Archive for October, 2013

What is forecast for Canada’s housing market in 2014?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Canada’s federal housing agency has bumped up its forecast for housing starts in 2013 but trimmed its forecast for 2014, setting an essentially flat outlook for a once-roaring market.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said on Thursday housing starts will be in a range of 179,300 to 190,600 units in 2013, with a point forecast, or most likely outcome, of 185,000. That is up from its August estimate of 182,800.

The agency said there will be 163,700 to 205,700 units started in 2014, with a point forecast of 184,700. That is down from CMHC’s August estimate of 186,600.

Both forecasts represent a sharp slowdown from the 214,827 starts of 2012.

Canada sidestepped the worst of the financial crisis of the last decade because it avoided the real estate excesses of its U.S. neighbour, and a post-recession housing boom helped it recover more quickly than its Group of Seven peers.

But the housing market began to cool last year after the country’s Conservative government, worried about a potential property bubble, tightened mortgage rules.

While some economists still worry that the U.S. housing crash of the last decade may be repeated in Canada, the CMHC forecasts see homebuilding and sales leveling off, with prices continuing to notch small gains.

CMHC said existing home sales will range from 439,400 to 474,000 in 2013, with a point forecast of 456,700 units. That’s up slightly from August’s forecast of 448,900 units and about equal with the 454,005 sales in 2012. For 2014, it expects a move up to a range of 438,300 to 498,100, with an increase in the point forecast to 468,200. That’s up slightly from August’s forecast of 467,600.

Price gains are expected to slow in 2013 and 2014. CMHC’s point forecast for the average price calls for a 4.0% gain to $378,000 in 2013, and a 1.9% gain to $385,200 in 2014.

Source: Andrea Hopkins, Reuters

Will the Bank of Canada raise interest rates soon? Probably not

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A signal from the Bank of Canada that it is not raising its key lending rate any time soon, coupled with the likelihood of falling mortgage rates, could be enough to keep the latest housing rally going.

There have been signs the housing market is in recovery mode with year-over-year sales rising in many markets, albeit generally below 10-year averages. Analysts have called it a short-term blip caused by consumers rushing to buy to take advantage of pre-approved mortgages signed 120 days ago when long-term rates were lower.

But with the Bank of Canada signaling Wednesday it won’t be raising rates — its neutral stance could even mean lower rates — consumers can safely slide back into variable mortgages tied to prime which tracks the central bank rate.

The short-term rate option and the possibility long-term rates will follow has people worried the market may be recovering too fast for the taste of Ottawa, leaving Finance Minister Jim Flaherty with no choice but to tighten lending rules again.

“It’s possible interest rates will go down,” said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, adding there’s a huge amount of mortgage debt already in the pipeline that was created when people took advantage of rates they were pre-approved for in the summer. “I’ve seen what is in the pipeline in mortgage activity and you won’t believe the numbers when it is official.”

With no panic to buy, the question is whether people will be encouraged to continue to take on more debt or slow down their spending if the economy slows?

“If we don’t get the softness we are expecting [in housing], quite frankly I think they are already talking about more restrictions,” said Mr. Tal, adding that would be the only option to slow the housing market if Ottawa is reluctant to raise rates.

Kelvin Mangaroo, president of, says long-term mortgage rates have so far not followed recent reductions in bonds yields, making the variable rate look all the more attractive.

He says the lowest variable rate mortgages on a five-year term is now 2.4% which compares with 3.34% for a five-year fixed closed mortgage. The major banks are still offering 3.89% for a five-year fixed rate closed mortgage.

“The rule of thumb is people start looking at variable when there is a one percentage point spread between five-year variable and five-year fixed,” said Mr. Mangaroo. “We might have more people looking variable with the latest Bank of Canada news.”

Most of the banks and Ottawa have taken great pains to get people to lock in the mortgage rate so they won’t be vulnerable to a spike in interest rates. Changes to mortgage rules even allow you to borrow more, as long as you lock in for five years or longer.

York University Prof. Moshe Milevsky said historically there is usually a much larger gap between long-tern rates and short-term rates which were almost the same earlier this year. He’s not sure people will flock to variable immediately.

“It’s not as much demand side with the consumer deciding. The banks can push aggressively on variable. Sometimes it’s about how the mortgage broker is compensated. There are two sides to the transaction. The consumer is educated when they make the decision,” he says.

While Mr. Milevsky is hesitant to make any prediction on the housing market because so many people have been so wrong for so long, he does have a suggestion for anybody worried about what type of mortgage to take out today.

“I continue to marvel at why people go all fixed or all variable,” says the professor, adding while banks don’t promote the option, you can ask that half your mortgage be long-term and half be short-term. “If I was consulting the banks, and I’m not, their advertisement campaign should be “hedge your mortgage debt, do both’.”

Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, thinks it’s reasonable to believe people will move back to variable but probably not enough to cause concern about the housing market.

“Look across the country and many regions are not Toronto,” said Mr. Soper, who cautions government policy should not be based solely on the hot real estate market in Canada’s largest city.

Source: Garry Marr, Financial Post

One of this fall’s biggest trends in home decor? Geometrics!

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Quadrilaterals, cubes, polyhedrons … sound like 10th grade math class?

Perhaps, but they’re also examples of one of this fall’s biggest trends in home decor. Crisp, contemporary and pleasing to the eye, geometrics work well for tables, lighting, accessories and soft furnishings.

Nate Berkus is a fan of these modern motifs, as his fall collection at Target attests. One of his favorites is a wall-mounted art piece made of hexagonal metal. His inspiration came out of a trip to a gem and mineral show, where he saw a table of crystallized honeycombs.

“They were breathtaking,” he said.

A series of polyresin marble trays are emblazoned with a scattering of rhombuses. Check out the zig-zagged enamel photo frames here as well. (

Restoration Hardware’s curated “Curiosities” collection includes some Belgian “maquettes” – wooden scale models used to teach architecture. The large polygonal star or pyramidal cone would make a striking accessory. (

Canadian design duo Gabriel Kakon and Scott Richler have created the Welles light fixture, a cluster of blackened steel polygons with interiors available in nickel, brass or copper. (

Also in lighting, Seattle-based design house Iacoli and McAllister offers open-framed rhomboid pendants, available in different configurations, crafted in metallics as well as fun, powder-coated colors like tomato, blue and white. (

Ridgely, a Toronto studio, welds cut steel rods into crisscross shapes on screens that can be left raw or powder-coated with several different colors. They can be used as room or landscape dividers, or as wall art. ( has a range of carpet tiles that replicate graphic patterns like zigzags and rectangles. (

At , circles are the focus on the Metro wool rug, with disc shapes in vibrant fall shades of rust, olive and steel blue on a charcoal background. The retailer’s Ivory Geometric Circles rug has a midcentury vibe with concentric seafoam, magenta, gold and olive swirls on a background of cream.

Another Canadian talent, Renato Foti, makes tables, accessories and other home decor elements out of colored glass; his Martini tables and Geo Square basins feature geometric shapes embedded in the hand-worked glass. (

New York designer Jill Malek’s Voyageur wallpaper takes non-Euclidean geometry to the next level, with a range of papers printed with lines radiating from points, like a compass gone wild. They’re available in several color combinations, including Red Eye (white on black) and CandyLand (white on red). Her Luci Della Cita wallpaper evokes city lights at night, with spherical shapes playing across a moody, out-of-focus background. (

You can solve for “x” with one of Modshop’s side tables, with zebrawood, hickory, rosewood or oak veneer tops on sleek, chrome, X-shaped legs. (

Finally, if you’re the crafty type, check out Brett Bara’s tutorial on creating your own geometric patchwork wall art using triangle fabric shapes in an Ikea frame. It’s so simple that you’re guaranteed an easy “A” in this geometry class, at least.

Source: Brett Bara, Miami Herald

Does your home’s interior need a facelift? Try mixing and matching fabrics

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

With a love of paisley and an affinity for mixing florals and stripes, Sarah Richardson has plenty of passion for prints that often accent rooms she helps refurbish.

The designer has brought her own distinct imprint to a new collection of about 70 fabrics for Kravet, which manufactures fabrics sold to the trade. It’s a project two years in the making she describes as a “huge dream come true.”

“What I love about fabric is it covers all the surfaces,” says Richardson, host of the new HGTV Canada series Real Potential. “It’s what you sit on. It’s what you touch and it’s what you interact with every day.

“Anyone who knows my work knows I love patterns and prints and combining a collection of different fabrics together.”

For those looking to refresh their decor heading into fall, Richardson shares tips for selecting the right hues and ways to pair fabrics and colours within a designated space.

1. Determine your design esthetic

When it comes to decorating a space, Richardson says people often ask what the best way is to create a “jumping off point” for a room.

For those ready to make the leap, she recommends finding a fabric that appeals to their individual style sensibility. This not only helps to narrow the focus on choosing the right hue, but can also help to drive the decor direction in the rest of the space, such as those who may be looking to drench walls or coverings in a fresh colour.

“I always think that you should zone in and see if you like the colours,” Richardson says.

She says she always strives to balance contemporary and traditional elements within each room she designs, a mantra she applies in selecting fabrics featuring contrasting styles within a shared space.

2. Opt for a neutral foundation

Selecting a combination of neutrals as a base for large-scale furnishings is safe and timeless.

“You know you can live with it. It’s not like doing a hot pink sofa that you know you may not love next year.”

She says there has been a shift away from beige, oatmeal and flax-toned hues as the prime neutrals.

Heading into fall, expect to see grey emerge as the big colour and neutral alternative, she adds. Richardson recommends pairing the smoky shade with soft yellow for a “fresher take” on neutrals, mixing cool and warm colours within the room.

“I tend to look to the natural landscape for all of my inspiration for palettes and for combinations.”

3. Select a standout colour

Primed to add colour to help enliven staid surroundings? By keeping big-ticket items like chairs, sofas, drapes and any other items with longevity in neutral hues, Richardson recommends opting for a lone hue as an accent to inject into the room.

“Choose one colour that you want to add to layer in to bring your neutral palette to life, and you’ve made a great dynamic statement.

Source: Lauren La Rose, Canadian Press

So you want to be a landlord? Here’s a guide to renting out a suite in your home

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

In Metro Vancouver – where the average price for a typical single-family home tops $923,700 — the prospect of having some form of secondary suite to rent out to help with the mortgage is downright seductive.

Especially when the region’s apartment vacancy rate, as measured by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), is at an extremely low 1.8 per cent and renters are often scrambling for options.

Most B.C. landlords are fortunate enough not to encounter major issues when renting out their basement suites. But a small number of landlords have horror stories to tell.

Recently, one landlord temporarily, and unknowingly, rented out her basement suite at Shawnigan Lake to a meth addict and couldn’t immediately evict him. Others have had tenants skip out on the rent, change the locks on the house without permission, or rented to tenants who felt they had a say in household operations.

Other issues include tenants who smoke marijuana or cigarettes in a non-smoking home, or sneak in pets. The biggest issue recently appears to be the use of drum kits in basement suites.

While renting out a basement suite sounds like an easy process, adding landlord to the title of homeowner comes with considerable legal obligations, not to mention raising the financial risks if a rental falls through.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. estimated that in 2012 there were 39,307 secondary suites in Metro Vancouver homes.

In Vancouver proper, a 2009 city estimate found there were at least 25,000 homes in single-family zones containing some form of secondary suite.

On the side of financial benefits, depending on what bank you are dealing with, a would-be homeowner can count up to 90 per cent of a suite’s rent against the income they need to qualify for a mortgage, said Ryan McKinnley, mortgage development manager at Vancity credit union.

That, he added, is a big factor in moving a couple with a modest income from being unable to afford a home to being able to buy the house they want.

He used a set example to demonstrate how much of a difference a rental suite can make:

If a couple was looking at an $800,000 home, with a 20-per-cent down payment, they would need an annual family income of $122,000 to qualify for the $640,000 mortgage on a fixed five-year term at the current 3.69-per-cent rate.

However, if the house in question had a basement suite that could be rented for $1,500 a month, the $1,350 in monthly rental income that the couple could apply to their mortgage application would reduce the required family income to $72,000 a year.

To stretch the example even farther, if the couple was willing to live in the basement suite themselves and rent out the rest of the house at $2,500 per month, the $2,250 they could apply to the mortgage means the $800,000 property would be in reach with a family income of $45,000.

“It’s very common – and it’s often that one piece that actually allows (a homebuyer) to purchase the house that they want,” McKinnley said.

However, McKinnley said homeowners need to have a plan going into the process, with contingencies covering off all the “what-if” scenarios. Such “what ifs” include being able to cover the full mortgage cost if the suite is vacant for a month or two, as well as the cost of repairs and proper insurance.

Setting aside a couple of months rent in a savings account — as a cushion against an unforeseen vacancy — allows a homeowner to take time to find a good tenant rather than rushing to rent it out. That contingency “will give you peace of mind,” McKinnley added.

“Whenever you’re dependent on income that could potentially not be there for a month or two, it’s important to look at that,” McKinnley said.

Then there is the issue of whether a suite is legal.

Discouraged for decades as a nuisance, most Metro Vancouver municipalities now do allow secondary suites. Only Burnaby restricts suites to relatives of a homeowner or in-home caregivers.

The City of Vancouver, for instance, passed a bylaw legalizing secondary suites in all single-family zoned areas of the city, and in 2009 estimated that 25,000 houses in these zones did have a suite.

However, to be legal, secondary suites have to pass building inspections — which means renovations to bring suites up to building codes — and meet specific requirements. In most municipalities, suites are subject to certain fees, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Surrey, for instance, allows each single-family home to have one suite that meets B.C.’s building codes and passes inspection. Fees, ranging from a secondary-suite services fee to additional charges for garbage, water and sewer usage, add up to $1,288 a year for suites in un-metered homes. For metered homes, fees are based on water consumption.

In Vancouver, suite owners require a business license, which is $62 per year with a one-time $50 new-applicant fee at the start. One-time fees for building inspections and permits add up to $1,194 or more. Annual fees — on top of the business licence — total $330.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver maintains a list on its website of which municipalities allow secondary suites, and outlines most requirements that homeowners must follow.

The least risky situation is to have a secondary suite registered in order to have certainty over matters that involve insurance or financing, said Larry Buttress, deputy executive officer for the Real Estate Council of B.C. However, Buttress added there is a risk in registration in that a suite might not be approved.

“So it’s a little bit of a Catch-22,” Buttress said.

For financing, McKinley said buyers with only the minimum down payment who need CMHC mortgage insurance have to make sure suites are legally registered to qualify.

Otherwise, banks and financial institutions have other ways to test income-generating potential of suites, such as a rent report conducted by an appraiser or examination of the rental income claimed by previous owners on tax returns.

Matters of financing and registration come before perhaps the toughest part of renting out your suite: the ongoing legal obligation of being a landlord.

“Renting a basement or secondary suite is a business, and business owners need to understand the rules,” said Spencer.

To start with, Spencer said homeowners have to understand their operations are governed by the Residential Tenancy Act, which sets out their responsibilities to their buildings and the rights of tenants.

Landlords have to make sure their suites meet health, safety and housing standards; they have to provide emergency repairs; and they need to understand what is meant by emergency (that the tenant’s health and safety is in danger).

“Education is the key,” Spencer said, adding she recommends homeowners join a professional association to get the backing of a larger group, particularly when it comes to acquiring legally enforceable rental application forms and rental agreements.

“Almost everything about being a landlord is regulated, from how you enter into a tenancy, how much you can charge for security and pet deposits, how you deal with rent increases, nonpayment of rent, and evictions,” Spencer said.

And landlords need to understand their obligations for repairs and maintenance, how they are allowed to access the suite, dealing with sublets, and what constitutes discrimination, she added.

For all of these reasons, Spencer said, landlords need those specific and legally enforceable forms.



Having a successful tenancy requires good, clear, concise definitions of everybody’s responsibilities and rights.

• Rental application form

This document is probably the most important, which comes as a surprise to many new landlords. A good rental application will require information on: the applicant’s job, their supervisor, their income, current address, landlord references, friends, government ID, next of kin, and extended family members.

This information will help landlords gain a better understanding of the tenant’s characteristics. More importantly, however, it gives the landlord some good contacts to track down the tenant if they should disappear.

• Move-in inspection report

Most provinces require a landlord and tenant to complete a move-in report upon onset of a tenancy. This quantifies and documents the condition of a property so that, when the tenant leaves, any damage caused is clear. A thorough and concise move-in report card is a sure-fire way of avoiding significant disputes over tenant-related damage.

• Residential tenancy agreement

As the name suggests, this document will establish the terms of the relationship between the tenant and landlord. The more detail it provides the better, and sourcing a free online agreement is not sufficient to cover a landlord’s interests.

• Addendum to residential tenancy agreement

This can be a small side document that forms part of the agreement and sets out additional rules for items such as pets, smoking in the unit, or penalties for late rental payments. These documents are harder to enforce, but establish good guidelines for the day-to-day operations of a rental property.


Some careful observations by the landlord can be extremely useful when considering the tenant’s application.

• Did the tenants arrive on time?

Tenants who are respectful of their landlord’s time are good tenants to have. Tenants who do not arrive on time for a showing are not likely to pay their rent on time, either.

• Are the children well behaved?

Tenants who want something — in this case, to move into your rental property — are likely to be on their best behaviour. Kids, on the other hand, can be cautioned numerous times to behave but have shorter attention spans. If the tenant’s kids are behaving poorly during the showing, expect the property to be returned to you with obvious damage.

• Did tenants take off their shoes?

If a landlord has to ask the tenant to remove their shoes, this is a good indication they are not in the habit of doing so. Tenants who remove their shoes are likely to cause less stress on the flooring of a rental property.

• What does the back seat of the tenant’s car look like?

This is a tried-and-true technique for learning whether the prospective renter will keep the rental property clean, or let clutter, dirt and debris build up. Avoid tenants with garbage in their car.


The rental application contains the most comprehensive set of information about the prospective renters and should take the most time to review and confirm. Renters are extremely unlikely to include information in their application that they know will hinder their chance of having it approved. Ask the following questions:

• Does the tenant’s stated income seem unreasonably high?

Look for ways to confirm income, such as a letter of employment from a reputable business. If the income is from self-employment, ask for a recent tax return to confirm it. Remember: the more intrusive the questioning, the less likelihood of a disaster.

• Is the employer reputable?

A quick Google search to confirm the existence of the company or place of work provided by the tenant should be sufficient. If it does not exist or is extremely difficult to find online, then it is likely to have been made up. If it cannot be confirmed, decline the tenant’s application.

• Are there gaps in the tenant’s rental history?

If a tenant’s application lacks previous landlord information for a period of time (typically six or 12 months), they may be trying to hide a less-than-positive past tenancy. If they refuse to provide comprehensive chronological information for the past two years, ask where they lived during the missing time. A backpacking trip overseas or living with parents are acceptable responses; disclosure of a problematic tenancy followed by court eviction is not an acceptable response.

Source: Derrick Penner and Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun; Shamon Kureshi, Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine

Latest Vancouver real estate news – sales up 64%

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Housing sales surged 63.8 per cent in Greater Vancouver last month as the area’s real estate market regains its footing.

There were 2,483 homes sold on the Multiple Listing Service in September, up from 1,516 sales in the same month last year, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Wednesday. “There is a lot more confidence in the Vancouver market now,” board president-elect Ray Harris said in an interview.

The increased activity marks the fifth consecutive month that Greater Vancouver has experienced a year-over-year gain in monthly sales, following a 19-month slump in volume.

Greater Vancouver’s benchmark index price for single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses fell 0.7 per cent year-over-year to $601,900 last month, but has increased 2.3 per cent since January.

In Vancouver’s closely watched west side, the index price for single-family detached sales last month was $2,089,700, up $1,000 from September, 2012. While that is an increase of only 0.05 per cent, it marks an improvement from January, when the West Side’s detached index price dropped 7.5 per cent year-over-year.

A balanced market has emerged, with buyers in a calm state of mind instead rushing to do deals, Mr. Harris said. On the selling side, baby boomers thinking of downsizing by listing their detached homes aren’t hurrying to move since prices are expected to be relatively healthy, he said.

The total number of active listings on the MLS was 16,115 last month in Canada’s most expensive housing market, down 12.2 per cent from a year earlier.

Mr. Harris said Greater Vancouver’s resale housing prices could increase roughly 3 per cent over the next 18 months to two years – a stable outlook that should contribute to sales volume staying near historical averages. Last month’s sales were 1 per cent below the 10-year average of 2,509 for September.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio was 15.4 per cent in Greater Vancouver last month. B.C. real estate agents consider it a balanced market when the ratio ranges from 15 to 20 per cent.

Vancouver’s West Side has seen its index price for single-family detached homes jump 40 per cent over the past five years, but suburbs such as Port Coquitlam haven’t undergone such volatility, Mr. Harris added. Port Coquitlam’s detached property index price is up 6.3 per cent over the past five years.

As well, the region’s condo market hasn’t experienced huge price gains. Greater Vancouver’s condo prices have risen 1.9 per cent since 2008. Sales jumped 32 per cent last month in the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less-expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey.

There were 1,131 properties that changed hands on the MLS, up 32 per cent from 857 sales in September, 2012. Last month’s benchmark index price in the Fraser Valley slipped 0.2 per cent year-over-year to $428,400.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president Ron Todson said he sees signs of first-time buyers returning to the market, though it has become more expensive to obtain financing due to the recent rise in mortgage rates. The residential property market is gradually recovering from Ottawa’s tightening of mortgage rules in 2012, he said.

In July, 2012, Ottawa reduced the maximum period on government-backed mortgages to 25 years from 30 years. Real estate experts say the change, which knocked some first-time buyers out of the market, contributed to the slowdown in housing sales a year ago.

Source: Brent Jang, The Globe and Mail

What to look for when buying a condo

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Condo shopping can be overwhelming – a pre-shopping checklist can help limit your stress and visits to show homes.

To create such a list, start by visiting presentation centres and model units in person. Although the Internet is a great place to do some basic research, you will learn much more by assessing the quality of materials and construction in person. This will also give you a chance to ask your questions and evaluate the quality of the responses you get. Be consistent with the questions you ask in the showrooms so you can make accurate comparisons.

When visiting, try to speak with the show home’s specialist who assists buyers with their design choices, as they are often present. Take advantage of their expertise regarding upgrades and options. This will be helpful even if you eventually settle on another development.

Before visiting, make a list of those amenities that are important to you and that you are likely to use. Remember, the cost of amenities is embedded in the condo price and the cost of maintaining them in the condo fees.

Some questions to be answered:

• Who is buying units in the condo — singles, couples, students, young families, retirees? This will determine the condo’s culture. Be careful if the units are being sold to investors as rental units; tenants as a group may be less invested in keeping the property up and more frequent turnover will subject the common areas to wear and tear.

• Consider “curb appeal.” Is impressing your visitors with a beautiful facade, entry foyer and other common areas important to you? Not every condo owner cares about the width of the corridors or the decor in the elevators, but many do.

• Is there adequate and convenient visitor parking? A good way to deter friends from coming by is making parking difficult.

• Are the elevators fast and adequate for the size of the building? This is particularly important if you want to be on a higher floor.

• Parking is key. Consider ease of access, adequate space for your car and ease of egress into traffic. Fighting your way into rush-hour street traffic can get old quickly; on the other hand, you may be on a schedule that lets you avoid rush hours.

• It may be wise to purchase a parking space or two even if you don’t have cars — they can become more valuable over time and can always be sold. Parking spaces can be significant inducements when reselling.

• Check out the storage lockers for size, location and internal organization. You don’t want to have to unpack the whole locker just to get at your suitcases in the back.

• Location, location, location. As for all real estate, condo location is paramount. However, there are many factors that determine the value of a given location to a given purchaser. Convenience generally plays a significant role and convenience is a very personal thing. Some of the following points will help clarify this.

• When examining floor plans and fact sheets, make sure you understand the positives and negatives of the layout. If you have trouble visualizing this, educate yourself by quizzing the people representing the various developments about their layouts. You will soon be doing this automatically when you see a floor plan.

Flow is very important, especially if you are used to bigger spaces. Make sure the room sizes meet your requirements. This should include the kitchen, which needs to be more comprehensive if you plan to cook or entertain. Of course, some facilities have beautiful entertaining spaces and catering services. You might prefer this format.

• If cooking is a priority, find out which appliances are included and check them out. If they don’t measure up you may need to upgrade.

• Is a balcony important and will you actually use it? If you plan to garden, make sure you know the rules governing your balcony use. If you have no interest in balcony living, smaller is better than larger as it will save you money and upkeep.

• Are your critical amenities readily accessible? Of course, accessibility will depend on your level of mobility — committed walker, cyclist or driver. Some may require facilities within their condo complex.

• Make sure you know how bright your condo will be and determine how important this is to you. Orientation of principal rooms and window height are the two biggest factors.

• Does the level of security offered meet your expectations? This applies to building access, garage surveillance, and elevator and corridor security.

• Concierge service is both a security and a convenience factor. What will the concierge do for you and during what hours? If you travel a lot, this becomes more important — who accepts the deliveries and brings in the mail?

• What are the rules about pets, both yours and neighbours? How long does it take to get Fido to the grass and what do you do in winter? Or perhaps you don’t want to interact with pets on a regular basis.

• Is the condo on a flight path or adjacent to high tension transmission lines? This may not be important to you personally but may become an important issue on resale.

• Are there lighted recreational facilities nearby that may generate noise in the evening?

• Are there local events such as exhibitions or sports events that may overwhelm traffic circulation intermittently?

Source: Marilyn Wilson, Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc., Ottawa

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