August 21, 2014
5 Outdoor Products To Brighten Up Curb Appeal
This August is the inaugural National Curb Appeal Month, created by Fypon to educate homeowners about ways to add beauty and value to their home’s exterior. To mark the occasion, here are some new products designed to improve the appearance and increase the functionality of your home’s outdoor space, ensuring your house makes a favorable first impression.
A Room with a View
The newest addition from Integrity Windows and Doors, Wood-Ultrex Insert Casement and Awning windows combine the durability of high-strength fiberglass with the appeal of natural wood interiors. Special sizing is available, and the windows include opportunities for customization to fit any home’s style, including six exterior finish colors or the use of exterior trim; multiple divided lite patterns and grille options; various glass selections; and optional accessories such as jamb extensions or a window-opening control device. Integrity windows are energy-efficient, too, featuring LoE coatings that reduce window heat loss. www.integritywindows.com
Thinking about replacing or revamping your front door, but unsure where to start? Therma-Tru’sDoorWays app, available for free on iOS, lets you try before you buy by allowing users to visualize different front-door configurations. Users can take a picture of their house to preview various entry choices on their own home. Photos can be shared through text and social media, and multiple options can be saved for later reference, along with the product information. Ready to buy? Use the app to locate the nearest Therma-Tru dealer and send them product information requests directly. www.thermatru.com
CertainTeed’s new InvisiPro products utilize a hidden fastening system to provide a clean finishing touch for exterior trim. Made from Restoration Millwork cellular PVC, the new offerings feature precision-fit concealed flanges that secure directly to the wall. The One-Piece Corner System and the Three-Piece Trimboard system for windows and doors are both available in a variety of woodgrain and smooth finishes and in multiple sizes. Restoration Millwork, the only PVC exterior trim to be covered by an independent life cycle assessment, offers high durability and uses 21 percent recycled content. www.certainteed.com
Light My Fire
File this one under “yard appeal.” The Great Outdoor Room Company recently announced an update to their Colonial Collection Gas Fire Pit Tables, introducing the dining height (30 inches tall) and pub height (43 inches tall) versions. Perfect for those looking to elevate their outdoor living space and showcase their home’s potential for open-air entertaining, the tables feature a 48-inch round top that is available in granite and in two different Supercast concrete color options. The tables store a 20-pound LP tank out of sight in the base and include an optional glass wind guard. www.outdoorrooms.com
Siding into Place
Boral’s new TruExterior Siding Craftsman Collection is the first poly-ash siding product on the market, combining durability with a traditional wood appearance. The five new full-thickness profiles are all available in six-, eight-, and 10-inch widths and offer distinct and bold shapes, such as the V-Rustic option (pictured)
with a deep groove to create a shadow line effect. The siding comes already primed and can be painted any color to suit any taste. Plus, the product’s high moisture-resistance and imperviousness to termites make it a low-maintenance and long-lasting choice. www.boralamerica.com
August 20, 2014
Vancouver is North America’s most livable city, third worldwide: Economist
Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:50am PST
The Economist has released its annual ranking of the world’s most livable cities and although Vancouver hasn’t topped the list since 2011, the city is still considered one of the best places in the world in which to live.
Vancouver takes top spot in North America and is the third-most livable city in the world. The city received an overall rating of 97.3 out of 100, getting full marks for healthcare, which looks at quality and availability of both private and public healthcare. The city also got top marks for education and culture and environment.
The city’s lowest score, 92.9, was for infrastructure, which looks at the quality of road networks, public transport, energy provision, telecommunications and water provision, among other factors.
Melbourne, Australia was found to be the world’s most livable city, which received full marks for infrastructure. Vienna in Austria came in second place.
Two other Canadian cities, Toronto and Calgary, made the top 10, coming in fourth and sixth, respectively. Both cities received perfect scores for stability, which measures prevalence of crime and threat of terror. Vancouver received a score of 95 in this category.
The Economist’s rankings don’t take affordability into account directly. When considering this factor, calling Vancouver the most livable city in North America may leave some scratching their heads. For example, in Mercer’s annual cost of living survey released in July, Vancouver was ranked as the most expensive city in Canada in terms of how expensive it was for expats to live there.
As well, while the sale price of homes in Vancouver in July was over $824,000 – more than double the Canadian average – British Columbians still earn less, on average, than workers across the country.
Using The Economist’s criteria, overall worldwide livability has declined, according to the report.
“When a five-year view is taken, global livability has declined by 0.68 percentage points, highlighting the fact that the last five years have been characterized by heightened unrest in the wake of the global economic crisis, which has undermined many of the developmental gains that cities may have experienced through public policy and investment,” reads the report.
According to the ranking, Damascus in Syria is the world’s least livable city, scoring a total 30.5 out of 100. It received its lowest score, 15, in the stability category.
August 15, 2014
Tenants profit from unsuspecting landlords
Written by Grainne Burns
Landlords are being urged to check their properties are not being sublet by tenants capitalizing on the tourism market.
An increasing number of tenants are cashing in on booming tourism markets and the ease of sub-letting on third party rental websites, including airbnb.
Tenants can generate as much as $150 per night by renting out a room or entire unit to unsuspecting short-term renters.
With the threat of the unit being occupied by squatters and violation of condo laws, landlords are being urged to be more vigilant and proactive when and during the rental process.
The Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) is advising landlords to actively monitor websites on weekend dates, and particularly when there are big events and peak tourism seasons. “Specific addresses are not listed, but most listings have detailed photos and descriptions that will quickly confirm if your property is being used as a vacation business by your tenant.”
A Montreal-based landlord last week revealed last week that upon inspecting her property, she found a party of strangers and that her tenant was making almost double the rent she was charged.
While sub-letting is allowed in Quebec, this process falls into the grey legal area of commercial renting. Many condo tenants, says the board, are advertising their units as hotel rooms, which is being done in contravention of the condominium corporation’s by-laws and so placing an additional legal risk on the landlord.
If the rental unit is being used by tenants in this way, the board advises landlords to consult a licensed legal profession and if applicable, an N5 notice should be served.
August 15, 2014
Grow-op case stirs anger amongst landlords
Written by Grainne Burns
The ruling in favour of a tenant that had a grow-op operation and did not pay rent fuels further resentment towards the landlord board.
Investor anger at the leniency and favouritism towards tenants has reached peak levels following another high-profile case in favour of a "bad" tenant.
A B.C. landlord went public this week with her story after the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch ruled in favour of a tenant, despite not paying rent and having a grow-op on-site.
The arbitrator said the landlord, in this case, had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the tenant jeopardized the health and safety or lawful right or interest of the landlord by having the grow-op on site.
“Enough is enough, investors need to fight back,” says Kayla Andrade from Ontario Landlord’s Watch. “Almost every province is dealing with a Residential Tenancy Act that is geared to protecting the tenants. In this case even criminals.”
Ottawa investor Tracy Ma tells CREW that this incident would not put her off from buying more rental properties, but it re-enforces the importance of doing more due diligence on tenants.
“Unfortunately, the justice system is a very convoluted system and when the process is not followed by the book, in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act, the outcome is often in favour of the tenants,” she says.
“Having an illegal grow-up is a landlord's nightmare, but if you do all your due diligence, you can lower your chances of getting such a tenant, or at least mitigate the impact when you do get one.”
Ma recommends that coupled with a rigorous application, investors should carry out periodic inspections and study the local residential tenancy acts.
"Like any high pressure sales pitch, if the applicant is pushing hard to get into the place as soon as possible, this might be a red flag. If they are organized, and looking for a place in 2 months because they have to give their current landlord adequate notice, this is usually a good sign," she says. “I always use Google and a People-Search Engine (like pipl.com) to check the person out.”
August 13, 2014
Thousands of Canadians continue to run afoul of TFSA withdrawal rule
OTTAWA — The Canadian Press
Published Monday, Aug. 11 2014, 5:53 AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Aug. 11 2014, 10:48 AM EDT
A tricky rule keeps tripping up thousands of Canadians who make withdrawals from their tax-free savings accounts, and replace the money too early.
Some 54,700 taxpayers got warning packages from the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this year about the problem affecting the 2013 taxation year, and were told they face a penalty.
The number has been dropping steadily from a peak of 103,000 in 2010, but still represents a persistent misunderstanding of TFSA rules even as the agency and financial institutions step up education measures.
The regulations say that account holders can put back the amounts they withdraw from a TFSA only in a later calendar year. Doing so in the same calendar year exposes them to a tax hit for overcontributions, even though they’re only replacing the withdrawn funds.
By the end of 2013, some 10.7 million Canadians had opened a TFSA, a savings vehicle introduced by the Conservative government in 2009 that allows money to grow inside tax-free with no income-tax hit on withdrawal.
The popular savings tool cost the federal treasury some $410-million in forgone taxes in 2013, or more than a billion dollars over its first five years.
Some taxpayers are apparently slow to absorb the finicky withdrawal rule: this year 11,260 of them got the same warning package from the Canada Revenue Agency last year as well, figures provided by CRA show.
As of the end of last month, the agency had waived penalties for more than 17,000 Canadians who broke the rule in 2012. The average penalty waived was $516, or a total of almost $9-million.
And for the 2013 taxation year, more than 20,000 Canadians have already paid their penalties.
Taxpayers who received a TFSA warning package in the mail this summer were given 60 days to respond. Those who don’t respond get a notice of assessment, imposing a penalty.
A spokesman for the agency said the onus is on Canada’s banks and other financial institutions to make sure their customers know the rules.
“As with any financial or investment product, financial institutions have a responsibility to inform their clients of the details and restrictions relating to TFSAs,” said Philippe Brideau.
“The CRA continues to work very closely with the financial institutions to ensure that CRA information related to TFSA is well understood and known by the Canadian financial sector.”
Brideau noted that fewer than half a per cent of TFSA holders ran afoul of the rules in 2013.
The current maximum annual contribution to a tax-free savings account is $5,500, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to double the maximum once the federal books are balanced, expected next year in advance of the scheduled 2015 federal election.
A special analysis in 2012 by the Finance Department found that the savings vehicle is more popular among higher income and older Canadians.
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August 13, 2014
Nine Reasons to Love Your Mortgage - There's an Upside to All That Debt
July 26, 2014 8:17 p.m. ET
In June, existing-home sales rose 2.6% from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of five million, according to the National Association of Realtors. As usual, a majority of buyers took out a mortgage. The hefty loan involved fundamentally alters the finances of these families -- and opens up some intriguing opportunities.
Recently bought a house? Here are nine ways to think about that debt you just took on.
1. It's your cheapest way to borrow.
I'm not crazy about carrying debt. But if you need to borrow, a mortgage is the way to go. The interest incurred is typically tax-deductible and the rate should be low, in part because the loan is secured by your home. If you have other debt, you probably could lower your borrowing costs by paying off those loans and instead carrying a larger mortgage.
2. It's a negative bond.
Got a $200,000 mortgage and $200,000 in bonds? One is costing you interest while the other is earning you interest, so arguably your net bond position is zero. In fact, the rate on your mortgage is likely higher than the yield on your bonds, so it might make sense to sell bonds to pay down your mortgage.
3. It leverages your entire financial life.
We all engage in mental accounting, thinking of our home and mortgage in a different bucket from, say, our brokerage account. But once we have that mortgage, it effectively leverages our financial life, allowing control of more assets than if we didn't have the loan.
Suppose you own a $400,000 home with a $300,000 mortgage. Your only other significant asset is $200,000 in stocks. In effect, what you have is a $600,000 real estate-and-stock portfolio, half of which is bought with borrowed money.
That leverage magnifies gains and exaggerates losses, in the same way you can magnify gains and losses in a brokerage account by buying on margin. But a mortgage is the safer way to borrow.
While a brokerage firm can force you to repay a margin loan if your investments plunge in value, your mortgage lender can't demand its money back if your home tumbles in price.
4. It's a backup source of emergency money.
If you've built up some home equity, consider setting up a home-equity line of credit. That way, if you suddenly get hit with large medical bills or house repairs, you can borrow against your home's value.
5. It makes inflation your friend.
Like other hard assets, real estate tends to hold its value when inflation picks up. Also got a mortgage? You could be doubly protected against inflation.
The payments on a fixed-rate mortgage stay the same even as inflation rises, which means you can repay the loan with dollars that are less valuable. Adjustable-rate mortgage borrowers don't benefit to the same degree, because their interest rate will likely rise with inflation, though there are typically caps on how much and how fast the rate on an ARM can climb.
6. It lets you profit from falling interest rates.
If you have a fixed-rate mortgage and rates rise, you can sit tight with your low-cost mortgage. But if rates fall, you can refinance at the lower rate. Indeed, with 30-year mortgages still available at less than 4½%, this remains a great time to refinance.
7. It's an effective way to build wealth.
Despite the recent property slump, many folks still say their home is the best investment they ever made. It isn't because homes have enjoyed great long-run price appreciation. Over the past 30 years, prices nationally are up 3.6% a year, as measured by theFreddie Mac FMCC -0.26% House Price Index. That's barely ahead of the 2.8% inflation rate.
Instead, homes build wealth by forcing folks to save. With every monthly mortgage payment, you trim the loan's principal balance—and eventually you should own a valuable asset free and clear.
8. It's your default investment.
If you're worried about today's lofty stock valuations and lowly bond yields, you could always pay down your mortgage instead. Suppose your mortgage is costing you 5%. That's the effective pretax rate of return you earn by making extra-principal payments.
9. Paying it off can drastically reduce your cost of living.
Indeed, making that last mortgage payment is often the signal that retirement is finally affordable. Want to retire early? You might make extra-principal payments, with a view to getting your mortgage paid off ahead of schedule.
Write to Jonathan Clements at SundayJournal@aol.com