Have You Been Waiting To Buy Or Invest In Calgary Real Estate?


The real estate market in Calgary is very strong right now, and if you've thought of getting into that market this could be just the right time for you to make your move. While it's not for everyone, buying or selling a home, or starting up some investments inreal estate, can be an excellent way to ensure a stronger and more solid financial future. Rather than take the risk and just jump in, though, it's important to pay close attention to the market so you can make the best choice for your situation. The more of an informed consumer you are, the easier it is to get involved in the real estate market successfully.



What Buyers Can Expect in Calgary


Buyers who are looking for real estate in Calgary today can expect a strong market with a lot of options available. While there are some homes that are rising in price, there are also some that are still holding steady with good prices that buyers will want to consider. Even the homes where prices are going up are experiencing that because the market is getting better in those neighborhoods. If you buy now, before prices continue to rise, you could get a great deal and still see your new home's value increase in the coming months and years. That can give you equity, which is never a bad thing to have in real estate.


Is It Time for You to Sell Your Calgary Home?


If you already own a home in Calgary and you're thinking about selling it, you could be doing that at just the right time. Home prices are still rising a bit, which can make some sellers want to hold out and try to get more for their home. But be aware that the home you may want to buy when you sell your current home is also rising in price. You need a balance between getting the most for the home you're selling and not paying too much for the home you're buying. The best way to get that balance is through working with a knowledgeable agent, who can advise you whether this is the right time to sell your particular home.


Investing in the Calgary Real Estate Market


Investors have a lot to think about when it comes to Calgary real estate today. The market is a good one at the moment for both buyers and sellers, so investors may have a little bit of trouble finding lower-priced options. That shouldn't deter you, though, because good prices on quality properties are definitely available. You can choose from many different types of properties, and because not everyone can afford to or wants to buy a home, investors/landlords have a good chance at seeing strong rental numbers. That can help your investment pay off right from the very beginning.


How Soon Will the Market Change?


The biggest question buyers, sellers, and investors want to know is how soon will the market change? Unfortunately, there's no real easy answer to that question. Generally, a market climbs for quite a while until it readjusts. Sometimes this happens quickly and harshly, like it did when the US housing bubble popped several years ago. Because it's not possible to completely predict the market in Calgary or anywhere else, though, it's worth considering buying, selling, or investing now, so you can meet your current needs. Just make wise real estate and financial choices, and a changing market in the future will not have as much effect on you as it may on others who weren't as careful.

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I love this!

Has anyone ever offered you one of their old smartphones after they upgraded or received a newer one as a gift? You may be upset if you turned them down.

One of our realty clients showed us how they were using their teens' older smartphones as their video security system. The results were actually pretty impressive.


A BIG part of me wishes I knew about this last year before Tess and I purchased our Arlo indoor/outdoor video system. We love our Arlo security cameras but repurposing electronics can lead to some really cool results.


The premise here is simple. Most families have one or two unused smartphones or tablets lying around so grab one to get started and charge it up. Depending on which security app you use, you will want to make sure your phone or tablet is running software that isn't too old.

For Apple products, iOS 6.0 or newer will be a safe bet. For Android, 4.2 or 4.3 should be good but different apps will tell you their minimum requirements (eg. The popular app, Manything, requires Android 4.2 as a minimum).


Once you have installed the app on the old smartphone or tablet, you will go through a basic setup. After that, when the app is active, your smartphone will record video whenever motion is detected in front of your camera. Typically, the video is then uploaded to "the cloud". Some apps also allow for remote "live" viewing. This is the feature that I love best about Tess's and my Arlo system but to see the live feature on our client's inexpensive DIY system was surprising.


Security apps range in cost from $0 for one camera to $10 or more for 5 cameras per month for cloud recording. If you use just one camera and maybe the phone was given to you, you literally have a free video security system that is all yours and that you can access from anywhere, anytime.


The following article from TechRadar offers some more information to anyone interested:


TechRadar: Turn A Smartphone Into A Security Camera

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The Importance Of Your Colour Choice (The Feng Shui Way)

Colour. It has a significant impact on most of us. Numerous studies have been conducted over the years telling us what our clothing-colour choices say about us, while other studies have revealed how different colours impact us on a physiological level. For instance, did you know the colour red stimulates a faster heartbeat & breathing rate? Babies who sleep in yellow rooms cry more?

What about the rest of our homes? Followers of Feng Shui believe that colour is an instrumental factor in our daily lives affecting everything from our health to finances and so forth. Below are some Feng Shui colour basics to consider when decorating or redecorating your home:


Red: Passion, power, stimulation, and high energy. Ideal for a dining room, bedroom, or upholstery

Yellow: Cheerfulness, light-heartedness, and mental stimulation. Ideal for kitchens but not bedrooms

Green: Growth, harmony, nature, safety, peace, and healing. Ideal for a bedroom, bathroom, or office

Blue: Trust, loyalty, confidence, faith. Perfect for accents around the house and in bedrooms

Purple: Romance, luxury, nobility, wealth, spirituality, and motivation. Ideal for bedrooms

Brown: Stability, humility. Try it in the living room

White: Cleanliness, vibrancy. To be used sparingly; too much white can feel cold

Black: Power, independence. Ideal for picture frames


Now we have given you something else to contemplate while you are staring at paint swatches and debating what colour to paint that room. :)


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A 2015 Calgary map showing former and recently discovered illegal drug operations in Calgary and area. Click http://www.mapcustomizer.com/map/vostner-bell-realty-team-map-of-calgary-grow-ops-up-to-2015  for an interactive version.

Please understand that the map is not considered a complete list of all active or former grow-ops in the Calgary area and the information is not guaranteed updated or accurate nor warranted to be so.

Finding Out If A Calgary Home Is A Former Grow Op. Why Is It So Hard?

A potential buyer asked me, "How can I tell if a home was a grow-op?"

It used to be pretty easy. People could search online databases, real estate professionals could pay a small fee and do a current title search or you could even ask the homeowner.

How things have changed.

Major government websites listing the addresses of former grow-ops have disappeared in recent months and years. In some municipalities across Canada, homeowners of a grow-op can apply to have the health inspection order (eg. grow-op label) discharged from title once a home has been remediated. Topping it all, if a property has been professionally remediated, a seller is not required to disclose that the property was a former grow-op.

(*Oxford Dictionary says: remediated - the action of remedying something, in particular of stopping or reversing environmental damage.)


Why the change? One word: stigma.

Advocates and property owners of former grow-ops have successfully championed their cause about the stigma attached to a home that was once a marijuana grow operation or had illegal drug operations on the premises. People argue that once a property has been professionally remediated, they are as healthy or even newer than neighbouring homes down the street.

For the other side, remediation efforts after the floods of 2005 and 2013 floods in Southern Alberta and more specifically, in the Calgary area, have shown why "healthier and newer" is not always the case. Although I didn't personally see any examples, there are stories from lawyers, home inspectors and real estate professionals of properties in and around Calgary and High River that were remediated and passed inspection, only to have visible mould return in occasional cases.


Most people seem to agree that it is unfortunate that there is no longer an easy source of information regarding former grow-op homes.

Alberta Health Services has a link that shows ACTIVE inspection orders on properties reported to have had illegal drug operations but properties are deleted regularly once remediated or discharged. It can be found below:


Below is a Calgary grow-op map of the local area with data from the Calgary Health Region and Alberta Health Services of properties reported to have had illegal drug operations. Please note that the map below is not a complete list of all active and former grow-ops in the Calgary area and the information is not guaranteed updated or accurate nor warranted to be so.


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According to a couple of Calgary weather people, the recent number of funnel clouds and tornadoes around Calgary are not that uncommon. However, I have lived in the Calgary area all of my life and have never seen as many funnel clouds in person or on the news, nor heard as many tornado warnings as I have this year. Other long-time Calgary area residents have echoed the same thoughts. Tornadoes and warnings may have been common elsewhere in the province in past decades but only now seem to be a regular occurrence in the Calgary area.

So for those of us that are not used to tornadoes and funnel clouds, below is a brief comparison and overview of what to do if one is bearing down. According to the sources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Wikipedia:

1) Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a cloud to the ground. They do not always remain visible.

2) A funnel cloud is a visible rotating column of air that does NOT make contact with ground.

Most people either remember from school or have read or heard that in a tornado's path, they should seek shelter in a structure and head for the basement or innermost/most central room in a building (unless you live in a mobile home, in which case, get out.) Most experts agree that due to the uncertainty of what a tornado will do, there are no clear safety guidelines that should be followed. However, the Government of Canada has come up with the following (courtesy of http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/):

If you are in a house:

  • Go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, closet or hallway
  • If you have no basement, protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk
  • In all cases, stay away from windows, outside walls and doors

If you live on a farm:

  • Livestock hear and sense impending tornadoes. If your family or home is at risk, the livestock will be a non-issue. If your personal safety is not an issue, you may only have time to open routes of escape for your livestock. Open the gate, if you must, and then exit the area in a tangent direction away from the expected path of the twister.

If you are in an office or apartment building:

  • Take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor
  • Do not use the elevator
  • Stay away from windows

If you are in a gymnasium, church or auditorium:

  • Large buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse if a tornado hits
  • If possible, find shelter in another building
  • If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk

Avoid cars and mobile homes:

  • More than half of all deaths from tornadoes happen in mobile homes
  • Find shelter elsewhere, preferably in a building with a strong foundation
  • If no shelter is available, lie down in a ditch away from the car or mobile home. Beware of flooding from downpours and be prepared to move

If you are driving:

  • If you spot a tornado in the distance go to the nearest solid shelter
  • If the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch

In all cases:

  • Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris
  • Do not chase tornadoes - they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly
  • A tornado is deceptive. It may appear to be standing still but is, in fact, moving toward you
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On January 1st, 2014, a federal ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect. For many, this came as a shock and we started to hear people blaming everyone from David Suzuki to the
 Green Party to Barack Obama for taking away their beloved incandescent light bulb.

The fact is, the plan first made headlines back in 2007 when it was announced by the Canadian government after similar measures were enacted by other countries in 2005 and 2006. The Canadian government regulated the removal of most incandescent bulbs from retail shelves and for them to be replaced by the likes of compact fluorescent lamps (a.k.a. CFL's). However, the tough regulations are being loosely enforced as rules on recycling this new class of bulb that contain mercury are absent. As a result, the government has proposed allowing incandescent bulbs filled with halogen gas to remain in retail outlets for now.

It seems Canadians are waiting on Environment Canada to enact new regulations that would limit the amount of mercury contained in each CFL. Currently five milligrams of mercury -- less than what is found in an average watch battery, according to Natural Resources Canada -- are in each CFL on the market. Health Canada suggests any item containing mercury must be treated as hazardous waste.

Back in 2007, then Environment Minister John Baird announced at a Home Depot outlet in Ontario that the initiative would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than six million tonnes annually. Recycling of the new CFLs was publicly encouraged at all Home Depots nation wide. Yet, just as the ban on incandescent bulbs comes into effect, Home Depot quietly decided at the end of February that it would no longer offer its compact fluorescent light-bulb-recycling program. In an email from a Home Depot spokesperson regarding the company's decision to no longer provide their recycling program, it explains that "changes to the enforcement of compliance requirements in a number of provinces" as the reason for the company's stance. 

So, where can we be environmentally friendly and recycle our CFLs? Lots of places. Currently, Canadian Tire, Rona and Ikea retail outlets take old CFL bulbs with no plans that we have been told of to cease this recycling initiative. (However, a company may change its' mind.)

In addition, here in Calgary we can drop off CFL's (as well as household hazardous waste that shouldn't go down the drain or in the garbage) at a number of drop-off locations around the city. Click below to find one closest to you.

Knowing some basic facts about compact fluorescent lights (eg. last longer, use less electricity, offer different "shades" of light, like bright daylight, or softer light choices) and how easy it is to recycle or properly dispose of them should make the transition from incandescent lights to compact fluorescent ones a pain-free experience.


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Such an easy thing to do but arguably the least often thing done in many homes: changing out furnace filters, especially when putting your home on the Calgary real estate market.

Simply put, do it. When you accept an offer and it comes time for a house inspection, there are many home inspectors that look at a furnace as an overall indicator as to the type of upkeep/maintenance that a home has received over the years or in recent time.

If the furnace filter is dirty, some Calgary home inspectors will even take it a step further and tell the buyer that the furnace may have had to work harder to move air through a dirty filter, thereby shortening the furnace's life expectancy. Many a Calgary home buyer has been scared away from buying a home simply due to a dirty furnace filter.

Give your furnace a new filter. (A quality filter can be good for your family's lungs, too.)

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Calgary's real estate market is very strong with single-family house prices reaching new highs. With the number of homes being put up for sale this Spring down compared to past years, Calgary finds itself in a sellers' market. 

Our latest clients in Lake Bonavista witnessed this sellers' market first hand. We spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday getting the photos and webpages ready and listed their home for sale first thing on Thursday morning. Before we were able to move on to our next task, the phones literally started ringing at 8:02 am with showing requests and inquiries about this home. Four hours later, we were receiving calls about second showings (people wanting to come back for a second look) and the possibility of a couple of offers.

Six hours later, we received word that an offer was coming in at list price from out-of-town clients who had yet to step foot in the home but were buying it based on the online photos & information we provided and the in-person preview that their real estate agent did for them. This is but one example of the extent that buyers are willing to go to get into the Calgary real estate market nowadays.

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Tighter Mortgage Rules Mean Rent Increases

Courtesy of Reagan Burton - Mortgage Associate



The majority of property investors are already licking their chops, anticipating tighter mortgage rules will allow them to bump up rents, suggests a new CREW poll.

Just under 60 per cent of those responding to an online survey this week answered “yes,” they will indeed raise the rent because of the new mortgage rules. That, of course, is only where the law permits, most likely with empty units and not sitting tenants.

The anticipation is based on an expected bump-up in the number of Canadians -- in particular, first-time buyers -- who'll now find themselves shut out of the housing market. Such a development would be pegged to Ottawa’s decision to limit maximum amortizations to 25 years for insured mortgages.

For first-timers in pricey markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, that may effectively block them from purchasing even starter condos, which already strain affordability.

While economists expect some price declines because of the tighter mortgage rules that may not come soon enough to encourage young Canadians to buy instead of rent.

Since the new rules were announced last week, investors have also been grappling with them, trying to decide whether they afford a net negative or benefit to landlords, already enjoying relatively low vacancy rates in most markets.

Since rental properties require 20% down, therefore not a CMHC insured mortgage, the rule will have no effect on most investors in terms of obtaining financing. The upside is that less people can afford homes therefore more renters. The downside is that it may reduce prices if the demand softens.

Recap on Jim Flaherty's new rules from last week:

1. Amortizations reduced to 25 years - Reduced amortizations mean clients will qualify for less money. This may result in people not being able to afford home ownership or having to purchase lower priced properties.

2. Refinancing limited to 80%
3. Properties purchased at over $1 million no longer eligible for mortgage insurance 
4. GDS and TDS set at 39% and 44%

Courtesy of Reagan Burton

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By Jason Bell
We received a number of calls, texts and e-mails from friends & clients today about the new mortgage changes released by the government and reported by the media. Here's a breakdown for anyone else who is wondering:

Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance announced some changes to "government insured mortgages" that will take effect on July 9, 2012.
  1. The maximum amortization period was reduced from 30 years to 25 years
  2. The maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages was lowered to 80 per cent from 85 per cent of the value of their homes
  3. The maximum gross debt service ratio was fixed at 39 per cent and the maximum total debt service ratio at 44 per cent; and the availability of government-backed insured mortgages was limited to homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million.
Confusing for many, Jim Flaherty says that Canadians that have at least 20% to put down (and therefore probably are well-off or have saved and shouldn't need a long-term loan) can still receive 35 year loans on conventional mortgages. The above restrictions apply to people who have less than 20% to put down and therefore require insurance on their mortgages.
What are the overall effects? The most expected is that there will be a mild cooling effect in regional real estate markets because from July 9th onwards, there will suddenly be fewer buyers who will be able to buy homes. Why? Reducing the amortization period (the amount of time you have to pay back a loan) from 30 years to 25 years increases your monthly payments. Some people simply cannot afford higher, monthly payments.
If there is any good news, it is that today’s announcement confirms Canadians will continue to be able to purchase a home with 5% down. (There was some worry that the government would require buyers to come up with at least 10% down.)
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June 2012

Courtesy of one of our favourite mortgage brokers:
Reagan Burton at S&R Mortgage Group Ltd.
Email: rburton@tmacc.com
Direct: 403-648-3124

Imagine what life would be like if one of your biggest expenses was eliminated. Here's how to make it happen...

If you own a home, it's likely that you're still dragging the old ball-and-chain. No not that one - we're talking about your mortgage. For many homeowners, 10, 20 or even 30 years down the road seems like an impossibly long commitment, which often means we slog along, and forget all about what it would be like to be mortgage-free.
And who can blame you? Assuming you have the average Canadian mortgage of about $280,000 at a 3.2 percent interest rate amortized over 25 years, if you make the monthly payments, you'll likely be receiving a senior's discount long before you pay off your home. So how can you pay down your mortgage faster? Here are some simple steps to help you break free...

1) Pay more often

There are many options for making your mortgage payments, but the more frequently you pay, the better. That's because your mortgage accrues interest each and every day. The shorter the space between payments, the less interest adds up. If you take the standard monthly payments on your $280,000 mortgage, it'll take you the full 25 years to pay it off, and you'll pay more than $126,000 in interest. Paying bi-weekly or weekly will help, but the savings will be minimal because this only involves dividing your monthly payment to make 24 or 48 smaller payments per year, rather than the standard 12.


It's with accelerated weekly and bi-weekly payments that things get interesting. That's because with an accelerated bi-weekly mortgage, you'll make 26 payments in a year, and 52 payments for the accelerated weekly. This is a way to sneak in a few additional payments over a standard monthly mortgage. In our example, the bi-weekly accelerated option would shave two years off the time it takes to pay off your mortgage compared to a standard monthly payment, and reduce your interest expense by $17,000. The weekly payments shave off even more. The best part is, each payment will be smaller and easier to budget; you won't even miss the little bit more you pay each year.

2) Make lump sum payments

When you get a tax return, an unexpected bonus or some other joyful cash injection, consider putting it on your mortgage. Adding just $1,000 extra to your mortgage per year will allow you to pay it off four years sooner and, combined with accelerated bi-weekly payments, chip another $8,000 off the interest you pay for your home. When extra cash tempts you to spend, just think about how much disposable income you'll have when your mortgage disappear. Then put it on the house instead

3) Increase the payment amount

Another way to ditch that mortgage pronto is to increase the amount of each payment. This can be a good strategy to apply as your income increases over time. Let's say you score a raise of $250 per month. Lucky you! Put that on your mortgage and you'll really be leading a charmed life. You'll be mortgage-free seven years ahead of schedule, and will shave a whopping $24,000 off your mortgage (assuming you're still making accelerated bi-weekly payments). If you continue to apply your raises to your mortgage over time, the effect will be even more significant. You might even own your home before your kids hit college! 

4) A lower interest rate

These days, mortgage rates are near all-time lows, but it doesn't hurt to negotiate a better rate with your mortgage broker no matter how low they are. Is there anything less satisfying than paying interest? We thought not. The difference between a 2.99 percent rate and a 3.2 percent rate adds up to about $6,000 in interest over the course of the mortgage. So whether you're signing up for a first mortgage or renewing an existing one, shop for the lowest rate you can get. Over the long run, those efforts really pay off. Hey, why pay more than you have to?

5) Make your mortgage tax-deductible

In the U.S., mortgage interest is tax-deductible. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, considering the trouble the U.S. mortgage market's been facing), the Canadian government just isn't that generous. That said, there are still some ways to make your mortgage tax deductible. This involves borrowing against it to purchase income-producing investments. Under the Canadian tax code, interest paid on money borrowed to earn income is tax deductible. This strategy can help homeowners become mortgage-free faster, but it isn't a sure bet. Borrowing against your home can be risky, especially because your investments may not yield expected returns. With that in mind, should you go with this option, find a financial advisor who can help you make it work to your advantage.

Think of the freedom

A mortgage isn't forever and (surprise) it doesn't even have to feel like it is. Give your debt a little extra care and attention and you can be free of it years faster than you'd even dared to hope. What you do next - with all that money - is entirely up to you!

Reagan Burton at S&R Mortgage Group Ltd.
Email: rburton@tmacc.com
Direct: 403-648-3124

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April 2012

The Different Types of Traditional & Modern Yoga

By Jason Bell

On a seemingly increasing basis nowadays, many client's house hunting schedule is revolving not around children or work, but around their fitness classes. Both Tess and I have been hearing some weird words lately like YoPi, Ananda, Cy-Yo and others when women and men have called in a panic, apologizing profusely as to why they are running late and blaming it on their "Ashtanga" class, for example. As such, I decided to do a little research to determine why there seem to be so many different types of yoga, and why it makes some people so stressed about being late for meetings.

All yoga involves both body and mind and the same poses (asanas) but some practices are more vigorous, while others are more gentle and meditative. The terminology can be confusing, and today, classes are often a combination of traditional forms & new approaches. Here's a primer on the styles you may find at a local yoga studio or gym:

Ananda: Providing a tool for spiritual growth while releasing unwanted tensions, Ananda uses a series of gentle, controlled poses designed to move energy toward the brain for meditation, leading to inner awareness.

Anusara: The word means "follow your heart," and the heart is the focus of this gentle style, in which alignment and balance are key, but each student's level of ability respected.

Ashtanga: This non-stop, fast-paced yoga style includes specific sequences that increase in difficulty and are designed to build strength and stamina. These classes are often recommended for people with some familiarity of the basic postures. Power Yoga is a version of Ashtanga.

Bikram (also called Hot Yoga): Expect to sweat as the studio temperature pushes 100 degrees Fahrenheit  to mimic the climate in India, yoga's birthplace. The heat is supposed to remove toxins from the body and allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate.

Cy-Yo: Typically, this is a one-hour workout combining 10 minutes of yoga, 40 minutes of speed cycling on a stationary bike, then 10 more minutes of yoga to cool down and refocus the mind. Cy-Yo workouts are starting to become popular in some health facilities, including Gold's Gyms.

Fitness Yoga: Incorporates traditional yoga poses in a fitness class. Students warm up, practice more strenuous postures and then cool down. The concept is to tone the body, especially the core, and increase flexibility, balance and mind-body awareness.

Integral: Used often in medical and wellness settings such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers, this healing-focused style employs gentle postures, guided imagery and breathing techniques.

Iyengar: Because proper alignment and body awareness is at the center of this style, assistance with getting into position is offered via props such as blocks, belts and blankets. Asanas are generally held for longer than in other styles.

Jivamukti: Highly meditative but also physically challenging, Jivamukti classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music and also incorporates backbends, inversions and standing poses.

Viniyoga: Flowing movements are similar to ashtanga, but done at a much slower pace and with bent knees to reduce stress on joints. This gentle practice incorporates asanas that are synchronized with breathing sequences and is considered ideal for beginners.

YogaFit: Workouts that merge traditional yoga with a variety of other activities, including strength training, core muscle building, and gluteal firming.

YoPi: A new trend in California, it combines Yoga and Pilates and according to one client here in Calgary, is "fantastic".

Compiled from Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance

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March 2012

Using Your RRSPs Toward a New Home

Most of us think about building retirement savings for the future. Too often, we forget that as first time homebuyers, we can get our retirement savings working for us a little earlier. Although sometimes things seem out of reach, on closer examination there is a solution around the corner.  Purchasing that first home may be a lot more feasible than we imagine. By using your RRSPs for a down payment for example, you may be able to buy a home sooner.


The Federal Government has established a program where first time homebuyers can take advantage of savings they have accumulated in their RRSPs for the purchase of their first home. The program allows each participant to withdraw up to $25,000 in RRSPs to finance the purchase under the First Time Homebuyer's Program ($50,000 per couple). The great news is that you have 15 years to pay it back!


For those purchasers who already have the down payment saved, purchasing an RRSP with those funds may go financially further for you than the initial down payment. The transaction would also get you a tax deduction for the year in which the contribution was made. Potentially, at tax time, you would be eligible for a tax refund due to the RRSP contribution. The tax refund would represent additional funds that could be used for other incidentals and closing costs. One factor that is very important to remember here is that the RRSP funds must be on deposit for 90 days to be eligible.


The payback period is monitored and regulated by the Federal Government. They will remind you annually the amount that is required to be deposited in to your RRSP. As long as the program is adhered to, you have 15 years to repay with no penalty. It is borrowing from your golden years but not depleting your retirement savings.

Please contact Tess or Reagan for more information.

Courtesy of Reagan Burton at Mortgage Alliance
Email: rburton@mortgagealliance.com
Cell: 403-589-0877

You can also visit www.ccra.ca for more information on the First Time Homebuyer's Program.

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February 2012

The Free Down Payment Mortgage

The rent you pay today, could buy you a home tomorrow!

Coming up with a 5% down payment isn't always easy, especially when you still have to cover closing costs, moving expenses, renovations, and all the other costs that come with buying a home. If you have Good Credit, we can help you get a free down payment when you take out an affordable insured 5 or 7 year fixed rate mortgage.

The Free Down Payment Mortgage has been developed to assist homebuyers who have established an excellent credit history but have not accumulated the required down payment, or have chosen to use their savings for other asset enhancing purposes. The bank will advance the funds for the mortgage and the required 5% down to the solicitor on the closing date of the mortgage.

If you have a strong credit and credit score (Credit score of 650 or greater) & liquid assets of 1.5% of purchase price to cover closing costs available from their own resources this may be the break you have been hoping for to realize your dream of home ownership this year.

Contact Reagan Burton for more information.

Courtesy of Reagan Burton at Mortgage
Email: rburton@mortgagealliance.com

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January 2012

BMO Sparks Mortgage Rate War

BMO is offering a rock-bottom interest rate but it is for a limited-time. (They've only given you two weeks!) The Bank of Montreal announced last Thursday that it had lowered its rate on five-year fixed mortgages to 2.99 per cent, an all-time record low in Canada. (Historically, five-year fixed mortgages were the most common type obtained by home buyers and are used by the banks as a benchmark for borrowing costs.)

Of course, a great deal such as BMO's record-low mortgage rate does come with a few hitches. BMO has set an application deadline of January 25, 2012 (so you need to decide on your next purchase quickly). Next, the offer is only valid on mortgages with an amortization limit of 25 years. In addition, it has placed a cap on the maximum yearly lump-sum payment one can make at 10 per cent of the principal. (There may be other limitations that we are unaware aware of. For complete details, speak with BMO directly.)

As anticipated, this latest mortgage cut by BMO has triggered increased competition among many of the other major banks as they battle for a share of the shrinking housing market.

For example, RBC Royal Bank announced effective January 14, 2012 a four-year special 2.99 per cent fixed rate mortgage offer and a seven-year special 3.99 per cent fixed rate mortgage offer. Although they have matched the low 2.99% rate, they are only offering it for a four-year term, unlike BMO's five-year term.


"We are pleased to offer all Canadians flexible mortgage options at outstanding value. Canadians can choose between our great low four-year rate at 2.99 per cent or affordable protection at 3.99 per cent for seven years. They can even combine the two within our flexible RBC Homeline Plan," said Marcia Moffat, Head, Home Equity Financing, RBC. "All RBC mortgages come with amortizations of up to 30 years and full prepayment privileges. Also, Canadians can take advantage of our "double up" feature to become debt free faster."


RBC's rate is a discount off of posted rates and is only available on new mortgage applications made until February 29, 2012. Mortgage must be funded by April 30, 2012.


Following in RBC's footsteps, TD Canada Trust is currently offering a special offer that echos that of RBC.


These offers comes at a time when the big banks are pressuring Ottawa to lower the maximum amortization period (the number of years a person has to pay off a mortgage), now set at 30.  40 year amortization periods were available during the real estate boom years but persistent worries over the accumulated debt of Canadians convinced the federal government to lower it over the past two years.

Eric Lascelles (RBC Global Asset Management) stated that the caveat for homeowners is to buy what they can afford because when rates rise again and the mortgage needs to be renewed, refinancing costs can be overwhelming.

The BMO rate cut is good news for people shopping for a home and bad news for those worried about a potential housing bubble, says a Queen's University professor who specializes in real estate.

In our opinion (Tess and Jason), these rates offer an excellent opportunity for those buyers who where considering a purchase at some point this year to take full advantage of the lender's offers and purchase now. We must also emphasize that any home purchase must be very carefully calculated, as this is one of the biggest purchases most of us will ever make and its long term value to the buyer must be considered.

With files from CTVNews.ca, BMO.com & RBC - Media Newsroom

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Is There A Best Time Of Year To Sell Your Home?

Jason Bell - December 2011


Our team is always asked when the best time to sell a house is. Everything has a season, including selling your house. Listing at the right moment could mean a little more money in your pocket.


Firstly, homes sell every day in Calgary regardless of the time of year. I just checked the MLS statistics and as of 9:35pm tonight, December 12 2011, as I write this article, 50 properties have sold since this morning in Calgary & area.


Traditionally, Spring is the hottest season for real estate. Real estate activity often picks up significantly around March or April and remains constant in Calgary until the beginning of Summer (what is often referred to as the Stampede or Summer slow-down.)


July and August often bring a lag in sales and real estate activity as Calgarians go away on vacation or simply take advantage of the brief, hot weather we usually receive. Then sales pick up again after Labour Day in early September before dropping in December as buyers and sellers start thinking about the holidays. But after New Year's, in addition to the existing buyers still looking for their perfect home, we often see a new crop of buyers that are fulfilling their New Year's resolutions and looking for houses or condos.


Another factor to pay attention to are market trends. In the housing market, sometimes there are buyers' markets and sometimes there are sellers' markets.


Basically, a 'buyer's market' is where there are more people wanting to sell homes than there are people wanting to buy homes (i.e. there are more houses available for sale than there are buyers.) With this surplus of homes for sale, buyers often have an advantage in price negotiations because many sellers will be keen to make a sale. Often times, people worry that if they sell during a buyers' market that they will have to discount their asking price and possibly lose valuable home equity. While this is often true, they will still benefit when they become buyers and will also likely get a discount on their own purchase.


A sellers' market is when there are more buyers than available homes on the market. Here the tables are turned and the buyers must face fierce competition to purchase a house, often having to offer more than they would have liked. This is nice for sellers because they profit from the high demand, yet when they become buyers after their home sale, they will enter into that same market and will have to compete against other voracious buyers.


At the end of the day, I go back to what I wrote near the beginning: homes sell every day in Calgary. However, if we were considering selling our home and the market conditions were favourable, then from a seasonal perspective, I would just make sure that it wasn't close to Christmas time where it might be ignored (I'd wait until after New Year's to put it on the market) or it wasn't the middle of August (I'd wait until after the Labour Day long-weekend when activity typically picks up).

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Should You Sell First, Then Buy Your Next House?

By Jason Bell

If you have a house to sell, should you sell it before selecting your next house to buy? That is a question that Tess and I have been asked many times over the years. "Contingency sales" or buying a house but making it subject to your home selling first, (i.e. a "Sale Of Buyer's Home" condition) aren't very strong offers when compared to ones that come in from a ready, willing and able buyer that doesn't have to sell his or her home first.

Consider this scenario: You've found the perfect house - now you want to make an offer to the sellers. You want the sellers to accept your offer (probably at a price that's less than what they are asking), but you are also really hoping that they will wait until you sell your house. In some regions across North America, for the seller, this isn't a great situation since they might pass up a buyer who DOESN'T have to sell a house while they are waiting for you.


In Calgary, some sellers say OK, they'll do the contingency, because the rules of the Calgary Real Estate Board allow for a property to remain active on the market in the event of a contingency sale. However, many sellers decide that there is still some risk (eg. fewer showings if and when word gets out that there is already an offer on a property) & that the only way it's worth it is if they get full list-price for their house (i.e. the full price they were asking). Because of the contingency, you now have to pay more for the house than you could have negotiated if it were a typical transaction.


Secondly, you now have to sell your existing house quickly otherwise you run the risk of potentially losing out on the first house that you just put an offer on. So to sell quickly, you might accept an offer that is lower than if you had more time.

The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you a lot of money.

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March 2011

Our New Mobile MLS System Has Launched!

Our team has been working hard polishing our mobile MLS Search Engine with the end result being a smartphone optimized site that is both powerful and easy to use.


We've integrated a sleek mobile interface with our MLS provider's search engine to give you multiple search options, including community browsing and our brand new proximity search that uses your phone's GPS coordinates to find homes for sale near your current location.


In addition to search tools, we've added a bookmarking system that lets you save your favourite listings to come back to later, and quick "touch to call" buttons to make it easier for you to contact us when you're on the go.


To visit our mobile MLS site, open up your smartphone web browser and type in www.CalgaryHomes.co (this is a .co address, not .com. The site will detect you're on a mobile device and automatically display our new mobile-optimized site.




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TD's New Standard:  Collateral Mortgages

By Tess Vostner-Bell
November 15, 2010

TD Bank has overhauled its mortgage program, switching to collateral-charge mortgages which are similar to lines of credit. The idea is to make it easier for homeowners to tap into their home equity and much harder for them to change lenders when their mortgage comes up for renewal.

Other lenders offer variations of this mortgage type but TD is the first to use collateral mortgages exclusively. As of October 18, 2010 all TD mortgages will be collateral mortgages. Existing mortgages are not affected by the change.

TD is said to be encouraging employees to approve customers at 125% of a property's actual value under certain circumstances, so homeowners can easily borrow more money if their property increases in value. A hassle free way for homeowners to access home equity. However, on the flip side, collateral mortgages are difficult to transfer from one lender to another. Unlike traditional mortgages, a collateral mortgage must be paid in full to be canceled. What that means is, if someone wants to change lenders at any point (5, 10 or even 20 years in) they will have to pay out their collateral mortgage in full and renegotiate from scratch with the new lender.

Lenders have been scrambling to secure new business as competition among them is intensifying. Ongoing record low mortgage rates has contributed to the number of new buyers entering the market. Innovative products such as the collateral mortgage is TD's attempt to entice new buyers who expect to take advantage of their property's rising value and don't plan to shop around for better rates in the future.

Customers may under many circumstances choose to register their collateral charge for more than the approved principal amount of the mortgage, up to 125 per cent of the property value, an internal memo to its mortgage brokers stated. This will allow them to borrow additional funds in the future without having to re-register ... eliminating any solicitor and in-house registration fees.

When a homeowner decides that they would like to access the extra money they were approved for they will have to have a bank appraiser come out to inspect the home as funds are dependent on property values rising.

In the end, it all boils down to customer choice. Since TD no longer allows their customers to choose between a standard or collateral mortgage, it is up to the consumer to think ahead. If you think there is a high probability that you will refinance during your term, like the idea of a secured line of credit with your mortgage & like the terms and conditions TD is offering, then TD may be the best lender for you. If instead you do not foresee yourself wanting to refinance during your term, do not require a secured line of credit, like to shop around for the best mortgage deal going & do not want to start from scratch to switch lenders then TD may be a bank to avoid from here on in.

Customers need to be aware of both the pros and cons involved in any mortgage product they choose.

Until next time,

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July 2010

Jason Bell writes:

On a daily basis again, Tess and I receive at least one or two calls or e-mails asking what's happening with the real estate market. This "cycle" or "pattern" has happened before when there has been uncertainty in the real estate market or if economically, we have been on an upswing or a downturn.

To some, we have uncertainty in the market. Sales volume is down but prices remain high. Many ask why? Inventory is increasing (i.e. more and more properties are coming on the market) which should drive prices down, but hasn't. Again, why?

To others, the real estate market looks promising. Average single family detached house prices in Calgary have risen 10% +/- June 2009 to June 2010. (It is important to note that sales in the luxury home market have increased and as such, have "skewed" or driven the average numbers up.)

Mario Toneguzzi from wrote an informative article about the current conditions; it is below:


'Crummy' June Sees Home Sales Slide

Byline: Mario Toneguzzi
Publication: Calgary Herald
Date: Saturday July 3rd, 2010


The downturn in Calgary's residential real estate market was dramatically evident in June as MLS sales plunged from year-ago levels.


Sales in the single-family home category of 1,061 for the month plummeted by 42.24 per cent while condominium transactions of 445 took a nosedive of 39.7 per cent.


Diane Scott, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board, called the June numbers "crummy." "It's a buyer's market. We have evolved into a buyer's market, but the buyers aren't buying," said Scott. "It makes for a quiet market."


While the number of properties for sale continued to rise, average sale prices moved upwards as well -- by 7.79 per cent for single family homes to $481,964 and by 2.33 per cent for condos to $292,238. The average prices were buoyed by an increase in sales in the luxury home market, particularly for single family homes.


An increase in the luxury home market has kept average prices elevated and that speaks to the confidence people with plenty of money have in the economy, Scott said. "As far as the average buyer-seller out there, it's a different market than we've seen in prior years. It's going to slump over the summer and stay in a buyer's market."


She said Calgary will continue to see a moderation in home sales in the face of higher mortgage rates, increased inventory levels and a decreasing number of first time homebuyers entering the market.


New listings in June rose from a year ago by 21.79 per cent for single-family homes to 2,733 and by 16.94 per cent in condos to 1,084. The month-end inventory for single-family homes for sale stood at 5,991, up from 3,395 in June 2009 while for condos it has risen to 2,626 from 1,744 last year.


The pace of sales in the local housing market has been moderating, said Richard Cho, senior market analyst for Calgary for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. "More conservative lending practices, higher financing costs as well as elevated unemployment and weaker net migration have tempered resale activity," he said. "With more new listings entering the market and the pace of sales slowing, active listings have on the rise."


Cho said average price growth is expected to soften in the months ahead because of the moderation in sales and rise in listings. June was the second consecutive month that year-over-year sales for both single-family homes and condos have been down. In May, there were 1,262 single-family home sales for an average price of $483,240 and 518 condo sales for an average of $304,662.


Homebuyers are taking a bit of a breather right now in the local market, said Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial in Calgary.


"In the spring, there was the anticipation that mortgage rates would be rising soon, and that brought forward some buyers that would have normally waited a bit longer to buy. So now, there are somewhat fewer buyers in the market," Hirsch said. He said listings always rise when prices are rising. "Homeowners anticipate that they can get a good price, and some owners put their home on the market at an unrealistically high price just to see what happens," explained Hirsch. "But if there are too many homes on the market, it eventually forces the price down as home sellers compete for buyers. "So if prices fall, the pendulum will eventually swing the other way and listings will fall too."


He said prices have not caught up with the rising inventory of homes on the market, and with slowing demand. "But prices cannot keep rising for long. In fact, prices are likely to be flat or even dip a bit in the second half of 2010 as demand slows and listings rise," added Hirsch.


In the towns surrounding Calgary, overall sales in June dropped by 35.38 per cent from a year ago to 305 sales with an average price of $378,237, which was up 6.75 per cent. The country residential market, which includes acreages, saw sales drop by 30.23 per cent to 60 but the average price jumped 27.57 per cent to $943,400.


Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association, said activity is easing most among first-time homebuyers, but it's still above year-ago levels for luxury homes and that's helping to skew the average price higher. "That's what's resulting in these year-over-year price gains in average price as at the same time sales are easing," Klump said.


"One of the fundamental things, when the Bank of Canada raised interest rates in early June, I think that injected a lot of caution among first-time homebuyers. They want to see how things are going to play out and that's also showing up in the consumer confidence numbers as well, that people have become more cautious."

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