Buying a home is usually the biggest financial decision
anyone is going to ever make in their lifetime.
When you buy almost anything from a store or online you would expect
that there will be a warranty that comes with that product. When making a large purchase such as a home,
it only makes sense to have peace of mind that there won’t be any major
problems with it after you move in. Therefore,
it’s extremely important to get a home inspection before deciding to put an
offer for that house you are wanting to purchase (or having your real estate
agent put in a clause on an offer, which would not make the offer binding
unless you are satisfied with the results of the inspection) This will protect you incase there are any
issues with the house, and you do not want to put money into fixing them. As of the day this article was written there
is not much regulation in the industry. And
beware that some problems may not be detected in a home inspection that may
arise in the future.
How To Choose A
Credible Home Inspector?
There are many home inspectors out there to choose
from. They all offer slightly different
services and vary in how thorough they are in their inspections. As a rule you get what you pay for, if a
certain company or individual is charging ½ the price as compared to everyone
else I would be skeptical in the quality of their work. After all this will most likely be your
biggest purchase in your life, major problems that an inspector might miss can possibly
cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the future. Unfortunately, at this time Ontario requires
no licensed for inspectors, however the government is currently working on implementing
regulations. However there is an
organization called the Ontario Association of Home
Inspectors, this organization is dedicated to enhancing professional
practice and technical skills of home inspectors. Members of this organization are held to high
standards of practice and must obey a code of ethics. These members have a designation as a “Registered
Home Inspector” It is recommended to get a building inspector that is a member
of this organization.
What Is Inspected In
A Home Inspection?
Home Inspections include almost all areas in a home or condominium. The inspector will do a thorough walk through
of your home and check for any problems that could be present. The inspection will include:
Plumbing pipes, fixtures, hot water tanks, shutoff valves, drains and vent
HVAC – Air Ducts,
A/C, Furnace, heat exchangers, humidifier, venting, filter and registers
Panels, wiring, outlets, fixtures, electical service, some detectors and
Roofing – Gutters,
downspouts, chimneys, flashings, skylights and leaks
Insulation, ventilation, roof frame, moisture levels, pipes, flashings and
Structure – Exterior receptacles, gas meter/piping, windows, doors, foundation,
exterior wall coverings and columns
Site Grounds and
Grading – Fences and gates, patios, decks, window wells, sidewalks,
driveways, retaining walls, grading, and trees
Stairs, floors, walls, leaks, ceilings, fireplaces, skylights, windows, and doors.
Foundation, floor joists, sub flooring, leaks, sump pumps, moisture/mildew,
mold, ventilation, foundation, columns and insulation
Garage – Flooring,
walls, roof, windows, door opener, door, moisture/mildew and recepticles
– Windows, doors and interior walls and ceilings
Costs for Home Inspections
Cost will vary depending on the company you decide to hire
and the type and size of your home. A
condo apartment will usually have the least cost to inspect as it is usually
the smallest type of home and will only need an indoor inspection. Generally the higher the square footage of
your home the higher cost it is to inspect.
Prices vary $350-$600+ depending on the thoroughness of the inspections.
What an Inspector
Certain issues with your home are hidden and won’t be able
to get detected. The inspector might not
do a thorough inspection and might have lacking detailed information in the
report. Some inspectors won’t go on top
of your roof to inspect the roof as this requires some risk and extra effort to
get on top. Some will not get into very
tight locations such as attics or crawl spaces.
There could be hidden electrical issues, structural issues, failing HVAC
equipment, leaks and partially blocked sewer lines which most likely won’t be
able to get detected. Some inspectors
lack any training whatsoever, so this would mean they are not knowledgeable as
to what problems to look for and to diagnose.
Before hiring a home inspector before buying or selling your home, do
your research to see what type of credentials they have, and look for reviews
online to see what kind of experiences other people had with them.
How an Inspection Can
If a seller gets multiple offers for their home, usually
they would prefer to accept the offer with the least amount of conditions. This means that if you want the property
inspected and the other competing buyer does not, then the seller will most
likely accept the other buyers offer because this will make their life easier
by not having to have you, your real estate agent and inspector come into their
home for a few hours.
Remember before hiring or thinking about hiring a home inspector do your due diligence.
Realtor with Century 21 Heritage Group
If you are in the market to sell your home and want to relocate, you might be thinking if putting your home on the market first or buying a home first will be the right choice. This will depend on everyone’s financial situation and risk tolerance. There are many ways to go about selling and buying your home.
First you will need to be aware of what will happen if you buy a house before you sell your existing one.
Getting approved for a second mortgage
Most people might have a hard time carrying two mortgages at the same time. This would mean applying to a lender for a second mortgage, lenders will take your income, your debts, your assets, any car payments and other factors into consideration before lending you money. Having equity in your existing home will not automatically get you approved for a second mortgage. Getting a second mortgage usually requires you to produce a much higher down payment compared to a first mortgage, this could mean having to come up with a 20% down payment. Your income is usually the largest overall factor mortgage lenders look at. They will determine if you are able to afford the extra monthly payments. If you don’t meet their guidelines for a second mortgage, you will be out of luck.
Making an offer on a home with conditions
Depending on the current market, some sellers might accept an offer for purchase and sale with a condition that your home must be sold before the offer for the second home will be binding. This would mean that there won’t be any risk as the offer for purchase won’t happen unless your existing home gets sold. This is very a common condition that will be accepted in a down market, as there usually won’t be any competing offers for the home you are trying to buy. But keep in mind if the seller gets multiple offers for their home, they will accept the offer with the least conditions because they would have no reason to care for your conditions in the offer.
Selling your home before buying a new one
This is usually the best and most practical choice for most people. The vast majority of people don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank or investments to pull out and purchase a new home. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before selling your home first. It is possible that your home will sell before you are able to purchase a new home. This could mean that you could be homeless for a little while, you will need to find a temporary place to stay. If you don’t have a friends or family members house to stay at, hotels can be really expensive to stay in. This could mean having to store all your belongings in a storage facility, which will require you to rent or hire a moving company twice instead of once.
Selling your house before buying a new one will reduce your stress level as you won’t have to think about what if your current home doesn’t sell in time and that you might have to juggle two mortgages. Buying a home first means that time will be on your side, you will be able to find that perfect home in the right location with all the features you want without having to rush through the process and settling for a home that may not be ideal for you. Purchasing a home will be most peoples biggest financial decisions in their lives, its better to not rush going through this process.
I will recommend talking to your real estate agent and mortgage lender before making any decision yourself. As a real estate agent I will be able to advise you on how the current real estate market is doing and how long it would be expected to sell your current home as well with any possible risks you would face in the process.
Realtor with Century 21 Heritage Group
IS MY TORONTO BASEMENT APARTMENT LEGAL?
You might have heard some way or another over the years about issues with people renting or living in “illegal” basement apartments. To many people this issue will not affect them during their lifetime, whether they are tenants in a basement apartment, or are landlords renting out a basement apartment. That is until god forbid a fire or flood happens in the home. This is where its important to be aware of all the factors involved with basement apartments in Toronto and surrounding areas.
Almost any area in Toronto and surrounding areas have homes with either rooms or basements rented out to tenants. When people don’t use their basement, it can be a waste of space for some so they decide to rent it out to receive an income to help pay for their mortgage or utility payments. In todays housing market this can be a very good idea, and could enable you to afford that larger home you always wanted.
There are many terms associated with a rented basement apartment such as:
- Dwelling Unit
- Second Suite
- Two-Unit house
- Granny Flat
- Auxillary apartment
What conditions must be met for the basement apartment to be considered legal?
- It must follow local Bylaws
- It passes Fire Code Inspection
- It passes Electrical safety requirements
- The unit is registered with the municipality
If you are thinking about buying a home with a basement apartment, these are requirements you will need to confirm are met in the particular home.
Studies have shown that about 80% of all rented basement apartments in Toronto Ontario are considered illegal.
Before buying a home ask your Realtor to see if the basement apartment is legal and request an inspection to confirm the status.
What a basement apartment needs:
The requirements for a basement apartment will depend on your location. There are a few rules that apply:
- Bathrooms require an exhaust fan and a window
- Basement apartment ceilings must me minimum 6 feet 5 inches
- Doors needs to be 32 inches by 78 inches
You will need to contact your local city hall to find out all the requirements needed for your dwelling unit to be up to code.
-The basement apartment needs to conform with Zoning Bylaws in your town or city
– A building permit must me acquired with the city
– A Fire inspection must be completed
– A Electrical Safety inspection must be completed
Inspection for fire code compliance cost around $120 to $300. Inspections for electrical safety cost around $80.
Why should you be worried if your basement is considered illegal?
In 2013, a young woman in Toronto was killed when her boyfriend could not rescue her from the couple’s burning basement apartment. Two years later, the owner of the illegal rooming house was found guilty of multiple fire code violations and fined $75,000. He was also given 18 months probation with conditions including not possessing or managing a rental property. This was an unfortunate situation that happened, of course it is extremely rare however it is in everyone’s best interest to protect themselves if anything like this ever happens.
If a home owner does not disclose to their home insurance company that they have a rented basement apartment, they could be fined or can loose their home insurance alltogether. And those who are living in illegal basement apartments won’t be able to get renters insurance for their belongings.
These fines can range from $500 to $5000, and can be increased if people are caught not complying with orders.
Any tenant may make a request to the city for the basement apartment to get inspected. Getting caught with an illegal apartment could result in you having to transform the home back into a single family dwelling, and can result in you having to legalize the apartment which can take a lot of time and money to do.
Buying a home with an illegal basement apartment
Many MLS listings with a basement apartment that is not legal will show the term: “Seller and sellers agent do not warrant the retrofit of the basement apartment”. This means the seller and sellers agent are aware that the basement apartment is not registered and are doing their due diligence to inform any potential buyer that the apartment is not legal. Before buying a home make sure to do your homework and ask questions.
Creating a new second suite
If you are considering doing renovations and making a basement apartment there are many requirements that must be met and they slightly vary by every municipality.
- The principal residence must be at least 5 years old
- The house must be detached or semi-detached (there are some additional rules and exceptions for rowhouses)
- The exterior facade of the house cannot be significiantly altered
- The second suite must be smaller than the rest of the house and be self-contained with its own kitchen, bathroom and entrance
- The property must meet parking requirements (except in the former city of Toronto, where they recognize the limited parking available)
If there’s a small discrepancy in any of the above requirements, you may be able to apply to the Committee of Adjustments for a minor variance (in other words, exception) – but note this will take time and likely cost money
Before making any decisions its always wise to ask your Realtor questions and do your due diligence to protect yourself, so you don’t face any problems in the future.
Realtor with Century 21 Heritage Group
Christmas time is when people are focused on running around buying gifts for friends and family. Planning a getaway, figuring out where they will be staying to celebrate Christmas, or trying to get extra vacation time off work to spend more time with loved ones. Most people aren’t thinking about buying or selling their home around Christmas. There are many advantages and disadvantages to selling or buying a home during this time.
This holiday season can be a great opportunity to find a great deal on the right home. During the holidays the Toronto real estate market slows down. This means that the inventory is usually low, as there are less homes on the market. This means there is less competition in the market. This is a time you can get a bargain on a home which a seller might accept a lowball offer, as they will be pressured to sell as there will be much less interest for their property. This can be a time to negotiate a quick closing time frame as they might want to complete the sale before the new year. Sellers understand that the Christmas holidays aren’t the ideal time to sell their home, so to compensate for that they might put up their home below market value. This could equal to getting a much lower price for the home as opposed to waiting a month or two to purchase.
On the flip side of things as a seller, things can turn out in their favour. At this time there are less houses on the market, less supply may equal to less competition from other sellers in your neighbourhood. During Christmas time there are far more serious buyers looking as they want to move in before the new year and have the transaction completed quickly, and are not just window shopping. Another advantage could be the high amount of travelers coming to Toronto during the Christmas holidays that are looking for homes for sale. They might be planning to move here and could be house hunting during the holidays. Many people will be planning to move before the new year due to change of job location, study placement or change of scenery. There are many different factors in peoples reasoning to buying real estate during Christmas time.
Also take into account many businesses and professionals aren’t working during the Christmas holidays. Lawyers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and building inspectors might be hard to get ahold of during this time, which can make your house buying or selling efforts a little more difficult. It might be difficult to schedule showings for houses as people will be busy with spending time with friends and family and might not want to be inconvenienced to leave their home. As a buyer this time of year you may not be able to find a home to buy that will meet your needs and wants. Due to the shortage in inventory so your options could be limited. If you are in a rush to buy a home within this period you might have to settle for a less than ideal home for yourself which you might regret later on.
Note the decline in new home listings on the MLS every December
These factors will make the process of buying or selling a home in Toronto and surrounding areas a little more challenging as compared to other times of the year. The Toronto Real Estate Board has statistics updated every month of the year.
As a real estate agent it is my duty to protect my clients best interests and inform them of all the positives and negatives to selling a home during the Christmas holiday season. Ofcourse everybody’s personal situations are different, selling or buying during Christmas time can work out in your favour or it might not. Before making a decision think of the positives and negatives for buying or selling your home during this time of year. Ask me how the market is doing and I will let you know if it is an ideal time to buy or sell your home. The best decision in an informed decision.
Realtor with Century 21 Heritage Group