Monday, 25 June 2012

Prom night and Matt's great corsage hunt

It's Prom night at Cole Harbour High.  Even though my son is only in grade 11, his girlfriend is in grade 12 and is graduating this year.  Hence, the Prom. My son is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  He's so jittery you'd think he was getting married (God forbid.  I can't believe I even typed that out).   It's odd watching my son date.

Actually, I fine with it.  Robin is a sparkly, bubbly young lady and she brings out good things in Matt.  It's nice to see him when he's around her.

Anyway, back to running around and headless chickens...  so far today he's picked up his tux, dropped off a packed overnight bag of clothes to change into after the prom (safe grad goes all night), vacuumed out the car, made reservations at a local Japanese restaurant and picked up the corsage and boutonniere.   He's going to pick Robin up and take her out to dinner and then they meet up with both sets of parents at a local park for photos before heading over to the prom at Pier 21 in Halifax.   I'm excited to see them all done up.  Neither one of them are fashionistas normally.  The theme of the prom is The 1920's so it will be interesting to see if any of the couples dress to fit the theme. I know Matt's tux is pretty mainstream, nothing 1920's about it but I think that Robin was considering locating a flapper dress and feather boa!  It will be interesting.

About the hardest part of this so far for Matt was shopping for the corsage.  We went to several places here in Dartmouth and we weren't having much luck.  At one place we went to their cooler of flowers looked half dead.  Matt was also not allowed to request his own flower design, he had to pick from sample photos they had on the wall.  So he was kind of put out by that and we left.   At the Superstore flower desk we couldn't order a customized corsage either, we had to take what was in stock.  Which was nothing.  They were due a shipment of orchid corsages all pre-made and packaged up in about a week's time.  He had no say on flowers, colours, anything.  Plus it would have been first come, first selection and it would have had to sit for two weeks in our fridge before prom.  Are they nuts??  So we kept looking.   At the third place we went to Matt wasn't impressed that they tie their flowers for wrist corsages onto this ugly piece of grey stretch elastic.  He asked if they had anything fancier and they said they had pearl bracelets and crystal bracelets but they'd run out of them.  He inquired whether they'd get any back in stock in time for the prom (3 weeks from that point) and they said no.  Three weeks before all the high schools in the city start their proms and they weren't going to order in any bracelets.  Unreal.  So we kept looking.

At this point Matt was frustrated and he decided to go shopping for his own bracelet and hope that he could find a florist who would do the flowers he wanted and tie them onto the bracelet.  We went to Mic Mac Mall and he picked out a really nice crystal bracelet.

Sorry that the picture is so blurry, I was using a cell phone.   So we took the bracelet to yet another florist who had no issues with anything that Matt wanted to do.  It wasn't rocket science for Pete's sake.  The kid just wanted white flowers with pink wax flowers and baby's breath as accents and a pink ribbon.  How hard is that for a flower shop?  He didn't even care what type of white flowers, he just knew that is what Robin wanted and he was bound and determine that is what she was going to get!  I can't believe we had so many problems with such a simple thing.

Matt picked up the finished corsage earlier this morning.  They did a nice job.  I really hope Robin likes it!  She doesn't know about the bracelet or the trouble he went to to get the white flowers with pink wax flowers.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Things just got tougher for Property Virgins

Lots of news in the real estate world this week concerning upcoming changes to Canada's mortgage rules and the announcement that one of Canada's major mortgage lenders is shutting down (more on that at the end).

Here is a summary of the new, tighter restrictions on new mortgages as of July 9, 2012:
    • The maximum amortization period will now be 25 years instead of 30 (this only applies to government backed insured mortgages).  If you have more that 20% down this does not apply.
    • The refinancing limit was lowered to 80% instead of 85%
    • Maximum qualifying Gross Debt Ratio (GDSR) is 39%
    • Maximum qualifying Total Debt Ratio (TDSR) 44%
    • You can't get CMHC insurance if your home is over $1 million
In addition, OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada's banking regulator, if you will) initially announced that it was going to change Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) from a revolving loan to one that has to be paid back within a certain time frame.  They later relented their position on this but fully intend to go ahead with lowering the limit of the amount you can borrow against your home's equity from it's current 80% to 65%.

I have to admit, for the most part I like the changes.  I've seen too many recent foreclosure situations involving first time buyers who haven bitten off more than they can chew financially with their home purchase.  Just because you can qualify for a $500,000 mortgage doesn't mean you need to buy that high and leave yourself house poor.   What some buyers don't realize is that carrying a house is so much different than renting.  Being able to afford $1,300 (or whatever) in rent does not mean that you can plunk that same amount down on a mortgage and Bob's your Uncle.  They forget utilities,  property taxes, house maintenance, little unexpected emergencies that require financial attention, rising gas/grocery prices, etc.

What I don't like is that it has now gotten even more difficult for first time buyers to get into the housing market.  Like it wasn't tough enough in some markets (Toronto, Vancouver).   Thankfully, the government did not tinker with the minimum down payment.  You can still buy a house for 5% down.  However, first time buyers will need to make more money per month to qualify for the same amount of money.   On the flip side,  going with a 25 year amortization (over the 30 year) will save significant $$$ in interest over that time.   Of course, this only applies to government backed insured mortgages.  If you can afford 20% down or more you can avoid CMHC insurance and you can get whatever amortization term you want that is offered by your lender.

So if you are currently involved in either buying or selling a home what does all this mean to you?

Selling -  You've just lost a pool of potential buyers who can no longer afford your home.   As well, if your home is overpriced and you are "waiting for the market to catch up" to what you are asking, this is the time to shake your head.  Fewer buyers means less demand.  What happens when you have more of a supply than demand?  Prices correct themselves, aka...fall.  Expect that over time house prices will gradually lower.  Jury is out on if this will happen, and if so how fast and by how much.  This is where your major and micro markets come into play.  Some areas may be hit significantly while others not at all.  If you are serious about selling, have a serious look at market stats and price your home accordingly.  The market isn't going to "catch up" to you.  And any REALTOR(R) worth their commission will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.  And you need to hear this.  If you don't have a REALTOR(R), you may want to consider investing in one.  Selling your home, especially on your own, might just get a bit tougher.

Buyers  with less than 20% down - For the short term, you've just lost a bit of variety in homes available to you.  You may need to lower your expectations and realize that you might not get a palace as your first home. You might have to be willing to take on some homes that have a few "projects" to be done.   You will now be paying more per month for 5 less years.   You will no longer qualify for as much of a mortgage.   If you have a pre-qualification in place you will need to close on your house by July 9, 2012.  If you have not offered on a house yet and can not close before July 9th, 2012, you need to contact your bank to see what your new maximum mortgage will be before you put in an offer and get emotionally invested in a property and then lose it because you no longer qualify for financing.  The seller, the real estate agent and your bank will thank you for making sure this detail is taken care of.   The Good news is that if you do get into a home with payments you can afford under the new rules, you will save a bucket load of interest over the years of your mortgage and your mortgage will be paid off sooner.  Also, if you can afford to wait a little while before you buy, you will save more money for a down payment and might be able to avoid CMHC.  The jury is out on the final say on prices but many are expecting that home prices will start to go down a bit, giving you more variety in homes available in your price range. Sellers may be more willing to negotiate.

Here is what the difference that lower amortization will mean to you in terms of monthly payment:

The basic rule of thumb is you will pay $50.00 per month per $100,000.00 of mortgage, but you will be paid off 5 years sooner.

Amount Old Monthly Payment New Monthly Payment Difference Per Month
$300,000 $1426 $1578 $152
$350,000 $1664 $1841 $177
$400,000 $1902 $2104 $202
$450,000 $2139 $2367 $228
$500,000 $2377 $2630 $253
$550,000 $2615 $2893 $278

I know this entry has probably been a bit dry and long winded but I wanted to wrap up by saying that CIBC has announced this past week that it will wind up it's operations under the FirstLine banner.  For years FirstLine has been a popular choice with home buyers because it offered lower rates and greater flexibility to it's customers than most traditional banks.  CIBC has decided to concentrate more on it's in house mortgage department to increase their profits.  While CIBC operating as FirstLine did a greater volume of mortgages through mortgage brokers, CIBC needed to pay the mortgage brokers a commission which lowered their profits.  By taking away the FirstLine option, they hope that more buyers will get their mortgages in house at a CIBC branch which will help them make an extra few hundred million in profit than they already do.  FirstLine will no longer accept mortgage applications after July 31, 2012.

While I understand that business is business, anything that takes away flexibility, financial options and choice from the consumer is not a good thing.

Lastly, I'm not a mortgage guru.  I love houses...mortgages, not so much, although I acknowledge they go hand in hand.   Therefore, I urge you to call your preferred mortgage professional (either through a big bank or a mortgage broker) and find out what your options really are.   If you need help finding a mortgage professional, let me know.  I've worked with a couple that I would recommend over and over.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Father's Day

Well, well.  It seems that what I feared would happen by opening up a public blog has happened.  I have found myself thinking several times over the past month of many things I wanted to write about but when I sit down to do so I realize I am no longer writing in an anonymous journal and I get caught up in the appropriateness (or more likely lack thereof) and ethics of blogging so publicly.  It has silenced me in ways it never did before while I was protected behind a persona of a username.  Over the past 11 years my readers at Open Diary knew the username and little about me in real life however they probably KNEW me better than anyone in my real life ever will.   I do miss it (and readers!) but do not want to stop writing here.  So, I guess I need to get more 'creative'.  :-)

We celebrated Father's Day on Sunday.  While the hubby was in Atlanta for work last week they boys made two batches of Jalapeno/Hot Pepper Jelly to give to their Dad as a gift.  Ben, being Ben (and the Imp that he's always been),  just had to put in an extra few chopped up Jalapenos than the recipe called for!

This is one of the few times Ben has actually let me take pictures of him.  If you've wondered why I feature Matt here more than Ben, it's not for lack of trying on my part.  Ben, like his Mom, is camera shy.

Anyway, here's Ben making his batch of hot pepper jelly for his Dad. First, chopping the red peppers and the fresh jalapeno peppers. (Matt did a batch of green coloured jelly).


Then adding the canned jalapeno peppers.


Ben decided to show off and popped a fresh jalapeno pepper in his mouth.  Bet he won't do that again.


I think he drank a gallon of milk while I, like the Mother of the Year I am, snapped photos and laughed my ass off.

Anyway, all the peppers went into the blender for a quick whir.  Pretty much until there was nothing but juice.


Into a pot with a godawful amount of sugar.


Boil the heck out of it for a couple of minutes and then add the liquid Certo.  And boil some more.


I think he got as much on the counter as he did in the jars.  I had to bring out the funnel and towels.



So there were 6 jars of green by Matt and 6 jars of red by Ben.


And a happy Dad!   This was the first year we've done something homemade instead of getting the usual store bought gift.  It was fun and the boys did great with the prep and cooking/jarring.   They gave him the 12 jars complete with several boxes of crackers and a big tub of cream cheese.  He is set for snacks for a bit.  Although, maybe it is two days later and one of the jars is gone already!