Realtors say it's a banner year for those buying and selling million-dollar homes in Edmonton, with the city just two sales away from setting an all-time record.


"As long as those multimillion dollar sales continue to happen, it's going to help boost the average price up slightly," said Greg Steele, president of the Realtors Association of Edmonton. "We don't see that stopping any time soon."


Last year saw a record of 118 multimillion dollar residential sales in the city, up from just 89 in 2012. As of the end of this September, there had already been 116 multimillion dollar homes sold.


Not only are there more multimillion dollar deals happening than ever before, the sale prices themselves are ballooning. The highest priced home sold in 2012 went for just over $3.4 million dollars, down from $5.7 million the year before. This year, one listing has already sold for just under $6 million dollars.


Despite recent predictions threatening to burst Canada's housing bubble, the Realtors Association of Edmonton says the city's real estate market remains steady and strong, and they have the statistics to prove it.


"While bigger markets like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary have seen great movement, Edmonton has been incredibly stable for the last five years in a row," said Steele.


While residential sales of all property types is up 12 per cent over last year -- with residential properties selling an average five days faster than in 2013 -- inventory of residential properties is down 6 per cent.


"This is a very clear reflection of a healthy, stable and steady market," said Steele.


While Steele said this market climate is fairly balanced between buyers and sellers, competition is thick among those buying properties between $250,000 and $400,000. The average price of a single family home is over $435,000.


"As long as we have great employment, great incomes and a great real estate market, people will buy and sell, and we don't see that slowing down any time soon," Steele said.


But not everyone shares Steele's enthusiasm for the future of Edmonton's real estate market, with Hilliard MacBeth -- a local investment portfolio manager and author -- predicting as much as a 50 per cent correction in the national housing market.


"If everything keeps going, if the price of oil stays above $100 a barrel and the incomes stay high and there is never another recession, and if the builders don't build too many houses, maybe it can keep going forever," said MacBeth sarcastically. "But, in my mind, that's too many ifs."


MacBeth said his concerns arise in part from rising debt loads among younger generations who, should interest rates increase or another recession hit, would be unable to pay them back.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly dismissed claims that Canada is on the verge of a housing crisis last week, but Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has said he sees high home prices as a risk, but expects a soft correction.


Courtesy of The Edmonton Sun

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EDMONTON - Imagine the Edmonton Unconventional Centre — klieg lights and neon and a sexy storefront on Jasper Ave., a riverside bistro, four-seasons patio and skating rink by the North Saskatchewan; entrepreneurs hunkered down in comfortable, connected space; ambassadors helping tourists find their way from the electric vehicle charging station to the gym; with solar panels and run-of-river hydro turbines turning on the lights.


Those are just a few of the ways in which 150 thought-leaders re-imagined the Shaw Conference Centre on Monday in Hall D (the one with the great view). They came together for about 1,000 person-hours of constructive conversation, and Shaw VP Cliff Higuchi can’t wait to see the results.


“What we do with it is something I don’t really know yet. We’ll have to look at the ideas that come out, we’ll have to look at cost factors involved, we’ll have to look at our business model to see if those things align with our business model, with the way we get funded, with the way the building infrastructure is currently built.


“The heavy lifting is really the stuff that comes next.”


Shaw executives reached out through Incite, a local marketing company, to engage the public and envision the 31-year-old, city-owned facility as a more integrated, connected, relevant, functional, reflective and interesting place. Because it’s not just that oddly shaped building on the riverbank where you had grad dinner or saw Trooper for the fifth time.


“The Shaw Conference Centre is beyond just a building and bricks and mortar,” said Higuchi. “The Shaw Conference Centre is really an idea. It’s about transformations. It’s about being a portal to your city and your community. And as a portal, the building needs to help express the brand of the place it exists in. So what is authentic Edmonton? How do we connect people to that?”


Good questions, and there were plenty more put before working groups. How do we partner with Northlands? Bring more beauty into the space? Create concierge service? Re-integrate private enterprise? Make the conference centre world-class in technology?


At the end of the day, each participant was given 10 sticky dots to assign to the idea or ideas he or she found most worthy of development.


“You could blow them all on one,” said Margo Long, director of strategic services for Incite.


Ron Barauskas runs Fulcrum Advisory Services, a human resources consulting firm, and he thinks the conference centre should enter the entrepreneurial space, quite literally.


“Use this as a convenient place for entrepreneurs to meet, exchange ideas, cultivate their organizations, or help other organizations grow. The thought was (to have) something facilitated, reasonable meeting space, even for occupancy sake, not just a place to exchange business cards.”


It should be a place that’s easier to navigate, according to Stephen Richards, director, commercial group, for ATB Financial.


“I would like the building itself to be more user-friendly. Not high-tech, but to have somebody to help people, assist people, direct people, like an ambassador.”


He also thought a name-change incorporating Edmonton might be in order, to help establish an identity.

“Just to promote Edmonton. People don’t seem to know what the Shaw Conference Centre is.”


Courtesy of The Edmonton Journal

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The homeowner and the designer speak as one: "It's all about the island!"


Dean and Katherine Zimmer bought an eight-year-old, two-storey home in 1999 when they were expecting their first child. They thought it was perfect. She loved the formal living and dining rooms, and also the bedroom on the first floor. He liked the huge pie-shaped backyard. They both appreciated the nearby school and both felt at home in their new neighbourhood.


"But we found that what I thought I wanted wasn't functioning for us," Katherine admits. "We felt restricted by the formal living and dining rooms and, because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen -- I love to bake -- I was always facing the wall. I grew up in a house with an island, so my memories are of working at the island and not feeling closed in."


After briefly considering a move -- but rejecting the idea because they like everything about their location -- they phoned Janette of Janette McDonald Design in Regina. Their consultation revealed three main requirements: a kitchen island, increased storage and a more open main floor.


"They wanted a big space to live in -- everything was all closed up -- and Katherine really wanted an island," Janette explains. "So, after playing with various designs, I presented them with three options. They chose the third one, which included a giant island. This necessitated removal of the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and the half wall between the kitchen and family room. I also angled the corners of the little kitchen bay that wouldn't accommodate anything anyway. This allowed for the giant island."


A minor structural change to the main floor resulted in a major increase in storage space. A landing on the stairs to the second floor was originally divided from the living room by spindles and a railing, which continued to follow the remaining steps to the living room floor. Janette replaced the spindles and railing at the landing with an eight-foot-tall cabinet that matched those of the kitchen.


The large entry hall was also improved: Winter winds that formerly blasted the living room when the front door was opened were redirected by adding horizontal panels of framed frosted glass to the top of the half-wall between the front door and living room; and a tailored bank of doors that open onto family-friendly cabinets replaced the closet with its mirrored sliding doors.


The side-by-side doors from the street and the garage are still in place, but no longer do children's clothing and footwear pile up on the hall floor.


The "toys and stuff" on the family room floor, signs of the two boys, were eliminated by the construction of new cupboards on one side of a new, more efficient gas fireplace. On the other side of the fireplace is a matching cupboard for electronic components, while above is a new flat-screen television that can be manipulated for viewing ease.


All the cabinets, including those lining the inside wall of the kitchen and those supporting the island's massive granite slab, were built with maple stained a deep brown-red to match the colour of the dining suite the couple had custom-built.


The carpeted floors were replaced by maple with a cognac stain, which was also used as an accent colour on the kitchen crown mouldings, light rail and kicks under the counters. The remaining stretch of staircase overlooking the living room was given cognac-coloured spindles and a dark-stained maple railing.


All doors and windows were replaced and received much wider surrounds with a square, stepped crown. The walls and surrounds were painted the same colour because, says Jeannette, the architectural detail speaks for itself; no emphasis is needed.


Most of these walls and surrounds were painted with Benjamin Moore's Wheeling Neutral with accent walls in the family room and front entry Boxcar Red. Janice Paisley of Walls of Art, now located in Calgary, created the look of Venetian plaster on the walls of several rooms.


Considerations of shape and colour -- blue is Katherine's favourite, which Janette respected while also introducing new colours -- were responsible for the window treatments.


Janette explains: "Everything is square so the silk draperies continue the square simple lines and carry the colours of the walls and furniture. Just a flicker of blue is enough to allow the chesterfield to work, and the painting in the living room allows everything to work."


This painting, an alley scene by Regina's Wilf Perreault, was given even greater presence with a spotlight that allows his inimitable sky and reflecting water to seduce viewers into his alternate reality.


Katherine loves the main-floor renovation.


"We had seen photographs of Janette's work so we trusted her judgment. We gave her free rein, and she did things we never would have thought of, such as the two tones of wood on the cabinets, incorporating the colours into the customized area rugs and creating storage space everywhere. Dean is particularly excited about the storage space. ... And I love my kitchen. Absolutely. I spend most of my day here, and I wouldn't change a thing. It's become the hub of the house for both family and friends, and now the living and dining rooms feel as if they're part of the house, too.


"There are so many houses that look like ours in this area -- it's a cookie-cutter design really -- but now you walk in our door and you know it's very different from the others. It's unique."


© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.


Courtesy of The Edmonton Journal

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Categories:   Edmonton | Real Estate

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