New Lease on Life: Homeownership for Renters

Here you are—after years of paying rent and negotiating with landlords—you're finally ready to buy your own home. Congratulations! You're investing in yourself and your future, laying down some roots and taking the next step in your life's journey. 

Whether you're starting a family or just giving yourself more space to pursue your interests, buying a house is the first step on a path of big changes. But don't fret—you've paid rent, you're responsible—you can handle this. After sorting your finances and saving for a down payment, if you check a few new things off your list, you'll totally own being a homeowner.

New expenses

Paying rent and utilities may have given you some experience with monthly household expenses but, as a homeowner, you'll need to familiarize yourself with mortgage terminology and start budgeting for new household expenses. Because you own the property, all of the costs and payments associated with it are your responsibility. Make sure you arm yourself with knowledge and stay protected

This table breaks down some of the basic expenses:

Mortgage A mortgage is a loan you get to pay the difference your down payment can't cover. Payments cover the loan plus a percentage of interest over a period of time. In the short run, your payments cover more of the interest than the loan but this changes over time as you pay down the debt and own a greater percentage of the home. Monthly or bi-weekly or accelerated repayment plans
Mortgage insurance If you are unable to afford a down payment of at least 20%, mortgage insurance is put in place to protect the lender in case you default on your mortgage payments. It is calculated as a percentage of your total mortgage amount (2.80%–4.00% as of March 2017) and can be paid upfront or rolled into your mortgage payments. Included in mortgage payments or paid upfront
Homeowners insurance Home insurance can help cover the cost of damage to your property or belongings in the case of things like fire or theft. It can also protect you if a visitor is injured in your home or if you cause accidental damage to someone else's home. Insurance premiums depend on the type of coverage you choose and how much money your property is worth if it needs to be repaired or replaced. Annually or monthly
Condo or community fees In a condominium or in some communities, these fees cover shared expenses among residents (for example, cleaning, landscaping, snow removal, maintenance, security and staff).  Monthly
Property taxes Property taxes are calculated as a percentage of the market value of your home at the beginning of each year by the municipality you live in and cover basic services such as waste collection, sewer protection, road and draining maintenance, snow removal, street lighting, and emergency services like fire and police. If you buy a home and the seller has prepaid their property taxes for the whole year, you'll need to reimburse them a prorated amount. Monthly or upfront annually
Utilities (water, electricity, natural gas, etc.) When you own a home, you are responsible for the cost of your own utilities based on your usage. Check with individual providers

Handling emergencies

So you're handling all your monthly payments and settling into homeownership well when, all of a sudden, your basement floods or your furnace breaks or those pesky squirrels from your garden have made a new home in your ceiling. What do you do?

Always be prepared! In addition to the expenses outlined above, it's important you have an emergency fund. Although home insurance can protect you from some things, you have to be prepared to pay for unexpected repairs—especially if you buy an older house.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada recommends starting with a realistic amount with the goal of gradually saving the equivalent of three to six months of regular expenses. 

Being a good neighbour

Having good relationships with your neighbours will make all your lives better. Hosting a BBQ or inviting them over for a drink is a good way to foster a positive neighbour culture. In addition to getting joy from being part of a friendly, tight-knit community you'll also help make it safer.

Be courteous by keeping your yard and sidewalk clean and offer to help when your neighbours go away. 

Learn to be handy or be okay to pay

When something breaks or stops working, you won't be able to just call the landlord anymore. As a homeowner, you have to be prepared to make fixes yourself. You can probably afford to set up a small workshop in your home to manage these projects—and even get good at them. Maybe you're the type of person who loves a challenge and you'll be handling significant renovations yourself!

If you don't have time to manage all of that or the job is too complicated for your level of handiness, you can always find a professional to help—just be ready to cover the costs. If you live in a condo, your condo fees may cover some types of maintenance and repair. Make sure you review the terms so you know what to expect.

Even if nothing is broken, planning and budgeting for small upgrades over time like new carpeting, doors, light fixtures, or paint will help keep your home up to date. Continuing to add value to your home requires money and time beyond the initial investment, so be sure to keep that in mind.  

If you keep these things in mind, make a budget and leave some room in it for the unexpected, you'll settle into homeownership comfortably and gracefully. Your REALTOR® can help you navigate these new challenges so don't be shy to ask questions—you're not alone! 

If you've been asking yourself—“Am I ready?”—lately, you probably are.



Should We Airbnb a Room in Our Home?

With the booming sharing economy and travellers often preferring to forgo traditional hotel stays, the notion of renting out a room in your home (or the entire house itself) could seem appealing. But before you jump into peer-to-peer short-term rentals, there are some things you should consider:

Costs of hosting: starting up, cleaning, higher utility bills and more

Becoming an Airbnb host requires some startup cash along with ongoing expenses. These include the costs to set up and furnish the space, ongoing utility and cleaning fees which is usually not more than $30 per room.

You'll want to make sure each guest space is attractive and has all the amenities that a weary traveller needs such as fresh backup sheets and plenty of towels. A savvy host can reasonably furnish an empty room for about $1,000. However, $500 can do the trick if you already have an extra bed. Big box stores can help supply furniture for a range of pricing. 

The upside of being a host is that if you work hard, possess excellent customer service skills and treat the platform like your own personal business, the revenue generated from the listing can surpass the initial startup costs and provide a nice monthly return. 

Have you readIs Buying a Home and Renting It Out a Good Investment?

Young man and woman shaking hands


If your property is controlled by a homeowners' association or co-op, check its rules to make sure you're allowed to host; some may restrict Airbnb activity, while others may have no issue. If you rent, you'll want to get your landlord's blessing. 

A proportion of Airbnb hosts could very well be renters, who may or may not be telling their landlord. It is recommended to get your landlord's approval through a signed agreement. In most Canadian provinces, tenants cannot rent out their apartments without the approval of their landlords. 

Airbnb Canada details here how tenants should go about this process.

Bike hanging on living room wall.

Taxes and business licenses

Depending on where you live, you might require a business license and you might owe local taxes on any income you earn.

Quebec law requires short-term rentals of less than 31 days to obtain a licence from Tourism Quebec. Vancouver has proposed regulations that only allow the issuing of short-term rental licences for a primary residence — meaning the host, whether owner or tenant, must live in the dwelling. This rule targets hosts with multiple investment properties who operate as commercial hosts and eat into the housing stock.

Toronto has proposed a two-pronged approach to licensing, requiring both companies such as Airbnb and hosts to register and pay an annual fee. Hosts of short-term rentals in Toronto would be required to pay an annual fee ranging from $40 – $150. 

As tax is a relatively complex topic, Airbnb has provided some information about local regulations in different Canadian markets. Above all, it's good to consult a tax professional to get more specific information.

Clean + Declutter

You'll want to tidy your space, present it in the best possible light and hide your valuables before you photograph it.

Like the listings you love to peruse here on, the photos and listing title are the first thing a potential guest will see on Airbnb. This is your opportunity to catch their attention. 

You can either take your own photographs or contract out a professional photographer. Many hosts opt for professional shots, given how important eye-catching photos are for your space's profile.

Before photographing, ensure that you prep by arranging suitable lighting conditions and use a quality camera (now available on most smartphones).

Woman standing at bottom of stairs smiling

Insurance and liability

Airbnb's Host Guarantee provides up to $1 million in insurance coverage for property damage in 29 countries, including Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Airbnb's insurance is not a substitute for homeowner's or renter's insurance and it doesn't protect against theft or personal liability.

Airbnb states that damage to a host's property (home, unit, rooms, possessions) in every listing is covered up to $1 million USD. However, hosts must provide documentation as part of the resolution process. Payments made through the Host Guarantee are “subject to Host Guarantee Terms and Conditions,” meaning there are exclusions, limitations and conditions. As well, it's common for Airbnb hosts to receive emails from Airbnb, at random, informing them that various terms and conditions have changed. 

Call your insurance company to see what is covered, as some home insurance policies cover short-term rentals. But if there are multiple short-term visits, the insurance company might require you to buy a business policy that would cover a hotel or a bed and breakfast. 


Airbnb's host guarantee doesn't protect against wear and tear to your place, but you can charge a security deposit to cover possible damage.

Installing a reasonable security deposit is a no-brainer move for new hosts. Airbnb allows hosts to set up a security deposit to cover minor damages that would not be covered under the Host Guarantee. For example, if a guest breaks a door handle while staying at your property, you'll want to replace that before the next guest comes.

However, Airbnb won't consider this damage to be major and won't cover it under the Host Guarantee. As a result, this becomes an out of pocket expense for you, unless you charge the guest a security deposit. When guests make a reservation, they are not immediately charged for the deposit – only if a host makes a claim.

Even if a host is only renting a single room, a security deposit is a safe move just in case anything gets damaged. 

Couple meeting with another woman.

Getting paid

Airbnb could require you to refund a guest's payment if you cancel a reservation at the last minute, forget to leave the key, misrepresent your listing, don't clean your home or otherwise fail to meet Airbnb's hospitality standards. Airbnb suggests making sure you're available during the guests' scheduled check-in to address any concerns. 

Airbnb's payment system is quick and efficient. Payments are sent through direct deposit after the guest completes their first night (regardless of the length of stay). 

When a guest books a host's space, they also agree to the host's cancellation policy, which dictates the percentage of the booking costs (minus Airbnb's cut), if any, they will get back. Most moderate policies allow a guest to cancel within two days of the first night to get their money back. Less moderate policies allow the host to collect more of the booking money. 

Host cancellations also happen from time to time. One study found host cancellations are the top complaint on Airbnb, representing about 20% of all complaints. 

Depending on when a host cancels a stay, they'll be deducted either $50 or $100. If a host cancels three or more reservations within a year, Airbnb may deactivate the listing.

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb 

If you talk to enough long-time Airbnb hosts, they'll be able to tell you an endless number of stories about inspiring and interesting guests who shared their home. Others might have bad experiences. There are clear potential advantages and disadvantages to becoming an Airbnb host.

However, if all the regulatory checks are taken care of, the space is up to par and you're taking your hosting responsibilities seriously, the platform can serve as a nice way to earn extra cash and meet interesting travellers from around the world.

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



Find out if the Loft Lifestyle is Right for You: Everything You Need to Know

For some people, living in a city loft is the epitome of style; think skyline views, plank hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and heritage features offering inimitable character. With open floor plans and central locations, lofts make ideal crash pads for downtown living. However, the loft lifestyle isn't for everyone. 

Here are a few things to know before deciding if a loft is the right home for you. 

The high rise of loft living  

An open staircase leading up to a loft spacePhoto by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Lofts today are seen as upscale urban dwellings for city slickers, but this wasn't always the case. In the 1950s and ‘60s, New York City's decommissioned factories and industrial warehouses became popular housing alternatives for artists and bohemians. 

Lower costs and high ceilings made these spaces perfect canvases for galleries and workshops of large-format artists, like Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Warhol famously converted a loft on East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan into a studio called The Factory, which became a denizen for artists like David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry and Lou Reed. Rent cost $100 a month at the time. 

Artist Andy Warhol at 'The Factory' in 1966 taking a photo of his and a friend's reflection in a mirror.Andy Warhol at ‘The Factory’, 1966, via Kristine on Flickr

As uptown art buyers turned up for exhibitions and downtown happenings, the lure of the loft lifestyle prompted many to buy and retrofit lofts of their own. As the affluent moved in, market values went up and lofts became hot commodities. 

“Over the next few years, magazines praised the versatility and the creativity of loft design,” writes Sharon Zukin in Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. “In many lofts, the integration of work space, living areas, and art objects was paralleled by a fluid adaptation to structural features (primarily light, floor and volume) and “incidental” arrangements.”    

Loft living was instrumental in defining the Industrial aesthetic. And perhaps more importantly, the popularity of lofts redefined a way of living in the city. 

The difference between hard lofts and soft lofts 

Demand for the “loft look” has inspired many developers to replicate loft aesthetics in newly-constructed developments. Known in real estate as soft lofts, these constructions mimic characteristics of typical lofts, such as open concept spaces, large windows, high ceilings and exposed features. 

An open-concept corner condo loft with floor length windows and exposed piping in the ceilingPhoto by Yucel Moran on Unsplash

By contrast, hard lofts can be found in heritage buildings, vacant factories and other places that have been repurposed for residential living. While these industrial buildings tend to be a little rougher around the edges, they often abound with character via exposed brickwork, original wood beams and other inherited traits. 

A large loft warehouse style loft space with a high, exposed ceiling.Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

Two-storey lofts  

The living room area of a small, open-concept loft space with an upper level for a bed.Photo by Antoine Gayraud on Unsplash

Unlike single-floor lofts, two-storey lofts have the advantage of offering occupants more privacy. Two-storey lofts often preserve the open concept feel by limiting the reach of the second storey. Often, this top tier overhangs the first floor and is finished with open walls, so the bottom floor is kept in view. Bedrooms are the most common use for the second floors, as added distance allows for more privacy. Two-storey tall ceilings and walls are often utilized for an expansive gallery of windows. 

Pros and cons of loft life  

A softly lit second-floor sitting area in a loft spacePhoto by Nathan Van Egmond on Unsplash

Because soft lofts tend to be more modern constructions, they're often equipped with more modern furnishings, plumbing and electricity. Hard lofts, on the other hand, may require more work and repairs, depending on the condition of the property. Tall ceilings can mean tall energy bills, too. 

While hard lofts were once located in rundown parts of the city, many of these areas have gentrified and transformed into vibrant urban centers thrumming with activity. For young professionals who work in city centers, lofts are often well connected and ideally located for short commutes and enjoying the cultural advantages city life has to offer. 

Arguably, the primary feature of a loft is an open-concept layout. This setup is ideal for those who feel at home in tall and airy spaces but, for others, it can lack privacy and coziness. These spaces are ideal for singles or couples but can become cramped when children enter the equation. Likewise, hosting company can pose the occasional challenge, especially for a more private person. 

Decorating your loft  

Lofts leave space for a fair deal of decorative freedom, but also pose some unique challenges. Here are a few design tips to help you make the most of your loft lifestyle. 

Define spaces 

A warmly lit sitting area of an exposed brick loftVia Jennifer D. Ames on Creative Commons

Use large pieces of furniture, such as L-shaped couches, bar counters, bookcases, or even folding screens to help divide and define spaces in your loft. In small spaces, curtains can make for good hanging room partitions. Install a curtain track so they can be easily drawn or closed. 

Opt for oversized art  

A bed sits in the middle of an open-concept, white room

Stay true to the loft's legacy by investing in a large painting or sculpture. Small pieces tend to get lost on tall ceilings and in open spaces, whereas larger prints and installations have obvious impact and can help to organize space. 

Add contrast with soft furnishings 

An open-concept loft space with exposed beams, pipes in the ceiling and wooden support beamsPhoto by Israa Hilles on Unsplash 

A large area rug lends warmth to hardwood or concrete floors typically found in lofts. Try curtains instead of blinds for window coverings, as they can bring contrast to gridded industrial panes, while still exposing their character. Look to Urban Modern design for examples of how to embrace this aesthetic. 

Embrace character  

A bedroom with exposed brick and a large windowPhoto by Matthew Henry from Burst

Think twice before covering up raw features of your loft like exposed brick walls or open ducts and beams in the ceiling. These characteristics are prized by fellow loft buyers. 

Ready to embrace the loft living? Work with a REALTOR® to help you find the perfect space. 



The Sky’s the Limit: Guide to Skylights

I often find myself dreaming up features I would want in my dream home. At the top of my list is an outdoor wood-fired oven, a spiral staircase, a “she shed” and many skylights.  

Why skylights? They're dramatic, they make spaces feel larger, create a strong connection with the outdoors and the natural light they provide is beneficial to both people and house plants. Skylights can be fairly easy to install with the help of a professional but, as with all home renovations, there are a few things you need to know before you kick off the project. We have the lowdown on the big things to think about before getting started.  

Types of skylights

Before cutting holes in your roof, you need to determine which type of skylight is best for your home. There are three main types: 

1. Fixed

Photo via Flickr

The most common skylight option, fixed skylights (as their name suggests) are sealed to the roof and do not open for ventilation. They are a great option for vaulted and flat ceilings as they let the light pour in and help enhance the view. If you're looking to install a skylight in a hard-to-reach location, fixed skylights might be your best option.  

2. Vented

Photo by Anne Dudek on UnsplashPhoto via

Vented skylights open slightly and allow natural light in along with fresh air. They are a beautiful and dramatic solution to small spaces without windows that open— like an attic— as well as spaces with excessive moisture, like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms. Vented skylights have options to open either manually or with an electric motor, so don't worry if you envisioned one in a room with cathedral ceilings. 

3. Tubular

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (image cropped)

Tubular skylights (solar tubes) are a great option if space restrictions make installing a traditional skylight difficult and are best for small, enclosed spaces like closets, hallways and pantries. Tubular skylights are complex in their function. A roof-mounted parabolic lens collects light throughout the day and dispenses it down a highly reflective tube that releases light indoors through an interior fixture. Keep in mind that while you will gain more natural light with a tubular skylight, you won't gain a view. 

Things to consider before installing a skylight


There might be regulations in your region requiring a special building permit for installing new windows (or a skylight in this case). Check with your municipality first.


Glazing can improve energy efficiency by reducing the effect of heat gain in the summer and loss in the winter. Glazing is usually either plastic or glass. Plastic is generally less expensive but has less UV protection, where glass is more durable and won't discolour (plastic might over time). 


Installing a skylight means precise measurement of your roof and ceilings. The exact placement will depend on the location of your rafters and the slope of your roof. Be sure to consult a professional before making any permanent decisions.  They can also make sure installation is completed correctly in order to avoid leaks. Inside, you'll also want to consider the level of exposure you're looking to achieve and keep in mind the added sunlight will likely increase the temperature of your room. 

As a general rule of thumb: 

  • Skylights on east-facing roofs bring in early morning light.
  • Skylights on west-facing roofs provide afternoon light and heat.
  • Skylights on north-facing roofs provide consistent light.
  • Skylights on south-facing roofs will bring in heat during the winter but may let in too much over the summer.

Cost and installation 

In Canada, the average cost of installing a skylight can range from $500 to more than $4,000, with installation being the most costly. The price of the skylight itself will vary based on its size, glazing and type but, generally speaking, tubular skylights are the most affordable, with fixed skylights being somewhere in the middle and vented skylights being the most costly.  

Skylights can be a beautiful addition to any home, whether you have little natural light or loads of it and just want more. Once you've selected the skylight that's best for you, determined where to put it and sorted out your permits and installation costs, you will be able to enjoy this upgrade to your home for years to come.


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