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Monday, January 30, 2012

Why it’s a good time to buy a home

Look no further, Canada is a safe haven in a volatile world 

by  Mark Weisleder

I believe there has never been a better time to buy a home. I’ve been in the industry for 28 years as a lawyer and I haven’t seen so many positive signs for housing, whether you are thinking or buying or locking in a mortgage.

Here’s why:
Mortgage rates at historic lows: They can’t get any lower. Four- to five-year fixed mortgages at 3 per cent are unheard of. It is lower than the variable rate that most Canadians have been paying for years. Rates have nowhere to go but up, either later this year or next. If you are paying a variable % rate, lock in now.

Canada’s appeal: This country has everything going for it — a stable banking and political environment, steady real estate market, the natural resources people want and few social tensions. That makes us a safe haven in a volatile world.

Our immigrant draw: Because of the above, we’re a draw for immigrants, often wealthy ones. When they get here, they need a home. So in my view while the real estate market may level off in some areas of Ontario, it should stay strong in most of the GTA and likely Canada’s other large urban centres as well.

Mortgage defaults: According to CMHC, more than 99 per cent of Canadians pay their mortgages on time. It’s quite a different picture in the United States where 7 million homes are in foreclosure and perhaps another 7 million homeowners are under water. This represents almost 15 per cent of all homes. So while the American housing market will likely be weak for the next few years, this should not occur in Canada. Our banks are not dumping homes onto the market, so there is no downward pressure on prices.

Recourse Mortgages: In many U.S. states, if you can’t pay your mortgage, the only thing the bank can do is foreclose; they cannot sue you for any shortfall. So when homes go under water, owners give the keys back to the bank. In Canada, loans are almost all Recourse, meaning if you don’t pay and there is a shortfall, the lender can sue you for the difference. This is another reason why, in my opinion, even if times do get tough, Canadian homeowners will find a way to make the payments until things improve.

Income-to-price ratio: Another misleading statistic is that in major markets, like Toronto, the average price of a home is now 4.6 times the income of the average Canadian. This same statistic was found just before the U.S. and U.K. markets went into the tank. However, if you look at median incomes of Canadians against the median cost of homes, this average comes down to around 3.5, which is not dangerous. Using averages are wrong. A person receiving social assistance will not buy a home, and should not be included in any relevant statistic.

High consumer debt: The warnings about rising debt ratios must be examined carefully. The governor of the Bank of Canada is worried that the average personal debt ratio is now 156 per cent in Canada. This means a household making $100,000 per year, owes $156,000, two-thirds of which is mortgage debt. Why is this so bad? At an interest rate of 3 or even 5 per cent, the amount needed to service the debt is manageable. Most people do not pay off their mortgages in one year. Still, this is another good reason to consolidate your debt now, at these low interest rates, and lock in.

No guarantees: Nobody can predict the future and there’s always the possibility of a major economic shock. Yet, in a U.S. presidential election year, politicians will do whatever is necessary to prevent it. If the economy goes into the tank, so do re-election chances. The U.S. is already showing signs of economic recovery.
No matter what, do not take on a monthly payment higher than what you can afford. Meet with your lender or mortgage broker in advance to figure out what you can afford before you start looking for a home. It may be the best time to buy, but you need to buy smart.

Mark Weisleder is a lawyer, columnist, author and speaker to the real estate industry. You can contact Mark at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Parts of Canadian Housing Over Valued: Mark Carney

The Bank of Canada is joining the chorus of voices that are saying some markets in Canada are overvalued, and possibly in danger of correction.

In an interview broadcast on CTV over the weekend, Mark Carney weighed on the danger of overheating markets, and touched on the possibility of government intervention.
In the interview, Carney said that he believes that measures taken to date to tighten the mortgage market have been effective, and at this point in time more is not necessary. However, with the continued existence of low interest rates, the possibility of an asset bubble in some vulnerable centres, with home equity possibly over leveraged does exist- and does cause some concern.

Carney is not ruling out intervention, but said that they were very much adopting a “wait and see” policy. Last week Jim Flaherty told reporters that, while there is potential concern still existing in the Canadian property market, and while the government is certainly keeping a close eye on the situation, intervention at this point in time is likely not necessary.

Many have predicted that 2012 will see a cooling in the housing market, despite a continuation of low interest rates.  Threats from a dragging economy, recessionary trouble in Europe and fears over employment will cause the market that has been robust to moderate.

Those analysts that have predicted market moderation are largely feeling that overvalued markets will not crash necessarily, but will land softly, and that market values will drift down gradually due to market fundamentals that exist already.

Some do feel that the market will continue to shine this year. Royal LePage predicts that the market will continue to climb in 2012 and that a gradual market slowdown will not even appear until 2013, which is when most put the next rate hike at.

In his CTV interview, Carney commented on the fragility of the export relationship with the US, and that Canadian exporters should seek out alternative partners, as trouble continues to brew in the US.

Monday, January 23, 2012


We know the effect of economic slowdown in Canada, and Mark Carney says that he is fairly certain of the cause as well.

In their quarterly monetary report, the Bank of Canada said that the Euro zone and the recession that they are encountering is the single biggest threat that faces the Canadian economy at the moment. And this is no idle threat either- there has been, and will continue to be, significant impact on the Canadian economy.
Carney estimates the loss in output this year will be in the range of $10 Billion.

Other countries around the world are essentially footing the bill for the financial carnage that continues to run through the troubled Euro zone. Carney puts the cost at around 0.6% of the Canadian GDP. Furthermore, the cost could mount significantly if the financial fallout is not fully contained by European leaders, who have shown a bewildering complacence.

The report says, “The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated and uncertainty has increased since October. The sovereign debt crisis in Europe has intensified, conditions in international financial markets have tightened and risk aversion has risen. The recession in Europe is now expected to be deeper and longer than the Bank had anticipated. The Bank continues to assume that European authorities will implement sufficient measures to contain the crisis, although this assumption is clearly subject to downside risks.”

At a press conference following the release of the report, Carney told reporters: “"Europe is the biggest external threat to Canada without question."
Carney went on to say that, even though Canada is essentially doing much that is right and responsible to manage the economy, these headwinds persist and continue to land impact, through no fault of a direct action or inaction domestically speaking.

While Canada does continue to feel some pain from the troubles that continue in Europe, we do suffer less than some countries like the U.S., because the Canadian exposure to the threatened European banks is limited.

With the force of these headwinds continuing to blow, the BOC does not expect the economy to return to full capacity until 2013.
“The Bank estimates that the economy grew by 2.4 per cent in 2011 and projects that it will grow by 2.0 per cent in 2012 and 2.8 per cent in 2013. While the economy appears to be operating with less slack than previously assumed, given the more modest growth profile, the economy is only anticipated to return to full capacity by the third quarter of 2013, one quarter earlier than was expected in October.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Team Laflamme - Connected To Your Community

Open House/Sunday, January 22nd
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
2560 Julien, Saint-Lazare

191 Cameron, Hudson
$395,000 + taxes
New Construction


We Are Connected To Your Community

Thursday, January 19, 2012


This video on Gratitude and Happiness was created by Louie Schwartzberg. It's beautiful.
I wish you all a very, very good day.......everyday. 


More about Facebook

Why Facebook is about to get much more annoying....
At a press event scheduled for Wednesday, Facebook is expecting to roll out two new features that advertisers may love, and many users will also find interesting, but they’ll also make the social network much more annoying.
First of all, the company has announced it will roll out the Timeline feature in the next few days to all users.
What does that mean?
It means the current profile and wall format will be replaced with a much sleeker design with large photos, that keeps a historical record of everything a user has done.
I love the Timeline feature, but I know from experience that many Facebook users hate when the company messes with the look of the program.
Whenever it does, the complaints on Facebook are incessant.
Another new feature coming to Facebook is the open social graph. This is an opt-in feature, because if it weren’t, it would be a tremendous invasion of privacy.
The open social graph will allow people to share just about everything they do on the Internet with their Facebook friends.
So if you read this blog, your friends may see that posted on your Timeline (don’t worry: if people see you read this blog regularly, they’ll think you’re brilliant). If you watch a video, the link will be posted. If you make a purchase … you get the idea.
The problem with the open graph, however, is that while it’s a boon to advertisers, it will be more of an annoyance for most Facebook users.
Luckily, the news feed will be spared. This information will be limited to a person’s Timeline, according to this report.
That’s good, because a news feed is for important information like daily location check-ins at Second Cup and hundreds of daily  Farmville and Mafia Wars updates. No. I don’t care that you have a flock of sheep!
Will the open graph be a huge step forward for Facebook? The company sure hopes so, but it seems every attempt at getting people to engage more with brands online has been met with only limited success. Have any businesses really seen major boosts by encouraging users to check in? If you see your friend frequents a particular coffee shop, will that make you more likely to visit it as well? Perhaps, but it may be one of 100 factors that influences your decision.
A new study has shown that
while Canadians research their purchases online, many think that Facebook should just be reserved for personal connections. They see advertising as an intrusion, kinda like if someone interrupted a conversation between friends to sell them beer.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bank unveils lowest rate in history

The lowest mortgage rate in Canadian history could add a few more months to a spree of record housing sales in Canada, a Queen's University real estate expert says.
The Bank of Montreal announced late Thursday it had dropped its five-year, fixed-rate mortgage by 0.5% to 2.99%.
"That is pretty significant," said Dr. John Andrew, director of the university's executive seminars on corporate and investment real estate.
The mortgage rate is only available until Jan. 25 and comes with conditions, including a 25-year amortization period. Borrowers can also only make lump sum payments of up to 10% of the principal each year.
Andrew said the restrictions that come with the new rate are in line with the federal government's insistence on responsible lending.
"Overall, it's a cheaper loan but it is harder to qualify for," Andrew said.
The restrictions would make it impossible for those few people who could receive a loan at the record-low interest rate and rapidly pay it off in two or three years.
"The reality is very few homeowners can afford to do that," Andrew said.
The record-low mortgage rate could be enough to entice new home buyers to enter the market. It will also benefit home owners looking to refinance their existing mortgage.
Andrew said the limited time offer is likely in place because other banks will follow suit and slash their mortgage rates.
By Friday, Toronto Dominion Bank responded, dropping its four-year, fixed rate mortgage to 2.99 per cent. That offer is in place until Feb. 29.
It's designed to prevent consumers from being upset when interest rate goes back up near the end of the month, Andrew said.
Andrew said economists have already begun to question how long housing prices in Canada will continue to climb. He said some banks have predicted a plateau in housing sales and inventory in the coming months.
Even at 2.99 per cent, Andrew said banks should still make money because they have been able to sell bonds internationally at record levels at interest rates even lower.
Selling a bond at a lower interest rate indicates investors have more confidence in Canadian bank bonds, Andrew said.
"That spread represents bank profit," Andrew said.
A week ago, BMO sold $1.5 billion worth of bonds at a rate of 2.54%.
The Kingston Whig Standard

By Elliot Ferguson

Friday, January 13, 2012

Boomers land impact on housing industry

There is strength in numbers; that we know. But what is truly remarkable is the force that vast numbers can apply on reshaping a society- and in this case, an industry.

The concept of home ownership and idyllic living in this country has experienced a major paradigm shift, and is really on the cusp of things to come, mostly because the largest demographic group- the Baby Boomers- are swinging their demographic weight around again- this time to land squarely with a material impact on the housing industry.  

As a real estate professional, part of getting into this market, is to understand where this group is coming from, where they are going and the mechanics of the impact they wield on the marketplace, namely condominium living, home renovations and development of Senior Citizen health care institutions.

A New Model for Housing
According to CMHC’s recently released “2011 Canadian Housing Observer”, which examines and characterizes housing trends in the country, the proportion of senior citizens in the total population is expected to grow from 14% currently to a staggering 24% by 2036. This trickles down to a material impact on the market, as CMHC points out: “Demographic pressures account for much of the variation in the rate of housing construction in different parts of Canada…As people age, their needs are likely to change due to disabilities, medical conditions, changes in their household composition, and/or changes in their financial situation. Population aging therefore requires various forms of housing, a range of models of coordinating housing with support services, and community planning that respond to the needs of seniors and enhance their quality of life.”

While many seniors are electing retirement outside of urban centres, many more are electing a return to the urban core, for a number of reasons. “Economies of scale, the existence of a well-developed construction industry, the often relatively low cost of construction compared to rural and remote communities, and the presence of a wide range of community organizations, seniors groups, faith-based groups, and other civil society institutions interested in serving seniors are all factors that support the provision of housing and supports for seniors in urban areas.”

It’s not just the big urban centres that are drawing this demographic; smaller urban centres are holding great appeal, and are becoming increasingly more popular. In fact, data states that the senior proportion of the population in smaller urban centres has climbed to 16%, and is expected to increase over coming years.

“The result is a growing availability in urban areas of housing designed specifically for seniors and of services that meet the needs of seniors who are aging in their homes, as well as projects based on innovative partnerships that integrate housing and support services.”
What is emerging as well, is that many of these senior households are, or will be single households, which will impact not only space requirements, but must also incorporate elements like affordability on single income, as well as possibly social or care requirements.

Aging in Place
When Judy Garland said famously as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home", she very much hit the thematic nail on the head for the aging Canadian population. If the choice were theirs to make, CMHC’s Housing Outlook report suggest that there are many seniors who are choosing to stay put, and make appropriate renovations to their existing dwellings to meet their changing needs, rather than downsizing, or moving to retirement housing. The data in their report demonstrates “that a large majority of seniors are choosing to age in place; that is, to continue to live in their current home and familiar community for as long as possible even if their health changes. Some seniors choose to downsize and/or to relocate in order to have better access to services or to live closer to family members, and then age in place in their new home.”
There is also  growth in technology to facilitate and extend independent living, including the development of tools, like, “smart sensors which remind seniors to turn off appliances, record patterns of use, and alert caregivers when the senior’s use of the appliances indicates a potential problem… Another example is monitors for seniors with serious medical conditions to enable them to continue living at home without sacrificing needed care.”

Barry Gordon, Broker of Record, Gordon's Estate Services Ltd., Brokerage says that the goal for many is to remain put for as long as possible, and sometimes major renovations are not necessary; small touch ups that lend peace of mind may be enough in the short term, “In my experience many seniors do their best to keep the core components as low maintenance as possible. They tend to get the windows, roof, furnace, updated- things that could catch them in an emergency if not kept up or that could drive the cost of heating up. They are prepared to spend to maintain their peace of mind. This can extend to bathrooms but not so often kitchens and most often don't get into the elaborate. Not so many really do a big renovation but rather make their home more comfortable and problem free. “Many try to remain where they are as long as they can, and then look at the relocation options. In the past few years, governments have tried to ease the pressure on Long Term Care homes and hospital discharge beds by introducing a variety of supports that help seniors remain in their homes longer. These programs have no doubt had some success, but one of the perhaps unanticipated results is that more seniors are holding off on a move to a retirement residence as an option. Instead, they resist moving at all until they require Long Term Care.”

And as Gordon suggests, sometimes the decision to move closer to amenities and to health care is accelerated by events like the loss of a driver’s licence and associated loss of freedom and mobility.

The Rise of the High-Rise
There has been a surge both in condominium interest and development, partly to meet the growing need to support a rising immigration populations in major centres, as well as property investor demands, but it is no coincidence that the popularity of the housing type is increasing in sync with Baby Boomers approaching and entering retirement.
This shift towards housing taste and requirement is changing the physical landscape of housing in the country. Not only is land scarce in many major urban centres, so developers are moving outwards rather than sprawling upwards, but many retirees are favouring the simplicity of living associated with condo living, and are doing so in vast numbers. CMHC reports that “over half of all housing starts in Vancouver, 48% in Montréal and 45% in Toronto were intended for condominium tenure.”

Gordon says that there is definite appeal for a specific part of the demographic,” I think the Boomers are moving the condo market in the big cities more than the smaller centres. Early boomers in a big market like Toronto where houses have become so expensive, find themselves with a small fortune in their home-one that can get them a pretty comfortable condo. In smaller markets we see those with good pensions moving more toward condos as their perpetual income gives them the comfort of being carefree about being able to pay the condo fees and the taxes. These folks also often enjoy a few months away in winter as long as their health holds. Condo living makes it easy to turn the key without worrying about a vulnerable vacant house.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Royal LePage Predicts Further Home Price Appreciation Contrary to Recent Talk of Decline

National real estate price correction not likely until 2013 at the earliest

TORONTO, January, 2012The Royal LePage House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast released today showed the average price of a home in Canada increased between 3.6 and 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to the previous year. Royal LePage expects average price growth to continue through 2012 and predicts national average prices to increase by 2.8 per cent by the end of the year.
Despite calls in some quarters for Canadian house prices to soften in 2011, the market proved resilient as demand created by low interest rates and a relatively stable national economy created upward pricing pressure for all housing types surveyed. Further, recent high profile reports forecasting significant house price declines in 2012 are not supportable.  Nationally, consumer confidence in the housing market was high in the fourth quarter as real estate brokers witnessed an unusually high quantity of multiple offer situations, including over the holiday season, compared to same period in previous years.
In the fourth quarter, standard two-storey homes rose 4.2 per cent year-over-year to $375,427, while detached bungalows increased 6.1 per cent to $344,392. Average prices for standard condominiums increased 3.6 per cent to $234,680.
“In the recovery period following the 2008-2009 recession, I found myself repeatedly speaking of ‘irrational exuberance’ in the Canadian housing market,” said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “Expectations were too high and the pace of expansion unsupportable. With this report, I find myself in exactly the opposite position. Widespread calls for a major real estate correction in 2012 simply can’t be justified. The industry has significant momentum entering the year, and buoyed by the stimulative effect of very low interest rates, we expect the market to continue to expand – albeit at a slower pace.”
While 2011 was a very strong year for price growth, over the past five years, including the recessionary period, Canada’s average home prices have grown by only 3.5 per cent compounded annually, well below the long term average rate of appreciation. Canada’s GDP has also grown modestly over the same period and the economy is expected to expand by approximately two per cent in 2012. While unemployment remains stubbornly higher then pre-recession levels, sustained employment at today’s levels in a low interest rate environment can be expected to support continued average house price appreciation across the country.
Canadians remain confident in their real estate investments. Throughout 2011, buyers took advantage of low rates to enter the housing market or move-up to homes that better suited their family’s needs or wants. All regions included in the Royal LePage Market Survey Forecast anticipate positive average price growth in 2012. This includes the relatively expensive Toronto and Vancouver regions, where rising home prices have consistently out-paced the other urban centres.
”We believe calls for falling prices and more affordable housing in 2012 are unlikely to materialize,” said Soper. “While this will comfort the seventy per cent of Canadians who are homeowners, there is cause for concern when house price growth outpaces increases in wages and salaries for an extended period of time. Coupled with more restrictive mortgage regulations that have made it more difficult to obtain financing, those who aspire to own a home may find it increasingly difficult to enter the housing market and, in some regions, it may leave people out entirely.”
Regionally, Royal LePage expects to see cities with commodity-based economies, such as Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg, outperform larger urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver. Royal LePage has forecast Calgary’s average house prices to climb 3.6 per cent in 2012. In 2011, the largest average price increase was seen in Regina, where average prices for standard two-storey homes rose 19.5 per cent year-over-year.

Regional Market Summaries

In Halifax, strong consumer confidence and low interest rates led to healthy year-over-year price appreciation for all three housing types surveyed. Average price gains ranged from 4.5 to 6.7 per cent for the housing types surveyed. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Halifax are forecast to be 3.4 per cent higher than 2011. 
First-time buyers and consumer confidence helped push Montreal’s prices up in the fourth quarter of 2011. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Montreal are forecast to be 1.3 per cent higher than 2011. 
A strong local economy and low interest rates resulted in healthy year-over-year price appreciation in Ottawa with gains ranging from 5.0 to 6.7 per cent. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Ottawa are forecast to be 3.3 per cent higher than 2011. 
Lack of inventory in Toronto produced strong year-over-year price appreciation in 2011. Average price gains ranged from 3.4 to 7.2 per cent for the housing types surveyed. Migration and low interest rates also continue to drive real estate prices. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Toronto are forecast to increase 2.6 per cent over 2011.
Immigration and low interest rates produced healthy year-over-year price appreciation in Winnipeg’s real estate market with average price gains ranging from 3.7 to 5.0 per cent. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Winnipeg are forecast to be 4.2 per cent higher than 2011. 
Lack of inventory and strong demand drove average year-over-year price gains in Regina. Price appreciation ranged from standard condominiums posting a 7.9 per cent gain to standard two-storey homes posting a 19.5per cent gain, the largest gain among housing types surveyed across Canada. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Regina are forecast to be 5.0 per cent higher than 2011. 
Calgary witnessed modest year-over-year price gains in two housing types – standard two-storey homes and standard condominiums, while the detached bungalow rose 6.2 per cent. Lack of inventory for detached bungalows was cited as the reason for the increase. Edmonton, posted modest gains for all three housing types surveyed, which ranged from 1.3 to 3.2 per cent. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Calgary are forecast to increase 3.6 per cent, while Edmonton house prices are expected to increase by 2.6 per cent compared to 2011.
Vancouver continued to experience some of Canada’s largest year-over-year price increases ranging from the standard condominiums rising 10.7 per cent to detached bungalows rising 14.1 per cent. At the end of 2012, average house prices in Vancouver are forecast to be 2.3 per cent higher than 2011.
Royal LePage’s quarterly House Price Survey shows the annual change of prices for key housing segments in select national marketsClick here to view the chart PDF.

About the Royal LePage House Price Survey

The Royal LePage House Price Survey is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind in Canada, with information on seven types of housing in over 250 neighbourhoods from coast to coast.  This release references an abbreviated version of the survey, which highlights house price trends for the three most common types of housing in Canada in 80 communities across the country.  A complete database of past and present surveys is available on the Royal LePage Web site at  Current figures will be updated following the complete tabulation of the data for the second quarter. A printable version of the fourth quarter 2011 survey will be available online on February 10th, 2011.
Housing values in the Royal LePage House Price Survey are Royal LePage opinions of fair market value in each location, based on local data and market knowledge provided by Royal LePage residential real estate experts.
Canadian Housing Trends - Royal LePage 2012 Market Survey Forecast PDF
Royal LePage Q4 2011 House Price Survey - Data Chart PDF

About Royal LePage

Serving Canadians since 1913, Royal LePage is the country’s leading provider of services to real estate brokerages, with a network of 14,000 real estate professionals in over 600 locations nationwide. Royal LePage is the only Canadian real estate company to have its own charitable foundation, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, dedicated to supporting women's & children’s shelters and educational programs aimed at ending domestic violence. Royal LePage is a Brookfield Real Estate Services Inc. company, a TSX-listed corporation trading under the symbol TSX:BRE.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Penguin saved a long way from home.....

WHEN Kelly Laflamme and a few friends went to Yallingup break Shallows last week, they could never have guessed what they were about to find.
“We saw something in the ocean and we were wondering what it was,” Kelly said.
“It was struggling so hard in the water, going in and out of shore.”
Finally, it made it into shore and Kelly discovered what it was – a juvenile male Rockhopper penguin, which are normally foreign to this region.
“I was blown away! I thought it was a duck at first,” Kelly said.
“We didn’t know what to do – I was so surprised.
“We took a few photos but he was falling all over the place – we noticed his balance was off and he seemed very discombobulated.
“We called the rangers and they told us to bring him to the vet.
“We wrapped a towel around the little guy and made our way over to the Dunsborough vet’s office.”
The penguin was very lucky that Kelly and her friends saw him.
“He had blisters and sunburn on his feet and a huge bruise on his head,” Kelly said.
“If they hadn’t brought it in it would have definitely died,” said Dunsborough veterinary nurse Melanie Mothersole, who treated the penguin on Friday.
The bird, which was also extremely dehydrated, was treated by the vets for its injuries.
“The day after it was found it seemed a lot brighter,” Melanie said.
The penguin was transferred to Busselton for further rehabilitation, before being moved to Penguin Island in Perth.
Rockhopper penguins are generally found on islands off the coast of South America and Africa, to the south of New Zealand on the Auckland and Antipodes Islands, as well as on islands off the coast of the Antarctic, including Australia’s Heard and Macquarie islands.
“Obviously a current has taken it (away from home),” Melanie said.
“You hardly ever see them down here – I saw one about eight years ago which washed up at Canal Rocks, but this is the next one I’ve seen.
“It was so lost and a long way from home,” Kelly said.
Kelly, who has lived in Dunsborough for the past year, but is originally from Canada, said it was quite an experience.
“It’s the first time I’d ever seen a penguin in the wild,” she said.
“It was really an amazing thing – I’m so happy that we saved him.”

Kelly's friend Olivier (Oli) Labelle....also a Canadian living in Western Australia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hot Options: Tips for Choosing the Right Fireplace

Hot Options: Tips for Choosing the Right Fireplace
Whether it’s coming inside after hitting the slopes, playing ice-hockey, or walking the dog on a brisk night: there’s nothing better than curling up to a nice, warm fire.  A fireplace will keep you cozy on cold winter nights, but it should also be safe and energy efficient.  If you’re looking to add a new fireplace to your home or upgrade an existing one this season, make sure you know all the options available. 

Wood-burning fireplaces are great for those who love the majesty of an open fire, the smell of burning wood, and the sound of crackling logs.   However, you may not know that older wood-burning fireplaces are not very energy efficient and can actually pollute the environment.  The good news is that there are newer, safer, and more advanced wood-burning fireplaces available.  Look for models that are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)*, as they emit 90% less smoke than traditional wood-burning fireplaces and distribute heat better in your home. 
Electric fireplaces are the perfect way to set the mood, and temperature, at the flick of a switch.  They are safe, convenient, low-maintenance, and cost little to install.  Although electric fireplaces probably won’t add to the value of your home like other types might, they are great for small spaces and don’t require a chimney or outdoor venting.  Most models also come with the option of having the decorative fire turned on while the heating element is off: a great feature if all you’re looking for is a little ambiance.
Gas fireplaces are popular options because they are clean burning, efficient, and don’t even require a chimney.  Although they may not offer the same flame sensation as real wood-burning fireplaces, gas is more energy efficient and you won’t need to worry about cleaning up woodchips or ashes.  They also distribute heat better and provide a constant supply of fuel, even if the power fails.  Look for models that have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating; the higher the rating, the higher the efficiency.
Other Options
If you already own a fairly old or outdated fireplace, there are still options available.  Electric and gas models, for example, are easy to upgrade or replace entirely if you’re looking to make your fireplace more energy efficient.  Similarly, you can purchase inserts for traditional wood-burning fireplaces that cause less harm to the environment and improve heating efficiency.  And if you want to experience an open fire a little closer to nature, consider buying an outdoor fireplace.  Outdoor fireplaces come in many shapes and sizes; just make sure to check your local municipality’s by-laws for safety regulations. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! We wish you good health, happiness and laughter...lots of laughter.

This is the time of year when many of us set goals. I know I have.
Watch this video and you'll soon see that all your dreams are possible. The question that changed Amy Purdy's life is, "If my life were a book and I were the author, how would I want this story to go".

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Apple to hold ‘important’ event in New York this month

Don’t expect the iPad 3 or a full-sized Apple TV to launch at a New York City press event Apple Inc. will reportedly hold in late January.
Kara Swisher, the AllThingsDigital writer who first reported on the possible event late Monday, said the event will likely not be a large scale affair.
According to Ms. Swisher, the event will likely feature an announcement related to the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s media or publishing properties, which include the iTunes music store, the iBookstore, the App Store for mobile devices and the iAd advertising network.
Eddie Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, is responsible for all those divisions and is said to be the executive involved in the event.
Last year, Mr. Cue was also involved in another New York event to help launch News Corp.’s The Daily, an iPad-only digital news publication.
Since then, Apple has focused on expanding its New York presence, most notably with the opening last month of a massive Apple Store (or megastore according to The Washington Post). The company has also been refurbishing its flagship retail location on fifth avenue and recently opened an iAd office in the city.
Apple has yet to publicly announce a replacement for Andy Miller, who was vice president of mobile advertising before he left the company last August to join a venture capital firm. Still, a high profile media event related solely to a new hire is unlikely.
The iAd unit has been struggling over the past year, sources told the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, as the service does not offer enough flexibility to be useful. So a revamped iAd product is possible.
But TechCrunch writer Alexia Tsotsis had another source say the event is related to iBooks, so a new content initiative or publishing tie up could be in the works as well.
Apple officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Financial Post, though they did wish Ms. Swisher a “happy, happy new year.”
Until the company has something more to say on the matter, the company’s ardent customer following will undoubtedly be providing plenty of their own theories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Growing older, with all the amenities

The housing market may look a little up and down to Toronto architect Drew Laszlo as he designs the latest homes for clients.
But that’s because one of the top requests he’s getting is for elevators. It’s phenomenon that may be symbolic of the changes in Canadian demographics. Once the domain of high-rise buildings or mansions, the elevator is making its way into everyday homes — albeit for people in the high end of the market who can afford it.
“It’s getting more and more common on a daily basis,” Mr. Laszlo says about the elevator trend. “I used to see it once in a blue moon but now when [he designs] a new house, they either want it or are giving it serious consideration.”
The cost can run upwards of $20,000 but it almost makes financial sense for an aging Boomer population that realizes once stairs become unnavigable, they’ll be forced to move to either a hard-to-find bungalow or a condominium tower.
Meeting the needs of the aging Boomer population is expected to become the dominant theme of the housing industry in 2012 and for decades to come.
A study from the Conference Board of Canada released in the fall of 2011 predicted that by 2030 about 80% of new housing demand would come from consumers in their golden years. Those people will either end up in condominiums or will need to make alterations to existing homes.
“What I hear from people is they want to grow old in their homes,” Mr. Laszlo says. “They know their legs will go at some point. In speculative houses, the builders want them more and more because when it comes time for resale, it’s something people will remember. If you are building a house for $1,000,000, what’s another $20,000?”
The elevator is also a bit of a status symbol but one the moderately rich can afford. They are usually about five feet by five feet  or about the size of a closet — and can be roughed into a house and not installed until a later date.
“You don’t even know it’s there, it looks like another door,” says Mr. Laszlo, who notes having something the size “of a closet” means sacrifices on all all floors. “The Boomer can now buy a house because he knows it can have an elevator.”
So what else do Boomers want? Bathrooms. It seems they cannot get enough of them as they deal with children living at home longer and parents moving in with them.
“You have four bedrooms, you have four bathrooms,” Mr. Laszlo says.
Flexibility is something most people seem to be craving in the Boomer population as they deal with issues previous generations may not have faced, says Paul Johnston, the broker of record for Block development in downtown Toronto.
Treasure Hill Developments has come up with a complex with 37 homes that each include a concept called in-law suites. The name is misleading because it’s not just for in-laws: It is essentially a self-contained apartment as large as 750 square feet within a four-storey 3,700-square-foot home.
“What we are providing is flexibility. It could be finished entirely separately as a suite, it could be finished as gymnasium or workout room or it could be used as an at-home office. It is totally accessible with a separate entrance,” Mr. Johnston says. “People’s needs within their homes have changed a lot.”
But the biggest need people have and will continue to have seems to be more space, says Hugh Heron, of Heron Homes, who has been in the industry 60 years.
“When we were building homes in 1967 that were just under 2,000 square feet, the industry said we’d never sell them,” he recalls. “In those days, it seemed like a huge house. Back then the en suite was a basin and a toilet. Fast-forward to today and that single family home is 4,000 square feet and en suite bathrooms are just unbelievable.”
He says the biggest change in the past decade has been the growth of condominiums, as affordability chases people either out of the city or up in the sky.
“Governments wants density, particularly in Toronto, so a lot of this stuff is going to go high instead of low,” Mr. Heron says.
The Building Industry and Land Development Association says about 60% of the housing in the greater Toronto area sold in 2011 has been high-rise. It’s a trend being seen in other large markets such as Calgary, Altus Group said in a recent report.
And even though condos are becoming the home of choice, their pricing keeps going up and forcing the industry to make them smaller so people can afford them.
“If you look at the resale market in 2003, the average unit that traded was over 1,000 square feet and now it’s just under 900 square feet,” says Ben Myers, vice-president of Urbanation Inc., about Toronto’s market.
The shrinking condo trend will continue.
“It’s going to go down further when some of larger buildings being built now start to register,” says Mr. Myers, adding 600-square-foot condominium apartments have started to become the norm.
The high price tag for housing has consumers looking for breaks on costs and energy bills have come under the microscope. It used to be property taxes that buyers always wanted to know but energy costs are becoming something people are considering.
“We have an industry capable of building environmentally advanced housing,” says John  Kenward, chief operating officer of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.
New requirements across the country that homes be built to meet certain energy standards could dramatically change how people view homes, he says.
On Jan. 1, Ontario will require houses to be built to what was called the R-2000 standard, which involves strict technical requirements for energy efficiency, indoor air quality and environmental responsibility.
A national code is coming into place later in 2012 and most provinces are expected to adopt the code in time for 2013. Once that happens, the codes won’t just be voluntary but mandatory.
What it will do to house prices is anybody’s guess but it could create a price differential between new homes and existing homes, Mr. Kenward says.
“The world is going to change because of the new codes,” he says.