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Lockboxes and a major Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) review | REM

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Happy New Year! January isn’t everybody’s favourite month; most people associate it with cold weather, a lack of sunshine and larger-than-normal credit card bills. But January is also an excellent time to plan for the future and reflect upon the year that passed. As I mentioned in a previous column, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) will be well-served by a Strategic Plan that will carry us into the next five years, so RECO’s future looks secure.

I’d like to take this opportunity to look back upon a year when we worked closely with the industry to protect consumers and raise the bar for professionalism.

At last year’s town hall events, industry leaders told us there was strong support for making classroom instruction available for those who wish to complete their Mandatory Continuing Education requirements (MCE) that way (we also heard from many people who appreciate the convenience of eLearning), and we should introduce new ways to detect cheating by some registrants who may get other people to complete their MCE courses.

We listened, and we took action in 2018 by hiring an independent consultant and launching a formal review of the MCE program that asked all of our registrants to provide feedback. I look forward to sharing key findings of the MCE review with you in the near future and discussing next steps. We have work to do together.

In the midst of the formal review, RECO’s Education Department continued to improve the MCE program by introducing new elective courses with more assessments and knowledge checks. They also worked diligently with their counterparts at Humber College and NIIT Canada to prepare for the launch of our new Registration Education program in mid-2019.

The MCE review wouldn’t have been possible without some honest and candid feedback from our registrants. Last year’s town halls generated so many thoughtful discussions on key issues that we knew we had to organize another tour, with this fall’s events going to Cambridge, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Orillia, Windsor, Ajax and Vaughan. We discussed possible reforms to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA), and the steps we’re taking to become a modern regulator and to work with the industry to raise the bar of professionalism.

Many local board members and brokers of record said they appreciate the work RECO does to oversee the real estate brokerage business because it builds public confidence in their profession. They understand the industry needs rules, and they ask us to do everything we can to ensure those rules are clear and understandable. I see their point: drivers know that red and green lights are easier to interpret than a flashing yellow; we are working to provide greater clarity with plain language communications about the issues our registrants care about. A great example would be the Registrar’s Bulletin I issued in the spring regarding the use and misuse of lockboxes.

Most registrants understand their duties and responsibilities when it comes to lockboxes, but we saw the need for a clear message to help everyone better understand the importance of using them properly.

In most cases, lockbox rule violations can be chalked up to laziness, carelessness or simply bad judgment rather than any malicious intent but giving somebody free and unsupervised access to someone else’s home is a serious breach of trust and privacy.

We expect brokers of record to take a leadership role in ensuring compliance with the REBBA and the Code of Ethics across their brokerage. One salesperson’s failure reflects on the brokerage and the profession as a whole; every registrant has a stake in doing it right.

It’s still too early to assess the impact of the bulletin, but local boards have applauded its release, and a number of them have told me it has prompted brokers of record provincewide to inform their employees that rule violations won’t be tolerated. I find that very encouraging.

Let’s build upon the momentum of 2018 by making 2019 the year we work together to raise the bar for professionalism. If we don’t do it together, who will?

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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