Archive for August, 2013

Satisfy your curiosity with a look inside Vancouver’s most modern homes

Friday, August 30th, 2013

How many times have you driven by “that” house, and wondered what’s inside? Find out on Saturday, September 14, when some of Vancouver’s most creative homeowners, architects and designers are opening their doors to you as part of the 2013 Vancouver Modern Home Tour!

What’s a MODERN home? We’ve scoured the area and had creative homeowners, designers, architects and builders submit some of the most interesting Vancouver residences. We’ve curated them to ensure a well-balanced tour featuring the most cutting-edge contemporary design that takes advantage of the stunning landscape.

Purchase advance tickets for $30 to get into all of the homes on the tour. Advance tickets are on sale until 8:00 pm on Friday, September 13. Day of event tickets will be available at any of the tour properties beginning at 11:00 am on September 14 for $40 each. Advance tickets may be picked up at specified will call locations (3 of the homes on the tour) beginning at 11:00 am on September 14.

Here’s a list of the participating homes.

How will mortgage rate hikes affect your home?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Those looking to gain a foothold in Metro Vancouver’s already pricey housing market are facing another hurdle as key financial institutions across the country move to hike mortgage rates.

On Thursday, five-year fixed mortgage rates edged near the four-per-cent range at many financial institutions after hovering near the three-per-cent mark for months. RBC posted its five-year rate at 3.89 per cent, while BMO and Scotiabank offered 3.79 per cent and CIBC 3.69 per cent.

And prospective home buyers likely won’t be able to wait the trend out this time around, analysts said. According to Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC world markets, the increases are a sign of things to come.

“Interest rates are rising for a reason,” he said, attributing the changes to an increasingly healthy U.S. economy, which analysts believe will benefit Canada as well.

“The unemployment rate will go down, the wages will rise — you know, the positive impact of good economic news — and that will allow people to be able to tolerate this increase in interest rates to a bigger extent,” he said.

Limits on mortgages secured by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation may also be playing a role.

Increased rates due to a rebounding U.S. economy are good news in the long term, but in the short term may mean more belt-tightening for those looking to buy a home or who have already leveraged themselves to the hilt to finance an existing mortgage, Tal said.

“I think given the fact that we’ve borrowed so much over the past five, six years, as a society we’ve become extremely sensitive to higher interest rates. And it’s starting — we are already starting to see people thinking twice about buying that second TV.”

The increases may also lead prospective homebuyers to think twice about getting on the property ladder in the Vancouver market, said mortgage broker Jessi Johnson,

“It definitely will affect people’s ability to qualify (for a mortgage),” he said, noting those who do will likely wind up with less money to play with and may look to other cities, such as Surrey.

For those who are already operating on razor-thin margins, Johnson advised planning ahead for what increasing rates may mean for their financial situation when their mortgage is due for renewal.

“People need to jump on an online calculator and ask ‘what does this do for my monthly cash flow?’” he said. While many people sign up for the maximum mortgage they can get, Johnson said, that’s not always a good idea because they don’t often stop to think about the possibility that rates can rise, sometimes substantially.

“The biggest issue is people get maxed out.”

But Geoff Lee, another mortgage broker in Vancouver, said he doesn’t think homeowners — or prospective ones — should panic just yet.

He’s not convinced the hikes are an indication of a steady upward trend.

“It’s like a gas war — as soon as one lender is gonna knock it back down, then you’re going to see people follow,” he said. “There’s really no reason why the fixed rates should be increasing, other than (the banks are) trying to make some money in an environment where they haven’t made much money at all.”

Compared to historic interest rates, which decades ago were commonly in the double digits, a four per cent borrowing rate is nothing to get excited about for some economists.

“There’s no question some buyers on the margins will be squeezed out,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist with the B.C. Real Estate Board, but in general, rate increases of less than one per cent won’t have a measurable impact on Vancouver’s housing market.

He added Lower Mainland housing sales have rebounded in the last six months from last year, where they hit lows not seen since the late 1990s. That trend was influenced partly by the reduction in mortgage amortization periods from 30 to 25 years introduced last year.

Muir’s latest housing forecast, released Thursday, predicts increasing rates may mean growth in sales will slow, but overall the upward trend will continue. There may even be a spike in the short term as buyers already approved for mortgages at a lower rate scramble to get in the market.

But given the economic indications, people should approach the market cautiously, particularly of they are already dealing with consumer debt, said the Credit Counselling Society’s Scott Hannah.

The increased rates may inspire people in precarious financial situations to hold off on purchasing a home, he said. But for those already in the market and “living on the edge of their paycheques,” the increases will necessitate a retooling of the household budget in order to stave off consumer debt.

Hannah advises homeowners in tight financial situations to adjust their spending habits so that they can meet mortgage payments and avoid relying on unsecured debt, like credit, to meet other expenses, such as car payments.

Better to let go of the car altogether than go into consumer debt and risk losing a house, which in the long-term will earn equity, he said.

“The worst thing you can do when the rates go up quicker than the housing market cools off is now be in a position where you have to sell your home,” Hannah said. “You’re going to lose money.”

Source: Jessica Barrett, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver’s most expensive house for sale at $35 million

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

With property prices on the up in Vancouver, the time when we were wowed by news of million-dollar homes is long gone. However, this Shaughnessy home has just hit the market for $35 million – a figure that does set it apart from the rest.

Listed by Victor Kwan of RE/MAX Select Properties and Amy Lau of Selmak Realty, here is the MLS description (in case you’re tempted …).

A rare opportunity to own both sides of this award winning “Heritage A” Mansion located in 1st Shaughnessy. This exquisite luxurious estate was the home of the former Lt. Governor (Eric Hamber). These two units have never been on the market at the same time. Current owner has connected both for easy access. Units can easily converted back to two independent units (#1 – 4686 sq.ft. /#2 – 7530 sq.ft. combined total of 12,216 sq.ft.). This beautifully restored heritage residence includes formal rooms, 2 wine cellars, oak floors, stained glass windows, gourmet kitchen, oak panelled elevator and art deco parkade. Combined number of 9 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 3 kitchens. The secured underground parking spaces makes it easy to just lock and leave the estate.

In a hot real estate market, should you price your home high or low?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

With increasingly strong sales figures – especially for single detached homes in Toronto and Vancouver – and many experts predicting this momentum will continue into the fall market (despite steadily rising interest rates), a question that many sellers are asking is whether you should be “aggressive” when pricing your home.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail by Ricky Chadha, a broker with Royal LePage Estate Realty in Toronto, addresses this.

In terms of pricing your home “aggressively,” that could mean aggressively low or aggressively high. The decision to go with a higher list price versus a lower one (the latter is usually intended to create a bidding war) depends on several factors. One of the biggest, as is usually the case in real estate, is location.

Last fall, homes in high-demand areas in Toronto like the Beaches, Riverdale, East York, High Park and Leaside had sale price to list price ratios of 100 to 102 per cent. That means they sold for asking or more than asking in the majority of cases.

In contrast, some areas located in the outskirts of the GTA like Durham, York and Peel had a slightly lower ratio for sale price to list price. That said, the percentages were only slightly lower, ranging from 95 to 98 per cent of asking. In real dollars, that could equate anywhere from a few to several thousand less than the list price, depending on the price point of the home.

When advising my clients about how to price their own homes, I always emphasize the importance of not overpricing. Overpricing your home can discourage prospective buyers from even visiting, limiting the exposure that you really need. The more people viewing your home the better!

If you are worried about underpricing and leaving money on the table, don’t worry. In my experience, the market itself always works in dictating fair market value. If you’re in a hot area, a fair and even lower than expected price may even drive a bidding war to your benefit.

It’s the basic principle of supply and demand. If supply is low in your area and demand is high, then it will drive the price up. The opposite holds true as well.

Much depends on timing, and you have to get granular with your timing strategy within your community. Weekly changes to available inventory will have a significant impact on your outcome in an active market.

For example, if there are three houses listed for sale on your street at the same time, you may want to wait and see what happens with them. If you list alongside them, you’ll be competing with all those homes, and odds are that will affect the value others put on your home – usually negatively unless you have a truly star property.

Conversely, if there are no homes listed on your street, but the last home that sold went over asking, it’s a good indication of pent-up demand in your area. With that demand and no or minimal competition, it’s the optimal time to list.

While there are no guarantees in real estate, diligent planning and research can give you an accurate picture of historic trends in your neighbourhood, and an edge in determining your own strategy.

One final piece of advice on pricing: Always take a big step back from the personal attachment you have to your home when determining price. It’s human nature to put more value on your home than may be realistic because of all of the work, money and memories you have vested in it. But prospective buyers and real estate professionals don’t see it that way – they’re looking at it with an objective frame of mind. Any subjectivity they factor in to the perceived value applies to their wants and needs, not yours.

When you’re pricing your home, think like a buyer. Be realistic, do your research and be ready to list at the right time.

A tale of 2 properties: Condo prices fall while detached homes continue to soar

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

A housing crash based on the type of home you have? Is that really possible?

It certainly didn’t happen that way in the early 1990s. When the real estate market crashed in Toronto, the entire housing sector saw prices plunge. Even commercial real estate tanked in the high-interest rate environment.

This time around, many wonder whether a specific type of housing could falter while other categories remain strong. Most eyes are on the condo market in such a scenario.

Toronto – now the largest condominium market in North America – is the epicenter for the concern and yesterday another set of statistics showed that market foundering once again.

“A tale of two markets is exactly what we are dealing with. There are different things happening in each market,” said George Carras, president of RealNet Canada Inc., referring to the high-rise versus low-rise comparison.

His research company just looked at new homes but he says it is a pretty decent proxy for what will happen to the existing homes market down the road.

What is happening is low-rise [detached homes] sales are slowing faster than high-rise sales, yet condo prices are the ones getting hit. RealNet’s price index for a low-rise home reached $645,854 in July, up 5.3% from a year ago, while the high-rise index was $430,930, down 1.6% during the same period. The $214,924 gap between the two is the highest on record.

“It’s a complete inverse out there. A decade ago you had three low-rise choices for one high-rise, now you’ve got three high-rise choices for one low-rise,” says Mr. Carras.

High-rise sales are already falling. July sales were 34% below their 10-year average. Yet as of July 31 there are 256 high-rise developments in the GTA with 66,126 units. By the end of 2013, the market will add 17,000 condos.

In the Greater Toronto Area, provincial government policy, which encouraged intensification, has helped foster the condo market. But it’s not just a Toronto issue — the Vancouver condo market has had the same strength over the past five years.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says single family detached home prices are up 16.8% over the last five years while apartment prices have risen just 0.2% during the same period.

“I don’t know about a crash in one and nothing in another,” said Doug Porter, chief economist with Bank of Montreal, talking about the two different classes of housing.

But clear differences in the market to the point they are going in opposite directions? That’s another story.

“I can definitely see that happening. A lot of the [condo] market in Toronto and to extent some other cities has been driven by geography and government policy. At some point I can see the markets going in two different directions,” said Mr. Porter.

While the last market crash, discounting the brief pullback in 2008, was driven by soaring interest rates, this one could come from oversupply in one segment of the market.

This has already begun in Quebec where the condo market is feeling the impact of collapsing prices and single family homes have managed to stay in positive territory.

Hélène Bégin, senior economist with Desjardins Group, says it comes down to a supply issue which is being felt most acutely in Montreal where 30% of existing home sales come from high-rise condominiums.

“I wouldn’t say there’s been a crash as much as an adjustment of 5% to 10% that will happen in the next year. We are just seeing the beginning of it,” said Ms. Bégin.

She says the market for single family homes has been better in terms of price because it is more balanced without a massive influx of supply.

“Condo construction slowed sharply in the first half of the year which is excellent news for market fundamentals,” she wrote in a recent report.

It’s not only a supply side issue. Ms. Bégin says demand for condos has also been hit harder because people buying in that segment of the market tend to be more marginal buyers impacted by tougher borrowing rules from Ottawa.

Consumers with less than a 20% downpayment borrowing from a financial institution regulated by the Bank Act must get mortgage default insurance. To qualify for those mortgages, Ottawa has said consumers can only amortize a mortgage over 25 years which is down from 30 years in 2012 after being as high as 40 years.

Shorter amortizations mean buyers have higher monthly payments and can borrow less.

Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada Ltd., says the supply of single detached homes is going to keep shrinking.

“There are more and more condos being built in Toronto and Vancouver. They are just a better use of land,” he says.

The key for the condo market might be whether the people buying them, many investors, can rent them out. “If you have a whole lot of empty condos, the developers might bring prices down,” says Mr. Lawby.

But demand still appears strong from renters. Vacancies are rising but Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the latest statistics nationally put the rate at 2.7%, still a tight market to rent in.

And, in Toronto, rental rates are just going up. A report this week from research firm Urbanation said average rents in the city were up 4.1% in the second quarter from a year earlier.

Source: Garry Marr, Financial Post

Just bought a rental unit? Here’s how best to decorate it

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

You’ve bought an investment condo to rent out but it needs renovating. What should you do to appeal to the majority of renters? Here are some tips from Samantha Pynn, a design expert who writes for the National Post.

There are definitely dos and don’ts when it comes to designing a rental space. You’ll want to consider the needs of your dream tenant, without being so specific with your design choices that you alienate good potential renters. Like staging a home for sale, you want to remove personal furnishings, so that people can envision themselves living in your condo. Pink chairs, nude art and bar carts are not in everyone’s vision.

Like you, Susan Rogers of Susan Rogers Design Consulting (, who designed the fabulous living room in the photo, bought this condo with her husband, Scott, as an investment property. You can checkout their fully furnished rental condo on

According to Susan, you will want to “appeal to a wide variety of tastes.” She says a rental condo “shouldn’t feel like it has been furnished with a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs, or an eclectic mix of rejects from previous design projects.” The condo needs to feel like it was especially designed just for the tenant.

With this in mind, the layout of this condo living room uses one of my favourite furniture arrangements: two parallel same-size sofas. The look is uber-chic; and, the setup, as in hotel lobbies, is great for conversation. The apartment-size sofas from EQ3 ( were chosen for their sleek lines and reasonable price. Plus, it’s no mistake that they are upholstered in a durable dark black-brown fabric. “The sofas are practical and comfortable and their colour is neither masculine nor feminine — this was our mandate throughout the condo,” Susan says.

In keeping with their mandate, the burnt-orange carpet was the inspiration for the condo’s colour scheme.

The 9 x 12-foot carpet was bought 35 years ago for Susan’s first apartment. “Buying a good quality carpet will pay for itself over the years” she says.

The orange blends harmoniously with the floors and furniture. Plus, you’ll also notice that the living room is devoid of pattern. Not everyone is a fan of florals or stripes. In other words, steer clear of feminine colours and bold patterns.

Although they look brand new, the two chairs on either side of the credenza were purchased at Goodwill for $12 each and refinished to match the flooring.

The credenza is a quality piece from Shelter ( “Most small spaces lack adequate storage, so wherever possible, we added pieces that would provide plenty of storage,” Susan says. The credenza’s wood-grained front references the floors, while its white matte-lacquer frame blends with the walls and works with the white convertible coffee-and-dining table.

Yes, you read that correctly. Push a release button on the side of the table’s spring-loaded frame, and it will rise to dining height (or any height in between). The Mascotte dining table from Calligaris ( is a splurge, but “still less expensive than buying a separate dining table and chairs plus a coffee table,” Susan says.

When pulling together your rental condo, Anita and Peter, it will be hard not to get too personal. Take your design cues from Susan and Scott, and you won’t go wrong. None of the pieces in their space is an overbearing-statement piece, but when used together, this condo makes a statement.

How to win a real estate bidding war

Monday, August 19th, 2013

In today’s housing market, running into competition is par for the course – and the weakest bids won’t survive.

Luckily for less well-heeled house hunters, there’s more that goes into winning a bidding war than throwing money at your opponents until they buckle.

“If you are serious about buying, it becomes a bit of a part time job,” says real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. “This is your home and your only investment.”

We asked DeSimone to clue consumers into how they can make their bids stand out.

1. Don’t wait for the open house. DeSimone is quick to advise clients to see as many houses as possible on weekends — whether or not they’re invited. ”With the Internet, information moves so quickly. [Sellers] could do a private showing Wednesday [days before a scheduled open house]” he says. “If it looks good online, go see it.”

2. Don’t be intimidated by higher bidders. Investors and average joes alike are flocking to snatch up deals on homes. Don’t let them psych you out, DeSimone says. “Don’t spend too much energy trying to figure out what’s really going on with the other offers. If you love the property, keep moving forward, but at your own pace. Make the offer you’re comfortable with, and only when you’re comfortable making it.”

3. Pick a broker who’s local and well-known. That’s because 80% of business is done by just 20% of brokers. The more respected they are within the community, the better shot they have at wooing listing agents. ”My clients (win) because the listing agent knows me,” DeSimone says. “In a competitive situation, working with a known broker will make the listing agent feel better and boost your chances, especially if two offers are close.”

4. Get in the listing agent’s good books. Why? Because the listing agent is the only person who meets all the parties involved in a sale. ”Though the seller ultimately decides and signs a contract, the listing agent has a giant say in who gets the property in a competitive situation,” DeSimone says. “If you make a good impression with the listing agent, you are in much better shape. Acting like a jerk to the agent tells the sellers to work with another offer.”

5. Line up an appraisal even before making an offer.
“One thing I once did was to have the bank try to get an appraiser lined up and on their calendar before an offer was made,” DeSimone says. “That way, the buyer could tell the seller that the appraisal would happen within x days of signing a contract. If you tell the seller two or three weeks, your offer looks weaker.”

6. Look for the ugliest house on a great block. It may sound counterintuitive, but you’re better off looking at a fixer-upper than going for the McMansion next door. Chances are competition won’t be as fierce. ”You can always improve the property and therefore increase its value,” says DeSimone. “And because it’s on a great block, improvements you make to the home will be practically guaranteed to give you a top return on your investment.”

7. Know your neighbours — and what their homes are worth. Getting to know the neighbourhood you’re hoping to call home one day goes far beyond scoping out local schools and seeing who prowls the streets at night. ”When you are ready to seriously write offers and compete, you should know what is going on with the local neighbourhood market,” DeSimone says. “Follow what has recently sold, what was competitive and what was not.”

8. Hire an inspector within two days of submitting your offer.
“Order the inspection before you write the offer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be two days but your offer should show the seller that you are prepared to move quickly,” DeSimone says. ”If you wait two weeks and then the inspector finds something and you walk away, the seller is left out to dry. The seller wants to know this is out of the way quickly.”

9. Sweeten your bid with cash. More often than not, most homebuyers simply can’t afford to plop down $180,000 in cash on a new home. But when it comes to sweetening your bid, offering to pay at least the deposit in cash could push you over the edge. ”The more you offer, the better,” DeSimone says.

Source: Mandi Woodruff, Business Insider

High home prices make Vancouverites house rich, but cash poor

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

A recent study reveals Vancouverites have the highest net worth in Canada as a result of their pricey homes; so why do so many of us feel like we’re in the poor house?

It’s probably because, with median incomes below the national average, Vancouver residents are grappling with monster mortgages, as well as the highest consumer debt loads in the country.

And while it’s great building home equity, this does little to improve financial positioning until a place is sold and a profit realized.

Peter Miron, author of the 2013 Wealthscapes study for Toronto-based Environics Analytics, confirms Vancouver’s enviable net worth — the value of real estate plus liquid assets minus debt — is due largely to a real estate market he describes as “out-of-this world”.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported, in June, the typical price for all types of residential properties in the Lower Mainland was $601,900. The comparable statistic in the Greater Toronto Area was $515,000.

Within the city of Vancouver, a detached West side home had a typical price tag of $2.06 million; it was $844,600 on the East side.

And the dividing line between east and west gradually is shifting eastward with more and more properties of $1 million-plus to be found east of Ontario Street.

In cities where home prices are high, incomes also tend to be robust. But in Vancouver, median family income is at $66,970 — lower than the $70,000 Canadian average.

And so, a lot of Vancouverites rent. Or purchase compact condos. And many large West side properties these days are being converted into two- and three-unit townhouses or half duplexes.

Yet, despite our housing hardship, the Environics Analytics study makes it sound as though we’re in an enviable position.

Vancouver net worth, the study reports, is $662,600 a person, with 65 per cent of people’s assets tied up in real estate — five per cent more than the national average.

In B.C., average net worth is $550,554. Across Canada it’s $400,151.

The Real Estate Board’s latest report says Vancouver-area property sales in July were up 27 per cent over a year ago.

According to the board, the current market reflects “pent-up demand from the slowdown in sales activity we saw at the end of last year.”

Despite the brisk market, I found a spring foray into the housing market, led by top notch realtor Rosalee McRae, hair-raising and unproductive.

In a visit to one open house — a Kitsilano townhouse selling for $800,000-plus — the first step through the front door revealed a mildew smell. After that, it didn’t matter that the wall-to-wall carpets looked soiled or the kitchen and bathrooms were circa 1970.

A tour through a succession of unimpressive properties — a few with bedrooms on the lower floor or a kitchen on the top floor — led me to believe sellers were pricing their properties too high, by $100,000 or more.

But further scrutiny, of 54 West side properties that fit my search criteria and sold last spring, revealed otherwise.

Most had sold in under a month, several within days.

In 11 of the transactions, buyers paid more than asking price, in one case $45,000 more.

On the other hand, in 11 cases, owners lowered their asking prices to achieve a sale. But they generally did so only by $20,000 to $50,000.

With a further challenge of having to pay real estate commission and B.C.’s property transfer tax, it’s fair to say Vancouver real estate, even for those of us with the highest net worth in Canada, is indeed out of this world.

Source: Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun

What’s happening to house prices around the world?

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Global Property Guide, in its latest house price survey, confirmed the full-scale boom of global housing markets. The basis of that prognosis is the result of the 1st quarter 2013 survey that found 28 of 42 housing markets that have published housing statistics enjoyed increases in house prices.

The guide confirmed observations that the global housing slump has ended, house prices are going up in more countries and momentum trend is upward.

Here is a clearer picture of how the housing markets are performing by region.

US – The seasonally adjusted national home price index of S&P/Case-Shiller grew 8.31% in the last 12 months, ending on Q1 2013. It is the largest year-on-year increase since the first quarter of 2006, resulting in consumer confidence reaching a five-year high, pick up in construction activity and drop in delinquency rates.

Europe – Signs of recovery in many markets. Among those markets that showed large improvements are: Turkey – 8.13%, Denmark – 7.01%, Norway – 4.75%, Estonia – 4.2%, Poland – 3.24%, Sweden – 3.11% and Switzerland – 2.42%.

Asia – The region’s housing market remains buoyant, led by Hong Kong, which logged a 20.14% increase. Other markets that also registered boosts in home prices are in China – 5.92%, Taiwan – 3.24%, Philippines – 2.34%, Japan – 2.12%, Indonesia – 2.04% and Thailand – 1.48%. However, Singapore suffered a 0.58% decline in home prices.

Pacific – New Zealand’s median house prices achieved an impressive 7.23% growth rate while Australia had a slower growth of only 0.11%.

Middle East
– Like the other regions, the Middle East too enjoyed substantial expansion in home prices, led by the United Arab Emirates at 28.02%, followed by Israel at 6.34%.

Africa – Prices of medium-sized apartments in South Africa went up 3.09%.

Global Property Guide pointed out that Europe is a special case, given that the Eurozone had a rough time the past few months because of the currency crisis due to the Greek default, right on the heels of the global financial crisis.

Yet, despite that handicap, of the 25 European housing markets included in the guide’s survey, 14 performed better as against 11 that had poorer performance in Q1 2013 compared to 2012.

The growth was experienced even outside the housing market. For instance, the Turkish economy expanded with a real GDP growth rate of 3%, its 14th consecutive quarter growth.

Some, however, showed only minimal increases in house prices such as Romania – 0.52%, Latvia – 0.3% an Finland 0.29%.

Understandably, Greece remains the weakest market, with home prices declining 11.53%. The contraction is felt in the entire Greek economy, which is dragging due to the prolonged recession, while consumption and investments fall and the government continues to cut corners as part of its IMF-imposed austerity programme.

Source: Vittorio Hernandez, PropertyLife

See how you can retire well with real estate

Monday, August 12th, 2013

A home is usually one of our biggest financial assets. It’s also an emotional asset, tied to memories, experiences and relationships. When it comes to retirement planning, it’s often difficult to decide what to do with that asset.

There is no shortage of options to tap into the equity of a home, but they all boil down to two basic options: Sell it or borrow against it. Here are some ways to get equity out of your home for retirement:


One common strategy is downsizing, in which you sell one home and buy another for less money, thereby freeing up some of the equity from your original home. It’s not for everyone, though.

For those with tremendous emotional attachment to a home, downsizing can be a difficult choice. In other cases, downsizing may not net the homeowner any cash, if their original home is older and needs work. Monthly expenses such as condo or maintenance fees can sometimes make downsizing more costly.


Relocation can be another way to tap into the equity of the home, especially if you are moving to a location where houses are less expensive. Moving from a desired neighbourhood in the city to a home in the suburbs to be closer to kids and grandkids could work in your favour.


You can choose to sell your house, access the full equity and then rent a home. For example, it can be quite useful to have that money on hand when the time comes to move into an assisted-living or care facility. However, as practical as this may be, many people find it psychologically difficult to rent once they have been owners.


For homeowners who don’t want to sell, another way to access equity is to borrow it. The two most common debt solutions are reverse mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOC).

A reverse mortgage lets homeowners access a portion of the value of their home to

use today, while still retaining ownership. This converts equity to cash, which can be received as a lump sum, regular payments, or a combination of the two.

The biggest advantage of a reverse mortgage is there is no need to make any payments. Instead, interest costs accumulate against the equity and the total debt has to be paid when you sell your home or when you die.

Home equity lines of credit let you access higher limits, but you must make minimum monthly payments against any outstanding balances.

Going into debt should be done carefully, but in retirement it is prudent to be particularly cautious.

Financial expert Jim Yih publishes the award-winning blog

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