Before you take ownership of the property, your mortgage provider will likely want to see proof that the home is insured. This protects their interest in the building in case of damage or loss. Here are 5 tips for insuring your first home:
1. Be honest during your application
Buying insurance is not like buying a candy bar. It’s a contract with requirements from both parties. The most important thing to remember when purchasing insurance for your first home is to answer the application questions with as much openness and honesty as possible. This will help to ensure that the policy you purchase will be valid in the event you need to make a claim.
It’s worth doing some research on your home at this stage so that you’re prepared to answer any questions that may arise during a quote. For example, you may need to know about your home’s construction or the age of key systems, like the roof or furnace. Also, be clear about who’s living at the property and in what capacity. Any tenants occupying rental suites should be disclosed upfront.
Photo: James Bombales
2. Consider if you’d like to make renovations
Similarly, if you’re thinking about making changes to your home, be sure to let your insurance provider know before you start renovating. For most renovations, Square One will simply update your policy to cover the renovations, and follow up every now and then to check on your progress. There’s typically no need to buy a new policy to ensure your home remains protected. Just be sure to update the value of your home to include the renovations. That way, you won’t be forced to pay for them twice in the event of a total loss.
3. Check for lender-specific requirements
Most mortgage providers require confirmation of insurance before they’re willing to release the funds for your purchase. The terms of requirements differ with each lender, so be sure to identify what’s needed before you sign the dotted line.
For example, your mortgage providers will need to be listed as a “mortgagee” on your policy. This means you can’t simply cancel the coverage without the mortgage provider finding out. Most will also require an appraisal of the home’s value. Some mortgage providers will require a home inspection, or might have specific coverage requirements, such as Guaranteed Building Replacement coverage. This coverage guarantees that your home will be rebuilt in the event of a total loss, even if the cost to do so exceeds the limit of your coverage.
Photo: James Bombales
4. Pay attention to your home’s systems
Your home inspector should identify the type, age and condition of your home’s systems. If your home contains older or less reliable systems such knob + tube wiring or Kitec plumbing, you may want to consider upgrading to a more modern alternative. Not only will this provide some leverage for you to re-negotiate the purchase price, but upgrading to copper wire and pipes (considered the gold-standard) could help safeguard your home. Many providers, including Square One, offer a reduction in your home insurance premium if you’re willing to upgrade your home’s systems. (However, not all providers do – so if this is part of your decision-making process, check with your provider to be sure.)
5. Qualify for discounts to your premium
Homeowners with a history of continuous, claims-free coverage will often qualify for discounts on their premium– even if they’ve only previously held a policy for tenant’s insurance. Your insurance provider wants to see that you’re responsible and proactive about managing the risks associated with your home. And, because tenant insurance policies are typically cheaper than homeowner’s policies, the discount that’s applied to your future homeowner’s insurance premium may help to offset the cost of your tenant insurance today.
Our gallery of home inspection nightmares (below) is good for a laugh, but a home inspection is serious business. It’s the buyer’s opportunity to make sure that the house they’re about to purchase doesn’t hold any expensive surprises.
A typical home inspection includes a check of a house’s structural and mechanical condition, from the roof to the foundation, as well as tests for the presence of radon gas and the detection of wood-destroying insects. Depending on the seriousness of what the inspection uncovers, the buyer can walk away from the deal (most contracts include an inspection contingency in the event of major flaws) or negotiate with the seller for the necessary repairs.
These are the red flags that should send a buyer back to the negotiating table, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit.
1. Termites and other live-in pests: The home you’ve fallen in love with may also be adored by the local termite population. The sooner termites are detected, the better. The same goes for other wood-devouring pests like powder-post beetles. Keep in mind that getting rid of the intruders is just the first step. Once the problem has been addressed, have a pest control expert advise you on what needs to be done in order to prevent their return.
2. Drainage issues: Poor drainage can lead to wood rot, wet basements, perennially wet crawlspaces and major mold growth. Problems are usually caused by missing or damaged gutters and downspouts, or improper grading at ground level. Correcting grading and replacing gutters is a lot less costly than undoing damage caused by the accumulation of moisture.
3. Pervasive mold: Where moisture collects, so grows mold, a threat to human health as well as to a home’s structure. Improper ventilation can be the culprit in smaller, more contained spaces, such as bathrooms. But think twice about buying a property where mold is pervasive — that’s a sign of long-term moisture issues.
4. Faulty foundation: A cracked or crumbling foundation calls for attention and repair, with costs ranging from moderate to astronomically expensive. The topper of foundation expenses is the foundation that needs to be replaced altogether — a possibility if you insist on shopping “historic” properties. Be aware that their beautiful details and old-fashioned charms may come with epic underlying expenses.
6. Worn-out roofing: Enter any sale agreement with an awareness of your own cost tolerance for roof repair versus replacement. The age and type of roofing material will figure into your home inspector’s findings, as well as the price tag of repair or replacement. An older home still sheltered by asbestos roofing material, for example, requires costly disposal processes to prevent release of and exposure to its dangerous contents.
7. Toxic materials: Asbestos may be elsewhere in a home’s finishes, calling for your consideration of containment and replacement costs. Other expensive finish issues include lead paint and, more recently, Chinese drywall, which found its way into homes built during the boom years of 2004 and 2005. This product’s sulfur off-gassing leads to illness as well as damage to home systems, so you’ll need to have it completely removed and replaced if it’s found in the home that you’re hoping to buy.
8. Outdated wiring: Home inspectors will typically open and inspect the main electrical panel, looking for overloaded circuits, proper grounding and the presence of any trouble spots like aluminum branch circuit wiring, a serious fire hazard.
Waiving a home inspection is like purchasing a used car on Craigslist without taking a look under the hood — you’re likely to run into issues down the road. A new survey from the online home improvement marketplace, Porch, reveals that 86 percent of home inspections uncover one or more problems that need to be addressed. While hiring a home inspector will set you back about $377 on average, their expertise could save you from buying a lemon or shelling out thousands of dollars in future repairs.
Prospective homebuyers can use the information provided by a home inspector to negotiate a lower sales price, accounting for the cost of repairs or replacing a feature altogether. Of the 1,000 individuals surveyed by Porch who hired a home inspector, 37 percent submitted a revised offer with help from their real estate agent, saving an average of $14,000 off the listing price of their new home. That’s no small chunk of change!
Here we examine the most-flagged home inspection issues buyers can use to negotiate the best sale price.
Photo: James Bombales
1. Roof – flagged in 19.7% of reports
Roofs with asphalt or cedar shingles have an average lifespan of 20 years whereas metal roofs only need to be replaced every 50 to 75 years. Your home inspector will look for signs of water damage, mold or algae, and take note of any sagging or missing shingles.
2. Electrical – flagged in 18.7% of reports
If you’re looking to purchase a home built prior to the 1950s, you’ll want to inquire about its electrical wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring, which was popular from the 1880s to the 1940s, can cause electrical shocks and fire. Other issues to take note of include exposed wiring, ungrounded wire receptacles and paint on electrical outlets.
Photo: James Bombales
3. Windows – flagged in 18.4% of reports
While broken windows are a pretty obvious spot, your home inspector may conduct a simple test to check for air leaks. However, there’s no guarantee the home owners will agree to repair the window seals — some consider this cosmetic, rather than structural.
4. Gutters – flagged in 16.9% of reports
Your home inspector will want to make sure the gutters are in good working condition, assessing their size, any damage, and how far water is directed away from the house.
Photo: James Bombales
5. Plumbing – flagged in 13.6% of reports
Plumbing problems can quickly add up, costing an unsuspecting homeowner thousands of dollars. With a flashlight in hand, your home inspector will scan for potential leaks, polybutylene piping, DIY projects gone wrong, tree root damage, and more.
6. Branches overhanging roof – flagged in 13.3% of reports
Having an old-growth tree in your front yard might seem like a selling point, but it can actually cause a lot of damage if not properly maintained. Branches can rip off roof shingles, leaves can pile up and clog up your gutters, and heavy limbs can come crashing down into your living room.
Home inspectors will evaluate the condition of a fence that lines the property. But again, this is one of those “choose your battles” situations. Are you willing to risk losing out on your dream home because a few pickets have gone missing? Probably not.
8. Water heater – flagged in 12.2% of reports
While a rickety fence may be no big deal, a busted up water heater certainly is. Home inspectors check for things like water leaks, sediment buildup, corrosion on the pipes, and low water pressure.
Photo: James Bombales
9. Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landing – flagged in 11.9% of reports
Cracks in your driveway or patio are pretty much inevitable. That being said, you’ll want the home inspector to ensure water isn’t seeping into those crevices. If major issues do turn up, you may be able to seek compensation for those repairs.
10. Air conditioning – flagged in 9.9% of reports
According to the Porch survey, most homebuyers negotiate only $500 for AC repairs, but the actual costs are much higher — think thousands of dollars, not hundreds.
Photo: James Bombales
11. Exterior paint – flagged in 9.6% of reports
If the house was constructed before 1979, your inspector will likely conduct a lead paint test. Additionally, if the exterior paint is peeling, some lenders (like the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs) will not approve the loan due to concerns over health and safety.
12. Foundation issues/cracks – flagged in 8.9% of reports
Home inspectors can look for obvious signs of foundation problems like cracks in basement walls, damaged bricks and uneven floors. If you and your home inspector suspect the problems are serious, you may want to bring in an engineer. But consider it money well spent — foundation fixes can cost $10,000 or more. Gulp.
When it comes to real estate, one of the most common questions is: when is the best time to buy? The typical response is the best time to buy was yesterday and the second best time is today. That response is a bit clichéd as many homebuyers have heard it before and it doesn’t provide any practical advice.
Buying a home will likely be the largest purchase people make in their lives which is why they want to be as informed as possible when making their decisions. It’s impossible to predict where the markets are headed, but there are some scenarios where it makes sense to get into the market.
Early in the year
Historically, real estate sales slowdown at the start of the year. This happens because many people aren’t exactly excited to go out in the winter to search for a new home. Although there’s usually less inventory available during this season, there’s an opportunity for buyers since sellers may be more motivated to negotiate on price to complete the sale.
When interest rates are low
Over the last couple of years, interest rates in Canada have been at near record lows. In 2018, when the Canadian economy was doing well, the Bank of Canada increased interest rates three times from 1% to the current rate of 1.75%. The economy has since cooled and a recent poll found that many economists expect rates to remain flat until the end of 2020.
In the first half of 2020, we’ve seen mortgage rates fluctuate both up and down. In early 2019, 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates rose to between 4.5% and 5.0%. However, right now, we’re seeing rates as low as 2.54% which can be very appealing to potential and current homeowners.
When your financial situation is optimal
Buying a home is a goal for many Canadians, but it’s easier to make that a reality if your financial situation is in good standing. Ideally, you should have a secure income, good credit score, no or limited debt, and a healthy down payment.
By having all of the above, lenders are more likely to approve you for a mortgage in the amount you’re looking for. That’s not to say that lenders will ignore potential homeowners who have debt or are on a single income, it just means that they may not be extended as much money.
When inventories are high
Real estate is cyclical and things can change fast. A seller’s market can quickly become a buyer’s market if a lot of homes are up for sale. Generally speaking, spring and summer are when listings are at their peak, but there’s also an increased amount of buyers so that doesn’t automatically mean buyers will get a deal.
The highest month for home-for-sale inventories is May, followed by April and June which lines up perfectly for potential homeowners who are looking to move in by Labour Day. If there are more homes for sale compared to buyers, then sellers will need to ensure their home is priced competitively so they can get it off the market.
When the economy is doing well
Although interest rates may rise when the economy is doing well, it may still be a good time to buy a home. Those looking to buy who have been pre-approved for a mortgage may not feel the effects of any increased rates and they may be able to take advantage of new market conditions.
With an increased economy, there may be more construction of new homes which means more inventory for potential homeowners to choose from. This scenario also helps current homeowners who are looking to move up on the property ladder since they’ll likely have an easier time selling their current home before buying a new one.
The pros and cons of buying real estate
The above factors are all good reasons to start looking for a home but note that homeownership isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking to enter the real estate market, it’s important to look at the pros and cons early so you know what you’re getting into.
As a homeowner, you can choose what to do with your home
Over time, you build equity in your home
You may be able to generate income from your home by renting it out (or a portion of it)
There are some tax benefits e.g. tax deductions on mortgage interest
As a homeowner, you’re responsible for all the maintenance and repairs
There’s limited flexibility if you need to relocate quickly
A huge part of your net worth is locked into your home which makes it difficult to diversify
There are additional expenses that renters don’t have such as property tax and repairs
As you can see, deciding on when is a good time to get into the real estate market depends on quite a few things. There’s never an ideal time, but you can look at the current market conditions as well as your own financial situation and then decide if you’re ready to become a homeowner.
Source: Equitable Bank – Joe Flor Director, National Sales
Equitable Bank is a major lender partner to the mortgage broker network and offers mortgage products to meet almost every client need. To find out more call us at 905-813-4354 or stop by our office for a chat.
New York City’s reputation as one of Earth’s most expensive—and daunting—real estate markets is well-earned, thank you very much: $1.8 million studio apartments? Check. Full-cash offers everywhere you look? Check. Freakishly competitive open houses? You bet. Welcome to the big time—with the prices and killer views to match. It’s little wonder that housing is top of mind for just about all of the nearly 8.4 million folks who call the Center of the Universe home.
Everyone, it seems, is angling to hit the NYC trifecta: a decent space in a good neighborhood at an affordable price. That’s why it’s so important to get a handle of what’s going to be the next big neighborhood, before it explodes in popularity and prices get out of reach.
To find out which neighborhoods in this bellwether, nationally scrutinized market are seeing the biggest price climbs—and the biggest falls—we teamed up with real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Miller Samuel. He compared the median home sale prices in all of New York City’s neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs in 2017 and 2018. We included only the neighborhoods with at least 25 sales in both years.
What we found is a city going through churn, much of it due to the flurry of luxury development in some areas that traditionally have had older—and more affordable—homes. Prices go up, an area gets saturated, the luxury stock sells out, then prices go back down. Rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, the megadevelopment causes people to search out nearby areas that might be cheaper.
It’s the NYC circle of life, and it’s accelerating.
“Developers have left no stone unturned and developed wherever they could,” says Miller. “They went everywhere there was an opportunity. And that caused a lot of price fluctuations, especially in more modestly priced neighborhoods that saw a lot of new, high-end development introduced.”
But New York City hasn’t been immune to national trends. The overall market is slowing throughout all of its five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and “can’t-get-no-respect” Staten Island. The city has been particularly affected by the national tax changes that make it more expensive to own a home in pricier parts of the country, says Miller.
More fun still: This month, New York state’s new mansion tax went into effect, upping the amount of taxes on properties $2 million and up. Sales had been down earlier in the year, but the prospect of giving more to Uncle Sam resulted in a rush of higher-priced home sales. Going forward, the number of sales is expected to fall back down again. Phew … Dramamine, please.
High price tags are pushing many New Yorkers farther out into cheaper communities such as the Bronx, which doesn’t have the hipster cred or water views of Brooklyn. But dollars can stretch way further there.
“A large shift or decline [in a New York neighborhood] is generally not a reflection of weakness,” says Miller. “It’s more of a reflection of … now it’s back to business.”
So which neighborhoods are seeing the largest real estate price spikes? And which expensive communities are getting (a bit) more affordable?
Annual median price increase: 122.7% Median 2018 home price: $612,500
When folks think of the Bronx, the mix of grand Tudors, Georgian Revival estates, and midcentury modern homes and lovely winding streets in suburban Fieldston are rarely what come to mind. Homeowners in this privately owned enclave of tony Riverdale pay property taxes and fees to their property owners association, which maintains the streets and sewers and pays for its own security patrol.
Prices are surging because word has gotten out: Buyers are increasingly drawn to its seductive combo of urban and suburban living. The historically designated community is near top private schools, which include the Horace Mann School and Riverdale Country School. It’s also only steps away from the Hudson River and the 28-acre green oasis of Wave Hill Public Gardens in the northwest swath of the Bronx.
“In Fieldston, you are part of the city but you have the real suburban feeling,” says Chintan Trivedi, a licensed real estate broker with Re/Max In the City. “Here you’re getting a real home, a backyard and a private community.
“For a good house with a larger backyard, a complete renovation, and maybe a pool, you can expect to pay $1.5 million to $2.5 million,” he says. But there are six-bedroom homes listed in the $1 million range. Just tryto get that in Manhattan. (Spoiler: You can’t!)
Annual median price increase: 41.2% Median 2018 home price: $275,000
Just south of Fieldston are the middle-class communities of Kingsbridge and University Heights, where buyers can score deals for a fraction of the price. But the lack of homes for sale and little turnover are causing prices to heat up. And investors are buying up whatever lots and houses they can for new development or rehabbing.
“The Bronx is the new Queens in the sense that there’s been an expansion of demand moving out from Manhattan as consumers search for affordability,” says Miller.
The neighborhood’s become popular with 20- and 30-somethings looking for a reasonably priced community with an urban vibe. Hilly Kingsbridge is filled with century-old, single-family houses and midrise co-op and apartment buildings as well as plenty of shopping, parks, and public transit.
These buyers “are[part of] the new generation that’s learning that real estate should be part of their planning,” says Trivedi. “They want to feel like they’re in Manhattan—a place where they can still go right downstairs and get a smoothie.”
Annual median price increase: 38.7% Median 2018 home price: $1,535,000
Over the past couple of decades, lower Manhattan’s East Village has shed its image as a sketchy, open-air drug market to become a sought-after place known for lively bars, great restaurants, and a defiantly boho vibe—as well as a slew of new, high-priced developments, causing prices to jump. They’re going up everywhere you look.
Annual median price increase: 36.1% Median 2018 home price: $1,226,750
Like the East Village, Prospect Heights has been rapidly gentrifying. Professionals, families, and a few stray hipsters are drawn to its charming rows of stunningly restored early 19th-century, multistory brownstones on tree-lined streets. The neighborhood is near several main subway lines and in close proximity to the 526-acre Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It also borders Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets (and soon the team’s new dynamic duo, superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving).
In recent years, Prospect Heights has become popular with folks priced out of neighboring Park Slope, a community long popular with upper-middle-class families. They gravitate to the brownstones as well as the new high-rises and the used bookstore, artisanal bakeries, and constant stream of new restaurants.
Not surprisingly, the Prospect Heights neighborhood has attracted a slew of developers putting up luxury condo and apartment buildings wherever they can. Those high-end housing developments are skewing the neighborhood’s median prices up to new heights.
This isn’t the kind of place where you’ll find buzzed-about restaurants—you’re more likely to stumble upon a dollar store than a bougie boutique. It’s a more down-to-earth community, populated by old-school Brooklynites, hipsters, as well as Pakistani, Orthodox and Hasidic Jew, Mexican, Chinese, and Latin American immigrant groups.
Annual median price increase: -40.7% Median 2018 home price: $915,500
Once grim downtown Brooklyn has been booming in recent years. It’s become home to a slew of glassy, luxury high-rises. So why are prices in such a vibrant area plummeting?
Well, now there’s a glut of new construction, giving buyers more negotiating power as buildings compete against one another to lure residents. Plus, builders are putting up towers with some smaller, less expensive units. But in NYC, less expensive is relative. Buyers might save themselves a couple hundred thousand on a million-plus-dollar condo.
But many of the condos here, some designed by famous architects, come with just about every amenity imaginable, including sun decks, hot tubs, dog runs, saltwater pools, and even music studios. This two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom abode in a 57-floor building is going for $2,040,000.
Some believe developers overshot their market.
“Developers there created a mountain of homogenous product,” says agent Blumstein with the Corcoran Group. Buildings in the area “were built on the thought that people are demanding amenities. But the old-school, prewar neighborhood vibe is what’s in.”
Annual median price increase: -39.3% Median 2018 home price: $3,200,000
Even many lifelong New Yorkers have never heard of the Civic Center neighborhood in lower Manhattan. The tiny community encompasses City Hall and courthouses as well as some high-rise co-op, condo, and apartment buildings. It’s just west of ultradesirable Tribeca, where prices are sky-high, and just below Chinatown, guaranteeing plenty of good Asian eats.
Prices are down because the wave of development has pretty much played itself out, says Miller. Many of the older brick and limestone, midrise office buildings had been gut-rehabbed and turned into pricey condos. That led to a spike in prices. Now that those units have been bought, the real estate for sale is a mix of lower- and higher-end properties.
It’s “run its course,” says Miller of the wave of development in Civic Center.
Annual median price increase: -30.2% Median 2018 home price: $450,000
Like Civic Center, Javits Center as a neighborhood isn’t very well-known—but that’s likely to change. Named for the sprawling convention center on the west side of Manhattan where the community is located, it’s wedged between trendy Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea and abuts Hudson Yards.
Even nonlocals have probably heard of Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, built on a formerly desolate stretch of disused train tracks. It’s a glam (and critics say overly generic) development of ultrahigh-priced condo and rental towers overlooking the Hudson River, complete with its own weird tourist attraction, the beehive-like Vessel. The Javits Center’s proximity to this buzzy development will likely have an impact on sales with prices shooting up.
But in the meantime, prices fell because there simply isn’t much of the first wave of luxury real estate left on the market. Now what’s selling is less expensive, older condos.
That’s likely to change as sales heat up in Hudson Yards.
“Sales [in Hudson Yards] will help to increase values in the surrounding area,” says New York real estate agent Matt Crouteau. The place “was designed so people don’t have to leave.” Ever.
Annual median price increase: -30% Median 2018 home price: $997,500
Just south of the Civic Center is the Financial District, home to Wall Street and the World Trade Center on the tip of Manhattan. Like all of the other neighborhoods on this list, FiDi (as it’s called) experienced a spike in development, then a market saturation.
“It’s not that prices are collapsing,” says Miller. “The early wave of high-end new development drove prices higher. … After that activity cooled, the prices for the neighborhood are less than what they were.”
But there are still plenty of new units to choose from, including this three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo going for $5,300,000. The unit features granite countertops, a waterfall island, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. On the lower side of the spectrum, buyers can snag this studio with plenty of closet space for $480,000.
The neighborhood is home to a few cobblestone streets, giving it an old-world charm, as well as the South Street Seaport, a tourist fave.
Annual median price increase: -29.6% Median 2018 home price: $1,550,000
Thank the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway line for prices falling in the upper portion of the Upper East Side, from about 96th to 110th streets. Developers flooded the neighborhood putting up buildings near the new train extension, which opened in 2017 after being discussed, planned, and replanned for nearly a century. They believed—rightly so—that this least fashionable part of the Upper East Side would become far more desirable thanks to its close proximity to the new train line.
“That’s essentially East Harlem, which has benefited from a significant amount of new development,” says Miller. Now development is mostly over and there’s fewer sales.
“You’re not seeing the same amount of high-end [sales], because there’s not as much new housing being introduced,” he explains.
The Upper East Side/East Harlem now has a mix of sleek towers, brownstones, low-rise brick buildings and townhomes, and apartment and public housing developments. This new one-bedroom, one-bath condo clocking in at just 609 square feet, which is near the new subway line, is on the market for $786,161.
Latest in Mortgage News: Stress-Test Rate Drops After a Year of No Change
The benchmark posted 5-year fixed rate, which is used for stress-testing Canadian mortgages, fell yesterday in its first move since May 2018.
The Bank of Canada announced the mortgage qualifying rate drop to 5.19% from 5.34%. This marks the first reduction in the rate since September 2016.
The rate change came as a surprise to most observers, since it’s based on the mode average of the Big 6 banks’ posted 5-year fixed rates. And there have been no changes among the big banks’ 5-year posted rates since June 21.
As reported by RateSpy.com, the Bank of Canada explained today’s move as follows:
“There are currently two modes at equal distance from the simple 6-bank average. Therefore, the Bank would use their assets booked in CAD to determine the mode. We use the latest M4 return data released on OSFI’s website to do so. To obtain the value of assets booked in CAD, simply do the subtraction of total assets in foreign currency from total assets in total currency.”
If that sounds convoluted, RateSpy’s Rob McLister tells us this, in laymen’s terms: “What happened here was that the total Canadian assets of the three banks posting 5.34% fell much more than the total Canadian assets of the three banks posting 5.19%. The 5.19%-ers won out this week,” McLister said.
Of the Big 6 banks, Royal Rank, Scotiabank and National Bank have posted 5-year fixed rates of 3.19%, while BMO, TD and CIBC have posted 5-year fixed rates of 5.34%.
“It’s one of the most convoluted ways to qualify a mortgage borrower one could dream up, McLister added. “It’s almost incomprehensible to think random fluctuations in bank assets could have anything to do with whether a borrower can afford his or her future payments.”
In his post, McLister noted the qualifying rate change means someone making a 5% down payment could afford:
$2,800 (1.3%) more home if they earn $50,000 a year
$5,900 (1.3%) more home if they earn $100,00 per year
Teranet Home Price Index Continues to Record Weakness
Without seasonal adjustments, the monthly Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index would have been negative in the month of June. Thanks to a seasonal boost, however, the index rose just 0.5% from the year before.
Vancouver marked the 11th straight month of decline (down an annualized 4.9%), while Calgary recorded its 11th monthly decline (down 3.8%) in the past 12 months.
“These readings are consistent with signals from other indicators of soft resale markets in those metropolitan areas,” the report said.
But while Western Canada continues to grapple with sagging home sales and declining prices, markets in Ontario and Quebec are already posting increases following weakness in the first half of the year.
Prices in Toronto were up 2.8% vs. June 2018, while Hamilton saw an increase of 4.9% and London was up 3.3%. The biggest gains continue to be seen in Thunder Bay (up 9.2%), Ottawa-Gatineau (up 6.3%) and Montreal (up 5.4%).
Don’t Expect Housing Market to Catch Fire Again
Don’t hold your breath for another spectacular run-up in real estate as seen in recent years, say economists from RBC.
“A stable market isn’t a bad thing,” noted senior economist Robert Hogue. “This is sure to disappoint those hoping for a snapback in activity, especially out west. But it should be viewed as part of the solution to address issues of affordability and household debt in this country…It means that signs indicating we’ve passed the cyclical bottom have been sustained last month.”
Home resales in June were up marginally (0.3%) compared to the previous year, which Hague says provides “further evidence that the market has passed its cyclical bottom.”
Meanwhile, the national benchmark home price was down 0.3% year-over-year in June, “tracking very close to year-ago levels.”
Hague says these readings are good news for policy-makers, who he says want to see “generally soft but stable conditions in previously overheated markets.”
Have you dreamed of designing and renting out a country retreat through a popular site like Airbnb.com? One family shares how they made their rural Airbnb home a success.
The Hartman family live on a small piece of acreage just outside the Asheville, NorthCarolina city limits.
Despite their proximity to one of the South’s most popular tourist destination cities, their land is rural in every sense.
Walk outside at the right time of day in the right season, and you may catch a glimpse of a black bear, wild turkeys, deer, a bobcat, some turtles or any number of birds. They’re less than a mile from several world-class hiking trails and the winding road to their home is surrounded by pasture and nature.
It’s the ideal blend of mountain-country-living with hip-city convenience.
So, when their neighbor’s home burned down about four years ago, the Hartmans leapt at the chance to buy up the 2.5 acres that abuts their current home.
Their plans for the land were vague, but after much planning, discussion, decision-making and brainstorming, they decided to build an Airbnb-style minifarm retreat: Blue Turtle Farm.
The only thing was, neither of them had any experience running a microfarm OR a hospitality business…nor did they have much spare time to learn. Meggan is a psychologist, sleep consultant and faculty member at Meridian University and Brody is an executive at a leading branding agency, as well as a Purpose Guide, mentor and a meditation teacher.
Yet they forged ahead and have managed to exceed their Airbnb business financial goals in just one year.
How did they do it (and could you do the same)? Read on to find out.
It All Started With 2.5 Wild Acres, A Chicken Coop And A Concrete Slab
Brody and Meggan knew they had something special in their new property (it’s not every day 2.5 acres with an existing house foundation and driveway go up for sale in your backyard). The trick was discovering the best use of that wild 2.5 acres.
“We sat on it for two years because we knew we had to get the overgrown land in order first,” Brody says. “So we got some chickens, got out there on weekends with the weed wacker and just dreamed about what we could do.”
Meggan adds, “We also had to set a clear intention for the property—do we want to have someone come in and do flowers, do we want to grow herbs or create a market garden? So we had to look at what we could feasibly do and manage with our limited time, andwhat made the most sense for income. We also knew we wanted continued access to the land.”
While they knew they wanted to care for the land by starting a sustainable “pocket farm,” they also knew the existing homesite would be perfect for an investment home.
“We always knew we’d build on that land someday and possibly move there,” Brody says, “the question was: just what type of structure to build and when?
“And if you’ve never managed or developed even a small piece of land, it’s a HUGE learning curve. So we had a ton of people come out to assess the soil, the water situation and where to place the home visually for functionality, off-grid capability and aesthetics.”
The Hartmans also talked to their neighbors about their plans and studied the local zoning laws.
Once the land was in order, they’d chosen the best homesite and decided on a short-term rental business, the next big choice was: what type of house to build?
Figuring Out What To Build: Tiny Home, Cabin Or Designer House?
The Hartmans originally thought they’d build something small and simple to keep costs low, but after talking to two real estate experts, they changed their minds.
“We consulted two of our friends in real estate and they both recommended we build-like we-needed-to-sell,” Brody says.
With that in mind, they began researching comps and found most buyers in the area were looking for a 3 bed, 2 ½ – 3 bath home with “X” amenities.
Brody says 3 other factors weighed heavily on their decision:
“#1: If we flip it one day, how do we get the most out of it for resale? #2: If we were to move over there, what would we want in a home? And #3: what would an ideal Airbnb experience be for our guests?”
In the end, the Hartmans hired a reputable local high-end builder to construct a modern 3-story, 3 bedroom/3 bath home with a separate basement suite on the existing foundation.
“Having a good architect or good house plans and finding a reputable builder is key. You also need to think about parking when designing your space,” Meggan says.
Next, They Turned Their Attention To Learning Their Local Airbnb Market
With a reputable builder in place and home design underway, the Hartmans re-focused on learning the local short-term rental market.
“We researched local Airbnbs and VRBOs for going rates, we read the reviews and drew on our personal experience as guests of Airbnbs,” says Brody. “We also talked to a lot of people who had Airbnbs. Knowing the market in your community is essential.”
How they determine competitive pricing:
While there are Airbnb-centric consultants, articles and content available, Meggan offered this advice on pricing:
“We knew we had to cover our costs and make a profit, and at the end of the day you’re working backwards from your mortgage—and it’s a bit of a moving target in the beginning because you know that number will change once you’re finished building.
“The Airbnb suggested rate for our area is lower than we decided to charge. But, we had a clear intention: we wanted to create the best experience in the best environment, and we knew people would pay for that.”
And they have. To-date, the Hartmans’ Airbnb earnings have already exceeded their monthly mortgage…and it’s been open for short-term rentals for less than one year.
“Pricing also depends on how you want to run your rental. For example, will it be a year-round rental or do you really want to crank it for just 4 months out of the year? So again, your intention and goals are everything.”
Tips On Creating The Best Experience In The Best Environment (without breaking the bank)
When it comes to creating an optimal guest experience, attention to detail is everything.
However, when you’re floating a mortgage and a construction loan you can’t typically do everything high-end. Here’s how the Hartmans furnished and decorated their Airbnb without breaking the bank:
Don’t go high-end on all the furniture. “Fortunately, the gentleman at our local furniture store runs his own Airbnb and told us where to invest,” Meggan says. “For example, he said not to invest in rugs, like use outdoor rugs indoors, and to think about high-traffic vs. low-traffic areas.”
Put your money where the details matter. “This means quality of the sheets, towels, beds, soaps and sundries. We’ve even gotten good reviews on our toilet paper, so little things like that matter to people.”
Once The House Was Complete, There Was Still A Lot To Do To Prepare For Guests
“In addition to getting the professional photography and branding/descriptions done, furniture had to be moved in and put together, detailed cleaning had to be done, window treatments installed, etc.,” Brody says. “It’s important you build in extra time to complete those details.”
When the house was finally done, the Hartmans invited friends and family to stay and critique the home.
“We told them to bring it! And thanks to their feedback we wound up replacing the downstairs bed and making some further improvements,” Meggan says.
To buy some time (and secure some more feedback) the Hartmans also rented the home to a local family of four for the first 3 months.
“That gave us a buffer and their feedback was extremely helpful.”
How They Promoted Their Brand New Short-term Rental Property
The Hartmans listed their home on Airbnb and VRBO and paid special attention to branding.
“Professional photography is very important,” says Brody, a branding expert, “as is getting the descriptions and owner’s manual just right.
“I’ll never forget when I got that first notification from Airbnb, then the first booking. It was so thrilling to see. I still get excited when I see them come in!”
Since Airbnb is all about recommendations and ratings, the Hartmans are vigilant about responding to guest requests, addressing any concerns and rating their guests promptly.
This attention to detail earned them “superhost” status in October. “It’s really important to get those milestones met, and it’s a high bar—no cancellations, at least 4.5 stars every time—but if you deliver, then superhost status will come,” Brody says.
While they are listed on both Airbnb and VRBO, they’ve found each application has its own distinctive audience and find Airbnb’s interface more intuitive and easy to manage.
To avoid double-bookings, they use an integrated managing calendar.
Running The Day-to-Day (Without Quitting Their Day Jobs)
For day-to-day, the Hartmans highly recommend hiring an exceptional cleaning service that specializes in short-term rentals/hospitality.
“Our first service was good, not great,” Brody recalls. “They didn’t get all the details or what it meant to be a superhost. I spend a lot of time in hotels for my job, so I know what those details are!”
One day, their cleaning service didn’t show up and Brody and Meggan had to run over to clean the house themselves. After that, they found a better service.
“We wound up hiring a husband and wife team who also does basic maintenance, which has been a game-changer,” Brody says. “They know what it means to care for a short-term rental, for example, she brings local magazines and keeps them up-to-date, and keeps the house impeccable.”
They’ve also given the cleaning service access to their booking calendars, which automates the entire process.
“Now we could leave the country for a month and would not worry.”
With the cleaning and maintenance dialed in, there’s very little other day-to-day work.
“The only other thing we do regularly is bring over wine, crackers, cheese and a custom welcome note,” Meggan says.
Technology also helps keep the day-to-day tasks at a minimum.
The Hartmans have set up their online booking so guests can book automatically—provided they meet certain requirements. Then they send a personal reply.
They also use an app that tells them if the doors are locked or unlocked, and they are out on the farm regularly should the guests need them (which they usually don’t).
How To Avoid Negative Reviews
Negative reviews are the plight of any modern short-term rental business, here’s how the Hartmans have maintained a nearly unblemished review profile:
“Airbnb lets you communicate with the guests before your mutual reviews are published. So we always take that opportunity to ask the guest if there’s anything we can do to improve hospitality. says Brody.
“With that approach, we’ve only had one 4-star review on one attribute saying we weren’t truly 12 minutes from downtown, so we changed the listing to 15 minutes.”
They also recommend being clear about the role you will play as host.
“Some hosts live off-property, some hosts live next door and personally greet every guest,” Meggan says. “We let people know we’ll be on the property and will be as available, or not, as they want. Most of our guests want to be self-sufficient and just say hello if they happen to see us, and we’re fine either way.”
How Long Did It Take The Business To Become Profitable?
“Our profit goal for year one was to exceed our mortgage costs, and we managed to do that within the first month of full-time short-term rentals,” says Brody. “There are months now that we’re more than doubling our mortgage.”
The Hartmans believe their location plays a role in this, as does the quality of the home and the natural beauty of the land.
Insider Startup Advice: What They Wish They Had Known
When asked their biggest startup challenges, the Hartmans offered these lessons learned:
“Money out vs. money in while building is a roller coaster—I mean you’re furnishing an entire house. It creeps up on you, and then once you get caught up in it you know you can’t skimp, so there’s that sense of having faith in the process.”
“Don’t skimp on construction! We did this right, but it’s still good advice. Our construction company came in on time and on budget. They landed that ship nicely.”
“The initial house set-up is crazy, so be prepared! That was a lot harder than we anticipated.”
“Be prepared to let it go,” says Brody, “I remember going over to answer some questions for our very first guests, and I walked in and saw this young man lying on my couch with his shoes on. I wanted to say, get your shoes off that couch! But I knew in that moment, I had to surrender the house. And that was quite a moment.”
“It pays to set your intention for the place,” says Meggan. “We really wanted to create a retreat and respite for people to unplug and connect with family…and it’s proving to be the perfect spot for families.”
“In the beginning we were so worried that the whole house would not get rented that we built that additional basement suite. Now I wish we hadn’t, because we’ve never not rented the whole house,” says Brody.
“Get your house rules figured out right away. This will keep your house in good condition and your neighbors happy.”
Where Will They Go From Here?
Based on their success and excellent reviews, the Hartmans’ property is now being considered for “Airbnb Plus” status.
This means they have to meet a 100-point inspection list and have a certain level of aesthetic value which caters to a higher-level guest. Airbnb pays to have the home re-photographed, and if they pass inspection, the property gets a special badge.
They also plan to add a hot tub and possibly a wood stove to increase winter rentals, and will use the property for purpose-building workshops.