Category Archives: Home Tips

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Renting vs. buying | Real estate | Investor Education Fund

Renting vs. buying | Real estate | Investor Education Fund.

Carpenter? Designer? DIY? Look No Further Than Your iPhone!

The iPhone has changed how we look at our everyday world. There was once a time where you needed to go to the home improvement store to buy a level when hanging pictures or shelves in your home, or consult an expert in the paint department to devise what colour you think would match your favourite pillow. Now, you can look no further than your iPhone!
With the vast amount of apps available, you can be sure that whether you’re a carpenter, designer, or just a person who loves a little DIY, you’ll be able to find the right app to help you get the job done.
These apps can help you choose paint colours based on a flower that you love in your backyard, develop a floor plan for re-designing a room, and even calculate the amount of drywall you will need for a job. There’s even an app to help schedule and remind you when things need regular maintenance around the house, such as maintenance on your lawn mower and changing your furnace filter! Here are 11 great apps to get you started.

Color Capture by Benjamin Moore & Co (FREE – 2 star rating) lets people snap a picture of a colour inspiration and instantly find its match from Benjamin Moore’s more than 3,300 paint colours. You can save your pictures and their coordinating colours to your Favorites, browse through Benjamin Moore’s inspirational color cards, and even locate your nearest Benjamin Moore retailer.

Dream Home & Dream Home HD by Apalon ($0.99 – 3 star rating) are irreplaceable apps if you’re craving for changes in your house, don’t mind adding new colors into your interior design and you are not afraid of experiments with your living space. Both iPhone and iPad versions showcase various styles in the interior design through high-resolution photos. If you are looking for a traditional or unusual design for your bedroom or want to add some modern decor elements into your living room or any other room in your house, then Dream Home is here to inspire you and push your creativity beyond limits.

Drywall Calculator by Jeremy Breaux ($0.99 – 3 star rating) is a handy app that assists you in easily figuring out square footage of a room. Whether you want to calculate just the walls, ceiling or a slope (triangle,) or any combination of the above. After you input your dimensions, total square footage is figured and displayed, along with the number of 4′ x 8′  (8′ is the default, you can change to any length) drywall sheets you will need.

Eden Garden Designer by Herbaceous Software Inc. ($1.99 – 3 1/2 star rating)  lets you create and share beautiful virtual gardens. Start with one of the included gardens, ready for planting, or create your own through your iPhone’s camera or photo library with a picture of your own garden if you want to ‘design before you dig.’ Then choose a plant from the color, height, planting zone and climate categories in the Plant Library.  Once you have chosen your plant, simply tap on the garden where you want it to grow and watch your plant come to life in vivid, photorealistic colours. If you are just beginning or are a real green thumb, Eden Garden Designer lets you design beautiful gardens without having to learn expensive and complicated garden design software.  Eden is designed to be a delightful and useful tool for gardeners of all abilities and interests.

Handy Man DIY by Wowzer Software ($1.99 – 3 1/2 star rating) is a feature packed home improvement planner disigned to assist you in renovating your home by providing the information you need to complete a new project. Need to find out how much paint, flooring or trim you need? Enter in your room measurements and let Handy Man DIY to the math. Handy Man DIY also takes the guesswork out of shopping with prebuilt material lists for common household projects, or you can build your own. It also allows you to enter price information to estimate project cost.

Home Improvement Calcs by Double Dog Studios ($1.99 – 4 star rating) has over 115 do-it-yourself and home improvement calculations and unit conversions. Not just calculators but the ability save and open saved calculations and add calculators to a favorites list.  You can also email calculator inputs and results so you can easily share your calculations.  Search functionality enables you to quickly find the calculator you want. Current calculators include: Concrete & Bricks, Electrical, Framing, Heating & A/C, Interiors, Lumber & Materials, Miscellaneous, Yard, Area, Volume & Angle, Conversions, & Linear Measurement.

Home Maintenance by POJO Software Inc. ($4.99 – not yet rated) is an application that tracks the upkeep of your biggest investment—your home.   Home Maintenance alerts you to items in your home that need repair or inspection according to a schedule set by you.  Choose from the application’s predefined list of suggested items and how to care for them or create your own.  Maintain a service history for all items along with details of the repairman, cost and date last serviced.  Home Maintenance will automatically update your next service schedule and visually warn you when items are due for servicing.  You will never need to wonder when it was that you last replaced the shingles on the roof and you will know exactly how to prolong the life of your water heater so it doesn’t end up leaking all over your basement floor. This app is your one-stop shop for all your home’s maintenance needs.

iHandy Carpenter by iHandy Inc. ($1.99 – 4 star rating) is an app that is like having a ruler, protractor, bubble leveler, plumb bob, and surface leveler all in the palm of your hand. Whether you are hanging a picture and need the leveler, or you are mitering the corners of crown molding, this app is for you!

inchCALC by River Studio ($1.99 – 3 star rating) is an entry level construction calculator for people who work with the FEET – INCH – FRACTION dimensions used on common rulers and tape measures. inchCALC takes inputs directly in the same FEET – INCH – FRACTION units as tape measures & rulers, does the calculations, and displays the answers in the same units. Also available is inchCALC+ ($4.99 – 4 star rating) which is the PRO level version, and contains more features than inchCALC.

MagicPlan by Sensopia (FREE – 4 star rating) measures your rooms and draws your floor plan just by taking pictures. You can then get your floor plan in PDF, JPG and DXF format or publish an interactive floor plan on the web. With MagicPlan, everyone can create a floor plan in only a few minues.

Mark on Call – Home Design Interior Space Planning Tool by M.O.C. Interior Designer, LLC. ($1.99 – 3 1/2 star rating) is an easy-to-use app that makes designing and space planning your room easy. It’s like having a personal product showroom with an on-call interior designer right at your fingertips. You can plan, preview and carry out your design visions while staying organized and within budget.

Homebuying Step by Step – Step 5: Now That You’re a Homeowner!

Your Financial Responsibility

Make Your Mortgage Payments on Time

You can make your mortgage payments monthly, biweekly or weekly. But, whichever timetable you’ve chosen, it’s important to always make payments on time. Making late payments is called delinquency. Delinquency may result in late charges and negatively affect your credit rating. Failing to make payments can even lead to very serious consequences, like foreclosure.

A good way to prevent late payments is to have the amount automatically deducted from your account every month. It’s also recommended that you keep at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments in savings for emergency situations. If you are having trouble making payments, discuss the situation with your lender.

Plan for the Costs of Operating a Home

Besides your mortgage, property taxes and insurance, operating a home has many other ongoing costs. Maintenance and repair costs are at the top of the list. There may be other costs as well, for example a security alarm, snow removal, or gardening. If you have a condominium or strata, some of these expenses may be included as part of your monthly maintenance fee.

Save for Emergencies

Even when you can do repairs yourself, there are costs. When you have to pay for repairs, the costs are higher. As your home ages, it will need major repairs or replacement — this happens to every building. For example, when you bought your home, you might already know that the roof will need to be replaced in a few years because of its age. These are expected repairs and can be planned for. However, many repairs are unexpected, and can sometimes be costly.

Set aside an emergency fund to deal with unexpected problems ranging from major repairs to illness and job loss. A good guideline is to save 5% of your take-home pay, and to keep the money in a special account.

Live Within Your Budget

Prepare a monthly budget and stick to it. Take a few minutes every month to check your spending and see if you are meeting your financial goals. If you spend more than you earn, you must find new ways to save. If you are having trouble sticking to your budget, ask a professional money manager for help.

If you haven’t already reviewed your budget, now is the perfect time. Use the helpful CMHC worksheet Household Budget as Homeowner.

Home Maintenance

Maintenance, repair, and renovations are a normal part of homeownership. You will need to know about your home’s basic components, and know the actions you will need to take to adjust these systems or turn them off in case of emergency.

You’ll need to inspect your home regularly, and replace, or repair, parts and materials that wear out.  And of course, since Canadian seasons can be so extreme, you’ll need to do many maintenance tasks on a seasonal basis.

Is your Home Safe?

Fire Evacuation Plan

Do you have a fire evacuation plan? A plan means that you make sure everyone in your home knows how to get out from each room, in case of a fire. If your home has a second floor, you need a special escape plan to get to the ground. Check to see that windows have not been painted shut. Although doors and windows should always be securely locked, you have to be able to open them in an emergency.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers must always be easy to reach. If you have a two storey home, there should be a fire extinguisher on each floor. Remember to check your fire extinguishers at least once a year. To help you remember, make a habit of doing it when you set your clocks to Daylight Saving Time. Replace a fire extinguisher that is 10 years or older.

Smoke Alarms

In some areas, it is a legal requirement to have smoke alarms in your home. Whether or not it is a legal requirement, having smoke alarms is an excellent precaution. Check smoke alarm batteries at least once a year.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless, poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide detectors are important to have. They will let you know if there are high levels of carbon monoxide in your home. This can save you from illness, or even death. Check them at least once a year. Make a habit of checking your fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors all at the same time.

Fire Hazards

Paper, paint, chemicals and other clutter can be a fire hazard. Make sure these are stored in a safe place. When you no longer need the hazardous materials, you must dispose of them at a community toxic waste center. Never put hazardous materials into the garbage.

Valuables

Collect your important papers and store them in a safe place — for example, a fireproof box, or a safety deposit box.

Emergency Numbers

Keep a list of emergency phone numbers (including 911, poison prevention line, doctors, relatives, neighbours and friends) close to the phone. Make sure your children are aware of the list.

Home Improvements

Besides doing regular maintenance and repairing your home, you might also want to consider renovating or making improvements. These changes will not only make the home more pleasant for you to live in, they may also increase its value.

How Much is Just Right?

When planning renovations, be careful not to go overboard unless you plan to stay in your home for many years. If you are planning to sell your house, make sure that your changes won’t make your home worth a lot more than the other homes around you. The value of your home is closely related to the other homes in your area.

Over time, some renovations can practically pay for themselves, especially if they result in savings on utility bills, a higher selling price or years of greater comfort and enjoyment in your home.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning a change or renovation:

  • Ask yourself, “How appealing will this change be to someone buying my home in the future?” You can make very personalized changes with paint. Paint is inexpensive and can easily be changed. But, flooring, cabinets and countertops have a longer life — make choices that will also appeal to others.
  • Think about getting your home energy-rated. This will tell you how energy efficient your home is and what improvements are possible. Visit Natural Resources Canada at www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca to find information on current energy programs.
  • Updating the bathrooms and kitchen in an older home can increase its resale value.
  • Landscaping is important. The right planting can improve the appearance and value of your home.
  • Updating your exterior paint, installing new roofing, resurfacing your walkways and driveway, and adding attractive mailboxes can help make your home more appealing.

To view this step in more detail you can visit CMHC’s website.

Click here for more information on this weeks blog topic!

Homebuying Step by Step – Step 4: The Buying Process

Starting Your Search

Here are some ways to begin looking for your new home:

  • Word-of-mouth Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a new home. Surprising things sometimes happen. For example, you might hear about a home that is just becoming available on the market.
  • Newspapers and real estate magazines Check the new homes section in daily newspapers. Look for the free real estate magazines available at newsstands, convenience stores and other outlets. These publications are free and give pictures and short descriptions of homes for sale.
  • The Internet Check out real estate websites, such as realtor.ca. These websites give information and pictures of a wide range of properties. Most sites let you search by location, price, number of bedrooms, and other features.
  • “For Sale” signs Drive, bike or walk around a neighbourhood that interests you and look for “For Sale” signs. This is a good way to find homes that are being sold by the owner and are not listed with an agent.
  • Visit new development sites If you are looking for a newly built home, you can see available models and get information from builders.
  • Work with a realtor For most buyers, a realtor is key to finding the right home.

Useful Tips for Your Search

  • Keep records Whether you have a realtor or are looking by yourself, visit lots of homes before choosing one. Some things to compare are the home’s energy rating, utility costs, property taxes and major repairs. These will affect your monthly housing expenses. You can ask to see copies of utility and other bills. Use the CMHC Home Hunting Comparison Worksheet to make sure you get all the information you need to compare homes.
  • Check out the property’s current financing If the existing mortgage on the home is favourable, it may be possible to take it over from the vendor. It may even be possible to get a vendor take back mortgage, to help close the deal.
  • Think twice Even if a home seems perfect, go back and take a closer, more critical look at it. Visit it on different days and different times of the day. Chat with the neighbours. Look deeper — don’t be distracted by attractive surface details.
  • Energy Rating Some houses and most new homes in Canada have an Energy Rating that describes the energy efficiency of the home. An energy-rated home usually has a sticker with the rating on the electrical panel. The energy rating is on a 0 – 100 scale. The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient is the home, and the less it costs to operate.
  • CMHC statistics and analysis CMHC has the latest statistical information and analysis of housing trends. Our Market Analysis Centre tracks information for local, provincial and national markets.

Making an Offer to Purchase

After you have found the home you want to buy, you need to give the vendor an Offer to Purchase (sometimes called an Agreement of Purchase and Sale). It is very helpful to work with a realtor (and/or a lawyer/notary) to prepare your offer. The Offer to Purchase is a legal document and should be carefully prepared.

These items are typically included:

  • Names: Your legal name, the name of the vendor and the legal civic address of the property.
  • Price: The price you are offering to pay.
  • Things included: Any items in or around the home that you think are included in the sale should be specifically stated in your offer. Some examples might be window coverings and appliances.
  • Amount of your deposit
  • The closing day: The closing day is the date you take possession of the home. It is usually 30 – 60 days after the date of agreement. But, it can be 90 days, or even longer.
  • Request for a current land survey of the property.
  • Date the offer expires: After this date the offer becomes null and void — that means it’s no longer valid.
  • Other conditions: Other conditions may include a satisfactory home inspection report, a property appraisal, and lender approval of mortgage financing. This means that the contract will become final only when the conditions are met.

What Happens After You Make an Offer to Purchase?

Imagine that your realtor has helped you prepare an Offer to Purchase. This offer includes all the details of the sale. To be extra cautious (since you know an Offer to Purchase is legally binding) ask your lawyer to look at it before showing it to the vendor. The realtor presents the offer to the vendor. What can you expect to happen next? There are three possible responses.

  • Response 1 The vendor accepts your offer. The deal is concluded and you move on to the next steps in the buying process.
  • Response 2 The vendor makes a counter-offer. The counter-offer might ask for a higher price, or different terms. You can sign the offer back to the vendor, offering a higher price than your original offer, but lower than the vendor’s counter-offer. If the vender accepts this counter-offer, the deal is concluded.
  • Response 3 The vendor makes a counter-offer, asking for a higher price or different terms. If a counter-offer is returned to you at a higher price, ensure that you know exactly how much you can afford before you start negotiating. You don’t want to get caught up in the heat of the moment with costs you can’t afford. You reject the counter-offer because the price is still too high, or you can’t agree to the conditions. The sale doesn’t go through, and your deposit is returned.

Getting a Mortgage

Once your Offer to Purchase has been accepted, go to see your lender. Your lender will verify (and update, if necessary) your financial information and put together what’s needed to complete the mortgage application. Your lender may ask you to get a property appraisal, a land survey, or both. You may also be asked to get title insurance. Your lender will tell you about the various types of mortgages, terms, interest rates, amortization periods and, payment schedules available.

Depending on your down payment, you may have a conventional mortgage or a high-ratio mortgage.

Types of Mortgages

Conventional Mortgage

A conventional mortgage is a mortgage loan that is equal to, or less than, 80% of the lending value of the property. The lending value is the property’s purchase price or market value — whichever is less. For a conventional mortgage, the down payment is at least 20% of the purchase price or market value.

High-ratio Mortgage

If your down payment is less than 20% of the home price, you will typically need a high-ratio mortgage. A high-ratio mortgage usually requires mortgage loan insurance. CMHC is a major provider of mortgage loan insurance. Your lender may add the mortgage loan insurance premium to your mortgage or ask you to pay it in full upon closing.

Mortgage Term

Your lender will tell you about the term options for the mortgage. The term is the length of time that the mortgage contract conditions, including interest rate, will be fixed. The term can be from six months up to ten years. A longer term (for example, five years) lets you plan ahead. It also protects you from interest rate increases. Think carefully about the term that you want, and don’t be afraid to ask your lender to figure out the differences between a one, two, five-year (or longer) term mortgage.

Mortgage Interest Rates

Mortgage interest rates are fixed, variable or adjustable.

Fixed Mortgage Interest Rate

A fixed mortgage interest rate is a locked-in rate that will not increase for the term of the mortgage.

Variable Mortgage Interest Rate

A variable rate fluctuates based on market conditions. The mortgage payment remains unchanged.

Adjustable Mortgage Interest Rate

With an adjustable rate, both the interest rate and the mortgage payment vary, based on market conditions.

Open or Closed Mortgage

Closed Mortgage

A closed mortgage cannot be paid off, in whole or in part, before the end of its term. With a closed mortgage you must make only your monthly payments — you cannot pay more than the agreed payment. A closed mortgage is a good choice if you’d like to have a fixed monthly payment. With it you can carefully plan your monthly expenses. But, a closed mortgage is not flexible. There are often penalties, or restrictive conditions, if you want to pay an additional amount. A closed mortgage may be a poor choice if you decide to move before the end of the term, or if you want to benefit from a decrease of interest rates.

Open Mortgage

An open mortgage is flexible. That means that you can usually pay off part of it, or the entire amount at any time without penalty. An open mortgage can be a good choice if you plan to sell your home in the near future. It can also be a good choice if you want to pay off a large sum of your mortgage loan. Most lenders let you convert an open mortgage to a closed mortgage at any time, although you may have to pay a small fee.

Amortization

Amortization is the length of time the entire mortgage debt will be repaid. Many mortgages are amortized over 25 years, but longer periods are available. The longer the amortization, the lower your scheduled mortgage payments, but the more interest you pay in the long run. If each mortgage term is five years, and the mortgage is amortized over 20 years, you will have to renegotiate the mortgage four times (every five years).

Payment Schedule

A mortgage loan is repaid in regular payments — monthly, biweekly or weekly. More frequent payment schedules (for example weekly) can save some interest costs by reducing the outstanding principal balance more quickly. The more payments you make in a year, the lower the overall interest you have to pay on your mortgage.

New Home Warranty Programs

Each province has new home warranty programs.

British ColumbiaSee the Homeowner Protection Office at www.hpo.bc.ca for the most up-to-date list of warranty programs. These include:

Lombard Canada New Home Warranty Program: www.lombard.ca

Travelers Guarantee Company of Canada (formerly London Guarantee Insurance Company): www.travelersguarantee.com

National Warranty Program Ltd.: (includes Royal and Sun Alliance) www.nationalhomewarranty.com

Pacific Home Warranty Insurance Services Inc. (Echelon General Insurance Company): www.pacificwarranty.com

Willis Canada Ltd (Commonwealth Insurance): www.williswarranty.com

Alberta

Progressive New Home Warranty Program (Echelon General Insurance Company): www.progressivewarranty.com

National Home Warranty Program Ltd.: www.nationalhomewarranty.com

New Home Warranty Program of Alberta: www.anhwp.com

Blanket Home Warranty Ltd.: www.blankethomewarranty.ca

Saskatchewan

Progressive New Home Warranty Program (Echelon General Insurance Company): www.progressivewarranty.com

National Home Warranty Program Ltd.: www.nationalhomewarranty.com

New Home Warranty Program of Saskatchewan: www.nhwp.org

Blanket Home Warranty Ltd.: www.blankethomewarranty.ca

Manitoba

Progressive New Home Warranty Program (Echelon General Insurance Company): www.progressivewarranty.com

National Home Warranty Program Ltd.: www.nationalhomewarranty.com

New Home Warranty Program of Manitoba: www.mbnhwp.com

Blanket Home Warranty Ltd.: www.blankethomewarranty.ca

Ontario

Tarion Warranty Corporation: www.tarion.com

Quebec

Garantie des maisons neuves de l ’APCHQ: www.gomaison.com

Garantie des maisons neuves de l’ACQ: www.acq.org

La garantie des maîtres bâtisseur: www.maitresbatisseurs.com

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

Atlantic Home Warranty Program: www.ahwp.org

Lux Residential Warranty Program: www.luxrwp.com

Progressive New Home Warranty Program (Echelon General Insurance Co.): www.progressivewarranty.com

Closing Day

Closing day is the day when you finally take legal possession and get to call the house your home. The final signing usually happens at the lawyer or notary’s office.

These are the things that happen on closing day:

  • Your lender will give the mortgage money to your lawyer/notary.
  • You must give the down payment (minus the deposit) to your lawyer/notary. You must also give the remaining closing costs.
  • Your lawyer/notary
    • Pays the vendor
    • Registers the home in your name
    • Gives you the deed and the keys to your new home

Moving

Hiring a Mover

When planning your move, friends or relatives may be able to recommend a professional moving company. Don’t forget to ask the mover for references. Ask the mover for an estimate and outline of fees (Do they charge a flat rate or hourly fee?). Once you’ve chosen a mover, ask them to come to your home to see what will be moved in case the estimate needs to be changed.

You’ll want to ensure that your belongings are insured during the move. Your home or property insurance may cover goods in transit. Call your broker or insurance company to be sure. Ask if you are fully covered. Many moving companies offer additional insurance coverage. Be aware that professional movers are not responsible for items such as jewellery, money, or important papers. Move these yourself to keep them safe.

If you decide to do your own packing, keep in mind that you will need the proper materials, and that packing can take up a lot of time.

Moving Day

On moving day, go through the house with the van supervisor and give him (or her) any special instructions. The supervisor will note the condition of your goods on an inventory list. Go through the house with the supervisor to make sure the list is complete and accurate. When the van arrives at your new home, mark off the items on the mover’s list as they are unloaded. If you paid for the movers to unpack boxes and remove packing materials, remember that they will not put dishes or linens into cupboards.

Moving day is almost always tiring. But, planning ahead will make the transition as smooth as possible.

Moving Costs

The amount you spend depends on your decisions about many things. Here are some to think about:

  • Do you want to hire professional movers?
  • If so, will it be a large company, or a smaller local moving company?
  • Will you need to buy insurance to protect your items in transit?
  • If you plan to move yourself, will you rent a vehicle?
  • Will your current auto or home insurance policy cover your items during the move?
  • Will you have to pay utility companies a fee to connect their services in your new home? Are there other utility charges (such as a deposit)?

Post-Closing Costs

Changing the Locks

When you move into your new home you’ll want to change the exterior door locks for security. After all, you want only the people you choose to have the key to your new home. You can change the locks yourself, or call a locksmith to do the job.

Cleaning

Both your old home and your new home should be given a thorough cleaning at moving time. Whether you’re buying cleaning supplies and doing it yourself, or hiring someone to clean for you, the costs can really add up. Plan for this expense.

Decorating

You might want to re-paint, replace some light fixtures, refinish the floor, re-carpet, or do any number of other re-decorating tasks. Plan your budget, and consider postponing some projects for a period of time.

Appliances

If your offer to purchase didn’t include appliances, and if you don’t have your own, you will have to buy them when you move into your new home. Some appliances might have installation charges.

Tools and Equipment

When you own your own home, you can no longer call the landlord to do repairs. You’ll need to own some basic hand tools and possibly some gardening and snow clearing equipment.

To view this step in more detail you can visit CMHC’s website.

Homebuying Step by Step – Step 3: Which Home is Right for You?

Once you have a good idea about your finances, you’ll need to think clearly about the home you’d like to buy.

Your Needs — Now and in the Future

Try to buy a home that meets most of your needs for the next 5 to 10 years, or find a home that can grow and change with your needs.

Here are some things to consider.

Size How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms do you need? Do you need space for a home office? What kind of parking facilities do you need? For how many cars?

Special features Do you want air conditioning? If so, what type? Do you want storage or hobby space? Is a fireplace or a swimming pool high on your list? Do you have family members with special needs? Do you want special features to save energy, enhance indoor air quality, and reduce environmental impact?

Lifestyles and stages No matter what type of housing you choose, you must have a clear idea of your needs today, as well as your possible future needs. These are some examples of questions homebuyers might ask: Do I plan to have children? Do I have teenagers who will be moving away soon? Am I close to retirement? Will I need a home that can accommodate different stages of life? Do I have an older relative who might come to live with me?

The CMHC worksheet Home Features Checklist can help you think about what you need today, and what you may need in the future. Complete the worksheet and print it.

FlexHousing™ is a housing concept that incorporates, at the design and construction stage, the ability to make future changes easily and with minimum expense, to meet the evolving needs of its occupants.

What Location Should You Choose?

Location is a critical factor. A home with everything you need, in the wrong location, is probably not the right home for you. Here are some things to consider about location.

  • Do you want to live in a city, a town or in the countryside?
  • How easy will it be to get to where you work? How much will the commuting cost?
  • Where will your children go to school? How will they get there?
  • Do you need a safe walking area, or recreational facility, such as a park, nearby?
  • How close would you like to be to family and friends?

Download a copy of the Your Next Move: Choosing a Neighbourhood with Sustainable Features fact sheet.

What is a Sustainable Neighbourhood?

A sustainable neighbourhood meets your needs, while protecting the environment. Homes in a sustainable neighbourhood are located near shops, schools, recreation, work and other daily destinations. This helps reduce driving costs and lets residents enjoy the health benefits of walking and cycling. Land and services, like roads, are used efficiently. Sustainable neighbourhoods also feature a choice of homes that are affordable.

In your search for a sustainable neighbourhood, here are some questions to ask:

  • Easy transportation
    • Are stores, schools, recreation facilities, restaurants, and health services within walking or cycling distance? Will your children need to take a bus to school? Can they walk to the park? Can you do most of your shopping without a car?
    • Are there nearby bus stops and cycling lanes? How long is the bus ride to work, or school? Can you safely bike?
  • House size and features
    • Are the homes compact with shared walls to reduce heating costs?
    • Are homes reasonably sized with lots requiring less upkeep?
    • Are there different dwelling types (such as single-detached, semi-detached, townhouse and apartments) in the neighbourhood?
    • Are the lots modestly sized? Roadways narrow? Driveways/parking areas small?  Do natural drain ways lead to streams and storm water ponds or park lands? Is there native vegetation and streams with woodland edges?
  • “Look and feel”
    • Do the buildings have a friendly face to the street? Are the community centres, shops and meeting places welcoming?
    • Are there trees lining the street? Do you find the homes interesting to look at?  Do the building sizes feel comfortable to you? Are the roads easy to walk along or cross?
  • Safety
    • Do the homes have “eyes on the street”? (In other words, are there people around who might watch out for you? Is there somewhere to go in an emergency?)
    • Is there adequate street lighting?
    • Are there safe places for children to play?
    • Are the streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians?
    • Is traffic slow moving and light?

Use the CMHC worksheet What’s Important to You to figure out the things that are important in your neighbourhood.

Do You Want a New Home or a Previously-Owned Home?

A new home is one that has just been built – no one else has lived in it yet. You might buy a new home from a contractor who has built it, or you might hire a contractor to build it for you. A previously-owned home (often called a resale) has already been lived in. Here are some characteristics of each type of home.

New Home

  • Up-to-date
    • A new home has up-to-date design that might reflect the latest trends, materials and features.
  • Choices
    • You may be able to choose certain features such as style of siding, flooring, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures.
    • You may have to pay extra if you want to add certain features, such as a fireplace, trees and sod, or a paved driveway. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in the price of your home.
  • Costs
    • Taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) (or, in certain provinces, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)) apply to a new home. However, you may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST on homes that cost less than $450,000. For more information about the GST New Housing Rebate program, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca.
    • A new home will have lower maintenance costs because everything is new, and many items are covered by a warranty. You should set aside money every year for future maintenance costs.
  • Warranties
    • A warranty may be provided by the builder of the home. Be sure to check all the conditions of the warranty. It can be very important if a major system such as plumbing, or heating, breaks down.
    • New Home Warranty programs are generally provided by provincial and territorial governments. There are also private new home warranty programs. In some provinces a warranty may be provided by the builder of the home. Check with your realtor or lawyer/notary to find out what the new home warranty program in your province or territory covers.
  • Neighbourhood amenities
    • schools, shopping malls and other services, may not be completed for years.

Building Your Own Home

Some people prefer the challenge and flexibility of building their own home. On one hand, you make all the decisions about size, design, location, quality of material, level of energy-efficiency and so on. On the other hand, expect to invest lots of time and energy.

Resale Home

  • When the home already exists, you can see what you are buying. Since the neighbourhood is established, you can see how easy it is to access services such as schools, shopping malls, libraries, etc.
  • Landscaping is usually done and fencing installed. Previously owned homes may have extras like fireplaces or finished basements or swimming pools.
  • You don’t have to pay the GST/HST unless the house has been renovated substantially, and then the taxes are applied as if it were a new house.
  • You may need to redecorate, renovate or do major repairs such as replacing the roof, windows and doors.

What Type of Home Should You Buy?

What types of homes will you be visiting with the idea of buying? Do you see yourself living in a detached single-family home? Or, perhaps a townhouse? Maybe, a duplex?

Single-family Detached

A single-family detached home is one dwelling unit. It stands alone, and sits on its own lot. This often gives the family a greater degree of privacy.

Single-family Semi-detached

A semi-detached home is a single-family home that is joined on one side to another home. It can offer many of the advantages of a single-family detached home. It is often less expensive to buy and maintain.

Duplex

A duplex is a building containing two single-family homes, located one above the other. Sometimes, the owner lives in one unit and rents the other.

Row House (Townhouse)

Row houses (also called townhouses) are several similar single-family homes, side-by-side, joined by common walls. They can be freehold or condominiums. They offer less privacy than a single-family detached home, although each has a separate outdoor space. These homes can cost less to buy and maintain, even though some are large, luxury units.

Stacked Townhouse

Stacked townhouses are usually two-storey homes. Two two-story homes are stacked one on top of the other. The buildings are usually attached in groups of four or more. Each unit has direct access from the outside.

Link or Carriage Home

A link, or carriage home, is joined by a garage or carport. The garage or carport gives access to the front and back yards. Builders sometimes join basement walls so that link houses appear to be single-family homes on small lots. These houses can be less expensive than single-family detached homes.

Manufactured Home

A manufactured home is a factory-built, single-family home. It is transported to a chosen location, and placed onto a foundation.

Modular Home

A modular home is also a factory-built, single-family home. The home is typically shipped to a location in two, or more, sections (or modules).

Mobile Home

Mobile homes, like manufactured or modular homes, are built in factories, and then taken to the place where they will be occupied. While these homes are usually placed in one location and left there permanently, they do retain the ability to be moved.

Apartment

A self-contained unit in part of a building consisting of a room or set of rooms including kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Forms of Ownership

People who do not rent their home, own it. There are two forms of ownership.

Freehold

Freehold means that one person (or two, such as joint ownership by spouses) owns the land and house outright. There is no space co-owned or co-managed with owners of other units.

Freehold owners can do what they want with their property — up to a point. They must obey municipal bylaws, subdivision agreements, building codes and federal and provincial laws, such as those protecting the environment.

Detached and semi-detached homes, duplexes and townhouses are usually owned freehold.

Condominium

Condominium ownership means you own the unit you live in and share ownership rights for the common space of the building. Common space includes areas such as corridors, the grounds around the building, and facilities such as a swimming pool and recreation rooms. Condominium owners together control the common areas through an owners’ association. The association makes decisions about using and maintaining the common space.

Condominium ownership is ownership of a unit, usually in a highrise but can also be a townhouse or in a lowrise.

What Professionals Should You Call On?

Even if this isn’t your first homebuying experience, you’ll want to get help from a team of professionals. Having the help of professionals will give you experienced and knowledgeable people for reliable information and answers to your questions. These are the people who can help you:

  • Realtor
  • Lenders or mortgage broker
  • Lawyer or notary
  • Insurance broker
  • Home inspector
  • Appraiser
  • Land surveyor
  • Builder or contractor

You will be doing a lot of interviewing to establish your team. Use this handy CMHC worksheet to help you keep track of the people you interview and the ones you finally choose.

The next sections describe each professional role.

The Realtor

Your realtor’s job is to:

  • Help you find the ideal home
  • Write an Offer of Purchase
  • Negotiate to help you get the best possible deal
  • Give you important information about the community
  • Help you arrange a home inspection

Finding a Realtor

When looking for a realtor, don’t be afraid to ask questions — especially about possible service charges. Normally, the seller pays a commission to the agent. But, some realtors charge buyers a fee for their services. Use the CMHC worksheet Checklist for Evaluating Realtors to help you.

If you would like to know more about a realtor’s ethical obligations, go to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s website at www.crea.ca, or call your local real estate association.

The Lender or Mortgage Broker

Many different institutions lend money for mortgages — banks, trust companies, credit unions, caisses populaires (in Quebec), pension funds, insurance companies, and finance companies. Different institutions offer different terms and options — shop around!

Mortgage brokers don’t work for any specific lending institution. Their role is to find the lender with the terms and rates that are best for the buyer.

Finding a Lender or Mortgage Broker

  • Ask around.  Your realtor, another professional, family members, or friends may give you helpful suggestions.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages™ under “Banks,” “Credit Unions” or “Trust Companies” for a lender and under “Mortgage Brokers” for a broker.
  • Contact the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals at 1-888-442-4625, or visit the Association’s website at www.caamp.org.

The Lawyer/Notary

Having a lawyer/notary involved in the process will help ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. You need a lawyer (or a notary in Quebec) to perform these tasks:

  • Protect your legal interests by making sure the property you want to buy does not have any building or statutory liens, charges, or work or clean-up orders
  • Review all contracts before you sign them, especially the Offer (or Agreement) to Purchase.

Finding a Lawyer

Law associations can refer you to lawyers who specialize in real estate law. In Quebec, contact the Chambre des notaires du Québec for the names of notaries specializing in real estate law.

Remember that a lawyer/notary should:

  • Be a licensed full-time lawyer/notary
  • Live/work in the area
  • Understand real estate laws, regulations and restrictions
  • Have realistic and acceptable fees
  • Be able and willing to explain things in language you can easily understand
  • Be experienced with condominiums, if that’s what you are buying

Lawyer/notary fees depend on the complexity of the transaction and the lawyer’s expertise.

Shop around for rates when choosing your lawyer/notary. Use the CMHC worksheet Checklist for Selecting a Lawyer/Notary to guide you.

The Insurance Broker

An insurance broker can help you with your property insurance and mortgage life insurance.

Lenders insist on property insurance because your property is their security for your loan. Property insurance covers the replacement cost of your home, so the size of your premium depends on the value of the property.

Your lender may also suggest that you buy mortgage life insurance. Mortgage life insurance gives coverage for your family, if you die before your mortgage is paid off. Your lender may offer this type of insurance. In this case, the lender adds the premium to your regular mortgage payments. However, you may want to compare rates offered by an insurance broker and by your lender.

Don’t confuse property insurance, or mortgage life insurance, with mortgage loan insurance.

The Home Inspector

Whether you are buying a resale home, or a new home, consider having it inspected by a knowledgeable and professional home inspector.

The home inspector’s role is to inform you about the property’s condition. The home inspector will tell you if something is not working properly,  needs to be changed, or is unsafe. He or she will also tell you if repairs are needed, and maybe even where there were problems in the past.

A home inspection is a visual inspection. It should include a visual assessment of at least the following:

  • Foundation
  • Doors and windows
  • Roof and exterior walls
  • Attics
  • Plumbing and electrical systems (where visible)
  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • Ceilings, walls and floors
  • Insulation (where visible)
  • Ventilation
  • Septic tanks, wells or sewer lines (if inspector is qualified)
  • Any other buildings such as a detached garage
  • The lot, including drainage away from buildings, slopes and natural vegetation
  • Overall opinion of structural integrity of the buildings
  • Common areas (in the case of a condominium/strata or co-operative)

Finding a Home Inspector

It’s important to hire a knowledgeable, experienced and competent home inspector. In most areas of Canada, there are no licensing or certification requirements for home inspectors. Anyone can say that they are a home inspector without having taken any courses, passed tests or even inspected houses. So look for a home inspector who belongs to a provincial or industry association holds an accreditation that demonstrates training and experience, provides inspection reports, carries insurance, provides references and has strong experience with the type of home to be inspected.

While CMHC does not recommend any individual home inspector or association, CMHC supports national standards of competency for home inspectors such as the home inspection industry’s voluntary and independent National Certification Program.

Home inspector fees are generally in the $500 range, depending on the size and condition of the home. Use the CMHC worksheet Home Inspection Checklist to review your home inspection report.

The Appraiser

Before you make an offer, an independent appraisal can tell you what the property is worth. This will help ensure that you are not paying too much. In order to complete a mortgage loan, your lender may ask for a recognized appraisal.

The appraisal should include:

  • Unbiased assessment of the property’s physical and functional characteristics
  • Analysis of recent comparable sales
  • Assessment of current market conditions affecting the property

Finding an Appraiser

Ask your realtor to help you find an appraiser.

The Land Surveyor

If the seller does not have a Survey or Certificate of Location, you will probably need to get one for your mortgage application. If the Survey in the seller’s possession is older than five years, it needs to be updated.

Remember that you must have permission from the property owner before hiring a surveyor to go onto the property. Ask your realtor to help co-ordinate this with the owner.

Finding a Land Surveyor

Search the web or Yellow Pages™ or ask your realtor to help you find a land surveyor.

The Builder/Contractor

If you are buying a newly constructed home, you will have to hire a builder or contractor. If you are buying a resale house that needs renovations, you may also require a builder or contractor.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a builder or contractor:

  • Ask for references. Talk to other customers about the builder’s performance.
  • Check with the New Home Warranty program in the area (if applicable).
  • Visit other housing developments that the company has built.
  • Ask builders or contractors if they are members of a local homebuilders’ association. Ask them for their provincial license number.

If you are having a custom home built, remember that:

  • You may want to hire an architect to design the house, and supervise construction.
  • Builders of custom homes usually work on either a fixed-price or a cost-plus basis. Authorize any changes to your contract by writing your name or initials beside the change.

Make sure your contract with the builder or contractor is very specific about construction details. You can even require that the brand names or model number of finishes be specified. If you agree to a change in the contract, write your initials next to the change.

To view this step in more detail you can visit CMHC’s website.