Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays - Merry Christmas!

What an interesting time we are living in. With news headlines hammering us everyday it's tough keep upbeat and positive. I don't need a crystal ball to predict that next year will continue to be a time of uncertainty and fear, at least until the economy finds its feet and investors gain confidence.

But, it's easy to sit back, criticize and succumb to the mass mindset that the world is ending and that there is no hope in sight. It's always easier to commiserate than to get into action and make a positive change. And that's especially what this New Year should be about. Commit yourself to
'Turn Crisis Into Opportunity'.

We all inherently know the old adage of 'buy low and sell high' but throughout time the general population retreat, hiding, laying curled in a ball or just plain tharn. And in Buffet's words "A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

As you know there are a lot of great deals out there. That's why we're moving full throttle forward and taking advantage of this downturn to add quality, cash-flowing properties to your portfolio. We can negotiate better terms and stay the long-term course, avoiding as many of the bumps along the road that we can. 2009 will remain gloomy, but I think we'll start seeing light and stability towards the end of the year and throughout 2010.

Here are three simple actions to enter the New Year with:

Stay Positive and Be Grateful: Its so simple, but yet so powerful. Choose to start your day with a good attitude; make a habit of forcing yourself to find the good in any perceivably bad situation. You'll be amazed at the results and opportunities you'll find. Be positive and effective in your speech, actions and thoughts. Be grateful for what you've already achieved. It may be something major that you've done or something that you take for granted everyday like the beautiful tree outside your home, the taste of a delicious meal or the fact that you have a healthy body and the ability simply to read this email.

Redefine Your Goals: Take the time to really boil down to the essence of what you want to achieve in the New Year and beyond. Look at your business, health and family goals. Force yourself to commit 110% and move forward with speed and persistence. Make monthly, weekly and daily goal lists to help you stay on track.

Take Action: Realize the opportunity before you. Resolve to learn 3 new skills and employ them systematically moving towards your goal. Take your goals from passive to active. If your goal is to increase your monthly income by $3000, write down and implement the actions needed to reach that goal. That may be to start the due diligence on three properties, research high dividend stocks to invest in, reduce costs at your business while increasing sales and revenue.

I hope that you've enjoyed the Super-Sized version of this month's newsletter. We'll be spending the holidays playing in the snow from 12/27-1/5. The next newsletter will be January 15th. Wishing you and your family a joyous Holiday Season and a very successful 2009! Thank you and warmest regards,

Todd and Danielle Millar-

P.S. Stay ahead by signing up for Alberta Oilsands Real Estate Investor Newsletter for all your cutting edge market news and information.

P.P.S. Wonder about the fears that kept others out of the markets? I don't want to invest now! Check this out.

P.P.P.S. Don’t forget to visit our website and take advantage of the Resource Tools and product section including REIN's #1 real estate books and Quick Start home study sets at a discount. Get your copy of the Canadian Success Stories book and the Top Ten Alberta Towns for 2008.

The $11 Dollar House

You can get a mortgage free house in Edmonton if you have $11 and a good enough reason why you deserve to own it.

A Edmonton lawyer/investor hopes to cover the cost of renovating a 4 bedroom house by receiving 25,000 entries for a contest to win the previously foreclosed property. It may be an $11 lottery ticket but the chance to win a home mortgage free is a great piece of marketing and a wonderful idea.

Visit The 11 Dollar House website and Facebook page.

Sorry only residents of Canada can enter!

Monday, December 22, 2008

When One Door Closes.....

....another opens.
I read an article today on how Hard Times Generate Entrepreneurs. Basically during an economic crunch we have to be more innovative and aggressive. Focus on a niche market within your customer base and serve them well.

"Small business have to adapt or die.So you have to look at your customer base, modify who you cater to if it's needed, and cater to that demand. . . . People will still need certain services, and the smaller the niche you serve, the more successful your business can be." Vance Gough, instructor of entrepreneurship at Mount Royal College's Bissett School of Business

In our case that would be helping people, who don't have the time to invest or to learn how, create wealth in Alberta oil sands real estate. It's pretty focused - it probably could be more focused like "... helping 30 - 50 year old professionals..." You get the idea - clarity is key.

If you aren't sure who you would be best serving look at your business and see where most of your revenue comes from. Pareto`s Principle (commonly known as the 80/20 rule) applied here would state that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clientele or actions. Pinpointing that 20% would greatly increase the money you earn and decrease the time you spend trying to earn it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've already packed your parachute, all you have to do is jump

Expert, Specialist, Veteran: Partner with a JV Commando

Ready to get out there and invest in cash flowing properties?

It's a bit of a jungle out there with stock markets going up, down and all around. I prefer to negotiate the less treacherous jungle of real estate on a daily basis; living in the trenches, crawling on my belly to source out the best deals for my partners both local and abroad.

Like a precious civilian life, I keep your cash and investment safe. I will lead you through the minefield of investing. Warding off the dangers of sloppy management, high mortgage rates and just plain bad deals. Being a veteran REIN member means keeping my partner's portfolio not just alive, but thriving in any market both hostile and friendly.

The bottom line is... I'm here to prevent you from any surprise attacks. I'm the kind of partner that if you were to get bitten by a poisonous black mamba, I'd suck the venom out and carry you 17 long miles on my own broken legs through the thickets of Lang Gon to safety... Well, you get the point.

Here Are A Few Ways You Can Protect Your Financial Fortress:

1. Invest in rock solid neighborhoods of Edmonton.Partner with a pro that has years of experience and a ton of happy Joint Venture referrals.
2. Own a great, headache free money making property where your partner takes care of all the details.
3. Maximize your capital by investing in properties that already have financing in place - financing that you don't need to qualify for.

Tactical Benefits That Put MORE Cash into your combat pants:

* Careful tenant selection - long leases in place

* Newer and already renovated properties - less maintenance cost

* Profitable from day one - each deal makes sense the day its bought

Current Property Target:

* 1987 Built

* 3 Bedroom home with attached garage

* Impeccable condition

* Great neighborhood with many high value homes

* Near not-yet-completed Anthony Henday Ring Road

* Highly rentable

Essential Data:

* Only $321K purchase price (other homes listed up to $363K)

* Your Estimated Profit: $55K

* Possession date February 28th

* Detailed Pro-Forma available

What Makes This Deal So Darn Great?

* You make an estimated $50,000.00 Profit over 5 years (16% Per Year)

* Low investment amount covers ALL expenses and down-payment. ONLY: $62K

* You can leverage your cash AND save your credit for future deals- ALL financing is arranged

* Low mortgage rate of 4.75%

* Rents for $1800

* Cash flow positive

* Less than 20% TOTAL down payment

* Completely 'Hands Free'

* Partner with a PRO in the KNOW: You get the peace of mind from our exceptional track record and experience

Partnership DEADLINE of January 30th/09

Wondering what to do?

I've already packed your parachute, all you have to do is jump.

Grab this quick and easy questionnaire and get started!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Canadian Politics

"Apparently KFC has come with a new bucket to support the new coalition: it will consist only of left wings and bums."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Useful Resource For Real Estate Investors

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is useful for checking facts on everything from historical events to rock stars to recipes. It's also a useful tool to research neighbourhoods where you are planning to invest. Pages like Neighbourhoods in Edmonton or Neighbourhoods in Calgary are excellent resources for your due diligence.

For example we bought a single family residence in Crawford Plains. I was able to research the dwelling mix, what types of housing are prevalent in an area, and what schools and shopping centers are nearby. This information is important to know for your tenants and for resale. I was also able to find major roadways and transportation hubs- which may positively or negatively affect resale real estate prices.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A $475,000 Dog House

No, it's not an extra two zero mistake. The pooch palace will shelter a pair of Great Danes belonging to a surgeon in London, whose own luxurious house is to be constructed nearby.

"The three-room dog house (two bedrooms and a lounge) will be outfitted with temperature-controlled sheepskin beds, a spa, an expensive hi-fi system, and a 52-inch plasma television set.

Picture courtesy of The Globe and Mail

A retina scan at the entrance will enable the owner to keep out dogs who might try to pay unauthorized visits to the Great Danes. Closed-circuit TV cameras will provide the owner with round-the-clock surveillance of the dogs' comings and goings between their house and their adventure playground."

A retina scan? Too weird. Read the full article here

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Have You Heard This One Before?

It's always a good idea to invest. Sure there appear to be many reasons not to and some of them huge, however, well placed investments especially in changing times produce profits.

Warren Buffet's philosophy is to buy stocks of companies he understands that have seen a decrease in their "real" value. It would seem that now with the stock market up and down there are many companies that are falsely low and are a great deal. The same holds true for real estate - take an economically sound region where prices are slightly depressed and you can find some great deals that will appreciate quite well. Edmonton, Alberta is exactly such a region.

Here is a list created by John S. Baen, Professor of Real Estate at the University of North Texas, of why people don't invest -- even though they know they should. I changed some parts to make it Canada-centric

Why People Don't Invest: 12 Humorous Reasons

  1. They're already paying into Old Age Security Pension.
  2. Their budget includes $20 per week for lottery tickets, which is bound to pay off soon.
  3. They believe that inflation means their money will grow.
  4. Old people don't eat much anyway.
  5. They sit at home waiting for the Publishers Clearing House van to pull up in their driveway and deliver their check.
  6. Their money is safely buried in the backyard.
  7. Their rich Aunt Melba will die soon.
  8. Little Matilda is sure to make it big in Films Canada.
  9. They can cash in their Edmonton Oiler collector glasses when it's time to retire.
  10. Their dot-com stocks will come back to life.
  11. They'll write a book and live off the royalties.
  12. They plan on marrying a young wife/husband when they're 60 and depend on their financial support.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The One Shining Economic Light...

..is the oilsands.

Although oil prices may be low now and sure you can say they have "plummeted" from the earlier high of $140/barrel to $50/barrel. The oil companies are not fazed, long term views make day to day oil prices irrelevant.

The oil sands are one of the biggest capital investment projects in the world, averaging $20bn a year over the past few years, and with more than $100bn of projects planned for the next ten years.

"It is the economic engine of Alberta and of Canada," "At this time of global economic turmoil, the one shining economic light in this country is the oilsands," says Alberta's conservative Deputy Premier Ron Stevens.

Although global economic worries have caused the price of oil to fall, the oilsands are still very profitable with and incredible 300 to 400 year production life span.

In fact by slowing down production investors, like me, are given more time to purchase and sell investment real estate in this incredible region. Instead of planning to sell some of my portfolio between 2010 I can extend the date to 2012 or 2015, pay down my mortgages further and receive a bigger pay out at the end.

Oilsands budget for 2009

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This And That

Housing market hit by economic uncertainty - " A report out from RE/MAX today says the global economic crunch has made an impact on housing sales in major Canadian cities towards the end of 2008.

About 440 000 homes are expected to change hands in Canada this year, that's a 15 percent drop from record levels in 2007.

Here in Edmonton, just under 19 000 homes will have been sold by the time 2008 is said and done with. That would mark an 8 percent drop from last year's number of 20 437.

The average house price in Edmonton dropped only about a percent this year with the number sitting at $335 000. That number isn't expected to change in 2009."

After all is said and done the price of average house in Edmonton only dropped 1%. Think of your stock investments and how much they have dropped or rather plummeted in the last few months. Isn't it time to turn your paper assets into less liquid and volatile investments?

Alberta’s Government Fills the Province’s Labor Force Shortage with Temporary Foreign Workers - "Walk into a convenience store, coffee shop or supermarket in Calgary and chances are you’ll be waited on by a temporary foreign worker (TFW).

Though they come from many countries, they share one story: relocation for the chance to earn decent wages, and in some cases, the hope to reside permanently in Canada.

“There is a wide variety of TFWs that come to Alberta - from skilled laborers like welders and carpenters, to pipe fitters to semi skilled trades like cleaners. These are men and women from all parts of the globe,” says Avnish Mehta, Program Coordinator of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s (CCIS) Temporary Foreign Worker Integration Advisory Office."

This is why Edmonton's economy is so strong. When the temporary workers decide to reside in Edmonton they will either rent or buy. Your investment property will either be tenanted or sold. It's not a greater fool situation but one where you are offering a necessary product.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Winter Holiday Plans

We can't/don't want to go abroad this year with a 3 month old baby so we decided to spend our winter vacation in our prefecture in Japan. We are lucky because Tochigi is famous for onsen (natural hot-springs) and has many excellent and scenic places to soak in the healing waters.

As avid "onsen-ers" we have sampled some pretty fantastic baths in and around our home. This year we've found a special hotel to visit.

The Ranryo in Kawaji, Tochigi has a a history of more than 300 years as a spa ryokan and we were able to book a room there over the Christmas holidays. With traditional Japanese food like trout on a stick, winter vegetable hot pot and sashimi plus and assortment of excellent indoor and outdoor baths we hope to finish this fantastic year in style.

The best part of the story is we got an excellent rate. Since frugality is the new black we decided we were only willing to pay a certain amount of yen for this hotel. At first we were embarrassed to ask but once we did we easily got the discounted rate we had hoped for.

What's the lesson?
Be willing to ask! You never know what you might get by asking.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tokyo Property Tops In Asia

Tokyo ranks number one out of 20 Asian locations as less risky and having better prospects for real estate investors in 2009. The Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers report also states that financing will be the biggest issue facing the market. Another large problem is that the strong yen, which cause investment dollars to lose a lot of purchasing leverage.

One hundred yen buys $1.07USD, $1.41AUD and $1.28 CAD. You would be better off taking your yen and buying overseas, like in Edmonton, than using weak currency to buy property in Tokyo.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Re-evaluate Your Team

With everyone talking about the market and what it is doing, I thought I would look at how to most profit from the properties that you currently own. If your team isn't a smooth running machine then adding new properties to your portfolio may not be a good idea.

An investment team consists of Realtors, property management , insurance brokers, mortgage brokers, accountants, lawyers and bookkeepers. The best way to make your property run efficiently is to CONSTANTLY improve the way your team runs your properties. Reducing costs, effective marketing, bulk or discount rates and innovative thinking are all ways to fine tune how you run your business - because that is what each property is, a mini business and the tenants are the customers.

Cutting costs isn't the only way to do this in fact doing so may cause more trouble than it's worth. Although a bargain shouldn't be passed up, many services are worth what you pay and decisions should be made on the quality of service not the price (especially true for legal advice).

Market to find great tenants and then use incentives to keep them happy, long term renters that equity building. That is a tenant who makes your property their home not a crash pad, a tenant who say, puts in a garden, finishes the basement into a hobby room or just keeps the place looking great. What incentives? A Christmas turkey or tickets to the movies... You decide what it's worth to keep them.

As your portfolio grows get bulk rates on anything you can. Buying carpet? Then buy one roll for all your properties this works with paint and any other DIY product. It keeps your properties uniform and that means less headaches for you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be Optimistic

My friend Grahame posted pictures of his new 'neighbors' last night. I was a bit surprised to learn that they mainly consisted of a rag-tag group of poisonous reptiles, somehow peacefully coexisting in and out of the structures of his home.

The last time I visited Grahame was in sunny Victoria, B.C., we toured his modest house and sat on his newly built deck over looking the oriental pond that he'd built. So, the shock of reptilian neighbors made me think that the old neighborhood had really changed.

But these neighbors are a new set.

Grahame actually sold up his Island home and moved to Nicaragua a few months ago. His lifestyle change had temporarily slipped my mind, probably as I'm getting used to my new lifestyle with baby Ronan.

Moving to Nicaragua was a massive step for my friend and one that he weighed out with considerable thought. It's definitely not for everyone, but I bet its pretty liberating for those that can do it.

Grahame used a fair chunk of profits from his home sale to fund the costs of building his villa. He continues to co-operate a successful business back in Victoria, and coupled with other investments, provide him the cash flow needed to cover daily living expenses.

Although Nicaragua may not be your dream, yours may be Paris, Zimbabwe, New York or just to pay off your home's mortgage.

Grahame's story is another example of how you can use your real estate (and other investments) to seize your dreams anytime in life - you don't always have to wait for retirement, especially if you're open to mingling with new neighbors.

To sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter featuring Alberta news, investing tips and much more click HERE!

Friday, November 28, 2008

CMHC Housing Market Outlook Fall 2008

CMHC posted their Housing Market Outlook for Fall 2008 earlier this month. Although media and many pundits cry bust it looks like a healthy market adjustment. Next year we can look forward to healthy sales and therefore rising resale home prices.

"Existing home sales across Greater Edmonton will fall by 12.4 per cent this year but should post a moderate rebound in 2009. A relatively strong economy, lower mortgage rates, solid wage gains and the absence of further price declines will underpin a modest recovery next year. Residential sales reported on the MLS® by the Realtors Association of Edmonton (RAE) will reach 18,000 units in 2008, improving by almost three per cent to 18,500 sales in 2009. Next year will represent the fourth best year on record with sales approaching the levels reported in 2005 but remaining well below the 21,200+ units sold annually on average during the peak years of 2006 and 2007."

Download your copy today HERE

Monday, November 24, 2008

CREA and Banks Say Things Aren't So Bad

The Canadian Real Estate Association predicted that the economy will perk up in about 8 months or mid to late 2009 and thus cause real estate markets to realign by 2010. If you want to sell your property before then be prepared to be flexible on price or terms.

Winter generally means a slow down in sales and rentals so those who MUST sell should offer attractive incentives to prospective buyers - vendor take backs and agreement for sales are good ones.

An Ipsos Reid study indicates that in Alberta 24% of people are looking to buy a home in the next two years and 9% are very likely to buy. That means that there ARE buyers out there but they have a lot of choices.

"The interest-rate environment still very appealing," "Add to that the softening of resale prices and we find that the ensuing affordability is letting more people into the market -- people who had previously been taken out of the market by steadily increasing house prices of a year ago." Don Peard, Calgary-based vice-president of mortgage specialists with the Royal Bank.

Starter homes, condos and townhouses are "best sellers" among first time buyers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why so glum?

I read an article the other day that Albertans are gloomier than most Canadians about the home prices. My question is why? The market is stable and compared to what is going on in the rest of the world very healthy.

It seems to be a case of think it and it will be real. According to economist Canada is actually in pretty good shape. I think as Canadians we have been financially tied to the U.S for so long that we automatically assume that their financial crisis is ours.

However in world terms Canada is doing very very well.

"Canada is a financially conservative country where consumers are able to meet the terms of their mortgages, and buying decisions are based on affordability,"

"This contributes to a solid real estate market that will not experience the same drop-off we see south of the border." Will Dunning, Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals' chief economist

If you think Alberta is in a bad way listen to this BBC special on Iceland. Iceland went from the fifth richest country in the world to a devastated economy where national debt is 12 times the national GDP.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How the stock market works - An Analogy

It was autumn, and the squirrels asked the oldest wisest squirrel if the winter was going to be long or mild. Since he was a squirrel in a modern society, he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like.

Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to the other squirrels in his dray that the winter was indeed going to be long and that the members of the forest should collect many nuts to be prepared.

But also being a practical squirrel, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked

'Is the coming winter going to be long?'

'It looks like this winter is going to be quite long indeed,' the weather man responded. So the old squirrel went back to his tree and told the fellow squirrels to collect even more nuts. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again.

'Is it going to be a very long winter?'

'Yes,' the man at National Weather Service again replied, 'It's definitely going to be a very long winter.' The old squirrel again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every single nut they could find. Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again.

'Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very long?'

'Absolutely,' The Man replied. 'It's going to be one of the longest winters ever.' 'How can you be so sure?' the squirrel asked. The weatherman replied, 'The squirrels are collecting nuts like crazy.'

And now you know, this is how Stock Markets work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This And That

Houses are still homes - "Falling home prices can actually result in positive change. For one, people will be less inclined to borrow against the equity in their homes to pay for things that don't appreciate in value -- and that they don't really need -- such as vacations or home renovations. Too many people, when their equity was growing faster than a properly pruned hydrangea, treated their homes like shingle-clad credit cards.

Home buyers will also, one imagines, be more reluctant to purchase houses they can't really afford. In recent years, many people worried little about buying well beyond their means because they believed home prices could only go up. A homeowner who lost a job or experienced some other financial calamity could always sell and reap a tidy profit. Why worry? But now, with home sales falling alongside prices, we now know that no plan is free of risk.

Another benefit to a more rational housing market is that people learn to diversify their investments. It is not uncommon for homeowners to have the vast majority of their net worth wrapped up in their houses. But buying a big house is an inadequate retirement plan. After accounting for expenses -- property taxes, insurance, repairs, renovations -- it becomes clear that a house, while a sensible investment, should not be one's only investment."

No, a house isn't an investment unless you have planned for it to be. It's true many people use their home equity to buy depreciating goods then complain when markets fluctuate (as they do) and they are left with huge mortgages. Buying an investment property and using your home as a credit card are two entirely different things.

Market worries take whack at your wallet - " Frugality is the new black. A financial meltdown has sent markets and consumer confidence sliding.

An October report from the Conference Board of Canada ranks faith in the economy at its lowest level in more than 25 years.

Even the once-ravenous shopping appetite of Albertans is shrinking, with retail sales dropping about 18 per cent from August 2006 to August 2008.

Alberta is the only province where retail sales in August fell from the year before, Statistics Canada says.

Sales here remained below year-ago levels for the fourth straight month as retailers head into the crucial holiday season.

Some economic observers say Albertans are reacting to bleak headlines about troubles elsewhere, not to hard times at home. Locally, at least, they think the crisis is mostly in our heads.

"The pendulum tends to swing to the fear side, and we're right at the extreme end of fear right now," Canadian Western Bank president Larry Pollock said."

Alberta is a financial island in Canada. The province is strong economically and there is a lot of demand in the real estate market. However seeing paper assest drop will makes consumers wary of spending freely.

Condos going ahead More private capital being used than borrowed - "The last few weeks have seen condo projects in Calgary, Kelowna and Canmore grind to a halt. But developers behind some of Edmonton's most high-profile projects insist it's business as usual.

"We're building those first two phases," "I think the fundamentals in Alberta haven't changed. I think we're better off than the rest of the world so we haven't noticed even in our Calgary projects any cancellation of deals." George Schluessel, CEO of Procura Real Estate Services."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hot Dog Parable - A New Twist

With more and more focus devoted to how bad we have things, I thought I'd dig up a mini version of the Hot Dog Parable.

The Hot Dog Parable: There once was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. In fact, he sold very good hot dogs....

He put up highway signs telling people how good his hot dogs tasted. He stood by the side of the road and called out, “Buy a hot dog, mister?” And people bought his hot dogs. They bought so many hot dogs, the man increased his meat and bun orders. He bought a bigger stove so he could meet his customers’ demands.

And finally, he brought his son home from college to help out in the family business.

But something happened. His son said, “Father, do you not watch television, or read the newspapers? Do you not know we are heading for recession? The European situation is unstable, and the domestic economy is getting worse.”

And the father thought, “My son is a smart boy. He has been to college. He ought to know what he is talking about.”

So the man cut down his meat and bun orders, took down his highway signs, and no longer stood by the side of the road to sell his hot dogs. His sales fell fast overnight. “You’re right son,” said the father, “We certainly are in a serious recession.”

If you're worried about the man who sold hot dogs, his story has a happy ending. Luckily for him, he had a daughter too. His daughter was able to show him that attitude, commitment and belief are what it takes to change, succeed and even sell hot dogs. After all, there are many folks who still want to buy them, 'recession' or not.

I'm glad I'm not the only one...

After the MLS.ca was relaunched last month I have had nothing but grief trying to work out how to use the new interfaces and even just get to my regions on the map. Apparently 16,000 emails says I'm not the only one:

"The new site, redubbed Realtor.ca in a nod to the industry it's meant to serve (MLS.ca, CREA rightly decided, was a little oblique), was meant to improve the user experience, not hamper it. The old interface, which divided provinces or cities into arbitary segments (Toronto's were C01 for downtown, or W01 for the west end), was done away with in favour of postal codes, or an interactive map.

The problems were apparent immediately. "People had some trouble getting the map to work," Linney (Bob Linney of CREA) says, a verbal shrug. On the technical side, CREA is trying to iron out the rough spots for a quiet reintroduction of the new site on Nov. 20" TheStar.com

I especially like the reference to online house browsing as "real estate porn" - gawking into houses we dream of affording. It's sort of a virtual visualization isn't it?

Anyhow hopefully the relaunch will improve the site we know and love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alberta Oil Sands Video

One of a kind, sustainable for centuries and in our own backyard.

Edmonton Hits The Big Time

Edmonton will be featured on an American reality show called House Hunters International. The "house hunter" will look at three condos downtown, pick one and buy it with a follow up three weeks later to see how the new owner is doing.

Hopefully he/she won't get drunk, verbally attack some people and/or have promiscuous sex on national t.v. as commonly seen on other reality t.v shows.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Helpful Hint

Getting a cold can really get you down especially if you don't have time for that kind of stuff. Todd and I do everything to prevent colds: eat garlic, ginger tea, mega doses of Vitamin C, reduce sugar intake, positive thinking and on and on. Recently I read about Zinc which is said to be very good for fighting the flu battle.

HOWEVER Don't take zinc on an empty stomach!

I learned the hard way. Let's just say any of the food poisonings I have experienced in many countries were, well, enjoyable compared to the nausea and vomiting you will experience.

Whatever you do take it after a meal.

"Large intakes of zinc can cause nausea and diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, fever and chills, electrolyte imbalances, dizziness, abdominal pain, lethargy and a disruption of coordination."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I'm One Month Old

Well that flew.

Ronan turned one month on Friday which means we can finally go outside! In Japan its recommended to stay inside for one month after the child's birth to avoid viruses and germs.

Although before I delivered I met a woman with a two week old out in the shopping mall. We waited the whole month we didn't quite have cabin fever but we were more than ready to get out and enjoy the fabulous autumn weather.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This And That

Snap out of it Alberta - "House prices were skyrocketing, and real estate was being snapped up online, sight unseen, for above list price. People were bribed with iPods and other crazy perks to work at doughnut shops. Bentley dealerships couldn't keep up with demand. The Bank of Canada came up with a new category of economic indicator - "Canada excluding Alberta" - because Wild Rose Country was skewing the national averages.

As a result, Alberta built up a delusional superhero persona, a false sense of invincibility that permeated the mood and expectations of ordinary citizens."

Yeah we are superhuman if we took hits that everywhere else took and still have an economy that the world envies we can't be doing too badly right!

Tax change on investment properties would spur development, realtors say - "With a change to the federal tax system, realtors say Ottawa can create thousands of jobs, make advances in cutting greenhouse gases and hand communities more control of their own development.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) wants Ottawa to defer collecting the capital gains tax and capital cost allowance from investment properties when a property is sold and the money reinvested in real estate within a year.

The goal would be to "unlock" properties kept off the market because owners simply don't want to pay the tax owed."

This would be an incredible bonus to real estate investors, very similar to laws in America that allow you to "roll over" your profit into a new property. If you have ever played Cashflow you would have heard of it. This is an excellent way to keep investors moving their properties - an incentive to sell and move up in the market.

Alberta to spend $757000 to help house homeless people in Edmonton - "Alberta will spend $757,000 this year on a pilot project to help provide housing for homeless people in Edmonton. Under the Rapid Exit Shelter program community groups wiill work with the Hope Mission to find safe housing for 80 people. The funding is part of the province’s plan to spend $93 million for services for the homeless throughout Alberta."

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Global Ghost Story: Alberta Investment Newsletter

The scariest story I've heard this year isn't about any kind of freaky paranormal event. Instead it revolves around the perverse collapse of a global market. Like every good ghost story it's well told and rich with emotion, sprinkled with a bit of fact and generously topped with a crown of fear.

If you Google 'scary global situation' (scary economy, horror, nightmare, etc..) you'll come up with a long list of articles and comments lamenting how downright 'scary' the situation is. That in itself is alarming. The choice of words we're using now is bad for the psyche, bad for our self esteem.

There are many real problems and I'm not "Pollyanna-ing" the reality of certain markets. Warren Buffet wrote an optimistic op-ed piece,
'Buy American' for the NY Times. He's arguably one of the greatest investors of our time - but it's still a strange article to pen. Maybe he's trying to calm the turbulent emotions that are helping fuel the fire? Whatever the motive, things will pass and eventually get better. Sadly, many nest eggs lay underfoot, cracked and leaking.

However, time permitting the nests can be rebuilt.
As for us in Alberta? Still holding on and doing well despite the pessimism. At risk of sounding like a broken record.... If you're not actively buying now in Edmonton, you're missing one heck of a good deal. Remember, you've got to put your cash somewhere and it makes sense to have it in cash flowing hard assets in economically sound Canada. (Canada is set to lead the 2009 G7 as well)

Let the "doomsayers" scare the pants off of your neighbors, not you. You're informed, in action and right on track. If you're in Edmonton next week, surround yourself with like-minded people at REIN's Quick Start. Details below.

Last but not least, PLEASE REMEMBER that November 7th and 8th in Edmonton is REIN's Quickstart LIVE Program. Learn the need to know basics about real estate investing at this awesome event. It sells out every year. Click here for the discounted price.

We're looking forward to speaking with you soon.

Thank you

Todd and Danielle Millar

This Guy Is Cool

I'm "reblogging" a blog that I read on NuWire Investor. This Realtor/investor looks like he lives an ideal life and seemingly knows what to do in a real estate market. His advice is for the American foreclosure market but basically his idea is to:

*not sell unless you have to
*put every dime towards paying off debt
*do market timing to reap the best return

Sounds good in all markets!

InvestorCentric: King Of Foreclosures Says Be Ready To Buy In 2010

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ride The Yen Into Canadian Real Estate

Enjoying the stock market ride these past few weeks? Didn't think so.

I want to tell you about what I did today. I went to the bank and made another Lloyds bank transfer to move my YEN into Canadian dollars.

At 4:00 PM today 10/28/08 ¥100 bought $1.36 CAN. As you know I'm not a currency trader and don't spend too much time worrying about the transfers when I buy real estate, but in this market it makes a BIG difference.

I'd say that the Yen probably won't stay up this high for long. And I'd bet that the Canadian dollar's sudden drop won't stay this low either, as it is way too undervalued.

My unsolicited 0.02¢ says put your Yen into Canadian dollars. Of course, even better than that is to put your Yen into Canadian revenue properties. It's a safe and profitable place for your money - with less volatility and a decent return.
Remember: you have to put your cash somewhere.

I don't know about you, but my RRSP, mutual fund and stocks really suck. In fact my RRSP has been sucking for a long time. I am shocked that I allowed the wool to be pulled over my eyes and be "smooth-talked" by financial planners who mesmerized me into thinking that government investments were a good idea.

If you're feeling this way too, then fixed rate 2nd mortgages might be the answer for you.

If you are interested in hearing more about how you can take control of your finances, create a steady stream of income and put cash back into your retirement nest egg, then visit www.glennsimoninc.com and feel free to give me a call at 1-888-780-5940.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do You Have 10 Years To Spare?

I'm signed up with Financial Partners for their email updates, although I don't know how much stock I put in their viewpoint today's email was interesting.

The part that really hit home was the amount of time a needed to recoup losses after the ups and downs of the market recently:

"A 50% capital loss requires a 100% gain to recover monies. In order to make 100% returns an investor targeting 7% p.a. needs more than 10 continuous years of 7% p.a. returns. Or over 16 years at 4.5% p.a."

If your retirement fund is in stocks that means a minimum of 10 years to make back your nest egg. Not a pretty thought. Certainly makes hard assets with less volatility very appealing.

To read the entire report (it's long) click here

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food, Fuel and Fertilizer

Today I was sitting in my rocking chair trying vainly to put Ronan to sleep. Luckily he is a very uncomplicated baby and only cries for three reasons. After repeatedly checking for the obvious culprits I realized how much his needs reflected those of the world.

Food - Is he hungry?
Fuel - (bear with me here) Does he have gas?
Fertilizer - Is his diaper dirty?

Don R. Campbell sites "F3" - Food, Fuel and Fertilizer as the backbone of western Canada's economic stability and wealth. Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are rich in these three crucial resources and have impressive supplies in a time of rising food and fuel prices.

The picture is so much bigger than quarter to quarter real estate prices or the state of the stock market day to day. Alberta and western Canada will have a strong economy as long as the world has these three basic needs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Change Or Die

During my 6 day relaxing stay in the hospital after the birth of my son I listened to lots of BBC pod casts, read a lot of Smithsonian magazines and listened to one fantastic audio book called Change Or Die.

Full of compelling stories the book illustrates that the biggest hurdles facing organizations and people is avoiding change. Among the examples: simple lifestyle changes that would save lives of heart patients, innovative ways of reforming criminals and of course our own personal beliefs and ideals that we find very hard to part with.

I left the hospital not only a mother but also with a new perspective on what I need to change in my life to reach the goals I have set for myself and to be a better role model to my son.

The book works as an excellent catalyst; even if your changes aren't earth moving you will enjoy the read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Already November

I can't believe how quickly this year has gone. It seems incredible there are only two months left to Christmas and that 2008 has for the most part over. What an incredible year with all the ups and downs of the markets both in real estate and stocks.

If you were hoping to get into the real estate market this year but still haven't had a chance to take action or just don't know where the market is going (reading the newspapers would make anyone afraid to do anything), there still is time to at least learn about the market and reduce the fear that seems to permeate the market recently.

REIN Alberta is holding Quickstart Canadian specific real estate training program in Edmonton November 7th and 8th.

"Yes, today’s real estate market has changed dramatically, especially when you compare it to 2006 and 2007. Housing starts are down, listings are up, prices are flat (and have even dropped in some regions). Do you sell? Do you buy? Do you just stay on the sidelines? … all legitimate questions. For investors and homeowners who are making the 2nd most common mistake… there are more questions than there are answers. Those who are not making the mistake are enjoying tremendous strength in their investments, despite the turmoil… and you can too." Reserve your spot now

Monday, October 20, 2008

This And That

Housing moves to sellers market - "After hovering in buyers' territory for much of this summer, home resale markets in Alberta's two largest cities are on the verge of slipping back to a sellers' market, thanks to pronounced drops in new listings."

I wouldn't rush out tomorrow and put your house on the market there are still a lot of listings out there. Wait till mid to late 2009 then if you must list then. Personally I'm holding for the long term.

Real estate a time tested investment - "Well, if you ever wanted to know what it was like to be a yo-yo, with a tight string around your neck and someone else in complete control of your destiny, now you know.

The dizzying ups and downs of stock markets in have choked trillions of dollars out of personal and corporate assets and no one is sure if the worst is over.

It brings to mind an adage from Mark Twain: Buy land, they're not making it anymore."

A perfect follow-up to the last article, after the horrendous last few weeks of the stock roller coaster real estate is an appealing tangible asset. There are so many people with funds to invest yet no idea where to put there money. The only answer is real estate and specifically real estate in Edmonton, Alberta.

Edmonton-Based Real Estate Agent Review Site Cuts Through Clutter - "What-Customers-Say.com, a newly launched site developed by four Edmontonians, is changing the game for real estate agents and home-sellers by providing a new way to find great agents: with customer ratings and reviews."

I haven't tried the service myself but it sounds like a good idea. A rate your agent service would certainly reward the ethical agents and reveal the duds.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Are You Worried About Your Finances?

Is the Stock market giving you ulcers? Or is it time to take your money off the table and put it into a more tangible asset? Tired of the average financial options; mutual funds, land banking, bonds, etc..?

Is it time to think about planning for your children’s future? Are you saving to build a house or are you seeking better returns than what the bank or your current investments have to offer?

Would you like to invest in something hands free and safe, but still reap a decent return? Well, if you are looking to take control of your finances, put your hard earned cash into something more secure and you answered YES to any of the questions above read on…

Investing with us at GSI allows you the confidence and freedom to get into the secure and fundamentally solid, Canadian Real Estate market. This is not speculative buying. We use a proven system to purchase our properties in areas that are stable, not over inflated or emotion based. GSI partners with you. That means that you’ll be investing between 20%-35% of the property purchase price and receiving all your initial investment back plus 50% of the profits on residential investments. We think that you’ll agree that’s a pretty good deal.

Put your hard earned cash into the most effective property investment you can find. At Glenn Simon Inc., we address your needs as an investor with knowledge and experience. Prepare for your retirement, put your capital to work or turn your savings into a down payment for the dream house you want, wherever that may be.

Alberta real estate can help meet your investment needs Click Here To Find Out How

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Alberta Economic Highlights

The latest economic forecasts from the government of Alberta proves the province is an economic rock in Canada.

Some highlights include:
  • Alberta's population growth continues to outpace the rest of the nation
  • Increased crop production expected in 2008
  • Drilling activity picking up
  • Canadian Real GDP rises for the second straight month
  • Latest string of data paints a gloomy U.S. economic outlooks
Download your copy here

They Should Buy More Real Estate

I felt worried about our personal losses in the stock market until I read this.

"Falling stock prices have sliced roughly $1 billion from the value of Alberta's rainy-day savings account, the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

Finance Minister Iris Evans told the legislature Tuesday that the value of the Heritage Fund has been reduced to $16 billion since June, a drop of roughly six per cent. But she's downplaying the loss."

Read More

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Greatest Investment

We celebrate many things in life. The greatest to date for us has been the healthy birth of our first child, our son Ronan .

He was born 4:25PM, 10/7 after a long labour by his amazing Mom, Danielle!

Through all the hard work, joys and successes in life and to come, we found Ronan's birth to be a wonderful experience to bond and connect on a different, higher level.

Ronan's baptismal name is Jason (Saint Jason) after a very dear friend of ours. This way he can be remembered and also share in a 'rebirth' of sorts.

To all of you who are parents, I now understand what you feel in many complicated ways.

Thanks for all your help and support.

Todd, Danielle and Ronan

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Prepare For Higher Taxes

Last year at tax time there were some mumblings that our property taxes may increase as much as 9% by the next tax year. Now there are louder grumblings of up to double digit increases. I would bank on the higher and hope for the lower.

"Council will begin debate next week on a draft budget expected to contain a whopping tax hike of about 9%, though some speculate it could be in the double digits.

Mandel said he wants the city to develop a strategy now to explain to homeowners why property values are going down while taxes are expected to soar." edmontonsun.com

I am waiting with bated breath to hear the strategy that convinces me my lower property values warrant higher taxes. It will have to be pretty good.

Of course you can contest your assessment, this works especially well if similar properties in your area are selling for less than you were assessed at. If you aren't will to file a complaint or feel the values are pretty accurate then you must start putting a larger percent of your rental income into a tax file to prepare for the ding.

Letters From The Edge

My friend Ryan forwarded me an email from his financial planner last week. I wonder if you've received messages like this one I too? I'll paraphrase:

"Dear Ryan, as you know it's really hit the fan down there in the U.S.. The economy has taken such a beating we don't ever know when it'll be sorted out. Many of the stocks and funds that we've invested in have crashed. It's worse than pretty bad, it's downright awful. Every night I look at the bottle of Scotch on my bedside table and wonder if tonight it will hold the answers I need to know...

The only thing I can tell you for sure is not to panic. (
He's panicking now and you can feel it in the letter, almost see the swollen streams of ink where the tears fell)

Keep your money invested in these funds even if they go to zero, because I have to eat too. And remember, everything will be ok one day. The markets can't stay down forever, right? Right?"

You could really hear the fear and uncertainty come through in his letter. I agree that the markets won't stay in the gutter forever. But, hey I'm not going to live forever either and I don't want to spend the next couple of years floating around in the toilet of discontent waiting for another big flush.

The truth is that time heals most wounds. However, when it comes to investing you sometimes have timelines to meet, like retirement for one. You don't want to be tossing good money after bad as things balance out. I also got a letter like Ryan's from my planner. I've actually been watching one of my stocks go from $26.00 a share down to today's new low of $1.44. So, I'm not making light of real losses.

Obviously I prefer hard assets and have 90% of my wealth invested into them. The simple reason is that time and time again a well purchased revenue property repeatedly proves it can survive and thrive a dip in the market and bloom during the peaks.

You know some people will worry and others will take action. That's just the way we are. Those that can brave the miasma of uncertainty today are the same few that will savour the smell of sweet, sweet roses tomorrow.

Edmonton has got a bargain sale going on. Investing in tangible cash-flowing assets will not only protect your wealth but also increase it exponentially over time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Know Who I believe

Two Merrill Lynch economist report the real estate market in Canada is on the tipping point of a US style meltdown. In fact it's just a matter of time before the crisis happens and our overextended, hyper-leveraged population is going to see the same type of economic suffering that the US economy is currently battling.

"We fear . . . it may simply be a matter of time (before) . . . housing and credit markets in Canada crack," "Markets remain overly sanguine with respect to the prospects for the Canadian housing market, the financial sector and the overall economy." Merrill Lynch Canada Inc. analysts David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan

They are certainly brave to come out with news like that.

Almost every other analyst around is refuting the chance of a US style meltdown in Canada. The circumstances are simply not the same. Although we may be over leveraged and overextended there is no comparison to the sub-prime mess in the US.

Already markets in Alberta are starting to level out and the slight declines (about 10%) we saw over 2008 are stabilizing. By 2009 the market will be balanced and we should see a decrease in the high inventory of real estate properties.

"Price advances had been supported by fundamentals - strong employment and low interest rates - not softening credit conditions. Canada's real estate market is therefore not overvalued, a finding confirmed through a recent study published by the IMF," report by Desjardins senior economist Hélène Bégin.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time Management Part 2

Since my mom and aunt are here I am trying to maximize my time in the company, rest and show them around even more than before. It's easy to let something slide and more often than not it's the resting part. My greatest discoveries have been:

1. Schedule your day into time blocks
2. Rest is crucial- if the baby comes you need stamina to get through labour
3. Give your guests a map and set them on their way

I give myself 2 or 3 important jobs a day to do and make sure I get them done. In that way I have actually done a lot of my tasks, made time for the nap and shown my family a pretty fine time during their stay in Japan.

Only 6 days left!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How To Invest Anywhere In The World As An Expatriate

Here is a preview of Todd's newest article on NuWire Investor. If you are an expatriate investor there are many useful points to help you increase the performance of your investment from anywhere in the world.

The DO's and DON'Ts of investing in real estate for expatriates

"The expat lifestyle has many benefits, such as traveling, living and working in exotic locations and often better compensation and benefits than that of domestic jobs. The expatriate life may be full of adventure, but one place that investors definitely don't want thrills is in large investments. High earnings allows expat investors more disposable income for investments, but whether saving for a home, planning for retirement or seeking cash-flow from current investments, expat investors face obstacles and needs quite different from those of average investors."

Read More

Armstrong Is Coming Back!

"Lance Armstrong, the seven-times Tour de France winner, yesterday said that he intends to make a second comeback to professional cycling and that he hopes to win an eighth Tour de France next year at the age of 37."

Absolutely nothing to do with real estate but a lot to do with getting out there and just being the ultimate best you can be. Lance Armstrong amazes me. His battle with cancer itself is incredible but to go on to win 7 Tour de France races after that just shows me that I am living at half-mast.

I hate to generalize but almost everyone who I meet who has beaten cancer seems to be living at a whole different level/vibration than the rest of us. I guess the second you feel like all you b&$% and complain about could be taken away nothing seems so bad - in fact it seems pretty awesome. Obviously I want to reach that level without having a life threatening illness or disease but I guess it takes everyone a huge kick in the pants to realize that the their life is probably fantastic and could be a 1000 times more so.

Read Full Article

Monday, September 22, 2008

Go Take A Look

A good way to see what is fueling the Alberta economy is to visit the Oilsands Tradeshow in Edmonton is to go to the oilsands tradeshow.
"Widely seen as a future driver of the global economy,
oil sands development sits front and centre on the global stage. This year's Oil Sands
Trade Show & Conference launches at a significant time for oil sands and heavy oil
professionals as they assemble in Edmonton to explore innovative ways to
drive environmentally sustainable energy," said Wes Scott, Event Director, dmg
world media.

Green technology and careers feature at the event. For more information and events schedule check here HERE IF you hurry you can still get a free pass by the end of today (you must be in the oilsands industry to obtain a free pass).
 Exhibition Hours:

Tuesday, September 23: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, September 24: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

4 Headlines

Just scanning the web today looking at the news for Edmonton, Alberta and the economic outlook for the province and the city. It's funny I found four headlines that would leave anyone baffled as to what is really going on. It just goes to show you have to research for your own opinion and if you are reading only one newspaper your information is going to be skewed.

1. Alberta's economy slower but still better than the rest of Canada: TD economist - "I think Alberta and the rest of Canada will do a bit better next year but probably in the case of Alberta only back to [growth of] about two and a half per cent. But that's consistent with what I said last year. A slowdown in growth but not a bust."Don Drummond, the senior vice-president and chief economist of TD Bank

It's positive shows that Alberta is leading the country in performance though everywhere there is a slowdown.

2. Confidence in Alberta economy waning: Survey - "Alberta companies are less optimistic than they were at the height of the province's boom, but most still believe their business will increase in the last three months of 2008, said the ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index."

Slightly negative but it's a survey so based on perception. I guess the Alberta companies missed the above article about the national economic slowdown.

3. Saskatchewan Advantage snags torch from Alberta - ".. it is how our neighbours in Saskatchewan feel as their economy lifts off; their quality of life remains something Calgarians and Edmontonions can only envy; and their premier travels across North America extolling the virtues of his province to obviously appreciative audiences.
By comparison we're stuck in an economic deceleration that is exacerbating -- not mitigating some of our most severe issues -- while raising new concerns about what the province's economy will look like when we've finished "readjusting."

Negative? So often it's hard to tell. The journalist does point out the Alberta has zero provincial debt and is a emerging global superpower. Saskatchewan will lead the nation in some economic areas but in no way has the economy that Alberta does. Beyond that between 2009 and 2012, Calgary and Edmonton are expected to regain first and second place in average annual growth.

4. Look up Calgary! Edmonton is the new powerhouse - "The TD Bank recently came out with a study that concluded if the Edmonton/Calgary corridor was its own country, it would today be one of the most successful economies in the world, second only to Luxemburg in terms of GDP per capita."

Positive! Imagine two cities in Alberta, Canada having one of the most successful economies in the world? It baffles the mind and puts Saskatchewan into perspective. I want to email this story to all the despondent business owners in Alberta.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canadians Have It Pretty Good

I live a large part of the year outside of Canada and so I often forget what a fantastic country it is. My mom and aunt flew out from Edmonton and Calgary to help me get ready for the baby and the inevitable changes that are coming very very quickly. They were telling me about their medical coverage and how much the pay for certain services. I'm pretty impressed with how little money they are required to pay.

As an non-resident expat I don't have Canadian medical. I pay an exorbitant amount of money to be protected for everything from organ transplants and dental to the delivery of a child. In Japan the delivery will cost about ¥500,000 (about $5,023 CDN) my medical covers most of that but I will pay about $500CDN by the end of it. This includes the delivery, some post-natal classes and 5 days in the hospital; they don't believe in sending the mother home the next day after the delivery in Japan.

Japanese families must pay for the delivery. The city will give nearly half of the costs back but these families are expected to come up with about $3,000 CDN. That is a lot of money to come up with when you are starting a new family and one of the income producers is now out of work. I'm sure this may play a small part in the birthrate being so low. In Canada of course the whole thing would be free and we would probably pay about $100 dollars a month for our medical coverage.

Canada is really beautiful, it's safe, the people are friendly and the streets are clean. There are social services for everyone and if you are determined you can do anything you dream to do. All in all it's a pretty wonderful place to live.