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Iran sanctions may have little impact in Canada, except on oil prices

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The fresh round of sanctions the U.S. imposed on Iran Monday threatens to close off all channels of international banking to the regime, but is unlikely to affect Canadian businesses.

The sanctions aim to block Iran’s oil exports, but the impact on oil prices may have already worked its way through the markets, though there could be some volatility in the months ahead.

And how effective the sanctions will be in cutting off Iran economically will depend on how strongly the U.S. imposes punishments on companies and countries that continue to do business there, according to Ian Lee, an expert in international trade and associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, present details of the new sanctions on Iran in Washington on Monday. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

As of Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said all of the sanctions lifted under Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers had been reimposed, including cutting links from Iran to the international banking system.

Pompeo said the sanctions have already cost Iran the sale of more than one million barrels of crude a day, as countries around the world sought new sources of oil.

“Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East and, indeed, around the world,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlawed course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”

Waivers on sanctions for 8 countries

But also on Monday, the U.S. announced that eight trading partners would be granted waivers to continue buying oil from Iran —  China, Greece, India, Italy, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

This may be a strategy to appease those trading partners and allow them time to develop new sources of oil, but it also may have been done with an eye of the impact on oil prices, Lee said.

“They don’t want to do something too draconian and upset stability in the international oil markets,” he said.

The prospect of sanctions has been hanging over the markets and may have worked itself out in September, when the price of the Brent futures contract for oil spiked above $85 US a barrel.

Oil prices have retreated since then, as the world’s largest oil producers stepped up production, says TD economist Omar Abdelrahman.

Russia, Saudi Arabia and especially the U.S. have boosted output to replace any North American reliance on Iranian oil, he said.

On Monday, Brent crude rose as high as $74.13 US a barrel in morning trading, but ended the day down two cents at $73.40.

Expect oil price volatility

Abdelrahman expects some oil price volatility in coming months.

But when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meets in December to agree on new production levels, he anticipates its members will have moved to take market share from Iran.

The wild card, he says, is how long the U.S. maintains those exemptions for the eight buyers of oil from Iran. Currently, they’re set to last 180 days.

Even if those customers look elsewhere for oil, it’s not likely to do anything for Canadian producers, he said. “Most of our oil goes to the U.S. Canada doesn’t have the market dynamics to sell to India or China.”

Lee says the exemptions will “mitigate the impact of sanctions” on Iran.

“The U.S. wants to isolate Iran. Since 1979, Iran has been their biggest enemy and they’ve been on the side of the Saudis,” he said.

“But they don’t want to destroy the economy, just weaken it.”

Few Canadian businesses have rushed into Iran since the lifting of sanctions after Iran signed on to the international deal to halt its nuclear program, Lee said. He says the impact on Canadian business will be “minimal.”

Even as sanctions lifted, there were whole trade sectors, such as weapons, where Canada was still constrained from doing business because of NATO rules, he said.

A U.S. navy soldier stands guard as an oil tanker makes its way toward Bahrain port, during an exercise in the Arabian Sea on Sept. 18. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

This round of sanctions comes with a threat from the Trump administration to punish international companies that try to get around them. And the U.S. has the clout to do that.

“The biggest weapon the U.S. has is its domination of the international financial system,” Lee said. “They can cause great damage to anyone if they choose to implement it.”

EU says it will help companies do business

The other signatories to the international nuclear deal — Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the EU — still say they want to save it.

The European Union has said it will help its businesses get around U.S. sanctions and continue to trade with Iran. Italian and German business are among those that took advantage of the lifting of sanctions to increase their ties with Iran.

The EU’s pledge may be political spin, Lee says.

“I don’t see how they will get around the sanctions if the U.S. goes after them,” he said.

But how effective sanctions will be depends on the extent that the U.S. really cracks down, he said.

“It really depends on Trump.”

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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