October 31, 2011
Generation Squeeze’s seismic shift
Paul Kershaw is the Human Early Learning Partnership scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health at the University of B.C.
Families First. I sympathize with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and other Canadian leaders who make this commitment, because it is a big task. In many ways, it is akin to responding to an earthquake. Earthquakes damage a community’s foundation. Since they happen suddenly and violently, we all respond empathetically.
For families with kids today, the damage to their foundation occurred slowly, silently, over decades. But a slow and steady change does not make the damage any less severe when we compare across generations. We’re the generation that raised young kids in the 1970s to time travel, they would suddenly have far less time at home because parents today collectively perform many more hours of employment than a generation ago. Regrettably, this time poverty does not yield higher household incomes. Instead, it is the price today’s parents pay to cope with wages that haven’t kept pace alongside skyrocketing real estate prices since 1976.
Yet when political leaders propose even modest changes to address the seismic shift in the standard of living, many of us come up with reasons to forgo action. Take Clark’s Family Day, which, at best, restores one brick in the now shaky foundation for families with young kids. Even this minor change has been postponed until 2013 because some worry about cost constraints.
Since we too often delay supporting the generation raising young kids, I take heart that the Surrey Board of Trade hosted a Business and Families First dialogue last week. Its CEO, Anita Huberman, explained that “we need an action plan now for Surrey families and businesses.
There is no time like the present to begin talking about strategic investments and initiatives in Surrey that will strengthen both our growing number of families with young children and our businesses now and for the future.”
The dialogue featured Warren Beach, CFO of Sierra Systems, speaking by video about the price paid by Canadian business because of the squeeze on the generation raising young kids.
As an employer, Warren spoke of his frustration at losing talented employees, many with multiple degrees and years of on-the-job training. Why did they leave? Because they couldn’t find or afford quality child care services to help them balance enough time at home.
Warren and two chartered accountants joined forces with my team to estimate what it costs companies when employees leave a job. Their experience shows it’s expensive — between 115 and 154 per cent of the annual salary earned by the departing employee.
Truthfully, I was skeptical when we first explored these numbers. But once you begin considering the range of costs, they add up fast. For example, when a time- and service-squeezed employee resigns, employers must hire a temp or pay remaining staff to take on extra work while they recruit a replacement. Those filling in inevitably are less productive than the previous incumbent, because they don’t know the job. Through all this, a manager must perform exit interviews to determine what work the departing employee is leaving, and reallocate it accordingly.
And that’s just the cost of a worker leaving.
There are also costs to fill the vacancy.
Advertising, for one, along with time to develop a recruitment strategy, review resumés, conduct interviews, confer with colleagues about which candidates are the best fit, check references, make the offer and notify unsuccessful candidates.
Then the new hire has to be trained, which includes the employee’s salary along with the costs of delivering training and associated materials.
Most new hires will be on a learning curve, meaning their productivity will generally be lower than the departing employee’s, often for at least five months. During this time, the productivity of other staff will also diminish as they help the new team member learn the ropes. In some higher paid positions, lost productivity means lost sales.
Bottom line: It is not unusual for employers to pay more than $25,000 to fill a vacancy left by someone who earns $22,000 a year; nearly $59,000 to fill the void left by someone earning $44,000; and more than $135,000 to cope when someone earning $88,000 resigns.
No wonder Warren is worried that Generation Squeeze employees leave due to work-life conflicts!
So how common is this problem? One way to learn is to examine moms’ decisions about work inside and outside Quebec. There are regulated child care and kindergarten spaces for 58 per cent of kids under age six in Quebec for a fee of $7 a day. In most other provinces, there are spaces for 21 to 36 per cent of children at a daily fee of $20 to $40. To be sure, the Quebec system is not perfect, and is critiqued for investing too much in services for very young children with too little money to ensure all services are high quality.
Nevertheless, economists who make these critiques at the Université du Québec in Montreal, University of B.C., University of Toronto and Massachusetts Institute of Technology also provide strong evidence that B.C. would retain in the labour market an additional 17,000 women with young children if it had the child care services available in Quebec. In Ontario, the figure is more than 50,000 women.
The costs of losing over 17,000 employees are staggering. Given the expenses calculated in collaboration with Warren, the B.C. business community pays $1.03 billion to replace 17,000 moms who decide not to remain in their job because of the time and service squeeze. This cost is amortized over roughly four years.
The resulting annual avoidable price paid by B.C. business is about $247 million — or one-sixth of all corporate taxes the province expects to collect this year. Across the country, excluding Quebec, employers pay about $1.4 billion annually for avoidable turnover among Generation Squeeze.
One new holiday in rainy February isn’t going to solve this business problem. But a substantial policy investment in new-mom-and-dad benefits, $10-a-day child care services and flextime can.
Hats off to Huberman and Beach. They add an economic rationale for politicians to move beyond the Families First rhetoric to budget for meaningful policy change that will restore families at the heart of Canadian values — and, as it turns out, to eliminate unnecessary business costs.
Paul Kershaw is the Human Early Learning Partnership scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health at the University of B.C.
October 27, 2011
Two Vancouver eateries among top three new Canadian restaurants
Hawksworth and L’Abbatoir make en Route’s best list
Hawksworth chef/owner David Hawksworth (left) and chef de cuisine Kristian Eligh
Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG
VANCOUVER — I would have demanded a recount if Vancouver’s Hawksworth restaurant wasn’t on this year’s en Route magazine’s annual Best New Restaurants list, released today.
But it was and it took second spot in the magazine’s 10th annual Top 10 list.
“A seamless fusion of Asian, European and West Coast elements, the cuisine reflects its city with subtlety rather than shock value,” wrote the judge and writer, Sarah Musgrave. “Seared scallops with homemade XO sauce wear a pork-crackling fascinator sprinkled with togarashi powder. Sticky, sultry, finger-licking veal sweetbreads – fried in bacon fat and maple syrup, c’mon! – are everything you knew you loved about chicken wings and didn’t know you loved about kholrabi and kumquats. Slow-cooked halibut is cloaked in almost-translucent chorizo, duck bathes in Chinese five-spice broth. For dessert, cream of calamansi, the tiny Asian citrus, comes with Italian and French meringue.” It omitted to mention, however, the extremely good post-recession value one finds at this haute restaurant.
L’Abattoir was another Vancouver restaurant on the list and sits in third spot. Chef Lee Cooper’s French-accented West Coast food was called “breathtakingly original,” mentioning the Dungeness crab and chickpea toast in a toasted brioche cylinder with crab custard and pickled carrots. “Each dish is a who’da thunk it, like juggling cubes of Aperol (Jell-O shots) surrounding a foie gras terrine, or crisped, Szechuan-spiced dumplings (oxtail egg rolls!) alongside exquisitely seared scallops, Asian pear and charred daikon,” writes Musgrave.
St. John’s restaurant, Raymonds took top spot. It’s chef Jeremy Charles’ second win. In 2007, he was chef at Atlantica, another Newfoundland restaurant when it took top spot in the en Route.
Eligible restaurants opened after July, 2010. Musgrave toured the country visiting restaurants recommended by food writers or critics in various cities.
The results are online at www.enrouteaircanada.com. They’ll also be published in the magazine, out Nov. 1, along with a restaurant trends report.
October 25, 2011
Business growth in Vancouver stalls while suburbs flourish
From 1998 to 2010, the city of Vancouver enjoyed a net increase of 83,267 new residents and 50,973 new homes — but added just 46 new businesses.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
METRO VANCOUVER - From 1998 to 2010, the city of Vancouver enjoyed a net increase of 83,267 new residents and 50,973 new homes — but added just 46 new businesses.
Indeed, Vancouver’s 50,666 business licence numbers in 1998 actually declined slowly and unsteadily until 2007 when they reached their nadir of 46,555. Then they crept back upwards to 50,712 — 0.09 per cent higher than where they started 12 years earlier.
Meanwhile, the number of business licences in Metro Vancouver increased by 24,530 — a respectable 21 per cent, or 230 times faster than in the city of Vancouver. Surrey alone recorded a net gain of 5,571 new licences, and Langley Township 4,268.
The number of business licences doesn’t necessarily equate directly to the number of jobs in the city, and Vancouver’s employment figures are growing somewhat faster than the number of business licences. Because even though some new business licences are for tiny operations — for example, 30 new street food carts were recently approved — the city still has a lot of big employers (although some of these, such as banks, for example, must have a separate licence for each location).
But data from the 1991 and 2001 censuses — the 2011 figures are not yet released — show that Vancouver, though still considered the core of the Metro area, is rapidly losing its regional preeminence as a place where people can find work. As far back as 2001, both Richmond and Burnaby had surpassed Vancouver’s ratio of jobs to workers. Since then, of course, both Surrey and Langley have come on strong.
The decline in the number of licences issued for Vancouver’s businesses started under former mayor Philip Owen’s Non-Partisan Association administration, and continued under former mayor Larry Campbell and his Coalition of Progressive Electors colleagues. It began to turn around under former mayor Sam Sullivan and the NPA, and the slow improvement has continued under Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision council.
But Coun. Suzanne Anton, the NPA mayoral candidate in the Nov. 19 civic election, blames Robertson for driving businesses out of Vancouver with too much red tape.
“Gregor has put some of the cold chill in these things,” she told my colleague Jeff Lee. “The quote I hear in Surrey is that Gregor is Surrey’s best friend.”
Robertson, on the other hand, points out that there has been some business growth under his tenure, and he credits the much faster pace of suburban growth to a variety of factors that all boil down to costs.
Paul Sullivan, a partner in the property tax consulting firm Burgess Cawley Sullivan and the co-chair of the Vancouver Fair Tax Coalition, also identifies costs as a problem, and he specifically fingers the disproportionately large tax burden carried by Vancouver businesses. What causes this problem is that an ever-higher city tax levy is split each year according to a pre-determined formula that has nothing to do with how much it costs the city to provide services to different groups of taxpayers, or how much these groups can afford to pay. And what results is that residents get to divide their portion of the total tax bill among evermore properties, which helps moderate their individual tax increases. Meanwhile, with the number of businesses in the city stalled and their total levy steadily rising, individual bills for commercial properties tend to soar.
It reached a point in the middle of the last decade where the ratio of the business and residential tax rates hit six to one. This level is so far out of step with rates in most cities that Sullivan believes it creates a vicious circle where business growth is weak, so tax bills for remaining businesses soar, so new businesses look for other places to set up shop, so ...
The impact of this was softened a bit starting in 2006 as successive councils — first the NPA under Sullivan, and now Vision under Robertson — started paring down the business burden by shifting one per cent a year of the total levy from the business property class to the residential tax base. This still leaves the ratio at about 4.5 to one, much higher than the usual range of between 2.5 and three to one that is found throughout most of Canada.
Sullivan also notes another downside to Vancouver’s unbalanced growth.
“What we’ve done is export our jobs to Burnaby or Surrey and beyond,” he said. “What this means is that all these new residents of Vancouver have just 46 new doors to knock on when they’re looking for work.
“Either that, or they have to get in their cars every day [Vancouverites now have 64,329 more vehicles than they did in 1998] and then drive to the suburbs to work. Pushing all those people into their cars every day has huge implications economically, socially and for the environment.”
October 24, 2011
HST delays hurt housing sector: property experts
Here is an article found in Saturdays Vancouver Sun that cuts to the point in how the HST is effecting new home sales.
Metro Vancouver's new home industry is hurting badly over the absence of any transition rules governing the return of the provincial sales tax since the harmonized sales tax was defeated in a referendum Aug. 26, three property experts told the Vancouver Board of Trade Friday.
"We are really choked that we don't have any transition rules yet and are absolutely amazed that our provincial government - who probably most of you voted for - thought that this thing was fait accompli and there was no Plan B," said Ward McAllister, president of Ledingham McAllister Properties. "What is amazing to me is that it took them three days to bring this new tax in and now they are telling us it is going to take up to 18 months to unravel. This is really hurting us in the new home business just because of the uncertainty.
"Since the referendum we have been literally begging for transition rules," he said. "Any of our product that's $525,000 and over, which is the threshold, is sitting. We are having to make deals and pay a portion of the HST."
The 12-per-cent HST applies to new home sales, while under the GST-PST regime, new home buyers only paid the five per cent GST. With no transition rules, it is uncertain what the PST will apply to when it is reinstated in 2013.
McAllister and fellow panelists Eugene Klein, presidentelect of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, and real estate consultant Richard Wozny, of Site Economics Ltd., were at the board of trade to debate whether Vancouver real estate is in the midst of a bubble. They all agreed it is not, but they levelled their strongest comments at the impact of the lack of any rules around the return to the PST.
"Buyers, especially the under25 mark, are sitting on the sidelines," said Klein. "In my own personal practice, our developers are starting to try to take that risk out of the marketplace by taking it on and including it in the price. We are starting to see units then starting to move with that because the consumer doesn't know what to do.
"It's also affecting home renovation projects with HST on them because consumers don't know what to do," Klein said.
The HST effect was the only real damper on Metro Vancouver real estate, which the three panelists and moderator David Podmore, CEO of Concert Properties Ltd., all said is not a bubble. Podmore wore a button with the slash symbol for "no" imprinted over the word bubble.
"I am very optimistic about where we are heading," he said, noting that his company largely pulled out of Metro Vancouver Real Estate in 2007, but went back in 2009.
He cited two reasons for the region's strong real estate market: immigration and the fact that real estate is being viewed as a hedge against the uncertainty that has hit global finance. Klein said international interest in Vancouver is attracting foreign buyers. He said buyers are coming here to live, with only three per cent characterized as foreign investors. He said supply is now outstripping demand, but it has not affected prices.
"Demand for high-end properties has helped drive our demand for most of the year," he said.
Wozny said Metro Vancouver's real estate prices are "very high by any measure."
"It must be something political or social because it certainly has nothing to do with economics." he said.
He forecast low-interest rates for the foreseeable future, which will translate into continuing sales.
"There is no bubble in Vancouver," he said.
McAllister had advice for prospective homeowners in their 20s who are questioning whether they should wait for prices to come down: Don't wait, borrow from mom and dad. And he warned against selling, hoping to get back into the market later.
"Affordability is one of the main concerns in this market and I think will continue to be over the rest of my life."
By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun
October 21, 2011
Home sellers must keep an eye on the competition
The months of September and October continued to propel Vancouver's housing market, and the strong market and high prices have not gone unnoticed among property owners.
This fall season, however, can also see an increase in listings as the selection of available houses and condos on the market rises. What does this mean if you are planning to sell in the near future?
As buyers increasingly have more choices, it's critical home sellers consider how their property is being presented and how it stacks up against other similarly priced homes in the area.
"Typically, it's home buyers who study listing information and attend open houses, but we encourage home sellers to also work closely with their agents and conduct some basic competitive research before listing their home for sale," says Ron Sowden, CEO of Dekora Home Staging. "There is no better way to understand your competition than to research comparable listings and attend a few open houses in your area," adds Sowden.
Of course, most listing agents will provide an analysis of comparable sales, but the key is to also gathering current market information about listed homes rather than just past sales.
The next step in the process should involve a careful analysis of how your home compares with other local listings in terms of price, condition and presentation.
"Consider creating a simple ranking of listed homes and evaluate your property against the others from a competitive standpoint. Also, solicit additional unbiased opinions to either validate or challenge your assessment," says Sowden.
Armed with competitive intelligence of this nature, home sellers gain a considerable advantage provided they take action on the information.
"To be successful, home sellers need to first 'walk in a buyer's shoes' and then take the necessary steps to ensure their home shows at its best," advises Sowden.
It sounds simple, but most busy families will need to hire the appropriate professionals to make the necessary enhancements.
A good place to start is the Shell Busey HouseSmart web page (www. housesmartcentre.com), which includes a qualified contractor referral network.
Real estate agents are also a great resource for other professionals like landscapers, home stagers and painters.
"Identifying that improvements are needed before staging and listing is a big first step, but once sellers commit to taking action there are plenty of folks who can help prioritize each task and ultimately maximize the appeal of a home," says Sowden.
"And all that effort will go a long way when the house hits the market".
October 20, 2011
Dunbar Haunted House moves to new location after its huge success spooks the neighbours
You got to love it when just a few folks raise a fuss. Good old City Hall. Nice story from the Vancouver Sun.
What a great time of year...boooooo
Vancouver Sun, October 15, 2011
Will success spoil the Dunbar Haunted House?
When Brad Leith, Gideon Flitt and their families and friends first set out to scare their neighbours at 50th and Dunbar on Halloween in 2004, it was because the previous year had seen fewer kids than you can count on 10 fingers show up to claim candy in the trick-or-treat tradition that the grown-ups so loved from their own childhoods.
It was time to scare up some more visitors. An easy afternoon’s worth of preparation in ’04 led to Flitt standing in a driveway “graveyard” built from scrap lumber, portraying the only spook in sight and scaring about a hundred kids who showed up for the fun.
In 2005, Leith and Flitt led a growing team of family, friends and neighbours in building setpieces and props, stitching costumes and playing various creepy characters. The effect was electric. Over the course of a couple of weeks preceding Halloween, hundreds of people showed up nightly and, on Spook Night itself, 500 folks lined up to file through a maze of monstrous effects.
About $5,000 was raised for the B.C. Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
Then all hell broke loose. From 2006, the Dunbar Haunted House started to take weeks to set up and hundreds of zombie-hours of labour for what was truly a tour to the dark side. People were now lining up around the block for hours to get in, and donations to good causes began growing to the point that, in 2010, $67,000 went to the Burn Fund, the Vancouver Police Union Charity Foundation and the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau.
“Now it’s basically a yearround, all-consuming hobby,” Leith says. “I’ve been working 12-to 16-hour days since June 1 and, I mean, I have a day job teaching at Vancouver Film School.”
Success is a slippery slope, and the Dunbar Haunted House has simply become too big to remain on its original site.
Leith learned that the hard way last year when the city of Vancouver’s special-events office reared its bureaucratic head.
“At least a quarter of all the people who volunteer have come from the neighbourhood,” says Leith, “but a couple of neighbours didn’t like it, and they pushed the buttons at city hall.”
Leith and his team were ordered to attend a meeting with building inspectors, fire and police representatives and special-event officials.
“It felt strange,” Leith recalls. “They started out by kind of reading us the riot act, and after about five minutes of it I said, ‘You make us feel like we’re a grow-op or sex-trade smugglers; we’re just trying to do a community event and raise money for local charities.’”
Leith and his team scour the city for free materials, call on their friends to donate expertise in building sets or engineering the animatronics, and even come up with the coin needed to attend hauntedhouse trade shows in the U.S. in search of spooky masks and special props. They decided to be proactive about their problem and Leith set out to find a warehouse where neighbours wouldn’t be a worry.
The special-events office now lent a helping hand, but Leith’s only option proved to be a long-term lease on the Shaughnessy Street building. For the first time the Dunbar Haunted House will charge admission instead of simply collecting funds for charity, and so this year’s donations will be diminished by the amount needed to pay rent.
Sitting in an industrial district beneath the Oak Street Bridge, the warehouse can only be accessed by walking down a narrow alley between buildings. Flitt assures visitors that a couple of dozen of the 120 volunteers will devote their time to helping people park south of Marine Drive, from Shaughnessy along Kent Avenue to the short spur of Oak Street below the bridge, and showing them the way to “Barbaric British Columbia.”
“I can’t reveal too much,” says Flitt of this year’s theme, “or else you’ll kill the surprise, but I can definitely say that you will be very amused and spooked at the same time.”
Dunbar Haunted House goes out of its way to be kid-friendly. On weekends, families can visit during the day and for a $5 fee, the wee ones can go through as many times as they like.
The volunteer spooks start their shift at 7 p.m., but even then the emphasis is on a good laugh.
“What we do is called lowimpact spooking,” Flitt says, “so we don’t terrorize people. It’s more fun than it is scary.”
Flitt warns that the coming week is the best time to visit if you don’t like crowds, because the week leading up to Halloween can see waiting times of up to an hour to get in.
For more information, go to dunbarhauntedhouse.com.
AT A GLANCE
DUNBAR HAUNTED HOUSE
When: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday evenings; 7 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and
Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, to Oct. 31
Where: 8934 Shaughnessy St., south of Marine Drive next to the Oak Street Bridge
Tickets: $5 unlimited access during the day; $10 ($5 for children 11-and-under) after 7 p.m.
October 19, 2011
An Ode to the Throne
An fun article found on Zillow blog. Pretty informative as well.
Whether you call it the can, loo, John, porcelain throne, oval office, potty or any other moniker, the toilet — let’s face it — is not the most glamorous feature of a home. Usually when home buyers take a walk through a potential home for sale, they ooh and aah over the living room, the spacious kitchen and maybe a bedroom or two. The toilet, on the other hand, is a function of the home that doesn’t get much attention — that is, until it’s not working.
The Back Story to the Bowl
Although Thomas Crapper is thought to be the inventor of the modern toilet, he was merely a huge proponent of modern plumbing in the 19th century who also happened to have memorable last name.
The first patent for the modern toilet was actually granted in 1775 to inventor Alexander Cummings. However, several centuries prior, the Romans, India’s Harrappa civilization and the Skara Brae population in Scotland utilized modified plumbing systems. Most of this technology was lost in the Middle Ages of Europe and people then used chamber pots to dispose of waste.
Flushing Money Away
If you had to take a stab at the biggest water waster in your house would you guess the loo, or the shower? According to USGS.gov, the toilet uses the greatest amount of household water and it’s estimated that each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. If the toilet leaks, it wastes 200 gallons of water per day.
While you could go back to the days of the chamber pot, there are a few more modern ways to save water and money. Even Uncle Sam got his hands dirty over the issue of water consumption in toilets and saving money.
In 1992, the U.S. government mandated that all new toilets had to be “low-flow” toilets, using 1.6 gallons per flush rather the previous 5 gallons or more (even though many people feel the politically correct 1.6-gallon toilet doesn’t work).
A Greener John
According to water conservationist George Whalen, switching to water-saving fixtures can save you as much as $100 a year in utility costs. Here are some ideas, from a simple homemade fix to high-end fixtures:
Source: Flickr user marktristan
- Brick trick. A brick or bottle filled with sand placed in the toilet tank can take up space and as a result, cut down on 10 gallons a day per flush.
- Dual-flush toilets. Invented in Australia, a dual-flush toilet changes the water volume depending on the type of waste being flushed. The toilet uses more water for solid waste, less for liquid waste and can save 67 percent water.
- Composting toilet: This is on the far end of the green spectrum and doesn’t use any water to dispose of waste but sends waste to a composter. These cost several thousand dollars and may involve a little more involvement than the usual toilet.
- Tankless toilet: This water-saving commode relies on water from a supply line with enough pressure to eliminate waste rather than a tank of water.
- Other low-flow toilets. A complete list that received the WaterSense designation are at www.epa.gov/watersense.
Pros and Cons of a Low-Flow Can
Whether a toilet can save you money depends on whether it’s working right.
Real estate agent Toan Nguyen, who has had previous experience in plumbing, electrical work and remodeling, says “green” toilets will only save you money if other elements are not a concern.
“If you live in an older house, your pipes are older, and it’s a longer run to the main sewer on the street, on a house like that I would not advocate dual flush [toilets] because there’s not enough water to get rid of waste,” Nguyen explained. “If there’s not enough force, it can create a sewer problem.”
A dual-flush or low-flow toilet will work best where there’s gravity to help it along, says Nguyen. Otherwise, consider the possible long-term issues with sewer blockage.
A Few Favorite Flushers
Among Zillow’s humongous database of more than 100 million U.S. homes — including homes for sale and homes for rent — there are plenty of photos of toilets! Here are a few of our favorites:
The throne (literally)
881 Innes Ave, San Francisco CA
This home for sale on the San Francisco real estate market takes the term throne quite seriously. Located in the fascinating Albion Castle, the toilet plays “Le Bon Roi Dagobert” as the lid is raised. A tug on the pull chain to flush the toilet is accompanied by a chiming of a bell. The price of the home that goes with this royal flush? $975,000.
580 Gonowabie Rd, Crystal Bay NV
The ultra-modern trend in toilets, the tankless toilet in this home for sale on the Crystal Bay real estate market is incredibly low-profile and blends in with the surrounding blue tile and step-in glass shower. The entire home is outfitted in glass and modern fixtures and is currently listed at a whopping $43 million.
For the guys
5011 Newpoint Dr, Fresno TX
This 4-bed, 4-bath home for sale in Fresno, Texas not only includes a pool, game room and nearly 4,000 square feet of living space, but also some personalized features like a “separate urinal for men and bidet for ladies” in the master bath. Is it a selling point? You decide! The house is listed for $690,000.
The great outdoors
Jolly Jeep Trl, NM
Get away from city life and city plumbing with this 1-bedroom cabin in the woods that is listed for sale on the New Mexico real estate market. While the home does include one indoor bathroom, it also has a wooden outhouse. For $149,000, this place could serve as a vacation home or artists’ retreat.
October 18, 2011
Foursquare Update Brings Location-Aware Reminders and Notifications to Your iPhone
iPhone: Social location-tracking app Foursquare released a new update today for the iPhone, adding a new feature called Radar. Radar pays attention to what you're following on Foursquare and alerts you when you're near any followed location. For example, if you're following a Top 10 Dessert Restaurant list and happen to be near one of the restaurants, you'll receive a notification from Foursquare to remind you to check it out. This update seems to require iOS 5, so be sure to upgrade and get yourself set up first.
Note: The update to the Foursquare app may not be available to everyone right this second, so be patient and it should show up for you at some point later today.
October 13, 2011
‘Green is good’ the mantra for builders of city’s new office
Credit Suisse plans to construct 30-storey building to highest LEED standard
In the race to build multimillion-dollar commercial office buildings in downtown Vancouver, the prevailing mantra appears to be a new take on an old expression.
Green is good.
The latest manifestation of a sustainable office building is being proposed by global financial giant Credit Suisse, which is jumping in with a $200-million plan to build a structure that will vie to be among the world’s greenest.
Among other things, the building at the corner of Howe and Pender — to be completed by 2015 — is targeted to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and ‘Living Building’ certifications with cutting-edge features such as on-site waste water treatment and reuse, energy consumption at a rate about half that of similar towers, a high-efficiency heating and cooling system, storm water retention and reuse, and solar thermal panels.
And tenants will be able to open their windows on warm summer days.
“It will be a very distinctive building,” Selwyn Dodd, partner with design group Iredale Group Architecture, said in an interview. “This won’t be your cookie-cutter Vancouver office tower.”
Credit Suisse, through one of its real estate funds, has secured the 1929 Stock Exchange building, along with an adjacent property on Pender, and is proposing to build the 30-storey, 400,000-square-foot tower incorporating the heritage stock exchange building.
The investment firm is now unveiling plans for its tower, the latest in a growing number of office projects in downtown Vancouver that are aiming for the LEED rating system, a third-party certification and internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Platinum is the highest rating.
The planned tower is Credit Suisse’s first B.C. investment and would be the tallest in the company’s real estate inventory of 260 buildings.
There is an open house today at the Terminal City Club, 837 West Hastings, and the group will apply for rezoning within two weeks.
Although constructing a LEED Platinum building will increase construction costs by 10 to 15 per cent, Herbert Meier, director of real estate asset management for Credit Suisse, said building green reduces operating costs and attracts clients seeking out sustainable offices.
“It’s not the highest building. It’s not on the waterfront. But it’s the best package.
“We really believe green buildings are the most sustainable investment.”
Franz Gehriger, president of minority investor Swissreal Investments Ltd., said his group will utilize local materials from local contractors as much as possible.
“There’s a light manufacturing company in Langley that makes advanced [energy-efficient] LED lights. We’re talking with them about making the whole building LED.”
Gehriger added: “We believe this is a great way for Credit Suisse’s real estate fund to expand into Vancouver, the greenest city in Canada.”
Others are also aiming for LEED Gold or Platinum standards.
Last month, the British Columbia Investment Management Corp launched its 24-storey, 745 Thurlow St. office tower, making it the second of three other anticipated major office projects in downtown Vancouver to jump onto a construction timeline.
That project — scheduled for completion in 2015 — follows Oxford Properties’ announcement that committed its pension-fund sponsor to build 1021 West Hastings, a 25-storey tower to be built by 2014.
Another building is the 22-storey, 500,000-square-foot office tower that is part of Telus Corp.’s $750-million redevelopment of the entire city block bounded by Robson, Georgia, Seymour and Richards streets, which the company and developer Westbank Projects aim to complete in 2015.
From the Vancouver Sun. September 25, 2011
October 13, 2011
Cruise-ship cabins inspire design for small houses
‘Mi-Pads’ incorporate elements such as built-in bunk beds and wooden lockers
When pondering how to construct smaller homes that young adults and renters could afford, homebuilder Tom Hignite turned his attention from the land to the sea. Cruise ships, to be exact.
He studied how the essentials of living were shoehorned into a small space in cruise-ship cabins, then figured out ways to incorporate some elements – such as built-in bunk beds and wooden lockers instead of closets – into a house containing a little more than 1,000 square feet. The result is what Hignite, owner of Miracle Homes, calls the “Mi-Pad” – a home with three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and a fireplace for as little as $89,000.
“They’re contemporary in look,” Hignite said. “They are little bit more in size than a garage. But they’re extraordinarily compact, using cruiseship technology and cruise-ship design architecture to create cabins instead of bedrooms.
Some of the bedrooms are six feet by nine feet and they sleep two.”
While a far cry from the roomy McMansions that sprang up during the U.S. housing bub-ble of the last decade, Hignite’s houses pack lots of amenities in a small space. One model includes a 10-foot-by-12-foot attic play loft for children.
Master bedrooms are shaped to handle queen-size beds. High ceilings help to blunt the smallness of the homes, which, facing the road, are only 26.5 feet wide. Patios are out the back door.
Although construction of houses the size of the Mi-Pad was common during the 1950s in Milwaukee and many suburbs, houses got bigger in the years that followed.
Now, such huge homes have become harder to sell in a weak U.S. housing market and atmosphere of high unemployment and wide-scale foreclosures.
The final cost of a Mi-Pad varies depending on what’s included and where the lot is located.
One model can be developed to have five bedrooms, Hignite said.
“These are targeted at renters. There’s a one-car attached garage,” Hignite said.
“They are meant for people who have a no-car garage right now,” he quipped.
“There’s a large marketplace in rentals that could segue into this for the same cost as rent.”
Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, said Hignite may be on to something.
“It sounds like he might fill a niche,” Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka said construction of such small homes presents a “back to the future” scenario because small homes were built en masse in the post-Second World War era.
They could be an alternative by offering an all-new product instead of a foreclosed property that may need repairs, he said.
Houses selling for less than $100,000 often are foreclosed properties that need a lot of work.
“We kind of looked at repo prices and decided to create a product line that would compete with that sort of repo price area of $90,000 to $150,000 – and get you a new home,” Hignite said.
Because of the Mi-Pad’s small size, he said, “they work well on urban lots” as well.
“There are little pockets around that allow it,” he said.
Hignite has been known among southeastern Wisconsin homebuilders for sometimes quirky innovations.
Previous high-end models have included a movie theatre and themed children’s bedrooms, for example.
Hignite made headlines six years ago when he hired almost a dozen laid-off animation artists from Walt Disney Co. to create Miracle Studios, which intended to make TV commercials and a feature film starring his company’s mascot, Miracle Mouse.
The studio at his Richfield, Wis., headquarters has shrunk to “one or two” artists, Hignite said, but there still are plans to produce the movie.
“Of course our main business is still homebuilding, and everybody has a passion beyond their main passion or job,” Hignite said.
The Mi-Pad houses on Gates Street in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin – which include extra features and finished spaces beyond the base-price models – are the only two in existence so far, Hignite said.
He wants to see if they catch on before building any more on speculation.
“It’s a launch, and we’re looking to see whether the public will accept it, because there haven’t been 1,000square-foot houses built in many years,” he said.
From the Vancouver Sun. September 19, 2011
October 13, 2011
Real Estate Weekly launches online search portal REW.ca
The Real Estate Weekly newspaper launched its own online search site today, REW.ca bringing together listings from the Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Chilliwack and Whistler real estate boards and associations.
The site is the latest in a number of online real estate offerings although this one draws on the long history of the free real estate weeklies, updating that print history to the digital age at a time when people want to be able to click and search online for properties.
The site, which is currently in beta, narrows searches to areas and it has a range of other tools from finding an agent, to real estate news updates, mortgage calculators and new homes. For traditionalists, it also includes a copy of all the print versions of the Real Estate Weekly.
“REW.ca was developed in recognition of the needs for home buyers, sellers, real estate agents, brokers and developers and their desire to connect in one convenient online destination,” Ian Martin, general manager of REW.ca, said in a release. “We’ve incorporated 30 years of local marketing experience through our newspaper with the best practices of online search to create REW.ca.”
“REW.ca’s team has collaborated a lot of time with the real estate industry to ensure we provide a smart, new local online real estate portal experience. Our beta launch enables us to continue testing while incorporating user feedback
October 12, 2011
Breathalyzer Jacket Lets You Know How Drunk You Are
If you are prone to overdrinking and need a reminder from time to time that it’s advisable to call a cab, there’s a sports jacket with your name on it. Designer Matt Leggett has designed a jacket with a built-in breathalyzer which will show the level of your intoxication on the sleeve. I have seen drunks that could check their sobriety and light that sleeve on fire
October 11, 2011
Vancouver, Western Canada facing record cold temperatures this winter
- I read this is the Vancouver Sun today. Is this for real? I was't even sure if I was going to put my snowtires on this year. I guess I better re-think that idea....
Bundle up, Canada, and get your shovelling arm in shape.
Photograph by: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal
As Canadians wrap up what for most has been one of the warmest October weekends in recent memory, they can brace themselves for the coming winter with a long-term forecast calling for thick socks and thicker skins.
The forecast is for one of the coldest winters in the past 20 years for Western Canada, major snowstorms for Ontario and Quebec, and a drier than normal winter for Atlantic Canada, according to U.S.-based AccuWeather.com.
That's not to say that blasts of Arctic air won't chill Canadians east of Manitoba, but those bitter blasts will be short.
"You can be pretty confident that Western Canada will be pretty cold," said Brett Anderson, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.
Anderson said temperatures out West will be up to five degrees Celsius lower than normal, meaning temperatures will drop below zero in Vancouver and below about -20 C in Edmonton.
Vancouver will experience one of its coldest winters on record, Anderson said.
"The worst of the cold is going to be in Western Canada," Anderson said.
Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces will see below average snowfall in December, but come January, things are going to change, Anderson said.
"Its going to be a slower start and then in January, February, it's going to be fairly active," Anderson said.
"That's when we're going see our significant snowfall events."
The reason for more snow and more cold? La Nina, a phenomenon that occurs when water temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific are below normal.
La Nina produces extreme cold across Western Canada during the winter while adding to snowfalls in Ontario and Quebec.
Water temperatures this year are pointing to a moderate strength La Nina, Anderson said, which help with the predictions.
This winter will see less snowfall in the Prairies, Anderson said, except in southwestern Alberta.
Because the Great Lakes are running warmer than normal, the areas around the lakes will have a greater amount of lake-effect snowfall, Anderson said.
October 6, 2011
StyleTech Steve Jobs' iconic black turtleneck selling out
An article I found in the Georgia Straight that I thought was quite clever by
Michelle da Silva
Steve Jobs wearing his iconic black turtleneck.
According to several "reports"—although the root of it all traces back to TMZ, so who really knows if this is true or not—Steve Jobs' iconic black turtleneck has been selling out.
The Apple cofounder, who passed away Wednesday (October 5), didn't just wear any old black turtleneck. He reportedly preferred the Cotton and Microfiber Classic Long Sleeve Mock by St. Croix, a U.S. luxury menswear label that's been making knitwear collections for the past 19 years, which retails for $175.
A rep for St. Croix told TMZ today (October 6) that black mock turtlenecks have been "flying off the shelves" and that the company has experienced "almost 100 percent increase in sales".
But then again, this is TMZ, so take from it what you will.
If you're so inclined, you can purchase your very own Steve Jobs-approved black turtleneck at the St. Croix website.
No reports yet as to whether New Balance runner sales have spiked.
October 5, 2011
Fewer sales, more listings keep lid on home prices
New listings in Metro Vancouver totalled 5,680 in September, the third highest volume for that month in 17 years.
Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG, Vancouver Sun
A combination of fewer sales and more listings is putting the lid on home price increases in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, according to the latest real estate numbers released Tuesday.
"We are in a buyer's market," said Rosario Setticasi, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
"There's lots of choice. [Buyers] don't have to make any rush decisions and they can take the time to buy their dream home."
Reports from the REBGV and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board both concluded that consistent increases in property listings and fewer home sales during the summer months have helped keep price increases in check.
Tsur Somerville, director of the University of B.C. Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, said he believes many of the new listings are the result of sellers trying to cash in on higher prices earlier in the year.
"In the first quarter or third of the year, there were really significant price increases, but prices have been flat since May. But on the seller's side, it's a reaction to the beginning of the year. That, mixed with a lot of bad [economic] news means [they're thinking], 'we'd better hurry up and do it.' "
Somerville added: "This isn't driven by sales dropping, but by sales being level while new listings remain strong.
"And it's certainly a more favourable market for buyers."
In Metro Vancouver, sales of all homes on the multiple listing service reached 2,246 in September, a 1.2-per-cent increase compared to the 2,220 sales in September 2010. Those sales also rank as the third lowest total for September during the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, new listings totalled 5,680 in September, the third highest volume for that month in 17 years.
The number represents a 20.1-per-cent increase compared to September 2010, when 4,731 properties were listed for sale, and a 21.2-percent increase compared to the 4,685 new listings reported in August 2011.
The number of properties for sale has increased each month this year to 16,085 homes, up 4.6 per cent in September compared to August and up 4.4 per cent compared to September 2010.
"We've seen the sales-to-listing ratio move from a high of 32 per cent [earlier in the year] to about 14 per cent now," added Setticasi.
"Prices have held, dropping very slightly."
He noted that analysts say a buyer's market takes shape when the ratio dips to about 12 to 14 per cent, or lower, for a sustained period of time.
In the Fraser Valley, property sales during September were the third lowest for that month in the last decade, while new listings in September ranked the second highest.
"This is the third month in a row based on the 10-year average where we've seen lower sales combined with a higher influx of new listings," said Sukh Sidhu, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. "This trend is stabilizing home prices in the Fraser Valley, resulting in the price of a typical detached home in September being only slightly higher than it was in May."
According to the FVREB, 1,165 sales were processed in September, an increase of 12 per cent compared to the 1,044 sales during the same month last year, and a decrease of 13 per cent compared to 1,341 sales in August.
The board also posted 2,651 new properties on its multiple listing service in September, an increase of 10 per cent compared to September of 2010 and about the same as August. The number of active listings in the Fraser Valley stood at 10,096 in September.
Meanwhile, the benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver has increased 8.8 per cent to $627,994 in September 2011 from $577,174 in September 2010.
But the September price is also a 0.5-per-cent drop from June's peak price of $630,921.
The benchmark price for detached properties increased 13.4 per cent from September 2010 to $896,701.
The benchmark price of a detached home in the Fraser Valley in September was $530,321, 4.5 per cent higher than September 2010 and 0.3 per cent higher than August.
October 3, 2011
It's almost Apple Festival Time again.
Large year I checked out the UBC Apple Festival for the first time. It's both educational and a lot of fun.
A family event for all ages celebrating one of British Columbia's favourite fruits. From children learning about the diversity of apples to those who remember tasting heritage apples in their youth, the Apple Festival is a great opportunity to not only discover more about this delicious fruit, but have a whole lot fun doing it. For more on this event click here