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