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Tips for the First-Time Home Buyer

Wed, 25 Apr by Pauline Relkey

When venturing into the world of home ownership, first-time buyers often find themselves having to make important, fast decisions in what feels like a surreal situation — after all, it might have only been a few weeks since owning a home seemed more like a far-off daydream than an immediate reality. A few common sense tips will help you navigate these unfamiliar landscapes as you move towards one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

1. Get pre-approved
Though a pre-approval isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get a mortgage when you’re find a property, having one can give you a firm grasp on what you can afford before you start looking. A pre-approval from your bank or lender will save you time by narrowing your search to a more precise selection of homes, and this, in turn, can protect you from the all-too-common disappointment that follows setting your heart on a house you can’t afford.

2. Don’t expect your standards of living to change
It’s bound to happen: you see a house that maxes out your budget, but you imagine you can make it work by cutting out things like morning coffees, cellular data and cable TV. Remember, ‘roughing it’ for the sake of your house quickly loses its charm, and you’ll soon regret the lack of wiggle room for things like new furniture, redecorating, or unexpected repairs. Don’t regret your first home — avoid becoming ‘house poor’ by staying below the upper limit of what your bank is willing to lend you.

3. Make a list and check it as many times as it takes
Each property you consider will have its own unique combination of pros and cons, and going through them can feel a little like comparing apples to oranges. Don’t expect to stay clear-headed when the house with the poor walking score has the kitchen of your dreams; instead, stay on track by building a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Though your list might evolve over time (especially if the “must haves” are rare for your price range), having a set of self-imposed guidelines can keep your search on course when you’re feeling overwhelmed by options.

4. Don’t confuse “first home” with “forever home”
Most first-time buyers start out a little starry-eyed, imagining that new home will be stylish, spacious, efficient … basically, everything they’ve been dreaming of. In reality, being able to afford a house that has everything you want is pretty rare in the first go-round, which can make you feel so discouraged you start closing yourself off to the available options. Remember, your ‘starter home’ doesn’t have to meet all the criteria of your ‘dream home,’ and the equity you’ll build for the next few years will get you closer to your goal.

With so much new information to absorb, steps to take, and decisions to make, buying a first home can feel like a rollercoaster ride. It’s important not to lose your head throughout all of it. Taking a few steps to keep your expectations rooted firmly in reality can help you glide through the process and feel confident in your final decision.

Want to be on TV?

Tue, 24 Apr by Pauline Relkey

I have been contacted by CBC to see if I have owners selling houses/looking to downsize/interesting stories/also if anyone is buying a cottage and what that experience is like for Canadians across the country.

The casting call will be sent out soon.

Four days of filming.

Selling between June and October 2018.

Let me know.

January Residential Sales and Home Prices Move In Opposite Direction

Mon, 12 Feb by Pauline Relkey

2018 has started off to a solid start compared to the 2 previous years in Regina. (Personally I am saying not much of a change).

143 sales in Regina compared to 139 in 2017 = 2.8%.

The Home Price Index reported a price of $279,400 down from $293,600 one year ago. The downward direction on prices is because of the over supply of properties and it’s pushing sellers to keep reducing their asking prices.

We have 1,133 active residential listings on the market at the end of January, over 20% increase from 2017.

The ratio of sales to new listings for the month was 30% (meaning only 30% of listings sold). Still a buyer’s market.  Condos make up almost 30% of the listings which is high.

Click here for the full report.

What Home Inspectors Want Buyers and Sellers to Know

Fri, 08 Dec by Pauline Relkey

The home inspection process can be terrifying to go through, whether you are the seller or buyer.

For sellers, it’s like having your annual physical and you are being reprimanded by your doctor for not eating right and not exercising, etc.

For the buyers, it can be like finding your soulmate then discovering they are already married.

Don’t let the inspection stress you out. That’s not what your inspector wants either. All he wants is to do his job and provide you with an inspection report so that you are a happy customer.

Work with your home inspector to make the process easier and more effective. Knowledge is key! Here are 7 essential things you should keep in mind.

For sellers

1. Move your pets
We know your puppy/cat/snake is adorable and totally considered a family member, but even if your home inspector loves dogs or cats, pets on the loose while the inspection is happening makes the job much more difficult. For example, inspections require opening exterior doors, offering pets far too many opportunities to run out the door. Or the home inspector is afraid of your pet. When you leave the premises for the inspection—and many inspectors and agents ask sellers to do so – please take your pets with you.

2. Don’t forget to clean
Whether you plan on being there for the inspection or not, make sure to clean up beforehand. No, you don’t need to turn your house into an isolation ward by cleaning like a mad person — an inspector won’t ding you because your fridge has fingerprints on the door. But all that clutter? Yeah, that’s all got to go. It makes a huge difference when the inspector walks into a property where everything is put away.

For buyers

1. Any property will have issues/problems
Your home inspector will likely come up with a seemingly endless list of problems after the walk-through. Don’t panic! The inspector has been hired by you to do his job and report on what he discovers.  Put it all in perspective.  If you have never owned property, you might be overwhelmed, but speak to a home owner and they will totally understand. Every property including the realtor’s and the inspector’s, have problems and/or maintenance things. You are not alone. But there are times when you should worry, as in a major, costly fix (foundation, roof, etc). But not every issue is critical. Your inspector will explain which problems you should tackle first and even give you an idea of the approximate cost.

2. Almost anything can be fixed
There are a few scary home inspection terms that seem to be in everyone’s vocabulary: mold, basement walls and asbestos. Yes, they are scary, but no scarier than a roof that needs replacing. Don’t worry so much about mold and radon! Everything is upgradable, fixable, or replaceable. You just need to have a list of what those things are and decide how you want to address them. That’s another of the many reasons you should have a realtor on your side helping you. We will explain all your options at that point.

3. One thing you should worry about is water
Here is one issue that you might want to stress out about (just a little) – water. No, it’s not a deal breaker. Remember that part where I said almost anything can be fixed? But it’s important to address any water-related issues before the deal closes—or at least immediately afterward. Make note of issues such as water marks, mold and leaky ceilings. And give special attention to the basement. Addressing water problems in the basement can be an expensive and difficult proposition.

4. Home inspectors can’t predict the future
You might want to know how many more years the roof will hold up—and while your inspector might be able to give you a rough estimate, he can’t give you a precise timeline. Inspectors don’t have X-ray vision to see through walls or examine the motherboard in that funky new fridge that talks to you. He can’t tell you how long some things will last, but he can comment on the shape it is in, but remember that is relevant to the age of what he is talking about. Yes a furnace might be old but if it’s working fine and doesn’t need major repairs yet, then keep using it until you are ready to buy a new one.

5. Find the balance between your emotions and facts
I see this happen a lot with buying couples. One buyer is emotional at the beginning and the other is practical. Then after the purchase, they  reverse roles and the emotional one becomes practical and the practical buyer becomes emotional. It’s easy to forget your love for the home when you’re counting the dollar signs and hours you might have to spend on repairs. Just remember to take a deep breath, think rationally, and consider whether it’s a smart investment in your future. The justification can sometimes be a horrible process, because our brains are all about money and time and thinking about ‘What kind of mistake am I making?”

Barring any major renovations needed—such as a new roof or mold removal—your inspector’s visit will simply provide a to-do list. But not everything needs fixing immediately, so don’t let a long list dampen your love for the home. Just take things one at a time.

Regina Home Sales Down, Listings at an all time high

Tue, 28 Nov by Pauline Relkey

My summary – even though the above title is true, sellers aren’t budging much when it comes to price.

Listings in Regina reached a record high for October with 1,444 homes for sale.

Sales numbers in and around the city dropped to their lowest level since 2008.

Average time to sell was 61 days which is the longest average listing to sale time in the last decade. The average sale price for October dropped by 1%.

Causes are overbuilding and lack of pressure on both buyers and sellers.

Diversified economy means people still have jobs and thusly sellers don’t feel pressured to sell at lower prices. Sluggish provincial economy causes buyer uncertainty. Buyers feel that prices might soon decrease. Regina has not seen big changes in prices as in other major cities.

Mortgage rules are tighter which reduces buying power.

The complete article is here.

Energy Rebates Resources for Provinces

Wed, 25 Oct by Pauline Relkey

Well I have to say I am disappointed with my province of Saskatchewan as you can see from the list below that most of Canada’s provinces and territories have some kind of energy rebate program in place.  Newfoundland, Nunavut and Saskatchewan have to giddy up and get on it.

Ontario Enbridge Home Winterproofing Program
https://www.enbridgegas.com/homes/manage-energy/rebates-incentive-programs/winterproofing/index.aspx

British Columbia – BC Hydro – Home Renovation Rebates
http://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/residential/savings-and-rebates/current-rebates-buy-backs/home-renovation-rebates.html

PEI Heat Pump Rebate Program
https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/transportation-infrastructure-and-energy/heat-pump-rebate-program

Nova Scotia Your Energy Rebate Program
http://www.novascotia.ca/sns/access/business/your-energy-rebate/about-the-program.asp

New Brunswick Home Insulation Energy Savings Program
https://www.nbpower.com/en/smart-habits/energy-efficiency-programs/home-insulation-energy-savings-program/

Quebec – RénoVert Tax Credit
http://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/citoyen/credits/renovert/default.aspx

Manitoba Power Smart Home Insulation Program
https://www.hydro.mb.ca/your_home/insulation/program/index.shtml

Yukon Good Energy Program
http://goodenergyyukon.ca/?utm_source=oldresidentialpage

Northwest Territories Energy Efficiency Incentive Program
http://aea.nt.ca/programs/energy-efficiency-incentive-program

Energy Efficiency Alberta
https://www.efficiencyalberta.ca/

City of Regina Infill Report

Fri, 13 Oct by Pauline Relkey

If you are interested in hearing what is happening in Regina with infill properties (building on vacant land or adding onto an existing building or tearing down a building and building new on the same lot) here is all the info that the City of Regina is looking at for guidelines.

This applies to houses, duplexes, triplexes,

Click on this link for the whole scoop.  103 pages but you can fly through the fluff.

Questions to Consider Before Meeting With a Home Designer

Wed, 13 Sep by Pauline Relkey

Designers typically charge an hourly rate for design services, so clients should do their homework before meeting with one. Think about what you want, what you NEED and what you can afford. If you think about these things before you meet with your designer, it can save you time and money.

To create a home that best serves you and your family, designers need to know your lifestyle, how you use your space, who uses the space and more. In other words, a designer needs to get inside your head. To help you prepare, here are things you should be able to answer about your space before meeting with your designer.

1. Who uses the space, and what activities will take place there? Having a list of all the uses for the space will help your designer get a feeling for the overall function. Is the room a personal space, like an office or a bedroom? If so, s/he might need to focus on creating an inspiring or a calming atmosphere.

Or maybe it’s a family room that is used by the entire family and needs to be a multifunctional place where teens do homework and everyone watches tv and plays games. Answering those questions will allow your designer to hone in on the function of the space, who uses it and why.

Also look at how big the space is. Does it allow for segregated areas or do we need to use a table as a multipurpose piece for both dining and homework?

Furniture that has multiple functions is a big space saver. A coffee table with a top surface for playing games and for extra seating, as well as a storage area below for books and toys, provides versatility.

2. Does the traffic pattern work in the space, or does the space feel cramped or underutilized? A major walkway should be at least 40 inches wide and the larger the walkway, the better. If you report that you often feel as though it’s a tight squeeze when multiple people are using a space, then a designer may remove the furniture and reconfigure it to accommodate a better flow.

For a kitchen usually islands are preferred over peninsulas if possible. An island opens up the space from every direction of the kitchen, whereas a peninsula allows for only one walkway. Again, it depends on the space, and your designer will be able to help you configure the best traffic flow. Sitting down and thinking about those times you’ve bumped into a family member as you’re cooking will give us clues to the right solution for you.

3. What kind of tasks do you need lighting for? Do you read a lot? Crochet? Or do you watch movies in the dark? The right lighting scheme will make your space more functional for all your tasks. If you tell your designer what you intend to do in your space, s/he can formulate the best lighting approach using task, pendant, undercabinet, recessed, ambient or natural light (via light tubes, skylights or a window), along with wall sconces and uplights.

For recessed lighting, use dimmer switches, which are great for low light while watching movies and giving off a soft ambient glow for entertaining. A table light or floor lamp is good for tasks or reading. Uplights are accent lights that can highlight artwork and collectibles.

4. What items are kept in this room? Let’s say you have one bathroom that’s shared by several family members, and you’re looking to remodel it. When you describe all the things that are stored in the space, the number of people who use it and so on, a designer will help you come up with the right storage solutions while keeping style in mind. For example, open shelving with baskets would give each family member his or her own basket, and would look great. Shallow wall built-ins, such as a medicine cabinet, would provide storage for shampoos, creams and toiletries.

A good designer can help solve storage issues but needs to know what issues should be addressed.

Here’s another example. If your counters are full of mail, keys, homework, magazines, electronic devices and so on, then maybe a main station is for you. A piece of furniture that has numerous compartments or drawers can help store those miscellaneous items.

If clutter collects in your family room, you might consider side tables with drawers or open side tables with a large basket or wooden crate for magazines, books and knitting supplies. Or maybe an ottoman that allows for storing items inside, such as blankets, pillows and things that are used sparingly.

Or maybe the solution is to add a functional piece of furniture storage in one room to help clear out space in another room, like a large armoire in your dining room that can store infrequently used dishware to free up space in your kitchen.

Think of how you do laundry. Do you need one hamper or four? Maybe you prefer to hang clothing rather than fold items after they come out of the dryer. Do you like to stand and fold clothes, or do you put them in a basket and fold them in another room? Do you need a place to iron or just the storage space to keep the iron and ironing board? Again, these are things that will help a designer quickly come up with the right design for you.

5. What look or feel do you want the space to have? Think of what you like in terms of colors, style and overall feel. If you’re looking for a calming environment in the bedroom, then maybe white walls, bedding and furniture are a good approach.

Ii’s recommended that clients create their own ideabook for each space and add comments on each photograph. Think about what it is in each photograph that inspires you, such as the color on the walls, the artwork, a piece of furniture or the overall feeling. Include information and pictures of appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, cabinet and door hardware, and flooring materials if these will be elements in your project.

Consider what speaks to you. Is there anything you personally cherish, example a colorful silk scarf that you love. This could set the tone for your family room. Paint the walls white to provide a neutral backdrop that allows you to add color throughout. Then add a tan sofa with colorful pillows and an accent piece of furniture painted a color taken from the vibrant scarf. A neutral rug can ground the space, and you can bring the scarf colors into other areas of your home through art and accessories, making it a cohesive home.

Don’t box yourself in with one design style, either. Be open to hearing a designer’s pitch on a combination of styles that might surprise you and also save time and money. For example, they might consider looking in other rooms of your home to swap out furnishings that will refresh and bring a new feeling to a room rather than buying all-new pieces. That old vintage chair in the basement could be just the piece you were searching for to break up a modern room.

6. What do you like about the space, and what do you most want to change and why? Not every room needs a total overhaul. In one room you may like a few things, such as the furniture and size of the room, but not the wall colors and rug. Sometimes just adding a few pillows and accessories is all a room needs.

You may like the overall feel of a space, but it may feel cramped with too much furniture. Designers can put together a floor plan for the best use of your space while considering focal points, large windows, art and so on. They know the space requirements for furniture and can map out the best traffic path.

A good designer will work with your list, making it a space that is right for your lifestyle while keeping the things you like and removing the things you don’t. Don’t be shy. Make clear what your likes and dislikes are. This is your space, after all.

7. How much money do you want to devote to your project? Setting budget expectations is important to the success of any remodeling or new construction project. Be realistic. A total average kitchen remodel can run as much as $80,000 and up. A basic kitchen remodel, keeping existing cabinets and floors, can cost about $16,000, depending on a variety of factors. If you’re on a strict budget, consider changes you need to have and which would be nice to have.

Share your budget right away with your designer, as this will set the tone of the makeover and will eliminate unnecessary backtracking later.

8. How much do you want to be involved in your project? Do you want a designer who will work with you, or do you want the designer to take charge and provide you with options? Clarifying your expectations will help you and the designer communicate well and ensure the result you want.

In the end, doing your homework will save you money that you can then put back into your project.

Condo Info

Wed, 28 Jun by Pauline Relkey

CONDO INFORMATION

Condominium Living
A condominium is a form of home ownership in which individual units of a larger complex are sold, not rented. Contrary to popular belief, the word “condominium” does not apply to the type of unit itself, but to the legal ownership arrangement.

Those who purchase units in a condominium technically own everything from their walls inward. All individual owners have shared rights to most common areas, such as hallways, pools and grounds, parking lots and roadways. Maintenance of those areas becomes the responsibility of a condominium association. Every owner owns a share of interest in the condo association, plus an obligation to pay monthly dues or special fees for larger maintenance problems.

People who benefit most from condo living are those who don’t mind having close neighbours and people who don’t want to be bothered with outside maintenance or grounds keeping.

One thing to be aware of when living in a condo setting is the political reality of the owners’ association. Decisions may be made in monthly meetings that will cost individual owners more money, but not necessarily deliver equal benefits for all. It can be nearly impossible not to be impacted by at least one condo board decision and it is to your benefit to participate in meetings and discussions.

What is a Condominium?
A condominium is a form of real property ownership that has two distinct parts: you own your condominium unit to which you get a title and you also jointly own common property with the other unit owners in your complex.

Owning a condominium is not the same as renting an apartment where all the duties and responsibilities of running the building are handled by the building owner and caretaker. In a condominium complex, ownership responsibilities belong to you and all the other unit owners in your condominium corporation.

Some examples of residential condominiums are an apartment within an apartment building, a duplex, a bungalow or a townhouse.

Non-residential condominiums may be commercial outlets, resorts, timeshares and bare land units.

Condominium Unit
The exact boundaries of each condominium unit are identified in a condominium plan.

When you buy a unit you acquire title to a space that is usually bound by walls, floors and ceilings. You are responsible for the maintenance, repair and remodelling of your unit. However, you may need the board’s permission to remodel your unit if the changes impact the common property.

Common Property


The common property in a condominium complex is everything that is not within a unit identified in the condominium plan. It usually includes the space and facilities outside the condominium units, such as roofs, front steps, sidewalks, eaves, driveways, outside electrical systems and landscaped areas. Your share of the costs for the maintenance and repair of the common property is determined by your unit factor.

Unit Factor
The unit factor identifies your portion of the joint ownership of the common property. The developer assigns a unit factor to every condominium unit when registering the condominium plan. The sum total of the unit factors for all the units in a condominium plan is 10,000. Developers must disclose how they set the unit factor. It is important to know the unit factor assigned to your unit because it will affect your condominium contributions and your voting rights.

Insurance
Insurance on the entire structure of the condominium complex is the responsibility of the condominium corporation. The corporation must have replacement cost value insurance on the property for all perils covered by standard insurance policies. Check the policy for exclusions. There must also be insurance for any liability incurred by the board or corporation when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.

You will need to buy your own insurance to cover your personal property, personal liability and perhaps any changes made to your unit. Check the bylaws to see if unit improvements are covered under the corporation’s policy. Ask your insurance agent or broker for more information. The condominium corporation can give you a certificate of insurance that provides your agent or broker with information about the extent of the corporation’s insurance policy.

Condominium Corporation
A condominium corporation is created when the developer registers the condominium plan with Saskatchewan’s Land Titles Office. The condominium corporation consists of the owners of all the units identified in the condominium plan.

As a legal entity it can sue for damages to the common property and it can be sued regarding any matter for which the owners are jointly liable. An agent or employee of the corporation can act on behalf of the corporation.

Bylaws
Bylaws regulate the corporation. They provide for the control, management and administration of the units, the common property and any other real and personal property owned by the corporation. A board of directors is elected by the unit owners to carry out the condominium corporation’s responsibilities.

Condominium bylaws vary greatly. Some for example, may not allow children or pets to live in the complex. In other complexes if you wish to remodel the interior of your unit you may have to seek approval from the board of directors if the common property or building structure is affected. Keep a copy of any correspondence you have with the board.

Make sure you know what bylaws govern the condominium you own and your rights and responsibilities.

Owners can change the bylaws to suit their particular complex by passing a motion to adopt the changes. A special resolution, requiring the approval of 75% of the owners named on the unit titles and representing not less than 7,500 unit factors is required to make any changes to the bylaws. Changes are effective after the board registers the changes at a Land Titles Office.

Owners, and everyone occupying a unit, are bound by the bylaws of the corporation. If there is a conflict between the bylaws and the Condominium Property Act, the Act applies. The Act and specific bylaws give the corporation the right to impose sanctions, like fines, on owners who fail to comply with the bylaws.

Board of Directors
Every condominium corporation has a board of directors elected by the owners to carry out the corporation’s responsibilities. The bylaws outline how many directors sit on the board, how often they are elected, and if there are any eligibility requirements.

Directors are volunteers who agree to take on the responsibility of running the condominium for at least 1 term. Two thirds of the members of the board must be unit owners or mortgagees, unless otherwise stated in the bylaws. The board conducts its business by holding regular meetings, usually quarterly. The board must report to the owners at annual general meetings or extraordinary general meetings.

Each director has the responsibility to act honestly and in good faith in exercising the power and in discharging the duties of the board. Every director must declare any conflict of interest and not vote on matters that may involve a conflict.

It is important to remember that the board of directors must make decisions in the best interests of the entire corporation and all the owners, which will sometimes conflict with what individual owners might want to do.

Board of Director’s Responsibilities
The board is responsible for:
• Abiding by and enforcing the Act, regulation and corporation’s bylaws.
• Managing, administrating and maintaining the common property.
• Setting and collecting condominium contributions and dealing with the financial administration of the corporation (financial statements must be prepared according to generally accepted accounting practices).
• Preparing and approving an annual operating budget and reserve fund budget and providing those budgets to the owners before the annual general meeting.
• Placing and maintaining insurance on the property for perils covered by standard insurance policies or any other perils identified in the bylaws and the regulation.
• Placing and maintaining liability insurance for the board or corporation with respect to carrying out their duties and responsibilities.
• Establishing, maintaining and administering the capital reserve fund and preparing and distributing an annual report on the reserve fund to the owners.
• Conducting a reserve fund study every five years and preparing a reserve fund plan.
• Hiring and supervising employees, contractors and a condominium manager or management company.
• Reviewing and updating the bylaws and with proper notice, presenting the changes to the owners for approval.
• Holding an annual general meeting and reporting on their stewardship of the corporation.
• Responding, within 10 days, to a written request from an owner, purchaser, or a mortgagee of a unit, for information on contributions due and payable, copies of agreements, bylaws, minutes of the board or general meetings, budget, recent financial statements, insurance, and the reserve fund study report or plan or annual update (if available), as required under the Act and the regulation.

The board may charge a reasonable fee for these documents.

Property Manager
The Property Manager is hired by the Board to carry out the individuals have many responsibilities to the community itself and should be chosen by the board with great care, as they will be directly involved with the owners themselves. Ideally your community will benefit if this person has strong social interaction skills and is well liked within the community. This serves to build strong ties between unit owners and the board, insuring smooth relationships and ease of communication.
Since one of the most important responsibilities of condo management is that of a liaison between the board of directors and the owners of the units, it stands to reason that this person will be the one that the unit owners go to for general correspondence. Representing the collective group of homeowners is no small task. When there is a discrepancy or an emergency of some kind, it is the responsibility of the management to be on the front lines, resolving the issue and being the person in charge to insure that legally as well as mechanically, the homeowners have someone on their side.

Condo management also has a responsibility to supervise all employees of the property, including maintenance workers, repairmen of various kinds and contracted labor. They need to be paid, their payroll taxes need to be taken out, and the financial stability of the property itself must be tended to and secured. This person is also responsible for keeping records of all correspondence with unit owners and repair persons, and keeping an account of all funds that are spent, what they are spent on and who they are paid to. Even if the property itself is small, this can be a large task to complete.

If unit owners question the validity or feasibility of certain rules or restrictions that have been created within the community, condo management is who they will go to in order to get the ball rolling to either amend or completely do away with the rule. The manager represents the unit owners in front of the board in every instance. It is vital that they are holding the best interests of the unit owners firmly in mind.

In addition, creating the annual budget for the property is yet another one of the responsibilities that condo management may be required to take on. It takes a great deal of energy, time and work to keep an entire condominium community running smoothly and operating sufficiently at all levels. Consideration must be given to financial responsibilities, maintenance responsibilities, emergency actions and unit owner/board relations.

Finding someone with a strong, genuine work ethic who understands this type of responsibility can be challenging. Seek out bids from many different candidates, and take your time making the decision. Award this type of responsibility only after a thorough background search and many interviews have been conducted. Finding the right person for the job is more important than filling an empty seat. The unit owners will surely agree.

Condo fees
The condo corporation needs money to meet its financial obligations – paying for insurance premiums, snow removal, grass cutting, repairs to common property, reserve fund, etc. The main source of income for the corporation is the money paid by the owners in their condo contributions (often referred to as a condo fee).

Contributions are normally set annually and paid monthly, however the board can levy special assessments (1 or more lump sums) if the corporation needs to raise extra funds to meet its obligations.

The board sets contributions by taking into consideration the budgeted needs of the corporation and the unit factors (for each unit). Corporations can change the formula for allocating condominium contributions, if the owners pass a special resolution to amend the bylaws. Make sure you know how your condominium contributions are calculated. Be aware that condominium contributions can and do go up!

A condominium corporation has the right to collect unpaid condominium contributions.

The corporation can:
• Ask the owner’s mortgage company to pay the outstanding amounts and add it to the owner’s mortgage.
• Require an owner’s tenant to pay the monthly rent to the corporation to cover the unpaid condominium contributions.
• File a caveat against the title to the unit at the owner’s expense.
• Charge interest (up to 18% per year on outstanding amounts).
• Sue the owner for all outstanding contributions, interest and its full legal fees.
• Foreclose on the title to the unit.

The board of directors, elected by the owners, makes most of the decisions on the running of the corporation. As an owner of a unit you have the right and obligation to vote. Your voting rights are determined by the Condominium Property Act, the bylaws of your condominium corporation and by the unit factor for your condominium unit.

At most general meetings, votes are conducted by a show of hands. The bylaws clarify who has the right to vote if more than 1 person owns the unit.

Bylaws permit owners to ask for poll votes at meetings. In a poll vote the person’s share of the unit factor assigned to the unit determines the weight of that owner’s vote.

You may exercise your right to vote personally or by proxy. If you have a mortgage, the first mortgagee may have the right to vote in your place if it gives the corporation written notice of the mortgage.

If you owe money to the corporation for 30 days or more on the day before a vote, you lose your right to vote.

Owners can vote on matters presented at any general meeting and on bylaw changes, changes to the common property and other matters permitted under the Act, regulation and the bylaws. It is important that owners vote to elect the board of directors and to change the bylaws.

Reserve Funds
The Condominium Property Act requires that condo corporations establish and maintain a capital replacement reserve fund to provide for major repairs and replacement of property and common property owned by the corporation. As buildings age they need to be repaired and maintained e.g. the roof of the complex needs to be replaced. The same is true of other parts of the common property such as the asphalt in the parking lot, underground utilities, or services and landscaping. Condo owners must pay for the repair or replacement costs of the property owned by the corporation. The reserve fund is not used for repairs or replacements that are done annually.

Condo corporations registered before September 1, 2000 must have completed a reserve fund study and a reserve fund plan by September 2002. Reserve fund studies must be conducted every 5 years.

Condo corporations registered after Sept. 1, 2000, have 2 years from the registration date to do a reserve fund study and approve a plan.

The Act gives the board the responsibility and power to make decisions around the reserve fund. Although a responsible board will provide information to and obtain input from the owners, it need not consult the owners before making decisions on the reserve fund.

The board must:
• Engage a qualified person to conduct and prepare a reserve fund study.
• Receive a reserve fund report from the qualified person.
• Prepare and adopt a reserve fund plan.
• Provide a copy of the approved reserve fund plan to the owners before implementing the plan.
• Maintain the reserve fund at an appropriate level so that the corporation can meet the statutory requirements.
• Maintain the reserve fund in a separate trust bank account and not combine the funds with other corporation funds except when bills are paid under the reserve fund plan and ensure all managers or other persons handling the corporation money do the same.
• Prepare and provide to the owners, before or at the time of giving notice of every annual general meeting, an annual report on the reserve fund; including the opening balance, money in and out, where the income came from, what money was spent during the year and the list of property repaired or replaced and the costs incurred for the repair or replacement.
• Not use the reserve fund for “improvements” unless the owners vote by special resolution to allow it (improvements are normally changes, enhancements, alterations or additions to the common property or property owned by the Corporation which are not listed in the reserve fund study report).

How much money should be in the reserve fund?
Each condo corporation will have a different amount in its reserve fund. The corporation determines how much money it should have in its reserve fund by completing a reserve fund study. The reserve fund study is prepared for use by the condo board, owners and buyers. It is not reviewed by the government.

How is the reserve fund funded?
Corporations may meet their funding requirements by:
• Increasing condo contributions (permanently or for a set period).
• Levying special assessments (immediately or in the future).
• Borrowing money.
• Using any combination of the above requirements.

This gives the corporation maximum flexibility as to how and when to deal with repair and replacement costs, while at the same time enabling it to deal with any potential surprises and undue hardship for owners.

For example, if the corporation does not have enough money in the reserve fund to cover significant repairs or incurs other large unexpected expenses, the board may require each condominium owner to pay a special assessment to cover the costs.

Reserve Fund Study
The Reserve Fund Study is a requirement of the Condominium Property Act and examines whether there is sufficient money set aside to repair and replace the common property and any real or personal property owned by the condo corporation, where the repair or replacement does not occur annually. A qualified person must, complete the reserve fund study and prepare a report for the common property and other property owned by the corporation to:
• identify what property may need to be repaired or replaced within the next 25 years (create an inventory).
• assess the present condition of the property and estimate when the property will need to be replaced or repaired.
• estimate the costs of repair or replacement or the property, at a cost no less than current costs.
• identify the life expectancy of the component when it is repaired or replaced.
• identify the current level of funds in the reserve fund, if any.
• recommend the amount of money, if any, that should be included in or added to the reserve fund.
• describe the basis for determining the current level of funds and recommend the amount of money required.

Who can do a reserve fund study?
Only a “qualified person” can do a reserve fund study.

A qualified person would be someone who, based on reasonable and objective criteria, is knowledgeable about:
• Depreciating property.
• The operation and maintenance of depreciating property.
• The costs of replacements or repairs to depreciating property.

Your Rights and Responsibilities for living in a condo
When you own a condominium unit you have the right to:
• Vote in matters presented to the owners for a vote, provided your condo fees are current.
• Access common areas, subject to the bylaws.
• Obtain information on the management or administration of the corporation.
• Use mediation, arbitration or court action to resolve disputes with the corporation, the board or other owners.
• Legally challenge improper conduct of a developer, condominium corporation, employee of a corporation, director, or other owner.

Along with having specific rights as a condominium owner, you also have the following responsibilities:

• To inform yourself about the Act, the regulation, the bylaws, the policies and the governance of the condominium corporation.
• To abide by the Act, the regulation, the bylaws, the policies, and to have your family, tenants and guests do so.
• To participate in governing the condo corporation (i.e. attend general meetings, information sessions and serve on the board or on a committee, vote).
• To read the minutes of the general meetings and board meetings, the budget and financial statements, the corporation’s newsletter.
• To express your views, provide feedback to the board when requested to do so, put any complaints or concerns in writing to the board for follow up.
• To keep the board aware of circumstances in the condo complex which might affect funding or other decisions.
• To maintain your own unit and any exclusive use common property.
• To obtain insurance on your unit and your own belongings.
• To pay all condo contributions and assessments on time.

Every owner should have a copy of the condo plan, the bylaws, the Act and regulations. Owners can get a copy of the condo plan and bylaws from a registry agent. You will need to know the condo plan number (letters and/or numbers) to obtain these documents.

Taxes
You will pay municipal taxes on your condo unit. The current taxes should be noted in the purchase documents. It’s a good idea to double check with the municipal government to confirm the taxes.

Entering the Unit
No one may enter your unit without your consent or without giving you proper notice unless there is an emergency. An emergency would include the provision of water, power, and heat or any other service that would affect other owners. If there is no emergency, you must be given at least 24 hours notice before someone can enter your unit to repair the problem. The notice must be in writing, state the reason for entry and set a date and time for entry. The hours for entry are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Renting Units
If you want to rent your unit to someone else, you must inform the corporation in writing of your intent, your future address and the amount of the monthly rent. You must name your tenant in writing to the corporation within 20 days after the tenancy starts.

The corporation may require that you pay a deposit that could be used to repair or replace common property damaged by your tenant. The amount of the deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent.

If you do not pay your condo fees, the corporation can direct the tenant to pay all or part of the rent to the corporation to cover your unpaid fees.

The tenant is bound by the bylaws of the corporation. If your tenant contravenes the bylaws or damages the common property or the corporation’s property, the corporation can ask you to evict the tenant. It can also give the tenant and you the notice directly.

The Residential Tenancies Act may affect you and your tenant if you are renting a residential unit. If there is a conflict between the Residential Tenancies Act and the Condominium Property Act, the Condominium Property Act applies.

How to Use Prepayments to Be Mortgage Free, Faster

Wed, 14 Jun by Pauline Relkey

Using your mortgage prepayment options can drastically reduce the total amount you spend on your mortgage and shorten the time it takes to pay it down. If you follow these 3 steps, you can be mortgage free sooner than ever!

1. Know your prepayment privileges
Most mortgages have allowances for you to prepay down your mortgage faster. The standard prepayment amount allowed per payment can vary depending on your mortgage provider.

Your mortgage provider may be able to increase and decrease your prepayment privilege at any time throughout the life of your mortgage.

This means that if any life event occurs and you need to reduce your payment to the minimum, you might be able to. Most mortgage providers allow this free of charge, but with some providers you can only change your payments a set number of times throughout the year.

2. Increase your payments
Anytime you increase your payments, the excess that you pay per payment goes directly onto the principal portion of your mortgage. This is a great way to drastically reduce the interest you will have to pay over the term of your mortgage.

Typical prepayments allow you to add between 10% to 20% of your payment amount to each payment, depending on your lender. Some lenders also allow the use of “double up payments” which let you double each payment!

Here’s an example of prepayments being used on a typical mortgage:

All calculations are based off of a $400,000 mortgage with a 5 year term and 25 year amortization at a rate of 2.59% with monthly payments.

No Prepayments:
Monthly payments: $1,809.84
Principal paid over 5 year term: $60,836.51
Interest paid over 5 year term: $47,753.89
Mortgage amount remaining: $339,163.49
Years remaining on mortgage after 5 years: 20 Years

Adding a 15% Prepayment:
Monthly payments: $2,081.32
Principal paid over 5 year term: $78,201.00
Interest paid over 5 year term: $46,678.20
Mortgage amount remaining: $321,799.00
Years remaining on mortgage after 5 years: 15 years & 9 months

As you can see, the mortgage was reduced by $17,364.49 and you saved $1,075.69 in interest! The mortgage term was reduced by 9 years and 3 months in only 5 years!

3. Make a lump sum prepayment
Making a large payment can be a great option for paying down your mortgage, but may not be ideal for everyone. Lump sum payments help you reduce the amount of interest you will be required to pay on your mortgage. They can also be used to reduce your mortgage amount before selling your home and will reduce the penalty you will be required to pay.

Lump sum payments are usually between 10% – 25% of the mortgage total. Typically, you can make a lump sum payment onto your mortgage once a year. Every mortgage provider has their own specific guidelines for how you can make a lump sum payment in a calendar year. Your provider may require you put down a minimum amount for a lump sum prepayment, or you may only be eligible for one on the anniversary date of your mortgage.

If you decide that prepayments are for you, you can achieve mortgage freedom sooner than ever!

Contact me today if you are looking for a mortgage person and I will be happy to connect you with a couple of great people I have worked with.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Association of Regina REALTORS® Inc.. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.