Living in UBC


Dream HOME

The Canadian Press

Published: September 22, 2012


VANCOUVER — Cobi Falconer single-handedly paid down the mortgage on her Vancouver condo while also paying tuition for four university degrees and working numerous jobs simultaneously.

Some 17 years after she bought the studio space in the trendy Kitsilano neighbourhood at the age of 23 — with some down-payment help from her father — Falconer is proudly mortgage-free.

“It was a very rewarding experience, it’s all part of growing and learning and maturing,” says the 39-year-old archivist, who took on two full-time serving jobs during the summer and added co-operative and teaching assistant gigs during her grad school years.

“As a young person investing early it just made so much sense to not have to put money towards rent, it’s like investing in yourself.”

Census data released last week by Statistics Canada show that, for the first time, there are more people living alone in Canada than there are couples with children. One-person households now make up 27.6 per cent of all homes, a three-fold increase since 1961.

Many Canadians are getting into the market on their own as low mortgage rates make ownership easier to finance and young people stay in school longer, get married later in life — or not at all — while baby boomers settle down on their own after a split.

But experts say singles should be extra diligent about some choices that come with buying a home.

“There is something about being on your own — the individuality, and you don’t answer to anybody — but if something goes wrong, you don’t have a backup,” says Mark Weisleder, a Toronto-based real estate lawyer.

When deciding whether it’s time to buy or keep renting, one of the most important factors is how “rooted” you are, says Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust.

If you have a stable job and know you’re going to be in the same city for the foreseeable future, buying is a better investment opportunity than renting, she says.

But you have to be able to commit for at least three to five years. It’s not wise to buy if you may sell in one or two years because the expenses associated with selling — including the five-per-cent commission paid to a realtor, plus legal fees, land transfer fees, etc. — can erode any investment gains made.

Also decide whether you’re willing to give up some of the perks, like travelling, dinners and nights out, of not being tied down to commit more of your income to a property.

For her part, Falconer decided against owning a car, rents out her parking space for extra income and eliminated frivolous purchases.

Being single makes it a little more difficult to save up a sizable down payment, so you may have to choose a condo or a property you can rent out to help pay some of your mortgage.

“When you’re buying by yourself, as opposed to buying as a couple, you sort of have to do double the work in terms of thinking about how you’re going to afford this,” says Haque.

Save up the biggest down payment you can — you don’t have to pay mortgage insurance if you’ve got 20 per cent — to make monthly payments more affordable and to pay less interest. In addition, you have to have an adequate nest egg set aside to cover costs associated with the initial purchase.

Your priorities as a single likely differ from those of a couple, so make sure you choose a property that aligns with your lifestyle as well as what you can afford. Falconer’s small studio space by the beach works because she can walk everywhere she needs to go.

For a single person, going with a condo may better fit your lifestyle because its requires a lot less maintenance. It could be harder to do things like just leave on a trip on a whim due to security concerns or financial burdens associated with upkeep of a non-condo property, Weisleder says.

Meanwhile condos usually include amenities, security and some upkeep on the building.

If you’re unsure about whether buying is right for you, create a budget that includes your rent as well as living expenses and see how much you have left over to determine if you could comfortably carry a mortgage.

Owning costs about $500 to $600 more per month on average than renting, so you need to have that cushion, in addition to saving for a down payment, Weisleder says, adding that housing costs should ideally not eat up more than 30 per cent of your monthly income.

And remember that lenders can be harder on a single person because they are deciding based on only one credit report and one income — so you may qualify for less house or have to get a co-signer.

Weisleder says singles should be very careful before agreeing to waive financing conditions because he’s seen lenders make a deal that the home buyer thinks is ready to go, then receive a call later saying a co-signer is required.

This happens more often to single people than couples because lenders are more nervous about factors such as net worth and income.

Even if it’s not your dream home, ownership is an exercise in self-discipline that can provide a sense of individuality and accomplishment.

Buying as a single doesn’t mean you’ll never live with a partner — it just helps you to build equity on your own and start saving for the future, says Haque.

“You’re getting a start, you’re sort of conditioning yourself to live within your means, you’re conditioning yourself to start saving and the interest rate is currently in your favour, so you can get ahead by building equity.”


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By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – In all his days as a player and coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada’s men’s soccer team, Bob Lenarduzzi never had access to a permanent training centre.


But at long last, barring any unforeseen changes, the Whitecaps and Canada’s men’s and women’s teams will have a West Coast training facility to call their own by 2015.


The Whitecaps and provincial government officials announced plans Thursday for a new $32.5-million National Soccer Development Centre at the University of British Columbia.


Lenarduzzi called the announcement a “significant milestone” for the sport in B.C., the rest of Canada and for the Whitecaps.


“I’ve been involved for 38 years in the professional game (since) 1974 when the Whitecaps started up, and we have never had a place to call home – that seems ridiculous,” said Lenarduzzi, now president of the Whitecaps, during a news conference at Thunderbird Stadium, which will be part of the centre.


“I also coached the national team for six years (and) never had a place to call home.”


Plans call for the B.C. government to provide up to $14.5 million in funding while the Whitecaps are slated to contribute $15 million and UBC will donate land valued at $3 million. The Whitecaps men’s, women’s and residency squads as well as UBC teams, community soccer organizations and other groups will use the facility.

The site will include a new fieldhouse and five new, refurbished or improved fields – three consisting of grass and two of artificial turf.


The Whitecaps have been trying for seven years to develop their own facility, but efforts at previous locations fell through. Lenarduzzi said the facility will help the Whitecaps recruit top players while aiding professionals, amateurs and young and old players.


Forced to practise at various venues in Metro Vancouver, the Whitecaps have “camouflaged” their training facilities during recruitment, but now have “the final piece to the puzzle.”


The club was also required, as part of acceptance in Major League Soccer in 2009, to have its own facility, and has faced “plenty of questions” from the league on the topic over the past three years.


Lenarduzzi said the facility is also a requirement for Canada to host the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

“One of our core objectives is growing the sport in British Columbia and Canada,” he said. “This is certainly something that fulfills that objective, and we feel like we now have a place that not only the Whitecaps, but our national teams can call home.”


John Herdman, whose Canadian women’s team won the country’s first Olympic medal in soccer, a bronze in London in August, also welcomed the announcement. His squad reached the podium after deploying a Vancouver residency program at fields throughout the city.


“We achieved a bronze medal, but one of the things that will always nag at me is: Would we have achieved gold if we had a decent facility to train in consistently when (were) in our residency program?” he asked. “Without the sirens, without the balls from other fields hitting us on the head?”


The lack of a regular training facility was also an issue for the women’s squad in 2011, when it made a disappointing early exit from the World Cup after training in Italy. Herdman said there should no longer be any excuse about having national teams train in Canada for global events.


The facility will show kids what it takes to be “the next Christine Sinclair.”


“This may be our little tipping point,” said Herdman. “We need to find a number of things that are going to take us from bronze to gold – to take us onto the podium at the World Cup.”


The Whitecaps will practise occasionally at UBC this season and be based at a temporary facility on campus starting in 2013.

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