Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Housing's bottom is in sight: lender
Jamie Sturgeon, Financial Post

Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Canada's big banks may be hurting from the reduced demand for new mortgages, but at least one alternative lender says it sees a bottoming in the housing market and is benefitting enormously from it.
"Demand has begun to surface," said Gerald Soloway, chief executive of Torontobased Home Capital Group Inc., one of a handful of alternative mortgage lenders that remain after the U. S. sub-prime meltdown sideswiped more than a dozen competitors in Canada over the past year.
"We're starting to see it across the country."
Led by the western provinces, home prices have dropped by double-digits in many major markets year over year.
Such sharp price declines have brought buyers back into the alternative market and a degree of "stability," Mr. Soloway said in an interview yesterday after Home Capital reported a 20% increase in fourth-quarter net earnings, to $29-million.
The lender has backed up its optimism with action.
Confident that buyers are returning, Home Capital has begun tearing down the tighter restrictions it erected in the fall of 2007, as the credit crunch gathered force. "We have cautiously begun lending again," the CEO said.
A price decline in the order of between 12% and 15% year-over-year is Home Capital's tipping point. If the price has fallen within that range, the lender offers mortgages of up to 75% on uninsured mortgages.
That stands in contrast to the company's position a few months ago, when Home Capital -- like other alternative lenders caught in the throes of the financial crisis -- would barely budge for borrowers who possessed as much as a 40% down payment.
Still, while Home Capital says it is seeing a re-emergence among borrowers in the alternative market, which amounts to about 20% of all outstanding mortgages in Canada at present, there's almost universal acceptance among economists that the overall housing market is still falling.
"Our sense is that the Canadian housing market will remain under pressure for most of this year," said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
"It's not just a question of affordability any longer because of lower prices [and] lower mortgage rates. That's not the issue.
"What is the issue is the recession, which appears to be deepening."
At least another 150,000 jobs could be purged from payrolls this year, Mr. Guatieri said. "It's not the type of environment that encourages the purchase of big-ticket items, especially homes."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

dVider & Conquer

I have seen decals used on interior walls on a few shows lately and have decided it was a great way to add interest a wall of mine without painting. I struggled to find something I liked until I came across dVider. Now I have to stop myself from putting something on every wall.

The following is their blurb about them on the their website listed below:

dVider is the young, delicious design studio based under the bridges in DUMBO Brooklyn. The company was started in 2002 when the owner and designer, Max Darby, began prototyping her idea of a perfect modular room divider. After a couple of years in development, ‘dVider’ went into production. However, soon after, Max realized that the white fabric dVider sail, though beautifully minimal, was in need of some pizzazz and she thought a splash of color would be a welcome option. After toying with stencils, alternative sail colors, and other more permanent solutions, Max realized the ideal way to customize her room divider would be decals. She played with the concept and quickly fell in love with it, sticking the decals not only on her dVider sail but also on her windows, walls, furniture, refrigerator and even her scooter! They were easy to put up and take down. Quickly, the company began selling the stickers and dividers on their own dVider website and then to boutique stores nation wide!

Check them out:

Monday, February 9, 2009


Real Estate stocks, trusts should outperform during recovery
Garry Marr, Financial Post

Published: Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gail Mifsud, a Blackmont Capital analyst, says there has been a major transition in the capital markets that should change the way investors value real estate companies and trusts.
Ms. Mifsud says the focus for investors used to be on productivity and innovation before shifting to interest in companies with hard assets and base materials as well to financial stocks. Now, she says, investing is about to become looking for companies with consumable goods and services with a focus on stocks that provide physical and personal infrastructure.
"For real estate investors, this is a likely to bode well for stocks focused on rental apartments, senior care, recreational travel, self-storage and general merchandise landlords," says Ms. Mifsud.
As far as real estate, she predicts a drop-off in public and private real estate transactions and capital markets investment activity, and an increase in debt spreads and lower asset prices. Real estate fundamentals including occupancy, rents, margins, and funds from operations will also weaken.
"We would advise clients in the short-term to under weight the Canadian REIT sector," says Ms. Misfud.
"However, we continue to believe in the long-term investment merits of the sector as our analysis has shown that real estate stocks underperform leading into a recession, but outperform during the recovery."
Her top picks are Boardwalk REIT (BEIun/TSX), Canadian REIT( REFun/TSX), Dundee REIT (Dun/TSX), and Morguard REIT( MRTun/TSX).
"Our selected top picks offer very compelling double-digit total returns, reflecting investor panic-selling of all stocks. Our top picks are trading at significant discounts to underlying value and very depressed pricing multiples relative to peers," says Ms. Mifsud.