Monday, June 28, 2010


Calgary's luxury home sales rising
Mario Toneguzzi, Canwest News Service ·
Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010

CALGARY -- A unique home in Springbank, Alta., is for sale for the first time, as sales of luxury homes boom in the Calgary area.

The nearly 5,000-square-foot luxury home, designed and owned by architect Marian Liptak, is listed for $2,668,880 and being sold through realtor Robbie O'Leary of MaxWell Westview Realty.

"It's only a few minutes from town but this is a peaceful, Zen environment -- very private," Ms. O'Leary said of the home, located in the foothills about 15 kilometres west of Calgary.

The energy-efficient, ecofriendly home includes five bedrooms, 4½ baths, a gym, a winemaking room, a huge entertaining atrium, a large rear patio with six-person hot tub, a home office with a separate entrance, a three-car garage, an elevator, in-floor heating, steel tile roof, lots of natural light and high ceilings.

The listing highlights an appetite these days in the Calgary market for luxury homes.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, sales of million-dollar-plus properties have jumped more than 56% year-to-date until the end of May, compared with the same period a year ago.

In the first five months of this year, 149 single-family homes in Calgary metro sold for more than $1-million, compared with 94 in 2009. In the towns surrounding Calgary, the real estate board reports 17 luxury home sales so far this year, while a year ago there were 11. And in the country residential market, which includes acreages, million-dollar-plus sales have jumped from 39 last year to 75 so far this year, according to the local real estate board.

The only luxury sector to see a decline in sales is condominiums in Calgary metro, with only three sales so far this year over $1-million until the end of May, compared with 12 sales in 2009.

Photo By: bogowonto2010

Friday, June 25, 2010


Why Canadians were ranked fourth-hardest working in world
Canwest News Service
Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2010

Is a looming project deadline keeping you from going camping with the family? You're not alone.

Forbes magazine recently ranked Canada the fourth hardest-working country in the world, and Expedia's latest vacation-deprivation survey found 24% of employed Canadians did not take all of their vacation days in 2009 and 42% of respondents reported feeling vacation deprived, up from 33% in 2008.

While you may be worried about job security, or perhaps are too overwhelmed by your workload, experts say vacation time is critical to long-term health and happiness.

Taking regular vacations is key to avoiding burnout. "It's a chance to recharge your batteries, get some rest physically and mentally," says Edmonton psychologist Nancy Hurst. "It's also good for strengthening relationships."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


'Flippers' replaced by condo dwellers
Shift to homes to live in instead of simple investment
By Marty Hope, Calgary Herald
June 19, 2010

Calgarians aren't doing it as much as they were a year ago.

Those thinking about buying a condo for investment purposes has declined from just a year ago, says a national survey.

But despite a decline to 40 per cent this year, down from 52 per cent in 2009, Calgarians continue to lead the country in terms of those considering the investment route, says a TD Canada Trust poll.

But the number of flippers in the marketplace -- people buying and reselling in a short period of time -- has dramatically declined, says Christina Hagerty of Re/Max Realty Professionals.

"I am seeing a shift toward people buying a home to live in as opposed to speculators," she says. "People are seeing a long-term value and aren't looking to flip, (which is) what got us in trouble in the first place."

Forty-two per cent of Calgarians polled say lower maintenance with condos versus other styles of homes is the biggest motivating factor for buying a condo.

Affordability is the second strongest driver -- but only at 18 per cent.

"Calgarians continue to see the value in purchasing a condo as an investment strategy," says Chris Wisniewski, associate vice-president of real estate and secured lending for TD Canada Trust.

"Affordability and stable monthly expenses can make condos very attractive for both first-time buyers and investors."

Of the 40 per cent looking at condos as a possible investment opportunity, 41 per cent of that total would consider using the condo as a long-term source of rental income compared to 35 per cent nationally.

While slightly more than one in four Canadians say they plan to eventually move into their rental unit, only 16 per cent of Calgarians have plans to do so.

Jessy Bilodeau, mobile mortgage specialist in Calgary for TD Canada Trust, says condo prices in Calgary are starting to increase, as has the number of available units for sale.

"The current increase in supply would suggest prices may not rise any further as buyers will have more options to choose from," she says.

Carlimi and Jose Velazquez decided the time was right for them to get out of rental and into homeownership.

For the couple, who are expecting their first child in October, affordability and location were key to their decision to buy their first home.

"We're going to be paying less a month for our townhouse than we've been paying in rent," says Carlimi, adding that they are currently living in the Sasso development in the Beltline region of Calgary.

The couple, who married four years ago, also took advantage of historically low rates.

"Rates were going to start to go up, so we decided it was time to buy," says Carlimi.

The couple moved up its original purchase date because of the expected rate changes.

What they bought was a 1,300-square-foot home in Mosaic Aspen Hills by Heartland Homes.

They expect to take possession of the three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath townhouse in August.

"We like the layout of the townhouse and also the location, says Carlimi. "We're still close to downtown and to our jobs and we have good access, and this area isn't as expensive as some others around the city."

Both work in the oilpatch -- Carlimi for Saxon Energy and Jose for Husky Energy.

The survey of Calgarians by TD Canada Trust found that they appreciate the affordability of condos.

However, even if they had more money, many wouldn't change their plans to buy a condo -- 61 per cent of those consider purchasing or already own one.

"Additionally, one-third of Calgarians considering a condo purchase would raise their family in one," says the survey.

Hagerty, who specializes in condos, says the majority of condo owners also live in their units -- a total that increased this year compared to 2009,

"We see both men and women purchasing," she says. "I'm representing a lot of couples either married or into shared ownership because of the more stringent banking guidelines."

Hagerty also sees a more balanced condo market, adding that those for sale that are priced right are selling, but those who are "reaching" with their prices are sitting and will likely have to make price corrections.

Figures from the Calgary Real Estate Board show the average selling price of condos listed on the MLS system was $304,662, up from $275,212 a year ago.

For the first five months of this year, the average was sitting at $291,802, up nearly six per cent from 2009.

The TD Canada Trust survey reports that for the fourth year in a row, the majority of Calgarians (82 per cent this year) say they would spend less than $400,000 for a two-bedroom condo.

In terms of condo fees, only six per of respondents would pay more than $400 per month.

Photo: Active Listing (#307, 3600 15A Street SW) MLS# C3433222

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Where the boys are
Jennifer Fong, Canwest News Service
Saturday, Jun. 19, 2010

The hallway that leads into the depths of Jason Konoza's basement is deceiving. Framed Disney illustrations on the walls hint at rainbows, butterflies and baby deer, which is fitting for only part of the space, a play area for Mr. Konoza's two children, six-year-old Zachary and three-year-old Addison.

Inch farther into the lair and the pictures of Bambi morph into photos of the Beatles. Plastic furniture becomes a luxurious leather couch, where Mr. Konoza's best friends are sprawled, a gigantic bag of munchies between them.

"The man cave," says Mr. Konoza, "starts here."

About six years ago, Mr. Konoza sold his beloved comic book collection to create a man cave to call his own in the Edmonton home he shares with his family.

"It hurt," the 36-year-old remembers. "Some of those comics were pretty old."

The sale of his 3,000 comic books earned him enough to make his first investment: a home theatre sound system. For his birthday a year later, Mr. Konoza's wife, Wendy, upgraded his standard television to a 46-inch flatscreen. A mini-fridge and the couch, complete with an ottoman and requisite faux wood cupholders between seats, completed the cave.

Mr. Konoza's basement has become the hangout spot for the TV video editor and his two oldest friends, Mark White and Karl Kohler, who come over weekly to watch movies and play video games. Mr. Konoza boasts a number of "antiques" in his 11-console collection, including a 1980 Atari 2600 and a 1983 Colecovision, but the trio usually end up rocking out on the more contemporary PlayStation 3.

"We come here a lot because I have kids and these guys don't," Mr. Konoza says as he straps on an imitation guitar for a round of Rock Band. "They can invite me to their house, but they've got no toys for kids. Our kids' bedtime is at eight o'clock, so at 8:01 we turn up the TV."

Man caves, sometimes called "mantuaries," can be in basements, dens or garages and are much like the clubhouses of boyhood, typically "off limits to women and kids," explains Snoop Dogg.

The rapper recently advised viewers on talk show Lopez Tonight that man caves should be built with password-protected locks: "It's a code that only you know."

Snoop's highly secure space was built on an episode of the DIY Network's Man Caves, a television series that highlights ultimate man caves across America.

"This is kind of a trend," says real estate agent Sharon Ryan. When Ms. Ryan shows homes to couples, she often finds that men go straight to the man caves.

"I think there's humour here that it could possibly save marriages," she says. "I've seen this more and more -- men are literally moving into their garages. They're setting up shop there; they're setting up TVs, beer fridges."

Of course, Snoop's rule isn't always so hard and fast in real life -- Wendy Konoza thinks the man cave is a great idea, and while she doesn't hang out there as much as her husband does, she has been known to take up the microphone and belt out a few AC/ DC songs with the boys every once in a while.

The space is homey and they can share it with friends, and that's the draw.

"It's not the biggest, it's not the best man cave you can find," he says, "but it's a man cave with heart."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

LIFE is NOT waiting for you

Forget market timing, it's all about life timing
Garry Marr, Financial Post 
Wednesday, Jun. 9, 2010

'You know, you're making the biggest mistake of your life. The housing market is going to fall."

I got this great piece of advice from another journalist at the Financial Post, who has since left the newspaper, after buying my first home. Not exactly the type of thing you want to hear after taking on huge debt and making the biggest financial decision of your life.

Lucky for me, I didn't heed that advice about Toronto's red-hot real estate market -- in 1998. I'm not going to say I made a shrewd business decision 12 years ago, or even six years later when I bought a larger house.

For me, it wasn't a case of not following what turned out to be bad advice from a fellow business journalist. Nor was it about trying to time the market.

I was simply following the same pattern as most Canadians: I got married and decided to stop renting and buy something. Later came the need for a bigger home when the second kid was on the way.

Which brings us to today. The supply of housing is rising fast as people try to list their homes for sale before the market "crashes." This is happening at the same time that demand is starting to wane. Economists and even the real estate industry are all predicting a correction, the only argument being how severe it will be.

So, the question for anyone buying is, should you wait?

Don Lawby, chief executive of Century 21 Canada, thinks the strategy of waiting for a crash is not going to work during this economic cycle. "For a market to crash, you have to have people who are desperate to sell," says Mr. Lawby. "People will [only sell] if they can't afford their mortgage or they don't have a job."

He doesn't see a decline in prices, "unless you are predicting that mortgages will renew at a hefty premium, which is not the case, or a whole bunch of people are going to lose their jobs."

Mr. Lawby believes neither will happen.

And, he adds, you are really into a risky game if you are timing the market. "A house is a home. If all you are doing is looking at it as an investment --that's what happened the last 15 years--it's not just that. It's a place to live and a place to raise a family," says Mr. Lawby.

Even Benjamin Tal, a senior economist with CIBC World Markets, who last month said in a report that Canadian housing is 14% overvalued, has doubts about playing the market. But he suspects that's exactly what some Canadians will do.

"Is there a sense that prices will go down and people will wait? I think it might be an issue," says Mr. Tal. "It won't be the main reason [people don't buy], but it will happen at the margins. The fact that people sell at the peak and wait to buy is a normally functioning market."

But even if you do make the right call on housing prices, it could end up backfiring on you in other ways. For example, if interest rates rise fast enough, any gains you make on price could be erased by interest charges, says Mr. Tal.

Edmonton certified financial planner Al Nagy says you need to think of your house the way you think about any long-term investment. "Whether it's an investment for use in your retirement or a house to live in, it's a long-term thing. The timing becomes less critical than it would be if it is a speculative [investment]."

And he says making a call on the housing market is as tricky as any other investment call. "It's very rare you catch the bottom. You can't let the market dictate when it's time to buy. The time to buy is when you can afford it," says Mr. Nagy.

I'm not sure that philosophy would fly with my former colleague, but the problem with timing the market is, what if your timing is off?


Oil sands to double output by 2025
Carrie Tait , Financial Post
Wednesday, Jun. 9, 2010

CALGARY -- Canada will produce more than twice the amount of crude derived from oil sands by 2025 compared with what experts predict the bitumen-rich zones will churn out in 2010.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects the oil sands to produce 1.5 million barrels of oil per day this year, and 3.5 million barrels per day by 2025. Its estimate considers current and planned projects, based on a survey of oil sands operators.

Further, by 2016, in-situ bitumen extraction methods — in which the oil is largely recovered using drilling techniques — will exceed strip-mining operations, CAPP said today in its annual crude, markets and pipelines forecast.

Oil sands production growth is expected to be the main driver behind Canada’s rising crude production. In 2010, the country will churn out 2.8 million barrels of oil per day, with 1.5 million barrels per day coming from the oil sands; in 2015, total production is expected to climb to 3.3 million barrels per day, with the oil sands contributing 2.2 million barrels; while 2020 will bring 3.9 million barrels per day, with 2.9 million barrels coming from northern Alberta; and in 2025, CAPP predicts Canada will spit out 4.3 million barrels of oil per day, with the oil sands making up 3.5 million barrels.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Coca-Cola Stage Announces 2010 Stampede Line-Up!
Check it out below and see you there! Click on your performer of choice to find out the time.

July 8, 2010

Terry Stokes

July 9, 2010

The Heebee-jeebees
Terry Stokes
Theory of a Deadman

July 10, 2010

Thomas and Friends
Terry Stokes

July 11, 2010

Thomas and Friends
Terry Stokes
Barenaked Ladies

July 12, 2010

Terry Stokes
Faber Drive
Marianas Trench

July 13, 2010

Fifi and the Flowertots
Terry Stokes
Three Days Grace

July 14, 2010

Fifi and the Flowertots
Terry Stokes
Glass Tiger

July 15, 2010

Bob the Builder
Terry Stokes
Raul Malo
Doc Walker

July 16, 2010

Bob the Builder
Terry Stokes

July 17, 2010

The Heebee-jeebees
Terry Stokes
Crash Karma

July 18, 2010

The Heebee-jeebees
Terry Stokes
Martina McBride


Calgary the best place to invest in residential real estate, investment group says
Mario Toneguzzi, Canwest News Service
Saturday, June 5, 2010

Calgary is the best place in Canada to invest in the residential real estate market, according to a report released by an investors' group yesterday. The Real Estate Investment Network's report said Calgary experienced one of its best economic and real estate periods in Canadian history a couple of years ago, but then entered a strong, and needed, correction. "This adjustment period, as the market searches for its new foundation from which to build, should continue in 2010 as the provincial economy is poised for another growth spurt." The report said migration to the city continuing to lead the country combined with the "renewed afford-ability" will help propel the local market over the coming years. The Real Estate Investment Network is an investing group run by Don Campbell, author of Real Estate Investing in Canada. "Successful real estate investing is all about identifying a town or neighbourhood that has a future, not a past," said the report.

Photo By: njchow82

Friday, June 4, 2010


Canada gains 24,700 jobs in May; unemployment rate remains at 8.1%
Paul Vieira, Financial Post · Thursday, Jun. 3, 2010

OTTAWA -- The Canadian job market continued to churn out jobs in May, adding 24,700 workers -- mostly full-time and in the private-sector -- to payrolls, Statistics Canada reported on Friday.

The May data were well above Bay Street expectations for a 15,000 gain, and has some analysts suggesting this represents more evidence interest rates in Canada will continue to head upward.

“This should up the ante on further Bank of Canada hikes,” said Derek Holt, vice-president of economics at Scotia Capital. “This is simply an astounding jobs report.”

In contrast, the U.S. jobs data for May came in well below expectations, with 411,000 people added to payrolls versus an anticipated 533,000 gain. Particularly disappointing was that gains in private-sector employment, of 41,000, were little changed from the prior month. The anticipation was that the private sector would add 190,000 jobs. As a result, most of the U.S. job gains were temporary hires by the U.S. government to help conduct that country’s census.

John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Investors Service, said the U.S. data were “disappointing,” and would mean the U.S. Federal Reserve would be in no hurry to raise its benchmark rate for the foreseeable future. “This tells us the recovery in the U.S. labour market is happening at a snail’s pace.”

The Bank of Canada this week raised its key interest rate for the first time in nearly three years, to 0.50% from 0.25%, as strong domestic fundamentals outweighed worries in Europe. However, its cautious rate statement, which emphasized the risks in Europe, had some analysts questioning whether the central bank would hike rates at its next meeting in mid-July.

The gain of 24,700 jobs comes on the heels of a record performance in April, in which 108,700 people were added to payrolls. The unemployment rate remained unchanged in May at 8.1%, as more people entered the labour market in search of jobs.

The headline May number is smaller than April’s whopping performance, but analysts were nonetheless impressed with underlying data that suggest the recovery has legs.

Full-time employment rose by 67,000 in May, while part-time positions fell by 43,000. The private sector accounted for 43,000 new positions during the month, while there were 28,000 fewer self-employed workers, the agency said.

“Those part time jobs that were taken in lieu of more suitable employment are giving way to more suitable full time jobs,” said Stewart Hall, economist at HSBC Securities Canada. “So too may it be the case that part time jobs have evolved into full time positions as companies respond to increased economic activity.”

The strongest job gains were in transportation and warehousing, and health care and social assistance. Public administration and agriculture were also higher. The biggest declines were in the information, culture and recreation sectors, as well as in the accommodation and food services, and natural resources industries.

Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador recorded the most robust jobs gains. Meanwhile, average hourly wages rose 2.4% in May, in line with gains in the same month a year earlier.

Employment has risen by 215,200 over the past five months. So far this year, the labour force increased by 166,000 and the participation rate, which fell by close to one percentage point during the recession, has risen 0.3% from its recent low.

“The latest employment data confirm a relatively strong domestic economic recovery that has begun to mature – where incremental gains diminish while becoming self-sustaining,” said Pascal Gauthier, senior economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Yanick Desnoyers, assistant chief economist at National Bank Financial, said that based on statistics from the first two months of the second quarter, total hours worked jumped “notably” to 4.6% annualized, the strongest showing in three years. Meanwhile, wages are up a robust 6.4% annualized, the best showing since the third quarter of 2007.

“Since both labour input and the wage bill are accelerating, it is hard to argue for a slowdown in domestic demand in Canada anytime soon,” he said. “As the Bank of Canada stated [this week], there is still considerable monetary stimulus in place this side of the border.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Bank of Canada raises policy rate on the strong domestic economy but cautious about global events

The Bank of Canada boosted the overnight rate by 25 bps to 0.50% this morning, hinting that further reductions in amount of stimulus are forthcoming but providing no concrete timetable for additional rate increases. While the domestic economy is performing in line with the Bank's forecast, the external environment remains volatile, with the Bank pointing to tensions in Europe and the continued deleveraging across the global economy as likely to "temper the pace of global growth." "Given the considerable uncertainty surrounding the outlook, any further reduction of monetary stimulus would have to be weighed carefully against domestic and global economic developments," the Bank said. Additionally, the Bank highlighted that, even with today's rate increase, there remains "considerable monetary stimulus in place.”

The Bank also announced that it is re-establishing its standard operating framework for implementing monetary policy. The 50 bps operating band for the overnight rate was re-established.

The economy posted a solid 6.1% annualized growth rate in the first quarter of 2010 building on an already impressive 4.9% increase in the fourth quarter of 2009. The solid gains during these two quarters provided strong evidence that the stimulative monetary and fiscal measures helped to pull the Canadian economy out of the recent slump. The 0.6% gain in March’s GDP indicated strong momentum late in the first quarter setting up for the strength to be maintained in the second quarter. The surge in payrolls in April also corroborates this view with a smaller, but still positive, report for May expected on Friday, June 4, 2010.

While the global environment presents risks to Canada's economic outlook, the strength in the domestic economy and a core inflation rate that is only marginally below the 2% target took precedence in today's rate decision. Furthermore, the statement indicates that the strength of the domestic economy will see the Bank continue to reduce the amount of stimulus, although the statement did not provide clear guidance about the pace of interest rate increases. So far, the Bank assesses that the effects of external events on Canada's economy have "been limited." On balance, the statement supports our view that the Bank views domestic economic conditions as strong enough that the ultra-low level of interest rates is no longer needed and that the recovery can withstand a gradual rise in interest rates going forward. To that end, we expect that the Bank will raise the policy rate to 1.5% in 2010 and that the tightening will continue in 2011 as the Bank moves the policy rate closer to neutral by the time Canada's output gap is eliminated.

Dawn Desjardins, Assistant Chief Economist, RBC Economics

Photo By: Picture Perfect Pose