The importance of walkability

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While the financial responsibilities that come with buying a home are important to consider, there's more to purchasing property than just home loans and mortgage rates. One aspect of homeownership that has become more discussed recently is the importance of walkability when choosing a home to buy.

What is walkability?
Walkability concerns how conducive a particular area is to pedestrian movement. This includes factors such as the availability of footpaths and sidewalks, amount of traffic, building accessibility, safety and other components.

Why is walkability important?
As health and the environment continue to become more important to individuals, walkability will likely only grow in popularity. Walking is the most environmentally-friendly mode of travel available today, as it cuts down on vehicle pollution. Additionally, the health benefits of walking are self-evident, as regular exercise is an important part of human health. In fact, a study from America's Columbia University has shown a correlation between walkability and a lowering of individuals' body mass index (BMI).  Continue reading

Protecting your home from carbon monoxide

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While most homeowners are aware of the dangers posed by fire and flooding, and have taken the necessary steps to protect themselves from both, the threat of carbon monoxide may not receive the same attention. While fire and flood are usually preceded by warnings or unmistakable indicators, carbon monoxide can enter a home without notice, making it a danger every homeowner would do well to take seriously. While it's easy to get wrapped up in mortgage rates and home loans, a homeowner's well-being, and that of their family, should come first.

What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless and odorless gas that cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. However, since CO is toxic, even low levels of exposure to it can lead to serious health problems.

While CO is the result of fossil fuel burning that is common in homes through appliances such as stoves and chimneys, proper ventilation does away with the risk of CO poisoning. However, if an appliance is not working properly, it leaves homes vulnerable to a dangerous buildup of CO. Continue reading

Security and your new home

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It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the process of buying a new home that people forget to take other important matters into account. After all, when it comes down to it, isn’t you and your family’s safety more important than mortgage rates and closing costs? Security means more than installing an alarm system in your new home. It means making sure that safety goes hand in hand with your home purchase, from the initial search to moving in.

The first step toward ensuring your security is deciding where you want to live. The geography and demographics of your neighborhood are the strongest influences on your home’s security, so take these into account when searching for a property. Is your home closer to schools or bars? Is the neighborhood made up of families or young people? Are the surroundings more urban or suburban? Does the area feature a neighborhood watch program? These all affect the environment you’re moving into. It’s also easy to look up crime statistics for separate neighborhoods online. Before finalizing your deal, you might want to see if burglaries or car thefts are problems near your house. Make sure to ask your realtor about the neighborhood. You want to own a home in a safe environment that fits your needs. Buying a home is a major investment, and the peace of mind that comes from a safe neighborhood is priceless. Continue reading

Winterizing your home without breaking the bank

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It may not have the same appeal as making snowmen or sledding down a hill, but winterizing your home is still an important part of the winter season.

While Mother Nature prepares to unleash a barrage of rain, wind, sleet and snow, homeowners have the chance to ready themselves and, in the process, add value to their homes and pocketbooks. Getting your house into tip-top shape before winter will drastically cut down on energy costs while simultaneously making your dwelling a much more valuable piece of property.

Of course, it often costs money to make money, and winterizing your home is no exception. Luckily there are plenty of ways to winterize your home without having to empty your bank account in the process. Check out the following tips and tricks to get the most out of your home on a budget. Continue reading

Financial advisers chosen on blind trust, report shows

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A recent study finds that many Canadians are choosing their financial advisers on blind trust, rather than through diligent research and fact-based decisions.

A large portion of Canadians are confused or misinformed about the role of a financial advisor, as well as their appropriate qualifications and ethical obligations to the consumer, the Financial Planning Standards Council report showed. Part of the reason, according to a recent analysis from business communications professional Talbot Boggs, is that regulations governing the financial planning industry are piecemeal at best. There are currently no government standards or professional oversights concerning competence or ethical behavior.

By performing some due diligence when selecting a financial planner, consumers can be sure to find the right person to help them achieve their financial goals. A similar process should be performed when selecting a mortgage broker. An integral part of financial planning is affording a home, and mortgage brokers can help would-be homebuyers find the best mortgage rates for their budgets. Brokers are in the market to help buyers by offering the most solid advice they can. One mortgage broker group, the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, recently warned the federal government that a plan to change mortgage refinancing rules would adversely affect homeowners.

Survey says: Canadians opting for shorter amortization, fixed-rate loans

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"Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage," Frank Sinatra famously sang. A new poll from BMO Financial Group indicates marriage and shorter amortization periods may enjoy a similar relationship.

Canadians who are married with children are significantly more likely to choose a shorter amortization period, to the tune of 63 percent of survey respondents. When marital status isn't taken into consideration, just 50 percent of Canadians as a whole would consider shorter amortization. The survey also finds regional variances. In Alberta, 61 percent said they would either "consider" or "strongly consider" a shorter amortization, while Ontarians rang in at 53 percent. Those in prairie areas were the most likely to "strongly consider" a shorter amortization, at 32 percent.

"These numbers show Canadian homeowners are choosing responsible home financing options and are making building equity and saving on interest costs a priority," says Katie Archdekin, head of mortgage products at BMO Bank of Montreal. "For example, on a $400,000 mortgage at a 5 percent interest rate, moving from a 30-year to a 25-year amortization can save upwards of $70,000 in interest over the life of the mortgage – which is compelling." Continue reading

Cash-out refinancing could help Canadians with planned repairs

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A newly released poll from the Royal Bank of Canada finds that most Canadians would rather roll up their sleeves and fix up their homes than sell a house that needs major work.

The 19th annual RBC Homeownership Poll, released March 21, shows 83 percent of Canadians adopt a can-do attitude when faced with the prospect of having to fix up a home. Most – 66 percent – say they would do it simply to improve aesthetics, while some – 39 percent – say they would renovate to increase their home's energy efficiency. Nearly half – 45 percent – fancy themselves Do It Yourselfers and say they would undertake the repairs themselves.

The RBC poll also found that 46 percent of Canadians would undertake major repairs on a home to increase its value, with 43 percent saying they would renovate the kitchen or bathroom – the two rooms that add the most value to a home. With most banks offering near-record low mortgage rates of 2.99 percent on four-year fixed-rate mortgages, now might be the time to buy or sell a home in Canada.

But for those who wish to stay put, a cash-out mortgage refinancing might be an easy, effective way to fund the home improvements. A cash-out refinancing allows borrowers to get cash for some of their built-up home equity. They could then use that money for business expenses, vacations, renovations, paying down other debt or anything else they might need. Continue reading

Canadians household debt reaches record high in third quarter

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Household debt in Canada has increased sharply in recent months, and a recent report found personal debt is at an all-time high.

According to Statistics Canada, the ratio of debt to personal disposable income reached 152.9 percent in the third quarter, up from 150.5 percent during the previous quarter. The rise marks the third consecutive quarter that the ratio has expanded.

"Credit growth continues to outpace the growth of disposable income, while the continued financial market turmoil has weighed on the asset side of the balance sheet," said David Onyett-Jeffries, economist at Royal Bank of Canada, according to the Globe and Mail. Continue reading

Canadians want to live near, not with children during retirement

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A large portion of Canadians are nearing or entering retirement, but despite most wanting to live near their children and grandchildren, sleeping under their own roof is a top priority.

According to a recent HSBC survey, 84 percent of Canadians desire to live close to their children during retirement, but only 4 percent would live in the same home. Meanwhile, 32 percent of Indian, 25 percent of Chinese and 14 percent of Brazilian respondents said they want to live with their children in retirement.

"Respondents in Canada are among the most likely to see themselves as living independently in their own homes when they retire," the report said. Continue reading

Expert opinions vary regarding Canada’s housing market

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As global economic uncertainty continues to create unstable markets, the Canadian economy has largely been spared, but some experts aren’t expecting the trend to persist much longer.

In a report by Canadian Business, senior economic writer Matthew McClearn says the strong Canadian housing market is driving the economy, but that due to an increasing amount of debt among homeowners, the recent jump in housing activity isn’t sustainable.

According to the source, the housing market is mainly strong due to historically low mortgage rates. McClearn says the ratio of household debt to disposable income is near 150 percent, with two-thirds of that debt coming from mortgage payments. Continue reading