhL1OE and also here //bit.ly/1BZMfT2.

Toronto Down Payments and Closing Costs

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The Toronto real estate market is a very competitive one with housing prices being the second highest in Canada. Therefore knowing how much you should save for a down payment can be a tough decision. After all, conventional wisdom says that 20% of the house price is what you should typically put down when buying. However, when the average house costs nearly $700K, that means you would need to save up $140,000 to put down on a property; add to this the closing costs of the home sale and you might be looking at several years of saving before you are able to fund your real estate dreams.

Down payment
For most people saving up such a sum of money will take far longer than they want to wait when looking to purchase in Toronto and it is why the minimum down payment required for a home sale is 5% of the asking price. However, remember that putting anything less than 20% down on a home will put your purchase into the “high risk” category and require you to have mortgage insurance from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The lower the percentage of your down payment, the higher the insurance that you will have to pay. The insurance can be paid up-front in cash or added to your mortgage amount. If you aren’t sure from where you will be able to save up for your down payment, there is a very good article on this very subject written by Gail VazOxlade over here //bit.ly/1xCOcUU.

Closing Costs
The costs that most first time buyers forget about when purchasing a home are the closing costs. These include all of the fees you will be called upon to cover in order for the purchase to go through. They include everything from notary fees to home inspector fees to the reimbursement of any monies paid towards property taxes. Here is a shortlist of the costs you can expect to cover:

House Inspection
Notary
Property valuation
Property survey
Land transfer tax where applicable
GST/HST where applicable
Title insurance
Interest adjustments
Prepaid property and utility adjustments
Mortgage life insurance
Movers/van rental for moving

A good overview of what to expect when it comes to costs can be found over here //bit.ly/14ibgPb. Also keep in mind that you’ll need money for renovations, paint, window dressings, etc…

As long as you are prepared with your down payment and the extra costs needed when buying a house, you will have an easier transition when the time comes.

Financial Aid for First Time Toronto Home Buyers

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Toronto is the second priciest city in Canada when it comes to home-buying. It is therefore no surprise that along with a sizeable down payment, many first-time homebuyers need other forms of financial assistance when it comes to making that leap from renting to buying. There are a few incentive programs designed to encourage first home-buyers. We cover a few of them over here.

Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan (OHOSP)
Conceived as a savings vehicle for first time homebuyers in the province of Ontario, this plan allows you to open a savings account in any financial institution that will give you a tax credit of up to $500 per person ($1000 per couple) on your income tax return. It is not a tax shelter so any interest earned is taxable. To qualify your net income must not exceed $40,000 ($80,000 for couples). There is a maximum contribution to the account of $2000 per year ($4000 per couple) although there is no limit to how much you can actually put into the account. You can make contributions for 5 consecutive years before you have to close the account and you have 2 years to buy a home once the account is closed. You can ask your financial institution for more information on this incentive.

First-Time Home Buyers Tax Credit (HBTC)
The Canadian government has also devised a tax credit scheme to assist new home buyers with their first purchase of real estate. According to the government information page: The $5,000 non-refundable HBTC amount applies to qualifying homes acquired after January 27, 2009, and provides up to $750 in federal tax relief. You can read more about this incentive at the Revenue Canada Agency website.

First-Time Home Buyers RRSP Plan
The most well-known of all first-time home buyer incentives is the RRSP plan that allows first-time buyers to withdraw their RRSPs without penalty in order to use the money towards a down payment on their first property purchase. You then have 15 years in which to repay the amounts taken. You can consult your financial institution for more information on this program.

Ontario First-Time Home Buyer’s Land Transfer Tax Credit
The province of Ontario provides this tax refund of the land transfer tax up to $2000 for first time home buyers up to a maximum property price of $227,500, after which the cost is charged at a rate of 1.5%. So basically, you won’t have to pay the land transfer costs for the first $227,500 on your new home. You can read more about this over here //bit.ly/1B5boNL.

Raising the money needed to purchase your first home is never easy, which is why the federal and provincial governments offer these incentives to new homebuyers to help ease the financial burden. With a little planning, good budgeting and the help of these tax credits and incentives, you can be well on the path to homeownership!

First Time Home Buying Tips

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Buying a home for the first time can be a daunting and stressful business. Just saving for the down payment on a property in the Greater Toronto Area can be tough enough – for those just starting out, you might want to consult our article on budgeting over here //bit.ly/1wXnmYX to get an idea of how to budget when trying to save for the purchase of Toronto real estate. Once you have saved up enough cash for a down payment on your pad, there are a few things to consider before rushing out to visit open houses. Read on for a few tips that will help savvy first time-home buyers navigate the sometimes tricky waters of buying a house.

1. Know your neighbourhoods

As simple as that sounds, knowing your Ontario neighbourhoods involves more than just knowing what streets make up a community – it includes knowing the demographics, the transportation, the community services, the facilities and the available schooling. Whether you want a specific community for it’s proximity to your work or it’s abundance of nightlife will definitely determine the areas best suited for you and your family’s lifestyle. A couple of good sites delivering such information can be found here //bit.ly/1xuaM4Z and here //bit.ly/13OXiTP.

2. Know your budget

While we will all sometimes get carried away when house-hunting and wander into properties that are clearly out of our budget range, be prepared to know exactly how far out you can comfortably go before ending up house-poor. Set a realistic sliding scale of minimum and maximum price projections and then stick to it. And remember – always create your budget using your NET salary to have the clearest understanding of what you can afford.

3. Know what you want

We all want as much as we can get from a home, but realistically there will be certain elements that will make or break a sale. The best thing to do is to sit down and write out all of things you absolutely must have in a home and all of those elements you would like to have in a home. By knowing what you want and what you can live without, you will more easily be able to narrow down your choices when out hunting for homes.

4. Know that you are pre-approved

Once your budget is set, your down payment is saved, your list of must-have’s is created and you know your top-three neighbourhoods, it is now time to start searching for the right mortgage lender. Getting yourself pre-approved is necessary in a hot-market. Some sellers won’t even consider offers from a buyer who doesn’t already have the backing of a financial institution. Knowing that you are pre-approved for a mortgage will also give you confidence when you are house-hunting and will make securing that perfect property far easier when you do find it.

5. Know your realtor

Although finding a realtor might seem straight-forward, there are many elements that go into getting the right pairing for you. Firstly, you need to feel comfortable with your agent. Secondly, you need to be 100% sure that s/he is working for you and not for themselves. The best place to find agents is through family and friends, colleagues or other sources of referrals. A good agent will sit down and talk to you to find out what it is you’re looking for before anything else. Once they have a handle on what you want and the neighbourhoods that interest you, only then will they begin their search for you. Be prepared to go through at least one or two agents before you find the right one.

As long as you are prepared, house hunting can be a fun and memorable experience.

Toronto Homebuyer’s Budget

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Buying your first home in Toronto – or anywhere for that matter, requires you to have a sizeable down payment as well as money for the closing costs, which can run into several thousands of dollars and for which many first-time buyers are unprepared. The best way to find money for your downpayment is to put together a proper budget that will take into account all of your fixed and variable expenses and to live according to that budget for several months prior to starting your home search.

The very first thing you must do when setting out to make a budget is to track your monthly expenses for a good three months in order to establish your spending patterns so that you have an accurate snapshot of your monthly expenses. Once you have a good idea of how much you spend for your variable expenses, then you will be ready to sit down to create your home buying budget.

The secret to budgeting is to be as realistic as possible. Here is a breakdown of the major categories you must include in your budget breakdown:

Total monthly income (Net, from all sources including any government assistance)

Fixed Expenses:
Rent (Mortgage & property tax)
Electricity
Gas & Water
Maintenance/Condo fees
home Insurance
Cable
Internet
Television
Cell phone
Car (payment)
Car Insurance/registration/licence

Variable Expenses:
Gas
Repairs (car maintenance)
Transportation (public)
Medical/Dental
Groceries
Clothing
Pet
Entertainment
Vacation
Misc

Debt repayment (credit cards, line of credit, etc…)

Emergency Fund
Savings

Total Expenses

In the end, your total monthly expenses must be lower than your monthly income. If it isn’t, then you have to adjust to ensure that it is. Next, you should adjust your current rent/housing allotment to include what you would expect to pay if you bought a house in the price range you are targeting. Remember that you should factor in whatever taxes you will anticipate paying for the house. You should also then adjust your electricity and other fixed expenses to reflect what the higher costs would be for the house. The difference in cost you should put aside in a savings account for your down payment.

By doing this, you will get used to living with the costs of what you can expect the costs to be when owning your own home while also saving towards that eventual goal.