Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe another year is quickly drawing to a close! The holiday season is a great time to stop, take a little break and realize how thankful you are for everything in your life.

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for your patronage and to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I really enjoy getting to know each and every one of you and count the opportunity to meet and connect with so many great people the greatest perk of my job!

I’d also like to thank you for all of your referrals during the past year. It is wonderful to know that you value my service enough to recommend me to your closest friends and family. As always, I promise to treat any of your referrals with the utmost care, consideration and respect. Thank you again!

2011 has been an interesting and busy year in the mortgage business, especially because of the rock bottom interest rates we’ve enjoyed throughout the year. If the experts are correct, we’ll continue to enjoy low rates for much of 2012 and beyond, at least until the rest of the world can get their economies in order. Alberta continues to be a leader in Canada and the rest of the world as far as economic stability is concerned so we should all take a moment to be thankful that we enjoy the amazing opportunities that come with living in Alberta.

Wishing you and your loved ones much health and happiness in 2012.

Cheers and all the best!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Housing market remains "resilient"

The Canadian Real Estate Association has released its latest numbers, showing that existing home sales rose in November. The association cites low mortgage rates as the major factor in the increase in sales.

It’s certainly true, five year mortgage rates are the lowest I’ve seen (and I’ve been brokering nearly five years). When I started five years ago, the five year fixed rate was approximately 6%. Let’s compare the difference five years can make!

$250,000 mortgage over a 30 year amortization @ 6.00% = $1,487.06/month
$250,000 mortgage over a 30 year amortization @ 3.39% = $1,104.04/month

That’s a whopping $383.02/month in savings! Not only have house prices come down substantially from 2006-2007 so have rates creating what may turn out to be the perfect time to purchase your first home!

If you’d like to play around and calculate some mortgage payments yourself, please go to my calculator: http://www.youredmontonmortgage.com/index.php/mortgage_calculators

Thinking about getting into the housing market and not sure how to start? Click here to apply now, I’ll give you information on how much you qualify for and how to improve your credit situation (should it need improving). Of course, if you’re simply in the information gathering stage please feel free togive me a call or send me an email. I’d be happy to answer your questions!

Article: Househunting.ca “Existing home sales rise in November”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Preparing for larger mortgage and debt payments

Mortgage interest rates have been at historical lows for quite some time, as we all know, this can only last so long. At some point interest rates will rise and many Canadians will be faced with higher mortgage and debt payments. Watch the video below from GlobeInvestor explaining what you can do to prepare for higher payments in the future.



Watch the video here!

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to choose a Real Estate Agent

Finding the right real estate agent to list a home can be a lot like finding a life partner - pick the right one and the experience can be positive. Choose the wrong agent and the experience can lead to months of frustration and an unsold house.

Ted Baker recently sold his mother's house and shares the trials and tribulations from his experience. Tony Joe, a real estate agent with Re/Max Camosun Oak Bay, was the listing agent and shares his insight on today's changing market.

For some people it's not difficult to choose a real estate agent - they pick one based on personal recommendation from friends and family. According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, more than half of home buyers found their agent this way.

"People typically go with people they know," says Joe, who has been selling for 20 years. "For the consumer's standpoint its all about networking. Unlike other areas of sales, real estate agents have access to the same inventory pool. What sets them apart is their level of experience, professionalism, knowledge and . marketing or negotiation style."

He says that more than 90 per cent of his business is from referrals, compared with the industry average of 50 per cent.

"Personality has a lot to do with it," says Baker, who used to do renovation work on homes. "One needs to be able to rely on the capability of the agent to get the job done."

To help you select an agent with the right skills, testimonials, experience, competence and reliability, here are a few pointers.

BE PREPARED

Information is power. Baker suggest people get an independent appraisal - which costs about $125 - to get an independent third-party evaluation of the property.

A pre-sale home inspection is also useful to identify and correct potential problems in a house. A buyer will likely uncover the same issue when they get the house inspected as a condition of the sale.

BEWARE OF AN AGENT TRYING TO BUY A LISTING

In order to secure a listing, some agents will purposely overvalue a home. They tell potential clients they can get more for a house than other agents.

Because the inflated house is more expensive than comparable homes, it will linger on the market until the price is lowered.

"Ask the real estate agent to justify the price," says Baker. "Ask to see listings of homes for sale in the last three to four months for comparison."

INTERVIEW PROSPECTIVE REALTORS

Increasingly people interview a number of agents to determine if the "chemistry" works.

"Ask about productivity," says Joe. "Real estate is a complicated process. Find out about the agent's knowledge and experience."

ASK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS

"When I interviewed different agents, I asked them 'What are you going to do for me?' " says Baker. Some agents have a detailed written plan about how they will advertise and market a property.

ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

Any agent who has been selling for a while should have a list of happy customers. Many people would trust a recommendation by a friend or family member. As a last resort, a person can review a real estate agent's qualifications by viewing their website.

ASK ABOUT COMMISSIONS

Real estate agents can be flexible as to the commission structure. Most charge six or seven per cent on the first $100,000 and three per cent on the balance. Some have a flat percentage of the total price. On a $500,000 house, with the above 7/3 calculation, a seller would pay the agent $19,000. Finding an agent who will sell for less will obviously affect the bottom line.

"The only question I regretted not asking was if the agent would reduce his commission if the house sold within 30 days," says Baker. "Because there would be less work involved - fewer open houses, fewer showings - shouldn't the cost of selling also go down?"

Also, when an offer is tendered and the parties are slightly apart, it is appropriate to ask if the agent is willing to forgo a portion of their commission in order to secure the sale.

FIND OUT IF THE AGENT IS GENEROUS TO OTHER AGENTS

One of the reasons a person lists a home with a real estate agent and the professional listing service is because he wants other real estate agents showing the home to their clients.

A listing agent who is generous in sharing the potential commission with others typically gets more house viewings.

"Not all agents work well with others," says Joe.

FIND OUT HOW MANY OTHER LISTINGS AN AGENT HAS

"An agent with 50 listings is spread out too thin," says Baker. "There's no way an agent with that many listings can put time into a sale."

He is more comfortable listing with an agent who has, at most, 10 listings to service.

FIND THE MARKET THE AGENT IS TARGETING

It is important that the agent chosen has experience both in the property type and price range. If he primarily sells luxury houses, he is not likely going to have many buyers looking for an entry-level condominium, for example.

FIND AN AGENT WHO KNOWS THE REGIONAL MARKET

Baker says he recommends finding an agent who works within 15 kilometres of the listed home. "He will know the area and he will know the market better."

TYPICAL FAQS

Here are a number of interview questions that people have posed to Tony Joe in his career:

General

How long have you been selling real estate full time?

How many transactions have you been involved with in your entire career?

How many transactions did you handle in the last calendar year?

How many transactions have you handled year-to-date?

Have you ever been subject of a disciplinary action?

Are you a listing agent or a buyer's agent?

If both, what is your percentage of listing sales to buyer sales?

Do you have a list of references to call and a list of testimonials? Can you have another professional real estate agent vouch for your business practices and integrity?

What price range do you generally work in?

Do you dual represent or "double end"?

Do you have a network of other productive agents from other firms which you work with?

Do you attend training and technical update seminars above and beyond the local minimum standards?

What would you say are your strongest attributes as an agent?

For people looking to buy a home

Are you experienced in multiple offer scenarios?

Do you have contacts in the mortgage business?

Is your negotiation style collaborative or confrontational?

Can you recommend building inspectors who will be critical and prepared to fail a house on inspection?

What is your after-sale support program?

For people looking to sell

What is your success rate (listings taken to sold)?

What is your list price to sell price ratio?

What is your average days on market?

What is your advertising strategy? Do you have a marketing plan?

Do you provide feedback from agents?

Tell me about a recent complicated transaction for which you found the solution.

parrais@timescolonist.com

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

http://www.househunting.ca/edmonton/Buying-Homes/choose+real+estate+agent/5299431/story.html

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

We should be more like Edmonton




Toronto wishing it was more like Edmonton? Yes, folks...that’s right! Read on to see how the River City rivals other large Canadian cities in regards to its eco-friendliness.

We should be more like Edmonton

National Post • Nov. 12, 2011 Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2011 4:11 AM ET

Toronto doesn't wear its green badge on its sleeve - we leave that to Vancouver - but there's a lot to be proud of when it comes to our environmental initiatives.


There aren't many other Canadian cities, for instance, that have a functioning Green Bin program, let alone one that returns the finished compost back to residents free of charge at regularly scheduled Environment Days. And what other city boasts the ability to air-condition almost all of its downtown core during the summer, skyscrapers included, with borrowed lake water?


When compared to, say, Calgary - which just learned how to recycle two years ago - Toronto looks pretty good. Yes, it's transitioned from a transit-loving mayor to a carloving, gravy-hating mayor, meaning a lot of city-run green initiatives are on the chopping block, but as long as the Toronto Environment Office continues to exist, tangible progress should be made.


Having said this, another Canadian city is quietly outshining Toronto when it comes to truly innovative environmental practices. It's a city that, ironically, is neighbours with oh-hey-we-just-started-this recycling-thing Calgary. It's also considered the corporate base for those working in Alberta's tar sands and, earlier this year, it was named the homicide capital of Canada. Yes, we're talking about Edmonton.


It gets a bad reputation, if it gets any at all, but the city has a unique political advantage when it comes to the environment: It forms a left-leaning, NDP-voting pocket in an otherwise Conservative-voting province, and when it receives money from the Alberta government, which is wealthy enough to give at least some cash to its urban centres, Edmonton's council often allocates these funds to green initiatives.


One of these is the revitalization of the North Saskatchewan River Valley, which runs through the middle of Edmonton and - at 48 kilometres, with 22 parks along its route - represents the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America. In fact, there's a staff of eight urban park rangers enlisted to protect it. Like most rangers, their job is to protect people from nature, and nature from people (although this team must contend with more drunken inline skaters than lost hikers).


What's noteworthy, however, is that Edmonton actually puts aside money to ensure full-time supervision of its parks system, unlike Toronto, which has numerous volunteer associations dedicated to preserving the Don Valley river and ravines but limited resources devoted to monitoring any of it. Part of the reason may be that while Toronto tends to view its waterways as just one of its many natural features, Edmonton considers its so-called "Green Ribbon" to be part of its soul.


"We're constantly telling people, 'This is the jewel of our city,' " says Greg Komarniski, leader of the urban park ranger program in Edmonton. "We're immensely proud of it. The health of the river valley is not only important, it's very emblematic of who we are, what we're all about."
The city isn't just giving money to its physical green space. Much of Edmonton's financial support is reserved for less glamorous initiatives, usually involving garbage, and this is where it seriously goes over the top: Consider the Waste Management Centre of Excellence - an entire organization devoted to nothing but the pursuit of excellence within the field of trash.


It really is quite something to behold - and it should be noted that absolutely anyone can behold it, for free, usually with a guided tour thrown in and sometimes even a complimentary shuttle bus from downtown, because there's a policy around full transparency.


Within a single compound, there exists: A solid waste sorting facility, research and development labs (right now, they're looking into composting drywall), recycling plants for both household waste and construction/demolition waste, the largest co-composting facility in North America, an e-waste recycling factory, an Eco Station for drop-offs of hazardous waste and bulky items, a landfill with a built-in gas recovery system to capture and convert methane into electricity, a leachate treatment plant, a biosolids storage lagoon system and an education centre.


That's not all. Under construction is a waste-to-biofuels facility, the only one of its kind in the world, which will bump up Edmonton's diversion rate to more than 90% - as in, 90% of its garbage not going to landfill. When operating, it will convert 100,000 tonnes each year of non-recyclable and non-compostable waste into 36 million litres of ethanol, reducing Alberta's CO 2 output by reducing Alberta's CO 2 output by more than six million tonnes over the next 25 years and creating 180 green jobs.


Oh, and that remaining 10% comes from the leftover char at the biofuels facility, which could be used to pave local roads, meaning it's possible the city will hit a 100% waste diversion rate.


This project is being funded by the City of Edmonton, the Government of Alberta and Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, making it the latest in a string of successful public-private partnerships at the WMC. This type of arrangement - to which Torontonians often put up a fair amount of resistance, at least until there's a three month-long garbage strike in the middle of a hot summer - is precisely what Edmonton relies upon to remain competitive, innovative and profitable in the green sector.


"I definitely wouldn't say that we're innovative because we have more funds than other cities," says Connie Boyce, a representative for Edmonton's waste management services. "We're just as stretched for dollars as any other city. The reason we're innovative and have achieved what we have is due to private investment."


But it's also about perspective: Instead of looking at trash as something useless, the people of Edmonton began realizing a while ago that it can be something profitable - there's value, after all, in those empty glass bottles, broken computers and even an unfinished doughnut. Furthermore, a lot of money is saved when there are fewer trucks having to collect and transport waste to a landfill.


"We have strong leadership here and a general willingness to be progressive and green," Boyce says, "but public engagement has been an integral part of our system from the beginning."
Here in Toronto, there is plenty of demand for progressive environmental initiatives and even greater demand for the kind that might save us money, whether it applies to our waste (does anyone know where it goes these days?) or the Don River and surrounding parks system. The environment may not be a priority on Rob Ford's agenda, but co-operation between city council, the private sector and the general public - with transparency as the name of the game - could lead to huge steps forward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why it isn't a good idea to keep all your eggs in one basket!

Here’s a very interesting article written by a very knowledgeable mortgage broker in Ontario regarding why it’s often not a good choice to hold all of your bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards and loans with one institution...


The Americanization of Canadian Credit

by Dave Larock

I suppose it was inevitable that some of the more aggressive U.S. lending practices would make their way north of the border after our Big Five banks started buying up regional U.S. banks.
It’s probably just too tempting when two-thirds of Canadian mortgage borrowers still walk into their local branch and sign the mortgage contract put in front of them with few questions asked about the fine-print terms and conditions. That kind of blind loyalty has been very profitable for the Big Five over the years.
So why are Canadians always surprised when they learn later that the terms and conditions in their unread Big Five mortgage contracts are so heavily tilted in the bank’s favour?
I’ve provided many examples of what to watch for in previous posts (the whole Borrower Beware section of my blog is devoted to this subject), and today’s post will serve as my latest instalment. I’ll quote two new sections that were recently added to a Big Five lender’s standard charge terms, and then comment on each. (As an added bonus, I’ll also use a legible-sized font that can be read without a magnifying glass.)
Addition # 1: Bank May Appropriate Payments to Any Debt
It is hereby agreed that the bank shall have the right at any time to appropriate any payment made as a temporary or permanent reduction of any portion of the Indebtedness whether the same be represented by open account, overdraft or by any bills, notes or other instruments and whether then due or to become due and may from time to time revoke or alter such appropriation and appropriate such payment as a temporary or permanent reduction of any other portion of the Indebtedness as in its sole and uncontrolled discretion it may see fit.
Translation: This new clause allows the bank to take any payment you make on any one of your accounts and apply it to any of the other accounts you hold with them instead.
Implications: Let’s assume that the euro zone crisis blows up the global economic recovery and you lose your job. Without enough money to pay all of your bills, you decide to let an unsecured line-of-credit lapse while continuing to make regular payments on your mortgage. If both of these products are sourced from this bank, they can now take the payment you made on your mortgage and use it to pay your unsecured line of credit instead. This transfers the shortfall to your mortgage account, which has your house secured against it as collateral.
Now this Big Five lender can decide which of your accounts won’t get paid if you fall behind. If push comes to shove, they can basically force your mortgage into default and sell your house because you didn’t have enough money to pay your unsecured line-of-credit.
How many borrowers were aware that they were pledging their house as collateral against every credit product they have with this bank? And if this new clause means that your unsecured products (credit cards, lines-of-credit) are effectively being secured by your family home, why are you still being charged much higher interest rates for these products? Isn’t this a clear case of “Heads I win, tails you lose”?
Addition # 2: Charge Continuing Security
It is hereby agreed that this Charge may secure a current or running account and shall stand as a continuing security to the Bank for the payment of the Indebtedness and all interest, damages and Costs which may become due or payable to the Bank notwithstanding any fluctuation or change in the amount, nature or form of the Indebtedness or in the bills, notes or other obligations now or hereafter representing the same or any portion thereof or in the names of the parties to the said bills, notes or obligations of any of them.
Translation: When a lender gives you a mortgage, they register a first charge on your property’s title to ensure that if you ever sell your property, your real estate lawyer can’t cut you a cheque until their mortgage had been paid in full. Fair enough. But this new clause means that this Big Five bank can now insist that all of its accounts be paid in full before any sale proceeds are subsequently paid to you – even unsecured accounts that you never thought would be tied to your house.
Implications: Let’s assume that you are going through a divorce and your spouse racks up huge credit card bills during the separation period. When you sell the matrimonial home this bank can now legally insist that the money from that sale be used to pay off all of each borrower’s accounts, including your spouse’s supposedly unsecured credit card balance, without any additional authorization or consent by you. All for one and one for all!
The defence against both new clauses is the same. Don’t get your mortgage where you borrow for any other purpose if your real estate lawyer identifies these clauses, and confirms their implications, in your standard charge terms.
It’s clear that all of the talk about slowing growth and rising recession risks has some of the Big Five battening down the hatches by very quietly altering their mortgage terms and conditions. While each change may seem to affect only a small subset of borrowers, why take the chance that you might be one them when you can find better (or at least the same) rates at other lenders who don’t stack the deck against you?
Borrower beware, indeed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bank of Canada holds steady

As predicted, in an announcement earlier today the Bank of Canada has left its key interest rate unchanged at 1%. This is good news for variable rate mortgage holders, and the even better news is that the bank hinted strongly that the rock-bottom low rates might be here for a while. The reason? A worsening global economy. Until the rest of the world starts to come out of this mess the Canadians will be enjoying very low prime lending rates.
This latest interest rate announcement is the 10th consecutive time the Bank of Canada has held steady on the benchmark lending rate.
The next scheduled interest rate announcement by the Bank of Canada is set for Tuesday, December 6th 2011.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Edmonton is more than a mall

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Edmonton to someone elsewhere? The mall. Yes, we are so much more than that! A great, smaller city with a lot of options for having a great time that don’t include shopping at West Edmonton Mall.
If you’re contemplating moving to this great city, read on for some unique things to do in the river city...

Edmonton is more than a mall

Globe and Mail Update
Published Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 4:41PM EDT

For most visitors, Edmonton is defined by the string of Stanley Cup victories that took place in the 1980s and the West Edmonton Mall. But there's another side to the city that you probably don't know about, and it's worth investigating if you're in town on business. There might not be a sign on the highway into town proudly heralding the accomplishments of Edmonton's cultural communities, but the city is quickly earning a reputation for its work in that area. You can start exploring that reputation by heading downtown to Churchill Square, which is located on the corner of 102 Avenue and 100 Street.

If you don’t know how to find that corner, take heart, because you’re not alone. For some reason, the earliest Edmontonians decided that the city ought to be operated using a grid system, even though the streets don’t always co-operate by running in straight or even parallel lines. If you get confused, try to remember that the city’s streets run north-to-south, and its avenues east-to-west. And if you’re really confused, ask somebody – crime statistics notwithstanding, Edmonton is actually a very friendly city.

From there, you can head off in a number of directions. One block to the northeast you’ll find the Art Gallery of Alberta, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and one that has installations and programs inside it to match. One block directly east sits the Winspear Centre, a concert hall that’s renowned both for its beauty and its acoustics. And kitty-corner from the southeast part of the square is the Citadel Theatre, the home of some of Edmonton’s best local productions as well as an indoor jungle that’s particularly popular when it’s -40 outside.

Two blocks south of that you can find the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, which may well be Edmonton’s best-kept secret. Its Confederation Lounge is the premier room in the city, with a good menu, an excellent bar selection and a stunning 9-by-18 foot Frederick Challener reproduction of the Fathers of Confederation portrait that gives the room a timeless feel that you can’t find anywhere else in the city – or, for that matter, the province. Better yet, its patio offers the best view in the city of Edmonton’s gorgeous river valley.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat, you’re in the right neck of the woods. You can’t go wrong with either the hotel’s own Harvest Room, the Ruth’s Chris location just across the street, Madison’s Grill at the Union Bank Inn or the Hardware Grill, both which are located two blocks west and east respectively of the Hotel Macdonald on Jasper Avenue. But if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous you ought to make your way over to Rice Howard Way. The quasi-pedestrian walkway houses Edmonton’s hottest new restaurant, Tres Carnales. This is how you do authentic Mexican food on the go. And if you head a bit farther west, you’ll happen upon Edmonton’s hippest neighbourhood, the 104 Street area. It features a number of high-end coffee shops, an out-of-your-mind good bakery called The Queen of Tarts and two new restaurants – Corso 32 and MRKT – that rival anything you’d find in Toronto or Vancouver.

If you need to walk off some calories you can visit the legislature grounds, which are located on the corner of 109 Street and 97 Avenue. In the summer the wading pools and carefully tended flowers might make you feel like you’re in one of Paris’s public parks, but in the fall the legislature grounds are quintessentially Edmonton, from the gorgeous colour palette in the changing leaves in the trees to the unobstructed view of the river valley in seasonal transition. The free guided tours of the legislature building itself, meanwhile, are a treat for political buffs and architecture geeks alike. And if you’re not unduly afraid of heights, the nearby High Level Bridge offers the best view of the river valley that bisects the city.

Old Strathcona, the neighbourhood that’s on the south side of the High Level Bridge, doesn’t have quite the same diversity of culinary options as downtown but it more than makes up for that with its eclectic charm. The area revolves around the activity on Whyte Avenue – 82{+ }Avenue, if we’re to stick to the grid system – and it offers a wide variety of bars, pubs, clothing stores and restaurants. Perhaps the most famous is Gravity Pope, a high-end shoe store that is Edmonton’s answer to John Fluevog. If you’re still looking to fulfill your cultural quotient you can grab a show at the Catalyst Theatre, a local success story that has produced a number of nationally-toured performances including Nevermore, the story of Edgar Allen Poe’s life, and the more recent Hunchback.

Farther west, just shy of the University of Alberta campus, you’ll find Garneau, the neighbourhood that was immortalized in local author Todd Babiak’s book The Garneau Block. It’s anchored by the Garneau Theatre, a beautiful old building that sits near the corner of 87 Avenue and 109 Street. It’s a great place to take in a film, and there are plenty of coffee houses and bars nearby, such as Transcend and the Sugarbowl, where you can round off your evening with a freshly ground decaf cappuccino.

And if you’re up for a late-night adventure to round off your Edmonton experience, trade in the business casual for something more inconspicuous and head over to Blues on Whyte. Forget the décor, which might make you think you’ve time-travelled back to 1977 – it’s the music that matters here, and it’s some of the best in Canada. If you’re lucky, you might even see Holger Petersen, the host of CBC Radio One’s Saturday Night Blues and one of the country’s biggest blues hounds, sitting at the bar. Buy him a drink and ask for a story – you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth, and a real Edmonton experience worth bragging about.

Special to The Globe and Mail

****

An Evening in the City of Champions

5 p.m. Go Shopping on Whyte Avenue

If you’re looking to get some serious shopping done, forget the malls. Instead, head to the stretch of Whyte Avenue between 102 Street and 109 Street, where you can find everything from vintage clothes and second-hand books to $400 shoes.

5:45 p.m. Grab an Espresso at Transcend

There are coffee nerds, and then there are the people who work at Transcend. Its staff features the top two baristas in the entire country, Josh Hockin and Ben Put, who took first and second place in the 2011 Canadian Barista Championship. The Garneau location, meanwhile, is nearly as impressive, as the beautifully renovated space offers the best vantage point onto the city’s most interesting corner.

6:30 p.m. Walk the High Level Bridge

Chances are you’ve spent most of your time in Edmonton rotating between the seated and horizontal position. It might be time to get some exercise, and there are few better ways to do that than by walking across the High Level Bridge. It’s Edmonton’s most famous landmark, and it offers the most stunning view of the river valley in the entire city.

7 p.m. Have dinner at Corso 32

Edmonton’s culinary scene has long been dominated by the upscale casual model pioneered and perfected by Earls, the ubiquitous chain that has locations across western Canada. But Daniel Costa, the co-owner and head chef of Corso 32, stands well apart from that tradition. The food is honest, the service is professional and the ambience is unparalleled.

8:30 p.m.. Get a drink at the Hotel Macdonald’s Confederation Lounge

There’s no better place to enjoy a nice single-malt scotch – or, for that matter, a pint of Big Rock beer – than the Confederation Lounge. It doesn’t matter whether you’re discussing a big business deal or just talking amongst friends, because the room lends an air of importance to even the most trivial conversations. The mixed nuts aren’t bad, either.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do we need even MORE changes to mortgage qualification rules? The IMF thinks so!

I heard something a little alarming on the radio this morning; the International Monetary Fund has released a warning that Canadian’s may be taking on too much debt. They warn that “a combination of households strapped by debt and falling home prices have the potential to damage the domestic Canadian economy by curtailing spending”. The IMF then further suggests that Jim Flaherty, the federal Minister of Finance, should look at further tightening the mortgage eligibility rules on CMHC insured mortgages. Woah. What??? Tightening the rules further? We’ve already had three changes to mortgage rules in the last couple of years thank you very much! I don’t think we need any more.

Now, before you really start to freak out about this, the article goes on to state that after the report’s release Jim Flaherty stopped to talk to reporters and stated that “it would take ‘clear evidence of a bubble’ in Canada’s housing- which he said outside of Vancouver’s hot market, doesn’t exist- for him to tighten rules further”.

CIBC’s Benjamin Tal also echoed Jim Flaherty’s statement and “called the IMF recommendation premature at best and at worst potentially damaging to an already fragile economy”.
Thank goodness the powers-at-be seem to be reacting sensibly to the IMF’s recommendations! If I get wind that there are any upcoming changes to mortgage qualifications I will let you all know!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you have time this weekend so spend some quality time with your loved ones and to reflect on how truly blessed we are to live in such a great part of the world.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sky Isn't Falling

As Canadian consumer debt levels creep higher and higher, many articles have been written about how a U.S.-style recession is destined to hit Canada. That's why it's refreshing to come across the odd article that opposes this Chicken Little-type view - like this one in the Montreal Gazette .

The article brings up a number of good points as to why Canada isn't like its American counterpart. Among the highlights:

- While Canadians' debt-to-income ratio is now equal to that of Americans' when things went south back in 2008, this ratio isn't an accurate tool to predict a Canadian recession. After all, when looking at income, Canadians don't have the burden of healthcare costs to pay for. With the average American spending approximately 19% of their take-home pay on their health, their income is actually much less than ours - and their debt-to-income ratio, therefore, much higher.

- You shouldn't just look at debt and income when measuring the debt burden - you have to look at assets too. When you incorporate this into the equation, you'll find that Canadians are typically much better off than Americans. Here, debt amounts to just 24% of a household's average net worth, compared to 29% in the U.S.

- Canadians are still more conservative when it comes to mortgage borrowing - and while some of us are using our homes like credit cards, most of us aren't. In fact, an average of 63% of a household's home value is equity in Canada, compared to 39% in the States. Forty percent of Canadians also don't have any mortgage debt, compared to 31% in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bank of Canada maintains overnight rate target at 1 per cent

Ottawa, Ontario - The Bank of Canada today announced that it is maintaining its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 1/4 per cent and the deposit rate is 3/4 per cent.

The global economic outlook has deteriorated in recent weeks as several downside risks to the projection in the Bank’s July Monetary Policy Report (MPR) have been realized. The European sovereign debt crisis has intensified, a broad range of data has signalled slower global growth, and financial market volatility has increased sharply. Recent benchmark revisions show that the U.S. recession was deeper and its recovery has been shallower than previously reported. In combination with recent economic data, this implies that U.S. growth will be weaker than previously anticipated. The Bank expects that American household spending will be even more subdued in the face of high personal debt burdens, large declines in wealth and tough labour market conditions. Fiscal stimulus in the United States will also soon turn into material fiscal drag. Acute fiscal and financial strains in Europe have triggered a generalized retrenchment from risk-taking and could prompt more severe dislocations in global financial markets. Resolution of these strains will require additional significant initiatives by European authorities. Growth in emerging-market economies has been robust, although its rate and composition will be affected by weakness in major advanced economies. While commodity prices have declined owing to diminished global growth prospects, they remain relatively high.


Largely due to temporary factors, Canadian economic growth stalled in the second quarter. The Bank continues to expect that growth will resume in the second half of this year, led by business investment and household expenditures, although lower wealth and incomes will likely moderate the pace of investment and consumption growth. The supply and price of credit to businesses and households remain very stimulative. However, financial conditions in Canada have tightened somewhat and could tighten further in the event that global financial conditions continue to deteriorate. Net exports are now expected to remain a major source of weakness, reflecting more modest global demand and ongoing competitiveness challenges, in particular the persistent strength of the Canadian dollar.

Slower global economic momentum will dampen domestic resource utilization and inflationary pressures. The Bank expects total CPI inflation to continue to moderate as temporary factors, such as significantly higher food and energy prices, unwind. Core inflation is expected to remain well-contained as labour compensation growth stays modest, productivity recovers, and inflation expectations remain well-anchored.

Reflecting all of these factors, the Bank has decided to maintain the target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent. In light of slowing global economic momentum and heightened financial uncertainty, the need to withdraw monetary policy stimulus has diminished. The Bank will continue to monitor carefully economic and financial developments in the Canadian and global economies, together with the evolution of risks, and set monetary policy consistent with achieving the 2 per cent inflation target over the medium term.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canada's Smallest House is on the market



A Realtor friend of mine, Jeanine Boutet, posted this on her page the other day and I fell in love with this little house! It was built in 1912, is 350 square feet and totally adorable! This little gem can be yours for a mere $179,900 (which seems like a steal for Toronto)!


There's even a website dedicated to this little house...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Your Home Purchase: Part 4

The average Canadian homebuyer takes 11 months to plan their purchase, according to CMHC. If you’re thinking about buying in the next year, our four-part series will explain how you should be dividing your time.

Part 4: The Home Search

Now that you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage and know your housing price range, it’s time to start looking!
While a Realtor can definitely help you find that ideal home (at no cost to you, since the seller pays their commission), it’s wise to have a sense of what you’re looking for before heading in.

If you’re worried about the direction of the real estate market in your area, your best bet is to find a home that will suit your needs for the next five years or more, if you can afford it. Sit down and think about what your short-term and long-term priorities are, how many bedrooms you’ll need to grow into, what your ideal area looks like, and whether your lifestyle is best suited to a condo or house. You might also want to take into consideration such things as commute times and proximity to sports teams and other community activities.

If your price point doesn’t allow you to purchase a home that you can grow into, try to find one that will give you the most bang for your buck and the biggest return on your investment. This can mean purchasing in an up-and-coming area, or buying close to soon-to-be-built infrastructure improvements like public transit lines. The old real estate adage, location, location, location, still rings true, so if you can buy the worst house on a nice street it is likely worth the investment. In the same sense, you may want to buy a home that’s a little more expensive but well-located, so that you can rent out the basement for some extra income.

Again, a Realtor is probably the best person to discuss your strategies with. They’ll be able to highlight areas that make sense for you, your budget and your current lifestyle.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Your Home Purchase: Part 3

The average Canadian homebuyer takes 11 months to plan their purchase, according to CMHC. If you’re thinking about buying in the next year, our four-part series will explain how you should be dividing your time.

Part 3: The Budget
So now that you have a preapproval, and you’ve been taking strides to trim down your household spending over the last few months, it’s time to come up with a real budget that will determine the type of house you can afford.
This is usually a number that is significantly lower than the maximum made available to you by your lender (mainly because your lender only takes certain expenses into account, such as heating costs and outstanding debts, when determining this magic number. Others, like food, are completely left out of the equation).
The best way to come up with a realistic price tag is to look at where your money is currently going and work backwards from there to see what’s left over for mortgage costs and household expenses. At this point, it’s important to be realistic. You’ve already determined what extravagances you can do without – and which ones you definitely must hang onto. If you’re a couple that enjoys going out for dinner more than once a week, embrace this fact. There’s absolutely no use in saying that your weekend dine-outs will end once you sign that mortgage. In fact, chances are you’ll continue to dine out – and the additional cost will leave a growing balance on your credit cards.
It’s also important to keep in mind that ownership carries more costs than renting. Be sure to factor in condo fees, property taxes and unforeseen maintenance costs into your monthly housing budget. You may also want to factor in non-housing related costs for example, if you’re moving from the city to the suburbs, you’ll likely have to pay for the additional costs of a car. If your new home is taking you further away from work, your gas bill will likely increase as well.
Once you know how much money you can devote to housing on a monthly basis, put those mortgage calculators back to good use and figure out how much of a total price tag you can afford. Once you have that maximum number, try not to look at homes that fall outside of it. It’s easiest just to avoid the temptation all together.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Top ten things that DON’T make me a 'good' mortgage broker

This is an article written by a mortgage broker in Kelowna that I greatly respect and admire! She's one of the keys to my success in this business; I greatly respect her vision for this industry and her unwavering values (and I agree and follow them as well). She tells it like it is around here, even when it isn't popular or part of the status quo!

If you're thinking of purchasing or refinancing a home in BC, call Julia. She'll tell it like it is...

The Top ten things that DON’T make me a 'good' mortgage broker
by J. Krause Mortgage Services on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 18:45.

As a mortgage broker, it seems like I'm constantly bombarded these days with ‘propaganda’ about the ‘top brokers’ in Canada; the ones who do the most business and make the most money. Quantity has become more important than quality. But silly me, I still believe it’s all about the client, and getting the client the best possible mortgage option for their individual needs. It’s not about me and how much ‘volume’ I do. Because of this, the industry probably wouldn’t consider me a very ‘good’ mortgage broker… so I’ve come up with the top ten things about me that DON’T make me a 'good' mortgage broker:


1) I get to know my clients; I don’t just move ‘em in and move ‘em out. I want to get to know them, and I want them to know me. Time consuming? Yes… but that’s how I roll.

2) I’ve been around a while and I actually know what I’m doing. I learned the business by working as an assistant for a few years before I became a broker. Now I have years of experience. And I also know the rules. If a client wants me to bend or break one of those rules, sorry, but I won’t risk my license and my reputation just to make a few bucks.

3) I’m a big ‘explainer’. I explain EVERYTHING about the mortgage process, but not all at once. One step at a time so the client doesn’t get a case of ‘information overload’. Time consuming? Yes… but that’s how I roll.

4) I’m there for my clients after-the-fact. They can call me with any questions any time, and I will never just say “Call your lender”. I always have time to chat with my clients and help them out with any concerns or questions.

5) I stay up to date on what’s happening with interest rates and the economy so my clients don’t have to. I would never expect them to… that’s my job. And I create my own newsletter four times per year - no corporate-looking junk mail for me. Time consuming? Yes… but that’s how I roll.

6) I’m too honest. If a client is getting into something beyond their means, I tell them so. If they go to another mortgage broker to get it done, so be it. At least I didn’t put them in a risky situation.

7) I don’t mind if my close friends DON’T come to me for a mortgage. I understand that for some people, their financial situation is PRIVATE, and maybe they aren’t comfortable spilling all the details to me (but I still give them tips & advice…)

8) I get excited for my clients when they find a place they want to buy, but then I feel the same disappointment if, for whatever reason, they don’t qualify a mortgage.

9) I’m incapable of pressuring my clients to do something or make a decision. I want my clients to feel comfortable and confident about their decision.

10) I don’t believe in ‘sales tactics’. I give my clients choices; I don’t just give them one option and say ‘take it or leave it’. I explain the differences in each option so they can make an informed choice of their own. Time consuming? Yes… but… well, you know.


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Edmonton is getting a spanky new museum, which one will you choose?


The Province has released four new designs for the soon-to-be-built Royal Alberta Museum in the downtown core. They are asking the public to voice their opinions on the designs to help the government in choosing a winning concept.

This is a building that will shape our downtown!
Please take a few moments to view the submission and offer your feedback:

http://www.infrastructure.alberta.ca/3688.htm

Monday, August 15, 2011

Your Home Purchase: Part 2

The average Canadian homebuyer takes 11 months to plan their purchase, according to CMHC. If you’re thinking about buying in the next year, our four-part series will explain how you should be dividing your time.

Part 2: The Pre-Approval

There is no better tool to help you obtain a true picture of your housing budget than a mortgage preapproval. Unfortunately, less first-time buyers are taking the time to get one.
According to TD Canada Trust’s First Time Homebuyers report, 91% of first-time buyers were pre-approved for a mortgage before house shopping in 2010, and that number fell to 76% in 2011.

There’s no real reason why less homebuyers should be taking advantage of the opportunity to get preapproved for a mortgage especially if you’re dealing with a mortgage broker. With one glance into your credit score, we can use the information to see which lenders are willing to approve you for a mortgage, at what rate and for how much.

While this approval isn’t etched in stone the lender will still want to see proof of income and other personal details upon approval, and if you’re putting less than 20% down, your mortgage insurer (i.e. CMHC or Genworth) will also have a final say it nevertheless gives you a good picture of what type of funds are available to you, and at what rate.

Not only does this help you put a more accurate budget together and ensure your house hunting endeavours fall within your allotted price range but, in many cases, it also allows you to secure the best available rate. Most lenders will hold their best rate for you for 90 days (and sometimes 120 days) upon preapproval. If you don’t find a home within that time (or if you just haven’t had a chance to start looking) you can obtain another preapproval hassle-free.

For the amount of effort it takes to call up your mortgage broker and obtain a preapproval, it’s definitely worth the added convenience. In many cases, we can do the legwork online, and have it turned around within a business day or less.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Your Home Purchase: Part 1

The average Canadian homebuyer takes 11 months to plan their purchase, according to CMHC. If you’re thinking about buying in the next year, our four-part series will explain how you should be dividing your time.

Part 1: Getting your ducks lined up
While you don’t necessarily need a year to plan your home purchase, a little preparation never hurt anyone – in fact, it’s been known to save people money. Below are a few things you can do right out of the gate that can save you hassles (and plenty of headaches) in 11 months time:

a) Become one with your credit score
There’s nothing worse than finding your dream home and realizing, upon talking to the bank, that you don’t have good enough credit to obtain a mortgage. That’s why the more in tune you are with your credit score and the earlier you’re in tune with it the better.

Both of Canada’s two major credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion offer one free credit report per year. Take advantage of this offering to make sure you don’t have any outstanding bills you didn’t know about, or incorrect charges on your report. If you do, a year is usually enough time to clear up any minor blemishes so that your score is in tip-top shape when it comes time for that pre-approval. Remember – the better your score, the better your rate (and the more money you’ll save in the long run).

b) Establish your household budget
If you don’t already have one, now is the time to sit down and draft an accurate household budget. This means going through your expenses, tracking your spending and figuring out which luxuries you can’t live without and which ones you might be able to trim.

This will likely be a work in progress, and something you’ll revise over the coming months as you (and, potentially, your partner) receive raises, change jobs or simply learn to reign in your spending. Once you get into the habit of it, you’ll be able to determine how much you can really afford to spend on housing every month, which will come in handy later on.

c) Estimate your potential mortgage payment.
While you don’t have to know the details quite yet, it pays to know roughly how much your ideal home is going for price-wise, where interest rates are sitting, and how much you’re aiming to have for a down payment.

Once you have these numbers in mind, you’ll be able to plug them into an online calculator and figure out how much a monthly mortgage payment is likely to cost. Once you know this magic number, determine the difference between that and the current rent you’re paying and sock it away. Not only will this help you get used to the added costs of a mortgage payment, but it will also help you establish a bit of a savings fund either to strengthen your down payment or use as an emergency fund for the day something inevitably needs repair in your new home.

-Courtesy of Axiom Mortgage Partners

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Turning your principal residence into a rental

So, you're ready to move out of your starter home and into a larger residence. The thing is, your first home is so well-located that you'd love to hold onto it for a little longer - and maybe use it as a tool to launch you into the rental market. Before you make the commitment, however, here are a few things to consider:

1. Will you need to refinance?

Chances are, in the time you've owned your primary residence, you've had an opportunity to build up equity. The question is, will you need some of this equity to use towards a down payment on a second home - or do you have a separate down payment fund saved up?

If you need to tap into your home's equity, you're going to have to refinance - and you can only do so up to 85% of the value of your home. You'll also have to consider that, with a refinance, you'll likely have to take on a new mortgage term, rate and amortization - and, depending on the details of your mortgage, this may come with some hefty fees. It should also be noted that keeping that 35-year amortization with less than 20% equity can prove difficult since it's been phased out under new government rules.

2. Ensuring positive cash flow.

If you have to pull out some equity in your home for a second down payment, your mortgage payments are going to increase on your primary residence. For a rental property to make sense, you're going to have to make sure that you have positive cash flow - which means the going rental rate can cover your mortgage payments, property taxes and maintenance costs. Check out similar rental properties in your area either through viewit.ca, craigslist.com or kijiji.ca.

To keep your costs as low as possible, it's best to go with the longest amortization you can get your hands on - and the lowest mortgage rate.

3. Tax implications.

If you end up using the money from your refinanced first property as a down payment for your second, you're going to find it difficult to legally take advantage of the tax deductibility of your new rental property. This is because borrowed funds are only tax deductible if they're used to fund a rental property - and you'll be using them to fund a new primary residence. This article at Million Dollar Journey does a great job of explaining the issue, and ways to get around it:

http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/converting-a-principal-residence-into-a-rental-property.htm


4. Are you really ready to be a landlord?

Becoming a landlord brings on its own new set of responsibilities - and potential late-night emergencies. Before you pull the trigger, really think about if you're ready to take care of the maintenance needs of two residences - and if you're prepared to carry the costs of two residences if you can't rent your first one out for a month or two.

For further reflection, consider reading these articles about nightmare tenants:

13 outrageous tenant excuses

http://realestate.msn.com/13-outrageous-tenant-excuses?page=2

Tenants from hell

http://www.property118.com/index.php/tenants-from-hell-part2/

Friday, July 22, 2011

Buy a house, keep a little money in your jeans

This week I am going to highlight a great product I can offer! One of the lenders I work very closely with offers a fantastic designer mortgage product which allows you to choose various cash back options on your mortgage. The promotion allows qualifying home buyers to purchase a home, choose their own interest rate (currently ranging between 4.19% and 3.74% on a five year closed term) and choose their cash back amount.

We all know that it costs money to move house, most people end up buying some new furniture or completing small renovations such as installing new lighting in their new home. For a lot of first time buyers, these extra purchases are made with a credit card, often with very high interest rates. The cash back program I am offering will give you a little cash to make these purchases and renovations without having to use additional credit sources. The slightly higher mortgage rate (up to 4.19%) is certainly better than the 18+% charged by your credit card companies!

Here’s an example of how this program works.

Mortgage information: $250,000 over 30 years

Choices: borrowers can pick an interest rate ranging between 4.19%* and 3.74%*

Interest Rate Cash Back amount Monthly mortgage payment

4.19%* $4,500 $1,215.82
3.99%* $2,500 $1,187.38
3.79%* $500 $1,159.27
3.74%* $0 $1,152.29


So, as you can see with the examples above, the difference between a mortgage at 4.19% and a mortgage at 3.74% is $63.53/month, when you calculate this over the five year term ($63.53 x 60) it works out to a difference of $3,811.90. You have received $4,500 in cash back and will pay a total of $3,811.90 back over their five year term. I’d call this a win-win solution!

This mortgage truly is a “designer” mortgage, allowing you clients to choose the right mortgage for your needs!

Please contact me for more information!


*Rates subject to change at any time. Calculations are based on a $250,000 mortgage, 30 year amortization and a five year closed interest rate. The cash back amount will increase/decrease depending on the total mortgage amount. Interest rates are subject to purchaser & property qualification and can change without notice. Borrowers may have to qualify and pay a higher rate. Subject to approved credit and income verification. O.A.C. The cash back may be reduced and the interest rate increased if the mortgage does not close within 30 days of submission to the lender.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prime stays the same...

In an announcement earlier today, the Bank of Canada left their key interest rate unchanged. The central bank cited several reasons for its decision including a slowly-recovering export market due to weak U.S. economic growth and the high value of the Canadian dollar.
Despite the above factors, according to an article from CBC, many experts are still predicting an interest rate hike towards the end of 2011.
The next scheduled interest rate announcement is scheduled for September 7th 2011.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The good times are almost here

As I lay in bed this morning willing my eyes to open I was half listening to CBC radio’s morning show. They were interviewing a woman working in HR at Ledcor. They are on a hiring spree, trying to hire 9,000 new employees this year. My eyes opened wider...9,000 people? In one year? Folks, this is yet another sign that the good times are back in Alberta! The HR representative stated that Ledcor is aiming to hire employees from within Alberta but is also trying to recruit internationally. This latest news should bring great things for the housing industry in Edmonton; more people working, more people moving here from other places = housing demand.
If you are someone that is sitting on the fence wondering if now is a good time to buy I would say it may be time to hop off that fence, find yourself a good Realtor and start looking at houses. Interest rates are very low and there is a lot of inventory to choose from. This may not be the case for long.
If you would like a referral to a good Realtor, I know several that are trustworthy, kind and patient. Just drop me a line and I will put you in touch with someone.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Bestest of Edmonton

Moving to Edmonton and wondering what's great about this place? Maybe you've lived here for a long time but haven't discovered everything e-town has to offer...


Click here for Vue Magazine’s the Bestest of Edmonton! A solid list of great things about the river city.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Don't accept the first price upon renewal


Remember all the work and research that went into finding the best rate for your first mortgage? Whether you spent months making sure your credit was as good as can be, or spent hours on the Internet searching for the best rate, it seems silly to waste that effort by blindly renewing with your existing lender when your first term is up.

The truth is, the best lender is only as good as the term that you sign with them. When it comes time to renew, many offer their clients an inflated rate hoping that you'll be complacent enough to simply sign it back. Other clients particularly the new ones, or those that take the time to negotiate receive the lender preferred rate, which can sometimes be as much as half a percentage point lower.

While that may not seem like much now, it adds up over the life of the mortgage and almost certainly overrides any savings you experienced in that first term. For example, if you had a 25-year, $200,000 mortgage at the posted rate of 4.08% you would be paying approximately $1057 per month, compared to approximately $1,018 per month at the discounted rate of 3.72%. While this isn't a lot if you look at it from a monthly perspective, if you look at the long-term, you're paying $118,220 in interest on the higher rate mortgage, compared to $106,572 on the lower rate mortgage. That's a difference of $11,672.

Obviously you're likely not going to keep the entire rate for the life of a mortgage, but if the interest costs could be even greater if you merely renew at the going rate, term after term. That's why it's important to employ the services of a mortgage broker throughout your entire mortgage lifespan. Not only will this ensure you're getting the best possible rate available, but it will also give you the opportunity to see if there are other mortgage products in the market that are better suited to your changing needs.

-Axiom Mortgage Solutions

Friday, June 24, 2011

Job seekers heading back to Alberta

According to this Globe and Mail article, Statscan reported that after a two year lull Alberta now registers as the province with the fastest first quarter job growth in Canada.
The majority of migrants are coming from Atlantic Canada and other prairies provinces.
The recent information release by Stastcan furthers the speculation that Alberta may soon see another boom. If we are seeing an increase in migration, it only makes sense that the individuals moving here will increase the demand for housing. With current interest rates so low and the potential for rising house prices and higher interest rates as the economy picks up steam, maybe NOW is a good time to get into your first home!
If you are a first time buyer thinking about taking the property plunge, now might be a good time to do so.
Please contact me should you require mortgage information or a pre-approval.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flaherty: No more changes to mortgages

Jim Flaherty, Canada’s Finance Minister, announced that he does not have plans to tighten mortgage rules any further. Flaherty stated that the country’s housing market remains healthy following the implementation of tightened mortgage rules last March.

The statement comes about following new numbers released by the Bank of Canada on Monday showing that Canadian debt levels have reached record levels during the first quarter of 2011. According to Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, Canadians have leveraged themselves so much our debt levels are now in line with the United States and England. His concern? When interest rates inevitably rise, a large number of Canadians will be vulnerable to an economic shock.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weird and wonderful facts about Edmonton!

I was browsing around the internet, trying to find the latest statistics on the population of the Capital City; I came across the Wikipedia page dedicated to all things e-town and I learned some surprising new things about the city:

-Edmonton has the highest per capita area of parkland in any Canadian City! The river valley is 22 times larger than New York’s Central Park.

-The Edmonton Composting facility is the largest of its type in the world! I’m embarrassed to say this, but I didn’t even realize Edmonton composted at all! My bad.

-Westmount mall was the first mall in Canada. So, that explains why Edmontonian’s love to shop!

-The first inhabitants settled in the area that is now Edmonton around 3,000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC, when an ice-free corridor opened up as the last ice age ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.

- Being stuck on the Anthony Henday on plenty of occasions has given me time to wonder "who was Anthony Henday" and "why have we named this parking lot after him"? Now I know! In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer working for the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area.

-Edmonton has wacky weather. It is definitely a place of extremes. The highest temperature recorded within the City of Edmonton was 38.3 °C (100.9 °F), on August 5, 1998. The coldest temperature ever recorded at city centre was −40.6 °C (−41.1 °F) on January 26, 1972, this was the only time since recordings began in 1953 that city centre has recorded a temperature below −40 °C (−40 °F). The coldest overall temperature recorded in Edmonton was −49.4 °C (−56.9 °F), on January 19 and 21, 1886.

If, you are considered a move to Alberta’s Capital City, or are looking to learn some new things about Edmonton, the Wiki page is a great resource!

The perks of using a real estate agent

With the Competition Bureau pushing for a more publicly-accessible Multiple Listings Service (MLS), and for-sale-by-owners sites, such as Property Guys, picking up steam, you may be tempted to forgo the services of a real estate agent and tackle your home sale yourself.
Before you invest the inevitable time and money to this endeavour, however, you may want to reconsider the pros of using a real estate agent.
If you’re a seller...
- With an estimated 85% of homebuyers opting for the services of a real estate agent, a selling agent (and his/her fellow colleagues) have more access to potential buyers. This means more Open House traffic, more ad visibility, and more of your ideal buyers coming through your door.
- While your home may look perfect to you, it may not meet the style and trend preferences of today’s buyer. Because real estate agents are in tune with the latest must haves, and deal with modern buyers on a day-to-day basis, they can offer the fresh set of eyes your home needs. This translates into simple but successful self-staging ideas that have the potential to move your home much quicker.
- Listing at the right price is crucial if you want to sell your home as quickly as possible. Because real estate agents have access to past sales and comparables, they can help you find that magic number that will get the right people through the door.
If you’re a buyer...
- Purchasing a new home can be daunting (and a lot of hard work) if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for. A real estate agent who specializes in your ideal area is up-to-date on the homes for sale in your market. As a result, they can save you a lot of legwork and show you homes that fall in line with what you’re looking for.
- Because they know the ins and outs of specific areas (and surrounding areas), they may be able to help you find your dream home in an unexpected place.
- Real estate agents negotiate for a living and yours will negotiate hard in your favour. Depending on the circumstance, they may also add in certain clauses that will make the sale as beneficial to you as possible -- such as closing timelines and other conditions.

-Axiom Mortgage Partners

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Best place to raise a family in Canada? St. Albert!

Today’s Parent magazine has voted St. Albert as the best place to raise a family in Canada in their most recent issue.

As a long time resident of the community, I agree that it is a great place to call home! I can attest that the small city is very well maintained, with loads of beautiful trails and parks (including a newly renovated outdoor water park and skateboard park) as well as great community events such as the amazing farmer’s market and International Children's Festival in the summer. St. Albert also has fantastic winter activities including an abundance of outdoor skating rinks in a variety of neighbourhoods as well as a great cross country ski trail in the Riverlot 56 Natural Area (also a favourite summer walking route of mine).

The recently built Servus Place is a great community fixture where residents can exercise, swim or participate in a variety of team sports including hockey or indoor soccer. Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the nearly complete Enjoy Centre, a beautifully designed space that will house a variety of businesses including the Prairie Bistro, a spa, yoga studio, organic bakery, a kitchen store and Hole's famous greenhouse. It truly is an amazing place and a great asset to the community of St. Albert.

I have always felt very safe in St. Albert and while I don’t have children of my own, I think it would be a great place to raise a family!

Read the Today’s Parent article here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bank of Canada holds steady

As expected, the Bank of Canada left it’s key interest rte unchanged stating that they will likely not increase rates until the economy has recovered. Many are not predicting an increase to the prime lending rate until September.

This latest announcement by the Bank of Canada is welcome news to mortgage holders with variable rate or home equity line of credit mortgages.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Canadians love their U.S. properties


For the fourth consecutive year, Canadians led the pack of foreign buyers sweeping up properties in the U.S. Twenty-three percent of foreign buyers were Canadian, with the next-highest group coming from China (9%).

It's easy to understand why Canadians are deciding now is the time to purchase properties south of the border. More than 45% of those properties purchased by all foreign buyers in 2010 had price tags under $200,000. For a vacation property, that's not a price to sneeze at!

If you're thinking about becoming a U.S. property owner, here are a few things to consider:

1. Cash is King.

Very few, if any, U.S. lenders are offering mortgages to foreign buyers right now, so if you're thinking about buying a property, you're best to buy with cash. If you don't have $200,000 in cash on hand, many buyers are opting to take out a line of credit on their Canadian property and using the money to buy a U.S. home flat out.

2. What are others saying?

If you can, talk to as many people you know who have recently purchased a U.S. property. Find out where they purchased the property, what their experience was like, and what tips they have to offer.

3. Avoid buying in a ghost town.

While a super-low price tag may be tempting, make sure it's not the only factor guiding your property-buying decision. Where you buy is equally as important and a ghost town or ghost building, ridden with foreclosures, is likely not where you want to be. Aside from further reducing property values, foreclosed homes are not contributing to local maintenance (or HOA) fees, which means the amenities and maintenance services your building is supposed to offer may not be kept up to snuff.

4. Buy with the long term in mind.

Nobody knows when the bottom of the U.S. housing bust will occur or how long it will last. So it's best to purchase U.S. properties with the long term in mind, rather than the mindset of turning a quick profit.

-courtesy of Axiom Mortgage Partners

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Condo documents: Why they are important to review in detail

A REALTOR® friend of mine, John Carle with REMAX just posted this great article on his blog regarding purchasing a condo and the importance of reviewing your condo documentation thoroughly....

"If you have purchased a condominium then you will have looked over the documents that describe the unit, building, condo corporation etc…

As a REALTOR®, I have had many clients purchase apartment and townhouse condos in many varied complexes. Usually, one of my many jobs when my clients are looking at the condo is to help them to understand the documents.

Now sometimes they may decide to take the documents to a lawyer for review, or to a company that specializes in condo document review. Any way you choose, it’s yours to decide. The ultimate decision on whether to buy it or not, is yours as the purchaser. You must be satisfied that it is a good place to buy.

The document package should contain a variety of different documents and be as up-to-date as possible. This is very important because, for example:

- it can show you how well the building is managed

- how much is in the Reserve Fund (for maintenance and repairs)

- how much the monthly condo (strata) fees are

- the meeting minutes for the Board of Directors

- the Annual General meeting minutes

- the projected budget for the year

- any anticipated levies or special assessments

- the projected maintenance costs for the next 1 – 5 years (depending on when the Reserve Fund Study was done)

- and many more items.

I will help you to make sure you get all the info you need to make a sound decision on the purchase of an apartment or townhouse condo. Please contact me if you have any questions or if you are interested in the purchase or sale of a condominium or a single-family home."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Home Alone house up for sale

The movie that made Macaulay Culkin famous also made a certain home in Winnetka, Illinois famous as well.
The "Home Alone mansion" - or the home Macaulay Culkin's character, Kevin, had to defend in the 1990 holiday classic - is now up for sale. The price tag is a mere $2.4 million. To check out the inside, and hear some behind-the-scenes tales from its owners, check out this video!

Alberta joins BC in regulating home inspectors

As of September 1, Alberta will become the second province to ensure all home inspectors are licensed and all homeowners who use them are protected. Home inspectors will be required to successfully complete a provincially-approved training program, as well as pass a test inspection.
If you’ve ever watched the show Holmes on Homes, a home renovation show where the majority of troubled homeowners run into problems due to the oversight of a less-than-stellar home inspector it’s a wonder that Alberta is only the second province to enforce these measures. The majority of provinces have associations that offer their own certification and education, but participation is completely voluntary.
B.C. became the first province to licence home inspectors back in 2009. At that time, the government set out to better serve homeowners by assessing the qualifications of, and requiring mandatory licences for, home inspectors; receiving and responding to complaints; and monitoring compliance through inspections and enforcement, with penalties of up to $5,000.
Alberta will take its enforcement a step further by investigating all complaints, and fining businesses in violation of the new rules by as much as $100,000 and/or two years in jail.
There have been rumours that Quebec may be the next province to regulate home inspectors, but no word yet on when that will happen or when other provinces might follow suit.

-Axiom Mortgage Partners

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Buying a piece of the American Dream



We’ve all heard the stories from friends, co-workers and neighbours: they went to the U.S. and purchased an amazing vacation/retirement property at an unbelievable price. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about doing the same for some time. It sounds like a great idea, but, how do you get started?


Below is an extremely informative excerpt from a new book; Buying Real Estate in the US: The Concise Guide for Canadians. If you are toying around with the idea of purchasing property south of the border my suggestion would be that you really do your research before making an offer on a property. This book would be a great place to start!

A Rare Opportunity: Purchasing property in the United States










Monday, May 9, 2011

How much house can you REALLY afford?


Acquiring a mortgage - and acquiring a mortgage you can afford - are two separate things. Often, banks or lenders will approve you for much more than fits comfortably into your lifestyle. That's because they rely on two calculations - Gross Debt Service Ratio (GDS) and Total Debt Service Ratio (TDS) to come up with that magic number.

The problem with those calculations is that, while they take into consideration some household expenses to determine how much mortgage you can afford, they don't take into consideration all of them.


Such expenses as mobile phone bills, cable, entertainment, and groceries, for example, aren't factored into the equation - instead, they focus on the bare necessities such as heat, loan payments and credit card minimum payments. They also base the calculations on your gross household income - not your net (or after-tax) income, which can be a little misleading as well.

So how can you determine how much house you can really afford? Well, there seems to be a few differing "rules of thumb" out there:

1. The price tag of the home shouldn't be more than two to three times your gross household income.
So, if your household is making $100,000 per year, your home's price tag should fall between $200,000 to $300,000. Given today's real estate prices, many believe this adage is outdated.

2. The total mortgage amount shouldn?t be above four and a half or five times your gross family income.
So for the same $100,000 couple, that would take you to a $450,000 or $500,000 mortgage loan. Whatever down payment you've mustered to save will increase the home's price tag accordingly. While the previous example seemed a little low, many believe this number is a little high, and could cause homeowners to over-extend themselves.

3. Find your own magic number.
Depending on your lifestyle and where you choose to spend your money, your idea of home affordability will vary from someone who has completely different spending habits. That's why it's important to find out what number works for you.

Start by tracking your spending - most people underestimate exactly where their money is going. Next, figure out what extras you can do without - and which ones you absolutely can't. If you love dining out, for example, it's better to come to terms with this fact and buy more house than convince yourself that once you own a home you'll eat in every night.

With interest rates continuing to sit at record lows, it might also serve you to see what you can afford at a higher interest rate - say 6%. This can help you ensure that you'll be in a comfortable place both today and when it comes time to renew.

-Axiom Mortgage Partners

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You can't afford a mortgage when...

While plenty of individuals live from paycheque to paycheque, most consumers know they should be saving money and reducing debt. The recession has drummed that concept into everyone's head as people have watched their neighbours and friends lose jobs and sometimes their home.

Many people say that money worries keep them awake at night, but that doesn't necessarily translate to imminent bankruptcy. How do you know when you are truly teetering on the edge of a financial disaster versus simply needing to do a little belt-tightening?

Here are nine signs that indicate you are heading for trouble and may be unable to pay your mortgage in upcoming months:

1. Late Fees

If you missed a payment or let your bill go past due because you didn't have the money to pay your mortgage or another bill on time, you need to reevaluate your budget. Not only does this indicate an imbalance between your income and expenditures, but it will also ruin your credit score, potentially causing your creditors to increase your interest rate.

2. You Can't Pay All of Your Bills

Every month, you are forced to decide which bills to pay and which bills to ignore. A lot of people opt to pay their credit card bill to stop harassment from the credit card company and to make sure they have available credit. But it is far more important to pay the bills that protect your home first. Always pay your mortgage first so that you will have a place to live. Next, pay for your car so that you can get to work and keep your job.

3. Making Minimum Payments on Credit Cards

In your mind, paying the minimum due on each bill may mean you are keeping up with your financial commitments, but financial experts know that minimum-only payments are a key indicator of financial distress. While this may mean that you carry too much debt, this also means that all your income is barely covering your spending. Take a careful look at your mortgage payment, other debts and your income to get back on track. Paying only the minimum on credit cards will extend your debt for years and amass expensive interest payments.

4. No Emergency Savings

While amassing six to 12 months of funds to cover you expenses, as many financial planners now recommend, may be a monumental task, every homeowner should have at least one month's worth of expenses in the bank. At the very least, you need to have enough money in a savings account or a money market fund to pay your mortgage for one month if your income drops or disappears. If you cannot save that much money you need to seriously evaluate your overall household budget.

5. You Can't Afford Maintenance

Your home needs to be painted and your dishwasher broke two months ago. If you are ignoring basic maintenance because you cannot afford to buy paint or call a repairman, this is a significant indication that you are in financial trouble. Not only does this show that you don't have any emergency savings or a home maintenance budget, but this will also reduce the value of your home.

6. Reduced Income

Money is already tight and now your work hours have been reduced or you have been laid off. If meeting your monthly budget depends on every dime you earn, then even a small reduction in income can be a disaster. Search for a new job or a second job and, at the same time, start slashing your budget as much as you can.

7. Using Credit or Cash Advances to Pay Bills

You are using your credit cards or, even worse, cash advances on credit cards to pay other bills such as a utility bill or to buy groceries or just to have cash in your pocket. This is a strong indication that your spending is outpacing your income and it is extremely expensive. You need to put yourself on a debt management program or perhaps meet with a credit counselor to straighten out your finances.

8. Using Your Retirement Fund

You have borrowed money from your retirement account for your mortgage payment or other debt. This could seriously jeopardize your future financial security.

9. You're Maxed Out

One or more of your credit card balances has reached or, worse, gone over the limit. If you are transferring your balances to new accounts in order to avoid paying the debt, this is a sign of a financial imbalance. If you are applying for new credit cards because your other cards have reached their limit, you are in serious danger of a financial meltdown. While you may be making your mortgage payments just fine, if you cannot control your use of credit cards it can be an indication that housing payments are too high.

While these financial woes can mean that you cannot afford your home, they may also be a sign that your spending is out of control. For most people, the mortgage payment is the largest monthly bill, so they often assume that the size of their mortgage is the problem. If your housing payment fits into that budget but you are having difficulty making your payment, then the issue may be that you have taken on too much other debt. Whether the problem is your mortgage or your other debt, you need to find a way to reduce your spending and/or boost your income before the situation gets worse.

The Bottom Line

Handling financial problems is never easy, but the first step is always to know what you owe. Solutions can only become clear once you have every bill written down with the amount owed, the monthly payment and the interest rate you are being charged. Pencil and paper work just fine, or you can create a spreadsheet or invest in some personal finance software. The important thing is to know where you stand so you can create a plan that will get your money under control.


Nine signs you can't afford a mortgage
Michele Lerner
Investopedia.com
Published Monday, May. 02, 2011 6:56AM EDTLast updated Monday, May. 02, 2011 10:11AM EDTcomments

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Insiders tips on purchasing real estate

Luke Quach, from REMAX explains why working with your Realtor’s approved mortgage broker is beneficial for you! Please note that while the majority of points made in this article are very realistic and true, some of the nitty gritty details are written with an American perspective and do not apply to Canadian real estate transactions (mainly the last point about line item loan fees).

Thanks Luke for posting such a great article!

Stage Two: Getting Pre-Approved.
Insider Secret: Working with a mortgage broker referred by your real estate broker or agent may save you money.
Why: Bolstered by the real-life stories of a couple of bad apples, TV pundits and some consumer advocates have spun the tale of a real estate industry cartel, whereby sinister agents hook unsuspecting buyers up with shady mortgage brokers, who place them in crappy loans and kick back some bucks to the agent. I’m here to tell you, in my experience, the opposite is true the vast majority of the time.
When you work with a mortgage broker who has a strong track record of helping your real estate agent’s clients out, you end up in a best of all worlds situation, nine times out of ten. First off, your agent will take you much more seriously once a mortgage broker they know and trust has run your credit, checked your income and approved you for a loan, as well as communicated with your real estate pro about your qualifications and what you can afford. Secondly, your agent can help you communicate with your mortgage broker, sometimes helping get past appraisal glitches or facilitating other workarounds, as they come up. Third, you get the assurance of working with a mortgage pro who has been vetted and vouched for by someone you not only trust, but someone who can verify that the mortgage broker has the ability to get transactions closed in the timely manner required of today’s real estate sales contract. Otherwise, you may end up working with a competent mortgage broker who has a great track record when it comes to refinancing, but can’t keep up with the pace and common obstacles to getting a home financed in the context of a sale.
On top of that, sometimes the relationship can help you negotiate out of a couple of line item loan fees (if your particular mortgage rep has the power to get them down at all), if push comes to shove and cash is tight to close the deal. Assuming you are working with a real estate pro you really trust, working with a mortgage broker they trust can save you, rather than cost you, money.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Get talking about your finances


While chatter about mortgages, debt, savings and retirement planning isn't likely to put one in a romantic mood, it's an important aspect of any marriage or co-habitational relationship.

Unfortunately, talking about money is typically the last thing anyone wants to do during their personal time. When you don't have enough of it - or when the debt is quickly piling up - it's much less enjoyable. But with financial matters being one of the top cited reasons for divorce, it should be an important aspect of every relationship. Below are a few strategies to take the fear out of your finances:

1. Know where you stand.
Dealing with your own finances is quite different than dealing with a couple's. Make sure you're both aware of your entire financial picture - money coming in, money going out, and all outstanding debts. You'd be surprised at how financial awareness - and a strategy to tackle any worries you may have - can quickly erode any fear you have about financial matters.

2. Get both members involved.
While one person may be more financially savvy than the other, it's important that both members of a couple are involved in the financial decisions. So when it comes time to renew that mortgage, for example, both members should meet with your mortgage broker and understand the pros and cons of the different products before selecting. In the same sense, you should periodically go through your expenses together and brainstorm ways to slash costs, and revisit your investment portfolio.

3. Arrange a financial "date night".
Even if you're not afraid to talk about money, it can be difficult to find the time to do so. For this reason, consider arranging a monthly financial date night. Open a bottle of wine, order some take-out, and take an hour or two to look at your monthly expenditures, the debt you've tackled and any other financial-related topics you've been thinking about.

-article courtesy of Axiom Mortgage Partners