The Unofficial Spring Market Update

March 20th, 2018 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

It seems we were bombarded with doom-and-gloom real estate reports all winter long, unending forecasts of a real estate crash. As real estate agents, we know that the spring season (defined more by the calendar than the actual weather) is the busiest season of the year – and an excellent barometer of the health of the real estate market.

While we await the latest official statistics, here’s what we’re seeing and feeling on the front lines:

  • There isn’t enough inventory of homes for sale – from semi-detached and detached houses, to cool lofts, fixer-uppers and investment properties, there isn’t much of a selection out there. Buyers are ready to buy, but aren’t able to find what they want – and if they do, it’s sold in less than a week.
  • Bidding wars aren’t guaranteed – while high-demand styles and locations are still selling in multiple offers, the bidding wars for the most part aren’t nearly as vicious as years past.
  • There are lots of traditional condos on the market – they’re taking longer to sell, but they’re still selling. We haven’t seen a mass exodus of investors looking to sell. Sellers who aren’t able to sell their condo for the price they want are simply turning to the rental market.
  • Toronto’s real estate market has NOT CRASHED – I predict prices will be up again in April, and based on the traffic to websites and the number of calls and e-mails, I suspect we’re in for a continued busy spring.
  • The rental market is kind of nuts – rents are up and landlords are controlling the market now more than ever.

Our best advice?

If you’re looking to sell: take advantage of the low inventory before your neighbours decide to sell too

If you’re looking to buy a house: be ready to move quickly and work with an agent who understands the game and strategy and make sure you’re working with an agent who knows how to negotiate in a the current market

If you’re thinking new construction: buy a  property that’s already begun construction and has inventory to sell

If you’re lost and don’t know where to start: give us a call or send us an email, we’d be happy to help!

The Complete Guide to Oil to Gas Conversions

February 20th, 2018 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

The Complete Guide to Oil to Gas Conversions

There are several reasons to convert:

  1. Protection from future surges in oil prices
  2. Increased appliance efficiency
  3. Consistently lower cost of natural gas compared to oil
  4. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Converting to natural gas heat is better for your bank account, the environment and your health. But how do you go about converting your oil burning equipment?

The Oil to Gas Conversion Process

Converting from oil to natural gas can take just a few weeks to get your equipment up and running. An oil to gas conversion is a four-step process:

Oil to Gas Installation Steps

  1. Determine whether you’ll convert to natural gas or propane
  2. Connect your home to a natural gas service line
  3. Ensure your home has suitable piping for natural gas
  4. Install equipment that uses natural gas, or convert your existing equipment

Step 1: Determine Whether You’ll Convert to Natural Gas or Propane

For many people, converting from oil to natural gas is an easy decision. Many utility companies provide natural gas as a utility, piped directly into your home. This is by far the most popular option.

However, a few people do convert from oil to propane. This type of conversion is rarer, and usually only attempted when there’s an obstacle to converting to natural gas.

If possible, we recommend that homeowners convert to natural gas instead of propane.

That’s because propane usually requires more effort over the long run. It produces less heat and more dangerous gases, like carbon monoxide. Propane shortages can also produce the same volatile price jumps that affect oil prices.

The Benefits of Natural Gas

Natural Gas Costs Less

One of the biggest benefits is price. Oil costs about twice as much as natural gas. Even with the cost of converting your home to use natural gas, you’ll break even in just a few years.

Cost to Heat Home with Oil vs Gas in 2013 Polar Vortex

The dramatic difference is price has been remarkable in the cold winters over the past few years. In 2013 (the year of the Polar Vortex) homeowners who heated their house with oil paid more than $3,200 to heat their homes.

By contrast, homeowners with natural gas paid an average of just $971.

Now that the price of oil has dropped, you may wonder whether it’s worth switching to natural gas. Historically, natural gas has been less expensive than oil. Over the 2015-2016 winter, the cost of delivered oil dropped to $22 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). But that same season, the cost of the same amount of natural gas dropped from $10 to $9.

Natural Gas Is Cleaner

Converting to natural gas is also good for the environment. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available. As people have become more aware of air quality, it’s no surprise that natural gas has gotten more popular.

Burning natural gas doesn’t produce any sulfur dioxide. And while it does produce carbon emissions, they’re less than 60 percent of what would be produced by heating oil.

On the other hand, burning oil produces both sulfur dioxide and carbon emissions, otherwise known as greenhouse gases. Heating oils, particularly heavier number 4 and 6 oils, have such a big impact on air quality that there’s been legislation introduced to phase them out.

Natural Gas Is More Efficient

Oil vs Gas Heating Efficiency

Increased efficiency is another big benefit to converting to natural gas. Oil burning heaters can achieve a maximum efficiency of 87 percent, but most oil heaters have efficiency rates of about 70 percent. Those that use natural gas have maximum efficiencies of up to 98 percent. High-efficiency furnaces can help you get more heat from the gas you use, lowering your costs and your carbon emissions.

Step Two: Connecting Your Home to a Natural Gas Service Line

Natural gas is usually pumped into your house via a pipe, just like other utilities. Most residential neighborhoods already have a natural gas line.

If you already have a natural gas service line to your home, you’ll simply need to call the utility company to get it turned on.

If you don’t have a service line, it’s possible to have one installed. A natural gas company will give you a quote on what installing a gas line will cost. Our experienced technicians can also help you figure out what needs to be done, and find rebates that can help you offset the cost.

There are two types of gas lines: Main lines and service lines.

A main line carries natural gas for a street or neighborhood. A service line, on the other hand, connects your home to the main line.

You may find yourself in one of two situations:

Oil to Gas Install Issues

  1. There is a main gas line, but no service line to your home
  2. There is no main line or service line

Most residential neighborhoods already have a main gas line in place. This is good news, because trenching and setting a service line is faster and more affordable than a main line. Installing a service and meter usually take only two or three weeks. And many utility companies will install a certain length of service line free of charge.

If you’re in a neighborhood with no main gas line, converting can take longer. Construction on a main line will generally take from four to six months, and it can be considerably more expensive for customers.

We encourage customers in this situation to get together with their neighbors. Utility companies usually share out costs between the houses that will receive gas service. This can bring down the cost of converting to natural gas.

Step Three: Ensure That Your Pipes are Suitable for Natural Gas

The second step is to ensure that your home’s piping is able to accommodate natural gas. If your home was previously set up for natural gas, you probably already have the piping for natural gas in place. You probably also have pipes in place if some of your equipment already uses natural gas.

If you’ve never used natural gas before, you may need to install gas pipes. These lines are usually short, and go directly from your gas meter to the equipment that will use natural gas. This equipment could include your heater, clothes dryer, water heater and stove.

Natural gas piping is usually made of either stiff iron pipes or flexible steel pipes. However, installing this piping is not a do-it-yourself job. Because of the risks of an unsafe gas line, you should have a qualified technician install any gas pipes you need.

With good planning, you can also extend your gas pipes in the future. This means it’s possible to complete the conversion process in phases. If you have relatively new oil equipment that can’t be converted, it’s possible to wait to convert it until it needs replacing.

If you plan to convert your oil burning appliances to natural gas in phases, make sure your technicians are aware of this. They can either extend gas pipelines during the initial installation, or set up gas pipelines that you’ll easily be able to add to when you’re ready to convert other equipment.

Step Four: Convert or Replace Your Natural Gas Equipment

Many people convert to natural gas when their existing appliances fail. That’s because natural gas appliances cost significantly less than similar appliances that use oil.

If you’re planning to convert because you need to replace appliances, you can simply choose new appliances that use natural gas as fuel. HVAC contractors can walk you through the conversion process and help you select energy-efficient equipment for your home.

Converting your existing equipment to natural gas is also possible. If your oil equipment is in good shape and doesn’t need any major repairs, a conversion kit may be the most practical option.

There are also conversion kits available for most appliances. These conversion kits let you replace the oil-burning part of your existing equipment with a gas orifice. The rest of your equipment stays the same.

Converting an oil heater to run on natural gas is the most common. To convert, we’ll install a natural gas burner in your existing oil furnace. We usually remove the old oil tank to reduce the risk of fires and contamination.

It’s possible to purchase conversion kits and complete the oil to gas conversion for an appliance yourself. However, we recommend finding a licensed technician to complete the conversion for you.

This is particularly important if you’re new to home improvement projects. Residual oil soot can interact dangerously with natural gas, creating acidic reactions that eat away at your equipment. Oil spills can also cause soil and water contamination.

Instead, find a licensed gas technician or a plumber to install your conversion kit.

Incentives for Converting to Natural Gas

Whenever possible, we recommend purchasing equipment that’s designed to use natural gas instead of converting oil burning equipment. That’s because equipment designed for natural gas is more efficient than converted equipment.

More effective equipment means you’ll need less fuel to produce the same amount of heat.

Many manufacturers provide rebates and incentives to buy energy-efficient equipment. Utility companies, as well as national programs like Energy Star, all offer incentives to switch to natural gas utilities.

Here’s a quick guide to the types of incentives that can help you convert to natural gas.

Manufacturer Rebates for Converting to Natural Gas

Manufacturer rebates are offered by equipment makers to help lower the cost of appliances for customers. These rebates can be instant rebates, which are applied when the equipment is purchased, or mail-in rebates. Mail-in rebates usually require you to submit proof of purchase or installation after the fact.

Manufacturer rebates for natural gas heaters can easily be worth $200 or more. The amount of the rebate will depend on the manufacturer and the specific equipment you’re purchasing.

Oil to Gas Conversion Incentives From ConEdison

Enbrdige Gas  provides rebates and incentives for customers who are switching to natural gas. Natural Resources Canada also has a link to rebates and incentives These rebates can help offset the cost of installing a natural gas water heater, boiler, furnace or thermostat.

Natural Gas Rebates

 

 

Buy First or Sell First?

February 11th, 2018 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

Buy First or Sell First?

If you are a homeowner and you decide to enter the market, you’re faced with a difficult question: Especially if you’ve never sold your home before.

Do you buy your next home before selling? Or do you sell your current home before buying?

We reached out to our RE/MAX Influencers—a panel consisting of RE/MAX Sales Associates from throughout Canada—to find out their opinion on whether homeowners who are re-entering the market should buy first or sell first.

It all depends

The majority of our RE/MAX Influencers agreed that each situation is unique, and several factors need to be looked at to determine the answer of that question. For example: What are the current market conditions? And are you financially capable of carrying two properties with ease?

“It absolutely depends on the market situation,” says Justus Smith, RE/MAX Crown Real Estate (East). “If the client is selling in a hot seller’s market, then they would likely want to find their next home first and buy it. However, if they are selling in a buyer’s market, it’s better to get their property sold before venturing out to purchase another home.”

Pros of buying first

By buying first, homeowners are less rushed to find the right home, so they can spend time making sure the new house fits as many of their needs as possible.

“The ideal situation is to purchase a home and then sell your current property,” says Sarah Leib, RE/MAX River City.

“Buying without having to sell first allows buyers to find the right home at their own pace,” adds Shauna Bailey, RE/MAX Crown Real Estate North.

Although buying first has some advantages, this situation isn’t financially feasible for everyone. There may be a possibility to add in a sale of home condition to the offer; however, competing offers without that condition will likely be more desirable.

“Buyers should consult with their lender to discuss the possibility to arrange interim financing; therefore, enabling them to make an offer without this condition—provided they qualify—with the intention of ultimately selling their current home once they confirm the new purchase,” says Glen Darough, RE/MAX RHC Realty.

Pros of selling first

Many aren’t able to afford the cost of carrying two properties, and trying to do so may cause significant stress.

“The risk of having to discount your home to create a quick sale just isn’t a pleasant experience,” says Eric Steinbach, RE/MAX Kelowna. “(Clients) can negotiate a better purchase price being strong on finance.”

“It really depends how comfortable my clients are to have the possibility to have to bridge finance or carry two mortgages. I always suggest to sell first, but there are a lot of buyers out there who are scared they won’t find what they are looking for,” says Elio Parente, RE/MAX City Realty.

RE/MAX Sales Associates can guide you through your unique situation and help determine whether buying first or selling first is the right decision for you.

What are the current market conditions in the GTA?

December 27th, 2017 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

2017 has been a roller coaster year for real estate in the GTA. Buyers and sellers don’t know whether they’re going up or down, but they know it’s a wild ride. Analyst predictions include talk of bubbles bursting, soft landings, hot vs. cold, and just complete chaos, but how much of it is really true? What is the state of the current real estate market in the GTA right now?

A high start to the new year

At the start of 2017, we were looking at a complete seller’s market – one where those who wanted to sell could do so easily, where bidding wars were the norm and were prices were escalating to the point of unaffordability for many GTA residents. Inventory was lacking, but buyers weren’t, which was part of the fuel on this real estate fire.

Then things got chilly

In April, the Ontario government announced their Fair Housing Plan, implementing a number of changes that were designed to cool the market, but many didn’t believe the changes would have much of an impact on the market. But, just announcing that there were changes to take place set off a change in the mindset of home buyers and sellers in the GTA, who then became very cautious. Buyers decided to slow their searches, while sellers wanted to sell, now.

What happened in turn was that inventory went up, showings and sales went down and the bidding wars and exorbitant over asking price sales slowed considerably. This suggests a cooling of the market. But, it isn’t all bad news for sellers, as the forecast is predicting a 16% price increase in Ontario. What this basically means is that prices are still rising, while the frenzy is subsiding, so double-digit showings, bidding wars, homes selling within hours of being on the market and sold over asking is not going to be the norm for much longer in the GTA.

What does this mean for sellers?

If you are planning on selling your home, you still should go ahead with that plan. Inventory may have increased, but there is still a lack of it compared to years past. Don’t sell because you are worried your home won’t be worth what you bought it for, but instead because you need to make a change. With prices still increasing, your investment will inevitably go up.

What does this mean for buyers?

If you are considering buying a home, there is no better time than now. Waiting for some inevitable crash that may not come could be foolish and only ending up costing your more in the long run if prices continue to rise or even stabilize, as you pay more money in rent to pay someone else’s mortgage costs. There are a number of homes for sale with motivated sellers in the GTA.

If you need any help buying or selling your Toronto home this year, feel free to contact us.