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Lifestyle Renos that Don’t Add to your Bottom Line

150 150 Nisha Muire

Most homeowners will want to customize the look and ambiance of their home to suit their lifestyle, regardless of how new or modern the finishes. In Toronto, dropping half a million dollars on a home no longer mean getting the house of your dreams – but simply getting a house, that you can turn into that of your dreams. However, before the first demolition party happens, it is wise to consider a couple of very important facts.

1) Investing in the property’s infrastructure is very important even if it isn’t seen
2) Some renos will give you a much higher rate of return than others

The question that will determine the kind of renos to make is this: how long do you plan on living in your home? If the answer is more than ten-fifteen years, then any reno you make will be worth your investment because you will have time to enjoy it. Keep in mind that some renovations will dramatically enhance your personal lifestyle but won’t necessarily be what future homebuyers want in their dream home. If you don’t plan on living in your home for at least ten years, then choosing the right kind of renos to make is crucial to getting your money back when you sell.

You might be wondering what is meant by “lifestyle renos?” The term refers to any renos that are important to your family’s happiness but won’t necessarily appeal to the majority of homebuyers. For instance – landscaping your grounds, installing a swimming pool, adding a wine cellar and creating a main floor office are just some examples of these lifestyle enhancers.

Interestingly, while infrastructure renos don’t really bring a high return on your investment, the flip-side is that people expect that the infrastructure is in good shape and will haggle the price of a house down if they have to do extensive infrastructure changes including electrical, plumbing, windows, roof and doors.

Swimming Pools
While swimming pools can be a life-saver during heat-waves, the truth is many people don’t like them because they do require a certain amount of maintenance and on-going investment every year. Add to that the fact that they can only really be used for about three months of the year, can be a danger to young children and small pets and take up a lot of real estate in a yard, they are often a negative when it comes to selling a property.

Landscaping your property will definitely add to its curb appeal, but rarely will it add enormously to its value for the simple reason that although you might love a meandering flagstone walkway and a messy garden of wildflowers, a prospective buyer might prefer a modern concrete walk with very precisely planted gardens – or no garden at all! Tastes vary enormously and while a buyer might find it nice that the grounds are landscaped, it is generally not a make-or-break element in a house search.

Adding rooms
Adding a room will definitely your family the space it needs to spread out comfortably, but it might not suit the needs of everyone as it will impact maintenance costs as well as upkeep. So, the main floor office, the extra ensuite, the wine cellar or the second floor addition – will all give you a better lifestyle, but not a significant return on your investment.

The other element to keep in mind when doing renos is to keep your ambitions within the limits of your neighbourhood. If you live in a lower-end neighbourhood, but fill your home with high-end finishes, you are not going to be able to get that investment back when you sell as the neighbourhood will not support that cost. So, it is important to keep your neighbourhood in mind when doing renos.

Naturally, all of this advice goes out the window if you plan on living in your home long term and if you want to enjoy your stay as much as possible without regard to a return on your investment.

Green Home Architecture

150 150 Nisha Muire

Green architecture are buzzwords that are gaining in strength and credence as more people begin to understand what the craze is about. In the not-too-distant past, people were understandably wary of green home architecture as the eco-friendly buildings produced in that category were not as comfortable or inviting as standard homes. However, big strides have been made in this area and today’s eco-friendly properties are very much the way of the future.

What is Green Architecture? Green architecture really encompasses anything designed for sustainability, durability and efficiency. Usually green home designs include one or more of several elements, such as:

passive envelopes
renewable energy options
water capture features
natural waste water treatment for reuse in non-potable functions
living, reflective or adobe style roofs
repurposing existing materials
using recycled materials
compostable sewage options

The goal of green architecture is to build structures that give off zero emissions and that generate their own energy.

If you are interested in building a green home, then it is very important to hire the right people to help you design it. Hiring an architect or an architectural firm well-versed in eco-friendly design and construction will ensure that you have the proper planning, certification and studies done prior to the actual building of your project.

It is important to have a thorough assessment of your building site to determine the proper placement of your property to maximize passive heating and cooling options, the feasibility of renewable energy sources and the impact of the construction on the environment. Once all of these things have been determined, then a proper eco-friendly design can be proposed and the right materials can be sourced.

Green architecture might cost a little bit more than regular architecture, but costs are improving every year and the savings that you will see from better insulation and a lower footprint will more than compensate for the initial expenses.

Buying a Toronto Resale Home

150 150 Nisha Muire

Buying a resale home in Toronto is much the same as purchasing one in any other part of the country. Resale properties can be several different things – fixer-uppers that will permit you to buy into the neighbourhood of your choice, turnkey in a mature community with all of the services and infrastructure already in place or in-between these two scenarios. The reason for buying a resale home will likely depend on what you value most in your future home. If you want everything new and just the way you want it, then a new build is more likely a better fit for you. However, if you are hoping a save a bit of money while targeting the neighbourhood of your choice or if you want more land, then a resale home is likely where you’ll find what you want.

Where will I live?
Naturally the first thing you have to determine in your resale home search is location. It is best to narrow your search down to two or three neighbourhoods at the very most in order to conduct the most effective search. Be sure to talk to residents of your chosen neighbourhoods to find out about what you can expect when living there. Find out what the busiest streets are so that you can avoid them if possible and find out what you can expect from municipal services including trash removal, recycling initiatives and snow removal.

What you want
Next you should determine exactly that features are a “must-have” and which are a “would-be-nice-to-have” in your future home. Remember that things like colour, flooring, wall treatments and cabinetry are all cosmetic things that can be easily changed to your liking as long as the structural elements of the home are solid and sound.

Good bones
The foundation of the property should be solid. You should check that there hasn’t been any water damage. You should also check the plumbing and electricity to ensure that it is up to today’s code, or else you will be looking at a pretty penny to upgrade it.

The other thing to look for in a resale home is its potential. Is there space to expand at the back? On the side? Can you add a level? Is the property large enough to install a deck or a pool if so desired. On the inside, does the home have space to create an extra bedroom or a playroom or a media room? Can you finish the lower level or the attic for future use? Even if the home doesn’t have all of the features you want right now, if there is the space to add them later, then all you have to worry about is finding the budget to make them a reality.

The right agent
Lastly, finding the right agent to help you find the perfect resale home in Toronto is one of the smartest moves you can make. An agent will have access to listings that aren’t yet on the market and to listings that have just hit the market. Agents have connections that an ordinary house-hunter won’t have. They can steer you in the right direction, find properties that match your search criteria and assist with all of the paperwork and legalities involved with a house sale.

Resale homes provide homebuyers with the opportunity to often get a bigger lot than they would with a new home, to live closer to town and to enjoy the benefits of a mature neighbourhood.

Buying a Toronto Condo or House Off-Plan

150 150 Nisha Muire

Toronto’s property market has yielded excellent returns on investment over the last decade-and-a half, so it is not surprising that so many people are eager to jump into this booming sector before they are completely priced out. As it is the cost of buying a home in the city is prohibitive for many young executives and families. One of the better ways to find the right property in the right location at the right price is to buy off-plan. All this means is that you will be buying the place from the developer’s blueprints and specs.

A Matter of Research
Although buying off-plan might seem like a huge risk, if you do your research properly, it is one of the best ways to guarantee an increase in your investment almost immediately. While there are risks to buying off-plan, you can mitigate them by knowing the developer, researching their other developments, finding out whether they have any outstanding complaints against them, finding out what customers who bought in their other developments have to say about them and gauging the level of interest in the project.

What to look for
Naturally the first thing to look for in an off-plan project is location – this holds true for either condos or single-family homes. You will want the development to be close to shopping and transportation and close to whatever else you might deem necessary such as:
lifestyle services

You should also look for the amenities that the project will contain and the number of phases projected for the development. If you are buying off-plan for phase one and there are four more phases planned, then get ready to live with constant construction in your backyard for several years while the rest of the phases are completed. If there are going to be several phases all sharing the same facilities, then you might run into a question of crowding and your complex will have high traffic.

The cost of buying off-plan will be another consideration. Naturally you will want to bargain for the best price, but don’t be afraid to ask the developer to throw in upgrades such as better appliances, counters or finishes.

Price will be easier to negotiate on projects that are not selling as fast as hot-properties. Also, the number of upgrades you want will affect your bottom line. However, keep in mind that getting the upgrades you want now is far smarter than renovating later on, so spending a bit more up front is definitely worth it in the long run.

Included in the price category are the ancillary costs that you will be called upon to pay later on – maintenance fees, utility fees and infrastructure fees. Make sure that those costs won’t negate any savings you made in buying off-plan.

Buying off-plan guarantees you a minimum 10% return on your investment. As most people are skittish about investing in something that hasn’t yet been built, developments are always priced about 5% lower than when it is built. When a project is finished the price increases by about another 5%. So, if you are willing, buying from a plan is one of the best ways to ensure your real estate buying dollar goes as far as it can.

First Time Fixer-Upper In Toronto

1024 683 Chris

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.

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
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

1024 766 Chris

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!

Real Estate Resolutions

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Entering the Ontario property market can be a daunting thought. However, with the New Year just hours away, there’s never been a better time to buckle down your short list of Toronto real estate goals to start the next twelve months off on solid footing. You can now sweep away the old to make way for the new and if you plan on purchasing a home within the next year, then planning for it and budgeting for it are the best ways to ensure that you will be bringing in 2016 in a new home.

While the Toronto property market does not show any signs of slowing as yet, there is hope for those hoping to either enter the real estate game for the first time or to move up to a more luxurious home and neighborhood. In one of our previous articles, found here //bit.ly/1wWtlPf we cover up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city that still offer very good value for money while in this article over here //bit.ly/1xq0sui we talk about the city’s most prestigious neighborhoods. In a third article found here //bit.ly/1wDaJS5 we discuss how urbanization is going to be keeping housing prices up in Canada’s most popular cities including Toronto.

To join Toronto’s real estate game you need to first put together a realistic budget of just how much home you can afford. Next, you need to research those neighborhoods with the kind of homes and services you want in order to lead the kind of lifestyle you envision for yourself. Once you have a budget and a short list of the neighborhoods in which you are interested, next you need to decide what features you want in a house. After listing all of the features important to you, whittle that list down to “must-haves” and “would be nice to have” columns. The “must haves” will be those elements that you definitely want in a home. Although it might sound silly to do this, it is important because, depending on your budget and the neighborhoods you want, you might have to comprise to get the most that you can afford.

Lastly, when looking for a new place, you need to get a hold of a good realtor who can show you the ropes of property buying and who can steer you toward the best deal and those properties offering the most value for your money. A good realtor will not only help you find a home, but they will only show you the kind of home that would interest you, in the communities of your choice.

Once all of these elements are in place, you are sure to find the perfect pad for your family.

Home for the Holidays

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The Toronto real estate sector has given countless families the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in the comfort of their very own residence. Owning your own home means being able to decorate it as you wish, being able to create rituals and being able to build memories that will carry through for a lifetime. Our own memories of holiday happiness are all directly linked with our familial homes and the fun of gathering there with family and friends every year to celebrate during the festive season.

Even though it has been years since we have all grown up and left the nest, we all inevitably flock back to our parents’ homes every holiday season to decorate our trees, bake seasonal treats and catch up with all that we have missed in each other’s lives over the past year. Sometimes it is the one time of year where we can all get together given the distance that separates us and the hectic schedules all families tend to fall into when children are young, careers are on the rise and time is at a premium.

Finding the perfect home for your holiday celebrations can be tough when faced with a red-hot property market such as what we have experienced over the past decade-and-a half in Toronto and its surrounding suburbs. However, when there is a solid financial plan in place and you have the assistance of an experienced realtor behind you, then locating that hidden gem in the location of your choice is possible.

Although holiday home sales are few and far between, sometimes it is the best time to find a great deal. Usually people tend to put house hunting on the back burner for the holidays in order to focus on preparing for the festive season. However, Toronto properties that have been languishing on the market or new listings can sometimes be had for very good prices when owners want to start new by closing the year with a sale.

Regardless of when you purchase your home, owning your own pad will mean having a place for your family to experience the joy of the holidays for years to come.

Toronto’s Trendiest Neighbourhoods

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Toronto has always had its fair share of hip and happening communities – those gems of art, culture, indie businesses and street-cred. Homebuyers interested in living in or near such neighborhoods require more than just a roof over their heads – they want a community where artists, students, mom-and-pop shops, restos and galleries thrive. They want a community – not just a neighborhood. They want to participate and they want to engage. So, where are those happening hot-spots right now? Read on for a look at four of Toronto’s trendiest neighborhoods.

Queen Street West
Toronto’s Queen Street West community was given a recent shout-out by no less than Vogue Magazine as the second-best place to find the “hippest street-style in the world.” In its September 2014 issue the iconic magazine ran a spread entitled, “Global Street Style Report: Mapping Out the 15 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World.” The neighborhood was recognized for its concentration of “indie patisseries, homegrown labels, and hidden-from-view galleries.” With such a ringing endorsement from the world’s foremost tastemakers, there is little doubt that this hotspot delivers everything required from a trendy borough.

The Annexe
When it comes to street-cred, students have it all figured out; that is why The Annexe is number two on our shortlist of trendy spots to nest in Toronto. Roughly encompassing the area surrounding the University of Toronto, the area abounds with cheap eats, book stores and rep houses and other forms of entertainment. Although primarily filled with student housing, growing numbers of people are snapping up real estate to convert back into single-family homes given the area’s proximity to downtown, the large, tree-lined streets and the beautiful properties that are available. If you don’t want to spend your evenings at home and you want to be in the heart of the action, then The Annexe is definitely the place for you.

The Beaches
Another trendy Toronto neighborhood is The Beaches. Encompassing the beaches of Balmy, Scarborough, Kew and Woodbine, the popular stretch downshifts from the frenetic vibe of the first two hotspots on this list into something far more relaxed. Catering to those who want a laid-back setting and lifestyle services such as yoga studios, cafés, specialty shops and holistic healing centres, The Beaches also boasts a fantastic boardwalk, biking trails and lovely parks.

The Distillery
Probably one of the most captivating neighborhoods is that of The Distillery district. Formerly home to the city’s distilleries, the gorgeous collection of Victorian industrial buildings has been transformed over the last ten years into a veritable museum of repurposed functionality and is now home to brilliant craftspeople and artisans and is considered the city’s premier destination for arts, culture and entertainment. Even National Geographic Travel was impressed enough by the neighborhood to include it in its piece entitled, “A Virtual Walk Through Toronto.”

For information on other places offering a rich cultural setting in Toronto, go to //www.blogto.com/.

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