News From The Market – Property Tips and Updates

We love providing our clients with all the information they can handle. It's part of what makes up top realtors®, while other agents hide relevant information we offer it up in many different formats. We want you to feel confident you are working with true market experts, and that's one of the reasons we publish these property tips and updates. Keep on top of market conditions by visiting this section often, we update it regularly.


Tuesday June 12th/2012 – Canada’s Housing Starts See Slight Decrease in May

Housing starts across Canada did fall just a bit this past May from the month before. This was not totally unanticipated, since April’s housing start numbers were in record high territory. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s deputy chief economist, Mathieu Laberge, noted that May’s numbers were right in average territory when comparing it to the six months prior. Mathieu expects a slightly slower trend in the coming months, but notes that there will likely be some surprise up and/or down trends through the rest of the year.

This past April saw 243,800 housing starts, while May followed with 212,400 units. Urban areas across Canada saw 189,600 starts in May, a 15.8 percent decrease from April. Of those, single starts numbered 64,300 units, only a decrease of 4.2 percent. Multiple urban home starts numbered 125,300 units, down 20.7 percent from the prior month.

Investors have mixed opinions on those numbers. On one hand, property investors were somewhat pleased at the pull-back in construction since it would avoid creating an oversupply of available units. That would likely decrease property values. But, in some parts of the country potential investors are finding it difficult to find properties to buy, and when they do the price point is higher than they had hoped.

Wednesday June 6th/2012 – Condo Investors Take Heed; Single Women Are In the Market for Real Estate

Property developers, pay attention; there is a new demographic that you should be targeting to boost those sales numbers. Single women are now snapping up some 20 percent of all home sales. That figure goes up to 30 percent when you look at the condo market. These women are for the most part successful, financially secure and are willing to put their money into something of quality. Anything else and they are likely to walk away.

Women are starting to play a part in raising the standards on new developments, inciting builders to use quality materials such as granite and to upgrade to stainless steel appliances in well laid out designer kitchens. Storage, particularly in bathrooms, is getting a second look, as are lighting fixtures, for both taste and effectiveness. If a woman can’t see herself in the perfect light to put on her make-up, those high-heels will head for the door.

One of the biggest items on women’s must-have condo list is adequate security, preferably using a combination of surveillance cameras and lighting. Even better is an onsite security presence in the form of a concierge that monitors who enters and leaves a building. Condos built in areas with lower crime statistics have a better chance of being sold to a woman than those in high crime areas, no matter how nice that designer kitchen is.

Many women like to have conveniences within walking distance. A neighborhood coffee shop, boutique or grocery stores within a block or two are big pluses. Admittedly, both sexes living downtown sometimes don’t even bother with a car, so good public transit is a must.

Most women also look for condos that are ready to be moved into without the need for renovations right off the bat. Homes that require extensive maintenance, that have minor inconsistencies in the quality of construction and a less than desirable layout are also non-starters. A balcony with a great view definitely puts your property in must-have territory.

Don’t just think these niceties apply to single women. Couples, seniors and most other prospective buyers prefer to purchase properties with these features. By appealing to one demographic, you are really getting a bonus. Consider the extra investment money well spent.

Wednesday May 16th/2012 – Student Rental Market Good Investment

Anyone considering investing in the student rental market should take a good look at Edmonton, particularly downtown. The market is stable, there is the potential for good cash flow and as long as there is a University of Alberta, there will be students. Edmonton has added extensions to its light rail system or LRT, which means that students can live farther from school but still have good access.

There has been a softening lately in the city’s real estate market; so for all intents and purposes, this is the time to get in. The University of Alberta, Edmonton has been around since 1908 and serves as a primary educational institution for agriculture, science and health fields. In the 2009-10 school year, over 37,500 students attended. Of those 4,500 were from out of province and over 5,000 were from outside of Canada. The Edmonton Clinic, opening in 2008 is a prime medical facility and is expected to increase interest and enrollment at the school.

At the same time, Edmonton’s rental vacancy rate surrounding the college has hovered between two and 2.5 percent. Prime areas like Queen Alexander, Parkallen, Strathcona and Garneau will always have a tight rental market because they are close to both the university and the action on Whyte Avenue. Finding a property in any of these areas, or along the LRT lines, can be a virtual gold mine.

Friday April 20th/2012 – Owning Home Positive Financial Move

Most people look at their home as a place to live, to raise a family and as their own personal space. Some invest plenty of cash in improvements and to make their homes fit like a glove. But along with being a reflection of our personality, that home is one of our biggest, important financial assets.

It is a well known fact that buying a home is getting a foothold on the wealth meter. Nearly 97 percent of millionaires do own their own homes, sometimes more than one. That first home gets you in the door and teaches you about financial responsibility. From there you build on that with investment properties or follow your profitable dreams in another manner.

Your first home will create a profit for you, tax free. If you sell that home at a profit, you pay no taxes because, being your principle residence, it is exempt. If you downsize, you can buy a smaller property and pocket the difference. You can leave it to your descendants, tax free.

In the past 12 years, homeowners have fared better than most of those investing in the stock market. Home prices do fluxuate, but are usually not as volatile, as this time period has shown. You can also tap into the equity of the home if need be, making it a valuable financial aid in another form. There are the issues of maintenance, insurance and the like, but all in all, owning a home is a positive financial move.

Wednesday March 28th – Sales Up for First Two Months of 2012, Re/Max Expects Healthy Spring

Re/Max released an optimistic report this past week, citing that the housing market in Canada is not headed for a cooling down period. One fact that is making the organization lean in that direction is the number of bidding wars starting to pop up in various real estate markets around the country.

In the report, 15 major population areas across Canada were surveyed. Of those 12 saw increases in sales when comparing the first two months of 2012 with 2011. More than half of those areas saw increases in the double-digit zone. The firm is expecting a strong spring sales season, following an early start because of the mild weather, the still low interest rates and increased consumer confidence.

The bidding wars were reported in Halifax-Dartmouth, St. John’s, Ottawa, Hamilton-Burlington, London-St Thomas, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto and Winnipeg. The highest sales increase was in Halifax-Dartmouth, which saw a 35 percent increase over the first two months of 2011. Those sales were helped immensely by a new contract for $25 billion worth of shipbuilding that was signed late last year.

Saskatoon saw a 21 percent increase, while Saint John saw 20 percent. Vancouver did see a 16 percent decrease, but the homes are still the most expensive in Canada. The average price there is $786,695, which is $300,000 more that the average of other major metro areas in Canada.

Thursday February 9th/2012 – First Time Homebuyer Tips

First time homebuyers face plenty of rules, regulations and paperwork. But there are ways to help streamline the process, and perhaps save some money at the same time. One way is to take advantage of tax credits and some RRSP benefits.

If this is your first home, you are entitled to the First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit.  That means you have a $750 federal deduction that you can claim for the year that you buy that home. To qualify, you, your spouse or significant other may not have owned another home for at least four years prior to the current home purchase. You must live in the home, not rent it out, and you must move in within one year of the closing date.  One of you make take the credit, or you may share it.

Another option is the RRSP Home Buyers Plan, where you may take out up to $25,000 from your RRSP account to put towards that home. Your spouse or partner may also withdraw $25,000 from their account. This money must go towards purchasing the same piece of property.

 If you have not owned a home in the previous four years, then you may opt to not pay taxes on the withdrawn amount. Again, you must live in the home, moving in within a year of the closing date. The withdrawals must be paid back within 15 years, starting one year from when the money was taken out. One fifteenth of the withdrawn amount must be repaid each year, but there is no interest.

Monday February 6th/2012 – Demographia Study Shows Edmonton to Be Affordable City

A recent study, the International Housing Affordability Survey, placed Edmonton in the top spot as far as housing affordability. It had the best numbers of the six metropolitan areas in Canada with populations of more than a million that were looked at. Other countries included in the survey included Hong Kong, new Zealand, Ireland, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Windsor, Ontario was judged the most affordable Canadian city overall, no matter what the population. Vancouver, not surprisingly, was the most expensive, or most unaffordable, however you wish to express that fact. Vancouver proved more expensive than London, England, Sydney, Australia, San Francisco and New York City. The only city considered more expensive was Hong Kong.

Demographia, a public policy website, used data from 2011’s third quarter. They took an area’s median house price, divided it by the gross medium house-hold income and came up with a medium multiple.  If an area had a median multiple more than 3.0 it was considered unaffordable. Those cities scoring over 5.0 went into the severely unaffordable category.

Vancouver’s median multiple came to 10.6, outshined only by Hong Kong’s 12.6.  The most affordable city on the list was Detroit, Michigan, coming in with a 1.4.  Atlanta, Georgia came next with 1.9.  Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton all came into the moderately unaffordable category.

Monday January 30th/2012 – December Saw Strong Housing Sales across Canada, But Flattened Housing Prices

December of 2011 saw strong home sales across Canada, but that same month saw prices flatten somewhat. Currently real estate prices nationwide are barely higher than they were in December of 2010, according to findings of the Canadian Real Estate Association, or CREA.

CREA found that the average national price was 0.9 percent higher in December of 2011 compared to the same month in 2010. But sales, comparing the same two months, have increased 4.9 percent. December 2011 sales were also up 1.8 percent when compared to November in the same year.

CREA president Gary Morse notes that low interest rates have helped draw people into the housing market. And is seems low interest rates will be the trend for a while longer. BMO just revealed its 2.99 percent fixed rate for a five year term, the lowest in Canada. Economists also believe that the Bank of Canada will keep their benchmark interest rate at the current one percent.

Gregory Klump, an economist with CREA noted that it is fortunate that the national prices are not keeping up with the sales activity numbers. He noted that this indicates that the low interest rates are not causing an overheating of the Canadian housing market. The flat prices will also encourage more people to get into the real estate market in 2012 because of the increased affordability.

Thursday December 8th/2011 – Investors Can Make Creative Deals with RRSP Lenders

Not all property investors know, or take advantage of, the fact that RRSP savings can be tapped to assist with mortgages and down payments. Individuals have leeway to do so, and this gives them the freedom to do a little creative loan structuring. Cash, as well as TFSAs also can be part of the package.

If an investor is looking for some private funding for investment, it is out there. That is good news, because banks, especially commercially leaning ones such as CIBC may be scaling back on the investment mortgage deals. At least, they will no longer be actively pursuing those deals in such an aggressive fashion. That means those discounts on variable rates are set to vanish.

Even seasoned investors are looking to the private sector for funding, and they are finding that this way of financing is attractive. RRSP holders who decide to invest from their portfolios find better returns without excess management fees. As an example, if a lender is interested in a ten percent interest payment on a monthly basis, the investor may counter with a 12 percent payment to be paid annually. Negotiations could also include a balloon payment to be made at the loan’s term. Lenders and investors have the freedom to come up with the best deal that is advantageous to both parties.

Thursday November 17th/2011 – Home Prices See Second Best Gain in Canada

During the last decade, the city of Edmonton has ranked second in the increase of home prices throughout Canada. Since 2000, the city has seen a 165 percent increase in home values, noted a Re/Max report released this past Monday.

Looking at Canada as a whole, for that period the average value of a home doubled, going from $163,951 to $339,030. In the Edmonton area, an average home in 2000 went for $124,203. In 2010, that same home went for $328,803, with the record pricing seen in 2007 when the average was $338,636. Prices have pretty much gained back losses from the recession and have stabilized.

Much of Edmonton’s home values can be attributed to the amount of new home construction being done in that decade, as much as the typical supply and demand issues. During that time nearly $19 billion in building permits in the residential market were issued, three times that of the previous decade.

Edmonton’s market is fairly balanced at the moment. Some 8,000 properties are currently on the MLS for sale list, which is more than the 5,500 to 6,000 homes usually listed during this time of year. Because of this, experts foresee buyers having a slight advantage and prices stabilizing, at least for the moment.

Tuesday September 6th/2012 – Housing Prices and Economy Nice and Stable

Edmonton’s home real estate market is considered to be quite stable. This is also good for the economy because one of the benchmark points in determining consumer confidence is a healthy real estate market. Both owners and buyers in Alberta’s capital city show a considerable amount of that confidence.

In August, the average selling price for a home was $315,000. That is almost the same as in July and on par with the prices seen over the last five months. Single family homes were going for an average of $355,000, which is down just a tad from the $360,000 seen in July. But condos, coming in at an average of $225,000 per unit, were up from the average of $223,000 seen in that same July.

It was not that long ago that home prices in Edmonton were on a literal rollercoaster ride. That ride peaked in 2008 when prices were at their highest. After that there was a considerable correction in those prices when the recession hit. Now, despite the global economic flux, those prices have seen a recovery and are now holding steady.

This is further testimony that the economy in Alberta is doing much better than other locales throughout North America, particularly when compared with areas in the United States. Chris Mooney, from Edmonton’s Realtors Association, sees growth potential for Edmonton throughout the next few years.

Thursday July 14th/2012 – TD Says Drop in Sales and Home Prices Possible Within Next Few Years

TD Bank is predicting that housing markets across Canada will see a ten percent decrease in prices over the next couple of years. They are calling this a moderate correction. A further prediction is that resales will also slow, due to predicted rising interest rates and a slow growth in household income. Fewer first time buyers will be getting into the market because of stiffer mortgage rules. But Sonya Gulati and Derek Burlton, who co-authored the report, believe that the market and demand for homes will remain positive through the end of 2011.

The housing market has helped Canada get out of the recession at a fast pace, and has been a major factor in the country’s economy. Other nations, such as the United States, have seen their economies stagnate, and their real estate markets tumble. Now Canada’s market is expected to cool, but not too quickly. Fears of growing household debt are one big issue.

TD is expecting the average price for a home nationwide will drop 7.4 percent by the end of 2011, compared to the $367,000 average price seen at the end of 2010. By the end of 2013, the average price is expected to be $329,000 per home. Resale homes are expected to see a 15.2 percent drop in sales. The amount of the drop will vary regionally, with higher priced markets in Toronto and Vancouver expected to see the largest drops. Regina, Edmonton and Calgary are expected to see slight drops.

Tuesday July 5th/2011 – More Homes Being Sold, Prices Just a Bit Lower

June sales in Edmonton’s home real estate market improved in June, perhaps spurred on by the lower home prices now being seen. The Realtors Association of Edmonton released a report this past Tuesday noting that sales for June of 2011 were 7.6 percent higher than during the same month in 2010. The total amount sold was $584 million.

This past June saw 3,260 homes listed in the MLS system and 1,768 sales, creating a 54 percent sales ratio. In June of 2010, 3,339 homes were listed and 1,619 changed hands, with a ratio of 48 percent. Prices went down roughly a half percent, coming in at an average of $330,297 per unit.

In the single-family home category, MLS sales went up 15.1 percent for a total of 1,165 homes changing hands, up from the 1,012 seen in June of 2010. The average sales price went down 2.86 percent to roughly $379,409 per unit. The median price for this category went up about one percent over 2010, coming in at $361,888. Condo sales, on the other hand, saw little change, with this year bringing in 482 sales and last June counting 486. The average condo selling price dipped more than five percent, with the average being $231,852 per unit this past June.

Dan Sumner, with ATB Financial does not foresee Edmonton, or Alberta in general seeing a huge fluctuation in prices, either up or down. This is attributed to the strong economy, more people coming into the province for work, and the market being a fairly level playing field. There is also the probability that mortgage rates will eventually rise.

Sunday June 19th/2011 – Edmonton Needs More Retail Space, Developments in the Works

So many retailers are finding Edmonton a profitable place to do business that it is hard to find space to rent. With a 2.65 percent vacancy rate that has held steady for at least a year, it was inevitable that new shopping developments would be needed. The better shopping malls and retail centers are closer to zero percent vacancy.

Alberta as a whole is considered the best province in the nation to set up shop. The per capita spending, at $2,303 for the first five months of 2011, is the highest in Canada. Arlyn Stoik, who is with Avison Young Real Estate in Alberta, notes that 2011 is turning out to be a strong year and that 2012 is expected to be even better. Stoik also noted that developers will be adding roughly 1.1 million square feet of new retail space by the end of this year. Some of the projects that were suspended in the last couple of years will be restarted.

Some of the new retail developments include a 44 acre project in North St Albert expecting to start sometime in 2012 or 2013, built by Landrex. Another is a 70 acre mall developed by the Cameron Company that is scheduled to open by the summer or fall of 2012. This will be the Manning Town Centre. Cameron is also expected to develop another 40 acre project in Albany Market Square, slated to have Wal-Mart as its anchor store. Emerald Hills is slated for two projects. One is an 11 acre shopping complex with a grocery store as its anchor, again by Cameron. The other is a 50 acre project built by the WAM Development Group, slated to have Wal-Mart and other big box stores as anchors.

Wednesday June 8th/2011 – New Home Warranties May Be Made Mandatory in Alberta

At present, developers in Alberta are not required to provide new home warranties. Even so, there are five different home warranty programs in the province. Most homes in Alberta are well built and reputable contractors usually have no problem with issuing such guarantees. But the provincial government is aiming to make warranties mandatory. They are in the process of meeting with developers and others in the industry to have regulations drawn up. Government will include municipalities and their building inspectors in the discussions.

One of the things to be looked at is increasing the maximum fines that developers can be charged if building codes are not followed. Another is allowing Albertans a longer time period to file complaints against developers if they have problems with their homes. The government wants to increase the maximum fine for a first offense to $100,000 and for a second offence $500,000. They will also seek to increase the complaint filing period to three years.

Also undergoing a revamp by the Safety Codes Council is the Safety Codes Act. They will be looking at updating the inspection system and giving additional training with a focus on building envelope concerns. The training should be completed within the next year.

Friday May 16th/2011 – CREA Issues Updated, More Encouraging Home Price Forecast

Higher than expected vitality in Vancouver’s luxury home sales has resulted in new predictions from the Canadian Real Estate Association. According to the organization, there will be a four-percent increase in the average national price of a resale home. This hike is driven largely because of the high resale prices for upscale properties in Vancouver. The previous forecast by CREA, generated in February of this year, indicated a 1.3-percent increase.

Vancouver housing prices have surged by nearly 30 percent during the last 12 months. Industry experts do not believe that such gains on a year-to-year basis will be long-term in nature. One of these experts is Douglas Porter, BMO Nesbitt Burns’s chief economist. Porter said that sales on a national basis are soft, but any drastic market corrections are concentrated geographically.

The CREA noted in March that Canada’s average resale price of $366,000 was at an all-time record. Taking the Vancouver market out of the equation, that average price would decline to $327,000. Of the 25 major markets observed, price hikes were seen in 22 during March. The only cities in which resale prices decreased were Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria.

In its new forecast, CREA contended that real estate sales would continue to build strength in 2011, but would ultimately be lower than those in 2010. The organization predicts that 441,000 homes will sell, representing a modest decline of 1.3 percent versus last year. In CREA’s February forecast, that decrease was a bit higher, at 1.6 percent.

Gary Morse, CREA president, noted that mortgage rates continue to be attractive, and that the rates are enabling many people to buy homes. Rates will probably increase later this year, raising the chance of softer buying patterns.

Monday May 26th/2011 – Out With the Old, In With the Posh for Jasper Avenue and 101st Street

The corner of 101st Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton is in desperate need of a facelift. Boring, bland and severely outdated, a fashionable new look may be just around the corner. GE Capital Real Estate has plans for a new posh retail/commercial development to be called First & Jasper. Plans are to have the project competed by early in 2013.

The current structures will come down over the next few months. They once housed the old Odeon theatre and a Bank of Montreal, and more recently the space was home to the New City nightclub. The Epcor building next door will get a total makeover and be incorporated into the new design. That 20 storey office tower will be totally refitted to be more ecologically friendly under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

A two storey podium will be added on the west end of the tower, which will be a 50,000 square foot glass enclosed space including an atrium. It will connect to the main tower as well as the three level underground parking lot. The podium will also have a rooftop patio and garden and have access to the Central LRT Station. The station will also be undergoing extensive renovations once approved by city council.

The flashy new building is expected to attract trendy restaurants and high end retailers to the space, as well as businesses looking for prime office space. Epcor and its employees will be moving into the new Epcor Tower, located at 101st Street and 104th Avenue starting in the latter part of October.

Wednesday May 7th/2011 – Edmonton Shines in the Industrial Real Estate Market

While Calgary and Vancouver strut their real estate stuff in soaring steel and glass towers, Edmonton’s strength is in its industrial real estate market. Alberta’s capital city takes the number one spot for the highest, on average, industrial rental rates in Canada. Edmonton can also claim some of the highest lease rates in the North American continent, beating out some of the biggies in our neighbours to the south. True, during the recession, Edmonton did see a couple of slow years, but now that production in Alberta’s oilsands is rebounding, things are warming up nicely.

The senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis, Dave Young, notes that Edmonton is the industrial heart of the province. While office space is important to the vibrancy of the city, it is the companies that make things, the producers that keep the city’s economy healthy. Oil prices are once again over $100 USD per barrel and that means success in the energy industry. That success means more metal fabricators and other suppliers gearing up to produce what is needed in the field.

Young advised that in the first quarter of 2011, industrial space absorbed amounted to over one million square feet. That was the highest amount in the nation. It is also higher than the 800,000 square feet absorbed in the last three months of 2010. Currently roughly 1.2 million square feet of industrial space is under construction, but nothing is ready as of yet. And yes, Edmonton does have its own 28 storey Epcor Tower underway, but that is just the icing on an industrial real estate cake.

Tuesday April 29th/2011 – Living in the Suburbs is Great, Until You Look at Gas Prices

Living in the suburbs and commuting to work has become the norm in the greater Edmonton area. But what developers of these far flung neighbourhoods could not have predicted was the almost astronomical rise in the price of gas. Yes, housing outside the city limits is usually less expensive, and expansive. The downside is that one or more cars is needed per family just to get to work and take care of the normal chores of daily living.

More than 80 percent of Edmonton’s workforce commutes to work by car. One reason is that the Greater Edmonton Metropolitan Area is 60 percent larger than any other major community in Canada. There was, and is, plenty of prairie to build on. Taking a bus to work can take more than an hour, so that is not a viable option for most. Edmonton’s Light Rail System, set to be expanded by 2014, currently does not provide service to outlying communities. So, people take to their cars.

The Alberta Motor Association believes that people won’t be changing how they get from point A to point B until gas prices reach $1.75 per litre. Currently the average in Alberta is $1.14 per litre. It is possible that gas prices will reach that magic number, and possibly go higher. This means that Edmonton, and other communities with plenty of “wide open spaces” to build on, might have to rethink how they design future communities. Including some sort of mass transit would be the way to go.

Saturday April 26th/2011 – U.S. Based Sunny Street Café to Open Outlet in Edmonton

Sunny Street Café, a mainstay in the Midwestern states of Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Ohio, are crossing the United States border into Western Canada. First stop is Edmonton, where the breakfast and lunch time chain will compete with Ricky’s, Smitty’s, Denny’s and IHop. Before long the 40 stores planned for Western Canada will far outnumber the 14 in the States.

Edmonton entrepreneur Percy Johnson signed the deal with the chain, based in Columbus Ohio. Since Johnson lives in Edmonton it is logical to put the first restaurant in his hometown. But that isn’t the only reason. Sunny Street Café specializes in old-fashioned down home cooking that tends to appeal more to the western appetite than to parts of Eastern Canada. While Cora, a Canadian chain with roots in Quebec, emphasizes light and airy French type cuisine, Sunny Street Café will offer more a more “meat and potatoes” menu.

Johnson is still looking at sites for his Edmonton restaurant. A second Sunny Street Café is planned for either Okotoks or Calgary by year end. It will probably take a decade to get the other 38 stores up and running.

Saturday March 29th/2011 – It’s Pothole Season Once Again

It is nearly Spring. Time for the greening of the grass, the blossoming of the flowers and, of course, the unveiling of the potholes. Edmonton work crews are already out trying to fill in these tire and suspension killing road hazards, even before the snow is melted. The city has figured out most of the problem areas like 132nd Avenue, 137th Avenue and the St Albert Trail. But the city roadway department is hoping residents will let them know about potholes on the less travelled city streets.

Al Cepas, who is the management engineer for Edmonton’s roadways, is asking residents to report severely troubled spots on residential roads and alleys in their neighborhoods or where they frequently drive. Residents can call 311 to report problems, where the city maintains a call centre staffed by some 160 people working various shifts. Or, residents can go to the city website and fill out the online pothole report form. The more information provided, the easier it will be for city crews to find and fix the problem.

Either way the report goes to Edmonton’s roadway maintenance department, then to an inspector that will go out and survey the situation. The worst of the potholes will get filled first. Cepas believes there are almost half a million potholes on 4,800 kilometres of paved roads in the Edmonton area.

Sunday March 23rd/2011 – Fort Theatre Project Needs More Cash

The plan is to build a multi-media entertainment theatre at Fort Edmonton. That is turning out to add $2.8 million to the proposed expansion project. For that amount of money, you would get the chance to see movies in “4D.” That means you will not only be able to see the movie you will be able to feel and smell it. If a train rumbles by on the screen, your seat will shake. It you are on a ship crossing the ocean you will smell the salt air and feel the ocean breezes. This would be the first theatre of its kind in Edmonton.

The original price tag for the theatre was $11.1 million. The additional funds are needed because of increased materials and construction costs, as well as the clearing of snow and a massive heating bill from the colder and snowier than normal winter. The other issue is that no-one really understood the complexities of building such a theatre. Now the details have been figured out, and the necessary elements are proving more expensive.

The theatre is based on the Capitol Theatre that was built in 1918 on Jasper Avenue downtown. The ornate complex was taken down in 1972 to make room for Capitol Square. After input from a Disney executive and a decision to focus more on the historical aspect, the high-tech theatre was approved by the city in 2010. The theatre will also be called the Capitol and if all goes well will open this July.

Plans are to run a 15 minute movie about Edmonton’s history on a day schedule, complete with old phonographs, boats on rails and a host of special effects. The theatre will also be used for live plays in the venue’s off hours.

Sunday March 16th/2011 – Man Sues Home Seller Over Appliance Switch

When purchasing a home, people expect that the appliances they saw when they toured the residence will be in place when they take possession. This was not the case with Edmonton resident Nam Le, who discovered that the upscale washer and dryer in his newly bought home were replaced by cheaper items.

During the inspection of his home prior to taking possession, Le took photographs of the new front-load laundry appliances. On the possession day, Le was astounded to see that washer and dryer were removed, and in place were a less expensive, top-load set.

Upon this discovery, Le indicated that he refused to complete the possession process. The seller of the home and the seller’s realtor said they would not replace the appliances with the ones Le saw when he was buying the home. The realtor claimed that the home’s seller had two washer-dryer sets that were in the home at various times. The realtor also claimed that the cheaper appliances were officially in the home listing.

Le said that there is a difference of about $1,000 in the price of the appliances, and is taking legal action against the seller. He said he wants to warn others not to be hoodwinked by unethical sellers. Everything down to the kitchen sink needs to be included in writing in home sales contracts, he said. He urged buyers to take lots of photos of the home and its key appliances.

Experts say that Le’s story is not unusual, and that people need to document everything during the home buying process. The Better Business Bureau’s Ron Mycholuk agrees with Le’s advice to document as much as possible, with both photos and in writing. Mycholuk cautioned buyers to check appliances during the pre-closing walk-through to make sure they are working.

An Edmonton realtor suggested that buyers obtain the brands, models and serial numbers of any appliances in their prospective homes.

Monday March 10th/2011 – Employment Picture to Brighten in the Spring

Edmonton’s employment picture is expected to be brighter come this spring. Manpower just released its Employment Outlook Survey and it showed that 21 percent of Edmonton’s employers were planning on hiring in 2011’s second quarter. Only nine percent of businesses expect cutbacks. That gives a net gain of 12 percent.

Employers that will keep their staff at current levels came in at 69 percent, while those not sure of their hiring picture netted one percent. According to Randy Upright, the CEO of Manpower in Alberta, that net number is down somewhat from what was calculated earlier in the year. At that time the outlook percentage was 16 percent. Upright isn’t concerned and explained that the fluctuation between quarters is not out of the ordinary. The true comparison is year to year.

Elsewhere in Alberta, Calgary saw a net outlook for employment at 26 percent and Red Deer showed an expected ten percent net increase. In the past Calgary fell behind these latter two cities, but now it has the best employment picture in the province. The western provinces are showing the greatest optimism for job creation within Canada, which nationwide has an employment outlook number of 13 percent.

Monday February 25th/2011 – Proposed Arena Could Well Revitalize the City

In 1997 Prof. Mark Rosentraub wrote “Major League Loosers” that delved into the world of major league sports and the building of arenas. The main focus on the book was on the pro-sports owners declaring that if a sports arena is built it would automatically increase the economy of an arena, and that if a sports team left an area, that same economy would take a nosedive. He debunked both theories.

Now Rosentraub is playing for the other side, commenting on the naysayers that want nothing to do with Edmonton’s possible building of a downtown arena and sports/office complex. Asking those who think that the whole idea is a means to increase taxes to think other wise is difficult and at present the ones against the arena are the more vocal. But Rosentraub is asking them to look at the proposal. It’s not all bad.

Rosentraub notes that there is now data supporting the fact that an arena, when built properly and financed correctly, can revitalize an aging downtown. Recent studies revealed that property values have gone up in such cities as Minneapolis, Cleveland and Kansas City after the building of their new arenas. The trick is to build a complex that is a combination of commercial and retail and put it in the city core. Edmonton’s arena project does just that.

The project comes up in council at both the March and April meetings and all aspects, including the financial agreements with Daryl Katz, owner of the Oilers and the group that is making the proposal. Katz has already pledged $100 million towards the project.

Thursday February 17th/2011 – Property Owners Have 48 Hours To Clear Sidewalks After Snowstorms

In the city of Edmonton residents have 48 hours after a snow storm to clear the ice and snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes. Most people do their best to comply, but for some, particularly the elderly or the infirm, it is more of a challenge. Short of hiring the job out it may not get done in time. And the city is issuing tickets and ultimately fines for non-compliance.

Doris Brown who is 86 and lives in Westmount got her summer gardener to come by and chip away at the ice. It took him 90 minutes to clear the 25 feet of sidewalk in front of her home. That was still better than paying a minimum $100 fine and then the cost of a crew contracted by the city to clear the sidewalk. To be fair, the bylaw officers are not ticketing homeowners who are making an effort.

But Brown notes that this year appears to be worse, not only because of the unusually warm temperatures during the day combined with subfreezing ones at night, but because in the past the city was much quicker about clearing the snow off the streets and sidewalks. There is more left on the streets to melt, creating more ice in the overnight freeze.

Laura McNabb who is a spokesperson for the City of Edmonton notes that the city is only responsible for clearing city sidewalks and those areas managed by the city. Sometimes the city does get behind, as happened with the massive snowfall earlier this winter. But…the city doesn’t get a fine for being late.

Wednesday January 5th/2011 – Another Year, Another Bunch of Tax Rules

With a new year comes the inevitable change in income and tax rules. Some of those changes got a head start in 2010, such as the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in British Columbia and Ontario. Though the HST was not welcomed with open arms, and is still being contested in British Columbia, tax experts believe this may be the way of the future.

As the first of the baby-boomers turns 65 this year and starts to draw retirement checks rather than pay checks, this means Alberta will be pulling in less of a tax base. Considering this, the Canadian Pension Plan has implemented changes to entice those in the workforce to stay there longer.

Those who collect their pension at age 60 will only receive 64 percent of the maximum benefit, rather than the 70 percent previously given. If you retire at age 70, then you get a 136 percent increase, rather than the 130 percent given up until 2010. In 2012, the restriction that you must stop working for two months before collecting CPP will be lifted, as will the ban on working while collecting benefits. Other projects are in the works including pension plans for the self-employed.

Employment Insurance will be increased by five cents per every $100 earned, rather than the 15 cents initially considered. Benefit rules have also changed. Other changes in the tax law include increases in the personal amount that is exempt from federal taxes and the amount allotted for the Alberta ten percent single tax.

Thursday October 28th/2010 – London Drug Adds Its Presence To Edmonton’s Currents of Windermere Mall

Currents of Windermere shopping mall just got that much bigger and even more consumer friendly. Long time Canadian icon London Drugs opened a new 36,343 square foot retail store in the centre. A Canadian Tire and Mark’s Warehouse also opened their doors. The three outlets are the first large retailers to open in the mall since Wal-Mart and Home Depot helped inaugurate the place in 2008.

Currents mall is part of a combination residential, retail and office development located in southwest Edmonton. The 42 hectare site, near Anthony Henday and Terwillegar Drives, will eventually be home to over one million square feet of residential, office and entertainment space. London Drugs wanted to be part of Currents because of the increased population in nearby developments like Windemere and Ambleside. It also has excellent road access.

Wynne Powell, the CEO of London Drugs, knows that things may take off a bit slowly but is convinced business will grow as the community grows around the mall. Then again, with so many name brand stores and the appeal of one stop shopping, business may come calling from all over Edmonton. Currents mall is also less congested than the more established West Edmonton Mall and the South Edmonton Common.

Plans to add a grocery outlet, the high-end sports outfitter Cabela, a Shell station and a Liquor Depot are in the works for sometime in 2011. Oh, yes, Tim Horton’s is on its way as well.