Preparing for visits

The most common complaint I hear from sellers is the need to keep their house clean and ready for visits. More than a few clients have told me they wish they could just move out until their house is sold!

Preparing your house for visits by potential buyers is extremely important and yet, I’ve seen houses where the owners clearly didn’t understand this. If you don’t clean you house before visits, even the best broker is going to have trouble selling it.

Smell

You might not realize that your home has a smell to it, but someone visiting it for the fist time will – especially if it smells bad!

Some culprits to consider:

– Pets. Make sure the cat litter is clean and, if possible, out of the house. Dog beds smell like dogs, so wash them regularly while your home is on the market, and store them into the garage during visits.

– Basements. Basements tend to be damp, so they need dehumidifiers. Musty-smelling basements are a huge turnoff for potential buyers.

– Cooking odours. Do not cook especially fragrant foods like bacon, curry or fish the day of a visit. The smell lingers and visitors might find them offensive. The smell of baking cookies, on the other hand, can leave people with a positive impression of your home.

– Fragrances. Do not go overboard with scented candles or scented room sprays. They can be overpowering, and visitors will think you’re trying to hide something.

To try instead:

– Flowers. A beautiful bouquet can freshen up any room. With a little TLC, they can last a week or two and are worth the investment.

– Natural cleaning products. Replace your usual cleaning products with all-natural, lemon-scented products that leave a pleasant fresh smell without being overpowering. Another option is plain vinegar, which leaves no smell at all once it dries.

Sight

De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter!  You want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves living in your house. With this in mid, pack away as many of your personal effects as possible, clear out closets and cupboards, and minimize furniture. Then give your house a thorough cleaning.

Kitchen and bathrooms are especially important to buyers, so make sure that yours look their best. They should sparkle! The bathroom should feel like a spa, so buy some new fluffy towels and a bathmat. Clear countertops of personal items and – please – make sure the toilet lid is closed!

Aside form the obvious de-cluttering and cleaning, you should also think about:

– Packing it up. Purchase a few large plastic storage bins and when visitors come, quickly sweep everything off the counters and tables into the bins. Then store them in the cupboard with the lid closed – or better yet, put them in the trunk of your car and leave with them.

– Lighting. Bright rooms are more welcoming and look bigger. So turn on all the lights and open the curtains and blinds (unless the view is terrible!).

– Access. Walkways should be cleared of snow, wet leaves and toys. Potential buyers shouldn’t have to come in through the back door because you haven’t bothered to shovel the snow. Every visit should start by way of the front door. For your visitors’ safety, stairs should be kept clear as well.

– Details. Finally, when was the last time you clean your light switch plate covers? You may not notice the smudges and fingerprints, but I assure you the buyer will.

Sound

Soft music is always welcome, but the key word is soft – as in turned down, low background music. The buyers aren’t there to rock it out!

 

Get out!

You, your kids and your little dog too! Buyers don’t feel comfortable wandering around someone’s home while the owners are watching them. Buyers will rush through their visit so as not to inconvenience them.

If you can’t leave, try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Do not be that owner who follows around the buyers to show them all the good qualities of your home. This backfires more often than is successful.  For example, if the you tell the buyer there are a lot of kids in the area, the buyer may imagine he will be over run with kids screaming, when truly there are only 5 kids living close by. Everyone interprets things differently!

 

Make a good impression

Often, after a day of visits, I hear buyers giving nicknames to the houses we’ve seen. Do you want to be the dirty house or the dream house? The smelly home or the house with the great light? How about the bra house? The owner of one home we visited had her bras and underwear hanging to dry in the bathroom! I have even had the naked house, where a man walked out of his bedroom bearing all. You can imagine how that visit ended!

So take a good look around your home. Walk around and look at it as though it were your first time seeing it. Will it make the right impression?

You may think buyers look past your belongings and your clutter to the house and its layout, but most of the clients I’ve worked with are influenced by how the house is presented. You want buyers to walk away remembering all the positives – that’s when you’ll get an offer.

***The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.***

 

Multiple Offers

Dealing with a multiple-offer situation as a Quebec buyer

Entering a bidding war with another buyer isn’t ideal, but when the market is hot and the property well-priced, it’s bound to happen. Knowing the ins and outs of a multiple offer situation will help you come out the winner.

First come, first served?

The first thing to know is that it doesn’t matter who wrote their offer first – the seller is in the drivers’ seat. If a seller is confident, he’ll be getting a second offer, he may choose to wait to respond to you until he has received it and then review both offers at the same time. In this situation, the timing of your offer matters less than its terms.

Deadlines come into play here. A buyer who is interested in a hot property can put a short deadline on his offer. This offer is only binding on himself, committing him to buying the property at the given price and conditions until the specified deadline. If the seller does not accept before the deadline, the buyer can walk away. Sometimes, sellers won’t want to take the risk if the offer is good and will accept the first offer within the deadline. However, if the first offer is low or not what the sellers want, they don’t have to respond by the deadline, as the deadline is only binding for the buyer. Once the sellers counter a buyer’s offer, they are bound by the terms of the counter and its deadline and they cannot accept any other offer unconditionally until the deadline has passed. Unless your offer is amazing, the sellers will most likely wait to see what the second one has to offer. Remember: deadlines bind the person who wrote them, not the party receiving the offer or counter!

Once you’ve submitted your offer, be available to your broker! If a decision has to be made quickly, you should be available to decide and sign at a moment’s notice.

Your best possible offer

Should a second offer be presented to the seller, the seller’s broker must, by law, disclose this information to the first offer buyers. If the seller has not countered the first offer yet, they then have a chance to amend their offer. The second buyers knew there was an offer on the table when they wrote their offer, so they most likely came in with their best offer – not a preliminary offer (or a fishing expedition!). In Quebec, it is illegal for a real estate broker to divulge the amount and conditions of the other offer(s) to a buyer, as that would be favouring one buyer over the other. Offers must remain private between the parties.

If the sellers have already countered the first offer when the second offer is presented, the first buyers hold the power; if they accept the terms of the counter-offer, the deal is binding. If they, in turn, counter, they are opening the door for the seller to be free to accept the second offer.

If the seller hasn’t answered any offer yet and you are given the option to alter your offer – do it! In most cases the seller will just accept one offer without countering anyone. You may only get this one chance, so make it the best you can.  It is not always the highest priced offer that is the best; it is the offer with the best conditions and a good price that usually wins the day. Remove any unnecessary conditions and make it a ‘clean’ offer. Then come in at your top price, and by this I mean the absolute highest amount you’re willing to pay before walking away.

Go over list if you love it, or offer a weird number, like $1,850 higher. People tend to offer full price or they offer 1, 2, 5, or 10 thousand dollars over -round numbers – so be different and offer $5001.00! It just might make the difference in being the better offer.

In a multiple offer situation, you only get one chance, so make sure you give it your best shot. Even after giving buyers this advice, I have still heard some walk away saying they would have paid what the second buyer paid. Put your best offer forward so that, in the event you don’t get the house, you won’t have any regrets about the one that got away.

Can a seller hold a mini auction? Yes!

The seller is holding the cards. If there are two or more offers in front of him but none of them are what wants or if he thinks he can push for more money, he can tell everyone to come back with their best price. He will ask everyone to amend their offers by a specific deadline (usually before the shortest deadline of all the offers, that way he is reducing the likelihood of someone walking away, which they might if he countered everyone). Once every buyer who wishes to change their offer has submitted their amendments, the seller will pick whichever offer he thinks is the best.

Can a seller accept two offers? Yes!

Few people realize that a seller can accept more than one offer at a time. Here’s how and why:  if a seller accepts an offer from Buyer 1, he can accept an offer from Buyer 2 conditional on the first offer not fulfilling its conditions within the offer time frame. Sellers will do this to protect themselves. If all the offers they received have some conditions to them, then the house is not sold until the conditions are removed. So why not hold on to a second buyer just in case? It can also happen that the seller accepts an offer and then the next day a better one comes along, so he accepts that too on the condition that the first one can’t fulfill his financing or some other part of his offer. Buyer 2 will be given a deadline shorter than the first on all conditions so that it will be a firm offer before the first offer. That way if the first buyer even asks for an extension to fulfill his conditions the seller can refuse and Buyer 2 gets the house.

Remember, a sale is not firm until all conditions are removed. The seller can and should continue to market his home until he has a ‘firm’ offer.

So go in with your best offer, with the least amount of conditions possible. Do your building inspection before you write your offer, if you have the time. Or, if the vendors have said they will reply after the weekend, try and get all your conditions removed before Sunday night and send a revised offer Monday morning! Remember you only get one chance in a multiple offer situation, make sure your offer is the best it can be.

Multiple offers definitely favor the sellers but as a buyer, just understanding the process will help you come out on top with the keys to your dream home!

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

 

Conditions of Acceptance – The Promise to Purchase Deadline

When you’re ready to make an offer on a property, your real estate broker will help you fill in a Promise to Purchase to present to the seller. In this document, you specify the price you want to pay, any applicable conditions and the deadline for responding.

Until this deadline passes, you are legally bound to the price and conditions you presented. If the seller finds your price and conditions satisfactory and signs the Promise to Purchase, then both parties are legally bound to its terms.

Should the seller decide to write you a counter offer, they can do so at any time. They aren’t bound to the deadline indicated in your Promise to Purchase (Clause 14.1). They can, in fact, write a counter offer hours or even days after your deadline if they choose to. However, in their Counter Proposal to your Promise to Purchase, they must indicate their own deadline, during which time they are legally bound to the conditions they have presented. They cannot sell the house to someone else in that time frame. You now have the decision to accept within their deadline, walk away, or write a counter offer and set a new deadline for yourself.

A counter proposal is the equivalent to a new offer: the seller submits the counter stating he agrees with everything in the Promise to Purchase except what he puts in the counter. If you reply with a counter offer, the sellers are no longer bound to their counter and can sell the house to another person if they receive a better offer than your counter offer.

In the spirit of fair negotiation, brokers encourage sellers to counter within a respectful time limit of the buyers’ deadline, so no one is left wondering.

In the case of a Promise to Purchase where the deadline has passed and the seller decides that they want to accept it as is, even though it is technically no longer binding to the buyer, they can do so. However, the buyer then gets to choose whether they still want to respect their original offer or walk away. If they want to accept it, they will sign the acknowledgment of receipt. Otherwise they can refuse to sign, thereby rendering the offer null and void.

This same principal works in a counter offer as well, for the Counter-Proposer and the Respondent, seller or buyer, depending on who wrote the counter offer.

The deadline binds the party writing the offer or counter, not the person receiving it. This is very important to remember if you are in a multiple offer situation where deadlines can mean the difference between being sold or not.

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

7 Things to do before you buy a home

Buying a home is a big investment, so make sure you do it right! Here are 7 things you should do before writing an offer on your dream home:

  1. Find out what your budget is!

Get pre-approved by a mortgage lender. This is a great exercise as it gives you an idea of just how much home you can afford and it forces you to find all the documents you’ll need for the mortgage approval process. If you wait until offer time to get your financials in order, you’ll have the added stress of a deadline to contend with. Plus, you may be wasting your time – and that of everyone involved – on a home you won’t get financing for.

Getting pre-approved doesn’t mean that you are bound to a particular mortgage lender. When the time comes to apply for your mortgage, you can work with another bank or even with a mortgage broker to get the best rates. Ask your real estate broker for a contact. Even if you work with a specific bank, real estate brokers can often get you a better rate through their personal contacts.

Getting pre-approved not only helps speed up the final mortgage approval process during the promise to purchase, but often, in a multiple offer situation, if two offers are close in price and conditions, vendors will pick the buyer offer with a pre-approved mortgage over one without.

  1. Wish List!

Make a wish list of important features you want in your new home. How many bedrooms? How many bathrooms? Do you have to have a finished basement? Do you want a house that’s move-in ready or are you willing to do some work? Some items are must-haves and some are would-likes, but write them all down. Just be realistic; if this is your first home you may not be in a position to have that indoor pool and sauna!

  1. Work with a real estate broker!

A real estate broker is a trained professional who spends his or her days selling homes. An experienced broker will have seen almost every situation that can arise during the buying process and can help you avoid potential problems. Brokers are also bound by a code of ethics and overseen by a government board, the Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (OACIQ)1.  

Another important point is that brokers have access not only to all of the MLS listed homes, but also the ‘pocket listings’ that are held in their office and/or network. A top local agent will often know what homes are coming on the market before they are listed, giving you an advantage.

  1. One Broker, not 10!

Once you’ve decided on a real estate broker, it’s in your best interest to stick with them. Your broker will get to know your tastes and what is important to you, and you’ll get to know and trust their opinion. A good broker can save you hours of home visits by narrowing down the field for you.

  1. Location, location, location!

The saying really is true. Houses can be renovated and changed, but a location cannot! Remember, you are not buying the seller’s décor, so look past dated wallpaper and ugly furniture to the structure and the setting of the house. If you like a house, take a drive to familiarize yourself with the area. Is it a quiet street? Does the area offer added value? Homes in less desirable locations will be less expensive than similar homes in a better location. If you don’t mind the train tracks and want the bigger house, then buy it, but understand that the tracks will be there when you go to sell, and be prepared to sell for less than comparable homes further away.

  1. Look at homes priced below what you think you can afford!

Don’t tie up all your money in a house! Being house poor is not the way to go through life. Do you want to be able to travel or buy a car or go out to dinner? If the answer is “yes”, you’re better off buying a home that’s a little less expensive so that you have a cushion for all the extra costs and the inevitable curveballs life will throw at you. Interest rates are low presently but if, in 5 years when your term is due, they have jumped by 2% or even 4%, your monthly mortgage payment could increase substantially. Will you be able to afford your payments then?

  1. Don’t make emotional offers!

Be informed. Even if you fall in love with the first house you see, visit a few more to compare prices. With your broker’s input, compare homes that sold recently in the area to the home that interests you, to see if it is priced right for the present market. Your broker will have all that information. Make sure the house is priced within range of the comparable sales. But if it’s your dream home and you plan to live there for 10-20 years, don’t walk away from it because it is priced slightly higher than it should be based on comparable homes. You will most likely recoup your money in the long run. However, if you are planning to live there 3-5 years, you might want to think twice about the price. Here in Quebec prices take time to climb, unlike our neighbours in Toronto and Vancouver.

Shopping for a home is an exciting – and stressful – experience. Armed with the right information and expectations, and with the right professionals by your side, the process can go smoothly.

Happy Shopping!

 

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

1 The OACIQ “ensures the protection of members of the public who enlist the services of real estate and mortgage brokerage professionals governed by the Real Estate Brokerage Act.”

Source: https://www.oaciq.com/en/pages/about-oaciq

Why it’s Important to Hire a Professional Building Inspector

Building inspections

Since the dawn of Holmes on Homes and every other real estate related TV show, buyers have started to feel that they are building inspectors. Uncle Joe may have renovated 5 homes in the last 10 years but he is not up to date on codes and local issues. Professional building inspectors inspect 5 to 10 houses a week! I have attended too many inspections to count but I still rely on professional inspectors to advise me.

I want to make myself super clear here…

Hire a Real Estate Board approved inspector who has professional liability insurance covering fault, error and omission. Quebec doesn’t have laws to who can or can’t be a building inspector, all they have to do is get a business licence. However, the real estate board OACIQ, has 5 organizations of inspectors that they have approved. The 5 approved associations are;

The Quebec Association of building Inspectors (QABI)

The National Building Inspectors and experts Association (NBIEA)

Les inspecteurs thermographes de l’ATIB

The Quebec Order of Architects

InterNACHI Québec

 

These inspector’s must;

  1. Have Liability insurance
  2. Have a recognized inspection service agreement
  3. Practice standards recognized by the OACIQ
  4. Provide a written report

So step one; ask your real estate broker for a list of reputable and insured building inspectors from the area. If they are a member of an approved OACIQ association even better! Use a local inspector! They will know the issues relate to the neighborhood you are buying in, like Pyrite and iron ochre.

Step two; realize that an building inspector is like a GP doctor, they have a great base knowledge, can diagnose common issues but they refer to a specialist when for the bigger issues. An inspector is there to flag issues; he will let you know his opinion but if it is a bigger issue he should suggest to bring in a specialist.

I have had a building inspector tell a buyer that the house needed a new central support beam only to be told by the specialist that it just needed one support post. Big difference in price between the two! So make sure you ask a specialist before you run for the hills.

Have the chimneys inspected by a chimney inspector, a building inspector will just do a visual where a chimney inspector will go deeper.

If there is a septic system have the owner clean and ensure it is in good working order it prior to closing. Older Heating systems should be inspected as well if they are not regularly service.

Understand that inspections are for you to find out about the house and to verify there is not a major structural defect(s). A building inspection is not done so you can re-negotiate with the owner to fix small issues. The buyer must act in good faith under all circumstances. In most cases you are not buying a brand new home, maintenance and small issues are to be expected. I don’t think I have ever been to an inspection where the inspector didn’t say that the soil around the outside of the house needed to be re-graded slanting away from the house or that the insulation in the attic needed to be pulled away from the soffits.

What you are on the look out for is major issues that could significantly reduce the value of the property, approximately 2-3% of the value of the property. If something large is found at that point you have a few choices.  You can walk away from the sale by providing the sellers a copy of the building inspection report and a written notice stating you are rendering the Promise to Purchase null and void.  Or either you can get professional estimates for the work required and have your broker try to work out a fair price deduction for the work required or have the owner repair the issue. Here again you would provide the written report along with an explanation of the problems. Once an agreement is made an Amendment form will be written up with the changes to the Promise to Purchase.

What you need to understand is all of this must take place within the deadline set out in the Promise to Purchase, usually 11-14 days.  Generally building inspection conditions are 7 to 10 days, that means the building inspection(s) must be completed within that time frame. However, there is a second deadline of 4 fixed days for reviewing the reports. So the original 7 days to 10 days plus the 4, equals 11 to 14 days to remove the building inspection clause. If at the end of the deadline the buyer doesn’t render the offer null and void or waive the condition, the condition waives itself and the buyer has deemed to waive it! So watch those deadlines!

Before closing I just want to touch lightly on Hidden Defects, it is a subject of another blog on its own.

A Hidden Defect is – hidden- no one, not the seller, not the brokers, not the inspector nor you the buyer are aware of the defect. It maybe behind a wall or in the floor but whatever it is no one knew about it when you bought the property. In Quebec unless removed in an offer, every home is sold with a legal warranty of quality protecting the buyer against hidden defects.

If there is a hidden defect after the sale and you take the vendors to court, the first question the judge asks is….”Did you hire a professional building inspector to inspect the property”. If you answer no, I wish you the best of luck in your court case because you are going to need it! How can you prove the defect was hidden from a professional if you didn’t use one?

Moral of the story, hire a local professional building inspector!

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

Accepted offer, Now What Happens?

You just got the call, they accepted your offer! Woohoo! You jump around for a few minutes but when you calm down you need to realise you are on the clock – you have deadlines to meet or you could lose the house to someone else!

  1. Inspection

Have your home inspected by a professional, not uncle Bob who once renovated a home! Hire an inspector that is approved by the Real Estate Board (OACIQ Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec). Make sure he is insured. Best way is to ask your Real Estate Broker for a list of inspectors from the area you are purchasing in. These inspectors will know the issues relate to the neighborhood you are buying in, like iron ochre or pyrite.

Have the chimneys inspected, if there is a septic system ensure it is in good working order and have the owner clean it prior to closing. Heating systems should be inspected as well.

Understand that inspections are for you to find out about the house and to verify there is not a major structural defect(s).  A building inspection is not done so you can re-negotiate with the owner to fix small issues. In most cases you are not buying a brand-new home, maintenance and small issues are to be expected. What you are on the look out for is major issues that could significantly reduce the value of the property, approximately 2-3% of the value of the property. If something large is found, you have a few choices.  You can walk away from the sale, have your broker try to work out a fair price deduction for the work required or have the owner repair the issue.

Make sure you understand the deadlines in the offer. If in your Promise to Purchase you have a delay of 7 days for your inspection, it is 7 days not 7 business days. In Quebec there is no such thing as business days in real estate contracts. On standard OACIQ Promise to Purchase forms there is a second deadline to know about. First, you have the delay to actually do the inspection ie 7 days (whatever time frame you put in the offer), second you have another 4 days fixed to review the report and waive the inspection or render the offer null and void. So, in reality the condition is 11 days total. You must do the inspection within the first deadline (ie 7 days) not the second (4 days).

Should you require more time to bring in other inspectors, the original 7 days can be extended if both parties agree. Do not wait until day 7 ask for an extension because if another offer comes in on the property the owner could just say no to an extension and you are left making a hard decision whether or not to accept a home that might have issues or not.

The deadline will expire itself, meaning if you do not notify the sellers within the allotted time, it is deemed that you have accepted the building inspection and waived the condition.

 

  1. Finance Letter

The next phone call you will make is to your mortgage lender, of course you were pre-approved, so this step is easy! Send the mortgage lender the information on the house, as they will now want to approve that the house is worth what you are paying for it. They will require the detailed real estate listing, certificate of location and the full offer with seller’s declaration. The lender will also finalize your personal documents and verify proof of down payment again. Often the lender will spend an appraiser to evaluate the home. This alone is a 2-3-day process and is only done once the lender is satisfied with all other documents. You do not need to be present for the appraisal visit the evaluator will contact the real estate broker directly to arrange a visit.  With a deadline of 10-12 days there is no time to dilly doddle!

If you didn’t get pre-approved, get ready to run to find all your paperwork and get it to the mortgage lender. Ask your real estate broker for a referral, even within your own bank as the back-door rates with your brokers contacts are usually better then what you can get through the front door.  Time is of the essence so don’t delay. Using your brokers contact, also insures that the broker will be kept informed of any delays or hiccups along the way and can react faster.

The finance condition deadline is set out in the negotiations, if the condition is 7 days for example; the condition starts the day after the offer was accepted as day 1 and ends at midnight on the 7th day. With this condition if buyer has not given proof of financing by the deadline the seller has the choice within in 5 days to make the buyer file for a loan at the seller’s bank or render the offer null and void by written notification.

  1. Sellers Conditions

The main condition for the seller is providing an up to date Certificate of Location. The Certificate is a map of property with all the buildings on the lot, it states any servitudes or encroachments. A surveyor will take about 3 weeks to make a new certificate so hopefully if the seller requires a new certificate he ordered it when he listed the property. If not, as long as it is ready prior to signing and there have been no changes that effect the titles (ie. Encroachments on a neighbour’s property) the sale can proceed as normal.

If you are buying in the country area there are other conditions in your Promise to Purchase that the Seller is responsible for. Namely having the and septic tank cleaned, and the system verified in good working order. If the property is service from a well the seller will also be responsible to provide proof of potable water. As you have hired an experience real estate broker he/she will be aware of these situations and advice you accordingly.

 

  1. Firm Offer!

You made it, you met all your deadlines! Now on to the less stressful steps.

 

  1. Hiring a Notary

Again, speak to your Real Estate Broker and get a list of the local notaries. They know the area and can advise you accordingly. The notary will contact your bank and handle the transfer of funds, he will do a title search on the property and work with your real estate broker regarding the documents. Remember in Quebec the notary must have the funds free and clear in their trust account 48 hours prior to the sale. For your down payment, wire transfers are the safest way, as a certified cheque can be held by banks for days.

On your Promise to Purchase you have agreed on a Closing date, the fine print says, ‘on or before’ this means you can sign on the day or a few days earlier. Occupancy remains the fixed date in the offer but signing can be moved forward to comply with everyone’s schedules.

The notary will have you come to his/her office a few days before the transaction to sign your mortgage papers and to go over the sale and adjustments. The adjustments are the balancing act of the municipal and school taxes, propane and/or oil tank, condo fee, basically the fixed costs that are attached to the property. The Seller will have to be up to date on all of his bills and then the notary will charge you the balancing days of the paid bill. For example, if you buy on December 1st you will have to pay the seller the taxes for the month of December as he has already paid the municipality for the month.

 

  1. Home Insurance

The mortgage lender will demand that you have property insurance on the home as of the closing at the notary’s. The notary will request a letter from your insurance company before the Title Deeds are signed. Ask the seller who they use for insurance, it might be easier to stay with the same company.

 

  1. Little Things

Hydro, make sure you call Hydro and let them know you are moving. There is also the cable company, internet etc… A good thing to do is take a reading of the hydro meter when you first arrive at your new home and give the number to Quebec Hydro to ensure there are no extra charges.

Now you just have to pack everything you own, stick it a truck and meet it at the new house!

 

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

 

 

Conditional offer How does it Work?

Shopping for a new home before you have sold your first house can be frustrating. You see a house that would be perfect, but you can’t buy before you sell yours. A conditional 72-hour clause in your offer is a solution.

Clause R2.1 of a Promise to Purchase states that the Promise to Purchase is conditional to the buyers selling their present home within a time period (30,60 or 90 days usually). They must fulfill all other conditions of the offer, do their building inspection and get a bank approval letter for their mortgage (conditional to selling their present home) so the only conditions remaining on their offer are selling their home, presenting an unconditional bank letter and of course the signing of the deed of sale.

While the buyers work at selling their home, the seller holding the ‘conditional offer’ doesn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket, he wants to try and sell his house to someone else that doesn’t have to sell their house to buy his house. To be able to do this the Clause R2.2 must be ticked in the offer. This clause allows the seller to continue to actively market his home and look for another buyer.

Should the seller receive another offer he deems acceptable, whether it Is a higher or lower price than the first offer, he can accept it conditional to the first offer falling through.  The second buyers would then have to fulfill all their conditions, building inspection, finance etc.. Once all the second offers conditions have been waived, other than the notary signing, the sellers must turn to the first offer and give them 72 hours to remove the condition of selling their house and present a non-conditional finance letter OR render their offer null and void. The 72 hour time frame commences as soon as the first buyer receives a time stamped telegram or a time stamped hand delivered amendment. It doesn’t matter if it is a Friday night or on the weekend, the 72 hours starts as soon as notice has been received.

If you are the first buyer with a conditional offer on a home, the first thing I suggest you do when your offer is initially accepted is to speak to your bank to see if you could buy without selling your home if you received a 72 hour notice. Could you afford a bridge loan? Two mortgages? It’s better to know ahead of time to avoid panic and scrabbling when you receive the 72 hour notice. Especially as the notice time could be when the banks are closed over the weekend.

For the second buyer, he must take a risk when there is a conditional offer already on a house. He has to invest money in a building inspection, get his mortgage approved and then sit and wait to see if the first buyer can get financing without selling their house or sell their house by the end of the 72 hours. Many buyers don’t want to go through the trouble unless it is their dream house, or they believe the first buyers can not fulfill financing without selling.

As a seller whose house is just new to the market or the market is hot, conditional offers are not ideal. A home that has been on the market for awhile it is a good option though. Sellers usual are not as negotiable when dealing with conditional offers, as they feel it is more like a first option to buy than a firm offer. So, when a second offer comes along that has normal, finance and building inspection conditions they often accept less money as they feel it is a real offer.

Be that as it may, you still have first dibs at the house and if the bank is willing you can get the key to your dream home! In the time from acceptance to the signing at the notary you may have the time to sell your present home, if the price is right!

Conditional offers are very common in a buyers market and could be the right option for you to get your dream home if handled properly!

**The foregoing provides only an and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

 

Questions to Ask at Open Houses

Open houses are a great way to pack a bunch of home visits in on a Sunday afternoon. It is like window shopping for houses. However, you should go with a list of questions to ask the listing broker if the home interests you. Here are some questions worth asking;

  1. Why are they moving? This tells you how motivated they are to sell.
  2. When do they want to move? Would they prefer an offer that gives them time to find another house or a quick occupancy? Often a vendor will accept a lesser price if the dates are perfect.
  3. Have there been offers on the home before? The broker can’t legally tell you the price of the other offers, but they can tell you if there has been any and if the offer died on building inspection, why.
  4. What was the original list price on the home? How long has it been on the market? Is this the first contract or was it listed with another broker before? These will help you know if the home is priced correctly, are the owners dreaming of an unrealistic price, have they finally woke up and are ready for reality?
  5. What are the heating costs? If the costs are high it could be a red flag for insulation issues, however everyone heats differently, they could have just turned the heat up for the open house!
  6. Are there any known issues with the home? Ask for a copy of the Seller’s Declaration – Mandatory document in Quebec, it states everything the owner knows about the property’s condition.
  7. How close are the parks and services? Location, location, location. I can not say it enough you can fix any house, but you can’t fix a location!

Be prepared to answer so questions too! The listing broker has an obligation to give their vendor feedback from the day! Think about it you are going into a stranger’s house walking around to see if you like it, its their personal space, they should be able to have some feed back from you. Also fill out the sign in sheet. If you are worried about the broker doing a hard sell, don’t give all your contact info but your name would be nice. If the house was yours that the broker was trying to sell wouldn’t you want him/her to do their job correctly?

Here is what most brokers will ask you – be prepared!

  1. Are you working with another broker exclusively? This is important for the broker to know, ethically brokers don’t like step on other brokers toes! Tell the broker when you walk in that you are working with Tania from Royal LePage, the broker will appreciate it. The broker will call your broker for feedback from the visit and leave you be!
  2. Are you from the area? This lets the broker know if they should give you some area information.
  3. When are you looking to buy for? This just helps the broker know where you are in your search and if you are more on a scouting visit or a serious ‘let’s find a house asap’.
  4. How do you feel about the house, compared to others you’ve seen, its price? This helps the broker give constructive feedback to the owner.
  5. Are you considering making an offer on this home? Ok sounds pushy but it’s the brokers job to sell the house! Again, if it were your house on the open house, would you was the broker to ask everyone! Law of averages says, ask enough and your bound to get one yes!

Brokers do open houses every Sunday, you will probably see the same broker in the weeks to come at another property. They know the area, they know the market, so use them for their knowledge. Don’t run into an open house and treat them like a vulture you must avoid! They are there to help!

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

Quebec Real Estate Practices – Different from the Other Provence’s

 

Quebec has its own set of rules

When buying a house in Quebec, the first thing to know is: “You know nothing” (John Snow). Ok, yes, I watch Game of Thrones! Seriously, you don’t know much though! The rest of Canada follows Common Law whereas here in Quebec, we have our own rule book – The Civil Code. Very generally speaking (since I am not a lawyer), Common Law is case law and Civil Law is codified statutes.

On top of that, we have very tough Real Estate Laws and a fierce regulatory body call the OACIQ, which oversees all real estate brokers. The OACIQ – Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (loosely translated as the Self Governing Organization of Quebec Real Estate) has as its mission “to protect the public by overseeing the profession adequately and ensuring quality real estate and mortgage brokerage in Québec.” It’s better know by brokers as the real estate police!

Oh, and there are no real estate agents in Quebec – we are either Real Estate Brokers or Chartered Real Estate Brokers. While both are qualified to guide you through the process of buying or selling a property, Chartered Brokers (like myself) have taken extra legal and business courses so that we can manage a Real Estate Agency (not Office – Agency). However, a Real Estate Broker, Chartered or not, is not authorized nor qualified to give legal advice.

More important than the different names are the different laws and regulations. The OACIQ has created mandatory real estate procedures and forms for every situation, in order to protect both the buyer and the seller. Brokerage Contracts and Promises to Purchases (offers) are standard forms, so no party can write up their own version of an offer form. The Promises to Purchase are legally binding contracts that don’t require lawyers to be involved. When a Promise to Purchase is accepted and all the conditions are removed, the paperwork will be sent to a notary who acts for both parties – neutrally – to finalise the sale.

When you are in negotiations and setting deadlines for conditions, be aware that in Quebec, there is no such thing as ‘Business Days’ vs ‘Calendar Days’. In Quebec, days are just days! Sundays and holidays are just days like any other.

The Notary

Who gets to choose the notary? The notary is decided on in the negotiations in the Promise to Purchase, although it is usually the buyer who chooses. The notary does the title searches and reviews the documents to ensure all is in order, verifies that all taxes are up to date, organises the mortgage with the buyer’s bank and disburses the proceeds. Then, everybody gets to pay the notary! The buyer usually pays the most, on average $1000. The cost to the seller depends on the number of liens (legal mortgages/hypotecs) on the property. Generally, it’s under $500, but it depends on the notary.

Getting the non-mortgaged money to the notary is also important. Be aware that the funds must be in the notary’s trust account 48 hours before the signing of the deeds. This means free and clear in the account; surprisingly certified cheques are held by banks for days!  A bank transfer is usually the best way to get your money to the notary quickly and safely.

Occupancy Dates

In Ontario and other parts of Canada, when you sign and pay, you get the keys immediately – not in Quebec! Here you sign, pay, activate your insurance and then let the seller live in the house for another 2-4 days! The seller needs to wait two days for his proceeds to clear from the sale so that he can pay for his next house. Then he lets the other seller do the same thing, hence the 4 days. To compensate you while you wait the seller will continue to pay for the taxes until your occupancy date. Most out of province buyers are amazed by this delay but it all comes back to the registry office. The notary must register the new deed of sale at the registry office to make it official and the delay allows to notary to ensure there are no outstanding liens against the property. A lien registered against a house would make it impossible for the vendor to sell, so this delay decreases the chances of this happening. Don’t worry – in all my years as a real estate broker, I have never seen this happen. If it did, the notary would advise you of the steps to follow.

 The Welcome Tax

So, congratulations you bought a house! Did you notice there were no transfer duties or taxes paid at the notary’s office? That’s because in Quebec, we let you move in, start enjoying your new home and then send you a whopping “Welcome Tax” bill six weeks later!

It is a transfer tax but it is better known as the Welcome Tax, in reference to the Minister of Municipal Affairs who introduced it: Minister Bienvenue (or Mr. Welcome in English). The tax amount can be very high so make sure you are prepared for the bill as you only have 30 days to pay it.

The Welcome Tax is calculated in two steps:

The ins and outs of transfer duties are set out in An Act respecting duties on transfers of immovables (the “Act”).

The amount is always based on the higher of three amounts:

  1. The final sale price of the property (excluding GST PST if applicable)
  2. The municipal evaluation at the time of its transfer. Some cities even multiply the base number (sale price or evaluation) by 1.01 or even as high as 1.11 to create the final taxable amount.
  3. The amount of the consideration stipulated in the act of sale, if different from the price paid (e. in a Gifting situation)

Then the tax is calculated as follows:

0.5% on the first $50,000

1% on the amount from $50,000 to $250,000

1.5% on the amount from $250,000 to $500,000

2% on the amount over $500,000*

So, for example, a property with a tax base as 350,000 would be taxed

$250 on the first $50,000

$2000 on the next $200,000

And $1500 on the extra $100,000

Totaling $3750 to be paid within 30 days of receiving the bill. Welcome to Quebec!!

These are just a few of the more important aspects of Quebec Real Estate Law, your Real Estate Broker will keep you informed and ensure your transaction goes smoothly.

 

*For attached properties in the City of Montreal,

 a rate of 2.5% is applicable on the basis of imposition which exceeds one million dollars.

 

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**