Buying a home pre-construction

sandra rinomato



Buying a pre-construction house or condo can be great, especially if you like working with a blank slate.  But there are some things to keep in mind:

Expect to wait.  Most projects take much longer than expected.  You might have to wait two or three years between the date you sign your purchase agreement and the date you move in.  If there are delays, you could wait even longer.  construction

Know your rights.  Builders can extend the occupancy date and all they need to give you is some notice.  If they don’t give you notice, you may be eligible for compensation.  I always recommend people read up on their rights on a site like

Prepare for other costs: You may have to pay HST on closing and then apply for a rebate. There is a cap at $450K for either provincial or federal portion. If you are buying an assignment sale (just the ‘paper’ from an investor, you may get hit down the road for HST because of the original buyer’s tax situation…very confusing!!)  You must consult the experts, assignment deals and pre-construction deals can be tricky, lots of costs to consider like education levies. Sometimes you can cap them, and your lawyer will be able to advise you.

Work with a good lawyer: Every buyer should work with an experienced lawyer.  They will help you understand the purchase agreement, which can difficult to understand.   Also, as a buyer, you have a 10-day period where you can change your mind or have your lawyer negotiate changes to the offer.

Understand the floor plan:  Many floorplans are done to interior walls, not exterior walls, so you may lose space after drywall is installed. Contracts are very well-written. Many include clauses that say the builder can make changes up to a certain point.  So, if you’re buying a unit in a condo, it may look a little different after you move in.



What home buyers are looking for: Rooms to invest in

sandra rinomato



You will find many reports about the return of your money when you invest in a new kitchen, and those reports provide good guidelines. Since I deal with buyers every day I hear what they say, and for many people, a kitchen that has a serious WOW factor can make the deal. A high percentage of buyers that I work with mention the kitchen in their wish list. For some, it’s simply a large kitchen, and for others it’s an updated kitchen that they don’t have to improve. Those are the expectations, but what happens when they are blown away by a kitchen? All bets are off!


A home purchase definitely has an emotional element to it, no matter how rational the buyers may be going in to it. If you can get them teary eyed about the kitchen, you’re winning. Many people want to avoid having to renovate a kitchen because of the expected costs or perceived amount of work and effort. Not everyone has a good enough sense of design to be able to put together a fabulous and functional kitchen layout, but many can appreciate your good taste and clever design.

So, what are buyers looking for? Functionality. But not just in the work space, I mean functionality for today’s lifestyle. For those who like to entertain, the kitchen has to be a show piece and offer space or seating for party guests and possibly a walk out to the yard. Young families want to be able to keep an eye on the little ones while they prepare meals in the kitchen, so an open-concept to the family room is key. It seems that for many people, everything happens in the kitchen, so it is an integral part of the lifestyle of the owner.

Backsplashes get a lot of attention, so picking current material and style is important, but remember to make it practical and easy to keep clean. As for appliances, it seems everyone wants stainless steel. In high end homes, the appliances must be of a certain calibre so don’t scrimp on those if you are renovating the kitchen.

Storage space. For the fast paced lifestyle it’s a must have, you want to be able to quickly put things away without having to solve a puzzle. Plenty of storage space is a must have in today’s kitchen. Convenience is key and space-saving options are a good investment.

Lighting is important, under cabinet, work-space lighting, and recessed lights, but also a statement piece that defines the attitude of the kitchen can take a bland kitchen to WOW.
When you can’t invest the money to redesign the layout, consider buying new cabinet doors and hardware. This can be very inexpensive and very effective. Quite often, a floor tile is outdated or broken, so investing in new tiles can make a dramatic difference, and adding a complimentary back splash can go a long way too. Then look at your table and chairs…can they be spruced up a bit, painted or maybe swapped out for a more eclectic look? Try to find some unique conversation pieces to build your colour palette around. Throw in a unique light overhead and voila, you have updated your kitchen to be cute and welcoming, tugging on the heart strings of potential buyers.



Home shopping with buyers has reinforced what I know to be the priority for home buyers: cleanliness. A clean, but possibly older bathroom will not deter that many buyers. They see the bathroom as something they can easily fix compared to a kitchen. A looming kitchen renovation can deter many buyers, but if the bathroom is clean and in good condition you might be ok. It just doesn’t seem to be as overwhelming as a kitchen renovation.

Curb Appeal

The way your house looks on the outside is very important. One thing everyone should keep in mind is that buyers are driving by your home to see if it’s the kind of place they want to see. In other words, it’s your home’s first impression to a multitude of anonymous buyers, and realtors. If I drive by a home that is ill-kempt on the outside I may not be interested in taking people to see it. My impression is that they have neglected things on the outside, so they will have neglected things on the inside too. Besides that, a home that has beautiful accents outside–soffit lighting, tended gardens, potted plants and manicured lawn will invite more people in to see it. The more buyers who come in, the better it is for the seller. I call those homes happy homes. They seem to be filled with love and joy. That’s what I want for my buyers, and that’s what most people want, even if they have not articulated it. And, believe it or not, a charming exterior will pull on heart strings of buyers who may be persuaded to overlook an out of date kitchen or bath.

When to Think Twice and Walk Away

sandra rinomato












Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em: when to think twice and walk away when shopping for a home.

Urban vs. Suburban Living: What are the pros and cons?

sandra rinomato



Sandra weighs the pros and cons of living in the city vs. living in the suburbs.

Buying and Selling Your Home in Winter: Should You Wait?

sandra rinomato


Some people think that selling your house in the winter is a bad idea, I mean, who wants to move in winter?! Well, real estate never sleeps, or hibernates. There are so many reasons why people sell or buy real estate and those reasons are every day occurrences, like births, deaths, divorces, new jobs, immigration and so on.
There may even be an advantage to selling in the winter. Typically the inventory levels drop drastically which means less competition for sellers. There are still decent numbers of buyers out there, so this could work to your benefit.


Be sure to shovel as soon as the snow falls. You never know when a showing will be booked, so always be prepared. Hire a service if that is more practical, as daytime snow fall could present an issue for you if you’re away at work.

Of course you will have to shovel the drive and the main walkway to the front door, but also shovel the side walk and the walkway to the back yard, and make sure the gate is unlocked and unblocked. People will want to go out there to see the size of the yard, so remember to clear snow from the patio to make sure they can see it. You might even have some patio furniture out there if it can withstand the winter.

Try to use some evergreen branches, birch, twigs and other natural decorative items in urns at the front and even the back of your house to add a little extra “warmth”.

Always remember to use a de-icing agent for safety. You don’t want anyone to slip and fall.

I love dogs!– but yellow snow is a big turn off for buyers, so train Cocoa to go next door.

Make certain the outdoor lighting comes on extra early, not only to attract the drive-by but also to help with accessibility. There’s nothing worse than a dark lockbox to hinder your showing! If you can add in a light at the side and rear yard to make the journey to the back yard more practical, you’ll score points with buyers and realtors!

Following these tips you will ensure that you impress buyers favourably. You are giving them the impression that you take excellent care of the property, which will translate into dollars for you. A home that appears to be loved is far more inviting that one that is neglected!

Forget about saving a few bucks on your heating bill! Make sure the programmable thermostat is always the warm setting, so your buyers are welcomed to a nice comfy home. That first impression is so important!  Consider adding several lamps with timers that will come on early. Many living rooms and bedrooms are dark so add in a few lamps in each room to ensure that the showing is a cheery one. Open those drapes and let the sunshine in but make sure your windows are clean! On a mild day, give them a wash.

Get fresh mats and rugs and wash them often. You don’t want the extra household traffic to create a smelly, grimy environment. Offer a rubber mat for winter boots, so the snow doesn’t melt leaving puddles and salt stains. Be prepared to wash the front foyer often!

Bring in some blooming winter plants, like Amaryllis, or Orchids to liven the place up. Using flameless candles, especially the ones that go on automatically at dusk, add to the ambience as well as the fireplace. Always be safe though, and use with caution. I love it when the gas fireplace is on and I hear, “oh that really kicks off some heat, doesn’t it?!”. Let the fireplace act as it’s own salesperson.

Somewhere very visible, say the dining room table, have some photos of the yard during the other seasons of the year, showing your garden in bloom, the grass and trees, or pool during summer.  If there are beautiful parks or other features nearby, you can even have a photo of that. This may take some planning and it’s always a good idea to photograph your property for your self anyway. Use photos without people or pets, those are best. You want to sell the property, not distract the buyer!

Micro-condos: What they are and who is buying them

sandra rinomato


Micro-condos are very small condo units ranging in size from 220-400 sq. ft., but typically we see them range between 250-350 sq. ft. These units are expertly designed to maximize space so you still have all of the creature comforts. Fold away furniture is standard issue. A bed will fold up to make room for a kitchen table. Storage space is created in every nook and cranny and is collapsible or can be hidden. Every inch is used to its maximum potential. They are really quite innovative!

micro condo 1

Micro-condos are ideal for investors looking to rent them out as they typically rent for more money per sq. ft. than larger units. Students, single professionals, first-time buyers and pied-a-terre seekers are interested in such units. People are willing to make the trade for less personal space in favour of more communal space. It’s not odd to see people using a neighbourhood coffee shop as a sort of living space. Individuals buying these units typically want to live in the downtown core without paying downtown prices. Big cities, where space is at a premium and real estate is very costly are seeing these types of developments because they are affordable, albeit small solutions. They are minimalist spaces designed for a particular type of lifestyle.

Micro-housing has been around for a long time in Asia, specifically Japan. Historically, families would live in small units of around 100 sq feet that had large communal areas. It wasn’t until after WW2 that home sizes started to grow. Micro-condos are also popular in Europe – Paris, Barcelona, Rome and London.

We are starting to see this trend move to Canada. British Columbia has several micro developments both for sale and for rent. They are situated in the downtown core of B.C.’s major cities – Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey.

Builders recognize that transit is integral to these developments, and since living space is sparse dwellers will spend more time in the neighborhood. Walkability is another key issue. This trend will continue to expand and will be interesting to watch over the coming years. It certainly won’t be in every Canadian city, but the major cities like Toronto are already seeing an uptick in popularity.

micro condo 2

(a) Location, location, location!
(b) These units are more affordable, allowing people to live in some of the cities hottest neighborhoods without paying exorbitant prices.
(c) Modern, uniquely designed spaces and the reduction of your carbon footprint. Since you can’t buy furniture for space you don’t have, it forces you to be frugal.

(a) One or two things out of place can make your space look cramped, thereby forcing you to tidy up. Small spaces can feel too confining for some.
(b) It is very difficult to secure financing on micro-units. Most banks and lenders have minimum sq. ft. requirements. Although it is not impossible to mortgage a micro-condo this is due diligence you should perform before you start looking.
(c) Keep in mind that the resale market for these units has yet to be proven.
The average size of condo units has been decreasing for years. A 600 sq. ft. condo is very typical, if not the norm in Toronto. Micro-units are the next step in this trend. Canadians are migrating to city centres, choosing to live where they work and play, thus avoiding a long commute. Younger generations (i.e. Gen Y) are ditching cars for public transit and high walkability scores.

Factors That Can Devalue Your Home

sandra rinomato


Black cat, Rosie, walking profile


A superstition is a widely held belief associated with supposedly supernatural influences thought to bring good or bad luck.  Since such beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, let’s consider how a few of them can significantly impact a property’s value.

Numerology: The number four is considered to be unlucky in some East Asian cultures.  For example, in Chinese culture, the number four sounds like word for death. Whereas, the number eight signifies wealth and prosperity. Another number commonly embraced is the number three, as it signifies life or new beginnings.  The number 13 seems to get a bad rap, such is life. You will frequently find many buildings do not name the actual 13th floor.  Instead, the building magically leaps from floor 12 to 14 (In some specific areas this also applies to a building’s 4th floor.)  So it might be smart to avoid the dreaded number 13 when choosing a closing date as well.

These various beliefs can net you more than two-percent — or less than two-percent — in geographic areas with a high concentration of superstitious buyers.  So, by using the average price of a Toronto home, you can gain or lose over $20,000 because of numerology.

Another superstition or religious belief — burying a small statue of St. Joseph — is believed to facilitate a quicker sale for a property.  And how a strong belief in Astrology can impact a real estate transaction cannot be underestimated either.  One such example occurred when I had to wait a month or more for a Mercury in Retrograde cycle to pass before a seller would sign paperwork to accept a deal.


Location: A cemetery could seem like spooky fun to a kid, but it could have an ominous meaning altogether different for a potential homebuyer.  Since cemeteries often conjure up a frightening sense of negative energy, certain buyers would deem nearby homes as those best to avoid.  Churches, and the funeral services associated with them, might also project a similarly negative connotation.

Properties situated too close to a large school or on a well-traveled public bus route can also be turn-offs.  Immense utility towers servicing power lines, radio frequencies, cell phones, etc could be seen as neighbourhood deterrents.  Though local plazas are handy for a quick shopping run being too close to a plaza’s busy parking lot, or coping with a store’s open 24 hour policy, or dealing with a popular restaurant or bar’s unwelcome loud noise could make a buyer rethink their idea of convenience.  Often the smells from the restaurant and it’s garbage bins can cause annoyance.


Pros and Cons: The overall size and condition of a particular home when compared to the city’s average, or even when compared to the immediate area’s competition, will have an effect on price.  Some buyers mistakenly avoid corner lots because they think the property taxes are higher, but in fact, the shorten lot line is used to assess.  And similar to the negative vibe of a cemetery, finding out an actual murder had previously occurred in a home could be a creepy obstacle to many buyers.  Currently, Quebec is the only province with a murder disclosure law. It’s always best practice to disclose such a happening, but it’s good to perform your own due diligence.  And include other traumatic events and/or paranormal activity as well, because not every ghost is named Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Lastly, a home formerly used as a Grow-op could see its price significantly reduced to attract a new buyer.


Well, what does this all mean…as a buyer should you avoid these types of homes?  And what about selling such homes associated with these stigmas?  Many people are perfectly okay with the number 666 on their front door.  Others who accept it at the time of purchase could decide to petition the city later on to have that notorious number changed.  Sometimes they’re successful…and sometimes it’s a no go, since not every superstition can be accommodated.

Pretty much any house will sell at the right price.  But just be aware if you score a good deal because of a stigma being attached to a property, you will also sell for less down the road and could possibly even face trouble selling, especially in a soft market.

If there is something you should disclose, please disclose it instead of costing yourself and the buyer unnecessary pain and suffering.  Nobody wants a possible legal battle in their future.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,371 other followers