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Is Toronto real estate really in a bubble?

Julie Cazzin, MoneySense | posted Tuesday, Feb 21st, 2017

If you live in Toronto you realize you’re in the center of the Canadian real estate universe these days. While the last few months have seen Vancouver housing sales decrease and prices stabilize, Toronto’s real estate market has been catching fire. And of course, economists and bond rating agencies have noticed, too.

Just this week Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets wrote in a commentary, “The Toronto market—and the many cities around it—are in a bubble,”  meaning prices are becoming dangerously detached from good financial and economic fundamentals, mainly because people in Toronto believe there is so much demand that it will cause prices to keep rising strongly, thus encouraging more people to buy—and adding fuel to the growing bubble.

The facts appear strong. Prices in Greater Toronto have risen 22.6% in January from a year ago. And while price increases across Canada are expected to slow this year because of tighter restrictions from new federal home financing rules that aim to make it harder to get a mortgage, BMO’s Porter believes that Toronto and any city that is within commuting distance is in a dangerously overheated housing market.

But to temper the “bubble” prediction, you need only to read the FitchRatings 2017 Global Housing and Mortgage Outlook, which also came out this week. Here’s what it says about Vancouver, Toronto and the Canadian housing market in general:

  • That despite the continued rise in prices in overvalued markets such as Vancouver and Toronto, and their view that current home prices are unsustainable in the long run, they say “there is a heightened risk of a price correction in over-valued markets.” So a correction, yes. Housing bubble? Not quite.
  • FitchRatings expects mortgage rates to remain low for the first half of 2017. Any increase in rates should be modest, even if the U.S. Fed continues to raise rates. Inflation should remain a solid 2%.
  • Regarding mortgages, Fitch notes that while it’s too soon to determine the impact of new mortgage rules put in place last year, “We expect that it will result in fewer loans being made available to marginal borrowers, which could reduce loan growth. That said, we expect loan volumes to remain near historical highs as long as interest rates remain low, employment is stable, borrowers are able to qualify under the stricter mortgage rules, and the desire/demand for home ownership remains high.”
  • Forecasts for real GDP growth remain solid with an average annual 1.2% growth rate expected for 2016, and 1.9%  forecast for 2017 and 2018. The overall macro evaluation? Stable.

The bottom line: Housing price increases in 2016 exceeded Fitch forecasts, mainly because low interest rates outweighed home purchase affordability constraints. Even where prices are now out of line with income—mainly Vancouver and Toronto—”continued low rates and economic growth mean we expect more moderate rises rather than price declines.” And while Fitch sees the risk of a price fall in some overvalued markets, they certainly don’t see a bubble bursting.

So for Toronto, consolidation of prices and a more stable market with slight-to-no average annual increase in prices is what’s expected by Fitch. As to who will be right—Douglas Porter of BMO, or FitchRatings economists, well, we’ll have to wait until year end to see, won’t we?

Smoke Alarm Safety: 5 things you need to know

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2017

Photo credi: firstalertstore.com

Many fatal fires start at night, and the smoke alone will not wake you up. In fact, the fumes could actually put you into a deeper sleep. The best defence? A properly working smoke alarm. Here are five things you need to know about your smoke alarm to protect yourself and your family from a fire.

  1. You need a smoke alarm on every level of your home. For single level homes and apartments, opt to have a smoke alarms near the kitchen and all sleeping areas.
  2. Test your alarm monthly by pushing the test button. You can also use a cigarette or incense to test that it is working.
  3. Batteries should be replaced twice a year or when you hear the intermittent beeping. Avoid using rechargeable batties as they lose their charge without emitting a warning signal.
  4. Replace all smoke alarms every five years with new ones.
  5. Have a fire home safety plan and practice it regularly.

Fire home safety plans

In addition to a working smoke alarm, a well-rehearsed plan and knowing what to do in the event of a real emergency is an important step in fire safety, even for your home.

To get started, The Canada Safety Council recommends:

  • Have a floor plan of your house
  • Plan two ways out of each room
  • Establish a meeting spot outside the house
  • Be sure everyone in the house is aware and understands the plan and escape route
  • Post your fire escape plan somewhere visible (the fridge, bulletin board etc.)
  • Practice a fire drill at least once a year

Healthy oils and their benefits

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 16th, 2017

Olive oil

 

These days it seems there are about a million cooking oils to choose from at the grocery store: Olive vs. avocado, unrefined vs. refined, and extra virgin are just a few things found on labels today. These details can make a simple selection very confusing! Andrea Donsky, label detective and founder of NaturallySavvy.com, breaks down each oil.

AVOCADO OIL

What is it made from: Avocado oil is one of Andrea’s favourite oils. It’s made from avocados (the fleshy part that surrounds the pit). This oil is now being used in many products including mayonnaise and potato chips and is one of the few oils we can eat that doesn’t come from a seed.

Smoke Point: 500F (highest smoke point of all oils).

How to use: You can use avocado oil for everything from frying eggs, to baking cookies and roasting veggies. It can also be used on salads.

Health Benefits: Avocado oil is high in “good fats” such as oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Avocado oil is good for our heart, our eyes, is a good source of vitamin E, it also helps our body absorb nutrients (certain nutrients like carotenoids need fat to help with absorption).

CAMELINA OIL

What is it made from: “Camelina” oil comes from the “camelina sativa” seed—an ancient oilseed grown in Saskatchewan. The seed is part of the brassica family (which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale).

Smoke Point: 475F It has a high smoke point so it’s this oil is a good choice for roasting vegetables, searing fish and topping pasta. It’s a cold pressed oil which means the oil isn’t heated when it’s produced.

How to use: You can use it to roast vegetables, in soups, and drizzled on pizza.

Health benefits: Camelina oil is high in omega 3’s and vitamin E. It contains a unique type of vitamin E called “Gamma Tocopherol” that allows the oil to stay stable when cooking with it. It comes in three different flavors: original, roasted onion and basil and garlic & chilli.

CANOLA OIL

What is it made from: Canola is a popular vegetable oil that is made from the rapeseed plant. It was developed in Canada and is used in many packaged products as well as restaurants.

Smoke Point: 400F (refined canola oil, unrefined is 225F)

How to use: Canola is a good choice for cooking and baking with. It can also be a good substitute for olive oil if you want to cook with higher heat. Canola oil comes unrefined and refined. Opt for unrefined because refined may contain chemicals such as bleach and hexane.

Health benefits: Canola contains omega 3’s and oleic acid and is mostly made up of monounsaturated fats. Keep in mind that many Canadian canola crops can be GMO, so looking for an organic brand can be critical if using this oil.

COCONUT OIL

What is it made from: Coconut oil is known for its numerous health benefits and is made from coconuts.

Look for cold pressed and virgin on the label. Some companies are making flavourless coconut oil by removing the “coconut” taste and smell so people can still enjoy its health benefits, be weary of chemicals used to deodorize the oils.

Smoke point: 350-375F

How to use it: Eat coconut oil straight from the jar with a spoon and add it to your shakes and morning coffee or use in baking or on popcorn.

Health benefits: Coconut oil is a good type of saturated fat that contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It is being studied for brain health (Alzheimer’s), it increases our metabolism (so it’s great for weight loss), and it lowers bad cholesterol.

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL 

What is it made from: Olive oil, also called “liquid gold,” is made from olives and comes from different parts of the world (Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain and Portugal and Italy).

Smoke point: 320- 425F

Here is what you need to know about olive oil:

  • There are different types of olive oil available at the grocery store: Extra virgin, virgin light and pure. Andrea warns to stay away from olive oils that says “pure” on the label as these are often the lowest quality.
  • Extra virgin is the gold standard. It means there are no defects* in the olives used to produce the oil. It is the least processed and contains the most nutrients (antioxidants, polyphenols, tocopherols, etc. *Defect examples: muddy, fusty, vinegary.)
  • First cold-pressed is a must! Cold pressed, or expelled pressed means the oil is extracted without heat and refers to the first pressing of the oils, meaning it is the least processed type.
  • There is a big sensory component to olive oil. If it smells like crayons or smells rancid don’t eat it.

This is a great example of you get what you pay for. Less expensive olive oils can be “cut” with cheaper oils. To avoid buying a fraud, buy organic and make sure there is a production date and a 2-year expiry date.

How to use it: Use expensive olive oil for dipping bread, dressings, dips and cold dishes. Use less expensive olive oil for cooking, but still make sure it is extra virgin or virgin (i.e. to make kale chips).

Health benefits: Olive oil contains antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress (free radicals). It has a compound called “oleocanthal” that mimics ibuprofen and can help reduce inflammation and pain (so it can be a great choice for people who suffer from painful conditions like arthritis), it’s good for your heart (it reduces cholesterol).

SUNFLOWER OIL

What is it made from: Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds.

Smoke point: 220-325F Sunflower oil has a smoke point of 225-320F so it is not a great option for cooking.

How to use it: It’s great in dips, topping your cold pasta, or on a bean salad.

Health benefits: Sunflower oil can be high in linoleic oil (a polyunsaturated fat) or oleic oil (monounsaturated fat). PUFAs can be pro-inflammatory so look for a sunflower oil that is high oleic, which means it contains higher amounts of monounsaturated fats. This means that the oil would be similar to olive oil in that it is good for your heart, is anti-inflammatory and is high in vitamin E.

 

Top 5 health trends for 2017

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Dec 28th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 10.52.44 AM

With the new year around the corner, health expert Bryce Wylde shares the top 5 trends that will keep your body healthy:

  1. The lupin bean and vegan omega 3 sources:
    Also known as the miracle bean, lupin bean is high in fibre and protein. It is completely vegan and lowers cholesterol, making it great for diabetics!
  2. Guar bean from India:
    Fibre is 2017’s protein! Did you know about 60% of North Americans have confirmed IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) making fibre much more necessary in our daily diet. This soluble fiber is invisible, tasteless, odourless and colourless. It also helps with the absorption of minerals.
  3. The latest application for probiotics, Blis-K12:
    Blis-K12 is an oral probiotic that supports healthy bacteria in the mouth. Available in chewable or swallowable forms, Blis-K12 assists in the fight against sore throats!
  4. Nootropics (from Silicon Valley) crank up cognitive function:
    ‘Noootropics’ or ‘smart supplements’ improve cognitive functions including memory, creativity, and motivation. They can be found in vitamins B6 and B12.
  5. Boosting energy sources:
    Fire up your mitochondria for clean energy, good focus, and better sleep patterns, with theanine (an extract of green tea).

 

Check out the full video here:

What’s open and closed: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day

News staff | posted Friday, Dec 23rd, 2016

closedsign-featured

Christmas Day and the start of Hanukkah are just around the corner, so expect malls to be packed as shoppers make the final dash to buy their presents.

All will be quiet on Christmas Day with most malls, grocery stores and tourist attractions closed. The frenzy will resume on Boxing Day as malls brace for a crowd of shoppers in search of deals.

Since Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, several businesses including government offices and Canada Post offices will be observing Dec. 26 as a holiday for Dec. 25 and Dec. 27 as a holiday for Dec. 26.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone!


Transit

TTC
Dec. 24: Saturday service (subway and most routes start at 6 a.m.)
Dec. 25: Sunday service (subway and most routes start at 8 a.m.)
Dec. 26: Holiday service (subway and most routes start at 6 a.m.)
Dec. 27: Holiday service (subway and most routes start at 6 a.m.)

GO Transit
Dec. 23: Early homebound service (Check the GO website for schedule details)
Dec. 24: Saturday service
Dec. 25: Sunday service
Dec. 26: Saturday service
Dec. 27: Saturday service

Shopping

Bramalea City Centre
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Dufferin Mall
Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Eaton Centre
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 7 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Erin Mills Town Centre
Dec. 24: 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Fairview Mall
Dec. 24: 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Pacific Mall
Open all year round

Scarborough Town Centre
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sherway Gardens
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Shops at Don Mills
Dec. 24: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Square One
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The Promenade
Dec. 24: 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Toronto Premium Outlets
Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Vaughan Mills
Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Yorkdale Mall
Dec. 24: 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Grocery/drug stores

Loblaws
Dec. 24: Most stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Most stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.

Longo’s
Dec. 24: Most stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.
Dec. 24: Closed
Dec. 26: Most stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.

Shoppers Drug Mart
Select stores will be open on Christmas Day. Click here to check the hours at your local store.

Sobeys
Dec. 24: Most stores will be open from 12 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Most stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.

LCBO/Beer Stores

LCBO
Dec. 24: All stores will open at regular hours and close at 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local LCBO.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Closed

The Beer Store
Dec. 24: All stores will open at regular hours and close at 6 p.m. Click here to check the hours at your local store.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Closed

Tourist attractions

AGO
Dec. 24: 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Casa Loma
Dec. 24: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

CN Tower
Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Ontario Science Centre
Dec. 24: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Dec. 24-26: 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Royal Ontario Museum
Dec. 24: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Toronto Zoo
Dec. 24: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Government offices and banks

Dec. 24: Most bank branches will be open but government offices are closed
Dec. 25: Closed (no mail delivery)
Dec. 26: Closed (no mail delivery)
Dec. 27: Closed (no mail delivery)

Note: Most City of Toronto operations and all municipal offices will be closed on both Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, with the exception of 311 and emergency services.

Toronto Public Library

Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Closed

Toronto garbage collection

Since Christmas Day falls on a Sunday and curbside garbage isn’t collected on any Monday, which is when Boxing Day falls, there are no changes to the curbside pickup schedule.

City of Toronto recreation centres

Dec. 24: Community recreation centres will close at 4 p.m., except those with scheduled permits.
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: Closed

Note: Indoor arenas and historic sites will also be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre will be closed on Christmas Day.

Click here for list of activities to do in the city over the holidays.

Holiday tipping and gift giving etiquette

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

BetterGroceryShopper-Feature

Did you know, over the course of the lifetime of a millennial they’ll spend $76,000 on tipping?

So, how should you be tipping this holiday season, and to who? Alex Benjamin, CEO of Lendful, shares his tips for tipping and gift giving this holiday season.

 

Personal trainer & hair dresser: tip equivalent of session.

Home-services (i.e. garbage man and mailman): a small gift, or Tim Hortons gift card.

Cab drivers: dependent on your relationship, $20.00 is a safe tip.

 

However, as we head into the New Year remember to budget your holiday gift-giving. A simple thank-you card always goes a long way! Watch the segment below for more advice.

 

Winter Emergency Kit

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2016

thumbnail_WINTER EMERGENCY KIT copy

As we prepare for the upcoming winter, here’s a complete list of what you should keep handy in your vehicle:

  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Shovel
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Booster cables
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Blankets
  • Extra clothing and footwear
  • First aid kit
  • Snacks
  • Smartphone and charger

3 tips for creating a holiday shopping budget

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Nov 11th, 2016

money-featured
    • Tip 1:  Figure out what the holidays are for.
      • You need to get to the core question of “what are the holidays for?”
      • Family time, gift-giving, activities, shows.
      • Distinguish between traditions and habits.
      • Traditions: Something we hand down.  Things we do every season that are deeply important to us.
      • Habits: An acquired behaviour that is involuntary.
      • You and your spouse and family: Holidays are not an individual thing.

 

  • Tip 2:  Renegotiate the terms.
    • Change can be difficult. Especially around something some emotional.
    • Who: Pick one of your family members who you think will be able to think differently, and talk to them first.  (Don’t go to most change averse person first. Build some support).
    • What: Say, “Looking ahead to holidays and how we do it this year.  What could we keep? What could we do differently so we have more of what we want?”
    • When: Now. So people haven’t shopped.  And the emotions are running as high.
    • Why: Align spending with what the holidays are about, so you can lower stress.
    • Pitfall:  Making it personal.  “You don’t want to exchange gifts anymore, therefore you don’t love me”.
    • More likely it’s because I want to simplify my life and use money for other things.

 

  • Tip 3:  Develop a holiday spending budget.
    • Have a number and stick to it.  It doesn’t even matter what the number is.
    • If you have no money worries.  Don’t do this.  Do some eggnog shooters and go shopping.  But most people aren’t in that situation.
    • List everything.  And I mean everything.
      • Gifts
      • Immediate family
      • Relatives
      • Friends
      • Teachers
      • Host/hostess gifts.
      • Charity
      • Food
      • Liquor
      • Entertainment
      • Clothing
      • New outfit for the holiday party
      • Travel
      • Cabs to parties
      • Babysitters
      • Gas to drive to Sarnia
      • Flights
  • Make some trade-offs.
  • We don’t do big gifts as a couple.
  • Our family does almost no gifts.
  • Figure out how you’re going to pay for it.  Let’s say it is $1,500.  Where is that money going to come from?  Where are you going to cut back to cover that amount?
  • Shop with a list and stick to it.  Virtually impossible, I know.  It is you against the retailer.  Especially now that I have kids.  “Abby would like that”.

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