Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Energy revival fuelling boom
Province set to regain status as national leader
By Tamara Gignac
Calgary Herald December 27, 2011

Albertans know all about the B-word: boom.

For much of the past decade the economic pace was blistering, led by massive projects in the oilsands. The result was scores of high-paying jobs, a red-hot real estate market and an influx of thousands of new migrants.

The party was good while it lasted.

But in 2008, Albertans were blindsided by another B-word: bust.

A collapse in energy prices, the result of the U.S. financial crisis, took the steam out of Alberta's once-buoyant economy.

The oilpatch shelved or cancelled billions of dollars worth of projects, jobs evaporated virtually overnight and ordinary Albertans struggled to pay their mortgages.

But after sputtering for much of the past three years, Alberta appears poised to regain its position as Canada's economic juggernaut.

All signs suggest prosperity is sweeping the province. Unemployment is low, cash registers are ringing and the energy sector is once again on a hiring spree.

It begs the question: is Alberta headed for another overheated economy?

Economists are certainly bullish when it comes to the province's prospects.

The Royal Bank of Canada predicts Alberta's rate of growth - four per cent this year and 3.9 per cent in 2012 - will outpace all provinces except Saskatchewan.

"Oilsands megaprojects will continue to generate tremendous economic activity and will be a boon to Alberta's economy for years to come," says RBC chief economist Craig Wright.

"The boom entirely emanates from the private sector - the source of an astounding 116,000 new jobs this year," Wright said.

Improved employment prospects have translated into a record quarter for Sharlene Massie's local recruiting firm, About Staffing.

Alberta is bucking the national trend, a welcome relief from the hiring freezes of recent years.

As long as there's continued growth in oilsands production and Alberta's unemployment rate holds steady at about five per cent, the good times should continue, Massie says.

But she admits the spectre of an overheated economy could spoil the party and usher in a labour shortage similar to that of 2006.

In the worst-case scenario for employers, Alberta's jobless rate would return to levels seen in the last boom, driving skilled and unskilled wages to unprecedented levels.

"We're not there right now. We're comfortable," Massie says. "There's enough jobs out there and every-body's happy. Let's hope we can stay this way."

A report this year warned that a looming labour shortage is the Achilles heel of the provincial economy and that industry should brace for a chronic scarcity of workers in the years ahead.

It comes as Calgary's oilpatch, and the rest of the natural resources sec-tor, is set to lead the nation with the highest projected salary increases in the year ahead.

But boom or bust, Alberta's shifting demographics will probably require a new approach to labour issues in the coming years, suggests Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Adam Legge.

The province has repeatedly looked to the federal government to change immigration policies so Alberta can hire the workers it needs.

There's expected to be a short-age of everything from tradespeople and health-care workers to financial service employees, retail staff and public-service jobs.

"We're going to face a labour shortage whether we have a strong economy or not because there aren't enough workers to backfill the retiring baby boomers," says Legge.

He says he believes inflation pressure associated with rising labour costs could prove troublesome for Alberta.

"As soon as you see wages being driven up - as they are right now - people have more spending power and are able to bid up prices on everything from houses to goods and services," Legge says.

"The Bank of Canada will want to keep an eye on Alberta because we will have stronger inflation in our economy than the rest of Canada."

A heated labour market is only one indicator of Alberta's changing economic fortunes.

Figures from Statistics Canada show a three per cent increase in retail sales in October compared with the month before - the largest increase in Canada.

It comes as more Albertans purchase new vehicles, electronics and clothing - a welcome prospect for retailers, who saw cash register receipts dwindle during the recession.

Discretionary spending is also on the rise in the province.

Recent reports suggest people are choosing to dine in restaurants more frequently, purchase a morning latte or even fly away on a holiday.

Alberta's housing industry also got a much-needed boost in 2011.

"The strength in our economy, combined with affordability levels that outperform most major centres, will continue to attract migrants to the city and spur further growth," says Sano Stante, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board.

But along with an economic boom comes social challenges, as cities and smaller communities struggle to meet infrastructure pressures caused by an influx of new workers.

Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial, says he doesn't expect to see a repeat of 2006, when "people lived in tents by the river" due to lack of affordable housing.

"I think you can call this a 'mini-boom,' at least relative to everywhere else in the country and even the industrialized world," Hirsch said.

"(But) if we did see a major collapse in Europe or a real calamity, that could knock the stuffing out of oil prices pretty quickly."

Hirsch is keeping an eye on developments with the Keystone XL project. The $7-billion Alberta-to-Texas pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. has been held up by a political battle in Washington.

The fate of Keystone XL could be a "harbinger of a more challenging environment" for Alberta's energy industry, he says.

"My feeling is this is not just one project we're talking about. It indicates we are in a whole new world in which putting pipelines in the ground is not going to be as easy or straight-forward as it was in the past."

So far, the province's fortunes have been mostly insulated from global economic turmoil relative to other regions.

But some observers, like Leonard Waverman, wonder if sluggish growth for Alberta's biggest trading partner - the United States - will eventually hit home.

The dean of the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business chooses a weather analogy to characterize Alberta's economic prospects in 2012.

"I'd suggest we have an economic chinook," Waverman says. "One must remember that chinooks are very capricious. They come in and move out very quickly."

But even as Alberta prepares for a new round of prosperity and good times, some still struggle to make ends meet after the recession.

During the past three years, Alberta recorded the country's second-highest increase in food bank usage, according to a recent HungerCount survey.

Talk of an economic boom is probably meaningless for the many house-holds still trying to find a way out of the last economic bust, says Kathryn Sim, a spokeswoman for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank.

"We're seeing people bouncing back and they are coming to us as donors, which is lovely to see," she says.

"But it's hard to dig out of the hole. It's taking a longer time for people to get out of the situation they found themselves in when the economy crashed."

Photo By: Larry He's So Fine


The 15 most outrageous home sales of 2011
By Morgan Brennan
Forbes Dec 25, 2011

The U.S. housing market is still in the pits, closing another year marked by falling prices, lackluster sales volumes and a steady stream of foreclosures. For the rich and famous, though, it’s been a year of record-breaking purchases.

We sorted through the biggest, splashiest home sales of the year to bring you a recap of the 15 we deem the most outrageous.

One of the biggest purchases of the year just closed: an US$88-million penthouse condo in New York City’s billionaire-coveted 15 Central Park West. The 6,744-square-foot apartment, which hit the market in November, sold less than six weeks later to Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the 22-year old daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitriy Rybolovlev, reportedly for the full US$88-million asking price.

It is the highest individual transaction in Big Apple history and the second-largest transaction in the U.S. for 2011. Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel, a New York City-based real estate appraisal firm, explained to my colleague Luisa Kroll recently, “This sale is an outlier. It works out to be about $13,000 per square foot, the highest on record, for anything, that has ever occurred.”

The pricey pad belonged to former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill, who purchased it with his wife in 2007 for US$43.7-million — less than half of what it just sold for. The Weills plan to donate the proceeds to charity and Rybolovleva plans to reside there while attending university in the area. Despite Miller’s insistence that the gargantuan 15 CPW sale is an anomaly, there were two other pricey purchases in New York City this year, both for US$48-million apiece.

California’s real estate market welcomed several huge sales as well. The year’s largest individual transaction was the US$100-million purchase in March of a 25,500-square foot Silicon Valley mansion called Palo Alto Loire Chateau. Russian venture capital billionaire Yuri Milner reportedly plans to use the nine-figure compound as a secondary residence. The Levi Strauss estate, with its humble 2,050-square foot abode, in nearby Atherton sold to an unknown buyer for a hefty US$53-million in September.

The Spelling Manor, a Los Angeles manse formerly known as America’s most expensive home for sale, secured a buyer this summer after nearly three years on the market. The hulking 56,500-square foot Holmby Hills estate was listed for $150 million, and ultimately sold to yet another 22-year-old billionaire heiress, Petra Ecclestone, the daughter of Formula One founder Bernie Ecclestone, for a more reasonable US$85-million. Like Milner, Ecclestone has no plans to reside there full-time, and will split time between the palatial crash pad and one in London.

But while US$85-million may seem like an exorbitant sum to throw down on what essentially will be a pied a terre, David Kramer, the Hilton & Hyland agent who represented Ecclestone for her L.A. purchase, says the wealthy British family consider it a good investment. “If you say to someone who has billions of dollars, ‘Hey I’ll get you 43% off of a landmark home that in a good market really would be a US$100-million or more home, they will say let’s do it.”

Many real estate experts, Kramer and Miller included, chalk up increased interest in the home market among the big-money set to the same thing: perceived bargains. The weak dollar coupled with depreciated home prices (even at the high end) have translated into investment opportunities, particularly for rich foreigners looking to hedge fortunes in brick and mortar assets.

All of the headline-grabbing sales that have transpired this year have led to even more high-profile properties hitting the sale block. A plethora of trophy homes are available like Manhattan’s US$90-million Woolworth Mansion, Guess co-founder Armand Marciano’s US$63-million Beverly Hills compound, a US$60-million private resort in Indian Creek, Fla., and the less expensive but equally noteworthy US$12.5-million former Sinatra estate called Farralone. A US$175-million ranch in Jackson, Wyo. also came to market this year.

“I am seeing unique, special properties that no one ever would have thought would come on the market,” says Kramer. “These are properties that, like a piece of art, can and will never be duplicated. They can be considered part of people’s collections.”

South Florida’s luxury market has welcomed big spenders, too. Miami clocked four transactions priced at roughly US$20-million or higher this year. The most recent, the sale of the Setai South Beach’s palatial penthouse for US$21.5-million, is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a Miami Beach condo unit. The Thai-inspired apartment, which had belonged to Netscape founder Jim Clark, had been listed for $27 million. Another Russian billionaire, Roustam Tariko, coughed up US$25.5-million for a Star Island estate, the highest price paid in Miami since 2006.

“We have had an influx of rich people that have come to the city recently,” says Farid Moussalem, a ONE Sotheby’s International Realty agent who represented the buyer of Sunset Island’s Villa Tranquilla estate. The property was sold by American billionaire George Lindemann for US$19.8-million this summer, about 34% off the initial 2009 asking price of US$30-million. “I don’t think this is over; I think next year we will see more of these kinds of high-end sales,” says Moussalem.

Some ritzy residences didn’t find buyers this year until their asking prices were drastically cut. Oracle’s Larry Ellison, No. 3 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, picked up Porcupine Creek in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for US$42.9-million, 43% off the initial US$75-million asking price; fertilizer billionaire Alexander Rovt scooped up New York City’s Sloane Mansion an hour before its foreclosure auction for roughly US$33-million, or about 48% off the initial US$64-million ask price. Perhaps the biggest high-end discount sale of the year was Le Reve, a massive Versailles-like compound just north of Atlanta, Ga., that finally sold this summer for US$9.5-million. It had been originally listed at US$45-million.

Also making our roundup were two infamous foreclosures, both repossessed by lender Bank of America. Patricia Kluge’s Albemarle estate in Charlottesville, Va., once listed for US$100-million, was taken by the bank in February for US$15.26-million; and San Francisco’s St. Regis penthouse, once listed for US$70-million, earned the title of most expensive bank-owned property when it was sold back to the bank by former owner-developer Victor MacFarlane in lieu of foreclosure. That penthouse found a buyer just recently for US$28-million.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Downtown office space fills up at record rate
Central core vacancy drops to 5.7 per cent
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald December 22, 2011

Demand for Calgary downtown office space reached new heights in 2011 with record leasing activity.

A report by CBRE Ltd., published Wednesday, says the downtown market saw net absorption - the change in occupied space - of close to 2.6 million square feet in Calgary in 2011. That pushed the overall central core vacancy rate down to 5.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of this year from 7.0 per cent in the third quarter.

A year ago, the downtown office vacancy rate was 13.0 per cent.

"The fourth quarter capped a stellar year for Calgary," said Greg Kwong, executive vice-president and regional managing director for Alberta for CBRE. "The delivery of The Bow in 2012 will mark the continuation of our momentum and will symbolize the bright future that lies ahead for Calgary.

"Office demand was high again this year for the same reasons as 2010. The oilsands sector is booming again and related companies are leasing space to accommodate expansion. . . . We should get at least one more new building announced next year."

The Bow and its nearly two million square feet of office space will be home to energy giants Encana and Cenovus.

On Tuesday, the owners of Eighth Avenue Place announced they were going ahead with the second tower on the downtown site, a 40-storey, 850,000squarefoot office building that should be ready for occupancy in 2014. A 49-storey, 1.1 millionsquare-foot office tower exists on the site of the old Penny Lane complex.

Oxford Properties is in the pre-leasing stage for a proposed 25-storey, 615,000-square-foot tower.

Susan Thompson, business development manager of real estate for Calgary Economic Development, said the downtown office market is primarily driven by the oil and gas industry. "And we've seen fairly strong growth in that category this year. They're obviously growing and looking for more space," Thompson said.

"Every indication is there that it will continue to grow in the new year."

In its report, CBRE said the overall Calgary office market, including the suburban category, saw its vacancy rate drop to 7.1 per cent in the fourth quarter from 8.0 per cent in the previous quarter and 13.2 per cent in late 2010.

CBRE said the Calgary industrial market added 900,000 square feet of space this quarter, the most since the fourth quarter of 2008 as developers look to take advantage of economic growth in the region.

The overall availability rate in Calgary's industrial real estate market rose to 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter from 4.3 per cent in the third quarter.

In its National Office and Industrial Trends Fourth Quarter 2011 Summary Report, CBRE said total absorption of office space across the country was just under eight million square feet, up from five million square feet in 2010.

The vacancy rate for Canadian downtown offices fell from 6.3 per cent last quarter to 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter. The suburban market, however, saw vacancy rise by 10 basis points to 10.7 per cent, the second quarterly increase this year.

"Despite the apparently never-ending problems in Europe, the Canadian commercial real estate market continues to move forward, albeit slowly," said John O'Bryan, vice-chairman of CBRE.


22-year-old buys $88-million apartment in New York City
Agence France-Presse
Dec 21, 2011

NEW YORK — The daughter of a Russian billionaire has broken New York real estate records by paying $88 million for a huge Manhattan apartment, Forbes magazine reported.

Yekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of former fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev, paid full asking price for the multiroom spread at 15 Central Park West, the magazine reported Monday, saying this was a record for an individual transaction in a city renowned for pricey property.

The record was previously owned by Sanford Weill, a former chairman of Citigroup.

Forbes quoted a representative for Rybolovleva, 22, saying she had “signed a contract to purchase an apartment at 15 Central Park West… Ms. Rybolovleva is currently studying at a US university. She plans to stay in the apartment when visiting New York.”

She is a resident of Monaco and has lived in the principality and in Switzerland for the last 15 years, the statement said.

Rybolovlev is one of the small group of Russians who became fabulously wealthy during the post-Soviet privatization of the economy and are known as oligarchs. He is the former owner of fertilizer business Uralkali.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Financial Post · Dec. 15, 2011

Canada’s housing market is still chugging along steadily as sales activity nudged higher and prices continued to climb in November, data from the Canadian Real Estate Association said Thursday.

Sales activity rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in November, compared with the month before, as about 35,000 houses changed hands.

The national average price increased 4.6%, but that is the smallest increase since January.

Year-to-date sales remained in line with 10-year averages as 432,048 homes have been resold so far in 2011, up 2.1% from year-ago levels.

The sector is showing some signs of slowing down, however, as the number of newly listed homes declined 3.4% between October and November.

That said, actual national home sales figures (not seasonally adjusted) in November actually moved 7% above the 10-year average, the fourth-highest level on record for the month.

“National sales activity picked up late last year, and November’s results suggest that a similar trend may be playing out again this year,” Gregory Klump, chief economist with CREA, said in a release.

Interest rates are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, so the housing sector will be closely watched for signs of excess, he said.

“That said, current trends for resale housing and new home construction suggest that tightened mortgage regulations are working as intended and fostering economic stability,” he said.

Photo By: Travis Atwood

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Improve the dark, dingy look of a carport
Wide-spaced trellis planted with vines adds interest
By Suzanne Rowe
The Montreal Gazette

Here lives a beautiful young family.

I chose this house mostly because of its carport. People don't quite know how to improve this dingy space.

Aside from the obvious option to convert it to a garage, a less-expensive alternative is to close off the right side and the back with horizontal stained wood planks leaving a door for the backyard. My option is to build a widespaced trellis from ceiling to ground all the way to the back. Stained white and decorated with one natural climbing vine, these psychological walls will provide a perception of privacy while adding ornamental value. A white enclosed ceiling would complete the newer and cleaner area. Adding two hefty square posts on each side of the car port will redefine the structure and give it visual strength.

I've also incorporated two similar posts right under the floating triangular shaped roof, giving it a sense of solidity, depth and interesting architectural detail. The screen door has to go into retirement.

A tall wooden flower box stained the same tint as the bricks would bring a different texture to the facade. A smaller shallower one could also do the trick just fine if respecting the width of the window above.

If, in the future the roof requires replacement, using a colour similar to the bricks would give the optical illusion that the house is taller. A very dark chocolate brown for the roof could be appealing if the front door is also painted the same colour in a semi-gloss finish.

A walkway from the street is a good addition to the one near the driveway. Two big square slabs would be placed side by side to form a rectangle. They would be repeated all the way but leaving in between a gap of about one third of the size of one tile. To soften the lines, tiny mosslike ground cover would spread throughout the spacing and bloom with miniature white flowers in June. A hedge consisting of lovely white Campanulas perennials would great their guests to their lovely home.

On the left half and in front of the foundation, the lawn will be removed to form a rectangular-shaped flower bed.

Three evergreen shrubs could be planted to furnish the new area under the triangular roof area and at the same time hide the awkward brick transition.

On the left corner, three pyramidal evergreens frame one side of the house while making it look wider.

A handsome shrub on a stem is at its best when displaying its snowball-shaped clusters of flowers. Any small ornamental tree with white flowers would do.

For a different and more dramatic look - budget permitting - an evergreen Juniperus Scopularum "Tollenson's Blue Weeping'' would steal the show.

Vegetation (from left to right):

- (3) Thuja Occidentalis 'Smaragd' (evergreens)
- (1-3) Heuchera 'Palace Pur-ple' (perennials)
- (3-5) Hemerocallis X Hy-brida 'Apricot Beauty' (perennials)
- Weigela Samba (shrub)
- (3) Taxus X Media 'Hicksii' (evergreens)
- Campanula Carpatica (per-ennials, white, hedge)
- Arenaria Verna (ground cover)
- Tropaeolum Majus (an-nuals, flower box)
- Viorna on stem (small ornamental shrub)
- Parthenocissus Quinque-folia (climbing vine)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Luxury home sales spike
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald  December 10, 2011

Calgary's luxury home market has seen a spike in demand this year, with sales in the upper-end approaching the record levels of 2007.

Brendan Hughes, a realtor with Re/Max Real Estate (Central) in Calgary, said sales in the higher-end market are a sign of a good economy in the city. "It's vibrant and it's growing. Jobs are being created. People are moving here."

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, so far this year from January to November there have been 25 MLS condo sales over $1 million compared with 19 for the same period in 2010.

Year-to-date, there have been 406 single-family sales at that price point, up from 326 a year ago.

The record number of luxury home sales in the Calgary market took place in 2007 with 431 single-family sales over $1 million and 30 condo sales in that price bracket.

Sano Stante, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board, said there is a lot of confidence in the local real estate market these days.

Many oilpatch executives are showing confidence because of what they see coming up for the future with projects in the energy sector. "Those are the people that are buying these properties. So there's confidence in that realm," said Stante. "There's a fair bit of inventory out there available in that upper range as well. The people who are buying them now are being selective in the upper-end, in the luxury market. There's a lot of good product to choose from and they're selecting only the best deals. So homes in the luxury range have to be priced right to sell in a reasonable amount of time."

According to CREB, the top sale prices for single-family homes in Calgary this year have been $4.525 million in Rideau Park, $3.995 million in Elbow Park-Glencoe and $3.8 million in Aspen Woods.

Top selling condos this year have been $4.1 million in Eau Claire, $2.935 million in Eau Claire and $2.05 million in Victoria Park.

Hughes said one factor in the demand for upper-end product is executives who have been relocated to Calgary. "They like the high-end condo market," said Hughes. "We're also seeing these young professionals - the investment bankers, the lawyers, - they work really hard . . . they're looking at that high end.

"And then there's that investment side of it too. Some people shudder when you mention a million-dollar condo, but compared to a lot of other markets what you get here for $1 million, $2 million, is a lot more than you're getting in some of the other markets. And people see that."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Strong 2012 forecast for city's housing market
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald December 7, 2011

Fuelled by low interest rates and job security, demand for residential real estate in Calgary is on the upswing, says the Re/Max Housing Market Outlook 2012 report published Tuesday.

And the real estate firm says Calgary will be a Canadian leader next year in the annual growth rate for MLS sales.

By year-end 2011, 22,500 homes are expected to change hands, an eight per cent increase over the 20,801 sales reported in 2010, it said.

And the average price in Calgary is forecast to appreciate as well, rising a "modest" one per cent to $405,000 in 2011, up from $401,186 one year ago.

The report forecasts the average MLS sale price will jump by three per cent in 2012 to $417,000, while sales will rise by five per cent to 23,600 units.

Lowell Martens, of Re/ Max Real Estate (Mountain View) in Calgary, said any hesitation on the part of some buyers in the city is more than likely a direct reflection of the uncertainty in the European economic situation.

He said commercial realestate construction taking place in Calgary "tells us the long-term feeling out there is very positive for Calgary."

"We have a very stable market over the next little while. We don't anticipate any big upswings, but at the same time we don't anticipate any big downswings either. It's going to be very stable," he said.

Buyers in the city are cautiously optimistic after more than two years of recession, making their moves while interest rates are at historic lows and housing values are affordable, said the report.

"Single-family homes remain most popular with purchasers, representing close to 60 per cent of total residential sales. Demand is greatest for entry-level product, priced between $350,000 and $450,000," it said. "Con-dominium apartments and town houses have also experienced solid momentum in recent months, with the lion's share of activity occurring from $200,000 to $300,000. Luxury home sales - priced over $1 million - have been particularly brisk, up approximately 25 per cent over 2010 levels."

While global concerns still loom, the market appears to be gaining some traction moving into the new year, said the report. Re/Max said Canadian residential realestate defied conventional logic and outperformed expectations in 2011, posting another solid year of housing activity virtually across the board. The trend is expected to carry forward into 2012 as Canadians "continue to demonstrate their faith in home ownership, despite concerns over the European debt crisis and its impact on the global economy."

"What 2011 proves is that real estate continues to have momentum," said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president, Re/Max of Western Canada, in a statement.

"The economic underpinnings support ongoing demand, particularly as job creation efforts continue and unemployment rates edge down further."

Photo by: Hypnotic Love

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Canadians paying off mortgages early: CMHC
Financial Post Staff  
Nov 29, 2011

OTTAWA — Canadian homeowners are doing a good job of paying off their mortgages early, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which released its third-quarter results Tuesday.

While mortgage repayments can be spread out over 30 years, the CMHC reports that the average amortization period for mortgages insured by the national housing agency is under 25 years, and the loan-to-value ratio of those homes was 80% or less. As of Sept. 30, the outstanding loan amount per household for all homeowner loans was $159,740, slightly above the figure for the previous year.

“CMHC analysis shows that a substantial percentage of CMHC-insured high ratio borrowers are ahead of their scheduled amortization,” the agency said in its report. “Accelerated payments shorten the overall amortization period, reduce interest costs, increase equity in the home at a faster rate and lower risk over time.”

The agency says its mortgage arrears rate is 0.42%, in line with industry trends.

Rules brought in by the federal government in March, in response to historic levels of household debt, which reduced amortization periods on certain mortgages, and limited the amount that can be borrowed when a house is refinanced, cut refinancing activity by 31% from last year, the CMHC said. The agency’s homeowner purchase mortgage insurance showed a year-over-year decrease of 12%.

“The level of household debt remains a concern but there are encouraging signals,” it says. “There has been a significant deceleration in the growth of mortgage credit since March, particularly in recent months, impacting the growth rate of total household credit. Growth in personal loans, lines of credit and credit cards has levelled off in recent months.”

The agency notes general economic conditions have been favourable in 2011, with stable mortgage rates, a healthy housing market and a declining unemployment rate.

“Overall arrears levels and arrears rates have been improving and (mortgage insurance) claims volumes have been lower than expected,” it said. “Given current economic forecasts, it is expected that trends will improve moderately going forward, although both downside and upside risks remain.”

While housing sales have slowed since January, the CMHC expects sales for the year to fall within a range of 423,600 to 470,100 units, and next year’s sales to be somewhere between 406,100 and 509,000 units. Prices should “modestly grow as market conditions are expected to remain in the balanced market range,” it said.

The agency notes it keeps an eye out for bubbles, but so far it sees “little evidence of over-valuation” in the Canadian housing market.

Photo By: *_Abhi_*


Financial Post,  Dec. 6, 2011

Even one of Canada’s leading real estate companies agrees the rising housing market may not appear to make much sense.

But appearances are deceiving and Re/Max says both sales and average prices will continue to climb in 2012.

“Canadian residential real estate defied conventional logic and outperformed expectations in 2011,” the company said in its year-end report on the market.

Re/Max expects 2011 to finish with prices up 7% and the average home across the country selling for $363,000. The market won’t be as robust in 2012 but consumers can still expect another 2% jump in prices.

Sales figure for 2011 are forecast to climb by 3% from a year earlier with 460,000 homes having changed hands by year end. For 2012, expect less than a 1% increase in activity with only an additional 4,500 sales.

“The Canadian housing market has demonstrated tremendous resilience in recent years but 2011 stands out,” said Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Instead of responding to economic concerns both here and abroad with a retreat in sales and prices, residential real estate markets actually experienced an upswing in the volatile third and fourth quarter.”

Re/Max looked at 26 markets across the country and predicts 23 will show an increase in average price for the year. Sales were up in 22 of those 26 markets. The company says 81% of markets studied will see price increases in 2012.

Among the reasons cited for the Canadian housing market’s continued strength against the odds has been population growth which has gone up by 11% since 2000. Re/Max notes by 2031, the country will have 42 million people.

“Population growth and immigration are major factors expected to prop-up housing demand and household formation in the coming years,” says the company.

Condominiums are expected to continue to garner a growing share of the housing market with investment and income-producing properties in high demand. Low vacancy rates are said to have driven those markets in 2011 and those conditions are expected to continue.

Photo By: Bru76

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Calgary sees more home resales as average price drops
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald  November 30, 2011

Calgary's resale housing sales grew in October, but the average price dipped, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

In a report published Tuesday, the board said the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales in Calgary was 22,572 during the month, up from 22,344 in September and an increase from 19,524 in October 2010.

But the average price fell in October to $402,561 from $408,466 in September. A year ago it was $396,041.

As for new listings, the annualized rate in October decreased to 43,656 from 44,664 the previous month, but up from 42,960 in October 2010.

In October, the sales-to-new listings ratio in Calgary was 0.512. It was 0.471 in September and 0.455 a year ago. The conference board said Calgary can expect short-term year-over-year annual price growth of between five and seven per cent.

According to the latest Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. market outlook report, MLS sales in the Calgary region are forecast to increase by 2.3 per cent in 2012 to 22,700, while new listings are expected to decrease by 1.1. per cent to 43,700. The average MLS sales price is forecast to jump by 2.2 per cent in 2012 to $411,000 in the Calgary census metropolitan area.

The CMHC housing market outlook says despite many positive factors for real estate, "competing factors such as uncertainty in the global economy has kept some prospective buyers on the fence and will continue to temper any large increases in sales."

Photo By: Where To Willie

Friday, November 25, 2011


GTA condo sales this year smash record
Garry Marr
Financial Post Nov 22, 2011

Condominium sales are taking over the Greater Toronto Area new housing market and some parts of the country are following closely behind as rising costs push consumers into vertical housing, a new report suggests.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association said there were 23,747 condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area through the first 10 months of the year, smashing the previous high of 22,316 in 2007 — with two months yet to go.

High-rise sales accounted for approximately 61% of all sales in GTA from January-October. At this point last year high-rise sales only accounted for 57% of the overall market.

“It’s very much becoming a condo market,” said Joe Vaccaro, acting president of BILD. “Ten years ago the split was 25% high-rise versus 75% low-rise.”

The trend appears contained not just to Toronto’s urban core but is now moving to the suburbs. “There seems to be a new trend setting in over the last couple of months with the 905 [suburban] areas outperforming Toronto when it comes to [condo] sales,” said Mr. Vaccaro.

Suburban land costs have skyrocketed because of what the industry refers to as regulatory inertia with no new land developments approved in the suburbs over the last five years. It has led to the hoarding of land and rising prices for single detached homes.

A report Tuesday from Altus Group suggests the GTA will not see any sort of slowdown in new condo construction in 2012.

“New condominium apartment sales in Toronto and Ottawa continue to hum along, which will continue to buoy apartment starts in Ontario through 2012,” said Altus.

Peter Norman, chief economist for the Altus Group, says population growth has supported the Toronto condominium market. “That number of people generates a fair amount of housing demand no matter what is happening,” says Mr. Norman. “Add in the interest rate environment, and them not going up, and that adds to it. There has been a restriction on [new] lots and a lot of people have been shoved into apartments.”

The group looked at 10 real estate markets across the country and found only Alberta is set to rise in 2012. Regina, along with Toronto, is forecast for flat sales.

“Calgary and Edmonton employment growth in 2011 has more than made up for 2010’s declines,” says Altus. “Although employment growth will be more moderate in 2012, the strong showing this year is favourable for stronger housing starts in 2012.”

Altus is forecasting apartment starts to jump to 5,475 in 2012, up from 3,975 in 2011. Single family construction is also forecast to jump to 22,325 in 2012 from 20,906, putting high-rise construction at almost 20% of the Alberta market.

Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Inc., says his company has noticed the trend in top condominium apartments in its corporate owned franchises in Toronto and Vancouver. “There is the cost of the commute, the hard costs like gas and insurance but then there is the soft costs in time,” he said, noting consumers look for housing that is closer to subways and urban cores.

If anything, he says Canadian cities, including Toronto, are playing catchup when it comes to high-rise construction. “Look at big established mature cities like New York. They have much more vertical living per resident than we do, they just don’t have as much on per capita basis that is new,” says Mr. Soper. “We have hundred of thousands of new Canadians that have to be accommodated in Toronto.”

Photo By: Surrealplaces

Wednesday, November 23, 2011



November 25, 2011 - January 7, 2012
(Excluding Christmas Day and December 31)

6:00 PM – 9:00 PM nightly
Gates close at 8:30 PM
North Gate entrance ONLY

$10 Adults + GST (includes parking)
$7 Children + GST

Please contact the Zoo’s guest relations office for information on group rates.

As you wander through Zoolights, you will be surrounded by the most amazing holiday cheer there is. Sip your hot chocolate, warming up by a fire pit and enjoying the great Canadian winter weather.

Speak directly to Santa at the North Pole, shop at the Elf’s Toy Shop that’s just for kids, participate in the NEW Penguin Plunge Kidz Zone and take a walk through Candy Land!

Don’t forget your non-perishable food bank donation. Collection bins will be placed at the North Gate entrance to the Zoo.

There are more then 1.5 million light reasons to come to Calgary’s favourite Holiday tradition:

•SantaVision allows children to talk directly to Santa in the North Pole. Later you can download the conversation to send to family and friends.

•New Penguin Plunge Kidz Zone with activities such as Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, Reindeer Toss and more!

•Ice Carving demonstrations every Friday and Saturday nights by Frozen Memories.

•Learn about the many different kinds of Wishing Trees celebrated around the world and then write your own wish to hang on the Zoo’s Wishing Tree.

•Every Friday and Saturday night, enjoy performances by local Calgary choirs.

•Enjoy two new light exhibits, including Candy Land and an Ode to Canada.

Please give yourself at least one hour to fully enjoy all that Zoolights has to offer


Canada oil sands output to triple by 2035: report
Nov 23, 2011

Production from the oil sands will more than triple over the next quarter century, to 5.1 million barrels per day, Canada’s national energy regulator said in a report released on Tuesday.

In a look at energy production and consumption through 2035, the National Energy Board said output from the oil sands, the largest source of U.S. oil imports, will continue to expand from around 1.5 million bpd currently as new mining and thermal projects tap the resources.

The oil sands of northern Alberta are the world’s third biggest crude reserves, behind only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but the largest open to private investment.

The NEB said its forecast also assumes oil prices will rise slowly through to 2035, reaching $115 a barrel in 2010 dollars, a level that provides a reasonable profit even for expensive new mining and upgrading projects such as those operated by Suncor Energy Inc, Royal Dutch Shell and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

The board also estimates that Canadian oil exports will rise to 5 million bpd by 2035 from about 2 million currently, with most of the additional supply coming from oil sands projects.

However the board cautioned that its forecast assumes markets and infrastructure will be available to handle the additional production. That outlook comes despite a U.S. decision delaying the approval of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas by as much as 18 months.

The NEB said total production of Canadian crude oil would rise to 6 million barrels a day by 2035, double current levels. Though most will come from the oil sands, output from oil shale reserves like the Bakken field in Saskatchewan will also help bolster the total.

Photo by: Luuk van Beek

Friday, November 18, 2011


Thursday, November 17, 2011


New York Times September 28, 2011

Q. Our old apartment is sitting empty, and not selling. Is it worth the money to hire someone to stage it?

A. Staging an apartment — adding furniture and accessories to make it look lived in — can be expensive. But you may be able to cover your costs, and then some, by creating a more appealing environment.

“I won’t let people come on the market empty if I can help it,” said Deanna Kory, a senior vice president at the Corcoran Group, who has used staging to help sell apartments for more than a decade.

Ms. Kory, who has staged apartments on her own and worked with professional staging companies, said renting a hand-picked selection of furniture and arranging it with accessories will often speed up a sale and generate a higher selling price. Generally, she has found that sellers with empty apartments can increase their selling price by “at least 5 to 10 times the investment you’re going to make” in staging, she said.

For instance, if you put in $10,000, it should yield between $50,000 and $100,000 more in profit than an apartment sold empty, she said.

But, she added, “There are good stagers and not-so-great stagers.”

“You have to get recommendations,” Ms. Kory said. “If they have a good track record, they should be able to tell you stories and show you some photos.”

One stager she has worked with is Sid Pinkerton, who runs a company called From Drab to Fab. Mr. Pinkerton has been in business since 2003, and he estimates that he has staged over a thousand apartments in New York City during that time.

One of the primary reasons for staging, he said, is that potential buyers often have difficulty understanding the proportions of empty rooms.

“Most Americans are what I call ‘visually challenged,’ ” Mr. Pinkerton said. “When rooms have no furniture in them, you have no size spec. It raises the question, ‘Will my furniture fit in here?’ The whole point of staging is to answer those questions before they even arise.”

This is especially true, he noted, when it comes to bedrooms. “They might feel small when they’re empty, when in fact they will very easily hold a queen-size bed, nightstand and dresser.”

While every job is different, Mr. Pinkerton said his services for staging an empty apartment “can be as little as $5,000, but up to $15,000 and more,” depending on factors like size and layout. Those figures include furniture rental; if you add some of your own furniture to the mix, the fee would be lower.

The other option, if you’re confident in your design skills, is to do it yourself. Companies like CORT (888-360-2678 or and Churchill Furniture Rental (800-941-7458 or carry a range of pieces catering to different tastes, available for short-term rental.

Just remember the goal. “You’re trying to appeal to the baseline needs of the general public,” Mr. Pinkerton said, not create a space that reflects your personal style. “Staging is the complete counterbalance to interior design.”

Images featured is the work of Bloom Property Stylists in Calgary, Alberta



New York Times November 16, 2011

Q. Can green updates increase the value of my home? If so, what are the most cost-effective options?

A. “If you do just one thing, it’s probably not going to add value,” said Jeffrey Schleider, managing director of Miron Properties, a real estate company specializing in green properties, in New York.

But when a number of environmentally friendly updates are implemented all together, they can help your home stand out from the crowd. “If you do five or six things as a package,” he said, “it really makes your property more appealing.”

That said, he added, “there are some investments where you won’t see a return on your investment, because they’re too expensive relative to the value they add.” So he advises starting with easy low-cost changes that target energy savings, clean water and clean air.

To cut energy consumption, he recommends motion-sensor switches in bathrooms and closets that will automatically turn lights on and off when people come and go. Basic models often cost under $20 at hardware stores.

To improve water quality, he suggests installing an under-counter filtration unit by a company like GE or Kohler, for filtered water at the kitchen sink.

“That’s something that people, both environmentally conscious and not, are interested in,” he said. “It stops the use of bottled water, but it’s also a convenience to have clean water at your tap. Even a very good system can be added for a few hundred dollars, and that adds value.”

To improve air quality, he said, sellers should use paints with low or no volatile organic compounds. “It’s not significantly more expensive,” he said, “but can be a huge appeal to buyers. Certain buyers are especially sensitive and can’t even look at homes that don’t have no-V.O.C. paint.”

Ellen Hanson, a New York interior designer who focuses on sustainability, echoed Mr. Schleider’s advice about using low- or no-V.O.C. paint.

She also suggests adding Energy Star-certified kitchen appliances, low-flow bathroom faucets and showerheads, and dual-flush toilets to the list of possible upgrades.

All these items save energy and water, she said, while giving your home a fresh new look.

“We also like to use multilayered window treatments to control solar gain and heat loss,” Ms. Hanson said. “You end up consuming less energy, but whether a buyer of your home would perceive that or not, I’m not sure.”

Indeed, many of these upgrades may go unnoticed if not spelled out in promotional materials. “A lot of them are choices you don’t see,” Ms. Hanson said. “But you can brag about them when you describe your property.”

Mr. Schleider also stresses the importance of marketing these upgrades, pointing out that they could give sellers an edge on the competition.

“It’s pretty tough to sell in some markets right now,” he said. “So any edge you can have is a positive.”

Photo By: Hat Sharpener

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Canadian consumers remain bullish on real estate market
October sales highest since beginning of year
By Garry Marr
Financial Post November 16, 2011

The Canadian housing market continues to defy those who have long predicted its collapse.

It was just another set of numbers, but if anything the market seemed to pick up steam with October sales across the country the best they have been since January.

The upward push caused the Canadian Real Estate Association to slightly revise its predictions for 2011. The group now says sales will be up 1.4 per cent from a year ago, instead of 0.9 per cent.

"The continuing strength of home sales activity in the face of ongoing financial volatility speaks volumes about the confidence of Canadians in our housing market," said Gary Morse, president of CREA.

Even going into 2012, CREA doesn't see much changing in the marketplace with interest rates near record lows. It's calling for a relatively minor 0.5 per cent reduction in sales next year.

The industry continues to have plenty to gloat about as annual sales have held steady in the $450,000 range for the past three years. Prices have also shown a steady upward trajectory and are now forecast to reached an average of $362,700 in 2011, which would be a seven per cent jump from the year before. Next year, prices are expected to remain flat - something most people in the real estate industry see as an accomplishment in the present economic environment.

"Home sales activity over the past couple of months suggests buyers are confident that the Canadian economy will remain relatively unscathed by global economic risks, since every home purchase is a homebuyer's vote of confidence in the future," said Gregory Klump, chief economist with CREA, adding there is strong feeling the government's fiscal policy would be coordinated to give housing any support it should need in the event of a pullback.

So far, the industry seems to be getting all the support it needs from a low interest rate environment that has kept people in the market. Variablerate mortgages tied to prime are still available as low as 2.7 per cent while a five-year fixed rate closed mortgage is now being discounted down to 3.19 per cent.

Toronto continued to carry the national market in October with sales up 14.3 per cent from a year ago. The activity in Canada's largest city helped boost overall sales activity, which rose 8.5 per cent from a year earlier. Prices across the country continue to be moderate with the 5.5 per cent year-over-year increase the smallest it has been since January.

The consensus among economists is that the housing industry might not have much more to give in terms of price increases or sales but they also are not predicting a massive decline either. "The fact that prices are overvalued today does not necessarily mean they will crash tomorrow," said Benjamin Tal, deputy economist with CIBC World Markets.

He thinks a "violent market meltdown" would need a catalyst like the a sub-prime crisis or a jump in interest rates like the industry saw in 1991. "We do believe the housing market in Canada will stagnate in the coming year or two," Tal said.

That housing market has become a key component of the country with a report from TD Economics saying the construction industry was second fastest growing industry in the country and accounts for 10 per cent of GDP. "While the industry's performance over the last decade has been astonishing, some of the recent strength is likely to taper off in the coming years," the bank said.

Photo By: WCampos3

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


November 15, 2011

With sales of existing homes in Canada rising in October to the highest level since January, the Canadian Real Estate Association boosted its forecast for resale activity for 2011.

The industry group released data on October sales activity as well as a revised forecast for the year on Tuesday.

National sales of existing homes increased 1.2% from the previous month, building on a gain of 2.5% in September. Price gains however cooled to 5.5%, the smallest gains since January.

A total of 397,561 resale units have traded hands so far this year, CREA said, up 1.8% from levels in the first 10 months of 2010.

Here’s what you need to know about the booming Canadian housing market:

Ontario leads the way

Third-quarter sales activity in the province was stronger than forecast, while the rest of the country came in broadly in line with expectations, the CREA said.

It was the strength of activity in Ontario that prompted the CREA to boost its annual forecast for 2011 to 1.4%, up from 0.9%.

The industry group now predicts national sales of 453,300 for the year, compared with 446,915 in 2010.

198,000 of 2011′s residential sales are expected to come from Ontario, with Quebec and British Columbia expected to have sales of 77,000 and 76,600, respectively.

Home prices are still up but showing signs of cooling down

CREA kept its national average home price forecast for the year little changed at $362,700. That’s an annual increase of 7.0% compared with $339,049 in 2010.

Prices are expected to remain flat next year, with the CREA forecasting $362,700 again for 2012.

The industry group pointed to moderating prices in Vancouver in the third quarter compared with the first half of the year, with sales of multi-million dollar properties in that city returning to “more normal levels.”

CREA said the national average price in October rose 5.5% from a year earlier to just under $362,899, the smallest increase since January.

The balance of supply and demand is tight but the market remains on solid footing

October’s monthly rise in sales resulted in a slightly tighter balance of supply and demand, but the national housing market remains “firmly rooted in balanced territory,” the CREA said.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio, a measure of market balance, stood at 53.4% in October, up from 52.8% in September.

Low interest rates continue to bolster the market

CREA also revised its forecast for 2012 upward slightly, predicting a smaller easing than previously expected of 0.5% to 451,200 units.

The uptick is largely due to expectations that Canada’s interest rates will stay low until well into 2012, CREA said.

But domestic and global economic headwinds could put pressure on the sector

“A number of factors will keep Canada’s housing market in check as interest rates remain low,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

He pointed to tightened mortgage regulations, high household debt and slower economic and job growth as possible headwinds.

However, Mr. Klump noted that persistent news of global economic uncertainty has put only minor dents in consumer confidence to date.

“How confidence evolves depends on how global turmoil plays out over the coming months,” he said.

Monday, November 14, 2011


#304, 2417 - 17 Street S.W.
Just listed for $239,900
Check it out at:

TOP FLOOR TWO BEDROOM FLAT IN BANKVIEW WITH AMAZING CITYSCAPE VIEWS! Located across the street from the Bankview Community Association with park, tennis courts and a playground; the location of this 3 storey walk-up will impress. Renovated in 2005, the interior features modern beadboard cabinetry in the kitchen with contemporary pulls, tiled granite counters, a full stainless steel appliance package and cozy office & breakfast nook. Designer light fixtures, maple hardwood/lush neutral carpet flooring, a 4 piece bathroom, insuite laundry and abundant storage, parking, bike enclosure and an east facing balcony with incredible views; brilliant elements in the inner city. Located close to 17th Avenue and minutes to both Downtown and Marda Loop, many of Calgary's best boutique shopping, stylish dining and all amenities are steps away. Book an appointment to view!


In Mats Gustafson’s Stockholm living room, antique and modern mingle freely. Photographs by Magnus Marding. Styled by Jacob Hertzell.

True North
Mats Gustafson
November 4, 2011

When you walk into the artist and illustrator Mats Gustafson’s apartment in Stockholm, you’re not quite sure what era you’re in. In the foyer, a turn-of-the-century painting of a bourgeois Swedish interior hangs beneath one of Isamu Noguchi’s oversize paper lanterns, and underfoot is a colorful mid-20th-century rug by Barbro Nilsson for the renowned Swedish workshop MMF. Under a midcentury nude painted by Birger Ljungquist, Gustafson’s great-uncle, sits a simple 1950s stool by the Swedish designer Carl Malmsten. Walk through an angled doorway into the living room, a high-ceilinged space with the graceful proportions and architectural ornament typical of late-19th-century buildings, and the mix gets even richer. An upholstered 19th-century Swedish bench along the window and a group of slipper chairs, all from Gustafson’s family, blend easily with sheepskin-covered wood chairs designed in the 1930s by Bruno Mathsson and tables by Josef Frank. Vases by Scandinavian Modern ceramics masters like Axel Salto and Berndt Friberg are clustered atop a traditional tiled fireplace, and the immaculate plaster walls (which are painted, aptly enough, Stockholm White) are hung with Gustafson’s spare, elegant watercolors. Venture into the apartment’s long corridor, however, and you’ll find up-to-the-minute bathrooms and a sunny, south-facing kitchen in which crisp, utilitarian cabinets provide a clean backdrop for an antique wooden table and chairs. This is an interior that’s modern and old-fashioned at the same time, and in all the right ways.

Gustafson, a Swede who moved to New York in 1980 (and who now lives in a 19th-century farmhouse in Sag Harbor), had kept a small apartment in this building — an imposing structure in Stockholm’s Sodermalm neighborhood — since the 1970s, but when a two-bedroom apartment became available, he couldn’t resist. “I needed a more mature place,” he said, one that would give him a space to work, and which would also provide comfortable living quarters for him and his partner, the jewelry and product designer Ted Muehling. Gustafson treasured the Old World graciousness of the space and wanted to make it more functional while protecting its considerable charms, “not to make it into something it wasn’t,” he explained.

His allies in this effort, as they were in the renovation of the smaller apartment and the Sag Harbor house, were the husband-and-wife architects Neil Logan and Solveig Fernlund of the New York firm Fernlund + Logan. Gustafson and Fernlund, a fellow Swede, have been friends for years. They come from similar backgrounds — they both grew up in the countryside; his mother designed rugs and hers was an art historian — and Gustafson’s 1989 watercolor portrait of Fernlund hangs in the new apartment’s living room. The architects are known for their aesthetically obsessed clients, including artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija and the textile manufacturer Michael Maharam, as well as Muehling, whose new Manhattan shop they recently completed.

The Stockholm apartment had been occupied for decades by Hilding Linnqvist, a painter who died in 1984, and his wife, and the rooms were in need of renovation. The kitchen was small, with a separate entrance, and there was a maid’s room, as well as lots of storage that had been added awkwardly throughout the apartment. Fernlund and Logan reorganized this part of the space, enlarging the kitchen and adding a doorway at each end to connect it visually and functionally to the rest of the apartment, getting rid of the maid’s room and adding a laundry room and a modern bathroom (one of two). As Fernlund explained, “The goal for everything we did was to add things we need to live now, without making them feel cut off from the apartment.” Wiring was replaced, woodwork was stripped (and repainted with an oil-based paint to bring out its details), and what had been the service hallway was cleared of its cabinets to make a central corridor that connects the apartment’s studio, living room and master bedroom (which are enfilade, with generous doorways between) with the kitchen, bathrooms and guest room. It was important to the architects that the subtlety of natural light be felt in every room. “Without shadows,” Fernlund said, the light becomes flat and lifeless, “adding that there is no built-in or recessed lighting in the rooms because Gustafson and Muehling prefer the glow of lamps and candles.

Once the spaces were completed, it was time to decorate, and Gustafson had plenty to work with. In addition to his own collections of Scandinavian Modern furniture and decorative arts (which he bought at thrift shops and junk stores before they were rediscovered), he had antiques and paintings from his parents’ house and saw no obstacle to mixing periods. “Rather than get ‘new’ old things,” he said, “I’d reuse these. There’s more of a connection.” Both he and Muehling believe that decorating is layering: “It’s not about perfection. This is very much our territory,” he added. And Muehling brought a touch of humor to the serene rooms with the addition of pieces like a Royal Copenhagen blue-and-white vase painted with ships, which he describes as “kitsch, or bordering on it. It’s different from the extreme good taste that we both tend to do.”

The apartment’s palette consists mainly of grays, browns and ochers against the cool white walls, and though it’s tonally restrained, it’s texturally complex. Gustafson said that his idea of the apartment was less “Fanny and Alexander” and more Vilhelm Hammershoi, the Danish painter known for his monochromatic, nearly empty, ethereally lighted interiors. “The Swedish sense, even if 19th century,” he suggested, “is more homespun — a little drab, if you want — but it is a Nordic thing. It’s not silk and velvet, let’s put it that way.”


Say yes to renos a fixer-upper can save on the overall cost of the house
National Post
Nov. 12, 2011

Don't pass by that shabby house just yet. With the average price of Ontario homes on the rise to almost $360,000, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recommends looking beyond move-in-ready properties. "Everyone wants a house or condo that will be perfect the minute they move in," says Barbara Sukkau, president of OREA. "But with the price of houses continuing to rise, and some buyers looking for a family home in a seller's market, it may not be an option for all buyers. Buying a property that needs work can be a way to save on the overall cost even when you factor in the cost of an extensive renovation," she says. OREA recommends identifying properties with your realtor that will build equity after improvements are made but still remain in budget, and make sure the neighbourhood you invest in is worth it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Calgary house prices increased 126% over past decade
Projected 2011 average cost: about $402K
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 8, 2011

Strong in-migration, population growth and a vibrant oil and gas sector have pushed Calgary average house prices to an increase of 126 per cent in the past decade, says a new report published Monday by Re/Max.

The report said renovation spending and new construction have been "considerable" secondary factors propping up values throughout the city between 2000-2010.

The report also said the total value of residential building permits in the city during that period was the third highest in the country at $23.1 billion behind Toronto ($77.3 billion) and Vancouver ($35 billion).

"A few reasons I believe Calgary has seen such growth in the last 10 years is simple due to our strong economy from natural resources which has been a driving force in migration into Calgary for jobs," says Tanya Eklund, a realtor with Re/Max Real Estate Central.

"This has resulted in growing our population to well over one million, low unemployment rates, a strong GDP and the demand for housing.

"We are highly affected by inventory levels in real estate. When inventory is low and the demand is there, prices increase. . . . We had a very balanced market in this time period and saw huge economic growth which proved significant gains in the housing sector."

In Calgary, the average price rose from $176,305 in 2000 to $398,764 by year-end 2010.

The Re/Max Housing Evolution report said the average residential price in Canada rose 106 per cent in the past decade, led by Regina, which saw a hike of 173 per cent.

Regina was followed by Edmonton (165 per cent), Saskatoon (163 per cent), Winnipeg (158 per cent), Kelowna (156 per cent), St. John's (149 per cent), Greater Vancouver (128 per cent) and Calgary.

The report said investment in Canada's housing stock is at an all-time high in the 16 Canadian residential real estate markets surveyed.

"Revitalization, renovation and new construction have been largely underestimated in terms of overall impact on rising average price," said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president of Re/Max of Western Canada. "Yet, outside of supply and demand, these have been among the foremost variables influencing real estate values.

"Population growth is a central to housing evolution, supporting steady household formation, which in turn will boost revitalization, new construction and investment in Canada's housing stock for years to come. Ultimately, a rising population bolsters the health of the real estate sector and fuels the trends that lead to continued average price growth on all fronts."

A Housing Market Outlook by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said many factors that support resale housing demand in Calgary have become or remained favourable this year, including growth in full-time employment, low mortgage rates and improved net migration.

"However, competing factors such as uncertainty in the global economy has kept some prospective buyers on the fence, and will continue to temper any large increases in sales," said the CMHC.

The average price for a residential property in the Calgary census metropolitan area this year is forecast to be $402,000, up 0.8 per cent from 2010.

As the supply in the resale market moves lower and conditions become more balanced, stronger price growth is expected next year, said the CMHC. In 2012, the average price is anticipated to rise 2.2 per cent to $411,000.


Toronto tower builder eyes three Calgary projects
‘You can feel the wealth,’ says Toronto developer
By Dan Healing
Calgary Herald November 9, 2011

CALGARY — A Toronto residential tower condominium developer is proposing three projects for Calgary, attracted by the city’s wealth and style.

Brad Lamb, head of Lamb Development Corp., said Wednesday his company will partner with Fortress Real Capital on the first project, a 30-storey, 230-unit condo at 10th Street and 6th Avenue S.W.

The project is expected to cost about $62 million to build and its residential units and ground level retail to sell for around $80 million, he said.

“I’ve been looking at Calgary for five years trying to find the right opportunity,” he said.

“And I believe now is right for Calgary.”

Lamb said he believes Calgary is the most affluent city in Canada and, furthermore, that the downtown region between the Beltline and the river is ripe for high-density development.

“You can feel the wealth in Calgary,” he said as he prepared for a meeting with potential investors on Wednesday evening.

Lamb said his second project will be a hotel and condo combination and the third will be a highrise but its details can’t be revealed as yet.

The downtown Calgary market for residential towers has come back from 2008 when the shrivelling economy dealt a death blow to the four-tower Arriva project by Torode Residential Ltd.

In August, Vancouver-based Mike Bucci of Bucci Developments Ltd. said his company was shifting focus to Calgary, with two new projects, because the economy is more promising than in the company’s home town.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported Tuesday that multi-family starts in the city are up 70 per cent for October and five per for the first 10 months compared with last year.

The numbers are being driven by the highest number of apartment unit starts since May 2008, it noted.