There is a lot of speculation that we may be experiencing a second wave of Covid 19.

Does that have an effect on your house purchase plans?
It should.
In the Kawartha's the market from a year ago has changed, and changed drastically.
Last year the average sale price was $397,500 and today it is $520,000.00
Homes were on average on the market for 45 days  . . and now just 16.  And there are less listings.
Have a peek here:

 
In the rush to purchase a house there are some things that still need to be considered.

1) COVID is still here.  There is no vaccine yet.  We have to protect ourselves. Masks HAVE to be worn, sanitizer is a must. I will not condone selfish behaviour when health and safety should be the number one concern.
 
DO NOT be surprised if your Realtor asks you to confirm that you have:
 a) viewed the photos, online floor plans and drove by the house! 
So many people are asking to look at this house and that house .. and then are saying "I didn't realize it was on a corner.". .  or "yard isn't big enough" . . or "I didn't realize that it needed this much work" . . .We have now done a face to face meeting AND the seller has vacated their property for an unqualified showing. STOP IT.  
Do your part ..  when your agent tells you that the Seller is holding offers - it is to allow you time to do all those things. 
 
b) In a Seller's market - when offers are being held until a certain date - they are looking for the HIGHEST dollar amount with the least amount of conditions.  It is EVERYONE'S best interest for time and knowledge to have your pre-approval/ qualification IN HAND in advance. 
How do you know if your lender has done this for you? Key questions and documents that they need (and are subject to change) are as follows:
 
  • Letter of employment
  • Most recent pay stub
  • 2018/2019 T4 
  • 2018/2019 Notice of Assessment  (for self employed, rental income, pension income or commission based income)
  • 2019/ 2019 T1 Generals (for self employed, farming, pensions etc.)
  • Photo of your Driver's License.
IF you are recently separated - your Lender will also need a copy of your separation agreement showing what you owe or what you should receive including Child support payments and spousal support payments.  They need to verify that income and or expense(s). 
 
Your mortgage specialist needs this information to verify that you have a job, that you make the amount of money you stated that you did, that your income can be verified for more than a year - showing stability to the bank, and that you do not owe Canada Revenue any money.  (Canada Revenue ALWAYS gets paid!) IF you haven't provided this information to them . . then you are not qualified.  Period.
 
The above probably should have been reversed by order of importance. 
 
 Don't be surprised to hear your Realtor say no to showing you any houses until these most important steps are done. 
 
I know how exciting it is to think you are ready to buy a house.. I know the butterfly feeling, the anxiousness, the hyper intensive feeling.. but trust me, until you have all your ducks in a row it will be a frustrating process.  Not just for you.  By being prepared ahead of time I can help elminate that and make the Buying experience less stressful.
                          Let's work together!

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Let's talk about STAGING.

My goal is to take the fear away from it.  It's not hard, and it's not always expensive.

A professionally staged home can add tens of thousands of dollars to the sale price of your house or condo.  90% of people can not visualize a house beyond what they can see.  Homes that Buyers can picture themselves moving right into sell faster and for more money.  It's a proven fact.  


Fact:  A survey of 1000 real estate professionals nationwide found home staging can average a 568% return on investment.

Fact: Most Buyers only take 6-10 minutes to tour a listing. 
Fact:  87% of consumers agree "Home Presentation made a difference in most sales"

Fact: Buyers have less to chip away at when writing their offer for a staged property.  Staging highlights the property's features and benefits of living there.. for the future buyer (not the current owner); the new buyer needs help in visualizing how they would live in the home, NOT how you live. 

Fact:  Better looking "staged" photo's will attract more buyers to your home.  
Staging has a direct impact on the way real estate is being sold today.  As your agent, I know what impact a staged property has on a buyer when they view it.  We know that the seller controls the condition of a property when it goes to market, how it stands among the competition, now the buyer views it and the lifestyle it represents.  While some buyers are only looking for a bargain, most are looking for a home, and a qualified stager will set the stage for the buyer who is most likely to purchase so they can envision their life in their "dream home".

Staging goals are to make Buyers fall madly in love with your home.  A Stager may use your current furniture and style as the canvas, or completely reimagine your space to make it show it's abolste best.  


WHAT to Expect:
Step 1 - The Consultation
The staging consultation can take up to an hour and includes a complete evaluation of your home. The written report includes a room by room analysis with a detailed task list for you, the Seller, a staging plan.

Step 2 - Home Preparations
Sometimes a home requires a little extra love to get ready for sale.  I can help spearhead coordinating a crew to help you prepare your home.  Your role in getting prepared may look like this:
 - decluttering and depersonalizing your space.
 - packing and storing unneeded items off site - or the garage, or storage space in the basement.
 - tending to the front and backyards
 - washing the windows
 - repairs and renovations
I know plumbers, electricians, cleaning people, painters. . you name it, and I probably have a guy or gal  for it.

Step 3 - Staging Day
Staging normally takes place 1-2 days before your property is listed for sale and it can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours.

It usually includes - rearranging your existing furniture to optimize the use and flow of each room.  
 - Adding and subtracting furniture, art and accessories
 - Enhancing your current lighting
 - Linens and bath accessories
 - Flowers or greenery
 - Cleaning. 
It is usually best if you are not home staging day.. though you will   love coming home to the results!

Step 4 - The De-Staging
Once your home is sold our team returns to your home to de-stage, so you can go back to living normally.
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I have been hearing from a lot of Buyers eager to start a search for their new home or even their first home.
Prices in the Kawarthas are a little more attractive making us a pretty hot spot to buy right now.

The good news is it can be done, but like everything else these days.. the process has changed.

Let's look at the steps involved in safely buying a home in the Kawarthas right now (summer, 2020).

GETTING FINANCING:
MORE UPFRONT:  Banks want it ALL upfront now.  That means your proof of income, an updated job letter (showing you have been working during the last 30 day - yes, during pandemic times), paystubs, your T-4 or Notice of Assessment and also a SIGNED separation Agreement.  Banks are not liking to make 'exceptions'.. if you are counting on income from an Air B N B,  don't have. a solid credit history or are still in a probation period at your job, you may not qualify.

PROOF OF INCOME:
As usual, you will need to provide proof of income to get a mortgage.  So if you have been laid - off, even temporarily - now is not a great time to apply for a mortgage.

INVESTORS ARE FACING MORE SCRUTINY:
Investors are facing more scrutiny in getting approved for mortgages, given the uncertain state of the rental market and the ability of tenants to pay rent.

They are also limiting the use of HELOC (Home equity lines of credit) to fund a downpayment, so if you are looking to buy a second property you may not be able to borrow from one home to fund the down payment of another. 

SELF EMPLOYED:
It is definitely more challenging to get a mortgage these days.  You will want a solid broker on your side, income taxes up to date and no outstanding taxes owing. Notice of Assessment for 2 or sometimes 3 years will be required showing that you have consistently made the income (after expenses) required for the payments.

DETAILS BEING THE SAME AT CLOSING:
Do not make any big purchases between getting pre-approved and closing. In other words, do not buy a car.  Do not change jobs.  They will reconfirm all your income and expenses just before closing as well. Do not make any changes!

YOUR APPROVAL BEFORE YOUR SEARCH IS CRITICAL.
In our area,  sometimes houses are selling in multiple offers.  When the Seller looks at offers, what they are often looking for is the highest amount with least amount of conditions.  Often the realtor can expect to be asked for a copy of your pre-approval letter BEFORE they even let us in the house.. and a lot of times with the offer.

PROPERTY SEARCH:
GET NEW LISTINGS SENT TO YOU DIRECT FROM A REALTOR.  - 
There are literally thousands of websites that come up with homes for sale in the Kawartha's.. from Zillow to individual agent and brokerage websites.  Because of how data is controlled in Ontario most sites do not list ALL the homes for sale, and some individual sites are being manually updated and are often out of date. 

A REALTOR sees the houses come up FIRST.  HIRE ONE.
To avoid the extra covid complexities that come up when trying to navigate on your own, choose a reputable realtor that already knows the ins and outs of buying and selling in today's market.  Top Realtors have a few secret networks where they may have exactly what you are looking for, just not on the market yet.  In today's world we are using electronic signatures. By using a Reputable realtor, one you already know and trust.. you can have faith that your best interests are paramount and nothing will be missed.

Your search should first be Virtual.
* RESEARCH the neighborhood first - especially if it is new to you.. pay attention to things that matter to you like schools, parks, playgrounds etc.., 
* DRIVE By the house and make sure that there are not any location deal breakers that you didn't notice on Google or perhaps didn't show up in the pictures.  For example, you may not want to live across the road from a cemetary.. or a school and only a drive by will show. 
* READ the whole MLS listing.  Instead of just scanning it to make sure it meets your minimum standards, you absolutely must read the whole thing.  For example if you need AC and the house is electric heating with no forced air system and that's a no-go for you.. better to find out now than before you venture out.  Your agent can help you understand/ read the listings.
* TOUR the home; virtually if time is tight - your agent may offer facetime or zoom.  Take a 3D walk through if available.
* GET a sense of prices - can you afford this home?  We are seeing homes sell in bidding wars, so if it is listed for $350,000.00 with a bidding war date, in a neighborhood where similar houses sell for $400,000. - it might not be worth the risks and extra efforts required to see that home in person.  
* REMEMBER you can still see houses in person, you just have to do the pre-work and virtual showings (if available) first, to eliminate the homes that won't be a match for you.. avoid the Covid risk!

IN PERSON SHOWINGS
* Open houses are not happening now and won't likely return until there is a vaccine.  You will need to work with a realtor to see a property in person.
* Are you safe and healthy? It is critical that you do not expose your Realtor, the Sellers or anyone else with a probable case of the virus.  Sometimes you will be required to complete a form attesting to your health BEFORE you are able to see a house in person.  Note that if you are seeing 3 houses there may be 3 seperate forms.  Yes it's a pain for us Realtor's too, but it is a part of the new reality.
* Transportation - you will not be riding in a car with your realtor, you will have to provide your own transportation.
*PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - you will probably be asked to wear a mask (and possibly gloves).  You need to have some ready.  Your agent will have to do the same.
*Showing Restrictions - in most cases the only people allowed to be present at the showing are the people who will be on title.  Parents, friends, kids etc are discouraged from attending.  Most agents won't allow multiple showings to happen simultaneously, so it may be harder to get your ideal showing time, if someone has already booked a showing at that time.
*DON'T TOUCH!! - do not touch anything. Your agent can open what needs to be, turn on/ off lights. Let's all do our part to reduce exposure.

 

OFFERS
Making an offer on a house hasn't really changed a lot.  Most offers are happening electronically and they have been for quite some time.  I do not expect to see a return to in person bidding war nights :) 


Working with a Realtor during Coronavirus - and beyond
Ontario declared REALTORS an essential service at the start of the pandemic.  . That by no means means we do not have a responsibility to and obligation to flatten / reduce the curve and reduce exposure.  There are clear expectations for agents servicing clients in the midst of a pandemic and some individual agents have set out their own policies.

More than ever, it is important to have an agent you trust representing you.  With much of the process happening virtually, you will want to make sure you have someone with experience and knowledge to guide you through who isn't afraid to take the lead.

Do not hesitate to get in touch - if you have questions I will find answers.
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While virtual and digital marketing has been around for years.. it is now, during the pandemic that we have been perfecting our digital tours.


This technology not only is being used to communicate, but also has the largest reach for our sellers; online.  During Covid 19 it was just a matter of adding safe measures for all parties involved.
 
Today's technologies are valued for making lives easier, more convenient and work environments more sustainable. Virtual Reality combined with digital marketing have several advantages to offer business, including real estate.

 
SAVING TIME  - nothing is as valuable as time, to both Sellers and Buyers.  Thanks to to digital marketing, the search and review of a new property can become a faster process.  Virtual tours eliminate the need for buyers to spend days and hours visiting properties.

 
UNLIKE photo's - virtual tours provide immersion and the feeling of a realistic presence in the home.  They create an emotional engagement.  As a buyer there is no rush, only freedom to explore the property room by room. 


Selling sight unseen is uncommon in our parts.  While we may buy a new build.. we have typically walked through a model home.  This is somewhat new in our parts of the world.. BUT after this experience it will be the new "normal".. Digital marketing can allow for successful real estate transactions, from the comfort of your own home, wherever you are in the world.

 
GETTING STARTED - apart from meeting in person, there are several ways we can meet - FaceTime, Messenger, Zoom - and I am sure there are others.. whichever form you are most comfortable with, I can adapt.  During this time we can discuss the market and my listing procedures.

 
LISTING PRICE: Upon virtually meeting, be prepared to show me around your home.  This video tour can be done over the phone using FaceTime or another of your favourite video calls. 

During the tour I will ask that you provide any upgrades or special features of your home that would be of notable interest to a buyer.

From there I will complete a market analysis to obtain the final listing price.

 
STAGING? VIRTUAL or OTHERWISE: My stager is able to meet you in the same format; on line.  Depending on the circumstance of the sale (perhaps the house is unoccupied) they may even be able to visit the house.  My stager has talked about either providing tips and pointers to make your house picture perfect with consultation, to leaving some items for soft staging at the curb and instructions on where everything should go.  

Home Stager
 

PICTURES & FLOOR PLANS: During this time I ask that you leave the home for at least an hour before the arrival of the photographer.  Prior to arrival it is requested that you disinfect any surfaces that a photographer may have to touch (ie your front door handle inside and out).  We ask that all lights are left ON.  My photographer will be using sanitizer and gloves when required.  Once photography has been completed, we will then proceed with the virtual tour.  The potential buyer can place their mouse (Or their finger if they are using a smartphone) and scroll around the room in a 360 degree platform. They can zoom in on the trim, the ceilings and really check out the back splash if that is of special interest.
 
PRE INSPECTIONS - (seller optional) :  To avoid a collapsed sale, seller stress or the number of buyers through your house, you can opt to pre-inspect your home. As a seller you may worry about how the Buyer's inspection will go.  It can be a nerve wracking experience to  hear what comes back from the home inspection if you haven't had an inspection yourself.  Will the Buyer find something "scary" and collapse the sale? (In other words we have to put your house back on the market and find another buyer.. perhaps having to take a lower price).  By having a pre-inspection, you can rest easy while the buyer is in your home at their inspection because you know what they will (or will not) find. 

 
QUALIFIED BUYERS: Typically in most real estate transactions there are two real estate agents involved.  Listing and Buying.  As your listing agent there may be situations where I have my own buyers.  It is important for your safety and time that the buyers that come through your home are qualified buyers ONLY.  We request in writing that all buyer agents and or my buyers to confirm that they have:
- proof of financing
- no home to sell
- Covid 19 Medical Disclosure signed and provided upfront. 
 
 
 
SAFE SHOWINGS: 
* No Children
* No more than 3 people including the Real Estate Salesperson
* Social distancing in the house at all times
* Hands to be disinfected with sanitizer of no less than 60% alcohol
* No touching of surfaces (hands to be kept in pockets)
* No use of the washroom facilities within the home

 
WHY CHOOSE ME TO BE YOUR REALTOR? I believe that experience counts.  I have been a top producing real estate agent in the Kawartha's for several years.  Licensed in 1999.  Starting as a real estate secretary before then I am aware of the process from start to finish. Therefore helping to eliminate problems before they arise so your home closes successfully and on time.  Every time. 
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Just a reminder the best advice comes from our Public Health officials. Stay Home.

What are some reasons that you may NEED to buy or sell RIGHT NOW?
* You already bought your next home, but haven't sold your current one.
*  You have already sold your current home but haven't bought the next one.
*  You are a tenant and gave notice (or have been given notice to vacate) before Covid 19 began.
*  Your financial situation is bad (and was before Covid too)
*  Personal circumstances like death or divorce.
 
If you just WANT to buy or sell right now, I strongly recommend you wait.  While I do not know what the future holds.. I don't think it is worth putting yourself and others at health or financial risk if you don't NEED to sell.  Buyer's are taking the same caution, making less of them out there.
 
IF
 
* Your tenant didn't pay rent and you are panicking (hopefully there is a relief package for you)
*  You can not work right now and are worried about the mortgage (maybe you qualify for a mortgage deferral?  Talk to you Lender ASAP)
*  You think you are invincible and immune to the virus (you are not)
 
If you find yourself in a position that you need to buy or sell right now, know that Realtors across Ontario are working hard to figure it out.  Things are changing daily.  Its an unprecedented time.

 
Getting your Home Ready for Sale:
Because it is not safe to bring in painters, handymen etc. at this time to prepare your home for sale.. it is what you see is what you get, generally at this time.
 
Marketing:
While many realtors are using video, digital marketing etc., marketing a house for sale is not as easy as it was a month or so ago.  The goals is no longer to as many people through a listing.. its to get the right people through it.
 
Realtors are balancing the need to advertise their listings with the public's understandable distaste for marketing right now.
 
There are NO In Person Open Houses. Period.
 
In some cases there is a restriction on some professionals. So for example, photographers, stagers, home inspectors, appraisers, lawyers, insurance agents and lenders are considered essential, like realtors.. but are working on a reduced scale.
 
If you are selling your home during COVID be prepared to lower your service expectations and be prepared to be flexible at every stage of the sale.

 
Showings:
Pre-Covid our goal was to show your house to as many people as possible.  NOW . . Now we want the right buyers in there and we are being creative to reduce personal contact.  I've shown using FaceTime, I've previewed before hand and provided video's.  Buyers are very rarely making offers sight unseen, but it is happening.
 
If you are living in your home while it is for sale, make sure to weigh the risks that you and your family, potential buyers and their agents are in.. If you can mitigate those risk even better.  Better yet, if you can move out while your house is for sale.. that's  prefect.

 
Tenanted Properties:
If the house you want to sell is tenanted, know that you are not able to guarantee vacant possession right now.  Ontario landlord's are currently not allowed to evict tenants and the Landlord Tenant Board office is closed.  You will need to include special clauses to protect you and any issues that may arise on closing and even extending the closing date if the buyer plans on moving into the house themselves.  
 
ALSO - YOU CAN NOT FORCE your tenants to have showings! Especially given the legitimate safety concerns right now.
 
OFFERS: 
Thankfully, may realtors are using electronic signatures to sign offers and can present them via email /phone/ video conference. But offers are also far from business as usual right now.
 
Longer conditional periods are the norm for financing - in light of people working from home... inspections may take longer and even those have restrictions on them. There could be delays.  Hopefully no one gets an illness like Covid -19 and there are no issues with pre-close visits. 
 
Selling your Home During Covid may not be easy - but it may not be impossible either.  If you NEED to sell your home, be ready and be flexible.  
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Before we begin, I need to say the best advice comes from our Public Health Officials and Prime Minister: Stay Home.


Today I am talking to people who are in the process of buying or selling a home during Covid-19.


While Real Estate (and all that goes along with it) has been deemed essential - it is not business  as usual.  Some things have changed.. mostly the way WE (as Realtors) have changed the way we practice.  It is not always simple.


LEGIT Reasons you NEED to buy a home right now:

*  You have sold your current home and need to buy the next one.

*  You have bought a house and now need to sell your current house.

*  You are a tenant and you have been given notice.

*  Personal circumstances like you are going through a divorce or a job transfer.


If you just WANT to buy a house right now, I strongly recommend that you wait.  While there is no telling what the future holds and it is impossible to predict what the market will do and their prices, it's just not worth the risk. Health wise and Financial wise. (I will explain more about the financial side.) It might be wise to wait.  


Especially if:

* You are looking for a deal and hoping Seller's are desperate (they are not).
* You have time on your hands and you like house hunting (this is not a hobby for your realtor & the Sellers are on the market right now for serious buyers only)
* You think you are immune and invincible to getting the virus or passing it onto others (you are not).
 
If you find yourself in a position that you need to buy right now, Realtor's across Ontario are working hard to figure out exactly what that looks like to make it happen.  It not business as usual.  It's just not.  Pack some patience for yourself, your realtor and the process. Things are changing all the time.
 
Let's talk about Financing:
In this market now more than ever it is important to have your pre-approval ready to go. 
Buying and Selling Realtors are vetting EVERYONE to lessen the risk exposure for themselves and their clients.
 
In the environment that we are in banks are seeing deferred mortgage payments and layoffs. (My own bank has reduced hours of operation.. ) there is complications and uncertainty.
 
Appraisals: Appraisals are a financing concern.  Banks are dependant on appraisers to go into homes to estimate and confirm value.  Appraisers were recently directed by their governing body to NOT enter homes physically, limiting the process to photos (pray the listing realtor hired a professional - I've seen some that photo's were done with the realtor's thumb in them and it was difficult for the appraiser. The uncertainty for the bank meant the Buyer had to come up with more money for a down payment if they wanted the house . .)  So literally Appraisers are "looking in the windows" or driving bye.  The impact moving forward it uncertain.  Lenders want to be protected.
 
Approvals: With most people working from home, everything is taking longer, including getting pre -approved.
 
YOU: Lenders have the right to confirm employment and all other financing details right up until the closing date. I have always cautioned my Buyers to not do anything to change their situation.. don't change jobs, don't buy a new car.. don't even apply for a credit card for this reason. In today's world almost anything can happen, if you bought and then lost your job or got laid off, there is no guarantee that the lender will go through in providing a mortgage.  There is no way to predict 100%.  This is a pretty big risk.
 
Interest Rates: They have been fluctuating, affecting how much Buyers can borrow.
 
Deposits: The traditional deposit procedure  - bringing a bank draft to a real estate office within 24 hours of an accepted offer - is complicated. Many offices are closed, with reduced staff working remotely. Digital options are available but you have to be ready - again with banks on reduced hours etc., and the 24 hour deadline can't be breached.
 
NOTE: Some banks continue to insist that mortgage documents are to be signed in person, on paper with your lawyer. You will need to talk to your lawyer to make sure they are doing face-to-face transactions. Some lenders will accept electronic signatures.  You should ask your Mortgage specialist if the lender they have chosen for you will allow electronic signatures before you commit.
 
Listing and Sales: 
No big surprise here . . listings and sales are down right now.

March Stats
 
Showings:  With the changes that the State of Emergency has presented there are significant changes on seeing a home that is for sale:
 
*  Most sellers do not want anyone in their house right now.
*  Most local realtors are abiding by the Public Health and the Ontario Real Estate Association guidelines and are no longer meeting clients in person.  This means that except for unusual circumstances, most of your real estate will be done online, using pictures, floor plans and virtual tours.
* Video walk throughs (FaceTime, Skype etc.) are being experimented with - where the Realtor or the Seller takes you -the Buyer through electronically.
*  Most condos are restricting visitors to their owners, which means it may not be possible to see a condo. 
*  In Person Open houses are no longer happening. 
*  Expect to sign a disclosure in writing BEFORE even asking to see a house that your are not a health risk.  
*  Expect that your agent is going to ask you all these questions in advance and they still can decide that they do not want to take you through..even IF you check all the appropriate boxes.
 
Offers:
Offers present their own unique challenges as buyers may not have had the opportunity to touring person.  Legal wording is being developed for these situations where buyers are buying "sight-unseen", with provisions when the Buyers eventually have the opportunity to visit the home.. far from ideal but hopefully to lesson risk . . but will not be able to eliminate it all together.
 
Typical conditions that are used to protect a buyer such as home inpections have changed as Home Inspectors are limiting their risks with public safety as well and often ask that the Buyer is not present for the inspection. Condo management may be closed and boards unreachable for status certificates . . just not available.  Then what?
 
Buying a house right now for the vast majority of Buyers is a risk.  We hope things return to "normal" soon, and we will be able to view and buy homes again.  In the meanwhile, Stay Safe.
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