Tag Archives: millennials

How house hunting will forever change due to the pandemic

Realtor Chris Strand is seen at a townhome he’s selling in Vancouver, on Aug. 14, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Medical waivers. Masks. Virtual showings. Seven-figure purchases, sight unseen.

Home buying and selling has seen a head-snapping shift during the COVID-19 era, as both parties deal with the demands of physical distancing, virtual showings and previously unheard-of safety considerations.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the competition: Most major Canadian markets are as buoyant as ever after a brief slump and in defiance of gloomy forecasts about the impact the pandemic could have on real estate activity.

But the nuts and bolts of the process – how buyers and sellers interact and how realtors work with both – looks dramatically different than it did a few months ago, forcing years’ worth of sales innovation into just a few months.

Here are a few of the biggest changes:

Say goodbye to open houses

So much for perusing open houses as a weekend pastime. Physical distancing brought group showings to an abrupt halt this spring. As restrictions eased nationwide, open houses slowly started up again. In Ontario, for example, the province lifted its prohibition in most areas on July 17 as part of its Stage 3 reopening.

Still, open houses are nowhere near as common as they once were. Sellers remain wary of inviting large groups of people to traipse through their homes and some renters’ groups have spoken out against them as well.

Mr. Strand says a decline in open houses as we once knew them may be one of the biggest long-term changes to house hunting to emerge from the pandemic.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Before you could have upwards of two or three different agents with groups, at any given time, showing the same property,” says Darren Josephs, a Toronto Re/Max agent. “Now, the windows are 15-to-30 minutes and no overlap.”

Also, each client goes through individually, following sanitizing protocols before and after each visit. And there’s no such thing as dropping in with a moment’s notice, Mr. Josephs says.

“I think a lot of people were never entirely comfortable with open houses, especially sellers,” he says. “I think we’ll see a real long-term effect from this and more qualified showings, which tend to weed out people who aren’t serious.”

Vancouver-based independent realtor Chris Strand says there’s a “split in the realtor community” on the issue. He points out that realtors can often pick up new clients at open houses. However, he agrees that a decline in open houses – at least as we once knew them – may be one of the biggest long-term changes to emerge from the pandemic.

Better digital sales tools

The era of out-of-focus photos and sparse online listings is over, according to Patti Ross, a Royal LePage realtor in Halifax.

“You’ve always seen listings and asked, ‘Why are the photos so bad?’” she says. “We were proactive in my brokerage years ago in stepping up online marketing and building a photography and video department and it’s really paying off now.”

Mr. Strand says a rise in virtual house touring may be due to the current bull market in housing.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Realtors have also long been limited in the number of photographs they can use on listings but, from coast-to-coast, those limits have been bumped up, allowing potential buyers to get a better sense of a property before arranging a viewing.

“Our real estate board just upped our photo count from 20 to 40,” Mr. Strand says, “and we’re seeing more people hiring professional videographers and using virtual walk-through tools.”

Sometimes that means 360-degree photos tours and, for high-end properties, it can mean full-blown immersive 3D renders of a property’s interior. That can help drive more selective, qualified showings, and fewer potential buyers arranging a viewing out of curiosity, only to show up and quickly realize the property isn’t right for them.

More safety protocols

When in-person viewings do take place, safety has become a top priority. In most cases, realtors will go into homes in advance, opening every door, cabinet and cupboard for clients.

“We ask that visitors treat the house like a museum,” Mr. Josephs says. “No touching.”

Potential buyers sign waivers attesting to their lack of COVID-19 symptoms and international travel. And everyone – buyers, sellers and agents – wear masks and keep the mandated two-metre distance.

Even Ms. Ross’ photographers and videographers make sure their gear is sanitized before it enters a property and they clean it thoroughly once they leave.

Some realtors hope that better safety protocols can instill more confidence in sellers to list their homes.

Major markets nationwide are currently grappling with a serious imbalance between supply and demand, as buyers return to the market in droves, but sellers remain shy. “

You definitely see people waiting or holding off on listing,” Ms. Ross says. “But once you talk to people and tell them about process, they feel better.”

More risk-taking

That imbalance between buyers and sellers has also made markets more competitive. In Halifax, Ms. Ross recently sold one suburban property listed at $229,000 for $55,000 over asking, after entertaining more than 30 offers. In Vancouver, Mr. Strand is seeing similar activity, as is Mr. Josephs in Toronto, where he recently sold one home for $350,000 over asking, after 26 offers.

More buyers are also signing off on purchases remotely. In June, Nanos Research conducted a poll for the Ontario Real Estate Association that revealed 42 per cent of buyers were open to buying a home even if they could only see it online beforehand.

Ms. Ross says she’s noticed more buyers willing to purchase places sight unseen. (Atlantic Canada’s current self-isolation restrictions for out-of-region travellers mean visiting the region to house-hunt is especially impractical).

“We’re doing virtual tours that allow people to shop from Ontario or Vancouver,” she says, “and walk through the house remotely.”

She’s also begun doing walk-through video tours of neighbourhoods. A video tour showcasing sports facilities and outdoor trails near one property recently helped seal the deal with one out-of-province family.

Mr. Strand is seeing the same kind of activity in Vancouver.

“We’re using FaceTime, and I’ve had potential buyers from Ontario, Alberta, and several from Hong Kong,” he says.

Mr. Strand says some of that activity may be due to the current bull market in housing. But most industry watchers, including major banks and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, are still forecasting at least a modest decline in home prices over the coming year. As sellers re-enter the market, spiralling prices may well simmer down – good news for buyers already struggling with deteriorating affordability.

But even if markets re-balance, there seems little doubt that COVID-19 will result in lasting changes to the way Canadians buy and sell homes.

“Anything could happen in the next few months,” Mr. Strand says. “We’re all just waiting to see what sticks as we keep going through this and what goes back to the way it was before.”

Source: Globe and Mail MATTHEW HALLIDAYSPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAILPUBLISHED AUGUST 17, 2020

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5 Steps to Buying a Home That Won’t Bust Your Budget

A new homeowner holding out the keys to her house while looking at her budget.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions that go into buying a new home. Brand new or existing? Cottage or McMansion? Fixer-upper or move-in ready? City or country? After all, a home is a big purchase, and you want it to be a blessing for many years to come.

But one question holds the key to home-buying success: how much home can you afford?

Lucky for you, you don’t need a degree in rocket science to find the answer. You just need to know how to budget. Here are five steps to buying a home Dave Ramsey recommends to make the process smoother.

Step 1: Add Up Your Income

You can’t make a budget if you don’t know how much you can spend. So sit down and add up every source of income you receive each month.

Let’s crunch numbers based on a two-earner household. In our example, John brings home two paychecks a month, while his wife Jane receives one.

John’s Paycheck 1 = $1,600
John’s Paycheck 2 = $1,600
Jane’s Paycheck = $2,800

Total Monthly Income = $6,000

Step 2: List Your Household Expenses

Next, write down every place your dollars go each month. Find expert agents to help you buy your home.

John and Jane rent a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of town so they can be close to work. A big chunk of their budget goes toward saving for retirement and a down payment on their new home. Here’s how their current budget looks:

John and Jane’s Pre-Home Budget
Charitable Gifts = $600
Savings = $2,200
Rent = $900
Utilities = $300
Food = $400
Clothing = $100
Transportation = $450
Medical = $400
Personal = $450
Recreation = $200

Total Expenses = $6,000

Of course, everybody’s budget is going to be different. We’ve assumed some things in this sample. If some of these categories don’t fit, feel free to make them your own.

Step 3: Calculate Home-Ownership Costs

Dave Ramsey recommends your housing payment, including property taxes and insurance, to be no more than 25% of your take-home income. 

To maximize your savings, you should get a 15-year, fixed rate mortgage.

That means the maximum amount John and Jane should spend on their home payment each month is $1,500. Of course, home ownership isn’t limited to a house note. John and Jane make room for expenses like HOA fees, maintenance and repair, furniture and décor, and lawn care in their budget. They also add extra heft to utilities and transportation since they’ll have more square footage and a longer commute in their new home.

John and Jane’s down-payment goal will be complete when they purchase a home, so they reduce the amount they allot to savings.

If you need help figuring out how much house you can afford, we suggest using our mortgage calculator

John and Jane’s Budget: Changes Made With Home Ownership in Mind
Savings = $2,200 $900
Rent Mortgage = $900 $1,500
Other Housing Expenses = $250
Utilities = $300 $400
Transportation = $450 $550

Total Expenses = $6,000 $5,750

With these adjustments, John and Jane still have money left over—but the budgeting doesn’t stop here.

Step 4: Give Your Budget Room to Grow

Life is going to happen in the years you occupy your home. Before you get married to a mortgage, look ahead and consider events that might increase your living expenses down the road.

John and Jane don’t have children yet but hope to start a family next year. Guess what? Kids cost money! According to the USDA, a middle-income married couple spends an average of $727 a month on non-housing expenses in a child’s first years of life. Depending on what you make or where you live, it could be more, it could be less.

John and Jane build cushion for Junior into their budget by parking an additional $750 into their savings account each month. That puts their savings total at $1,650 and bumps their monthly expenses up to $6,500.

John and Jane’s Budget: Changes Made With Junior in Mind
Savings = $900 $1,650

Total Expenses = $5,750 $6,500

Step 5: Make Adjustments

Right now, John and Jane’s expenses outweigh their income by $500, so they’ve got some balancing to do. John and Jane realize that spending 25% of their income on a mortgage will squeeze out their ability to afford diapers and daycare. So they aim for a more conservative home payment and tighten the purse strings in a few other areas.

John and Jane’s Final Home-Buying Budget
Charitable Gifts = $600
Savings = $1,650
Mortgage = $1,500 $1,250
Other Housing Expenses = $250
Utilities = $400
Food = $400
Clothing = $100 $50
Transportation = $550
Medical = $400
Personal = $450 $400
Recreation = $200 $50

Total Expenses = $6,600 $6,000

When income minus outgo equals zero, your job is done because every dollar has a name.

$6,000 – $6,000 = $0

Success!

That means you can feel confident buying a home that won’t bust your budget. Just keep your mortgage to 25%—or less!—of your monthly income and don’t borrow so much that you can’t breathe if life changes down the road.

Boost Your Buying Power

Now that you know the secret to being a happy homeowner, it’s time to go out and get the most home for your money! All you need is an expert negotiator by your side. A buyer’s agent brings your best interests to the table so you can get the best deal on a home that’s right for you and your budget.

Source: DaveRamsey.com

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Do sellers ever agree to rent-to-own deals? Yes, a few—when there’s a downturn

It’s a route to ownership that may make sense if you’re a renter who wants to buy but you’re concerned about job stability and need a way out if necessary.iStock

It’s fair to say that most New York City renters have the same real estate fantasy: Instead of throwing away their money every month—and agonizing over it—they could be applying their payments toward ownership.

That’s why rent-to-own luxury condo programs, which are rare but growing in the pandemic, have so much appeal. They help developers who are struggling to fill empty apartments and give renters who want to buy a chance to wait and test out the building—like a glide path to ownership. You can find rent-to-own condos at 100 Barclay StreetOne Manhattan Square, 196 Orchard, 298 East Second Street (Houston House) and 21-30 44th Dr. in Long Island City (Corte).

Luxury condo are nice of course, if you can afford them, but for most buyers a condo that starts at, for example, $4,485,000 at 100 Barclay or $1,395,000 at 196 Orchard is out of reach. So you might be wondering: Is it possible to approach someone selling an apartment or a house and ask if the owner will allow you to rent first and buy later—and apply your rent payments to the purchase price?

Market decline brings back rent to own

The answer is yes. Rent-to-own purchases of apartments or houses from a seller (not a condo developer) come back in fashion when sales are slow, like they are now. But it is not typically a widespread phenomenon.

“In the last downturn there was buzz about rent-to-own and very few deals happened—it was talk, talk, talk, and at the end of the day, very few happened,” says Mark Chin, CEO of real estate brokerage KWNYC.

These deals don’t end up converting many sellers, however, with more programs available from condo developers, rent-to-own may gain some more traction. And as sellers are forced to compete with developers of new condos, taking a page out of their playbook is one way to level the field.

Why would you rent to own?

It’s a route to ownership that may make sense if you’re a renter who wants to buy but you’re concerned about your job stability in this economy, for example, and want the ability to cancel the deal without penalty. Like rent-to-own condo programs, rent-to-own deals for resales give you a period of time to decide whether to buy.

So, if you are renting for one year, you may have to let the owner know by the eighth month if you intend to buy. Depending on the agreement, you can apply a portion or the full amount of your rent toward the purchase price. The deal allows you to chip away at the price of the house while giving sellers the rental payments they can use to pay their mortgage or common charges.

A rare kind of real estate deal

They’re not a straightforward path to ownership though. In fact they remind Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, of a reverse mortgage, another rarity for NYC. And, if you think about it, they are also somewhat mind bending when you consider what happens when a tenant ultimately decides to buy, and has their rent deducted from the sales price. “You could argue that they paid no rent,” Miller says.

It’s not necessarily a way to get a deal either. Usually, the seller is asking for a price they couldn’t get on the open market, Miller says.

To Miller, they make up a nominal, niche part of the market.

Where to find a rent-to-own property?

Rent to own can be negotiated with any type of building—townhouse, condo, or co-op, says Steve Wagner, partner at the Manhattan law firm Wagner, Berkow & Brandt, who represents co-op and condo owners (and is a Brick sponsor, FYI).

“I’ve done a couple of them,” he says, emphasizing that the deals were not new construction but apartments that were converted long ago and were rented to someone who is interested in buying.

“With a condo or co-op, it is likely you’d be approved to buy but not guaranteed. Generally with condos, the board has a right of first refusal and co-ops have the right to consent. This is handled in the contract, as well as financing, approval, representations, all the stuff you’d normally have in an agreement,” Wagner says.

To Craig L. Price, a partner at the law firm of Belkin, Burden, Goldman, this mode of buying “has become more than niche” recently. He’s seeing an uptick now because of the pandemic and in the last month worked on four such agreements (one didn’t pan out because of the complexity of the deal and became a regular rental).

These arrangements are easier to do in a condo than in a co-op, he says, which will require jumping through many hoops to gain approval from the board.

Price recommends pre-negotiating a purchase agreement before you occupy the apartment or house—you’ll have more leverage with an owner of an empty place. An attorney will need to work out protections for you to prevent the owner from selling to someone else before you exercise your option, he says.

“The downside for tenant is that they may overpay,” Price says. You are negotiating a price without knowing where the market will be in eight months or a year from now when it is time to pay up. You may be locking in a premium price for the property, he explains.

He recommends tenant buyers get a financing contingency as part of the deal (aka a mortgage contingency), which offers you a way out if you can’t get a mortgage.

Source: Brick Underground – JULY 27, 2020 – 9:30 AM

BY JENNIFER WHITE KARP

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How much does a “middle class” lifestyle cost in Toronto?

How much does a “middle class” lifestyle cost in Toronto?

Condos in Toronto’s downtown core have become increasingly out of reach of most household budgets, skewing what it means to be “middle-class” in one of Canada’s hottest cities.

Speaking to the Daily Hive, Fong and Partners Inc. said that a “middle-class” one-child household living in a modest condo in the area will cost a family around $123,388 annually after taxes – an income level currently accessible to only the top 10% earners.

Even singles – who would need to make around $74,000 annually after taxes – will find it exceptionally difficult to sustain themselves in the downtown area: A one-bedroom condo with one parking spot in Toronto’s core will cost approximately $2,540 a month in mortgages alone.

Those who are counting on the long-term impact of coronavirus pandemic to moderate home price growth should abandon such notions, according to Victor Fong, president of Fong and Partners.

“This is because of the money-printing that is happening in the US, Europe, and Canada to battle the economic effects of COVID-19. Money printing causes inflation in asset markets such as real estate, which naturally increases prices,” Fong said.

Recent Royal LePage data supported Fong’s stance, with the national aggregate home price growing by 6.8% year over year during Q2 to reach $673,072.

“Home prices shot up in the second quarter as a crush of buyers entered the market, attracted by extremely low interest rates and the perception of bargains to be had,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage. “Once provinces allowed regular real estate activity to resume, demand surged in many markets. Inventory levels, already constrained pre-pandemic, have failed to keep pace.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca – by Ephraim Vecina 27 Jul 2020

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Financial Stress Index finds Canadians more worried about money than relationships, work, health

Financial Stress Index finds Canadians more worried about money than relationships, work, health

A recent survey by financial planning firm FP Canada has found that stress related to money outweighs worries around relationships, work and health for Canadians. That won’t come as a surprise to mortgage brokers, but the firm’s most recent Financial Stress Index contained a few surprising nuggets of information: Canadians are actually less worried about their finances than they were in 2018, and more than half of respondents in most areas of the country said their level of financial stress has not been impacted by COVID-19.

In 2020, 38 percent of the Canadians surveyed said money is their greatest source of stress, with 25 percent choosing health, 21 percent work and 16 percent relationships. Two years ago, 42 percent chose money, while 22 percent said personal health. The increase in Canadians saying health is a greater worry makes a fair bit of sense when the country is still dealing with its share of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the widespread financial disruption experienced during the pandemic hasn’t caused financial worries to spike should be taken as a positive indicator.

When the findings are broken down by age, financial worries are greatest for the three youngest generations studied – millennials (44 percent), young Gen Xers (44 percent) and older Gen Xers (40 percent). Money was the main concern for only 37 percent of Canadians aged 55-64 and for 25 percent of those 65-plus.

The Index broke financial worries down into several categories and found that bills, debt, income stability and rent/mortgage payments were the biggest stressors for younger Canadians. Each category worried at least 36 percent of survey respondents, with bills (48 percent) taking top spot. For older Canadians, the greatest worry was saving enough for retirement.

A difference in earnings had little impact on individual levels of financial stress. An equal percentage of Canadians making $40,000 to $79,000 and those making over $80,000 – one-third – all chose money as their major stressor, although half of people making less than $40,000 rank money as their main source of anxiety.

The only region where more than 50 percent of Canadians felt their level of financial stress was impacted by COVID-19 was Alberta. In Quebec only 36 percent of respondents say the pandemic has increased their level of worry. Forty-seven percent of women said their level of stress has been affected by COVID-19, compared to 41 percent of men.

Impacts of financial stress
Half of the survey respondents said financial stress has impacted their lives in a negative way. Sixty percent of under-35s and 46 percent of those over 35 all reported experiencing either health issues (18 percent), relationship problems (15 percent), reduced productivity (14 percent) or family disputes (13 percent) related to financial stress. An additional 10 percent say they have experienced substance abuse or mental health issues.

FP Canada, in a not-so-subtle bit of self-promotion, compared the stress levels of Canadians who use financial planners to those who don’t. The company found that 53 percent of those working with a financial planner said financial stress does not impact their life. The data can be taken with a grain of salt, but if the numbers are accurate, enlisting the services of a financial planner may be a topic worth discussing the next time a client looks like he hasn’t slept or eaten in a week.

Monitoring a homeowner’s stress levels is something a broker must be willing to do. If clients seem to be teetering on the brink of collapse, encouraging them to find a healthy way to decompress can be an important first step toward improving their frame of mind.

“When people learn how to decompress in healthy ways and manage the difficult emotions that come with financial stress, they’re in a physiologically and psychologically calmer space to have better problem-solving abilities,” says clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Moira Somers. Once their emotions are brought under control, these individuals will then be in a position to tackle the issues at the root of their stress.

“People do best when they engage in a combination of the two strategies,” Somers says. “Focusing exclusively on either the problem itself or the settling of emotions can prevent people from making good decisions and then taking appropriate action.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca – by Clayton Jarvis 27 Jul 2020

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HOUSE HUNTING IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – June 27, 2020

I read somewhere many years ago that “where there is a crisis, there is always opportunity”. You may be wondering where to find this opportunity. Covid 19, completely obliterated the spring housing market and will probably do the same for the summer market. These are possibly the two busiest period for homebuyers and sellers. With the recent physical and social distancing guidelines introduced and enforced by all levels of government, it has certainly crippled the real estate sector and change the way sellers and buyers engage each other. However, all is not lost as we discover new ways to house hunt and view homes.

Savvy realtors have quickly figured out how to market homes online and are doing virtual tours that allow potential home buyers to get a real life feeling of homes they are interested in viewing or purchasing. New home builders have also quickly adapted and have also made the virtual home buying experience very user friendly and interactive. Many of the floor plans can be configured by you to show the placement of furniture and appliances to get a sense of the available space. With resale homes, you can use the placement of furniture and appliances by the current owner and occupant as a guide. In the event the home is empty, it could be a bit more challenging to get a good sense of the space as a first-time home buyer, but a good realtor should be able to help you with this.

In areas where home showings are still permitted, and if you are comfortable doing them, you mayt want to exercise extreme caution when visiting homes for sale to avoid being exposed or infected by Covid 19. A few of my recommendations to keep yourself safe and reduce exposure are:

  1. Always wear a mask and gloves.
  2. If you have a pre-existing health condition, I would recommend avoid doing in-house viewings
  3. Only visit homes where the current owners or occupants have vacated the homes to allow for the viewing.
  4. Avoid touching personal items and appliances as much as possible.
  5. Do not under any circumstances view a home at the same time with another individual or family not connected to you
  6. Ensure your realtor is also wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining physical and social distancing guidelines.
  7. Practice the necessary hygiene once you have completed your viewing and returned home to eradicate any potential exposure.

If you are uncomfortable with doing in-house viewings stick to virtual viewings. There are many homes being offered that way, and you are sure to find one in your preferred neighborhood, at your desired price that you absolutely love. So be patient and enjoy the home buying journey.

The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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HOUSE HUNTING IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – June 27, 2020

I read somewhere many years ago that “where there is a crisis, there is always opportunity”. You may be wondering where to find this opportunity. Covid 19, completely obliterated the spring housing market and will probably do the same for the summer market. These are possibly the two busiest period for homebuyers and sellers. With the recent physical and social distancing guidelines introduced and enforced by all levels of government, it has certainly crippled the real estate sector and change the way sellers and buyers engage each other. However, all is not lost as we discover new ways to house hunt and view homes.

Savvy realtors have quickly figured out how to market homes online and are doing virtual tours that allow potential home buyers to get a real life feeling of homes they are interested in viewing or purchasing. New home builders have also quickly adapted and have also made the virtual home buying experience very user friendly and interactive. Many of the floor plans can be configured by you to show the placement of furniture and appliances to get a sense of the available space. With resale homes, you can use the placement of furniture and appliances by the current owner and occupant as a guide. In the event the home is empty, it could be a bit more challenging to get a good sense of the space as a first-time home buyer, but a good realtor should be able to help you with this.

In areas where home showings are still permitted, and if you are comfortable doing them, you mayt want to exercise extreme caution when visiting homes for sale to avoid being exposed or infected by Covid 19. A few of my recommendations to keep yourself safe and reduce exposure are:

  1. Always wear a mask and gloves.
  2. If you have a pre-existing health condition, I would recommend avoid doing in-house viewings
  3. Only visit homes where the current owners or occupants have vacated the homes to allow for the viewing.
  4. Avoid touching personal items and appliances as much as possible.
  5. Do not under any circumstances view a home at the same time with another individual or family not connected to you
  6. Ensure your realtor is also wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining physical and social distancing guidelines.
  7. Practice the necessary hygiene once you have completed your viewing and returned home to eradicate any potential exposure.

If you are uncomfortable with doing in-house viewings stick to virtual viewings. There are many homes being offered that way, and you are sure to find one in your preferred neighborhood, at your desired price that you absolutely love. So be patient and enjoy the home buying journey.

The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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Wave of homes could hit market when support programs end: RBC

Photo: James Bombales

Toronto, Vancouver and many other major markets across Canada began the year in seller’s market territory with high demand for housing and tight supply giving home sellers the upper hand in transactions.

The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed that, shifting the national market away from favouring sellers and into balanced territory. And more changes are coming, according to RBC, which published a housing report this week that predicted more listings will be coming online in the months ahead, potentially tilting the supply-demand balance into buyer’s market conditions.

In a note titled “Canada’s Housing Market Woke up in May,” RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue wrote that, to date, listings supply and buyer demand have mostly ebbed in lockstep during the pandemic. This alignment has allowed the market to maintain balance and prices to remain steady, so far.

There were hints that this was shifting in national home sales data for May published by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) this week. New listings spiked 69 percent in May from their April lowpoint while sales rose 57 percent. While this may not appear to be a significant mismatch, Hogue believes there’s further supply and demand “decoupling” ahead for the market.

“The delay in spring listings will likely boost supply during the summer at a time when homebuyer demand will still be soft — albeit recovering. The eventual winding down of financial support programs is also poised to bring more supply to market later this year,” Hogue wrote.

“Economic hardship is no doubt taking a toll on a number of current homeowners — including investors,” the economist continued. “Some of them could be running out of options once government support programs and mortgage payment deferrals end, and may be compelled to sell their property.”

The federal government announced this week that the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) would be extended for another two months, with the scheduled end date now pushed back to early September. The maximum period that one can receive CERB payments was increased from 16 weeks to 24 weeks. Mortgage deferral programs being run by Canada’s large banks are also set to end in the fall.

In commentary published yesterday, Capital Economics’ Senior Canada Economist Stephen Brown wrote that the huge sums paid out through CERB since March have seemingly offset the losses to household income suffered during the same period. This will allow for a stronger economic recovery than was previously anticipated, he wrote.

But even in his relatively upbeat take, Brown said that household income is likely to still fall eventually as employment will remain lower than its pre-pandemic level even when CERB ends in September. He went on to point out that high-earners who lost jobs during the pandemic and are now receiving CERB will have certainly taken a hit to household income, which will bode poorly for the housing market.

When it comes to the anticipated shift from balanced conditions to a buyer’s market for Canadian real estate, Hogue predicted that the timing will be different depending on the market.

“We expect the increase in supply to tip the scale in favour of buyers in many markets across Canada, some sooner than others,” Hogue wrote.

“Vancouver and other BC markets, for example, could see buyers calling the shots as early as this summer. It could take a little longer in Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Atlantic Provinces. Buyers already rule in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Nationally, Hogue predicted a seven percent decline in benchmark home prices from pre-pandemic levels by mid-2021. However, he wrote, “a widespread collapse in property values is unlikely.”

Source: Livabl.com – Sean MacKay Jun 17, 20200

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“We wanted to do the impossible—fit three families under one roof”: How one big brood is weathering the pandemic in their Markham home

Top from left to right: Pak Hung Ho, Roger How Cho Hee, and Christine How Cho Hee Bottom from left to right: Eric How Cho Hee, Charlotte How-Fang and Li Wen Fang

Before Covid-19, Eric How Cho Hee, an IT consultant, and Li Wen Fang, a social worker and psychotherapist, ambitiously decided to build a grand family home in Markham for themselves, their parents and an uncle. Their friends thought the well-meaning but wacky idea would never work. But as it happens, living in one giant 7,000-square-foot household bubble is smart when you need each other most.

Eric: In early 2017, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so I thought it would be best to move in with my parents. I owned the house where they lived in Markham, and we were going back-and-forth frequently to visit each other every week, anyway.

Li Wen: We wanted to do what seemed like the impossible: fit three families under one roof. My parents spend most of their time in Australia with my brother, but they would visit Canada occasionally for long periods before the pandemic, so we wanted to include space for them, too.

Li Wen’s home office is directly across from the front door

Eric: At the time, Li Wen and I lived in an 1,800-square-foot side-split nearby for six years. We liked the area, but the house was nowhere near big enough for our new needs. In September 2017, we sold the mortgage-free house my parents were living in for more than what we paid for and used the money to raze our place and build a new multi-generational home. We rented a house while our new one was being built. The 7,000 square-foot update by Solares Architecture would have enough room for us, our two year old, Charlotte, our four parents and Li Wen’s 70-year-old uncle, Pak Hung Ho.

Li Wen: My uncle Pak took care of me when I immigrated to Canada in 2001, and now that he’s getting older, I wanted to return the favour. My friends weren’t optimistic about the idea—most people choose to live apart from their extended family. But we ignored the naysayers and plunged right in.

The dining room, living room and kitchen were designed as one large space, so the family can hang out and enjoy meals together. The quirky fireplace is by Stûv
The double-height loft space is one half floor up from the main level. It’s also Charlotte’s preferred play area

Eric: When plans were submitted to the committee of adjustment to apply for variances, one neighbour speaking against our application suggested we needed such a big home to run an Airbnb business. Our architects decided to submit a finished plan and it was available for everyone to see.

Li Wen: Our trick to making it work was to ensure everyone has their own private space carved into the plan. We wanted each area to feel like its own cushy apartment—with a staircase and elevator connecting the halves. We asked for heated floors and shower benches for the older set. And a 17-foot-long pool and sauna in the basement.

Charlotte is a regular at the basement swim spa. She’s a natural at wading in the water

Eric: Li Wen, Charlotte and I moved in in October 2019 while other areas of the house were still being worked on. The rest of the household joined us in November, once the house was in a more finished state.

Li Wen: We hired Renee Godin of Interiors by Renee, who sourced all of the furniture and oversaw the decor, which was helpful in such a large, segmented home. She suggested adding colours and patterns because the house felt too white and sterile. But the bright orange Blue Star oven in the kitchen is Eric’s doing. He’s the cook in the family and he wanted something nice.

Uncle Pak is set up to host morning tea in his section of the home

Eric: My wife and I pay for all of the utilities, housekeeping and property taxes. Before the pandemic, my parents and Li Wen’s uncle would buy the additional items or other foods they needed. But we all share. We don’t divvy up the bills and we don’t charge them any rent. I go buy all groceries, and everyone takes turns cooking the various meals. I used to browse and see what’s on sale when I went to the store. Now it’s more focused. I grab and go. I’m out in less than an hour.

Li Wen: Uncle Pak’s area is dubbed “the tea room” because that’s where the family starts the day, with a tea ritual. My parents have an amazing wing on the other side of our bedroom; they are living in Australia now but that could change. Despite the endless space to wander, we mostly kick back together in the kitchen. A wall of large patio doors bring a lot of natural light into the kitchen, and they slide open easily for the seniors to access the patio and backyard. The 17,000-square-foot backyard has allowed the seniors to get fresh air in safe surroundings as the weather has gotten better.

A floor-to-ceiling window looks out at a portion of the expansive backyard
Patio doors slide open for easy access from the main level

Eric: The house isn’t complete yet. Since November 2019, we have slowly been adding finishing touches, like window coverings and missing cranks plus drywall touch ups. But we consider ourselves very lucky to be living in our new home. The combination of common space and private space has allowed us to weather the pandemic rather well. That’s not to say there is no tension, but that’s to be expected even during the best of times.

Li Wen and Eric’s master suite has a windsor bedframe and wallcovering, which gives it a woodsy cabin vibe
A view of Eric and Li Wen’s balcony from the backyard

Li Wen: One of my friends hasn’t seen her mom in two months because they didn’t allow visitors in her long-term care facility. I feel lucky everyone is together and safe at home. Eric and I are both working from here. My home office is directly across from the front door. It doesn’t have a separate entrance, and I haven’t seen patients here, but I do talk to them over video conference. Before the nice weather, in the early days of the lockdown, Charlotte would constantly knock on my home-office door during my calls with clients. That was tricky, but despite the disturbances, I’m happy to not have to commute to Scarborough every day like I used to.

Eric: I had negotiated working from home twice a week before the pandemic, so shifting my routine to full-time at home hasn’t changed too much professionally. Our built-in babysitter brigade takes turns watching Charlotte as she sprints around the backyard, where she collects branches and plays with her new mini-kitchen. She also has a small slide and a water and sand station.

Li Wen: Charlotte has become the main source of entertainment for all the adults. Before this, she was in daycare most days and we didn’t have that much time with her.

Charlotte’s bedroom has mini midcentury-modern furniture and a toddler-size trundle bed

Eric: The different areas of the house have helped us keep our daughter entertained, too. She uses the swim spa regularly. She has become pretty good and comfortable at wading in the water.

Li Wen: Eric has nurtured a love of baking, churning out four to five loaves a week. He makes farmer bread and baguettes. We used to buy bread from Longo’s, but nothing is fresher than this.Sign up for our newsletterFor the latest on Toronto during the reopening, subscribe to This CitySign me up!

Eric: Every two weeks, we also get a box of produce and meat delivered from a farm. Still, the seniors really miss going for dim sum each Sunday. And they have a touch of cabin fever, despite all the room to move about and the indoor pool.

Li Wen: To combat the boredom, my father-in-law, Roger, does weekly Zoom meetings with his geriatric day program. They exercise for 20 minutes and then talk about the news, but it’s hard because he can’t hear very well. Other seniors have attempted to boldly escape. One day, I found my mother-in-law, Christine, sneaking out. She said she was going for a walk, and that she wanted to start the car so the battery wouldn’t die. I think she might have been headed to one of her favourite spots: the supermarket. They are not as nervous as us—they’ve seen so much in their lives.

Source: Toronto Life – BY IRIS BENAROIA |

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENEE GODIN |  JUNE 19, 2020

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Genworth and Canada Guaranty Won’t Adopt CMHC’s New Mortgage Rules


Following the announcement of CMHC’s new mortgage rules last week, Canada’s other two mortgage insurers, Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty, confirmed today they will not be following CMHC’s lead.

“Genworth MI Canada Inc….confirms that it has no plans to change its underwriting policy related to debt service ratio limits, minimum credit score and down payment requirements,” the company said in a release.

Similarly, Canada Guaranty said it “confirms that no changes to underwriting policy are contemplated as a result of recent industry announcements.”

To recap CMHC’s mortgage rule changes, the following will apply to insured mortgages (those with less than 20% down payment) as of July 1, 2020:

  • Maximum Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratios will be lowered to 35% (from 39%)
  • Maximum Total Debt Service (TDS) ratios will be lowered to 42% (from 44%)
  • The minimum credit score needed to qualify will rise to 680 (from 600) for at least one household borrower
  • Many non-traditional sources of down payment that “increase indebtedness” will be banned
    • It has been confirmed, however, that borrowers will continue to be able to use a loan from their RRSP through the Home Buyers Plan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) on one of their second properties, or a HELOC on a property owned by their parents if the money is gifted.

“We acknowledge the potential ‘pro-cyclical’ negative impacts on housing markets of CMHC’s decision to tighten underwriting,” CMHC CEO Evan Siddall wrote on Twitter in response to criticism. “However, the benefits of preventing over-borrowing far exceed these costs. Not acting also exposes young families to the tragic prospect of foreclosure.”

Why the Other Insurers Won’t Adopt the New Rules

In explaining its decision, Genworth Canada President and CEO Stuart Levings said the company’s current underwriting policies for insured mortgages already allow it to “prudently” manage its risk exposure.

“Genworth Canada believes that its risk management framework, its dynamic underwriting policies and processes and its ongoing monitoring of conditions and market developments allow it to prudently adjudicate and manage its mortgage insurance exposure,” Levings noted, “including its exposure to this segment of borrowers with lower credit scores or higher debt service ratios.”

Similarly, Canada Guaranty said it has been well-served by its existing underwriting criteria over the years and sees no need to make adjustments now.

“Canada Guaranty utilizes a dynamic underwriting process where our underwriting policies are consistently updated to reflect evolving economic environments and emerging mortgage default patterns,” Mary Putnam, VP, Sales and Marketing of Canada Guaranty, said in a release, adding this has resulted in the lowest loss ratio in the industry.

“Recent insurer announcements relating to down payment and minimum credit score represent a very small component of Canada Guaranty’s business, and we will continue to be prudent in these areas,” she said. “Given implementation of the qualifying stress test and historic default patterns, Canada Guaranty does not anticipate borrower debt service ratios at time of origination to be a significant predictor of mortgage defaults.”

Observers saw the announcements as a positive for borrowers who will continue to have some options in the markets should they not be able to meet CMHC’s stricter qualification standards.

“We like this decision,” noted National Bank of Canada analyst Jaeme Gloyn. “The decision will help soften potential negative impacts to the housing/mortgage market as we argued against tinkering with mortgage underwriting criteria in light of the COVID-driven housing market slowdown.”

NBC had estimated that CMHC’s new rules relating to debt service ratios and credit scores could have impacted up to 20% of CMHC-insured borrowers.

Impact of CMHC’s New Mortgage Rules

So what are the impacts of CMHC’s new rules on borrowers shopping for high-ratio mortgages?

CIBC’s Benjamin Tal estimates the change will mean about 5% of homebuyers will no longer be able to qualify for a mortgage.

For those who can, it will mean a reduction in their buying power.

“Fewer people will qualify for a mortgage, and if they do, the maximum they can borrow will be around 10% or more less than it is right now, ” wrote Ross Taylor, a mortgage agent with Concierge Mortgage Group.

Taylor notes that a household earning $120,000 would currently qualify for a mortgage of around $565,000 plus insurance. With CMHC’s stricter rules, that same household would only qualify for a mortgage of approximately $502,000 plus insurance costs.

“…keeping good credit hygiene is more important than ever if you want to buy a home, especially if you need mortgage insurance,” Taylor adds.

Source: Steve Huebl· News Mortgage Regulations·June 8, 2020

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