Tag Archives: Burn Your Mortgage

5 Common Home-Buying Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Buying a property can be fun and exciting. If you’re buying a new property, you can choosing everything down to the design of your countertops and the type of flooring. If you’re buying a used (resale) home, you don’t get as much choice with the property itself, but you can choose to buy a neighbourhood with everything that you’re looking for (provided it’s within your budget).

While purchasing a property can be a lot of fun, there are costly home-buying pitfalls you can make along the way. By making these costly mistakes, it can set you back months or even years in your finances. You’ll have less money to save in the SPP and for other goals like an early retirement.

Without further ado, here are five common home-buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Preapproved for a Mortgage
Before going house hunting, don’t forget to get preapproved for a mortgage. Without being preapproved, you’ll have no clue about how much you can afford to spend on a property. You could buy a home for $600K, only to find out that based on your income and down payment amount, you can only spend $550K on a home. Yikes! Don’t let this happen to you.

When you get preapproved for a mortgage, you also benefit from something referred to as a rate hold. With a rate hold, if mortgage rates go up while your preapproval is in effect (typically 90 to 120 days), you’re guaranteed the lower rate (or the spread if you’re preapproved for a variable rate mortgage). You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Just because your lender preapproves you to spend $550K on a home, doesn’t mean that you should go out and spend that much – or even more. Take the time to prepare a mock budget (or if you’re already a homeowner, use your current budget as a mock budget for the property you’re thinking of buying). See what your budget would be like if you actually moved into the home. Budget for ongoing costs like your mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and home insurance.

You’ll want to leave some breathing room in case you run into any financial difficulties along the way like costly home renovations or losing your job. You also don’t want to find yourself “house rich, cash poor,” with no money left over to save or have fun.

Mistake #2: Buying a Home for the Looks
Purchasing a property based solely on looks is a lot like dating based solely on appearance. Sure, looks are important to a degree, but other factors like compatibility matters, as well.

When you step foot inside a property the first time, it’s easy to get distracted by the wrong things. Sure, it’s nice to find a home with hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances, but what about the “bones” of the property? I’m talking about the roof, furnace, windows and structure. Anyone can hire a contractor to put in a new kitchen, but if the roof is leaking and the windows are old, ask yourself, do you have the money to invest in upgrading them? If it’s a house flip, it’s not unheard of for corners to be cut on renovations. Pay special attention on everything  to stay clear of a home that’s a money pit.

Mistake #3: Not Putting Enough Money Aside for Closing Costs
When buying a home, it’s easy to overlook closing costs, but they’re anything but a drop in the bucket. Closing costs typically add up to between 1.5 and 4 percent of the purchase price of your home. For example, on a $550K home, you’d be spending up to $22K on the so-called “transactional costs of real estate.” And it’s your responsibility to have the funds for closing costs. Your lender won’t foot the bill for your closing costs.

The most common closing costs for homebuyers incur are land transfer tax, real estate lawyer fees and home inspection fees. If you’re buying a home the first time, the good news is you may be eligible for a rebate on land transfer tax depending on the province you’re buying in. Nevertheless, closing costs can still add up to a lot. Don’t forget about them!

Mistake #4: Forgoing a Home Inspection
In more competitive housing markets, you may be tempted to forgo your home inspection. When you find a property that you like and 5 other people are interested, it’s tempting to skip the home inspection and make a clean offer (an offer without any conditions). While a clean offer can help you come out on the winning end in a bidding war, you’re also leaving yourself open to all sorts of costly repairs you may not have anticipated. For example, your new home could have issues with the structure or a knob and tube wiring that an inspector could have flagged.

Hiring a certified and experienced home inspector is money well spent. You’re making the single largest purchase of your lifetime after all. If you’re afraid you might not get the home if you make it conditional on inspection, why not get the inspection done ahead of time? If the inspection is good, you can make an offer knowing that you’re investing in a property that’s a good long-term investment.

Mistake #5: Choosing a Mortgage Only for the Rate
When you go to the supermarket to buy bread, do you buy the cheapest loaf? I hope not. You look at other things like carbs, sugar and dietary fiber. So, why do so many of us do the same thing when looking for a mortgage? We look for the mortgage with the lowest rate when there are so many other factors to consider – mortgage penalties, prepayments and portability to name a few.

Mortgage penalties are probably the last thing on your mind when signing up for a mortgage, but you should care. Here’s why. If you’re signing up for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage like most Canadians, 6 out of 10 Canadians who sign up for that mortgage type will break it before the end of their mortgage term. If you asked those same 10 Canadians whether they’d break their mortgage when signing up, all 10 would probably say, no way!

That’s why if there’s a chance you could break your mortgage, it’s a good idea to choose one with a fair penalty. That’s where a mortgage broker comes in handy. A broker can help you choose the ideal mortgage based on your financial situation. You may be better off paying a slightly higher mortgage rate if it has other features that are important to you like prepayments and a lower penalty.

This post was written by Sean Cooper, bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage. Sean is also a mortgage broker at mortgagepal.ca.

May 28: Best from the blogosphere

Of the 500+ blogs I have written for savewithspp.com, monitoring the blogosphere to link you with the best of the personal finance world has been the most rewarding. While some personal finance bloggers generate money from google ads on their websites,  forge corporate relationships, sell courses or develop an enhanced reputation in their chosen field, the vast majority write for free, just because they have information they want to share with others.

Here is a completely unscientific list of some of my favourites who I have featured time and time again in this space. If you want to continue following them, sign up to receive emails notifying you when their latest blogs are posted.

Boomer&Echo: Rob Engen and his mother Marie Engen are the writing team that generate a consistent stream of always engaging blogs about everything to do with saving and spending money.

Cait Flanders: Cait Flanders has written about all the ways she continually challenges herself to change her habits, her mindset and her life. This includes paying off debt, completing a two-year shopping ban and doing a year of slow living experiments. And in January 2018, she published her first book, The Year of Less  (a memoir), which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Canadian Dream: Free at 45: I have been reading Tim Stobbs since we blogged together on moneyville for the Toronto Star. He has beat his initial target, retiring recently at age 40, but his blogs about retirement are still a great read.

Jessica Moorhouse:  Jessica Moorhouse is a millennial personal finance expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada® professional, award-winning blogger, host of the Mo’ Money Podcast, founder of the Millennial Money Meetup and co-founder of Rich & Fit. Don’t miss How I Survived a Trip Across America Using Only Chip & Pin.

Millenial Revolution: Firecracker and Wanderer are married computer engineers who retired in their early 30s. They blog on Millenial Revolution. They opted to not buy a home because they believe home ownership is a money pit. Instead they travel the world living on their investment income. Reader case studies where Wanderer “maths it up” are particularly fascinating.

Money After Graduation: Money After Graduation Inc. is an online financial literacy resource founded by Bridget Casey for young professionals who want to build long-term wealth. Whether readers are looking to pay off student loans, invest in the stock market, or save for retirement, this website has valuable resources and tools including eCourses and workshops.

Retire Happy Jim Yih and his team of writers publish top quality financial planning information. They believe there is a need for timeless information because too many financial and investing sites focus on minute-by-minute investment ideas, changing markets and fast paced trends.

Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper’s initial claim to fame was paying off his mortgage by age 30 which he has documented in his book “Burn Your Mortgage.” Since then much of his writing has focused on real estate-related subjects. He has recently qualified as a mortgage broker and will be leaving his day job as a pension administrator to launch a new career.

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For me, retirement beckons. This is my last Best from the Blogosphere for savewithspp.com. My own blog RetirementRedux has been dormant for some time as I have focused on writing for clients but I plan to revive it now that I have more time. Feel free to subscribe if you are interested.

May all of your financial dreams come true, and when the right time comes, I wish you a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jan 22: Best from the blogosphere

I don’t know about you, but on these long cold winter nights, all I want to do is curl up on the couch under a blanket and binge on Netflix. But before you do, check out our latest collection of personal finance videos, both old and new. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words!

If like me, you still haven’t figured out what the fuss is about bitcoin and other digital currency, Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation answers these question in a three -minute crash course: What is cryptocurrency? How does blockchain work? Does cryptocurrency have a place in your long-term investment portfolio? Why are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and all the other cryptocurrencies is so popular and what are you supposed to do with them?

Three moms (Gillian Irving, Monika Jazyk, and Rachel Oliver) who are also real estate investors bring their expertise to the table as they interview Canada’s leading experts on creating wealth and financial security through real estate investing. On this episode: guest Sean Cooper (beginning at 7:40) , best-selling author of “Burn Your Mortgage” and a personal finance expert famous for paying off his home mortgage after just 3 years discusses the pros and cons of paying off a #mortgage when interest rates are so low and how people with kids can pay off their mortgage faster.

On Let’s Talk Investing, a joint project of Globe Investor and the Investor Education Fund, Rob Carrick interviews Gordon Pape about what investments you should hold in your TFSA. Pape says it really depends on what you want to use the plan for. He says there’s nothing wrong with using it as an emergency fund and investing it in low risk securities. However if you want to use it to maximize retirement savings, Pape suggests going to a brokerage firm and setting up a self-directed TFSA.

Jessica Moorhouse quit her day job over a year ago to concentrate on building her brand and her freelance business. She talks about finding balance in that year and acknowledging her own working style when setting her schedule. She was anxious every Sunday because her podcast and blog had typically been released on Mondays, but she realized there was no reason why she couldn’t shift these posts to Tuesday and reduce her stress.

You have recently been declined for life insurance. What are your options? Lorne Marr, director of business at LSM Insurance says the first thing to find out is why you were turned down. If you were declined for a significant reason like cancer, a heart attack or diabetes, you may want to look at a no medical life insurance policy. These policies fall into two categories: guaranteed issue coverage and simplified coverage.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Sept 11: Best from the blogosphere

As the leaves change colours and we gear up for the busy fall and winter season, it’s time to check in on what some of our favourite personal finance writers have been discussing this summer.

With the announcement that CIBC has gobbled up PC Financial which will be rebranded as CIBC Simplii Financial on November 1st, Stephen Weyman says on Howtosavemoney.ca that it will be banking as usual in the short term but you can expect CIBC to sneak in a few fees here and there to make sure they’re profitable and try to cut costs where they can.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen offers 25 money saving tips. A couple of my favourites are:

  • Turn off the “heat dry” on your dishwasher. Open the door when the cycle is done and let the dishes air dry.
  • Learn some sewing basics so you can make minor repairs and alterations to your clothing – hem your pants and skirts, sew on a button, sew up a torn seam, put in a new zipper.
  • Buy some time. Set aside the purchase you are considering for a few hours (or a day or two) before you decide whether to buy it. Often you may decide you can easily live without it.

Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) has recently welcomed a new daughter and she is already thinking about saving for her college education. She writes about the importance of setting up your child’s Registered Educational Savings Plan as a trust so it will be covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation in the event of financial institution failure up to $100,000 per account.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih writes a thoughtful piece on Minimizing Your Old Age Security Clawback. The maximum monthly OAS benefit in 2017 is $578.53 ($6,942.36 annually). If you earn between $74,788 and $121,070/year the OAS benefit will be clawed back. He explains that with pension splitting, spouses can give up to 50% of their pension income to their spouse for tax splitting purposes. This is a very effective way to reduce income if you are close to the OAS clawback threshold.

When Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage paid off his mortgage, he promised himself he’d stop putting off travel. His first major trip was to San Francisco this summer. Nevertheless, he still travelled frugally booking his $700 roundtrip flight through PC Travel. He also got from the airport to downtown on Bay area rapid transit for less than $10. In San Diego, he opted for a four-bed mixed dorm room at USA Hostels for less than $60 a night as opposed to $200/night in a hotel.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Mar 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This issue of Best from the Blogosphere draws on the work of several of the over 60 personal finance bloggers/experts who belong to the Canadian Money Bloggers Facebook Group. While many are old friends, today we introduce you to several bloggers who are new to us that we have recently started reading.

Alyssa Davies on Mixed up Money writes about Why She Still Avoids the Mall 1 Year After Becoming Debt Free. In order to pay off $10,000 in debt arising out of a shopping addiction she had to quit cold turkey. Even going to the mall was too much temptation. She rewarded herself with a new $80 wallet when she paid off her debt, but since then she prefers to shop for clothing online as a form of damage control.

11 Ways to Lower Your Power & Utility Bills by Dan on HowToSaveMoney.ca is a very topical piece for any season. Dan suggests that to conserve water you use low flow toilets and make sure you have no leaky taps. Energy efficient blinds and window upgrades can help keep the cold out and the heat in. And weatherstripping, adding solar panels and smart thermostats are other options for better managing utility bills.

We’ve read a lot lately about Sean Cooper’s book Burn Your Mortgage. In fact I recently posted a podcast interview with him on this site. But FIRECracker chats with Cooper for the Millenial Revolution about what it actually takes to publish a book. Instead of finally relaxing after paying off his mortgage, he spent 3-5 months writing the book; 4 months editing and re-writing it; plus 6-8 months working with a publicist and literary agent on marketing. In addition, he put $20,000 of his own money into the project.

The blogger and founder of Family Money Plan Andrew Daniels says part of his plan to become financially free involves making more money. Taking surveys is one side hustle that is helping him reach this objective. There are a lot of different survey companies out there and each of them compensates differently. But if he is waiting for an oil change or for his kids’ activities to wrap up, he pulls out his smartphone and earns while he would otherwise be just killing time.

CPA Robin Taub frequently blogs for Tangerine Bank’s website Forward Thinking. In How someone stole my identity to commit fraud and what I did about it she tells a compelling story about Janice who was the victim of identity theft and fraud like 20,611 other people in 2014. It took her months to get her credit rating cleared so she could be approved for a mortgage and purchase a home. “To this day, I’m still not sure how my Social Insurance Number was compromised since I didn’t physically misplace or lose the card. But I’m much more vigilant now about protecting myself,” Janice told Taub.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Burn your mortgage: An interview with author Sean Cooper

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

If you think you can’t possibly afford to buy a home or that paying off your mortgage is a pipe dream, Burn Your Mortgage is the must-read book of the year. Today I’m pleased to be interviewing author Sean Cooper for savewithspp.com.

By day, Sean is a mild-mannered senior pension analyst at a global consulting firm. By night he is a prolific personal finance journalist, who has been featured in major publications, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and MoneySense. He has also appeared on Global News, CBC, CP24 and CTV News Network.

Thanks for agreeing to chat with us today Sean.

My pleasure, Sheryl.

Q: As a 20 something, why did you decide to buy a house?
A: Well I guess a lot of people strive for home ownership. My parents were my biggest influence. We always owned a home growing up, so I thought that owning a home was kind of the path to financial freedom.

Q: How much did your home cost, and how much was your down payment?
A: I purchased my home in August 2012 for $425,000 dollars. My down payment was $170,000, leaving me with a mortgage of $255,000. I didn’t go out and spend the massive amount the bank approved me for. I could have spent over $500,000 dollars but I found a house with everything that I needed for $425,000 and because of that I was able to pay off my mortgage in three years.

Q: How on earth did you save a down payment of $170,000 dollars? How long did it take you to save it, and how many hours a week did you have to work to do so?
A: Yes, it was definitely a sizable down payment for one person. I pretty much started saving my down payment while I was in university. I was able to graduate debt free from university and while I was there, I was working as a financial journalist. I was also working at the MBA office, and employed part-time at a supermarket. When I got my full-time job I was saving probably 75%-80% of my paycheck. I wasn’t living at home rent free. I was actually paying my mother rent.

Q: Kudos for your determination and stamina. Do you think working three jobs is actually a practical option for most people, particularly if they have young families?
A: No. As I emphasize in the book, that’s how I paid off my mortgage as a financial journalist on top of working at my full time job. While for somebody like me who is single it makes sense, it’s probably not realistic if you have a spouse and children. But there are plenty of things you can do to save money.

Q: Many people again think they would never, never be able to save up enough for a down payment. Can you give a couple of hints or tips that you give readers in your book that will help them escalate their savings?
A:
Definitely. First of all, you absolutely have to be realistic with your home buying expectations. You can’t expect to be able to buy the exact same house that you grew up in with three or four bedrooms and two stories. But you can at least get your foot in the door of the real estate market by perhaps buying a condo, or a town house, and building up equity, and hopefully moving up one day. Think about creative living arrangements. Rent a cheaper place than a downtown condo. Find a roommate.

Q: How can prospective home buyers use registered plans like their RRSP or TFSA to beef up their savings and get tax breaks?
A: If you are a first time home buyer, I definitely encourage you to use the home buyers plan. The government allows you to withdraw $25,000 dollars from your RRSP tax-free (it has to be repaid within 15 years). If you are buying with your spouse, that’s $50 000 dollars you can take out together. That’s a great way to get into the housing market. The caution I can offer is when you withdraw the money, make sure that you fill in the correct forms so you are not taxed on the withdrawal. If you’re not a first time home buyer, then I would definitely encourage you to use a Tax Free Savings Account, because it’s very flexible, and although you don’t get a tax refund, the balance in the plan accumulates tax-free.

Q: After shelter, which means mortgage and rent, food is a pretty expensive cost. How can people manage their food costs while still eating a healthy, varied diet?
A: I offer a few tips in my book. First of all, try to buy items like cereal and rice in bulk and on sale. Another tip I offer is to buy in season. I probably wouldn’t buy cherries during the winter  because they would cost me a small fortune. Try to buy apples instead, and during the summer if you enjoy watermelon, definitely buy it then. Try to be smart with your spending, and that way you can cut back on your grocery bill considerably.

Q: I enjoyed the section in your book about love, money, and relationships. Can you share some hints about how couples can manage dating and wedding costs, to free up more money for their house?
A: People like to spend a fair amount on their weddings these days, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you just have to consider your financial future, and how that’s going to affect it. Also, when it comes to dating, make sure that you and your potential partner are financially compatible and have similar financial goals. For example, one might be a saver while the other is a spender. Sit down and make sure both of you are on the same page financially, and then find common financial goals, and work towards them.

Q: How can prospective home buyers determine how much they can actually afford?
A: If you are ready to start house hunting, I would definitely encourage you to get pre- approved for a mortgage. Basically, the bank will tell you how much money you can afford on a home. That way you don’t waste time looking at houses out of your price range. However, just because the bank says you can spend $800,000 doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend that much.

Also don’t forget you will have to pay for utilities, property taxes, and home insurance plus repairs and maintenance. Come up with a mock budget ahead of time, and see how that will affect your current lifestyle. I would say if over 50% of your month income is going towards housing, that’s too much.

Try to kind of balance home ownership with your other financial goals, whether they are saving towards retirement, or even going on a vacation. That way all of your money won’t be going towards your house, and you will actually be able to afford to have fun and save towards other goals as well.

Q: You’re living in the basement and you rented the first floor. Why did you decide to do that, instead of vice versa?
A: Well I’m just one person living on my own, and upstairs there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. I wouldn’t know what to do with all the space, so it made sense to live in the basement, because to be honest I lived in basement apartments for several years before that, so it wasn’t really much of an adjustment. I mean, personally I’d rather rent out the main floor than get a second or third job. It’s all about kind of maximizing all of the space that you have, and looking for extra ways to earn income.

Q: We rented the basement in our first house. Why did you decide to write the book?
A:
When I paid off my mortgage, a lot of people reached out to me for home buying advice. In the media, there seems to be a lot of, I guess, negativity surrounding real estate and big cities.

I always hear that the average house costs over a million dollars in Toronto and Vancouver. It seems like for millennials home ownership is really out of reach. I wanted to write a book to really inspire them and show them that home ownership is still a realistic dream, and it is still achievable if you are willing to be smart about your finances.

Q: Congratulations Sean. It’s a great book. I’m sure people reading and listening to this podcast will want to run out and buy it. Where can they get a copy?
A: They can order a copy on Amazon. It will also be available in Chapters and other major book stores across Canada.

Well that’s very exciting. Good luck.

Thanks so much.

 

 

 

 

 

You can purchase Burn Your Mortgage by Sean Cooper on Amazon.

This is an edited transcript of a podcast interview conducted in February 2017.