Home About Us Awards 325 Van Norman Fifth Avenue Buying vs. Renting FAQ Contact Us


We are planning to retire in Thunder Bay later this year.  We are wondering if your Fifth Avenue Townhomes are available to rent with an option to purchase.

Great to hear you have decided to retire in Thunder Bay!  Don't know if you are originally from the city but you already know Thunder Bay is a great place to live, and that is especially true if you are retired.

Our Fifth Avenue Townhomes are only available to rent.  As you are probably aware, the economy in Thunder Bay has been suffering and, as a result, our real estate market is not as robust as it is in other major urban centres.  In Thunder Bay, we believe renting is smarter than owning.

Our Fifth Avenue Townhomes are built to a very high standard both in terms of energy efficiency and design.  There isn't a comparable home available in Thunder Bay; however, to construct a home with features similar to those found in our townhomes would cost well in excess of $200,000.  We have compared the cost of renting one of our Fifth Avenue Townhomes with buying a $180,000 condominium and a $200,000 detached house.  These are very conservative estimates and do not take into account GST on a new home purchase, any increase in property taxes, purchase and maintenance of major appliances, or any maintenance costs on the home itself.  As you can see, in both cases, you are better off renting one of our Fifth Avenue Townhomes and investing your money in something else.  And you have the pleasure of living in a luxurious, energy efficient, healthy home.

We know you would enjoy living in one of our Fifth Avenue Townhomes.  Whatever you decide, we wish you all the best in your retirement and your move to Thunder Bay.    

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Do you know what the utility costs will be for one of your Fifth Avenue Townhomes occupied by two adults?

Electricity costs will be totally dependent on the habits of the occupants and their efforts to conserve energy.  The townhomes are equipped with a dishwasher and clothes washer which are both energy star models.  Although the fridge is not an energy star model, it has other features which we believe makes it a superior choice.  Neither dryers nor ovens are currently energy star rated.  All light fixtures are fitted with energy efficient florescent bulbs.  Your experience in your current home will be a good indicator of how much electricity you are likely to use in any home; assuming of course you don't have an electric hot water heater.

Similarly, gas costs will also be a function of the habits of the occupants.  The gas-fired hot water heater provides both domestic hot water and space heating.  The heating system has been designed to maximize the efficiency of the hot water heater.  A hot water recirculation system has also been included on the domestic side which immediately provides hot water at the faucet.  During the non-heating season, gas costs will be dependent on the frequency and duration of showers, baths, clothes washing and dishwashing.  During the heating season, gas costs will be higher with the addition of space heating costs.  Our own home is 2,000 sq. ft. and occupied by two adults.  It is not as well insulated as the Fifth Avenue Townhomes but has a similar heating system.  Our gas bill over the past six months has averaged less than $100/month. 

A home can be designed and built to be energy efficient; however, if the occupants are wasteful, they will not realize the savings available in an energy efficient home.  This is the main reason we have our tenants pay the utility bills.  If lights are left on needlessly or windows are opened rather than turning down the thermostat, utility costs will be higher even in the best built home.

I hope this is helpful.

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We are newcomers to Canada.  We understand your buying vs. renting calculation, but right now we are not in a position to pay $900/month rent.  What should we consider before buying an older home? 

Don't base your decision to buy an older home solely on the cost of carrying the mortgage.  Make sure you know the total cost of living in the house.  Get the actual consumption rates for gas, hydro and water, in writing, for the past year.  Don't accept estimates or approximates of the consumption rates.  If the vender can't or won't provide these numbers, don't touch the house.  The price of natural gas went up 20% recently and is expected to increase an additional 20% in the fall.  Find out the annual insurance premium (and make sure the house is insurable) and the annual property taxes.  Add the cost of utilities (including rental of the water heater, if applicable), insurance and property taxes to the monthly mortgage payment and then determine if you can really afford to buy the house.

The best is to sacrifice for the next 3-5 years.  Rent the cheapest apartment, with heat included; work up to 16/7; don't buy a new car and save your money, like I did.  After that, you will know what is the best option in your situation.

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What about a new house?

Before buying or leasing a new car, you do a lot of research to find out what the fuel consumption is, how much the insurance will cost, how much the taxes will be, how long the warranty lasts, what's covered, the required maintenance schedule and how much the monthly payments will be.  Do you know the same things about the house you want to buy?  Do you?  You'll probably keep the car for 3/5/7 years.  When you are thinking of buying a house, likely the biggest investment in your life, in which you will spend more time than in the car, do you do the same kind of research? 

If you are thinking about buying a new house, ask the builder for the heat loss calculation used to design the heating system.  If a heat loss calculation is not available, ask how the heating system was designed.  A properly sized heating system operates at maximum efficiency in order to minimize energy consumption.  Ask the builder if a blower door test has been done on the house to determine the tightness of the building envelope.  The tightness of the building envelope affects the amount of heat loss (to the outdoors) due to air changes (mechanical ventilation and air leakage).  The house should have an HRV (heat recovery ventilator) installed and balanced by an HRAI certified installer.  If the house has a gas-fired water heater, determine if it is chimney vented or direct vented (sealed).  Don't confuse direct vented with power direct vented, there is a huge difference.  With all this information, it is possible to predict energy consumption and get a reasonable estimate of annual utility costs.

Today, new houses, like appliances, can have an energy rating.  If the house hasn't been rated, ask the builder to have it rated then decide if it's the right house for you.  If the builder won't have the house rated, you may want to consider a different builder.

The most important thing is to do your homework if  you don't want to be on the "Holmes on Homes" show  www.holmesonhomes.com.

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Copyright 2006 Weissman Ltd.
Last modified: 10/11/15