Buying a house with Mom and Dad? In competitive housing markets, this seemingly unconventional choice can be a smart strategy for attaining homeownership sooner. That said, any financial partnership requires planning. Avoid conflict by clarifying roles and formalizing financial agreements. Here are two common shared homeownership scenarios, along with tips for making a financial arrangement that works for everyone.
FAMILY HOMEOWNERSHIP SCENARIO NO. 1:
Housing your child during university
Why: Renting can be expensive. Some parents may prefer to buy a home for their child while they attend university or college. This option allows families to build their own equity, rather than pay a landlord rent for three to five years or more.
Size & lifestyle: Choose a home that is appropriate for a single young adult, such as a turnkey condo or small bungalow.
Future plans: What will happen once your child graduates? Will the property be sold? Will your child take over the mortgage payments? Discuss future plans openly to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Written agreement: Use a written agreement to solidify co-ownership responsibilities and expectations, including who is financially responsible for specific homeownership expenses (i.e., mortgage, utilities, taxes and so on), what happens if payments are missed, and what happens if either party wishes to exit the financial partnership.
Ask your mortgage professional about… Genworth Canada’s Family Plan program. This program enables qualified buyers with excellent credit to assist an immediate family member with their home purchase. To qualify, your dependent must have good credit, even if they lack sufficient income to meet typical mortgage qualification standards. The home must meet certain quality criteria, and qualified buyers can make their purchase with as little as five per cent down.
FAMILY HOMEOWNERSHIP SCENARIO NO. 2:
Parents and adult children living together
Why: Forget fleeing the nest. Increasing numbers of adult children are buying a bigger nest with Mom and Dad (maybe even Nan and Gramps too!). According to the 2016 census, a whopping 403,810 households across Canada are multi-generational households with at least three generations of the same family under one roof. Whether you’re inspired by tradition, cost savings or convenience, shared homeownership can be a prudent and fulfilling decision.
Size & lifestyle: Upfront, family members should be on the same page about living arrangements. Will this be a one-household home with shared living quarters? Or will the property be divided into suites, with each household residing in a self-contained unit?
Future plans: Involve the whole family in discussions around shared homeownership and include adult siblings who are not buying in with you. Be frank about family assets and the future care needs of older relatives. Is there an expectation that you shoulder this responsibility due to proximity?
Written agreement: As with any shared homeownership situation, clarify co-ownership responsibilities and expectations in a written agreement.
Ask your mortgage professional about… Genworth Canada’s Progress Advance program, which helps qualified homebuyers finance a custom-built home with as little as five per cent down. Dual master suites? A bachelor-size nanny suite? An approved home builder or contractor can create a house perfect for your multi-generational family’s needs.
Or, if you’d prefer to renovate a resale home, ask about Genworth Canada’s Purchase Plus Improvements (PPI) program, which can finance home improvements and combine them with your mortgage in one easy mortgage, also with as little as five per cent down. Check out our PPI calculator and guide at homeownership.ca/ppi.
Finally, if your family has immigrated to Canada within the last five years, consider Genworth Canada’s New to Canada program. Don’t let a lack of Canadian credit history derail your family’s homeownership dreams. The New to Canada program can help qualified borrowers who have full-time employment and a strong history of rent and utility payments in Canada buy their family home with as little as five per cent down.
We’re living in a world where certain financial obligations must be settled on time. It could be college tuition, renovation costs, emergency repair bills, debt consolidation or even paying for a wedding. Whatever it is, it can’t wait, and it needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
As the saying goes, time waits for no one. And, neither do the bills lurking around the corner.
So what are your options? You may think of getting another credit card, but you’re past the limit or have a poor credit score. Traditional lenders have turned you down too, and you couldn’t be more disappointed.
However, if you’re a Canadian currently paying for a primary mortgage, you could have an ace in the hole to sort out your financial hurdles. This is where a second mortgage comes in.
What are second mortgages?
A second mortgage is a secondary loan held on top of your current mortgage. A different mortgage lender will typically provide this product. It’s important to note that second mortgages have their own rates and terms, and is paid independently of your primary mortgage.
In layman’s terms, second mortgages are loans that are secured by your home equity. Usually, you can acquire up to 80 percent of your home equity through a second mortgage and if you’re in a major city, up to a maximum of 85 percent.
In contrast to the primary mortgage, a second mortgage has its own terms and conditions. Hence, the second mortgage is paid separately with different rates from the first mortgage. Nonetheless, in case of a default, the second mortgage will only be repaid after the primary mortgage has been sorted out.
So what are some of the reasons you may need a second mortgage?
1. You want to pay off high-interest consumer debt
A recent report released by Statistics Canada shows that for every dollar of disposable income, Canadians owe $1.68 in credit market debt. In fact, Statistics Canada estimates that the accumulated consumer credit is $627.5 billion; not including mortgages. If you’re an average working Canadian, it is very likely that you have consumer debt.
However, there is another option. Even though the interest rate of a second mortgage is higher than the primary mortgage, it is lower than the accrued interest on credit cards and personal loans. A minimum payment of a second mortgage can be much lower than that of a credit, creating better cash flow for the borrower.
That means you can acquire a second mortgage to pay off high-interest consumer debt and save a lot of money in the long-run.
Maybe it was that single loan that you defaulted for a month or that credit card charge-off—as long as you have a poor credit score, you will likely be the last in line when applying for loans.
The good news is that you can get a second mortgage even with a poor credit score. The lender can overlook the poor credit score based on your consistency on paying the primary mortgage and if you have a lot of home equity, albeit the interest rate will be higher due to the risk involved.
If you can pay off bad credit loans and defaulted debts by leveraging a second mortgage, you can start to repair your credit.
3. You’ve been turned down by traditional lenders
You never know when mortgage rules will change. Since the recent strict new rules on mortgage lending, more Canadians have been turned down by traditional lenders. In fact, mortgage brokers reckon that the rejection rate has increased by 20 percent. Even those who were approved for a mortgage before 2018 can have their mortgage renewal or refinance request turned down due to the stress test.
So what should you do if you’ve been turned down by traditional lenders? Simple; apply for second mortgages offered by private lenders. Unlike traditional banks, private lenders don’t have their hands tied down by the new OSFI rules.
4. You need funds quickly
There are many reasons why you would need quick funds. Perhaps you’ve experienced an unexpected tragedy or looking for a new job, and you need quick cash until you’re back on your feet.
You could go for an unsecured loan, but you don’t want to end up paying high-interest rates. Payday loans are even worse, the fees and interest rates are exaggerated. Even if you did get a payday loan, the credit limit is $1500, and you probably need more than that.
What about RRSP withdrawal? Well, you will get penalty taxes for making that early withdrawal. For instance, if you withdraw $30,000, you will only receive $21,000 after the bank remits $9000, or 30 percent, to the government.
On the other hand, second mortgages will give you liquidity to your home equity without too much interest rates or taxes especially if the amortization is short-term.
5. You want to avoid high mortgage penalties
Prepaying the remaining balance of a closed low fixed rate mortgage loan can be expensive for Canadians. Most lenders will impose a breakage fee if you decide to walk out of the contract before the term expires. Sometimes, the mortgage lenders can overestimate the liability and proceed to double or triple the penalties, leaving you in a tight spot.
Nevertheless, instead of pre-paying the first mortgage early and selling the house to gain funds for investment capital or debt relief, you could apply for a second mortgage to access the funds and wait a little longer. A short-term second mortgage would prove to be cheaper than paying the high mortgage penalties.
6. You want to outsmart PMI
Canadians who can’t afford 20 percent down payment of the property’s value when applying for a mortgage are required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). There are also borrowers who don’t want to give out the 20 percent down payment so they can have funds for renovation and repairs. Even so, PMI premium rates aren’t cheap especially if you’re putting up 5% to 9.99% down payment.
But did you know taking a second mortgage could lower the overall mortgage expenses than going the PMI route? Despite second mortgages having higher annual payments than first mortgages, they cost less than PMI.
Consult a professional to find a convenient second mortgage
As much as applying for a second mortgage seems like a straightforward process, finding a second mortgage without professional assistance is like climbing a slippery mountain without a harness.
Every situation is different, and there are always details in the contracts that you need to understand clearly.
Source: Canada Mortgages Inc. – 13 August, 2018 / by Glenn Carter
Despite deteriorating housing affordability across the country, buying a home is still the more affordable option when compared to renting.
A new report from Mortgage Professionals Canada has determined that, despite the rapid rise in home price, those who are able to invest in a home would end up “significantly better off” in the long term compared to renting.
The report, authored by the mortgage broker association’s chief economist Will Dunning, found that while upfront monthly costs are in fact cheaper in most locations, the “net” cost of ownership is less than the equivalent cost of renting in a majority of cases, and becomes even more cost effective over time.
“The costs of owning and renting continue to rise across Canada,” Dunning noted. “However, rents continue to rise over time whereas the largest cost of homeownership–the mortgage payment–typically maintains a fixed amount over a set period of time – usually for the first five years. The result is that the cost of renting will increase more rapidly than the cost of homeownership.”
Additionally, the costs of ownership include considerable amounts of repayment of the mortgage principal. “When this saving is considered, the ‘net’ or ‘effective’ cost of homeownership is correspondingly reduced,” Dunning added.
On average, the monthly cost of owning exceeds the cost of renting by $541 per month. But when principal repayment is considered, the net cost of owning falls to $449 less than renting.
Interest Rate Scenarios
The analysis compared the cost of renting vs. owning both five and 10 years into the future, with higher interest rates factored into the equation. In all cases, owning comes out ahead:
Scenario #1: If interest rates remain the same (using an average of 3.25%), after 10 years the average net cost of owning is $1,014 less than the monthly cost of renting.
Scenario #2: If interest rates rise to 4.25% after five years, the average net cost of owning falls to $1,295 less than the monthly cost of renting.
Scenario #3: If interest rates rise to 5.25% after five years, the average net cost of owning is still $726 less than the monthly cost of renting.
“By the time the mortgage is fully repaid in 25 years (or less) the cost of owning will be vastly lower than the cost of renting,” the report adds, noting that the cost of owning, on average, would be $1,549 per month vs. $4,655 for an equivalent dwelling.
Canada Still a Country of Homeowners
Despite rising home prices and deteriorating affordability, Canada remains a nation of aspiring homeowners.
The study pointed to the continued strong resale activity as one indicator of this.
Resale activity in 2017 was still the third-highest year on record, at 516,500 sales, just off the peak of 541,2220 sales in 2016.
But other polls have also found a strong desire among younger generations that still dream of owning.
RBC’s Homeownership Poll found a seven-percentage-point increase in the percentage of overall Canadians who planned to buy a home within the next two years (32%), and a full 50% of millennials.
Similarly, a RE/MAX poll found more than half of “Generation Z” (those aged 18-24) also hope to own a home within the next few years.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether those aspiring homeowners will have the means to surpass the barriers to homeownership, namely larger down payments and the government’s new stress test.
“While recent changes to mortgage qualifying have made the barrier to entry higher, those who can qualify will be much better off in the long term,” Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada said in a statement. “Given the economic advantages of homeownership, Mortgage Professionals Canada would recommend the government consider ways to enable more middle-class Canadians to achieve homeownership.”
Despite its affordability benefit over renting, Dunning addresses some of the impediments of homeownership, namely the longer timeframe needed to save for the down payment. Despite higher home prices and larger down payments required, first-time buyers still made an average 20% down payment.
Additional Tidbits from the Report
Some additional data included in Dunning’s report include:
Average house price rose 6.2% per year from $154,563 in 1997 to $510,090 in 2017
Average weekly wage growth was up just 2.6% per year from 1997 to 2017
The average minimum interest rate for the stress test during the study period: 5.26%
The average annual rates of increase for the following housing costs:
If you live in an area where homes are selling like hot cakes, you may be feeling exceptionally confident in the value of your property. And as a result, you may be considering a home upgrade you’ve been dreaming of for years. Perhaps you want to add a pool, or maybe you want to add more square footage to your home. Or maybe you’re just aching to do something because you’ve been watching way too much HGTV.
Before you dip into your savings account or apply for a home equity loan, experts say you should think long and hard about your financial investment and your choices. Just because a specific upgrade seems like a good idea right now doesn’t mean it will pay off later. Plus, there are some upgrades that many homeowners regret almost instantly, either because they wind up overspending or because were a bad idea in the first place.
Seven Home Improvements You May Live to Regret
Home remodelers, beware. Spending money to “upgrade” your home doesn’t always pay off, and it could even hurt your home’s value in the long run. Here are some upgrades the experts suggest you steer clear of:
#1: Garage conversion
A garage conversation can seem like a good idea if you need more living space and don’t mind parking in the driveway or street. However, this remodeling project comes with plenty of risk. Not only are garage conversations often done poorly and in a way that makes them look obvious — and awkward — but you can face problems if you remodel your garage without getting proper permits.
Vincent Nepolitan of Planet Home Lending points out another potential problem: When you go to sell, you may find a more limited pool of potential buyers. Not having a garage for buyers to park their vehicle can limit the number of people you get through the door, thus preventing you from getting the sales price you want for your home. This is especially true in areas where all the neighboring homes have garages, Nepolitan says, and in areas with hard winters or sizzling-hot summers.
#2: Converting a bedroom for another purpose
With more people working remotely than ever before, it may seem like a good idea to convert a spare bedroom into an office. This can be a good idea if you only make superficial upgrades like replacing a bed with a freestanding desk. But there could be financial consequences if you pour a lot of resources into the renovation or make structural changes — converting the closet into a built-in desk area, for example — so the room no longer qualifies as a bedroom afterward.
The reason for this? Homes with more bedrooms can fetch a higher sales price and tend to attract a larger pool of buyers, says Georgia-based real estate investor Shawn Breyer. A buyer with two children might insist on having three bedrooms, for example, and be unwilling to consider any two-bedroom homes. They might also be willing to pay a premium to secure a home with a fourth bedroom they could use as a guest room.
The bottom line: When it comes to a home’s value, the more bedrooms the better — so don’t think long and hard before getting rid of one.
#3: Adding a pool
It’s easy to think having a pool would make your life more fun and more relaxing. After all, what’s better than spending a lazy day floating in the water with a cold drink or a good book?
Unfortunately, the reality of pool ownership doesn’t always line up with expectations. Pools may be great for summer, but they’re often expensive to maintain over the long haul, says CEO of Patch Homes Sahil Gupta, and require a lot of work, from adding chemicals to cleaning and maintenance.
And, you may not find your pool quite as fun in a few years’ time. Gupta notes that pools tend to go unused during winters and once kids leave the house, and that they may eventually become a safety hazard for grandkids or pets. (In fact, a pool can increase your home insurance premiums.)
Finally, only a limited number of buyers will even want a pool in certain parts of the country, so you might wind up selling your home for less than you wanted or waiting longer for a buyer as a result.
#4: Kid-related upgrades
While pools are commonly added by families with kids, there are other kid-related upgrades homeowners may rush into without thinking them through, says Julie Gurner, senior real estate analyst at TheClose.com. “Some upgrades consumers tend to regret are, for example, linked to children and their temporary place in the home,” says Gurner.
A solid example would be adding a basketball court to your backyard because your child is really into the sport. “Sports courts require maintenance and take up a large portion of the backyard recreation space,” says Gurner. And not every buyer will want a basketball court in their yard when you go to sell.
Before you go through with a costly upgrade that may only be needed for a few years, consider whether there are less permanent and less costly options available.
#5: Trendy interiors
Gurner points out another mistake that’s often fueled by HGTV mania — following fads and planning your home upgrades around what’s currently “hip.” Gurner points to the recent shiplap craze as an example, noting that the wooden-board wall cover that’s trending now may be the “wood paneling of the future.”
Other ubiquitous home improvement trends that could leave you wincing at your choices later on include stainless steel appliances, open kitchen shelves, brass accents, and basically anything that’s shabby chic. When it comes to fashion and trends, whatever’s “in” now is always on its way out at some point.
#6: Textured walls and ceilings
Speaking of outdated trends: Textured walls are so 1980s, but some people who never got the memo still slap a layer of popcorn on before they paint, even if it’s just to match other rooms in the house. But Breyer says that adding texture to walls and ceilings is a mistake — partly because it can turn off potential buyers when you go to sell, but also because it’s expensive to remove if you change your mind.
Breyer says that, most of the time, it costs $1 to $2 per square foot of space to have textured walls refinished with a smooth surface. Plus, you’ll also face the cost of repainting your walls and/or ceilings after the removal is complete.
Real estate agent Justin Moundas says that over-improvements tend to leave homeowners regretting their choices. “It never pays to be the nicest or biggest house on the block,” he says. “Often people regret investing so much into the home that it can’t be justified in the resale value for the area.”
According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value Report, some remodeling projects that don’t offer a great bang for your buck include big-ticket investments like backyard patios (47.6% return), a master suite addition (48.3% return), a major kitchen remodel (53.5% return), and the addition of a bathroom (54.6% return).
Each of these projects may help you enjoy your home while you live there, but they may leave you wishing you had spent your money elsewhere if you move within a few years.
If you want a home that’s a lot nicer than the one you have now, Moundas says upgrading to a different home can be a better deal than remodeling. By finding a different home that already has the floorplan and upgrades you want, you can avoid the hassle and stress of remodeling along with runaway costs.
The Bottom Line
If you watch popular real estate shows on HGTV all the time, it’s easy to think that home remodeling projects always pay off. After all, the stars of shows like Flip vs. Flop and Fixer Upper almost always turn bargain basement homes into spectacular investments, mostly by choosing the right upgrades and getting them for the right price.
But real life is not like television. In the real world, home upgrades are usually only a good idea if you plan to stay in your home and pick finishes that would appeal to the masses if you needed to sell.
Before you spend your hard-earned dollars on a pricey remodeling project, ask yourself what your goals are. Do you want to enjoy your chosen upgrades for years to come? Or are you simply following trends and keeping up with the Joneses? Do you absolutely need to upgrade to make your home livable, or could you get by with the home you have?
When winter departs, it’s time to check for damage and prepare for hot weather ahead
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With the days lengthening and weather warming, spring is a good time to get outdoors and tackle some larger home projects. With the threat of winter storms past, you can look for damage and make any needed repairs, as well as prep your home and garden for summer. We spoke with an expert to get some tips on what to watch for this season, from proper irrigation to mosquitoes and termites (oh my!).
Inspect driveways and paths. Freezing and thawing are rough on concrete, asphalt and other hardscape materials. Take a walk around your property to look for damage to walkways, paths and driveways, then schedule repairs as needed. Asphalt can often be patched, but damaged concrete may need to be replaced entirely.
Keep an eye out for termites. Beginning in March and going through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites. Call a licensed professional pest-control company. You’ll save money and trouble in the long run.”
Prevent mosquitoes. In recent years, we’ve become more aware of the potential danger mosquitos can pose to our health. “West Nile virus and Zika virus are just the latest diseases caused by these winged pests,” Sedinger says.
The best way to prevent mosquitos around your home is simply to get rid of any standing water. “Walk around your property [and peek at your neighbors’]. If you see anything or any area where water stands, fix it, tip it, get rid of it or maintain it regularly,” Sedinger says.
Tackle These To-Dos Over a Weekend
Wash windows. Clean the grime off glass inside and out for a lighter, brighter home indoors and increased curb appeal outdoors. Wash the exterior windows yourself by using a hose attachment, or hire a pro to get the job done.
Clean gutters and downspouts. After the last frost has passed, it’s important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and repaired. “Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the wood trim at the eaves to rot, and that can invite all kinds of critters into your attic space,” Sedinger says.
Having your gutters and downspouts cleaned early in the season can also help prevent damage from spring rains. “Gutters and downspouts should be clean and running free,” Sedinger says. “If your downspouts are installed properly, water is diverted away from the house so that no water collects around your foundation.”
Clean your fireplace. If your home has a working wood-burning fireplace, the end of winter is a good time to give it a fresh start. Protect your hands with gloves and cover the area around the fireplace with a tarp. Carefully remove the (completely cool) remains of any charred logs and ash using fireplace tools. Then gently clean the fireplace surround. Do not attempt to clean inside the chimney — that job should be left to a professional chimney sweep.
Check screen doors and windows. Screens are designed to let the breeze flow in and keep the bugs out, but they can only do their job if they’re free from holes and tears.
Before setting up your screens for the warm months ahead, be sure to carefully check each one and repair any holes or tears, no matter how small. You can find repair kits at most hardware and home-improvement stores.
Inspect the roof. Winter storms can take quite a toll on a roof. When spring arrives, start by making a simple visual inspection of yours. “It doesn’t require a ladder, and you certainly don’t have to get on a roof to look,” Sedinger says. “Use binoculars or a camera or smartphone with a telephoto feature if you need to.” Look for missing shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing or anything that simply doesn’t look right. If you notice anything that needs closer inspection or repair, call a roofer.
Paint exterior. If you’re planning to repaint your home’s exterior this year, spring is a good time to set it up. Want to paint but can’t decide on a color? Explore your town and snap pictures of house colors you like, browse photos on Houzz or work with a color consultant to get that just-right hue.
Schedule air-conditioning service. “Home inspectors see a lot of air-conditioning systems that are just not taken care of,” Sedinger says. “Just because it gets cool doesn’t mean it’s working efficiently.” To get the longest life out of your cooling system and keep it running as efficiently as possible, change the filters at least once each season, and hire a licensed professional to service the equipment before the start of summer.
Tell us: Are you excited to get out there and tackle some home projects this spring or are you dreading it? Share which seasonal tasks you love — and which you could live without — in the Comments.
A complete schedule of when to do what … and how much it costs
When I bought my dream home two years ago, I wasn’t imagining myself standing in my basement, holding an umbrella, watching my husband chase streams of water with a flashlight. But that’s where I ended up. It was the first spring thaw and he was trying to figure out where the leaks were coming from.
Clad in his work boots and a rain jacket he would alternate between stepping outside our basement door, where the rain came down in big sheets of cold wetness, and ducking into our basement to inspect various parts of our foundation. It would take three more rainstorms, the installation of a sump pump and a complete overhaul of our plumbing before we were able to correct the problem.
That was a rough introduction to the world of home ownership, but I don’t regret buying the place. It’s a great century-old row house in downtown Toronto in an eclectic and vibrant west-end neighbourhood. Still, as I watched the balance on our line of credit creep up to the $40,000 mark, I started to wonder: How much does it cost to maintain a home anyway?
After a bit of research, I found out that the general rule of thumb is that you should expect to spend 3% to 5% of the value of your home every year, on average. For a 40- year-old home worth $500,000 that means you’ll need to set aside up to $25,000 every year. I ran that figure by my husband, who is—as it happens—a commercial and residential general contractor, and he said that sounded high. But is it? We were savvier home buyers than many, but we still underestimated the cost of fixing our drainage issues and the expense of tearing down the garage (“Give it a year and you won’t have to,” one broker told us when were out shopping for insurance).
So, to get a handle on the real cost of maintaining a home, I decided to price out all of the major maintenance and repairs you can expect to perform on a typical 2,000-square-foot detached house in Canada myself.
To do this I looked at two different kinds of upkeep. The first is the regular annual maintenance that every homeowner should do to keep his or her home running smoothly. Things like changing the furnace filters and patching the driveway. The second kind of upkeep includes those once-a-decade expenses that tend to result in migraines. Here I’m talking about things like replacing your hot water heater because it rusted through, or replacing all of your outdated electrical wiring.
To get an accurate figure, I divided up the typical home into its seven major components and tallied up the costs for both large and small jobs over 25 years. I then annualized that amount, so you can make sure that you’re contributing enough to your household maintenance budget every year. I also include tips on regular maintenance you can do to keep those little problems from turning into expensive headaches. But I didn’t include jobs such as interior painting, or upgrading your kitchen cabinets. I focussed on the bare bones maintenance you need to do to protect your home and keep it from deteriorating. In short, if you’re wondering why your car came with a maintenance guide, but your home didn’t—problem solved. Because here it is: A complete maintenance guide for your home.
When Steve Bedernjak bought his detached fixer-upper bungalow in one of Toronto’s up-and-coming neighbourhoods four years ago, he didn’t bother getting it inspected. Why bother? He already knew the place needed a lot of work, and he had a plan. He’d renovate one of the bathrooms and update the very outdated kitchen. He had $15,000 saved up for the job and a great deal of handyman know-how. But his first winter brought with it a slew of plumbing problems that threw a soggy blanket on his renovation strategy.
After a particularly cold spell, the pipes in the main floor bathroom froze. Swamped with work, Steve plugged a heater into the bathroom, turned on the bathtub faucet and left. Hours later he returned to the sound of running water—but the bathtub was dry. To his dismay, while the heater had helped thaw the frozen plumbing, the extreme temperature change had caused a rupture in the copper joints in the basement. “There was water everywhere.” Worse yet: Steve had to take a sledgehammer to the bathroom’s shower, since the previous homeowner had tiled over the main shut-off valve.
A few simple steps can go a long way towards making sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you. Consider insulating all of your exposed pipes for starters—especially if they run through an unheated garage or unfinished basement. Uninsulated pipes are susceptible to temperature changes and start to sweat. This condensation starts to corrode the pipes, decreasing the life of your plumbing.
Another good habit to develop is to test all the faucets regularly and swap out old washers when taps begin to drip. Once a year top up floor drains with water to prevent sewer gases from entering your home. (A properly installed drain should have a trap—a U-shaped pipe that holds water and prevents sewer gas, such as methane, from seeping into your home.) A trick is to pour a quarter cup of mineral oil down the drain. The mineral oil sits on the water barrier and slows down the rate of evaporation.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to make sure you know where the main shut off valve for your home is located. Test it every year to make sure it’s working—and that you can get at it if you need to.
The outside structure
While curb appeal is important, remember that the primary job of your home’s exterior is to protect your home. Not easy given fluctuating temperatures, changing seasons, and the various protrusions, sharp angles and different materials used in home construction. Your job is to keep that exterior as seamless as possible—a task even Canada’s worst handyman can accomplish.
Every year start by power washing your property. (Don’t do this if you have a brick home as the force of the spray can damage the brick. Instead, consider getting the brick professionally cleaned every few decades.) By cleaning off the dirt and grime—and taking the time to just stare at your home—you’ll get a pretty good idea of necessary repairs and replacements.
For instance if you notice the outside tap (known as a bib) froze during the winter, replace it with an antifreeze model—this $30 do-it-yourself fix could save you thousands in the long run. Consider replacing the weather stripping around windows and doors, as well as the door sweep, that rubber thingie at the bottom of the door that creates an airtight seal. Simple and cheap, these maintenance steps will help increase the energy efficiency in your home and will also prolong the life of the exterior shell.
Many of these jobs can be completed in a few hours or in a weekend, and they don’t require the skills of a professional.
When all the routine maintenance is complete, turn your attention to strategic updates. Replacing old wooden windows with vinyl models will cost between $3,000 and $12,000, but it will eliminate the annual sanding, priming and painting required of old wooden frame windows while increasing the energy efficiency of your home. You’ll enjoy lower electricity bills in the summer, and lower gas bills in the winter. Also, consider replacing old doors, just make sure the door fits the frame snugly or air will seep out.
The roof is an integral part of your home’s defence system. It’s also one of the most expensive components to replace, as my husband Mark and I found out. Swamped with his own contracts, my husband had originally planned to hire a company to re-shingle a small section of our roof. But the quotes he got were shocking: up to $7,000 to replace the plywood and re-shingle just 200 square feet. No joke.
The good news is you can prolong the life of your roof, and reduce the number of cheques you write to Johnny-No-Thumbs Roofing Co., by implementing a few ongoing maintenance routines.
First, pull out a ladder and climb on up there to visually inspect your roof. The best indication of a deteriorating roof is curled and separating shingles. Also examine the amount of grit and gravel that collects in your eaves and gutters. That grit is actually bits of asphalt rolling off the roof during high winds and rainstorms. If you find more than a quarter-inch of sediment, then it’s time to look at a new roof. Finally, look for waves or dips, which are early indicators of rot. If caught early enough, rot can be eliminated with the addition of more roof vents.
Every year you should secure or replace any loose shingles, inspect the chimney and verify the chimney cap is securely fastened. You should also inspect your flashing seals. Flashing is the thin, continuous piece of metal (or other impervious material) that’s installed at every angle or roof joint to prevent water from seeping under the asphalt tiles. Sealant is used to strengthen this barrier and must be re-touched on a regular basis.
Of course, if the thought of standing on a sloped surface 40-feet above the ground terrifies you, then you can always hire a handyman or roofer to do the annual inspection for you.
Have you ever seen a house that leans to one side? Typically this is caused by a damaged foundation. And more often than not, problematic foundations are caused by homeowner neglect.
Maintaining your foundation is an easy way to avoid very costly repairs. For example, you could spend $500 to repair the crack that develops where your driveway meets your home, or you could wait and pay $9,000 to excavate and waterproof a damaged foundation.
The best way to stay on top of foundation issues is to visually inspect your home at the start of each season, explains Bryan Baeumler, a contractor and the host of HGTV’s House of Bryan. Look for signs of settling, such as small hairline cracks. Keep a special lookout for cracks that widen over time, cracks that follow your concrete block foundation in a step pattern, or cracks above windows. These may be an indication of a larger foundation problem.
Also be diligent about snow and debris removal. Snow can melt and cause water damming, while debris can invite pests.
Finally, inspect the base of your home and your basement for mold and mildew. Use your nose and a flashlight to look inside closets, behind stored contents and around fixtures, such as the hot water tank. If you find mold, remove it using one part rubbing alcohol (90% or more) and two parts water. Don’t use bleach. (According to the U.S.-based Environmental Protection Agency, bleach isn’t able to penetrate porous material so it can’t kill mold spores at the root.)
Then look for the cause of the mold: where is the moisture coming from? Ignoring the problem and hoping it will just go away is not a great idea, as a friend of mind discovered when she neglected to address occasional sewer back-ups in her basement. To rectify the cause, she would have had to re-grade the soil outside her basement window and install a sump pump, at a cost of approximately $2,300. Instead, she left it.
A year later those spots of mold grew into a disgusting carpet of spores over a foot high. She ending up paying for pre- and post-air quality tests, professional mold remediation, debris removal, re-grading and a sump pump, at a total cost of $22,000.
Homeowners and unlicensed contractors are legally allowed to do their own electrical work, but you run a big risk if you don’t know what you’re doing, says HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler. “The worst I ever saw was a basement that was built for children and framed with steel studs.” The unlicensed contractors used an electrical wire without grommets, which enabled uninsulated wires to touch the studs. “The walls were actually live,” recalls Baeumler—if someone had touched the walls, they would have been electrocuted.
As with heating and air conditioning, consider hiring professionals when it comes to electrical work. But even if professionals do the bulk of the electrical repairs around your home, there are still steps you can take to ensure things are in proper working order.
For instance, you can make sure each light fixture is fitted with the proper bulb wattage. If you use a 150 watt bulb in a fixture that’s only designed for 100 watts, it can shorten the life of the bulb and the light fixture. You can also check your ground fault outlets by pushing the test/reset buttons. While you’re at it, check outdoor outlets and cords to make sure they aren’t damaged, and replace or repair frayed wires and plug heads.
Finally, schedule annual alarm tests and routine battery replacements in every detector and replace every fire, carbon monoxide and radon detector every 10 years, when the alarms begin to degrade.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Some do-it-yourselfers are comfortable tackling furnace or central air conditioning repairs, but most of us will want to call in the professionals.
That means scheduling an annual inspection and cleaning of your furnace for the early fall. That way, you’re making sure that any potential problems with your furnace are caught well before the bitter cold season. The same diligence doesn’t have to apply to central A/C though, as long as you clean out leaves and debris before turning on the unit in the spring.
There are a few other practical maintenance steps you can do yourself to help your home’s heating and cooling system. Vacuum air grates or electrical baseboard heaters to remove dirt, and cover your A/C unit with a breathable, flexible cover to keep out debris and leaves. (Don’t tightly wrap the unit, as you could create a cozy den for critters or damage the unit’s coils.)
Also, try to change your furnace filter regularly. Not doing so is like forcing your furnace to breathe through a straw. By replacing the filter every three months, you improve both your air quality and the efficiency of your furnace.
You likely don’t have to bother having your ducts professionally cleaned though. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation studied the impact of duct cleaning and found no difference pre- and post-cleaning. They did, however, recommend duct cleaning if you’ve just moved into a brand new home or just underwent major renovations.
Drainage and landscaping
A well-appointed garden can add as much as 20% to the value of your house, but landscaping also has a hidden purpose that’s much more important: to drain water away from your foundation.
To prevent water from seeping into your basement you should pay particular attention to the underside of the eaves (known as the soffits), the material that caps your gutters (known as the fascia), as well as downspouts and drains. Keep these clear of debris, such as leaves and twigs, and check for blockages. Expect to re-attach or fix these components on an annual basis. Remember: the easier it is for water to flow away from your home, the less likelihood of damage.
Now, visually inspect the grade of your foundation and driveway. Examine the ground abutting your home, or, if you’re like me and dimensionally impaired, pour a glass of water on the ground close to your foundation walls. Watch what the water does: Does it roll away from the home? Does it pool in one area? Worse yet, does it roll towards the home and then sit, waiting to be absorbed? The minimum standard for grading is an inch for every foot, with at least eight feet of grade starting at your foundation wall. Any grade that doesn’t move water away from your home should be corrected. If not, you could end up paying for expensive waterproofing remediation—one of the most avoidable, yet costliest repairs to any home.
Also consider removing boxed planters built against your foundation. While these landscaping features can add a splash of colour and enhance curb appeal they can also cause problems, since water has nowhere else to go but into your foundation.
Finally, pay attention to paths and driveways on your property. If they split they can allow water to seep into the earth, which can oversaturate your lawn, promote soil erosion and prevent the garden from keeping water away from your home. Small repairs to such hardscaping features can mean big savings later on.
The final tally
So what’s the total cost of transforming your home into an efficient, water-repelling system that never causes you any sleepless nights? When I tallied up the annual cost of all of the regular maintenance, I found that you could expect to spend somewhere between $900 and $1,000 a year. If you hire professionals, you may spend upwards of $3,000 a year.
But that doesn’t take into consideration the expense of major repairs, replacements and remediation. Those expenses tend to arise much less frequently, but they hit your wallet hard. To make sure you’re prepared, you should set up a “big stuff” home maintenance account, to which you should contribute an extra $3,500 to $7,500 a year, depending on the size and age of your home.
Total annual maintenance cost: $930 – $2,600
Total annual replacement cost: $3,500 – $7,300
The total amount you should budget for home maintenance: $4,500 – $10,000 per year
To double-check my figures, my husband Mark and I went back through our own reno and repair expenses, and we found that the numbers above are accurate. Of course, they don’t reflect the hours and hours of work that you do yourself (not the mention the help from friends and family).
Looking after your home properly is a lot of work—and, yes, it can be expensive. But it’s worth it to have a place you love that’s truly yours. Despite four years of ongoing repairs and renovations, Steve Bedernjak agrees. “At one point I seriously considered only dating people with construction knowledge—because I spent all my time at my house.” But now that Steve can actually see an end to all the construction turmoil, he says it was all worthwhile. “Despite the problems that are inherent of a 100-year-old home I’m glad I became a homeowner. Every night I sit on my back porch and listen to muted bustle of the city, and I’m comforted with the knowledge that it was in my hands that my house became my home.”
Young Canadian homeowners are in for some tough times if the housing market comes crashing down around them, a new study suggests, but realtors and economists say there’s no reason to panic.
A report released last week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests that one in 10 homeowners under 40 will be underwater on their mortgages — meaning their debts will be greater than their assets — if real estate prices crash as expected at some point in the near future.
Right now, real estate prices are overvalued by anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent, according to Bank of Canada estimates. Eventually, most analysts say, the market will correct itself and prices will go down, either due to declining incomes, rising interest rates, or a combination of both.
When that happens, homeowners under 40 will be disproportionately affected — not because they stand to lose more actual dollars, but because they are debt-strapped and will see a bigger drop in their net worth, the study argues.
Canadians in their 30s carry debt worth an average of four times their incomes, according to the Centre for Policy Alternatives. That means they stand to lose a much bigger percentage of their net worth if their homes lose value. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
“Their entire net worth is wrapped up in their home when they’re in their twenties and thirties. They’re early on in a mortgage, so … almost everything they’ve paid has gone into interest,” John Andrew, a real estate professor from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said.
“And the other thing is that they’ve leveraged this to the hilt. So it’s a triple whammy, those three factors.”
‘Not a big deal’
Families in their thirties could lose an average of $60,000 if there is a correction of 20 per cent, and that would represent an average of 39 per cent of their net worth. People in their twenties would see their net worth reduced by 45 per cent in the same situation.
It all sounds scary, but young homeowners do have one thing their older counterparts do not — time.
“Even if you’re underwater, it’s not a big deal, because as long as you live in this house and you pay your mortgage, that’s fine,” Benjamin Tal, deputy chief of CIBC’s World Markets, told CBC News.
CIBC’s Benjamin Tal says young homeowners shouldn’t panic about a potential drop in housing prices because they have the luxury of being able to wait it out. (CIBC)
“Of course, it’s difficult to be underwater. It’s not a very good thing to experience. But from a practical perspective, as long as you have a job and you have income, I really don’t see a situation in which you should panic.”
Andrew agrees. Asked what advice he has for young homeowners, he said: “Don’t panic. Yes, your net worth may have declined significantly, but until you go and sell your house, if you’re in the market, you’re in the market.”
Interest rates hikes an ‘urgent issue’
Both Tal and Andrew say the bigger issue at play here is the possibility that interest rates on mortgages will rise, triggering the anticipated drop in housing prices.
“I’m pretty sure we’re not going see a collapse in home prices until we see a rise in interest rates,” Andrew said.
And while most young homeowners can withstand a housing market crash by staying put and waiting it out, not everyone can afford to pay a bigger monthly mortgage.
“If you can’t keep the house because you can’t afford the extra $350-$400 a month in mortgage payments, now you’ve got a really serious and urgent issue,” he said.
‘The economy will slow down’
Soaring interest rates and declining housing prices can also impact the economy at large.
“You have a situation in which more young people, young families, spend more money on their housing as opposed to anything else. So you don’t go to restaurants, you don’t take vacations — you just finance your mortgage,” said Tal.
“And if you don’t [spend money], the economy will slow down, and that will make things even worse because it means that unemployment starts to rise, and therefore some people actually won’t be able to pay at all.”
That’s particularly bad news in Canada, said economist David Macdonald, who authored the Centre for Policy Alternatives study.
“We’re already seeing weak growth in Canada,” he said, “and this would add to that slow growth.”
What’s the solution?
In his study, Macdonald recommends the government look at adopting U.S.-style policies to help young Canadians weather the storm.
That could mean giving unemployed homeowners some leeway on their mortgages, or allowing those in extreme circumstances to walk away from their mortgages without taking a huge hit to their credit scores.
But these are solutions for later down the road, when prices start dropping, he says.
In the meantime, Tal said young and prospective homeowners should make sure they have enough wiggle room in their budgets to comfortably make monthly mortgage payments even if rates rise by a couple of percentage points.
“If they cannot do it, they should buy a smaller house,” he said.
Or, not buy a house at all.
‘There’s nothing wrong with renting’
Studies like this one might put you off buying at all, and that’s a perfectly reasonable option, said Andrew, especially in high-cost cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, where a housing market crash would hit hardest.
“If you look at a lot of world-class cities around the globe, there’s nothing wrong with renting. If you lived in New York City, you could easily rent your entire life and you wouldn’t feel inadequate about it.
“We’ve got this kind of Canadian hang-up,” he said. “There’s this sense that if you don’t own your own home … you’re not a success. And I think that’s changing.”
Homeowners in big, expensive cities like Vancouver stand to lose the most if housing prices drop. That’s why some analysts say it might be better for city-dwellers to rent. (Robert Giroux/Getty Images)
Renting means avoiding the hidden costs of home ownership, like maintenance and property taxes. What’s more, you can up and leave whenever you want.
“Certainly for young people, as long as you’re saving some money, as long as you’re putting a significant amount away monthly and working toward that long-term goal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
Source: CBC Sheena Goodyear, CBC NewsPosted: Nov 16, 2015 5:00 AM ET