The house that wouldn’t sell, illustrated.

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Selling; Uncategorized.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a narrative for this blog that illustrated some of the common errors that are made that prevents a property from being sold. This was an attempt to make it more readable and humorous by telling it as if it were from a story book. Here is a new illustration of the same sort of pattern.

There is tons that I as a Realtor do to make sure that every listing I have has the best chance it possibly can at attracting as much attention as possible from other Realtors and their Buyers. I would go on about it at length here but my competition is watching so you’ll have to contact me and ask. One thing not I, or any Realtor can do, is sell a home for more than it is really worth. Any Realtor telling you otherwise is lying to you, period. There are many things that can and should be done to get top dollar for a property but one of the big ones is a decision that lies with the Seller. That decision being pricing. One of the greater pitfalls that is all too commonly fallen into is that of overpricing or even just overpricing in the beginning and waiting too long to fix it. (See the Selling homes section for more on this.)

I know, this is a counterintuitive concept. Usually in life if you ask for more you will get more and this is why it’s often hard to convince Sellers to price correctly. At least, in the beginning which is when it counts most. For the Seller, the property represents the culmination of years and years of work both on the home and in the workplace, so very many personal memories and so very much money. The thing is, and this is hard to say to people, the market doesn’t care about any of that. The market doesn’t care about anybody’s hopes or hardships. It only cares what the best deal is. And if your property is the best deal out there you will get more money for it and you will get it faster. If it’s not it will get ignored and pushed aside over and over by many people no matter how great of a job your Realtor is doing and how much they are spending on advertising. By the time you get the pricing right, Buyers will think there’s something wrong with it (even though it’s just price) and they will lowball offer you even if your new price is objectively good. Getting more money more easily sounds like the sort of thing people want, but again… it’s counterintuitive so some illustration helps. Read on.

Even in the hottest Seller’s market, many listings will not sell, and more than 95% of the time it’s due to price. The importance of correct pricing is not always easy to illustrate to Sellers but for us Realtors who see on a daily basis how things play out, pricing realistically is not just a detail. It is paramount in determining how much a Seller can ultimately sell the property for and if they can sell it at all. It’s hard to illustrate because the stories of what happens to properties that aren’t priced correctly sound more like a carefully chosen anecdote than something that is as common as it really is. You don’t have to be a Realtor long to have seen this pattern many, many times in the various listings that are out there on the market. Not all Sellers have unrealistic expectations but it’s the thing that worries me the most when I see it because I can see how things are going to play out for them. I imagine my Doctor would feel a similar way if he told me my cholesterol count was too high and I said “But bacon is so gooooooood! I must have it all the time!” He would quite rightly be concerned because he sees on a regular basis how things play out for people like myself.

A Realtor (and the Buyers they are working with) doesn’t need to look at very many properties in a category to be able to tell which ones are better priced and more likely to sell or less likely to sell. All the advertising and quality photos and well written listings are a means of getting those Buyers into the house. Once they are there the house will speak for itself as to whether it is a better deal for the money than the other 5 or so they are likely looking at that day plus who knows how many more overall.  Every Buyer is terrified of the idea of not having gotten the best possible option for the best price and as a rule they won’t buy anything until they have, to some extent, looked at everything. The Realtor does this daily for years on end and becomes very quick at processing what adds value to a property. If the balance of those factors that add value is lower than any other properties in its price range it is not going to be the next one to sell. The best priced one is the one that sells.

Recently I came across a listing that had a history that made me mutter “Yeah, you’re not helping yourself by doing that…” as I see it as a long and frustrating method of someone costing themselves a great deal of money. It’s not the first I’ve seen and it certainly won’t be the last but I thought it was clear enough to share so I took a screen shot.

the house that wouldn't sell



Have a look at this listing history. It starts back in 2005 and didn’t sell for five long years. White house icon on left means expired/cancelled and didn’t sell, red house icon means it sold and it will show the selling price as well as asking price. During this time the Seller went through five Realtors and even though the place wasn’t selling they went through periods where they thought the price should be higher, and then lower, and then much higher, the whole time they would be paying taxes and utilities whether they live there or not, and then gradually lower before it finally sold in 2010.

Now here’s the important part. The new owner decided to sell it four years later. Property values had declined a bit between 2010 and 2014. Not a ton, but enough so that one would expect it to go for 10-20k less or possibly lower. But it sold for pretty much the same price as it sold for four years earlier in the higher market.  To me, that’s a clear example of what the overpricing pattern did to the property value when it was on the market for all that time. A few years off market, especially with a different owner who starts with a reasonable price gets a different story. Three months is still a fairly long time to be on market but it’s a much better story than the previous one.

Yes, this is an extreme case. That’s why it is usable for illustration I would say that less  less than 5% of listings are as clear cut an example of self destruction via overpricing as this. However, if I go and see ten randomly chosen listings, I would say that on average I would expect to see 4 or 5 where the price is high enough so that it should be lowered before it sits on the market too long and starts to only attract lowball offers if any at all because Buyers will assume there is something wrong with the property as well as be aware that there is no other interest from other Buyers.


 Ryan Coffey






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Great Neighbourhoods in Nanaimo Part 4: South Jingle Pot near Westwood Lake

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Nanaimo Profile and Events; Nanaimo Real Estate Market; Nanaimo's Neighbourhoods; Uncategorized.

For an intro to this series, please see the first post of the series, here.

Everyone has a slightly different idea of how they want to balance convenience with privacy. Some want to be right near downtown so they can walk out their door and have everything right there. Others want total quiet and isolation and don’t mind longer drives to where things are going on. Most people are somewhere in the middle and a strategic blend of both is what they are looking for. That’s how I see this neighbourhood.

westwood lake nanaimo










The area I am talking about falls within the confines of what the MLS map calls ‘South Jingle Pot’ but is more specifically the area that is down the hill from and on the north side of Westwood Lake.

The area is big enough to include a variety of types of housing including mobiles and condos but it is mostly houses. Even within the category of houses we have everything from what I would say is a step up from a starter home to some very high end houses with stunning panoramic views of the city, islands and the mountains on the mainland. But what makes this such a great neighbourhood is not so much the houses that are in it, but what is in the neighbourhood and what is is easy access to.

The most outstanding thing in the neighbourhood is one of my common stops when I am introducing a new arrival to Nanaimo. Westwood Lake. It’s just up the hill from town but when you are there you feel like you have found a secret. It is in the middle of a thickly forested mountainous zone, has a large and beautiful beach and a trail that runs all the way around. And that’s exactly what so many people go there to do; run all the way around the lake.  The trail takes about 40 minutes when walking and I suppose the run will depend on the runner. Lots of walking the dogs goes on there, people ride bikes and so on. It’s nice to have a place like this in your town as I consider it to be one of Nanaimo’s gems. It’s even better to have something like this in your neighbourhood. Imagine living next door to that.

Also within the neighbourhood are other pretty locations to have your home next to like Cathers Lake and a variety of green zones which you can see in the image above. There is also a local pub, a fun bowling alley, some neighbourhood stores to pick up this and that on the way home and what is arguably Nanaimo’s finest restaurant which is at the racquet club… on the lake.

But more than that, it has access to other areas. No matter what part of Nanaimo you work, shop or play in, getting there by car isn’t that hard from this location. Jingle Pot road goes right to the parkway which is your fast route to everywhere both inside and outside of Nanaimo and the only traffic light in the neighbourhood is the one that lets you onto the time saving parkway. The heart of downtown is right down the hill too. You’ll be there probably in five or at worst ten minutes and on the way you could stop and the giant ice arena, sports fields or aquatic centre as well. Or you could just walk to those instead since they’re pretty close.

For my entire real estate career I have been suggesting to Buyers who are looking for nice homes with great views in the north end that they at least have a look down here to see what is in the area. They can get comparable homes for much cheaper. Some listen, some don’t. The ones who do are usually glad they took the time to see what the other options were.


Ryan Coffey

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“What is the best time of year to buy or sell real estate?”

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Buying; Myths Of Real Estate; Selling; Uncategorized.

Short answer:four-seasons-real-estate
It doesn’t make that huge of a difference for the most part. It is more important that you are ready both financially and situationally than what time of year you buy or sell.

Sort of long answer that is actually somewhat abridged to keep people from dying of boredom:

The classic line of thought, or belief, is that spring is the time to do it. I’m not really sure where this idea came from and most Realtors don’t do much to stop people from thinking this way because there are so many far more important misconceptions to clear up. In fact, I’ve heard quite a few Realtors use talk of the spring market as a motivator to get Sellers ready to sell. I think this is a tactic that uses an existing belief to motivate people into doing something now rather than putting it off. You see, Realtors know that when people put things off it so often turns not doing it at all or worse yet, getting snagged by a different Realtor.

How I see the idea of buying or selling real estate in the spring? Well, it’s definitely the busiest time of year. There are more Buyers…. and more Sellers too.  The homes will look prettier with all the green and flowers and maybe some sun.
I have long held the belief that the real estate market picks up for the year once the weather gets nice. Every year, once we get our first week or two of happy weather, people seem to get optimistic about life and want to make a positive change for themselves. I’m told the same pattern is true for the other big ticket item, cars. There is also the perception that a lot of people are trying to time their move, which typically happens a month or two after the contract is written up, to coincide with when their kids are out of school in the summer. But does any of this translate into better prices for Buyers or Sellers? Not as far as I can tell. It’s really just a pleasant time of year to do it.  No real downside except that maybe the Realtors are more strapped for time and you may not get quite as much personal attention as you might at another time of year.

Summer is usually a little more quiet than spring as most people are on the beach and later on the the summer many people are off on vacation. Somewhat fewer homes on the market but less Buyers too. No major advantage or disadvantage here.

Fall is usually a bit busier than the summer but not as busy as the spring.

Sometime in November things usually slow right down as most people are focusing on the holidays at this point. Realtors are likely to take some time off at this time of year. Some Buyers follow the line of logic that any property that is on the market during the holidays must have some serious (desperate) Sellers so they are expecting to find something good. This is why I tell Sellers to keep it on the market anyway at this time of year if they can muster it because Buyers who think like that are serious about Buying and you don’t want to miss the timing for meeting those kind of Buyers. Every strategy has a counter strategy and this is just one.

So ,back to my intial statement. Time your move around your life and your finances first as these will make a bigger difference than the other factors. There are many ins and outs to real estate and having the guidance of a seasoned pro helps you navigate the seas of information that you find online, via word of mouth or on the news.


Ryan Coffey

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Nanaimo real estate: 2014 Year in Review

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Buying; Myths Of Real Estate; Nanaimo Real Estate Market; Selling; Uncategorized; When to Buy and Sell.

Wnanaimo real estateatching what goes on in the real estate world is always pretty interesting to me and this year has been more so than usual. For much of it I was too busy to put up much in the way of posts.  If you are a regular to this blog you may have noticed that. Here is my current perspective of recent, current and likely future events.

I always say that anyone who tells you they know for sure what the future holds is either lying to you or lying to both you and themselves. No matter how deep your knowledge is on the topic, there is still a lot of unknown. That said, I do feel that predictions are possible and have their place, we just have to keep in mind that even the best ones are like a weather report: probably true,  but not definitely true.

I have made a lot of comments on this blog about how the media is what creates the society wide moods that drive the markets. Now that the real estate market is starting to show signs of picking up again I believe it won’t be long before the media starts reporting that little bit of uptick and then people will start to jump on the bandwagon and sales/prices will start to take off in a meaningful way. Following the media isn’t the best way to make your real estate decisions if you ask me, but it is the major driving force so we have to contend with it.

It’s things like this, that once reported enough will change the mood of the market and tip the scales: Average sale prices in Nanaimo have gone up pretty steadily from $347,000 in April of 2013 to $368,000 last month.  As I like to point out, average sale prices measure what people are spending on real estate not the actual value of real estate in the area. I have not seen real estate getting more expensive during this time. What I have seen however, is the inventory getting smaller and the inventory that is there is getting more bland. That is, the gems are gone quickly and not sitting around for a little while before selling like they were even a year ago. If the demand is reasonably stable, or increases, I think that this is a sign that things will be picking up price wise soon. I don’t think increases will be dramatic like we saw a few years back but there will be a new mood in the air.

What does this mean for the average homeowner? As I have said in many previous posts, what the market is doing is less important for the average home owner than they typically think. The people who are most directly affected by a change in the market are those of us who make a living building, selling or inspecting homes.  If you’ve been waiting to sell and get out of the market or downsize, the market will be more forgiving. For Buyers it means they can’t be as picky as the decently priced individual properties will sell faster and what they have in mind criteria wise will gradually get more expensive. Is that good? Is that bad? Depends which cards you’re holding. These past few years have been a great time for buyers. It’s just that the economy was slow too so not that many people were able to afford Buying.

A more in depth look at these things here. Notice the timing of the series of posts, this was written while everyone was panicking back in 2008. The principles have not changed.


It’s the end of the year which is when I like to create a list of which posts I think are the most useful reads. Here is that list for 2014:

If I could go back in time and teach myself about real estate…

Does it Have Good Bones?

Six Common Selling Mistakes

A Reminder About Property Tax Assessments and What They’re Not For

‘Purchase Plus Improvements’ or ‘How You Can Get a Newly Renovated House for Cheap’

The Spring Market: What is it?

How Not to Choose Your Home

Ryan Coffey

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Movetonanaimo.com again among the top 100 real estate blogs

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Real Estate Online.

For the second year running, this blog has made it to the top 100 real estate blogs on the web. This year it is #74.


Ryan Coffey

Top 100 Real Estate BlogsAn infographic by the team at Rebates zone


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What Mortgage Brokers do: The pre-approval process

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Buying; Financial; Video Interview Series.

The first step of buying is, as I so often say, finding out what you can afford. If you are planning on buying or even just wondering if you are ready to buy going to see a Mortgage Broker is a crucial first step.


 Ryan Coffey

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Why use a Mortgage Broker rather than a bank?

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Buying; Financial; Uncategorized; Video Interview Series.

Since my early days in real estate I have been steering Buyers towards Mortgage Brokers rather than banks. The short of it, which is somewhat elaborated in the video below, is because a Mortgage Broker has access to a wider variety of lending options. I think it is also worth pointing out that in my experience Mortgage Brokers, who (like me) only get paid when they put a deal together, are more motivated to give faster and better service than their counterparts at banks who collect a wage/salary whether your mortgage goes through or not.

The Mortgage Broker I am interviewing in the video is Brad Rembold of www.sanddollarmortgages.ca

Ryan Coffey

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Great Neighbourhoods in Nanaimo Part 3: Northern Old City

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Nanaimo's Neighbourhoods; Selling; Uncategorized.

Very early on in my real estate career I developed a certain fondness for some of the homes in what the MLS map calls “Old City”. This area, just up the hill from downtown, is Nanaimo’s original settlement area which means that it is where the oldest houses in town are found. This means character and it means charm.

As you head from the southern part of the area (Old Victoria Rd) around the often mentioned hub towards the north end of it (Bowen Rd.), the houses gradually become, bigger, fancier finishing and in many cases better maintained over the years. Back in the day, the houses in the northern part of the old city were lived in by Mayors, Doctors and other well to do people of the era. Some of the nicer homes have fabulous wainscoting, oak floors with a darker inlay and great old fashioned fireplaces that give you those warm fuzzy feelings most of us only experience around Christmas time. Being older homes that are built pre-war, they are not nearly as large as what we consider a fancy home to be nowadays but the charm and quality of craftsmanship is undeniable. When someone says “character home” these are what I consider to be the standard in Nanaimo.

Not everyone wants to be walking distance from the downtown core. It certainly means more pedestrians going by at all kinds of hours but the flip side is having oodles of convenience is your lifestyle. You can walk to all the restaurants and shopping if you so choose, not to mention the parks and nightlife if you are so inclined.  Bowen park and the giant walkway with its associated parks at the waterfront are there inviting you at all times. Your home will probably have some lovely mature trees in the yard which often means lots of fresh fruit. Due to the era of construction, your home will have a unique style of its own that would be expensive and difficult and in some details, impossible to replicate in our own era.

You can have a look at the sorts of properties I am describing on the Nanaimo MLS system or you can get the general idea by doing a google image search like the one I show  below.


nanaimo kennedy street















Ryan Coffey

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Real Estate Terms: Special Assessment

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Real Estate Terminology 101; Uncategorized.

Homeaway-4-10-07.jpgNot all dirty words are four letters long. “Special assessment” is a term that is a red flag for anyone initiated into the world of real estate. That’s not to say that if there is a special assessment going on that you shouldn’t buy a given property, but it is to say that there is a matter going on that you really need to pay attention to the details of in order to make an intelligent and informed decision regarding your finances.

Stratas have an annual budget and some savings called a contingency reserve fund (CRF) where they try to balance the income from strata fees with the costs of maintaining the strata complex. Like any building, big or small, many things need to be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to keep small bills and medium bills from becoming giant bills or for keeping the place from falling into terrible disrepair like this one. (Ok, that’s an extreme example but it just blows my mind even months later.)

Sometimes a fairly large item needs to be taken care of. Sometimes it happens as a surprise like we were seeing in the 90’s with the leaky condos and sometimes it  was foreseeable but the CRF doesn’t have enough money to cover it.  Maybe the strata council and the owners have decided that they would prefer to not dip into the CRF as that is their big financial safety net and decide it makes more sense to ask for funds from the strata unit owners instead. There are many possible reasons and situations for a special assessment but the bigger pattern I have seen is that there is a reasonably expensive maintenance item that needs to be addressed and as a strata is a communally own thing, the costs are shared according proportionately.

When a Buyer puts an offer on a strata property, there is typically a clause that gives them the right to review and approve a long list of strata docs before going ahead with the sale. There are many many pages to review but the biggest thing we are looking for is signs of special assessments (i.e. big sudden bills) either immediately or down the road. Alas, there is no perfect system or absolute guarantee for anything in life but proper review of strata documents has kept many Realtors and many clients out of sticky situations over  the years. Worth noting is that it is standard practice for Realtors with such properties listed to tell you or your Realtor that there is a special assessment on the books before you start negotiating. No one wins by doing all the work required to bring an accepted offer together only to take it apart again. Plus a Realtor who is in the habit of not being up front with things like this in a timely manner will at very least have fewer of their cohorts showing their listing to Buyers and therefore take a hit business/reputation wise. In more extreme cases there is disciplinary action.

A special assessment can be an opportunity as well. Most Buyers shy away from anything that isn’t 100% done and towards the top end of their budget with the asking price and don’t have room for any extra costs. The result is that there is lower demand for a listing that has a special assessment on the books and thus a lower price.  So if you have a little bit of flexibility with your finances and if you are willing to do your homework there is a reasonably good possibility of coming out ahead. This is a more esoteric path.


Ryan Coffey

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If I could go back in time and teach myself about real estate…

Posted by Ryan Coffey under: Buying; Nanaimo Real Estate Market; Selling; Uncategorized; When to Buy and Sell.

nanaimo time travelDo you ever wish you could talk to the younger version of yourself and tell them something that would change their (your) life to make it better? Maybe I’ve been watching too much science fiction but the thought has occurred to me a few times. I decided that in addition to telling myself which people to not waste your time and feelings on, which lottery ticket to buy, which horse to bet on and which stock to invest in I would also want to tell them some of the most important things I have learned about real estate I have learned over the years.

Of course, time travel not being a reality as proven by Stephen Hawking’s party for  time travellers which wasn’t exactly well attended, I suppose I have to find some other way of making use of what I’ve learned. The next best thing is for me to do is try to pass such info on to other people in my own time so that they can benefit even if it less exciting than meeting up with past me and discussing things over a pint.

These points will echo much of what I’ve already written on this blog because info like this is really what this blog is all about and also because most of the lessons are not that time specific but rather fundamental real estate stratgies.  The broader changes in real estate markets move something like the seasons. They cycle. They do it slower and the time frame is pretty nebulous but the pattern is there and good strategies take this into account.

Here goes:

Buy real estate as soon and as young as you can afford to.

No sooner, no later. You will need to start saving as soon as you can. Don’t worry about all the people on TV, in the newspapers or in your family who are convinced that the whole thing is going to go down the tubes in a couple of months. There are always people saying that at any given time regardless of what the real estate market is doing. Always.  The reverse is true too, don’t get overly excited about the idea of it shooting up super fast and being able to sell the thing for a huge profit. That may happen but no one definitely knows when it will, how much it will go up or how long it will take. All we really know is that it will go up in value over time faster than inflation, but it takes years.  This is where someone chimes in with “Oh, but the bubble in 2007 and 2008….” Well, although there was some ripple effect that went around the world, the dramatic stuff mostly happened in the US  and a few other places but not so much here because we had more conservative regulations in place in regard to borrowing/lending. We had a slowdown, sure but calling it a ‘bubble’ would be going too far in my opinion. Ultimately you are way better off in the long run buying something modest and staying in it than renting. That is, if you can afford the place and don’t take shortcuts on maintenance.

In my case, I nearly bought a house with a suite near the university in 2003. I knew enough about real estate at the time to deem it a good idea but it wasn’t until I became a Realtor shortly thereafter that I realized that I had missed out on a life changing opportunity. I’d probably be about $200,000 richer by now had I gone through with it… and that’s a conservative estimate. Oops.

Learn how to DIY certain things but if you have any doubt about whether you’re doing it right hire a pro.

I have attended many home inspections over the years and of course I’ve been in many many homes. It is really common for people to bite off more than they can chew with the DIY and they often make long term maintenance more difficult and expensive because they were trying to cut costs on labour and materials in the short term.  Like everything else, home maintenance is a matter of balancing various factors and considering how much money is on the line with your home’s condition it pays to be attentive to it. This may seems like an obvious statement and so it should, but wow do I often see people costing themselves thousands and thousands of dollars as a result of trying to cut corners to save a few hundred.  Really, I think it just comes down to not knowing the difference.

The most extreme case I’ve seen was probably a house where the same person had been doing improper DIY for about 30 years.  Every door knob was on backwards or didn’t line up with the door frame quite right somehow, every bit of trim didn’t quite fit, the paint in every section was unevenly brushed on and was overlapping onto adjoining areas that are intended to be a different colour (like where the wall meet the ceiling) cabinets in the kitchen were crooked… and there was more but I don’t remember all the details because after initial fascination with the myriad of  deficiencies and how they might have been created I evnetually felt it made more sense to just leave. After all, I’m not going to knowingly bring a Buyer into a place like that.  There are other more sane houses to take my Buyers to. When I first arrived I was shocked at how low the price was, probably about $75,000 than I would have expected for size, type and location but when I left I wondered if it was low enough. I wasn’t sure if it was worth tearing down to the studs and doing a complete reno or if it would be easier to tear it down and start from scratch. I tell this anectdote like it was the only time I’ve had such thoughts while looking at a property. Not at all. This one was just the most elaborate and amazing I can remember.

Understand your finances.

At very least, talk to a Mortgage Broker before you start dreaming about what kind of property you want. Beyond that, it is worth understanding the nature of interest rates and how they affect what your long terms bills will be and how much principle vs. interest is being paid. Keep in mind that your property value goes up in the long term too, though it may fluctuate short term. If you’re smart and ambitious you’ll plan to rent out your first home rather than sell. It makes growth slower at first but in the long term you’re better off financially. You just have to deal with tenants. Some are fine and some are diptwits.

I don’t really have any wild anecdotes for things I’ve seen up close for this one because I prep my clients early on. The first thing I ask of every Buyer is whether they are pre approved for a mortgage before we even have a serious talk about buying. If I didn’t I would be not only wasting my time but also that of my clients, other Realtors, their clients, staff at my office… the list goes on. Having a general plan that is comfortable for you to pull off is well… rather important. That’s an obvious statement. That said, knowing what is and isn’t feasible is not so obvious and a matter of planning. The hardest part to plan for is your income as that sometimes changes but talking to a Mortgage Broker and a Financial Planner is only going to open your eyes to what the realistic possibilities are.

Know and understand the myths of real estate, and the basics of buying real estate and while you’re at it you might as well take the time to figure out what creates value in a home.

These are the fundamentals of knowing which homes are worthwhile and how to get one. Maybe this seems like too much reading and research. Think of how hard you have worked in the past to pass an exam or just finish a work day. This is less work and will affect your life far more financially than any of that.


Ryan Coffey


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