Jeff MacKinnon

Honest, hard working and thorough

City of Calgary property tax assessments are either in the mail or have already arrived at homes.

A story about the subject published online by CBC Calgary may have once again caused confusion for those who are considering selling their property. Certainly the way it was worded caused consternation among the city's realtors.

Realtors often have to explain to potential clients that the assessment handed them by the city does not necessarily mean they will get that price if they put in on the market. You may get more or you may get less, which isn't much of an answer I know.

The city has its own assessors while realtors have their own way of coming up with a recommended price and they will present their recommendations to you in something called a Comparative Market Analysis.

Realtors actually ignore the city's number and hope that form you are about to get isn't waved in their face. It doesn't really factor in to coming up with a price for your listing. Recent sales of comparable properties in the neighbourhood, features of your home, the community it's located in are among some of the factors.

I came across this explanation from an American realtor named Bill Gassett from a few years ago that can explains it quite nicely:


 "In summary, assessed value is a valuation placed on a property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation. Fair market value, on the other hand, is the agreed upon price between a willing and informed buyer and seller under usual and ordinary circumstances. It is the highest price which the property will bring when exposed for sale on the open market to a buyer who is purchasing with full knowledge of the properties highest and best use."


Regards, Jeff

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The townsite of Redwood Meadows has a new lease agreement with Tsuut’ina Nation that when signed will secure the community's future for another 75 years.

After many years of negotiations, both sides voted on a lease extension this week that will take a new deal to 2095. The original lease has 29 years remaining and was set to expire in August, 2049.

The extension was approved by a vote of 98 per cent in Redwood Meadows on Friday. Details of the Tsuut’ina vote have not been released.

The community is located 38 kilometres west of Calgary along the Elbow River off Highway 22.

Redwood Meadows was originally established in 1974 on Tsuut’ina land and developed in two phases - the South section first followed by the North in the late 1980s and early 90s. There are currently 350 homes in the community and approximately 1,200 residents.

A lease extension is expected to benefit real estate and property values in the community, Mayor Paul Sawyer told Rocky View News.

 “Once you get down below 30 years, the banks will only issue mortgages … For the term of the lease, minus five years,” Redwood Meadows Mayor Paul Sawler he said in an interview prior to the vote.

“When it’s down to 25 (years) all of a sudden people moving into Redwood Meadows can only get a 20-year mortgage.”

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Some potentially big news came out Friday when a Canadian bank announced it was going to offer an interest rate below one per cent.

It's believed that HSBC announcing a variable rate of 0.99 is the first time a major Canadian bank has advertised a rate below one per cent.

It's a five-year variable rate for high-ratio mortgages where the buyers have put less than 20 per cent down on a owner-occupied property.

The Bank of Canada has promised to keep its posted interest rates low until at least 2023 in response to the COVID pandemic and the pandemic so far not slowed real estate business in the country.

The Calgary Real Estate Board just released it's monthly report for November in which it revealed improved sales in its jurisdiction for a sixth-straight month. This coincides with the Calgary market showing a reduction in available listings. On a year-to-date basis, new listings have eased by nearly 10 per cent and are at the lowest level recorded since 2001, CREB's report stated.

“The gains in sales in the latter part of this year have been a bit surprising considering the job losses and unemployment rate in our city,” said CREB chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“However, it is important to note that the shift to more balanced conditions has been mostly driven by the reduction of supply.”

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If you are looking for a great place in the city of Calgary to pick up a Christmas tree and you want to support a worthy volunteer organization, try the 3st Scouts Group.

It is 100 per cent Scout volunteer run and all proceeds go directly to 31st St. Cyprians Scouts located in Capitol Hill  

They start their Christmas tree selling effort Saturday, Nov. 29. The lot will be open until they run out of trees.

The lot is located conveniently at the Holy Cross Anglican Church at  2828 19 St NW.

You can pick up a tree Monday to Friday noon to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

Here are your options:

  • $20-35 Douglas Fir
  • $65 Balsam Fir
  • $95 Fraser Fir
Starting this year the Scouts also offer online purchases  at https://31stScoutGroup.square.site.
 
 
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The Alberta Real Estate Association announced Wednesday they have reinstuted a ban on all in-person open houses in the province.

The restriction follows stricter guidelines put in place by the province on Tuesday to combat the rise of COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

The Alberta government mandated that professional services businesses, such as lawyers and accountants, be able to work by appointment only and AREA followed suit for its realtors after meeting Wednesday morning.

Showings can continue by appointment only and are limited to two family-unit members at a time. Both potential buyers and sellers can be asked to sign a COVID-19 release form prior to viewing available homes.

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REAL ESTATE sales activity in Calgary rose almost 12 per cent in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year.

The Calgary Real Estate Board released their third quarter report earlier this week.

The increase is attributed to lower interest rates and previous price declines, the report says.

There were gains in all property types except for condominiums, which are down nearly 11 per cent for the same period in 2019,

 “As the economy started to re-open, we saw some improvements in the economic indicators,”  CREB chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie said in a news release.

“Most industries are not back to pre-pandemic levels, but over the past three months we have seen notable improvement across most industries.”

To receive a copy of the complete report email me at homesinalberta@gmail.com

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I remember when I bought my first home with my wife — a townhome in Inglewood — we both weren't quite sure how the realtor fees worked. It was no biggie, because it was explained to us.

Still, now that I'm in the business I am very conscious of explaining it right away so there's no confusion. I'm dealing with a lot of first-time home buyers these days and they are naturally wondering about how much this is going to wind up costing them.

Typically, realtor fees are seven per cent of the first $100,000 and three per cent of balance of sale price and those fees are split between the buyer's realtor and the seller's realtor.

That's normally how it works and so there's no confusion when I'm dealing with buyers I write an extra line into our agreement that all fees are paid by the seller.

If you are thinking about buying a home and are curious about something please call or shoot me an email.

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It's not my listing but a very unique property went on the market in the Calgary area a couple of days ago.

It's been called the Hobbit house and it's tucked into the hillside on 160 acres near Millarville, about 20 minutes from the city's southwest edge.

Built in 1971, this 1,036 square foot comes with an incredible view of the mountains naturally. A mix of pasture and woods as well as a natural pond featuring all sorts of wildlife, says the listing.

 The home was designed by Bill Milne, the architect behind the Calgary Tower and the city's pathway system.

It's very hard to see says the daughter of the builders, who grew up in the house, in an interview with CBC Calgary for a story that you can find on CBC.ca.

If you are up for the challenge of trying to find it it's at 258229 144 Street W.

"My parents were trying to figure out where a good spot would be. They really didn't want it visible on the ridge. They didn't want any of the neighbours to be able to just see this house, because to them, that would be a bit of an eyesore," Karen Lightstone told CBC.

If you go back to my home page and cut and paste C4305504 into the search window you'll be able to see all of the interior photos, which aren't available with the CBC story.

Here's the CBC link to some drone footage.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/hobbit-house-calgary-bill-milne-architecture-real-estate-1.5669331

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We woke up to some fresh snow on Thursday and according to the weather reports we will see some above 0C weather for the next few days. Perfect conditions to get outside and do something.

If cross country skiing is your thing and you are new to Calgary - or its your new thing in Calgary - there are plenty of options for enjoying some nordic skiing in Calgary.

The City of Calgary has even provided a list of both groomed and ungroomed locations that you can visit. I've attached a list of the tracked sites here and their website also details some ungroomed locations around the city and some out-of-town destinations. That doesn't include Redwood Meadows, where I usually ski. (It's a flat five-kilometre tracked trail that is ideal for beginners.)

Enjoy the outdoors.


Groomed sites within the city limits according to https://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Cross-country-skiing.aspx:


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When it comes to down payments for purchasing a home, there are a few options available to be able to make the down payment. Mortgage requirements state that at least a 20% down payment needs to be put on the home. This down payment acts as a safe guard to the lender if the mortgage is defaulted on.

In the event the 20% down payment is not available, then mortgage insurance through CMHC would be the next step. With CMHC, a 5% down payment is only required, while the mortgage insurance protects the lender.

Gift as down payment: Lenders will allow a gift of a down payment from a family member to help secure a mortgage. However, a gift from a friend or co-worker will be considered as a loan and expected to be repaid. If you require mortgage insurance through CMHC, you can only receive the down payment gift from an immediate relative and only for a 1-4 unit property.

Home Buyer’s Program: The government allows you to withdraw from your RRSP penalty free to provide a down payment for a home providing the amount that was withdrawn is paid back into your RRSPs within 15 years.

Non-registered investments: If you have non-registered investments, you can use that for a down payment, but, be aware, there will most likely be tax implications for withdrawing the funds.

Borrowing the money: Some lenders will provide a down payment loan; however, the credit of the home buyer must be in excellent standing and not fall out of the limits of the debt ratios.

Cash back: If the bank is offering a mortgage product with a cash back option attached to it, then the cash back can be used toward the down payment. 


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Clean the Gutters: Remove leaves and debris, unclog drains, and rinse away any dirt. This will extend the life of your gutters and help water drain easier once spring comes.


Check and Fix Leaks: Check your home for any indoor and outdoor leaks and drafts. Drafts can be checked by using a lighter and watching for a flickering flame. If the flame flickers, there are issues. Places to check: Electrical sockets, door jams, and windows. Some areas can easily be fixed by caulking around the areas with leaks.


Insulation: Add more insulation to the existing insulation in the attic. This will warm your home and cut down on the heating bill


Furnace: Get the furnace cleaned and checked once per year. Also, change the furnace filters at least once per year. Doing so will help your furnace perform better.


Windows: Windows will eventually need to be replaced because of the shifting of the house over a period of time. If the windows haven’t been replaced in 20 years, it might be time to check into cost and when they can be replaced. If you cannot replace the windows, then use a window insulator kit, which will help keep the cold out.


Chimney: Have a professional clean the chimney so you won’t have issues when you light the first fire of winter.

Ceiling Fans: The ceiling fan can be used for both summer and winter. Reverse the direction that you used in the summer for winter use, and it will distribute warm air throughout the room.


Outdoor Water: When you are ready to do so, and before winter settles in, turn off the valves leading to the outdoor taps.

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Land titles are an integral part of home ownership and a necessity when taking possession of a new home. A Land title protects the owner from anyone trying to claim right to the property.

Who handles the processing of land titles?

Service Alberta provides the registering of land ownership rights, while the Land Titles Act provides the legislative agenda for the registering of the land related documents.

What are Land Titles?                               

Land titles are a registering of ownership or possession of land. This is a recorded, and important, legal document that indicates who owns the property.

The most common documents related to Land Titles are:

Builder’s Lien: A builder (contractor, subcontractor, supplier, and labourer) may put a lien on the property as a way to collect money owed on any work that has been completed on the property.

Caveat: A person can register a caveat if they are claiming an interest in a certain piece of land, even if there is already ownership indicated on the property. However, a caveat does require court proceedings to determine the validity of the claim.

Discharge: This is the process of removing or withdrawing a name from the title of the property. 

Mortgage: This is the loan or the money borrowed to purchase the property.

Transfer of Land: This is when land is transferred from one party to another, between the buyer and the seller.

Utility Right of Way: Typically granted to gas and oil pipelines and municipal utilities to give them a ‘right of way’ or permission across many parcels of land.

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One of the biggest annual cultural events in Calgary is happening again May 11 in Martindale and it is open to everyone.
A gathering of more than 50,000 people from across the province and Canada are expected for the Nagar Kirtan parade. It is considered to be the second largest parade in Calgary after the Stampede parade.
Organized by the Dashmesh Culture Centre every year and people from all cultures and communities are invited to take part in the celebrations.
The parade starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 3:30 p.m. Dashmesh Culture Centre is located at 135 Martindale Blvd NE.
“This is the day we celebrate equality and freedom and justice for all,” Gurmeet Bhatia, event organizer, told CTV prior to the 2018 parade.
 “Basically, it’s walking around the community, singing and creating that good vibe and spirituality for everyone,” said Bhatia.
 “It’s a great day to enjoy it. You’ll learn more about the Sikh community, you’ll learn about the religion, history as well as there’s martial arts you can look at and there’s free food and we’re also collecting money for the Calgary Food Bank.”
Calgary has the third largest Sikh population in Canada.
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This fantastic hike through the rolling hills of Southern Alberta could not be more conveniently located for city dwellers in Calgary or residents of the MD of Foothills.

The 4,800 acre property is just southwest of the city off Highway 22x. It is the creation of Ann and Sandy Cross (one of the Stampede's Big 4), who began buying up land in 1945. In 1987 the couple donated the first 2,000 acres to the Province of Alberta as a preserve. The remaining 2,800 acres was donated in 1996, bringing the total area to 12 square kilometres.

The area is accessed by a parking lot and once on the trails visitors get an amazing view of both the city skyline to the orth and the rolling ranchland to the south and the mountains to the west.

About 20 kilometres of trails criss-cross the northern part of the property, passing through stands of aspen and vast seas of tall grass, travel writer Lauren Krugel explained in a Canadian Press story from 2017. Krugel wrote: When you stop walking, the only sound you hear is the wind. It's possible to spend hours in the area without encountering another human.

The area is open year around and is especially popular with school groups.

Among its newest residents are two beavers, released in May of 2018 by the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC).

Some important information if you are planning to visit:

The park is closed daily between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. and visitors must sign up a kiosk at the parking lot. There is no entrance fee but donations are appreciated.

Horses, pets and bicycles or any other vehicles are not allowed.

The conservation area's website is www.crossconservation.org.



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There are the usual factors we need to take into account when we choose a new neighbourhood like proximity to good schools, access to main roads, low crime stats, ecetera. Everyone has the same 'wants' pretty much.
But, one there's another new one, apparently — the 'Starbucks Effect' and stories I've read recently are telling me it is a real thing.
If you see a new Starbucks open up somewhere in Calgary it's supposed to be a sign that that neighbourhood is going to be a good buy eventually in terms of real estate.
Stuff I've read says that the company has a couple dozen analytics experts sequestered somewhere studying maps and data like traffic patterns and what other businesses are opening up nearby. They employ regional teams to do their own research on local factors before deciding on store locations; all so they can get into a community and get the best spot before someone else does.
I just Googled 'Starbucks in Calgary' and found out there are 50 locations in the city right now. I try to remember as many as I can if only for the free Wifi and because they are good spots for meeting people for the first time.
Now, having a Tim Hortons in your neighbourhood is another thing all together. Convenient yes maybe, but who wants one down the street? I remember a few years back hearing that the folks in Inglewood raised a stink when Tim's tried to open in their community. There isn't one there I don't believe so they obviously won the fight. A NIMBY to Timmy's. There's a Starbucks there kitty corner to Recordland and I've used their Internet a few times.
Having a Starbucks in your area can improve property values according to research done in the States, which revealed that between 1997 and 2014 properties within a quarter-mile of a Starbucks had their value rise by 96 per cent compared to 65 per cent for all others. I'm not sure about that and I'm sure not sure this is holding true in Canada  during this current challenging market.
However, if there's a Starbucks within walk distance of one of my listings I make mention of it in my description.

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On Monday news came out of Nova Scotia that a home seller was scammed out of a few thousand dollars by someone who appeared to be their realtor.

An email told them to e-transfer some money to be held in trust pending a home inspection. After the money was accepted the client called the realtor only to find out the realtor hadn't asked for any money. The realtor's emailed was hacked.

If you haven't bought a property before or haven't in eons, you should know that there is no reason for your realtor to ask you for money. If you are providing a deposit on a new home, the bank draft or certified cheque is made out to the selling realtor's brokerage and it is held in trust. Say, for example, you buy a property that I've listed the draft is made out to Maxwell Canyon Creek. Your realtor comes and picks up the money from you and delivers it to my office and you get a stamped copy of the cheque so you know it's there. You can deliver it yourself if you wish.

No cash. No e-transfer. Nothing.

Home buyers do pay for their own home inspection but it's done on site immediately after the inspection is completed. The realtor isn't involved.

So, if you get an email from your realtor asking for money just ignore it.  Like any email asking for money, right?

The only variation of this is if you are not in the immediate area and it can't be delivered in person. In that case, the selling brokerage provides your realtor with their bank's information. You go to your bank, send a wire transfer and it goes into the selling brokerage's trust account from there.

Tacked on the bottom of the Canadian Press story I read about this case is the following message:

If you or a family member has fallen victim to this fraud, please report to your local police service, as well as to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Contact the anti-fraud centre by phone at 1-888-495-8501 or online at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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A pretty gross photo showed up on Facebook this week from a Calgary realtor.

It was the carpet in a room at one of her listings. Another realtor brought clients to see the home and they brought their dog, which left something behind.

The prospective buyers were obviously not keeping track of the dog and looks like the other realtor didn't go around and make sure everything was left the way they found it.

It spawned a rather lengthy thread where naturally the consensus was: what the fudge!

Turns out the showing realtor was horrified when confronted and paid for the carpet to be cleaned.

There's only been a couple of times that I've had people show up an an open house with their pets. They've both been pocket dogs that stayed in their owner's arms the entire time. I know this because I followed them around the house to make sure the dog wasn't let down to lift its leg on a lamp.

If you must bring your dog with you for whatever reason I found this common sense practice  on a Houzz discussion. Do this:

 
Take the dog with you when viewing homes. If weather permits, leave the dog in the car for a bit while everyone views the home. But if leaving dog in car won't work (weather, realtor's car, etc) , then you can decide to have one dog owner stay outside with the dog while the other views the home dogless.

However, what if husband and wife love the home and want to view it together to discuss options. Maybe they both viewed the home individualy already while the dog stayed outside with the other person.

When we were looking, if my husband and I happened to be driving around with the dog and saw an open house, we would leave the dog in the car or if it was hot, one of us would stay outside with the dog, while the other looked.


I've offered to hang out with dogs in the front yard when people out walking their buddy have stumbled across my open house and wanted to take a peek. So far no one has taken me up on the offer.

Service dogs are another story. As someone pointed out on thread they are always well trained/behaved.  I've never had that anyone bring their service dog to a listing either. Aren't service dogs always Labs? Labs are cool.

I read recently that someone wanted to bring their service chicken on a plane with them. Wonder what I would do if that ever happened at an open house. I would offer to hold the chicken for them I guess.

I'd write a blog about that for sure.



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Interesting story in Tuesday's Globe and Mail about the practice of terminating listings and then relisting so the 'days on market' or DOM starts from scratch. Kind of like turning the odomoter back to zero.

The story focused on the Toronto market, but it's done everywhere.

Just a couple of minutes ago, on my morning scan of new listings, I saw a brand new listing where this was just done. First day on the market? Not really.

I opened up 'Property History' — which is not available to the public — to discover it was taken off the market in September after a rather lengthy time without any action. By leaving it off the market for a month the clock started back on Day 1. Pulling it off the market one day and putting it back on the next does the same thing in the public eye.

So, if you are working with a realtor make sure you ask them to send you the property history for every home you are considering. It tells you if the sellers had it listed before, for how long, at what original list price and as well any price reductions along the way. It also tells you when it last sold and for how much.

You want to know how long it has been on the market in total —  cumulative days on the market (CDOM) —  since it first became available and if there were any price reductions since that time. What did it start out at in terms of price?

Days on the market (DOM) can be a bit of trickery. Sometimes, though, the listing period just ran and it just needs to be relisted all on the up and up.

Same thing if you walk into an open house — ask for CDOM not DOM.

The story details one home in Toronto that was listed three times between Sept. 11 and Oct. 15 then sold on the third try with a $400,000 price reduction. The record would only show the DOM of the last listing period so it affects the market statistics for that area.

It could also be that the listing expired a month ago and it took the sellers a month to find another realtor to go with.

However, the most important consideration in all this is: Do you like the house or not? If you do, does it really matter how long it's been sitting there? It may just be the sellers listed too high and it's taken them awhile to get to a realistic price. Maybe they had a conditional sale and it fell through over financing? Your realtor can find out.

If there's something wrong with the home, a good home inspector will tell you, so you can't sign a non-waiver of conditions and move on.

Days on the market can be longer these days because it's not exactly a great market and there are fewer sales than in past years.

You want to know everything you can about a property and CDOM vs. DOM is an important distinction.

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Among all the countless reports and stories published within the past week about the legalization of marijuana in Canada, one in particular caught my eye because I'm a realtor.

It dealt with a poll regarding selling a home where legal marijuana was grown. Often polls aren't accurate, but let's for a minute assume this one is legit.

Huffington Post reported on a Zoocasa poll that suggested 52 per cent of Canadians would be less likely to consider buying a home in which legal marijuana was grown.

The poll maintains that Baby Boomers (54 to 72) and Gen Xers (38-53) were more likely than Millennials (22 to 37) to skip buying a house where mariijuana was grown. As of of Oct. 17, you can grow up to four marijuana plants in your home.

So, given this information and the likelihood that one day you or your descendants will be selling your property, would it be wise to think twice about growing marijuana in your home even though, as proponents argue, a small amount isn't likely to damage your home?

Consider that realtors are now going to include in purchase contracts a term that will ask whether the seller has ever grown marijuana in the home. If the answer is yes, how many buyers are going to move on to another property? According to this poll, plenty.

I'll even be asking the listing realtor when I book a showing. If they shy away from an answer, I'll pass that on to my clients.

As a buyer's realtor, I'd ask my clients that if the seller admits to growing four plants at a time, what's the likelihood  they actually had more than that going at once. After all, no one is going to be watching anymore. Who will really know how green their thumb actually is or what's been going on in their basement.

As well, if they grew pot in their home, what's the likelihood that they also sat on their couch and smoked it?

For those who argue that it's not a big deal — that marijuana doesn't leave a smell or get into the walls — ask yourself why someone would buy a smoker's house when there are plenty of attractive properties available where no one had previously smoked or grown marijuana. 

I've only had one client tell me they didn't care that a place we were considering was a smoker's house and that person also didn't buy the condo in question and it was eventually taken off the market and continued as a rental.

According to this poll three in 10 millenials believe that growing marijuana in a home lowers the resale value. To me that's a significant number.

If you are marketing your home to a younger buyer, if this poll is correct you are going to lose a healthy chunk of your market if you have grown marijuana in your home. If you are marketing to everyone, again if this poll is remotely accurate more than half of your potential market is going to stay away.

If you are a marijuana user who plans to grow your own pot, you need to sit down and have a relaxing puff on your  deck and think hard about beginning your in-home gardening project.

No one knows how all this is going to turn out in terms of real estate so maybe wait til some of the answers are made clear.

I guess, from a realtor's perspective, my buyer could get a smokin' good deal if they buy from a weed afficionado.

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