Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 15, 2017 - 2:30 pm

New Nunavut guide offers help and hope to potential homeowners

"There’s a lack of basic financial information, not just in Nunavut, but everywhere”

Simonsen explains the process of buying a home using a character named Mary, 23-year-old Iqaluit mother who works for the GN—a character Simonsen says is a composite of many Nunavummiut he knows. (IMAGE COURTESY OF T. SIMONSEN)
Simonsen explains the process of buying a home using a character named Mary, 23-year-old Iqaluit mother who works for the GN—a character Simonsen says is a composite of many Nunavummiut he knows. (IMAGE COURTESY OF T. SIMONSEN)

Thor Simonsen had recently become a home owner when, in 2014, a co-worker asked him for some advice on how to start the process of buying her own house.

The Iqaluit music producer and entrepreneur started to jot down a few notes for his colleague, starting with basic information on banking and down-payments.

“It took longer than I expected,” Simonsen said.

That’s no surprise; he describes his own experience buying a home in Iqaluit as impromptu. Simonsen learned about it as he went; only discovering the Nunavut Housing Corp.’s down-payment assistance program two weeks before the sale closed.

Explaining the process to his colleague made Simonsen realize that Nunavummiut could probably benefit from a basic guide on how to approach home ownership.

Three years later, Simonsen, 29, has launched just that: How to Buy a House in Nunavut: The Ultimate Guide for Future Homeowners in Nunavut.

The 30-page guide, written and illustrated by Simonsen, promotes home ownership as a viable option for just about any wage-earning Nunavut resident.

“You don’t need to have a fancy education or a lot of money; in fact, sometimes these things make people too cautious to buy a house, and they refuse to accept the ‘risks’ involved,” he writes.

“Owning a house is very doable, but it does require a stable lifestyle, ambition, self-discipline and time.”

Simonsen makes a strong, possibly overly-optimistic, pitch for home ownership as a secure investment; with a young population and a booming economy, he believes real estate in Nunavut will continue to rise in value for years to come.

He walks readers through the process by way of Mary, a fictional 23-year-old who works as a receptionist for the territorial government in Iqaluit—a character Simonsen says is a composite of many Nunavummiut he knows.

Mary has a partner and a two-year-old son and she pays $2,000 a month in rent. She wants to purchase a $500,000 home, eyeing a 25-year mortgage at five per cent interest.

Simonsen’s calculations are simplified—gathered after speaking to bankers, lawyers, real estate agents and other home-owners—but do provide readers with the basics on how to crunch the numbers to determine what they can afford, and what government programs are in place to help.

“The book is not about how to make a tonne of money,” Simonsen noted. “It’s how to become more financially stable and how to build inter-generational wealth.”

That was passed to him through his European family’s own long history of home ownership. In Nunavut, however, only one in five people live in their own homes.

“There’s no history of it,” Simonsen said. “And it can be really complicated. There’s a lack of basic financial information, not just in Nunavut, but everywhere.”

A Kindle version of How to Buy a House in Nunavut is now available at

But Simonsen has approached some private organizations and Government of Nunavut departments for sponsorship, which he hopes to secure in order to publish a print version of the guide in English and Inuktitut.

His long-term goal is to use the guide to teach financial literacy to Nunavummiut youth, he said, possibly through the territory’s school system.

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(23) Comments:

#1. Posted by Homeownership on May 15, 2017

The process of owning a home would be significantly easier and less expensive, if a prospective purchaser owned the land upon which the home was built.

Kind of ironic that Mr. Simonsen was a vocal opponent of residential land ownership in Iqaluit.

His successful opposition made real estate legal fees higher than what they would be otherwise and things like mortgage insurance harder to get etc… Another funny Nunavut irony….

#2. Posted by iqaluit homeowner on May 15, 2017

I’ve been a homeowner in Iqaluit for 20 years now and didn’t find it difficult in terms of insurance and my real estate fees were not higher because we don’t own the land. don’t know where you got your info.
otherwise good on Simonsen for the young people to be able to get a grasp at homeownership.

#3. Posted by Homeowner on May 15, 2017

A 23 year old who works as a receptionist and has her affairs in order to the point where she can contemplate buying a home should be in school - college or university. If she’s a receptionist one can conclude she has high school at best.

Also, even if she doesn’t want to go to school after all, she can and should look for something cheaper than $500k to start. There are places in the low $400s in Iqaluit.

Laudable effort, even if it has a few things that don’t make sense. And in the big picture this is important - we need to shift the public perception that housing = public housing. A two-income family should own its own home.

#4. Posted by Northern Inuit on May 15, 2017

A two Person income you can look at owning your own Home. Nunavut Housing Corporation has the Nunavut Downpayment Assistance Program, they offer 7.5% but you have to be under the income threshold before Northern Allowance, Bonuses, etc, remember the threshold rises if you have dependants.  The Applicant must have 2.5% ready as well.  As a first time homebuyer you are allowed to withdraw your RSP’s tax free given it is going to your first home.

Find a good Lawyer, there are many reputable ones out there.  Remember, if you are buying a new home, don’t forget you have to pay GST on the house, which you are allowed to claim a rebate on so ensure you speak with the Builder and make sure it it clear who is paying GST and who will claim it.

There is a lot to consider, mortgage, fuel, power, water/sewer, internet, phone.  But ask yourself, look at your Net Income after taxes, add whatever you are paying in rent now, and sit down, can you afford it?

It is of a lot of paperwork but worth it!!

#5. Posted by sled dog on May 15, 2017

Given the parameters, I calculate the estimated monthly payment to be $2630 per month, not $1500.

#6. Posted by sled dog on May 15, 2017

the math in the example is wrong, why refuse to print my submission?

#7. Posted by Homeowner on May 15, 2017

So how many people do you know that make between 60K to 100k a year that live pay cheque to pay cheque. I can name lots. If the potential homeowner is not willing to make the sacrifices to save $ buy limiting spending on wants, homeownership is not an option.
Because I’m a homeowner people make the assumption that I am rich. But a homeowner does not get free maintenance on their home. We need to have savings to cover emergencies l mo heat.

#8. Posted by another iqaluithomeowner on May 16, 2017

The first poster is referring to the higher legal fees thst a homeowner pays to a lawyer when transferring ownership or obtsining a mortgage.  These fees would be less in a “fee simple” transaction, due to less work and less risk for the lawyer.

As well, due to the old fashioned lease structure in place, homeowners pay a premium to CMHC for mortgage insurance (not home insurance). 

There is no question about it,  leaseholders pay more for the privilege of not owning the land. We always have, and apparently, thats the way Nunavummiut want it.  Twice, we have had the option to switch to a simpler cheaper method.  That is not we want.

#9. Posted by Math Lessons on May 16, 2017

I like how the pie chart in the picture is completely wrong, showing that 1/3 of 1500$ is 1000$, and 2/3 is 500$.

And we are supposed to listen to this person for financial/life advice?

#10. Posted by Home owner Iqaluit on May 16, 2017

homeownership is a Option , give you some hint’s No more Partying save every dollar you have never see it or use it at all this is for your new house , do your math first by the time you think your down to just making payments extra cost always pops up , find a good contractor whom will not just say oh it will cost you $500k , I ran into this with a company called ( GC North ) was not well helpful , Find the best cheapest heating heater you will not have to pay thousands on heating bill or electricity bill if you can get hints from us , Toyotoma boiler attach to your hot water tank you will save thousands , remember your plumbers will not tell you what will save your cost on the long run ,
Seen this and do your math first land cost and taxes insurance utilities Lawyer fee’s , than think on what you will have extra to pay on snow removal cable phone FOOD ,
Good start off is save first order your self unless you buy sealift containers ( Reefer ) attach them good done ,
Home owner

#11. Posted by math lover on May 16, 2017

Confirming sled dog’s apprehension:  the math is wrong.

#12. Posted by math on May 16, 2017

As the other commenters pointed out, the math is totally wrong.  It appears that he forgot to calculate in the interest cost (oops!).  The monthly mortgage cost based on those parameters is approximately $2,600.  This is not taking into consideration other significant costs of home ownership, including insurance, tax and maintenance.  With those costs included, the actual monthly cost is more likely in the realm of $3,000 - $3,500.

If his goal, as stated in the article, is to teach financial literacy to youth, one would hope that he would start by first educating himself.

#13. Posted by Calculator on May 16, 2017

Mary’s in for a rude awakening if she thinks her mortgage payments are going to be $1500 on a $450,000 mortgage wit 5% interest.  Her mortgage payments are going to be over $2600 per month, and that’s before CMHC tacks an additional amount onto her mortgage for insurance because she doesn’t have a 20% downpayment.

Not only that, but she’ll soon realize that the principal to interest split is not $1000 to principal and $500 to interest as she thinks it may be.

Instead, over the course of her first year paying over $2600 per month, more than $22,000 of it will be interest, and only a little over $9,000 of it will be principal.  It takes 5 minutes on the internet to find these numbers, I can’t believe the author used such incorrect figures.

This example is so, so bad, that I would consider buying this book just to see how bad the rest of the advice is.

#14. Posted by Putuguk on May 16, 2017

The Nunavut homeowner challenge is even greater than suggested.

How to Buy a House assumes there is a suitable house to buy. In most places in Nunavut that simply is not the case. 

The title fails to acknowledge that Nunavut does not have a fully established private housing market, with the possible exception of Iqaluit.

Perhaps the author meant to pen a book titled How to buy a house in Iqaluit?

It would not be the first time someone confused Iqaluit with Nunavut.

To build yourself is a huge accomplishment for a precious few.

Do not bother downloading a Kindle copy until there is a revision titled How to Build and Own a house in Nunavut.

#15. Posted by Informed Observer on May 16, 2017

Hey Putuguk, you don’t seem to know much about Nunavut. There are hundreds of homeowners in Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Arviat.

Iqaluit has got so many houses on the market it has sustained at least two real estate agencies for many years. If they made more lots available for private homeowners there would be even more

#16. Posted by Putuguk on May 16, 2017

Informed Observer. Very true there are some private homes available for sale in some places outside of Iqaluit.

There is no denying some aspiring home owners have some opportunity to buy.

But if you compare the number of people that could be capable of owning their own home (ie. multiple wage earners, indeterminate jobs, long term competent public housing tenants) with the couple of dozen units currently available, it is clear there is a huge deficit.

More to the point, with a growing population and a fairly well fixed public and staff housing stock, in order for private homeownership to contribute to fixing our housing crisis, hundreds more private homes need to be built.

Many of the private homes available for sale and in use today were built in the HAP program days where lo and behold someone actually helped people build their own homes. That was the basis for my comments.

#17. Posted by JaneInuk on May 16, 2017

NN you really need to post all the negative comments. This is extremely bad advice you have just published. Instead you should have been advising potential homeowners to speak to an independent CFP or their own financial advisers. Offering investment advice is a regulated service in Canada and from your article, you now know why there is good reason for it - to protect the public.

#18. Posted by Hubbley on May 16, 2017

The HAP PROGRAM was good, but what spoiled it was people
selling their house a few years after it was built.

#19. Posted by Between Two Worlds on May 16, 2017

This is priceless.  Remember when the Simonsons’ opposed the plebiscites when home ownership came up?  They were against it (not only them).  Where you cannot own land and must only leash it from the city.  Banks have a hard time figuring this out, as you own a house on a plot but do not actually own the land.  Now for him to give advice on this subject?
What can he offer you in advice on this subject?  All I see is more land lease bills annually and they are not cheap.

#20. Posted by intervention idlout on May 17, 2017

I think we need someone from the GN to explain all this to us lol

#21. Posted by JaneInuk on May 17, 2017

#20. Posted by intervention idlout on May 17, 2017.

No - you don’t need someone from the GN to explain all this to us lol.

#22. Posted by Co-worker on May 18, 2017

I’m embarrassed

#23. Posted by on May 20, 2017

The intention is noble. Let’s not beat up the young inexperienced guy for wanting to help. He’ll know the next time that giving financial advice takes more than the experience of buying a house and reading some literature on home ownership. I wonder who those “bankers, lawyers, real estate agents and other home-owners” are that were consulted (and paid?) in preparing the guide. Maybe their names should be made public so that the public can avoid making actual and costly mistakes in their own effort of home ownership.

The one advice I have to future homeowners: don’t ask for advice from people/professionals who stand to profit from their advice. Ask for advice from long-term, critical observers of the housing market/industry.

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