Mike's Spruce Grove Mortgage Blog


Blog Description

Standing at my desk

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My standing Desk Journey...This was just too good to pass up!

Update November 17th, 2016

My standing desk took on a tall stool, where I sat myself down and went on with my daily tasks. NOT GOOD!  I found myself developing a hunchback.  For the past 2 days, I am re-aquainting myself with the standing desk routine and find my neck pain has disappeared. 

Update June 20th 2016 (welcome summer)

A quick observation.  Since I re-introducded the option of sitting on a bar-stool in my office, I am finding that it is more comfortable and convenient to stand and complete my work. The bar-stool is pushed out of the way. It's like I cheated on my standing desk lifestyle, but realized I really became comfortable with the practice of standing.

Update May 16th 2016. 

That does it.  I compromised and bought a drafting stool as an option to sit on while I am working at my standing desk. It was a run of 3.6 years but ultimately I found myself sneaking in longer periods where I was sitting down at the kitchen nook with my laptop. The coffee breaks were getting longer and the time in my office was suffering.  I don't feel like I am cheating myself, just being real.

I do feel like a vegan with a new found taste for beek jerky.

I still stand, about half of the time.


Leap year day 2016 (Feb 29th 2016)

I performed a major edit of my standing desk blog.  October 8th 2013 was the start date.  Got rid of 3 years of my blog posts complaining and lollygagging about standing at my desk.  If anybody want to know more about what to expect, please email me and I will walk you through the project, otherwise I will either let you know if the standing desk experiment is ending or if I reach additional milestones.


The Standing Desk Experiment.  (read to the bottom for updates on my experiment) October 8th 2013.

I don't usually deviate from my mortgage discussions in my blog, but today I thought I would share an experience that may be a positive health change for a desk bound career person.  About a month ago I was introduced to the concept of standing and working at my desk by David Paruk of Gateway Mortgage Investment Corp.  He had some fancy gizmo that gave him the option of sitting or standing at his desk.  He said he did it because too many hours of sitting was not a healthy lifestyle.

When I returned to my office I started searching for all web related material that dealt with the benefits of standing vs sitting all day long.  There are many articles and it is not hard to find many facts and opinions in the sit vs. stand comparison argument.

One of the drawbacks is the cost of the systems that allow you to make an easy transition.  I was somewhat willing to try and experiment with a standing office, but was not willing to spend the bucks to convert my office space...at least not until I tried it out.

On Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, the Discovery Channel played a show called The Numbers Game and the host also introduced his listeners to the benefits of a stand-up office environment.  He did offer one very helpful tool to help the undecided to try the concept.  I am now using some boxes from my last trip to Costco. My computer and keyboard were raised up to the height I needed to stand here and type this blog. 

I don't believe statistics, because they can be manipulated, but even if they are close to being true, these ones are shocking from an online health magazine.

  • A study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18% more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day.
  • Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana analyzed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over about 13 years, and found that people who sit for most of the day are 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.


April 3rd 2014

Presenting "The Moffnicki Mashup"

June 5th 2014:  I was delighted to hear that my on-going standing desk saga was actually being read. I met Wafik Hanna and he took my challenge to a new level.  Wafik liked the idea of a hybrid type standing desk, because it would serve to be a healthier choice than sitting all day.  The solution for Wafik was simple an elegant.  He was able to locate a supply of scissor lifts that bring the writing table/keyboard and monitor up to standing level.  It works well in an office where you work with customers and still want the option to stand while doing your routine work. 


If you would like to know how to get these realtively inexpensive solutions to switch to a standing desk, please send me an email at mstop@shaw.ca and I will get you in touch with Wafik.


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 9:57 am - 0 comments

HomEquity Bank Reverse mortgage ad, with Kurt Browning

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

posted by MIke Toporowsky at 3:58 pm - 0 comments

HomEquity Bank myths debunked. Call Mike at 780-940-0604

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

posted by MIke Toporowsky at 3:57 pm - 0 comments

October 17th mortgage rule changes in Canada (one example)

Friday, October 7, 2016

October 17th Mortgage Rule Changes in Canada (one example)

Most of you have heard about the changes coming to the Canadian mortgage underwriting guidelines.

Here  is one way the change will affect you if you were in the market to purchase a condo townhome for $339,000

First, we have to assume that you have zero additional debt.

5% down with a 2.39% 5 year fixed rate, down payment is 5% ($16,950), CMHC premium $11,593.80, total financing is $333,643.80

Before October 17th 2016, you need to qualify your mortgage with 2.39% for 5 years. That means you can qualify with a payment of $1476.40/m principal and interest plus $300 condo fees plus $200 heating and electrical plus $208.33 for property taxes. Total payment is $2184.73/m   You need to earn $81,927.36 to qualify.

After October 17th 2016, you need to qualify with the current bank posted 5 year rate of 4.64%. That means you need to qualify with a payment of $1872.68.  The rest of the numbers are the same but that brings your total monthy qualifying payment to $2581.02. You need to earn $96,788.16 to qualify for the same mortgage on that same home. 

You will only be paying 2.39%, but the Federal Finance department wants to ensure that your mortgage is stress tested, in case the rates go up and you need to prepare for a higher payment.

If you have additional debt, like credit lines, credit cards, car payments, student loans, be prepared to either pay them off first or earn a higher income or qualify with an additional income or buy a home in your income range or live with your folks or continue renting.

As interest rates go up, so will the qualifying rate. It seems like it got tougher to buy a home, but if you have been around for a few decades, you will remember inflationary interest rates of 21% for a mortgage.  It will take some more planning.  If you want to become a home owner, you probably will find a way to qualify. 

You need a mortgage professional now more than ever to find your way through the process.

Mike Toporowsky AMP

Real Mortgage Solutions


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 3:38 pm - 0 comments

7 Efficiency Tips for Real Estate Closings, From a Spruce Grove Lawyer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

7 Tips for Efficient Real Estate Closings from a Law office in Spruce Grove

Below, you will find a very timely list of things you can do to ensure timely and efficient closings this busy real estate season.  It also gives an idea on how to save costs at closing. I would like to thank lawyer Frank DeAngelis for this contribution.

LUCK. We all wish we had more of it.  Closing transactions for your clients ON TIME ™ doesn't need to rely on luck.  Here are Main Street Law LLP's stop seven tips for keeping your clients extremely happy by assisting us in closing their real estate transactions ON TIME ™:

1.      Do not schedule the closing date on the 1st, 15th, or end of the month. If you do schedule a closing date for these days, you're having your clients compete for the time of their lawyers, bankers, movers, utility providers, etc. with everybody else who tries to move on these days. Unless it needs to be one of these days for a specific reason, any other date is a better choice.
2.      When scheduling that alternate date, choose a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday closing when there is less demand for the resources of the service providers.
3.      Make sure the Real Property Report and Compliance Certificate are in order regardless of whether you are acting for the buyer or the vendor.  If acting for the vendor, start addressing this issue when taking the listing. Do not wait to address the Real Property Report and compliance issues until a late date as failing to address this issue early is probably the number one reason for late closings.
4.      If the Real Property Report and compliance certificate are not ready at the time the contract is entered into, consider title insurance as an alternative.  Be clear in the contract that title insurance is to be provided instead of a real property report and compliance if this is how the transaction is to proceed.
5.      Do not schedule closings for June 27th or 28th, schedule your closing to close the 24th, 25th, or 26th of June or July 3rd or 7th instead.
6.      Allow three weeks' time between condition waiver and the closing date. Note that a $400.00 RUSH closing fee is charged on any transactions that are scheduled to close with less than 10 working days' notice.
7.      Ensure that your office's assistants are instructed to send Conveyancing instructions immediately upon the transaction going unconditional.  Additional closing information, if needed, can be acquired at a later date.
The partners, our associates and all the Main Street Law LLP staff look forward to working collaboratively with you to ensure stress-free, "ON TIME" closings for you and your clients.  More information on our People and what we do can be found on our Web Site at mainstreetlaw.ca.
Best Regards;
Frank C DeAngelis
Barrister and Solicitor
Main Street Law Offices
Box 3407, 115 Main Street
Spruce Grove, Alberta T7X 3A7


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 9:45 am - 0 comments

Educate yourself before you buy a condo

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Educate yourself before you buy a Condo


There are a few extra things you need to do before purchasing a condominium.  Home ownership comes in different packages and your lifestyle will help you decide what type is best for you.

A condo can look like a single family home, a manufactured home, a town-home, a cottage home, a walk-up apartment or a high-rise.  A condo plan usually means that the land around he buildings are common area and are maintained by the owners cooperatively either directly through a condo board or a property manager.  Decisions regarding snow removal, roof repairs and general maintenance on the exteriors are made by the elected boards.  If you own one unit you have a vote and you can also put your name forward to serve on the board.

Your lifestyle might include lots of travel and a condo lets you leave without having to worry about snow removal, garbage removal and lawn maintenance.  Or you might simply want a smaller place with less maintenance.

All condos in Alberta are required to do a reserve fund study every 5 years. This is a report completed by condominium experts (building engineers, contractors etc) to determine the state of repair of the condos roof, heating systems, drainage, siding etc.
They determine if the required reserve fund is adequate to cover any major or minor upcoming maintenance.

When you are looking to purchase a condo, you should always be allowed to review the reserve fund study report plus a number of other items that will give you a history of what the owners are reporting.

When looking you should ask to review...
  • a copy of the registered condominium plan
  • a copy of the current bylaws of the corporation
  • a copy of the most recent financial statements, if any, of the corporation
  • a copy of the budget of the corporation
  • A statement setting out the monthly contributions (condo fees) and the basis on which that amount was determined
  • A copy of any minutes of the proceedings of a general meeting of the corporation or of the board for the past 12 months
  • a copy of any special resolutions, if any
  • a copy of the insurance certificate
  • a copy of any lease agreement or exclusive use agreement with respect to the possession of a portion of the common property, including a parking stall or storage unit
  • the particulars of, or a copy of, any subsisting management agreement
  • the particulars of, or a copy of, any subsisting recreational agreement
  • a statement setting out structural deficiencies the the corporation has knowledge of at the time of the request in any of the buildings that are included in the condo plan
  • a statement setting out the amount of the capital replacement reserve fund
  • a copy of the most recent reserve fund report
  • a copy of the most recent reserve fund plan
  • the particulars of any post tensioned cables located anywhere on or anywhere within the property
  • a statement setting out the amount of contributions due and payable in respect to a unit
  • the particulars of any action commenced against the corporation and served on the corporation
  • the particulars of an unsatisfied judgment or order for which the corporation is liable
  • the particulars of any written demand made on the corporation for an amount in excess of $5000 that, if not met, may result in an action being brought against the corporation

While not all these documents will be applicable these are all items to consider before purchasing your new home.

Take the time to read these through or have your real estate associate review them for you.  This is the due diligence process that may save you some future shock of a special assessment amount levied against you for major repairs. This is a major reason for utilizing the service of a Realtor.  They do not charge you a commission as your buying associate, so you have nothing to loose.  Your second line of defense is your mortgage broker, who will also ask for these items to provide to the lender. If there is anything of concern that is read from the checklist, they will alert you before you remove that financing condition from your offer to purchase. 

Recently I ran across a reasonably priced document review service.  It was started by a person who was faced with  two consecutive "special Assessments".  The service will review the entire condominium document package (usually a large bunch of papers that require nerves of steel to stay focused while you are reading).  Sometimes the lending underwriter will insist on reviewing the documents or expect that the lawyer closing the file will review them.  If the lawyer is expected to review them, they will most likely have a significant increase in their fees or they will send it out to a similar contract service provider.  If you are lucky enough to have a lawyer in the family, they can also be called upon to help you understand the condo docs. 

When you are given the condo documents, as required by the real estate act and if you make the condo purchase without properly review this document, if you receive a special assessment, you alone are responsible. 

Once you are into your condo, there is no turning back. So make sure your condominium home ownership experience is enjoyable.

Share your Condo experiences with us

posted by MIke Toporowsky at 9:42 am - 1 comments
Sharon Blondin said... Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 5:36 pm
Hi Mike, thanks for getting the word out there regarding condo ownership. Condo's are far and away the fastest growing segment of real estate for lots of good reasons. Owner's though, do become members of a non-profit corporation so it's good to look at the books, so to speak. (A note though... a document review is actually a condition of condo purchase, here in Alberta.)

Things to consider before you apply for a mortgage, in Alberta

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things to consider before you apply for a mortgage.

Down Payment

1) do I have at least 5% of the purchase price of my new home? Can I make it 10% and save significant CMHC premiums?

2) Do I have a 90 day history of the funds in one account? If I moved funds around, can I show a clear path to the lender? To do this you need bank statements or RRSP statements that show the name of the bank, the account number, your name and the dates of the transactions.  Often we pull a 90 day bank statement from the internet.  That is fine, as long as you can prove that account belongs to you, with a statement tying it all together.

3) If the down payment is a gift, I will need a gift letter, stating the gift is a true gift and not a loan. I will also need to show the funds in the gift giver's bank account (90 days not required) and a statement showing the funds transferred into your own account.

4) If I am selling an asset, I will need to show the bill of sale and the funds being deposited into my account.

5) If part of my down payment is from recently received funds,like a tax refund or an insurance settlement or an annual bonus at work, I need to show both the source of the fund and the deposit into my account.

Credit and Character

1) contact Equifax.ca and request your free credit bureau.  Do not buy the score that it will ask you to buy.  The report needs to be reviewed annually to ensure that it is accurate. There are sometimes errors, so don't be caught unaware.  Deal with errors prior to your mortgage application, not during a purchase.

2) sometimes underwriters will search the internet for items of public domain, if they are looking for character references. Keep that in mind.  It is the same thing that occurs when you are applying for a job, so much is already public.

3) Deal with collections and other negative credit issues and have documented proof and some historic facts for the credit issue.

4) 3% of an unsecured credit line balance will be used against your debt service calculations, so even if you are paying interest only, you may not qualify for a mortgage if your $20,000 mastercard balance is showing as a $600/month payment against your income.

5) do not buy large ticket items during the time you are applying for a mortgage. If you are forced to buy a vehicle, make sure you clear it with your broker and they will work with the lender to make sure you still qualify. This is especially important after you remove conditions of finance.

6) read all condominium documentation or have a professional condo expert read them and advise if the condo is going to have major expenses that are not covered in the reserve fund.

Income and Stability (3 year history)

1) If you are employed, please have a copy of the last 2 t4s, the last 2 NOAs a recent pay stub and a letter of employement that states your name, your employment date, your position and your annual base income.

2) If you are self employed, but not incorporated, please have your last 2 T1 generals, your last 2 NOAs, your bank statements for the past 3-12 months, invoices or any other record showing regular income ready to present.  Not all banks ask for all of these, but it is good to have them ready.

hint. If you don't have your Notice of Assessments from CRA, please log in and register for the online records.  This takes a couple weeks for them to send you your password through Canada post, then you can print off your CRA records any time you want. 

3) If you are self employed and have a corporation, you will need your last 2 NOAs, you last T1 generals, your corporate financial statements, your Corporation documents, showing how long you have been incorporated and who your director and shareholders are. If you have 100% of your company, is is less complicated than if you are a partner or a lesser shareholder, so make sure you provide proof.

4) Think about your longer strategy.  If you plan to buy a home and have children, you may not want to qualify for a huge mortgage based on 2 incomes. At least know your plan and avoid disappointment. 


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 9:41 am - 0 comments

Mortgage applications are getting very detailed

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mortgage applications are getting very detailed.

After 35 years in the industry, I thought I saw all that could be seen. After all, business is normally in cycles.

This past few years CMHC, OSFI and the Canadian Federal Government have continuously tapped the brakes on a previously robust mortgage industry. I actually agreed with some of the tightening, because I want to see this industry remain strong.

Lately, however,  I have run across some of the more bizzarre examples of details.  Things like pulling titles on every address shown on your history on the credit bureau, just to prove you are not responsible for the mortgage on a prior address or that the number of homes you have declared owning are accurate. That is an extremem example, but it has recently happened to one of my clients.

I agree with gathering details that are more specific than stating somebody has $300,000 in RRSPs. Remember that everything you declare may be scrutinized and approved.  Somethimes the underwriter accepts your numbers, but if you tell your broker you have $300,000 in RRSPs you better be able to back that stament if called on.  Banks are asking for specific investment amounts and places that the funds are invested.

Lessons learned from the US subprime mortgage meltdown have the entire worldwide credit industry cleaning up their act. We are all responsible to help it improve.  Canada has always been strong, but we are not immune to downturns.

Just be prepared to dot your i's cross your t's and be patient.


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 5:17 pm - 0 comments

Credit Bureau scores have changed effective June 4th 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

Your credit bureau score just changed on June 4th 2016.

It was an upgrade called ‘Beacon 9’ and it is meant to better reflect your payment and credit habits.

Here is some good news; If you have great payment habits, never come near your credit limits and don’t constantly create inquiries on your credit bureau, your score probably took a healthy increase.

If, on the other hand, you are late with payments, missed payments within the past 2 years, are constantly seeking credit, were over your limit on credit lines or consistently close to your limit, your score will probably reflect a lower number.

If you wish to apply for credit (for a mortgage or a credit card or vehicle purchase) and you are aware of some of the above problems, you need to take some steps to prepare.

1)    Pay down your credit card to less than 50% of the limit and treat it like your limit is half of the actual limit.
2)    If you can’t pay down the limit, ask the lender to increase your limit to create a space between your balance and your limit. Again, do not go any higher than your current balance.
3)    Do not seek credit or give permission to pull bureau reports to anybody, unless totally within the framework of your credit/purchase strategy.  Limit your permission to 3 times a year, maximum.  Equifax says they will not penalize for similar credit pulls within 45 days, but they may not be aware of the vehicle purchase connection with a bank vs a car finance place.
4)    Allow 2 calendar months for any adjustments of balance or limit to have an affect on your credit report. 
5)    Make sure all payments are up to date and even set up payments on an automatic debit plan.  This goes for phone plans too.
6)    This is important.  If you have a dispute over a balance, with a creditor, do not simply ignore your payment.  If you miss your payment (agreed or not) they win.
You need to communicate with somebody in authority to resolve the issue, no matter if it means waiting your turn in line or on the phone. Get your resolutions emailed to you or mailed to your.  Make sure it is in writing and make sure you get names.


posted by MIke Toporowsky at 4:22 pm - 0 comments

Getting equity out of a property where you have a common interest

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Getting equity out of a property where you share a common interest

Banks normally won't touch a deal like this.  Private investors see the common sense where there is sufficient equity to allow one of the title holders to borrow equity from their portion of the property value. 

I was approached in a divorce case by the lawyer of a man who needed to access a portion of his half of the matrimonial property. The properties were being tied up while the divorce abttle raged on. There was proven sufficient equity on both sides and it was not a question as to the soon to be ex-husband owning at least half of it. 

The discussions between the man's divorce lawyer and the private investor's lawyer were required to set up a framework for the type of loan and land titles registration to make this happen.  This first deal was delayed at first, because Alberta Land Titles was not satisfied with the legal verbage used on the registration request.  It was quickly resolved after a discussion and the loan went forward.

I had never seen a deal like this cross my desk in 35 years in the industry, but right after that first deal was closed I received a call from a man looking to get equity out of a property, that he owned jointly with a foreign investor. 

The circumstances and the needs were different, but again we proved his co-title to the property and determined his share of the ownership.  Recently we closed the second deal using the same private investor (because the investor became confident with this type of investment).

We used the same lawyer of the second deal too, because the legal verbage was precise and land titles registered without further incident.

If this sounds like something you need, please let me know and we will see if you qualify.

Mike Toporowsky   



posted by MIke Toporowsky at 10:47 am - 0 comments

About Mike Toporowsky AMP

Mortgage industry experience ... since early 1981

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  • 780-940-0604
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