Archive for the ‘News’ Category

CMHC Premium Increases – Nothing to Worry About

Sunday, March 12th, 2017


Earlier this month, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. announced that it will be increasing premiums on mortgages insured on or after March 17. This applies to home buyers financing more than 65 percent of their new home’s purchase price.

Don’t freak out about this; the increase is minor, and is actually a good step for the health of the  real estate market overall. Consumers financing $245,000 would expect to pay about $5 more per month in CMHC premiums, while those with mortgages worth $350,000 and $450,000 would see increases of just $7 and $8 respectively.

Those looking to lock in at current rates need to have a full application (not just a preapproval) submitted to a lending institution by 9:59 MST on March 13, so unless you’re well on your way to making an offer, the moment has likely passed. However, given the modest level of the increase, it’s not worth rushing a decision just to get in ahead of the deadline.

To get all the specifics about CMHC insurance rates, or to strategize your next home purchase, contact me today!

Rebates are Coming

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Energy efficient home

In its 2016 budget, the Alberta government earmarked funds for launching rebate programs that would encourage consumers to make energy efficient upgrades in their homes; we are now starting to get details trickling out on some of those programs.

In an October 27 news release, Energy Efficiency Alberta (a government agency) announced three programs that would begin in early 2017, two of which are aimed at residential consumers and one at businesses. The programs would discount and rebate the purchase and installation of energy efficient lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling systems, among other upgrades.

While the details are sparse, this announcement is both welcome and long overdue, as Alberta is the only jurisdiction in North America without energy efficiency rebates for consumers. Alberta had a program that incentivized the purchase of energy efficient residential upgrades from 2009-2012, and that program issued more than 170,000 rebates over the three years worth more than $52 million. In addition to the positive environmental impact, the program led to economic growth and lowered Albertans’ utility bills. A similar initiative was announced by the government in 2014, however it was never realized.

The winter months can be a good time to make upgrades to your home, as trades tend to be less busy, and are therefore more readily available, and companies may offer discounts during slow months. Most businesses providing services like window upgrades, or furnace and hot water tank installation, operate year round despite some peoples’ incorrect assumption that nice weather is needed for these jobs to be completed.

So, now’s a good time to audit your home for what upgrades might make sense. How old is your hot water tank? Your furnace? Your fridge? (Believe me, you do not want to wake up to a warm fridge some morning). Put together a budget, and maybe even line up some estimates, so that when the details of these rebate programs are fleshed out, and the cheques start being cut, you’re ready to go. Sometimes programs such as these have caps, meaning only the first $XX in applicable spending will qualify, so if you’re looking to upgrade your home, don’t miss out.

Want to chat about which upgrades will have the best bang for your buck with regard to the value of your home? Contact me today!

Get Familiar with the New Mortgage Rules

Thursday, October 13th, 2016


Calgary’s real estate market continues steadily along, with home sales jumping more than 2 percent and average prices going up year over year. Despite the economic downturn, we have not seen a dramatic slowdown in most markets where property sales are concerned.

Potentially challenging that stability is a set of new rules around mortgages that the federal government will be phasing in starting October 17. Most noteworthy is a requirement that homeowners seeking an insured mortgage pass a ‘stress test’ to prove they can afford payments even if interest rates climb to the Bank of Canada’s posted rate (which can be nearly double what’s on offer from the banks), and that their carrying costs won’t exceed 39 percent of household income. This applies both to buyers with down payments above and below 20 percent, which is a major change from the status quo.

Other changes include a requirement that revenue coming from home sales be reported to the government at tax time; proceeds from the sale of one’s primary residence will remain tax free, but the feds are attempting to stem foreign buyers using a tax code loophole to claim flipped properties as primary residences to lower their tax bills.

It remains to be seen what the outcome of these changes will be. Some mortgage brokers are predicting that up to a third of first time homebuyers attempting to get into the market may find their pre-approval declined, while supporters see this as a positive way to address Canadians’ rising ratio of debt to income. Home prices in Toronto and Vancouver are rising rapidly, and this move by the government is surely a way to tap the brakes on that growth, but increasing indebtedness in this era of historically low interest rates is also a valid concern.

My advice in light of these rules remains the same as my outlook before they were announced: don’t try to buy more home than you can afford. While you may be pre-approved for a $700,000 mortgage, start your search a fair amount lower than that to see if there’s a property that meets your needs at a more comfortable monthly payment level. You can’t really go wrong with being conservative in this area.

So, when you contact me to line up some showings, give me a range of what you’d like to see below your pre-approval level, and I’ll help find a home that meets the needs of both your lifestyle and your pocketbook.  If you aren’t sure what your pre-approval is contact your bank or a mortgage broker, such as Canquest Mortgage, to get started.

Don’t Just Read the Headline

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Understanding the market

As is pretty common in real estate news articles lately, the Herald kind of buried the lede in its latest survey of Calgary’s market. Yes, it’s true that year-over-year sales were predictably down once again, as sectors of our economy continue to suffer. More interesting, though, at least from my perspective, is the fact that detached home sales were down a mere 1.4 percent from last year. Think about that: despite unemployment in the province hitting a 20-year high, houses are still being bought at a rate very close to last year’s. Add in the fact that average sale prices are actually up in some segments, despite a substantial increase in supply, and you have just one more example of the strong fundamentals underlying our real estate market.

The weaknesses in the market right now, rightly noted by the Herald, are the apartment, and attached home (including townhouses and duplexes) sectors, which have seen sharper declines in both sales and selling prices. Still, the drops have been nowhere near as precipitous as you might have expected if the market had been overheated.

The fact of the matter is, real estate in Calgary offers good value for money. We’re a resilient, optimistic city, and a great place to live.

So when you notice a particularly dire headline about the state of our real estate market, consider the purpose of that headline (to encourage clicks and sell papers), and read the entire article before forming an opinion. That’s solid advice for any article you might come across these days, actually.

As always, I’m available to consult on your property, or just to chat, through my contact form.

Make Every Day Neighbour Day

Monday, June 13th, 2016


With technology as ubiquitous as it is, it has never been easier to stay in touch with friends and family, no matter how far apart they are spread. Indeed, a little time on Facebook can catch you up on the adventures of 50 or more acquaintances in a matter of minutes, and lets you share pictures and commentary on your life’s highlights just as easily. Of course, there’s still a great deal of value in face-to-face interaction, which requires a whole different skill set than does navigating the online world. One area where we all could probably put this into practice a little more is in our relations with our neighbours.

Despite shrinking lot sizes forcing suburban homeowners together, most of us make only passing acknowledgement of our neighbours; sure, we’ll say hi if we’re both on our decks at the same time, but usually that’s as far as the relationship goes.

Nothing wrong with that, and, indeed, it’s human nature for most of us to want to stick to our own business. However, fostering a healthy relationship with those living on either side of us can have a multitude of benefits. We might strike up a long-lasting friendship after discovering a neighbour with similar interests, or our kids might more often have playmates on short notice. A familiar neighbour will watch out for your house when you’re on vacation, maybe even cutting the lawn and watering your flowers. They might be able to watch your children in the event of an emergency. If nothing else, a neighbour is someone you can chat with on the front porch over a six-pack.

But how do you develop such a neighbourly relationship? If you’re not a naturally extroverted people person, it’s going to take some effort, but the benefits can be worth it. A good day to start would be Saturday, June 18 – officially decreed as Neighbour Day by the City of Calgary. Began in 2014 to celebrate Calgary’s unprecedented community spirit after the floods touched so many communities, Neighbour Day has become an annual tradition. The City lists some ideas for celebrating Neighbour Day, including block parties and neighbourhood clean-ups, right here. They even waive permit fees for hosting those block parties.

But really, any day can be Neighbour Day with just a bit of effort. If you’re grilling up some burgers on a sunny afternoon, and you notice a neighbour is home, why not invite them over for an easy supper on the deck? If you have a big ladder, offer to help the guy across the street who’s struggling with his Christmas lights. Put the sprinkler on the front lawn and have your girls go knock on the door of the neighbour with kids around the same age. Bake some cookies and deliver them to the family who just moved in last week. These are all small, easy gestures that can go a long way to developing lasting bonds that benefit everyone. Go ahead, be a good neighbour.

Looking to move somewhere you can practice these skills? Contact me today!

Things to do over Family Day Weekend

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Family Tree

Family Day in Alberta is just around the corner, February 15, and so it might not be a bad idea to start thinking of things to do with the brood over that three day rest. There’s always tonnes of local activities around Calgary that are inexpensive and loaded up on fun. Here are a few suggestions:

Heritage Park’s Family Quest

All weekend, Heritage Park is hosting what they call ‘family friendly motorcycle inspired fun and entertainment’ in their Gasoline Alley.

Eau Claire Market Family Fun Day

Eau Claire Market is hosting all manner of free activities including face painting and temporary tattoos, live music, ice carving, and crafts! Even the hot chocolate is free!

U of C Oval Family Day Skate

On Monday the 15th, from noon till 5:00 families can skate for free at the U of C Olympic Oval. Bring a helmet for each family member and a few bucks for the Tim Horton’s truck that’ll be parked outside.

Other Free Skating

Around the city, a number of rinks are offering free skating on Monday afternoon.

Public Swimming

The city-operated pools are offering free swimming on Monday afternoon – great exercise for the whole family!

Catch a movie

Kung Fu Panda 3 came out recently, and it’s getting stellar ratings from critics, so kids and adults alike should enjoy a couple of hours with Jack Black’s cuddly martial artist. And Saturday morning you can catch Hotel Transylvania 2 for just $2.99 as part of their Family Favourites series.

Those are just a few suggestions of activities to take in on Family Day. If you just feel like staying in, how about some board games, followed by ‘make your own pizza’ for dinner in front of the TV? Whatever you decide, enjoy the company of those you love. I know I will.

And if that time inside starts to make you think about moving to a new house, contact me – I’d love to help.

MLS Update

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Calgary areas

For many years now, Calgary Realtors and their customers have relied on the MLS System for the most accurate and timely information on homes for sale in our city. Now the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) has chosen to align its MLS naming conventions with the City of Calgary’s official terms for communities.

In some cases, the changes are as simple as corrected spelling: Bel Aire becomes Bel-Aire, Saddleridge becomes Saddle Ridge. In others, neighbourhoods are consolidated: Varsity Acres, Varsity Village, and Varsity Estates become, simply, Varsity.

Zone names are also being changed from four quadrant letters, A, B, C & D, to eight more meaningful names titles: North, Northwest, Northeast, Centre, West, East, South and Southwest.

What will this mean to you as you use the MLS System? It means the community names referred to by the City of Calgary will now correlate directly with those in the System, making for an easier, more straightforward experience. A database is only as reliable as its data, and so CREB should be applauded for taking this step to start 2016 off right.

Speaking of starting the year off right, the Calgary Home + Garden Show is only a little over six weeks away, and you can get 2-for-1 tickets if you purchase before January 14 using the promo code NEWYEAR. Click here to get yours today!

Want to talk about putting your home on the market, the updated MLS naming conventions, or the new Star Wars movie? Contact me!

Secondary Suites Made Easier

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

Home ownership income

Thinking about installing a secondary suite in your home to generate some extra income? There’s no better time than now, as the City of Calgary is waiving Development Permit requirements until March, 2017.

To qualify, your home must be properly zoned for a secondary suite and must meet Land Use Bylaw requirements.

The City is interested in making it easier for homeowners to develop secondary suites, increasing the inventory of lower-cost rental suites on the market. For more information, click here. And as always, you can reach me through my contact page.

Should You Rent Out Your Calgary Home on Airbnb?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

House Jenga

Suddenly a lot more people know what Airbnb is.

The company has been in the news of late as a Calgary couple rented out their home using the online service for some extra cash, only to return to find it had been completely trashed in what police called a “drug-induced orgy.” Damages to the King family’s northwest property are now estimated at $150,000.

Airbnb offers a “$1,000,000 Host Guarantee”, reimbursing up to one million dollars in repair bills to homeowners whose properties have been damaged by Airbnb customers, and the company has stated they will pay to have these Calgarian victims made whole again. But nothing can take away the memories of a family home decimated and disrespected so fully.

So, is it worth it to rent out your home on Airbnb? Like most means of earning extra income, there are risks and rewards. Apartments in Calgary start at around $65 per night, more depending on location and amenities (some homes can fetch $800 per night), and there are nearly 900 rentals listed in our city on Airbnb’s site; during Stampede, rates can quadruple. The vast majority of people who rent out their property have no problems at all, especially since renters must register with the service and both renters and homeowners can be reviewed, making them at least somewhat trackable should anything happen. Further, many choose to simply rent out a single room in their primary residence, which allows them to meet new people from around the world as tenants.

The first risk factor is self evident given recent events: the trashed house in the news was rented using stolen credit cards, and two weeks later no culprit has been nabbed. While the host guarantee means victimized homeowners won’t be out of pocket for long, irreplaceable items are, when destroyed, irreplaceable. Also important to know: if you’re a renter, it may be against your lease agreement to sublet your apartment. Review your agreement and check with your landlord before listing your property.

Many advise that the ideal method to use Airbnb for extra cash is to rent out a second home, keeping your primary residence for you and your family. Otherwise, think about the worst case scenario – basically what happened to the Kings – and see if it’s something from which you could move on with no lasting scars.

Do you have home ownership questions? Contact me!

Increased Premiums for CMHC

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

financing magnifying glass

As you may or may not be aware, lenders offering a mortgage to those purchasing a home with less than a 20 percent down payment usually require that mortgage be backed by mortgage loan insurance; the most familiar provider of mortgage loan insurance is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a government of Canada operation. This is a good thing, as it protects banks against defaults, while lowering the barrier to entry into the housing market. Homebuyers can purchase (typically their first) homes with as little as five percent down, so long as they’re willing to pay the CMHC premium as part of their mortgage.

Last month, CMHC announced it was increasing premiums effective June 1, 2015. These new premiums only affect buyers with a down payment of less than ten percent, and are intended to maintain CMHC’s capital holdings.

Homebuyers putting ten percent or less down will now pay a CMHC premium of 3.85 percent, up from 3.35 percent. According to CMHC, this should result in affected buyers paying about $5 per month more in insurance.

Like all insurance companies, CMHC maintains a large amount of capital holdings, which rise and fall as investments do. The money the company makes on these investments helps to pay for claims; by using this model, insurance companies are able to keep premiums relatively low while still having cash on hand to pay claims. So there you go; the more you know.

Want to know more? Contact me!

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Calgary Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.