No matter whether you are an empty nester, a person looking to simplify your life, or someone who wants to help their aging parents move into a more functional space, downsizing can be a stressful experience.


Here are a few tips to make it easier:  


Before you begin to pack:  Take multiple pictures (from various angles) of every room.  Each photo will act as a reference for what to get rid of and what to keep.  If there are adult childeren, have them reclaim their belongings before the move.  Photos also provide good insurance information for any moving issues.  If going through sentimental items, such as photographs, it's overwhelming, hire a professional organizer to help.


Place different coloured sticky notes on furnishings labelling them with an action plan like 'donate', 'new home', or 'sell'.  Give yourself a few days to reconsider your decisions.  Consult a designer to talk over what will work in your new space and what items should be kept to stage your home for sale.


Keep calm and carry on:  Start de-cluttering in advance of your move, even it it is only one drawer or closet a day.  Scale down by discarding what you don't use or wear.  If you are not sure about anything, just drop it in a 'decide later' box.


Give books to your local library sale and dispose of electronic equipment.  Think green and donate still-useable items to places like the ReStores of home-building organization, Habitat for Humanity. ReStores accept a wide range of household products and provide a tax receipt for the value of your donation.


Colour code rooms and Corresponding boxes of the contents you'll be keeping, then colour code the doorway in the new space for an easy transition.


Draw up a floor plan and measure furniture pieces such as tables and sofas.  They are often too large to go into a new downsized home.


Looking to the Future:  Homeowners need to consider their furniture from an ergonomic standpoint.  Is it too low or too big?  Can you get in and out of it easily?  It might be time to donate old furniture and invest in updated pieces that work with your new space.  


Consider moving to a home that is within walking distance of stores, local library, and other favourite places.  Depending on your age, think about a home with Accessibility Design Standards. This ensures that your new place will meet any possible needs in the future, such as wider doorways and additions to the bathrooms.  

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Buying a home involves two main shopping expeditions:  one for the right home and one for the right financing.  It's important to know how much you can afford to spend on home ownership.


Most prospective Canadian homeowners talk to a few lending institutions, such as banks, trust companies, or credit unions, or work through a mortgage broker to get pre-approval for a mortgage before hunting for the actual home.  Getting pre-approval doesn't guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan, but it gives you a good idea of what you can afford.  Also, the realtors you work with will often want to know whether you've been pre-approved.


Assessing your Finances

Before pre-approving you for a mortgage, your lender will want to know whether you can handle the additional cost of home ownership.  So, you will first need to understand what your budget is:  What is your current monthly income?  What are your regular household expenses?  How much debt are you carrying, and what are the monthly payments?  


Your lender will also want to know how well you have paid your debts and bills in the past; a solid credit history will help you secure a mortgage.


Once you have a good understanding of your finances, you can start looking at the price range for a home that will leave enough room in your budget for all your other expenses.  


Two simple rules can help you figure out how much you can realistically pay for a home.  The first is that your monthly housing costs - including monthly mortgage payments, property taxes and heating expenses - shouldn't amount to more than 32% of your monthly income.  Lenders use these figures to determine pre-approval, so it's good to take a look at them first.  The second rule is to look at your total debt load - including your existing debt and that of the house - and ensure that it will not take more than 40% of your monthly income. 


If either of these percentages come out too high, you may have difficulty securing a mortgage.


Discussing pre-approval

To pre-approve you for a mortgage, your lender needs you to document many of the details about your finances:  your sources of income, financial assets, and debts.  For example, you can document your income with a letter from your employer that confirms your salary.


Your lender will then determine the amount of mortgage that you can afford, and present you with a mortgage loan for a certain amount at a specified interest rate.  There are usually options available to fit your needs including different amortization periods or payment schedules.  Once you have agreed on the terms, the lender provfides you with a written confirmation, or certificate, for a fixed interest rate.  01/15


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