Thursday, March 13, 2014


Curb Appeal: Neutral paint adds elegance; flowers add flair
By Suzanne Rowe 
The Gazette March 11, 2014

A retired couple from Laval enjoy the location of their bungalow. This home, in which they've raised their children, is filled with precious memories.

The stone-grey shingles were in good condition. I felt that by painting the two pipes and the metal flashing at the base of the chimney in the identical shade of the roof and in a flat finish, these details would look less obvious. The white siding and other white elements were in perfect harmony with the neutral coloration of the beautiful brickwork. With time, these components may look a bit dingy. If so, they ought to be resurfaced with a few coats of exterior acrylic paint in a flat finish to rejuvenate their brightness.

The reddish orange accent on the posts conjured a distracting effect and gave these banal parts too much importance. In most cases, columns ought to reflect the same hue as the windows and fascias. After removing the third beam that was leaning on the corner of the wall and centring the second post between the small windows, the trio, as well as the new linear planks above, will be painted in a crisp white. The colour emphasis will now be provided by the freshly painted cranberry door, which is the new focal point.

A custom-made flower box would measure the entire length of the large widow and at least 20 centimetres high. It will be opaque stained in a dark warm grey tone in a soft sheen. The louvres as well as a tall but narrow vessel would reflect the same coloration. The container will be set near the entrance and host red annuals and climbing greenery. Our homeowners enjoy their well-groomed rock garden. Although being a welcoming feature on the side of the driveway, it is pretty much a secret landscape from the front view.

It could afford to flow more toward the centre lot in a curvy paisley form. The two main beds were timidly connected to each other with a slim strip of soil in the middle. I propose to exaggerate the outline into a more dramatic arched shape. I have redistributed the owners' oddly placed but meticulously pruned evergreens inside the two convex spaces. Alongside the stretch of the porch walk, a sequence of Buxus persistent shrubs will permanently camouflage the base of the floor without ever visually encroaching over the front portal. Bright lime and yellow foliage from some perennials and shrubs will provide an interesting interplay with a few purplish Cimicifuga Brunette and the red and gold petals of the Stella Ruby Hemerocallis. A snowy Clematis will embrace the newly painted white standing light fixture. Strings of transparent fishing lines, installed on this post will motivate the plant to climb. Inside the bed on the right, a miniature white blossoming tree will reside among three different-sized grey boulders. Before all ground cover has a chance to blanket the soil, a generous layer of black mulch is recommended between plantings.

Finally, the rotten gate at the end of the driveway will be substituted with a new one in which planks are of equal height and closely fitted together. This will ensure more privacy from the street perspective.

These simple upgrades on the facade and the enhancement of the garden composition will make our residents fall in love with their home all over again.

Vegetation (left to right):

- Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh (climber, double white blooms, cut back low over a set of fat bulbs every spring)

- Hemerocallis Stella Ruby (perennials, red with yellow heart, both beds)

- Spirea japonica White Gold (low shrubs, white blooms, yellow leaves, both beds)

- Buxus Green Velvet (owners' recuperated shrubs in both beds and new bushes alongside the porch walk)

- Cimicifuga ramose Brunette (perennials, white candles, deep purple, to hide white ramp and front of brick strip on the right bed)

- Owners' Thuja (small globular and egg-shaped evergreens, throughout beds)

- Hosta Sum and Substance (perennials, white blooms, yellow lime, in line with left window, disliked by slugs)

- Lamium maculatum White Nancy (perennials, white blooms, silver white with green edge, ground cover, both beds)

- Heucherella Stoplight (perennials, white blooms, lime leaves with a dark red vein, base of Buxus hedge, compost in spring, thick layer of black mulch)

- Impatiens Wallerana Dazzler Cranberry (annuals, red blooms, all containers, do not over-fertilize)

- Hedera helix (cascading greenery, green or variegated, take indoors for winter, return outdoors in spring)

- Hakanechloa macra Aureola (ornamental grasses, yellow ribbons, green stripe, left of right bed)

- Onoclea sensibilis (ferns, soft green, copper in fall, beneath centre of flower box)

- Euonymus fortunei Canadale Gold (low persistent shrub, green and gold leaves, front of right bed)

- Malus Sir Lancelot (small crab apple tree, white blooms, centred in the right side of bed away from window view)

- Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle (shrub, white blooms, front right of Cimicifuga, right bed)


Calgary house price growth outpacing rest of Canada
9.6% annual hike for repeat home sales to record level

CALGARY - Calgary’s housing market continues to shine compared with the rest of the country as local residental real estate prices showed the highest growth rate in Canada in February, according to a report released Wednesday on repeat home sales.

Calgary prices rose by 9.6 per cent year-over-year and by 1.1 per cent month-over-month - both the best in the country and to an all-time high for the city, said the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index.

Nationally, of 11 centres surveyed, prices were up 5.0 per cent from last year and by 0.3 per cent from January.

The index is estimated by tracking observed or registered home prices over time using data collected from public land registries. All dwellings that have been sold at least twice are considered in the calculation.

The trend in price increases in Calgary does not appear to be changing in March. According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, so far this month from March 1-11, the average MLS sale price in the city is up 5.28 per cent from the same time a year ago to $480,345 while the median price has increased by 7.25 per cent to $429,000. CREB stats indicate there have been 796 MLS sales so far this month, up 10.71 per cent from last year but new listings are down 4.05 per cent to 1,114 and active listings are off by 18.80 per cent to 3,049.

The Teranet-National Bank report said that for the second month in a row, prices for Canada as a whole rose to an all-time high, though new records were set in only two of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed - Vancouver (for a fourth straight month) and Calgary (for the first time since September 2007).

The gain from a year earlier was well above the cross-country average in two of the 11 markets, Calgary and Vancouver (7.7 per cent). It was slightly above the average in Toronto (6.1 per cent) and Edmonton (5.3 per cent), equal to the average in Hamilton (5.0 per cent) and below it in Winnipeg (3.5 per cent) and Montreal (1.9 per cent).

In Halifax (4.7 per cent) and Ottawa-Gatineau (0.6 per cent), prices were down from a year earlier for a second consecutive month. In Victoria (3.4 per cent), home prices have been down from a year earlier for 12 months now. Quebec City posted its first 12 month deflation in 15 years (2.0 per cent). It is the first time since October 2009 that there is price deflation in at least four of the regions covered, said the report.

“In February the east-west dichotomy became more pronounced than ever,” it said.

Home prices were up from the month before in all five markets of Western Canada - Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria (0.9 per cent), Edmonton (0.6 per cent) and Winnipeg (0.5 per cent). The rise in Victoria ended a run of four consecutive monthly declines. For Vancouver it was the 10th consecutive monthly increase. In the six markets of central and eastern Canada, the only monthly rise was in Montreal (0.7 per cent), the second advance after six months of flat or declining prices. Prices were down 0.1 per cent in Toronto, making February the fourth month without a gain in the last six. For Ottawa-Gatineau (0.8 per cent) it was the sixth decline in a row, for Quebec City (1.7 per cent) the sixth in seven months. For Halifax (1.7 per cent) it was the third decline in a row, said the report.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Calgary homebuyers return to housing market bidding wars
BMO report says Canadians willing to pay more to get what they want

CALGARY - Prospective Canadian homebuyers are more willing to enter into a bidding war this year for properties they want to purchase, says a new report released Wednesday by BMO.

And Calgary’s hot housing market is proving to be a good example of that as nearly 20 per cent of MLS residential sales in the city in February were for above list price.

The BMO Home Buying Report said 34 per cent of Canadians are willing to enter a bidding war when it’s time to buy a home, an increase of six points, or 21 per cent, from a year ago.

The report, conducted by Pollara, said that in major city centres, the appetite for competitive bids is the highest in Toronto and Vancouver (44 per cent and 41 per cent respectively). In Calgary, it is 38 per cent and in Alberta, it is 30 per cent.

“While many suspect bidding wars are triggered by sellers who deliberately price their homes below market, the report shows that just 15 per cent of owners have that motivation, with those on the Prairies and in Toronto the most likely to pursue this strategy - but even then the numbers are modest at 24 per cent and 22 per cent respectively,” said BMO, which says average home prices across Canada continue to rise, gaining momentum in the past year, with the average transaction price up nearly 10 per cent year-over-year in January. The average home sale price in Canada is currently just over $400,000.

“Calgary’s market continues to see the strongest fundamentals; Vancouver has rebounded from a soft patch; while Toronto’s market remains relatively balanced overall, though the condo market is more amply supplied,” said Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, in a statement. “Overall, sales are expected to hold relatively steady in the year ahead, with price growth in the low single-digit range, below the rate of income growth.”

Laura Parsons, mortgage expert with BMO Bank of Montreal, said the competition for real estate in Canada, particularly in hotter markets, can be fierce and turn into an emotional frenzy.

“A shortage of inventory is driving a lot of it,” said Parson of the Calgary market. “It’s such an emotional thing. When you see it, you get it. I remember the days when there were lineups of people behind each other. The minute you see that your heart starts to race and you want to not lose.

“Lots of people are prepared. They know what their high is . . . Calgary has the biggest income so we’re willing to spend more if we have to and hopefully we’ve been conservative before we go in and we know we have that room to bid higher.”

Parsons said many people don’t understand that they can renovate a home and build it into the purchase price.

For some people, she said, there’s a need to move before spring and they’re feeling the pressure.

Data released Monday by the Calgary Real Estate Board indicates all-time records, for any month, were set in February in the average city sale price ($482,530) and the median city price ($424,900) as well as in the single-family sale price ($550,312) and the single-family median price ($480,000).

“Calgary has been in a statistical sellers’ market since February 2013,” said Robyn Moser, a realtor with CIR Realty. “As time has passed, the sellers’ market has become increasingly aggressive. This has caused buyers to see lower and lower levels of inventory, placed into competing offers and homes selling in days if not hours. This cause is speculated to be the lack of available new home inventory due to Calgary sewer lines that are needing to be upgraded. This has placed metro Calgary real estate values into statistical unsustainable levels until the sewer line upgrade is complete.”

According to CREB, as of Tuesday, there were 2,893 active MLS listings in the city which was down 20.15 per cent from a year ago. Year-to-date, sales have increased by 11.77 per cent to 3,551 transactions.

Mike Fotiou, associate broker with First Place Realty, said Calgarians were so determined to buy a home in February that nearly one in five paid above the asking price.

“Of the 1,854 properties that sold during the month, 364 or 19.6 per cent of buyers paid higher than list price. Compare that to the 10.4 per cent of buyers from a year ago or the 6.1 per cent from February 2012 that paid above asking,” Fotiou wrote on his blog.

“As sales rise and inventory continues to decrease year-over-year, it’s to be expected that buyers will find themselves in more situations where multiple offers are involved.”