Why Now is a Great Time to Be an Investor in Ottawa

by The Paul Rushforth Team 8. November 2009 15:39

I have noticed a trend lately.  With lower interest rates - combined with media attention focused on the so-called "recession", potential investors are calling looking for a property that they can do a "flip" on.  That is, buy a property in poor condition - perhaps a bank repossession - fix it up and sell it for a quick profit.  The challenge that I am finding is that many of these people have no idea what they are looking to get into, and often don't have the funds or necessary skills to be able to pull it off!  They have watched a few episodes of "Flip That House" on TV, and through the miracle of editing and production, it really does look easy.  But is it really that easy?

Well, sure it is if you have 20% to put down as a down payment to avoid CMHC fees, and lots of cash on hand to fund the required renovations along with a trusted contractor that is available to do those renovations quickly to enable immediate turnover.  You also need the money in the bank for the carrying costs, the closing costs such as legal fees and land transfer taxes, as well as factoring in the real estate fees when it comes time to put it back on the market.

The other reality is; we're in Ottawa- we really aren't dealing with a recessionary situation in this city.  And it isn’t very often that we find run down older homes in need of renovations in sought after neighborhoods.  That being said, there are always opportunities for those who are patient enough to wait for the right house to come along and plan their resources accordingly.

The other great news for investors in Ottawa is that our stable, consistent economy means that there are fantastic options for investors who are willing to buy a property and hold it - renting it out while the resale values climb which typically requires less capital up front than a flip scenario.  There is also a steady stream of potential high quality renters constantly moving to Ottawa.  OttawaOttawa University, Carleton University, Algonquin College or Cite Collegiale.   There are also great income property opportunities in Ottawa, particularly in Vanier, where the property values have not enjoyed the same level of appreciation in resale values, but the number of potential tenants remains healthy.   It's a great time to be an investor in Ottawa, regardless of what investment strategy you wish to employ gets many people relocating for jobs with various government departments, to work with the RCMP or National Defense, to attend


The Key To Home Renovations

by The Paul Rushforth Team 8. November 2009 15:29

Many people ask what areas of their home they should focus on spending money on in order to profit from it later.  I say - why wait until it's time to sell?  A project that makes your home more beautiful, comfortable or energy-efficient also makes it more enjoyable to live in. Homes are not just an investment, they're where we live - so not everything has to be decided on a future cost-effectiveness scale.  However, if you're planning on selling a few years down the road, these are a few suggestions.

If the goal of your project is to increase the value of your home for resale, your project needs to reflect the neighborhood.  Over-improving your home will not automatically bring your selling price up over other homes in the same category.  For example, you can certainly spend six figures on a full luxury kitchen renovation, but unless you live in a neighborhood of million-dollar houses, you'll want to scale things down to something more appropriate to the neighborhood especially if your goal is to get that money back in resale value.   Your money would be better spend on a minor remodel- refacing kitchen cabinets, countertops and flooring- items that bring your home up to modern tastes, but don't bankrupt you in the process.

The same model applies when it comes time to redoing the bathrooms.  A cost-effective facelift would include things such as replacing faucets, adding new flooring, new light fixtures, new wallpaper or tile, new towel bar and toilet paper holder, new vanities and countertops, mirrors, medicine chest and maybe pulling the toilet and doing a new tub surround in extremely dated bathrooms.

The key to home renovations and resale is to give yourself a good competitive advantage. If your neighborhood is mostly three-bedroom, two-bath houses and your house has only one bathroom, you're at a serious disadvantage on the resale market. Adding on a bathroom would make a big difference.   The same goes for finishing a basement- critical on a smaller town home where every bit of space must be utilized for a family - not as important on a sprawling 2 storey with a main floor family room- unless of course every other house in your neighborhood has a finished basement.

Some renovations won't necessarily get you much more money, but they need to be done in order to sell your home.  This would include addressing structural defects, removing vermiculite or asbestos insulation, replacing a worn out roof or windows, or updating a furnace.  Putting on a $50000 lifetime warranty roof will not increase the value of your home by much more than a standard reshingling, so unless you are planning to stay in the home long term, I'd take a pass on that particular roofing solution.  So, when it comes time to open your wallet to pay for home improvements, before you shell out the big bucks, stop and think about the Jones' next door, and if completing that level of renovation would make sense in your neighborhood.




Trash or Treasure

by The Paul Rushforth Team 2. November 2009 17:44

As a realtor I am always advising clients of the same thing before listing their home for sale: de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter!  Many of my clients, after ruthlessly minimizing their "stuff", realized that a- they never really used most of that stuff anyways, and b - wow- does the house ever look amazing when it's not so cluttered- why did I wait so long to do this?  Even if you're not planning to sell your home, why not take an opportunity to do some "Fall Cleaning"- minimize your clutter now, before your winter nesting instinct kicks in.  But what do you do with all that un-needed stuff?  You don't want to just put it in the garbage, it’s still perfectly good, after all.

A few weekends ago, the City of Ottawa had its annual Hidden Treasures Giveaway Weekend.  This is where you take that stuff, clearly label it as "FREE", and put it out to the curb on Saturday and Sunday. That ‘stuff’ could be anything - books, CD's, small kitchen appliances - just as long as it's still usable for someone.  It just might find a home and reduce items that end up in the garbage.  

So - what can you do with your stuff now that the city wide de-cluttering weekend is over?  Well those unfound treasures can be donated to charitable organizations, many of whom will pick up items at your home- you just have to leave it outside for them at a designated time.  You can list items on eBay, usedottawa.comOttawa Freecycle Network, FullCirclesOttawa, Craigslist and Kijiji.  Facebook has a "freemarket" where you can post items you want to get rid of, for free.  Garage sales are typically a summertime event, but some of the braver bargain-hunters might check it out if the weather allows.  And why not post items online during the winter months?  Many friends have had great success both buying and selling on the local sites (used Ottawa, kijiji, and craigslist). 

Obviously, as with any interaction with a stranger, you always want to be cautious about arranging pickup and/or drop-off.  Most people are honest, but you still want to take precautions.   For home decor items, there are several consignment stores where you bring the goods to them, and they will sell them (for a percentage of the sale price.) And that eliminates the work part for you- all you do is drop the items off – and your clean uncluttered home is a fait accompli!  And with a few extra dollars in your pocket, maybe you can justify that new pair of boots you've had your eye on.


Tracy Robillard

Sales Representative The Paul Rushforth Team


Why I Love Being A Part of This Team

by The Paul Rushforth Team 1. November 2009 15:37

When I was first got into real estate, part of the appeal was that I would finally be my own boss- make my own hours, run my business the way that I wanted to, only work with clients that I enjoyed working for.  Of course, once I had been in the business for a while, the reality of what it really meant to be self employed hit home.


Yes, I had the ability to make my own hours, but the amount of work that I needed to do in a day consumed any dream of spare time that I had if I wanted to be successful.  I was not only a realtor - I was creating advertising materials for both myself and my client's properties - I was ordering business cards, staging houses, booking photographers, or worse, taking pictures myself.  I was doing open houses to get new clients, and taking care of looking for homes for my existing clients.  I was answering the phones, attending seminars, doing market research, visiting new home builders, as well as other homes for sale. 


At the end of each day, I would be exhausted from putting out fires all day and only having time to respond to items that required my immediate attention.  There was no time for business planning, or extra prospecting, or any of the things that would have given me long term benefit.   The harsh reality that most business owners face was my life.  If I took a holiday, so did my business.   All work and no play in order to succeed!


What a difference a team makes!   Now that I have not only support staff to handle all of the administration matters that used to consume my days, I have teammates who are able to cover me when I decide to take a holiday or day off, or to help me with their advice in any possible situation.  I have consistent training programs and seminars - and more importantly - the time to enjoy them and improve my skills and professionalism.  I have a coach who pushes us all to achieve and improve ourselves in all areas of our lives.  I have a constant source of business leads through advertising that I no longer have to pay for, and the training to handle those leads effectively.  I have clients who desperately want to do business with me as a result of the team that I represent when I walk in their door.   I have the tools that I need to succeed in business and in maintaining a balanced life.   I have often said that I feel like I've won the job lottery being affiliated with this team, but the real winners have been my clients.


Tracy Robillard

Sales Representative for The Paul Rushforth Team


Open Houses - Do They Work?

by The Paul Rushforth Team 1. November 2009 15:16

For many people listing their homes, one of the first questions they ask me is, "will you be doing an open house?"  Often we will hold off on hosting an open house right away because truthfully, very rarely will hosting an open house result in their home being sold to one of the visitors.  Most people who are seriously shopping for a home will be looking on the internet to view the pictures and will call to make an appointment to view the home, rather than wait for an open house.  Visitors to an open house are often neighbors who are curious about the house and are not necessarily the most serious buyers.  But, does that mean it never happens?

Absolutely not!  I can say that with complete certainty because I myself purchased a home that I first saw at an open house.  I bought it quite accidentally, walking past the beckoning sign on my way to meet a friend for lunch, and stopping in to check it out on our way home.   I wasn't even looking to buy a home!  And, in hindsight, it may not have been the best impulse buy I've ever made, but that mattered little to the seller who was happy to have a firm offer in place.   For potential buyers who may be on the fence, an open house also allows them to really check out the house in a leisurely fashion, without the pressure of feeling as though they've inconvenienced the sellers.  


 Sometimes, an open house can also be a valuable part of an effective launch of an exclusively listed property- generating excitement about a newly listed property in order to elicit offers immediately after the open house.  So what if some of the visitors are "nosy neighbors"?  They may have friends or family members looking for something in that neighborhood.  Furthermore, if your house looks great, then the neighbor will only have good things to tell others.  Other people will wander in at the very beginning of their home search, before they really know what they are looking for - and they come in to get an idea of what is on the market.   So, under the premise that "any publicity is good publicity", open houses can indeed benefit a seller; it just shouldn't be the only plan for marketing exposure. 


Tracy Robillard

Sales Representative for The Paul Rushforth Team


Celebrities, the Environment and You!

by The Paul Rushforth Team 28. October 2009 14:07

Pamela Anderson was in town this weekend, promoting her new clothing line partnership, A*Muse, which is made entirely from animal friendly organic fabrics.  Although Anderson is best known for her, um, assets, she has tirelessly promoted causes such as PETA for years, and certainly can't be faulted for her endorsement of causes near and dear to her, um, heart.  She is but one example of celebrities who have made a definitive lifestyle choice, and who has generated awareness for a cause in a way that the cause could not do itself. 

Edward Norton launched the BP Solar Neighbors Program in 2003 which matches each celebrity purchase of a solar energy home system with a solar installation in a low-income family home in Los Angeles, helping more and more people to go "off the grid".  Brad Pitt is the co-creator of a design competition to build 20 affordable, energy reduced environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans.

Ed Begley Jr is another such celebrity.  His reality show "Living with Ed" shows exactly how this Hollywood actor is able to live a carbon neutral life.  If it's not organic, recycled, energy efficient or solar powered, you can't find it in their home, which is often to his wife's frustration.  Now, Ed's commitment to this cause is, for most of us, way too hard-core to even imagine.  He has to ride an exercise bike in the AM to generate enough power to make his breakfast toast.  He has solar panels on the roof, electric cars, rides his bike in a tux to awards shows, and offsets his travel emissions by buying carbon credits on www.terrapass.com.

Only in Hollywood, you say?  Or is it?  Ottawa has its own website, www.ottawa.zerofootprint.net which is a community-wide initiative aimed at engaging citizens in the fight against climate changes.  Within the website you can calculate your very own carbon footprint by answering some questions about your home and lifestyle habits.  In less than 15 minutes you will have an accurate picture of how much carbon you emit and some of the ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. It will also allow you to compare your footprint to averages of other groups, cities or countries.   Not everyone is going to go to the expense of installing a $30,000 solar panel system at their home, but there are lots of little things that we can all do to reduce our impact on the environment - many of which have government initiatives supporting them via tax credits.  

www.Renewableplanet.com published a "Top 10" list of things that everyday people can do in order to reduce their impact on the environment, and lower energy bills in the process.  Some of the examples of changes given were - using energy star appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs, only using rechargeable batteries, using a programmable thermostat and turning down the heat when away from the home, and installing low flow toilets and showerheads.  These are all things that we can do, for marginal cost, every day in order to reduce our carbon footprint.  And you know what they say about someone with a big carbon footprint?


Tracy Robillard

Sales Representative for the Paul Rushforth Team


The Professional Realtor Vs The Professional Athlete

by The Paul Rushforth Team 28. October 2009 09:37

OK, so admittedly I am a fairly sports minded kind of girl.  I play competitive (but recreational) sports, and I have all my life.  I’ve never thought twice about getting up early for practice and in fact, practicing sports was fun, and made me a better player come game-time.  Take Tiger Woods - he spends an unbelievable amount of time practicing his sport, every day, and he has realized an unbelievable amount of success too.  But he has also realized the key to his success is continuous application of what he already knows, over and over, so that when he is on the course making that amazing putt, he is only doing what he has already done thousands of times before, most of which was behind the scenes at practice.


Our Ottawa Senators players have a very tough job, even if we only see them "working" during a couple of games per week.  The rest of the time they are working out in the gym, maintaining their peak condition every day.  They are doing drills on the ice, having scrimmages with their teammates, practicing the moves they need to improve upon for their next big game.  And during every practice, every weight repetition, every hour spent on the bike, you can bet that Lord Stanley's Cup is somewhere in the back of their mind, spurring them on to push harder, faster, longer - to do what it takes to reach their goal.  During the game, of course, all we see is the desire to win, the desire to execute the carefully planned plays perfectly, just like they did in practice.  That is what a professional athlete does.  That is the difference between the professional who has the desire to win and the one that just shows up to the game.

As a professional Realtor with Keller William's top team worldwide, I am already on Real Estate's version of the 83/84 Edmonton Oilers- fresh off the first big win, and now have to work harder to maintain our winning status.  Because as great a team as we have, there are other teams out there that are hungry for the win too.  So, what does a winning team do to keep winning?

Yep, you got it.  Practice.  The fundamentals of Real Estate need to be practiced every day, not in front of a client, but behind the scenes, before the big game.  We need to consistently do the things that made us successful in the first place, over and over.  We need to practice our presentations, we need to study the market trends, we need to analyze investment properties for the best potential return, we need to be the professional experts that our clients expect us to be, because we are the Professionals in our field. 


We are the Tiger Woods of our industry.  And Tiger didn't get where he got by just showing up to play a quick eighteen in front of the cameras.  He won that battle long before that last putt went into the hole.  He won at 7am, when he got up to practice driving for 2 hours.  He won again at 10am, when it was time to practice sand traps.  He won after lunch when it was time to putt, and again before dinner when he practiced short drives again.  He is the BEST in the world at what he does, and he doesn't stop practicing, ever.  And neither can we.


Tracy Robillard

Sales Representative for the Paul Rushforth Team


Energy Ratings and your Home

by The Paul Rushforth Team 28. October 2009 03:03

Ontario's Home Energy Rating Act takes effect in just 3 months.  It starts with building owners, and extends to owners of detached or semi-detached homes 1 year later (Jan. 2011).  This means that, just like how fuel efficiency numbers are looked at when you shop for a vehicle, your energy efficiency number will be mandatory for people looking at buying your home.   Only government-sanctioned, professional home auditors can inspect your home for the state of insulation, appliances, heating and cooling systems, doors/windows, and lighting.

The average cost of getting a home audit and subsequent reports is $350.   For that price you’ll receive a long audit report listing your home's current EnerGuide rating, the EnerGuide number you should be striving for, and all the steps needed to be taken to get there. You don't have to make those retrofits and improvements to your home - that's up to you.  But you DO have to make the energy audit report available, so buyers can see what they're getting themselves into, energy-wise.

Thankfully, the Ontario government has created the Ontario home energy audit and retrofit rebate programs to provide homeowners with up to $150 towards the cost of a home energy audit and rebates of up to $10,000  to implement some or all of the recommended retrofits (50 % paid by the province and 50 % paid by the federal government's ecoENERGY retrofit-homes program). 

Here's how easy it is to get started (from www.ecoaction.gc.ca)
Take advantage of the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant to make your home more energy efficient and help you save money. To qualify, follow these four easy steps:

1) Before you undertake any energy efficiency renovations, hire a Natural Resources Canada certified energy advisor to perform an energy evaluation of your home. The advisor will give you a pre-retrofit evaluation report and an EnerGuide rating label for your home

2) Select your improvements and implement the recommended energy upgrades, leaving time to ensure your post-retrofit evaluation is completed within 18 months or before March 31, 2011, (whichever comes first and subject to available funding).

3) Call your energy advisor to perform your post-retrofit evaluation, to confirm your new energy rating and to submit your grant application.

4) Wait 90 days from the date of your post-retrofit evaluation to receive your cheque.

Even though you may not be planning to sell your home, why not plan to pay less in energy costs?  We all know that the government is known better for taking our money than giving it back to us, so when the opportunity is there to get some of it back, with long term benefits hitting us square in the wallet, there is no time like the present to get started.


The New Harmonized Sales Tax and How it Affects Real Estate

by The Paul Rushforth Team 27. October 2009 16:01

The impending HST which takes effect on July 1st 2010 will be hazardous to all professions, but none bigger than a real estate transaction. With all the rules and laws of the bill still to be finalized - what do we know so far?  HST will be a new harmonized tax of 13% charged on all goods and services.

New home builders will be affected the worst.  Any new build over 400k will be subject to this new HST. New homes between 400k and 500k will be subject to HST but at a reduced rate. New homes over 500k will be subject to the full 13% HST. This will definitely slow down the housing starts as builders will be left with unsold inventory because consumers will turn to the resale market to avoid that HST from new home builders. In turn, new home builders will stop building homes over 500k or just not build as many, forcing wealthier patrons to build smaller homes for their family.

So how does this affect the resale market?   Well, consumers will get a break from the HST if they buy resale; however they will still be subject to HST on real estate commissions, lawyer’s fees, property inspections etc. The entire real estate process will be more expensive for the consumer. With new home builder starts set to decline in the second half of 2010, the real estate sales volume should also slow down. The dollar should still remain high and therefore affect our trade with the United States and other countries.

The one silver lining with all these tough economic indicators is that interest rates will remain at all time lows. First time home buyers and anyone still looking to buy will have the benefits of really low borrowing costs. It might be the silver lining, but all in all, this McGuinty government needs to be accountable for this mess they are about to bestow on the citizens of Ontario. Nothing good can come of a tax that will turn back the clock and keep us in tough economic times for the next few years.





by The Paul Rushforth Team 26. October 2009 18:05

July 1st, 2010 is the inevitable date the government has set for the introduction of, in my opinion, another useless tax. This time around the government is playing with fire as they look to harmonize 2 taxes for an across the board 13% tax on all goods and services. Their idea is to increase tax dollars to spend more money on the infrastructure and city services. But what does this tax really mean for the citizens of Ontario?

 The introduction of the HST during tough economic times will slow recovery, keep the dollar high which will affect our exporting/importing business, and keep us in rough economic times for a longer period than expected. The beginning of 2010 should be quite robust with strong signs of economic recovery and a powerful real estate market. However come July 1st 2010, with the introduction of the HST, our economy will squander all economic advances and force us to decline from the previous 6 months.

 With all the educated leaders we have trying to run this country, one would think they would look at the overall economic picture and not just the tax dollars. Our economy is different from other economy’s where under the table cash payments on trades people are the norm - the HST will bring back the underworld economy where trades will be asking for cash to avoid the HST and consumers will be more than happy to oblige so they can avoid the paying it. As a result this will rob the government of their tax dollars. Does it really make sense to introduce a higher harmonized tax which will bring back an underground economy and void the government of taxes they deserve? Will we be further ahead or will we resort back to the old ways?  Once this tax is introduced, we can’t remove it. I hope the government opposition takes a stand and stays the course. Nothing good can come of this HST. Years ago we introduced the GST as a special tax; it was supposed to be temporary.  I think we all know how that turned out.  Once the government starts filling their pockets with a new tax, it will be impossible to go back and remove it. Act now before it is too late.


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