Lee Lander

Broker of Record 289-231-0937 Contact Lee Directly

Shai Lander

Broker 905-252-7424 Contact Shai Directly

The Buyer Experience

You found the right real estate partners in Lee and Shai Lander: Friendly, honest, and genuine, they approach the buyer experience as your guides on the enjoyable adventure of finding your dream home!

At RE/MAX Realtron Lander Realty Inc., Brokerage, they offer experience and knowledge of the buying and negotiating process, as well as the local neighbourhoods and housing market. The Lander Ladies believe in listening closely to your needs and requirements in a new home and a neighbourhood to help you find a great fit. You work directly with the ladies in charge, every time, as they believe in the personal touch.

With their knowledge of each community they serve, and their breadth of understanding of the current real estate market, Lee and Shai are the tough, effective negotiators you want on your side when it comes to getting a great price on your new home.

From listening to your needs and showing you only the homes that match those needs, through the sale, and even into your moving day, Lee and Shai walk you through every step of the home buying process. Long after you've moved in, the Lander Ladies are there for you. They build relationships and friendships, and are a valued part of the communities they serve. Other Realtors may make a sale and take off, Lee and Shai believe that good friendships and partnerships last a lifetime.

Bidding Wars - Good Idea?

There has been a lot of noise recently about the Real Estate bidding war frenzy in major Canadian markets like Toronto. We've heard stories about houses attracting in some cases 30 or more offers and ultimately selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking with. But does this really benefit the home's Seller?

Whether the tactic is suggested by the Sellers themselves or at the urging of their Realtor, significantly underpricing the home for the express purpose of creating a bidding war is not acting in good faith: you should not list your home at a price that you are not prepared to take if offered. That's like your local grocery store advertising a bananas at $.25/pound but when you arrive to buy you're told that actually they won't take anything less than $.49/pound.

There's a reason that businesses are not allowed to operate this way; why should home sellers be any different? Given the high level of dollars and and emotions involved in a Real Estate transaction, shouldn't good faith be a minimum expectation?

Consider this well-publicized example from earlier this year. A rundown 1,200 sq ft 4 bedroom home in Mimico sold for almost $200K over its $379,900 listing price. There were 31 bids. The Realtor admitted they even had a pool in their office with staff betting on how many bids the home would receive. Really? Good to see they are entertained, and potentially financially gained, by playing games with people's homes. Quite often in these scenarios, the eventual winning bid is somewhere around the price that market comparables suggest the listing price should have been in the first place. In the end, where's the benefit to either the Buyer or the Seller? It's smoke and mirrors, usually so the Realtor can boast that they got "X" over list with "Y" number of bids. (Perhaps the more honest boast would be "Look at me - I either didn't know what the selling price should be or I didn't care, and by taking advantage of an artificially-created frenzy I was able to get my Seller what they would have got anyway had I been better at my job.")

But its not just a moral argument as there are risks to the Seller in this strategy.

Lets just say for the sake of argument that a bidding war pushes the price well beyond what could have been reasonable expected given the comparable sales for similar homes in the area, what happens then? Well first of all note that in these situations its likely that the Buyer had to forego a financing condition. If they are a cash buyer or require very little mortgage than there should be no problem. However if the Buyer needs a mortgage to buy the house and the lender gets the property appraised, guess what they base the value on? Right...those same comparable sales in the area that are much lower than the winning bid price for this home. At best the winning bidder has to scramble to find extra downpayment money. At worst, the winning bidder is not able to get a mortgage, and the Seller/Seller's Realtor find out much much later that their deal is not going to close. Usually by then, the other interested bidders have moved on to other homes and this home goes unsold. In any event, this does not seem to be a responsibly arrived at win-win for everyone.

The other risk for the Seller is where no offers come in as expected. Sometimes a property priced lower than it should be scares some buyers away: maybe they simply don't want to get sucked into a bidding war, or maybe the relatively low price makes them think there is something wrong with the property and that's why its price is so low. Often they will dig for more information but they may just as easily move on to another home.

All in all, it seems like a more sound practice is to price the home at or around its expected selling price. Work with a Realtor who is active in your area and has the knowledge about local market conditions to provide you with a fairly accurate picture of your home's value. From there they will consult with you to determine an appropriate strategy for marketing/pricing your home on the market. If that includes a slightly lower price to generate some heightened initial interest and to position your home favourably amongst other similar homes on the market, than this is very likely a good approach. But $200K under...???

While ultimately its the market that determines the actually value and not the Seller (or Seller's family and friends) nor the Realtor. Remember what a Realtor can not determine from the market is exactly what an individual Buyer's motivation is, so its possible to get a higher price even without the frenzy of a bidding war.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

You may be thinking about buying your first home. You may be thinking about upgrading to your dream home. You may already have your dream home that you will never move from. Whatever the case your credit habits could have a huge impact on how much your home-ownership experience costs you.

In a nutshell your house will cost you less in the long run if you use credit wisely. Its the typical risk vs. reward scenario - if you are perceived to be a "good bet" then mortgage lenders are more likely to make their best offers available to you. Conversely if you have a tendency to miss payments or use more credit than you can seemingly afford then you will have to accept higher mortgage costs in order for a lender to "take a chance" on you. The difference could literally be $1,000's and $1,000's in interest and fees.

A home is usually your largest single financial commitment and your credit-worthiness is a big part of how much that financial commitment ends up being. Accordingly it would seem like a good idea to dig into how personal credit works and how to make it work for you.

Most businesses in Canada that extend credit to their customers make use of two main reporting agencies: Equifax and Transunion. Essentially such businesses are both suppliers and consumers of the credit information these two agencies compile. Not only do businesses use the information to make their own credit-granting decisions but they also provide the debt and payment information of their existing customers to these agencies for other businesses to similarly use.

With all of this information in hand the agencies assign you a Credit, or Beacon, Score. In the case of Equifax for example, 900 is the highest possible score but generally anything 680 or more is considered very good credit. While there are many factors that go into determining this score there are three factors that, if managed properly, will help put you, or keep you, in the "good bet" category. The great part is its really quite simple and for the most part doesn't cost you any more money than what you are spending today.

First don't have too much credit. Lots of open but unused credit cards or lines of credit is not necessarily good; the possibility that you could use all of them will be a concern to a potential credit-grantor. (Ten unused cards each with a $1,000 limit can add up in a hurry if all get maxed-out suddenly.) Furthermore all those "extra" open accounts provide fraudsters more opportunity to make you their next victim. Identify what your regular ongoing credit needs are, keep the cards/accounts that accommodate these needs, and close the ones that are left.

Also, do not go over the limit, even if its only by a few dollars. (Unfortunately over is over regardless of how much over you are.) Similarly, maintaining a balance that is close to the limit is also not advisable. The percentage of the limit that is actually used matters. For example a $450 balance on a $500 credit card is 90% used. But if you can pay that down to $300 you're now only at 60% used and in a much better position. However what if you don't have that $150 right now? In that case consider asking the credit card issuer to raise your limit to $750. If successful you will immediately drop to 60% usage ($450/$750) without taking a penny out of your pocket.

Finally, do not miss a payment no matter how little it may be and even if its only the minimum required amount. Ideally you want to pay more than the minimum however if that's not possible don't simply skip it. Remember you are asking someone to lend you money on the basis that you will make the required payments. If your history suggests that you in fact do not make payments on your existing obligations, why would a new lender trust that you are going to do so now?

Even better, make more payments than you are required to, even if you don't increase the total amount paid: mathematically $25 twice a month is the same money out of your pocket as $50 once a month however the fact you are making more payments than required will work in your favour. Regardless of whether you are buying for the first time, moving up to your dream home, or simply renewing your existing mortgage, making these slight modifications to your credit behaviour will help push your Beacon Score upwards and put you in a better position to secure the most advantageous mortgage products available.

What better way to bring even more enjoyment to your home than to know you have reduced how much it costs you to live there.

Statistics & A Closer Look at the EG Real Estate Market

The health of the real estate market in Canada continues to be a hot topic across all media forms coast to coast AND internationally. It seems that not a day goes by without hearing yet another big bank, think-tank, or other supposed expert issuing their opinion on the subject. Unfortunately however there is no consensus among these commentators so we are forced, with (hopefully) some careful consideration of the various interpretations and their inherent biases, to make up our own minds about the current state of the market.

To further muddy the waters is the reality of statistics: the same set of raw data can be torn, twisted, sliced and diced, and packaged in a way that supports all sides of any argument. Therefore all claims based on statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, or at least given the "does it make sense to me" test when considering the source of the claim, their potential motives, and any other information available.

Having said that, does it really matter to us who live here in East Gwillimbury what's happening nationally, provincially, or even regionally? Perhaps at a high level, as in a statistically general sense our local market tends to follow the trends of the entire market at large because the basic fundamental is the same: Canadian's feel home ownership is good and everyone, everywhere needs a place to live anyway. But does the average price of a house in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or even Richmond Hill provide any meaningful insight into what's happening right here in our backyard? Vancouver, Calgary? Not really. Toronto? Richmond Hill? Perhaps somewhat, but in a general sense only, as it's logical that rising prices, bidding wars, and lightening quick sales in those areas force buyers to turn their attention northward to what they perceive is a more reasonable, more affordable area.

Therefore in an attempt to understand a little more about our local market conditions we thought we would once again take a look, a rather unscientific high level look, at East Gwillimbury's recent real estate data. Please note that unless otherwise referenced, this data has been compiled from the Toronto Real Estate Board's proprietary MLS system.

There were 334 homes sold during 2015 versus 358 a year earlier. The average selling price was $611,493 which is about 4.96% higher than 2014's $582,612. (In case you were wondering, this is in fact consistent with the rest of the country according to the Canadian Real Estate Association {CREA} who say the national average sale price excluding Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto increased by 5.4% on a year over year basis.) Despite the highly publicized reports of speedy sales and bidding wars, these 334 homes on average sold at 96.7% of list price in 37 days, remarkably similar to 2014 - 96.4% in 39 days. This suggests that in general Sellers and their Realtors® are doing a good job at evaluating the realistic market for their homes and Buyers are being similarly diligent in their efforts, taking the time to adequately search for and analyze potential properties. Smart? Yes. But too boring for headlines.

Digging a little further the 334 sales were made up of 93 in Holland Landing (vs. 111 in 2014), 127 in Mount Albert (vs. 124), 19 in Queensville (vs. 17), 45 in Sharon (vs. 53), and 50 in Rural EG (also vs. 53). On the surface it looks demand for Holland Landing and Sharon has dropped significantly with the other areas being fairly even. But take into consideration the number of homes available to be bought and the picture changes. In Holland Landing the average supply dropped 23% yet sales only fell 16% and in Rural EG supply was down 12% with just a 6% reduction in sales. Therefore it seems relatively more homeowners want in than out in these areas.

Looking at Mount Albert, sales went up even though there were less homes available for sale demonstrating continued strong demand for that area. And in Queensville the number of homes available and the number of homes sold increased at about the same rate so no real change there. Which brings us to Sharon, where sales dropped 15% yet the average number of homes available increased 12% suggesting a relative reduction in demand for the area. But does this make sense? Not really given also that the 2015 average sale price in Sharon went up about 10% and the average days on market is essentially unchanged (29 vs. 28). Perhaps some additional homeowners were attracted into the market in an attempt to piggy-back onto the demand frenzy caused by the new home sites that recently opened in Sharon. Also, TREB's stats only reflect resale activity and typically do not factor in non-MLS listed properties such as new construction home sales. Quite possibly some of the new construction customers would otherwise have been potential resale buyers if they wanted to move into the area. While the MLS system wouldn't track those transactions, the selling price of those homes will still have a positive impact on the value of all homes for sale in the area including resale homes. Whatever the case, understanding the current LOCAL market environment is not only interesting but is critical to the process of selling your home. The national, provincial, or even GTA trends we hear about in the news may have some relevance, but what really matters is what's happening right now in your back yard. And while we have really only scratched the surface herein, the local market is far more complex than it might seem at first. The real challenge is knowing what to look for, how to find it, how to use it, and how it impacts the potential sale of your home. Unfortunately most people will spend more time researching which new gaming system or big screen TV to buy than the market in which they are selling their home. Given that your home is very likely your biggest single financial investment why not contact your local Realtor® to find out everything you can about the numbers so that you can decide what makes sense to you. Or call us...we love this stuff. We could slice and dice the numbers all day.

If you wait for the perfect time, you'll never buy at all

Mortgage Term

The Canadian real estate market continues to dominate the headlines and it doesn't appear that will change anytime soon.

As a result there is no shortage of supposed experts selling their "knowledge" of how to take advantage of this "hot" market and make money in real estate. They tout many different strategies like flipping, long term rentals, student rentals, rent-to-own, and speculating on new- builds to name a few. As someone with direct personal experience in many of these areas, I can tell you that when done right these activities can be profitable. I can also tell you that they can be exactly the opposite fairly easily too.

However regardless of what you believe about the current market or what any of these gurus are convincing you is the "fool-proof" formula, there one absolute truth in Real Estate: Time is Magic.

The most basic and also the most common money-making, wealth creation real estate strategy is to buy a home and live in it. Simply mix in some of this magical time into the equation and its virtually impossible to lose money. After all since you have to live somewhere and property values will go up anyway its a perfect fit.

Of course there is a long list of factors that impact the rate of value increase over time, and in the short term certain pockets of the market may seem to stay even or drop slightly. But on average every year since they began diligent tracking of value around the middle of the last century the typical Canadian home has gained value ahead of inflation.

This suggests logically then more Time = more Magic. Many of us have parents/relatives/friends who bought their home "way back when" for what seems to be almost nothing, only to sell it recently for a huge amount. That in most cases is simply time working its magic. Related to this is that time's magic also applies to the necessary reality of buying a home - the mortgage. Even without employing advanced payment strategies, your mortgage balance goes down over time. More time = less balance owed.

Its the combination of two conditions that accelerates wealth creation: the value goes up and the outstanding balance is going down. The gap between the two - your money - gets bigger. And bigger and bigger over time. Its that simple. Almost magical.

Of course then the opposite is likely probable more often then not. Regardless of most market circumstances if you don't allow time to do its thing then you could lose money by trying to sell too soon after buying when factoring in fees, penalties, taxes, etc... This being the case, the question we get asked frequently by first timers is when should we buy? The answer was, is, and always will be "today" meaning as soon as you are able whenever that may be. Prices will normally go up, and relatively speaking far more then any additional money you can save towards that purchase.

If you wait for the perfect time, you'll never buy at all.

Anyway if you want to make money in real estate? Its simple. Buy a house and live in it, and build your equity using the magic of time. Note that in Canada the growth in equity in your home is tax-free. There's not much else in our society these days that we can say that about. But that's a whole other discussion...

What the Heck is Title Insurance?

If you purchased your home and/or got a mortgage within the last 10-15 years chances are you will have bought title insurance as part of the transaction. But at your next neighbourhood BBQ ask how many people either know for sure if they even have it and if so what does it mean? You will likely be surprised how little is known about this thing your lawyer sold you at closing called Title Insurance.

But before we go any further remember that the below is for discussion purposes only aimed at getting the thought juices flowing. You should confirm the details of your own circumstances by reviewing your policy documents and/or seeking independent legal advice.

That said, lets briefly explore what Title Insurance is and who might benefit from having it.

When you buy a home it is supposed to be transferred to you with clear and marketable title, meaning nobody has any claim against or can otherwise impact your ability to control the property's ownership. Of course, if you get a mortgage for the purchase, the lender registers this loan on Title so as to become a claim against the ownership of that property. Accordingly, the property can not be sold to another party without addressing the lender's "claim" (which is usually as simple as paying off the loan and related fees.)

However there are other claims against Title that may come to light that could have a significant impact on your ability to sell your home if you choose. For example, you might discover that there were errors in surveys, public records, or other unknown title defects caused by legitimate human error and/or the fact that a large chunk of residential development occurred well before the technology age where manual processes and record keeping may not have been as reliable as we'd like to think it is now.

Your policy may also protect you against "encroachment" problems. Perhaps a previous owner of your home built a fence in what looks to be the right spot but in actual fact is on your next door neighbour's property. Or perhaps in the absence of a fence a previous owner had built a shed slightly over the legal property line. In cases like these your Title Insurance policy would likely cover the cost or moving the offending items back to where they should be.

Perhaps the most significant coverage in your policy relates to Mortgage or Title Fraud. What if a fraudster pretends to be you and manages to get a 2nd mortgage on your home. He then runs away with the mortgage proceeds leaving you responsible for making the payments. And guess what, you usually don't find out about any of it until its far enough along in the process to cause real problems for you. Your Title Insurance policy can not prevent this from happening but it does step in and help you sort out the mess.

Of course, as with any insurance policy, there are some things it doesn't cover. Some of the typical exclusions are Native land claims, environmental hazards (ie. soil contamination), title defects that you knew of when you purchased (ie. easements or restrictive covenants), and any defects that are created by you once you own (ie. you built a fence on your neighbour's property.)

Now that we know a bit more about it, lets consider who might benefit from a Title Insurance policy. It's really quite simple: ALL homeowners. Again, if you got a mortgage anytime in the last 10-15 years or so, its likely the decision was not yours anyway. Lenders have been making Title Insurance a condition of the loan for quite some time so if you needed the mortgage, you bought a Title Insurance policy. (Note that Title Insurance makes the closing process a little easier so, in addition to benefiting from the coverages, you may also have paid slightly less in legal fees.)

But maybe you've lived in your home for years, paid off your mortgage, don't have a fence or a shed, and are reasonably certain there are no issues. There's no need for you to have Title Insurance, right?

WRONG!

Homes with large mortgages are already leveraged at or near legal limits so the payoff for the bad guys is minimal. Properties with little or no mortgage are therefore prime fraud targets. Accordingly the protection against fraud is well worth the one-time policy premium even of none of the other coverages is relevant.

For more detailed information, visit the Financial Services Commission of Ontario website and look for their brochure "Understanding Title Insurance" speak or with your Real Estate lawyer.

Beware: Radon Gas is in our Homes!

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by a breakdown of the uranium in soil, rocks, and water. When released into the atmosphere its typically diluted enough that it doesn't pose any real threat to our health. However the trouble begins when Radon builds up inside an enclosed area like our homes, especially during the winter when we are likely to go months without opening our windows for any length of time.

Without us knowing, Radon can enter our homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings such as floor drains, sumps, and gaps around service pipes. In fact Health Canada performed a study in 2012 that indicated that an estimated 6.9% of Canadians were living in homes with Radon readings above the acceptable guideline of 200 Becquerel per cubic metre, or Bq/m3.

Health Canada says that this colourless, odorless, and tasteless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, behind smoking. An estimated 16% of lung cancer deaths can be attributed in some way to Radon.

Suffice to say, monitoring and mitigating Radon in our homes should be added to our routine home maintenance checklist. As is usually the case there are two basic options: do it yourself or hire a professional. Of course the DIY route will likely be more cost effective however as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. For this reason it may be worth consulting with a trained professional to reduce the chance of mistaken process or misinterpretation of the results.

Regardless, Radon levels can fluctuate day to day and also with the changing seasons. Therefore its Health Canada's recommendation that long term tests conducted over at least 3 months will provide you with an accurate indication of the average level of the gas in your home. Once this is known you will be able to determine what if any mitigation activities are appropriate.

We have been aware for years of the danger of Carbon-Monoxide and of course we should all have detectors in our homes according to current building standards. But this lesser known "occupant" could also be making our homes a dangerous place to live and it would be wise for all of us to pay it a little more attention.

The Canadian Real Estate Association's publication A Homeowner's Guide to Radon provides more information about this gas in your home and what to do about it. Feel free to contact me if you would like a copy.

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The information contained on this site is based in whole or in part on information that is provided by members of The Canadian Real Estate Association, who are responsible for its accuracy. CREA reproduces and distributes this information as a service for its members and assumes no responsibility for its accuracy.

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