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Tips for millennials looking to buy a home in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — If you aren’t a millennial, you know one, or two…or ten.

Twenty-nine per cent of Ottawa is made up of millennials—more than any other demographic.

“Although those born between 1981 and 1999 are the largest cohort, they are second to baby boomers when it comes to buying homes,’ says Taylor Bennett, a broker with Bennett Property Shop Realty.

“In the 1980s, when many baby boomers were buying their first homes, 52 per cent of those homebuyers were married, whereas only 40 per cent of today’s first-time buyers are married.

 “People today are also having their first child later in their lives, which has changed the needs of today’s first-time buyers compared to 40 years ago.  This has driven them to very different styles of property.”

Bennett says unlike the boomers, millennials are less focused on good school districts, large backyards, and family-oriented neighbourhoods. But within the next five years or so, that’s likely to change.

“They will likely outnumber the Baby Boomers and become the most influential demographic in the city. But a major difference between first-time home buyers today versus when baby boomers bought their first homes, many millennial first-time buyers are single-income buyers.

So what the millennials can afford is very different. Bennett says this is the most educated generation, with 79 per cent having a college or university education.

With that education, says Taylor, often comes significant debt.

“Many of those well-educated millennialshave accumulated so much student debt they may be more likely to move into their parents’ basement.”

“They shouldn’t feel that they have failed because they had to go back home.  They are graduating typically with $26,000 of debt. That’s a lot of debt to overcome if you’re starting out. If you’re dealing with starting incomes of $40,000 or $50,000 when you’re getting out of university, and coming out of there was $26,000 of debt right away, you’re behind the eight ball.”

Taylor says even though the average age of a first time home buyer is 36, he suggests instead of moving in with your parents and see if they, or someone, can help you build your equity by helping with a down payment.

“I encourage young people to become a home owner and with all that equity you can pay off your student debt a lot faster than you would if you’re just staying at home and saving on your own.

“Pair up with a roommate, or two, and start splitting off the cost and making sure you have those monthly costs shared between three, or even four people, versus just you on your own.”

Bennett was born into the real estate business, and says that’s how he bought his first property.

“My very first house that I bought was a pre-construction property, at that time there was a benefit for a first time homebuyer’sdown payment.

“My parents did help me out putting that down payment down.  Our deal  was when I went to sell,  because they paid half of the down payment, they were going to get half of the profits.”

Because it was pre-construction, Bennett said it took him a year to move in.

“When I finally moved in, I rented out a room for about two years there and then I sold the property afterwards.  As I mentioned I split the profits with my parents.  I took that money to buy another townhouse.  I rented out two rooms while I was living there but I still paid my mortgage as if I had no roommates.

“My mortgage is being paid down twice, or three times, as fast.”

Taylor acknowledges living with a roommate can be a challenge.

“Living with a roommate, living with a stranger, can obviously bring up some issues in terms of privacy and things like that but I will tell you firsthand I had far more positive experiences the negative experiences.”

“I wouldn’t be living in Little Italy right now if I didn’t make those sacrifices to live with a roommate.

 “If I had just stayed renting at home trying to save money it would’ve been impossible to ‘out-save’ how fast the market is growing.”

“Most of the people I was roommates with have become long-term friends I’m still friends with them today.”

Bennett’s other tips for millennials looking to get into the real estate market: be prepared, be patient and be ready to look out of town.

“With the new way people are working from home combined with the recent growth in some of the neighbouring towns that have brought in more stores and shops, consider getting out of the city and into a town where costs are more affordable. Plus, many of these towns are only 20-30 minutes away from an Ottawa suburb.”

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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