Notaries offer real estate buying tips to seniors

If you’re considering a strata property, make sure you read and understand the strata minutes and bylaws…

With real estate prices and affordable housing a frequent topic of discussion throughout the province, the Society of Notaries Public of B.C. has provided tips and resources to help seniors stay in their homes, find appropriate new housing or connect with available support.

This service was provided by the notaries to help mark National Seniors’ Day on Oct. 1.

“There are several good resources available which provide more information for busy baby boomers who might be downsizing or moving into a strata property for the first time; and also for more mature seniors on a fixed income who may be looking for financial assistance or supported housing,” said Richmond notary public Tammy Morin Nakashima.

1. Know the strata laws before you buy:

Many active aging boomers are downsizing to free-up funds for retirement or travel, or to make life simpler after their children leave home.

If you’re considering a strata property, make sure you read and understand the strata minutes and bylaws, particularly on the topics of noise, pets, smoking and parking, which are the most frequent points of concern in most strata communities.

People who’ve owned freehold properties for most of their lives may not be accustomed to some of the expectations of strata living, so it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with the rules that will apply to both you and your neighbours before you make a purchase.

2. Consider deferring your property taxes:

If you’re over 55, you might qualify to defer all or part of your current year’s property taxes.

You’ll be charged interest and the province will hold a lien on your property, but this might be a viable option if your home has increased substantially in value, as the deferred costs would be settled as part of your estate—or paid back if you sell your home.

3. Take advantage of homeowner grants for seniors:

If you’re over 65 and your property is your principal residence, you may also be eligible for a homeowner grant of up to $845 against your property taxes.

4. Learn more about funding to adapt your home for safety:

Adapting your home in small ways can help you stay in your home longer and more safely.

There are a number of programs available that might help fund these improvements including Home Adaptations for Independence and the BC Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit.

5. Funding available for renters over 60:

B.C. residents over 60 with low to moderate incomes who rent their homes may be eligible for the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER)  program, which provides monthly cash payment to subsidize rent, including homes in the private rental market.

6. More information for those needing home support:

If you or your parent are looking for supportive housing—typically modified rental homes for low-income seniors and people with disabilities—or assisted living housing facilities that offer a range of care services, BC Housing provides more information here.

7. Consider home swapping to save on property transfer tax:

Another little-known tip is a provision in the Property Transfer Tax Act that eliminates the requirement for this tax when a principal residence is transferred between related individuals, including a parent and child. This means parents and children could “swap” homes, or a child could move into and purchase a parent’s home without paying property transfer tax if the parent moves on to supported housing without paying property transfer tax, if they meet specific guidelines, outlined here.

8. Keep your planning documents up-to-date:

It’s important to remember that whenever your housing situation changes, it may affect your overall estate planning needs. It’s important to ensure your Will, Power of Attorney and other important documents are up to date. This is particularly important if yours is a blended family as the type of ownership of the home impacts your estate plan.

These tips can add up to substantial savings and peace of mind for baby boomers, seniors and their families.

The Society of Notaries Public of BC represents more than 340 highly trained notary professionals across the province.