Fresh from a two-year working holiday in New Zealand, newlyweds Stefan and Sonja Iwasawa are ready to settle down and start a family.
And the timing couldn't be better for the biologist and his wife, as housing prices pull back and mortgage rates drop.
Falling Bank of Canada rates are gradually trickling down to the mortgage market and that's starting to attract new homebuyers, while some existing owners are looking to remortgage.
That's helping to buoy consumer confidence after sales plummeted following the uncertainty of the economic meltdown in October.
Brokers are getting busier as a buyers' market develops for first-time buyers and homeowners look into cutting their mortgage payments or financing home improvements.
While a gap remains between the key lending rates and how much banks charge to borrow, mortgages are heading in the right direction for consumers.
"Everyone was talking about it's a good time to buy," Iwasawa said. "We just came back into the country and parents and friends were all saying you don't ever see it this low. We were thinking about doing the family stuff and we thought 'why not jump into the market?'"
They are part of a new wave of first-time buyers now testing the waters. And while housing markets plummet elsewhere in Canada, realtor Doug Belcher said Nanaimo prices haven't fallen as precipitously as many other markets.
"Since October, everyone has been waiting to see what happens. What's happened, interest rates fell and prices slipped a little bit but not as much as everyone was hoping, so people are getting off the fence," Belcher said.
"It's not just first-time homebuyers, people are getting in the market."
And Belcher said he's busier than last year, having closed six deals already, including two in the past week. Three are first-time buyers, one is an employment transfer from Saskatchewan. One is a vacation property and one is an empty-nest couple from Maple Ridge.
Sales volumes are rising after a disappointing December.
"Interest rates are very attractive," said Sue Ghose, Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Nanaimo president.
"People say this is the time, especially for the first-time buyer and if they want to downsize to a condo or townhouse, they have good choices. They know interest rates are affordable now and prices are going down. They want to get in."
Falling prices are putting home ownership within reach for 21-year-old Jake St. Marie and his fianc?e, 19-year-old Venus Hepburn, who just put an offer on a two-bedroom townhouse after watching the market for over a year.
"The same townhome we're looking at now, last year it was $170,000, now it's down around $139,00 or so," said St. Marie, a journeyman mechanic. "And interest rates are definitely dropping."
Falling lending rates are keeping mortgage brokers busy with calls from homeowners looking to remortgage.
This week borrowers could get a variable-rate mortgage at interest rates as low as 3.25% and a five-year fixed mortgage at 4.19%. Cheap money and a good selection of housing gives buyers the luxury to shop around for the right house. The Iwasawas looked nearly eight months checking the market before making an offer on a single-family home.
"They're not actually jumping into it, they're finding what they're looking for and what's affordable to them," said Kim Chalmers, a broker with Invis mortgages. She's pre-approving a lot of buyers for mortgages, but they're taking their time before making an offer. "My phone hasn't stopped ringing."
The rate cut announced this month has caught the attention of homeowners interested in remortgaging to cut their monthly payments.
"Because of the announcement there's probably 40% are for sales and 60% is refinancing," said John Salem, of Essex and Kent Mortgage Centre.
Recent federal tax incentives worth 13% of home improvements also make it worthwhile for homeowners to refinance, while adding a home improvement project to their mortgage.
"I wouldn't say they're flocking in but they're coming in and talking about it," he says.
A homeowner who took on a $200,000, 35-year mortgage at 5.65% 18 months ago would be paying about $1,085 a month. That would be down to $904, including the three-month penalty, by refinancing at 4.19% .
But that depends on the kind of penalty due to the bank on renewal.
That same homeowner's three-month penalty would amount to $2,800. But if, like many mortgages, it includes a interest differential penalty clause, the bank will demand all the interest owing on the mortgage.
"If you're charged interest differential it's close to $6,600, so it doesn't save you anything. It's a waste of time," Salem said.
For Stefan and Sonja Iwasawa, the stars are aligning nicely for their plans to start a family.
"We put an offer in and we're now going through the process," Stefan said.© Nanaimo Daily News
Given that our personal real estate is our most valuable asset it makes sense to maximize every square foot of your property. It's not surprising then to find that people are moving outdoors to create more space at home to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. Today the options for furnishing an outdoor living space are limitless.
An outdoor room is easy to create. The components of such a space usually include a barbecue, seating and dining area, and may incorporate a fireplace, firepit or chiminea. Some outdoor rooms take it further with an outdoor kitchen complete with a refrigerator and dishwasher even. But don't stop there. You can also add a pizza oven, cocktail bar, fountain, trellis, patio heater, hot tub or swimming pool.
Simple or elaborate, an outdoor room is an extension of your home. Keep that in mind when you design your outdoor space. Make it fit your personality and needs. Start by creating a wish list. Flip through magazines and clip pictures that create the look you seek. And remember, an outdoor room can evolve over years if you end up with a large wish list but have a limited budget. The first year, define the grilling, dining and lounging areas. Later you can accessorize. Draw up a plan with a focal point. An outdoor room has many of the same elements as those inside your house. For a foundation, will you have a deck or patio stones? For walls, will there be a fence, retaining wall or hedge? Landscaping becomes the décor for your outdoor space. It can be used to create texture and mood, and to bring cohesion to your room. Next, you'll want to furnish your space—a wide variety of options exist here—enough to suit any outdoor living vision. Finally, don't overlook the lighting. It can be the finishing touch that brings your outdoor space together adding drama and romance. Above all, have fun designing and developing your outdoor room. The goal is to create a space that meets all your needs for comfort and relaxation.
Now more than ever, there are global events, local campaigns and even national government incentives to help Canadians reduce their impact on our planet. Finally, consumers are starting to see options to mobilize change in their own lives that are affordable and attainable. Of course, government rebates sweeten the deal even more. Now is the time for homeowners to invest in “green home makeovers”.
Start off small with simple projects. A good place to start is to evaluate your home's efficiency. When it comes to residential water conservation, auditing one of the most wasteful areas in the home is the first step to improvement: the bathroom.
To see the fastest impact in cost savings and water conservation, start with the toilet. The average Canadian flushes the toilet five times daily. In homes with an industry standard 6.1 litres per flush toilet, that works out to more than 30 litres of water per day, per person. That's more than one billion litres across the country every day. In older homes, toilets are likely to use between 13 and 20 litres per flush. These are the toilets in most urgent need of replacement.
Dual flush toilets, which provide liquid and solid waste disposal options, use considerably less – either 3.8 or 4.3 litres per flush depending on the flushing option you choose. Switching to dual flush can save an average household of four people anywhere between 7 and nearly 19,000 litres of water in a year. Depending on what you pay for water and how often you use the light flushing option, the cash savings can be substantial.
Kohler's Persuade and San Raphael models are just a few of the dual flush options to choose from. Starting as low as $460, your rebate and long term water savings will pay for the upgrade in no time.
Now that the benefits of dual flush are clear, understanding rebate programs can help you save before the toilet is even installed. Here's how many rebate programs work:
1) Get an application form from the governing authorities. Reviewing their unique requirements and rules is important, as some details differ across the country.
2) Review a list of approved toilet models to ensure you're considering an eligible product.
3) Purchase and install your toilet. Dispose of your old toilet. In some regions, before and after images are requested as proof of the upgrade – be sure you look into this before disposing of your old toilet.
4) Submit all required forms and original proof of purchase to the authority issuing the rebate.
A simple and relatively inexpensive toilet upgrade is a great way to begin your green home makeover. Most rebate programs are available for a limited amount of time, so if you're considering an upgrade now is the time to research your options and invest in the right places.
(Nanaimo is offering a $75 rebate for switching from 13 litre toilets to 6 litre (Call the city to find out what toilets qualify for the rebate)
Staying in a hotel and enjoying the perks that come along with it can be very relaxing and help us unwind from our busy lives. Unfortunately, getting away from it all is not always possible.
Here are some tips to help you bring the benefits and comforts of your favourite hotel into your home:
Invest in high thread count bedding and luscious pillows for maximum sleep comfort. In the winter, a heated blanket can offer a cozy welcome to your sheets.
Add a mini bar fridge (with small freezer compartment) to your bedroom and keep items like juice, bottled water, beer, wine and other goodies. I was a room service manager at Hyatt Hotel and mixed nuts, chocolate and mini bottles of liquor were always popular. I would suggest just a cryslal decanter of your favorite Scotch or Cognac etc.
Scented linen sprays not only make the bed smell wonderful, but can also help you relax after a long day. Scents such as lavender and vanilla can be very soothing and comforting.
Add a leather padded headboard to your bed.
Many boutique hotels feature shower systems with raincan showerheads, massaging hand shower options and even body sprays. Such shower systems can be a wonderful addition to your relaxation routine.
Treat yourself to aroma therapy bath and body wash for a calming shower experience. To feel invigorated in the morning, try lemon or ginger scented products. Install a gas fireplace into the wall and add bookcases to either side.
Add closet a light that turns on automatically when door is opened or a motiion deteted switch in a walk-in closet.
Keep a warm robe and comfy slippers near the bed at all times for maximum luxury.
Breakfast can help start the day off right. Trade breakfast duties with your partner so once a week, you can each enjoy a nutritious, delicious breakfast in bed!
Set aside one evening a week to go to bed early and enjoy your favourite book, magazine or television show. It will go a long way in making you feel well rested the next morning.
Waiting for a good deal to get even better has its risks. With housing prices so affordable at long last, the home of your dreams may finally be within your grasp. Or the grasp of somebody else.
Prices are low, interest rates are even lower. In fact the mortgage rates now are the lowest in history. If you are thinking about investing your money and are disappointed in bonds, stocks and other investments now may be the time you wish to invest in a rental property. If you are renting now is a great time to break free of monthly rental fees and build some equity of your own.
Nobody sells more real estate than RE/MAX.
I post both my cell and office number so my clients can reach me anytime. I am always happy to discuss your Nanaimo real estate needs.
Office 1-5140 Metral Dr. Nanaimo