Buyer's tip: Do the photos match the remarks?
Something to remember when shopping for a new home:
If the listing remarks make mention of a spectacular view of natural wetlands but the photos don't show said wetlands, you are being misled. (Photo isn't of the actual listing).
I previewed a property the other day that included this description: "The fourth-floor balcony provides breathtaking views of natural wetlands, allowing residents to enjoy the serene beauty of the surroundings."
The photos showed a few nice glimpses of a parking lot - that's all. In person, I leaned way over the balcony and risked falling onto the pavement to get a limited glimpse of the storm pond.
So, the lesson here is if the photos and the words don't jive, be weary.

Is this really a two bedroom condo?
The Calgary real estate market is going through a hot period and realtors are all getting more and more calls from potential buyers looking to get into the market and going for a condo because prices are still reasonable and interest rates are keeping them away from townhomes.

With that we get a lot of puzzled looks during showings when folks peek into the 'second bedroom' only to discover that it has no closet, no window and appears to be too small for a bed.

What gives?

It's a den right?

Following Alberta Real Estate Association advisement, a condo can be listed as two bedroom if a den/bedroom has a door with direct escape and has fire suppression (sprinklers). It doesn't have to have a window or a closet.

Every now and then someone posts their dismay on the Calgary realtors' Facebook page after they just wasted their clients' time looking at what they were led to believe was a two bedroom condo, only to discover the above situation. The thread of comments to these posts is endless and the opinions are varied.

Here's how to avoid the disappointment. Take a good run through all the listing photos to see what the second bedroom looks like. If you don't see a window to the world, it doesn't have one.

As well, read the details on the listing. Most times it will tell you the second bedroom can also be used as a den. That there tells you it's likely best used as a den. Look at the measurements, which are also listed, to see if it's big enough for a real bed.

You can also ask your realtor to check it out for you; most often they have access to a map of the condo, posted by the listing realtor in the supplement section on our listing system.

It's a bit of a nuisance doing all this but it beats driving downtown and finding parking only to see a condo that disappoints.


Would you live at 13 Black Cat Lane NW?
I ran into something the other day that I hadn't really thought of during my time in real estate.
I'm currently working with a lovely family looking to buy their first home and they are particularly interested in a townhouse complex where listings are being snapped up in a day with multiple offers.
Except for one home, which has been on the market now for almost a month with no takers. I've been inside and it is a nice home.
These folks won't go near the place because the house number is 13. Not sure if others looking at this house are backing off for the same reason but these folks have got triskaidekaphobia bad.
While we were discussing this they also told me the number 4 is also considered bad luck because it sounds too much like the word 'death' in Cantonese and Mandarin. Did not know that.
The number 8 is considered lucky, which is why you see it in so many listing prices.
In some towns and cities they won't allow the number 13 to be used in new developments and certainly you see a lot of buildings without the 13th floor. I read also that in Vancouver they had buildings go up without a fourth floor before it had to be outlawed.
I just did a search just now and in Alberta there are plenty of 13s available to purchase right now if you want one. As of April 22 there were 34 active listings in the province with that address. As well, there were 26 sales of homes with that address in the province over the past 30 days.
Apparently, a lot of people aren't bothered by the number 13.

What happens if your neighbour doesn't pay their condo fees?

I'm working with a super nice family right now, trying to find them their first home. They are looking at townhomes in the south of Calgary. This question came up yesterday:

What happens if another owner in the complex isn't paying their condo fees? Does it affect the other owners?

Here's the answer, which I pulled off the website of highly-respected Calgary real estate law firm Kahane Law ( that answers this question.

The condo corporation can do a number of things to collect what you owe, such as:

  • ask the condo owner’s mortgage company to repay the amount owed, who will add the debt to the total mortgage amount owed;
  • ask the tenant in the owner’s unit to pay the monthly rent to the corporation to pay for your condo fees;
  • file a caveat against the unit owner’s title;
  • charge interest on the amount owed (up to 18% per year!);
  • sue the owner for the amount owed, including the interest and full legal fees; and
  • foreclose on the owner’s title (take possession of condo unit ending your condominium ownership).

Also, if you owe money to your condo corporation for 30 days or more, you can lose your right to vote on important matters that impact the condo building, the Kahane Law blog post says.

Any real estate questions you want answered call, text or email me and I'll find out.



How to check to see if a realtor is licenced and in good standing in Alberta

Every month the Real Estate Council of Alberta comes out with a report of the most recent disciplinary actions against its members.

The report names names and can be found simply by going to the RECA website.

This past week a realtor was fined $48,000 and barred from practicing in the province for seven years "for breaching multiple codes of conduct."

You also can read more about this specific case in various local media reports that were published/posted on March 9.

This begs the question how do you know if the realtor you are using - or is trying to get your business - is "licenced and in good standing"? It's quite easy. The Real Estate Board of Alberta website has a place to search either by their name or brokerage.

Here's the link:

If searching a person, simply type in the licencee's first and last name and hit the search button. If the individual is licenced with RECA, a short profile will show including their status on the far left.

If the person you search shows a status of “suspended” or “cancelled” RECA's Disciplinary Decisions page may include more information about that person.

You may also request an official Licencing History Certificate to be prepared under Section 80 of the Real Estate Act if it is required as evidence in a legal proceeding.

If you have more questions you can just contact RECA through the Contact Us button on that page.



Seller's market vs. buyer's market

Everytime you read or hear something about real estate in the media these days the report mentions that we are in a seller's market in Calgary.

So I'm going to join the bombardment of information and quickly explain the difference too. I can't help myself.

A seller's market simply means there's a shortage of available properties for sale compared to the number of buyers looking. Makes sense.

This, naturally, benefits the sellers because the increased competition can drive up prices due to the increased demand.

This is happening in Calgary right now for detached homes in the under $600k price range, where there are plenty of situations developing where multiple offers are placed and homes are often being snapped up the day they are listed. It's a frustrating situation for sure for buyers and their realtors. Not so frustrating for sellers.

This isn't happening for all properties, though. If sellers price their homes wrong they can sit there for awhile. I'm dealing with this situation right now where I have a buyer who is interested in a place but knows (rightfully in this case) that the price isn't right and so he's backed off. That house has been active for more than four months now in a hot market with nary a price change. If it was priced right it would be gone. 

A buyer's market is the opposite situation. Duh. Lots of properties for sale and more opportunity to negotiate for buyers. Calgary had been in a buyer's market situation for a few years until the low interest rates came along and brought out the house hunters - both first time home buyers and those looking to move up.

If you have any questions about anything real estate related please shoot me an email.

Enjoy the weather.


Realtors are obligated to give you options for lawyers, inspectors, etc.

Quite often realtors are asked to help their clients find a good real estate lawyer, home inspector and mortgage broker.

Unless you buy and sell houses regularly or know someone who is one of the three, how many of us have one in our phone contacts?

One thing you should remember -  in Alberta at least -  is that when providing recommendations, your realtor is obligated to give you a list of at least three professionals that they either have worked with in the past or know to be very good based on a recommendation by a colleague. They can tell you what they know about each and you decide.

I'm writing this today because there may be some confusion out there in Calgary real estate land about the practice of realtors secretly accepting fees from these professionals to steer business in their direction. It's a no-no. If you are getting just one name from your realtor, ask for more.

Also ask them pointedly if they are getting a referral fee from that person. We are not allowed to accept a fee without disclosing it to you first. I'd be a bit suspicious if my realtor was pushing one person on me and I'd likely try to find someone else myself.

This issue is actually covered in clause 8.9 of a buyer representation agreement so if they have accepted a fee or gift without first telling you, you can file a complaint with the Real Estate Council of Alberta.

Here's the clause verbatim:

"We must not accept any other fees including finder's fees, referral fees, bonuses or gifts directly or indirectly related to the agreement, unless we first tell you in writing everything relevant about the payment and you consent in writing to the payment."


Market value vs. property assessment

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


Who pays for realtor fees and what are they?

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.


How to give a downpayment as a gift

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. 


Unfortunately it's time to winterproof your home

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.


Land titles an integral part of home ownership

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.

Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.