Friday, June 24, 2011

39 Boswell Ave

I was walking near Avenue Road on my way to a gathering with friends when I took a short cut through Boswell Avenue.

It was there I saw the house below and fell in love. I even took a photo using my cellphone. (This is not the cellphone photo, I found this photo of the same house online.)

Sadly 39 Boswell Ave is not for sale... but I will keep my eyes open for it. As I continued I saw several similar houses in the region covered with ivy, but they pale in comparison to my first love.

No internet at the cottage? Pffff

There must be a lot of yuppies out there who think its really easy to get internet access at a cottage in the middle of nowhere.

Seriously, its in the middle of nowhere for a reason. No cellphones, no internet, there is a reason why people want these things.

A rustic off the grid cottage sounds wonderful to me. No electricity. An outhouse for your toilet. Campfires for cooking your meals... how can you possibly think of having internet in a place that doesn't even have electricity or running water?

But apparently there is some stupid *internet crazed* yuppies out there who are insisting that when they buy a cottage it has to have internet access. I think they're missing the whole point of cottages.

According to cottage experts (I didn't know there was such a thing) many buyers are now insisting on internet access... and presumably electricity and running water too. Oh, and does the the TV have cable access? We were thinking of watching movies the ENTIRE time we're at the cottage! We just love to spend a couple million on a new cottage, go off to the deep woods, and then watch movies we could have just watched at home...

“For many of us a cottage was a place our grandparents owned in a structure primarily made of wood that the family opened on May 24 weekend and closed Thanksgiving,” says Cameron Mitchell, a Collingwood-based mortgage specialist. “Families are today buying recreational properties that are for the most part utilized for all four seasons.”

According to him buyers today want all the bells and whistles, not just indoor plumbing and four season use (good luck getting in there when the roads are covered in snow and aren't plowed), but also cable and internet access. Some of the ultra luxury properties also feature pools, hot tubs, saunas, sunrooms, wine cellars, and theatre rooms – or even "safe rooms" in case of a home invasion.

“I wouldn’t want to be without hot water today, but for years I did. Times change and needs have changed over the years,” says Rick Crouch, former president of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. “There are a small percentage of people willing to rough it, but they are getting fewer in number.”

Median prices of cottages have risen about 4% from a year ago, although values are still off the 2007 peak in Ontario cottage country (prices dropped approx. 30% during the recession).

Analysts say prices are still down by as much as 20% in some areas. The Ontario market has 13 separate regions with waterfront property ranging from $180,000 to the multi-millions. The lower end of the market and mid-range properties have remained balanced, with sales and pricing about the same as 2010. But its the high end stuff where the prices keep going up wildly.

Sales over the $1 million mark have jumped by about 11% in 2011 over 2010 numbers according to ReMax Ontario Atlantic Canada.

These days its all about the luxury cottages. Freaking mansions built in Muskoka and filled with electronics.

Analysts say a recovering economy and an over buoyant Bay Street financial sector in Toronto has helped to boost luxury cottage sales in Ontario.

“Well-heeled buyers had a good year with good bonuses last year and it looks like they’re rewarding themselves,” says Crouch.

Conclusions: Rich people are addicted to the internet and they don't like to rough it. What a bunch of pansies.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

$144,456 for a 4 bedroom executive home in Windsor

CANADA - Home prices in Canada can be incredibly different depending on where you go...

The price of an average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Vancouver is $1.5 million.

In Windsor the average for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home is $144,456 currently.

It doesn't take a team of top notch Toronto accountants to tell you that is a huge price gap!

And worse, the price is dropping!

Last September I wrote a similar article to this one (see $68,007 for a four bedroom house?) which was talking about Detroit and other cheap/expensive places to live. At the time the average price in Windsor was $158,242.

So its dropped $14,000 in 10 months.

The issue is that Windsor has been hit hard by the recession in the USA. Bad if you are looking for a job, good if you are looking for a cheap place to retire to.

Vancouver meanwhile is the 3rd most expensive place in North America to buy a four-bedroom home, behind only California’s Newport Beach at $2.5 million and Pacific Palisades at $1.6 million.

And Vancouver is getting worse. In 2010 Vancouver saw an astounding 25.7% increase in home appreciation prices, according to figures released this Wednesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Some economists are saying Vancouver's housing market is in an unsustainable price bubble.

“Quite simply, no other city in the country is seeing anything remotely close to what’s unfolding in Vancouver,” said Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Doug Porter.

Back in Windsor however... Major unemployment from the crash in the auto industry, Windsor is now trying to promote itself as a retirement community.

“There is a huge difference when you look across North America to see what your money can buy for the same kind of property,” says Jim Gillespie, CEO of New Jersey based Coldwell Banker. “In this case it would make sense to sell that home in Vancouver if you’re thinking of retiring in Windsor.”

Heck, you could sell your "executive home" in Vancouver and buy a freaking dream estate in Windsor. That is how low the prices are!

For fun I decided to check a Windsor real estate website ( and the most expensive home is Windsor is the following:

Bedrooms : 7 Full Baths : 10 Half Baths : 2

The description for the home is:

And that is the most expensive home in Windsor, according to that website. Probably even has multiple sunrooms, a tennis court, a pool (it says pool in the description and I presume its a nice one) and other cool stuff. With 7 bedrooms you could rent out 6 of them to well-to-do playboys and make yourself a nice bachelor pad. Maybe even start a reality tv show...

In contrast I also checked the same website to see what the cheapest home is...

Bedrooms : 2 Full Baths : 1 Half Baths : 0

Honestly, you could probably offer them a flat $30,000 and they would take it.

Overall Canadian housing prices are going up, mostly due to our stable economy and constant influx of well educated immigrants who want to buy homes in Brampton, Richmond Hill, Oakville, etc.

Canadian existing home sales were up by 2.7% in May from year ago levels according to CREA. Average prices were also up by 8.6% to $376,817.

An average executive four bedroom home in Toronto is only $378,913, making it cheaper to buy a home in Toronto than in Guelph, Burlington, Ottawa or even Wasaga Beach.

A four bedroom home in Leaside (swanky Toronto neighbourhood) would cost $1.12 million and in Moore Park it would cost $1.7 million.

So lets say you were reasonably well paid, ie. you worked as IT staff for local companies in Toronto. Chances are likely you could afford a home in central Toronto.

I guess the point I am trying to make with this article is that if you're willing to live anywhere in Canada, you really have your choices when it comes to price.

Take Ottawa for example, which is pretty average as far as prices go. You could find a pretty decent home there. I found one for $168,000 via A two bedroom, 2 bath home with a balcony. Looks like it might need some of its windows repaired so I could probably contact an Ottawa windows company to fix it for me. But whatever. Any cheap place is probably going to need some fixing.

But once you have it, and poof its paid for, you don't have to worry about rent any more. You pay off the mortgage, raise some kids, eventually retire and presumably by the time you have retired the housing prices have skyrocketed. Or you live there until the day you die, content in the knowledge that its YOUR HOME.

And really money is worthless if you don't have a home.

Canadian top banker warns condo bubble will burst

CANADA - Its not very often that a top banker says the sky is falling, so when the Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney starts warning of a housing price bubble, particularly in big city condo markets, that is a signal that many Canadians should be worried about buying a condo in the near future... or else you might get burned on the price.

Once interest rates rise to normal levels (right now they're in recession/recovery mode) the higher interest rates could (and probably should) cause the condo bubble to burst. This will be good news if you want to buy a condo after the bubble bursts. Bad news if you're trying to sell and don't want it to burst right away.

In a speech in Vancouver, Mark Carney said the overheated housing market is in danger of taking of “expectations” overtaking the normal workings of supply and demand.

He says “the classic market emotions of greed and fear—greed among speculators and investors and fear among households that getting a foot on the property ladder is a now-or-never proposition.”

Mark Carney suggested that an expected cooling off of the economy may take some steam out of real estate, and that heavily indebted Canadian households are at risk of suffering financially when interest rates rise above today’s unusually low levels due to the recession. Thus when the economy recovers some people may end up losing their shirts when condo prices collapse.

Mark Carney notes that Canadians are now as deeply in debt (relative to their income) as consumers in the United States and Britain, which both suffered a financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009. Canada has yet to get hit by its share of the housing market meltdown, something which hasn't happened in Canada since the 1980s.

“The Bank estimates that the proportion of Canadian households that would be highly vulnerable to an adverse economic shock has risen to its highest level in nine years,” says Carney.

Mark Carney believes it was appropriate for the central bank to keep its influential overnight interest rate at historically low levels since early 2009 to spur business activity and speed economic recovery. But low interest rates “even if appropriate. . . .create their own risks.”

Canada “should not be lulled into a false sense of security by current low rates,” says Carney, who also says that Canadian “households will need to be prudent in their borrowing, recognizing that over the life of a mortgage, interest rates will often be much higher.”

The Bank of Canada governor has been warning for two years that many overexposed households will face a rude awakening when interest rates go up. In the latest decision on May 31, the bank maintained the rate at 1%.

See Also
Canadian debts piling up
Young Canadians racking up debt faster

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Solar Energy Question and Answer


Hello my name is Paul Melko. I just finished reading your infromation on solar energy. I have one question. I built a 1200 sqr ft. cottage in the Muskoka area 5 years ago. This cottage is well insulated and I leave the heat on when we are away from cottage. It is heated by electric baseboard heaters and I leave 3 of these thermastat controled heaters on at 15c setting. During the winter months we usually go up to our cottage approximately once per month. Can solar panels generate enough power to operate these heaters while we are away from cottage. We use a woodstove to heat the cottage when we are there. Any information you can send us will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Paul Melko

Hey Paul!

I think your best bet would be to install both solar and wind power units and a backup battery system / generator system. That way the solar/wind would do 99% to 100% of the work, but there would be a backup system in case there was ever days with very little sunlight or wind or very cold days when the heaters are on constantly.

You would need to calculate how much electricity is needed on average to run the heaters daily (this will vary on especially cold days) and then plan to buy enough solar/wind units to get approx. 120% of the amount needed. The extra 20% is to provide extra juice to the battery system.

Charles Moffat


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