Watch Out For Asbestos in Your Home

If you ever decide to take on a large do it your self project like fixing and flipping a house, there are a lot of things you need to consider before moving forward. If you don’t educate yourself first and do your due diligence, you could find yourself in a world of pain.Asbestos hazzard Alberta

Based on my experience of flipping many houses and condos over the years, here are my top tips.

  1. Use an experienced realtor that knows the area you are buying in. They will help you determine how much you can pay and still realistically walk away with a nice profit once you have completed your renovations.
  2. Do your homework – research how much homes in the area are selling for when they are in an average condition and when they are renovated. Some areas just don’t have much upside potential since they may be viewed as undesirable neighborhoods, so it makes no sense to sink a lot of money into them.  At the same time, some communities have great potential for high prices if the property is dramatically improved.
  3. Know your budget – It is very easy to get excited about transforming a neglected property into a gem, but you need to stay focused on what you are trying to do. If you go over budget, you may not get as much profit as you wanted.
  4. Be consistent throughout the house. You can’t just transform one or two rooms. You have to renovate the entire home. If you just update the kitchen into something that is show home quality, but leave the rest of the home dated, you will not get top dollar when you sell.
  5. Know the styles that are in right now. You want to make this home look like a brand new show home that the builders are making. Go view some of their show homes to see what they are doing and try and duplicate that. These builders have deep pockets to hire designers and decorators so they can dictate what is going to be “in”.
  6. Get a home inspection from a qualified and licensed professional that can spot structural problems with the foundation or anything else that could be a game changer. Although they can miss things, this is the best $500 you can spend.
  7. Be aware that you may encounter some nasty surprises when you start ripping things apart. These are things that your home inspector may not be able to see. By far the biggest worry is asbestos. This is a big concern if the home is older than 1990. It can be found in floor tiles, insulation, and drywall mud to name a few. The problem is that it is very dangerous to your health. Breathing in the asbestos fibers can cause very serious lung problems and eventually death. It is very important that you do not disturb the asbestos. If you have linoleum or tiles with asbestos, you can just cover them up with hardwood or some other type of flooring. If you need to have the asbestos removed, you must hire a qualified professional asbestos removal company. However, this can get very expensive so remember that this is always going to be a possibility when you purchase an older home. Thanks to Steven from Ross Environmental for this information about asbestos. He does asbestos removal in Didsbury Alberta and surrounding areas.

Although this is not a comprehensive list of things to do when you buy a home to fix and then sell, it does include what I think are the most important points that will help you to avoid making any big mistakes.


What is a Realtor’s Life Really Like?

Most people seem to think that being a realtor is one of the greatest things you could possibly do to have a great lifestyle and lots of money. Well the truth is quite a bit different since every realtor out there is basically a salesman that gets paid only from commissions from the properties they sell.

This makes the industry ultra competitive because if you don’t sell any homes, you don’t eat. There is no base salary, and no one is sending you prequalified buyers and sellers. It is all up to you. That is what makes the real estate business such a dog eat dog industry. You have to be aggressive and work really hard to get the sales.

If you are trying to attract buyers, you need to get them to your Realtor in Canadawebsite instead of one of your competitor’s websites. To do this you need to spend thousands of dollars in search engine optimization, facebook ads, and other types of online marketing. Once they decide to use your website to search for properties, it could be months before they are ready to pick up the phone and call you to arrange a showing of a property.

If you are trying to get listings, the process is a bit different. You need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars every month for flyers, and bus benches in a particular area. This is called farming an area, so that people in that area become very familiar with your name and face. That way when they are ready to sell their home, hopefully you will be the first person they think of calling. That is of course if they don’t have a family member or friend that is a realtor. Even if you are lucky enough to get in the door to give a free market evaluation, you will likely be competing with at least 2 other agents for the listing. This is very stressful and sometimes causes realtors to do whatever it takes to get the listing.

If you have ever listed a property with a realtor, you may have allowed your realtor to host one or several open houses. Well usually these don’t result in your house selling. Mostly it is a way for your realtor to market themselves and possibly get more buyers that they can take out to view other properties if the buyer didn’t like your home.

It is incredibly important to use a hard working and ethical realtor whether you are buying or selling a home. Ask friends, family, and co workers for there recommendations and read online reviews. Do not rely on testimonials on the realtor’s website. These are easy to fake. However, reviews from Google and Yelp are pretty hard to fake and if they have at least 5 reviews, you can usually get a good indication of whether or not they are good and trustworthy.


An Explanation of TRID

Back on October 3, 2015 the United States government implemented a new rule that is known as the “know before you owe rule” otherwise known by it’s acronym TRID which means TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule. When you break it down further TILA stands for “Truth In Lending Act” and RESPA stands for “Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act”

trid lending ruleThe government was concerned that the current procedures used in lending and mortgages were too convoluted and confusing for consumers. This all came from the carnage of the financial crisis a few years back when the world economy nearly collapsed because of the questionable practices of the big banks. As we all know thousands of people lost their homes because they could not afford to pay the mortgage, or they simply saw no point in paying for something that was no longer worth what they owed.

Of course the big culprit in all of this was the big banks that were found to be too big to fail and were propped up by the government. However, consumers were not without fault either. Just because the bank was willing to give you more money than you could afford to pay on a monthly basis, didn’t mean that you should have taken it. This TRID rule attempts to simplify the borrowing process so that it is easier for consumers to understand the fees they are paying and the responsibilities they are taking on with the loan or mortgage.

In the most simple terms, the rule requires that lenders provide the borrower with a disclosure statement that tells them their cost of borrowing, how much the fees will be, and how much their payments will be. The borrower has 3 business days to read and understand the disclosure statement. No fees can be charged by the lender at this stage. Once the borrower understands their obligations in the disclosure, they can sign a form that says they wish to proceed. Once they do that, the lender can now charge fees and close the transaction and the borrower will get their money.

I believe that the government did a great thing with TRID but if you are shopping for a mortgage in the United States, make sure you use a lender that does a lot of volume. If you use a small lender that hasn’t quite gotten up to speed on TRID, you could see delays in getting your mortgage closed.

Watch this interview to get more details




Do Oil Prices Affect Real Estate Prices?

In cities like Calgary, Alberta and Houston, Texas oil prices matter. Both cities have a large number of people that are employed in the oil sector and when oil prices are down, as they are right now, people will be laid off from their jobs. This in turn does affect the local real estate market of both cities.

House near calgaryCalgary will probably do much better than it did in past recessions simply because the economy is much more diversified than it was even in 2008 and certainly in the 1980’s. Back in the 80’s oil was all there was to our local economy and when that went away the economy suffered badly. Of course you could also argue that the National Energy Program that was introduced by Prime Minister Trudeau at the time had a lot to do with the economic pain that was felt in Calgary back then. It was not unusual for people to just walk away from their homes much the same way people in the states did during the 2008 recession.

This time around, I do not see that happening even if oil prices stay low for many more years. Oil companies will learn to be extremely efficient and will eventually start to make money again. Hiring will return to the oil patch but maybe never at the same levels as before, but there will be jobs. This in turn will keep the housing market in decent shape as there will not be large numbers of people moving away because they have built a life in Calgary and it is a great place to live.

Yes, home prices are falling but not by much. Real estate statistics show that average Calgary prices fell by only 4 or 5 percent when compared to this time last year. In total we may see prices decrease by 10% before everything stabilizes. That is not something that should cause people too much stress as long as you can still find a way to pay the mortgage. Things will improve eventually.

If you are thinking of buying a home either to live in or as an investment to rent out, you would be wise to wait a while. As I said prices are on the downside, and if you wait until summer of 2016, there might be some deals to be had. Just make sure you have all your financing in place and are ready to place an offer. You have to remember that there will be other people looking for deals as well so you need to be ready to make an offer.

How to Avoid Bad Tenants

It is almost better to have your rental property sit vacant than to rush and get it occupied before you do your due diligence. You need to do everything possible to properly screen your prospective tenants before they move in.

There are a lot of horror stories out there about the things that bad tenants will do to your property. If you don’t do your homework, it can end up costing you thousands of dollars and a lot of grief and stress. Probably the worst thing that can happen is to have tenants that turn your nice revenue generating investment into a grow op for marijuana.

The equipment and environment that is required to setup a commercial grade operation will certainly destroy your property. This is because grow ops require very high heat and humidity to grow a good crop. It is this combination of heat and humidity that causes mold to grow everywhere in your home. This toxic substance will embed itself in every nook and cranny of your home. In fact you will have to replace almost everything except the studs. You will need to get a professional remediation company into clean and disinfect the entire home and have it dry over several days.

There are many other potential nightmare scenarios that the property landlord has to deal with, but the grow op is probably the worst. Check out this video to see how you can prevent this from happening to you,

Real Estate Investment Systems

When you buy and sell real estate as an investment, you need to find a way to do that without micromanaging the day to day operations. Basically you need to develop systems in your real estate business so that you do pretty much the same thing every time you buy or sell a property.

Of course there will times when you need to deviate from the system because sometimes things happen that you could not have anticipated, but for the most part you can stick to the plan.

Investing in real estate is about having time to enjoy the good things in life and not being bogged down for 14 hours a day managing the smallest details of every transaction. You need to have a team of talented individuals that you can trust to do most of the the day to day work for you, so you can focus on the bigger picture. Things like what markets would you like to invest in next? Should you buy a home to fix and rent out, or should you flip it? What makes the most sense for that particular market at that particular time?

What about the tax considerations? Whether you are investing in Canada or the United States, you will have to figure out how much tax you will have to pay to the CRA or uncle Sam.  You also need to spend your valuable time analyzing properties to see if you can be cash positive if you decide to rent them out long term.

Use your time wisely and you can life a great life while minimizing your stress levels if you follow a system. Watch the video for some more tips

Tax Deed Auctions in Canada

We have all seen those infomercials where some guy is talking about making a fortune buying tax deeds on delinquent properties in the United States. Ted Thomas is the guy that comes to mind right now, but there are others selling their expensive programs on how to get a hold of properties for just pennies on the dollar. I have been to some of these seminars and the way they explain it, makes sense. However, finding properties is a lot harder than they make it seem. I have not bought any tax deeds yet, but I do believe it is a strategy that can work in the states.

However, can it work in Canada? Watch this video to find out.

Make The Most of Your Money

There are ways to make your money go a lot farther than it is right now. You are probably wasting a lot of cash every month on things you don’t even realize that you are doing. I was going to write a long blog post on this subject, but I came across this excellent article written by Kirby Cox in Calgary.  You can find his website here


The three most important factors are your income, debts and down payment. Any one of these can greatly impact the amount of mortgage you qualify for. Lenders are primarily concerned that housing expenses not exceed a certain percentage (28 – 32) of the homeowners gross monthly income. Housing expenses include monthly mortgage principal, interest payments, property taxes, condo fees, utilities and homeowner’s insurance.

Below we have listed the most common obstacles to qualifying for Northwest Calgary homes for sale and possible solutions to each.


Consolidate your debts by taking out one loan and paying off your bills with the money.

Pay off long-term debts by using some of your cash and making a lower downpayment.

Pay off long-term debt by selling another asset and using the cash generated from that sale.


Income from bonuses, overtime, or future raises might be considered in qualifying. If youve overlooked any income, be sure to tell your mortgage broker.

Find a co-mortgagor who is willing to go on the loan with you to help you qualify.

Buy a property that generates rental income.

Make a higher downpayment.

Consider a financing option that will allow you to stretch your purchasing power. Some of these options include insured loans (CMHC, GE Capital), adjustable rate mortgages, graduated payment mortgages, longer amortization.  Non-taxable income may also be grossed-up, as though it was taxable.


It is a good practice for you to request the details of your credit rating from the credit agencies periodically. This will help you to understand your rating and ensure the credit agencies have the correct information.

Repair your credit file by contacting creditors and requesting that negative information be removed.

Pay off outstanding judgments, liens and collections.

Re-establish good credit


Get a gift from an immediate family member (may require gift letter).

Ask the seller to carry and second mortgage.

Sell or borrow against another asset.

Borrow against or cash out your RRSP – but consider the tax implications.

Consider financing options that offer lower downpayments and help with closing costs.

Another solution is to assume the existing mortgage on the house you are buying. This is beneficial if for example, the existing mortgage has a lower interest rate or you have difficulties in qualifying. You can also avoid some of the administrative costs of taking out a new loan. In order to assume a mortgage, it must be transferable and you must be able to pay enough cash (or get a second mortgage or loan) to cover the difference between the purchase price and the outstanding debt.

Tips for First Time Buyers

Depending on which market you live in, it can be really difficult to buy your first home. If you are in a super expensive place like Vancouver, you might have to wait until you are in your thirties before you can even think about it.

Regardless of where you live, you need a solid plan and some discipline if you are going to achieve your goal of home ownership in your twenties. If you are single you will almost certainly have to settle for a condo because a single family home will be too expensive for you to qualify for a mortgage on your own. It really helps to have a partner or spouse so that you can use two incomes to qualify and get a better home.

The most important thing to have is two incomes from jobs that you have both held for at least a couple of years. Also, try to minimize your debt – hold off on that new car until you have bought your home. A monthly car payment can kill your chances of qualifying so make do with that old car for now. You can drive a nice car when you are older and have more money.

The more you save for a downpayment, the better. If you can walk into your bank or mortgage broker with a 20% downpayment you will look really solid as a borrower, and you will avoid the large mortgage insurance fee that you have to pay with a smaller downpayment.

Here are some more tips for people in their twenties that are hoping to buy a home.

Why buy instead of rent?

People always ask me if they should buy or rent. Well many people got burned in the great recession of 2008 where prices had hit their peak then plummeted by more than 50%. Before that prices were rising steadily and everyone thought the real estate boom would last for ever with easy money and plenty of enthusiasm. When the bottom fell out of the market and millions of people lost their homes, it really did a number on the economy.

In the last couple of years things have rebounded nicely and the economy seems to be doing better. Things could be better but they could be a whole lot worse as well. So no that things have stabilized and more people are wanting to take the plunge into real estate again, is it a good idea?

Historically real estate has always been a great investment over time. In fact in all my years of buying and selling real estate, I almost always made money on my properties with just a few exceptions. Even guys like Donald Trump made most of their fortunes from real estate, so I would have a hard time betting against it.

There are always those people that will argue that renting makes more sense because it is cheaper. That may be so to some extent because you don’t have to pay property taxes and sometimes the utilities will be included. I guess the thinking is that your rent is cheaper so you have more money to invest in your retirement. However how many people are disciplined enough to save that extra money instead of spending it on a trip or a new car. To me paying the somewhat higher costs of a mortgage is like forced saving and when your house is paid off you have something that is a real asset that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. What will the renter have after 30 years? Maybe he could have the same amount in investments but more likely with human nature being what it is, he will have far less than the home owner.

So my answer is buy a home – it is a no brainer to me

For more information on this subject and many other real estate related topics check out Calgary realtor Carmen Paradis’s website at

If you are in Edmonton check out RE/MAX at and if you want to see which homes are available, they have a great MLS search page there as well.

If you can’t afford to live in the city, check out this central alberta home builder in Clive Alberta where you can build a brand new house for under $250,000. The only problem is that you have to live in a small town.