GTA homes for sale

Is the Real Estate Market Going to Crash?

Is the Real Estate Market Going to Crash?

While many areas of the economy have contracted, the housing market has stayed remarkably strong. But can the good news last?

 

When COVID-related shutdowns began in March, real estate brokers and clients scrambled to respond to the shift. Record-low interest rates caused some lenders to call a halt to new underwriting, and homeowners debated whether or not to put their houses on the market. However, those first days of uncertainty ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in the Canadian residential real estate market, which currently accounts for a record-setting 9% of the country’s overall economic output.1

 

Now, as the spring market approaches, you may be wondering whether the good times can continue to roll on. If you’re a homeowner, should you take advantage of this opportunity by putting your home on the market? If you’re a buyer, should you jump in and risk paying too much? Below we answer some of your most pressing questions.

 

 

Why are home prices rising during an economic downturn?

 

At the beginning of the pandemic, fears of an economic recession were top of mind for homeowners all across the country. Overall, credit product origination declined across a variety of sectors, including car loans and credit cards, and government forbearance programs were put into place to cushion the blow of anticipated economic hardships. However, strong demand —coupled with ultra-low inventory and interest rates—caused real estate prices to continue to rise. The national average resale price soared 17% during 2020, and mortgage originations showed year-over-year growth of almost 30% on the strength of renewals and refinancing in response to record-low interest rates.1,2

 

According to the Bloomberg-Nanos Consumer Confidence Index, confidence in Canada’s real estate industry reached its highest level on record during the thick of the pandemic.3  Montreal Chief Economist Douglas Porter attributes much of the ongoing strength of Canada’s real estate market to a simple matter of consumer choice and priorities while noting that the downside of the resulting rise in home values is increasing consumer debt.1

 

 

Are we facing a real estate bubble?

 

A real estate bubble can occur when there is a rapid and unjustified increase in housing prices, often triggered by speculation from investors. Because the bubble is (in a sense) filled with “hot air,” it pops—and a swift drop in value occurs. This leads to reduced equity or, in some cases, negative equity conditions.

 

By contrast, the current rise in home prices is based on the predictable results of historically low interest rates and widespread low inventory. Basically, the principle of supply and demand is working just as it is supposed to do.

Effects of low interest rates

The Bank of Canada projects continuing low interest rates until sometime in 2023, aiding in economic recovery and increasing affordability.4 This helps offset the effects of high home costs even in markets where real estate might otherwise be considered overpriced. These low interest rates should keep the market lively and moving forward for the foreseeable future.

Effects of low inventory

Continuing low inventory is the primary reason for higher-than-average home prices in many markets.5 This should gradually ease as an aggressive vaccination rollout and continuing buyer demand drive more homeowners to move forward with long-delayed sales plans and as new home construction ramps up to meet demand.6

 

 

Aren’t some markets and sectors looking particularly weak?

 

One of the big stories of 2020 was a mass exodus from attached home communities and high-priced urban markets as both young professionals and families fled to the larger square footage and wide-open spaces of suburban and rural markets. This trend was reinforced by work from home policies that became permanent at some of the country’s biggest companies.

 

Not surprisingly then, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the residential real estate market has been the rental market, especially in population-dense metropolitan areas. The rise in vacancies has been fueled by several factors, including less international migration, fewer student renters, and less tourist demand for short-term rentals.7

 

Interestingly, landlords have not responded to these vacancies with lower rental rates, which have actually risen nationally. Instead, most have used incentives like lower deposit fees, free utilities, and move-in bonuses to attract renters. This suggests that most property owners expect demand to return to normal quite quickly as the vaccine rollout begins to take effect.7

 

Some analysts predict a decline in the Canadian housing market at large due to the impending end of government emergency measures and lender deferrals. However, others point to the increased demand for homes in smaller markets and lower-density areas outside of the country’s urban centers as an optimistic indicator, especially since these distant suburban and rural enclaves don’t normally benefit from increases in home values or an influx of new investment.8 As many of these new residents set up housekeeping in their rural retreats, they’ll revitalize the economies of their adopted communities for years to come.

 

According to Susan Hosterman, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, another strength that may help to alleviate the effect of financial pressures brought about by the ending of emergency measures is the relationship lenders in Canada have with their borrowers. Canadian lenders tend to be proactive in offering modifications to make loans more affordable for struggling homeowners.8

 

 

How has COVID affected the “seasonal” real estate market?

 

Frequently, the real estate market is seen as a seasonal phenomenon. However, the widespread shutdowns in March 2020, coming right at the beginning of the market’s growth cycle in many areas, has led to a protracted, seemingly endless “hot spring market.”

 

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) revised its 2021 Market Forecast based on more robust than usual figures for the second half of 2020. The new projection anticipates improvements even over 2020’s record-setting market figures, with potential sales limited only by the availability of inventory in most markets.9 Thus, we could be looking at another longer-than-usual, white-hot real estate market.

 

 

What’s next for the Canadian real estate market?

 

Projections vary widely, with some economists predicting a market correction and others predicting continuing strong growth. Overall, low inventory and lack of affordability appear to be the more negative factors applying downward pressures on the market, while pent-up demand and a return to normal employment and income levels, along with anticipated higher-than-average growth in the economy, point to ongoing good news in the sector.10

 

According to most indicators, the real estate news looks overwhelmingly positive throughout the rest of 2021—and possibly beyond. Pent-up demand and consumer-driven policies, along with a continued low-interest-rate environment and rising inventory, should help homeowners hold on to their increased equity without throwing the market out of balance. In addition, the increase in long-term work-from-home policies promises to give a boost to a wide variety of markets, both now and in the years to come.

 

 

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? WE HAVE ANSWERS

 

While economic indicators and trends are national, real estate is local. We’re here to answer your questions and help you understand what’s happening in your neighbourhood. Reach out to learn how these larger movements affect our local market and your home’s value.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/house-prices-canada-bmo_ca_600c7a98c5b6d64153ac675b
  2. Global Newswire –
    https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/08/18/2079742/0/en/COVID-19-Pandemic-Drives-a-Decline-in-the-Use-of-Credit-as-Canadian-Consumers-and-Lenders-Brace-for-Uncertainty.html
  3. Weekly Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index –
    https://www.nanos.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2021-01-08-Bloomberg-Weekly-Report-with-Tabs.pdf
  4. Bank of Canada –
    https://www.bankofcanada.ca/2021/01/fad-press-release-2021-01-20/
  5. Toronto Star –
    https://www.thestar.com/business/real_estate/2021/01/27/supply-of-new-homes-in-the-gta-dwindling-amidst-sales-boom.html
  6. Bank of Canada Monetary Policy Report –
    https://www.bankofcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/mpr-2021-01-20.pdf
  7. CTV News –
    https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/cmhc-rental-vacancies-prices-edged-up-as-covid-19-spread-across-canada-1.5286012
  8. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/housing-forecast-canada-2021_ca_5fec942cc5b64e4421082979
  9. Canadian Real Estate Association –
    https://www.crea.ca/news/crea-updates-resale-housing-market-forecast-7/
  10. Canadian Mortgage Trends –
    https://www.canadianmortgagetrends.com/2021/01/canadas-energizer-bunny-housing-market-2021-forecasts/
Posted by Christine Pecharich
Add Value To Your Home With These 9 DIY Improvements

Add Value To Your Home With These 9 DIY Improvements

Whether you’re prepping your house to go on the market or looking for ways to maximize its long-term appreciation, these nine home improvement projects are great ways to add function, beauty, and real value to your home.

The best part is, once you’ve secured the materials, most of these renovations can be completed over the course of a weekend. And they don’t require a lot of specialized skills or experience. So grab your toolbox, then get ready to boost your home’s appeal AND investment potential!

  1. Spruce Up Your Landscaping

Landscaping improvements can increase a home’s value by 10-12%.1 But which outdoor features do buyers care about most? According to a survey of Realtors, a healthy lawn is at the top of their list. If your lawn is lacking, overseeding or laying new sod can be a worthwhile investment—with an expected return of 417% and 143% respectively.1

Planting flowers is another great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal. And if you choose a perennial variety, your blooms should return year after year. For an even longer-term impact, consider planting a tree. According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, a mature tree can add up to $10,000 to the value of your home.2

  1. Clean The Exterior

When it comes to making your house shine, a sparkling facade can be just as important as a clean interior. Real estate professionals estimate that washing the outside of a house can add as much as $15,000 to its sales price.3

A rented pressure washer from your local home improvement store can help you remove built-up dirt and grime from your home’s exterior, walkway, and driveway. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully—and only use it on surfaces that can withstand the intensity. When in doubt, a scrub brush and bucket of sudsy water will often do the trick.

 

  1. Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint

New paint can have a big impact on both the appearance and value of a property. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to revitalize a home’s exterior, update its interior, and make it appear larger and brighter. The best part? Painting is relatively easy and inexpensive!

To get the maximum return at resale, stick with a modern but neutral color palette that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. According to a recent survey of home design experts, cool neutrals are a safe bet when it comes to interior paint. And respondents chose white and gray as the best exterior paint colors to use when selling a home.4 However, it’s important to consider a property’s architecture, existing fixtures, and regional design preferences, as well.

  1. Install Smart Home Technology

In a recent survey, 78% of real estate professionals said their buyer clients were willing to pay more for a home with smart technology features.5 The most requested smart devices? Thermostats (77%), smoke detectors (75%), home security cameras (66%), and locks (63%).6

The good news is, many of these gadgets are fairly easy to install. And some of them, including smart thermostats and light bulbs, will pay for themselves over time by making your home more energy efficient. In fact, many manufacturers report that smart thermostats can cut back on heating and cooling costs by 10-20%.7

If you already own a smart speaker, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, choose devices that will pair with your existing technology. This will enable you to create a truly integrated (and in many cases voice-activated) smart home experience.

  1. Modernize Your Window Treatments

Smart—or motorized—blinds are also growing in popularity, and several manufacturers make models you can order and install on your own. But they’re not the only way to modernize your window treatments.

If you have old aluminum blinds, consider replacing them with plantation shutters, which are energy efficient, durable, and have strong buyer appeal.8 Roman and roller shades are another stylish alternative, and they come in a variety of colors and fabrics, which you can personalize to meet your design and privacy preferences.

Fortunately, upgrading your blinds has gotten easier and less expensive in recent years. There are a number of retailers that specialize in affordable window coverings that are simple to measure and hang yourself.

  1. Replace Outdated Fixtures

Drastically transform the look and feel of your home by swapping out dingy and dated fixtures for contemporary alternatives. Start by assessing your current light fixtures, faucets, cabinet hardware, door knobs, and even switch plates. Then prioritize replacing those that are particularly outdated or in highly-visible areas, such as your entryway or kitchen.

Even if your home is fairly new, consider trading your builder-grade fixtures for higher-end options to give it a more upscale appearance. And forget the old rule about sticking to one metal tone throughout your property. According to designers, mixing metal finishes can add interest and character to a space.9

For more designer insights and decor trends, contact us for a free copy of our recent report: “Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade.”

  1. Upgrade Your Bathroom Mirror

A minor bathroom remodel offers one of the best returns on investment, with a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1 you spend.10 We’ve already explored several improvements you can make to your bathroom: new paint, fixtures, and hardware. Now complete the look by upgrading your vanity’s mirror.

Before you purchase a new mirror, examine your existing one to see how it is attached to the wall. Some vanity mirrors are glued to the wall and difficult to remove without shattering the glass or damaging the sheetrock behind it.11

If you prefer to keep your existing mirror, you can paint the frame—or add one if it’s currently frameless. There are several online retailers that will send you the frame components cut to your specifications, which you can assemble and mount yourself. Much like a work of art, your vanity mirror serves as a focal point for your bathroom, so let your creativity shine through!

 Shampoo Your Carpet

Carpet is notorious for trapping dust, dirt, and allergens. It’s one of the reasons that most buyers prefer hard surface flooring.12 But if you love your carpet, or you’re not ready to invest in an alternative, make an effort to keep it clean and odor-free.

To properly maintain your carpet, you should vacuum it weekly. Experts also recommend a deep shampoo at least every two years.13 Fortunately, this is a cheap and easy DIY project you can knock out in about 20 minutes per room. According to Consumer Reports, you can rent a machine and purchase cleaning fluid and supplies for around $90. With an average return on your investment of 169%, it’s well worth the effort and expense.14

  1. Customize Your Closet

Real estate professionals estimate that a closet remodel can add $2500 to a home’s selling price. And while a professional renovation can cost upwards of $6000, there are many high-quality DIY closet systems you can customize and install yourself.15

Experts recommend taking a thorough inventory of your wardrobe and accessories before you get started. Make sure frequently-worn pieces are easy to reach, and store seasonal and seldom-used items on high shelves. Place shoe racks near the closet entrance so they are easy to access.16 A little planning can go a long way toward building a closet that you (and your future buyers!) will love.

GET A COMPLIMENTARY ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

 

We’ve been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual impact of a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighbourhood. Before you get started, contact us to schedule a free virtual consultation. We can help you determine which upgrades will offer the greatest return on your effort and investment.

Sources:

  1. HomeLight –
    https://www.homelight.com/blog/improve-curb-appeal-landscaping/
  2. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/landscape-renovations-that-pay-off/
  3. com – https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/add-value-to-your-home/adding-curb-appeal-value-to-home/
  4. Fixr –
    https://www.fixr.com/blog/2020/01/14/paint-color-trends-in-2020/
  5. T3 Sixty –
    https://blog.coldwellbanker.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/CES2018-Smart-Homes-An-Emerging-Real-Estate-Opportunity.pdf
  6. Consumer Reports –
    https://www.consumerreports.org/smart-home/smart-home-tech-upgrades-to-help-sell-your-house/
  7. American Council for Energy Efficient Economy
    https://www.aceee.org/sites/default/files/publications/researchreports/a1801.pdf
  8. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2016/07/05/10-upgrades-under-1000-that-increase-home-values-2/#47b0d3162e60
  9. Insider –
    https://www.insider.com/home-design-rules-you-should-be-breaking-2020-1
  10. Zillow –
    https://www.zillow.com/sellers-guide/roi-for-bathroom-remodel/
  11. Lowes –
    https://www.lowes.com/n/how-to/remove-a-bathroom-mirror
  12. HomeLight –
    https://www.homelight.com/blog/what-flooring-increases-home-value/
  13. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-often-should-i-clean-my-carpets.htm
  14. HomeLight –
    https://www.homelight.com/blog/projects-that-increase-home-value/
  15. National Association of Realtors – https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/remodeling-impact
  16. EasyClosets –
    https://www.easyclosets.com/tips-ideas/2016/10/02/how-to-plan-your-walk-in-closet/
Posted by Christine Pecharich
20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget

20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget

These days, it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their income further. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your household expenses without making radical changes to your standard of living. When combined, these small adjustments can add up to significant savings each month.

Here are 20 things you can start doing today to lower your bills, secure better deals, and begin working toward your financial goals.

1. Refinance Your Mortgage – For prime borrowers, mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Depending on your current mortgage rate and the terms you choose, refinancing could save you a sizable amount on your monthly payments. There are fees and closing costs associated with refinancing, so you’ll need to talk to your lender to find out if refinancing is a good option for you.

2. Evaluate Your Insurance Policies – If it’s been a while since you priced home or auto insurance, it may be worthwhile to do some comparison shopping. Get quotes from at least three insurers or independent agents. Try bundling your policies to see if there’s a discount. And inquire about raising your deductible, which should lower your premium.(1)

3. Bundle Cable, Phone, and Internet – You can also save money by bundling your cable, phone, and internet services together. Shop around to see who is willing to give you the best deal. If switching is too much of a hassle, ask your current provider to match or beat their competitor’s offer.

4. Better Yet, Cut the Cord on Cable – In many cases, you can save even more if you cancel your cable subscription altogether. An antenna should give you access to the major stations, and many of your favorite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.

5. Revisit Your Wireless Plan – You can often save by switching from a big brand to an independent, low-cost carrier. If that’s not feasible, ask your current provider for a better deal or consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.

6. Adjust Your Thermostat – Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can have a noticeable impact on your monthly heating and cooling costs. To maximize efficiency, change your filters regularly, and make sure your windows and doors are well insulated.

7. Use Less Hot Water – After heating and cooling, hot water accounts for the second largest energy expense in most homes.(2) To cut back, repair any leaks or dripping faucets, install low-flow fixtures, only run your dishwasher when full, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.

8. Lower Overall Water Consumption – To decrease your water usage, take shorter showers, and turn off the sink while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, retrofit your current one with a toilet tank bank or fill cycle diverter. And irrigate your lawn in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.(3)

9. Conserve Electricity – Save electricity by shutting off your computer at night and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs. You can minimize standby or “vampire” power drain by utilizing power strips and unplugging idle appliances.(4)

10. Purchase a Home Warranty – While there is an upfront cost, a home warranty can provide some protection and peace of mind when it comes to unexpected home repair costs. Most plans provide coverage for major systems (like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) and appliances (such as your dishwasher, stove, or refrigerator).

11. Outsource Less – From lawn care to grocery shopping to minor home repairs, we pay people to do a lot of things our parents and grandparents did themselves. To save money, try cutting back on the frequency of these services or taking some of them on yourself.

12. Prepare Your Own Meals – It costs nearly five times more to have a meal delivered than it does to cook it at home.(5) And home cooking doesn’t just save money; it’s healthier, cuts down on calorie consumption, and can offer a fun activity for families to do together.

13. Plan Your Menu in Advance – Meal planning is deciding before you shop what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can help you lower your overall food bill, eliminate waste, and minimize impulse purchases. When possible, buy produce that is in season, and utilize nutrient-rich but inexpensive protein sources like eggs, beans, ground turkey, and canned tuna.

14. Plant a Garden – You can save even more on produce by growing it yourself. If you have space in your yard, start-up costs are relatively minimal. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable (not to mention delicious) hobby for the whole family. And it could save you around $600 per year at the grocery store!6

15. Review Memberships and Subscriptions – Are you paying for services and subscriptions you no longer need, want, or can utilize? Determine if there are any that you should suspend or cancel.

16. Give Homemade Gifts – Who wouldn’t appreciate a scratch birthday cake or tin of cookies? And if you enjoy crafting, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas. Show your recipient how much you care with a homemade gift from the heart.

17. Minimize Your Debt Payments – The best way to reduce a debt payment is to pay down the balance. But if that’s not an option right now, try to negotiate a better interest rate. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer to a 0% or low-interest rate credit card. Keep in mind, the rate may expire after a certain period—so be sure to read the fine print.

18. Get a Cash-back Credit Card – If you regularly pay your credit card balance in full, a cash-back credit card can be a good way to earn a little money back each month. However, they often come with high-interest rates and fees if you carry a balance. Commit to only using it for purchases you can afford.

19. Ask for Deals and Discounts – It may feel awkward at first, but becoming a master haggler can save you a lot of money. Many companies are willing to negotiate under the right circumstances. Always inquire about special promotions or incentives. See if they are able to price match (or beat) their competitors. And if an item is slightly defective or nearing its expiration date, ask for a discount.

20. Track Your Household Budget – One of the most effective ways to reduce household expenses is to set a budget—and stick to it. A budget can help you see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. By setting reasonable limits, you’ll be able to reach your financial goals faster.

Want more help getting a handle on your finances? Use the budget worksheet below to track income and expenses—and start working towards your financial goals today! Please reach out to me for a downloadable version.

HOUSEHOLD BUDGET WORKSHEET

  Expected Actual Difference
HOUSING
Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)
Phone, internet, cable
Home maintenance and repairs
FOOD
Groceries
Restaurants
TRANSPORTATION
Car payment/insurance
Gas, maintenance, repairs
OTHER
Health insurance
Clothing and personal care
Childcare
Entertainment
Gifts and charitable contributions
Savings, retirement, college fund
INCOME
Salary/wages
Tips and other
MONTHLY TOTALS
Total Actual Income
Total Actual Expenses
ADDITIONAL SAVINGS

WE’RE HERE TO HELP
We would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to financially prepare. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

1. Insurance Information Institute –
https://www.iii.org/article/twelve-ways-to-lower-your-homeowners-insurance-costs
2. Department of Energy –
https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings
3. Money Crashers –
https://www.moneycrashers.com/ways-conserve-water/
4. Harvard University –
https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/poster/top-5-steps-reduce-your-energy-consumption
5. Forbes –
https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/#2c53b2f35e54
6. Money –
https://money.com/gardening-grocery-savings/

Posted by Christine Pecharich