Tag: buying

How to win in Real Estate

Posted on June 15th, 2017

You have read enough about the wild ride that is the real estate market in many regions across the country, and beyond. It seems every day there are new stories about price records, bidding wars, and market indicators that show no real sign of a slowdown. And now you are asking yourself more and more, ‘how can I get in on this?’.

Perhaps you are a could-be investor looking to turn over a property for some big money, maybe your own home has appreciated significantly and a downsize/cash grab is a possibility for you, or like many others, maybe you are trying to figure out how to afford something in this ever more difficult market. In any case, there are some key tips you need to follow to avoid getting swallowed by the market, getting mired in stress, and overpaying out of false necessity.


Just because the ‘market is hot’, doesn’t mean you should be diving right in head-first. You need to have a keen knowledge of your own end game in order to effectively tackle the real estate world. Are you looking for a rental property or a place to live? What are your timelines like? Do you need a place that has the ability to ‘get out quick’? Is this property a stepping stone to another one?

The more in touch you are with your goals, the easier it is to focus on the approach that makes the most sense for you. Every property and client is vastly different, and without nailing down the real meat of your objectives, you’ll miss out.


Just as important as your objectives is the ability to set a firm set of limits around the particulars of a transaction.

Price is the obvious boundary to set, and you must be stubborn in your commitment to it. There will almost definitely be a world of temptation that draws that number higher, but you have your limits for a reason. One tip is to do your searching at a price limit that is quite substantially below your ‘true’ limit. The rude awakenings you’ll get from the market and the temptation will almost always force your initial price ceiling to rise, so you might as well work yourself to a landing place that is still within your comfort zone. Buying outside of your means might give you an immediate thrill, but there is a reason you have your limit…don’t fall victim to a hasty decision, the term ‘house poor’ is not a label you need for yourself.

Beyond price, understand the other boundaries you have. Location, for example. If you know that a certain set of attributes is pivotal to the location of your home (access to transit, good school district…etc.), don’t sway from that. When you compromise aspects of your search because you believe there is no other way to close a deal, you’ve let the market beat you.

The key message here is ‘stick to your guns’. Don’t be swayed by the messaging you hear. Just because your agent feels the house upon which you are bidding is going to go for $50,000 beyond your budget, the choice shouldn’t be ‘should we bid $51,000 more so we get it or not?’, it should be ‘is it worth bidding our limit, or should we wait for the next one?’.

While you may go a lot longer before you land the right home (or investment) using this strategy, you can at least rest assured that you followed the process according to your own terms. Remember you aren’t directly paying your real estate agent to guide you through this sometimes arduous process, but s/he is most certainly getting compensated, so don’t feel bad if it takes you a long time to land in the right place, that is the only way you’ll feel like a winner in the end.


You will never win in any industry if you are surrounded by people who know more than you do. Real estate is certainly no different. You have to equip yourself with the right tools make you the smartest person in the room.

Once you have identified the key objectives and boundaries for your purchase, you need to become (or better yet, enlist) a subject matter expert for that set of criteria. Know what you’re getting into, the history, the comparables, the trends, and use it to your advantage. Also, learn about your perceived priorities to fact check yourself (Don’t get caught with “I know I need to live in this neighbourhood because everyone says it’s great” without first verifying the facts).

The smartest way to get smart is by working with a licensed realtor. It is their job to know everything and to be your soldier on the battlefield. If you go at it alone, that is your prerogative, but take the time to educate yourself.

Just because you watch a lot of HGTV, it doesn’t mean you know the market

While much of the drama that unfolds on real estate TV can very well happen in the real world, it is not the gospel, and shouldn’t dictate your assessment of a real life situation. Not every transaction is a roller coaster, and not every home is a sledgehammer away from doubling in value. Just because the market is hot, doesn’t mean every investment will yield positive returns. Do your research, and don’t leave your decisions to your gut.


Ask a lot of them. Once the deal is done, the deal is done. You don’t get take backs because you forgot to question the huge septic tank in the backyard or what knob and tube wiring is. Every detail is important, because even the most minor of potential issues instantly become your issues once you close.

If you don’t feel you know everything to make you completely comfortable about a real estate transaction, make sure you do before you sign the dotted line. Get it all out before you make that offer, and you’ll feel much better.


Real estate can be the ultimate poker game. While the vast majority of the players are decent, well-meaning individuals, everyone’s goal is still to feel like a winner. In order to be in the best position to win, you have to protect your hand, and ensure you don’t give away too much information.

The biggest emotion to suppress during the process is LOVE. Once you have purchased your new home, you can and should love it unconditionally, but before that time comes, falling in love with a potential purchase is as dangerous as giving someone your banking information. Love is blind, and when you convince yourself you absolutely must have a property, you fall victim to an unfair negotiation.

Reserve all of your emotions for the closing, and until then, treat the process as the business transaction that it is. Easier said than done, but when the emotions do spill out when the game is over, they will be considerably happier, and rightfully so.


This whole process is not for the faint of heart, and there will likely be many peaks and valleys along the way. Try to have fun with it, and you’ll be much better off. Most of the people on the path you’re on are extremely stressed out…the process is stressful, but you don’t have to let it get to you if you are prepared for the process.

It isn’t as simple as paying the sticker price for a home in today’s market. It is however, exceedingly easier to survive the journey if you go at it with a calm and patient demeanour.

Go out there, enjoy the ride, if you aren’t afraid to miss out on a few places then you can really have a great time – and the more time you spend spinning your wheels in one spot, the more information you gather to better equip you with the right questions and answers for the next round.  It starts with the preparation above.

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Six Questions You Should Ask Before Buying A Home

Posted on June 14th, 2017

It has become damn hard to buy a home.

While once upon a time (a time not long ago at all), it was ‘buyer’s market’, that has become far from the case in numerous cities across North America. As buyers’ sanity levels are being pushed to the brink, it has become increasingly more difficult to purchase a home, let alone know enough about it to make an educated decision.

There is a lot of advice given to sellers on how best to leverage this market, the information to disclose, the information not to disclose, pricing strategy, time to hold for offers, the list goes on.

Where however, are the buyers left in all this? While demand outweighs supply in obscene multiples, the people who just want a place to live are left in a position where they have to submit to the new rules set by the lucky sellers. It is a hopeless situation, isn’t it?

Not so.

Here’s the deal – this is the biggest purchase of your life, and it begs the question – shouldn’t you be entitled to some degree of comfort? Why aren’t we asking more questions?

Where there has been worry that some cowboy will come in and outbid everyone for a house sight unseen, truthfully that shouldn’t impact the approach of the majority of people who are sensible and entitled to a fair shot at the home. If a house is going to sell for a price that far outweighs that which a reasonable appraisal would value it, it is better to let it go anyway. The key here is that you deserve the opportunity to ask questions, and irrespective of the time crunch or expectations imposed by the seller, here are six questions you should ask before placing an offer on a home.

1)    Is this the actual price you want?

Five years ago, a question like this would have seemed insane, but the reality is that even in listings where there is no ‘offer date’, the listing price isn’t the price the seller would accept. This impacts not just the offer approach, but also the people who are exposed to the listing. If a seller is asking $799,999, but truly wouldn’t look at an offer below $850,000, it is incumbent on people who have a ceiling of $800,000 to know that.

2)    Is there a home inspection?

Many listings produce a home inspection ahead of time, so they can receive offers without that condition. When there isn’t a home inspection, it is something to consider – waiving such a condition could put your offer into a weaker position than another, but consider the consequences. Flaws in a home can be minor in nature, but hidden problems can cost huge money very quickly, and can be avoided by understanding them ahead of time.

It isn’t a requirement of a seller to provide an inspection, but without it there should be a reasonable expectation that a prospective buyer would want comfort over the home’s condition and future risks. Without such a document, invest the time and money into doing your own inspection to ensure you are truly comfortable with the home.

3)    What are the comparable sales in the area?

While this could be considered subjective in nature, you need to understand what the market has dictated. In some cases this could support a higher price than you thought for your target property, but sometimes a seller is taking a shot with a high expectation to try to set a new bar.

There is no harm in asking the seller’s representative if there are comparables, but this is where your own real estate sales representative can provide his/her experienced analysis. Find out the most recent sales in the area for similar homes, or if the area hasn’t had any recent sales, look for similar properties in as close an area as you can. More data is always better, and there are good reasons why one home might have sold for more than another (finishes, lot size, street, the list is endless).

4)    Will my financing be ok after an appraisal?

There have been situations where the bank doesn’t agree that your new home is worth what you paid, and as such, won’t necessarily give you the mortgage you need.

You need to be sure that your offer on a home is not going to put you in an impossible financial position. A pre-approval means you are able to borrow a certain amount of money, subject to a potential appraisal of the property. If a bank said you were pre-approved for one million dollars, and you spend a million on a 400 square foot mobile home next to a nuclear power plant, you might be in a tough spot. Remember, the mortgage is tied to the asset you buy, so if you can’t make the payments, the bank has your property as collateral – it is unlikely they’d recover their million from your new trailer, so be cautious when making your offer. A pre-approval is not a mortgage approval.  By waiving a financing condition, you leave yourself susceptible to a deal that falls apart and potential legal troubles.

5)    What kind of commission is this costing me?

In a survey of real estate buyers conducted by On The Block Realty in March 2017, 58% of respondents believed that they didn’t actually pay any commission on their purchase. Now while they generally don’t physically pay the commission out of their pocket, the math and the money are clear – the seller will pay a commission that is typically split in some way between their representative and the buyer’s representative. This means that as a buyer, you are most certainly paying, through the seller, a commission to your representative. This is most certainly the way it should be, your agent is doing you a great service, and thus should be compensated, but you need to understand what that represents.

 More importantly, when you don’t have a representative, you should understand who, if anyone, is getting paid on your side of the transaction. Sometimes, the selling agent will take both sides of the commission, if they represent both buyer and seller, which is called multiple representation.  Being aware of these costs is important.

6)    Ensure there is no conflict of interest.

When a buyer is unrepresented, you can effectively become a ‘customer’ of the seller’s agent as discussed above. The rules associated with that relationship strictly state that there are two types of relationship for the agent, a ‘client’ relationship and a ‘customer’ relationship.

The client is entitled to a fiduciary duty, where the agent is working in their best interest at all times. A customer is entitled to fairness, honesty and integrity, but no such fiduciary duty. Plain English – the seller’s representative owes you nothing more than honesty, and will not advise you in a way that would give you an edge over the seller (at least the law dictates that they shouldn’t).

In any case, going into a real estate transaction without representation means you have to be careful what cards you show and to whom. An agent on either side of the table would have a clear conflicting objective if working with both sides, as the goals of both sides (other than getting a deal done) is completely the opposite – sellers want the highest price possible, and buyers want the lowest price possible.

We advocate strongly for representation for buyers. It is important to have an informed and protected approach to the buying process, and having a knowledgeable individual in your corner helps considerably.

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