Trish Fedewich, Notary Public with Fedewich & Witt came to our HomeLife Benchmark Realty sales meeting today to share some tips on dealing with Escrow Closing Agreements.


Escrow Closing Agreements come into play when a real estate contract cannot be completed because all the terms agreed upon can't be met.  In some cases, the contract can be extended to allow more time for those conditions to be fulfilled, if all parties are in agreement.  Here are some examples of when an Escrow Agreement might be used:


1)   Sale of a New Residential Property from a Developer to a Buyer when no Registered title is Available on the agreed Completion Date. 


If a strata plan or subdivision hasn't been registered in time for the contracted completion, the Seller may want to mitigate his risks and ensure the Buyer is satisfied and with an escrow agreement. This allows the Buyer to move into the property and the Seller doesn't receive payment until title is transferred.  Some contracts for new homes already include the terms for an escrow agreement in case it may be necessary.  Both parties' legal representatives draft an Agreement that will protect both sides of the contract.  Special care needs to be given in cases where lenders are providing a mortgage for the purchase.  The Buyer needs to ensure the mortgage won't expire prior to the deal being completed and the Seller needs to ensure there is appropriate insurance taken out on the property seeing as the Buyer doesn't actully own the property outright.


2)  Sale of a New Residential Property from a Developer/Builder to a Buyer where there is no Occupancy Permit issued by the Completion Date:


Sometimes there is no final occupancy permit but the Buyer wants to take possession of the property.  This is extremely risky and generally not recommended.  If the City or Fire Department is not satisfied with the property, they can order the Buyer to vacate the property.


3)  Sale of Home from an Estate where Propbate hasn't been granted by the Completion Date or the Seller becomes incompetent and has no valid Power of Attorney.


Title cannot be transferred after a single owner's death or a couple who hold the property as Tenants in Common without Grant of Letters Probate.  If that owner has a partner in ownership in Joint Tenancy, the surviving partner can sell without Probate.


If a Seller becomes ill and/or incompetent between the time the contract is written and completion, and has no power of attorney, the Completion Date may have to be delayed while an applicaiton for Committee of the Seller is obtained.


3)  Sale of Home and A Mortgage Cannot be Released by Completion Date:


Occasionally a Seller may have a very old mortgage on title to the property that is paid out but has never been discharged.  If the lender was a corporation no longer in business or a private individual no longer alive, there's nobody to sign the discharge by the Completion Date.  



There are definitely risks involved in entering into an Escrow Agreement as well as advantages.  Seeking strong legal advice is the best way to proceed in decision making.  


The most important thing I took away from this morning's discussion was the importance placed in looking even more carefully at the Title of a property prior to listing it.  I always look for easements, covenants and charges.  From here on in, I'll also be looking for older mortgage charges and checking them out with the Seller.  I'll also be asking the Seller(s) and Buyer(s) if they have a Power of Attorney. 


The best way to help my clients solve problems is to do my best to help avoid them in the first place.

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You've just received an offer to purchase your home ... and it's low ... really low.  At least it feels really low to you, the seller.  Now what?


1)  Don't take it personally and respond negatively. 

While it may be really difficult to keep your emotions in check, there's no point in getting insulted at a lower offer than you expect or feel isn't fair for your home.  It has been a sellers' market for a few years now but the tide has turned and buyers are in the drivers seat.  Any offer you receive is an opportunity to move on with your plans.


2)  Check again for comparables in your area of homes that are similiar to yours.  

Make sure this offer is  actually a "low ball" offer.  If you've been on the market for a while, there may have been lower sales since your first set your price.  Once you're reacquainted yourself with what current prices and conditiions are, you're in a better negotiating position. 


3)  Assess the offer from all sides. 

Is the buyer's agent a seasoned one or inexperienced? Is the buyer's agent from out of the area and not aware of your property's value in neighbourhood, school catchment, etc.?  Is the buyer an investor to whom this is strictly a numbers game.  (If so, they're likely not going to counter and will just move on)  Are there other factors beyond strictly price that you can work with to be more favourable for you.  For example, moving completion dates up if you've already bought elsewhere or extending them so you won't have to rent while you look for a home and move twice.


4)  Respond with what you'd have used had the offer been acceptable. 

There's nothing to be gained by refusing to talk and quite possibly, something to gain.  The buyer may have just been "trying the price" in case you were desperate.  By responding in a matter of fact manner, you're establishing that you're knowledgeable and willing to negotiate reasonably.  Mention a few relative comparables and features that make your home stand out compared to others.  Be prepared to go back and forth a few times and above all, be patient. 

 

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The latest regulations around the Speculation Tax have been a major topic lately.  This is an Opt-Out tax so even if you don't have to pay the tax, you still have to fill out the appropriate forms to receive an exemption or you could see a hefty tax bill in your mailbox. 


This video outlines a few of the things you need to remember:

1) watch for your letter and if you don't receive it make sure you find out how to get one

2) note the individual codes in the letter required for you to fill out the form online

3) have your Social Insurance Number handy along with the codes

4) all parties on title have to register for each property

5) if you have any questions, call the toll free number 1(833)554-2323 open from 8 til 8 seven days a week.


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The other day I stopped by to pick up a copy of the most recent Seniors Resource Directory for a client.  Over the Christmas holidays, it become more apparent to her and other family members that her Mom was having trouble keeping up with housework, grocery shopping and generally just getting out to enjoy life since her husband had passed away.


When she asked my opinion about selling the house and moving her Mom into a residence, I suggested talking it over as a group with their Mom first and seeing if they could find ways for her Mom to stay where she was.  I mentioned that Come Share was a terrific resource for help in many areas.  Everyone (including Mom!) agreed that staying in her current home was the best option for now if she had some day-to-day help with managing chores and activities that she and her husband had shared.  The family will look it over online while Mom is more comfortable with the paper directory to read.


If you are having some challenges with helping an older family member manage daily life, check out Come Share at www.comeshare.ca   The Society has been actively working with and helping seniors and their families since 1977 and doing a terrific job.  Directory resources and more details are available online.

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It's cold and rainy here on the West Coast (often referred to as the Wet Coast in winter!) and the idea of cleaning gutters is less than appealing.  However, unless they're properly cleaned and maintained, clogged gutters can cause damage to your home.  You're likely up there on a ladder hanging Christmas lights anyway, so take a look at the gutters and do the needful to avoid problems like the following:



Damage to Building's Foundation


Gutters are meant to help keep water away from the foundation of your house.  If water doesn't follow the right path, it could end up pooling close to walls and travel down into your crawlspace or through basement walls.  And that's never a good scenario.                                                                                          .                                                                                                        



Unwanted Guests


Debris in clogged gutters attracts birds, insects and rodents.  Wood fascia boards and roof materials will rot if left sitting in pooled water.  Birds like woodpeckers love to eat insects in rotted wood and will make holes in walls and the roof to get at them   

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Seeds from plants and nearby trees will sprout in the accumulated dirt and debris in gutters.  The extra weight

will further weaken and damage your gutters and roofing system.

                                                                                                    


Ice Out


Ice damming is the back-up of water against the roof, lifting shingles and other roofing materials, damaging both the roof and interior ceilings and walls by pushing up inside.  In most cases this occurs during cold weather where pooled water in gutters is further blocked by partially freezing.  The worst case scenario is peeling paint, rotting insulation and wood and possibly the growth of mold inside your building.


                         




So, by all means, clean those gutters.  Once they're cleaned of debris, flush them with water from the hose to make sure they're flowing freely and working properly.  If you don't already have them in place, install splash pads where downspouts meet the ground to keep water away from your foundation.                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                       



If you don't want to clean those gutters yourself, there are lots of companies who can do the job for you.  Just make sure they have insurance for both their Worker's Compensation and Liability.  Call me if you'd like some names of reputable firms to chose from.

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 When you purchase a home, there are many additional costs over and above the price of that property.  See the selection below and be sure you've taken them into consideration to avoid any nasty surprises at completion time! This informative graphic and follow up list was supplied by one of the best mortgage brokers I know and one I often recommend for my clients, Lynn McLellan at Dreyer Group Mortgage Brokers.


 

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Do Christmas decorations help or hinder your sale?  It's always a good idea to think about their effect on potential buyers.  In most cases, less is more.  


While your home is for sale, keep the decorations relatively simple and blending well with your current decor so buyers can see your home's best features instead of being distracted by that 100 piece Christmas Village on your mantle. 


If you decide to do your usual full-tilt decor to keep the family happy, be sure to have your photos done before you decorate.  That way buyers can see what the home looks like under regular conditions and, if the listing doesn't sell quickly, you're not stuck with pictures of Christmas trees in your living room in March!

 
Outdoor lighting definitely makes your home appear brighter, warmer and more inviting -- particularly if all your neighbours have bright lighting.  You don't want your house to the only "dark" one on the street.  However, if you plan on using inflatables in your display, ensure they stay inflated.  There's nothing attractive about a wilted, deflated pile of nylon on your front lawn for a buyer's first impression.
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This is a brief synopsis of activity in the South Surrey White Rock area.  What you see is the first page of a quarterly newsletter I send to all my clients and sphere.  If you'd like to receive it and the ongoing information about the market, please call or email to let me know.  Let's connect!
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Everyone wants to be sure they, their family and their belongings are in a safe, secure environment.  Here are a few steps you can take to reassure yourself:


1)  When you buy a home, work with a local realtor who has personal knowledge of the different neighborhoods to guide you in making a wise choice.


2)  Check local crime statistics.  I follow the South Surrey RCMP site that provides maps of monthly break-in and theft locations throughout the areas in which I help clients buy properties.   The map above shows B&Es for businesses (red squares), and residences (blue squares) and others (gray squares).


3)  Look for Block Watch signage.  If an area has an active Block Watch program, it's likely there's a proactive, cooperative group of neighbors that make a practice of looking out for one another.


4)  Drive around the neighborhood and look for signs of vandalism, graffiti and other indicators.


5)  Talk to people nearby on the street.  There's nothing better than a quick chat with people who currently live there to give you a good feel for the neighborhood.

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People who haven't bought or sold a property in any other market other than the slightly over-heated one of recent years are finding this slower market a challenge.  Why do some houses sell quickly and others not?


How do the homes that are still sitting there stack up in comparison to the ones that seem to "fly off the shelf"?  Several factors come in to play:


1)  Layout:  Size matters but convenient layouts and flexible space will trump square footage.  Today's buyers want to be able to change up the use of the space as their circumstances change.  Clearer spaces without excess "stuff" show how rooms can be better used.


2)  Location:  Buyers can change a home's appearance, even the floorplan, but they can't change the location.  Proximity to traffic and other unwanted elements will make a big difference.


3)  Condition & Upgrades:  Kitchens, bathrooms, windows, heating systems and roof upgrades are major selling points for buyers these days.  Without upgrades, cleanliness and evidence of good maintenance is a must!


4)  Access:  How easy is it to view the home?  Restricted viewing times can dampen buyer enthusiasm.


5)  Marketing:  Today's first impressions are often made online.  Listings need excellent exposure with professional photos, video, floor plans and well crafted descriptions.  Attractive brochures with colour photos and floor plans along with the factual descriptions for buyers to take home after a viewing make your home more memorable.


6)  Price:  Buyers want value for their dollar more than ever.  Today's market demands competitive pricing and proof of value.


If you have questions about selling your home, give me a call.  I'm happy to share what I know with you.



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I read an article recently in Business Negotiations by Katie Shonk about four major challenges that come up again and again in negotiations between buyers and sellers.  I think she's absolutely right about all four; I see it in my real estate practice all the time.  As Katie says, "By bing more mindful of these traps, we can learn to avoid them and get better deals."  I've paraphrased her full article below.  You can read more of her work at Harvard Law School's Program On Negotiation Daily Blog at https://www.pon.harvard.edu

 

 

Pitfall #1:  Overvaluing Your Possessions


Why is it some homes are plucked off the real estate listings within mere days while others sit for months or even years?  Location, condition and curb appeal have something to do with it, but there's another factor -- one that sellers can avoid --  which is the tendency to overvalue one's property.  Some sellers ignore the best advice of their real estate agent's carefully determined valuations and ask for much more than they should.

 

There's a name for this pitfall -- it's called the Endowment Effect.  Basically we all overvalue just about anything we own, no matter how trivial, simply because we own it.  If we were looking at buying a similiar article from someone else, we would have no interest in paying as much as we are asking.  Think about the ads you see on Craig's List for old furniture with high price tags that you think should likely be given away or taken to the dump.  See what I mean?

 

Sometimes the best thing to do, if you don't believe your real estate agent and/or a buyer, is have an appraisal done by an objective third party.  

 

 

Pitfall #2:  Focusing Too Much on Price

 

What's your most important goal when making a sale?  If you're like most of us, getting the best price possible is foremost in your mind.  It's normal for sellers and buyers to place a high premium on meeting their target price in a negotiation. 

 

Sometimes that focus becomes so competitive and focussed that the end goal of actually making the sale or purchase gets lost in only looking at the price.  Perhaps there are other sources of synergy that could enhance the agreement (and the bottom line) such as possession dates, inclusions of fixtures, etc.  When you find buyers or sellers are obsessing strictly about price, try brainstorming ideas for adding more value to the deal on both sides.

 

Pitfall #3:  Compromising Your Ethics


Whatever it is that you are selling, you know far more about that item than potential buyers do.  Because of what Katie refers to as this information asymetry you need to be careful not to take advantage of the buyer because of this when negotiating.  Anything that should be disclosed must be disclosed.  Do not compromise your ethics.  It's extremely tempting to "not mention" the leaky roof in the middle of a hot dry summer, and tell yourself that it's "buyer beware".  If you are found to have been dishonest, you can pay a whole lot more down the road in legal suits and damage to your reputation than you gained in price.


Pitfall #4:  Making Unappealing Offers


Many buyers pride themselves on making "lowball" offers just to show their negotiation skills.  Unfortunately, that often insults the sellers, they become intransigent and negotiations go downhill fast from there. 

 

It's difficult in some cases to provide a reasonable offer that doesn't look like a "lowball" if the seller's price is too high.  (See Pitfall #1!)  But in those cases, provide carefully thought out comparable sales examples and then present your offer in the best light.  Try framing your offer as a gain over the status quo by showing that your offer is at least better than  the one received down the street for a comparable property.  Or mention the provisions you've included that don't address price directly but enhance the agreement in other ways that can effect the bottom line (See Pitall #2!)

 

Awareness of common sales negotiation pitfalls is the first step in overcoming them.  It takes practice and effort but we can all get better results by removing the negative effects of the pitfalls mentioned above.

 

 

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Clients getting ready to sell their homes often ask me to do a "walk through" to let them know what needs to be done prior to selling.  The first thing we talk about is always

de-cluttering.  


The second thing we talk about are there are a few little fix-ups that are easy to do and make a real difference in making the house look clean and inviting. 

 

Fix Up #1:  Replacing Stained or Cracked Caulking around sinks and tubs.  


Removing it is easy with a metal or plastic tool. Hardware stores sell specially designed plastic ones that are inexpensive and super effective.


                       

The tricky part is getting the caulk back in place evenly.  I've found that putting down painter's tape on either side of where I apply the caulking makes it easy, quick and very professional looking. Just be sure to remove the tape before the caulking dries!


 


Fix Up #2:  Change Light Bulbs and Update Light Fixtures


You want your home to be bright and well-lit.  Take your ceiling fixtures down, wash out the little bits of dust and bugs that have accumulated and replace burnt out bulbs with new ones. 


If your fixtures are old and out of style, consider a quick trip to Home Depot or Rona to get an inexpensive replacement from Home Depot or Rona.  It's amazing what a difference it can make in bringing your home up to date. 

  



Fix Up #3:  Painting.  When you Paint Your Walls, Consider Painting over that                           Dingy, Dirty Brick or Stone Fireplace


Not every brick or stone fireplace is created equal.  Some are lovely and could even be brought back with cleaning.  Some just are not.  If you have an fireplace in a family room that just doesn't work, think about painting over it. 


 


These are just a few ideas to get started on now.  I'll add more soon.  In the meantime, each of these is easy to achieve, won't break your budget and will really help to show your home at its best when it comes time to go on the market.

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Many people I know are talking about clearing out their junk - either as a New Year's Resolution or getting ready to move.  And many find that all the trash they want to clear is too much to deal with themselves.  I contacted Alyx LeBeau, Commercial Account Manager at 1-800-Got-Junk? and she agreed to provide $50 off coupons for me to give my clients to help with the task.  The card is to be presented at pick up and can't be used for just a one item pick up or minimum order. 

 

 

However if you have a LOT of stuff this card will be of help.  I've already sent cards to clients on my mailing list but there are just a few left.   If you live in the South Surrey White Rock area and would like me to send you a card, just get in touch via email or phone and I'll be happy to send one to you.  Hurry, supplies are limited!

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Looking back at the outstanding year of real estate activity in 2017, the Canadian Real Estate Association is forecasting a slower year in 2018.

 

This cut back has been driven by the new mortgage rule which is set to take effect January 1.  In October, 2017, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions announced a new mortgage "stress test" which will require  uninsured mortgages (those who have 20% or more down payment or are refinancing their mortgage) at major banks to qualify at either the posted benchmark rate (currently 4.9%) or 2% above the lenders' contracted interest rate, whichever is higher.

 

There is also speculation that the Bank of Canada may increase interest rates 1 to 2 times before the end of 2018.  Interest rate averages are predicted to reach a more "normal" level in an attempt to moderate housing prices and affordability.

 

The benchmark rate is predicted to reach 5.15% and the average lending interest rate is expected to reach up to 3.44%.  With the combination of increasing interest rates and new qualifying guidelines, we're likely to see a decline in housing prices, as these changes could reduce borrowing power up to 20%.  The Canadian Real Estate Association expects to see a drop in national sales by 5.3%.

 

Not all financial institutions will be required to abide by the new mortgage "stress test".  Non-federally regulated lenders, such as credit unions, are not required to comply with the new legislation.  For this reason, other lenders may very well hold off on increasing rates in order to remain competitive in the market.

 

I'll be watching closely over the first quarter of 2018 for ramifications of this new rule.

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Over the years one thing I hear over and over in conversation with people when they talk about their previous real estate experiences  is: "I wish I'd known more about what I was getting in to" or "My agent didn't tell me what I needed to know".

 

Honestly I don't think that real estate agents really mean to mislead their clients.  It's just that many have been in the business for so long and done so many deals they forget not everyone knows what to expect or fully understands what they're being told. They may not explain everything completely because they think you've taken it all in and understand.

 

I tell all my clients "There's no such thing as a stupid question."  And there isn't.  

 

Ask More Questions.

 

And if you don't know what questions to ask, say to your agent "What questions should I be asking?"  Any good agent will be happy to run through the process with you.


If you want to know more about Buying and Selling just go to those sections of this website. There's a good outline of what's involved in both.  And if you have any questions, please just ask.

 

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I was in Romancing the Home the other day; it's a lovely home decor store in the heart of Ocean Park Village.  Jill, the owner, and I were just chatting when a woman came in to look around.  In passing, she then asked if she could trade her older Sid Dickens decorative tile "Memory Block" for a new one.  It had been a gift for her collection but she'd never really liked it so was wondering about an exchange.

  

                           

 

                                                                                                                                                                           

I was a little taken aback to hear her request.  But Jill was gracious -- saying no she didn't do exchanges like that because her clients only buy new product from her.  But she pulled out a sheet of older Sid Dicken tiles to see if the visitor's tile had been "retired".  This is where the conversation started to get interesting.

 

Sid Dickens is a Vancouver sculptor whose hand-made blocks have become popular world wide.  His work is only available at one store in each city and the tile selection at any one time tops out at about 100.  

When he designs new tiles, he takes some of the older ones out of circulation.  To date, just over 400 pieces have been made.  Each tile has a name, a number and a story that goes with it. (See example below)  The older ones increase in value as they become scarce. In this particular instance, the visitor's tile had likely increased in value by between $150 and $500.


                     

 

 

 

                            

 

 

 

If Jill had been dishonest, she could have said, "Sure, I'll trade you." and then resold the tile online and made a tidy profit.  Instead, she made the visitor's day by sending her off to either re-sell the tile for a profit herself or keep it knowing it was growing in value.


Jill sells Sid Dickens Memory Blocks for $83.  They're available online for $98 at www.siddickens.com  If you want to buy one in Whistler you can pay $150.  Buying at Romancing the Home means you get the blocks for less from a reputable dealer.


Shopping local makes sense on so many levels, don't you think?  If you're interested in the new Spring Collection, drop by Romancing the Home (1637 128 Street, South Surrey) soon.

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When we're moving there are a million details to cover.  An important one that can sometimes be overlooked is letting everyone know where we're moving.  Here's a handy checklist to ensure no one gets missed!


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