Thursday, October 11, 2018

5 Tips for Success

By Mark Kerzner, President TMG The Mortgage Group

A colleague asked me recently if I could share a couple of things that I do each week that helps me to be successful.  I often look to others for inspiration so I was quite flattered to be asked this question myself.

I thought about it for a bit and below is what I shared.

Below are some key fundamentals that govern who I am and how I see myself.

1.     Honour time commitments. Know what’s in your calendar, leave enough time to get to next meeting, and don’t double book.
It may not seem like a big deal if you are 10 or 15 minutes late for a meeting or a call, but trust me when I say, that’s not the case. The other person (people) are literally waiting and starting to wonder what else they could be doing with this time. They may begin to feel that they simply don’t matter or they may also have other commitments. Cancelling at the 11th hour can be equally as annoying.

2.     Honour your time commitments with family. If you say you will be home for dinner at 6:30 p.m. be home. It adds a lot of stress to both your family and business when you don’t meet those commitments.
Just like a business meeting that begins late, when family takes a back seat to your clock you run the risk of setting off a negative chain of events and resentment at home. We have all heard that time is precious (and it is) but it’s also limited. Often we have drives, school plays, teacher meetings, etc. that also need our attention and commitment.

This doesn’t mean you have to be home for every dinner or attend absolutely every school event. It just means that when you say you are going to be there, make sure you are.

3.     Don’t TRY.  Try is really a useless word. Either you will or you will not.
When you say you will ‘try’ you are building in an excuse right from the get go. Going back to the concept of commitment -- commit one way or the other … if you cannot do something don’t say you will ‘try’ and then don’t do it.

4.     Do something creative/fun each week.
I really enjoy hockey, coaching and watching my children perform (dance). It helps me to turn off from the office for a few hours a couple times each week. Find your passion and take the time to make it happen.

5.     Be driven by your work passion.
Just like we need to find our personal passions we need to do the same thing at work. Considering we spend 40 or 50 or 60 plus hours each week on our business, find those aspects of your work that you really love. I think I have the greatest job in the industry. I get to work with talented, committed and passionate people every day who strive to put Canadians in financial situations to enable them to own homes and set them up for success. I am truly humbled that I have been able to represent my industry colleagues with Government, Regulators and the Media and I do not take that responsibility lightly. When you love what you do, you stop counting the hours.

The truth is that we all find inspiration in different places. I wanted to share my experience and encourage you to find your own, and then share that as well.

Monday, September 24, 2018

What the TREB ruling means for you

Ever wondered what that house across the street sold for? That information was only available to you through a Realtor, but not anymore. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, refusing to hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), over access to real estate data, will have repercussions across the country.

For years, TREB, a private organization restricted access to its home sales pricing data, although it was readily available to consumers through a Realtor.

For seven years, TREB fought against the federal Competition Bureau, with TREB insisting that publishing sales and other market data online violated client privacy and its own copyright over the information.

For many consumers and Realtor members, the ruling was a win for full transparency rather than for a loss of privacy. 

Commissioner of Competition, Matthew Boswell, said in a statement, “The ruling is “a decisive victory for competition, innovation and for consumers. The removal of TREB’s “anti-competitive” restrictions will give homebuyers and sellers “greater access to information and innovative real estate services when making one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives.”

There is the argument that releasing this data will negatively impact the market. However, there are two examples that counter this argument; when the US real estate housing market started releasing this data, the industry grew. And, there was a time in Canada when stocks and bond data was private and when it started to release its data, the industry grew and flourished.

TREB continues to argue that financial information about selling prices is a privacy issue. While they consider their next steps, let’s take a look at what the fallout will mean for both buyers and sellers.
The Toronto Real Estate Board is the largest board across Canada. It won’t be a surprise if other board follow their lead and start releasing sales data. Remember, consumers already had access to the data through their Realtor.

For Buyers
Knowing the asking price is only one factor – it’s the selling price that’s most important. Knowing selling prices will give buyers a better idea of the value of the home they want to buy. This could result in sellers listing their homes closer to the average selling price.

For Sellers
Transparency allows buyers to properly assess the value of their own homes without relying on the real estate agent.  Buyers can then make better pricing decisions if, for example, they want a quick sale. 

Overall, access to housing history and data puts the power into the hands of consumers. We could also see a lowering of prices in hot areas such as Toronto and Vancouver as consumers become more empowered.

The truth of the matter is that Realtors, similar to mortgage brokers, have their value rooted in their ability to educate the consumer and various options – that their jobs are about service. Data is not the product, service is.

Full transparency is good for consumers  and sustains a healthy, robust real estate market.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Interest rate increase has winners

Believe it or not, the recent .25% rise in the prime interest rate is an indicator of a healthy economy. Despite trade tensions, Canada’s economy looks to be weathering the tariff storm well, for now.

There is no doubt the Canadian economy is resilient. The country has weathered a few storms since 2008, but still chugs on – somewhat flat at times, but never stagnant. The focus of the Bank of Canada (BoC) is on stimulating the economy and keeping inflation in check. The inflation rate has been inching up and is now at 2.2%, still well within the Bank’s comfort zone. Maintaining low, stable and predictable inflation is key to fostering an environment where Canadians can prosper. 

There are many factors that contribute to rising interest rates. Since the economy has been in recovery mode for a while, it now makes sense the BoC would start raising the rate, given a few economic indicators.

One of the main indicators that point to a continued healthy economy is the job numbers. Without jobs, household budgets get tighter, consumer purchases slow down, manufacturers scramble to reduce inventory, which could lead to lay-offs, and bankruptcies rise. And job loss is also the leading cause of mortgage default.

In June, the economy added 31,800 positions. At the same time the unemployment rate rose to 6%, from 5.8% in May. The higher jobless rate is considered a good sign by analysts who see it as more people optimistic about finding a job.  Average hourly wage growth has maintained the same level as last month at 3.6%. 

What we don’t know is the effect of NAFTA negotiations and how an extended trade war will affect the economy. What we do know is how the recent increase will impact Canadians in the short term. 
First, the cost of borrowing will increase for customers with variable-rate loans and mortgages, but those with money in savings accounts and guaranteed investment certificates will benefit. When interest rates are low, there’s less motivation to save. 

The rate hike may also make Canadians think twice before adding to their debt loads. Canadians are carrying a record amount of debt -- $1.8 trillion and growing -- because of low interest rates. Hopefully, as rates rise, consumers will reconsider adding to their debt loads.

Seniors and retirees also benefit from rising rates. Seniors now have the opportunity to generate higher interest income, which may help them manage rising costs.

With people living longer, those with pension plans are in a better financial position against running out of money. 

The housing market is cooling a bit because of the new rules introduced this year, which may help affordability for future homeowners as the pressure to bring prices down grows. We are not seeing this happen yet in strong urban markets like Toronto and Vancouver.

There’s a fine line between interest rates that are too high or too low and how they may help one segment of our population and hurt another. 

While we have no control over interest rates, we do have control over our responses by thinking more carefully about our finances – our savings and our borrowing – so we’re not caught in challenging situations, no matter what the rates do.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Quebec government takes action with additional funding for children’s breakfasts

Quebec school boards will be receiving additional funding to serve breakfasts in all primary schools located in disadvantaged communities as part of the Quebec government’s Educational Services Strategy.

The additional funding expands the current school meal program and ensures that a greater number of children have an equal chance at success.  The initiative, championed by Breakfast Club of Canada, also recognizes the importance of a healthy breakfast in fostering academic performance.

"This is a big day for the Club and the partners, contributors and numerous donors who have been speaking up, and stepping up, for 23 years,” said Daniel Germain, President and Founder of Breakfast Club of Canada. "We greet this announcement with great pride and enthusiasm.” 

Already active in 312 schools in Quebec and capitalizing on the expertise gained over the past 23 years, Breakfast Club of Canada is eager to work with the school communities that choose to partner with the Club to implement breakfast programs in more than 400 new schools. And the Club is ready to accommodate the additional demand. 

Debbie Thomas is equally as pleased about this announcement, and is proud of the ongoing support from TMG brokers who contribute to the Breakfast Club of Canada each year. 

"Not only are we proud of the funds that we have raised to ensure more children in Canada have the opportunity to begin their day with a nutritious breakfast, but of the way our brokers and staff have gotten involved in local communities across the country, raising awareness and volunteering in the schools directly,” she said. "Since we started TMG has raised over $250,000 – that’s over 250,000 healthy breakfasts served to hungry children.”

Breakfast Club of Canada’s core philosophy is that children deserve to start the school day with a nutritious breakfast in an inclusive, caring environment. Over the years, the Club has helped shed light on the positive impacts and outcomes of school meal programs. 

"We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported and continue to support Breakfast Club of Canada,” added Mr. Germain. "Their commitment has made a difference for hundreds of thousands of children across Quebec. But neither the public sector nor the private sector can win this fight alone. By joining forces today and tomorrow, we will be giving kids the best possible shot at success and helping them live up to their full potential. Together, we can make it happen.” 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Housing affordability continues to erode

New mortgage rules, rising interest rates, and stress tests have definitely cooled housing market activity by making it more challenging for some to qualify for mortgage. An unwelcome consequence continues to be eroding affordability -- as sales activity slows down, house prices have continued to go up, and not only in major urban centres. 

In the first quarter of 2018, home affordability eroded further at the national level – the 11th straight quarter of declines, according to a report by the National Bank. The bank measures affordability as the mortgage payment on a median-priced home as a percentage of median income. Last quarter, the metric rose by 1.2 points in Canada. The higher the metric, the worse the housing affordability.

The bank also suggests that as interest rates rise, affordability will continue to decline, setting the stage where prices have nowhere to go but down. But when? And will it be too late?

The National Bank report also says that by the end of 2019, prices would need to fall 2% in Toronto and Vancouver to keep home affordability from eroding further.

Economists have been predicting a more stable, balanced economy where people are happily working and are able to pay their debts; where interest rates are “low normal” and where house prices are affordable.  Well, that was a few years ago. The once booming real estate sector is in a bit of a slump. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported that national home sales on the MLS were down 2.9% in April 2018, to the lowest level in more than five years. About 60% of all local housing markets reported fewer sales.

According to Will Dunning, Chief Economist, Mortgage Professionals Canada, data for the first quarter of 2018 points to a sharp slowdown. For the first quarter, the sales rate was 10.3% slower than in 2017. The average price in Canada was $482,782– a 4.8% drop compared to a year ago. However, when we look at the price index as opposed to averages, which can be easily skewed, Dunning reports a different picture.

The index from CREA shows that in the first quarter of 2018 prices were 6.4% higher compared to a year ago. The index from Teranet/National Bank shows a rise of 7.6%. Price growth is strongly influenced by the balance between supply and demand, which can be measured using the sales-to-new-listings ratio. The data from CREA indicates that the ratio was 56.6% in the first quarter. Based on that ratio, Dunning expects house price growth in many areas of Canada, which is what is indeed happening.

We are living in strange times. World economies have changed; NAFTA is at risk and our economy might start to feel the effects of a trade war with the US. The new mortgage-insurance rules and stress test have indeed impacted the market, especially for the first-time homebuyers.

In an April 2018 survey by West Coast Capital Savings, 60% of young British Columbians (18 to 29 years old) believe it’s impossible to buy a house in the province’s pricey real estate market and are “seriously considering” moving to areas where home ownership is less costly.

While some homebuyers can adjust their housing expectations and move to buy something less expensive, some potential buyers will be knocked out of the market. And will there be enough, good inventory available for purchase?

There is no arguing that the market has cooled, but it has not stopped. We have not yet heard of massive foreclosures, which mean that households continue to pay their mortgages and their debts. 
So, the big question is when will prices really start coming down in a way that will make housing affordable again. 

We need to continue to closely watch the market to determine if rising rates and lower home values are a blip or a trend which will ultimately impact long term affordability for Canadians.

Friday, May 18, 2018

NU Stream Realty Inc and NU Stream Mortgage Inc chooses TMG The Mortgage Group

Wells Peng, Dan Pultr (TMG) and Anna Zhang

TMG The Mortgage Group is proud to announce a strategic affiliation with NU Stream Realty Inc and NU Stream Mortgage Inc located in B.C.

NU Stream was searching for a partner with similar values to help facilitate its incredible growth, while at the same time servicing their clients with the best mortgage products in the market.

“When we were looking at this next stage of growth, TMG’s support systems, training and tools impressed us,” said Wells Peng, founder and CEO of NU Stream.  “The TMG team is the best fit for our company and we look forward to continuing to grow together.”

TMG’s Vice-President of BC, Dan Pultr, is equally as enthusiastic.  “From the moment we met with the partners at NU Stream, we were excited to work with such growth and client focused individuals,” he said. “The company’s market penetration over the past few years has been impressive -- $3B in transactions since inception in 2016 – and when they shared their vision, it was a natural fit. “

“TMG has earned a stellar reputation in the industry because our staff, systems and resources are placed against the filter of adding value to our broker partners. We’re confident TMG will truly complement NU Stream’s business and make this partnership a win-win,” Pultr added.

TMG The Mortgage Group is an award-winning mortgage brokerage and the largest independent brokerage in Canada with more than 800 agents and brokers across the country.

NU Stream Realty Inc. is an innovative real estate brokerage company using a team-based model that has proven to be highly efficient, professional, and comprehensive. NU Stream Realty Inc. is developing operations in both the Vancouver and Toronto Chinese markets simultaneously, establishing a platform to serve customers across Canada.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

TMG’s Co-founder Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

In July, 1990 Debbie Thomas and her husband/ business partner Grant opened TMG. In the ensuing 28 years, TMG has grown its presence in the marketplace from four brokers in a small office, to more than 800 mortgage professionals across the country.

Debbie has been the Broker of Record in British Columbia since 1993.

In addition to company awards, Debbie has won the Partner’s in Excellence Award -- CAAMP and Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement – MBABC.

As the only female to head up a successful national brokerage, Debbie credits her skills as an educator that has contributed to her influence. She has been the "Mortgage Expert" on Global BC TV for many years and worked hard to get the industry message out to consumers that “Your best mortgage is through a Broker”.

Not only is Debbie committed to the success of TMG, she has shown passion and dedication for the success of others and the industry at large. As part of a very influential Western core group of broker advocates in the early 1990s, she was instrumental in ensuring that Western brokers were properly recognized. Through her efforts, mortgage lenders such as Scotia Bank and HSBC added the West to their business market.

 It’s not surprising that British Columbia enjoys the highest level of mortgage broker activity in the country with more than 35% of consumers seeking out a mortgage professional.

Within TMG, Debbie is seen as a mentor, an expert and a leader. Within the mortgage industry, she is seen as an entrepreneur, an industry advocate and a pioneer.

On Thursday, May 3, Debbie was recognized for her contribution to the mortgage industry by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mortgage Awards of Excellence in Toronto. Here is Debbie, in her own words.

“I was both honoured and humbled to receive the inaugural 'Lifetime Achieve Award' at the Mortgage Awards of Excellence. Thanks to the nominating committee for the privilege of being the very first recipient of this award.  

When I think about Lifetime Achievement I start to look back and reflect on the past, as I imagine all of us do, and I thought about the early days of TMG, and of the mortgage industry, and how I got here.

TMG was founded by myself and my husband Grant back in 1990.  That same year the Berlin Wall came down, the first episode of The Simpsons aired and there was this launch of something called the World Wide Web. So, in retrospect, it was very good year for beginnings.

Back in those days, we had one huge, big-ass Fax machine, and we would line-up to send and receive documents.  It was almost a full-time job just organizing and distributing those documents.  Then in 2000, Expert came along and life got a whole lot easier.

We’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry over the years. We’ve seen lenders come, and we’ve seen lenders go. We’ve seen mortgage rates in the double digits, we’ve seen market “corrections” and we’ve seen very hot markets. And we’re still here. Mortgage brokers remain committed to the consumer and making sure they have a choice when it comes to mortgages.

I’m proud to say that we’ve seen more women enter the industry.   Each day I work with outstanding women in the industry – our brokers – our lender BDMs – our underwriters -- and our support staff. Together we are empowering thousands, breaking down barriers and demonstrating that there are really no gender preferences in our industry. With each passing day there are more, strong female leaders emerging. I am grateful to be a part of that.

I have learned many lessons on this journey.  One particular lesson has sustained us -- I have learned about the importance of partnering with the right people. By surrounding ourselves with people of integrity, with people we can trust, it empowers us to be our best.

 From the outset, Grant and I never wavered from our values and our vision – it still sustains us today.”