Skip to main content
carrick on money

A realtor's sign is placed on the front yard of a home for sale in Toronto on Mar 20 2017.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A home owner vents here about all the repair and maintenance costs he's paying. "Owning, managing and taking care of a home are just too much for me," he writes. "There are a lot of repairs and maintenance that are required, more than I initially expected. And I'm tired of it!"

Amen, brother. The grind of keeping a home operating smoothly is an overlooked aspect of owning a property. Home upkeep costs are sometimes estimated as 1 per cent of the value of the property, or $1 per square foot. This is the annualized average amount – some years will cost you nothing, while others will bombard you with one thing after another. Here's a housing expense calculator that suggests you should expect home maintenance costs to average 3 to 5 per cent annually.

Try not to resort to your line of credit or credit card to finance house upkeep. Instead, look at the major components of your home – roof, furnace, driveway – and estimate when they will need to be replaced. Then, start a reserve fund to cover these costs.

Subscribe to Carrick on Money
Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

Applying the 40-70 rule to your parents
If you're 40 or your parents are 70, it's time to start talking about awkward age-related issues like finances, driving and independence. Here's a booklet on how to start the conversation from a company that provides services to help keep seniors in their homes.

How a bull market warps your brain
A timely reminder of how rising stock markets can lull investors into thinking they're smarter than they actually are. Don't get cocky.

Mortgage insurance premiums on the rise
A look at how the recent increases in mortgage default insurance premiums will affect buyers across the country. Buyers must pay for this insurance if they have a down payment of less than 20 per cent.

Who's in the middle class?
Interviews with people shopping at a U.S. shopping mall suggest pretty much everyone thinks they're middle class.

This is what happens in a hot condo market
In Toronto, the condo market is so hot now that buyers are coming in with unconditional offers. This means buyers are foregoing a chance to make an offer conditional upon a lawyer's review of a condo's status certificate, which offers details on maintenance fees, special assessments and ongoing issues in the building. Another example of how buyers have no power in a hot housing market

Today's featured financial tool
Here's the Canada Revenue Agency's list of free software products you can used to complete your income tax return. Before you buy any tax software, see if these freebies will do the job for you.

Ask Rob
The question: "We are sick of MERs eating into our portfolio. We are thinking of dumping everything to just go with ETFs. What do you think?"

My reply: "I get this question fairly often these days. I think ETFs are an outstanding portfolio-building tool, in part because the cost of owning them is far less than mutual funds. The cost of owning any type of fund is measured through the management expense ratio, or MER. Returns are reported to investors on an after-fee basis. The reason ETFs are cheaper is that there are no costs embedded in their fees to pay for investment advice, as there is with mutual funds. If you're getting financial advice with your funds, that's a value that may justify the higher cost. If you're not getting any advice, then ETFs will cost you less to own and might just perform better.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

What I've been writing about
- Rumours of a capital gains tax hike caused this investor to cash out.
- Is your bank trying to upsell you? Buy this, don't buy that.
- Have a complaint about your bank? Here's where to go.

More Carrick and money coverage
For more money stories, follow me on Twitter and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

Send us an e-mail to let us know what you think of my newsletter.