Fraud Prevention Tip

fraud prevention in land titlesOctober was cyber security month, which got us thinking about fraud and how it can pertain to real estate transactions.There are people who consider real estate commissions to be an added and unncessary cost, and who would prefer to sell their home through a private sale. Working with an experienced real estate agent is the easiest way to notice any unusual activity in your transaction. Because these transactions are familiar to us, it’s easier to spot read flags that could be trouble.Here are a few examples of how identity theft can be a threat to home owners and potential buyers.

If the identity of a legitimate property owner is stolen, the fraudster may gain access to financial and personal information. Pretending they are the homeowner, they can list the property for sale and even pose as the owners to potential buyers. The buyer is not expecting any fraudulent activity and so obtains the financing they need to purchase the home. Once they’ve moved in, they later face the cost and stress of defending their right of ownership to the legitimate owners. Not only is that bad news for the buyer who has obtained the financing, but the legitimate owner may also be subject to the debt of the new mortgages that have been added to the land title. Both are stuck with legal bills to defend the damages resulting from the fraud.

Another circumstance of real estate fraud includes using a stolen identity to obtain financing against the equity of a property, rather than trying to sell it. This can involve including an accomplice to impersonate a spouse. It’s important to monitor your statements each month to ensure that you’re fully aware of all transactions that affect your home and title. Though not as common, there are those who pose as professionals committing fraud as well. While the title to the property may have been transferred to the purchaser, it is still bound to the prior mortgage until the mortgage is discharged. So, if the lawyer or notary absconds the funds, the previous owner remains liable.

You can reduce your risk of land title fraud with a few simple steps:
1. Ensure that the land registry office in your area lists you as the owner of your home.
2. Obtain a residential title insurance policy. It can protect homeowners and lenders from the costs and stress of land title fraud.
3. Ask for references. You can reduce the risk of being affected by choosing to work with reputable professionals who are licensed to work on your behalf.
4. Retirees who have paid off their homes and have a good credit rating may be more at risk as they may be less familiar with the odious nature of cyber crime.

The insurance bureau of Canada recommends these additional tips for safeguarding your online identity. If you have questions about land title insurance give us a call. You can also learn more about land titles at the Land Title Office here in Whitehorse.

Why Choose Urban Realty Group

urg-fbads-sellersSelling real estate is much like any other professional service that’s offered. It takes time to build a reputation as an agency that will consistently provide great results. One of the ways that has happened for us is through client referrals. People only refer family and friends if they feel confident that the experience will be positive. When we started in 2015, Urban Realty Group was the new name in town, and although there have been real estate sales in Whitehorse as long as there have been properties for sale, we feel that what we bring to our clients is still unique in several important ways.

1. We’re not a nationwide franchise, so the work that we do is within the community of Whitehorse. Housing is vitally important to all communities, but even more so here in the North. We have built relationships with the people who live here because we live here too, and have invested in the community ourselves.

2. We believe that your experience with us as a client begins when you enter our office, give us a call, or send an email. You can expect us to show a keen interest in getting results for you in the shortest timeline possible. We work hard to ensure that we are always available to answer questions because our reputation depends on it.

3. As a smaller agency we have greater flexibility than a national real estate company, so we are able to find creative ways to market your property. We aren’t limited by what works best for the corporation. Like every other agency across Canada, we still have the same access to national MLS listings to meet the needs of our clients.

4. Every home we list has been personally viewed by our team so that we can answer your questions from a first hand experience. We can answer questions about the community of Whitehorse and its neighbourhoods because we know them personally. Some of us have lived here so long we can even tell you where things used to be.

5. Competing for sales is a common environment within franchise agencies and can result in a stressful work environment, and a less personal experience for the client. Our team prefers to work together, and we meet regularly to review and meet the needs of our clients.

The highest compliment we receive is a referral to your family and friends. When friends of friends ask us to help them buy or sell a home here in Whitehorse, we know it’s only because they’ve had a positive experience themselves. It’s very rewarding to know that we are successfully meeting and often exceeding our clients’ expectations. If you want a real estate experience you would want to refer to others, give us a call.

Winter Listings

winter real estate listings

Winter isn’t here yet, but we know it’s on the way. Those who choose to live in Whitehorse expect to see snow, so don’t be worried about putting your home on the market during winter months. There is still an active real estate market in the winter months, and online listings can still provide a great first impression of your home. Here are a few more tips for making the most of your winter listing.

1. Showcasing the outdoor features of your home can be more challenging in winter months so if you’re considering putting your home on the market you can plan ahead by taking photos before any long term weather changes happen. If you’ve done a fabulous job of landscaping your property, it will be hard to appreciate that when your yard is covered in snow.

2. If you have outdoor pets, ensure that they are properly restrained before viewers arrive. Not everyone appreciates the exhuberance of a friendly canine, especially one they’ve never met. If they’re indoor pets, take the time to regularly freshen the areas where they sleep so that odours are kept to a minimum.

3. Make it as easy as possible for people to find and access your home during the winter months. That will mean keeping the walkways and driveway cleared, and minimizing the risks associated with icy conditions. Don’t be disappointed if shoowings have to get rescheduled due to weather conditions.

4. When viewers come to view your home they’ll be coming in from the cold, and dressed for it. You can make the viewing experience more pleasant by lowering your home thermostat an hour before they arrive.

5. Make sure your home is as well lit as possible by turning on all of the lights prior to a showing. First impressions are powerful, and being able to easily move from room to room will create a positive feeling of ease and relaxation.

6. Plan ahead for the indoor traffic flow by placing an absorbant floor mat by the door to protect the flooring in your entry way. Provide an area for people to comfortably remove their boots, and hang up their jackets. You don’t want their first impression to be wet socks and a front closet exploding with hats and scarves.

Ready to list? Our team is ready to get started! Give Urban Realty Group a call and let’s talk about the next steps to selling your home.

Time to Move? You’ll Know It When..

sofaWe thought we’d share something on the lighter side this month. If you’ve lived at the same address for a long time, there are a few of these signs that may sound familiar.

You know it’s time to move when…

1. The house you bought on the outskirts of town, is now located in the downtown area.
2. The answer you most often hear on the repair help line is “they stopped making that years ago”.
3. The backyard swing set has roots, and it isn’t a tree.
4. The plumber is the first number in your phone’s speed dial directory.
5. The handyman just comes by twice a month now.
6. You have disproportionate number of guest rooms.
7. There’s a picture of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci from the Montreal summer Olympics on the newspaper drawer liner in your garage.
8. You have two tone carpet in the family room.
9. You need to have the approval from the heritage society before you can renovate.
10. You haven’t even been upstairs this year.

On a more serious note, we understand the stress that can accompany making a move. For many families, putting down roots is more than a geographical connection. It’s deciding to leave a neighbourhood, community resources and connections, and the comfort of familiarity. For others, changing addresses is an adventure around the corner, or the next step in an evolving career. One of the most satisfying aspects of being a real estate agent is working to understand our clients’ needs and helping them to meet their goals. If you’re looking for a new place to call home in Whitehorse, give us a call. We have listings in a variety of neighbourhoods including Riverdale, Whistle Bend, and Copper Ridge.

Getting Your Home Sold

Kitchen AppliancesOnce you’ve decided to sell and move, take a critical look at your current home. Even the best-maintained homes begin to show age. It’s a joke for those who know it to be true… if you want all of those unfinished renovations and trim jobs to finally be done, just put your house on the market! Making all of the necessary repairs and replacements so the house will look its best will increase the value of your home. Deciding not to do repairs will almost always mean a lower listing price. Here are a few things to check as you consider getting your home ready for the market.

1. Appliances: Do you have modern appliances in the kitchen and laundry room? Are they working properly or will the new owners be likely to look for replacements? Upgrading appliances can be a small investment that will always have an appeal to potential buyers.

2. Modern Features: When your house is on the market, it’s included among many others. To have character is one thing, and to look fresh and appealing is another. Most buyers are looking for a home that’s turn-key and doesn’t show its age. So ask yourself, will those who view your home see modern features or will it feel like they’re going back in time? Could your kitchen use an island? Does the master bedroom ensuite include double shower heads or maybe a soaker tub?

3. Additions: Are there any additions that have happened over the years that have never been part of your home inspection? A deck, sunroom, or maybe a suite for company above the garage? It may be in your best interest to have your home inspected before you try to sell.

4. Aesthetics: Check the feeling of your home; is it warm or worn? Now’s the time to look at the wear and tear on the walls from pets and kids, the carpets, the fence, and all those little trim jobs we mentioned earlier. Completing them will be money well spent if you want your home to make a great first impression.
Selling your home is a mutual effort between a home owner and their real estate agent. By preparing your home for sale you can help your home stand out among other listings. Give us a call and let us do what we do best, introducing Whitehorse home buyers with sellers.

4 Reasons to Downsize Your Home

Senior couple moving house

The size of your home has everything to do with its function. A hobbyist will need space for projects. A growing family will want to find a home with enough space for everyone’s individual interests, the avid gardener will want to have a property that will contain and nurture their creativity. As life changes, what makes a house feel like a home changes too. It may be time to downsize if any of these situations ring true for you.

1. The Walking Score is a feature for real estate listings that rates how accessible your home is to local amenities such as shopping, schools, and recreational facilities. If your family is active, being in the vicinity of amenities is a great alternative to spending time in your vehicle being the family chauffeur . It can also be a helpful to gauge commute times, which becomes an important consideration during a Whitehorse winter. Downsizing your family’s commute time can relieve a lot of stress.

2. The rooms that used to be full of conversation and activity are quieter when the kids leave home. It can be a period of adjustment for parents, but once the sentimental feelings ease off, the reality remains that now there are extra rooms to clean that you never use. The energy bills are more than you really require, and with fewer hands pitching in, it’s harder to get around to tending the garden you’ve always loved. Weird, you can actually hear the hum of the refrigerator.

3. When someone reaches retirement age, it usually results in a lower annual income than the prime working years. A smaller mortgage payment and reduce the stress. Selling your existing home and downsizing can also ease financial stress by giving access to your home equity.

4. Comfort in your own home is the most important thing, especially for those in the golden years, or for family members who have medical conditions that challenge mobility. Reducing the number of stairs there are to climb, and ensuring comfortable access to all the rooms in your home is another consideration. Downsizing to a single level home can make your home more comfortable.

The Urban Realty Group team will introduce you to Whitehorse listings that will suit the needs of your home. Want to be closer to Main Street, or the Canada Games Centre? Want a better view, fewer stairs, or a helpful adjustment to your personal finances? Downsizing may be the solution for you. View our current Whitehorse property listings, or contact a member of our team to book your personal tour.

Modular and Prefab Homes

Prefabricated homes can be an affordable option for first time homeowners.What’s the difference? For those who want a more affordable way to be a home owner, prefabricated homes are typically offered at lower prices. A prefabricated home is just that, a home that is built, then transported from a factory to a site where it’s parked on a concrete pad, skirted in, and once it’s connected to the necessities of utilities and sewer, is ready to move into. While these mobile homes may have limitations when it comes to floor plan options, they are safety inspected and built to a standardized code. Although there are typically additional pad rental fees to pay, building up your homeowner equity and having an asset that can be resold or rented out as your financial situation becomes more secure can have advantages over renting. The maintenance for these prefabricated homes is important in order to preserve their value.

For those in the industry, the term modular home has a different meaning and they’re careful to explain the difference. While a modular home is also built in a factory, and delivered to a site, the difference is that the assembly process can combine several different modules together to deliver a wide variety of floor plans including open concept designs, and multiple story homes. A custom built modular home provides you with lots of different options, often at a cost that’s comparable or less than traditional construction.

As with any construction, a home is only as valuable as the materials and workmanship that go into it, so if you are considering a modular or prefabricated home, here are some considerations.

  1. When a home is built in a factory, there are some quality controls including environmental conditions that can add reassurance to your purchase.The quality of modular homes is standardized by the industry and you can inquire to make sure that all components adhere to the safety requirements in the local building code.
  2. Inspections for every step in the process is just business as usual for factory built modules. Arranging for building inspections can add to wait times with traditional construction so knowing that everything that arrives is already approved can save some time.
  3. The time it takes for a builder to assemble the modules can be much faster than frame construction, so here in Whitehorse when the building season is a little shorter than other places in Canada, that can be a helpful advantage.
  4. Prefabricated homes can depreciate faster than modular homes and it can be harder to get financing for. It’s good to know that from a financial perspective, a modular home can be expected to retain its value the same as a traditional home because modular homes are built on a foundation.
  5. Energy efficiency and environmental standards for insulation and windows are built in so you know that you can anticipate energy costs comparable to other homes in the area.
  6. Choosing to build a modular home means you can purchase the land separately from the structure. For some, this can mean being able to save up to purchase the land separately, and then adding the building at a later time. It can also mean having different financing sources, which may include the modular home manufacturer.

If you’re considering building in the Whitehorse area, give us a call. We can show you some beautiful building sites that may be the future site of your dream home. We can also show you some prefabricated homes in some great neighbourhoods.

5 Things to Consider in Home Affordability

Home affordability Wondering if you can afford to buy a home? There are several things to consider when deciding whether or not a home is truly affordable. Here are some simple calculations you can make that will help you know what price range you should be looking in. Knowing these numbers ahead of time will let you know what adjustments might be necessary in order to qualify for a mortgage.

1. Gross Debt Service Ratio
A GDS ratio is based on the statistics of financial institutions and offers a guideline for shelter related expenses per month that ideally is 32% of a family’s gross monthly income or less. That includes the mortgage principal payment and interest, land taxes, heating expenses, and if you’re purchasing a condominium, half of the monthly condo fee. If you and your spouse have a combined monthly income of $8000/month, it’s expected that you could afford $2560 to cover these expenses. Amortizing your mortgage over a longer period of time can reduce your monthly mortgage payment and making it more affordable, however according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, it’s better to mortgage for less than the maximum to allow for flexibility and ensure your home is affordable in the long term.

2. Total Debt Service Ratio
The TDS ratio calculation measures what your entire monthly bills are. Tracking all of your expenses over a period of a few months can be a real eye opener and can help you identify things that you’re spending money on that you may not have to be. When lenders look at these numbers they’re looking for a number that is less than 40% of your gross monthly income. So for a couple earning $8000/month, there should be less than $3200 due as payments to service debt each month.

3. Fluctuations
Another thing to consider is the fluctuation in interest rates and how it affects long term home affordability. While interest rates have been historically low for some time and have made borrowing very affordable, the situation can be quite different if in a few years time rates go up even a couple of percentage points. One strategy to help minimize this is to make bi-weekly payments instead of monthly, which can greatly reduce the amount of interest you’re paying. It’s also good to discuss whether you can apply lump sums to your mortgage without penalty.

4. Home Efficiency
Other factors that determine home affordability is the energy efficiency. The Energy Canada website offers a checklist of things to consider http://www.energy.ca.gov/HERS/documents/Home_Buyers_Energy_Efficiency_Checklist.pdf that includes windows, appliances, insulation, heating and cooling systems. There are also alternative energy sources that may influence your monthly costs.

5. Lifestyle and Home Affordability
You should also consider lifestyle expenses such as commuting to and from work or family activities when determining how suitable the home is for your family. If you buy a home that’s out of town but most of your activities are in town, you may want to see if the additional vehicle expenses are truly in your budget. If you can foresee the need to renovate to accommodate a growing family, you’ll want to consider those expenses in your affordability calculations. Even if you’re not purchasing an investment property, affordability can also be affected by how well the property will maintain its value over time. If at some time you do decide to sell, knowing that you’ve chosen a home that will remain desirable on the market can add to it’s affordability.

We have a strong team here at Urban Realty Group with a variety of business backgrounds including personal lending, so if you’re considering buying a home in Whitehorse come and talk to us! Our award winning team can get you real results in finding an affordable home.

5 Reasons to Work With Us

1. You deserve the best value and return on your real estate investments.
Typically, a family’s home is among their most significant investments so we understand that selling or buying a home is a big move in more ways than one. We take the trust of our clients seriously and commit ourselves to achieving the goals of our clients. Our recommendations add value to your transaction and help us to bring buyers and sellers together in as short a time as possible. We know that you work hard for your money, and so do we.

2. We know and love the North.
The team at Urban Realty Group knows and understands the Yukon real estate market, the city of Whitehorse, and the unique neighbourhoods in it. Our knowledge of the area helps us find the exact home or property you’re looking for. Our expertise in the regional market makes us a valuable resource for residents, and those considering Whitehorse for the first time.

3. We are independent and locally owned and operated.
We aren’t restricted by the limited interests or disinterests of a larger national brand. Our primary focus is to meet the goals of our clients and to support the real estate investments of the families and businesses that live right here in our community. We use effective advertising methods to give your real estate listing as much exposure and to match the needs of qualified buyers and sellers.

4. We are effective communicators.
We listen to you and ask questions so that we fully understand what your goals are. Then we work hard to provide you with the information you need to make the choices that are right for you. Whether you prefer meetings that are face to face, by phone, or video conference, we make ourselves available to make the best use of your time. When you have questions, our team is there to answer them.

5. We get results.
The synergy of our team is exceptional and each member has been recognized within the industry for the results that we’re able to achieve. Our expertise isn’t limited to selling real estate; we’ve also had noted success in the Whitehorse business community, career experience in the financial sector with private and commercial lending, and a thorough knowledge of the Yukon as outdoor enthusiasts.

No matter what kind of move you plan to make, the real estate professionals at Urban Realty Group are committed to helping you reach your goals.

5 Tips For Finding the Right Listing Price

15577327_l-housecalculatorFor most people, the investment in their home is one of their most significant assets, so it’s understandable that selling a house is a significant decision. It’s also a process, and one that the Urban Realty Group team in Whitehorse is very good at. One of the most important decisions you make when selling a house is the listing price. We’ve put together a few tips for pricing your home, based on our own real estate experience with clients and current industry reports to help you prepare yourself and your home for the selling process. We hope this information will be useful, to help you feel more confident about the decision, reduce the stress, and get the best return on your investment.

1. Buyers use the listing price of a property for sale as a filter.
When you add your asking price to your real estate listing, what you’re really letting buyers know is the most they will have to pay for your home. Pricing too low may not attract buyers and could signal a perception of low quality. Even if your house does sell quickly at a lower listing price, you may feel disappointment after the sale if you could have gotten a higher price for it. If the price of your house is too high, it may filter out the interest of serious buyers and agents who would have been interested in your home.

2. Understand how the value of your home is determined.
If you live in a Whitehorse subdivision (or any other Canadian city), it’s likely that your home is similar to the houses around it in terms of age, size, and floor plans. A look at recent sales in your neighbourhood will be a pretty good indicator of the value of your home if yours is in similar condition. Most home sale information is available in public records and can often be accessed through your local city hall. Older neighbourhoods have more variation as the changes over time from house to house can be quite substantial. As part of our service to you, we provide an evaluation that sets a price that’s based on real value and is fair to both buyer and seller.

3. Be able to separate actual value from sentimental value.
When you’re selling a house and listing the attributes that can either add or take away from the property value, it may be challenging to be as objective in your assessment as a potential buyer. It’s common to look past the unfinished projects that you meant to get done and over value the hours you put into a renovation project or garden.

4. Compare your home to others by shopping yourself.
Attending open houses is a great way to do some price comparisons yourself. As you look at other houses for sale, make a note of the differences and similarities, and what attract your interest. Make a note of floor plans, the lot size, and condition of the home as well as the things that put you off so that you can be sure to avoid them when your own open house is scheduled. Be sure to compare the homes in different price ranges too to see which features your house has in common.

5. Consider paying for a professional appraisal
Being able to provide documentation for your home’s condition can be a benefit to both the buyer and seller. For the buyer, having an objective opinion on the actual condition of the home they want to buy can make them feel more confident in their decision. It can also help them to get financing. For the seller, it is a show of good faith to show that a full disclosure has been made and can help to avoid any legal issues after the sale.
If you’re looking for real estate in Whitehorse or have a home that you’d like to sell, we’d like to help. Contact the team at Urban Realty Group and let’s talk pricing.