How to Manage Moving during the Holiday Season

General Robyn McLean 11 Dec

Some great tips if you’re planning a move this holiday season from our friends at the StorageCafe.

Moving during the winter holiday season might not be your first choice – or even your second – but, if you’re in this position, it’s probably because of some very serious reasons. Once the decision is made, it’s important to learn all about the particularities of moving during this pretty busy time of the year, what you should be paying extra attention to, and how you can actually benefit from the situation.

Pick the Actual Day of the Move Carefully

The winter holiday season conventionally spreads from Black Friday until New Year’s Eve, but there are several “peak days” during this time that you shouldn’t choose as your moving dates. Black Friday sees a huge amount of road traffic, so driving a rental truck on any of those days will be quite challenging. However, the weekend following Black Friday is a good choice, as the shopping madness subsides.

Avoid, for the same reason, the couple of days leading up to Christmas –from December 22ndto December 24th, when roads and airports are extremely busy. But if you’re planning a DIY move with a rented truck, the first and second Christmas Days might just be the winning bet – everyone’s at home, the roads are almost deserted, and you and your family have time off from work and school – but only if you don’t celebrate Christmas too much!

However, if you’re interested in hiring a moving company, you need to rethink the time frame. It’s unlikely you will find companies available to move you during Christmas or Boxing Day. However, excluding those celebratory days, a winter holiday season move might actually save you some bucks. Few people choose to move in November and December, due to weather, so moving companies are at their slowest and slashing prices.

Make the Most of Your Family’s Days Off

Another silver lining of moving during this time of the year is that you’re probably having more days off than usual. It’s no fun to spend those days packing your home, but at least you have time to do it properly. Besides, you’ll be celebrating the New Year in your new home, which counts for something.

Make the most of your free days and jump-start your move. Sort through your things, decide what goes with you and what stays behind, and prepare the bulk of your stuff for moving.

If it’s a relatively short-distance move, for example from Philadelphia to New York City in the U.S., or from Toronto to Mississauga in Canada, you can even do it in stages, to ease the burden. For example, rent a self-storage unit and use it as your “moving base” – pack during your time-off, then make a few trips and store your stuff in there. Self-storage facilities have convenient schedules, and many are even open seven days a week, 24 hours per day –it’s easy to fit in some back-and-forth trips. By the time the actual moving day arrives, most of your belongings will already be at the destination, making the whole process a lot easier.

Now Is the Perfect Time for Donations

Moving also involves decluttering – and what better time of the year than this to donate the items you no longer need? Contact a charity organization and have them pick up your slightly worn things that are in high demand right now, such as winter clothing, books, toys, baby stuff and even furniture and electronics.

You could also donate your winter holiday decorations – it’s unlikely you’ll have the time for a fully decorated home this year, so why not spread the cheer and give them to someone who would truly appreciate them?

You Can Benefit from Seasonal Sales

If you’re planning to buy new furniture, electronics, or appliances for your new home, you’re in luck, and you’ll probably score some great deals. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas sales await you – we’re talking about weeks of special offers and discounted prices.

Check out the offers and do the math – is it worth it to pack and transport your furniture and appliances? Moving large items is usually the most expensive part of a move – maybe you’re better off leaving them behind and getting new items at your destination.

Remember to Celebrate

Hold on to the cheer! You’re moving during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. You might not have the time, energy, or money for a full-blown holiday season, with dinner parties, gifts, and decorations. But you’re spending time with your family – a lot more than usual, for sure – and that’s the most important part. Christmas on the road? Well, you can make it memorable by packing a goodie basket and small gifts for everyone, and by playing family road-trip games.

Planning ahead and making the most of every opportunity this special time of the year provides will help you manage your winter holiday season move – and maybe it’s not going to be nearly as bad as you initially feared!

First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI)

General Robyn McLean 11 Dec

A summary of info that you need to know about the new first-time home buyer incentive from our friends at Zoocasa.

The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) was launched on September 2, 2019 by the federal government and offers a 5% or 10% contribution towards your down payment in the form of a shared equity mortgage. The program aims to improve affordability by reducing the monthly mortgage payments for buyers.

There is no interest charged on the FTHBI amount nor is there an ongoing repayment schedule, instead the government will share in the upside and downside of the property value. The FTHBI offers the following down payment contributions:

  • 5% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a re-sale home
  • 5% or 10% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a new construction
  • 5% for new and re-sale mobile/manufactured homes

Property Types Eligible for the FTHBI

Only residential properties in Canada that are suitable for full-time, year-round occupancy are eligible. The property must be intended for the homebuyers’ own occupancy and investment properties are not permitted.

Examples of residential properties include:

  • detached houses
  • semi-detached houses
  • duplexes
  • triplexes
  • fourplexes
  • townhouses
  • condominiums

Home Buyer, Down Payment and Mortgage Requirements

Buyers who wish to participate in the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program must meet the following criteria:

  • Be Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and non-permanent residents who are legally authorized to work in Canada
  • Buyers’ combined qualifying income cannot exceed $120,000; this includes the income of guarantors co-signing on the mortgage
  • At least one buyer must be a first-time home buyer
  • Buyer(s) must have the minimum down payment

For the purpose of the FTHBI, you are considered a first-time home buyer if you meet any of these qualifications:

  • You have never owned a home
  • You experienced a breakdown of a marriage or common-law partnership (even if you don’t meet the other first-time home buyer requirements)
  • In the last 4 years, you did not occupy a home that you or your current spouse or common-law partner owned

Minimum down payment and mortgage requirements for the FHTBI:

  • The minimum down payment the buyer must have through their own sources is 5% of the first $500,000 of the home value and 10% of any value above $500,000
  • Mortgages must be eligible for mortgage loan insurance through either Canada Guaranty, CMHC or Genworth, which means the total down payment including the FTHBI amount must be 19.99% or less
  • For a 5% FTHBI, the maximum down payment the buyer can provide is 14.99%; for a 10% FTHBI, the maximum down payment the buyer can provide is 9.99%
  • Total amount borrowed (including the FTHBI amount) is limited to 4 times the qualifying income

In addition, the closing date for a re-sale home must be within 6 months from the application approval. The closing date for new a construction home must be within 18 months from the application approval.

Maximum Home Price Allowed Under the FTHBI

The maximum price you could buy a home for under the FTHBI depends on your qualifying income as well as your down payment.

Here is a sample maximum home price calculation:

Suppose your annual qualifying income is $120,000/year (the maximum allowable when using the FTHBI). The FTHBI stipulates the maximum amount you can borrow, including the FTHBI amount, is four times your income, thus you can borrow up to $480,000 to purchase a home.

i. Maximum home price if you have the minimum down payment of 5%

The minimum down payment required from the home buyer is 5%, thus the maximum price of a re-sale home you could purchase is $505,263 (calculated as $480,000 divided by 0.95).

ii. Maximum home price if you have a down payment of 14.99%

With a down payment of 14.99%, the maximum price of a re-sale home you could purchase is $564,639 (calculated as $480,000 divided by 0.8501).

Repaying the FTHBI

The home buyer must repay the FTHBI amount in full after 25 years or when the property is sold, whichever comes first. The full amount can be repaid in full anytime, without a pre-payment penalty; however, partial repayments are not permitted.

The amount due to be repaid is calculated as the percentage of the FTHBI times the home’s value at the time of repayment. For example, if a homebuyer received 5% of the down payment through the FTHBI at the time of purchase, the homebuyer will repay 5% of the home’s fair market value at the time of the repayment.

Here is a sample repayment calculation:

You purchase a property for $400,000 and receive a 5% for your down payment through the FTHBI in the amount of $20,000. When you sell your home within 25 years, the home value has increased to $600,000. The repayment amount due would be 5% of $600,000, or $30,000.

Applying for FTHBI

To apply for the FTHBI, complete the application documents found on the official First-Time Home Buyer Incentive Plan website, speak to your mortgage lender and notify the lawyer who will be managing your home closing.

 Bank of Canada Holds Steady Amid Continued Trade Uncertainty

General Robyn McLean 4 Dec

Valuable insight on the BoC rate hold announced today, from our Chief Economist, DR. Sherry Cooper.

The Bank of Canada maintained its target for the overnight rate at 1.75% for the ninth consecutive policy announcement, keeping the key interest rate stable for all of 2019. Today’s decision was widely expected as members of the Governing Council have signalled that the Bank is satisfied with the performance of the Canadian economy.

The Bank of Canada is one of a shrinking number of central banks that has not eased interest rates this year. Roughly 40 central banks have cut interest rates, most notably the US Federal Reserve, which has cut rates three times this year.

The statement was undoubtedly less dovish (i.e., consistent with a rate cut) than in October, noting that there are signs that the global economy is stabilizing, though trade remains the most significant downside risk to the outlook. On inflation, the expectation is for a continued run around the target 2% rate, though gasoline prices will cause some headline volatility over the coming months. Finally, “Governing Council judges it appropriate to maintain the current level of the overnight rate.”

While the risks to the outlook for the BoC remain skewed toward a rate cut, it doesn’t look like policymakers are in any hurry to move at this point.

The BoC does remain concerned about the global backdrop and potential risks for the domestic economy. In recent days, stock markets have sold off sharply as President Trump opined that a US-China trade deal is not likely ant time soon.

The White House has lately threatened a new round of tariffs on many countries, including Canada, and warned of a possible reinstatement of steel/aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina. The United States threatened tariffs on US$2.4-billion of French imports in retaliation against a French digital services tax, raising concerns in Canada that Justin Trudeau’s minority government will also face backlash from Washington if it proceeds with a campaign promise to impose a similar levy. US businesses have complained that the Canadian tax proposal would violate the intentions of the new North American Free Trade Agreement — called the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement or USMCA — which allows for digital levies but prohibits discriminatory tax treatment. The deal is currently awaiting ratification in the US, where Congressional Democrats have been demanding changes to labour and environmental provisions.

On the domestic front, the central bank believes that the underlying details of the as-expected slowing in Q3 GDP were decidedly more positive than the headline 1.3% growth rate suggested and highlighted the stronger than expected rise consumer spending, housing and business investment. The press release stated that “housing investment was also a source of strength, supported by population growth and low mortgage rates. The Bank continues to monitor the evolution of financial vulnerabilities related to the household sector.” Housing was robust in Q3, accompanied by a re-acceleration in mortgage credit. While the BoC seems comfortable with this evolution, it will be monitoring credit growth.

Labour markets have been robust, inflation has been locked right around the 2% target range, and wage growth has strengthened. While growth headwinds remain, the bank is balancing these risks against those associated with re-inflating household credit growth (mostly via recovery in housing markets) from levels that the BoC has argued are already worryingly high.

“Fiscal policy developments will also figure into the Bank’s updated outlook in January.” Tomorrow’s Throne Speech is vital for the Bank of Canada. Governor Poloz said in October that $5 billion in fiscal stimulus is roughly equivalent to a 25 basis point rate cut. It looks as though the BoC would prefer that fiscal rather than monetary policy do the heavy lifting to offset the headwinds from the global trade war.

Bottom Line: Governor Poloz appears to be satisfied with his stand-pat policy with only six months left in his term as Governor. Today’s statement was much more sanguine than the more cautious tone struck in October. The risks around the economic outlook remain skewed to the downside and, while the same can be said for policy rates, some anticipated fiscal stimulus will likely provide the Bank of Canada with some breathing room. Barring a negative shock to the economy, it looks like the BoC could be on hold for some time yet.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

What You’d Need to Save to Buy a Home in Metro Vancouver on a Median Income

General Robyn McLean 3 Dec

Wow…there’s some discouraging data here however it certainly puts Vancouver’s ongoing affordability issues into clear light. It also emphasizes that saving for a down payment should start as early as possible. Great article from Zoocasa!

The Metro Vancouver housing market has long held the notorious distinction of being the priciest in Canada; steeply rising home prices and fears of speculative activity have prompted action from both the provincial and municipal governments in recent years, including a foreign buyers’ tax, empty-homes tax, as well as a levy on homes owned by those who do not pay income tax in the province.

And it would appear these measures have been somewhat effective; combined with the federally-implemented mortgage stress test, these taxes have chilled sales, price growth, and MLS listings in Vancouver over the last two years. While buyers are now starting to return to the Vancouver market, prices still remain below year-ago levels: according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, the benchmark home price for all residential properties hit $992,900 in October, down -6.4% year over year. Detached houses now fetch a benchmark of $1,410,500, a decline of -7.5%, while apartments cost $652,500, down -5.9%.

How Affordable is Vancouver Real Estate for Median-Income Buyers?

However, despite improved affordability in the Vancouver market, has the property ladder become any more accessible to middle-class buyers? How feasible would it be for a household with the median income to afford the benchmark-priced home in their local municipality?

To find out, Zoocasa sourced benchmark home prices for both detached houses and apartments in 16 municipalities across Metro Vancouver. The study then calculated the maximum mortgage amount a median-income household in that city would qualify for if they were purchasing the benchmark home in their region. The study then calculated the remaining required down payment, as well as the timeline required to save those funds, assuming households put away 20% of their income each year.

Mortgage calculations were based on the federal mortgage stress test rate of 5.19% and a 25-year amortization, as well as carrying costs of 1% for property taxes, and $100 monthly for heating bills.

Buyers Would Save for Centuries for Detached House in Some Neighbourhoods

Based on the findings, there are no municipalities in which a median-income household could afford Metro Vancouver houses for sale without having to save for at least two decades for the necessary down payment. In fact, in the three priciest luxury neighbourhoods including Richmond, Vancouver West, and West Vancouver, where benchmark home prices range between $1.5 – $2.9 million, it would actually take more than 100 years to come up with the needed funds.

While this isn’t a realistic scenario for home buyers – those facing such a gap between their mortgage qualification and desired home purchase would instead seek out housing options better aligned with their incomes – the numbers reveal just how large the disparity is between median-income household affordability and home prices in some Metro Vancouver municipalities.

Even municipalities with comparatively more affordable detached house benchmark prices were far beyond reach for median-income earners; in Maple Ridge, North Delta, and Pitt Meadows, where benchmark house prices range between $804,200 – $881,900, home buyers would need to save between 27 – 32 years to amass the necessary down payment.

Vancouver Condo Apartments Still Accessible for Median-Income Earners

The good news is that there are still several municipalities that offer affordable entry-point housing for median-income earners; those looking to purchase Vancouver condos could hope to do so on a savings timeline of less than five years in North Delta, Maple Ridge, and Port Coquitlam, where the benchmark price ranges from $372,100 – $437,400.

However, those looking to purchase multi-family housing won’t find many entry-level options in the region’s most expensive markets; with benchmark prices between $648,967 – $1,048,800, it would take between 31 – 40 years to save a down payment large enough to purchase a unit in Burnaby, Vancouver West, and West Vancouver.

Top 3 Most Affordable Metro Vancouver Municipalities for Houses

1 – Maple Ridge

  • Benchmark price: $804,200
  • Median income: $86,178
  • Maximum mortgage: $342,736
  • Down payment required: $461,464
  • Years to save: 26.8

2 – North Delta

  • Benchmark price: $886,800
  • Median income: $92,300
  • Maximum mortgage: $364,700
  • Down payment required: $522,100
  • Years to save: 28.3

3 – Pitt Meadows

  • Benchmark price: $881,900
  • Median income: $86,912
  • Maximum mortgage: $335,833
  • Down payment required: $546,067
  • Years to save: 31.4

Top 3 Least Affordable Metro Vancouver Municipalities for Houses

1 – Vancouver West

  • Benchmark price: $2,912,000
  • Median income: $65,327
  • Maximum mortgage: $66,183
  • Down payment required: $2,845,817
  • Years to save: 217.8

2 – West Vancouver

  • Benchmark price: $2,523,300
  • Median income: $89,808
  • Maximum mortgage: $120,854
  • Down payment required: $2,402,446
  • Years to save: 133.8

3– Richmond

  • Benchmark price: $1,501,600
  • Median income: $65,241
  • Maximum mortgage: $129,786
  • Down payment required: $1,371,814
  • Years to save: 105.1

Top 3 Most Affordable Metro Vancouver Municipalities for Apartments

1 – North Delta

  • Benchmark price: $372,100
  • Median income: $92,300
  • Maximum mortgage: $367,635
  • Down payment required: $18,605
  • Years to save: 1

2 – Maple Ridge

  • Benchmark price: $350,400
  • Median income: $86,178
  • Maximum mortgage: $346,195
  • Down payment required: $17,520
  • Years to save: 1

3 – Port Coquitlam

  • Benchmark price: $437,400
  • Median income: $84,096
  • Maximum mortgage: $382,200
  • Down payment required: $65,610
  • Years to save: 3.9

Top 3 Least Affordable Metro Vancouver Municipalities for Apartments

1 – West Vancouver

  • Benchmark price: $1,048,800
  • Median income: $89,808
  • Maximum mortgage: $328,243
  • Down payment required: $720,557
  • Years to save: 40.1

2 – Vancouver West

  • Benchmark price: $754,100
  • Median income: $65,327
  • Maximum mortgage: $235,404
  • Down payment required: $518,696
  • Years to save: 39.7

3 – Burnaby

  • Benchmark price: $648,967
  • Median income: $64,737
  • Maximum mortgage: $246,955
  • Down payment required: $402,012
  • Years to save: 31


Benchmark detached house and apartment prices were sourced from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

Median total household incomes were sourced from Statistics Canada.

The maximum mortgage affordability is based on buying at the benchmark price on a median income, the mortgage “stress test” rate of 5.19%, a 25-year amortization, and carrying costs of 1% in property taxes and $100/month for heating.

Housing and debt worries weigh on Band of Canada

General Robyn McLean 3 Dec

Stay informed…some relevant intel on the direction of interest rates for the future from our friends at FNAT.

The Canadian economy continues to stubbornly support the Bank of Canada’s interest rate policy.  Market watchers are pretty much unanimous in their projections that the central bank will stay on the sidelines, again, when it makes its rate announcement later this week.

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show gross domestic product grew by 1.3% in the third quarter.  That is a slow down, but it is a long way from anything that would trigger BoC intervention.  Consumer spending and housing are seen as the main drivers of that growth.

Housing has recovered nicely from its sluggish performance earlier this year and it would seem that the market has made a soft landing.   But the Bank continues to worry that lowering interest rates could spark another round of debt-fueled buying.  In the Bank’s opinion, high household debt remains a key vulnerability for the Canadian economy.

Of course an interest rate cut would weaken the relatively strong Canadian dollar which is hampering the export sector, but the Bank has said it would like to see other methods used to encourage exports and business investment.  Even lower interest rates and a weaker Loonie might not be enough to push through the international economic headwinds created by the current spate of tariff and trade wars that have slowed global growth.

Now the forecasters are looking as far ahead as the second quarter of 2020 before they see any interest rate activity.  By then we should being seeing the effects of the U.S. presidential election campaign.

Dec 2, 2019
First National Financial LP