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Protect Yourself – Reading Strata Documents Properly

Take the time to do your due diligence before you buy – it can save you thousands of dollars

Almost daily, CHOA advisors receive a call from a buyer claiming there is an upcoming major special levy for repairs or a condition in the bylaws that they knew nothing about. The new owner is shocked by the new information and frustrated that neither the agent nor the seller told them anything. Unfortunately, the buyers often come to realize the information was in their hands, but they failed to review the documents, they refused to obtain documents, or they ignored the risks. As a condo buyer, obtaining as many of the strata documents as possible, and taking the time to read them, is your best insurance against unexpected problems.

What to Ask For

Knowing what documents to obtain, where to get them and the critical information to look for is an essential part of the home-buying process. Most buyers begin with the Information Certificate (Form B). The form discloses the unit’s current monthly strata fees, money owing by the owner other than amounts paid into court, any agreements an owner has signed where they have taken responsibility for the cost of any alterations, amounts owed for a special levy that has already been approved, projections of deficits, balance of the contingency fund, approved bylaw amendments not yet filed in land titles, any three-quarter votes approved but not yet filed in land titles, any court proceedings, any judgments or orders against a strata,  work orders or notices on the strata lot, number of current rentals, parking stalls and storage lockers allocated to the strata lot, rules and current budget of the strata, an owner developer’s rental disclosure establishing exemptions, and the most recent depreciation report. 
That is the basic menu of information that has to be disclosed for every strata corporation. But you should also take a look at other documents available to buyers that are rarely requested. An owner, tenant, or person authorized to request documents such as the real estate agent is permitted to request historic documents that may provide a buyer with critical information.

Digging Deeper

A copy of the insurance policy for example, is a good indication of the risks managed by the strata. If the water escape deductible is $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000, it is a good bet there have been frequent claims in the building. Your next question as a buyer is: what’s the cause? If it is a result of failed plumbing systems that need to be upgraded, special levies are on the horizon. Ask questions. It may be the upgrades are complete and it’s a matter of a few years before the deductibles come down again. As an owner, you are exposed to those high deductibles as a common expense for the strata, and personally if the cause of a flood is from your strata lot. 
The Strata Property Act also now requires strata corporations to maintain copies of any reports obtained by the strata corporation respecting repair and maintenance of major items, including engineering reports, risk management reports, sanitation reports, and environmental assessments. If there has been asbestos testing on the building, the strata must retain a copy of that report.

Go Back Two Years in the Strata Minutes

If you request and read the strata minutes of council meetings and general meetings for at least the past two years, they should provide you with a sense of the strata business. Make a list of maintenance, emergencies, long-term planning decisions, insurance claims, and funding decisions. You can cross reference them in the documents you receive. Sterile minutes where nothing happens is a strata that is generally hiding something.
“Buyer beware” for condo buyers should read, “buyer be aware.” If the strata corporation is not providing a document requested, or there is confusion about allocation of parking or storage, or there is missing information, you might want to rethink your decision. Read everything and if in doubt request more information. Five hours of your time could end up in you avoiding a $55,000 special levy.

Tony Gioventu
 Condominium Home Owners Association. Courtesy of REW.com

6 things to do when moving into a New House

Moving into your first home is exciting! But it also means you’ve got work to do.

1. Change the locks. You really don’t know who else has keys to your home, so change the locks. That ensures you’re the only person who has access. Install new deadbolts yourself for as little as $10 per lock, or call a locksmith — if you supply the new locks, they typically charge about $20-$30 per lock for labor.

2. Check for plumbing leaks. Your home inspector should do this for you before closing, but it never hurts to double-check. I didn’t have any leaks to fix, but when checking my kitchen sink, I did discover the sink sprayer was broken. I replaced it for under $20.

Keep an eye out for dripping faucets and running toilets.

Here’s a neat trick: Check your water meter at the beginning and end of a two-hour window in which no water is being used in your house. If the reading is different, you have a leak.

3. Steam clean carpets. Do this before you move your furniture in, and your new home life will be off to a fresh start. You can pay a professional carpet cleaning service — you’ll pay about $50 per room; most services require a minimum of about $100 before they’ll come out — or you can rent a steam cleaner for about $30 per day and do the work yourself. I was able to save some money by borrowing a steam cleaner from a friend.

4. Wipe out your cabinets. Another no-brainer before you move in your dishes and bathroom supplies. Make sure to wipe inside and out, preferably with a non-toxic cleaner, and replace contact paper if necessary.

5. Give critters the heave-ho. That includes mice, rats, bats, termites, roaches, and any other uninvited guests. There are any number of DIY ways to get rid of pests, but if you need to bring out the big guns, an initial visit from a pest removal service will run you $100-$300, followed by monthly or quarterly visits at about $50 each time.

6. Introduce yourself to your circuit breaker box and main water valve. It’s a good idea to figure out which fuses control what parts of your house and label them accordingly. This will take two people: One to stand in the room where the power is supposed to go off, the other to trip the fuses and yell, “Did that work? How about now?”

You’ll want to know how to turn off your main water valve if you have a plumbing emergency, if a hurricane or tornado is headed your way, or if you’re going out of town. Just locate the valve — it could be inside or outside your house — and turn the knob until it’s off. Test it by turning on any faucet in the house; no water should come out.

Is It wise for you to downsize?

Downsizing is something that a lot of people consider later in life. When you’re younger and have a family at home, buying a large home with a backyard makes sense, but later on, for various reasons, selling your home and downsizing to something smaller might make sense for you. If you’re thinking about it, here are some things to consider to determine if it’s wise for you to downsize.

Why are you really moving?

To figure out what the best downsizing decision is for you, the first step is to really think about why you’re thinking about moving and downsizing in the first place. Is it because you want to travel more? Is it because your current house is too big with too many empty rooms? Is it because you no longer want to do the upkeep of mowing the lawn or shovelling the snow? Once you can answer the ‘why’, you can figure out the ‘what’.

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Selling or Just Curious?

Five Uses for your home’s market value report

I’m often contacted by home sellers who want to know the value of their home because it’s vital when they go to market. However, there are other uses for a market value report whether you’re selling or staying.

Here are 5 examples:

  1. Want to renovate?
    The report can help you determine which projects will increase your home’s value the most.
  2. Why are nearby homes selling? And, for how much?
    You can see the “for sale” and “sold” signs up, but your report will give you an idea of market prices and nearby home features.
  3. What types of homes are buyers looking for today?
    The report will help you time your sale by providing insight into current home sales.
  4. Is it the right time to move up or downsize?
    See how markets are trending to get the best deal on a new home and your own sale
  5. Do I have equity that I can enjoy?
    The report can show you refinancing opportunities. I’m happy to provide home value assessment reports at no cost: it’s my job to know your market.

New Listing C1 238 East 10th Ave, Vancouver

Unique Loft space in Mount Pleasant with 1 bedroom & 2 bathrooms. One of two top level end units in this solid concrete building. Open floor plan that utilizes split-levels to separate rooms. Kitchen is spacious with oak and lacquer cabinets, laminate flooring throughout, granite countertops & stainless steel appliances. QueenSituated on a quiet bike designated street, this unit boasts 15 ft ceilings, Insuite Laundry, New hot water tank (2016) and built in storage units. Less than one block to the heart of Main Street, close to transit, cafes, shops, and community centre. Pet & rental friendly, low condo fees plus work/live zoning with significant tax deductions. Priced at $529,000.

Open Houses

Thursday July 20th 6-7pm, Saturday July 22nd 2-4pm, Sunday July 23rd 2-4pm

 

 

New Listing 18 222 East 5th St, North Vancouver

One of Lower Lonsdale’s most sought after townhome complexes. Gorgeous, private and completely move in ready! This south facing home has a separate entrance with 2 sunny patios in the front and back. Great open floor plan with tons of storage. Located in the coveted inner courtyard, this three bedroom townhouse is a quiet oasis, perfect for anyone seeking a relaxing, peaceful home. 2 side by side parking stalls in the secure garage and a full crawl space. Short stroll to the Lonsdale Quay, Shopping, Transit and entertainment.

Sneak Peek Thursday July 13th 6-7pm and Open Houses Saturday/ Sunday 2-4pm.

Virtual Tour: http://tours.bcfloorplans.com/822014

Price: $1,075,000

Listed by Maureen Seguin Personal Real Estate Corporation Century 21 In Town Realty

9 Ways to Find the Perfect Tenant for your Investment Property

Have an investment property and need to find tenants? You’ll probably want to hire a real estate agent. In Vancouver, the rental market is very competitive right now, and if you use a real estate agent, you’ll likely get a better, more qualified tenant for your investment property.

1. Get income verified.

This is tricky because sometimes, in order to get the rental, some dishonest tenants write their own letter of employment. So, always ask for a pay stub no older than 30 days along with bank statements showing their pay deposits. If they are self-employed, notice of assessments for the last 2 years will do, or ask for bank statements showing their overall monthly cashflow.

2. Get a full credit report, not just their credit score.

Just getting a credit score number isn’t enough. Always get a full credit report done so you have a full understanding of how healthy a tenant’s finances are.

3. Get their ID verified

I always ask to see their driver’s license, and get a photocopy of it. Believe it or not, tenants try to fake their identity as part of the application process just to get into a rental unit.

4. Get 10 post dated cheques.

There’s nothing worse than having to chase down a tenant for rent each month. It’s annoying, and sometimes a tenant may even end up giving you a cheque once the rent is actually past due. It’s easier for everyone involved if you have all of the post-dated cheques written and signed up front.

5. Get references.

Aways ask for at least 3 references, and I call each one of them. You want to know how they were as a tenant, if they paid their rent on time, if they kept the property clean, and obeyed the rules that were set in place in the agreement, like not smoking and obeying any rules around having pets.

6. Look at their social profiles.

It might seem a little creepy, but someone’s social profile can tell you a lot about them and how they’ll treat the unit they’re renting. A professional profile on Linkedin with recommendations? Probably a qualified tenant. Hundreds of pictures of them partying? I’d continue to look elsewhere.

7. Get a pet deposit

If they have pets, then always get a pet deposit. Even if the pet is small, they can still do a lot of damage to floors and carpeting over a long period of time.

8. Get a security deposit for the key fob, if the unit is a condo.

People lose things, and it’s definitely possible that a tenant would lose a fob. They aren’t cheap to replace, so it’s best if you get a deposit in case it does get lost.

9. Get proof of tenant insurance.

I always want to know that the tenant has their content of the unit insured. Things can happen, and it’s important to know that everything is protected in case something does.

New Listing 310 12207 224 St, Maple Ridge

Centrally located with Mountain Views! Corner suite, spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom boasting over 1000sqft. Open Kitchen, large dining room and living area with gas fireplace. Serene private covered patio with lots of sun. Well maintained building with a healthy contingency fund and no upcoming assessments. Pets allowed with height and size restrictions and no rentals allowed.

Open Houses Saturday June 17  and Sunday June 18 2-4pm or call to book your own private showing.

Listed by Maureen Seguin | Century 21 In Town Realty

Price: $309,000

Renting vs. Buying

It used to be that young couples would get married, buy a home and live there for the next 40 or 50 years. But times have changed. Home prices have skyrocketed in the past decade, making home ownership very difficult for some young people just starting out. It has also made some older homeowners more inclined to sell their now pricey homes and jump back into the world of rentals again, freeing up equity that they can use during their retirement years. Renting has become a much more affordable option for many – but just as there are downfalls to buying, there are disadvantages to renting too. So what should you do? What makes sense for you and your family?

The only way to answer that question with certainty is to know your personal finances  inside and out, and to do your research. A pros and cons list can be useful in this situation.

Buying a home – pros

  1. If we’ve learned anything over the past several years, it’s that homes can often be good investments.
  2. Possible rental income. If you choose, you can rent out a portion of your home to help cover monthly mortgage payments and other expenses. Your home can be a source of income.
  3. Your home, your choices. You can paint, wallpaper, decorate and landscape any way you like when the home belongs to you.
  4. Tax exemptions. As a homeowner, you may be eligible for certain tax benefits that renters are not.

Buying a home – cons

  1. It’s not wise to put all your eggs in the equity basket. You can’t guarantee that you’ll get more out of your house than you put into it, so banking on it to fund your retirement isn’t necessarily wise. You can increase the equity in your home by doing renovations and improvements, but it’s impossible to know how much of a difference that will make when it comes time to sell.
  2. Aside from the cost of a down payment, homes can be expensive to run and maintain. Consider moving costs, lawyer’s fees, mortgage payments, property taxes, house insurance, repairs and renovations, utilities, landscaping, snow removal, furniture and décor – and you’re looking at a lot of expenses, both upfront and ongoing, for the life of that home.
  3. When you buy a home, you’re committed to staying there for a good long while unless you want to go through the hassle and expense of moving again.

Renting pros

  1. In addition to maintenance and repairs that are usually taken care of by a landlord, it’s much easier and less expensive to pack up and move to a new place if and when the spirit moves you, or when circumstances require a change. Even if you have to break a lease to move, you can sometimes offset the cost by subletting your apartment for the remainder of the term if your landlord approves.
  2. It’s usually easier to be approved for rental than it is to get approval for a mortgage. Obviously you need to have a fairly decent credit history, but mortgage lenders usually have much higher standards.
  3. You may be able rent a house or apartment you’d never be able to afford to buy, allowing you to be in desirable neighborhoods that would otherwise be out of reach.

Renting cons

  1. While, as discussed, home equity isn’t something you should necessarily bank on, it can be an important investment that’s useful in your retirement years when you sell. Renting eliminates this potential. Everything you pay into your lease is gone.
  2. You may be at the mercy of your landlord as far as housing costs go. If you don’t live in a municipality with strict rent control, there’s no way of knowing how much your lease payments may increase from year to year, which makes it difficult to budget for other needs and wants.
  3. You never really know how long you’ll be able to stay in a rental property. There are usually protections in place to ensure that you can’t be evicted suddenly without cause, but it’s unlikely that you can guarantee that you will be able to stay in your place indefinitely. Landlords sometimes sell or opt to move back into homes or apartments they have been renting out.

Your decision to buy or rent is a personal one that hinges on so many different factors. Take your time making that decision, weighing out all the pros and cons based on your own unique situation, including your long-term goals, current life situation and finances. The worst thing you can do is rush into a situation because you’re feeling pressure. There will never be a “perfect” solution, but there will be one that suits you more than the other. It just takes time and thought to sort it out.

 

Steps in De-Cluttering the Bedroom!

Clutter can build up in a bedroom and make the room seem crowded. If your closet or dresser space is full, organize the room to accommodate new items. Impose a rule that no new piece of clothing goes into a bedroom closet or drawer unless an old piece is removed. To fully remove clutter and organize your bedroom, though, give it a deep cleaning and use the opportunity to get rid of as many things as you can.

Step 1: Remove any items from the bedroom that belong in other rooms. Do not use the bedroom as a storage space for things that belong elsewhere. Pick up any clothing, books or papers sitting on the floor. Identify a shelf, closet or drawer to store those items. If you lack a place to put them, add hooks, shelves or a small end table in the room to serve this purpose. Vacuum or wash the floor.

Step 2: Remove all items from table and dresser surfaces and shelves, then sort the items. Throw away unneeded items, such as tags and receipts for clothing. Identify a storage place for toiletries, such as a cabinet for makeup or hair products. Limit decorative jewelry boxes, photos, knickknacks and other items on display to just a few items. Use earring trees and necklace hangers to save space. Dust furniture surfaces, as well as the decorative items. Store, donate or sell the items you no longer use.

Step 3: Remove any clothes, books or other items on top of the bed, leaving only the usual bedding and pillows. Make a practice of not leaving laundry on the bed. Limit decorative pillows to simplify the room’s appearance. Purchase storage containers that can fit under the bed, and use them to store linens, seasonal clothes or family memorabilia.

Step 4: Remove the contents of each dresser drawer. Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn for six months or, in the case of seasonal clothes, items unused in over a year. Sort the clothes, and designate a drawer for each type of clothing. Fold the clothes neatly before returning them to the drawers. Recycle, donate or sell your unused clothing

Step 5: Pull everything out of the bedroom closet to get a fresh start. Recycle, donate or throw away clothing you no longer use. Hang seasonal clothes in garment bags, and move them to the back of the closet during the off-season. Shop for storage containers to fit your closet, such as closet organizers, shoe shelves, shelf dividers and belt and tie racks. Use suitcases to store blankets, and replace bulky hangers with sleeker styles. Use a hanger holder that has the option of extending from the wall or collapsing to save space.

Step 6: Make a habit of making your bed every day, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket and storing clean clothes. Set a weekly schedule to vacuum the floor and to dust surfaces. Make a commitment to keeping your bedroom clean and organized.

Remember the bedroom is where you will spend 1/3 of your life- make it a room you want to be in.