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A first-time homebuyer’s guide to purchasing home insurance

 If you’ve ever nervously watched water drip from your apartment ceiling, or have nearly set your oven ablaze by neglecting a tray of chicken fingers, you’ve probably found comfort in your tenant’s insurance coverage. Homeownership is no different — something will inevitably burst, break or leak, and you’ll want the safety of home insurance for when accidents happen.

“Home insurance is always a good idea as it ensures all the things you value most are covered in case of a loss,” says belairdirect spokesperson, Jennifer Beck.

While home insurance isn’t mandatory by law in Canada, opting for coverage is one measure of defence against potential damages and unforeseen events — fire, severe storms, burglary and acts of God. Yet, as a new buyer, picking a home insurance policy is not like choosing other kinds of insurance; it’s a challenge to determine the exact coverage you’ll need for a home you’ve never lived in before.

“For home insurance, until you buy the property or put an offer in, you don’t necessarily know some of the issues — the age of the home, the wiring system, when the roof was last done,” says Pete Karageorgos, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Director of Consumer and Industry Relations for Ontario. “Those are all important factors that contribute to the final cost of insurance. In many cases you won’t know what those are until you’re buying.”

If you’re shopping around for your first home, here are a few tips to keep in mind when applying for your first insurance policy.

1. Even the broadest coverage will have some gaps. Know those gaps!

As with all contracts, it’s important to understand the terms of your coverage, right down to the nitty-gritty.

Insurance providers will offer a range of plans for you to choose from, starting from a basic no-frills policy with the least amount of coverage, up to comprehensive packages that cover all risks to your home and its contents. Home insurance will cover the expenses of damage, loss or theft to the inside and outside of your property, your possessions, and accommodation costs if you can’t return to your home right away. Insurance will also protect you from the expenses of damage or injury to others who are visiting your home, like if someone delivering a package slips and falls off of your porch.


Karageorgos explains that homebuyers need to read closely to understand what they’re covered for, especially if they opt for a named peril insurance policy — a plan that lists specific hazards or events that will exclusively receive coverage. Any potential hazard not listed on the policy could cost you.

“It’s unfortunate when someone does have a claim and realizes they didn’t have the right coverage,” says Karageorgos. “That’s why it’s important to understand the insurance coverages available, because some companies will offer optional insurance for those things, and consumers need to understand what the risks are.”

Karageorgos points to water damage as one of the main culprits for this. Canada has seen a rise in severe weather insurance claims, with insured damage reaching $1.9 billion nationwide in 2018, according to a report by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. Karageorgos finds that homeowners can overestimate the extent of their insurance. Even an all-risks policy, which provides the broadest coverage, might have conditions or only cover the most likely perils.

“Homeowners sometimes, especially new homeowners, take it for granted when they see that you’re covered for water damage and assume that water damage includes a whole list of things from burst pipes to flooding,” he says.

Karageorgos recommends talking with a home insurance professional to understand the depth of coverage you’ll receive for named policy perils.


2. Brush up on your history

An insurance provider takes several factors into account when determining your premium, which is the amount you’ll pay for the insurance. This will range from the characteristics of your home and neighbourhood, to your policy of choice. A provider will also factor in your deductible, which is the amount of your claim you’ll pay out first before your insurance company. The age of your home is one of the most important aspects to analyze, Karageorgos says, when it comes to insurance policies.

“The age of the property, the size of the property, how old the property is does make a difference because today’s building standards may be different,” he says. “From the insurance companies perspective, they may recognize that an older home may require greater costs to rebuild if it’s damaged by an event.”

Many policies provide coverage on a replacement cost basis, meaning they will either repair the existing item or replace it with a similar new item. In older homes, this is important as providers will need to consider old building and fixture standards compared to current ones. In some situations, Karageorgos says, insurance companies may have difficulty insuring older homes that don’t meet the structural demands of modern living, especially when it comes to electrical needs.

“There’s a lot more appliances, a lot more electronics in the home today,” he says. “They want to make sure the electrical system is appropriate for the type of use and appliances that homeowners are plugging in today.”

Karageorgos advises working with insurance professionals to determine the appropriate coverage for your home, especially if it was built prior to current codes.

3. Reno’d recently? Make sure you report it

If you’ve bought a fixer-upper or are planning to do some renovations down the road, you’ll need to keep your insurance provider in the loop.

“In the event the homeowner makes a change such as a renovation or installing a pool, they should inform their insurance provider to confirm they have the right coverage,” says Beck. “This will help ensure they always have the coverage they need and there are no surprises in the future.” 


Karageorgos says that while insurance policies are typically reviewed annually, any major investment to your home is worth reporting. Otherwise, when you file your claim, your provider may only reimburse the old value of the item you’re making the claim on.

“If you increase the value of your home, you also need to let your insurance company know because that value that you originally bought the house for may be different now,” says Karageorgos.

This also applies to any added square footage in the home. If you’re building an addition, or finishing a basement, Karageorgos advises letting your insurance provider know that you’ll be needing coverage for these new areas too.

4. Cut costs, not corners

Homebuying isn’t cheap. Once you add up the lawyer’s fees, moving costs and land transfer taxes, you may feel like there’s little leftover. But Karageorgos warns not to skip over using professional services like realtors and home inspectors during the homebuying process just to save a few dollars.

“Sometimes we try and do things on our own, but it’s always best to seek out some professional advice, especially with protecting your most expensive asset, the most expensive thing you can buy, which is your home,” he says. “It’s beneficial to get some professional advice, to get the right coverages, to have someone you can ask questions to and get answers to as opposed to doing it yourself.”

Neglecting to get professional insight on the integrity of your home could backfire. When buying a resale property, a home inspection can uncover problematic construction, poor renovations or missing permits. By fully disclosing the conditions of a home to an insurance provider before filing a claim, a provider can make the best assessment for repairs and rebuilding.

“Insurance companies are obligated to rebuild something that is lawful and in good standing. It makes no sense for a homeowner to rebuild a property if you’re just going to have the municipality or local government deny you an occupancy permit because it wasn’t built to code,” says Karageorgos.

If you’re looking to save costs, Beck and Karageorgos recommend bundling your home insurance with other insurance policies, such as health and auto, under the same provider. In some cases, providers may offer you a discount for streamlining your plans together. Beck says you can also try opting for a higher deductible to lower your monthly payments. 

Fewer new homes are being built in Canada now, and mortgage rules and affordability are to blame

Canadians who are looking to buy homes aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch from mortgage rules the federal government brought in last year.

The rate of homebuilding in the country took a surprising tumble in February, and it’s related to mortgage stress testing, which raises requirements to qualify for a loan, says a leading economist.

“Residential construction, which remained firm through much of last year, has shown signs of slowing with the double whammy of tougher mortgage rules and poor affordability in major markets,” writes BMO Chief Economist Douglas Porter in a response to preliminary housing start data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

“While February was a bad weather month, the more complex adjustments in the housing market have worked to slow residential construction,” Porter continues.

In February, housing starts, which are roughly measured when work begins on a home, contractors broke ground for 10,384, down 29 percent from that month last year. At an annualized rate — so if this pace continued — homebuilders would start construction on about 173,200 homes, down 16 percent compared to January’s pace. 


The slowdown was widespread. Nova Scotia was the only province in which housing starts increased.

In Ontario, the most populous and active homebuilding province, housing starts are around normal levels despite recent declines.

“The 12-month moving average now hovers near 75k annualized — not too far from the trend of around 80k per year — but there is clearly a downward shift,” Porter explains.

Meantime, in a separate note, Robert Kavcic, Porter’s colleague and a senior economist, notes residential investment, including new construction, home sales, and renos, has dropped 7.5 percent from a year before.

Such a decline is nothing to sneeze at. “Historically, declines of this magnitude have usually correlated with a broader recession,” he says.

But don’t expect a crash in residential construction this year. Porter suggests employment and population growth are too strong for that to happen.

“But, with fastest population increase since the ’90s and a strong labour market, starts are expected to still average around 200k this year… i.e., builders likely won’t be packing away their hammers anytime soon,” Porter concludes. 

Canada’s central bank could pull a U-turn on interest rate hikes as the economy takes a hit
The Bank of Canada for some time has been suggesting higher and higher interest rates are coming soon — until this week.

Economists are noting the central bank took on a dovish (read: less aggressive) tone at its March 6th policy meeting when it announced the overnight rate was being held at 1.75 percent.

“The Bank of Canada has finally pulled its head out of the sand and acknowledged that the deteriorating economy no longer justifies higher interest rates in the near term,” writes Stephen Brown, senior Canadian economist with Capital Economics, in a report.

The Canadian economy performed below expectations in the fourth quarter as the energy sector kept struggling.

As recently as at its January policy meeting, the central bank had been laying out plans for interest rates in the “neutral range” — considered to be between 2.5 and 3.5 percent — but now it is targeting rates “below” that range, albeit higher than at present.

“Although the Bank still expects its next move to be a rate rise, we think that it will end up cutting rates by the end of the year,” Brown continues in the Capital Economics report.

The central bank uses its overnight, or policy, rate to keep inflation in check, scheduling eight meetings a year to announce any changes.

Lower rates encourage borrowing and spending, and this demand typically inflates prices.

In a depressed economic environment, lower rates can stoke the flames while higher rates can keep an economy’s growth at a healthy level.

Faced with a more sluggish showing from the economy, the central bank may be more limited than previously thought in terms of its ability to continue to hike rates. Between summer 2017 and fall 2018, the bank increased the overnight rate five times.

In a separate response to today’s announcement, Benjamin Reitzes, BMO’s Canadian rates and macro strategist, also notes a softer approach from the Bank of Canada this time around.

“Following the lead of most of the world’s central bankers, the Bank of Canada continued to take a more dovish tone. It’s clear that while the hiking bias was left in, any potential move higher in rates is a long time away,” he writes.

While the general consensus among Canadian economists is not in line with Capital Economics’ prediction, it appears some observers are considering the possibility of a rate cut. “Indeed, any further deterioration in the backdrop will prompt discussion of rate cuts to heat up further,” Reitzes adds.
3 key predictions for Canada’s spring 2019 housing market

Canada’s newly-minted hottest housing markets are going to see prices soar even higher this spring while struggling regions will continue plodding on.

At least that’s what an economist with one of Canada’s Big Six Banks is expecting to see as spring approaches.

Canada’s hottest markets aren’t cooling down anytime soon

Marc Desormeaux, an economist with Scotiabank, suggests both Ottawa and Montreal will see “pretty strong price gains” in the coming months compared to historical norms. The two markets have broken out over the past year, leaving the country’s previous top-performing markets, Toronto and Vancouver, in the dust.

“Ottawa and Montreal are both well into seller’s market territory,” Desormeaux tells Livabl, noting that these markets have sales-to-new listings ratios of about 80 percent. A common gauge of market balance, the ratio is typically calculated by dividing sales by new listings in a given month and expressed as a percentage.

A ratio of 100 percent suggests homes are selling at a rate as fast as new listings are appearing, and generally anything over 60 percent indicates a seller’s market and below 40 percent means a market favour’s buyers, meaning lower prices.


In January, prices surged 7.1 percent in Ottawa and 6.3 percent in Greater Montreal, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Quebec’s economy grew by close to 3 percent last year, Desormeaux notes, and the province has a very low unemployment rate. These two factors are supportive of continued housing demand in the near-term. “Ontario has been in the midst of quite a strong [economic] expansion,” he adds.

The worst is over for Toronto

Toronto also stands to reap some rewards from a healthy provincial economy, but market conditions aren’t stacked in favour of seller’s as they are in provincial counterpart Ottawa.

“At present, the sales-to-listings ratio indicates that the Toronto market and a lot of nearby Ontario markets, are in roughly balanced conditions,” says Desormeaux, anticipating more-modest price gains ahead.

Last month, Greater Toronto Area home prices edged up 2.7 percent on a year-over-year basis, and the sales-to-new listings ratio — January’s was 49.7 percent — suggests runaway price gains of the past won’t be repeated any time soon.

Western markets to remain depressed

Alberta, once home to hot housing markets benefitting from an oil boom, has struggled to adjust to an environment of lower oil prices and worsened employment prospects that have come as a result. Looking ahead, it doesn’t appear markets like Calgary and Edmonton will have legs this spring.

“ [ A ] n overhang of units accrued since the oil price correction remains intact and will likely limit home sales activity going forward,” Desormeaux wrote in a mid-February report. “We continue to monitor conditions in Alberta.”

In that report for Scotiabank Economics, Desormeaux noted there was a sales bump in Greater Vancouver to start the year. But the new provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax is yet another headwind piled on a market BC realtors say is still dealing with the effects of tougher mortgage qualification rules.

“That’s a key difference there between what’s going on in Toronto… and what’s going on in southern BC,” Desormeaux tells Livabl. “There’s the additional level of provincial policy coming into effect in British Columbia.” 

8-floor condo intended for Bayview Ave. south of Balliol St.

Urban Toronto reports on a new proposal submitted to the City at the end of February seeking rezoning and an Official Plan Amendment to permit an 8-storey development on Bayview Ave. south of Balliol St. The proposal by Gairloch Developments calls for the replacement of four existing buildings including two brick semi-detached homes numbered from 1408 to 1414. To the north of that two buildings numbered 1416 and 1420 are included. The new address for the condo would be 1410. The website notes a retail space of 98 m² proposed beside the lobby. It can be seen at the south end of the depiction above


'Is this real?': Hundreds of Vancouver mansions for rent, for cheap


Hundreds of multi-million dollar mansions in Vancouver that may have been empty are suddenly being listed for rent at rock-bottom prices.

Observers say it’s a combination of the city’s empty home tax and the province’s speculation tax that are pushing these mega-homes into the rental market.

And it’s young renters and students who don’t mind getting together in groups to live there that are reaping the benefits.

“The first day we moved in, me and my family were like, ‘What? Is this real?’”said Sehrish Qureshi, a UBC student from Toronto who moved into a 6,000 square foot ‘castle’ in Vancouver’s West Side a few weeks ago.

From the outside, the $5.4-million home shows off stone walls, turrets and a pool; the luxuries on the inside include a sauna, a pool table, and heated floors in a palatial dining room.

She says she found a listing through an online agency and pays about $1,000 a month to live with 13 other people in the eight-bedroom Xanadu.

“It was totally crazy. I wasn’t expecting this,” Qureshi told CTV News.

It’s a surprising situation that may not be that unusual.

Author Kishone Roy tracked hundreds of mansions that seemed to appear on Craiglist out of nowhere.

“I thought when I found 25 it was noteworthy. I didn’t expect to find 800,” Roy said.

Among them, a $4.64-million West Vancouver home with five bedrooms that’s being offered up at $5,900 a month, which calculates to $1,180 a room.

A $7.23 million Vancouver mansion is offering its eight bedrooms for $7,000 a month, or about $875 a bedroom.

That’s astonishingly cheap, considering the City of Vancouver’s definition of “affordable” rental in new construction is $1,646 for a studio apartment and $1,903 for a one-bedroom home.

“Maybe the cheapest real estate in the country right now is mansion rentals,” Roy said.

But as the renters benefit, the empty homes and speculation taxes have put the landowners in a difficult position, said realtor Kevin Wang of Macdonald Realty.

“The speculator tax is really the big one,” he said. “It hit the market. It’s not fair for people who want to be in Vancouver for three months of the year. If they do that, they have to pay these taxes, which are a heavy burden.”

For the ‘castle’, Vancouver’s empty homes tax would cost the landlord one per cent of the home’s assessed value, at $54,000 each year.

If the landlord declares less than 50 per cent of his combined household income for the year, the maximum tax rate will be two per cent, which would cost about $108,520 a year.

The combined rate of $162,780 is covered by the roughly $180,000 in rent the landlord would receive there.

But not all landlords are making a profit. In several listings examined by CTV News, the annual loss even if the landlord gets the asking rent would be measured in the thousands.

Wang said those landlords who were looking to sell have found a sluggish market at the high end, and are deciding to hang on to the properties and rent.

“A lot of those homeowners are not looking at how much rent they can get. They are thinking about coming back to Vancouver for retirement. And if they don’t rent, they’ve got to pay hundreds of thousands a year,” he said. 


Roy said it’s likely the tax would explain what he’s found.

“There are many of these taxations and they compound,” they said. “If you rent out a building it saves you hundreds of thousands a year, even if the renter doesn’t pay any rent.”

Qureshi just feels lucky to have what she calls a “really, really good deal” because otherwise, she might not have been able to afford the rent.

She says she’s becoming friends with her new roommates, as they hang out on the rooftop deck, with views of the North Shore Mountains.

“The best things about this are the people,” she said. Her friends back in Toronto are in disbelief.

“I show pictures of this place to people back home and they’re so shocked,” she said. “They ask, ‘How much are you paying? Are you rich?’” 

March 2019 GTA Market Report

With the first two months of 2019 behind us, there was no shortage of events fueling political and economic uncertainty in Canadian markets. From Jody Wilson-Raybould’s recent response to allegations that she was pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in criminal proceeding against SNC-Lavalin to the ongoing extradition case of Huawei’s CFO, all could pose major ramifications for the Canadian economy in terms of trade, employment and growth. Even with these potential challenges facing the federal government, there were some signs of progress. Firstly, Canadian financial markets surged as the S&P/TSX Composite Index rebounded by 11.7% over the past two months after plummeting by 5.8% in December alone. Moreover, the implementation of oil production cuts in Alberta has had a positive impact on oil prices, as the price differential between West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Western Canadian Select (WCS) has narrowed to approximately $12.50/barrel. The surge in value of WCS since December to $44.25/barrel has also supported the appreciation of the Canadian dollar to $0.76 USD. Even with the recent increase in oil prices, the Bank of Canada will likely hold off on raising interest rates until the fall of 2019 due to slowing economic growth (both within Canada and globally), easing inflation, weak recent data on retail sales and the tumble that the housing market has taken due to the new mortgage rules and higher interest rates.

The latest GDP data for Canada, which was released on March 1st, shows that the Canadian economy only grew by 0.4% annualized in Q4 2018, reflecting the toll that weak oil pricing, the slow housing market and weak business investment is taking on the economy. Economic growth in Canada is predicted to decline from a lower than expected 1.8% in 2018 to a forecasted 1.5% in 2019. Ontario is expected to only slightly outperform Canada as a whole, with 2019 GDP growth forecasted to come in at 1.6%.

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) on the other hand is one of only a few markets across Canada that are expected to see GDP growth increase in 2019, up 10 basis points from 2018 to 2.4%, however, this is based on the assumption that consumer spending and housing sales will pick up. On the residential housing front, GTA home sales in 2018 were down 16.1% from 2017, and the average selling price for all property types was down by 4.3%. Although sales and prices picked up slightly in January, they remain weak, with many now calling on Ottawa to review the mortgage stress testing rules, as it is having a deeper impact on the housing market than anticipated and still making housing unaffordable for new home buyers. A weak housing market always impacts consumer confidence, and with five interest rate hikes over the past 18 months, mortgage and lending rates are finally catching up to households. This combined with a 2.3% increase in the CPI Index for Ontario during 2018 will directly affect consumer spending in 2019. As consumption and residential housing were key contributors to economic growth in Canada, Ontario and the GTA over the past several years, slowing demand in both sectors will shift the focus towards business investment and exports.

Given this economic backdrop, the office, industrial and retail commercial real estate markets in the GTA continue to perform well and remain well within “landlord” market status. The office market vacancy rate has decreased by 90 basis points (bps) year-over-year to end February of 2019 at 5.0%, with the average net asking rental rate up 5.6% over the same period, to $19.51/sq. ft. per annum. With exceptionally strong demand from both finance and tech tenants driving down vacancy and pushing net asking rents up, it is no surprise that landlords and developers are confident about the future performance of the GTA office market. Furthermore, although rental rate growth has begun to slow, growth will remain positive for the foreseeable future. As such, construction activity continues to increase. There is currently almost 10.6 million SF of office space either under construction or expected to break ground imminently in the GTA, representing over 3.9% of existing inventory. These projects amount to approximately 8.4 million SF downtown, and represent 8.9% of the existing downtown inventory. Downtown vacancy remains tight, at 3.4% at the end of February 2019, however, it is up 10 bps year-over-year as limited options. It should be noted that meaningful new supply is now 12 to 18 months away, and those tenants who can hold off until the new supply starts coming online, will do so rather than taking space that may not necessarily meet their needs, resulting in a temporary slowdown absorption activity. Due to limited options downtown, suburban demand continues to pick up, with suburban vacancy down 160 bps year-over-year to 5.9%. With demand remaining strong, and new supply limited in the short term, expect rental rates to continue edging up. Downtown net rents are up approximately 20% year-over-year at $33.42/sq. ft. per annum, however, they are off slightly from $33.44/sq. ft. per annum at year-end 2018. Suburban rents have increased by only 4.3% year-over-year to $18.03/sq. ft. per annum in February 2019 and were up 1.1% since year-end 2018.

The industrial market experienced a 100 bps drop in vacancy year-over year to end February 2019 at an exceptionally low 1.4%, with availability down 100 bps over the same period to 2.3%. As a result of strong demand and limited availability and new supply (only 3.5 million SF in 2018), the average net asking rental rate continues to increase, up almost 13.7% year-over-year, to $7.8219/sq. ft. per annum in February 2019. Low vacancy rates and continued demand from transportation and warehousing users as well as non-traditional users such as film and television production, self storage operators and cannabis grow operations is driving both demand and increased construction activity. Construction activity is now at 10.6 million SF, compared to only 5.6 million SF a year ago, and this activity equates to 1.3% of the current market inventory. As a result of the above, and the fact that there is limited land available for new projects, expect vacancy to remain low and rental rates to continue rising. Rental rate expectations from landlords for new construction projects are increasing even further due to rising construction and land costs, and as a result, both landlords and tenants are going to have to start looking even further out around the periphery of the GTA for suitable options. On the retail front, despite the exit of several retails over the last year, both big and small, and weakening retail sales as a result of rising debt servicing costs for households, Canada, and the GTA specifically, continue to attract retailer expansions and new retailers. As a result, the retail vacancy rate has decreased by 100 bps year-over-year to 2.1% at the end of February 2019, with the average net asking rental rate up by 9.0% year-over-year to $26.12/sq. ft. per annum. The delta between the have’s and have not’s when it comes to retail properties, continues to grow. The landlords that are able to update and renovate their properties in order to attract the best tenants are also attracting the most traffic, whereas the landlords who are not, are being impacted the most.

These insights are made possible through CoStar, the largest commercial real estate source for property listings for sale or lease in Canada. CoStar enables users to gain insight into the approximate 91,258 properties currently tracked in the Greater Toronto Area, which include 2,339 properties for sale and 10,244 spaces for lease.

Source: Costar 
York Region calculating rental demand figure to meet affordability targets
York Region Media wanted to unearth the level of demand and supply for rental housing in the region.

The region's population is expected to grow to 1.8 million in 2041, representing the highest growth in the GTHA, with an accompanying demand for housing stock.

Yet it currently has one of the “lowest” supplies of rental units in the area, with just 14 per cent of the housing stock being rental to serve a population of 1.2 million.

Paul Freeman, Chief Planner, The Regional Municipality of York said a breakdown of current and future demand for rental versus ownership housing is expected to be in by the end of this year following revisions to the Provincial Growth Plan.

“We are now required to set affordable housing targets that are broken down by rental versus ownership," Freeman said.

He said this work will be done through York Region’s current Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) process. “Historically York Region has not calculated housing demand based on rental vs. ownership tenure,” he added.

Based on the median household income in York Region, which the 2016 census shows to be $95,776, up to 70 per cent of households are expected to have “trouble finding an ownership unit that they can afford,” he said, making rentals a needed option.
So far, York Region has about five years supply of about 15,930 registered and 26,980 draft approved units, totalling to 42,910 units as of mid-year 2016. Registered units can be defined as unbuilt or under construction homes in site plans with executed agreements while approved units have been endorsed in principle.

The five-year supply period is based on its historic and forecast housing demand, which are 8,100  and 9,000 units per year respectively.

About 64 per cent of the region’s registered and draft approved supply is in ground-related units, and 36 per cent is in apartments.

The five years supply of registered and draft approved housing exceeds the York Region official plan 2010 requirement of three years.
8 screws every cottager should have in their workshop
Trying to figure out which screws are right for the project you’re working on? Don’t get caught up in all the choices, we’ll break it down for you. Here are 8 common screw types you might encounter, when to use them, and how to put them to work. 

Wood screws

Usually have coarse threads, which makes it easier to bite the wood as it enters. Mostly made from stainless steel and are very strong.

Masonry screws

Used for fastening things to brick, block, or rock. You must drill a pilot hole first.

Pocket screws

Used for fastening furniture or other decor when you want to hide the screw inside a small hole that you can later plug with wood.

Deck screws

Used for building decks for fences. Covered with a corrosion-resistant finish, which will protect them from water and harsh Canadian winters.

Machine screws

These screws have a blunt tip to fit inside a pre-drilled hole. Commonly used in electric work and to attach cabinet handles.

Construction screws

Commonly used for framing or places with potential water or moisture. Usually made from brass and won’t rust.

Drywall screws

Usually cheap and not very strong but used for many odd jobs. The tint comes from the phosphate coating that prevents wet drywall compound from corroding the screw head.

Self-drilling screws

Ideally used with metal. No need to pre-drill a hole with these special tips.
Boardwalk, Redwood JV on two-tower Brampton development
Sam Kolias, chairman and chief executive officer of Boardwalk REIT, said Brampton is an ideal centre for a purpose-built rental project.

“We strive to create value in all parts of the cycle in multi-family communities,” Kolias told RENX, noting the GTA is in an “under-supplied, supply-constrained part of the cycle.

“New supply is really needed in that market more than it is in any other market that we’ve looked at.

“We believe that’s a great opportunity for us to create value, first and foremost, to residents that need housing and to create more supply of housing to help the marketplace match the demand that’s there – that everybody’s seeing. The data is really reflecting that more supply needs to be built and provided for the in-migration and population growth that is happening in the GTA.”

Kolias said the region has experienced several years of high population and job growth, which has created a shortage of housing supply. So, it’s a perfect time to construct purpose-built rental units.

Two towers, three-storey podium
The development plan for the Brampton Redwood project at 45 Railroad St. includes two towers — 25- and 27-storey concrete high-rise buildings above a three-storey podium (parking and retail) and three levels of underground parking.

There will be 365 units in the 380,000-square-foot development with the average suite size of 890 square feet. Retail space will be about 10,700 square feet.

Boardwalk said contracts for shoring, excavation, concrete supply, formwork, rebar and elevators have been signed. Shoring and excavation work began in mid-January and is progressing well.

The phased development is estimated to be completed between 2022 and 2024. Boardwalk will act on behalf of the partnership as the operating partner once construction is complete.

Total construction cost of the Brampton development is estimated at up to $215 million.

Boardwalk, RioCan JV in Calgary
Kolias said the addition of newly constructed rental communities in a new target market is consistent with the REIT’s long-term strategy of diversifying its portfolio. Boardwalk’s primary focus remains the recapture of revenue from its core portfolio, but Kolias added this new development provides “a measured, high-quality entry” into the Greater Toronto Area.

“We’re always open and looking for opportunities. . . . Looking at ways to create value,” he said.

Boardwalk REIT is also in partnership with RioCan REIT (REI-UN-T) to build a stepped six-, 10- and 12- storey concrete high-rise in Calgary at the Brentwood Village shopping centre. The 130,000-square-foot residential project will be home to 162 units with 10,000 square feet of retail.

Total estimated cost is $75 million to $80 million. Occupancy is expected to be in the first quarter of 2020.

“We don’t have anything (else) on the go right now in Western Canada because there’s more than enough supply to meet the needs of the marketplace in Western Canada,” said Kolias.

Boardwalk 2018 financial results
Recently, Boardwalk released its financial results for its fourth quarter and year-end 2018. Highlights included:

* total revenue increased year-over-year in Q4 by 3.8 per cent to $110.4 million; for the year, it rose by 2.8 per cent to $434.6 million;

* profit in the quarter was up 150.3 per cent from a net loss of $67.8 million last year to a profit of $34.1 million in Q4 2018; for the year, profit climbed by 237.4 per cent to $193.2 million;

* NOI was up 2.6 per cent in the fourth quarter to $56.1 million and by 4.6 per cent for the year to $226 million;

* funds from operations rose by 2.3 per cent in the quarter to $27.4 million and by 4.8 per cent for the year to $112.1 million;

* average occupancy in 2018 was 95.77 per cent compared with 94.38 per cent in 2017;

* and average monthly rent rose from $1,048 in 2017 to $1,094 in 2018.

At the end of the year, Boardwalk’s portfolio consisted of a total of 32,968 units in; Edmonton (12,906), Calgary (5,657), Red Deer (939), Grande Prairie (645), Fort McMurray (352), Quebec (6,000), Saskatchewan (3,884) and Ontario (2,585).

Kolias said the rental market in Alberta is nearing a level of balance. More stringent mortgage rules and continued positive international and inter-provincial migration into the province has increased demand for affordable housing, while the delivery of new housing supply remains below total demand.

Affordability key to rental market
He said the biggest factor that precedes a rental market trend is affordability. Right now, the market has the highest affordability it’s had in many, many years — probably decades.

“That’s the No. 1 variable that most accurately correlates the future of rental growth and the direction of a rental market,” said Kolias. “More people can afford it. When rent is way below the average household income, then the affordability is very high, so the propensity and the ability to pay more rent is there.

“Because our rents are one of, if not the most affordable in the country, we believe our greatest opportunity is in Western Canada right now — in our own backyard. Going forward we have learned that geographic diversification is essential.”

Kolias restated Boardwalk’s long-term strategic goal to have a portfolio about 50 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan and 50 per cent in other high growth and under-supplied markets.

“Going forward over the next 10, 15 years we want to . . . be more geographically diversified. At least 50/50 East/West. We’ve got a ways to go because we’re about 30/70 East/West now,” he added.

In the financial results, Boardwalk noted the December sales of two of its Regina portfolios:

* Kenley Apartments for $15.9 million. The 140-unit portfolio was comprised of eight buildings, ranging from eight units to 32 units;

* and the 641-unit Boardwalk Estates portfolio for $71.7 million.
How couples can save for a downpayment and stop arguing about money

According to a poll by the Bank of Montreal, 68 percent of Canadian couples surveyed cited fighting over money as a top reason for divorce, ahead of infidelity. Buying a home together only raises the stakes — bank accounts are merged, couples are collectively preparing for the biggest purchase of their lives and are budgeting together to chip away at a downpayment.

Octavia Ramirez is the founder of Paper & Coin — a financial coaching company that helps Millennials reach their personal finance goals. “Money can be a huge stressor in relationships. So why not get ahead of the problem?” she says.

The finance pro is uniquely qualified to help couples. Since getting married, Ramirez has never once fought about money with her husband. “Obviously, I enjoy finances but it’s taken years of practice to get here,” she tells Livabl.

It all comes down to communication and understanding your partner’s unique worldview — especially when it comes to money. Dr. Katelyn Gomes (Ph.D., C.Psych), a clinical psychologist with CBT Associates, echoes this: “We each have unique personal histories that define our values, rules, dislikes and assumptions for living in and viewing the world — including how we spend money, save money, even what’s important in the home you purchase.”

Octavia Ramirez and Dr. Katelyn Gomes spill their tips for communicating about finances and, in turn, making your partnership even stronger. 


1. Work together as a team by joining your accounts

“I often see couples not working together as a team by splitting their expenses. This divides your efforts and can interfere with what you’re trying to accomplish,” Ramirez explains.

When it comes to buying a home, Ramirez makes a case for joining your bank accounts, “When my husband and I get paid, it all goes into the same checking account and we move the money accordingly. We don’t treat it as my money, your money. Consider that both of your incomes together are the grand total.”

When couples put their savings into separate accounts, they also diminish their returns. “Splitting your accounts is a democratic way of doing things, but you won’t get as much bang for your buck that way,” she says.

Ultimately, if you’re in a serious committed relationship, be in a serious committed relationship. “If you divide things based on your separate incomes, it gives the person who makes more a leg-up versus feeling like you’re equally respected in the relationship,” says Ramirez.

Ultimately, you will both be living in the house together. If one person makes considerably less, going 50/50 can potentially lead to selling yourself short — and building resentment long-term. 


2. Agree on your collective goals, then make a transparent budget

Ramirez often hears her clients explain that they have budgets — in their head. “It’s important to have a shared document that communicates your budget and spending at a glance.”

Before putting numbers into a Google spreadsheet, agree on your short-term and long-term financial goals with your partner. Working towards homeownership? Start by determining the cost of the house you want to buy, then work backwards to see how much you will need to save each year to make it happen.

“Once you know how much you’ll have to save in the year ahead, go back month-by-month and see what areas of your budget can be cut or if you can increase your income to reach that goal,” explains Ramirez.

Even if it means passing on your yearly vacation and doing a staycation, instead. 


3. Have regular budget meetings with your partner

Once you’ve set your budget and are tracking your expenses and spending, set monthly or bi-monthly meetings to stay on track.

“Getting a downpayment together is a huge accomplishment. It’s a long-term process and there are occasionally going to be slip-ups in your savings efforts. It’s important to come back together regularly to remind yourself of your ‘why’. Maybe you didn’t reach your goal one month. Don’t dwell on it for too long, and instead decide together to get back on the saddle,” says Ramirez.

Dr. Katelyn Gomes explains, “We have this tendency to incorporate comments from our partners using faulty or unhelpful interpretations. These are known as cognitive distortion and it includes things like mindreading, jumping to conclusions, catastrophizing or thinking of the worst-case scenario. When we think our partners opinion, wants or needs don’t align with our lens it can lead to difficulties in communication, clashes or arguments.”

When you keep the lines of communication open over your spending habits, it creates an opportunity to have the necessary dialogue to avoid miscommunications or jumping to conclusions.

“Whether it’s contentious or not, just showing up to have that conversation is really important to keep couples on the same page,” explains Ramirez. 


4. Save for an emergency fund

To avoid major money stress down the line, Ramirez recommends having an emergency fund in place: “Before you buy a house, prioritize saving three to six months of expenses in advance. If you break up or someone loses a job, you won’t risk going into extreme debt while you figure out your next move.”

5. Stay in the loop, even if you aren’t handling the finances

If you’re the one to handle the finances, Ramirez recommends letting your partner in on exactly what’s going on — whether it’s your insurance policy, the status of the car payments, how much interest you’re paying on the mortgage, or how much credit card debt each person has brought into the relationship.

“Because I enjoy finances, there’s a temptation to not keep my husband in the loop,” says Ramirez. “But even when I handle everything, I always debrief him after. He knows the passwords for the bank accounts and where things go, so he can take over at any point. Having everything on the table encourages you to trust each other.” 

Home sales show massive growth in several key Ontario housing markets in January
An encouraging pickup in home sales in Toronto last month paled in comparison to massive increases observed elsewhere in southern Ontario and the rest of the province.

As Toronto home sales increased a steady 3.7 percent in January compared to the previous month, a number of other Ontario markets saw activity surge in the double digits, a new report notes.

“Several [real estate] boards located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) reported robust sales growth in January,” writes Edgard Navarrete, a regional economist with Central 1 Credit Union, in an Ontario Economic Briefing.

Monthly says in Kingston ramped up by 39.1 percent, while the number of homes changing hands in Ottawa-Carleton increased 36.3 percent. Meantime, Cambridge sales were up 30.2 percent, and Oakville-Milton experienced an 18-percent spurt that was nearly matched by Kitchener-Waterloo and London-St. Thomas, both of which witnessed gains of roughly 16.5 percent. Brantford recorded an increase of 13.7 percent.

Navarrete has some thoughts on the swings, which can be volatile, especially from month to month in smaller markets.

“With only one month of data for 2019 available, it is too early to say if homebuyers have adapted to the new mortgage rules by changing what type of home, they purchase,” he explains.

A year ago, federal policymakers tightened the rules governing uninsured mortgages. As a result, many prospective homebuyers had a tougher time qualifying for mortgages, even if they put forward a 20-percent downpayment.

With that in mind, Navarrete continues: “However, it is encouraging to see sales come back even in some of the higher priced regions of the province.”
Canadian home sales beat expectations in January
Home sales in Canada bounced back this January, leading an economist with one of the nation’s biggest banks to say the performance was “a bit better than expected” before predicting a year of stability for the national market.

The comments appeared in BMO Chief Economist Douglas Porter’s response to the latest monthly sales stats from the Canadian Real Estate Association, which showed existing home sales in January edged up 3.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis.

The response may sound lukewarm, at least in part, but it does come at a time when some of the biggest markets are struggling. Prairie housing continues to reel from the effects of low — albeit recovering — oil prices, Toronto’s market is “soggy”, and Vancouver remains highly vulnerable to possible fallout from overvalued homes.

“While some fret about an overly weak market — notably the Bank of Canada — the national numbers instead suggest that conditions are calm and unremarkable,” Porter continues, noting sales were still down 4 percent annually nonetheless.

Last month, the benchmark price of a home was $613,500, a decline of about 0.5 percent from December but up approximately 0.8 percent compared to a year ago. However, market performance varied greatly from city to city. In Toronto, the benchmark price remained up 2.7 percent from last year at $761,800, while Vancouver prices were down 4.5 percent, settling at $1,019,600.

The Prairies were predictably soft, with prices down annually by 3.9 percent in Calgary and 2.9 percent in Edmonton. The benchmark price of a Calgary home was $410,200 and for an Edmonton home it was $317,200.

Montreal and Ottawa continued to show strength. The benchmark for Montreal was $349,300, representing an annual increase of 6.3 percent. Meantime, Ottawa prices grew by 7.1 percent, finishing the month at $396,300.

Porter predicts that on a national level, prices, home construction and sales will all likely “hold stable” this year for a few reasons: Interest rates are flattening and may even decline this year, demand-side factors like population growth are boosting the market, and even oil prices are picking up.

“While that may lack drama, a lack of drama may be exactly what the doctor ordered for the housing market at this point.”
Waterfront Toronto officials to face grilling in Ottawa over Sidewalk Labs plans
Two senior Waterfront Toronto members will be grilled in Ottawa on Thursday over concerns about whether the controversial Sidewalk Labs smart city project is really what Toronto needs.

Meg Davis, chief development officer for Waterfront Toronto, and Kristina Verner, vice- president of innovation, sustainability and prosperity, have been invited to appear before the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics.

Waterfront Toronto, a provincial, federal and municipal body in charge of revitalizing the city’s waterfront, has partnered with Sidewalk Labs on a proposal to create a tech-driven residential neighbourhood along the waterfront on a parcel of land called Quayside.

Since its beginning, the project has been dogged by fears over Sidewalk’s plans to collect data pertaining to residents living in the neighbourhood and people who may be passing through the area.

Sidewalk has pledged to remove all personally identifiable information from the data it collects. But that hasn’t quelled concerns from critics.

Last week, the Star revealed that Sidewalk, a sister company of Google, has designs on building beyond the 12 acres (4.8 hectares) at Quayside and expanding into the Port Lands.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, co-chair of the committee, said in an interview Tuesday night that he wants to know the “full nature of the project” including how the partnership between Waterfront Toronto was constructed and why there was a “short timeline” during which Waterfront Toronto awarded its RFP (request for proposals) to Sidewalk to come up with a plan for Quayside.

And he’s especially concerned about the news regarding the Port Lands.

He went on to say that all along the public has been told Sidewalk’s idea for Quayside was a “cool, neat experiment,” but that’s now been dashed by last week’s revelations about the expanded vision for the Port Lands.

“Now it seems like the goal from the outset was to turn a massive chunk of Toronto real estate over to one of the biggest corporations in the world with very little public scrutiny,” Angus said.

He is also concerned about the public’s fears about data collection and how this will impact citizens’ rights in public and private spaces.

“Having these things engineered by a company whose business is collecting personal information struck us (the committee) as a concern,” Angus said.

“But I think the bigger question now is how this whole deal was constructed, is it in the public interest, is this something citizens in Toronto are going to fully benefit from, or is this a sweetheart deal for a very, very powerful private corporation?”

Ethics committee chair and Conservative MP Bob Zimmer said the committee wants to probe whether “citizens fully understand what’s going to happen if (this project) is implemented.”

“How much data do they need to collect. It’s (a) concern for us as legislators how much data they’ll be collecting on citizens,” Zimmer said.

According to the Star’s story last week, Sidewalk wants to develop new neighbourhoods and a new light rail transit line throughout the entire Port Lands and wants a share of the property taxes, development fees and increased land values — money that would normally go to the city’s coffers.

These future revenues, based on the anticipated increase in land value once the little-used Port Lands are built up, are estimated to be $6 billion over the next 30 years.

“We don’t think that 12 acres on Quayside has the scale to actually have the impact on (housing) affordability and economic opportunity and transit that everyone aspires to,” said Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff earlier.

The ethics committee’s invitation to the senior Waterfront Toronto members was made over a week ago, before the Star story broke. The meeting is being held to discuss the “implementation of digital government services in Canada” and how the government can improve its services while protecting Canadians’ privacy and security.

Sidewalk is working on a draft master plan and a final plan is expected later this year, both of which must be approved by Waterfront Toronto.

Verner, of Waterfront Toronto, says the corporation looks forward to presenting before the committee and has been advised the discussion may include topics such as:

*Developing recommendations on how to amend the federal Privacy Act or other laws to protect the personal information of Canadians as society becomes more digitized;
*The main challenges regarding respecting the protection of personal information as government services become increasingly digitized and;
*Difficulties related to the implementation of digital government initiatives that have been encountered in other countries.
But the scope of Thursday’s meeting can be expanded. Zimmer said members are free to ask whatever questions of Waterfront Toronto they choose.
A first-time homebuyer’s guide to building a healthy credit history for homeownership
Spotty credit card payments might not seem like a big deal when you’re first starting out, but that banking boomerang will hit you hard when it comes back around during that first home purchase.

If you have an icky credit history, or outstanding consumer debt, you’re not alone. For every dollar of disposable income, Canadians owe roughly $1.78 to creditors, according to a recent Angus Reid survey. Canadians are notorious for having high levels of consumer debt, with 59 percent of those in debt having the majority of it on their credit card. Financial ignorance or simple credit confusion can often be to blame for the misuse of credit cards.

“There are so many myths out there about credit that really need to be debunked. I hear them all the time when I do workshops,” says Jessica Moorhouse, a financial counselor and award-winning Millennial money blogger, in a statement to Livabl.

While a 2018 Public Policy Forum report found that money management literacy is doing well among younger generations, it’s important to establish healthy credit habits long before homeownership occurs. A credit history riddled with mistakes, or no credit history at all, can be a major impediment to getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

“If you don’t have any credit history and you’ve only got a small down payment, you could be declined based on the fact that there is no credit history,” says Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions. “They don’t really know how you’re going to manage that debt.”

If you’ve got crummy credit history, don’t panic — you can turn it around. We asked Campbell and Moorhouse for their do’s and don’ts for buyers looking to build a solid credit history in advance of their first home purchase.

DON’T: Spend to infinity on your Affinity
A high credit limit may tempt you into loading up on your card, but you should always exercise restraint.

“Never go over your credit card limit or max it out every month,” says Moorhouse. “Typically, you should only be using 20 to 30 percent of your credit limit. If you tend to spend close to your credit limit every month, consider raising your limit.”

When you become a homeowner, it’s important to keep the same philosophy in mind. If you overspend on a mortgage without considering the additional expenses of sudden repairs, insurance and maintenance, you may find yourself house poor. This vulnerability can make credit cards seem like a viable source of financial relief.

“If you’re house poor, it’s easy to start using credit cards as a crutch because you can’t meet your obligations,” says Campbell.

To leave some financial wiggle room, Campbell recommends growing as high a down payment as possible and to avoid borrowing the maximum mortgage loan you’ll be approved for from lenders.
DO: Pass on extra plastic
If you have multiple credit cards, that means the bank believes you’re a trustworthy borrower, right? Wrong. Instead, you could be sending the wrong message to future lenders.

“Having too many credit cards may signal to creditors that you have a limited capacity and may not be able to afford to pay any new debts back on time,” says Moorhouse. “It may also be too tempting to overspend with too many cards on hand.”

Moorhouse recommends sticking with one to three credit cards. Campbell says just one card can be enough to prove you’re savvy with paying back your balances.

“One good, solid credit card with two or three years of consistent payments — you’re always on time, there’s no late payments — it shows that you are in control, that you’re paying as agreed,” she says.

You may also want to pass on a line of credit unless you really need it. Moorhouse often hears that lines of credit are pushed as a ‘must have’ for financial emergencies, but she sees little benefit in them for improving your credit score.

“A line of credit can serve as a great tool when you need credit and don’t want to pay the high interest rate of a credit card,” she says. “However, it’s not necessary to have even though the banks love to tell you otherwise. I’ve never had a line of credit, I’m a homeowner, I’ve got a high credit score.”

DO: Swallow the pill and pay your bill — all of it
If you think paying off last month’s $60 bar tab charge can wait, think again. Moorhouse and Campbell preach paying off your card, in full, every month. If left unmonitored, payment due dates can easily sneak by unnoticed.

“You might think it’s very innocuous and it doesn’t mean anything, but it absolutely does,” says Campbell. “Make sure you pay it off every single month. Don’t assume that you can miss a payment here or there because your balance is not that big. It doesn’t work that way.”

Doing the opposite and keeping a negative balance— overpaying on your bill or getting a payment credit after you already paid — will not undo the wrongs of missed payments or boost your credit score. Instead, Moorhouse says it can cause further damage. She recommends regularly paying off charges.

“The key things to know is if you’re using credit cards, pay them off in full every month,” she says. “Better yet, pay off your balance every day or after every purchase so you’re never left with a big bill and no idea what happened.” 
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