Family Formation & Housing

For young couples starting families, buying their first home and/or other real estate. Covers mortgages, credit cards, interest rates, children’s education savings plans, joint accounts for couples and the like.

Buying a condo in the GTA on one income? Here’s where It’s possible

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Looking to purchase a home in the Greater Toronto Area on your own? According to new data, the real estate reality for solo buyers is pretty heartbreaking, with most options out of financial reach for those earning the median single-household income in the region.

In fact, owning a condo within a GTA municipality will set a single homeowner back more than double the recommended shelter cost, even in the most affordable markets. With two incomes getting far more home for their buck than one, it’s no wonder buyers are increasingly partnering with family, friends, or even strangers to improve their real estate affordability.

Tough affordability throughout GTA

Check out this infographic to see how affordable condos are for both single and multi-income buyers throughout the GTA.

To find out the extent of housing affordability for single buyers, Zoocasa calculated what’s called the home-price-to-income ratio in 17 of the markets tracked by the Toronto Real Estate Board. Crunching the average January 2018 condo price and median income earned in each municipality determines how many years of total income (as in, one’s entire annual salary) it would take to pay off a condo in that region. The higher the ratio, the tougher the home will be to carry financially.

The ratio recommended by most financial experts for shelter costs is three, but that’s well below what’s possible in the GTA market, the numbers reveal. The data finds that the minimum ratio for a single condo buyer is seven, available in only two markets: Milton and Clarington.

That’s not to say dual-income households have it much easier; coupled-up buyers have only three regions that satisfy the recommended affordability ratio (Milton, Clarington, and Whitby), while another 10 regions hover just above the four-point mark.

City Centre most challenging for all buyers

The toughest place to purchase for all Toronto condo buyers is Toronto central, which sets single buyers back a whopping 16 times their income, and seven times for multi-income buyers. And, while affordability varies throughout the region, it’s steep across the GTA; Mississauga condos command 10 times a single buyers’ income, while Vaughn costs 11 times the median household income.

Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of, a leading real estate resource that uses full brokerage service and online tools to empower Canadians to buy or sell their home faster, easier, and more successfully.



Why you might get more for your home in January

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

When it comes to nuggets of real estate wisdom, a persistent adage is that one should avoid selling in the winter at all costs:  after all, bad weather, limited sunlight and poor driving conditions don’t inspire shoppers to peruse open houses.

But while it’s a fact that the winter housing market is a slower one — there were 25 per cent fewer sales in the Toronto real estate market in January 2017 compared to the previous May —  having to list your home in the new year doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on your profits.

In fact, due to a few seasonal phenomena, listing your home for sale in January can translate to a higher sales price; here’s why.

Winter buyers are extra motivated

Just as January sellers are likely listing for a reason, early-winter buyers are also likely driven by a sense of urgency. In fact, a small but persistent bump in activity is typically seen in the weeks following New Year’s Day, as buyers who shelved their holiday home purchases jump back into the market.

January also tends to be a busy season for mortgage pre-approvals, especially for organized buyers seeking every advantage in preparation of the spring market. However, once these buyers have confirmed their maximum buying power, they may be tempted to take a preliminary look at what’s available now, including your listing.

“The fact is, if you’ve waited until spring to get a mortgage pre-approval, you’re already late, and there are a few real estate market factors that will work in your favour if you act now,” says Mike Bricknell, a mortgage broker at CanWise Financial.

“It is very beneficial to get your mortgage pre-approval when the housing market is quieter, especially as there have been many recent industry changes that may have affected what you can afford.”

Low supply means higher prices

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Do men and women have different Savings Habits?

By Danielle Kubes

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

In an online survey about savings habits, financial comparison site reports that although Canadian men and women save almost the same amount of money, men have a greater level of confidence in their financial planning.

Inspired by 2014 Statistics Canada data that says Canadian women have lower financial literacy scores than men and were less likely to consider themselves “financially knowledgeable” (31% of women versus 43% of men), set out to discover if there truly is a gender divide. 

The company digitally surveyed a random sample of 1,087 Canadians in November, with respondents self-identifying their gender.

“Our survey revealed that while men and women differ in aspects of their financial planning, at the core, their personal finance goals and concerns are nearly identical,” the report says.

Both genders have similar financial goals

Indeed, both genders report almost the exact same financial goals. At the top of list of priorities is retirement, followed by travel and then having an emergency fund.

Both men and women prefer to save and invest in registered accounts, especially the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax-free savings account (TFSA). What they choose to invest in within these accounts — guaranteed income certificates (GICs), exchange traded funds (ETFs), stocks, or other products — is unknown.

Yet men and women diverge most in how confident they are that they’ll have enough money to retire: less than half of women, 41%, say they’re confident compared to over half of men surveyed, at 56%.

Odd, because both genders save almost the same amount of their salaries, with women saving 26% and men 29%.

The gap could potentially be explained in how able they are to grow those savings through investing. Eighty-five per cent of men invest their money, while only 76% of women do.

Of those that do invest, less women than men self-manage their investments, potentially indicating another worrisome lack of confidence in their financial knowledge.

This is supported by the original Statistics Canada data, which found women were less likely to state they “know enough about investments to choose the right ones that are suitable for their circumstances.”

Confidence doesn’t mean financial knowledge

But does confidence translate to actual financial knowledge? Apparently not. When Statistics Canada quizzed Canadians who rated themselves financially literate, one in every three women failed, while one in every four men failed. Continue Reading…

TREB vows to take battle over housing market data to Supreme Court

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Real estate consumers will have to wait a little longer to access transparent housing market data: the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has vowed it will take its fight to keep such information private all the way to the nation’s highest court, in response to losing its latest appeal.

The Federal Court of Appeal has rejected the real estate board’s arguments that the sharing of its database would violate both its copyright and home sellers’ privacy. It contains extensive details on past sold homes, including their asking versus sale prices, the length of time they lingered on the market, as well as the commissions earned by real estate agents.

Currently, agents can only divulge this info directly to their clients; posting it publicly on a website or emailing it to a subscriber base has been prohibited by TREB (and it has aggressively shut down past attempts to do so, including Zoocasa’s past solds emails in 2015).

Challenging Information gatekeepers

However, restricting this data was challenged by the Competition Bureau of Canada, which took TREB to the Competition Tribunal in 2011. After the case was initially dismissed and appealed, the Bureau won in 2016 (a decision immediately appealed by TREB).

The Bureau successfully argued that withholding the data was not only to the detriment of consumers, but hurt the business models of virtual online offices (VOWs for short, referring to online real estate brokerages).

The Appeals Court upheld this ruling last week, saying TREB’s database did not qualify for copyright protection, and throwing out their privacy argument. While based around the Toronto real estate market, the implications could be nationwide, setting an important precedent for how all real estate boards collect and distribute data. Currently, only Nova Scotia releases it in Canada, though it is common practice in the United States.

Better data benefits consumers

Lauren Haw, Zoocasa’s Broker of Record, says better access to sold data will help consumers make educated decisions when buying or selling real estate. For example, having access to comparable solds records can help buyers determine whether a Toronto townhouse, condo or detached home is fairly priced.

“The ability to share and display market data (such as past-sold prices) with consumers is a positive development for the real estate industry,” she says. “We strongly believe in a model where consumers are educated and able to work with experienced agents that act in an advisor capacity: not as gatekeepers of information.”

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October home sales stronger as buyers beat Mortgage deadline: CREA

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

October ushered in slightly stronger home sales across the nation leading to tighter buyer conditions, but losses in Canada’s largest markets continue to “overwhelmingly” drag the average well below last year’s activity levels, reports the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Sales remain weak Year over Year

According to CREA’s October report, overall sales rose 0.9 per cent month over month, but remain 4.3 per cent under 2016’s number. Compared to peak activity experienced in March, sales are down an even steeper 11 per cent. It was the seventh month in a row that sales have underperformed on an annual basis. And, with the majority of the downturn experienced in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding Golden Horseshoe markets, it’s clear detached houses, townhomes, and condos in Hamilton and Toronto are proving less of a draw.

However, fewer homes listed for sale in October made the market more seller-friendly, down 0.8 per cent over the month. This could indicate the flood of Toronto real estate listings that followed the Ontario Fair Housing Plan may be subsiding, as well as typical seasonal factors: fewer people want to deal with selling their home as the holiday season approaches.

Buyers rush to beat Mortgage Rule deadline

The slight improvement could also be due to new mortgage qualification rules, which will make it tougher for all borrowers of new mortgages — regardless of their down payment size — to qualify, and will reduce the amount of home they can afford. CREA President Andrew Peck says that as the changes will take effect in January, buyers now are rushing to get into the market in order to avoid the new requirements.

“Newly introduced mortgage regulations mean that starting January 1st, all home buyers applying for a new mortgage will need to pass a stress test to qualify for mortgage financing,” he stated. “This will likely influence some home buyers to purchase before the stress test comes into effect, especially in Canada’s pricier housing markets.”

CREA’s Chief Economist Gregory Klump agrees, saying short-term improvement may be temporary.

“National sales momentum is positive heading toward year-end. It remains to be seen whether than momentum can continue once the recently announced stress test takes effect beginning on New Year’s Day,” he stated. “The stress test is designed to curtain growth in mortgage debt. If it works as intended, Canadian economic growth may slow by more than currently expected.”

Home prices continue to rise across Canada

Real estate continues to get more expensive throughout Canada, with the national average price rising 5 per cent to $506,000, and the national MLS Home Price Index benchmark up 9.7 per cent year over year. However, the pace of price growth appears to be slowing: that’s the smallest increase seen since March 2016. Not factoring in Toronto and Vancouver, the average price would be $383,000 – $120,000 lower.

Toronto: following Vancouver’s footsteps?

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