New year, new home? A guide to preparing for your next move

New year, new home? A guide to preparing for your next move

This year has given us all a new perspective on how we want to live, work, and play. Perhaps the most significant change is that after months of lockdown, people want to move into bigger homes with outdoor spaces. While isolating at home, we’ve had to transform our living spaces into offices, schools and gyms, and it’s made many of us see the appeal of a new location and a fresh start in a space more suited to our needs.

Whether you’re thinking about buying for the first time, upgrading, downsizing, investing or moving into a bigger, better rental, here’s a quick guide to preparing for your move:

Renting a nicer (or cheaper) place

The pandemic has drastically slowed down the rental market and right now, you can get a lot more for a lot less. There’s a huge supply of available rental units, and according to PadMapper, the average rental rate is down 17% over this time last year (and here’s some news: Toronto has officially lost it’s ranking as the most expensive market in Canada for renters, with Vancouver taking the top spot).

As a result, we’re in a market where renters have the advantage. Many buildings in the city are offering big incentives to attract new tenants, like free rent, gift cards, and more. If you’ve been thinking about making the move to a bigger unit — or one that will run you less than what you’re paying now — this is a great time to get into a new lease.

Get as much research done online or by talking to an agent as you can to minimize risk during the pandemic. Narrow things down the places you go see in person to the ones with real potential. Some buildings may not be allowing in-person viewings at all right now, so if you’re thinking about taking a place without an IRL visit, look at the listing carefully, get accurate room measurements to ensure your furniture will fit, and ask lots of questions.

Here’s some info to help you plan:

Key in door

Buying your first home

If there’s one good thing that’s come out of this year, it’s the historically low mortgage rates! Affordability has been a real issue in Toronto and the GTA for a while, but this year, we saw many new buyers entering the real estate market for the first time thanks to reduced borrowing costs. We’ve even seen a major bank, HSBC, offer a mortgage rate of less than 1%!

Read more: See what’s in store for 2021

But even with low rates, affordability is still a real challenge to most first-timers. The Toronto market has been insanely hot over the last few months, with prices skyrocketing. If you’re looking to get into a house, know that you’re definitely not alone: demand is nuts, prices for single-family homes are way up, not just in the 416, but across the 905 and beyond. You’ll face some stiff competition, so to buy a house, you’ll need determination and a lot of cash. But it is possible.

If you’re looking for a condo, especially in the 416, that’s a completely different story. There are a lot of units on the market right now. Prices are down, the selection is up, sellers are motivated, and many are negotiating on price. Even if your end goal is a house, if a condo is what you can afford right now, it’s a good way to get into the market and start building equity.

Buying your first place is daunting — we get it, and it’s especially scary right now, with the world in upheaval and a whole lot of uncertainty in so many parts of our lives. But we’re here to help you make the right choices for you, right now. So check out our First-time buyer hub for info on everything from deciding between a house and a condo to navigating bidding wars and bully offers. And of course, you can always talk to one of our agents — they’re Toronto and GTA experts who are happy to guide you through your journey, no matter where you are in the process or how long it takes.

Here are a few resources to help you get started on your planning:

Post-it notes, pen, and calculator

Downsizing (aka rightsizing!)

If you’re thinking about moving from a house to a condo, you’re sitting in a sweet spot right now. Everybody is clamouring for houses, so you’ll probably sell yours fast, for top dollar.

If you’re moving from a larger condo to a smaller one, you’re also in a pretty good position to sell. According to Cameron Miller, a agent who specializes in the luxury condo market, higher-end units are not seeing the same glut of supply as smaller ones — his clients even entered a bidding war on a recent luxury listing.

If you plan to downsize to a house (albeit a smaller one) in the GTA, be prepared for serious competition and paying well over asking. But if moving into a condo is your end goal, you’re in great shape. There’s a ton of supply, a lot less demand than usual, and sellers are often open to negotiating.

Read more: Is now the right time to sell a house and buy a condo? *YES

Another interesting option, if you want to stay in your home but get your equity out of it, is to sell it to an investor who would be open to renting it back to you. More on that here: Approaching retirement? Consider selling your home, then renting.

Whether you’re an empty nester, you’re thinking about retiring soon, or you just want to move to a smaller place (with smaller mortgage payments), here are a few things to line up if you’re planning a move in the coming year.

  • If you need a mortgage, get pre-approved

  • Line up your real estate team (agent, mortgage broker, lawyer, stager, movers)

  • Do some decluttering (sell, give away or donate what you don’t need over time: it can be overwhelming to do it all at once)

  • Do as much of your search as you can online to limit risks

Is it time to upgrade your space?

If you’ve been wanting to move into a bigger condo, you can get a great deal right now. Getting into a house will be tougher, but with persistence and a reasonable budget, it’s totally doable.

However, in either case, you’ll probably need to sell the condo you’re living in now, which may have its challenges. But selling in a down market isn’t impossible: listings are moving, there’s just a lot more of them, so it will probably take longer to find a buyer.

Making your property stand out can really help. Staging your space to show it off to its greatest advantage is a must. And you’ll also need a solid marketing strategy: that’s where working with an experienced agent comes in handy. A knowledgeable realtor can take your marketing to the next level with virtual tours, professional photography, social media pushes and more.

Here are a few resources to help you plan your move:

Coin stacks increasing to a house

Thinking about investing?

If you like the idea of growing your money in real estate, there’s a lot of opportunity in the condo market right now. And while the rental market isn’t great right now, that probably won’t last. If you can carry a unit for a while before finding a renter, you can get a really good value on an investment condo right now. One that will appreciate big-time once our borders open, immigration gets back on track, schools reopen for in-person learning, and businesses move away from fully remote models.

Read more: Is this a good time to invest in a Toronto resale condo? (Again, yes!)

Read more: 4 ways to win as a real estate investor

Whatever move you’re planning to make in 2021, your best bet is to do your research, get your financials organized and line up a great team that will guide you through the process. Talk to an agent today — they’ll help you figure out how to get started, what things you need to think about, and where you’ll find the best values for the type of property you’re looking for.

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