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Buying An Historical Home
Posted on Wed, 24 Nov 2010, 03:28:47 PM  in Home buying tips

With the price of homes at an all time high, you may be tempted to buy a fixer upper. Many of them can be had for a steal. But be careful that your anticipated labour of love does not become a crippling money pit.

There are many reasons to consider an older or historical home. One of them is the credits that are available in many cities. Whether in the form of renovation grants or tax credits these incentives are only available for older homes. They may not amount to a very large sum but it is more than you would get with a new home, which is nothing.

When buying an older home, be sure to do your homework. You should have the home inspected for any structural issues. You might also want to have a contractor come in and give you an estimate on the work to be done. And be sure to budget for unexpected surprises such as asbestos, lead paint and mold. The more you prepare yourself at the beginning, the less surprises you will have once you are in the house.

In the case of an historical home, there are additional steps you must take over and above the ones mentioned earlier. Before you start work on an old home, contact your local historic preservation office. They will provide you with standards for rehabilitating historic buildings. Be sure to hire a contractor with experience working on older homes. You want your project to be a restoration but merely a renovation.

You should always add about 20% to the estimate you receive from your contractor. With older homes, you never know what you will find once you start opening walls. Hidden problems can surface at any time and it pays to be prepared for the un-budgeted expenses.

Do not be afraid to get quotes for custom work. You may be surprised with the results. More often than not, the cost of custom work is about the same or cheaper than if you were to buy something off the shelves at a major box store.

With historical homes, your focus should be on preservation. Rather than ripping down distinctive elements - which you probably cannot do under the standards for rehabilitation - focus on restoring them to their former glory. This does not mean that you should only use period specific materials. Just make sure that what you select will complement your property’s character.

A common mistake made with older or historical homes has to do with paint. To prevent your home from feeling like a museum, be flexible with your color palette and do not strictly use colors that would have been appropriate when the house was first built. Your aim should be to enhance the architectural beauty of your home but you should still feel comfortable living there.

As with any major project, preparation is key. Remember to do your homework and to allow for unexpected surprises. They will happen. You simply must use extra care with an older home to ensure that your are prepared for a slightly more demanding renovation. But the benefits will far outweigh the challenges!

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Avoid Overpricing Your Condo
Posted on Thu, 19 Aug 2010, 10:47:19 AM  in Toronto condos

In today’s hot real estate market, it seems that both buyers and sellers are suffering from real estate fever. Eager buyers are snatching up properties faster than they ever have before while sellers are reaping the benefits of common multiple offer situations. If you want to take advantage of this fantastic market environment, be careful not to overprice your property.

It goes without saying that we always believe our condo to be the best one in our building. What with the renovations to the kitchen and the bathroom and the various upgrades you have done throughout the unit, you may feel that your condominium is worth much more than any one similar one. This is a very common misconception homeowners have. Your property is only worth what the market will bear. In other words, if no one is willing to give your asking price, then your unit is not worth that price.

Hot real estate markets can be a double edged sword. One the one hand, prices are high and numerous properties are changing hands. However, such a hot market can also be very volatile. Demand and therefore prices can shifts at a moments’ notice and this could leave you high and dry.

The best tactic when trying to sell your condo is to first do your homework. Enlist the help of a real estate agent and look at what comparable units have sold for in the last month or so. Pay close attention to location and amenities as these could significantly affect the price of a property. Once you have a good idea of what your condo is worth, list it one or two percent below this value. This may sound counter productive but you have to remember that everyone loves a deal. Pricing your condo slightly below market value will generate lots of interest and the more people see your unit, the better your chances of selling fast and for a good price.

It is very important to try to distance yourself from your home. You should look at it as an investment or a piece of real estate not as a place where you and your family have spent happy years. You should also attempt to showcase your property very neutrally. What I mean by that is that you should remove all your personal mementos and photographs and apply a fresh coat of paint in light neutral colors. You want potential buyers to imagine themselves living there.

Remember to trust the advice of your real estate agent. He or she can look at your condo objectively and they will help you stage and then price your unit for fast action. It is in their best interest to generate lots of interest for a fast sale. You should also keep in mind that listing that are more than 30 days old are considered stale and agents and buyers alike have a tendency to discard them. So the tactic of pricing your condo high with the intention of lowering the price later can backfire. You are much better off pricing your property aggressively and who knows, you might even end up with multiple offers.

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Are Families Being Pushed Out Of Downtown Toronto?
Thursday, 15 July 2010, 10:45:06 AM

The downtown core of Toronto has exploded over the last two decades. Everywhere you look new condominium projects were going up, sometimes at a dizzying speed. This translated into an increase of the downtown Toronto population of more than 20 percent. But who is moving in to these units?

When you consider that more than 80 percent of all the units built in these new condo projects are one bedroom units, it is no surprise that the majority of the buyers are well off singles in the 20 to 40 age group. So where are the families? They have been moving out of the downtown core. With a drop of 6 percent in the 14 and under age group, young families are heading out to the suburbs. However, not all of them want to move out. Given the choice, many families would rather stay in the city but condominiums are either too small or the few multiple bedroom units available are too expensive for the average family. Experts are worried that unless the situation changes soon, we may be headed the route of Manhattan where only the young and wealthy can afford to live in the city core.

Some Toronto city councilors are lobbying to increase the number of family sized units from the current 10 percent. They are also pushing for inclusionary zoning which would give the city the power to force builders to build more affordable units. A decade ago, the average price of a downtown Toronto condo was $226,000 but today, it is more than $385,000. However, a three bedroom condominium in the city core is on average over $600,000. Well out of the reach of the average family of four.

Builders are not happy at being pushed to build larger units. They argue that families would rather buy a house outside of the city for the same money that a three bedroom unit would cost. But city councilors would rather give families the option of staying downtown to raise their family. This would help prevent inner city schools from closing down and would encourage economic diversity. With inclusionary zoning, the city would be able to require that 10 or 20 percent of all units built be deemed “affordable”.  The city has requested that inclusionary zoning be included in the province’s affordable housing strategy which is soon to be released.

Inclusionary zoning would not be all bad news for builders. In exchange for including affordable housing in their projects, they would be allowed to build more densely as well as higher. Other advantages would be faster approval process, municipal or provincial grants, etc.

Inclusionary zoning would help keep people of more modest means in the city. With housing prices rising much faster than salaries, this is a middle-class program that young families are eager to see implemented. Along with more choice in terms of numbers of bedrooms and condo sizes, more affordable units will allow for a slowdown of the economic diversity drain that has been happening in the city.


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