CategoryBenefits

House Purchase in a Day?

house

Have you ever purchased a house in a day? Have you ever purchased a house in a few hours? How about in a city that you have never lived in? What if your employer insisted you move to a place where you couldn’t purchase a home (ie. overseas) but then also insisted that you pay to break your existing mortgage.

When we came on our House Hunting Trip to Ottawa (a city in which we had never lived) we had no choice about when we could come. My husband was teaching a course and we could only come during Easter Break. The problem with this is that we lost the Friday and Monday due to the holidays. The bank was not open on either day to complete the transaction so the house had to be found and the paperwork completed within four days. (Remember that this was a city with which we were only vaguely familiar.)

Question-Mark

Where to begin? … First:

With a map of the city. We knew that as much as we loved the downtown core, it was not financially feasible. We ended up settling on the West End of Ottawa because of the proposed Military move to Nortel. Next:

With a Fraser Institute listing of schools. You have to start somewhere!  As with most military families, the kids schools are one of the most important factors in any move. They already seem to have the deck stacked against them with regards to education. The least we can do is try to find a good school for them. Next:

Build a Binder: My binder is always bright and obnoxious in colour. It has tabs!  It has maps! By the time we come on the house hunting trip, I have looked up all the schools. I know each of their boundaries. My husband has mapped out the express bus routes with a firm understanding of how long it is going to take to get to work. We have been watching the market for a few weeks prior to our arrival and have print out of the houses that we are interested in.  (there is always one that is beautiful on the MLS that I have my heart set on and it always seems to be JUNK in person)  Finally:

Finding a home that isn’t too expensive: We were moving from the United States (where we were not permitted to buy) but had come from New Brunswick prior to that. The online MLS listings prove invaluable and allow you to get a sense of the area before you get there.  The housing market in Ottawa is vastly different than the housing market in NB. A $260,000 in Gagetown could easily cost $500,000 in Ottawa. Many military families are also losing a spousal income.

We were set. We arrived on the Saturday, excited about the next adventure. Sunday we met our Realtor and tried to get oriented. We started looking at houses. A lot of houses. A military house hunting trip is precise operation. In an ideal world you should find your new home in the first 24-48 hours. This is important because you have to get the inspection done and the extensive paperwork through the bank. Not to mention signing the kids up for their new schools.

stress

We started at a specific price point and ended up $100,000 more than we had originally expected to spend. On Monday we continued to look at homes of increasing value. Tuesday morning we put an offer in on a home that we could fit into, had good schools, and that we could sell in a couple of years if required. We purchased this house subject to the usual conditions. Tuesday afternoon we had a bit of a chance to check out schools and to take a break. The house inspectors are very busy during this time and we couldn’t get our inspector in until Wednesday afternoon. By that evening we had discovered that the entire deal had fallen through and that we had to start over again. We re-looked at what was on the market and in our price range and it was becoming very evident that we were going to have to make some incredible concessions. I threw out all of our school plans and by Thursday afternoon we found a back up home. Fortunately our house inspector was willing to come out on the weekend and were able to expedite the paperwork before we had to return to our home in the States.

Do I like the home?  It’s ok. We fit into it. Are the kids schools good? They are ok. Is this a home I would choose if I had more time?  Absolutely not.

If you are a long service member of the Canadian Armed Forces you are entitled to a ‘retirement’ move. Often this allows a person who ends a career in Ottawa to move back to Newfoundland if that is what they would like. It also, however, allowed people who purchased a home in the frenetic manner described above to move into a place that they actually like. In October 2014 it was reported that General Andrew Leslie submitted a retirement moving claim for $72,000. While I understand that this is an excessive bill for the Canadian tax payer to pay, I also believe that a final move to a house you like, in an city that you know, after a lifetime of service and sacrifice, isn’t unreasonable. Unfortunately after the media sensation in October the Federal Government changed the rules and we are no longer allowed to take that final move within the city in which we are currently living.

This feels like a stone in my shoe.

Have you purchased a home? What was the process like? Do you think that the government should foot the final move bill for long service military members? Would you support this if there were a monetary cap on the benefit?

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Dependent Education Benefits – Who Knew?

Free Tutoring?  Really?…

Black Cropped Wordle

Moves can be devastating for our children.  School.  Friends. Homelife.  Stress. Anxiety……

When my son was five we moved from Gagetown to Edmonton. We showed him the brochure of the West Edmonton Mall and he was all in!  Pirate ship in the mall?!!!  Are you kidding?!! AWESOME, LET’S GO!

Unfortunately the promise of pirate ships no longer works when they are teenagers, and that ‘awesome’ wears a little thin.

When we were in Gagetown a neighbour told me about Dependent Education tutoring….. (say what?!!!)  How is it possible that we had been living this army life for 15 years and didn’t know about it.  I asked hubby to ask the orderly room about it and they hadn’t heard about it either.  (Chief Clerks are God’s in my opinion – if they don’t know about it then nobody does!)  After a little digging we found out that it does exist.

This is such a raw subject for me.  My very bright child needed to go back a year in school based on the deficiencies of one province’s education.  (enter Mama Bear).  I even have a lovely lame letter from the Minister of Education of that province thanking me for my concerns and that he was sorry for my son’s issues. (my son’s issues? – they did no science, social studies, reading or writing from January to June, just conversational french… How is this a recipe for success?)

Enter Children’s Education ManagementThis is a department that falls under DCBA (Director Compensation and Benefits Administration) who’s sole purpose is to assist military families navigate their child’s education.  Most of their benefits are for OUTCAN postings but there is help for In-Canada issues.  There are even two guidance counselors that are more than willing to help you with any issues that you might have.  (Andrea Smith assists families with last names from A-K, and Carolle Coulombe is the counselor for L-Z)

So here is the summary:

If you move your child from one province to another and there is a deficit in their education due to that move and they are falling below provincial expectations – there is money for you.  It must be a deficiency related to a change in the curriculum from one province to the next (and can not be because of a program change, sadly this excludes french immersion programs).

In order to access this money you must do a few things.

  1. Get a letter from the current principal stating the following:
    1. That the student’s deficiency is related to the curriculum change
    2. Include a recommendation of the number of hours that the principal believes are required per week to get the student up to the Provincial average
  2. You must get three quotes from qualified teachers with teaching certificates.  They will reimburse the average of these three quotes.
  3. Bring these things to the Orderly Room and quote CBI (Compensation and Benefits Instruction) Chapter 12 Article 12.1.03 (4)

And that’s it….  No kidding!!!  The benefit has been there all along!

But Wait!  There’s More!!!

If your child is in grade 11 or 12 and is gutted that you are moving to a new province, Dependent Education will pay for his room and board as well as two return trips back to the family.  Even within Canada!

The 2014/2015 benefit was $1680.37 per month for lodging and $634.13 per month for board (with receipts).

Nobody wants to leave their children behind during these critical years but it is good to know that if you do get posted there are options.

Did you know about this benefit?  Do you think you will take advantage of it the next time you move?

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Sun Life Military Benefits – FYI

Sometimes I wish my husband’s name was Pat… or Chris.

Every single move we arrive in the new location and after the boxes are put away and the house is turned into a home, I get to work on my list of calls. I learned long ago to make a list with all the names, account numbers and phone numbers of every credit card, every bank, and every utility company. This allows me to run down the page making the address changes as required – without having to search for each number. I laughed when we moved from Pet to Gagetown. The nice lady from the Kentucky call centre could never quite understood what I was saying.. “yes that is right,  we moved from P-E-T-A-W-A-W-A to O-R-O-M-O-C-T-O.

The thing that has always made me angry is when you are able to change your address but they insist on speaking with your husband to allow him to change his information. While I understand this in principal, it is a bit of a joke. If his name were Chris, I could easily answer all the security questions and move on. Or… If I asked my brother or a male friend to do it they would accept that. Really? Security? Keeping my information safe? I call B.S.

We have been doing this Army thing for 23 years. In that time my military family has moved a ton and my spouse has been gone for more than I care to remember. So… just handing the phone over to my husband is not always a possibility. Grrrr.

Sun Life
In the past 23 years I have been the person that has managed all the medical and dental claims. I have always found Sun Life to be incredibly unhelpful when I have needed to call them. They answer the phone curtly and with an immediate demand for your certificate number. (particularly striking a couple of years ago when I had to call the Apple Care Centre and then Sun Life)

Today I was trying to clean up the family desk (aka pig sty) and found glasses receipts for my son and myself. I was pretty sure that I had sent the claim in… almost positive. So I called the friendly folks at Sun Life just to be sure. After answering a litany of his security questions I finally got to my question. Could he tell me if I had put in a claim for glasses. He told me that he was only able to answer that question to my husband.

To my husband!!  My glasses!

To be fair, the Sun Life man was able to tell me when I was next eligible for glasses but he could not discuss the specifics of the claim with me. How is it possible that an organization that has members leaving at the drop of a hat will not release information to the member’s spouse! The one that likely manages all the family medical receipts… and how is it possible that this has not come up my past 23 years of dealing with these most customer-friendly folks.

I asked him if there was a form that my husband could fill out so that I could have access to this information. He told me that my husband could write a letter including the following: (this information is not available on their website)

1. Name, Policy and Certificate number. (serving member contract number is 055555)
2. What type of information is to be released:
a. coverage information
b. medical and dental plan (serving members use medical)
c. disability claims
d. other (specify)
3. Who the information may be released to.
4. The purposes of the release:
a. providing assistance in appeal and dispute of claims.
b. receiving ongoing claims information.
c. Obtaining more information on the individual’s behalf.
d. other (specify)
5. Signature

Send to: (Updated Address: Mar 22, 2017)
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada
PO Box 6192, STN CV
Montreal, QC
H3C 4R2 (613-247-5100) or (1-888-757-7427)

I still wish my husband’s name was Chris.

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