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Archive for March, 2014

No bubble in local housing market, say realtors

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

This is an interesting article and makes the point that Real Estate markets are local and much of the media focuses on markets like Vancouver and Toronto. This I believe to be a fair assessment of our market at the moment.


The following article was taken  from the St.Albert Gazette. March 15 By Viola Pruss.


Despite some frothy forecasts for Canada’s housing market, local realtors say this region is not a bubble waiting to burst. Yet there is reason for caution.

In recent weeks, analysts across Canada and abroad made headlines forecasting that real estate prices in the country could drop as much as 20 per cent in the next three to five years, due to speculative investment and developments in major centres like Vancouver, Toronto or Calgary.

But the Edmonton region’s growing job market and population provide a strong base for housing demand, which has the effect of isolating St. Albert and Edmonton from other regional economies, said Mark Cassidy with St. Albert ReMax Real Estate.

“We are anticipating prices not to remain the same but to actually move up a little bit,” he said. “Because there is going to be an increase in demand.”

Over the next few years, Alberta is expected to welcome another 100,000 migrants, he added. As more jobs become available the need for housing will continue to increase and builders will have their hands full to keep up with demand.

Prices will rise gradually because of demand but there is little worry that the market isn’t balanced, he said.

Local micro-economy

That doesn’t mean that a crash in Canadian housing markets would not affect the region, cautioned Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial.

Vancouver’s market has been fueled by foreign – mostly Asian – investment that drives prices up, he said. Toronto, on the other hand, suffers from inflated condominium prices and developments based on speculative investment.

If housing prices were to collapse in these cities, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Canadian financial institutions would likely take some action to remedy the damage, he said.

“We might see banks and financial institutions … change the rules or the conditions upon which they lend,” he said. “Then it affects everyone because you can’t have one lending rule for Toronto and another lending rule for Edmonton.”

Changes could include higher down payments on mortgages or introducing higher rates for lending, he said. Subsequently, some homebuyers may not be able to enter the market as easily and would refrain from investing in real estate, he said.

“And if there are less buyers that could act as a bit of a drag on price if fewer people can’t afford to buy those homes,” he said.

Hirsch cautioned that there is no sign of imbalance in the local housing market now. He expects prices in the Edmonton region will continue to rise at a moderate level of five to 10 per cent over the next year as migration to the province continues and builders keep up with demand.

Price increases

What often drives prices up are higher levels of income, added Greg Steele, president of the Realtors Association of Edmonton. He expects prices will only rise by two or three per cent over the next year.

Home prices in Edmonton are based on supply and demand but also on a person’s income, he said. Albertans have among the highest incomes in the country but salaries can only grow so much year-over-year, which in return affects a seller’s ability to charge more, he said.

Unlike migrants moving to Toronto or Vancouver, many newcomers to the Edmonton region cannot invest in big real estate right away, he added. That also keeps prices from going up too quickly, he said.

“The people that are coming here don’t have enough money to invest in real estate,” he said. “They are coming here for one reason; they are coming here for opportunity.”

Big market for $400,000 homes

Some price increases can already be seen in St. Albert, as inventory levels are low and many people are looking to buy, said Shirley Williams, owner of St. Albert Royal LePage Premier Real Estate.

Many sellers refrain from putting their homes on the market until the spring, Williams said. The few homes available sell quickly, especially those in the $400,000-range.

“We are seeing very quick turnaround on sales, they are going in one or two days,” she said.

That means buyers are now willing to spend more to find a home and sellers are able to ask more, she said. In February, sales activity was up 7.3 per cent compared to a year earlier, and sale prices for single family homes increased by 2.7 per cent.

She agreed that housing prices will continue to go up.

“We are more protected here in Alberta because of our oil and everything else that’s available,” she said. “I don’t think we will see big increases but I think we will see a steady, slight increase.”


Making your Real Estate needs my Priority

Dave Dry
Realtor, Century 21 Vantage Realty Ltd
Office: 780 483 2122
Direct: 780 446 3727
Fax 1 866 217 4642

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2014: Time to think small – St.Albert #1, Edmonton #8!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Taken from Money Sense magazine March 12 2014 by Mark Brown

Who says size matters? If you’re looking for the best place in Canada to live, perhaps it’s time to think small. Really small. It’s easy to think residing in a modest-sized town means giving up access to all the services and amenities you need or desire, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Satellite communities around major centres are evolving to deliver small-town flare with big-city conveniences. In that way, many of these communities aren’t just great places to live: they’re Canada’s best-kept secrets. Take St. Albert, a community of just 64,000 on the edge of Edmonton that few Canadians have likely ever heard of. They have now, because St. Albert tops MoneySense’s annual Best Places to Live ranking.

The surge of the west is a prominent trend in our ranking. Nearly half the top 20 cities on our list are west of Winnipeg. It’s no fluke. Consider what’s happening in cities like Calgary, which comes in second overall (and was last year’s number one). In addition to offering plenty of opportunities to land high-paying jobs, the city is rapidly expanding its transit system and growing its cultural scene. The tilt westward doesn’t come without some casualties in the east. Orillia and Owen Sound in Ontario are two prime examples. Growth in these cities is stagnant and the job outlook is dim compared to the rest of the country.

The shift westward isn’t the only trend shaking things up. Many big cities also took a step back this year, save for three notable exceptions: Quebec City, Laval, Que., and Vancouver. More surprising is the dichotomy emerging in La Belle Province, where little-known communities like Boucherville, Lévis and Rimouski are jumping up the list while Montreal sinks towards the bottom.

Just the facts

Critics of our best places ranking routinely point out that we don’t incorporate intangible considerations—like the best scenery or hottest attractions—into our methodology. It’s true, we don’t take any of these things into account. Out east, for example, the Nova Scotia community of New Glasgow doesn’t place highly on our ranking, despite being home to some of the finest river and deep-water fishing spots in the country.

But such characteristics—no matter how appealing—aren’t the point of this exercise. This isn’t the best places to visit, it’s the best places to live. If you’re going to plant roots somewhere we think there should be good access to medical care, low crime, good public transportation and, yes, nice weather. Above all, the best places in Canada have to be affordable. That’s why measures like housing prices, employment and wealth are particularly important, and are given the greatest weighting in our methodology.

In total, we consider 34 different factors before arriving at our winner. To do this, we collect reams of hard data on each city from Environics Analytics and other partners. Then we tease out factors that make a community a truly great place, thereby creating a level playing field. The result is a completely unbiased look at the biggest 201 cities in Canada. We also recognize that not everyone is cut out to live in a small town. Others feel overwhelmed by the crush of a big city, which is why we also break down our list according to city size. The best places overall are highlighted in our top 25 places photo gallerybut you can see the full ranking, along with several detailed breakouts for smallmedium and largecities.
(Jason Franson for MoneySense) St. Albert caters to young families like Brandi and Quentin Siffledeen, and their daughter Brielle, with events like the International Children’s Festival.

Think small

So exactly how does St. Albert, a small city on the fringe of Edmonton, beat out every other city in Canada? Take your pick. Unemployment sits at just above 4%, incomes are among the highest in the country, crime rates are steadily falling, and while its winters can be skin-splittingly cold (averaging 28 days a year with a minimum temperature below -20˚C), there’s plenty of sun all year round.

The numbers, though, don’t begin to describe the appeal St. Albert holds, especially for young families. At a time when some cities seem to be going to war with kids looking to play a little shinny on the street, St. Albert stands out as a place where cars don’t always come first. Street hockey is encouraged and if you want to close the street for a neighbourhood party, go right ahead. Give the city 10 days’ notice and they’ll barricade the street—the city’s Neighbourhood Watch and Citizen’s Patrol teams will even bring the food.

Before moving to St. Albert, Brandi Siffledeen, a 33-year-old tech company employee, and her husband Quentin, also 33 and a car dealership manager, lived 20 minutes away in downtown Edmonton. It was great for that stage in their lives, but since their 19-month-old daughter Brielle was born, their priorities have changed. They appreciate that St. Albert caters to kids. Not only does the city have ample green space, an abundance of outdoor rinks and more than 85 km of bike trails along the Sturgeon River, it also runs an International Children’s Festival that draws 55,000 people every year.

And while St. Albert residents on average pay roughly $1,300 a year more in taxes than nearby Edmonton, Siffledeen says you get what you pay for. “Our city doesn’t seem to have the same issue that Edmonton does with snow removal.” Local businesses also seem to be thriving in this one-time bedroom community. Siffledeen notes several small restaurants have opened up in recent years and done well. Her personal favourite: Privada Wine Bar.

Mid-size appeal

If you’re still not convinced a small city is for you, check out some of our top-ranked cities with medium-sized populations between 100,000 and 400,000. Our number-one mid-sized city is Burlington, Ont., which also earns fifth place in our overall ranking. Like St. Albert, Burlington offers the convenience of being in close proximity to a major centre—in this case, Toronto—but has the bonus of offering a higher quality of life. Despite its distinction as Canada’s biggest city, Toronto ranks just 32nd on our overall list, and seventh out of the 15 large cities with populations larger than 400,000—respectable scores, but hardly the best.

In many cases the reasons we live where we do are largely out of our control. Aside from economic factors, proximity to family also plays a role. But cities like Burlington prove that even if you are committed to living in a certain region, it doesn’t mean you don’t have choice. In fact, as Toronto continues to expand, more are discovering this growing city on the lake. Take Denise Lee-Hutchinson, 28, who grew up in Toronto but now feels more at home in Burlington. “I thought I would miss Toronto bars and nightclubs, but I don’t,” she says. Burlington’s closer-knit community is a big part of the reason why Lee-Hutchinson loves her new home as much as she does. The streets are cleaner, it’s not as busy and it’s generally friendlier, she says. “I have more neighbours that I speak to on a daily basis than I did when I lived in Toronto.”

That said, Burlington is one of the more expensive cities in our ranking. The average home costs almost $500,000, which is four and a half times the average family income. Still, this city earns high marks for low unemployment, pleasant weather, low crime, high incomes and, notably, great transit. While traffic can make the commute to Toronto a pain, the province’s GO train service makes up for this. Lee-Hutchinson pays $450 per month to travel to and from Toronto where she runs a photography and production company with her husband. It’s pricey but that buys her time to relax by reading or watching movies.
Christopher Gaze enjoys imbibing at Vancouver’s International Wine Festival, which is raising money for the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society. (Photograph by Evaan Kheraj)

Big cities stumble

While Calgary and Ottawa continue to do very well in our ranking, two thirds of the major cities with populations over 400,000 experienced drops of some degree. In particular, Brampton, Ont., Surrey, B.C., and Montreal suffered steep declines. The culprit behind these downturns can be largely summed up in a single word: unemployment. Rates in these centres are hovering between 8% and 10%.

The rapid increase in housing prices is another cause for concern in Canada’s biggest cities. Despite rising mortgage costs, average family incomes have remained the same, or even fallen in some cases, meaning it takes that much longer to kill off a mortgage or to save for retirement. Montreal, unfortunately, personifies this problem like no other. While the city may not be as prohibitively expensive to live in as Vancouver or Toronto, Montrealers’ salaries are much lower compared to other big urban centres. In fact, incomes are depressed: about $62,000 for the average family, or about the same as they are in the small town of Summerside, P.E.I. Yet at the same time home prices in Montreal are on par with Ottawa, where the average family earns $40,000 more a year. Pair this with high unemployment and it’s easy to see why Montreal, which falls to 169th from 134th overall last year, scores as poorly as it does.

As for why Calgary dropped from first to second place in our overall ranking this year, it was largely due to minor hiccups in the unemployment rate, home affordability and an uptick in population growth, which can lead to more strain on the city’s infrastructure. That aside, Calgary continues to evolve in impressive ways. Judith Press, a life-long resident, can certainly see how the city is becoming a more vibrant place to live. As a young girl in the 1970s, she doesn’t recall having much of an affinity for her hometown. But one of her fondest memories growing up was of the carved lions that stand watch over Calgary’s Centre Street Bridge. In her youth, she’d ride into the city past those majestic sentinels and dream. Through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl the bridge seemed a gateway to a more exotic destination in Europe. “It made the city more glamorous,” she said. Beyond that there wasn’t much more to Calgary. The city numbered just 350,000 and lacked character. But today, Calgary’s population is well north of a million and the city is coming of age. Architectural landmarks include the futuristic looking Telus Spark Science Centre and a new National Music Centre, now being built. Of course, Calgary impresses for other reasons too, including unemployment below 6%, household incomes averaging above $100,000, low crime and access to transit. Sure, home prices are higher than 80% of the rest of the country, but the people here can afford them.

Vancouver was one of the few big cities to gain ground this year. While the city always scores well in international rankings, high living costs and modest incomes levels—especially for a city its size—and the rain, to a certain extent, have held it back on our ranking. But improvement in the unemployment rate and a drop in the crime rate helped boost this city to eighth amongst the large cities and to 39th overall from 52nd a year ago. There is also one category where Vancouver comes out on top: culture. More than 4% of the city’s population are employed in the arts, culture and recreation sector. In Toronto, a city full of museums and theatres, only 3.3% of the city works in this sector.

Christopher Gaze, 61, was looking for work as an actor when he moved to Vancouver 30 years ago. Today he’s the artistic director for Bard on the Beach, Western Canada’s largest professional Shakespeare festival, now celebrating its silver anniversary. Vancouver’s ballet, opera and Grammy award-winning symphony are all thriving as well, notes Gaze. A decade ago the mountains were probably the city’s most notable attraction, he says, but the cultural community has really come alive over the past decade. “It’s an exciting time,” Gaze enthuses.
(Photograph by Simoneau Guillaume)

La belle province

Despite Montreal’s woes, good things are happening in Canada’s second most populous province. Take Quebec City, which climbed 41 spots to tenth overall and fourth amongst cities of similar size in our ranking. While Montreal’s growth has virtually flat-lined, Quebec City has grown a healthy 6.3% over the past five years while unemployment levels are below 5% (no doubt helped by the plethora of government jobs in the province’s capital).

Even neighbouring communities close to Montreal are faring much better than Quebec’s largest city. In fact, nowhere else on our list will you find cities sharing a boundary that score further apart than you do around Montreal. For instance, it’s a completely different story on the other side of the St. Lawrence River in the small town of Boucherville, less than 19 km away—but it may as well be a world away. Salaries are double what they are in Montreal, yet home prices are not much different from what they are in the city. Plus, like many smaller towns, crime rates are lower.

In fact, more and more Montrealers are abandoning the downtown core for places like Boucherville, which rose to sixth place on our overall list, and Repentigny, just north up the river, which rose to 20th overall. And further to this trend residents say these cities are becoming self-sufficient. “We don’t have to go to the city at all any more. The quality of life here is absolutely amazing,” says Isabelle O’Brian, 45, who cofounded a yoga studio in Boucherville. “Other people here are opening things and everything is working because there is room for growth.”

Now, whether your city is thriving economically like Boucherville or weathering some tough times like Montreal, there’s always a reason why people love the city they call home. Indeed, Canada is blessed to have more than its fair share of great places to live, as is demonstrated by the razor-thin margin separating many of the cities we track for this ranking. But if you’re fortunate to reside in one of our best places, then you’re truly blessed.


Making your Real Estate needs my Priority

Dave Dry
Realtor, Century 21 Vantage Realty Ltd
Office: 780 483 2122
Direct: 780 446 3727
Fax 1 866 217 4642

MLS® systems: more than just a marketing service.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

This article was taken from the Vancouver Sun dated March 5 2014.

The public knows the term Multiple Listing Service (MLS) best for generating exposure for homes listed for sale. Housing market information originating from the MLS system has long been recognized as the most reliable and comprehensive data available for those looking to buy or sell a home.

But what are the MLS systems?

The public website is the most popular and comprehensive real estate listing website in Canada. Each month, over five million unique visitors go to and view more than 131 million pages. But is not an MLS system. It’s an advertising vehicle through which Realtors provide the public with access to information about properties listed on MLS systems across Canada.

The idea of a ‘multiple listing service’ was born from the need to create an infrastructure through which real estate agents could compete and cooperate at the same time. It’s variously been called a ‘listing exchange’, ‘cooperative listing service’, and today’s ‘MLS’ (a brand which was owned by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and given to the Canadian Real Estate Association in 1962 for use by the real estate profession across Canada).

The MLS® evolved to become a complex system of rules and regulations (including processes for dealing with complaints and arbitration), professional standards, education and code of ethics – all to provide a framework for how Realtors could cooperate while competing. Thus, listing data may be seen as a by-product of a system developed by Brokers and Realtors over many decades to enable Realtors to work together in the interest of their clients.

For nearly a hundred years, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has been gathering and sharing data to help ensure a functioning and effective real estate market.

To participate on the MLS, Realtors must meet professional development requirements and adhere to a code of ethics and rules of cooperation. They must also, among other things, carry Errors and Omissions Insurance and follow an established process for arbitrations.

The arbitration process for Realtors is an example of how the MLS framework puts the public first. If there’s a dispute about commissions paid or any other issues between Realtors, the process recognizes that the client should get what they want first. Any lingering issues, between the cooperating Realtors, are to be adjudicated afterward.

Many alternate systems and services exist today to market homes for sale. The MLS goes far beyond a listing service. It’s a well-regulated infrastructure designed to help the public safely navigate the home buying and selling process.

The value of MLS system data rests in the quality and accuracy of the information. Government, economists, financial institutions, appraisers and others all rely on MLS data. This is because Realtors who submit the listing information, and MLS staff at real estate boards who conduct quality control, are trained and educated in the complexities of real estate.

“Today, MLS data serves as the foundation of our property taxation system by providing reliable information, backed by professional accountability, to government bodies responsible for assessments in our province,” says Sandra Wyant, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Realtors know how to describe a property accurately and what information must be disclosed in an MLS listing. For instance, if there is a restriction on the use of a property, something called an easement, this information must appear in the MLS listing.

“Sellers and buyers often decide to work with a Realtor because they want expert guidance through a complex process. For this important transaction, people want to select someone they are comfortable working with and who offers the services they are looking for at a price they can agree on. The MLS system provides consumers a vast range of choices,” Wyant says.

The marketing power of the MLS system is another output of this infrastructure.

“Using the MLS gives unmatched exposure to properties for sale,” Wyant said. “If you’re selling your home, a listing on MLS will be shared with other Realtors for the broadest distribution possible. If you’re buying a home, MLS will have the largest pool of homes to choose from.

“Through the MLS system, the Realtor who represents a seller is inviting all other Realtors to offer that home for sale to their buyers. Sellers therefore have all the Realtors in their community seeking buyers for their homes. For buyers, it’s a one-stop shopping experience,” Wyant said. “By having Realtors agree to share their inventory with one another, a more efficient marketplace is created,”

If the MLS system did not exist, sellers would have to choose an individual real estate brokerage to list their home and only that brokerage would have the information about it and the ability to show and sell it. If the MLS system did not exist, buyers would have to go from Realtor to Realtor to view the listings of each individual brokerage.

(MLS® and Realtor® are registered marks owned and controlled by the Canadian Real Estate Association.)

Making your Real Estate needs my Priority

Dave Dry
Realtor, Century 21 Vantage Realty Ltd
Office: 780 483 2122
Direct: 780 446 3727
Fax 1 866 217 4642

March 2014 Real Estate newsletter

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

03 March jpeg


Making your Real Estate needs my Priority

Dave Dry
Realtor, Century 21 Vantage Realty Ltd
Office: 780 483 2122
Direct: 780 446 3727
Fax 1 866 217 4642

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton. Trademarks used under license from CREA.