Tuesday, September 28, 2010


 #501, 718 5 Street NE
List Price: $369,900
Square Footage: 1,344 sq. ft.

HILLSIDE TOWNHOUSE IN POPULAR RENFREW/REGAL TERRACE! Sole Vista, designed by Sturgess Architecture and built by innovative design company, Battistella Developments is a modern construct overlooking Calgary's vibrant skyline! Freshly painted, new lush carpet,  stainless steel appliances, 18 foot ceilings in the living room, a pantry,  corner gas fireplace, large south facing balcony, a main level powder room, designer blinds & in-floor heating are just several of many great highlights found in this 2 Storey Stacked Townhouse. The upper level reveals the laundry closet & two bedrooms, both with 4 piece ensuites,  & includes a lofted master bedroom with incredible downtown views. 2 Tandem underground parking stalls, additional storage as well as insuite storage also included. Downtown, Bridgeland, the Calgary Zoo, Transit & The Bow River Pathways are just blocks away. Sole Vista, aptly named for its stunning urban vistas & large windows which allow for maximum sun exposure on the hillside! Book an appointment to view!

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

Friday, September 24, 2010


New Holt Renfrew posting big gains
Sales in several departments see sharp rise
By Lisa Schmidt, Calgary Herald
September 24, 2010

Calgary's Holt Renfrew may still be riding some new store buzz, but the retailer's top executive says service brings customers back.

And apparently in droves, as Mark Derbyshire cites a list of big gains across several of its lines in the downtown location, which tripled the size of its old store when it opened a year ago.

Jewelry sales -- bolstered by its chain-leading Tiffany boutique -- up 44 per cent. Watches are 67 per cent higher.

Women's shoes, now showcased in a prime main floor location, are up 64 per cent.

"We're seeing terrific increases," Derbyshire said in Calgary on Thursday.

He is forecasting double-digit comparable store sales improvements heading into next month.

"That's where we're trending today. The people of Calgary have truly welcomed us well in this facility."

Holt Renfrew will mark its one-year anniversary of the new Calgary store with a gala on Oct. 8 -- an event headlined with a visit by Los Angeles socialite-turned-designer Nicole Richie, kicking off a month of special events.

Holts' opening was among a raft of big name brands to set up or expand in Calgary over the past couple of years, banking on a quick rebound from the economic downturn.

This year, Holts finds itself in the company a new downtown Brooks Brothers store, plus the addition of a greatly expanded Harry Rosen store, which opened earlier this month.

Business is expected to be brisk in that category, say some market watchers.

"You've got the value retailers at one end of the spectrum doing really well, and you have the luxury and high-end retailers thriving," said Mike Kehoe, retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate.

"The money is out there; there's a lot of disposable income."

And that is likely to keep attracting new retailers.

"A lot of these guys haven't ever been here, they've always been in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and now they've kind of now discovered Calgary," said Rob Walker, a Calgary-based commercial realtor specializing in retail for Colliers International.

But that new competition doesn't faze Holts, which first opened in the city in 1953. Derbyshire, who took over the top position eight months ago, said the retailer sets itself apart with high-end service to match its high-end style.

"Relationships are the backbone of any business," he said.

And the store continues hiring more staff, including seven new "roving concierges" -- known as Holts hosts -- to help guide shoppers through the Calgary store.

Staff now sport a bright magenta name badge, helping foster that personal service, he notes.

"You come in because it's all new and it's exciting, but how do you maintain that?" Derbyshire said.

"It's a list of many things that create that extraordinary experience . . . what brings you back in the future is still the exciting and world-class product that has been hand-selected for the people of Calgary."

"We buy this store with Calgary in mind, how Calgarians want to dress and how they embrace fashion."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Where to buy: Top 10 cities
Jesse Kinos-Goodin, Financial Post
Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010

When investing in real estate, sometimes it’s necessary to look beyond your own backyard. The Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), a national organization of investors, has compiled what it says are the top 10 Canadian cities in which to invest. Few are major cities and some are surprising. Don Campbell, president of REIN, as well as one of the researchers on the study, says the results are based on factors such as planned transportation improvements, or if the area’s average income, population growth and job growth are increasing faster than the provincial average.

Oddly enough, nothing east of Ontario shows up on the list, and while Mr. Campbell says cities like Halifax, Saint John and Moncton “still provide decent returns,” the top cities are ones that will outperform the national average between 2010 and 2015.

1. Calgary

Calgary is “poised to outperform the average by a wide margin,” says Mr. Campbell, making it the top-ranked city.

After two years of declining average resale housing prices, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has predicted they will increase year-over-year in 2010.

The REIN report credits the downturn to a much-needed correction, and that it was “economically impossible for the [Calgary] market to continue at the pace at which it was heading.” But now that it is coming out of the recession, along with economies elsewhere, Calgary’s strengths in producing food, fuel and fertilizer will boost its growth.

“Calgary is in a unique economic and geographic position to take advantage of the direct and indirect jobs this increase in demand will create,” says Mr. Campbell, who adds that with strong in-migration and renewed affordability, the city provides a good buying window for long-term investors.

2. Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Ont.

REIN refers to Canada’s Technology Triangle as the “economic Alberta of Ontario.” That means KWC is not only seen as the economic engine of the new Ontario economy, but also that it “will outperform all other major regions in eastern Canada,” Mr. Campbell says. For indicators, he points to job growth, student growth and a new light rapid-transit system.

3. Edmonton

Edmonton sits near the top of the report’s list because of its future potential. Calling it a “perennial overachieving market,” REIN says the city is a “growing market, [with] an increasing population, and a forward-looking leadership.”

It will also be the main benefactor of energy development in Western Canada, says Mr. Campbell, resulting in a “very affordable, strong rental market with strong in-migration from across Canada.” Major infrastructure improvements, such as the ring road and LRT expansion, will be key.

4. Surrey, B.C.

British Columbia’s second-largest city is growing so fast it could become even bigger than Vancouver.

“Just a decade ago, it was known as the punch line to many a joke,” Mr. Campbell says. But with two border crossings to the United States, links to five major highways, deep sea docks and four railways, Surrey is a prime location to do business, he says.

Although there may be a strong rental market, it’s a city that requires a closer examination, taking “neighbourhoods and even the street’s characteristics into consideration when deciding where to purchase,” REIN warns.

5. Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows, B.C.

The Translink and Gateway Project infrastructure improvements have made these B.C. towns the “most accessible regions in [Vancouver’s] Lower Mainland,” the report says. They’ve come a long way, Mr. Campbell says. The unofficial motto of Maple Ridge used to be “You can’t get there from here.” As a result of poor infrastructure in the past, property values have been historically low in this area. But with the improvements, it’s predicted an additional 400 business will move into the area, REIN says, improving the demand for both residential and commercial property.

6. Hamilton, Ont.

“The perception no longer matches the reality of Hamilton,” Mr. Campbell says. “The city’s leadership, as well as local business owners, have transformed what was once a rough-and-tumble steel town to a city with economic vitality, diversification and population growth.” REIN applauds Hamilton’s leadership as being innovative in revitalizing the city, adding Hamilton

“has beaten its overall building permit value for the second year in a row.”

7. St. Albert, Alta.

“Long thought of as a satellite of Edmonton, St. Albert is poised to be the biggest benefactor of the new Edmonton Ring Road,” says Mr. Campbell, who adds that as the transportation access improvement is completed, the city will begin to experience “a flood of not only new residents, but also the relocation of companies and jobs into town.” Other attributes of the city include consistently low vacancy rates, high rents and strong property value increases. It also helps that the city has “turned itself into a major retail centre for the northern region while adding to its industrial and commercial job base,” REIN says.

8. Barrie & Orillia, Ont.

These two cities have been shedding the perception of being just cottage country and have become a “hot bed for growth,” Mr. Campbell says. University and college expansion campuses have brought new life to the area, and the addition of Go Train access has made them viable commuter towns for the Greater Toronto Area, REIN says. For investors, this all adds up to healthy property appreciation, a respectable vacancy rate of 4.7% and the youngest residents on average in a given Census Metropolitan Area (CMA).

9. Red Deer, Alta.

In the centre of the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, Red Deer is not close to either. But REIN suggests reviewing city plans, as there will be a lot of hidden opportunities. “The whole central Alberta region has witnessed very strong population and job growth, as well as a real estate market that has continually outperformed most other regions of the country,” Mr. Campbell says. He adds that with a continually expanding industrial and commercial job base, Red Deer is in a good position to “take advantage of the inevitable growth in demand for food, fuel and fertilizer.”

10. Winnipeg

Winnipeg is often left off the real estate investment radar, but Mr. Campbell says it’s a good city for “consistent economic performance — not too high during booms and not too low during downturns.” But people should stick to buying top-quality properties. REIN also notes that housing prices, after dipping last year, are back to double-digit increases, which could “lead to an influx of inventory on the market.” But with one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country, at 1.2%, there is room for movement. Another positive factor for the city is international immigration is expected to increase under the provincial nominee program being undertaken by the government.


Bank of Canada edges up interest rates

By Andrew Mayeda, 8 Sep 2010

As expected, the Bank of Canada on Wednesday raised its benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points to one per cent.

My colleague Paul Vieira at the Financial Post covered the central bank's interest-rate announcement today.

Paul notes that the bank's accompanying statement was not as hawkish as many economists had been expecting. In the statement, the bank predicts Canada's recovery will be "slightly more gradual" than expected, but solid domestic demand and strong business investment should keep the economy humming, despite fears of a double-dip recession south of the border. Many analysts have been expecting that the bank will take a prolonged pause from raising rates, as the global economic picture clears.

What does this mean politically? The big challenge for the Harper government over the coming months will be managing the economic expectations of the Canadian electorate. As the government winds down its stimulus spending, there is expected to be very few fiscal goodies in the bag for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to spread around. If the government stays in power through the new year, Flaherty could be in the position of having to table a relatively lean budget that begins to lay out how the government will reduce the deficit--not a process that lends itself easily to big campaign slogans.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


#4, 1935 35 Street SW
List Price: $524,900
Square Footage: 1,172 sq. ft.

Urban Townhouse designed by leading firm, Niklas Group! The contemporary minimalist stucco facade is accented by natural wood siding showcasing clean modern lines; a standout in Killarney, where the advantages of inner city living can be easily enjoyed. An artistic design palette enhances key features of the space such as the maple hardwood flooring, stylish light fixtures, soft fresh wall tones & an inviting gas fireplace. The open-concept floor plan is centered around a designer kitchen with granite counters, espresso stained cabinetry, upgraded stainless steel appliances & a raised eating bar for interactive hosting. The upper level hosts the laundry closet & 2 bedrooms including the master with a balcony, large walk-in closet & an indulgent ensuite with a soaker tub & large shower. Additional features included a fully finished basement with storage, detached single garage & cozy patio. Minutes to downtown, 17th Avenue, schools, shopping & eateries.