Find It, Build It, Buy It
Laura Smith and Sarah Dean
Laura Smith is a BoQ explorer, dreamer and lover of good real estate. Finding homes with great bones is an obsession. Spending more than a fair share of time pouring through house listings and day tripping through different BoQ communities and then imagining those settings, marvelling about the exciting new lives we could live… Who doesn’t love a bit of what if? Daydreaming about interesting new spaces is how great adventures start!
It’s easy to get swept away in the romance of spaces and impressive staging, so what do you do? How do you stay focused so you find a home that truly checks all the boxes in this region?
Here are a few tips she can share to help you recognize that the “not so perfect at first glance” house might be your dream home in disguise.
Take a look at your needs for the next five years. It can be intimidating and over-whelming to hunt for a “forever home.” Take some of that pressure off and think instead about what your life looks like in a shorter-term burst. Keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll soon prioritize what your needs are right now and what may be only a charming distraction.
Love to entertain? Go for that open-concept kitchen or think about a walkable neighbour-hood close to restaurants, theatres and nightlife like East End Belleville or West End Quinte West.
Working long hours and want to relax on the week-end? Unless mowing is where you find your Zen, strike acreage off the list and take advantage of nearby parks and greenspace this region has in abundance! Have future dreams of a recreational property? The BoQ puts you right in the centre of amazing year-round outdoor recreation. Consider a home with a rentable in-law suite and begin saving for that goal even sooner! Toying with the idea of a home-based business? There are some really unique office spaces to be found here and an entrepreneurial supportive community like the BoQ is what you are looking for; road frontage, zoning flexibility and accessible main floor space are additional key features to keep in mind as well for future success.
Look for good bones! You want to see that the original character and design of a house have remained intact. Ranch-style homes with large windows and gracious open plans to bring the outside in. Bungalows maximized for efficiency and easy access to those characteristic large porches. Belleville and Quinte West are areas rich in history, and there are plenty of ornamented century homes with original wood doors, grand staircases and decorative trim waiting to be loved again. Sadly, many homes get re-muddled over the years, losing the very features that defined them. While any building can be ultimately restored, you’ll want to be sure to speak with a professional to find out if the materials you’ll need are accessible and the work required fits within your timeline and budget.
Older, rural properties may present foundation issues, septic surprises, faulty electrical components, lead pipes, rotting porches, leaky eaves, asbestos insulation/siding and my personal nemesis, oil paint covered with a peeling layer of latex. These are all fixable but require some measure of cost. Your lender will likely give you a very definite time frame in which to remedy these issues.
Find a tradesperson who shares your vision, and don’t be afraid to explore alternative options for sourcing materials. The Quinte Home Builders’ Association is a great resource for finding professionals. There are many outlets for supplies in the BoQ area, from traditional hardware stores, resellers of vintage-and-antique architectural salvage, not-for-profit sources that deal exclusively in donated new-and-repurposed materials and those very important independent manufacturing craftspeople when custom solutions are required… Who knew 1800s trim work wasn’t avail-able off the shelf in a variety of shapes and lengths?!
It’s ok to be the worst house on the best street; it’s actually a good thing! A compromised location, how-ever, no matter how amazing the house, is something to give serious pause and second thought before saying yes. Ask yourself if it’s romance or reality you are buying into. Spend a stretch in the area during a wide range of times to get the best idea of what you will be able to expect. I love booking an overnight stay to re-ally get a feel for a place.
Park the car and walk those new streets, living how you imagine your routine will be. Are there any cafés close by? Somewhere to pick up late-night necessities? How far do you need to travel to get mail? Is your commute home from work a smooth one? Will there be a place to run, cycle or walk? Are you going to be happy with the selection at the local grocery store? Will there be young children in the neighbourhood, or is it a quieter senior community? Remember: it doesn’t have to check all the boxes; just think about your anticipated needs over the next five years.
Another good tip is to visit the local planning office. You’ll get invaluable information about possible com-munity development, areas that will see significant investments/upgrades and planned zoning changes for the future. Sometimes it’s very advantageous to overlook perceived setbacks when you know substantial improvements have been planned for a region you hadn’t initially considered. Being prepared and informed will be one of your finest tools in making a great investment.
Last words of wisdom… once you move into your new home, give it some time to settle. Don’t be in a big rush to finish all the projects and have the perfect home. It’s so much more important to find balance, giving yourself time to become part of your new com-munity. Get out and talk to local business owners, invite neighbours over to visit, join some local groups and be adventurous in exploring what makes the BoQ such an awesome place to call home. I promise you’ll find friendly, welcoming receptions. Most of us were once new to the community ourselves, facing the very same challenges. The BoQ community is here to cheer you on toward grand success on your new adventure.
In tracked housing (the kind of homes you’ll find in a classic subdivision, aka “cookie-cutter” homes), the builder chooses the majority of the design and interior options. With this type of purchase you’re typically buying the home and the land.
Find the community you want to live in with the schools, hospitals or other available services you desire.
Determine what product you want—a rowhouse, bungalow, condo or
2-storey, etc. Search the Quinte Home Builders’ Association site for builders to find locations where your home choice is being offered.
Pick A Builder
Tarion, whose primary purpose is to protect consumers of new homes by ensuring that builders abide by the provincial legislation, is a good place to start. Also check the QHBA website. Our local home builder association lists credible builders in the region. Check with realtors or other housing professionals for advice as well. Meet with your builder to discuss your build interests and sign contracts. Be prepared to put a deposit down when you sign the contract. Tarion currently limits this percentage payment to a maximum of $40,000. Once construction begins, you typically have limited interaction with the building process. Outside of a few options with available design plans and finishes on the inside, you likely won’t be doing a walk through until the home is complete.
If you want more control over your build, go custom. There are usually two routes: you could purchase the land and have a builder build on it, or some custom home builders own land that you can choose from for building.
Be aware of how custom builders work, as it isn’t apples to apples. Some builders work on an allowance system, where they offer a base price and then anything above the base option is
an additional cost. Other builders offer turn key solutions, where the price they offer is the final price.
Have A Wishlist
The builder can then create a design based on what you want and provide advice on what they think will or won’t work.
Custom homes usually take between 6 months to 1.5 years, and you’ll be working very closely with the builder on every part of the decision-making process. So make sure you get along with your builder; if you don’t mesh now, it’s going to be a very long year.
They’re professionals who live and breathe building homes. You might only build one house in your lifetime, but this isn’t their first rodeo. Odds are if the builder makes a recommendation, it’s worth listening to.
Be Part of the Team
In a custom-home build, you’ll be an active part of the process: visiting the site, taking layout meetings, doing walkthroughs near completion and at completion.
Tarion warranties apply to all types of new builds, with warranties from one to seven years, depending on what part of the home they relate to. Make sure you understand your warranty when you meet with your builder. Visit tarion.com
A BoQ Buying Guide by Sarah Dean of Team Tim McKinney Re/Max Quinte Ltd.
Buying a home is exciting. It can also be confusing and stressful if you aren’t prepared. The good news? The average price of a home (at the end of 2017) in the Bay of Quinte was $299K, making it affordable and owning your dream home more than just a dream.
FIGURE OUT YOUR BUDGET
Meet with a mortgage advisor to determine what your budget is and how much of a house you can actually afford. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is step one in the home-buying process. Tip Your pre-approval locks in your interest rate for 90 days or more and al-lows you to begin the offer and negotiation steps of purchasing a home.
GET YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER
Pay down your debts, get rid of your credit cards and don’t make any big purchases. This is the time to save as much money as you can to go towards your down payment. First-time home buyers need to have a down payment of at least 5% of the purchase price, but if you save more up front, you’ll save in the end, so aim for closer to 20%. For example, the average price of a home in the BoQ at the end of 2017 was 299K, so a 5% down payment would be $14,950, and 20% would be $59,800. Tip Interest rates are on the rise and the newly implemented stress test decreases the amount you can borrow to purchase a new home or refinance an existing property. That is to say you must now qualify for a higher interest rate than you will actually be paying.
USE A REALTOR YOU TRUST
There is a lot that goes into the process of buying a house. From knowing the neighbourhoods to helping with the issues that will inevitably arise on closing, a realtor will help you every step of the way and make sense of some of the confusing processes. What would you do if the home you purchased didn’t have the appliances on closing date? Let a realtor take care of these issues so you can focus on moving in and making the house your own. Tip As a buyer, you do not have to pay commission fees to your realtor. The seller is responsible for the cost of commission.
NARROW DOWN YOUR CHOICES
The Bay of Quinte is full of different styles of homes. The detached home is the most popular in the area, but new condo developments and townhouses are being built in the region and are a viable option for new home buyers. Tip Be open-minded and only look at the homes within your price range. What you dream about in a home isn’t as important as what you need in a house.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
In the Bay of Quinte you have so many great neighbourhoods to choose from. It’s important to narrow down your location on where you want to live. If you don’t know where you want to be exactly, at least figure out where you don’t want to be. Some things to take into account are how close you want to be to work, schools and amenities.
GET A HOME INSPECTION
You wouldn’t buy a car without getting it checked out. The same goes for your house. It’s especially important when you’re purchasing a resale home to get a professional inspection. Your realtor can help you choose a reputable inspector. Everything you need to know about a home can be found in your inspection report, as well as good maintenance and housekeeping tips to keep your home in the best condition.
SET UP YOUR NEW HOME
Now is the time to set up your utilities and insurance for your home. Your real-tor can help you determine which utility companies to contact. Don’t forget to redirect your mail and update any identification cards with your new address.
GET READY FOR MOVE-IN DAY
Closing Day is the day you officially sign the papers and get the keys to your new home. This is also the day you’ll transfer that large sum of money that you saved for the down payment. You’ll also have to pay closing costs, i.e. your legal fees, land transfer tax, appraisal fees and any adjustment costs on the sale. Tip Make sure you set aside 1.5 – 4 % of the purchase price to go towards closing costs. This amount is not included in your down payment.
GET OUT AND EXPLORE!
Your new neighbourhood awaits. Once you’ve settled into your new home, it’s time to explore your surroundings and your new city or town. The Bay of Quinte has so many unique things to do and see. Meet your neighbours, try a new restaurant or just go for a walk to check out what’s around you!
At the end of 2017, the average price of a home in the Bay of Quinte region was still 299K, and its close proximity to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal is an attractive draw for those looking to smaller communities for a way to attain an affordable and attractive lifestyle. Whether you’re looking, building or buying old or new, here are some tips on how to find your home in the BoQ.
Written By: Laura Smith (Find It & Build It) and Sarah Dean (Buy It)
Photography: Alex Filipe
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