Category Archives: home owners

A first-time homebuyer’s guide to avoiding the house poor trap

Photo: James Bombales

Life likes to deal us surprises from time to time — a job loss, a chronic illness, an unfortunate fender bender. As a homeowner, any one of these sudden changes can throw you off your game, financially speaking, but if you’re house poor, even a minor expense change can have catastrophic consequences.

House poorness occurs when a large portion of your income goes towards your housing expenses, leaving little leftover for savings, discretionary spending or emergency funds. House poorness is not uncommon; an Ipsos poll by MNP published in January found that nearly half of Canadians are $200 or less away from being unable to pay their bills. A fluctuation in interest rates or a sudden expense can bring a house poor owner to their knees, Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions explains.

“You’re really fighting a situation where anything that happens becomes too much,” she says.

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House poorness falls on a spectrum of intensity. For some, not having much financial wiggle room means no vacations or new cars. For others, it’s the difference between paying the mortgage and saving for retirement.

“The more serious version of house poor that I think people are just starting to see, and possibly for a couple more years, is people who not only can’t afford to do those discretionary spending types of things, but who also cannot save for retirement, save for children’s education, other things that are really important to do as well,” says Jason Heath, managing director of Objective Financial Partners Inc.

While the prospect of house poorness is frightening, it can be prevented through detailed planning, budgeting and thinking into the future. Campbell and Heath share how you can avoid house poorness, even before you sign those mortgage documents.

Want to retire? Buy from the bottom

While it’s expected that Canada’s hottest housing markets won’t cool off entirely this year, affordable housing remains inaccessible for many. Campbell is concerned that in the current market conditions, some new buyers are still purchasing above what they can afford. In the event of a interest rate rise, she says that those who’ve bought beyond their means could be on a course for financial hardship.

Photo: James Bombales

“Even a quarter point could result in immediate financial discord for a family that has really bought at the top of their income,” says Campbell.

Heath has worked with a number of clients, who, after several years of house poorness, have not been able to efficiently save for retirement. In order to recoup their losses, Heath says that house poorness has forced some homeowners to make downsizing an inevitable part of their financial plan. He fears that those overpaying in today’s market will follow the same fate.

“Particularly if and when home interest rates rise, mortgages payments will rise accordingly,” says Heath. “I worry that you’ve got a whole generation of young people who may be putting a lot of their retirement plans into their home as opposed to saving in a traditional manner.”

Preventing house poorness starts with buying at the bottom of the market, where the prices are the lowest, but Campbell adds that it also requires ignoring the pressures of needing to buy right now — home prices may decline further yet. By monitoring the price of homes in the markets in which you want to buy, you’ll build your knowledge of a fair evaluation of prices in your desired area and skip overpaying, Campbell explains.

“Even if you want to buy a house a year from now, start doing your research now,” she says. “Know what the real cost of housing in the area you want to buy is so you can make sure you’re evaluating the houses that are up for sale with experience.”

Taking on a smaller mortgage loan may also prevent house poorness, especially in the event of an unexpected income change. Borrowing under the maximum amount a mortgage lender approves you for, Heath says, leaves a good buffer in your financial budget in case any unanticipated changes should occur.

“I think it’s a really good lesson to people before they buy to appreciate that job loss happens, health issues happen,” says Heath. “There are extraordinary financial situations that you may not be able to anticipate that could put you into difficulty if you bite off more than you can chew in the first place.”

Skip the McMansion — think long term

Like we keep a spare tire in the event of a flat, or a box of bandaids for those little accidents, avoiding house poorness requires establishing some safeguards in case of unforeseen circumstances. This means having a well thought out financial budget, and a good cushion of emergency funds.

When it comes to budgets, Heath says it takes a very personalized approach to get it right. The mortgage stress test does not factor in personal spending, so financial budgets for homeownership should reflect your own spending habits and expenses.

“The mortgage qualification process does not take into account things like your discretionary spending or the activities that your children are enrolled in, for example,” says Heath. “You can have two families with the same income and the same mortgage approval, but spend very different amounts of money month to month on housing related stuff.”

Photo: CafeCreditFlickr

Beyond budgets, Campbell says it’s also important to account for the long-term lifestyle you’ll want under your mortgage. Owning a home in your early thirties with no children will mean different financial priorities compared to your late forties with post-secondary education fees and retirement in mind. It’s important that your mortgage accommodates your long-term savings and planned changes to family and income. Campbell says this starts with sticking to a budget.

“You don’t need the McMansion,” she says. “A lot of people think the bigger the house, the better it is and a lot of people regret that. So make sure that it’s within the budget that you have within an emergency fund that you need to develop around that budget and you’re able to do the things that you’ve wanted to do over time that won’t be impacted by the decisions you make with that home.”

Don’t give up everything

Owning a home ain’t cheap: there’s renovations, regular maintenance, seasonal upkeep and at least one emergency repair that you’ll need to fork out for at some point. Heath says that new home buyers tend to overlook these expenses — but they are critical to account for in any homeowner budget.

“I think it’s really important to, either on your own or with a professional, to try to assess what the true homeownership cost is going to be in that home,” says Heath. “Particularly, if you’re moving from a condo into a house, or from a rental into a homeownership position.”

Failing to accommodate regular home upkeep and extra costs in the budget can skew the true cost of homeownership. It can also be a drain on your finances. House poorness is marked by a lack of disposable income, which not only leads to skipping those needed repairs, but also the inability to go out and enjoy living life.

“People will often say, ‘We’ll give up everything to buy this house,’ but everything gets really boring very fast to have given up everything,” says Campbell.

Heath recommends making a detailed budget for the medium- to long-term financial outcomes of buying a home in order to assess true ownership costs.

Breaking up is hard to do

If you’re in a position of house poorness, don’t give up — there are options.

Campbell says that boosting your income is a good first step. You can do this by getting a part-time job, or creating side hustle from your home by renting out your extra rooms on Airbnb. But, if your mortgage payments have simply become too much, Heath says that you may need to consider selling and downsizing.

“There are situations where people need to consider the home that they own and whether it is too expensive,” he says.

If selling is the last resort, Campbell advises not to do so hastily. While there could be a mounting urge to get cash — and fast — selling quickly could cost you value in your home.

“Don’t wait until you really hit the dirt, and then try to sell your house, because chances are you’re going to have to sell it very quickly, and if you need to sell it very quickly, you’ll probably going to sell at a lower rate than you wanted to get,” says Campbell.

Source: Livabl.com –   

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Ownership: Joint tenancy, tenants in common and more

Source: MoneySense.ca – by 

Consider alternative ownership options when buying a home

As housing affordability recedes in the rearview mirror of Canada’s fast moving real estate market, it’s time to look at different housing ownership options.

Freehold interest

The term freehold is synonymous with ownership of a property. In a freehold interest, the owner has full use and control of the land and buildings on the property, subject to governmental rights as well as local by-laws.

Leasehold interest

When purchasing a leasehold interest, you are really purchasing the rights and ownership of a building or structure but not the rights or ownership of the land the property sits on. Homes built on Native Canadian or Crown land fall into this categories. Examples of this type of ownership can be found scattered throughout the Greater Vancouver Area.

While leasehold ownership can make owning your home far more affordable there are a number of factors to consider. For instance, you’ll want to determine whether or not the land-owner will more than likely renew the lease once the term expires? Also, if you do decide to vacate the land, does the contract allow you to move the building or must you relinquish all rights? You’ll also want to pay attention to whether or not the lease is fixed or variable. Just like mortgages, a fixed lease means the terms are locked in for the duration for the lease. So, if a leasehold is for 99 years, you or your heirs will not have to go through a review or renewal of the lease until 99 years have passed. A variable lease, on the other hand, will have periodic reviews within the leasehold agreement—the standards is once every 33 years on a 99-year lease.

You can buy a new leasehold contract or you can assume ownership of an existing one. For instance, a seller could list their 99-year leasehold for sale after living in the home for 20 years. This means you would be buying the lease and allowed to live in the home for the remaining 79 years.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s harder to find a lender that will offer a mortgage for this type of ownership—although, credit unions have historically offered favourable rates for leasehold interests.

Co-ownership

If you decide to purchase a property with friends or family this is informal co-ownership—an agreement of responsibility and use must be agreed upon by all those involved. Or you can buy into a co-operative, which is a formalized co-ownership of a building where you have exclusive use and rights to a specific unit.

If you are buying with family and friends you’ll want to pay attention to the type of ownership, and the are two basic types: joint tenancy and tenancy in common.

Joint tenancy is common for anyone purchasing with a spouse or partner. In this type of tenancy, when one of you dies the other becomes the sole owner. That’s because the entire ownership transfers to the surviving owner, without having to go through probate, under joint tenancy. That means neither owner can leave their portion of the property to a third party in their will.

Tenancy in common, however, is where each owner may have equal or different ownership shares in the property. As a result, one party may sell her share without the permission of others. In this type of co-ownership, there can be more than two owners, and the owners may sell their portion of the property to anyone, unless stipulations or restrictions are built into the ownership contract.

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Mike Holmes: How to control mould in your home, whether it’s visible or not

If mould in your home covers an area more than 10 sq. ft., or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company. Any surface with over 10 sq. ft. of mould should  be cleaned by licensed professionals.

Mould can present a serious health issue and it can also eat away at building materials, insulation and support structures. Unfortunately, homes and the materials inside them can provide the right food source and the right conditions for mould to grow. It’s important to know what to do if you detect mould in your home.

Mould needs an organic food source to grow, such as drywall, wood, paper, carpet, grout, wallpaper and fabrics — the kinds of materials you find in most homes. It also needs moisture and warmer temperatures.

Areas in the home where mould tends to grow include the basement, bathrooms, walls, ceiling corners, the attic, crawl spaces and on windowsills. If you live somewhere humid, the garage can also be place for mould to thrive. When you do your seasonal maintenance, make sure to check these areas for mould.

There are thousands of different types of mould. It can be green, black, yellow, white, even pink and, depending on the conditions, a single type of mould spore can be any number of colours.

It’s extremely difficult for homeowners to detect what type of mould is growing in their home and whether or not that type of mould poses a danger to their health.

A lot of people are sensitive to mould spores; they may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms when inhaled. Typically, the mould found in homes is not toxic, but it can still present a health risk. There’s no real standard for a mould level that is ‘OK’ or ‘safe’ — every individual reacts differently to mould.

According to a Mayo Clinic study conducted in 1999, 93 per cent of chronic sinusitis cases were attributed to mould. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to the effects of mould exposure. If anyone in your home is experiencing headaches, sinus problems, sore throats or other respiratory symptoms, speak to your doctor. The cause could be mould.

If the mould in your home covers an area
more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved,
bring in a professional remediation company.

In most cases, you can tell if your house has mould by its musty smell and black stains. Other signs include water damage and black mould around baseboards, walls and ceilings. If there is a musty smell in your home but you can’t see any stains, mould could be behind your walls. In that case, I recommend having a certified professional home inspection done that includes thermal imaging, and possibly an indoor air quality assessment that includes mould testing.

If you find a small amount of mould that covers an area 10 square feet or less, you can typically remove it yourself. Use a solution of strong soap or detergent and water. I use a product that is non-toxic, anti-microbial, requires no scrubbing and kills mould at the root, not just the surface. Whatever you use, remember to wear the proper protective gear, such as goggles or safety eyewear, a mask and gloves, and keep the area well ventilated. And do not use bleach! Not only is bleach toxic, but the mould will come back anyway.

If the mould in your home covers an area more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company.

If you bring in a professional, do your homework and ask the right questions. What are their credentials? What training have they gone through? What kind of professional accreditation do they have? Do they have references? Mould remediation is a fairly new industry, and like anything new, it’s the frontier. To make sure the job will be done right, find someone with Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

The best way to get rid of mould is to control the moisture in the house and remove the mould. It could be something you can remove yourself, or you might have to bring in a professional. If you’re not sure, hire a professional, because when it comes to your health, it’s not worth the risk.

Source:  Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | May 28, 2016 | Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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Cable companies mum on pick-and-pay and cheaper ‘skinny’ TV packages

TV providers will be offering a new 'skinny' basic package and pick-and-pay options come March. But many details remain secret for now.

In less than a month, big changes are coming that will usher in a new era of pick-and-pay television. But it appears none of the major cable and satellite TV companies wants to talk about it.

CBC News examined many of the big TV provider websites — from Rogers to Bell to Shaw to Telus. We couldn’t find any information about the low-cost, “skinny” basic TV package or added pick-and-pay channel deals they must offer by March 1.

The silence is frustrating some customers who are eager to learn more.

“You’d think because they’re coming soon that they would have these options available to be seen,” says cable customer Chris Mooney, who’s shopping around for a better deal.

Some industry watchers believe customers could be kept in the dark until the March deadline. They suspect TV providers don’t want to spread the word about a basic, low-cost TV package — until they have to.

“It’s a seismic shift that they don’t really want people to know about,” says Daniel Bader, a columnist with the tech site MobileSyrup.com.

“Of course, if it was in their best interest, they would be advertising it,” he adds. “They have absolutely no incentive to tell people there’s a cheaper option.”

The skinny on changes

Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced new rules to give viewers more options. The regulations were sparked by viewer complaints that they were forced to buy big bundles of channels at high prices just to get the handful they wanted.

By March 1, TV providers must offer a so-called “skinny” basic package priced at $25 or less. It has to include mandatory local and regional stations, as well as public interest Canadian channels such as APTN.

Providers can also add selected U.S. networks like NBC and PBS — but the price can’t go up.

Companies must also let customers top up their “skinny” package with pick-and-pay channels. They can offer them either individually or in “reasonably priced” small bundles. Come December, companies must offer both.

In the dark

Cable customer Mooney recently downgraded his current TV package to save money, but he had to give up a favourite sports channel — TSN. He’s anxious to know whether the new offerings will let him get all the channels he wants at a decent price.

So he went online to check out Cogeco and Bell — two TV providers serving Oakville, Ont., where he lives. To his surprise, he couldn’t find any information about the upcoming deals.

“It would be nice to know what they’re going to be so I know what my options are,” he says. “It’s very frustrating.”

There are no rules forcing the cable and satellite companies to advertise early. The CRTC has only mandated that TV providers must promote the “skinny” package by the March 1 deadline “so that customers are aware of its availability, price and content.”

Tech analyst Bader believes that even when providers start promoting the new deal, they won’t go all out, because it’s not in their best interest.

“They’re only going to do the minimum amount required to appease the CRTC,” he says.

Stay tuned

In recent days, CBC News contacted many of the big providers to find out what deals they will be offering come March. Not one shared any details. We also asked the companies why they haven’t posted any information yet.

Bell told CBC News in an email that it hasn’t announced anything yet, because “we’re still more than a month out from March 1.”

Rogers said, “We’ll have more to say about this soon.”

Eastlink stated it will be sharing details on March 1 and to “please feel free to circle back at that time.”

Shaw said it will be spreading the news “in the coming weeks.”

Cogeco stated: “It is too early for us to disclose any information. We will publicly announce our new offerings in due time.”

Telus never responded.

Small player tells all

At least one provider is already offering details. VMedia is a small internet-based TV service with just 18,000 subscribers.

The Toronto-based company has a new Skinny Basic Package already available for purchase, which it boldly promotes on its site. The package costs $17.95 and includes the mandatory Canadian channels plus five American networks.

Co-founder George Burger said that as a newer competitor, his company was eager to offer its deal early and stand out from the competition.

“We were champing at the bit,” he said. “We try to establish ourselves as people who are in favour of choice and flexibility, so as soon as the CRTC gave the green light for this, we went ahead.”

Burger added he understands why other companies would keep their plans quiet for now. He believes they may not want to tip off the competition.

Or, like Bader, he said providers may not be eager to tip off customers about a cheaper, smaller plan.

“They may not want the public to know very much about the fact that the ‘skinny’ option exists, because that’s not very helpful to the business model,” he said.

Whatever their motive, the silence is golden for VMedia, Burger said. “We might as well take a little bit of the spotlight.”

Source: Sophia Harris, CBC News Posted: Feb 02, 2016

TV providers will be offering a new 'skinny' basic package and pick-and-pay options come March. But many details remain secret for now.

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How Home Ownership Keeps Blacks Poorer Than Whites

The racial wealth gap has hit an all-time high while Barack Obama has been president. The median net worth of white households is now 20 times that of black households. Why?

Some argue that the gap is a current manifestation of a historical problem. Others say blacks are to blame. While I can’t eliminate the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, or change stereotypes, I can highlight one area where blacks may be inadvertently contributing to the racial wealth gap: When most black people buy homes, we hurt ourselves economically.

Home ownership has been an important vehicle in creating a solid white middle class, but it has not done the same for most black homeowners, because blacks and whites buy homes in very different neighborhoods. Research shows that homes in majority black neighborhoods do not appreciate as much as homes in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. This appreciation gap begins whenever a neighborhood is more than 10% black, and it increases right along with the percentage of black homeowners. Yet most blacks decide to live in majority minority neighborhoods, while most whites live in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods.

If you think this is class and not race, you are wrong. A 2001 Brookings Institution study showed that “wealthy minority neighborhoods had less home value per dollar of income than wealthy white neighborhoods.” The same study concluded that “poor white neighborhoods had more home value per income than poor minority neighborhoods.” The Brookings study was based on a comparison of home values to homeowner incomes in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, and it found that even when homeowners had similar incomes, black-owned homes were valued at 18% less than white-owned homes. The 100 metropolitan areas were home to 58% of all whites and 63% of all blacks in the country.

Those conclusions are supported by a large body of research. Put simply, the market penalizes integration: The higher the percentage of blacks in the neighborhood, the less the home is worth, even when researchers control for age, social class, household structure, and geography.

A 2007 study by George Washington University sociology professor Gregory D. Squires comments on why most whites avoid racially diverse neighborhoods: “Evidence indicates that it is the presence of blacks, and not just neighborhood conditions often associated with black neighborhoods (e.g., bad schools, high crime), that accounts for white aversion to such areas. In one survey, whites reported that they would be unlikely to purchase a home that met their requirements in terms of price, number of rooms, and other housing characteristics in a neighborhood with good schools and low crime rates if there was a substantial representation of African Americans.”

When blacks buy homes in majority minority neighborhoods, we increase the racial wealth gap. Whites who want to experience racial diversity at home also pay dearly.

Of course, home ownership has significant benefits even if it is not a great financial investment. Homeowners generally experience lower crime rates and better schools and municipal services. Also, not all black homeowners increase the racial wealth gap when they buy homes. Blacks who live in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods win as long as they remain a very small part of the community.

The recent crash and subsequent rebounding of the market—”fiscal cliff” jitters notwithstanding—show how meaningful this is: White median net worth is down by only 16%, while black median net worth is down by 50%. This is because the stock market has significantly rebounded and compensated for whites’ losses in home equity, but blacks, without comparable stock investments, have not benefited.

This leads to my final point: While many whites are comfortable investing in the stock market, most blacks are not.

White middle-class families are more than twice as likely to own stock as black middle-class families. Why? Blacks’ wages tend to be lower, so we have less disposable income, but even when studies control for income, they find that blacks are less likely to invest in the stock market. The reasons are complex. Blacks in the middle class are often called on by family members for financial assistance, leaving less income for investing. We’re less likely to have grown up in homes where investing in the stock market was commonplace. And it can’t help that the securities industry is overwhelmingly white. Recent data show that fewer than 6% of Wall Street professionals are black.

To be sure, investing in the stock market is a risky endeavor even when you know what you’re doing. However, the rewards are great. Investing in stocks not only builds wealth by paying dividends, but all income from stocks is taxed at a much lower rate than income from wages: 15% versus up to 35%. This problem is not eliminated as black income rises.

We can end this discussion where we began, with President Obama. For the years the Obamas’ income was over $1 million, their tax rate was 10 percentage points higher than that of their white peers, who get at least a quarter of their income from stocks. The Obamas got less than 1% of their income from stocks. (Those who would argue that President Obama avoided investing in the stock market because he knew he would run for president someday ignore the reality of the many other presidential candidates with capital gains and/or dividend income.) Higher income alone will not cure the racial wealth gap.

Hopefully someday homeowners, black and white, won’t be penalized for wanting diversity at  home.  In the meantime, in order for blacks to have more wealth at home, we need to start investing outside of it.

Source: Forbes Magazine. This article is by Dorothy Brown, a professor of tax law at Emory University Law School.

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Mike Holmes: Get ahead of the season by thoroughly checking attic and roof before winter arrives

Ice damming on the roof can cause expensive damage inside the home, including water damage to ceilings, walls and even mould.

I recently got an email from a homeowner complaining about ice damming on their roof last winter. It was so bad it caused major damage to their ceiling — they even had to replace walls.

It’s a good time to review ice damming because if you can fix the problem now, before winter moves in, you could save yourself a ton of money and grief.

Most people tend to think that ice damming means there’s a problem with their gutters. Nine times out of 10, ice damming is not an eavestrough issue, it’s an attic issue.

If your eavestroughs are clogged with debris and leaves, water won’t drain properly. And once temperatures drop below freezing, all that trapped water and debris will turn into a frozen channel of muck. Next thing you know, you have ice damming all along your roofline, which can lead to water backing up underneath your shingles and getting into the roof structure, possibly causing water damage to the roof deck.

Then soon you’ll be looking at things like rot and mould.

That’s why fall maintenance must include clearing your eavestroughs of any debris now — because no one knows when temperatures will drop or how quickly.

But the real source of ice damming is usually heat loss in the attic.

Ice damming occurs when there is a constant cycle of snow melting and freezing. But snow shouldn’t melt when the temperature outside is below freezing, right? So what’s going on?

The snow on the roof is melting because heat is escaping through the attic, and as the water drains down the roof to the roofline, it refreezes because the overhang is colder.

Heat shouldn’t escape from your attic; it’s supposed to be a cold zone, the same temperature as outside.

To keep the attic a cold zone, it should be properly sealed off from the rest of the home with vapour barrier and a minimum of 12 to 15 inches of blown-in insulation. (Vapour barrier helps stop drafts and moisture from getting into places it shouldn’t.) It’s also important to make sure your vapour barrier is properly sealed with Tuck tape.

If any part of this system doesn’t work the way it should, problems such as heat loss, ice damming and even mould will occur.

Then make sure there’s enough ventilation, with fresh air coming in through the soffits and going out through the venting on the roof.

If any part of this system doesn’t work the way it should — for example, if the soffits are blocked by insulation, the vapour barrier isn’t properly Tuck taped or the venting on the roof is covered by snow — problems such as heat loss, ice damming and even mould will occur.

One homeowner tried to solve his ice damming issues by replacing the soffits. That didn’t work, so he asked if spray foaming the underside of his roof could help.

If you’re going to spray-foam your attic — and I love closed-cell spray foam — it should be applied to the bottom area of your attic space (or your ceiling, behind the drywall, if it’s a finished space) to properly seal off the environment below. And the great thing about closed cell spray foam is that it’s also a vapour barrier, so you get two in one.

Now is the best time to get a professional to come to your home to look at your attic and make sure it’s doing its job. I’d even recommend getting a maintenance inspection, because if you need any repairs before winter, especially to your home’s building envelope, you still have time to get the job done right.

Stay ahead of the game and make sure your home is ready for another round of winter weather. You’ll thank yourself later.

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

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Is it time to sell your rental property? Or time to buy another?

Landlords should be paying close attention to the conflicting views and data on Canadian real estate.

According to Statistics Canada, 69 per cent of Canadians own homes, so most of us have reason to worry about the fate of the housing market. Landlords, in particular, make a conscious choice to invest in real estate that goes beyond just a place for their families to live. As a result, landlords should be paying close attention to the conflicting views and data on Canadian real estate.

One in 20 Canadians own rental real estate according to the Financial Industry Research Monitor. An Altus Group study shows that for households earning more than $100,000 per year, rental real estate ownership is twice that of the general population – about 10 per cent.

So the question is: buy or sell?

Buy

Donald Trump may very well be the next President of the United States. And the man knows a thing or two about real estate. So it may be of interest to aspiring Canadian real estate moguls to consider the opinion of Trump’s right hand-man, executive vice-president and senior counsel of The Trump Organization, George H. Ross: “I don’t agree it’s overvalued. I think it’s undervalued . . . and there is plenty of room for improvement.”

The supply and demand dynamics appear good on the surface for Canadian rental properties. Vacancy rates are below two per cent for cities like Toronto and Vancouver, according to CMHC. Rising real estate prices have likely helped to buoy demand for rentals, with price increases well in excess of the salary increases for average families in recent years. Some of those average families are now opting to rent instead of buy and that bodes well for landlords given that vacancies are often the biggest risk with a rental property.

Millennials are clearly helping to drive rental demand. Home ownership is unreasonable in many Canadian centres, so rental properties – particularly condos suitable for a single person or young couples – have got to benefit.

Beyond that, real estate is becoming a more attractive investment option for insurance companies and pension funds looking for alternatives to the crumby yields on bonds. And real estate investment trusts would be crazy not to take advantage of low interest rates to load up on more real estate. If real estate is where the smart money is going, why would anyone consider selling?

Sell

According to real estate brokerage CBRE Group, rental starts are twice their five-year average in the six biggest cities in Canada. These statistics are probably understating the actual numbers because developers often have projects registered as condos initially instead of rentals. Who is going to buy, let alone rent all of these properties? Canadian immigration is pretty steady year over year and it’s not like there was a second baby boom with a pipeline of young people looking to move out of their parents’ basements.

The Bank of Canada has expressed concerns over potential real estate corrections in certain cities, specifically singling out Toronto. “The adverse impact of the oil price shock in Alberta and continued robust price growth in Toronto . . . suggest[s] a risk of a correction,” said the Bank.

It’s no secret that stocks have been sliding lately. Global markets are mostly negative year-to-date and in particular, here in Canada, oil stocks are on sale. Isn’t the old adage to buy low and sell high? As in buy Canadians stocks and sell Canadian real estate?

If the Bank of Canada’s opinion or cheap oil stocks aren’t reason enough to consider dumping Canadian rental properties, what about the warnings from Deutsche Bank, suggesting Canada is overvalued by 63 per cent, or the International Monetary Fund’s prediction that “Canada’s overvalued housing market may be cooling off.”

So we have reasonable arguments in favour of buying as well as in support of selling your rental property. On a case by case basis, investors have got to consider things like:

  1. Their timeline for needing any potential capital from their real estate holdings. In other words, is a sale likely in the next five years to help fund retirement? If so, consider selling sooner rather than later as your timeline shortens and the risk of a real estate correction increases.
  1. Their exposure to real estate. Is real estate a large component of your investable assets? If so, consider diversifying into other asset classes simply for prudent diversification.
  1. Their capital gains tax. Is there a big tax bill looming if you sell that may be better deferred indefinitely?
  1. Their capitalization rate. In other words, what is your rent to market value ratio? Some rental properties are yielding a 10 per cent return relative to their market value, which is a pretty nice “dividend” even if prices do go sideways or down. On the other hand, in some hot real estate markets, annual rents are becoming puny relative to what a property could be sold for – as low as three to four per cent. Maybe that money could be better invested elsewhere.

Source: Financial Post. Jason Heath is a fee-only certified financial planner and income tax professional for Objective Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto.

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