Monthly Archives: June 2011

Canada’s ‘housing bubble’ deemed close to bursting

Note the following comment to this article:
“Here in Vancouver a 600 square foot sky shack is going for $450,000

Could I buy one? Yes. Will I buy one? Never.

I’m paying $700 a month, including all bills, to rent a 1st floor of a house about a 25 min commute from my office.

That $700 wouldn’t even cover the strata fees and property taxes on one of those little sky boxes.

I’m happy watching on the sidelines while everything melts down around me. In the meantime, I’m investing several thousands a month, and can go on nice vacations.

A person would have to be absolutely crazy to buy right now”

On Wednesday June 29, 2011, 6:27 pm EDT

Canada’s housing market is in a bubble that’s set to burst and prices could plunge by as much as 25 per cent, a major independent research firm warns.

“Housing valuations have lost all touch with fundamentals and household debt is at a record high,” economists at the research consultancy Capital Economics say in their most recent Canada Economic Outlook, issued Wednesday.

“Our fear is that, with the housing bubble now close to bursting and commodity prices retreating, Canada will go from leader to laggard.”

The report predicts a fall in house prices by as much as 25 per cent over the next three years. Continue reading

Why renting can be the right choice

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Sell your house and rent: If you’re a baby boomer entering retirement, that could be the financial move of a lifetime.

The case for selling the family home starts with the fact that years of strong price increases have hugely increased the value of homes across the country over the amount paid for them. What to do with the proceeds after you sell? Invest them conservatively and rent your next home.

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Rushing into the market today only makes sense if you’re willing to buck convention and rent. If you buy again, you could reap big profits from your current home and overpay for your next.

Understand, this is not a doomsday call on the Canadian housing market. It’s just an argument that we’ve seen a ton of upside in house prices and that the next few years may bring incremental further gains or some downside.

Selling now can be a way of removing risk from your financial future, says Ted Rechtshaffen, president of the financial advice firm TriDelta Financial. If you own a house, a big piece of your personal wealth is tied up in one sector and in one region.

“The only way to capitalize on what your house is worth today is by selling today,” Mr. Rechtshaffen said.

There are definitely benefits to downsizing and buying a smaller home or condo rather than renting. There’s a far better selection of condos and houses for sale than for rent. Psychologically speaking, many people have a bias against renting because it’s seen as giving up control and living without roots.

There’s also the argument that renting isn’t financially smart, but it doesn’t hold up well for aging baby boomers.

Mr. Rechtshaffen says his firm’s long-term financial planning models use a 4-per-cent average annual gain for house prices and a 6.5-per-cent average annual gain for a diversified non-registered investment portfolio. Those are pretax numbers, of course. Sell a principal residence and you pay no taxes on your profit.

You can rig an investment portfolio to be fairly tax-efficient by focusing on dividends and capital gains, but you’ll still get dinged to some extent by taxes. So estimate a 5-per-cent after-tax return from investments, Mr. Rechtshaffen suggests.

Now for living costs. You’ll have no mortgage payments if you buy, but you’ll pay property taxes and face upkeep costs that can be steep if you have an older home. Renters pay rent and the same utilities as owners. How does it net out? Mr. Rechtshaffen estimates renters paying $1,500 a month may find they’re spending only $700 or so more than owners on a net basis.

Financial planner Rona Birenbaum said she’s talked to clients about selling a house and renting, but mostly in situations where money is being spent faster than anticipated and there’s a need to unlock equity in the home.

Selling a house for many hundreds of thousands of dollars and then investing that money safely can make you feel financially secure, Ms. Birenbaum said.

“That’s the plus side of doing this,” she added. “The minus is there’s a great temptation to encroach on that capital. It requires a fair amount of discipline in how you manage your cash flow.”

Still stuck on downsizing into a smaller home or condo? So are a lot of your peers, which is why downtown condos are no bargain. The average price for a resale condo in Toronto was $326,750 in the first two weeks of this month, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. Laurin Jeffrey, a Toronto agent, said $600,000 is a good ballpark amount for a nicely situated downtown condo.

If you buy a condominium, prepare yourself for stiff condo fees (include day-to-day maintenance, property management fees, amenities such as a swimming pool and workout room, cable TV and contributions toward a reserve fund to be used for major repairs). I’ve heard two stories in the past couple of weeks about people planning to move out of condos as a result of fee increases or special levies for maintenance. “There’s no rent control on maintenance fees,” Ms. Birenbaum said.

Your age may also play a role in determining whether it’s better to buy or rent after selling the family home. Mr. Rechtshaffen estimates you’d need to be in a home seven or eight years to offset the costs of moving in and then moving out again later on. Of course, this assumes your house is appreciating while you live there.

Renting is not on for most people, but it’s worth a thought if you’re a baby boomer with a house you’ve been thinking of selling. The peace of mind you get from locking in a good price could make it the financial move of a lifetime.


Boomernomics: Whether to buy or rent after you sell the family home

1. The state of the housing market
You BuyYou Rent
A housing market decline could erode the value of your home, which may be your biggest financial asset.You’re bullet-proof.
2. Choice of places to live
You BuyYou Rent
Lots of choice of homes and condos.Much less choice, and much less assistance available to find the right property.
3. Living costs
You BuyYou Rent
Property taxes, condo maintenance fees and general upkeep.Rent, but minimal upkeep and maintenance and no property taxes.
4. Financial flexibility
You BuyYou Rent
You can only access your home equity by borrowing against it with a line of credit or a reverse mortgage.The proceeds of the home you sold are completely accessible.
5. Cash flow
You BuyYou Rent
Your home is a do-nothing financial asset from this point of view.Invest the money you get for selling the family home and you can generate income without touching the principal.
6. Taxation
You BuyYou Rent
You can sell your home tax-free as long as it’s your principal residence.You will pay taxes on investment gains, but you can manage that by focusing on dividends and capital gains.




Beware the distortions of too-low interest rates

bonds interest rates

The Buy Side

Beware the distortions of too-low interest rates

TOM BRADLEY | Columnist profile

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jun. 23, 2011 6:06PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jun. 24, 2011 6:33AM EDT

Check out the comments for this interesting article.

We’ve had low interest rates for years, and really low rates for almost three. We’re used to them, and may even be getting complacent. I had more questions and concerns from clients about rising interest rates a year or two ago than I do now.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not a time to be complacent. Quite the opposite. Low rates are causing enormous distortions in the economy and financial markets, and it’s important to understand them, and try to be on the right side of the divide. Continue reading

BlackBerry vs. iPhone

{{GA_Asset.Images.Alttext$}}Lainie Filkow, left, and husband Bryan Borzykowski. The couple are both with Rogers, but Bryan ends up paying more for data on his iPhone, than Lainie does for her Blackberry data use.

Like any married couple, my wife and I often agree to disagree. At least, that’s the case when it comes to our mobile phones.

I’m an uncompromising iPhone fan — getting a 3GS changed my life — but my wife is a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user. She swears by the tactile keyboard. Continue reading

A debt disaster by whatever measure you use

Neil Reynolds


June 22, 2011

The U.S. federal government spent $30,000 per household last year, an increase of $5,000 in two years. State and local governments spent $25,000 per household. Total government spending thus reached $55,000 per household – in a country with 114,825,421 households.

To provide this exceptional largesse, the federal government borrowed $12,600 per household. Without this loan, these various levels of governments would have spent only $17,400 per household – or precisely the spending (adjusted for inflation) that federal, state and local governments required four decades ago. Continue reading

City’s history comes alive under Marta’s tutelage

Marta O’Brien, with her cat named Mozart climbing a bookcase in the background, and her husband are happily renting a compact two-storey house in Toronto’s east end. She isn’t bothered by the reaction of people who learn that she doesn’t own property.June 10, 2011

The history of apartment buildings in Toronto is a complicated one, explains Marta O’Brien, an architectural historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of Toronto’s past.

The first building permit for one was issued in 1899, but at the turn of the century many people associated apartment buildings with tenements; they worried about property values and safety. A bylaw was passed in 1912 prohibiting the building of apartments in residential areas, although by the early 1920s they were appearing everywhere. Continue reading