Courtesy of CREB
For many residents of apartment-style condo buildings, a balcony offers a small, private slice of the outdoors – a place to kick back with a book, sip your morning coffee, catch a few rays, or enjoy an al fresco meal or cocktail.
In recent months, the widespread adoption of social distancing and self-isolation to combat COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of private outdoor spaces. For those who have them, balconies and backyards provide a crucial refuge – a safe space to get some fresh air while avoiding contact with other people.
Whether you own or rent, customizing your balcony to create a space you love will remain a worthwhile endeavour long after COVID-19 fears and restrictions subside – even in Calgary, where “balcony weather” remains elusive at the best of times.
Here are four ways to make the most of your balcony, large or small.
- Go green
Plants add warmth, personality and colour to a drab balcony. They also create the feeling of being surrounded by nature, even if you live on the 15th floor of a downtown highrise.
If you have no green thumb to speak of, you can even opt for fake plants for a maintenance-free, weather-resistant option. Some visitors might not even be able to tell the difference!
- Functional furniture
There are lots of options here depending on your needs, but try to focus on durable, multipurpose pieces (e.g., an ottoman that can serve as a table and provide storage).
A small bistro table and chairs that can be folded up and stowed when not in use is a popular choice for balconies. Bench seating is also a versatile option, whether you opt for higher-end, built-in benches or more of a DIY solution (try stacking wood pallets then topping them with plush cushions).
If you’re looking for more of a laidback, relaxed feel, a reclining lounge chair or hammock could be the perfect addition. Faux wicker or rattan furniture also delivers serious vacation vibes, with the added benefit of weather resistance.
- Colours and patterns
There are a couple ways to approach the design of your balcony. One is to think of the balcony as an extension of your home and replicate the colour scheme and patterns from the interior, creating a unified aesthetic.
Alternately, you can imagine the balcony as a fun escape that stands alone from the rest of the home – a space to be bold and try something new. Want your balcony to look like a tropical paradise? Go for it. What if a lakeside cottage is more your speed? Make it so. The thematic possibilities are endless!
Small touches can make a big difference, and the balcony floor – often a cold slab of concrete or something similarly inhospitable – is a good place to start. Artificial turf, outdoor rugs and/or interlocking deck tiles can all make your balcony more welcoming and comfortable.
Once the floor is sorted, it’s time to turn to lighting. Outdoor lanterns or string lights are a cheap and easy way to create ambience, while allowing you to enjoy your balcony well into the evening.
Courtesy of CREB
Spring might have officially started on March 19, but as Calgarians know, “spring” in this city is an elastic concept. Now that temperatures are rising and nature is showing new signs of life, it’s time to give your home the spring-cleaning treatment.
Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, keeping your living space clean (and sanitized) is more important than ever. Due to social distancing measures, people are spending the bulk of their time at home, and the novel coronavirus can live on surfaces there for several hours.
Health Canada recommends regular cleaning and disinfecting of hard surfaces with either household cleaning products or diluted bleach (created using a ratio of one teaspoon of bleach for every 250 millilitres of water). A list of hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers that meet Health Canada’s requirements for COVID-19 is available here.
Focus on high-traffic areas of the home first, as these are the places where viral buildup is most likely to occur. Also, stick to a few all-purpose cleaning products to save money and simplify the process.
Depending on the size of your home, the number of people in your household you recruit to help and how thorough you want to be, your spring-cleaning routine could take anywhere from a couple hours to a few days. So, assess the situation and plan accordingly.
The following checklist is a solid baseline for any spring clean, but feel free to add and subtract tasks to customize it to your home’s layout.
As a bonus, if some of these tasks become part of your regular cleaning routine, next year’s spring clean will be a breeze!
Spring cleaning checklist
- Wipe down the door
- Shake out doormats
- Wipe down railings
- Organize shoes or store them in the closet
- Tackle the pantry – purge, clean and reorganize
- Deep clean appliances (e.g., microwave, oven, fridge, etc.)
- Wash kitchen cabinets
- Disinfect the bathtub and/or shower (including the shower head)
- Clean and disinfect the toilets
- Wash bathmats, shower curtains and liners
- Wipe down counter spaces and mirrors
- Clean and reorganize the space beneath the sink and/or the medicine cabinet
- Clean floor tiles
- Wash bedding (including pillows)
- Vacuum and flip mattresses
- Clean and reorganize closets, as well as any belongings stored underneath beds (purging old clothes as necessary)
- Clean/sanitize the washing machine (vinegar works well)
- Empty the dryer lint trap and wipe down the interior
- Clean behind the washer and dryer, but be careful not to damage the hoses
- Wipe down the table
- Dust any furniture, decorations and light fixtures
- Wash chair cushions (if relevant) and placemats
- Vacuum furniture/upholstery and lampshades
- Wash throw pillows and blankets
- Polish wood furniture
- Clean carpets
- Scrub windows and mirrors
- Sanitize remote controls
- Declutter and get rid of any junk that has accumulated
- Sweep out the garage floor, then hose it down to clean off stuck-on grime
- Wipe down windows, the doorframe and any shelving
- Leave the garage door open for awhile to air out the space
Throughout the home
- Sweep/mop floors
- Vacuum carpets
- Wipe down walls and baseboards
- Clean windows, window coverings and doors
- Wipe down houseplants
- Dust light fixtures and ceiling fans
- Declutter wherever possible and discard or donate unwanted items
- Clean air vents/registers
- Sanitize door handles and light switches
- Test and replace batteries in smoke and CO alarms
Courtesy of CREB
City of Calgary, May 1, 2020–After the first full month with social distancing measures in place, the housing market is adjusting to the effects of COVID-19.
April sales hit 573 units, a decline of 63 per cent over last year.
“The decline in home sales does not come as a surprise. The combined impact of COVID-19 and the situation in the energy sector is causing housing demand to fall,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.
“Demand is also falling faster than supply. This is keeping the market in buyers’ territory and weighing on prices.”
Sales activity eased across all price ranges, but the largest declines were for homes priced above $600,000.
With a greater share of the sales occurring in the lower price ranges, the average price decline was more than eight per cent. Prices for the average home are also declining, reflected by the benchmark price, which fell by nearly two per cent compared to last year.
New listings this month totalled 1,425 units, a decline of 54 per cent compared to last year. Inventories also declined, but with 5,565 units available, they remained high enough to push the months of supply above nine months.
The economic impact of the situation is significant and early indications point toward more job losses and higher unemployment rates. Several government incentives will help cushion the blow, but challenges in the housing market are expected to persist throughout this year.
•Detached sales eased by 63 per cent this month compared to last year, with the largest decline in the West district.
•Slower demand was also met with easing supply, as new listings declined by 57 per cent. Overall, inventories eased by 25 per cent compared to last year. Despite the decline in inventory, the months of supply rose to more than eight months.
•The detached benchmark price eased by one per cent over last year, totalling $479,100. Prices managed to remain flat in both the South and South East districts. The highest price decline was in the City Centre, with a drop of more than three per cent.
•Apartment sales slowed to 95 units. This is a 62 per cent decline over last year. New listings also slowed, but it was not enough to support a larger decline in inventory levels, which only eased by 13 per cent compared to last year. With 1,349 units in inventory, the months of supply rose to 14 months.
•Condominium prices were falling before recent developments in the market and the pace of decline remained relatively unchanged at more than two per cent compared to last year. Since the first energy crisis in 2014, the citywide apartment benchmark price has declined by nearly 19 per cent.
•Year-over-year prices have eased across almost all districts, but the South East district saw the largest year-over-year decline this month at nearly six per cent.
•Semi-detached and row properties recorded a significant drop in sales and new listings, causing inventories to decline by nearly 20 per cent. However, with a combined inventory of 1,441 units compared to just 138 sales, the months of supply rose to over 10 months.
•Semi-detached prices eased across all districts for a citywide year-over-year decline of nearly three per cent. The City Centre recorded the largest year-over-year decline at four per cent.
•Row priced declined in all areas except the East district. Citywide row prices declined by more than two per cent for a total of $278,300.
Courtesy of CREB - by Mario Toneguzzi (April 19, 2020)
One of the key factors impacting the Calgary resale housing market in the last year or so has been affordability.
With economic uncertainty top of mind due to the collapse in oil prices and the COVID-19 crisis, prospective homebuyers are increasingly looking for more affordable options when making a purchase.
That will likely lead to more demand in the condominium apartment market in the future.
“The struggling energy sector over the past five years has also weighed on overall economic conditions, including the housing market. The condominium apartment sector has struggled the most out of all property types. Over the past five years, the apartment sector has been oversupplied, resulting in price declines of 18 per cent,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB® chief economist.
“The significant price declines started bringing back purchasers. We started off this year with stronger sales activity. While sales were nowhere near the levels recorded prior to the first energy crisis, activity had improved to levels comparable to the five-year average. However, the improvement in sales was met with a rise in supply levels, which would likely continue to weigh on prices.”
In 2019, there were 2,670 MLS® System condo sales in the Calgary market, with a benchmark price of $248,800. In 2018, there were 2,661 sales and a benchmark price of $251,200.
According to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability report by RBC Economics, the condo market remains an affordable option for Calgarians who are concerned about price points.
The RBC Housing Affordability Measures show the proportion of median pre-tax household income that would be required to service the cost of mortgage payments (principal and interest), property taxes and utilities based on the average market price for detached homes and condos.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, that measure was 23.5 per cent for the condo market, compared to 42.5 per cent for detached homes.
Since 1985, the average affordability measure for condos in Calgary has been 26.7 per cent, while the figure for detached homes has been 43.6 per cent.
So far this year, until the end of March, the condo market has been fairly healthy, with MLS® System sales of 573 units, an increase of 23.8 per cent compared to the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, the year-to-date benchmark price has dipped by 2.29 per cent year-over-year to $244,767.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it is likely the condo market will be an attractive option for potential buyers who prioritize affordability.
Courtesy of CREB
For a variety of reasons, some people need to sell their home quickly. This motivation might lead some homeowners to explore options beyond the traditional resale market.
In these situations, “cash for homes” offers can be an enticing option for sellers who are on the clock.
First, a business or individual will inspect the home. If they like what they see, they’ll make a cash offer, usually representing a below-market-rate sale price. If accepted, the business or individual might make some upgrades before quickly putting the home back on the market, with the aim of making a tidy profit.
Depending on the cash for homes business, they might also collect commission on both the purchase and sale of the home.
While this type of transaction might seem attractive to a seller desperate to close, for the average home seller, REALTORS® provide crucial value, says Serhan Tarkan, a Realtor and sales representative with Royal LePage Benchmark.
He says a Realtor will “typically get quite a bit more” for a seller than if they were to sell their home themselves, for a cash offer or otherwise.
“We Realtors live in the same communities that we sell in,” said Tarkan. “As a result, we can share our own experiences about how wonderful it is to live in those communities.
“When you call a Realtor, they listen to you and hear you out on what some of the things were that made you so excited about buying the home when you did, and try to pull that out in the new (potential) buyer that’s looking in the area.”
Tarkan says one scenario where a cash for homes business could be a realistic option is where the seller needs cash immediately, but their home is not in a state that makes it possible to sell right away.
However, sellers should still proceed with caution. Many cash for homes companies operate above board, but some should be avoided.
“Legitimate cash for homes companies are there, but of course, there are ones that are scams, too,” said Shawna-Kay Thomas, marketing and communications team lead for the Better Business Bureau.
“We REALTORS® live in the same communities that we sell in. As a result, we can share our own experiences about how wonderful it is to live in those communities.” – Serhan Tarkan, Royal LePage Benchmark
The latter often target people in vulnerable circumstances.
“They try to pay you less (for the home) and do this because they know that usually the people they target are in desperate situations – foreclosures, damaged homes or homes that have been vacant for a while,” said Thomas. “They’re looking to get quick money.”
For people who are struggling to sell their home, Thomas recommends considering other options as well, such as renting or lease-to-own, “so you’re not depending on getting that instant cash.”
Things to keep an eye on, she adds, include the business’s inspection of the home and any sense of urgency around the seller committing to the deal.
“You should have time to consider what they’re offering, have your discussions and get back to them with questions,” said Thomas. “It shouldn’t have to be now.”
The buyer’s assessment of the home, or lack thereof, is also telling.
“If they are willing to buy your house without seeing it, that’s a huge red flag,” said Thomas, adding the buyer would need to know the sort of condition a home is in before committing to a sale.
Thomas also emphasizes the importance of the purchaser having an easily accessible website where the seller can access reviews from previous clients.
“If you are not able to track their reviews, it’s hard to tell what kind of business they have been doing over the years that they claim to be operating,” she said.
To that end, before engaging with a company, Thomas recommends visiting BBB.org to check out reviews or complaints.
“You can see if they are listed on our website, and if they are, then you can see a full profile of their history in business,” she said.
Properly is one of the most visible cash for homes businesses in the market, and the company currently buys and sells real estate in both Calgary and Ottawa.
“Legitimate cash for homes companies are there, but of course, there are ones that are scams, too.” – Shawna-Kay Thomas, the Better Business Bureau
Sellers can fill out a questionnaire about their home on the Properly website, which is used to provide the initial offer. If the offer is accepted by the homeowner, a third-party inspector will assess the home’s condition before the offer is finalized.
At that point, “if (the homeowner) is still interested in moving forward, we allow them to pick their closing date and move on with certainty and know exactly what the rest of the process will look like,” said Anshul Ruparell, Properly’s co-founder and CEO.
“Our goal is to provide as transparent and clear of a process to our customers. We want to make sure they feel completely comfortable with the process and there’s never any pressure at all to work with Properly.
“Even things like the inspection, at any point in time, until the contract is signed, the homeowner can very easily walk away.”
Generally, for a home to receive an offer from Properly, it must be valued between $250,000 and $600,000, have two or more bedrooms, and have more than one bathroom.
However, the company does not make offers on condominium properties.
At the end of the day, industry professionals like Tarkan believe the vast majority of home sellers will get the most value from their real estate transaction, and have the best selling experience, by utilizing the services and expertise of a local Realtor.
Courtesy of CREB
A custom home can tick every box on a prospective buyer’s wish list. Without the right builder, however, both the experience of building the home and the finished product might come up short.
Before signing a contract with a builder, there are several important questions people in the market for a custom home should have answered.
What are our timelines?
Constructing a home takes time. Setting those expectations from the get-go is essential, says Lauren Herschel, BILD Calgary Region’s manager of communications.
“Not only should you know how long the build should take, but you should also receive a timeline of key milestones,” she said. “This will help give you an understanding of whether the project is on track and when you may be needed for certain decisions or site visits, and, of course, when your house will be ready for you to move in.”
Buyers should also be aware of how frequently they can expect to receive updates from the builder and how they would address potential delays, Herschel adds.
What’s your track record?
When deciding on a builder to trust with the money and time required to complete your home, their resumé counts.
“Ask if they have repeat clients. We have so many clients who have built two, three, four houses with us. That’s the true testament to what you’re doing right or wrong.” – Nick Lupi, Lupi Luxury Homes
“The longevity of a builder business usually indicates that they have been reputable and trustworthy,” said Herschel, adding the company’s time in Calgary might also shed light on their familiarity with local planning processes, bylaws and suppliers. Additionally, it might indicate how well they understand the region’s weather and how to prepare for it, creating a “smoother construction process.”
Look for references, too, says Nick Lupi, president and co-owner of Lupi Luxury Homes, now in its 50th year of operation.
“Ask if they have repeat clients,” said Lupi. “We have so many clients who have built two, three, four houses with us. That’s the true testament to what you’re doing right or wrong.”
How will we communicate?
Nobody with a home under construction should feel left in the dark. To make sure that does not happen, builders should have contacts who can make the process transparent.
Courtesy of CREB
If you thought the in-laws were bad house guests, what about a cancer-causing gas?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed when naturally occurring uranium deposits in soil and rock decay. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless, and can accumulate inside homes – sometimes reaching dangerous levels.
Radon moves from the soil into homes through cracks in the foundation or gaps where the foundation meets the wall. Negative air pressure causes the home to make up the difference by drawing in soil gas.
Although radon accumulation in homes is not a new phenomenon, our modern lifestyle may put us at a higher risk than ever before.
“We spend more time inside now,” said Colin Dumais, building science and technical director for Radon West Ltd. and director of the Canadian National Radon Training Centre. “When I was growing up, parents used to say, ‘Go outside and don’t come back until dinner,’ but now they’re calling kids inside because they can’t watch them otherwise.”
“Radon in the home is entirely preventable. Knowing your home’s radon level is the first step in determining if you are at risk.” – Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair in Radiation Exposure Disease
Today, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. However, there’s good news for anyone who is worried about radon in their own home.
“Radon in the home is entirely preventable,” said Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, the Canada Research Chair in Radiation Exposure Disease and an assistant professor at the University of Calgary. “Knowing your home’s radon level is the first step in determining if you are at risk.”
Through several studies, Dr. Goodarzi and his colleagues are working to increase awareness of radon gas and encourage people to test their homes. They are also examining radon levels across the country and reviewing a variety of home metrics to help understand what is unique about houses with high radon levels.
“We recently published findings that demonstrate the inaccuracy of short-term radon testing compared to long-term testing,” said Dr. Goodarzi. “Short-term testing is a common practice during a real estate purchase. Because of the inaccuracy, we are educating REALTORS® to not perform a short-term test at this time.”
Fortunately, testing your home for radon is easy, effective and inexpensive. Through Evict Radon, a non-profit organization led by Dr. Goodarzi, homeowners can purchase a radon testing device for $51.99, follow the instructions over 90 days and ship the device to a lab for the results.
Addressing the problem, however, is a bit more costly.
“Fixing a radon issue is usually around $2500, but it can be more,” said Dumais. “It’s a matter of altering the pressure beneath the house, so radon goes from your home to the ground, rather than vice versa.”
For Realtors and home sellers, it’s important to note that a home mitigated for radon has the healthiest possible air and, as a result, is very desirable.
“High radon does not devalue real estate,” said Dr. Goodarzi.
Also, unlike the in-laws, once you rid your home of radon, it should be gone for good.
Courtesy of CREB
Proximity to Calgary, affordable home prices and a variety of nearby amenities are making two towns in Mountain View County enticing options for house hunters willing to commute.
At about 40 minutes and 30 minutes from Calgary, respectively, Didsbury and Carstairs have helped some homebuyers balance a job in the city with the benefits of rural life.
“There are a lot of commuters (in Didsbury),” said Gord Leeson, an associate with Royal LePage Wildrose. “At 6 a.m., if you park by the main drag out of town, you’ll see car after car heading out, going to Calgary.”
“Under $300,000, you can find a very nice, three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home.” – Gord Leeson, Royal LePage Wildrose
Calgarians looking for more affordable homes are one of the key buyer demographics in these towns, he adds.
Year to date, both Didsbury and Carstairs have recorded an increase in year-over-year overall residential sales, according to CREB®.
Sales in Carstairs rallied 34 per cent from the same time in 2018, while transactions in Didsbury grew by 1.5 per cent. Both towns offer strong value, says Leeson.
“Under $300,000, you can find a very nice, three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home,” he said.
CREB® says the year-to-date benchmark price across all home types in Carstairs is $317,967, which is down 5.5 per cent year over year. In comparison, Calgary’s year-to-date benchmark price is $423,478.
“Now would be the time, if you wanted to buy,” said Leeson.
Carstairs and Didsbury, located about 10 minutes apart, have all the elements people look for in a community.
Leeson calls Didsbury the “best-kept secret,” adding “it has all the amenities.”
On this point, he singles out Didsbury District Health Services hospital, as well as the Didsbury Aquatic Centre, as important features in town.
“The schools are all here, all the shopping is here,” said Leeson. “You may not have the selection, but … from Carstairs, CrossIron Mills isn’t that far, (and) from Didsbury, Olds isn’t that far.
“You don’t have to worry about getting what you want and very seldom have to go into the city.”
If you have been thinking about getting out of the rat race of the city to a small community and have question, please give me a call. (403) 253-7326
Courtesy of CREB - By Geoff Geddes
Despite the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry, there’s at least one import from our northern neighbour that appears to be a welcome addition to the local real estate market: backyard suites.
“We are originally from Edmonton, but we were receiving inquiries from Calgary and finally decided that the time was right to expand,” said Ashley Salvador, president & co-founder of Calgary Backyard Suites.
The non-profit organization promotes the development of backyard suites through educational workshops, where people learn the rules, regulations, financing options and design considerations for these suites.
“It’s a great place to get all the resources you need to proceed with building your own suite,” said Salvador. “We even hold tours, so people can get a firsthand look at what a backyard suite is all about and start to imagine what theirs will look like.”
The organization also does some advocacy work, promoting policies that will aid backyard suite construction and reduce barriers to their creation.
“Connecting with a builder is critical, as there are intricacies around things like hookups and utilities that are specific to backyard suites.” – Ashley Salvador, Calgary Backyard Suites
For those new to the phenomenon, a backyard suite is a house of approximately 500 square feet located in the backyard. They are typically placed above the garage, but some suites are built as standalone structures.
“These suites play an important role in helping cities add density to existing neighbourhoods and build up their communities,” said Salvador.
“They can provide affordable rental housing in areas where the cost of buying a home is prohibitive. From a fiscal perspective, backyard suites are beneficial for cities, given the high cost of expanding outwards and serving far-off neighbourhoods with roads, sewers and such.”
Though backyard suites are relatively small, interested homeowners should keep in mind that they still represent a significant investment.
“The suites start at around $160,000, so be sure you have the capacity to finance them and speak to an experienced mortgage broker up front,” said Salvador. “As well, understand the constraints of your property. Can it accommodate a backyard suite? What design is most appropriate for your situation?”
A good first step is attending a Calgary Backyard Suites workshop, where representatives from the City of Calgary talk about the rules and regulations that apply to this unique housing option. The organization also brings in current suite owners who have been through the process and can offer advice.
“Another excellent opportunity for new buyers is our builder and designer showcase,” said Salvador.
“Connecting with a builder is critical, as there are intricacies around things like hookups and utilities that are specific to backyard suites. Talking to an expert who knows about these aspects can help you stay within budget and get exactly what you’re looking for.”