Ottawas Condos Team Blog
Choosing the Best Home
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After weeks of searching for your next home, you now have it narrowed down to two great options. One offers a shorter commute, but the other offers more square footage for your growing family. How can you make the best choice?

There are several strategies you can employ in your decision making process. Above all, be confident in your decision making abilities. "The fear of making serious decisions is a new kind of fear, called decidophobia," proclaimed by Walter Kaufmann at Princeton University in 1973. Worry and procrastination do nothing to aid the process, so buyers, be confident that you will make a sound choice.

Pro/Con list: In this case, you are deciding between two houses as your prospective home. For each house, divide a sheet of paper into two columns: pro and con. Be realistic about what the positive and negative factors would be for each purchase. Considerations could include: price, location, schools, repairs, square footage, floorplans, street noise, neighborhood value, comparables, and gut intuition.

Brainstorm scenarios: Chances are, whatever house you decided upon will be your residence for many years to come. Try and think ahead to situations that may arise in the future, and how each residence would affect those situations. Do you have aging parents that could move in? If so, then which house provides the best floorplan for this? Planning on having children? Check out ratings on local schools.

Do the math: Business executives might call this the "cost/benefit analysis." Buying a home is a huge financial decision, and while personal preferences (e.g. location, schools, square footage) all come into play in homebuying, many purchases are based on what makes the best financial sense. Discuss numbers and neighborhood comparables with your real estate agent. One home may be a smaller dollar amount, but the other may be a better deal in the long run. Some neighborhoods are up and coming, while others have come and gone. Are either homes overpriced or underpriced for their neighborhoods? Do either homes need repairs or updates?

Priorities list: Yes, you know you want the pool, landscaping, granite counters, close proximity to work, extra bath, and the list goes on. But when push comes to shove, and it might, what items are your priority, really? For some, driving a longer commute is worth having a larger house or a cheaper price. For other buyers, the exact opposite can be true.

Change perspectives: Sometimes you simply must step out of your own shoes to see a situation clearly. There are many different ways to approach this decision. You can look at it from an emotional point of view (which home do you love), an intuitive view (what does your gut tell you), and even a devil's advocate view (what if). Experts consider this the "Six Thinking Hats," introduced by Edward de Bono in a book of the same title, where you put on six different hats during a decision making process. Try and see the buying process from the perspective of your spouse, your children, friends, and even your worst enemy.

Finally, be realistic in your own abilities. While the final decision rests on your capable shoulders, you should rely on the professionals that are by your side. This includes your agent, lender, attorney, and even your family. And while you are the final say, remember that you have a team to help give you information to fuel that sound decision.

Written by Carla Hill

Still a seller's market in Ottawa; prices rise steadily
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Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,149 residential properties in July through the Board's Multiple Listing Service® system compared with 1,578 in July 2009, a decrease of 27.2 per cent.

Of those sales, 294 were in the condominium property class, while 855 were in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, stacked etc.) which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

"Last July saw a record high number of sales in Ottawa, which was the result of pent-up demand as the market came out of  a downturn. What we see this year is a return to more seasonal sales volumes," said Board President Pierre de Varennes. "The ratio of listed properties to sold properties indicates that Ottawa remained in a seller's market last month, and sale prices continued to rise at a steady pace, as they generally do here in the national capital," he added.

The average sale price of residential properties, including condominiums, sold in July in the Ottawa area was $321,827 , an increase of 7.1 per cent over July 2009. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $249,674 , an increase of 15.2 per cent over July 2009. The average sale price of a residential-class property was $346,638, an increase of 7.1  per cent over July 2009. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

Source: OREB

Continental living
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“A lot of young Generation professionals in their 20s and 30s are buying these smaller places. They work for government, they have a lifestyle, so they buy a one-bedroom luxury condo that’s 500 square feet, where the space is incredibly well utilized,” says O’Connell. “Their world is downtown and with the smaller units, they’re still able to enjoy their lives and not be mortgage-poor.”

That’s not the only allure. Of Urban Capital’s three condo developments

East Market, the Mondrian and Central — phases one and two of Central have already earned 40 points towards LEEDs Certification, an eco-responsible building code that is increasingly being adopted by the industry.

Central’s condos at Bank Street and Gladstone Avenue are finished with sustainable hardwood floors, man-made stone kitchen counters that, unlike granite, don’t emit gases and dual flush toilets to reduce waste water.

There’s also energy-efficient lighting, a Virtucar hybrid car sharing program and a green-planted roof to create oxygen. Water from the roof is also collected for use so residents can wash their cars.

Then there are the beautifully-appointed common areas — a lounge, media room, gym, multipurpose room and landscaped outdoor barbecue area. Together, says Grant Algar, whose Toronto-based company handles the buildings’ interior design, “it’s really a lifestyle choice — a very continental lifestyle — where you live in a smaller space, you sleep there, but you’re out a lot.

“I think Generation Y realizes that they can get a job, have a career and have the freedom of a home base without a yard. They’re building equity sooner than their parents, and that gives them freedom to travel. My friends are seeing how much we’re saving by not renting, so they’re buying in.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Inventory Increases, Market Balances in June
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For the first time in 2010, inventory increased year-over-year in June, by almost six per cent. The Ottawa housing market has begun moving towards balance, away from the seller’s market we have been in for most of the past year. The growth in inventory gives buyers more homes to choose from, and the slightly less frenetic pace of the market offers them a little more time to consider their choice of home. However, it’s by no means a slow market – homes that sold in June spent an average of just 29 days for sale before being snapped up by buyers.

Home sale prices continued to grow at a healthy rate in June. The average sale price of residential properties, including condominiums, sold in June in the Ottawa area was $326,572, an increase of 6.4 per cent over June 2009. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $256,969, an increase of 8.3 per cent over June 2009. The average sale price of a residential-class property was $350,878, an increase of 7.4 per cent over June 2009.

Source: OREB

Making your condo your castle
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It's easy to make your home your castle, regardless of where you live -- and designer Rosalyn Lazaruk can show you how. Lazaruk has worked with design and decor for six years, establishing wicket-blue interiors in 2004. We asked Lazaruk to share some of her tips and tricks for making your condo your castle:

Question: With the open design of new homes and condos, how do people go about fixing them up to make them seem less "big-boxy" and more homey?

Answer: To create a less boxy feel in an open-concept home, it is important to create a division of space. Clearly defining the entryway, living area, dining area and kitchen will give sense to each area, making each more comfortable.

Question: With the open design, is it necessary to carry the same colours and designs throughout? If so, how do you go about it? And how do you create spaces that are still separate living areas all in one big room?

Answer: It can be difficult sometimes to use several paint colours in an open concept home -- the start and stop points are not always clear. I prefer to use one paint colour throughout, bringing your accent colour into the space by painting or wallpapering a feature wall, adding art work, as well as through the use of textiles. Just because you have an open concept, things don't have to be 'matchy matchy.' Come up with a colour scheme with four or five colours and pair them together differently in each space.

Question: What trends do you see emerging?

Answer. It is a really fun time in design as it seems that the trend is anything goes. Odd pairings and quirky colour palettes are allowing our personal styles to be reflected in our homes. It is difficult to label any one style as it seems they have all been redefined. Traditional decor has received a revamp and is definitely taking on more of an eclectic vintage approach -- luxurious rich velvets paired with chintz in textured linen, mixing warm metals like brass, antique bronze and gold. We are seeing modern homes warming up, with farmhouse tables being paired with sleek dining chairs, hits of colour to what used to be a white paint palette, and unique and quirky collections on display. If we are seeing one piece being added to our living space, it is a fabulous upholstered chair. Adding a chair in bold upholstery or exaggerated lines makes a statement in a room and brings life to our tired, neutral sofas. My favourite colour palette for 2010 is crisp white, navy blue and grey throughout. Accent colours can go all over the map with this palette ... imagine hot pink or tangerine for a punch of colour.

Question: Obviously, the economy has affected the whole way of doing things -- and the number of people opting instead to maybe renovate or redecorate. What impact has it had on the way people look at their homes? Do you see that continuing?

Answer: The idea of completely overhauling everything when renovating or redecorating your home has changed. Going along with the trend of mixing design styles seems to give us more personality in our decor, as well as more flexibility in budgeting. Spend the money on quality upgrades like new floors, countertops and lighting; the rest of the design can come from a mix of the old and the new. I love "up-cycling" -- taking something that we may not have much use for and turning it into something new and innovative that works for us in our spaces. Reupholstering, painting and refinishing furniture, shopping second hand -- it is all about being creative to get the balance that we want from our homes. I see this trend continuing, as it is giving us beautiful spaces that reflect our individual personalities while at the same time keeping these great pieces out of the landfills.

Question: Do you have ideas and hints for decorating on a budget?

Answer We had a challenge at the Interior Design show last fall where we had to create an entire bedroom for $500. Shopping on KiJiJi, secondhand shops and, of course, the all-time favourite -- garage sales -- helped us get it done. We made our own headboard out of plywood, foam and fabric, turned a small dresser into a night stand and a dining room sideboard into a dresser. A lot of times, decorating on a budget takes some creativity and thinking outside the box. If you are not up for the DIY projects, certain things can go a long way.

The easiest way to change your decor is by switching up your textiles. IKEA has some fabulous fun fabrics for under $6.99 per meter, making it an inexpensive upgrade to add new throw pillows, make slipcovers for dining room or occasional chairs, and even stretch the fabric over canvas for original playful artwork. I like to move furniture around my home to make it feel new. I will switch out my side tables with my night-stands, move lamps around the house, change the artwork from one room to the next, and maybe add paint to a feature wall in a new exciting colour -- and, presto, a brand-new look for the cost of a can of paint.

Question: What are some of your ideas for decorating small spaces?

Answer: I like to incorporate glass into the small spaces as it keeps it light and airy. Try using glass tables in the eating area and living room. Lighting in a small home should come from around the room, not from overhead. This allows you to define the individual space, giving it the lighting it needs. Don't overcrowd your space -- it will only make it feel smaller. Multi-functional furniture will eliminate extra pieces that will crowd the space. Your dining room chairs should be able to serve as comfortable occasional chairs in the living room. Storage ottomans can tuck away toys and blankets while still being able to be used for extra seating. A Murphy bed that lifts up when not in use creates space, or has added storage underneath. When living in a small space, you cannot be a pack rat.

Having unique pieces and collections are a must to give personality to the space -- but give them room to breathe. Do not be overwhelmed with clutter.

Question: If people buy with a friend or get a roommate, how do they make their spaces work?

Answer: Whether it is a roommate or a spouse, everyone has different ideas of how a space should look and feel -- it is all about compromise. Your shared space should reflect a little of both of your design styles and personalities, but if one of you loves it and the other hates it, personalize a special spot just for you, like your bedroom or office.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Making the most of a small space
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It’s the space that’s supposed to be a bonus in condominiums: the one marked "flex" or "storage" or even "multi-purpose" on the floor plans. The problem is, the space is often so small, it hardly serves any purpose at all.

Designer Erik Lauzon of Konstruk Design has seen how much of a disaster these rooms can be. "The flex room becomes a dump. People throw in stuff that they don’t know where else to put, or maybe they’re simply not ready to throw that stuff away."

If it’s something that hasn’t been used for more than a year, it’s time to get rid of it, according to Lauzon. He also says that identifying a purpose for the space is the first step to getting junk under control.

"If you’re going to use it as a storage room, that’s fine," Lauzon says. "But don’t try and use it as a workspace, too; there isn’t enough room for that. If you’re going to do work there, get rid of unnecessary clutter, and make it minimalist and usable."

Lauzon is applying his strategies to two condos where the flex spaces are completely inflexible.

Joelle Guerin knew space would be a challenge two years ago when she moved from her two-bedroom apartment in Burnaby, B.C., to a condo in downtown Vancouver.

"I must have looked at more than 30 places listed as being one-bedroom-and-dens, or one-bedrooms-plus-flex," she says with a laugh. "I pretty much drove my realtor crazy!"

Guerin ended up with a home close to her workplace, but had to make a lot of adjustments during the transition. She bought all new furniture, including a storage bed that holds a lot of household items. She also bought a six-by-two-foot desk, which dominates the storage room.

"It (the room) has become a catch-all for random things. I put paperwork down, and it piles up until I clean it out every few months. I’ve tried to decorate, but there’s no point. I don’t even go into it unless I’m throwing something in, and when people come over, I make sure I pull the door closed."

The small size of the space has forced Guerin to pare down how much paperwork she keeps around, and Lauzon says that’s a good start.

He also says Guerin should start using the large, black, framed pegboard over the desk to better display keepsakes or lists of tasks she has to tackle. Lauzon says it would be a better use of space to centre the desk and pegboard in the room. That would then leave enough room on the right hand side to put up six brightly coloured wall-hung folders to deal with paperwork, with titles like "not so important", "important", and "do this right now".

On the opposite wall, Lauzon suggests creating a photo wall with black and white photos, matted in white, to up the chic factor. He would paint the entire room in a soft grey tinged with green, which goes well with the existing carpet. Designers are increasingly using grey as a neutral colour.

"If she doesn’t need the door, she should take it off, especially since it’s such a small space," says Lauzon. "Making the interior of the room visible is an incentive to keep it organized and you get rid of the dead space. You could also put a little bit of overhead shelving in." He estimates the total cost at between $300 and $500.

Don Genova’s flex space will likely cost more, and be more of a challenge to rehabilitate. The freelance journalist also teaches food and travel writing, and has all of the accoutrements to match.

"I’m a pack rat when it comes to magazines and newspaper articles and cookbooks, because it’s nice to show a hard copy to my students," Genova says. "Then there’s all of the photography and audio equipment, and regular office stuff like a printer, an external hard drive, and a modem."

He needs all of the table surface he can get for marking and his various projects, which means his wife is exiled to work on either the dining table or a small side table in the living room.

Genova says there is definitely some stuff he can get rid of, but his wish list for the flex room includes better shelving, better lighting, and two workspaces. The room also gets hot, so he needs a fan, and he’s tired of tripping over electrical cables and accidentally unplugging equipment.

Lauzon says the first thing he would do is to have Genova consider taking advantage of digital technology to store his CDs, or to archive more of the magazines and newspapers.

"The books are fine. In fact, they’re quite nice, if they’re displayed properly," says Lauzon.

To fulfil Genova’s wish list, Lauzon would build a long, L-shaped table along the left and centre walls of the room, with storage drawers underneath. Genova would have the long portion, which would be close to nine feet of table surface. The short portion of the ’L’ would be a little thinner, and be designated for his wife. The table would also include small niches to corral all of the equipment cables.

Lauzon says he likes overhead fans, but believes it’s difficult to find a stylish one that also incorporates good lighting. Instead, he suggests that Genova use a slim and quiet tower fan in the corner of the room where there is no table surface.

All of the books and knick-knacks could go into overhead cabinets extending right to the ceiling, taking advantage of the nearly nine-foot ceiling height in the room. Recessed pot lights could be tucked into the underside of the cabinets, with additional task lighting above the defined workspaces.

Lauzon says Genova could either go with custom cabinets, or some very stylish and inexpensive high gloss white shelving from Ikea. Adding in or removing doors would also affect the cost. Lauzon says the room could be completely revamped for $3,000 to $6,000.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Checklist for open house
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Before throwing your doors open to potential buyers, use this checklist:

- De-clutter. This can't be overemphasized. A cluttered home is a turnoff to most buyers. It's also potentially dangerous: you don't want people injured as they navigate through the clutter. And don't stuff everything into cabinets and closets -- people will be looking there to assess storage capacity. Either get rid of it or store it offsite.

- Clean up. Not just everyday cleaning like dusting, sweeping and scrubbing the bathtub. Think deep clean: carpets should be steam cleaned, drapes washed/dry cleaned, upholstery vacuumed and shampooed, if necessary. Attend to often-ignored areas -- top of the fridge, cobwebbed corners, cabinet interiors and the oven. The bathroom and kitchen should be spotless. A maid service is a worthy investment in getting the best offer for your house.

- Get a checkup. Consider having a pre-listing home inspection report prepared. Potential buyers can examine it, noting repairs you've made since and easing their mind about the property.

- Revive & repair. A fresh coat of light, neutral paint is practically obligatory. If you have decent hardwood under grungy or outdated carpet, trash the carpet and refinish the floors. Take care of scuffed woodwork, ripped wallpaper, water damage and exposed wiring. Half-finished home improvement projects deter buyers; complete any such projects, if possible.

- Enhance curb appeal. Most buyers form conclusions about a property from the curb. Cast the same critical eye on your home's exterior. Does the roof need repair? Are the gutters overflowing with debris? Does the front lawn look like a missile site? Does the driveway need sealing? Make any necessary improvements. Try buying a new doormat and decorate with some container plants.

For a complete list and advice on prepping your home for an open house, talk to a realtor

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Red hot Ottawa Housing
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OTTAWA — New housing construction jumped 92 per cent in May as Ottawa builders raced to keep up with demand.

The activity was driven by new apartment and townhouse developments in surburbs across the region.

Work started on 124 apartment units in Ottawa, up 624 per cent from a year earlier when builders were delaying new condominium projects because of the recession. Townhouse jumped 106 per cent to 289 units. Single-detached construction grew by 31 per cent. Work started on a total of 709 units of all classes of housing in May compared to 369 a year earlier.

Through the first five months of the year, new housing starts are running 39-per-cent ahead of a year ago with a total of 2,257 units under construction.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Setting the stage for a successful sale
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Tips for staging a home:

- Visit model homes and examine shelter magazines for inexpensive decorating ideas. Always keep in mind you are not decorating for yourself but for the general public.

- Start with the outside. Give the house a fresh coat of paint, add shiny hardware to the front door and plant a few flowers to send a subliminal message the house is loved and well cared for.

- Declutter every room to make it look larger. Get rid of family pictures, trophies, knickknacks. Closets and drawers should be no more than 30 per cent full.

- Invest in eco-friendly but bright lights. Open the drapes or remove them completely.

"Light, bright rooms give the impression this is a happy place -- and everyone wants to move into a happy place," said Rinomato.

- Feature only a few pieces of furniture with mainstream appeal. Pull pieces away from walls to make rooms look bigger.

- Make sure a room's primary use is obvious. A bedroom should look like a bedroom, not an office, hobby centre or gym.

- Bedrooms and kitchens are difficult to stage because they are in daily use, but make the effort. Clear everything off counters and nightstands, roll up the rugs and hide the laundry hamper. Buff the cabinets with car wax and clean under the sinks. Invest in pristine white bed linens and towels.

- Minimize the "pet effect." Remove food bowls and litter boxes to the utility room. Deodorize thoroughly.

- Organize the utility room and garage. Hang up the bicycles, roll up the hose. Renting a storage locker is worth the cost if it helps you sell faster and for a higher price.

- Once your house is staged, invite a real estate agent or your friends to walk through and give you an objective opinion.


Hottest April on record for resale housing market
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Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,841 residential properties in April through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® system compared with 1,591 in April 2009, an increase of 15.7 per cent.

Of those sales, 425 were in the condominium property class, while 1,416 were in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, stacked etc.) which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

“Last month’s sales blew away the record for April, which is always one of the busiest months of the year for our market,” said Board President Pierre de Varennes. “The increased sales activity may be partially due to buyers trying to avoid the impending HST and the mortgage changes that came into effect on April 19, but also demonstrates that consumers feel confident about our local economy,” he added.

The average sale price of residential properties, including condominiums, sold in April in the Ottawa area was $332,979, an increase of 11.6 per cent over April 2009. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $254,220, an increase of 17.4 per cent over April 2009. The average sale price of a residential-class property was $356,617, an increase of 11.7 per cent over April 2009. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

 Source: OREB

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