Friday, November 30, 2012

SECOND TO ONE


Calgary’s 8th Avenue S.W. second most expensive street for office space in Canada
Toronto’s Bay Street tops in average street rent
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 28, 2012

CALGARY — Calgary’s 8th Avenue S.W. strip is the second most expensive street in Canada for office space, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle.

The company said Toronto’s Bay Street comes in at No. 1 with average rents running at around $68.91 per square foot and the top rent on the street at $82.28 per square foot.

Calgary’s 8th Avenue S.W. follows with average office rents of $55.33 per square foot and the top rent on the street at $76.50 per square foot.

“It is clear from our ranking that companies are keen to pay a premium to be in the most prestigious locations,” said Brett Miller, president of Jones Lang LaSalle Canada. “Our figures also prove that demand is not abating and rents have moved up year-over-year in every city confirming the strength of the Canadian office market.”

Calgary’s 8th Avenue S.W made its debut this year to reach second on the list. Last year, Calgary’s 3rd Avenue S.W. was in fourth place.

This year’s list after 8th Avenue S.W. with their average street rent and top street rent includes: Vancouver’s Burrard Street, $54.75, $65.41; Ottawa’s Albert Street, $53.18, $53.18; Edmonton’s 101st Street NW, $49.40, $55.25; Montreal’s Rene-Levesque Boulevard West, $46.46, $56.19; and Halifax’s Upper Water Street, $35.57, $35.78.

Maggie Schofield, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, said the high Calgary rent along 8th Avenue is due to the existence of office skyscrapers Bankers Hall and Eighth Avenue Place.

“We’re certainly not surprised that the rates would be very high. It’s all about location. These are very, very high demand properties and the market is certainly driving it. There’s a great deal of appetite for high level, the top class, real estate in the downtown core from the office perspective,” said Schofield.

“A number of companies are trying to take advantage of the fact that they can now get into some of these newer properties and get contiguous space which has been a real challenge for a lot of companies that are trying to expand. So they’re looking at these opportunities and they’re willing to pay that price to get all their people in the same office building rather than being scattered in three or four or five separate towers depending on which company you are.”

Other advantages include the number of amenities along 8th Avenue, particularly in retail, great access to transit and available parking spaces in newer buildings, she said.

Commercial real estate firm CBRE said the vacancy rate in the downtown Calgary office market for Class AA space was 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year. It has dipped after being 10.6 per cent at the end of 2009.

According to CBRE, the average net asking rent for Calgary downtown Class AA office space was $23.50 per square foot in the second quarter of 2000. It peaked at $54.48 in the second and third quarters of 2008 then dipped to $33.78 in the first quarter of 2010.

In the third quarter of this year, the average net asking rent for Calgary downtown Class AA office space was $42.00.

The Jones Lang LaSalle report indicated that the differences between the average market rents and the average street rents this year were 133 per cent for Bay Street and 63 per cent for 8th Avenue S.W.

In 2011, it said Bay Street had an average street rent of $52.09 with a top street rent of $78.19. For 8th Avenue last year it was $49.94 for the average street rent and $54.19 for the top street rent.

Photo By: Tony Tran

LUCKY SEVEN IN NOVEMBER


Calgary resale housing market sales strong in November
Sales up nearly 7% over last year
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 30, 2012

CALGARY — Calgary’s resale housing market continues to defy a national cooling trend.

With one day left in November, data from the Calgary Real Estate Board indicates total MLS sales and average prices during the month in the city are elevated from last year.

From November 1-29, there have been 1,390 total MLS sales, up 6.92 per cent compared with the same period a year ago and the average sale price has risen by 4.90 per cent to $433,590.

Every housing category in the city has seen strength in numbers this month.

In single-family homes, there have been 960 sales, up 3.56 per cent from last year, with the average sale price moving up by 3.93 per cent to $488,155.

The condo apartment category has experienced 245 transactions, an increase of 6.52 per cent, while the average price has risen by 22.14 per cent to $309,235.

In the condo townhouse sector, the average sale price has jumped by 3.15 per cent to $315,126 and sales are up 29.37 per cent to 185 transactions.

On Friday, the Conference Board of Canada released its regular monthly resale housing market report of major centres across Canada and it said the average year-over-year price growth for the latest three months in Calgary is between three to 4.9 per cent.

In October, the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales in the Calgary census metropolitan area was 27,312, up 22 per cent year-over-year while new listings of 39,864 were down 8.4 per cent.

The average residential sale price of $423,468 was up 5.5 per cent from last year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

LIGHTS AT THE ZOO!



Witness 1.5 million Christmas lights in their most glorious state at the Calgary Zoo.

Voted Best Christmas Event 2011 by Calgary’s Child Magazine’s Parents’ Choice Awards.

Calgary’s Favourite Holiday tradition is back, and this year we are adding even more light displays, figures and activities for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

November 23 — January 5
(excluding Christmas Day
and New Year's Eve)

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm nightly
gates close at 8:30 pm
North Gate Only

$10 General (16 +) + gst (includes parking)
$7 children (3-15) + gst
Under 2 years are free

Group Rates – Please contact the Calgary Zoo’s Guest Relations office for information on group rates. 403-232-9300

Calgary Co-op locations will stop selling Zoolights tickets as of January 5, 2012. Tickets will be available through the Calgary Zoo website or at the north gate.

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, warm up by a fire pit and take in 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.

Come experience Calgary’s favourite holiday tradition.

There are more then 1.5 million 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 Water Wonderland Kids Zone!

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

•The Country 105 Wishing Tree - enter to have a wish you’ve made for yourself or someone you love granted!

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

•Enjoy the plethora of new light figures and exhibits created for your enjoyment

•Don’t forget your non-perishable food bank donation. Collection bins will be placed at the North Gate entrance to the Zoo and you’ll receive a 2for1 admission ticket to the Zoo.

SOTHEBY'S EXPANSION


Luxury realtor Sotheby’s to expand into Canmore, Banff
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 22, 2012

CALGARY — Sotheby’s International Realty Canada is expanding its luxury real estate brand to other parts of Alberta, the Herald has learned.

Ross McCredie, president and chief executive of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, said the Calgary office, which opened in June of last year, has been a smashing success and now the firm has plans to expand its presence in the market.

“That office is performing incredibly well ... Right now we have about 30 people. We probably won’t add much more to the Calgary operation,” said McCredie.

“We are going to be opening very shortly in Canmore and we’ll have a marketing/gallery office in Banff opening very shortly as well. We are currently in discussion with a number of people in Edmonton and we’re actively looking for locations in Edmonton right now.”

The company is targeting some time in 2013 for the opening of an Edmonton office.

The luxury home market in Calgary has been booming with no signs of letting up.

The city experienced a record-breaking month in October with 51 MLS sales of properties over $1 million in Calgary, which was the most ever for an October, and that pushed year-to-date sales in the luxury market to 459, one more than previous record set in 2007 for the entire year.

Last year, there were 35 luxury home sales in October and year-to-date in 2011 there were 395 sales in the luxury market up to the end of October.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, the following are the highest sales for luxury homes outside of this year: 2007 — 458; 2011 — 446; 2008 — 369; and 2010 — 365.

“Talk of fiscal cliffs and budget deficits has done nothing to curb Calgarian’s appetite for luxury homes with sales still going strong in November,” according to Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty, on his blog.

“Between November 1-20, there have been 29 single family homes sold in Calgary for a million dollars or more. That’s on pace to set a record high for the month of November, after already setting an October high last month and a total record high earlier this year in May.”

Recently, it was announced that 360 VOX Corporation has acquired the real estate businesses known as Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec and Blueprint Global Marketing.

“It really elevates our platform,” said McCredie of the merger.

360 VOX is a publicly-traded company, incorporated under the laws of Ontario and listed on the TSX Venture Exchange. It is engaged in the business of managing and developing international hotel, resort, residential and commercial real estate projects.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

WHEN TO SELL, UP-SIZE, MOVE ON.


When is it time to give up the family home?
By Garry Marr
Financial Post Nov 17, 2012

It’s a conversation certified financial planner Lise Andreana usually saves for last.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake CFP, who counts a large number of Baby Boomers among her clients, says plans for the family home are one of the more difficult subjects to address.

“It’s something that comes up all the time,” says Ms. Andreana, adding clients have to make the decision sometimes for financial reasons and other times for health considerations. “It’s a piece I leave until the last. I start with ‘sell the house never’ as a default position.”

Most people want to hold onto their home into retirement. The latest data from 2012 Census from Statistics Canada shows only about 2.6% of the population 65 and over was living in residences for senior citizens — about 72.3% of them women.

Living longer and working longer has people staying in their homes and, in some cases, even up-sizing by taking on more debt, says one real estate executive.

The evidence from StatsCan shows that in 2011, 66.5% of men aged 65 to 69 lived in a single-detached house compared with 60.4% for women. Once you get to 85, just 44.3% of men live in a single-detached house and 30.9% of women.

It’s clear the older we get the more likely we are to abandon the family home with the difficult decision being when to do it. A key trigger point is when kids move out of the house and you just don’t need the space.

“Many people move from more expensive areas to [cheaper ones] to save money too,” says Ms. Andreana, who suggests if you are still making mortgage payments into retirement you really need to think about moving because your income is gone.

The problem is adult children are moving back home like never before, forcing many Baby Boomers to keep that extra large house just in case their kids need a soft landing. StatsCan said about 42% of young adults 20-29 lived with their folks in 2011, a huge jump from 32.1% in 1991 and 26.9% in 1981.

That could be a reason to actually downsize, so your kids can’t move in. “I actually did that with my kids,” says Ms. Andreana, with a laugh. “I sold my three-bedroom house and bought a townhouse and said ‘guess what, your bedroom is gone. There is no where for you to go.”

Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics, said Baby Boomers probably worry about their kids, but also the economic climate, which could keep them in the house longer. “It’s uncertain times,” says Mr. Norris. “But there comes a time where you do make that choice and it’s often driven by lifestyle.”

Mr. Norris says a new trend developing is downsizing to condominiums, but doing it by moving to the suburbs so Baby Boomers can be close to grandchildren. Condo growth in Toronto’s suburbs has actually been faster than downtown, even if the overall number of units pales in comparison. But in many Canadian cities high-rise development outside the urban core is negligible.

“You see a lot of care giving of grandkids being done by grandparents today and they want to be close to them,” he says.

In some cases those Boomers are actually taking on more debt so they can get into a larger home later in life.

“It is surprising to most people that instead of downsizing they are setting new standards for retirement living,” said Gurinder Sandhu, managing director of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “There is a significant number of them upgrading and actually assuming greater mortgages. It’s so unlike previous generations.”

It could have something to do with the housing boom. Surveys continually point to people believing their homes are a key part of their retirement package. If you believe that, leveraging a good investment can make sense.

The bottom line is Baby Boomers seem destined to stay in their homes as long as they can, says Fred Vettese, chief actuary of Morneau Shepell. “The vast majority (nine out of 10) of middle- to upper-income Canadians own their home at the point of retirement and almost all of them stay in their homes beyond retirement,” he says. “The slight percentage drop in ownership among those who are 70-plus probably reflects the portion of them who are 80-plus who move to retirement homes or move in with their children.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MOMENTUM IN 13



Strong momentum forecast for Calgary housing market into 2013
RE/MAX report says Calgary sales to continue strong
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 14, 2012

CALGARY — Calgary’s housing market is forecast to remain strong in 2013 following increased sales activity this year, according to real estate firm RE/MAX.

In its Housing Market Outlook 2013, released Wednesday, the company said MLS sales in Calgary are expected to finish this year at 25,500 transactions, up 13.5 per cent from the previous year and the forecast is for sales to grow by another 10 per cent in 2013 to 28,100.

Meanwhile, the average MLS sales price this year is estimated to increase by 2.5 per cent to $413,000 and rise by another two per cent in 2013 to $423,000.

“Calgary is expected to head into 2013 with a level of momentum not seen in years. Solid economic performance and strong consumer confidence are forecast to propel the residential housing market forward,” said RE/MAX.

It said Canadian real estate markets demonstrated remarkable resilience in 2012 — with home sales up or on par in 65 per cent of major centres — despite considerable headwinds in terms of tighter financing and economic uncertainty abroad. The trend is expected to continue, with homebuying activity propped-up by low interest rates and an improved economic picture in 2013, according to the report.

Nationally, an estimated 454,000 homes will change hands in 2012, falling one per cent short of the 2011 level of 456,749. Canadian home sales are expected to almost mirror the 2012 performance next year, holding steady at 454,000 units. The average price of a Canadian home is expected to remain stable at $364,000 in 2012 — on par with the figure reported in 2011. Values are expected to appreciate nominally in 2013, rising to $366,500, one per cent above year-end 2012 levels.

“Looking forward, there are a number of factors on the horizon that will serve to bolster residential activity in 2013,” said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president for RE/MAX of Western Canada. “Canada’s economic performance is expected to show signs of improvement, particularly in the latter half of the year, which should bode well for housing markets across the country. Historically low interest rates will also continue to drive healthy homebuying activity.”

The RE/MAX report said Calgary’s residential real estate market appears poised for growth.

This year’s level of sales activity will be the highest since 2007 when 31,897 sales were recorded.

“Recovery is underway in the city, with some areas reporting greater strength than others,” said the report. “Calgary’s inner core has been particularly robust, in large part due to the proximity to the downtown. Activity surged this spring in neighbourhoods such as Killarney, Hillhurst, Marda Loop, Mount Royal, and the Foothills, pushing up values to heights not seen in recent years.

“Peripheral areas also experienced stronger demand, but price increases were less pronounced. By mid-year, however, purchasers had settled into a more normal buying pattern. Balanced market conditions emerged, with first-time buyers working in tandem with moveup purchasers.”

The report said single-family homes were most sought after, especially under the $450,000 price point, where 67.5 per cent of overall residential sales occurred.

Condos represented about 16 per cent of total residential sales in the city.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TOP MARKETS


Calgary and Edmonton displace Toronto and Vancouver as top real estate markets
Limited supply in Calgary pushes rents higher
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald November 6, 2012

CALGARY — Calgary and Edmonton have displaced Toronto and Vancouver as the top-ranked cities for overall real estate prospects, according to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013 report released Tuesday.

The report, by PwC and the Urban Land Institute, said the Canadian real estate market is expected to remain steady with “modestly good” investment and development prospects across most property sectors for 2013, reflecting expectations of solid supply and demand.

Calgary was the top-ranked city in the country followed by Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa.

In this year’s survey, Calgary ranked first in both investment and development prospects and second in homebuilding prospects.

“Growth characterizes Calgary’s future; it displaces Toronto as the top ranked city for 2013,” said the report. “This has made it challenging to acquire high quality real estate in Calgary, absorption of prime properties has reached record levels, and rents are being pushed due to limited supply.

“This trend will continue in 2013, especially in office and industrial employment space. Construction will increase in the housing and non-residential arenas, but nowhere near pre-crisis levels.”

According to survey participants, Canada’s real estate market will follow along in a seeming state of near-perpetual equilibrium compared with other more volatile regions studied in the report, including most obviously the United States.

“The results of this year’s Emerging Trends report reflects the fact that the Canadian real estate community understands real estate fundamentals and knows how to react to fluctuations in monetary policy and capital markets. Canada’s real estate industry continues to operate well despite uncertainties in domestic and global economies,” said Lori-Ann Beausoleil, PwC Canada’s Real Estate Leader.

The report said Calgary’s expanding economy is requiring a larger and more highly-skilled workforce. Employment forecasts indicate growth of 2.8 per cent next year and 2.9 per cent in 2014.

“This growth, driven mostly by the oil and gas industry, has made it challenging to acquire high-quality real estate in this market,” said the report.

“Absorption of prime properties has reached record levels and rents are continuing to be pushed due to limited supply.”

The report said potential approvals of controversial pipeline projects to the United States and into British Columbia would boost real estate construction projects further in Calgary.

The strength of Calgary’s real estate market is evident in both the residential and non-residential sectors.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, year-to-date as of Monday, total MLS sales in the city of 18,905 are up 15.56 per cent from the same period last year.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is forecasting total housing starts in the Calgary census metropolitan area to finish at 12,400 units this year, an increase of more than 33 per cent from 2011 and the highest level since 2007.

RealNet Canada recently said Calgary has experienced the second best ever year for commercial real estate transactions for the first nine months of the year with $3.394 billion in sales so far this year.

And a recent report by Jones Lang LaSalle suggested a downtown office development boom in Calgary could be on the horizon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

ON WITH THE SNOW


Bylaws related to snow and ice

Overview of snow and ice removal regulations

•Owners/occupants are responsible for the complete removal of snow and ice from all City pathways and sidewalks, adjacent to the front or side of their property, within 24 hours after the snow stops falling.

•Snow and ice must be removed from a City pathway or sidewalk that runs parallel to and directly adjacent to a street, even if it is separated by a boulevard.

•All snow and ice must be removed down to the bare surface of the sidewalk or pathway.

•If you own a rental property you are ultimately responsible for ensuring the sidewalks and pathways are cleared.

• For the purpose of this bylaw, a sidewalk is that part of a street set aside specifically for pedestrian use, whereas a pathway is a multi-purpose thoroughfare for use by pedestrians, cyclists and persons using wheeled conveyances.

•The owner or occupant of land adjacent to a sidewalk must remove all snow and ice, whereas those adjacent to a pathway must remove snow and ice for a minimum width of 1.5 meters from the side of the pathway closest to their property.

•Snow or ice from private property cannot be placed on a road or boulevard.

•If you receive a Warning Notice for failure to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or pathway and do not remove it within 24 hours. The City of Calgary work force will be instructed to carry out the work and the cost will be invoiced to the property owner. Failure to pay this will result in the cost being added to the property taxes.

Helpful hints

•If the ice cannot be removed, a free sand/salt mixture is available for pick up at most fire halls and Roads depots. Please bring your own container.   Source: City of Calgary

MAKING PARKS A PRIORITY


Milke: Cities thrive when parks are a priority, not megaprojects
By Mark Milke
Calgary Herald October 26, 2012

Mayors and councillors across North America regularly spend taxpayer cash trying to revitalize neighbourhoods or entire cities. They often do so in expensive and ineffective ways: grand schemes that wipe away existing neighbourhoods or street markets, only to be replaced with massive convention centres (mostly unused by locals), or costly new arenas for professional sports teams.

Such attempts are almost always costly and misallocate tax money; they rarely revitalize cities to the extent advertised by proponents. After all, when is the last time you grabbed a coffee and went for a walk around the edge of a hockey, basketball or football stadium? Most people prefer to hoof it around a lake, along a river, by the ocean, or in local parks and on pedestrian-friendly streets with cafes and shops.

Too often, such tax-financed developments just create mammoth parking lots surrounded by mostly dead zones once some three-hour game or daylong convention is over.

Politicians thus too often forget the tried-and-true basics for livable and attractive cities: keep the streets safe, collect the garbage, ensure the taps pump out clean water, that good schools exist and that playgrounds and parks are tidy and desirable.

They also occasionally ignore the importance of not overtaxing their citizens or discouraging business, also critical for a city’s health. Every city, ultimately, has a commercial basis: people need to first make a living, and only afterward can they (and their governments) spend money on the niceties. Discourage the first and you get less of the second.

If all of the above seems obvious, the reality is that desirable urban features can be foregone in the pursuit of civic megaprojects; they can also be crowded out by too-powerful city unions that unreasonably divert tax dollars from pleasant amenities for all to above-market compensation for the few.

But some recent stories, in Edmonton, and in New York City, where Central Park just received a $100-million gift, should give city lovers the hope that a refocus on the basics of city life is possible.

In Edmonton, city council turned down Edmonton Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz’s demand for another $6 million a year in taxpayer subsidies, this for a proposed new half-billion-dollar NHL arena. (The demand was on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in previously promised taxpayer funding.)

If Edmonton’s refusal torpedoes a taxpayer-financed rink, great; maybe that will allow everyone to concentrate on what can actually revitalize a neighbourhood.

It doesn’t take an urban development specialist to figure out what can attract people to a neighbourhood, including a willingness to pay top dollar for nearby real estate: beautiful urban parks. Think Stanley Park in Vancouver, Mount Royal in Montreal, the relatively new Millennium Park in Chicago, or one of the world’s premier urban parks, Central Park in New York City.

Recall New York and Central Park in particular. In the 1970s, New York was an overtaxed, crime-ridden, in-hock-to-government unions, falling-apart metropolis. Central Park, a magnificent late 19th century creation, was dilapidated in part because of misplaced political priorities.

New York was a classic example of what happens when those in charge of cities forget what makes them desirable for citizens.

Space doesn’t permit detail on all the reforms enacted in New York, most of which started with the election of Rudolph Giuliani as mayor in 1993. Here’s a snapshot: a crackdown on petty crime, reform of civic spending, making the city more business friendly and less corrupt, and a reduction in taxes.

One pre-Giuliani reform was the restoration of Central Park. The genesis for that began in 1980, when a group of New Yorkers formed the Central Park Conservancy. Shortly thereafter, the conservancy, a charitable foundation, took over management of the park in a public-private partnership with the city.

As an example of what can happen when private citizens drive reform, consider that since 1980, $600 million has been raised for restoring Central Park to its former glory; $470 million of that came from private sources (with the recent $100-million gift a nice top up). At present, the park’s annual operating budget is $46 million, with 85 per cent financed out of conservancy funds. Central Park is again magnificent. That’s because it’s not run as part of a big-city bureaucracy, part of the problem pre-1980.

When local politicians ignore street-level concerns, or wrongly focus on what doesn’t work (megaprojects), or engage in sweetheart deals with civic unions at the expense of more efficient services or needed capital expenditures, the result is a less-than-attractive city. That was a lesson New York learned the hard way.

More positively, when politicians and citizens focus on improving the amenities citizens need and use every day, parks being the best example, a city can thrive as a pleasant and desirable metropolis.

Photo By: surrealplaces

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HAUNTED HOUSES FOR SALE


Top 10 haunted houses for sale

If you've ever wanted to live in a haunted house (and who hasn't, since that always works out so well in the movies), now's your chance! Toptenrealestatedeals.com has released their annual October list of the ten most haunted homes you can actually buy, so you can hide the gruesome truth of the home's history from your spouse and ignore the creepy new imaginary friend your child insists is real!

Constructed in 1895 for the president of Remington Arms and Typewriter Company (the real money used to be in typewriters), this four-floor Thousand Islands Mansion has slowly become a gutted, haunted terrordome. Uninhabited for over 60 years, save for the ghosts that no doubt prefer it that way, this evil abode can be yours for a mere $495,000. That's a steal, especially since it comes with a bunch of free evil spirits! The villa sits on a 6.9-acre island. There are probably ghosts in the water.

Amsterdam Castle was built without ghosts in 1894 as a National Guard Armoury and has quite the history. John F. Kennedy gave a speech there in 1960, and it's used been as a set for PBS movie American General and ABC's Wife Swap. Now it's an uninhabited castle, so logic says it's haunted like nobody's business because all castles are, but if there's any lingering doubt it's a big concrete hellscape, it's also across the Erie Canal from a cemetery. Amster-damned Castle is more like it. Nearby Widow Susan Road is named for the figure of a woman in a white nightgown (presumably named Susan) seen walking the area, looking for her husband's grave. If she's at all thorough, she's eventually going to look inside the castle.

Built in 1893 in New Jersey (and that's not even the worst part!) Blairsden is definitely haunted. First of all, it's called Blairsden, which just sounds haunted. Second of all, the 62,000 square foot mansion was sold to the Sisters of St. John the Baptist in 1950 and, according to legend, the Mother Superior and her 25 sisters switched sides shortly thereafter. That's right: this is the former home of A CONVENT OF DEVIL-WORSHIPPING NUNS. So the legend goes: one night, newfound Satan fan Mother Superior went crazy and killed everyone in the house. She also drowned the children in the nearby lake. Vengeful nun spirits and demon ghost kids? And they're only asking $4.9 million for the place? What a steal.

The Buxton Inn is Ohio’s oldest continually running bed and breakfast, which is impressive, since it's just crammed full of ghosts and none of them pay for their rooms. This 200 year-old, nearly 30,000 square-foot property features 10 total buildings, six fountains, and one lady in blue said to stalk the properties trying to find her disembodied feet. It's tough because the feet are also said to stalk the property and they're faster than she is, because she doesn't have feet. Still interested? It will only set you back $3.9 million. And your feet.
If you're such a diehard Disney fan that you just have to own their Haunted Mansion, contractor Mark Hurt built a replica in Georgia, and it can be yours for only $873,000. The bathroom lights are programmed to flicker, the faucet plays creepy music, and it even has that mirror with the ghost in it. Now, you might chuckle, since it's just a copy of a haunted house so it can't possibly be haunted for real, but keep in mind that this is exactly what someone would do moments before being disemboweled by an actual ghost.

Because it's always a good idea to buy the home locals call "the spook house", you should definitely buy this 150-year-old farmhouse in Olson, New York. There are said to be 12 malicious ghosts roaming the property, including a demon-possessed teenager, a young woman who committed suicide, a priest, a psychic and paranormal expert who all attempted to solve the ghost problem but instead died and became part of it, and an obsessive compulsive ghost that enjoys playing Jenga with the brick chimney. There's also a trouble-making spirit that relishes taking control of visitors' cars and crashing them into trees, which is probably infuriating since most auto insurance companies don't cover ghost possession. The real estate agents are only asking $289,000 for the house, but you could probably low-ball them because of all the murders and the lack of kitchen space.
The Maplecroft Estate doesn't seem to generate a lot of interest, perhaps because it's the former residence of axe murderer Lizzie Borden. Real estate agents have hacked and chopped the price multiple times and now it can be yours for just $650,000. Before you put in an offer, however, you should know that Borden's funeral was also held in the house, so it's basically 100% fact that her ghost is in it. None of her stuff has been moved either, so it's all-but assured that you'll be axe murdered the moment you try to update the wall art.
It's the Ma Barker gangster house! This is the home in which famous gangsters Kate "Ma" Barker and her son Fred lost their lives in the longest shootout in FBI history on January 16, 1935. All the bullet holes and blood have been cleaned up, but you just know the mess reappears every full moon. And, while their bodies were removed from the house and put on public display, the mother and son are said to remain, obviously. If you're into sharing a home with a family of violent, vengeful gangster spirits with an affinity for defending their home from unwelcome intruders, this place is definitely your joint. You'll love nearby Lake Weir, right up until you're shot by a ghost.

For just $799,000, you could own this -- wait for it -- ABANDONED MILITARY HOSPITAL. It goes without saying that a lot of dead marines haunt the place. But it has an iron spiral staircase and that's tough to pass up. It's also tough to walk up, you know, because it's packed full of ghosts.


Designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, this 'Mayan Revival' styled home was the scene of the Black Dahlia murder. You read that right: decorated with artifacts that definitely came with evil spirits and the scene of an unsolved murder. The only thing this home is lacking: a good night's sleep for the sucker that buys it. Enjoy your Mayan death house.

OPENING UP!


How to view an open house like a real estate pro
By: Jill Krasny
Business Insider Oct 9, 2012

As the housing market slowly improves, more consumers are finding themselves in the market for a new home, or at least one worth dreaming about.

One place they start their search is an open house tour, though they can forget these are helpful for more than just checking out the kitchen’s color scheme.

Open houses are a smart way to gauge whether a listing’s catching heat and if it’s worth seeing again in a private showing.

“If you’re just getting started with the process, an open house tour is like a get-out-of-jail-free card,” says Zillow.com real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. “It’s free, you can go because there aren’t restrictions and it’s a great way to learn the market.”

To his mind, the primary thing home shoppers overlook tends to be the most obvious: the crowd. Observing other shoppers is key, he says, as that’s the best way to gauge the market’s response to the home.

“If you like the house, watch the people. Is it packed? Are they hovering around the agent?,” he says. If so and if they’re asking pointed questions as well, you can bet that there’s serious interest and the listing is going to go fast.

Another strategy is to observe the agent, he adds.

“If you go to a house and you like it but no one’s there, maybe there are issues there,” says DeSimone. “You should watch the listing agent’s reactions because he wants to see the response to the house and how crowded it is.”

But don’t miss the opportunity to make small talk with the seller.

“You should ask why he’s selling, nothing rude, just what’s the story,” DeSimone says. “What’s their motivation to sell?” That should give you a feel for the pricing and whether the listing is gathering dust.

Questions like, how many days has the home been on the market?, or Have you lived here for a long time? should get the conversation going. Perhaps there’s a looming job transfer, or the seller is just moving down the street.

“If they’re not motivated you won’t want to waste your time,” says DeSimone. But at least you’ll know where they stand.

Monday, October 15, 2012

GEARING UP FOR THE COLD


10 ways to winterize your home — now
You'll get a season's worth of savings and peace of mind by taking a few steps in the fall to get your home ready for cold weather.
By Christopher Solomon 
MSN Real Estate

So you've pulled your sweaters out of mothballs and found your mittens at the bottom of the coat closet. But what about your house -- is it prepared for the cold months ahead?

You'll be a lot less comfortable in the coming months if you haven't girded Home Sweet Home for Old Man Winter.

With the help of several experts, we've boiled down your autumn to-do list to 10 easy tips:

1. Clean those gutters

Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home's gutters -- by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse -- so that winter's rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house, the Insurance Information Institute says.

As you're hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house's foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.

"The rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house," says Michael Broili, the director of the Well Home Program for the Phinney Neighborhood Association, a nationally recognized neighborhood group in Seattle.

2. Block those leaks

One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.

Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, says Danny Lipford, host of the nationally syndicated TV show "Today's Homeowner." Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home's outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. "Even if it's a small crack, it's worth sealing up," Lipford says. "It also discourages any insects from entering your home."

3. Insulate yourself

"Another thing that does cost a little money -- but boy, you do get the money back quick -- is adding insulation to the existing insulation in the attic," says Lipford. "Regardless of the climate conditions you live in, in the (U.S.) you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic."

Don't clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. Here's Lipford's rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: "If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don't have enough, because a ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches."

A related tip: If you're layering insulation atop other insulation, don't use the kind that has "kraft face" finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier, Lipford explains, and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation.

4. Check the furnace

First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it's even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.

It's a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125. An inspector should do the following, among other things:

Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters; reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.

5. Get your ducts in a row

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.)

Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn't stand up to the job over time).

Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.

6. Face your windows

Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows. But if you don't have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or drafty, "They need to be updated to a more efficient window," says Lipford.

Of course, windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Lipford and Broili recommend. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) "It's temporary and it's not pretty, but it's inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it's extremely effective," says Lipford.

7. Don't forget the chimney

Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because "chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed," says Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

That said, don't put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, Eldridge advises. "A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year," says Eldridge. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year, he adds. "I've seen tennis balls and ducks in chimneys," he says.

Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney, Eldridge says. "Most certified chimney sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep," he adds.

Woodstoves are a different beast, however, cautions Eldridge. They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, "anywhere that it's found." Why? "If it's ash, then it's primarily lye -- the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it's very acidic." It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot, Eldridge says.

Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen, advises Eldridge. "It's probably the single easiest protection" because it keeps out foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the ash and eat away at the fireplace's walls. He advises buying based on durability, not appearance.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney's damper closed when the fireplace isn't in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn't in use.

8. Reverse that fan

"Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don't often think of," says Lipford. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here's how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise, says Lipford.)

9. Wrap those pipes

A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained, says Broili. In climes such as Portland, Ore., or Seattle, where freezing nights aren't commonplace, you can install Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots, says Broili.

Next, go looking for other pipes that aren't insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces -- pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you're really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.

10. Finally, check those alarms

This is a great time to check the operation -- and change the batteries -- on your home's smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them -- older ones in particular -- with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the "test" button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

Photo By: ManfromSun

BEST IN SHOW


Calgary year-over-year housing sales growth best in Canada
Near 15% hike in MLS transactions
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald October 15, 2012

CALGARY — While most of Canada’s major centres recorded year-over-year MLS sales declines in September, Calgary went against the tide with the highest annual growth rate in the country.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, MLS sales in Calgary rose by 14.8 per cent from September 2011 to 2,054 transactions.

In contrast, sales across the country fell by 15.1 per cent to 32,192.

But the average MLS sale price in Calgary dipped by 0.9 per cent in September to $402,756.

Nationally, the average price rose by 1.1 per cent to $355,777.

CREA said Monday that more than half of all local markets in the country posted sales declines of at least 10 per cent on an annual basis.

“New mortgage rules continue to keep a lid on national sales activity,” said Wayne Moen, CREA’s president.

The organization’s chief economist, Gregory Klump, said national activity is likely to remain down from year-ago levels over the fourth quarter of this year.

“In the shadow of the latest mortgage rule changes, activity has ratcheted down from higher levels seen during the fourth quarter last year,” he said. “While some first-time homebuyers may no longer qualify for mortgage financing under the new rules, it is likely that many others are stepping back and reassessing how much house they can realistically afford, which is one of the things new mortgage rules were designed to do.”

In Alberta, MLS sales rose by 7.7 per cent from last year to 4,714 while the average price increased slightly by 0.2 per cent to $355,127.

“While the 15 per cent year-over-year drop in sales suggests Canadian housing is making like Felix Baumgartner, falling past the speed of sound, the details are not nearly as weak, and still suggest that the housing market is simply gliding to a lower altitude,” said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.

On Monday, CREA also released its MLS Home Price Index. The national index rose 3.9 per cent year-over-year in September. This was the fifth time in as many months that the annual gain shrank and marks the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.

Regina led the country with a 14.2 per cent hike followed by Calgary at 6.5 per cent.

CALGARY DREAMIN'


Why Calgary is an entrepreneur’s dream
By: Jameson Berkow
Financial Post Oct 14, 2012

CALGARY — Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, thinks he knows why his city’s entrepreneurial culture is becoming so robust, despite the cold winters Calgarians endure.

“The line I usually use when people ask me why Calgary has fostered such an entrepreneurial culture is this is a place where nobody cares who your daddy is or where you went to school. I say it so often that it sounds a bit trite, but I don’t think it is true everywhere,” he said, gazing briefly at the September sunshine bathing his private city hall veranda to reflect on his answer before continuing.

“It is also a very interesting and weird unintended consequence of the way our downtown has been built,” he adds, referring to Calgary’s Plus-15 network of elevated walkways connecting the city’s skyscrapers.

The walkways allow office dwellers to attend meetings in other buildings without having to brave the city’s bitter prairie winters. “Our built environment has actually in some ways molded our business culture,” Mr. Nenshi said.

Calgary’s entrepreneurial culture is even easier to spot than the hundreds of steel and glass connections crisscrossing the city’s core. It hits new Calgarians like myself almost instantly; that infectious feeling of limitless raw potential, of broken barriers to success and endless possibilities.

This is a city of risk takers, of dreamers and of visionary builders. All of these enviable traits have, however, been relatively unknown in the rest of Canada, until now.

In a survey by Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses for the Financial Post, Calgary ranked as the 13th most entrepreneurial city in Canada this year. Not exactly a statistic to brag about, although it is a dramatic jump from No. 35 last year.

“The story on Calgary is getting out,” said Mike Fotheringham, research manager at Calgary Economic Development. “People across the country are starting to understand what is going on in this city.”

Bankruptcy rates here are among the lowest in the country at just 1%, and have fallen every year since 2002. Retail sales growth also tends to be more than double the national average of 3%, reflecting Calgary’s growing affluence.

“There is a sense that if you’ve got an idea, this is the place to make it happen and I think the stats reveal exactly that,” Mr. Fotheringham said.

What the statistics do not reveal is another sense, of the opportunities here being as rich and thick as the bitumen that powers Calgary’s massive oil towers. The sense is not only that such opportunities exist, but that achieving even the loftiest of them can be done without the vast support networks required elsewhere.

One of the largest buyout deals in Canadian corporate history — the $19-billion Suncor Energy Inc. takeover of Petro-Canada — was struck by four men sitting in a small conference room in a posh downtown hotel.

“Other steps in the acquisition had to be taken, but things were essentially wrapped up in that meeting in the Palliser, working out the details with no lawyers, accountants, advisors or second guessers anywhere in sight,” Rick George, longtime Suncor chief executive, wrote in his newly released memoir Sun Rise. “I honestly don’t believe an agreement of this magnitude could have proceeded as it did … in any other city. The city of Calgary has a tradition of openness and trust, placing as much value on a handshake as on any multi-page contract.”

That tradition extends well beyond the gargantuan oil and gas players. When Victoria MacLean co-founded Startup Calgary a little more than two years ago, she counted 45 small technology-focused companies in the city. Her latest count totaled 162.

“The people here get great exposure to big data, to enterprise-level data, so they can really start to see and identify solutions for big problems here,” said the outgoing president of Startup Calgary.

Ms. MacLean is leaving to focus full time on BeauCoo, her latest startup which seeks to build a social network for women of similar body types to share style and shopping information. The company raised a $1.1-million seed funding round from Calgary-based Zinc Ventures last month and plans to launch its mobile app in a few days.

Ms. MacLean considers herself lucky, because early-stage funding is still an issue for Calgary startups with most of North America still standing between them and Toronto, where most of the country’s sources of venture capital and angel investors remain.

“Entrepreneurs will always complain about a lack of angel investors because that is just a translation of ‘nobody likes my idea,’ ” said Mayor Nenshi, who was a business professor at Mount Royal University before entering politics. “The real issue is the second and third rounds of financing.”

That has long been the issue for startups nationwide and remains one of the primary reasons why many Canadian small businesses end up being acquired by larger foreign entities before they reach their full potential. Yet it is precisely that constant struggle for recognition — and the cash that comes with it — that helps Calgary entrepreneurs to stand out and pushes them to achieve.

“There is something of an insecurity complex that runs through the city,” said Alex Middleton, chair of TEDxYYC, the local chapter of a global organization famous for hosting world-class discussions in world-class cities. “That allows you to have more of a clean slate here than in other cities. You really can come to Calgary and reinvent yourself in that ‘maverick’ sense.”

Despite its growing stature, Calgary is still not Alberta’s most entrepreneurial major city. Edmonton scored 8th in CFIB’s 2012 rankings of Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities and even in 2011 it was 11, still two spots higher than its southern neighbour’s most recent title.

“Calgary culture-wise is moving towards a big city mentality, whereas in Edmonton you have more of an independent vibe,” said Ken Bautista, co-founder and chief executive of Startup Edmonton. “It isn’t about being a big city though, it is about being a great one.”

Photo By: Portraitsteve

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OIL RICHES


Alberta’s oil riches driving Canada’s economy: BMO
By: Lauren Krugel
Canadian Press Oct 9, 2012

CALGARY — Canada’s economic growth is being driven by resource-rich Western provinces, according to a Bank of Montreal report released Tuesday.

Alberta leads the pack, with the bank predicting 3.5% real GDP growth this year, falling back a bit to 2.9% in 2013.

“The energy sector remains the key driver of economic activity in the province, with crude bitumen production up 16% year-over-year through the first half of the year, and the Energy Resources Conservation Board expecting oil sands output to more than double by 2021,” said economist Robert Kavcic.

The energy sector’s strength has attracted workers from elsewhere in Canada to Alberta, which has the country’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.4%.

But BMO Kavcic says the industry faces some risk.

“Cost pressures could again pick up, though oil sands operations are generally viewed as economical at prices above US$80 (per barrel),” he said.

“Also, wrangling over new pipeline capacity continues.”

Production from the Bakken, a massive oil deposit that stretches through parts of Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, is filling up existing pipelines and causing Canadian producers to get a lower price for the heavy crude they produce.


“Estimates suggest that production in Western Canada could be negatively impacted by 2015/16 if there is not enough new pipeline capacity put in place.”

BMO says Canada’s overall real GDP growth is expected to be 2.2% in 2012, with the Western provinces all topping that rate.

Saskatchewan, where oil and gas extraction and potash and uranium mining are big economic drivers, is expected to see growth of 3.1% this year.

For British Columbia, it sees real GDP growth of 2.5% and for Manitoba, growth of 2.6%.

Further east it’s a different story. BMO sees Ontario posting growth of two per cent and the economies of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces growing at less than two per cent in 2012.

The report says fiscal restraint, the high loonie and sluggish U.S. demand are putting a damper on growth in Central Canada.

Kavcic noted some cause for optimism in Ontario’s auto sector.

“Auto producers continue to invest in North America and, despite a strong currency and higher labour costs compared to the southern U.S. and Mexico, Ontario is no exception,” he said.

“Toyota, for example, is expanding production at its Woodstock assembly plant — a project worth about $100-million and 400 jobs. Plus, the CAW and Big Three automakers recently reached new four-year contract agreements. Output in the auto sector was up a solid 20 per cent year-over-year through August.”

Also Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts in its quarterly economic outlook.

The IMF predicts the global economy will expand 3.3% this year, down from the estimate of 3.5% growth it issued in July. Its forecast for growth in 2013 is 3.6%, down from 3.9% three months ago and 4.1% in April.

Photo By: inertiachick

Friday, September 21, 2012

FUEL EXPANSION


Calgary and Edmonton to lead Canadian economic growth
Energy-related investment to fuel expansion
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald September 18, 2012

CALGARY — Calgary and Edmonton are forecast to be the fastest growing economies in Canada over the next four years, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012 released Tuesday.

“Energy-related investment in Alberta is expected to stay vibrant throughout the next four years. For instance, about $29-billion worth of energy-related projects are now underway in the province, and nearly $86-billion worth of projects are proposed for the future,” said Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies, for the board.

“All this investment will continue to be a boon to Calgary’s economy, which remains the services hub of the province’s energy sector.”

The board is forecasting Calgary to have the best economic growth in the country over 2013-2016 at an average of 3.7 per cent followed by Edmonton’s average annual real GDP growth at 3.5 per cent during the forecast period.

For this year, the board is predicting Edmonton will lead the country with 4.6 per cent growth followed by Calgary at 3.8 per cent.

“Without a doubt, I expect that Alberta is going to be the envy of the country moving forward into closing out 2012 and into 2013,” said Ben Brunnen, chief economist with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “While the growth will be the strongest in the country, particularly for our cities, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re in great economic times.

“There are some storm clouds on the horizon. I expect fully we’ll see a recession in Europe. The Chinese economy is slowing substantially. And the U.S. has its election coming forward. What this means is there’s going to be a dampening on economic growth globally and as a consequence it’s going to affect Canada. That said, the investment in the province has been strong to date and should continue to be strong.”

The board said Calgary is coming off a “very strong performance” in 2011 with economic growth at 5.0 per cent. The strong growth expected during the forecast period will be “helped along by strong consumer spending and spinoff benefits from the energy sector.”

Employment growth is forecast for 4.1 per cent this year in Calgary followed by annual growth rates of 1.9 per cent, 2.6 per cent, 2.5 per cent, and 2.1 per cent from 2013 to 2016. And retail sales are forecast to grow by 9.2 per cent this year followed by growth of 6.2 per cent, 5.3 per cent, 5.3 per cent and 4.8 per cent during the forecast period.

Also on Tuesday, a report by TD Economics said Canada will likely experience a shift from household and government-led growth towards exports and investment, but global headwinds appear to have delayed this transition until the first half of 2013.

In the meantime, the report said, the economy will be stuck in neutral and Canada’s economic expansion will be constrained to a pace near two per cent.

“In the first half of 2012, governments constrained their spending while households pared back their rate of borrowing and spent at a miserly pace. While most major housing markets have held up reasonably well, there are signs — most notably in Vancouver — that markets have reached a peak,” said TD Bank Group’s chief economist Craig Alexander. “And in the near term, the slowdown is expected to broaden across the country, following the implementation of tighter rules on insured-mortgage lending this past summer.

“Canada’s economy has turned out a relatively strong performance in recent years, but the growth has not been broadly based and imbalances have amassed. On the plus side, governments and households, which have been pulling Canada’s economy along by the coat-tails for years, have begun to address their debt challenges. Recent changes to mortgage borrowing rules will help to address part of the over-valuation in housing markets. Going forward, it will be equally critical for the economy to transition to more export and investment-led growth.”

Photo By : Bulliver

Thursday, September 20, 2012

FAMILY SIZE & THE CONDO MARKET


Shrinking family sizes bode well for Canada’s condo sector
Garry Marr
Financial Post Sep 19, 2012

Maybe the condo industry knew something revealed to the rest of us only Wednesday — family sizes are shrinking.

Statistics Canada’s census data showed a dramatic increase in one-person households, up 10.4% from 2006 to 2011. For the first-time, more households were comprised of couples without children than with children. Family size also shrunk, with the average number of children dropping from 2.7 in 1961 to 1.9 in 2011.

All of this seems to bode well for a condominium sector which demands its occupants accept smaller quarters than they are historically used to.

“I think the housing stock has already responded,” said Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada. “I think the major cities are the ones that reacted the fastest. There is a movement that has been forced by economics to smaller accommodation.”

Mr. Lawby notes if you’ve made the decision not to have children, as the statistics show some have, that means you are living a very different life and your housing needs are not the same.

“Of course, this all plays into the condo’s hand,” he says. “But there still will be people who desire to have a single family detached home where they are the king of the castle.”

The evidence already points to huge demand for high-rise units, both from buyers who want to live in the units and investors who rent them out. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said it expects 207,200 new housing starts with 123,700 in the multiple-unit category, predominantly made up of condominiums.

And while there are forecasts that the housing market is slowing, the Crown corporation is still predicting 193,100 starts next year with 109,000 coming from the multiple category. Condominium projects in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto have driven the demand, CMHC says.

Brian Johnston, chief operating officer of Mattamy Corp., said the industry has been responding rather than leading. “I think there has been demand for smaller housing,” he said.

All of this might just confirm what the real estate industry has been saying all along — they were just giving the people what they want. “I see these comments that builders are building too many houses — builders don’t create new houses because it’s a good idea, they do it because there is demand,” says Mr. Johnston, noting bank financing requires high pre-sale levels.

Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics, predicts the impact on real estate of the country’s changing demographics is just starting. “Part of the condo boom is driven by Boomers starting to downsize and move into new types of housing,” he said. “[Living in] the single family [home] starts to dwindle after 50.”

Though the impact of the Baby Boomers has yet to be seen, Mr. Norris said they will probably downsize more than their predecessors.

Craig Alexander, chief economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank, says while there definitely is more demand for condo-style living, the overall amount of housing stock being built is still above household formation.

“We can tell from the census numbers that we are building too many houses,” says Mr. Alexander, noting there were 189,000 net new households per year from 2006 to 2011. “Yet when we look at the pace of home construction it has been well over 200,000 and in fact it was 218,000 annualized starts so far in 2012.”

He says you can build past demographic requirements for a short period, perhaps catching up with a previous lag, but it has to stop at some point.

“On the one hand I am concerned about the condo market because when we look at the current pace of construction and compare it to a generally sustainable rate, it’s way too fast but over the long haul there is long-term strong demand for condos,” says Mr. Alexander.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

MARKET CONFIDENCE



Resale condo pace reflects 'confidence'
By Josh Skapin
Calgary Herald September 7, 2012

Total sales of resale condos in Calgary continued to climb in August, rising 19 per cent compared to the same month last year, says the Calgary Real Estate Board.

There were 556 sales of apartments and townhouses last month, up from 468 transactions in August 2011, says the board.

The biggest increase came in townhouses, which saw a 31 per cent hike in resale activity last month compared to the same month last year.

But the average resale price for townhouses in Calgary in August was $281,941, 3.45 per cent lower than the same period last year.

“Some continue to foresee a scenario where price declines are looming in the local housing market, especially given national trends,” says chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie in a news release.

“There is no question economic concerns can threaten our housing recovery. However, to date, Calgary housing market consumers are exhibiting confidence evidenced through the pick-up in sales activity across all housing types.”

While townhouse prices are down, the average resale price of condo apartments was 7.22-per-cent higher last month than in 2011, rising to $281,941 per unit.

The area in Calgary with the highest condo apartment and townhouse resale activity in the city last month was in Zone C, which roughly corresponds to the city’s southwest.

Not only did the area have 288 deals, it also had the highest average resale price at $314,467.

Zone A, which roughly corresponds to the city’s northwest, saw the second highest sales totals and average price.

The average price in Zone A was $294,867 for 155 sales last month.

Zone D, which translates to southeast Calgary, had 66 transactions last month at an average rate of $287,340.

At the same time, Zone B, which covers northeast, Calgary saw 47 units change hands at an average price of $172,234.

DID YOU KNOW?

The biggest increase in condo apartment resale activity in Calgary has come in the $200,000 to $299,999 price range, says the Calgary Real Estate Board.

To Aug.1, 1,132 units in this price range changed hands in Calgary, up from only 949 sales during the same month last year.

The $200,000 to $299,999 price range led all condo sales in the city in August, alone, at 151.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

THE SEVEN BEST


Canada among 7 best housing markets in the world
Mamta Badkar
Business Insider Sep 5, 2012

While much of the world is seeing home prices depreciate, there are a few countries where home prices are on the rise.Canada ranked among Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong in the top 7 housing markets.

Global Property Guide’s latest report shows, however, that even the strongest housing markets are losing momentum as the economy falters.

Of the 39 countries tracked by GPG quarterly house prices fell in 25 countries and climbed in just 13.

We published the worst housing markets Tuesday, and today we’ve highlighted the 7 best housing markets in the world, based on year-over-year home price changes.

Canada ranked among Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong in the top 7.

Home prices in Hong Kong were up 3.01 percent year-over-year (YoY) and 6.85 percent quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) in Q2 2012



Home prices in Canada were up 4.06% YoY and 1.59% QoQ in Q2 2012




Home prices in Switzerland were up 4.86 percent YoY but down 0.54 percent QoQ in Q2 2012


Home prices in Germany were up 5.24 percent YoY but down 2.02 percent QoQ in Q2 2012




Home prices in Delhi, India were up 6.23 percent YoY nut down 1.09 percent QoQ in Q2 2012


Home prices in Norway were up 6.26 percent YoY and up 2.98 percent QoQ in Q2 2012




Home prices in Sao Paulo, Brazil were up 15.56 percent YoY and 2.38 percent QoQ in Q2 2012





Photo By: cityNnature

Friday, August 31, 2012

BATHROOM ORGANIZING



Bathroom organizing tips
By Jennifer Weatherhead
Style At Home
Bathroom organizing ideas that’ll help keep your bathroom clean, tidy and functional.

When it comes to keeping one of the most-used rooms in your home, the beautiful bathroom, clean and functional, it all comes down to getting and keeping your bathroom organized. With so many people in and out of this room, and so many products, towels and small appliances making their way into the bathroom, it can turn into a place of chaos. But with our expert organizing tips from designer Rosemary Carbonara, you can get your bathroom completely organized and be able to easily access everything you need in just a few steps.

Bathroom organizing: Get started with these essentials

Before making sure everything is in its place, you’ll need to invest in a few items to keep things clean. If you’re starting your bathroom from scratch with a renovation or a new home, it’s the ideal time to create some special nooks and built-in organizational options that will make keeping your bathroom tidy much easier. Here are Rosemary’s organizing tips for clean and functional bathroom decor:

-Opt for a soap dispenser rather than tray and a bar of soap to keep the sink area clean.

-If you’re starting from scratch, have your vanity float off the floor so that mopping and cleaning is made easier and dirt does not pile up against the toe kick.

-Install wire shelves in the corner or wall of your shower to keep soaps and shampoos off the shower floor. Or install a niche in your shower that can house showering products if you are adding a new tub or shower.

-Have a medicine cabinet at the back of your mirror to house those small items. If you are starting from scratch, design it to be recessed into the wall with the mirror on front.

-Make use of the space above the toilet with shallow shelves for storage of extra towels, washcloths, etc.

-Have drawers in your cabinetry – always opt for drawers over doors for easy access and visibility of products and small appliances.

Keep products out of sight

Unless you have a beautifully bottled skincare product, soap or scent, the best way to keep you bathroom organized is to keep items off the counter or sink, and stored in cupboards, your linen closet or drawers. Organize your products by need (for example, tooth care products, skincare products, makeup, etc.) and be sure to keep items that you use on a daily basis in the easiest spot to access. Invest in dividers and compartments to help keep drawers sectioned off for specific items.

Keep towels and shower items accessible

Shelving is key when it comes to bathrooms, especially if you are cramped on space and have a small area to work with. Rosemary’s favourite place to make use of is above the toilet.

“Shallow shelves above the toilet are great for storing towels,” she says. If you can’t add shelving above the toilet, Rosemary recommends purchasing a seagrass- or leather hamper-like container with a lid to store towels or items you want to keep out of sight.

And, as mentioned above, shelving in a shower (especially a small stand-up shower) is essential for holding shampoos, conditioners, body wash and loofas. Built-in shelving is ideal, but wire-hanging shelves also fit nicely in showers and tubs.

Make the most of your linen closet

Keeping your linen closet organized is another way to make life easier when it comes to a tidy bathroom. An organized linen closet allows you to store products you don’t use every day in baskets or drawers in a place other than your bathroom. It’s the ideal place for extra towels, cleaning products and small appliances such as curling irons and flat irons. Just make sure you keep it as tidy as your bathroom!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WRESTLING UP A DEAL!


15 tactics to win a real estate bidding war
Business Insider
Aug 22, 2012

Canada’s housing market is slowing, but bidding wars are still common in major markets like Toronto.

And as the U.S. housing market shows signs of recovery, homebuyers are flocking to snap up deals on bargain properties across the country.

That means running into competition is par for the course — and the weakest bids will not survive.

“If you are serious about buying, it becomes a bit of a part time job,” says Zillow.com real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. “This is your home and your only investment.”

We asked DeSimone to clue consumers into how they can make their bids stand out.

Don't wait for the open house

DeSimone is quick to advise clients to see as many houses as possible on weekends––whether or not they're invited.

"With the Internet, information moves so quickly. [Sellers] could do a private showing Wednesday [days before a scheduled open house]" he says. "If it looks good online, go see it."


Check email hourly for listing updates from your broker

"If you're a serious buyer, you make it a priority in your life and you're going to get email alerts from your broker every other hour," he says.

"Be in touch with your agent and know about new properties as they hit the market."

Don't be intimidated by higher bidders

These days, investors and average joes alike are flocking to snatch up deals on homes. Don't let them psych you out, DeSimone says.

"Don’t spend too much energy trying to figure out what’s really going on with the other offers. If you love the property, keep moving forward, but at your own pace. Make the offer you’re comfortable with, and only when you’re comfortable making it."

Make sure your broker is local and well-known

That's because 80 percent of business is done by just 20 percent of brokers. The more respected they are within the community, the better shot they have at wooing listing agents.

"My clients (win) because the listing agent knows me," DeSimone says. "In a competitive situation, working with a known broker will make the listing agent feel better and boost your chances, especially if two offers are close."

Get in the listing agent's good graces

Why? Because the listing agent is the only person who meets all the parties involved in a sale.

"Though the seller ultimately decides and signs a contract, the listing agent has a giant say in who gets the property in a competitive situation," DeSimone says. "If you make a good impression with the listing agent, you are in much better shape. Acting like a jerk to the agent tells the sellers to work with another offer."

Line up an appraisal even before making an offer

Per DeSimone:

"One thing I once did was to have the bank try to get an appraiser lined up and on their calendar before an offer was made. That way, the buyer could tell the seller that the appraisal would happen within x days of signing a contract. If you tell the seller two or three weeks, your offer looks weaker."

Look for the WORST house on the block

It may sound counterintuitive, but you're better off looking at a fixer-upper than going for the McMansion next door. Chances are competition won't be as fierce.

Says DeSimone:

"You can always improve the property and therefore increase its value. And because it’s on a great block, improvements you make to the home will be practically guaranteed to give you a top return on your investment. Just don’t get carried away and turn the worst house on the block into the biggest and most expensive one."

Keep tabs on your mortgage lender and rates

Once you've been pre-approved for a loan, have your mortgage broker or lender write a letter saying as much.

"Even reference the property so that the listing agent knows that the lender/mortgage broker is up to speed," DeSimone says.

Keep an eye on current mortgage rates

"Sometimes the rates drop or increase significantly from the time you first spoke to the lender and the time you write an offer," DeSimone says.

"If rates have decreased, maybe you can afford more. You should know this."

Know your neighbors––and what their homes are worth

Getting to know the neighborhood you're hoping to call home one day goes far beyond scoping out local schools and seeing who prowls the streets at night.

"When you are ready to seriously write offers and compete, you should know what is going on with the local neighborhood market," DeSimone says. "Follow what has recently sold, what was competitive and what was not."

Try bending the rules a little

Per DeSimone:

"One thing I did in the past was with a very serious and motivated buyer. The home was vacant [sellers moved out]. So, we went in with an inspector because the home had a lock box. The buyer did their inspections before writing the offer. This way the buyer could make an offer knowing what the issues were, if any. And, for their offer they could waive their inspections contingency. No inspections means no risk for the seller."

Hire an inspector within two days

"Order the inspection before you write the offer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be two days but your offer should show the seller that you are prepared to move quickly," DeSimone says.

"If you wait two weeks and then the inspector finds something and you walk away, the seller is left out to dry. The seller wants to know this is out of the way quickly."

Use cash to put your bid over the edge

More often than not, most homebuyers simply can't afford to plop down $180,000 in cash on a new home.

But when it comes to sweetening your bid, offering to pay at least the deposit in cash could push you over the edge.

"The more you offer, the better," DeSimone says.

Put your passion into words

Once you've had the chance to get to know the current owners, don't be afraid to appeal to their interests the old-fashioned way.

"I've seen buyers Google the owners and see that they have a love for horses, so they wrote them a letter talking about their love for horses, too," DeSimone says. "Sometimes it'll work [to give you an edge]."

Don't get distracted by what you can't afford

As with any bidding war, it's important to be quick on your feet. People slow themselves down when they don't stick to what they can afford, DeSimone says.

"Know your limits on the high and low end. Knowing this will allow you to act fast," he says, as it'll help your broker weed out properties out of your range.

Photo By: Fabbio