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Breast implants sales pitch and truck driver training: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday. 

Shopping for breast implants

Marketplace investigated how breast implants are marketed by plastic surgeons, and we followed a woman getting her implants removed because she believes they made her sick. We sent her implants for testing to find out exactly what went wrong. Canada’s health minister says she is “deeply concerned” by problems with implanted medical devices and has pledged to make changes.

Telecom complaints more than doubled

If there’s a massive difference between what you expect from your telecom service and what you get, welcome to the club. The federal watchdog for telecom complaints handled 14,272 complaints last year. That was a 57 per cent spike, and most of the complaints involved wireless providers. The main grievance was non-disclosure of information and bill surprises by wireless operators.

The federal watchdog for telecom complaints handled 14,272 complaints from consumers in 2017-2018. More than 40 per cent of them were about wireless service and 29.2 per cent were about internet service. (Shutterstock)

Truck driver training could have saved lives

What does it take to haul 80,000 pounds down Canada’s high-speed roads? In some provinces you need more training to give a haircut than to haul freight. Seven months after the deadly Humboldt crash, training is still optional for semi truck drivers in Saskatchewan. But the government’s own internal documents say more people will die until it becomes mandatory. Our hidden-camera investigation earlier this year revealed how Canada’s patchwork training and testing system leaves some new truck drivers ill-prepared to operate big rigs.

Former semi driving instructor Mel Meikle says the Saskatchewan government has known for months that mandatory training will save lives but has not acted. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

You probably shouldn’t eat your placenta

As it turns out, eating this temporary organ expelled from your uterus is risky. Health Canada is warning that consuming human placenta could lead to bacterial or viral infections in mothers or their babies. Some health claims allege that it can help prevent postpartum depression, increase energy levels and boost breast milk production — but Health Canada says there’s no scientific evidence to support such claims.

Health Canada is cautioning mothers and others who may be consuming human placenta preparations about potential risks for themselves and their babies. (Shutterstock)

Is Netflix still worth it?

You’ll soon be paying $3 more each month for your Netflix subscription. It’s the company’s biggest price increase yet for both new subscribers and current members. Netflix’s standard plan will now cost $13.99 a month, while the basic plan (without ultra HD video and streaming on only one device) is also increasing a dollar, to $9.99 a month. Netflix says the money will help fund upcoming TV series and films, along with overall improvements to the platform.

Netflix says the higher prices are effective immediately for new subscribers, while existing users will be notified by email before their bills rise in the coming weeks. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

What else is going on?

A Burlington, Ont., man was told he’d lose a $1,500 flight over a misspelled name. Mo Shahin took on Expedia after the online booking agency told him that he’d have to rebook his non-refundable flight because a name on the booking was missing one letter.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking steps to prevent entry of lettuce suspected in E. coli cases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it suspects romaine lettuce harvested in parts of California this month is the source of the outbreak that made people sick in both Canada and the United States.

This week in recalls

This Ikea extendable dining table could lead to injuries; these bicycle forks could pose a risk of injury to the rider; these wind-up toys do not meet Canadian safety requirements and could pose a choking hazard; these air freshener sprays are missing the required hazard labelling; these tahini products could be contaminated with salmonella. 

Marketplace wants to speak to you

We want to hear about your experience with short-term rental platforms like Airbnb as a guest, host or neighbour. Send us an email at marketplace@cbc.ca

We’re also on the hunt for Canada’s worst sale! Ever spotted a sale price higher than the original price? Items on sale all out of stock? Does the company use their pricing to make you believe you’re getting a better deal than you actually are? We want to hear about it. Send us your story at marketplace@cbc.ca

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Real Estate

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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Real Estate

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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