Choosing the correct window – Many wonder which is best but there is no easy answer

There’s no simple answer to how to choose the correct windows, but here are some things you should watch for.

Windows serve three purposes: They provide light, airflow and ventilation. But they should also help keep the heat out in the summer and in during the winter. That has to do with R-value — in other words, insulation — and the air-tightness around the window itself.

Every window leaks heat. You can have the best windows on the market — triple-paned, double low-E coatings — but they will not have the same insulation value as an insulated wood or concrete wall; no matter how thermally efficient they are.

The trend today is to increase the size of your windows, not to mention the number of windows in a home. People love natural light. But at the same time we need to make sure the windows are improving the house — not working against it.

Heat loss and gain through windows accounts for about half of our heating and cooling needs. A poorly installed and/or insulated window is like having a giant hole in your home’s exterior — and you will see the proof in your energy bills.

When it comes to window choice, there are several options, which can be overwhelming for some homeowners.

It used to be that all you could get were single-paned windows — those are windows that have just one sheet of glass. Now you can get windows that are double- or triple-paned, windows with argon or krypton gas, low-E coatings in between the panes — and different combinations of each, like low-E double-paned windows or low-E triple-paned windows with argon gas.

What’s the difference? For starters, a double-paned window has two layers of glass; triple-paned has three. Multiple layers of glass allow for insulation to go in between the panes, and that boosts the R-value.

The most common types of insulation are argon or krypton gas. Both help stop heat transfer. Krypton insulates better than argon but it’s also more expensive. If you have the budget, it’s a good investment. However, argon-gas-filled windows are still very good; if a home has these windows, I wouldn’t be disappointed.

If you’re not the original owner of your home, you might not know if your windows are gas filled. When you bought the house the previous owners would have probably told you, since they do make for better windows and cost more.

But if you want to make sure you can check the window tag. It’s usually on the bottom inside track of the window.

You can also try looking for two small holes on the spacer — one hole is where the gas would have been injected, and the other hole is for air to exit.

Another feature to look for is low-E glass, or low-emissivity glass. This is a microscopic metallic-oxide coating on the glass that lets in light but also helps stop heat — and ultraviolet rays — from transferring through the window.

Sometimes heat transfer is a good thing. In the winter, we want the sun to help heat our homes. But I’ve heard some homeowners complain about turning up their furnace more often after installing triple-paned windows. That’s because some windows do an excellent job at stopping heat transfer.

However, just like they help stop heat from escaping your home, they also don’t let the natural heat from the sun come in.

One option is to have triple-paned windows on the north side of the house only, and then double-paned on the rest. This provides the extra insulation needed to help block north winds, but still allows some heat to get in on all the other sides. It’s a tricky balance, which is why you should talk to a pro.

Once you’ve decided on the type of glass you want, you have to choose the framing. The most common are wood, metal — and vinyl, which tends to last longer and is easier to clean.

Metal can get scratched and dented. Wood is nice but requires a lot of maintenance; you will need to repaint your window framing at least every five years, and that’s if it’s done really well. The natural expansion and contraction of the wood frame can crack the paint. The basic rule of thumb is that if you can see the wood, the frame needs to be re-caulked and re-painted.

What type of window is the best? Most people want an easy answer. But like most things, there is no easy answer. It depends on the house and the application.

The key to making the right choice is finding a professional who will know what type of windows will work best for your home, and who will make sure they are properly installed.


Original source article: Choosing the correct window

Calgary new condo sales continue to climb – Transactions up 11.5 per cent from last year

An Altus Group report says new condominium sales in Calgary have jumped by 11.5 per cent so far this year compared with a year ago.

The new report said sales reached 2,555 units between January and September compared with 2,292 for the same period a year ago.

It said 4,327 new condo units were under construction at the end of September, up from 4,263 a year ago but starts were down to 1,537 from 2,780 last year.

Completed but unabsorbed units at the end of September was 131 compared with 232 last year.

“Demand for condominium units has increased this year, supported by a variety of factors,” said Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. “Many first-time homebuyers have made the move into homeownership this year with the purchase of a condominium unit. Condo units on average are priced lower compared to single-detached homes, making them an attractive option for many of these buyers.

“However, first-time homebuyers are not the only ones who have demanded condo units. Those looking to downsize, and move to a more maintenance-free lifestyle have also supported demand for condo units, as well as investors. The decline in the vacancy rate, and rising rents, has increased the incentive for investors to purchase units to rent out. Collectively, these factors have contributed to the rise in condo sales this year.”

He said sales in the resale market are forecast to rise this year and next. Employment levels in Calgary are anticipated to further rise in 2014, along with income. Positive net migration will also support housing activity in 2014.

Year-to-date until Thursday, according to the Calgary Real Estate Board, there have been 3,762 MLS condo apartment sales in the city’s resale housing market, up 15.19 per cent from a year ago with an average sale price of $299,725 and a median price of $262,000. Those prices have increased by 5.72 per cent and 4.54 per cent, respectively from last year.

There have been 2,990 condo townhouse sales, up 21.45 per cent from a year ago, with the average sale price rising by 7.69 per cent to $341,531 and the median price up 5.90 per cent to $305,000.

In contrast, the year-to-date average sale price for a single-family home in Calgary has climbed by 7.69 per cent to $517,383 and the median price has gone up by 8.46 per cent to $450,000.

Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist with CREB, said affordability is playing a key role in the increased sales in Calgary’s condo market this year.

“It offers that niche that hasn’t been there certainly in the single-family. We’ve seen the availability in product in the single-family under a certain price range just start to disappear,” she said.

Another factor, she said, was the tight rental market in the city.

“A lot of people in the rental market tend to be first-time homebuyers. With the rental market being as tight as it is and expectations of rental rate increases further impacted by the flood a lot of them moved into homeownership sooner. And lot of them tend to go toward that more affordable product in the condo market,” added Lurie.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Calgary homebuyer demand ‘supercharged,’ says RBC report

Homebuyer demand in Calgary has been “supercharged” by a booming economy, says the latest Housing Trends and Affordability Report released Wednesday by RBC Economics Research.

The report said modest deterioration in housing affordability in the Calgary area in the third quarter “is likely to be taken in stride by local homebuyers, because they still benefit from some of the lower ownership costs as a share of household income in Canada.”

The report said RBC’s affordability measures increased for all housing categories — between 0.2 percentage points and 0.7 percentage points. But it said the levels continue to be below the national and historical averages.

“Favourable affordability conditions primarily reflect high household income in Calgary rather than low home prices given that home prices in the area are among the more expensive in the country,” said the report. “While affordability is constructive for homebuyer demand, the more powerful factors driving it, no doubt, are Calgary’s hot labour market and fast-rising population, both supercharged by a booming provincial economy.

“Home resales surged to their highest level in six years in the area. The fact that this occurred despite the worst floods in memory at the end of June is quite telling of the market’s strength at this stage.”

The report said affordability levels in Alberta remained relatively attractive in the third quarter, with measures standing below their historical averages and the national averages.

“Alberta’s strong provincial economy and rapidly rising population continue to fuel housing market activity – third quarter home resales increased by 7.8 per cent from the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist of RBC, in a statement. “The province’s unrelenting economic boom bodes well for continued solid housing market conditions next year.”

RBC’s housing affordability measures capture the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home at market values.

In Alberta, RBC’s measure for bungalows rose by 0.6 percentage points to 32.5 per cent, and the measure for two-storey homes rose 0.2 percentage points to 34.6 per cent. The measure for condominiums increased slightly by 0.1 percentage points to 19.6 per cent.

In Calgary, the measure rose by 0.7 percentage points to 33.7 per cent points for bungalows, 0.4 percentage points to 34 per cent for two-storey homes, and 0.2 percentage points to 19.6 per cent for condominiums.

In Canada, RBC’s measure for detached bungalows rose 0.7 percentage points to 43.3 per cent, while the measure for two-storey homes climbed 0.6 percentage points to 48.9 per cent. The measure for standard condominiums edged only slightly higher by 0.1 percentage points to 28.0 per cent.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Unfilled jobs in Alberta above national average – 287,400 jobs went unfilled in Canada in the third quarter

Alberta’s rate of unfilled private sector jobs continued to be above the national average in the third quarter of this year, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

In its Help Wanted report, which was released Tuesday, the CFIB said there were about 287,400 full and part-time positions unfilled or 2.4 per cent across the country.

It said Saskatchewan had the highest provincial vacancy rate in the country at 4.0 per cent this quarter, up from 3.9 per cent the quarter before. Alberta’s rate was the same at 3.4 per cent.

Richard Truscott, the CFIB’s Alberta director, said there were 54,700 unfilled jobs in the province.

“It’s another indication Alberta has a serious labour shortage in terms of skilled workers,” said Truscott. “So it’s further affirmation that there is indeed an issue, there’s a major problem, and we’ve got to focus on it and try to figure out some strategies to deal with it.”

He said the number of unfilled jobs in the third quarter remained fairly stable but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight in solving the issue.

“This is not a forecast. This is a snapshot of the current state of afffairs,” said Truscott. “But you would imagine just from talking to business owners, and looking at lots of other economic indicators, that this serious shortage of qualified people is going to continue for some time.”

Adam Legge, president and chief executive of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said the CFIB report reflects the reality of the situation.

“There’s lots of opportunity for labour. There’s still high demand for labour,” said Legge.

He said small business can’t compete with bigger companies from a wage or benefit perspective.

“And so when there are fewer people than there are jobs, they’re going to migrate towards the ones that pay the best or offer the best experience,” he said. “And often small business doesn’t have the resource base to compete on some of those.”

Legge said the labour shortage will continue unless the province experiences challenges to its economy.

Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president, said in a statement that more than half the job vacancies in Canada are in small businesses that employ less than 50 people.

“These firms have unique challenges that make finding and keeping workers with the right skill set more difficult,” he said.

The CFIB said the highest number of job openings in the third quarter was in the retail, hospitality and construction sectors, with over 30,000 potential openings across the country.

Alberta’s unemployment rate in October was 4.4 per cent, the second lowest in Canada behind Saskatchewan’s 3.6 per cent.

According to the Alberta government, employment growth in the province was 74,800 people or 3.5 per cent in the past year. It was the highest annual employment growth in the country and accounted for 35 per cent of Canada’s employment growth.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Luxury home market in Calgary and area shines – Record year for upper-end real estate

The luxury home market in Calgary and area continues to shine in what has turned out to be a record year for sales in the upper-end of residential real estate.

Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist with the Calgary Real Estate Board, said several favourable economic conditions have been supporting a strong luxury home market in Calgary and area this year.

“There’s more activity in the inner-city. A lot of those sales are actually occurring in the inner-city,” she said. “And a lot of them are single-family homes.”

The inner-city market is also demanding a premium price these days.

“Overall it does point to people and what they feel is going to happen in Calgary in the long term. There’s some confidence of what’s happening in the Calgary market,” said Lurie. “That’s supporting that growth as well.”

So far this year, according to CREB, there have been 689 MLS sales in the city of $1 million or more, up until Tuesday. The previous record for a year was set last year at 544.

Every month this year, with the exception of January, has seen new records set in the luxury home market in the city.

Month-to-date up until Tuesday there have been 44 luxury home sales. The November record is 48 which was set last year.

The Calgary MLS market also set a record earlier this year with the highest priced sale ever as a Crescent Heights home sold for $11.1 million. A penthouse condo in Calgary’s Beltline district is currently for sale at $10 million but not through the MLS system.

But the appetite for expensive properties is not only a city phenomenon this year.

This year, a Canmore lot sold for a record price of $2 million in that real estate market. An executive single-family home in Silvertip sold for $3.75 million, setting the record for the biggest resale residential property ever in Canmore.

There have been 24 single-family home sales over $1 million in Canmore from January 1 to November 19, up from 16 for the same period last year. In 2012, there were no sales over $2 million. This year there have been four up until November 19.

The top five most expensive MLS listings currently on the market are: $29.057 million for 279 hectares of rural land near High River; $13.5 million for 48 hectares of rural land near Springbank; $12.7 million for a home in Canmore; $12 million for a home near Cochrane; $12 million for a home near Priddis; and $12 million for a home near Calgary to the west.

Jeff Neustaedter, realtor with RE/MAX House of Real Estate in Calgary, has just listed the home for $12 million in Rocky View County. It is one of about 20 listings he has on the market for $1 million or more.

“People overall feel confident there’s not going to be a bust,” he said, adding that people are also turning a deaf ear to all the chatter about interest rates going up.

“This is the new reality. High real estate prices and low interest rates.”

He said so many people in Calgary make a very good living resulting in solid sales in the upper-end market.

Steve Landi, a realtor with Royal LePage Rocky Mountain Realty in Canmore, has the home in Canmore listed for $12.7 million.

“Canmore’s star is rising again for obvious reasons,” he said. “It should have never faded because of it’s proximity to Calgary. What a phenomenal four-season playground Canmore is . . . This is an exceptional community.”

“The luxury end is well and truly back and it kind of fits in with everything that’s happening in real estate not only in Canmore but other areas that a couple of years ago were depressed (in the United States) . . . The luxury end of the market is the strongest it’s looked since the correction.”

He said Canmore’s residential real estate market started gathering some “modest momentum” about this time last year.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Half a billion dollars pledged for southeast transitway

Council chose to build transit instead of cut taxes Thursday, pledging a half-billion dollars to a rapid bus line to southeast Calgary that may not otherwise have been funded for several years.

With an 8-7 vote, councillors nixed a chance to undo the controversial $52-million tax hike and replace it with a one-per-cent tax cut in 2014.

Instead, Calgarians will have to settle for a budget with a five-per-cent tax increase, a one time rebate that averages $100 per household, and the largest transit expenditure since the west LRT.

The line, running on special bus-only lanes that could be converted to LRT in the future, will stretch from near the South Health Campus hospital to Harvest Hills Boulevard — longer than any existing CTrain line.

While Coun. Shane Keating was branded a turncoat by anti-tax conservatives Wednesday, residents in his transit-starved quadrant hailed him as the delivery man.

“It should definitely ease traffic down in this area,” said McKenzie Lake resident Simon Poole.

He said he normally hates tax hikes if they go to “pet projects.” But he feels this will benefit all Calgarians, particularly those who work or live in the southeast.

“I’ve always felt that southeast Calgary is isolated from Calgary,” Poole said. “It’s like an island, and the only way off is two lanes of the Deerfoot.”

Ryan Wood, a newcomer to Douglasdale, is also intrigued. It takes him 45 minutes by bus to his downtown office, then an hour or more on the train and a bus to get home because his morning route ends too early.

“The bus system they have here is as efficient as it could be without more infrastructure like that,” he said.

Rage had simmered through the year and into the election over the $52 million tax increase council approved this spring, and Keating had said he’d vote to return it in this week’s budget talks.

Because the tax proceeds roll in each year, council found a compromise move: rebate the money on 2014 property bills, and then use instalments from 2015 to 2024 to create a $520-million fund for transit’s “green line.”

“This is not about being left or right. It’s not a flip-flop,” said Keating, who has long denounced the lack of transit to his ward, and lack of available project dollars. “It’s not about hocus-pocus. Or, it’s not even about politics.”

But colleagues expressed frustration they wouldn’t be able to give residents the promised tax relief, but for one year’s reprieve.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how much money we get from Calgarians, we’ll always find a way to spend it,” Coun. Andre Chabot told reporters.

Coun. Ray Jones said council was acting like kids in a candy store, and Ward Sutherland said lower taxes was the real “desperate need.”

The same seven members who voted against the transit decision voted against the entire budget.

Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation upbraided Keating over Twitter.

“It’s amazing how fast a man’s principles and promises can crumble to pork barrelling opportunism,” the lobbyist wrote.

Instead of repealing the past increase to deliver a tax cut, council chose smaller steps to shave down the increase to five per cent from the initially recommended 6.1 per cent. They include an across-the-board spending cut that excludes the police force, a limit to salary increases for non-union staff, and a largely symbolic freeze on council pay.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi sided with the transit plan, and said construction could begin on the project next year or in 2015, depending on whether council found further dollars or a good borrowing plan to help fast-track the project.

Transit had been one of several proposed uses for the $52 million hike, when in the spring council held a broad consultation that several members wound up later saying bordered on ridiculous.

“It’s interesting: after all the rigmarole, this is what we’ve come back to,” Nenshi said. He wondered aloud whether the transit plan would have won comfortably last spring if the debate was simply between building transit or not taking the tax increase adopted through lower provincial property taxes in the first place.

The planned green line goes through the wards of six councillors. Of them, only Coun. Sean Chu voted for a tax cut instead.

“People are not going to be happy,” he said. “But at the same time the transit is needed, yes.”



To commit the $52-million fund to transit instead of tax relief

For: Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Jim Stevenson, Richard Pootmans, Druh Farrell, Evan Woolley, Gian-Carlo Carra, Brian Pincott, Shane Keating

Against: Ward Sutherland, Joe Magliocca, Sean Chu, Ray Jones, Andre Chabot, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Peter Demong





-Southeast Calgary: the “forgotten quadrant” finally got its day. They watched as west LRT got built, and then northeast’s airport tunnel. But council committed $520 million in taxes for special bus lanes to the south hospital, which can easily be converted to LRT in the future. Without this tax decision, it appears it would have otherwise been several years before much money would have materialized for Calgary Transit expansions. This route goes down Centre Street to Harvest Hills, so a couple parts of the city win.

-Police: Much has changed from the days when Dave Bronconnier was mayor, but others haven’t. Exhibit A: Calgary Police Service has again been insulated from an across-the-board budget trim that all other city departments have been ordered to take. Mayor Naheed Nenshi used to rail about similar decisions when he was a mere civic pundit.

-Arts: Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts got a $315,000 lifeline to offset the end next spring of their provincial operating grant. And when two rookie councillors sought to take that money from Calgary’s arts granting agency instead of city reserves, 11 colleagues drowned them out.


-Anti-tax advocates: Instead of getting a one-per-cent tax reduction next year, they get a five-per-cent increase and a $100 rebate on the 2014 bills, They will rage at Coun. Shane Keating for seemingly reneging on his tax-fighting pledge, tipping the council balance toward spending.

-Non-unionized city staff: Management got hit twice Wednesday. First, council ordered a 1.8-per-cent pay increase next year, which is half what they got in 2013. Next, a moratorium was imposed on overtime pending a review, following the controversial millions they got during the flood.

-Unions: See what just happened to city management wages? You’re next, brothers and sisters. All city contracts will be renegotiated next year, and look for 1.8 per cent to be city hall’s target.

Union leaders often complain about having to accept modest raises while council gets big ones. But councillors took that argument off the table, voting themselves a 2014 pay freeze.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

The lowdown on low down payments – Mortgage insurance a must for those with high-ratio loans

Hot markets and cold feet might keep some people out of the housing market, but a lack of upfront cash doesn’t have to be an obstacle. While it’s long been the convention in the industry to start with a 20% down payment, the availability of mortgage default insurance means ownership is still possible with as little as 5% down, as long as the buyer meets industry standards of income and creditworthiness.

“What mortgage insurance allows people to do is to get into the market with today’s prices, with today’s low interest rates, once they have determined that home ownership is right for them,” says Mary Stergiadis, principal for Ontario business development at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The insurance repays lenders if a homeowner defaults on payment.

People with insured mortgages can take advantage of the same interest rates as those taking out conventional mortgages, she says. And the insurance doesn’t cost as much as some people think.

Here’s how it works: With 5% down, the insurance premium is 2.75% of the mortgage. On a $400,000 property with $20,000 down, the mortgage insurance premium would be $10,450. That would bring the total being borrowed to $390,450. Assuming a fiveyear closed at 3.75% amortized over 25 years, the monthly payment would be about $2,000, including less than $55 a month for the insurance. The same property with 20% down would have a monthly payment of $1,640.

“What consumers have to ask themselves is what $60,000 means to them in terms of savings,” Ms. Stergiadis says, referring to the amount needed to reach a 20% down payment for this property. “How long would it take to save that additional down payment? Where will home prices be within that time? Where will interest rates be?”

(But note that the tax on the premium – 8% in Ontario – cannot be amortized and is due on closing.) The insurance rate goes down as the down payment goes up. For buyers with 10% down, for instance, the premium is 2%; with 15% down, it’s 1.75%.

A popular misconception is that this insurance applies only to the primary residence of the borrower. But it is also available for a second property, such as a home or condo in the city to cut a commute or to house an aging parent or a student. CMHC does not, however, insure recreational properties.

Private mortgage insurers, such as Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty, also insure high-ratio mortgages. The rates offered match those of CMHC; consumers usually aren’t aware of differences, as lenders apply directly to the insurers once an offer has been made and accepted on a property.

Genworth estimates about 30% of Canadian mortgages are insured, down from historical levels of as high as 40%. That percentage tends to be lower in the GTA, says Jason Neziol, Genworth’s regional vice-president of sales for Ontario and the GTA. That’s because higher prices mean more people make larger down payments in order to quality for mortgage loans.

Mr. Neziol says private insurers play an important role in the market by providing more choice for lenders and helping to educate the public about options. “It gives options to consumers,” he says. “It’s good for lenders to have a choice in terms of what insurance providers would do.”

You don’t have to be a first-time buyer in order to qualify. Plus, even conventional mortgages, those with 20% or more down, can be insured. This can happen if a loan is slightly outside of a lender’s usual parameters.

And there can be a rental component. A buyer can purchase a duplex with 5% down, for instance, but must live in one unit. A 10% down payment is the norm for three-and four-unit properties, where one unit is owneroccupied and the others are rented out. The point, Mr. Neziol says, is to be aware of the many options available.

© Copyright (c) National Post