28 Dec

First-time Homebuyers


Posted by: Michael Hallett

Great opportunity for first-time homebuyers! If you’ve been thinking about purchasing your first home, but haven’t yet made up your mind, now is an ideal time to think about taking the plunge into homeownership. Since Canada’s currently in a buyers’ real estate market and interest rates have been dropping to historic lows as of late, now is the perfect time to consider your mortgage options.

Your first step in the home-buying process should be to talk to a licensed mortgage professional, ME! I have access to a vast array of lenders – up to 90+ institutions, including big banks, credit unions and trust companies – which enables me to negotiate the best possible mortgage products and rates on your behalf. In comparison, if you approach your bank with a mortgage request, they can only offer you a narrow choice – namely, their own products. can get you pre-approved for a mortgage so that you know how much you can afford to spend on a home before you start shopping.

And thanks to the latest federal budget, there are a couple more reasons why now is the optimal time to purchase your first home. First, the budget proposes a $5,000 increase to the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan, meaning first-time homebuyers can now withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs for a down payment – tax- and interest-free.

The budget also proposes a $750 tax credit for first-time homebuyers to help with closing costs, such as legal fees, disbursements and land transfer taxes.

The tax credit is based on an amount of $5,000 for first-time homebuyers who acquire a qualifying home after January 27, 2009 (ie, the closing is after that date).

An individual will be considered a first-time homebuyer if neither the individual nor the individual’s spouse or common-law partner owned and lived in another home in the calendar year of the home purchase or in any of the four preceding calendar years.

23 Dec

Looking Beyond Mortgage Rates


Posted by: Michael Hallett

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that comparing mortgage rates will guarantee you get the best bang for your mortgage buck. While this may be true for particular situations, there are many scenarios where this strategy is not effective. Following are three reasons why it doesn’t always pay to make a decision based solely on rates.

Reason #1

Your long-term plan and risk tolerance should determine which mortgage product is right for you. This product may or may not have the lowest rate.

For instance, there are cases where lenders will offer lower rates for insured mortgages. With insured mortgages, however, you’re charged an insurance premium, which is usually added to the mortgage amount. But if you’re not planning on keeping the property for a long enough time to offset that cost, it may be better to take an uninsured mortgage with a slightly higher rate. The cost difference you will pay with the higher interest rate may still be less than what you may pay in insurance premiums.

As another example, if you prefer to budget for a consistent payment and can’t handle rate fluctuations, it may be better to go with a higher fixed-rate mortgage. If you think current rates are low enough and you will be living in your property for at least five years, it may be wise to also opt for a mortgage with a longer term.

Reason #2

One of the biggest mistakes people make when merely comparing mortgage rates is failing to consider important factors such as prepayment options to help pay off the mortgage faster, whether secondary financing options are allowed, early payout penalties, or what fees are involved.

It’s not enough to simply compare mortgage rates because you have to know what “clauses” are contained within the mortgage deal. There may be cases where you will find a lender with the lowest rate and willing to pay for your closing costs, or even provide you with cash-backs after closing.

Reason #3

Lenders can change their rates at any time. As such, if you’re shopping for rates with one lender and then approach another that gives you a lower rate, it’s quite possible that the first lender has also dropped its rates. This is why it’s important to get pre-approved with a lender once you a mortgage that fits your needs. In some cases, you can secure your rate and conditions for up to 120 days.

22 Dec

Tips for Paying Off Your Mortgage Faster


Posted by: Michael Hallett

Mortgages in Canada are generally amortized between 25 and 35 year terms. While this seems a long time, it does not have to take anyone that long to pay off their mortgage if they choose to do so in a shorter period of time.

With a little bit of thinking ahead, and a small bit of sacrifice, most people can manage to pay off their mortgage in a much shorter period of time by taking positive steps such as:

1. Making mortgage payments each week, or even every other week. Both options lower your interest paid over the term of your mortgage and can result in the equivalent of an extra month’s mortgage payment each year. Paying your mortgage in this way can take your mortgage from 25 years down to 21.

2. When your income increases, increase the amount of your mortgage payments. Let’s say you get a 5% raise each year at work. If you put that extra 5% of your income into your mortgage, your mortgage balance will drop much faster without feeling like you are changing your spending habits.

3. Mortgage lenders will also allow you to make extra payments on your mortgage balance each year. Just about everyone finds themselves with money they were not expecting at some point or another. Maybe you inherited some money from a distant relative or you received a nice holiday bonus at work. Apply this money to your mortgage lender as a lump-sum payment towards your mortgage and watch the results.

By applying these strategies consistently over time, you will save money, pay less interest and pay off your mortgage years earlier!

21 Dec

10 Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector


Posted by: Michael Hallett

The purchase of a home is likely the largest financial expenditure you’ll ever make. And getting your home inspected is an essential step in the home-buying process. No one wants to buy a money pit – and once you have signed on the dotted line, there is no turning back.

The best way to ensure you use a professional home inspector is to seek referrals from your mortgage professional, real estate agent or friends. Since you want to be able to trust your home inspector’s judgement, you have to ensure they’re not part-time home inspectors just trying to make some extra cash on the side, or they aren’t only home inspecting so they can also offer to complete any work for you that you need done on the home. To ensure the job’s done right, after all, the home inspection must not be biased.

The purpose of a home inspection is for the inspector to be able to tell you everything you need to know about the home you’re going to purchase so that you can make an informed decision.

Following are 10 key questions you can ask your home inspector before they’re hired to ensure the inspection will be completed professionally and thoroughly:

  1. Can I see your licence/professional credentials and proof of insurance?
  2. How many years’ experience do you have as a home inspector? (Make sure they’re talking specifically about home inspection and not just how much experience they have in a single trade.)
  3. How many inspections have you personally completed?
  4. What qualifications and training do you have? Are you a member of a professional organization? What’s your background – construction, engineering, plumbing, etc?
  5. Can I see some references? (Make sure you also check the references.)
  6. What kind of report do you provide? Do you take pictures of the house and add them to your report?
  7. What kind of tools do you use during your inspection?
  8. Can you give me an idea of what kind of repairs the house may need? (Be wary if they offer to fix the issues themselves or can recommend someone else to complete the job cheap.)
  9. When do you do the inspection? (Let’s hope they don’t have a day job, and can only do them at night when it’s too dark to see the roof. It’s best to stay away from part-time inspectors.)

10.  How long do your inspections usually take?

17 Dec

Strong demand carries into late fall


Posted by: Michael Hallett

Home values continued to edge upward in November as demand in the Greater Vancouver housing market remains well above seasonal norms.

Over the last 12 months, the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver increased 12.4 per cent to $557,384 from $495,704 in November 2008. This price, however, remains down 1.9 per cent from the most recent high point in the market in May 2008 when the residential benchmark price sat at $568,411.

“This unseasonably high level of demand can be attributed in large part to low interest rates, but it also speaks to the diverse range of housing options available in Greater Vancouver,” Scott Russell, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) president said. “Prospective homebuyers today have more options at different price levels than ever before.”

The REBGV reports that residential property sales in November were the third highest volume ever recorded in Greater Vancouver for that month. Sales in the region totalled 3,083 in November 2009, an increase of 252.7 per cent compared to November 2008 when 874 sales were recorded and a 16.8 per cent decrease compared to the 3,704 sales recorded in October 2009.

“We are experiencing a brisker than normal market for this time of year, although we have begun to see a reduction in the number of homes listed for sale, which is normal as we head into the holiday season,” Russell said.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 3,653 in November 2009. This represents a 21.3 per cent increase compared to November 2008 when 3,012 new units were listed, and a 26.6 per cent decline compared to October 2009 when 4,977 properties were listed on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Greater Vancouver.

At 11,039, the total number of property listings on the MLS® decreased 8.6 per cent in November compared to last month and declined 39 per cent from this time last year.

In contrast to this year, note that November 2008 was the lowest selling November in Greater Vancouver in 27 years.

Sales of detached properties increased 261.5 per cent to 1,164 from the 322 detached sales recorded during the same period in 2008. The benchmark price, as calculated by the MLSLink Housing Price Index®, for detached properties increased 13.6 per cent from November 2008 to $757,209.

Sales of apartment properties in November 2009 increased 240.5 per cent to 1,396 compared to 410 sales in November 2008. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 11.6 per cent from November 2008 to $381,945.

Attached property sales in November 2009 are up 268.3 per cent to 523, compared with the 142 sales in November 2008. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 10.2 per cent between Novembers 2008 and 2009 to $469,686.

14 Dec

Green Tips


Posted by: Michael Hallett

1. Switch to online billing services from your utility service providers. The reduction in paper usage will protect natural woodland and save energy used. Create new habits to help the world we live in.

2. Clothes dryers operate most efficiently on full loads that are sorted and run on the appropriate settings. Separate all light and heavy clothes and ensure all heavy clothes have been previously spun or wrung out. To save even more energy always clean lint filters, keep air vents clear of any debris or hang dry clothes.

3. Pay your bills online, if every house in Canada did this then we would save 1.8 million trees every year.

14 Dec

Why should you refinance before your term expires when the rates are low?


Posted by: Michael Hallett

Just because your mortgage term has not expired, doesn’t mean you cannot take advantage of the low interest rates. Let me show you some numbers, which might help you, think about your current mortgage and how I might be able to put more money into your pocket on a monthly basis.

Client ‘X’ current mortgage

Original Balance – $515,250.00

Outstanding Principal (after 1 yr of payments) – $510,500.00

Amortization – 40 yrs

Interest Rate – 5.02%

Term – 5 yrs

Mortgage – fixed

Payment Frequency – semi monthly

Payment – $1235.00 ($2470.00/month)

By switching to a modest 3.85% fixed 5 year rate client ‘X’ is saving $206,874.12 over 35 year amortization (Please note that 40 yr amortization schedules are no longer offered in Canada), $286.00 per month or $3,432.00 per annum or $17,160.00 over 5 years. There are countless things one could do with that money; pay your property taxes, take a vacation, small home renovation, RRSPs, etc… Remember by decrease the amortization period, even slightly, we allow you to put more of your hard earned money towards the principal and less into the bottomless pit of interest.

 If you do consider switching lenders for a better rate and paying out your current mortgage before term maturity, there may be a penalty issued from you current lender and additional closing costs for the new mortgage. It is hard to estimate those numbers as all lenders, appraisals, legal and survey fees are different.

14 Dec

The BC Harmonized Sales Tax in a Nutshell – A Quick Overview of the B.C. HST 12% Tax and How It Influences New Home Buyers of Re


Posted by: Michael Hallett

1. The Harmonized Sales Tax (also known as the new BC HST) is 12% tax applicable to most goods and services, including new homes, real estate, and property.

2. The new B.C. HST 12% Tax is the combination of the Federal Goods and Services Tax (5% GST) and the Provincial Sales Tax (7% PST).

3. Implementation of the BC Harmonized Sales Tax will take place on July 1, 2010.

4. The BC HST is NOT a 12% real estate tax, but a provincial harmonized tax on most goods, services and consumer products including new homes.

5. Currently, new BC and Vancouver homes are subject to 5% GST (federal tax) in which first time homebuyers or investors can receive GST rebates. This 5% GST will be replaced with the higher 12% B.C. Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), a 7% difference in taxes on the total purchase price of a new British Columbia home or property.

6. The B.C. HST program will give partial rebates for new BC homes priced up to $400,000. The government will give these homebuyers a partial five per cent BC HST rebate on the provincial tax side which makes any new B.C. home or Vancouver property $400,000 or less no more expensive than it is today.

7. Homebuyers looking to buy new Vancouver property over $400,000 will receive a maximum BC HST rebate of $20,000, but will see the purchase price above that level subject to the extra five per cent tax rate system.

8. The British Columbia Harmonized Sales Tax of 12% HST is also applicable to any costs and fees associated with your property/home purchase including legal/notary fees, commissions and other closing costs.

9. The BC HST transition rules are unclear at this time. It is unknown whether new Vancouver home sales contracts written before July 1, 2010 but completed after the harmonized sales tax HST launch date will be subject to the current 5% GST only or the entire 12% HST new tax.

10. The cost of new home ownership will increase significantly in British Columbia due to the new BC HST tax of 12%. Not only will your new home or real estate cost more up front, but the 12% HST harmonized sales tax is also applicable to such things like strata fees, residential heating fuel, commercial rents, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, repairs, cable TV, internet, electricity, gas, renovations, painting and other professional services.


Scenario 1: Based on a purchase price of $600,000 for a new BC or Vancouver home, the homebuyer would pay a total of $72,000 in BC HST taxes (12% on $600,000). With the homebuyer HST rebate for purchases above $600,000, the homebuyer would receive the $20,000, thus reducing their purchase cost to $52,000 in taxes for a total of $652,000. Currently, the 5% GST applicable to the same home would cost only $30,000 (a difference of $22,000). *This does not include the HST applicable to closing fees.

Scenario 2: If a BC homebuyer wanted to purchase a new Vancouver home costing $800,000, the total 12% HST hit would be $96,000. The partial HST rebate of $20,000 (maximum allowed) will reduce this to $76,000, making the final purchase price at $876,000 plus property transfer taxes and other closing costs. Before July 1, 2010, a new home would be subject to only 5% GST which is $40,000 on a $800,000 property. With the new BC harmonized sales tax, a BC homebuyer would pay $36,000 more for the same home after implementation of the HST tax. *This also does not include the HST applicable to closing costs.