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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Men and women are different homebuyers too

It is a well known fact that men and women tend to have different approaches to many situations, and purchasing a home is apparently one of those situations. While purchasing a home had been traditionally a male domain in decades past, women have emerged on the home buying scene, with expressed housing needs and tastes.  Also, statistics show that over the last decade, the face of the homebuyer has shifted somewhat, with many more single women opting to jump into the homeownership pool, rather than waiting to be part of a couple. According to a Royal Lepage survey, upwards of 30% of single women own their own home.

Keeping in mind that men and women may approach a property differently, there are certain things that a REALTOR® must consider when assisting a buyer to select a property, according to Sundaybell, an online company specializing in matching homebuyers and sellers with their ideal agent.

Although men and women tend to look for different things when buying a home, there is also much they have in common. And that's where the value of working with a real estate professional comes in. "A good REALTOR® will take both parties' concerns and preferences into account, and find a compromise solution that addresses everyone's wants and needs," says Andrew Brest, VP Marketing of Sundaybell Inc. Lee Redwood, Sundaybell's VP Sales agrees. "A part of an agent's job is to sometimes act as a bridge between partners, helping them to understand the other's point of view."

Differences in preferences between men and women, and the presence of them in the marketplace has caused some to take notice; Coldwell Banker did a survey to explore fully what these home buying differences were, and if Realtors should be tailoring their marketing and support efforts.

Some key differences that the survey revealed were that women tended to make decisions more quickly.  70% of women knew straightaway upon viewing a home that it was the one for them, whereas only 62% of men felt that sure, that quickly. Men apparently needed a little more “tire kicking”, and required more return visits than their female counterparts to finalize a decision.
It terms of location being an important factor, only 37% of men felt that location was one of the most important things when buying a home, compared to 55% of women respondents. In the matter of security, men and women found some common ground, both valuing it as important.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Caution in the wind for 2012 mortgage forecast

 A new year invariably brings thoughts of change, predictions for the future and forecasts of good or bad or something in between.When it comes to the Canadian mortgage industry, experts point to a vulnerable global marketplace as a backdrop for the tepid economic predictions being issued by Canadian economists.
As a result, experts are calling for what might be described as a cautiously optimistic outlook for 2012 with the emphasis on cautiously. Expect a number of challenges.
Toronto mortgage agent David Larock thinks 2012 will be marked by less borrowing overall. “I think 2012 will be a tough year for economies everywhere, including Canada,” Larock says, “and with our domestic mortgage rates already at record low levels, there is little scope for further reductions in borrowing costs to stimulate our real estate markets the way they have over the past several years.” Larock believes that will naturally work to slow borrowing and, if that doesn’t occur, he suspects another round of mortgage rule changes as federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tries to rein in overall consumer debt levels.
In March, Flaherty effectively removed marginal borrowers from the market by reducing the maximum amortization on a mortgage from 35 years to 30 years, reducing refinancing of mortgages from 90% to 85%, and withdrawing government backing from HELOC’s. However, the impact on the market was quite negligible.
Leslie Penney, a St. John’s mortgage broker, suspects the government will crack down on mortgages once again next year. He thinks that because lately he’s noticed that insurers are scrutinizing and requiring more documentation on many deals that wouldn’t have been requested previously. Regardless, Penney believes if the government is truly concerned about household debt it should consider enforcing tighter guidelines with respect to credit cards and lines of credit, which are just too easy to obtain and may get out of control.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this should be the area to focus on to reduce consumer’s vulnerability to increased debt and subsequent economic changes,” says Penney.
While Flaherty’s mortgage changes did not bode well especially for first-time buyers, Calgary mortgage broker Tyler Tost expects low interest rates will save the day come 2012. He believes rates will stay low in order to stimulate the economy and the housing market, which he expects will continue to grow throughout next year. “When money is this cheap that’s obviously when people get their foot in the door,” says Tost. “They realize it may not get any better than this.” He’s even heard rumblings that interest rates could continue downward. “There’s talk that fixed rates could drop lower yet,” says Tost. “I don’t know how much lower they could go, but there’s indicators that there’s room in the bond market that rates could drop further.”
Penney, however, doubts rates will fall further especially during the early part of the year. “Again, there’s just so much volatility, and with Europe on the brink of a recession, it will certainly delay any rate hikes in the short term,” he says.
“Europe faced tough choices. But as so many economists have predicted, 2012 will start slow; however, we’ll have to hang tight to see what will transpire later in the year.  With some economists predicting a drop in Canadian housing prices of 5 to 10 %, appraisals will likely become more contentious, says Larock. He points out that appraised values tend to agree with market values in a real estate market that’s rising, but in one that’s dropping values come in lower than market values and therein lies the problem. “This will be an issue for purchasers with small down payments who are hard pressed to come up with more money, and for refinancing borrowers who are looking to pull equity out of their homes,” he says. “Also, I expect to see fewer ‘drive-by’ or casual appraisals and more full appraisals, which are more expensive and which borrowers are often required to pay for.”
For that growing segment of self-employed Canadians (approximately 16 % in 2010, according to Statistics Canada), borrowing money in 2012 will be more difficult, says Kristian Harris, a mortgage broker with Traditional lending institutions loosened their lending rules about a decade ago, says Harris, which was good news for the approximately 2.7 million Canadians who are self-employed. But with OSFI cracking down recently expect banks and traditional credit unions to pull in the reins. The problem for this segment of the population is that they whittle down their incomes in an effort to pay less in income tax, but that bodes poorly for them when it’s time to get a loan. “It’s going to make it tougher for these people to get mortgages,” says Harris. “Of course, there will always be a lender will to loan them money, but they’ll have to pay higher rates.”
Larock believes it will be game on between banks and non-bank lenders as competition heats up between the two thanks to expanded staffing, product offerings and improved contract terms that make their contract terms and conditions more competitive. The banks have the brand recognition and huge advertising budgets, says Larock, but rely on a lot of inexperienced advisors, while non-banks generally have better offerings and more experienced planners in their corner, but they spend almost nothing on advertising.
But Penney believes this extra competition could actually be good for business for both sides. “This may be good for two reasons. Once, they believe that the mortgage business has a positive outlook and should experience growth and they want to ensure they get their share, and two, the more that come into the business on the bank side may end up increasing our presence as well. If the banks didn’t believe we were getting some of their business they wouldn’t increase their presence.”
Larock also believes mortgage professionals need to pay closer attention to smarter, technology-savvy consumers, who can learn and acquire knowledge online as opposed to putting their faith in a mortgage professional.  “The mortgage experts who embrace this trend and help to educate clients during their decision making process will thrive,” he says, “and those who don’t or can’t will find it tough sledding.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Holiday Wish......

Check out:
Page 22.
Paul and Diane Laflamme
Royal LePage Village

Yesterday, my friend, Louise from from Charlottetown, P.E.I. sent me this link. I do receive many beautiful videos from friends, however this one really stands out. At this time of the year, we take time to reflect upon all the things we are grateful for.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paul and Diane Laflamme
Royal LePage Village

Expect a fairly stable real estate market in 2012, says Pundits

Experts are calling for a bit of a mixed bag in Canadian real estate for 2012. Housing market prognosticators say next year will be marked by bursts of growth in certain hot regional markets throughout the country combined with a cooling trend in other areas, namely that of robust markets such as Toronto.
Look for mixed market signals in Canadian real estate as a market theme in 2012 as cities like Halifax and Edmonton and Calgary will begin to feel a marked increase in demand for real estate purchases, with average price increases beginning late in the year, according to says Vancouver real estate consultant Don Campbell. Toronto’s hot market will start to ease off next year, although its condo real estate market will remain stable.
“Sophisticated homeowners and investors will have to dig a little deeper, especially in 2012 and 2013, to find out how their region is performing because Canada is really going to be a tale of regions over the next few years,” says Campbell, a real estate investor and author. “Where one region is booming, the next may be underperforming.”
Expect price moderation in Toronto in the neighbourhood of five to 10 per cent, says Todd Hirsch, a senior economist with ATB Financial in Calgary. “There could be a little more worry of a small bubble (bursting) in Toronto,” says Hirsch, “because the Ontario economy in 2012 will likely cool off a bit, not tremendously, though. You won’t see a recession.”If you’re thinking the same for Vancouver, think again, advises Hirsch. Given that Vancouver is the destination of choice for Asian investors, prices there will remain far higher than what they are in Calgary and Toronto. This will likely continue into 2012, predicts Hirsch, who expects the Chinese economy will moderate next year although not enough to prevent its citizens from wanting to invest in Canada’s west coast real estate market.
But the markets in Toronto and especially Vancouver, which comprise approximately 40 per cent of Canadian real estate, should be eyed carefully by home buyers or investors. According to Campbell, time lines should run short at 12 to 18 months or long at five years or more as statistics show signs of market turmoil in the medium term (19 months to four years) as interest rates begin to edge up, inventory outstrips population demand. That’s when speculators will try to dump properties and market confidence will be lower. In Calgary and Edmonton expect stable prices, says Hirsch.
Saskatchewan is where you’ll find the best real estate deals in the country with the average house price in Saskatoon running at $320,000. That province also has the lowest unemployment figures in Canada with unemployment pegged at three per cent in Regina.
Halifax and St. John’s are stand alone in Atlantic Canada as those two cities experience an unrivalled economic boom right now. House prices in those cities could actually gain a little in 2012.
As for the rest of Atlantic Canada, notes Hirsch, much of it is a depressed economy in which its rural areas are being hollowed out as residents leave the countryside for jobs in urban areas.Quebec City’s economy is faring not too badly these days as its house prices are undervalued at about one third below the national average.
Still, growth in Quebec will be a bit sluggish in 2012 with no real strong real estate gains. While its economy will be sluggish, keep in mind the province’s housing prices are not as overvalued as in Toronto so you won’t see as much deflationary pressure as in Toronto. While the province is not looking at a recession in 2012, the year will be economically softer.
Strong real estate markets will be in Canadian regions where job growth continues, low unemployment rates continue to drop and where there’s a  migration of people with jobs (as opposed to retirees), says Campbell, who cites Halifax, Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, Hamilton, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, St. John, Dawson Creek and Surrey as having the most stable markets.“Many Canadians will be fooled into thinking that their home value is either increasing or decreasing because of reports that are released discussing the ‘Average Price in Canada,’ “ he says, “producing either a false sense of confidence or a false sense of doom, depending on the report of the month.”

According to CREA, the national housing market is edging closer to being a seller’s market.“The Canadian housing market is proving resilient in the face of ongoing global economic and financial uncertainty, to the benefit of Canadian economic growth,” said Gary Morse, CREA’s president. “That said, some housing markets are picking up, while others are holding steady or consolidating.”
A quarterly economic forecast by TD Economics economist Francis Fong indicates that the low interest rate environment coupled with slowing jobs and income growth, especially in the first six months of 2012, will hold back resurgence in housing activity. Expect a slight pullback in homes sales and prices to the tune of one to two per cent. “Looking ahead, 2012 will likely be a much more subdued year for the housing market,” wrote Fong in her report released this week.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The staff at the Apple store in Fairview Shopping Center are amazing. If you want to see real customer service, this is it! The Apple employees are helpful and they know the Apple products inside and out. Today I watched the staff serve clients from all different age groups and backgrounds. Not only were they courteous but from their body language I could see they were listening, had eye contact, were smiling and were patient. The Apple employees love their products but most importantly, they like what they are doing.....helping people. Every time I am in that store, I "feel good". I like to be with people who make me feel good.
I ♥ Apple.
Yes, in 2012 - I'm buying a Mac.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

Tis the season! The holidays are a wonderful time of goodwill, giving thanks, and gathering around warm fires with loved ones. The holiday season also includes festive celebrations centered around delicious food. Holiday parties are often times of inviting friends and family members to a buffet. Since buffets involve foods being left out for long periods of time, you may find a few unwanted guests showing up to your party--bacteria! A bacterium, which is an invisible enemy that can't always be seen, tasted or smelled, can multiply rapidly in warm, moist environments, including food surfaces. When you consume a food that is out of the "time-temperature safety zone," you expose yourself to harmful bacteria that can potentially cause food-borne illnesses. But there's no need to be a Grinch--you can enjoy the festivities of the holiday season while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe with some easy food safety tips.

Use Safe Food Handling Practices

The first step in preventing food-borne illnesses is to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food. Also make sure to clean your kitchen surfaces, dishes, and utensils. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and produce.

Cook Foods to the Proper Internal Temperature

You'll need a food thermometer to ensure that your foods reach the safe minimum internal temperatures.
  • All raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts should be cooked to 145° F. Allow the meat to rest for about 3 minutes before you carve and serve it. These meats can certainly be cooked to a higher internal temperature if you prefer.
  • All raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 160° F.
  • All poultry should be cooked to 165° F.
Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

Hold hot foods at 140° F or warmer using chafing dishes, slow cookers, or warming trays. Hold cold foods at 40° F or colder by storing them in bowls of ice.

Use the Two-Hour Rule

Never allow foods to remain out on the buffet for longer than 2 hours. Monitor how long foods have been sitting out, and promptly refrigerate foods before they reach the two-hour mark. Discard any foods left out for 2 hours or more.

Be Egg-stra Safe around Eggs

You will eat a variety of foods during the holidays, many of which are made with eggs. Uncooked eggs can contain a dangerous bacterium called Salmonella enteritidis. You may be whipping up cookies, cakes, pies, and other tasty treats that include eggs in the recipes. The amazing aromas may entice you to lick the spoon or bowl, but avoid the temptation if the recipe contains raw eggs.

Following these simple food safety tips will ensure that you and your family remain safe during the holiday season. Bon app├ętit!

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at

Monday, December 12, 2011

When is the best time of year to sell a house?

Is there such a thing as a best time of year to sell a house? Certainly, seasonal factors come into play when trying to sell a home, but there are other things to consider as well, like the tug and pull of supply and demand, as well as unique local market conditions.
No matter when a home goes on the market, one should take a few things under consideration that will likely affect not just the ability to sell a property, but more importantly the ability to get your asking price. Timing, it seems, is everything.
The Economy
While the economy does not follow the predictable ebb and flow of the seasonal changes in real estate and in buyer attention, the economy, it’s state and it’s prospects boil down to property values, and consumer confidence. When the economy is under fire, people are nervous about their jobs. There is generally a reluctance to spend, accumulate debt or make major purchases.
The market will tell you what a home is worth. The problem is, during an economic downturn, the market may value your home lower than you had hoped, or than from when you started.
That may succeed in removing a number of buyers from your pool. For those that must buy a property though, the economy will play less of a factor in the decision to purchase, but it may give them power at the bargaining table, and it may be more difficult to get the desired price. Interest rates figure into this as well. The lower they are, the more your pool of buyers may increase as well, as the cost to borrow comes down and people, in theory can borrow more.
In a country like Canada, where there are four distinct seasons, seasonal influences play a large part in creating good selling conditions.
Wintertime brings with it a series of challenges, among them the weather, holiday distractions and lack of interest from buyers.
When the snow thaws though, and greenery re-emerges from the ground, buyers tend to re-emerge as well. The spring tends to be the peak of the market, simply because the timing suits people in general. The weather is more favourable, properties generally can be better displayed, and moves and property closings can more reasonably be managed through the summer months, so for those with families relocating is less disruptive.
According to data, home sales begin in February, with closings peaking through late May, June, July and August- and this has been a consistent trend since the early 2000’s. For sellers then, they will likely have the opportunity to engage more traffic and interest in their homes.
Patience is a Virtue
While the springtime may typically be a more optimal time to sell, there will typically be more competition on the market.  Sometimes, if a seller is flexible on their dates, it may be advisable to wait until the spring market to list, simply because of the flood of buyers onto the market. Often, a property will sell for more, and sell much faster because of volume.
As there will be more properties on the market, the seller really needs to take time to make their property stand out, using the slow winter months to actively prepare their homes to list.  For some, it can take weeks, or even months to de-clutter and re-organize their properties to best reflect the space, and the positive attributes.
Even though you may list in the spring, the selling process begins now- behind the scenes.  Think staging before selling.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Take your Winter Garden from Drab to Fab

Take your Winter Garden from Drab to Fab
A garden is our little piece of paradise, a place to appreciate nature in its changing seasons, and winter is no exception. With a little planning you can go outside and enjoy the fresh air and exhilaration of your garden right through the winter.
Create colour by incorporating some evergreens into your garden setting, including pine, fir and holly. Leave tall grasses or plants untrimmed as they’ll look sensational dusted with snow, especially red dogwood. Add more visual interest with bright bird houses, bird baths and statuary. Condo owners with balconies can create a mini garden: put winter kale and branches in a planter and surround with your favourite green boughs, which can last up to three months.
Sit outside on your garden furniture and soak up some sun out of the wind. By treating and protecting your wood or metal furniture it can be left outdoors so you have a front row seat to winter’s wonder. Take the chill off the air with an overhead patio heater, which will keep you warm and comfortable and also provide light for nighttime. If permitted in your municipality, a fire pit adds an extra glow, especially when you sit around it with your favourite people toasting marshmallows, or sipping cups of hot chocolate.
Winter lighting adds an extra dimension to your garden or balcony. Solar lights provide a soft glow to a snowy landscape, or simply wrap a small tree or bush with a string of white LED mini lights. Lights add an element of wonder to dark winter nights.
Too tired to go outside after a long day at work? A hot tub in your garden is a perfect place to unwind and wash your troubles away, or to soothe aching muscles after shoveling mountains of snow from the driveway. Picture yourself immersed in hot bubbling water as snowflakes fall around you.
Taking time to sit and relax is good for you, and the quiet serenity of a winter garden is perfect for reflection or meditating. Take your camera outside and capture the sights of a Canadian winter in all its wonder. Snow has a way of making everything look magical so don’t miss out on the special experience of being out and about in your own winter wonderland.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thank you to Royal LePage Village Owners/Managers!

The Royal LePage Village Christmas Party was held on Saturday, December 3rd at the Royal Montreal Golf Club in L'Ile-Bizard.
There were Real Estate Brokers from 4 offices (DDO, Pointe-Claire, Hudson and Pointe-Claire). The night flew by...cocktails, dinner and dancing in a beautiful surrounding. The Owners/Managers of Royal LePage Village , Stuart Jones, Grant Staley, Greg Clarke and Jan Inglesman treated all Brokers to a fabulous evening. What a class act!
Two prizes were handed was a Sony Camera and the main prize was a IPad 2.  GREAT news... I WON IT!! I AM SO HAPPY!! 
Thank you Stuart, Grant, Greg and Jan. I can't wait to use my new iPad 2. I am confident it will help us manage and increase our business. Paul and I look forward to another successful year in real estate. 2011 was a good year for us and we are eager to continue working at full speed and full time in 2012. 
We have been working in real estate for over 10 years and we can offer you our experience which will exceed all your expectations. Regardless of how large a task (to buy or sell a home) we are eager to rise to the challenge to use our knowledge and tenacity to overcome all obstacles.
The majority of our business originates from repeat clients and referrals. It is our goal to satisfy the needs of all our clients and we dedicate many years to building lifetime relationships.  
If you have any real estate questions, call us. It will be our pleasure to help you.