Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


Welcome!
January 6, 2009, 3:35 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Uncategorized | Tags:

Hello, and welcome to the Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) real estate blog!

I hope that over time you will find all the answers you will need about real estate and sustainable housing here. If you would like more information about any topic, please feel free to contact me.

This blog is laid out into several different categories, which you can find in the left hand column. These categories are:

  • Buying : information for those looking to buy a home
  • Selling: information for those looking to sell a home
  • Rentals: information for landlords or those looking to invest in multiple family units or investment properties.
  • Market Conditions: information on the real estate market in Kitchener-Waterloo region.
  • Sustainability: information on sustainable housing, green building techniques and technologies and tips for making your home more sustainable.
  • Uncategorized: anything else real estate related.

I also like to do surveys to find out how people are feeling about real estate and housing related issues. Please take my latest survey on sustainability in housing.

My friend and colleague Judita Makos has recently joined the blog to give an added opinion and voice to the Kitchener-Waterloo  market. Judita is a dedicated professional with a background in construction, renovation, preparing income taxes and book keeping.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions on anything you don’t understand. I will be happy to explain further or provide you with more information.

Happy reading!

Rebecca

P.S.

I love this city, but sadly, I will be leaving it shortly!

I am heading to parts of West and Central Africa for the next two years to work and do research on the connections between the extraction of metals and violence which I will be writing on at my other blog A Peace of Conflict. During this time, I will not be available to help you with your real estate needs.

If you need real estate assistance, please contact my trusted friend Judita. She will gladly assist you with all your needs!

I will still occasionally be writing on one of my favorite topics, sustainability. Due to time constraints, this will not be regular. Judita will still be posting here on current real estate issues, so please watch for her upcoming posts.

Thanks to all my readers!

green_agent



Local, national and international housing
December 7, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Judita Makos, Market Conditions, Uncategorized

 

LOCAL-KITCHENER – WATERLOO

According to Kitchener-Waterloo Real Estate Board, total of 484 homes were sold in area through MLS,  which is 7.8 per cent increase compared to October 2010 and 10.9 per cent decrease to  November 2009.

 122 condominiums sold in November, which is 22 % increase over November 2009
and average price for condominium was $209,094, which is a 5.5% increase compared to the same month
last year.
The average price of all residential properties sold through the MLS® System of the KWREB last month was $282,629, a 0.4 percent decrease compared to November 2009. Detached homes sold for an average price of $322,839 last month, a 0.6 percent decrease relative to one year ago.
The most popular price range was for home selling between $200,000 and 225,000,
Consumers  favoured more modestly priced homes in November, however on year to date basis, it is amazing how the higher priced properties are driving much of the local real estate market” says George Patton, President of KWREB.
The strength of this residential market has resulted in a record breaking dollar volume of sales through the KWREB’s MLS® System, with year-to-date results for 2010 currently showing a total of $1,753,664,113, a 9.6 percent increase over the same period last year,and easily surpassing the previous record posted in 2007 of $1,619,377,742.

“In terms of total dollar volume, 2010 is poised to go down in history as our best year ever,” notes Patton.
TORONTO
Greater Toronto REALTORS reported 6,510 existing homes sales in November – down 13 % from november 2009 and the average selling price for November transactions was $438,030 – a 5% increase compared to same month in 2009.
“The GTA resale market has tightened since the summer. Healthy market conditions continued to support growth in the average selling price,” said Toronto Real Estate BoardPresident Bill Johnston.
“Sales through the first 11 months of the year were down only marginally compared to the same period in 2009. We remain on track for one of the best years on record under the current TREB market area,” continued Johnston.
CANADA
Home selling price in Canada shows decrease of 0,3 per cent in the third quarter as the market has slowed quicker
than expected. However, yar over year, prices are still up by 7.9 per cent.
Canadian economy remains a problem though. The Canadian real Estate Association has downgraded their forecast
4 times this year already. Latest forecast calls for 1.6 per cent gain in average housing prices in 2011, down from
5.4 percent previously forecasted.

According to Stats Canada  Municipalities issued $6.2 billion worth of building permits in October, down 6.5 per cent from September.
Statistics Canada blames the decline largely on drops in both the residential and non-residential sectors in Ontario and Quebec.
The value of residential permits fell 11.2 per cent in November, after substantial gains in September and October.
The value of non-residential permits remained at $2.7 billion as higher commercial and industrial construction  offset a decline in the value of building permits for institutional projects.
The total value of permits decreased in half of the provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec.
Newfoundland and Labrador had the largest increase.
INTERNATIONAL

“There is growing evidence that the global housing market recovery may just be beginning to run out of steam,” said
Liam Bailey, head of research for London-based Knight Frank in a report.

After several quarters of rising prices globally, home appreciation has slipped considerably, especially in Europe where there are fears that some countries may default on their debt.

Ireland was in last place on the list at number 48, down by 1.3 per cent in the third quarter, or minus 14.8 per cent cent year over year.

Italy was in 37th place with minus 2.5per cent growth, Greece was in 38th place showing minus 3.1 per cent growth, and Spain was in 41st place, showing minus 3.7 per cent year over year growth.

The biggest global gainer was the Asia Pacific region, up by 9.9 per cent in the third quarter
. The weakest was Europe at 0.8 per cent

Hong Kong was in second spot, followed by China in third.

“China’s key cities may avoid a significant correction in prices as local government fine tune their land supply programs,” said Bailey.

However, Frank Knight analysts still expect that prices will fall by 20 per cent in major cities cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzen next year.

Latvia was the surprise top gainer in the third quarter. It was in last place a year ago. But the country has been highly volatile. A new immigration law that relaxed residency rules for foreign investors has helped to boost house prices according to Frank Knight.

 In the key United States market, prices are up by 0.6 per cent from a year ago, with average prices dropping to 2003 levels.



REDEVELOPING BROWNFIELDS
April 9, 2010, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Judita Makos, Sustainability

Brownfield properties have always suffered from negative perception. They’re considered to be contaminated, difficult to deal with and fraught with delays, high costs, and red tape.

Time and familiarity is needed for this to change. The push for urban intensification in recent years, and new programs and technologies  are already making maNy stakeholders take a closer look at the development potential of brownfields.

Major projects like FILMPORT in Toronto and the Halifax Seawall redevelopment show what can be done to revitalize brownfields.

Term “brownfield” covers a wide variety of sites. According to NRTEE  (National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy)  brownfields fall into three categories;

  • Top tier about 15 to 20 per cent of brownfields . These sites’ market value far exceeds the cost of remediation, and these sites are usually redeveloped quickly.
  • Middle tier – 60 to 70 per cent . Cost of clean up and the potential value are high. These sites present a great deal of development potential, but are too expensive or risky to clean-up. This category stands to benefit most from incentives or regulatory changes that could tip the balance between cost and profit to encourage development.
  • Bottom tier – 15 to 20 per cent; these are sites where cleanup cost would far outweigh the value of the land after cleanup. These sites have few development prospects.

Well-located brownfields often have a lot of development potential. Besides being closer to the city core than any new development could possibly be, these sites are usually already served by infrastructure such as utilities and roads – saving the need to build these from scratch.  It also saves greenfield land on a city’s outskirts. In fact, it’s estimated that every brownfield redevelopment saves an area four-and-half  times larger from being developed in suburbs.

Brownfields redevelopment can also have a hugely positive impact on the neighbouring communities.  Sites tend to be in the older parts of cities. Experience has shown that redeveloping a brownfield reinvigorates  the surrounding communities, creating more economic and social activity in the area.

by Judita Makos

More information about brownfields in Ontario  http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/land/decomm/brownfields.htm



MLS vs FSBO
April 9, 2010, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Judita Makos

FSBO or For Sale By Owner is a home put up for sale without the services of a real estate sales representative. It usually presents some unique challenges to the seller.
First of all, the owner needs to know local house market values and objectively compare like properties to his/her own property. Up-to-date pricing – the kind a local real estate agent knows – is a key to generating initial interest in the property for sale.
FSBO  sellers should also be aware that many potential buyers expect lower selling price if real estate agent is not involved.
Also education or realty legal matters is crucial for any owner thinking of selling a property. Disclosures, legal forms and contracts must be in place and real estate laws must be adhered to in order to avoid any vulnerability to lawsuits. Also owners must be prepared to answer many phone calls and/or emails,and to have their house ready for visits at anytime.
So, it is safe to say  that FSBO and Real Estate Sales Representatives are in competition. But as you can read in following article, FSBO got on CREA-MLS side against Competition Bureau. lol

 Garry Marr, Financial PostPublished: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

MLS rival joins battle against Competition Bureau

Reuters

The Canadian Real Estate Association now has a strange ally in its fight with the Competition Bureau the owner of an independent site that aims to compete with the Multiple Listing Service.

National FSBO Network Inc. has filed a motion for leave to intervene in the case before the Competition Tribunal involving the federal watchdog and CREA, the group that represents more than 100 real estate boards across Canada and the country’s 98,000 agents.

Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of the Competition Bureau, filed an application with the tribunal in February in which she referred to CREA’s practices as anti-competitive.

The two sides have been battling over access to the MLS system, which is owned in Canada by CREA and which the bureau says is responsible for about 90% of residential property sales.

Last month, CREA approved new industry regulations that would give consumers some ability to decide how much or how little they use an agent on a real estate deal. Ms. Aitken rejected the changes passed by CREA. Her plan would allow real estate agents to provide a multitude of a la carte services, including using an agent just to list on MLS.

Private sales by owners represent as much as 30% of all transactions in some centres, National FSBO says. Its application suggests the government watchdog’s plan would put them out of business, thus reducing competition instead of creating room for it.

“We are not quite sure what the commissioner is trying to achieve,” said Stephen Skelly, vice-president of operations with Ottawa-based National FSBO. “There is a discussion of a fee- for-service operation and that’s the kind of thing FSBO businesses already provide.”

Mr. Skelly’s worry is that if agents list property on the MLS for a one-time fee and provide no additional service, his members won’t be able to compete because the MLS has such a dominant position. He is trying to link various FSBO networks across the country and has six signed up, including GrapeVine Home Marketing Consultants in Ottawa, one of the largest in eastern Ontario.

“There is serious concern in the FSBO community that if the commissioner’s application is successful, it would be very difficult for FSBO businesses to compete with agents who would have full use of the MLS and ‘related trademarks’ and who would have all of the advertising and marketing recourses of CREA and its members. This could ultimately lead to the demise of FSBO businesses and the costeffective services they provide, and effectively [create] a monopoly situation,” the application states.

Neither CREA nor the bureau would comment on the application. Both sides can file a motion with the tribunal as to why or why not Mr. Skelly should be granted intervenor status.

The bureau has also received a request for leave to intervene from Lawrence Dale, the former owner of Realtysellers, which says it was prime target of CREA’s anti-competitive practices.

No date has been set for the tribunal hearing.



My Two Top Service Picks for K-W

Automotive repair:

I was referred to Christine’s by a good friend of mine who told me a lovely story of the service he had received here. When my old car needed new brakes, I called for an appointment. I was met with a friendly voice that was able to squeeze me in and help me almost immediately for my own safety. Christine was not only trustworthy (no unnecessary “fixes” or upcharges here), but extremely knowledgeable and caring.

Christines’s Automotive

38 Hanson Avenue, Unit 2 (just south of Homer Watson and Ottawa), Kitchener

Tel. 519-772-5044

Computer Repair:

All I can say is Notebook Galaxy. I love these guys! After bringing my broken laptop into three different shops and being told three different stories of what was wrong with it, then requesting work at one shop only to be told they don’t have to parts and I would have to purchase them myself separately, I finally found Notebook Galaxy. I walked in and it was crowded, but I was greeted immediately none-the-less with a friendly welcome and inquiry into my computer’s status. One man was sitting on a couch, a computer taken apart in front of him. The other man was multi-tasking and assisting three people at once behind the desk. I figured it would take a while, but I did not want to leave my computer at another place again. So I waited. To my surprise, they moved through the crowd quickly and efficiently and I was served within 5 minutes. The man on the couch quickly looked at my computer, made a few minor adjustments, and to my surprise, said “it’s fixed”. And it was. No insane prices or elaborate labour charges. Simple fixes, in front of your face. He also showed me how to maintain my computer, get free spyware, and other handy little tidbits that I still use. They have since been the only people I trust to touch my computer!

Notebook Galaxy

347 Weber Street North, Unit B (near the corner of Weber and Columbia), Waterloo

Tel. 519-886-1112



Sewage Treatment, Containment and Distribution
March 10, 2010, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Sustainability | Tags: , , , , ,

reprinted from Earthship Biotecture.

We must become more aware of where our sewage goes.

Earthships contain, use and reuse all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells.

This results in food production and landscaping with no pollution of aquifers.

Toilets flush with treated gray water that does not smell.

Containment, Treatment & Distribution

The concept used for containment, treatment and distribution of sewage-water is based on and draws information from the wetlands concept which has long been used in exterior applications for thousands of years by humans and nature.

The Earthship sewage system differs from the wetlands approach in that it primarily treats the gray water inside the building and the sewage from the toilet outside of the building, both in smaller areas. Greywater is the used water after all receptacles except the toilet.

All household sewage is used & reused in the interior and exterior planters, called botanical cells.

Earthship greywater planter

Use & Re-use

Water is used to carry away our household sewage in a conventional way such as bathing, washing dishes, and for the toilet. The sewage-water, also called gray water, is used and cleaned for a second time in interior botanical cells. The flush toilet is the third use of the water. After the toilet, the water is contained and treated, and used a fourth time in exterior botanical cells.

Phoenix Earthship Kitchen

Interior Botanical Cell

The Earthship gray water system has been researched and developed by Earthship Biotecture for over 20 years. This system allows for the need of far less water than is conventionally assumed.

Gray Water Organizing Module (gWOM)

The gWOM pumps the treated water, which is now gray water to the toilet to flush.
The gWOM is part of our retrofit package for your existing home. Ask us about it: 575-751-0462 or biotecture@earthship.com.
Click here to use a web form to send a message

Greywater Organizing Module

Exterior Botanical Cell

The effort to contain the outdoor system rather than letting it leach into the earth is much more realistic and manageable because of its lower volume. It should also be noted that one or many more contained cells can be added to the outdoor system if necessary. This simply adds to the controlled landscaping of the home.

The objective is to eliminate the need for public sewage systems and un-contained septic systems that pollute the earth, while getting multiple uses out of all water collected in the catchwater systems.

For the purpose of satisfying convention, the Earthship Sewage system is set up (via valving) to flow entirely into the conventional septic tank and on to a conventional leach-field. The Earthship water system is not, therefore, in place of but in addition to convention.

Blackwater planter overview

Blackwater planter overview

The path of WASTE water in an Earthship:

  • After water is used in sinks, showers and bat-tubs, it then drains into linear biologically developed interior gray water treatment and containment systems (gray water planters).
  • Clean looking (but not drinkable) water is piped to flush the toilet (toilets) with.
  • Next the water goes outside to a conventional septic tank that is solar heated with a glazed south side to enhance the anaerobic process. This unit functions like a regular septic tank (only better) with a line out to a conventional leach-field.
  • We add a preferred but optional line out that goes in to rubber lined exterior botanical cell(s) (size and quantity varies) that are constructed very similar to the interior gray water treatment and containment planter. This facilitates total containment of remaining effluent and directs its use toward exterior landscaping. After this use the water again tests below measurable nitrate levels
Also available are dry, Solar Toilets. These act like composting toilets, but they admit the sun to increase effectiveness. Construction drawings are available.

We live in a time when many parts of our planet are experiencing water shortages. The volume of water on this planet is finite whilre human population increases. As we gauge the depletion of our aquifers and the increase in population, we are able to pedict serious water shortages in the near future.

We must begin now… learning to harvest water in each individual home. We must use this water many times before putting it back into the earth. When we do put it back, it must be in a form that works with existing nurturing forces and phenomena of the earth.

To further compound the water problem on this planet, we have polluted and contaminated most of our easily accessible surface waters and are beginning to contaminate the more difficult to access aquifers beneath the surface of the our planet. This contamination happens because of the way conventional sewage systems operate.

Facing the Facts

  • If there are energy shortages, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is ecological damage, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there are economic crisis, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there are computer glitches, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is political turmoil, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is war, individuals will have water problems.

Almost anything that happens in the future can result in questionable availability of fresh water. This is not just an environmental problem. The continued pollution of the atmosphere, the surface and subsurface of the earth is not the only cause for alarm about availability of fresh water. Water availability to individuals is dependent on every other social system being in place, stable, health and at peace. It is inevitable that we will experience failure of one or more of these systems at some point in the future.

We are simply adapting our needs to the already existing activities of the planet.

Why pipe water long distances from a centralized community water system, or from an expensive well that needs significant electrical power, depletes aquifers and lowers the water table, when water fall from the sky?

Why have a corporate or political “middle man” between us and our energy needs? our vessel (home) must be designed to sail with the forces that exist beyond human control and exploitation.

An understanding of mechanical systems for most humans is limited to what is within reach of their fingertips. It is understood that when you flip a switch on the wall, a light comes on. when you turn on the faucet, hot water comes out. When you pull the handle on the toilet, it flushes. Little though is given to where the electricity comes from or what kind of nuclear waste was produced to generate it. how many of us even know where the power plant is that supplies our power. Few people ever wonder which water table is depleted to bring them water and what chemicals have been added to it. Where does the sewage go after it is flushed and which rivers and lakes are polluted by it?

Humans need comfortable temperatures, light, electricity, hot water, food, sewage treatment, etc. These necessities are all available within the framework of a certain “rhythm” in the Earthship. The more we are able to align our priorities and needs with the prevailing rhythms of the planet, the easier and less expensive (both in terms of economics and ecology) they will be to obtain.

If our lifestyles can conform more to the patterns of the planet than to our socioeconomic system, we can reduce the stress on both ourselves and the planet. This is easier said than done due to the “reality” and the “gravity” of mortgage payments, utility bills and the generally high cost of eating and living. Most of us have no choice. We have to be places at certain times looking certain ways in order to make the money needed to make those payments. However, many people have built Earthships themselves and ended up with little to no mortgage payment. They also have little or no utility bills and their ability to grow food year-round inside the Earthship has greatly affected what they have to spend on packaged, processed foods.

The condition of our planet tells us we must now begin to take responsibility for what happens beyond the reach of our fingertips. We must begin to reconsider the source of these utilities, our access to them, and how we dispose of the waste produced. The mechanical systems of the Earthship confront these issues directly. We call this direct living. Source, access and destination are all contained within the Earthship, within the reach of our fingertips. There is no mystery involved in Earthship electricity. There is no unknown source of water. There is no magical black hole that sucks up all our sewage. Instead, we work in harmony with the earth to deal with these issues – taking what it has to give us directly and giving back what it wants to receive. With this harmony ringing in our minds we evolve the Earthship Systems.



K-W Real Estate Update

INTEREST RATES
The Bank of Canada took its first steps this week  toward returning the country to more normal interest rate levels by signalling a more hawkish tone on inflation and acknowledging the economy is performing better than expected on “vigorous” consumer demand.

The messages were conveyed in the Bank of Canada’s latest interest-rate statement, which kept its record-low benchmark rate of 0.25% as is and pledged to keep it there until July.

The rate statement emerged a day after economic data indicated the Canadian economy grew at a robust 5% annualized pace in the final three months of 2009, blowing past market expectations for a 4% gain and the central bank’s original 3.3% forecast. Economists say the fourth-quarter performance has set the stage for another robust gain, of perhaps 4% or more, for the first three months of 2010.

Meanwhile, recent data indicate that both the headline and core inflation rates have moved much closer to the 2% level than the central bank had expected. Under the bank’s forecast, the 2% level would not be reached until the third-quarter of next year.

In the statement, the central bank acknowledged economic activity has been “slightly higher” than its own projections, with the 5% gain in the fourth quarter powered by “vigorous domestic demand” and a recovery in exports.

Low interest rates are doing their job in stimulating demand — perhaps, increasingly, too well.”

The consensus remains that the central bank will wait until July to begin raising rates.  There are two more scheduled rate decisions between now and then, with one April 20 and then June 1.
Economists believes rate increases will begin in the third quarter, but  the odds have increased that the first hike will be in July as opposed to September.

How much, and how rapidly, the central bank raises rates beginning in July is up for debate, with economists estimating increases of 100 to 150 basis points in the second half of 2010.Financial Post

HOUSING ACTIVITY IN  2010

According to CMHC housing starts rebounded in the second half of 2009 and will strengthen in 2010.

Following a total of 149,081 units in 2009, housing starts are expected to be in the range of 152,000 to 189,300 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 171,250 units.
 In 2011, housing starts will be in the range of 156,400 to 205,600 units, with a point forecast of 175,150 units.

“Canadian housing markets will benefit from improving economic conditions and low mortgage rates,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist for CMHC. “As well, measures recently announced by the Government of Canada to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market will help moderate housing activity as some potential buyers will have to save a larger down payment or consider a less expensive home.”

Mr. Dugan also noted that the existing home market has shifted from a buyers’ market, at the beginning of 2009, to a sellers’ market. The relative lack of new listings for existing homes has pushed some of the demand into the new home market, which helps explain the forecast for higher housing starts activity in 2010.

The strong pace of MLS®1 sales seen in the second to fourth quarters of 2009 reflects, in part, activity that was delayed in the previous two quarters. The pace is not likely to be sustained as pent-up demand is exhausted and financing costs increase with anticipated higher interest rates later in 2010. As a result, existing home sales will be in the range of 455,350 to 509,900 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 486,700 units, and then move slightly lower in 2011 to be in the range of 426,300 to 494,600 units, with a point forecast of 469,950 units.

With an improved balance between demand and supply, the average MLS® price is expected to remain close to the average in the last quarter of 2009, for most of 2010, and then rise modestly in 2011. CHMC 

KITCHENER- WATERLOO MARKET UPDATE – KWREB  OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE 

KITCHENER‐WATERLOO, ON (March 3, 2010) – While Canada’s athletes were racing for Olympic Gold;Waterloo region’s homebuyers were racing to buy real estate. There were  553 homes traded  in February through the Multiple Listing System (MLS®) for a total value of $153,120,645, marking a 31.7 percent increase over January’s results.
This is the most residential sales we’ve seen in the month of February in over two decades.” said, Ted Scharf, President of the Kitchener‐Waterloo Real Estate Board. “It has been an exceptionally busy start to the year.”
February’s sales included 350 detached homes (up 43.4 percent from 2009), 99 condominium units (up percent from 2009), 52 semis (up 73.3 percent from 2009) and 49 townhouses  (up 63.3 percent from 2009).
There were a total of 75 properties sold in the $300,000 to $350,000 price range‐‐ the second most popular category last month—a 150 percent increase on a year‐over‐year basis.

The most active price range continued to be homes selling between $225,000 and $250,000, with 93 sales, up 50 percent over last year.
The average sale price of all residential sales increased 12.2 percent to $276,891 compared with February 2009. Single detached homes sold for an average price of $324,631, an increase of 15.8 percent compared to last year.

 In the condominium market the average sale price in February was$173,726, an increase of 8.3 percent from one year.
“The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which takes effect on July 1 is likely contributing somewhat to the increased sales we are seeing, “says Scharf.   But the biggest factor influencing strong sales during this traditionally slower time of year according to Scharf, is the historically low-interest rates. “Consumersare taking advantage of current interest rates now before they are predicted to rise this summer.”



Leaving Canada
March 3, 2010, 1:31 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent

Hello all!

I love this city, but sadly, I will be leaving it shortly!

I am heading to parts of West and Central Africa for the next two years to work and do research on the connections between the extraction of metals and violence which I will be writing on at my other blog A Peace of Conflict. During this time, I will not be available to help you with your real estate needs.

If you need real estate assistance, please contact my trusted friend Judita. She will gladly assist you with all your needs!

I will still occasionally be writing on one of my favorite topics, sustainability. Due to time constraints, this will not be regular. Judita will still be posting here on current real estate issues, so please watch for her upcoming posts.

Thanks to all my readers!

Rebecca