Friday, September 26, 2014


Calgary and Toronto office markets outperform
Calgary has nearly 6 million square feet under construction

CALGARY - Lacklustre job creation continues to impact demand for commercial real estate in Canada, but office markets in Calgary and Toronto are outperforming the rest of the country, according to the CBRE Limited’s National Office and Industrial Third Quarter 2014 Statistical Summary released on Thursday.

The report said tepid job growth has undermined office leasing activity in Canada, but has been unable to stem an historic industrial construction boom.

“The Canadian economy may not be firing on all cylinders, but the Toronto and Calgary office markets turned out quite a performance last quarter,” said John O’Bryan, chairman of CBRE. “It was a bit of a have or have not summer. The standout office markets were exactly that, while other areas were fairly quiet. One assumes that strong office leasing activity in core markets will translate into more widespread office demand in the year ahead.”

The national office vacancy rate dropped for the first time in two years, retreating 10 basis points to 10.3 per cent in the third quarter. Office vacancy had been increasing at a slower pace in recent quarters. Demand for downtown office space in Toronto and Calgary tipped the scale and resulted in a long awaited drop in vacancy, said the report.

Calgary’s overall office vacancy rate of 10.1 per cent fell from 10.6 per cent in the second quarter while in Toronto it dropped from 9.6 per cent to 9.2 per cent. Calgary’s downtown market saw vacancy drop to 9.1 per cent from 10 per cent and Toronto’s downtown market dipped to 5.3 per cent from 6.1 per cent.

In the third quarter, Calgary’s office market had 511,021 square feet of positive absorption and Toronto’s was 712,564 square feet.

Office space currently under construction is 5.6 million square feet in Calgary and 7.1 million square feet in Toronto. Nationally, there is 21.7 million square feet of office space under construction.

Greg Kwong, executive vice-president and regional managing director with CBRE in Calgary, said the drop in vacancy in Calgary is a positive sign but on the negative side the amount of sublet space in the downtown as a percentage of the overall vacancy is at a fairly high level.

For example, in the downtown that percentage was 41.6 per cent in the third quarter, up slightly from 40.4 per cent in the second quarter.

“Any time it’s over 35 per cent of the overall vacancy that means there’s a lot of companies mostly oil and gas that are giving up space. If that continues, that will create negative pressure on the downtown core,” said Kwong. “But overall there seems to be a good sense of optimism. There are deals happening.”

The CBRE report said the Canadian industrial market continues to be characterized by limited availability as tenants remain hungry for industrial space across the country. Demand outweighs supply in most areas, especially for modern distribution facilities.

The overall industrial availability rate fell 10 basis points quarter-over-quarter to 5.3 per cent. In Calgary, it is 4.5 per cent, down from 4.6 per cent in the previous quarter.

There is 4.4 million square feet of industrial space under construction in Calgary and 19.9 million square feet across the country.

“The industrial market is very solid,” said Kwong. “In every size, category or asset class, there’s leasing activity whereas a year ago that was not the case. There was only hot spots in certain size ranges.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Proposed downtown condo project will include apple orchard

Fresh apples will be ripening between two downtown condominium towers as a developer aims to give Calgary a more fruitful and dynamic city centre.

The Orchard on Twelfth is a two-tower project at the southeast corner of 12th Avenue and 5th Street S.E., just northeast of Stampede Park. Lamb Development Corp. of Toronto is planning two 31-storey buildings, which will nestle a one-acre orchard of apple trees between them on a 61,000-square-foot land parcel.

“Not only is this a public and private amenity for the city, but also a true green feature; not a stupid green roof that really in the end doesn’t do much,” said company head Brad Lamb. “It’s a phenomenal thing to have in a city, and it’s going to produce tens of thousands of apples which are going to be eaten.”

The company commissioned an Ipsos Reid survey last month which polled 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Canadians, asking them to guess the location from a digital rendering of the project with its apple orchard. Most Canadians thought the image was in Vancouver or Toronto, placing Calgary seventh out of 13 possibilities; Americans thought of Portland or New York and placed Calgary 12th.

The same poll found that 93 per cent of North Americans — especially younger adults — want greener downtowns, and would welcome projects that delivered food.

“I always try to deliver, if I can, a public amenity that the city will enjoy and the residents will enjoy,” Lamb said, comparing the Orchard on Twelth with another property his corporation is developing, 6th and Tenth, which will include a fountain park. “Our cities aren’t green enough, visually and for taking in C02.”

Richard Cho, senior market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., says the projects are part of an ongoing build up in new Calgary condominiums.

“We had lower inventory and now we see that being made up for,” said Cho. He noted that in last year’s January to June period, construction started for only 1,004 apartments. In the same months this year, the city netted some 4,010 starting units, and Cho says more are anticipated.

Alberta isn’t known for its apple orchards but Lamb said an agricultural firm has chosen tree species that can grow edible fruit in the area. A third party will be paid to prune the trees and harvest the fruit for sale or donation.

But for Lamb, the buildings themselves are more interesting.

“They’re rectangular, simple in design, but they’re super clean and super modern,” he said. “We’re delivering beautiful architecture and affordable apartments; these two buildings are spectacular in their own right.”

Units will range from $249,900 for one-bedroom apartments to over a million dollars for larger units. Lamb says those prices are competitive with Beltline properties. The project will cost $130 million with $170 million in expected revenue, he said.

An older house on the block will be demolished, while buildings on the fifth of the block not owned by Lamb Development will remain in place.

Lamb says his company is currently waiting for a permit, but he expects ground to be broken within the year as no zoning exception is needed. He expects the first phase to open in about three and a half years, followed by the second about five years from now.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Calgary home prices continue to surge
Sustained supply imbalance pushes prices higher

CALGARY - A sustained supply imbalance is pushing residential real estate prices higher, says a new survey released Wednesday by Royal LePage.

The company’s House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast said the Calgary market experienced strong year-over-year price increases in the second quarter of this year across all housing types.

Detached bungalows increased by 9.7 per cent to $501,200 and condominiums rose by 9.3 per cent to $286,422. Standard two-storey homes increased by 7.9 per cent to $489,589.

“Calgary has had a serious inventory shortage dating back to the beginning of 2013, which combined with strong demand from prospective homebuyers is responsible for pushing prices skyward,” said Ted Zaharko, broker and owner of Royal LePage Foothills, in a news release. “We definitely have one of the hottest real estate markets in the country right now and all housing types are performing very well. Properties are being gobbled up as soon as they hit the market.”

But Zaharko said active listings are starting to climb.

“Slowly but surely we are seeing inventory levels creep up, which is needed to satisfy the pent-up demand after a prolonged period of insufficient supply,” he said.

Royal LePage is forecasting home prices in the city to rise by 5.5 per cent over the year compared with 2013.

“Prices are already up approximately 10 per cent year to date, and we expect this to creep up a little bit more before the end of the year,” said Zaharko. “The Calgary market is vibrant and is home to a strong local economy, fueled by the oil and gas industry. We expect the healthy real estate market to continue for the rest of this year and beyond.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Make appliances work for you
Consider needs, preferences when outfitting kitchen

Ever hear the saying the devil is in the details? When it comes to your new condo, that’s certainly true. And if you can properly accessorize, the excitement, rather than the devil, can occupy your details.

Many condo buyers want to make their lives easier. Those who have been renters until now may be happy with whatever appliances are included. Downsizers may also be just as happy with these appliances, as they are new and will mean a fresh start.

But don’t fall into the trap of just assuming that whatever appliances are included will be sufficient. Instead, comb over the model suites with care and consider upgrading appliances that you will use often or get more joy out of using.

Whether you are an aspiring gourmet chef or merely combine cereal and milk in the morning, you likely spend considerable time in your kitchen. So, what will make your kitchen more functional, user-friendly and enjoyable?

Here are a few appliances worthy of consideration, depending on your use of the kitchen.

If you’re a chef, you will want several key appliances. The first is a good hood fan, something that will keep your condo smoke-free but will not be too loud, given that noise is more concentrated over smaller floor plans. Be wary of the microwave-cum-hood fan that sits over your stove and is often featured in model suites. This combo is fine if you don’t cook much but, if you do, you’ll find you will need a real hood fan to absorb smells and steam.

Do you spend more time cooking or baking? Your answer could affect whether an electric or gas oven is best for you. Also, think about the size of the oven. If you like to host big turkey dinners, for instance, get an oven that will hold your bird.

There are many other nifty appliances to consider if you have the space. Would a warming drawer be useful to keep food, dishes and mugs warm for company, or would you end up using it as a storage drawer? Another option is a cup-warming drawer beneath your coffee maker (try Miele’s).

Frequent hosts may also like the idea of a wine fridge or a second dishwasher. No room for two dishwashers? Maybe there is enough for a half dishwasher instead.

A trend I have started noticing is below-counter microwaves to save counter space and streamline the overall look, as well as microwave drawers. Though new and popular, remember that these drawers have to be pushed closed, creating a potential for spills.

Whatever appliances you choose, make sure they represent your living needs. Purchasing appliances for resale or to please others will mean you live with wasted space in limited square footage.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 24 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage.


How to prepare your home for a quick, profitable, summer sale
By Melissa Leong
May 30, 2014

After a brutal winter, the heat has finally arrived and with it, expectations of a hotter real estate market. The flurry of housing activity normally reserved for early spring is extending into the summer, industry experts say.

“The pent up demand from the winter is coming to fruition. As soon as listings come out, they’re being swallowed up,” Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice-president at RE/MAX’s Ontario-Atlantic Canada Division, says.

“For buyers there are more choice and for sellers there are more buyers.”

How you price your home and how you prepare its for sale are key.

“Price trends from one neighbourhood to the next can be very different,” Gregory Klump, chief economist at the Canadian Real Estate Association. “If you price your property too high, there is a chance it’ll sit on the market without offers.”

Here’s how three recent home sellers weighed their options, and came out with the sale price they were looking for.

Original purchase price: $332,000 in 2002.

Asking price: $889,000

Sold on the first day: $889,000

Jennifer Lee, a 41-year-old public relations manager, had bought her 3,000-square foot home in Markham, Ont. brand new in 2002 for $332,000. The house had four bedrooms and four bathrooms. With the goal of moving her family to Toronto to be closer to work and loved ones, she put her house on the market on March 12.

What were your home selling goals? “My goal was to get maximum value for the home because I was going to move into a much more expensive neighbourhood. I also had a very short timeline because I wanted to match it with my kids finishing the school year.”

Describe your home selling strategy. “One of my strategies was to sell before I buy. [My brother] who has moved five or six times, said the stress he experienced buying a home first and then trying to sell his home was the worst stress of his entire life. Then you get into panicky mode: ‘I need to accept an offer.’ Then you get sellers regret: ‘Did I sell too cheap?’

We had looked at a home three doors down from us that was the exact same model that had sold last summer. They didn’t have a finished basement. It sold for $815,000. (We had spent about $50,000 to upgrade our basement.)

My agent told me that buyers in the market really like to bargain, so I thought I will price in a 5% to 10% buffer. My asking price was $889,000. I told my agent, ‘I don’t even want to hear an offer that is less than $850,000. In my head, I was thinking, I want $870,000 to $875,000.

We originally thought to hold off on offers; [our agent] said, let’s not lose momentum. If someone’s interested, let them make an offer.”

How did you prepare the home for sale? “We significantly de-cluttered. We stripped out all of the closets and did some re-painting. There were some bold colours on the main floor that we neutralized. We replaced carpet in the basement with laminate and new carpeting. Our budget for clean up was $3,000.”

What did the home finally sell for in the end? “We got an offer on the first day of the market for asking, no conditions.

“We do know that the buyer was from China and was moving to Toronto and was only in town for a week.”

Final thoughts on the process. “I’d recommend not holding off on offers. If someone wants to offer, find out what they want to offer. You can always go back to people who’ve looked at the house and see if they’re interested.

In terms of preparations, don’t get pushed around by contractors who tell you that you need to paint eight rooms and replace all mirrors. Buyers can generally see beyond paint. You don’t have to redo your whole house.”

Original purchase price: $122,500 in 2001

Asking price: $270,000

Selling price: $265,000

With Elisa Holland’s transient military career, which has included tours in Afghanistan, and her husband’s job as a consultant in Alberta’s oil patch, the couple has lived apart for eight years. They finally decided to list their Calgary home for sale on April 1 and move together to Kingston, Ont. They bought the two-storey townhouse with three bedrooms, one and a half baths and two parking spaces for $122,500 in 2001. They listed the 1,500-square foot property for $270,000.

What were your home selling goals? “We wanted to put it at a fair price to sell quickly so we could buy a house in Kingston; it allowed us to buy our dream house. Kingston is a very stable market whereas Calgary is the exact opposite. My aunt and uncle have a fully detached house with a two-car garage in Barrie Ont.; it’s listed at the same [price] as our townhouse.”

Describe your home selling strategy. “I had interviews with three realtors. You have to pick a realtor who understands your residence. The reason why we ended up going with Michelle [Russell, a realtor at Royal Lepage], she understands townhouse/condos and first-time buyers.

You want to make sure you have very neutral d├ęcor. You want it so that if someone else walks in, they don’t see that it’s your house but they can picture themselves there. If you have carpets, you want to take those up so it’s a clean line across the floor. If you have an area rug, it cuts up the space. If you have a pet, you want to remove all traces that you have one. Even before a realtor came over, I took photos and very harshly critiqued them.

Knowing when to put it on the market is key. Most people want to keep their kids in school and they’ll start looking in March/April.

What did the home finally sell for in the end? Our price that we’d be happy with was anything over $260,000. We ended up with two offers: $263,000 and $265,000. We ended up selling it for $265,000, with fewer conditions (they didn’t want a home inspection) and they already had their financing in place.

Final thoughts on the process. Go with your gut feeling, especially if you get multiple offers. Your realtor will give you a sense of what the buyer is like. The $263,000 offer that came in, I honestly felt sick to my stomach. I got a sense that there was something not quite right. Make sure you do your research on your realtor. Don’t always go by someone’s advertising. On the whole, the majority of good realtors will never have to advertise, it’s all word of mouth.

Original sale price: $245,000 in 1995

List price: $689,000

Sale price: $700,000

Asking price After living in a two-bedroom bungalow in New Westminster for 19 years, Bob Harris looked at the backyard one day and said, “I just don’t want to do it anymore.” The 68-year-old retired union rep wanted to downsize. He had bought the house for $245,000 and listed it for $689,000. Meanwhile, he saw a two-bedroom condo that he liked and he put an offer on it.

What were your home selling goals? “It seemed like a good time [to sell] in New Westminster; house prices were going up and condos were going down. The spread between the two was as good as it has been in a long time.”

Describe your home selling strategy. “The rush was on. We got it ready to show within a few days – decluttered, depersonalized it.

My real estate agent Dave [Vallee] had sold a couple [of homes] in the same shape as mine; he had sold one for $683,000. We put it at $689,000, hoping to get some competing offers.

In less than a week, we had an open house on a Sunday. The next day there were three offers, all higher than the asking price…$692,000, $699,000 and $700,000.”

Knowing when to put it on the market is key
What did the home finally sell for in the end? “Two of them were subject to financing. The [homebuyer offering] $695,000 had the money in cash. Her real estate agent was there that night at the house presenting the offer and she was waiting in the car. We said, ‘Would she be willing to move to $700,000 to meet the other offer?’ and she did.”

Final thoughts on the process. “It helps to have a realtor who knows the area that you’re buying and selling in. In going to a lot of open houses, you’d go to ones where the realtors were from outside the area – so there were a lot of questions they couldn’t answer.

If something needs painting, paint it. I went to some places and they were messy. It just doesn’t make you necessarily want to buy. The place that I did buy ironically, the person had been relocated back east and said, ‘Take it as it is.’ They probably could’ve asked for more if they had done a few things.”

Article Source: Financial Post
Illustrations by Chloe Cushman, National Post

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


As mortgage rates fall, realtors anticipate boost to an already strong market
By Mario Toneguzzi 
Calgary Herald May 28, 2014 

CALGARY - Calgary’s hot housing market has received another incentive that could boost sales activity even more in the coming days.

Mortgage rates are starting to come down again right during the busy time of the year for the industry.

Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist with the Calgary Real Estate Board, said lower mortgage rates will help affordability in the local housing market.

“It can actually help mitigate some of the increases in pricing that we’ve seen in Calgary’s market,” she said. “We’ve had that price growth. We’re still more affordable than we have been for some time so that’s not really the issue per se. But when you have the mortgage rates come down, that can help especially as we’re facing rising pricing.

“We’re not in any concern of overheating our market but with new listings starting to improve this can actually help some of those people who were really on that cusp. They can get into the market.”

Scotiabank announced this week it was lowering its fixed five-year mortgage rate to 2.97 per cent and its five-year variable rate to 2.47 per cent. The rate is effective until June 7.

Investors Group recently offered a 1.99 per cent rate for a 36-month closed, variable-rate mortgage, but Scotiabank is the first of the big banks to push its fixed rate down below three per cent in recent months.

According to CREB, year-to-date until May 27, there have been 10,805 MLS sales in the city, up 13.38 per cent from the same period last year. The median price has risen by 7.03 per cent to $428,000 while the average sale price is up 5.85 per cent to $480,416.

“Housing activity in Calgary has been fairly robust supported by a variety of factors. Along with employment growth, rising incomes and strong net migration, relatively low mortgage rates has also contributed to the demand for housing,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. “Mortgage rates have been low for a couple of years and this has helped people, such as first-time home buyers, purchase a home.

“A decline in mortgage rates alone will not necessarily lead to an increase in sales. The decision to purchase a home often involves both personal and financial considerations.”

So far in May, MLS monthly sales in Calgary are up 17.74 per cent compared with a year ago to 2,489 transactions. New listings have also risen by 17.82 per cent to 3,756 but as of Tuesday active listings were down 5.76 per cent from the same time last year to 4,481. The median price in May of $435,000 has increased by 7.41 per cent and the average sale price is up by 5.40 per cent to $485,866.

“Will this (lower mortgage rates) affect the market in Alberta? Absolutely not. The market already is strong, the sales moving well, supply is an issue and Calgary is poised to be the hottest market in the country again this year,” said Don Campbell, senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network. “These lower rates will have a lot of people talking, but little or no measurable effect in this part of the world. Out East, it will as that market needs stimulus.”

Campbell said the biggest problem with some mortgages is hidden in the restrictive terms. These low rates will spark increased traffic to the banks, but consumers must be wary before signing asthe penalties and restrictions are often prohibitive, he added.

“Spring is prime fishing season in Calgary, and not just for trout. With the recent surge of new listings, I think we’re seeing a little fishing from sellers, too,” said Scott Bollinger, broker with ComFree Commonsense Network. “Sellers are recognizing the main market factors — good economy, strong housing price gains, tight inventory, seriously low average-days-on-market — and some seem to be fishing for their price rather than settling for market price. They’re trolling the waters for motivated buyers, and my advice to these buyers is: do your homework and stick to a neighbourhood’s comparable numbers to avoid taking the bait.

“Calgary buyers are smart. They know when cheap money is cheap money. And sub-three per cent five-year fixed rates are cheap. It’ll only add fuel to the hot housing market. The open question is: how much and for how long? Will Calgarians see this as a temporary phenomenon, flock to the banks, and boost the market in the short term? Or will they see it a longer-term trend and bide their time, which would reduce the urgency and the immediate impact on the market? Either way, the rates give motivated and qualified Calgarians more purchasing power in what’s still a relatively affordable market. I think that points to steady price gains throughout 2014.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014


8 Of The World’s Most Spectacular Abandoned Mansions
Heather Billington

The history of the mansion is a rich one, in both senses of the word. The word ‘mansion’ was first commonly used in the English language in the mid-fourteenth century and meant ‘chief residence of a lord’. It stems from the Latin ‘mansio’, ‘dwelling’. The idea of a mansion being a ‘large and stately house’ comes from the 1510s. Of course, the owners of such impressive homes tend to be wealthy. Perhaps this is why mansions hold such fascination for the public at large; they are sprawling, awe-inspiring, ostentatious displays of wealth that are a delight to behold.

Something about an historic mansion is mysterious and haunting. The walls contain the ghostly memories of people who lived in the spectacular, privileged environment of a hierarchical society that no longer exists. Mansions are imposing enough buildings in their heyday but their level of appeal and intrigue tends to increase with age. There are few buildings more awe-inspiring than old, crumbling or dilapidated mansions.

There are many reasons that a mansion might be left to go to ruin, such as war, repossession or simply total abandonment as a result of lack of money. The following are six of the world’s most impressive derelict mansions, and some of the fascinating histories behind each one.

8. Lake Elsinore Naval and Military Academy

The Elsinore Naval and Military Academy was built in Southern California in the late 1920s, but never opened due to the impending Depression which compounded pre-existing financial troubles. In 1933, however, the building was opened as a military school for boys, which thrived and managed to survive until 1977. Since the Academy closed there has been a fire in the main lobby, and numerous classrooms burned down altogether in the 1980s. These days, the building is frequently home to squatters and often the site of vandalism, a real shame for such a spectacular structure.

7. Haddo House, Inverkeithny, Scotland

At number seven is the ruin of Haddo House in Inverkeithny, Scotland. Not to be confused with the popular wedding venue Haddo House in the wider area of Aberdeenshire, Inverkeithny’s version is deemed to have been empty for over seventy years. It was abandoned when the owner didn’t return from war, at which time his wife simply picked up and left.

John Smith and Archibald Simpson are both frequently credited for the architecture of the mansion, which dates from the early- to mid-nineteenth century. The mansion is both spectacular and sprawling: it includes a tower, a dome, and a surprisingly decadent interior, with echoes of Grecian influence evident in the wallpaper design. The mansion is currently owned by the Durno family who have no plans to sell, so sadly the mansion looks set to deteriorate further.

6. Mansion, Taichung, Taiwan

This truly spectacular Taiwanese mansion is number six on the list. Reportedly the former home of a Chinese poet with the surname Chen, the mansion was originally built circa 1930.  The building is predominantly built in the Baroque style, which would have signified in Japanese colonial Taiwan a move towards Western culture. In opposition, however, the symmetry of the mansion’s exterior — a main building, or hall, with wings on either side of the courtyard — was traditionally designed, with a view to optimising the Feng Shui of the building. This meeting of Western and Eastern cultures serves to make the deserted mansion especially interesting.

5. Wyndclyffe Ruins, Rhinebeck, New York

At number five is the ruin of a mansion situated in Dutchess County, New York. The mansion was built in 1853 in Norman style, and was originally named ‘Rhinecliff’. The building functioned as a holiday home for original owner, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, should she fancy a weekend or summer break (incidentally, the phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is said to have originated from these particular Joneses and their ownership of the Wyndclyffe estate).

The mansion underwent several name changes before being left to ruin for good around 1950. Until the 1980s the building had stayed mainly intact, but over the last thirty years has succumbed to decay, and several parts of the building have collapsed. In 2003 a new owner purchased the ruins with an apparent view to rebuilding them, but as of yet the mansion remains unaltered.

4. Tyrone House, Co. Galway, Ireland

Number four is Tyrone House, located in County Galway in Ireland. The house was built in 1779 by Christopher French St. George, a member of a well-connected family in terms of land ownership, the ties of which were mainly forged, in somewhat sinister fashion, by well-placed marriages. The architect John Roberts designed the building, which is built in the Palladian style. The mansion was, rather nicely, built in such a way as to optimise the views of the sea and sunsets offered by Co. Galway. The interior of the mansion was evidently meticulously well-decorated with no expense spared, an example of which is its life-size marble replica of the second Lord St. George. The statue takes pride of place in the front hall, sporting the attire of a Roman emperor, which makes it both an extravagant and fantastic sight in an Irish mansion.

3. The Mansion of Mr. H, Japan

The home belonging to the mysterious Mr. H is at number three. The mansion was built in 1928 by a Mr. H, a Japanese politician in the late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century.  Mr. H held a position within the Freedom and People’s Rights movement, a group which was in part credited with the establishment of Japan’s first constitution in 1889. As such, Mr. H could doubtless afford such a spectacular home; unfortunately, the mansion was constructed in 1928, a mere two years before his death. It seems likely that he did not live there much, and it is unclear as to who may have inhabited the house for any length of time. There is no indication as to how long the mansion has been derelict for, but it has remarkably retained the charm and grandeur it must have had in its heyday — of particular note aesthetically is the remains of the ballroom, a well-lit and airy space which is a far cry from the dingy and dark stereotype of a ruin.

2. Villa de Vecchi, Cortenova, Italy

At number two is the striking Villa de Vecchi, located on the shores of Lake Como, Italy. Conceived by the Count Felix de Vecchi, the Villa was built by architect Alessandro Sidoli. The mansion has a particularly creepy history; Sidoli died the year before the mansion was completed and never saw his finished project, the import of which is compounded by the far more sinister demises of the de Vecchi family. On one horrific day in 1862, the Count returned home to find his wife murdered and her face horribly disfigured, and their daughter missing. The Count searched the surrounding forests for weeks to no avail, and eventually killed himself. Upon de Vecchi’s death, the villa passed to his brother, whose family lived in the building til the 1940s. The mansion has been derelict since then, and tends to be known — fairly understandably — as the Ghost Mansion, with all sorts of supernatural goings-on reported from time to time. Whether or not the sheer spectacle of the building will cancel out the potential terror it may inspire is a matter of personal preference.

1. The Ruins, Talisay City, Philippines

At number one is the skeleton of this imposing building in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, known as The Ruins.  The mansion was originally built by Don Mariano Lacson, in memory of his first wife, Maria Braga, and is of Italianate architecture. The design includes an homage to the owner’s wife in the inclusion of their initials, which are moulded onto the mansion. The mansion fell from its former to glory to its fascinating skeletal form during World War II, when the United States Armed Forces in the Far East allegedly set the building on fire to prevent it from being used as headquarters for the Japanese. The house’s foundations miraculously endured, due to their composition of concrete and steel bars. The mansion remains a large tourist attraction to this day, and is a popular venue for wedding photos, which the guidebook Travel Philippines seems mysteriously to attribute to the pull of the mansion’s surrounding flower beds.


Province’s condo law to get an overhaul
Bill 13 includes new process to resolve disputes

A proposed overhaul of Alberta’s condominium law, including a way to better resolve disputes, is being hailed as long overdue for the province’s booming condo market.

“The original condominium act was introduced in 1969, and it’s had a couple of minor amendments, but really the condominium developments that are being built and the complexity of the relationships has far exceeded the legislation written in 1969,” Service Alberta Minister Doug Griffiths said Wednesday in outlining the changes.

“It was time to update and modernize it.”

After years of consultations with industry and condo groups, the government tabled Bill 13, the Condominium Property Amendment Act, in the legislature for first reading on Tuesday. The bill, which must still undergo scrutiny from MLAs before being voted on, contains 50 amendments.

These include the creation of a new condo dispute tribunal; clearer and expanded disclosure to buyers of initial condo fees and other information by developers; improved governance for condo corporations and harsher penalties for “particularly unfair actions by developers.”

Griffiths said the current condominium law lacks enough tools to deal with challenges, such as disputes that arise between owners, condo corporations, builders and other stakeholders and is needed in Alberta, where there are more than 8,000 condo corporations, accounting for about 20 per cent of homes sold annually.

“We’re going to incorporate the dispute resolution process, a new mechanism that means that people don’t have to resolve things in court, which is a costly, lengthy, confrontational process,” Griffiths said.

Work on the regulations, which will include details about the dispute tribunal and clarification of insurance obligations for corporations and owners, will begin shortly.

June Donaldson, co-founder of the Alberta Condominium Owners Association, said the amendments are desperately needed.

“The fact that there’s going to be a tribunal where the average condo owner can go, and in a very constructive and collaborative way, hopefully remedy it in a way that addresses the issues that are causing them worry, money or stress … is so big,” Donaldson said.

“Condominium living in Alberta has changed so dramatically over the past 10, 15 years and the legislation has not kept up with the market,” said lawyer Robert Noce, a partner at Miller Thomson, who handles condo legal matters.

The amendments will help protect consumers, offer a way to deal with issues more swiftly and give owners and corporations a clearer understanding of their roles and obligations, he said.

Jim Rivait, CEO of the Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, said most builders and developers are reputable and won’t have to change their practices. However, the new legislation will offer added protection to buyers, he said.

“It’s quite a complex piece of legislation, and only part of it really affects the building part of it,” he said. “A lot of it is the management and how they run the condo board, answering a lot of the issues.

“There’s some transparency things that they want to build in as people get into the whole condo business, so that people are aware. And we’re all for that.”

Condos, often more affordable than single-detached homes, are a growing sector, with 55 per cent of housing starts classed as multi-family in the first three months of 2014, Rivait said.

“From an industry standpoint, it’s becoming more and more important, not less important, because affordability causes people to enter into the market through condos as their first homes and that’s usually their first experience.”

Calgary Real Estate Board president Bill Kirk said realtors welcome the new condo legislation because added consumer protection will make condo ownership a more attractive option.

“If it’s good news for condo owners, it’s good news for the real estate industry because they’re our clients, and if it’s clearer for them how they’re going to operate, it’s just great news for us,” he said.

CREB data show 1,611 MLS sales of condo apartments in the city through Tuesday, a 20 per cent increase from the same period a year ago.

In the condo townhouse category, sales are up about 18 per cent to 1,245 units.

“The condominium review and act revisions will increase disclosure to the consumer and remove some of the uncertainty in the market,” said Matthew Boukall, director of residential advisory services for Altus Group.

“Condominium development is still a relatively new and growing housing option in our market and many consumers may be unfamiliar with the concept.

“Changes that improve disclosure and provide consumers with more information, and remove some of the hidden risks to condominium ownership should improve confidence in the built form, and may attract more consumers who were uncertain about buying a condo in the past.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014


More Albertans willing to brave rising prices and purchase a home
People confident in getting into the real estate market
By Mario Toneguzzi 
Calgary Herald April 10, 2014 

CALGARY - Despite high real estate prices, Albertans have a renewed interest in buying a home, according to the 21st Annual RBC Home Ownership Poll.

The poll, which was released Thursday, said the number of those intending to buy a home in the province is up from 22 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent this year, “showing a renewed strength in the market from last year.”

“We saw a drop in purchasing intent last year in Alberta, so this renewed intent in 2014 shows that people in the province are confident in their ability to get into the market and invest in a home,” said Don Peard, regional vice president and mortgage specialist with RBC.

“There’s a couple of key factors. Number one being, certainly we were predicting a year ago and even more than that an increase in interest rates and that really hasn't transpired. Even if it does transpire, I don’t believe it will be as severe as some people were anticipating. That’s a huge factor in affordability and certainly impacts peoples’ intent to purchase.”

Peard said discussion about the levels of consumer debt has had an impact on peoples’ savings habits with better results in recent years, which means they are able to have enough money for down-payments.

“And of course in Alberta, comparatively speaking, affordability still remains very well particularly when we compare pricing and affordability with other larger centres in Canada. Alberta still remains very affordable. There’s no question the intent to purchase has increased,” said Peard.

Recently, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Alberta will lead the country with the highest annual growth rate in prices over the next two years in the resale housing market.

It said average MLS sale prices will climb in the province by 3.9 per cent this year to $396,000 and by another 2.5 per cent in 2015 to $406,000.

The association said Alberta will see annual sales activity increase by 0.8 per cent this year to 66,600 and then lead the country in 2015 with 3.9 per cent growth to 69,200 sales.

In February, MLS sales were up by 1.8 per cent year-over-year in Alberta to 4,595 and the average MLS sale price saw a yearly increase of 7.6 per cent in the province to $407,540.

“The volatility and fluctuations in some of the other larger Canadian cities we just don’t experience that in Alberta. There’s good, solid general appreciation in home values but it’s certainly not big spikes and bubbles,” said Peard.

“Lots of fear and talk of real estate bubbles in the past two or three or four years and I think the general consensus now is that’s really probably not going to happen at all and there’s lots of good empirical data to support that and we've seen good positive changes in the Vancouver and Toronto markets and of course we’re just that much more fortunate here in Alberta with having one of the best economies in the country.”

Photo By: Danielle Nanni

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Buoyant economy fueling Calgary condo growth
Sales and new construction expected to rise in next two years
By Mario Toneguzzi 
Calgary Herald April 2, 2014 

CALGARY - Calgary’s buoyant economy, healthy population growth and excellent affordability will keep sales of existing condominiums rising over the next few years, says a new housing report released Wednesday.

The latest Conference Board of Canada condo report, released by Genworth Canada, said good demand will also lift condo starts in the city following a pullback in 2013 that was at least partly due to flooding in the summer.

The Winter 2014 Metropolitan Condo Outlook forecast Calgary to see the best growth in prices this year, for eight cities studied, for the resale condo market with median prices rising by 3.2 per cent to $260,523.

The report said they will rise a further 3.4 per cent in 2015 to $269,508.

“A strong economy is first and foremost and everything kind of spins off that,” said Robin Wiebe, senior economist at the Centre for Municipal Studies at the conference board, of the reasons for the optimism in the Calgary market. “When the economy is strong, people come there, come out for work, and that sets in motion the whole housing chain. Starts and resales and all the rest of it.”

The report forecast resale apartment condo sales would be up 2.9 per cent this year to 4,507 units and increase by 2.1 per cent next year to 4,601 units.

Wiebe said affordability in Calgary is a factor. The city has the highest average household income among the report’s eight cities and Calgary’s apartments are not particularly expensive with a median price below Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and Vancouver.

“That makes housing affordability in Calgary excellent,” he said.

The report forecast new condo apartment starts of 2,601 this year, up 6.9 per cent, followed by 2,680 in 2015, up by 3.0 per cent.

It said 2013’s absorptions of 2,772 was the most since 2008 “and likely would have been even stronger were it not for the floods.”

“Accordingly, the inventory of newly completed and unoccupied apartments fell to 244 units - a marked improvement from inventories of nearly 600 units in 2010. Absorptions are forecast to pull back in 2014, but remain strong at nearly 2,400 units,” said the report.

“Modest absorption gains during the medium term are forecast to keep trimming inventories - they will dip below their 20-year average in the projection’s outer years. Falling inventories will give builders the confidence to boost housing starts.”

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, condo apartment MLS sales in the resale market totaled 1,062 after the first quarter. Sales growth was strongest in this sector due to the availability of listings, it said. New listings after the first quarter totaled 1,722, an 18 per cent increase over the previous year. While demand continued to outpace listing growth, keeping market conditions relatively tight, inventory levels are similar to the previous year, said the board.

“Nearly 50 per cent of new listings in the apartment sector are priced in the range of $200,000 - $299,999, providing options for those looking for affordable product,” said Bill Kirk, CREB’s president.

For the first quarter of this year, the average MLS sale price for condo apartments in Calgary is $317,855, up 9.03 per cent from the same period last year.

“Some easing of the supply pressure in the condominium market is expected as new construction projects are completed,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist. “However, thanks to Calgary’s strong economy, it is expected that most new supply can be absorbed without risk of oversupply and condominium price correction.”

Photo By: Toni Holopainen

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Curb Appeal: Neutral paint adds elegance; flowers add flair
By Suzanne Rowe 
The Gazette March 11, 2014

A retired couple from Laval enjoy the location of their bungalow. This home, in which they've raised their children, is filled with precious memories.

The stone-grey shingles were in good condition. I felt that by painting the two pipes and the metal flashing at the base of the chimney in the identical shade of the roof and in a flat finish, these details would look less obvious. The white siding and other white elements were in perfect harmony with the neutral coloration of the beautiful brickwork. With time, these components may look a bit dingy. If so, they ought to be resurfaced with a few coats of exterior acrylic paint in a flat finish to rejuvenate their brightness.

The reddish orange accent on the posts conjured a distracting effect and gave these banal parts too much importance. In most cases, columns ought to reflect the same hue as the windows and fascias. After removing the third beam that was leaning on the corner of the wall and centring the second post between the small windows, the trio, as well as the new linear planks above, will be painted in a crisp white. The colour emphasis will now be provided by the freshly painted cranberry door, which is the new focal point.

A custom-made flower box would measure the entire length of the large widow and at least 20 centimetres high. It will be opaque stained in a dark warm grey tone in a soft sheen. The louvres as well as a tall but narrow vessel would reflect the same coloration. The container will be set near the entrance and host red annuals and climbing greenery. Our homeowners enjoy their well-groomed rock garden. Although being a welcoming feature on the side of the driveway, it is pretty much a secret landscape from the front view.

It could afford to flow more toward the centre lot in a curvy paisley form. The two main beds were timidly connected to each other with a slim strip of soil in the middle. I propose to exaggerate the outline into a more dramatic arched shape. I have redistributed the owners' oddly placed but meticulously pruned evergreens inside the two convex spaces. Alongside the stretch of the porch walk, a sequence of Buxus persistent shrubs will permanently camouflage the base of the floor without ever visually encroaching over the front portal. Bright lime and yellow foliage from some perennials and shrubs will provide an interesting interplay with a few purplish Cimicifuga Brunette and the red and gold petals of the Stella Ruby Hemerocallis. A snowy Clematis will embrace the newly painted white standing light fixture. Strings of transparent fishing lines, installed on this post will motivate the plant to climb. Inside the bed on the right, a miniature white blossoming tree will reside among three different-sized grey boulders. Before all ground cover has a chance to blanket the soil, a generous layer of black mulch is recommended between plantings.

Finally, the rotten gate at the end of the driveway will be substituted with a new one in which planks are of equal height and closely fitted together. This will ensure more privacy from the street perspective.

These simple upgrades on the facade and the enhancement of the garden composition will make our residents fall in love with their home all over again.

Vegetation (left to right):

- Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh (climber, double white blooms, cut back low over a set of fat bulbs every spring)

- Hemerocallis Stella Ruby (perennials, red with yellow heart, both beds)

- Spirea japonica White Gold (low shrubs, white blooms, yellow leaves, both beds)

- Buxus Green Velvet (owners' recuperated shrubs in both beds and new bushes alongside the porch walk)

- Cimicifuga ramose Brunette (perennials, white candles, deep purple, to hide white ramp and front of brick strip on the right bed)

- Owners' Thuja (small globular and egg-shaped evergreens, throughout beds)

- Hosta Sum and Substance (perennials, white blooms, yellow lime, in line with left window, disliked by slugs)

- Lamium maculatum White Nancy (perennials, white blooms, silver white with green edge, ground cover, both beds)

- Heucherella Stoplight (perennials, white blooms, lime leaves with a dark red vein, base of Buxus hedge, compost in spring, thick layer of black mulch)

- Impatiens Wallerana Dazzler Cranberry (annuals, red blooms, all containers, do not over-fertilize)

- Hedera helix (cascading greenery, green or variegated, take indoors for winter, return outdoors in spring)

- Hakanechloa macra Aureola (ornamental grasses, yellow ribbons, green stripe, left of right bed)

- Onoclea sensibilis (ferns, soft green, copper in fall, beneath centre of flower box)

- Euonymus fortunei Canadale Gold (low persistent shrub, green and gold leaves, front of right bed)

- Malus Sir Lancelot (small crab apple tree, white blooms, centred in the right side of bed away from window view)

- Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle (shrub, white blooms, front right of Cimicifuga, right bed)


Calgary house price growth outpacing rest of Canada
9.6% annual hike for repeat home sales to record level

CALGARY - Calgary’s housing market continues to shine compared with the rest of the country as local residental real estate prices showed the highest growth rate in Canada in February, according to a report released Wednesday on repeat home sales.

Calgary prices rose by 9.6 per cent year-over-year and by 1.1 per cent month-over-month - both the best in the country and to an all-time high for the city, said the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index.

Nationally, of 11 centres surveyed, prices were up 5.0 per cent from last year and by 0.3 per cent from January.

The index is estimated by tracking observed or registered home prices over time using data collected from public land registries. All dwellings that have been sold at least twice are considered in the calculation.

The trend in price increases in Calgary does not appear to be changing in March. According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, so far this month from March 1-11, the average MLS sale price in the city is up 5.28 per cent from the same time a year ago to $480,345 while the median price has increased by 7.25 per cent to $429,000. CREB stats indicate there have been 796 MLS sales so far this month, up 10.71 per cent from last year but new listings are down 4.05 per cent to 1,114 and active listings are off by 18.80 per cent to 3,049.

The Teranet-National Bank report said that for the second month in a row, prices for Canada as a whole rose to an all-time high, though new records were set in only two of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed - Vancouver (for a fourth straight month) and Calgary (for the first time since September 2007).

The gain from a year earlier was well above the cross-country average in two of the 11 markets, Calgary and Vancouver (7.7 per cent). It was slightly above the average in Toronto (6.1 per cent) and Edmonton (5.3 per cent), equal to the average in Hamilton (5.0 per cent) and below it in Winnipeg (3.5 per cent) and Montreal (1.9 per cent).

In Halifax (4.7 per cent) and Ottawa-Gatineau (0.6 per cent), prices were down from a year earlier for a second consecutive month. In Victoria (3.4 per cent), home prices have been down from a year earlier for 12 months now. Quebec City posted its first 12 month deflation in 15 years (2.0 per cent). It is the first time since October 2009 that there is price deflation in at least four of the regions covered, said the report.

“In February the east-west dichotomy became more pronounced than ever,” it said.

Home prices were up from the month before in all five markets of Western Canada - Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria (0.9 per cent), Edmonton (0.6 per cent) and Winnipeg (0.5 per cent). The rise in Victoria ended a run of four consecutive monthly declines. For Vancouver it was the 10th consecutive monthly increase. In the six markets of central and eastern Canada, the only monthly rise was in Montreal (0.7 per cent), the second advance after six months of flat or declining prices. Prices were down 0.1 per cent in Toronto, making February the fourth month without a gain in the last six. For Ottawa-Gatineau (0.8 per cent) it was the sixth decline in a row, for Quebec City (1.7 per cent) the sixth in seven months. For Halifax (1.7 per cent) it was the third decline in a row, said the report.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Calgary homebuyers return to housing market bidding wars
BMO report says Canadians willing to pay more to get what they want

CALGARY - Prospective Canadian homebuyers are more willing to enter into a bidding war this year for properties they want to purchase, says a new report released Wednesday by BMO.

And Calgary’s hot housing market is proving to be a good example of that as nearly 20 per cent of MLS residential sales in the city in February were for above list price.

The BMO Home Buying Report said 34 per cent of Canadians are willing to enter a bidding war when it’s time to buy a home, an increase of six points, or 21 per cent, from a year ago.

The report, conducted by Pollara, said that in major city centres, the appetite for competitive bids is the highest in Toronto and Vancouver (44 per cent and 41 per cent respectively). In Calgary, it is 38 per cent and in Alberta, it is 30 per cent.

“While many suspect bidding wars are triggered by sellers who deliberately price their homes below market, the report shows that just 15 per cent of owners have that motivation, with those on the Prairies and in Toronto the most likely to pursue this strategy - but even then the numbers are modest at 24 per cent and 22 per cent respectively,” said BMO, which says average home prices across Canada continue to rise, gaining momentum in the past year, with the average transaction price up nearly 10 per cent year-over-year in January. The average home sale price in Canada is currently just over $400,000.

“Calgary’s market continues to see the strongest fundamentals; Vancouver has rebounded from a soft patch; while Toronto’s market remains relatively balanced overall, though the condo market is more amply supplied,” said Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, in a statement. “Overall, sales are expected to hold relatively steady in the year ahead, with price growth in the low single-digit range, below the rate of income growth.”

Laura Parsons, mortgage expert with BMO Bank of Montreal, said the competition for real estate in Canada, particularly in hotter markets, can be fierce and turn into an emotional frenzy.

“A shortage of inventory is driving a lot of it,” said Parson of the Calgary market. “It’s such an emotional thing. When you see it, you get it. I remember the days when there were lineups of people behind each other. The minute you see that your heart starts to race and you want to not lose.

“Lots of people are prepared. They know what their high is . . . Calgary has the biggest income so we’re willing to spend more if we have to and hopefully we’ve been conservative before we go in and we know we have that room to bid higher.”

Parsons said many people don’t understand that they can renovate a home and build it into the purchase price.

For some people, she said, there’s a need to move before spring and they’re feeling the pressure.

Data released Monday by the Calgary Real Estate Board indicates all-time records, for any month, were set in February in the average city sale price ($482,530) and the median city price ($424,900) as well as in the single-family sale price ($550,312) and the single-family median price ($480,000).

“Calgary has been in a statistical sellers’ market since February 2013,” said Robyn Moser, a realtor with CIR Realty. “As time has passed, the sellers’ market has become increasingly aggressive. This has caused buyers to see lower and lower levels of inventory, placed into competing offers and homes selling in days if not hours. This cause is speculated to be the lack of available new home inventory due to Calgary sewer lines that are needing to be upgraded. This has placed metro Calgary real estate values into statistical unsustainable levels until the sewer line upgrade is complete.”

According to CREB, as of Tuesday, there were 2,893 active MLS listings in the city which was down 20.15 per cent from a year ago. Year-to-date, sales have increased by 11.77 per cent to 3,551 transactions.

Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty, said Calgarians were so determined to buy a home in February that nearly one in five paid above the asking price.

“Of the 1,854 properties that sold during the month, 364 or 19.6 per cent of buyers paid higher than list price. Compare that to the 10.4 per cent of buyers from a year ago or the 6.1 per cent from February 2012 that paid above asking,” Fotiou wrote on his blog.

“As sales rise and inventory continues to decrease year-over-year, it’s to be expected that buyers will find themselves in more situations where multiple offers are involved.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Listings remain down in Calgary resale housing market
Pressure on prices which continue to rise
By Mario Toneguzzi 
Calgary Herald February 3, 2014

CALGARY - Pressure on prices in Calgary’s resale housing market continued in January as MLS listings remained at lower levels compared with a year ago.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, new listings of 2,393 for the month were down 4.01 per cent from January 2013 and active listings were off by 18.16 per cent to 2,524.

With sales growing by 17.17 per cent to 1,440, that help spike prices to record levels for the month.

CREB said the median price jumped by 6.71 per cent to $417,250 while the average MLS sale price rose by 5.09 per cent to $462,168. The board, in releasing its official statistics on Monday, said the overall benchmark price in the city, which if what it calls typical property sales, rose by 9.46 per cent to $429,100.

According to Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty, January also set a record for most luxury home sales for the month. There were 41 MLS transactions of at least $1 million, eclipsing the previous record of 36 set in 2007.

Last year, Calgary experienced a record year for total luxury home sales of 727 with 10 months setting records. The only months in 2013 that didn’t set luxury home sale records were January and December.

Grace Yan, a realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) in Calgary, said property inventory has steadily declined over the past year due to a high volume of migration of people to the city, a low unemployment rate and better job opportunities.

“As a result, turnkey properties that are well priced, whether it’s a condo, fixer-upper, starter homes to high-end luxury homes, are selling within days and realtors are lined up outside taking turns for showings resulting in competing offers selling well above list price,” she said. “The market is currently so competitive that we are seeing unconditional or minimal condition offers and I’ve recently seen offers even as high as $70,000 over list and selling within the first day.

“The shortage of listings is really tough on buyers and disappointing when they place their best offer on their perfect home and not to even be close to other competing offers. On the other hand it’s excellent for the sellers who are pleasantly surprised what their properties are selling for. We typically see listing inventory rise come the spring and summer. Real estate, like any other investment, has its ups and downs. It’s just trying to find the right time and the right place in the current hot market.”

The inventory of active listings in Calgary year-over-year hasn’t been positive since February 2011.

Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist, said the overall trend of a declining inventory in the resale housing market has been around since March 2011.

“They had actually too much for a period of time. There was really an excess amount of inventory,” she said. “And a lot of that was working through the system . . . There was over supply in the market at that time frame.

“It’s really over the past year and into this year that we’ve seen those levels to continue to decline . . . They’ve been falling. What I’ve been watching has been that rate of decline which had actually started to ease . . . Towards the beginning of 2013, and into 2012, we were in those high 20 per cent declines, like almost 30 per cent declines, over the previous year. As you go through the later portion of 2013, the levels came off a bit. It’s still declining but not declining as much.”

She said sales have been increasing at a greater rate than the level of new listings.

In January, MLS sales for different housing categories and their percentage increase from last year were: single-family, 974, 10.93 per cent; condo apartment, 260, 27.45 per cent; condo townhouse, 206, 40.14 per cent; and towns, 251, 2.45 per cent.

The average sale prices and their annual hikes were: single-family, $520,686, 4.80 per cent; condo apartment, $314,678, 12.36 per cent; condo townhouse, $371,638, 15.92 per cent; and towns, $379,053, 8.54 per cent.

The benchmark prices and their year-over-year growth were: single-family, $476,700, 9.11 per cent; condo apartment, $280,600, 11.66 per cent; condo townhouse, $308,100, 8.72 per cent; and towns, $346,500, 5.26 per cent.

“Listings are low in Calgary due to a number of factors. However one of the biggest is the lack of housing options available in Calgary and region due to the combination of increased demand through population growth, the flood zone financing and insurance issues and lack of new product readily available,” said Don Campbell, senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network.

“This reduction in housing options brings pause to the homeowner who was considering selling their homes to move within the city or region. When homeowners do not have confidence that they will be able to find an appropriate property to replace the one they are considering to sell, then they delay the decision.”

Also on Monday, TD Economics released a housing report forecasting sales in Calgary to grow by 5.8 per cent this year and by another 2.1 per cent in 2015. It forecast the average price for existing home sales to rise by 3.5 per cent this year and by 1.2 per cent next year.

The report said Calgary’s sales to new listings ratio was 70.2 per cent in 2013 and forecasts that to rise to 73.1 per cent in 2014 before falling back to 69.9 per cent in 2015.

TD also said the percentage of income an average household would have to devote to mortgage payments in Calgary in 2013 was 24.9 per cent in 2013 and it is forecast to rise to 25.0 per cent this year but fall back to 24.6 per cent in 2015.

Diana Petramala, economist with TD Economics, said current interest rates are likely unsustainable, nor are they expected to increase to more normal levels in the near future.

“Overall, given the expectations of a modest increase in interest rates, home prices are likely roughly 10 per cent overvalued,” she said of the national housing market. “Housing is very regional, and some markets are more vulnerable than others. For instance, the overvaluation in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa is likely more significant than that found in markets in the Prairie and Atlantic Regions.

“Looking forward, the combination of softer demand and rising supply of homes for sale on the market will likely pull some steam out of home price growth. Slower home price growth, rising incomes and only modestly rising interest rates will help keep housing in check over the next few years.”

Photo By: Sepehr Ehsani


Calgary repeat home sale prices rise 7.1%
Second biggest jump in Canada behind Vancouver’s 7.5%
By Mario Toneguzzi 
Calgary Herald February 12, 2014

CALGARY - Calgary had the second best year-over-year growth rate in prices for repeat home sales in January, according to the latest Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index released Wednesday.

It said Calgary’s annual increase was 7.1 per cent which was behind only Vancouver’s 7.5 per cent.

The national composite, of 11 major centres surveyed, rose by 4.5 per cent.

The index is estimated by tracking observed or registered home prices over time using data collected from public land registries. All dwellings that have been sold at least twice are considered in the calculation.

Toronto saw an annual increase of 5.8 per cent.

Sonny Scarfone, economic analyst with TD Economics, said the index surprised on the upside with a larger gain in momentum than expected across the country.

“Home price gains are still exceeding income growth by a considerable margin, especially in larger real estate markets like Toronto and Vancouver. A low supply of new listings is an important contributor to the upward pressure on prices,” said Scarfone.

“However, as U.S. and Canadian economic growth accelerates and the Federal Reserve continues to taper its quantitative easing program, North American bond yields are likely to rise over time and this will be reflected in mortgage rates. As a consequence, the current stronger-than-expected prices are likely to soften over the medium term.”

The index nationally rose 0.4 per cent from December to an all-time high. It was the largest monthly rise in five months.

The gain from a year earlier exceeded the cross-country average in four of the 11 markets: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Hamilton (5.1 per cent). It was close to the average in Edmonton (4.4 per cent) and Winnipeg (3.9 per cent). It was minimal in Montreal (0.8 per cent) and Quebec City (0.6 per cent). Prices were down from a year earlier in Victoria (5.7 per cent), Halifax (2.9 per cent) and Ottawa-Gatineau (0.6 per cent). The 12-month decline was a first for Ottawa-Gatineau, the 11th straight for Victoria and the fourth in six months for Halifax, said the report.

On a monthly basis, price increases were led by Vancouver (1.1 per cent), Toronto (0.5 per cent) and Quebec City (0.5 per cent) led the composite index. Calgary equalled it. Hamilton prices were up 0.3 per cent, Winnipeg and Montreal prices 0.2 per cent. Edmonton was flat on the month. Prices fell 0.3 per cent in Victoria, 1.1 per cent in Ottawa-Gatineau and 1.7 per cent in Halifax. The January rises in Montreal and Quebec City interrupted runs of five consecutive monthly declines. For Ottawa-Gatineau it was the fifth straight monthly decline, for Victoria the fourth and for Halifax the second. For Vancouver it was a ninth straight monthly rise, for the composite index the 10th in 11 months, said the report.

“There are signs that national house price inflation is close to peaking. The earlier strength in existing home sales, triggered by fears of higher mortgage rates, has begun to fade,” said David Madani, economist with Capital Economics. “January’s preliminary data reported by the regional real estate boards indicate that national home sales declined for a fourth consecutive month.

“The drop back in the months’ supply of inventory is already consistent with annual house price growth rate remaining around 4.0 per cent. If we are correct about home sales drifting lower this year, it will once again start to put downward pressure on house price inflation.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Calgary house price gain again best in Canada
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald January 15, 2014 

CALGARY - Another day and another real estate report indicating Calgary’s housing market is showing the best year-over-year price growth in the country.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Real Estate Association released its MLS Home Price Index which indicated Calgary prices in December were up 8.74 per cent from a year ago while the aggregate across the country, encompassing 11 major markets, rose by 4.31 per cent. 

The CREA report followed Tuesday’s Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index report which said Calgary led the nation with a 6.5 per cent hike in prices for repeat home sales.

In December, CREA said Calgary MLS sales were up nine per cent from last year to 1,464 transactions while the average sale price rose by 4.7 per cent to $439,389.
 For Canada, MLS sales during the month increased by 12.9 per cent to 23,215 units and the average sale price jumped by 10.4 per cent to $389,119.

In Alberta, sales of 3,135 were up 9.8 per cent from a year ago and the average sale price rose by 4.7 per cent to $380,477.

On an annual basis, the number of sales and percentage increases were: Calgary, 29,954, 12.5 per cent; Alberta, 66,080, 9.5 per cent; and Canada, 457,893, 0.8 per cent.

On an annual basis, the average sale price and percentage increases were: Calgary, $437,036, 6.0 per cent; Alberta, $380,969, 4.9 per cent; and Canada, $382,466, 5.2 per cent.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Booming luxury market pushes Calgary house prices to records

Booming luxury market pushes Calgary house prices to records

Average sale and median prices at unprecedented levels


CALGARY - A booming luxury market, and tight overall conditions with listings not keeping pace with demand, has pushed Calgary house prices to unprecedented levels.

Average sale and median prices hit all-time records for the city in 2013 for both total MLS transactions and in the single-family home category, according to data released Thursday by the Calgary Real Estate Board.

The average sale price for total MLS reached $456,703 for the year, up 6.54 per cent from 2012, while the single-family average price rose by 7.61 per cent to $517,887.

The median sale price for total MLS was $401,000 and it was $450,000 for single-family homes. The median price rose by 5.53 per cent from the previous year for total MLS and it was a 7.14 per cent hike in the single-family market.

Also, December capped a solid year for the residential real estate market with the highest-ever monthly average sale price at $527,764, eclipsing the previous record of $526,546 set in June 2013.

"Momentum was building from the last quarter of 2012," said Christina Hagerty, a realtor with RE/MAX Realty Professionals in Calgary. "We approached 2013 with low interest rates, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and the lowest vacancy rate in the past decade. Employment growth and higher than expected net migration into the city helped support the demand for housing and increased sales and pricing. 2013 was an extremely busy year for us with informed and prepared purchasers.

"People talk about the flood adding to this, but I focus on the amazing ability for a city to rebound in a very short period of time. Something that may have devastated other major centres. I believe that this is largely due to the sense of community and the job market allowing people the ability to rebuild."

The previous records for average sale prices were set in 2012 at $428,649 for total MLS and $481,259 for single-family homes. The previous records for median prices were set in 2007 at $382,000 for total MLS and in both 2007 and 2012 at $420,000 for the single-family market.

Average prices in the city ballooned this year as a result of a strong luxury market that set a record for most transactions ever at $1 million or more.

devastated other major centres. I believe that this is largely due to the sense of community and the job market allowing people the ability to rebuild.”

According to Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty, there were 727 luxury home sales in 2013, which was a 33.6 per cent hike from the previous annual peak in 2012. The year was marked by 10 consecutive months of new monthly sales records. Only January and December did not set records in 2013.

Total MLS sales in the city reached 23,489 units in 2013, up 10.78 per cent from the previous year. New listings of 32,153 were up 0.97 per cent but active listings at the end of December were down by 17.80 per cent to 2,235.

"Companies are recruiting professionals across Canada and globally and this has put Calgary on the map as a thriving metropolis of opportunity and a safe place to raise their families," said Hagerty. "With vacancy rates at one per cent and an abundance of job opportunity, there is a confidence in the city. 2014 looks to continue with solid growth fueled by sound fundamentals."

MLS sales and percentage increase from 2012 for different housing categories were: single-family, 16,302, 7.92 per cent; condo apartment, 4,007, 14.45 per cent; condo townhouse, 3,180, 22.40 per cent; and towns, 4,516, 13.81 per cent.

Average sale price and percentage increase from 2012 were: single-family, $517,887, 7.61 per cent; condo apartment, $299,517, 5.17 per cent; condo townhouse, $341,116, 7.73 per cent; and towns, $381,884, 9.55 per cent.

Median price and percentage increase from 2012 were: single-family, $450,000, 7.14 per cent; condo apartment, $261,000, 3.78 per cent; condo townhouse, $306,000, 6.45 per cent; and towns, $355,700, 6.18 per cent.

Scott Bollinger, broker with the ComFree Commonsense Network, said prices in Calgary climbed because of increased sales and listings not keeping pace with the demand.

"Most notably in 2013 we saw rising wages, low interest rates and record in-migration. So it’s not surprising after three to five years of relatively little price growth, and despite the steady employment and the wage growth along with record low interest rates, that prices surged this year," he said.

"Add to that the Alberta and Calgary economies outperformed almost every other region in Canada in 2013 by a wide margin, which had the effect of attracting all of those people. But the interesting thing is that 70 per cent of the net migration to Calgary in particular was international. And the other thing about the migration was that we set a record this year for the growth of the cohort of ages between 25 and 45 and those people, along with the international crowd, are most likely to engage in household formation."

Bollinger said he is surprised that the listings didn’t catch up with the sales. He said the market might expect to see more of a reaction from the listing side early in the new year.

"If we don’t see that increase in listings, I think we’re going to continue to see farily significant price increases," said Bollinger.

In a statement, Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB’s chief economist, said sales growth exceeded expectations in 2013, pushing above long-term trends.

"Two consecutive years of elevated levels of net migration, combined with an improving job outlook and confidence surrounding long-term economic prospects, supported the demand growth," she said.

"In 2014, both sales activity and prices are expected to improve, but not at the same pace recorded this year. While factors influencing demand will support growth in 2014, rising listings and increased competition from the new home sector should alleviate some of the supply pressure in the market."

Those factors, combined with potential increases in long-term lending rates, should take some of the steam off the exceptionally strong price growth recorded in 2013, said Lurie.