Archive for Maurer Team – Page 2

About Waterloo: Waterloo Ranks #16 in “Canada’s Best Places to Live”

 

buying a house in Waterloo

Waterloo: A Great Place to Live, Work, and Play!

If you’re one of the fortunate residents of the Waterloo, Ontario area you already know – this is the best place to live! If you aren’t, then you should know what you’re missing. Canada’s Personal finance magazine, MoneySense, voted Waterloo one of Canada’s Best Places to Live. If our area isn’t on your short list of homeownership prospects, it’s time to add it!

A great community is more than just the average rainfall, the bricks and mortar, the streets and government offices. There’s so much that goes into a truly great place to buy a home, raise a family and live your life. Arts, culture, how you work and play all have roles in creating a hometown of stellar quality. The quality of your life is largely dictated by where you choose to spend your time so you have to be careful in choosing a place to live. This is not something you want to leave to chance.

Residents of Waterloo and the surrounding communities all have their own favourite thing about this smaller city with its “big city” features and country panache. It might be their friendly neighbours, an incredible farmers market, that quirky bistro on the corner, an art gallery or a quiet residential street. The folks at MoneySense can’t quantify those things that make Waterloo feel like home. They can, however, explain statistically some of what makes Waterloo a great place to live. Here’s an explanation of what they found when the numbers were crunched.

City Size

MoneySense ranks towns and cities by size from small to large. Waterloo is ranked in the category of medium. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. That means you can get a lot of amenities that the bigger metropolitan areas boast, like cultural events and nightlife, without so many of the big city challenges like traffic and pollution. You get the quiet, country feeling without being so isolated and removed from the conveniences of the city. As Goldilocks would say, “it’s just right!”

Low Unemployment

One of the key metrics for MoneySense’s estimation of a great place to live is the unemployment rate. Our area’s estimated unemployment rate is barely 5%. This is considered to be low in their rankings.

It’s always important to know that the place you live or might choose to move to is thriving economically. However, unemployment is also reflected in a lot of other areas. When unemployment is high, home ownership typically drops and property values may suffer. Studies show that in areas with higher unemployment rates, neighborhood upkeep tends to also suffer and crime rates tend to skew upwards. Having a high rate of employment is a good sign that a town is healthy and thriving.

Median Income

Income levels are also thriving in Waterloo. MoneySense rates us as having high household incomes with a median income of $83,595. The median discretionary income is listed as being just over $53,594. This is quite good compared to many other areas of the country of a similar size.

Walking, Biking and Using Public Transportation to Work

This might not seem that significant to some but it’s a telling number. About 5.6% of our regional population report regularly walking to work. The number for biking is 2.1% and public transportation usage comes in at 5.4%.

If you’re comparing these numbers to a densely populated metropolitan area, they might look a little puny side-by-side. Yet, if you take into consideration the fact that our area is much less densely populated and it is spread over a large rural community, the numbers start looking a little more impressive.

Strong Arts and Sports Community

The arts and outdoor activities are what add color and depth to our lives. Work needs to be balanced with play and ambition should be countered with culture. Waterloo is ranked very well in this area.

Just over 2% of our population is employed in the arts and recreation field in some way so you can tell that residents support their endeavours. MoneySense gives us a checkmark in the column for a strong arts & sports community.

Waterloo is an excellent choice for your hometown. If you don’t believe those of us who already live here, take a look at MoneySense’s rankings and see what they’ve got to say. When you see how Waterloo stacks up in this national ranking, you’ll come around to our way of thinking too.

 

Affordable Homes In Kitchener-Waterloo for Home Buyers? Absolutely!

cheap houses in Kitchener

Does Kitchener-Waterloo Have Reasonably-Priced Houses?

In recent months you have probably seen the headlines (because they’re everywhere) – parts of Canada are facing a housing affordability crisis like never before. In cities across the country, housing has become so expensive that middle income individuals just can’t afford to become home buyers. While that may be absolutely true in other cities across the nation, it’s not always the case in Kitchener-Waterloo. Instead, this area remains more affordable than many nearby cities.

A Bigger Problem

The rapid increase in housing prices is a big cause for concern due to two main problems. First, job growth remains fairly stagnant. Private sector growth is hitting numbers like 10%. Public sector growth is a bit higher, but there’s one other problem to go with those job growth numbers – median incomes. For most families, the median income has remained the same, even in the face of the housing costs increasing across the country. Fortunately, Kitchener-Waterloo seems to have an edge. Our job growth numbers look amazing with a recently released Ontario Chamber of Commerce report suggesting that economic growth in the area will continue to gain momentum thanks to exports and investment spending in manufacturing and the tech sector. This helps to shield our area from stagnation of job growth.

What Defines “Affordable?”

The Canadian Real Estate Association regularly ranks cities and townships as affordable by comparing the average prices of residential dwellings in and around the area. The lower the numbers, the more affordable the general area. In these studies, Kitchener-Waterloo almost always ranks as one of the more affordable places to live. In May of 2015, the average price of a home in this area was just about $350,000. In greater Toronto, it was hitting $650,000. Moving to the West Coast certainly isn’t going to save you any cash either. Vancouver was recently ranked as the most expensive city with average home prices coming in at $748,651.

What Keeps Housing Prices Lower in Kitchener-Waterloo?

Wondering why this area remains so affordable? There are a few reasons. One of the most likely reasons is the fact that there’s a consistent level of housing inventory in the area. In May of 2015 alone, there were 1,200 new listings. Sellers have to stay competitive in this environment to keep in line with market conditions.

There are also a number of incentives to buy a home in the area at the moment. Waterloo launched their Affordable Home Ownership Program, offering individuals and families a loan to help cover the down payment of a home. Buyers can receive up to five percent of the purchase price as long as: the home is located in the Waterloo Region; has a purchase price of $243,300 or less; and is approved by the region itself. There are guidelines for eligibility, but it’s certainly a helping hand for many buyers.

The other likely reason for the lower prices in this area is the fact that historically low interest rates mean there’s a stronger pool of potential buyers. As the interest rates go up, the chances are good that the number of buyers will go back down, as may the total number of sellers.

Home Prices Aren’t the Only Reason to Consider Kitchener-Waterloo

Besides the fantastic deal you could get on a house here, there are a number of other reasons to consider this area. Kitchener has a long list of things to see and do. It’s close enough to metropolitan areas like Toronto, and there is easy access to Highway 401. Once you’re here, though, you probably won’t want to leave! There’s a highly diversified economy attracting people from a wide range of cultures who have made this area nothing short of amazing. The diversity here, along with great schools, an invested infrastructure that just keeps getting better, and robust arts and culture environment make this the best place to live if you’re considering the Waterloo Region.

 

Closing the Sale of Your Home

Before you close the sale of your Kitchener-Waterloo home

Before you close the sale of your Kitchener-Waterloo home 

You’re selling your home. You’ve spent time cleaning, packing, painting, tidying and landscaping in preparation for potential buyers. You’ve vacated your home for showings. You’ve taken all of your real estate agent’s advice, priced it to sell and gotten your home completely ready. All your hard work is finally paying off and you’ve got a buyer! The offer has been made and accepted but your work is not yet done.

As a seller, you still have a number of tasks to accomplish before the sale of your home is complete. There are details involved in a home sale and you can’t afford to miss a single one. Your real estate agent will be there to guide you through the process so you should be covered. However, it never hurts to be informed about the process. Here are a few of the things you need to know, which will help you to be super prepared!

Your real estate agent can help with closing details

After the price is agreed upon and a contract signed, consult with your agent about the next steps. A contract isn’t always a sure sale. There could be contingencies in the contract for the buyer such as approval of financing Ask your agent what will happen next and what your involvement needs to be, if any. He or she will be able to brief you on the upcoming events that will hopefully lead to a secure closing.

Ask your agent to send the agreement of purchase and sale to your real estate lawyer as soon as possible. If you don’t already have a lawyer, your Realtor will be able to recommend one.

Consult a real estate lawyer

A home sale is a legal contract, entailed with all the accompanying legalities and paperwork. Talk to him or her about what you need to do between acceptance of the offer and the closing. Ask your lawyer if your agent has sent the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and any other necessary paperwork to your lawyer’s office. Provide him or her with the name and date of birth of the buyer. Be sure to apprise your lawyer if the property you are selling (or buying) is now or will be, a rental property. He or she should know if it has a well or septic system, too. Make sure every line item requiring a signature or initial has them in place well before the closing date.

You will have to bring a cheque with you to the closing for the fees. Your attorney’s office can usually give you an estimate of the total costs a couple of weeks out from closing and a final figure a few days beforehand. You may be leaving keys with your lawyer so be sure to ask what you should be prepared to provide both before closing and after.

Call your insurance agent

Your insurance agent should be next on your list of professional people to visit or call. Your policy needs are certainly changing and you will need to make some adjustments. One thing you may need to purchase before closing is a short-term fire insurance policy. Coverage for 2 weeks prior to closing is sometimes recommended and you’ll need to get a copy to your lawyer’s office as well.

Notify your insurance agent that a change is coming but don’t cancel your policy until the sale is actually completed. You never know what could happen (fire, flood, natural disaster) – between the moment you cancel and the actual closing.

Contact your local utilities and various service providers

Once you have a confirmed closing date, you can start contacting your local utilities and service providers to close your accounts, settle any payments and terminate services. This includes gas, hydro, water, cable or satellite TV, Internet, and land line if you have one (do people still have those?). Don’t forget the lawn service/landscaper if you have one and newspaper delivery. A Change of Address and arrange for mail forwarding at Canada Post online here. To make it easy on yourself, make a list and check each item off so you aren’t paying for services past the date you leave the home.

Put together a small package for the buyer

The new owner will probably change all the locks and security codes but collect all the keys and bring the garage door openers. Leave all of them with your lawyer at the time of closing.

At the home, leave a packet for the new owner. Leave behind instruction manuals and warranty info for any appliances still in the home. If you have a security system, change the code to something simple and leave it for the new owners. They can change it later to something personal and they won’t know the special codes you will likely use in your next home!

Close up the home

Whenever you vacate the property, whether it is weeks before closing or minutes, be sure to close it up properly. Close the blinds or pull the curtains, turn off the lights and lock the doors. If the property will be vacant for any period of time before the new owners move in, leave a light on to give the illusion that someone is still living there. This should at least reduce the chances of a break-in.

Talk to your agent about all the little details that must be managed between offer and closing. Be sure to check every box on your list!

If you don’t have a real estate lawyer, we highly recommend and work with the lawyers at Victor Hussein Professional Corporation. Victor and his team can be reached by visiting http://www.vhlaw.ca or by calling 519.744.8585.

 

Renovating Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

 

renos for my home in Kitchener

If you’re looking for a contractor, read this first

 

What you need to know before you hire a contractor

In 2011, $63 billion was spent in the renovation sector in Canada, exceeding new home construction expenditures by approximately $20 billion. You can create the home of your dreams by taking a solid home in a neighborhood you love and renovating the interior. Changing out finishes and moving walls seems easy on TV but there’s a great deal involved in a renovation. You will most likely need (or want) to hire a contractor, especially if you’re dong major work like taking out walls or changing the floorplan. All of the work requires permits and will need to be performed to code, so for that you need an expert.

A general contractor is the site boss of your renovation project. He or she is the manager, the overseer and the coordinator for the project. Some will be onsite swinging a hammer along with the tradespeople but another might spend most of his time in the office managing the details. The contractor deals directly with the architect (if there is one involved), the inspector and the tradespeople to get everything done right in your home. A good contractor will make sure the work stays on schedule and on budget, too. There are a lot of contractors in Waterloo region so we put together a list of questions you can ask, when you’re calling around looking to hire one for renovating your Kitchener-Waterloo home.

How long have you been in business in Waterloo Region?

Everyone has to start somewhere but do you really want to be your contractor’s first job? You want an established contractor with experience in your area so that he has good relationships with tradespeople and suppliers. Someone commuting from Toronto may not have these relationships in place.

Don’t be afraid to politely ask a contractor where he lives. Chances are if he lives in Waterloo Region, most of his projects have been closer to home. Local is usually the better choice not just for services but for building supplies too.

Do you have a license?

I know it seems like a no-brainer but I have to state it anyhow: always hire a licensed contractor. Not ALL contractors require licenses for all jobs. You can find contractor license requirements in Ontario here.

Is your price an “estimate” or a “fixed price?”

There’s a big difference between an estimate and a price. If you think your contractor has given you a fixed price and you get a call that something now costs more or has to be changed, it could be an unpleasant surprise.

Keep in mind that changes in prices aren’t always a sign of a bad contractor. Some costs can legitimately rise due to market fluctuations or shortages in materials. Demand goes up and supply becomes diminished causing a spike in price. Then there are instances where the unforeseeable occurs – like a compromised structure. In these cases it’s only reasonable that your contractor may have to make adjustments, but he should also have ideas about how to stay within budget too.

There will be a certain amount of “unknowns” involved in any renovation. It’s impossible to know that the floor joists are compromised until you start removing materials. However, you can start to eliminate the unknowns if you have an open discussion with a quality contractor.

Who are your major suppliers and workers?

Talking to your contractor’s suppliers will give you a better idea of his reliability. If he isn’t paying them on time, you should look elsewhere. Suppliers will be able to tell you if a contractor buys top quality materials or if he skimps. If it’s a hefty renovation, take the time to talk to the tile shops, lumberyards and home improvement centers to get a feel for how he does business. If he’s left a long string of unhappy tradesmen behind, he might not be a good hire for you. Your contractor needs to have solid relationships with skilled workers to give your home the best results.

Are you insured? What does your policy cover?

The last thing you need after an expensive home reno is an insurance claim or lawsuit over an injury sustained on your property. The contractor should have current insurance for workers’ compensation and general liability. That way, if someone gets hurt or if your property is damaged, it won’t be you or your insurance company that has to pick up the bill.

Can I see a project in progress or speak with a recent reference?

A contractor should have references that you can call or a project that you can see to show the quality of his work. Satisfied customers are happy to show off their homes. If you are looking at photos on a website, make sure this is their actual work and not stock photos.

This is just the start of the many questions you should be asking your contractor. Talk to friends and coworkers who have been through the process and find out who they used and what they wish they had known. You can also ask your Real Estate Agent for advice and referrals.

Links to Helpful Renovation Information

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a free “Renovators Green Guide” which you can find here.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited contractor listing: http://go.bbb.org/1QBP2NT  At the bottom of this page the contractors are broken down into categories (e.g. Kitchen and Bath; Interlocking Stone; Concrete Contractors)

Engaging in DIY renos? The Bob Vila’s site is “chaulk” full of useful renovation information here.

From “how to de-stress wood” to “renovation mistakes to avoid” to “budget room makeovers,” Pinterest is a treasure chest of great renovation ideas and information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEFORE YOU BUY: The Importance of a High Quality Home Inspection

 

closing the sale of my house

How to find an experienced home inspector you can trust

A home inspection is one of those things you should never go without when you are purchasing a home. It is good sense to know what you’re buying before you sign the final Offer to Purchase document with your Realtor. Any home can be hiding catastrophic issues. Even if you intend to renovate all the way from the studs out, you still don’t want to pay to purchase problems. Your home inspection is one of the most important steps in your home purchase, which makes your home inspector an important person too.

Most mortgage lenders will require an inspection before they approve financing (that alone should give you an idea of how critical an inspection is!). However, the lender won’t likely specify who does your inspection. That’s largely up to you and this isn’t a “one size fits all” event. We suggest not hiring the first result you get from doing a Google search. Go a step further and do a little homework.

Questions usually lead to knowledge so don’t be afraid to ask a few of your potential home inspector. An inspection will cost between $300 and $600 for a modest-sized home and could go up significantly for a more luxurious home. However, the cost of an unreported issue can be far greater. This is a big job and you have every right to choose the best person for the task. Here are a few questions to get you started when you speak with a potential home inspector.

What accreditations do you carry?

An accreditation will show what kind of training and experience an inspector has under his/her belt. It’s a good idea to know what their background is before your hire him or her. Most accredited home inspectors are willing to show you their licenses to verify this.

Are you a member of any applicable professional organizations?

Most reputable home inspectors will carry membership in at least one professional organization. Each one has its own licensing and certification procedures and most have a code of ethics that members are required to follow. It’s good to know that your inspector is willing to adhere to the high standards that most of these organizations require.

What is your professional background?

Hiring locally isn’t just good for the local economy; it’s good for you too. An inspector with experience in your geographical area will know the ins and outs of the local building codes as well as the eccentricities of the local architecture. He or she will know which builders made great homes and which ones are known for having certain issues. They will understand what the weather is like where you are buying and how it affects the homes in that area.

Your inspector’s background also covers his professional work. If his experience isn’t in the type of property you’re purchasing, you need to find another inspector. Even if a candidate is a top-notch commercial inspector, he might not be a good pick for a residential transaction. Make sure his background is a match for you needs.

How much experience do you have?

How much experience your inspector has is just as important as what kind of experience it is. If this is his first house, he might not be what you need. Everyone has to start somewhere but experience is a very good teacher and you want a good student working on your home.

What kind of report do you provide? May I see a copy?

Chances are, a home inspection is a requirement of your mortgage approval. Your lender will want a copy of the report and you want to feel confident that the report will be acceptable to them and meet their lending requirements.

How long will the inspection take?

Expect at least 2 to 3 hours for an average-sized, relatively young home. Reports should be provided to you in approximately 24 hours on any average weekday.

What will you inspect? Should I attend?

Your inspector will be able to reel off the major points of an inspection quite easily. It’s what he does every day after all. And if he or she won’t let you come to see what you’re potential new home is made of, that’s a red flag. You are the one buying the home; you should be able to see what he sees, both right and wrong, so that you can make a wise decision. In Kitchener-Waterloo attendance at a home inspection by the purchaser is a requirement by the Real Estate Board. I insist that all of my clients attend the inspection of the home they are about to buy. Not only will you get a real education on the home you’re buying, a good home inspector will also provide you with great tips on home maintenance.

Can you provide references?

If he can’t provide at least 2 or 3 previous customers or real estate agents that will speak well of him, that’s another red flag. An inspector with experience should be able to point to at least a few satisfied customers willing to speak on his or her behalf.

Our stellar home inspector recommendation

For the past 15 years, Chad Hussey from Pillar to Post has been our #1 home inspector of choice. Chad is the franchisor for the Pillar To Post territory encompassing the Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas. Any time I buy a property for myself, Chad is the home inspector I rely on. I consistently and continually recommend him because of his expertise and knowledge and the high quality home inspection reports/certificates he provides on the same day of your home inspection. You can’t beat that kind of service in any industry! If you have home inspection questions,  you can contact Chad here.

Buying a Smaller Home: Smaller Spaces with BIG Style

 

How to Downsize Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

How to Downsize From Your Kitchener-Waterloo Home

Bigger spaces can be problematic for many homeowners, and these days it seems, many homeowners or potential homeowners are taking the “smaller is better” option. From those participating in the tiny home fad to those who give up that big family home for something much smaller, buying a smaller home is a very personal choice. This is a time for some of you to simplify your lives and reduce your footprint. Not to worry though – giving up some square footage doesn’t necessarily mean giving up comfort or style! If you want to reduce the size of your home without reducing its level of comfort, you just need creative style and a savvy real estate agent to help find you that perfect smaller home.

A Closer Look At Why People Downsize

There are a lot of good reasons to downsize, no matter what the motivation.

  • Purchase cost. A home is typically priced largely by the size. A smaller home will likely have a lower asking price than a larger one in the same neighborhood making it an affordable option to many more families like you.
  • Cost of ownership. The associated costs of operating a smaller home are lower, too. It won’t cost as much to heat and cool, and landscaping less land means more money in your pocket. (yay!)
  • Stress reduction. Paying for and keeping up a large house can be very stressful. Have you heard of the term “being house poor?” This is when a family dedicates such a large portion of their income to paying for and maintaining their home, that they have very little money left to enjoy life. A heavy stress-load can lead to health problems and contribute to the breakdown of a significant relationship. Downsizing to a smaller home can alleviate some of this stress. You shed a lot of the “stuff” (physical and emotional) that causes worry.
  • Changing needs. Once children fly the coup to go off to college, university, or simply to pursue independence (maybe even start their own family), you’re left with empty rooms you have no use for. Perhaps you convert one bedroom to a hobby room or that home library you’ve always wanted, just to find that you still have several large rooms unused. It can leave you feeling wasteful and dreaming about what you could do with the extra money IF you downsized J
  • Eco-friendliness. Since you’re using less energy to heat and cool, your impact on the planet decreases. It also requires fewer resources to build. Choosing to downsizing is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while at the same time benefitting your bank account. 

Making the Move Forward

Exerting creativity is key when downsizing. You can get big style in a small home with a dash of creativity and good space planning. The “tiny home” movement is evidence of that (just search for “tiny home” on the internet and see how some folks are taking downsizing to the extreme!). You can take a few cues from this kind of thinking to help furnish your downsized home. Here are a few tips that may help.

Edit and Reduce

Chances are, you won’t be able to fit the furnishings of a 4 bedroom home into a 2-bedroom condo. You will have to make some decisions about what items mean the most to you. Divest yourself of large pieces. You can start giving them to children, grandchildren or other loved ones to start their own homes.

Think Multifunctional

In a smaller space, you can’t afford to allot space to specialized furnishings. You can only fit so many items; think “multipurpose.” Give some thought to how particular items can serve in more than one capacity. Here’s an example. You might only need a dining table several times a year but a slim console table behind the couch is useful all year long. What if that console was actually a drop leaf table with two “wings” that lift when you need the extra room but stay out of the way when you don’t? Or what about a good, old-fashioned Murphy bed that can turn your office into an instant guest room?

Get Organized

A professional organizer is a wonder of the world! You’ll be amazed at how much can fit into a small space when everything is organized. Consider hiring a pro to create an organized home. Kitchens, baths and closets can hold so much more and operate much more efficiently when they’re properly organized.

Decorate Differently

In a large house, big patterns and bold colors seem right at home. In some (but not all) cases, these can overwhelm a smaller space, depending on the size of the print. A cohesive color palette in soothing shades makes a smaller room look spacious. Focus on textures and subtle details to make the décor interesting and layered. Again, hiring a professional can make a big difference. We recommend booking a consultation with KW’s Award-Winning Rooms in Bloom Home Staging.

Make the most of your downsized home by subtracting the clutter and adding some multifunctional style. You’ll soon see that downsizing is often the best decision you can make.

How Your Real Estate Agent Can Help

Choosing to downsize can be an emotional journey. You’ll need a good agent to help guide you through the process. An experienced real estate agent can help you find the features you really need and help you figure out what you can really do without. If you won’t be having nightly dinners with several people, do you really need a large dining room and an eat-in kitchen and a bar with extra seating? Can you get by with one guest room and some creative furnishings? Your agent can help you see how you could live in a home. If you are looking to downsize and are looking for that perfect smaller space, give us a call at 519.885.0200 or email us here.

 

 

Feature Home of the Week for June 08, 2015

 

Homes for sale in Bamberg

Hobby Farm in Bamberg, Ontario

 

This week’s Feature Home of the Week is 1561 Moser-Young Road in Bamberg. Bamberg is conveniently located a mere 14.5 kilometres from Kitchener and is within a few kilometres of St. Clements, St. Agatha, Baden, Hawksville, New Hamburg, Heidelberg, Erbsville, and Phillipsburg. You can find directions and Google Streetviews to nearby townships and lakes by clicking here. 

This exquisite and gorgeous custom-built country home is located on 6.69 private picturesque acres. There are impressive quality finishings with total attention to detail throughout. This property boasts a twist on a “Man Cave” with a 3600+ square foot “Rolls Royce Man Cave” – a heated & insulated shop with high ceilings & 4 oversized overhead doors.

hobby farm in Bamberg

Interior of “Man Cave”

 

Exterior of Man Cave

Exterior of Man Cave

There is also a bright and enjoyable Games Room with a pool table that can be enjoyed by friends and family alike!

Games Room

Games Room

For your viewing enjoyment, check out a video we put together of this property.  To view the complete MLS listing for this fabulous hobby farm click here. We welcome all inquiries about this property – simply call 310-SOLD or email The Mark Maurer Team.