Tag Archives: real estate

New Real Estate Investors: Essential Tips for How to Start and Be Successful

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New real estate investors have a lot to think about before embarking on their journey. Canada enjoys one of the hottest housing markets in the world, even in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. What’s more, the Canadian real estate market is not only heating up in major urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa. Small cities in the Prairies and Maritimes, and rural communities country-wide are generating a big buzz in today’s economy, which means the potential for a windfall.

But smart investing involves more than shelling out a down payment on a house or a condominium. It requires industry know-how, investing prowess, patience and initial capital. When you are beginning, it can be an overwhelming experience.

Don’t know where to start? Here are eight essential tips for new real estate investors:

#1. Ask Yourself These Questions

Real estate investing requires a heavy commitment. It is not something you can decide overnight. From upfront capital costs to taxes to various expenses associated with owning a property, real estate investors are forced to take on a lot of responsibility.

Therefore, before you initiate the process of investing in the housing market, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much money are you planning to invest in real estate?
  • Do you have good credit?
  • What is your personal financial situation like?
  • What funds will you use for a down payment (retirement, savings, investments)?
  • How much debt do you plan to take on (if any) in order to finance your investment?
  • Do you have any experience in real estate investing?

Real estate investing is not easy, and it will occupy some time. Make sure you’ve thought through the hard questions before you begin, to ensure that you’re starting your journey with enough foresight and the necessary resources at hand.

#2. Know How You’ll Be Generating Your Income

When you are investing in real estate, there are several different ways of generating an income. Here are the four primary methods:

  • Appreciation: A property increases in value amid changing real estate conditions.
  • Ancillary: This is when you have a mini business within a larger real estate investment, such as a vending machine in a laundry room in the apartment building.
  • Cash Flow: You collect a stream of cash from a tenant.
  • Commission Income: Real estate specialists earn a commission on properties they helped a client buy or sell.

When selecting a market to purchase in, or a property to buy, consider the amount of income that you’ll potentially receive through each of these streams. Is it worth the initial investment?

#3 Order Home Inspections Before Buying

Home inspections are a critical component of buying a property. In a red-hot real estate market, a growing number of potential homebuyers are foregoing this essential step so they can and the home almost immediately. This could be bad news.

Home inspections are crucial because they raise any red flags, such as repairs and renovations, that could cost you a lot of money once you receive the deed to the property.

How devastating would it be if you learned that the foundation needs to be fixed? This would set you back as much as $10,000, which is nothing to sneeze at – especially when you’re a beginner investor.

#4 Get an Appraisal

Property appraisals are just as important as home inspections because they inform you what the home is worth, using analysis from past, current and predicted future valuations. Moreover, if you are renting out the property, an appraisal can provide you with a ballpark figure of how much to charge per month.

#5 Focus on One Property

In the world of investing, it is recommended that diversification is the key to success. But while this is sound advice, it does not apply to real estate investors when they are starting out.

When you are beginning your real estate investment journey, it might be prudent to concentrate on one property at a time. Allocating your time and energy to more than one house or unit may prove challenging when you’re just starting out, and increases the risk of making costly mistakes.

#6 Consider Exit Strategies

Like shares in a stock or units in a mutual fund, you need to have an exit point. Once an investment reaches a certain point, you can hit the ‘sell’ button and enjoy the profits.

What is your exit strategy with your real estate investment? This is a pertinent question to put forward when you are just starting out, because you do not want to risk losing when you are on top. From a market crash to a new tax, there are many different ways someone can lose their investment, even when it seems like you’re set to experience a big win.

Most savvy real estate investors will advise you to define your exist strategy before you’ve even purchased the property. Some of the most common real estate investment exist strategies include:

  • Fix & Flip
  • Buy & Hold
  • Wholesaling
  • Seller Financing
  • Rent to Own

Learn about your options and based on your timeline and resources, consider which strategy will bring you close to your financial goal.

#7 Know Your Tax Laws

Taxes on real estate investing are complicated. Hiring a tax attorney, real estate lawyer, or accountant for your property is an investment that will pay dividends in the future.

Should you choose to go solo, it would be prudent to have a fundamental understanding of the tax laws in place regarding real estate investments.

Here are some basic elements of real estate tax law in Canada. This should not be taken as legal advice, and it is always recommended that investors consult a lawyer, but this list should give you some things to think about:

  • When you purchase a property, you pay a provincial transfer tax, which varies from province to province.
  • New home acquisitions are subject to the GST.
  • The Canadian Income Tax Act slaps a 25 per cent penalty of the gross property rental income per year.
  • Investors can usually deduct two kinds of incurred expenses: capital expenses and operating expenses.
  • Non-residents selling a Canadian property are mandated to give the federal government 50 per cent of the sale.

#8 Have Six Months of Money Reserves

One of the best pieces of advice anyone will ever give you when it comes to real estate investing is to have a minimum of six months of money reserves per property.

Even if the housing market is soaring or your investment has been reliable for the last 18 months, it is always fiscally responsible to have reserves at hand. The market could slump at any time, it could take time to find a tenant, or an emergency repair may crop up. With an adequate reserve fund, you’ll have enough cash to ride it out through any of these scenarios.

This cash, which could also be placed in a yield-bearing account, will prevent you from accessing credit markets, too.

Real estate investing has become a popular method of making money in a zero-interest-rate economy. Because the cost of borrowing is so cheap and the Canadian real estate market is booming, there is a great deal of interest in buying and selling properties, from semi-detached houses to one-bedroom condominiums. It can be a challenging experience when you are starting, but it can also be highly rewarding and profitable.

For more information on smart real estate investing tips, or for advice on which markets are ripe for investors, reach out to your local RE/MAX agent today!

Source; GlobalRemax.com – January 5th, 2021

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Home renovations: a primer on how to do them right

The bigger the home renovation, the bigger the risk something goes wrong. Fortunately, that can be avoided.

Niran Kulathungam, a financial life professional, real estate advisor and master coach with Legacy Global Inc., and owner of The Ascension Principle, has about 57 doors to his name. Moreover, as recipient of the REIN Multifamily Investor of the Year Award and Renovator of the Year Award in 2017, and winner of the Michael Millenaar Leadership Award in 2018, he’s far from a neophyte. Kulathungam says that whether renovations are undertaken for a fix and flip or because the owner intends to live in the home, a checklist is required at the outset.

“When you walk into a property, the first thing you do that most people don’t is detail the scope of the work. You might realize you need a new kitchen, but you should ask yourself a more important question: ‘How can I make this the most amazing, top-notch house on the street?’ I create a detailed budget and I figure out where the electrical outlets and lighting fixtures are going, and then I budget the cost for each of them. I budget for tiles and countertops, and I budget what it would cost to move stuff around. I budget for every single thing I’m going to do in that house.”

Kulathungam adheres to the ‘80:20 rule,’ which stipulates that, upon detailing the renovation plan, 20% of the improvements will comprise 80% of the value enhancement. Those improvements include renovations to the home’s exterior because of how important curb appeal is.

“Decisions to buy or rent a property are often made when the person drives by,” he said. “Would you be happy bringing your mother-in-law over to this house? Is it something you’d be proud of showing her or anybody else?”

Kitchen

Having a beautiful kitchen is a bare minimum requirement for any home that has a chance of selling in today’s housing market, but that often isn’t enough.

Just as Kulathungam asks himself how his renovated house will be the most beautiful on the street, he asks how his kitchen can exist in a class of its own?

“What about your kitchen says, ‘Wow!’ That’s where I tend to spend a little extra money. People still use cheap countertops in their kitchens, but in this day and age I always put in stone and quartz, and hardly ever any granite.”

Don’t think kitchen renovations begin and end with a nice countertop, added Kulathungam. The backsplash is a relatively inexpensive way to beautify, and differentiate, a kitchen.

“The proof is in the pudding on this one; I get good results with it. Standard practice right now is to do white subway tile for the backsplash. My question is: if every renovation has that, what can I do to stand apart? I will spend extra money on really nice backsplash because it will give me a return.”

Lighting

When it comes to lighting, don’t be miserly. Unlike most real estate investors, Kulathungam doesn’t mind spending more money on lighting if a high-end fixture or chandelier greets prospective buyers and renters upon their entry into the home, because it augurs yet more outstanding features to come.

“I want my kitchen and living room to rock,” said Kulathungam. “We renovated a bungalow in Stoney Creek and ended up vaulting the ceiling. By doing that, I dropped down three really nice lights, and to this day when anybody walks in, they go, ‘Wow!’ Lighting is crucial.”

Bathroom

To say the bathroom needs to look nice is an understatement — “you want to go for a spa-like feeling,” said Kulathungam.

That doesn’t just mean making good use of open space, especially if the home is a fix and flip; it means optimizing the things you cannot see. And what a wonderful surprise that could be for house hunters.

“Put in subfloor heating because it feels amazing and people absolutely love it. Lighting is, of course, important, and in some bathrooms I’ve done walk-in showers with glass walls and a sloped floor at the bottom leading into the drain. It’s more costly to do, but in a smaller bathroom it gives the appearance of space. If you renovate in an area where you attract families with young kids, you want bathtubs. If there aren’t young kids, then go with the walk-in.

“Put in nice taps, not cheap ones. If you renovate in Toronto, I would look at adding a towel warming rack. Although it isn’t that functional, it has that wow factor.”

Bedroom

According to Kulathungam, not much is needed to upgrade a master bedroom, however, because clutter is seldom spoken about in positive terms, and because bedrooms are proverbial sanctuaries, this room should feel commodious. Additionally, extensive closet space will make a believer out of even the most fastidious buyer.

“In downtown Toronto, closet space can be limiting. Put in barn sliding doors, with the slider outside the closet so that the entire door slides on the outside, instead of regular doors.”

Lighting inside closets, especially if you enlarge the space, is a great idea. Kulathungam recommends lighting that turns on when the door opens, and shuts when it closes. He also recommends figuring out where the television set will go and putting wiring in early on, as well as adding a modernizing feature.

“In the master bedroom and kitchen, put in some USB ports so that you can plug your cell phone directly into it,” said Kulathungam. “Little things like that go a long way towards doing a really nice renovation.”

Water issues

Identifying potential water issues is crucial because the house’s foundation, not to mention the costly renovations, could be compromised. Kulathungam begins his inspection of the house on its roof and works his way down each storey to the basement.

“Make sure downspouts are directed away from the foundation of the house,” he said, “and figure out what the issues are before you put flooring in.”

Condo renovations

These renovations are a little trickier than house renos, but many potential complications can be nipped in the bud early on in the process by simply being a good neighbour. For one, speak to the condo board right away and give them a heads up about what you’re planning to do in the unit, even though they can’t technically stop you, because certain things are allowed while others are prohibited. The structure falls under the purview of the condo board.

“I knock on the neighbours’ doors and give them my private cell phone number so that they can call me if they have any concerns,” Kulathungam. “I also offer to help them with their renovations by putting them in touch with my guys.”

Being a good neighbour doesn’t just stop there, though.

“In a condo, be respectful of your neighbours with respect to noise,” he added. “Make sure your guys renovate during normal work hours. I tell crews to keep music low and I tell them not to swear because noise carries in a condo.”

The cardinal rule of fix and flips

Plan ahead and always have a reserve budget, advises Kulathungam, because you may miss something lurking behind a wall. Most importantly, your name—your brand—is all over the property, so make sure you renovate it as if you’re its end user.

“Budget for things you did not initially budget for, and when you find a problem, don’t cover it up. Fix it. Your name is on the line. In this space, once you get a reputation as someone who can produce a great product—one where you don’t cut corners, one where you finish on budget and treat trades well, which helps you attract the best tradespeople on your subsequent projects—you also attract joint venture capital. If these lessons mean that you won’t make as much money on your first flip, rest assured that you will over the long haul, and you will create a name for yourself.”

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. 

Source: Canadian Real Estate Magazine – Neil Sharma 06 Jan 2021

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CRA cracking down on abuse of principal residence exemptions, but their assessments aren’t written in stone

The sale of one's home offers Canadians the best opportunity for a major tax-free gain.
The sale of one’s home offers Canadians the best opportunity for a major tax-free gain. PHOTO BY DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AP PHOTO FILES

There are very few things that are tax-free: investment income in your TFSA, lottery and casino winnings, purchasing six or more doughnuts (see what happens to the GST/HST next time you try it) and the gain from the sale of your principal residence are among the limited exceptions. With the odds of winning the lottery being slim at best, it’s the sale of one’s home that offers Canadians the best opportunity for a major tax-free gain.

In recent years, however, the Canada Revenue Agency has been cracking down on taxpayers who, in its view, are inappropriately claiming the principal residence exemption (PRE), particularly as it relates to flipping houses. If it’s determined that you’re regularly buying and selling homes, you can be denied the PRE, and be taxed on any profits as 100 per cent taxable business income, versus 50 per cent taxable capital gains. Take the recent case, decided in September, of an Ontario couple who bought and sold multiple homes between 2007 and 2012.

The couple, who live in the Ottawa area, bought and sold houses in each of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 and claimed the PRE to shelter the gain on each sale from tax. The CRA disagreed and sought to tax the income from the disposition of each of the five houses as business income. The CRA also levied gross negligence penalties.

Homes #1, #2 and #3

The taxpayer operated a concrete pouring business, and later, a foundation repair business.

In August 2006, the couple bought House #1. After moving in and doing some renovations and painting, they soon became dissatisfied with the house — it was located close to an industrial site and large trucks passed the house from 6 a.m. until late at night. The noise from the trucks was loud and the vibrations made the house shake. As a result, the couple, having only lived there for approximately ten months, decided to move, selling the home for a gain of $69,801 in 2007.

They then constructed House #2, their “dream home,” with substantial upgrades, and moved in September of 2007; however, the couple “quickly became unhappy with the neighbourhood…(and)…became concerned for (their twin) girls’ security, due to a ‘coyote invasion.’” The couple sold the home, moving out in Aug. 2008 having lived there for eleven months. The profit from the 2008 sale was $273,434.

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The following month, the couple moved into House #3, which they had constructed. Soon after they moved in, the real estate agent who had sold them their prior home approached them and asked if he could show their new house to his clients who apparently made an offer that the taxpayer couldn’t refuse. It was sold in Sept. 2009 for a substantial profit of $403,776 above the cost of the land and construction.

Houses #4 and #5

In Dec. 2009, the couple moved into newly purchased House #4, a townhouse on which they had made improvements. It turned out that the townhouse “was not a good buy” for the couple: the taxpayer’s truck was too large to be parked properly in the laneway and the neighbours complained about the couple “having loud social gatherings.” In Jan. 2011, they sold the home for a profit of $54,913.

They then moved into Home #5, making some improvements and doing some landscaping. But, in the end, this home, too, was “not their dream home,” and they sold it and moved out in July 2012, making a profit of $187,574. After selling it, they moved into a sixth home, where they still resided at the time of the trial.

The decision

In determining whether the sale of real estate is considered business income, the courts have traditionally considered the following factors: the nature of the property sold and how the taxpayer used it; the length of the ownership period; the frequency or number of other similar transactions by the taxpayer; the work expended on or in connection with the property; the circumstances giving rise to the sale of the property; and the taxpayer’s motive regarding the sale of the property at the time of purchase.

At the time of each purchase, the couple argued that it was clear that their motivation was not to sell the houses, testifying that “if their motivations had been to sell the houses at a profit, they would have not customized the houses and added the many upgrades.”

With respect to the sales in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the taxpayer also argued that it was too late for the CRA to reassess those tax years as they should be considered “statute barred.” The CRA is generally prohibited from reassessing an individual taxpayer more than three years after the original reassessment unless it can be shown that the taxpayer made “a false statement attributable to misrepresentation arising from carelessness, neglect or wilful default.”

Each year, the taxpayer consulted his accountant to obtain professional advice at the time of filing his tax returns. He explained to his CPA that his intentions were to stay in the houses, but “for legitimate reasons and circumstances beyond his control, he and his spouse had decided to sell the houses.”

The judge agreed that there was no misrepresentation attributable to neglect, carelessness or willful default. “It is clear … that simply because a taxpayer has adopted a position that contradicts the (CRA’s) position does not in itself mean a taxpayer has made a misrepresentation that would allow the (CRA) to reassess after the normal period.” Thus, the CRA was precluded from reassessing the taxpayer on the sales of Home #1, #2 and #3 in the three statute-barred years.

The judge, however, was of the view that the taxpayer’s “primary intention at the time of purchase of both (House #4 and #5) was to resell them at a profit. If it was not his primary intention, then the possibility of reselling them at profit was certainly a secondary intention motivating him to purchase both houses.” She thus ruled that the PREs did not apply to the gains on the sales of Houses #4 and #5 and they were properly taxable as business income.

Finally, the judge dismissed all gross negligence penalties assessed by the CRA since the taxpayer, based on the advice of his accountant, was under the impression that he could claim the PRE each year. As she wrote, “In my view, the (CRA) did not establish that (the taxpayer) knowingly make a false statement or omission when filing his income tax returns for the 2011 and 2012 taxation years.”

Note that since 2016, you are required to report all dispositions of a principal residence on Schedule 3 of your tax return, making it much easier for the CRA to review your PRE claim.

Source: Financial Post November 6, 2020: Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management in Toronto.

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What happens to a home or mortgage when someone dies? Many Canadians don’t know

What happens to a home or mortgage when someone dies? Many Canadians don

Despite our best efforts to distract ourselves from the inevitable – a cultural landscape built on invincible superheroes and the glorification of youth, a willingness to ignore the slow-motion destruction of the planet, the power wielded by religions that promise eternal life in exchange for free will – death, folks, is coming for us all.

Canadians who think their properties will automatically pass to their descendants when they die could be in for an unpleasant surprise if they come back to haunt them. As Bury explains, if a homeowner dies without a will, or with a will that somehow fails to specify who the deceased’s property is meant for, what happens to the home becomes a provincial decision. Each province has its own formula for distributing the deceased’s assets that takes priority over the dead person’s wishes.

Many readers, particularly those who help Canadians purchase homes, may have the impression that homeowners instinctively recognize the necessity of including their properties in their wills long before the reaper gives them a lift to the other side. But new data from Angus Reid and online estate planning platform Willful shows an alarming lack of knowledge among Canadians when it comes to what happens to their properties and their mortgages after they die.

When asked “Do you know what happens to your home if you pass away without a will?” only 21 percent of respondents provided the correct answer, that it will be distributed to an individual’s dependents according to a provincial formula. The remaining 79 percent included people who mistakenly think their properties will automatically go to their spouse or children (48 percent) or to the government (6 percent), while 24 percent admitted they don’t know.

That lack of understanding is undoubtedly related to the fact that only 51 percent of homeowners surveyed reported having up-to-date wills. Thirty-six percent reported not having a will at all.

Willful CEO Erin Bury found the latter figure shocking.

“I expected that that number would be much better once they owned a home because as soon as you accumulate a large asset or you get married or you have kids, those are the inflection points that cause you to think about getting a will,” Bury says.

The fact that Canadians are in the dark about after-death planning with regard to real estate is somewhat less surprising. There are always barriers preventing people from putting a will together, from an unwillingness to confront one’s own mortality, to the costs involved, to the one thing that is almost as common as death itself: the human propensity to procrastinate.

“It seems like one of those things you can put off until tomorrow,” Bury says. “I’m a journalism grad – I don’t do anything without a deadline – and you don’t have a deadline for creating your will.”

At least not one anyone can truly be aware of.

Implications of ignorance

A misunderstanding of what happens to a person’s property once they’ve died can cause extreme distress, both financial and emotional, for her surviving family members.

Canadians who think their properties will automatically pass to their descendants could be in for an unpleasant surprise if they come back to haunt them. As Bury explains, even when a will lists a spouse or child as a beneficiary, each province has its own formula for distributing the deceased’s assets that takes priority over the dead person’s wishes.

“It may not actually be divided the way that you would want,” she says. “And if you have a common law spouse, unless they’re a joint owner of the home, they are not accounted for under that provincial formula.”

In most cases, the executor identified in a person’s will will be instructed to sell the deceased’s assets, although the executor has the power to do what they feel is in the surviving family members’ best interest. If Bury dies – her example! – and leaves the home to her husband, it’s unlikely that her executor would do anything beyond transferring the title and mortgage.

If a person dies and names no executor, things slow down considerably. In this case, the court will appoint an administrator to the deceased’s case. The administrator plays the same role as an executor, but because they don’t have the power to act until the court appoints them, descendants hoping to sell the deceased’s home could be waiting weeks or months until an administrator is in place.

Having an executor in place is a far better course of action. Administrators, Bury says, will seek guidance from a person’s beneficiaries, “but they do not have to listen to them.”

The survey also found that a majority of Canadian homeowners don’t know what happens to their mortgages when they die. Only 28 percent of respondents realize that their mortgage needs to be paid by the beneficiary who receives their properties.

“It does not disappear, unfortunately,” says Bury, although that’s exactly what 12 percent of survey respondents think happens to a mortgage when a borrower dies.

Property owners, particularly investors, must also keep in mind the tax bills awaiting their surviving family members. The CRA treats a dead individual’s assets as if they were all sold on the day prior to his death, meaning capital gains taxes on non-primary residents need to be paid – even if the home is left to a beneficiary. Joint ownership of a property with a spouse can provide a clean and legal work-around; otherwise, those left behind will need to foot the bill.

“Everyone works their entire life to leave this meaningful legacy for their beneficiaries,” Bury says, “and I’m not sure that Canadians really understand what’s going to end up in their beneficiaries’ pockets at the end of the day.”

It’s the unknowns that make death so scary. Having a will in place might not alleviate all of a person’s fears about the infinite void we’re all inching toward, but it can reduce the greatest one of all: Will my family be taken care of when I’m no longer around to protect them? 

Source: Mortgage Broker News by Clayton Jarvis 09 Oct 2020

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Canadian Cities Where It’s Cheaper to Buy a Home Today Vs. 5 Years Ago: REPORT

Canadian Cities Where It’s Cheaper to Buy a Home Today Vs. 5 Years Ago: REPORT

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National home sales and listings continued to climb in housing markets across the country this August, as some of the pressure from pent-up demand was released this summer when pandemic restrictions eased. Buyers returning to the market did so with refocused housing priorities; a growing number began looking to suburban and rural markets in search of greater square footage relative to what’s available in denser urban centres.

Despite the surge in demand, the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) recently reiterated their forecast that home prices are likely to dip in the coming months; citing pandemic-induced unemployment and slower in-bound migration weighing on demand, particularly in metropolitan cities like Toronto and Vancouver. 

To understand how current home prices compare to the past, Zoocasa used data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to highlight trends in benchmark home prices for apartments and single-family houses in 15 Canadian regions over the past 5 years. We highlight the extent to which benchmark home prices grew or contracted in each region, offering a glimpse at regions where housing is more or less affordable today than it was 5 years ago. 

Overall, the Canadian benchmark apartment price rose a staggering 52% in 5 years, from $315,600 in August 2015 to $478,700 in August 2020. The benchmark price for single-family houses across Canada rose 40% from $486,800 to $683,400. That being said, a closer look at each area included in our analysis reveals that certain housing markets faced a much higher pace of price growth than others, with others noting benchmark price declines that resulted in housing becoming more affordable today than it was 5 years ago. 

Prairie Markets Including Calgary and Edmonton More Affordable Today Than 5 Years Ago

Overall, Prairie cities offer first-time home buyers some of the best affordability in the country, with benchmark prices under $250,000 for apartments and under $500,000 for single-family houses this August. In fact, the Prairies are one of the few regions where a benchmark apartment and single-family house is more affordable today than it was 5 years ago. 

In Calgary, Canada’s third most populous city, the benchmark apartment price was $248,500 in August 2020, dropping 14% or $41,900 since 2015. The benchmark single-family house in Calgary is now $466,000, which is 6% or $30,800 cheaper than the price 5 years ago. Similarly, in Edmonton, the benchmark apartment is 17%, or $37,300, cheaper than it was 5 years ago at $183,900 and the benchmark single-family house cost $377,300 in August this year, vs. $396,800 in August 2015, a drop of 5% or $19,500. 

Given their proximity to the Canadian Rockies, both Calgary and Edmonton offer good opportunities for buyers with remote-working flexibility seeking greater square footage and green space. Comparatively, the benchmark apartment price in Toronto is nearly double the price of the benchmark apartment in Calgary, and the benchmark single-family house in Toronto is more than double Calgary. Additionally, both Calgary and Edmonton have a much lower population density at approx. 1,900 people per square kilometer in Calgary and 1,400 people per square kilometer in Edmonton versus 4,700 people per square kilometer in Toronto.  

Elsewhere in the Prairies, compared to 5 years ago, the benchmark apartment price is 21% lower in Regina ($174,800), 13% lower in Saskatoon ($180,200), and 3% lower in Winnipeg ($196,800). Compared to 5 years ago, single-family house prices are 3% lower in Regina ($286,900) and Saskatoon ($319,400), but up 17% in Winnipeg to $300,500.

Benchmark Apartment Prices Rose Over 50% in 7 Markets Over the Past 5 Years 

Of the 15 markets included in our analysis, the benchmark price for apartments rose by more than 50% in 7 markets. Fraser Valley, BC, where the benchmark price increased 104% to $437,300, led the country in terms of the increase in benchmark prices for apartments over the past 5 years. 

Fraser Valley  was followed by a number of markets in Southern Ontario. Niagara Region led price growth in the area, with the benchmark price growing 87% to $354,400. This was followed by Greater Toronto where the benchmark price rose 78% to $592,900, Hamilton-Burlington where the price rose 74% to $471,100 and Guelph where there was a 73% increase in the benchmark apartment price to $379,000. 

This was followed by Victoria, where the benchmark apartment price grew 65% to $504,900 and Greater Vancouver where it rose 63% to $685,800. Although Greater Vancouver didn’t see the highest percentage growth in benchmark apartment price, it experienced the largest increase in dollar amount at +$265,100. 

Ottawa and Montreal also saw gains in the benchmark apartment price since five years ago, but at 46% and 35%, respectively.

Benchmark Prices for Single-Family Houses Grew 50% or more in 7 Regions Over the Past 5 Years 

7 out of 15 markets included in our analysis also noted a 50% or higher increase in the benchmark price for single-family houses. 

Niagara Region experienced the highest growth, with the benchmark price for single-family houses almost doubling, with a staggering 95% increase in 5 years to $490,500. This was followed by Hamilton-Burligton (71%), Guelph (63%), Fraser Valley (62%), Ottawa (53%), Greater Toronto (51%), and Victoria (50%). 

Montreal, Greater Vancouver and Winnipeg single-family benchmark prices also rose, but at 46%, 28% and 17% respectively. 

Our infographic below maps and compares benchmark prices for apartments and single-family houses for each region included in our analysis in August 2020 and August 2015, noting the extent to which prices changed in each region. Further below, find a list of the top regions where it is cheaper to buy an apartment and a single-family house today than it was 5 years ago, and a list of the regions where benchmark prices for apartments and single-family houses have risen the most since August 2015.

Top 3 Regions Where it’s Cheaper to Purchase the Benchmark Apartment Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)

1. Regina 

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $174,800

5-Year % Difference: -21%

5-Year $ Difference: -$46,900

2. Edmonton

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $183,900

5-Year % Difference: -17%

5-Year $ Difference: -$37,300

3. St. John’s 

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $236,200

5-Year % Difference: -16%

5-Year $ Difference: -$43,700

Top 3 Regions Where it’s Cheaper to Purchase the Benchmark Single-Family House Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)

1. Calgary 

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $466,000

5-Year % Difference: -6%

5-Year $ Difference: -$30,800

2. St John’s

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $271,600

5-Year % Difference: -6%

5-Year $ Difference: -$17,600

3. Edmonton

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $377,300

5-Year % Difference: -5%

5-Year $ Difference: -$19,500

Top 3 Regions Where it’s More Expensive to Purchase the Benchmark Apartment Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %) 

1. Fraser Valley

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $437,300

5-Year % Difference: +104%

5-Year $ Difference: +$223,400

2. Niagara Region

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $354,400

5-Year % Difference: +87%

5-Year $ Difference: +$165,100

3. Greater Toronto

Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $592,900

5-Year % Difference: +78%

5-Year $ Difference: +$259,800

Top 3 Regions Where it’s More Expensive to Purchase the Benchmark Single-Family House Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %) 

1. Niagara Region

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $490,500

5-Year % Difference: +95%

5-Year $ Difference: +$239,300

2. Hamilton-Burlington

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $751,300

5-Year % Difference: +71%

5-Year $ Difference: +$311,300

3. Guelph

Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $651,600

5-Year % Difference: +63%

5-Year $ Difference: +$251,000

Sources

Benchmark apartment and benchmark single-family house prices were sourced from the Canadian Real Estate Association. 

Data use to calculate population density was sourced from Calgary Economic Development, City of Edmonton and City of Toronto.  

Source: Zoocasa – BY JANNINE RANE September 29, 2020

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New Home Checklist: 6 To-Do’s Before Settling In

A locksmith changing a door lock.

Moving into a new home is exciting–it represents a fresh start with new rooms to decorate, and a new neighbourhood to explore. However, setting up your house can also be exhausting and stressful. But don’t worry–we’ve compiled a helpful checklist of things to cross off before you settle in. And if you’re moving to a new city, your REALTOR® is a great resource for advice about tasks to take care of, who to tap for help and how tofind the best schools for your kids.

A man in a red shirt contemplates his finances.

1. Update your address and transfer utilities

Before you move in, you’ll need to update your address, which is linked to everything from your driver’s license to your health card. Be sure to inform everyone–your bank, insurance company, credit cards and loyalty programs–so you won’t miss important notices. You may also want to set up temporary mail-forwarding with Canada Post. While you’re at it, get in touch with utility companies several weeks before the move, so they can transfer and activate your electricity, gas, telephone and internet accounts over to the new place. 

A locksmith changing a door lock.

2. Change your locks and codes

Get some peace of mind–who knows how many keys to your house the previous owners gave out–by installing new deadbolts yourself for as little as $30 per lock, or calling a locksmith for about $100 for a service call. Make extra sets of keys for trusted family members or friends, in case you get locked out or need them to check the property when you’re away. Change your garage door and alarm codes, too.

A person replacing the battery in a smoke alarm.

3. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Home safety experts recommend checking your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every six months, and changing the batteries then, too. Be sure there’s one on each floor of the house. Many local fire departments offer free inspections and testing, so ask your REALTOR® about this.

A family washing windows.

4. Get your home squeaky clean

Before moving all your belongings in, take some time to deep clean all the nooks and crannies, or hire a professional to do it for you for about $100. Don’t forget to get your carpets steamed–cleaning services charge about $65 an hour, or you can rent a machine for about $80 and do it yourself. This is also a great time to put on a fresh coat of paint throughout the house and get rid of an lingering pet smells.

5. Get to know your new home’s systems

Becoming a homeowner means understanding how everything works so you can maintain your investment. Know where your property’s HVAC (air conditioning and heating) system, circuit-breaker and main water shut-off valves are located, plus how to turn them on and off in an emergency. It’s a good idea to get your home’s systems inspected (if your home inspector didn’t already do so). 

Pro tip: Check your water meter at the beginning and end of a two-hour period during which no water is being used. If the reading changes, you likely have a leak that needs fixing.

A man taking out his garbage.

6. Make a home maintenance schedule

Your home inspection report might contain suggestions for repairs to carry out, as well as tips for when and how to perform seasonal maintenance checks to your house.  Set up a filing system for manuals and instructions, and create a to-do list you can refer to throughout the year. It’s recommended you save about 1% of your home’s purchase price each year for repairs. Since you’ll probably need the services of a plumber, electrician, exterminator or landscaper at some point, research local businesses. 

Your REALTOR® can also help you navigate the whole moving process and also recommend reputable tradespeople, so don’t hesitate to reach out so all your questions get answered as you celebrate this new chapter in your life.

Source: Realtor.ca –  Wendy Helfenbaum

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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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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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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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