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The Value of Schools, Daycares and Family Programming

One of the biggest boosts that a neighbourhood can receive in terms of appeal comes from what it offers families. Public and private schools are the big ones but families (including those planning on starting one) also tend to do their research on daycares, after school programs and general family programming.

What Neighbourhoods are Considered the Best for Schools?

Rosedale-Moore Park, Bathurst Manor and North Riverdale are just three of the neighbourhoods that usually come up when looking at the best neighbourhoods for public schools. While not an exact science, much of the equation comes down to quantity and quality, which means the amount of schooling options and the quality of teachers, programs and curriculum.

Another aspect that is considered is how many post-secondary graduates these neighbourhoods produce.

Don’t overlook Quality of Daycares as this could have an Impact

Whether you have very young kids or are planning on it, it’s smart to consider the local daycares and see what they offer. Some of the more well regarded ones could have long waiting lists, so an abundance might be a good thing.

As well, if you are uncomfortable with home based daycares then make sure your area offers in-school options.

Some Neighbourhoods Offer Family Fun Galore

Outside of schools and daycares, families need resources and infrastructure to spend time together, keep busy and to pretty much just live their lives. It might sound simple but some neighbourhoods have community centres, street festivals like Buskerfest or Taste of the Danforth or outdoor skating rinks.

These things are all key because parents need ways to entertain their kids and introduce them to different things without having to drive long distances or spending a good chunk of money every time.

Analysis of the Data is Controversial in the eyes of some

Lastly, please remember that a lot of what makes a school good or not or how important the presence of something like a Montessori school is comes down to individual opinions and tastes. It’s easy to paint with a broad brush but it’s up to families to determine what is important to them.

For those looking for more in-depth analysis of the best and worst schools should consult the Fraser Institute’s report card.

Source: http://torontolife.com/schools/

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Don’t let your Outdoor Space go to Waste

After the seemingly endless months of winter with the constant cold, snow and tough driving conditions, there’s no better feeling than enjoying the sun from your very own backyard.

The smell of food grilling and fresh cut grass signals to Canadians that summer has arrived. What better way to spend the summer than to make sure your outdoor space is looking its sharpest and set up to be welcoming to guests.

Here’s some tips and ideas on how to transform your backyard for the summer.

Turn your Thumb Green and Enjoy Fresh Plants and Produce

Even a small and simple garden in your front or back yard can enhance the aesthetic of your home. A few plants and some seasonal vegetables like cucumbers and peppers can add colour to a lawn and provide a lot of delicious nutrition.

A Small Gazebo can add a new Dimension to your Backyard 

There’s a trend in backyard spaces to compartmentalize and create areas that are unique as opposed to one big backyard. Constructing a gazebo is a fun DIY project and shouldn’t take the entire spring to complete.

It might even be easier than building an entire deck.

Atmosphere and Aesthetic Appeal Courtesy of a Fire Pit

There are few things that say summer like marshmallows roasting over a roaring fire. While it does take a bit of money and some elbow grease, building a fire pit creates fun for everyone.

A Proper Space for Hosting

Summer is a great time to host your friends, family and neighbours so make sure you have a nice space that is perfect for eating, chatting and relaxing. You’ll want to make sure it is spacious, well-lit and not too far from the entrance to your house and the BBQ to make transporting food and drinks easy.

The summer is designed for relishing quality time so make sure you use your outdoor space to the best of its abilities. It’s not always about sinking a ton of money into it, but more about creating a fun and relaxing oasis away from street noise and the stresses of everyday life.

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Is Condo Living Right for me?

The more cities grow and the more major urban centres become home to people new to Canada, the more condos will become the number one way that people will live. The reason for this is due to space, cost and believe it or not some will even choose to settle in a condo.

The Pros of Condo Living

Who doesn’t want heightened security, an onsite pool and gym, a concierge and to live above convenient shops. Condos can offer great convenience, accessibility and remove a lot of the more obnoxious aspects of being a homeowner.

Sometimes the Pros are Things you don’t have to do

Don’t forget that condo living usually means underground parking, not having to take the garbage out, not wasting a Saturday cutting the lawn, having someone sign for your packages, someone to vet visitors and a lot of other features that living in a house doesn’t offer.

An Evening in for Condo Residents can be Quite Luxurious

Unless you live in a palatial estate, it’s only with condo living that you can come home from a long day of work, pick up your packages and all in the same building work out, hit the sauna, BBQ on a terrace and enjoy a soak in a hot tub. Not bad, right?

As with anything, there’s a downside

The biggest concession with living in as condo is the space. A smaller kitchen, less rooms, minimal storage space—these are all things that people living in a condo must contend with. As well, there might be a bit more noise due to the proximity of units and there will be days where the elevators are down and you’ll have to walk twelve flights of stairs.

It’s important to weigh the good with the bad and determine what is best for you. If anything mentioned in this post appeals to you or you can see the value in it, then condo living might be for you! It offers a more affordable means to own a home in a city like Toronto and if you can handle a bit less space than it is worth considering.

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Is the Blind Offer Hurting the Housing Market?

Toronto seems to be in a constant seller’s market especially when it comes to single-family detached houses. This is an unfortunate scenario for buyers as it typically leads to bidding wars and people shelling out well over asking.

It is often argued that bidding wars are caused by a system of blind offers. Blind offers also drive the market in ways that are unsustainable.

What is the Blind Offer?

A blind offer is simple. A property is placed on the market along with an offer date. All interested buyers submit their offer (price they’re willing to pay along with conditions). These offers are kept private meaning one party doesn’t know what the other party is offering.

Why is the Blind Offer Problematic?

 The blind offer boils down to one chance to submit your best offer. If you want a certain property, you might have to blindly bid well over market to secure it. Your offer becomes a one-shot chance to guess at what it’ll take to win.

In real estate and especially in a market like Toronto, the lack of transparency is a tough pill to swallow. It’s designed to help the seller who is already operating in a strong market, while putting the buyer further behind the 8-ball.

There are other Systems that could Replace and Improve upon the Blind Offer

An auction system makes more sense than the blind offer. It allows parties to openly bid and then bow out when they feel it has gone beyond their means. This is a system that wouldn’t hurt the seller either, so theoretically, both parties could walk away winners. This would create an even healthier housing market both in the short and long term.

Transparency is Always a Better Option

Whatever the system the goal should be open communication and transparency. The Toronto housing market is legitimately valuable but having prospective buyers pay a price more in line with the value will create a more level market and further end the bubble debate.

A housing market isn’t a high-stake game of poker and shouldn’t be treated as a duel where you must outwit an opponent.

 

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What is a Walk Score and why does it Matter?

One of the more interesting developments in the evaluation of homes and neighbourhoods is the Walk Score, which is a methodology that measures the walkability of any address using a patented system that has been approved by researchers.

Walkability can Make or Break a Neighbourhood

Neighbourhoods affect the price of a house or condo but it can be complicated to measure. How do you value amenities? Is a park more attractive than a community centre? How close is close when it comes to access to public transportation.

There is subjective and based on individual needs, but overall, there’s a baseline as to the value of walkability.

How is a Walk Score Measured?

A Walk Score measures all the available walking routes to local amenities. Points are awarded based on distance (or lack thereof). The goal is for an amenity to be within a five-minute walk, and a maximum amount of points are awarded if this is achieved. The longer the walk, the lower the walk score. Anything longer than a 30-minute walk is awarded zero points.

There’s more to a Walk Score than just Distance to Amenities

It also measures pedestrian friendliness, which is much more sophisticated and very informative. This means that a Walk Score reflects population density and road metrics to give an clearer idea of how busy and congested a neighbourhood is on a regular basis.

Where does a Walk Score get its Data from?

This might be the most important question of all because the reliability of the data is why the Walk Score is trusted. Any doubt as to the data’s validity will undermine its credibility. Walk Score compiles data from Google, education.com, Open Street Map, Census, Localeze and there’s data also collected from the user community.

 

The Walk Score Breakdown

90-100 – Walker’s Paradise

A score in this range means you do not need a car to run your daily errands.

70-89 – Very Walkable

Most errands can be accomplished without a car

50-69 – Somewhat Walkable

Some errands require the use of a car

25-49 – Car-Dependent

Most errands require a car

0-24 – Car Dependent

Close to 100% of errands require a car

When buying a home, the neighbourhood will play a crucial role. Walkability enhances the appeal of a neighbourhood and it’s useful to have a way to measure something as vital as distance to key amenities.

 

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What to Expect During and After the Closing Period?

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying your first home. Most of your time and energy will be spent weighing the pros and cons of the neighbourhood, the appliances, the layout, the price, your down payment and then negotiating terms and conditions.

Often what is left on the backburner is what happens after the paperwork is signed. What should you consider during the closing process?

Don’t Forget to Save for Closing Costs

Even after your down payment is paid to the seller, you still have lawyer fees, title insurance and land transfer fee (depending on where in Canada you live). These fees can fluctuate but it is always recommended that you include them in your budget along with down payment. They can add up to a large sum and can cause unduly stress.

Many new Homeowners Forget about Basic Moving Costs

When renting the main thing one considers beyond first and last month’s rent is the cost of moving and any new furniture. Buying is such a complicated process that the smaller expenses can get lost in the shuffle. When budgeting, remember that even though the cost of movers and some new furniture might seem insignificant compared to your down payment and closing costs, it still needs to be factored in.

You want to pay for reliable movers and not live in a beautiful new home that is filled with second hand furniture that was suited to the apartment you lived in while in university.

Money Aside, the Closing Period will take up a lot of time

After you close, you will be inundated with paperwork. Your real estate agent, lender and lawyer will be asking for your signature on a stack of papers. You will have to review, ask questions and simply set aside time to sign everything and then create a system to stay organized.

After your offer has been accepted, it will be a touch scary and daunting but trust the professionals around you to guide you through the process. Keep in mind that it is all standard and you will eventually be settled into a home that you love.

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Tips for Paying off your Mortgage faster

Owning a house or condo is one of life’s biggest milestones. Once the excitement dies down, though, many people are left staring at another 25 or 30 years of paying off their mortgage, which, for most, will be the largest debt of their lives.

While it’s daunting no matter what, there are ways to ease the burden and decrease your stress in the process.

Here’s some tips for people shopping for a mortgage or for those who are already knee deep into one.

Lump Sum Payments Can Impact the Life of your Mortgage

Most lenders will allow borrowers to make at least one large payment every calendar year. This will put more of your money towards the principle and is a great way to chop a bunch of months off your total mortgage.

If your annual pay includes a bonus structure or you find yourself falling into a bit of money, a lump sum payment is a wise way to invest it.

Round up your Payments

Every dollar put towards your mortgage does make a difference.  The best approach is to round up your payments. It might cost you an extra $40 or $60 per month but it will mean that you pay less in interest. That money might not make your wallet heavier every month but it could make a big difference in paying off your mortgage.

Bi-weekly is Better than Monthly but Accelerated Bi-Weekly is the Best

Once again, a small amount paid could mean years shaved off and thousands of dollars in interest saved. By increasing your weekly payment by an amount that is most likely insignificant, you are ensuring that you will pay a lot less over the life of your mortgage.

The name of the game is saving money and owning your home as fast as possible. If you have the capability to sacrifice a little extra here and there, you most likely will not regret it when you have your mortgage paid off in 22 or 23 years instead of 25.

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Value Still Exist in Toronto Real Estate?

There’s a been a lot of talk about real estate in Toronto over the last few years. The value of property has steadily increased, bidding wars have become the norm and the speed at which some neighbourhoods go from forgotten to wanted has been surprising, to say the least.

For people looking to enter the market, it’s critical to find value; to invest in a home that will yield a return and provide everything you are looking for in a neighbourhood.

Property in Toronto Changes Fast 

A few years ago, areas like Dundas West, Roncesvalles and The Junction were intriguing communities destined for a revitalization. Now, those are tough neighbourhoods to move into because the price caught up to the value.

East York is a Hidden Gem

Nestled between O’Connor and the Danforth is a quaint community that offers accessibility and a growing commercial district. East York is a great spot for families as the houses are relatively affordable and it’s a quick commute to Downtown. East York has the feel of an area about to explode in popularity.

Parkdale is Desirable and Still has Room to Grow

You might have some preconceived notions about Parkdale, but the truth is that this area is heavily sought after by young couples and features a growing artist community. Parkdale has a nice mix of housing options and a fun, eclectic shopping district. Great walkability and the Victorian homes are a vintage touch that remind people that Parkdale was one of Toronto’s original developed area.

Accepting a Short Commute Could mean Owning your Dream Home

Even if you dream of living the urban life, it’s worth extending your search to outside the city because you might be pleasantly surprised. Etobicoke, Markham and Newmarket have been attracting families for decades and the latest hot spot might just be Hamilton. While the commute might be a deterrent, it could check off every other box.

There’s still a few pockets of value left in Toronto so it’s recommended that you do your research, widen your search and keep an open mind. Above all else, be ready to pounce when you find that awesome property.

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The Choice Between Variable vs. Fixed Mortgage Rates

After you’ve bought your home, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether you want a variable or fixed mortgage rate. This is one decision that could have a significant financial impact and there’s no right or wrong choice. It’s heavily dependent on the market, interest rates, your financial situation and your own propensity for risk.

What is a Variable Rate?

A variable rate will fluctuate along with the market interest rate. It’s unpredictable but historically variable rates have been less expensive. Simply put, variable rates come with financial uncertainty. If the prime rate shoots up, then you could owe a lot more monthly interest on your mortgage.

What is a Fixed Rate?

A fixed rate locks in the initial interest rate and this is what you will pay over the term. It’s safer but could result in you having to pay more. For those who are risk averse, this is a worthy trade off. In Canada, fixed rates have generally been the more popular choice.

How do you know which Mortgage Rate is Best for you?

Both fixed and variable mortgage rates have their benefits. When interest rates are low it’s advisable to lock into a fixed. If rates are high, then gambling on a variable makes a lot of sense because rates could conceivably drop. Sometimes it’s a very narrow difference between the two and comes down to a borrower’s preference.

It comes down to your tolerance, lifestyle and personal income. One way to decide if a variable rate is for you is whether you believe your income will grow at some point.

It’s difficult for anyone to predict where interest rates will go, and they could increase or decrease without much notice. Base your decision on current interest rates and the market and, most importantly, what you can afford with the least amount of stress.

Reach out to an Oppono mortgage expert to learn about which rate might best suit your situation.

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The U.S. Political Impact on the Canadian Housing Market

Now that the dust has settled on the U.S. presidential election, people and pundits have begun theorizing on the affect it will have on Canadians. It’s fair to assume that the ripple from the U.S. political landscape will reach the Canadian economy and housing market. Though, it might not be in ways that most are expecting.

The Mystery Surrounding the U.S. Dollar

Political beliefs and allegiances aside, it’s fair to say that the 2016 presidential election could have a larger than normal impact. For instance, the strength (or lack thereof) of the U.S. dollar could push more Canadians to buy property across the border or entice many Americans to come north for housing and jobs.

Any drop in the U.S. housing market could lead to even more Canadians buying winter properties in Florida, Las Vegas or Arizona.

U.S. Immigration Laws Could Affect our Housing Market

This election could also see significant changes to U.S. immigration laws, which could bring more people to Canada and lead to a surplus of either new homeowners or renters. If the cost of renting anywhere in Canada increases, it could convince more people to apply for a mortgage. This would impact the housing market, if it occurs on a large scale.

Will the Next Four Years Provide an Opportunity for Foreign Investors?

The wave of Americans moving to Canada is usually exaggerated as evidenced during the Reagan and George W. Bush presidencies. A more realistic scenario could be foreign investors looking more closely at Canada and being attracted to its growth and stability. Commercial real estate could also be in for a real boom.

Federal and Provincial government might have to roll out new regulations to deal with an onslaught of foreign buyers, but that will play out over time.

At this point, a lot of this is speculation but it’s fair to surmise that Canada’s markets might be in store for a shift or two. Though, this is not to say that the shifts will negatively affect Canadians or Canada’s economy.