Peter Estephan
RE/MAX Elite
#17, 8103 - 127 Ave., Edmonton, AB
P: 780-406-4000
F: 780-406-8777

My Edmonton Realtor® Blog

I try to keep on top on local trends and reports for my clients (as much as my real estate business allows).  If you’d like to comment on any of these postings, please feel free to either phone me directly on (780) 984-7696 or send me an e-mail using my contact page.

Peter Estephan

Monday, April 14, 2009 – Local housing starts fall 71% in March

Alberta declines contrast with surge in other provinces dismissed as a ’one-month wonder’.

Home construction in the Edmonton census metropolitan area plunged 71.7 per cent in March compared with a year ago.

Work started on 135 homes of all types last month, down from 478 units in March 2008, say preliminary Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. figures released Wednesday.

For the first three months of this year, housing starts in the region fell 67 per cent to 761, from 2,315 in the same period last year.

In single-detached homes, builders started 105 units in March — down 49 per cent from the 205 started in March 2008. For the quarter, the total was 401, compared with 657 in the first three months of 2008, a 39-per-cent drop.

"Increases in monthly activity on a year-over-year basis are not expected until much later this year, and more likely in 2010," said Richard Goatcher, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Edmonton.

There were 30 multifamily starts in March, including semi-detached, row houses and apartments, down 89 per cent from 273 in the same month last year. So far this year, there have been 360 multiple starts in the region, versus 1,658 in the first quarter of 2008.

"Multiple-dwelling starts are expected to remain at low levels throughout the year due to the large number of units still under construction and the strong completion levels anticipated in the months ahead," Goatcher said.

The local slump contrasts with an unexpected rise in home starts across Canada last month, led by Ontario and Quebec, CMHC said. Many economists had expected starts to dip to 130,000 units in March, but the total hit 154,700 on an annualized basis, up from a revised 136,100 units in February, the government agency said.

But Millan Mulraine, economics strategist at TD Securities, suggests "this surprising pickup in construction activity is likely to be a one-month wonder … (we) expect activity to soften in the coming months."

Nationally, urban housing starts were up 17 per cent to 127,900 units in March, CMHC said. Urban multiple starts rose 28.3 per cent to 81,500 and urban single starts were 1.3 per cent higher at 46,400.

"New-home construction is now at a more sustainable level after having been exceptionally strong over the past seven years, exceeding 200,000 units per year," CMHC said.

Mulraine noted that the national increases follow six consecutive monthly declines.

"However, in the grand scheme of things, the key economic fundamental factors continue to point to further weakness in Canadian housing-sector activity," he said.

The CMHC figures came the same day as an Edmonton-region builders’ group proclaimed April as new-homes month and touted the affordability of buying a new home, compared to two years ago because of lower home prices and reduced mortgage-interest costs.

At the end of 2007, the average posted interest rate for a five-year, fixed rate mortgage was 7.49 per cent. Now, it’s 4.25 per cent, said the Canadian Home Builders’ Association — Edmonton region.

"What this means is that your monthly mortgage payment today will be 26 per cent less than in 2007," said association chairman Guy St. Germain.

"That’s what improved housing affordability means. Today, you can own a home for less money each month."

The local construction decline was part of an 86-per-cent, year-over-year decline in starts in Alberta’s seven largest centres to a total of 605 homes last month, from 4,301 in March 2008.

Much of that big number stemmed from a surge in condo apartment starts in Calgary, the CMHC said.

"Alberta housing starts have been steadily trending downwards since the summer of 2007, and were one of the first economic indicators to begin showing the slowdown in Alberta’s economy," said ATB Financial economist Dan Sumner.

"The continued decline in Alberta housing starts is unsurprising given the inventory build that occurred during 2006 and 2007," Sumner said. "There is still an excess supply of inventory … in most Alberta markets."

Source – Edmonton Journal

Monday, April 2, 2009 – Finding the upside of the homes market

Government trying to make mortgages easily available while preventing foreclosures.

Jim Stirr, a 48-year-old brewery worker, had rented in Edmonton for seven years and suddenly found himself facing a monthly increase that would nearly double his original payments.

So he decided the time was right last November and bought a condo nine blocks away, just weeks after stricter mortgage-lending rules took effect — changes that did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for home ownership.

On Oct. 15, the federal government had reduced the maximum insurable amortization period in which to pay off a mortgage from 40 to 35 years, and took aim at interest-only mortgages by requiring a minimum five-per-cent down payment.

"I wouldn’t even look at that," said Stirr, of interest-only mortgages. "I realize eventually you have to pay something off the principal. I knew when I was buying I wanted something I was putting some equity in. Now I look at the $300 or $400 more a month [than renting], and it was definitely worth it."

He opted for a 30-year mortgage with bi-weekly payments only $58 more than those on a 35-year mortgage.

"When I looked at the amortization, I didn’t want to pay longer than I had to, but I wanted something affordable as well."

The Canadian government has been wrestling with the dilemma of making home mortgages readily available to stimulate the economy, while at the same time preventing a glut of housing foreclosures because payments cannot be maintained.

The result has been a rash of changes in mortgage restrictions, and some new incentives.

A homebuyer with less than a 20-per-cent down payment must get mortgage insurance with a firm covered by the Bank Act.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), a Crown corporation with 70 per cent of the mortgage insurance market, said in early 2006 that it would insure mortgages with amortization periods of 30 years, compared to the traditional 25.

Genworth Financial Canada, one of a small group of private insurers, said it would insure 35-year mortgages.

Then CMHC matched that and went one better by also insuring interest-only loans that effectively required no down payment.

Soon CMHC, Genworth and AIG United Guaranty all insured 40-year mortgages — and there was talk of insuring 50-year mortgages.

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge warned that a glut of homebuyers would cause a run-up in prices. At the same time, people extending the amortization period from 35 to 40 years lowered their payments on a $240,000 mortgage at 5.75 per cent by $50 a month, but it cost them an additional $55,220 in interest.

And interest-only loans meant people with a house falling in value could quickly owe more on their home than it was worth.

"If you couldn’t afford five per cent down or have a conventional mortgage because your gross debt-service ratio was greater than 30 per cent, reducing your payments means you’re going to pay for your house three times," said York University finance professor Moshe Milevsky. "It’s instant gratification."

When more than half of the mortgages taken out in Canada during the first six months of 2008 had 40-year amortizations, and as housing foreclosures mushroomed in the United States because mortgages had become too easily obtained, Canada tightened lending practices on new mortgages last fall.

Then the federal government introduced measures in January’s budget to make home purchases and renovations easier to handle.

The First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit was created, meaning first-time homebuyers acquiring a qualifying home will be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit, based on an amount of $5,000 and worth up to $750 for 2009.

The amount first-time homebuyers may withdraw tax-free from their RRSP under the plan was also increased, from $20,000 to $25,000.

And existing homeowners are allowed to claim a non-refundable tax credit on eligible home improvement expenses between Jan. 27, 2009 through Feb. 1, 2010, on expenses greater than $1,000, up to a total of $10,000. That’s a savings of as much as $1,350.

Receipts are necessary and may be claimed for projects such as renovating a kitchen, bathroom or basement; installing carpet or hardwood floors; building an addition, deck or fence; replacing a furnace or water heater; painting a house; resurfacing a driveway; or laying new sod.

These are things Stirr wishes he had known were coming before he purchased his condo.

"When I bought, it was vacant and I repainted and redid all the carpets, but, definitely, if I had some inkling I would have waited," said Stirr. "It would have made a huge difference."

Source – Edmonton Journal

Monday, March 18, 2009 – Edmontonians get a peek at zero-energy houses

Similar homes have been built in Ontario and Quebec.

Edmonton’s first two zero-energy homes opened to the public Saturday.

The "NetZero" homes generate zero net carbon emissions. Using solar panels for power, they use one-sixth the amount of energy per year as an average home.

The homes generate all their own heat and electricity for space heating, hot water, lighting and appliances.

Four-pane windows, low-flow showers and thick walls all cut down on energy use.

"The wall is a lot thicker. It’s insulated with Celufibre insulation, which is essentially recycled newspaper. It would allow a quarter of the heat loss that an ordinary wall would have," said Peter Amerongen, president of Edmonton-based Habitat Studio, which builds NetZero homes.

Energy- and water-efficient construction and appliances promise to reduce heating bills by 66 per cent, hot water usage by 75 per cent and electricity needs by 52 per cent.

"This is really world-class, leading-edge housing that is causing a number of other things to happen, such as the development of new modelling software, new technology, new processes," said Gordon Howell, an engineer on the project.

"Now that we’ve learned so much from this house, we’ll be building a number of others and using our lessons from this house and making the other ones cheaper and simpler."

Building a NetZero house isn’t cheap.

It costs about $100,000 more than a standard home, but developers say the price will come down as more are built.

For homebuyers like Conrad Nobert, who owns one of Edmonton’s new NetZero homes, the price tag is well worth it.

Nobert and his family are waiting to move into their house, called the Mill Creek NetZero Home, which is almost finished.

"The main reason we wanted to build a NetZero home is for energy security for our family," he said.

"Our primary concern is to wean ourselves off this fossil-fuel addiction and, of course, a house like this is much lighter on the environment.

"We are deeply concerned about the climate change and energy depletion crises in the world, so we’ve decided to make changes in our lifestyle."

Six NetZero homes have been built in Canada so far: in Eastman, Que.; Manotick, Ont.; Toronto; two in Red Deer, Alta.; and the Riverdale NetZero Project in Edmonton.

Once it’s completed, the Mill Creek NetZero Home will be the seventh.

Developers would like to build another 40,000 over the next decade.

Monday, March 18, 2009 – Homelessness is mental health issue

No 10-year plan to end social problem will work without facing facts.

To begin — a selection of striking facts, courtesy of Alberta Health Services.

– Between August 2007 and September 2008, 1795 homeless people were treated in the capital region’s emergency departments. Among them, they made a total of 4,358 hospital visits.

– The "top-10" most frequent visitors to Edmonton’s emergency rooms were all homeless people. These 10 patients made a total of 292 trips to the ER.

– The number one reason homeless patients were treated in hospital was for schizophrenia. The second major reason was for "mental or behavioural disorders" including those caused by drug or alcohol abuse. The third was for treatment of infections such as pneumonia.

– On average, two mentally ill patients arrive at an Edmonton emergency department every hour.

– As a group, Edmonton’s homeless are about five times more likely to visit an emergency department than the general population.

Homelessness, in other words, isn’t a just a housing crisis. It’s a public health crisis.

Some of the approximately 3,500 people living on Edmonton’s streets and in its ravines are homeless for simple financial reasons — because of high rents or family breakdown or sudden catastrophe, like unexpected job loss.

But by far the largest number of the homeless are mentally ill. Or addicted. Or both. They are on the streets because they are sick. Some desperately want to be better. Others, too lost in madness, despair, or addiction, are unwilling or unable to make that choice — or are simply unwilling to sacrifice their personal autonomy to conform with our social norms.

Meanwhile, they put an extraordinary burden on our emergency departments. We don’t have enough psychiatrists, psychiatric beds, or addiction treatment facilities to help people get better. And so back to the streets they go.

On Monday, Yvonne Fritz, the provincial minister of housing and urban affairs, unveiled an ambitious and upbeat report by the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness — a $3.316-billion blueprint to eliminate homelessness in Alberta within 10 years, by building 8,000 new housing units and by providing better, more streamlined, support services for the homeless.

Thus far, the province has budgeted no money to implement the proposals. Fritz says she’s looking forward to the April 7 budget, where, she suggests, the initial round of funding may be found.

The authors of the plan say their proposals would more than pay for themselves — arguing that the $3.316 billion outlay would be offset by an estimated $3.334 billion in savings to the health care, welfare, and justice systems.

Such 10-year homelessness strategies are currently the rage across North America. Edmonton has one. So does Calgary.

They’re all based on the ideas of New York psychologist Sam Tsemberis, who began the "housing first" movement in the United States in 1992.

Tsemberis’s work suggested that when chronically homeless people, including the mentally ill and the addicted, were given the dignity of a home of their own to live in, they were more like to stay off the streets, to stay off drugs and alcohol, and to stay on their medications.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of such plans. Alberta’s burgeoning homeless population shames us all. In the midst of all this affluence, can we have people living on our streets, or sleeping in our ravines? The homeless make us guilty. They make us sad.

And, if we’re honest, we have to say they frighten us.

So by all means, I commend the Stelmach government for stepping up to help municipalities combat homelessness. Yet somehow, I don’t feel quite ready to jump on this 10-year bandwagon. It just all seems too simplistic.

We can’t begin to address the crisis if we don’t acknowledge how many people are ill and how dysfunctional our mental health care system is. While the report from the homelessness secretariat has many fine ideas to get more affordable housing built and get more services to people, it contains not one suggestion to improve access to psychiatric care or addiction treatment.

And it completely ignores the tragic reality that Alberta’s struggling aboriginal community is disturbingly over-represented in the homeless population.

The report does recommend that the penal system, the child-welfare system, and the health-care system stop releasing people into homelessness, or into shelters.

In other words, no prisoner, foster child, or patient could be released until long-term housing was found for them.

That’s a sensible idea, if we’re talking about parolees and foster kids. But if hospitals, with their current resources, were compelled to admit every homeless person who showed up at the ER, to house homeless patients in acute-care beds until homes were found for them, emergency-room wait times would soar.

Unless we’re prepared to make major changes and major investments to our mental health-care system, we can’t expect hospitals to function as de facto homeless shelters.

"Housing first" is a good place to start. But housing alone can’t and won’t solve homelessness. We can build 8,000 housing units, or 80,000. We can increase welfare benefits. But if we don’t address the intertwined problems of addiction and mental illness — and if we don’t confront the social chaos and sense of despair destroying so many of our aboriginal communities — we will still have street people on our streets.

Monday, March 2, 2009 – Albertan consumers still confident

What’s weighing on Steven Garbutt is not the state of the economy — but the shopping bags in both fists.

"I know my job’s safe, so I’m just here buying stuff that I need," he said on a visit to West Edmonton Mall from Fort

McMurray, where he works at a home-improvement centre selling building materials to contractors.

He’s resting on a bench, his purchases at his feet, while his girlfriend browses at a nearby cosmetics kiosk.

Garbutt, 26, said daily news of layoffs, bankruptcies, falling stock and commodity prices haven’t changed his spending. "I haven’t really thought about what could be the effect. I just go day by day."

Returning with a bag of just-purchased makeup, Danielle Harley, 23, says the economy doesn’t worry her either. "It’ll bounce back," said the Edmontonian. "It doesn’t really change anything."

Harley lost her child-care job when her employer moved out of town, but remains optimistic. "I’ll find another one. The recession is not going to affect me because people are still going to go to work and they’re still going to need people to take care of their kids, so it’s something that I’m not worried about."

Their attitudes reflect what an economist calls enduring confidence among Alberta consumers despite grim headlines.

On Monday, Statistics Canada released its December retail sales figures showing Alberta experienced a monthly decline of 6.2 per cent, to $4.68 billion in December. That decline was also 10.2 per cent down from December 2007 when retail sales hit $5.2 billion in the province.

Retail trade fell across Canada by 5.4 per cent in December, but Alberta experienced the largest relative monthly decline of any province.

"If you look at Alberta relative to itself from a year ago, then we’re probably seeing some of the largest slowdowns in Canada," said ATB Financial economist Dan Sumner. "But if you look at Alberta now compared to everyone else right now, we’re still doing OK. Retail sales per capita are still by far the highest in Canada."

Sumner said Alberta’s overall drop in retail spending was likely due to declines in just a few specific categories.

While total Alberta retail sales were 3.8 per cent lower in the last three months of 2008 compared to the same time in 2007, 25-per-cent lower gas prices and 16-per-cent lower sales at new car dealerships accounted for much of that.

Sales at home centres and hardware stores also fell by 24 per cent as residential construction slumped.

"Other than these categories, retail trade was actually quite positive in Alberta," Sumner said.

Clothing sales were 20 per cent higher in the fourth quarter compared to the third. Home electronics and appliance store sales also jumped 25 per cent during the final quarter of 2008. The figures aren’t seasonally adjusted, but he says the point is still valid.

"I think it tells me people still have money and consumers in Alberta are still in really good shape. For the most part, people still have their jobs."

Some retailers polled say sales are holding steady.

"LUSH stores in the Edmonton area are doing OK despite these tough financial times," said Brandi Halls, a spokeswoman for the cosmetics company.

"The stores have noticed a slight increase in sales from last year. Most of our other stores throughout Canada are also meeting internal goals, despite this economic climate. As a company, we are being cautious in the unstable environment, but we hope people will continue to find the value in life’s little luxuries."

At Edmonton home entertainment retailer Audio Ark, manager Simon Wilson said sales are comparable to last year. While purchases of entry-level equipment may be flat, he said many customers are renovating their homes and adding a home theatre while they’re at it.

The company’s installers are still solidly booked, he said.

While foot traffic in the store might be down, Wilson said there’s a plus.

"In the boom of last year where my sales guys were trying to juggle three or four clients on a Saturday afternoon, now they’re able to focus on one client and maybe we’re back to offering a level of customer service that we’ve become known for."

Source – Edmonton Journal

Friday, February 20, 2009 – Always Interesting To See When Neighbourhoods Fight Back

I always like to see when communities fight back against the crime in their area, which seems to be happening along 118 Ave according to this Edmonton Sun article.

Neighbours taking the avenue back

Det. Chris Hayduk is still waiting to meet Pablo.

Last fall, Pablo sent an emissary to the veteran city cop as he and some neighbours staged a "takeback" on 118 Avenue.

"This guy came up to me and asked what we were doing," Hayduk recalls. "I asked him why. He said, ’Pablo wants to know. He runs the street’," Hayduk grins. "I told him if Pablo wants to talk about it, he can come here and meet with me."

Pablo never showed. The takeback, where law abiding citizens hang out on the street corners to make drug dealers and pimps feel out of place, proceeded unabated.

Hayduk is getting used to being asked by friends and colleagues why on earth he’d set up house in one of the most notorious areas of Edmonton.

"Some of them can’t understand why we’d live here," the veteran city cop says as he cinches up his apron. When off-duty, he can often be found behind the counter at The Carrot cafe on 118 Avenue, where he whips up a mean latte.

"As far as I’m concerned, this is the best neighbourhood in the city," he says. "There’s a real sense of community, of closeness. I don’t have a problem with my family living here, because I know which direction the neighbourhood’s going."

Hayduk and his family live in a neighbourhood that outsiders avoid after dark. Sadly, it’s a reputation that’s well-earned. It’s 10:30 a.m. and as he talks, Hayduk glances out the window at the strung-out, exhausted-looking prostitute across the street.

A generation ago, the vibrant, multicultural neighbourhood on the northeast fringe of the downtown core went into sharp decline. Through the late 1980s, 1990s and into this decade, it became open range for criminals. Street gangs brazenly declared it their turf.

People who could afford to move retreated to quieter neighbourhoods, surrendering the territory.

The recent real-estate boom is bringing people back, with first-time buyers and young families attracted to the lower prices. But not everyone is welcoming them.

Last fall, Hayduk was pressure-washing a vacant building in preparation for a local arts festival when he realized he was attracting puzzled stares from some nearby prostitutes.

Two were doing something suspicious in a doorway and Hayduk sauntered over to see what. The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by four women and two men, all telling him he had no business on the street and ordering him to leave.

He defused the situation, but realized that something had to be done to restore balance. "They don’t like us here," Hayduk said. "They’ve gotten used to being able to conduct criminal activity in the open."

He formed a group called Community Response to Urban Disorder, which stages the takebacks.

They’re not confrontational. They simply spend time on the street, reading a book, playing music or even playing board games. They remain in groups large enough that they can’t be intimidated.

He recalls recognizing a drug dealer across the street. When a customer approached him and tried to make a purchase, the dealer got angry.

"He pointed to us, said, ’they’re here’ and walked away," he says.

The goal is to create an atmosphere where people don’t have to be organized to hang out on the avenue – they’ll just want to be there because it’s a cool place.

That day, Hayduk says, is coming. "The more we’re out here, the less they are."

Friday, February 20, 2009 – Councillors attempting to close down parking around Sir Winston Churchill Square

Not sure if I like this news, it’s already pretty hard to find parking when you go downtown! I guess it would be nice for the summer festivals though.

Costly closure
Council clashes over downtown car ban

City councillors are squaring off over a costly proposal to close some downtown streets.

Coun. Ben Henderson is pushing a plan to make at least some of the summer street closures around Churchill Square permanent year-round, with the roadways becoming part of the public space. It’s a plan that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I think connecting that space – the one in front of City Hall – with the square, has huge advantages," Henderson said yesterday.

"It makes it into one big square, one big space, instead of having one of them dissected as an island in the middle."

Officials estimate the capital costs to be as high as $190,000.

On top of that, the city would have to give up as much as $110,000 a year in lost parking meter revenue and be forced to shell out another $60,000 annually for maintenance, according to a city report slated to be considered by council next week.

Henderson, whose Ward 4 includes downtown, said his priority would be to close the portion of 102A Street that runs between City Hall and Churchill Square.

But he’s also interested in closing a one-block stretch of 99 Street between 102 Avenue and 102A Avenue. That’s the road that runs between Churchill Square and the Winspear Centre.

Both sections are closed to vehicles during the summer months to accommodate the downtown festivals.

Henderson said he would like to see some sort of permanent closure happen as early as this year.

Coun. Tony Caterina said while he’s willing to consider the change, he’s worried about the cost.

"Right now I’m concerned about every penny we overspend or that we don’t take advantage of," he said. "Two-hundred-thousand dollars is a lot of money to be foregoing at this point in time."

He also questioned what the point of the closure would be outside of festival season.

Coun. Jane Batty said she won’t support the proposal, which has come up before. She said for the square to succeed, people need to be able to drive by and see what’s going on.

"Over and above the loss of revenue … and the inconvenience for people who catch buses in those areas, I don’t support closing it off, making it tough for people to access the square."

Mayor Stephen Mandel has previously said closing the two streets year-round is an idea whose "time has come."

Churchill Square underwent a $12.6-million overhaul in 2004, which critics called a waste of taxpayers’ money. A poll at the time found three-quarters of Edmontonians were against the project.

The matter is expected to go before city council next week.

Source – Edmonton Sun

Friday, February 20, 2009 – Edmonton Residents Don’t Appeal Tax Assessments This Year

Seems like most Edmonton Real Estate owners are content with their tax bill this year, more than likely due to the fact most have decreased.

Residential property assessment appeals down

The number of appeals made to the city this year by property owners is down from the year before. This is also the first time the city set the same deadline for both residential and non-residential property appeals.

The city’s Tribunals and Civic Agencies reports, appeals made up only about two per cent of the total number of properties in the City of Edmonton for 2009. There were 3,860 residential appeals in 2009 down from 4,909 in 2008.

Edmonton property owners received their assessment notices in early January, and had until February 10th to submit their appeals.

City director Tim Cleveley says this year was the first time the same deadline was set for submitting both residential and non residential appeals, and that made a busy time processing all the paperwork.

Source – iNews 880

Sunday, February 8, 2009 – Edmonton LRT cost could fall by $70M

I thought this was great news for the Central/North Edmonton Real Estate Market.

Proposed line to NAIT won’t require as much land as originally estimated, report says.

The proposed LRT line to NAIT could see construction costs drop by about $70 million because the city needs to buy less land than first expected, a new report says.

Although staff want permission to start expropriation proceedings for seven key properties, the number of lots required to complete the project is down from what was anticipated last spring.

The original budget included $150 million to purchase homes, apartment buildings, shops and other sites along the LRT right-of-way from downtown to NAIT, but a report released Thursday estimates only $80 million is now required.

Most of the drop came as a result of council’s decision last fall to put tracks along 105th Street beside the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts rather than using a nearby alley, transit projects manager Wayne Mandryk said.

Further engineering work also shifted the alignment on Kingsway Avenue, meaning much of the Kingsway Mews shopping centre and other nearby sites won’t be taken as planned, he said.

If this scheme is accepted by councillors, the estimated cost of the line would be $800 million, he said.

More precise figures should be available by June.

The land identified for possible expropriation covers three properties on 105th Avenue at 105th Street, one on 105th Avenue at 104th Street, a slice of the Kingsway Mews parking lot, the McDonald’s on 111th Avenue and the 1.3-acre Kingsway legion site.

But Mandryk said negotiations will continue for six or seven months before expropriation would be considered, adding that it wasn’t necessary on the south LRT.

"The expropriation report only addresses some of the critical properties we need in order to meet the construction schedule in the concept plan to see it completed by 2014."

Barry Wood, first vice-president and treasurer of the Kingsway legion, said his non-profit group is working on a voluntary expropriation in which they’d receive enough money for an equivalent building and lot.

With 1,800 members, they’re the largest legion north of Red Deer and plan to reopen somewhere else with good transit service, he said, adding they’ve been asked to leave by the end of 2010.

"There are no hard feelings with the city. We want to co-operate with them. It’s just a matter of sitting down and negotiating," Wood said.

While construction of the three-kilometre NAIT line depends on the provincial government providing $520 million from its green transit incentives program, the fund application process still hasn’t been published, the report says.

Coun. Kim Krushell said the city has heard informally this is the sort of project the province wants, especially as the capital area moves toward regional planning in transit and other areas.

"We definitely need to go ahead. We have told citizens that the northwest LRT line will start downtown and go to NAIT, and eventually go to St. Albert. I think it would be worth it."

Source – Edmonton Journal

Sunday, February 8, 2009 – Seniors slated for rebate on Edmonton Property Taxes

Low-income Edmonton seniors will receive a $151 rebate this year to help cover the rise in property taxes, the city announced Wednesday.

The money will be mailed out on the city’s behalf by the provincial government after property tax notices are issued in May, included in a cheque that will also provide a rebate under the provincial education property tax assistance for seniors program.

Individuals must own and live in their homes, and be receiving the Alberta Seniors Benefit as of May 1, to qualify for the civic rebate.

Source – Global News

Sunday, February 8, 2009 – Good News For Edmonton Real Estate Market – City council relaxes restrictions on secondary suites

City council has relaxed restrictions on secondary suites for homes in mature neighbourhoods in an effort to see more rental space made available in Edmonton.

Basement suites will now be allowed in most parts of the city, with garage suites and single-storey garden suites permitted at the discretion of development officers.

"It will provide safe housing for reasonable prices throughout the city," Coun. Karen Leibovici said Tuesday.

"It can be done quickly, it can be done inexpensively … we have been working on this for a long time."

Although community groups wanted suites allowed only when the homeowner occupies part of the house, to limit tenant problems, Leibovici said this is beyond the city’s legal authority.

She has asked for a report on whether city grants of up to $24,000 to help suite construction can be given only for owner-occupied sites.

However, out of the estimated 10,000 or more illegal suites that now exist, there are only about 50 or 60 complaints a year, she said.

Despite the drop in Edmonton’s economy, the apartment vacancy rate is still low and affordable housing is required, Leibovici said.

"With the economy the way it is, I would argue that people may well need the extra income to afford the house they’re in. A secondary suite is a good way to generate income."

Source – Global News

Thursday, January 22, 2009 – Multi-family housing to benefit both landlords and renters: report

Despite economic uncertainty, the Edmonton Real Estate multi-family housing market in 2009 will bring some benefits to both landlords and renters, says a new report.

"Billions of dollars have been invested in the economic growth of northern Alberta and, unless the worldwide demand for oil remains depressed, the long-term forecast for Edmonton will continue to be positive," said the annual Edmonton Apartment Report released Tuesday by Cushman and Wakefield.

"As worldwide demand for energy grows, Alberta’s economy will grow with it, and the jobs created and labour required will no doubt have positive effects on the multi-family market."

The apartment vacancy rate for 2008 was 2.4 per cent, up from 1.5 per cent in 2007 and 1.2 in 2006.

For renters, the report forecasts, "increasing vacancy and competition from rented condominiums should curb rental increases." More landlords are predicted to offer incentives to renters – a practice that nearly vanished in 2006.

During 2008, rents increased an average of 8.9 per cent year-over-year. Cushman and Wakefield forecasts an increase of 3.5 per cent for 2009.

Sales of Edmonton multi-family properties will likely remain below average in 2009 as high-leverage financing remains hard to get, the report said.

"As prices continue to stabilize, investors remain cautious about entering the multi-family market," the report said. "Only those properties that are priced with reasonable rates of return, or those with superior quality and location, are attractive to purchasers."

Sales volume in 2008 fell to $218 million from $990 million in 2007. Only 1,871 units were sold last year, down sharply from 8,474 in 2008.

On the other hand, volatility in equity markets may push investors toward real estate and prices are predicted to continue falling, the report said.

Multi-family housing construction starts fell to 4,002 in 2008 from 7,206 in 2007, will remain flat this year.

Source – Global News

Thursday, January 22, 2009 – Recession could be incentive for homeowners to renovate – analyst

Edmonton home renovators expect the renovation market to stay steady over the next year.

A survey released yesterday by TD Canada Trust says that despite the current global financial crisis, the majority of Canadian homeowners, 53%, plan to proceed with or expand planned renovations.

Guy St. Germain, chairman of the Canadian Home Builders Association’s Edmonton region, said timing is probably a factor in the local market.

He said while the local boom in home construction has cooled off, many of the homes sold in the peak years are now four to six years old – the time when many homeowners start considering renovation projects.

"People want to improve because they’ve lived there for a while," he said.

As children grow older family housing needs change, he explained, and as kids finish school and move out, parents find other uses for vacant bedrooms.

"It can be painting or wallpapering. It could be a couple of new plumbing fixtures," he said, adding the main impact of the recession may be on high-end projects. "I don’t think you’ll see a lot of swimming pools or major landscape work. That may be deferred."

Analysts say a recession may even be an incentive to take on fixer-upper projects. "Renovations can be a good investment and if it means you’ll be spending more time at home or reducing energy costs, they can also be a money-saver in the long run," said Joan Dal Bianco, TD Canada Trust’s vice-president of real estate secured lending.

The TD Canada Trust Homeowner Confidence Poll also found that 92% of homeowners surveyed said the current economy has not led them to consider selling their homes.

The survey showed that 63% of Canadians think the current economic situation is a good opportunity to buy a home. That number is even higher in the West, at 66%.

Realtors Association of Edmonton president Charlie Ponde said that’s in line with what local realtors are telling him.

He said an unusual set of circumstances make home-buying attractive – prices have levelled off, there’s plenty of selection with an inventory of about 6,600 homes on the market and mortgage rates are at 5% or less.

"Buyers are out there," said Ponde, but the economic uncertainty has many hesitant to take the plunge. "They just want to have this uncertainty cleared."

Source – Edmonton Sun

Thursday, January 22, 2009 – Your home may be worth more than you thought: CREA

The Canadian Real Estate Association says the price of your home is not down as much as you think, as long as you don’t live in one of the country’s larger cities.

The Ottawa-based group, which represents 100 boards across the country, says major markets like Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto are skewing the average sale price and has come up with a new way of calculating the figure.

CREA says using a weighted national average price for sales on the multiple listings service, prices were down 4.7% in November compared with a year ago. The weighted average compensates for dramatic changes in sales activity in some provinces. Not using the weighted average, prices were down 9.8% last month from a year ago.

In the case of Greater Vancouver sales were off almost 70% last month from a year ago. Vancouver is the most expensive market in the country with an average sale price of $500,747 last month, so any decline in sales will drag down the national average price down.

Real estate author and former Member of Parliament Garth Turner said the weighted average formula was nothing more than an attempt to confuse consumers.

“I think it’s obfuscation of reality. They come up with a house price index instead of giving you the median price or the average price,” said Mr. Turner. “It’s an attempt to gloss over reality and the reality is we are in a semi-free fall in terms of real estate sales.”

He says it’s only a matter of time until the dramatic decline in sales begins to have a larger impact on prices across the country.

Housing sales hit a seven-year low last month, according to CREA. It said there were 27,743 sales in November on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the lowest monthly level since January, 2001. It was a 12.3% decline from a month earlier.

The average sale price for a house in Canada fell to $280,880 last month. It was the fifth straight month of falling prices.

“The housing market reflects the economic reality in Canada,” said Calvin Lindberg, president of CREA, adding the consequences for the overall economy are huge. CREA estimates the decline in housing activity so far this year translates into $2.8-billion less in spin-off consumer spending.

“We should not lose sight of the fact the World Economic Forum labelled Canadian banks as the soundest banks in the world and remember that Canada is the only country in the G8 not running a deficit,” said Mr. Lindberg.

That being said, CREA does not see much cause for optimism in the coming months.

“These changes in the Canadian housing market reflect a broader and weakened picture of both the economy and buyer sentiment,” said Greg Klump, chief economist with CREA. “National sales activity and price trends will continue to reflect increased cautiousness on the part of lenders and buyers, as the economy works its way through and out of the current recession.”

Source – Calgary Herald

Past Blog Entries

Real Estate

Real Estate Blogs Directory
– Directory of real estate blogs and blogs of industries affiliated with and serving the real estate industry.

Dmegs Web Directory

Real Estate Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Free web directory
Feature Listing
Randomly rotating feature listing widget
Mortgage Widget
Mortgage Widget Button allowing access to the Mortgage Calculator
Mortgage Calculator
MLS Search Button
Button advertising your MLS® Search page
Map-based MLS Search
Home Evaluation Button
Button advertising your home evaluation feature
Feature Listings Button
Button advertising your Feature Listings
This site's content is the responsibility of Peter Estephan, licensed Realtor(s) in the Province of AB.
© 2009, All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Proudly powered by RealPageMaker
Edmonton Real Estate Info - Home Page |Listings In Edmonton | Edmonton MLS Search | Edmonton Home Prices | Homes Sale Edmonton |
Edmonton Referral | Find A Property In Edmonton | Edmonton Home Buyers | Edmonton Realty Report | Edmonton Realtor Blog | Edmonton Links