Monday, December 27, 2010


Bridgeland-Riverside has a colourful history
1901 to 1925:; Life in old city neighbourhood seems to go at slower pace
By Valerie Berenyi, Calgary Herald
December 27, 2010 6:24 AM

Want to know how the "ethnic" side of Calgary grew up? Take a trip back in time through Bridgeland.

One of Calgary's oldest inner-city neighbourhoods, this northeast community retains elements of an Old Country village. Here you can still see seniors hanging laundry on the clothesline or gardening in their vegetable plots. Much has changed with condominium development on the site of the former General Hospital -- built in 1908 and imploded by Ralph Klein's cost-cutting government in 1998 -- but the tidy, modest houses on tree-lined streets remain. Life seems to go at a slower, quieter pace here.

Marshall Libicz is a living link to that past.

Born in 1922 at the General Hospital, he's the son of an ethnic Ukrainian who'd moved to Canada in 1912 after leaving Galicia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A hale and hearty 88-year-old who loves to garden, Libicz remembers his childhood Bridgeland as largely rural.

People kept chickens, tended market gardens and grazed cattle on vacant prairie land. Milk came, not from the local grocery store run by the father of Alberta's recently retired lieutenant-governor Norman Kwong, but from a neighbour's dairy cow.

A streetcar line rumbled along First Avenue, ridden by working men coming home from the Dominion Bridge Co., Riverside Ironworks and the CPR rail yards, "all smeared with grease," says Libicz.

"I remember when Bridgeland-Riverside was just about all German," he says, referring to the neighbourhood's proper name, and some of its early residents.

Indeed, the community has two distinct areas: Riverside is generally considered to be the flats below the old hospital site; Bridgeland is located above it.

Geography played a role in shaping this unique community: the Bow River frames the area's southern edge and a steep crescent-shaped escarpment, carved by retreating glaciers, envelopes the community to the west, north and east.

From the late 1880s to the turn of the century, members of the Blackfoot Tribe camped in the area and kept a close eye on the fledgling town that was springing up on the south side of the river.

The north bank of the Bow opened up after Langevin Bridge was built in 1882 and the First Nations people gave way to a flood of European newcomers after 1905.

While earlier Anglo-Saxon immigrants had settled in residential areas developing south and southwest of downtown, Germans, Italians, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians made the north side their new home. The flatlands of Riverside, a.k.a. "Germantown," were dominated by ethnic Germans from Russia. Italian, Ukrainian and other immigrants settled in Bridgeland.

They left their indelible imprint on the community's houses, churches and businesses, many of which remain and make the area so appealing. There's the pretty, onion-domed Russian Orthodox Church of All Saints overlooking Bridgeland and the striking St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Riverside, to name but two.

Other colourful residents in the early 20th century were Gypsies, who parked their caravans along the north bank of the Bow River until 1927. Even spicier, the area was infamous for its red-light district.

"Numerous brothels also operated in Riverside before the community's 1910 annexation to Calgary," writes Douglas Stinson in an essay posted on the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association website.

"Before this jurisdictional change, the area was the responsibility of the Mounties, not the city police. Following the annexation 'the women from across Langevin Bridge' relocated to the Nose Creek valley, outside city boundaries. This red-light district remained sheltered by the escarpment's eastern slope until the First World War, when the houses were either torn down or destroyed by fire."

Calgary annexed Bridgeland in 1907 and added Riverside to its holdings three years later. Much of the land was owned by the CPR, and the subdivision of Bridgeland was parcelled out in 25-foot lots, sold to working men through the real estate firm of Toole, Peet and Co.

Around the same time, Bridgeland-Riverside was further connected to the bustling city by streetcar lines. Real estate and land development were booming.

"(The years) 1910 to 1912 marked Calgary's biggest boom ever," says public historian David Finch. "It was huge."

By 1912, 47,000 people lived in Calgary and enjoyed the fruits of urban prosperity.

Many of the city's landmark sandstone buildings -- old City Hall, the Palliser Hotel, Memorial Park Library -- were built during this heady time.

Residents of Bridgeland-Riverside took advantage of the new urban parks located on three little islands in the Bow River, St. George's, St. Andrew's and St. Patrick's, linked together by rustic bridges and tethered to the mainland on either side by steel bridges. There was a free zoo, promenades, playgrounds with a merry-go-round, which Libicz enjoyed in his childhood. Picnicking was a popular pastime.

And there was a new fair called the Calgary Show, started in 1912 by cowboy promoter Guy Weadick. It lost money and wasn't revived until 1919. In 1923 it was renamed the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.

Walter Chitrenky, Libicz's pal and another longtime Bridgeland-Riverside resident, recalls going to the Stampede when he was eight or nine. At the time, two ponies, a bicycle and a cocker spaniel puppy were given away in a draw for school kids.

"I wanted that pony," says Chitrenky, 80, "but it was never me."

Later, he bought a horse for $35 and pastured it near Tom Campbell's Hill. Once, it got loose and tore up a cabbage patch in a nearby market garden. Chitrenky was fined $10.

The two men chuckle about having played street hockey on the community's dirt streets, using frozen horse turds for the puck and goalposts.

As with the boom-bust cycles that endure today, Calgary's overheated economy collapsed in 1913, bringing hard times.

Annie Gale, a community activist later elected to city council (making her the first female alderman in the British Empire) observed the lack of fresh vegetables, most of which were imported, expensive and poor quality. She led the charge to establish the Vacant Lots Garden Club in 1914. Calgarians could rent a plot in an empty lot for $1 a year. The program provided food and beautified the city by ridding vacant lots of weeds, dust and garbage.

In Bridgeland-Riverside, a long section of vacant-lot gardens sprouted behind three houses on McDougall Road. Libicz said his parents, in whose home he still lives, started gardening there in the 1930s. Later, he did too -- for 70 bountiful years.

In 2008, Libicz and his friend Mike Ricketts, a 66-year-old retired military man who grew up in Hillhurst but moved to Bridgeland-Riverside 11 years ago, were instrumental in having the city declare the Bridgeland/Riverside Vacant Lots Garden a municipal historic resource. Today, they share the garden with 10 neighbours.

The year 1914 must also be remembered for the discovery of oil at the Dingman No. 1 well in nearby Turner Valley. The boom that followed was short-lived, lasting only May to August -- curtailed by the outbreak of the First World War.

The war years made for a difficult, even frightening, time for some residents of Bridgeland-Riverside.

"Antagonism towards German residents flared up in 1916, when mobs of soldiers and civilians wrecked the White Lunch Restaurant and demolished portions of the Riverside Hotel," writes historian Max Foran in his book Calgary An Illustrated History (James Lorimer & Co., 1978).

"It was city council policy between 1916-18 to employ only British subjects and to dismiss all individuals born in alien territory."

After the Great War, life returned to relative normalcy, only to be interrupted in October 1924 when a subsidiary of Imperial Oil drilled below the Dingman well and struck it rich again, tapping into a major oilfield, and igniting natural gas and yet another boom.

"(For years) they were flaring gas in Turner Valley and if you looked to the southwest, there was a glow in the sky," says Libicz, an eyewitness to Calgary history in the making.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Modest rise predicted in Calgary home prices
Investing In Real Estate; Monthly numbers up one per cent
By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
December 21, 2010

Short-term year-over-year house price growth in Calgary is expected to be in the range of five to seven per cent, says the Conference Board of Canada.

In its Metro Resale Index released Monday, the board said the average MLS sale price in the city in November was $397,239, up one per cent from October.

Also, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis MLS sales in November increased by 8.6 per cent from October to 21,017.

Realtor Christina Hagerty, with Re/Max Realty Professionals in Calgary, said at the beginning of this year when first-time buyers were entering into the market, industry experts felt a ripple effect was bound to happen.

That led to a surge of sales in the $400,000-$500,000 range which allowed for a third quarter spike in the luxury market as well.

"We are seeing two predominant clientele out there right now," said Hagerty of her inner-city clients.

These are "first-time buyers, which after calculations prefer to own instead of rent as it's either cheaper or similar monthly payments; (and) savvy investors who know that some people are still hesitating or unable to enter into the real estate market and are buying properties to rent."

Hagerty recently sold a 2,239-square-foot penthouse condo in the Arriva highrise in Victoria Park for $1.125 million. She has another 2,799-square-foot penthouse condo in the tower listed for sale at $1.899 million.

Hagerty said the local real estate market is buoyed by move-up buyers as well as investors, not speculators, who are buying properties for long-term hold investments.

"People are confident they have their jobs in Calgary and know they are here for at least a few years," she said.

"They are making decisions based on this -- moving their families, starting the kids in schools. They aren't maxing out their mortgage approvals. With the low interest rates, people are taking advantage, but aren't using every last dollar they are approved for. They are leaving a little for a rainy day."

The conference board forecast the following Canadian centres to experience seven per cent and higher short-term year-over-year price growth: Saskatoon, Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres and Saguenay.

Joining Calgary in the five to seven per cent range were Victoria, Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Regina, Winnipeg, Halifax and Newfoundland.

Despite the optimistic outlook, in Calgary seasonally-adjusted sales in November were down from the 27,816 recorded in November 2009 and the average price was just slightly off the $400,865 from a year ago.

In November, there were 891 single-family home sales in Calgary for an average price of $455,460. In October, there were 888 transactions at an average of $444,744.

In the condo market, Calgary saw 310 MLS transactions in November, the same as in October, for an average sale price of $284,667. That was down from the average of $287,793 in October.

The conference board said the sales-to-new listings ratio in Calgary was 0.521 in November, increasing from 0.494 the previous month. A year ago, it was 0.653. It classified Calgary as currently being a sellers' market.

On a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, listings for Calgary were 41,929 in November, up from 39,406 in October but down from 44,500 a year ago.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Volumizing your small space
Designers can make dinky digs look grand and sprawling rooms intimate — and their services are multifarious
By Samantha Pynn, National Post

In the early ’80s, people who worked with designers lived in a world of Champagne wishes and caviar dreams. It was the late great design legend Mark Hampton who said that it wasn’t until the ’80s that a decorator entered through the front door and not the trade entrance. But these days, it seems like everyone is working with a designer.

In fact, I can’t remember a week passing without someone asking, “Can you give me the name of a good designer?”

The answer: Yes. As a design editor at Style at Home magazine, I have worked with hundreds of the best and brightest as well as rising stars.

From mansions where you can park 10 cars in the entrance, to teeny nests where you’d barely have room to store a bicycle, I’m always awestruck by the way designers can manipulate space. A professional can make a sprawling space feel cozy and a small space feel, well, spacious.

You may be thinking, “There isn’t much a designer can do with my 500-square-foot condo.” Or, a small space is easy to furnish because you need a lot less. Au contraire. Tiny spaces can be the toughest to design, but somehow designers have a knack for making them feel larger. On one of the first photo shoots I assisted at, designer David Overholt divided a 400-sq.-ft. bachelor pad to give it a wall of storage including bar, office, bedroom, living area-cum-TV-watching spot, plus dining table. If you’ve ever lived in a bachelor pad, you know that’s a lot of function in a very small space.

I understand if you may not have the budget to go all Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but there are so many capacities in which you can work with a designer, from consults to full-service design. There are even online services popping up all over the Web.

Croma Design, a full-service company owned by Amy Kent and Ryan Martin, recently opened a subsidiary company, Croma Express. Instead of driving all over the city, you go to their downtown Toronto studio, where you can view different Ikea cabinet doors alongside other hardware and finishes. With the help of one of their designers, you pull together the kitchen of your dreams. “Designing a kitchen can be overwhelming; we help people make the right choices and upgrades to make it look like a million bucks,” Mr. Martin says. Croma Express focuses primarily on kitchens. “But we also open our design library of wallpaper, paint, fabric and other samples for those working on other rooms,” he says. Shopping all over the city is time-consuming. “Having everything under one roof with a designer to guide you in the right direction saves multiple trips and hassle.”

The right fit: Find someone whose style is simpatico with your own. If you like ultra-white spaces, you may want to rethink working with someone whose portfolio is filled with red floral sofas and bouillon fringe. Plus, there are designers who shift from mod to trad with ease, but be sure to see examples of their work.

Go online, extract names from decorating magazines, watch the daytime TV shows that feature designers’ work, and, of course, ask your friends. If a designer you love is too busy to take on your project, ask them to recommend someone.

One-time consultation: Next, determine the level of service you need. One-time two-hour consults can cost $500 and are for people who have done their research and have images of furniture, paint chips and fabric swatches. If you know what you like, but have specific decorating questions or you’re worried you’ll make a mistake, a consult will give you the affirmation you need. (Tip: If you can’t remember what colour underwear you’re wearing, then take notes. Two hours of decorating talk is a lot to take in.)

Many designers don’t give consults because it’s difficult to download in two hours everything that one needs to do to a space. Moreover, one thing that’s guaranteed in the land of design is that something will go wrong. The chandelier will be too small for the dining table or the floors will have been stained the wrong colour.

Every time something goes wrong or changes, 10 other things have to change, too. It’s the domino effect.

And two hours of consultation will not really equip you for a soup-to-nuts makeover.

Designer floor plan: This is ideal for anyone confident in his or her style and colour choices, but who wants a furniture roadmap. Explain your needs to a good designer and he or she can give you a floor plan that tells you where your furniture should go and what the maximum sizes should be. This will prevent you from buying a sectional that will block both entrances of your living room (ahem, not that I know anyone who did that a long time ago).

For those who like to do the legwork, a designer Web package will give you a paint-by-numbers design plan. Online packages range from floor plans to complete room designs. You are required to fill out a questionnaire about your decorating and lifestyle, as well as submit a photograph, and you’ll need to measure your space and send inspirations shots. Prices range from $350 to $2,500.

Full-service design works just like the full-service gas station. A designer will take care of everything, you just have to sign off. “It alleviates stress for people who don’t have the time or expertise to pull their space together,” says designer Kimberley Seldon of Kimberley Seldon Design Group, who offers many different levels of design. Like anything that makes your life easier, good design costs money. Hourly rates start at $125 per hour for a junior designer. A senior designer with a well-known reputation can command $325 per hour.

“Busy working couples understand the value of having something taken care of properly,” Ms. Seldon says. Indeed, a designer will pay attention to every detail, help you make purchases that last, save you from costly mistakes, and project-manage (ever try to arrange a plumber, cabinet maker, electrician and painter in that order?).

If this sounds costly, remember you don’t need every square inch of your home professionally designed. “We’ve occasionally worked on a task-only basis for clients, preparing lighting plans, sourcing furniture for a single room, or styling a large bookcase,” Ms. Seldon says.

Treat your designer right: Your full-service designer may feel like your best friend, but respect that your project is a job (kind of like when you go to the hair salon). Many designers work around the clock — if you’ve ever designed a room you know that it’s a time-consuming process — but will keep contact hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Emails at 11 p.m. count as work, too. I don’t know any lawyer who doesn’t clock and charge every phone call and email. And unless you only use your home’s back door yourself, be sure to see your designer in through the front.

Monday, December 6, 2010



Friday, Nov.26 2010 to Sunday, January 2, 2011 (CLOSED CHRISTMAS DAY & EXCLUDING ZOO YEARS EVE)

6:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Gates close at 8:30 pm

Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo is one of western Canada’s most spectacular and largest 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. Chat live with Santa direct from the North Pole with our exclusive SantaVision.

Our creamy hot chocolate will always hit the spot on a cool night, while our cracking fire pits will keep you toasty warm as you listen to the festive choirs singing holiday favourites.

Our kids play areas are ideal for Holiday fun with the likes of Snowball Alley, Snow Bowling, The Reindeer Stables or Snigloo, where you can make your own igloo! Our customer favourites Candy Cane Lane and the Tunnel of Love are always part of the show because where else will all the couples get engaged?

PLUS Dashers Dog Sled Races brought to you by Petland

•Visit this activity the first 10 nights of Zoolights to enter daily draws for $10 Petland gift certificates.

•Plus you will also be entered to win a FREE Pet photo with Santa that will be drawn for on Friday, December 3

•Dec. 6 -30 enter to win a $50 Petland gift certificate

•On Zoo Years Eve (Dec.31) a special draw will be made that night for $50 Petland gift certificate

Don’t forget we are taking non-perishable food bank donations at our north gate all throughout Zoolights! As a thank you, you will receive a 2 for 1 coupon for Zoo Admission in the spring time.

Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo has so much to offer. It epitomizes the holiday spirit that is why it’s Calgary’s Favourite Holiday Tradition! Don’t miss it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


It's a tough time to sell a condo
Sales down 38% from a year ago in condo market
By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
December 2, 2010 8:00 AM

CALGARY - Calgary's housing market continued to show signs of stagnation in November, with MLS sales down in both the single-family home and condominium markets compared with a year ago.

The last few months have been a tough time to sell a property in the city.

Elizabeth Klein, one of those fortunate sellers in November, was able to sell her condo through Christina Hagerty, a realtor with Re/Max Realty Professionals.

Klein's condo in the Mission neighbourhood was originally listed by another realtor in April. When she re-listed the property with Hagerty at the end of August, the list price was dropped by about 5.7 per cent. It sold for about 3.6 per cent less than the new list price.

"I think we had it priced too high at the beginning," said Klein. "We were going on what the old prices were before the recession kind of kicked in and I think that is why we didn't sell it. And when Christina came along, we decided to lower the price and we were successful. With her it took us a couple of months to sell."

"There's so much on the market. A lot of new ones have come on. People have got a lot more choice," said Klein. "I'm glad that we sold it. Obviously we would have liked to have got more, but I think we were dead on the market. So I think that's why it sold. There's a lot of people out there buying. But I think there's a lot of people sitting on the fence saying OK, maybe prices might come down a wee bit more. I think that's what's happening."

Statistics released Wednesday by the Calgary Real Estate Board indicate single-family MLS sales were off by close to 19 per cent from November 2009, while the average sale price dropped by about two per cent.

In November, there were 891 single-family transactions for an average price of $455,460, while a year ago for the month there were 1,095 sales for an average of $464,444.

In October of this year, there were 888 sales for an average price of $444,744.

The condo market was particularly slow in November with only 310 sales and an average price of $284,667. Sales are down by more than 38 per cent compared with a year ago (504) while the average price has decreased by just over three per cent from $294,264.

In October of this year, there were also 310 condo transactions at an average sale price of $287,793.

"Indeed the second half of 2010 has proven to be weaker than expected and Calgary's housing market is taking some time to regain traction," said Diane Scott, president of CREB.

The month-end inventory for single-family homes for sale was 3,869 compared with 2,658 a year ago, while for condos it was 1,882 compared with 1,434 in November 2009.

Subdued employment growth, especially in the area of full-time jobs, has tempered sales activity, said Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

"The average price has moderated as the housing market continues to favour the buyer. Prices are expected to firm up in the early months of next year as the economy improves, supporting job growth, while active listings decline and move to more balanced levels," Cho said.

Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial in Calgary, said the city's housing market is still adjusting to the new realities of the economy.

"While the economy has definitely improved, the housing market has lagged," he said. "There was a notable run-up in activity around a year ago when buyers were anticipating higher mortgage rates. So now, in the second half of 2010, the market of potential buyers is a bit thin. That's weighing down sales and prices."

- - -
Calgary MLS Sales

Category / November 2010 / October 2010 / November 2009
Single-family sales / 891 / 888 / 1095
Single-family average price / $455,460 / $444,744 / $464,444
Condo sales / 310 / 310 / 504
Condo average price / $284,667 / $287,793 / $294,264
Source: Calgary Real Estate Board

Thursday, November 25, 2010


3608 1 Street S.W.
List Price: $998,000
Square Footage: 2405 Sq. Ft.

DOMESTIC BLISS IN PARKHILL! This semi-detached home is an architectural wonder , boasting a contemporary form with a white stucco facade. Thoughtfully planned to offer open-concept social spaces & private spaces, the main level incorporates a 300 sq. ft. outdoor deck accessed through large glass sliding doors. The kitchen will delight with a blend of stainless steel/integrated appliances (Sub-Zero Refrigerator/Miele Gas Cooktop), satin finished granite counters & seamless flat panel cabinetry. The second level reveals a laundry room & 2 spacious bedrooms, each with a luxurious ensuite. The top floor is a dedicated master retreat with a spa inspired 5 piece ensuite with deep soaker tub, sun deck & walk in closet. Additional elements include open tread stairs, in-floor heating (garage, basement, bathrooms), party wall construction, a double attached garage & a melange of horizontal & vertical windows positioned in a modern manner to capitalize on city/scenic views & natural light.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us,

OUR Lives are LIVING PROOF !!!
To Those of Us Born 1925 - 1970 :
 TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes..

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren't overweight.
Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem..

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.

Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers,  problem solvers, and inventors ever.

The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas...

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of those born  between 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Housing set to find even keel in spring

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Nov. 15, 2010

Record low interest rates and a lack of houses on the market have rekindled demand for Canadian real estate, helping to pull the industry out of its sales slump and setting the stage for the most balanced spring market in years.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday that although prices were flat in October and sales slid more than 20 per cent compared with a year earlier, the market posted its third straight month of increased sales.

In a sign of stabilization after two years of wild fluctuations, CREA said October sales were halfway between the lows of December, 2008, and the record high of December, 2009.

Economists said October’s data likely means the market bottomed out in July; while prices won’t rocket to previous highs any time soon, it’s unlikely they have much farther to fall.

“It seems to me the Canadian housing market has been either feast or famine,” said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Douglas Porter. “But now buyers are facing low rates on one hand, and daily volleys about how bad the market is on the other. That should keep things from getting overly hot, and gives me reason to believe we could have a balanced market in the year ahead.”

After slowing in the recession of 2008, sales activity reached a fevered peak in December, 2009, as buyers rushed back into the market.

Average resale prices peaked at an all-time high $346,881 last May, causing concern that cheap money was driving prices to unsustainable levels. The average resale price in October was $337,842, CREA said.

The market came to an abrupt halt last July, with major regions such as Vancouver and Calgary posting sales drops of nearly 45 per cent and prices pulling back from May’s high. Several factors were cited for the decline: The federal government introduced rules that made it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage, and Ontario and Quebec introduced harmonized sales taxes that made the services associated with buying a home more expensive.

Would-be buyers also faced a barrage of warnings from organizations such as the Bank of Canada, the OECD and International Monetary Fund, all of which have cautioned that as interest rates rise, many Canadians might not be able to make their mortgage payments.

But mortgage rates have actually dropped in the past three months and now sit at all-time lows. A survey by the Canadian Association of Mortgage Professionals released last week showed that Canadians are confident they could shoulder higher mortgage payments without too much difficulty, with 84 per cent saying a $300 monthly increase was no problem.

“There are many reasons to now be optimistic,” said TD Bank senior economist Pascal Gauthier, who called for prices to fall 10 per cent from peak to trough but now expects to issue a more upbeat forecast later this week. “I think there are now limits to both the upside and the downside – things may have firmed up quicker than we expected.”

With the number of houses listed for sale sharply lower than in July, prices are expected to stay firm as buyers compete the few homes available. The months of inventory – the amount of time it would take to sell everything that is for sale, at the current rate of sales – sat at 6.2 months in October, down a full month compared with the July figure.

That doesn’t mean prices are likely to catch fire again in the spring, when activity traditionally accelerates, but it should help keep prices from dropping as buyers and sellers hit the market in equal numbers.

“Affordability drives sales and record low mortgage rates are driving affordability,” said Phil Soper, the chief executive officer of Brookfield Real Estate Services. “I think next year should look a lot like the recent market – with relatively flat prices and fewer overall transactions.”

Photo By: Clara Hinton


Calgary's The Bow: a new skyline symbol

CALGARY— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010
More than 200 metres above Calgary’s streets, a crane swings a long metal beam atop the West’s new architectural crown.

The five-tonne length of steel is designed to support the upper reaches of the Bow, a building that is a study in superlatives: the largest building in the Canadian West and the biggest steel project in Canadian history

Kerry Gillis watches the beam move, and shrugs.

“Piece of cake on this job,” says the chief operating officer of Ledcor Construction Ltd., which is building the Bow and has hoisted steel pieces three times as heavy.

Earlier this month, Ledcor finished assembling the building’s steel. The building’s diamond-shaped “diagrid” supports will be completed by year’s end; the walls of glass will be installed by late spring. The Bow, the largest North American construction project outside of New York’s Freedom Tower, will then be externally complete.

There is a certain hubris that comes with building a two-million-square-foot tower that, long before workers had so much as dug the first spadeful of earth for its parking garage, was expected to become the new calling card of Calgary. Even competitors say the Bow is an icon for the city, a glass-covered fist thrust in the face of the recession.

It did not escape the downturn unscathed – financing problems by owner H&R Reit resulted in the suspension of plans for a second building. But construction on the main tower never stopped, and the money issues were eventually resolved with a $425-million financing deal last April.

Now, the building’s upper reaches are taking shape at a time of resurgence for Calgary, which has profited from a new wave of development in the oil sands, driven by sustained strength in crude prices.

As some of the final beams are lifted into place, Mr. Gillis glances across the skyline – or, more properly, down on it, from the lofty heights of what will soon be the new headquarters of Encana Corp. and Cenovus Energy Corp. Several blocks away, crews have pushed another huge new tower, the million-square-foot Eighth Avenue Place, high into the sky. It, too, is a construction monument in a city that is nearing completion on two new landmarks.

But Mr. Gillis scoffs at that tower, too.

“Piece of cake over there. This,” he says, casting a glance around the complicated work of erecting the Bow’s curving structure 58 storeys into the sky, “is real construction.”

The Bow contains 45,000 tonnes of steel connected with 45 tonnes of welding and 800,000 structural bolts, some of them so big they barely fit in a man’s hand. It has 40 elevators and is so tall workers talk about the different climate at its summit. From the ground, its enormous walls of glass – which span an area the size of 14 CFL fields – swallow the sky.

For its builders, all of those attributes have combined to make the Bow Canada’s most prominent billboard – a building that remains on budget, although it may be completed slightly later than expected. It’s a feather in the cap that Ledcor’s most ardent competitors have acknowledged.

“I would call the Bow a signature building in Calgary,” said Roger Dootson, the vice-president and district manager for PCL Construction Management Inc., who also chairs the Alberta Construction Association. “And signature and iconic buildings do help out a company’s résumé for future projects.”

Ledcor has a long history in Alberta. Founded in 1947, it has grown into one of Canada’s largest construction companies, with $2-billion a year in revenue. But in Calgary, the Bow has been a coming-out party of sorts for Ledcor, whose efforts in Western Canada have focused largely on the less-glitzy work of building pipelines and oil sands projects. For Ledcor, the Bow has become something of a marketing exercise for its bread-and-butter business of putting together industrial structures.

Standing on top of the Bow, the reason is obvious. In its nearly-complete shadow stand the head offices of much of corporate Calgary. Suncor Energy Inc. is a next-door neighbour. TransCanada Corp. is so close that Ledcor once received a call from a safety executive at the pipeline company, who had spotted a lapse on site through his office window. The problem was quickly fixed.

Ledcor has toured all of its major corporate clients through the construction site, in hopes of creating a profitable halo effect from the building.

“It’s expertise. They can see that we’re not just a one-line company,” said Bob Scott, the Ledcor senior project director who has led the Bow project.

And there is little denying the scale of the Bow construction effort. Because it was building in the middle of a crowded urban environment, Ledcor had little spare space to work with – and has had to warehouse most of its construction materials at a large offsite yard. The company was obligated to turn delivery timing into an art form.

Another unique aspect: To save time and costs, each of the restrooms in the building was built in Ontario as a fully-finished, fully-furnished unit inside a container. Each container was then shipped, lifted into place and connected to plumbing, ready for use. Even the light bulbs were screwed in several thousand kilometres away.

Ledcor also had to contend with hiring up to 1,250 staff – the Bow’s peak labour requirement – in a province that was, when construction began, suffering from an overheated economy. But it got lucky: The downturn came just as construction ramped up. Suddenly, workers from Fort McMurray became available.

That doesn’t mean the Bow has been Ledcor’s most profitable endeavour.

“These big trophy assets are difficult, and at the end you say, ‘I could have made more money building 10 smaller towers,’ ” said Greg Kwong, regional managing director for CB Richard Ellis in Calgary. “But at the same time, you need these big trophy assets as far as stars on your chest are concerned, to help promote your company.”


BNS and RBC expected to be winners in next decade
Financial Post
John Greenwood 
November 16, 2010
Canadian banks are at a crossroads. Faced with tougher regulatory rules, a difficult economy and a host of other challenges, players are scrutinizing their crystal balls as they plot their way forward in an environment quite unlike anything they have experienced.

According to UBS analyst Peter Rozenberg, the best way to pick winners of the coming decade is with traditional yardsticks of past performance.

After reviewing 10 years of historical data, Mr. Rozenberg found that while its helpful to look at measures such as provisions for credit losses and product mix, more important contributors to future performance are likely to be growth in earnings per share and return on equity.

“We also used ‘reported’ data as opposed to our usual convention of ‘core’ data, which excludes one-time items,” he said in a note to clients. “While core data is better for establishing trend earnings and valuation, we think reported data provides a better measure of real returns and capital management, over a long period of time.”

The winners? Bank of Nova Scotia and Royal Bank of Canada are best positioned to come out on top, Mr. Rozenberg said.

BNS is at the top of the list because of its geographic diversification and focus on emerging markets in Asia and South America, providing “the best opportunities for capital deployment.”

The Royal comes a close second due to its track record of “superior organic growth,” lower costs and dominant business position.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Calgary Stampede Park moves ahead with $400-million expansion
Several projects to be completed by 2014
By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
November 9, 2010

CALGARY - With the economic recession behind us, Calgary's Stampede Park is moving forward with its $400-million expansion and redevelopment that will be completed within the next three years or so, the Herald has learned.

"By 2014, this will be a uniquely different place," said Warren Connell, vice-president of park development and operations for the Calgary Stampede.

The multi-million dollar construction includes Stampede Trail (a mainstreet retail and entertainment development), a new agriculture arena and exhibit hall, the River Park area along the Elbow River, and a youth campus part of Stampede Park.

"When the economic downturn hit, the Stampede was obviously right in the midst of a number of projects," said Connell. "We were in the process of completing the (BMO) Centre.

"We were dealing with a major sponsor on the River Park (area). Luckily for us we were close enough to being completed that the (BMO) Centre didn't suffer financially. It was sponsored to a large part by the government of Alberta. However the River Park sponsor did walk away and say at least for the immediate future they would not be launching into any new projects. That was disheartening to us."

In June 2008, the Stampede expected its major expansion and redevelopment to be completed by 2011. In June 2009, it expected completion by 2012-2013.

But the downturn in the economy delayed the process. Now, the Stampede is back on track to move ahead with its plans.

Connell said the Stampede is 70 per cent complete on relocating infrastructure pieces to a back of house area. Construction of the River Park area in the northeast quadrant of the park will begin after the Stampede in July.

"We do not have all the funding in place but the one advantage to having a green park is you can start doing chunks as the funding is available. We're still working on everything from sponsorship to grants and fundraising," said Connell.

He said the Stampede has just received development permit approval for a new agriculture arena and exhibit hall which it is calling the Western Event Centre. It has a $25-million grant from the federal government plus private donations and fundraising for more money to go ahead with the project.

Construction of the arena will start following the 2012 Stampede to be completed in 2014 prior to the Stampede.

Public space is being developed near the agriculture building as access to the River Park area which will house Indian Village in the future.

Alberta Development Partners, based in Denver, is working on the mainstreet retail development along the current Olympic Way which leads into Stampede Park and will include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant.

A spokesperson for ADP would not comment on the project when contacted on Tuesday. But the company's website says the project includes 150,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel, and public gathering places.

Connell said it is currently in the development permit process.

"They are hoping to do utility work this spring and start construction on their project post-Stampede this year - the actual buildings," said Connell. "That will be a two-year process. So they would be open in June of 2013."

The proposed Stampede Trail restaurant cluster and associated retail shops will be in perfect synergy with the constant stream of traffic generating attractions at Stampede Park, said Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc.

"This type of themed development in the shadow of major draws like the Saddledome is prevalent across North America as major league sports teams and their owners capitalize on consumers seeking a unique food service and shopping experience."

A 1,000-stall parkade near the Stampede Park entrance will be completed prior to the 2012 Stampede. The Stampede will relocate its current headquarters some time in 2012 further up the street to allow the current building to be demolished and to allow the remaining phase of mainstreet to be constructed between 2012 and 2013.

There is also a youth campus area in the northeast part of the Park that will be developed in the coming years and host several groups. Stampede Park is currently working on the first phase of the area.

By the Banks of the Bow sculpture - the largest bronze sculpture in Western Canada if not all of Canada - will be set up in the middle of the Park by 2012 and include 15 large horses.

The 4th Street underpass will link East Village to Olympic Way and will be completed by 2012.

Connell said the 17th Avenue S.E. crossing which would link the park to 17th Avenue through a roadway is still being pursued but no timeline for that has materialized. Future plans also call for looking at the potential relocation of the Coca-Cola Stage to where Indian Village currently resides. Another hall is also planned for the BMO Centre in the future.

And the Saddledome?

"All I can officially say is that the Calgary Flames have been dealing with us on a potential site for a new arena. The Calgary Flames are working out their own details with respect to the facility itself, fundraising and so on," said Connell. "As far as having agreed to a site, we have not but the two organizations are certainly talking."


Five extreme recession real estate buys 
Megan Mollmann
Published Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 6:00AM EST

Recessions are synonymous with job losses, stock market slumps and loss of equity, but less overall wealth can also mean big real estate bargains. As the prolonged pains of the recession continue, shockingly inexpensive property is available - including hotels without an asking price, $1 homes, and an entire town for sale.

1. The Pontiac Silverdome

In 2009, the former home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome, sold for $538,000 - about 1 per cent of the $55.7-million the developers forked over to build the stadium in 1975. Over the past couple of years, automotive plant closures, massive layoffs and high foreclosure rates have stricken Detroit's economy and eroded property values.

2. Wilderness Camp in Canada

Despite an uncanny similarity to the fictitious camp in 1979's comedy "Meatballs", Northstar Camp is actually located in Manitoba. Set on 185 acres and on a mile of beachfront property, this nature and fishing camp is selling for $299,000. The place was originally built as a personal lodge in 1989 and is a prime fishing spot for lake trout, walleye and northern pike for four months out of the year. One hitch: A float plane is the only way to get to the camp.

3. Texas Golf Course

In Waco, Texas, the price of The Lake Country Club has been reduced almost 30 per cent, from $4.2-million to $3-million. It has two 18-hole golf courses (including one championship green that formerly hosted a LPGA tournament), a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, and a waterfront camp and fishing site.

4. Landmark Home

In Chicago's upscale North Shore neighborhood, a landmark home - built by the nephew of renowned architect Daniel Burnham - is on the market for $1. There's only one catch: The local preservation commission in Glenview, Illinois. is obligating the next owner to move the 1894-era home to a new location. For two years, the local church, which currently owns the property, has been searching for a buyer so that they can expand their facilities onto the home's existing lot.

5. A Small Town

The fad of gobbling up islands has now shifted to small towns. Wauconda, a tiny four-acre township with a post office, gas station, grocery store, restaurant and four-bedroom house, was put up for auction on eBay in 2010. In March, it sold for $370,601 (U.S.), which stands as a significant rollback from the 2008 asking price of $1.1 million.

The Bottom Line

For investors still afloat, recessions tend to be attractive times to take advantage of real estate investment opportunities. And with upbeat news that the commercial real estate market is on the mend, prices may be at their lowest. In the third quarter of 2010, commercial real estate values seem to have stabilized, but buying opportunities still exist all over the United States.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Condominium market heating up: Re/Max
By Derek Abma
Financial Post November 1, 2010

OTTAWA -- Condominiums have become a hot sector of the Canadian real estate market, particularly as an option for first-time homebuyers spooked by the escalating prices for single-family homes, says a report released Monday.

Real estate-services firm Re/Max says affordability, lifestyle, investment opportunities and urban renewal efforts are among the reasons condo sales have spiked over the last year in some Canadian markets.

"As one of few affordable housing options available to first-time buyers, the concept is poised for dramatic growth in years to come," Michael Polzler, executive vice-president for Re/Max's Ontario-Atlantic Canada operations, said in a statement.

Re/Max said condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area are up 10.4 per cent, year-to-date, as of September, and now represent one out of every three homes sold there. In Ottawa, sales are up 11.9 per cent.

"The lifestyle has also gained a foothold with younger, hipper audiences as the definition of home ownership evolves with the changing demographic," Polzler added. "Dreams of the small home with a white picket fence are being replaced by the funky loft apartment in proximity to shops, restaurants and entertainment."

Other factors driving the condo market include urban redevelopment that favours intensification over urban sprawl, empty nesters seeking low-maintenance retirement properties and investors hoping to sell when prices appreciate, the report said.

Re/Max said the "vast majority" of newly built condominiums in Toronto are purchased by long-term investors from Asia and the Middle East, who will rent them until they find the price they want for them.

PHOTO: ACTIVE LISTING - #4, 1935 35 Street SW by Christina Hagerty

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Six suggestions for avoiding mortgage fraud

Globe and Mail Update
Published Monday, Oct. 18, 2010

Whenever the housing market starts to heat up, so does mortgage and real estate fraud. Buyers rush through deals to avoid losing out, but can end up being scammed if they’re not careful.

While there are no statistics on these types of fraud in Canada, in the United States, it is estimated to cost victims between $4-billion and $6-billion (U.S.) a year.

“Mortgage scams are carried out in all different forms and involve a multitude of people, some who don't even know they're being taken advantage of,” says Diane Scott, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board.

Ms. Scott says at least two types of mortgage fraud have occurred in Calgary this year. One is property flipping, in which a dishonest seller artificially inflates the value of a property using a phony appraisal and then sells it for a large profit. The phony appraisal often remains with the property through multiple transactions, making it difficult to determine the property's true worth, and the end buyer is left paying for a mortgage that is much higher than the home's value.

The other involves “straw buyers,” who are offered money to lend their identity and good credit record for use on fraudulent mortgage applications. The fraudster uses the information to apply for a loan, then disappears with the money, leaving the straw buyer on the hook for the mortgage payments.

Other types of real estate scams include title fraud, where your identity is stolen and used to assume the title of your property, which can then be used to sell your home or get a new mortgage. The criminal takes the mortgage money and runs. You may not even find out about the fraud until the lender contacts you or someone pulls up in a moving van, claiming to be the new owner of the house.

And there’s also foreclosure fraud, in which a homeowner having trouble paying a mortgage is offered a loan in exchange for up-front fees and an agreement to transfer the property title to the scammer, who is then able to take the victim’s loan payments, sell the house or remortgage it and leave with the money.

While a lawyer, realtor or licensed mortgage broker can help ensure all legal precautions are taken, it’s still important to do your homework before you buy, Ms. Scott says. Here’s her advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

1. Beware of unusual offers. Never lend your identity to anyone or sign documents you do not fully understand. “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” Ms. Scott says.

2. Do the math. Look at the listing history on the property and do a comparative market analysis. Check the number of sales and price ranges for the community. If the home’s listing price is much higher than the average value of neighbouring homes, it could mean someone is flipping the property or has had it fraudulently appraised.

3. Don’t assume the seller is honest. Get your own realtor or independent representation for your purchase. If the seller objects, something is wrong.

4. Do a land title search. This will show the name of the property owner, any mortgages or liens registered on the title, as well as previous sales and transfers. You can also buy title insurance to protect against title fraud.

5. Get your own appraisal. You may want to include, as part of your offer to purchase, the option to have the property appraised by a member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

6. Secure your deposit. Make sure your money is being held in a real estate trust account by a realtor or lawyer. This will ensure your money is safe until the deal closes.

Photo by: Barnesnet


Money is on sale!

Ted Rechtshaffen
Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published Friday, Oct. 15, 2010

This month, a client locked in a five-year mortgage at 3.49 per cent.

They could have done the same in 2001, but it would have been about 7 per cent.

In 1982 it would have been 18 per cent.

Even in the low-rate days of 1952, it would have been about 5.5 per cent.

Borrowing costs are lower than any time in modern history. This represents an incredible opportunity for those with the foresight (or fortitude) to take advantage.

Here are five strategies to consider:

1) When borrowing, lock in today’s rates. I know that at most times a variable rate is a better solution than fixed. Today is not "most times." If you are getting a new mortgage, lock it in. Even if it is only for three years, you can get a three-year mortgage today for under 3 per cent. The best three and five-year variable rates today are 2.25 per cent, but the Bank of Canada is almost certain to begin hiking rates again within six months. With such a narrow gap between a variable rate and a fixed rate, it simply isn’t worth the risk.

2) If you own a house, consolidate all your debts against your home. While credit card debt remains as high as 19 per cent in many cases, and other unsecured debts might be in the 5-per-cent to 7-per-cent range, you may have an opportunity to move those debts to your mortgage and gain significant savings. Even having a line of credit at prime + 1 per cent (4 per cent) can be consolidated into a mortgage for real savings. As an example, if your home is worth $500,000, and you have a mortgage balance of less than $400,000 (80 per cent), you will likely be able to consolidate other debts in your mortgage, up to 80 per cent of your home’s appraised value.

3) Start a business. As a business owner, I know that getting capital is not easy. The most common response I heard when I was looking many years ago was “use a line of credit secured by your house.” This might not be right for everyone, but I can assure you that you will not find a lower-cost source of capital (except those interest-free loans from family). In fact, I would look at using a fixed-rate mortgage as opposed to a line of credit if you require a larger amount of funds up front or want to secure the rate.

4) Borrow to invest. While some believe this is gambling, I can assure you that, unlike at the Las Vegas tables, the odds are tilted toward you. If you borrow to invest, the interest cost becomes tax deductible. In today’s market, you could do a five-year mortgage at 3.5 per cent, and if you are in the top tax bracket, this will effectively cost you less than 2 per cent a year. Over the past 60 years, the Toronto Stock Index has averaged annual returns of over 10 per cent. I am not saying you can count on these returns every year, but if your borrowing cost is under 2 per cent, and a dividend portfolio can pay 4 per cent a year just on the dividends, it can be a very powerful wealth-building strategy.

5) Borrow to buy more real estate. Imagine having an $800,000 house in Vancouver or Toronto and having no debt. You decide to buy a beautiful ocean-front property in Florida or California. The new property costs $300,000 – and they want cash. You can take out a mortgage on your Canadian property to possibly make the real estate purchase of a lifetime. If you are considering this, be sure to use a foreign-exchange dealer to save on exchange costs, and look into the tax issues of owning real estate in the United States.

Just for fun, you might want to file away this article and open it up in about five years. You may just wish you took the plunge when money was on sale.

Photo by: Dreamer7112

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Resale home pace expected to climb
By Marty Hope, Calgary Herald
October 16, 2010

With a struggling economy and housing sector, anything the least bit positive is a good thing.

So it has been for the past couple of weeks -- a scrap of good news here and there.

Statistics Canada was first out of the chute with news that the Calgary area's unemployment rate for September declined to 6.6 per cent -- down from 6.7 per cent in August and declining even further from the 6.9 per cent in September 2009.

That being said, there were 1,400 fewer jobs created last month compared with August 2010.

But since the first of the year, job creation is still ahead of 2009, says Statistics Canada.

Job creation is good news for the new and resale housing sectors for obvious reasons.

The Calgary Real Estate Board has also chipped in with its good news.

In its latest activity report, the board reported sales of both detached single-family homes and multi-family condos climbed in September compared to August.

In terms of detached homes, 958 changed hands, up from 867 in August.

As for condos, the September sales total was 366, two more than were sold in August.

But compared to the same month last year, sales numbers for September were off.

CREB president Diane Scott took the positive road in her September summary, saying fall sales "should improve slightly" to reflect the latest Statistics Canada report.

"There are signs that September may mark a gradual, if not slight, uptick for Calgary's housing market," she says. "We are seeing a modest improvement since the market's decline that started in April of this year."

In the earlier part of the year, home-buyers -- first-timers for the most part -- decided to move up their purchase dates to beat expected hikes in interest rates and changes to mortgage rules.

When both these factors came into play, people who hadn't bought stepped back from the market, taking a wait-and-see attitude.

There were also those who continued to be concerned about the strength -- or lack of strength -- in the economy.

Here again was a bit of good news. Mortgage rates have not moved dramatically and the average price of used homes is holding fairly steady.

"The Bank of Canada is in no hurry to raise interest rates to any significant level and affordability continues to improve in key segments of the Calgary housing market," says Scott. "These factors, along with great selection, have clearly tipped this market in favour of the buyer."

The average price of detached single-family homes in September within Calgary was $460,278, up three per cent from August but almost unchanged from $459,085 in the same month last year.

The average selling price for condos inside Calgary was $284,028 last month -- down one per cent from August and two per cent from September 2009.

While the market, itself, appears to be undergoing a slight change, the makeup of the buyer is also getting a facelift.

"Clearly, there is a shift in the types of buyers entering the market," says Scott.

"It was first-time buyers who drove the late market recovery last fall and this spring.

"While lower-priced home sales have declined, sales over $1 million have actually increased by two per cent this year compared with the same period last year."
- - -

For the first nine months of this year, million-dollar-plus sales of used homes totalled 286, up from 229 during the same period last year, says the Calgary Real Estate Board.

But the highest volume of sales of detached single-family resale homes are occurring in Calgary in homes priced between $300,000 and $399,999.

They amount to nearly 38 per cent, a slight improvement over 2009. Meanwhile, the vast majority of condo sales -- more than 47 per cent -- were priced from $200,000 to $299,999.

A year ago, this category accounted for nearly 51 per cent of all condominium sales. "While consumer confidence has strengthened and the unemployment picture has improved, economic jitters will continue to impact Calgary's housing market," says president Diane Scott of CREB. "More and more home buyers will eventually return to the marketplace, but for the moment, they remain moderately cautious."

Photo By: Dave van Hulsteyn

Friday, October 15, 2010


Home sales, prices up in September
Garry Marr, Financial Post · Friday, Oct. 15, 2010

TORONTO — Housing sales rose in September for a second straight month while average prices reversed the falling trend with a 1.9% increase from August, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday.

The Ottawa-based group said sales in September climbed 3% from August on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was the highest number of sales since last May.

At the same time prices also showed some growth. The average sale price across the Multiple Listing Service last month was $331,089, on par with where it stood a year ago, and an increase from $324,928 in August.

"Supply and demand are rebalancing, and that's keeping prices steady in many markets," said Georges Pahud, president of CREA.

With demand improving slightly and the supply of homes falling, the number of months of inventory in the market dropped for a second straight month, the group said. New listings remain 15% below the peak reached in April.

CREA said two-thirds of local markets posted sales increases with Winnipeg, Calgary and Montreal standing out. However, compared with last year sales still lag across the country, down 19.8% in September from a year ago.

"Record level sales activity late last year and earlier this year is expected to further stretch year-over-year comparisons in the months ahead," the group said.

CREA said on a seasonally adjusted basis there was 6.6 months of inventory in the market nationally. That's down from 6.9 months in August and 7.2 months in July. The number of months of inventory represents the number of months it would take to sell inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

The interest-rate environment continues to help the housing market. While the prime lending rate has jumped with recent interest rate hikes from the Bank of Canada, effecting variable-rate mortgages, long-term rates continue to fall. Some lenders are now loaning money as low as 3.5% for a five-year, fixed-rate term.

"Mortgage lending rates eased in the third quarter, which helped support sales activity over the past couple of months," said Gregory Klump, chief economist with CREA. "Interest rates are going nowhere fast, so home ownership will remain within reach for many homebuyers."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


SQ Art Projects Presents:

Leslie Bell
October 14 - November 14, 2010

                                          Entropic 2, 2010. By Leslie Bell

Opening Reception:
Thursday, October 14, 2010 | 5-7pm
Artist in Attendance

SQ Art Projects is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of Leslie Bell's work; Radiant Array.

Bell approaches abstract painting with a concentration and infatuation with potentiality. The abundance of possibilities and variations within complex organic systems and entropy fascinate and perplex. Bell's exuberant brushwork and clashing colour palettes are reflective of this maelstrom of complexity. Bell's frenzied forms are continually in stasis; neither collapsing nor expanding, infinitesimally without reference to beginning or end as opposing forces balance each other through composition.

Bell references chaos theory, quantum physics and post-structuralism in an effort to map the human mind and interpret the unstable flux of energy. Its potential formation in the physical is never realized, but instead is represented in the fanatic movement in between states of structured, organized thought and representation. With a palette that is awash in vivid colours mixed among muddied earthen tones, the spontaneous formations act together to push and pull the viewer towards an uneven ground of pleasure and doubt, destabilizing assumptions and reconfiguring abstractions into kaleidoscopic formations of colour and movement.

Leslie Bell is a Calgary based abstract painter and experimental filmmaker. She received her BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2002, and her MFA from Concordia University, Montreal in 2009 and attended the "Cosmic Ray" thematic residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts also in 2009.

suite 100, 1604- 10th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
T3C 0J5

Friday, October 1, 2010



Landmark deal to transform how Canadians buy, sell real estate
Limiting agent services may save sellers thousands
By Tim Shufelt And Theresa Tedesco,
National Post, with files from Garry Marr

In a development that could drastically change the way Canadians buy and sell their homes, the real estate industry has reached a landmark agreement with federal competition authorities.

The legally binding deal will allow for home sellers to pay for only those services they want from their real estate agents. Previously, under the rules established by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), consumers had to opt for an entire slate of services, a practice the Competition Bureau deemed anti-competitive.

One of the most significant victories for the competition watchdog in the past decade, the settlement could save millions of Canadians thousands of dollars when they sell their homes. Instead of paying a full-service real estate agent up to 5% of the total sale value, a home seller can now pay a nominal fee for an agent to list the property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). According to Derek Holt, an economist with the Bank of Nova Scotia, the difference could mean $15,000 in pocketed savings for the owner of an average-priced Canadian home.

The deal caps more than four years of feuding between the industry and the federal watchdog. In February, the Competition Bureau formally challenged CREA's practices, claiming they "limit consumer choice" and prevent real estate agents from offering lower cost services to customers.

At the heart of the complaint was the MLS, which is owned by CREA and is responsible for about 90% of home sales in the country. The real estate group fired back, accusing the commissioner of tarnishing the reputation of the profession with unfounded condemnations of its practices. But many industry observers said the public relations war was unwinnable for CREA and that its days of rejecting "a la carte" services were numbered.

"Since challenging CREA's rules, the Bureau's goal has always been to achieve a long-term solution that would strengthen competition in the residential real estate brokerage services market," Melanie Aitken, commissioner of competition, said in a release.

Ms. Aitken said the agreement, which has yet to be ratified, will allow real estate agents to "offer the variety of services and prices that meet the needs of consumers."

Meanwhile, CREA maintained that, despite the agreement, its rules did not "prevent or restrict a broad range of business models," the association said in a release. "In CREA's view, the consent agreement reflects this reality and would avoid unnecessary and expensive litigation proceedings."

Lawrence Dale, a Toronto-based real estate lawyer who sued CREA, told the Post the industry association buckled in signing the consent agreement.

"It's a complete capitulation and acknowledgment that what was being done in the past was improper and that they've now agreed in a legally binding document that they won't do it again," he said late yesterday.

Mr. Dale, who launched a discount brokerage RealtySellers, claimed he was forced out of business in 2006 as a result of new rules implemented by CREA.

"This is precisely what I've been fighting for for the last decade," he said. "That the consumer and real estate agent get to decide the framework of their relationship without having CREA and their local boards say certain arrangements are not appropriate for MLS."

The consent agreement is an important victory for the regulator because it provides the bureau with a legally binding settlement that can be used against CREA if the association fails to act on the agreed terms.

The bureau had previously rejected CREA's proposed rule changes, insisting that a consent agreement is necessary to ensure a permanent solution.

Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Ltd. conceded the real estate industry "looked like we were tying to hold onto a monopoly" but argued that was not the case.

Photo By: Razvan Marescu


CALGARY - Activity in Calgary’s residential MLS market picked up in September after a number of months where demand for housing was cooling.

But year-over-year sales remain down.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, which released official MLS data today, MLS sales on a year-over-year basis were down in September for the fifth consecutive month.

However, the board also reported that single-family home sales during the month broke a string of five consecutive month-over-month declines and the condo market ended a streak of four straight monthly declines.

In September, there were 958 MLS single-family home sales in Calgary for an average price of $460,278, up from 867 sales and an average price of $445,617 in August. In September 2009, there were 1,257 sales at an average of $459,085.

There were 366 condos sales in September, up from 364 in August, but down from 580 in September 2009. The average sale price in September was $284,028, down from $286,384 the previous month and $290,253 a year ago.

“There are signs that September may mark a gradual, if not slight, uptick for Calgary’s housing market - we are seeing modest improvement since the market’s decline, that really started in April of this year,” said CREB president Diane Scott.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


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Monday, September 27, 2010


Sales decline within city
Where have first-timers gone?
By Marty Hope, Calgary Herald
September 25, 2010

Calgary appears to be bucking the national real estate trend -- and not in a good way.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, sales across Canada in August were up slightly more than four per cent, says the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Sales in Calgary declined 32 per cent in August compared to the same month last year -- and for January to August, down almost 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2009, says the Calgary Real Estate Board.

"Calgary's housing market has been undergoing a measured correction over the past four or five months," says CREB president Diane Scott. "Sales are trending lower as a result of a decrease in first-time home buyers entering the market and a decline in pent-up demand following a strong post-recession recovery."

From January to August, the number of sales were up 2.2 per cent compared to the first eight months of last year.

Transactions rose sharply during the second half of 2009, reaching levels unlikely to be matched in the home stretch of 2010,

"High sales activity late last year and earlier this year borrowed from sales this summer and will continue do so over the coming months," says chief economist Gregory Klump of CREA. "This makes the return to more normal levels of sales activity look like a steep downward trend."

What he termed the "hangover from accelerated home purchases" is likely to continue for rest of 2010, he says -- adding that while economic figures and job growth are expected to be "tepid, they will continue to support housing markets."

Activity was cooking, though, in Ontario and B.C., with monthly gains in these two provinces accounting for most of the improvement in national sales activity in August -- and that's despite the introduction of the harmonized sales tax.

Seasonally adjusted sales activity either increased or remained stable in over half of all local markets across Canada, says CREA.

In Calgary, the listings story is mixed.

They increased for detached single-family homes, but pulled back in the condominium area. Provincially, though, listings were on the decline.

The number of new listings brought to the Canadian market edged up 1.9 per cent in August compared to the previous month.

Despite having edged slightly higher in all provinces except Alberta, new listings remain 16 per cent below the peak reached last April on a national basis.

The average price of homes sold via Canadian MLS systems in August was $324,928, which is on par with the same month last year ($324,843).

Average home prices eased slightly in Alberta and New Brunswick in August, but gains in every other province exceeded the national increase.

Average prices rose or were stable in nearly two-thirds of all local markets on a year-over-year basis, but increases were shrinking in Canada's most active and priciest markets.

Again in Calgary, the direction of prices was dependent on what was being bought.

Detached homes fetched an average of $445,617 last month, down about $8,500 from a year ago, while the condo average went up slightly more than $3,000.

"Rising interest rates and a projected slowdown in job growth mean that the Canadian housing market is expected to continue to cool," says CREA president Georges Pahud.

"This is overlooked in recent commentary that suggests further changes to mortgage regulations may be needed. A further tightening of regulations could negatively impact Canada's softening housing market and consumer confidence."

Photo by: Jek in the Box