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Top 12 Apps for Homeowners and Renters

More than 77 percent of people own a smartphone.1 The average person checks their smartphone 46 times a day, with people under the age of 24 checking it an average of 74 times a day.1 We check it while we’re waiting in line and during our leisure time, whether we’re scrolling through social media, reading emails or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

Smartphones are not only a useful tool for communication. With the following apps, you can get organized (whether you plan to buy or sell), save money, learn about the homes in your neighborhood and get inspired for your next renovation project. If you’re like 81 percent of people, you have your smartphone with you during most of your waking hours; let it help you stay organized and make your life easier.3

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5 Steps to Finding Your Next Home in Canmore

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home (or buying that second property) can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that “finding the right property” was the most difficult step in the home buying process.1 

Buying a home in Canmore is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.

STEP 1: Set Your Goals and Priorities

The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Or is it time to start looking for that second home in the “Mountains”? Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move(or buy again) can help you assess your priorities for your home search. 

Don’t forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? Spend less time working? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family’s needs for at least the next five to seven years.2 Be sure to set your goals accordingly.

STEP 2: Determine Your Budget

Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).3

Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your down payment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.

STEP 3: Choose a Location

When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.

Do you prefer the mountains, rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighborhoods feed into your favorite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.

Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighborhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.4

STEP 4: Decide Which Features You Need (and Want) in a Home

Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? 

Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all your “wants,” or even all of your “needs” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us must make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.

Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school. Some people just need enough space to spend weekends in the mountains.

If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.

STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood to meet your needs, I will be there to assist you every step of the way.

And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. I can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, I get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.

You might guess that the VIP service I provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, I can represent you throughout the entire home buying process, at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from my time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1

And although I have listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.

Call me today to schedule a free consultation! 403-763-8631

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. NAR 2019 Home Buyers & Sellers Generational Trends Report –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-08-16-2019.pdf
  2. Architectural Digest –
    https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/this-is-how-long-you-should-live-in-your-house-before-selling-it
  3. Investopedia –
    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/twenty-eight-thirty-six-rule.asp
  4. Money Talks News –
    https://www.moneytalksnews.com/20-clues-youre-buying-home-the-right-neighborhood/

National Snapshot: How’s the Real Estate Market?

The Canadian real estate market is heating up again!

After a cooldown in 2018, economists predicted a modest rebound this year. However, the housing market has exceeded expectations with total national sales volume on the rise since March. July sales were up 3.5% from the previous month and 12.6% higher than last year.1

So what triggered this faster-than-expected turnaround and renewed market activity? And is it sustainable?

To answer these questions, we take a closer look at some of the key indicators and explore what they mean for buyers, sellers, and homeowners.

HOME VALUES ARE RISING

The scenario varies by market, but nationally, home values are on the rise. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average sales price in July was up 3.9% from the same month last year. And CREA’s Aggregate Composite MLS Home Price Index—which can more accurately track pricing trends across comparable homes—shows a slow but steady climb since January.1

Toronto-Dominion Bank Economist James Marple attributes the increase in housing prices and sales activity to positive economic fundamentals. “As they have in the past, strong population growth, solid job growth and lower mortgage rates appear to be doing the job of supporting Canadian housing demand.”2

“The immediate downside risk to home prices have diminished considerably,” Marple added. “While affordability will remain a constraint in major high-priced markets, prices appear more likely to increase than decrease over the next year.”2

What does it mean for you? Those who were concerned about a market crash should take comfort in these latest numbers, which indicate that the cooling effects of the stress test are diminishing. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to buy, don’t let fear hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and home prices will continue to fluctuate. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE ON SALE

Historically, Canadians have had to pay a premium for a fixed-rate mortgage. Those who wanted to lock in a set payment for five years were charged a higher rate of interest. But a slide in the international bond market has made it cheaper for mortgage lenders to offer fixed-rate mortgages than variable ones.3

In fact, rates on standard five-year fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level in two years. Meanwhile, in July, the Bank of Canada dropped its five-year benchmark rate for the first time since September 2016. The rate, which is used in the bank’s mandated mortgage stress test, was dropped from 5.39% to 5.19%, making it easier for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.4

These lower rates have given a boost to buyers and the market in general. “We’ve now had a reawakening of sales for several months,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “In addition, mortgage rates have been edging lower so the combination of the two is making for an active market.”5

What does it mean for you?

If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low fixed-rate mortgage. Not only will you save money, it will also guarantee you a predictable monthly payment (and peace of mind) over the next several years.

NEW INVENTORY IS ON THE WAY

Across the country, new home starts are on the rise. The uptick in construction is being led by Montreal and Vancouver, while Toronto—which tops the continent in number of active cranes—is beginning to see a decline in starts.6

July construction levels were 10% higher than the previous year and 17% higher than the median rate of growth over the last 10 years.6

Meanwhile, the number of new real estate listings in July declined slightly by .4%.5 The Royal Bank of Canada predicts this will help balance the incoming pipeline of new construction. “Elevated levels of apartment construction in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raise some longer-term absorption issues. There’s little risk near term as unsold inventories are low at the present time.”7

What does it mean for you?

If you’ve had trouble finding the right property in the past, you may want to take a look at new options hitting the market. And if you’re planning to sell your current home, now may be a good time to list. Competition from new construction is likely to increase over the next few years.

HOMEOWNERSHIP IS BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE

According to the National Bank of Canada, housing is finally becoming more affordable. In fact, during the second quarter of this year, the cost of owning a home, relative to income, fell to its lowest level in a decade.8

An increase in wages, combined with falling mortgage rates, is helping to bring the relative cost of homeownership down. The average percentage of household income that went toward a mortgage payment fell from 48.7% to 45.1% in the 11 major cities included in the report.8 Of course, it’s still significantly higher than the 30% benchmark that is generally considered optimal.

So, while many Canadian markets may be a long way from being considered “affordable,” the trend seems to be moving in the right direction.

What does it mean for you?

If you’ve previously been unable to afford or qualify for a mortgage, it may be worth another try. A decline in mortgage rates, an increase in housing supply, and a lower stress test benchmark rate could help put your dreams of homeownership within reach.

I AM HERE TO GUIDE YOU!!

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me (403-763-8631) to schedule a free consultation. I am here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

Sources:

  1. Canadian Real Estate Association –
    https://www.crea.ca/housing-market-stats/stats/
  2. CBC –
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-home-sales-prices-up-july-1.5247892
  3. Global News –
    https://globalnews.ca/news/5666381/fixed-variable-mortgage-rates-canada-inverted-yield-curve/
  4. Global News –
    https://globalnews.ca/news/5659838/mortgage-stress-test-rate-bank-canada/
  5. Global News –
    https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/mortgages/canadian-home-sales-rise-for-fifth-straight-month-as-mortgage-rates-decline
  6. Better Dwelling –
    https://betterdwelling.com/canadian-new-home-starts-jump-pushed-by-montreal-and-vancouver/
  7. Royal Bank of Canada – http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/healthcheck-august18.pdf
  8. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-affordability-canada_ca_5d4f5ef0e4b0820e0af6627d

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

I have taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.
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Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why I have outlined a proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

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Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades that “Spark Joy” for Buyers

Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “Spark Joy.”

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “Spark Joy” for you and your property value.

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Top 10 Myths That Trip Up First-Time Home Buyers

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.

With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why I am revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.

Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you’ll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.

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What’s Your Home Actually Worth?

Discover What Buyers Will Pay in Today’s Market

It’s easy to look up how much money you have in your savings account or the real-time value of your stock investments. But determining the dollar value of a home is trickier.

As a seller, knowing your home’s worth helps you price it correctly when you put it up for sale. If you price it too high, it may sit on the market. But price it too low and you may be losing out on a good chunk of money (nobody wants that!). For buyers, it’s important to know a home’s worth before you make an offer. You want your offer to be competitive, but you don’t want to overpay for the property.

Even if you’re not a buyer or seller right now, as a current homeowner you might just be curious about the value of your home. Keeping track of your home’s worth year over year helps you understand the trends in your market. So when you are ready to sell, you can take advantage of a good window of opportunity.

The good news is, a trained real estate agent—who understands the nuances of your particular neighborhood—can determine the true market value of your property … and at no cost to you!

Please call (403-763-8631) or email (gbavis@alpinerealty.ca) me and we can determine the value of your asset.

THE THREE TYPES OF HOME VALUES

When you start the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently hear the words appraised value, assessed value, and true market value. It’s important to know the difference between each one, so you can make better informed decisions.

Appraised Value

A professional appraiser is in charge of determining the appraised value of a home. These appraisals are typically required by a lender when a buyer is financing the property. And while the lender is the one requiring this information, the appraiser does not work for the lender.1 Your appraiser should be an objective, licensed professional who doesn’t have allegiance to the buyer, seller, or lender—no matter who is paying their fee.

The number the appraiser comes up with (the appraised value) assures the lender that the buyer is not overpaying for the property. For example, imagine a seller lists a home for $400,000. They reach a deal with the buyer to sell the home for $375,000. However, if an appraiser evaluates the property and determines that the appraised value is actually $325,000, then the lender will not lend for an amount higher than that appraised value of $325,000.2

When figuring out this number, an appraiser will compare the property to similar homes in your neighborhood, and they’ll evaluate factors such as location, square footage, appliances, upgrades, improvements, and the interior and exterior of the home. 

Assessed Value

The assessed value of a home is determined by your local municipal property assessor. This value matters when your county calculates property taxes each year. The lower your assessed value, the less property tax you’ll pay.3

To come up with this value, your assessor will evaluate what comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for, the size of your home, age, overall condition, and any improvements or upgrades that have been made. However, most assessors don’t have full access to your home, so their information is limited.

Assessments are done annually to determine how much property tax you owe. Many counties use a multiplier (typically between 60%-80%) to calculate the final assessed value. So, if the assessor determines that the value of the home is $300,000, but the county uses a 70% multiplier, the assessed value of the home would be $210,000 for tax purposes.4

If your assessed value isn’t as high as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Many homeowners appeal their assessment in favor of a lower valuation so that they can save money on property taxes.

True Market Value

True market value is established by your real estate agent. It basically refers to the value that a buyer is willing to pay for the property. A good real estate agent is an expert in determining true market value because they have hands-on experience buying and selling properties. They understand the mindsets of buyers in your market and know what they’ll pay for a desirable house, townhouse, or condo.

As a seller, knowing your true market value is important because it helps you choose how much to list your property for. It can also help you decide if you want to make any improvements to your home before putting it on the market. Your agent can help you figure out which updates and upgrades will have the biggest impact on your true market value.

Please call (403-763-8631) or email (gbavis@alpinerealty.ca) me and we can determine the “True Market Value” of your asset.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ONLINE CALCULATORS?

Having an agent involved in this process is essential because they understand the market better than a computer ever could. They’re showing property in your city every single day, and they know the particular preferences of buyers and sellers in the area. Young professionals, large families, empty nesters, and other groups are all looking for different things in a home. A local agent has most likely worked with all of them, so they understand what every segment in your market is specifically looking for.

HOW AN AGENT FINDS YOUR HOME’S TRUE MARKET VALUE

So, how does an actual real estate agent determine true market value? They’ll start by doing a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means they’ll compare your home’s features to similar properties in your area. For the CMA, the agent looks at the below factors to influence their assessment of your home’s worth:5

  • Neighborhood sales – Your agent will look at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood to see what they sold for and what they have in common with your house.
  • The exterior – What does your home look like from the outside? Your agent will factor in curb appeal, the style of the house, the front and backyard, and anything else that impacts how the house looks to everyone walking and driving by.
  • The interior – This is everything inside the walls of the house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, appliances, and more all influence the overall market value.
  • Age of the home – Whether you have a newer or older home affects the number your agent comes up with as part of their assessment.
  • Style of the home – The style of your home is important because buyers in different markets have different tastes. If buyers prefer ranch-style homes and you have one, then your home may sell for a premium (aka more money!).
  • Market trends – Because a local agent has so much experience in your market, they have their finger on the pulse of your area’s trends and know what buyers are willing to pay for a property like yours.
  • Location, location, location – This one’s probably the most obvious. Your agent will think about how popular the area is, how safe it is, and what schools are like.

A computer algorithm simply can’t take all of these factors into account when calculating the value of your home. The reality is, nothing beats the accuracy of a real estate agent or professional appraiser when it comes to determining a home’s true market value.

YOUR AGENT IS THERE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

Determining a home’s true market value is a real estate agent’s forte. If you’re a seller, your agent will help you find your home’s market value so you can list it at the right price.

For buyers, your agent will help you determine the value so you can come up with a fair offer. Your agent can also set up a personalized home search on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for you so you’ll receive emails of listings that meet your criteria. This will help you see what’s out there in your city and how properties are being priced.

Get a Complimentary Report With Your Home’s True Market Value

Curious about your home’s true market value? Call “ME” to request a free, no-obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out exactly how much your home is worth!

Sources:
Chicago Tribune – https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/chi-ugc-article-what-is-the-difference-between-market-value-a-2013-09-30-story.html
SFGATE – https://homeguides.sfgate.com/market-value-vs-appraised-value-1206.html
ValuePenguin – https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/what-is-the-assessed-value-of-a-house
Movoto – https://www.movoto.com/blog/homeownership/assessed-value-vs-market-value/
Realtor.com – https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

What’s Ahead for Real Estate in 2019?

As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”

The Canadian real estate market experienced a cooldown in 2018 following years of rapid growth. This left many homeowners and potential buyers feeling skittish. Fortunately, economists expect the market to stabilize in 2019 and continue to appreciate at a more sustainable rate. To help guide you through this shifting landscape, I have summarized some of the expert predictions and key factors expected to shape the housing market in 2019 and beyond.

SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE

A combination of rising interest rates, provincial policy changes, and a newly-implemented “stress test” requirement for mortgages pushed sales activity to a five-year low in 2018. However, economists expect the impact to taper off over time due to positive economic fundamentals: a strong economy, low unemployment, rising incomes, and rapid population growth.

“Far from a sign of trouble, we view this cooling constitutes as a healthy correction that would prevent overheating conditions from re-emerging in parts of Canada such as the Vancouver
and Toronto areas. We expect a modest recovery to take shape in 2019,” noted the Royal Bank of Canada in its Canadian Housing Market Forecast. “We see little risk of a downward spiral because demand and supply conditions are balanced in the majority of local markets and expected to remain so over the forecast horizon.”1 Continue reading

9 Ways to Share the Spirit of the Season—Starting From Home

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us have already begun to celebrate. From trimming trees to lighting candles, it’s the time of year to fill your homes (and hearts) with holiday joy.

But there’s no need to stop at your front door. Let the spirit of the season radiate outward from your house into your community. Some homeowners hang outdoor lights and decorations to help make the neighborhood “merry and bright.” But that’s not the only way to share the magic of the holidays with others.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 inspirational ideas for spreading cheer far and near!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

You probably don’t have to look far to find someone who could benefit from a gift or kind gesture this time of year. Try one (or all) of these ideas for sharing the season with those closest to home.

1. Host a Holiday Party

Hosting a neighborhood holiday party is a great way to reconnect with old friends and welcome new families to the community. And it doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment of time or money. Plan a potluck dinner and ask your guests to bring a dish or drink to share. Or host a holiday cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring a couple dozen of their favorite cookie to swap with other guests. Hot cocoa and caroling is another great way to bring neighbors together to celebrate the season.

If you have a neighbor who you’ve been at odds with in the past, consider extending them an invitation, as well. It could be the perfect opportunity to make peace in the new year.

2. Help a Neighbor in Need

The holiday season is the perfect time to offer help to a neighbor in need. Next time you head out to rake your leaves, or shovel the driveway, take care of an elderly neighbor’s, as well. Or drop off dinner for a friend who is recovering from surgery.

If you know of someone in your community with a larger need, consider setting up a Care Calendar through a site like CareCalendar.org. Then share the link with other neighbors who may be interested in helping, too. Users can sign up to run errands, cook a meal, babysit, wash laundry, clean the house, mow the lawn, shovel the driveway/walks, or complete other household tasks depending on the individual’s needs. Even a small gesture of kindness can make someone’s holiday extra jolly. Continue reading