2 Jun

Throwing the Perfect Summer BBQ

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

It’s the season of outdoor parties and a summer BBQ is the perfect way to enjoy time with friends and family! For some tips on how to make this year’s BBQ your best one yet, check out my list below:

  1. Set the Mood: String up fairy lights, plug in a radio with some of your favourite tunes in the background, put out a lawn rug and throw a fresh table cloth over your outdoor dining area. A few quick items can really spruce up the yard and make it feel ready for guests!
  2. Put Out Snacks: This may seem like a no brainer, but having a table filled with fun ‘grazing’ snacks can help stave off any stress about perfectly grilling your meals! Try a veggie and dip tray, fruit shish kabobs or cured meats and cheeses.
  3. Have Drinks on Hand: Set up a table with pitchers of fun summer drink concoctions (alcohol optional!) or consider filling a kiddie pool or wheelbarrow with ice to keep those beers chilled all afternoon.
  4. Choose Your Mains: It can be easy to get carried away grilling steaks, fish, chicken, hot dogs, burgers – you name it! For a more successful party, choose two options. Maybe you go with hot dogs and veggie burgers, or perhaps fish and chicken. Choose items that cook well on the BBQ together and suit the tone of your get-together.
  5. Don’t Forget to Play! If you’re hosting an adult-only BBQ, setting up a table for a card game can be a great way to pass the time and get in some laughs. If you have children in attendance, consider setting up a lemonade stand or fill up some water balloons for an extra splash!
2 Jun

Real Talk: Mortgage Penalties

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

When it comes to mortgages, it is easy to focus on the rates and your current situation, but the reality is that life happens and when it does, rates won’t be the only thing that matter.

At the end of the day, a mortgage is a contract between you (the homeowner) and the bank. As such, there are often penalties involved if the contract is ever broken. This is something that every homeowner agrees to when you sign mortgage paperwork, but it can be easy to forget – until you’re paying the price. These things do happen as approximately 6 out of 10 mortgages in Canada are broken within 3 years. Should your circumstances change, knowing the next steps can help you navigate the process.

Calculating Penalties

Typically, the penalty for breaking a mortgage is calculated in two different ways. Lenders generally use an Interest Rate Differential calculation or the sum of three months interest to determine the penalty. You will typically be assessed the greater of the two penalties, unless your contract states otherwise.

  1. Interest Rate Differential (IRD): In Canada there is no one-size-fits-all rule for how the IRD is calculated and it can vary greatly from lender to lender. This is due to the various comparison rates that are used. However, typically the IRD is based on the amount remaining on the loan and the difference between the original mortgage interest rate you signed at and the current interest rate a lender can charge today.

Ideally, you will want to be aware of what your IRD penalty would be before you decide to break your mortgage as it is not always the most viable option.

In this case, these penalties vary greatly as they are based on the borrower’s specific mortgage and the specific rates on the agreement, and in the market today. However, let’s assume you have a balance of $200,000 on your mortgage, an annual interest rate of 6%, 36 months remaining in your 5-year term and the current rate is 4%. This would mean an IRD penalty of $12,000 if you break the contract.

  1. Three Months Difference: In some cases, the penalty for breaking your mortgage is simply equivalent to three months of interest. Using the same example as above – balance of $200,000 on your mortgage, an annual interest rate of 6% – than three months interest would be a $3,000 penalty. A variable-rate mortgage is typically accompanied by only the three-month interest penalty.

Paying The Penalty

When it comes to making the payment, some lenders may allow you to add this penalty to your new mortgage balance (meaning you would pay interest on it). You can also pay your penalty up front. Whenever possible, if you can wait out your current mortgage term before making a change to your mortgage, it is the best way to avoid being stuck in the penalty box. If you cannot avoid a penalty, do note that, while only calculators can be great tools for estimates, it is best to contact me directly to discuss your mortgage terms and potential penalty calculations.

2 Jun

Building Your Own Home? 5 Things to Consider

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Building a house is an exciting adventure and the ultimate way to customize your home. To ensure you have the best experience, I have put together 5 important things to know before getting started.

1. It’s All in the Numbers
Whether you are shopping for a pre-built home, or are looking to create your own from the ground up, it is vital to know what you can afford and stay within it. This is the key to building a home that you will be able to enjoy for the next 20 or 30 years, while still maintaining your financial stability.

When calculating the cost of building your home, there are many components from construction materials and contracts to tax benefits, funds for the down payment and slush account and other related expenses. In Vancouver B.C., the typical cost to build a house is between $200 and $350+ per square foot. In some cases, it could cost as much as $500 or more per square foot. Overall, the average cost to build a house can range $300,000 to $350,000 for 1,000 square feet to double or triple that amount. On average, a 2,500 square foot home could cost between $500,000 and $875,000 to build depending on materials, design, etc.

2. Choose a Reputable Builder
When you start looking it can quickly become overwhelming when you realize how many options there are for builders. When it comes to determining the head contractor for your project, careful research is needed.

Note that in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, builders must provide home buyers with a third-party warranty. In the rest of Canada, the decision is left up to the individual builder. The Canadian Home Builder’s Association has a list of reputable professionals you can start with or, if you reside in the province of Ontario, you can use the HCRA’s Ontario Builder Directory. This will allow you to confirm:

  • If a builder or vendor is licensed with the HCRA
  • If any conditions have been placed on their licence
  • If Tarion has had to resolve warranty claims for a builder in the past 10 years
  • How many homes they have built and where these homes are

It can also help to consult friends and family members who have gone through the process. I can also assist in providing references!

3. Build a Home for Tomorrow
As tempting as it can be to personalize your home to the tenth degree and include every cool little feature you can think of, it is important to always keep resale value and practicality in the back of your mind. Life can often throw a few curve balls that, for one reason or another, may result in your having to sell your home in the future. If that time should ever come, you will want to be able to appeal to all buyers easily and not have to hold the house longer than necessary. Ask yourself if  the features you are putting into your home will appeal to others, and also if the design suits the neighborhood you are building in as well.

4. Go Green!
Now, more than ever before, energy efficient upgrades are easy to add to your home. To make your home as efficient as possible, it is important to incorporate these options into your design BEFORE you start building. Options such as energy efficient appliances, windows, HVAC systems, and more can save you money in the long run and may also make you eligible for certain grants and discounts. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) green building program rewards those who select energy efficient and environment friendly options.

5. Understand the Loan
Aside from the costs of building a new home, what does a mortgage look like for an unbuilt home? In many cases, this is where a “construction mortgage” might come into play. In order to properly qualify for financing on an unbuilt home, you need to give me a budget that includes both hard and soft costs, as well as the reserve of money you plan to have set aside in case you run into unexpected events.

For example, based on the lender loaning up to 75% of the total cost (with 25% down):

  • Land purchase price: $200,000
  • Total soft and hard costs (as complete): $400,000
  • $600,000 x 75% = $450,000 available to finance

It is also important to understand that the lender will also consider the appraised value of the finished product. This value is determined before the project begins. In addition, depending on the lender, you may have a time frame within which you need to complete construction (typically between 6 and 12 months).

Below are a few key points to remember with regards to repayment on construction loans:

  • Construction loans are usually fully opened and can be repaid at any time.
  • Interest is charged only on amounts drawn; there are no “unused funds”
  • Once construction is complete and project completion has been verified by the lender, the construction mortgage is “moved over” to a normal mortgage

Lastly, the lender will always consider the marketability of a property. This includes not only demographic aspects, but also the geography. A lot that in a secluded area with minimal market demand may not be a property that they are willing to lend on, so it is important to review the entire property and plan before breaking ground. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to get started on the process so that you can build with confidence!

3 May

Your Gardening To-Do List

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

If you are looking to have a garden that is the envy of the neighbourhood, May is a great time to get started on your gardening to-do list. I have put together some helpful tips and ideas for how to get started so your garden shines all summer long!

  1. Plant Annuals and Perennials: This is a great time to start planting annuals and perennials in your garden. Some good choices include: cosmos, marigold, nasturtium, sunflower, sweet alyssum, and zinnia. For the best results, it is ideal to pick an overcast day for initial planting to avoid heat shock and be sure to keep all new plants well-watered until they have settled.
  2. Start Summer Veggie Seeds: If you’re hoping to enjoy fresh veggies all summer, be sure to plant them now! Beans, corn, cucumbers and squash can all be sown directly in the soil (ideally when evening temperatures are around 10 degrees Celsius). Another great option is to plant tomatoes as they love the sun and are very hardy, but be sure to provide trellis support! Plant all veggies in a bed of compost (4” – 6” deep) to ensure a healthy start and remember to keep new sprouts moist to avoid heat damage.
  3. Spice it Up: Now that the frost has passed, it is also a great time to plant seasonal spices. Basil, dill, rosemary, marjoram, cilantro and fennel are great options for planting this time of year. They require a bright area with 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil to flourish. Even better? Plant them in a container in your windowsill or on your porch so you can easily access them if you need a snip of fresh herb!
  4. Lawn Mower Care: Lawn mowing season is just around the corner and now is the perfect time to tune up your lawn mower! Get your blades sharpened, change the oil, filter and update the spark plugs to keep you riding smooth all summer.
  5. Lawn Maintenance Routine: Establish a lawn maintenance routine that includes watering your grass and garden, as well as weeding unwanted and unruly foliage and applying fertilizer. A helpful tip is to water your plants in the late afternoon or early evening to cut down on evaporation. This also allows your garden several hours to take up the water into their systems, without battling the sun.
3 May

Looking to Upsize Your Home?

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

According to RE/MAX, one of the biggest trends for Canadian homeowners in 2021 are move-up buyers looking to purchase a home that offers more space for them and their families. In fact, this is true for a whopping 29% of Canadians! Unsurprisingly, this demographic is made up mostly of younger Canadians (under 35) with growing families.

If you are someone who fits this bill and is desperate for a home with more space because you’re feeling cramped or have a little one on the way, it may be time to consider moving on up! Before making this change, there are a few factors to consider from your existing mortgage to requalifying to upsizing costs!

Your Current Mortgage
If you are wanting to upsize, the first thing to look at is whether or not you have an existing mortgage. If not, you don’t have to worry about this part! However, if you are looking to upsize during your current mortgage cycle, it is important to note that you will be breaking the mortgage and will have to go through the entire qualification process again.

An additional point of note is that, if you do move forward with upsizing to a larger home, there may be penalties for breaking your mortgage. These penalties will depend on the lender and the terms set out in your mortgage agreement. In some cases, your current mortgage may be portable, which would make the transition smoother. However, you would need to check your mortgage agreement.

Since you are looking to upsize your home and may require more funds for a larger build, another option is to consider going the “blend and extend” route. This doesn’t require you to break your mortgage or pay prepayment penalties. If the original mortgage was variable-rate, it may not be portable, but this is a great option to consider if you have an existing fixed-rate agreement. However, bear in mind, you would still need to requalify since to increase the mortgage to purchase the larger home. More details on requalifying below!

Requalifying and the “Stress Test”
If you do have an existing mortgage and are

unable to port it, you would need to re-qualify  for a new mortgage. This means going through the mortgage process again to qualify at the current interest rates being offered in the marketplace. This would also be subject to government changes – including recent “stress test” rules.

Since January 1, 2018, the stress test has been required for ALL mortgages – regardless of your down payment amount. This test is designed to determine whether a homebuyer can afford their principal and interest payments, should interest rates increase. It is based on the 5-year benchmark rate from Bank of Canada or the customer’s mortgage interest rate plus 2% – whichever is higher.

The Cost of Upsizing
Once you have considered the mortgage-related aspects of upsizing to a larger home, the next thing to look at are the costs associated with making this change. There may be large Property Transfer Taxes and you would also be paying realtor fees on the sale of the home you are leaving behind. These fees are typically 2.5-5% of the home’s selling price.

Beyond the costs associated with the sale of your current home and purchasing a larger residence, the costs of home ownership also rise in proportion to the home you live in. If you are moving up from a condo or apartment to a single-family home, you will save on strata fees but will become responsible for all of the maintenance of your home. It is a good rule of thumb to save one percent of your new home’s purchase price, per year, for maintenance. For instance, if you purchase a $600,000 new home then you would want to ensure $6,000 a year in savings.

Next Steps
Making the move to a larger home is both an exciting and daunting process – but it is entirely doable with the right preparation! No matter what stage you are at with your home, please do not hesitate to contact me if you are considering making a move up the property ladder. I would be happy to review your current mortgage and finances and discuss your options with you to ensure you can continue living the life of your dreams!

3 May

The Benefit of Rate Holds

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

The term “rate hold” may be something you are familiar with if you have worked with me in the past. If not, it is a term that all prospective buyers should know!

A rate hold is offered by the majority of lenders to clients who are purchasing a new home and need a mortgage. The purpose of the rate hold is to secure the interest rate on your mortgage application for a certain time period. Often, these holds range from 90-120 days. Bear in mind, these are typically not provided for anyone refinancing their mortgage or looking to transfer it from one lender to another. Only those looking to purchase a home or establish a brand-new mortgage.

Once you have created an application with me, I can submit it to an available lender who is offering a rate hold on an interest rate you want to take advantage of – all without a property attached.

For an example of how a rate hold works, consider this. On day one you submit your application to a lender for a fixed interest rate of 2.64% for five-years. On day 60, that interest rate moves to 3.12%. As long as your

mortgage closes in the next 60 days, you are protected and can keep your lower rate of 2.64%. Plus, if rates happen to trend downward, you can also take advantage of the lower interest rate.

This rate hold does not commit you to working with that particular lending institution, nor does it commit you to working with me. It also does not hurt your chances of receiving an approval down the road! All it does is protect the agreed upon interest rate for you while you shop the market, so you don’t have to worry about it increasing while you are hunting for your perfect home!

Once the 120 days expires, if you have not found that perfect home fit or want to take advantage of different interest rates, there is nothing stopping you from submitting another rate hold! It will just be subject to the current rates on the day of submission.

If you are looking to purchase a new or secondary home this summer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself to get started on the pre-approval process and put your rate hold in place!

2 Mar

Spring Cleaning Tips!

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

As the sun starts coming back around, it is a great time to scrub those windows and deep clean your home! Here are some tips for a successful Spring cleaning adventure:

  1. Create a Playlist: Everything is more fun with a great playlist! Not only is music great therapy but it can make the cleaning process go by quicker and make it more enjoyable.
  2. Clean One Room at a Time: While we all like seeing our homes sparkly and fresh, it can sometimes be an overwhelming process to get to that point. To help minimize the stress of your Spring cleaning project, work one room at a time! Start with the smaller rooms, or those that need the least amount of cleaning, and work your way up to the larger, project rooms. Another option is to tackle one or two rooms each weekend for the month and by the time April comes, you’ll be ready!
  3. Declutter as You Go: Spring cleaning isn’t just about shining up the brass on the door and dusting. It is just as important to declutter your space! Before you start cleaning the room, it is a good idea to pinpoint items that can be discarded, such as old magazines and papers, as well as to go through closets and cupboards for anything that you can donate (like that sweater you bought and never wore). This will clear up space for new clothing and items and will make you feel that much more accomplished!
  4. Think Green: Spring cleaning allows us to start the season off on a fresh, clean note. Don’t muddy that up with harsh chemical cleaners. In today’s eco-friendly environment, there are many safe alternatives to regular cleaners. Vinegar is a great substitute in the bathroom or kitchen as well as combining vinegar, baking soda and water as a deep clean alternative. You can also opt for a steam cleaner to manage tile, hardwood floors, appliances and even outdoor areas as they only use hot water and vapor.
  5. Work From Top to Bottom: Starting from the ceiling and working your way down just makes sense! This will force debris downward and save you having to re-clean your space. Dusting first will prevent a headache later too!
  6. Don’t Forget The Fridge & Freezer: The best time to clean out your fridge and freezer is right before you do your grocery shop, so they will be at their most empty. Take everything out and dispose of anything that is past its expiration date and any almost-empty items you won’t use. Before you restock be sure to wipe down the interior of the fridge with disinfectant and a damp cloth. The same can be done for the freezer but you’ll have to defrost it first!
  7. Clean Air Reduces Allergies: Replacing furnace and HVAC filters is one of the most overlooked parts of Spring cleaning. Going as far as replacing your standard filter with a more robust one with a higher rating will help keep you even healthier this year as they catch smaller particles to ensure your home is void of allergen triggers, chemicals and even odors.
2 Mar

6 Smart Ways to Cut Your Energy Costs

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

In the last decade, climate change and energy efficiency have become top of mind for many Canadians. From wanting to do our part by recycling to making our home as energy efficient as possible, there are so many benefits to being environmentally and energy conscious.

If you are looking to cut costs or simply want to reduce your eco footprint, here are some great ways to cut your energy costs!

Get a Smart Thermostat: A pretty easy installation, a smart thermostat can help you better manage your in-home temperature. Whether you opt to install a basic programmable thermostat or try the Google’s Nest, which learns from you and works to predict which temperatures you prefer and when, getting a read on your in-home temperature can help you better manage your energy usage.

Look for Drafty Spots: When it comes to heating your home, it can quickly become a wasted effort and results in extra costs if you have drafts in your home. In addition to windows and doors, you should also seal any folding attic stairs, add a fireplace plug to seal the damper and install a dryer vent seal to reduce drafts in your laundry room.

Swap to LEDs: Most of us are already using LED bulbs throughout our home. If you aren’t yet, now is the time to make the switch! LED bulbs use 15% less energy than an equivalent incandescent, which can save you a ton of money each month especially in larger homes.

Turn Down Your Water Heater: While sometimes nothing beats a good scalding shower, you don’t want to be burned with a high energy bill. Did you know if you knock down that temperature gauge by just 10 degrees, you can save 3% to 5% on your bills each month!?

Examine Your Appliances: Since 1992, ENERGY STAR® has been backing energy efficient appliances and products, helping consumers make the right choices.

Some of the least green appliances in your home are your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and refrigerator and, if you don’t currently have Energy Star certified versions of these machines, swapping to them is a sure-fire way to reduce your monthly expenses.

Can’t afford new appliances? Here are some other tips and tricks to help make them more efficient in the meantime:

  • Dishwasher: Use a citric acid-based cleaner in an empty cycle to rid your dishwasher of excess soap and calcium buildup that may be causing your machine to work harder.
  • Washing Machine: Maximize energy by stuffing your machine to the brim whenever possible as washing machines typically use the same amount of energy regardless of load size.
  • Dryer: For starters, ensure you are always cleaning out your lint filter to increase air circulation. In addition, keep an eye on the outside exhaust and clean when needed to reduce drying time and save energy.
  • Refrigerator: While most of us are more concerned with the food inside our fridges than the parts, it is important to check your condenser coils. Over time, dirt, food particles and dust can collect and reduce the efficiency. Another tip is to set your refrigerator to 36- and 38-degrees Fahrenheit.

Close The Blinds: When the temperature starts heating up, it is important to close the blinds and drapes to prevent the sun from beating in and warming up your home. The excessive heat makes your air conditioner work overtime causing your energy bills to skyrocket.

In addition to the cost savings and environmental benefits of improving your energy efficiency, CMHC also has a rebate available! This rebate can provide a 15-25% insurance premium rebate on buying new or performing renovations that meet energy efficiency standards!

2 Mar

Preparing for the Spring Market

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Spring is almost here! To help you get prepared for the Spring market, I have put together some details on what you need to know whether you’re buying or selling!

Selling this Spring? Here are some great tips for those of you looking to sell your home this Spring!

  1. Hire an Experienced Realtor: Before preparing your home for the Spring market, you will want to hire an experienced realtor! A good realtor will serve as your guide through the entire sales process, helping you get your home ready for listing, showing potential buyers and finalizing the eventual sale. This is even more important given the changing landscape in relation to additional safety protocols with viewings and even virtual viewing options. Now, more than ever, the expertise of a realtor will help you navigate the sales process.
  2. Prioritize Repairs and Improvements:Before listing your home, it is important to go through room-by-room and address any issues such as chipped paint, small holes in the wall, broken fixtures, old appliances, etc. Correcting these minor issues will help your home truly shine when buyers walk through.
  3. Clean and Stage Your Home: Now that you have made the necessary minor repairs, you can start staging your home! Start with the exterior of your home and ensure you tidy up the yard, remove any junk and wash your windows! When it comes to the interior of your home, you will want to declutter and do a deep clean (a professional cleaning service can come in handy for this!). Once your home is decluttered and clean, your real estate agent can help you stage it so that it appears spacious and inviting.
  4. Consider a Pre-Listing Inspection: Once you are ready to list your home, it can be a good idea to consider a pre-listing inspection. The inspector would conduct a complete visual inspection of all interior and exterior elements (including HVAC systems, wiring, ceiling, chimneys, gutters, etc.), which would help put prospective buyers at ease.
  5. Organize The Paperwork: There is a lot of paperwork when it comes to selling your home. Having all of these documents organized and together for potential buyers will help to speed up the process and allow them to address any questions before the deal is finalized. Permits, renovation or repair receipts, warranties, rental agreements and copies of your utility bills are all good records for potential buyers.

Looking to Buy This Spring? If you want to enter the real estate market this Spring, there are some things you should consider – especially if you are a first-time home buyer!

  1. Get Pre-Approved: One of the best things you can do prior to starting your home search, is to get pre-approved for a mortgage! A mortgage pre-approval is NOT an approval, and does not commit you to a single lender, but it can give you a leg up on your home ownership journey. Pre-approval helps to determine your price range and budget, as well as guaranteeing the interest rate for 90-120 days while you search for that perfect home. Having a pre-approval also lets the seller know that securing financing should not be an issue. This is extremely beneficial in competitive markets where lots of offers may be coming in!
  2. Manage Your Expectations: When it comes to house hunting, it is important to understand and manage your expectations right from the start. All potential buyers should have put together a budget, which will assist in understanding what is affordable – and you must stick with it. You also need to be realistic about what you require in a home, versus what you want in a home.
  3. Prepare Your Down Payment: If you have been thinking about purchasing a home, odds are you already have a down payment ready or have at least started saving. Once you have determined your budget, you will be more equipped to calculate the down payment amount. Keep in mind, a down payment can come from funds gifted by an immediate family member and first-time homebuyers can also utilize their RRSPs up to $35,000!
  4. Hire an Experienced Realtor: A realtor is your best tool when it comes to the housing market. They often have access to listings that are not available publicly yet, in addition to understanding the processes around purchasing a home.
  5. Don’t Forget the Inspection: Once you find a home you think you are ready to buy, make sure not to skimp on the inspection! A proper inspection is important for buyer security as they can uncover potential issues that may cost you money down the line.

Whether you are looking to buy or sell, it is important to work with a trusted real estate and mortgage professional to ensure the best outcome for you and your family! If you’re not sure where to start a mortgage professional, such as myself, has contacts in the industry and can recommend a few options for real estate agents to you – and vice versa!

3 Feb

Benefits of a Mortgage Broker

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

In a world with an abundance of options, it can be hard to know which way to turn to ensure that you make the best decision for your future. Fortunately, that’s where I come in. As your dedicated mortgage professional, I have access to 90+ lending institutions and a vast array of available mortgage products.

Whether you are a first-time home buyer, up for renewal, looking to refinance or want to discuss reverse mortgages or other options, I can help. As a one-stop-shop for your mortgage needs, I can not only save you time by shopping the market for you, but often I can save you money too. When it comes to mortgages, not all products are created equal. Fortunately, my access allows me to review all of your options and find you the best mortgage product terms and rate.

Unlike a bank specialist, I am not tied to any single lender. This allows me to focus on helping YOU achieve your dream and provide you with unbiased advice and work with you to make the best decisions for your family, and your future.

Whether you are looking for mortgage assistance now, or in the future, I would be happy to help answer any questions you have and shop the market to find you the best solution. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me anytime, or pass my information along to any friends or family you think would benefit from professional advice.