The real deal: expert advice from real estate agent Lisa Coates

Whether you’re selling or buying, the list of burning questions can be endless. Lisa Coates helps you check off a few of them.

Lisa Coates - JESSICA EMIN
Jessica Emin
Lisa Coates

I’m looking to sell my house. Is there ever a “good” time to put it on the market?
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average time on market in the greater Halifax area in January 2015 is 104 days. With this said, if you plan to be in your new home within four months, today is a good time to put your home on the market. There are people buying homes every day for various reasons: promotion at work, divorce, job transfer, downsizing, growing family...the list goes on. If you wait for the so-called “best” time it may not coincide with your reason to sell. For instance you may think that waiting until prices go up is a “good” time. And the problem many home sellers don’t consider is that while the value of their home may go up one to two percent in the one-day future, but so will the new home they’re planning to buy.

What should my first step be?
Consult your financial planner if you don’t plan to reinvest the proceeds of the sale into a new home. If you plan to purchase a larger home, then speak with the current holder of your mortgage and find out your options: is your mortgage portable? Is your credit score in the right range to qualify for a new product?

As a buyer, what are my rights as far as special requests for the seller (for things like custom blinds or small fixes). Can you ask for too much?
There’s no such thing as asking for too much, it’s like writing a letter to Santa— you can ask and hope your list will be fulfilled, but remember that you’re buying a house and not the washer/dryer or window coverings. Getting hung up on the small stuff makes you lose sight of the big picture and can cost you the loss of your dream house. Be realistic.

What is one of the biggest mistakes first time home-buyers make?
Not being fully pre-approved for a mortgage. If you did not fill out a application or have your credit run, you are not pre-approved. This is the number-one biggest mistake. It leads to frustration, embarrassment, unnecessary costs for you, the buyer—like home inspection, well inspection, septic inspection. To avoid all of this make an appointment to meet with a mortgage professional.

You talk a lot about location, why is this such an important thing to consider as both a buyer and seller?
When I consult with clients about location, location, location, it holds a lot of variables. For example schools are very important, whether or not you have children you should consider the resale of your property. Another consideration is walkability of the home: are there sidewalks, walking trails, parks and recreation for families to enjoy? Or, is it the perfect home on a winding road with steep incline and no sidewalks? Again, this will effect resale. Proximity to highways is important to commuters, but be careful your backyard isn’t that new highway. Check for planned improvements if you’re planning on purchasing in an area your not familiar with—no one wants their home to be the one that has a 12-month light show in the backyard.
If you’re downsizing and decided to move to the peninsula, be sure to work with an area specialist that knows what’s planned in the neighbourhoods you’re considering to purchase. For instance if a high-rise building with a view of the harbour is your new dream and you find it at a unbelievable price...there might be a reason! I’m not saying any of these items mean you are doomed if you own or plan to buy, but they will effect the resale price and time on market so having a strong negotiator in your corner is recommended.

I think it’s safe to say you should never take expert advice for granted.
A comprehensive consultation with a real estate professional is always advisable. And don’t be afraid to interview at least three agents before making a commitment. I’ve worked with buyers that hired more than one agent to help them, because they wanted a specialist in each neighbourhood they were considering. If this is your choice be sure to let all the agents your working with know your intent. For instance one agent for Dartmouth and another for Halifax downtown, unless your find the needle in the hay stack agent that has experience in both areas.

Lisa’s favourite neighbourhood:
Lower central Halifax, an area between North Park, Barrington, Cogswell and Almon. Oh my god, where do I begin? This area has everything an urbanite could ask for. Cafes, bistros, Tai Chi, yoga, YMCA, live theatre, grocery co-op, business centres, nightlife, shopping...

A proud member of the Sutton Group Professional Realty, Lisa Coates offers an extensive portfolio of passionate real estate experience, including 14 years of experience being licensed in two countries—the US for 10 years and the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors since 2011. A true dog lover, passionate in every aspect of the industry, she brings detailed, professional service to the table.

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