Richard & Liz Bergeron

Calgary’s Real Estate Specialists

Richard's Cell: 403-819-2331 | Liz's Cell: 403-875-8470

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Selling your condo is one of the most important steps in your life.

Here are 29 essential tips you must know.

For most people, selling their property means cashing in their biggest asset.

In other words, it must be handled with great care if you hope to protect—and capitalize on—your investment. This guide was written with one goal in mind: to give you the tools you need to maximize your profits, maintain control, and reduce the stress that comes with the home-selling process.

Tip #1

Know why you’re selling.

The reason you look closely at why you want to sell is that your motivations play an important role in the process. They affect everything from setting a price to deciding how much time and money you’ll invest to getting your condo ready for selling. For example, what’s more important to you: the money you walk away with, or the length of time your property is on the market? If your goal is a quick sale, that can dictate one kind of approach. If you want to maximize your profit, the sales process will almost certainly take longer.

Tip #2

Once you know, keep it to yourself.

Your reasons will affect how you negotiate the sale of your condo, but they shouldn’t be given as ammunition to the person who wants to buy it. For example, a prospective buyer who knows you must move quickly has you at their mercy in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Your reasons are nobody’s business but your own.

Tip #3

Do your homework before setting a price.

Settling on an offering price shouldn’t be done lightly. Once you’ve set your price, you’ve told buyers the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. The trick for the seller is to get a selling price as close to the offering price as possible. If you start out by pricing too high, you might not be taken seriously by prospective buyers and their agents. A price too low can result in selling for much less than you had hoped for.

Setting your home’s sale price can be a fairly easy process. If you live in a subdivision comprised of homes with similar or identical floor plans, built in the same time period, then all you have to do is look at recent sales in the neighborhood to give you a good ballpark figure. But many people live in older neighborhoods that have changed quite a bit over the years. Every home in your neighborhood may be different in minor or substantial ways—the house next door may have added another bedroom, for example, or the one across the street might have been built recently to fill a vacant lot. As a neighborhood evolves over the years, you may find that there aren’t any homes that are truly comparable to your own.

If you decide to sell your home on your own, the most common way to set a value is to look at homes that have sold in your neighborhood within the past six to 12 months, as well as those now on the market. That’s certainly how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. You can usually learn what homes have sold for in your neighborhood by making a quick trip to City Hall; home sale information is in the public records in most communities (but not all).

If this sounds like a lot of work, you may decide to hire a Realtor.® Your Realtor® will do all the market research and provide you with comps showing where your home should be priced to best meet your goals—a fast sell, maximum profit, etc.

Tip #4

Go home shopping yourself.

The best way to get to know your competition, identify features that are popular and learn what turns buyers off is to check out other open houses. Plan on spending a few weekends touring other homes on the market to learn what other sellers are asking. Be sure to make note of the floor plan, condition, appearance, size of lot, location and other features.

If you visit enough homes and pay close attention to the details (and what other “buyers” are saying), you’ll develop a good understanding of how different features affect pricing. And then you can apply what you’ve learned to the task of setting your price. But don’t forget to include in the equation what homes are actually selling for, not just simply what people are asking. And remember, if you’re serious about getting your home sold quickly, don’t be more expensive than your neighbor.

Tip #5

Know when to get an appraisal.

Sometimes you can use a good appraisal to your benefit in marketing your home. You can use it to let prospective buyers know that your home can be financed. However, an appraisal costs money. It also has a limited life. And you may not like the figure you hear.

Tip #6

Your tax assessment means almost nothing.

Some people look to tax assessments to assign a value. The problem here is that assessments are based on a number of criteria unrelated to property values, so they often don’t necessarily reflect the true value of your home. Have you ever heard of two identical homes in the same neighborhood with dramatically different assessed values because one was purchased more recently than the other? Well, it happens quite often.

Tip #7

Find a good Realtor®

Nearly two-thirds of the people who sell their own home say they wouldn’t do it themselves again,

according to research by the National Association of Realtors®. Sellers surveyed point to difficulties in setting a price, marketing handicaps and liability concerns among the primary reasons they would turn to a Realtor® next time. And selling a home yourself usually eats up more time and effort than you might initially expect.

Once you understand how much work it will be to sell it yourself, talk to a Realtor® you trust even if you

decide to strike out on your own. Many top professionals are more than willing to help do-it yourself

sellers with the paperwork, contracts, etc. Plus you’ll have a relationship with an agent if problems do

arise that require professional help. If you decide to work with a Realtor,® contact four or five—you probably met a few that you liked during your open house tour. Explain to each that you’re thinking about putting your home on the market and you’d like to meet to talk about pricing and marketing.

By having this group “evaluation” done, you should end up with a fairly tight price range to help guide your decision. Any Realtor® who is substantially higher or lower than the group should be able to justify their estimate. Just as you should be concerned with too low of a price, beware of an agent who gives you the highest price—they may be trying to buy your listing.

 A good Realtor® knows the market and your neighborhood in particular. They will supply you with information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, something on their own background, and references from past clients. Take the time to carefully evaluate candidates on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm, and personality. Most importantly, make sure you choose someone who is going to put in a lot of hard work on your behalf.

Tip #8

Give yourself room to negotiate.

Make sure you leave yourself enough room in which to bargain. If what you ask for is unacceptable to the buyer, and their first offer is unacceptable to you, then you better make sure you have someplace to go that is acceptable to you.

Start with the absolute minimum price you would accept, then pick the price you’d get if the world were perfect. This gives you your range to keep in mind when working with your Realtor® to negotiate the sale. In setting your asking price, review your priorities. Do you want to maximize your profit or sell quickly? You’ll price high for the former and closer to market value if the latter is the case.

Tip #9

Maximize your condo's sales potential.

Each year, corporate North America spends billions of dollars on product and packaging design. The lesson here is that appearance is critical—and it would be foolish to ignore this when selling your home. You may not be able to change your home’s location or its floor plan, but you can do a lot to improve its appearance. And you should. The look and “feel” of your home generates a greater emotional response than any other factor. You may price your home to sell, but a prospective buyer reacts to what they see, hear, feel and smell.

Tip #10

Rely on other people’s judgment as well as your own.

The key to effective marketing is knowing your product’s good and bad points. In the case of your home, accentuating the good can mean a faster sale for more money; failing to deal with the bad can mean months on the market and a lower-than-desired sales price. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgment. Remember this is your home, a place of fond memories. There are bound to be emotional issues that can impair your ability to make an honest assessment of your home’s strengths and weaknesses.

In evaluating what improvements you can make, don’t be shy about asking others for their opinions. But make sure you’re getting an honest answer; some may try to spare your feelings, just what you don’t need. Fortunately, your Realtor® won’t be shy in discussing what should be done to make a home more marketable.

Tip #11

Clean like you’ve never cleaned before.

Pick up, straighten, unclutter, scrub, scour, dust...well, you get the idea. If your living room feels crowded, take out every piece of furniture you can get away with. If your home still isn’t ready to appear in House Beautiful, then clean some more. Remember, you’re not just competing with other people’s homes—you’re going up against brand-new homes as well.

 Tip #12

Fix everything no matter how insignificant it may appear.

The step that squeaks, the light switch that doesn’t work, the hairline crack in the bathroom mirror—they might be minor annoyances to you, but they can also be deal killers. The problem is that you never know what will turn a buyer off. And even something minor that’s gone unattended can suggest that perhaps there are bigger, less visible problems present as well.

Tip #13

Remove all traces of you from your home.

When you toured other people’s homes, you may have felt some discomfort. This probably occurred because you saw, heard or otherwise sensed something that made you feel as if you were intruding into someone’s life. The last thing you want others to feel in visiting your home is that same sense of discomfort. Avoid this by making your home as neutral as possible. Anything that interferes with a prospective buyers’ ability to see themselves living in your home must be eliminated.

A few carefully chosen knickknacks and family portraits may add warmth and character to the home, too many are a distraction. Avoid unique or trendy color schemes—paint and carpet in neutral shades of white or beige.

Tip #14

The little touches can make a difference.

While personal items can detract, other small touches can help make your house a home to buyers. A well placed vase of flowers, accent pieces of sculpture, potpourri in the bathroom—all can enhance the attractiveness of your home in a subtle, soft-spoken way. Try perusing any of the home magazines for tips.

Tip #15

Don’t let a smell be your downfall.

Odd smells kill deals quickly. All traces of food, pet and smoking odors must be eliminated. Even when

you’re sure they’re gone, don’t encourage prospective buyers to imagine things. If they know that you’re a smoker or that you have a dog, they’ll start smelling odors and seeing stains that may not even exist. Be safe—don’t leave any clues.

Tip #16

Disclose everything.

Smart sellers proactively go above and beyond the laws to disclose all known defects to their buyers—in writing. If the buyer knows about a problem, he can’t come back with a lawsuit later on.

Tip #17

The more prospects, the better.

By maximizing your home’s marketability, you’ll increase your chances of attracting more than one prospective buyer. Why is this better? Because several buyers compete with each other; a single buyer ends up competing with you.

Tip #18

Don’t get emotional during negotiations.

The extent of most people’s experience in the art of negotiation begins and ends at their local auto dealership. And few of us have pleasant memories of haggling with car salesmen. But if you can just let go of the emotion you’ve invested in your home and approach negotiations in a detached, businesslike manner, you’ll find the process to be a lot less painful. In fact, you might even enjoy it—and you’ll definitely have an advantage over prospective buyers who get caught up in the emotion of the situation.

Tip #19

Know your buyer.

In the negotiation process, your objective is to control the pace and set the duration. And the better

you know your buyer, the more easily you can maintain control. As a rule, buyers want the best property they can afford for the least amount of money. But knowing specifically what motivates your buyer enables you to negotiate more effectively. Maybe your buyer needs to move quickly. Or the maximum amount he can spend is just a little below your asking price. Knowing this information puts you in a better bargaining position.

Tip #20

Find out what the buyer can pay

As soon as possible, try to find out the mortgage amount the buyer is qualified to carry and the size of his down payment. If he makes a low offer, question his Realtor® about his client’s ability to really pay what your home is worth.

Tip #21

Find out when the buyer would like to close.

When a buyer would “like” to close is often when they need to close. Knowing this gives you his deadline for completing negotiations—again, an advantage in negotiations.

Tip #22

Don’t sign a deal on your next home until you close the deal on this one.

If circumstances conspire to force you into closing on your new home while you’re still making mortgage payments on the old one, you might end up turning yourself into a seller who is eager (or desperate) for the first deal that comes along.

 Tip #23

Don’t move out before you sell.

Studies have shown that it is more difficult to sell a home that is vacant—it looks forelorn, forgotten, simply not appealing. It could even cost you thousands. If you move, you’re also telling buyers that you have a new home and are probably motivated to sell.

 Tip #24

Don’t give yourself a deadline.

Forcing yourself to sell by a certain date adds unnecessary pressure and puts you at a serious disadvantage in negotiations.

Tip #25

Don’t take a low offer personally.

The first offer is invariably well below what you both know the buyer will end up paying for your property. Don’t get angry or feel insulted; evaluate the offer objectively. Make sure it spells out the offering price, adequate earnest money, amount of down payment, mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. Now you have a point from which you can negotiate.

Tip #26

A really low offer may mean the buyer is not qualified.

If you feel an offer is inadequate, now would be a good time to make sure the buyer has been qualified to carry a mortgage of the size this deal would require (if you haven’t learned this already). Ask how they arrived at their figure, then suggest their agent use comparables to establish what homes are going for in your neighborhood.

Tip #27

Don’t take a lowball offer seriously.

An unacceptably low offer should not be taken personally or seriously. Rather, it should be countered, even with the slightest of reductions in your asking price. This lets a buyer know that their first offer isn’t seen as a very serious one.

 Tip #28

Make sure the contract is complete.

The best way to avoid problems is to make sure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. A contract should include the date it was made, the names of the parties involved in the transaction, the address of the property being sold, the purchase price, where deposit monies will be held, the date for loan approval, the date and place of closing, type of deed, any contingencies that remain to be settled, and whether there’s any personal property included (or not) in the sale, among other things.

Tip #29

Don’t deviate from the contract.

Resist the temptation to diverge from the contract. For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it’s to be expected when you’re selling anything of such great value. And you’ll thank yourself for all the expense and hard work when the outcome works to your satisfaction.

Please feel free to email me at info@richardbergeron.com if you would like a further explanation on any of these topics, or if you have any real estate questions at all. I simply see my mission as striving to be as helpful as I possibly can to Calgary condo owners. I hope this special report on selling your condo provided you with the information you need.

www.richardbergeron.com

Selling Your Condo for Top Dollar (And Fast) - Special Report

www.condosforsalecalgary.ca

Selling selling selling selling

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Transitioning from renter to condo owner is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make throughout your lifetime. It can also be a stressful experience if you don’t plan ahead by building a budget and saving prior to embarking upon ownership.

Budgeting is a core ingredient that helps alleviate the stress associated with money issues that can sometimes arise if you purchase a home or condo without knowing all of the associated costs – including down payment, closing expenses, ongoing maintenance, taxes, condo fees and utilities.

The trouble is, many first-time condo owners fail to carefully think about their finances, plan a budget or set savings aside. And in this society of instant gratification, money problems can quickly escalate.

The key is to create a realistic budget based on your goals. Track your spending and make your dollars go further by sticking to your budget once it’s in place. Budgeting offers a step-by-step formula for figuring out how to best save your hard-earned money to invest in home ownership.

Start by listing your household income, then your household expenses, and review your spending habits. All of this can be done on a pad of paper or on a computer spreadsheet.

Keeping receipts for everything that you purchase will enable you to accurately keep track of where your money is going each month so that you can review and make necessary changes to your plan on an ongoing basis.

Examine all areas of your life from entertainment to the type of food you buy, where you buy your food and clothes, and how and where you travel. Also look at your spending personality and make necessary adjustments. Are you a saver, a splurger, a spontaneous shopper or a hoarder? Become smarter with your money and avoid impulse buying.

If you find you’re spending a lot of money in one area, such as entertainment for instance, set aside a reasonable amount each month and prepare to stop spending money in this area once your budget has been exhausted.

Budgeting provides you with the opportunity to re-evaluate your needs and wants. Do you really need the magazine subscriptions, the gym membership and all the other things you may spend money on each month? Although everyone needs some “me time” to wind down, could you not get that by taking a walk or reading a good book you borrowed from the library?

If you can set your budget solidly in place before you head out home, condo or mortgage shopping, you will be far more prepared to purchase your first property.

Following are three top tips to help you prepare for the purchase of your first condo or home:

  1. Set up a savings account. You can deposit a predetermined amount into this account each pay period that you will not touch unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will enable you to put money aside for a down payment and cover closing costs, as well as address ongoing homeownership expenses such as maintenance, taxes and utilities.
  2. Save up for big-ticket items. As you accumulate money in your savings account, you will be able to also save for specific purchases to help furnish your home – avoiding the buy now, pay later mentality, which can have a negative impact on your credit when you’re seeking mortgage financing.
  3. Surround yourself with a team of professionals. When you’re getting ready to make your first condo or home purchase, enlist the services of a licensed mortgage professional like Liz Bergeron and a real estate agent like Richard Bergeron www.richardbergeron.com These experts are invaluable to you as you set out on the road to homeownership because they help first-time buyers through the home purchase and financing processes every day. They will be able to answer all of your questions and set your mind at ease. A mortgage professional has access to multiple lenders, and can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know exactly what you can afford to spend on a home before you head out house hunting, while a real estate agent will be able to match your needs with a house you can afford. Both parties will negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. And, best of all, these services are typically free. They will also be able to refer you to other reputable professionals you may need for your home purchase, including a real estate lawyer and home appraiser.
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Get ready, Calgary, for “big city” floor plans! And I don’t mean “spacious” floor plans. The downtown condominium market is seeing a huge supply and demand for 1 bedroom floor plans under 650 square feet that used to be unheard of in Calgary. New developments like Tarjan Pointe, Chocolate, Union Square and Midtown have a high percentage of their suites under the 650 square foot mark. In most cases, these are the suites that are selling out the fastest!

In comparison to larger units in a new development, the smaller units will be the most attractive to some buyers based solely on price point. Both first time buyers and investors alike will look for the lowest price point. But don’t be surprised by the prices. These cozy 1-bedroom suites are not cheap! Prices can range from $130,000 to over $230,000, depending on the level of finishing. That’s over $330 per square foot! And we are seeing more buyers willing to pay for high end finishing even in these smaller units. Most newly constructed single family homes in Calgary fall well under that figure.

So what is driving this new trend of smaller, more expensive units? There are several factors to take into consideration. The first is land value. There are fewer empty lots to be bought in the inner city core. So that means prices for land close to downtown has moved up. Add increased construction costs and the profit a developer is going to make on a building is decreased. A good way for them to keep their profits up and supply the markets thirst for quality is to design creative, well appointed smaller sized floor plans and charge more per square foot for them.

Another reason is the huge influx of skilled and educated young people in Calgary. Calgary has the highest percentage of people with post secondary education in Canada. With interest rates low, many of these people appreciate the benefits of owning property rather than renting. Even though they may be fresh out of school, they are looking to buy. The lower priced condos match what their budgets can afford. And the location is close to where they are working. Plus, with occupancy up to 18 months away, they have more time to save the down payment needed at closing. This down payment also acts as an investment with future increases in equity in the property. Owning is affordable and you’re making money. Seems like a match made in heaven!

Although some people may speculate that these smaller, more expensive condos won’t fly here in Calgary, they certainly seem to be filling a necessary niche of the inner city market.

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Plastered all over the news these days are stats regarding the Calgary residential real estate market. It’s hot, it’s quick and home owners are realizing substantial appreciations in their property values. You, as a condo owner, may be thinking now is a good time to take advantage of this situation. There are several areas you need to be aware of and prepare for in terms of marketing your condo to prospective buyers compared to an owner of a single family home.

Most condo buyers and sellers are aware that certain condominium documents are required when a condo is sold. What most people don’t realize is that the items to be included in this package, and the right of a buyer to receive them, is mandated by Alberta Law. If you are selling your condo, what do you need to provide to the buyer, how do you obtain them and what is the cost?

Most condominium buildings hire a management company to look after the day to day running of the condo corporation, under the direction of the board of directors. This management company is also responsible to maintain all the documents pertaining to the corporation. The management company, must, upon written request from an owner, provide the following documents:

  • Bylaws of the corporation
  • Financial statements
  • Monthly balance sheet
  • Budget and fee schedule
  • Reserve fund study and plan
  • Amount in the reserve fund
  • Details of any special assessments or judgements against the corporation
  • AGM minutes and last 12 months of board minutes
  • Percentage of owner occupied units
  • Insurance certificate
  • Management agreement

Be aware, the management company will not provide these items for free! The cost for an entire package can range in price from $100 – $700! This cost is the owners responsibility and these documents must be provide to any buyer. Keep in mind, an informed buyer will most likely make an offer subject to the receipt and approval of these documents. It is always easier to have these documents ready to go for a buyer once an offer is accepted.

There is also valuable information for you, the seller, in these documents. The bylaws will dictate if you can market your property by way of a for sale sign. Many condominiums will not allow signs of any kind. So how are you going to let people know your property is for sale? Will a Realtor be able to place a lock box on the property to gain access to your property for showings? Information regarding issues like these can be found in the bylaws, or by checking with the management company. If your ability to market the property yourself is limited by the bylaws, you may want to employ the services of a Realtor who has a comprehensive marketing plan that deals specifically with condominiums.

Another major issue buyers are looking for pertains to special assessments. Are there any coming, are any payments outstanding or has a special assessment been amortized over a period of time, in essence increasing the monthly condo fee? Special assessments can have a major impact on the marketability and market value of your property. Don’t let there be any surprises waiting for you!

In order to capitalize on your equity and investment and to avoid any pitfalls, an experienced condominium Realtor will be able to guide and assist you in achieving a successful sale of your condominium.

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When condominiums are purchased “new” from a developer, the square footage of each unit is derived from architectural measurements are the standard by which every builder works from. They are the building’s blueprint, complete with mechanical locations and dimensions, from which the building is constructed.

Purchasing a new condominium is very similar to purchasing a new single-family house. When talking about square footage, defining the space you’ll own from your neighbor’s space they’ll own once the building is completed is the difference. Here’s an example to illustrate. When you purchase a new 2,000 square foot home, you never subtract the area made by the 2 x 6 exterior walls even though these walls are built in from the foundations outside edge, nor would you subtract the area within which your mechanicals are run, effectively reducing your total useable space. When talking about the size of your home, you say you have a 2,000 square foot home, not what’s left after the exterior walls and mechanicals are subtracted from the size of your finished home.

To derive the final, legal square footage of condominiums, (that size which appears on the registered condominium plan), the unit is measured in the later stages of construction. This is due to the rules of condominium ownership. You own your unit’s space, exclusive of the common space that now exists between units, within exterior walls and mechanicals. You own a representative share of the common space, not the space itself. It is in this common space where the buildings mechanicals, plumbing, soundproofing and support structures are located and these are jointly owned by all unit owners.

When a new building is constructed, many units are built together, at the same time, not separately as with a house. Therefore, construction considerations are compounded. For instance, if the developer decides to add or upgrade a new air circulation system to enhance marketability, this could affect where the air ducts need to be located to optimize airflow/cooling or where some of the other mechanicals are located. Plumbing and other mechanical locations may need to be amended for proper installation. These and other factors, including deducting the exterior unit walls, all affect the final legal floor area of each unit.

When you insure your condominium, the insurance is for your contents that you own, not for any of the common property or the unit itself. The condominium corporation maintains a separate insurance policy for the building including units and common property. With condominium ownership you own a percentage of the total common property. Each owner is responsible for his or her share of the cost of maintaining the common property. This is paid through condo fees.

It is important to remember that the unit factor that was provided by the builder prior to the final registering of the condo plan remains the same once the plan is registered at land titles. Therefore your percentage of total ownership in the common property does not change. This places all condominium owners on the same level playing field when they go to resell their units just as when they originally purchased new.

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The face of the real estate market place in Calgary is once again changing. Just when it seems there couldn’t be any more real estate rules to be broken, a new twist has been thrown into the mix. Auctioned real estate has come to Calgary!

You may have read that a home in NE Calgary sold recently through an auctioning process. In other parts of the world auctioned real estate is common due to the lack of a successful MLS system. In the past auctioning real estate in Alberta has been mostly limited to estate sales. An auctioning mentality is not new to Calgarians.

Many resale properties marketed through the MLS system are currently being sold under a multiple offer situation, where all the buyers know that all competing offers will be presented to the seller at the same time. This heightens the excitement around the offer process and buyers get caught up in the energy of the unknown. What will it take in terms of price to “win” this property? In order for their “bid” to win out, buyers need to know the maximum they will pay for a property to win out in the bidding process. This process is very similar to that experienced at an auction.

As the supply of resale residential property in Calgary continues to remain low, buyers will continue to compete for new inventory. So the benefits to the seller in the auctioning format may initially appear obvious: they are guaranteed the best price for their property.

Is this really the case? The seller is vulnerable by only exposing their property to a fewer number of prospective buyers than if the property was marketed on the proven MLS system. Especially today Calgary is experiencing a real estate frenzy where by there are 1,000’s of prospective buyers working diligently with real estate professionals through the highly acclaimed MLS system. By not taking advantage of the proven MLS system using an experienced and reputable real estate professional the selling price may in actual fact be limited.

What is outrageous is the seller without realizing it may be leaving money on the table! Another drawback for the seller is the lack of information regarding the perspective buyer who places the highest bid. Using an auctioning process anyone can bid on the property. For Sale By Owner in this situation does not have the backup of a real estate professional representing the buyer to make sure that the deal closes without incident.. A buyer working with a Realtor is more likely to have been guided through the qualifying and pre-approval process for purchasing a property, thereby minimizing the possibility of a sale collapsing through due to the buyer not qualifying for a mortgage.

It appears Calgary will be seeing more auctioning of real estate before long. People love to try new things! But keep in mind, a new format doesn’t automatically mean more money for your property. Auctioning your valuable property may in fact mean less!

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Condominium living is all about the Lifestyle! You hear it all the time, but what does it mean? With the rising cost of everything these days, for a lot of people the “lifestyle” for them is all about affordability. The inner city of Calgary offers a diverse array of amenities that appeal to all demographics of people all looking for ways to maximize their lifestyle.

How does condominium ownership fulfill the affordability need? The most obvious is the initial purchase price of a condominium verses a single-family home. In Calgary for the first quarter of 2005 the average price for a condominium was only 65% of the cost of a single family home ($276,776 for single family homes verses $180,984 for condominiums). But don’t let the average condo price scare you as there are many condo’s on the market that you can own for less than renting, as the mortgage payment is less than a rental payment! Combine lower condo prices with low interest rates and it is very affordable to own a condo in Calgary’s vibrant market place today. You can also look at a longer mortgage term to ensure your monthly budget will be protected longer when rates go up (which the experts are saying they eventually will). Also make sure that when you are looking at the perfect affordable condo that you take into consideration the monthly condo fee for the unit, otherwise your monthly budget could be thrown out!

Another benefit to owning an affordable condo is if the building you buy in has fitness and recreation facilities. You may even cancel that gym membership if you live in one of the numerous condominiums that offer exercise and workout facilities, whirlpool sauna, a pool or even a running track. These benefits are included in your condo fee, so why pay for an extra gym membership? You can save that monthly gym membership expense and keep your overhead low while staying in shape!

For many inner city condominium owners a huge perk on the affordability front is the ability to live and still enjoy life without needing to use a car (yes, it is possible!). Many inner city residents live within easy walking distance of work, friends, recreation facilities, the grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants and outdoor leisure space. You, too, could say goodbye to your monthly car payment, insurance, gas and regular maintenance, plus the cost of a parking stall downtown for work! Depending on what kind of car or SUV you drive, this can amount to as much as rent! The inner city is a diverse and eclectic area waiting to be explored on foot, bike or even roller blades!

Another consideration to look at when buying an affordable condominium is to look at a unit with an extra bedroom over and above your own needs. For a marginally small increase in the purchase price, you can look at subsidizing your monthly overhead by taking on a room mate. Why not have someone else help pay that mortgage payment, or pay off your mortgage faster than you expected? Plus, when it comes time to sell, your extra bedroom condo may have appreciated more, giving you additional buying power for your next home.

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You’ve been renting apartments since the day you left home and you have managed to save a bit of money over the past few years. After listening to all the hype around low interest rates, “don’t pay your landlord, pay yourself”, and what a great investment real estate is, you are ready to look at buying your first place. Congratulations!

But before you know it, all the soothsayers start in: you won’t have enough down payment, what about all the costs of owning property, the hassle of getting things fixed when they break and so on. Pretty soon you don’t know if this is such a good idea. But don’t worry; maybe all you need to be looking at are condominiums.

The best place to start is with a mortgage broker, to determine how much down payment you need based on what you can afford for monthly payments. Not all mortgages are the same these days. Variable interest rates, locked in terms and balloon payments are just a few of the mortgage details you want to go over with your mortgage broker prior to buying a property. And keep in mind that some mortgages even allow you to buy a property with no down payment at all! So shop around, and find the best fit for your needs.

Once you know what you can afford to buy, find a real estate agent who will help you find what you want to buy. Condominiums are a very specialized segment of the real estate market; so find someone who knows this niche inside and out. What are the agent?s credentials, designations and experience in the area? Don?t be afraid to ask questions. Conversions, new construction, bare land condominiums and reserve fund studies are but a few of the considerations you as a new condo owner will be faced with. Your real estate agent can help educate and inform you.

But more than the initial buying details, your agent will also be able to match up your unique lifestyle requirements with the right condominium building. Do you want exercise facilities, pool, green space, big windows, extra storage, underground parking, and car wash, close proximity to amenities and transportation, concierge service? An informed agent can guide you through these and other items that will make your condo living experience all that you want it to be.

And what about all those hidden costs of owning property? Fixing fences, roofs, exterior painting, cleaning the parkade? With condominium ownership your monthly condo fee will cover most of these types of expenses. So you don’t have to worry about co-coordinating people to get the work done and take time off work to meet them. Of course, this will free up more of your time to check out the new martini bar or coffee house that opened up down the street!

Richard Bergeron is a licensed real estate agent with RE/MAX Professionals. He has been specializing in condominiums for more than 20 years, is a member of the Canadian Condominium Institute, teaches condominium courses, is the board president (4 years running) of a condominium building in Killarney and owns several investment condos. If you would like any additional information regarding your condominium real estate needs please feel free to contact Richard at 403-259-4141.

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Over the past several weeks I have visited many of the new condominium towers that are currently being marketed in the Calgary area. Calgary is seeing a boom in high rise condominiums that will be constructed in the next 3 -5 years. As many as 2500 new condo units are slated to be constructed in the inner city alone. Many of these new towers are already boasting, even before construction has started, a record number of pre-sales.

For a condominium buyer, selection of new product has never been better! Most upcoming buildings offer prospective buyers several show suites to view, showcasing extremely attractive features and amenities. A new condo can also offer a wide range of customized options that can be upgraded to complement each buyer’s individual style and taste.

After choosing your new condo don’t let the excitement wear off as you will need to be prepared to wait. If building construction hasn’t started yet, it may be up to 36 months until you take possession of your dream condo. As the pre-sales attest to, people are more than willing to endure the delay. Also, on a positive note in most cases waiting up to 36 months to take possession may allow for your property to increase in value.

Another reason for buyer’s patience is the current state of the resale condo market. With Calgary’s economic prosperity, more and more people are moving here and not many are leaving. This has put pressure on the resale market. Not many listings are coming on the market and when they do, they don’t last long! It is not unusual to have multiple offers on properties these days.

Buying at today’s prices, buyers are looking to see their units appreciate in price even before they take possession. The way housing prices in Calgary have performed over the past 3 years, this is a fairly safe assumption! Keeping in mind investors are thinking the same way and many of the pre-sales in these new towers are investor purchases.

When it comes time to move in, you may want to have the majority of your neighbours owning their units, rather than renting them. Ask informed questions of the sales people at the time you purchase to avoid surprises once you move in. A professional real estate agent can go a long way to ensure your condo investment is sound on many fronts.

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I was speaking with a friend the other day over coffee when she announced she was going to have to sell her inner city condo and move to a house. She said with her 3 year old son, there just weren’t enough activities around.

This got me thinking about the common lament of kids: “There’s nothing to do!” This is not so about Calgary’s downtown and inner city areas. Calgary’s core offers a multitude of activities, parks and destinations for the younger set, even in the cold winter months.

Devonian Gardens – in the heart of Calgary is an oasis! A 2.5 acre climate controlled garden located on the 4th floor of an office building and shopping center, with reflecting pools, koi fish to feed, water falls, and an indoor playground for the kids to burn off some extra energy. Located directly on the LRT line, nothing beats this spot when it’s 20 below outside!

W.R. Castell Central Library – also located directly on the LRT line is the central library. On the second floor is the children’s section, loaded with books for all ages, videos, CD’s and computer terminals, too. Once you are finished, you can get a snack at the Good Earth located at the main entrance.

Triangle Gallery – while in the area, why not give junior a dose of art appreciation at the Triangle Gallery, located in the city hall building.

Calgary Science Centre – located at the opposite end of downtown is the Telus World of Science. Kid’s of all ages can spend the whole day here. Wow town for the 3-5 year olds, discovery hall (3 levels) for the older kids, big screen movies and an outdoor playground are but a few of the great activities this wonderful facility has to offer.

Eau Claire Market/Prince’s Island Park – in both the summer and winter this area along the banks for the Bow River is great for kids and families. The indoor market has a great selection of shops and services, roving entertainers in the summer and probably the best kids water park in the city in the summer! Prince’s Island Park offers lots of green space, walking paths and a huge playground designed for kids of all ages. Located along the Calgary River Pathway system, you could spend all day biking / walking / roller-blading.

YMCA – Also in the Eau Claire area, the YMCA is a premier sport and recreation facility for the whole family. Their programs for kids and adults alike are second to none and cover all age groups.

Calgary Zoo – just on the outskirts of downtown and a short LRT ride, is the Calgary Zoo. Spend a day with the animals!

Riley Park – A short walk across the river and up 10th Street is another great summer spot with a great playground, tons of green space and a wading pool/water park. Don’t miss this on a hot summer day.

With so much to offer her family, I wondered why my friend was considering leaving the downtown area. Whether you have kids or not, why not check out some of these ideas for yourself!

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Over the past several weeks I have visited many of the new condominium towers that are currently being marketed in the Calgary area. Calgary is seeing a boom in high rise condominiums that will be constructed in the next 3 -5 years. As many as 2500 new condo units are slated to be constructed in the inner city alone. Many of these new towers are already boasting, even before construction has started, a record number of pre-sales.

For a condominium buyer, selection of new product has never been better! Most upcoming buildings offer prospective buyers several show suites to view, showcasing extremely attractive features and amenities. A new condo can also offer a wide range of customized options that can be upgraded to complement each buyer’s individual style and taste.

After choosing your new condo don’t let the excitement wear off as you will need to be prepared to wait. If building construction hasn’t started yet, it may be up to 36 months until you take possession of your dream condo. As the pre-sales attest to, people are more than willing to endure the delay. Also, on a positive note in most cases waiting up to 36 months to take possession may allow for your property to increase in value.

Another reason for buyer’s patience is the current state of the resale condo market. With Calgary’s economic prosperity, more and more people are moving here and not many are leaving. This has put pressure on the resale market. Not many listings are coming on the market and when they do, they don’t last long! It is not unusual to have multiple offers on properties these days.

Buying at today’s prices, buyers are looking to see their units appreciate in price even before they take possession. The way housing prices in Calgary have performed over the past 3 years, this is a fairly safe assumption! Keeping in mind investors are thinking the same way and many of the pre-sales in these new towers are investor purchases.

When it comes time to move in, you may want to have the majority of your neighbours owning their units, rather than renting them. Ask informed questions of the sales people at the time you purchase to avoid surprises once you move in. A professional real estate agent can go a long way to ensure your condo investment is sound on many fronts.

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Ask any investment advisor and they will tell you real estate is an important part of anyone’s investment portfolio. As someone once said, “Buy land, they aren’t making any more of it!” Over the long run just about every piece of real estate increases in value. But in addition to buying and holding real estate for future gains, the savvy investor knows there is money to be made in the short term with renovating dated or “tired” condos and selling them for a profit.

Renovating a condominium with quality finishing can net you a reasonable return once you sell it, as the very nature of condominium living revolves around convenience, lifestyle and attention to detail. These buyers want to enjoy life and relax in luxurious surroundings and are willing to pay for not having to do the work themselves!

The success of any renovation boils down to the quality of the finishing. With quality I mean the overall look and feel of the whole package. The overall effect needs to flow, co-ordinate, look and feel that each part compliments the whole. This does not have to mean that every item is the most expensive money can buy! But the finished package needs to have that “Wow” factor. One of the best ways to accomplish this is with the services of a skilled designer.

Many of my higher end clients ask for names of qualified designers long before they start a renovation project. If the package is done right, the client will see the financial results. From picking paint colours to choosing materials and recommending trades, the art of a skilful designer can greatly enhance what you thought possible for your investment.

When it comes to the actual work that needs to be done, if you are able to tackle some of the jobs yourself, go for it! Picking up supplies, minor painting, changing light fixtures and switch plates and even completing some of the demo work yourself can be ways of saving costs. If you have the skills to accomplish more complicated tasks, use them! If not, hire a professional the get the flawless effect. Always keep in mind who your target buyer will be.

Different price points of real estate require different levels of finishing. A $200,000 condominium can achieve the wow factor with laminate flooring, while a $500,000 condo may need solid wood floors to complete the package. You will have a cost difference of around 35%, but the end effect could add $20,000 to the final value of the condo and speed up the selling process. Lighting and plumbing fixtures are other areas where level of finishing is most evident to prospective buyers and needs to meet their expectations.

Renovating condos for profit can be a financially worthwhile venture. Remember to renovate with quality to increase the value of your condominium!

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As diverse as the population is in Calgary, so are the communities that make up the inner city. Over the past 10 years as each area has seen an increase in new development, each has also been defining and refining it’s own identity.

Beltline – the communities just south of downtown include Connaught, Mission, Cliff Bungalow and Lower Mount Royal collectively make up the Beltline. A perennial favourite with the younger crowd due to it’s proximity to downtown jobs, restaurants and bars, shops and coffee houses. Many residents live here without requiring the use of a vehicle, all amenities are so close! There is always something to do, someone to meet or somewhere to go in the Beltline. There have been numerous new condo developments here over the past 10 years, as well as many older rental buildings being converted to condo ownership.

Victoria Park/East Village – this is an area to watch over the next several years. As the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede continues it’s land expansion and re-development, the surrounding community will have new life and vitality to spare! A ton of new, high rise, high end condo and commercial buildings are slated for the new Stampede Station area, offering upscale urban living at the gateway to Downtown. The city’s plans for the East Village will offer new and exciting condo opportunities for future residents, while also providing the services and green space inner city dwellers crave. Victoria Park also offers a unique selection of warehouse/loft condo buildings, not found anywhere else in the city.

Kensington – across the river the area of Hillhurst and Sunnyside are always on the cutting edge of trendy. Smaller condo developments, rental conversions and renovated character homes give this area a flair all it’s own. With Prince’s Island park and the Bow River Pathway system on it’s doorstep, a multitude of Kensington shops, services and restaurants to choose from and Riley park at the back door, it’s easy to see why so many people are clambering to live in Kensington.

Bridgeland – another area that has seen it’s share of redevelopment in it’s recent past with even more on the horizon, is Bridgeland. What used to be a predominately single family home area has been jump-started and energized with new condo construction, including the re-development of the former General Hospital site into The Bridges. If an ethnic flair is more to your liking, you will love the Italian groceries and restaurants, Tai food and other great services Bridgeland has to offer. And don’t miss out on some of the best skyline views this city has to offer, all from Bridgeland.

As you can see, no matter what your lifestyle, tastes or budget, the inner city has the perfect match for you.

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Dreaming of Luxury? Calgary’s condominium market has many buildings and units that fit the luxury criteria. Even though luxury can mean many things to many different people, chances are, there is a condominium that matches your definition and requirements.

When “luxury” is discussed, most people picture in their mind a high-end level of finishing. Features like gleaming hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, gourmet kitchens, marble and granite counters and floors, sumptuous ensuites, oversized casings and mouldings, soaring ceilings and non-stop views are but a few of the images that you would expect to see in a “luxury” condominium. Calgary offers many buildings both new and established that automatically fit these images, but there are many individual units in a variety of buildings across the city that have seen spectacular renovations that place them firmly in the category of “luxury”. All you need to do is look at the number of condominiums that sell for more than a half a million dollars these days (nearly 70 in the past year alone on the MLS!).

Perhaps your version of luxury has more to do with a great location or proximity to amenities than with finishing. Adding the luxury of more time to your life may be what you are after. Many people are moving into inner city areas to facilitate an increase in personal time. With people’s busy lives, a shorter work commute, being walking distance to the gym, grocery store, movie theatre, restaurants and other services is what many people consider a luxury. There are many condominiums that match this criteria without being accompanied by a hefty price tag!

And don’t forget the luxury of additional services that a condominium building can offer owners. More and more buildings in the city are offering concierge services for their owners. For some, a concierge can be a true luxury, facilitating a multitude of services, not the least of which is security for the building. Additional amenities in some buildings now include fully equipped exercise facilities, car wash bays, whirlpool saunas, lap pools, wine cellars, meeting and board rooms, party rooms, hobby rooms, movie theaters and guest accommodations.

Almost all condominiums offer owners the luxury of having maintenance done for them. The management company co-ordinates snow removal, lawn and garden maintenance, garbage removal, building maintenance including parkade and carpet cleaning, elevator maintenance, administrative duties and many more behind the scenes jobs that owners don’t have to worry about. All this is looked after through the owners condominium fees.

So is luxury on your mind? Look to condominiums and let your dreams come true!

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Your pride and joy sits alone, cold and exposed to the elements ever since you drove it home. It just doesn’t make sense that what you have worked so long and hard for doesn’t have a warm, safe place to roll into at the end of the day.

Isn’t it time you made the decision that no mater what, you will find a safe and protected home for….your coveted car! For many of us our cars define and represent to others who we are. This defining statement says in some cases more about us than the clothes we buy the jobs we have and the places we live. So how does our obsession with cars fit into the world of condominiums you ask?

Parking, especially downtown, has become a luxury item and has become a major amenity when purchasing a condo. The question to ask is does a parking stall come with the proposed purchase of a condo? If so, is the stall exposed to the changing and unpredictable elements or is it in a secured underground parkade? This distinction can make a huge difference in the price of the condominium unit and its desirability. As the price of new cars and insurance escalates common sense dictates that this prize possession must have secured parking.

In today’s untraditional real estate market purchasing a new, to be constructed condo, the price of an underground parking stall can affect the total purchase price by up to $27,000! When purchasing a second stall you can expect to double the cost. In this day and age the need for a second stall is a necessity, to accommodate a significant other or guests that may come to visit as visitor parking downtown is at a premium Sales have been lost due to buyers not having access to additional secured parking.

The number of available stalls and their locations are not the only considerations when looking at the parking issue. Parking stalls can be individually titled, just like the residential unit you live in. Or they can be assigned or leased to owners at the discretion of the condominium corporation. Which scenario you have in a building can affect the value of that stall. Individually titled stalls carry with them more perceived value as they can potentially be sold to another person separately from the residential unit. In addition to their additional value they also carry with them added expense. What most people don’t realize is that the City of Calgary affixes a property value to these titled stalls and then proceeds to tax them in addition to the condominium unit. This is not the case when parking stalls are classified as common property under the condominium corporation. It is important to pay attention to which form of ownership your buildings parking stalls falls under.

Building security is also a major consideration when purchasing a condo. In some cases, the easiest way for a non-owner to gain access to a building is through underground parkades. Calgary Police Officers regularly schedule meetings with building owners to assess security issues and solutions. Being a pro-active condo buyer will help protect your car day and night!

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Go into any new condominium show suite these days and what do you see? Sleek, contemporary, urban furniture, perfectly staged to showcase the new homes offered for sale. But look a little closer and you may notice that as lovely as the furniture is, it’s on a scaled down size as well. You may wonder, are people getting smaller? No, the condos are! Condominium space is at a premium in Calgary. New condo buyers are adapting to much smaller living spaces. In fact, new condo owners confess that letting go of “stuff” they have been holding onto for years has been quite liberating.

One way people are doing this is to maximize all available floor space with furniture with great design. Sculpted chairs instead of loveseats, chaise lounges instead of bulky couches, ottomans that double as coffee tables or additional seating are but a few of the furniture choices today’s condo buyers are utilizing. And there are more choices than ever, to suit every budget range. From Ikea to Home Evolution, scaled down, chic furniture is available for everyone. For a lot of new condo buyers, new furniture is a major propriety after moving in!

Another trend appearing more frequently in newer condos is the use of builder installed built-in furniture. In additional to functional furniture, you’ll see built-in computer/work stations in numerous show suites around the city. Tucked against a wall or around corner is a customized work station for the new condo owner. It takes up less space than a desk and you don’t need a separate room to put it in. A perfect match in your cozy new pad!

But what does a new condo buyer do with all the “stuff” that we all seem to haul around? Christmas trees, bikes, winter snow tires for the car, your old stuffed animals you just can’t bear to part with? You certainly won’t be able to put all these items in a 650 square foot 1 bedroom condo! The solution is additional storage space or lockers in the building for each owner. This feature is rapidly becoming mandatory for buyers, and developers are listening by providing appropriate storage space conveniently located in the building.

If smaller condo living appeals to you the next step is to make a list of the amenities you require that will suit your new lifestyle.

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Nearing the end of 2007, it has been a healthy and robust year for condominium sales in the city on the MLS system. Nearly 8000 condos have been sold on the MLS this year. Add to this number the thousands of condominiums sold by developers privately, and Calgarians continue to embrace condo ownership. This decision is not always motivated by a more affordable price point. Calgary is seeing more and more million dollar condos. At the end of November, 29 condos over $1,000,000 had sold on the MLS this year.

Selection for condo buyers has greatly increased in the past 12 months. Total inventory on the MLS is up over 35% from last year at this time. This means that sellers are finding themselves having to wait a bit longer to sell their condos. The average number of days to sell a condo in November was 44, compared to 36 days in November 2006. Gone are the days of buyers missing out on listings because they sold in days or hours, like they did in the spring of 2006!

Overall, prices for the condominium market have remained strong. Yes, the average price has dropped since the high of $332,237 in May of this year. Year over year, though, the numbers are moving up. The average price for a condo in November 2007 was $312,710, up over the November 2006 average of $282,781.

A trend to watch that may have a large impact on the condominium market is the number of vacant properties for sale. Currently over 40% of all condominiums for sale on the MLS are either vacant or newly constructed (never occupied) suites. Typically you would see about 30% of suites vacant. In the past 2 years many buyers purchased suites in buildings that were under construction with the intention of selling them (flipping them) as soon as they take possession. Many of these suites are now nearing completion and a large percentage of them may find their way onto the MLS system, further increasing inventory.

Since December 2006, the average price of condominiums in Calgary has increased 11%. At the start of 2007 the Calgary Real Estate Board predicted condo pricing to increase by 9%. All in all the year has been positive for the condominium market. What will 2008 bring? Sorry, my crystal ball is in the shop!

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Starting in early January the City of Calgary mailed out the 2008 Property Tax Assessments. In almost all communities of the city the average value of properties as estimated on July 1, 2007 went up over the July 1, 2006 value. It seems this year, more than in previous years, home and condo owners are confused about the assessed value of their properties. Here are some explanations for that confusion.

The 2008 property taxes in Calgary are based on values from 6 months ago. Since the end of June, 2007 property values in Calgary have experienced some adjustment. The average MLS condo sale price for the month of June, 2007 was the third highest on record for the Calgary Real Estate Board. Since then average values have decreased 6 %. Remember, your tax assessment is based on values from 6 months ago, not today’s value. In the previous 2 tax years as values went up steadily, the taxpayer reaped the benefits of the rising market, by paying taxes on the previous year’s lower value. 2008 is the flip side of that rising market.

It is important to remember that the tax assessment system is more art than science. Errors will occur and the city has an appeal process in place to deal with that. Consider that condos in the same building of the same size and features are assessment thousands of dollars difference in value. Why? Several factors can come into play. A view in one is of course worth more than a suite without a desirable view, an unrenovated condo has less value than one renovated, a premium will obviously be assessed to a penthouse suite over a unit several floors beneath it. Errors in the system do occur. A beltline condo I had listed at the beginning of this year for $499,900 was assessed at $851,000! No amount of market correction can explain that. Needless to say the owners are appealing that assessment.

Another source of confusion for condo owners this year has been the assessed value for their titled parking stalls. Five years ago inner city stalls were almost all assessed $5000. Two years ago many jumped in value to $10,000. Many of my clients this year are calling to voice their shock over their stalls assessment of $30,000. Keep in mind the city uses fair market value to determine property values. Yes, a parking stall in downtown Calgary is easily worth $30,000. New condo developments in the inner city sell extra stalls for this amount and more. If this is what they sell for on the open market it makes sense the city is going to collect tax on it.

No matter what your property is assessed it is important to keep in mind where your tax dollars go. Transit, roads, garbage pick up, utility maintenance, libraries, community and recreation centres, parks, schools, emergency services, green spaces and so much more that our city offers are paid for by our tax dollars. All in all, Calgary is a pretty great place to live. If, however, you feel you are paying more than your fair share your notice of assessment has information on how you can appeal the value of your condo.

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June 30 has come and gone and along with it the deadline for paying our property taxes in Calgary (if you are not on the TIPPS program). Most of us know that our taxes are based on the value of our property as of the previous year. Take a moment and think ahead to, June 30, 2007. The amount of that tax bill will be based on the value of your condo now. We all know what has happened to property values in Calgary over the past 12 months. If the average price of property has increased 40% it stands to reason that your tax bill will go up 40%, as well. This doesn’t take into account the planned increase the city has already budgeted for.

Does the Fair Market Value method of taxation calculation put an unfair burden on condominiums, especially inner city condos? The values of inner city condos have seen phenomenal increases over the past 24 months, due in large part to their proximity to the city core. Have these properties put any additional strain on the city budget? Do they require or need new roads to be built, new utility services installed, new schools built, additional transit and garbage pick up planned, or even shopping centres to be developed as is the case in numerous subdivisions being constructed around the city? The obvious answer is no. The inner city condos already have infrastructure in place to accommodate the residents in them. It seems inequitable then that the tax collected from them is being used to subsidize further urban sprawl.

Our city is grappling with the growing pains of a successful economy (road congestion, children being bused long distances to school, longer commutes to work, etc). What if City Hall were to turn the question around. Instead of focusing on better ways to move people into the suburbs, why not find a way to get more people closer to the core, where they obviously want to be!

If you want to people to pay attention, make it financially attractive to them. One suggestion is to offer a reduction or subsidy on condominium property taxes if the condo is located within a certain distance from the city centre. This would encourage people to look at property ownership closer in nd would help alleviate the strain on the city of providing additional infrastructure in outlying communities.

This may seem a controversial option now. 12 months from now, when a 900 SF 2 bedroom condo in the Beltline is saddled with a $4000/year property tax bill, this option may gain a great deal of support!

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When you are looking to purchase a condominium it is important to make any offer subject to your review and approval of the condominium corporations documents. Part of those documents will include the year end financial statements along with the most current unaudited monthly balance sheet. If you are not an accountant by trade, what do all these numbers mean? And do they really matter?

The year end financial statement looks at the financial health of the condominium corporation over the past 12 months, comparing the year end figures to those of the previous years. The amount of income generated through condo fees and other sources is compared to the total expenses (budget) of the corporation. Any shortfall or surplus is noted. The amount contributed to the reserve fund is also noted along with whatever was spent during the year and disclosing the total amount present in the fund.

It should be noted that not all year end financial statements need to be audited by an accountant. The Alberta Condominium Property Act does not specify this requirement. A condo corporation bylaws will dictate if this is a necessity, although even if the bylaws don’t require it, it is a good idea for transparency to have this done. It is not unusual for smaller, self managed buildings to not have the year end financials audited. Also keep in mind that year end financials can take several months to be reviewed by an accountant and the final report prepared. If the corporation’s year end is December 31, the financials for that year may not be available until March!

Given that the year end financials can be several months out of date, it is important to verify the financial health of the corporation by reviewing the most current monthly unaudited balance sheet. This document will outline how much cash is in the corporation’s general operating account as well as the reserve fund account balance, what bills are outstanding (liabilities) and what accounts receivable are outstanding.

As with many things, looking at only one or two documents alone will not give you the full picture. The year end financials and monthly balance sheet must be viewed in the context of the entire package of documents provided. For instance, the balance in the reserve fund may look like a lot, but if the amount is less than the reserve fund plan specifies, you may want to ask further questions. A low operating account balance may not be as alarming if a special assessment has been called to address the shortfall.

As always, it is prudent to utilize the services of condominium specialists, both in the buying and selling of condominiums and in the review of the condo corporation documents. Good luck with your condo purchase!

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Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.