Ottawa acts to slow down borrowing on homes, limit consumer loans

OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has announced new mortgage regulations aimed at reducing Canadians’ soaring household debt.

 Flaherty has unveiled three new rules:

— Mortgage amortization periods will be reduced to 30 years from 35 years.

— The maximum amount Canadians can borrow to refinance their mortgages will be lowered to 85 per cent from 90 per cent.

— The government will withdraw its insurance backing on lines of credit secured on homes, such as home equity lines of credit.

The rules are aimed at encouraging responsible lending and borrowing and encouraging people to increase their home equity.

“Our measures will help improve the financial situation of households in Canada,” Flaherty said.

“While interest rates are currently low by historical standards, eventually they will rise. Canadians should — and for the most part do — understand this when taking on significant debt such as the purchase of a new home.”

The minister said the measures are aimed at protecting “the stability of the economy by ensuring lenders’ practices are sustainable.” He said that will increase the security and stability of home ownership.

“This will also increase the savings of Canadian families — savings of tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage, savings that go back in the pockets of hardworking families, where they belong.”

The new rules come on the heels of a Bank of Canada announcement that Canadians’ domestic debt burdens have hit record levels.

The ratio of household debt to disposable income has reached 147 per cent and household debt has reached $1.4 trillion.

The International Monetary Fund has called household debt the No. 1 risk to the Canadian economy.


What’s Hot in Kitchens for 2011

I opened my Facebook this morning and read about one website’s opinion on what 2011 Kitchens will resemble. Style at Home states, “The kitchen is the heart of the home. Indeed, no matter how lovely the living room, how comfortable the dining room chairs, you’re sure to find a coterie of friends and family hovering around the kitchen whenever they’re over. And no one can argue that having an up-to-date space will fill you with pride when you’re entertaining, not to mention cooking.”  Croma Designs out of Toronto indicates, “warm gray neutrals will be the trend.” Lynda Reeves from House and Home states, “Dramatic lighting, marble countertops and stainless steel combine in this elegant, urban traditional kitchen renovation.” Another website says, “The best kitchen colors should include shades of brown, peach, yellow, pink or blue. A good decorating scheme is to emulate the color schemes found in nature, such as sky blue or the various shades of green or earth brown or light or pale yellow.”

My favourite website is by Accord Design Decor Staging.  This website and kitchen specialist talks about the fact that kitchen designs do not change quickly. Yes, it makes sense to update your kitchen every 7 to 10 years, but a full overhaul isn’t really realistic for most people. White, gray and bright upbeat colors are common; contemporary and ergonomic designs are becoming more common; speciality sinks, lights, and faucets are starting to appear; and kitchen islands have developed a great deal in the past few years.

Since the primary focus of most home buyers are on the big ticket kitchen and bathroom, these areas should be spruced up prior to listing your home for sale. However, I do suggest that you seek the advice of a real estate professional prior to making any drastic changes since we can offer advice on how best to spend that renovating money to maximize your future home sale!

Remember: REALTORS® have their finger on the pulse of the housing market and are in daily contact with buyers potentially interested in your home.

Paulette Upshall is with CENTURY 21 Team One Realty in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Taking the Plunge in 2011

Happy New Year!

What’s your new year’s resolution? Mine was made back in October when I realized that I wanted to do more for the CENTURY 21 Kids to Camp Program. For 30 years, I’ve been promoting Easter Seals and their cause and it’s now time for me to take action. I am pledging to do the Easter Seals Drop Zone plunge this year.

Children with disabilities overcome challenges every day of their lives. So what’s a little fear of heights…except for the sweating and shaky knees and the inexplicable urge to run for safety…No, there is no turning back, I’m going to do Drop Zone this year.

Am I trying to convince you or me? Well, a little bit of both. You can help motivate me to face my fear. If you can open your wallet to help send children with disabilities to camp, then I will swing both legs over the ledge and rappel down an office building. That’s a promise.

Don does Drop Zone?

Easter Seals has done an amazing job creating fun and exciting Easter Seals Camps across the country, all fully accessible for children with disabilities. Each child that gets to go is challenged to get out of their comfort zone and have the time of their lives. Can you imagine what a great experience that would be?

Since 2008, CENTURY 21 Canada System members have sent 558 children to camp – 558 lives that were touched by a little effort from members like you and me.

I’m asking that you support this cause…it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. I will face my fear so that children with disabilities can experience something special and I will do it in the province where the most money is raised by CENTURY 21 System members (highest amount raised per System member, within a province).

To help push me over the edge or to learn more about the Easter Seals Drop Zone fundraiser, go to

Give a little nudge to send me over the edge. The Drop Zone building that I visited last year was 20-stories. That’s a long way down…

National Housing Market Returning To Normal: Canadian Real Estate Association

The Canadian Real Estate Association announced yesterday that statistics show national resale housing activity has returned to normal levels after rising for another fourth straight month in November. November’s sales in 2010 were slightly above the average for the last four years.

November real estate sales were above the average of the last 4 years.

Most of Canada’s major markets saw increases in activity, including Toronto, which was up 6 per cent.

“An increase in new listings is likely to return many sellers markets to balanced territory over the coming months,” said the Canadian Real Estate Association’s chief economist in a press release. “With sales activity having returned to better health and a firm floor under prices, sellers who previously shied away from putting their home on the market are expected to list their home in response to improved housing demand in recent months,” he said.

New listings have slowed down and sales activity has improved, resulting in an overall balanced market. Since July of this year, sales have been increasing steadily but when the sales are compared with this time last year, the numbers are skewed and the improving sales are hidden between a year-over-year decrease due to last year’s record highs.

“Following the chilling lows at the onset of the recent recession and the dizzying heights during the subsequent recovery, the national housing market appears to be returning to some semblance of normalcy,” said the Canadian Real Estate Association.