There’s no question that the real estate market in British Columbia has been white-hot over the last year. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, we’ve seen significant year-over-year increases in sales and home prices across the province. The province has now entered phase three of BC’s Restart Plan, as an increasing percentage of the population has been vaccinated, and fewer individuals are testing positive for COVID-19. If case numbers and hospitalizations continue to decline, BC should enter phase four around September 7, 2021.

With such rapid changes taking place, there are dozens of trends to watch that could affect BC’s real estate market. COVID-19 changed the real estate landscape in BC, and its departure will continue to impact the market. Here are eight real estate trends you should be watching closely as BC reopens.

1. The Impact of Rising Interest Rates

When the pandemic began, the Bank of Canada brought interest rates to all-time lows to soften the impact of job losses and a slowing economy. Rates have remained at 0.25 percent throughout the last year.

Benjamin Tal, the Deputy Chief Economist at CIBC, says that the sensitivity to higher interest rates is “the number one issue facing the Canadian economy.” Though the US Federal Reserve has indicated that they won’t touch interest rates until 2023, Tal believes that Canada could move quicker. As interest rates in Canada return to pre-pandemic levels, it’s expected that home price growth could slow.

2. Easing Sales Numbers

Sales volumes are running at record highs right now, with 14,000 units per month exceeding the previous highs in 2016. Demand has simply outpaced supply, and because of this, units are not staying on the market for long very long - it’s not been uncommon for homes to sell in a weekend in Greater Vancouver.

It’s hard to predict when sales numbers will begin to ease, but the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is forecasting housing activity to ease over the second half of 2021 and into 2022. The association says that sales declines are forecasted to be the largest in BC and Ontario.

3. Implications of the Revised Mortgage Stress Test

Given the hot housing market, new rules have been introduced in an attempt to cool things off. The real question to ask is, will it work? The revised mortgage stress test is just this kind of rule, intended to cool off a hot market by forcing homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage at nearly twice the current posted rates. As of June 1, 2021, the minimum qualifying rate for both insured and uninsured mortgages is the rate offered by your lender plus 2%, or 5.25%, whichever is higher.

Overall, the revised mortgage stress test has been said to reduce home seekers buying power by as much as 4%. For those currently trying to enter the market, the new rules could make entering even more challenging.

4. Sales to Active Listings

Analyzing sales to active listings is one of the best ways to measure supply and demand and determine whether or not we’re currently in a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. Currently, sales to active listings ratios are near all-time highs in most of the province, particularly in Greater Vancouver. June’s sales to active listings ratio was 34.7% in Greater Vancouver, down from 39% in May. That’s still a strong indication of a seller’s market, which is typically defined as any market where the sales to active listings ratio is greater than 20%.

To see a buyer’s market where prices typically decline, the sales to active listings ratio would have to fall below 12%. We’re still far off from that number, but it’s worth watching to see if the ratio continues to dip lower.

5. Month-Over-Month New Listings

Another important trend to monitor that’s moving slightly downward is month-over-month new listings. Here’s a look at the numbers for new listings in Metro Vancouver from April, May, and June.

April: 7,938 detached, attached, and apartment properties newly listed for sale in Metro Vancouver

May: 7,125 detached, attached, and apartment properties newly listed for sale in Metro Vancouver

June: 5,849 detached, attached, and apartment properties newly listed for sale in Metro Vancouver.

Many have called for more supply to meet demand in Metro Vancouver, but with fewer homes being listed, it’s hard to imagine things getting much easier for buyers anytime soon.

6. MLS HPI Benchmark Price

The MLS Home Price Index provides information about benchmark home prices across the province, including price information on townhomes, apartments, and detached homes. You can view benchmark prices in individual cities or regions as well, which is a great way to spot trends as BC reopens. Month over month, things are still slowly creeping upward as prices reach all-time highs in many communities throughout the province. For a high-level look at the market, MLS HPI Benchmark Prices are great to follow.

7. Office Vacancy Rates

Canadian commercial real estate was hit hard during the pandemic, but things are looking up - or at least better. A new report from CBRE suggests that the pace of office vacancy increases is finally easing, while at the same time industrial demand is reaching unprecedented levels. Vancouver’s industrial availability rate is just 1.1%, and with rapidly limited land and rising costs, CBRE believes that Vancouver will be out of industrial space in just six months.

As more workers return to major city centers, expect downward pressure on office vacancy rates in the not-so-distant future.

8. Shifts in Household Preferences

Perhaps the most interesting trend to follow as BC reopens is whether household preferences return to match pre-pandemic interests. Many policymakers believe that preferences driven by the pandemic will naturally wane, while others feel that the new dynamic is here to stay.

As some return to work while others continue to work from home, we’ll no doubt see shifts. The pandemic pushed many individuals further from the city in a quest for more affordable and more spacious housing options. Time will tell whether these preferences will continue to shape the market as BC reopens.

Original Article by Justin Kerby

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Unlike car insurance, home insurance isn't usually mandatory. But it’s still not a policy to cut corners on. Knowing you're protected if a storm causes property damage, a burglary results in a loss of valuables, or a lawsuit causes significant financial burdens can provide peace of mind. If you're purchasing with a mortgage, as most homebuyers do, a bank or other lenders may require home insurance as a condition to your mortgage contract.

So, what exactly does home insurance do? This article explains four types of protections that a home insurance policy can provide you and your family. 

Protect your largest asset from perils

A home is generally a person's or family's largest asset. There are often "freak" accidents or natural disasters that can cause significant damage to your home. For example, an ice storm could knock a tree right into your roof, or an issue with your home's boiler could cause an explosion. 

Insuring your home protects you in such tragic events. The proper policy can provide rebuilding costs for the damage or destruction of your home up to your policy's limit. 

However, you should understand what exactly your policy entails. Home insurance generally won't cover "predictable events" such as wear and tear or where you haven't provided the proper maintenance to the building. 

Suppose it's getting to -20 degrees during winter, and you don't prepare your pipes from bursting. In this case, insurance generally won't provide compensation for the resultant damage because it was predictable and due to a lack of maintenance. 

Insurers may split policies into different categories, such as “comprehensive”, “standard”, “no-frills”, or “broad”. Each insurer defines these categories differently. But, for example, a no-frills policy may not cover something like sewage backlog, which is only protected in the broad home insurance category or through additional add-on provisions. 

Protect the contents of your home too

Home insurance protects not only the physical building but also the contents of your home. So, if the tree that falls on your building crushes your television and surround-sound speakers, in addition to your roof, your insurance policy can compensate for the roof's cost and the cost of your television and speakers too. 

Home insurance is further applicable in cases of burglary. If you go through such a horrible event, home insurance can at least replace the monetary value of the stolen items. 

Of course, your policy has a limit on what you can claim for stolen or damaged contents. Jewelry, fine art, business equipment, and other high-value items may require a separate or add-on policy for full coverage. 

Compensation for additional living expenses

If your home catches fire or other issues arise that make it unlivable, you may face additional living expenses. For example, you may need to rent a hotel or another form of short-term accommodation until the issues relating to your home are resolved. Certain home insurance policies can reimburse you for these costs, which can easily hit the thousands when you need to bunker down in a substitute living arrangement for months while your home is repaired or rebuilt. 

Protect yourself from personal liability

You may have guests or other third parties, such as gardeners or package delivery persons, constantly come to your property. Regardless of whether it's your sister who's over for dinner or the Amazon delivery person, if someone or something is injured or damaged on your home's premises, the person may sue you for bodily injury or property damage. 

There are many ways a lawsuit could find you liable. If a court agrees, you could end up paying significant damages and legal fees. However, home insurance generally provides coverage for this too, such that the policy can pay for any legal fees or damage awards if you're found liable. 

Home insurance is a critical policy to purchase if you're a homeowner. It can provide peace of mind and protection in case an unfortunate incident occurs. If something does happen, the policy can reimburse you for rebuilding, repurchasing, accommodation, or legal costs.

Original Article from: APOLLO

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All the key tips to buying, using, and even renting out a vacation home.

So, you are looking to purchase a second property! Congratulations! This is an incredible opportunity and we are here to help provide you with the keys to success to expand your financial portfolio and ensure stability for the future.

Before you launch into this purchase there are a few things you should know, depending on which type of second property you are looking to purchase.

Purchasing a Second Property

When it comes to considering additional investments, most people don’t look at secondary properties. Why? Generally, people are trained to stay out of debt. As a result, they don’t tend to consider using the equity in their home to buy an investment property, but it all comes down to the art of leveraging.

In the case of purchasing a secondary property, most lenders will allow you to borrow money against the equity you have in your current home and use it as a down payment for a second home. Before jumping in, it is important to understand the different financing options to determine which route best suits your circumstances and property goals.


Refinancing Your Home

One option for tapping into your home equity for the purpose of purchasing a secondary property is to refinance your mortgage. Essentially, mortgage refinancing means getting a reevaluation on your home and then redoing your mortgage based on the current value. This will allow you to tap into the equity your home has built over the years, and pull out the extra funds for a down payment on your secondary property. 

Keep in mind, when using some of your current equity, it will increase the principal amount and the interest payments on your mortgage as the mortgage is now refinanced at a higher amount.

Using a HELOC

There is a second option to unlock your home equity, which is through a line of credit or a HELOC, which stands for “Home Equity Line of Credit”. This option allows you to borrow money using the equity in your property, with the property as collateral.

A HELOC serves as a revolving line of credit to allow the borrower to access funds, as needed, letting you utilize as much (or as little) equity as required. Another benefit to this is that you will only pay interest on the amount you actually use. This can provide financial breathing room, especially during tight months. That said, if you do choose to pay the interest as well as a portion towards the principle, it can help you pay off the loan much faster.

You can utilize a HELOC in two ways:

1)    You can tie it to your existing mortgage

2)    You can apply for a HELOC separate from your mortgage

In Canada, you are able to borrow up to 65% of your home’s value using this method. However, keep in mind, your HELOC balance AND current outstanding mortgage cannot exceed 80% of your home’s value when added together.

Types of Secondary Properties

When it comes to secondary properties, there are multiple uses for them such as purchasing a vacation home, or using a second property for the intention of earning rental income. Depending on which purpose you are considering, there are different requirements to keep in mind.

Vacation Properties

Whenever people hear “vacation property”, you automatically assume these are only for the super-rich but that is simply not true! Vacation properties can be possible for anyone and are a great option for those who want to get away from it all!

If you're inclined to head down that road, buying a vacation property is essentially like purchasing a second home. The minimum down payment remains 5% of the purchase price and will require the same processes as your first mortgage. If you are purchasing a non-winterized vacation home, or will not have year-round access, then you will be required to put down 10%.

It is also important to note that if you plan to use your vacation home to provide rental income as this will have different requirements as noted below.

Second Property with Intention to Rent

If you are purchasing a secondary property - whether a vacation home or investment property - there are a few differences if the intention is to rent.

Before you look at purchasing a rental property, there are a few things to consider:

  1. The minimum down payment required is 20% of the purchase price, and the funds must come from your own savings; you cannot use a gift from someone else.

  2. Only a portion of the rental income can be used for the qualifying and determining how much of a mortgage you can afford to borrow. Some lenders will only allow you to use 50% of the income added to yours, while other lenders may allow up to 80% of the rental income while subtracting your expenses. This can have a much higher impact on how much you can afford.

  3. Interest rates usually have a premium on them when the mortgage is for a rental property versus a mortgage for a home someone intends on living in. The premium can be anywhere from 0.10% to 0.20% on a regular 5-year fixed rate.

Rental income from the property can be used to debt service the mortgage application, but do bear in mind that some lenders will have a minimum liquid net worth requirement outside of the property. Also, if you do eventually want to sell this property, do note that it will be subject to capital gains tax. Your accountant will be able to help you with that aspect if you do decide to sell in the future.

Who Can Qualify?

You might be surprised to learn that you don't need to be one of the uber rich or make six figures to have a second property. You just need to have knowledge, determination and financial planning.

When it comes to purchasing a secondary property, whether for investment or rental or vacation, it can be a great opportunity! Before taking on a secondary property, you will need to have your down payment in order (whether from savings or home equity) based on the minimum requirements, and also have sufficient credit score to qualify (680 or higher).

In addition to the down payment, you will also need to pass the stress-test and prove that you can financially carry both mortgages. Also keep in mind any barriers with lenders as most will limit the number of mortgages in a portfolio. If this is only property number two or three, you won't have any concerns, but as you expand your portfolio you may run into limits at five properties (at which point you would be considered a commercial file).

Before you jump into the purchase of a secondary property, consult with a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional. They can help review your financial situation, current mortgage and equity, and help you make a plan. The keys to success are right around the corner with a little bit of expert advice!

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Help your property put its best foot (or room) forward.

When selling a home, presentation is everything. Successfully staging a property can help buyers visualize themselves living in your home, which ultimately can lead to more offers. 

While staging your home for photos has always been important, sellers now have to pay even more attention to their home’s “screen appeal” to get noticed. Since there are fewer in-person viewings and even fewer open houses than ever before, paying attention to how your home appears on desktops and mobile devices is critical. Buyers are relying on virtual home tours and virtual neighbourhood tours to browse properties, and sellers are adjusting strategies accordingly. 

By focusing on how your home looks in photos, videos, and online in general, you can give yourself the best possible chance to sell your home in today’s increasingly virtual market. Here are a few tips on upping your home’s screen appeal as you get your listing ready. 

Move or hide “accessories” (in other words, declutter)

Before taking any photos or videos, make sure you’re putting your home’s best features forward while also minimizing distractions. Do a sweep of the space and see what small items can be tucked away. This includes small kitchen appliances such as coffee-makers or blenders, remote controls, toys, toothbrushes, lawn ornaments, garbage and recycling bins, shampoo bottles, and so on. You should also remove fridge magnets, and overly personal photos and mementos. By removing clutter (even if it’s not clutter to you), you’ll make your home feel more open, and it will help allow prospective buyers to visualize themselves in the space. 

Play around with lighting

Indoor lighting translates very differently on a screen versus in person. So, first things first: take a lot of test photos and videos to see what’s working and where. Natural light looks much better on screen than artificial light. The time of day when your space will photograph best will depend on which directions your windows face. You want to find a balance so that natural light fills the space without casting harsh shadows or glares. Try raising blinds and opening doors to get the most amount of light in. Or, try putting up thin, white curtains to help diffuse the light if needed.

Next, layer lights and lamps at various heights to fill up the room. Test different combinations of overhead lights, standing fixtures and table lamps to find the best amount of coverage. No matter what, ensure the temperature (cool or warm) and type (LED, fluorescent, etc.) are consistent in the room you’re photographing. 

Use vertical space

Walls aren’t just for photos and artwork. When staging for a virtual home tour, keep in mind that choosing abstract art is a great way to add sophistication and style, and match many people’s tastes. Beyond that, using vertical space to get items off of the floor can help make a room feel larger, more open and less cluttered when viewed on a screen. 

Use shelves instead of floor-standing furniture whenever possible: hang a floating shelf beside your bed instead of a side table or line up a column of shelves in place of a large bookcase. Take your lighting off the floor, as well, and use wall sconces, table lamps and pendant lights instead of relying only on floor lamps. Check out this blog post on design tips to make a small space feel bigger for more ideas on the best ways to use vertical space. 

Organize pantries with glass containers

This trend was pulled straight from Pinterest and echoed by the always-organized Marie Kondo. By decanting all of your pantry staples into clear, glass jars, you’ll remove the distractions and cluttered-feel cause by labels and packaging. Since storage is often a key feature home buyers look for, this tactic will make your pantries a focal point of an image, instead of an eyesore. 

This method also works with bath and cleaning products. You can instantly glamourize your tub area by replacing plastic soap and shampoo packaging with antique-looking glass jars (that you can buy for cheap at a dollar or thrift store).

Add greenery

Plants are one of the biggest interior decorating trends flooding Instagram today, which can be attributed to the fact that they really pop in photos. A few well-positioned plants add brightness and life to a space and to an image. Adding a variety of sizes and species brings personality to a room. If you want to jump on this trend to enhance your home’s screen appeal, but don’t think you can keep a real plant alive, there are many artificial plants you can find today that will look real in a photo or video, but won’t require your ongoing attention once the virtual tour wraps. While introducing greenery definitely helps with screen appeal, be careful to not overwhelm a space. The “jungle aesthetic” isn’t for everyone. 

Artfully curate your shelves

To keep things visually interesting and make your bookcase screen-ready, there are a few steps you can take. First, don’t simply line books up library-style. Have some lined up vertically, others stacked horizontally. Then, fill up extra space with small plants, candles, keepsakes, artwork and photos (without making them feel cluttered or too personal). Finally, make sure the lighting around your bookcase is appropriate. Add some battery-powered lights to the shelves, surround it with sconces, or place a floor lamp nearby. 

Revert rooms to their intended use

If you’ve really customized how you use your space, you’ll want to consider that potential home buyers may not have the same needs as you. For example, many people have set up home offices in their dining rooms. Your potential buyers might want to prioritize an eating space over a working space, so seeing this change might be off-putting. Instead, show off the rooms of your home in the way they were intended to be used. Before starting your virtual tour, tuck away your computer and make the dining area meal-friendly again. If you’re using a patio as storage, tidy it up and make it part of the living space. You can always revert back to the way you use the space after your home tour is done, but this way your potential buyer can see themselves in the space, too. 

Getting your home screen-ready before a photoshoot or virtual tour can be similar to how professional stagers would set up before an in-person open house, with a few exceptions. By paying special attention to lighting, storage, décor, and how a space is used, you’ll create a photo and video-friendly space that will help attract buyers in today’s increasingly virtual real estate market. 

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The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has implemented new underwriting criteria (eligibility requirements) to apply for homeowner transactional and portfolio mortgage insurance. Introduced earlier this summer, these new adjustments from CMHC come as a precaution while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact consumers in the real estate market and many other aspects of day-to-day life.

The following changes have been made:

  • The maximum Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratio is now 35% with no exceptions (previously, 39% GDS ratios could be approved under special circumstances).
  • The maximum Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio is now 42% with no exceptions (previously, 44% TDS ratios could be approved under special circumstances).
  • The minimum credit score required for at least one borrower is now 680 (previously 600).
  • Non-traditional sources for down payments that increase indebtedness will no longer be treated as equity for insurance purposes.

However, not all Canadian mortgage insurers have followed suit. Canada’s other two mortgage insurers, Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty, announced earlier this summer they would not be following CMHC’s lead.

In a statement at the time, Genworth confirmed, “it has no plans to change its underwriting policy related to debt service ratio limits, minimum credit score and down payment requirements.”

Canada Guaranty echoed this sentiment saying it “confirms that no changes to underwriting policy are contemplated as a result of recent industry announcements.”

How is mortgage insurance affected?

Mortgage insurance protects lenders in the event homeowners default on their mortgage. Home buyers purchasing a home with a down payment of less than 20% must have mortgage insurance. The following underwriting criteria are the main figures taken into consideration for mortgage insurance applications:

  • GDS ratio: GDS ratio is the percentage of a buyer’s gross monthly income used for mortgage payments, taxes and heating costs and—if they are buying a condo—half of the monthly maintenance fees. 
  • TDS ratio: TDS ratio is the percentage of gross monthly income required to cover monthly housing costs, plus all of a buyer’s other debt payments, such as car loans or leases, credit card payments, and lines of credit payments. A TDS calculator is available here.
  • Credit score: credit score ranges from 300 to 900 and is determined from a person’s credit report. A higher number means a person’s credit is managed responsibly. Various factors are taken into consideration to calculate credit scores. TransUnion and Equifax are Canada’s two main credit bureaus. You may also find your credit score through a private provider or your financial institution.

How does this all affect me?

While CMHC has made these slightly stricter underwriting restrictions as a precaution for the economic impact COVID-19 has had on the housing market, current trends are showing a promising rebound. Canadian home sales and prices have trended upwards through May, June and July following an initial decline in March and April, although on a year-to-date basis we remain below 2019 figures.

The Canadian housing market will see the financial and economic impact of COVID-19 unfold for months to come, and each province and territory’s recovery plan varies.

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The key to falling in love with a home, whether it's a rental or purchase, is to bring your own personal style and flair to the space. There are plenty of ways for renters to remodel without losing their security deposit, and these do it yourself projects make for great, quick upgrades to any home. Really, easy decorating options for rentals are endless once you start looking for inspiration. We’ve rounded up eight home improvement ideas, all DIY, that anybody can choose to tackle. Here’s where to get started. 

1. Get crafty with cup hooks

If you can’t put holes in your walls or cabinets, command hooks are a fantastic, removable alternative. However, if your landlord does permit nails in the walls, then you can use cup hooks for a ton of great design updates. 

These small and inexpensive pieces of hardware are incredibly versatile. Use them around your home to put up string lights. Screw them into the bottom of a kitchen cabinet and hang your favourite mugs. Or use them on a kitchen wall to hang utensils, colanders, pots and pans. They’re a great (and affordable) way to put your favourite items on display. 

2. Upgrade your outlet and light switch covers

This home improvement project is often overlooked, but it’s one of our favourite DIY projects for several reasons. Most notably, the amount of effort it takes is next to nothing, and it can have a huge impact. Change all of the covers to a black or bronze to add a stark contrast to your white walls. Or, for even more character, go for a bright and bold pattern. 

If you don’t want to buy new covers (as you’ll need to store the originals somewhere), then go for contact paper. It will be more time consuming since you’ll have to wrap each one individually, but start with one room, see what you like, and go from there. Just don’t forget to remove the contact paper or swap back to the original covers before you move out. 

3. Change your light bulbs

This is another simple project that anyone can - and should - do. We recommend swapping out the light bulbs in all of the rooms with energy-efficient LEDs, then customize the feel of your room for brightness and temperature. You may want a warm light in the bedroom and living room, but cool lighting in the bathroom and kitchen. This quick swap can really enhance the ambiance of your home, as well as decrease your electrical bill.

4. Use the space above the cabinets

Some homes don’t have bulkheads, leaving an awkward space above the kitchen cabinets. Instead of using it as a vase graveyard, you can make this a sleek extension of your cabinets. Decorate it with carefully curated décor, or add storage boxes, such as wooden milk crates for easy storage. If the space above your cabinets is quite large, add floating shelves or shelf risers to make it even more functional. This would also be a fun place to play with removable wallpaper.

5. Customize drawers and shelves for optimal storage

Customizing the inside of your drawers is a great way to stay organized. While you could buy some cheap, plastic containers from the dollar store, why not DIY-it? Check out these instructions for an inexpensive, home-made kitchen drawer organizer. 

Also, take a look inside your cabinets. Are your shelves far apart, to the point where there’s wasted vertical space? Shelf risers are a great solution to make the cabinets in your rental unit work for you. You can purchase inexpensive risers from stores like Ikea, or make your own. Shelf risers also work great in fridges and freezers!

6. Disguise or transform your radiator 

If you’re renting in an older building or house, you’re likely familiar with the hot, clunky, metal radiators that we’re talking about. The good news is you don’t need to just ignore this equipment. Instead, disguise it and make it functional. For a quick fix, put a floating shelf an inch or two above the radiator, and line up some books or other trinkets. If you’re handy and have the time, build a complete radiator cover. 

7. Make a portable garden

Many renters are lucky enough to have gardens at their homes. Some apartment buildings are even offering community garden spaces these days. But, if that isn’t the case at your rental, raised planter boxes are a great temporary garden solution – and they can even be packed up and moved when it’s time to go. If you have power tools and a workshop, YouTube has plenty of detailed tutorials for DIY raised planter boxes. If you don’t have the time, skill, or patience, most big-box hardware stores have pre-fab versions in a variety of sizes that you can paint and decorate to fit your style. 

8. Turn your balcony into an oasis

This is a fun project that will turn any balcony or patio into an Instagram-worthy space you’ll never want to leave. First, lay down some green artificial turf to get a grassy feel. Then, string up some outdoor twinkle or cantina lights, or paper lanterns (if it’s sheltered enough from the wetter elements). Then, start decorating! If you’re in an adults-only home, set up some lounge or Muskoka chairs and a cute metal table. If you’re able to screw into the ceiling, hammocks add even more comfort. Surround your sitting space with patio-friendly plants: for a woodsy vibe, choose potted cedars, or to bring the tropics up north, go for potted banana trees. Your local garden centre will be able to set you up with the best plants for your climate, sun exposure, etc.

If you have kids, turn the balcony into a play area just for them. Add a playhouse, a slide, or a little table for tea parties. You could even add a small, raised sandbox for some extra tactile play. If you have a full yard for your kiddos, check out these DIY outdoor play areas.

Don’t shy away from creating a personalized, cozy home that you love spending time in just because you might be in the space temporarily. You can find so many DIY projects that will bring life and character to your home, no matter your budget, skill level, or space size. Just remember to revert back to the originals before move out day!

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The BCREA Economics team has created the COVID-19 Reopening Dashboard to help REALTORS® monitor the evolution of the BC economy as the province gradually reopens. This dashboard focuses on the sectors and activities that have been most significantly impacted by the pandemic and the province's subsequent state of emergency.

To monitor the province's progress toward a "new normal," we benchmark each indicator to February 2020, the month before the pandemic was declared. This dashboard will be updated each month.

  1. The Housing Market
    As BC households and the real estate sector adhered to physical distancing measures, home sales and new listings dropped dramatically.
  2. Retail, Restaurant Reservations and Movement
    The shutdown of physical stores and restaurants in BC negatively impacted retail sales and restaurant reservations. This, combined with many people working from home, dramatically decreased movement in retail and restaurant spaces, public transit, and workplaces.
  3. Jobs and Hours Worked
    The three sectors highlighted here are the sectors that have been most significantly impacted by the province's state of emergency: wholesale and retail, recreation and culture, and accommodation and food services.
  4. Manufacturing and International Trade
    Manufacturing plants in BC either shutdown or operated at limited capacity due to the state of emergency. Moreover, falling energy prices and weaker global demand for goods resulted in drastic decreases in BC's exports and imports.
  5. Business and Consumer Confidences
    Business confidence is measured through a survey of small businesses in BC on their expectations and operating conditions, which have been negatively impacted by physical distancing measures. Consumer confidence is measured through a survey of BC households on their optimism around current economic conditions (e.g., employment, financial, and major purchases), which has been clouded with uncertainty during the pandemic.
  6. Tourism
    The closing of the border to international travel, physical distancing measures that reduced domestic travel, and the shutdown of attractions has resulted in a dramatic decline in the tourism sector in BC.
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Stand-alone showers have been rising in popularity as the primary bathing method in many homes—they’re practical, spacious, and downright gorgeous. If you’ve been reconsidering your bathroom’s space with a shower conversion, think about the following important considerations to help you get started.

Can it affect my home’s resale value?

While it’s usually recommended to maintain at least one bathtub in a home, some Houzz polls indicate this may not be as important to homeowners as it used to be. One poll showed that 67% of respondents agreed that having only a large shower stall would not hurt a home’s resale value. Another poll indicated 54% of respondents believed having a shower is more important over either a tub, or both a shower and a bathtub, while only 6% believed having only a tub was most important.

Demographics for urban condos are shifting towards younger buyers whose preference leans towards maximizing the use of bathroom space. Homeowners are using tubs less and prefer the spacious appeal of shower stalls.

Clearances and codes

Before running out to your local building centre or calling contractors, it’s best to do some preliminary planning. There are codes that must be followed. It’s best to adhere to the International Plumbing Code, which indicates a minimum of 24” clearance between your shower stall and any object or adjacent wall—the ideal amount of space is at least 30”.

Rona has broken down these codes into a helpful set of measurement guidelines that you can follow when planning your space. Be sure to check your local and provincial building codes as well to ensure compliance. Having a good understanding of your space will help guide your design decisions and avoid any last-minute disappointments.

This is also a good time to determine if your space allows for a swinging door on your shower stall. If space is at a premium, then a sliding door or shower curtain are the solutions to consider.

You should also keep an eye on your overhead clearance, especially when dealing with a bathroom in an attic conversion. You need to ensure there is always a minimum ceiling clearance of seven feet.

Custom or kit?

Whether you use a custom design or shower kit really comes down to budget. Kits can be found at most major building centres, and run from $470 for a Basic 36” x 36” shower stall kit, right up to $3,900 for a 60” x 32” alcove shower stall. You’ll find the majority of kits within the $1,000 to $2,000 range. 

If you have a heftier budget and a desire for a unique installation, then consider hiring a professional contractor. Be prepared for a minimum budget of $5,000, though if you are renovating your entire bathroom this could jump to more than $10,000 depending on your bathroom’s size and materials used.

Curbed over curbless?

This is another design decision that should be carefully considered and decided on early in the process. Curbed showers are relatively uncomplicated installations and are more widely used, but if this is the home you plan on living in through retirement, then a curbless shower can address possible future mobility restrictions. If an accessible bathroom is a must, whether for immediate or future need, then a curbless shower is the way to go for ease of access with a wheelchair, walker, or crutches. Just be aware that while a curbless shower will make your bathroom feel more like a professional spa, the drainage system requires precision installation to avoid water damage.

Demolition and plumbing

If you’re doing your own conversion, you’ll need to remove any tiles and backing board from the walls and disconnect and remove the bathtub. Be sure to shut off the water, and also be on the lookout for any possible water damage to your framing and underflooring, plus wear and tear to your plumbing. If you detect any issues, now is a good time to repair and if needed, update the plumbing. If you encounter black mold, take precautions to remove it safely. 

The two videos below demonstrate how to remove both a porcelain and a cast iron tub, as well as tiled walls.

Now that you have your pipes exposed, it’s time to update to a pressure balancing valve and say good-bye to unpleasant surprises whenever someone flushes the toilet!


It’s advisable to avoid having a window where your shower is located. If the window and frame are not sealed properly, you’re risking water incursion, mould—and unpleasant financial headaches. If you do have a window that can’t be avoided, check for water damage and mold when removing the tub and wall coverings, and ensure your window is properly sealed and waterproofed when installing your shower.



Once all the basics are covered, then it’s time to consider accessories, like specific types of showerheads, a bench, or something to hold extra shampoos and body washes. Waterproof benches are a lower-cost option over custom bench installs and run from $100 to well over $500. If you installed a custom shower—or even if you used a kit—there’s likely a ledge or shelf to hold personal care products, but if you need some extra space, a shower caddy is the simplest solution. Shower caddies come in a wide range of styles that either hang from an existing fixture or are spring-loaded to stand between the floor and ceiling.

There’s a lot to consider when converting a bathtub into a shower stall, but once it’s done you might find the hardest part at the end of all this will be having to get out of the shower before the hot water runs out.

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If you’re thinking of buying a home, you’ve come to the right place. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to buy, can guide you through the entire process and a REALTOR® can help take care of the rest.

Here’s an overview of what to think about:

Prepare to buy

Few joys can match the pride of owning a home, but the responsibility can also come with sacrifices – from the financial commitment to the required care and maintenance. You’ll want to be sure both fit within your current or preferred lifestyle.

Plan your finances

Buying a home is a big deal; it’s probably the largest purchase you’ll ever make. Being prepared means also understanding that expenses go beyond purchase price.

To secure your new home, you’ll likely need to arrange for a mortgage but before you do, take a look at how much you can afford each month. Based on your income and expenses, our affordability calculator can help you estimate your maximum affordable mortgage payments.

View properties

A REALTOR® can review your wants and needs to help you determine your price range, as well as answer questions about the markets you’re interested in and help you compare homes and neighbourhoods. Your REALTOR® can also provide access to exclusive listing information, preview properties to ensure you’re only shown homes that meet your needs and budget and make appointments and show you homes that interest you.

Make an offer

You’ve found the perfect home? Congratulations! Now, if you actually want to make it yours, you have to make a successful offer, one the seller will accept. REALTORS® can prepare the offer for you.

Close the purchase

Buying a home involves piles of legal documents. You need someone to translate the ”legalese” and ensure your best interests are protected.

There are many experienced real estate lawyers out there. Like choosing any other professional, ask your friends, family and co-workers for their recommendations. Your REALTOR® can also give you the name(s) of experienced real estate lawyers in your area.

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Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the number of transactions in the Metro Vancouver housing market.

This morning, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver announced a 56.1 percent decline in sales in April compared to the previous month.

The April sales were a whopping 62.7 percent below the 10-year average for that month and the lowest since the deep recession of 1982.

Listings through the multiple-listing service dropped 2.3 percent from the previous month to 9,389.

“Predictably, the number of home sales and listings declined in April given the physical distancing measures in place,” REBGV president-elect Colette Gerber said in a news release.

Then she tried to put a positive spin on the situation by saying this: “People are, however, adapting. They’re working with their realtors to get information, advice and to explore their options so that they’re best positioned in the market during and after this pandemic.”

The MLS Home Price Index's benchmark price rose 0.2 percent from March to $1,036,000.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver includes Whistler, Squamish, and the Sunshine Coast.

White Rock, North Delta, Surrey, and Langley are part of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

Original Article from: Straight

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From virtual picnics to video-chat mimosas, you can still celebrate her from afar.

From birthday car parades to virtual happy hours, we're starting to navigate this whole "shelter in place" thing relatively well, all things considered. But a socially distanced Mother's Day feels particularly hard, doesn't it? After all, your mother's likely the very person you need most right now—for a reassuring hug, for her homemade lasagna, and, okay, for occasional supervision of the grandchildren. (They. Are. Climbing. The. Walls.) And while those things may not be possible at this given moment, you can find solace in her voice as you catch up during a virtual brunch, seek refuge in her laughter while tuning into the perfect mother-daughter television show or movie, and watch her light up with the grandkids—even if she has to watch them pick strawberries via video ("We love you so berry much, Nana!") After you've shopped for the perfect Mother's Day gifts and put together some sweet Mother's Day crafts (yes, there's still time!), consider embracing one of these stay-connected activities that will serve up some much-needed quality time during quarantine. Whether you're socially distanced in the same town (surprise her with a Love Actually-esque poster board message!) or toasting her from many miles away, one of these ideas will leave you feeling a little bit closer in these distanced times. And if there's anything Mom taught you, it's to stand up straight, mind your manners, and always, always, look on the bright side.

Go on a Picnic "Together"

Mother's Day falls during that magical time of year when the weather is pleasantly warm and the trees and flowers are blooming. Surprise mom with a pre-packed picnic basket—either via porch drop-off or a snack-filled mail delivery—and schedule a time to enjoy your alfresco fixins at the same time (either on speakerphone or video chat). For another fancied up twist, make it a "Rose & Croquet" Mother's Day, and gift her the fun lawn game.

Original Article from: Country Living

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(BPT) – This year spring cleaning is more than ever about the deep clean. Spring typically inspires a little more time dedicated to cleaning, in fact, a recent survey commissioned by Bona and conducted by Harris Poll found that more than half of U.S. adults say that the start of spring triggers extra cleaning in the household. While in the past it might have been more about simply dusting hard-to-reach corners and cleaning out the fridge, this year it’s also about deep cleaning and disinfecting for health and safety.

Here are a few tips to deep clean this spring for anyone tackling the task.

Focus on high-use areas first

It may not be realistic to deep clean your whole home in one weekend so consider targeting busy areas of your home first. Bedrooms, bathrooms, family room, kitchen and entry areas likely get the most foot traffic, so start there and leave lesser used areas of the home for later. Gather some helpers and set a timeframe to establish a clear goal and end time. Consider a second round of cleaning if you’re unable to complete the task.

Clear out the clutter

Create a system that works for you to clear out the clutter and make space to deep clean. Set up boxes or bags clearly labeled “Trash,” “Recycle,” “Donate,” and “Belongs elsewhere.” Go through each target room, putting anything that shouldn’t be there in one of the labeled containers.

Be sure to get these boxes or bags where they belong to avoid additional house clutter (we’ve all been guilty of moving a pile from one room to another!). You’ll feel lighter and happier just seeing those boxes and bags head out the door. Consider tasking a family member with trash or donation drop-off.

Prioritize large surface areas

Once you’ve cleared the excess clutter, wipe down the room from top to bottom. Clean the dust accumulated on top of bookshelves or ceiling fans first, then wipe down walls from top to bottom to remove dust and grime, using a microfiber mop or cloth. Prioritize large surfaces like countertops and tables as well as potential germ hotspots like the kitchen sink. Finish up with the floors by vacuuming carpet or by using a cleaner tailored for your hardwood or hard-surface floors.


At every opportunity look for areas that can be disinfected. Focus on high-use items and areas like remote controls, doorknobs, drawer pulls, and keypads. Consider using products that use hydrogen peroxide, a proven, healthier way to kill germs. Many traditional antibacterial cleaners use quaternary ammonium compounds or “quats.” This specific class of chemicals is linked to skin irritation and respiratory problems and use of quats is contributing to the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.

For example, Bona PowerPlus® Antibacterial Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner is a new, hydrogen peroxide powered cleaning solution specifically designed to clean and disinfect hard, non-porous flooring surfaces. This ready-to-use antibacterial cleaner is formulated to clean and remove stubborn stains while killing 99.9% of household germs* with the power of hydrogen peroxide when used as directed. It also leaves your home smelling fresh and clean with no residue left behind.

Finishing touches

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned and refreshed your rooms, brainstorm other ways to improve your living space:

· Donate excess, little-used furniture to create more space

· Identify tasks best left to professionals, like exterior window cleaning or hardwood floor refinishing

· Display brightly colored artwork to renew your walls

· Set out a vase or two of colorful flower arrangements

Let your deep cleaning this spring bring a little renewal and brightness to your home. A clean home is also a healthy home for family, pets and friends.

*Kills 99.9% of Influenza A H1N1 Virus, Rhinovirus, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA], and Trichophyton mentagrophytes on hard, non-porous surfaces in 10 minutes.

Original Article from: My Motherlode

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Sure, you can afford your home now, but what if mortgage rates go up?

Low interest rates and mortgages have been a fact of life in Canada for some time now. At the time of publication, the 5-year average mortgage rate has hovered around 5% for nearly a decade. This is a far cry from late 1981 when mortgage rates were as much as 21%.

New mortgage rules

In 2017, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) took steps to help protect lenders and home buyers alike against future interest rate increases. Since January 1, 2018, new mortgages are subject to comparison with higher interest rates than the one issued at the time of the mortgage. Homeowners must be able to afford a mortgage at the Bank of Canada’s current five-year average posted rate or at an interest rate that’s 2% above what they’re currently applying for, whichever rate is highest.

Why OFSI made the move

Perhaps motivated by the foreclosure crisis in the United States, the OSFI felt Canadian consumers needed protection from forces deemed outside of homeowners’ control.

The effect of the stress test means you may not qualify for the home you desire. If you’re targeting a home with a $700,000 mortgage, for example, you may only qualify for about $550,000 under the new stress test rules. This could make a big difference in your choice of neighbourhoods in certain markets.

Working the stress test process

The new mortgage rules don’t have to be a barrier, however. First, there are ways around the stress test standard, which only applies to federally–regulated lenders. Credit unions, which are regulated at the provincial level, are exempt from stress test provisions. The same is true for private lenders. Alternatively, adding a co-signer to your mortgage can increase your mortgage target, even with the stress test rule in place.

How REALTORS® help

There’s always lots to consider, particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer. In addition to helping you find your dream home, your REALTOR® can also help you navigate the new stress test rules and requirements.

Start by downloading a copy of the Homebuyers’ Road Map—a guide covering virtually every aspect related to buying a home. Then, to get an idea of what you might be able to afford, our mortgage calculators include interest rate risk in its parameters, assuring your estimates will pass the mortgage stress test.

Armed with a little know-how and backed by the support and expertise of your REALTOR®, you’ll be on your way to holding the keys to your new home in no time!  

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel.

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Is It Different This Time? Recessions and the BC Housing Market

Summary Findings:
  • The 2020 COVID-19 driven recession will be deep, though the duration may be shorter than past recessions
  • We expect that home sales will post an initial sharp decline as households and the real estate sector adhere to social distancing
  • As measures implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are gradually lifted, we expect that low interest rates and pent-up demand will translate to a significant recovery in home sales and prices
The Canadian economy has weathered three recessions in the past 40 years, each unique in cause, depth and duration. However, there is considerable similarity in how the BC housing market has both endured and recovered from those recessions.

In this market intelligence, we examine the impact of past recessions on the BC housing market and provide preliminary projections on how COVID-19 may impact provincial home sales and prices over the next 24 months.

The 2020 Recession – How bad and how long?

The 2020 recession likely began in February, meaning it is still in its very early stages. Since 1980, the average Canadian recession has lasted between 8 and 25 months and is characterized by a contraction of about 4 per cent in real GDP and a jump in the unemployment rate of 4.5 percentage points.

Provincial economic data is only available annually, making it much harder to track the duration of recessions. We know that during the 1981/82 recession, the BC economy contracted by 6.4 per cent, and the unemployment rate jumped nearly 10 points in the worst recession on record for British Columbia. The provincial economy performed much better in the 1990-92 recession, with real GDP eking out meager growth over that period, though the provincial unemployment rate did spike to nearly 11 per cent. During the 2008- 09 Financial Crisis and recession, we estimate the BC economy peaked in November of 2008 and contracted 3.7 per cent over the following 12 months while the unemployment rate rose more than 4 points.

Historical Recessions: Canada and BC
Our current forecast is for the Canadian economy to contract approximately 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, followed by a startling 21 per cent decline in the second quarter on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis (on a non-annualized basis,
the second quarter decline is roughly 5 per cent). The peak-to-trough decline in total Canadian output will likely be on the order of about 7 per cent before the economy starts to grow again.
Likewise, our tracking of the BC economy indicates that provincial real GDP growth will turn negative in February and the contraction of the economy may reach double digits by April, reflecting the shutdown in economic activity.
The COVID-19 recession is unprecedented in that it is not man-made. It did not evolve due to collective poor business decisions, bad loans, or misadventures in financial engineering.
Rather, the economy has been purposely halted for the greater good. The implication being that, the shorter the duration of this unusual period, the more likely it is that demand can snap back to near where it was pre-COVID-19. However, the longer the duration, the more likely that jobs do not return, businesses fail, and the recovery is much slower.
While a recession looks to be unavoidable, the country has already experienced staggering job losses in March and, just as there are necessary measures to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we can also implement measures to flatten the recession curve. Fortunately, Canadian policy makers are following the playbook to do just that. If these policies are working, we expect the pace of job losses to slow considerably, and the number of EI   claims and business failures to decline.
COVID-19, Past Recessions and the BC Housing Market

In past recessions, BC home sales typically posted an initial steep decline before bouncing back along with the wider economy. In the year following the start of a recession, home sales have recorded significant recoveries, rising 24 to 46 per cent, largely as a result of pent- up demand and low interest rates.
In the COVID-19 recession, we expect home sales will decline approximately 30-40 per cent year-over-year in April 2020 and remain depressed over the summer as households and the real estate sector adhere to social distancing. As measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are gradually lifted, we expect that pent-up demand
and low interest rates will entice buyers back into the market. We project home sales will return to a baseline 85,000-unit annual pace by early 2021.

The response of home prices to prior recessions was broadly similar to that of home sales, with average home prices initially declining before springing back as the Bank of Canada lowers interest rates, and pent-up demand builds. Those factors are often powerful enough that home prices finish the year higher following the initial decline. The one clear outlier is the 1981/82
recession in which prices were crashing following a 41 per cent increase the year prior and an increase in mortgage rates to a now unimaginable 22 per cent.

Crucially, the impact on prices is largely determined by the reaction of supply. If the inventory of listings accumulates significantly, and particularly if  that inventory represents foreclosures or desperation selling by those impacted by rising unemployment,  then prices will be more severely impacted.
Our COVID-19 model assumes that listings accumulate as in past recessions. However, given the unusual nature of COVID-19, listings are likely to decline for at least the first month due to social distancing before normal recession dynamics take over and listings begin to rise. That alternative scenario is represented by the broken line in the adjacent chart.
While a recession in Canada and BC is at this point unavoidable, the one thing all recessions have in common is that they end. We know from history that the housing market bounces back with vigor following recessions, usually aided by a steep drop in interest  rates. We expect this time around will be no different. Given historically low interest rates and pent-up demand, we expect the impact of this recession will evolve as in the past, with home sales and prices recovering into 2021.

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In Iran, the idea of “spring cleaning” isn’t just a seasonal excuse to gut your closet; it’s the basis of a national holiday dating back millennia.

Every year, millions celebrate Persian New Year, or Nowruz (prounced “no-rooz”). In Iran, the new year begins with the advent of spring, and most everyone in the country — not to mention the millions of Iranians and non-Iranians who celebrate the holiday elsewhere around the world — observe it by doing a deep clean of their homes, celebrating a season of new life, and wishing for good luck in the year ahead.

You might have heard about Nowruz peripherally. The United Nations formally recognized it as an international holiday in 2010; President Obama extended Nowruz greetings to observers every year of his administration since 2009 (although they often doubled as statements on the relationship between the United States and Iran). Then-first lady Michelle Obama even held a Persian New Year celebration at the White House in 2015, complete with the Obama family’s own haft-seen (more on what a haft-seen is later).

If you didn’t grow up celebrating Nowruz like I did, though, the concept might be confusing — actually, it was even a little confusing for me, since my childhood memories of Persian New Year mostly concerned salivating over the delicious rice dish my mother would make in its honor.

But once I started to learn more about what Nowruz means outside of food — which, to be fair, is an important part of most holidays on this planet — I realized how fascinating its layered traditions really are.

What is Nowruz?

Nowruz marks the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one, and it occurs on the day of the vernal equinox.

More accurately, the new year begins the second the equinox does — so, not just at the stroke of midnight. Usually, the equinox happens from March 19 to 21; this year, Nowruz lands in the evening of March 20. (Though if you’re an expat Iranian, the equinox arrives around 12 pm Eastern.) But there are also aspects of Nowruz that permeate Persian culture for weeks leading up to the holiday and even a couple of weeks afterward.


No one knows exactly how far back Nowruz dates. The best estimates sit somewhere in the range of 3,000 years. But the most important thing to know about Nowruz’s origin story is that it’s rooted in Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that predates both Christianity and Islam. (Since Zoroastrianism dates back thousands of years, it’s hardly confined to within the borders of Iran or the many versions of the Persian Empire there have been — which is why Nowruz is also celebrated by millions of non-Iranians around the world.)

When the 1979 revolution ended with Persia becoming the Islamic Republic of Iran, the new government tried to scale back the level to which Nowruz is celebrated, citing the holiday’s pre-Islamic roots as grounds for its removal. But even in a nation that was fragmented to the point of revolt, the prospect of losing Nowruz prompted furious pushback that was too overwhelming to brush aside.

After thousands of years in the making, Nowruz remains too beloved, universal, and deeply embedded in Persian culture to ignore.

And because the holiday has been around for so long, it suffers no shortage of related traditions. But there are nevertheless a few basic, foundational tenets that nearly everyone who celebrates Nowruz — in Iran and elsewhere — upholds.

How do you prepare for Nowruz?

People start getting ready for Nowruz about three weeks before the actual vernal equinox. Pretty much everyone goes into serious spring-cleaning mode, ridding their homes of any unnecessary clutter and lingering grime that’s settled in over the past year so they can start fresh. At this time of year in Iran, you’re likely to see countless Persian rugs hanging outside, where their owners can beat the dust out of them.


Wash away the dust. carpet cleaning, , Iran.

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Washing away the dust of the previous year.
Nowruz khaneh tekani (cleaning), North province, Iran.

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In these same weeks leading up to the actual day, families also set aside a space for a “haft-seen,” or a collection of items that symbolize a different hope for the new year. While some families add their own variations to the haft-seen (more on those in a bit), there are seven things that are always included:

  • Sabzeh: Some kind of sprout or grass that will continue to grow in the weeks leading up to the holiday, for rebirth and renewal
  • Senjed: Dried fruit, ideally a sweet fruit from a lotus tree, for love
  • Sib: Apples, for beauty and health
  • Seer: Garlic, for medicine and taking care of oneself
  • Samanu: A sweet pudding, for wealth and fertility
  • Serkeh: Vinegar, for the patience and wisdom that comes with aging
  • Sumac: A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries, for the sunrise of a new day

While these seven S items are the foundation of a haft-seen (which literally means “seven S’s”), the tradition has evolved to the point where there are several other things you can include. For example, when I was growing up, my family’s haft-seens always included a mirror symbolizing reflection, colored eggs for fertility, coins for prosperity, and, if we were feeling ambitious, a live goldfish for new life (an ironic association in my house, where pretty much every goldfish we brought home died immediately).

A Nowruz haft-seen, with plenty of sabzeh in the background. Nini Ordoubadi/Tay Tea

Once you have the seven cornerstones set, the haft-seen is yours to customize. Muslim families will sometimes include a Quran. Sometimes a place of honor will go to a volume of poetry by Hafez, one of Iran’s most beloved poets.

Once the day of Nowruz arrives, it kicks off a 13-day celebration of dinners, family visits, and reflections on the year ahead. On the 13th day, you take the sabzeh that’s been growing in the haft-seen to whatever natural body of running water you can find and let it float away, to release the old and usher in the New Year.

My mother, who grew up in Tehran, told me that Nowruz usually saw everyone piling their sabzeh into their cars to head off into the mountains, the better to find a water runoff to set their greens adrift. And even though that meant braving a traffic jam like none other, everyone did it.

But Nowruz isn’t all about cleaning and plant life; other rituals involve fire, money, and — stay with me — banging on pots with spoons

Though my family always assembled a Nowruz haft-seen, I grew up in New Jersey without many other Iranians around, so we couldn’t indulge in some of the more communal traditions — which is a shame, because they sound fun.

The last Tuesday before Norwuz is known as shab-e chahar shanbeh suri (a loose translation from Persian into phonetic English), or “Eve of Red Wednesday.” The day involves building public bonfires, jumping over them, and repeating a single phrase: “Zardi-ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye toh az man!” This roughly translates to, “Give me your beautiful red color, and take back my sickly pallor!”


Tonight Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbeh Soori, an ancient festival of fire & prelude to .

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

The idea, in keeping with Nowruz’s overarching theme of renewal, is to cleanse away the past year so you can start the new one refreshed and renewed.

Children and elders make out especially well during Nowruz. At the beginning of the 13-day celebration, families will gather at the home of their oldest family member to pay their respects. Children will walk up to houses with cooking pots in hand, bang on those pots with spoons, and not let up until someone comes out and puts something sweet in the pots. (Like an Iranian version of Halloween, except you don’t have to dress up as a vampire to get your candy; you just demand what’s yours.)

Finally, children will receive monetary gifts in the form of fresh banknotes from their parents and other adult family members — again, in keeping with the overarching theme of getting a fresh start.

Okay, it’s all about freshness and renewal. But what about the food?!

Ohh, reader. Let’s talk about food.

If you’re not familiar with Persian cuisine, the very basics are that if you’re invited to an Iranian home for dinner you’ll likely be served some combination of grilled or braised meats and rich stews, flavored by deeply aromatic spices (though not many of them pack much heat) and accompanied by piles upon piles of steamed rice. (Persian rice is the best rice, and I will hear no arguments to the contrary.) For more on Persian food and ceremonies, you can check out Najmieh Batmanglij’s beautiful, thorough cookbook Food of Life.

On the actual day of Nowruz, though, you can expect to see a couple of dishes that are specific to the holiday, often centering on greens and herbs to represent its themes of — say it with me now — freshness and renewal.

The centerpiece of most Nowruz meals will be sabzi polow ba mahi, an herbed rice served with some kind of whitefish. Then you might have a kuku sabzi, which bakes eggs with a whole mess of herbs like dill, cilantro, parsley, fenugreek, tarragon, and more. (My mother helpfully describes kuku sabzi as “an ancient relative of the frittata.”)

No matter what, though, Iranians will always make you more food than you know what to do with — and at the end of the meal, you’ll still wish you could still eat more.

Above all, Nowruz is a celebration of the possibility of new life

As is fitting for Persian and Zoroastrian culture, the ceremonies surrounding Nowruz center on community, family, and a deep respect for tradition.

But Nowruz is less about a single day than a general celebration of being able to wipe away the dust, grime, and sadness of the old in order to start anew. It’s about closing the door on one chapter and turning the page to the next one with excitement instead of trepidation. It’s about the endless possibilities that come with a blank slate.

The hope of being able to start new, and better, is about as universal as they come — which might explain why Nowruz hasn’t just survived through generation upon generation of tumult and prosperity alike, but thrived.

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Information related to the efforts to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 is constantly evolving. First and foremost, we recommend to follow the guidelines and precautions set by Canada’s public health authorities. See Health Canada’s website for comprehensive coverage.

In ongoing discussions with government officials from various departments and agencies, we continue to emphasize the unique challenges as economic measures to support self-employed Canadians and small businesses are considered. The result of these advocacy efforts since the emergence of COVID-19 are captured below.
  • Government introduced the Emergency Care Benefit, providing up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks, to workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19, as well as those who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020 through the Canada Revenue Agency My Account secure portal, My Service Canada Account, or through an automated application process by telephone.
  • Also announced was the Emergency Support Benefit, which will provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment. This will be available to Canadians who are self-employed; more details will be provided in the coming days.
  • For small businesses, government will provide a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months, equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. The subsidy is available to corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.
  • Businesses will also be allowed to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing between now and September 2020. This applies to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

The full list of measures announced by the government today is available here. It is expected the House of Commons will be recalled next week to pass the emergency economic measures.

While all the details of the various programs announced today are not yet available, the Governor of the Bank of Canada concluded today's press conference with the assurance that "if people need the support, they will get it." 

Canada's six largest banks also announced financial relief for Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19, including up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.


The Canadian Real Estate Association
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For free Real Estate Advice please call/text me at (604) 537-9791 

Summary Findings: 

  • While it’s unknown how the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak will impact the economy in the long-term, BC is facing a sudden stop in economic activity with little guidance to when things may return to normal. 
  • Based on our scenario analysis, BC home sales and prices will likely face declines in the spring and early summer but should recover along with the wider economy in the second half of the year, contingent on the outbreak resolving. 
  • The postponed change to the mortgage stress test rate, originally slated for April 6, 2020, will mute the impact of falling interest rates for the BC housing market. 

How will the COVID-19 outbreak impact the BC economy and, more specifically, the BC Housing market? The correct answer is a rather unsatisfying “nobody knows.” 

We have already seen a steep decline in interest rates, however it’s unknown how severe the impact will be on economic activity. Global supply chains will be impacted, as well as tourism and travel. The magnitude of impact is expected to vary by province but may be significant for the BC economy given the importance of tourism to our economy and our strong trade linkages with China. The additional shock to the Canadian economy due to a collapse in oil prices – itself the by-product of a price war between the world’s largest oil producers due to COVID-19 – makes the probability of a recession in Canada that much higher. 

An unfortunate but unavoidable product of recessions is losses in employment and incomes, which may put some financially vulnerable families in an even more precarious position. The CMHC announced that it would be working with lenders to defer mortgage payments by up to six months if needed, which should stem potential mortgage defaults and foreclosures. However, there is still a need to address lost income for those who cannot afford to practice social distancing by staying home from work and for those who have to make monthly rent payments and can’t take advantage of payment deferrals. For those individuals and families, cash is king. That means these households will need government cash transfers to meet their financial priorities during this time, and we hope this will be part of the yet-to-be-announced stimulus package from the Canadian government.

On the positive side, governments and central banks seem to be taking lessons from the last crisis and have implemented measures to ensure small businesses and the financial system have ample liquidity and access to credit. The Bank of Canada has reduced its overnight rate to 0.75 per cent and we expect they will follow the US Federal Reserve down to near zero in short order. This should help prevent a 2008 scenario of spiking borrowing costs due to rising risk premiums and credit rationing. 

These measures should help to dampen the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy. However, faced with an almost unprecedented paralysis of economic and social activity, monetary and fiscal policy can only safeguard against a worst-case scenario and hope the outbreak resolves in the coming months so we can all get back to normal. 

Of note, the Canadian government has postponed changes to the mortgage stress test. The qualifying rate for insured mortgages was set to change from the 5-year posted mortgage rate to the average 5-year fixed rate plus 200 basis points on April 6, with the B-20 stress test for uninsured mortgages to follow suit. By postponing that change, the government has muted the passthrough from monetary policy to the housing market, particularly since the 5-year posted rate has maintained at 5.19 per cent, despite the average 5-year contract rate falling to near historical lows. The impact of dramatically lower rates will still help those renewing or refinancing mortgages at lower rates by freeing up monthly cash-flow due to lower mortgage payments. 

Scenario Analysis: COVID-19, the BC Economy and the BC Housing Market 

The Canadian economy has endured three recessions since 1980. During those times, the BC economy has experienced an annual contraction of GDP or growth falling to near zero. In each of those periods, BC homes sales have experienced sharp declines that have lasted between 12 and 14 months. We will not begin to see the impact of COVID-19 in economic data until later in the spring due to lags in processing data, but we know based on our own tracking that the BC economy was growing slowly even before the outbreak, with estimated real GDP growth under 2 per cent for the last several months.

The COVID-19 outbreak is occurring at a time in which BC housing markets are recovering from a two-year slowdown in activity. Home sales are currently trending at a healthy pace, close to their long-term average, and growth in home prices has been strong due to a lack of inventory. 

With those initial conditions and historical precedents in mind, we have sketched out how the rapidly changing financial and economic environment may impact the BC housing market. 

Given the level of uncertainty, we limit our analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 to 2020, to concentrate on immediate short-run impacts and abstract from any potential supply-side impacts such as changes to residential construction that may occur over a longer time frame. To model the possible impacts for home sales and prices, we concentrate on how COVID-19 impacts factors that shift short-term housing demand. In particular, we are interested in whether lower interest rates will dominate the impact of slower, or even negative, economic growth. 

Real estate is a face-to-face business, so practices that are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus are at odds with buying and selling homes. This may produce stronger impacts than we can model using standard frameworks. As guidance, and reflecting on the immense uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook, we based our simulations on several scenarios: 


Unsurprisingly, the results of our simulations show a steep decline in home sales in the second quarter of this year as economic activity becomes eerily quiet. From there, home sales slowly recover, though remain below baseline for 2020. In the event of a deeper and more prolonged recession, home sales remain depressed for the remainder of the year, falling about 20 per cent below baseline. In contrast, in Scenario #1, where the fall in interest rates is passed through to the qualifying rate, home sales rise above baseline after an initial steep drop.  

As for home prices, the growth slowdown and associated decline in transactions will likely cause a temporary but modest swoon in home prices, which are then expected to recover to baseline over the next year as growth recovers. Again, the pass-through of falling interest rates to the qualifying rate makes a large difference in outcomes. Our simulations show that a much lower qualifying rate would lead to home prices in some BC markets ending the year higher than our pre-COVID-19 baseline. This result is likely why the Federal Government has opted to postpone the change. However, given the uncertainty surrounding the outlook, this may ultimately be a mistake. If the growth outlook deteriorates, the housing market may need a lower qualifying rate to fully recover. 

The results of these simulations are far from definitive, but they provide a framework for thinking through the potential magnitude of the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Most important to remember is that this period, no matter how unusual and anxious it is now, will pass and the economy and housing market will return to health.

For free Real Estate Advice please call/text me at (604) 537-9791 

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BoC just announced a 50 basis point drop on its interest rates. See how it can affect home buyers and sellers.
By Catherine Musgrove Mar 5, 2020

In a bold move on Wednesday (March 4, 2020), the Bank of Canada slashed its key interest rate by 50 basis points to 1.25%, in an attempt to keep the economy moving. It cited COVID-19 as the primary reason for its decision. Although winter weather, the rail blockades, and the political climate have also played a role.  

As the country braces for economic impact, the Bank of Canada is attempting to curb anxiety and ease the concern of a possible recession.  

In an interview with BNNBloomberg, the Chief Economist with Manulife Investment Management Frances Donald says,  “We are living through history that will end up in textbooks and case studies as we analyze central bank policy, how effective it is, how quickly central banks should be reacting, and whether or not we look back and say: ‘They acted too late,’ ‘too early,’ or ‘right on time.’ Fifty basis points is a very strong message from the Bank of Canada. They are concerned about downside risks. But, I suspect that this is in conjunction with globally-coordinated rate cuts.”

What does all this mean for the real estate market? Here is what we know.

Savings for Home Buyers

The cut could mean significant savings for home buyers. The lower rate will potentially translate into lower mortgage rates

According to, a “full 50-basis cut to a $450,000 mortgage on a 2.6 variable rate would shift the mortgage rate to 2.1%, and mean about $115 per month in savings per month, while an $800,000 mortgage is more like $200 a month in savings.”

Banks may choose not to pass on the additional savings because it means more profit for them. Make sure to consult with a mortgage broker to get the best possible rate for your situation. They will be able to compare mortgage rates across multiple lenders.

Stimulate the Real Estate Market

Lower rates could stimulate the real estate market in slower growth areas like Newfoundland and the Prairies. 

An Imbalance

This interest rate drop might create a further imbalance in the Victoria, Toronto, Southern Ontario, Ottawa, and Montreal markets that are already facing hotter markets. Homes are in shorter supply, creating more demand and increased pricing. Economists say this is short term pain for the long term good of the economy and will help keep us out of a recession.

Higher Prices

Home prices may start to rise. As buyers are increasing the amounts they can borrow, supply might begin to drop, driving home prices up. Something to watch!

Global Considerations

Economists are predicting the international markets will slow due to the global impact of COVID-19. Why is this important? There is an anticipated slowing of the global economy, which will impact foreign investments and the supply chain in Canada.

Existing Mortgages

As explained by the Educators Financial group, if you have a mortgage already, how much – and when –you’ll feel the impact of the rate decrease will depend on whether your mortgage is variable or fixed rate, open or closed.* 

If you have a variable rate mortgage, the amount of interest is contingent on the overnight rate. Financial institutions pass on any decrease in the rate to consumers almost immediately.* 

If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, nothing will change until the fixed term ends, and it’s time to renew. * 

The New Mortgage Stress Test  

With new changes coming to the Mortgage Stress test in April, it will be interesting to see how the Bank of Canada rate drop will impact the qualifying rate.

Under the new stress test, the rate will be the weekly median five-year fixed insured mortgage rate plus 2%. A few percentage points can translate into thousands of dollars in savings for the borrower.  

Overall, it’s a great time to cash in on a lower mortgage rate if you were on the fence about purchasing. It is also a great time to sell, supply may drive housing prices up in some areas. Consult with your real estate professional for a complete view of market conditions in your area.  


Educators Financial Group

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How to Qualify for a Mortgage as a Self-Employed or Small Business Owner

In 2018, there were 2.9 million self-employed Canadians, accounting for 15 per cent of the total workforce. In 2017, Small business owners in Canada accounted for 97.9 per cent of entire employer businesses or 1.15 million.  Those numbers continue to rise. Self-employed and small business owners can deduct certain business expenses; they can keep more of what they earn. Pretty attractive gig, would you think?

Unfortunately, the fortune runs dry when applying for a mortgage. If small businesses are thriving, making an income, having a bright future, why is it so difficult for lenders to hand over a mortgage loan?

"Those who are self-employed or own a small business have the opportunity to claim or write off many business expenses against their income. So their taxable income looks much less on paper, reducing the amount of taxes they pay," says Mary Major Allen. Mary is a Mortgage Broker with The Mortgage Group in Halifax.

By lowering their taxable income by maximizing business expenses and personal deductions, they may be limiting their mortgage potential. There is a discrepancy between what's on their tax return and how much money they earn.

What Do You Need When Applying For A Mortgage

The earlier in the home buying process as possible, consult a Mortgage Broker or Specialist. Knowing what you will need to produce upfront will decrease the feeling of frustration and disappointment down the road. For an in-depth look at the different stages of the mortgage approval process, you may want to check our previous blog.

Homebuyers are required to contribute a 10 per cent down payment on the portion of the price of a home above $500,000, plus 5 per cent on the amount up to that amount. The average small business owner's salary in 2019 was $66,373, according to PayScale data. Eighty-three per cent of small business owners take an annual salary of less than $100,000, and 30 per cent report they take no pay at all. With this in mind, it is crucial not to overextend yourself – so you have adequate income to qualify for a mortgage and also to ensure you have money to reinvest in your business.

"You will have to show two to three years' notice of assessments for reliable proof of income," says David McDill, Mortgage Consultant with Mortgage Insight: The Mortgage Centre in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island.

If you are new to the self-employed scene or just opened your business, you will have to produce other evidence of income.

You may want to consider completing a statement of income. A Stated Income or grossing up your income to qualify for a mortgage is an option with some lenders. You should be able to show the extra income you are claiming to make in retained earnings in the company or your investments.

If you are taking the Stated Income route, remember to stay reasonable in your declaration of income. Your lender will look at an average salary for someone of similar experience and occupation.

"So, for example, as a plumber, you say you make $100,000, but the average self-employed plumber only makes $75,000, the lender is going to want to know why there is such a discrepancy," says McDill.  You also cannot be stating your income higher than the gross business income.

McDill says there are three mortgage insurance companies to consider: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada Guaranty, and Genworth Canada. Genworth is the only one currently taking Stated Income as an option as an unverified income.

And remember, being self-employed can mean tax savings, which should be taken into account when offered a higher rate. It is often more advantageous in the long run to accept a higher rate mortgage than paying additional income tax.

Be Pro-Active

The bottom line: Best rates are for those who are income-qualified and are reporting their income.  To ensure the best possible success, and possibly the best interest rate, make sure you have your ducks in a row when meeting with your mortgage professional. Here are things you should put on your must-have list:

  • Accountant-prepared business financial statements for the last two years (particularly crucial if you are incorporated)
  • Business license documentation
  • Accountant-prepared personal T1 general tax returns
  • Most recent and possibly the previous three years' Notice of Assessment and proof that taxes are up-to-date. Owing taxes can do more damage than anything else. If you owe, pay off immediately.
  • Corporate bank statements illustrating current cashflow. These statements are not necessary, but it is a great document to have handy.  
  • Bank statements showing regular income for the past six months or longer.
  • Be ready to discuss your business. Things like income, business expenses, and specific milestones will be among the topics addressed.

Are You a Sole Proprietor or Are You Incorporated?

Depending on your credit, and the way your business is registered, some lenders may add between 15 and 20 per cent to your total income as a way of "adding back some expenses." If you are incorporated and have verifiable income, some financial institutions can gross-up your income by as much as 15 per cent. If you are issuing a T4 to yourself as an employee of your company, the lender will use whatever salary you are reporting.

"If you are a proprietor, many lenders will look at your statement of business activities and things you may have written off, such as the depreciation on a work vehicle," says McDill. "Those things may be added back in as income or at least taken into consideration and averaged out in terms of your previous income."

These tips are not exhaustive of everything your lender might ask from you.

"Lenders usually take each case individually. They do not want to find a reason to turn you down. They want things to work out if it makes sense," says McDill. Take your time to prepare your materials, save for your down payment, and consult a mortgage broker or banker as early in the process as possible, and you will find yourself in your dream home before you know it.

By Catherine Musgrove

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Multi-generational living—where two or three generations of a family live under the same roof—continues to grow in Canada and the real estate market is taking note.

According to Statistics Canada, multi-generational households are fastest growing type of households in the country. Between 2001 to 2016, multi-generational households rose 37.5%, which was well above the median increase (21.7%) for all households.

From an ageing population (more seniors living with their children and grandchildren) to increasing levels of immigration, there are a number of factors influencing the demand.

“I think of it as going back to times of yore, where parents are now living with their children,” says Pauline Aunger, REALTOR® and former president of the Canadian Real Estate Association. “What we're seeing is a widowed parent coming back to live with their children.”

Increasingly, retired parents are selling their homes and moving into their children's in-law suites, allowing them to play a bigger role in their children's and grandchildren's lives.

a woman holding up a baby girl while the woman's mother gives her a kiss on her cheek

But while older parents moving in with their children is the most common generation-combination, extended families purchasing homes together—whether siblings or with extended family like cousins—is also part of the growing phenomenon.

two kids, their parents, and grandparents baking together in a kitchen

Indigenous and immigrant families, which account for a growing share of Canada's population, are more likely to live with their extended families. In 2016, multi-generational households were most common in Nunavut (12.2%) and the Northwest Territories (4.3%), followed by Ontario (3.9%) and British Columbia (3.6%).

The two largest markets for multi-generational households are Toronto and Vancouver. Besides both cities have high proportions of immigrants, they're also Canada's priciest housing markets, where sharing expenses might a lot of financial sense.

Homebuilders have responded by offering homes accommodating multi-generational living. “We definitely see opportunity in providing multi-generational living options to our customers,” says Justin Castelino, marketing manager at Brookfield Residential in Calgary.

two kids, their parents, and grandparents relaxing on a sectional couch

Castelino says fully developed basement suites are popular because they provide a sense of independent living while also maintaining a connection to the rest of the house. Those suites typically have separate entrances, their own kitchen and full bathroom, bedrooms and living area. Use the “keyword search” filter to find homes with particular keywords like “accessible” or “in-law”, etc. to find the perfect fit for your family.

a basement apartment

Multi-generational living has a lot of benefits. It fosters a sense of familial and cultural connection—keeping families closer together. Another key driver is cost. Sharing household expenses can make a lot of financial sense for big families.

Keep in mind, however, there are also costs associated with buying suitably large abodes with multiple configurations. To get a better idea of what your family can buy, make sure to use's Affordability Calculator.

two kids, their parents, and grandparents watching television on a couch

For example, Castelino says a traditionally developed basement could cost $25,000 to $30,000 but adding a self-contained suite can run up to the $40,000 to $50,000 range. And of course, there will be additional hydro, maintenance, insurance and other costs to consider.

Additionally, the greater the number of people living in a home, the greater the challenges; often, a healthy dose of patience is needed. This living arrangement is best suited for families who get along.

Still interested? Work with a trusted and informed REALTOR® to help you find the best property for your family.

Original Article from: Realtor

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Moe Pourtaghi

"Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my buyers & sellers have success in their Real Estate endeavours. I hope you find the articles on my blog inspiring and educating in your ventures." - Moe Pourtaghi

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