All posts by Financial Independence Hub

The rising cost of buying homes near Schools

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Buying real estate is a stressful enough endeavour,  but throwing kids into the mix adds a whole new layer of complexity to the house hunt.

While most buyers have a lengthy wish list of must-haves, usually centred around size, access to amenities and location, living close to a highly-rated school is a top consideration for 39 per cent of Canadians contemplating their next real estate purchase.

And you can certainly expect to pay more to live within a coveted catchment area, even in regions with softer conditions than the red-hot Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets.

“School districts have become a large factor that buyers consider when searching for a home. As a result, homes in better school districts tend to have greater demand and a larger buying pool,” says Chantel Crisp, broker of record at Zoocasa Realty. “Parents are motivated to get their children into great school districts even during economic downturns, so neighbourhoods with better school ratings are sought after in both times of economic growth and decline.”

Higher prices for higher learning

Just how much more do homes fetch in top school neighbourhoods? Buyers can expect to pay a whopping premium of over $800,000 in some cases, according to data collected via Zoocasa’s school search function. The fact that it’s not always clear whether a home lies within a school’s boundary can be a point of frustration for buyers trying to harmonize their home buying ambitions with their academic needs says Zoocasa CEO Lauren Haw.

“Homes across the street from one another may be in different catchment areas. Understanding where your home is within a certain boundary can help with long-term transition planning and reduce unnecessary moves,” she says. “Not to mention wealthy accumulation – school rankings are highly correlated to real estate prices.”

To get a better idea of how much living near a top-rated school will impact buyer budgets, check out the infographic below, based on the sale prices of homes with more than three bedrooms, and top EQAO-rated elementary schools in each of Toronto’s six boroughs. Continue Reading…

Easy Payment solutions for Home-based businesses

By Cher Zevala

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

More and more people are striking out on their own and starting their own businesses. Whether they simply want the freedom to work from anywhere in the world or feel they have something worthwhile and valuable to contribute to the business world, today is the age of startups and home-based businesses and customers are flocking to them.

For the owners and managers of these businesses things can look a lot different when, all of a sudden, you have to be the receptionist, the accountant, the inventory manager, and virtually everyone else who staffs a business. However, most of these are one-person operations, which can be difficult to manage.

The end result of any business is to make a profit. While you need to direct your attention to all aspects of your new business the ultimate goal is to get paid;  if your company exists solely on the web you’ll need the tools to make it easy for your customers and clients to pay you. Here are few easy payment options that accomplish that:


In many ways the dinosaur of online payment systems, PayPal remains an easy way to receive payments provided your customer has a PayPal account. Not as popular as it used to be, it’s still a wise choice to have a PayPal payment option on your business website.

The funds you receive can be transferred to your bank account but some people choose the option to leave money in their PayPal account and use it for other purchases that offer PayPal. The choice is entirely up to you.

E-Commerce Plug-ins

Continue Reading…

Mortgage Brokers vs. Banks: Which is better?

By Alyssa Furtado,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Shopping for a mortgage can be a challenging task. Much like when you buy a car, it can be hard to get clear information. Mortgage rate comparison websites like can help you learn about your options in general terms. But when it actually comes time to apply, a mortgage agent can give you objective advice and get you the best mortgage rate.

Canadians have two main options when looking for a mortgage: banks and mortgage brokers. When you talk to a mortgage advisor at a bank, you have the ability to negotiate directly with someone at that financial institution. When you work with a mortgage broker, he or she will work with a number of different lenders and negotiate on your behalf.

These are two different approaches to the same thing. But which option is better?

Each has benefits and drawbacks

To answer this question, we need to dive in to the benefits and drawbacks of each. Let’s start at the bank.

When looking for a mortgage, you can expect the mortgage advisor to be quick and responsive. You’ll have the option of convenient face-to-face meetings, and many banks even have mobile salespeople who will come to your home to discuss your mortgage needs. Continue Reading…

How to protect against the rising threat of Ransomware

Ransomware can attack Windows or Mac PCs

By Michael Benadiba

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Last year,  the University of Calgary got hacked. The university was hosting a conference with thousands of professors and on the first day problems started to appear with the databases.

The school’s IT department said this was due to a type of malware called ransomware. Before long, people on the campus had to communicate with one another via walkie-talkies, since the email system was suspended. Then it came back up again. How? The university paid the hackers a $20,000 ransom.

Both Windows and Mac PCs targeted

Although ransomware has been around for some time, it just now is becoming well known. It targets computer operating systems like Windows 7, 8 or 10 and Mac OS X, which means any organization using such operating systems is potentially vulnerable. And that’s a lot of organizations. Continue Reading…

As “new” China economy stabilizes, markets poised for upside surprise

By Dwarka Lakhan (Sponsored Content)

There is growing optimism that the Chinese markets will surprise on the upside as government reforms begin to take hold.

Since the beginning of the year, the country’s macro-economy has stabilized, fuelled by strengthening industrial output, an expanding service sector, rising retail sales, steady growth in electricity generation, power consumption and rail volume, and robust domestic demand.

Valuations are currently quite attractive, following a significant correction in China’s onshore markets from their 2015 highs. Non-financial blue chip companies are presently trading at an average of 15-20 times price/earnings ratio, below their historical highs.

Upside surprise waiting, Barclays says

Recognizing the potential for investors to make gains in China, Barclays Capital recently noted that there is an upside surprise waiting in the wings for China investors. “We think the latest data from China point to continued robust growth,” says Jian Chang of Barclays in Hong Kong.

The resurgence of optimism over China stems from the “new” China economy picking up steam on the back of reform-oriented government policies that are represented by the deliberate shift in focus from export-led to domestic-generated growth.

Continue Reading…