Net Zero Homes and Muskoka

Net-Zero-highres Image

Net Zero Home by Reids Heritage Homes in Guelph Ontario.

In May 2017, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) officially launched the Net Zero Home Labelling Program, which is focused on building fully energy efficient communities.

Kevin Lee, CEO of CHBA said “The Net Zero Home Label will help to meet the energy efficient housing aspirations of Canadians, and renew Canadian industry leadership in high performance housing. CHBA members have always been leaders and innovators – this program continues that trend.” He went on to say “Our National Home Buyer Preference Study confirmed that consumers want and expect an energy efficient home. Our members have a long history in delivering high performance homes and are ready and eager to deliver the next generation of high performance housing to discerning Canadian home buyers. Our Net Zero Home Labelling Program provides third party confirmation for both the industry and the consumer.”

According to the CMHC web site a Net Zero Home (NZE) is one that is designed and built to reduce household energy needs to a minimum and includes on-site (not all definitions require on-site but CMHC does) renewable energy systems, so that the house may produce as much energy as it consumes on a yearly basis.

According to the CMHC a Net Zero home is not necessarily an “energy autonomous” one. It does not have to be “off-grid” and can be connected to electrical service. This is so that it can supply electricity to the grid when it is producing more than it needs and draw from the grid when household demands exceed the amount of electricity produced on site.  The NZE designation is about the net annual consumption of energy being zero.  The intention is that  over the course of a year, the energy supplied to the grid balances the energy drawn from the grid, therefore giving a  net- zero annual energy consumption.

Kevin Lee said that the CHBA is “ showing support for leading-edge innovation in the residential construction industry that with the goal of having those innovations as a voluntary and affordable choice for consumers,”  CHBA feels that the Program benefits builders and buyers by clearly defining the two-tier requirements for Net Zero and Net Zero Ready Homes. It also identifies the builders and renovators who provide Net Zero services.

So what do the designation actually mean?   Most of us are familiar with the ENERGY STAR designation which indicates that the home is 20% more energy efficient than the Building Code requires. A Net Zero Ready home will have to be up to 80% more efficient than code, and a Net Zero home will be 100% more efficient than code requirements.  The reason a Net Zero home is 100% more efficient is because it produces as much energy as it consumes.

Special training has been developed for members of the building and land development industry who are interested in achieving Net Zero. There are CHBA Net Zero Qualified Service organizations, energy advisors, and trainers that will work with builders and renovators to plan their next Net Zero project.

It’s becoming increasingly important to build and market energy efficient homes and communities. The CHBA conducted a nationwide home buyer preference study and discovered that four out of the top 10 ‘must have’ features in a new home were energy efficiency related.

So where in Muskoka can you find a Net Zero home you may ask. Well as far as I can tell nowhere yet! But because Muskoka, by its very nature, attracts people who desire to give more than they take I believe this is something we will be seeing more and more of. Builders like Mattamy Homes and Reid’s Heritage Homes are already offering Net Zero options in their developments.  Many more custom builders in our region are taking the required training to be able to offer this option to their clients. So, if you are planning to build a home or cottage in this area ask you architect and builder about Net Zero construction.

Make the Most of May in Muskoka with some Tidy-up Tips!

Kwiatkowski003May is here and it is the month we celebrate both Mothers’ Day and our Cottage kick off weekend with Victoria Day. This means that we need to get our outdoor spaces ready to enjoy and entertain. There is plenty to do from some “touch up” painting to replacing or preparing your outdoor cooking tools and BBQ station. So here is my list of things to put on your honey-do list to help you get things all ship shape and ready to enjoy the coming celebrations.

Repaint or stain your home or cottage’s exterior.  Take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather in May and schedule a paint party. Re-paint or touch up siding and trim. Replace and repair siding and shingles as required before painting.

Inspect your exterior lighting.  Ensure all outdoor lights are in working order. Don’t forget porch lights, landscape lighting, and motion-sensing security lights. Consider replacing bulbs with energy efficient bulbs or choose a lamp that will not attract moths or bugs. If you find loose electrical connections make repairs as needed.

Get ready for BBQ season.  While it is not a fun job giving your grill a deep clean before the start of the out-door cooking season, doing so will ensure it works more efficiently and can prevent flare-ups. Clean the grates and interior with a grill brush and wash the exterior with warm, soapy water. Don’t forget to clean your grill tools (tongs, spatula, skewers) or replace them – they make a nice gift to yourself or for Mom.  Stock up on charcoal or propane if needed. If you have a gas grill, be sure to check the fuel line for cracks, and clean out any clogged burner holes. You can easily replace a burner if it is corroded or too clogged up.

Inspect kitchen and bath fixtures.  By doing regular upkeep on these areas you will help prevent costly water damage and repairs later.  Re-grout or caulk around your counter tops and tile if needed.  Check your taps for corrosion or slow leaks, and have these repaired as well. Remember the pH of the water in Muskoka is typically low and this will corrode the chrome and the washers over time so regular inspection will help you prevent bigger issues.

Check safety devices. Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Remember that they need to be replaced after a specified number of years so check each device to see if it needs to be updated. Replace batteries as needed. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace it if necessary.

Dust your walls and touch up paint. Use a broom with a microfiber cloth, and specialty telescopic duster or the dusting attachment on your vacuum to clean away dust from walls. Pay special attention to corners and baseboards. If you need a deeper clean, wipe down walls with warm, soapy water after dusting. Rinse with clean water, using a lint-free cloth. Touch up paint as needed on interior walls and trim.

Spruce-up your bedrooms.  This is a wonderful time to rotate the mattresses on all beds and flip over if they are not pillow top.  Change the heavy winter bedding for lighter weight bedding for the summer months.  Once you have done all this you will need to dust nightstands, lamps, headboard, blinds and décor as you will have stirred up some motes with all this activity.

Deep clean the laundry room.  Run your washing machine on the clean cycle with specialty tub cleaner or with vinegar for a natural solution using the hot water cycle. Front loading washing machines need this in particular and can get smelly if not done regularly. Wipe the rubber rim inside the door of the washer and dryer. Remove lint from the dryer vent. Open the panel of your dryer on the front below the door or from the back if necessary and with a vent brush or vacuum attachment clean out the acuminated lint and dust to prevent fires. Clean counter-tops, mop floors and restock supplies.

Prepare picnic supplies.  Here comes the season for alfresco feasts so be ready! Sort through your outdoor dining supplies at the start of the season and keeping a basket of essentials within easy reach. Resupply as needed and have fun choosing bright decorative napkins and utensils.  A few basics should be in your kit: a cheese knife, small cutting board, bottle opener and blanket, plus a few outdoor dishes and cups should see you through many a picnic.

Add a relaxing porch, patio or dock feature. Make your porch, patio or dock an inviting place to relax and hang out with the addition of a porch swing, rocking chairs or a glider.  If you get too much sun you could add crisp white outdoor curtains to provide shade and look chic.

Look forward to spring in Muskoka as you work some of these ideas to make your Muskoka home or cottage a wonderful place to enjoy!

Curb Appeal 101 for your Muskoka Property

Front Door EntranceSpring seems to have arrived at last and maybe you’re thinking about selling your home or cottage so here are some of my tips to enhance that ever important “Curb Appeal”.

  1. Have a front door that pops!Your front door should be an exterior focal point so ramp up the appeal by giving it a fresh look. Try painting it a rich colour and consider updating the hardware or adding a new knocker. Depending on the style of your home or cottage you may want to add a seasonal touch. Hang a spring wreath or craft item that shows your visitors a little of your creativeness but do not be tempted to make it too cluttered. Pots of bright and fragrant flowers are always a great addition if your entrance way has room but don’t make it difficult to enter and exit.
  1. Add some bright flowers or plants to the entrance side. Remember, in Muskoka curb appeal does not always mean there is a curb, but the exterior is the very first impression a potential buyer will have of your property—I suggest planting perennials and spring bulbs around your home especially on the entrance side. The extra layer of foliage and colour will create a sense of depth, making your front yard appear larger.
  1. Road numbers should be easy to see. If you live in a rural area make sure you can clearly see the 911 number as you approach from both directions. If you are in town, walk across the street from your home to get a better idea of how easy it is to find your house numbers. Pick large numbers in a clear font that are the easy to read from a distance. Try to install them where they are not blocked by trees, foliage or verandas and position the numbers horizontally rather than vertically as they are easier to read that way. If possible consider lighting your street number to make it easy to find when it is dark.
  1. Consider a front garden sitting area. If you have a large front yard and find you rarely use it, consider whether it would be a suitable location to put a sitting area that can work as a fun and functional hangout zone. A bench curved around an outdoor water feature or fireplace is sure to become a favorite gathering place for friends and family!
  1. Keep it neat and tidy. If you’re planning to sell, remember that an untended garden screams “work” to a potential buyer. If you have a lawn, early spring is a good time to reseed or add sod where it’s coming back patchy. Cover flower beds with a natural mulch to help retain moisture and give the beds a finished look.
  1. Look up! Make sure the roof is in good repair.If the shingles are curling at the edges or have crumbling bits, it is time to investigate further. Have a professional roofer take a look. If you need a new roof covering, check references and get at least three competing estimates before hiring someone for the job.
  1. Clean windows and siding. Give your siding a fresh start this spring by washing off the dirt, road salt and cobwebs using a power washer or a regular hose with washing attachment.  The latter can get windows shiny and clean but remember to clean inside windows as well for the most sparkle. 
  1. Remember the garage and driveway. If you can see it, it should look as good as the home. The garage and driveway often take up a lot of visual real estate, so if they don’t look good they can seriously detract from curb appeal. Have any driveway cracks repaired or the gravel graded and topped up. Freshen up the garage with a coat of paint and consider matching the door to the front door of the home. Don’t forget the finishing touches and add some sconce lighting and flower boxes.
  1. Make the garden path a feature. If your home’s walkway is a straight line from the sidewalk to the front door, you may be missing out on an easy curb appeal enhancement; the curving path. Even a slight curve in a front walk helps move the eye through the landscape, making the front yard seem more spacious and welcoming.
  1. Keep it in the spotlight.A well-lit porch is a welcoming sight to come home to and more fun to hang out on. It can also make the space look bigger. If your porch has a single light, consider installing one or two additional lights. If you have a long pathway leading to your door, consider adding landscape lighting as well — your guests will thank you.

In this current, highly competitive market, details matter.  The first time most prospective buyers see your property is when it is listed on www.realtor.ca Ensure that the exterior photo your Muskoka property makes a great first impression!

 

 

The Upside to Downsizing Your Muskoka Home

DownsizeYour children are grown and finally gone and settled into their own adult lives. You have gone through the woes of “empty nest” syndrome and you are now in the position to think about what is next for you!

Do you keep the big home and hope that you get to host the family holidays? Do you even want to do that?  Most of us eventually decide that a smaller home with less maintenance and overhead is the wiser thing to do, so here are some pros and cons to help you decide if there is an upside to downsizing for you.

Most often when I see clients downsize, they tend to move into into a smaller home or condo. Smaller homes very often are on smaller lots and both of these options can mean being closer to neighbours.

On the downside you can see and hear your neighbours.  This may be a negative but you can help moderate the effect by upgrading the window treatments in your home for privacy and strategically place screening plants in your garden or on your patio or balcony to make you new location more private.

The upside is you can get to know your neighbours. In most cases when you downsize you will find you have more time on your hands.  Less work to do around the home so having new friends in the neighbourhood is a great way to spend some of that time. Be social, old friends are great, but making friends next door will enhance the everyday enjoyment you have in your new home.

One of the things a larger home often has is storage space that smaller homes and condos usually lack.

On the downside storage becomes a premium. The double vanity in the old bathroom, the large hall closet, the full basement with a large utility room: these places may be gone in the new home. To counter-act this you may want to consider closet organizers and perhaps a bathroom makeover.

The upside is you can purge and then indulge: You may need to be a little brutal with yourself at first but pare down your “stuff” to only the things you need and love. Then give yourself permission to acquire only products you love as time goes on.  They may cost a little more but your new and efficient life style means you can afford to spend a little more on your favourite perfume and toiletries and use them every day rather than having 2 or 3 kinds and keeping the favorite one only for special occasions!

Most large family homes have formal sitting areas and family rooms. Often there is a craft room and a work shop. Lots of “hidey holes” for family members to have “me time” that may not exist in a smaller home.

The downside is that it is harder to have your own space. As a retired empty nester, you may have developed separate interests and activities from your partner so you will need to be intentional about giving each other the time and space needed to continue to do these activities.
The upside is that by being more exposed to your partner’s hobbies you may find you both enjoy them.  In addition, you will have a smaller home and fewer rooms that need cleaning so more time to spend together.

One of the biggest factors to consider when downsizing is what to keep and what to let go of.

The downside is your furniture may no longer work. Even if you’ve made careful decisions about what items you will keep and take to the new home there could be issues. A light-filled room can highlight stains you hadn’t noticed, the color or style may be all wrong for the space, and the way you find yourself using a room may mean that your furniture feels like a mismatch.

The upside is you are liquidating capital in the process and so can afford some new items: You have the perfect excuse to go shopping for new furniture and that is always fun!

The garden is usually a big adjustment whether you love to garden or not. Moving from a large home that likely has a larger garden to a smaller one with just a little one or even a condo with none can mean a big change.

The downside is your backyard shrinks, and your lifestyle changes along with it. For many this is a relief not a problem but if gardening is a passion for you, the solution is not as hard as you may think. There are often neighbours who can no longer manage their gardens who would love to allow you to help. Put a message on the community Facebook page and see how many replies you get. If you’re used to lazing by a back-yard pool and know you’ll miss it, consider a hot tub or a swim spa instead.

The upside is you have more time for you. Mowing the lawn will no longer be a time-consuming chore and the cost of the spring and fall turn around will be cut down considerably.  Remember, with some creative furnishings and plantings, a compact backyard can still meet your needs for a restful outdoor escape and a place to entertain family and friends.

By the time, you are ready to down size you have very likely been used to a large kitchen and cooking for a family. A smaller home or condo will usually mean a much smaller kitchen.

The downside is a compact kitchen changes the way you cook. When you have had oodles of counter tops and lots of storage perhaps even a pantry, cooking a family meal is relatively easy. A smaller kitchen will require you to clean as you go, plan your meals and shop for ingredients more often. It also means you need to reduce the quantities of serving dishes, glassware and kitchen gadgets that you keep.

The upside is that you can have fun learning new recipes. Embrace your downsized lifestyle and eat out more often. Meet friends out for dinner instead of having them over and when it comes to family events go to their home or make it pot luck and paper plates!

Another adjustment you will likely have to face is that your rooms need to serve more than one purpose. If you had a sewing room in your old home, you will most likely have to set up in a spare bedroom and pack things up for company.

The downside is rooms must serve more than one purpose. As an empty nester, you will have had the luxury of turning rooms the children once occupied into craft rooms, man caves, home offices and the like. When you downsize you will need to adjust to multipurpose rooms and make do, particularly when hosting guests.

The upside is less space less junk. You will be less tempted to accumulate stuff and buy only what you need or genuinely love.

Laundry rooms are often sacrificed in a downsizing move. Laundry rooms become laundry areas and in a condo may even be a community facility.

The downside is you need to plan your laundry day. If your kitchen and laundry become one or you need to leave your home to do laundry, figuring out what to do with baskets of washing can be a challenge. The typical laundry room is a prime dumping ground for all manner of items, such as shoes that need cleaning and stained items that are soaking in the sink, ironing board and so much more. You must find a way to eliminate this or “hide” it until laundry day.
The upside is small loads of laundry done frequently: Piles of laundry will become a thing of the past. Staying on top of washing, folding and ironing will become the norm.

Perhaps the biggest change and even the most difficult one to adjust to is how to handle house guests.

The downside is you have to plan well for company. Larger homes often come with guest rooms for visiting family but downsizing means you need to get creative to squeeze in more than one guest at a time. Bunk beds, wall beds, sofa beds and air mattresses are all options. It’s up to you how many guests you want to accommodate at once —and sometimes it will take a visit or two to see what will work.

The upside is smaller groups of visitors means more one-on-one time with them: If only a couple of family members can visit comfortably at once, quality time together is assured.

The decision to go from a large family home to a smaller one is not easy to make, but in my experience it is usually a good move with no regrets. I would be happy to help you with any questions you may have about the process and, of course, with the search for that new smaller abode.

8 Tips for a Successful Muskoka Home Renovation

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeIn my role as a Muskoka REALTOR® I am frequently invited into homes and cottages to give an opinion of value. These properties are in various states of maintenance and repair and often have been renovated by the home owner. These renovations span the whole gamut, from elegant and value-enhancing to lamentable and wasteful. So here are some tips that I believe will be helpful if you plan to renovate your Muskoka Home.

Set a Realistic Budget

If you plan to do a home renovation you really should have a clear idea of what you can afford before you start looking in magazines and picking fixtures and countertops etc. Talk to a contractor about realistic costs. Even if you plan to do the work yourself be sure to have a contingency fund built into the budget to allow for the unexpected. In my experience, there is nearly always a “surprise” element to every project.

Things to make sure you budget for include:

  • cost of preparing the space before you start the actual work (disposal of old materials)
  • relocating plumbing and electrical
  • light fixtures
  • paint and PRIMER – often skipped but will save time and money if done right!
  • flooring – will the existing floor be damaged in the process and need replacing or refinishing?
  • Permits – most renos WILL need permits and skipping them means that you could have issues when reselling and in some cases, void your insurance.
  • HELP – can you do it all yourself or will you hire out some parts?

Will Your Reno Suit Your Neighbourhood?

While most renos are interior and you may think immaterial to the neighbourhood you do need to consider the investment you are about to make. If your dream is to install an ensuite bath with a steam room that is wonderful but none of the homes in your area have this kind of luxury feature, you should understand that it is purely for your enjoyment while you own your home. You will not likely get any return on the investment. In fact, in some cases over improvements can devalue a home.

Remember not to ignore your home’s style when renovating especially if the renovation includes an addition. If you have a traditional Muskoka waterfront property, then a modern addition with walls of glass may not look esthetically appealing and will not generally improve value. While it may be your dream to own, it may not be the dream of many protentional future buyers. Work with your builder and architect to come up with a design that gives you the features you want but still fits the rest of the home or cottage.

Avoid Going Too Trendy

People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. I would encourage you to consider that trendy often means short term. While some of the hottest and latest trends will turn out to be timeless many will burn out fast and not only will you stop loving them quickly but the next buyer of your home or cottage will see them as “dated”.

To keep any room “trendy” pick accent items you can add rather than physical and structural ones. That way when the trend is over you can replace them with something new.  A good example of this is shag carpeting.  Rather than doing wall to wall, do a more standard floor finish and add a shag area carpet  and perhaps some shag accent pillows.  When shag goes out of style, and it will, replace these accents with whatever is the next trend.

Buy the Right Materials

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when it comes to home renovation is to try to be frugal when choosing materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.  Inexpensive and cheap are definitely not the same thing. Price check and be wise but being cheap will often lead to having to spend more in the long run. Cheap fixtures and products end up looking that way and invariably you will be disappointed and probably choose to replace then with the product you wanted in the first place.

Remember that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait and do it later!

Do the Prep Work

Do it the right way the first time. Whatever the job get yourself ready before you start. Gather the right tools and prepare the space before you dip a brush in the paint or hammer in the first nail. You will be so glad you did.  I know it is the tedious part of any project big or small but if you fail to be prepared you will end up taking longer than needed and perhaps compromising on the quality of the finished job simply because you were too eager to get started.

One of the most important prep steps is the measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of the great contractor and you should make it yours.  You can burn through a budget quickly by making cutting mistakes in your lumber or trim work and if ordering flooring, buying too much or too little will lead to total frustration. If you are not sure how to measure properly ask someone who knows. A quick lesson will save you time money and frustration.

Paint and Light

People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on. It is important to use the correct type of paint for the surface. The best advice will come from the professional at the paint store but choose better quality paints with the right finish for the job.

Remember that your lighting needs to complement the colour palate you use and that typically most people gravitate to light and warm colours rather than dark and bold.

Get the Right Tools

If you are planning on doing the renovation yourself make sure you have all the tools you need to do it properly. This means that you may have to borrow or rent what you don’t have. Do not try to make the wrong tool do the job. This can lead to expensive mistakes and sadly even to injury to yourself or damage to the tool you are trying to make do the job. Knives are not screw drivers and chop saws are not miter saws so please be careful and make sure you have the right equipment to do the job safely.

You may even need to rent stand lights so you can properly see what you are working on and space heaters to keep you warm in the addition until the new heating is connected.

Embrace the Chaos

Once you have done the budget, designed and purchased the materials, sit down in and enjoy your last moment of calm for a while. Then take a big breath and embrace the chaos. While it is always best to try working in a clean and tidy space you need to accept that a clean and tidy work space is not a clean and tidy home. You will have disrupted meal times, dusty surfaces and hard to find possessions for the duration of the project. So embrace it, find humor in it and don’t get mad at each other or the kids over things that cannot change until the job is done.

 

I hope these tips will be useful and not too negative. Renovating your Muskoka home or cottage can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor and if done well, will bring you many years of enjoyment and a good return on your investment when the time is right to sell.

New Mortgage Rules and your Muskoka Home

Modern Family E.jpgYou may or may not know that the federal government recently announced some big changes concerning the guidelines for borrowers of high-ratio mortgages – a borrower who has a deposit of less than 20 per cent of the purchase price of a home. These guidelines must be adhered to by banks but not private mortgage lenders.

If you plan to borrow from a bank and need mortgage default insurance you must now meet the mortgage “stress test.” This means that as a borrower, you must be able to carry a mortgage based on current Bank of Canada rate for a five-year term which is currently 4.64%. This could be much higher than the rate for the term that your bank may be willing to offer you. Current 5 year posted fixed rates at many major banks are under 3%. While your payment will be based on the actual rate charged by your bank for the mortgage you agree upon, you must qualify based on the higher rate.  This means if you are “tight” on your debt service ratio calculation you may be qualify for less than you did prior to this change. Taking the time to get pre-approved is even more important now than before.

If you already have a home these new requirements and guidelines do not affect you, or if your pre-approved mortgage commitment was already in existence prior to Oct. 17, 2016, however there may have a deadline for you to use that commitment. These changes are only for high ratio mortgages and will not affect you if you have more than 20% down payment.

If you are considering an investment property in Muskoka you will be glad to know these new provisions do not affect you. However, that is because most lenders have restricted the amount they will lend on investment properties to 80 per cent of the appraised value or purchase price, whichever is the lower amount.

These changes will likely affect the ability of some first-time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.  If you are a first-time buyer it may mean a longer wait before your purchase while you accumulate a bigger deposit or it may mean making the decision that your first home will be a little less glamorous than you may have hoped for.

This may all sound a bit gloomy but let’s be positive about it. By using this stress test, you should be less stressed about your ability to make your payments each month and when your mortgage comes up for maturity, IF the interest rates are higher, you should be able to afford the increased payment.

Ultimately this is a consumer protection bid by our government designed to help people keep their homes and not lose them if interest rates increase significantly.

November was Financial Literacy Month, and CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association)  the national association to which I belong, has developed some resources you can use all year long to help understand some of the trickier financial concepts you might encounter during the home buying process.

There is a series of eight videos which cover topics from amortization to mortgage pre-payment to the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) and beyond. Each video is under two minutes and done in a fun, animated style, the videos break down some of the financial terms and implications you might come across.

The videos can be found here 

You may also enjoy looking at the Homebuyers’ Road Map, a publication developed in collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, to help Canadians navigate the home buying journey.

Ultimately knowledge is power so I hope you will use these resources and will not hesitate to call me if you have any questions about buying your first or next home in Muskoka or if you have questions about your present home and the implications of these new mortgage rules.

 

 

Understanding the Financing Clause when Buying Muskoka Home

What is a Mortgage - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaOur market in Muskoka has been very active this last few years and sometimes the temptation to make offers unconditional can be very strong.

As a buyer, you may have been pre-approved and feel that it is safe to buy unconditionally only to be caught up by a lender’s requirement that you cannot meet.  At the last minute, you may even have to come up with a larger down payment.  If you are unable to do so, this could leave you not only losing your dream home but potentially subject to the consequences of a breach of contract.

As a seller, an unconditional offer is always very appealing but if that buyer cannot produce funds on closing the results cannot only be heart breaking, but you may be faced with losing the home you hoped to buy and possibly being in breach of your contract with the seller of your future home.

As a Realtor® I always strive to guide my clients with good advice and protect them from making a mistake. I know that when a buyer finds the perfect home or cottage they want it and don’t want to be outbid.  My job is to be the voice of reason. Unless you have the resources to buy with cash or a very large down payment that well exceeds most lenders’ requirements, a financing clause is simply the best option.

In a recent article Mark Weisleder a Partner, author and speaker at the law firm Real Estate Lawyers.ca LLP covered the following important points.

1. Pre-approvals are no guarantee you will obtain your financing

Too many buyers are cavalier about submitting offers without a financing condition, especially during the pressure of a bidding war. You must understand that even with a pre-approval, the lender must be satisfied with its own appraisal. The foundation for most appraisals is what would a willing buyer pay a willing seller, WITHOUT pressure? In a bidding war, there is almost always pressure on the buyer. This is why the appraisal will likely be lower than what the buyer offered and the lender will offer you less money than you hoped for. The answer is always to have an extra 5-10% of the down payment in reserve to protect you. In a condominium purchase, if it is conditional upon review of a status certificate, use that time to also make sure your financing is in order.

 2. Lenders can change their mind right up until the day of closing

Even if you are approved after you sign your agreement, the lender can still change their minds based on anything which they may learn before they advance funds. There are usually many conditions attached to any loan approval, such as verification of income, down payment, employment. Make sure you work with your mortgage broker to satisfy all of these conditions and requirements as soon as possible in the process. The worst words a lawyer can hear from a lender on the day of closing is “The file is in underwriting”. This typically means that someone else is reviewing the entire file because issues have arisen. In some cases this can result in the entire loan being cancelled, right on the day of closing. In our firm, since we receive and send funds via wire transfer, we are fortunately able to complete deals even when lenders are late transferring funds to our trust account.

 3. Always know the net amount you will receive from your lender

Every mortgage commitment is different. Some may contain up-front fees for arranging the loan, appraisals, CMHC fees and HST, interest to the interest adjustment date. All of these fees are deducted right off the top, before the balance is sent to your lawyer on the day of closing. The bottom line is you must know the exact amount that will be sent to your lawyer on closing, to make sure you have enough to make up the rest of the down payment, land transfer tax and legal fees. At our firm we remind clients to send us their mortgage instructions early in the process so that we can get them the net amount they will need to complete the transaction in a timely manner.

In Muskoka lenders sometimes have requirements for additional documentation. Things like water potability certificates, septic use permits, proof of properly installed water treatment (disinfection) systems, road access agreements to prove year round access, final occupancy permits and zoning even an inspector’s statement regarding the type of wiring and insulation. A mortgage can’t be advanced without insurance on the property, so a W.E.T.T. inspection may be necessary for wood burning devices. Ultimately the underwriter at the lending institution is responsible for making sure that the lender’s investment is protected.  Sadly, they are not concerned with how much a buyer loves a property or how much the seller needs the transaction to close.

I hope that after reading this you will be cautious when buying or selling a Muskoka home or cottage. A good Realtor® will always put the interests of the client ahead of their own and encourage you to use a financing clause if there is any possibility you may need one.