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The Importance of being an educated Buyer.

Buying your first home is easy, right? You look at houses online, go to a few open houses, write an offer, talk to your bank and voila! SOLD. I mean, of course you know what an encroachment is, title insurance? Closing costs? Differences between a deposit and down payment? Right? Making sure you are truly educated at every step of the process is paramount to a successful transaction. After all, this is one of the largest purchases you will ever make, so doesn’t it make sense to know all the facts first?


I have worked with my fair share of first-time home buyers, helping them to learn along the way and trust me, you are not the only one who doesn’t know how this whole process works. Situations change, deals become more complicated, processes may seem a bit confusing, which is why I must emphasize the importance of asking questions.


Us Realtors, we have done these transactions millions of times, sometimes (and I do mean SOMETIMES) forgetting that this is your first time. If we are explaining things too fast or talking about some condition you’ve never heard of, STOP US! Never feel embarrassed if you don’t understand a term or concept, we LOVE educating our clients, not to sound cliché but, “There is no such thing as dumb question”.


This blog will not answer ALL of the questions that will come up during your real estate experience, but I just wanted to share with you some of the most FAQ I have received from buyers in the past, giving you a head start on your journey! Enjoy!


I went online and filled out a questionnaire with my bank. Am I pre-approved?

Simply, No. There is a big difference between a pre-approval and pre-qualification. A mortgage pre-approval is a detailed letter from your lender letting you know the amount they are willing to lend you as well as the interest rate that they are locking you in at. It may also have conditions attached to it that you must fulfill in order to be approved for the mortgage amount. Before receiving the pre-approval letter, you will have to provide your mortgage specialist/broker with the required documents as well consenting to a credit check. A pre-qualification on the other hand, is something you may fill out online through your bank or financial institution, no documents are required and there will be no credit check. Before a lender will approve your mortgage, they will need all of these documents, so by having a pre-approval you are already ahead of the game when it comes time to securing those funds.


Did I mention it gives you the upper hand in bidding wars? Pre-approvals allow you to move fast when you find the right home, especially if there is someone else thinking it may be theirs as well!


I just started my home buying process and came across a house I love online, I don’t have an agent, is there a difference between using the listing agent or a Buyer’s agent to represent me? 

This one may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by the amount of people who don’t know the difference.

The seller’s agent (or listing agent) is the real estate agent that is listing the property. You will normally see their name on the sign out front, or on the listing online. These agents represent the SELLER. They have fiduciary obligations to their client (the seller), meaning they must disclose conflicts, avoid conflicts of interest and maintain utmost loyalty, as well as providing duty of care and their general obligations. In short form, the Seller’s agent is looking out for the best interest of the Seller.


Now on the flip side is a Buyers Agent. How you choose your agent is your own choice, but I highly recommend finding someone you mesh well with and trust. Whether it be by going to open houses, scrolling online or just someone you know, it is important to form that bond early. A buyer’s agent has the same fiduciary and general obligations to a Buyer as a seller’s agent to the seller. Therefore, the Buyer’s agent is looking out for the best interest of the BUYER.


I want to see a house on the other side of the city, I don’t want to inconvenience my agent, should I just call the listing agent and set up an appointment?

ALWAYS CALL YOUR AGENT. Remember what I just said about Buyers Agency? They are there to look out for your best interests. The seller’s agent still represents the seller even if they are the one showing you the house. If you have an agent who you are already working with, TRUST ME, they want to show you the house, even if you think its an inconvenience for them, its not, so call them, please…. One more time? CALL YOUR AGENT.  All Realtors have access to all MLS listings; therefore, your agent can show you every single one of them. There should never be a situation where you would have to set up a viewing yourself with the listing agent. Leave it to them. There are exceptions if you want to use the listing agent as your own, this is called dual agency, but please ask them to explain this fully to you before signing any agreement.

 

I see there is an Open House happening tomorrow but my agent can’t make that time, can I still go?

Of course, you can! Tell the agent at the open house that you are represented, don’t worry, they won’t mind at all! That agent will then follow up with US instead of harassing (did I say harassing?) you for the feedback.


On a side not, if you are still looking for an agent, open houses are great opportunities to “interview” potential agents and see if they are the right fit for you. Most times, the agent doing the open house is not the listing agent. Ask them some questions, (there is a theme here).


We LOVE it! Who writes the offer? My agent or my lawyer?

Your agent. Whoever is representing you at the time will write the offer for you, with you present and explaining terms and conditions as you go. It is always nice to familiarize yourself with the Offer to Purchase prior to writing an offer as it can look a little intimidating at first. Ask your agent for a spare copy, they will be happy to provide one for you.


People keep warning me about these things called “Closing Costs”, how much should I set aside for them?


Anywhere from 2-2.5% of the purchase price of the home. These closing costs include (but aren’t limited to): Lawyers Fees, Land Transfer Tax as well as Title Insurance.


I’m putting down 5%, my lender told me I have to pay CMHC fees, more fees!? What the heck are those?

This should be explained to you in detail when you are going through the pre-approval process, but I will give you a quick explanation here. If you are putting down less than 20% of the total purchase price as your down payment, you will be getting what is called a high-ratio mortgage. These mortgages have attached to them mortgage default insurance, which you will commonly hear being called CMHC Fees. These fees are not an upfront cost to the buyer but built into your mortgage. CMHCC Fees insure the lender in the case of the borrower defaulting on payments. They are calculated depending on the purchase price of the home as well as the amount you put down. Rate Hub has a great Mortgage Default Insurance Calculator.


What is a deposit? Do I have to come up with MORE money!?

A deposit is a portion of your down payment paid on the day you write the offer. This deposit acts as security for the seller, and lets them know you are a serious buyer.  Your deposit will be held in the listing brokers trust account (some exceptions) after acceptance of the offer. Once all conditions written in the Offer to Purchase are fulfilled, the deposit will form part of your down payment, meaning you will only pay your lawyer the remaining balance of your down payment at closing.  Now, if the conditions aren’t satisfactory to you, the deposit will be returned to you in full without interest. With that being said, there are situations where the listing brokerage will have every right to withhold that deposit, please ask your agent for examples of situations where this may arise.


I’ve heard of this thing called Title Insurance, do I need it?

I personally love Title Insurance, it’s a one-time fee you pay at closing that protects against losses arising from problems related to the title of your property. What does that mean you ask? When you are buying a home, you are registering your name to the title of that property. You want your title to be free from all defects that would prevent you from total ownership such as, unpaid liens from previous owners, encroachments not registered to the title or fraudulent ownership. Title insurance covers you from a number of risks, even if the defect existed prior to you purchasing the property. It normally costs anywhere from $200-$400.  You can always ask your lawyer to explain this further.


Home Inspections? What are your thoughts?

It depends on the situation. For the most part, I always recommend buyers to do a home inspection as they provide a tremendous amount of information in regards to the property. They will look at the structure, the roof, the utilities, the electrical etc. and they will likely get a whole lot dirtier in the process than you will from just a simple tour of the house. We will gladly recommend you to some of the best home inspectors around! Home Inspections normally cost roughly $500.00 and will last anywhere from 2-4 hours. 


I did say that it does depend on the situation though. There are some cases, such as when dealing with multiple offers, where a Home Inspection might affect the strength of your offer. Make sure you have all the questions you need answered before going forward, and always remember we are only here to guide you in this process, you always make the final decision.


I have only just skimmed the surface of what there is to learn when buying your first home. Never be afraid to ask the important questions and remember,


“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life” – Confucius 


Jennifer Queen Team Agent Ashton#AgentAshton

Ashton Augert

Sales Representative

Tel: (204) 781-1767
Email: Ashton@JenniferQueen.com

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To decorate or not to decorate? That seems to be the question of the season.  Or at least one that I have encountered enough times that I feel it is blog worthy!


The short and simple answer, YES! Feel free to decorate your home for the holidays.  Here are some of my recommendations for how to get your house on every buyers’ wish list:


The Proper Foundation: Is your home normally clean and tidy?  Would you consider it to be in a “staged state” prior to your decorating?  If so, then adding a few decorations will create a lovely ambiance.  However, if your home is cluttered adding additional nick knacks is a big Ho-No (see what I did there?).


Make it Cozy: I don’t mean jam pack the space so that people can’t easily navigate their way through it.  Remember, less is always more.  BUT the right festive holiday touches can go a long way.  Have some cider simmering on the stove, start a fire (ONLY if you have a fireplace), turn on some flameless candles, leave out some cookies, place a great wreath on the front door – and you’ve created an ambiance that will appeal to any buyer!


Complement Existing Décor:  Are the colours you are decorating your home consistent with the esthetic of the home?  Remember, buyers like consistency.  We do not need to be jarring them with opposing colours or designs throughout the home.


Accentuate the Positive: Done right, holiday décor can be used to dress up the key features of a home.  Do you have a beautiful fireplace?  Then make it stand out as a focal point in a room with beautiful garlands.  Or do you have high ceilings?  Accent that with a large wreath or other décor.


Go Classic with the Lights: Curb appeal is incredibly important as it creates that (hopefully positive) first impression. Stay away from the large cartoonish inflatables or bright flashing lights. They are too distracting and take away from the home itself.  As a side note, I do own an inflatable Christmas Minion that we proudly have in our yard every year.  But I would not put it up if our home was for sale.  Stick to the more classic white/yellow bulbs placed tastefully along the eavestroughs. It adds a look of sophistication and class.


Decorating the Tree: I would advise against getting a wide and bushy tree.  It will make the space feel smaller.  Instead opt for a skinnier version, and similar to the point above about complementing your existing décor, keep the tree décor more consistent as well.  Stick to three colours or less, and no homemade items.  It’s too personal and makes it difficult for the buyer to picture themselves in the home.


A few other points I would like to make for those people that are selling their home this holiday season:

Do your best to keep the home accessible.  I do not expect you to be showing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (although it has happened), but try and keep the place as neat and tidy as possible so that it is not such a daunting task to entertain a showing request on December 27.


Competition Dries Up: I have found year-after-year that listings that may have been sitting in December all of a sudden sell through in the three weeks following Christmas.  Why? Because inventory is SO limited at this time of year.  A lot of people seem to take their home off the market during December but that doesn’t mean that buyers stop looking!


Only the Most Serious Buyers: Truthfully.  Who actually wants to look at houses during the holidays?  Only those buyers who seriously need a place.  Whether it be expiring leases or their own home having recently sold or any other combination of unique circumstance, the most serious of buyers are out and looking at this time of year and they tend to be much more decisive and strong in their negotiations.


And finally, DO NOT let selling your home ruin your holiday.  Work with your Realtor to determine blackout dates and even visiting hours that are appropriate for you over the holidays. Quite often they can post the schedule in Realtor Remarks so that other Realtors know when they can and can’t show the property. While it is important to keep the home as accessible as possible, it does not have to be to the detriment of your enjoyment of the holidays. 

Thank you for reading.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season filled with love, laughter, family, and friends.  And from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!


The Jennifer Queen Team

Jennifer Queen

Tel: (204) 797-7945
Email: Jennifer@JenniferQueen.com

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I cannot tell you how often we are asked by a client whether or not we think they should paint.  The short answer: YES!  

 

The next question we get asked: but what colour?  Stick to neutrals! That appeals to the widest group of buyers.  Yes, we acknowledge that this is boring and cookie-cutter, but there is a reason that so many people do it – it works!  The neutral palettes are less distracting and it makes it easier for buyers to imagine moving their belongings into the space.  If you are dying to sneak some colour into the home, do so with your décor (accent pillows, statement pieces, etc.).

 

Even if your house is already a neutral palette, you may still want to think about painting.  With time walls can get damaged and scuffed-up, which gives the impression to buyers that the home is dirty or unkempt.  Nothing that a fresh coat of paint can't help!

 

You do not have to paint the whole house either.  A quick cheat is to paint the living space and kitchen for the most dramatic effect. If the kids’ rooms are neon green and fuchsia, don’t worry too much about it — they are secondary rooms and do not affect the sale as much as the primary rooms would. I would only recommend making a change in those rooms if the colours are making the room feel smaller or if the walls are particularly banged up.  Of course if you have a lot of time on your hands (yeah right) you could paint these secondary rooms, but the return on dollars and effort spent will be negligible.

 

As a bonus to our loyal following, we are going to offer you three of the paint colours we most frequently recommend!

 

Greys are really in right now.  For a nice light and neutral grey, we recommend: Benjamin Moore Classic Gray OC23 because it is as neutral as it gets with its slightly greige (beige) undertone.  This means that depending on the room and exposure it will flex from the gray end of things to the beige end without committing 100% to either.  Also, for those of you that have painted a room in a neutral tone only to have it look purple or pink in the daylight, rest assured.  This paint does not have any purple undertones in it!

 

Benjamin Moore Classic Gray OC 23Benjamin Moore Classic Grey OC 23 on wall

 

 

For those that want to go the more traditional route with neutral tans/beiges, we recommend: Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan SW7531.  This colour works well in all rooms (including smaller ones) and looks gorgeous with almost all wood colors and white trim.  It is a nice warm and inviting colour too!  Just beware that this color looks horrible with pink hues. 

 

 Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan SW 7531 Swatch

 

 

Another trend we have seen is one toward slightly off-white colours.  For this, we recommend: Sherwin Williams Creamy SW7012.  It is hard to believe, but white can be one of the most difficult colours to paint your home.  The wrong shade of white can make your home look sterile or dirty.  This colour however is the perfect off-white with warm undertones.  It also has a neutral base to calm it down so that it isn’t overly yellow or orange looking – it’s more like a very light ‘cream’.

 

 

There, now you know all of our secrets!  Does anyone have any paint suggestions they would like to add to this list?  We are always open to new suggestions!

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