5 Most Common Mistakes First Time Buyers Make

5 Most Common Mistakes First Time Buyers Make When Purchasing Real Estate in Vancouver

Buying a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but it can also be rather stressful.

Not only does it mean making a huge financial investment, but it also requires that you make a number of decisions that will impact your life for years to come. This is especially true in Vancouver, where a red hot market, enhanced mortgage rules and new government regulations add extra pressure to the process of purchasing a home.

In this context, understanding the buying process and learning from people who have previously purchased properties in the city are great ways to make the process of buying a house a little bit easier.

That’s why we’ve put together a list to help you avoid making common mistakes when the time comes to buy a new place.

1. Looking around before you get a mortgage pre-approved

Many people start their search for a new home by going onto the Internet, visiting their bank’s website, and using a basic calculator to get an estimate of their mortgage. 

We highly recommend that you do not do this. 

There tends to be a pretty big difference between what the calculator tells you your mortgage will be and what it ends up being in reality. 

That’s why we believe that it’s critical to have your loan pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) before you even start searching for a home. This will give you a better idea of how much house you can actually afford, whilst also showing sellers and real-estate agents that you’re serious about purchasing.

2. Choosing a bad mortgage

In your urge to start seeing new homes, you may be tempted to accept the first mortgage offered to you–but this is probably not a good idea.

Before you start looking at homes, it’s critical that you actually get a mortgage plan that is right for you. While doing this isn’t easy, it will help guarantee that you are purchasing a home that’s really within your means, which is crucial for long-term financial stability.

That’s why we recommend that you shop around before settling on a mortgage. Try out a few different banks; or better yet, hire a mortgage broker that will help you figure out how much you can truly afford, determine what the best mortgage product is for you, and compare options that help you save money.

3. Not using a realtor

Many home buyers make the mistake of trying to fly solo when looking to purchase a home.

While they may have read some articles and done good research about the home purchasing process, they are in no way qualified to do this on their own. 

That’s why we always recommend that buyers hire a real estate agent to help them throughout the purchasing process. Real estate agents will help you find homes that are within your means, negotiate contracts, and provide support every step of the way.

That’s why it’s critical to find a real estate agent that can help you make a smart purchase.

Wondering how to find a real estate agent that will help you purchase your next home? Make sure you read our post on choosing the right real estate agent for you.

4. Making a “Fed Up” Purchase

One big mistake home buyers make — especially those flying solo — is buying properties out of desperation.

These people tend to buy something that’s barely “good enough” for them, rather than something that really suits their needs, just because they’re sick of the emotional rollercoaster of searching for homes.

While this may seem tempting at the time, it is a terrible idea. Remember, you’ll probably be at your new home for several years so it’s important that you purchase something that will make you happy.

Rather than buying out of frustration, stop looking for a while, or heed our advice and hire a real estate agent that can help you look for properties that tick the boxes you are looking for.

5. Forgetting about closing costs

Not budgeting properly for closing costs is one of the most common mistakes buyers make when purchasing property in Vancouver. 

Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or an experienced purchaser, you need to learn about closing costs–and budget for them properly. Not doing this can land you in a heap of financial trouble and can put the approval of your mortgage at risk.

A few months back I put together a comprehensive guide on closing costs for first time buyers. I highly recommend that all buyers take a look at it. The guide provides great detail about the following closing costs:

  • Mortgage application fee
  • Mortgage default insurance
  • Appraisal fee
  • Survey fee
  • Title insurance
  • Property Transfer Tax
  • Property tax and municipal utilities
  • GST
  • Foreign buyer’s property tax
  • Home inspection fees
  • Legal closing fees e.g. Notarizations
  • Land title registration fee

Avoid common mistakes by getting help from a real estate Notary Public

BC Notaries provide conveyancing and other legal services on more than half of all real estate transactions in B.C. and are highly trained and experienced in both simple and complex real estate transactions.

By giving you professional legal guidance on the purchase of a home, notaries will help you navigate through this often daunting process and help make it much easier for all buyers.

Want to know more? Get in touch now.

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9 Critical Reasons You Shouldn't DIY A Will

9 Critical Reasons You Shouldn’t DIY a Will

People who know me know I’m not a DIY fan.

It’s empowering to do something yourself. There is a satisfying sense of accomplishment that comes with the successful completion of a project. I also love cutting costs by doing things on my own, and often learn new skills in the process.

But even an avid DIY fan like me knows that there are some things that I simply can’t do by myself.  I also know the value of working with a professional.

Some of them are obvious. Like open-heart surgery or building an aircraft.

But others aren’t so straightforward, like legal documents. Even as an experienced BC Notary, I know there are certain legal documents that I can’t prepare on my own. I accept that and defer to other experts when I need these documents.

This is why I’m concerned about a growing trend: people wanting to DIY their Wills (often using the internet as their only source of information).

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal: cutting costs, avoiding the hassle of having to see a professional, the satisfaction of learning a new skill. These reasons are valid, but trust me when I say, it’s just not worth it.

In the best of cases, DIY Wills are often ineffective, and seriously hinder the chances that your wishes are followed.

In the worst of cases, they are deemed invalid by the courts and leave your loved ones scrambling to figure out what to do with your estate.

The final decision to DYI your Will is yours to make, but at least you won’t be able to say that I didn’t warn you…

1. It May Affect the Validity of Your Will

In B.C. and in many other jurisdictions across Canada and the United States, certain formal elements must be in place in order for a will to be valid. If the procedures aren’t followed correctly, then the whole will is deemed invalid.

There are legalities to consider, and you’ll need to make some difficult decisions about the future of your estate. It’s advisable to have an expert that can help you understand the legal consequences of your decisions.

2. You May Choose the Wrong Executors or Guardians

Executors play a central role in the administration of a will. Without good executors, the final division of your estate can cause huge headaches to everyone involved. Guardians take care of our Children should we not be there.  Should they be the same person? Do you know why it’s good for them to be different people? Have you thought about checks and balances?

DIY-ing your Will may lead you to make bad or inappropriate choices about executors and guardians.

3. How Much Do You Know About Taxes Anyway?

Many people forget that taxation plays a central role in estate planning and wills drafting. When a BC Notary drafts a will, they can tell you what type of taxes a person will have to pay in estate and transfer taxes, giving you the information to adequately divide your estate.

Without understanding how taxes work and what role they plan in estate transfers, there’s a chance you may be burdening your loved ones with heavy taxes.

4. When It Comes to Wills, One Size Does Not Fit All

In general, DIY legal service providers create one will template, but not everybody’s situation is the same. BC Notaries create a will to meet your estate needs, personalizing your will so that it is both valid and effective.

DIY Wills Are Can Be More Expensive Than You Expect

5. Assets May Not Be Net Assets (Mortgages and Taxes)

Whenever you write a Will with the assistance of a legal professional, you are walked through a series of questions that help you account for the totality of your estate.

Only once your estate is properly assessed, will a Will be drafted to divide your estate as you see fit. DIY-ing you Will may cause your assets to be divided differently then you wished because they are not properly accounted for.

6. Mistakes Can Cost a Fortune (Literally)

The whole point of making a Will in the first place is to decide what you want to do with your estate. Whether it’s big or small, your estate comprises of the fortune that you were able to build over your lifetime.

DIY legal service sites can make it sounds like creating a Will is simple. But it isn’t. And mistakes cost money. In fact, ineffective wills can end up costing your family thousands of dollars in legal fees down the road. That can mean that your fortune — big or small — can end up going to covering those fees rather than to your loved ones.

7. Your Intentions May Not Be as Clearly Stated as You Think

No matter how much research you do, you probably don’t speak legalize, (which is how I call the oh-so-complicated language of the law). So even though you (and other normal humans) think that your Will is clear, without proper training, there’s a good chance that your wishes may not be clear for the law.

If this happens a court case is required to determine the correct meaning of the Will, costing your family their precious money and time.

8. You Don’t Get to Talk Through Your Estate Plan

One of the big benefits of working with a BC Notary is that you get to discuss your estate plan, ask questions, and get advice about the best way to structure things.  

Our experience makes the process much easier to work through.  Common feedback we hear is that “that was much easier than I expected”.  We also hear that “I feel like a heavy load has been lifted from me”.

Let us do the heavy lifting. You’ll feel better having these important details sorted out.

9. Learn about Powers of Attorney or Representation Agreements

BC Notaries can help with Wills, but we also prepare and advise on Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements.  

For a complete estate plan and to provide full protection; it’s important to discuss if a Power of Attorney and/or Representation Agreement is something you can consider and learn about when working with a professional as opposed to a DIY wills kit.

Create A Valid Will

At David Watts, Notary Public, we can help you write your Will.

We have more than a decade of experience helping people with their estate planning and can give you the advice you need to write a valid and effective Will.

Get in touch and we’ll make sure your Will reflects your wishes. 

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2018 Winner of Georgia Straight’s – Best of Vancouver

Every year Vancourites vote in the Georgia Straight’s Best of Vancouver. Getting to the top is no easy feat – there are so many great businesses servicing the community!

This year we received first place as the “Best Notary”. Previously, our category was called:  “Best Lawyer/Notary When Buying/Selling Real Estate”. This is our ninth win!

A big thank you to all of our amazing clients and referral partners, we couldn’t do it without you.

We are fortunate to have an incredible team working behind the scenes to make the magic happen. Read on to find out what they love about their work and as they share their own Best of Vancouver.

David Watts, Notary Public

What I love about my work:

I love making a difference for people. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to go the extra mile and help people get their real estate transaction done despite challenging circumstances and tight timelines. This is where our office really shines and I’m always happy to hear from clients how one of our team has helped them or done some excellent work.

I also really like sitting down with people to help with their Wills. It’s a chance to get to know my clients and help provide comfort around recording their wishes with their planning documents. Wills Clients often say that the process was much easier than they expected and that they feel like a large burden has been lifted. I love it when people tell me how they feel after they’ve worked with us; it’s always very satisfying.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

What I like most about Vancouver is the proximity to a variety of outdoor activities.  I love being outside. Vancouver has hiking opportunities, great beaches, golf courses, amazing skiing fairly close by at Whistler; trails around Burrard Inlet and False Creeks.  There so much to do; you can find something outside almost always.

It doesn’t hurt if you have good rain gear this time of year!

Clinton Lee, Notary Public

What I love about my work:

Being able to assist the community with legal services that allow them to move forward in life. Whether it’s allowing a minor to travel with a parent to another country through a notarized consent form or assisting first time home buyers in purchasing their first home, the reward comes with the satisfaction of knowing that each person was able to make a positive step in their life through our services.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

The ability to obtain virtually any type of food you want. Vancouver holds some of the most amazing world cuisines and having it close by brings so many options and opportunities to always be trying something new.

Liana Zhou, Conveyancing Secretary

What I love about my work:

Helping clients to complete their real estate transactions and hearing back their excitement and a massive smile :).

I always feel happy and supported working with our team. When there’s a huge challenge, we are always here for each other and we fix the issues together.

I also love the degree of control and flexibility with my job. If needed, I am able to make perfect arrangements with our team to accommodate any circumstance.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

The food! We have so much variety.

Besides trying out new foods, I love to walk my dog, Milo, in the parks, exploring new trials, and meeting new furry friends in my days off!

Hanlu (Lulu) Deng, Conveyancing Secretary

What I love about my work:

99% of the time, I bring good news to people – the emotional reward from clients makes me feel happy to work.

Our system is really well designed and I love to complete my work in an effective and efficient system – I get a sense of satisfaction regarding my everyday tasks.

I love our team. There’s no stress working together, everyone supports each other and we face problems as a team. Everyone is willing to help each other.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

The top of Blackcomb Mountain during winter and Rivendell Retreat Centre in Bowen Island. I love to ski, hike, swim and eat with my family.

Adrienne Voute, Wills and Advance Planning Secretary

What I love about my work:

The legal profession offers people the opportunity to continually learn. I like working hard and developing a skill until I am good enough to help others benefit from it.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

One place I really enjoyed this summer was the Steveston Country Farms. I went just before the beginning of fall and all the cute farm animals really put me in an autumn mood.  If you go, grab some of their fresh produce before winter comes and they close for the year.

Samantha Lee, Reception & Conveyancing Assistant

What I love about my work:

I love how everyone in our office works to the best of our abilities and genuinely care about the people we work with.

My favourite thing about Vancouver:

I love hiking our mountains and running our trails… give Golden Ears and Burnaby Lake a shot.

Thanks again!

We are grateful that we earned the appreciation of our clients, peers, and friends to win again this year.

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How to Choose the Right Mortgage Broker

In 2016, 57 percent of first-time home buyers in Canada got their mortgages from a broker.

The staggering figure, which was published in a recent survey by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is indicative of a broader trend: more and more Canadians are choosing brokers over banks when it comes to purchasing or refinancing their mortgages.

People are choosing brokers over banks because brokers often can give personalized advice on a mortgage and shop around between lenders to find better deals.

This flexibility can really make life easier and help cut costs, but here’s the catch about brokers: it’s tough to find the right person for the job.

The quality of your broker will help make sure funds are ready when the deal needs to complete and determine your financial situation for the next few years, so if you’re looking to buy a new home it’s important that you find a broker who’s both qualified and trustworthy.

What Does a Good Mortgage Broker Do?

A good broker will help you figure out how much you can truly afford, determine what the best mortgage product is for you, and shop around for options that help you save money.

But their job doesn’t end there.

Your broker should also help you after review your mortgage a few times a year to see how you can pay it off faster, whether it’s still the right product for you, and if it’s still competitive.

Here are a few characteristics of good mortgage brokers:

  • They’re always one step ahead of you
  • They make your interests theirs
  • They have good communication skills
  • They deliver on their promises
  • They have a positive attitude
  • They listen to you and can give good advice based on your desires
  • They stay in touch with you after you sign a contract

How to Pick the Right Mortage Broker

Choosing the right mortgage broker is easier using these steps:

Phase 1: Make a  List

Write a list with the names of brokers you may know, you find and are referred to you.  If you have co-workers or friends who have bought a home recently; or renewed their mortgage; ask how they liked working with their broker and who they were.  

Ask your BC Notary, lawyer or Realtor for a referral for people they have worked with and they should be able to tell you fairly quickly who they know, like and trust.  

You can also search online to find mortgage brokers in your area.  We know a number of brokers and would be happy to provide some names of competent professionals to help you find the right fit.

Phase 2: Research

Before you even start talking to potential mortgage brokers, it’s important that you do some preliminary research.  

Search online. A quick Google search will give you the names of mortgage brokers that operate in your area. 

Many of these brokers will have websites and online profiles. High profile ones may even have peer-reviews posted websites like Yelp.

Visit their websites, check them out on LinkedIn, and read reviews. Doing this will give you insight into the the broker’s past work and reputation. 

While you’re at it, do a quick search on the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals’ website. The organization also has an online directory that can help you make sure that the broker is accredited.

Ask around. Once you’ve created a shortlist of potential mortgage brokers based on your research, start asking around for reviews and recommendations.

Talk to friends, colleagues and neighbours, and see if they have worked with anyone on your list, or if they have anyone else to recommend. If someone has had anything less than a good experience with an broker, immediately cross them off the list.

Reach out. Once you have a list of potential mortgage brokers, it’s time to contact them. See what kind of vibe you get and ask if they have references from previous clients. If you get a good vibe, keep them on the list, and coordinate a time to meet them. If you don’t get a good vibe, cross them off immediately.

Phase 3: Interview, Interview, Interview

By the end of the research phase, your list of potential mortgage brokers should have at least three strong candidates. The next step is to meet up with them.

These interviews may seem intimidating at first, but remember: You’re in control. They have to impress you, not the other way around. 

These interviews are important to figure out if the broker has the perfect balance between credentials and chemistry.

During each interview, make sure you ask yourself if this is a person you like and trust–and don’t forget to ask them the following four questions…

Four Key Questions to Ask a Potential Mortgage Broker

4 questions to ask a mortgage broker

1. How long have you been in business?

While experience may not necessarily equate good service, it is important to know how long a mortgage broker has been in business. 

Mortgage brokers with experience will generally have cultivated relationships with more lenders. This means that they will be able to shop around for deals from a wider pool of lenders.

2. How many lenders do you deal with?

Regardless of experience, good brokers deal with many lenders.

High-volume brokers can negotiate better deals, helping you find something that best suits your needs. Low-volume brokers may have less options.

3. What’s the application process like?

Many brokers offer online platforms that help you compare costs and easily apply for loans.

Be sure to ask about average closing times, specific requirements (credit score, down payment, debt-to-income ratio, etc.), and all documents you will need throughout the entire process.  

4. What will my mortgage look like?

Not all mortgages are the same so find the one that works for you.  Make sure to consider things like prepayment privileges, porting, and assuming mortgages as well as whether to go with fixed or variable rates.  Is CMHC Insurance a consideration or can I have my property taxes collected with my mortgage payment?  

Discussing these topics and asking broker’s opinion will help you get to know then; educate you and also show them you know what type of questions to ask regarding your mortgage.

What now?

Now that you know how to choose a mortgage broker, it’s time to go out there and start your search. 

Good luck and have fun!  Let me know if you have any questions or would like a referral.

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[Infographic] The Home Buyer’s Quick Guide To Vancouver’s Empty Home Tax

After the Vancouver City Council passed the controversial Empty Home Tax By-Law, dozens of homeowners and buyers have come to my office asking about the whether it applied to them.

We’ve created this handy infographic that will help explain the Empty Home Tax.

It also details how to overcome the biggest risk to home buyers – getting hit with a $10,000+ tax from before they owned the property.

For a more detailed explanation of the Empty Home Tax, see this post.

If you find this infographic helpful, you can use it on your site. See below for full permission details.

The Home Buyer's Quick Guide To Vancouver's Empty Home Tax

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7 Crucial Times You Need To Update Your Will

7 Crucial Times You Need To Update Your Will

When you have a will you are already the type of person who knows it’s never too early plan for the future.

You know that an accident might happen at any time. You know that unless you’re prepared, your loved ones may be left struggling to deal with your estate.

That’s why you got a will.

However, once a will is created, it’s not necessarily done for good.

Things change.

Your family may have changed. People may have passed away or moved on from your life.

Or your financial situation may have evolved.

We recommend that you review your will every three to five years.  If things in your life have changed, it may be a good time to update your will.

Here are 7 reasons why you should consider updating your will.

1. You’ve Had Children

Becoming a parent is one of the main reasons why people get a will in the first place.

A will can allow you to name a guardian for your children and help you provide for them financially if something happens to you.

If you wrote your will before becoming a parent, or if your family has grown to include more children, you should definitely consider updating your will.

Doing this will ensure that everyone is taken care of and that your estate is divided equally among your children.

2. You’ve Had Grandchildren

The arrival of a new grandchild is rarely met with the thought of immediate succession planning, but it’s important that you update your will whenever this happy event happens.

Many people like help grandchildren with the cost of education or buying a first home. Updating your will allows that each of your family is taken care of when you pass away. 

3. Someone In Your Family Passed Away

When you lose someone, especially an executor or a beneficiary, it’s time to update your will.

If your spouse passes away, you may need to update your will to reflect this. This change will ensure that you control how your estate gets divided among all the other beneficiaries to your will.  You should also review your previous “alternate” plans are now consistent with what you wish to be your primary plan.

4. You’re Separating And/Or Getting A Divorce

Without changing your will, you can subject your family to legal battles with an old spouse who is still your executor or beneficiary. This can make an already difficult time very stressful.

If you are in this situation, update your will immediately.

5. Changes To Your Executor

Wills usually name an executor who is responsible for carrying out the instructions laid out in the will.

This person is in charge of completing an inventory and valuation of all assets and debts. They also gather the names and addresses of all beneficiaries and next-of-kin, and wrap up your personal matters (among many others).

This person plays a central role in ensuring that your wishes are respected once you pass away. It’s important to make sure that they are still up for the task.

There are a number of reasons why you may need to update your will executor, including:

  • They have passed away.
  • They moved to a different country.
  • Your relationship has changed and it’s no longer appropriate.
  • Someone else is a better choice.

6. Your Financial Situation Has Changed

Changes in your financial situation are another good reason to update your will.

Regardless of whether these changes are positive or negative, they affect the way in which you want to divide your estate.

Positive changes may motivate you to include more people in your will, while negative changes may push you to prioritize.  

7. A Law Has Changed

Laws change all the time, and they may affect the validity of your will.

For example, a few ago the B.C. legislature amended the B.C. Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), creating major changes in the ways in which wills were drafted and executed.

These changes may render your will invalid or alter the way it is interpreted. If your will is over two years old, you may need to have it updated.

Do You Need to Update Your Will?

If you think that it is time to update your will or want to find out how to proceed, speak to a BC Notary or a lawyer.

As you revise your succession plans, it’s important to get the right help to make sure that your new will meets all legal requirements.

BC Notaries and lawyers can also help you make sure that the will reflects exactly what you want to happen if something happens to you.

Get in touch if you have questions or need help with your will.

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3 Reasons Smart Baby Boomers Get A Representation Agreement

3 Reasons Smart Baby Boomers Get A Representation Agreement

Representation Agreements let you decide in advance who can make health decisions for you in the event you can’t make them yourself.

The golden years offer very different opportunities then they have in the past.

Many Boomers live long lives and are very active. And while the spirit may still feel young, the body, unfortunately, doesn’t always get the memo.

As people grow older, the chances of having accidents or suffering serious health issues grow significantly.

According to a report by the Canadian Medical Association, nearly three-quarters of Canadians over 65 have at least one chronic health condition. The report also states that 62% of hospitalizations for Boomers are due to unexpected falls.

As you get older you need to be ready for the very real possibility that something could happen. A situation may arise leaving you incapacitated and unable to make health decisions for yourself. 

What is a Representation Agreement?

A Representation Agreement is a legal document that allows a person (or a group of people) to make personal care and health decisions for someone else.

This allows someone you trust to manage your affairs if you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions due to illness, injury, or disability.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you need a Representation Agreement, here’s 3 great reasons…

1. You Choose The Person (Or People) To Represent You

Without a Representation Agreement, a doctor or healthcare provider will choose your Temporary Substitute Decision Maker (TSDM) if you can’t make your own decisions.

This person is selected based on the Health Care Consent Act. Your spouse would be the first choice, followed by one of your children.

Your TSDM is required by law to make decisions based on your best interests. However, this person may not necessarily be the person you want, or may not know what type of care or treatment you would prefer.

The Role of a Representative

A Representation Agreement allows you to choose in advance who you want to represent you. The only people who can’t be appointed as representatives are paid caregivers.

Most people chose a spouse, partner, friend or family member in their representation agreement. 

The representative’s main responsibility is to assist a person to make a decision for themselves. This means that before making any decision, the representative is legally obligated to try to determine your current wishes.

If you are completely incapacitated and your current wishes cannot be determined, then your representative will follow what has been outlined in your Representation Agreement.

As a last resort, the representative will make a decision based on what they think is in your best interest while consistent with your values.

2. You Have Control Of The Important Decisions

A Representation Agreement will allow you to dictate your specific wishes regarding your physical, emotional and personal needs. These include:

  • Advocating for you
  • Giving or withholding consent for medical treatments
  • Where you will live (and with whom)
  • Whether to admit or discharge you from a care facility
  • Planning of support and services
  • Who has visitation rights
  • Care staff management
  • Spiritual matters
  • Whether you want to refuse CPR or have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
  • End of life decision making
  • Diet and grooming
  • Care of pets
  • Participation in activities and exercise

Peace of mind

Without a Representation Agreement, your TSDM is unable to make any of these decisions on your behalf. Their power is limited to immediate minor and major healthcare decisions such as surgeries and routine treatments.

With a Representation Agreement, you have the peace of mind that your wishes and beliefs will be carried out if you are incapacitated.

3. It’s Less Stress For Loved Ones

When someone you love experiences a serious health issue it’s stressful, and depending on the severity, often heartbreaking. The last thing anyone needs is additional stress during this time.

The benefit in organizing a Representation Agreement in advance is that you have made a plan, selected the right person (or people) for the task and discussed it with them prior to the document being signed.

In the unfortunate event that something does happen that requires the Representation Agreement to take effect, your loved ones are adequately prepared.

You Are Prepared

Types of Representation Agreements

There are two types of Representation Agreements:

Standard Powers (Section 7)

A Section 7 Representation Agreement allows a chosen representative to take control over minor and major health care, personal care, legal affairs and routine financial affairs.

Someone can sign this type of Representation Agreement even if they cannot manage their own affairs or make decisions independently, which is why it’s purposefully limited.

It does not hand over responsibility for larger decisions regarding finance and end of life options.

A Section 7 Agreement requires a lesser degree of mental capacity when signing and may be appropriate for people with diminished capacity who need day to day help.

Enhanced Powers (Section 9)

Section 9 Representation Agreements are much broader in scope and are signed before there is any question regarding a person’s mental capability or competency.

These agreements are comprehensive and grant representative powers regarding all health matters, including end of life decision making.

The 2 Types of Representation Agreements

Next Steps

The important things to consider in moving forward are who you would want to name as your decision maker(s).  You may name an alternate should the person you choose be unable to act when called upon.  Your Notary can help guide you, discuss the process and answer questions when we meet.

To find out more including information about our process and receiving a quote for us to provide this service; please call or email us.  We are happy to assist you directly or to provide a referral for a notary or lawyer in your area.

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First Time Homebuyers Guide to Real Estate Closing Costs

The First Time Homebuyer’s Guide to Real Estate Purchase Closing Costs In Vancouver

Buying your first house is an exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking) time.

When you’ve never purchased property before, you might be surprised when you find out about some of the costs associated with closing a deal.

Budgeting for these costs is important because you’ll be required to show proof you have the funds to cover your downpayment and closing costs to secure your mortgage.

This guide will help save you from being surprised by unexpected closing costs.

1. Mortgage Costs

Mortgage Costs

Mortgage Application Fee

If you’re applying for a mortgage, your bank or lender may also charge a mortgage application fee, though usually only with private rather than institutional lenders.  Keep this in mind when you are shopping around for mortgages.

BC HOME Partnership Program

When you are borrowing a portion of your down payment through the BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity (HOME) Partnership Program, there will be additional fees of $560  for their lawyer fees to complete the loan.

Thankfully this isn’t something that you have to pay upfront, it is added to your loan.

Mortgage Default Insurance

If you’re taking out a mortgage for over 80% of the appraised value of the house, you will also have to take out a mortgage default insurance. Here is a link to the premium calculator for Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC).

This ensures that the bank will not lose any money if you cannot make your mortgage payments and the value of your home is not sufficient to repay your debt.

Appraisal Fee

If the bank requires an appraisal of the home before approving your loan, you will probably have to pay the appraiser’s fee.

Survey Fee

Property boundaries and compliance cannot usually be determined without an up to date Survey Certificate.  A survey is prepared by a Land Surveyor and the cost varies depending on the region.  Your bank may also require that you present a survey certificate that shows exactly where the boundaries of the property are and where the buildings fall within them.

If the previous owners can’t provide this certificate, you’ll have to pay for the surveyor’s fee.

Title Insurance

Many lenders require title insurance before they will advance mortgage funds.

Title Insurance may insure the Lender and the Owner in the event of defects in title that are not readily apparent.  If you wish to have further information on Title Insurance, please contact my office and I will give you the information to contact a title insurance provider so that you may discuss the limits of coverage with them.

2. Government Taxes

Government Fees

Property Transfer Tax

In B.C., the provincial government collects a property transfer tax that must be paid before any home can be legally transferred to a new owner.

The Property Transfer Tax (PTT) is a tax of 1% on the first $200,000, 2% on the value up to $2,000,000 and 3% of the remaining value of the purchase price.

Some buyers (including qualified first-time buyers) may be exempt from this tax.

Property Tax and Municipal Utilities

This cost catches many people by surprise.

If the current owners have already paid the city in full for the house’s yearly property tax (and utilities if billed separately), then you will have to reimburse them for your share of the year’s taxes.

GST

If the home you are purchasing is newly constructed or substantially renovated, you may have to pay 5% of the purchasing price on GST. However, there are some rebates available, depending on the value of the home.

Foreign Buyer’s Property Tax

In B.C., the government has introduced an additional 15% property transfer tax on foreign nationals, corporations, and trusts that are buying in Metro Vancouver.

The tax does not apply to Canadian citizens or permanent residents or foreigners living in Canada on a work permit.

3. Other Fees

Other Fees

Home Inspection Fees

While it’s not necessary to have a home inspection, it’s a good investment to make sure you don’t unknowingly become responsible for any major defects of the property.

Legal Closing Fees

During the purchase process, you will need to hire notary public or a lawyer that will review the contract and title; prepare documentation necessary for the transaction, handle the exchange of funds and register the application to transfer ownership of the property as well as secure the new mortgage. They will charge a fee for their services and disbursements for due diligence requirements.  Fees vary from office to office, but are fairly consistent as there is competition is providing this service.  You will hear the term “Conveyance” or “Conveyancing” which refers to this process and loosely means to convey legal title of the property from Seller to Buyer.

Land Title Registration Fee

Whenever a title is registered with B.C. Land and Survey, a small fee must be paid. Normally (but not always) this fee is paid for by the lawyer or notary public and included as a disbursement on their accounts.

Utility Bills

You may be required to reimburse the seller for any utilities (water, sewerage, garbage, recycling, drainage) paid to the city in advance.

Strata Fees

Check with the Strata to find out when your fees are due as you may have to pay them soon after you move in.

General moving costs and “Move In” Fees.

Moving house costs money. Whether you hire a moving company, or hire a truck and move yourself, you are going to have out of pocket expenses.  Many Condominiums in Vancouver also have “Move In” fees.  Your notary or lawyer will generally pay these on your behalf.

You may also be required to pay for connecting your new utilities in your new home.

Got more questions?

If you have any questions regarding closing costs or need assistance with your Real Estate transfer, we can help.

Contact our office for further information, for a quote on your transaction and to make an appointment for your real estate closing.

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Why Your Child Needs a Travel Consent Letter (Even If They Are with You)

As a parent, one of the most enriching gifts you can give your kids is the gift of travel.

Travel is a fun and exciting time for children. Visiting new places and seeing different cultures opens their eyes to experience the world in a new way. 

Studies have shown that travelling provides social and neurological benefits for children, and teaches them positive life lessons that can stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

But before you pack their bags and take them to the airport, you might need to take care of a little extra paperwork.

Unless a child travels with both parents, a travel consent letter ensures your child will get to their destination and back without delays from authorities.

What Is A Travel Consent Letter?

Travel consent letters are documents designed to protect children from abduction and trafficking.

They demonstrate that children who travel alone, with only one parent/guardian, with friends, relatives, or groups (e.g. sports, school, musical, religious) have been given permission to travel by all of their parents (or guardians).

While Canada does not legally require that children carry a travel consent letter when travelling, it’s an asset, especially on international trips where it may be requested by:

  • Immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country.
  • Airline agents.
  • Canadian officials when re-entering Canada.

Failure to produce a letter upon request may result in delays or refusal to enter or exit a country.

When Do You Need A Travel Consent Letter?

Travel consent letters aren’t only for minors travelling alone or with people other than their parents. If a child is travelling with only one of their parents, they should have a travel consent letter.

At any given time, Canada deals with an estimated 300 cases of parental abductions. The letter proves the legitimacy of the travel and protects the travelling parent from further investigation.

When the child is travelling with both birth parents, a travel consent letter is not necessarily needed. One should be carried following circumstances:

  • They are travelling with only one parent as that parent is single, separated or divorced.
  • They are travelling with parents who have different last names.
  • The parents are travelling together but will travel separately with the child for a portion of the trip.
  • The children are travelling alone or with a school, tour groups, sports team or social group.
  • The children are travelling with grandparents, other family members or friends who are accompanying children without their parents present.

What Ages Require A Travel Consent Letter?

The age requirement for a travel consent letter depends on your country of destination. 

In most cases, anyone considered a minor may need a travel consent letter to enter or exit a country on their own, or with only one parent/guardian.

In some cases, that may mean anyone under the age of 21, 19 or 18. 

What Destinations Require A Travel Consent Letter?

While it is common for Canadian authorities to ask for a travel consent letter to begin travel, some countries may also require one to enter or leave. Some countries are stricter than others when dealing with letters of consent.

Countries requiring travel consent letter include (but are not limited to):

  • Australia
  • Costa Rica
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • USA

It’s also smart to have your travel consent letter notarized as some countries require it.

Always check with the consulate of the countries you are visiting before your child begins their journey.

What To Include On A Travel Consent Letter

According to the Government of Canada, a travel consent letter should include the following information:

  • Names of the children with their passport number, country of issue, place and date of birth, birth certificate number and country of birth.  
  • Full names and contact information for each parent.
  • Name, passport number and relationship to the child of the adult responsible for travelling with the child.
  • Travel dates and details of the trip including contact information for where the child will be staying.
  • Signatures of the parent(s) providing consent signed in the presence of a notary public.

In general, travel consent letter are only valid for the trip in which they are used; however, they may be tailored if you take frequent short tips across the border and would still indicate a travel period, such as being valid for 1 year.  

Most times a child travels without both of their parents, they will need a new travel consent letter.

Additional Travel Documentation May Be Required

It’s always important to check regulations with the consulates of countries you are visiting, as there may be stricter travel requirements.

For example, depending on the parental situation, the following documents may be required:

  • The long form birth certificates showing both parent’s full names.
  • A death certificate in the case where one parent is deceased.
  • The court order in the case where one parent has been denied access rights.
  • A court order stating the accompanying person is the child’s guardian or custodian.
  • An original travel consent letter translated into the language of the country being visited.

Travelling With Children Checklist

1. Determine who your children are travelling with

If it’s both their parents (or guardians) on every leg of the journey, bring birth certificates to show you are both their parents. Otherwise…

2. Contact the Consultant of the countries being visited

Find out the different types of travel documents you may be required to provide.

3. Make sure everyone travelling have their passports and appropriate visas

For peace of mind, passports should have an expiry date over 6 months away. Take photocopies that are stored in separate luggage in case they are lost or stolen.

4. Have both parents complete travel consent letters

You can download templates here:

5. For travel with adults other than the parent, consider a representation agreement

Representation agreements allow the adult to make emergency health decisions for your child on your behalf.

6. Contact Us

Most countries require the travel consent letter (and representation agreements) to be notarized.  BC Notaries can help you to draft and/or sign your travel consent letter.  Phone or email and we can provide a template, draft a letter and/or schedule your signing appointment.

Now that the important paperwork is taken care of, your kids can have a great trip!

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Georgia Straight’s 2015 Winner Best of Vancouver – Lawyer / Notary to use when Buying / Selling Real Estate

Lawyer / Notary to use when Buying or Selling Real Estate

As a BC Notary office – we perform Real Estate Transfers, prepare Wills and Power of Attorney planning documents and provide general notary services. (including documents for the US and International purposes)

It’s that time of year again.  For the 7th time in the last 7 years; we have been voted by readers of the Georgia Straight as the Best in Vancouver – Winner – in the category of Lawyer or Notary to Use when Buying or Selling Real Estate.  Thank you to all who voted.  An even bigger thank you to Natashia, Adrienne and Simer in my office for your excellent work!!!  You each helped to make this possible.

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