More Information About Researching Real Estate Online

‘Let your fingers do the walking’ has taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to researching real estate in the 21st century. The Internet is becoming an increasing important source of information and a time saving tool for homebuyers. It empowers them to gather information about housing issues and current market conditions as well as allowing them to preview numerous listings at the click of a mouse and survey current mortgage rates.

Home shoppers benefit in particular by being able to research homes before meeting with a real estate agent. Typical questions such as: Are there good schools nearby? How far is it to downtown or to work? Is the home construction suitable to its geographical area? Researching areas of concern can provide a sense of control over what is for many people the largest purchase of their lives. Also by weeding out homes that don’t meet basic criteria, they can save themselves and the agent a great deal of time. The Internet makes research faster and more convenient than ever.

The following are some ways to maximize the research potential of the Internet when you search for a home.

In general…

Among the many purposes of the Internet from entertainment to education, it is a dynamic advertising and marketing tool. Remember that the truthfulness and quality of the information you find on the Internet can vary. Always consider the source. It’s wise to check out more than one source in order to cross check information.
Some websites require personal details before a consumer can proceed and view certain information. If you are not comfortable with this don’t feel obligated to divulge any personal information.

Conducting research…

The Canadian Home Builders Association website (http://www.chbabc.org/) serves those in the home building industry however it also provides valuable information to consumers regarding home design. In addition, the website lists topics in their technical library from masonry to finishes to energy efficiency which the public can access in person at their Burnaby, British Columbia location.

The Internet is an excellent way to find out about a new neighbourhood. There are three common online avenues to information about communities: type in e.g. www.nameofthecity.org (or .com), search for the town city hall or chamber of commerce.

Many online listings include an address with a postal code. If you aren’t familiar with the address you can use the postal code to get an idea of the home location. In your browser type www.yahoo.ca and click on maps. When you enter the postal code, Yahoo will provide you with a detailed map of the location.

If you are interested in finding out about local services such as landscapers, architects, recreation facilities, etc., visit www.yellowpages.ca or www.superpages.com and type in your criteria. Along with the telephone number and addresses, some businesses will even include a website link and a map.

To find a property appraiser in your area check out the Appraisal Institute of Canada’s website. An appraisal can provide an accurate assessment of market value when a home is bought or sold, a new home is being constructed, when a mortgage is required etc.

With a dizzying array of mortgage products on the market, online research can provide details about obtaining a mortgage as well as current rates. Many lenders include online mortgage calculators, worksheets to help you figure out how much you can afford, details of promotions as well as online applications.

If you’re in the market for a new home you’ve likely already visited or plan to visit online listings on www.mls.ca. These listings generally provide details on the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, age, location, and other aspects of the home along with a photo. You will also find the name of the listing agent.

Technology is not replacing customer service; an online listing doesn’t mean an online sale without a human element. In fact, Internet shoppers are more likely to use real estate agents than non-Internet shoppers. Eighty-seven percent of web home shoppers use a real estate agent or broker, while 76 percent of traditional buyers work with an agent, according to an American study conducted by the National Real Estate Board in 2000. The Internet is a channel for delivering property information; as a consumer you need not sacrifice any of the services you’d expect from a profession real estate agent.

Sales agents help potential buyers determine their specific home requirements, provide qualified information about the local market, prepare an offer, provide information on home inspection and more.

Important Things That Must Consider When Buying The First Home

I think it was Will Rogers who said “A fellow that owns his own home is always just coming out of the hardware store…” Most homeowners would agree but, often in the excitement of house-hunting, we tend to overlook some of the sobering realities. Before you start, be sure you’re comfortable with the obvious and less obvious costs of home-ownership.

The Price Range
First determine how much house you can afford. Take a ballpark figure by multiplying your income before tax by 2.5. This formula is used by lenders to establish the price range for various income levels. Using this formula, and income of $50 thousand ($50 x 2.5) would put you in the $125 thousand price range. Then estimate how much you can afford for a monthly mortgage payment. A lender’s rule of thumb here is usually about one-third of gross monthly income. Keep in mind that the one-third guideline includes not only the mortgage payment but also property tax and any other secondary financing or condominium management fees, if applicable.

Test this guideline by reviewing your current spending. Do you, for instance, have a commitment to a car or personal loan ? How much do you spend on rent, clothing, transportation, entertainment and travel? Would the guideline mortgage payment still be comfortable considering these expenses?

Looking Ahead
Consider the cost of living in the home. How much will it cost to heat monthly? What about the monthly cost of insurance, electricity, water, maintenance – painting, repairs etc.? If you are considering buying a condominium, what effect will the monthly management fees have on your ability to carry a mortgage?

It can be difficult to forecast the cost of living in a home as compared to living in an apartment. Here is another rule of thumb that may help you to estimate the difference between the two. Take the value of the home you are considering and multiply it by 3 per cent. Then divide that figure by 12. In our example of the $125,000 home, the monthly cost using this formula would be roughly $312 in addition to mortgage and taxes.

The Down Payment
The size of your down payment is a major part of your mortgage consideration. Most lenders will require a minimum down payment of at least 10 per cent of the purchase price of the home. For instance, our example of a home in the $125,000 thousand range would require a $12,500 down payment. You would then need a mortgage of $112,500.

Cash Costs
When you have made an offer, had it accepted and begin to finalize the purchase, there are other costs to be paid in full. There are legal costs, registration costs, possibly house inspection costs and probably a land transfer tax. Your real estate agent will give you an estimate of these costs. Be sure to discuss with your agent the question of what lenders call “interest adjustment date”, depending on the date of your closing and the date of mortgage payment upon closing. Be prepared to pay for any heating oil left when you take over and to re-imbrues the seller for property taxes paid in advance. Don’t forget about moving charges, your mover will give you an estimate before you move. You will have to pay the movers upon delivery of the furniture.

Be Prepared
The way Will Rogers saw it, home-ownership is all work and no play. But, the pleasures of having a place of your own usually outweigh the work involved. Be sure you get maximum enjoyment from the experience by buying within your means.

Let’s Learn About Costs and Considerations when Buying a Home

In the excitement of beginning a search for a home, many people jump right in without considering all of the elements that make a home truly right for them. It is a complicated and personal process. An unsuitable choice can be costly in many ways – you could lose money, waste time and effort relocating, or even put your family’s health in danger. The following are some things to consider when identifying your ideal home and planning a successful purchase.

Choosing a Neighbourhood
Remember that you can renovate a house but neighbourhoods take years to change and there’s no guarantee they’ll change for the better! On the other hand, if you really love a certain part of town but it’s out of your price range you may want to consider buying a less-than-perfect home then doing renovations. They can be quite expensive so try to make improvements that will be reflected in the value when you sell. These renovations have been found to have the greatest payback: kitchen 70%, bathroom 68%, interior painting 65%, exterior painting 62%.

Tips on choosing a suitable neighbourhood:

When you find a locale you like, walk around it. See what it’s like from street level.
Are the people friendly?
Are there stores and recreation facilities nearby?
Contact the local school board if you have children. Do local schools provide good education opportunities? If applicable are there private/religious schools?
Figure out what you can afford:
Consider how much you currently need to live on and how much you actually have leftover every month. People have a tendency to create budgets that look nothing like reality – when we should have $400 left over, for some reason we only have half that.

Consider these basic costs of buying a new home:

Most homes require a down payment of several thousand dollars.

Monthly mortgage payments can be 1/3 of the average person’s annual net income.
You may want to pay for a home inspection. Consider more than just the structure. Ask the inspector to check for asbestos, radon, animal infestation and lead.
Moving costs can be from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the distance of your move and the quantity of belongings.
Financing
The sort of home you can afford depends on several things:

How much you have saved

How much you earn

Past earnings
Your credit rating
The past has a way of haunting new homebuyers. If you are concerned about your credit rating you can usually get a free copy of your rating report from your local credit bureau. Normally all that’s required is a couple pieces of photo identification. Remember, a few late payments or disputed bills can besmirch your record. Try to pay everything on time and don’t have more than two credit cards. A bad rating can spell trouble getting a mortgage or you end up paying more for your mortgage as a form of insurance to the lender.

Pre-Qualification
This refers to documents from a bank or other lender indicating that you have the financing to back up your offer on a house. Pre-qualification is free and most lenders are happy to sit down with prospective buyers and figure how much they can afford. Having an accurate idea of price range will save time in the bidding process. If there are several people making offers on your dream home, being pre-qualified can make your offer more attractive since financing is not in question. It is important to note, however, that lending institutions will base their final decision about a mortgage on ability of the buyer to service the debt as well as the property. Most lenders state that the two components go hand in hand – the buyer with the ability to repay a mortgage and the property as security in the event of default on payment.

By taking all these points into consideration, you can worry less about the process of buying and get busy finding your ideal home!

Know More About Building a New House

Finding the perfect combination of house and location can often be a challenge. Perhaps you have found a lot with a lovely view, privacy and mature vegetation. The only problem is the house. The World War II-era foundation is cracked, the kitchen is the size of a closet and none of the bedrooms will accommodate your furniture. Rather than passing up the purchase, consider whether it is feasible to renovate or rebuild. Once you have done a careful analysis of the renovation costs, it’s time to weight them against the costs and benefits of rebuilding from the ground up.

One of the greatest benefits of building a new home is freedom of choice. You can choose the size, layout, style and other features of your home. As you write your wish list, consider these factors:

Size: Will you be adding to your family with children or accommodating elderly parents? If so, anticipating future needs will ensure your home will be suitable for years to come. However, keep in mind that size directly affects the cost. Most builders provide a price based on square footage. As well, there are long-term expenses: a large home will cost more to heat, light, cool and furnish. If you choose a large square footage, consider building upwards rather than outwards to minimize the size and cost of the foundation.

Style: Although new home construction is an opportunity to express your individuality, be careful about venturing too far from the norm. A cutting-edge design may be difficult to sell in the future. Also, consider the styles in the neighbourhood. For example, you may not recoup the costs of building a high-end, 4,000-square foot home in a neighbourhood of moderately priced bungalows. Shape: Be aware that the shape of a home can affect the cost of construction. A rectangular or square home is the least expensive to build. The more angles and corners, the more labour and materials will be required.

Materials: Energy efficient materials and building techniques can substantially reduce heating, cooling and lighting costs over the long run. Technology is constantly improving and you may be pleasantly surprised at the current ‘pay back’ on some items. Solar water heaters pay for themselves in 8-10 years and, considering that they have a lifespan of approximately 25 years, you can enjoy 15 years or more of free water heating! Can you think of any building materials that are dropping in price? Solar panels are one of the very few. Increased consumer demand has resulted in a reduced cost-per-unit. This gives homeowners more incentive to use solar panels to supplement their energy needs and/or provide emergency power. There is also a wide range of energy-efficient options in flooring, insulation, roofing and windows.

Mobility: If you would like to spend your retirement years in the house, design with mobility in mind. This means creating the space to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Traditional bathrooms and kitchens are too small to allow someone in a wheelchair to turn around. The Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation recommends allowing a manoeuvring space of 75 x 120 cm (30 x 47 in.) in front of or beside all fixtures including the bathtub, shower and storage spaces. Pocket doors save space within the bathroom. Countertops in the bathroom and kitchen should be lower than traditional at 86 cm (34 inches) to 91 cm (36 inches). Single lever taps are the easiest to use by someone in a wheelchair and anyone with arthritis.

Site Characteristics: Building on a flat lot usually costs less than building on a slope. Costs will increase if the builder needs to remove large trees or rocks before laying the foundation. Types of Plans Custom home plan This option typically requires the assistance of a licensed architect and an experienced contractor. However, your vision is essential to the process. Consider using design software to help you work out the details. It allows you to express your ideas in a format that is much clearer to the architect than handmade drawings! Ideally, purchase software that is compatible with your architect’s professional design programs.

Even with the assistance of technology, your design may require some adjustments by an architect particularly in terms of structural soundness. For example, the frame must be able to support the weight of the roof and an upper floor (if applicable) and withstand a certain level of vibration (such as in a minor earthquake). An architect may also be able to suggest cost-savings such as designing in two-foot increments to reduce lumber waste since lumber is usually sold in two-foot increments. Once the architect has completed the design, you will need to hire a building contractor who will coordinate the work of framers, electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople. Be sure to check references when selecting a contractor. Get the project scope, responsibilities, cost and timelines in writing.

Lastly, communicate with your contractor frequently and, ideally, at the worksite. Existing house plan Today, you can choose from thousands of home plans. Catalogues of plans are available for sale at most bookstores and on the internet. Once you find a home design you like, you can purchase the blueprints and other information that a contractor will require. Pre-fabricated homes This option promises to be faster and easier than starting ‘from scratch’. When you order one of the ‘pre-fab’ home plans, the manufacturer delivers the blueprints, pre-cut lumber, windows, doors needed to complete the home. Packages vary by manufacturer so carefully read the details and ask for a list of references.

If, in the end, you decide to build a new home, you are embarking on an adventure that will reward you for years to come.

Some Tips to Plan Ahead For A New House

There are many advantages to purchasing a new home: buyers are able to build equity, to enjoy the pride of ownership, and to obtain accommodation that is often larger and/or more luxurious than what is available to rent. Property has also proven to be a relatively safe and profitable investment in the wake of the technology stock plummet of 2000 and the Enron and Worldcom scandals.

If you are planning to buy a home within the next few weeks or months, preparing now can help you save time and money. When competing in a seller’s market, being prepared may also give you an advantage over other buyers. Consider the following tips prior to beginning your home search.

1. Know your bottom line before you begin looking at homes.

This means more than just knowing what price you are willing to pay. Consider the distance you are willing to commute to work, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you require and what you need in terms of local community facilities. If you have children, the proximity to schools and parks will likely also be a consideration.
By knowing your bottom line, you can avoid making snap decisions guided by emotional responses to attractive home features or the pressures of competing buyers

2. Check your credit.

Bad credit can happen to good people. Sometimes it’s due to an unpaid or lost bill and other times it can be inaccuracies in the report itself. Who wants to discover that they have a bad credit rating after finding the home of their dreams? Rather than waiting for a lender to inform you of your credit rating, it is wise to obtain a copy prior to beginning your home search. This will give you an opportunity to address any inaccuracies and perhaps settle any outstanding debts. The more ‘blemishes’ you have on your credit report, the more likely it is that your lender will charge you a higher interest rate as a hedge against a bad loan. You can obtain a copy of your credit report from accredited organizations such as Equifax.

3. Avoid making any major purchases prior to buying home.

Lenders tend to become nervous when they see that a potential homeowner has stretched their disposable income to the breaking point by buying a car or a boat for example. Such purchases can make it more difficult to obtain a mortgage or may lower the mortgage amount.

4. Calculate the maximum monthly mortgage payment you can afford.

Generally, the banks will allow people to take out a mortgage that is approximately equal to 30 percent of their gross monthly income. Depending on your personal circumstances, it may not be wise to take the largest mortgage possible. Consider your other long and short-term expenses such as tuition for yourself or your children, a new car, or vacations. Also be sure to factor in monthly retirement savings.

5. Anticipate higher interest rates.

Recalculate the above maximum monthly mortgage payment based on interest rates that are two or three percent higher than current rates. Ask yourself if you could afford to pay a higher monthly payment without infringing on other commitments

6. Determine your cash flow at the time of purchase.

There are various fees involved in closing a deal including the down payment, closing costs (federal and property taxes, appraisal fees, title insurance, survey fees, etc.) and home insurance. If you are moving from a rental suite, you should also be prepared for expenses that may have been incorporated into your rent such as heat, hot water, electricity and cable service.

7. Budget for any repairs and maintenance that may be required in your new home.

Sometimes people purchase a ‘fixer-upper’ because the home has other redeeming features such as a large backyard or proximity to schools or parks. If your new home will require repairs or maintenance be sure to budget for these expenses. For example, a bedroom renovation can wait for a few months but most families cannot go a day without a functioning water heater!

8. Get your paperwork in order.

Lenders will often need to see bank statements, pay stubs, and tax documents for the past two years. If you are self-employed, tax documents, bank statements and collateral such as a vehicle or other property are important criteria to securing a mortgage

9. Get pre-approved for a loan.

Once you have calculated a budget you can live with, approach a lender to find out if you can get approved for a mortgage and how much you can spend on a home. Being pre-approved can put you in a stronger position when you make an offer and can save you valuable time in a seller’s market.

Buying a home is not only a lifestyle change; it is an important investment. Making the most of your investment means planning ahead to find the right home, the best rates and the ideal time for you to enter the market.