Holiday Decorating on a Budget

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 by johngesa

Although getting your home ready for the holidays can seem like a major chore, it doesn’t have to be. Fortunately, it doesn’t even have to take up much time or money, either. You can do it in a few easy steps. Just get in the mood to be creative.

Add colour and texture
Simply displaying some richly coloured pillows or throws in any room can give the room a different feel. Choose warm and spicy colours, or maybe something with mirror work to catch the light and add to the glowing effect and sparkle of the holiday season.

Don’t feel like you have to stick with the traditional red, green and white schemes – metallic and neutrals can also work well.

Artwork, throws and mirrors can also add a new splash to the walls.

Spread some warmth
Changing the shades on your lamps to warm coloured ones can make the light appear richer. By lighting candles in holiday scents – ensuring, of course, they’re displayed in safe areas away from flammable objects – your room can take on a warm glow.

Revamping or creatively using what you already own can also create lush looks when you’re trying to stick to a budget. For instance, filling a clear glass bowl or vase with ornaments of a single bright colour can make for an eye-catching display.

Another trick that makes for a pleasing display that is kind to the wallet involves bringing in some evergreen cuttings and using ribbon or other household items to dress them up. And you can make old wreaths look new by attaching fake berries, sprigs or pine cones.

You can also refresh your old decorations by dressing them up with paint or glitter.

Make it cozy
There’s no better time than the present to get started on your holiday cleaning. If you rid your rooms of clutter, especially those catch-all coffee tables and kitchen counters, your home will seem much more inviting.

Piles of junk mail, unfiled bills and magazines not only look messy, but can also interfere with your cleaning efforts. It’s much easier, and faster, to dust a clear surface than to clean around three months’ worth of the latest decorating magazines.

To eliminate – and prevent – clutter, everything should have a designated space. Magazines, for instance, can be placed in a bin under the coffee table, while children’s art can be stored in a chest or accordion-style folder.

And to encourage an even more inviting atmosphere, think about arranging your furniture in conversation groups. You have to move the furniture anyway in order to get rid of those dust bunnies, so why not try arranging them in a fresh, new manner?


Don Cherry…Dominion Lending Centres new spokesperson

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 by johngesa

Here are the first of the Don Cherry ads.

New Credit Card Rules: What Does It Mean For You?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2010 by johngesa

The new credit rules came into effect on September 1st. Here is a quick summary of the rules.

 More time to pay monthly bills: Issuers have to give card account holders “a reasonable amount of time” to make payments on monthly bills. That means payments are due at least 21 days after they are mailed or delivered.

 Limited interest rate hikes: Interest rate hikes on existing balances are allowed only under limited conditions, such as when a promotional rate ends, there is a variable rate or if the cardholder makes a late payment. Interest rates on new transactions can increase only after the first year. Significant changes in terms on accounts cannot occur without 45 days’ advance notice of the change. 

 Minimum payments: Credit card issuers must disclose to cardholders the consequences of making only minimum payments each month, namely how long it would take to pay off the entire balance if users only made the minimum monthly payment. Issuers must also provide information on how much users must pay each month if they want to pay off their balances in 36 months, including the amount of interest.

Late fee restrictions: Late fees are capped at $25 for occasional late payments; however, the fees can be higher if cardholders are late more than once in a six-month period.

Gift cards: Gift cards cannot expire sooner than five years after they are issued. Dormancy fees can only be charged if the card is unused for 12 months or more. Issuers can charge only one fee per month, but there is no limit on the amount of the fee.

Limited universal default: “Universal default,” the practice of raising interest rates on customers based on their payment records with other unrelated credit issuers (such as utility companies and other creditors), has ended for existing credit card balances. Card issuers are still allowed to use universal default on future credit card balances if they give at least 45 days’ advance notice of the change.

The right to opt out: Consumers now have the right to opt out of — or reject — certain significant changes in terms on their accounts. Opting out means cardholders agree to close their accounts and pay off the balance under the old terms. They have at least five years to pay the balance.

Limited credit to young adults: Credit card issuers are banned from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21, unless they have adult co-signers on the accounts or can show proof they have enough income to repay the card debt. Credit card companies must stay at least 1,000 feet from college campuses if they are offering free pizza or other gifts to entice students to apply for credit cards.

Fraudulent real estate advertising a real danger

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2010 by johngesa

Whether you’re trying to purchase a home or rent one, there are many places where properties are advertised these days, including a ton of websites that offer free or inexpensive classified ads. Unfortunately, some of the property advertisements out there are frauds designed to separate you from your money without actually offering property for sale or rent.

It’s far too easy to mock up a fake ad by copying and pasting the text and photos from another website where the property is legitimately listed for sale or rent. These ads can be very convincing to those looking for a new place to live. However, there are some red flags that consumers can watch out for:

Asking for a deposit or rent money for a property for sale or rent without any opportunity to view the property, inside and out. This is a common scam on some advertising websites, where those interested in renting a house might be asked to wire first and last month’s rent to the “owner” or “landlord” without being allowed to visit the property, for some spurious reason – the owner is out of the country or doing missionary work, the house is being renovated, and so on.

Offering to mail the keys in exchange for a deposit, or asking for personal information such as a bank account number, driver’s license or social insurance number. Even if you don’t end up sending the scammer any cash, they may be able to use that information to empty your bank account or set up credit cards in your name.

The price is well below what similar properties are asking. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The low prices are how scammers suck people in.

The most important common denominator is that in a scam situation, generally the prospective tenants or owners will never see the property in person until they show up to claim it – and find the rightful tenant or owner already living there, oblivious to the existence of the scam. It’s a horrible situation for all involved.

If you need to buy or rent a property somewhere you are unable to visit before doing so, consider working with a real estate professional or reputable property management company. The national website of the Canadian Real Estate Association,, lists homes for sale and for rent across the country, with easy contact information for the real estate professional who has listed each property. This information is sent to the website by local real estate boards that have strict rules and regulations in place for members who post property listings, so they are reliable and accurate.

There are also many local and national property management companies that rent homes and apartments, and are happy to work with out-of-town clients. Or ask for a recommendation from friends, clients, a new boss or workplace HR department, even a school principal or clergy person. Everyone has had to find a place to live at some point, and a referral from a respected member of the community may be more reliable than a free internet advertisement. Doing your homework and making sure the deal is real can save you a huge amount of hassle later on.

Top Tips to Pay Down your Mortgage Faster

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 6, 2010 by johngesa

With interest rates at an all-time low, many Canadians are taking advantage of the savings by refinancing their mortgages to consolidate debt, make home renovations, invest in real estate or other ventures, or moving up the property ladder.

Following are ways to take even further advantage of this excellent rate environment by paying down your mortgage faster.

Tip #1

Prepay early in the mortgage

Make extra payments as early as you can after getting a mortgage because the loans are interest-heavy upfront and the faster you pay down your principal, the more interest savings you will accumulate over the long run. Within the first five to seven years of your mortgage is where the largest portions of interest payments are contained. This not only will save you thousands of dollars in interest payments, but it will also increase the speed at which you are accumulating equity in your property. Many mortgage products allow you to make up to 20% more in payments per year.

Tip #2

Make an annual lump sum payment

Whether you use your tax refund, receive an inheritance or get a Christmas bonus, you should apply as much as possible directly to your principal. Most lenders allow you to pay 20% in lump sum payments per year without penalty. I can help you determine exactly how much you can prepay and what maximum percentage of your principal you are allowed to pay without penalty each year.

Tip #3

If your payments go down, don’t lower the payment amount

If you are on a variable-rate mortgage and the rates go down your payment will also often go down. Instead of making the lower mortgage payments, however, it’s best to call your lender and let them know that you would like to

continue making payments for the original amount. I can help you determine if there is a charge for making the extra payment. Even with the charge, in most cases, it is still worth it and will help you pay down your principal faster.

Tip #4

Round up your payments even if it’s just a little

If your monthly mortgage payment is $776.22 and you were to round up your payment an extra $23.78 a month to $800 – that’s less than a dollar a day – you would effectively reduce your mortgage amortization from 35 years to just over 32 years right away or from 25 years to just over 23 years.

TIP #5

Increase your payments with your pay increases

If your income increases, try not to keep your mortgage payments the same. Although the disposable income is a joy to spend on unnecessary luxuries in the short-term, the long-term benefits of being mortgage free faster and saving those interest payments will far outweigh the short-term joys. Pretend that your income did not increase and maintain the lifestyle that you are currently living.

Tip #6

Increase the frequency of your payments

You can also change the way you make your payments by opting for accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments. Not to be confused with semi-monthly mortgage payments (24 payments per year), accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments (26 payments per year) will not only pay your mortgage off quicker, but it’s guaranteed to save you a significant amount of money over the term of your mortgage. Basically, with accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, you’re making one additional monthly payment per year.

As always, if you have any questions about paying your mortgage down faster, I’m here to help!

Dispelling the Top 7 Mortgage Myths

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 22, 2010 by johngesa

Fear is often based on ignorance, and there are many misconceptions when it comes to mortgages. To help you sort it out, we dispel seven of the top mortgage myths.

•Myth 1: A preapproval is like money in the bank

•Myth 2: Self-employed people can’t get mortgages

•Myth 3: You need a down payment of 25 percent

•Myth 4: You can’t borrow your down payment

•Myth 5: A poor credit history scars you for life

•Myth 6: If you’ve ever been bankrupt, securing a mortgage is impossible

•Myth 7: Private lenders are akin to loan sharks

Myth 1: A preapproval is like money in the bank

Many people think once they’ve been preapproved by a lender for a mortgage, they’re home free. But that isn’t necessarily the case.

More than anything else, a preapproval is a rate guarantee. There’s plenty of financial paperwork still to be done as lenders examine more closely your sources of income and letters of employment. And if they find something they don’t like, or that you weren’t upfront about, you could lose the deal.

For example, if you reported that you earned $60,000 the past year and a portion of that included overtime or a bonus — both of which can vary year to year — the lender will find out and may change the terms of the deal since they calculate what you can afford based on your base salary only. So, always be upfront with your lender.

In the case of high-ratio mortgages, the insurer — whether it’s the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) or GE Mortgage Insurance Canada — has final approval. Chances are, if the lender has given you the green light, your income is not in question and your credit is good, you have nothing to worry about.

That’s why it’s prudent to add a mortgage contingency to your real estate offer, so if your mortgage does happen to fall through, you aren’t stuck with a house.

Myth 2: Self-employed people can’t get mortgages

The days of the self-employed being treated like second-class citizens by most lending institutions are over.

There are a lot of products now for self-employed individuals. Lenders are now willing to look at self-employed people on a case-by-case basis instead of tarring them all as potential liabilities.

In most cases, they are looking for good credit, a three-year history of being self-employed and no income taxes outstanding,” she says

Myth 3: You need a down payment of 25 percent

With housing prices on the rise and high rents eating up a potential buyer’s savings, lenders no longer see 25 as the magic number. In fact, with a high-ratio mortgage, you can put down as little as 5 percent.

The key is securing an insured mortgage through the CMHC or GE. To do so, you incur added costs, including an underwriting fee and a one-time insurance premium that can either be paid as part of the loan or in a lump sum. But as long as you have at least a 5-percent down payment, you should have no trouble.

Myth 4: You can’t borrow your down payment

There are restrictions, but lenders are far more flexible than they used to be. Large monetary gifts are perfectly acceptable as long as they’re from a close relative. What your lender wants to make sure of is that what you’re getting is actually a gift and that you aren’t incurring more personal debt that needs to be repaid.

Even borrowing a 5-percent down payment from a line of credit is OK, although you will pay a slightly higher insurance premium.

The B lenders are even more flexible than the major banks, but you’ll pay for that flexibility in the form of higher fees and interest rates.

Myth 5: A poor credit history scars you for life

Lenders recognize that people and circumstances change. A student who maxed out his first credit card in university and defaulted on payments will not pay for his mistakes forever.

A lot of lenders want at least a year and a half of good credit. For those who discover that bad credit stands in the way of building good credit, apply for an RRSP loan, which is easier to get than, say, a car loan.

Not only will you establish a history of installment payments, but you can later borrow from that RRSP to buy your house.

Myth 6: If you’ve ever been bankrupt, securing a mortgage is impossible

Bankruptcy does not put an end to an individual’s dream of homeownership.

If they’ve got 25 percent down, there’s financing available as soon as they’re discharged.

High-ratio mortgages are also an option: the CMHC will consider those who have been discharged for two to three years and have since established a good credit rating.

Myth 7: Private lenders are akin to loan sharks

They’re not loan sharks, they’re just offering something the banks can’t. I don’t recommend private financing for those who are habitually bad at managing money, it’s a viable alternative for those establishing or re-establishing a good credit rating.

The interest rates are higher, but there’s a value in those higher rates, adding that private financers are usually flexible; they know their role is short-term and often happily move aside once a borrower qualifies for lower interest financing from a major lender.

When you’re looking for a mortgage, don’t assume anything — ask questions and ensure you know the meaning of the terms being bandied around. Knowledge is power, or in the very least, it will make the process less intimidating.

Getting a Mortgage Pre-Approval

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by johngesa
If you are looking for a new home, be sure you are pre-approved. With a mortgage pre-approval, a licensed mortgage professional can do a more complete verification prior to sending you shopping for a home, and with that done, the dollar figure you are going shopping with is actually what you can spend.
 The mortgage professional that you work with to get pre-approved will let you know for certain what you can afford based on lender and insurer criteria, and what your payments on a specific mortgage will be.Licensed mortgage professionals can lock-in an interest rate for you for anywhere from 60 – 120 days while you shop for your perfect home. By locking in an interest rate, you are guaranteed to get a mortgage for at least that rate or better. If interest rates drop, your locked-in rate will drop as well.

However, if the interest rates go up, your locked-in interest rate will not, ensuring you get the best rate throughout the mortgage pre-approval process. In order to get pre-approved for a mortgage, a mortgage professional requires a short list of information that will allow them to determine your buying power. A mortgage professional will explain to you the benefits of shorter or longer mortgage terms, the latest programs available, which mortgage products they believe will most likely meet your needs the best, plus they will review all of the other costs involved with purchasing a home.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is something every potential home buyer should do before going shopping for a new home. A pre-approval will give you the confidence of knowing that financing is available, and it can put you in a very positive negotiation position against other home buyers who aren’t pre-approved.