As the experts we have compiled a list of articles to help you in preparing to buy, searching for, and moving into your dream home. If you have specific questions or want to talk to a professional please do not hesitate to fill out the form below and we will be sure to help you with all your real estate needs and questions.
Choosing The Right REALTOR®
Your RE/MAX REALTOR® is a trained professional who knows all aspects of the real estate market. A RE/MAX REALTOR® will save you time, money and aggravation. As with purchasing a home, you want to list with the RE/MAX REALTOR® who is the expert in your location. After all, potential purchasers will be calling this "area expert" to inquire about houses for sale. There will be a few of them who are knowledgeable about your neighbourhood. Call them up and interview your potential sales associate. You need to feel comfortable with him or her after all, they will be working for you.

Should You Go With a Non-Exclusive or Exclusive Listing Arrangement?

If you enter into this type of arrangement with you RE/MAX REALTOR®, you are giving him or her the exclusive right to find a purchaser for your home. With this type of agreement, no other real estate agent will bring potential buyers to your home, because only the listing agent is entitled to the commission. You may consider this type of arrangement in a Seller' Market during which time there are more people interested in purchasing a home than there are homes available.

Understand Market Conditions

The real estate market is in constant flux, not only as a whole but in particular areas as well. Knowing what is going on in the overall and local real estate markets will help you understand how these conditions can affect the sale of your home. We've designed the following chart to help give you an overview of the three significant market positions. When you meet with your sales associate, ask about the current state of the market.

  • Buyer's Market: The supply of homes on the market exceeds demand.
  • Characteristics: High inventory of homes. Few buyers compared to availability. Homes usually stay on the market longer. Prices are stable or perhaps dropping.
  • Implications: Prices may be higher or perhaps climbing. Buying decisions must be made quickly. Conditional offers may be rejected.
  • Seller's Market: The number of potential buyers exceeds the supply of homes on the market.
  • Characteristics: There is a smaller inventory of homes with many buyers. Homes sell quickly. Prices usually increase.
  • Implications: Prices may be higher or perhaps climbing. Buying decisions must be made quickly. Conditional offers may be rejected.
  • Balanced Market: The number of homes on the market is roughly equal to the demand.
  • Characteristics: Demand equals supply. Sellers accept reasonable offers. Homes sell within a reasonable time period. Prices generally remain stable.
  • Implications: There is less tension among buyers and sellers. There are a reasonable number of homes to choose from.
Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
Ditching the land lord and taking the leap into the realm of home ownership? While it can be frightening, consumers who have the resources to buy a home shouldn't shy away from this type of financial decision. But you must be prepared and you much have the money to do so, or you may incur years of unavoidable debt.

With the help of your REALTOR® or real estate representative, and some research, buying a home for the first time will be less daunting and complicated. The best thing you should do is to not rush into a decision and to prepare well ahead of time.

Here are some tips, guidelines and advice for those who are thinking of buying a home:

  • Knowing that you're ready: Before you even look at homes online or in the newspaper, make sure that you have the ability to buy a home. Check your finances, your credit score and budget accordingly. Ask your real estate professional or your representative at your bank to check over you financial situation to determine whether or not you're ready. If you aren't or if you feel like you aren't, start saving what you can. Even if you choose to buy a home, you're going to have to cut your spending considerably.
  • Know how much you're going to spend before you look: After you have found out that you're ready to buy a home, it's time to budget yourself. Determine how much you're willing to spend to purchase a new home, as well as for down-payments — something that usually gets left until the last minute.
  • Finding the right real estate representative: If you haven't already, you should acquire the assistance of a real estate professional. As a first-time buyer, you should never go solo when buying a home. A real estate professional can give you advice on what home is best for you, as well help you search for the most fitting home for your needs.
  • Knowing what you need: Once you acquire the assistance of a REALTOR® or agent, start looking for a home that suits your needs. If you're thinking for the future, take that into account when deciding which home is best for you. But don't be over the top—be realistic when searching for that first home.
  • Getting a home appraised and inspected: To receive a quality mortgage, homeowners will need to hire an appraiser. An appraiser values your home based on the surrounding market and the condition of the home. Finding a reputable appraiser is crucial because an overvaluation can be detrimental to your economic health. An inspector is someone who comes in to check out the physical condition of your home. Hiring an inspector will let you know if you have to spend extra money on renovations or construction. Do this before you close on the deal — you don't want to spend considerable money after you've bought the home.
  • Understanding your options for mortgages: Do a bunch of research before you choose a mortgage. Go to various lenders and understand their rates and policies. You could also ask your real estate agent for some help or hire a mortgage broker. There are different options, so find the one that suits you.
  • Getting a Lawyer/Notary: Before you make a deal, have a lawyer or a notary read over the financial documents. This is to ensure that you're not getting into a deal that looks shaky or fraudulent. The lawyer or notary has to be a real estate specialist.
  • Don't forget about those closing costs: After purchasing a home, you may be faced with "extra charges". Understand the various fees that you'll have to pay before the close of the sale so you could save accordingly. These fees can include legal costs, land transfer taxes, disbursements and many others.

Buying a home should be an exciting period for you, and while it seems complicated and difficult at first, prevailing through the challenges isn't as hard as you think. With the help of a real estate professional on your side, you'll get a favourable deal. So if you decide that buying is the right decision for you, just do your research and you'll be good to go.
Best Home for You & Your Family
Thinking of a better home for you and your family? Families grow quick and before you know it you have a bunch of little children running around. If you're rapidly running out of space, or if you're planning on having a family, then up-sizing to a larger home could be your best bet. However, there are a lot of other things you'll have to consider when moving your family from one place to another.

  • Discuss: Make sure you plan this out well-ahead of time so you know that you're making the right decision. First, make sure that you have the resources to move, if you don't, then you may have to save up before you can do so. Discuss to your spouse about the possibility of a move, and see what they have to say. Once you and your spouse have discussed it, then talk to your children. Your children should have a say in this decision, and reinforce the fact that a new home would be better for everyone.
  • Looking for the best home: When looking for a home, bring your children along with you. Hire the expertise and assistance of a real estate professional and check out a few homes. Ask your children what they like about the home, and ask them what room they would like best. If you don't have children yet, carefully check out each room and try to imagine a family living in there.
  • Look outside the home: You're going to have to take a look around not only inside the home, but also what surrounds it. First, check out the backyard and see if they it is child-safe and big enough for children to run around (remember, children like to play outside).
  • Afterwards, take a stroll around the neighbourhood: Walk to the nearest park and check it out, and if there are parents already there, ask them how the neighbourhood is. As well, take a drive to the local schools, malls, grocery stores, community centre and parks, and take that all into account for your decision.
  • Using your real estate professional: Without a doubt, your real estate professional has sold homes to families before, so ask them what they think is the best home for you and your family. They can show you and teach you a lot more things than you know.
  • Keep up constant communication with your children: Even though some children would be excited to move into a new home, that doesn't mean they fully understand why or feel good about leaving the only place they've known as home. Explain to your children, and reassure that the move is for the better.

Older children and teenagers may be a bit rebellious and angry because of a move, especially if they are leaving their close-knit social circles. Never fight with your child and understand their frustrations, and try to keep up communication as much as you can. This should be a fun and exciting family experience, not a stressful one. After you have done all your research and made a decision, make sure everyone in your family is on board and start the packing. Remember, don't forget to ask your real estate professional for help and advice, that's what they are there for.
Answers to Common Buyers Questions

What price home can I afford?

As a "rule of thumb" you can afford to buy a home equal in price to twice your gross annual income. More precisely, the price you can afford to pay for a home will depend on six factors:

  1. Your income
  2. The amount of cash you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender.
  3. Your outstanding debts
  4. Your credit history
  5. The type of mortgage you select
  6. Current interest rates

How do I find out about the condition of the home I'm considering?

First and foremost it is strongly recommended that you hire a professional person to inspect the home. Secondly some states require sellers to complete a disclosure form revealing everything known about their property. Home sellers are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems.

The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachment of easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property. Also look for settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems. People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions, if the homeowners association has any authority over the subject property and ownership of common areas with others. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.

How low can I consider offering?

There are always some sellers who for some reason must sell quickly, however in general, a very low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately. In a strong buyer's market, the below-market offer will usually either be accepted or generate a counteroffer. If few offers are being made, an outright rejection of offers becomes unlikely. In a strong seller's market, offers are often higher than full price. While it is true that offers at or above full price are more likely to be accepted by the seller, there are other considerations involved:

  1. Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer's current house? If so, such an offer, even at full price, may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition.
  2. Is the offer made on the house "as is," or does the buyer want the seller to make some repairs before the close of escrow or make a price concession instead?
  3. Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, then an offer at less than the asking price may be more attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.
  4. Are there any requests for seller concessions, such as asking the seller to contribute towards points and/or closing costs? If so, the offer is not really full price.

How and what do I negotiate?

Different sellers price houses very differently. Some deliberately overprice, others ask for pretty close to what they hope to get and a few (maybe the cleverest) under price their houses in the hope that potential buyers will compete and overbid. A seller's advertised price should be treated only as a rough estimate of what they would like to receive. If possible try to learn about the seller's motivation. For example, a lower price with a speedy escrow may be more acceptable to someone who must move quickly due to a job transfer. People going through a divorce or are eager to move into another home are frequently more receptive to lower offers.

Some buyers believe in making deliberate low-ball offers. While any offer can be presented to the seller, a low-ball offer often sours a prospective sale and discourages the seller from negotiating at all. And unless the house is extremely overpriced, the offer probably will be rejected anyway. Before making an offer, also investigate how many comparable homes have sold for in the area so that you can determine whether the home is priced right.

What is title insurance?

Title insurance is a form of insurance in favour of an owner, lessee, mortgage or other holder of an estate lien, or other interest in real property. It indemnifies against loss up to the face amount of the policy, suffered by reason of title being vested otherwise than as stated, or because of defects in the title, liens and encumbrances not set forth or otherwise specifically excluded in the policy, whether or not in the public land records, and other matters included within the policy form, such as lack of access to the property, loss due to unmarketability of title, etc. The title policy form sets forth the specific risks insured against. Additional coverage of related risks may also be added by endorsements to the policy or by the inclusion of additional affirmation insurance to modify or supersede the impact of certain exceptions, exclusions or printed policy "conditions." The policy also protects the insured for liability on various warranties of title.

In addition, the policy provides protection in an unlimited amount against costs and expenses incurred in defending the insured estate or interest. Before it issues a title policy, the title insurance company performs, or has performed for it, an extensive search, examination and interpretation of the legal effect of all relevant public records to determine the existence of possible rights, claims, liens or encumbrance that affect the property.

However, even the most comprehensive title examination, made by the most highly skilled attorney or lay expert, cannot protect against all title defects and claims. These are commonly referred to as the "hidden risks." The most common examples of these hidden risks are fraud, forgery, alteration of documents, impersonation, secret marital status, incapacity of parties (whether they be individuals, corporations, trusts or any other type), and inadequate or lack of powers of REALTORS® or fiduciaries. Some other hidden risks include various laws and regulations that create or permit interests, claims and liens without requiring that they first be filed or recorded in some form so that the potential buyers and lenders can find them before parting with their money. Since the cost for home owner's title insurance is usually sharply reduced when taken simultaneously with the issuance of a purchase money mortgage, the risk is one that a well informed buyer should not take. In fact, several states have adopted statutory requirements which require a notice to home buyers as to the availability of title insurance similar to that being obtained by their purchase money mortgages.

What steps should I take when looking for a home loan?

It is strongly recommended that home buyers are prequalified or pre-approved for a loan as their first step in the process. By being prequalified, a buyer knows exactly how much house they can afford. They can make more informed decisions in the market place. This does not mean they will definitely get the loan because their credit reports, wages and bank statements still need to be verified before you can receive a commitment from the lender for the loan.

Almost all mortgage lenders prequalify people at no charge. Many of them will even do it on the internet. In order to be pre-approved, an application will be taken. For a fee, your credit report will be pulled, your employment and income will be verified, you're checking and savings accounts will also be verified. In other words, all the necessary documentation will be completed in order for you to obtain a loan. The only things remaining will be for you to find a home, obtain an appraisal on it to prove its value to the bank and perform whatever inspections you may want on the property. This process considerably shortens the time frame to closing.

Is it possible to negotiate interest rates?

Compare the mortgage charts published in most newspapers. Occasionally some lenders are willing to negotiate on both the loan rate and the number of points. This isn't typical among many of the established lenders who set their rates. Nevertheless, it never hurts to shop around, know the market and try to get the best deal. Always look at the combination of interest rate and points and get the best deal possible. This is reflected in what is called the APR or Actual Percentage Rate. The interest rate is much more open to negotiation on purchases that involve seller financing. Generally, these are based on market rates but some flexibility exists when negotiating such a deal.
Protecting Your Biggest Purchase
The amount of time, effort and energy spent into selling or buying a home can be extensive and if you to do it by yourself, and not with the assistance of a REALTOR® or agent, you may run into the risk of losing money and getting a less-than-favorable deal. REALTORs® and real estate agents have years of education and experience and help you not only make a solid and responsible financial decision, but also protect you from the many risks currently existing in the murky waters of the real estate market.

In addition, many consumers don't understand the differences between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent. A REALTOR® has gone through extra training and education, as well as adheres to a strict code of ethics. But when you buy or sell a home, make sure you get the most out of this monumental occasion and use a real estate professional to guide, protect and assist you.

What's wrong with selling and buying without a professional?

Buying or selling without a REALTOR® or a real estate professional can have negative repercussions. For one, it may take you longer to sell your home, which may result in wasted time and lost funds. If you're working full-time, the ability to sell a home is curtailed and you may have to take time off work or have an extremely tight schedule to hold open houses.

As well, you may feel incredibly uncomfortable by letting just anybody into your home, and you may not know how to protect yourself against theft or fraud. A REALTOR® can have effective open houses and can detect any suspicious activity. Most self-home sellers or buyers are not real estate professionals, so you're obviously limited to your own knowledge and ability. REALTORS® understand the dense paperwork, the legal documents and what is and isn't a good deal. Working with such a professional would only benefit your chances of achieving a sale or purchase. Without the help of the REALTOR® you may waste hours researching and learning all the details of the real estate market.

Why get a REALTOR®?

The answer is quite obvious: to the get the best possible deal that you paid for. Especially for first-time home buyers, not using the services of a REALTOR® or agent can put your purchase in jeopardy. Of course there is the slight chance that you can come out of a deal by making some more money, but there are many risks in trying to do that, and you may end up using that money you would have made on research and time off work. Typically, most homes sold by REALTORS® or real estate agents will be priced higher, therefore offsetting some of the commission. If you were to sell by yourself, you may not know the market as well as a REALTOR® and you might end up pricing your home inaccurately.

For buying a home it's still extremely beneficial to acquire the assistance of a REALTOR®. They can, without a doubt, optimize your buying power and increase your options in the market. They have the access to the Multiple Listing Services (MLS®) and can help you find that home you've always wanted. With their extensive knowledge of the market, REALTORS® can also help you find which house is appropriate for your budget by examining your financial background. They can also help you with the mortgage loan qualifications and can help you understand the taxes of the transaction.

Along with these qualifications, REALTORS® also possess the skills of negotiation. They can negotiate effectively with the seller and help you negotiate so that you can avoid any problems when you purchase your home. Having the REALTOR® by your side during the negotiating process can make sure you get the best deal and that you're not taken advantage of. When you hire a REALTOR®, your knowledge on the real estate industry will just increase, therefore resulting in a better deal for you. And remember, they do follow a strict code of ethics which will protect you even more during your search for that new home. The REALTOR® will let you know of everything and will work to their best ability to close a sale for you.
What to Offer
Finding the house you want to make your dream home can be an incredibly exciting moment. Making an offer on that house however, can be a daunting and stressful task. The written offer is a step in the home buying process that requires the finesse, experience and negotiating skills of a REALTOR® professional.

Deciding How Much to Offer

There are several factors to consider when deciding how much to offer: the listing price of the home, the prices of comparable properties that have recently sold, and of course what you can afford.

  • Listing Price: Also called the 'asking price', this is a rough estimate of what the seller would like to receive. It is important to consider how long the property has been on the market for and if there have been any price reductions. Other factors that should affect how seriously you consider the listing price include whether the property is a foreclosure or short sale, and if there are multiple offers being presented to the seller.
  • Prices of Comparable Properties: Your REALTOR® can provide you with a list of comparable properties, or 'comps' that have recently sold in the area near the property you are about to make an offer on. The most relative and supporting comparables should fall within these guidelines:
    • Sales that have occurred within the last three to six months - the more recent, the better.
    • Sales of properties similar to the one you're making an offer on, in terms of age, size, and bedrooms and bathrooms.
    • Sales within a reasonable proximity (six to ten blocks in an urban area; consult your REALTOR® in rural areas) of the property you are making an offer on. This radius may need to be reduced if a freeway or other dividing line splits the neighborhood.
  • What You Can Afford: You should come to the offer table pre-approved. When figuring the total cost of the property, be sure to include closing costs into your budget. Closing costs are typically 2%-5% of the final purchase price.

Once you have considered the factors at hand, it is time to decide on a number. In competitive areas or 'hot markets', you may have to offer no less than the asking price. You should be mentally prepared for negotiations, and in some cases even bidding wars, which can erupt among aggressive buyers. In hot markets, properties often sell for 10% to 30% above the asking price.

If you are making an offer in a hot market, you may need more than just a well-priced bid. Considering the seller's needs is the best way to achieve an advantage in the competition. Your ability to close the deal quickly is often an advantage. For example: buying with all cash or having your loan pre-approved tells the seller that you are a serious buyer. Your flexibility and accommodation of seller time frames can also be beneficial. For example: extending the closing time frame for a party that cannot move for several months; or making your offer for the property 'as is', meaning you will pay for any needed repairs.

In less competitive areas, or 'cold markets', you will have more room to negotiate with the seller at a lower purchase price. REO, short sale and Bank Owned properties can often be obtained at great prices, but be prepared for a long and challenging closing process.

In any market, you will want to bid to win. Be sure to discuss the best strategy for your offer with your REALTOR®.

This information is meant as a guide. Although deemed reliable, information may not be accurate for your specific market or property type. Please consult a REALTOR® professional for more information on making a written offer.
Home Inspections
Buying a home may well be the largest financial investment you will ever make. Naturally you will want to know as much as possible about the property before you finalize the purchase at closing.

It's important to hire a knowledgeable, independent home inspector for advice on the overall condition of the property. The purchase contract usually requires specific time periods for each inspection, and it's critical that these time frames be met. Usually the cost for any and all inspections and re-inspections are paid by the Buyer. Prices can range from $350 to $500 for whole-house inspections.

Some examples of common inspections are:

  • Structural - Defects caused by poor construction, soil movement, water or drainage conditions, settlement, fire, etc.
  • Environmental Hazards - Including asbestos, lead-based paint, radon gas or any other toxic material.
  • Roof - Can include framing members, decking and shingle condition.
  • EMP - Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing - Should include electrical and plumbing systems, built-in appliances, heating and cooling systems, swimming pool/spas, sprinkler systems and security systems.

Many companies specialize in only one area of inspection, and others will group several together and offer a package price. Whichever route you go, assure yourself you're getting the inspections you need.
Home Protection Program
A home protection programs are an affordable way to cover the costs of unexpected mechanical failure of a major system or appliance. A home protection program is specifically designed to cover the kinds of repairs that home insurance does not: appliances, plumbing and electrical, air conditioning and furnaces, and pool equipment.

The average annual cost of a home protection program is between $250 and $400. Most home protection program companies offer comparable coverage within the same price range. The premium is payable at closing and customarily protects you for one full year. Repairs are typically handled through the home protection program company with a minimal deductible. Often times the cost of the first year premium is offered as an incentive by sellers to solicit the sale of the property.

The age and condition of the home should be a consideration when choosing to purchase a home protection program. A fifteen year-old home with original equipment, versus a two year old home will likely have different financial risks. Your REALTOR® can help you decide if a home protection program is right for you based on your individual circumstances.

Why Should I Consider a Home Protection Program?

Home ownership is expensive enough all on its own, without adding the cost of repairs and replacements. When moving into a home where appliances and systems have been previously used, there is always the chance that the general wear and tear, or the way in which they were previously used and maintained, could cause breakdown and/or complete failure. These repairs/replacements can be astronomically costly and often times occur unexpectedly. A home protection program will protect you financially from most of the frequently occurring breakdowns of home system components and appliances. If you do not have a trusted home protection program representative, your REALTOR® can refer you to one.

This information is meant as a guide. Although deemed reliable, information may not be accurate for your specific market or property type. Please consult a REALTOR® professional or home protection program representative for more information home protection programs and policies.
Homeowner's Insurance
When buying a home, one word you will hear often is "insurance." As a homeowner you are concerned about protecting your house, your personal belongings and your personal liability. It is important that the coverage you choose provide the comprehensive protection that you need.

Homeowner's insurance protects you and your house against losses from fire, theft, liability, vandalism, water damage, wind damage, tornadoes and loss of use. Earthquake and flood insurance are not included but can be purchased separately.

Types

There are three types of homeowner's policies to choose from. A clear understanding of the coverage each type offers will help you select the right policy for your needs. Each type carries a deductible amount you select.

  • A standard policy requires coverage for at least 80% of the value of your home, excluding land and the foundation. It will usually insure your personal property at actual cash value.
  • A broad-from policy is more inclusive than the standard policy and covers additional named perils such as glass breakage, smoke damage, etc.
  • An all-risk policy covers even more than do the standard and broad-form policies. An example of a covered risk might be damage caused to your roof from ice build-up in the gutters.

Some of these policies offer optional guaranteed replacement cost coverage on your home and its contents. Replacement cost coverage will pay to rebuild your home and replace its contents with no depreciation coming into play. It is important to understand that the replacement value of your home is based on your insurance company's estimate of the cost to rebuild your home on your property. It is not based on the purchase or appraised value of the home. Most policies have a built-in annual increase of replacement cost coverage.

Reducing Premiums

When purchasing homeowner's insurance, there are ways of lowering your premium. Most insurance companies offer discounts for smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, dead bolt locks, and whole-house alarm systems. If your home is fairly new, or if you elect to insure your automobiles with the same company, you are likely to receive a discount on your premium. Another way of lowering your premium is to select as high a deductible as you can afford. Raising your deductible reduces your premium. Insurance is the type of service you buy hoping that you will never have to use it. The right insurance can give you a sense of security in knowing that you are adequately protected.
Title Insurance
Generally, there are two forms of title insurance. Lender's title insurance, required by most lending institutions, is normally written in the amount of the mortgage and protects the lending institution from losses resulting from title defects.

Because lender's insurance expires when the mortgage is repaid, you may benefit from the second form of title insurance known as an owner's title policy. It usually is written for the amount of the purchase price of the home. This protection starts the day of the closing and lasts as long as you or your heirs retain an interest in the property.

Unlike other insurance premiums, your title insurance premium is paid only once, at the closing. By purchasing owner's and lender's protection simultaneously, substantial savings in title insurance premiums can be realized.

After all fees have been paid and documents signed and notarized at the closing, you will receive a copy of each and, most importantly, title to your house.

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