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08.28.2020

7 Farmer’s Markets In and Around Hamilton

In The Community

The dog days are over, and the season is winding down as August comes to a close.   Talk of back to school and even (gasp!) pumpkin spice is starting to surface into daily chit-chat.

For those of us who live for heat and sunshine, the abundance of delicious fresh produce that is available at this time of year relieves some of the sadness at the end of summer.

The farmers’ markets in and around Hamilton offer the best of nature’s in-season bounty, so we thought we would offer suggestions for all seven corners of the city. (Did you know Hamilton had seven corners?)

 

Hamilton Farmers’ Market – 35 York Blvd

The Hamilton Farmer’s Market downtown is open year round.  First open in 1837, it now boasts 50-60 vendors and is a much cherished part of Hamilton’s history.  Offering fresh produce, grocery items, seafood, specialty foods, wine, coffee, fresh flowers, and more – the variety at this farmer’s market is second to none.  Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the hours are the most flexible of all the markets.  Access by different forms of transportation and parking are described here to help you plan your visit.

Ottawa St Market – Lot 2C (Next to 3 Britannia Ave)

In many ways, Ottawa St represents the best of Hamilton’s personality: energy, variety, resilience, and grit.  It is in Southern Ontario, so it is appropriate that the area include a farmers’ market to show off  the best of what our growers have to offer.

Open every Saturday all year round, this farmers’ market only works with vendors within a 100 km radius. This means that the offerings are truly farm fresh! Read through the list of produce and mouthwatering baked treats before you go, and plan your visit carefully!

Ancaster Farmers’ Market – 630 Trinity Rd S, Jerseyville, ON (Ancaster Fairgrounds)

If you’re craving farm-freshness mid-week, this will be one of your go-to’s, since it is open on Wednesdays from 3:00-6:00 pm.

Ancaster has a proud history as a vibrant agricultural community, and the farmer’s market represents that heritage right in the heart of town at the Ancaster Village.  Local growers and other assorted vendors offer their wares and provide a space to gather with friends and neighbours.

Many prefer to shop in person, but there also is an option to order online.  Orders placed between Thursday and Monday can be picked up, curbside, on Wednesdays.

Dundas Farmers’ Market – Hatt Street and Miller’s Lane

This seasonal market in Dundas is a small, not-for-profit coalition of growers and producers who offer a direct link between farmers and the community.  It runs from June to October, and is a weekly tradition, open on Thursdays from 3:00-7:00 pm.

Some of the vendors accept online orders and will arrange for pickup at their vendor tents on Thursdays as well.

Locke St Farmers’ Market – Corner of Locke and Herkimer (260 Locke St S)

The best place to find information about this west-end market is on their Facebook page.  Locke Street Farmers’ Market aims to offer fresh, local, sustainably grown and produced food for the benefit of the community, local farmers and businesses.

Saturday mornings from 9:00-noon, from spring to fall, you will find the assortment of vendors set up for business in the parking lot of Locke St Tire and Automotive.

There is an open call for volunteers at this community market, too – so if this is your neighbourhood, you might consider lending a hand for a very delicious, worthy cause!

Hamilton Mountain Farmers’ Market – 19 Viewpoint Ave

The local growers who run the Hamilton Mountain Farmers’ Market have adjusted their hours to Fridays between 3:30-7:30.

This is a small, solid community effort that offers fresh local produce, floral products, spices, eggs, and more – and that has been in operation for 13 seasons.

Special Mention:  Binbrook Farmer’s Market – 2600 Hwy #56

The Binbrook Agricultural Society, for several years, operated the Binbrook Farmer’s Market to encourage Binbrook residents to think, shop, and eat locally.  As the world changes, the organizers have decided to take a year to re-imagine and re-design their community projects, as described in this Hamilton Spectator article from July, 2020.

There is some talk of a fall festival or market that gives us hope of something to look forward to as the leaves begin to turn, and the fruit harvest gives way to gourds and other hardy vegetables!

All 📸 credit: @hamontmarket

If you have discovered any other markets in the City, we’d love to hear about them!

09.2.2020

You love your neighbourhood so much that you want to OWN the whole thing.  Or maybe just a little more of it…

If you’re looking to expand your holdings to include the neighbour’s house, there is a somewhat strange law on Ontario’s books that you need to know about.

Have you ever considered owning two properties next to each other?  Perhaps you would like to have your parents or your grown children live next door.  Maybe you want an income property that you can keep an eye on.  Or are you in line to inherit some real estate that is adjacent to something you already own?

If you are thinking of purchasing or otherwise taking title to two or more properties that share a property line, you should be aware of a quirk in Ontario’s Planning Act:  If you take title in exactly the same way to two abutting properties, they will likely merge in title.  This means they become a single property for assessment purposes.  A merger can cause issues down the road when you want to sell one or both properties, since you would need to apply to have them severed unless they are sold together.

When properties merge, they no longer qualify for separate mortgage financing, either.  Any lien placed on one property will cover both of the [formerly separate] parcels of land.

How to Avoid a Merger

There is a simple way to prevent properties from merging, and most real estate lawyers will explain this to their clients.  Take title to side-by-side properties in different names.

We aren’t suggesting using an alias.  The solution is to have different legal owners for each property.  For example, a husband and wife can each take title to one property, if that’s acceptable to both of them.  On paper, John Doe can own 123 Elm St, and Jane Doe can own 125 Elm St, and they won’t merge.  Or John and Jane can own 123 Elm, and Jane alone can own 125 Elm.  As long as John and Jane do not own both properties together, they will remain separate.

In the case of personal or family property, a third owner (parent, child, relative, friend – doesn’t matter!) could be added to one of the title deeds with a very minor share. Even assigning 1% of the value, as a tenant in common, creates a different ownership type for the second parcel of land.

“Solutions” That Don’t Work 

Remember that there are few actual loopholes.  Taking title using a different version of the same person’s name does not fix the problem.  John Doe cannot take title to the house next door as John Henry Doe to avoid merging properties.

Changing the order of the names on the deed or the percentage of the property that belongs to each owner does not prevent merging.  The manner of holding title doesn’t solve the issue, either.  It doesn’t matter if John and Jane own 123 Elm as joint tenants and 125 Elm as tenants in common.  The properties will merge because the owners are the same two individuals.

Things to Discuss With Your Lawyer

When there are multiple owners who need to be on title to properties like this, a potential solution could be to create a corporation to hold one of the properties.  Since a corporation is a separate legal entity, the properties may not merge.  However, it’s important to discuss with your lawyer whether this will work in your situation.

Real estate can also be owned by a trust. Depending on circumstances, this can get complicated, and it is definitely something to work out with a lawyer if separate trusts for the same beneficiary are involved.

One final note of caution about joint tenancy, since this is the most common way for life partners to own the family home:

Even if John and Jane Doe take title carefully when they buy the house next door to their family home, having only Jane’s name on the second property, they could have a problem later on.  Assuming they own 123 Elm as joint tenants, rights of survivorship mean that when John dies, Jane becomes the sole owner of the matrimonial home.  Since she is also alone on title to 125 Elm, she now holds title to both in exactly the same way.   In a case like this, having a third owner of even a very minor share can prevent the properties from merging.

For the Record…

We offer you this information as a matter of fact.  There must be a reason for this law, but we would like to see it changed.  Every so often, we hear rumours that change is coming, and we get a little excited.  For now, though – we are available to help you navigate the idiosyncrasies of the system. We will do our best to help you find the right professionals to guide you through your real estate purchases and sales!

09.2.2020

Our recommendation to all buyers, regardless of their goals, is to only consider properties that will increase in value and be easy to resell if the need arises.

 

Statistics show that Canadians tend to move fairly often – perhaps more often than they plan to!

 

Still, there is a certain type of buyer who believes they will find the perfect house, settle down, make roots, and never have to be part of another real estate transaction for as long as they live.

Some property owners are so emotionally attached to their homes that they will straightforwardly say: “When they take me out of here, it will be in a box!” A little morbid, maybe, but decisive, that’s for sure!

Do you identify with this thinking?  Reasons for wanting a house purchase to be a one-and-done experience vary:

  • Moving can be a colossal pain in the neck – and it’s expensive.
  • Stability, especially for a family, is very appealing.
  • Creating a home is an emotional project that can be hard to leave behind.
  • If there is no practical reason to uproot, why do it?

 

For the record, we agree with all of the statements above.  And we know there are other reasons, too – including a buy-and-hold real estate portfolio strategy – that could have a buyer fully convinced that they will never need to worry about resale (or even resale value).

Most real estate is a rock solid investment.  However, some properties are unique to the point of being problematic.  If you find yourself drawn to something like this, please read on before buying.

Property That is Hard to Resell

How can you know what type of property might be difficult to sell?  A good rule of thumb is to consider the things that cannot be changed, or that would be very expensive to remedy.  Here are a few challenges that could make a property hard to sell quickly:

  • Poor location.  A single-family residential home that is surrounded by industrial or commercial buildings, highway noise, or other undesirable influences tends to sit on the market longer than average and sells for less. [We are not talking about investing on speculation of future development, as that is something completely different.]
  • Poor floor plan.  A home with an odd structural layout may be difficult to sell.  People don’t mind removing walls, even structural ones, in some cases.  But they may be less inclined to move staircases or dig out low basements.  Try to avoid awkward layouts that would not work for the average buyer.
  • Lack of parking. In older parts of the city, a number of properties were built without driveways, carports, or garages before parking was a huge concern.  Some have no parking at all.  These properties still sell, but it’s important to know the neighbourhood before you buy one.  Be sure to understand whether this is a deal-breaker for a majority of buyers in the area.
  • Mutual driveways.  When two properties are very close together, they may share all or part of a driveway that leads to a rear parking space or garage.  When neighbours are agreeable, this usually doesn’t cause much trouble.  If there are disputes, though, they can get ugly – and some buyers will not even look at a house with a mutual drive.  Again, know your neighbourhood and be sure that this will not make it difficult to sell if you ever need to.
  • Stigmatized properties.  In Ontario, there is no law that requires disclosure of things like murder, suicide, or ghosts in the property.  Even a history as a former grow-op may not be mentioned.  Sellers must answer truthfully when asked, though – so we highly recommend that you ask lots of questions to ensure that no stigma is attached to the property that might make it unappealing to a future buyer.

Even if You Never Plan to Move…

A study done by Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals found that the average Canadian homeowner moves, on average, every 7 years or so.  We would venture to say that not many of us actually plan to move that often – but circumstances sometimes force the decision.

New relationships, growing families, job relocations, health or financial issues could result in a need to sell – sometimes quickly.  It’s wise to allow room for the possibility of unexpected circumstances.  As Robert Burns said, “the best laid plans…”

Financially speaking, saleable properties also offer the best investment, even if you do succeed in staying as long as you intend to.  Lenders will easily fund a loan against your home’s equity if the property is saleable.  If you ever need to access the cash that is tied up in your house, you’ll be glad you chose wisely.

Your final purchasing decision is always, of course, yours to make.  If your desire is to buy a home that is yours forever, then we would love to help you find that place!  We will just gently advise that you be cautious and have a plan “B,” just in case life has a surprise or two in store for you.

09.11.2020

 

As part of Ontario Phase 3 re-opening, in-person open houses can now be held.

Some Sellers are allowing open houses again. If you feel safe to attend with safety precautions, the perfect home may be available for you to view this weekend.

There are special procedures in place so please be patient and understanding.

Scroll below to see a comprehensive list of OPEN HOUSES in the Greater Hamilton / Burlington / Niagara Area.

 


Fun Facts:   Centre Mall on Barton Street in Lower Hamilton was one of North America’s first malls, and is still a vibrant collection of retailers and other commercial services.

Hamilton is the birthplace of Eugene Levy, Martin Short, and the first Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

Hamilton is home to one of the largest botanical gardens in the whole of Canada – The Royal Botanical Gardens

Lower Hamilton Open Houses

 


 

Fun Facts:  ‘The Mountain’ is actually the Niagara Escarpment, which naturally bisects the City of Hamilton into Upper and Lower.  It is home to over 100 individual waterfalls, making Hamilton (according to the Smithsonian) the Waterfall Capital of the World!

Hamilton Mountain Open Houses

 


Fun Facts:   The Old Ancaster Town Hall, located at 310 Wilson Street East, was built in 1870, costing $2400.  The Heritage building is still fully functional, and can be used as a venue for events such as wedding receptions.

Ron MacLean, beloved sportscaster, best known for his Hockey Night In Canada partnership with the colourful Don Cherry, lived in Ancaster from 1989-1992.

Ancaster Open Houses

 


Fun facts:  Since it is Located in a valley surrounded by the Niagara Escarpment, Dundas is also known as the “Valley Town.”

In the fall, mature Chinook salmon return from Lake Ontario to their birthplace in Lower Spencer Creek to lay their eggs

Dundas Open Houses

 


Fun Facts:  Parts of the 2006 horror film Silent Hill were filmed at the Devil’s Punchbowl, a ribbon waterfall in Stoney Creek, and  in 1989 Super Dave Osborne performed a human yo-yo stunt there.

It is often assumed that the name refers to the Creek’s rockiness, but there is some evidence to indicate that the town was actually named for an early settler with the surname “Stoney.”

Stoney Creek Open Houses

 


Fun Fact:  The Avro Lancaster flown by the Canadian Warplane Heritage museum is one of only two airworthy Lancasters in the world.  It is on display at the John C. Munro International Airport in Mount Hope.

Glanbrook Open Houses

 


Fun Facts:  Until 2017, Smithville was known for an annual festival called PoultryFest.  The show drew residents from all over the region in mid-June every year. The festival earned the area the unofficial designation as “The Chicken Capital of Canada.”.

West Lincoln Open Houses

 


Fun Facts:  Along Grimsby’s Waterfront Trail, you can see a cluster of colourful, whimsical cottages that were once part of a religious camp.  The brightly painted gingerbread homes are unique to the area and are sometimes called “The Chatauqua of Canada.”

Grimsby Open Houses 

 


Fun Facts:  In 1898, hockey players in the town of Beamsville were the first to make use of a hockey net.

Beamsville is the heart of Niagara Region’s Wine Country. The unique climate makes this region particularly known for its ice wines, which make up fully 50% of its wine exports.

Beamsville Open Houses

 


Fun Facts:  Some scenes for the movie X-Men were shot at Spencer Smith Park, on the Burlington shore of Lake Ontario.

Actors Jim Carrey and Ryan Gosling attended schools in Burlington. Carrey went to Aldershot High School, and Gosling to Lester B Pearson High School.

Burlington Open Houses

 


Fun Fact:  In 2012, a local botanist named Paul O’Hara found a sugar maple tree on the Beverly Swamp Trail that is estimated to be 220-250 years old.  The tree had been purposely bent as a sapling to be used as a trail marker by the indigenous people who inhabited the area.  This maple is believed to be the first living Native Trail Marker to be discovered in the Hamilton Region.

Flamborough & Waterdown Open Houses

 

CMHC Program
07.17.2020

Should You Apply for the CMHC Shared Equity Mortgage Program?

Buying

In September 2019, the CMHC launched their Shared Equity Mortgage Provider Program for Canadians. The goal is to make it easier for middle class home buyers to reduce their mortgage burden by almost $300 a month. The program aims to help Canadians to buy their first home over the next five years. Here’s a quote regarding the program from CMHC:

“Through the National Housing Strategy, more middle-class Canadians – and people working hard to join it – will find safe, accessible and affordable homes. Our proposed measures will reduce the monthly mortgage for your first home by up to $286. This will mean more money in the pockets of Canadians and will help up to an estimated 100,000 families across Canada.” — Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

 

Like most people, you are probably having one of two reactions right now:

Where do I sign?

or

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Here are a few details to help you decide whether this initiative is worth considering:

  • CMHC provides a repayable loan as part of the down payment; 5% on a resale home, and up to 10% on new construction.
  • It is available to those who already have at a least 5% down payment from their own resources (savings, RSP, non-repayable gift from a family member) and whose total family income is less than $120,000 a year.
  • The top purchase price that will qualify for most buyers will be somewhere between $480,000-$565,000 since the loan and incentive amount can be no more than four times the total income of the borrowers. Sadly this rules out many markets in the GTHA.
  • Qualifying properties are single family homes or condos, year-round mobile homes, or multiple unit dwellings with up to 4 units where the borrower lives full-time.

 

Here’s how the program would work for a purchase price of $400 000 on a newly constructed home:

John and Mary find a brand new house for $400,000. They have a down payment of $20,000 from their own resources (5% of the purchase price).

They apply to receive $40,000 in a CMHC shared equity mortgage (10% of the cost of a new home).

The higher down payment lowers their total mortgage amount, reducing monthly expenses.

As a result, John and Mary’s mortgage is $228 less every month, saving them $2,736 a year.

 

How the Loan is Repaid:

There are no partial or incremental payments to be made on the shared equity loan.  At the latest, it must be repaid in full after 25 years.

The incentive must also be paid in full under these circumstances:

  • The home is sold.
  • The home is re-financed.
  • A divorce or break up where one partner wants to buy the other out and requires additional insured funds to do so.
  • A buyer wishes to port their mortgage to another property.
  • A partial release of security is treated like a sale.  (Requires repayment in full)
  • The intended use of the property changes. (eg, Borrower decides to rent it to tenants instead of occupying)

 

What Exactly is Shared Equity?

This is where investment decisions are made.  Shared equity is another way of saying shared ownership – for better or for worse.  It is important to remember that this program is not a simple or a zero-percent loan.

CMHC has positioned itself as a speculator and investor.  Once a buyer enters into this program, the government, through its Crown Corporation, owns 5-or-10% of their home.  Upon the sale of the property (or when repayment is triggered by one of the other circumstances listed above), profits and [unlikely] losses must be shared in proportion to ownership.  The buyer will repay, not the original loan amount, but a percentage of the value of the property.

 

Is the Program for You?

While the CMHC’s First-time Home Buyer Incentive may be a compromise that works for some, many mortgage professionals feel that it gives up too much growth potential for first time buyers.

One factor to consider is that, in some cases, a family income of $120,000 may qualify borrowers for a larger mortgage without the shared equity plan.  The shared equity program may actually reduce buying power for some.

The biggest consideration for most buyers, though, is the fact that a home is typically the largest investment they will make – and is often the one that offers the most significant returns.

Buyers still have to provide a 5% down payment, which may qualify them to carry their loan with only the usual mortgage insurance that CMHC (and others) have always offered.  Will the monthly savings from sharing equity be worth giving up 5-10% of the value of the house when the incentive is repaid?

Consider Hamilton’s real estate market over the last 5 years.  According to the MLS Home Price Index, properties on the Hamilton Mountain have increased in value by around 80% over the past five years.  Other areas of the city have experienced even larger gains.

Let’s imagine that the program had existed in 2015. A first time buyer who bought a house on the Mountain for $400 000 using the shared equity program (at 5%) would have borrowed $20,000 to reduce monthly expenses by about $120 a month.  The total savings over five years would amount to about  $7200.00.

By 2020, that house could be worth $720,000.  Upon sale, the loan to be repaid would be $36,000.

If a buyer can justify paying $16,000 ($36,000-20,000)  to save $7200, the program might be something to consider.

 

Build Your Own Team of Professionals

When you are ready to make one of the biggest financial decisions in life, it is wise to get as much reliable information as you can.  We are always happy to help you with your real estate questions and to direct you to other industry professionals who can help you analyze your own situation so that you can make the best decisions for your circumstances.

Give us a call anytime – we are here to help!

 

 

Cottage By The lake
07.14.2020

Are You Shore You’re Ready For A Cottage By The Water?

Buying

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own little piece of tranquility?  A weekend lakeside retreat, perhaps?

Summers are a time for many Ontario families to head to ‘Cottage Country,’ where they enjoy weekends on the water, evening campfires, and freedom from the stress of the city.  For those who don’t enjoy camping in a tent or trailer, owning a cottage is the choice that allows them to have the best of both worlds: Woods and water outdoors, and a full selection of creature comforts indoors.

From a purely practical point of view, a family cottage can be a great equity-building investment, too.

There are a few things to know about this type of property before jumping into ownership, though.  We have prepared a little crash course for those of you who are considering this kind of property.

 

Some Types of Cottage Property.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the kind of vacation homes we find most often on MLS:

  • Winterized/Year Round Waterfront Cottage:  A true second home, a winterized cottage usually has a proper foundation, sometimes even a full basement, and a heat source for winter use.  It may be situated in a neighbourhood where some residents are year-rounders and others are part-time visitors to the area who use their properties mainly on weekends and holidays.
  • Off-water country home:  A different type of summer retreat, this property will appeal to buyers whose prime goal is to have land to roam and enjoy.  The typical ideal off-water country home will have some acreage, perhaps a wooded area, and be near a beach or water access point even though it isn’t waterfront property.  Though it may be rustic, this is normally a year round dwelling. Some investors have a long-term plan to retire to their year round vacation homes after enjoying them as a weekend getaway for several years.

Lenders view these two types of properties much the same way as primary dwellings. It is possible to get an insured mortgage with only 5% down.

  • Seasonal Cottage:  Typically more affordable than year-round homes, 3-season cottages are open between spring and fall.  A few of these may be accessible by water only, and many are on private roads that do not have winter maintenance. Though not movable (like trailers/mobile homes), they are often built on concrete blocks, pilings, or stilts.  We can find some within campgrounds or parks that provide grounds maintenance and other services, including water supply, for a fee, between May 1 and October 31 every year.  In this category, there are direct and indirect waterfront options. Some private roads are a quick walk to the beach with no water views, despite being zoned for seasonal use only.

Seasonal cottages usually require “Type B” vacation property loans.  Lenders may offer a mortgage on a summer home in this category with as little as 10% down under similar terms to other real estate – subject to acceptance by a mortgage insurer like Genworth. You may find that interest rates are slightly higher, and there might be a cap on the dollar value of the mortgage, regardless of market value.

  • Land Lease:  With prices rising in almost all Canadian real estate markets, this option has become more appealing for many buyers. Mobile homes on leased land (usually within tightly managed parks or resorts) are much more affordable than traditional real estate.  For the purpose of this article, we are only talking about seasonal properties that run from May to October- not the ones where owners live full time in a managed mobile home park.  Many of those communities have restrictions on vacation rentals to protect residents from the atmosphere that a seasonal vacation park requires.

Seasonal cottages or mobile homes on leased land are often on prime land near rivers or lakes, and owners can take advantage of shared amenities like watersports equipment rentals, swimming pools, tennis courts, kids’ clubs, wi-fi, etc.  Grounds are maintained and guests can just show up and enjoy their time.

Many investors who wish to own this type of property treat it as a business, renting the place out for most of the summer season, and maybe using it for a week or two themselves. Land lease fees can be steep, but often include taxes, most utilities, and maintenance costs.

Getting a loan for a home on leased land is more challenging, since you do not own the land.  Many buyers use private funds but, if you require a loan, you may get a chattel mortgage from some lenders.

 

What You Should Know About Cottage Construction.

Depending on the age of the cottage you are considering, there are some common issues that you may run into when buying a vacation home.

Older structures seldom meet the standards of current building codes. Many recreational properties do not have full foundations, even if they have been upgraded to include insulation and heating for year-round use. You’ll want to pay attention to cracks in the walls and other signs of settling that offer clues that the footings or piers that support the house are inadequate. Repairs like this can be very expensive.

A qualified building inspector should provide a report on structural issues that need attention, as well as any other elements that are problematic: electrical, heating systems (including WETT inspection for wood-burning appliances), destructive pests (termites, carpenter bees/ants, rats/mice, etc), and old septic systems.

Sometimes at waterfront property or on conservation land, sewage waste goes to an underground holding tank instead of a septic system with a leaching bed. This setup can protect the environment from potential contamination.

A holding tank holds all household sewage. It does not leach any liquid away into the ground like a septic system does. The tank has one compartment that can only hold a limited amount of sewage. A vacuum truck is used to pump out the contents, which are then sent to a municipal treatment system. As you can imagine, these tanks need service frequently, so make sure you factor in this cost to your operating budget.

One more thought about an older cottage: If you have plans to renovate, upgrade, or expand your cottage and/or property – make sure you research the zoning thoroughly, find out what permits you will need, and which agencies will need to grant them. You may find that, in addition to the usual municipal offices, you will have to deal with Conservation Authorities, who may have different requirements and charge additional fees.  Rules have likely changed since the home was first built, and there are no guarantees they will allow you to proceed with your planned project until you get the proper approvals.

A Word About Water Supply…

Does the property have a cistern or a well, or both? A cistern is the more straightforward option, the most common type being a buried receptacle that holds trucked-in, treated water for use inside the home. It’s a good idea to inspect the cistern regularly to ensure that it is clean and well-enclosed to prevent anything from getting into the water supply. You’ll want to make sure you know whether your eaves troughs run into the cistern, since that can be a source of impurities. A free municipal water test can tell you whether the supply has any contaminants in it. Proper maintenance of a cistern will keep cottage water supply safe.

A well requires much more attention and more frequent testing. Local health authorities may provide the required testing, but there are also private labs that offer this service.

If you are not familiar with the function and maintenance of wells, and you are considering buying a rural property for use as a vacation home, adding a cistern to the property may be the most convenient solution. Bottled water for drinking and cooking can provide peace of mind that your family will be safe while relaxing at the property.

Access to the Property

It is more common in Cottage Country than in other residential areas to find private roads and rights-of-way over adjacent properties. Rights-of-way may be deeded or un deeded, and may cross over either private or Crown land. It is important that you understand your property. Your lawyer can help you obtain clear, written confirmation that you will have continued access to the property that you own.

 

Who Owns the Waterfront?

Common sense seems to indicate that the owner of a cottage built on a direct lakefront property is the owner of the land up to the water’s edge.

Laws about this, though, are actually quite complicated – and debates and conflicts more common than you might realize.

To understand the issues, we have to go all the way back to the mid-1800’s. Early land surveyors laid out 66-foot strips of land as commercial road allowances along the shores of rivers and lakes for commercial use by loggers and other transportation companies.

These days, there isn’t a whole lot of logging or commercial activity going on in cottage country. The problem is that, unless the owner purchased the property to the shoreline at some point, that 66-foot span may still be (even if only on paper) Crown Land. This means that the public has rights to access and use that strip to walk along the water, set up a picnic, or even ride ATV’s.

It has surprised some cottage owners to find out that accessory buildings like boathouses and bunkies near their homes are actually not on their property.  The provincial government has a lease program to allow them to keep the building that encroaches on Crown Land by paying rent in some cases.

With the help of a lawyer, the owner of a property that still has an open shoreline access road can apply to purchase this land. Unless there are objections from neighbours or environmental protections in place, many properties will have this option available.

The best way to avoid surprises is to obtain a survey before making a firm offer on a waterfront property, and to have an experienced real estate lawyer search title to ensure that you know all the details of ownership.

Riparian Rights

Owners of waterfront property have riparian rights, that is privileges associated with use of and access to that body of water. Some of these riparian rights are:

  1. Right of access to the water
  2. Right of drainage (of land into the body of water)
  3. Rights relating to the quantity (flow and level) of water
  4. Rights relating to the quality of water
  5. Rights relating to the use of water and
  6. Right of accretion.

The right of accretion entitles an owner to the extension of their land if the water retreats. More often, though, erosion is the concern.

Generally speaking, if you own property that has a water boundary, you have riparian rights, including access to the body of water for recreational uses such as boating, swimming, and fishing.

This does not mean, however, that the owner of a waterfront property owns the water or the lake or river bed.

For more information about riparian rights, click here

Waterfront Improvements

To fully enjoy their water access, many cottagers add docks or boathouses. Some of these require no work permits, such as floating docks or boathouses, or those whose supporting structures have a surface area of less than 15 square meters. (Note that these could still require permission for occupational authority if they are on Crown Land. It’s always best to double check.)

For other types of work along the water’s edge, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the local municipality need to issue permits and approvals. Depending on the location, Transport Canada may even review the matter to ensure that there are no negative impacts on navigation.

Since erosion is a constant threat, many owners of waterfront land build a barrier or break wall of some sort. These are expensive, but often necessary to protect the shoreline from being washed away into the water. Before trying to create one of these structures, even if you plan to hire a contractor, find out whether you need an environmental study in addition to the required permits.

 

Final Word

A cottage property is a big, exciting investment that can offer enjoyment to multiple generations. If you are interested in creating memories at a summer home by the lake, be sure to do all the research you can so you make the right choice and fully enjoy your own little piece of paradise.

home buyer mistakes
07.8.2020

100 Buyer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them! (1-20)

Buying

Buying a home is a complicated task with many potential downfalls. Don’t let your experience be ruined by bad choices, learn from the mistakes of others and your move will be as easy as 1,2,3!

1. Trying to “time” the market.

It’s only natural for buyers to want to pinpoint the best time of year to buy a home. In our experience, August and December usually have the smallest number of active buyers, and therefore create good negotiating opportunities.

Though we have seen this firsthand, we have also seen our clients get impressive deals almost every other month of the year. In our opinion, the best time to buy a home is when you’re available to spend the time shopping and when you have your figurative “ducks in a row.”

These ‘ducks’ include:

  • Savings for a down payment / closing costs
  • A mortgage pre-approval
  • A good understanding of how the process works.

After that, you’re ready. We believe that if you’re reading this article in March and you’re ready to buy, there is little to gain by waiting till August or December to pull the trigger.

 

2. Not getting approved by a lender prior to house hunting.

You’ve likely heard this many times before. There is no point in shopping for a home when you’re not sure if you qualify for a mortgage. And no, online calculators do not count. A pre-approval involves having a mortgage professional look at your financial documents, your proof of employment, and your credit rating. They then can look for the best deals and lock in your interest rate.

There are many benefits to you once you’ve completed this step:

  • Have confidence shopping in your price range
  • Know that your interest rate can only go lower during the next 3-4 months
  • Be prepared to make an offer when the right opportunity presents itself
  • Minimize the risk of losing the house of your dreams for the inability to remove a financing condition
  • You may even be in a position to make a “firm” offer on a home if needed
  • Home sellers will take you seriously.

 

3. Changing jobs before closing 

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t do this. If you change employment before taking possession of your new home, your deal is in jeopardy. Financial institutions often re-confirm information provided prior to releasing funds to close the transaction. This includes employment details. If you must change jobs, be sure to contact your mortgage professional and your Realtor ASAP to discuss options available to you.

 

4. Offering on a home during your employment probation period.

We know you’re excited to pull the trigger and buy a new home, but shopping for a home during your 3 month probation period is a mistake. You won’t get financial approval from a lender. (See Mistake #2 above) Financial institutions do this because your job is not considered secure during this period.

 

5. Buying a new home without a spousal separation agreement.

Unfortunately, many marriages end in separation and divorce. Occasionally, a newly single individual wants to buy a new property quickly, before the separation agreement is finalized. This, however, is a mistake. Completing the separation agreement is critical to getting financing for the new property. Lenders want the entire picture of your financial obligations before offering you a mortgage. These include debts to be paid, spousal, and child support payments. Once completed, you’re in a better position to buy a new home.

 

6. Accumulating extra debt before taking possession of your new home (Ex: New furniture, car payment).

You’ve bought a beautiful new home and now you want to buy new furniture to decorate it and a new car that will look great in the driveway. However, this classic mistake can suck the joy out of the buying process quickly. Unless you’re paying for these things with cash that is not allocated for the down payment on your house, be sure to wait until AFTER you get the keys to charge them to your credit card. If you buy these “extras” on credit, it might push your financial borrowing ability over the limit and prevent you from getting your mortgage.

 

7. Focusing on condition of the home over location.

Have you heard the golden rule when buying real estate? It goes this way: “Location, Location, Location”. There are many excellent reasons never to forget this important rule; yet many buyers focus on how nice the kitchen and bathrooms are instead of prioritizing the area. Location of a property is more important than interior finishes because you can’t move a home from a rough neighbourhood, but you can improve the home in a desirable one. Homes in more desirable locations have many benefits. They appreciate more quickly in value, are often in better school catchments, and are generally perceived as safer. These things all add up to better resale value later on. If you’re buying in an unfamiliar city, it’s essential to hire a local realtor who can properly advise you and ensure you don’t make a poor decision. Hire us, we can help you! 🙂

 

8. Being too picky.

It’s normal to expect value for your money, especially with house prices being so high. Sometimes, though, we see buyers make the mistake of being unreasonably picky. In all our years of selling real estate, we have never seen a perfect home (even brand new homes). They all have their quirks and details that need attention. We suggest setting realistic expectations while house shopping. This is the best way to find YOUR perfect place to call home.

 

9. Being stuck on one neighbourhood.

There are valid reasons for having your sights set on a certain area. Whether it be the school district, proximity to family members, or commute time to work, you likely have some set boundaries for your search. You absolutely can find the right home in your desired area, but it might require more patience and cost you more money if your search area is very narrow. In a smaller area, there are fewer options available and other buyers may be willing to pay a premium for the same homes. If you can widen your search, you may open up more possibilities and opportunities to get a great home at a better price.

 

10. Not understanding current market conditions.

We sometimes work with buyers who have deeply entrenched, mistaken beliefs that hurt their ability to get into the market. Some of these are a result of taking advice from others who have not bought or sold for many years, and some just reflect how difficult it can be to be in the buyer’s shoes in the strong sellers’ market we are still experiencing.

Some damaging misconceptions involve:

  • The amount of negotiation power/leverage a buyer has in a sellers’ market. We have a severe lack of housing supply and that means nearly zero negotiating power for the buyer. Many properties are selling far above asking price.
  • The number of homes a buyer needs to see before choosing one. We’ve worked with buyers who have visited as few as one home to over 100 properties. It is unnecessary to view an excessive number of houses if you find one you love.
  • Expecting too much home in the target price range.
  • Expecting to win a bidding war with many conditions and a low offer.

If you struggle to reconcile the advice you receive from your realtor or loved ones, ask for examples of recent sales and how those buyers got their offers accepted. There are patterns that emerge in most areas, and trends you can rely on to set some reasonable expectations.

 

11. Not understanding what home ownership REALLY involves.

Most people would agree that home ownership is a wise choice, yet the weight of responsibility is a surprise to many first-time homeowners. Home ownership is more than paying mortgage, taxes, and utilities to reap capital gains. It also often involves expensive repairs and upkeep. It’s important to consider extra costs before pulling the trigger on a purchase to avoid a mistake you later regret. Looking at the complete picture early in the process can help you choose what type of home best suits your needs. Do you want a newly built home? It may cost more up front, but you’re less likely to experience large out-of-pocket maintenance-related expenses for many years (See #16 for a reality check on new homes, though!). Do you like the thought of a zero maintenance home where you can lock the door and leave without worry? If so, maybe a condo is your best bet. Honest self-examination is crucial. We can help you through this important step. Let us know when you would like to schedule a time to get together to talk over some options. In the meantime, take a few moments to answer these questions:

  • Are we handy enough to make necessary repairs ourselves, or will we need to call someone every time something breaks?
  • Will we enjoy making such repairs, even if we are capable?
  • Do we enjoy yard work and exterior upkeep?
  • After buying a home, how long would it be before we could we afford a large out-of-pocket expense like a roof, furnace, or foundation repair?
  • What is our lifestyle like? Do we need a yard for pets? Do we like to entertain? Will we require separate spaces for home offices, the kids, or hobbies?
  • Do we prefer a carefree experience with as little upkeep as possible?

 

12. Not researching areas before buying

For many buyers moving to Hamilton, it’s easy to gravitate toward the most “affordable” housing options. However, unless their agent knows the neighbourhood, buyers who are unfamiliar with the area are at risk of making a poor buying decision.

This highlights the need for two things:

1. Do your homework. Thoroughly research the neighbourhoods you’re considering and completely understand what they are like. Take a drive through the areas at different times of the day to get a true feel for them.

2. Hire a local agent who is familiar with the area. Be clear about what you are looking for and what your own deal breakers are. Neighbourhoods change quickly in Hamilton, sometimes block by block. Work with an advisor who can steer you in the right direction. To start your research, check out our neighbourhood pages here. When you’re ready to look at homes, contact us here.

 

13. Picking a lawyer based on price

Hiring a lawyer is an essential part of the buying process. They ensure your closing day goes smoothly. Sadly, not all lawyers do a thorough job. When lawyers drop the ball on important details, it can negatively affect buyers. We don’t want this to happen to you. Please don’t choose a law firm based on price alone. Select a lawyer based on personal experience or a solid recommendation from a trusted source – an experienced friend, colleague, or your Realtor. This is especially important during Covid-19. Many lawyers have been slow to adopt modern technology and some are struggling to make needed adjustments. Your lawyer should be:

  • Capable, fresh and eager
  • Thorough, respectful and diligent
  • Aggressive when they need to be. Unfortunately, some transactions turn sour. You need a lawyer who protects you and fights for you. If your legal representative is soft and yielding, this could cost you dearly.

When it comes time to select your lawyer, ask about more than how much they charge for their services. Ask for references and find out how they handle situations that become contentious. Or, if you prefer, ask us who we use. We will be happy to share some experiences that may help you make your selection.

For more info, read “How to choose a Real Estate Lawyer”.

 

14. Assuming a fixer-upper is always a good deal

This happens time and time again, especially in a strong sellers’ market. A neglected or distressed property seems like a good deal until you realize how expensive repairs are, and that a renovated home might cost less.

We recently worked with a young couple looking to buy a home on a $600,000 budget. Here is what we learned:

Many of the homes priced at $500,000 required a $100,000 renovation. Most of those were receiving multiple offers over asking. After spending time and energy, and dealing with the stress of a 6-figure renovation, the house would only be worth $600,000. That hardly sounds like a deal.

Another option – the renovated house. Our client skipped the fixer-upper and bought a beautifully renovated home for $582,500. How, you ask? It was a flip project that the seller had purchased the year before at a lower price. Because of this, his profit margins were higher, resulting in a win for both parties. Now our clients are enjoying the summer, relaxing in their beautiful pool, and living in a fully finished home.

The moral of the story is: Not all fixer-uppers are a good deal.

 

15. Missing first-time buyer opportunities  

First time home buyers can use all the help they can get! Below are two non-mandatory programs that might help you out.

  • The First Time Home Buyer Program (HBP) – This program allows you to use RSP money toward your down payment. Even if you have your down payment waiting patiently in a regular bank account, not taking advantage of this program could cost you big time! Click here to read more about it.
  • CMHC Shared Equity Buyer program – This program is relatively new. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation is a government-owned entity. They provide mortgage default insurance for home buyers, but are also currently offering a down payment assistance program. You can read about it here.

 

16. Assuming a brand new home comes completely finished.

Buying a brand new home definitely has its perks. You get to pick the lot, layout, and interior finishes. This does not, however, mean that there will be nothing for you to do when you get the keys.

Here are a few items you should budget for:

  • Window coverings -the cost of blinds, shutters, and drapes can add up quickly.
  • Landscaping (front and back) – When you get your keys, the exterior will be very basic. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on decks, patios, pools, decorative stone, and more.
  • Perimeter fencing – Neighbours often share the cost of building fences in new subdivisions. Even after splitting the expense, though, it can set you back thousands of dollars.
  • Finishing the basement – This adds essential extra living space for many families. It’s a glorious place to build a theatre room or let the kids disappear for a while. Costs to finish a typical basement average around $50-$60 per square foot. If your basement is 1000 square feet, expect the bill to be $50,000-$60,000.
  • Appliances – If bringing your old appliances to your new home doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll want to budget for new ones. It’s easy to spend $10,000 on a decent package.

If the thought of completing (and paying extra for) these projects doesn’t excite you, consider buying a re-sale home that checks most of your boxes.

 

17. Not understanding how negative influences affect property values.

A home’s value will largely depend on what is and isn’t nearby. It is important to pay attention to the surroundings of a home you want to buy. Here are a few examples of nearby influences to consider:

  • Commercial buildings
  • Apartment buildings
  • Hydro towers
  • Graveyards
  • Major streets and highways
  • Lack of services

Read the article – what affects the value of a home?

 

18. Choosing a home’s character over function.

Hamilton is home to entire neighbourhoods of gorgeous character homes. These homes possess a feeling which is impossible to replicate in modern construction. It’s easy to fall in love with the tall ceilings, intricate millwork and exposed brick walls. That said, these homes come with a few downsides you need to be ok with….so let’s consider a few.

Small or non-existent closets: Times were different. People didn’t own the vast amounts of clothing we have today. They built houses with tiny closets that can be less than practical for modern living.

Disproportionate room sizes: We use the space in our homes differently now. We spend more time in our bedrooms and kitchens, and we often eat in the living room. The design of many older homes included a compact kitchen and small bedrooms – but huge dining rooms. Generations before us would have been insulted to think of eating anywhere but at a formal table! Also, a main bedroom ensuite bathroom was often unheard of.

Unusable basements: We use our basements as extra living space while past generations used them mainly for storage and workshops. Many older homes have short basements with little to no usable living space.

This is not to dissuade you from buying your dream character home. We only want you to consider the pros and cons before making your decision.

Another option is to add character to a home that has a more desirable layout and modern features. It’s easier to add character to a functional home than to add functionality to a character home.

 

19. Being dishonest on the mortgage application

This “mistake” can actually be a criminal offense. Being dishonest on your mortgage application is a BIG no-no. Financial institutions are very thorough when verifying information and will find out. When they do, your deal will fall apart and the seller can sue you if you’re unable to complete the transaction. Being dishonest on your application includes providing false information about where you work, how much money you make and providing fake financial documents. If your mortgage broker is suggesting you falsify information, it’s time to run.

 

20. Being dishonest with your Realtor

Being dishonest with your Realtor will limit their ability to help you. A good Realtor acts as a consultant and advisor. We need to know important information about your financial situation and your plans and goals. Although you may feel awkward sharing this information, you might not reach your goals unless you do so.

Legal Rental Suite
06.30.2020

Creating a Legal Rental Suite: How… and Why?

Buying

Creating passive income from real estate is a successful, time-tested strategy to maximize your investment dollars.  People will always need a place to stay and, with prices rising, creativity and flexibility have become key to affordability for many buyers.

As you search the MLS for suitable investment properties, or for a home for yourself with income potential, you will see lots of offerings with “in-law potential” or existing secondary suites.  Occasionally, you will see wording to the effect that “the owner does not warrant the retrofit status of the basement,” or something similar. That disclaimer, stripped of its tact, means that the secondary apartment in the house is illegal.

Many municipalities in Southern Ontario, knowing that there is a shortage of affordable housing and ever-growing demand for rental units, have turned a blind eye to the existence of such illegal apartments. Hamilton is no exception. It often takes a complaint to trigger a site-visit. It’s important to know, though, that complaints can be made anonymously, and all tips are investigated. It is also worth noting that an inspector can show up without a complaint, and that unofficial policy and practice can change at any time.

Fines for non-compliance can be heavy. Scroll down to page 24 of the Property Standards By-Law where it shows that a first offence can result in fines of $50 000 for an individual property owner!

Maybe I shouldn’t…?

Should having this knowledge scare you away from creating an in-law suite or secondary living space in your Hamilton home?  Absolutely not. With proper planning and the help of professionals who can assist you to develop a plan and a budget, you can create an income-producing asset that:

  • Is likely to attract a better quality tenant
  • Commands market rent at its higher end
  • Builds solid equity and a better return on your investment upon resale
  • AND offers peace of mind

Your realtor can research potential resale value after conversion for you, your contractor can help you estimate the cost of a renovation, and your mortgage broker can assist you to finance the whole project.

Protect Yourself and Your Investment

The initial steps to create a legal in-law suite will involve some expense. Here are some things you will need to do:

Become familiar with Section 19 conversion requirements.*

  • Consider getting an up-to-date survey of the property
  • Contact the City for a zoning verification, which will take between 2-10 days.  Generally, single family homes with a C or D zoning could qualify for a duplex conversion. (You can start your research here)
  • Get architectural, structural, and mechanical drawings and floor plans for each floor.
  • Apply for the required building permits.

Once you have made it known that you fully intend to comply with the law, the Building Department will be an ally throughout your project.  The City of Hamilton has worked hard to eliminate barriers to communication and to minimize delays throughout the process.  For example, instead of having a single, assigned inspector for your property, there is now a central number you can call to book inspections when you are ready. This helps you to keep things moving along as you progress through the stages of your project.

Not to sound too parental, but anything worth doing is worth doing properly. It’s true. And adding an in-law suite is one project that is definitely worth doing the right way!  The long-term benefits are well worth the extra effort required.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

-> Here is some additional information on Hamilton Building Permits, along with contact information for key contact people.

-> Building and Renovating in Hamilton

*SECTION NINETEEN – RESIDENTIAL CONVERSION REQUIREMENTS (92-281)

19. (1) “AA “, “B”t “B-1 “t “B-2”, “C”t “D” and “R-2” Districts

Notwithstanding anything contained in this By-Law, any single family detached dwelling in an “AA “ (Agricultural), “B” (Suburban Agriculture and Residential, etc.), “B-1” (Suburban Agriculture and Residential, etc.), “B-2” (Suburban Residential), “C” (Urban Protected Residential, etc.) and “D” (Urban Protected Residential – One and Two-Family Dwellings, Townhouses, etc.) and “R-2” (Urban Protected Residential – One and Two-Family Dwellings) Districts may be converted to contain not more than two dwelling units, provided all the following requirements are complied with:

(i) each dwelling unit has a floor area of at least 65 square metres (699.65 square feet), contained within the unit and having a minimum clear height of 2.1m (6.9ft.), but excluding the area of the cellar, if any, and of any porch, verandah or other such space which cannot lawfully be used as riving quarters;

(ii) The applicable zoning district regulations for a single family detached dwelling shall apply, except the minimum lot area shall be 270m2;

(iii) except as permitted in clause (iv), the external appearance and character of the dwelling shall be preserved;

(iv) there shall be no outside stairway other than an exterior exit;

(v) parking spaces, access driveways and manoeuvring space shall be provided in accordance with Section 18A, except that parking for only one of the dwelling units may be provided in accordance with the following special provisions:

Location

(1) it may be located in a required front yard provided that the area for parking, manoeuvring and access driveway shall not occupy more than 50% of the gross area of the front yard; (93-063)

(2) not less than 50% of the gross area of the front yard shall be used for a landscaped area, excluding concrete, asphalt, gravel, pavers or other similar materials;

(3) manoeuvring for the parking space may be permitted off-site; and,

(4) where a side yard abuts a street line, not less than 50% of the gross area of the side yard be used for a landscaped area excluding concrete, asphalt, gravel, pavers or other similar materials. (94-145)