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Home Renovations: Reality Television vs. Actual Reality

Millions love watching home reno shows – but how easy is it to do (and fund) such projects in real life? As seen in REW.ca

Home renovation shows are very popular today and are one of our favorite shows to watch. These shows are not only entertaining but tend to lead you to think how easy and quick it is to renovate your home. And we know that viewers enjoy the shows more when they are filmed in Vancouver as you recognize certain landmarks or streets, which you see often when you watch shows like Love it or List it Vancouver and Game of Homes. However, television shows are unrealistic, highly edited and can mislead people on the renovation process.

It’s true that we have become more knowledgeable about design and we definitely want the latest interior finishes and stylish open interiors that we see on television shows. But homeowners really need to understand all the less entertaining but very important factors involved in a home.

The Financing86800398 (2)

Most home renovations shows do not talk about the financing aspect of the renovation – that’s not considered “sexy” enough for TV. But it is one of the most important aspects of your project – how are you going to pay for it?

Before you commit to a renovation project, meet with a mortgage expert to help you assess your financial situation. Every person’s financial needs and options are unique.

When asked, most people say they are financing their renovation with a line of credit. While you are only required to make payments on the interest only, many people are under the impression that they can manage paying the interest and go ahead with the renovations. The danger with using this type of financing is that eventually the principal has to be paid and you end up paying huge interest costs.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) will give you a lower interest rate… if you currently have one in place. If you don’t, you will need to have at least 35 per cent of equity in your home to qualify for one (based on the current mortgage rules by the Bank Act).

Currently, you can refinance up to 80 per cent of the value of your home for a mortgage based on the appraised value. With today’s historical low interest rates, you will end up paying a higher interest rate on a line of credit or HELOC, and you are unlikely to pay down the principal compared to a lower interest rate with a closed mortgage where you pay principal and interest, saving you thousands in interest.

Another thing to consider if you are unable to pay off the debt quickly is that you might be better off to refinance your mortgage. It might be more beneficial to get a one- to five-year locked mortgage below three per cent by saving interest up front and using your lender’s pre-payment privileges. If you currently have a fixed-rate mortgage, find out what would be your penalty for paying it out early, it might still be worth it to refinance.

The BudgetBudget-Cost

On television, the designer often has some budget like $80,000 to renovate an entire main floor including the kitchen and finish the downstairs basement. The question is – are those numbers realistic? The reality is that we, as viewers, are not aware what has been factored into those numbers by the television producers such as design fees, permits, labour, material costs, and promotional giveaways, etc.

In order to have a realistic budget for your renovation, do research before you commit. Some people get a specific number set in their mind without knowing what is involved in the total scope of the renovation. It is critical in this step to work with a professional renovator as it will reduce surprises. Homeowners need to take responsibility for the renovator they select and for doing their homework.

A great source for proven renovators builders is an association such as The Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association (www.gvhba.org). As a general rule, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t automatically go for the lowest price.

A professional renovator will work with you to create a detailed budget and timeline for your project so you know what to expect. Once you start selecting materials it is a good idea to take the budget with you to ensure you stay within your budget. There are times that homeowners run out of money midway through the project because they made too many changes along the way or ended up selecting more expensive materials.

The Tim3d-character-and-question-mark-eline

On television, renovations are completed withi
n a few short weeks. The homeowners come in and are mesmerized by the transformation. The reality is that sometimes it can take up to eight weeks just for the kitchen cabinets to get built.

Before you start your renovation, prepare a timeline with a renovator so you know what to expect. By doing this, you will have an exact idea how long it will take to do the tasks and therefore plan accordingly.

Also, it’s important to remember that quality, professional renovators aren’t necessarily available right away. Some are booked months in advance, depending on the project. In order to stay on track, materials have to be bought ahead of time and certain items could be out of stock. It might take additional time to get them or in some cases replace them. It is important to remember that even fast projects still take a few months, while bigger projects can take up to a year to complete. Therefore, you need to be prepared.

consultation-photo

The Plans

On most of the renovation shows you have the interior designer come into the home with their assistants and an iPad and start moving walls and design the new space within minutes.

In real life, renovations can be boring because every step of the process is well planned. When it comes to structural changes in the home, such as moving walls, doors, windows or adding additions, a structural engineer may be required in order to obtain a permits. A renovator needs to plan for these type of engineering costs and time delays in order to complete the project.

So when you do your own renovations, it may not have all the excitement that you have seen on the television shows – but we do know this. As long as you take into consideration the above factors, you will be happy with the end result. One that – despite the time, effort and money involved – you will be proud to come home to.


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Need to Fund Home Accessibility Renos? Here’s Help

Did you know that if you’re a senior or have a disability, you can get a tax credit for renovations to make your home accessible? As seen in REW.ca

ist2_9976811-happy-senior-woman-holding-a-bowl-full-of-vegetablesThe BC seniors home renovation tax credit assists individuals who are 65 years of age or older with the cost of certain permanent home renovations to improve accessibility or help the senior be more functional or mobile at home.

This program was introduced on April 1, 2012, therefore the renovation expenses must happen on or after this date. Any expenses incurred under an agreement entered prior to this date do not qualify.

When the BC government released its budget last month, it announced an amendment to the senior’s home renovation tax credit, extending the program to individuals that may be eligible to claim the disability tax credit and to the family members living with those individuals. (Learn about the eligibility to claim the disability tax credit here.)

In order to claim the credit for the year if on the last day of the tax year, the individual must be a resident of BC and a senior or a family member living with a senior.

The renovation must be completed to the applicant’s principal residence while the credit can be shared between eligible residents of the home to a maximum amount of the credit. The maximum amount of the credit is $1,000 per tax year and is calculated as 10 per cent of the qualified renovation expense to a maximum of $10,000 in expenses. This credit is a refundable tax credit, which means that if the credit is higher than the taxes the applicant owes, they will receive the difference as a refund.

The renovations or alterations that qualify must assist the senior with an impairment by improving access to the property; improving mobility and function within the property; or reduce the risk of harm within the property.

The following are some examples of renovations or alterations that qualify:

  • Res-Custom-Home-Solutions-1Lowering existing counters/cabinets or installing adjustable ones
  • Pull-out shelves under counter to enable work from a seated position
  • Doorways that are widened for passage, and swing-clear hinges on doors to widen doorways
  • Door locks that are easier to operate
  • Installing non-slip flooring or to allow the use of walkers
  • Turning bathtubs into walk-ins or showers into wheel-in
  • Grab bars and related reinforcements around the toilet, shower and tub
  • Hand rails in hallways
  • Light fixtures throughout the home and exterior entrances
  • Motion-activated lighting
  • Light switches and electrical outlets placed in accessible locations
  • Taps such as hands-free, relocation to front or side for easier access
  • Hand-held showers on adjustable rods or high-low mounting brackets
  • Lever handles on doors and taps, instead of knobs
  • Alterations of sinks to allow use from a seated position (and insulation of any hot-water pipes)
  • Increasing the height of the toilets
  • General renovation costs necessary to enable access for seniors to first floor or secondary suites
  • Wheelchair ramps, stair/wheelchair lifts and elevators

The following are some examples of renovations or alterations that don’t qualify:

  • All appliances, including those with front-located controls, side-swing ovens, etc.
  • Installation of regular flooring
  • General maintenance including plumbing and electrical repairs
  • Installation of heating or air-conditioning systems
  • Home medical monitoring equipment
  • Home security or any anti-burglary equipment
  • Roof repairs
  • Installation of windows
  • Any services to such as home care services, housekeeping services, outdoor maintenance and gardening services and security or medical monitoring services
  • Aesthetic enhancements such as landscaping or redecorating
  • Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors
  • Home entertainment electronics
  • Insulation replacement
  • Vehicles adapted for people with mobility limitations
  • Walkers and wheelchairs

img_2111How to Claim the Credit

The credit can be claimed when the applicant files their personal income tax return for 2012 and future years. Schedule BC(S12) must be completed on the tax return and put the amount that was spent on the eligible renovations beside box 6048 and form BC(479).

It is important to retain documentation to support the claim, including receipts from suppliers and contractors. If work has been performed by a family member, receipts for labour and materials must have a GST number.

If a receipt was received at the end of the calendar year and payed it in the following calendar year, the credit is to be claimed for the taxation year based on when the invoiced was received.


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Ask the Expert: Should I prepare myself for higher interest rates?

Rates may be at historic lows however, with big banks raising fixed rates and reducing variable-rate discounts, you need to be ready to pay more. As seen in REW.ca

Q: I’m easily able to make payments on my mortgage at the moment as my rate is so low. I saw that the Bank of Canada didn’t cut its overnight rate last week, and that some banks are actually raising interest rates. Should I be prepared for higher interest rates, and if so, what is your advice?

A: Interest rates are still at historical lows, and we keep hearing for years that interest rates are going to rise. If anything, interest rates have dropped.

The Bank of Canada was considering dropping the overnight rate. However, on Wednesday’s announcement they have decided to maintain the overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. Since the Canadian dollar has already fallen sharply and a rate cut could have imprudently triggered a currency rout. There is a great deal of concern about household debt, and another rate cut would add to the risk by encouraging excessive borrowing.

So does this mean that we should stop thinking about rising interest rates? Not at all. It is important to be proactive and prepare yourself for higher interest rates.

The following are some tips that can help you.

  1. income-reportPay down your mortgage faster

To ensure that you don’t over-leverage yourself when interest rates do eventually increase, start by making larger or more frequent payments and make lump-sum prepayments when possible towards your mortgage. This will help you by lowering your principal so you will pay interest on a smaller amount in the future.

  • Consider making a lump-sum payment. Most lenders allow you to pay up to 10 to 20 per cent of your mortgage without a penalty annually. The prepayment amount is applied directly to the principal balance, which will help you save money.
  • Changing your payment frequency is a great way to pay off your mortgage faster. While most people might not have extra money to put a lump-sum payment every year, you can save money by paying the same amount per month and just simply splitting your mortgage payments throughout the month to semi-annual, bi-weekly or weekly payments.

Below is a chart showing how paying more often pays off.

table pay off mortgage faster

(Calculations based on a mortgage amount of $450,142 with a five-year fixed rate of 2.64% and a 25-year amortization.)
  1. Pay down other debt

pay-off-credit-cardsIf you are only making minimum payments on your credit card, it would be a good idea to start paying more. If you are unable to come up with the money to increase your payments, start a budget or see where you can tighten your existing one, cut spending and start paying down your credit card debt with the money you save.

If you are living beyond your means, it won’t get any easier later on. It is better to become proactive, instead of getting in a tighter situation later, especially when interest rates start rising. If you are looking at buying a home, calculate what the payments will be with a higher interest rate and see if you would be comfortable making those payments in the long run. If not, purchase a property of lesser value.

  1. Refinance

If your mortgage is coming up for renewal in the next two to three years, it is worth checking out if you are eligible to refinance now and take advantage of the lower interest rates. Also, if you have equity in your home, this is a great opportunity to pay off some debts and increase your monthly cash flow. Even if you have to pay a penalty for refinancing prior to the end of the term, it could help you save money in the long run. Talk to your mortgage expert to explore the options and see if it makes sense.

  1. Have a contingency fund

imagesQ8W8929HIf you are concerned about higher interest rates when your mortgage comes up for renewal, start working on it now. It’s a good idea to start a contingency fund that can be used to cover the increase in mortgage payments or use that fund to make a lump sum payment on your mortgage. If you are on a variable mortgage, figure out what would be your mortgage payments if you had a fixed rate and put that extra money aside. By making small changes in your daily spending you can save more money in the long run.

  1. Seek professional advice

Having a close relationship and working with your mortgage expert 83834073frequently can help offset some of the stress and confusion. Your mortgage expert can help educate you in areas you might not be familiar with and can help you be prepared for when interest rates do start increasing.

If you are worried if you will be able to afford your home when interest rates increase or if you want to find out how you can save money, give me a call at 778.893.0525 to speak about your options.

 


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How to Finance Renovations on your New Home

If you need to renovate your new home, there are innovative mortgage programs that can help you out. As seen in REW.ca

With house prices continually rising, sometimes the only home you can afford is a home that needs a bit of updating or needs renovations. But traditional financing can sometimes make these types of home unaffordable. That’s because you first have to come up with a down payment to qualify for a mortgage for the purchase price. Then as soon as you take possession, you have to qualify for some kind of home improvement loan. Not only is it difficult to qualify for two separate loans at the same time, it also makes buying more expensive.

Fapartment-renovations-17899498ortunately, there are innovative programs from mortgage insurers such
as CMHC and Genworth that are designed for just this purpose. These programs helps qualified homebuyers make their new home just right for them, by making customized improvements, immediately after taking possession of their new home. All this is done with one manageable mortgage and with as little as 5 per cent down.

The improvements to be made under such programs can’t include structural changes to the home. Some of the improvements allowed include:

  • Updating or renovating kitchen
  • Updating or renovating bathrooms
  • New flooring
  • New paint
  • Finishing or renovating basement
  • New patio or deck
  • New energy windows/doors
  • Addition of garage, etc.

Some of the parameters of the program include:

  • As low as 5 per cent down payment (conditions apply)
  • Depending on the insurer, you can go up to 20 per cent of the purchase price with a maximum of $40,000 or 10 per cent of the as-improved value
  • Owner-occupied properties only
  • Down payment is based on the as-improved value
  • Other conditions apply

For example, the CMHC Improvements program lets qualified buyers borrow up to 10 per cent of the post-renovation value of a house and use that money to cover the cost of renovations.

Let’s say the house’s purchase price is $400,000 and the renovations you have in mind would increase its value by $40,000. That means the post-renovation value would be $440,000 so you could borrow $40,000 to cover the renovations.

Let’s See the Monthly Savings:

Straight mortgage with $40,000 line of credit:

  • Purchase price $400,000
  • Down payment $20,000
  • Improvements using line of credit $40,000
  • $1,773.51* mortgage + line of credit $316.67** per month
  • Total monthly payments: $2,090.17*

Purchase Plus Improvements:

  • Purchase price $440,000
  • Down payment $22,000
  • Total monthly payments $1,857.52*
  • Improved cash flow and lower interest costs
  • Living in dream home

renovations_page

To qualify, you have to provide a quote from a contractor or suppliers at the time of submitting the application to the lender. Once insurer (CMHC or Genworth) and your lender approve the renovation amount, it’s then added to your mortgage loan. However, you don’t receive the funds until the renovation is complete and has been appraised or inspected. This usually means you will need a short-term line of credit or come up with the funds ahead of time.

The best option is to work with a mortgage expert, such as myself, who has partnered with renovators and suppliers to make this program even more attractive. The renovator and suppliers will take care of the financing for you until the project is finished. Once the work is complete the solicitor will pay them directly the cost of the renovation. You will be rest assured that there will be no cost overruns (unless due to unforeseen circumstances), hidden costs and that the job will be completed on time and on budget.

The good news is that Alisa Aragon from Your Mortgage Solutions Group has partnered with renovators and suppliers to make this program even more attractive. The renovator and suppliers will take care of the financing for you until the project is finished. Once the work is complete the solicitor will pay them directly the cost of the renovation. You will be rest assured that there will be no cost overruns (unless due to unforeseen circumstances), hidden costs and that the job will be completed on time and on budget.

To see whether this type of program can help you affordably improve your new house into the home of your dreams, talk to a mortgage expert and we will provide you with a no-charge analysis of your needs and financial situation.

* Mortgage based on 5 per cent down payment with a fixed rate of 2.59 per cent, closed for five years and 25-year amortization
** Line of credit based on interest rate of 9.25 per cent interest payments only


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Maternity or paternity leave & your mortgage

Often the impending arrival of a new addition gives one pause to re-evaluate their current environment. We often decide that bigger cars and bigger living quarters are in order and ideally try to take care of these things prior to the big day, or very soon thereafter.

a8f108fd-f92f-459b-952b-fe9cdf7f9148.format_jpeg.inline_yesThere are a few key points around mortgages and new additions.

  1. The monthly payment on a leased or financed car can have a limiting effect on mortgage qualifications. Housing first, vehicles second.
  2. Being on maternity or paternity leave while shopping for a home is not a showstopper. The key is a job letter that clearly defines a return to work date, i.e., you have a full-time income position to return to.
  3. Being on maternity or paternity leave, or even having a new car payment in your life will not affect your ability to renew your mortgage with your current lender, although it can make moving to a new lender more difficult.

Before adding a car payment, or before listing you current residence for sale, give me a call.

After all, it’s not about the mortgage.It’s about developing a short and long term strategy that are customized for each individual client. My strategies include the best financing and mortgage with the most favorable terms and rates to suite your needs.


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Credit card rules: How to wean yourself off credit card debt.

As seen in BC New Home Guide.

The Canadian government implemented credit card regulations that increases transparency and protects consumers. Here are some of the regulations:

  • Credit contracts and application forms must have a “summary box” that clearly explains interest rates, fees, and how long it would take to fully repay a balance if only minimum monthly payments are made.
  • Banks must give advance disclosure of interest rate increases, even if this information is already in the credit contract.
  • You must give your consent before your credit limit can be increased.
  • If you transfer your balance to a lower-interest card, your payments now have to be allocated in your favour.
  • There’s now a limit on certain debt collection practices used by financial institutions.
  • Banks can’t charge over-the-limit fees resulting from holds placed by merchants.
  • You have a minimum 21-day interest-free grace period on all new purchases if you pay your outstanding balance in full by the due date.

Eliminate-credit-card-debt1While critics don’t think these regulations go far enough to protect the consumer, at least the government is trying to make an effort to help consumers avoid predatory lending practices. And that’s a good thing.

However, an even better strategy is to start weaning yourself off of credit card debt. Unlike taking out a mortgage to buy a home or revenue property, buying stuff with your credit card at high interest rates doesn’t yield any returns – it simply gets you deeper in debt.

The following are some tips to help you use your credit card responsibly so you don’t pay unnecessary charges and get in trouble with credit card debt:

  • When you pay for something with a credit card, you are taking out a loan and you have to pay it back.
  • Pay the balance in full each month
  • If you can’t pay it in full, pay as much as you can
  • Don’t make only the minimum payment
  • If you always carry a balance, get a low rate card
  • Pay a few days before the due date
  • If you have a line of credit, transfer the balance to your line of credit with a lower rate. The goal is to pay down your debt and not go further into debt.

Put yourself on a budget, take a part-time job (or start a home business) and eventually get your credit cards paid off. You will be astonished how much extra money you will have to invest in assets that actually appreciate in value and put cash in your pocket!


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What If I Don’t Have the Full Down Payment?

Raising a down payment can be the trickiest part of buying in Vancouver’s hot market – but some programs may help. As seen in REW.ca

Q: I really want to put in an offer on a condo, but I haven’t raised the full down payment amount yet? Do I have any options?

A: The minimum down payment required is 5 per cent of the purchase price of the home you are buying – if you are employed. For those who are self-employed, it will depend if you are qualifying based on what you are declaring on your income tax then it will be 5 per cent, and at least 10 per cent if you are self-employed and qualifying with an “estimated” gross income instead of the income showing on your tax return. And if you want to avoid paying mortgage default insurance, you need to have at least a 20 per cent down payment.

However, there are programs available that enable you to use other forms of down payment when you don’t have the full down payment.

  • RRSPs: If you are a first-time home buyer,income-report you can use up to $25,000 from your RRSP without paying any personal taxes. However, you will have to repay any amount withdrawn from your RRSP for down payment of a home purchase.
  • Gift from a family member: You can get money gifted from a parent, child or sibling to go towards the down payment. The lender will ask that the person that is giving you the gift signs a letter stating that the funds are a gift and are not to be repaid.
  • Borrowed down payment: You can borrow from a line of credit, get a loan or use your credit cards to complete your down payment. However, in order to qualify, you still have to be within the Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio. The TDS ratio measures your total debt obligations (including housing costs, loans, car payments and credit card bills). Generally speaking, your TDS ratio should be no more than 44 per cent of your gross monthly income.

Once you have raised the full down payment and made your offer, you will still need solid advice on which mortgage is best for you. By working with a mortgage expert, you have access to multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and other lenders that only work with brokers, which will ensure that they can find the best mortgage for your individual needs.


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Coming out on top. Improve your chances, and reduce your stress, in a multiple offer situation.

As seen in the Metro Vancouver New Home Guide   .

Whether you are a first time buyer, looking at buying a bigger house or downsizing, if you are looking at buying an investment property it is important to be prepared. This spring a sellers’ market is in full swing, which is more noticeable in certain areas of the Lower Mainland. With historically low interest rates, buyers are making the jump into homeownership, because for many, their mortgage payments will be less than what they are paying in rent. It is certainly a great time to get into the market. However, in a sellers’ market buyers find themselves in competition with other buyers to purchase a home.

House in the hands of the man on a background of blue skyBuying a home can be exciting but having to compete for a home can add a bit more stress. In this case, a property’s asking price and what the property will sell for is quite different, and in most cases the selling price will be well above and beyond the listed price.

When a homebuyer goes into a multiple offer situation, they are less in control. As a buyer, you need to prepare yourself in doing work upfront and with the understanding that you might not get the property in the end.

During multiple offer situations, the seller is not obligated to negotiate or accept any of the offers. The seller has the liberty to choose the best offer to negotiate and they will accept the offer that best reflects their needs. While price is important, that will not be the only factor they consider. They will also look at things such as subject conditions, completion and possession dates.

Here are some things you can consider and help you feel more in control of the situation when going into multiple offer situations:

  • Get pre-qualified by a Mortgage Expert – One of the most imortgage_pre_approval_300mportant aspects of buying a home is knowing how much you qualify for. You will know what you are comfortable paying on a monthly basis but also what is the highest amount you can offer. While you might have been qualified, the lender still have to approve the property you are buying.
  • Prepare and have all your documentation ready – It is important that you provide your Mortgage Expert will all the documentation the lender is going to require upfront. Especially since time will be of essence, you don’t want the added stress of getting documentation when you are in the middle of negotiations and during the subject condition period.
  • Having the right real estate agent – It is critical that you have an agent that has your best interest in mind. As a buyer it is not your job to seal the deal, it’s your agent’s responsibility to know what is your limit and respect that. Don’t let your agent try to upsell you on the price and encourage you to go above your budget. It’s their job to research comparable properties in the area and advise you, but you are the one that makes the final decision. After all, it’s your money.
  • Set your boundaries – Onhome & calclatorce you set your budget, stick to it. Determine how exactly how much you can go over if you end up in multiple offers. Don’t get sucked in by emotion and peer pressure because in the end it can end up costing you a lot more money.
  • Consider doing a home inspection ahead of time – The buyer could consider your offer more readily if it doesn’t include a “subject to inspection” clause.
  • Be flexible – Winning a multiple offer situation might be as easy as agreeing to the seller’s conditions such as closing dates, buying the property “as is” or even tightening the subject removal dates. This is important if the seller has already bought another property and is anxious to moving on. By agreeing to make the transaction as easy as possible could mean winning over a more generous offer. When buying a property “as is” and limiting the subject conditions (such as requesting that a missing knob or floor tile be replaced) might work in your favour too. If your agent is aware of any information about the seller’s situation and if you can be flexible in any way, take advantage of this opportunity that might help you get your offer accepted.
  • first_time_buyers_480Write it down – Perhaps you might want to write a quick letter to the seller explaining who you are and why you want to buy their home so much. Buying and selling a home is an emotional time for everyone, especially if the seller has lived in that home for a long time and raised their family there. Sometimes, it’s not about the highest offer but it can certainly also be about an emotional connection. Even though your offer might be lower than the others, some sellers might feel a strong connection to your story and decide that it’s not about the money but about someone who will really appreciate a great home!
  • Know when it is time to walk away – Multiple offer situations can be stressful and sometimes listing agents strategically set the price of the home below market value to start a multiple offer situation. Make sure you stand firm.

Buying your home is about a great investment and you have to be smart about it. In the end, it’s about being comfortable on what you are paying a month and happy with the decisions you make. After all it’s about finding a home that will be a great place to start building equity and creating memories.


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Fraud Alert #2: How Title Fraud Works – and How to Protect Against It

In the second of a two-part series on fraud, we explain real estate title fraud and how to protect your home. As seen in REW.ca

Last time, we discussed mortgage fraud and “straw buyer” schemes and the red flags that come up when they happen. This time we are taking a look at an even more insidious type of fraud, where the red flags are hard or even impossible to spot until it’s too late.

identity theft 2Title Fraud

When you purchase a home, you purchase the title to the property. Your solicitor registers you as the owner of the property in the provincial land title office.

Unlike with mortgage fraud, during title fraud, you haven’t been approached or offered anything – this is a form of identity theft.

This occurs when your personal information is collected and used by someone identifying themselves as you. There are several ways criminals can steal your identity without your knowledge, which includes:

  • dumpster diving;
  • mail box theft;
  • phishing; and
  • computer hacking.

Sadly, the only red flag for title fraud occurs when your mortgage mysteriously goes into default and the lender begins foreclosure proceedings. Even worse, as the homeowner, you are the one hurt by title fraud, rather than the lender, as is often the case with mortgage fraud.

Here’s what happens with title fraud. A criminal – using false identification to pose as you – registers forged documents transferring your property to his/her name, then registers a forced discharge of your existing mortgage and gets a new mortgage against your property. Then the fraudster makes off with the new home loan money without making mortgage payments. The bank thinks you are the one defaulting – and your economic downfall begins.

The following are widentity-theftays you can protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Ensure you keep personal information confidential when on the internet or phone until you know who are dealing with, how it will be used and if it will be shared with anyone.
  • Only carry minimal information and identification in your wallet, don’t have your social insurance card with you.
  • Check your credit report regularly. You can get them free when you request them from the Equifax and Transunion when they mail them to your home. If you notice anything suspicious, contact the credit bureau right away.
  • Check your financial, bank and credit card statements regularly for any inconsistencies and unknown charges.
  • Consider obtaining a title insurance policy, as title insurance protects against many title risks associated with real estate transactions.
  • Check your mailbox for mail on regularly, if not every day.
  • Shred and destroy any financial and personal identification documents, as well as any unsolicited credit card applications rather than just simply throwing them away.
  • If you don’t receive your bills or other mail, follow up with your creditors.
  • If you receive credit cards that you didn’t apply for or if you did apply for them and didn’t receive them.
  • Contact your mortgage lender first if you are having difficulty making your mortgage payments.

ACE_Identity-Theft-Prevention2014_webThe following are ways to protect yourself from title fraud when purchasing or refinancing a home:

  • Make sure you work with a licensed real estate agent who is familiar with the area you are interested in buying. Select to work with someone that can provide trusted referrals and check on them.
  • Check listings in the community where the property is located – compare features, size and location to establish if the asking price seems reasonable.
  • Always view the property you are purchasing in person – don’t buy without seeing it first.
  • Beware of a real estate agent or mortgage broker who has a financial interest in the transaction.
  • Ask for a copy of the land title or go to a registry office and request a historical title search.
  • In the offer to purchase, include the option to have the property inspected and appraised.
  • When giving a deposit when purchasing a property ensure the funds will be held “in trust” with a solicitor or a real estate agency and not directly with the seller.
  • Insist on a home inspection to guard against buying a home that has been cosmetically renovated or formerly used as a grow house or meth lab.
  • Ask to see receipts and permits for recent renovations.
  • Consider the purchase of title insurance.
  • Review and make sure you are comfortable with the terms and conditions with the mortgage commitment letter or approval.
  • Review the “cost of borrowing disclosure statement” and be aware of any additional fees or charges. Ask questions if you are not sure.
  • Know and understand what you are signing. If you have questions, ask. If you are not comfortable or something is not right, do not sign the documents.
  • You might want to consider using your own solicitor for legal advice if you are asked to use the same lawyer as the seller.


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Fraud Alert #1: What Happens with Mortgage Fraud – and Why You’re Not Safe

In the first of a two-part series on fraud, outline the red flags for mortgage fraud. As seen in REW.ca

Nowadays, with the amount of information that is shared on the internet and social media, identity theft and Ponzi schemes are happening regularly. Homeowners are taking the necessary steps to protect one of their largest investments, which is their home.

The last thing you want to worry about is yet another way to lose your hard-earned money. But as a homeowner, you need to be aware of crimes on the rise, known as mortgage fraud and real estate title fraud.

In this first part, we will look at mortgage fraud and “straw buyer” schemes.

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Mortgage Fraud

Some borrowers may think that providing false documents and making false statements is not a big deal. However, the Criminal Code clearly states that obtaining funds, including mortgages, by providing false information is a crime.

The most common type of mortgage fraud involves a criminal obtaining a property, then increasing its value through a series of sales and resales involving the fraudster and someone working in cooperation with them. A mortgage is then secured for the property based on the inflated price.

Here are some red flags for mortgage fraud:

  • Someone offers you money to use your name and credit information to obtain a mortgage.
  • You are encouraged to include false information on a mortgage application.
  • You are asked to leave signature lines or other important areas of your mortgage application blank.
  • The seller or investment advisor discourages you from seeing or inspecting the investment property you are purchasing.
  • The seller or developer rebates you money on closing, and you don’t disclose this to your lending institution.

“Straw Buyer” Schemes

Another kind of mortgage fraud is the “straw” or “dummy” homebuyer scheme. For instance, a renter does not have a good credit rating or is self-employed and cannot get a mortgage, or doesn’t have a sufficient down payment, so they cannot purchase a home. They, or an associate, approach someone else with solid credit. This person is offered a sum of money (can be as much as $10,000) to go through the motions of buying a property on the other person’s behalf – acting as a straw buyer. The person with good credit lends their name and credit rating to the person who cannot be approved for a mortgage for a home purchase.

Other types of criminal activity often dovetail with mortgage fraud. For example, people who run “grow ops” or meth labs may use these forms of fraud to “purchase” their properties.

It’s important to remember that if something doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t – always follow your instincts when it comes to red flags during the home buying and mortgage processes.