Skip to main content
carrick on money

ake1150sb/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Rob Carrick is away on holidays, so this week’s newsletters will be written by personal finance reporter Salmaan Farooqui.


Like many millennials, I always figured home ownership would be out of reach for me.

But when I left Toronto and settled in a small town in the interior of B.C., prices were suddenly within a range I could potentially afford. That realization and subsequent search for a home felt a little surreal, given that until I moved here two years ago, I truly believed I’d be a lifelong renter. There was – and continues to be – a lot that I don’t understand about the home-buying process, specifically about how to ensure that I’m not leaving myself too financially stressed.

Even though real estate in some of Canada’s smaller communities is more affordable than in big cities, it has risen sharply since the start of the pandemic. And any purchase still requires a massive amount of money upfront for a down payment and various closing costs, including legal and administrative fees, among other things. On a $250,000 condo, for example, that can reach almost $20,000.

So how much money should you leave in the tank?

Jason Heath, managing director at Objective Financial Partners in Markham, Ont., says there’s no doubt that fear of missing out on a runaway housing market is leading some people to stretch themselves too thin when buying a home.

Once the sale has closed, Mr. Heath says buyers should still have liquid or semi-liquid cash available because the costs associated with ownership are wildly different than renting. By liquid or semi-liquid he means money in a savings account, or in a low-risk TFSA, that can be accessed in a day or two. A line of credit is another option, one that is better than turning to credit cards but not as good as cash, in an emergency.

The amount of money you should have saved largely depends on the type of property you’re buying.

A small, newer condo will likely be safe from most surprise costs, so your emergency fund can be a few thousand dollars. An older condo could require upfront cash and condo fee hikes for unforeseen maintenance issues like roof problems or elevator breakdowns, which buyers should keep in mind.

Much more can go wrong in an actual house, where expenses for pricey repairs can add up quickly if there are problems with plumbing, HVAC systems, roofs and other repairs. One general estimate is to expect to spend between $3,500 and $7,300 per year on these kinds of expenses, per year.

All financial decision as large as a home purchase come with risks. The tricky thing about a home is that the true costs sometimes only appear after the purchase, Mr. Heath says.

Those expenses can even strike in a brand new condo: all it takes is a pipe bursting or flooding and now you’re replacing things like hardwood floors, furniture and other things that may or may not be covered by insurance, or could require you to pay a deductible even if you’re covered.

“Homeownership is kind of like owning a car: you have to expect that every once in a while something comes along that you need to pay for on short notice that isn’t going to be all that exciting and you’re not going to notice a difference, but it need to be done,” says Mr. Heath.

Are you, like me, wondering how expensive of a house you can actually afford – and have enough left over to live your life? The Globe’s very own “Real Life Ratio” calculator will help you figure out if a house will make you house poor.


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.


Salmaan’s personal finance reading list

The downsides of using ‘buy now, pay later’

Ever since ‘buy now, pay later’ became an option on checkout websites everywhere, I’ve been wondering how many people actually use the option and whether it comes with risks. This article talks about why to avoid the tool.

Does a short-term mortgage still make sense?

It feels like we’re on the brink of the last interest rate hike for a while, and many people shopping for a mortgage are going for variable or short-term fixed rates. In this article, Rob McLister talks about whether that’s still a good strategy, and which kind of homeowners might consider locking into longer terms anyway.

Cryptoverse: Bitcoin is back with a bonk

People aren’t shouting about crypto from the rooftops any more. But anyone still holding would have noticed that 2023 got off to a strong start for many cryptocurrencies. This piece talks about some of the gains and a new meme coin called Bonk.

The art of spending money – and what it reveals about who you really are

As someone in the housing market for the first time, I’ll have to change how I spend in different parts of my life. This piece on people’s reasoning around how they spend gave me an opportunity to think: wait, why do I spend money on the things I do? And if my spending habits are forced to change as a homeowner, it could be a good lens to approach cutting back.


Are you worried about losing your luggage?

Have you ever used an AirTag or other wireless tracking device to locate or retrieve your misplaced luggage? If you’re up for sharing your experience in an interview, please e-mail Globe personal finance reporter Erica Alini at ealini@globeandmail.com.


New products that caught my eye

My current home is in an older building that has some residual smells, including smoke. I love candles, but I can’t have them going all the time because of fire hazard. Recently, I bought a wax melter, which you can leave on for however long you want. It’s done wonders to ensure my house is smelling pleasant when I’m welcoming guests or coming home after being outside for a while. Melters can be as cheap as $29, and wax for them can be cheaper than candles.


The money-free zone

Nominations for the Oscar’s were released on Tuesday. One of the only new movies I watched in 2022 was All Quiet on The Western Front, a gritty and sobering film adaptation of a novel depicting the First World War from the German side. It garnered nine nominations for the coming awards show.


What I’ve been writing about

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

Even more coverage from Rob Carrick: