Chellie Mejia, B.Sc.


Get ready to move

By Chellie Mejia, B.Sc.

Figuring out whether or not you’re ready to buy a house is a huge task; so it’s not surprising that most of the meetings I have every week are with couples and families who aren’t quite sure whether or not they should take that next big step. Whether I’m talking to renters who are aiming to make their first purchase, or home owners looking to downsize, the decision to buy is a big one to make, and not one that should be taken lightly.

What I’ve started doing to aid in that decision making process is engaging my clients in what I call a client interview. I’ve noticed that there are signs that indicate whether or not they’re ready to move forward, and things that I can do to make sure that they have the tools and the information they need to be able to make that transition.

Firstly, I look for clients who have the money together for a down payment and closing costs.  I find that closing costs is something often forgotten or unknown, particularly for first time home buyers. A down payment typically ranges anywhere from 5-20 per cent of the purchase price of the property, but closing costs include things like taxes and title insurance.

I also look for clients who have some knowledge of today’s market. Sometimes that takes a little teaching on my part, but it is absolutely necessary. Know what the going rate is for houses in the neighbourhoods that you’re eyeing and have a realistic view of what type of property to expect for the money you intend to spend. It’s much less heartbreaking than finding the home of your dreams and realizing it’s $200,000 outside of your budget.

This goes hand in hand with knowing how much you can carry as a monthly mortgage payment.  The general rule is that your mortgage payment be less than or equal to about 25 per cent of your gross monthly income. Clients who have a full understanding of their finances and how much they can afford to spend on their home are doing their homework.

A little prep work to make sure that their credit is in good shape is also important. Potential lenders who will be issuing mortgages will view your credit history to determine interest rates or even whether or not they’re willing to provide a loan. It costs about $30 to pull your own credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union), so really, what’s an additional hundred dollars spent if it means saving potential thousands in interest rates on a mortgaged home.

My end goal is to have clients who are excited and happy about the purchases they’ve made; so I like to make sure there are no surprises. Making sure that they’re knowledgeable about the additional expenses that come with owning a home―homeowners insurance, utility bills, maintenance costs, etc.― is essential.

All in all, figuring out whether or not a client is ready to move can be a daunting task, for me and for them! But doing the prep work and making sure that everything is lined up to make the process go as smoothly as possible can make the end result oh so blissful, and totally worth the work.

Online money management

By: Chellie Mejia, B.Sc.

A true lovechild of the 21st century, one of the things that really changed my financial life, and made me feel like I was in control of my financial future, was the onset of managing my money safely and securely online.

I’ll be completely honest with you. If you mail me something, I’ll lose it. I will. Guaranteed. Within days sometimes, but usually, within hours. Paper statements rarely get opened and build up into scary, intimidating little piles on top of my microwave before I just close my eyes and shred them. I own a cheque book, but I can’t find it, let alone a stamp to mail —well anything, really. I use my envelopes to collect my receipts, but then I lose those envelopes, and it’s always a sad day when that happens.

I should probably learn to curb all of these bad habits, but truth be told, I’ve learnt that I really don’t have to. I go paperless with all my accounts so that bills and statements are emailed directly to me and accessible from pretty much anywhere. I can find them when I need them, use the little arrows in the top menu to sort them how I want them, and since I check my email every 10-15 seconds on my smartphone (and that’s only a slight exaggeration), I haven’t run into a situation yet where I’ve missed a bill payment due date. Plus, I get the added incentive of being “environmentally friendly and green”. Bonus!

I pay my bills online by setting up pre-authorized payments with any service provider that will allow me to do so. Then, I put a recurring reminder into my calendar just to make sure I download and reconcile all my bills monthly, making sure everything is accurate and good to go. My banking institutions allow me to download every transaction into Microsoft Money, which makes for a pretty easy and quick analysis of my current financial position and makes planning or catching inadequacies a lot easier as well.

Online money management has even made a difference in managing my investment strategies. I can see at a glance, and from different perspectives, how my investment accounts are doing and decide pretty quickly whether it’s time to relocate assets if they’re not earning what I thought they would.

So, while I may eventually have to backtrack my 21st century inadequacies for things like handwritten thank you notes and human interaction (and I am trying, I promise!), for now, managing my personal finances has never been easier, more cost effective, or more green (which is always a great bonus).

Sunshine and real estate

It’s common knowledge by now that the weather has a tangible effect on retail sales. December sales suffer if a snowfall doesn’t happen to get consumers into the “holiday spirit,” and sunny days can mean day-long window shopping excursions that turn into impulse purchases and the obligatory dinner and drinks that follow. The real estate market is no different.

Even with major investments like real estate, consumer tendencies seem to move with the mercury, almost independent of the economic climate. In Toronto, January is traditionally the slowest month for home sales, no doubt a combination of lower cash flow after the holiday season and the difficulty of showing houses effectively. Buyers are less motivated to venture out through the snow and slush to view multiple properties, and sellers can find it difficult to showcase the true beauty of their properties through the ice and snow.

And then there’s spring and summer, “high season” for those in the real estate game and prime time for sellers who want to get top dollar for their properties by employing agents who know how to capitalize on the landscaping and vibrancy of their biggest season.

The numbers are already starting to show the rise in national home sales.  According to statistics released just this month by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales rose 0.6% from March to April, with home sales improving in more than half of all local markets from March to April. This trend was led by gains in the GTA, Winnipeg, Calgary and Victoria, and with the national average sale price rising 1.3% on a year-over-year basis in April, the Canadian housing market is firmly lodged in balanced territory, which is great news for buyers and sellers alike.

Even with the new mortgage rules that took effect in 2012, the market has remained remarkably steady, and the upward trend for this warmer season is still a palpable reality for all those caught up in the real estate game.

Hours of sunshine always helps me shake off the lethargy and “blah-ness” of the winter months and gets me even more excited and geared up for my work, and I can always see the excitement in motivation in my clients as well. I feed off of it, I love it. And it’s that energy that can translate into some incredible transactions this season.

Denim shorts and wedge sandals, sunshine and real estate: my four favourite summer things. I’m looking forward to having a blast. Won’t you join me?

REAL ESTATE ETHICS: Dealing with property stigmas and dark pasts

One year ago, almost to the day, the entire nation was rocked by the discovery of 33-year-old university student Jun Lin’s torso in a suitcase behind a Montreal apartment building. Luka Magnotta, 30, now faces first-degree murder charges with allegations that Lin was actually killed and dismembered in his apartment.

That bachelor apartment sat vacant for more than six months following the international manhunt that led to Magnotta’s arrest. The building’s superintendent, Eric Schorer, confirms that it has now been rented to a man he describes as a foreigner who may not know anything about the past of his current home.

I don’t know how I feel about this. As a Realtor, current legislation requires that I disclose to potential buyers or renters any physical defects of a property that may be hidden from view. That’s not a choice or a business decision. That’s the law. But there is no law that requires that I disclose any stigmas or dark pasts and revelations about a home. So do I let the new owners know that the property was the site of a murder? A suicide? It has nothing to do with the structure of the property itself, but even my appraiser agrees that certain events will impact a property’s value, even if it doesn’t impact the physical structure.

Talkative neighbours could impact future sales, and prospective buyers who aren’t even suspicious of any negative events could pull up an old news story just by Googling the address of a property. The financial impact is real, but even foregoing that element of a Realtor’s duty, in metropolitan cities like Montreal and Toronto, the number of buyers and renters with cultural backgrounds that could make them sensitive to these stigmas has to be taken into consideration.

I started this article unsure of how I felt about this topic. There are financial realities that impact both sides, and I suppose it comes down to a case by case issue as to what needs to be disclosed – the murder last year vs. the neighbourhood kids think the place is haunted. But in reality, it comes down to a pretty simple rule that should be guiding every decision I make in business.

It is my duty as a Realtor to do right by my clients and the individuals that I work with, and that includes following the letter of the law in addition to staying true to my moral compass and disclosing what I think needs to be disclosed to the young couple renting their first condo, the young family buying their first home, the business partners buying another investment property, and everyone in between. All hands on deck and all cards on the table – people deserve to know all the details behind what will most likely be the single largest transaction of their lives, and I have an obligation as a professional and as a good person to make sure that that happens.


Follow Chellie on Twitter: @ChellieMejia

No big deal

“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” It was the statement from a Toronto Police Service officer last year that rocked the entire city – a glaringly apparent display of inherent misogyny and institutionalised sexism. It was a message that rang loud and clear: victim blaming is alive and well in our fair city.

The reality is that comments like those of that officer to an entire audience at Osgoode Hall are not isolated incidents. Victim blaming has taken on new forms, and has subtly but quite intricately woven its way into the fabric of public opinion. It operates as a mechanism to keep victims silent and keep society comfortable. It keeps victims of sexual assaults questioning themselves and their own actions – maybe I shouldn’t have worn that skirt, maybe I shouldn’t have accepted his drink offer – and it allows the rest of society to shake their heads at the poor choices these loose women made that brought the entire situation onto themselves. Quite frankly, they were asking for it. Maybe next time, they’ll know better.

Because knowing better is of course the key. A radical shift has been made towards making victims take responsibility for the role they played in being assaulted. It’s an almost indiscernible shift, often masked as concern or education, but it is significant.

When did it become acceptable to respond to a rape investigation with questions about why the victim was wearing the type of underwear that she was wearing?

Why are judges handing out minor conditional sentences because of “inviting circumstances” like Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar or “an opportunistic event” like the judge in the case of Fernando Manuel Alves who pleaded guilty to sexual assault and was given nine months of probation?

We’ve failed to reach a societal understanding of the patriarchal and misogynistic core of sexual violence. It is about power and control, not about miniskirts and stilettos. These misconceptions are crippling victims, and allowing them to be re-victimized by a society who holds judgment and a justice system that places the onus on them.

Do women need to know how to protect themselves in crisis situations? Of course. But the conversation needs to shift back to equality and, in this case, the equal right to be free from violence and to feel safe in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities.

A message to victims of sexual assault: It’s not right.

It’s not your fault.

And it is a big deal.

Keep talking.


LOVE & SEX: Workplace dating, off limits or okay?

I got into an interesting conversation with a colleague the other day, and I must say, it was one of the few business topics that I haven’t formulated a strong opinion on: workplace dating.

It’s not news to me that many people find their romantic partners in the workplace.  Many professionals spend most of their waking hours in their offices, and with 40 to 50 hour work weeks, conferences, and lunch meetings, it’s really not surprising that these relationships can develop with colleagues.  What I’m undecided on is whether or not this aspect of employees’ lives is something that should be regulated by workplace regulations.

Advocates to regulation point to things like the potential for conflicts of interest, or the possibility for preferential treatment.  These conflicts can play out particularly when the relationship exists with someone in a managerial capacity.  I can certainly see how that might be a concern, but no more of a concern than family members working together, right?  Then, of course, there is the inevitable breakdown of some of these relationships that could run the risk of personal emotions and conflicts being brought into the workplace.

Many companies have put policies in place to regulate personal and family relationships at work that specifically outline their requirements for their workers to remain free from any possible negative influences.  Examples include, full disclosure of these relationships so that safeguards can be put in place for any work that might be reviewed or approved by the other person, anyone being in a position to make and approve promotion recommendations for the other person, or being in a position to recommend or approve salary increases or expense reports.

Even after a lengthy debate and conversation with my colleague, I’m still really not sure where my opinion lies on this.  While there are many repercussions that could trickle into the effective function of a business that would necessitate regulation, I’m just not completely comfortable with a company keeping tabs on something so private and personal in an employee’s life.

Regardless of what the HR regulations are for your company however, I think it is an issue that should not be taken lightly, and it is imperative that professionalism be the ultimate guideline in the establishment or breakdown of these relationships.

I think though, that as long you’re being professional and not affecting anyone else in the workplace, live and let live …  Maybe?



Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

TAKING BACK LUNCH TIME: No more working lunches

I’m taking back my lunch.

Every day, I have what has become a largely accepted phenomenon in the corporate business world: the working lunch.  It’s an odd term really, because the working lunch accomplishes neither one of the tasks that its name hints at. Any work accomplished is mediocre at best, if not completely nonsensical on account of my incessant hunger pains, and any vending machine lunch I manage to put together is hardly edible.  And, I’m not alone.

According to recent research, increased work pressure and longer hours are resulting in nearly a third of all nine to fivers not stopping to take a proper lunch.  25-percent of those asked admitted that they only took a lunch break if their work load allowed for it.

I’ve been thinking about how much more productive I would be if I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and take my lunches.  How much less stressed would I be? How much more relaxed and focus would I be? It’s so incredibly well documented that eating a healthy lunch and stepping away from the pressures of a work day for just a few minutes can improve not only the quality of your work, but also the quality of your life, even affecting things like life expectancy. There are countless benefits to adopting this new (old?) mindset in the workplace, and I intend on taking full advantage of it.

I’m going to plan my lunches – well balanced, healthy, and delicious little concoctions that will brighten up my day just thinking of them. I might even write myself little notes of inspiration: “Go get em, tiger!” (I’ll of course have time to think of something way more clever and inspiring.)

And if we’re in double digit degrees, I’m going to find a tree and eat outside, in the sunshine. I’m going to drag my colleagues out of their offices and force them to eat with me, and we will all hum a happy tune as we skip back into the office ready to take on the rest of the work day.

I’m making a pledge to myself to take care of all aspects of me, and that includes work-me. I’m making every effort to boost my own efficiency and morale, and hopefully the efficiency and morale of those around me. No more chocolate bars and sodas for me; I’m taking my lunch back.


PUSHING BOUNDARIES: A new breed of business woman

I had the pleasure this past week of meeting a girl by the name of Shannon Boodram.  I hired her as a photographer, and had an absolute blast, listening to Michael Jackson and talking about nothing serious at all.  She wore a high bun at the top of her head, fresh-faced, no makeup, and an oversized sweater over black tights accessorized with a couple of long stranded necklaces.  If I were to show you a photo of her, in all of her Bohemian chic glory, most would probably never guess that this natural and authentic beauty was actually a fiercely competent business woman, published author, with an established and rapidly expanding brand in and a knack for networking and presentation that would put her on par with the who’s who of business Canada.

This is the new brand of businesswoman.

I am awed by the sheer number of businesswomen that I meet every day who are pushing the boundaries of what is expected and accepted for the woman’s experience in corporate Canada.  There is a movement towards authenticity and self-awareness that is so refreshing.

I gave a lecture just a few weeks ago on how important it was in 2012 to be sure that you’re in a profession that you love and that you’re passionate about and can be yourself with, because with work e-mails coming to your personal cell phone, work associates on your Facebook friends list, and potential consumers looking up your Twitter profile, they’re all intertwined.  It’s no longer realistic to follow the adage of keeping your personal life out of the workplace and your work out of your home.  Work Chellie can’t be different from Mom Chellie, Wife Chellie, or Friend Chellie.  My work colleagues are some of my best friends, and who I am with them on Saturday afternoon is not any different from how I am with them on Monday morning, minus a mojito or two.

I really think that it’s worked for me in business, this comfort level that I’ve built with my colleagues and clients where they know that the enthusiasm and passion that they see with me in business is the same personality that they’ll see in any other aspect of my life.  Nothing is hidden, everything is me, and they appreciate that breakdown of the usual façade.  It’s a balance that I’ve chosen for myself, and that many other women in business seem to be choosing for themselves as well.

So a toast to the loveliest business woman I’ve met this week, and all the others who are embracing and harnessing their individual power in business; you are my inspiration!



Happy Tuesday! It’s the day after a record-breaking rainfall drenched Toronto, leaving commuters stuck in subway stations and stranded in vehicles all across the city. Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, confirms that this rainfall is ranked among the most intense rainfalls the city has ever experienced, with 90 mm of rain within 90 minutes. In total, 126 mm of rain fell at Pearson yesterday, with the original record of 121 mm being set by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

What does that mean for Torontonians today? Twenty thousand people are still without power, concentrated mostly in the west end of the GTA; TTC and GO Train services have been impacted; and the clean-up will continue for those in the city with flooded basements and damaged property.

Short of putting your home up on stilts, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to completely flood-proof your home, but there are a lot of things that can be done to help reduce the damage of a flood like yesterday’s.

For one thing, I listen to the warnings. So much can be prevented if the warnings put out by Environment Canada are taken seriously and not brushed off until it’s too late to do anything about it. I always have this semi-irrational fear that ignoring a flood warning will leave me sloshing around soaked and stinky carpets and picking up the pieces of ruined furniture, electronics and family albums. And then, of course, there’s the mould. So I listen, I take them seriously and I do whatever I can do last minute to prepare.

I clear my gutters, drains, and downspouts. Okay, I get my husband to clear my gutters, drains, and downspouts. That’s totally the same thing.

We don’t have anything that needs it in our basement right now, but I always do a check to see if I’ve got any furniture, electronics or appliances that are in harm’s way, so that I can raise them onto concrete blocks.

I get my hands on some sandbags and I use them anywhere I expect water to be able to seep in.

None of these are major retrofits or impermeable solutions, but a couple dollars spent could be your defense against tens of thousands of dollars in major damage caused by flood damage, so I do what I can.

I’m sending a ton of well wishes and positive energy to all fellow Torontonians still dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s rainfall.

Why realtors don’t suck: The benefits of a quality realtor

I hear it every so often, and it always gets under my skin: what’s the point of a real estate agent anyway? I mean, why not just slap a ‘For Sale’ sign on your house, take some good pictures and get it online? Right? Sigh. I think though that I’ve finally figured out what the issue is. Too many agents are using that exact formula, expecting market demand to do their work for them and not doing what they were in fact trained to do.

Buying or selling a home, whether it’s the first time or the hundredth, is an intricate process that requires many specialists. Property appraisers, home inspectors, and a host of other professionals work to make the transaction as easy and as smooth as possible. I’d like to think that most Realtors are there to serve the same purpose, but working in the industry day in and day out, I think it’s fair to say I’m generally underwhelmed by the quality of service provided by a lot of agents in the city. In that vein, I’d like to take a look at what makes a quality Realtor, and how that professional can make a world of a difference in facilitating your next real estate transaction.

The easiest way for me to spot a home being sold without a quality Realtor is the pricing. There happens to be a home sitting on my street for sale right now (and for the last few months) with a price tag on it that’s tens of thousands above what any comparable home has sold for within a ten kilometre radius in the last two years. I know this, because I do my homework, and any agent worth their title ought to be able to do the same.

Agents have access to a wealth of information, not only about current listing prices but of comparable completed transactions that should affect the list price of your property and how long it stays on the market.

But the biggest benefit of a competent representation is in the details. The staging, the open houses, the negotiations to get you exactly what you want out of the transaction – these things are invaluable and not easily replicated by just anyone. When it comes down to the offer, legal clauses and conditions protect your assets and ensure a smooth transition, and even before the offer goes firm, coordination of inspections and completion of required conditions are a breeze with a seasoned professional who knows exactly what they’re doing.

Above all, a quality Realtor works with commitment and integrity. It’s your property on the line, but it’s their name too, and to the right agent, both those things should be invaluable, and both should be worth working their butts off for.

So perhaps a revision of my title is in order. “Why some Realtors don’t suck” – because they care.