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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.

8 Things to Consider Before Selling Your Home

Mon, 26 Feb by Pauline Relkey

As winter moves closer to the finish line, the annual spring real estate market heats up. There are many things to consider before you put your home on the market – here are 8 of the more critical ones.

1. Budget

Know what you can afford so that you don’t stretch yourself thin. Talk to your mortgage person.

2. Know the costs.

There are plenty of expenses when selling your home. Some are straightforward such as renovations and paying for movers. Others may not be as obvious – nor who pays for them – such as land transfer taxes (buyer pays), real estate agent commissions (seller), mortgage insurance (buyer), legal fees, bank fees and possibly capital gains taxes.

3. Find out your home’s worth.

Knowing how much you’re likely to get for your home can dictate how much you may be able to afford when buying another house. Do your research by checking what similar homes have sold for in your neighbourhood. The best way to do this is to meet with your Realtor who will be listing your house for sale.

4. Choose a real estate agent.

You can choose to sell your home yourself to save the commission fees – but you also incur all the responsibility for writing legal contracts. Of course, I suggest that you choose a trusted real estate agent who knows your area and by asking for referrals. If your Realtor helped you find your present property and has stayed in touch with you, give her/him a call.

5. Decide when to sell.

Do you sell during the traditional peak markets of spring and summer or or off-season? Selling during the peak means more buyers and possible bidding wars, while selling off season means fewer homes competing with yours. As the saying goes, 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

6. Add visual appeal.

Creating curb appeal is an obvious benefit, but don’t forget to freshen up the interior as well. Make any minor renovations, declutter and consider staging, because professionally staged homes typically sell faster and for more.

7. Get a home inspection done.

While buyers will probably get their own inspections done, having one ready says that you’re confident in your home and have nothing to hide because you have taken care of what work is needed – it provides peace of mind for everyone.

8. Coordinate closing dates.

Being able to move from one home to another on the same day can be hectic and cause you stress. Hopefully you can take possession of your new place before you have to be out of your present one. If not, you may have to either rent another home short-term, put belongings in storage and generally cause unnecessary upheaval in your life. Talk to your bank about bridge financing.

Do you know your Credit Score?

Wed, 14 Feb by Pauline Relkey

GET YOUR CREDIT REPORT
Your credit history is an important part of your future – it can open doors for you or keep them locked. Decisions including approvals for loans and mortgage or rental applications may be affected by your credit history.

Make payments on time and always pay at least the minimum amount required
Notify creditors as soon as you move to ensure bills will arrive at your new location on time
Notify creditors right away if you experience problems making a payment
Review the accuracy of your credit report by checking with one of the two largest credit reporting agencies – Equifax or TransUnion
To receive a copy of your personal credit report, please send a written request to one of the following credit reporting agencies:

EQUIFAX CANADA INC.
Consumer Relations Department
Box 190 Jean Talon Station
Montreal, QC
H1S 2Z2
Phone: 1-800-465-7166
Fax: 1-514-355-8502
www.equifax.ca to complete and mail Equifax’s Credit Report Request form.

Requirements:
Equifax requires a written credit report request including your name, address, date of birth and Social Insurance Number (optional). Please also include photocopies of two forms of identification (both sides) and remember to sign your request.

TRANSUNION OF CANADA
(For all provinces except for Quebec)
Consumer Relations Centre
P.O. Box 338, LCD 1
Hamilton, ON
L8L 7W2
Phone: 1-800-663-9980
7 a.m. until 8 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday
Visit www.tuc.ca for TransUnion’s Consumer Relations Information form

TRANSUNION (ECHO GROUP)
(For Quebec residents)
1 Place Laval
Suite 370
Laval, QC
H7N 1A1
Phone: 1-877-713-3393 or 1-514-335-0374
8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday
Visit www.tuc.ca for TransUnion’s Consumer Relations Information form

Requirements:
TransUnion requires a written credit report request including your name, address, previous address (if present address is less than five years), phone number (optional), date of birth, place of employment (optional), and Social Insurance Number (optional).

Please also include photocopies of two forms of identification (both sides) from the following list:

Driver’s Licence
Passport
Certificate of Indian Status
Age of Majority/Provincial ID
Citizenship Card
Department of National Defense Card
Firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence (with photo only)
Social Insurance Number (optional)
Credit Card (primary account holder)
Or, you can include one or more of the above along with one of the following:

Credit Card (secondary account holder)
Birth Certificate
Legion Card
Hunting/Fishing Licence
T4 Slip
Student Card (only with photo, signature and currently enrolled)
Employee ID/Union Card (only with photo, signature and current employer)
If more than one member of your household is requesting their credit report, each separate request must contain all of the above information.

Lessons learned from Adam Carolla

Tue, 23 Jan by Pauline Relkey

Some of you may have watched his show called To Catch a Contractor.

Before launching a successful career as a TV and radio personality, Adam Carolla was a master carpenter and home builder, so he knows the work of skilled craftsmen when he sees it. Likewise, he can spot shoddy construction, and in this series he trains his eye on building blunders and the contractors responsible for them. With the help of no-nonsense builder Skip Bedell and his wife, private investigator Alison Bedell, Carolla seeks retribution for homeowners who have experienced a construction nightmare, by tracking down unscrupulous contractors and forcing them to face the wronged parties. The contractors are then given a chance to redeem themselves by fixing messes they left behind — all while under Adam’s and Skip’s watchful .

I watched a few of his shows lately and was pleasantly surprised by some of the lessons that rang so true for me.

The first lesson hit home – Don’t work out of your area of expertise.  This is so true for most, if not all occupations.  If you’re not sure of what you are doing, get some help from an experienced person or refer the job/client to them.  I have experienced this situation many times over the last 26 years in real estate and I do feel badly when I have to tell one of my clients, “No, I don’t work in that area of real estate, but I can connect you with someone good that does work in that area.”  I have chosen to work residential in Regina and close areas around Regina, but real estate in commercial, acreages, cottages is not my area of preference or expertise.  Yes I was licensed quite a few years ago and even though my license does include those specific areas, I have not pursued them because I don’t have the interest in them and haven’t pursued more training in those areas.  I let the people that know what they are doing in these fields handle the clients.

Another lesson he talked about was “Don’t undercut your competition to get the job.”  So true.  Real estate commissions are a high number and we turn blue explaining why (our costs from advertising to insurance to memberships to our split with our company and with the buyers company, etc.)  The costs are a lot of money and thankfully they usually come from the sale price of the house as most property sellers don’t happen to have that amount of money just hanging around, waiting to be spent.

Undercutting happens a lot in my business and it hurts all of us.  Usually the agents that undercut other agents will also undercut their work for their client.  Maybe they don’t advertise as much as others, maybe they don’t spend time following up on showings and leads, maybe they don’t keep in contact with their seller, don’t keep on top of the real estate market and share that info with their clients, etc.  Unfortunately the seller doesn’t find this out until it is too late and they have listed with the agent who offered the lowest commission.  Food for thought – if that agent was so quick to give up their money (commission), how quick do you think they will be to give up your money (sale price of your property) when an offer comes in?  I’ve always believed in the saying, you get what you pay for.  Thanks Adam.

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.

Top 5 Things Buyers Should Know When Buying Real Estate

Thu, 15 Dec by Pauline Relkey

There are 9 million Canadian millennials, representing more than 25% of our population. Born between 1980 and 1999, the eldest are in the early stages of their careers, forming households and buying their first homes. Buying a home is a daunting process for anyone, but especially so for the first-time home buyer. This is the largest and most important financial decision you will ever make and it should be done with the appropriate investment in time and energy. Making the effort to be financially literate will save you thousands of dollars and assure you make the right decisions for your longer-term financial security.

1. Don’t rush into the housing market. (can you believe that I am saying that as a Realtor?)
Do your homework and learn the basics of savings, credit and budgeting.  Lifelong savings is a crucial ingredient to financial prosperity. You must spend less than you earn, ideally saving at least 10% of your gross income. Do your savings automatically, having at least 10% of every paycheck put into a savings account. Hopefully if you don’t see the money, you won’t spend it. Contributing to an RRSP, especially if you are fortunate enough to have any matching funds from your employer, is essential.

The Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) is an ideal vehicle for saving for a down payment and now you can contribute as much as $10,000 per year.

400-07048228 © frenta Model Release: No Property Release: No Puppets with piggy banks and coins. Isolated over white

You also need to establish a good credit record. Lenders want to see a record of your ability to pay your bills. As early as possible, get a credit card and put your name on phone and utility bills. Pay your bills and your rent in full and on time. Do not run up credit card lines of credit. The interest rates are exorbitant and the only one who benefits is your bank. Keep your credit card balances well below their credit limit.

Do a free credit check with Equifax and TransUnion once per year to learn your credit score and to see if there are any problems. They do make mistakes and sometimes put someone else’s problems on your report. Or you might think that the problem you had is all taken care of and you discover that the company you dealt with did not inform these credit places of the situation. I have done this more than once for myself and it can be a pain, but you are responsible for your own credit report and it’s good to know what info these companies have about you and if it needs updating.  These companies track all of your credit history, which includes student loans, car loans, credit cards and cell phone bills. Then they grade you based on your responsible usage and payments.

Budgeting is also essential and it is easier than ever with online apps. You need to know how you spend your money to discover where there is waste and opportunity for savings. The CMHC Household Budget Calculator or any other online budget calculator helps you take a realistic look at your current monthly expenses.

2. Make a realistic projectory of your future household income and lifestyle and understand its implications for choosing the right property for you.
Millennials are likely relatively new to the working world. Lenders want to see stability in employment and you generally need to show at least 2 years of steady income before you can be considered for a mortgage. This also applies if you have been working for a few years in one career and then decide to change careers to something completely different. Lenders want to see continuous employment in the same field. If you are self-employed, it is more challenging, and you need professional advice on taking the proper steps to qualify for a mortgage.

Assess the stability of your job and the likely trajectory of your income. Millennials will not follow in the footsteps of their parents, working for 1 employer for 40 to 50 years. In today’s world, no one has guaranteed job security. Take a realistic view of your future. Will your household income be rising? Will there be one income or two? Are there children in your future? Will you remain in the same city?
The answers to these questions help to determine how much space you need, the appropriate type of residence, its location and the best mortgage for you. Financial planning is key and it is dependent on your goals and expectations.

3. This is not a Do-It-Yourself project: build a team of trusted professionals to guide you along.
You need expert advice. The first person you should talk to is an accredited mortgage professional. There is no out-of-pocket cost for their services. Indeed, they will save you money. These people are trained financial planners and understand the ever-changing mortgage market. Take some time with them to understand the process before you jump in and find your head spinning with all the decisions you will ultimately have to make. They will give you a realistic idea of your borrowing potential. Before you fall in love with a house or condo, make sure you understand where you stand on the mortgage front. Mortgages are complex and one size does not fit all. You need an expert who will shop for the right mortgage for you. There are more than 200 mortgage lenders in Canada and they will compete for your business.

It is a very good idea to get a pre-approved mortgage amount before you start shopping (mandatory in my books). Just becuase you work with someone at a similar job, this doesn’t mean that you will qualify for the same amount of mortgage as your co-worker.  One of you might have more debt or more savings than the other, or issues with your credit report. Getting pre-approved is a more detailed process than just a rate hold (where a particular mortgage rate is guaranteed for a specified period of time). For a pre-approval, the lender will review all of your documentation except for the actual property. There is far more to the correct mortgage decision than the interest rate you will pay. While getting the lowest rate is usually the first thing on every buyer’s mind, it shouldn’t be the most important. Six out of ten buyers break a 5 year term mortgage by the third year, paying enormous penalties. These penalties vary between lenders. The fine print of your mortgage is key and that’s where an expert can save you money. How the penalty for breaking a mortgage is calculated is key and many lenders have significantly more consumer-friendly calculations than the major banks. A mortgage broker will help you find a mortgage with good prepayment privileges.

The next step is to engage a great real estate agent.           pauline-yellow-jacket-2-relkey-7092rev-2x3-300dpi hint hint

The seller pays the fee and a qualified realtor with good references will understand the housing market in your location. Make sure the property has lasting value. Once you find the right home, you will need a real estate lawyer, a home inspector, an insurance agent and possibly an appraiser. Make any offer conditional on a home inspection and financing, among other conditions that your realtor will help you with.

4. Down payments, closing costs, moving expenses and basic upgrades need to be understood to avoid nasty surprises.
The size of your down payment is key and, obviously, the bigger the better. You need a minimum of 5% of the purchase price and anything less than 20% will require you to pay a hefty CMHC mortgage loan insurance premium, which is frequently added to the mortgage principal and amortized over the life of the mortgage as part of the monthly payment. Your lender will want to know the source of your down payment. Many Millennials will depend on their parents to top up their down payment. The down payment, however, is only part of the upfront cost. You can expect to pay from 1.5 to 4% of the purchase price of your home in closing costs. These costs include legal fees, appraisals, property transfer tax, GST on new properties, home and title insurance, mortgage life insurance and prepaid property tax and utility adjustments. These can amount to thousands of dollars. Don’t forget moving costs and essential upgrades to the property such as draperies or blinds in the bedroom.

5. Test drive your monthly housing payments to learn how much you can truly afford.
Affordability is not about how much credit you can qualify for, but how much you can reasonably tolerate given your current and future income, stability, lifestyle and budget. Most Millennials underestimate what it costs to run a home, be it a condo or single-family residence.

The formal qualification guidelines used by lenders are two-fold:
1) your housing costs must be no more than 32% of your gross (pre-tax) household income; and,
2) your housing costs plus all other debt servicing must be no more than 40% of your gross income. Lenders define housing costs as mortgage payments, property taxes, condo fees (if any) and heating costs.
3) But homes cost more than that. In your planning, you should also other utilities (such as energy, power and water), ongoing maintenance, home insurance and unexpected repairs. Taking all of these costs into consideration, the 32% and 40% guidelines might well put an unacceptable crimp in your lifestyle, keeping in mind that future children also add meaningfully to household expenses and 2 incomes can unexpectedly turn into 1.
The best way to know what you can afford is to try it out. Say, for example, you qualify for a mortgage payment of $1400 per month and adding property taxes and condo fees might take your monthly housing expense to $1650. A far cry from the $500 you pay now to split a place with 3 roommates. Start making the full payment before you buy to your savings account and see how it feels. Do you have enough money left over to maintain a tolerable lifestyle without going further into debt?  Yes it might be a bit tight, but if you really want to be a home owner, you will make some sacrifices for that goal.  Keep in mind that this is not a normal interest rate environment. Don’t over-extend because there is a good chance interest rates will be higher when your term is up. Do the math (or better yet have your broker do it for you) on what a doubling of interest rates 5 years from now would do to your monthly payment. A doubling of rates may be unlikely, but it makes sense to know the implication.

Do Your Calculations Look Discouraging?
If so, here are some things you can do to improve your situation:
Pay off some loans before you buy real estate.
Save for a larger down payment.
Take another look at your current household budget to see where you can spend less. The money you save can go towards a larger down payment.
Lower your home price — remember that your first home is not necessarily your dream home.

Footnotes:
People break mortgages because of:
– job change,
– decision to upsize or downsize,
– decision to change neighbourhoods,
– change in family status (marriage/divorce)
– to refinance.
The last thing you want to discover is that discharging a $400,000 mortgage and only being 3 years into a 5 year term is going to cost you $15,000.

Lenders now also assess you on a 5 year term, presently at 4.64% even though you might be getting a lower interest rate on your mortgage.

Thanks to many mortgage professionals of Dominion Lending Centres who contributed to this report.

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.