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5 Tips for Buyers and Sellers

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Make your move a stress-free one! The smart first step for both parties is finding a real estate professional you are comfortable working with. They will be the guiding light during the entire process.
BUYERS: 5 tips for ensuring a successful real estate transaction:

1. Avoid overspending at all costs. Establish a budget and stick to it, no matter what. Being “house poor” will definitely overshadow the initial joy you feel from purchasing a home.

2. Don’t get emotionally involved. It’s easier said than done, but if a deal doesn’t go through – whether it’s an issue with price, conditions or a bidding war – be prepared to walk away knowing that your perfect house IS still out there!

3. Try to see the big picture. Don’t get hung up on paint colours, a messy yard or ugly light fixtures. These are all easy fixes. Instead use big-ticket items, like the condition of the furnace, windows and roof to help aid in your decision.

4. Location, location, location. It’s the one thing you can never change about the house you buy.

5. Start an emergency fund. Unforeseen (and expensive) issues can arise at any time for homeowners. Having funds set aside specifically for this purpose will bring peace of mind.

5 Tips for sellers:

1. Spend money to make money. To maximize your home’s selling potential, make any necessary minor repairs, give tired walls a fresh coat of paint or hire a stager.

2. Don’t over price. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including yours.

3. Never underestimate the power of a clean house. Your home should be spotless for showings and open houses. No exceptions!

4. Start packing as soon as the deal has been finalized. Just pack a few boxes every day. Procrastinating on this time-consuming chore will leave you stressed out as the days get closer to moving day.

5. Research your movers. Nothing messes up a moving day more than unreliable movers, so be sure to ask friends and family for recommendations, do some research and get everything in writing.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

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First time home buyers… Are you ready?

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While interest rates remain low, there have been a few changes in recent months and some even bigger changes in recent years that have made purchasing a home tougher for first-time buyers. Prices across most of the country are on the rise and housing stock is low in many areas, creating a fast-paced, red-hot real estate market that is leaving some in the dust.

Here are 3 things you should consider before you start the hunt for your first home:

Can you afford it? Without a doubt, this is the most important question of all when planning the largest purchase of your life. In addition to mortgage payments, be sure to factor in all the added costs that homeowners face. Closing costs, property tax, monthly utility bills, home maintenance and repairs will add up quickly and with the new mortgage rules that went into effect last fall, getting pre-approved is tougher.

Is your down payment sufficient? While it’s ideal to put down 20 percent (to avoid paying mortgage insurance, which can tack an extra $50 to $100 per month onto your debt load) the law in Canada requires purchasers to pay, up front, at least five percent of the purchase price. If you’re having trouble coming up with this amount, talk to your lender or a financial planner for suggestions on saving money faster.

Is home ownership right for you, right now? This is a valid question for Millennials who are considering taking the leap into owning real estate. Buying a home is a major life event and, while owning real estate is always a wise investment, if you have a career that could include a transfer a year down the road or there’s a chance you may return to school to further your education, the timing might not be right. Location is another factor to consider. Do you foresee yourself in this town or city for a number of years? Buying and selling a home and moving are costly steps, so be sure you’ve found the right location to set down your roots.

With some thoughtful consideration, you will make the right choice. Having a trusted Realtor like myself on your side – will always be a benefit.   Contact me if you want to start shopping for your new home.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

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Add a touch of spring to your home

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April has arrived and after a cold and snowy March, we are all more than ready to embrace the spring season. With a few simple changes around the home and a couple uplifting weekend projects, you can easily transition your digs from winter to spring.

Get growing – April is the ideal time to start planting seeds. Annuals and vegetables are easy to start indoors, but you need to think a bit about timing. Most seeds should be sowed 4-6 weeks before the last frost, so here in southern Ontario, you should start your seedlings during the second or third week in April.

Change your bedding – Nothing says ‘out with the old and in with the new’ like a set of crisp, new sheets! Pack away the cozy flannels and splurge on a set of light and airy cotton sheets. This spring, fuchsia, yellow and bright green are dominating the runway so be a trendsetter and update your master or guest bedroom with these zingy hues!

Decorate for Easter – Easter isn’t until April 16 this year, so there is plenty of time to make use of those Easter decorations. If you’re lacking in the Easter décor department, get the kids involved in a fun craft! Visit Pinterest to find a variety of easy craft projects, everything from paper maché eggs to toilet paper roll bunnies.

Add some new dishes to your menu – Winter was all about roasts, crock pot meals and hearty soups. Now that spring has arrived, it’s the perfect time to start adding some lighter fare to your weekly repertoire. Main course salads, quiches, grilled fish and lightened up vegetable soups are ideal for springtime dinner planning.

Say it with colour – A boost no matter what the season, bringing some bright colours into the home this spring is just the ticket to livening up your mood. Whether it’s with a few bold and bright throw pillows, a vase of fresh flowers, a big bowl of bright lemons or a dazzling new piece of artwork, a splash of colour will help drag your home out of winter dreariness.

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Are you ready to buy?

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Thinking of buying a home during this red hot spring market?   The biggest question to ponder when considering home ownership is affordability.   Take the time to determine a realistic budget, taking mortgage payments, property taxes, closing and moving costs, monthly utility and home repair and maintenance into account.

If you’re confident that buying a home is within reach, contact me, I work with a great Mortgage Broker who will help you to determine your options!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

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Real Estate forms for buying and selling

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When it comes to buying or selling a home, there are a few important documents that will come into play during the process. Some of these forms include pre-written clauses that your realtor will discuss and explain to you. Due to the nature of these contracts, be sure to read them thoroughly and always, always ask for clarification if needed.

Seller Representation Agreement (Listing Agreement): The listing agreement serves a number of functions. It establishes the relationship between the brokerage (and real estate representative) and the seller, it outlines specifics about the property for sale and it explains the services that will be performed and remuneration agreed upon. A Data Input Form will also be completed, describing the property in more depth i.e. legal description, age, room dimensions, zoning, etc.

Buyer Representation Agreement: This agreement is an authority granted by a buyer to a real estate brokerage to act on his or her behalf during the purchase of a property. It outlines and explains the responsibilities of both parties and the commission arrangement. While a realtor in Ontario is required to complete the agreement and submit it to the buyer before any offer is made, the buyer is under no obligation to sign it.

Agreement of Purchase and Sale: An agreement of purchase and sale is like a conversation in writing that expresses the buyer’s wish to purchase a property and the proposed terms of sale. It only becomes legally binding when everything is mutually agreed upon and signed by both parties. Commonly referred to as an offer, this document summarizes the terms that the buyer is seeking. Items always covered in the agreement of purchase and sale will be deposit amount and sale price, conditions, chattels and fixtures, completion (closing) date, etc.

While the exact forms may vary from city to city across the province, the fundamental concept behind each is the same.

Jennifer Birch

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The Changing Face of our cities

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Have you ever wondered what will happen when we start running out of land to build new houses and communities? Cities across the province have been growing steadily and many municipalities are already reaching their boundaries. This has led to a push for more infill communities and intensification, something that is addressed in the Places to Grow Act, 2005.

The main goal of the Places to Grow Act, 2005 is to establish a plan for growth in certain areas. One such area is referred to as the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), which includes cities like Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph, plus regional municipalities such as Halton, Peel, York, Durham, Niagara, Haldimand and Waterloo.

The plan for the GGH sets out a number of goals and directives, some of which focus on revitalizing downtown areas and city centres, reduce development pressure on agricultural lands and naturalized areas and improve transportation and housing options.

Intensification is a multifaceted approach to redeveloping downtown areas. It is a term coined by urban planners to describe the process of “increasing the use of existing housing stock and more effectively utilizing municipal services”. Examples include adding accessory apartments to single-family homes, creating mixed use developments in urban areas and repurposing industrial lands for residential use. Industrial loft conversions are a good example of intensification.

Infill communities have been cropping up for years now in cities across the GGH. This type of development involves the building of townhouses or semi-detached homes where one home previously existed or building homes on formerly vacant land.

While it’s sometimes disheartening to see a beautiful, old home torn down and replaced with townhomes, the bottom line isn’t always financial gain. Intensification through infill and the purposing of existing buildings is just one way that planners and builders are working to reduce urban sprawl and create thriving cities with plenty of housing options.

Jennifer  Birch

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What’s happening at local wineries?

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It’s a winter wonderland out there! Hopefully the frosty temperatures haven’t kept you cooped up inside – there’s so much to enjoy at the many Twenty Valley vineyards, no matter what the season! Take a look at some of these upcoming events and don’t miss out!

Want to warm up? Don’t miss Souper Weekend at Calamus Estate Winery! Scheduled for every weekend in February, this tasty event will offer a heart-warming soup paired with a Calamus Estate wine. All guests will get to take home the recipe as well!

The whole family can head to Angel’s Gate Winery in Beamsville for Boards and Snack on February 11 & 12 and February 18 & 19. Guests can relax and enjoy a variety of classic board games along side a pairing of four snack items and four VQA wines. No reservation required for groups under six. Snack pairing and tasting $7/ per person, kids snack pairing and juice $4/ per person.

If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day a little early, head to Cave Spring Cellars and Pucker Up on February 11 and 12. Guests will relish the simple pleasure that wine and chocolate brings to the palate. Shortbread will be paired with sparkling wine and chocolate truffles with a house favourite red wine, selected by staff! Reservations are not required.

If you’ve always wanted to know a little more about the fascinating world of wine, you’re in luck. Vineland Estates Winery will be hosting a Wine Club Education Seminar on February 18 and 19. Topics include Cutting Edge Cocktails, Dark Fruits and Light Cheeses, Three Faces of Sparkling and many others. Seminars are complimentary for all Wine Club members.

Promising a truly opulent experience, Redstone Winery in Beamsville is hosting a Rare Vintage Dinner event this month, on February 23. Featuring a number of vintage gems in the Tawse Winery cellar, this special dinner will include a sparkling wine and canapé reception at 6 p.m. followed by a delectable four-course dinner with vintage wine pairings. Selections include a 1959 Joboulet Vercherre Grands Echezeaux, a 1960 Mouton Rothschild, a 1970 Chateau Margaux and a number of others. This exciting event is limited to 18 guests.