“Own a cottage or investment property? Here’s how to navigate the new capital gains tax changes”

This article was written by ROB CARRICK, Personal Finance Columnist at the Globe and Mail, published April 22, 2024.

New rules for taxing capital gains mean quick decisions are required for cottages that families have owned for decades, and investment properties as well.

Until June 24, you can sell a second property or cottage and pay tax on just half your capital gain, however much it is. After that date, the recent federal budget proposes to increase the inclusion rate on capital gains greater than $250,000 to two-thirds. Capital gains of this size can easily be envisioned in the property market after the massive price gains of the past 10-plus years.

“From now until June, we might be seeing some hasty sales to bypass the increase in capital-gains tax for those people who have held a property for long enough to realize that gain above $250,000,” said Diana Mok, adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario and an expert on real estate finance.

But maybe you don’t want to rush into anything. Historically, the capital-gains inclusion rate has many times been adjusted up and down. The rate went from half to two-thirds in the late 1980s and then up to three-quarters from 1990 to 1999. In 2000, it was chopped back to two-thirds and then again to 50 per cent.

The next opening for a change would be after the next federal election, which is expected by fall of 2025 unless the minority Liberal government falls earlier. People may want to hold on to secondary properties until after that election. “I think this is a huge reason that people will be focused on the Conservative Party,” said Lani Stern, broker and senior vice-president of sales at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

Mr. Stern said he’s advising clients to sell only if they already had plans to do so. The federal government’s budget documents suggest there’s an expectation of a bulge of capital gains-generated tax revenue in general this year as people try to get ahead of the higher inclusion rate.

A capital gain is the difference between the purchase price of a home, stock or other asset and the sale price. The inclusion rate is the portion of the gain that is taxable. Currently, the 50-per-cent inclusion rate on a $500,000 capital gain means a taxable gain of $250,000.

The taxable amount of a $500,000 gain under the new rules would be $291,750. That’s $125,000, or 50 per cent of $250,000, plus $166,750, which is 66.7 per cent of the other $250,000 portion of the $500,000 gain.

Your margin tax rate would determine how much tax you actually pay on these gains.

Draft legislation for the new capital-gains rules has yet to be issued. But John Oakey, vice-president of taxation at Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, said he believes it will be possible for capital gains to be split on the sale of properties co-owned by spouses. Each spouse would be able to report up to $250,000 in capital gains at the 50-per-cent inclusion rate.

The higher inclusion rate was billed in the budget as a way of targeting high-net-worth individuals, but middle-class families could be caught up as well in selling family cottages bought decades ago at a fraction of their current value. A principal residence can still be sold tax-free, but the gain on a cottage or investment property is taxable.

“Whether/when to transfer cottages to the next generation is a perennial question for many Canadians,” Andrew Guilfoyle, partner at Chronicle Wealth, said by e-mail. “The time crunch could make this much more difficult to execute versus simply realizing capital gains in an investment account of public stocks, as there will be legal documents and valuations needed.”

Prof. Mok sees the impact of the higher capital-gains inclusion rate being felt more by long-term investors than those who are flipping properties. “I could hardly see even the hottest market in Canada, such as Toronto, gaining $250,000 within a year or two,” she said.

Longer-term real estate investors will adjust to the higher tax rate, Prof. Mok predicted. Her thinking on this is influenced by what happened in Toronto after the introduction of a municipal land-transfer tax in 2008. Some observers thought house prices would cool down or fall, but that never happened. Similarly, people will adjust to the new capital-gains tax rate.


Real Estate Awards: Why do they matter to you, the client?

Last month, I shared some exciting news with all of you, having been honoured with the Double Gold Medallion award for outstanding sales performance as a real estate agent with Keller Williams for 2023! Additionally, I was recognized as the top-selling solo agent in St. John's for our company in 2023, further highlighting the dedication and expertise I bring to every transaction.

In the past, I have been critical of real estate awards. My main criticism has always been regarding the significance, or lack thereof, of the moniker “award winning Realtor”, as the standard to achieve an award is not the same across companies, and the companies setting those achievement standards have a vested interest in seeing a large portion of their agents achieve the status - more award winning agents, the more prestigious your company is in the public eye, right?

But, in reflecting on this post, I have softened my cynicism quite a bit, and believe that real estate awards do have a role to play in the real estate industry. However, I will not back down on my opinion that we do not need lengthy, Oscar-esque acceptance speech style social media posts to celebrate receipt of accolades.

So why should you, as a client or potential client, care about real estate awards won by an agent? The short answer is it should be used as a partial means for evaluating an agent you would like, or continue, to work with. Partial is key: I suggest you take it with a grain of salt, recognizing that a lot of awards are given out to celebrate achievement at a variety of levels, take into consideration the agent’s time in the business, and other factors about their areas serviced and competition level in those regions. If you better understand the significance that the award represents for the individual agent, it will become a more valuable tool for evaluating if an agent is the right fit for you. 

Let's dive into why these awards are important tools for informing your opinion of an agent.

Recognition of Excellence

First and foremost, awards like the Double Gold Medallion are a mark of excellence in the real estate industry. They signify a high level of performance, which indicates that I have consistently gone above and beyond, exceeding expectations and delivering exceptional results. As a client, knowing that your agent has been recognized for their excellence can give you confidence and peace of mind.

In the hierarchy of KW awards, there are 4 tiers of Gold Medallion, then Platinum and Double Platinum. There were two solo agents who achieved a higher status than I did, but they were operating in rural areas of the province. Outside of that there were three teams that finished above my performance. That is out of 90+ agents, so you can readily see that I am at the top of my game amongst my Keller Williams peers. 

An agent who wins a Bronze level status, while not performing as well as I am on the sales/gross commission income scale, may still be a good fit for a client. For example, a young agent, who is in their first year of their business might be viewed as having exceptional skills to achieve any award status in such a competitive business and such a short time frame. Young award winning agents are the up and coming talent pool and may represent exceptional qualities that far exceed the abilities of an older, more experienced agent - this has been very true over the past decade with respect to young agents and their use of technology in the field vis a vis industry veterans who were not able to adopt technologies as well. 

Trust and Reputation

Awards and accolades contribute significantly to building trust and establishing a strong reputation. When you work with an award-winning agent, you know that you're partnering with someone who has a proven track record of success. This can be especially reassuring for new clients who may be entering the real estate market for the first time or looking for an agent they can rely on.

Industry Knowledge and Expertise

Earning awards like the Double Gold Medallion requires high level performance that hinges on a deep understanding of the real estate market, excellent negotiation skills, and a commitment to staying updated on industry trends. By choosing a top level award-winning agent, you benefit from their expertise and insights, ensuring that you make informed decisions throughout the buying or selling process.

Continued Commitment to Excellence

Receiving these awards is not the end goal but rather a motivation to continue striving for excellence. As a client, you can expect the same high level of dedication, professionalism, and personalized service that has earned me these accolades. Your satisfaction and success remain my top priorities.

In conclusion, winning awards like the Double Gold Medallion and being recognized as the top-selling agent in St. John's is not just about receiving a trophy; it's about the values, expertise, and commitment that underpin every interaction and transaction. Whether you've been a client in the past or are considering working with me in the future, I am dedicated to delivering exceptional results and helping you achieve your real estate goals.

Thank you for your continued support, and here's to many more successes together!


BoC Holds Rate, but What Happens When the Expected Fall Does Happen?

As expected by most economists, with today’s rate announcement the BoC held held its key lending rate at 5% for the fifth consecutive time. These announcement dates have become quite a big deal with many Canadians on the edge of their seats, with speculation running high that a rate cut may be on the horizon by mid-year. While the potential benefits of lower interest rates often spark optimism, it's crucial to consider the potential impact on the Canadian housing market, especially if this reduction isn't accompanied by an increase in housing supply.

Lower interest rates typically make borrowing more attractive, encouraging prospective homebuyers to enter the market. This surge in demand, however, can lead to increased competition for available homes, potentially driving prices upward. If the demand outpaces the supply – a scenario that may unfold with a rate cut unaccompanied by increased housing inventory – the Canadian housing market could experience further strain.

As the charts below demonstrate, supply in Newfoundland is at a 10 year low, demonstrating an obvious dearth in the post-covid era that shows no sign of recovery at the moment. 

NLAR January Supply

Housing Affordability Challenges

While reduced interest rates can make homeownership more financially feasible for some, the lack of a corresponding increase in housing supply may exacerbate affordability challenges in certain regions. As demand intensifies, especially in popular urban areas, prospective buyers may find themselves facing higher prices and limited options.

For real estate investors, the changing market conditions may present both opportunities and challenges. An influx of buyers could potentially drive up property values, benefiting those with existing real estate holdings, as increased demand without a corresponding rise in supply could lead to more competitive bidding situations. We saw similar market reaction with a significant increase to the residential average price post-covid, which has levelled off due partially to interest rate control measures. 

Insights Looking Forward

As Canadians await the Bank of Canada's decisions in the coming months, it's essential to stay informed about the potential implications for the housing market. While lower interest rates can be a catalyst for economic activity, a thoughtful and coordinated approach to addressing housing supply issues is equally critical to ensure a balanced and sustainable real estate landscape. Homebuyers, sellers, and investors alike should monitor market developments closely and be prepared to adapt to the evolving dynamics of the market. I suspect that when interest rates do begin to tumble, it will be a slow decline compared to how quickly they increased, and that the market supply will have time to react to any increased demand.

But if the construction industry is not supported by government initiatives to mitigate supply issues, market dynamics will likely dictate a stabilization of interest rates at elevated levels like we are seeing today as a means to control housing prices. I’m not confident that is a great long term solution. 


Are New Homes Always Better Than Older Ones? A Case for “Good Bones”

In the relentless pursuit of progress, we often find ourselves enchanted by the allure of the new and improved. However, when it comes to the structural integrity of our homes, there's a compelling argument to be made for the enduring quality of mid-20th century lumber. In this era of fast-paced construction and modern materials, the saying "newer isn't always better" holds some water, and the decline in the quality of contemporary lumber should be a consideration for buyers and the longevity of their investment that may have you thinking about the pre-1980s home with “good bones” more seriously.

Timber Transition

The shift in lumber quality can be traced back to the 1980s when old-growth timber, known for its exceptional strength and durability, was nearly depleted. This marked the beginning of an era where the wood used in construction began to lose its intrinsic robustness. As a result, the lumber industry turned to fast-growth wood, harvested from young trees cultivated for rapid production.

One need only take a glance at a piece of mid-20th century lumber compared to its modern counterpart to observe a stark contrast. The older wood boasts a denser composition, displaying tight growth rings and a rich colour indicative of slower growth. In contrast, contemporary lumber often appears lighter and less dense, betraying its rapid growth origins. This difference in density has profound implications for the overall strength and longevity of the wood.

One of the key drawbacks of modern lumber lies in its scarcity of heartwood. Slow-growth wood, characteristic of mid-20th century lumber, yields a more significant amount of heartwood – the central, densest, and longest-lasting part of the tree. In contrast, newer lumber, grown rapidly for quick harvesting, lacks sufficient heartwood. This deficiency makes modern wood more prone to rot, significantly diminishing its lifespan compared to its older counterpart.

Termite Troubles

Another challenge with contemporary lumber is its increased susceptibility to termite damage. The softer nature of fast-growth wood renders it an easier target for these wood-consuming pests. In contrast, mid-20th century lumber, often resinous and naturally termite-resistant, stands as a testament to the benefits of using older, more robust materials in construction.

Investment in the Ages

Despite the allure of shiny new builds, there's a compelling argument for the longevity and resilience of homes constructed in the mid-20th century. With proper updates to plumbing and electrical systems, these vintage abodes represent a solid investment. The robustness of the lumber used in their construction often ensures that these homes will outlast their newer counterparts, offering not only a sense of nostalgia but also a practical and lasting choice for homeowners.

Good Bones = Selling Advantage

In the current market, the dearth of supply often results in buyers turning to new construction, and the steep costs of a custom build. Having an agent who understands the advantages of older homes and the ability to readily communicate those advantages to buyers can be critical for producing a successful sale. On the selling side, I always find an angle to maximize your return, and for my buying clients, this type of consideration can give you options when other competitive buyers don’t see that they have any. 

Navigating the real estate process is tricky, but it gets easier with an experienced agent by your side. If you’d like to chat about your real estate goals, it all starts with a conversation. Reach out any time to discuss your real estate.


The Power of a Larger Deposit When Selling

In the world of real estate, negotiations between buyers and sellers are a delicate dance, and one of the key elements that can significantly impact the outcome, but is often overlooked in the initial negotiations surrounding an offer, is the deposit. As an agent representing a vendor, advocating for a larger deposit can be a strategic move with numerous benefits, but inertia in the St. John’s marketplace has prevented this from becoming commonplace, with deposits sitting generally at $1,000 on most transactions. In this blog post, I will outline some of the reasons why requiring a larger deposit is beneficial for my selling clients, and discuss how the resistance to deposit increase impacts the decision on when to push for a larger deposit and when to go with the flow.


People often confuse a deposit and a down payment. While they're both upfront costs in the home buying process, the two terms are entirely different. A deposit is money you attach to an offer to show a home seller that you're interested in buying their property. A down payment is a percentage of the home price you pay upfront, at time of closing, to close the purchase of a house. Across Canada, the anecdotal average deposit is 1% of the purchase price, and a deposit is credited toward your down payment upon closing. A down payment will be at minimum 5% of the purchase price and is due at closing. 


1. Demonstrates Buyer Commitment: 

A larger deposit is a tangible sign of a buyer's commitment to the property purchase. By putting down a substantial amount of money upfront, the buyer is signalling that they are serious about the transaction. This commitment can help reduce the likelihood of the buyer backing out of the deal, providing the vendor with a more secure position.

2. Negotiating Power at Inspection: 

A larger deposit gives the vendor and their agent increased negotiating power, especially on home inspection matters. Inspections are typically conducted within 10-14 days of acceptance of an offer, and are intended to find deficiencies with the home that can be either disregarded, addressed by the seller, or compensated for in lieu of the seller completing repairs. A seller can feel held hostage by a buyer who insists on marginal inspection deficiencies being addressed or compensated for if the purchaser feels they can walk from a deal with impunity, given the loss of their deposit would be marginal. A seller may give up more in home inspection negotiations than they otherwise would if the deposit was large, and the cost to the buyer was more significant for walking away. Small deposits increase a buyer’s negotiating power, while more skin in the game from the buyer increases the seller’s bargaining position. 

3. Financial Stability and Qualification: 

Requiring a larger deposit often means dealing with financially stable buyers. Buyers who can afford to put down a substantial deposit are more likely to have the financial means to complete the purchase. This can save time and effort for both parties, as dealing with financially qualified buyers reduces the risk of the deal falling through due to financing issues.

4. Protects Against Buyer Default: 

In the unfortunate event that the buyer defaults on the contract, a larger deposit may provide somewhat of a financial cushion for the vendor. This can help cover any damages or losses incurred during the process of re-listing the property. Having a substantial deposit also provides the vendor with more options and resources to pursue legal remedies if necessary.

5. Enhances Perceived Property Value:

In competitive offer situations, requiring a larger deposit can positively influence the perceived value of the property in the eyes of potential buyers. It suggests that the property is in high demand and that serious buyers are willing to invest a significant amount upfront. This perception can attract more interest from potential buyers and create a sense of urgency, potentially leading to a faster sale.


Given all of these benefits, why wouldn’t sellers’ agents be pursuing larger deposits for all contracts? It is hard to say for certain, but some explanations might be related to not wanting to rock the boat on a potential deal by pushing for a large deposit that is perceived to be outside the norm in the industry. Additionally, many agents view deposits as nothing more than meaningless formalities. When a deal does fall apart, a vendor can threaten to keep the money all they like, but in most cases they still want to proceed with obtaining a sale, and the quickest and most affordable way to do that is often simply to sign a deposit release form, returning the marginal deposit money back to the purchaser, and moving on promptly.

There is also a sensitivity to affordability in general in the St. John’s market right now, with inflationary pressures on shelter pushing buyers to their brink. Agents don’t want to be the ones who attempt to forge forward individually with aggressive new deposit standards that may negatively influence a buyer’s opinion of a potential property of interest, however, that type of reaction would be extreme and unlikely in my opinion.

Overall, I believe the increase to deposits would be a beneficial for our industry as a whole, increasing the reliability of sales, while making transactions more predictable. While it may require some finesse during negotiations, the benefits for the vendor make it a worthwhile strategy, especially in the current hyper-competitive real estate landscape. But, until the industry moves forward as a whole with a policy on deposit increases, I will continue to take an ad-hoc approach to deposits with my selling clients to determine what is the best means for advancing their needs. 


Interest Rate Holds at 5%

The latest rate announcement from the BoC was made this morning and they have decided to hold steady at 5%. This is welcomed news for most Canadians, especially those with mortgage renewals and new purchases on the horizon, but the governor of the Bank, Tiff Macklem, indicated that now is not the time for discussions about rate cuts. He also noted that inflation numbers are still elevated and there is risk that the conflict in Gaza will expand to include more regional actors, potentially reducing supply of oil to international markets, which would elevate the price of a barrel of oil and thus the cost of everything else in response. Interest rate hikes remain the Bank’s primary instrument for combatting such inflationary circumstances.  

The next and final announcement for 2023 will be on December 6.

Timing your market action, either to buy or sell, is certainly impacted by the direction of these announcements. For customized, personal advice, reach out to me any time to discuss your real estate decision making.


2023 First Time Home Buyer Program Details Announced - Down Payment Coverage & Closing Cost Assistance

Details have just been announced about two parts of the NL government’s five part plan to improve affordable housing in the province. These two policies are directed toward assisting first time homebuyers (FTHB) with their down payment and closing costs. Summarized, FTHB will be able to apply for:

  1. a repayable loan up to five percent of the purchase price of a new or existing home, to a maximum purchase price of $350,000 in St. John’s.

  2. a grant of 50% of the legal closing costs up to a maximum of $1,500.

Important facts to know:

  • Eligibility will be based on incomes under $95,000, with between $85,000 and $95,000 seeing loan amounts reduced on a sliding scale.

  • There will be 150 applicants successfully supported by these policies. 

  • Down payment assistance loans will not have to be repaid for 5 years from time of purchase. 

  • Closing cost grants match the Federal program, which means FTHB could see up to $3000 contributed by government toward closing costs.

  • Program application will open November 1, 2023

Without question, this is an incentive that anyone thinking about a first home will need to explore, as a down payment assistance program like this will allow people the ability to enter the housing market without having the 5% savings already made. For those buyers who already have their down payment saved for, allowing them to keep their savings and schedule for gradual repayment of the loan in time will positively impact their financial stability. And finally, with $3000 available between federal and provincial funding for closing costs, a fully funded grant could offset roughly 60% of the expected closing costs, leaving buyers with more money in their pockets. 

If you are a first time buyer looking for more information about this newly minted program, send me a message today - I can help answer any questions you might have and take the mystery out of the process of buying your first home!


Initial Thoughts on NL Five-Point Plan to Improve Availability of Affordable Housing

In line with the rumours I was hearing, the NL government did carry through with a policy announcement Monday, aimed at improving availability of affordable housing. The announcement was well received in industry circles, but predictably criticized as too little, too late by opposition leaders. While the initiatives do address major policy targets of affordability, supply, and homelessness, questions remain regarding implementation timelines, adequacy of funding, and unintended consequences. Below are the five points of the plan and my initial thoughts, which I'll expand upon more in subsequent posts. For now, suffice to say affordable housing is a hot topic and a major policy issue for all levels of government.

The five points of the plan are as follows:

1. Remove GST/HST on purpose built rental properties. This is an initiative that was announced by the federal government already, but I assume this means the PST component will be removed as well. Good if there is an interest from developers and investors to build such housing options, which comes down to how profitable it actually is versus other investment options.

2. A low interest financing program that will provide financing to assist in constructing purpose-built rental housing. Great initiative, but again, a function of how profitable the overall investment opportunity is, and whether there are developers waiting to pounce that this policy creates a tipping point for proceeding.

3. Use of available Provincial Government-owned land and buildings for construction or conversion for purpose-built rental housing. Looks good to me, as long as the government follows through with the funding to finance these opportunities, which they appear committed to doing with the cooperation of the private sector as noted above.

4. A home ownership assistance program for first-time homebuyers with lower-to-moderate incomes who qualify for a mortgage to access the required downpayment to purchase a home. The program will also assist with closing costs of up to $1,500 to match the Federal First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit. FABULOUS! This is something that REALTORS® have been talking about for a long time now, and have pushed through CREA's PAC. Downpayment assistance for first time home buyers who are on the cusp of home ownership, meaning they pay more in rent than they would if they owned and had a mortgage, is a great initiative. This is the type of policy that comes from the pressures exerted by the REALTOR community and makes me proud to be in this profession. Matching the federal FTHB tax credit is a nice icing on top.

5. A Secondary and Basement Suite Incentive, which will be a pilot project, whereby homeowners will be able to access a forgivable loan of 50 per cent of the cost of renovations, up to a maximum of $40,000 over five years. This is a cool idea, but I'm not sure it makes the difference for a lot of people. Ultimately, it does impact supply, but most people I know with apartments are looking to cover their costs and profit, rather than provide affordable options to the rental market. While this is a very creative and interesting policy solution, I remain concerned that those who avail will likely use government support to convert their basement into a rental for maximizing rental return, rather than providing affordable options.

Overall, I applaud the government for its action, no matter the timing - some action is better than none, and there are some very creative and good details in this policy announcement that could positively impact affordable housing issues. If you find yourself wondering how this policy announcement impacts your personal situation, I am a quick message or phone call away and always available to discuss your real estate.


Rising Interest Rates in Canada and its Impact on St. John's Real Estate Market

In recent times, Canada has witnessed a notable shift in its interest rate environment, with the Bank of Canada gradually increasing rates. This upward trajectory has led to speculation about the potential effects on various sectors, including the real estate market. In this article, we will explore the impact of rising interest rates on the real estate market in St. John's, Newfoundland, and shed light on the changes that prospective homebuyers and property investors may anticipate.

Impact on Mortgage Affordability: One of the significant consequences of rising interest rates is the effect on mortgage affordability. As interest rates rise, borrowing costs for homebuyers also increase. This can lead to higher monthly mortgage payments, potentially reducing the purchasing power of buyers. Consequently, some prospective buyers may find themselves reconsidering their budget or delaying their home purchase, which could slow down the real estate market activity in St. John's.

Demand and Inventory Levels: Rising interest rates can influence demand dynamics in the real estate market. When rates increase, it often leads to a decrease in the number of potential homebuyers, especially among first-time buyers or those with tight budgets. As a result, the demand for properties may cool down, leading to a potential decline in sales volume.

Historical YTD Sales in St. John’s

Excluding June, which has just begun, sales YTD are down approximately 30% from records in 2022 and 2021, and only slightly elevated from pre-pandemic levels.

Additionally, rising interest rates affect the supply side of the market. Homeowners who have adjustable-rate mortgages or are in need of refinancing may experience higher borrowing costs, potentially discouraging them from listing their properties for sale. This reduced supply, coupled with decreased demand, creates a market with potential for significant downward adjustment on average pricing.

Historical YTD Supply in St. John’s

Again excluding June, supply is down significantly in the current market.

Impact on Property Investors: The real estate investment landscape in St. John's may also be influenced by rising interest rates. Investors who rely on financing to acquire properties may face higher borrowing costs, impacting their return on investment calculations. As a result, some investors may become more cautious or seek alternative investment opportunities. However, it's important to note that the impact on investors can vary depending on their specific strategies, financial situations and their location. In St. John’s, we have seen notable activity from out of province investors taking advantage of the cheaper prices here compared to other major cities across Canada for income properties that generate comparable rental rates, and thus better return on investment.

As Canada experiences a rising interest rate environment, the real estate market in St. John's, Newfoundland, will certainly change in response. The current market can be summarized as favouring sellers - anyone with a home to sell in a good neighbourhood and in reasonable condition can expect to have strong interest as demand remains above pre-pandemic levels, albeit cooling from the ultra hot years of 2021 and 2022. The lack of supply has supported elevated average price statistics, and multiple offer sales after short listing periods is not an uncommon occurrence. 

Prospective homebuyers and property investors should be prepared for potential shifts in mortgage affordability, changes in demand and inventory levels, and adjustments to investment strategies. Monitoring the local market conditions and seeking professional advice can help navigate these changes and make informed decisions in response to the evolving interest rate environment.


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I will work for you every step of the way! My combination of skill, experience, and technology ensures that I can help you complete your real estate transaction in the shortest period of time.

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