Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

You had your best-laid plans and then COVID-19 came along and hammered the entire economy. But you’ve got this – if you have the right information. Join Rob Carrick and Roma Luciw on Stress Test, a podcast guiding you through one of the biggest challenges your finances will ever face.

ROB: You’ve got money issues, or maybe you’ve got money aspirations. Whatever your plans were, COVID hasn’t helped. So you need a new plan. That’s what we’re here for.

Welcome to Stress Test, the Globe and Mail podcast where we look at how the rules of personal finance have changed in the pandemic for Gen Z and millennials. I’m Rob Carrick, personal finance columnist at the Globe and Mail,

ROMA: And I’m Roma Luciw, the personal finance editor at the Globe.

Story continues below advertisement

ROB: It’s week 7000 of the pandemic. Roma, how are you holding up?

ROMA: Well, the weather has turned so it is now a situation where I am under my blanket and sweating.

ROB: Yes, we’ve had our one hour of spring that we usually get in central Canada and it’s on to 30-degree-plus temperatures and we’re under blankets recording Stress Test. The topic du jour is housing, the single most important expense that all families have, if they’re fortunate enough to own a house, that crowds out so much else. And that is why we’re going to delve into it today. Can we own houses and do all of the other important financial things in life?

ROMA: Everyone agrees that housing is one of the core problems with most of the issues we see with personal finance today. And everyone knows why. People buy a house or a home that they cannot afford. So what they do is they buy the house first, and then they try to wrap their finances around it. And that just doesn’t work. One of the main reasons we picked Stress Test for the name of our podcast is because the stress test exists. So it’s a really good way into this topic. How can you make sure that you don’t buy too much house?

ROB: I think it’s important to talk about real estate in the pandemic because there’s a lot of suspense about how the housing market is going to do as we normalize the economy. Is it going to come back fast and furious? Are prices are going to start rising? Are prices going to go down? I think people are waiting to see but I think there is still a lot of interest in homeownership in Canada. It’s not going away.

ROMA: One of the things that we’ve seen of people of all ages, but certainly with younger Canadians, is that they value home-owning as much as any other generation. They overwhelmingly aspire to be homeowners. And this is, you know, the same story that we see with most Canadians. There’s a fixation on this idea of owning your own home. People simply don’t see you as being financially successful as a renter, even in those cases where it makes more sense to be a renter. You know, so that hasn’t gone away. And that’s an interesting element of the homeowning puzzle.

ROB: Real estate is always a hot topic, even during a pandemic. And you know that in every episode of Stress Test, we talk to real people and experts to see how the basic rules of personal finance have been stress-tested by COVID-19. Today, we’re focusing on real estate. How should you approach the housing market if you’re young, especially considering a pandemic?

Story continues below advertisement

That's up next.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: This podcast is brought to you by CPP Investments. Take comfort knowing the Canada Pension Plan Fund will be there for you. We invest to help ensure the CPP Fund remains resilient over the long term, sustainable and secure for millions of Canadians. Learn more at CPPinvestments.com.

ROMA: Every individual has their own story. Why did they take a leap into buying their first home? Well, back in April, while we were all in isolation mode, we gave Jackie a call.

JACKIE: My name is Jackie Nguyen. I live in Brampton, Ontario.

ROMA: Jackie works in the arts as a development officer, which means it’s her job to solicit donations and get grants. So basically --

JACKIE: Yeah, my job is about getting money.

Story continues below advertisement

ROMA: Jackie loves her work and is even doing a masters to further her career prospects. Everything -- her job, school and social life -- they were all in one city, her hometown.

JACKIE: I grew up in Toronto, Ontario. My parents are both immigrants from Vietnam. My parents worked minimum wage their entire life here in Canada.

ROMA: By the time Jackie was 18, she was working to put herself through school and even supporting her parents when they were laid off.

JACKIE: I had no financial literacy while growing up either. I was about 18 and I realized, you know, there’s a bigger game out there. People are playing a very smart game like, they’re not just making money just through their income like they need to be financially literate to get ahead. You know, my biggest dream was to own a home. I’ve never had a comfortable place. I’ve never had a living room. My parents had such a small space. My dad slept on the floor, basically like, he put a mattress on the floor.

ROMA: Jackie made that goal the reality and bought her own place in February of 2020. She closed the deal just as the coronavirus was starting to change the way we do everything.

JACKIE: And you know, like I did this all on my own. So this was really a new experience like, you know, some people have their parents putting down their down payment, they’ll walk them through the steps, their parents will just give them like, their realtor, their lawyer, their everything, like I hunted down my entire team. You know, like I started with, like, what is a mortgage?

Story continues below advertisement

ROMA: So why did she pick this really stressful time to buy a condo? It all started with her roommate situation and her last rental in Toronto.

JACKIE: I moved in with my amazingly friendly mid-age roommate. We met on Kijiji, and we just hit it off, and he was just so sweet. We had such a great system for four years.

ROMA: But their time was up.

JACKIE: And then what happened was, I get a text message...

ROMA: The text was from her landlord.

JACKIE: ...That said, thank you so much for being a great tenant. Unfortunately, you would have to be evicted or like you would have to leave at the end of November, and I thought, well, first of all I know my rights. I don’t have to leave like through a text message. Like, you have to present something formal to me.

Story continues below advertisement

ROMA: But Jackie didn’t have her name on the lease. And the landlord said they wanted to renovate. Jackie was being renovicted.

JACKIE: Here I am freaking out thinking I’m about to get kicked out. I’m not on the lease. I have no protection over me. And I started to fight with my roommate, which I’ve never had a fight with for the last four years. And so he was never planning on becoming a homeowner. He was planning on renting throughout his whole life. And because of the Toronto market, and how crazy it is, he desperately required having a good reference from the landlords. So he didn’t want to push the landlords, he didn’t want to fight the landlords, he was happily willing to just accept their conditions.

ROMA: Now Jackie was on a mission. She was determined to buy a home. But the timing wasn’t great. She had just gotten married. She was getting a new job. She tore her ACL and needed surgery. And she was in the middle of negotiating around her eviction. How much of a pile-on do you need? So how does she feel about the timing of buying her condo?

JACKIE: It was completely rushed. It was completely rushed. I didn’t want to buy this year,

ROMA: But she didn’t want to pay Toronto rental prices, especially when she felt she and her wife could handle mortgage payments instead. But she was priced out of Toronto. So she went to the burbs.

JACKIE: I just moved to downtown Brampton. Everything’s accessible and it was within my price point. But I definitely did a bully offer to get the place. I bought the place during the hottest month in history. I bought in February 2020 when the market was not just hot, it was boiling. So I put like 42K over asking.

Story continues below advertisement

ROMA: Jackie offered $471,900 and she got it. Just in the nick of time.

JACKIE: I said to my realtor. My main concern is this eviction, like I need a place within 30 days.

ROMA: Jackie closed with a 20% down payment, which was invested in an RRSP. When she went to withdraw it in March, she was in for a rude surprise, thanks to the stock market.

JACKIE: And I come back and the amount dropped from 35,000 to 26,000. So automatically, I lost $9,000.

ROMA: That hurt. Despite all the financial pressure, Jackie said she always had a six-month emergency fund. And now she’s very happy to be in her first home, even though it was an emotional roller coaster to get there. But she still has questions.

JACKIE: Has my property value appreciated since? Because I was in the hottest market in like Toronto history. Has my property depreciated now in value since this COVID situation? Should I have buyer’s remorse? Should I have waited?

ROB: I’m super impressed with Jackie. She’s really got her stuff together for a 25-year-old. She’s having a little buyer’s remorse because she bought at the peak. I don’t think she has a problem as long as she’s prepared to stay where she is for five to ten years. She needs to put down some roots and build up some equity and not worry about what’s happening here and now.

She's in the market, she will have a chance to move up later. She's done a lot of hard financial work to get there. I'm impressed with it all. She just needs to persevere now.

ROMA: Sounds like Jackie has made some really smart decisions. She saved money for a down payment. She has money in an emergency fund,which immediately puts her far ahead of a lot of other people. And she’s planning on staying there for some time, her life is there. I think if she had tried to buy something downtown, she would have spent a lot more and ultimately, the stress of those higher payments might have not been worth it for her. Here, she’s bought something that she’s comfortable making the payments, she can still have a lifestyle that she wants, she can still potentially put things away for other goals. And you know, as her life changes, and she moves along, as long as she stays there a set amount of time, as Rob mentioned, I think this will be a good move for her.

ROB: One thing that strikes me about Jackie’s situation is that she’s bought herself a home, a place to live, a place to call her own, a place where she doesn’t have to worry about nasty landlords. But is it an investment? I’m not so sure. I’m not convinced there will be anything like the investment gains that we saw in the past ten years as we look forward. So she should understand she’s bought herself a home, not an investment.

Why do we have this mindset of housing as an investment? How did we get here?

I think a lot of it has to do with low interest rates that made mortgages accessible, and it has to do with the fear of missing out, the idea that there's this party going on, all the homeowners are there, I'm a renter, and I wasn't invited, I gotta get in.

ROMA: I think part of it is a reluctance to rent over the long term. One factor is that renting has become very expensive in big cities. It’s becoming more difficult to find rentals. And it’s harder to find rentals where you can raise a family. COVID might play a factor in this because renting during this time has been even trickier than ever. So that could be another factor and, you know, spurring millennials that were already motivated to buy into a decision that hopefully they’re ready for.

ROB: What makes the housing market today so much different than Boomer parents might have had when they first got into the housing market, is that housing has exploded as a commodity. Interest rates were very low, so mortgages were super affordable. We had strong immigration, more people coming into the country wanting homes. There wasn’t a lot of residential construction and a lot of cities, for various zoning reasons. And we had this home ownership culture emerge, like TV shows and magazines and social media all praising the idea of homeownership. And there’s just been this rush into it. And that has driven the price up very quickly and very, very strongly. And so houses are a lot less affordable to today’s young couple than one, let’s say, 30 years ago.

ROMA: One of the things we see a lot is people coming and saying, I’m struggling with credit card debt. I have this HELOC, I can’t save for retirement. They’re frustrated by all these things that are holding them back. And if you’d really dig in and look at what’s happening in their lives, the common problem often is the same. They’ve bought too much house. So the mortgage payments are eating up more than they should be and leaving them without the ability to stash away money for other things to pay down debt to live their life. So this is why a lot of people’s financial issues start with buying too much home.

ROB: So we’re going to get an expert opinion on all of that with a real estate agent who is big on data analysis. That’s up next.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: This podcast is brought to you by CPP Investments. At CPP Investments, we never lose sight of the long term. We invest the Canada Pension Plan Fund to help provide financial security for generations of Canadians. We diversify the CPP Fund across geographies and asset classes to access the best investment opportunities and generate sustainable long-term returns. The fund is now more than $400 billion. To learn more about our investment performance for Canadians visit CPPinvestments.com.

ROB: John Pasalis is with the real estate firm Realosophy in Toronto. This interview you’re about to hear was done in mid- May and 2020.

[MUSIC]

Now I know a lot of young people are thinking I wonder if this is my chance to get in prices are going to go down. I'm lucky enough to still have a job. Is this my time? What do you think?

JOHN:I mean, that’s a great question. I mean, we’re not seeing those dynamics quite yet, the markets have been pretty stable. The market is actually, over the past four weeks, has been heating up again, which is really interesting. I mean, no one expected that. And that’s just because buyers are jumping into the market faster than sellers. You know, but with respect to this idea of is this the time? I mean, I think most people are hoping prices fall, which is interesting, because economically, obviously, that’s not a great thing. But if you’re a first-time buyer, you certainly would like to see a discount. But I think if we do see that it’s not going to be for, you know, at least six to 12 months. I think that’s when we’re going to start feeling the effects of a potential recession. You know, once the mortgage deferrals have slowed down and once we know how many people actually have jobs in six months

ROB: It amazes me how the real estate sector and by that I mean, people kind of like you, but the more sales-oriented ones plus the mortgage people, they look at what’s happening, they look at the carnage in the economy think, Yeah, but housing’s not going to be affected and I think, How could it not be?

JOHN: You know, I think about this a lot. And we’re still early into this period. I mean, it’s only mid main right now. And so far it’s been stable. I mean, I think, again, a lot of this has been because of the financial support from the government. I mean, you’re right, it’s very possible that we could see some downward pressure. To me, the best case scenario is that prices remain stable. We look back in February, you know, the market was so out of balance. Prices were going up 15 - 17% a year, right. So even if you cut half of the buyers out of the market, it’s not enough to make prices crash, it’s probably enough to kind of get prices to remain flat. So for prices to fall, we need to see sort of these recessionary side effects, which are, you know, people who can’t hold on to their homes anymore because they lost their jobs and they need to sell. And I think that’s sort of the unknown part, how much of that we’re going to see and that I think is going to impact on house prices in the next six to 12 months.

ROB: I’d like to back up a little bit now and talk about how we got to where we are today. I want to talk about the house-buying mania that I think millennials, and even the younger Gen Z people who are just starting to get the market, were feeling and how that propelled them to get into the housing market and how that’s affected their personal finances to start off with. Can you give me a quick, concise version of how banks and other lenders decide how much people can afford to buy?

JOHN: The main formula is effectively the bank doesn’t want more than roughly one third of your before-tax income to go towards your housing expenses, and specifically, your mortgage property taxes and 50% of your heating. So that’s the basic formula. They call it a gross debt service ratio. And that’s the main thing that we’re looking for. The other part, of course, is you need at least a 5% down payment, or if you’re spending over a million, you need a 20% down payment. But the main constraint usually is this cash flow constraint, how much money you’re spending towards your home.

ROB: You know, what always strikes me about the measures that banks and other lenders use them is they’re only measuring how you can carry the house before you buy. They’re never looking at things like daycare, for one or two kids, car payments, all the other obligations you have as a homeowner. When you look at the housing affordability measures and you add in the real life costs, how much heavier does the burden of owning a house become?

JOHN: Oh, it’s significant. I mean, I think it’s fair for the banks to not take those into account because not everyone has children or not everyone has a car. But certainly for the people who are planning it, it has a huge impact. I mean, a lot of times when we meet up with buyers in our office, you know, we don’t just go through what they can afford. We actually go through a cash flow analysis of what the carrying costs on the house might be because a lot of people, what we find is you know, they come in and say okay, we can afford a $2800 mortgage because that’s what we pay in rent. And then you go through what the taxes are, what their maintenance budget should be, all these other costs which add say, another $1200, $1500 a month and all of a sudden you know, they’re a bit shocked. And they were planning on spending a certain price on their home, based on the mortgage payment. And then when they look at these other costs, you know, they need to scale back. And that, of course, doesn’t even take into account all these costs that you mentioned, which a lot of people I think, is one of the challenges when they’re buying a home that they don’t think about, you know, like things like daycare.

ROB: What about the idea of a fear of missing out? Prices are going up 10% as you just said, if we don’t jump in today, it’s we’re maxing our finest doesn’t we’ll never get in how much has that been driving the market?

JOHN: Yeah, that’s a huge factor. I mean, and, you know, I, I must say that the time I saw it the most was actually like the time where people should have been more cautious. And that was back in, you know, in 2017. Prices were rising 20% to 30% per year, which is alarming. And that’s when, you see things like that, I mean, you really need to, you know, hit pause and ask yourself where the market’s going. But when that was happening, yeah, the mindset of the buyer was if house prices are rising 20% a year, it means if I wait six months, that house is going to be 10% more expensive. And certainly when you have that mindset, it does create a lot of fear of missing out and anxiety for homebuyers to just get into the market.

ROB: I want to talk a bit about the buyers that you see, where are they getting their downpayment money from?

JOHN: Many of them do have savings of their own. But we are of course, seeing a lot of buyers getting help from family. And the one interesting thing that I’ve seen, I mean, I’ve been doing this for about 15 years or so is that, you know, when I started in this business, it was very common for buyers to get help from families. But the big shift was, you know, back then, homebuyers were getting, you know, $10, 000, $20, 000 or $30,000, you know, like five-figure type checks. And as we’ve moved on over the past, you know, 10 plus years, you know, those gifts have been in the six figures. So we’re talking like $100,000 or $150,000. You know, this is driven by, I’d say two main things. It’s that the young buyers today just need a bigger down payments to get into the market. Combined with the fact that their parents home, over the past 10 years, has probably doubled in value as well. Right? So they have more equity. And I suspect in many cases, the parents are just drawing money from their principal residence to help their kids.

ROB: What do you think about the idea that renting is throwing money away?

JOHN: It’s a silly, I mean, it’s a very silly idea. And I say that coming from a background of real estate and I’m a very homeowner biased person myself, you’re paying obviously for shelter. And it’s not really that different from me saying the interest I’m paying on my mortgage and the property taxes I’m paying for. My home is not a waste of money. I mean, fine, I have the benefit of paying down my principal, but you know, owning my home cost me probably a little bit more than it would if I just rented it as well. So it’s certainly not a waste of money. And for some people, it’s the better strategy as well. So I wouldn’t I have that type of mindset for sure.

ROB: You alluded to this earlier, but I wonder if you could give us a nice, precise mathematical breakdown of how the cost of renting compares to owning.

JOHN: So when we break down the costs, I mean, it’s interesting actually, especially for single-family homes. It is significantly more expensive to own your home in terms of cash that’s coming out of your pocket. Now, forget that part of your mortgage is going towards your principal, right? It’s going towards like, a forced savings account. But the money that’s coming out of your pocket exceeds the cost of renting it and I know this because you say to yourself, okay, I’m going to put a 30% down payment on this home. I’m going to get X dollars in rent every month, is that going to cover my mortgage payment, my property taxes, my insurance and all of these expenses? And most of the time it doesn’t, right? Like you have a much higher cost of living each month than you do if you’re a renter.

ROB: You may remember this but about I guess about 18 months ago, you and I spoke for a story I was working on about financial stress. And I’ve been noticing that a lot of people were telling pollsters, they felt surprisingly high levels of stress. And I was drawing a distinction between these high readings of stress in these polls and the fact that everything else was pretty much going gangbusters in the economy. In cases where people were feeling a lot of stress, and a lot of people were, what role do you think their house played in that stress?

JOHN: Oh, I think it played the biggest role. If we think about like, the financial stress that a lot of households have, I really do believe that a lot of it stems from bad real estate decisions. And I say that because if you actually look at most people’s household budgets, you know, your housing costs are the single biggest expense typically, right? And it’s a fixed cost, meaning that you can’t scale it down. It’s not like travel where you can just choose to travel less or go on, you know, more affordable vacations. It’s a fixed expense. And I think it’s important to think about your budget and your housing decisions before you jump into it because It has a long-term effect on your lifestyle, your budget and your, you know, your happiness going forward.

ROB: John, we got to talk about houses as an investment because deep down, I think everybody believes that ultimately, oh, yes, it’s a nice place to live. And I can make it up real nice. But it’s really an investment. Iit’s going to be the best thing I do financially in my life. What do you think about that line of reasoning?

JOHN: I do, to some extent, think that if I had the option of, you know, buying a home or renting the same home for 20 years, will I be better off financially, if I buy it? I mean, I tend to think you will be. Like, you will have an asset that, over a long period of time, you’ll be paying off, it’ll be like a forced savings account. And when you retire, you’ll either have a ton of equity in it or your housing costs will be relatively low. So I do think there is a lot of truth to that. But going back to this rent-versus-buy question, I don’t think that is the end of it. I don’t think buying a home is just about the finances. And I think that’s kind of one of the challenges that maybe some buyers face, is that they only focus on -- and I think that’s one of the challenges with this whole idea of rent-versus-buy calculators. I mean, it really just makes it all about the math. And I don’t think it is, right? And I think it’s important to kind of take all of these things into consideration when you’re trying to decide if buying is the right decision for you. It’s not just the math, I think there’s a big factor in the type of life you want to live as well.

I think it's important for buyers to just ask themselves that if you weren't going to make money over the next 10 years, would you still buy a home? Right? And if the answer is yes, then you're kind of buying for the right reasons. If the answer is no, like, if the only reason you're buying is because you expect to make a big profit off of it, then, you know, I don't know if it's the best decision, especially if you're making significant compromises in other parts of your life. For example, again, I don't like to think of my home, my principal residence, necessarily in that way. I think you should just be buying it because you want a home and you're happy, you know, maintaining it, managing it and you hope to make money obviously over the years, but I certainly wouldn't expect to.

ROB: Now what you just said is a perfect message for our real person Jackie, who bought a home at the peak in Brampton. What do you tell someone who thinks, Did I make a big mistake? I bought near the peak. And now I’m worried prices are going to go down. Was that a mistake?

JOHN: No, I don’t think so. And I think, you know, it’s a great question. I’ve been getting this a lot from, you know, homebuyers like, Should I even be buying now? And I think the challenge with that mindset is that homebuyers are trying to, you know, they’re trying to basically mitigate risk by trying to predict the unpredictable. By that, I mean they’re trying to predict which way home prices will go over the next six, 12, 18 months. And I think the bigger questions they should be asking themselves are things that they can control and risks that they can mitigate themselves. I mean, the first ones are, of course, financial and ensuring that they’re buying within a budget that they’re comfortable with, ensuring that if they do lose their income for two or three or six months that they can manage their costs and are not going to be stretched financially or forced to sell. So they have this, you know, emergency backup, and that they’re planning on buying for at least five years, if not 10 years. So those are all the things that are within our control. I personally don’t concern myself as much if prices fall in the short-term, because your horizon is long term. I mean, you’re again, you’re making a 10-year bet, not a two-month bet

ROB: I’m surprised how many younger people I’ve heard from in the past couple years who are very keen to buy real estate as an investor. They’ll buy it, they’ll rent it out, they’ll fix it up, they’ll flip it. Given that we’re in a pandemic, and prospects are very iffy. How wise is it to pick up real estate strictly as an investment not a place to live?

JOHN: That is, so you know, it’s funny you say that. I remember I met with a young buyer. She was not looking at moving into it, she was wanted to buy it strictly as a rental property. I mean, my answer to that is, it’s hard to buy real estate as an investment in the GTA now and for it to work financially. And when I say to work financially, you know, the biggest thing that you want as an investor is to have a property that carries itself. And by that, I mean, if you put down your down payment of say, 30%, the rent should cover all of your expenses. You should not be cash flow negative. You know, I did an analysis of investors who were buying single-family homes in York Region back in 2016, and 2017. They were spending, you know, $1.3 million for a home that was only generating like $2600 a month in rent. And when you did the math, they were losing about $1300 a month. And their mindset was, well, who cares if I lose $1300 bucks a month, the home’s going up 10% a year. I’m making $100 000 a year. But the problem is, you’re right, that mindset’s fine when prices are rising. In a pandemic, you’re not only losing $1300 a month, because if your tenant can’t pay you, the cost to carry that home are over $ 4000 a month and I do think these are kind of the households that are being stretched a little bit right now,

ROB: John, when you’re talking to young adults, do you get a sense that they’re resentful about how well their parents have done in the housing market and how that has jacked up prices to a point where it’s so hard for them to get in?

JOHN: They don’t think about in the context of their parents, because their parents’ home going up kind of helps them but they think about it in the context of sort of the generation that’s just ahead of them. And you know, it’s basically my generation that gone into the market 10 or 15 years ago, that benefited from this. You know, I’ve called this effectively like a birth year lottery. You know, the generation that’s 10 or 15 years younger than me, I don’t think are going to see this, you know, 15-plus-year growth and they’re, of course, now in a position where they can’t buy where I was able to buy. You know, to buy the same kind of home in the same price range, they have to go far outside the city.

ROB: I want to close and ask a big picture question. In the United States, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the housing market and then in ’08 - ’09, their housing market went bust. Before the pandemic, there were a lot of hot housing markets but nothing crazy. But in Canada, housing is a religion. We never had the bust in ’08 - ’09. And we are so torqued about homeownership, notably more so than Americans. Why is that?

JOHN: I don’t know why we are so biased towards homeownership here. I do think probably a big factor, of course, is that we’ve had a 20-plus-year housing boom, that has been uninterrupted. You know, when you look at this as a younger buyer, you think, Oh my God, this is like the easiest way to make money. I just buy a house. And you know, I’m going to be a millionaire in 10 years. And I think if that slows down, if prices are not rising 10% a year, maybe that mindset will shift a little bit.

ROB: Lots of great insight there from John.

Now I'm going to give you my three takeaways, the three things you should remember if you've got real estate in mind.

One: Hype about homeownership leads people to buy homes they can't afford and by afford, I mean, save for the future, invest, pay for daycare and do all the fun stuff in life.

Two: The smart buyer buys less house and they can afford and plans to stay for at least five years. That way you ride through any market disturbances ahead caused by the pandemic.

Three: Look at why you're buying a house. If it's as an investment, you may be disappointed. You may even lose value in the short-term.

ROMA: As we’re wrapping up, I’d like to point out that the Globe and Mail has a number of online tools, including a “how much housing can you afford” calculator. Rob, why don’t you talk us through how this came about?

ROB: You know, several years back I was looking at the online mortgage affordability calculators offered by mortgage lenders, how they make houses seem more affordable than they actually are because they don’t factor in basic costs, like daycare, like car payments, like saving for retirement. I thought I can build a better calculator. And that’s what our Real Life Ratio Calculator is. It is a calculator for real life that puts houses up against all the other expenses of real life and tells you can you afford it? The calculator is designed to show how much money is left over after you pay your major expenses. If there’s only a little bit left over, you can’t afford that house.

ROMA: It’s a really useful tool for anyone who wants to buy a house and still have a life.

ROB: Yeah, and I’d like to think that people who already own houses can use it, too, to find out maybe areas where they can trim and make their lives a little bit more comfortable financially.

ROMA: You can find our calculator at TGAM.ca/realliferatio.

ROB: Or google “real life ratio calculator.”

ROMA: Thanks for listening to Stress Test. This show was produced by Hannah Sung. Editing and mixing by TK Matunda. Our executive producer is Kiran Rana. Big thanks to John Pasalis of Realosophy and Jackie, our real estate buyer in Brampton.

ROB: If you like what you’re heard, let the world know. Leave us a rating and review at Apple podcasts. And if you know someone who is obsessed with real estate or just needs to hear some real talk on personal finance, send them this show. Tell them to subscribe to Stress Test at Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or their favorite podcast app.

ROMA: We love hearing from our listeners. So we want to know if you have any questions for us. Send us a voice memo and we might feature you in an upcoming show. Future episodes include: What it costs to live downtown, the cost of having kids or the savings you can get by moving back in with your parents. Ask questions for any and all of the above. This is how you can do it. Just record your voice on your phone in the voice recording app and ask your question. Email the voice memo to me Roma Luciw at rluciw@globeandmail.com.

Related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies