Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Canadian manufacturing sales rise a stronger than expected 2%
December 16, 2009

Manufacturing sales rose a robust 2% in October that built further on a 1% gain in September (downwardly revised from an initially estimated increase of 1.4%). The reported rise in October was double market expectations of a 1% increase. On a volumes basis, the increase was still indicative of solid activity, although the rise was a more moderate 1.2% and followed a 1.1% gain in September.
The aerospace component, soaring an impressive 54.1%, led the strength in October’s manufacturing sales. This increase helped to offset declines of 31.4% and 29.4% in September and August, respectively. Also providing support in October was a 7.2% jump in the petroleum and coal component, although a lion’s share of the gain likely reflected gains in prices rather than volumes. Motor vehicle sales were slightly stronger than expected, rising 2.9%, although this was down from the 7.4% gain in September. (Preliminary production numbers suggest that this component likely fell about 5% in November.) The main offset was a 4.4% drop in fabricated metal sales following a 4.9% rise in September.
In terms of other components in the report, inventories were essentially flat, but they managed to eke out a 0.1% gain. This represented the first increase in this measure since January. Unfilled orders fell 3.4%, led by a 6.1% decline in the aerospace component. StatsCan indicated that practically all the strength was concentrated in Quebec where sales jumped 7.3% in the month. Excluding Quebec, manufacturing sales were up only 0.2%.
A second consecutive strong rise in the volume of manufacturing sales provides further support to the growing optimism that the Canadian economy is pulling out of recession. Manufacturing has been a major drag on economic growth throughout most of the downturn, largely reflecting massive cutbacks in auto production. The increase reported in today’s release bodes well for growth October GDP to rise 0.3% in the month following the 0.4% gain in September. This puts the economy on track to meet our current fourth-quarter GDP forecasted increase of 3.4% at an annual rate.
This represents a marked improvement from the disappointing 0.4% rise recorded in the third quarter; however, to assure that this stronger growth is sustained, we expect that the Bank of Canada will keep monetary conditions accommodative near-term, maintaining its conditional commitment of holding the overnight rate unchanged at 0.25% through the end of the second quarter of 2010. A tightening in policy is not expected until the second half of 2010, although the pace is expected to be gradual, with the overnight rate rising only 100 basis points and finishing 2010 at 1.25%.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Home sales jingling along
November's resales roar back; more balance seen for 2010

Tom Lebour
National Post
Saturday, December 12, 2009

The first week of December was a good week, economically speaking, for the Greater Toronto Area and Canada more broadly. We had two waves of positive financial news. First, Statistics Canada announced the Canadian economy grew in the third quarter --the first quarter of growth since the third quarter of 2008.

This was followed by encouraging employment numbers. In Canada, a whopping 79,000 jobs were created in November and the unemployment rate dropped slightly. In the Toronto area, we experienced the fourth straight month of job creation. This was the backdrop for another strong report from the Toronto Real Estate Board. November's existing home sales in the Toronto area were up strongly on an annual basis to 7,446 (up 105% from a depressed November 2008, but within 2% of the total in November 2007), and the average home price climbed 14% to $418,460.

Jason Mercer, TREB's senior manager of market analysis, points to the strong link between the housing market and renewed growth in the economy: "Economic recovery to date has been consumer driven, with housing playing a key role. The fact that the GTA housing market has remained affordable over the past decade, coupled with record low mortgage rates, meant that as consumer confidence recovered, home ownership demand rebounded very quickly. These transactions resulted in spending that benefited other sectors of the economy, including such financial and professional services as mortgage brokers and lawyers, renovation and repair contractors, moving and storage companies and home furnishings retailers to name a few."

By all accounts, when the final resale numbers are released for December, total sales will likely align with the healthy results we had in 2004 through 2006. This will represent quite a recovery from the lows in sales and price we hit at the beginning of the year.

With that said, however, it is important to point out we will not see sustained double-digit rates of growth in sales and average price moving forward.

"Right now," Mr. Mercer says, "we are comparing sales and prices in the recovery phase of the housing market cycle to last winter's decline phase, when the demand for ownership housing dropped sharply over a very short period of time. After the first quarter of 2010, reported rates of growth will not be as large because we will be making comparisons to the stronger sales and price numbers from this past spring and summer."

I think, if asked, most realtors would say they expect more homeowners to list their homes for sale next year as they react to the strong sales and price growth in the second half of 2009. Mr. Mercer says that "with more homes to choose from, market conditions will be more balanced in 2010 and average annual price growth will be more in line with the long-term average. To put this in perspective, the average annual rate of price growth has been approximately 6% since the turn of the new millennium."

I am happy that as we move through the holiday season, we are starting to hear more good news than bad on the economic front and that growth in the housing market is expected to continue at a sustainable pace next year. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to communicating with you in the New Year.

-Tom Lebour is president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 28,000 realtors in the GTA.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Friday, November 27 to Sunday, January 3, 2010
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Gates close at 8:30 pm
Price: Adults $8 and Children $5

On-line ticket sales are available here

Parking is included after 4:30 pm

Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo presented by ENMAX is one of western Canada’s most spectacular Holiday light shows. Surround your family with the beauty and splendour of over 1.5 million twinkling lights. This interactive light show immerses you in the spirit of the season and will tempt all five senses.


- Our brand NEW ENMAX Conservatory, a beautiful garden oasis in the middle of winter!
- Chat live with Santa direct from the North Pole with our exclusive SantaVision presented by RE/MAX- Video Holiday Postcard – record a holiday message for friends or family that can be sent any where in the world!
- Ice Carving demos with Frozen Memories every Friday and Saturday night!
- Kids play area with perennial favourites Reindeer Stables and SnIgloo as well as new games like March of the Penguins and SnowBall Alley
- Candy Cane Lane and the Tunnel of Love
- The Festival of Choirs 7pm -8:30 pm
- Creamy hot chocolate, crackling fire pits and smiling volunteers sharing the holiday spirit!

ZOOLIGHTS - Calgary’s Favourite Holiday Tradition!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Hiring plans rebound to year high
John Morrissy, Financial Post
Published: Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Hiring intentions are at their highest level in 12 months, bouncing off the depths of the downturn and promising slightly better times for workers in 2010, the results of a Manpower Inc. survey suggest.

The placement firm's quarterly employment outlook has jumped to a reading of 13 for the first quarter of 2010, a much healthier rebound than during the "jobless recovery" of the early 90s, when negative hiring intentions stretched on for three years.

Although this recession left 400,000 Canadians out of work, the labour market appears to be on the mend, adding 79,100 jobs in November, according to the latest Statistics Canada report.

Manpower says Monday's data herald a "hopeful" hiring climate, although once seasonal adjusting is removed, the numbers don't suggest employment will change much during the quarter.

The survey of more than 1,900 Canadian employers showed that 70 per cent expect to maintain current staffing levels, while 15% will increase and 13% will decrease staffing, suggesting a net employment outlook of plus two, meaning only two per cent of all employers will actually be hiring.

"Employers are telling us that they plan to hire but at a more conservative pace than during the same time last year," said Manpower vice-president Lori Rogers.

Nevertheless, the quarterly reading, at 13, is returning to near-historical norms, after having averaged approximately 16 during the 2000s.

After readings of minus one and minus two in the second and third quarters of 2009 respectively, the index climbed to seven in the fourth quarter of 2009. At its current reading of 13, it still lags the reading of 18 posted one year ago.

Based on net employment outlook, hiring intentions are highest in Western Canada, with a reading of plus seven, via strength in the services and mining sectors.

Atlantic Canada posts a reading of plus five, thanks to strength in finance, insurance and real estate.

Ontario posts a reading of plus one, the result of sectoral strength in finance, insurance and real estate being offset by weakness in construction and mining.

And Quebec posts the lowest net employment outlook, with optimism in the transportation and public utilities sectors held back by weak hiring intentions in mining and services.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Biggest one-month gain in Canadian jobs since September 2008
December 4, 2009

Canada's economy created 79,100 jobs in November, busting through forecasts for a modest 15,000 job increase. This rise eclipsed the 43,200 jobs lost in October and is consistent with an acceleration in growth in the economy. The unemployment rate edged down to 8.5% from 8.6% in October as the strong employment gains outstripped the 65,800 rise in the labour force in the month.
November's gain in employment reflected a rebound in part-time employment which rose 40,400 partially recovering the 59,700 drop recorded in October. Full-time jobs increased by 38,600 for a total of 146,700 jobs created during the past three months. Both private companies and the public sector were hiring in November with the largest increases in employment in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
Gains were concentrated in the services-producing industries, which added 73,000 jobs and more than reversed October's 37,000 loss. A surge in hiring in educational services of 37,900 accounted for one-half the service-sector increase. Retail and wholesale trade were steady after 30,800 positions were cut in October. Finance, insurance and real estate, professional services and public administration posted solid gains in the month. In the goods-producing industries a modest 6,200 jobs were created, almost exactly recovering the 6,300 positions cut in October. Manufacturers added to their payrolls, while employment in construction and utilities was cut back.
The annual gain in the average hourly wage rate for permanent workers slowed in November to 2.1% from 2.9% in October, the slowest annual pace since March 2007.
The labour data have been very volatile but, on net, 66,500 jobs were created in the three months to November, which supports our call for more robust growth in the fourth quarter. Still, the amount of slack generated during the recession is consistent with the unemployment rate remaining relatively high, at least until the pace of economic growth heats up enough to chew through some of the large output gap.
The start to the recovery — Canada's economy grew at a 0.4% annualized pace in the third quarter — fell short of the Bank of Canada's forecast, supporting the case for monetary policy to remain stimulative until the recovery builds momentum. The soft start also keeps alive the risk that the unemployment rate will rise in the months ahead and is consistent with inflation pressures remaining subdued.
Our forecast that the fourth quarter will see a much stronger pick-up in growth, with the recovery's momentum building in 2010 sets up for the unemployment rate to peak early next year and then gradually drift low. As this occurs, the Bank will look to remove monetary stimulus, although conditions aren't likely to warrant rates to start to move higher until the third quarter of next year. On balance, this week's data are not expected to cause the Bank change its stance at next week's rate setting, with the conditional commitment to a 0.25% overnight rate likely to be maintained.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dupuis: Is the 'hot' housing market a boom, bust or bubble?
November 21, 2009
Stephen Dupuis

I can't believe how often I have heard the B-word of late. No, I'm not talking about "B" as in housing "boom," I'm talking about "B" as in housing "bubble."

Considering that we are barely six months out of what was looking like a prolonged housing "bust," it's hard to fathom how the "experts" can already be warning that the housing market is too hot for its own good.

I'll be the first to admit surprise at just how buoyant the resale market has been. Then again, should there be any surprise that after six months of paralysis during the height of the global economic crisis, homebuyers would react to a reprieve by rushing back into the market.

Frankly, I'm delighted the resale market is doing so well because a healthy resale market drives renovation as well as new home sales as all boats rise with the tide. That said, I have a lot of empathy for the homebuyers who are getting caught up in bidding wars. That's a situation that will be resolved when listings increase, as they always do.

To the homebuyers that find resale bidding wars distasteful, I would note that at least with new homes and condos, the price is the price and right now, new home prices are extremely competitive.

Although it took a little longer than the resale market to recover, the lowrise new housing market picked up in late spring while the highrise market came back to life this fall. On an overall basis, it looks like total new home sales in 2009 will end up just slightly ahead of 2008, with last year ending on a down note and this year ending on an up note.

Is the new housing market booming? Far from it! So where are the "bubble" theorists coming from? For the most part it seems they are concerned with the extent of mortgage insurance in the market as well as the potential impact of higher interest rates down the road.

The concern with the prevalence of mortgage insurance ignores the fact that it has always been a major and important part of our housing finance system. Frankly, so long as banks are prevented from lending to anyone with less than 20 per cent down, mortgage insurance will continue to be a growth industry.

The irony is that we have mortgage insurance to thank for the fact that our banks are lending to homebuyers, enabling the recovery we have been experiencing in our housing markets.

That said, homebuyers still have to qualify for mortgage insurance and if anything, that's become more difficult since federal finance Minister Jim Flaherty clamped down on mortgage insurers.

In July 2008, Flaherty imposed a number of restrictions on mortgage insurers including a prohibition on insuring mortgages with amortizations longer than 35 years, a minimum 5 per cent downpayment, minimum credit score requirements, maximum debt ratios and new loan documentation standards, all good things as far as I'm concerned.

As for low mortgage rates, it seems the experts are concerned that homebuyers might have difficulty carrying their mortgages should interest rates be higher at renewal time. This ignores the reality that most homebuyers these days are smartly locking in their mortgages for five years during which they will increase the equity in their homes and/or enjoy income growth.

To be on the safe side, homebuyers that pay down as much as they can during those all-important first five years will be in a far better position to ignore the experts as well as the columnists.

Stephen Dupuis is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association. The views expressed are those of the president.


Canadian home ownership more expensive, RBC says
November 25, 2009

The cost of homeownership in Canada became more expensive in the third quarter, according to a report by RBC Economics Research.

The bank says this hasn't happened since the spring of 2008 and was due to a slight rise in mortgage rates and higher property values.

The RBC index measures the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home.

During the third quarter, the benchmark detached bungalow moved up by one per cent to 40.2 per cent and the standard townhouse rose by 0.7 per cent to 32.3 per cent.

The standard condo climbed by 0.5 per cent up to 27.6 per cent and a standard two-storey home increased 1.2 per cent to 45.8 per cent.

RBC says housing demand has outgrown supply, leading to a more competitive market and widespread increases in home values.

"With such strong momentum in the housing market and the cyclical low in mortgage rates behind us, it seems unlikely that affordability will improve in the near future," said RBC senior economist Robert Hogue.

"The housing market still faces obstacles, as mortgages have become more difficult to handle for many Canadians amid challenging labour conditions. This is likely to persist until the economic recovery is well established and job creation is sustained next year."
Photo: justmakeit

Friday, November 20, 2009


Housing market confidence builds
By Mario Toneguzzi
Herald News Services
Calgary Herald
November 18, 2009

Canadians are emerging from the recession confident their homes' value is rising and optimistic about their local housing markets, says a new report.

The Canadian mortgage market is also rebounding and will surpass the $1-trillion mark in 2010, says the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals.

The association said the survey, conducted by maritz research canada in October, indicated the majority of those surveyed (40 per cent), expect house prices to go up, more than double the opinion of those surveyed in the spring (18 per cent).

"Mortgage consumers have been busy and have effectively capitalized on low interest rates to shop and renegotiate," said Jim Murphy, president and CEO of the organization

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


But analysts not ready to push panic button

Garry Marr, Financial Post
Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Canadian existing-home prices are now rising at a pace not seen in 20 years, fuelling talk that a bubble may be forming in the market.

The national average price of a home sold last month was $341,079, a 20.7% increase from a year ago, the Ottawabased Canadian Real Estate Association said yesterday. Sales also continued to climb with 42,288 units trading hands, a 41.5% jump from October 2008.

But at the same time that demand surges and interest rates stay at historic lows, supply remains critically low. New listings last month in the country's 25 largest markets were off 16% from a year ago.

"I don't think it's a bubble yet," said Doug Porter, an economist at Bank of Montreal. "The rapid-fire rebound in Canadian housing is showing no sign of letting up. While that may be causing some sweaty palms among bubble-phobes, the quick turn is a vivid illustration that monetary policy still works in this country."

Mr. Porter says large markets are skewing average prices, creating a national picture that might seem more buoyant than it is in reality.

Toronto, the largest market in the country, showed a 20% price increase last month from a year ago. In Vancouver, the most expensive market in the country, sales were up 170.8% from a year ago.

"There is a little bit of magic in the way they put these numbers together," said Mr. Porter.

Derek Holt, senior vice-president of economics at Scotia Capital, called what's happening in the marketplace today a once-in-a-lifetime situation. He said yesterday record low interest rates, tight supply, a favourable lending environment and a government stimulus program have all helped stir the housing pot.

"It's more the medium term, two-three years, where we could get into headaches potentially," said Mr. Holt. questioning whether consumers buying today are ready for interest rates that could be three to four percentage points higher by 2011.

Real estate author Garth Turner said the latest figures prove his thesis that Canada is now in a real-estate bubble. "We got this type of growth in sales and prices in the middle of a recession," he said.

"The latest [gross domestic product] numbers show the economy actually contracted," Mr. Turner said.

A new study from the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals released yesterday shows Canadians are benefiting from the lower interest rates. The average mortgage rate negotiated in the past year was 4.55%, a decline from 5.41% a year ago.

"Clearly people are thinking the worst is behind us and that comes as we have record low rates," said Jim Murphy, president of CAAMP. "If rates were to spike dramatically there could be some concern, but we just don't see that."

Gregory Klump, CREA chief economist, said the latest numbers must be kept in context.

"Activity in the early part of 2009 had fallen to a decade low. With improvement in consumer confidence and interest rates, sales activity was expected to respond."

Mr. Klump suggested prices will ease as sellers start to take advantage of higher prices. However, CREA is now predicting prices will rise 4.2% this year after suggesting they would increase by only 1.5%.

Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada Inc., said he has been expecting these type of price increases. "Last year at this time, everything just stopped.... Now we are just back to kind of normal. You are going to see these type of numbers continue into the spring because we are comparing them to last year."

Monday, November 16, 2009


Strong rise in Canadian manufacturing sales good news

Paul Ferley
Assistant Chief Economist
RBC Economics Research

Manufacturing sales rose a solid 1.4% in September, slightly less than the 1.6% gain expected going into the report. The decline in August was revised down to 1.8% from the -2.1% originally estimated. The increase on a constant dollar basis was even higher, rising 1.8%, although this followed a 2.1% drop in August (and a 5.1% surge in July).
The increase in September was led by 16.4% jump in the motor vehicle component and a 13.7% surge in motor vehicle parts. StatsCan commented that, eliminating the impact of motor vehicles, part and accessories, sales were down a disappointing 0.4%. However, much of this weakness reflected a sizeable 28.6% drop in the aerospace component. After declining 34.2% in August, we had expected about one-half of the decline to be retraced in September. Eliminating both motor vehicles and aerospace, manufacturing sales rose a solid 0.5% following no change in August. This reflected broad-based gains with a majority of manufacturing sub-sectors rising in September.
In terms of other components in the report, unfilled orders fell 0.6%; new orders soared 8.3%; and inventories continued to decline, dropping 1.9%, thus pushing the inventory-to-sales measure down to 1.44 from 1.49 in August and a recent peak in May of 1.63.
The solid 1.4% rise in September manufacturing sales is encouraging both because the gains were relatively broadly based and because it almost fully offset the sizeable 1.8% drop in August. As well, the gain augurs well for September GDP to increase following disappointing numbers in the previous two months, with GDP unchanged in July and down 0.1% in August.
A recovery in activity in September is key for the Canadian economy to return to positive growth in the third quarter. Our current forecast assumes that this will barely be the case, with the economy eking out an annualized gain of only 1%. This would represent a marked improvement from declines of 6.1% and 3.4% in the first and second quarters, respectively, but it is still indicative of weak economic conditions.
With this pace of growth not sufficient to put sustained downward pressure on the unemployment rate, the Bank of Canada will be in no rush to start tightening policy. We expect that the central bank will be able to adhere to its conditional commitment of leaving the overnight rate unchanged at 0.25% through the end of the second quarter of 2010.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Feng Shui and Front Doors
(Written by Sallie Tsui Sien)

Ch'i (energy) enters the house through doors and windows. However, the front door of your house is where the major part of Ch'i enters and therefore this door plays an important role in determining the quality of Feng Shui experienced by the household. Its location within the house is very important.

Most homes have two main doors. One that was built originally by the architect (front door) and the other, which could be a kitchen, garage or side door, that is more preferred by the occupants due, for example, to the convenience of its location.

Decide on which door to use and use this one door only. Having two main entry doors can often cause unnecessary bickering and arguing amongst occupants, that it is why it is important to just one door to enter and leave, it is OK to use the other door if it leads to the garden and you want to access it or throw your rubbish away.
Make sure the size of the door is in proportion to the size of the property. If the front door is too big, opportunities will slip you by and if it is too small, it can cause disharmony within the household. If you feel your door is too big or small hang a faceted crystal sphere inside the door.
A solid front door is always preferable to a glass-panelled one. If you have a glass door do not worry just hang muslin or a similar cloth over the glass.
Generally speaking, a front door must be bigger than the back door encouraging Ch'i to enter through this aspect. Again if you have a larger rear door hang a crystal sphere here.
A front door needs to open inwards to allow beneficial Ch'i to enter. There is no cure for this one it must open inwards.
It is important that the front door opens easily without obstacles or difficulties. Broken door furniture must be replaced. Hinges should be oiled regularly. The front door must be well maintained and clean.
Make certain that the name or number of your house is clearly visible by day and night in order to maintain harmonious relationships with callers.
The most vital thing to do is to make very certain that this door is not being hit by anything sharp or angled. This is what is considered 'exterior poison arrows'. These structures can transform quality energy into a bad one and you would not want this transformation at your front door. If you feel you have poison arrows directed at your home place a Ba Gua mirror above the door.
Make sure the front door bell is easily located and works at all time. It should also have a nice ringing tone to it. I have stood waiting outside many front doors and had to use my mobile phone to call in.
The colours of the door should reflect the compass direction it faces according to the Five Elements and/or be in balance with the elemental properties of the energies of the sector where the door is located. I have listed associated colours below.

South (Fire) = Reds, pink, burgundy.
Southwest (Earth) = Yellows or browns.
West (Metal) = White, silver, copper or gold.
Northwest (Metal) = White, silver, copper or gold.
North (Water) = Blacks or blues.
Northeast (Earth) = Yellows or browns.
East (Wood) = Greens.
Southeast (Wood) = Greens.

Note: If you have had an authentic consultation, the recommended colour may well be different from above, as your Practitioner will know which elements are needed to weaken or enhance this area.

Do not keep shoes near your front door; they constitute clutter and create stagnant energy. If you have another door, apart from the front door that is used on a frequent basis including by friends and visitors, the path leading to it must be clear, unobstructed and clean. This will be the path 'chi' would take to enter your house and therefore make sure this source is coming from a favourable direction.

"He who asks may be a fool for five minutes,
but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."


Why choose a condo?
Lifestyle a prime motivator as market perks up

By Marty Hope
Edmonton Journal
November 7, 2009

Condo living is a lifestyle choice--it reflects how the owners use their time, or how they want to use it.

They don't want to shovel snow, cut grass or tend gardens. They want to be able to get up and go, enjoy leisure time, or pack up and go on vacation without the security worries that go with a house.

Baby boomers, empty nesters and young people make up the bulk of the condo demographic.

For Kathi and Rob McAuley, the decision to go condo had definite implications for their work and leisure time. The 50-something professionals had been shopping the condo market off and on for a year before taking ownership of a resale townhouse in west Calgary.

Demand for condominiums in Calgary and Edmonton has been growing for more than a decade.

On the new side, despite the slowdown that has put a severe crimp in construction activity, work continues on mid-and highrise buildings in the two cities' downtowns. In the suburbs, foundations are being dug and framing is underway on semi-detached homes and townhouses.

While the economy has battered the multifamily sector, there are signs of recovery. In September, the City of Edmonton issued building permits for 218 multi-family units, compared with 193 for the same month last year.

On the resale side, there has been a decided increase in sales. But the growth in condominium appeal has been going on for years.

While condos accounted for just 15 per cent of total resales 15 years ago, it's now almost double that.

"Indeed, we have seen a slowdown in the number of condos being built, but this is a form of ownership that is here to stay," says Bonnie Wegerich, Calgary Real Estate Board president.

"Condo resales are rebounding in a trend similar to single-family homes.

Home prices in Edmonton have remained relatively stable despite the robust activity in the market. Prices for single-family homes in October were $363,694, down 2.2 per cent from September, but up 0.12 per cent from the same time last year.

Edmonton condos sold for an average of $237,601 in October, down 3.2 per cent from September, but unchanged from a year earlier.

Overall, the average residential price in October was$318,969, down 2.5 per cent from last month and up 0.33 per cent from October 2008.

Wegerich says the McAuleys fit one of the demographic models for condo ownership. The couple spends a lot of time at a second home in Invermere, B.C., and felt they didn't want to continue with the maintenance needed for their house and property.

"We wanted a place that more reflected our present phase of life," says Kathi, who owns a learning and development consulting company called Management DevelopMentors Inc. and also teaches at the University of Calgary.

But there was much more than that to their decision to buy a condo. "We love trees and back onto a treed green space, so this was very important to us," Kathi says. "Even though we are in a condo, it doesn't have a restricted feel to it."

They bought a three-level, 5,000-square-foot condo for $880,000. Their previous home covered 2,000 square feet.

The other target demographic for condo ownership is the millennial generation -- people born between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. "They are both at a stage where they want similar things," Wegerich says.

For many of the millennials, condominium living is their first taste of home ownership, but likely not their last.

Devon Wolfe and Priscilla Naber, both 20, are looking for their first home.


"We primarily chose a condo because of the lifestyle," says Wolfe, a full-time architecture student at the University of Calgary. Maintenance was a turnoff.

"Also, we were looking for more of a stepping stone than a final home and condos seem to fit that," he says.

As they continue their search, they've established some limits: They want a condo that's 700 to 1,000 square feet, and costs from$220,000 to $260,000.

Wendy Jabusch, general manager of Hawthorne Homes, the multi-family building division of Carma Developers, says it's typically young singles and couples who are buying the company's units.

Affordability is a big part of the buying decision, Jabusch says. "Our buyer demographic-- singles and couples in their late 20s and early 30s--are very cognizant of affordability and quality, so we have to work with our trades and suppliers to reduce the number of deficiencies, and thereby save money.

"Young buyers are smart, well-informed and have a clear idea of what they can afford and are willing to spend."

Photos by: Marc Curtis

Monday, November 9, 2009


Canadian housing starts resume uptrend
Paul Ferley
Assistant Chief Economist
RBC Economics Research
November 9, 2009

Canadian housing starts rose 5.4% in October to an annualized level of 157,300 that more than offset the 3.9% drop recorded in September. Expectations had been for a slightly stronger increase to an annualized 159,300. However, the rise did re-establish the upward trend in this series that had previously been in train through August, with starts steadily rising from a cyclical trough in April of 118,500.
The 8,000 increase in the level of October starts from September’s 149,300 mainly reflected strength in the urban multiples component, which rose 8,800 (13.8%). The more stable urban singles component disappointingly fell by 1,900 (2.7%), although this represented only a partial retracement from the 10,200 (17.3%) surge recorded in September. Rural starts also rose, but by a more modest 1,100 (6.8%).
The strength was relatively broadly based across the country, led by a 15% increase in British Columbia closely followed by a 14.8% rise in Ontario. More modest increases were recorded in the Prairies (6.5%) and in the Atlantic provinces (1.2%). Quebec was the only region to see activity fall, dropping 11.6% in the month.
The increase in starts to 157,300 in October is encouraging as it re-establishes the upward trend from the cyclical trough in April of 118,500. As well, the gain in October was broadly based across most regions of the country. The increase in new construction is consistent with indications of rising housing sales activity. The recovery in residential investment is being fuelled by low interest rates and rising confidence that the worst of the economic downturn is over.
Although the pace of improvement in starts has been halting in recent months, our forecast assumes a more sustained improvement going forward. Housing start activity is expected to average 176,000 in 2010, which will be up from an expected 143,000 this year but down from the 211,000 recorded in 2008.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Where to invest in the strong loonie era
Published: Monday, November 02, 2009

Buyers of Canadian banks, utilities, property firms and some retailers look set to become long-term winners if the country's currency -- as many predict -- resumes its recent rally to top the U.S. dollar in value.

But manufacturers, including auto parts makers, forestry companies, and other export-reliant industries, are expected to feel further pain as the soaring currency cools sales and slices into profit margins.

Strategists and money managers said the export sector's woes will force the Bank of Canada to keep interest-rate policy easy for a long time, ensuring a strong performance by the stocks most sensitive to rates.

"Deflation is more a risk than inflation, so rates are going to stay low. The dollar is putting tremendous pressure on the inflation rate," said Paul Gardner, portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management, which manages about $130-million.

"People are going to go up the risk curve and buy dividends, companies that have stability to them, and that's banks and real estate."

The fund manager, who warns Canada could enter "a Japan situation" where a strong currency, aging population and overcapacity all drag on growth, also likes the prospects for utilities and dominant telecom players such as Rogers Communications Inc.

The Canadian dollar reached parity with the greenback for the first time in decades in 2007, powered by soaring commodity and energy prices. It has not traded there since July 2008, when the financial crisis spurred a safe-haven flight back into the U.S. dollar.

The loonie, nicknamed for the bird depicted on the one dollar coin, hit a four-year low in March then rallied 28% to a 2009 high of 97.97 U.S. cents on Oct. 15.

It retreated after aggressive warnings by the central bank that its flight threatens economic recovery. It closed at 92.43 U.S. cents on Friday.


George Vasic, head of research at UBS Securities Canada, said it is only a matter of time before the currency returns to parity with the U.S. dollar, boosted by Canada's much stronger fiscal performance and ongoing commodity price support.

The equity strategist said that would increase the purchasing power of Canadian consumers and should support stocks geared to them.

"They can spend more, so what you're looking for is effectively the more domestically focused organizations, which would include a lot of names that are in the consumer staples, consumer discretionary sectors," he said.

"I would also include the banks in general. They do have U.S. operations. But they benefit from the fact that rates will be low."

Vasic said there is less currency correlation for resource stocks, a huge component of the Canadian stock markets. He noted that while many have U.S. dollar revenues and Canadian dollar costs, the Canadian currency is typically strongest when underlying commodity prices are rising.

He saw export-oriented industrial companies as the biggest potential losers, a widely shared view.

AGF Funds Inc Chief Investment Officer Martin Hubbes, who helps manage more than $4-billion in Canadian equities, noted the fund house had largely shunned the auto parts sector partly because of concern about the rising currency.

"We, for a number of years now, have kind of avoided light manufacturing companies that have a very close ties to the U.S.," he said.

"Even though we've got some very good companies, I would say that (auto parts makers) Magna and Linamar are probably decent companies, it's just unfortunate that they find themselves in a tough situation."


But Hubbes, who also thinks a stronger currency will benefit retailers, said the Canadian dollar could be due for a near-term pullback even though long-term prospects are healthy, a view shared by several fund managers.

"We're actually a bit bearish on the Canadian dollar in the short to medium term. We actually believe the U.S. dollar is probably going to strengthen in the three to six months and think that's going to have a huge impact on the market," said Youssef Zohny, associate portfolio manager at Vancouver-based Van Arbor Asset Management Ltd.

He added the firm is bullish on the Canadian dollar and commodity and energy plays in the long term. But for now, it's lightening up on resource stocks, and moving more into underowned sectors like telecom firms and utilities.


CMHC expects housing rebound to continue
Financial Post
Published: Monday, November 02, 2009

Home construction is expected to continue rebounding in the second half this year and into 2010 as demand increases and inventories decline, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Housing starts are forecast to reach 141,900 in 2009 and rise to 164,900 next year, the federal agency said Monday in its quarterly outlook.

"We expect housing markets across Canada to strengthen leading into and over the course of 2010 as economic conditions improve," said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan.

"Demand for existing homes has rebounded since the beginning of the year. In addition, lower inventory levels characterize both the new and existing home markets. As a result, stronger housing demand will be reflected in higher levels of housing starts in 2010," Dugan said.

Existing home sales are expected to reach 441,300 units this year and increase to 445,150 units in 2010, CMHC said in its report.

The average price is forecasts to be $312,950 in 2009 and $324,500 next year, it said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009



What women really, really want in a house
Luxury is OK, closets are good, but neighbourhood is best of all
By Joanne Lauciu
Ottawa Citizen
Canwest News Service
October 24, 2009

When my husband and I finished our new home, we held a party. I was proud of all the practical and luxurious touches I managed to squeeze in on our limited budget--the kitchen island with its own sink, the maple floors, the cast-iron tub and a pair of linen closets upstairs.
But cast-iron tubs and linen closets held little interest for guests of the male variety. One marched right through the kitchen without a glance and asked to see the basement.
If you're a woman, feel free to jump in and tell your own decorating story.
Women are all about the narrative, even when it comes to their feelings about their spaces.
Take the Heineken commercial that shows a pair of women swooning over a walk-in closet. There's cheering from the other side of the room as the men discover another closet that has been converted into a beer fridge.
Or the Ikea commercial about Trevor and Anne, who have achieved marital harmony thanks to Swedish closet organization ingenuity. Trevor is smiling, too, because Anne's 37 pairs of shoes are no longer falling on his head. It's unclear whether Anne has succeeded in training Trevor to scoop his stuff off the floor and into the storage cubbies.
A built-in beer fridge in the bedroom might thrill a man, but it's not going to sell a house to a woman. And just like the bumper sticker says: "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
Men might still make more money, but when it comes to home buying, it's what appeals to women that clinches the sale.
"Men aren't motivated to buy homes that don't make their wives happy," says Bridget Brennan, the CEO of Female Factor, a company that develops sales strategies to appeal to women.
Most households are two-income families. And while women used to have informal purchasing power in the past, now that they make their own incomes, the effect is a one-two punch, says Brennan, also the author of Why She Buys.
Women tend to spearhead the home-search process after crunching the numbers, says Brennan. "When you make the women happy, you make the men happy."
Besides, when half of all marriages end in divorce and growing numbers of women are buying homes without men, the female mentality is something builders can't afford to ignore.
Last month, Ottawa-based developers Tartan and Tamarack hosted "Ladies Day"--an event that included cooking demonstrations, cake decorating, decorating seminars and complimentary manicures.
"Cars lined up around the block and people started arriving around 11:15 a.m. for our noon opening," says Tamarack's sales manager Debi Champagne.
These events give women a chance to network, gather ideas and visualize life in a different place, says Champagne.
It's all about the narrative -- something Ikea understands very well when it arranges furniture to form vignettes in its stores or runs a commercial about Anne and Trevor's organizational bliss.
"Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques for creating an emotional connection with women," says Brennan.
Design firm Unique Spaces decorated Tartan's fancy single home, the Whitney, shown during ladies day. Co-owner Kelly Maiorano says the number one question asked was about paint colours.
"Women definitely notice the finer details, accessories, art, draperies, furnishings and colour," says Maiorano. "Men seem to be more interested in the construction details, and they always love the home electronic upgrades."
Women are also keenly aware of the practicalities, Brennan says. They want clear sight lines into the backyard and the family room so they can watch the children play or do their homework while Mom cooks and sorts out a crisis at work via BlackBerry.
"The search process is exciting. Women are all about imagining the possibilities of their new life."
While a spacious foyer might have a lot of design impact, women will notice if it doesn't have a closet, says Brennan.
"They know how their family is going to function. They are looking at the flow."
Women can be turned off by poor access to the backyard, and a lack of a decent mud room, adds Mary Taggart, editor-in-chief of Ottawa at Home magazine, who has decorated numerous homes for Tamarack.
"One aspect that was really important to me when building our new home was having direct access to the backyard from the kitchen. Incorporating that second cooking area was crucial and for people with smaller children, it is very appealing to be able to work in the kitchen and still watch your children playing outside."
The Canada Trust women and home ownership poll, released last March, concluded that women who independently buy a home are most interested in cost, neighbourhood and location and safety and security. Surprisingly, proximity to work and family was lower on the list.
Women looking at homes are buying into the whole neighbourhood, says Brennan.
"Women aren't just looking at the home. They're buying into the whole community--the schools, the stores, the restaurants. You don't live in a vacuum."
About 43 per cent of the female homeowners in the Canada Trust poll said financial security was the best thing about home ownership, followed by having a backyard and a quiet and private space for themselves.
That can range from a cosy sitting area in the master bedroom to a luxurious ensuite bathroom, says Brennan.
For Taggart, that private space was a home office on the main floor with custom storage.
Her four children, who range from 12 to 22 in age, rarely enter her office and the television is small and hidden.
"It offers little entertainment value for the kids, but has lots of appeal to me," she says.
"I need to have some personal space. Our life is busy and our home is busy with four children and two dogs. There are times when I just need to retreat."
Taggart's office is decorated with velvet, paisley and family photos. It has a much more traditional feeling to it than the rest of the house, which has a contemporary style.
"I did it this way as I wanted to feel comfortable in the space and wanted to be able to personalize the space with photographs and samples of my work," she says.
"The space is much more a reflection of me personally than the rest of the house, which is more a reflection of my decorating style."



It's a smart builder who knows what to promote when appealing to women buyers. Three experts share their top six deal clinchers for warming a woman's heart.

1. Cooking power: In the kitchen, pantries are big, says Mary Taggart, editor-in-chief of Ottawa at Home magazine.

"Luxury finishes are big, too, granite countertops, even if it is just done on the island," she says. "In my kitchen, having two ovens was a must. I love to entertain and am the one who wants to cook every holiday meal, so incorporating the extra cooking space was essential."

2. Sweet spas: Men see bathrooms as simply functional. Women want gorgeous bathtubs and a spa-like environment, says Taggart. "A bathroom is so much more of a retreat for women."

Luxurious finishes are appealing to women, but so are the small details. At a recent 'Ladies Day' event, decorator Kelly Maoirino got lots of enthusiasm over a small chandelier in an ensuite bathroom.

3. Mandatory options: Choosing options and upgrades is one of the most exciting aspects of home buying for women.

Builders who leave a bunch of samples lying around on a table in the garage of the model home are missing out on an important part of the buying experience, says marketing consultant Bridget Brennan.

4. Storage, storage, storage: In a bulk-buying world, women want to be sure there will be a place to stow the 28-roll package of toilet paper. "People are paying to outsource storage. That tells us that people are willing to pay for storage," says Brennan.

5. Security plus: Women want features that make them feel safe. That includes good street lighting and lighting around the entrance-way of the house.

6. Colour plus: Women have more confidence with colour than men. Brennan notes that the U.S. home-building giant Ryland embraces personalization to attract female buyers. Instead of offering three colours in a 100-house development, the company now typically offers nine to 15.

"Women see colour differently than men, but colour is a very personal thing, not necessarily a gender thing," adds Taggart.

"I do think women seek to personalize space with greater zest than men. Women will go to much greater effort to make a space stand out and showcase their personal taste with more strength than a man might."

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Alberta's economy to rebound, grow by 3.1% in 2010: Scotiabank
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald
October 22, 2009

CALGARY - Alberta's economic recovery in 2010 will be bolstered by continued price appreciation for commodities, strengthening non-residential construction and buoyant infrastructure investments.

In a report released today, Scotiabank said the province will likely see a 3.1 per cent growth in GDP in 2010 following a 2.5 per cent loss this year during the economic recession.

The report said fixed capital investment amounts to almost 30 per cent of Alberta's GDP.

"Though the capital project base eroded considerably over the past year, a turnaround is already underway," said the report. "Lower construction costs, combined with favourable lending rates have put a number of projects back on track. The province has seen a multitude of oil and gas mergers and acquisitions — leading most jurisdictions in 2009 year-to-date — that have consolidated the industry and a number of projects.

"This trend is expected to continue into next year as foreign interest increases. A number of high profile energy projects will be gaining momentum going into 2010."

The report also said that housing construction has picked up in recent months, though the overall level of activity remains well short of activity in recent years.

"Crude oil exports should post a large rebound in 2010 as production increases and prices appreciate. However, a strong Canadian dollar will temper earnings," said Scotiabank. "While environmental concerns over the oilsands remain a top concern, an increase in public and private spending for carbon-capture sequestration projects is a positive sign.

"The province’s natural gas industry will likely experience a more difficult year as prices—though higher—are expected to hover around break-even levels for most of the province’s producers. The industry will be pressured by burgeoning shale plays in the United States and British Columbia and the province’s royalty and incentive frameworks will remain key issues."

Scotiabank also said manufacturing should rebound and the petrochemical industry has started to stabilize. Food manufacturers should also see some growth.

"The once overheated labour market is cooling down, but hours are being cut as opposed to widespread layoffs. Employment should improve next year with a service sector rebound and a modest recovery in drilling activity. Retail sales will likely show modest gains after a significant drop this year, as housing prices have stabilized and inflation pressures have moderated for the first time in years."

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Canadian housing continues turnaround
Garry Marr, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canadian housing sales continued their remarkable turnaround, recording the best third quarter ever on record.

The Canadian Real Estate Association, which represents about 100 boards across the country, also said prices are now beginning to follow sales. The average national sales price in the third quarter was $327,736, an 11% increase from a year ago.

Prices increases are getting bigger. The Ottawa-based group said the average Canadian sale price of a home last month was $331,602, a 13.6% increase from a year ago.

But these increases, triggered by tight inventory levels, will likely slow as sellers begin to realize it is a good time to list their homes.

"Headline average price increases over the rest of the year are expected to prompt sellers to return to the market after having retreated to the sidelines late last year and earlier this year," said Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Ottawa-based group. "An increase in new listings will help keep a lid on price increases. Price increases over the rest of 2009 and early next year are likely to reflect declining average prices late last year and earlier this year."

To put it context how much the market has rebounded, sales in the third quarter were up 48% from the bottom reached in the fourth quarter of 2008.

"Low interest rates, rebounding consumer confidence and improving overall sense of economic security continue to draw homebuyers to the housing market," said Dale Ripplinger, president of CREA.

Canada's largest cities are driving the housing market. Vancouver sales in the third quarter were up 34% from the second quarter.

Toronto sales rose 11% during same period while Calgary climbed 19%. The September sales numbers continued the trend with a 1.5% increase in activity from August for the entire country. The latest bump in sales puts the market 63% above January low.

Mr. Klump indicated the market should plateau shortly as inventory levels continue to improve. The number of months of inventory in the market -- which is based on the number of months it would take to sell current inventories based on current sales activity -- was 4.9 months in September. That figure was down slightly from August and way off the peak of 12.8 months reached in January, 2009.

The total dollar figure for all sales in the quarter reached $41-billion. the highest level on record. British Columbia and Ontario reached new highs for dollar volume.

"Monthly sales activity remained on a strong upward trajectory throughout the third quarter in British Columbia while showing signs it may be topping out in other provinces," said Mr. Klump. "On balance, this suggest the sales activity may be starting to plateau after having climbed rapidly earlier this year."
Photo by: bmann

Friday, October 9, 2009


Canadian job gains stay strong;
unemployment rate falls
Dawn Desjardins,
Assistant Chief Economist
RBC Economics Research
October 9, 2009

Canada's economy created another 30,600 jobs in September, trouncing forecasts for a 5,000 increase, the second strong showing in a row after a 27,100 increase in jobs in August. The unemployment rate unexpectedly turned down to 8.4% from 8.7% in August. A 24,500 decline in the labour force was partially responsible for the dip in the unemployment rate.
September's rise in employment reflected a 46,200 increase in goods-producing industries, while service providers trimmed back 15,600 positions. The number of full-time jobs jumped by 91,600, while part-time employment fell by 61,000. Private companies decreased employment by 17,100 reversing some of August's gain and the number on government payrolls increased by 36,400.
The largest job gains were reported in manufacturing and construction with both industries recording rises of about 25,000. Employment in retail/wholesale trade was little changed, while educational services and finance insurance and real estate recorded increased. Job losses were reported in technical services, transportation and warehousing and accommodation and food services.
Once against there was a notable rise in employment for women aged 25 and older of 41,000, marking the second month of very strong gains. Youth employment saw a net job gain of 4,200 as full-time jobs increased while part-time employment slumped. Job losses were concentrated in the men aged 24 to 54 category.
The previous weakness in labour market conditions finally appears to be showing up in wages with the annual gain in the average hourly wage rate for permanent workers falling to 2.3% from 3.5% in August, the slowest annual pace since March 2007.
The unexpectedly strong job gains and fall in the unemployment rate in September indicate improvement in labour market conditions and support our view that the economy is emerging from recession. A return to positive growth and improving labour market will be welcomed by Bank of Canada; however, at 8.4%, the unemployment still implies considerable slack in this economy. This provides reason for the Bank to maintain its commitment to a 0.25% policy rate until mid-2010.
Our forecast is that the economy will build momentum into 2010, supporting an improvement in the labour market and leading to a gradual decline in the unemployment rate. Against this backdrop, the Bank will begin to remove stimulus in the second part of next year with 50 basis-point hikes expected in both the third and fourth quarters.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


EVENT: Visiting Artist Talk Osamu James Nakagawa
WHEN: October 15, 2009 2:00 PM
WHERE: Stanford Perrott Lecture Theatre ACAD

Osamu James Nakagawa is a Guggenheim Fellow, and will be delivering a visiting artist talk for all of ACAD about his Okinawa, Gama, and Banta series of work. A book signing will follow Nakagawa’s talk.

Below are samples of past series of work:


Recovery in city to hit a few bumps, economist says
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald
October 6, 2009

Calgary is likely to feel many peaks and troughs on the road to economic recovery, according to Calgary Economic Development.

In its 2010 Economic Outlook delivered Tuesday at a downtown luncheon, the organization said two issues will impact the local economy --its heavy trading ties to the U. S. and its close links to the energy markets.

"Before we get to sustained recovery, we will likely experience more volatility along the way," said Adam Legge, the group's vice-president and chief economist, who authored the report.

The outlook estimates that real GDP will contract this year by 2.5 per cent, reflecting local and global recessionary conditions, and Calgary will continue to face economic challenges in 2010.The group predicts real GDP growth in 2010 of 0.8 to 1.2 per cent.

"The recession provides ample evidence of one fact -- Calgary and Alberta are still heavily dependent upon the price of oil and gas," said Legge. "There are lots of other factors at play, but boiled down to its essence, our prosperity depends on the state of two prices. That's it. Two prices."

"This may be simplistic, but it il-lustrates an important fact. We aren't there yet in terms of a more diversified economy," said Legge.

The Calgary Economic Development report said oil prices should remain in a range sufficient to enable Calgary-based producers to earn returns and maintain moderate levels of investment. Next year will not likely represent any return to surging oil demand growth or oilsands investment.

Legge said most analysts expect oil to be in the $60 to $90 range throughout 2010.

But he said Alberta faces "serious" short-and long-term challenges to its natural gas industry which are likely to result in further business fallout in the city in 2010.

"The former engine of Canada's economic growth, Alberta is now performing as the brake on recovery," said Legge.

He said Calgary's economy was the strongest performing urban economy in the country for about a decade, but the global recession and a reliance on energy markets and one trading partner has brought the city's economic performance down significantly.

"For 2010, economic activity is not expected to charge ahead like a bull . . . It is going to experience much volatility and variability reflecting fluctuations in the U. S. economy and oil and gas activity," said Legge.

"Recovery is going to happen. When exactly, no one knows. Balance sheet recessions, like the one we are in, have proven historically to be longer and slower to recover. It might take another six, 12 or 18 months before we can truly say that the worst might be behind us. And when it does, it likely will be a slow, steady recovery . . . In the long-term, however, more modest growth rates might become the new norm, and ultimately be what we need to keep us honest."

Don Drummond, chief economist with TD Bank Financial Group, said Alberta's GDP will decline by an estimated 2.3 per cent this year, but grow by 1.9 per cent in 2010.At the national level, GDP will fall by 2.5 per cent in 2009 and is expected to grow by 2.4 per cent the following year.

He predicted Calgary's GDP will rise by 1.4 per cent in 2010.

"The world economy is recovering from the great recession," said Drummond, who also spoke at the luncheon.

"For Alberta, oil prices will remain far from the previous peak and the natural gas industry will be challenged by low prices and new competition. The federal and provincial governments will have to turn to restoring budget balances.

"Economic diversity will have to accelerate. In brief, the economic climate will improve, but the dark clouds from the great recession will linger."

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets, who was in Calgary for a panel discussion on the local real estate market, said the Alberta economy will contract by 2.5 per cent in 2009, but grow by 2.5 per cent in 2010, which he described as a "halting recovery."


Hot housing market expected to cool by November
Published: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Low financing costs and pent-up demand helped restore Canadian existing home sales to pre-recession levels, but the red-hot pace will likely peter out before the year is out, a report showed on Wednesday.

The Bank of Canada lowered rates to an all-time low with an aim to cushion the Canadian economy from external shocks. Instead, this aggressive easing has "proved to be more of a trampoline for resale housing markets," Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Pascal Gauthier said.

As of August, 50-60% of pent-up demand has been absorbed, and if the current pace persists, the demand will dry up by November, TD estimated in its Resale Housing Market Outlook. A sharp shift in consumer confidence has contributed to the rebound, combining with low and favourable interest rates that made home ownership affordable for many Canadians.

Between 45,000 and 53,000 potential sales late last year failed to materialize because consumer confidence froze up during the worst of the global financial crisis, TD estimated.

No other Canadian economic indicator in the past few months has recovered as strongly, and in fact, home sales have now exceeded pre-recession levels and matched the lofty volumes of 2007, TD said.

"After plummeting by nearly a third in the second half of last year, the seasonally-adjusted level of sales had climbed back by 61% as of August," the report said.

Overall, TD estimates national existing home sales will rise 2.4% to 445,000 units in 2009 from a year earlier, with the average price climbing 2.1% to $310,000. In 2010, sales are seen rising 2.2% to 455,000 units, while prices jump 5%. But in 2011, TD projects eroding affordability will dampen sales but the average price will still add a modest 2%.

TD also looked at nine Canadian cities and their prospects for existing home sales. All cities coast-to-coast were forecast to show gains from this year to 2010, but then retreat the following year.

On Tuesday, TD released a report that suggested the Bank of Canada could raise interest rates sooner and more aggressively than forecast if real estate strength did not cool.
Photo by: xtudios

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Housing market 'correction is behind us': price index
Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home prices in Canada rose 1.6% in July, the third straight monthly increase after eight consecutive declines, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index.

Prices rose in all of the six metropolitan areas surveyed, the first time that has happened in 13 months, the report stated.

Moreover, in three of the six areas - Halifax, Ottawa and Montreal - prices rose to levels above their pre-recession peaks.

Nationally, prices were still down from a year earlier, off 5.1% in July, representing the eighth consecutive 12-month decline.

Nevertheless, the recent monthly gains indicate "the market correction is behind us," said National Bank senior economist Marc Pinsonneallt.

"Furthermore, prices have more than recovered the lost ground in three regions out of six. This is a huge difference with the U.S. Case-Shiller index, where all of the 20 cities surveyed have yet to experience home price increase over the last 12 months."

Ottawa home prices gained 2.6%; Toronto, 2.2%; Vancouver, 1.5%; Halifax, 0.8%; Montreal, 0.7%; and Calgary, 0.1%. For Calgary, it was the first month-over-month advance after 12 straight months of declines.

PHOTO: Brian_Beijl

Friday, September 25, 2009


Cantos announces winner for King Eddy design
Nancy Tousley
Calgary Herald
September 23, 2009

Allied Works Architecture, of Portland, Ore. and New York City, with BKDI of Calgary, is the winner of an international architectural competition to design the new National Music Centre at the King Eddy, it was announced today by the Cantos Music Foundation.

Brad Cloepfil, the firm’s 54-year-old founder, said he was thrilled to win the $100 million project, which offers a once-in-a-career opportunity: to invent a new kind of institution, a museum for the 21st century.

“The initial thing that caught my eye was the complexity of the vision in the description of what the National Music Centre aspired to be,” Cloepfil said. “It was so many different things, it was like nothing I had ever heard of, no nameable institution. It’s not just a museum, it’s not just performance space. It has this crazy blues club associated with it. It was quite a far-ranging vision.”

“To be a part of inventing a new institution, that’s something you don’t encounter. A lot of times you get to reconceive an institution, but to really invent one, which is what we’re doing, that touches on so many parts of music at once and concentrate it into some sort of cohesive place in Calgary is an amazing challenge.”

Cloepfil and 65 other international architectural firms answered the call for expressions of interest (EOI) sent out by the Cantos Music Foundation, which is transforming itself into the National Music Centre. The building program called for incorporating the historic King Edward Hotel, which became a legendary blues bar known fondly in Calgary as the King Eddy, until the building was condemned in 2004.

If all goes according to plan, the King Eddy component of the project, a live music venue and lounge, will be completed first, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in 2012.

Allied Works was chosen from a shortlist of top international competitors: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York, with Kasian, Calgary; Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris, France; Saucier + Perrotte, Montreal; and Studio Pali-Fetke, Los Angeles. All five architects presented their proposals at a public event at the Grand theatre on July 23.

Cloepfil’s proposal envisions a five-storey building designed as a series of “resonant vessels” or instruments orchestrated by the collections and programs of the new building.

“We really do see the building as an instrument,” Cloepfil said last July. “The body of the building is designed and detailed to refer to instrument cases, while the freer forms of the interior are influenced by acoustics. Entering an exhibition gallery, a visitor will activate a threshold of sound, there will be ambient sound throughout and an interactive acoustical area where visitors can make sound with their bodies. Silence will also be present as an important element of the soundscape.”

The new building also refers to the western landscape with canyons of space in its interior and an exterior clad with visually rich material that could possibly be stone veneer.

“There is a monumentality to the design that is intended to evoke the spirit of place,” said Cloepfil, who is known for the influence of the landscape on his work.

The National Music Centre at the King Eddy, to be located in the East Village, will comprise a collection of musical instruments that ranges from harpsichords to electronic keyboards, spaces for performance and education, a recording studio and a radio broadcast facility for the radio station CKUA.

Cantos needs to raise $75 million for the capital cost of the building and another $25 million for an operating endowment.

Allied Works was a frontrunner in the competition from the beginning, said Andrew Mosker, executive director of the Cantos Music Foundation.

“I would say Allied Works, better than any other firm, going back to the EOI phase, has been able to distill the true essence of our project. All 66 of those EOIs were spread out on the project room table and Allied Works’ was the first one I read, for no particular reason.

“I remember the first thing that struck me about their EOI was the way they addressed every single aspect of the project. The vision and understanding of what we wanted to build, their related experience with cultural, and particularly music museum, projects.”

“I think that they, better than anyone else, truly understand the vision we are trying to create here at the National Music Centre at the King Eddy. It’s a new way of looking at cultural buildings, music museum collections and programs all tied into one. It is truly the museum of the 21st century.”

Among the other commissions Allied Works has won through international design competitions are the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas, Texas; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colo., and the Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Animation Studios, Los Angeles and Emeryville, Calif.

Allied designed the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the 12-storey expansion of the Seattle Art Museum, which was added to a building designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates.

The public favourite in an online survey was the proposal by Studio Pali-Fetke, Los Angeles.

Mosker said Cloepfil’s experience in designing cultural buildings, the expert team he has put together, which includes exhibition designers who worked on the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and the chemistry between architect and client, were all considerations the led to choosing the AlliedWorks proposal.

Cloepfil was able to sum up the soul of the project, Mosker said, in “a place that people can return to and that didn’t invade the space it is in but complemented its surroundings. Movement is away from large-scale architecture now. The deep meaning comes from inside, from what goes on in the building.”

The architect, who will be spending every other week in Calgary for the next three or four years, has ties to Calgary, where he has had friends for 40 years, and to Alberta. His maternal grandmother was from Tees, near Red Deer. He said he is looking forward to flyfishing here and to skiing in the winter.

When asked if it is possible to bring the project in on its $75 million budget for the building, Cloepfil said, “As possible as it is to bring any building in on budget.

“There is still a lot of work to do to wrangle the building’s scope into shape, since it has so many simultaneous aspirations. I think the design process will have a big impact on synthesizing things. It’s certainly an adequate budget and that’s not always the case either. People’s dreams are usually much bigger than what their development committee has told them they can raise. I think they’ve done a lot of good homework. They seem extremely well prepared.

“Pre-design and planning essentially will take us through the rest of the year,” he said, “to review everything and do our due diligence, compile information and get the team organized. Then I think we would ideally start on the design cycle on the first of the year.”

The building, which is still awaiting confirmation of its funding from three levels of government, is the first phase of a project that will eventually include a concert hall, expanded gallery spaces and retail space, and is considered the main cultural focal point of Calgary’s East Village development.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Fort McMurray surpasses Calgary, Edmonton as most expensive housing market
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald
September 23, 2009

CALGARY - Fort McMurray is Alberta's most expensive residential real estate market, surpassing both Calgary and Edmonton, says a report released today by Coldwell Banker.

The 2009 Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index of most expensive and most affordable North American markets evaluated average home values for select 2,200 square foot single-family dwellings with four bedrooms, two-and-one-half baths in 345 markets across Canada and the United States.

In Alberta, the average price in Fort McMurray was $638,000, eclipsing Calgary at $525,525 and Edmonton at $432,250.

"While Canadian home prices have been on the rise again following a brief market downturn, today's historically low interest rates have kept the dream of homeownership within reach for most of today's homebuyers," said John Geha, president of Coldwell Banker Canada. "It is particularly interesting to compare the affordability levels now seen across North America and other global centre. Compared to many major markets throughout the world, Canadian real estate looks like a bargain."

The study's four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home is what would typically be sought for middle-management corporate transferees, said the report. "It's what we call the 'aspirational home' and is usually purchased by move up buyers experiencing lifestyle changes," said Geha. "Despite record-breaking prices in many of Canada's major markets, these homes are selling, as buyers take advantage of today's historically low interest rates. These move-up buyers have been a critical component in our resurgent real estate market, and will continue to play a major role in Canada's recovering economy."

In Canada, the report said Vancouver's price in the survey was $1.26 million, putting it in tenth place overall for the highest price in North America. La Jolla, California, topped that list at $2.13 million US. Canada's largest city, Toronto comes in at $824,347.

Outside of North America,. Singapore was the most expensive market at $1.9 million.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Housing sales gain pace as Calgary market warms
By Mario Toneguzzi,
Calgary HeraldSeptember 16, 2009

An upswing in Calgary's real estate market helped push national residential sales in the resale market in August to their largest year-over-year gain in more than two years.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday that MLS sales across Canada remained elevated from year-ago levels for the third consecutive month.

Across the country, 42,483 homes traded hands through MLS, an increase of 18.5 per cent from the same month last year and the third consecutive year-over-year gain of more than 15 per cent, but sales in August were also 6.6 per cent below the record for the month set in 2007.

The association said resale activity in August was up from year-ago levels in about three-quarters of all markets including Vancouver (117 per cent), Toronto (27 per cent), Calgary (17 per cent) and Montreal (nine per cent).

The trend in Calgary for the first two weeks of September has also been positive.

"It's beautiful. I have to say there was a light at the end of the tunnel, which is good," said Christina Hagerty, a real estate agent with Re/Max Realty Professionals in Calgary. "What we're seeing right now after a long lull in the first quarter of this year is the momentum slowly building."

According the website of Mike Fotiou of First Place Realty, up until Monday there have been 578 singlefamily home sales this month and 254 condo sales. The average MLS sale price in Calgary for singlefamily homes this month is $458,924, up from $454,130 for the month of August. The median price month-to-date is $395,000, down from$400,000 in August.

So far this month, the average MLS sale price for a condo is $297,520 and the median price is $268,825, both up from the $283,330 average and $260,000 median in August.

"It's actually been crazy. We're doing a deal a day so far in September," said Hagerty.

In August, the national average sale price was $324,779, up 11.3 per cent from a year ago.

Alberta saw MLS sales of 5,407 units for the month, up 7.5 per cent from August 2008, and an average sale price of$343,727, which was also up 0.2 per cent.

Calgary MLS sales, which included all properties, were 2,324 units for an average sale price of $388,725, down by 0.4 per cent from a year ago.
Photo by CarrieAlways

Monday, September 14, 2009


Housing numbers bode well for Alberta developers
Posted: September 14, 2009, 1:02 PM

by Jonathan Ratner
Real estate, Market Call

Desjardins analyst Jeff Roberts says a new housing forecast from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. for the Alberta market bodes well for developers in the province.

“Reflecting recently increased CMHC single-family housing forecasts for major Alberta cities in 2009 and 2010, significantly improved affordability in these markets and increasing lot sales, we believe Melcor Developments Ltd. and Genesis Land Development Corp., two Alberta-focused land developers, are good buys,” Mr. Roberts said in a report.

CMHC is now calling for 3,000 new single family homes in Calgary in 2009 and 4,000 next year — a 33% jump in the forecast from a few months ago. Edmonton single family home construction is expected to jump to 2,650 after CMHC previously predicted 2,000. Next year, the forecast jumps to 3,200 in Edmonton from a previous call of 2,600.

Mr. Roberts noted lot sales for Melcor and Genesis have been stronger in the last few months and he expects that will continue as the market improves.

On the apartment rental side, Mr. Roberts noted CMHC has not made major changes to its forecast but predicts the strong Alberta economy should help boost the bottom lines at Mainstreet Equities Inc. and Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust.

“We expect that higher average energy prices and more confirmed energy projects should continue to generate healthy immigration to Western Canada, especially Alberta which should help boost occupancy Boardwalk and Mainstreet’s Alberta portfolios,” said Mr. Roberts.