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Chinese detentions raise fears of Canadian business chill, rethink of travel plans

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Escalating fears of retaliation after Canada detained a high-ranking Chinese business executive have prompted some Canadian business leaders to think twice before going to China on business.

The detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on behalf of U.S. authorities earlier this month enraged Chinese authorities. And though she’s been released on bail, the situation has prompted fears that Beijing may be in the mood to retaliate by drumming up trumped-up charges on Canadians travelling in China.

It was revealed on Tuesday that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained on murky national security grounds. A day later, word emerged that a second Canadian man, Michael Spavor, is also being held on similar grounds.

The impact of Meng’s arrest was reverberating even before China appeared to retaliate. Last weekend, the government of British Columbia suspended a planned trade mission to China as the story was unfolding.

That’s led to fears of more reprisals to come, even for businesspeople with no connection to any part of Canada’s foreign service.

“I wouldn’t go,” retail consultant Bruce Winder of the Retail Advisor’s Network said. He says Beijing will employ any tactic they can to exert pressure to get what they want. “I don’t think folks should be going over to China right now from Canada until this is resolved, just for the fear of retaliation.”

Managing partner Andy Chan with law firm Miller Thomson LLP says the situation has “complex hybrid considerations” that Canadian businesses doing deals in China need to be aware of. Firms in fields such as security and infrastructure in particular, he says, should take a “hard look” at whether Beijing would consider them to be higher-risk industries.

“Canadians need to look at and balance their reasons for travel to China against the current political environment,” said Chan, the head of the firm’s Asia practice.

Meng Wanzhou, shown in this courtroom sketch, was granted bail pending her extradition hearing. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

Granting bail to Meng Wanzhou until her extradition hearing in February likely helped the situation a little, but Chan said Canada is caught in a situation where the forces driving the tension are beyond Canada’s control. Based on extradition treaties, Canadian authorities were obligated to act when U.S. officials wanted to proceed with fraud accusations against Meng.

But in the eyes of the Chinese government, Canada has been lumped in with its southern neighbour.

“The arrests happened here, the judicial proceedings are happening here and, consequently, worldwide attention is on Canada,” Chan said.

While tensions are high, he thinks the situation is definitely fixable over time. “It is important to stay diplomatic,” Chan said.

Officially, the Canadian government does not have a travel advisory against going to the country, and simply urges Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution” while visiting the country — but the same level of caution is advised for 94 other countries in the world.

And yet there is definitely a sense in some corners of the Canadian business community that the situation is far from normal.

Elmer Kim, president of Uclid Inc., summed up the feeling succinctly in a recent interview on CBC News Network.

“If I was a Canadian executive I’d get the heck out of China on the fastest plane I could find.”

Watch his interview in the player below:

Our weekend business panel discusses the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Shell’s decision to link executive pay with carbon emissions targets and the denial of Hydro One’s proposed takeover of Avista Corp. 12:55

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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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