As a real estate sales representative, every day brings something new. It's a very exciting career!

Still, I answer the same questions almost daily. I've decided to begin posting them here in the hopes that the information will help you on your buying or selling journey.

If you don't see an answer here that you think should be here, or if you'd like more information about one of these items, let me know

Q1: Do you know of any rent-to-own opportunities?

Rent-to-own opportunities are difficult to find, particularly in small towns. In large urban areas, entire firms are devoted to these opportunities, but our market is too small, so sellers handle them individually. Unfortunately for buyers, there isn’t much advantage for a seller to rent-to-own. If the seller isn’t ready to sell, then they can just rent the property with no buying stipulation. If they are ready to sell, then they can just sell it. Keeping their home in limbo, with no guarantee the potential buyer will follow through on the sale, provides little benefits to the seller. Tenants don’t often maintain a property to the landlord’s standards, and landlord/tenant laws limit a seller’s control over the property. That doesn't mean rent-to-own opportunities are never available here, but they are rare.

Q2: Should get a mortgage pre-approval before I start looking at houses?

Yes. Most brokers and sales representatives will not start showing you houses until you have a mortgage pre-approval. This small, easy step potentially saves you a lot of time. Many people think they know what they can afford because they’ve used an online mortgage calculator, but these online tools are limited. A formal pre-approval can paint a more accurate financial picture. What you can afford to pay is affected by many factors, including your income, your debt load, and the interest rate, which in turn varies based on your credit history, market conditions, and the financial institution you’re using. About half of the buyers I deal with, even the confident ones, discover during the pre-approval process that they cannot afford as much as they thought, and in some cases, that they are not eligible for a mortgage at all.

Q3: I want to buy a house, but I don’t have a down payment. What are my options?

It can be hard to save money to buy a home, especially if you’re living on a low income. Even if you’re great at saving money, emergencies can pop up that force you to keep dipping into your savings. I’ve been there, and it’s frustrating. Thankfully, there are programs that may be able help to you with your down payment. Contact Toni at Dominion Lending (705-360-2000 or Toni works out of the Royal Lepage office and can tell if you if you’re likely to be eligible for a down payment program, and can give you financial advice on how to save money, how to build your credit, and/or how to get your finances organized so that you’ll be ready to buy.

Q4: I want to buy a house, but I have bad credit. How can I improve my credit score?

The keys to improving your credit score are patience and diligence. There is no magic cure to bring up your credit overnight. If you have no credit, your best option may be to get a credit card, use it a few times, and pay it off right away. Those last two words are critical. If you have a credit history but it’s poor, you can rebuild your credit by making all future payments on existing debts regularly and on time. Try setting up automatic payments that come out of your bank account on the same day as you receive automatic deposits (e.g. pay checks, child tax benefits), and keep a close eye on your bank account to make sure you always have the money you need in your account.

Q5: I want to sell my house, but I’m not sure how much it’s worth. How can I find out?

A broker or sales representative can tell you how much your home is worth based on recent comparable sales in your neighbourhood. Typically, they will come to your home to observe and assess the property size, condition, and any improvements you’ve made, and then compare them to recent sales of similar properties. It’s also helpful to look at current homes on the market that would be in direct competition with yours. Most brokers and sales representatives provide this service free of charge.

Q6: How much will selling my house cost me in commission and other fees?

The amount will vary based on a lot of factors, including the agent’s commission, the selling price, lawyer fees, and what adjustments need to be made upon closing. Your agent typically collects a percentage of the selling price of your home, so if your home sells for $200,000 and your agent is being paid 6%, then you will pay approx. $12,000+HST in commission. Lawyers typically have a set rate for real estate services, with the going rate around $1000 +HST (please verify your lawyer’s specific rate). Adjustments are calculated based on household bills that have been paid (or not paid) as of the day of closing. So if you’ve paid your entire year’s worth of property taxes, and your home closes in the middle of the year, you’ll get back a portion of what you paid. Please remember that the same goes if you’re behind on payments; you’ll have to catch up on closing. Ultimately, how much you pay on the day of closing varies based on too many factors to take into account here.

Q7: Why do real estate agents ask for so much commission? They’re overcharging!

Real estate brokers and sales representatives are usually independent contractors. This means they have business costs that may include brokerage fees, annual membership dues, advertising/marketing, fuel, equipment, software, insurance, and much more. As independent contractors, they probably don’t receive benefits from their employer either, so they have to invest in private extended health insurance and set up their own retirement savings plan. In addition, a seller’s commission is shared with the buyer’s agent, so unless the agent represents both you and the buyer, their check is cut in half before they even start paying these other fees. To further complicate matters, agents are only paid upon the sale of a home, so they incur up front costs with no guarantee they will ever be paid. A seller may decide to list with another agent after a free home valuation, or cancel the listing before they’ve given their agent a real chance to make the sale. Ask your broker or sales representative about their business – you may be surprised!

Q8: I’m not happy with my agent. Can I break my contract with them?

Per our Code of Conduct, agents cannot interfere in your relationship with another agent. Personally, I would want my clients to come to me with their concerns so that I can fix what’s wrong. Try talking to your broker or sales representative and explaining your concerns. If you’ve done that and you’re still not satisfied, try speaking to their Broker of Record. Your contract is with the brokerage, so they will want to help address any problems you’re having.