Archive for March, 2017

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Michelle Hopkins

Look for green links to grants and rebates.

Like most first-time home buyers, Kimberly Macdonald had a wish list of what she wanted in a new home. Although affordability was an important consideration, she also wanted a location close to family and friends, an outdoor space she could entertain in and hardwood floors.

She got all that in her new condo. What she didn’t get was a series of nasty shocks to her bank balance.

Many first-time buyers are so excited about finding a home with everything on their wish list, they don’t realize that they’ll face a host of costs beyond the purchase price.

“We often enter into the single biggest purchase of our lives without a clear plan, research or budget,” says Gordon Bennett, a partner/lawyer at Bennett & Parkes. “I recommend that people inform themselves about everything that buying a home entails.”

Macdonald says she did her homework well in advance of searching for her new home.

“I’m very detail oriented, so I spent a lot of time researching what my costs would be and what I needed to do to close on the deal,” says Macdonald. “When it came to what fees I was going to have to pay, I found my two best resources were my Real Estate Agent and my bank. My best advice is to ask lots of questions, because you don’t want any surprises.”

Once you’ve made the decision to buy a home, the financial adventure begins. Meet with your lender or mortgage broker to find out exactly what you can afford to spend. The first order of business will be to determine the amount of your down payment. You need a minimum of five percent.

A great place to start researching is on the CMHC website(Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). There is a calculator that helps you estimate the maximum purchase price and maximum monthly housing cost you can afford based on your gross monthly household income.

Generally the monthly cost of your mortgage, property taxes and home insurance should be no more than 28 to 32 per cent of your monthly gross pay. Some advisors suggest using that same percentage of your net income instead, so you’re not eating up all of your income with home expenses.

The lender then calculates what you can borrow based on the total of mortgage payment, property taxes, heating costs and any current debts you’re carrying.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to have cash available for when you want to make an offer. A deposit is usually anywhere up to 5 per cent.

Buying entails a number of extra costs. You may also be responsible for real estate commissions(if you’re selling as well as buying) and, on a newly built home, HST or GST (depending on when construction was completed). You may qualify for an HST or GST rebate .

If you have less than 20 per cent down payment, you will require mortgage default insurance, provided by CMHC, Genworth or Canada Guaranty. This can be paid up front or added to the monthly mortgage payments. It will cost thousands of extra dollars over the course of your mortgage, so if you can scrape together at least 20 per cent as a down payment, it will be well worth your while.

Even if you can put more than 20 per cent down, your lender will recommend that you buy insurance to cover the outstanding amount in case something happens to you. Insurance covering your mortgage is an excellent safeguard, but you’re better off to buy a term policy from an insurance company than the mortgage insurance your lender offers. An independent insurance broker or mortgage broker can explain why.

It’s worthwhile to pay for a home inspection to check for major issues. The inspection is usually in the $500 to $700 range. A home inspector may also recommend specialists if complicated problems are suspected.

As a buyer, you don’t pay your Real Estate Agent, but it’s important to have a lawyer or notary public to represent your interests and make sure the paperwork is all in order. You do pay for that. For straightforward transactions, a notary will charge $600 to $700 and a lawyer ‘s fees will be about $1,200.

If you’re not a first-time buyer, you’re also responsible for the property transfer tax of 1 per cent on the first $200,000 and 2 per cent on the balance. There’s an exemption for first-time buyers paying $475,000 or under.

Buying expenses can also include a site survey, optional title insurance and strata move-in/move-out fees.

And don’t forget about moving expenses . You’ll have to pay a moving company, or truck rental and fuel costs, plus moving insurance. Then there’s the pizza and beer for your volunteer helpers.

You finally have a place to call your own. Now, you have to protect it and your valuables. Home owner’s insurance is important because it covers you for unforeseen incidents, such as fire, burglary, a flood, or sewer or water damage. If you’re in a strata, you’ll still need insurance to cover the contents of your home.

Basic coverage might not be enough. If your home has some knob-and-tube wiring, for instance, you’ll pay more. Or you may want to take out riders on your expensive artwork or home office. Earthquake or other special coverage will also cost extra. If you will be renting out part of your home, make sure your insurance company knows, otherwise your insurance could be void if something happens. Again, an independent insurance broker will help you find the best-priced insurance to cover your needs.

You’ll have to pay property taxes on your new home. You’ll get an assessment of your property’s value at the beginning of each year, and your municipality will calculate your property taxes based on that assessment. There’s relief in sight, however. If your Vancouver-area home is assessed at under $1,295,000, you’re eligible for a BC Home Owner Grant .

Often, a more affordable home comes at the price of a commute by cardefinitely something to add to the monthly budget. The BCAA Driving Costs Calculator is a big help here.

If you’ve been renting, it’s possible that many of your utility fees were included in your monthly rent. Once you own, there are heating, electricity, cable, Internet, home telephone, garbage, sewer and other local municipal fees to consider. You may even need to buy an annual parking pass to park on your street.

In addition, when buying a townhome or condominium, you’ll have monthly strata fees . These often include some utilities, but their main purpose is to pay for the upkeep of common property. And that’s where soon-to-be buyers might also end up with major replacement or repair costsbeyond the monthly strata fees. This is where some digging is required before you buy.

“I tell my clients to take the time to read through the strata minutes for the last two years,” says Gordon Bennett. “I know you could fall asleep reading them, but if you don’t and later find out the roof needs repairing, you could be in for a nasty financial surprise.”

Things do break down, so you need to have a bit of a financial cushion in case the washer decides to quit or your hot water tank bursts. If you live in a strata, your monthly maintenance fees will cover the upkeep of common property, but you’ll still be responsible for everything inside your walls.

And finally, unless you’re downsizing you may need extra furnishings or a lawn mower… things you didn’t need in your former home. If you’re feeling the pinch from all those other expenses, wait to buy these, or start off with second-hand or borrowed items until you can save up for what you want.

Or, if you’re a first timer, maybe the tax rebate you get from the first-time home buyers’ tax credit will cover some of it!

Don’t let all these hidden costs turn you off buying a home. If you practise due diligence, like Kimberly Macdonald, and take the time necessary to find out about all of the potential costs, you can be financially prepared. Then you’ll be able to kick back and enjoy your new home that much more. has a handy calculator for home buying costs.

© 2016 Real Estate Weekly

What the US rate hikes mean for Canadians

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Michael Fortin

As Pierre Trudeau once said about living so close to the United States “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or even tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt”. That statement, said almost 40 years ago, still holds very true today.

Our economies are even more intertwined now and it’s no wonder many Canadians are paying close attention to policymakers and politicians south of the boarder, particularly the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The U.S. Federal Reserve recently raised interest rates by 25bps (one quarter of one percent) this month and for the second time in 3 months. It has also stuck to its outlook for two additional rate increases this year while remaining cautious before implementing any further increases. “We have seen the economy progress over the last several months in exactly the way it was anticipated and we have some confidence in the path the economy is on” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said at a recent press conference. Employment numbers in the U.S. continue to look impressive and economic activity is expanding which helps keep the bond market relatively calm with no immediate increases in yields.

What does this mean for you?

For the time being this is good news for Canadians. The lack of bond yield increase in the U.S. has resulted in the Canadian bond prices to remain unchanged as well. If you are looking to get a 5 year mortgage, this means that you shouldn’t see any increases in rates as typically fixed term mortgages are tied to the yields (returns) on Canadian bond prices. Also, no significant changes are expected for variable rate mortgages as it appears the statements made by the U.S Federal Reserve will push the Bank of Canada’s decision to increase our Bank of Canada benchmark rate a little further into the future.  

Web Presence in China Commerce

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017


A Blog about Web Presence in China Commerce

Web Presence in China Commerce

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017


A blog about the Web Presence in China Commerce


Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Personalization of content for users vital to survival

The Vancouver Sun

Many companies toss around tech buzzwords such as algorithms, machine learning or big data, but few embed them deep enough into their DNA that their business depends on them.

Netflix Inc. is one such company. It needs big data and algorithms to survive since it depends on getting more people to watch ever more programming, which means it must serve the most appropriate shows or movies for each of its more than 93 million subscribers. Otherwise, the company said, people will quickly move on to another activity to fill their time, threatening what has become a US$62-billion business.

“We (use) all of the information we have: what people watch, when they watch, how much do they watch, what time of day, on what device, what they watch (before or after) and on what profile,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix Inc.’s vicepresident of product innovation, during a media briefing.

“Some of that data is junk, some of it is gold and we figure out how to leverage that data to put the right content in front of the right people at the right time.”

Yellin’s team specializes in making the discovery process easier for users by adding new features that reduce friction for people to get into content faster. “We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing,” he said. “We run over 200 tests a year. And until something shows green, that the people are getting more value for their money by streaming more hours on Netflix or sticking around Netflix and retaining better, we don’t launch a feature.”

As an example, Yellin points to a new content rating system for users that will soon be rolled out globally to replace Netflix’s longstanding five-star methodology, which the company has discovered has several flaws.

For one thing, there were too many steps involved in the rating system and subscribers tended to rate something they liked more often than things they didn’t, skewing the results to the positive side. The company said it’s received more than 10 billion five-star ratings.

“We made ratings less important, because the implicit signal of your behaviour is more important,” Yellin said. “We try to measure how important it is when you click ‘play’ on a title and watch for 20 minutes versus if you watched and binged for six hours.”

As a result, Netflix will give subscribers a thumbs-up, thumbsdown rating system, which it believes is easier, quicker and involves less thought. The company began testing it last year and ratings increased more than 200 per cent.

“The most important work I think we do is around personalization,” said Reed Hastings, the company’s chief executive, during a Q&A session. “This idea that the more you watch, the more Netflix learns your tastes. Personalization is really the thing that the Internet can do that linear (distribution) can’t, and that’s a real breakthrough.”

Netflix’s algorithms look at more than just an individual’s history when it comes to serving recommendations. The company said it also tries to contextualize suggestions based on regional preferences as well as what it calls global “taste clusters.”

For instance, someone who watches a lot of action flicks will get more suggestions in the same genre, but Yellin said the taste clusters help the algorithms to also recommend unlikely titles in completely different genres.

“We have over 1,300 taste communities,” he said. “We’re finding these clusters of people and then we’re figuring out who’s like you, who enjoys the same kinds of things, and then we’re mixing and matching those.”

Netflix is using the large amount of data it collects to also introduce another new, machine-learning feature called “percent match.” Like popular online dating websites or mobile apps, the feature will use personalization algorithms to match people with a TV show or movie.

“We’re trying to create our own love story between people and content,” Yellin said.

In addition to receiving recommendations for titles with a higher match percentage, subscribers will be able to see how strong the match is on a specific title, unless the match is below 55 per cent.

“Are we perfect at this? Far from it. If we were perfect at this, we’d show you one title whenever you come to Netflix and we’d be sure that’s the one you want,” he said.

“So we try to be transparent with you. The only things we’re not transparent about are sometimes the secret sauce in our algorithms and machine learning and what we do there.

“We invest a lot in them and that’s proprietary.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc

Good landlords don’t need to use lease loophole

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Provincial legislation allows protections, entitlements for the landlord and the tenant

Matt Robinson
The Vancouver Sun

Recent attempts by landlords to win massive rent hikes from tenants or take advantage of rental loopholes suggest there is a wide gulf between what some owners are earning from their buildings and what they believe they should be earning.

In markets with a near-zero vacancy rate like that of Vancouver, prospective renters fight with their wallets for acceptable places to live. This causes rents to rise so fast they can dwarf the going rates of just a year or two — much less decades — ago.

Some landlords are so keen to grab those rising rates that they — to borrow the words of provincial Housing Minister Rich Coleman — “circumvent the law” by using a loophole to sign fixed-term leases with tenants they in fact want to keep over the long term. It’s a way for landlords to charge their tenants higher-than-legal rent increases or force them to move out.

Before shedding a tear for the landlords who believe taking on long-term tenants means missing out on big returns, let’s clear up a few facts.

Tenants and landlords are bound by the Residential Tenancy Act. That’s not a negative thing for landlords, since the act sets out all sorts of responsibilities, entitlements and protections for both parties. 

Among the entitlements is the right for a landlord to increase rents every year by the rate of inflation plus two per cent. That increase can be charged regardless of what’s happening with local wages, job prospects or economic conditions. Not bad.

This year, the maximum allowed increase is 3.7 per cent. For the sake of comparison, guaranteed income certificates — another safe way to put your cash to work — generally pay substantially less than two per cent a year in Canada.

Meanwhile, landlords can also hope for their property investments to grow in value. And they’ve certainly done well in Vancouver of late.

Of course, the industry is not all about rolling around in profit. There are headaches like broken water heaters, clogged sinks and leaky roofs. But no rational business person would fail to anticipate associated expenses and build them into the rents they charge.

Just for the sake of argument, say one failed to do so. The Tenancy Act has a fix for that. It allows for arbitrators to award additional rent increases to help landlords cover major, unforeseen repairs or renovations.

It also provides for landlords to kick out problem tenants if that happens to be the headache.

Now, if a landlord forgot or didn’t bother to increase rents for decades, then eventually realized their tenants were paying relatively little, that is a problem — especially if it means they’re having trouble paying for maintenance. It happens to be a problem they brought onto themselves, but a problem nonetheless.

No matter, the act has a fix for that, too. Arbitrators can award rent increases when a unit is earning significantly less than similar units nearby.

At least a couple landlords are trying that now. There’s a West End landlord seeking 16 to 43 per cent increases and a Fairview landlord looking for 35 per cent hikes, according to the CBC. They may, like others before them, have trouble proving their cases, but the remedy exists for extraordinary cases.

Any landlord who insists they need to use the fixed-term lease loophole to turn a profit in the rental industry needs to take a closer read of the act or speak to one of the countless landlords who do operate ethically and successfully.

Landlord B.C., a professional industry association that is against use of the loophole, is a good reference that helps landlords know their rights and responsibilities and save costs.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Has the city given up on the homeless in Vancouver?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Homeless population at an all-time high in Vancouver and across the region

Mike Howell
Vancouver Courier

Has the city given up on the homeless?

That was a question I put to two of the city’s top bureaucrats – Gil Kelley and Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas – in a scrum last Thursday after reporters received an update on the city’s new housing and homelessness plan. Kelley is the city’s head planner, Llewellyn-Thomas is the general manager of community services and responsible for the housing file at city hall.

“We’re taking new looks at homelessness and we’re going to be reporting on that in the middle of April,” said Llewellyn-Thomas, after acknowledging the city has expanded the focus of its housing and homelessness plan to address people at various income levels. But, she cautioned, the city is not abandoning homeless people.

Added Kelley: “I would just echo that this is not an either or choice…we’re not giving up on the homeless by any means, or the lowest income.”

Now that I’ve had a few days to consider my question, I could have re-framed it. It was probably unfair. Of course, the city hasn’t given up on homeless people, although with 1,847 counted in the city’s homeless count in March 2016, that conclusion could be reached; it was the highest homeless population ever recorded in Vancouver.

There’s a lot of evidence from over the years to show the city has made efforts to get people off the street, including working with nonprofits and the provincial government to open new social housing, modular housing and shelters. The city has secured temporary housing buildings, funded outreach programs, opened a “rent bank” and set up a task force with the goal of improving conditions in single-room-occupancy hotels.

In the winter, the city opened community centres to give homeless people a temporary refuge from the cold. The city also recently created what it calls a homelessness services team.  

All of the measures are positive.

But if you look through the city’s “housing and homelessness strategy re-set,” as it is referred to in a report going before city council Tuesday, you could probably appreciate why I asked the question about giving up on the homeless.

The report is clearly focused on how best a municipality — without the money and tools from senior levels of government — can address the city’s housing affordability crisis.

I posted a story on our website last week about the nuts and bolts of the 10-year plan. Some of the highlights include building new housing tied to a person’s income to prevent young people and young families from leaving the city, allowing more townhouses, rowhouses and duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods and developing 1,000 affordable housing units on city properties.

Where I heard a lot about homelessness this year was at a news conference in February at the Metro Vancouver offices, where four of the region’s mayors slammed the provincial government for not getting more people into housing.

Mayor Gregor Robertson with mayors from Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Maple Ridge launched a campaign aimed at government to tackle what they say is a crisis not just in Vancouver, but across the region.

Their evidence: There are more than 70 homeless camps spread across municipalities, with an estimated 4,000 people in need of a home. Shelters are at 97 per cent capacity and approximately five people per week are becoming homeless. Another 10,000 people are on B.C. Housing’s waiting list for a permanent home.

Aha, so there’s the shift: What was once predominantly a Vancouver problem is now a regional crisis – a move that better explains why the city is talking more these days about getting young families homes than those people on the street.

Hence the creation in November 2016 of a regional homelessness task force, which is co-chaired by some guy named Robertson — who failed to meet his goal of ending “street homelessness” by 2015 and blamed it on the province and the feds — and Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, whose voice was refreshing to hear over those of the usual suspects on this file.

“This is a crisis that is moving in the wrong direction,” Read told reporters at the news conference. “We have no plan here in the province of British Columbia to address homelessness, and local governments are scrambling to do their best – with no resources, no funding to be able to deal with the citizens on their streets who need care.”

But whether it’s a city problem, or a regional problem, or a shift in the city’s focus to respond to young families — or the provincial government’s fault that thousands are homeless — let me go back to my original question and completely re-phrase it: How do you explain all this to the guy I saw this morning begging for money at Main and Terminal?

© 2017 Vancouver Courier

Ontario hints at measures to cool real estate market in the budget

Monday, March 27th, 2017


Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the upcoming spring budget will include a package of measures dealing with housing affordability.

The Liberal government has promised measures to help curb rising home prices in some markets, particularly in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Speculative investing in the real estate market _ buying a home in the hope of turning a profit rather than to live in it _ is believed to be one of the culprits behind the soaring house prices.

Sousa has said curbing speculative real estate purchases could help address dwindling housing affordability so that first-time buyers are able to get into the market.

Sousa also cited foreign buyers and people moving to Ontario from other jurisdictions as potential contributing factors to the housing shortage.

There’s no date set for the budget yet, but it’s expected in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Metro Vancouver home buyers, tenants moving to outlying areas to live

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Escalating house prices are pushing residents out of the Metro Vancouver housing market

Geordon Omand
The Province

POWELL RIVER, B.C. — David Repa recalls the shock he felt sitting down at a bank after selling his Vancouver business in 2013 and realizing for the first time how much of “a joke” his prospects were of owning a home in the city.

“Oh, my God. I’m not even close,” Repa remembers thinking at the time.

Three years later, the man who co-founded a non-profit electronics-recycling centre and a computer-repair business is living in a spacious home he owns in Powell River. The ocean is a block away and the sound of a creek running through his backyard can be heard from the front steps.

As soaring real estate prices expand up B.C.’s south coast, Powell River has become a refuge for residents of Greater Vancouver who want to make home ownership a reality. The community of about 13,000, located two ferry rides from the Lower Mainland, is also attracting people interested in living somewhere that will allow them to afford the lifestyle they want to lead.

Neil Frost, president of the region’s real estate board, said he’s seen a wave of young people driven out of areas surrounding Metro Vancouver, from Hope to Squamish.

Non-residents have made up about 50 per cent of the buyers in Powell River over the past couple years, said Frost. Prices have grown about 20 per cent, he added, far lower than the surging values in and around Metro Vancouver.

Figures from the B.C. Real Estate Association show Powell River led the province in January for both the number and total value of residential sales, compared with the same period last year. Residential sales jumped 82 per cent to $6.3 million.

“The people in Squamish really felt the pinch,” Frost said. “So many times I had the story, ‘Hey, Neil. This was the year I was going to buy in Squamish. House prices went from $450,000 to $750,000. … I can’t do it. I can’t. So show me something in Powell River.”‘

Jennifer Weaver, her partner Chris Lacoste and their newborn moved to Powell River last year.

Prices in Squamish “exploded” after Weaver and Lacoste bought a mobile home in the community eight years ago for $130,000, she said.

“You have a lot of these outdoor, adventurous, spirited people who maybe don’t want to spend their entire salaries on rent, who are now having to change up their lifestyle in a way to afford to live there. And we just didn’t want to do that,” she said.

They sold their mobile home for nearly $190,000 and were able to buy a three-bedroom house in Powell River with an ocean view and mountain biking trails leaving from their backyard for $215,000.

“There’s a compromise in leaving your community. My husband especially, he really misses meeting up at the pub with the guys,” Weaver said, before emphasizing how positive the move has been for her family.

It isn’t only prospective buyers who are eyeing Powell River. Danielle Gravnic, a 28-year-old nurse, began renting a house when she moved to the coastal community in 2016 after 10 years in Vancouver.

“It’s oppressive,” she said of her struggle to make ends meet in the city. “It’s hard to be a successful young person, and I mean successful in a personal sense, in your well-being.”

Repa describes it as “fairly upsetting” to have poured so much into a community by starting Free Geek Vancouver and The Hackery and still not being able to afford to live in the city.

“Even with the sale of the business, home ownership was not something that was going to happen in Vancouver. Period,” Repa said.

The company wasn’t worth millions of dollars, but its sale likely would have been enough to set someone up anywhere else in Canada, he said.

Still, Vancouver will always have a special place in his heart.

“There are some super creative, super energetic, super caring people, and the only thing that’s holding them back is the fact that they can’t rent a little space to provide their services to the community,” he said. “And that’s the shame. Vancouver loses out because of that.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Cost savings programs to save you money

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

The Vancouver Sun

  1. BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity (HOME) Partnership Program

For qualifying first-time buyers with a down payment, HOME offers a matching down payment loan of up to five per cent of the purchase price to a maximum of $37,500 on a home priced up to $750,000. The loan is interest-free and payment-free for five years. Then, buyers can repay their loan or make monthly payments at prevailing interest rates. Loans are due after 25 years. Learn more, call: 604-4394727 or 1-844-365-4727.

  1. B.C. Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First-Time Home Buyers’ Program

Qualifying first-time buyers may be exempt from paying the PTT of one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent on the remainder of the purchase price of a resale home priced up to $500,000. There’s a proportional exemption for homes priced between $500,000 and $525,000. At $525,000 and above, there is no rebate. Learn more, call: 1-250-387-0604.

  1. Foreign Buyer PTT Exemption

Foreign nationals with work permits coming through the BC Provincial Nominee Program are exempt from the 15-per-cent additional PTT charged to foreign buyers.

  1. B.C. Property Transfer Tax Newly Built Home Exemption

Qualifying buyers of new homes may be exempt from paying the PTT on a newly built home or newly subdivided unit priced up to $750,000. This can save buyers up to $13,000. A partial exemption is available on newly built homes priced between $750,000 and $800,000. Learn more, call: 1-888-3552700.

  1. B.C. home owner grant

The home owner grant reduces property taxes for home owners with an assessed value of up to $1,600,000. It’s reduced $5 for each $1,000 above that value, and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,714,000. This cap is raised to $1,754,000 in northern and rural areas. The basic grant provides up to $570 for property taxes on principal residences in the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts. The additional grant offers $200 to rural home owners elsewhere in the province. There’s also an additional grant of $275 to seniors, those who are permanently disabled and veterans of certain wars. Learn more by contacting your municipal tax office.

  1. B.C. Property Tax Deferment Program

The B.C. Property Tax Deferment Program allows you to defer tax payments. You may qualify if you’re 55 or older, a surviving spouse of any age or a person with disabilities. There’s also a Families with Children Program that allows you to defer if you’re a parent or grandparent financially supporting a child. Learn more, call: 1-888-3552700.

  1. Home Buyers’ Plan

Qualifying home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 (couples can withdraw up to $50,000) from their RRSPs for a down payment. Home buyers who have repaid their RRSPs may be eligible to use the program a second time. To participate in the Home Buyers’ Plan, call 1-800-267-6999.

  1. GST/HST New Housing Rebate

New-home buyers can apply for a rebate for the five-percent GST if the purchase price is $350,000 or less. The rebate is equal to 36 per cent of the GST, to a maximum rebate of $6,300. There’s a proportional GST rebate for new homes priced between $350,000 and $450,000. There’s no rebate for homes priced at $450,000 and above. Learn more, call: 1-800959-8287.

  1. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC)

Eligible individuals who bought a qualifying home in 2016 can claim the home buyers’ amount of $5,000 on line 369 of Schedule 1 when filing their 2016 income tax and benefit returns. For 2016, the maximum HBTC is $750, which is calculated by multiplying the home buyers’ amount of $5,000 by the federal non-refundable tax credit rate of 15 per cent (equal to the lowest personal income tax rate for the year). Learn more, call: 1-800959-8281.

  1. Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI)

HAFI is a program jointly sponsored by the provincial and federal governments to provide up to $20,000 to help eligible low-income seniors and disabled home owners and landlords to make their homes more accessible and safer. Learn more, call: 604-433-2218 or 1-800-257-7756.

  1. B.C. Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit

This credit assists eligible seniors with the cost of permanent home renovations to improve accessibility. The maximum refundable credit is $1,000 per tax year and is calculated as 10 per cent of the qualifying renovation expense (maximum $10,000). The forms are available online. Learn more, call: 1-800-9598281.

  1. CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Premium Refund

This program for home buyers with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) mortgage insurance provides a 10-per-cent premium refund and possible extended amortization without surcharge. To qualify, buyers must purchase an energy-efficient home or make energy-saving renovations. Learn more, call: 604-731-5733.

  1. Energy-saving mortgages

Financial institutions offer special mortgages to home buyers/owners who make their homes energy efficient. For example, home owners who have a home energy audit within 90 days of receiving an RBC Energy Saver™ Mortgage may qualify for a rebate of $300 to their RBC account. Likewise, the BMO Eco Smart Mortgage™ rewards customers for making energyefficient choices.

  1. Low-interest renovation loans

Financial institutions offer “green” loans for home owners making energy-efficient upgrades. For example, the VanCity Home Energy Loan is up to $50,000. RBC’s Energy Saver loan offers one per cent off the interest rate for a fixed-rate instalment loan over $5,000, or a $100 rebate on a home energy audit on a fixed-rate instalment loan over $5,000. For information, visit your financial institution.

15 Energy Conservation and Assistance Program

BC Hydro and FortisBC offer free energy assessments and energy-saving products to income-qualifying households for upgrades ranging from $300 to $5,000. Contact BC Hydro or FortisBC for more details.

16 FortisBC new home energy rebate offer

FortisBC and BC Hydro customers can receive rebates when building ENERGY STAR new homes or installing highefficiency natural gas fireplaces. Contact BC Hydro or FortisBC for more details.

17 Home energy rebate offer

BC Hydro and FortisBC offer home owners rebates for upgrades and improvements. These include insulation, spaceand water-heating systems and ventilation to reduce your energy consumption. There’s a bonus offer for completing three or more upgrades. The total value of the available rebates is $5,300 per household. Learn more, call: 1-877-740-0055.

18 Energy-saving kits

BC Hydro and FortisBC offer income-qualifying customers a free energy-saving kit containing products to help save energy and money. Check their websites for details.

19 ENERGY STAR appliances

BC Hydro Power Smart and various municipalities are offering $100 mail-in rebates to home owners buying ENERGY STAR clothes dryers and refrigerators. Coquitlam, New Westminster, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Richmond, Vancouver and West Vancouver are participating. Learn more by contacting your local municipality.

20 FortisBC rebates for homes

Rebates for home owners include $300 for purchasing an EnerChoice fireplace, up to $1,800 off an ENERGY STAR water heater, or a $1,000 rebate for switching to natural gas (from oil or propane) and installing an ENERGY STAR heating system. Total value of available rebates is $5,300 per household. Learn more, call: 1-800-663-8400.

21 FortisBC rebate for rental apartment buildings

The Rental Apartment Efficiency Program for owners and managers of rental apartment buildings of nine or more units includes a water-efficient shower head, kitchen/bathroom faucet aerator, energy assessment and ongoing professional assistance. Learn more at www.

22 Join the Power Smart team

Become a member of Team Power Smart and start a challenge to reduce your electricity use by 10 per cent over the next year. If you’re successful, you’ll earn a $50 reward. Learn more at

23 Building energy retrofit funds

The City of Vancouver’s $1 million fund includes a $150,000 grant to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for retrofits to pre1940s homes, a new Home Energy Efficiency Empowerment Program for 675 home owners to evaluate energy efficiency, and $1 million to a Green Landlord Program to help non-market apartment building owners and operators reinvest in buildings and reduce energy costs. Contact the City of Vancouver for more details.

24 Rain barrel subsidy programs

Metro Vancouver municipalities offer rain barrels for sale at a discount for residents. For example, Richmond offers $30, Burnaby offers $70, Coquitlam offers $72 and West Vancouver offers $55. Other municipalities may have similar offers. Contact your municipality for more information.

25 Water-saving kits

Most Metro Vancouver municipalities offer watersaving kits to reduce water use including Burnaby, Coquitlam and Delta. Contact your local municipality to see what it offers.

26 Heritage Energy Retrofit Grant

Grants of up to $6,000 per household are available to assist with energy retrofits for Vancouver homes built before 1940 and homes listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register. Qualifying retrofits include insulation, air sealing, window repairs, storm windows and high-efficiency forms of heating and hot water. Learn more at

27 Local government water meter programs

Municipalities may offer water metering, so you only pay for the water you use. Burnaby, Delta, Richmond and West Vancouver have programs. For more information, visit your municipality’s website and search for “water meter.”

28 Vancouver Thermal Imaging Program

This is a new program to help detached home owners identify heat loss and connect them with energy-saving incentives. Neighbourhoods piloting the program include Strathcona, Hastings Sunrise, Dunbar-Southlands, Riley Park and Victoria Fraserview. Contact [email protected] for more information.

29 Leaders in Energy Management Program

The Leaders in Energy Management Program partners BC Hydro with B.C.’s largest commercial, government and institutional customers. The program is offered to users who spend more than $200,000 a year on energy. Customers gain access to energy-management programs, tools and incentives. Learn more, call: 1-800-4746886.

30 Business energysaving incentives

These financial incentives are offered to organizations that replace inefficient technologies with energy-efficient ones. Learn more, call: 1-800-474-6886.

31 FortisBC rebate program for businesses

FortisBC provides a variety of rebates for commercial buildings. For more information on what programs are available, and to see if your business qualifies, contact FortisBC.

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