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Winter is here, get your home ready for the cold months ahead.

Our recent cold snap provides an important reminder for us all to pull out the winter "To-Do" check list and make sure that your home is ready for the cold months ahead. A regular schedule of preventative maintence will help keep your home in tip top shape, and help avoid costly repairs  or problems before they occur. Seasonal maintence doesn't have to be hard or time consuming, a little at a time goes a long way. Here is a list things to consider for this winter season:

-Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system, such as heat recovery ventilator, filters should be checked every two months.
-After consulting your hot water tank owner’s manual, drain off a dishpan full of water from the clean-out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank to control sediment and maintain efficiency.
-Clean humidifier two or three times during the winter season.
-Vacuum bathroom fan grille.
-Vacuum fire and smoke detectors, as dust or spider webs can prevent them from functioning.
-Vacuum radiator grilles on back of refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays.
-Check pressure gauge on all fire extinguishers; recharge or replace if necessary.
-Check fire escape routes, door and window locks and hardware, and lighting around outside of house; ensure family has good security habits.
-Check the basement floor drain to ensure the trap contains water; refill with water if necessary.
-Monitor your home for excessive moisture levels — for example, condensation on your windows, which can cause significant damage over time and pose serious health problems — and take corrective action if necessary. Refer to the About Your House fact sheet Measuring Humidity in Your Home.
-Check all faucets for signs of dripping and change washers as needed. Faucets requiring frequent replacement of washers may be in need of repair.
-If you have a plumbing fixture that is not used frequently, such as a laundry tub or spare bathroom sink, tub or shower stall, run some water briefly to keep water in the trap.
-Clean drains in dishwasher, sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls.
-Test plumbing shut-off valves to ensure they are working and to prevent them from seizing.
-Examine windows and doors for ice accumulation or cold air leaks. If found, make a note to repair or replace in the spring.
-Examine attic for frost accumulation. Check roof for ice dams or icicles. If there is excessive frost or staining of the underside of the roof, or ice dams on the roof surface, consult the About Your House fact sheet Attic Venting, Attic Moisture and Ice Dams for advice.
-Keep snow clear of gas meters, gas appliance vents, exhaust vents and basement windows.
-Monitor outdoor vents, gas meters and chimneys for ice and snow buildup. Consult with an appropriate contractor or your gas utility for information on how to safely deal with any ice problems you may discover.
-Check electrical cords, plugs and outlets for all indoor and outdoor seasonal lights to ensure fire safety; if worn, or if plugs or cords feel warm to the touch, replace immediately.

Have fun!

A big thanks to Lucas Kirsch and 20/20 Master Home Inspections for the above mentioned comprehensive list.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Light Up Okotoks

Friday, November 22, 6 PM to 9 PM

It's one of my favoriate events of the year. A family celebration to start the holiday season. From visiting with Santa, to the lighting of the Christmas tree and festive activities all through downtown Okotoks, their is something for everyone! The following is a list of activities avaible for this years event with various sponsors contributing. 

Support the Food Bank!

The 18 Wheels of Christmas will be back again this year collecting non-perishable food donations to help those in need over the holiday season. 

At the Olde Towne Plaza

  • Live Performances, 5:30pm–8:30pm
  • Welcome Ceremonies, 6:45pm
  • Santa, 6:50pm
  • Community Christmas Tree Lighting, 7pm

Along Elizabeth Street

  • Ice Sculpture Demo, Municipal Centre, 7pm–9pm
  • Sugar Shack - maple toffee on a stick, 49 Elizabeth St, 6pm–8:30pm
  • Pony petting zoo and photos plus hot chocolate, courtesy of McBride Career Group and Foothills Community Immigrant Services, 6:30pm–8:30pm
  • Cookie decorating, Christmas crafts, hot chocolate, coffee and treats at Danielle Smith's constituency office, 6pm-8pm

At the Okotoks Art Gallery & Okotoks Museum

  • Hot Chocolate & Cookie Decorating, 6pm–8:30pm (Art Gallery)
  • 'Art in the Attic' Crafts, 6pm-8:30pm (Museum)
  • Photos with Santa, 7:10pm–8:30pm (bring own camera) (outside the Art Gallery)
  • Stop in and drop off new scarves, mitts and toques to the Okotoks Art Gallery to decorate their Tree of Warmth. All of the winter items will be donated to local charities. Until 8:30pm.

Other Downtown Activities

  • Horse Drawn Wagon Rides (5 teams of horses locations at the east and west ends of downtown), 6pm–8:30pm
  • Fire Pits, 5:30pm–8:30pm
  • Roaming Carollers, 6pm–9pm
  • Dance Performance at Starcast Dance Academy
  • Late Night Shopping, until 9pm.
  • The Olde Towne Christmas Passport is back again this year and kicks off on the night of Light Up! Shop local - with each $10 purchase at a participating store, receive one stamp. When your passport has 10 stamps, simply leave it at that store to be entered into a draw for a $1000 shopping spree in Olde Towne Okotoks!
  • Spirit of Christmas Artisan Market at the Okotoks Art Gallery, 6pm-9pm

At the Okotoks Public Library

  • Free hot chocolate & cookies, 5pm-7:30pm 
  • North of Broadway Show Choir Performance, 6pm-6:30pm
  • Christmas Craft Sale, 5pm-8pm
  • "Small Stuff' Art Show & Sale by Okotoks Artists & Friends, 5pm-8pm
  • Note: the craft sale and art show also run on Saturday from 10am-4pm

The Information booth will also be a collection place for lost children or family members who have become separated. Anyone requiring first aid treatment should also go here.

Fireworks - Produced by GlobalFest!!!
Set yourself up to watch fireworks set off from Lineham Park, sponsored by Okotoks Rentals, 9pm

Please note: Elizabeth Street, McRae Street, and North Railway Street to Lineham Avenue will be closed to vehicles from 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Credit and a big thanks to Mark Doherty and the Town of Okotoks for the above mentioned itinerary and for putting on such a wonderful event year after year!!!!

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August 21, 2013

Rates Rise Again. No Housing Threat Yet

Courtesy -  CMT, Canadian Mortgage Trends 

By: Rob McLister, Editor CMT   http://www.canadianmortgagetrends.com/

Fixed mortgage rates have been on a steady ascent since bond yields blasted off in May. Now, the major banks are jacking up rates again.

5-year-bond

Most of the Big 6 are lifting their “Special offer” 5-year fixed mortgages to 3.79% or 3.89%, a 20 basis point hike.

From that, typical well-qualified borrowers can expect at least 20 bps“discretion” (i.e., actual rates of 3.59% to 3.69%). If you know how to haggle, you might do even better.

Mortgage-Rate-Curve

Royal Bank also announced a 20 bps hike in its 5-year posted rate, which rises to 5.34% on Thursday. If a few more banks follow RBC’s lead, the benchmark qualifying rate will rise accordingly. That would mark the first increase in the benchmark rate in more than 500 days(since April 2012).

A higher benchmark rate makes it tougher to qualify for a variable, HELOC or 1- to 4-year fixed term. (Mind you, one 20 bps hike is not as impactful as dramatized headlines like this suggest.)

A 20 bps jump in the qualifying rate means a household at the edge of affordability would need ~$1,100 more income to get a variable-rate mortgage on a $300,000 house with 5% down.*

Looking back to May 1, 2013 is more telling. Since then, a 5-year fixed mortgage payment on that same $300,000 house has risen about $120 a month to ~$1,475. That kind of payment change is a potential source of financial “difficulty” for less than 1 in 10 mortgage holders—if past CAAMP surveys are a guide. Note that "difficulty" does not imply default.

Naturally, all these incremental rate hikes can add up and decelerate home sales. But based on past consumer surveys, it could take a good point and a half rate-bump to curtail buying decisions in meaningful ways. At the moment, we’re only halfway there.


* Note: The benchmark rate has little effect on someone choosing a fixed term of five years or more. That person’s ability to qualify is instead dependent on the actual rate they pay (a.k.a.  the “contract rate”).
Rob McLister, CMT

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Bring on the Games!!!

The fourth annual Foothills Highland Games will be held on Saturday, Aug. 24 at Foothills Composite High School and Howard Park. 2013 will mark the fourth annual event hosting over 3000 spectators and over 350 competitors battiling it our in various events and competitions. The event will include Highland dance competitions, piping and drumming, the Quigley Electric heavy events, various vendors, beer garden, musical entertainment, trick dogs, a children’s play area, and the Okotoks Rentals/Natural High Tug of War.

Gates open at 7 a.m. with competitions beginning at 8 a.m. The opening ceremonies will be at 12:30 p.m. and the mass bands will be at 4 p.m. The semi-final and final tug of war will follow the mass bands. 

There will be a variety of entertainment in the ceilidh tent throughout the day including musicians, Irish dancers and Scottish country dancers. The Ceilidh, featuring Fraid Knot, will go from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

For more information see www.foothillshighlandgames.com

Gates will open at 7AM

Games Admission:
$10 Per Person
Ages 6 and under are free!
$25 Family Pass (family of 4)

Ceilidh Admission:
$10 Adults and Children Age 12+
*Daytime entertainment is included with Games Admission. Entry to the Ceilidh Tent after 5PM requires a Ceilidh ticket.

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With the recent and tragic events that have unfolded in Southern Alberta I figured some information on water and flood restoration may be helpful. The information below is courtesy of CSI Restoration Services.

Stay safe and there and take care of each other....

Water Damage

 

Water DamageWater damage arises from fire damage, broken pipes, blocked drains, malfunctioning appliances, storms and other causes. The appropriate treatment depends on the nature of the damage. Some water carries contaminates and should be considered hazardous (see sewage and Flood Damage, below). Whatever the origin, the prospects of restoration depend largely on the speed with which your building and personal property can be dried. Even clean water can generate mildew and other bacterial growth if neglected.

DO...

  • Ventilate wet areas. Turn on air conditioning for accelerated drying in summer; in winter alternate cycles of opened windows and heating.
  • Remove standing water from flat surfaces by sponging and blotting.
  • Take up saturated rugs and carpets when hardwood floors are at risk.
  • Stay out of rooms were ceilings are sagging from retained water.
  • Transport computers to a dry environment, remove cases and blow dry with low pressure air.
  • Remove lamps, telephones and decorative items from wet furniture tops.
  • Open drawers and cabinet doors for interior drying, but do not force open stuck drawers or doors.
  • Freeze valuable books and documents to retard mildew growth until drying can be performed.
  • Place aluminum foil squares, china saucers or wood blocks under furniture legs to avoid carpet staining.

 

DO NOT...

  • Operate TVs, vacuums or other appliances while standing on wet carpet or floors, especially not on wet concrete floors. Serious injury may result.
  • Use heat to dry closed building interiors; mildew and expanded moisture damage may result.
  • Leave wet fabrics in place; space them apart and dry as soon as possible.

 

 

Sewage & Flood Damage

 

Flood DamageRaw sewage and flood waters contain bacteria and other micro organisms which are extremely hazardous to human health. These can be transmitted by touching contaminated items or by tracking them into uncontaminated areas on shoes. Children and pets are especially vulnerable. Frequent handwashing is an important preventive measure. Absorbent materials such as carpeting and drywall may not be restorable after direct contact with sewage-contaminated or flood-contaminated water.

DO...

  • Treat all water-impacted surfaces and furnishings as toxic, until properly decontaminated.
  • Keep children and pets out of contaminated areas.

 

DO NOT...

  • Track contaminated material into undamaged areas.
  • Attempt to decontaminate surfaces with sprays and other over-the-counter germicidal products, which may not fully disinfect contaminated surfaces.
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Post image for Spruce Up Your Home For The Summer Sales Season

SPRUCE UP YOUR HOME FOR THE SUMMER SALES SEASON

by CODY STUART on JUN 23, 2013

While recent numbers coming out of Calgary’s housing market may stress the need for buyers to act quickly when buying a house, presenting your home in the best possible light is still sound advice for sellers. In addition to seeking advice from your REALTOR®, here are a few easy and affordable tips to make your house an eye-catching piece of real estate for potential buyers when it comes to selling.

Now that summer has arrived, adding a little lush to your lawn could be the difference between a potential sale and a missed opportunity. Ensure your lawn is mowed, garden weeded and hedges trimmed for maximum appeal. Flowerbeds should be given fresh mulch and annuals can be planted to provide serious curb appeal.

Calgary’s harsh winter months can leave your deck and driveway looking dreadful. In addition to any minor repairs, both should be given a serious power washing to remove stains, mold, dirt and cobwebs. For those who like to use the area under their deck as storage, either find a less conspicuous place to stow those old chairs or get rid of them altogether. For oil stains on your driveway, use cat litter to soak up the oil, remove, then apply dish soap and scrub.

In addition to washing down your deck and driveway, wash windows, inside and out giving potential buyers the best perspective. If showing in the spring, renting a power washer to remove collected dust and debris left by winter storms gives a home a more inviting look. However, special care should be taken when washing under siding courses or in soffit vents where moisture can cause damage.

De-cluttering and de-personalizing your home for pre-sale allows potential buyers who see the home to imagine their things in the space instead. If you haven’t used something in over a year, you probably don’t need it, it could be donated or thrown away. Before viewings, everyday, essential items can be tucked in a small box and stored in a closet.

Houses tend to show better with fewer pieces of furniture, so one option is to rent a storage unit for excess and leave enough pieces to hint at the purpose of a room. Another idea is to hire a personal home stager to utilize your furniture pieces to their full potential. In addition to arranging your own furniture in the best fashion, many stagers also have their own supply of fancy furnishings for your home.

Affordable updates can be made to make your home more modern and appealing to potential buyers. Changing paint colours can vastly change the mood and feel of a home. For example, if your child’s room is a bright pink, consider painting it a more neutral colour like a beige or taupe. A neutral palette in a home that’s for sale makes it easier for potential buyers to imagine their furniture and knick knacks in the space.

Minor repairs can be made throughout the house taking little to no time at all but making a huge difference in the look of a space. Change burnt out light bulbs, patch holes in the wall; re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.

- See more at: http://www.crebnow.com/spruce-up-your-home-for-the-summer-sales-season/#sthash.1kz4kb64.dpuf

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House keys

Just when your buyer client thinks the hard part is done – they found what seems to be the perfect home for them, they have a number of other things to consider and look after, one of which is often a home inspection. More often than not, a buyer’s home purchase will be conditional on a satisfactory home inspection.

There are two issues that sometimes arise with respect to home inspections:

1) Can or should the buyer’s representative be present during the home inspection?

2) Can the buyer bring additional people (family members, etc.) to the home inspection?

When a buyer has a home inspection condition, his or her representative will typically make an appointment to gain access to the property for the inspection through the seller’s representative. Typically, the buyer’s representative will request that the seller not be present during the inspection, which means the buyer’s representative will access the property using the lockbox or by picking up a key. The Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) expects the buyer’s representative to be present during the home inspection because it is he or she who is responsible for access to the property and the care of it during the inspection. It is inappropriate for the buyer’s representative to open the property and then leave the home inspector and buyer alone. If the buyer’s representative is unable to stay for the entire home inspection, they need to first ask permission from the seller’s representative to leave the buyer and the home inspector in the property alone.

Some industry professionals may believe the buyer’s representative should not be present as he or she may “influence” the inspection. The fact is, though, home inspectors have standards they must follow – and a real estate professional’s attendance at the inspection will not influence them. Additionally, a buyer’s representative should stay for the inspection in the event the buyer wants guidance on how to proceed once the inspection is complete.

So, a buyer and his or her representative should always be present at the inspection – but what about additional people? The issue of having additional people present at a home inspection may seem harmless, but it can lead to problems. While buyers are often excited about their purchase and anxious to show their new home to those closest to them without having to wait for the purchase to close, having additional attendees is inappropriate without permission from the seller (obtained through the seller’s representative). What happens if one of these “additional” people touches something belonging to the seller and breaks it? What happens if they “test” something (a toilet, faucet, furnace), and something goes wrong? Who will take responsibility for any damage that may result? The fact is, it is not yet the buyer’s home and it is not up to the buyer to decide who should have access to and can view the property; it is only a seller who can make that decision.

While the home inspection itself isn’t the responsibility of the real estate professional, the real estate professional is responsible for safeguarding the property while it is in their care during the inspection.

For more info regarding industry members and home inspectors, be sure to check out the RECABlog 

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Post image for Albertans Believe Housing is a Good Investment

ALBERTANS BELIEVE HOUSING IS A GOOD INVESTMENT

by CODY STUART on MAY 8, 2013

Cover Photo is from RBC 20th Annual Home Ownership Poll Report

Nearly nine-in-10 Albertans surveyed said buying a house or condo is a good investment, according to a poll released by RBC.

As outlined in the bank’s 20th Annual RBC Home Ownership Poll, 89 per cent of Albertans said buying a home was a good investment, compared to the national average of 84 per cent. The poll showed homebuying intentions in the province have dropped to 22 per cent from 31 per cent a year ago.

“The more cautious mood this year is not surprising and is consistent with broader economic and industry forecasts. An unseasonably warm spring, low rates and anticipation of mortgage rule changes may have led many Canadians to move forward their home purchases in the first half of 2012,” said Sean Amato- Gauci, senior vice-president, Home Equity Financing, RBC. “Our findings suggest confidence in the housing market is still high and young Canadians are the bright spot as they look to buy their first home and seek the advice to do it right.”

The RBC poll also showed almost half of Albertans (49 per cent) feel their current housing market is balanced, compared to the national average of 40 per cent.

In a similar poll from TD Canada Trust, saving for a down payment, rising property prices and small paycheques were listed by young Albertans as the top barriers to homeownership.

According to TD, 65 per cent of Generation Y (those born between 1981 and 1999) non-homeowners identified increasing property prices as the main challenge to owning a home, compared to just 14 per cent of baby boomer (those born between 1946 and 1964) homeowners.

The next biggest barrier for young homebuyers was saving a large enough down payment, with 64 per cent of those polled stating they were unable to save enough, compared to 41 per cent of Baby Boomers.

“While young people may be anxious to start building equity rather than paying rent, waiting until you have a larger down payment can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage,” said Cheryl Tackaberry, Sales Manager, Mobile Mortgage Specialists, TD Canada Trust. “First time buyers can also consider the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan, which lets you borrow up to $25,000 from your RSP for a down payment on your first home.”

Not earning enough was also amongst the top concerns for young buyers, with nearly half (46 per cent) of those polled stating they weren’t earning enough to afford monthly mortgage payments versus just 10 per cent of baby boomers.

RBC 20th Annual Homenowership Poll

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Post image for Is This a Good Year to Buy or Sell?

IS THIS A GOOD YEAR TO BUY OR SELL?

by BECKY WALTERS on APR 23, 2013

The Calgary real estate market began recovering in 2012, and so far this year, the future is looking bright.

CREB® statistics for the first three months of the year, as well as its outlook for 2013, suggest the recovery is expected to continue. So, what does this mean for people who are considering buying or selling their homes?

As the president of CREB®’s board of directors, I am also a REALTOR®. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is ‘Is this a good year to buy or sell?’

You’ve probably seen the headlines: “Calgary Real Estate the Lone Shining Star in Canada: TD Report”; “Calgary Housing Market Experiencing Positive Momentum”; and “Calgary Future Homes Value, One of the Best Nationwide!!”

These kinds of headlines, as well as the positivity we’ve been seeing in the local real estate market are a sign that this a good time to both buy and to sell. Based on current conditions, and assuming economic growth follows projections, CREB®’s chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie said we can expect to see moderate price gains in the market this year.

Sellers will be happy to learn our balanced market is continuing to trend into seller’s territory in the single-family market. The condominium market remains balanced.

As spring gets into full swing, we generally expect to see more “For Sale” signs. This could be great news for homebuyers who have been hampered by the lack of inventory in the city.

At the beginning of the year, inventory levels were down by double digits, meaning our market is a bit tight. With fewer houses on the market in the city, buyers have been hopping in their cars and checking out surrounding communities where they’ve been discovering they can get more home for their money.

Of course, the housing market is prone to cyclical ups and downs. The latest TD Economics report released in March looked at national trends and concluded Canadians should expect to “embark on a gradual, modest, downward adjustment over the next three years.” But Calgary, where housing has long been seen as a steady, appreciating asset, will be an “out-performer” in relation to the national housing market.

This is due, in part, to a projected population growth through 2030 that should be above the national average. Other factors that will affect the long-run rate of return for home prices aremacroeconomic fundamentals, such as income and economic growth, and structural changes, including an aging populace and the number of immigrants as a share of total homebuyers.

All of these factors indicate you can buy with confidence and that real estate in the Calgary area will be a solid investment for years to come.

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SPRINGING INTO ACTION

by CODY STUART on APR 5, 2013

Spring has brought some fresh air to the home resale market in Calgary.

The inventory of active homes for sale in Calgary in March was the lowest level for the month in more than five years. Homes are selling quickly, but the decline in new listings also hampered resale sales growth.

There were five per cent fewer new listings in March compared to the same month in 2012; inventory is also five per cent lower after the first quarter. As a result, volume also dropped by more than two per cent last month compared to March 2012. Overall active listings stand at just 4,006 units, up from February’s levels but well below the number available one year ago.

“Less resale product available to consumers is ultimately limiting sales growth,” said CREB® President Becky Walters. “In addition, resale homes are selling in less time and with continued upward pressure on prices.”

Walters said buyers have grown accustomed to a market where they have more time to make decisions because of ample supply. But, as market conditions have tightened, if they are serious about purchasing a resale home, buyers can no longer significantly delay that decision.

“While market conditions are a far cry from activity witnessed throughout the frenzy in 2006 and 2007, there has been a noticeable change over what become the norm over the past few years.” Walters said.

Single-family year-over-year sales growth declined by six per cent in March, a reflection of declining supply. Active inventory totaled 2,713 units, 22 per cent lower than levels recorded in 2012, and the lowest March inventory level recorded since 2007. The market balance continues to trend into seller’s territory in this segment, causing a year-over-year price increase of nearly nine per cent, for a total of $446,500 in March 2013.

“Tighter rental conditions and continued employment growth has supported housing demand growth,” said Ann-Marie Laurie, CREB®’s chief economist. “However, for those looking for more affordable single-family home products, their choices continue to narrow.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Market Report, released in the fall, showed the apartment vacancy rate in the Calgary CMA declined to 1.3 in October 2012, down from 1.9 per cent in October 2011 and the third consecutive yearly decline.

Lurie said new single-family listings under $500,000 are declining at double-digit rates, driving consumers at that price point to either surrounding towns, condominiums or the new home market.

Calgary’s condominium townhouse market was the only category to record a year-over-year rise in sales activity for the month. This is in part because the level of new listings improved in March 2013 relative to March 2012. Condominium yearover- year apartment sales declined by nearly three per cent in March.

However, after the first quarter, sales activity totaled 830 units, a six per cent increase over the previous year. Condominium townhouse sales totaled 652 units at the end of the first quarter, a 15 per cent increase over the previous year.

“The condominium apartment market remains in balance,” said Lurie. “While it has moved to the lower end of the spectrum, it remains better supplied than the single-family market and the majority of product available is in an affordable price range.”

The benchmark apartment price totaled $257,700 in March, a six per cent increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, the condominium townhouse benchmark price experienced a year-over-year increase of four per cent, to $286,800.

“Despite tighter market conditions, it is unlikely that we will have another significant run-up in prices,” said Lurie. “Outside of easing economic factors expected this year, consumers have options in the total housing market.”

Gregory Klump, the Canadian Real Estate Association’s chief economist, said it’s too early in the year to draw sweeping conclusions.

“Until we get well into the summer months, year-over-year comparisons to months in the first half of 2012 are predictably going to be down significantly but not necessarily be indicative of further deterioration,” he said. “Rather, year-over-year comparisons will continue to reflect the long shadow cast by higher sales prior to last summer’s policy tightening. Looking at the monthly trend since then shows that we’ve been seeing reasonably stable trends for demand and prices.”

CREB® Regional Housing Statistics – March 2013

CREB® Monthly Housing Summary – March 2013

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Are you ready to buy a house? Read these home truths first

 

Ora Morison, Special to Financial Post | 13/03/28 | Last Updated:13/03/28 1:11 PM ET
More from Special to Financial Post

Homeownership for twentysomethings has been climbing steadily, but young people need to ask themselves some serious questions before taking the plunge.
FotoliaHomeownership for twentysomethings has been climbing steadily, but young people need to ask themselves some serious questions before taking the plunge.

  • Many young Canadians associate home ownership with their inevitable coming of age, but first-time buyers flocking to the housing market should be armed with knowledge.

As homeownership rates for those in their twenties have been steadily climbing over recent decades in all but the lowest category of income earners, many of these young people are entering the market without knowing much about buying their first home.

“I’ve been saving up for the down payment on the house probably since I was 21,” said Josh McMaster, a 28-year-old who works in accounting in Brantford, Ont.

He hopes to buy his first home within the next year and is looking for a place in the $215,000-$250,000 range. But despite diligently saving hefty portions of his paycheque over the years, Mr. McMaster said he hasn’t done much research beyond scanning local listings online and in the newspaper.

Combined with the fact that buying a home is such a huge financial commitment, inexperienced young home buyers need to be very careful before signing on the dotted line, said Gail Bebee, a personal finance author who is currently teaching a course on home buying at the University of Toronto.

It’s easy for young people to forget about additional costs of home ownership — things they never had to worry about while renting, Ms. Bebee said. These include ongoing maintenance costs, home insurance, and building up an emergency fund earmarked for surprise special assessments if they purchase a condo.

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Young people are often attracted to condos because of their size and proximity to downtown, but condos are among the most complicated properties to buy, Ms. Bebee said. In part, that’s because you’ve got to factor in costs such as condo fees, which condo unit owners can’t control.

Even if young people factor in home insurance, they might not consider that they’ll be paying additional insurance for their mortgage if they can’t afford a minimum 20% down payment.

“[Mortgage loan insurance] can add 4.75% to the value of the mortgage,” Ms. Bebee said. “Which is huge.”

Renting until you can afford a sizeable down payment can avoid that cost, but there is huge appeal — financial and otherwise — to home ownership.

“Once you rent, the money is gone forever,” Mr. McMaster said. “It doesn’t contribute to anything in the future. To have a house in the end, I think that’s great.”

And at his age, the time is right to buy, Mr. McMaster said. “I want to plant roots and start building a family,” he said.

Despite indications that many young people may be delaying settling down until later in their life, data indicate the trend toward home ownership among young Canadians is building. Statistics Canada research released in January shows nearly three-quarters of top-earning twentysomethings owned a home in 2006, the latest year for which there are data, up from 60% in 1981.

But if you’re not ready to settle down, locking yourself into homeownership might not be a smart decision, Ms. Bebee said.

“It depends on your individual needs. Some people are itinerant. They’re planning to move to another city or work overseas for a year,” she said.

Buying and selling within a short period of time means the transaction costs might exceed any gain you might make on your investment.

“Don’t think you are going to buy and move [within] a few years,” Ms. Bebee said. “You’ll make the lawyers rich.”

Because of all the upfront costs to buying, Ms. Bebee recommends planning for at least a five-year timeline in your first home. That means thinking about where you’ll be in your personal life that far down the road.

“You might be married, you could even have a kid,” she said. “You’ve got to forecast.”

 
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