Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tax - An ONGOING Issue

Chances are you have got your taxes in order and filed for 2012....hopefully.

But did you have everything in order when it came time to make an appointment with your accountant? Or did you drop a shoebox full of receipts on the table and hope for the best?

Dropping off a shoe box might sound a little far fetched, but my accountant assures me that this happens MUCH more than he would like.

My point here is that to save yourself time, money and stress.....make tax an ongoing routine, not a last minute scramble...especially if you have more than one rental property.

Here are some of the things that I do over the course of a year to keep myself organized:

1. Have a file folder for each rental property's yearly expenses.
2. Create an excel spreadsheet for each rental - It helps to create headings that mirror those required by the Canada Revenue Agency.
3. Enter receipts every week or two to keep things up to date along with notes.

That's it.  No magic involved.

Make this a routine and you will save yourself the headaches of putting everything together at year-end....not to mention the money you will save on accounting fees.

Below is an example of the chart I use to stay organized.  What do you use? :)

  Description Mortgage Ads Insurance Office Fees Prop tax Utilities Travel Tools R&M 
May-01 Mortgage $1,224.00                  
May-04 Bi-annual     $345.21              
May-08 Printer ink       $24.56            
May-15 Gas Bill             $45.00      
May-21 Sander                 $39.45  
May-23 Kijiji Ad   $4.00                
May-25 Prop Tax           $345.00        
May-31 Bank fee         $3.95          
Totals   $1,224.00 $4.00 $345.21 $24.56 $3.95 $345.00 $45.00 $0.00 $39.45 $0.00

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Where is the 'CRASH'?

I'm still a little confused as to when this "crash" is going to take place.

It seems like every week, you see another article in the Globe and Mail about the impending crash and chaos that is about to breakout in the streets.  Crews are standing by to clean up the blood and aftermath of this terrible spiral of the housing market.

So...any time now!

Yes, certain segments of the market have softened : See "Condos"

But the majority of major markets, save for Vancouver, are still seeing rising prices, bidding wars and houses going for 'over-asking'.

Here is an article regarding some of the bidding wars in Toronto:

Notice how specific the market is that they talk about?  "Detached Homes"....

Funny enough, the same thing seems to be happening in Guelph.  A friend of mine is moving from Thunder Bay to Guelph and is currently looking for a detached home in the $350,000 range...and it's becoming very tough.  Houses are going over asking even here!

This seems to prove me right, that there is no such thing as the "Canadian Housing Market".  Each market, segment, neighbourhood and housing type is unique.

Experienced investors "look behind the curtain" to see what is really going on.  They look at the specific market factors regarding the subject property and manage to block out the 'noise' from the media and naysayers.

You should do the same.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Is Renting Your Basement a Good Idea??

Many of you have likely seen “Income Property” on HGTV and already know that renting out a basement in an owner-occupied home is a good idea in most cases, but what some of you might NOT know is that doing this also comes with some great tax benefits!!

Everyone hates paying taxes…so why not keep more of that money in your pocket?  Things like mortgage interest, utilities and other general repairs can all be deductible to some degree…you just need a simple calculator.
FIXED – expense deductions” are based on square footage measurements of your apartment in relation to the portion of the home that is owner occupied.   Examples of fixed expenses are mortgage interest, property tax and insurance.   If you live in a bungalow and the basement is the same size as the owner-occupied space, your expenses will be 50% deductible.  However, if you live in a 2 storey house, with the basement taking up 1/3 of the total floor area, your fixed expenses will be 33% deductible. 
VARIABLE – expenses deductions” are based on the amount of people in basement compared to how many people live in the owner-occupied unit.  Examples of variable expenses are utilities, cable and internet bills.  If a couple live in an upstairs unit and rent the basement to 1 person, variable expenses (like hydro) are 33% deductible.   However, if you have 2 people in the basement, hydro becomes 50% deductible!
Repairs to the basement unit that have no impact on the upstairs unit would be 100% deductible.  Repairs to the building that have an equal benefit for both units (roof repair for example) would be 50% deductible.
To get a better picture, I have decided to use my own financials to show you a snapshot of income/expenses/taxes.
Basement income - $830

Deductible expenses:
50% of mortgage interest - $400
50% of insurance cost - $35
50% of property tax - $137

33% of hydro and water bill – $56  

33% of gas bill - $20

33% of internet/cable bill - $50

 Total deductible expenses - $698

This means I’m paying tax on only $132 per month, which is roughly $40.   Therefore, my after-tax income is $790.

The best part about these ‘expenses’ is that I would have paid them all regardless of if I had rented the basement!  I still have to pay my mortgage, heat the house and pay the cable bill!  The usage for hydro, water, might go up slightly, but it is not much at all. 

To put this in perspective, to earn $790 after-tax income….that is 60 extra hours of work per month @ $20 per our ($1200 – tax = roughly $800)!!!

 Hopefully that was clear enough.  I’m not a tax accountant so please feel free to give me your thoughts!




Saturday, 16 March 2013

...But You Have To Pay Tax

Just a short post today and a slight rant about tax...

I was recently reading another blog post about the pros and cons of real estate investment.  There were several comments below....and one really stuck out.

Here is the comment:

"There is no money in landlording. I bought one condo after prices went down by 50% paid cash for it.  Still only make 6% return on it and that if I have tenant renting all the time. Any maintenance or repair or unoccupied take profit off 6%. so if I include that then the return is more like 4%.  Plus you have to pay income tax on it. You tax go up every year. Your maintenance fee go up every year. And you can’t raise rent much or not at all."

I can appreciate his comments, but what really ticks me off is the comment about tax...."Plus you have to pay income tax on it".


Tell me a way to make money without paying tax....other than winning the lottery.

It's funny because this is not the first time I have heard this comment.

"Oh yeah, he made $50K on that property, but he has to pay tax." kidding

"That guy makes over $100K.  Think of the tax that he pays!"....yep, probably true.

In Canada, if you make money, you have to pay tax, or you go to jail. 

Being tax efficient is another story.  Deferring tax or starting a corporation to reduce tax is smart.  Avoiding tax all together is another story.

So please, if someone makes money, don't complain about the tax to be paid.   Someone has to pay for the road repairs in our great country!

Monday, 11 March 2013


The basic principle of a line of credit is fairly straight forward…the bank thinks your credit rating is good enough to justify borrowing you more money than they already have.  

As I mentioned in my last post, I think it is a good idea to gain access (but not necessarily use) a line of credit as soon as you can.  The reason for this being that it is a good safety net to have in case of any unforeseen events.  Used PROPERLY, it can also be used for investment purposes, although I would not necessarily recommend this route….investing with borrowed cash can often turn ugly if you do not know what you are doing.
So you have decided to gain access to a line of credit?  Good stuff.  DON’T use it as your piggy bank and DO pay off the balance as quickly as possible.

Next question: Personal line of credit (PLOC) or Home equity line of credit (HELOC)?

Well if you don’t own a home, the answer is fairly obvious.  For those that do own a home, I would argue that the HELOC is the better option due to the flexibility of payment options and the lower overall interest rates, but I will go over the differences.
The PLOC is fairly easy to obtain.  At your local bank, you will fill out an application, giving them your basic info.  They run a credit check, calculate how much debt you are servicing otherwise (car payments, mortgage, credit card, etc) and come back with a “yes” or “no”.  If yes, they attached a dollar value to the approval and you are all set.  

The interest rate is also dependant on your credit history.  The better your credit, the better your interest rate, although this rate will never be lower than a HELOC.  The reason it is always higher is that it is “unsecured”, meaning you are not putting up anything as collateral in case you take the money run.   
The payment terms are slightly different at each bank, but at TD the ‘repayment term’ is 3 years, meaning that if you max out your credit, say $15,000, you need to repay $416.66 per month, plus interest.  This is automatically taken out of your account each month.

HELOC is slightly different.  The premise behind it is that the banks will lend you cash up to 80% of the value of your home, less any mortgages outstanding. 
If you have a $250,000 home and have a mortgage on the property of  $215,000….sorry, no HELOC for you.   The Loan to Value ratio is above 80%....(215/250 = 86%)

But if you had a mortgage of $170,000, you would be eligible to borrow $30,000, provided the credit check comes back relatively clean and your house has been accurately valued at $250,000
80% of $250,000 = $200,000 minus your mortgage of $170,000 = $30,000

Sign me up right!?
Well, here is where the downfalls come into play.

For one, there is an initial set-up cost.   To get the application process started, you have to put your estimated home value through a computer valuation system at a cost of $99.  The tough part is that you have to estimate the value of your home by yourself!
If you estimate incorrectly….your application is denied and you need to have a ‘human’ appraise your home at a cost of $300….so make sure your  valuation is correct the first time! J
Registering your HELOC on title comes with a cost of another $495, so worst case scenario, you are looking at $795.
Yikes you say!...well yes and no.
Let’s look at an interest comparison.  The interest rate on my PLOC was 5.25%.  The rate on my HELOC is 3.7%.  If I have a drastic emergency and need $25,000 fast, the interest for 1 year on that money at 5.25% is $1312.50.  At 3.7%, the interest is only $925….a savings of $387.50
And remember, you may have this HELOC for a long time, so you will make up the up-front cost through interest savings.
Payment terms are also an advantage for the HELOC.  The minimum payment is interest-only, meaning if you borrowed $25,000 at 3.7%, your cost is only $77 per month….but don’t forget you have to re-pay the principal eventually…and the sooner the better.
So what option is best for you?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Emergency Fund VS Line of Credit

Countless personal finance" gurus" try to drive home the fact that everyone needs an “emergency fund” to cover any unseen costs that might arise in the future.  The amount of money that they recommend to have stashed away, however, seems to be different.  It can vary greatly…. 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and even 9 months of earnings is not out of the question.

For many people, I do agree, that having a ‘rain-day’ fund is a good idea, but in my opinion, this is unnecessary if you can obtain a line of credit.
Let me explain….

A lot has been said in the media recently about the personal debt of Canadians and the “danger” we are in if interest rates move too quickly.  This may be true for certain people who adopt a “buy now, pay later” philosophy for all consumer goods and use a line of credit as their piggy bank….but my philosophy is that you should gain ‘access’ to all available credit BEFORE you need it because chances are you can’t predict the future….but if you can, please contact me asap.
There may be unexpected home repair (especially if you own a few investment properties on top of your existing home), you might have a large auto repair bill, medical bills, etc, etc.

Why not have an ‘emergency fund’ for these types of occurrences??
In my opinion, having an emergency fund just sitting in a bank account is not the best use of money.  Each day, this money will lose value due to inflation and I would much rather have that same amount of money invested in a liquid asset MAKING money.  In addition, having 3 months of earnings stashed away for example may not be enough to cover a large repair bill…and then where do you get the extra cash that you need?

For these reasons, my emergency fund is a line of credit.
Here is a quick comparison:

$5000 in a “high interest” (laugh) savings account at 1.5% will be worth $4925 in 1 year adjusted for 3% inflation.  $5000 invested in Skyline REIT (currently yielding 9% on their commercial properties) will be worth $5300 in 1 year adjusted for 3% inflation.  This is a swing of $375.

If you need money fast and you have access to a line of credit, you can use the line of credit for the short term fix and either pay off the balance according to the payment terms or use the $5300 from your investment account to pay off the balance….(assuming you didn’t need more than this during your ‘emergency’)
Adding to this flexibility is the fact that a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can offer even more flexible payment terms.

More on lines of credit in my next post!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

REAL Cost of Owning a Car

For those of you that read my blog, I typically write about real-estate-related matters, however I am going to deviate slightly to some personal finance – the true cost of car ownership.

I overheard one of my colleagues mention last week that she ‘really would love to buy a car’.  She hates walking, waiting for the bus to around is a pain, and her hair is always messed up by her hat in cold weather.
Ho-hum.  I still hate my car…and I told her that.
Why? Because it takes money out of my pocket.  Some people list their vehicles as an ‘asset’, but if you are a follower of Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad), you might be inclined to think of it as a liability.  Let me explain….
I have a very accurate picture of how much a vehicle costs as I save every receipt for business purposes so here is my breakdown in expenses for 2012: (note, this is based on driving almost 40,000KM last year, which I realize is above average)
Car Payment:  $0…..(it is a 13 year-old car….no payment here!)
Insurance: $1390…(this is actually low as I qualify for a good discount based on my rental properties being with the same company)

Routine Maintenance: $2020…(oil changes, coolant flushes, tire changes, general issues)
Non-routine Maintenance: $1600…($1200 for a brake-job and ABS sensor, $400 to repair a bumper from a hit and run event in a parking lot)

Miscellaneous: $400..(CAA membership, registration fees, safety + emissions test)
Gas: $3800…(again, I drove 40,000KM)
Remember, this is WITHOUT a car payment.  I also did not include any depreciation, of which I have very little due to my car being 13 years old, but everyone knows that cars depreciate at blinding speed.  Throw in a $300 per-month car payment (which is low) and this number jumps to $12,810.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope to never sell my car.  I need it for work and business  purposes….and like my colleague, I don’t know if I could stand waiting in the cold at a bus stop!  OK, so maybe I don’t ‘hate’ my car like I mentioned above…I just hate that it takes money out of my pocket.

So what I do hope to accomplish with this post?  At least get people thinking about the TRUE cost of car ownership…don’t just look at that advertisement for a nice car at only “$149 bi-weekly”…..what they don’t tell you is that it is bi-weekly payments for the better part of a decade..
And who knows, maybe  you can live without a car for 4 years and have $40,000 in your pocket to invest in some cash flowing real estate!