Plumbing & Maintenance Tips – Courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspections

A healthy plumbing system can help lessen the chance of leaks, ruptures, clogs and other not-so-nice events. Homeowners who take some basic precautions and implement a few simple steps can be more confident in the state of their home’s plumbing, and can save on costly repairs as well.
• Know where the main water shutoff valve is. This is normally very accessible so that the water to the whole house can be turned off in an emergency.
• Check the household water pressure with an inexpensive gauge from the hardware store. Excessive water pressure can damage pipes, faucets and washing machine valves, which can lead to leaks and dramatically shortened lifespans for these items. In general, water pressure should be between 40-80 psi. A plumber can install a pressure reducing valve near the main shutoff to correct this condition.
• Protect pipes from freezing by using pipe insulation where pipes are exposed to the cold. This includes outdoor faucets, garages, crawlspaces, and unfinished/unheated basements. Frozen pipes can burst and result in serious water damage to the home and belongings.
• Avoid using chemical drain cleaners. Though often effective, they can damage cast iron drainpipes and cause bigger problems. Snaking the drain is a better solution – keep a plumbing snake on hand or have a plumber do this.
• Do not put any kind of grease or cooking oils down the drain. These will just solidify as they travel through the pipes and can cause serious clogs further down the line. Instead, pour the grease into a paper cup or other disposable container and throw it away.
When it comes to plumbing, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure!
 

Multi-generational Housing

Courtesy of : Toby Welch http://www.remonline.com/full-house-multi-generational-housing/

Canada currently has 363,000 multi-generational homes, which accommodate three or more generations under one roof, and that figure is growing by the day. While multi-generational housing is commonplace in most parts of the world, it is only now becoming common in Canada.

Barbara Mitchell, professor of Sociology & Gerontology at the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., says, “The norm in Canada has historically been small nuclear households, but we’re seeing a rise in multi-generational families across cultural backgrounds and people are living long enough that we’re seeing more four-generation households.”

It is a common misconception that the sole reason behind multi-generational homes is cultural. In some cultures it is typical and expected that multiple generations of families will live together, but that makes up a small portion of multi-generational houses in Canada. Other reasons behind the skyrocketing trend include:
•Have help with childcare
•Have others around to keep an eye on the house
•Financial reasons, including economic advantages of shared housing costs
•Strengthen family ties
•Higher than average unemployment rates in some parts of Canada
•Desire to be around to help aging family members
•Prevent a sense of social isolation
•Rising cost of home ownership
•Health care reasons, including limited options for assisted living in some parts of the country
•Reduced stigma of adult children living at home, a result of the higher cost of living, a tough job market and a high student debt load (42 per cent of 20-29 year olds currently live in the parental home.)

It’s not just kids moving home, either. Parents moving in with their grown children are making up a growing percentage of multi-generational homes. The average age of Canadians continues to rise, with 16 per cent of our population now at 65 or older.

John Geha, a past-president of Coldwell Banker Canada, had the following to say in a Coldwell Banker press release about the trend of multi-generational homes: “While saving money is certainly an incentive for buying a home that accommodates multiple generations, the benefits go beyond financial reasons. With two or three generations living under one roof, families often experience more flexible schedules, more quality time with one another and can better juggle caretaking responsibilities as health care issues arise.”

Peggy Blair
Peggy Blair

Peggy Blair, a sales representative with Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa, says, “I’ve represented clients whose children had both lost their jobs and wanted a home with enough space to help them out by having them move home. They wanted separation of space and the ability to be supportive without being invaded. I have also had clients who are looking at housing their own aging parents, so they want to find homes where the living space is easily navigable not just for their parents but themselves down the road. A lot of people in their 50s and 60s are very conscious of the fact that before long, stairs could be a real problem.”

The building industry across the country is responding to this trend. More cities are loosening zoning regulations to allow for multi-generational homes and neighbourhoods are being built to cater to these homeowners.

Tamarack Common in Edmonton is one such community. Builders are making the features that multi-family homebuyers want a priority in the homes they design. Metric Homes based in Ottawa offers a “Home Within a Home”, two separate dwellings that look from the outside like one large single family home. Each ‘home’ has its own private entrance and there is a common area between the two.

Some of the most popular features for multi-generational homes include:
•Separate entrances
•Renovated basements
•Addition or wing with extra bedrooms and/or another kitchen
•Wider doorways and hallways
•Main floor in-law suites
•Dual master bedrooms
•Additional living space above detached garages
•Converted attic spaces
•Insulated garages (to increase usable square footage)

Suzanne Botsifaras
Suzanne Botsifaras

Suzanne Botsifaras, a Re/Max Real Estate Centre broker in Burlington, Ont., indicated in the MLS listing for a multi-family home she sold that it was suitable for two generations. “I added an ‘in-law suite’ rider to my sign and promoted it as a unique property to my database and colleagues,” she says. Botsifaras recommends promoting multi-generational homes in advance of the listing.

Some sales reps are turning multi-generational households into a niche. By brushing up on cultural expectations and educating themselves on how to adapt properties to accommodate multiple families, agents can target these buyers and sellers. Keep an updated tally of listings in your area that are geared for multi-families so you are prepared when the call comes. Understanding the specific needs of multi-family buyers and targeting them just might label you a multi-generational homes expert.

Blair offers a twist on marketing these types of homes, “I recently had a listing that would have been well-suited for a multi-family home but it didn’t sell until we shifted the listing from residential to multi-family duplex. Investors, needless to say, are an entirely different kettle of fish, but they can see the potential in having a basement unit for extra income in a way that family members often can’t. If your board allows it, you may want to list the multi-generational residence both as a residence and as a multi-family unit, as we did, and emphasize its rental potential. If it’s only on the residential side, the investor won’t find it, whereas the person looking to bring in a little supplemental income won’t think to check the multi-family listings.”

Multi-generational housing may not be mainstream yet in Canada but at the rate that it’s growing, it may eventually overtake prototypical nuclear family homes.
 

No Surpise here- Oil shock drives consumer optimism to new low in Canada Prairies

Oil shock drives consumer optimism to new low in Canada Prairies

Falling crude prices and a slumping economy have driven consumer confidence in Canada’s energy-rich prairie provinces to a record low.

Nationally, the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index measuring optimism on personal finance, job security, housing and the economy fell to 52.3, from 53 a week earlier. Falling optimism on real estate helped drive the decline, with the share of those who expect home values to drop reaching its highest since 2009.

It’s the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, however, where the outlook is most grim. The index score there fell to 43.3, from 45.1 a week earlier and surpassing the previous record low of 43.9 in December 2008, the telephone polling showed. Tracking began in June 2008 for the index. Nationally, the share of those who say their personal finances are worse off than a year ago rose to 28 percent, the highest since 2013.

“The best indicator of how the drop in the price of a barrel of oil has shaken energy-rich prairie provinces in Canada is the fact the consumer confidence is at an eight year low,” even worse than the 2008-2009 recession, Nanos Research Group Chairman Nik Nanos said.

Sub-2% Growth

The consumer outlook rests, in part, on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming budget and what fiscal jolt he gives the economy, Robert Lawrie of Bloomberg Economics said.

“Private forecasts are calling for sub-2% real GDP growth until the third quarter of 2016, with the success of a fiscal response and the U.S. recovery likely to play a key role in determining household balance sheets,” he said.

National consumer optimism is now at its lowest point since August and below the 12-month average of 55.2. The index declined in every region except Ontario, where it rose slightly to 53.7 from 53.6 a week earlier.

Real estate expectations continue to sour. The share of respondents expecting home prices in their neighborhood to increase in value over the next six months fell to 29.4 percent, from 29.7 a week earlier. The share of those expecting real estate values to decrease in the same period rose to 22.7 percent, the highest level since January 2009.

The pocketbook sub-index score, measuring personal finances and job security, rose to 59.2 from 59 a week earlier. However, the national economic outlook, measuring expectations for real estate and the economy, fell to 45.5 from 47 a week earlier.

The Bloomberg Canada Nanos Confidence Index is compiled using a four-week rolling average of 250 respondents in a telephone poll, for a total sample size of 1,000. It’s considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Source – Josh Wingrove
©2016 Bloomberg News
 

What can investors expect this year?

The average national sale price is expected to hit $448,700 this year, an increase of 1.4% year-over-year, a far cry from the 8.4% year-over-year increase experienced in 2015.

Of course, not all regions will experience the same trends.

“It’s kind of like asking what’s the overall weather for Canada. It really depends on where you are,” Gregory Klump, chief economist for the Canadian Real Estate Association, told Yahoo Canada News. “The biggest thing to bear in mind is that when you hear about the Canadian housing market, you have to ask yourself where.”

Ontario is expected to experience the most price growth (+2.9 per cent) due to an listings shortage for single family homes. That will be exacerbated by the strong demand for those homes within the GTA, according to CREA.

“British Columbia and Manitoba are forecast to see average price gains of about two per cent in 2016, followed by Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the 1.5 per cent range, and by Quebec and New Brunswick with increases of less than one per cent,” CREA wrote.

As for sales, British Columbia is expected to experience the largest annual increase in sales activity in 2015 (+21.4 %), while Alberta (-21.4 %), Saskatchewan (-10.8 %), and Nova Scotia (-5.1 %) will record annual sales declines, CREA wrote in its most recent housing market forecast. Manitoba, meanwhile, is expected to see a 2.3% increase this year.

Source : Justin da Rosa
 

Investor forecast for 2016

The Canadian Real Estate Association has updated its forecast for 2016, with two provinces expected to lead the way.

“Since CREA’s last forecast published in September, housing markets in British Columbia and Ontario have strengthened further,” CREA said in its updated housing forecast. “As a result, CREA has raised sales and average price forecasts for these provinces.”

National sales for the rest of the year have also been revised higher.

Home sales in Ontario are expected to rise by 9.3%, which would be higher if prices in the GTA were more affordable, CREA said.

“British Columbia is projected to post the largest annual increase in sales activity in 2015 (+21.4 per cent), while Alberta (-21.4 per cent), Saskatchewan (-10.8 per cent), and Nova Scotia (-5.1 per cent) will record annual sales declines,” CREA said. “Activity in Manitoba is forecast to rise by 2.3 per cent this year.”

One bit of bad news, however, is that the recently announced mortgage rule changes – which will impact homes costing more than $500,000 – will have a larger reach than intended.

“Recently announced changes to mortgage regulations that take effect early next year risk cooling housing markets beyond Greater Vancouver and the GTA, their intended targets,” CREA said. “In particular, the regulatory changes are also likely to reduce sales activity in Calgary once they take effect in early 2016.”

Despite this, home sales are expected to reach 498,600 next year.

“The national average price is forecast to edge higher by 1.4 per cent to $448,700 in 2016,” CREA said. “Price gains in 2016 are forecast to be strongest in Ontario (+2.9 per cent) due to an ongoing shortage of listings for single family homes coupled with strong demand for them in and around the GTA.”

Source: Justin da Rosa
 

Down Payments are about to change!

New down payment rules will go into effective February 15, 2016.

“The Government’s role in housing is to set and maintain a framework that is equitable, stable and sustainable. The actions taken today prudently address emerging vulnerabilities in certain housing markets, while not overburdening other regions,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a release. “They also rebalance government support for the housing sector to promote long-term stability and balanced economic growth.”

The minimum down payment for new insured mortgages will increase from 5% to 10% for the portion of the house price above $500,000, the finance ministry wrote.

Minimum down payment for properties up to $500,000 will remain at 5%.

The changes are meant to reduce taxpayer exposure while supporting long-term stability of the housing market, according to the ministry.

“This measure will increase homeowner equity, which plays a key role in maintaining a stable and secure housing market and economy over the long term,” Morneau said. “It also protects all homeowners, including many middle class Canadians whose greatest investment is in their homes.”

Source – Justin da Rosa
 

Food For Thought

There are lots of stories online and in print touting the benefits of selling your home yourself, without using a real estate salesperson. Do-it-yourself property sales companies promise that you’ll save thousands of dollars in commissions.

What most home sellers on that path don’t know, however, can land them in major litigation and financial loss. DIY property sales companies will barely touch the subject or avoid it entirely.

DIY companies will tell you that by saving the agent’s commission, that money goes straight to your pocket. On a $388,000 home, a 4.5 per cent commission would land at just over $17,000. Wow, look at all those zeros you can put in the bank if you do it yourself!

What sellers don’t realize is that buyers are fully aware that sellers are not paying commission, so they don’t expect to either. Buyers will not pay inflated prices just so sellers can have lots of zeros in the bank.

On that same $388,000 home, you might pay a flat fee of $900 or so with DIY companies compared to the $17,000 slice that would cover real estate professionals’ costs. Comparing dollars to dollars, to sell DIY-style seems a straight-forward and obvious choice. The DIY companies sell consumers on the idea that real estate transactions are primarily about sales.

What home sellers don’t understand is that much of the real estate transaction is legal. And in the realm of legal loopholes, what you don’t know can land you in a world of financial pain.

Laura Riddle, in her book Sell Your Home Now, shares the story of a private seller who fell into such pain. The private seller met with a confident, smooth talking buyer.

“I know what I’m doing; let me help you with the paperwork,” the buyer had offered.

“So the seller signed a notarized quitclaim deed, which is the legal document that signs your house away forever, which normally escrow or the attorney holds until the last minute… The buyer had the quitclaim filed and got the house for a $10 filing fee. The case went to court. Be on your guard; getting a buyer is just one-tenth of the process,” says Riddle.

If getting a buyer is just one-tenth of the process, what are the other nine-tenths about then?

Shh… DIY sales companies don’t want you to think about that.

Homeowners don’t realize that DIY selling is a bit like choosing to represent oneself in court. It saves money but it’s incredibly risky. Most people wouldn’t dare, because they know they’re up against a skilled professional in a complicated arena and they could get really, really hurt. Somehow this common sense doesn’t translate to the realm of real estate, even though the legal implications are considerable.

In his article, The Shocking Hidden Costs of DIY Home Selling, Jeff Stern of Re/Max Performance Realty in Winnipeg points out an issue that can affect sellers in a big way, even after possession.

“Once possession date arrives … just before the bank releases funds, there is another inquiry into the buyer’s credit to confirm there have not been any negative changes.

The part you don’t know, but really should: anywhere from seven to 30 days after possession, the bank performs this final inquiry into the buyer’s credit. If there are any negative changes to their credit, the bank is not obligated to fund the sale. It is possible the bank would refuse to fund the purchase even after possession… It happens. Usually when it does, the real estate agent and the buyer will together scramble for another lender’s approval… It can lead to litigation, financial loss and a whole lot of pain.”

The bottom line is that DIY sellers proceed unprotected for most aspects of the transaction.

Let’s face it. There are great agents and not-so-great ones. Some can be intimidating to deal with. They may go to a homeowner’s door and pressure them into signing with them. They may even promise to bring a buyer, but only if the owner hires them. They’ll be convincing. They’ll turn on the charm. They’ll use guilt. A seller’s agent, however, is used to such tactics and can skilfully fend off bullies.

An agent also protects sellers from buyers. Sellers who must deal directly with buyers can be intimidated. Their non-sentimental criticism may bother the seller. They may be demanding about getting a discount. They also may just be looky-loos out for a Sunday afternoon. Agents offer a third-party, thick-skinned barrier from such time-consuming annoyances.

In real estate, as in law, what you don’t know can do more than just hurt you – it can land you in major litigation and financial loss.

In a 2012 article for MoneySense, David Hodges wrote: “Many people who choose the FSBO route find it a stressful, time-consuming grind. Take Tawnia Vihos, who tried selling her Ottawa home with a FSBO service, but gave up: ‘It totally pays to have a real estate agent. More exposure and fewer headaches.’”

Source: www.remonline.com – Kim Rempel
 

Holiday Fire Safety

Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a home structure fire was reported every 86 seconds in the U.S. in 2014. The fact is that many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented by homeowners. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home – and can save property and lives should disaster strike.
• All electrical devices including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpet or rugs as this creates a fire hazard.
• Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
• When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, papers – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended or where a child or pet could knock them over.
• Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard-wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Most municipalities now require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
• Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters, or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
• Kitchen fires know no season. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Handles of pots and pans should be turned away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
• Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Local fire departments can also provide recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
• Live Christmas trees should be kept in a water-filled stand and checked daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly-cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights on a dried-out tree.
• Candles add a festive feeling, and should be placed in stable holders and located away from curtains, drafts, pets, and children. Never leave candles unattended, even for a short time.
Holiday lights should be checked for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when joining two or more strands together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.

Source _ Pillar to Post
 

Attention home buyers.

The Liberal government could be about to impose tougher restrictions on homebuyers by raising the minimum downpayment for a government-insured mortgage. Mortgage expert Robert McLister says that there could be a sliding scale of downpayment requirements depending on the price of the home. The Huffington Post reports that it could mean a 10 per cent minimum for those buying a home of $700,000 or more; which would particularly hit those in Toronto and Vancouver where average prices are already above that level. Those buying a home above $501,000 would have to find 7 per cent as a minimum. The Finance Department told HuffPost Canada that it does not comment on unconfirmed policy options but that it regularly reviews policies in consideration of the housing market and wider economy.

Source- Steve Randall www.repmag.ca
 

Canadian millennials better prepared to buy homes

Canadian millennials are faring much better than those in the United States in the wake of the global financial crisis – especially when it comes to property.

According to a new report from Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s relatively rapid recovery from the crisis and its strong housing market helped boost the financial prospects of millennial workers. About half of Canadian millennials own real estate – a much higher home ownership rate than in previous generations at the same age, according to a report by the Business News Network. Meanwhile, just 36% of U.S. millennials are homeowners.

And rising home values mean that Canadian millennials have, on average, nearly double the net worth of young people in the U.S., according to the report. Millennial households in Canada are worth $156,000 on average, while young households in the States are worth an average of $76,000.

It’s not all wine and roses for young Canadians, however. The report said that Canada’s high home prices have left this country’s young people deeper in debt than their U.S. counterparts, with the average Canadian millennial owing about $113,000, compared to about $83,000 for U.S. millennials. And those higher debt loads mean Canadian millennials could be more vulnerable to a housing price correction, BNN reports.

Meanwhile, TD projects that Canada’s high home ownership rate has probably peaked, while the U.S. market has most likely bottomed out and is on the road to recovery, while higher levels of postgraduate education in the U.S. will help that country’s young workers to take advantage of its improving economy.

Source: Ryan Smith – Real Estate Professional- www.repmag.ca