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In expensive housing markets, we need something practical to offer people who have trouble affording rent or buying a house. Beyond saving for longer or heading to the distant suburbs, that is.

Toronto Life has stepped up with some ideas. In an article headlined How to Hack the Market, it offers seven strategies used by actual people to get into housing in non-traditional ways. Some of the ideas are smart:

  • A service called HomeShare that pairs seniors looking for tenants in their homes and students looking for accommodations
  • A builder who is offering homes designed for multiple generations of a family.
  • Building homes on narrow plots of prime real estate

But I wonder if a couple of other ideas are built for the long term. Micro condos sound like a cool concept, but will they hold their value if the condo market cools and you can get a one-bedroom unit at a reasonable price? Home sharing with friends can definitely cut the cost of buying, but is it really possible to co-own a house with another couple over the long-term? People are very particular about their houses and their families and co-ownership would require a lot of compromising.

What I like about all these ideas is that they provide options for people who feel crushed by the economics of expensive houses and rents. There is hope for young buyers, even in cities where houses may cost north of $1-million.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Anyone for a 10-year mortgage? How about 30?

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz thinks home buyers should be encouraged to choose mortgages with terms longer than the usual five years. Here’s an analysis of the good and the bad of longer term mortgages.

How to turn things around if you’ve saved nothing for retirement

A radical solution for people aged 50 and up who haven’t started putting money away for retirement – save 50 per cent or more of every paycheque.

Small touches that make your house look weird

Real estate agent/blogger David Fleming offers a galley of bizarro photos taken in houses for sale. A seminar on how to make your home look unappealing.

Blazing F.I.R.E. controversies

The financial independence, retire early trend has fuelled an intense debate in the personal finance world. Can you really retire young if you save aggressively for a period of time?

Salt is good for you

Repeating this item from earlier in the week because the link wasn’t included.

Nine ways to get extra value from that box of salt in your kitchen, aside from adding it to your French fries. Chill drinks, clean cutting boards and more.

Today’s financial tool

Big Life is a fun to use life expectancy calculator that lets you see if you’ll live long enough to experience future events like the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup. This calculator gave me 89 years, which means 33 years for the Leafs to get their act together.


This two-minute video looks at the renovations that most improve a home’s value. New garage doors get mentioned off the top.

Ask Rob

Q: The deadline to file taxes has ended and, over the last several years, I’ve always done them myself. However, now my tax situation is getting a bit more complicated and will continue to as a result of marriage, kids, house, cottage, etc. At what point does it make sense to hire an accountant, and, more importantly, how does one go about finding one?

A: Hire an accountant when in filing your own taxes, you are unsure that you (a) are getting all the tax relief you’re entitled to and (b) are presenting your tax situation in a well-documented way that will fully satisfy the Canada Revenue Agency. Ask friends, relatives, financial advisers and colleagues to recommend an accountant, and then contact this person to discuss rates and services.

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 and clarity.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

  • B.C. wildland firefighter, 33, looks to build his dream home, with a sauna and in-law suite, for $100,000
  • Follow the right protocol to adjust or dispute your tax filings
  • This REIT just dropped in price Wednesday – and there are five good reasons to buy on the dip (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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