Tuesday, April 28, 2009






Friday, April 24, 2009


More cash in our homes
Canadians have more equity in their houses than Americans, says survey

Garry Marr, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, April 23, 2009

National PostThe study for the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals shows Canadian homeowners have, on average, 72% equity in their house, compared with 43% for Americans.
Canadians continue to have more than two-thirds more equity in their home than Americans, according to a new survey.
The study for the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals shows Canadian homeowners have, on average, 72% equity in their house, compared with 43% for Americans.
"It is a very positive part of the Canadian housing story," said Jim Murphy, chief executive of Toronto-based CAAMP. "Canadians pay down their mortgages. Canadians are just more conservative than Americans."
The study also found that Canadians have dramatically reduced the amount of equity they are taking out of their home. A year ago 22% of Canadians had accessed the equity in their home through measures such as lines of credit. Today that is down to 15%.
"This speaks to the whole thing about people belt-tightening," said Mr. Murphy.
Despite the drop in prices in the Canadians marketplace, only 2% of Canadian mortgage holders have negative equity, in which the value of their mortgage is higher than the value of their home.
About the only new risk Canadians seem to be taking on is longer amortizations. While 83% of Canadians have an amortizations of 25 years or less, the number with 30-year and 35-year amortizations is rising. In the past six months, 46% of new mortgages have been for amortization of more than 25 years.
"I don't think it's a worry because [Canadians] are paying down their mortgages," said Will Dunning, chief economist with CAAMP, noting the percentage of Canadians in arrears on their mortgage is rising but the total is still 0.38% of all mortgage holders. "That's the middle of historical averages."
Mr. Dunning said the study also indicates that subprime mortgages are likely a very small percentage of the Canadian marketplace. Only 2% of all Canadian mortgages have interest rates of 8% or higher -- the low-water level for what would constitute the rate on a sub prime mortgage.
The survey did show that Canadians are also taking advantage of continued drops in interest rates by increasingly buying into variablerate products. CAAMP says 28% of Canadians have variable-rate products that are tied to prime. The number is rising, with 36% of new mortgage orientation in the past 12 months going into variablerate products.
With the Bank of Canada's decision to lower rates another 25 basis points and its commitment to not change rates for another year, Canadians are expected to continue to take advantage of a record-low prime rates, which are 2.25% at most financial institutions.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


CRYSTAL ... it can take your breath away much the same way diamonds do because no one can resist the sparkle. Check out these light fixtures that will leave you breathless and asking, "Where Can I Buy It?"

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Designing with new technology in the style of days gone by, Joe Wilkerson presents the M21 Flat Panel Console. Design a room around it or add it to enhance an already chic space. Anybody for I Love Lucy in HD?


Building permit value drops 15.9%
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The value of Canadian building permits fell 15.9% to $3.7-billion in February, led by a big decline in the non-residential sector in Ontario, Statistics Canada said yesterday.
Most economists had expected a decline of between 3.5% and 4% during the month, following a revised drop of 6% in January.
Non-residential permits plunged 30.5% to $1.6-billion in February. "This decline was due to a drop in Ontario and decreases in four other provinces," the federal agency said.
The value of residential permits was down 0.3% to $2.1-billion, with an increase in multiple-dwelling intensions in British Columbia "nearly offset the declines in the residential sector in six provinces," it said.
Ian Pollick, economics strategist at TD Securities, said, "This is a weak report and further suggests that the pace of building activity has come against pretty strong economic headwinds over the past few months, as growth has been under pressure."
"And as the correction garners momentum, the pace of construction activity will likely continue to moderate in the near term." he said.
In the non-residential sector, the value of institutional building permits fell declined 56.4% to $363-million in February, compared with a 64.2% decline the previous month.
"The decrease came mainly from construction intentions for medical buildings in Ontario and Quebec and a decline in permits for educational institutions in Ontario and Alberta," Statistics Canada said.
Commercial permits dropped 20.4% to $972-million, with the declines mainly in office and recreational intensions in Ontario. Meanwhile, industrial permits rose 14.3% to $236-million-- rebounding from a 50.8% drop in January -- with gains reported in six provinces.
In the residential sector, municipalities issued $756-million worth of multi-family permits, up 10.6% from January. "The value of multi-family dwelling permits nearly quadrupled in British Columbia, while Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario reported declines," the agency said.


Canada's housing market shows signs of life
Jamie Sturgeon, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rock-bottom interest rates combined with some relief from Ottawa to pull the housing market out of its tailspin, industry experts said Wednesday - temporarily, at least.
The cautious optimism stems from fresh figures released by the country's real estate board that show the second consecutive rise in monthly existing-home sales in March after months of decline.
The number of homes bought and sold last month rose by 7% to 31,135 units, seasonally adjusted, compared with February, which was already more than 10% better than January, the Canadian Real Estate Association said.
The pair of readings counter months of declining sales volumes across the country as the market crumbled in tandem with the rest of the economy.
Now, with a little help from the Bank of Canada and federal legislators, the market appears to be stabilizing.
"Interest rates and government stimulus are what's helping right now," said Ron Lawby, president of Century 21 Canada LP, one of the largest realtors in the country.
Lenders have dropped their rates in lockstep with the central bank, while recently introduced incentives from Ottawa are "causing people to say, ‘This is a time I can access the market,'" Mr. Lawby said.
Specifically, two measures introduced within the federal budget's stimulus plans are bringing buyers around; an increase in the allowable withdrawal from registered savings plans for first-time buyers to $25,000 from $20,000; and a tax credit of $5,000 home buyers may count against their incomes.
"Housing markets are starting to show signs of buyer interest," said Dale Ripplinger, president of CREA.
As the aim of the incentives from Ottawa would suggest, the greatest demand is occurring down market.
"It really is first-time buyers," Mr. Lawby said. "We're seeing some activity moving up, but the majority is in entry-level homes."
Other indicators released by CREA Wednesday suggested some stability is returning.
The average price for homes sold remained depressed yet the year-over-year decline is shrinking.
The average residential price across Canada was $288,641, or 7.7% lower last month than the average price recorded in March, 2008. Yet it was the narrowest year-over-year margin registered in the last six months, and the second month in a row in which the pace of decline eased.
"People are looking at the cost of borrowing money - with interest rates as low as 3% - combining that with the fact that there is cheaper product on the market and [they're] stepping in," said Michael Polzler, regional director for Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada.
The flood of unsold listings is also drying up. CREA said Wednesday 208,755 existing homes were for sale last quarter, down 6.4% from the final quarter of 2008.
Still, most economists were reserved in declaring a firm bottom is at hand. Bank of Nova Scotia's Derek Holt said the two-month bounce in sales signals "sounder conditions" but cautioned that there remains plenty of new homes that need to be bought.
"Inventories are still high which speaks to downside risks to prices," he wrote in a note to clients. The upturn is also benefiting from seasonality, Century 21's Mr. Lawby said, noting sales are usually strongest between the beginning of March and June.
Millan Mulraine, economics strategist at TD Securities said a worsening employment picture means the bank expects "overall housing market activity to remain soft in the coming months."
Meanwhile, new data from the United States Wednesday indicated its moribund real estate market is showing signs of life - or at least a small degree of optimism.
After the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence reached a record-low of 8 in January, it rose higher than expected to 14 last month. The index of current single-family home sales rose to 13, while the gauge of buyer traffic was also higher from February as sentiment among builders in all four regions in the U.S. improved.
The confidence survey asks builders to characterize current sales as "good," "fair" or "poor." A reading of below 50 is considered poor.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who Said It's Not Easy Being Green

Homeowners find gold by going green
Financial incentives for eco-friendly home investments
Denise Deveau, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, March 30, 2009

Kaz Ehara/CanwestMark Raes, with son Oliver, discovered he was eligible for a furnace replacement rebate during a home energy audit.
It seems like governments and financial institutions alike are doing what they can to keep homeowners thinking green. From rebate programs to new mortgage offerings, financing a home purchase or renovation can be a wonderful opportunity to cash in on your green intentions.
For homeowner Mark Raes, when the time came to replace a 25-year-old furnace in his recently purchased home in Toronto, he decided to get an energy audit done just to check out how energy-efficient the house actually was. In the process he discovered that not only could he get a sizable rebate on the furnace replacement, other upgrades would also qualify.
"So instead of just one thing, we decided to do four all at once," he says. After investing $9,000 in a furnace, attic insulation, a tankless hot water heater and air conditioner, he ended up qualifying for $3,200 in rebates from the provincial and federal governments. And his energy bills now come in at 30% less than before.
It just goes to show that when home purchasers play their cards right, they can tap into a number of incentives to help them start on a greener path.
Above the rebates, borrowers can even get a bit of help from their lenders. TD Canada Trust's Green Mortgage, for example, offers a 1% cash-back to be used for Energy Star qualified purchases or any renovations/ upgrades that make the home more energy efficient.
"Add that to the government incentives, and that can make a big difference," says Joan Dal Bianco, vice-president of Real Estate Secured Lending for TD in Toronto. "When every penny counts, $2,000 cash on a $200,000 mortgage can go a long way to taking care of some big ticket item appliances or repairs."
Despite the fact that green building projects can come at a premium, the price difference can easily be realized within a year through energy savings, Ms. Dal Bianco says. "Our studies have shown that people are now willing to spend more on a green home because of the energy savings they get."
Looking at green options can also help the resale cause. According to a recent RBC Financial Group-sponsored Ipsos study, more than 75% of homeowners believe that green home improvements will increase the value of their home. "A good energy rating [on a home] is definitely becoming an important selling and buying feature for consumers," says Bernice Dunsby, senior manager, home equity financing for RBC in Toronto.
RBC offers a choice of Energy Saver mortgage and loan products that provide homeowners a partial rebate on a home energy audit, or in some cases, a discounted interest rate. "It all depends on the size and scope of the project you are willing to undertake," Ms. Dunsby says.
Homeowners should be aware of the fact that home energy audits will soon a must if you want to sell your property. Initiatives such as Ontario's Green Energy Act will require anyone listing a home to conduct a home energy audit. "The government is doing what it can to make sure that every homeowner can achieve a good rating and is as energy efficient as possible," says Peter Hwang, president and CEO of EnWise in Toronto.
For those new to the audit process, a certified professional performs a pre-retrofit audit on your home to assess and rank your energy rating and pinpoint areas for improvements. Different energy-saving investments qualify for various rebate levels. For example, a high-efficiency furnace could qualify for $1,125 in combined government rebates; attic insulation, $1,200; an energy-efficient air conditioner, $600; and a tankless hot water heater, $500.
When the work is complete (you have 18 months from the pre-retrofit audit date to finish your retrofits), a second audit is done to verify the improved performance. The homeowner can then apply for a rebate under the federal government's ecoENERGY Program to a maximum of $5,000 and, depending on the province, an additional rebate from the provincial government. (The Ontario Home Energy Savings Program, for example, matches the federal rebate dollar for dollar.) "We encourage people to wait the full 18 months before applying in case they want to do extra things in that time frame, and you can only apply for it once," Mr. Hwang advises.
This year, homeowners can benefit even more by taking advantage of the federal government's Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,350. They can also leverage a number of manufacturer and utility rebates.
So, although some might think that going green comes at a premium, with available incentives and rebates -- along with affordable financing options and improved energy savings -- doing the right thing for the environment when financing your home isn't quite so expensive after all.