Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

How to buy a great home.
January 13, 2009, 2:56 am
Filed under: Buying, Rebecca Sargent | Tags: ,

You want to buy a great house, but what do you look for? After figuring out what you can afford, you should begin to think about what you really need and want in a new home.

Do you want to be in the heart of the city, the suburbs or in the country? What type of neighborhood are you looking for? What features do you absolutely need in a home? What features would you like to have? How many bedrooms do you need?  Is a big property important to you? Think of the spaces you will need or want to live your life. Do you need spaces for entertaining? A home office? A workshop? A garage?

Decide on a top five criteria that are important to you. Remember. It might not be possible to find a home with every feature you are looking for, but this will help you focus your search so that you can find the best home for your needs.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a new neighborhood. If possible, you should first scout the area in person- You live in more than just your house!

– Talk to people who live there- go for a walk through the neighborhood, check out the local shops and services.

– Drive through the area at different times of the day, during the week, and on weekends. This will help to eliminate any suprises.

– Look carefully at how well other homes in the area are being maintained; are they painted, are the yards cared for, etc.

– Consider things like access to major highways, city centres, transit, shopping, etc.

– Listen for noise created by roads, commerce, railways, public areas, schools, etc.

– How far will you be from work? Drive or take the commute and check it out!


Once your list of needs and wants is made, it is time to begin searching for properties.

How to choose a Realtor and how they can help you purchase a home.
January 13, 2009, 2:55 am
Filed under: Buying, Rebecca Sargent | Tags: , ,

The Realtor should first discuss with you the values and services he/she will bring to the table.

What SHOULD they be doing for you as a Buyer agent?
• Organize and schedule your home search process
• Discuss with you the benefits and drawbacks of each home in relation to your specific needs
• Provide you with ongoing updates on available homes
• Help you compare homes and make a decision
• Advise you on the terms and issues of the offer and fill out the purchase order contract
• Present your offer and negotiate on your behalf
• Coordinate and supervise the preparation of all closing documents and guide you through the closing process
• Help you resolve any closing issues
• Answer all your questions in a timely manner.

Decide on the values that are important to you, and discuss them with your Realtor. Are they willing to provide you with all the services you need? Get it in writing!

You will then need to decide whether you want to sign a contract with your Realtor. There are several types of contracts, depending on the services you will require.
The Buyer Agency Agreement is the most common. This agreement:
• Establishes the type of relationship that is involved
• Sets out the duties and responsibilities of both parties
• Details commission arrangements and buyer responsibilities if commission is not to be paid by the seller

Why should you sign an agreement?

By signing the Buyer Agency Agreement, you ensure that your Realtor is working for you in a client relationship, meaning that the Realtor must represent you exclusively in the contract. It lets the Realtor tell you all the information they know about the property, and makes sure they are obligated to work in your best interest.

The traditional agency relationship requires that all agents have a fiduciary relationship with the seller. That means that it’s their job to protect the interests of the seller. By entering into a Buyer Agency Agreement, you ensure that the Realtor will always be protecting your interests.

The agreement also protects your Realtor. It means that you acknowledge that he/she is representing you for the duration of the contract period, and that you are agreeing to work exclusively with that Realtor for the duration. This means you have the responsibility to notify the Realtor of any property that you are interested in during this time period and your Realtor will make all the arrangements to view the home. This includes homes that come directly from the builder, or open houses that you want to inspect in the neighbourhood.

Deciding whether or not to sign a Buyer Agency Agreement is up to you. You can sign the Agreement for one property, or one area, or for everything you are searching for. You should discuss the terms of service that the Realtor will offer you in return for your signing and get all the details in writing. This could include certain marketing aspects and all the rights and duties that each party will perform. This is a promise for a promise: you promise your Realtor exclusivity, and they promise you service. This means that if your Realtor does not perform the set services, you CAN fire them. But be aware that Buyer Agency contracts typically have what is called a “hold over” period (usually 30-60 days). If you purchase a property that was introduced to you by your Realtor within this period, they are entitled to commision under most contracts. 

Things you can do to protect yourself:
– ask for a short term or specific contract (for 30 days, or 24 hours, or for a specific property, area or price range);
– ask about anything on the contract you don’t understand- if the Realtor cannot explain it to you in clear terms- do not sign it.
– Get copies of anything you sign, and keep it in a file for yourself
– Know what duties to expect of your Realtor, and make sure they answer all your questions. Remember there is no such thing as a “dumb” question- so ask if you don’t understand! It is part of your Realtor’s job to answer your questions.

Thinking of becoming a landlord?
January 13, 2009, 2:54 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Rentals | Tags: , , ,

Rental properties can be great investments, but they can also be huge headaches. A rental unit can help you bring in extra income that can go towards paying down your mortgage. The rental income amount can actually even help you qualify for an increased mortgage amount. They are great investments if you get good tenants who pay on time and keep the place well maintained.

How can you protect yourself from the headaches of being a landlord? Your most important job happens BEFORE you take on a tenant. As a landlord, you have the right to check the potential tenant’s credit rating, and rental history. Your relationship is a financial one, and so you should know if they are not paying their bills on time. Take pictures of your apartment BEFORE you rent it out showing the exact condition of the place. This will help you if damages do occur upon tenancy and help you recoup the damages in court.

Your full rights and responsibilities are outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act (available at Make sure you know what you are legally liable for and get proper insurance to cover you. Here are some highlights for you:

– You must keep the property in good repair and up to health, fire and safety standards.

– You have the right to inspect the property, but you must give 24 hour written notice to the tenant to do so.

– The tenant cannot change the locks or bar your entry and there are legal avenues for you to take if they do.

– You cannot ask for anything other than the rent for the last week or month. You are not permitted to ask for a damage deposit.

– It is a breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code to prohibit children in a rental unit. A “no pets” clause is also unenforcable under the Residential Tenancies Act.

– You are required as a landlord to provide an information package detailing basic landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities to your new tenants. It is available at

– You cannot require a tenant to provide postdated cheques to you.

– You can only increase the rent by 1.8% per year (in 2009) with written notice 3 months in advance. You cannot increase the rent until the tenant has been living in the unit for more than one year. If the tenant moves out, you are allowed to set a new rent before the new tenant moves in.

 It can be very difficult to remove a problem tenant, so the best advice is to pre-screen them before they move in. There are legal channels to help you, but they can take time, and require that you pay up front and sue for damages later. There are many useful resources available, and organizations to help you. Check out ; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ( and the Landlord and Tenant Board for more information.

I also have a rental guide for potential landlords. Please ask me for a copy!