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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We May Lose the House - The Ugly Side of The Lending Industry

It is 1:51 am and I am writing today's post from the couch in our Drummondville hotel room. For those of you unfamiliar with eastern Canada, it is really one of the last areas in Quebec, where a non-French speaking person like myself can communicate in English and be readily understood - at least until we cross the inter-provincial border into New Brunswick. 

Both Steph and I are exhausted and at our wits end as I write this. We have all our possessions in a 26 foot truck that I am driving for the 1,600 KM trip, and our car, which Steph is driving. Our two lovely cats, Viktor and Meeko are freaking out from 8 hours on the road each day, confined to their small cages. We are supposed to close on our beautiful new home tomorrow, but the unconscionable behavior of a mortgage broker in Fredericton has left us with no financing at the very last minute, and two very upset sellers who are wanting to move to Florida. This is the story of what has happened this past week. It really is unreal. This is a LONG post, for which I apologize. But after what my broker and lender have done to us, I believe I have a civic duty to make as many people as possible aware of what has happened to us, so that others can avoid the same fate. 

On Friday, November 18, we finally received the investor funding that allowed me to repay a portion of my shareholder loans and thus have the money for our downpayment. Following my broker's instructions from our conversation over a month earlier I had my bank print up to date statements for all my accounts to provide to my lender, Optimum Mortgage, to prove that I had the funds for the downpayment. Optimum had given us a commitment to finance 75% of the purchase price of the house on September 29. My broker had given my realtor in Saint John a letter of financing that very clearly stated that we were approved subject to a satisfactory appraisal being obtained on the house. I paid $350 for an appraisal to be done, and it came in at $144,000 - $12,000 higher than what we paid, and $45,000 higher than the amount of the mortgage. Based on this approval, we waived all conditions of purchase and sale and sent our realtor our 5% deposit of $6,600 on September 30 - the day before our wedding. 

So after obtaining the bank statements, I sent them to my broker explaining that I needed him to have Optimum send mortgage instructions to our lawyer in Saint John by Tuesday, November 23, so that I could have a lawyer witness them and courier them, signed, with a certified cheque for the remaining monies to my lawyer by Friday the 25th. This was necessary as my lawyer had advised me that Optimum had a 48 hour turnaround on disbursing funds after receiving the documents, and we were going to start the 2 day drive to Saint John on the 29th. So Optimum had to receive them by the 28th - otherwise we would not be able to move in when we arrived. This would be a huge problem, as we have already opened our utilities accounts for the new house and scheduled hookups for that day. 

I didn't hear back from my broker until about 11pm on Saturday night, November 19. This was his full message:

Hi Chris,

Can you please forward me bank statements for October as well.  I need to show the most recent 90 day history.


He didn't address my direct question to him about our timeline. However I sent him the bank statements that he requested on Sunday. I reiterated the importance of the timeline and asked him to call me. 

On Monday, November 21 there is no call or e-mail from him. I try calling his office again, and I get a voicemail message saying that he is moving his office and will not be reachable until the 22nd. This is the first time I am hearing of this - no mention whatsoever in his earlier e-mails.

On Tuesday, November 22 I am getting really nervous. I frantically call his office and by now it is going straight to voicemail. Not knowing what to do, I call my realtor and ask him for advice. He tells me to call Optimum directly to find our what is going on. I take his advice and call Optimum. The receptionist takes my number and tells me someone will get back to me. About half an hour later, I get a call from Rick Glauser who is one of the senior VP's for sales. He tracks down my file and tells me that they have not received the signed commitment that I sent back to my broker on September 29. He also tells me that he cannot find any evidence of an appraisal having been done as yet. At this point, I can barely contain my anger. I inform him that I sent Mr. Laking (my broker) everything on September 29 and 30th. He says he will check and calls me back, confirming that indeed they have the appraisal, but nothing else. He promises to call Mr. Laking first thing in the morning to get to the bottom this. I feel a bit of relief, but not much. 

About 10 minutes after this call, I get the following e-mail from Mr. Laking:

Hi Chris,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you as you know we have been relocating our office and everything is finally completed from the moving aspect but our phone provider ran into some issues completing our setup and are still working on finishing everything.  

I received your statements for the 90 days.  I thought you were going to be receiving a large investment from an investor(s) ? I had indicated to the lender that you would have a lot more cash on hand.  I realize you don't need to use it all for down payment but would have on hand to cover living expenses etc.. which does impact their decisions.

Do you have other assets such as RRSP etc?  If so what can you show?  I ask this as this could impact things.  If you could forward me any statements you have for any other investments you hold to show them your assets would be good as they may want to see this.

You are still approved but lenders can change the terms should anything be different than originally declared.

The mortgage instructions come from the lender and I will work with them to hopefully get this out as soon as possible.


I could not believe what I was reading. The extra money he was referring to were some investor monies that I was expecting to receive by January 2017. We discussed those verbally, when we first started talking in August. But at no point did he tell me that our approval was conditional upon us having $50,000 more than our downpayment of $33,000. I actually told him when we were ready to make our offer that the $50,000 would not come until January 2017, at the earliest and that my income and downpayment would have to be sufficient. He assured me that all was approved with what I had sent him in writing. It was clear from this e-mail that he was unaware of my conversation with Mr. Glauser. 

I sent him an e-mail to call me immediately, and I sent this within 2 minutes of him sending me the e-mail. 45 minutes later, when no call was forthcoming, I sent him the following response:

Hi Mike

Since you aren't going to call me like I've asked you to numerous times, I am going to respond in writing. 

I am so angry I really don't know where to start. I just got off the phone with Rick Glauser at Optimum who told me that they had received absolutely nothing from you - no appraisal, no signed commitment, nothing - with 8 days to go. You have not responded to most of my e-mails, nor any of my calls. I have given my notice and will have no place to live in a week if this deal doesn't close. 

I am still waiting for one investor to give me 50K. However, when we first started the loan application process, I was looking at buying a property that was $225K and rural. I wound up buying a property in town  on a double lot that cost $132K and appraised out at 144K.  That's almost $100,000 less than I was originally looking to borrow. My business is generating over $3,500 a month -more than enough to cover all the carrying costs and living expenses without the 50K. I'm putting down 25% - they are only lending me $99,000 and have a value spread of $45,000, with the appraisal. Are you seriously telling me now, on November 22 - 8 days before I am supposed to close that I need to show more than $35,000 in the bank? 

I know you told me that the lender would want to see evidence of the down payment, which I have now given you. But You NEVER said that I would have to show the entire $85,000 or so on hand in order for this to go through. As it turns out, I am still expecting to receive that money - I just don't know when. My investor has run into a snag himself with his real estate project. He can't give it to me until he resolves his issue. 

I don't have any more assets other than my business, which as you know, holds inventory of over $850,000. 

I just don't get it. How could an income stream of $3,000+ per month and 25% equity not be enough? My wife can always go get a job. I have some accounting clients who I will be doing work for to the tune of $6,000 or so over the course of the year. That's another source. The house itself was a B&B and we plan to Air B&B two of the bedrooms, which will generate some more money. 

If all this isn't sufficient then I just don't know what to tell you.  I gave you everything you asked me for Mike. Yes, I didn't get all the money I thought I was going to get when we started this process, but then again, I bought a much cheaper property and to put down a lot more that what we originally discussed, so I didn't think that having more cash in the bank other than what I have now was a factor.

Shaking my head, 

Chris McFetridge 

The following morning I awoke to this response from Mr. Laking:

Hi Chris,

I understand you are upset and frustrated.  I also am aware that you were speaking with Rick at Optimum Mortgage.  Rick isn’t my main contact as he is in management and is currently covering for the territory manager as she is on vacation.  I mainly deal with an Underwriter based in Alberta.  To be completely honest I was also upset after receiving messages from Rick and this one from you last night.  As you know we’ve been relocating our office so the past couple days which is why I was hard to reach.  Prior to that I thought we had plenty of communication, a lot of it was via email but I never realized that was an issue for you.  In all honesty Chris I was going to call you as soon as I had a chance last night.  I was on my way to the office to do so and had an emergency call from family that I needed to look after right away. Fortunately everything turned out ok and was dealt with.  I was hoping to look after that and then come back to call you.  In the mean time after receiving your last email and seeing how upset you were and the message from Rick I thought it best to wait until this morning to contact you.   I am not sure why he would have told you that they didn’t have anything on file for you as that is clearly not the case and I have already contacted him back to ask why or how he said that.  They have many many documents on your file.  I know you were already running on a tight timeline and were already concerned so I am sure this just made things a whole lot worse for you.  I am very sorry for this becoming what it has but we need to work together to get everything finished.

Here is what I have forwarded to Optimum since the beginning: 

They have the Purchase and Sale Agreement, several bank / PayPal statements (they needed these early on to examine the income stream for your business), they do have the appraisal as well (The appraiser is required to send it directly to them, I only made arrangements for it to happen and they do this as they prefer the appraiser to be completely third party) The underwriter on the file actually was speaking with the appraiser after they submitted the report as they requested some modifications to the report so they clearly have it.  They have the signed papers you sent me as well.  They were still needing more information to complete the file such as down payment confirmation and assets.  

There may have been a misunderstanding between us regarding the money you would access to.  Regardless of your down payment requirement, I am required to advise the lender what you have for assets etc.. For this type of file because your business wasn’t run full-time for very long and doesn’t have a long history of generating the income that has been happening more recently they look at things differently.  The amount of cash you have access to does impact their decisions and what they are willing to lend you.  Since you had indicated to me all along that you would have 100k + in cash before closing time I figured it would show in your accounts and when we collected the statements for down payment it would reflect.  So essentially both items would be verified with the same documents.  Since your business doesn’t have a long history of the income that we would normally require it certainly made the lender feel better having the extra cash in the bank to make sure you would have no issues at all with payments.  I understand the extra sources of income that you could generate however the lender isn’t able to verify anything with that since they are future dated events that could happen.  

I have already had contact with Rick this morning he is looking into this further as it doesn’t make sense to me.  So please leave this with me, I am working with Optimum to try and get everything resolved and satisfied for you.  I will update as soon as I can today.

Michael Laking

In essence, he spends the first paragraph giving me a multitude of excuses for his lack of professionalism. Then he tells me that he sent Optimum all the information I sent him. Then he proceeds to chalk all this up to a misunderstanding and blames me for essentially thinking that the commitment that he issued my realtor was iron clad. By the way, here is what he wrote to my realtor, before I waived conditions:

To: Royal Le Page Realty

This letter is to confirm that Chris McFetridge and Stephanie Savage have been approved for mortgage financing to purchase the property located at 213 Lancaster Ave., Saint John NB. The lender has requested that a full appraisal be conducted as well as part of the approval so the clients themselves are approved pending satisfactory appraisal confirming a value of the agreed purchase price or greater. 

Please contact me should you have any further questions.

Michael Laking

Seems pretty clear, doesn't it? No mention anywhere of further asset or income verification being required. So you can see why I was so angered by Mr. Laking's response. Clearly he was either lying when he wrote the financing letter above, or he was lying when he wrote the e-mail above. 

However, I told him I would leave it in his hands that day, which was Wednesday the 23rd. When no update had come in from him by the end of the day, I followed up:


I had hoped to receive an update today, based on your earlier e-mail in which you said you would update me later in the day. Please e-mail me as soon as you receive this message and let me know what the current status is, including what discussions you had with the underwriter, or what their feedback was for the information you provided. I want to know definitively whether of not we are going to get this mortgage. If you don't know, that is fine, then please say so and tell me specifically what still needs to be resolved. 

I re-read your e-mail and I would remind you that on September 17 before I made my offer, I told you (by e-mail) that we could put down 30%. After I knew that there were delays in the receipt of the investor funds I did tell you, but reassured you that we would at least have the down payment.  You told me that the lender would require proof of the downpayment, but did not tell me that they would require me to have additional funds over and above the 25%.  I am a very meticulous and careful person. There is no way that I would have allowed myself to get into a position like this.  I would never have made an offer and waived conditions  if I knew I would have to have 100K in my bank on closing, since I knew that wasn't going to happen by November 30. 


Chris McFetridge, CPA, CA

The following morning, I woke to this response from him:

Hi Chris,

Here is where things stand as of right now:

With the current mortgage that we've been working on the lender is still willing to approve you and fund the deal but they want to adjust the down payment requirements.
The statements you have forwarded are not used to see what you have access to for down payment but also to show your income for your business.  Based on the income the business has generated and what you will have for assets they want you to increase the down payment to 35%.

I know you had indicated that you don't have any other liquid assets that can be used.  Your statements do show funds coming in from RRSP withdrawal, are there no more funds there to consider for this?

If you can show that for the down payment then they will instruct and fund quickly.

I already have another lender looking at things to see if they will offer you an approval with 25% down.
I have had some dialogue with them and things sounded positive but until they give me a final answer I won't know for sure and I am expecting that today.  If they do approve there is a chance they may offer you a bette rate as well but again don't have a final answer on that.

Have you had any income in 2016 from accounting or is everything from the stamp business?
If you had and can show it might change things some but I was under the impression with you doing this business full time that there really wasn't any other income happening from that consistently.

That is all the news I have for now, I know it's not what you were wanting to hear.
Unfortunately lenders do have the right to change anything about the deal until it funds.
I am fairly confident in the other lender but that makes things very tight on time.  We are tight enough as it is.  I wish I had better news.  Please advise if you have any options to increase the down payment.
I know you would be able to come January but that's still a ways away.

Hopefully I'll have better days as the day goes on.

So basically, we were screwed. Optimum knew that we didn't have 35%, but they decided to demand it anyway, even though they issued a commitment to people who were dealing with them in good faith and are moving across 2 provinces. He says that they have the legal right to change anything they want until they fund the deal. I'm not so sure I believe that. I think they have violated common tort law, but they rely on the ignorance of you and I to get away with doing whatever they want. The really sickening thing here is that this is bigger than just Steph and I. There were 4 parties involved here, all of whom have acted in good faith, placing reliance on Optimum's commitment and Mr.Laking's letter of financing:

1. The sellers - a nice retired couple, wanting to move to Florida. 
2. Two realtors who both put in a lot of professional time into this deal.
3. One lawyer, acting for both sides. 
4. Steph and I. 

I am disgusted that I live in a society where a lender can screw seven people over $13,000 - that they haven't even lost, or have any significant risk of losing, and have that behavior protected by law. I just can't believe that this is the country I live in.

I responded to this e-mail by asking him to call me to discuss as I had some ideas. He responded that his daughter was sick and he needed to go and pick her up from school, and that he would get back to me as soon as he could. Then later he requested that I e-mail him sine his daughter was really, really sick. So I did:

 Hi Mike

I have only one option to raise the required 13K on such short notice. I can take  small selection of my best inventory, worth about 40K under normal circumstances and see if my competitor will give me 15-20K for it. I have another colleague in Vancouver that runs a weekly auction that can sell them and likely get more for them. But that will take at least 2-3 months to sell. I can probably persuade them to write a letter to the lender to the effect that they will sell the stamps and can attest to their ultimate value, but I don't know if that will work. 

I do have currently three clients and an ongoing relationship with my old firm. So far in 2016, I earned $2,800 from these clients and next year expect to earn $6,000-$10,000 as I have agreed to take on more work from my old firm. 

The problem here Mike is that had you told me that I would really need 35% and not 25% back when we had time there would have been a lot more options that I could have pursued:

1. I could have sold more medium range inventory at less profit, but not a loss because I could have sought out a buyer. 
2. I could have leaned harder on my investors.
3. I could have spoken to Allen Sloan and gotten more work right away so that I could show the lenders that I would have the work on an ongoing basis. I could have given the lenders a client list and projected billings, as these are all relationships I have had for years. 

But we don't have time for any of this now. You have put me in a situation where I have extremely limited options because you told the lender I would have 100K when they didn't need that much security. The only reason they need it now is because my cash situation is significantly different than what you told them it would be. I sought a second opinion from an independent broker about this and they could see no reason short of you telling the lender that I had more money than I have why the lender would change the deal so drastically and abruptly. 

Who is the other lender you are having discussions with?

Let me know if Optimum will accept a letter from Weeda Stamps verifying that they will be selling stamps over the next three months with an expected value of $20,000, or not. If they will, I will call them and arrange that. 

Let me know if Optimum will accept a letter from Allen Sloan outlining my relationship and expected billings over the next year from work that he plans to give me. 

Please respond to this by noon, even if you can't call or have no additional news. 


Surprisingly, he got back to me right away:

Hi Chris,

Let me talk to Optimum and see what they say about the options you've presented here.
I assume you could get documentation to show you still have a relationship with the accounting firm and they could likely confirm your ability to pickup work and earn extra money going forward?

The other lender is Equitable Bank.  I will hopefully have further updates from both lenders this afternoon.

I will update you as soon as I can.


His question here was a bit annoying since I had already asked him in the above e-mail if  a letter from my former partner would work, and I had told him in detail, over the past two months about the nature of my professional relationship with Allen Sloan. But at least he is finally listening and responding, I think to myself. Shortly thereafter he asks me to obtain the letter and forward it to him. 

At this point, it is just before lunch on Thursday, November 24. I put my store on vacation and started to pack up all our inventory and began disassembling furniture. For the next 24 hours, I receive no new news from Mr.Laking. To his credit, he does send me 2 or three short e-mails to let me know that he is still speaking with Optimum and Equitable Bank, but has no news. 

On Thurday night I called Mr,. Glauser and asked him to call me back. I explained that I did not feel that my broker was handling things professionally, and that I needed to hear straight from him or somebody senior at Optimum, why they were reneging on a commitment they had issued, when there had been no adverse change in our circumstances. He did not return my call. 

Finally on Friday around 3:00pm, I called the underwriter at Optimum, a Liane Geiger whose name appeared on the commitment that she approved. I politely explained to her that I understood that Optimum does not normally deal with clients directly, but this was an extraordinary situation, and could she please discuss my file with me. She seemed hesitant at first, but agreed to speak with me. I asked her why Optimum was yanking my mortgage at the last minute, when they had issued an approval and a commitment. She corrected me and said that they had simply cut back the loan to value percentage from 75% to 65% because of my non-qualifying income. I asked her what she meant by this and her exact words were: "Well you are going from being a full time Chartered Accountant in Toronto, to a self-employed person in New Brunswick. You haven't established enough of a track record to show us that you are capable of earning enough to make the payments. We have to mitigate our risks". I immediately realized that the international nature of my business was lost on her. The rest of the conversation went as follows:

Me: "Ok. So my question to you is why would you issue an approval when you already had the same information about my income in September that you have now, that you have now decided was insufficient to support my application.? You are now inconveniencing a lot of people who have relied on your commitment in good faith."

Her: "I issued the approval based on the information we had."

Me: "So you are telling me that you didn't have any information about my income until last week?"

Her: "No."

Me: "Well there has been a breach of fiduciary duty or something because I can prove to you that I sent Mr. Laking all this information between September 26 and September 29. I had every reason to believe that you had it, Mr. Laking issued a letter of financing to my realtor that very clearly stated that we were approved, subject only to the appraisal, which you now have. Do you have the letter from my firm that I sent yesterday?"

Her: "What letter is this?"

Me: "A letter from my firm regarding a fee splitting arrangement that my former partner and I made between us for clients that I have agreed to provide ongoing assistance with. I sent it to Mr. Laking yesterday and he said he forwarded it to you. Would you like me to e-mail it to you.?"

Her: "Ummm. Sure, go ahead and send it to me. I know you can work remotely but I can't promise that this will change anything. I do promise you that someone, either Rick or myself will get back to you, Ok?"

I sent her the letter, along with the full e-mail trail of the documents I sent to Mr. Laking up to the 29th. In my panic, I couldn't find what I had sent on the 29th and 30th, as Outlook had attached them to a more recent e-mail correspondence with Laking, but I later found them. About a half hour later, I get the following e-mail from Liane:

Hi Chris, I have spoken to Michael and he will be in touch with you shortly. Michael will be talking to you about alternate solutions to your financing needs. Thanks Chris!

I asked her to clarify what she meant by this, but she refused to answer and all my calls to her direct line were immediately re-routed to the reception. 

Mr. Laking then sent me one final turd, coated in milk chocolate and polished to a high shine:

Hi Chris,

After discussing your file at great length with Optimum here is what we have come up with.

First of all, they have decided and made a final call that they will not go back on their decision for the down payment to be increased. So they will require 35%.  However, we have 2-3 ways that we think will work in order for you to get this completed.

Option # 1 - Discuss with Realtor the possibility of the people you are buying from to consider a “vendor take back” mortgage for 10% of the purchase price.  All this means is they essentially would accept for you to give them 90% of the purchase price at closing and register a lien / second mortgage for the small amount of difference.  With the money you have coming through hopefully in January from Investors you could pay this to them at that time to have it removed.  Not sure of they would do this interest free or want increase to accrue but you would have been paying interest on the money anyway should it have come from the mortgage so even if they did it at the same rate or lower wouldn’t cost you anything extra.  This is a fairly common practice and would be the fastest and easiest in my opinion.  So essentially you could proceed with the 25% down payment now and pay the difference later.  If they would agree to this then it make things very quick getting completed and lawyer instructions sent.  This way you don’t need to come up with any extra money and could pay the difference in a few months.

Option # 2 - The credit bureau report we had to obtain for you back when we first started this application showed you had a TD credit facility of 25K with nothing owing, I assume is either a Visa or line of credit.  If you could draw the extra funds from it to make up the difference on what the lender wants, that’s also a fairly quick solution.  You would obviously need to have the money moved into your bank account to have access.  I am not sure if this could be done all at once or if there are limits to have much you can move at one time.  Again, you are expecting 50K in the next few months which could be used to replace this.

Option # 3 - The difference in down payment that they are now requiring could be gifted from family. If this were to be done we would just need a gift letter signed by the family member and show the money in the bank.  I am not sure if you have any family who could do this for you.

I think either of the first 2 options should work and be fairly easy to execute.  

I still have Equitable Bank reviewing your file as well.  They have come back with several questions throughout the day but haven’t made a final decision yet.  I am optimistic they likely will approve but they may not come back with a lower down payment.  Considering the amount of time we have, I think it is easiest to stick with the Optimum deal and use either of the options I have outlined above as they would be fairly quick to get things satisfied so we can still try to close on time.

Let me know your thoughts on which option you think is best.


So basically, he is suggesting that I commit fraud to consummate the deal with Optimum. I say this because option #3 is really not an option, especially since I would have told him if it was. I mean, how many relatives do you have that will just give you $13,000 on short notice? The other two run completely counter to Optimum's terms. If Optimum wasn't comfortable loaning me $99,000 to purchase a $144,000 house, then how on earth would they be comfortable with me having a $13,000 credit card balance, that will have a minimum monthly payment of $600-$650? How would they be comfortable with the sellers having a continued interest in the property? How do I even approach the sellers now at this time to discuss or suggest such a thing?

So I decided that Mr. Laking and I were done. I didn't tell him that just yet, as I wanted to see if he would come back with something from Equitable, but his e-mail above suggests that he hadn't actually sent Equitable anything, and had only had conversations with someone there. Maybe the whole thing was just BS. I'll never know. 

So on Friday afternoon, I gave the go ahead to a new broker that my realtor referred me to. She has been great, and has been working really, really hard for us. I really do hope that in the next few hours we will have better news. Otherwise, we will have to rent here instead of own, which will be a real blow to both of us, but most especially Steph, who has spent the last 2 months acquiring furniture and decorating it. 

The bottom line is: 

1. Don't rely blindly on anything a professional tells you unless their behavior has been professional (i.e. they give you straight answers to your questions, promptly return calls, let you know when they won't be available, avoid giving excuses). If they behave unprofessionally, then that is a sign that what they tell you may be unreliable and that they are unlikely to take responsibility for their mistakes. 

2. Don't do business with Optimum Mortgage or Canadian Western Bank. Even though my broker was the one who initially screwed up, their behavior was reprehensible. They knew the situation and they knew they had issued a commitment, so they should have honoured it, period. They had every opportunity to mitigate their risk before they issued the commitment that we all relied on. What makes them so special that they can issue a commitment and go back on their word? Banks and mortgage companies have a social function in addition to earning a profit. Their right to exist and do business is really not an inalienable right, but a privilege granted by the government and the greater society. They thus have an obligation not to act against the public interest in my opinion. Issuing mortgage commitments and then reneging on them, and injuring multiple innocent parties is not in the public interest - at all. So don't reward organizations that behave like this, and don't kid yourself into thinking that this is an isolated incident, because I very highly doubt that this is the case. 

Well it's 5:21 now. I'd better get some more sleep for the 10 hour drive ahead.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ruby Tuesday!

Hello again stamp fans, today's post will be a run down of last week and a sneak peak of a post I'm working on this week. We are busy gearing up for our big move in two weeks time and have nearly everything we need to furnish our house and enough income to sustain us through the winter months provided everything goes to plan.

Last week we saw another big sale on Hip Stamp when a customer bought a Canada #E1 First Special Delivery stamp of Canada in a block of four for $1,500. Although we don't do a lot of larger sales like that as most of the income we generate is based on many smaller sales it's nice to have at least one sale like this every month.

Moving right along, we had our "so long, farewell" party on Saturday and feasted upon store bought pizza and salmon dip. It was not our best showing but our friend's Gina, Andrew and Ray saved the day by providing the most delicious desserts. Leave it to Italians and they will fill your table with delights the likes of which you've never experienced before! We feel very lucky to have such a wonderful group of people in our lives and though we are overjoyed to start this next chapter it's a bitter sweet end to our life here.

On to an important issue that is plaguing us right now, how the heck are we going to fit an entire house worth of stuff into a moving truck!? We already upgraded to the 20 foot truck but after some thought we may need to upgrade to the even larger 26 footer! Has anyone else ever experienced this? Should we upgrade to the larger truck? Leave a comment down below letting us know.

Well friends, Bonanza was a bust and we officially shut the doors on our Bonanza store November 17th, 2016. Our booth is still available but, it too will be gone soon. It was an important experiment to test the waters however we made the right choice to cut ties with Bonanza given the lack of traffic.

Now, the most exciting news of course concerns our overall sales! We are only half way through this month and we are just $100 shy of our monthly $ 3000 sales target! Obviously the $1,500 sale played a part in our sales bump but our regular sales have been most excellent as well! We are hoping to break $5000 this month but we would be happy with a more modest target as well. The business is really taking off and we continue to see private requests for sales and more engagement through social media. Over all, last week was great and it looks like this week is shaping up to be just as good if not better.

What is your favorite aspect of starting a new week? Leave us a comment down below and stay tuned for my next post which will feature my strategy for furnishing an entire house for practically nothing!

Until then, stay cool stamp fans!

- Stamp Geek 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Welcome, eh!

So, you've just settled down with a nice cup a tea for a night of googling, "moving to Canada" while you hear reports over the radio of "President" Trump bombing yet another country because their leader criticized his policy on foreign trade. You nervously try Canada's immigration page again but it is still down so you click through the articles and celebrity tweets on your homepage while watching a viral video on your Facebook feed of Mexican immigrants building a giant wall. You notice armed guards pointing their large weapons at a group of women who are working on a section of "throne" for your benevolent leader. You feel a bead of sweat making its way down your temple as you look at Google images of women being led away in handcuffs from a Planned Parenthood building with a mob of protesters in the background their faces frozen in a gnarled and ugly tableau. You pick up the local newspaper from your coffee table and read the headline, "Mass deportation of Muslim immigrants under way in Michigan" and shudder at the image attached to the article. It is a little boy being shoved by a police officer with tears in mid stream down his face. The look of sorrow in his eyes makes you feel a little nauseous so you turn on the television and CNN is running another piece on "phony sexual assault stories" from former Trump aides and White House staff. The new host is laughing at a woman who is telling her story on air and he asks the victim, "yea, but what were you wearing?" between giggles. You turn the television off, put your head in your hands and start to cry. Just as all hope seems to drain from your body the immigration page refreshes and you're in.

Sounds scary, doesn't it? It is a bleak scenario granted but one that could very well be a reality for many of you living South of the Canadian border. A lot of celebrities and regular Joe's have joked about moving to our beautiful country before and since Trump got elected but, what happens when those jokes become reality? Well, it isn't as easy as some may think, it takes years and thousands of dollars to immigrate to Canada (for more information visit but equally important to the "how" is where? Similar to the different States in the US Canada is made up of ten Provinces and three Territories and within each of these are cities and towns just bursting with diversity and unique traditions and values. The following is a list of the different provinces and Territories to consider when making your short list of choices. Remember, we may not have California's weather but we do have arguably the best looking leader in the world!

Just look at that majestic hair!!!


Sometimes referred to as Canada's answer to Texas Alberta is one of Canada's Prairie provinces bursting with frontier pride. Calgary and Edmonton are the main city centers however, Red Deer and St. Albert boast some beautiful scenery. A major oil powerhouse, Alberta has provided jobs and financial prosperity to much of the rest of our great Country. If you are looking for cowboy hats and a challenge, head on out to Alberta and don't forget to take in the Calgary Stampede July 7-16th, 2017. The downside? The winters can be harsh and it is a tad conservative so if you are looking for a more Liberal attitude check out the next Province on this list! 

British Columbia

Ah BC, Canada's answer to California or as close as we are ever going to get to a temperate climate! British Columbia is a beautiful and massive province full of natural beauty such as Grouse Mountain affectionately referred to as "The Peak of Vancouver" and The Columbia Ice field found in the Continental Divide along the border of British Columbia and Alberta. Vancouver also has a booming film industry as do other big cities in Canada. Vancouver and Victoria are the main cities in BC however Surrey and Kelowna are well worth a look as well. Two points to note, it rains a lot at certain times of the year in BC so bring your Gore-Tex. However, Kelowna is a semi-arid climate, as it is located in the interior. Also, if you don't like recycling and bicycles, Vancouver is definitely not for you.


Another prairie province, Manitoba boarders our best known province, Ontario to the east and Saskatchewan to the west. It is another beautiful province full of lakes, rivers, mountains, forests and prairies some of  which stretch from the northern Arctic tundra to Hudson's Bay. According to Wikipedia, "Much of (the) wilderness is protected in more than 80 provincial parks, where hiking, biking, canoeing, camping and fishing are all popular." One can believe it given that Manitoba is one of the more underpopulated Provinces on this list. The main city in Manitoba is Winnipeg a lovely city with loads of charm and culture. At the center of Winnipeg is The Forks, a historic site with lots of shops, restaurants and festivals, concerts and exhibits. There is a large population of indigenous or Native people as well. Two downsides? Like Alberta, the winters can be on the harsher side and unlike Alberta goods cost a bit more here because of the isolation factor.

New Brunswick

Canada's best kept secret, New Brunswick is one of our most beautiful Atlantic provinces chalk full of natural wonders and unspoiled land. I should know since my partner and I are moving to Saint John soon. Aside from the beautiful landscape NB has probably the most affordable housing market in all of Canada with houses selling for as little as fifty thousand dollars. The main cities are Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton. Saint John is the biggest city and it feels a little like a mix between San Francisco and Hamilton. Moncton is a bit smaller and has more of a suburb feel to it where as Fredericton is a government town and looks very picturesque. One major downside of living in NB is a lack of jobs. If you are self employed and looking for a more relaxing pace this would be a terrific place for you to live! As with most of the provinces/territories on this list the winters can be harsh but, winter sports such as snow shoeing and tubing are a lot of fun!

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is located at Canada's most Easterly tip and another of our Atlantic provinces. According to Wikipedia, the province is split into the island of Newfoundland and "mainland Labrador to the northwest. About ninety two percent of the province's population lives on the island of Newfoundland (and its neighboring smaller islands), of whom more than half live on the Avalon Peninsula. The province is Canada's most linguistically homogeneous, with ninety seven point six percent of residents reporting English (Newfoundland English) as their mother tongue in the 2006 census. Historically, Newfoundland was also home to unique varieties of French and Irish, as well as the extinct Beothuk language. In Labrador, local dialects of Innu-aimun and Inuktitut are also spoken." St. John's is the major city in Newfoundland with a somewhat booming fishing industry although the area has been hit hard since the nineties due to over fishing. One big downside is the isolation and distance from the rest of the country. It takes up to 14 hours via Ferry from Halifax to Newfoundland. The beautiful row houses and rugged hills surrounding the bay do make up for it though! Even if you don't dig the idea of living there you really must pay Newfoundland and Labrador a visit!

Northwest Territories

Up next is the Northwest Territories which is obviously one of Canada's most northwestern Territories wedged between the Yukon and Greenland. The largest city in the NWT is Yellowknife  According to Yellow, "Yellowknife is the best place in the world to view the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights." As per Wikipedia, "The Northwest Territories of Canada include the regions of Dehcho, North Slave, Sahtu, South Slave and Inuvik. Their remote landscape encompasses forest, mountains, Arctic tundra and islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Dehcho's Nahanni National Park Reserve centers around the canyons of the South Nahanni River and 90m-high Virginia Falls. The regional capital, Yellowknife, is on the north shore of Great Slave Lake." Mining is a major business there with outfits digging up gold, lead, zinc, copper and iron ore. According to the main tourism website, "Yellowknife is a city of contrasts and vibrancy. With a population just under 20,000 and one of the youngest populations in the country, it maintains the friendliness of a small town and the opportunity and energy of a metropolis." You are going to start seeing a theme here, the weather can be brutal with temperatures plunging to minus 40 degrees Celsius in the winter. So, if you hate the cold, give the NWT a miss.

Nova Scotia

One of the most populated Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia is a popular tourist area with natural beauty and hospitality galore! A Maritime province, Nova Scotia consists of a peninsula and offshore islands and is home to loads of wildlife including whales and seals. There is white water rafting in Truro and Kayaking in Halifax. According to Google, "Halifax is dominated by the star-shaped Citadel, is known for its lively waterfront and Victorian-era Public Gardens. Cape Breton Island is at the eastern end of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Its Cabot Trail is a roadway encircling the island, passing forests and rugged coastline. The drive skirts Cape Breton Highlands National Park, whose Skyline Trail footpath overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence, known for migratory whales. The town of Sydney honours local music with the Big Fiddle, a giant violin statue on the waterfront." Besides Fishing there are several other career options including mining, farming and shipping as well as the usual professional pursuits. If you are in search of some fresh salty air, give Nova Scotia a go!


Next on our list is Nunavut, Canada's baby territory. Home to a bustling diamond trade and mining operation, Nunavut also has a large indigenous population. If you search Nunavut in Wikipedia, you will see that it "is a massive, sparsely populated territory of northern Canada, forming most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Its islands have expanses of tundra, craggy mountains and remote villages accessible only by plane or boat. It's known for its indigenous Inuit people's artwork, carvings and handmade clothing. Inuit art is displayed at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in the capital, Iqaluit, on Baffin Island." Studies have shown that due to it's isolated nature, depression and certain health conditions are more prevalent in our youngest territory.


Ontario or as those of us who live here like to think, the center of the world. Home to Canada's largest city, Toronto otherwise known as, "no, Drake is not from here" a buzzing metropolis that has much in common with NYC although it is only a quarter of New York's size. We have a lot to offer in terms of beautiful landscapes and cute hamlets however one landmark certainly stands out: Niagara Falls or as you Yanks like to say, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is probably one of the most spectacular sites you will behold in this great country. Come for the natural beauty but stay for the cheesy Clifton Hill shops. Ontario also has an excellent job market with loads of smaller towns and cities including our Nation's Capital, Ottawa though, if you are looking for a government job see my write up on Quebec below. Southern Ontario certainly has better Weather than many of the Maritime provinces but beware, once you pass Milton to the West and Barrie to the North it starts to get a little snowy.


Parlez-vous français? La ville de Québec est située sur le fleuve Saint-Laurent, dans la province du Québec, le plus souvent francophone. Datant de 1608, elle a un noyau colonial fortifié, Vieux-Québec et Place Royale, avec des bâtiments en pierre et des rues étroites. Il s'agit du site du Château Frontenac et de la imposante Citadelle de Québec. Les rues pavées du Petit Champlain sont bordées de bistros et de boutiques. If you can read the above sentence then Quebec may be for you! One big downside? If you don't speak French it can be difficult to find a job there. Au Revoir!


Saskatchewan or as it is affectionately known in Ontario, the only province where you can watch your dog run away for days that has little hills or ridges and mostly flat prairie land. In actuality, "Saskatchewan is a province that borders the United States to the south and Alberta to the West. Grassland covers its southern plains, and to the north are the rugged rock of the Canadian Shield plateau, coniferous forests, rivers and lakes. Regina, the provincial capital, is home to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, with exhibits on natural history and the people of Canada’s First Nations" according to Wikipedia. Keeping with the theme of the evening, the winters can be brutal but Regina, the largest city in Saskatchewan is a bustling city on the rise well worth a look.

Prince Edward Island

Do you like potatoes? Well, then Prince Edward Island is for you! In all seriousness PEI is a picturesque small Atlantic province that until a few years ago was much harder to get to. "The Confederation Bridge spans the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait. It links Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick. The large island is marked by red-sand beaches, lighthouses, and fertile farmland, and is renowned for seafood like lobster and mussels. Charlottetown, the capital, is home to Victorian government buildings & the modern Confederation Centre of the Arts, with a theatre and art gallery." 


Feeling like a gold rush? Yukon Cornelious was on to something when he shouted "Gold!" in everyone's favorite Christmas cartoon. The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. And wouldn't you know it, some of them stayed! The Yukon, another territory is a wild, mountainous and sparsely populated place. Kluane National Park and Reserve includes Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, as well as glaciers, trails and the Alsek River. In the far north is Ivvavik National Park, with protected calving grounds for Porcupine caribou. In the south are numerous glacier-fed alpine lakes, including boldly coloured Emerald Lake. Whitehorse is the main city center there with a population of nearly twenty eight thousand. There is a fairly decent infrastructure there and even a college offering bridged university degrees from various Canadian Universities. Downside? The isolation factor and the weather. If you have a rugged heart and spirit then the Yukon is right for you.

Which province/Territory is your favorite and where would you move if you had the chance? Leave a comment below letting us know!

Stamp Geek