Do You Need A Contractor For Your Home Repairs?

We all know that owning a home can require a lot of maintenance, upkeep, and repairs. This can take a lot out of us mentally, physically and financially depending on how much of the work you can do on your own and how much you need to hire a contractor to do.

Some people like to get their hands dirty and do all of the work themselves. I fall into that category since I have bought and sold many homes where I have not hired a single contractor. Luckily, if you are like me and want to save a lot of money, there is a little website called YouTube. You can usually find several videos, if not hundreds of videos that teach you how to complete the task. However, you have to be very careful with these videos since many of the people on YouTube don’t have a clue what they are doing. So, you need to take some time and figure out who you can trust and filter out the people that don’t seem to be an authority. Here are some tips on finding a good video to follow and learn from:

  • Watch at least 10 videos from different people to get a feel for the basic techniques of the job
  • Read the comments below to see if people liked the video and agreed with the content
  • Check the number of views and how many thumbs up they got versus thumbs down. Their views should be in at least the thousands and the majority of the ratings should be a thumbs up.
  • Make sure you watch videos that show you how to do work in Canada and preferably in Alberta, since they will adhere to local building and construction standards that were written for our cold climate.
  • Talk to the designated experts at Lowes or Home Depot to get their take on how to do the job. Some of them are retired contractors, so they might have some great advice for you. Of course some won’t be helpful at all, but eventually you talk to one that has a lot of knowledge. Go at different times of the day or different stores so that you can talk to different employees until you get your answers.
  • Take your time and fully understand what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, before starting.

Once you have a plan of action, give yourself plenty of time to get the work done, since you will probably make some mistakes and get frustrated with the project at some point.

Here is a list of jobs that most people can comfortably tackle and get good results:

  • Painting is really easy and can save you a lot of money.
  • Drywall repairs can get messy but you can get good at it with some practice
  • Laminate and hardwood floors are not that hard
  • Electrical outlets and light fixtures are easy to change if you are comfortable with the danger factor – turn off the breaker.
  • Plumbing is not rocket science but seems to scare a lot of people.
  • Concrete work (minor)
  • Counter tops and cabinets are a little bit more challenging
  • Baseboards
  • Landscaping
  • Vinyl siding
I would not recommend that you take on large exterior projects like pouring a new concrete driveway, replacing your roof, or repairing badly damaged stucco. Those could turn into very expensive messes to fix if you do something wrong. For jobs like that, I have used these guys with great results
The bottom line is don’t be afraid to try something new if you really want to save money. If you can afford to hire someone or don’t have the time, hire a professional to do the job. Just make sure you read their reviews on Google and other websites. If they have more bad reviews than good, you should stay far away from them.

Things To Consider When You Buy An Investment Property

Although the Alberta economy is still stuck in recession after more than 2 years of low oil prices, there are still some bargains to be had when it comes to investment properties. Sure, prices have come down, so buying a home to live in right now probably makes sense when you consider that you can still get a 5 year fixed rate mortgage for around 2.6%.

However, for rentals, the vacancy rate is a lot higher than it used to be, so getting good qualified renters might be harder than you think. For apartment rentals the vacancy rate hit 7% at the end of 2016. That is the highest it has been for 25 years. I couldn’t find any reliable statistics for house rentals, but I am sure the rate is also higher than it has been for a long time. This is not surprise considering that Calgary actually lost people to other provinces instead of gaining migrants as is usually the case. A lot of people that have lost their jobs have packed up and moved back to their home province since their prospects for employment here are probably pretty grim.

Having said that, just like always, when it comes to rentals you have to look at the numbers. Assuming that you can get a good renter, will you be cash positive? When you are doing your calculations, you should be very realistic when you estimate what your costs will be. Remember that the cost of utilities like power and gas are only going to go up with the new carbon tax that started on Jan 1st. I know that we have had a pretty cold winter but it seems like my Enmax bill has gone up dramatically since the tax kicked in. You would usually expect to have your rental home sit vacant once in a while since things happen with tenants not being able to pay or just moving out. However, in this economy you might want to be ready for even more vacancies since a lot of people are having a tough time with unemployment and just might not be able to pay their rent.

As usual, good areas close to transit and work centres are still the best places to buy for investment purposes and for your self to live in as well. The fundamentals of investing in real estate have not changed, you just need to be more careful and do your due diligence even more than you did before. Prices in Calgary have probably bottomed out and with oil prices sitting in the $50 range, the economy seems to be improving slightly, so I believe the worst is behind us. There are however, red flags going up for Vancouver and Toronto where prices are getting ridiculous. Watch the video below for more on that and know that Calgary does not have a problem with overvaluation.

If you do find a great rental property that works for you after considering all the possibilities, make sure you talk to a good accountant to see how your rental income will affect the rest of your income and how much tax you will have to pay. We have used Padgett Calgary and have been very happy with their services. Padgett Edmonton is also very good if you are buying properties up there.

Fun Things To Do in Calgary

Even though the economy in Calgary is suffering right now with all the layoffs and low energy prices, there are still people moving here from other provinces and other countries. Sure there are probably quite a few people packing up and moving back to Ontario or the Maritimes, but most of those people were just here to make a quick buck and never intended to stay for long in the first place. Anyone that has put down some roots and have homes and kids in school, is probably not going to let this downturn affect them too much and they will probably stay.

For those people that are still moving here, I thought I would put together a list of fun things to do in Calgary when you get here.

  1. The Calgary Zoo – Our zoo is well known internationally and with the exception of a few unfortunate animal deaths, is regarded as one of the best in the world. Probably the best thing you can do there is witness the walking of the penguins which is a little field trip the birds take through the zoo. You can stand right beside them behind a roped off area and watch as staff supervise their outing. Another big draw is sure to be the new baby gorilla.
  2. The Calgary Stampede – Sure this only happens for 10 days every year but it really can be a lot of fun if you understand that it is mostly just a big party. There is nothing special about the midway rides, but when you combine those with the free shows that happen periodically through the day on the grounds, the rodeo, and the fantastic evening grandstand show, you get a pretty special place. Sure it is expensive but if you take those things in as well as the parade and take advantage of the party atmosphere all around town, you are bound to have fun.
  3. Heritage Park – This is a turn of the century town that demonstrates what life was like back then. There are people dressed in period appropriate costumes in most of the buildings. In the newspaper office, you can watch them print the paper with their authentic antique printing press, and in the blacksmith shop you can see them shoe a horse.
  4. Science Centre – The Telus science centre is near the zoo and has two floors of interactive exhibits that explain how stuff works. This is great if you have kids to entertain on a Saturday afternoon.
  5. Rafting down the Bow – In the summer, there is nothing more refreshing and relaxing than floating down the bow river with friends or family. You do need to make sure you ask some locals where to start and where to finish. The last thing you want to do is end up going over a dangerous part of the river.
  6. Running and Biking – Calgary has one of the best networks of bike paths out of all the cities in North America. There are hundreds of kilometers of trails that cover most of the city and follow the most scenic routes such as by the river and through parks.
  7. Hiking in the Mountains – Calgary is only an hour away from Kananaskis country, Canmore, and Banff where there are numerous trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Ask locals which trails you should try.
  8. Saskatoon Berry Farm – This is a quaint little farm where you can buy berry trees, pick berries from their trees, buy interesting garden items, or just have a leisurely stroll through the farm. You can buy antiques or have a piece of pie and a coffee, or an ice cream. This is only about 20 minutes south of town and is a great thing to do on a weekend.
  9. Escape Rooms – These are facilities where you voluntarily get locked into a room or maze, and you have a certain amount of time to figure out how to get out using clues, and solving puzzles. There are many companies in Calgary that offer different variations of this theme.
  10. Cooking Classes – When you get a group of friends or family together to learn how to cook a gourmet meal, it can be surprisingly fun. It is a relaxed atmosphere where they give you all the ingredients you need and teach you step by step how to prepare the dish. It also helps that you could be drinking wine while you learn.
Of course there are many more things to do such as shopping, dining, night clubs, theatre, museums, and ballet, but I wanted to stick to things that I have done and are fairly unique to Calgary.
Here is a video with some more great suggestions:

C3573612 : Just Listed

Fantastic location and fantastic size, this 3 bedroom 1250+ square foot bungalow is on a beautiful tree lined street on a Cul de sac.This spacious home boasts vaulted ceilings and an extra large living room. The hardwood floor in the large bedrooms also extends out under the carpet in the hallway, dining room and living room.The master bedroom also has a 2 piece ensuite. There is a separate entrance to the unspoiled basement. Attached single garage and an extra large drive way with plenty of room for parking. The recently paved back alley keeps everything looking neat and tidy. The big back yard has tons of room for gardening or entertaining. View Listing Details …

C3573555 : Just Listed

Fantastic one bedroom condo in the heart of one of Calgary’s most prestigious neighbourhoods, Arbour Lake. This condo faces a large sports field allowing for a great view and natural light to flood in through the many windows. The well laid out floor plan is very open with vaulted ceilings, large kitchen with breakfast bar, gas fireplace with mantle, pantry/storage, in suite laundry, spacious balcony with gas BBQ hookup, large bedroom and walk in closet. This top floor condo also comes with an extra storage unit in the underground parkade. The best thing about this condo is the location, not only does it have lake access, it is also within walking distance to Crowfoot Crossing, C-train, library, YMCA, schools and about a 10 minute train ride to the University of Calgary. View Listing Details …

Why is there no Boom?

Home and moneySince the economy is doing  just fine right now in Alberta, some people think that the housing market should be booming just like it did back in the 2006 to 2007 time period. There are plenty of people moving here from other provinces and countries in search of employment and a new and better life. Because of this, the demand for housing is strong in the resale, new home, and rental markets. Prices are up by an about 7% from this time last year, and there are only about 4400 homes on the market right now, so if you want to sell, you will do well. However you cannot expect the kind of price appreciation you would have had in the boom years.

There are several reasons for this, with the most important being all the negativity in the media about the world economy and the Canadian housing market. Pretty much every day I see a real estate related story in one of the national newspapers like the Globe and Mail or the National post where the headline reads something like ” Housing market to crash by 25%”. When people see these headlines they may not even bother to read the whole story where they will find that the writer is mostly taking about the Vancouver and Toronto markets. Vancouver has some ridiculous prices, and  Toronto has had a condo boom for many years and may start to suffer from oversupply. This kind of negativity tends to make people wary of real estate, even though the old saying that real estate is local is totally true.

Regardless of what is happening elsewhere, the Alberta economy is strong and will be for the long term. Even if Obama doesn’t approve the keystone pipeline to Texas, and the Gateway pipeline is stopped, the Oilsands will still be a large source of jobs and wealth for this province. People will continue to move here and the demand for housing will stay strong.

Another reason people may be more hesitant to buy is maybe they can’t. With the Federal government taking several steps to cool the housing market in the last couple of years, it is now harder to get approved for a mortgage. This contrasts with the boom years when it was very easy to get a mortgage and you could get a 40 year amortization. Now the maximum amortization period is 25 years so people need either a larger income to qualify, or they have to have a larger down payment. Of course the buyer will pay a lot less interest over 25 years than they would over 30 or 40 years, so that part is a real advantage, but many people will have to delay buying a home for a few more years when they will have saved more money, or are earning a larger income. This initially affects the first time buyers, but also influences the rest of the market because if there are less first time buyers, it makes it harder for people to move up to a larger or more luxurious home since it may be more difficult to sell their starter home.

Don Campbell of the Real Estate Investment Network has more on this here



How many homes are on the Market in Calgary?

Weekly update on the Calgary MarketAs of April 16th, 2013 there are a total of 4336 homes for sale in Calgary. This includes every single type of property that you can think of.

Historically, the number of houses and condos available for sale right now is quite low, and that is contributing to higher prices and a seller’s market.

Good properties that are priced right, are selling quickly and some are attracting multiple offers especially in the hot areas of town. However, sellers can’t get over confident and expect to make a killing like they did in the 2006 to 2007 boom times.

If we break it down, we get the following:

  • Detached single family homes (Basically this means any houses that are not duplexes)    2579
  • Attached single family homes (Duplexes)    307
  • Condos (townhouse style)   420
  • Condos (Apartment style)    842

Welcome to my new website

This website has been designed to be as simple as possible. I know you are busy and don’t have time to figure out where everything is, so if you want to search for properties on this site, you just have to click once and you will find what you want. I decided to rebuild my website because this new platform will allow me to do more things to serve you better.

If you are buying or selling, I would love to help you