Lifestyle June 11, 2020

7 Things Everyone With a Home Needs to Know

One of the best things about buying a home is no longer waiting on a landlord to fix any issues that may come up in your living space. On the other hand, one of the worst things about owning a home is that any issues that do arise on your property are entirely your responsibility. That’s why, when you become a homeowner, one of the most important things you need to do is familiarize yourself with the most common tasks you may need to complete should an issue ever arise. Here are some of the top contenders:

1) How to Shut Off Your Water

Water damage can be one of the most costly repairs you may encounter as a homeowner. And knowing how to stop it before it gets out of hand may just be the difference between a few minutes with the mop and a full-on wall dissection.

While it may sound like a labour-intensive job to shut off all the water in your house, it is actually just as simple as twisting just one knob, known as your main water valve. True, you can find several valves throughout your plumbing system that are able to control individual areas of your home separately. But when emergency strikes, you’ll value the time saved just cutting it all off, rather than trying to find the right one.

If you live in the city of Saskatoon, or have city water fed to your home, your main water valve should be in your basement just near your water heater. If your home runs on well water, you’ll usually find yours near your water storage tank.

2) All About Furnace Filters

Furnace filters are what clean the air in your home, filtering out particles before feeding the air back to you, and they typically need to be changed every couple of months—sooner if you’ve been doing renovations! Because you’ll never know quite when they’ll need to be replaced each time, it’s always a good idea to have a few extras on-hand just in case.

Not all furnaces are created equal, and the same can be said for their filters, too. Not only do they vary in size, but also in efficiency, as well. Other than your size, you’ll want to know your MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value), which can range from 1-16. Of course, you’ll also want to know just how to change the filter, so take a moment to find the little removable panel, and be aware that removing it may be different than the one you had in your last home.

3) How to Clean Your Drain Traps

If you’ve ever checked “under the hood” of your sinks, you’ve probably seen that bit of u-shaped plumbing right underneath and you may have even wondered what that would be for. Known as a drain trap, it is a little pocket in the plumbing that holds just a little bit of water to help block gas and vapours from escaping into your home. But, while it is intended to hold water, it can also hold basically anything you pour down your drain, too, and it may need a good cleaning every once in a while to keep the pipes flowing smoothly.

Before donning your rubber gloves and getting to work, it’s always a good idea to put that main water shut off valve to use to prevent any accidents. Then, you’ll just want to place a bucket underneath, unscrew the clamps, and remove to give it a good clean.

4) Inspect Your Window & Door Seals

Over time, it’s totally normal for the seals around your windows and doors to deteriorate, and the earlier you can catch it, the more time and money you’ll save in repairs and heating costs. Every year, take some time to have a close look around your windows and doors, and keep an eye out for any cracks that may appear, sealing them quickly when you find them.

5) How to Clean Your Gutters

Every fall, we enjoy the beautiful change of scenery as the leaves change colour and fall to the ground. But the trouble is, not all of those leaves make it to the ground. In fact, quite a few of them often end up in our gutters, leading to clogs and clutter that can cause hefty water damages if left unchecked. In the spring and the fall, make time to pop up on the ladder to free up any dams that may have been forming along the gutters.

6) Resetting Ground Fault Interrupters

You may have noticed that the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms are a little different than the rest of your house. Those little buttons in the centre aren’t just for decoration, though. Those are a very important safety feature known as ground fault interrupters, typically found on outlets that are more in danger of being exposed to water.

In the event of a power surge in your house, these interrupters automatically cut the power to these outlets to prevent a devastating accident, and when you need to get things back up and running, they will need to be reset to turn back on again once it is safe. All you need to do is look for the little button in the middle. If it is popped out, simply pop it back in again, and get back to blowdrying your hair or mixing that cookie dough!

7) Labeling Your Electrical Panel

Most of us have probably dealt with a breaker that needs to be flipped, and usually know where to go to find it. But if you’ve ever had to do that with an unlabeled panel, then you’ll know the hassle of either running up and down the stairs to check if it worked or enlisting the help of a friend or family member to call out to you.

Rather than waiting for a breaker to blow, then flipping through all the breakers at that time, take a moment when you move in to carefully label each switch. While it may take you a little while to figure out which switch is which, knowing the differences will not only save you time in an emergency later on, but it can also save time for an electrician, should you ever need their help in your home, too!

 

Owning a home can be a wonderful venture, especially as a first time home buyer, but if you’re not sure how to handle a little regular maintenance, it can also be quite a headache. By taking care of these essential homeowner tasks, though, you’ll be better equipped to handle the little things as they come, saving yourself both time and money moving forward!

LifestyleMarket UpdatesSeasonal Interest May 14, 2020

How COVID-19 is Affecting Saskatoon Real Estate

In the season of social distancing and staying at home, COVID-19 has impacted our economy harder than I believe any of us could have ever imagined. Stocks plummeted, gas prices reminded me of my teenage years, and travel is quickly becoming more and more of a distant memory. On the other hand, though, sports and fitness companies have seen more activity than ever and toilet paper has officially become a new currency!

With so many parts of the economy impacted in vastly different ways, it’s hard to know how every market is doing. So it only makes sense that one of the most common questions I’m getting right now is about how real estate has fared throughout all of this. And, let me tell you, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

COVID-19’s Impact on Saskatchewan Real Estate

While many markets across the globe have seen a drastic decrease—some even shutting down entirely—the Saskatchewan real estate market has proved remarkably more resilient. True, we did see an initial decrease in activity in the preliminary phases of the provincial shutdown, but with the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan now officially underway, the numbers continue to improve daily.

Part of Saskatchewan’s real estate resilience came particularly from the strongest start to the spring market we’ve seen in years. The March market started off with a “BOOM”, with new listings and sales busier than they have been in a long time, leading to a 7% increase in the market. Then…there was coronavirus, which slowed everything to a crawl with all the uncertainty it brought.

While the first couple weeks of pandemic pandemonium did cause about a 46% overall decrease in April, the trend did not last for too long. As restrictions slowly began easing, so did people’s wariness to continue their home search, and in the latter weeks of April we started to see the numbers going up—a trend we’re continuing to see as we move into May!

COVID-19 & Saskatoon’s Real Estate Market

While the province as a whole saw an overall decrease of about 46%, Saskatoon’s real estate market fared slightly better. In April, listings only saw a decrease of about 36%, while sales were down 34%—and both numbers continue to improve as the province continues to ease restrictions.

I believe this largely has to do with the fantastic and extensive precautions our Saskatoon REALTORS® have been doing to keep our clients safe throughout the real estate process.

How We Keep Saskatoon Real Estate Safe During COVID-19

With the privilege of being deemed an essential service since the beginning, we REALTORS® knew we had to do as much as we could to ensure we could still serve our clients to the best of our ability in the safest ways possible. Here are just some of the ways I’ve been able to pivot to provide safe real estate throughout the coronavirus pandemic so far:

Virtual Consultations allow me to still chat with you about your real estate needs and help you best define how we should move forward to achieve them.

Email Listings make it easy for me to share new listings with you as they come to market, so you never miss an opportunity, even when you may be self-isolating.

Virtual Tours & Live Open Houses are the newest ways we can show buyers your listings without them even having to set foot in your home. We can give them the opportunity to take a socially-distant tour around the house first to decide just how serious they are before requesting an in-person visit, limiting the foot traffic in your living space.

Waivers for Both Buyers and Sellers helps us to screen both parties invested in a viewing to ensure compliance with all isolation measures in place, helping to stop the spread.

Electronic Offers, Signatures, and Contracts give you the opportunity to take care of all the essential paperwork right from the comfort of your own couch!

Flexibility in Communication. I am here for you throughout your real estate journey, physically distant or not. That’s why you can always reach me by phone, email, or text, whichever is most convenient for you!

 

With the market now on an upswing and getting busier by the day, it seems the impact of the coronavirus on Saskatoon real estate is dwindling. Which means that if you’ve been thinking of buying or selling a house this year, now might just be the time to do it! Contact me today and let’s get started on reaching your real estate goals sooner.

BuyingFinancial March 5, 2020

The True Costs of Buying a House

For many first time home buyers especially, the common misconception is that the only costs of buying a house is the price of the home itself. However, unlike buying a new TV, where you simply pay the cost, grab the box, and walk out the doors, buying a house means quite a few financial steps to get to the finish line. Here are just a few of the most common costs associated with buying a house:

Down Payment

In order to obtain a mortgage from a lender, you’ll need to provide proof of financial stability and income in the form of a down payment. Usually this is anywhere between 5% and 20% of a home’s purchase price, but it can certainly be more than that, if you can afford it! Though, the minimum down payment required in Canada is 5%, and anything below 20% will require mortgage default insurance, which we will cover a bit later.

Your down payment is similar to any money you may have put down when financing a vehicle at the dealership. This money comes straight off the purchase price and only the remaining amount is factored into your mortgage loan. Which means the more you pay upfront with your down payment, the smaller a loan you will need, and therefore less interest you will need to pay.

Mortgage

Regardless of whether they are a first time home buyer or not, the one cost of buying a house that all buyers seem to be aware of is the mortgage payments. Similar to how a student loan helps you go to college now and pay later, a mortgage allows you to buy your home now and pay over time. Depending on the purchase price of the house, the cost will vary, and will be a monthly cost you can expect to pay over whatever term was agreed upon with your lender.

Home Inspection

One of the most important costs of buying a home is the home inspection fee, which is usually under $600. Since it is not technically required, some buyers will often consider skipping an inspection to save on closing costs. However, as an experienced REALTOR®, I always educate my buyers against this in order to protect their investment as much as possible. While it may seem slightly more costly upfront, the peace of mind and possible financial savings down the road are always worth it.

Inspections can reveal a wide variety of issues that may mean costly renovations or repairs in the future, which could mean thousands more dollars you weren’t expecting to have to pay. By catching them before the sale is closed, you can use these as negotiating tools with both the seller and your lender to help offset the possible costs or have repairs done before possession so you can move in worry-free.

Deposit

A deposit, while it may sound like a down payment, is actually a different cost involved in buying a house. Essentially, it is a lump sum of money that is put in trust for you as the buyer to show the seller that you will go through with the deal. Like the down payment, it is factored into the upfront payment toward the house and, therefore, not factored into your mortgage loan, so it will help to reduce your overall mortgage payments long term while also securing your purchase.

Property Appraisal

When calculating your financing, your mortgage lender may require a property appraisal to accurately assess the home’s actual value today, which typically costs around $300. This assessed value may be quite similar to the listing price, however, if it is lower than the listing price, be aware that your lender may only offer a mortgage on that value, not the price being paid in this instance. Financing is assessed on whichever value is lower: appraised value or purchase price.

Land Survey

Depending on when the last land survey was done on the home, your lender may ask for you to have one performed to accurately outline the boundaries of the property and avoid any discrepancies with neighbours later on. In the case that no large scale renovations have been done on your property or neighbouring properties within the last handful of years, the last land survey—which the seller should have—will usually be fine. However, if one is required, you can estimate an additional cost between $1,000-2,000.

Legal Fees

In order to buy a house, you will need the help of a real estate lawyer, which means that you can expect to see legal fees as a part of your closing costs. These can usually be anywhere between $500-1,000, depending on the work you need done. And while this may seem like a lot, trust me when I say you can rest assured that this is all money well-spent. Your real estate lawyer will be taking care of all the contracts and legal paperwork regarding your investment, helping to protect you against possible discrepancies that could arise in the future!

Title Transfer Fee

Where other provinces have a Land Transfer Tax, Saskatchewan simply has a Title Transfer Fee that is paid to the province for changing the registration on the property to your name. This fee will be 0.3% of the property price and will be charged at closing.

General & Provincial Sales Tax (GST/PST)

If you are purchasing a new home, General Sales Tax (GST) will apply to the purchase price of the home. Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is also applicable, but only on the value of labour and services incurred in construction. If you are purchasing a previously owned home, however, these taxes will not apply. And if you are buying a new house and do need to pay them, ask your REALTOR® about any possible new housing rebates you might qualify for! For example, Saskatchewan only recently announced a new rebate where you could receive a 42% rebate on the PST paid for possessions taking place between April 1st, 2020 and March 31st, 2023.

Mortgage Default Insurance

If you are making a down payment of less than 20%, your mortgage lender will require you to purchase mortgage default insurance, which can be anywhere between 1.75 – 2.95% of the mortgage value. This insurance helps to protect lenders in case you suddenly aren’t able to make your payments and is most often calculated into your monthly mortgage payment.

Home Insurance

Just as you would insure your car in case of an accident, home insurance is an essential part of becoming a homeowner. This insurance will help to cover damages that may happen to your property. Rates will vary depending on the home you are purchasing, and payments will need to be made monthly.

Utilities

To ensure your home has power, water, internet, and cable, you’ll need to contact your local services to set up accounts and installation times, if needed. Installation fees may be needed, and monthly charges will apply, depending on the services you want to have!

Property Tax

Property tax is payable to the local municipal government—in our case, the City of Saskatoon—and is usually calculated annually. To get a better understanding of what you can expect to pay in the future, I always recommend discussing the property taxes they have paid in the last few years. This will give you an average estimation, as well as an indication of whether they are trending up or down.

Moving Costs

If you plan on hiring a moving company, you will be responsible for paying whatever their rate may be for time and labour. However, you can also opt to handle the move yourself, but you may still need to rent a moving truck even in this case.

Some other costs you may expect to see in the process of buying a home may include the purchasing of new furniture or appliances, renovations or repairs, as well as condo fees, if they are applicable.