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Home Renovations: Reality Television vs. Actual Reality

Millions love watching home reno shows – but how easy is it to do (and fund) such projects in real life? As seen in REW.ca

Home renovation shows are very popular today and are one of our favorite shows to watch. These shows are not only entertaining but tend to lead you to think how easy and quick it is to renovate your home. And we know that viewers enjoy the shows more when they are filmed in Vancouver as you recognize certain landmarks or streets, which you see often when you watch shows like Love it or List it Vancouver and Game of Homes. However, television shows are unrealistic, highly edited and can mislead people on the renovation process.

It’s true that we have become more knowledgeable about design and we definitely want the latest interior finishes and stylish open interiors that we see on television shows. But homeowners really need to understand all the less entertaining but very important factors involved in a home.

The Financing86800398 (2)

Most home renovations shows do not talk about the financing aspect of the renovation – that’s not considered “sexy” enough for TV. But it is one of the most important aspects of your project – how are you going to pay for it?

Before you commit to a renovation project, meet with a mortgage expert to help you assess your financial situation. Every person’s financial needs and options are unique.

When asked, most people say they are financing their renovation with a line of credit. While you are only required to make payments on the interest only, many people are under the impression that they can manage paying the interest and go ahead with the renovations. The danger with using this type of financing is that eventually the principal has to be paid and you end up paying huge interest costs.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) will give you a lower interest rate… if you currently have one in place. If you don’t, you will need to have at least 35 per cent of equity in your home to qualify for one (based on the current mortgage rules by the Bank Act).

Currently, you can refinance up to 80 per cent of the value of your home for a mortgage based on the appraised value. With today’s historical low interest rates, you will end up paying a higher interest rate on a line of credit or HELOC, and you are unlikely to pay down the principal compared to a lower interest rate with a closed mortgage where you pay principal and interest, saving you thousands in interest.

Another thing to consider if you are unable to pay off the debt quickly is that you might be better off to refinance your mortgage. It might be more beneficial to get a one- to five-year locked mortgage below three per cent by saving interest up front and using your lender’s pre-payment privileges. If you currently have a fixed-rate mortgage, find out what would be your penalty for paying it out early, it might still be worth it to refinance.

The BudgetBudget-Cost

On television, the designer often has some budget like $80,000 to renovate an entire main floor including the kitchen and finish the downstairs basement. The question is – are those numbers realistic? The reality is that we, as viewers, are not aware what has been factored into those numbers by the television producers such as design fees, permits, labour, material costs, and promotional giveaways, etc.

In order to have a realistic budget for your renovation, do research before you commit. Some people get a specific number set in their mind without knowing what is involved in the total scope of the renovation. It is critical in this step to work with a professional renovator as it will reduce surprises. Homeowners need to take responsibility for the renovator they select and for doing their homework.

A great source for proven renovators builders is an association such as The Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association (www.gvhba.org). As a general rule, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t automatically go for the lowest price.

A professional renovator will work with you to create a detailed budget and timeline for your project so you know what to expect. Once you start selecting materials it is a good idea to take the budget with you to ensure you stay within your budget. There are times that homeowners run out of money midway through the project because they made too many changes along the way or ended up selecting more expensive materials.

The Tim3d-character-and-question-mark-eline

On television, renovations are completed withi
n a few short weeks. The homeowners come in and are mesmerized by the transformation. The reality is that sometimes it can take up to eight weeks just for the kitchen cabinets to get built.

Before you start your renovation, prepare a timeline with a renovator so you know what to expect. By doing this, you will have an exact idea how long it will take to do the tasks and therefore plan accordingly.

Also, it’s important to remember that quality, professional renovators aren’t necessarily available right away. Some are booked months in advance, depending on the project. In order to stay on track, materials have to be bought ahead of time and certain items could be out of stock. It might take additional time to get them or in some cases replace them. It is important to remember that even fast projects still take a few months, while bigger projects can take up to a year to complete. Therefore, you need to be prepared.

consultation-photo

The Plans

On most of the renovation shows you have the interior designer come into the home with their assistants and an iPad and start moving walls and design the new space within minutes.

In real life, renovations can be boring because every step of the process is well planned. When it comes to structural changes in the home, such as moving walls, doors, windows or adding additions, a structural engineer may be required in order to obtain a permits. A renovator needs to plan for these type of engineering costs and time delays in order to complete the project.

So when you do your own renovations, it may not have all the excitement that you have seen on the television shows – but we do know this. As long as you take into consideration the above factors, you will be happy with the end result. One that – despite the time, effort and money involved – you will be proud to come home to.

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Credit card rules: How to wean yourself off credit card debt.

As seen in BC New Home Guide.

The Canadian government implemented credit card regulations that increases transparency and protects consumers. Here are some of the regulations:

  • Credit contracts and application forms must have a “summary box” that clearly explains interest rates, fees, and how long it would take to fully repay a balance if only minimum monthly payments are made.
  • Banks must give advance disclosure of interest rate increases, even if this information is already in the credit contract.
  • You must give your consent before your credit limit can be increased.
  • If you transfer your balance to a lower-interest card, your payments now have to be allocated in your favour.
  • There’s now a limit on certain debt collection practices used by financial institutions.
  • Banks can’t charge over-the-limit fees resulting from holds placed by merchants.
  • You have a minimum 21-day interest-free grace period on all new purchases if you pay your outstanding balance in full by the due date.

Eliminate-credit-card-debt1While critics don’t think these regulations go far enough to protect the consumer, at least the government is trying to make an effort to help consumers avoid predatory lending practices. And that’s a good thing.

However, an even better strategy is to start weaning yourself off of credit card debt. Unlike taking out a mortgage to buy a home or revenue property, buying stuff with your credit card at high interest rates doesn’t yield any returns – it simply gets you deeper in debt.

The following are some tips to help you use your credit card responsibly so you don’t pay unnecessary charges and get in trouble with credit card debt:

  • When you pay for something with a credit card, you are taking out a loan and you have to pay it back.
  • Pay the balance in full each month
  • If you can’t pay it in full, pay as much as you can
  • Don’t make only the minimum payment
  • If you always carry a balance, get a low rate card
  • Pay a few days before the due date
  • If you have a line of credit, transfer the balance to your line of credit with a lower rate. The goal is to pay down your debt and not go further into debt.

Put yourself on a budget, take a part-time job (or start a home business) and eventually get your credit cards paid off. You will be astonished how much extra money you will have to invest in assets that actually appreciate in value and put cash in your pocket!


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Coming out on top. Improve your chances, and reduce your stress, in a multiple offer situation.

As seen in the Metro Vancouver New Home Guide   .

Whether you are a first time buyer, looking at buying a bigger house or downsizing, if you are looking at buying an investment property it is important to be prepared. This spring a sellers’ market is in full swing, which is more noticeable in certain areas of the Lower Mainland. With historically low interest rates, buyers are making the jump into homeownership, because for many, their mortgage payments will be less than what they are paying in rent. It is certainly a great time to get into the market. However, in a sellers’ market buyers find themselves in competition with other buyers to purchase a home.

House in the hands of the man on a background of blue skyBuying a home can be exciting but having to compete for a home can add a bit more stress. In this case, a property’s asking price and what the property will sell for is quite different, and in most cases the selling price will be well above and beyond the listed price.

When a homebuyer goes into a multiple offer situation, they are less in control. As a buyer, you need to prepare yourself in doing work upfront and with the understanding that you might not get the property in the end.

During multiple offer situations, the seller is not obligated to negotiate or accept any of the offers. The seller has the liberty to choose the best offer to negotiate and they will accept the offer that best reflects their needs. While price is important, that will not be the only factor they consider. They will also look at things such as subject conditions, completion and possession dates.

Here are some things you can consider and help you feel more in control of the situation when going into multiple offer situations:

  • Get pre-qualified by a Mortgage Expert – One of the most imortgage_pre_approval_300mportant aspects of buying a home is knowing how much you qualify for. You will know what you are comfortable paying on a monthly basis but also what is the highest amount you can offer. While you might have been qualified, the lender still have to approve the property you are buying.
  • Prepare and have all your documentation ready – It is important that you provide your Mortgage Expert will all the documentation the lender is going to require upfront. Especially since time will be of essence, you don’t want the added stress of getting documentation when you are in the middle of negotiations and during the subject condition period.
  • Having the right real estate agent – It is critical that you have an agent that has your best interest in mind. As a buyer it is not your job to seal the deal, it’s your agent’s responsibility to know what is your limit and respect that. Don’t let your agent try to upsell you on the price and encourage you to go above your budget. It’s their job to research comparable properties in the area and advise you, but you are the one that makes the final decision. After all, it’s your money.
  • Set your boundaries – Onhome & calclatorce you set your budget, stick to it. Determine how exactly how much you can go over if you end up in multiple offers. Don’t get sucked in by emotion and peer pressure because in the end it can end up costing you a lot more money.
  • Consider doing a home inspection ahead of time – The buyer could consider your offer more readily if it doesn’t include a “subject to inspection” clause.
  • Be flexible – Winning a multiple offer situation might be as easy as agreeing to the seller’s conditions such as closing dates, buying the property “as is” or even tightening the subject removal dates. This is important if the seller has already bought another property and is anxious to moving on. By agreeing to make the transaction as easy as possible could mean winning over a more generous offer. When buying a property “as is” and limiting the subject conditions (such as requesting that a missing knob or floor tile be replaced) might work in your favour too. If your agent is aware of any information about the seller’s situation and if you can be flexible in any way, take advantage of this opportunity that might help you get your offer accepted.
  • first_time_buyers_480Write it down – Perhaps you might want to write a quick letter to the seller explaining who you are and why you want to buy their home so much. Buying and selling a home is an emotional time for everyone, especially if the seller has lived in that home for a long time and raised their family there. Sometimes, it’s not about the highest offer but it can certainly also be about an emotional connection. Even though your offer might be lower than the others, some sellers might feel a strong connection to your story and decide that it’s not about the money but about someone who will really appreciate a great home!
  • Know when it is time to walk away – Multiple offer situations can be stressful and sometimes listing agents strategically set the price of the home below market value to start a multiple offer situation. Make sure you stand firm.

Buying your home is about a great investment and you have to be smart about it. In the end, it’s about being comfortable on what you are paying a month and happy with the decisions you make. After all it’s about finding a home that will be a great place to start building equity and creating memories.


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Building your homeownership budget

Making the transition from renter to homeowner is likely one of the biggest decisions you’ll make throughout your lifetime. It can also be a stressful experience if you don’t plan ahead by building a budget and saving prior to embarking upon homeownership.

Budgeting is a core ingredient that helps alleviate the stress associated with money issues that can sometimes arise if you purchase a home without knowing all of the associated costs – including down payment, closing costs, ongoing maintenance, taxes and utilities.

The trouble is, many first-time homeowners fail to carefully think about their finances, plan a budget or set savings aside. And in this society of instant gratification, money problems can quickly escalate.

The key is to create a realistic budget based on your goals. Track your spending and make your dollars go further by sticking to your budget once it’s in place. Budgeting offers a step-by-step formula for figuring out how to best save your hard-earned money to invest in homeownership.

Following are three top tips to help you prepare for the purchase of your first home:

  1. Set up a savings account. You can deposit a predetermined amount into this account each pay period that you won’t touch unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will enable you to put money aside for a down payment and cover closing costs, as well as address ongoing homeownership expenses such as maintenance, taxes and utilities.
  2. Save up for big-ticket items. As you accumulate money in your savings account, you will be able to also save for specific purchases to help furnish your home – avoiding the buy now, pay later mentality, which can have a negative impact on your credit when you’re seeking mortgage financing.
  3. Surround yourself with a team of professionals. When you’re getting ready to make your first home purchase, enlist the service of a Licensed Mortgage Expert such as myself  and find a trusted real estate agent. Experts are invaluable as you set out on the road to homeownership because we help first-time buyers through the home purchase and financing processes every day. Experts can answer all of your questions and set your mind at ease. We have access to multiple lenders, and can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know exactly what you can afford to spend on a home before you head out house hunting, while a real estate agent will be able to match your needs with a house you can afford. Both parties will negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. And, best of all, these services are typically free. Experts will also be able to refer you to other reputable professionals you may need for your home purchase, including a real estate lawyer, home appraiser and a home inspector.