Greg Bennett - The Home Expert

Providing Premium Real Estate Services

This may seem like a strange statement, but its an important, and often overlooked consideration. 


When you’re buying a home, you certainly want it to represent who you are and to meet your needs. However, you should always keep in the back of your mind that possibly, somewhere down the road, you might want to sell this house. You may want to upgrade. You may want to cash out and travel the world. Who knows? But at the heart of it, you’re probably buying a home in order to accumulate equity. That is, put money in your pocket, and not into your landlords. It’s an investment.


​So here’s the thing. If you buy a home that is too ‘unique’, you may have a hard time selling it in the future. Or more specifically, you may have a hard time getting the money you have put into the house back out of the house somewhere down the road. This may seem odd to be thinking about selling your home before you’ve even bought it, but you would do well to keep this in mind. I have seen people buy a small 1 bedroom home, with another bedroom in the basement, which at the time, was in their budget and sufficient for their needs. But down the road, when they wanted to make a change, they had a hard time selling. The majority of buyers are often looking for a minimum of 2 main floor bedrooms.
 
So the bottom line is this. Certainly you need to think of your house as a home. Your safe place where you live your life. But it is also an investment. Something you are putting your hard-earned money into. If you invest in something that nobody, or very few people will want at any point down the road, you can argue it is a bad investment. Overly small homes. Fixer-uppers. Homes way out in the country. All of them may have their charms, and depending on the type of person you are, they may be just perfect for you.
 
However if you are buying this home because its all you can find in your price range, you might want to simply be patient or expand the scope of your search. Be careful not to get yourself locked into a bad investment.

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When you are considering a home purchase, you should always be thinking of it in terms of it being 'Your Dream House'.


Now you may not end up buying a sprawling 10,000 square foot mansion, with Brad & Angie living next door, but you should at least have an image in mind of the things that would really make you happy. You are going to come home to it every day for the foreseeable future, so there should be some things that make you smile when you pull in the drive.

Most people start their search by looking on MLS. Nothing wrong with that at all. And people often only focus on one specific area when looking for homes. Now granted, some people have made up their mind on an area, town or neighbourhood. Family, proximity to work and other factors can come into play, and they should. However a common mistake people make when buying a home is ‘settling’ on something they’re ‘OK’ with, simply because it’s all they were able to find where they were looking. Its fairly normal for people to initially feel uncomfortable considering locations they are less than familiar with. But honestly, have you ever gone to visit someone living in an area you are unfamiliar with? Did you actually feel uncomfortable when you got there? Probably not.
 
So as long as the areas you are considering meet your locational needs (like proximity to work / transit, good services, etc), why feel uncomfortable? Let me give you a scenario, which demonstrates the value of at least considering ‘a bigger picture’ in terms of location.
 
A husband & wife were middle aged with 2 20-something sons still living at home. They had always wanted a home with a little more property than their current ‘standard city-sized lot’, and ideally wanted a bungalow. Everyone in the home was working, so proximity to work / transit options were key. With the new 404 extension, the buyers figured homes with larger lots would be abundant in that area, and with the highway there, commuting wouldn’t be a problem. Well they did find some homes in that area, but began to realize the type of home they were looking for just didn’t seem to be available. And because the area was still growing, the services like shopping, transit, and so on just wasn’t there yet.
 
So they had pretty much given up thinking that bungalow on a couple of acres was in the cards for them.
 
Sharing their disappointment at a get-together they attended some time afterwards, they ended up talking with a few different people who mentioned a couple of areas they hadn't even considered. They later mapped out a few of these places based on their original criteria. Near a highway, distance from work, transit, services and so on. They were astonished at how many options they had overlooked. From there, they were able to then start looking at the availability, and came up with a number of amazing places.
 
Where they ended up was just a little west of the 404 corridor, along the 400 corridor. In fact, the area they settled in had better services than in their current location which was closer to the city. They simply had no idea this particular area had advanced so much. But it stands to reason. Ontario is growing & changing. There are places that years ago were not really considered viable given common criteria. And yet now, these areas have developed into some of Ontario's Best Kept Secrets. One of them may be just right for you.
 
And as you can imagine, you may find that moving a little further out from the city center translates into a significant difference in housing prices. You may find you can afford more or have to spend less, depending on how you look at it. Now depending on your situation, any increase in your commute to and from work may not be something you are willing to accept. Having done the commute to downtown myself, I can completely understand. But as housing prices increase and people are literally being pushed out of the downtown area, improvements in train & bus service to these outlying areas are making them much more attractive.
 
So with that in mind, try not to be too narrow-minded when considering the locations you look in. You may find your dream home is out there. You were just looking in the wrong location.

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OK, so you’ve lined up some homes you’d like to look at. You’ve got a sense of what you’re looking for and a basic shopping list covering number of bedrooms, kitchen particulars, parking, type of lot, etc. So lets get shopping!

 
Well once you walk through that front door, your mind is probably going to start placing furniture and picturing yourself with a bag of popcorn watching movies.
 
And you want to do that. You do have to live her, so you want to project that on the home. Will your stuff fit in this room? Is the kitchen big enough to have friends for dinner? Will your bedroom set fit in this bedroom? This is all good stuff. But as a potential buyer, you should also know what things to look for that might be hiding a potential issue.  Your agent should help point out issues to you, but you shouldn’t rely on them exclusively.
 
I’ll list off some things here, which if you see them, just means you should at least take a closer look. It doesn’t necessarily mean run for the hills.  These are the types of things that can lead to costly repairs and/or small issues that can get bigger if not dealt with. And as a general rule, I suggest that you do a home tour during the day and in decent weather if you can. It gives you the opportunity to walk around the outside as well. There can be as many external issues as internal issues. So in no particular order:


Anything that doesn’t look straight 


As you are getting out of the car to walk up, stop and take a look at the outside of the house. Builders generally construct everything with nice straight lines and 90 degree angles. You want to look at the line of the roof, the steps going in, any openings like a door or windows. Does anything look crooked or curved? Things that started straight and aren’t now, will not likely get better on their own.
 

Anything that doesn’t look flat 


Generally floors, walls and ceilings should be flat (unless designed otherwise, which you can typically tell). Look for a change in the surface. A patch to walls or ceilings can mean there was (and may still be) a problem somewhere.

​A floor that doesn’t seem flat or appears to be slanting one way or the other can potentially mean a serious structural problem.
 
Wallpaper can simply be a choice made by the seller, and is not necessarily a problem (unless its…well….really ugly), but you should pay close attention to wallpaper because it can sometimes be used to cover up problems with the wall.
 
Anything where the colour doesn’t look right 


Again, back to the floor, walls and ceiling. If you notice that the overall color is white, but you notice a couple of spots that are noticeably yellow or darker, you could have a problem related to something leaking or that has leaked before.

You want to pay particular attention to hardwood floors that are showing stains, primarily because removing stains from wood can be particularly difficult.

Now if you see anything that has black stains, particularly in the bathrooms, under the kitchen sink or in the basement, you want to make note of it. It may be mold, and that can result in real health problems down the road. A little surface mold in a bathroom might not be the end of the world, but if it looks like something you couldn’t clean up with a basic cleaning product, you should be wary.
 
Anything that doesn’t smell right


Now lets be honest here. If you smell ‘food’, it is usually something either temporary, or something that can be dealt with by a fresh coat of paint. Often, furniture can hold food smells. So when that furniture is moved out, you may find the food smell goes with it.
 
That said, there are some smells that you don’t want to encounter in a home. Anything damp or musty may be cause for concern. Also, anything that smells ‘industrial’ like oil, gas or something found more commonly in a garage might be noteworthy.
 
Garbage smells can also be something to make note of. A real estate agent would advise most clients to make sure their garbage is taken out regularly, so if you are catching a whiff of garbage, you want to be sure that something hasn’t leaked and seeped into the structure. You don’t want to have to be ripping up some part of the floor just to get rid of the smell.
 
Also, if the opportunity presents itself, run the taps with your head just over the drain. You should make note of any odd smells coming from the water or drain.


Anything that doesn’t open & close right 


Now on this point, when going through a house for the first time, you should probably stick with checking the doors. Specifically, do they open and close all the way smoothly. Doors that don’t close all the way can be fixed, but that sticking might point to a structural issue.
 
Again, if you have an inspection done, they should be checking to make sure all the doors & windows are operating smoothly.

   

Outside



Everything outside is subject to the elements, so even though it should be as pristine as anything else, the key things you want to be looking for are the things that might let the outdoors become an indoor problem.


- Check around the edges of external windows and doors to make sure you don’t see any cracks or gaps where anything can leak in

- Check the general shape of the yard, specifically looking for depressions where water might pool.

- Check the eves troughs for cracks, gaps or other forms of deterioration

- Check the roof for damage, missing shingles, or any dis-colourations

- Check the driveway and stone paths for splits, lifting or plants growing through

- Check the exterior covering (brick, vinyl, wood, metal) for any damage or dis-colourations

 

Other things to ask about 


One of the key things you will want to keep in mind when looking at a home is its age. It stands to reason, the older something is, the closer it is to a normal end of life. Now that isn’t to say that just because a home is older, it is going to fall apart. You can find homes greater than 100 years old in most towns & cities. What it really comes down to is how well a home has been maintained.
 
Over the years, construction methods and product have been changing. Where houses built prior to 1970 might have plaster walls & ceilings, it is more common to see drywall now. Conversely, older homes might have nice hardwood moldings, where now painted pine or MDF are commonplace.
 
Where you want to pay close attention is the mechanical systems of the home. Electrical Systems. Heating & Air Conditioning Systems. Plumbing Systems. If the foundation, roof & walls of your home represent a skeleton, these systems are the internal organs. If they don’t function well, you are going to have a big problem. And if these systems are in bad shape, even if they still work, they can also cost you more money to run your home longer term.
 
Unless you are in the business, you can usually leave determining the health & welfare of these systems to a certified home inspector. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask about the age of these components or if there is any paperwork related to regular maintenance. 


So to button this all up...


There are a number of things you should keep your eye out for. And even if things appear good on the surface, there can still potentially be issues. You cant let this keep you awake at night. And at the end of the day, you now have a better idea of what to look for. So when you get to the point of putting in an offer, it is almost standard practice now that you have a Home Inspection clause in the agreement. In doing so, you can have 'an expert' look at your home from top to bottom, and provide you will even more piece of mind.

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When you’re buying a home, chances are, everyone and their dog is going to have a something to say. And like comments on a YouTube video, some are worth while, and some…. Well, you know. But that isn’t to say you should to just dance your way through this, and not listen to anyone. That’s dangerous. Real estate is a complex process, so you want to get good advice from people who know their stuff.

 
Now before I go on, possibly the most important thing you should understand about this subject is….
 
Advice


... is information you should use to help you make a decision on a home. You should be the only one who makes the final decision. You are going to have to live there. You are going to pay the bills. So you want to be comfortable with the decision you make.  Not a decision made for you. You should not feel rushed or pressured. If you don’t understand something that someone seems to be warning you about, you should ask questions until you do understand their concern.
 
Now as I’ve indicated, there is a difference between advice and an opinion.
 
Opinions


... don’t always apply to everyone’s reality. It’s often just someone’s personal preference. I’ve found the best way to translate people’s feedback into advice is, when someone is giving you ‘advice’, always ask why they feel that way. Someone might say only buy a house with a metal roof. When you ask why, hopefully they can provide you with some info on metal roofs, and their benefits over other types of roofs. Now you know more about all roofs. Not just metal roof = good. This is the type of information you need.
 
Now setting aside the advice from your friend Stella and your Uncle Hank, there are some very key people you will want to get advice from.
 

  • A Lawyer (unless you are one, you’ll need one)

  • A Financial Advisor (to set you up with your Mortgage and possibly help you with some budgeting ideas)

  • A Real Estate Agent (to help you sort through and understand the advice you get, present you with appropriate homes to consider, steer you through the purchasing process with the least amount of stress and surprises, get the deal done)

 
There is one additional person who has become commonplace in Real Estate. A Home Inspector. Hiring a Home Inspector is usually only something you do when you are putting an offer on a house (usually a favourable inspection is a condition of your purchase). However, like everything else we’ve discussed here, they are going to give you information on which you can make your decision. They wont tell you ‘buy or don’t buy’, but they will provide you with a report of all the things they looked at, and will give you a good idea if the overall house is in good shape or not, and where potential issues might be found. They do cost money, so you want to make sure you are comfortable with the service they will be providing. But they are absolutely money well spent.


So again, lots of people will have lots of things to tell you as soon as they find out you are considering buying a house. Be mindful to separate the opinions from advice. Be sure to get answers to the all the questions you have (no matter how small an items you might think it is). As much as is possible, seek out expert advice.

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I can comfortably say, the one part of the home buying process that stresses people out the most is surprises when it comes to paying for various things along the way. The stress doesn’t always come due to the amount, but when the money needs to be available.

 
So to help you avoid these problems, I’m going to try to outline as many (but probably not all) of the payments you will encounter as you finalize your home purchase, and when they are due.
 
In most, if not all cases here, your lawyer will investigate and provide you with the details of any moneys that need to be paid. I raise these items simply FYI.


Deposit


In most cases (in fact, I’ve never personally seen an exception), when your offer is accepted, you will be expected to place a deposit on the home. Usually in the form of a certified cheque or bank draft. Usually almost immediately after the purchase is finalized. Deposits vary in size, but 5% is not uncommon. In fact, it will be outlined in your agreement to buy. So even if you dont take possession of your home for a few months, you will still need to have this money available to you once you sign off on the purchase.


Provincial Land Transfer Tax


As a buyer, this is something you will have to pay. The payments are based on the sale price of the home, and are tiered (which is to say, you pay ‘x’ % for the first ‘y’ dollars, and so on). You should have no trouble finding a Land Transfer Tax calculator online. It is worth noting that in Toronto, there is an additional Municipal Land Transfer Tax you are required to pay. This amount is generally due when you finalize the purchase of your home.


Lawyer Fees


You will almost always have a lawyer handle the purchase of your home. They are generally the ones who pull everything together, tie up any loose ends on the home, and finalize the transfer of title to you. Lawyer fees do vary, but typically not too broadly for a real estate transaction. You should work out the fees with your lawyer in advance (again, to avoid surprises), work through with him/her what the process will look like in terms of their engagement and what information they will need from you (like who you are arranging your financing with, etc.).
 
The lawyer should tell you when they require their fee, but it is not unusual for them to collect their fee as part of the final closing activities.


Pre-Paid Taxes/Utilities


This is the one item that trips people up the most. So pay attention. If the current owner of the home you are buying has paid their property taxes in full for the year, and you buy the home in the middle of that year, you will need to reimburse them for the balance of the taxes paid. So if they paid $1000 for the year, and you take possession right in the middle of that year, you will have to pay the prior owner $500. The same is true of any pre-paid utilities like gas, electrical, water or sewer, although the amounts pre-paid for utilities are generally lower than for taxes.
 
This amount is generally due when you finalize the purchase of your home.
 
Circumstances can vary from purchase to purchase, so don’t be surprise if there are other little ‘gotchas’ along the way. Also, you will need to have insurance on the property from the day you take possession (and just FYI, you will probably need to supply proof of that policy). You will need to set up your utilities as well (which could mean up-front admin fees). So you should go into the home buying process with all your cash & financing squared away and available to you.
 
I personally suggest having some form of access to $1000 over & above what you think you’ll need to have available. If you don’t spend it now, I’m sure you will find a way to spend it once you move in.
 
One final thing I’ll mention is, if you have money tied up in some kind of mutual fund or other financial instrument, keep in mind, you may need some time to cash it out. So my recommendation is, all the money you have should be in a bank account ready to be disbursed on the day you are ready to sign an offer.

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We’ve talked about a Real Estate Agent in a number of places here. If you hadn’t gone through this information, you should expect that your agent will provide you with similar information.

 
Now with that said, people often ‘get’ a Real Estate Agent as a result of attending an open house or some flyer they received in the mail. That’s pretty common really. But lets face it. If you buy or sell a home, the agent or agents are getting paid for their services. Therefore you want to make sure you are getting your moneys worth.
 
When you approach an agent or are being approached by an agent, you should be expecting a bit of a sales pitch. It will probably feel like someone applying for a job (with you as the employer). So the agent’s particulars, the brokerage they work for, general statistics on their successes and so on. All good information to have. But you will want to know what they do for their commission. So some questions you should ask them are:


How will you be presenting me potential homes? 


​If you have gone on MLS yourself, you will already have a feel for what type of information is available there.  Having an agent who simply sends you links to listings periodically or just shows you printed MLS listings when you get together is pretty basic service.
 
The value lies in showing you the value of the homes available. There may be 10 homes in an area you have decided on, with prices ranging from $250,000 to $375,000. Based on what you are looking for, there should be an order of value from highest to lowest. And just because something costs more, doesn’t mean it is the highest value. When an agent selects homes to show you, they should know what you are looking for in advance including your budget, and should try to determine what homes are most likely to appeal to you that are in sync with your budget.
 
Just dropping 10 MLS printouts in front of you and saying ‘so which do you like the best’ or just booking you into 10 walk-throughs is not great service. That’s trial and error. Its extremely time consuming and can get pretty frustrating pretty fast.
 
A better approach I find is to talk briefly about all the homes available (those 10 listings), but have the top 3 detailed and compared, relative to what you mentioned you are looking for. This gives you something to focus on.  One of the other 7 might look cool, so you can add that one to the list. That’s not a problem. Maybe even ask the agent if they have been through them in advance. Your agent is obliged to make sure you are aware of everything available, but that doesn’t mean you have to walk through each & every one. Now if you do want to see absolutely everything personally, that’s fine. But your agent should at be demonstrating their expertise in rating them.


How do you want to interact with your agent? 


Everyone has busy lives, but if you’re in the market for a home, its likely to be your priority. That means you want to get a heads up from your agent in a timely fashion. But you probably don’t want to just get bombarded with information non-stop. It can quickly become noise. Now everyone is different, so I cant say the best way is this or that. However, your agent should be prepared to meet your needs in this regard. If you want summary emails once a week, that’s what you should get. If you want them to come to your home with listings, no problem. If you want a text as soon as the agent comes across a new property, so be it.


What if you get an agent, and they’re just not working out? 


At the end of the day, most agents are hard working and will meet your needs and then some. And if you are clear and straight-forward, your agent should be more than happy to accommodate whatever you are looking for. With that said, when you begin working with an agent, you are likely to have signed a representation agreement of some sort. In signing that agreement, your agent is committing a level of service to you, and you are committing to work with that agent.
 
So if things just don’t feel right, take it up with the agent directly. If things are still not improving the way you’d hope, you should feel comfortable reaching out to that agent’s Broker. They are as committed to your satisfaction as their agents are. And often, they might be able to offer suggestions that can quickly smooth out any rough patches.
 
Now also keep in mind, the agent cant control the marketplace. You may be getting frustrated because your agent cannot find the home you want for the price you want right away. That isn’t the agent’s fault. That is sometimes just the nature of the marketplace. Also, keep in mind that there are limitations to what an agent can do on your behalf. For example, they cannot sign anything at all on your behalf. They may be able to recommend a Home Inspector, and they might even be able to have them contact you in order to have an inspection arranged. But they cannot sign an agreement with the inspector on your behalf. Similarly, if you are arranging financing with a bank, asking your agent to contact the bank on your behalf with new information would almost certainly fail, simply because of privacy laws observed by the bank.
 
But always keep in mind, you are the client here. You should always feel completely comfortable raising any concerns you have, and should always get the feeling that your agent is there for you. 

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Ahhh, the dreaded ‘Which Comes First’ question. Chicken or Egg. Multiply or Divide. Weights or Cardio. OK, that last one is completely new to me, but I digress.

 
All of these questions have some philosophical undertone to them. Which is to say, there is always a seemingly good argument on either side. And so too is the case when it comes to Buying a Home. Do you do it before you sell your existing home or wait until the deal is done?
 
Sometimes people over-think this process, cant figure it out and end up staying in their home….like forever. And others just charge ahead with one part of the equation without understanding the implications the other has on their current activities.
 
Now under certain circumstances, the decision can be a little easier. If you find yourself having to move for work reasons, or something similar, the decision is often a little bit easier. You know this has got to happen, and you generally may accept that there could be a period in-between where you are not a home owner. Renter? Somebody’s new roommate? Whatever. You know there may be a gap in there, so you prepare yourself for that inevitability. If you’re lucky, whomever is behind the move is helping you out with some of the implications of this type of move. ‘Should We’ can sometimes be more stressful a decision than ‘When We’ is.
 
But for many of us, the idea of moving is a decision you contemplate until you come to terms with it.
 
You may consider moving because you have outgrown your place. You may have too much space, now that the kids have grown. Maybe you figure you have enough equity that you can now find a place that you can afford mortgage free (once you’ve sold your place). These types of moves tend to be a little less urgent, so you often have ample time to think things through. Doesn’t mean you can always come up with the ideal scenario, but again, if it looks like things aren’t going to fall together in an acceptable way, you can back off a bit and re-think it.
 
And then there are the people who….well….just move around. It may be motivated by a desire to take advantage of a hot market they currently live in. It may be an opportunity to move into a newer, nicer home being offered at a great price. It may be someone who needs a ‘fresh canvas’ now that they have re-decorated every room in their current home.


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The fact is, if you are in one place and you are trying to get to your next destination, it can be tricky. In some cases, it can completely work against you. For example, lets say you found an area that is just perfect in your mind. You HAVE to live there. But it’s a hot market. And in a hot market, there may be a few things you might not otherwise have to deal with.
 
First, the homes in a hot market go quickly. Under these conditions, you need to be motivated and ready to jump when the right place becomes available. Otherwise, you just end up getting frustrated when it seems like everything you like is gone before the weekend comes.
 
Second, the Sellers in a hot market can be a little more picky about the offers they will take. Hot market means they could be getting a lot of offers. More specifically, they want (and typically favor) offers with few conditions. If  you want to buy, but you have to sell your own home first, the Seller is less likely to have their deal hung up on your success selling your own place before you can buy theirs.  The fact is, most Sellers period are less inclined to accept ‘conditional on sale’ types of clauses, hot market or not.
 
You can certainly try anything & everything you want to get to where you want to be. But there are some things that can at least lessen the anxiety a bit. So if you own a home, which you plan to sell in order to ‘move on’, here are some things to consider.


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Is your house ready to sell? 


This is a really key step. First and foremost, you want to get the most for your home and sell it as quick as possible. There are all kinds of headaches that come with selling your home, so the faster the better. If you spend the time up front getting everything ‘just so’, you really will be doing yourself a favour.
 
Now this doesn’t mean you have to invest a ton of time & money in your home. It can be as simple as a coat of paint, trimming up some landscaping that has gotten out of hand, or fixing up a couple of those small dents & dimples you’ve grown to live with. Of course, some people may choose to do some significant work on their homes. The general rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever you choose to renovate, you can get back a solid percentage of that cost when you sell. Kitchens & bathrooms often pay off. Putting down new wall to wall carpeting may not.
 
One really easy one (again, in theory) is clear out your junk. Now I have heard about these shows where they help hoarders…. uhhh, de-hoardify their homes. You may not be one of these types, but you should keep in mind that potential buyers want to see open space. As George Carlin once said ‘Everyone needs a place for their stuff’. If your home is full of your stuff, people wont get a good sense of where their stuff is going to go.
 
That doesn’t mean you have to throw everything out. But you really should think about netting it down. The guideline I try to follow:
 

  • Do you use it more than once a month (during certain seasons)? Leave it alone.

  • Do you use it only once or twice a year? Put it in some sort of box or container.

  • Do you rarely ever use it, but it has sentimental value? Put it in a box or container, or even consider a storage facility.

  • Do you rarely even use it, or even think about it? Kijiji or the dump. Seriously, if you move, you are going to pay someone to move it. Get rid of it.

 
Once you have things in boxes or containers, try to stack them as nicely as possible. A big, unruly pile of boxes isn’t going to do you any favors.
 
I know I’m making this sound really easy, and I know it isn’t. But you will thank yourself for it later if you at least take a shot at it.


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Can you buy before you sell? 


Lets say you are of the mind that you don’t want to seriously consider a move before you’ve found your ‘Dream Home’. Now even though I’ve mentioned that Sellers tend to shy away from conditional offers, some may accept your conditions. If the home you’re looking at is not a popular design, the Seller may be happy to work with you. The area itself may not be ‘hot’ at then time, so again, the Sellers may entertain your offer.
 
However, you do have some other options open to you, depending on your situation.
 
You might be able to get some form of ‘bridge financing’. Now this depends on the lenders you choose to deal with. And there are risks that both you should be considering and the lender will be considering. In short, if you take out a loan in order to buy a new home, and you haven’t sold your existing home, can you afford to cover your living expenses plus the cost of the loan.
 
People have been known to get themselves into all manner of financial trouble doing this, so you should always be cautious when taking on additional debt. You may think your existing house is really nice and should move quickly, but there are all kinds of things that are out of your control, which can throw a monkey wrench into your situation. Be careful not to get ahead of yourself.


Do you have to buy right now? 


Some people honestly feel like when they see something that they ‘just have to have’, that it will never be available again. Now of course in some situations, that can be true. I believe there is such a thing as ‘a once in a lifetime’ opportunity. And maybe I’m conservative in my views, but when it comes to real estate, the ‘once in a lifetime’ means EVERYTHING comes together. Not just the availability of a house you really like. Everything including the conditions that will make it possible to buy it without putting yourself at risk.
 
I mean, houses are built. And if someone has built one, chances are it has been built a number of times. Sure, custom-made homes are…well… custom. But generally, most people who can muster up a sufficient amount of patience will be able to find a number of homes that are pretty darn nice.
You may have found a number of homes that you really love, and none of them were for sale. That shouldn’t discourage you. You should keep track of them, and establish a relationship with an agent who will keep a watch out for you. Most agents, if not all, would be happy to do so.


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Should you buy right now? 


Another thing to consider is the nature of your move. Are you making a fundamental change to the type of residence you are going to live in? Then consider this.
 
I know a gentleman who had decided to sell his 2000+ sq ft home and downsize. He was thinking something along the lines of a 2 bedroom condo. Perfect, given his needs. He had owned several homes similar to the one he was currently living in, but never a condo.
 
So he sold his place, and arranged for a closing that would allow him to deal with all the downsizing activities he knew he would have to do. Note: I will touch on this another time, but downsizing is probably a lot harder than you think it is. Anyway, rather than buy that 2 BR condo right away, he decided to rent a 2 BR apartment. That turned out to be the smartest move he could have made. Let me explain.
 
When he got the floor plan of the apartment he was considering, as most people do, he started marking out where he’d place his furniture. Everything he planned to move looked like it would fit pretty well. The location seemed convenient to everything he thought he would need. Although he’d never lived in an apartment/condo residence, when he did the pre-lease walk-through, it seemed pretty much what he expected. So he signed a one year lease, and moved in. And having invested the proceeds of his home sale, he was making enough to cover his rent and then some.
 
And then he moved in.
 
Now he expected he’d need a bit of time to adjust, so he took a few months to mull over this new scenario. It didn’t take him long to realize a few things that you simply cannot know beforehand.
 
First, he felt crowded. Not tripping over things and always walking sideways crowded, but just not comfortable. His kitchen simply didn’t have enough cupboard and counter space. And this was a single guy with no real flair for fancy cooking or entertaining numerous people. The location turned out to be quite dusty, due to the amount of traffic outside his windows. And although he hadn’t really given it too much weight (no pun intended), having some on-site exercise facilities would have also been nice.
 
But the good news was, he rented first. Sure, he would have to move again, but he wasn’t going to have to pay all the Seller costs all over again. Most importantly, he now knew (a) he would need a place at least 1100 sq ft, (b) he needed a kitchen with a certain amount of countertop and cabinet space, (c) he wanted workout facilities, and (d) he wanted the area around his new residence to be ‘less pavement, more grass’.
 
Well, 8 months into his lease, he went condo shopping and found the perfect place, with what he now refers to as ‘his million dollar view’.
 
Now this was a perfect ending to a somewhat rocky start. In some cases, renting gives a seller a perfect amount of buffer to deal with major changes. As with this particular case, if you want to move into a style of residence you’re not familiar with, you might do well to rent first. I mean, an alternative ending to this might have been he absolutely hated apartment / condo living, and ended up just buying a smaller bungalow somewhere. You never know until you try.
 
On the other hand, I’ve seen people decide to sell their place and rent, wait too long, and then find the cost of housing has increased so quickly that they cant get back into the market at the same level they got out at..
 
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Renting isn’t for everyone. People who have owned most of their lives often find it a bitter pill to swallow. But it does have its advantages under certain circumstances.

Wow. Sorry, that was a lot of information. So as we’ve outlined here, there are a number of things that can and/or should factor into your decision. If you own a home and you are ready for a move, the best advice I can offer you is this:
 

  • If you are thinking about a move, make sure your existing home is ready to sell. You should try to avoid rushing around at the last second, trying to get your home in ‘sell-ready’ condition.

  • If you are going to buy a home before you sell your existing home, be careful not to put yourself in a risky financial position. Nobody has a crystal ball, so nobody can guarantee you will be able to sell your home exactly when you want it to sell.

  • Be patient. Odds are, you will find more than one home that you will be excited to move into.  Try not to feel disappointed if you can get a specific home because you aren’t ready. There are lots of great homes on the market just about all the time.

  • Renting may be a good option for you, particularly if you are moving into a style of home that you are unfamiliar with. Living in a condo is much different than living in a detached 2 story. Be careful not to jump too soon.

  • I know I obviously have a bias here, but having bought & sold my own homes prior to getting into real estate myself, I can tell you, there is value in securing a good agent to evaluate your unique circumstances and help you determine some strategies for you to consider. And whatever course of action you choose, there will be times when you need someone (other than your significant other) to clarify things that are happening, make sure you understand both what is and what will be happening, and sometimes remind you of what you set out to do (in case you have a severe attack of ADD, as we all have from time to time).

 
Looking at a move to a new place can be a lot of fun. But to insure it stays fun, make sure you are cautious about your approach. Enjoy!

  
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Working in Real Estate, you see a broad spectrum of human emotions in play. Now given buying or selling Real Estate for most people means the biggest investment they have made or will make is ‘in play’, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people get a little twitchy.

 
But what is it specifically about the transaction that sets people on edge? I don’t think it is any one thing. People worry about different things, most likely based on their own upbringing and experiences. If it’s a couple that is buying or selling, the stress may be the combination of their collective concerns, or conflicting priorities or desires.
 
So leaving aside the ‘better living through pharmaceuticals’ strategy for dealing with Buyer/Seller anxiety, I will try to outline some of the more common root issues that leave people lying awake at night during this process. Hopefully by dragging them out into the light, we can identify some ways to avoid a troubled mind.
 
At a high level, it really comes down to ‘Fear’. Something bad is going to happen that will negatively impact your investment. For the Seller, the investment is clear, in that you have a home that you have paid for, or have been paying for for some time. For the Buyer, you have money you have been saving for some time that you are going to sink into this purchase and commit to years to regular payments. But fear is a little to broad a term, so here are some more specific thoughts on the subject.


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The Grass Is Always Greener… 


Obviously, when people are buying or selling, they want to get the best deal. Makes perfect sense. But when someone is looking for a home, they need to be cautious not to get stuck in a cycle of thinking that they are going to end up getting the short end of the stick with every potential home they consider.
 
How can you possibly avoid this? There are a couple of ways, but it all really comes down to having access to the right information at the right time. You can achieve this yourself or with a Real Estate Professional, but ultimately you should be prepared in advance.
 
For example, if someone came to me and said that just yesterday, they decided to buy a home, and they want me to take them out looking tomorrow, I would probably be inclined to get them to take a step back, take a deep breath, and at least spend a bit of time to figure out a little more than the fact that they are capable of buying a home.
 
Why? Maybe I’m a little selfish, but I know that people going into a complex process like this with little more than confidence and a pre-approved mortgage are going to have a harder time than they need to.  And if my client is having a hard time, so will I. And I’ve already got enough grey hair as it is.
 
If you are prepared, and/or you have someone working with you who is equally or even better prepared, you can protect yourself for thinking you are never going to get a good deal.


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Cant Always Get What You Want… 

Sorry, I’m a sucker for quoting classic rock tunes. Anyway, often people find themselves constantly disappointed during the buying or selling process. They feel like they’ve been at it for so long, they are starting to doubt if its ever going to happen. They cant get the price they want for their home. They cant find the home they want.
 
Now for Sellers, feeling like the process is taking too long might come from the frustration of having to keep their home ‘showing ready’, and having to leave their house and find something to do for an hour while someone checks their place out. I’ve been through it myself. It can be exhausting.
 
For Buyers, it may come from burning off countless hours out of their weekend looking at homes and not finding anything that feels right, or worse (in a hot market) having to forego a little decompression time after a hard days work to rush off to see a house that just came on the market.
 
In both of these scenarios, your best defense against this type of frustration may simply be patience, and knowing that going into this process, your normal routine is going to take a hit.
 
Now a second and often equally important consideration is to make sure you have the right perspective in the first place.
 
For the Seller, this can point to their expectations of what they can get for their home. This is a fine line, and a few percentage points on either side of the ideal selling price (which can be a challenging thing to establish, depending on the situation) can mean the difference between a stampede of potential buyers and lots of offers (when the price is below that ideal price) and a much slower, much longer timeframe before the place sells (when the price is above that ideal price).
 
For the Buyer, knowing what types of homes exist in the location they’ve chosen and what they go for is critical to getting through the process without going out of your mind.
 
In both cases, a pro should try to ensure you have the right perspective going into it. Now I’m not going to say that you should blindly follow any and all advice you get from an Agent. But you should always at a minimum be provided with sufficient information to support the advice you get, such that you are comfortable with what is ahead of you. If you aren’t comfortable with what you are hearing, get a second opinion.
 
But again. Be cautious. If you have talked to 3 different Agents, and they are all telling you the same thing, and you don’t like what you are hearing, maybe you might need to re-evaluate your expectations. And I say be cautious because unfortunately, if you interview enough Agents, you may eventually find someone who will tell you what you want to hear. That doesn’t mean either of you are right. That might just mean they don’t care how miserable you will become trying to find a certain type of home for 50% of what its worth or sell your home for 50% more than it is worth.


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Is That Your Final Answer? 

For some people, their fear is rooted in the simple act of committing to something. Now before some of you have an ADD moment and you start thinking about ‘those other’ commitment challenges that don’t relate to Real Estate, let me keep us on track.
 
If you are not ready to buy a home or sell your home…. that’s totally OK. Really, its OK.
 
In most cases, this is or should be a decision you have given ample thought to. As I have mentioned, you should have looked into this and prepared yourself a bit up front. But just because you are comfortable that you can get a pre-approved mortgage or can get a price for your home you are comfortable with, doesn’t necessarily mean you are committed.
 
A wise man once said, ‘I don’t fear commitment. I fear wasting my time’. Buying or selling Real Estate takes effort. And I’m not just referring to the prep work I’ve mentioned here. I mean making decisions. Making arrangements. Meeting with people. There is a big difference between shopping for Real Estate and shopping for your basic consumer products.
 
But more importantly, there is a lot of emotional factors that you need to come to terms with to be committed.
 
If you are buying for the first time (say as a couple), you may very well find yourself staring at yourself in the rearview mirror asking ‘are we ready for this?’.
 
If you are a selling a home you have lived in for years, maybe raised your kids in, you might have a hard time turning over that house full of memories.


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These are all very real things you need to come to terms with, or have at least given ample consideration to before you get serious.
 
So for those of you considering a change, good for you. I cant tell you that even if you take my advice, that you wont have a few emotional moments along the way. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t.
 
Maybe you should not so much prepare yourself for the inevitable fear (in all its forms), but prepare yourself to be courageous. So I’ll leave you with another quote that seems to fit.
 
‘Courage is not living without fear, courage is being scared to death and doing the right thing anyway’.

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Greg Bennett - The Home Expert
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