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INSIDER February 2013

Inside this Issue: What To Do When Your Home Isn’t Selling Why ‘Under The Table’ Renovation Jobs Are A Bad Idea Preparing To Buy A Home Harvesting Rainwater Quick Tips For A Fast Sale

Wayne Your Neighbourhood Real Estate Professional

FEBRUARY ISSUE What To Do When Your Home Isn’t Selling Written by Phoebe Chongchua When sellers start the home-selling process, no one wants to think "What would happen if my home doesn't sell?" But before you panic, recognize that there are many things that you can do so you don't wind up in that position. Tip 1: Understanding the real estate market and the value of your home will help you avoid this dilemma. The first key point is to get educated about the market. Read your newspapers, online real estate sites, and consult with the best experts in real estate for your area to determine the sales price. While all that may seem basic, you'd be surprised how many sellers rely on emotion to dream up a selling price for their home. Some have done little, if any, research on even their own neighborhood. Instead, their strong ties to their homes cause them to imagine that their home should sell for the price they want. Or they base the selling price on how much they owe which is, of course, of no significance to buyers. Tip 2: Fix up your home. Most buyers don't want to purchase a big list of must -do fixes in order to live in the home they just bought. Yet, some sellers think that it's a waste to spend money on a home that they're moving out of soon. That's quite a predicament. Both sides have valid points except one side –buyers–might be in a stronger position. The seller wants out and if the home is a mess, many buyers will simply move on to the next best house. Yet, if a buyer wants it badly enough, he/she might agree to purchase your worker's equipment.

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home but it's guaranteed you'll take a financial hit as the buyer will want to discount the price for the problems that need fixing. In the end, you might have to fix the issues before the sale anyway. So, starting with a house that is in relatively good order is the best way to begin. Read some of my other columns to see which renovations give a good return. Tip 3: If you need to sell your home, don't pull it off the market because you think the season isn't right. Buyers who need to buy a home will keep hunting through all the seasons. There may be some slow times but if people need a house, they'll keep looking even in the unlikely times. Tip 4: Consider incentives. Yes, you can make your home more appealing by tossing in some incentives. It's best to speak with your real estate agent about which incentives are best for you to offer. Even practical incentives can help get buyers to your home to view it. These incentives can help encourage the buyer to move forward, especially if other challenges arise.

it's worth at least having a consultation with an expert in the industry. Here's why: They are trained to stay on top of the trends that have mass appeal. They also offer a fresh set of eyes on your home. They might easily point out something that you never saw before because you've been living in your home for a long time. They will look at your home from an “outsider's” perspective and that's exactly what you need. Taking the time to, at least consult with experts, allows you to gain knowledge and information about your home and the market place. What you do with that is up to you, but it may just be the difference between a For Sale sign and a Sold sign hanging outside your home. Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Tip 5: Stage your home. This is not the same thing as fixing up your home. Fixing up your home includes daily maintenance and repairs. Staging your home involves using experts to make your home showroom-ready–like a model home. I know you might say that all your friends tell you that you have fantastic taste but, trust me, if you're serious about selling your home, then

Condominiums and Townhouses on the Halifax Common


92 %



Why ‘Under The Table’ Renovation Jobs Are A Bad Idea Written by Jim Adair Tax evasion is against the law and could result in heavy fines and even jail time for Canadians who are found guilty of bilking the taxman. Yet, "under the table" or "cash deal" jobs have been common in the construction and renovation industries for years, and it seems most Canadians don't see anything wrong with it. Recently Quebec Court Judge Ellen Paré sued a company that installed a granite countertop in her home, claiming that the counter had cracks in it. The National Post reports that her colleague and the presiding judge in the case, Quebec Court Judge Jimmy Vallée, had some harsh words for Judge Paré and the contractor. He wrote, "This contract was made for cash payments in contravention of tax law, with an ultimate goal of depriving the community of taxes…Just as surprisingly, the parties do not even seem to want to hide it!" Although critical of Judge Paré's actions, the court ruled that the granite installer would pay a partial refund for the work. But Vallée wrote that by not paying taxes, it "unduly and illegally deprives the community" and was a "fraud of collective rights." Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) estimates that in 2009, total "underground economy" activity was $35 billion, or the equivalent of 2.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Of that total, about 29 per cent of the illegal activity took place in the construction industry. Last fall, a survey by H&R Block found that 55 per cent of Canadians would avoid paying sales taxes if given a choice of two quotes from a contractor -

Give me a call... Wayne Cochrane EXIT Realty Metro (902) 830-4761

a cheque payment or a lower cash payment with no tax. The survey found that only 17 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 damage to the home or the worker's said it was wrong to avoid paying sales tax, equipment. while 43 per cent those 65 and over said it was wrong. CHBA also says that in many cases, underground contractors don't acquire "In my experience, Canadians like to the necessary building permits or complain about taxes so it is not surprising have inspections to make sure the that some people are trying to take some work meets building codes. "If a permeasures to reduce their bill," says Cleo mit is not obtained and the municipaliHamel, senior tax analyst for H&R Block ty finds out, it's the homeowner who is Canada. "While paying cash may save you breaking the law," says the associathe sales tax, there can be serious tion. implications for not reporting income. Canadians may be looking for ways to save The underground economy money but we recommend legal options to "undermines housing quality, creates pay less tax." liabilities for housing consumers, hurts legitimate tax-paying contractors and CRA says that those who participate in the costs the federal and provincial govunderground economy are hurting all ernments billions of dollars each year Canadians, particularly those who do pay in lost revenues," it says. their fair share. "It should be stressed that those who avoid paying taxes are taking The CHBA says programs such as money that is needed for important the now-expired Home Renovation investments in schools, hospitals and other Tax Credit initiative, which gave convital government services," says the sumers credit for energy-efficient renagency. ovations, "had the effect of increasing tax compliance in the home renovaIf the moral argument doesn't dissuade tion sector, because consumers wishpeople from hiring underground economy ing to take advantage of the tax credit contractors, the Canadian Home Builders' demanded proper invoices and reAssociation (CHBA) says: "What happens if ceipts from their contractors." you make an advance payment and the work is done incorrectly or is of poor It wants the government to introduce quality? What if you are the victim of fraud? a permanent 2.5 per cent GST Home Without a written contract or receipt for the Renovation Tax Credit. payment, you could be out of luck." The CHBA is also calling on the govAlthough the homeowner could ernment to require all firms and indisuccessfully sue like Judge Paré, it will viduals in the construction industry to come down to their word against the register for a Business Number, even contractor's. if they qualify for the GST exemption (less than $30,000 in annual sales). There's also risk of liability if one of the people working on the job is injured on the The association quotes a report by homeowner's property, or if there is the Commission of the Reform of Ontario's Public Services, which says: "Quebec has made progress through tougher penalties for non-compliance, intensified tax audits and a tighter focus on high-risk industries and products, along with other initiatives." CRA says it is cracking down on people who don't report all of their income, using a number of resources "including leads from taxpayers, spot visits by auditors, specialized computer software and lifestyle audits." Written by Jim Adair

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FEBRUARY ISSUE Preparing To Buy A Home Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Preparing to buy a home is a bit like preparing to go on a very long journey. You have to have your finances in order, know where you're going, what you're hoping to accomplish and how much time and how much money you can afford to spend. Financial matters. When it comes to owning real estate nothing is more important, for obvious reasons. As we've seen, if you get locked into a mortgage you can't afford, the result can be devastating. But even if you can afford the mortgage, you might not want to be "house rich and cash poor". You have to consider other things that are important to you such as travel and your spending habits. If for instance, you like to travel for months at a time, it might be wise to consider a smaller house with a less expensive mortgage instead of a large home with a big mortgage, which could cause you more work and less financial ability to spend on other things you like. Another consideration is the length of time you want to have the mortgage. Many young people choose a 30-year fixed mortgage but if you're a senior citizen you might want to opt for a 15-year loan. The best thing you can do is make a list of your financial matters and the questions you have about buying a home and then consult with a highly experienced loan officer. A knowledgeable loan officer can be like having

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a tour guide with you all the time in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. The jargon used in the mortgage industry documents can be confusing. Having someone who can clearly explain the documents, what to expect, the time frame, and the process is priceless. Debt-to-income. The ratio of your debt-to-income is vital when purchasing a home. These guidelines have become more strict since the housing crisis so it's critical to consult with experts about your personal financial situation. Generally speaking, you should have a debt-to-income ratio of no more that 36 percent– meaning all you owe (including your mortgage, taxes, and insurance) should not equal more than 36 percent of your income. Remember there are still monthly expenses of your home on top of your debt. And, of course, the less you owe and the more you make, the better position you're in for buying a home and creating your own financial freedom. These days, along with keeping your expenses and debt manageable, a key factor to buying a home is having a healthy downpayment. Most lenders would consider 20 percent a good downpayment. The more you bring in, the less you have to borrow. Remember the collapse of the housing market was brought on by small or no down payment loans and many buyers who

simply didn't understand the risks. Know how long you'll stay. This is really important because the cost of buying and selling a home is expensive and very time-consuming. If you're not planning on staying in your home more than seven to ten years, think about renting. You may still decide to buy, but you need to understand the cost of purchasing and maintaining a home. Investigate the economic difference between buying and renting. Be realistic about how frequently you've moved in the past and whether you're now ready to settle in for several years. You can always rent your home out but this assumes that you'll be a landlord (willing to take on all those duties) and then also have to find another place to live and either rent or buy. After considering all of these factors and making certain that you're ready to buy, then take the next step and find the best agent in your real estate market. Your agent will help you further prepare to buy the home of your dreams. Written by Phoebe Chongchua Follow Real Estate Professional WAYNE COCHRANE’S twitter page and get notified of hot new listings first!

WAYNE COCHRANE’S REAL ESTATE INSIDER Harvesting Rainwater Written by Jim Adair

In some parts of the world, harvesting rain is the only way to get water. About a decade ago, researchers from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) started looking at the benefits of using rain as a water source. They discovered that rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems in North America were not only rare, but in some municipalities they were prohibited. Since then, CMHC and several governments and universities have worked to develop guidelines for RWH systems, and to change the building codes to allow rainwater harvesting. In the City of Toronto, managing stormwater costs millions of dollars each year. A lot of the city’s surface has been paved over during the last 100 years, so there has been more and more stormwater to deal with and it is overloading aging sewer systems. This creates overflowing rivers and creeks, flooded basements and polluted beaches along Lake Ontario. Toronto’s water pumping and treatment facilities use 33 per cent of the city’s electricity in a year. The city has already passed a bylaw that makes it mandatory for homeowners to disconnect their downspouts from direct connections to the sewer system. The idea is that rainwater will drain onto lawns and gardens and put less strain on the city infrastructure. RWH systems are the next step, taking that rainwater and using it outdoors to irrigate the lawn and garden. The most basic of these systems is a simple rain barrel that collects the water, which can then be used to water the plants and the lawn. In many Canadian jurisdictions, rain-

water can now also be used indoors for toilet flushing and laundry. The most extensive - and expensive RWH systems have filters to create drinking water. CMHC says collecting and using rainwater is undergoing a modern-day revival, with RWH systems installed in several "green home" pilot projects, including one in the Riverdale area of Toronto. The federal housing agency found that one of the major barriers for RWH systems in Canada was the lack of information about how to design, install and manage them. That led to the creation of the Guidelines for Residential Rainwater Harvesting Systems as well as a training workshop that is now available. There are six components to an RWH, says Riversides, an information service developed by the City of Toronto, Environment Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The collection surface is usually the roof of a building that drains to the downspouts. There is a filter screen that removes leaves and other debris before the water travels down to a storage cistern or tank. Then there is a chemical or organic filter to clean and treat the water, depending on its end use. Finally, there is a distribution system to carry the water to the building. This can be the main water source for the house or a line that is completely separate from the drinking water. Riversides says a comprehensive system that is plumbed into a building requires expert advice for the design of the system, and for "assistance with seeking regulatory permission." Some other points to considers, says Riversides, is to ensure there is a warning not to crossconnect rain harvesting lines with

indoor potable water lines. All the pipes and faucets that have nonpotable water must be clearly marked. The cistern or rain barrel should also have measures in place to deal with overflow water when the system is full, such as a "soakaway" pit, says Riversides. The guidelines include a section on overflow provisions. The guidelines say: "Other considerations include how the design, installation and management of RWH systems can affect the quality of water saved and the quality of rainwater harvested, as well as cold weather suitability of the system." A CMHC research paper (the project manager is Cate Soroczan) says: "The development of residential rainwater harvesting guidelines supports a water-conserving approach that will help improve the overall sustainability of housing and communities." It says the guidelines help to ensure a consistent, national approach to the design, installation, performance and management of RWH systems. It will also help in the development of commercially available systems and make both municipalities and homeowners more aware of the benefits of these systems. "Though the requirements for the design and construction of RWH systems resides with the building authority having jurisdiction in any given area, the development of these guidelines will serve to promote a common approach to RWH systems, which can help facilitate more widespread acceptance and uptake of this technology," says CMHC. Written by Jim Adair

Brain Teasers What is the Official Tree of

Word Scramble:

Nova Scotia?


Go to - ‘About Wayne’ and click on ‘Monthly Newsletter Trivia’ for the answers. Page 5


Quick Tips For A Fast Sale By Julie Wyss

clutter, including items such as When it's time to sell your small appliances, gadgets, toys home, it's the little things that and memorabilia. count. Hide or temporarily Here's a hot list of cool moves disconnect tangles of obtrusive that make your home more extension cords, computer saleable, at a higher price. network wiring, cables and like Capitalize on first impressions wiring or cabling. Sweep the street in front of Organize cabinets to your house and clear all steps demonstrate ample storage and walkways of debris, space. including pet droppings. Recycle or store away Make sure the siding on newspapers, magazines and your house is clean. Wash all other publications. the windows until they sparkle. Board pets, send them to the Consider a fresh coat of neighbors or keep them out of paint. At least paint the trim, sight. Remove pet odors, put front door and shutters. away the litter box, store pet Check all lighting to make toys. sure they work. Install new Bake cookies, burn scented bulbs, if needed. candles or fire up the fireplace to make the house smell Pump up curb appeal pleasant and feel cozy. Water and mow the lawn. Stash valuables, including Rake the leaves. medications, in a safe, secure Trim trees. Plant colorful place. flowers. Offer informative disclosures, Stow bicycles, toys, via fact sheets, brochures gardening equipment and other items typically left outside or in the yard. Garage the car or park on the street to leave ample parking for prospective buyers. Set the stage Organize. Remove all

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How’s Business?:Buy into Local Value-Boosting Written by P.J Wade So, how's business? When I ask that question of independent business owners-and I always do because these frontline professionals know what's going on locally-I get an earful about what the economy has meant to their bottom line and their plans for the future. Working to maintain status quo in 2012 when customers spent less, costs kept rising, and technology continued to add "must have" service elements was a challenge for business owners. While forecasts for 2013 remain cautious, if not negative, business owners are pulling long hours and stretching their loonies to the limit to keep their enterprise on solid ground and prepared for growth when the economy strengthens. The business community in the neighbourhood you loved enough to move into contributes to the variety of near-by shopping and entertainment choices you have. The resulting vibrant lifestyle adds value to you and your real estate. Buyers shopping for their dream home are attracted for the same reasons you were. Shouldn't you make a concerted effort to support local businesses and keep value where it belongs-in your neighbourhood? Is the quaint, unique, boutique-style, family-oriented retail community that first attracted you to the area disappearing? Is it being replaced by corporate clones, chains, and big-box stores? Will this new "mall style" neighbourhood appeal as much to you and to potential real estate buyers, or will you all see less value here? If these changes don't appeal to you and you want to move, will your real estate represent the value you planned on? Marketing-savvy retailers like Target, Walmart, and Dollarama are not bad in themselves. They can suck all the business out of existing neighbourhood shopping areas because residents don't understand how expensive shopping discount can be. If residents don't take

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responsibility for the value of their neighbourhood, large retailers won't and small business can't afford to. Small business struggles mean changes to your neighbourhood which potentially may hit your wallet:

• Walk through most beloved neighbourhood shopping areas and you'll find empty store fronts where decades-old businesses once thrived. Check business-to-business directories, online and off, and you'll discover gaps where vanished enterprises once set standards for service excellence.

• With fewer businesses to draw customers to the area, other businesses can suffer. • New big-box retailers descend on neighbourhoods to redirect spending and attention to their deep-pocket, mall -based ventures, scooping cash out of existing small shops and businesses. Traditionally, a business-whether it's a corporation, practice, or sole proprietorship-is considered an established, lasting entity. This certainty continues even in the face of proof of frailty like the economic crisis which proved that there is no permanence in business, no "too big (or anything else) to fail". We are troubled when a business is not doing well, and are shocked if a business has a sudden failure or disappears almost overnight. We mourn when a business dies-is sold, is forced out of its location, goes bankrupt, or just closes its doors. These changes are shocking because we take for granted that apparently stable, established businesses will continue. For more than one resident, development of existing "one-stop" retail areas to create mega-stores or condominiums has made shopping locally less convenient and less fun.

We keep talking about building and maintaining value as if they are the same thing or at least step one, step two. In fact, these are two overlapping and continually evolving processes. Clients and customers contribute to both for businesses. Residents contribute to building and maintaining the value of their own real estate and the neighbourhood's, in part, by supporting local business: Who's losing? When new big box and/or mall stores and businesses attract you with marketing specials, who's losing business? In this economy, few consumers have more to spend, so when they go to a new supplier, which local businesses will suffer? Consciously, spreading spending around can make a big difference to the sustainability of local shopping areas. Must-have focus Most neighbourhoods sport must-visit restaurants or stores that make shopping locally a pleasure. Many Mom-and-Pop specialty stores and restaurants are irreplaceable mainstays. These local gems are not necessarily cheaper, but they are better, more fun, unique, and more of a shared experience. Their character makes residents proud to say "this is my hood", and it draws more business into the area. Are you a value booster? Each resident shares the responsibility for sustaining beloved neighbourhoodstheirs and others that make our cities and country different. Your choices make the difference locally-positive and negative. How serious are you about what brought you to this neighbourhood in the first place? How committed are you to putting your money where you want your real estate value to be? Written by PJ Wade


More homes listed and sold by Wayne - view these homes at:

w w w. m o o v i n g . c a Whitehills $

4 29


Armoury Square


09 ,980, 4$953 4 $

157 Bishops Gate Rd.


Armoury Square 00 9,9 6 $4

2307 Princess Place

Highland Park 84 $3

2362 June St.#1



45 Haverstock Drive

Prepare take-away brochures and flyers about the property, the neighborhood, area schools and Halifax $2

,9 98

Armoury Square


95 $3


Kingswood North 00 94,87 9 4 $78


Kingswood $

9 34



Sold-Jan 2013 767 Parkland Drive #205

5839 Cunard St. #709

12 Tradewind Court

361 Kingswood Dr.

local List Today and EXIT Tomorrow!

services, attractions and destinations.

Wayne Cochrane Real Estate Professional 902-830-4761 unless noted otherwise

Be a good neighbor Note: This is not intended to solicit clients currently under contract. The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA.

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Wayne Cochrane’s Real Estate Insider  

This newsletter is full of interesting and useful information that I think you will enjoy whether you are a homeowner or currently renting....

Wayne Cochrane’s Real Estate Insider  

This newsletter is full of interesting and useful information that I think you will enjoy whether you are a homeowner or currently renting....