Is a Condo a Good Investment?

If you’re looking to dive into real estate investing but don’t have the capital to invest in a development project or a single-family home, a condo may sound like a good compromise. Condominiums are generally cheaper than a detached home, and landlords have fewer maintenance issues, as the association takes care of the lawn and exterior of the building.

But just like any other investment, it’s important to thoroughly research all of the benefits and potential concerns you may face when investing in a condo.

“Too many Canadians are being seduced by the pretty pictures and stories of easy lifestyle and they end up buying into a building that is a time bomb of costs,” Kur Rosentreter, senior adviser at Manulife Securities Inc., told The Globe and Mail.

The Potential Pitfalls of a Condo Investment

Many potential investors consider condos because they sound like an attainable option. They’re cheaper than a detached home or the cost to buy into a major development project.

But experts warn that outside of the purchase price savings, condos may wind up costing more than a house.

In urban areas of Canada, the property taxes can be high. The monthly maintenance costs can also add up quickly. In addition to these costs, potential landlords must also consider that they are still responsible for the interior of the condo. If the water heater breaks, you will be in charge of replacing or repairing it.

Many condo owners also deal with unforeseen expenses. If the pool valve breaks or the community requires a major repair, condo owners will collectively be responsible for these costs.

The Potential Benefits of Investing in a Condo

Still, condos manage to remain a popular investment option, and buying in the right place has a lot to do with the success of your investment.

If the high-priced housing markets of Vancouver or Toronto are out of your reach, you may consider foreign investment if you have the means. In the United States, condo investments in along the Florida coast or in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina often provide a reliable stream of recurring income.

If you prefer to keep your investments in Canada, you may be able to capitalize on the high costs of single-family homes. Because homes are out of reach for many young people, they are left with no other option than to buy a condo.

While you must consider property taxes and maintenance costs, there is the benefit of not having to maintain the grounds. The association takes care of lawn and building maintenance. The only thing you’re responsible for is the interior of the home.

Additionally, condos offer unique amenities that attract certain types of people. Many have gyms, business centers and pools that residents are free to use. These amenities can be promoted to attract potential renters or buyers.

Ultimately, the numbers will determine whether a condo is a good investment. If you can get a nice return from selling or a decent income stream from renting, this investment option may be worth your while.

Capital Matters: A Washington D.C. Education & Workforce Chief Leads A New Charge on Behalf of Workers – and Has a Message for Canada & the World


Canada, meet the new boss in town.

In the U.S. capital of Washington D.C., a new woman now helms one of the most important agencies in the country designed to educate, train and assist workers.

Her name: Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes.

This week, Morris-Hughes began her new position as the Interim Director of The Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services, or DOES. It’s a post that calls for a hefty role: since she operates as State Labor Commissioner. It’s a post that calls for hefty financial management skills: because the agency is responsible for all things workforce-related, it, along with the U.S. government, administers an estimated $150 million budget of federal, local and specific-purpose funds. Throw in another $80 million budget for capital projects. And it’s a post that calls for a leader who drives innovation, promises disruption and demands excellence.

On all fronts, Morris-Hughes is happy to lead the charge.

In her new role, Morris-Hughes vows to give everything from workforce development to grants management an upgrade. These “upgrades” would impact workers from a wide range of ages and experiences, from every part of the city. And her goals extend beyond Washington D.C.’s borders. For any organization in Canada or elsewhere looking to invest, looking to partner, or looking for a new place to plant corporate roots, Morris-Hughes wants them to know: the District is home to a highly-accomplished base of talent due to a thriving, knowledge-based economy. Simply put, Washington D.C. has an embarrassment of professional riches that the rest of the world should continue to notice, engage and benefit from. The welcoming to the city of companies like Uber and Yelp — both of which are helping to usher in workforce-related change — underscores Morris-Hughes’ point.

For those not already apart of Washington D.C.’s talent base, Morris-Hughes is re-tooling existing programs and creating new ones designed to help level the playing field in terms of advantages, education and opportunity.  At DOES, she has led massive turnaround efforts designed to better administer programs for youth — efforts that have become examples for other U.S. states. At Washington D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, she wore many hats: leading the agency through a federal corrective action plan and ultimately helping Washington D.C. reverse a “high risk” status for grant oversight, operation management and fiscal reporting; and leading management functions to support the agency’s mission, including a $270 million education grant portfolio and $600 million in student-per-pupil funding. She’s also expanded the talent base by taking on numerous teaching assignments, even on the college graduate level.

Helping those who need it — and those at risk — is a steady determination for Morris-Hughes. It’s borne of her theory that positive change and success come with the integration of educational training and economic responsibility. Now, with her new appointment and ambitious plans, her theory will receive a fresh test.

3 Ways to Save Money On A Weekend Getaway

For your mental and emotional well being, it’s important that you give yourself a break from your normal routine of going to work and taking care of your home or family. So when this little relaxation time is necessary, many people choose to just take a few days off in the form of a weekend getaway. But if money’s tight, even these few days may not seem financially possible. So to help you take the time you need without breaking the bank, here are three ways you can save money on a weekend getaway.

Take Advantage Of Last Minute Deals

While it usually pays to not wait until the last minute to book your flights or hotel, if you can take advantage of last minute deals, you can save a lot of money for yourself. According to, many airlines or hotels will offer bigs savings if you’re able to fill a spot that otherwise wouldn’t have been sold or had been canceled. If they have empty seats or empty rooms, they’re losing money. So if you’re able to help them out by filling a spot for them and they’re able to help you out by offering you a discounted rate, it’s a win-win.

There’s Strength In Numbers

Depending on your personality, you may feel more relaxed when you’re able to go off on your own or with just one other person. However, if you’re able to bring along a larger number of friends to share in your weekend getaway with, you could drastically reduce your own costs. According to Dara Continenza, a contributor to USA Today, splitting the cost for things like gas, hotel rooms, and even group discounts on things like tickets can help keep your costs low for a weekend getaway. Especially if everyone is in a frugal mindset, you can likely have an enjoyable weekend without having to spend too much money for it.

Know Where and How To Drink

When you’re trying to relax and have fun on your weekend getaway, you’re likely planning to break out a few bottles of champagne or at least hit up a bar or club. However, paying for drinks can get expensive very quickly. So to save money in this area, you may want to keep your drinking to a minimum, especially if you plan to be driving around the area. Additionally, Zeke Quezada, a contributor to, shares that many casinos will comp drinks if you’re gambling, which could help you save money if you’re visiting a place like Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

If want to have fun on a weekend getaway but don’t want to spend a lot of money, consider using the tips mentioned above to help you keep your expenses low.

Boost Traffic On Your Business Website With These Design Tips

Building a business website is not as daunting of a task as it may seem, but there are a few specific aspects of site design that work better than others.  To run a successful business website, you first need people.

Focus your efforts on boosting traffic to your website through design.  The more visitors you draw, the more likely it is for you to see your conversions rise.  Here are a few design tips that will help you boost traffic on your business website.

Build an awesome business blog

If your business blog is good enough, it will act as a powerful tool to draw visitors to your website.  Your business blog is the key to spreading your site’s message across the tangled web of the internet.

When people read and share your business blog posts with friends and family, word spreads quickly.  Your blog is also a great place to build your website’s keyword saturation and rank higher in the SERPs.

Ranking higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) means that more people will have more of a chance to “stumble” across your business website.  Check out how this business set up their blog presence.   

Learn all you can about SEO

Search engine optimization is just as it sounds.  SEO is a set of concepts which (if correctly implemented) will optimize your website’s position in the SERPs, so web users can more easily find your business site.  

Learn everything you can about SEO, and redesign your website to fall in line with the concepts.  You will see boosted web traffic within the first few days of the change.  Learning how the internet works will enlighten you in many ways.

Optimize for mobile access

As you rework your business design, optimize the website for mobile access.  People are no longer accessing web pages from their PCs or laptops as often as they are using their mobile devices.  

For your website to remain relevant to the technology of the times, you need to optimize for mobile access.  People should never have to pinch or swipe their screen to accurately view your business website.

Take your Google My Business slot

Every business, for the sake of visibility, should take their free Google My Business listing.  Google offers the opportunity to literally make your mark on their maps.

After taking your Google My Business listing, local searches will produce a listing and map marker for your organization.  Brick and mortar locations see a marked increase in traffic after signing up with Google My Business.  

Use high quality media on your site

High quality media looks more enticing to the Google search bots.  Sites with high quality media rank higher in the SERPs. People don’t want to look at pixelated images and wait a whole minute for a page to load.  High quality media will solve these issues and boost web traffic.

The Art, Science, and Business of Natural Skin Care

“Because I’m worth it.”  Four words that began as an ad campaign for L’Oreal in 1973, and have proven to be timeless globally.  Four words uttered by women everywhere, when making their spending decisions. Four words which have helped turn the business of skin care into a global phenomenon – growing exponentially through Amazon and other retailers.  “Because I’m worth it” – four words women recognize and live by every day, regardless of what it means to them. And most importantly, four words which changed the mindset of Abha Saraswat, the Founder and CEO of Sano Naturals (

A corporate executive who determined early on that her skin would become her greatest asset, after struggling with its imperfections.  After using makeup to cover them, Abby decided to embrace her inner entrepreneur, and create a natural skin care regimen for herself that worked.  As her skin evolved, so did her mindset. She quickly realized that what worked for her, would work for others. Saraswat created Sano Naturals after researching the beauty space, and learning how the business of beauty is big business in and of itself.

According to, the United States is “the world’s largest market for the beauty and cosmetics industry.  This is also reflected in the number of online purchases carried out last year, which amounted to more than $7.2 billion.”  Of those purchases, “facial and skin care products account for 27 percent of total online sales.” In other words, there is a substantial market that that both women – and men – are embracing – and it is growing exponentially each year.

For those that are new to the space, skin care isn’t a “one size fits all” vertical; there is a science – and an art to it; it all begins with 5 key areas: ingredients, skin knowledge, product interactions, packaging, and last but certainly not least, credibility.  Skin knowledge happens both in front of the proverbial camera and also behind the scenes. Because our skin is such an important organ, and is easily damaged, it is important to take care of it. It actually covers more than 18.5 square feet of space, and makes up about 16 percent of our body weight.  Our skin plays an extremely important role in regulating our body temperature, and regenerates itself.

According to Everyday Health and Dr. David Bank, the Director at the Center for Dermatology, “your skin sheds its dead skin cells on a daily basis, creating a new layer of skin every 28 days.”  As a result, pampering the skin has become a business in and of itself. Companies like Sano Naturals produce products that are both natural, and incorporate science and nature for the purpose of protecting, healing, and replenishing the skin.  

“All our products are made from a combination of real science and nature.  We promise real results. Our company’s mission is to work with the busy, cost-conscious consumer offering high quality, accessible products,” said Abha Saraswat.  From the very beginning, Saraswat made the decision to sell her products online and to use Amazon as her company’s premier sales channel. “Regardless of where you’re located, we want to be accessible,” said Saraswat.

Sano’s K2Slay Beauty Box is renowned in the industry and includes several products, all packaged and designed to fit the needs of the busy consumer.  From a packaging perspective, their Korean Beauty Mask product and packaging are fantastic – because the mask is sealed for individual use, it keeps its efficacy longer.  From a credibility perspective, it’s at the top of its class. The products in the box are designed to work with any skin type, and adjust automatically to the skin they’re on.  Therefore, the difference is clear.

At the end of the day, regardless of the type of skin care ritual one elects to participate in, the reality is that natural skin care is a mix of art, science, and business.  When beauty brands are winning at E-Commerce, like Sano Naturals, the users are the real winners…because they’re worth it.


Secondary Mortgage Market in GTA – Weighing the Pros and Cons

Home sales in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have decreased this year compared to last. The Toronto Real Estate Board reported that sales were down almost 35 percent in February 2018 compared to February 2017. In addition, prices have dropped, with the average sales price falling 12.4 percent for all housing types.

As 2018 moves forward, buyers are getting used to the new mortgage rules and the government regulations that went into effect on January 1 of this year. Home buyers are adjusting to the new housing market measures and have had to recalibrate their plans because of the higher interest rates and new mortgage stress testing guidelines.

What that means is that realtors have to be creative if they’re going to make sales in this market.

For both buyers and realtors, the secondary mortgage market can provide an alternative to traditional bank mortgages, one that in many instances, should be considered. Obtaining a mortgage from an alternative lender is frequently easier and quicker than getting a traditional mortgage. While it is true that buyers often need to have a larger down payment, and the loans are generally more expensive, the secondary mortgage market can provide a solution for buyers who are looking for a different course of action and for realtors who want to help their clients.

One of the great advantages of the secondary mortgage market is that it can provide a short-term solution for buyers who can then, at a later date, make different arrangements, perhaps through a traditional bank mortgage.

For example, a GTA home might have been selling for $1.4million a year ago, and today that same home will likely go for $1.05 million. If a buyer is putting 25 percent down, they will carry a mortgage of $787,500. Most secondary mortgages have a duration of one year or less. So, at 8 percent per year, the buyer is paying in one year 4 percent extra on the mortgage, or $31,496. That means effectively that the property costs an extra $31,496. That’s not really significant since the buyer could close in a buyer’s market that’s discounted. In a year’s time, the buyers can investigate refinancing with a traditional bank mortgage, and will hopefully be in a much better situation.

Realtors who want to guide buyers towards the secondary mortgage market should exercise caution, however, and recommend alternative lenders only to those buyers who can carry such a mortgage and have the financial resources and income ability to refinance within a year.

I would also recommend that GTA realtors who are interested in offering advice about the secondary mortgage market establish direct relationships with alternative lenders rather than with mortgage brokers; brokers will often charge substantial fees, which can add to the costs incurred by the buyers.

Although sales in the GTA market have taken a downturn, there are still a number of ways for both buyers and realtors to take advantage of the market conditions.

Borrowing Money with Poor Credit

It can be extremely frustrating to have bad credit. Even if you are responsible with money now, poor decisions that you made in the past can make it so that you are treated like someone who is not. However, all hope is not lost in this situation, as you will still be able to take out certain types of loans even with a lower credit score. Generally speaking, short-term loans are more available to people with poor credit than are more traditional types of loans.

However, it is important to keep in mind that these loans are not better in every way just because they are more available. If you do not meet the specifications to get the loan on your own, you will often need a cosigner in order to be able to borrow the money. Essentially, because your credit score marks you as a risk to the lender, they need to have someone with a higher credit score held responsible for paying them back if you end up defaulting on the loan. In order to find the right cosigner, you will need to find someone who is willing to help you out with this and who has a credit score that is high enough for the lenders to accept (if the cosigner’s credit score is also too low, the loan will be denied).

Additionally, you should be aware that if you are borrowing money with less than perfect credit, you should anticipate quick cash loan rates to be higher than other types of loans. Lenders of these types of loans do this because, again, you are considered more of a risk if unable to show a strong credit history, and they stand to lose less if they put a higher interest rate on your loan. You should make sure that you are able to make the repayments with the higher interest rate, and that you are able to fit all of the interest that you will have to pay on this loan in your budget during the repayment period.

However, there are also positive aspects to borrowing money with less than perfect credit. Using loans to build credit is always a possibility. If you are able to take out the loan and successfully pay it back over time as promised, this will improve your credit score and make it so that you may have better options in the future if you ever need to borrow money. With a higher credit score, you will be able to consider more types of loans that you are able to borrow, in addition to ones with lower interest rates that are available to people with good credit. In this way, you can use this experience to prevent your current credit situation from limiting your loan options in the future.

As you can see, there are many things to keep in mind when you are borrowing money and you do not have good credit. You should make sure that you are able to pay back the loan before you enter into the agreement, as if you end up defaulting on the loan, this will lower your credit score even more and make it so that you end up with even fewer options the next time you need to borrow money. Additionally, this will put you into even more debt with the additional late fees and interest that you will have to pay. Overall, when you are taking out a loan, make sure that you are responsible and plan ahead.

What Does Park Home Insurance Actually Cover?

More than a quarter of a million people in the UK currently reside in park homes, and for good reason. It’s a much quieter life than those living in flats in the city can experience, and many residents love it because park homes are easier to maintain and far more affordable than their brick and mortar counterparts. Even if you choose a park home, though, insurance is still a must. Should anything happen to your home or what’s inside, you’ll want to get the coverage your deserve, and a park home policy can do just that, but what exactly does it cover? Take a look.


Your Living Space

No matter how old your park home may be, if something destroys it, your policy will replace it with a new equivalent home. Typically, the replacement costs involved like site clearance and delivery are included with most park home policies. In addition, you may be able to purchase a policy that covers your temporary living accommodations; too, help to make certain your outofpocket costs are kept to a minimum.

Your Stuff

Park home policies also cover what you had inside of your living space. Anything that is damaged beyond repair is typically covered by these policies, so everything from your appliances to your bed linens will be replaced with brand new options so you can move forward. While you’ll want to check to make certain, often even your garden contents can be insured, so ask about that option if you want to keep that gorgeous outdoor table and chair set insured.


Not every claim you make against your park home insurance policy is going to involve damage to your living space or your belongings. Public liability cover is also typically a part of these policies. That means that the legal costs and compensation payments you’re required to pay if someone is injured or their property is damaged and it’s your fault is completely covered. Some policies even offer a legal helpline you can phone in the event anything ever happens on your property.

Understanding the When

Wondering when the coverage kicks in? You’re not alone. Many individuals seeking insurance are concerned about the same thing. Park home insurance is typically used in a number of settings. Storm damage is one of the biggest times claims are filed. Floods and escape of water, though, can also trigger claims. Likewise, you can file a claim in an instance of subsidence. Instances of fire, theft, attempted theft, and vandalism also allow you to file a claim.

While you’re not typically required to have a park home insurance policy, it is more important than ever to make certain your beautiful residence and everything you have in it is protected. We can help. With one of the best policies in the industry and great coverage options, we’ll help to make sure your park home is safe. Ready to learn more, contact us today and ask about park home insurance.

Gold Investments Remain a Solid, Long-term Component of an Investment Portfolio

Gold ended the week of March 5th with prices rising on Friday to erase a week of losses. The precious metal’s price is up over 9.93% in the past year, but it is down 16% over the course of five years. The precious metal hit highs in 2011.

USA Today discusses how gold held up against the stock market over a nine-year period.

The U.S. stock index between March 2009 and March 2018 rose 325%, providing investors with extensive returns in the process.

Gold prices were strongest following the recession, with investors turning to the precious metal in times of economic uncertainty. Gold rises when the financial world struggles or inflation rises. The price of gold has risen 43% over the nine-year period.

The precious metal has been struggling to gain traction, as the financial crisis led to a period of low inflation rates. Investor fears had also been kept under control as stock prices continued to rise, leading to gold being a less attractive investment vehicle.

A series of scams also led to investor fears rising against the precious metal. Investors chose to buy gold online, but some online sellers scammed investors out of their money. Investment scams came from companies that “held” on to their investors’ gold rather then send investors bars or gold bullions.

The gold companies didn’t have the gold stores available when investors wanted to cash out.

Investing in gold has changed, with numerous investment options available:

  1. Bullion. Direct gold ownership is offered with the gold bullion. The bullion doesn’t need to be a coin or large bar. Instead, the bullion is any form of pure or near-pure gold, which may include bars, coins or any other form of gold. Large bullion sizes make it difficult to sell a portion of your investments, so investors often choose smaller bullion bars or coins to offload their investments easier in the future.
  2. ETFs and Mutual Funds. Gold-based ETFs and mutual funds are an option. Shares represent a fixed amount of the precious metal. Funds are fast and easy to purchase or sell, and the investor doesn’t need to store the gold. Annual expense ratios are very low for gold funds, and this means that it’s an affordable investment vehicle.
  3. Futures and Options. Future contracts and options are also available in gold. The options allow for an investor to hold gold for a certain period of time and sell it off based on the expiry date. Options allow the investor to purchase gold at a pre-set price for the duration of the option if wanted.

Mutual funds may dedicate a portion of their portfolio to precious metals, but few funds will dedicate the entirety of their operations to investing in precious metals. Gold mutual funds that are gold-only have a low cost, minimum investment and don’t require significant research by the investor.

Investors can also choose to invest in gold mining companies or jewelry companies to leverage the gold market in a different way.

Owning physical gold is a top choice for large investors that find security in a tangible investment.

Why More Canadians Are Retiring With Debt and What It Means

As Canadians, we live in a country where certain rights and freedoms are expected, hoped for and, some might say, taken for granted. The freedom to retire early is one many of us begin grappling with as we approach middle age. Ironically, many Canadians won’t be ready to retire until they are significantly older.

The reason? Debt.

Unfortunately, too many retired people – 34% — over 55 years old still carry consumer debt, according to Statistics Canada. In fact, a recent Equifax Canada report found that the debt load of seniors is outpacing that of their younger counterparts.

It’s not as though Canadians have always carried a heavy debt burden. In 2012, 42.5% of people over 65 still had debt, a jump of 55% when compared to seniors in 1999.

A number of economic, social and cultural factors are to blame, say experts. They point to divorce, illness and large mortgages as some of the culprits. Experts also explain that children, grandchildren and other family members may also be at fault, as they often look to their parents and grandparents to lend them hand. In fact, a 2015 survey showed that 18% of first-time home buyers are gifted their down payments thanks to relatives, typically parents.

But, children can’t shoulder all of the blame.

Low interest rates have made debt much more attractive. Further, cottages, pricey vacations, fancy cars and other expensive toys may be out of reach for the average pensioner. Paring down and cutting back in your sixties may not seem fair. After all, you’ve worked decades, aren’t you entitled to a little luxury? Your fixed retirement income simply may not support your lifestyle any more. Perhaps it’s time to downsize and sell your 3,000 square-foot home?

If selling isn’t an option, many house-rich, cash-poor seniors can look to their houses for equity. Often by the time a person retires, he or she has either paid off their mortgage or is only owing a small amount. Because house values have increased in recent years, in some markets quite significantly, tapping into a home’s equity may be something to consider.

Still, as a borrower, you need to be aware of how you are intending to pay back the loan. Is it possible to make monthly payments or would you prefer to have your estate pay off the loan after you die?

No matter how the money is borrowed, the process should be well planned out. Know what you need it for. Have a repayment plan in place. Don’t borrow more than you need – that often leads to trouble.

Dwayne Rettinger

Executive Financial Consultant

Investors Group Financial Services Inc.

Rettinger & Associates Private Wealth Management

This is a general source of information only. It is not intended to provide personalized tax, legal or investment advice, and is not intended as a solicitation to purchase securities. Dwayne Rettinger is solely responsible for its content. For more information on this topic or any other financial matter, please contact an Investors Group Consultant.