Latest news from I4 Properties Group

Oil Drop Doesn’t Mean Condo Sales Stop


Despite a lower oil price scare over the last several months Edmonton has shown confidence in the market and is seeing higher rates of real estate sales as compared to last year. Residential sales in June 2015 were up 13 percent from the reported sales of May 2015.

The Realtors Association of Edmonton (RAE) recorded a 2.4 per cent increase over all residential sales year-over-year for the month of June. The 2,008 homes sold in June included:

1,243 single-family dwellings (2.1 per cent increase from 2014)
572 condos (1.6 per cent increase from 2014)
156 duplex/rowhouses (11.4 per cent increase from 2014)

“The reality of what we are seeing in the market is that the slight hesitation from buyers that came with the drop in oil prices is lessening. Edmonton has not been hit nearly as bad as what many predicted and buyers are becoming more confident that our market won’t plummet. This renewed confidence coupled with low mortgage rates and a healthy selection means that people are realizing that this is still a good time to buy,” said Geneva Tetreault, president of the REA.

Because of lower sales and higher inventory, real estate prices took a small dip month-over-month this year. Regardless of the decrease, prices are still higher than this time last year.

Single-family homes were up two per cent from last year, averaging $444,862. Condo prices remain static at $255,662 and duplex/rowhouses continue to be popular among buyers, with a price growth of two per cent year-over-year. Prices have dropped slightly from May.

“With sales ramping up again and inventory starting to settle, we likely won’t see our prices drop much more than this,” said Tetreault.

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#YEG Makes Top 10 Best Summer Trips 2015

What do Machu Picchu, Singapore and Edmonton have in common? They all made National Geographic’s list of the best summer trips to take in 2015.
The magazine made a list of its top 10 best summer trips – plus one reader’s choice. In its online article, National Geographic encourages its readers to “meet the world in Edmonton.”
“I think Edmonton has a really unique authenticity and a unique originality,” says Renee Williams, communications manager with Edmonton Tourism.
“I think the city has great artistic feel to it, but I think there’s also a lot of urban culture, as well.”
The magazine touts Edmonton as “Festival City” which anyone who calls the city home can attest to. It highlights Old Strathcona – including the popular Saturday farmers market – the 104 Street City Market and of course, mentions the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, one of the city’s biggest summer festivals.
“Edmonton is welcoming the world this summer. The Festival City is hosting a series of international events, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Multicultural artworks, crafts, performances, and foods representing more than 85 nations will be featured at the Edmonton Heritage Festival,” the article reads.
National Geographic also outlines where to stay, what to eat and what to buy. It also leaves readers with this fun fact about Alberta’s capital city:
“Year-round, Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities, with about 2,300 total hours of sunshine annually. The lightest and brightest days typically are in June when the sun rises at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t set until around 10 p.m.”
The following areas round out National Geographic’s top 10:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Victoria, Australia
Machu Picchu, Peru
Konstanz, Germany
Athens, Greece

The readers’ choice best summer trip of 2015 is Jeju Island, South Korea.



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A recent Vancity poll found that North Vancouver residents are the happiest in the region. The North Shore’s proximity to both the great outdoors and the cultural amenities of a big city are among the reasons its residents are among the happiest in the region, according to the results of a poll conducted by Angus Reid Global.
Most North Shore residents (89 per cent) rated the area as an excellent or good place to live, roughly on par with other Metro Vancouver municipalities, with marked exception of Surrey, at 64 per cent.
However, those on the North Shore were significantly more enthusiastic in their endorsement, with more than half (54 per cent), rating the area as an excellent place to live, well above the regional average of 33 per cent.
Part of the reason could be that the two factors North Shore residents gave highest marks for — safety of the community and as a good place to raise children — were also the measures that proved to be key determinants of satisfaction for all respondents, with economic and geographic factors taking a back seat.
On safety in particular, a remarkable 85 per cent of residents rated the North Shore as excellent or good, compared with a regional average of 49 per cent and a low of 13 per cent in Surrey.
The North Shore has held on to something of a small-town feeling which also explains why there are so many happy people living here. Access to green space, parks and outdoor recreation is also important to residents who bike to work and hit the ski hills in the winter. The North Shore received the highest score in the region on this measure as well.

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Homeowner Insurance Increase Won’t Hurt



Canadians who are worried about the rising cost of homeowner insurance on June 1st may not have much to panic about. That is the day when CMHC is increasing its homeowner mortgage loan insurance premiums for homebuyers with less than a 10% down payment by approximately 15%. But first-time buyers and new homeowners who are hoping to take advantage of Canada’s 5% down payment option should not be worried.
CMHC estimates that for the homebuyer who has less than a 10 per cent down payment and borrows $250,000, the higher premium will result in an increase of about $5.20 to the monthly mortgage payment.
The new rate for a loan-to-value ratio up to 95 per cent is 3.6 per cent, up from 3.15 per cent. For a loan-to-value ratio from 90.01 to 95 per cent, but a non-traditional down payment, the premium climbs to 3.85 per cent from 3.35 per cent.
Premiums for homebuyers with a down payment of 10% or more and for CMHC’s portfolio insurance and multi-unit insurance products remain unchanged. The changes do not apply to mortgages currently insured by CMHC.
“CMHC completed a detailed review of its mortgage loan insurance premiums and examined the performance of the various sub-segments of its portfolio,” said Steven Mennill, Senior Vice-President, Insurance. “The premium increase for homebuyers with less than a 10% down payment reflects CMHC’s target capital requirements which were increased in mid-2014.”

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Strathcona History

This year marks 103 years since the old town of Strathcona amalgamated with the City of Edmonton. Today, boutiques, bistros, bars and a bustling farmers’ market — all the hallmarks of Whyte Avenue and area — make it self-sustaining, while the dense population of 9,000 makes it perfect even by the standards of ancient Greek city planner Hippodamus, who said the ideal state consisted of 10,000 citizens. But few remember that Edmonton’s best neighbourhood almost never was. In the 1970s, the City of Edmonton almost pushed a freeway through Strathcona, across the river valley and to the increasingly vertical downtown.


“There’s still a big clump of dirt by the Walterdale Bridge from beginnings of development,” says Shirley Lowe, former executive director of Old Strathcona Business Association, who in September left it to become an independent consultant. She ran the organization for 11 years.


At the time, the neighbourhood was derelict, less a place to take a date than to pawn her bike. You can see images of the area’s sleazy squalor in David Cronenberg’s 1979 drag racing film, Fast Company.


“The buildings were falling apart and nobody cared because this was the era of the cosmopolitan city, where things were supposed to be glass and shiny, and this place was not,” she says.


But community members like University of Alberta professor Gerry Wright (“The Jane Jacobs of Edmonton,” according to Lowe, referring to the famed urban renewal activist) mobilized a stop to the City’s plan. This counter-offence succeeded, and galvanized residents to recognize not just what could be lost but what could be had. An area redevelopment plan put forth by the Old Strathcona Business Association implemented strict planning guidelines to maintain landmarks, prominent views, natural features and period architecture. Not only were developers of new buildings told not to obscure this history, but not to even shade it. In fact, a winding four-block chunk of Strathcona has been assigned as a historic area, making it 50 per cent of the designated historical areas in the Province, says Lowe.

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Neighbourly Love

While buyers from China remain the largest single block of foreigners active in Vancouver real estate, the number of Americans getting into the Vancouver market is booming, according to a published report.


Also, but to a lesser degree, buyers from Europe and the Middle East are showing more interest in Vancouver real estate, says Paul Boenisch, an agent for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.


Foreign buyers are most attracted to Vancouver’s westside and West Vancouver, he added. “And that pushes everyone out to markets like East Van and North Vancouver.”


“Culturally, we’re a melting pot here,” Boenisch said. “And Vancouver has got a little more notoriety lately, it’s attracting a bigger pool of international buyers. Everybody wants to be here.”


Reasons cited remain the same as usual — it’s safe, it’s a good place to raise a family, it’s gorgeous.


Add the strength of the American dollar and you get a Metro Vancouver market where the average price of a detached house was up 11.2 per cent in March to $1.053 million, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.


That’s up 88.5 per cent over the last decade, REBGV said in a report published last Thursday.


Asian buyers make up about 60 per cent of foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver real estate, according to a story recently published by the Financial Times.


But buyers from the U.S. accounted for the biggest surge in the Vancouver market in the past year, the story said, signalling a growing trend in neighbourly love from across the border.


The article also said the Vancouver market is unique because record prices seem to have little impact on buyers’ enthusiasm.


There is no residency or citizenship requirement to buy property in Canada.


“The market is smoking right now and I just don’t see an end in sight,” Boenisch said.


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Concrete is King

Proponents of concrete construction cite advantages that include acoustic privacy, building quality and return on investment. Its “green” qualities include durability and energy efficiency. But the concrete low-rise is far from the industry norm, since a wood frame is generally a cheaper option both for the builder and the consumer. It’s a popular building form in cities like Barcelona – and it’s slowly gaining ground in Vancouver.


Sotheby’s realtor David Thomas, who represents the four-storey 700 Marine Drive The Residences project, says that “buyers come here specifically because it’s a concrete building.”


While the 26-unit project is an island in a sea of wood-frame condos, it’s one that attracts a discerning buyer.


“For the West Coast climate,” explains Mr. Thomas, “wood is less than ideal as a building material since it expands and contracts. Concrete is more durable.”


In a typical mixed-use development, for instance, where the ground floor is usually concrete, “wood adjacent to concrete foundations – well that’s going to cause some problems.”


He contends that this project attracts a “wiser clientele who are more sophisticated and prepared to pay extra to have peace of mind and quality.” He also notes that concrete buildings depreciate less than wood frame.


Acoustic issues are also paramount in buyer’s minds, he contends, recalling a wood frame project he represented recently where, from the ground floor he could hear “every word buyers said” at the upstairs sales centre.


In a typical wood frame building, he notes, floors might be concrete but in reality are only a “thin membrane over top of wood.”


In a special “why buy concrete” addendum to the project website, other advantages are cited, including more allergen-free ventilation than in mould-producing wood frames, as well as structural safety, lower repair and maintenance costs and a greater sense of comfort and privacy.


“There’s an emerging market for the concrete low- and mid-rise,” contends Mr. Thomas, “especially on Vancouver’s West side, North Shore and at UBC.”


“People get enamoured with fancy taps and display centres – but the important thing is the structure, and concrete is built to last.”

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Buying a New Condominium

Buying a new condominium allows you to enjoy all the benefits of a fine home, with the added benefits of amenities, enhanced security, increased affordability and ease of maintenance. Features differ from project to project but can include high-tech security surveillance, heated underground parking plus the convenience of not having to shovel snow or cut grass. When considering a new condominium, you should have a close look at your unit’s specifications and the building’s plan and other governing documents to ensure that your unit is acceptable and that you’re fully aware of regulations and the corporation’s budget.


Some advantages to buying a new condominium include:


  • A lower purchase price (depending upon market conditions).
  • A greater choice of locations within the building (if applicable).
  • A broader range of options and/or upgrades.
  • Less risk of having to undergo costly, noisy and intrusive repairs and renovations.
  • New home warranty protection.


Affordability — How Much will it Cost?


It’s important to know how much money you should set aside to purchase — and live in — the condominium you are considering. Additionally, when you are shopping around and comparing different condominiums, it’s important to compare the purchase prices and monthly fees for each unit.


Ensure you can afford your mortgage and your new monthly expenses. Your bank, mortgage broker or financial advisor can help you tailor your mortgage to suit your financial goals and needs. CMHC’s online guide Homebuying Step by Step can also help you to determine what you can afford.


There are many different types of mortgages, including conventional, high ratio and second mortgages. Take the time to discuss your current financial position and future goals with your financial advisor and be sure that you are comfortable with your purchase. The more of the purchase price you can afford to pay initially, the less interest you will pay over the course of your mortgage.



Consider the type of mortgage, rate of interest and term. Consult with your financial advisor or bank loans officer to decide what works for you, and what would be your financial position if mortgage rates were to rise. Be sure to factor in the costs of mortgage loan insurance if applicable (required if the down payment is less than 20 per cent of the unit’s purchase price). Life insurance may also be desirable but ensure that the costs are also factored into your monthly budget. The more frequent your payments, such as every two weeks instead of monthly, and the shorter the amortization period, the less interest you pay over the course of your mortgage.



As a condominium owner, you will pay a monthly fee that is your share of the operation and maintenance of the common property elements. A portion of this fee will typically be set aside for the corporation’s reserve fund, which covers the costs of major repairs and replacement of the common property elements over time. You will need to know exactly what is and isn’t included in the fees for any condominium you consider, and how much you can expect to pay.


Property Tax

When you rent a place to live, the property tax is usually a part of your rent. When you own a condominium, you are responsible for paying your own property taxes. For a new condominium, the municipality in which your condominium is located should be able to tell you how much you can expect to pay. For existing condominiums, this information can be provided by the real estate agent or the vendor. Ask for a copy of the most recent property assessment and tax bill.



These may or may not be included in your monthly condominium fee. You will want to know what you can expect to pay for utilities such as natural gas, water and electricity.

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Downsizing 101-Condo Ready in 10 Steps

Whether you’re an empty nester moving from a house into a condo, or a renter trading in a large 2 bedroom basement suite for a studio, you’ll have to say sayonara to some of your stuff. Stressed out by the prospect? Don’t be. Curating your belongings can help you identify which things you cherish most, and lead to designing a clutter-free new space that truly expresses who you are. This is downsizing 101- condo ready in 10 steps:


1. Write a list of all the items you love and can’t live without; it will help you bid adieu to things that didn’t make the list.


2. Start thinning out your belongings at least three months before the move. Take some time each day, or one morning each week, to go through that jammed coat closet or overflowing filing cabinet. The same goes for photos, which require a lot of attention.


3. Get a feel for the size of your new rooms by comparing them to rooms of similar dimensions in your present home. For instance, your living-room-to-be might be roughly the same size as your current bedroom. You may think you can squeeze in two sofas, but this kind of reality check could help you realize that only one will fit comfortably. Keep your favourite large pieces and make them the focus of your new living room or bedroom. Be willing to part with side tables and oversized chairs that aren’t really functional. Remember, only keep what you will use.


4. Heavily edit areas with items that don’t have as much sentimental value. Take the kitchen, for example; most people don’t need 10 mixing bowls and won’t get teary-eyed over losing a second spatula. If you’re downsizing from a house to a condo, target the garage. Snow shovels, the lawn mower, ladders – you won’t need any of them.


5. Don’t throw anything in the garbage. Recycle, reuse, sell and donate instead. As tempting and easy as it is to pitch wire hangers, musty clothes and shabby furnishings, be environmentally responsible and find a home for everything. A can of Comet with a few shakes of powder left could make someone else’s sink sparkle if you don’t want it; consider giving supplies to a shelter, neighbour or cleaning lady.


6. Label three bins To Keep, To Sell and Charity (bins should be manageable when full). For the average downsize, keep only one-third to one-half of your belongings.


7. Get an objective opinion. If you can’t decide whether to keep or kiss that dusty ’70s-era sewing machine goodbye, a friend’s opinion might just be the kick you need.


8. When selling your goods, try an auction for high-end items. Then look for reputable antique and secondhand dealers. Often, they can buy all of your wares or put you in touch with booksellers and other specialty dealers. Some dealers will come to your home, take what you don’t want and even drop off the charity stuff. If you can’t sell an item, donate it to a shelter.


9. Use floor plans to prearrange your furniture before the move. This is another useful reality check. To start, draw plans if you don’t have any, and sketch in a furniture layout. Then look at the plans realistically; if you’ve crammed in side tables, armoires and chairs, you need to edit more. Don’t wait until after you move to contend with furniture you’ll just end up tripping over.


10. Once you get to the packing stage, use a colour-coded system to organize all of your boxes. Choose a colour for each room and mark the boxes destined for that room with a coordinating colour sticker. You can also do the same thing numerically; for example, if room No. 1 is the kitchen, then all boxes marked No. 1 will go there. A simple and efficient organizing idea to make the move that much easier!

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Best In Class- Glass Tile Backsplash

A glass tile backsplash is a feature which has both functional and decorative roles in a kitchen. The backsplash creates a protective shield over the wall and prevents it from being damaged by spills and food splattering. Apart from an unsightly appearance, water can also damage the walls and cause damp patches and flaking of plaster. Damp wall provides the ideal environment for mould and mildew which can cause further damage.


Glass tile backsplashes are hard water-resistant surfaces which protect the wall from these occurrences. Other than spills and stains, a glass tile backsplash is also more resistant to scratching and abrasions which can damage the wall and cause chipping of surface coating. The fact that you can care for these tiles stress-free makes them ideal for any kitchen. Glass tiles are also appreciated for their reflective characteristics and therefore useful in rooms where there is not much lighting. Glass tiles tap into the little natural light entering the room making it look brighter and bigger.


It is important to avoid abrasive fabrics and cleaners and instead employ the use of sponges and other ordinary multi-use kitchen cleaners. This helps to maintain your tiles and preserve their natural colour while at the same time preventing scratches. Mix some water and soap in a spray bottle. You can also mix water and vinegar if you like as this is good in killing bacteria that could easily grow in damp places like on the backsplash and also allow vinegar to break soap scum and hard water buildups.


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