Archive for the ‘Tips For Home Buyers’ Category

Budgeting Tips to Help You Save for Your First Home in Stony Plain

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Budgeting Tips to Help You Save for Your First Home in Stony Plain | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamNow is the perfect time to be looking for property in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region! Particularly in Spruce Grove real estate and Stony Plain real estate, the housing market is looking positive and there is a lot of inventory for first time homebuyers looking to get that perfect home in a small city. If you really want to take advantage of the Stony Plain real estate market right now and get the keys to your very first home, there are a few quick budgeting adjustments you can make that will get you into a house that you own. Here are a few great money-saving tips to help you save up that down payment.

Make Your Own Lunches

Many people don’t realize this, but you could free up a lot of your money by making your own lunches and at-work snacks at home rather than buying them during the workday. A ten dollar lunch and a five dollar a day coffee habit add up to $300 over the course of a month. Train yourself to make your lunch at home the night before and keep it in the fridge. You can also consider bringing leftovers to work for lunch. Bring lots of snacks for the morning and late afternoon so that you don’t feel the need to go out and buy more food. Once you get into the habit of making your own food, you’ll love how your savings steadily increase.

Make Small Trips Instead of Big, Expensive Ones

Travel is a big expense and one that people who are saving for a house usually cut. People are often slow to cut down on travel because they somehow get the idea that there is nowhere amazing to go near Stony Plain or Parkland County real estate. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Use this time to explore smaller places near Parkland County acreages that are off the beaten trail. Athabasca and Wabamun are both within an hour from Stony Plain, and are great places to go camping if you’re the outdoor type. If you want something a bit more adventurous, try heading to Jasper for a night, or road tripping to Kelowna, where you can easily find a low-cost hostel for a few nights.

Track Your Expenses: There’s an App for That

One of the best ways to watch your budget is to track your expenses with a money management app. Mint is a great budget app and website that will let you manage all of your accounts and credit cards in one place. Mint is one of the web’s most popular personal finance tools, and it has many great features that you can use to stick to your budget. The app will send you weekly reminders of your goals and the progress you are making. Financial goals are always easier to meet when you pay close attention to them, and this website can help you do just that.

Now is a great time to buy a place in Stony Plain. Even if you think you’re not quite ready to buy a home, if you begin to budget you may notice that you’re actually not that far away. Starting a few healthy habits and tracking your progress is critical in meeting your financial goals.

For more great home buying advice, or for information on Edmonton real estate or Edmonton acreages, feel free to call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Housing Market Boom or Bust in Alberta?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHousing Market Boom or Bust in Alberta?My clients in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton area often ask me if “now” is a good time to buy a new home.  My answer to that question usually involves telling them that the best time to buy is when they feel ready to do so, no matter what the market is doing.  That may sound like a weasel answer but I believe people’s own finances and their needs and wants in housing are better for decision-making than any attempts to time or predict the market.

But “now” is an interesting time to be dealing in real estate in Alberta.  You’ve probably seen the gloomy news reports that the Canadian housing market is due for a major correction with house prices set to fall by about 20%.  That is not the case here!

In a recent article in the Edmonton Journal entitled “Alberta’s housing market still hot, whatever the media say”, Gary Lamphier reports on a conversation with Don Campbell, senior analyst and founding partner with the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN).  Mr. Campbell advises would-be sellers and buyers to “chill out”, suggesting that there is no such thing as a Canadian real estate market, but rather that each locality has its own unique market and conditions.  He goes even further when commenting about the Alberta market, saying that economic and demographic factors here are ripe for another housing boom, not bust.  He notes Alberta’s population continues to grow as workers come into the province while apartment vacancy rates shrink.  Many of these workers will decide to make Alberta their permanent home and that means they’ll be buying houses sometime in the next 2 to 7 years, fueling demand for houses and the subsequent rise in prices.

You may have heard or read that prices in Alberta have flat-lined so how can the dream of a new housing boom be true?  Mr. Campbell says Alberta’s boom-bust economy and the accompanying anxiety in people’s minds is to blame for this skepticism, along with tougher mortgage qualification rules and the negative national news.  He points out that Alberta’s population growth in 2012 was nearly triple the national average, putting a strain on housing capacity.  This situation tends to cause prices to rise.  While the average price of a house in Edmonton (about $401,000 in February) is still not as high as the peak prices in 2007, prices are definitely on the rise, according to another article entitled “Home prices flirt with record highs of ‘07”.

All of this suggests to me that now is indeed a good time to buy!

Let me help you find the home that’s just right for you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Murder, Mayhem and Seller’s Disclosure

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

You found your dream home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, agreed to buy it, and received a glowing report from your home inspector.  After concluding the deal and moving in, you learn to your horror that your dream home was the scene of a violent murder!  This was not disclosed by the seller or the real estate agent who listed the home.  What now? 

Murder, Mayhem and Seller's Disclosure | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamA recent broadcast on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti got me thinking about problem properties.  Entitled “Stigmatized Real Estate and What Sellers Must Disclose”, the broadcast focused on properties where a violent crime, such as murder, was committed.   

As a prospective buyer of any property, how do you know if what you’re seeing and what you’re told about a property is the whole truth?  Well, the fact is, you don’t.  While there are rules about what a seller must disclose, those rules tend to be a little, shall we say, open-ended.   

Interviewed on the program was Barry Lebowa real estate broker and appraiser with a great deal of expertise in dealing with stigmatized properties.  He noted that these properties might be ones where a crime such as murder was committed, but could also be homes at the heart of any unsavory situation:  used as grow ops, contaminated by mold, asbestos, urea formaldehyde foam insulation and the like, infested by termites or rodents, subject to repeated flooding, etc.  I am also reminded of the recent cases in Calmar, Alberta where homes were built on top of decommissioned gas wells, leading to much anguish for the unsuspecting owners of those homes.  Mr. Lebow pointed out that very few jurisdictions in North America have legislation dealing with disclosure about property defects.   

So, what is a prospective buyer to do?

  • Be aware that a property inspection will only expose “patent defects”; that is, problems that are clearly visible, such as a cracked foundation.  A home inspector will not usually be able to determine “latent defects”, or those that are not immediately visible, such as a water leak that has been hidden behind new drywall, for example, or those situations I mentioned above.
  • Sellers and real estate agents do have an obligation to disclose “material facts” about a property, if known.  This is any information that a reasonable person would probably want to know about a property.  As you can see, this allows for a great deal of subjective interpretation and uncertainty.   Furthermore, this duty to disclose can obviously only be enforced if the seller and agent are aware of the problem.  A small town crime may well become a local legend for generations, meaning that every owner/seller will know about the incident, whereas in a big city, where memories are shorter, subsequent owners may be unaware of anything to be disclosed.
  • House hunters must take it upon themselves to tell their real estate agent not only what they want in a home, but also what they will not accept.  If they are squeamish about buying a home that has been the scene of a violent crime, then they must make their agent aware of this so that the agent can seek out any hidden history.
  • As a buyer, be prepared to ask lots of questions about any property you are considering for purchase, and take it upon yourself to learn its history.  It’s also a good idea to put those questions in writing, and insist upon a written response.  Talk to your prospective neighbors too!

If you do end up unknowingly buying a property with a secret past, what can you do? 

Backing out of the deal, or immediately re-selling the home are probably not options because of the expense involved, unless you are so spooked by the thought of living in such a home that no amount of money is worth the emotional toll.  It should also be noted that stigmatized properties usually see a decrease in value of 10-20%.  If you can be pragmatic about the unexpected surprise of owning a property with a past, consider ways you can change the property – cut down or add shrubbery, repaint or change the siding, replace the house numbers and trim, renovate the interior – to give it a whole new history. 

I’d love to hear your comments or questions about this article!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

Pin It!

Friday, November 30th, 2012

As a home buyer, seller or owner in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region, you may not have thought to use Pinterest as a source of information.  I have recently begun building and adding to Pinterest boards, and I’d love to share this resource with my clients. 

Pin It! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamFirst of all, what is Pinterest?  Pinterest is a relatively new image-based social medium that allows you to organize pictures (still photos, graphics, videos, etc.), or articles containing at least one good-sized image, into topic groupings called boards.  Imagine any topic in the world that you know something about, or that you would like to learn about, and you can create or find a board for it.  To add an image or article to a particular board, all you have to do is “pin it” using the tools built into the program.  Images can be ones you’ve created yourself, or they can be attached to websites you find on the internet.  You can repin items other people have pinned to their boards, as well as follow other users, and of course other people can repin your images and follow you! 

My boards so far are the following:

Home Buying

Home Selling

Barry Twynam’s Spruce Grove and Area Real Estate Listings

Curb Appeal

Home Makeovers

No Ordinary House

Beautiful Kitchens

Laundry Rooms, Mudrooms, Storage Spaces

Great Little Spaces

Man Caves

Moving

Pets and Your Home

Outdoor Living

Landscaping

Home Security

DIY and Home How To

Painting Tips

Helpful Home Hints

A Clean Home

Who Says It’s Not Easy Being Green?!

Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Attractions

Saltwater Aquariums

Photo Geek

You can see my boards here:  http://pinterest.com/barrytwynam/ 

I would be pleased to have you visit my Pinterest boards, use the information, repin my pins, follow me, etc.!  I would especially appreciate any suggestions you might have about items I should add to my existing boards, or new boards you think I should create.  And maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own Pinterest boards.  Let me know and maybe I’ll follow you! 

I always enjoy receiving your comments or questions!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.  

Make a Conditional Offer Work For You

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Make a Conditional Offer Work For You | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAfter looking at many houses in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, you finally find one that meets your needs.  But before you offer to buy the property, you realize you have questions that need to be answered.  Does the house need repairs that you couldn’t see during your visit, such as worn-out shingles or a leaky basement?  Will you be able to put financing in place?  Will you be able to sell your present house before taking possession of the new one? 

Real estate purchase contracts often contain buyers’ conditions; that is, things that the buyers spell out as needing to be satisfied before they go ahead with purchasing the house.  If the sellers agree to the terms, then a deal is made.  The deal will be finalized and the house considered “sold” when all conditions have been removed. 

Here are some of the most common conditions you as a buyer might put on the sale:

  • Financing Condition:  If you are able to obtain a mortgage, you will buy the home.
  • Property Inspection Condition:  If a qualified home inspector that you as the buyer have chosen to review the home declares the home free from major defects, you will buy the home.  Should your inspector discover something that you are not prepared to live with, you can choose not to waive this condition, meaning the deal is dead.  Or, you may ask your realtor to renegotiate a lower price, money for repairs, or the actual repair itself.
  • Sale of Buyer’s Home Condition:  You specify a date by which your home must be sold in order for you to take on ownership of the new home.  If your own home is priced well and has a reasonable chance of selling within the allotted period, say 60 days, sellers will often agree to this condition, especially in a slow market.  (You should be aware, however, that a seller may put a condition on the condition, such as retaining the option to sell to someone else if you are unable to remove this condition within a specified period, such as 48 hours, of a new offer coming in without this condition.)
  • Additional Buyer’s Conditions:  This could be anything that the buyer would like the seller to do to make the home more agreeable, from repainting the home, to replacing the roof, to relocating a storage shed, etc. 

A conditional offer can protect you and make it possible to walk away from a deal if problems arise that you did not see during your initial visit to the home.  But you should be aware that a seller always has the right to refuse your conditions.  It is especially risky to impose conditions when the market is competitive.  More than one buyer has lost a good home because a second offer with fewer or no conditions has been placed before the seller!  This could happen to you even if you are offering a higher price. 

To make conditions work for you, they need to be used in the right way and in the right circumstances.  Your REALTOR® can help you decide whether it is in your best interests to write conditions into a deal. 

Comments or questions about this article or real estate in general?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here

House Shopping = Lifestyle Shopping

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

House Shopping = Lifestyle Shopping | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamYou may have seen the ad on TV about the couple who bought what looks like a nice house, only to discover it has numerous flaws, such as being shaken off its foundations every day by the passage of the 11 o’clock train!  If you’re shopping for a new home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, you’re going to want to consider more than just the features of the house itself.

You probably have a long list of things you want in a home:  the number and size of bedrooms, the set-up of the kitchen, modern fixtures in multiple bathrooms, amount of storage space, parking, cosmetic features such as paint colors and flooring, and much more.  You may have considered the style of residence that would work best for you, such as a 2-storey home for a growing family or a bungalow for people with reduced mobility.  You’ve probably also given some thought to landscaping features, such as patios and decks, trees and shrubs in the yard, walkways, driveway space, fences, and so on. 

But almost as important as the house and yard is the neighborhood in which your potential new home is located.  Yes, there’s that real estate cliché again – location, location, location – showing up over and over again as a very important element in the whole home buying and selling experience. 

Because, when you shop for a home, you’re really shopping to meet the needs of your lifestyle, and that always extends beyond the walls of the building in which your family sleeps at night. 

If you have a young family, you probably are interested in a neighborhood close to a school or adjacent to a park with a playground.  If you are a senior, you might look for a neighborhood where the amenities you need or want, such as shopping, recreational activities, medical facilities, fine restaurants, are in convenient reach, perhaps even walking distance.  Maybe you spend long hours at your job or other activities, so a home within an easy commute would be good for you. 

This isn’t all.  Consider the things you want or don’t want to live near.  Some people like corner lots, for example, while other people detest them.  Many people would love to live in a home that backs onto green space or a water feature (and often, as a seller, you can command a higher price for a home like this).  Most people would prefer that their dream home not be located on a busy and noisy thoroughfare, or next to a high-crime area.  As you shop for your new home and new neighborhood, it doesn’t hurt to think about the resale value of the homes you’re looking at, and realize that the value comes from more than the building on its lot.   Remember too, that there are things you can change, such as kitchen counters and cupboards, and things you can’t, like that train I mentioned earlier!  The home, its surroundings and your lifestyle become a package deal. 

I’m always happy to respond to your comments and questions!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

RPR or Title Insurance?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

RPR or Title Insurance? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamRecently, a number of my clients buying homes in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region have agreed to accept Title Insurance in place of an RPR.  What do these terms mean?  What are the advantages and disadvantages? 

An RPR, or Real Property Report, is a survey of a property showing exact measurements of boundaries and the placement of all improvements or permanent structures (house, garage, shed, deck, fence, etc.), as well as the location of easements, utility rights of way, and so on.  The RPR is a legal document prepared by an Alberta Land Surveyor.  A certificate of municipal compliance attached to the RPR means that local rules have been followed regarding the current state of improvements.  That is, every structure on the property is the proper distance from the property boundaries or rights of way, permits are in place for things like attached decks of a certain height, and so on.

Real estate purchase contracts in Alberta require a seller to provide a buyer with a current RPR in conjunction with written proof of municipal compliance.  This could be problematic if the sellers have made improvements to the property, such as adding on to the home, putting up a fence, building a deck, and the like, and maybe they did some of these things without getting a municipal permit.  This would mean that the RPR they received when they purchased the property no longer reflects the current state of the property.  The sellers are then obliged to order a new RPR from an Alberta Land Surveyor (and this isn’t cheap or quick), or update the old one.  The sellers must also seek retroactive municipal compliance for neglected permits, sometimes a lengthy, complicated and difficult process – unless the buyer waives the requirement for the Real Property Report with municipal compliance.

Waiving that requirement may put the buyer at risk should it turn out that the improvements do not comply with municipal rules.  What if the detached garage was built too near the property line, or on top of the gas line?  What if the deck built on to the side of the house hangs over the neighbor’s property by a foot?  The new owner of the property could be on the hook for the considerable expense of making these things right, not to mention the hassle of tearing down perfectly good structures that just happen to be in the wrong place.

That’s where Title Insurance comes in.  Title Insurance in Alberta “guarantees” that improvements on the property comply with zoning bylaws and that there are no encroachments either from other properties or onto other properties.  Title insurance doesn’t magically make problems go away.  But, if bylaws have been broken or encroachments exist, title insurance (with some restrictions) will pay the cost of obtaining compliance or removing encroachments. 

Advantages? 

  • Title insurance can be a good compromise in situations where a new RPR would uncover a problem (for example, no permit for an attached and covered deck) whose solution would be much more costly or invasive or time-consuming than either seller or buyer wants to undertake.
  • It can also be an excellent hedge against such things as mortgage or title fraud, builder’s liens, or hidden deficiencies, such as basements developed without permits, underground storage, and the like.
  • Title insurance usually costs considerably less and is often easier and faster to obtain than a new RPR.

However… there are some disadvantages that buyers in particular should be aware of:

  • Property buyers in Alberta should know that the concept of title insurance originated in the US where citizens do not enjoy the same level of protection that the Alberta system of land titles registration provides.  An up-to-date RPR with municipal compliance is still the best protection for a buyer, as it ensures that the property meets all current bylaws, regulations and the like.
  • Title insurance does not reveal underlying issues or correct structural deficits.   It merely provides the financial means for the future to clean them up should they be discovered and should there be an insistence that they be made right.  Note also that title insurance, even if obtainable, does not absolve sellers from the legal obligation to disclose all known defects about their property.
  • The usual arrangement when title insurance is offered in place of an RPR is that the buyer purchases the insurance and is reimbursed by the seller, as per the purchase contract.  The new owner of the property is then the holder and beneficiary of the insurance policy for as long as he owns the property.  But… when it is time for him to sell the property, he must either pay for a new RPR after correcting problems, or offer and pay for the same deal he accepted, hoping that the new owner will agree to title insurance – not a foregone conclusion.

So, as a buyer, what is your best course of action?  Given the above, it might seem that you should always insist on a new RPR.   Sometimes that is the right thing to do.  But there are many situations, especially in cases where “correcting a problem” may be worse than living with the status quo, and where time is a limiting factor, when accepting title insurance in place of a missing RPR or in addition to an outdated RPR is the way to go.  Your realtor and lawyer are in the best position to help you decide.

For more information and detailed examples:

Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) Information Bulletin:  Title Insurance

Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) Information Bulletin:  Real Property Reports

(The above article is not intended to cover all aspects of the topic of RPRs and title insurance.  Buyers and sellers are urged to seek detailed expert advice relevant to their personal situations.)

Questions or comments about this or other real estate matters?  I’m here to help!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

House Hunting Tips

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHouse Hunting TipsWhether you are seriously in the market to buy a house in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region, or just like to look at pictures and dream, you might find an article about the HGTV show House Hunters informative and entertaining.  

HGTV show inspires tips for real-life seekers(published in the July 28, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal, and other newspapers, as well as online) is a tongue-in-cheek commentary by columnist Mary Beth Breckenridge about her addiction to the TV show House Hunters, in which she notes that buyers seem to toss their common sense when viewing property for sale.  Here is what she advises would-be home purchasers:

“-Granite countertops do not make a kitchen. Yes, they’re lovely, but maybe you should open the drawers to make sure they don’t require the kind of force that dislocates elbows, and turn on the faucet to verify that the water flows in more than a trickle.  Oh, and by the way, there are other kinds of countertops. Very nice ones, in fact.

– Location, location, location. It didn’t become a real-estate cliché without good reason. You can replace carpet and reconfigure rooms, but that freeway noise? You’re stuck with it.

– For the love of God, price a couple of cans of paint before you reject a house over the blue in the baby’s room.

– You might want to think twice about going right from an efficiency apartment to a McMansion. Furniture costs money, you know.

– Five bedrooms for two people? Really?

– Two-storey great rooms look dramatic, but check the heating bills if you live in Minnesota.

– Don’t give the yard short shrift. It takes hours to knock down a wall but years to grow a tree.

– After a few months of two-hour commutes, you’re going to kick yourself for choosing the sparkly new Colonial on the outer reaches of exurbia over the fixer-upper 10 minutes from your job. Even if it does have hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.

– And remember what I said about countertops? Ditto appliances.” 

So, what do you go for when you’re searching for new digs?  Are you one of those people who falls for something shiny, or can you look beyond what’s pretty (or, for that matter, what’s not so pretty) to find what’s practical?  Home stagers exist for a reason, and it’s the wise buyer who is able to resist their tricks!  Learn to distinguish what you absolutely must have from what would be nice to have.  Separate things that can be changed (paint color, counter tops, appliances, other decorative items) from those that can’t (street on which the home is built, its orientation on the property, other permanent construction details).  Do this and you’re sure to find the right home that you’ll be happy to live in for a long time.   (See also my blog article from April 5, 2012 entitled “That Perfect House”.)

Still a little confused about what to look for?  Let me help you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Is Condo Living For You?

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Is Condo Living For You? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWhat is a condo?  

Many people hearing the word “condominium” think of an owned unit in a high-rise apartment building.  But a condo can be any type of dwelling:  an apartment in a low-rise building, a townhouse, freestanding house, duplex and so on.  What makes a condo different from a “freehold” house is that you own your unit only to the walls, and you share ownership of the land, rest of the building and common areas.  This sharing of ownership is also a sharing of costs with other members of your condo association.  Decisions about the property are made by a board of directors or a property management company.

How do you decide if owning and living in a condo is for you? 

Living in any kind of dwelling comes with trade-offs and compromises!  Consider these advantages and disadvantages of condo living over owning a freehold home:

Pros:

  • Kiss your snow shovel and lawn mower goodbye!:  Monthly condo fees cover the cost of outside maintenance, such as snow shoveling, lawn mowing, eavestrough cleaning, possibly even exterior window washing. 
  • Cost sharing:  Some of your condo fees go into a reserve fund to be used for major repairs such as re-shingling the roof or replacing windows.  If more money is needed, special assessments pool funds from all condo owners so the cost per owner is usually much less than for a freehold home.
  • Lifestyle:  Condos are ideal for people who prefer to live on one level or in a small home, who enjoy socializing with their neighbours, who like living in prime urban locations, who appreciate the convenience of being able to leave home for days at a time without having to worry about yard maintenance, security and the like.  Many condo developments also create communities of like-minded people, such as young professionals or seniors, resulting in increased opportunities for recreation, socializing and support.
  • Expression of personal taste:  Freedom to decorate the interior of your unit as you wish.
  • Amenities:  Does your 1200 square foot bungalow have a swimming pool, exercise room, theater room, party room and guest suite?  Didn’t think so!
  • Price:  Condos are generally cheaper to buy than a freehold home.  Lower property taxes too!
  • Location:  Condos are often located “where the action is” – in the heart of a major city and close to facilities and services such as restaurants, medical facilities, artistic and recreational activities, public transportation and so on.
  • Security:  With close neighbours all around, plus secure entrances and even doormen in some complexes, you may feel safer than in a self-contained house.  If your neighbours are owner occupants, they may be more likely to take care of their property, and to watch out for yours. 

Cons: 

  • Price:  Condos may be cheaper to buy than freehold homes, and you may be able to get more house for the money BUT, not necessarily!  Research and do your homework!
  • Investment value:  The value of condos tends not to rise as much or as quickly over time as the value of freehold homes, and improvements made to a condo may not give the same return on investment as in a regular home.
  • Condo fees:   A mortgage may eventually be paid off, but you’ll be paying monthly condo fees, which can be substantial and can always be expected to increase, for as long as you live in your condo.  This is more onerous if you don’t use amenities like a swimming pool or party room that your fees are subsidizing.
  • Special assessments, or “everybody pays”:   If the condo board needs money to pay for almost anything beyond what’s been budgeted, things like unforeseen utility bill increases or emergency repairs, all condo owners will be on the hook for a share of the pain, with no choice but to pay. This includes paying for damages caused by other condo owners or their guests, or legal fees if the condo association is involved in a lawsuit.
  • Management:  Condo developments are usually managed by volunteer boards whose members may or may not have the experience and expertise to make informed decisions, or by property management companies whose first priority may be money rather than the welfare of residents.  Poor management could result in neglected maintenance, arbitrary special assessments and more, leading to costly situations for residents which might include a decrease in the resale value of their condos. 
  • Rules and bylaws:  Most condo associations have many, and the wise prospective buyer will study them thoroughly before committing to the purchase.  For example, a condo development may decree that in-suite washing machines cannot be used before 8 AM or after 10 PM.  Rules relating to parking, noise, pets, garbage disposal, outdoor barbecues, even overnight guests are common.  Something you may want to ask about:  Are amenities, such as a preferred parking stall, transferable?
  • Community living:  Sharing walls, ceilings and floors with other residents, especially if sound-proofing is less than optimal and neighbours are noisy, can be stressful.  Condo living also means less privacy and possibly less safety when it comes to things like fires and the like.
  • Parking:  Often limited and probably not adjacent to one’s unit.
  • Lack of green space or limited outdoor living space:  Condos in downtown locations in particular are unlikely to be surrounded by lawns and gardens.  Patios and balconies, if they exist at all, are typically small.
  • Limited storage space
  • Lack of control:  Within your own unit, you can usually repaint the walls, change the cupboards, flooring or appliances, but beyond your walls, you may not have a choice in things like lobby décor, landscaping, window replacement and the like.  Worse, the timetable and budget for such things will not depend on your convenience or approval.
  • Property insurance:  Condo owners may require special insurance to protect not just their personal investment but also their share of the common property in the condo development.  Ask your insurance agent about “loss assessment”.  Also, take the time to read carefully what’s included and covered in the condo corporation policy; that way, you’ll know what you need to include in your personal policy.

Is Condo Living For You?Do the benefits of condo living outweigh the drawbacks? 

Here’s some more advice if you are thinking of buying a condo:

  •  Talk to the residents:  Meet the people who will be your neighbours.  Ask them what they feel is good and bad about the condo development and its management.
  • Consult the experts:  Look for a realtor and lawyer who have experience in dealing with the condo market.
  • Read provincial condo legislation, such as the Province of Alberta Condominium Property Act. 
  • Inform yourself about types of ownership:  Visit HomeBuyer.ca for a look at the different types of condo ownership.     See also Buying a Condo from the Canadian Bar Association.
  • Compare condo fees:  Find out what the fees cover.  You may find that the condo development with the lowest fees is not necessarily the best choice; higher fees, for example, might be covering things like utilities, cable and internet. 
  • Study the condo bylaws, rules and regulations:  You’ll want to know what you can and cannot do – and what your neighbours are allowed to do as well.  Can you have pets?  run a business from your unit?  and so on.  Take note also of penalties imposed for breaking the rules.
  • Find out about the occupancy rules:  Will your neighbours all be owners, or will they mostly be renters?  Will you be allowed to rent out your place?
  • Ask pointed questions about the condo development and its management:  Is the development well managed?  What is the current financial situation of the development?  What financial reserves are maintained?  What special assessments have been done?  What work is planned for the future?  If you reach the point of having a home inspection done, pay the extra to have your inspector look beyond the walls of the unit you’re considering for purchase.
  • Buy the right property insurance:  Remember that you may need to protect your share of common property should an accident cause damage beyond your own unit.
  • Plan to get involved with the condo development board of directors:  This is the best way to be informed and have a say about what happens in the condo community.

For an excellent and thorough exploration of everything relating to condos in Canada, download the Condominium Buyers’ Guide from CMHC.    Of particular use to a prospective condo owner are the checklists for evaluating the physical condition of the condo, as well as detailed lists of questions to ask before you sign a purchase contract.

Ready to jump into the condo market, either as a residence for yourself or as revenue property?  I would be happy to help.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

That Perfect House

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

That Perfect House | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamLooking for a home, whether in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, is a lot like looking for a mate.  Each specimen you find has its own unique features, some great, some not so great – and the trick is to find one you can live with!

When clients give me a long list of things they absolutely have to have in a home, I know we might be looking for a long time, unless those clients have deep pockets!  This is equally true if clients are looking for a particular feature that is not common or standard in the average newer home these days.  For example, it is rare these days to find new homes, unless they are high-end models, with separate dining rooms.  It is more common today for new homes to be built in the open concept style, with a kitchen, dining area and living room that flow together instead of being surrounded by walls.

I usually counsel my clients to make a list of everything they’d like in a home and then to cut that list down to 10 prioritized items.  I also encourage my clients to differentiate between needs and wants.

  • What are things you absolutely have to have based on family configuration, activities, possessions and so on?  For example, a family with two parents, three kids and a grand-parent living with them is going to need a different kind of home than a single person living with his dog.
  • What are things that would be nice to have but you could live without if you had to trade off one feature for another?  For example, would a laundry room in the basement rather than on the main floor work if it means that some more critical feature is present in a home being considered?
  • Are there things that could be changed in the future?  For example, an unfinished basement can be a positive or a negative depending on the point of view of prospective buyers.  Sometimes a home’s potential counts at least as much as its current condition.
  • Notice I haven’t said a word yet about price.

Once a reasonable and well-edited list of must-haves is on the table, I caution my clients that compromise is a word they are probably going to hear a few times before the deal is done.  If you have ten must-haves on your list and we are lucky enough to find a home that has seven of your desired features, I consider that a big success.

Let me help you find a home that’s just right for you!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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