Barry Klatt

403-271-0600
Barry Klatt
Office:403-271-0600
Fax:403-476-5236

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Looking for a piece of Costa Rican Paradise? Asking only $150,000, I invite you to view "Villagio Flor de Pacifico"! This is a fully furnished two bedroom detached home in a quiet, gated community. Native Costa Rican hardwoods were used for the soaring vault ceilings, built-in wardrobes, casings / trims and the kitchen cabinets. This home has plenty of charm
with arched windows, tiled floors and open design. A wide and shady patio across the front invites you to relax in the hammock. Established grounds and gardens provide a tranquil and colorful backdrop to this community that features a large owners pool, quaint Central Plaza complete with restaurants and shops, secure parking and all only 5 minutes from the beach
and marina. This is a "turn-key" opportunity to secure an affordable vacation or retirement home on Costa Rica's Gold Coast  - rental income is possible to assist with ownership costs.
 
Contact me for more details.
 

Over the years, we’ve developed a good understanding of how buildings perform. Construction techniques for new homes have changed rapidly. Most of these improved techniques also apply to renovations.
 

If you plan carefully, you can renovate your home to make it look better, work better, last longer and be more comfortable. Before renovating, it’s important to assess the condition of your home to determine if there are any significant underlying problems that must be addressed before or during your planned renovation project.

Figure 1: Problems that should be addressed

Figure 1: Problems that should be addressed

Common Situations

In Canada, we need affordable houses to provide shelter from the elements. We also want our homes to be pleasant, comfortable and attractive.

Homeowners have higher expectations than in the past, particularly about comfort and interior design. Renovations are an opportunity to address some of these expectations.

Some of the reasons people decide to renovate are to:

  • Upgrade or improve outdated or deteriorated systems — replacing an outdated furnace, old siding or windows are common upgrades.
  • Maintain and repair various elements of their house — reshingling a roof or fixing foundation cracks are typical renovations.
  • Address lifestyle needs — converting unused attic space to living quarters, add a sunroom or build a home office.

Healthy Housing™

Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier for you, the community and the environment. When assessing your renovation project, be sure to consider the five essentials of Healthy Housing™.

House as a System

A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s an interactive system made up of many components including the basic structure, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants. Each component influences the performance of the entire system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how your house performs.

As you assess your renovation project, ask yourself how changing particular components will affect the performance of the whole house. For example, as part of a bathroom renovation you may want to add a hot tub that will generate large amounts of humidity during operation.Your existing ventilation may be inadequate to handle the increased moisture levels. It will be important to provide proper ventilation to avoid mold growth, indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and damage to the structure or finishes. You may need to consult with a qualified home inspector or a professional renovator.

Avoid Surprises

A systematic and thorough inspection will help you to assess the condition of your home. Look for any signs of deterioration and the possible causes. Start your inspection in the basement. Many problems in other parts of the house originate there. Depending upon the size of your project, you may want to ask a qualified home inspector or a professional renovator to help you assess your building and develop a plan. Here are some of the likely questions that you’ll want to think about.

Foundations
ask
  • Are there any cracks or is there damage to concrete walls or floors?
  • Are there any damp spots, stains, efflorescence (white, chalky stains) or blistered paint on the concrete, finished walls or floors?
  • Does anyone notice bad smells or experience nausea or headaches when in the basement?
  • Is there high humidity, any condensation or visible mold?
consider your options
  • Repair minor cracks if they leak. Seek an engineer’s opinion on serious structural problems such as major or expanding cracks, bowed walls or uneven floors.
  • Clean up mold; discard moldy or rotting materials.
  • Ensure that the floor drain has a trap or install a retrofit backflow preventer. Make sure that all plumbing fixtures (including washer) are vented and have traps. Install a sealed cover on the sump pit.
  • Direct outside surface water away from the foundation. Improve underground drainage.
  • Repair or replace damaged interior finishes.
  • Keep the relative humidity between 30 and 55%. Ventilate and circulate air. Dehumidify or air condition in summer. Clean up mold according to CMHC guidelines.
and if you dont
  • Serious structural problems could cause further damage or collapse.
  • Water pressure on the outside of the foundation can contribute to leaks and structural problems.
  • Odours will continue to be annoying and can pose health problems, depending on the source.
  • Unresolved water sources will cause renovations to deteriorate quickly, whether the water comes from building leaks, plumbing leaks or high humidity.
  • Mold can grow on almost anything and be a source of serious indoor air quality (IAQ) problems.

Basement ceiling or main floor structure
ask
  • Are there any headroom problems?
  • Are there signs of rot, sagging floor joists or twisted beams?
  • Are there water stains on the main floor structure or basement finished ceiling?
consider your options
  • Assess structural problems carefully. Expert help may be required. Repair or replace structural elements so they will accommodate renovation plans and expected loads.
  • Fix any water leaks.
and if you dont
  • Unresolved structural problems, poorly planned structural changes or new loads may cause future settling or collapse.

Mechanical and electrical systems
ask
  • Are there unusually high heating or cooling bills?
  • Are mechanical systems capable of supplying current and future needs?
  • Is the house too dry or too humid? Is the heat uneven?
  • Is there ever a noticeable smoky or fuel smell?
  • Is the electrical service and wiring capable of supplying current and future needs?
  • Do fuses keep blowing or circuit breakers keep shutting off?
  • Are there any exposed electrical wires or crumbled wire insulation?
  • Do any lights dim or outlets spark?
  • Are there leaks from pipes, taps, toilets or the water heater?
consider your options
  • Have a qualified service company inspect your heating system to ensure that equipment is up-to-date, functioning properly and sized to handle current and future needs.
  • Air seal the house to keep it from becoming too dry. Use a humidifier (that has a humidistat) as required. Provide ventilation using exhaust fans or a heat recovery ventilator to reduce humidity in winter. Dehumidify or air condition to reduce the humidity in summer. Check for heat flow to each room.
  • Repair any sources of smoky or fuel smells immediately. The smells could indicate serious fire or health hazards.
  • Have an electrician assess the electrical systems and any problems such as fuses blowing repeatedly, sparking outlets, exposed wires or connections.
  • Repair any water leaks. Repair or replace leaky fixtures.
and if you dont
  • Without regular service, heating systems may gradually deteriorate unnoticed, leading to serious health and safety concerns.
  • Problems can arise if HVAC needs cannot be met by the capacity of the services available. The heating supply must be enough for comfort. Proper ventilation is needed to control excess humidity.
  • Electrical service, wiring and outlets may be unsafe or inadequate for increased loads.
  • Plumbing leaks will continue to damage the finishes and the house structure. The leaks may also contribute to mold growth and IAQ problems.

General living areas, floors and stairs
ask
  • Are floors or stairs springy, sagging, warped or squeaky?
  • Are floor surfaces damaged or carpets musty?
  • Are handrails or guardrails loose?
consider your options
  • Assess the supports underneath the floor. Contact a carpenter for help. Repair as needed.
  • Refasten or shim squeaking floors or stairs.
  • Repair serious safety hazards immediately such as damaged floors or stair boards and loose coverings.
  • Replace damaged flooring. Eliminate moisture sources.
  • Repair loose handrails or guardrails.
and if you dont
  • Damaged or uneven floors and stairs may be unsafe.
  • Musty carpets are usually a source of mold.
  • Loose handrails or guardrails are a safety hazard.

Kitchens and bathrooms
ask
  • Is there any water seepage around fixtures or condensation on windows or toilets?
  • Are floors damaged around bathtubs or showers?
consider your options
  • Repair or replace leaky fixtures.
  • Repair or replace damaged flooring.
  • Provide proper ventilation to reduce humidity, indoor pollutants and stale air.
and if you dont
  • Leaks will continue to cause damage.
  • Excess humidity will continue to cause damage, may cause mold growth and affect the IAQ.

Walls and ceilings
ask
  • Do walls and ceilings have any cracks, holes, bulges, water stains or peeling finishes?
  • Do any doors or windows bind or stick?
  • Are any windows drafty, broken, operating poorly or is there moisture between panes?
  • Are there water stains or rot on windows or walls?
consider your options
  • Repair any holes. Eliminate moisture sources that cause bulges, water stains or peeling finishes.
  • Assess cracks, binding doors or stuck windows for changes in moisture levels or structural movement. Repair or replace as required.
  • Replace broken windowpanes and poorly operating hardware. Replace sealed unit windows that have broken seals or rot.
  • Replace rotted wall materials. Eliminate moisture sources.
and if you dont
  • If the problem sources are not fixed, the bulges, cracks or binding will re-occur.
  • Hiding moisture damage behind new finishes will cause continuing deterioration and mold growth.
  • Faulty windows will eventually result in damage to surrounding wall areas.

Attics
ask
  • Are there water stains or excessive dampness?
  • Is there black mold on any of the roof framing or sheathing?
  • Is the attic adequately ventilated?
  • Are there air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms below the attic? Is the attic hatch sealed?
consider your options
  • Find moisture sources. Repair roof leaks. Air-seal the ceiling using polyethylene sheeting, sealed over octagonal boxes for lights, caulk holes for wires through sheeting or wall top plates and weatherstrip attic hatches.
  • Ventilate the attic at the soffits and roof peak.
  • Seal any air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms below the attic. Install a sealed attic hatch.
and if you dont
  • Moisture damage will continue to deteriorate the house. Unventilated attics will allow moisture to build up.
  • Air leaks in ceilings below the attic will reduce heating efficiency and can be sources of odours and pollutants.

Roofs
ask
  • Does the roof have any curled or cracked shingles, bare patches, leaks, moss, or damaged flashing?
  • Do eavestroughs and downspouts direct water away from the foundation?
consider your options
  • Repair or replace damaged roofing.
  • Clean leaves and debris from eavestroughs every spring and fall. Extend downspouts to direct rainwater away from the foundation.
and if you dont
  • Roofing will continue to deteriorate.
  • Surface water near the house can put undue stress on the foundation and is a primary cause of water entry problems.

Exterior walls
ask
  • Is there any blistered paint, rotted wood, buckled siding, stained or crumbled brick or damaged stucco on exterior walls?
consider your options
  • Find and eliminate the source of water penetration. Repair or replace damaged exterior finishes.
and if you dont
  • Water penetration may lead to more serious siding, structural and interior finish problems.

Rewards

  • Undertaking maintenance and repair projects such as correcting structural flaws, fixing leaks and making sure that all services are safe and adequate will make your home safer, more efficient and more durable.
  • After you have ensured safety, efficiency and durability, other renovations can be done to make your home more pleasant, attractive and suited to your lifestyle.

Skills to Do the Job

You can assess most of your house with the help of one of CMHC’s inspection checklists. Professional home inspectors are also available to do a thorough inspection for you.

Repairing serious structural, mechanical or electrical problems will require the help of an expert.


Use the House Assessment Worksheet to record the present condition, any problems in your home and to help set priorities for your renovation.

House Assessment Worksheet
  Present Condition / Problems Renovation Priority
Foundation    
Basement Ceiling or Main Floor Structure    
Heating, Cooling and Ventilation System    
Electrical Service and House Wiring    
Plumbing and Fixtures    
Floors and Stairs Structure/Finishes    
Wall and Ceiling Structure/Finishes    
Kitchen    
Bathrooms    
Attics    
Roof Structure/Finishes    
Exterior Wall Finishes    
Windows and Doors    
Other    

Costing Your Project

The cost of your assessment will depend almost entirely on how many professionals you need. They might include an engineer, architect, electrician, plumber, carpenter or professional home inspector.

Additional Resources

Developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the ecoENERGY initiative provides a residential energy assessment service delivered by local organizations across Canada for a fee. Retrofits may be eligible for grants. To find a local service organization or grant information, visit www.ecoaction.gc.ca or call 1-800-387-2000.
 
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A little more than $40,000 could be up for grabs when you purchase your recreational home in BC!

Good news for sure for real estate investors in the recreational market. Naturally there is a lot of new "unsold" recreational inventory around at the moment and this move by the BC government, while a little hard to understand is a welcome break for a sluggish real estate sector.

No rules in regards to the grant are available which actually refers to grants for second home purchases. The rules and regulations are expected to be published this month.

We do know it will be eligible for purchases of second homes up to $850,000 and is to be administered by the Province rather than CRA in relation to HST/GST rebates.

While it is a welcome break, it is curious in my mind why this would be administered as a grant/bonus. Years ago as the federal Conservatives toppled the long reigning Liberal government, there was talk of tax breaks/deferrals on capital gains for real estate investors. To me, this would appear to be a better long term strategy to assist with what is a very significant industry in our province.

For now however, we are dealing with a temporary grant program that will run from March this year to April next year with details coming as to what defines a second property and who is eligible for the rebate from the Province. We await with baited breath!
 
Ask me about how to start your search for investment properties in BC!
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In a growing trend, on the cusp of RRSP season, yet another poll shows that Canadians, by and large do not feel prepared for retirement.

 
A recent survey from CIBC shows that while Canadians do not feel prepared for retirement, many of them plan to do something about it- starting now. Many identify retirement planning among their top priorities this year.
 

Furthermore, many do recognize the link between retirement success and developing and implementing strategy: “Planning ahead makes a significant difference, according to the poll - among Canadians who say they have a long term investment plan for retirement, 76 per cent say they are financially prepared for retirement, versus just 25 per cent among those who don't have a plan.”
 
“Planning for retirement is something almost every Canadian thinks about at this time of year, and our poll results show that many would like to be further ahead when it comes to their retirement plans," commented Christina Kramer, Executive Vice President, Retail Distribution and Channel Strategy, CIBC. "Our poll results reveal a split in the country when it comes to retirement, with those who are actively planning ahead are about three times more likely to feel prepared for their future retirement than those who have not yet mapped out their retirement strategy."
 

For Baby Boomers who feel panicky, and that time has run out in advance of their retirement, fear not. There is no time like the present, even when it comes to retirement saving and planning.

Furthermore, previous CIBC research shows that 69% of Canadians intend to keep working through retirement age, so for many there is flexibility in terms of saving deadline.
 
There is also benefit, no matter what stage of life you are in, to understanding what you are investing in, and how that fits into your overall planning. The temptation for many is to wait to the last minute of the RRSP deadline, which can sometimes result in rushed decisions.
 
“We're all busy, and some Canadians have fallen into the habit of making their RRSP contribution just before the deadline without taking the time to sit down and understand where they are versus their goals, and what they might need to change to keep making progress," added Ms. Kramer. "We encourage Canadians to make this the year you use the time before the contribution deadline to look at your broader financial picture, particularly given the difference we see it making in the confidence people have in their retirement plans."
 
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With all the Grow Ops being busted these days, I thought I should bring to your attention the ones that were not busted but instead moved.  In this case, how can you tell if a house was a former marijuana grow op if the police did not catch it first?  Here are some signs that you can look for. 
 
IDENTIFYING A FORMER GROW OP
 
Never assume the location is too bizarre or inconvenient to be a grow op. Police
have found grow operations in new housing developments, in large and small
homes, in basements and attics, in high-rise apartments and warehouses, and
in outbuildings. Marijuana grow operations have even been discovered in
vehicles like tractor-trailers, campers, motor homes and railroad cars.
 
In one Montreal raid, a grower used his own basement but tapped the
electricity from the adjacent garage of his neighbor. In another, police
discovered that every second new house on a street in a new subdivision
had been converted into grow ops — six houses in all. Police have noted an
increasing sophistication in illegal operations.
 
Grow ops often require extensive cleanup and repair. It is possible that these
repairs were never made and the real damage is hidden. Noticeable signs that
you may be dealing with a former grow op include:
 
• Mould in corners where the walls and ceilings meet.
• Signs of roof vents.
• Painted concrete floors in the basement, with circular marks of where
pots once were.
• Evidence of tampering with the electric meter (damaged or broken
seals) or the ground around it.
• Unusual or modified wiring on the exterior of the house.
• Brownish stains around the soffit that bleeds down along the siding.
• Concrete masonry patches, or alterations on the inside of the garage.
• Patterns of screw holes on the walls.
• Alteration of fire places.
• Denting on front doors (from police ramming the door).
 

It is our responsibility as both Listing and Buying Agents to do our due dilligence for our Clients to fully disclose any grow op activity in properties.  However, in some cases, we are not aware of this if the house has no record.  It is always BEST and advised that you request a full home inspection by a reputable and certified inspector.  By doing a thorough examination of the vents and electrical, the inspector may be able to spot a former grow op. 

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A new report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) finds that cooking fires are the leading cause of home structure fires and home-fire injuries.

Between 2005 and 2009, an average of 2,650 people died each year and an average of 12,890 people were injured in home fires. Cooking fires were the leading cause of those fires (40 percent) and associated injuries (36 percent). The majority of these cooking fires were initiated by the ignition of food or cooking materials. In less than 1 percent of cooking fires, clothing was ignited first, but that led to a disproportionate 15 percent of cooking-fire fatalities.

In order to avoid these unnecessary dangers, follow these safety tips from NFPA:


  • Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking. If you leave, be sure to turn off the stove.
  • If you are baking, boiling or simmering food, check it frequently and do not leave the house.
  • Make sure there is nothing on or near the stove top that would easily catch on fire.

And in the case of a fire:

  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking in order to smother grease fires. If a grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the lid on until everything cools.
  • If an oven fire begins, shut off the oven and keep the oven door closed.
  • Do not try to fight the fire yourself (59 percent of non-fatal injuries happened when victims tried to snuff the flames on their own).
  • Leave the house and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

If you’re in the market for new appliances, read our buying advice for ranges and cooktops and wall ovens. Consider one with safety features that will let you know if the surface is still hot and lock the controls so children can’t turn the unit on.
 
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In the past several weeks, I've received many questions from people about the new projects that are happening in the Southeast.  So I thought I'd send out a quick FAQ email. 

As you all may be aware, southeast Calgary has had a bad rap, but all that is going to change.  There are many commercial and residential projects in the works to revitalize the mostly undeveloped and underestimated quadrant.  Projects like a new hospital, the extension of the ring road and a new mega mall.  Yes, you've heard about these projects in the news, but do you know how it will affect the areas in and surrounding the developments?   
 

SOUTH HEALTH CAMPUS

Located at 196th Avenue and Deerfoot Trail S.E., expected to start offering urgent care and ambulatory clinics in 2012, with other services to follow the year after.

When it is fully operational, the hospital will accommodate over 2,400 staff members.  A large percentage of these staff members will be from out of town and most probably will want to relocate close to their place of occupation.  This will mean that sales of homes around the area will go up, prices will rise due to deman and rentals will increase as well. 

To accomodate the potential new residents, home builders and new commercial developments will be busy building in the area. 
 

SETON URBAN DISTRICT

The Seton Urban District is proposed to be the new "Downtown".  Plans include residential condo and new housing projects, restaurants, trendy retail shops, spas and fitness, schools, and 24/7 night-life, this is to replica Kensington.  Located in between Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail, it is the perfect location for visitors coming from the East, West and primarily South.  With the major box store chains located at Deerfoot Meadows to the west, there is talk of more US retailers to be occupying more of this Southeast section to create rows and rows of major shopping centres to line the highway.  Look for stores like Macy's, J Crew, Marshalls, and others...
 

SOUTH EAST STONEY TRAIL

The project consists of the construction and maintenance of 25 kilometres of six-lane roadway, 9 interchanges, 1 road flyover, 2 rail flyovers and 27 bridge structures, as well as 12 kilometres of Deerfoot Trail between Stoney Trail SE (currently Highway 22X) and the Highway 2A junction.  Encompassing the city, the completion of this span of highway will bring more residents and retailers to the outskirts of the city.  The convenience will attract many home owners, renters and developers. 

For more information on each of these projects and more, visit the project's site below.  Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions.  Thank you!
 
Barry
 
 
 
 
SOUTH HEALTH CAMPUS
Larger than anything around it, the South Health Campus is becoming a distinctive landmark on the south-eastern horizon of Calgary.
SETON URBAN DISTRICT

New urban centre for S Calgary

Seton is about creating a synergy where people are immersed in a modern environment with an eclectic energy in a 24/7 vibrancy.
SOUTH EAST STONEY TRAIL
SEST is the largest single highway project in Alberta’s history, and its largest P3 road infrastructure project. The roadway’s main line will be completely free-flow and have no traffic lights.

 

View my Full Market Report

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MEDIA RELEASE

Calgary’s own CIR REALTY has just been reported the number one leader in residential home sales in all of Calgary as well as the number one independent brokerage for sales for all of Canada in the new REAL Trends Report released this week.
 
With 4,317 transactions closed in 2010, locally owned and independent CIR REALTY beat out all other city brokerages.
 
Other competing Calgary brokerages that made the list of REAL Trends top 200 that followed close behind include Re/Max Central, Royal LePage Foothills, Re/Max House and Re/Max House Mountainview.
 
Ray Stader, Co-Owner and Manager of IT and Finance at CIR REALTY attribute the brokerage’s commitment to technological innovation, 24 hour REALTOR® support and an unsurpassed professional development program to this accomplishment.
 
"CIR REALTY has positioned itself as a high-tech, high-touch company that prides itself on developing highly educated REALTORS® and giving them the support they need to do their business from wherever it is they are located. Client’s appreciate the efficiency in which our REALTORS® are able to move through the different stages in the estate transaction process, giving them ease of mind and a great experience."
 
Stader was fortunate to attend the REAL Trends Conference in Denver last month and is thrilled that as an industry leader, REAL Trends continues to provide the most trusted and accurate residential brokerage research in the business.
 
"The information that REAL Trends is able to provide regarding the residential real estate industry across North America is crucial to the continual growth and improvement of CIR REALTY and other brokerages," Stader says.
 
CIR REALTY has over 700 REALTORS®, staff and management spread over four Calgary offices and 11 satellite offices outside of the City. The brokerage has been family owned and operated since 1983.
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By: RICHARD GILBERT, Journal of Commerce, May 18, 2011

 

The top four cities for economic growth in Canada in the next five years will be located in Saskatchewan and Alberta, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.
 
“Buoyed by the resources and energy sectors, the economies of Saskatoon, Calgary, Regina and Edmonton will post noticeably stronger growth than the other cities covered in this report,” said Mario Lefebvre, director of the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Municipal Studies.
 
According to the Spring 2011 edition of the Metropolitan Outlook, Saskatoon will lead the country with real GDP growth of 4.1 per cent in 2011.
 
Housing starts sprang back from a weak 2009 to hit 2,380 units last year—matching the recent 2007 peak,” said the report. “Both single-detached and multiple-unit starts rose smartly, helping to boost overall construction output by eight per cent—a strong rebound following a gain of less than 1.0 per cent in 2009.”
 
Population growth is projected to push housing starts higher in 2011 and 2012.
 
In the non-residential sector, work is expected to start on the $200 million River Landing complex in 2011.
 
The residential and commercial complex also involves the construction of a $30-million office building, as well as the $60 million Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.
 
City council has also decided to demolish the 103-year-old Traffic Bridge and build a new $30-million steel truss span with wider lanes.
 
The strength of residential and non-residential sectors are expected to stimulate construction activity, with an increase of 5.6 per cent in 2011, 6.9 per cent in 2012 and 5.9 per cent in 2013.
 
Real GDP is forecast to grow by 4.2 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
 
Calgary’s economy is expected to increase by 3.4 per cent in 2011 and 4.2 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
 
Despite a number of major projects already under way, total construction output is projected to increase by 1.8 per cent in 2011.
 
The latest estimates show that about $14.2-billion worth of energy-related projects are now under way in the province. Other non-residential projects that will boost construction activity in Calgary in 2011 include the $1-billion Quarry Park mixed-use development and a $1.3-billion hospital.
 
Housing starts are forecast to drop to 8,100 units in 2011, as strong new home prices take a bite out of demand.
 
In Regina, real GDP is expected to expand by 3.1 per cent in 2011 and by 3.8 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
 
The collapse of the domed stadium scheme in Regina has forced the city of Regina and the Saskatchewan government to consider new options for a stadium and redevelopment of 46 acres currently housing CP Rail’s container yards.
 
“These yards are to be relocated to what’s called a global transportation hub emerging in the city’s west,” said the report. “Indeed, development of this hub is positioned to be a significant growth driver in the medium term.”
 
Housing starts increased 45 per cent to 1,347 units in 2010 and are projected to moderate to near 1,280 units in 2011. However, housing starts are expected to jump above 1,400 units in 2012 and remain there for several years.
 
The construction industry is expected to expand 6.2 per cent in 2011 and an average of 5.6 per cent between 2012 and 2014.
 

Edmonton's economy is expected to rise 3.1 per cent in 2011 and 3.6 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

The Alberta government is investing $165 million in capital project in 2011, including a new police station in Terwillegar and other infrastructure projects.
 

Plans for a downtown arena to replace the aging Rexall Place still lack firm financial commitments.

The proposal would also see significant downtown redevelopment and a stop on a yet-to-be-built light rail transit line. Alberta has approved up to $492 million for this LRT route. Longer term, the city is weighing competing proposals from five international design teams to redevelop the City Centre Airport into a neighbourhood for 30,000 residents.
 
Housing starts rebounded from recession approach 10,000 units in 2010, which represents a 58 per cent increase from 2009. A pullback to near 7,600 units is expected for 2011, with starts hovering near 9,000 units per year afterwards, as population growth is expected to accelerate starting this year.
 
Edmonton’s construction sector declined by 24 per cent in the last two years, but is forecast to increase by 1.4 per cent in 2011.
 

The other Western cities covered in this report can expect moderate economic growth.

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Christine Dobby, Financial Post, May 18, 2011

It may be trickier to ask for extra pickles, but you may soon be able to avoid the judgmental look of a cashier as you supersize your order of fries.

McDonald’s Europe has announced plans to replace some of its cashiers with touch-screen terminals and cash-free payment, a move that will likely play well with consumers looking for options that offer convenience and a sense of control.

Research shows people who use self-service options — already available in many retail outlets in Canada including grocery stores, Canadian Tire and Home Depot — believe it takes less time than waiting for a cashier.

“And at the end of the day, perception is reality,” said Brent Barr, an instructor at the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

What’s more, Mr. Barr said, most young people no longer consider paying in cash and the move to payment by swipe card is a reality.

“More and more our society has moved away from the physical cash and moved into the plastic world,” he said. “This is one next step in making it easy for that person to do what they’d like to do.”

Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald’s Europe, told the Financial Times this week the global fast food giant plans to introduce the self-service ordering at its 7,000 European restaurants. Around the world, retailers will be watching McDonald’s to see how this latest experiment works out, Mr. Barr said.

“They were one of the first in the fast food world and as a result they’ve always been perceived to be an innovator in the market place,” he said, adding that other outlets will be considering whether to try it as well.

The model may work well at McDonald’s given the consistency of its menu and the fact customers generally know what to expect and what they would like to order, he said.

Kaan Yigit, president of Toronto-based technology consultancy Solutions Research Group, agreed the self-serve model, which he said is fundamentally driven by economics and cost-savings, may work well at McDonald’s.

“They [self-serve systems] are best-suited to environments where transactions are simple and predictable. They are more difficult to implement in settings where there are many customizable options or when the product or service is not uniform,” he said.

Parry Sadorsky, associate professor of economics at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said he believes we will soon order food from touch screens in Canada, but cautioned the move could have negative implications for employment.

“All you need is one big chain to do this,” he said, noting that it would likely be tested in major U.S. markets before arriving north of the border.

“It’s good for corporate profits, but not very good for the overall labour force, because you’re going to take out many of the entry-level and low-skill jobs,” Mr. Sadorsky said, adding that it is often those types of jobs that make up the majority of new jobs created each month.

Plus, many young people rely on employment at places such as McDonald’s to get their first work experience, he said.

However, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. is not about to follow its European counterpart’s lead — yet.

“We have no plans currently to implement a similar ordering system,” said the company’s national media relations manager Louis Payette.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to enhance the customer experience when it comes to speed and service and convenience,” Mr. Payette said, adding, “Our customers seem pretty pleased with the fast and friendly service they’re getting.”

What’s more, he said, the company is in “growth mode” with regard to its work force, pointing to the almost 5,000 employees McDonald’s Canada hired on April 19 as part of a National Hiring Day event.

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