Canadian Households To Get "Short Break" From Rising Debt Costs

Canadian households should start to see a lower trend for the debt service ratio in 2020 according to a new report from TD Economics.
Economists have been looking back over 2019 and made predictions for the new year and note that interest rates were the biggest surprise of the past year.
Rates had been rising in 2018 but reversed in 2019. Also, the yield on 5-year bonds fell by almost a full percentage point from their late 2018 peak, with mortgage rates following the lead.
While the lower mortgage rates helped boost home-ownership, TD’s report notes that most households haven’t felt much relief from their debt servicing costs with a debt service ratio (DSR) of 15% in the third quarter, the highest level on record, compared to 14.7% a year earlier.
However, 2020 is expected to see the DSR decline amid lower rates which will start to reach homeowners, while unsecured debt should also see lower rates if the Bank of Canada makes an expected cut.
This won’t of course impact every household with only a few refinancing mortgages or other loans in any given year, but the forecast calls for an average $300 saving per household, relief that was not expected a year ago.
Rising rates
But the report also warns that the relief to debt servicing costs is likely to be short-lived.
Assuming an escape from global recession, there is likely to be a rise in bond yields during 2020 and 2021, which could mean DSR moving higher once again in 2021.

New Report Details Significant Price Growth In Key Recreational Property Markets

Royal LePage’s Winter Recreational Property Report, released on November 28, discovered widespread disparity in the year-over-year price variation experienced by Canada’s most popular winter recreational property markets.
In comparing median price growth between October 1 and September 30 in 2018 and 2019, the report found that the most consistent price growth occurred in the eastern half of Canada, with properties in Ontario and Quebec generally outperforming their western counterparts.
Unsurprisingly, expensive properties in Whistler, British Columbia, and Canmore, Alberta, suffered at the hands of each province’s decreased demand for high-ticket homes. The median price of single-family homes in Whistler dropped 13.8 percent in a year; those in Canmore lost only 2 percent of their value. Property values in Kimberley, B.C., decreased by 16.8 per cent.
It wasn’t, however, all bad news in B.C. Detached properties in Invermere saw their prices increase 10.4%, while those of condo properties in all three B.C. destinations increased by a minimum of five percent.
Prices for single-family homes in Collingwood and Blue Mountain, Ontario’s two winter hotspots, grew by 8.3 and 4.0 percent, respectively. Detached properties in Collingwood, where the median price is $525,000, remain far less expensive than those in Blue Mountain, which has a median price of $780,000, but condos are, on average, about $15,000 cheaper in Blue Mountain.
Rick Crouch of Royal LePage Locations North predicts sales in the region will be brisk this winter, as the early snowfall experienced by Blue Mountain and nearby Horseshoe inspire more people to buy.
Of the dozen communities studied in Quebec, six experienced positive price growth in the single-family segment of the market. Of those that did not, only small communities such as Sutton and Cantley saw prices decrease by more than 2.2 percent.    
Some of the biggest gains were witnessed in Mont-Tremblant, where median prices increased by as much as 37.3 percent for detached properties and 37.8 percent for condos.
“Inventory is very low in Mont-Tremblant. When a new property enters the market, buyers line up and offers flood in,” said Paul Dalbec, manager at Mont-Tremblant Real Estate, in a comment included in the report.
Home values shot up by 12.5 percent in both Orford (east of Montreal) and Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury (north of Quebec City), as well, with condo prices in the latter rising by an impressive 18.8 percent. 

How The Portrait Of a First-Time Homebuyer Has Changed Since The Stress Test

The mortgage stress test, extended to uninsured mortgages in January 2018, has generated a diversity of opinions. Its proponents argue that the stress test has introduced financial discipline while not hurting prospective homebuyers. The discontents believe that the stress test has eroded the affordability of first-time homebuyers, some of whom have been forced to rent for more extended periods.

The recently released CMHC mortgage consumer survey helps unpack the arguments on the impact of the stress test. The CMHC surveyed 1,385 homebuyers across Canada who had undertaken a mortgage transaction in the past 18 months. This implies that some respondents reported on their mortgage-related experience from 2018.

An exciting feature of the survey is the distinction between first-time homebuyers, who constituted 47 per cent of the sample, and the repeat buyers representing the other 53 per cent.

The majority of the first-time homebuyers were 25 to 34 years old, compared to just 17 per cent of the repeat buyers. Also, singles accounted for almost one in four first-time homebuyers compared to one in 10 repeat buyers. Interestingly, 61 per cent of the respondents were female, suggesting an increase in home purchasing by women.

The homebuyers’ top concerns in 2019 were housing affordability, housing size and proximity to public transit. These concerns coincided with housing prices declining across Canada in 2018 as prices remained lower than the peak prices reached in either 2016 or 2017.

Many industry observers credited the stress test for the decline in prices and the erosion of housing affordability because homebuyers had to qualify at a mortgage rate approximately two percentage points higher than the contracted rate. The 2019 survey, though, presents a positive impression of the stress test among homebuyers.

The survey reported that 65 per cent of the buyers believed the stress test would “keep more Canadians from taking on a mortgage they can’t afford.” However, one in five homebuyers acquired a dwelling that did not meet their needs.

An interesting picture emerges when one compares the share of first-time homebuyers respondents in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 survey, completed in April 2018, interviewed 4,000 respondents who had undertaken a mortgage transaction in the past 12 months. This implies that most respondents in the 2018 survey would have reported on their homebuying experience before the stress test’s reach was broadened in January 2018.

Most homebuyers (56 per cent) in the 2018 survey were first-time homebuyers, but their share fell to 47 per cent in the 2019 survey. Could it be that a decline of 16 per cent in the share of first-time homebuyers in the 2019 survey was partially due to the stress-test-induced erosion of housing affordability?

Other statistics reported in the survey are indicative of the higher affordability burdens even when housing prices had declined from the peak observed earlier.

Consider that 22 per cent of first-time homebuyers reported renting for more than ten years in the 2018 survey. Their share jumped to 31 per cent in 2019. Hence, a much larger share of first-time homebuyers, who had purchased homes in 2018-19, reported renting for more than ten years to save for a house.

Another indicator of a shift in the demographics is the share of first-time homebuyers who had rented with family and friends before buying. Interestingly, the family- and friends-assisted cohort of first-time homebuyers jumped from 28 per cent in 2018 to 44 per cent in 2019. Similarly, those first-time homebuyers who rented on their own before buying a house declined from 39 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent in 2019.

At the same time, no fewer than 76 per cent of the respondents reported that the changes related to the stress test “had little or no impact on their decision to buy a home.” However, of the remaining 24 per cent (one in four homebuyers) affected by the stress test, some compromises were needed on the path to homeownership. Most cut back on other expenses (60 per cent), relied more on their savings (59 per cent) or bought a smaller home (52 per cent).

Whereas 47 per cent of homebuyers affected by the stress test purchased a smaller or less expensive home in 2018, a much larger share of 61 per cent reported the same in 2019.

The increase in household debt burdens, primarily because of mortgage-related debt, is also reflected in the survey. Compared to 2018, when 19 per cent of buyers reported their debt being higher than expected, the share increased to 23 per cent in 2019. Of those struggling with making regular mortgage payments, 73 per cent cited the credit card debt as the reason. The comparative stats further revealed that buyers with less than 20 per cent of the down payment increased in 2019 compared to 2018. Furthermore, the 2019 survey found a slight increase in the share of those “who didn’t have enough saved for a larger down payment.” CMHC’s 2019 survey of homebuying offers valuable insights on how homebuying has changed over the past few years. Though the survey periods do not permit a strict before-and-after comparison of homebuying concerning the stress test, still the indicators reported suggest that in 2019, FTHB accounted for fewer homebuyers, comprised of a larger share of those who rented for more extended periods, and their savings increasingly fell short to qualify for a mortgage.

 Article by: Financial Post

The Ultimate Winter Home Preparation Checklist

Fall is the perfect time to winterize your home. As much as we may not want to acknowledge it, the snow is headed our way and Old Man Winter will soon be knocking on doors. Is your home ready for the visit? This week we’re helping you get ready with the ultimate winter home preparation checklist! Give your home a little TLC before winter starts and you’ll reap the benefits all season long.


  • Trim any overgrown branches near the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem.
  • Clean your patio furniture and put it away or cover it with a heavy tarp to protect it from the elements. The same goes for any lawn equipment.
  • Clean out the gutters to prevent water damage to the roof and surrounding areas and make sure the gutters and downspouts are secure.
  • Clean any debris from your outdoor air conditioning unit and cover it with a protective tarp.
  • Clean out your planters and bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials inside.
  • Remove any attached hoses, drain them, and store them indoors to prevent damage.
  •  Wrap any outside faucets with covers to prevent water damage. Be sure to drain them first and then shut them off to protect against the pipes bursting.
  • Check your roof for any missing, loose, or damaged shingles. If you find any, be sure to have them replaced to prevent leaks.
  • Cut the grass and leaves so that the small cut up pieces will nourish the lawn over the winter.


  • Schedule an appointment for furnace maintenance to avoid any surprises. Having a furnace check-up done before the cold weather officially hits is a good way to avoid waiting for an appointment if your unit conks out on the coldest day of the year!
  • Clean your whole home humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  • Check that all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  • Check doors and windows for air leaks. Caulk inside and outside or replace the weather-stripping if necessary to help stop warm air escaping.
  • Remove window air conditioning units and replace the window.
  • If your sump pump only runs occasionally, be sure to test it to ensure that it is in working order to avoid floods when the snow melts. Do this by pouring water down to make sure the pump turns on when it should.
  • Replace your furnace filter for maximum efficiency and improved air quality.

The changing weather in the winter can wreak havoc on your home if you’re not prepared, so follow this winter home preparation checklist to keep things in tip-top shape!

Article by: HomeBridge Canada Inc.

3 Ways LED Lights Are Better Than Ever

The last 15 years have seen the biggest advancements in lighting since Thomas Edison brought his incandescent bulb to the market. Lightbulbs are now smart enough to listen to our voices and promote a better night’s sleep. Perhaps the most helpful advancement in lighting is the improved quality of LEDs. Today’s high-quality LEDs deliver impressive energy savings — near 90% — compared with incandescent bulbs, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. LEDs are also driving a lighting revolution with smaller sizes, improved brightness and wide-ranging colors.
Each of these advancements creates opportunities to illuminate your house in great new ways, making this a perfect time to rethink your home’s lighting.

1. Smaller Size

LEDs can be as small as the head of a pin, and this allows us to light our homes more discreetly and with more precision than ever. LED strips can be hidden inside cabinets, drawers, closet rods, shelves and just about any place you can imagine. We can place light where it is needed instead of attempting to fill a room with a broad wash of light that often causes glare. 

The small size of today’s LEDs also makes adding cove lighting to homes easier than ever. A few strips of LED lights tucked into a ceiling cove can make a classic ceiling feature even more dramatic.

Smaller recessed downlights are another result. It is now possible to get everything you need from a series of 1- or 2-inch downlights instead of the 6- or 8-inch cans of decades past. Many homeowners love the less cluttered ceiling that results.

2. Brighter Light

While LEDs have become smaller in size, they have grown in brightness. The combination of small size and high brightness allows them to deliver functional light in new ways. 

Brighter LEDs allow us to provide all the light we need on countertops when placed discretely underneath upper cabinets. This can reduce shadows on the counter to almost nothing — a much better and safer approach.

Most LED bulbs available to the consumer are labeled with an equivalent incandescent bulb wattage, such as “60-watt equivalent.” This can be quite helpful, as you simply need a higher or lower number for the wattage equivalent if you want more or less light. As a basic guide, an LED bulb equivalent to 60 watts should produce about 800 lumens, a technical measurement of the amount of light leaving a bulb.

3. Wider Range of Colors

With a simple push of a button, LEDs can be mixed together to change into nearly any color imaginable. Red, green, blue and white LEDs combine to create a rainbow of colors that can set the perfect scene for a romantic dinner and then change into your favorite team’s colors for watching the big game.While colored LED lights might seem like a novelty, selecting the right color “temperature” can make a dramatic difference for everyday lighting. A bulb’s lighting facts will use the term “color appearance,” which is another term for “color temperature.” This helpful metric is measured in degrees Kelvin, with lower color temperatures being warmer, or amber, and higher color temperatures being cooler, or blue.

Article from: Houzz

Halloween Safety

Halloween Safety

364 days of the year we tell our kids, 'Don't take candy from strangers!' And then on Halloween we send them out to take candy from every stranger they can find. And we call our children confusing!

Halloween can be fun, exciting and a whole lot safer if you review some Halloween safety tips and prepare a bit before they go out:

1. NEVER eat candy until your parents have had a chance to look at it.

  • As a parent this is very stressful' what the heck are we supposed to be looking for' I'm a parent, not a forensic scientist?!? If anything is unwrapped or if you are at all uncertain, throw it away. Have an extra stash of candy to replenish your child's supply. (To be honest, I throw a LOT away' I figure an extra $10 spent on replacement candy for my child's safety and my peace of mind is well worth it' ).
  • We are quite good friends with the neighbours on the block and we package special, big treats in closed paper bags for each others kids, complete with name, phone number written on the front. As an extra precaution, you could even distribute special stickers for the people on your block to use to ensure they were the givers of the treat bags. For most of the kids, the block plus the community center Haunted House is enough trick or treating for them anyways.

2. Stay with a big group (preferably including an adult!). Stress the importance of not splitting up (if 'Johnny' is cold and wants to go home, EVERYONE should walk him home before continuing to trick or treat). Just in case your child ends up being 'Johnny', let the children know before they go out that when the group returns safely with your child, there will be an extra special treat waiting for them (make it worth their while to stick together!)

3. Obey traffic laws, don't run out between parked cars, stay on the sidewalk, don't take shortcuts through back alleys or parking lots!

4. If your children are going out alone (without an adult), designate a route together before they leave.

  • Stress the importance of them staying on that route, so if something does happen there's a chance of finding them!
  • Talk to them about the fact that you are trusting them to go out on their own and that with trust comes responsibility!
  • If they are going out alone, make sure they have a flashlight and money for a phone call.

5. NEVER enter a stranger's house. They may have THE COOLEST haunted house and THE COOLEST candy on the block, but they are still strangers. TALK TO YOUR KIDS about this! If the child absolutely must see the house, let them know that you would be willing to accompany them later in the evening. Or, better yet, many companies, zoos, etc have started putting on haunted houses the day or two before Halloween' attend one with your children to get it out of their system.

6. Only visit houses that have lights on. Not everyone enjoys Halloween' talk about and respect the differences in people's views!

7. Wear a bright costume. If your costume is not bright enough (or even if you think it is!), put some reflective tape on the back and front. This can be done in a way that goes well with the costume'
  • in the shape of a bat for batman, a witch or a vampire,
  • as an outlined fringe on a cape,
  • as moon shapes for a witch or a wizard,
  • in a skull and crossbones shape for a pirate.

8. Don't wear masks -- use makeup instead. If the costume comes with a mask and the child MUST wear it, have them put it on top of their head (like a hat). They can then bow their heads to show the mask.

9. For those of you in colder climates (like us), make sure you think of the season when you are making or buying the costume!

  • Hats and mittens are a must has a lot of costume ideas with baseball caps' these can be easily modified to use winter hats.
  • Cloaks can be used instead of the capes that come with store bought costumes. They're VERY simple to make (they have to be... I can't sew *grin*) and can be made with fleece or other warm fabric. I highly recommend adding them to any cold weather costume!! How to make a No-Sew Cloak

Full article here: Halloween Safety

Have a Fun & Safe Halloween Everyone!

Bank of Canada Reveals Latest Interest Rate Decision

The Bank of Canada resisted pressure from investors by declining to signal it will soon follow global peers in easing monetary policy.
At a decision Wednesday, policy makers left interest rates unchanged for a seventh straight meeting and said stronger than expected growth, as well as inflation on target, means current levels of stimulus are where they should be. That’s despite the escalating trade war between China and the U.S. undermining global economic momentum.
The Bank of Canada’s reluctance to signal a greater willingness to cut rates -- which makes it an outlier as counterparts around the world ease policy -- may come as a surprise to some investors and analysts who had expected more dovish language and some easing later this year. The Canadian dollar rose after the statement.
“This is a bit more hawkish than we anticipated,” said Brett House, deputy chief economist at Bank of Nova Scotia. It’s “not a clear change in bias. It doesn’t close the door on an October cut, but it doesn’t set up an October cut either.”
Wednesday’s narrative underlined trade risks and reiterated that Canadian growth is likely to slow in the second half of this year -- all of which suggests policy makers are far from confident about the economic outlook and could be keeping the door open for increasing stimulus if things worsen.
Global Easing
But the net effect of the statement is a continuation -- at least explicitly -- of the central bank’s reluctance to show its hand on whether it plans to join other central banks like the Federal Reserve in easing policy, preferring instead to wait for more concrete signs of weakness before moving.
“In sum, Canada’s economy is operating close to potential and inflation is on target. However, escalating trade conflicts and related uncertainty are taking a toll on the global and Canadian economies,” the central bank said in its statement. “In this context, the current degree of monetary policy stimulus remains appropriate.”
The Canadian dollar rose 0.4% to C$1.3280 per U.S. dollar at 10:09 a.m. Swaps trading suggests investors are fully pricing in a cut by December, with strong odds of a second by this time next year. That’s still less than the four rate cuts priced by the Federal Reserve over that time.
“The Bank of Canada is stalling but it will eventually be peer-pressured into interest-rate cuts,” Frances Donald, chief economist at Manulife Investment Management Ltd., told BNN Bloomberg.
Waiting too long is a risky strategy that could backfire if policy makers are late to recognize spillover effects on businesses and households, particularly since the country’s outlier status on policy could fuel gains in the Canadian dollar.
Bank of Canada officials said they will pay close attention to “global developments and their impacts on the outlook for Canadian growth and inflation.”
The case for cheaper money isn’t as compelling in Canada as it is elsewhere. A strong run of economic data affords the Bank of Canada opportunity to resist -- as it has so far -- the dovish turn in global policy.
Interest rates also remain stimulative in real terms, and borrowing costs have already declined sharply in the country because of falling global bond yields -- a development the Bank of Canada cited in its statement. But escalating tensions between China and the U.S. are getting tougher to overlook. Trump’s tariffs on imports from China have already become a major reason behind global factory weakness.
The Bank of Canada characterized Canadian second quarter growth of 3.7% annualized as “strong” but noted some of the strength was probably temporary and pointed out that consumption spending was unexpectedly soft.

Article by - Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Canmore Compost Bins Roll Out

                            Photo by Rocky Mountain Outlook

CANMORE – Canmorites can now pick up residential compost bins before the pilot project officially kicks off.

A new accessory on the Civic Centre counter, the eight-litre kitchen bin can be picked up at several locations over the next couple of weeks including the Civic Centre, the weekly Canmore Mountain Market on 7th Avenue and grocery stores in the community with the project officially starting Sept. 3.

"Food waste programs for municipalities are part of the norm," said Amy Fournier, Climate Change Specialist for the Town, who previously worked with the City of Vancouver sustainability group.

"There has been lots of enthusiasm, lots of community members are engaged on it, it's been fantastic. People have been waiting for this for a long time."

Introduced to Canmore as a result of community interest and pressure, the $2.9 million pilot project will be here a year earlier than expected after Canmore council made the decision in April to transfer $51,000 from the waste operating budget to the recycling operation budget to pay for the cost of sending the organic material to Banff for 12 months.

Benefits of moving up the residential pilot program were outlined in the staff report, which included moving the community sooner towards achieving the Town's waste diversion goals, per Environmental Sustainability Action Plan.

Partnering with the Town of Banff, which has been successfully running its compost program for more than 10 years, the Town of Canmore will be sending its food waste 24 km west where it is then sent to a composting facility in Strathmore, Alta.

An estimated 500 tonnes of organic waste will be diverted from landfills from residential homes per year with the action plan target to reduce the .60 tonnes of garbage per person per year to .45 tonnes by 2020.  

"We want to divert food waste from the landfill – it is the biggest component of our waste and we are diverting a significant waste," Fournier said.

In 2016, a waste characterization study found residential waste heading to the landfill contained 30 per cent organic material and commercial garbage contained 50 per cent organics.

Working with the program as a climate change specialist, Fournier explained food in the landfill takes years to decompose and ends up releasing methane emissions which is considered approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

"It's a great way for me to launch into my role and launch into the climate change action plan," Fournier said.

"This is a significant and tangible program to help [achieve goals] ... This will help us with our greenhouse gas reduction target goals which helps mitigate climate change."

The Town of Canmore has a list of items accepted on the website including meat, fruits and vegetables, baked good, bones, fruit pits and rinds, coffee filters, tea bags, small amounts of cooking grease, paper towels and pizza boxes.

Items not accepted that Fournier wanted to note is biodegradable bags and take-away cups, even if made of paper on the outside, the cups often have an interior plastic lining meaning it cannot be composted or recycled.

"If in doubt, throw it out," Fournier explained.

"We have these neighbourhood bins so it is a community effort – only putting in food and food soiled paper – and if someone dumps plastics, it ruins the effort for everyone. It happens with recycling as well but if someone comes in and dumps in their garbage it will have to go to the landfill instead and it ruins the effort of other folks."

Residents can start dropping off food waste on Sept. 3 at several different locations including Boulder Crescent Recycling depot, the Downtown Recycling Depot, south Canmore at 4 Street and 7 Avenue, 200 Larch Ave. and at Lawrence Grassi and Peaks Drive.

For more information visit the Town of Canmore website.

Fix It or Not? What to Ask When Prepping Your Home for Sale

When you make the decision to sell your home, it can be tricky to know which changes would make your home sell more quickly or boost the sale price — and which would be a waste of your time and resources. Each home (and each homeowner) is different; that’s why we’ve come up with eight key questions to ask yourself before making any changes to prep your home for sale.

General Questions

These first three questions will help you take the temperature of the real estate market in your area and assess the competition.

1. How hot or cold is the market in your area? Are homes being snapped up after the first open house, or are they languishing on the market for months? Are homes being sold at or near the asking price, or for much lower? Are open houses bustling with people, or is attendance sparse? Get a feel for the market in your area by talking with your real estate agent and checking local listings. If it’s a seller’s market, you may be able to get away with doing fewer repairs and modifications before selling, and still have good results — in a buyer’s market, expect to do more work to make a positive impression on buyers.

2. How fast are you looking to sell? If you need to sell your home immediately — say, because you have already committed to buying another home or need to move because of work — it is in your best interest to do everything in your power to ensure a quick sale at the highest price possible. If you have more flexibility, and you feel uncomfortable making too many pricey changes to your home before selling, it may make more sense to focus on cleaning, decluttering and making small cosmetic changes (like painting) — particularly if the market is hot and favors the seller. If you aren’t getting the offers you would like, you can always decide to spring for a few bigger changes later and relist your home.

3. What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? It can be quite helpful to know a little about the homes that buyers in your area are looking at. Examine photos of homes for sale in your area or even attend a few open houses, and make a mental note of how the other homes compare to yours. Are the kitchens updated? Are the floors in good shape? If all of the other homes you see have a certain feature (for instance, an updated kitchen) that yours lacks, consider making that a priority. You don’t need to make your home exactly like all the other homes on the market; just make sure there isn’t a single factor that could give your home a disadvantage.

To Fix or Not to Fix: Deciding Which Repairs Are Worth Tackling

The next five questions will help you assess whether or not to make a specific repair or change before selling your home.

4. Does the faulty item give the impression the property has not been well cared for? Leaky faucets, cracked tiles, an overgrown lawn, broken appliances or anything else that doesn’t work as it should can immediately turn off buyers. At an open house, people often zip through quite quickly, and if they notice one or two things that send up red flags, they may not give your home another chance.

5. Can you find a less expensive fix? Let’s say you scoped out the comparable homes on the market in your neighborhood, and they all have updated kitchens but yours hasn’t been touched for some time. Rather than spend big on a full kitchen remodel, why not give your kitchen a less costly refresh? For instance, you could paint the cabinets, swap out cabinet hardware, change the light fixtures and upgrade the appliances to something current and functional but not top-of-the-line. You will put some money into it but not nearly as much as with a full remodel — well worth it if it gets your home in the running in a competitive market.

6. How much will you realistically need to lower the price if you don’t fix it? If you have a lot of costly repairs to tackle to get your home ready to sell, you may be considering selling it as is. But keep in mind that buyers looking for a fixer-upper will also be looking to discount the selling price for the repairs plus the hassle. In other words, you won’t be able to simply estimate how much the repairs will cost and deduct that from the selling price; you’ll need to deduct even more to make it worth the buyer’s time and effort. Discuss this with your Realtor and look into other fixer-uppers for sale in your area to come up with an appropriate selling price.

7. Is it one of the first things potential buyers will see? First impressions are key, and that is never more true than in the real estate business! If you have a repair you are unsure about tackling, use this as a litmus test: Is it something the buyer will see as he or she approaches your house and walks through the front door? If so, fix it.

8. Could it be a deal breaker? Some home repairs, like a new roof, are just so major that they will scare off all but the most determined buyers. If the market in your area is hot (see No. 1) and you have ample time (see No. 2), there’s no harm in trying to sell without making the big repair, as long as you are willing to price it accordingly (see No. 6). If it’s a buyer’s market but you don’t have time to make the repair before listing, you could offer to pay for it as part of the sales agreement — otherwise it’s probably best to make the change first and then put your home on the market.

Get Your Home Organized With This Back-to-School Checklist

1. Set Up a Homework Zone

Minimize struggles over homework by setting up a homework zone stocked with all of the supplies your student will need, like notebook paper, glue and markers for special projects. A spacious desk is great for spreading out books, but if your child prefers to work at the kitchen counter, consider stocking a portable homework cart instead.

2. Give Bedrooms a Mini Makeover

If your child is making a big transition this year (say, from preschool to kindergarten, or elementary to middle school), it can be nice to mark the moment with a mini makeover, honoring how your child has grown. And it doesn’t need to be expensive to make a big impact: Put up a world map or new poster, do a DIY project like repainting a chest or swap out the bedding.

3. Record Important Dates on the Calendar

Between school holidays, birthdays and extracurricular activities, it can take some awe-inspiring mental gymnastics to keep everyone’s schedules straight. Whether you use a digital calendar or a big family wall calendar, take the time before the beginning of school to record all of the important dates for the year ahead — you’ll thank yourself later.

4. Make Some Meals Ahead

If you can find an hour or two to get ahead on meal planning and prep, you’ll appreciate it when life gets super busy. Make a few meals to store in the freezer, chop veggies for upcoming recipes and stash them in containers in the fridge, or gather lunch-making components in one central location. Even simply sitting down with a notebook (or your smartphone) and drawing up a meal plan for the next few weeks’ worth of dinners can be a huge help.

5. Create an After-School Snack Zone

When the troops come home tired and hungry, it’s a relief to be able to point the way to a self-serve healthy-snack station. Fill a few baskets at kid height with choices like seeds, dried fruit and whole-grain crackers. Tuck a special snack basket in the fridge too, with fresh options like precut veggies, fruit, yogurt and cheeses.

6. Stash Get-Out-the-Door Essentials Where You Use Them

After the hundredth time I found myself running upstairs to grab the hairbrush and sunscreen stick, I realized (duh) that it would be easier to keep these items near the front door instead. Think through your family’s morning routine and keep your own list of essentials (lunch money? a pen for signing permission slips?) in a drawer near the door.

7. Plan Ahead for Paper Chaos

It’s amazing how quickly the paper can swamp you, especially at the beginning of a new school year. To help tame the chaos, create new files for school papers, and pick up a portfolio for artwork and a keepsake box for storing mementos and 3-D projects. When school starts, you will have a few easy spots where you can sort and stash items, so you’re not tempted to let things pile up.

8. Take Stock of Wardrobes

Have kids try on clothes to see what still fits and make a list of what they need before you buy anything else. Keep hand-me-downs that don’t fit yet in another spot (like underbed bins) to make more space. Pick out a few outfits for the first week of school and put them together on hangers or in easy-to-grab baskets.

9. Decide on Guidelines for Screen Time

Minimize the inevitable battles over after-school screen time by setting some guidelines before the new school year begins. Take the time to consider what is most important to you as a parent. Do you want to be sure your child is getting outdoors and being active, getting homework done or helping out with chores around the house, or a combination of these? Make a chart of items your child can check off, clearly outlining what needs to happen before screen time is allowed.

10. Create a Dedicated Space for Each Child’s Daily Gear

If you have the room, providing a separate cubby, locker or shelf and hook for each family member is a smart way to stay organized. If your entry is combined with another space (like the kitchen or living room), choose storage with doors that close so you can hide the mess. Short on space? Hang a few wall hooks for holding backpacks and clipboards (good for keeping school papers neat and within reach), and place a basket on the floor to hold shoes.

11. Pick a Central Spot to Stash Library Books

Whether it’s a certain shelf or basket, or a bookbag on a hook, be sure everyone in the house knows where the spot for storing library books is, and get in the habit of using it. It also helps to keep a list posted (or access your record online) of all the books currently checked out, so you know which ones to track down before you head out to make returns.

12. Inspire Your Clan With a Family Photo Wall

If you’ve been procrastinating putting all of those treasured family pictures and vacation photos into frames and up on the wall, set a date to get it done before the rush of a new school year sweeps away your motivation. Walking by your family photo wall as you come and go each day is one of those simple pleasures that can really lift your spirit and remind you of the best parts of being a family.

13. Schedule Downtime

There’s no denying that the back-to-school period is exciting and demanding — but I think that’s all the more reason to schedule extra downtime. Keep the summer spirit alive a bit longer by keeping those first weekends free.

What are Closing Costs? An Insider’s Guide To Condo Purchases and Fees

Every so often, a story will appear in the news: “Condo buyers caught off guard by closing costs.” Someone purchases a condo or a house without doing their homework. As the sale goes through, they’re surprised to find that there are fees that they didn’t budget for.

It’s unfortunate that high closing costs surprise some people. But the truth is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Buying property can be a challenging process, and it’s one of the most expensive. If you’re spending all that money, you should be doing your research!

Closing costs can be a bit mystifying at times. That’s why in today’s article, we’ll help clear up the confusion around closing costs. Here are some of the most expensive closing costs that investors should factor into their accounting.

What are Closing Costs: Deposit
The deposit should come as no surprise. You’ll need to pay a certain percentage of the price of the condo on signing, and throughout the building process. Make sure you know exactly what the payment structure is, and ask for this in writing up front. One advantage to new condo builds is that builders break up the deposit structure into smaller amounts. That way, you don’t have to pay the deposit all at once. You can space it out into three or four smaller payments over a few months to a few years. A 20% dump of cash can be a little intimidating! But, many developers accept four 5% payments over the course of the building process. This is much more manageable!

The deposit makes up a large part of the fees, but don’t get comfortable – the little stuff adds up!

What are Closing Costs: CMHC Insurance Premium 
Are you going to put less than 20% down on your condo? If so, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will charge you a premium on your mortgage insurance.

This varies from province to province, but is typically between 0.5% and 2.5% of the principal of the mortgage insurance.

Often, this fee can be factored into your mortgage and you don’t have to pay it up front. Most real estate investments require a minimum of 20%, so you likely won’t need to consider the CMHC fee.

What are Closing Costs: Legal Fees 
Legal fees are another standard closing cost. Depending on the lawyer you use, you’ll pay between $1,000 and $2,500 in legal fees.

It’s important to choose a competent lawyer to take care of your condo’s closing. Condos are a big purchase. You want to make sure you dot those i’s and cross those t’s!

What are Closing Costs: Other Fees the Builder May Pass to You 
A savvy investor knows how to ask the right questions when buying a property. There are some important questions you, too, should be asking. What other fees are the builder passing on? Will the builder cap closing costs?

Other fees you need to consider, but may not be necessary depending on your situation are:

Home inspection
GST, where applicable
Title insurance, and Utility service deposits
Builder and Educational levies

Generally speaking, closing costs usually add up to 1-4% of the purchase price. Although a 1% difference in closing cost may seem small, it could be thousands of dollars. The more homework you do, the better prepared you’ll be for your purchase. And the less likely fees will surprise you.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Note: This article has been revised for the Alberta market. Please click the link below for the original article:
Canadian Real Estate Wealth - What are closing costs? An insider's guide to condo purchases and fees

Lower Down Payment, Reserve Fund Could Cut Defaults Says Study

Slightly reducing down payments and saving surplus cash in a reserve account could mean lower mortgage defaults according to a recent study.
The JPMorgan Chase Institute found that when borrowers have less than three months’ mortgage payment equivalent (MPE) of post-closing liquidity, their 3-year default rate (1.8%) was six times higher than those with between 3 and 4 MPE (0.3%).
The findings challenge conventional wisdom that larger down payments cut default rates due to the lower LTV ratio; and suggests that a program allowing homeowners to make a slightly lower down payment but bank residual cash in a reserve account, may help cut default rates.
“Understanding the principal factors associated with mortgage default is critically important to developing solutions that help Americans avoid default and stay in their homes,” said Diana Farrell, President and CEO, JPMorgan Chase Institute. “We hope this analysis is valuable in helping mortgage lenders and servicers develop policies and programs that could prevent defaults in the future, while also helping more people access mortgages and have the opportunity to own a home.”
Underwriting standards
The report says that underwriting standards that rely on debt-to-income ratio at origination do not account for potential future income volatility and – in the analysis of Chase mortgage customers – of those who defaulted there had been a drop in income preceding the default.
Across all levels of total DTI at origination, half of homeowners who defaulted had fewer than 1.4 MPEs of liquidity, and the median homeowner who did not default had more liquidity than those who did.
And a 10% reduction in payment (which could be achieved using funds saved in a reserve account) or 10% increase in income, cut default rates by 22%.
Mortgage modifications that increased borrower liquidity reduced default rates, whereas modifications that increased borrower equity but left them underwater did not impact default rates.
Source: Steve Randall (2019, July 22). Lower Down Payment, Reserve Fund Could Cut Defaults Says Study. 
Canadian Real Estate Wealth 
Full Article Here: Canadian Real Estate Wealth