Cheat Sheet

Buying and Selling a Home For Canadians

Buying or selling a home in Canada is a huge undertaking involving the biggest financial and lifestyle choices you’ll ever make. To choose wisely and secure a good deal in today’s Canadian real estate market, think about whether this is the right time for you to sell, know what to look for at an open house, understand the ins and outs of contract negotiation, and keep the interest on your mortgage payments as low as possible. Read on to learn how.

Deciding to Sell your Home: Tips for Canadians

Like most Canadians, you may find it hard to decide whether or not to sell your home. Even if you love your house or condo, you may have a good reason for selling — especially if it won’t meet your changing needs. If any of the following describe your situation, you’re probably ready to move on.

  • Location of your home is unsuitable. If you have a job offer in a great location with good long-term employment potential, or if you are ready to retire and look forward to the security and low maintenance of a retirement community, selling your house makes sense.

  • Your house is too small or too big. If you and your family need more space and you don’t want to renovate, or you can’t get a building permit to put an extension on the back of the house, moving is probably your best bet. On the flip side, if the last of your six kids has finally moved out of your seven-bedroom home, it may be time to down-size — before any of them decides to move back!

  • Life throws you a curve ball. After a traumatic event like a divorce or the death of a family member, you may simply want to leave bad memories behind. Take the time to review your financial situation and personal goals so you make a move that is right for you.

Your Canadian Home Viewing Checklist

Before you buy a home in Canada, you’ll want to know that the property has been well maintained so you can avoid hidden problems and costs down the road. To find out how well the previous owners took care of their home, check out the following at the open house:

  • Fire safety: There are working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

  • Roofing: Find out what the roof is made of (wood, asphalt, tar and gravel, steel, etc.). The type of material used can mean a lot in the life of a roof. A ten-year-old steel roof has about 40 years of life left; an asphalt roof may be halfway through its life.

  • Windows: The windows are well sealed, and preferably double paned.

  • Foundation: There are no cracks in the exterior foundation.

  • Wiring and plumbing: Ask whether the home has knob and tube aluminum wiring. This type of wiring can be expensive to replace, and some insurance companies won’t insure a home that has it. Make sure plumbing is not leaking and that water pressure is adequate.

  • Exterior: The yard(s) is in good condition. There’s no rotten wood siding, decaying stucco, or cracked vinyl.

  • Bathrooms: The area around the tub or shower has no signs of water damage or mould.

  • Appliances: Major appliances like the fridge and stove are well maintained and in good working order.

Understanding Real Estate Subject To Clauses

In Canadian real estate contract negotiation, subject to clauses are a home buyer’s safety-hatch – a way to escape the contract if something goes wrong. Three of the most common clauses on an offer to purchase are subject to financing, subject to inspection, and subject to sale:

  • Subject to financing clauses don’t offer much room for negotiation. Buyers can’t remove this subject clause during the offer/counteroffer process, unless perhaps they have a lot of equity, and don’t really need a mortgage, or require a relatively small and easy-to-get-fast mortgage. Remember, if the buyer didn’t need a mortgage, she likely wouldn’t have made the offer subject to financing in the first place.

  • Subject to inspection clauses are commonly included in a buyer’s offer to purchase a home. Since it should take no more than two or three days to arrange an inspection, this is an easy clause to negotiate. As with the financing clause, though, you can try to negotiate a shorter time period for the inspection’s completion to speed things up.

  • Subject to sale clauses can be negotiated with regard to the length of time you give your buyers to sell their current home. Any buyer who already owns a home probably can’t afford to carry the expense of two homes at once. Still, no matter how anxious you are to move, allow the buyer a decent amount of time to list and sell his home.

    Usually four to six weeks is considered fair. Most sellers will include a “time” clause, so that if another suitable offer comes along during that time, the seller can activate that clause -- meaning that the buyers with the accepted offer have a set amount of time (often 24 to72 hours) to remove the subject to sale clause or drop out of the contract and let the competing offer proceed.

Household Items Included with the Sale of a Home

When buying a home in Canada, make sure that you know exactly which household items and appliances will be included with your purchase. The following three parts of the contract tell you just that, enabling the buyer and seller to agree on what will stay, and what will go.

  • Chattels: Chattels are items that are not structurally part of the house and can be removed, but you may want to include them in the sale. Commonly purchased chattels include major appliances such as the fridge and stove, but you can also include those drapes the sellers said they’d leave.

  • Fixtures: Fixtures are things that are affixed to the house, such as light fixtures, overhead fans, and built-in bookcases. Unless otherwise noted, fixtures are included in the purchase price of the home.

  • Rental items: Rental items are things that the sellers rented, like hot water heaters or propane tanks and security systems. They are not included in the house’s purchase price unless you and the seller agree that they are. The contract should note that the buyer will assume the lease and all lease obligations for the propane tanks or security system. If the seller has not provided copies of the rental or lease documents prior to you making your offer, make your offer subject to you receiving and approving the lease agreements as necessary.

How to Pay Less Interest on Your Mortgage

Hate having a big mortgage? Join the club. Canadians want to get out of debt, but according to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, 75 per cent of Canadian borrowers failed to make any type of extra payment on their mortgages. Remember that you can save yourself a lot of money by limiting the amount you spend on interest. Use these strategies to keep your mortgage interest payments low:

  • Make as large a down payment as you comfortably can. The larger your down payment, the smaller your loan (principal), and the less interest you’ll have to pay.

  • Arrange to pay back the loan as quickly as possible. The longer the amortization period, the life of the loan, the more interest you will pay.

  • Commit to making weekly or biweekly payments. This will allow you to pay off the principal more quickly and therefore pay less interest on it.

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