Mortgage Broker vs Direct Lender Which is Best for You

Mortgage Broker vs Direct Lender: Which is Best for You?

So, you’ve decided to invest in an ideal home for future chapters of your lives as a household. First off, congratulations, as this is a big step to take! Second, you might be wondering whether to head straight to your bank (a direct lender) or skirt around them and open discussions with a dedicated mortgage broker. Which should you choose?

The answer varies depending on a myriad of factors, but there isn’t necessarily a “wrong” one. Today, let’s explore the ages-old mortgage broker versus direct lender argument in more detail. By getting to know each role in more detail, perhaps we can help you determine which is not simply the right or wrong choice, but rather the ideal one for your needs and use case.  

Direct Lenders

How They Work

Your bank of choice is a direct lender, and there are alternative options available including credit unions and other similar operations. With any direct lender, as the term implies, you’ll be working directly with them on your mortgage through a preapproval and application. It’s all sent to and processed in one place, generally making for a time-efficient and streamlined experience. A direct lender is where the borrower’s mortgage application is directly dealt with.

How They’re Compensated

Lenders, naturally, receive income from you as the client. This can be the case in a variety of ways including standard banking fees, special services and, of course, interest on mortgage payments made directly to them. 

Their Approach

It should be noted that bank employees aren’t as invested in what you’re doing – literally. They make a standard rate that doesn’t change one way or the other, so their job security doesn’t depend on your signing up for a mortgage. Should you complete your application with accuracy and not trigger any hiccups along the way, however, the preapproval and securing of mortgage funds can be relatively quick and straightforward through them.

What to Avoid

If there are errors – even typos of a single digit – then there’s a risk of having to restart the entire application process, which can be exhausting. This may also mean that you could miss out on a property that closes before you secure the mortgage you need. While bundling services through a bank directly can evoke a sense of loyalty and potentially ideal and in-depth treatment, the fact of the matter remains that you are but one of many clients. Specialized service is less likely, and you almost certainly won’t receive personalized assistance with your finances, such as with gathering documents or otherwise. You may also need to jump through extra hoops that you weren’t anticipating in terms of getting approved, as direct lenders can sometimes be meticulous in scrutinizing your financial and employment situation, among other factors.

Mortgage Brokers

How They Work

Mortgage brokers work a little differently. Some think of them as “middle-man” positions and perceive them to be more on the lender’s side, protecting those essential relationships, but that’s not exactly the case! In fact, they represent the client, putting their needs before those of others. Where the relationships with lenders come in is in the broker’s knowledge of rates, specific terms and conditions, and all other fine print elements. In other words, nothing gets by them so, naturally, nothing will be overlooked. 

How They’re Compensated

The good news when choosing a mortgage broker is that, since they’re usually compensated by the lenders whom they have relationships with, you won’t be on the hook for any additional fees by hiring them. This makes them a stress-free option if you’re already stretching to cover that minimum 20-percent down payment to avoid mortgage insurance.

Their Approach

Since mortgage brokers have a deep and profound understanding of the inner workings of their lenders, they’ll know which are the best options for you as a future homeowner. Namely, their recommendations will factor in how each specific lender examines income and debts – not to mention how the odds will be stacked either against you or in your favour as a result. They’ll provide invaluable insights into not only where you’ll get the best rates and terms but whether special financial incentives are available to you. If you’re a senior or a newly landed immigrant, for instance, there may be other potential solutions on the table worth considering that the broker will happily walk you through.

What to Avoid

Your best bet is to choose an experienced broker with a deep understanding of the current housing market, the latest tweaks to lender terms and conditions, and other important details. You should try not to choose one with limited lender access, as they may not have a connection with the one you prefer most. If they work remotely, they may also not offer an in-person meeting or local office for you to visit. 

To close and reiterate, there is no “wrong” answer, but doing your homework before submitting that application is of crucial importance. Protect your finances, your prospects and, yes, your future homeowning opportunities by making the right call for your needs. Since reaching out to lenders and brokers is free, we recommend testing the waters to see what works for you!

4 Things You Should Try to Negotiate Before You Sign a Lease, According to Real Estate Experts

4 Things You Should Try to Negotiate Before You Sign a Lease, According to Real Estate Experts

When it comes to renting a property, potential tenants can negotiate more than they might realize. There are many reasons why landlords put their properties up for rent, and chances are that they are just as anxious to sign a lease as you are. The success of a negotiation is often dictated by supply and demand but, even when there’s a housing crisis, you can often settle some terms in your favour.

With that in mind, here’s a list of things you should try to negotiate before you sign your lease.


Some landlords will be willing to fork out the money for the general upkeep of the property, but usually, that falls on the tenant. However, you can probably negotiate to get your landlord to pay for a deep clean of the carpet and interior living spaces on a regular basis to maintain the integrity of the building since it benefits both of you. Short of this, ask for the landlord to do a deep clean of the property before you move in.

According to provincial regulations, the landlord is responsible for cutting grass and shovelling snow. Make sure that you check the lease since some landlords will try to foist the responsibility onto tenants. If you notice that one of the requirements in your lease is the removal of snow and care of exterior common areas, discuss this with the landlord before signing because it can be a sign of suspicious behaviour.


The rental agreement must always be in writing as the rental market is constantly changing, and the property needs to be affordable for the tenant. Tenants should also ensure that their rental and living expenses should not exceed over 40% of their gross income, including utility bills. When signing your lease, you can negotiate with the landlord over rent to avoid becoming house poor.

Within the first eight months of your lease, your landlord can give you one month’s worth of free rent. Traditionally, what happens is that a little bit of rent is taken off each month. Then, after eight months, you’ll go back to paying the full amount. They can also provide a two percent discount for rent that is paid early or on time every month. This discount is the only one that doesn’t have to be in writing.

Some rental units will come furnished or with appliances, which will save you precious dollars and time when it comes to moving in. Ask your landlord what the property comes with, and try to negotiate for new appliances if it doesn’t already come with some or the ones provided are outdated.


Whenever the market is in high demand, the cards are not exactly in the tenants’ favour. Still, if you have a pet, you won’t be getting rid of it just because you’re moving (and nor should you), so you should still try to negotiate if you’ve found a place you like. Tenants should also be transparent about owning pets, however. If the tenant is renting from a condo, the rules may be different, so bear this in mind.

Shared Accommodations or Not?
If landlords are opting for shared accommodation, this may indicate that it’s better to not rent from them. It could potentially hint that they are doing something suspicious, like having a grow-op on the property, or that they don’t wish to make renovations that maximize tenant privacy. On that note, any landlord has to provide the renters with 24 hours of notice before entering what is deemed part of your rental unit.

If you’re looking to rent in Oxford County and the surrounding areas, contact the Jennifer Gale Real Estate team. We have representatives available specializing in helping find ideal properties and arranging the best terms for your lease. It’s never been so easy or convenient to find a new home!


4 Ways to Keep Your Home Well-Maintained this Winter

If you’re not looking forward to winter, have you considered whether the condition of your home is a contributing factor? From the furnace to shingles and insulation, winter can sometimes feel like a time where regular maintenance gets a bit neglected. The good thing is, it doesn’t have to! Here are some key ways you can better maintain your home this winter and have a more enjoyable season, with advice straight from the experts in home maintenance.


Inspect and Clean Your Roofing System

Over the winter, your gutters and shingles will get covered in snow and ice. However, they also will encounter periods where the temperature rises and melts it. If this runoff can’t escape to the ground from your roof, it could cause severe problems including sagging, mould, and even rot – the last thing you want to happen over the winter!

“The most important thing you can do to protect your roof over the winter is to keep those gutters as clean and cleared-out as possible,” says Kershan Bursala, owner of Roofmaster. “By allowing melt runoff to reach your gutters and exit via the eavestrough, you can have a great winter without worrying about what’s above your head. But if you let it sit with nowhere to go, there’s going to be a lot of costly trouble later on.”


High-Quality Door and Window Insulation


“We’ve seen all sorts of homeowners encounter energy bill fluctuations and even damage to their property because of worn-out, tired window and door insulation that should have been upgraded years ago,” says Brian Gow, owner of Scheel Window & Door. “We suggest applying new weather stripping or, in a pinch, using high-quality window caulking as a solution to help get you through the winter.”

If your windows or doors are drafty and giving your home a hard time, these can be effective, albeit temporary, fixes. That said, don’t assume the problem is solved. Once the warm weather rolls around, it’s probably a good idea to get them inspected or replaced with modern ones that have better protection against air leaks, especially if your current windows and doors are quite old. This can also help to reduce your energy bills in the long term, so consider it a win-win.


Keep the Exterior Clean and Clutter-Free

Have you thought about what would happen if your home gets hit with a tree branch or piece of debris from a windy snowstorm outside? Take care of cleaning up the exterior of your property before this happens! Everything from loose lawn furniture to tree debris can be tossed around in violent winds or crushed against the side of your home by snow buildup. This can cause all sorts of damage, both externally and internally, and it’s a needless expense that can easily be averted.

“We see so many people having to deal with an unnecessary mid-winter cleanup – it’s a nightmare to repair a cracked window or broken siding when it’s -30° with a frostbite advisory,” says Tonya Bruin, owner of To-Do Done, a renovations company. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your home’s exterior organized and prepared for a long winter. Ask for help if you need it or don’t have time. Everything, from scratchy tree branches to children’s toys on the lawn or a rake left outside by the shed, can become a missile if thrown about by the wind.”


Keeping Your Furnace and Vents in Good Condition


It’s obvious that your furnace needs to be reliable this winter, but how can you ensure it runs smoothly and delivers consistent heat? On top of that, your air needs to be clean and pollutant-free – it’s not like you can crack open a window in January!

“Your furnace and ventilation need to be well-maintained year-round if you want to sustain a healthy, clean living environment,” says Nate Burlando, owner of Distinct Heating & Cooling. “Cleaning dust bunnies out of gratings, clearing debris out of vents, eplacing the furnace filter, and everything in between makes a big difference. You’ve got to keep on top of regular care, but also don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for more intensive work needs to be done. Never, ever perform repairs yourself, as it could pose a serious safety risk.”


These are just a few key ways that, when combined, can keep your home in great shape over the winter. Whether protecting your roof, fixing your windows,  or keeping your ventilation clean and clear, every little bit helps to make your home easier to maintain! Cross a few things off your “I’ll do it later” list and gain more peace of mind this holiday season and beyond.


When to Clean Your Rain Gutters

Ignoring the maintenance of your gutters could end up costing you potentially thousands of dollars in repairs in the future. It’s easy enough to neglect them, but the gutters along the roof play a pretty significant role in preventing water damaging from occurring on your roof, as well as along the walls, ceilings and foundation of your home. To safeguard your home against moisture damage or costly repairs, follow this guide on how and when to clean out those gutters.

How Often Should Homeowners Clean The Gutters?

The duration between cleaning the gutters will vary depending on your location and the type of vegetation and trees that surround your home. For example, if you have pine tress located close to your home and roof, this would require you to clear out the gutters about four times throughout the year since they tend to shed a lot. However, in general, twice a year should be the minimum amount of time to take a peak at the gutters to see if they could use a cleaning and some general maintenance.

Do Clean Gutters Really Benefit Me?

It may seem like a lot of work to pay attention to your gutters more so than you may have been, but this can provide benefits to you and your home. First of all, by keeping an eye on them, you can monitor any signs of damaging such as holes or cracks that might have developed and can cause water to stream down along the foundation of your home. When gutters are clogged, they can easily overflow, creating pooling and eventual rot throughout your home.

Additionally, any moisture that gets trapped along the roof can begin to permeate through and cause mold and mildew to develop throughout your walls and ceilings. By keeping your gutters free of debris you can avoid having to deal with any of these costly headaches.

What’s the Best Way To Clean Them Out?

We recommend that you use a licensed professional who is trained and experienced in dealing with this task. Using a ladder and considering all of the potential hazards such as low hanging wires, are factors that a qualified technician will know how to deal with. If you take this task upon yourself, be sure that you have someone to assist you and that you can perform it safely.

Gutters play a major role in protecting your home from water damage and potential repairs that can cost your thousands. So be sure to take the necessary measures to ensure they’re functioning optimally throughout the year.


How to Share Expenses with Your Roommate

Moving into a house off campus can be very exciting and liberating. You finally get to take the reigns as an adult, gain independence, and learn to handle the everyday tasks of running a home. But how do you decide what you and your roommate pay for? And how do you share the expenses? Before you get stuck in an unfavourable situation with your roommate, read on as we help guide you on the best way to share the expenses.

Create A Plan

Before you sign anything make sure you and your roommate sit down and discuss how you would like to handle all the bills, groceries, decorating, cleaning costs, and furniture purchases. Open communication beforehand can help you outline all the details and avoid any misunderstandings later on down the line.

Pay Rent Separately

Many landlords only want one person to be in charge of the rent. It makes it easier on them for collection. But if you’re the one responsible for your roommate, it can also mean trouble if they pay late, or end up with financial issues. Odds are you will be much more lenient with your roommate than a landlord would and some people will take advantage of this. You can avoid uncomfortable conversations and arguments by ensuring everyone pays the landlord separately.

Put All Names On The Bills

Similar to rent payments, everyone should also be held responsible for the bills. Don’t just put your name on the bills, or split bills, instead put each persons name on the bills. Splitting bills may seem like a clever idea, until you get one that’s way more expensive than the bills your roommate is paying. And chasing after people for owed monies is never a fun experience, so avoid it if you can.

Keep A Record

Always keep a record of the expenses. This includes all rent payments and bills. If you plan to split groceries or the cost of furniture, keep track of what was purchased and what is owed and by whom. This will help solve any disagreements or forgetful roommates right away.

Address Issues Immediately

The worst thing you can do if a problem arises is to sweep it under the rug. Being passive aggressive and letting issues build up will not do any good for anyone. If there is something bothering you regarding the expenses or living arrangement, speak up, be clear, and have a solution to present.

Having a roommate can be a lot of fun. But don’t be naïve and think that everything will sort it self out when it comes to sharing expenses. Friendships can often end over money disputes. So make a plan, ensure it’s fair and stick to it.


Creating Space in a Small Apartment

Have you just moved into a small studio apartment? Finding it hard to get all your stuff in? You’re not alone. Many people move into smaller spaces, only to find it difficult to get all their belongings to fit, and to even move around comfortably. But don’t fret – we can help you create the space you need to make your small apartment feel twice as big and cozy.

Group Furniture Together

First, place all your furnishings into smaller groups. This will open up any tight areas, and allow you to create boundaries between sections, such as the kitchen and living room space.

Store Vertically

A fantastic way to save on space is to add shelving to your walls. You can use the extra storage space for fancy dishes, picture frames, books, and anything else that you have limited space for.

Create Pathways

Learning how you move throughout your apartment can be a terrific way to strategize on where to place your belongings. When doing the walk through if you find that you’re bumping into a chair or table, move them. Your goal should be to create clear pathways throughout your space.

Paint Light Colours

By painting your apartment in light colours – white, eggshell, beige, or yellow – you can instantly transform the area to appear more spacious. Plus, it will give your space a more friendly and airy feel.

Multipurpose Furniture

Thanks to the condo boom, there are lots of styles of multipurpose furniture to now choose from. These space savers can help cut down on much needed room. Crafty designs like tables that have fold-in chairs, or 2 chairs in 1 designs, and coffee tables with hidden compartments are just three examples of how transforming furniture designs can help you get more space you need.

Go Clutter Free

The more clutter you have, the smaller your area will feel. Control your clutter by creating one single area for your keys, letters, papers, and other items that normally pile up. Then make sure to go through this area at least once a week to toss away any items you really don’t need.

Let In The Light

Enhancing the natural light in a room will not only make your room appear much brighter but also create an illusion of more space by eliminating any shadows. You can also try adding a mirror to reflect the light from a window to create more depth in your room. And for optimal aesthetics, always place your furniture so that you can view the outdoors.

You don’t have to feel suffocated by all your stuff when you live in a small apartment. Follow these quick tips to get more functional space, and to really enjoy the coziness that a small apartment can bring.


How to Prepare Your Finances Before Moving

Moving to a new city or country often costs more money than most people prepare for financially. There are expenses you need to consider beyond just the moving company and rental deposit/purchase price. Getting your finances in order is necessary to avoid getting stuck in deep water without a life jacket. And here’s a list of how you can better prepare your finances before you make the big move.

Start A Spreadsheet

Start with creating a spreadsheet that lists out all the expenses you will need to prepare for in relation to the move. This will include the cost of purchasing a house or the cost of the monthly rental, deposit fees, utility bills in that area, average cost of eating out, entertainment expenses, insurance payments, and cost of schooling if required for you or any children. Knowing in advance what you can expect to pay will help you to have realistic expectations and be able to create a proper budget.

Don’t Forget About Loan Payments

Few people move with a clean debt record, so you need to take into consideration your loan payments and how they will be impacted by the new expenses. Make sure to include these into your spreadsheet so you will have enough money each month to properly allocate to your debt.

Consider Hidden Costs

It’s often the hidden costs associated with moving that will creep up on you when you least expect it. Budget for any potential home decorating, painting, maintenance costs and renovation costs in advance.

Create A Safety Net

The easiest way to protect you from financial disaster is to ensure you have at least 3 to 6 months of savings as a safety net. That way you have enough money to hold you over until you find a new job or if any unforeseen circumstances arise.

Job Hunt Early

Start your job hunt before you move. Set up appointments with potential employers to happen soon after you relocate. That way you will have little time between jobs. You should also consider looking at options for a part time job, this can help to fill any work gaps and keep your finances in order.

Cut Costs On The Move

Moving can be awfully expensive if you don’t plan properly. Review the spreadsheet to see how much you can afford to pay for a moving company. Then try to cut those costs down as much as possible. Perhaps use friends, family, or discount movers to save and put more money into your safety net.

Moving is an exciting experience, but it often costs people thousands of dollars more than they had expected.  Be prepared and plan in advance, and you will have little to be concerned about.


Planning a Dinner Party in a Small Apartment

Planning a dinner party for this weekend, but worried that your small apartment just won’t cut it? Don’t worry, there are some easy ways turn your tiny apartment into a decent space for entertaining. Read on as we highlight the best 5 tips for planning a successful dinner party in a small apartment space.

Store Unused Items

When you plan to have several people in your small apartment, move the items that will take up room and won’t be used. Things like your TV stand, potted plants and any extra clutter that can be easily moved should be placed in a separate room (even your bedroom) temporarily to create more space.

Rearrange Furniture

Once you have more room in your apartment, you can then rearrange your furniture to create optimal room for entertaining. Start with pushing your couch and table up against a wall so you have more space for your guests to move around. Pull out some chairs from your table to have more seating options for people to relax on.

Optimize A Closet For Belongings

When guests come over, they often throw their shoes, coats, bags, and other belongings right at your front entrance space. This area can become cluttered and can start to shift into the rest of the party area. To avoid this from happening, designate a spot for your guests to put their stuff. If you have a large closet, use it. Otherwise use a bedroom space you won’t be using.

Use A Fan Or Air-Conditioner

The more people you put in your small space, the hotter it will get. If you can’t open the windows, or if it’s too warm outside for that to be an option, put on the air-conditioning or get the fans running. And don’t forget to monitor the temperature – if your guests are putting on sweaters or hiding outside you may want to turn down the A/C.

Spread Out Food

In a small space, if you disperse the food around on different tables or areas it will help prevent having everyone congregating in one spot. You can use the kitchen counter, the coffee table, and any other handy surface to place some food on.

Reduce Garbage

Resist the urge to buy everything disposable that you can just throw into the garbage. Sure, it’s easier but not exactly environmentally friendly. Instead, purchase re-usable plastic cups and plates from your local dollar store. And instead of having people pile them up around the house, have two bins – one for garbage and one for dirty dishes and label them so people will put their garbage and plates in the designated spot instead of all over the place.

Once you have your apartment optimized for entertaining just remember to take the time to also enjoy it. No party is a party without you as the host getting time to spend with all your guests.


Home Decor Trends Summer 2017

Ready to say goodbye to the out-dated 2016 home décor trends? As a homeowner, it’s always exciting to see what type of new and exciting features pop up in the world of interior design to get ideas for your own home. And this year, you better be prepared because bold and cheery colourful motifs and patterns are making waves as popular home décor trends for summer 2017.

Faux Finishes

We’ve all gotten on the faux fur wagon and love it with prices we can afford. And you can expect the same thing this year for home décor. We’re talking about faux finishes like ceiling beams, engineered quartz, even faux leather counters. These offer great alternatives that are budget-friendly and attractive.

Navy, Navy And More Navy!

Remember the days when navy was a colour that you’d rather just ignore? Well, not anymore! Navy is the new black, and we can’t get enough of it. It’s warm, cozy, rich and pairs so well with rustic wooden features and finishes that are also popular among the design world right now.

Fold-up Appliances And Furniture

As space becomes more limited for homeowners, manufacturers are starting to reinvent appliances and furniture that are more practical for smaller units that can allow you to take fully advantage of every square foot. Items like retractable hoods for kitchen islands, fold-up couches and even re-tractable beds are becoming more popular this year.

Adding More Texture

An emphasis on texture is also a highlight, as more of us want that sense of touch and comfort to be a priority at home. Attention to materials that feel soft and luxurious to lounge on like velvet, cotton and mohair is what you can expect to see throughout the summer.

Mixed Patterns

Mixed patterns, cheery colours, and all the mismatched elements are coming together to form statement pieces that create focal points of a room. Whether it’s a focal wall with patterned wallpaper, or even an exciting comforter – bold and busy patterns can create enticing focal points in a room that just work.

If you’re keen to keep up with the new home décor trends of 2017, summer is all about embracing the faux finishes to take the pressure off of your budget and to get crazy with patterns and textures. But above all, just remember to focus on what you like, because after all, that’s what really matters.


Easiest Plants for Beginner Gardener

Starting your first garden can be a bit overwhelming when you’re a beginner. Choosing the right plants to grow, and learning the in’s and out’s of gardening can be very confusing. Luckily there are some plants you can work with that will be easy to grow from a packet of seeds or starter plants, and require little maintenance. Here is a list of our favourites plants for beginner gardeners.

Salad Greens

You can pick up a pack of your favourite type of summer greens and plant them in the ground in the early spring and fall. You can even opt for a mix and grow lettuce, spinach and arugula at the same time.


Whether you like bell peppers, hot peppers or both, these are some of the easiest plants to grow. You can plant these right after the last frost, in a warm and sunny location for optimal growing conditions. Water regularly, sit back, relax and watch as they grow.


All you need is a stake and cage to get the tomato plants growing into a nice lush crop that you can enjoy. They love warmth so plant in late spring or early summer. And don’t forget to give each plant enough room to grow – about 2 to 3 feet apart. You can grow from seed but it may be easier to purchase a small starter plant at your local garden store.


Strawberries are a hardy fruit that love sun and have a range of varieties to choose from. The best part of planting strawberries is that it will only take a few rows to get a decent yield. Then you can harvest them and fill your freezer and fridge with fresh berries when you need them.


Looking for an easy-to-grow herb to add flavour and accent all your meals? Try planting basil. You can easily grow it from seeds or transplant it from a pot. When it’s ready, it’s as easy as running out to your garden, clipping off some basil leaves, washing them and adding it right to your recipe.


There aren’t many dishes that don’t require a flavourful base of onions, so why not have a variety of onions at your disposal? Beyond being easy to grow, they also require little space. They also easily grow from seed or bulbs, with onion bulbs being hardier and therefore easier for beginner gardeners. Just look for the tops to appear golden yellow, then bend the tops to lay on the ground for 24 hours or until the bulbs turn brown. Then they are ready to be pulled and dried out in the sun for a day or two before using in your next delicious recipe.

It doesn’t take a seasoned gardener to plant a beautiful and full garden, especially if you are using the above varieties that are hardy and require little to no maintenance. As a beginner, start with these above plants to get a summer and fall worth of delicious food right from your backyard.