Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Edmonton Is Still A Deal

You wouldn't think so with all the negative news and complaining that goes on but compared to other major Canadian centers Edmonton is a bargain for housing and cost of living.

"With health-care premiums being eliminated next year in the latest Alberta budget, Albertans, new and established, have one more reason to feel they live in one of the most economical areas of the country. Housing prices have softened a little in the past few months, but recent figures show the average home in Edmonton is selling for $353,000. According to MLS listings, in Greater Vancouver a similar home sells for $581,000 and in Toronto, homeowners are paying $366,000. Calgary is considerably higher at $436,000. Rents vary widely, too, with Vancouver advertising one-bedroom apartments at $1,500 a month and up, and Toronto offering a similar suite for $1,250 plus utilities. Meanwhile in Edmonton, a one-bedroom apartment just west of downtown can be obtained for $895 per month on a one-year lease. When you consider the province has no sales tax and an annual economic growth rate of 5.5 percent, Edmonton continues to attract Canadians from all over the country. And the outlook is promising as projects worth billions of dollars are being planned in northern Alberta, which will keep the area in the centre of economic development. Everything considered, it’s a pretty economical city, and combined with great entertainment at more than 30 festivals a year, wonderful sports facilities, and almost-unlimited employment opportunities, it’s a great place to live and work, too." Heather Andrews Miller For Metro Edmonton

Video On Alberta Oilsands

Friday, April 25, 2008

A World Of Hypermilers

Is the only answer. I saw that oil could go as high as $200 per barrel not just a bubble but the growing demand and tightening supplies might make that scary number a reality. Along with carpooling, using the transit system and well walking we could all try "hypermile - ing":

"Fuel economy-maximizing behaviors describe techniques that drivers can use to optimize their automobile fuel economy. The energy in fuel consumed in driving is lost in many ways, including engine inefficiency, aerodynamic drag, rolling friction, potential energy required to climb hills, and kinetic energy lost to braking (absent regenerative braking). Driver behavior can influence all of these. The city mileage of conventional cars is much lower than highway mileage due to: 1) a high proportion of idling time, 2) operation mostly at very inefficient low-output engine operating points, and 3) more frequent braking" Wikipedia

Although it may seem like a drop in the bucket hypermile-ing will reduce your gas consumption and is growing in popularity among the environmentally and wallet conscious. I have tried to follow the techniques suggested i.e. slow accelerations, coasting downhill and avoiding frequent braking - My gas tank seems to lasts a little longer than it did before.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pregnant With First Child

I went to the doctor here yesterday for my 17 week check-up. I actually really enjoy the whole Japanese medical process. I think we are being made wimps back home(Canada).

I don't need a lot of tests (although I see the value of having them if you are in a higher risk bracket) from what I have read on the net everyone back home is offered the test even if they are in their 20's and have no history of genetic abnormalities in their family. Sounds like a cash cow for the medical system... Plus why stress the mother more and introduce a foreign body into your baby's sanctum?

I like that I will get two midwives and a doctor who stands in the background, I like that I won't be doped unless necessary (of course I can say that now but in the throws of it who knows???) and that I should cope with the pain instead of mask it.

Trust me if anything goes wrong I'm the first to be grateful for a first class, modern medical facility but to be honest my body has been perfected to do this through evolution - surely it knows what it is doing?

Balanced Market Let's First Time Buyers In

Last year when prices in Edmonton rose close to 50% first time buyers were afraid they would never be homeowners. The frenzy that resulted in "conditionless" contracts, bidding wars and listings on the market for mere days left a lot of people feeling out of control in their buying. The attitude was buy it now or never see that chance again.

However since the market has cooled a little buyers can take there time picking a choosing deals. They can have terms that protect them or help them buy more easily.

"With the best selection of homes listed for sale in years, entry-level buyers have the luxury of time on their side,...""No longer forced to act in haste, first-time purchasers can make offers conditional on financing and home inspections." RE/MAX

We are certainly able to pick and choose the properties we are buying now and with better terms and a lot of room for negotiation. It's a nice time to buy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Great Advice For Using Facebook Professionally

I found a link on Web Worker Daily that offers 12 ways to use Facebook professionally. It is over a year old but I think that it is still quite relevant and useful if you haven't explored that social network as a web tool.

Here is the first tip:

"Think of it like personalizing your desk. You can’t help it. When you walk by someone’s desk, your eye is drawn to the pictures and the way they have personalized and organized their space. You pick up on clues to their lives without realizing it. Mary is a Mom whose desk is filled with pictures of two young children, and there are “To Mommy” pictures pinned to the side of her cubicle. You know what her weekends are probably like. John is still dating his high school sweetheart. He likes to scuba dive and he got some great shots of his last trip to Bonaire. You can see the paperback that Bill is reading on the corner of his desk. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to read that. Can I borrow it when you’re done?” Sally has a collection of labels from her favorite wine bottles. You know what to get her for her birthday.

Only display on your profile what you’d put on your desk. Just because Steve owns a picture his buddy took of him getting sick after an all-night party doesn’t mean he’s going to frame it and put it out for his co-workers to admire. Don’t add anything to your profile that you wouldn’t display for your supervisors, co-workers and clients to see as they’re walking by your work environment."

I think that is fantastic right now on my desk I have my goals, a day planner and a picture of my husband and I in the Philippines. They could actually all be replicated on Facebook and be used to start conversations, make connections and perhaps network with people. READ MORE

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh Look, Someone Else Discovered Alberta!

This great nugget is from www.marketwatch.com:

"A boom of unprecedented dimensions is sweeping Canada's spectacularly scenic western province of Alberta, the Texas-sized territory with a population of 3 million that is home to a pair of world-class cities -- Calgary (population 1.2 million) and Edmonton (population 1.1 million)." Marshall Loeb, Market Watch

It doesn't matter what the Edmonton property market does in the short term because all the international investors who are coming to Alberta, Canada are looking at the long-term. That is how the "strong hands" do it. For more information on Alberta Oilsands click here

But I leave you with this:

"Canada has rather rapidly become the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. Alberta is producing more than 1 million barrels of so-called synthetic oil a day, and the province is sitting atop the largest petroleum deposit outside the Arabian Peninsula (as much as 300 billion recoverable barrels).
As a result, the economy of Alberta since 2002 has been growing an average 12.2% annually. That's not far from China's average, 14.8 %. In the past decade, Alberta's per-capita GDP has almost doubled, to $66,000.
Demand for labor is so intense that Alberta has basically run out of people. Fast-food emporiums, for example, are closing down because managers cannot find folks willing to work for their modest wages." Read More

Sunday, April 20, 2008

SEO Rapper - Great Advice and Presentation

The SEO Rapper or Poetic Prophet great advice and excellent presentation.

This Is A Good Strategy For Any Investment

This article is geared to stocks and day trading but I think it applies to real estate as well.

"The pros talk about nervous, quick-on-the-trigger traders as the "weak hands" in the market. But the nervousness is really just human nature. It isn't easy to hold on to an investment that's down, even if it was up for several years. When the markets are roiling, many investors panic and sell. And that's exactly the wrong approach.

When the same professionals mention "strong hands," they are talking about investors with a longer time horizon. These savvy investors swoop in when everything is beaten down, acquiring shares at bargain prices. They ignore short declines and stick around to enjoy the above-average returns that will follow eventually."
MSN Finance

Don Campbell On Ontario - Where To Invest

Don R. Campbell bestselling author and president of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) released their top 10 tens to invest in in Ontario. They are as follows:

1. Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge - Comprising Canada's Technology Triangle, the region is quickly becoming known worldwide as a competitive area in which to build a high-tech business. The area is so strong economically that the Real Estate Investment NetworkTM research team has dubbed it the "Economic Alberta of Ontario".

2. Barrie and Orillia (tie) - Barrie is an attractive community for people seeking the nearness and vitality of Toronto but with a slower pace of life. Orillia, with a rising population and expansion of post-secondary institutions, has tremendous opportunities for investors to provide student housing.

3. Whitby, Ajax & Pickering -The ripple outward from the GTA toward this region has been picking up steam over the previous decade. However, until quite recently much of this demand increase has been from commuters wishing to locate in a lower housing-cost region of the GTA. Now, the area is attracting an increasingly diverse list of local employers.

4. Markham - Markham is known as the high-tech capital of Canada, with over 900 advanced technology and life science companies. This influx has led to the area outperforming many other areas of the province, in terms of both economy and real estate.

5. Hamilton and Brantford (tie) - Hamilton is transforming itself into a more diversified economy. A revitalization of key areas, a soon-to-be-opened new transportation route, and a stock of older, quality homes, will help keep Hamilton on the top ten list for many years to come. Brantford is strategically located and offers affordable housing. The multiple satellite secondary education campuses already located in the city provide a vibrant and younger population base.

6. Brampton - The city has a diverse and growing economy that, if anything, is growing a little faster than the infrastructure. Revitalization and densification of existing older areas will be a real key to Brampton living up to its ultimate potential.

7. Ottawa - Higher home-ownership costs, immigration and youth employment lifted rental demand in Ottawa. It is forecast that the city will pass from a very hot resale market with solid price augmentation to a more balanced market that will be more sustainable in the long-term.

8. Toronto - Taken as a whole, Toronto's real estate market will under-perform many of the surrounding regions, yet key neighbourhoods will have breakout years. Older condo units and ground oriented units in the areas such as Bathurst Manor, Armour Heights, and The Junction will do well in both average price increase percentage and potential cash flow. New high-rise condos located downtown and along the waterfront will still see demand. Other great transition areas include the Danforth, Palmerston-Little Italy, Woodbine, Gerrard and Jones.

9. Oshawa - The re-development of the downtown and many other developments about to be announced for the area will put the spotlight on a previously underperforming area of the city.

10. Whitchurch-Stouffville - This continues to be a town with tremendous potential. With low vacancy rates, no substantial increase in the number of rental units planned for the future, and a rising demand for the "country in the city" lifestyle, the town's biggest problem will be dealing with its growth.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

British Comedy At It's Best

DIY Disasters are funny in the I'm glad that is not me way. This BBC comedy The Armando Iannucci show has one of the funniest DIY disasters I have ever seen.

So It's Not Just An Edmonton Thing

Sales are falling across Canada while listings are surging in western Canada. Could it be the record cold winter where people just weren't interested in checking what was on the market? I think in Edmonton it's a lot of investors testing the water to see what the property they bought last year is actually worth or what they pull out with.

“Canada's six-year housing market boom is officially over. Aside from a few choice prairie locales, sales are melting faster than this year's snowpack,” Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns

I'm not sure I agree with that blanket statement but I know this year is not the year to put your house on the market. Talking with a friend the other day she was certain she could get $450,000 for a property in Edmonton that frankly would pull 25% less with buyer incentives (vendor take backs, assumable etc). Her local "real estate expert" said put the house on the market and you will get whatever you ask.

Seems like a good example of why sales are dropping; with expectations like these no one will close the deal.

Cherry Blossom Time In My City

Although the cherry blossoms lasted a paltry weekend this year before being pelted to the ground by heavy rain, lightening and in one case a not too shabby earthquake we did manage to get some great shots around Utsunomiya of the beautiful annual event.

Being an ex-pat has a lot of ups and downs but this time of year always makes it seem like a gift.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In The News

Canada in the middle of a quiet oil boom -
"With oil prices hovering near a hundred dollars a barrel, there’s a major oil boom underway. It’s not happening in the sweltering heat of Texas or the dry desert of Saudi Arabia, but on the frozen Canadian tundra where oil producers are developing a new source of fossil fuel. It may seem like unlikely terrain for one of the biggest oil booms in recent memory. But Canada’s “oil sands” have helped make it the leading supplier to the United States." The amazing thing is that at 3 million barrels a day we have enough oil to last 400 years.

Numbers Tell The Truth- Count On It
"and what about climate change? Now there's a nice juicy topic for number crunchers like me. When it comes to the we're-all-doomed file, the spinmeisters have got a big hate on for Alberta's oilsands.

According to a recent front-page Globe and Mail story, the oilsands generate fully 25 per cent of Canada's carbon emissions. Except, well, they don't. In a subsequent correction, the Globe admitted the number was just eight per cent.

Now let's see. Since Canada accounts for two per cent of the global total, that means the oilsands generate between one and two tenths of one per cent of the worldwide tally. Horrifying, really." Climate change is important and Alberta is doing amazing things to reduce its emissions.

Wooing European Workers A Goal Of Mandel's Trip
Mayor Stephen Mandel is leaving Friday on an eight-day trip to Eastern Europe that he hopes will make it easier to attract workers for the booming local economy.

"It's to solidify some ties in Europe with Edmonton so we not only have opportunities for trade, but also recruiting labour," he said today.

The only thing slowing oil sand production is a lack of labour.

What an area to be investing in!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Are We The Devil In The West?

Some environmentalists think Alberta Oil Sands are a prime example of greed over nature and should be shut-down until Northern Alberta emmissions are under control.

"The reason nobody except a handful of academics, self-serving lobbyists and publicity-seeking politicians cares about this issue is that Canada produces slightly more than 2.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

That's right. When it comes to big time emitters we rank . . . oh let's see, we pretty much don't rank.

Let's talk about carbon dioxide, one of the most pernicious greenhouse gases and the current cause celebre with the environmental lobby.

The U.S. and China produce slightly more than 40 per cent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions. Our production numbers rank light years behind both of those countries and well behind industrial giants such as Russia, India, Japan and Germany."

Read Full Article