Category Archives: retirement planning

Snowbirds rush to sell U.S. homes to profit from tanking loonie

Winnipeg snowbirds Greg and Erina Barrett are spending their last winter in their Arizona home. They just sold it for a big profit.

Greg Barrett and his wife, Erina, wouldn’t call themselves savvy investors. But the snowbirds have just made a killing in the U.S. real estate market.

They join a growing number of Canadians who bought U.S. homes for cheap and are now selling them to take advantage of rising U.S. house prices and a tanking loonie. Even with added costs such as a possible capital gains tax, many Canadians are still coming out far ahead.

“It just worked out for us and we’re blessed,” says Barrett, a 75-year-old retired social worker.

In 2010, the loonie was virtually at par and the U.S. housing market had crashed when the Winnipeg couple bought an Arizona home to escape Canadian winters.

“It was a fabulous deal,” says Barrett from their three-bedroom bungalow in San Tan Valley near Phoenix.

Recently, he and his 73-year-old wife contemplated selling to lighten the burden as they age. When they crunched the numbers, they couldn’t resist taking the plunge.

Thanks to the rebounding U.S. real estate market, they have just sold their Arizona home for 65 per cent more than what they originally paid.

Add the exchange rate with the loonie hovering around 71 cents US, and you could say the couple hit the jackpot.

“In Canadian terms, it’s double the boost,” says Barrett. “I’m walking on sunshine, and don’t it feel good,” he adds, quoting a favourite pop song.

snowbirds Greg Barrett Erina

The Barretts pose in front of the Arizona home they just sold. The Canadian couple must move out at the end of the month, but plan to rent to get their taste of sunshine in coming winters. (CBC)

Swamped with sellers

The Barretts’ Arizona real estate agent, Diane Olson, says she’s swamped with calls from Canadians itching to sell their U.S. properties to cash in.

“They are just saying, ‘It’s such an awesome and great opportunity.’ They were not counting on the foreign exchange going to where it is,” says the agent, who specializes in Canadian clients.

Olson says she has 29 Canadian-owned Arizona homes either on the market or about to be listed.

“I am zooming, zooming, it’s crazy!” she says while driving on a Phoenix freeway, heading to her fourth meeting that day with a Canadian client.

Diane Olson

Diane Olson stands in front of one of her many real estate signs in Arizona advertising a Canadian-owned home for sale. (CBC)

From buying frenzy to selling spree

It’s a reversal from 2010, when the loonie was around par. In 2011, it would hit $1.05 US. At the same time, U.S. real estate prices had taken a dive, triggered by the 2008 subprime mortgage scandal and financial crisis.

So Canadians — from snowbirds to investors — swooped into hotspots like Arizona and Florida to grab a piece of sunny real estate for a steal.

According to the American National Association of Realtors survey, for the year ending in March 2007, Canadians accounted for 11 per cent of U.S. home sales to international clients. But as the loonie climbed, so did Canadian deals.

From March 2011 to 2012, Canadian sales more than doubled to 24 per cent, totalling an estimated $15.9 billion US.

“It was a buying frenzy,” says Olson. “You could buy a brand-new house on the outskirts [of Phoenix] that was nice for $80,000 [Cdn].”

Fast forward to 2016. Thanks to a strengthening economy, U.S. house prices have shot up 30 to 50 per cent, says BMO economist Robert Kavcic.

Add the loonie’s recent decline, and some Canadian sellers of U.S. homes are making big profits, even after any tax hits. “They have made out like bandits,” says Kavcic.

Canadians fleeing Florida

In Florida, Brent Leathwood is also seeing a surge of Canadians cashing out. The real estate agent says that when the loonie was stronger — from 2009 to 2013 — virtually all his Canadian clients wanted to buy.

Now, he says, about 80 per cent of them want to sell their homes in the Sunshine State.

“They’re making a pile of money, some of these people,” he says.

But Leathwood adds it’s not just big profits that are encouraging people to sell.

He says there’s a high price to pay these days when hanging on to U.S. property. Suddenly everything from American property taxes to electricity bills have become more expensive.

“A lot of these people are feeling squeezed by the ongoing monthly costs of maintaining a residence as the exchange rate continues to go against them,” says Leathwood.

Both he and Olson expect the selling frenzy to continue as long as the loonie stays low.

“There’s going to be a wave of money going back to Canada,” says Leathwood.

The Barretts plan to keep some of their money parked down south.

They still want to spend their winters in Arizona, but from now on, they’ll rent — with a lot less responsibility and a lot more cash.

“I’m sitting here in paradise and I’m making money. It’s just an amazing thing,” says Greg Barrett.

Source: Sophia Harris, CBC News Posted: Feb 01, 2016

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What happens to Aeroplan and other reward program points when you die?


Aeroplan is “capitalizing on someone’s grief” by charging a fee to transfer points from a deceased member’s account, says the family member of a woman who died leaving 250,000 Aeroplan points behind.

“It seemed so callous. It seemed really insensitive. And it seemed really unnecessary,” says Kathryn Kwasnica of Victoria after finding out how much it would cost to transfer to her father the 250,000 points accumulated by her late stepmother.

But Aeroplan says it’s a “small” fee and that a second option allows users to avoid paying that charge altogether.

And even though the fees can be significant and travel booking potentially restrictive, compared with some other loyalty programs, Aeroplan has one of the better policies for dealing with points in the account of someone who has died.

Kwasnica’s stepmother, Linda Stewart, started feeling ill about a year ago, but it wasn’t until last summer that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly form of cancer.


It’s in the fine print. (CBC)

“Six months later she was dead,” says Kwasnica. Stewart was 68 when she died on Jan. 7.

Kwasnica, acting on behalf of her grieving father, Stewart’s husband, called Aeroplan to find out what to do about Stewart’s Aeroplan points.

She says she was told, in the event one of its members dies, Aeroplan charges a fee of $30 plus one cent per point to transfer the balance to a surviving family member. In Kwasnica’s case, because her stepmother had about 250,000 points, the fee would have amounted to about $2,530.  

“That seemed crazy for a data transfer,” says Kwasnica.

Aeroplan defends itself

“My father passed away a year ago, so I completely empathize with members who are going through what they’re going through,” says John Boynton, Aeroplan’s chief marketing officer.

“But we are always trying to balance shareholders and members, so there are certain costs that we have to recuperate.”

For a flat $30 fee, Aeroplan also offers the option to transfer those points to a newly created estate account, which can be used by surviving family members. But Kwasnica says she was told by the person she contacted at Aeroplan that the points in the estate account must be used in their entirety within one year.

Many Aeroplan trips need to be booked at least a year in advance, and Kwasnica understood that to mean her father would have had to make travel reservations practically while planning his wife’s funeral.

“Who wants to travel right after the love of their life dies and you’ve had the worst year of your life?”

But Boynton says that’s not actually the case.

“A year is how much [time] you have to do something with them. But you can also book an Air Canada ticket up to a year in advance too, so that’s two years. And if that’s too soon for you, you can also buy an Air Canada gift certificate, which doesn’t have an expiry, or a retail gift certificate as well.”

However, redeeming Aeroplan points for a gift certificate does not always offer the best value compared with, for example, redeeming those points for an international flight in business class.

Maximizing revenue

Patrick Sojka of the website Rewards Canada says transferring points is not a large expense for a loyalty program.

“Honestly, [the fee], it’s money-making,” he says.

“Ninety per cent of all programs worldwide charge you a fee to transfer points and miles to somebody else [in the event a member dies].”

In Sojka’s view, the fee is about maximizing revenue. “The fact [is] that the miles on those accounts are a liability. The sooner they can get them off the books, the better,” he says.

High cost of dying

Compared with Aeroplan, other loyalty programs have terms and conditions surrounding death that are even more expensive and draconian.

Air Miles used to allow the surviving family member to merge an account with that of the deceased at no charge.

But about four years ago, Air Miles changed its policy and now charges a fee of 15 cents per mile.

Sojka estimates the Air Miles fee is about 50 per cent higher than Aeroplan’s.

Other loyalty programs don’t even offer the option to transfer points in the event of a death.

According to the terms and conditions for Shoppers Drug Mart’s popular Optimum points program, “Upon the death of a Shoppers Optimum Member, the member’s account will be closed and any Shoppers Optimum Points in the account will be forfeited.”

Better not to tell?

But there may be ways around this.

In March 2013, Delta Airlines changed its policy, declaring SkyMiles would no longer be transferable upon death.

As a result, travel writers, bloggers, and travel hackers started advising SkyMiles members not to notify the program of a death.

“It’s a grey area. But you don’t let the program know that that person’s passed away,” says Sojka, who also advises this.

“What you do is ensure that everybody has your log-in and passwords and then you can use those miles. Because when you book rewards flights, they don’t have to be booked for yourself, they can be booked for anybody, essentially. You can go in and book points for yourself, your family members, you name it, using those points.”

It’s not clear if companies will crack down on this apparent loophole, but Sojka says he hasn’t heard of any repercussions from taking this route.

Now that they know about it, Kathryn Kwasnica says her family will probably go with the gift certificate option for her stepmother’s Aeroplan points.

“I think my dad would probably be into that. Because I think for him, the thought of travelling right now is just disturbing.”


Source: By Aaron Saltzman, CBC News Posted: Jan 27, 2016 

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Get your debt under control before building a nest egg

Financial experts say the key to saving enough for retirement is getting your debt under control early.

It seems obvious: save as much money as early as you can. You’ll benefit from compound interest and you’ll build a savings habit that will serve you well when your pay goes up.

But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s easy — or even possible.

Financial advisers know that real life — schooling, cars, homes, kids — can get in the way.

Three experts who spoke with CBC News say because people are investing in themselves early in their adult lives, the goal isn’t necessarily to save early so much as getting all their ducks in a row for later in life.

One of the most obstinate ducks to manage is debt.

“If you’re in your 20s or 30s, it would be nice to have some savings,” said Preet Banerjee, author of Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!

“But if you are starting a family, getting a new house, etc., it can be pretty tough. So I don’t think you should be freaking out that you haven’t started aggressive savings just yet.”

Though recent headlines suggest Canadians are in fact saving enough money for retirement, Banerjee says the general trend has been a decline in savings — a pattern he attributes to low interest rates and people “launching later,” waiting longer to leave school, get married, have children and buy a home.

Banerjee says that means savings are delayed, too, but he stresses that it’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as people are moving in the right direction by reducing their debt.

‘Just start with the basics’

“Just start with the basics, which is being able to figure out your monthly cash flow and making sure that you’re running a surplus, and how to figure out your net worth,” he said. “You do those two simple things … you’re going to be in a fairly good situation overall.”

Don’t worry about investing until you’re in a position to invest, he said.

‘If you don’t have anything in savings by the time you’re 40 or 45, it’s hard to have a million by the time you’re 65. So the response is to avoid.’– Melanie Buffel, Money Coaches Canada

“Living within your means is quite a bit different than living at your means, which I think is what people naturally default to,” he said.

Cherith Cayford, a financial educator at CMG Financial Education in Victoria, stressed the importance of getting your debt under control early.

“For millennials the focus should be debt reduction, debt elimination, not putting on more debt, being very focused on that level before they start planning for their retirement.”

She said no 20-year-old is thinking about their golden years, anyway.


“We’ve got to get real,” she said. “I wouldn’t even be worrying about it in my 20s. Maybe start thinking about it in your 30s, but sort of position yourself so that you are debt-free so that you can actually start accumulating wealth.”

Cayford lays out a simple plan:

  • Establish a specific year when you plan to be debt-free. “It can’t be on the never-never plan.”
  • Focus on eliminating the debt with the highest interest rate, while making the minimum payments on the others.
  • Continue that process until all the debts are paid off.
  • Use the money with which you’d been paying down your debts to build life savings rather than “living higher.”

While many people, especially in the biggest cities, won’t pay off their mortgage until their 50s or 60s, it’s important to have a handle on it so savings can begin.

Without a proper debt-reduction plan, you might not save a dime until your 50s.

‘It’s going to be very difficult’

Cayford says that’s too late to save enough for retirement from nothing, and you’d likely have to rely heavily on Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan. That might mean living with less during retirement.

“It’s going to be very difficult, because CPP was only intended to replace 25 per cent of the average industrial wage,” she said. “And if you haven’t been able to max out your contributions, then that’s even less to try to live on.”

Preet Banerjee

Financial analyst Preet Banerjee says savings can quickly accumulate once your debts are paid. (CBC)

Melanie Buffel, a money coach with Money Coaches Canada in Vancouver, said if people begin saving only at a late age, they can become discouraged.

“It frightens people,” she said. “The numbers just don’t work. If you don’t have anything in savings by the time you’re 40 or 45, it’s hard to have a million by the time you’re 65. So the response is to avoid. This is when it becomes really important not to jump to the big numbers, which will add to the stress, which will add to the avoidance, and then they’re going to go into debt even further.”

She said when people start saving in their 40s and 50s, it’s important to have a clear idea of what they want their retirement to look like. What quality of life do you want? How long do you want to keep working?

Banerjee says if you can get your non-mortgage debts paid off and have a clear end in sight for a responsibly sized mortgage by your mid-40s, there’s no reason to panic.

Once debts such as the mortgage are paid off, people often find themselves with $1,000 to $2,000 free monthly, he said.

“That can do a lot of work for you,” he said. “That’s still a relatively long period of time for people to accumulate the savings they need to retire.”

Source: CBC News Posted: Jan 15, 2016 5:00 AM ET

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Should you downsize?

Adult lifestyle communities

When the time comes to sell the family home and think about settling into a new, smaller place, there are several options from which to choose – like a condo, a duplex or a house in a retirement village. Here are a few tips to help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Before you “go condo” do your research
Now that the kids have grown up and moved, you’re probably giving some thought to downsizing from your family home. And there’s a good chance that you’re looking at a more economical and easily maintained condominium. The condo life can indeed be a great idea, with living becoming simpler and probably cheaper too.

But before you put the “for sale” sign up and start shopping around, you need to consider a few pitfalls. First and foremost, there’s the issue of cost – more specifically, the future maintenance and replacement costs that are supposed to be covered by the condominium’s reserve fund, as required by law.

In Ontario, the Condominium Act allows developers to initially deposit 10 per cent of the first year’s estimated operating budget into the reserve fund. This Act also requires the condominium corporation to conduct a reserve-fund study in the first year of operation, and if there’s a shortfall, the condo residents are required to make up any difference.

But that initial deposit is likely to be woefully inadequate. “The first year’s reserve process is deeply flawed,” says John Warren, a chartered accountant and partner at Adams & Miles LLP in Toronto. “That 10 per cent figure is not right – you need a lot more than that.”

Double your reserves
Sally Thompson, vice-president of Halsall Associates Ltd., Toronto-based engineering consultants, agrees. “That 10 per cent is just plain low – they goofed when they created the Act. Once the study is done, most new condominiums end up needing between 20 to 25 per cent.” The net result is that new condo buyers often end up paying more than double the initial estimate for the reserve-fund component of their monthly fees!

“A good rule of thumb is that you can expect to pay about $1,000 per unit per year toward the reserve fund; add another $200 to $300 per unit if there are recreation facilities,” says Thompson. “But in many cases, the developers are contributing only $300 for the first year, and that’s ridiculous. If you own any kind of house, you know that you can’t maintain it for $300 a year!”

Accordingly, if you are considering a brand-new condo, take a very close look at the reserve fund. And if it’s a used condo, take an even closer look. “Because you can’t get a building inspection on a condo, the reserve fund study is very important. It’s essentially a long-range capital budget outlining major repairs in the future,” explains Warren.

An engineering firm is contracted to survey the common elements and estimate when they will need to be repaired or replaced. These estimates cover a 30-year period and are adjusted for interest and inflation rates. Based on these estimates, a payment schedule is included to build up the reserve fund to cover these future costs.

Warren says you should ask lots of questions: Does the condo have a history of special assessments? Is there an operating surplus to cover unexpected expenses? There should be a reasonable amount in the bank, equal to one or two months of common element fees, to cover emergencies. Do the financial statements show a deficit? If so, then the condo is in a financially precarious state.

“Most importantly, is there a current reserve fund study, and are its recommendations being followed?” continues Warren. “The Condominium Act stipulates that a reserve fund study must be updated every three years. It also stipulates that condos have until 2014 to have their reserve funds fully funded.”

If the building is an older one, you also need to take a closer look at the facilities themselves. Do you see signs of deterioration? Are the hall carpets and foyer in good shape? Is the underground parking (if any) clean and dry? Is the plumbing drip- or leak-free? If you see anything slightly amiss, ask even more questions. “The cost of these repairs can be deceiving,” says Thompson. “And bear in mind that in an older building, all those expensive jobs are that much closer to needing to be done.”

How much do the utilities cost? “Many condos have electric heating, and that can be expensive,” says Warren, adding that condo units in Ontario are all slated to go onto sub-metered systems by 2010. “And all your expenses are going to rise by at least the rate of inflation, usually more. Over a three-year time frame, maintenance fees in new condominiums can typically rise 50 per cent.”

And, while it may be tempting to buy a condo with all the possible amenities – pool and spa, gymnasium, rooftop garden – Warren says that you should think twice about it. “Even if you don’t use them, you’ll still pay for them.”

Check out management
Warren also suggests that you consider the reputation of the builder, as well as the quality of the condominium’s management. “How long have they been there, and how many times has the management changed? If they’re changing often, that’s not a sign of a healthy condominium corporation,” warns Warren. Changing management can also be a sign of problems with the condo management committee, which is made up of elected tenants. And things could get much worse, so nose around and ask some of the tenants whether they feel the property is being run well. Warren cautions that management problems can adversely affect your own unit’s value. “You have to bear in mind that unlike a house, you can’t maintain the value of your property by yourself.”

Lifestyle considerations
Former house dwellers may find that the condo lifestyle isn’t what they had in mind. “Lifestyle issues can become the most contentious for people who aren’t prepared for the change,” says Warren. “What you’re going to be doing, in effect, is living in an apartment with noises from the neighbours. There’s a whole series of compromises that must be made.”

For example, even within your own unit, pets may not be allowed, curtains visible from outside may have to be a certain colour and there may be restrictions on what you can do on your balcony. You probably won’t be allowed to barbecue, and you may even be prohibited from putting Christmas decorations on the outside of your front door. Adds Thompson: “In older buildings, any repair work can be obtrusive too, especially for retirees who aren’t away at work during the day.”

“It’s a restrictive lifestyle,” says Warren. “The condo bylaws, rules and regulations can be onerous. There can be 60 to 70 to 80 pages of them, and if you really want to talk to a lawyer who specializes in condos, you might have to pay $2,000 to do so. Most people don’t, and then they’re surprised at what they’ve bought into. It’s being penny-wise and pound foolish.”

Of course, there can be advantages to living in a condo. But you have to look at all aspects of the deal, including, of course, location: “It is still the prime determinant of value for any kind of real estate,” says Warren. Thompson goes a bit further: “You have to be realistic about the reserves – don’t be deceived by the initial allowances. In fact, my advice is not to buy a new condo but rather look for one that’s a year or two old so the fee structure is established.”

Living together – separately!
Other housing options may be better suited to your tastes and needs. These include the intergenerational home – where children and their elderly parents live under the same roof but in separate apartments – and the duplex.

Intergenerational homes
This living concept has long been favoured by some entrepreneurs, and the formula continues to gain in popularity – for good reason! As well as fosteringcloser family ties and letting you enjoy an exchange of favours and a financial partnership, the intergenerational home is the obvious choice for people intent on growing old among loved ones while at the same time ensuring their own safety.

“We’re really happy here,” says Lucie, who shares a single-family home with her daughter, her son-in-law and their young son. For the last three years, Lucie has lived in a large one-bedroom apartment attached to the couple’s home. She has her own entrance and a terrace at the back. “For starters,” says Lucie, “you have to get along [with each other] to choose this type of life. Our apartments may be attached, but my home is my home. We keep the doors closed, we announce ourselves, we call one another first, and we knock before entering. On weekends, I invite them to supper, but they’re free to accept or decline.”

The importance of rules
Successful intergenerational cohabitation depends on the establishment of clear rules. Before you opt for shared living, it’s important to discuss the details with your future “roommates”: Which spaces are private and which are shared? What are the visiting hours? Will you be co-owners? Even though you’re living with family members, we strongly suggest that you establish rules and write them down to minimize the frustration sometimes involved in sharing a residential space.

 Having your adult children nearby and being able to get help when it’s needed may reassure some, but for others it can quickly become a ball and chain if privacy is not respected. Shared living thus requires preparation and caution. Some municipalities offer property-tax credits to people who transform a single family home into an intergenerational property – support that’s always welcome when you’re investing in a relatively costly home makeover.

Note that some tax credits and grants can be applied to the purchase or transformation of a home; the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (Homeowner RRAP) in conjunction with the mortgage and housing corporations in each province.

Duplex life
There are numerous advantages to purchasing a duplex or a semi-detached home, not the least of which are privacy and proximity. Suzanne and her husband live on the second floor of a duplex they co-own with their daughter, who occupies the ground floor. “We lend one another a hand. My husband helps with the maintenance, my daughter drives me to my medical appointments and my son-in-law does small jobs in the apartment. With this arrangement, we’ve been able to watch our grandchildren grow up. We’ve been here for 24 years, and we hope to stay for the rest of our lives.”The duplex option lets you stay close to your children without having to comply with the municipal requirements concerning intergenerational homes. And in the event that this type of arrangement no longer suits you, you can always rent out your half or sell it – an option that many municipalities do not permit in the case of intergenerational homes.

Adult lifestyle community
People who intend on being sole owners while still enjoying a sense of communitymay want to consider the concept of adult villages. They offer autonomy, comfort and, perhaps most importantly, peace and quiet.

The pleasures of freedom
Called “gated communities” or “active-adult communities” in Florida and several other American states, villages for pre-retired or retired persons 50 and over are an increasingly popular option here in Canada as well.

Comprised of one-storey homes, either detached or semi-detached, these communities let you own the bungalows, but staff are hired to provide lawn care, grounds keeping and snow removal, and to maintain a community centre.

As well as help you feel at home, this concept absolves you of the onerous task of performing outdoor work and allows you to make the most of any activities specially tailored to villagers’ needs. “I love this arrangement!” says Theresa, who has lived in this type of community since 2004. “We own the space we live in, and we also take part in the activities offered (for instance, I give Spanish lessons). And there are often theme parties – oyster or lobster dinners, large gatherings with the grandchildren, that sort of thing.”

While this type of living arrangement is ideal for some, others may find it too restrictive – some communities don’t allow fences, sheds or clotheslines. For this reason, it’s important to find out about the regulations in force before you decide to move there. And, on top of the often steep purchase price, there are also monthly maintenance costs to consider.

Source: Canadian Living  By Olev Edur and Marie-Claude Masson

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Moving to cottage country? Bring lots of money

Secluded and relatively boat-free Blackmore Lake, near Bracebridge, has just three cottages on it – and one of them is on the market for $1-million.

As high temperatures and abundant sunshine finally arrived in Ontario’s cottage country, real estate broker Anita Latner was heading out on a tour of Muskoka’s “big three” lakes with a couple who are looking for their first cottage.

Ms. Latner says the family from Toronto has $1-million “or a little more” to spend. That’s pretty much an entry-level budget for a property on Lake Joseph, Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau.

Ms. Latner says clients from Toronto often tell her that they had to trim their wish list when looking for a city house because prices are so rich. When the time comes to purchase a cottage, they will take the time to find exactly what they want. Ms. Latner is used to spending a couple of years helping buyers to find their getaway.

“It’s really hard on the big three to do anything under a million,” says the broker at Anita Latner Realty Inc. “They’ve already made compromises on their home. This is their dream; this is their oasis.”

Ms. Latner says cottage country was buzzing in July because so many city dwellers were avoiding the influx of PanAm Games athletes and visitors. But the height of summer tends to be the time when people enjoy cottage life instead of buying and selling.

“It just seems to be a nice pace,” she says of real estate activity. The number of listings is fairly typical for the summer months, she adds.

Ms. Latner recently listed a rustic cabin on 100 acres on relatively untouched Blackmore Lake for $1-million. There are only two other cottages on the lake and the owners of this property use the lake for water skiing because of the lack of boat traffic. They’ve set up a permanent full slalom water ski course that will be sold with the cabin.

“It’s a little bit quirky,” she says of the property.

The cabin has an outhouse and no electricity, she says, adding that the lake is surrounded by bush. A new owner could build a large cottage, she says, or keep the existing building. The relative isolation and lack of neighbouring cottages is unusual.

“It’s just so still and you don’t have to get up early in the morning and hope you beat the traffic.”

Ms. Latner says more U.S.-based buyers may head to Canada’s cottage country now that the loonie has fallen steeply in value against the U.S. dollar.

“Holy Toledo – that’s a lot of money in your pocket,” she says of the difference, which knocks the price of the Blackmore Lake parcel down to $800,000 in U.S. dollars.

Ms. Latner recently represented a buyer who purchased an investment property in the heart of Gravenhurst. The three retail shops with three apartments above them were listed for sale with an asking price of $629,000.

Ms. Latner says the Toronto-based client was looking farther afield because land prices have soared to dizzying heights in the city. The businesses that occupy the space – including a hair salon and a clothing boutique – will stay on, according to Ms. Latner.

“To invest in commercial [property] in Toronto is excruciatingly expensive,” she says. “I think a lot of these guys are shying away from Toronto.”

Meanwhile, the residential real estate market in Toronto has been quiet, agents say.

Some properties changed hands during the two weeks of the PanAm Games – including some that drew multiple offers – but, over all, the pace was slow, says Patrick Rocca of Bosley Real Estate Ltd.

“I suspect most people, because of the fear factor around the traffic, left town [because of] the Games,” Mr. Rocca says.

Mr. Rocca says he chatted with owners of shops and cafés on Bayview Avenue and some estimated that their business dipped 10 per cent during the Games.

The recent interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada has not yet sparked an increase in buying, he adds, but Mr. Rocca expects listings to pick up now that the Civic holiday weekend has passed.

Sohail Mansoor, an agent with Royal LePage Signature Realty, also found July fairly calm. But many listings also get a second look in the middle of the summer, he says, as buyers concentrate on the properties that are sitting instead of waiting for new ones.

An agent in his office received an offer recently for a property that had been listed for three months.

Mr. Mansoor’s listing at 85 Lake Promenade was still waiting for a buyer, despite a price cut to $1.85-million from $2.1-million. The four-bedroom property, which hit the market in early May, is right on the shore of Lake Ontario.

He says the location is ideal for buyers who want an unobstructed view of the water but the layout of the house is better suited to a couple or a family with older children. He figures it’s taking longer to sell because it’s not a typical family home.

Others on Lake Promenade in Etobicoke are also still on the market, he adds.

“It’s a good time to be a buyer because there’s less competition,” he says.

Source: CAROLYN IRELAND The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Aug. 06, 2015 1:03PM EDT

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Demographics driving key mortgage market

Industry insiders are attributing strong year-over-year growth in reverse mortgage originations to several factors – the most notable being human longevity.

“With the current demographic trends and extended life expectancy we project reverse mortgage originations to grow at 25-30 per cent annually over the next few years,” said Steven Ranson, president and CEO of HomEquity Bank. “Canadians are living longer, have underfunded pensions and insufficient savings. For many, their house plays a big role in a comprehensive retirement plan.”

The increase in consumer direct business as well as continued growth through referral partners including banks and mortgage brokers is producing record results in the industry. Brokers themselves are pointing to increased demand for a product many professionals were slow to refer on.

HomEquity Bank alone reported a record $41 million in reverse mortgage origination in the month of July, marking another month of record year-over-year growth for the reverse mortgage company. 

The reverse mortgage industry is booming in Canada, growing by 21 per cent in July compared to last year.

According to recent numbers from Statistics Canada, the 55-59 age group in the country make up 7.2 per cent of the overall population, with those age 60-64 making up 6.1 per cent.

The numbers that show how the reverse mortgage sector is ready to really take off are the percentage of people in the 55-59 age bracket, which make up 7.8 per cent of the total population – which places HomEquity Bank in the catbird seat, as is the only national provider of reverse mortgages in Canada available to those aged 55 and older.

The lender originates and administers Canada’s largest portfolio of reverse mortgages under the CHIP Reverse Mortgage and Income Advantage brands, and has been the main underwriter of reverse mortgages in Canada since its predecessor, Canadian Home Income Plan, pioneered the concept in 1986.

Source: Donald Horne | 07 Aug 2015
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Seniors Can Now Tap More Equity

Seniors Can Now Tap More Equity | Mortgage Rates & Mortgage Broker News in Canada

Earlier this year HomEquity Bank increased its maximum loan-to-value on a reverse mortgage to 55% (in some cases slightly more). It was a change made with little fanfare, but one that will provide necessary cash to thousands more senior homeowners.Prior to this change, the bank lent up to one-half of a property’s appraised value. Now, qualified seniors can access at least $20,000 more on a $400,000 property, for example. This money can be a lifeline when an elderly homeowner has immediate expenses (e.g., medical costs), but no other source of liquidity and a need to stay in their home.

“We are rather conservative,” said Yvonne Ziomecki, SVP, HomEquity Bank in response to why the bank hasn’t offered this high of an LTV in the past. “Having 29 years of actuarial history on repayments, etc., gave us comfort to move in that direction.”

The company confirms that these higher lending ratios are here to stay. “We wouldn’t have offered it up if we didn’t believe we can continue offering it,” she explains. Note that qualifying for a 55% LTV reverse mortgage requires that a borrower be more than 75 years of age and have a marketable home in a good location.

Sidebar: HomEquity Bank is getting ready to launch its new “Mortgage Broker Direct” service in September. For the first time, mortgage brokers will be able to submit deals directly to the bank via D+H Expert. The company will offer an official designation for approved brokers called the “Certified Reverse Mortgage Specialist.” Brokers will receive continuing education (CE) credits for completing the certification, specialized marketing support and compensation equal to that of selling a regular five-year fixed mortgage.

Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends  July 22, 2015  Robert McLister  

Downsize your home with the help of some expert advice

Interview a few real estate reps to learn how experienced they are with properties in your area.

Our children have moved out and we recently retired. Now we’re thinking about moving into a smaller home. Do you have any advice before we put our house up for sale?

Your question is timely: June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario, a time to celebrate the contributions of seniors but also a time to discuss the many life changes coming in the years ahead.

One such change is home ownership. Many people reach a point when owning a family home becomes more than they want — or can manage. And chances are, it has been a while since you’ve been in the housing market.

A lot has changed in the world of real estate over the last several years. Moreover, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet about selling a home.

So, my first piece of advice to you is to plan ahead with some help and advice from experts before you jump into the market. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is a good starting point.

RECO may not have been around when you last bought or sold a home. It is a consumer protection organization that was created by the provincial government in 1997 to enforce the rules and code of ethics for real estate professionals.

Every real estate professional and brokerage in Ontario — currently there are more than 70,000 — must be registered with RECO. You can use RECO’s search tool at the top of RECO’s website ( to search for a salesperson and to verify they are registered and in good standing.

When you’ve made the decision to go ahead and sell your home, it’s a good idea to interview several candidates about their experience in your area and their approach to the selling process. Each one should be able to give you a sense of your home’s value in today’s market and provide advice about how to get the best return on your investment.

And it’s important that you ask questions. Have a candid discussion about your wants versus your needs. Make sure you understand how the sale process will work. If you don’t understand, keep asking questions until you get the answers you need.

Make sure you read and understand all of the paperwork. If anything is unclear, it’s fine to take extra time — and seek additional professional help — before you commit to an agreement. Real estate contracts, including seller representation contracts with a brokerage (often called Listing Agreements), are legally binding, so understanding all the clauses and what impact they will have is important.

An important consideration throughout the process is what downsizing actually means for you. If you’ve been in the home for a long time, even contemplating a sale can be a difficult and emotional experience. Give yourself plenty of time to come to terms with leaving your family home without the pressure of a moving date on the horizon.

There’s no question that selling the family home can be a difficult decision. That’s why it’s smart to start the discussion well in advance of the time decisions actually need to be made. Planning ahead and being informed will go a long way in making this tough task a little easier for you.

Source:  Toronto Star Joseph Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He oversees and enforces all rules governing real estate professionals in Ontario. Email questions to . Find more tips at reco.on.caEND, follow on Twitter @RECOhelpsEND or on YouTube at