Monday, August 30, 2010


1934 27 Avenue SW
LIST PRICE: $899,900
Square Footage: 2508 sq. ft.

Architecturally Iconic Home Infused with West Coast Zen! Located hillside in South Calgary, this semi-detached home is a magnificient modern structure constructed utilizing ICF-Insulated Concrete Form, equating to sound proofing on all 4 fully finished levels. The open plan on the main floor has been designed for an idyllic flow from front to back with the use of bamboo flooring & natural stained wood windows to incorporate the beauty of the surrounding landscape & proximity of the downtown skyline. The kitchen features an integration of appliances with the fir cabinetry for a contemporary seamless flow accented by stainless steel counters. Lush berber carpet on the 2nd floor encompasses a laundry room & 2 bedrooms, both with luxurious ensuites. The top floor Flex Loft has both a north facing patio with spectacular downtown views & a large south facing patio; great for entertaining. Notable elements include in-floor heating in the basement & a double detached garage.


Emerging markets are on fire
Bloomberg News · Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

The global economy is like fried ice cream: If you don't act fast, it turns into a mess.

American pundits, Nobel laureates included, are predicting Japan-style deflation for the United States and Europe. They are urging the Federal Reserve to pursue another round of quantitative easing to stop the onset of an Ice Age for Western economies. The Fed didn't oblige at its last meeting, but it threw a bone to the deflation crowd by promising not to pull money out of its previous round of asset purchases to stimulate a recovery.

On the other side of the world, consumer prices are surging. Emerging markets as a whole now have an inflation rate of more than 5%. India is registering price increases of more than 13%. China's are more than 3%.

Much of the "heat" comes from the property market in emerging markets. Milliondollar flats in Mumbai have panoramic views of the city's slums. Hong Kong's real-estate prices have almost reclaimed their 1997 peak. Overpaid bankers who pay 15% income tax in Hong Kong are stretched to buy Beijing or Shanghai properties.

The emerging markets are on fire.

Deflation prophets in the West are in for a rude awakening. Eastern fire will turn Western ice into a mess, and 2012 looks like it will be the year of melting. The fuel for the fire is coming from deflation-fighting stimulus programs, such as that of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Stimulus is prescribed as a panacea for recession. In to-day's global economy, it isn't effective in the best of circumstances and is outright wrong for what ails the West now.

Trade and foreign direct investment total half of global gross domestic product. Multinational corporations drive both. They shop around the world for the lowest-cost production centres and ship goods to wherever the demand is. Demand and supply are dislocated. So when a government introduces stimulus, the initial increase in demand doesn't necessarily boost local supply. More importantly, if multinationals decide to invest somewhere else, there wouldn't be an increase in jobs to sustain the growth in demand beyond the stimulus.

Just as water flows down, stimulus affects low-cost economies more, wherever it is initiated. As the West pours money into the global economy through large fiscal deficits or central banks expanding balance sheets, the emerging economies are drowning in excess liquidity. Everything is turning red-hot.

How will this all end? The most likely scenario is that the West will have to stop stimulus programs when inflation spreads to it from the emerging economies.

The most immediate channel is through rising commodity prices. It's a tax on the West to benefit emerging economies that produce raw materials.

That's the irony: The stimulus in the West can immediately bring harm to itself. It's also the magic of globalization.


Personalities of married couples don't fuse over time
By Shari Roan
Los Angeles Times
August 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Studies show that married people share a lot of similar personality traits. But is that because their personalities blend over time or did they have similar personality traits at the start? A new study shows, convincingly, that people tend to choose their future spouse based on similar personalities. Indeed, marriage does not mean people become more like their spouses.

Researchers at Michigan State University analyzed data from 1,296 marriage couples, one of the largest studies of its kind. The couples were married an average of 19.8 years. The couples took personality assessment tests to measure whether similarities in their personalities increased with the length of the marriage.

The study showed that couples did not become more alike over time. The one personality trait that proved to be an exception to this overall conclusion was aggression. When one spouse was aggressive, the other spouse tended to develop more aggressive tendencies over time. "It is possible that individuals might reinforce each other's aggressive tendencies due to hostile interpersonal exchanges," the authors wrote. The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The research is important because it suggests that people with similar personalities find each other (which gives credence to matchmaking services) and, because of the shared personality traits, it's likely their offspring will be similar too.

"Marrying someone who's similar to you may increase the likelihood that you'll pass those traits on to your children," the lead author of the study, Mikhila Humbad, said in a news release.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Calgary's 17th Avenue listed, but far from top, in rankings of costliest retail addresses
Paris' Champs Elysees first; New York, Hong Kong, London boulevards round out top five
By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald

CALGARY - Calgary's popular 17th Avenue S.W. shopping strip is cited in a global report on lease rates, but it's nowhere near as expensive as places such as Bloor Street in Toronto or Montreal's Ste. Catherine Street.

The Colliers International 2010 Global Retail Report released Monday said Paris's Champs Elysees is the world's priciest fashion retail corridor, at $1,255.90 US average lease rate per square foot per year, followed by New York's Fifth Avenue ($1,250), Hong Kong's Russell Street ($1,205.46) and London's Bond Street ($1,174.24).

Montreal's Ste. Catherine Street and Toronto's Bloor Street were tied at 32nd overall at $294.12. Vancouver's Robson Street was 51st overall at $196.08.

The report said Calgary's 17th Avenue S.W. saw average rents drop by 25 per cent from a year ago to $73.53 US.

"There was a lot of momentum built up with the transition from the more established retailers who have been there a long time and obviously that area has changed," said Rob Walker, vice-president and partner with Colliers International in Calgary.

"There's not a lot of space that comes up on 17th Avenue for lease and that drove the rates up, and when we had the worldwide (economic) slowdown, it certainly slowed significantly, and hence we saw a drop in the rental rates."

A report by Colliers in Calgary said 17th Avenue S.W. had a vacancy rate of 3.65 per cent in the spring, down from 5.51 per cent in the fall of 2009.

"17th Avenue continues to transition from local retailers to regional, national and international retailers," said the report. "Vacancy is expected to decrease marginally over 2010. Relaxed Beltline parking requirement bylaws will continue to contribute to the decreases seen in both the 17th Avenue and 4th Street districts.

"No new inventory is expected to be completed during 2010. However, construction on the new Hanson Square project anchored by Best Buy at 17th Avenue and 8th Street S.W. will commence during the summer of 2010, being the first new project on the bustling avenue in over three years."

Walker said Calgary is not just a mall-oriented city anymore, with "great retailing dollars to be earned from the street-front."

"Retailers have certainly done that in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Historically they've shied away from that because of our weather, but at the end of the day, it's not that big of an issue," said Walker.

Regardless of what is happening in suburban shopping malls and on secondary streets, there will be strong demand for the No. 1 retail street in most markets, said Jim Smerdon, director of retail and strategic planning with Colliers International.

"When you look at who the retailers are on these streets in Canada, for the most part they're many of the same stores we see in regional shopping centres, but with a higher volume of sales, and in high street locations, they are willing to pay significantly more rent to be there," he said.

Ste. Catherine Street's average lease rate was unchanged from last year, while Bloor Street increased 7.14 per cent and Robson Street dropped by 16.67 per cent.

- - -
Global Top 10
Average rent per square foot per year (U. S. dollars)

Retail strips 2010 Annual change %
Paris -Champs Elysees 1,255.90 2.04
New York -Fifth Avenue 1,250.00 -10.71
Hong Kong -Russell Street, Causeway Bay 1,205.46 1.30
London -Bond Street 1,174.24 51.66
Milan -Via Monte Napoleone 929.37 -1.33
Sydney -Pitt Street Mall 768.85 71.43
Zurich -Bahnhofstrasse 727.71 18.57
London -Oxford Street 719.70 27.69
Rome -Rome City Center 627.95 -3.85
New York -Madison Avenue 590.00 -21.33

Source: Colliers International


Condo can't-do
Ground rules are essential when hundreds of strangers live in one building
By Helen Morris, National Post

Moving into a shiny new condo for the first time can be pretty exciting. If you have been renting for a while, now you have a place you can more or less call your own. If you are downsizing from a house, you may be pleased not to have to take care of your own garden, or look forward to decorating your unit.

But the people at the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services who try to help consumers understand how condo legislation works want to make sure condo owners know their rights and responsibilities.

"Most condo owners are not terribly aware of what it is to own a condo and the responsibilities of owning a condo," says Vishnu Kangalee, manager of consumer services bureau, Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services. "There is so much misinformation about what the condo owner really does own and what they own in concert with the other owners of the condo corporation."

The Ontario government has launched an online survey ( to "take the pulse" of condo owners, in order to try to clear up some of the confusion.

"One of the misconceptions is that people think we are a government agency that regulates in the same way as the landlord-tenant board [would]. There's a big difference between being a condominium owner and a tenant," says Joseph Kavanagh, consumer services officer, Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services. A frequent question he receives is whether there is a maximum increase in common expense fees. "I have to tell them 'No'," he says. "It's not like landlord-tenant legislation where landlords can only raise the rent a certain percentage every year. In condominiums, if you don't like the way the board is operating, you vote them out."

According to the Canadian Condominium Institute, misunderstandings can take root even before condo owners move in.

"There needs to be some very significant changes to the pre-purchase information. Information is provided by the barrel load," says Mario Deo, vice-president, Torontochapter, Canadian Condominium Institute, but "the problem is, the purchasers don't understand what it means. They're caught up in the euphoria of purchasing a condominium unit."

Mr. Kangalee says that condo purchase documents are incredibly complicated and abstruse. His colleague agrees there is complexity.

"Number one," Mr. Kavanagh says, "we always advise consumers who are buying a condominium to consult with a lawyer or real estate professional at least during the 10-day cooling-off period, so they can go through the documentation."

Once you move into the condo, many aspects of how you live will now be subject to the condominium documentation.

"The main big difference is when you're owning your own [house], you're not subject to [any restrictions within] the condominium documentation," says Mr. Deo. "There can be hundreds of restrictions, but the main ones are repairs, insurance, how you deal with your neighbours, pets, how you decorate and renovate and the use of your property. All of that is not controlled as much when you own [a house, though] of course there are municipal by-laws, etc."

Mr. Kangalee says some consumers who call his office misunderstand how condo ownership works.

"There is no direct ministerial role here. This is what is known as a declarative statute. It states what the law is. Condo owners are the owners of the corporation, they run the corporation, it's like a microcosm of a democracy," Mr. Kangalee says. "They elect the board of directors and it's incumbent upon them to ensure the efficient functioning of the corporation by being proactive and taking part in the meetings and voting. They even have the authority to vote out directors if they are unhappy with them. There are a lot of consumer protection rights given to them in the Condominium Act."

Mr. Kangalee emphatically states that, should a condo owner have a dispute with their board, on no account should he or she refuse to pay their monthly fees. The board can get a lien on the unit and even sell it if the fees aren't paid.


Factory sales rise unexpectedly in June
Postmedia News · Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010
OTTAWA — Canadian factory sales rose unexpectedly in June, marking the 11th advance in the past 13 months from a low in May 2009, Statistics Canada reported on Tuesday.

Manufacturing sales were up 0.1% to $44.8-billion during the month, with gains in nine of the 21 industries tracked by the federal agency said.

Most economists had expected sales to decline by around 0.5% in June.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada revised its estimate for May sales to an increase of 0.5% from a previously reported 0.4% rise.

Photo By: CTS Cable

Friday, August 6, 2010


Alberta building permits rebound to pre-boom levels
Edmonton Journal; with files from Postmedia News
August 6, 2010

Calgary posted a monthly increase in the value of building permits in June, but it was still lower from last year's figure, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Building permit values, at $375 million, were up 19.2 per cent from May, but that's down 12.5 per cent from the same time last year.

For Alberta, total building permits rose to $1.19 billion in June, up 29.9 per cent year-over-year, led by a strong recovery in residential permits.

From May to June, Alberta permit values went up 17.7 per cent, but it was a 67.9 per cent increase in nonresidential construction intentions that pulled the figure up. Residential permits actually fell 8.5 per cent from May.

"The increase in Alberta was attributable to all components in the non-residential sector," the federal agency said.

Southern Alberta, where Lethbridge and Medicine Hat spiked in June, reaching $54.2 million for the month, has rebounded to pre-boom levels, said ATB Financial senior economist Todd Hirsch.

"After peaking during the summer of 2008, there was a strong pullback in activity in the Lethbridge and Medicine Hat region," Hirsch said.

"In recent months, however, it seems that building permits have stabilized at a level more or less consistent with that seen prior to the boom years. This trend may yet soften a bit with a moderation in the real estate market later this year, but the overall industry appears to be in good shape."

Nationally, the value of building permits jumped more than expected in June, as an increase in non-residential activity offset a decline in residential permits.

Values rose 6.5 per cent to $6.6 billion during the month. Most economists had expected a gain of 1.8 per cent.

The June figure was up 24.9 per cent from the same month last year, the federal agency said.

In the non-residential sector, permit values rose 23.5 per cent to $3 billion. "This increase was largely attributable to higher commercial and institutional construction intentions in Ontario and higher commercial construction intentions in Alberta," the agency said.

Residential permits, meanwhile, fell 4.5 per cent to $3.6 billion in June, due to a decline in single-family intentions. It was the third straight monthly decline for the sector.

In total, permit values rose in six provinces. The biggest gains were in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. The largest drop was in Saskatchewan.

Photo By: Daniel Brennwald


The world's richest man's new Manhattan mansion
Francesca Levy, Forbes · Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

If you stand on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and look across the street, you'll have a small chance of glimpsing the world's richest person.

Last month Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, who is worth US$53.5-billion, bought the Duke-Semans mansion, a beaux-arts townhouse directly across from the Met, for US$44-million, public records show. That record-breaking price is the most paid for any New York home in nearly two years.

The mansion's seller, Tamir Sapir, famously ascended from taxi driver to billionaire by trading in oil and then investing in real estate. He bought the property from the descendants of its original owner, tobacco mogul Benjamin N. Duke, in 2006, paying US$40-million. That leaves him with a 10% profit —healthy, in a sluggish market.

Here's what's important to know about the sale, the home and how this transaction will change luxury real estate.

The Duke-Semans is one of a kind.

Location is critical in ultra-high end Manhattan real estate, and the Duke-Semans has a great one: The corner of Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, on New York's vaunted "Museum Mile." But staking a claim to the right street (Fifth Avenue is the Holy Grail) isn't enough to qualify for greatness. Buyers measure prestige in feet — as in, how many of them a building occupies on a coveted block.

The Duke-Semans has everything going for it: It stretches up 82nd street for 100 feet (a luxurious distance, in this part of Manhattan), then turns the corner, occupying 27 feet on Fifth Avenue. The combination of its unusual length, Fifth Avenue visibility, and corner location can't be found in any other building. That uniqueness is what allowed Broker Paula Del Nunzio, of the firm Brown Harris Stevens, to originally price the home at US$50 million.

But it might be a fixer-upper.

Samir reportedly intended to renovate the 19,500-square-foot house in the four years he owned it, but never did. Although the exterior is breathtaking, the house needs some work on the inside — a fact that helps explain Helu's 12% discount off the asking price.

There's more evidence to suggest the mansion boasts a less-than-sparkling interior: Brown Harris Stevens only provided press and prospective buyers with detail shots of ornate moldings and period elegance, not the sweeping shots of ballrooms, stairways and terraces that are typical for these kinds of sales. The home may be in need of major work.

It was snapped up quickly.

Brown Harris Stevens put the Duke-Semans on the market in January. If it were a normal home, stagnating on the market for nearly seven months would bode very poorly for a sale. But in the rarified world of luxury real estate, where homes fetch US$10-million or more, it's expected that properties may languish on the market for two or three years. Only a few thousand people in the world can afford homes like this, so sellers expect to wait. The fact that the turnaround was comparatively quick indicates wise pricing, and perhaps growing demand in the luxury market.

The broker may not have gotten a cut.

After all her hard work representing the home, Del Nunzio may not have reaped the reward of a handsome commission. It has been reported that Helu and Sapir agreed to the deal privately. Del Nunzio told Forbes she could not discuss the details of the sale.

Even if she was sidelined, Del Nunzio's carefully calibrated pricing strategy may have been crucial to the home selling so quickly. Del Nunzio is known for reading the market extremely well, and pricing homes as close as possible to what buyers are willing to pay. As a result, she has logged US$620-million in sales of 40 townhouses since 2007, and her homes fetch an average 97% of the asking price. That's impressive in an era where unrealistically priced luxury homes have become notorious for slashing their prices as much as 40%.

In March she discussed her strategy for pricing homes with Forbes: "The right price is a matter of the temperature of the times, also the recent comp sales," she said. "Each one is a separate instance at a separate time. We price them to the highest level that we can, given the conditions of the market."

This is a sign that the high-end home market is stabilizing.

In the second quarter of 2010 the median sales price of a Manhattan luxury home (defined as homes above US$3-million) rose 12% from the previous year. Demand for these pricey abodes has ramped up, and inventory has tightened, according to a recent report by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

But even outside of New York, the super-high-end home market comprises so few properties that just one sale can change the tide of the market. Aside from the Duke-Semans, two recent sales give luxury brokers hope for the future:

In late April billionaire Kelcy Warren bought the 3,000-acre Bootjack Ranch in Colorado for US$42-million, setting a price record for the year; just two months later, the Bel Air mansion Le Belvedere was sold for even more, to an unnamed European family.

"We see a stabilizing trend in the ultra-luxury segment, as high-net-worth buyers pursue the very best properties at opportunistic price points," says Bill Fandel of Peaks Real Estate Sotheby's International Realty, who handled the sale of the Bootjack Ranch, via an e-mail.

Del Nunzio agrees, calling the sale "a signal that for the property possessing the unique features a buyer wants, the buyer in today's market conditions will not only pay as much as yesterday's buyer, but even more."

What does that mean for the rest of us? Unfortunately, not too much. Trends in luxury real estate rarely correspond to the housing market at large, where foreclosure and price statistics remain discouraging. But even if you'll never be able to afford a treasure like the Duke-Semans mansion, take comfort that the museum across the street allows access to the trappings of great wealth and beauty — for as little as a penny.