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Britain on a cliff edge: Brexit, bedlam or bust?





If a Brexit deal falls in the British Parliament and no one is around to save it, does Theresa May survive as prime minister?

Of the glut of existential questions facing Britain at this crucial moment, that is perhaps one of the easier ones to answer. If the House of Commons votes down May’s draft Brexit deal, she could well be forced to give up her tortuous turn at the premiership and step down.

But what happens after that? And could something prevent that parliamentary vote happening in the first place?

If Britain’s immediate future were made into a book, it would break records for the possible multiple endings.

Much of the uncertainty is driven by the strong opposition to May’s “soft” EU divorce deal from all political parties, including from many members of her own Conservative Party.

The draft deal includes a withdrawal agreement that sets out the divorce terms, and also includes the outlines of an agreement on the future relationship between the E.U. and the U.K. — still to be fully fleshed out.

Critics have poked holes in several parts of it. There isn’t consensus even on all the ways this could unfold in the coming days.

Here is a look at some of the possible scenarios.

Theresa May and the EU: Full steam ahead

In May’s — and the European Union’s — version, the roadmap is clear.

With discussions on the withdrawal agreement “complete,” May says she plans to spend this week in “intense” negotiations on what the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. looks like.

Leaders of the European council are then set to meet on Sunday to vote on the entire package.

“I am confident that we can strike a deal at the council that I can take back to the House of Commons,” May said Monday.

An anti-Brexit demonstrator protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

May has given British lawmakers an ultimatum: vote for her deal or face chaos — perhaps even a government led by Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

There is a chance that ultimatum is enough to persuade nervous MPs to support the agreement on the table. Britain would then exit the EU on March 29, as planned.

But there are politicians of all stripes on Britain’s fractious political landscape who have other ideas — starting with members of May’s own Conservative Party.

Tories hold a no-confidence vote

To scuttle a deal they don’t like, more than a few Tories want to topple May as leader.

The Sun reports that 42 MPs have submitted letters to a party committee demanding a leadership confidence vote. The rules say 48 MPs have to send in letters before the vote is held.

So far, they are six letters shy. If they do, and they challenge May but she retains her leadership, she continues on her path as planned towards a vote in the Commons.

If she loses a leadership vote, both she and her deal are finished.

“What it will do is mean there is a delay to those negotiations and that’s a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated,” she told Sky News on Sunday.

“This isn’t about me. This is about the national interest. The next seven days are critical.”

Removing May “will send shockwaves through the entire country,” says Joe Twyman, director of Deltapoll UK, which has done extensive polling on the Brexit pulse.

“The panic will inevitably set in and then the question will be: ‘What happens now, with only a few weeks remaining — can anything be done?’ “

The answer right now is unclear.

What if the House of Commons votes and rejects the deal?

If May is unchallenged by her party or if she wins a no-confidence vote, the deal is likely to go to the House of Commons for a vote as she planned.

Large elements of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Democratic Unionist Party — which is propping up May’s government — are opposed to the deal as it stands. It’s highly unlikely to pass without changes.

Pro Brexit protesters hold placards trying to get media attention near Parliament in London on Nov. 16. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

If it’s defeated, May then has three weeks to make more changes to the deal. There are no guarantees the EU would be sympathetic to requests for changes.

If a new deal fails, May’s government could also face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, and if it loses that, it could mean a snap election.

That brings on a whole slew of other possible Brexit outcomes.

Can Brexit be delayed?

The date can be changed if both sides agree. It may be necessary especially if a general election is called — but it could be done now if the prime minister chooses.

The current date for Brexit is March 29, 2019. If a general election is called, that leaves little room for a new government to be formed and for making any tweaks to the deal necessary for it to win parliamentary and EU approval.

Brexit but with no deal

Both the EU and the U.K. agree this is the worst of all possible options because it risks chaos — so all efforts now are on trying to avoid it.

Still, both sides have put in contingency plans in the event Britain crashes out of the EU, although they have not yet triggered full-scale preparation.

The existing deal isn’t perfect, John Allen, head of the Confederation of British Industry, said Monday in a speech ahead of May’s remarks pitching it to their members.

But it prevents “the nightmare scenario of a no-deal departure, which would be a wrecking ball for our economy.”

A new referendum

A sizable number of MPs and a growing national movement have been pushing for a new vote.

They believe British people should have a final say on whether to leave the EU now that they have more complete information on what it will look like.

May has been adamant that this isn’t an option because the people have already spoken and the will of the majority must be respected.

Others have warned a new vote risks instability and a loss of faith in the democratic process.

A rain-damaged placard in favour of a second Brexit referendum features pictures of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former transport minister Jo Johnson in London on Nov. 12. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

A referendum may be an option if the country finds itself with a new government and nowhere to go in negotiations with the EU.

Some believe the developments of the past week make a referendum more plausible.

“It seems to me that it is more likely given the weakness of Theresa May’s position,” Tom Watson, deputy Labour Party leader, told The House, a political magazine.

“She leads a government without a majority. It now looks like she leads a cabinet without a majority as well.”

It’s also an option for May herself if she loses a vote in Parliament.

No Brexit

This was raised by the prime minister as a possible consequence of rejecting the existing deal, but it is unlikely unless a new referendum makes it an option.

It could be that Brexit is delayed for a long time as Britain gets its political house in order, but without a new vote the procedure that has been triggered cannot be undone.

Most likely outcome: More compromise

Britain is on a cliff’s edge and the situation defies prediction.

But could there be room for the EU and the U.K. to make slight changes to make the deal palatable to enough U.K. MPs to pass it?

May has said negotiations on the withdrawal deal are over and EU ministers insisted again Monday that the deal is set.

“There have been long months of intensive and difficult negotiations,” said Austrian EU minister Gernot Blumel.

“I believe this is the best possible compromise and I hope it will now receive consent on both sides.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani displays the agreement of the withdrawal of the U.K. at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

However, there are a number of Brexit ministers who are reportedly trying to persuade May to make tweaks to the deal to get it through Parliament.

This may be one way to guarantee the deal sails through, says Twyman.

He suspects May “will get the deal through Parliament perhaps with one or two slight amendments,” when people “realize that actually time has run out and there is no better deal on the table.”

“It’s extraordinarily difficult to know what will happen.”


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Real Estate

What to Consider When Hiring a Home Inspector





(BBB) – Buying a home can be one of the most important financial investments you will ever make. But how do you know if the house is everything it appears to be? If your new home has hidden structural issues and needs major repairs, you may be buying into a money pit and sleepless nights. A home inspection is one of the smartest ways to educate yourself about the physical condition of a property before you buy. 

What’s a Home Inspection? 

A home inspection is a visual inspection of the physical structure and mechanical condition of a home – from roof to foundation. The inspection is designed to identify problems, advise of repairs needed, and, in some cases, provide preventive maintenance advice. A home inspection points out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape.

A home inspector may be a residential architect, structural engineer, or building contractor. Currently, home inspectors are not regulated on a federal level in either the United State or Canada. But many states and provinces have their own licensing requirements. To find out what your region requires, check out this list from American Society of Home Inspectors or Professional Home Inspection Institute in Canada. For structural engineer licensing requirements in the U.S., see the National Council of Structural Engineers Association (NCSEA) website.

Tips for Hiring a Home Inspector

Pick a home inspector who has experience, positive references, and is known for being very comprehensive. While this may cost more upfront, hiring a great inspector will save you money in the long run. If you don’t get a complete, accurate inspection, you may miss major problems and your chance to negotiate repairs with the seller. 

  • Ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations. Ask for an experienced home inspector who is known for being very thorough.
  • Find someone familiar with your type of home and the issues you need to inspect. Be sure your inspector specializes in homes, not commercial properties, and any issues you anticipate finding. For example, if you’re concerned about a home’s structure, consider hiring a professional engineer or architect who also does general home inspections. Also, be sure your agreement with the inspector covers the systems you most need to have examined. 
  • Ask prospective inspectors questions about their professional training, relevant experience and/or length of time in business. Find out if the inspector belongs to a professional association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Society of Professional Engineers, or the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors. Membership in professional associations may offer added assurance of an inspector’s qualifications and training.
  • Make sure your home inspector is working in your best interests. For example, many home inspectors rely on referrals from real estate agents for their business. This means that the inspector may be more interested in maintaining that relationship than providing you a thorough inspection. They may be less inclined to identify major repair issues that hold up the sale of your home. Also, be cautious about hiring a home inspector who is looking to get contracting work from you.
  • Be present during the inspection. The majority of inspectors will allow you to tour the home with them and ask questions during or after the inspection. The inspection can last anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the size of the house.
  • Ask how soon after the inspection will you receive a copy of the home inspection final written report. Carefully read your home inspection report and make a list of items that need correction. Understand that the home inspection report records the condition of the home, both positives and negatives. This will help you to determine your future expenditures for repairs and maintenance. The report will contain useful information that serves as a reference for you in the future. 
  • Check to see if the home inspector is a BBB Accredited Business and read reviews. Ensure that the business responds to complaints in a timely fashion.  

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Real Estate

What Is A Housing Bubble? And Are We In One?





What is a housing bubble? You’ve undoubtedly heard the term, but what does it actually mean, and is Canada experiencing one? Whether you already own a home, are considering buying one in the near future, or you’re waiting for the right time to sell, here we answer what is a housing bubble, what causes it, and how it may affect you.

What is a Housing Bubble?

A housing bubble happens when the price of homes rises quickly, at an unsustainable rate. Typically, a price-growth rate that’s in the high single-digits is considered to be healthy and sustainable. Under healthy conditions, homeowners continue to earn equity over time, sellers can make a profit on resale, and buyers can still afford to get into the market. This type of price growth can usually be explained by economic factors, such as an employment boom and favourable interest rates.

On the other hand, a housing bubble can happen as a result of non-organic growth. For example, if speculators were flooding the market, buying up homes to take advantage of rapid price growth, with the intention of selling in the near term for a hefty profit. When prices are deemed to have hit a high point, speculators list their properties for sale. This massive influx of listings, coupled with stagnating demand, causes prices to plummet and results in a “housing market crash.”

A housing bubble is a temporary event and prices eventually return to normal levels, when demand rises again and home-buying activity resumes.

What Happens When a Housing Bubble Bursts?

During a housing bubble, homes become overvalued. When the bubble bursts, prices fall. Homeowners who have no intention of selling are unlikely to feel the direct impacts of the bursting bubble. However, these market conditions often indirectly impact other aspects of the economy, so to call homeowners who aren’t selling “free and clear” would be misleading. The ripple effects of a bursting housing bubble would likely touch most of us, in one way or another.

Homebuyers who purchased a home during a housing bubble likely paid considerably more than it is worth. Properties bought by end-users as a residence, with no intention of being sold in the short-term, will eventually rebound closer to “normal” values and at some point, return to positive growth.

A housing bubble poses the biggest risk to home sellers. Those who purchased in the bubble, but now find themselves forced to sell their home, will come up short on resale. They bought the home at a price that exceeds what they can recoup, putting them in the red with no asset to show for it.

For example, someone purchased at peak market prices, but due to circumstances such as a job loss or the inability to carry the costs for any reason, now has no choice but to sell in a down market. The seller still owes money to their mortgage lender on a home that they no longer own.

Are We in a Housing Bubble?

The Canadian housing market took a surprising upward turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, after coming to a grinding halt in mid-March. The slow-down was short-lived, and what followed through the remainder of 2020 was a a spike in demand for homes met by a shortage of supply. With 2021 well underway, there appears to be no end in sight.

There are a number of factors that indicate we’re not experiencing a bubble caused my market speculators, contrary to some media reports.

A recent online survey of RE/MAX brokers and agents in Western Canada, Ontario and Atlantic Canada found that speculators are not a factor in the Canadian real estate market at this time. In fact, more than 96% of RE/MAX brokers and agents supported this finding, confirming that the majority of homebuyers are end-users. Speculators tend to wait out hot markets, buying when prices are down and selling when they’re up again. The short-term investment opportunities they’re generally looking for are hard to find under current market conditions. Bully offers and bidding wars are commonplace, and we continue to see demand outpacing supply with the release of the monthly housing market data. These factors are generally inhospitable to speculators and investors.

For a housing bubble to burst, there needs to be a steep incline in inventory and new listings, and a decline in demand – neither of which is likely to happen any time soon.

Housing Crash 2021? It’s Highly Unlikely.

The Canadian housing market is still feeling the impacts of the pent-up demand from 2017, when the government introduced the foreign buyer tax and the mortgage stress test as a means to cool the overheating market. These policies prompted many homebuyers to move to the sidelines, opting to wait and save, with plans to re-engage in the housing market in a few years.

Now fast-forward a few years to 2020. COVID-19 had a similar impact on the market, whereby many homebuyers delayed their purchase plans due to pandemic-related uncertainties. That pre-existing pent-up demand for homes continued to swell. With Canadians subject to stay-at-home orders with nowhere to go and spend their hard-earned money, they collectively saved historically high sums, which was injected back into the housing market once consumer confidence returned. The spending came in the form of record-high home sales and for those who were unwilling to face the competitive resale market conditions, renovations to existing dwellings. In fact, Canadian real estate was said to be the driving force behind the Canadian economy in 2020.

Savings, low interest rates and low inventory continue to put pressure on the housing market.

Now, consider the housing needs of the 1.2 million people who are expected to immigrate to Canada through 2023, per the government’s 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.

Given all this, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll experience the influx of real estate listings needed for a housing market crash – and if we did see those listings suddenly come on stream, there should be plenty of buyers to absorb them.

Homebuyers and Sellers, Do Your Due Diligence

Challenging market conditions and a still-present global pandemic have added some personal risk on the part of homebuyers and sellers. It’s important to remember that conditions vary across Canada, and can be dramatically different between provinces, cities, and even from one neighbourhood to the next. Now more than ever, it’s important to work with a trusted, experienced professional Realtor who can guide you though the buying and selling process.

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Real Estate

Who needs to buy a house? Here are five ways to increase your bank balance as a renter





People are drawn to buying a home for all kinds of reasons: more space, a backyard for the dog, the investment opportunities or simply because they want to.

And it may be great for them, but you don’t have to beat yourself with someone else’s yardstick.

If you’re not in the position to be able to (or even want to) buy a home, you may have heard that renting is as bad as burning your money. But it’s not a fair comparison.

Here’s how being a renter can work to your financial benefit.

Take advantage of pandemic prices

At the onset of the pandemic, rent in expensive cities, which had become prohibitively expensive for all but the rich, suddenly took a downward turn.

And the trend has continued: In Toronto, average monthly rents have declined for 15 straight months and are down 16 per cent overall, compared to the early months of 2020, according to recently released research.

As a renter, you can use this to your advantage. Working from home is sure to be the norm for a while longer, and people are flocking to mid-size markets and smaller towns for more space.

If you want to keep renting in the city, now’s the time to lock in a lease at a great price — you may even be able to negotiate with your current landlord for an even better rate.

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