Thursday, May 21, 2009

Worst of credit crunch behind us

Financial Post
Posted: May 05, 2009, 12:30 PM by David Pett

Give some credit where its do. At least that is what the banks are getting closer to doing in a signal that the worst of the credit crisis is past us. The quarterly Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey by the Federal Reserve Board in the U.S. released yesterday shows that banks tightened the vice on borrowers more slowly at the start of this year.

The credit crunch is therefore easing and the Loan Officer survey is confirming what the stock market is already telling you-- that the worst is likely past us. What the stock market does not suggest, however, is that credit is still very tight. About 40% of respondents to the April survey have tightened standards for industrial and commercial borrowers down from 65% in the January survey.

The survey also confirms separate reports by top bank analysts that banks will continue to experience charge offs on credit card and commercial loan portfolios. Roughly 60% of respondents reported tighter lending standards for credit card borrowers, and 65% of banks surveyed reported tighter lending standards for commercial real estate borrowers. More than 90% of respondents indicated that loan quality will deteriorate on these loans books.

Loan demand for residential mortgages was up sharply in the first quarter according to the survey-- most probably due to recent higher mortgage refinancing, reports Goldman Sachs—as a result of government policy that has raised the loan-to-value ratio for homeowners eligible to refinance loans and to Fed policy that has driven down mortgage rates for conforming loans.
Levi Folk

New home prices keep heading down

Financial Post Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Prices for new homes fell for the sixth straight month in March, led by declines in Western Canada, as the country's real estate market continued to weaken amid the economic downturn. Statistics Canada said yesterday that prices were down 0.5% during the month, compared to a 0.7% drop in February. The March decline was in line with analysts' forecasts. For the year, new home prices were down 2.4% in March, compared to 1.8% year-on-year decline in February. The biggest price declines in March were in Calgary and Edmonton, with prices falling 1.2% in both cities. Vancouver saw a 1.1% decline and Victoria was down 0.9%, the federal agency said. "In Calgary and Edmonton, declines were attributed to lower material and labour costs and lower lot prices from developers," it said. "In Vancouver and Victoria, builders reported lower prices due to competition and slow market conditions." Millan Mulraine, economics strategist at TD Securities, said "the continued drop in new home prices is a reflection of the overall weakness in the Canadian housing market, and the weak domestic economic conditions and soft labour-market conditions continue to sap housing demand."

How the RRSP Home Buyers Plan (HBP) Works

Written by FrugalTrader on Jun 4, 2007

When I bought my first home when I graduated in 2003, I was fortunate enough to have some cash saved for a down payment. Most young people, however, don’t have this luxury but they have some money in an RRSP. In this particular situation, using the RRSP First Time Home Buyers Plan (HBP) can be of great benefit.

What is the HBP?
The RRSP Home Buyers plan is a program that allows first time home buyers to withdraw up to $20,000 $25,000 (as of 2009 federal budget) from their RRSP towards their first home TAX FREE.

How does it work?
As mentioned above, if you are a first time home buyer, you can withdraw up to $25,000 out of your RRSP tax free! If you are purchasing the home with a spouse, you can both withdraw $25k EACH from your accounts. In terms of repayment, you have up to 15 years to pay back your RRSP starting the second year after the year of withdrawal. At this time 1/15 of your borrowed amount must be paid back / year.

What’s the catch?
• In terms of penalties, if you don’t repay 1/15 of the borrowed amount / year, you’ll have to add the amount as income.
• You MUST be a first time home buyer and a resident of Canada at the time of withdrawal.
• You MUST purchase/build the home before Oct 1 after the year of withdrawal.
• RRSP contributions of up to 90 days before the withdrawal date can be used towards the HBP.

Why would I do this?
This is one of the only ways to withdraw from your RRSP tax free and a great way to get yourself into the real estate market. Some may argue that you’re missing out on growth in your RRSP while the money is borrowed. However, I think that if you get a good price for your first home relative to others in the neighborhood, the appreciation of the home will hopefully make up for this.

Home sales surge as prices dip 3rd month in row

Garry Marr, Financial Post Published: Friday, May 15, 2009

Existing-home sales surged in April, a third consecutive monthly increase, which forced the Canadian Real Estate Association yesterday to revise its forecast for a housing market apparently on the rebound.

On a seasonally adjusted basis there were 34,838 unit sales last month, an 11.2% increase from March and the largest monthly jump in sales since March, 2004.

"This spring has been strong," said Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Ottawa-based group, which represents about 100 real estate boards across the country. "Affordability, lower rates and prices, that's bringing people back to the market."

Interest rates are at a record low for a five-year, fixed-term mortgage, still the most popular product among homeowners. Some banks are offering rates as low as 3.75%, if the buyer locks in for a full five years. But variable rates, tied to prime, have also continued to drop as the Bank of Canada has lowered rates.

Add in the fact that prices have fallen from the record-setting pace set in 2008 and you have a recipe for people getting out to buy, says the Canadian Real Estate Association. The average price of a home sold in April was $306,366, a 3.2% decline from a year ago.

Dale Ripplinger, president of CREA, said pricing, better borrowing conditions and improved consumer confidence have all been factors. He added sellers have become realistic in their pricing and that is driving the market. "Homes are only worth what a buyer is willing to pay," Mr. Ripplinger said.

Because of its renewed confidence in the market, CREA is now forecasting sales will come in at 370,500 for 2009, up from the 360,900 in sales the group was forecasting in February. But even the renewed forecast would be a 14.7% drop in sales from a year ago and a far cry from the record 523,855 in sales in 2007.

There is some good news for consumers who are considering buying now. The association is forecasting that the average price of a home will drop only 5.2% this year from a year ago. In February, CREA had forecast a 6.4% drop in average price.
Not everyone is convinced the market has turned the corner. Pascal Gauthier, an economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank, still contends there is room for prices to drop.

"The next few quarters of data will be crucial in determining if a trough has indeed formed or if this was just a respite with another leg down ahead," said Mr. Gauthier, who has forecast a national price fall-off up to 20%. "So far, the first few months of 2009 lend credence to the view that improved affordability is winning out against the weak economic backdrop of a recession ... but we are still in the early rounds of a bout that has yet to fully play out."

Economist Marc Pinsonnealt of National Bank Financial noted last month's jump in sales comes at the same time that new listings are dropping. "These opposite movements were such that the disequilibrium that arose last October when existing-home sales plunged has now vanished," he said.

Realtors say sales over the past three months are further proof the Canadian housing market is not heading toward a U. S.-style correction. "There has been a fall in Canada but it's been pretty mild. The indicators out there [are] that [the decline] is not going to be as severe as originally thought," said Sherry Chris, chief executive of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which plans to launch its brand in Canada this year.

Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada, said he sees an increase in activity in the lower end of the market, triggered by first-time buyers and people returning to home ownership. "You are seeing [the average price] drop because it's the low end of the market that is selling, not the high end," he said.

Canada's rebound lagging, OECD says


The Canadian economy remains in the grip of "strong slowdown'' despite the first baby steps of growth appearing in other parts of the world, a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows.

The OECD says China is leading the world in a potential rebound from the world's most severe slump since the Great Depression, with the United Kingdom, France and Italy also showing signs that the economic slide is bottoming out.

The positive indicators in these countries are "tentative'' and "weak,'' the international think-tank says, but "they are present in a majority of the (composite leading indicators) component series.''

The rest of the industrialized world, including Canada, however, faces more economic deterioration, the think-tank says, although at a slowing pace.

The OECD's monthly data on economic indicators sensitive to expectations of future activity shows Canada's index falling for the fifth straight month, by 0.4 points in March. That puts it down 10.2 points over the past year, both numbers below the average for the 29 countries in the survey.

The report is at odds with Ottawa's oft-repeated boast that Canada will lead most major economies out of recession, and will bounce back higher.

Liberal finance critic John McCallum charged the federal government is partly to blame for Canada lagging behind some other economies, charging that Ottawa has been slow-footed in spending billions earmarked in January's budget for shovel-ready infrastructure.

"If you don't get your fiscal stimulus money out, you may as well not have a fiscal stimulus because it doesn't do one bit of good,'' he said.
"I don't think they can point to one job being created, for example, for infrastructure.''

Transport Minister John Baird, who is responsible for infrastructure, responded that the government has already given municipalities July's gas tax money and are moving quickly on construction projects.

The OECD report was not a surprise to most economists, many of whom have disputed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's contention that Canada would lead the world in coming out of recession.

Canada's dependence on exports to the U.S., China and other countries suggests that the country's economy depends on recovery outside its borders to boost demand for its products.

"At best, we've seen early signs Canada and the U.S. may be entering a period of more moderate decline rather than growth, but in East Asia we're seeing convincing signs that they are past the trough,'' said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist with CIBC World Markets.

China's resurgence would be good news for Canada, he adds, boosting demand for the country's base metals.

"Non-energy commodity prices typically rise in the early stages of recovery, or even before, in part due to the fact that firms must rebuild inventories before they can reactivate production lines,'' he said.

The OECD report is only the most recent voice sighting so-called "green shoots'' that are giving economists, investors and governments hope that the global economic and financial crisis is approaching a bottom.

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet also noted that growth has returned to some countries, although he cautioned that uncertainty remains high.

Even in North America, talk of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is growing bolder with each encouraging, or less-than-awful, economic indicator.

Canada saw its first positive jobs report in six months in April, with employment registering a modest 36,000 jobs gain, although all came in the self-employment category.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What the rate cut means for mortgages

Garry Marr, Financial Post

The latest rate cut means consumers buying a house can borrow for as little as 3% interest on their loan if they are willing to buy into the Bank of Canada's statement Tuesday that it won't be changing rates until June, 2010.

If you don't believe the bank will hold steady on its promise, you can lock into five-year, fixed-rate mortgages for as low as 3.85% on a discounted basis -- the lowest rate in Canadian history.

But all of that may amount to nothing when it comes to soothing a Canadian housing market in which new construction has fallen below 200,000 on an annualized basis for the first time in seven years. March existing-home sales were off 13.7% from a year ago.

"What is 25 basis points among friends? It's really nothing," said Benjamin Tal, senior economist with CIBC World Markets. "This is not something that is going to change the course of the market. It only helps at the margin."

Mr. Tal did say mortgage refinancings have risen dramatically in the past few months as Canadians who might have borrowed at 5.75% just over two years ago are ready to eat any interest rate penalty because a five-year rate mortgage is now so low.

The penalty to break an existing mortgage is the greater of three months interest or what is called the interest rate differential. The interest rate differential is the lost interest between your current rate and market rates.

Mr. Tal says while there is not much lower for variable-rate mortgages to go, the gap between short-term money and long-term money is still significant enough that the temptation is not to lock in.

"You might do better the first two years [of a five-year mortgage] but not the remaining three. I'm convinced long-term interest rates will rise. I can see [long-term] rising 200 basis points. These are emergency rates and at some point this emergency will end," says the economist.

John Turner, the director of mortgages at the Bank of Montreal says he's never seen anything like what is going on in today's market.
"There is a possibility of another drop," says Mr. Turner. "But does your tummy feel good about something that has a higher possibility of going up than going down any further."

He is convinced these lower rates will boost the housing market. The 13.7% decline in home sales in March was the smallest year over year decline in six months. "I think there is a segment of the market that couldn't afford a home before," said Mr. Turner.

Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada, said while rates are declining, banks are getting tighter with how they hand out credit. "If you are self-employed, the banks are demanding more documentation. Appraisals are getting harder too. It's not what you bought the house for but what it's appraised for," said Mr. Lawby, who also heads up a mortgage broker business. "There is not a lot of subprime out there for people with any credit problems in their history."

Weekly Market Insight

May 1, 2009
Now… don’t get too excited, but there are some encouraging signs from both sides of the border suggesting that we are getting close to the bottom of this recession. In fact, we are already starting to accumulate the ammunition we might need to fuel the recovery.

But before we go to the good news, we have to realize that the drop in first quarter Canadian GDP will eclipse the decline stateside. In fact, the projected 7.3% annualized GDP drop in the quarter will be, by far, the steepest on record, and the speed at which the labour market is degenerating is now matching the darkest
hours of the 1982 recession. Decades from now, economists, not yet born, will point to the first quarter of 2009 as the epitome of weak economic data.

But the news is getting better:
• For the first time in many months, both US and Canadian investors are not adding to their cash positions. In fact, we are starting to see a reversal of this trend—a bullish signal since these mountains of extra cash ($1.1 trillion in the US and close to $90 billion in Canada) will be redeployed.
• With commodity prices stabilizing, the gap between nominal and real GDP in Canada is narrowing back to its long-term average. This means that real economic variables such as real GDP will be much more relevant to corporate profits—eliminating a source of uncertainty and volatility in the market.
• The pace at which house prices in Canada are falling is moderating and at this rate, this housing market correction (from a national perspective) will end up being a mild one—both in absolute and relative terms. In fact, the notable improvement in housing affordability is injecting some life to the mortgage market, encouraging new purchasing and refinancing activities.
• Consumer confidence in both countries is starting to improve, while retail sales are surprisingly on the upside.
• And the money multiplier in the US has leveled off in recent weeks. That is extremely important since it suggests that commercial banks are starting to use some of the money that they have been parking at the Fed for other (more constructive) purposes such as lending. This is reflected in the fact that the Ted
spread (spread between the libor and T-bills rate) narrowed by almost 10 basis points over the past few week, and it is now at its lowest rate since the beginning of the crisis.

While the unemployment rate in Canada is projected to peak over 9%, the main impact of the softening labour market will be on the confidence of Canadians that are still employed. In this sense we are already witnessing a rapid change in saving behavior, with the savings rate rising from less than 2% in late-2007 to 4.7% in Q4-2008, the fastest year-over-year ascent since the mid-1980s.

But that is not atypical for a recessionary period. In the 1980s’ recession, the savings rate shot up to 20%, as declining consumer confidence and fear of layoffs had Canadians taking frugality to the extreme. We estimate that the current recession will see the savings rate rise above 6.5%, translating into a net withdrawal from the economy of about C$26 bn over the next two years.
The rise in the savings rate will be relatively modest, primarily because Canadians are better equipped this time.

With higher quality jobs, a high participation rate, and an extended EI program ensure that households continue to see larger inflows of income compared to prior recessions. Moreover, credit is more accessible now than in earlier recessions, and affordability has improved dramatically, thanks to interest rates at historic lows.

Still, C$26 bn of foregone consumption doesn’t go unnoticed and will evidently weigh on GDP. But due to massive cash injections from all levels of government, that estimated increase in personal saving will be dwarfed by increases in government spending, with C$40 bn of fiscal stimulus coming from the Federal government alone, while provinces will do their part through vast outlays over the same two-year period.

These would push the combined Federal and Provincial budget deficit to about C$53 bn and C$47 bn in 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively or roughly 3% of GDP, a significant boost to the economy by any measure.

Benjamin Tal
Senior Economist

House-price index shows it's a buyer’s market

Financial Post Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

OTTAWA -- House prices were down 4.1% in February compared with a year ago, according to a monthly measure of six key markets in Canada.
The Teranet-National Bank housing-price index, released Wednesday, was off 7.4% from its peak in August of last year.
Four of the six cities measured were showing year-over-year declines in February: Calgary was down 8.1%; Vancouver was down 6.4%; Toronto was down 5%; and Halifax was off by 0.5%.

Rounding out the list were Montreal and Ottawa, which had annual price increases of 3.2% and 2.8%, respectively. Still, the pace of price growth in these markets has slowed in recent months.

On a month-to-month basis, this housing-price index has declined for six months straight, the longest run in the nine years this index has existed.
Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist with National Bank Financial Group, said the latest report provides further evidence of the "buyer's market" that has emerged in the Canadian housing market "after five years of seller's-market conditions from 2002 to 2007."

There have been some hefty price decline in some markets from their peaks, including in Calgary, where prices are down 12% from August 2007, and in Vancouver, where prices have fallen 10.2% since June 2008.
Canwest News Service



Speak with a mortgage professional as soon as possible. This will allow you to shop in a price range that is realistic for your situation. At the same time, make sure you are prepared financially for the standard costs associated with a purchase of real estate. Some of these costs may include:

-Deposit - Once you have an accepted offer on a place, there is generally a 1 week period to remove subjects (ie. Inspection, financing, etc.) Once those subjects have been satisfied, you are required to put down a deposit on the property. This amount varies, so make sure to ask your realtor.
-Property Purchase Tax – If you are a first time home buyer and you meet the qualifications, this does not apply to you. However, if you have ever owned property, anywhere in the world, this tax will be charged on your purchase completion date. You calculate the amount by taking 1% of the first $200,000 and then 2% of anything over that.
-GST – When purchasing a brand new property, GST will be charged. Your realtor will advise you of this amount, and it does not apply to used homes.
-Closing/Legal Fees – Be prepared for a legal bill of approximately $1000 for a standard purchase or sale. If you are buying and selling at the same time, budget approximately $2000 for this expense.
-Property Tax Adjustment – This is calculated at the lawyers office. A person is always responsible for the property taxes due during the time lived in the home.
-Appraisal – Depending on the lender and how much money you have down, an appraisal of the property may be required. A standard, residential appraisal will run between $250-$450, and is due at the time of appraisal. Different properties will have a higher cost, so ask your mortgage professional once you have decided on a property.
-Insurance Premium (If Applicable) – In Canada, if you are financing a property to more than 80% of the property value, the mortgage needs to be insured (This is called a “high ratio” mortgage). This is generally done through CMHC, Genworth Financial, or AIG and they charge an insurance premium that is added to your total mortgage. The percentage that you pay will vary depending on how much money you have down, and how straight forward the approval is. If you have a 20% down payment, or you are refinancing to no more than 80% of the property value, a fee is generally not charged. A typical fee ranges from 1.75% to 3.10% of the mortgage amount.


Your credit score, also known as a beacon score, is generated by 2 main organizations in Canada; Equifax and Trans Union. They have a system which tracks any personal loans, credit cards, or lines of credit that you have. The system gives you a score somewhere between 300-900, with 300 being the worst and 900 being the best. In order to obtain the very best mortgage rates, you generally need to have a score of 660 or better, however exceptions are made when it makes sense. If your credit score is not this high, there are a whole other group of lenders willing to help you out, but generally at a higher cost.

What determines your score?

All of your creditors will report monthly to Equifax or Trans Union. They report how much you owe, what your monthly payment is, and whether you have made your payment on time. A record is kept for as long as you have the debt, showing how many times you have ever been 30 days late, 60 days late, or 90 days late. It will also show if the account has ever been sent to a collection company. The longer that you have had credit reporting to the credit bureau without late payments, the higher your score will climb. Also, if you have credit cards or lines of credit, try to keep your outstanding balance under 50% of the limit. Points are deducted for high balances in comparison to the limit, late payments, collections, and too many inquiries for credit.

Important things to note:

-Your utility bills, cell phone, gym membership, car insurance, etc., do not give you credit for paying on time. They will never show up on the credit bureau unless you don’t pay them. If you plan on arguing or disputing a charge with one of these companies, expect it to show up as a collection on your credit bureau and drastically lower your
beacon score. It’s generally better to just pay the amount owing, and dispute your case after the fact. You rarely win a fight with a creditor as they just got to Equifax and place the account in collection which negatively affects your credit.

-Unless your mortgage is with a credit union, it probably doesn’t report to the credit bureau either. So, even though you might pay your mortgage perfectly for 5 years, you won’t have any credit score at all unless you have established some unsecured personal credit. ( card, car loan, personal bank line of credit, etc)

-Bankruptcy and Credit Counseling programs make it near impossible to qualify for a mortgage until you have been finished with the program for at least a year or two, and reestablished some new credit for another year or two. If you are considering one of these options, don’t just take your trustee’s advice. Make sure to talk to a mortgage broker about how this will affect your ability to purchase a home.

Mortgage Qualifications:

There are a lot of programs for different situations these days, which is why it’s best to start your home buying process with a call to a mortgage broker. However, here are some general guidelines that you’ll want to follow.

-Unless you are a self employed person (need to prove self employment), be prepared to obtain a job letter from your employer, as well as a recent paystub. The mortgage amount that you qualify for, will be based on how much income you can verify per year. If you are self employed, and your credit is extremely good, you can qualify for mortgages without having to prove all of your income. (call me to discuss this)

-If you have a good credit rating and verifiable income, you can purchase a home with as little as a 5% down payment. If you have no down payment, there is even an option where the lender gives you the down payment, but you pay a slightly higher interest rate. If you are tired of renting and would like to get into the market, please call me to discuss your options.

-If you are new to the country, or brand new to credit, you will likely need to have at least 12 months worth of credit history on your credit bureau. So, if you have always paid cash for everything, please keep in mind that this will make it very difficult to qualify for a mortgage. Try getting a line of credit at your bank, credit card, auto loan, or small personal loan to begin establishing your credit score.

-Properties – Most standard houses, townhouses, and apartments are fine with the majority of lenders. If, however, you are considering one of the following property types, please call to discuss as it may be more difficult:

-leased land
-mobile homes
-former grow ops
-leaky condos
-remote areas
-farm land


When you select a mortgage approval, you will have a term and an amortization. The term, is anywhere from 6 months to 10 years, and this is the length of time that your negotiated rate applies. At the end of the term, your mortgage is up for renewal and you can then decide if you’d like to change lenders or programs.
The amortization is the length of time to pay the mortgage down to $0.00. This is traditionally 25 years, but lenders are now offering amortizations as long as 35 years. This longer period of time will lower your monthly payment and enable you to qualify for a larger mortgage amount. You do, however, end up paying a lot of extra interest for those extra years.

Here is an example on a $300,000 mortgage.

-Mortgage Amount - $300,000
-Interest Rate – 4.15%
-Term – 5 years
-Amortization – 25 years
-Monthly payment - $1602.55
-Balance at the end of 5 years - $261,839.87

Now with a 35 year amortization.

-Monthly payment - $1349.02
-Balance at the end of 5 years - $278,697.60


-With a 35 year amortization, your monthly payment will decrease by $253.53, but your balance after 5 years will be higher by $16,857.73

Don’t forget to include things like property taxes and strata fees (if applicable) when deciding on a comfortable payment.

A good rule of thumb for approval, is to add up the monthly mortgage payment, monthly strata, monthly property taxes and heat, and make sure that it doesn’t exceed 35% of your gross monthly income.

Ex. Income of $50,000/year = $4166/mnt
$4166 x 35% = $1458/mnt
Therefore, you need to keep your mortgage payment, taxes, strata, and heat, below $1458/mnt if your total income was $50,000/yr. There are exceptions to this, depending on your amount of down payment and your credit score.

Renting Vs Buying

Even with the higher market values, it is generally better to own a property as opposed to renting it. Although property values climb and fall from year to year, they have always risen in the long run.

Let’s consider an average apartment at $175,000 and let’s say the rent is $900/mnt.

Over 1 year, you will have paid $10,800 in rent, which has nicely paid for someone else’s mortgage.

At an example rate of 4.15%, with 5% down payment, you can get a monthly payment of approximately $775/mnt. You now pay strata because you own the place (approx $125/mnt) and you will have to pay the property taxes of approximately $100/mnt.
After 1 year, you will have paid $12,000 in mortgage payments, strata, and property taxes, but you will be an owner of real estate, which generally appreciates over time. At a conservative appreciation of 5% in a year, your property will now be worth about $183,750. After 5 years of 5% average appreciation, your place will be worth approx $224,000 So, although you have had to pay a little more out of pocket each month, your equity position, in the long run, should more than make up for it. (Obviously dependant upon an appreciating real estate market as well as which type of rate you decide on)
Drop in rates should add more stimulus: BoC
Reuters Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OTTAWA -- The Bank of Canada's announcement that it would leave official interest rates unchanged for a year helped push down market rates across the yield curve, and that should provide more economic stimulus, Governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday.

"We did see an important move in interest rates farther out the yield curve as a result of that commitment which should provide considerable additional stimulus to the economy," he told the House of Commons finance committee.

Senior deputy governor Paul Jenkins said if the Bank of Canada did engage in unconventional easing through buying securities, it could keep the operations neutral by concentrating purchases on indexes.

"There are techniques that can be used to achieve a neutral effect. For example, one could buy the indexes," senior deputy governor Paul Jenkins said.

Mr. Carney said the United Kingdom and some other European nations must implement plans to deal with toxic assets in their banks, similar to that of the United States.

"It is an underlying assumption of our current projection that there will be steady progress on stabilizing the U.S. banking system and therefore the global financial system," Mr. Carney said in testimony to a parliamentary finance committee. "We need similar steps, different designs, but similar effective steps to recap and separate assets to continue to proceed in the United Kingdom and in Europe."
© Thomson Reuters 2009

Does Your Home Have Curb Appeal?

We've all heard the old adage "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." This is especially true when it comes to your home. If you're thinking about selling, there's no more important audience to attract than potential buyers, who are highly influenced by how a home looks the first time they get a glimpse of it. Even if your goal is just to impress your neighbors and guests you should pay close attention to the first impression your home in making. Here are a few simple tips and techniques that can positively affect your home's "curb appeal" and perhaps even its value.

Clean Up and Repair:
The most useful chores to tackle first are basic maintenance and repairs before moving onto larger projects. Clean windows and siding, make sure outdoor lights are working, stow away yard tools and equipment, and clean up dead branches and leaves. Make sure that fences, walkways, and the driveway are in good repair too - a home that looks well taken care of is always more attractive to buyers.

A full landscape overhaul may not be necessary, but your yard, especially in the front, should look neat and well maintained. Trim any overgrown shrubs, remove weeds, and tidy up planting areas. If the season is right, add some colorful flowering plants to brighten up areas around walkways and the front entrance. It's an easy and inexpensive way to create an instantly welcoming feeling.

The Entrance:
The front door is another key element of that all-important first impression, and should reflect the style of the home. If replacement is cost-prohibitive, consider reviving a tired, faded door with a fresh coat of paint in a great accent color and swapping out the hardware.

Paint It New:
Brighten up the exterior of your home with a new paint job. Driving around your neighborhood may inspire some ideas of what may be flattering to your home. If you're planning to sell your home, it's usually best to go with colors that have widespread appeal so that potential buyers won't be put off by unusual colors or combinations. Painting the exterior can add significantly to the home's value.