31 Oct

Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday


Posted by: Mike Hattim

The holidays are coming up! As much as these celebrations bring us joy and harmony, they can also bring us stress. This is particularly true when it comes to your finances!

However, don’t lose hope that this will be another draining year on your pocketbook. In fact, with a little planning, there are a few ways you can make sure your holidays are stress and credit-free.

  • Determine Your Holiday Goals: Are you looking to plan an extravagant black-tie party or have a more low-key celebration? Maybe you just want to hang out with lots of family and friends and enjoy some good food? Or maybe you usually get away and are finding yourself homebound this year. No matter how you normally spend your holidays, sharing your thoughts with family will help determine your goals and come to a decision that works for everyone!
  • Create a Budget: Once you have decided your expectations and goals for the holiday, it is time to create your budget. A little planning can go a long way to creating a credit-free holiday, and will help you spread out the costs. The first step is to create a list of everything you need, from individual gifts to decorations to baking ingredients and meal items to clothing!
  • Start Now: Early planning can make all the difference when it comes to the holidays. Instead of lumping your entire budget into a couple paychecks, try keeping an eye out for gift ideas and cute decor all year long. While it may be too late this year, it could be a good strategy to try for 2023! Starting early will help reduce stress and give you more opportunities to scoop up incredible deals throughout the year, which means you can spread your budget even farther!
  • Manage Your Expectations: Did you find the holidays refreshing last year, or were they somewhat draining and you’re still trying to figure out how to pay off your credit card bills? If you are someone that wants your holidays to be energizing and provide that feeling of togetherness, there is more to it than just spending money. Once you decide your expectations, it becomes easier to work towards things that create that result.
  • Accept Help: While I know many of us try to do everything during the holidays so our families can just enjoy themselves, it is important to remember that the holidays are a time when we are supposed to support each other, and celebrate together! If you are hosting a dinner this year, don’t be afraid to ask your family to bring appetizers or drinks. If you are buying gifts for friends, set a limit or challenge everyone to make something by hand! Homemade gifts can often feel more special and it creates a fun exchange for you and your friends. There are many incredible ways to reduce stress and help get others involved so that the holiday is perfect for everyone.

The holiday is YOURS, so make sure you spend it whichever way brings you the most joy – and the least amount of stress on your pocketbook.

31 Oct

Winterizing Your Home


Posted by: Mike Hattim

With the changing of the seasons, it can be a good time to take stock of your home and ensure you are ready for the colder weather.

To help you feel more comfortable, save on bills and prevent future repair costs, there are some simple things you can do to prepare for the coming season.

Tending to minor problems yourself, or booking a professional now, will save you time and aggravation later when poor weather makes it harder to tackle home maintenance jobs.

  • Service Your Heat Source: Before Winter starts, be sure to have a professional check and clean your heat sources. You should have your chimney cleaned out if using wood heat or make sure to update your oil heater’s filters and service gas furnaces regularly.
  • Check Your Pipes: Checking pipe joints for leaks that could cause rot and damage will save you trouble in the future. Repair any cracks you find, especially those around electrical outlets and alarm system lines. You can also consider foam pipe insulation, which is fairly easy to install and could help prevent energy loss and potential water damage from frozen pipes.
  • Mind the Gaps: Search exterior window frames, doors and siding for cracks and gaps where water could get in. Doors and windows commonly have gaps that let cold in and heat out. Some will be easy to fill or fix yourself but could save you money and damage down the line!
  • Insulation is Key! On a snowy day go outside and look at your roof; you should see snow on the roof. If you can see your roof that means the attic is not insulated well and heat is escaping and melting the snow. If this is the case, you will want to have it repaired and packed to ensure you are not losing excess heat during the winter months.
  • Create a Storm Kit: A storm kit is a handy source of essential items in the event of losing power. Consider what you and your family might need, such as a flashlight with new batteries, candles, matches, a portable radio, water and snacks. Keep your kit somewhere easy to access!
31 Oct

Don’t Be House Poor


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Having the biggest and best home on the block sounds great – but not if it is at the expense of your life and monthly finances!

Be smart about your budget and avoid buying a home at the very top of your pre-approval value, which might lead to cash flow issues and being “house poor” down the line.

Home Expenses

When it comes to your home, it is more than just your purchase price and mortgage cost. While you might be able to afford to buy a $800,000 home, can you also afford the maintenance, property taxes, utilities and more?

When it comes to your home expenses and overall monthly budget, the goal is that the costs to maintain your home do not exceed 35% of your total monthly income.

Monthly Budget

To help you keep track of your finances, consider breaking up your monthly budget into the following categories:

  • Housing – mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, etc.
  • Transit – car payments or transit passes, gas, maintenance, etc.
  • Debt – payments to credit cards, lines of credit, etc.
  • Savings – your long-term savings for retirement, etc.
  • Life – food, vacations, fun, medical, childcare, etc.

From there, you would want to look at how much you spend on each category. The below is a good rule of thumb:

  • Housing – 35% of your monthly income
  • Transit – 15% of your monthly income.
  • Debt – 15% of your monthly income
  • Savings – 10% of your monthly income
  • Life – 25% of your monthly income

By spending too much on housing, you are forced to sacrifice in other areas of spending such as your life or savings, but it is better to be life RICH than house POOR.

If you’re not sure what you should budget for your new home, or have questions about making your home costs more affordable (such as changing your mortgage payments), please don’t hesitate to reach out to me today!

3 Oct

Go Green! In Your Kitchen?


Posted by: Mike Hattim

When it comes to making your home more eco-friendly, the best place to start is the kitchen!

With all of the hustle and bustle that goes on in this space (as well as the multitude of appliances), this is the ideal area to transform first for maximum effect.

  • Invest in Long-Lasting Cookware: Switch your Teflon and low-grade cookware out for stainless steel or cast-iron pots and pans for increased longevity.
  • Consider Your Appliances: With everything from coffee makers to toaster ovens to microwaves and dishwashers, the kitchen is a busy place when it comes to appliances. Swapping these out for energy-efficient models will reduce costs and energy usage, while providing the same results.
  • Opt for an Energy-Efficient Stove: With a variety of different stoves available on the market, there are plenty of choices when wanting to move to something more energy-efficient! Think gas stoves, induction cooktops, ceramic-glass cooktops or even energy-efficient electric coils.
  • Consider Practicing Energy-Efficient Cooking: Want to further maximize your efficiency and energy-usage in the kitchen? Stop preheating! With most ovens today, they heat up almost instantly making pre-heating your oven for 20 minutes a waste of time and energy. Some more tips to improve your energy-efficiency when cooking is to consider pressure cooking, BBQing, eating “raw” food such as salads, chilled soups and more.
  • Use Green Cleaners: Finally, if you’re going to put all the effort into improving your appliances and habits in the kitchen for greener results, you might also want to consider switching your kitchen cleaners to green products. There are dozens of options out there for non-toxic, biodegradable and plant-based cleaners that you can choose from. Your kitchen (and yourself!) will thank you.
3 Oct

Job Loss and Your Mortgage Application


Posted by: Mike Hattim

When it comes to your mortgage application, there are a few things that you should avoid doing while you’re waiting for approval – such as making large purchases (i.e. a new car), applying for new credit, pulling additional credit reports, etc.

Another issue that can come up is the loss of your job…

What you can afford to qualify for in relation to your mortgage depends on your income. As a result, the sudden loss of employment can be quite detrimental to your efforts. So, what do you do?

Should You Continue With Your Mortgage Application?

If you’ve already qualified for a mortgage, but your employment circumstances have changed, your first step is to disclose this to myself, your mortgage professional. As the lender will verify your income prior to closing, your mortgage professional will need to update your file to advise them, otherwise it may be  considered fraud as your application income and closing income would not match.

In some cases, the loss of your job may not affect your mortgage. Some examples include:

  • You secure a new job right away in the same field as previously. Keep in mind, you will still need to requalify. However, if your new job requires a probationary period then you may not be approved.
  • If you have a co-signer on the mortgage who earns enough income to qualify for the value on their own. However, be sure your co-signer is aware of your employment situation.
  • If you have additional sources of income such as income from retirement, investments, rentals or even child support they may be considered, depending on the lender.

Can You Use Unemployment Income to Apply for a Mortgage?

Typically this is not a suitable source of income to qualify for a mortgage with A-lenders, but it may still be an option for alternative or B-lenders. In rare cases, individuals with seasonal or cyclical jobs who rely on unemployment income for a portion of the year may be considered. However, you would be asked to provide a two-year cycle of employment followed by Employment Insurance benefits. Contact me and I can help you look into your options!

What Happens During Furlough?

If you did not lose your job entirely but have instead been furloughed or temporarily laid off, your lender may take a wait-and-see approach to your mortgage application. You would be required to provide a letter from your employer with a return-to-work date on it in this situation. However, if you don’t return to work before the closing date, your lender may be required to cancel the application for now with resubmitting as an option in the future.

Regardless of the reason for the change in your employment situation, one of the most important things you can do is contact me directly to discuss your situation. I would be happy to look at all the options for you and help with finding a solution that best suits you.

3 Oct

Don’t Get Spooked! First-Time Homebuyer Tips


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Whether you’re currently in the process of looking for your first home, or have just started to think about it, I have some first-time homebuyer tips to help make your journey as easy as possible!

Some of these you may already know about, and some you might not, but they are sure to make your first homebuying experience that much easier!

Get Pre-Approved

Having your mortgage pre-approved is an important step in the process and benefits you in three ways:

  • Pre-approval helps verify your budget and allows your real estate agent to find the best home in your price range. Quick Tip: Don’t forget about the closing costs! These range from 1 to 4% of the purchase price and should be factored into your budget.
  • Pre-approval guarantees the rate offered and locks it in for up to 120 days. This protects you from any increases in interest rates while you are shopping (phew!). Make sure to ask exactly how long your pre-approval is good for!
  • Pre-approval lets the seller know that securing financing should not be an issue, which is beneficial in competitive markets!

Keep in mind, this is not the same as final mortgage financing approval, but it can be a very helpful step in the process towards getting your final approval by helping you work within your budget.

Using the My Mortgage Toolbox app can help you get pre-qualified as part of your pre-approval – right from your mobile phone! In addition, this incredible tool can help you calculate your closing costs and even your potential monthly mortgage payments.

Maintain Your Credit

If you are currently looking at homes or thinking about looking at homes, it is vital to maintain your credit throughout the entire mortgage process. Be sure to continue to pay your bills on time, refrain from applying for new credit, closing off credit accounts or committing to any other large purchases (i.e. new car), and also avoid pulling additional credit reports once you have been pre-approved. Another helpful tip is to keep any credit card balances below 70% of the limit to help skyrocket your score!

Utilize Your RRSPs

Did you know? The Home Buyer’s Plan allows you to utilize up to $35,000 from your RRSP and put it towards a down payment on a new home, which you can repay over a 15-year period. You must be a first-time home buyer to qualify.

Take Advantage of Government Programs

There are various government programs in place that provide some financial relief in the form of rebates and tax refunds, including:

  • First-Time Home Buyer (FTHB) Tax Credit: First-time home owners would get a credit of $1,500 if you qualify.
  • First Time Home Buyer Incentive: The government will cover 5% of the purchase price on a resale home or up to 10% on a newly constructed home, if you qualify.
  • GST/HST New Housing Rebate: You may qualify for a rebate for some of the GST or HST paid on the purchase price or cost of building your new house.

There are also additional programs and support available depending on your province that are worth looking into, including land transfer and property transfer rebates, first-time homebuyer tax credits, homeownership support programs and more.

Contact Me for Expert Advice!

Before you get started on your homebuying journey, make sure to reach out to me for expert advice on choosing the right mortgage options, determining your budget, getting your pre-approval, and more!