Frequently Asked Questions

  • What features do I want and need in a home?

    Looking for a new home can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many things to think about, so many choices, and often not enough time. A small investment of time and effort right at the start can pay tremendous dividends.

    Take the time to organize your thoughts and think seriously about what sort of home you want before you start looking. It will simplify the process, save you time, and help lead you to the right home for you. Make sure that you talk to KAREN BIFFI before you start your search to help you get organized, answer your questions, and also to raise important questions to ask yourself, such as:
    • Where do I want to live? (community/general area)
    • How much should I expect to spend on purchasing a home?
    • Are schools a factor?
    • Do I want an older home or a new one?
    • What style of home do I prefer? (ranch, colonial, split-level, multi-level, town home, condominium, multi-family, bungalow, other)
    • How much renovation and re-modelling am I willing to do?
    • Is being close to public transportation important?
    • Do I have special physical requirements, such as wheel chair access?
    • Do I have pets to consider?
    • What sort of lot would I like? (small yard, large yard, fenced, garage, patio/deck, other buildings)
    • How many bedrooms do I need? How many would I like to have?
    • How many bathrooms do I need? How many would I like to have?
    • How big a house do I want? How many rooms? How many square feet?
    • What features are important? (air conditioning, carpeting, ceramic tile floors, hardwood floors, eat-in kitchen, separate dining room, formal living room, family room, den, library, basement, separate laundry room, fireplace, workshop, other)
  • How can KAREN BIFFI help?

    As your Realtor, Karen will:

    • Screen the available homes in your neighbourhood to make sure that the houses you look at fit your budget and your requirements
    • Give you important information on local real estate values, taxes, utility costs, services, and amenities
    • Guide you through the viewing process showing you features you may not have noticed and problems you may not have spotted
    • Advise you about your legal and financial options
    • Recommend expert help when needed, such as home appraisal, home inspection, and contracting services
    • Manage your offers and counter-offers, and use his or her skills and experience as a negotiator to make sure you get the best deal possible.
  • Why buy?

    Two out of three Canadian families own a home - that's one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world. And for good reason.
    It is also a good investment. With the increase in house prices, it is all the more important for first-time buyers to get a foot on the first rung of the property ladder.
  • When should I talk to someone about my mortgage options?

    There is nothing more frustrating than falling in love with a home only to discover that it is more expensive than you can afford. To avoid disappointment (and a lot of wasted time and effort) make sure that your finances are in place as soon as possible. Start by pre-qualifying for a mortgage. Based on your income, your expenses, and your debt, your financial institution will help you determine how much you can afford, and how big a loan you can get.
  • What should I look for when viewing a home?

    You pull up to the curb and there it is - the home of your dreams. Calm down. Take a deep breath and start again. The hardest thing to do when looking for a home is to remain objective. It is easy to fall in love with a home's appearance, but it's very important to look beyond the window dressing.

    Here are some things to consider when looking at a home:

    • General upkeep - First appearances do count. Is the home dirty and cluttered? Are the lawns uncut? Are the walls chipped and in need of paint? If the owner hasn't bothered to keep the house looking clean and attractive, what problems are lurking below the surface?
    • Water leaks - Water can do a lot of damage to a home. It rots wood, undermines foundations, and leads to mold and mildew. Re-shingling a house, or repairing a cracked foundation to stop water leaks, can be extremely expensive. It takes an expert eye to find most water leaks (which is why we recommend you have a house inspected before you buy). If you spot stains, bulges and other signs of water damage on ceilings or walls, make special note that there could be a problem.
    • Appliances and fixtures - Test the lights, faucets, toilets, furnace, air conditioning, and all major appliances that are to be included with the home. Make sure everything is working as it should.
    • Floors - Floors should be smooth, even, and solid. Soft springy sections, excessive squeaking, and unevenness are all indications that expensive repairs may be needed.
    • Doors and windows - Check that doors and windows fit snugly and operate smoothly. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking. Check for drafts.
    • Drainage - Walk around the yard looking for areas where water might collect. Soggy areas near the foundation indicate poor drainage.
    • Grout and caulking - If the grout and caulking around bathroom and kitchen tiles are loose and crumbling, there is a good chance water is finding its way into the wall or under the floor.
    • Structural - Look for deep cracks in the foundations or loose mortar and bricks.
    • Furnishings - If you are not planning to replace all of your furniture (and not many people are), make sure it will fit into the rooms of the new house. Be sure to bring a measuring tape. Rooms can be deceptive.
    • Storage space - Make sure your new house has enough storage space for all your belongings. And that means more than just your clothes. Think of all the things that need to find a home - tools, gardening equipment, old toys, sports equipment, and all those wedding presents that are still in their original boxes. Check the size of the closets, the attic, the basement, and the garage. Rule of thumb: there's never enough storage space.
    • Inspection - You should take a long hard look at a house before you put in an offer to protect yourself from disappointment down the road. But, nothing can replace the expert opinion of a qualified home inspector. Inspectors can spot problems that the average person would never find and they can usually advise you on how much it will cost to make the repairs. A home inspection can help you determine whether or not you are going to make an offer on a house, and if you decide to go ahead, just how much that offer is going to be.
  • What are the main elements of an offer?

    • Price The price you offer reflects your opinion of the value of the house and is determined by the condition of the property and local market factors. You can make any offer you like. It does not have to be the same as the seller's asking price.
    • Deposit The deposit shows your good faith and will be applied against the purchase of the home when the sale closes. KAREN BIFFI can advise you on an appropriate amount.
    • Terms Include the total price offered and the financing details. You may arrange your own financing or ask to assume the seller's mortgage, especially if it has an attractive interest rate.
    • Conditions are items that must be completed or fulfilled prior to an offer being concluded. These can include subject to home inspection, subject to you obtaining financing, or subject to you selling your existing property.
    • Inclusions and exclusions Your offer may be contingent on certain items being either included or excluded in the sale. These might include appliances, fixtures, and decorative items, such as window coverings or mirrors.
    • Closing or possession date The closing date is generally the day the title of the property is legally transferred and the transaction of funds finalized, unless otherwise specified (except in Manitoba and Quebec).
  • What does the term closing mean?

    Closing refers to the preparation for the transfer of ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. There is no standard method for closing. In some places, "round table" closings bring all parties together at the closing table. In other areas, buyers and sellers complete the process through separate, individual appointments with their lawyer. KAREN BIFFI will tell you what is customary in your area and help lead you through the process.
  • Who do I contact regarding mortgages and options?

    Certainly your bank will be more than willing to help you, but you are not limited to just your bank. Mortgages are available through a number of financial institutions. It is always wise to shop around for competitive rates and options.
  • With all of the homes on the market, how do I find the one that's right for me?

    Get familiar with the market. Drive around the areas that you are interested in and get an idea of what's available. You will probably use several resources in your search for the right home. These may include friends, the Internet, community newspapers, catalogs from local real estate companies, and don't forget your Realtor. That's why you have one.

    Karen will work with you to expand your choices, making you fully aware of what your home-buying dollar will buy in various communities. Then she or he will help you separate good options from those that are less-than-optimal, educating you on the features and benefits of specific homes and their neighborhoods.
  • How can I tell if I'm choosing the right neighbourhood?

    Canadians are amongst the most fortunate people in the world. Our cities are liveable, our subdivisions neat and attractive, and our neighbourhoods the ideal place to live, work, and play. When it comes to finding the right community in which to live, it's not so much a matter of finding a good community as picking the best of many.

    Karen has a wealth of knowledge about the communities within the North Shore and Vancouver and she can help you choose the one that is best suited to you and your family.

    Here are just some of the things you may want to consider:

    • Environment Ask Karen about any known environmental issues in the area. Check with neighbours and the local media about air, water, and soil quality. Environmental issues can be detrimental to your health and to property values.
    • Appearance Explore the neighbourhood keeping an eye open for signs of neglect, such as overgrown lawns, tired and worn houses, and litter in yards and alleys. No matter how diligent you are at keeping your property in top shape, a run-down neighbourhood will drive your property value down. Crime rate Check with the local police department to find out if the home you are considering is in a safe neighbourhood. Police may be able to provide statistics regarding break-ins and other crimes.
    • Schools If you have children, education is one of the most important considerations in finding a new home. Are there schools within walking distance or will your children have to take the bus? How do the local schools compare to other schools in the area? If your children need them, are there religious or special training educational facilities nearby? Talking to neighbours with school-aged children can be helpful. In some areas school boards can provide important information to help you determine the quality of schooling in a particular neighbourhood or community.
    • Transportation Convenient public transportation, good access roads, and major highways nearby can mean the difference between a pleasurable and not-so-pleasurable commute to work.
    • Amenities Take a look around for all the amenities that you will need: shops, grocery stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, medical and dental offices, parks, and recreational facilities. Having a vibrant community with all the modern conveniences can make life a lot easier.
    • Property valuesProperty values are a pretty good indicator of how well a community is perceived. Your Realtor can tell you how property values have changed over the past few years and how they compare to equivalent communities in nearby areas.
    • Utilities and taxes Avoid unpleasant surprises by finding out about municipal taxes and utility costs before you decide to purchase. Fees for water, electricity, cable TV, phone, and gas vary greatly by region.
    • Noise and nuisances First impressions are not necessarily the most accurate impressions. It is a good idea to come back to the neighbourhood at different times of day and different days of the week. Listen for traffic noise, barking dogs, low-flying airplanes, and any other noises that could indicate problems.
  • What type of home ownership is right for me?

    There are three broad categories of home ownership:

    1. Freehold The owner owns the house and the grounds. Freehold homes offer the most privacy and freedom of choice of any type of home. Homeowners are free to decorate and renovate as they please. They are also responsible for all the maintenance both indoors and out. Freehold is the most common type of home ownership.
    2. Condominium The homeowner owns the unit and shares in ownership of common elements. Condominiums are usually apartment buildings, but also include townhouse developments and developments of detached buildings on private roads. The homeowner is responsible for the interior area of the unit (everything from the plaster in). The strata corporation is responsible for the up-keep of the exterior of the building, common interior elements (halls, elevators and parking garages, for example) and the grounds. All condominium owners pay a monthly fee to the condominium association to cover maintenance costs and common utility fees and taxes. Condominiums often have strict rules regarding noise, use of common areas, and renovations to units. Condominium residents often enjoy less privacy than residents of detached homes. Condominiums are usually less expensive than freehold houses.
    3. Co-operative Co-operatives (or co-ops) are similar to condominiums but instead of owning your unit, you own a share in the entire building or complex. Co-op residents pay for maintenance and repairs through monthly fees and are subject to the rules and regulations of the co-op board. If you decide to sell your shares and move out, the co-op board has the right to reject your prospective buyer.

Thinking of buying a new home? You've come to the right place. As your Realtor, I can listen to your needs and wants and help you find the home you have been dreaming about.

Buyer Testimonial

I would highly recommend working with Karen. She helped my husband and I find the exact home that we were looking for; all the while taking away most of the stress associated with home buying.

Gwen Hardy

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Karen Biffi

2996 Lonsdale Avenue  North Vancouver,  British Columbia  V7N 3J4 

Mobile: 604-787-9652

Phone: 604-984-9711

Fax: 604-984-3350