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Email: greg@gregsteele.ca

 

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Zoominescence (Dec. 1 – 31)
A month long festival of lights, held at the zoo.

 

Celebrate the Season (Dec. 7 – 23)
Free event of music and colourful lights, held in front of Alberta’s Legislature Building during the evenings.

 

Choir! Choir! Choir! (Dec. 11)
International singing phenomenon that showcases the best of collaboration and choir.

 

A Christmas Peril Food Bank Benefit (Dec. 15)
Trio of locally based experimental musicians. All proceeds go to Edmonton’s Food Bank and, for those who donate non-perishable goods, entry is free.

 

Glow-in-the-dark Axe Throwing (Dec. 23 – Jan. 7)
Not your typical holiday activity but one-of-a-kind fun for the whole family.

 

Shumka’s Nutcracker (Dec. 29 – 30)
A new twist on a holiday classic, this local production features both ballet and folk dance.

 

Salute to Vienna (Dec. 30)
Highly romantic and spirited, the beauty of this ballet waltz will bring you to the heart of Europe.

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Qualifying for a mortgage has never been a breeze and it’s about to get much harder.

 

In mid-October, the federal government announced changes to mortgage qualification rules and a more stringent “stress test” for uninsured mortgages for those with a 20 per cent or higher down payment.

 

The biggest impact these changes will have is on purchasing power and housing affordability. Rate Hub, a rate comparison website, looked at two different financial scenarios to compared what a family could afford to buy before and after the new rules.  

 

Before the changes, a buyer could borrow roughly the equivalent of seven times their yearly income. With the new rules, that has been reduced to slightly more than five times their yearly income.

 

In practice, the new rules means that homebuyers have had their buying power slashed by about 20 per cent.

 

The latest stress test comes after several other rule changes this year in the real estate market that have been met with equal criticism. Earlier this fall, borrowers with less than 20 per cent down payments were affected and, now, the focus has turned to those with 20 per cent or more down payment.  

 

The idea, regulators explain, is to help protect banks and ensure that everyone – no matter how much money they’ve initially put down – have to undergo a stress test before borrowing.

 

Banks are competitive and, to drive business, do not want to offer below-market rates and mortgages if other banks are doing so. By making it a federal regulation, it means that all banks have to be on board – levelling the playing field and reducing risks from uninsured mortgages all around.

 

For homebuyers, however, it means that some properties are now out of financial reach which brings up all sorts of issues of housing affordability because people will no longer qualify to borrow as much money as previously.

 

Experts say that the new measure will hit the real estate market like a sledgehammer by driving down prices. Others believe it is a good change and will equalize the market over time.

 

The changes come into effect on January 1, 2018. 

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Bustling winds, rainy days, and stormy nights are now solidly upon us with few hints left of warmer times left.

 

Do not despair, with the shift of seasons comes a chance for change for both you and your home. Take the right steps for you and your family to be happy and well.

 

Air quality
• Spring-cleaning is an old adage but don’t wait till next year.
• Now is the time to vacuum, dust and sweep up dust bunnies and cobwebs.
• Thoroughly check for moisture spots and moulds—certain strains, like black mould, can be deadly.
• Consider purchasing an air filter for improved quality.

 

Lights
• A lack of sunshine and light during the winter can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Proper lighting and vitamin D supplements can help mitigate the symptoms, however.
• Sunlight lamps produce a glow similar to the sun and, in addition to helping with the winter blues, can feel more calm and natural that harsh light.
• Consider switching to LED lights to lower electricity costs.
• Tri-coloured bulb – with each flick of a switch, the bulb casts a different tone and it’s a great way to control the lighting without buying multiple lamps.

 

Green clean
• Air fresheners, though pleasant smelling, often contain harmful chemicals that can cause lung disease and aggravate allergies. Switch to natural, biological fresheners.
• If you don’t recognize the long list of ingredients on your cleaning products, consider switching to something more natural. Eco-friendly choices are good for you, your home and the environment.
• What’s in your laundry detergent and soap? Some chemicals can dry skin and damage clothes. Biological keeps you just as clean without the harshness.

 

Safety
• Even more important than health consciousness, basic safety measures can be life-saving. Do not skimp or skip on this front.
• Check that your fire alarm works and you have a fire extinguisher close at hand and easy to locate in an emergency.
• Make sure there are carbon monoxide detectors working and placed around your home, especially in bedrooms.
• Have an earthquake preparedness kit at hand and an evacuation plan ready – know with certainty where you will seek shelter if the earth starts shaking.

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Floor lamps are essential not only for its function but also for creating a statement or design element in your living room. Here are just some stylish floor lamps to decorate your home.

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The Bank of Canada hiked interest rates twice this summer and the increases come at a time when many Canadians are struggling to pay off debt.

 

First, in July, the bank announced a raise from 0.5 to 0.75 per cent and then, at the beginning of September, hiked rates again to a full one percentage point. A report by TransUnion last year estimated that if interest rates were raised by one percentage point, 700,000 Canadian households would face serious financial ramifications.

 

Those most affected by the interest increases are those paying back debt — such as Canadians with mortgages. According to Scott Hannah, the president and CEO of the Credit Counselling Society of British Columbia, new homeowners who have just taken out a large mortgage are the most vulnerable to the changes.

 

His recommendation is to try to pay off debts as quickly as possible to avoid future interest hikes or, in the case where that is not possible, to try to switch to a fixed-rate mortgage to mitigate against economic ups-and-downs.

 

After the latest hike, the Forum Poll found that a third of Canadians fear the proposed change will negatively impact their finances — especially those in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

 

The bank’s announcement has been met with vehement criticism, especially as the Canadian dollar continued to slip, and some experts say the bank may well pause the interest rate hikes for now. Others, however, are adamant that the rises will continue and that it is up to individual Canadians to do the best they can to safeguard their finances.

 

The Bank of Canada is expected to finalize its plans in the coming weeks but, even if the most recent spike is held off, that will not necessarily mean an end to raising rates for the year, experts say.  

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The relationship between the quality of a school district and real estate prices in the neighbourhood is a bit of a “chicken-and-the-egg” question.

 

The highest-ranking school districts tend to have higher house prices than less sought-after districts. At the same time, more affluent homeowners often live in more popular school districts. It’s not always clear which is the motivating factor: do school districts influence house prices or vice versa?

 

Regardless of which came first, at the end of the day, the fact remains: schools that have higher rankings are, on average, in neighbourhoods with higher real estate values. According to a survey by the Ontario real estate brokerage TheRedPin, homeowners pay a premium of between 20 to 36 per cent for living in proximity to the best schools in Toronto.

 

Attracting parents

91 per cent of prospective homebuyers said that school rankings were important in their search, according to a survey by Realtor.com®, and 60 per cent of buyers said they would pay above their budget to live in their desired school catchment.

 

Why are schools so influential?

In large part, it comes down to the age-old search for better education and opportunities for the next generation. Parents will sacrifice a lot to improve their offspring’s future and a higher-ranking school is part of that.

 

It’s also a matter of convenience. Once you have your heart set on a school, it’s a huge time-saver to live a bus ride or walk away. The same Realtor.com® survey found that more than half of buyers are willing to give up other comforts – such are more room or proximity to shopping centres – in exchange for living in the right school catchment.

 

All this, as a total, means there is a huge demand for family homes in certain areas because of school rankings. Even for homeowners without children, a good school is typically seen as a sign of a strong, stable community — a good thing for house prices for everyone who lives nearby.

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Bison’s Eye View - Oct 15
Explore the legends and history of the great bison at Elk Island National Park.

 

Short Film Festival - Oct 14 to 15
A screening of indie and local films, celebrating Albertan independent filmmaking.

 

Ladies Learning Code - Oct 21
One day bootcamp workshop for women to learn the fundamentals CSS and how to add custom fonts, icons and animations to websites.

 

A Caravan Cabaret - Oct 21
Annual party hosted by the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers with music, performances and food.

Inside Painting - Oct 5 to 28
Art show of Peter Ivens’ work that captures Alberta’s landscape and natural beauty. Held at the Art Gallery of St. Albert.

The Monster: Silent Film Screening - Oct 31
Celebrate Halloween and get your scare-fill from watching this oldie but goodie horror-comedy.

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When you are buying a new home, choosing the right neighbourhood can be just as crucial to consider as the house itself.

In general, people tend to be creatures of habit and, when moving, will look at the neighbourhoods they know best first and opt to stay in the same part of the city that they are accustomed to whenever possible.

But sometimes circumstances like family, work relocation, school or other life events push us into unfamiliar territory and so the search for a new neighbourhood must broaden.

What are the factors that make us choose a specific area or, as the case may be, stay in one location? How can we make more unbiased neighbourhood selections? Here are some questions to ask and factors to consider.

Distance and convenience
Distance from work, school and other daily activities are one of the most important considerations because the impact commutes have on day-to-day quality of life. If you commute by car, what is the traffic like at peak hours? If you take public transit, how accessible is it? How far away are shopping malls, parks and leisure centres? City councils have this kind information publicly available online.

Economics
Price is always a factor.  When looking for a new place, make a list of neighbourhoods by price range. Sometimes this means considering different property types—a townhouse in one neighbourhood might be a better fit than a single detached home in another. One way of judging this is by looking at the real facts and MSL sold prices.

Family-friendly
What schools are nearby? What are the neighbourhood demographics like—are there other young families around? Community social statistics and national Statistics Canada reports can give you a taste of what to expect. Looking at where schools, playgrounds and green spaces are located is also important.

Crime
Safety is paramount. Higher levels of home-ownership in an area typically lead to more investment in the community so that is a factor to look at. But also, dig up municipal police reports, available online, to find out what kind of crimes are occurring, how frequently and in which areas.

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Summer barbeque season and outdoor patio gatherings are upon us. Whether you have an expansive garden, a cute nook patio or an overhanging balcony, there are always ways to make the most out of what you have.

 

Hidden storage

There is no getting around it — you need space to keep items you are not using but, in limited areas, that can be tricky. One of the best ways around storage issues is to have hidden places to keep things that are out of the way but easily accessible. One of the most common ways is to have a bench that can lift up to reveal storage underneath for blankets, cushions and whatever else you need to hide away.

 

Double-duty furniture

Always keep in mind, when you are buying furniture, the versatility factor — one item that can be used twice saves space in the long run! A low table with strong legs can hold your drinks when it’s just you or double as a stool when guests are visiting. Sturdy cushions plush out your seats or can be arranged in a circle for extra seating.

 

Fake it till you make it

If you don’t have a garden, consider putting down fake grass to brighten up an otherwise bare ground. The grass may be greener on the other side but, when it’s on your side, it can make your space seem that much bigger.

 

Take your gardening to new heights

If you can’t expand out, then move up. Hanging plants, creeping vines along a wall and shelves of pots can give you all the benefits of a larger yard in a smaller space.

Multiple small spaces

If you have a larger area, make it more user-friendly by setting up multiple small spaces: one corner as a bar, another for gardening, a few chairs for taking in the sun. If your space is more limited, such as one small apartment balcony, consider using it for one specific designated space. Put down a huge cushion and use it as a hanging area for reading, attach a table top to your balcony railing and use it as a bar with a skyline view, the options are endless.

 

Simple and elegant

Be intentional in how you use your space and how you decorate. Clean lines and minimal colours will make it seem less cluttered and, therefore, bigger. Don’t give up on the essentials but use only what you really need.

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Security is important all year round but during the summer months especially, property crimes and break-and-entries tend to spike. Warmer weather means people are more likely to leave their windows open, their patios unlocked and their houses unattended. 

 

We talked to our city’s police department about why property crime increases and what people can do to keep their homes safe and secure during summer. This is what they told us:

 

Always lock up

It’s easy to pop out quickly for a walk around the block or a quick trip down the road to the shop, but always lock the door, windows and patios behind you no matter how soon you’ll be back. A third of burglars enter a home through an unlocked door. Even if you are out in the back gardening, lock you front door — you’d be surprised at how quickly and quietly a thief can slip in.

 

Out of sight, out of mind

Most property crimes are opportunistic – the thief sees a chance to steal something and takes it. If it’s hidden away, there is less temptation and opportunity. So if you buy a nice new item, wait till pick-up day to put its packaging outside in the recycling. You don’t want to advertise to thieves what valuables you have in your home. Don’t leave visible items in your car; thieves have been known to smash a car window to steal something as small as a gym bag or a pile of papers. 

 

Report suspicious activity

The police want citizens to call and report suspicious activity, even if doesn’t seem like a crime is being committed yet. If you see someone milling around and you have a bad feeling, report it. It’s not a waste of time or resources, the police officer we spoke to told us, and it might prevent a theft. 

 

Final check

Before you leave your home, do a quick walk around and final check. Put yourself in the mind-set of a thief – if you wanted to break and enter, how would you do it? That curtain fluttering in the breeze? Close the window. That ladder leaning against the wall? Put it away. Prevention is the best way to keep your property safe and thief-proof.

 

Log it

Keep a list of details about your most valuable items if worst-case scenario should happen. If something is stolen, you will have more chances of getting it back if you can provide details and a picture of the item. The majority of stolen goods the police recover are never returned to their rightful owner because they can’t be tracked down. With bicycles, for example, you can imprint a serial number on the frame and log it with the police; that way, if your bike is stolen and someone tries to sell it, you will be notified.

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Who hasn’t dreamt of working from home — no more alarm clocks beeping, lengthy commutes at rush hour or having to choose fancy office attire over pyjama pants, so the vision goes. It’s a life that many freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals choose.

 

But many of those who have traded corporate for coffee shops are now turning to a new environment: coworking spaces.

 

Sharing workspace and renting a desk in a flexible office has taken off in popularity in recent years because of the endless opportunities it offers to socialize, network, collaborate with other like-minded professionals and increase productivity.

 

According to studies, one of the biggest factors that determines productivity at the office is the workspace itself and a well-designed space can increase productivity by 20 per cent.

 

Whether renting by the hour, setting up a more permanent environment at home or tweaking the space at your office desk, here are the top three things to create a more efficient workspace:

  • Lighting: Choose a desk next to a window if you can for natural light or, if not, consider bringing natural light bulbs. Many of the coworking offices are now focused on light, airy spaces and décor.
  • Noise level: Everyone has a different tolerance to noise and, for some, too quiet is just as bad as too loud. Part of the appeal with coworking spaces is the chance to be around other people but, unlike your neighbourhood coffee shop, there are designated quiet zones and respect for fellow workers.
  • Refreshments: Almost all the coworking offices offer a fully equipped kitchen with amenities like blenders, toaster ovens and espresso machines. Some offer limitless coffee or beer on tap. Whatever fuels your brain should be easily accessible, wherever you choose to work.
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Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton.