Friday, 28 August 2015

Best Apps For Homebuyers

 Hey tech-savvy homebuyer, look over here! Next time you're out hunting for your next humble abode, stop sketching notes on the back of your feature sheets and start making a detailed gameplan using your smartphone or tablet.

With these powerful apps at your fingertips, you'll be well-equipped to tackle even the most ambitious home tours all while being able to retain the information about each home you visit. Best of all, each of these makes it easy to take the information home with you later and compare the listings side by side. If you're looking for a way to make your house hunt less stressful, you've come to the right place!

1) Mobile App

This app is about as useful as it gets when househunting. Get all the details of listings in your area, compare different listings, and even a basic mortgage/transfer tax calculator all in one place. This is the easy-to-use, tablet/phone friendly version of the or website, which is hands-down the definitive listing for Canadian real estate. Get the App HERE

2) House Hunter

Wouldn't it be nice if you could take all those notes you scribbled while visiting different homes for sale and compile them in one neat, organized place? Well, your dreams just came true! House Hunter allows you to check off the different amenities and options of each home you visit, allowing you to compare the options objectively later on. An invaluable tool for making an informed decision, especially if you're going to visit multiple homes or open houses in a short period of time. Get House Hunter HERE

3) AroundMe App

When you're considering moving to a new neighbourhood, it's important to find out what services and amenities will be available near your new place. With AroundMe, you can easily view everything from banks to restaurants to parks in the vicinity of your new neighbourhood. It is often more comprehensive than Google's listings, so could be a useful tool for exploring your new part of town from the comfort of your smartphone! Get AroundMe HERE


Having a hard time remembering the layout of a house you've visited? Bring MagicPlan with you next time and have the tools handy to make your own detailed map of the home without ever busting out a pen or paper! This innovative app uses the camera in your phone to take a set of pictures and assemble them into an accurate rendering including measurements and the overall layout of any interior you visit. It doesn't require moving any existing furniture or appliances and can be combined with a laser measurement device for even more accurate layouts if needed. Check out MagicPlan HERE 

5) Houzz Interior Design App

Seeking inspiration? Look no further than this app featuring hundreds of gorgeous home designs in one place. It's like Pinterest, but simplified and concentrated into the best and the brightest in home design. It doesn't have any crazy features or tricks, just a simple way to view some beautiful home designs and get yourself excited for your next design project! Visit their website HERE for more.

6) Pinterest

Since I've gotten myself on the topic of design and inspiration, how could I leave out Pinterest??? This app is addictive, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED! But it does showcase some of the best DIY, home improvement, and awe-inspiring ideas from all around the internet. It allows you to collect and organize your favourite ideas in one place for reviewing and inspiring you later. Buyer beware, I have no sympathy if you download this app and it takes over your life like mine....Check out my boards HERE and Follow me to see what I've been up to!

Have any other apps that should have made the cut? Send me a message and let me know if there's something else new and innovative that I should be checking out!

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

When Do I Need A Building Permit?

As a homeowner there will no doubt come a time when you decide that some work needs being done around the house. You might consider rounding up from friends and creating a new backyard masterpiece, or maybe something as simple as a new front door. But before you go making those calls, make sure you make another one first to your local city building department. The information should be found easily online, but the City of Kamloops building inspection division can be found HERE.

In the meantime, here's a rough guide to some of the projects you may(or may not) need a building permit for.

You will almost always need a building permit to undertake projects such as:

  •  Moving load-bearing or partition walls
  • Demolition of part or the whole of an existing building
  • Retaining walls greater than 4ft. in height
  •  Creating a new structure on your property larger than 100sq. feet
  • Plumbing or electrical alterations(i.e. Moving locations or re-routing of pipes/wires)
  • Any alteration to change the use of a structure(i.e. turn your garage into an office)
  • Construction or alteration of a swimming pool
  • Decks/Patios(depending on height/size)

You will be less likely to need a permit for projects like these:

  • Interior decorating
  • Painting
  • Flooring
  • Addition of extra insulation or drywall to existing installations
  • Kitchen/bathroom cabinets, when plumbing will not be altered
  • Fencing(Not always, so check to be sure!)

While this is a guide to point you in the right direction, you should always make sure to confirm the details with your local municipality. There are many scenarios where what seems like a simple project can turn into much more, and you want to be sure that you have approval from the city before you get out the hammer and start swinging!

Also, to make the most of your return on investment, see this article for ideas on the best renovations to increase your home's resale value.

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

Friday, 14 August 2015

Condo Woes...

About two years ago, my fiance and I found an opportunity to downsize our living situation. We were on a lazy Sunday drive when we passed an open house sign and decided to pop in and check it out, mostly out of curiosity.

As it turns out, it was a newly renovated group of townhomes for sale. We were given the tour and saw that they were not only completely renovated and redecorated, but also quite affordable. After a few weeks of careful consideration we decided to list our then-current home for sale and write an offer on one of the units. Things were going exceptionally well and we were able to sell our first home quickly. We moved in shortly thereafter, but with hindsight being much better than forethought there are a couple of things I wish we had noticed earlier.

Condo Redevelopments

This particular development is an example of what I later learned is called a 'Condo Redevelopment'. This is where a developer/investor takes an existing group of apartments/townhouses and applies to have them rezoned as strata/condo properties(meaning each unit has an owner, instead of the property being owned by a landlord). And while this is an excellent way of creating housing supply in a tight market, it also leaves room for some major issues to pop up down the road. (Read here for more on stratas vs. single-family homes)

Most 'Condo Redevelopments' are accompanied by a large-scale remodel/renovation in order to make the units more appealing and to meet building and fire safety codes(separate the units, basic living requirements, etc.). If this is done correctly, then the results can be pretty fantastic, but as with any renovation there can be problems that pop up later on. One important thing to remember with conversions is that there is often NO New Home Warranty to fall back on later, so Buyer BEWARE! You must make sure to do your due diligence and to trust the contractor/developer involved.

Another potential pitfall with redevelopments comes into play when considering the financial situation of the newly formed strata. Despite the main building structure often being old, the strata group who is now caring for it is going to be new. This creates some problems because the group will have had very little time to start saving for repairs/maintenance, and there may also be a lack of planning or incorrect budgeting. With such a new group of owners, it will likely take several years to get finances in order and have a reliable budget and some savings in the bank. The security of strata living is diminished somewhat by this.

When it came right down to it, we were forced to learn some lessons the hard way. While I wouldn't want to see any of my friends or family go through a similar experience, I will say that I appreciate all that I have learned about new developments, strata law, and managing/maintaining a strata.

What can I do?

Ok, let's get to the good stuff. How do you avoid making similar mistakes when considering purchasing in a strata complex? Here's my guide:

1) Read the Paperwork!(Before committing to a purchase!)

Make sure you read all the documents thoroughly. Although the content is boooooring, it can save you a ton of money and headaches down the road. In addition to reviewing all the strata documentation yourself, you should also consider having your lawyer review some of the information as well as your purchase contract(if you have one yet). Of particular interest to prospective owners should be financial statements(how much money in the bank?), budgets(are the amounts reasonable?), and council/group meeting minutes. The meeting minutes should tell a story about how the property is managed, give insight into any potential problems, and alert you to any major costs coming up to be aware of/budget for. 

2) Who's In Charge Here?

Find out whether the strata is self-managed or cared for by a property management company. While a management company = higher monthly fees, it will also alleviate the stress and inconvenience of  DIY management.

Once you've got an idea who is running the property, make time to reach out to them and ask some questions. Ask about fees, any recent issues, or anything else you'd like to know about how thigns work. Each and every property will be unique so it can be invaluable to have the 'inside scoop' from the people in charge or maintaining and operating it every day.

3) Maintenance

 Also be sure to ask plenty of questions about upcoming maintenance, planned projects, etc. Try to get as clear an idea as possible as to what will need to be repaired/updated and when it will need to be done. This can give you time to plan for expenses that may get passed along to owners(if there isn't enough money in the strata savings).

Another great indicator of future costs is the Depreciation Report. Each strata is required by the strata act to obtain a depreciation report as soon as possible, and stratas must vote each year if they should choose to defer the report. A depreciation report is an in-depth analysis of all common areas and equipment on the property, along with an anticipated lifespan and cost to maintain for everything. It can be an easy one-stop guide to understanding the remaining economic life of the complex, it's buildings, and all the equipment to keep everything working correctly.

Many insurers/lenders are now asking for a depreciation report as part of the mortgage process, and it's easy to see why. They want an objective third party opinion of how long the buildings will last and how well they have been maintained up til now.

What Else?

Buying a strata property can be a great way to afford to own your own home without a lot of the hassle of regular maintenance and upkeep of a detached home. Owning a piece of a strata is like owning a piece of your neighbourhood; make sure you are buying into a group you will be proud to be a part of and that is properly managed and maintained.

One of the biggest benefits of purchasing in a strata is that you are given a chance to review the decisions that have been made, and to get to know those making the decisions. Taking the time to review the documents and to really get to know the people in charge can give you the chance to make the best decision possible as to whether this is the property for you.

Would I do it again? Probably. But I'd be armed with a mountain of paperwork and questions to ask first!

Through my first-hand experiences in strata living, I've definitely become a local expert and am happy to share my knowledge with you. Do you have questions about strata living? Give me a call and let's talk about it!


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Thursday, 13 August 2015

CMHC Quarterly Review Results

Despite the latest rumours of over-valuation and mud-slinging towards foreign investors, CMHC recently released a report indicating only a few select markets are in any kind of danger of a 'crash'. Click HERE for the full report. 

What do you think? Which cities made the list that you were expecting? Which do you think should be added and why?


CMHC Releases Quarterly Results of its House Price Analysis and Assessment Framework for Canada and 15 Markets


AUGUST 2015 OTTAWA, August 13, 2015 - Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released updated results today from its House Price Analysis and Assessment (HPAA) framework, which is designed to detect the presence of problematic conditions in Canadian housing markets.

The overall assessment of risk detected by the framework is high for Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina. In Toronto, the high overall risk reflects a combination of price acceleration and overvaluation and overbuilding, particularly of condominium and apartments.

"Nationally, CMHC continues to detect a modest risk overvaluation. However, out overall assessment of the risk of problematic conditions varies from centre to centre due to regional differences in housing markets. Imbalances in local housing markets could be resolved with further moderation in house prices or improving economic conditions," said Bob Dugan, CMHC's Chief Economist.

"In the case of Toronto, strong price acceleration in 2015 reflects a larger share of sales of pricier homes. The rise in house prices have not been matched by growth in personal disposable income, giving rise to a modest risk of overvaluation."

The risk of problematic market conditions continues to be assessed as moderate for Montreal and Quebec due to the detection of some risk overvaluation.

In Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, we are monitoring the risk of overbuilding. Condominium units under construction are near historical peaks. Inventory management is therefore necessary to make sure that these condominium units under construction do not remain unsold upon completion.

Low overall housing market risk is observed for Vancouver, as none of the individual risk factors are currently detected.

The results released today include those for the national market as well as 15 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) - Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Moncton, St. John's and Halifax (with Victoria, Hamilton and Moncton being added from the previous report in April).

The centres recently added, Victoria, Hamilton and Moncton are assessed as low overall risk. None of the risk factors are detected in Victoria, while overheating is detected in Hamilton, and overbuilding in Moncton.

The HPAA is a comprehensive framework that is designed to assess housing market conditions by taking into consideration the economic, financial and demographic drivers of housing markets. The use of multiple indicators of housing conditions, which incorporate various data sources and price measures, provides a robust picture of overall housing market conditions.

The full text of the latest HPPA update if available in the August supplement of Housing Now - Canada Edition at

This is the third release of the HPAA, a quarterly report. The next HPAA report is expected to be released in October.

As Canada's authority on housing, CMHC continually works to increase the amount of available data and analysis on the housing market.

CMHC draws on more than 65 years of experience to help Canadians access a variety of high quality, environmentally sustainable and affordable housing solutions. CMHC also provides reliable, impartial and up-to-date housing market reports, analysis and knowledge to support and assist consumers and the housing industry in making informed decisions.

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Monday, 10 August 2015

Bridge Financing

 To bridge, or not to bridge?

Bridge financing is an interesting solution to a very specific problem: If you have agreed to purchase a new home and also have an agreement to sell your old one, you might consider bridge financing to cover the transition period between homes. This product would be used in the case that the purchase of your new home takes place before the sale of your current home has completed.

Not THAT kind of bridge..
For a buyer planning to use the equity in their current home as a down payment(or partial down payment) on the next home, most people automatically assume you must wait until your home has sold and the money has changed hands. Not with bridge financing! This short-term solution can allow you access to the equity temporarily, giving you time to complete the sale of your last home while you have already moved into your new one.

Some important points to consider:

  • Not all lenders offer this solution(See your broker!)
  • It is only designed as a short-term solution, usually not more than 120 days
  • Interest rates are usually around Prime + 2 to 3%
  • There will be an administrative fee to set up
  • Usually doesn't require lien registered on home if under $100,000(Saves legal fees $)
  • Can be up to $200,000 in most cases
  • You must have an Unconditional offer(No subjects remaining) to sell your current home to qualify
Once the sale of your last home is completed, your lawyer will use the proceeds from that transaction to pay off the bridge loan that was arranged as well as any outstanding previous mortgages. There are no extra fees or penalties required to pay off the bridge financing. Any funds left over will then be passed along to you as the seller once all adjustments have been made and everyone has been paid accordingly.

Bridge financing is not the solution for everyone, but it fits the needs of a select group of home buyers. With all the different timelines and possible scenarios, it's best to contact your mortgage broker to discuss the details and find out if this product might fit your unique situation.
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Friday, 7 August 2015

Let's Fly Away...

Ever have one of those days when you just feel like flying away somewhere? Somewhere tropical maybe, somewhere mountainous, somewhere cultured and ancient...

I think we all have those days, so in the pursuit of keeping desk-bound daydreamers everywhere happy, here's my list of some of my dream destinations!

1. Fiji

Why not Fiji? It's literally about as far away from my daily life as I can imagine. White sand, beautiful beaches, and endless opportunities for enjoying the blue water! Learning to scuba dive is now definitely on my bucket list.

2. London, England

Even though I spent some time exploring England with family in 2005, I never did get the chance to visit London. Although far from the lazy, beach-friendly all-inclusive vacations I've been longing for lately, London just has so many great places to visit and so much history to enjoy!

3. Riviera Maya, Mexico

Is that a swim-up bar I see? Yeeaaahh, now that's a vacation! Riviera Maya is also well known for it's rich history, culture, and it's all-inclusive beach resorts. There are plenty of great historical places to visit near Tulum, including a well-preserved Mayan city perched on a cliff above the beach. What's not to love?

4. Tokyo, Japan

One of the largest, busiest cities in the world, I can't imagine much that compares to the hustle and bustle of life in Tokyo. I'm not sure I'd be convinced to stay for long, but to experience so many people and so many things happening all at once would be quite the trip. I can't believe I went all the way to Japan and didn't visit Tokyo...

5. The Great Barrier Reef

While we're at it, since I'm going to learn to scuba dive before heading to Fiji I may as well stop by the Great Barrier Reef as well ;) . Home to some of the most interesting and unique creatures on the planet, this beautiful place is constantly under the threat of climate change. I would love to explore and enjoy the chance to be there in person before it gets taken away and we lose the opportunity.
6. Las Vegas, Nevada(Again!)

What kind of travel conversation with me would be complete without Las Vegas being included somewhere??? For those that know me, you know that we really love spending time here. It's a city filled with hopes, dreams, and quite literally anything else you can imagine. From racing cars to skydiving to some of the best food in the world, Vegas has it all! It still seems to me to be a place where no matter how long you stay, there is always something you want to come back to try next time!

What's your dream destination? Or must-see place you've already been to? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Registering Property Ownership/Titles - What's In a Name?

Have you given much thought to how your property title is registered? Carefully choosing the right type of registration for you could save you thousands in fees, headaches, and legal battles later on. Discuss your options now and save yourself time, hassle, and money!

Types Of Title Registration

In BC(and many other places), there are two ways to register your property title. They both have pros and cons which should be discussed at length with your lawyer so you understand the risks and benefits of each before making your final decision.

Carefully consider who you share your moon-property with, and how it's registered!

Joint Tenancy

In joint tenancy, all owners maintain an undivided interest in the land being registered. Between themselves, they share separate rights. As against everyone else, they are treated as a single owner.

A defining feature of joint tenancy is the Right of Survivorship. This dictates that should one owner pass away, the property automatically goes to the remaining living owner(s).

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is a slightly more flexible form of ownership, under which the interests of the owners can be divided and may even be divided in unequal shares. In it's most basic form, it may also allow owners to sell or mortgage their share without the consent of the others. While this is not always the case, it could create some potential problems.

Upon the death of an owner, a tenancy in common will leave a deceased owner's share to his/her estate. This share will then be subject to probate and any applicable taxes before it then passes to the beneficiaries.

For parents who are considering whether to register property as joint or tenancy in common with an adult child, there are some important points to consider:

Joint Tenancy
  • You may be unable to sell or mortgage the property without the consent of all parties on title. 
  • Upon the death of one owner, there may be tax/capital gains implications for the remaining owner.
  • The property may be at risk of exposure to the child's(or potentially the child's spouse's) creditors.
  • For more info read: Joint Tenancy as an Estate Planning Tool
Tenants in Common
  • Can be more difficult to distribute if multiple beneficiaries are not in complete agreement amongst themselves.
  • Will be subject to probate fees and/or taxes
  • Will trigger capital gains if sold by beneficiaries
  • See RBC's Estate Planning Guide for more general information.

Tenancy in Common and Property Title Transfer Tax

In the case of a parent acting as a co-borrower with their child during a first-time home purchase, registering the property as a tenancy in common may allow you to take advantage of the property title transfer tax exemption for first-time buyers. See my article HERE for more info on this exemption.

Tenancy in common allows the property to be registered as 99% ownership by the child and 1% ownership by the parent. By creating this situation, the child retains 99% of the benefit of the transfer tax exemption. This option should always be discussed with your lawyer, but could be a great way to save some money on a first-time home buyer's purchase!

Because there are many possible complications of these scenarios and with laws constantly changing and being updated, always seek independent legal advice before making a decision regarding your property title registration. This guide is only meant as general advice and should not be solely relied upon. If you are interested in learning more, please Contact Me and I would be happy to get you in touch with the legal advice you need.

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