Month: February 2017

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28 Feb

What you need to consider before buying a home with family or friends


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

As Canadians adjust to hot housing markets and stagnating wages, there’s been increasing buzz around teaming up with friends or family to buy a home.

About a third of Canadians would consider co-buying a home, according to a recent ReMax survey; Capital One research found that nearly half of millennials (46 per cent) would be open to buying a home with family or friends.

READ MORE: Vancouver lawyer says more families joining forces to buy homes

“With the cost of housing going steadily up, it’s become out of reach for many,” said Bill Whyte,  senior vice-president and chief member experience officer at Meridian Credit Union.”I think there are new generations that are coming in, looking at it differently.”

Maridian has created a family or friends mortgage guide to help people through the process. Up to four names can be on the mortgage’s title, meaning four owners.

“Here’s an opportunity to pool your resources together, pool your income and still potentially look at home ownership.”

While combining funds with family or friends can result in more square footage, that bigger house comes with unique challenges said James Laird, president of CanWise financial and co-founder of


“Economically speaking, more income makes homes easier to afford,” said Laird.

“But you need to be careful that anyone you’re getting a mortgage with are people you think in the long term will be good financial partners for you.”

Before signing on the dotted line along with three of your closest friends, here are some things to consider.

Know all the costs

Home ownership is more than just a mortgage payment.

“It’s important to know all the costs of home ownership … go in with your eyes wide open because it’s much more than just principal and interest,” said Whyte. “Make sure you understand all the moving parts of home ownership.”

You need to consider property tax, bills, repairs, upkeep, one-off expenses — the list goes on.

READ MORE: Real estate trends 2017: Will Toronto prices catch up to Vancouver’s?

“Determine how you will share the home,” said Whyte. “Is everybody equal partners in it, is everyone putting the same amount of money into it?”

Be on the same page as your home-buying pals for household costs and emergencies. Will you all contribute to a contingency fund? Try DIY options or immediately call in an expert? These discussions should happen before the basement floods or furnace craps out.

You’re on the hook 100%

“Everyone’s on the hook for the mortgage in its entirety,” said Laird.

If you buy a house with two friends and one can’t pay their share, it falls on the other title holders.

“The remaining people are on the hook for that loan 100 per cent,” said Laird.

READ MORE: CMHC issues ‘red’ warning for Canada’s housing market

Make sure you’re partnering up with people who are dependable — before you’re left with a larger share of the loan.

“This involves a fair amount of trust … if it is [with] friends, you should be thinking of them more as family because this is a very close relationship you’re entering into and it’s a long-term one as well.

Get everything in writing

Get an agreement in writing that includes everything from dealing with disagreements to plans for eventually selling the property, said Whyte.

“What happens when you want to sell the house? Is there first right of refusal?”

READ MORE: Numbers show it’s harder for millennials to buy a home than it was for their parents

Should relationships fall apart or one person wants to get out of the mortgage, what are you going to do?

“Even with the best intentions, sometimes things don’t work out and it could be for unforeseen circumstances so you’ve got to protect all parties as fairly and equitable as possible,” said Whyte.

Be prepared for things to get messy, said Laird.

“Whatever the nature of the relationship was entering, when you mix business and money with friendships and family then you’re risking those relationships for sure.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

25 Feb

Canada’s banking watchdog warns lenders face big losses if housing markets turn

Latest News

Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Recent increases in mortgage interest rates should be a wake-up call that lenders and borrowers should not be making decisions based on a short-term ability to repay, particularly given the risks created by high house prices and a long period of record low rates, Canada’s top banking regulator said Monday.

“The recent uptick in mortgage interest rates should serve as a reminder that low rates are not a given, especially over longer periods of time,” Jeremy Rudin, head of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), told an audience of mortgage professionals in Vancouver.

Given the risks and vulnerabilities arising from the current environment, sound underwriting is now more important than ever

In prepared remarks for the Mortgage Professionals Canada National Conference, Rudin said risks in the market include rising rates and falling house prices.

“A pronounced or prolonged economic downturn could well involve a meaningful housing price correction. This could translate into significant losses for lenders and insurers,” he said.

Moody’s Investors Service has estimated that a U.S.-style housing meltdown with home prices falling by as much as 35 per cent could result in combined losses of more than $17 billion for the Canadian banks and mortgage insurers.

“Given the risks and vulnerabilities arising from the current environment, sound underwriting is now more important than ever,” Rudin said.

This month, Canada’s banks started raising their mortgage prime rates or posted variable rates in what market watchers said was a response to moves by the federal government to cool the housing market.

On Nov. 11, less than a month after Ottawa rolled out new stress tests for insured mortgages, market tracker said the typical five-year discretionary variable rate for Canada’s six largest banks had increased to 2.3 per cent from 2.25 per cent.

Rudin urged the banks not to rely too heavily on collateral values because home prices could easily dip, and said standard underwriting practices should include verifying the income and employment of borrowers, and compensating with tools such as higher down payments if this information is difficult to obtain.

In the coming weeks, he said OSFI would be implementing new capital requirements for mortgage insurers as was done recently for the country’s largest banks.

“In both cases, our intention is that capital requirements remain risk-sensitive and properly account for situations where future property values are less certain,” Rudin said.

Lenders supervised by OSFI hold nearly 80 per cent of mortgages in Canada.

Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage, said Rudin’s remarks suggested that federal authorities will continue to work together to try to manage risks in the residential real estate market, rather than resort to more interventionist policies such as British Columbia’s recently introduced land transfer tax for foreign homebuyers.

“There’s a focus on prudence and a focus on not getting too excited by the health and vigour we see in the housing market right now,” Soper said.

There were signs the Vancouver real estate market was already slowing before the land transfer tax was imposed by the B.C. government, he said, adding that the combined forces led to a 40 per cent decline in unit sales in October compared to a year earlier.

Governments that choose to intervene directly in the market “frequently  get it wrong, and the results can be painful,” Soper said.

21 Feb

Mike Holmes: Bungalows are a good bet if you want a house to last a lifetime


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

| | Last Updated: Feb 11 7:00 AM ET
More from Mike Holmes

I’ve been hearing from a lot of you about my recent pieces on building for life. Many of you have been leaving comments, and asking great questions about your own homes and how they can be retrofitted to include accessibility in the future.

In my opinion, it just makes sense – by thinking your about future needs you can make alterations to your home now that will let you stay there for life. The goal isn’t rebuilding the home entirely, it’s about making smart changes that will support you for life.

Continuing with the building for life theme, it’s important to ask – is it possible to convert your home to make it accessible for a lifetime of living?

Can Your Home Be Converted?

The short answer is yes – with unlimited time and money, any home could be converted to an accessible build. But who has the unlimited resources to make this happen? Not too many people. So what kind of home should you be looking at converting?

I say the best kind of home to look for as a build for life is a bungalow. Why? If mobility is reduced due to health concerns the last thing you’ll want to do is navigate a lot of stairs. If your bedroom is upstairs, the kitchen on the main level, and the laundry in the basement – that’s a lot of stairs to deal with on a daily basis.

A bungalow can have everything you need located on the main floor of the home – your three major needs – eating, sleeping, and bathing, as well as offering full access to the rest of the home with ease.

Another benefit to bungalow living is that compared to multi-level homes, bungalows often have fewer supporting walls – making upgrades to accommodate accessibility needs (like a larger bathroom, or open concept kitchen) simpler to make. If you’ve taken care to insulate properly, the home should be easier to heat as well.

With everything accessible on the main level, the basement can remain as an unfinished space for storage, and offer easy access to your HVAC system.

Maintaining Your Property

Many homeowners dream about a home with a white picket fence, a sprawling lawn, garden, and maybe a pool for their kids – and then, their grandkids. This a great dream to have – if you can maintain it. Yards and pools take a lot of work. Not only maintenance when it comes to watering, cutting, and pruning – but do you have a big driveway that will need to be cleared in a snowy winter? What about trees near your eaves troughs that could cause clogs? These items are so simple to take care of when we’re young that we almost take them for granted, but will you be able to handle them as you age?

Often, the lot a bungalow sits on is larger than a multi-level home. In the end, this could mean a lot more yard to care for, which could cause problems for homeowners who don’t have the energy to maintain it. If you’re still in the market for your home – make sure you are considering lot size as well as the structure of the home.

Location, Location, Location

You may have the perfect home for accessible living, but what good is it if your neighbourhood isn’t accessible too? Especially in cities where transit isn’t readily available, you will want to be close to the amenities you require for quality of life. You’ll need nearby grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and hospitals, for sure, but you may also want to be close to parks, restaurants, and/or theatres.

You’ll also want to look at where your home sits in relation to the rest of the neighbourhood. Are you at the bottom of a hill? In heavy rains, this could make your house much more susceptible to flooding, as water rushes down the hill directly to your foundation. I see it a lot – the house at the bottom of the hill is the one most frequently back on the market.

Is it smart to renovate your home with the intent to stay there for life? I think so – it’s why I build with products that are environmentally friendly and will last for decades. But before you rebuild with accessible living in mind, make sure your home is going to be able to take care of you for a lifetime.

Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit

20 Feb

Is Montreal a seller’s market? Depends if you own a home or condo


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Single-family homes in high demand, but increase in condos works in favour of buyers
CBC News Posted: Jan 09, 2017 6:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 09, 2017 8:24 AM ET


Montreal's real estate market tended to favour sellers in 2016, after home sales went up for the second year in a row.

But experts warn that may not be the case this year.

A total of 39,926 single-family homes, condominiums and other residential properties were sold last year, marking a five per cent increase from 2015, according to figures from the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board.

Property prices were on the rise for the second consecutive year, after four straight years on the decline.

Even if it's getting more costly, however, buying a home in Montreal remains far more affordable than red-hot markets like Toronto.

The average property in the Montreal area went for $349,573 — less than half of Toronto's average of $729,922.

Depends on the neighbourhood

The Montreal market was especially favourable toward homeowners selling single-family houses, since buyers tend to be drawn in by the relatively affordable prices compared to other Canadian cities.

Paul Cardinal, director of market analysis at the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards, said 2016 buyers targeted homes in Ahuntsic, Nuns' Island and the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Cardinal said there was a strong market for sellers in Montreal's more expensive neighbourhoods such as Westmount, Outremont and Town of Mount-Royal.

"The majority of the sectors west of the island were already a sellers' market," he said.

It was also a strong market for homeowners in Boisbriand, Laval and Sainte-Thérèse, as well as Brossard, Longueuil and Boucherville.


Home Sales 20151211

Montreal's more expensive neighbourhoods, like Westmount (pictured), Outremont and Town of Mount-Royal, were strong markets for sellers in 2016. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)


Condos are another story

Condominiums, however, are not selling at the same rate.

Thousands of condominiums have popped up in the Montreal area in recent years, especially downtown, and many of them remain unsold or unoccupied.

"We are still in a market where the buyer has more [power] than the seller," Cardinal said.

"The surplus narrowed significantly in 2016. We are not far from balance, but the vast majority of sectors remain to the advantage of buyers. One of the only exceptions is the southwestern part of the island of Montreal, which includes Griffintown and Saint-Henri. On the South Shore, we have Boucherville and Saint-Bruno."




Will the trend hold?

Overall, Cardinal expects sales to drop slightly in 2017, given the new mortgage requirements introduced by the federal government last fall.

A possible hike in interest rates could also discourage people from taking out a mortgage, he said.

Still, Cardinal said Quebec's strong labour market and low unemployment rate will ensure a strong real estate market in the coming year.


Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Benoît Chapdelaine

19 Feb

Real estate sector expected to move away from feast and famine this year


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press 

TORONTO – The extreme regional disparities that characterized Canada's real estate markets last year will narrow in 2017 as overheated areas cool and slower markets gather steam, Royal LePage says in a report released Thursday.

That trend will be driven by lower prices in Greater Vancouver and strong but moderating price growth in the Greater Toronto Area, the real estate company said.

"The disparity in home price appreciation between Canadian regions has never been greater than that seen in 2016, with rates ranging from double-digit extremes in some cities to negative growth in others," Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, said in a statement.

"In 2017, we anticipate a movement away from the regional extremes of real estate feast and famine — and that is a very good thing."

Royal LePage's national composite index of prices grew 13 per cent year-over-year to $558,153 in the fourth quarter of last year, the highest increase recorded by the index in more than 10 years. Two-storey homes led the charge, rising 14.3 per cent to $661,730, while the price of a condo was up a more moderate 7.4 per cent to $356,307.

Nationally, home prices are forecast to climb 2.8 per cent this year, Royal LePage said.

In Greater Vancouver, an 8.5 per cent price correction is expected, in spite of the fact that the province's economy is projected to lead the country this year. Even with that decline, home prices would be $1,126,000.

"While the cost of a home in Greater Vancouver will remain the highest in the country, a modest price reset will provide much needed relief in the Lower Mainland and help reignite overall buyer activity in the region," Soper said.

That contrasts with the outlook for GTA's real estate market, where Soper says there is "no relief in sight" as underlying economic fundamentals remain strong. Prices in the area are expected to hit $793,000, an increase of 10 per cent.

Follow @alexposadzki on Twitter.

19 Feb

Royal LePage reports sharp rise in American interest in Canadian real estate


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

The Canadian Press 

TORONTO – A new report from Royal LePage suggests many Americans who oppose incoming president Donald Trump continue showing a desire to purchase property in Canada.

In a report released early Friday, the company says American web traffic on its website surged 329 per cent the day after the U.S. election on Nov. 8 and has climbed 210.1 per cent year-over-year the week after Trump's victory.

For all of November, says Royal LePage, U.S. traffic to its site grew 73.7 per cent year-over-year compared to the same period in 2015 and rose 40.9 per cent annually in the fourth quarter.

During that three-month period, the report says American interest in real estate was primarily focused on Canada's largest markets, with Ontario, B.C. and Quebec receiving 72.7 per cent of all U.S. regional page views on

Three-quarters of the American inquiries concerned residential properties.


Royal Lepage also says that in a survey of 1,226 of its real estate advisers between Jan. 12-17, 39.5 per cent say they expect U.S. interest in Canadian real estate to keep climbing under a Trump presidency.

"The United States was already a top source for immigration into Canada, and now in the period following the recent U.S. election, we are witnessing a material bump in American interest in Canadian real estate," said Royal LePage president and CEO Phil Soper.

"With our country's ever-growing global reputation as a financially sound, happy and culturally tolerant place to raise a family, it is not surprising that interest has moved from a place to play, to a potential place to live and work."

Many Americans began looking north last year as Trump inched closer to the White House, as illustrated by a huge spike in web traffic on Canada's citizenship and immigration website. The site crashed on Nov. 8 as results from the presidential election rolled in.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said there were more than 200,000 users accessing its website around 11 p.m. on election night and American IP addresses accounted for about half of that figure. At the same time the previous week, the website saw just over 17,000 users.

19 Feb

Too hot for comfort: BMO says Toronto housing market in a bubble


Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Jackie Dunham,

Published Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:58PM EST

Toronto’s hot real estate market is in a housing bubble according to the Bank of Montreal’s chief economist Douglas Porter.

The economist loosely defined the term bubble in a note to clients on Wednesday.

“It’s when prices become dangerously detached from economic fundamentals and start rising strongly simply because people believe they will keep rising strongly, encouraging more buying,” Porter wrote.

Housing prices in Canada’s most populous city and the Greater Toronto Area rose a remarkable 22.6 per cent from a year ago, the fastest increase since the late 1980s when there was a “true bubble” according to Porter. He also stated that Toronto home prices increased 21 percentage points faster than inflation and wage growth.

The ratio of sales to new listings was a “towering” 93.5 per cent in the GTA last month (adjusted for seasonality) and even higher in Hamilton, Kitchener and the Niagara region. Porter said a normal range should be 40 to 60 per cent, with anything above 60 per cent viewed as a seller’s market.

“The data simply reinforce an obvious message that has very much been in place for many months now, and by all accounts is still going strong as we speak—the market is far too hot for comfort,” he wrote.

Porter’s declaration follows The Canadian Real Estate Association’s release on the state of the country’s housing market on Wednesday. Home sales for the month of January were down 1.3 per cent, the second-lowest monthly level since the fall of 2015, according to CREA.

The CREA’s MLS Home Price Index, which adjusts sales of different types of housing, for the average price for homes sold in January (not seasonally adjusted) was $470,253, almost unchanged from where it was a year ago.

The CREA’s overall figures for the country don’t represent vast regional differences within Canada, however. The MLS Home Price Index found that housing prices in the GTA was up 22 per cent and 15.6 per cent in Greater Vancouver.

Actual sales in the Vancouver area, where prices have remained high, have cooled by almost 40 per cent in the last year. Corrective measures from the federal government and the provincial government’s 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers last August, are thought to have helped reign in the area’s expensive housing prices.

Outside of the areas surrounding Vancouver and Toronto, Porter said the housing market was generally well-behaved. He said sales and prices were mixed and moderate in other cities such as Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and Regina with Calgary and Edmonton showing signs of stabilization after the crash in oil prices.

“It’s a very different story in most of the rest of the country, where conditions are generally calm and under control,” he said.

As for Toronto, Porter said that “sizzling hot demand” from ultra-low interest rates, population growth and non-resident investor interest is behind the region’s housing bubble, rather than a shortage in supply.

“Housing starts in Toronto and Vancouver have been chugging along at almost 70,000 units per year recently, an all-time high,” he wrote.

Despite the CREA’s moderate figures for the start of the year, Porter advised caution when it comes to Toronto and surrounding areas.

“The headline figures for home sales and prices seem innocuous to start 2017, but beneath those calm headlines lies serious churning,” he wrote. “Toronto and any city that is remotely within commuting distance are overheating, and perhaps dangerously so.”