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How real estate agents can protect themselves at work | REM

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Another real estate agent has died, thanks to the vulnerability of working alone in an empty house.

The 33-year-old Annapolis agent was alone in an empty model home when he met a violent end. Someone came in, murdered him right there in his workplace, and left. No one has been charged.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s Annapolis, not here, so it’s not really my problem.”




I don’t blame you. It’s hard to take something seriously when terrible things happen everywhere all the time. We naturally want to think bad things happen “over there” and “to them” and not to us.

But where I live in Winnipeg these things happen too. The unsolved murder of Irene Pearson for one, then there was this 2008 attempted assault where the agent escaped, and this 2007 sexual assault where the agent didn’t get away. Then there are the countless close-call stories that don’t make it into the news.

Like my friend who got a call from a guy who said he was moving to the city because of his business, needed a fast possession and wanted to see vacant homes in the Tuxedo area. She said she’d look up a list of homes and call him back at his hotel. She got his name, number and the name of his hotel, and promised to call him back at 4 p.m. After hanging up with him, she called the hotel to confirm such a person was even there. They had no one there by that name. Big red flag. She was smart to check.

And these are just stories from Winnipeg. You start looking up news stories from across Canada and your day gets a whole lot darker. Agents get attacked, robbed and murdered at work.

It happens.

A lot.

And it’s scary.

It’s also completely unnecessary.

I’m a passionate advocate for excellent customer service and going above and beyond the call of duty to serve my clients, but I’m also passionate about client property security and my own personal protection.

The fact is, real estate agents are at risk when hosting open houses. Thankfully, there is something we can do.

Limit access – even at open houses 

Years ago, near the beginning of my career, I walked up the sidewalk to a house with my clients in order to show them the house they were considering. We walked in and started looking around. Moments later, a guy – could be a neighbour, could be a thief, I didn’t know – opened the door, walked in and asked if he could look around too.

Umm… no? I explained it wasn’t an open house, but that I was showing my clients; this was a prearranged appointment. If he wanted a peek, he’d have to wait for the open house or make an appointment.

I was stunned that a complete stranger would just walk into another person’s home, feeling quite free to do so, and expect to be allowed to wander around unfettered. Really? I wondered how many others felt this way, and imagined more people casually wandering in while I was showing my clients another floor and completely unaware anyone else had come in. The guy left, and I locked the door. I’ve been locking the door ever since. I do this at open houses too, by the way.

I post a sign that says, “Welcome, I’m showing the home right now, please wait here.” This allows me to connect with the people looking and do what I can to show the property in the best possible light while protecting myself and my sellers from random people with who knows what motives and agendas from coming in and doing whatever they want.

One word: Vetting 

Prequalify potential buyers. We are not obligated to show a home every Tom, Dick and Harriet who “wants to see”. On the contrary, that’s a sure way to aggravate your sellers and put everyone at risk. Instead, we should identify buyers.

Luckily, the federal FINTRAC laws are on our side, requiring us to identify the buyers when there’s an attempted transaction. Use that. The minute someone steps into your car or onto your property, get some I.D.  Getting their driver’s license is a good start. If they don’t proceed, shred it. But if you have their information, at least if something happens to you, the property or the buyer’s possessions, you have a bit of recourse.

Wave bye-bye to lookie loos

Listen. Agent to agent, I know people sometimes get squirrelly about giving the smallest amount of information about why they’re calling. They don’t want agents asking whether they’re pre-approved, or other questions about their needs. So, asking for I.D could get people feeling downright antagonistic. Especially if they “just want to look”. Who wants that hassle? I get it.

Here’s the thing. People like that most likely aren’t serious buyers. More and more, those who are serious, actual buyers are understanding the need to be pre-approved, well-informed and even represented before they even begin house hunting. This is becoming the norm. The random lookie-loos who want to nose around strangers’ houses unencumbered on a Sunday afternoon are not worth the risk to your sellers or to you.

Here’s my suggestion. When someone calls wanting to look at a house, get their info. Then confirm the info. Meet them first at your office (or coffee shop) with the “how can I help you” attitude and if they don’t want to do that, recommend to them that their best course of action is to attend an open house when it’s offered.

Then don’t worry about whether there is an open house on that property or not. Just politely wave bye-bye and move on. Our seller clients will appreciate your professional approach. Mine most certainly do as they know when I ask for them to leave for a showing, I have confirmed the prospective buyer’s ability to buy. We are real estate professionals, not TV reality show personalities.

Don’t go alone 

The vulnerability of working an empty house is the solitude of it. Protect yourself by breaking that solitude. There a few ways to do that. Bring a friend or another agent with you. You could also pre-arrange a buddy check-in system where you check in with someone before, during and after your time there. If you miss a call, someone calls you or comes by in person. Introduce yourself to the neighbours and let them know you’re there. Have a sign-in sheet for every person who comes in to the open house. There are even personal safety apps.

There are options. Real estate agents don’t have to be completely vulnerable, even if we do choose to host open houses (or inspect houses or do whatever else we do that leaves us in buildings alone for hours).

Have you ever felt at risk?

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Real Estate

Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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