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Sask Power Outages

Mon, 30 Apr by Pauline Relkey

Are you wondering if your area will have a planned outage soon? Check Sask Power’s website to plan ahead. Click here.

When an Outage Occurs

  • Step 1: Determine if the power failure is limited to your home

    • If your neighbours have power, check your electrical panel to see if the main circuit breaker has tripped. Even if it appears to be on, turn the breaker off and back on again to ensure a good connection.

    Step 2: If your electrical panel or main breaker isn’t the cause of the outage, call 310-2220.

    • Turn off or unplug any appliances, computers or electronics you were using when the power went out. Leave one light on so you’ll know when your power returns.
    • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed. If the power is out for a long time, make sure you check all refrigerated and frozen food before you eat it.
    • Close all doors, windows and drapes to conserve heat (unless the sun is shining in).
    • Never light a fire indoors unless you’re using an approved fire place or wood stove.
    • When faced with multiple outages, Sask Power prioritizes as follows:

      1. Life threatening or hazardous situations like power lines that have fallen on a road or vehicle.
      2. Large outages — Main lines and major equipment that return power to the largest number of customers.
      3. Small, isolated outages — Secondary lines and neighbourhood equipment.

When the Power Is Restored

They restore power when repairs are complete. If your neighbour’s power has returned and yours has not, there could be a problem specific to your home. Recheck your main breaker and reset it even if it appears to be on.

Occasionally, the power goes out again; this is sometimes the sign of another unidentified problem. Make sure to call us every time the power goes out (after you’ve checked your own main breaker). If power is not restored, call us toll-free at 310-2220.

I saved 2 lives!!

Wed, 07 Feb by Pauline Relkey

Yes, believe it or not this really happened to me. Here is my real life story.

A couple months ago, I was going to pick up an item I had agreed to purchase on Varagesale. Varagesale is an app that connects with Facebook and enables you to buy and sell stuff locally.

As I was walking up the outside stairs of this house, I thought I could detect a natural gas smell which usually means there is a leak nearby. It could come from a gas furnace or gas fireplace or gas appliances, etc. The mother of the girl who was selling the item answered the door and when I told her why I was there, she said she would get her daughter. I told this lady that I could smell gas and she should probably call our local gas company and have them come out and check. There is no cost for this and it’s for safety reasons. The lady either didn’t seem to really care or wasn’t comprehending what I was saying when I told her this. The daughter came out and we exchanged money and the shirt that I was buying and I left.

When I got back into my vehicle, I thought about what just happened and got the impression that the lady would not place the call so I took it upon myself to call the gas company. The person that answered my call was a bit surprised that I was calling about someone else’s property and not my own. But I explained to her that I am a Realtor and have smelt this a few times before when I had gone into properties and recognized this smell again. So this lady said they would look into this situation.

Very shortly after, I received a phone call from one of the employees of this gas company who said that he was outside this property and got a reading of 2 which he said was very high to get outside and it meant that the whole house was full of gas. He said that the people inside weren’t answering the door when they knocked and he didn’t even want to call them on the phone because that could set off an explosion. So I went back on Varagesale and messaged this person to answer her door and to get out of the house immediately as there was a gas leak and it was dangerous to be there.

She did message me later to say thanks. The gas employee also told me that I basically saved their lives by calling in the gas leak. I was both happy that no one was hurt and freaked out that something like this could have ended up in a tragedy.

So there, to all my friends and family that critique my use of Varagesale.  By using Varagesale, I saved 2 lives!

PS How do you detect a leak? Follow your senses!

Use your NOSE
SaskEnergy adds an odour to natural gas so you will quickly know if there’s a problem. If you smell an odour that is similar to skunk or rotten eggs, there may be a natural gas leak.

Use your EYES
You cannot see natural gas, however if you SEE a vapour, ground frosting, or a significant area of brown vegetation, that could be an indication of a natural gas leak. As well, if you SEE continuous bubbling of wet or flooded areas, or dust blowing from a hole in the ground during drier conditions, there may be a natural gas leak.

Use your EARS
If you HEAR a high-pitched hissing or roaring noise, there may be a natural gas leak.

TAKE ACTION!
If you suspect a leak indoors or outdoors:

  • Leave the home or area immediately
  • DO NOT use any electrical switches, appliances, telephones, motor vehicles, or any other sources of ignition such as lighters
    or matches
  • Call SaskEnergy’s 24-hour emergency line from a safe place
    1-888-7000-GAS (427)
  • DO NOT assume that the issue has already been reported or
    that someone else will call.

$25 Gas Detector Rebate

The most common way to detect a natural gas leak is using your sense of smell. The use of a gas detector is an additional and/or alternative safety measure for detecting a natural gas leak.

  • Most gas detectors also detect carbon monoxide. These detectors are appropriate for your home.
  • You may want to consider purchasing a second gas detector for your garage, keeping in mind that a carbon monoxide detector is not appropriate for a garage.
  • Smoke detectors do not detect natural gas.

If the warning alarm on your gas detector goes off, be sure to follow the same precautionary steps as indicated above – leave the area immediately and phone 1-888-7000-GAS (427).

Gas Detector Rebate Form

Gas Detector Rebate – Questions & Answers

How will SaskEnergy respond?

In the event of a natural gas emergency, SaskEnergy and local community response teams will:

  • Respond to the suspected site immediately
  • Assess the source of the problem and ensure the site is cleared of anyone whose safety may be at risk
  • Communicate and advise customers regarding a resolution plan

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/

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.

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.

It’s Time to say Good-bye to Single Family Homes

Wed, 09 Nov by Pauline Relkey

Interesting talk on CBC Radio.

Nathan Lauster, author of Death and Life of Single Family Homes says that places like Vancouver are becoming unaffordable to buy a house and we should look at other ways to live.

When we live in a single family home, there are environmental costs – we use more energy, we need vehicles to get around and need more land to build on.
Plus it’s isolating. We need to get people out to meet others.

The alternatives are townhouses, low and high rises and duplexes.

We buy single family homes for 2 reasons:
1. Cultural – to show that we are successful and can afford to buy a home and that we are good people/parents and provide a home for our children.
2. Pragmatic – we can control our space.

Nathan says that we can have a more full life when we get rid of maintenance issues. One person says the local cafe is his kitchen, the park is his family room for example.

Municipalities have to change their zoning bylaws to enable more people to live in less space. We usually live in one part of town, work in another part of town and shop in yet another part of town.

What is Vancouver doing to lead the way?
They have parks and agricultural land that is protected space so no development happens on them.
They have made industrial areas as exciting places to live.
They enabled old houses to mix in with new builds.
They have secondary suites/laneway houses (and so does Regina).

single-family-homes-or-town-houses.   To hear the radio podcast, click here.

Don’t all Realtors do the same thing?

Tue, 25 Oct by Pauline Relkey

Yes and no.

I was crushed when one of my very nice past clients said this to me recently. She had asked about the going commission rates and was checking around with other agents and companies before she and her spouse listed a property of theirs for sale. I know to never assume anything, but hearing this come from a past client of mine who had dealt with me a couple times and referred people to me to buy and sell, was still a shock to me.  I guess I shouldn’t assume because someone has dealt with me, that they will automatically deal with me over and over.  I really try to give my loyalty to businesses that treat me well and to also send them other business because I am grateful for great service and I hope that people will do the same for me.

Yes I think it is wise to check around and get 2 to 3 quotes for any ‘big’ job such as renovating, selling or buying a property, landscaping, etc, so that you feel good about your decision. But I firmly believe you tend to get what you pay for.

And yet this conversation made me think about the subject – don’t we do the same thing?

Yes – when you list a property for sale, the object is to get the property sold so agents really do the same thing. BUT how we do it is another thing.

Does your agent SHOW you, in writing, listings and sales in your area so that you feel comfortable knowing what is going on in your particular neighbourhood and how your property will compare with others? Does your agent take the time to give you advice on how to best get your home ready for sale or accept it in ‘as is’ condition and not say anything? You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to when it comes to repairs or staging or cleaning, but most sellers tend to want to get as much on the price as they can, and doing some of these things will tend to help you get that better price.

Does your agent have a list of tried and true contacts to share with you, whether it is a painter, a real estate lawyer, mortgage broker or a landscaper? Over 25 years I have collected and maintained such a list that comes in handy for me and my clients. These are people and businesses that have helped either me or my clients with a job and because they did a great job, they now come highly recommended and the list is continually updated because things change.

Does your agent tell you what he/she is going to do to sell your property BEFOREHAND and actually do what they promised? It’s easy to make promises, but it’s another story when it comes to carrying them out.  Where will your property be advertised? How many pictures will there be online for buyers to look at? Where do most of sales come from and is that where your property will be advertised?

Does your agent take the listing for your property, then not contact you for days, weeks and even months? Or are you kept in the loop by phone calls, texts and/or emails keeping you informed (telling you what the showing feedback is, how many inquiries have come in about your property and from where, suggestions on what to do with the property to make it appeal to buyers, what not to do when your property is listed such as staying in the property during a showing, sharing details about why you are selling, where you are moving, etc – anything that could hurt your chances for a sale).

Does your agent share their past records of their sales to show you what they have done? Or do they just tell you they are successful?

Is your agent willing to share references with you so that you can call them to ask about their experience with this agent?

Does your agent stay up to date with training and education or get their license and only do the bare minimum to stay licensed?

Does your agent discuss things like alarm systems, home insurance, rentals in the property (furnace, water heater, water softener, etc) and how to best handle these things or are you left alone to figure this out?

Does your agent show you statistics on how she/he compares to the average agent? or do you even care?

Does your agent explain the commission (rate, how it is divided, how you compare to other listings, etc)?

Does your agent take the time to listen to you, ask questions as to what you have enjoyed about this property, know where to find buyers for your property?

Does your agent get as much info ahead of time so that you aren’t rushed later (surveyors certificate/real property report, tax bill, utility bills, pictures of the property, real estate lawyer, mortgage info, etc)?

Does your agent show you stats on what works to sell a property and what is fluff?

Is your agent honest in pricing your house or an order taker who just agrees with you to take the listing?

Is your agent up to date on the latest CMHC changes, interest rates, home buyer plans?

Let me tell you about my ‘getting what you pay for’ story that happened years ago.

I questioned why I was paying so much for a haircut or color at my regular hairdresser’s shop.  I liked her.  She seemed to know what she was doing.  She always had suggestions on what was in style, what cut would look good on me, hints on how to style it myself, etc.

But I wanted to be the wise shopper and decided to get a haircut at one of those less expensive places.  So I walked into the place of business.  The business is nowhere to be found today, so that is hint number 1.  I asked for a haircut and was politely greeted and told to sit in the chair and the lady started cutting my hair.  I was surprised that she didn’t have me sit at the sink to get my hair washed first.  I questioned her about this and she said “for another $2 or $3 she could wash it.”

“Yes please” I said.  So she washed my hair.  Then she told me to go sit in her chair again.  I asked her if she was going to use any conditioner. She said that if I wanted some, that would be a few dollars more.  “Yes please” I said.

Now we were at the cutting hair part.  She cut my hair, then said “we’re done.”  I was sitting there with a haircut but still with wet hair.  “Aren’t you going to blow dry my hair?” I questioned.

“Sure” she said “for more cost.”

“Yes please” was becoming my saying at this point.

Then she said “you’re done” after she blow dried my hair.

“Aren’t you going to style it?” I questioned.

“If you want it styled, that will be more cost”, she said.

Here we go  with “yes please” again.

So after all that, I learnt that yes you can usually get things gone cheaper, but do your homework and find out exactly what is included and what isn’t included.  Sometimes that big savings turns out to not be a savings after all.

Preparing Your Home for the Home Inspection

Wed, 06 Apr by Pauline Relkey

PREPARING YOUR HOME FOR THE HOME INSPECTION home inspection

A home inspection is a common request for most home buyers. The inspection is a visual inspection only. The inspector will not open walls or move your contents in the home. A proper inspection will leave the home in the exact condition it was in prior to the inspection.

Every attempt should be made to ensure the inspector and buyer have full access to the home. By restricting the inspection, you are allowing the imagination of the buyer to conjure up any number of problems for the unknown area of the home whereas the true condition of the home is almost always less dramatic than what is imagined. Also a request by the buyer, after the initial inspection, to access the restricted area will often cause delays in removing the home inspection condition on the offer and additional expense to the buyer for the inspector to return to the home.

• Ensure the attic access is accessible If located in a closet, remove the contents and shelves in the closet. If the access is sealed shut, cut the seal, as the inspector will not damage any part of your home.

• Any crawlspace access should be made accessible.

• Clear away contents in front of the electrical panel, furnace and water heater.

• Ensure the sump pit is accessible.

• If the appliances are included in the sale of the home, ensure the washer is empty as the inspector will not test this unit and risk damaging your clothes.

• If the home is vacant, ensure the water is turned on and the furnace/water are also operable. A home inspector will not operate water shut off valves or light pilot lights.

• Light the fireplace pilot light and test the unit. If the fireplace has not been operated in some time, disclose this to the buyer or hire a qualified contractor to service and start the fireplace.

• When the buyer is meeting with the inspector in the home, don’t be there. You want the buyer and inspector to be comfortable discussing all aspects of the home. Any questions that may arise during the inspection can be handled by the realtors after the inspection.

• When in doubt, ask your realtor. They are there to assist you in all areas of the sale of your home.

Thanks to Ryan Spriggs, owner and operator of Spriggs Inspection Inc. for providing this important information.

5 Common Real Estate Buying Mistakes

Thu, 15 Oct by Pauline Relkey

Some home buyers have buying regrets.  Here are the top 5.

1. Buying too big of a home. Buyers may think at the time having a big home is what they want, but after moving in, they may later regret the expense and upkeep of maintaining a big home. Cooling and heating bills can be much higher and just cleaning the place can become a much bigger chore. Also if the room size is big, buyers may find their furniture a mismatch and too small. Buyers – bring a tape measure to verify that your furniture would work in the space and also consider the utility bills plus the cost of renos and upgrades for a larger house and yard.

2. Awkward layouts. The kitchen island is often a desirable amenity among home buyers – it can add prep space, after all.  But kitchen islands can be a mistake if you don’t take your ‘work triangle’ into account (fridge, stove and sink placements).  Buyers should walk around the kitchen and consider their usual prepping and cooking patterns.

3. Not considering what’s missing. Architects and remodelers sometimes will remove something from a room to give it a more modern, cleaner feel. For example, there is a trend to eliminate the bathtub in favor of just a shower.  Some home owners regret that decision because sometimes they find themselves wishing for a nice long soak after a tough day.

4. Pools. For some home buyers, the pool can become a selling-point that later turns into a source of regret. Pools can be costly and some buyers may fail to consider the all of the additional costs. For example, there’s regularly monthly maintenance and cleaning as well as pools in seasonal areas often are opened and closed by a professional. It can cost upward of $600 just to open a pool and prepare it for swimmers. pool

5. Falling for fads. Today’s popular stainless steel appliances, steel countertops and Edison bulb light fixtures are yesterday’s saloon doors, linoleum and brass hardware.  If you buy a house just for its trendy look, you may end up regretting it when the styles change, especially if you have to sell the outdated design.  Buyers should look for timeless features – classic, well-designed homes.

Call Before You Dig

Sat, 24 Jan by Pauline Relkey

With just one phone call, you can notify SaskEnergy, SaskTel, SaskPower, TransGas and other subscriber companies about your plans to dig or excavate.  If you cut lines when you dig, you could create an unsafe situation and interrupt important services, including emergency 911, plus damages can be costly.

Call or submit your request online today 1-866-828-4888 or click here.

They need 2 working days notice to mark the underground lines free of charge.

call before digging

 

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.