Category: buying a home (7)

buying a home in Calgary
Initial Perspective

We’ve worked with countless buyers over the years who have been looking to buy a house in Calgary, and have had the opportunity to counsel them on a proven strategy to discover their best home.  When we first sit down with home buyers, we like to first get their perspective on how they envision finding a home. The thing is, it’s not always an intuitive process. Most have a list of features they want in a home, but don’t know how to best translate their wants and needs to a systematic home evaluation process. This is the start of the home buying process.

 

Real Estate BUYING 101

In addition to answering questions about real estate, we get our clients’ initial thoughts on what they’re looking for, we engage in a thorough ‘Calgary Real Estate 101’ to identify various aspects that enhance value in properties, specifically in Calgary. The concepts are abstract though intuitive and by the end of the session, the drivers of value in the local real estate market are easily understood.

 

What about market conditions?

Market conditions are an important factor in any decision to buy a home, and we ensure that the past, current, and future market conditions are explained in a simple manner.  Knowing where we sit in the real estate cycle allows our buyers to make better decisions about timing and their investment.

 

The Process

Combining basic real estate concepts with market analysis, we’ve developed a process which enables our buyers to make intelligent and informed decisions about where they live and how to best invest their hard earned money. This approach has led to countless buyers making the best decision possible to achieve their goals, and gain and retain as much equity as possible during every swing in the market.

 

Your Search

Now that our clients understand the value and the market, and we understand their needs and wants, we mesh these concepts with a systematic process to produce a unique home search for our clients. If you would like to begin your search early you can visit this great property search tool.

If your worried about the costs of using a Realtor as a buyer, don’t be, it’s free! Here you can find more information.

 

IMG_0088My relationship to secondary suites began before I did. Ortona is a town in Italy that Canadian forces liberated and my parents were resided in the adjacent town of Fossacesia. WW2 left the area in ruins and it held little promise for a young couple to grow a family. When a relative sent news from Calgary and partly due to their fondness for Canadians, they set sail for Halifax. Arriving in Calgary with a few dollars to their name, they discovered accommodation was scarce and at a premium. They found a makeshift suite in the attic of a two storey home offered by a fellow immigrant. It was sparse and barely insulated, but in relative terms from the war-torn area they had just left, they were very happy to have the accommodation. My Mom would comment later in life that while living in that hobbled suite, they had some of the best times of their life.
Sometimes adversity is a blessing. During the war my father was interned in a prisoner of war camp, but the experience had taught him to speak and write English. As a result Dad got on quite well here and ultimately sponsored many of the Italian immigrants who wanted to start a new life in Canada. My parents would often share their suite with new arrivals until they landed on their feet and before long they were able to purchase a home on Child Avenue where I began my life. We always had a relative or friend living in the basement of that home which helped them all get started financially – it was just the perfectly normal thing to do.
A few years passed and my parents purchased a lot where they built a new home. It was a traditional raised bungalow perched high above Bridgeland with a walkout basement and a separate entrance for a secondary suite. At first we lived in the suite while my Dad finished the larger main floor area. In those days you paid for things as you had the money, so it took some time to build and pay for the home but in the meanwhile the suite provided comfortable accommodation. Once the main floor was finished we moved up and they set out to rent the suite. With no shortage of new immigrants moving to Calgary the suite hosted young couples from France, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Italy. As a child I was a curious participant in every activity around our home. I’m sure that I was mostly a nuisance to our tenants, but I always participated in their activities building or fixing everything imaginable. I fondly recall rebuilding engines, a ski-do (from scratch), and I was always made to feel like I was a big help. These wonderful people who resided in our suite became a part of my life and extended family. Outside our home our immediate neighborhood was almost entirely a community of new immigrants; Italian, Austrian, English, German, Polish blended with First Nations. We never thought twice about helping each other for any matter whatsoever. And it was more than perfectly normal to have a suite or let a room to someone who needed a place.
My parents always charged below market rent, so most of our basement renters stayed until they saved up a down-payment for their own home, which they all did. After they moved out we would see them nearly as often, as they frequently stopped by on weekends for dinner and a friendly game of cards.
In time, as the family aged, my parents preferred more privacy and the suite lent itself to teenage independent living. It was also a handy place for a rock-band to rehearse while shutting out those pesky parents. At times it just remained vacant, but always available for extended visitors or a returning child. Later still it would have provided perfect accommodation for a caregiver for my parents.
You see, I’ve always had nothing but good, positive experiences from secondary suites. To me they are a device that enables us to interact positively and directly with our neighbors – helping one another as we naturally would. It connects us and weaves a tighter fabric into our community. Suites provide adaptable spaces that can serve many purposes and extend the utility and value of our homes. (Did you know that the latest trend in home building is adaptable design?) They extend the life of our residence as an investment, allowing for greater return. They allow a new home buyer to purchase a home worth $200,000 more for the same monthly cost due to the rental income. They provide facility for people aging in place, saving both the resident and our government the cost of health care facilities. They provide affordable housing for new immigrants, students, temporary workers and caregivers. They provide elderly a resident eyes and ears to help look after the place (and help boost their retirement income).
When we look at affordable housing we often imagine a housing continuum from most to least affordable. It begins with shared accommodation and boarding houses (mostly extinct now); then secondary suites; apartments, townhomes and finally single family homes. Today, Calgarian’s have a dire need for affordable housing. With the cost of building at an all-time high it seems improbable that we will find a solution to construct apartments or townhomes that are affordable. If this accommodation does not exist, then the increased cost of living is passed on to employers and ultimately consumers and taxpayer – so we all pay or we simply don’t attract new workers and immigration and the accompanying burden this places on our economy.
We have a solution to affordable housing that exists today and costs little to implement. The answer has been right under our nose and yet somehow we have buried it, creating new rules that confuse and class existing suites illegal. And through nothing short of NIMBYism we have restricted the development of new suites. There is no question that the suites need to be safe and we would never argue on issues of safety, but somehow claims of unsafe suites and parking have been grossly exaggerated. A vocal minority has helped perpetrate these urban myths without substance and stymied an open debate where we lay the facts on the table. This issue over secondary suites now appears to have become a political dilemma for Councillors and we owe kudos to those who have shown leadership on this issue. Our City needs this accommodation and any outstanding issues can all be easily addressed but we all need to give our politicians the permission to do the right thing. The right thing now is to legalize suites in all zones. To appease the residents in single family zones, simply adding the provision that in existing single family areas suites shall be allowed only in owner occupied homes settles the score. Calgary is one of the only Cities in North America with such a restrictive secondary suite policy. It’s time we progressed back to our heritage, where suites are embraced as a vital and necessary part of our community.

 

multiple offer

How to win a multiple offer

While most Buyers dread being in a multiple-offer situation, with a little preparation Home Buyers can win a multiple offer situation without necessarily paying more money. To win that house you’ve been pining for, you’ll need a battle plan. Here are eight key steps to craft a winning scenario:

1. Address the  potential for a multiple-offer strategy right from the start   When you initially meet with your Realtor, address the  possibility of a multiple offer scenario on any property that you discover and understand your options. Here’s what you need to know:

First, you can enter the negotiation as if you are not competing. Second, if you really want the house and the value is apparent, you can offer close to list price with enticing terms. If you can’t live without this house and the list price is reasonable, then it’s smart to offer full price or somewhat above the asking price. The final option is to simply walk  away if a competitive offer scenario ensues. Run through and discuss these scenario’s and determine how you will handle them if it were to occur without the pressure and emotion of the actual moment upon you. This will provide you a solid framework to reflect on in the heat of the moment, if and when it does occur.

Remember that while you are calling the shots in the negotiation (ie: it will be your house and it’s your decision as to how the offer should be negotiated) you can benefit a tremendous amount from the experience and advice of your Agent who has experienced this event numerous times.

2. Be readily available to view properties and react  This point really attempts to preclude a multiple offer situation, but it is so important that it’s worth mentioning. Make sure you are flexible to view homes at odd times or earlier in the day than most people are able and this will give you an advantage in being the first to view new listings. If you do spot a great home that you know is right then do not delay in offering. You can always add a condition to ensure you haven’t overlooked something but acting quickly could get you the home you want before the competition sees it, and may preclude a multiple offer situation from the outset.

3. Insure a proper presentation   Find out which other Agents have written offers so you know what you are competing with. Your Agent should know the experience and track record of these other Agents. If the Listing Agent has written one of the competing offers then common protocol often requires that the office manager (or other third party representative) be present during the multiple-offer presentation, to ensure the Listing Agent does not unduly favor the presentation of his own offer.

4. Ensure you allow the right amount of time to keep the offers open    Prior to the time you present your offer, ensure that your Realtor enquires about the time parameters required to present the offers. You want to ensure that you have enough time to properly respond while not encouraging yet further offers to enter the competition allowing the negotiation to drag out over a long  period of time. Make sure that you are readily available to accept or counter the Sellers terms – this can make the difference and in some cases your Agent will ask you to wait in the car (or be nearby) while they are presenting your offer in case you need to make any last minute changes to get the deal.

5. Pre-Approval, not  just Pre-Qualification    A good way to be prepared for a multiple-offer situation is to obtain a pre-approval letter from their lender.  “Pre-approval” means that the lender has checked your credit and that you will be approved once the title work and the inspections are  complete. A pre-qualification letter means that the lender has looked at the  application but has not checked the borrowers’ credit. Consequently, you should try to obtain a  pre-approval, over a pre-qualification letter. Make sure that you have this in your file and include it when you present your offer. Better yet, eliminate the financing condition altogether if you are confident in obtaining your financing – first be sure to consult with you Realtor and Mortgage Broker/Banker on the risks associated with doing so.

6. Outflank the  competition    There are a number of ways that you can make your offer  stronger than your competitors’ offers. First, you can allow the seller to select the closing date.
Another approach is to shorten the due diligence periods.  In some circumstances, you may even eliminate the loan or inspection conditions entirely, (for example if you are tearing the home down) but be cautious in doing this and ensure that you consult with your Agent. Often Sellers will take an unconditional offer of less value than a higher offer that has conditions attached. Smart Sellers know that when the stars align and the have a multiple offer situation, this is the best situation they can expect and once everyone sober up from the party (and the property is longer on the market) they may not achieve nearly the same level of interest again

Also try to be flexible about any  special needs the seller may have, such as leasing back the property or taking  something such as the big-screen TV that is currently attached to the property.

7. Don’t be afraid to  ask    While there is no obligation for the Seller’s Agent to disclose what offers are on  the table, don’t be shy about asking. You could ask, “What has the seller turned down?” Whether or not you receive a response is debatable. Many times, especially  when their circumstances may have changed, sellers have ended up taking much less than what they turned down at an earlier date.

8. Be prepared not to get the property   No one likes losing a house that they want. In fact, some  people can become quite upset especially when emotions are involved or you have been looking for some time. Understand that there will always be another property around the corner that comes available and sometimes it’s even better than the one you lost.

Multiple offers can be challenging, but if you will follow  the simple guidelines above, you may be surprised how often you’re taking a closed transaction check to the bank. These suggestions just scrape the surface of the possibilities that multiple offer situations can offer. By far your best offense in these situations is to ensure that you have the best, most experienced Agent possible representing you. Since the markets which multiple offer situations flourish occur sporadically, having access to the broadest depth of experience possible will increase your opportunity for success. Sano Stante Real Estate group has over three decades of expert real estate marketing and negotiating skill that you can have on your side of the table. Call us today.

home inspection

Home Inspection


When buying a new or used home, after negotiating the price and terms, it is typical to include a period of due diligence to ensure the Buyer that the home is sound beyond the initial appearance. This is when a Buyer will perform a home inspection of the property.

Typically a period of five to ten days is negotiated in the contract to allow for the Buyer to engage a qualified home inspector to inspect the property and produce a report. If the report is not satisfactory to the Buyer then the Buyer has the option of not proceeding with the purchase.

Sometimes the inspection uncovers issues that the Seller was unaware of and perhaps would have repaired if they were aware of the issue, especially if the issue would cause further damage if left unattended (such as a leaking toilet seal or roof leak). For issues such as these, it is common that the Seller would agree to repair them prior to closing date. This revision can be written into the agreement as a term of sale satisfying the Buyer to remove their (inspection) condition with an agreed holdback amount should the repairs not be performed by the closing date. If the issues are larger or the Buyer feels uncomfortable with the number or scope of issues uncovered then they would exercise their option to not proceed with the purchase.

If the parties are dealing in good faith, such issue should be substantial and not frivolous or repairable to exercise the option of cancelling the contract. However if the Buyer is satisfied with the inspection or new terms emerging from the inspection they are required to waive their condition within the prescribed due diligence period.

Inspections should not be used as a lever to renegotiate a new contract, except as noted above or if the issue is clearly an issue that could not have been discovered prior to an inspection and the issue is substantive. For example, an uneven floor in an early century home is not a valid reason to use for an inspection because this issue was readily apparent on the Buyer’s original visit without a home inspector. On the other hand, defects such as moisture concealed behind gypsum or mold in a crawlspace are issues that may not be readily visible on a first visit but discovered upon an inspection and are valid issues to raise with the Seller. A roof that has never leaked and is discovered to be 10 years old does not provide you an argument to renegotiate the contract in order to pro-rate the remaining value.

Remember to negotiate in good faith. The Seller is often in the same frame of mind as you the Buyer, so if issues are presented in the proper context a Seller will often thank you for discovering them so that he can repair them before they cause you both further grief and conclude the sale amicably. Sano Stante Real Estate has experts with over three decades of experience in Calgary. Call us.


Defects-in-homeYou’ve found your new home, negotiated a contract to purchase, completed your due diligence and finally moved in. Once you’ve settled in, you discover a defect. What should you do? Do you have any recourse?

Your first best course of action is to do everything possible to ensure that you uncover any possible defects at the earliest stage in the purchase process, so when engaging a real estate agent, ask about entering a Buyer Brokerage agreement to ensure that the real estate agent represents your interests as a client (and not a just customer). The difference here is that the real estate agent now has a higher duty to you and an obligation to not only disclose obvious defects but to seek all information that could uncover and warning signs. Also, the real estate agent under a Buyer Brokerage Agreement acts more as a consultant than a salesman and is ensured that when you locate the right home he will be compensated, so is naturally less anxious to sell you a home that is not ideal. This motivates the real estate agent to seek out defects to ensure his clients satisfaction rather than simply observe and point out the obvious. During the negotiation the Seller has an obligation to disclose any latent defects and it is often helpful to ensure that you ask the right questions to uncover and historical defects that were repaired (and could reoccur).

Second, when negotiating always ensure that you make any offer contingent on a home inspection. Obtain the services of a qualified home inspector by seeking recommendations from other satisfied buyers or your real estate agent. A proper home inspection can uncover most issues and also acts as a operating guide to your new home. To this point it is often helpful to attend the inspection so you can receive more valuable insight and instructions on how to operate and maintain your new home.

Now that you’ve done everything possible to  ensure an absence of defects ensure that the home is as viewed when you negotiated and that all appliances are operating properly at closing. Common terms require the home to be in the same state of repair as when you viewed the home so to best ensure this it can be helpful to take photos of the condition of the property when viewing or refer to the listing agents promotional material. Also ask to perform a walk-through inspection of the property just prior to closing (it should be written and included as a term of your contract). This often precludes issues by allowing the lawyers to negotiate a settlement if any issues occur but their is no expressed allowance in the contract to withhold monies so if the buyer will not rectify an issue the buyer still must perform their obligation to close and rely on civil action to find their remedy.

And  if all else fails legal action through the courts are your last recourse. The Seller is required to disclose any latent material defects that they are aware of and that may not be visible to a Buyer at the time of sale. Proving this can sometimes be a challenge so ensure that you are armed with well documented evidence to build your case and plenty of time (and money for legal fees) to wade through the courts.

Clearly the best prescription for defects is avoidance by ensuring you take the proper steps before your purchase your next home.

HousesThis appears to be a pretty subjective question.  We’ll try to shed some light on it because everyone asks it  (or wants to ask it) and you may be surprised by the answer.

The goal of any home-hunting expedition is to ensure you find the best fit for your lifestyle and then to ensure that you pay fair market value for your new home. A Real Estate Professional helps you to:

1. Establish the right criteria for your home search, so you target for the right property.

2. Save you time locating homes that match your criteria.

3. Ensure that you view all available homes on the market (and even some that are not) so you see all possibilities.

4. Enable you to make a great decision, by comparing only similar properties that fit the criteria.

5. Provide you with an accurate market evaluation so you pay only fair market value (irregardless of the list price).

6. Negotiate the purchase on your behalf to get you the home for fair market value or less.

7. Ensure that the contract is properly drafted and conditions are defined to protect your interest.

8. Enable you to get the best financing and monitor the transaction to ensure a smooth closing.

Breaking it down, it becomes apparent that many of the factors are actually within our control  and not as subjective as you may imagine.

Our Buyer Program ensures that we walk through every aspect of buying a home, to educate the Buyer, answer every question and ensure that they make the right choices before we set out on a search or view any properties. From experience, a properly crafted search criteria will produce a slate of 30 homes which, after  filtered for location issues, provides around 20 homes that a Buyer would buy if they were appealing. This is where personal preference comes into play and a bit of chemistry. It’s been said that when you walk through the door of the your home, that  “it talks to you”. In many ways this is true and we’ve witnessed it a surprising number of times. Then the only reservation that buyers could have once this magic moment occurs is that they haven’t missed viewing a home that could possibly be better. This is ensured by viewing all properties available (but only those that you fit the criteria). Provided that everyone is clear about their goals, and we are practiced in the art of uncovering those true goals, then the process should take as long as it would take to view a dozen of the best homes available and make a decision. Depending on schedules and availability this can take between 3 days to two weeks. Once we have viewed everything available there is a chance that the right home has not yet come on to the market. We ensure that after every viewing we test our criteria. After all, this process is an education as well as an adventure, so sometimes people change their minds with new information. That’s OK too. We refocus and renew the criteria and set out to view the new slate of homes. This recalibrate can add another several days to a week to the process.

Once found we need to negotiate and perform our due diligence. This process will take a week to ten days to complete and then the buyer simply starts packing, looking forward to the closing date which is typically within 30 to 90 days.

Locating the perfect home can happen successfully in a weekend or a few weeks depending on the circumstances and your requirments to complete the task, but what is clear is that regardless of your timing, with the right process and people in place you won’t sacrifice finding the perfect home. At Sano Stante Real Estate, we have helped thousands of satisfied clients find their best home. Call us to help you find your’s

ScalePeople often overlook the important question of what is the proper progression when trading homes. The two options are to either buy first before selling your home or sell your home first before committing to another purchase.

There are several important factors to consider when making this choice.

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