I can explain with numbers how crushing an expensive housing market is, but here’s something that punches harder. It’s an account by a Victoria woman of living in a no-kids-allowed condo with a temperamental two-year-old.

This woman and her husband can’t get a mortgage – she’s a freelancer and he’s an engineering student. That leaves renting in a city where high house prices have stoked demand for rentals. You have to check out her description of the less-than-ideal apartments she and her partner looked at before lucking into an adult-only condo owned by a friend. A loophole allows the place to be rented to someone with a toddler.

You can imagine the stress of living in this building with a child going through a normal tantrum phase and not sleeping very well. But without either a drop in house prices or more rental options, she and her family are staying put. “We have nowhere else to go,” she writes.

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Personal finance is at its most useful when it provides answers to problems. But expensive housing markets in cities like Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and some others defy solutions. If you can’t afford to own a house, renting is the only alternative other than moving in with family. And yet finding an affordable, livable rental can be an ordeal. Landlords are cocky and tenants have to take it.

The housing market in some cities badly needs a time-out. If house prices stagnated or fell for a few years, more people could comfortably afford to buy and there would be less pressure on the rental market. In the meantime, I’m wide open to any suggestions from readers on how to live in a market where it’s expensive to buy and rent.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list …

What to say to customer service reps

Really detailed advice on how to phrase things when talking to a company’s customer service department about a problem or to get a better deal on something.

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A treasure chest of travel tips

A collection of travel advice from The New York Times, including articles on saving money while booking travel and a look at the bargain potential of one-way airfares. Don’t miss the thoughts from people who have written the paper’s travel column over the past 25 years. Travelling alone? Here are the best 50 cities for solo trips.

Land transfer tax traps

Twenty-five Canadian cities are ranked here from most to least expensive in terms of land-transfer taxes applied when you buy a house. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Eastern Canada look particularly good. Hey, don’t they have reasonably-priced houses as well?

Catching up with bitcoin

As of last week, the price was down 70 per cent from its late-2017 peak. This is what you missed out on if you didn’t buy when bitcoin was the money world’s darling last year.

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Today’s featured financial tool

You may have heard that securities regulators recently decided not to eliminate the mutual-fund industry’s practice of embedding fees for advisers in the cost of owning funds. Here’s a detailed explanation of how embedded commissions work.

Quote of the Week

A newsletter last week asked whether social-media posts about toys and trips are just privileged bragging. A reader offered this great observation: “I finally figured out that what you see on someone’s Facebook page is their highlight reel. You can assume all the stuff they don’t put on is no better than all your own everyday stuff. And you could probably put together a pretty good highlight reel of your own that’s just as good. So I don’t get exercised any more about how much better others’ lives appear to be.”

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Carrick Talks Money: How can you say no to spending without feeling guilty?

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What I’ve been writing about

  • Why it’s not your fault it’s so hard to understand investing
  • Some homeowners will pay more than expected to renew their mortgage
  • How seniors get second-class treatment at some online brokerage firms (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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