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When agents face heat for illegal income apartments

How does an interested buyer know if a home's basement apartment is legal? And, what about information about basement apartments must real estate agents provide to buyers?

Mohamed came to my office with an agreement to purchase a two-unit house in Kitchener. The agents involved told him the basement apartment alone could rent for $1,200 a month.

Although the purchase agreement contained no reference to the legality of the basement apartment, the MLS listing described it as an "in-law suite" and an "accessory apartment" – industry code words for illegal unit.

After signing the agreement, Mohamed approached the City of Kitchener and was told that the home's basement apartment did not have the necessary approvals and was illegal. He wanted out of the deal.

I told him about three cases before discipline panels of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), the industry regulator.

In 2010, a real estate agent was charged by RECO with breaches of its code of ethics. The agent described a property in a  listing as, "magnificent house… with two apartments in the basement ($1,150 income)…Seller and and Agent do not warrant the retrofit status of basement apartment."

The agent told the buyer it would be an excellent investment property, but took no steps to ensure the buyer was informed of its legality and suitability for investment purposes.

After the deal closed, the municipality issued an order against the property because the basement apartment was in violation of the Buidling Code Act. The tenants stopped paying rent, and the owner eventually filed for bankruptcy.


Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.


He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.


Homeownership hampers millennials’ retirement plans

Homeownership is becoming a distant dream for many Canadian millennials, according to a study from KPMG.

Around two in three are worried that if they buy a house and delay their savings, they will not have enough saved for their retirement. In fact, only 54% of millennials expect they will be able to afford a home in the future.

These findings highlight how different millennials' financial circumstances are from those of the previous generations, said Martin Joyce, partner and national leader for human and social services at KPMG.

"They face unique challenges when it comes to building wealth despite having more education and income, primarily because of housing unaffordability," he said.

Roughly 42% of millennials are putting their retirement savings on hold to focus on paying off their mortgages. Joyce said this could indicate that the millennial population is facing a choice today that their parents' generation did not.

"They either buy a home or focus on saving for retirement. Buying a home involves taking on considerable debt because house prices are so high in relation to incomes, and that limits millennials' ability to save," he said.

Furthermore, millennials are highly indebted, making saving for a house even harder. Figures from Statistics Canada show that their debt-to-income ratio of 216% is considerably higher than what Gen-Xers and baby boomers had at their age.

The higher costs of living, particularly rents, are also squeezing the younger generation's ability to save for retirement.

"We're concerned that millennials will not be in the same position to retire as the generations that preceded them were. A variety of factors is hampering their ability to accumulate more wealth and prompting calls for government reform," Joyce said.

by Gerv Tacadena

18 Dec 2019

https://repmag.ca

 


Are Canadians drowning in debt?

Around two in five Canadians are becoming increasingly hopeless about escaping debts in their lifetime, according to the latest findings from Manulife Bank Debt Survey.

The majority of the survey respondents think that the average Canadian household is in serious debt. The study found that there has been an increase in the number of Canadians who have considerable non-mortgage-related debts, from 46% last year to 55% this year.

"There is a financial wellness crisis, and it's affecting Canadians of all demographics," said Rick Lunny, president and CEO of Manulife Bank.

Spending continues to be a huge burden for many Canadians, with the average spending-to-income ratio trending negatively from 33% to 45%. Only around one in 10 Canadians said their incomes are rising faster than their expenses.

Furthermore, around one in three Canadians said debts hinder them from doing things in life that they could enjoy.

Baby boomers said they are in better financial shape than their Generation X and millennial counterparts. Roughly 60% of baby boomers said they are better off financially than their parents were at the same age, compared to just under half of Gen-Xers and millennials.

Of the three, Gen-Xers perceive themselves to be in the most debt. They are also most likely to report that their expenses are outpacing their incomes. This generation is also the most sceptical about ever being debt-free in their lifetime.

Millennials, on the other hand, are most likely to report stronger incomes than spending. They also feel more in control of their financial situation through the help of technology. The study found that three in four millennials think it is essential to have access to financial plans online, preferably through an app.

by Gerv Tacadena04 Dec 2019

https://repmag.ca


Homeownership becomes a distant dream for millennials

Skyrocketing house prices and ballooning debt are making it a struggle for Canadian millennials to break into the housing market, a new study by KPMG found.

While around three in four millennials still have homeownership as one of their goals, close to half said it would likely remain as a "pipedream" due to several reasons.

Even millennials with good-paying jobs are struggling to afford a home, said Martin Joyce, KPMG partner and national leader for human and social services.

"The combination of rising house prices, high levels of personal debt and annual incomes that are just a fraction of the cost of buying a home compared with their parents' generation, is pushing the dream of homeownership out of reach for many millennials," he said.

The indebtedness of millennials was due to high levels of student debt, according to the study. Furthermore, millennials who were able to enter the housing market have taken on larger mortgages relative to their incomes.

Household debt has been on an upward trend for the past 30 years and recently reached record highs, making homeownership even more unaffordable, especially in tight markets. In fact, the debt-to-disposable income ratio in Canada has risen considerably, from 87% in 1990 to 175% at the end of 2018.

And while millennials are willing to take on higher levels of debt to attain homeownership, they are less optimistic about the payoffs.

On average, it would take 13 years for millennials to save for a 20% home-loan deposit. It took their parents just about five years in 1976.

"That's eight fewer years that millennials might have for saving more for their retirement. If they do manage to save up and buy a house now and delay retirement savings, our poll finds 65% of millennials fear they won't have enough saved for retirement," Joyce said.

The millennials surveyed in the study cited several measures the federal government can do to help ease the housing affordability concerns. Some of these measures include making it easier to use Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSPs) for down payments, raising Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) limits, and implementing a new registered savings system.

"It seems pretty clear that millennials are in a unique situation in terms of their ability to purchase a home — which has historically been a foundation for retirement stability — and most Canadians agree that the government has a role to play in making it a more achievable dream for many of them," Joyce said.

by Gerv Tacadena

11 Dec 2019

https://repmag.ca

 

 


Pre–delivery Inspection (PDI)

With real estate markets in several major markets – Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Victoria to name just a few – projected to have strong years in 2020, more and more buyers in these communities will be turning to pre-construction opportunities.

A crucial component of buying newly built properties is the pre-delivery inspection. But in a hot market filled with inexperienced first-time buyers, the importance of a PDI can sometimes get lost. It’s an agent’s job to ensure their pre-construction clients understand just how necessary they are.

“They’re extremely important,” says Ryan Coyle of Connect Asset Management. “Everyone has a right to a pre-delivery inspection, and everyone should definitely accept that right.”

Buyers are not legally required to attend a PDI; Coyle feels agents shouldn’t pressure their clients into taking part in one, particularly if they don’t know what to look for. He insists, however, that agents should be prepared to take on the responsibility of a PDI in their clients’ stead.

“It’s definitely a good idea to have [the realtor] attend, or to attend with [the buyer], so they can go through everything with a fine-tooth comb,” he says. “It comes down to the experience of the realtor. I’ve done dozens of these for my clients, as well as myself, so I know what to look for. I would rather go by myself.”

Because a pre-delivery inspection is a buyer’s first opportunity to view a new property, it should be conducted thoroughly. Coyle’s strategy is to do a room-by-room floor-to-ceiling check-up that ensures:

  • There are no inconsistencies or blemishes on the floors, walls and ceilings
  • That the electrical outlets are operational and that the light switches and lights are in working order
  • That all doors, handles and railings have been installed or mounted securely
  • That the water pressure and temperature is acceptable in the kitchen and bathrooms

Coyle says the most common deficiencies often involve markings left over by different crews of tradespeople. “There’s just a lot of traffic in and out.”

Even with an experienced realtor in their corner, some clients opt to do their PDIs themselves. In a case like that, a realtor trying to provide the smoothest transaction possible can only protest so much.

“Sometimes they want to do it and don’t want me there,” says Coyle. “I don’t necessarily advise that, but it happens all the time,” says Coyle.

by Clayton Jarvis

20 Nov 2019

https://repmag.ca


Realtors across the country are volunteering this week

From coast to coast, Canadian Realtors are volunteering for local projects focused on housing and shelter-related causes.

This week is the inaugural Realtors Care Week, organized by the Canadian Real Estate Association and running through to National Housing Day on November 22.

"Our REALTOR® community is proud to be doubling down on our year-round efforts in support of housing charities with our first-ever REALTORS Care® Week," says Kimberly French, CREA Regional Director, Atlantic, and Chair of CREA's REALTORS Care® Committee. "We understand the importance of the comfort of home in people's lives and look forward to helping share that comfort with Canadians facing shelter-related challenges."

Among the activities from Realtors are the following:

  • Members of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board will once again be collecting blankets and warm clothes for the most vulnerable residents across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia as part of the 25th Annual REALTORS Care® Blanket Drive.
  • The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Manitoba Tipi Mitawa—their affordable homeownership program for First Nations families in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. On Tuesday, November 19, MREA will be hosting an official launch of the program as a registered charity in Winnipeg.
  • Members of the Saint John Real Estate Board will be giving the resource room at the Saint John Newcomers Centre a much-needed makeover, including fresh paint, new lighting, new furniture, and decorative touches. These efforts will turn this space into a cozy home away from home for the newest citizens of Greater Saint John seeking resources on various aspects of life in New Brunswick, including housing.
  • Inspired by the charitable works of its members, staff from the Canadian Real Estate Association will be supporting their neighbours at Centre 507 in Ottawa by collecting donations of their clients' most-needed items, assembling "kindness kits," and preparing and serving a comforting chili lunch.
  • Members of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB®) will be participating in a double build day at Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta's Silver Springs development on Friday, November 22. This build is part of CREB®'s current three-year, $1 million partnership with Habitat that will provide homeownership opportunities for 32 low-income families who otherwise might not realize this dream.

 

by Steve Randall

19 Nov 2019

https://repmag.ca


How a property survey could have prevented a pricey court judgment


I am regularly surprised at how frequently a land survey is viewed as unnecessary when it could be considered the single most important document in a real estate transaction.

A survey was the focus of a court decision released last month. It all started in April 2017, when Mr. and Mrs. S. listed their home for sale for $649,900. Located in Brampton, the house sits on an irregular lot. The 120-foot-long lot has a frontage of 71.12 feet narrowing to 44.93 feet at the rear.

The MLS listing noted the frontage and depth, but did not disclose the rear measurement. A more detailed document available on the propertyline.ca subscription website disclosed that the property narrows at the back.

At the time of the listing, the real estate market was very active and the owners received eight competing offers.

Mr. and Mrs. A. visited the property with their own agent and submitted a conditional offer to buy the house for $805,000. The owners signed it back at $850,000, removing the conditions, and the buyers agreed.

The frontage and depth were properly filled in on the buyers’ offer — on a Toronto Real Estate Board form that does not include spaces to indicate irregular dimensions. There was no disclosure that the rear measurement was smaller than the front. The offer required the sellers to provide a land survey, but only if one was “available.” The sellers did not have one.

Two mistakes were made at this point. A survey showing the correct size and shape of the lot was, in fact, available online at protectyourboundaries.ca for $298, plus tax. But neither agent checked to see if a survey was available before the offer was prepared.

As well, the agents failed to download an inexpensive copy of the subdivision plan showing the dimensions of all the lots.

Sometime before closing, the buyer obtained a copy of the survey from the city. He later claimed he would never have offered $850,000 had he known about the irregular shape of the property.

The deal did not close. After the real estate market experienced a sharp downturn in the summer of 2017, the owners were only able to sell the property for $746,000.

The owners sued the buyers for damages for breach of contract, and the buyers sued the sellers for the return of their $25,000 deposit, claiming the agreement was rescinded due to a misrepresentation in the size of the lot.

Earlier this year, both parties appeared before Justice James Stribopoulos in Brampton. Each side applied for summary judgment without a trial.

The judge found no evidence of misrepresentation and ruled that the buyers decided to walk away, breaching the contract. Judgment was granted in favour of the sellers for the $114,140 difference between the two sale prices, plus interest, costs and other damages. The $25,000 deposit was to be released and credited against the award.

The lessons from this case: Always describe the lot dimensions accurately in the purchase agreement. And always get a survey.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.


New mortgage, banking comparison service launches in Canada

An Australian owned comparison website company has officially launched in Canada with a new local headquarters in Toronto.

Finder offers comparisons across several financial products and has already secured partnerships with AMEX, TD Bank, BMO, Fairstone and Mogo, as well as with leading retailers The Bay, Walmart and Zara.

It plans to add more partners in the coming year, focusing on those in the mortgage, insurance, and digital banking industries.

“The comparison market in Canada is less established than in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, and we think there’s a huge opportunity to help Canadians make better financial decisions,” said co-founder Fred Schebesta.

He said Canadians are already using the service at Finder.com/ca, driven by a desire to save money.

“Canadians owe a combined $2.16 trillion in debt and households are only putting 14.9% of their disposable income toward principal and interest payments. That’s almost on par with the peak debt servicing levels we saw in 2007 in the lead up to the global financial crisis.”

Toronto team
The firm’s new Canadian headquarters are near Liberty Village in Toronto with six employees so far.

The comparison website attracts more than 10 million visitors globally and is the most visited site of its kind in Australia. With a planned investment in the global business of AU$100 million, it aims to become the world’s leading financial comparison website.

by Steve Randal

13 Nov 2019

https://repmag.ca


Upgrading older buildings could make a huge impact on emissions

Making some simple energy upgrades to older buildings could have a huge impact on carbon missions according to a new report.

Looking specifically at older apartment buildings in British Columbia, FortisBC says that measures such as new boiler systems, and energy-efficient taps, faucets and showerheads, go a long way to making these homes sustainable.

Based on an estimation of more than 11,000 older apartment buildings across the province, the report calculates that carbon emissions could be slashed by 200,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking 43,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road.

"Rental apartments are so important in our communities, and our early research showed almost 80 per cent of apartments in B.C. were built more than 35 years ago to lower efficiency standards than exist today," said Danielle Wensink, director of conservation and energy management, FortisBC. "Lowering energy use in these buildings is critical. Building owners already face so many maintenance concerns that we worked to simplify what can be a complex and overwhelming process."

FortisBC says that these older buildings provide affordable homes but building owners and investors are pressured by their utility and maintenance costs, community infrastructure and emissions.

But simple upgrades can, for example, reduce domestic hot water energy use by an average of about 12 per cent per year.

Upgrade program
FortisBC’s Rental Apartment Program launched in 2015 and enables building owners to benefit from energy-saving measures at no cost.

"The results so far are substantial, and have proved very beneficial for participating owners, especially those who are investing in further upgrades," said Wensink.

LandlordBC, which represents more than 3,300 owners and managers of rental housing in B.C., is a strong proponent of energy efficiency in rental buildings with their members and understands that support is a key element.

"Building owners who invest in energy-saving upgrades show a real commitment to keeping these important rental buildings on the market and operating them more sustainably," said David Hutniak, chief executive officer, LandlordBC. "Support like this is critical given the significant cost pressures building owners face, and it pays off for tenants, owners and communities by making these homes more comfortable and sustainable, more affordable to operate and less impactful on community water systems." 

by Steve Randall

13 Nov 2019

https://repmag.ca


Many Canadians spend as much as half of their incomes on rent

Around 800,000 households across Canada set aside more than 50% of their incomes on rental fees, a recent analysis by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association has found.

Overspending has increasingly become a feature in the Canadian housing market rather than a bug, with the advent of easy credit. Approximately 1.8 million households nationwide are also dedicating more than 30% of their incomes on housing expenses.

“Paying too much for rent has become the new normal,” association CEO Jill Atkey said in an interview with Global News. “That takes a real toll on health, on time and quality of life.”

Additional data from the Credit Counselling Society indicated that this spending is a major driver of anxiety, especially considering the pressures of inflation and rising costs of living.

One out of three Canadians admitted that their debt loads have increased since last year, and that they are spending more than their net income. Fully 43% are forced to live paycheque to paycheque, while 83% indicated anxiety over growing daily living costs.

“Canadians continue to rely on their credit cards or lines of credit to supplement costs of living,” CCS president Scott Hannah said. “If the economy continues to slow amidst trade tensions and other factors, Canadians need to prepare now for a potential recession in the future.”

During Q2 2019, Canada’s average household debt ratio dropped to 177.1% of disposable income, slightly lower than the previous quarter’s reading of 177.6%. Canadians are also shouldering a debt load of an average of $30,000 each – far above the $12,000 level just 20 years ago.

by Ephraim Vecina

23 Oct 2019

https://repmag.ca


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