5 Ways to Increase Productivity at Your Home Office

June 6th, 2017 by Chris Greidanus

It’s not uncommon to work from home, especially as more and more offices go completely virtual. Make sure your home office is set up to keep you on task.

APRIL 2017 | BY MARC GORDON

For many business owners, the kitchen table doubles as the boardroom table, the spare bedroom is the executive office, and what was once the garage is now the warehouse. Add to that the family obligations (and perhaps toys) can encroach on your “work space,” and operating a real estate business from home can be challenging and stressful. So here are five ways to increase the productivity of your home office space.

Define your space. Having your own dedicated workspace is key to being able to focus. Open areas like the kitchen or family room will lead to distractions. Try to allocate a specific room to your business activities. Make it conducive to being productive by ensuring there’s proper lighting and the temperature is stable and comfortable. In addition, various studies have shown that having windows, plants, and art in your office can reduce fatigue, improve health, and inspire creativity.
Embrace technology. Technology can increase efficiency regardless of where you’re working. Cloud storage, internet fax services, and online accounting software can turn your laptop into a fully functional office regardless of where you are.
Create a work-friendly workstation. Leave the sofa and coffee table in the den. For maximum productivity, invest in a proper office chair and desk. A quality chair will reduce fatigue, while a large enough desk will keep you organized. You also need proper storage for your files, such as a filing cabinet, if you’re dedicating significant time working from home or giving up the brick-and-mortar brokerage.
Separate business and personal. It’s important to let everyone know that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re available for social activities. Make sure your lunch dates are with clients, prospects, or agents. Checking into Facebook all the time can have a significant impact on your productivity if you’re not using it for advertising or connecting with clients. Too hard to resist so many temptations? Check out the next point.
Create a schedule for everything. When working along, it’s easy to get distracted with updating your social media profiles, doing that last load of laundry, or taking a long lunch. That’s why it’s crucial that you create a daily schedule, and stick to it. Designate specific times for every type of task, including breaks and meals.

THE MOTORCYCLE IS YOURSELF by Tim Wilson

April 25th, 2017 by Chris Greidanus

It was a radical, landscape-changing idea, forty years ago: that it might actually be possible to unify the cold, rational, numbingly systematized world of science and technology with the warm, intuitive realm of art and the spirit. To bridge the chasm that has existed in Western thought since the time of Aristotle and the ancient Greeks between reason and emotion, subjective and objective, romantic and classical ways of understanding. To find the Ghost in the machine.

But the idea didn’t come from an ivory-towered academic, or a guru on a mountaintop. It came from the basement workshop of an unassuming writer of computer technical manuals in Saint Paul, Minnesota. And it wasn’t Steve Jobs, whose mythic, marvelous Macintosh was still a decade away.

“The Buddha, the godhead, sits quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital transmission as in the petals of a lotus.”
– Robert M. Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The philosophical trailblazer was Robert M. Pirsig, whose first novel, the then-bizarrely titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974 and never out of print since, became an almost immediate classic. It has been compared in literary stature to Moby Dick, and acclaimed as the most widely read book of philosophy ever written. Subtitled “an Inquiry into Values” Pirsig’s book is not directly about Zen or, for that matter, about motorcycles. It’s about living a good and meaningful life. And — I may as well give it away — the whole thing, he says, is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate the most minute detail.

It all rides on what Pirsig calls Quality, the “knife-edge” moment of grasping something before thinking about it. An idea since set out in a slew of other works, from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of Flow, or oneness with one’s work, to Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

A few months after the book came out, I traveled — not on a Harley but in a Toyota; it was November — to meet Pirsig at his home. From our intimate and richly engrossing conversation, which began almost the minute I walked in the door, producer Claudia Buckley and I made a radio feature for IDEAS that itself became something of a landmark. Pirsig, an intensely private, humble man (he is still alive, in his 80s and living in New England), has granted few interviews since.

For years, however, he has continued to monitor and contribute to a website devoted to the Metaphysics of Quality: moq.org. And there’s even a comprehensive Guidebook, co-authored, as it happens, by a Jesuit, those master melders of intellect and spirituality.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the book, we’re revisiting that radio program. And, in keeping with the motorcycle metaphor, we’ve given it a substantial overhaul, a new introduction and commentary. Because, you see, I have to confess that at the time, totally smitten by the overarching beauty of Pirsig’s creation, I missed almost completely an understanding of its inner workings, its dauntingly detailed structure. Every time I tried to impress him with squibs of the little philosophy and psychology I had read, he would quietly insist, “but I had to follow my own lights.”

That, and other gems from our conversation became glowing, permanent fridge-magnets in my mind. “If you run from technology, it will chase you.” “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.” And this, most resonant of all: “The real motorcycle you are working on is yourself.”

And although maybe it’s only for those of us over 50, I’ve a feeling that the present-day vogue for Mindfulness, for relaxed and focused, non-judgmental attention, is a flowering of these same ideas.

And there’s one more, vital lesson I got from Robert Pirsig. There was a moment during our interview when I was changing tapes — we didn’t have digital, back then, and I wasn’t doing drugs — when I had the radiant, reassuring feeling that there was absolutely no better place on earth or in time to be than with that particular person, in that very moment. A kind of landing, he would have said, on the Centre of Things.

5 Terms Every Condo Investor Must Know

April 20th, 2017 by Chris Greidanus

Connect Asset Management

For new investors, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by facts, figures, formulas, and different investment calculations. And, although many people are aware of condo investing terms, they have trouble defining them or deploying them properly.

Our goal today is to demystify the most important condo investing terms that you need to know. This will not only make you a better investor, but it will help you impress your boss at the next company meeting.

Although there are many different types of real estate investing, the fact is that there are several key terms that every condo investor should know.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled them here in a handy list. Think you know them all? Keep reading and see!

Key Condo Investing Terms #1 – Return on Investment (ROI)
ROI, or return on investment, is an important formula to gauge how an investment performs. It’s a simple, quick calculation – easily done on a napkin – that lets you know how profitable an investment is.

The formula looks like this: ROI = (gain from investment – cost of investment) / cost of investment

For example, after four years you decide to sell the downtown Toronto condo you invested in. You bought it for $350,000 four years ago with a 20% down payment, or $70,000. It appreciated at an annual rate of 5.82%, which is the compounded annual growth in Toronto over the past 30 years. So that means your condo is now worth $440,127.

Let’s assume you sell it for $440,000 and have a remaining mortgage balance of $250,000. Your gain on investment is therefore, $190,000.

You also had expenses, including closing costs and upgrades, totaling $20,000. So your cost of investment is your down payment plus expenses, for a total of $90,000.

Now, let’s put these numbers into the formula:
ROI = (190,000 – 90,000) / 90,000
ROI = 100,000 / 90,000
ROI = 1.11
ROI = 111%

Over four years, your return on investment is 111%. That’s not bad! Some investors set a standard ROI they aim for and won’t buy anything that yields less than that.

Key Condo Investing Terms #2 – Pre-Construction Appreciation
One of the many reasons real estate is a great investment vehicle is long-term property appreciation. But, condos have a second opportunity for appreciation, through the wonders of pre-construction appreciation.

When you buy a condo before it’s constructed, you are paying today’s prices for a condo that won’t be constructed for several years. That means when your condo is move-in ready and you actually buy it (take out a mortgage), it’s already appreciated.

We won’t get into greater detail about the merits of pre-construction condos just now, as we have a lot more juicy stuff about this to share with you in the weeks to come.

Key Condo Investing Terms #3 – Net Operating Income (NOI)
NOI, or net operating income, like ROI, is a great tool for calculating how profitable your properties will be. Although it may sound a little technical, the formula is actually quite easy:

NOI = Revenue – Expenses

This is an annual calculation and assumes you own a property free and clear. Expenses include all your operating expenses such as taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc.

Imagine you bought a property that produces $21,600 per year in rent ($1,900 per month). Your monthly expenses include the following: property taxes at $200, condo fees at $150, and insurance is $50. This is $400 a month, or $4,800 yearly.

That would mean that your NOI = 21,600 – 4,800 = $16,800. Calculating the NOI is an easy way to compare properties and maximize your cash flow.

Key Condo Investing Terms #4 – Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)
Now that you know how to calculate the NOI, we can move on to something a little more complicated. The cap rate is another way of calculating the rate of return on your investment properties.

Although this formula is expressed as a percentage, many investors use only the number when referring to a cap rate. For instance, “the condo one of my clients just sold had a 5 cap!”

Here’s how it works: Cap Rate = NOI / Current Market Value

So let’s use the NOI we calculated earlier – $16,800 NOI. And, let’s assume a $350,000 market value of your condo investment.

So, your cap rate = $16,800 / $350,000 = 0.048

Expressed as a percentage, your capitalization rate is 4.8%, or a respectable 4 cap! This calculation is a great way to compare investment opportunities.

Key Condo Investing Terms #5 – Refinancing
Refinancing is a crucial part of all real estate investing, and can save you thousands of dollars per year. Like most other investing concepts, refinancing seems a little scary if you’re not familiar with it, but it is a very straight-forward process.

Refinancing is simply negotiating a presumably better interest rate and/or terms for your property. It is usually done for one of two reasons: either to get a better interest rate, or to free up capital for your next investment. And the beautiful freeing up capital for your next investment, is that you can pull it out free of capitals gains by refinancing. Capital gains aren’t actually realized until the property is sold, whether that is in 1 year or 100 years.

We’ll be going deeper into detail about the power of refinancing. In the meantime, consider talking to a mortgage broker to see if your properties are worth refinancing.

The above list of condo investing terms is by no means comprehensive. But, these five terms are some of the most important you need to know as a condo investor.

If you’re consistently putting these concepts into practice, you’ll be in a much better position to analyze and evaluate your existing and future condo investments – which, in turn, means more money in your pocket.

Good luck!

7 Reasons To Say No To Mortgage Insurance

March 10th, 2017 by Chris Greidanus

Buying a new home can be a daunting experience. There’s a ton of paperwork and some very legal, very serious-looking documents to sign. It all gets quite overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. One thing that banks love to do is tie mortgage insurance into your mortgage agreement, right along with a dangerous-looking checkbox and signature line you need to fill in if you choose to “recklessly” opt out.

What the banks don’t tell you is that you may be far better off taking that leap of faith and signing away that mortgage insurance. Here’s why I want you walk into that mortgage broker’s office, check that box, sign that line and opt out of it with total confidence.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: this isn’t to say you don’t need to insure your mortgage, but in most circumstances, an ordinary term life policy will do far better.

Premiums
With mortgage insurance, everyone pays the same premium. There are no discounts for, say, being a non-smoker or being healthy (or being a woman who will statistically live longer). So, you’re usually not getting the best deal. Even if you aren’t a chain smoker who eats a pound of bacon every day, you probably still aren’t getting a better deal. In fact, you may be paying for nothing.

Underwriting
A scary, technical-sounding word that simply means that your insurance is “underwritten” to determine if you qualify. Assuming you do, your cost of insurance is based on your age, health, activities and pre-existing conditions, but as long as you qualify and pay your premiums, your coverage is guaranteed and the policy will pay out. The bank’s mortgage insurance may use “post-claim underwriting.” This means that they’ll only decide if you qualify after a claim is made, at which point they may decide you never did qualify and wind up paying nothing. This practice seems terrible, but apparently it really happens, so buyers beware.

Declining Benefit
The bank’s mortgage life insurance benefit value declines as you pay down your mortgage. So, while you continue to pay the same price for insurance, it’s actually worth less. Traditional term policies keep their value and usually do so with lower premiums.

Beneficiary
With mortgage life insurance, the beneficiary is the bank — with personal life insurance, you get to name your beneficiary. You (or rather, your beneficiary) will have the flexibility to choose how to spend the money. They may not need it to pay off the mortgage. They could choose to invest the money or just spend it Brewster’s Millions-style. In general, though, this means better financial security for your loved ones.

Portability
Mortgage life insurance is tied to your mortgage. If you buy another home or chose a different mortgage lender at renewal, you’ll have to take it out again. A simple term-life policy will be portable and continue to cover you regardless of who you have your mortgage with.

Needs Analysis
If you already have life insurance, you may actually already have sufficient (or partial) coverage for your mortgage. Only a proper needs analysis by an insurance adviser will determine that. Your mortgage lender will not bother with this and always cover the full mortgage amount.

Consolidation of Coverage
With private term life, you can consolidate all your insurance needs (mortgage, income replacement at death, education, childcare, etc.) into a single policy. This saves you money on overhead and fees of having multiple plans. With the bank, you can only cover the mortgage and must hold different insurance policies for the rest of your needs.

Finally, remember it isn’t just an untimely end that you need insurance for to protect your mortgage and your family. Make sure to consider disability and critical illness insurance in case you become unable to pay your mortgage due to serious illness or injury. Most employers do offer some sort of coverage for this, but always make sure it’s sufficient for your needs.

If you’re not sure if you have sufficient coverage, a good insurance agent or broker will usually be able to give you practical advice on what works for you.

Tea Nicola is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of WealthBar, Canada’s only full-service online financial advisor offering diversified portfolios of low-cost ETFs, insurance and financial advice. Passionate about personal finance, Tea is looking to change the way Canadians save by making investing smarter, more transparent, and at half the cost of traditional advisors.

Home Prices in Edmonton Edge Up

December 6th, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

By Steve Randall 06 Dec 2016

Home prices for most property types in Edmonton continued higher in November even as inventory increased.

The average monthly selling price increased from a year earlier by 2.52 per cent to $373,174 for all property types with duplexes/rowhouses gaining 6.39 per cent to $353,818.

Single-family homes gained 1.76 per cent to $440,496 while condos saw a slight drop in average selling price to $241,569.

The gains in average selling prices reflect increased sales in high-end homes and overall sales for the market were down 11.41 per cent compared to November 2015.

While inventory was higher year-over-year, it declined by 10 per cent from October and Realtors Association of Edmonton chair Steve Sedgwick said “We expect to see the normal seasonal decline during the slower winter months as we head into 2017.”

Market Remains Stable Amidst Expected Seasonal “Dip”

November 23rd, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

By RE/MAX Edmonton
Economic forecasts are rampant, particularly in industry driven regions like Alberta, yet amidst the highs and lows we have seen the Edmonton real estate market remains remarkably steadfast amidst the unrest. Upon review of recent fall statistics, the EREB is cited as noting the market to be “stable” due to only “marginal dips in prices and unit sales”. This resiliency is surely a welcome reprieve for buyers and sellers trying to determine if they can weather the storm, so to speak.

Some words of assurance come to use from REALTORS® Association of Edmonton chair Steve Sedgwick,

“Alberta’s economy has been under enormous pressure for some time, but the residential real estate market in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area continues to hold. Prices and unit sales for all residential homes are consistent with last year, down less than 1% and 2% respectively,”

Sale prices on average have dropped only a marginal 4% in month over month comparisons but they key comparison factor, year over year statistics, remain the same as fall of 2015, levelling out at $369, 956. Single family homes reflected an identical 4% month over month percentage drop averaging out at $434, 362 (compared to last year’s $450, 362), while EREB figures show a year over year decrease of “less than 1%”. Condo prices show the same negligible year over year consistency, and a month over month decrease of only 2% to $251, 526. Finally, in the rowhouse/duplex category, residences averaged out at $344, 377 which is a year over year decrease of just 2%, and a 1% month over month drop.

A small dip was seen across residence categories in unit sales figures, with a month end total of 1,433 sales. This total reflects a 5% and 2% decrease month over month and year over year, respectively. More specifically, this total breaks down to 861 single family homes sold, 406 condominium units, and 136 duplex/rowhouses. Two categories showed a small decline in total overall sales from the year previous; a 3% drop for single family homes, 6% for condominiums. However, duplex/rowhouses which have been a popular style particularly in the 2015/2016 financial cycle showed a year over year increase of 11%.

In terms of listings, the MLS system saw 7908 available properties by month end, a small 2% decline from the previous month’s total of 8,048. Inventory this time last year fell to 7227 MLS properties, meaning we have seen a 9.4% inventory increase.

Sedgwick once again assuages buyers and sellers alike, explain how very expected these small seasonal lulls are seen to be,

“While this is one of the most active times of the year, we are seeing both listings and sales tapering off as we move into the fall months. This is standard in our local real estate cycle,” said Sedgwick. “While unit sales for condos have been impacted the most, prices remain stable. This is thanks in part to the continuing trend of unit sales of over $750,000 that are keeping average sales price of condos elevated by almost 3%.”

Finally, the days on market factor is reported by the EREB as “consistent” in year over year review. Average days on market was about 55, the same as this time last year, and one day less in month over month comparisons. Single family homes came in at 49 days, condominiums at 62 days, and duplex/rowhouses leveled out at 56 days.

50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets

September 14th, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

From making you live longer to making cities more resilient: If you want a reason to make your city more walkable, it’s in here.

As more cities try to improve walkability—from car-free “superblocks” in Barcelona to heat-protected walkways in Dubai—a new report outlines the reasons behind the shift, the actions that cities can take to move away from a car-centric world, and why walkability matters.

If someone shifts from a long commute to a walk, their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love.
“The benefits of walkability are all interconnected,” says James Francisco, an urban designer and planner at Arup, the global engineering firm that created the report. “Maybe you want your local business to be enhanced by more foot traffic. But by having that benefit, other benefits are integrated. Not only do you get the economic vitality, but you get the social benefits—so people are out and having conversations and connecting—and then you get the health benefits.” A single intervention can also lead to environmental and political benefits.

The report sifted through dozens of studies to quantify 50 benefits of walkability in cities.

1. It helps people live longer
Inactivity is the fourth leading cause of mortality around the world; physical activity dropped 32% in the last four decades in the U.S., and 45% in less than two decades in China. For people over 60, walking just 15 minutes a day can reduce the risk of dying by 22%.

2. It helps people lose weight
A 30-minute walk can burn 100 calories; for every 12 blocks or so walked a day, your risk of obesity drops 4.8%.

3. It reduces the risk of chronic disease
Regular walking may reduce the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer. Inactivity is a primary cause of most chronic diseases.

4. It makes people happier
Someone with a one-hour commute in a car needs to earn 40% more to be as happy as someone with a short walk to work. On the other hand, researchers found that if someone shifts from a long commute to a walk, their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love. People who walk 8.6 minutes a day are 33% more likely to report better mental health.

People who walk 8.6 minutes a day are 33% more likely to report better mental health.

5. It improves traffic safety
More than 270,000 pedestrians are killed around the world every year; better street design, and policies that reduce speed, can obviously help reduce the risk of crashes. Just shortening a long crosswalk can reduce the risk of pedestrian deaths 6%.

6. It brings back “eyes on the street”
While some countries invest in security cameras for streets—like the U.K., with 5.9 million cameras in public spaces—encouraging more people to walk is a cheaper way of increasing surveillance and making streets feel safer.

7. It reduces crime in other ways
Making streets more pleasant for walking—reducing trash, for example, or enforcing the speed limit—also has the added benefit of reducing crime. In one Kansas City neighborhood, crime dropped 74% after some streets went car-free on weekends.

8. It makes neighborhoods more vibrant
The same features that make streets more walkable, like a safer and more attractive design, make people want to spend more time in them generally, bringing vibrancy back to neighborhoods.

9. It enhances the “sense of place”
Spending time walking through a neighborhood, rather than driving, helps people have a better sense of what makes it unique—and more likely to want to help take care of it.

10. It’s a driver for creativity
If a neighborhood is walkable, it’s more likely to become home to public street art and open-air events; conversely, public art and cultural events can help draw people to streets where they might not have walked before.

In one Kansas City neighborhood, crime dropped 74% after some streets went car-free on weekends.

11. It’s universally accessible
While not everyone can afford a car or knows how to drive, walking is universally accessible, and even those who take the subway or drive also walk at some points during the day. The report makes the point that designing pedestrian infrastructure for those who are less mobile also helps make the experience of walking better for everyone.

12. It fosters social interaction
Walkable streets bring people together who might not otherwise meet. In a classic 1960s study, people who lived on streets with more car traffic were less likely to know their neighbors.

13. It strengthens community identity
As people interact more on streets, that also builds a sense of community. In Ireland, one study found that people in walkable neighborhoods had 80% more “social capital” than those living in car-dependant areas.

14. It connects people across generations
In the U.S., millennials prefer walking to driving by a 12% margin. In some areas, the elderly are also more likely to walk or take public transit. Making streets more walkable helps bring people of all ages—including children—together.

15. It builds inclusiveness
Traffic infrastructure, such as highways, can physically separate and segregate neighborhoods; better design for walkability makes the whole city more accessible to everyone. For the lowest-income people, who might lose a job if their car breaks down, it can help build a social safety net.

Biking and walking provide an estimated return on investment of $11.80 for every $1 invested.
16. It boosts the economy
Making neighborhoods more walkable increases the number of people who shop there. Pedestrians may spend as much as 65% more than drivers. It also boosts employment; in Dublin, a redesigned pedestrian-friendly neighborhood led to a 300% increase in employment. Overall, biking and walking provide an estimated return on investment of $11.80 for every $1 invested.

17. It helps local businesses
In Brooklyn, redesigning a parking lot into a pedestrian plaza boosted retail sales 172%. People who visit street markets in a city are also more likely to shop at stores nearby. The less that people drive, the more money they also have available to spend locally; an economist estimates that because people in Portland, Oregon, drive 20% less than the rest of the country, they save more than $1 billion, and much of that goes back to local businesses.

18. It helps make people more creative and productive
Research suggests that walking boosts creative output an average of 60%. You’re also more likely to be productive, improve memory, and make better decisions after exercise. Walking during work also helps: One internal study at a company found that people felt more energetic, focused, and engaged after walking meetings.

19. It improves a city’s brand and identity
Making a city more walkable and liveable can also give it a stronger identity, and make people want to visit. Barcelona, which has worked on improving public spaces and walkability since the 1980s, has seen its number of annual visitors grow 335% over the last two decades.

20. It increases tourism
For tourists, walking is one of the best ways to experience a city, and improving walkability makes more people interested in visiting. In London, Trafalgar Square saw a 300% increase in visitors after pedestrianizing.

21. It encourages more investment
After cities invest in walkable public space, it can encourage more investment in the same area. The High Line in New York led to $2 billion in private investment in the neighborhood around the park.

22. It attracts the creative class
Skilled professionals tend to migrate to walkable areas; the most walkable neighborhoods have much higher GDPs per capita, and more college graduates.

Pedestrianizing a street can make home values go up $82 a square foot.

23. It increases land and property values
When neighborhoods become safer, more accessible, and more liveable, property values rise. Pedestrianizing a street can make home values go up $82 a square foot. It’s also good for landlords, if not tenants: Rents can rise $300 per month.

24. It activates the street facade
Walkable neighborhoods are less likely to have a lot of vacant storefronts. In New York City, expanding the pedestrian space in Union Square reduced commercial vacancies 49%.

25. It shrinks the cost of traffic congestion
The more people walk and the fewer people are stuck in traffic on roads, the more that benefits the economy. In the Bay Area, for example, businesses lose $2 billion a year because employees are stuck in gridlock.

26. It saves money on construction and maintenance
While building and maintaining roads is expensive—the U.S. needs an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 to repair existing infrastructure—sidewalks are more affordable. Investing in sidewalks also brings health and air quality benefits worth twice as much as the cost of construction.

27. It reduces health care costs
Inactivity leads to huge health care costs. The U.S. spends $190 billion on obesity-related illnesses alone.

28. It decreases dependency on nonrenewable resources
Experts estimate that the world may only have 56 years worth of oil left; cars waste most of the gas they use. Walking, by contrast, can actually generate energy if cities install energy-harvesting sidewalk tiles.

29. It minimizes land use
Sidewalks and bike paths are more compact than roads; they also enable people to easily live in denser neighborhoods, unlike traditional car-dependant suburbs.

30. It reduces air pollution
On a single car-free day in 2015, Paris cut smog by 40% in parts of the city. Over the long term, pedestrianization can improve health as the air grows cleaner, and can help cut a city’s carbon footprint.

31. It cuts ambient noise
With fewer people driving, cities get quieter. On Paris’s first car-free day, sound levels on main roads dropped three decibels. Plants and trees—which make streets more walkable—also reduce ambient noise.

32. It helps improve urban microclimates
While paved roads contribute to the urban heat island effect, making cities hotter, shaded, plant-lined sidewalks can help cool neighborhoods down from 9 to 35 degrees.

Plant-lined sidewalks can help cool neighborhoods down from 9 to 35 degrees.
33. It can improve water management
Sidewalks designed with permeable surfaces can help suck up water during heavy rain, reducing flooding.

34. It makes cities more beautiful
Roads and sidewalks typically make up the majority of public space in cities; in Chicago, for example, they make up 70%. Making public space more walkable—with landscaping, public art, and other interventions—also makes it more attractive than a typical road.

35. It increases active use of space
In walkable neighborhoods, people are also more likely to make use of parks and public squares, and other outdoor spaces. In Copenhagen, as the city became more pedestrian-friendly over the last few decades, the number of people sitting in squares and otherwise making use of city space tripled.

36. It makes better use of space
Streets that are redesigned to become more walkable also tend to incorporate underutilized space next to roads. In New York, one study found 700 miles of underused public space under elevated structures.

37. It encourages people to drive less
When Copenhagen pedestrianized its main street, foot traffic increased 35% in the first year. In many cities, a large number of trips are only a short distance, and better design makes it more likely that people will prefer to walk or bike.

38. It also promotes public transit
People using a subway or bus to commute to work have to get there from their home—and a better walk makes it more likely that they’ll want to use public transit instead of driving.

39. It increases permeability
Walkability can also make cities more “permeable,” or easier to move around, creating a walking network that may even be easier to use than driving.

40. It bridges barriers
Pedestrian infrastructure can reconnect parts of the city that may have been disconnected by older infrastructure. In Rotterdam, a crowdfunded pedestrian bridge stretches over a busy road and old train tracks.

41. It makes cities more competitive
Walkability is directly connected to liveability. When Melbourne redesigned its center for pedestrians, it saw an 830% increase in residents, and it was recognized as The Economist’s “world’s most liveable city” five years in a row.

42. It builds political support
After the mayor of the Spanish city of Pontevedra decided to go car-free in 1999, the public loved him: He’s now in his fifth term.

Every added 10 minutes of commuting cuts community involvement 10%.
43. It builds engagement
As people spend more time outside in their neighborhoods, they’re more likely to feel attached, and to engage in improving the city in general. Crowdfunded public projects are growing in many cities.

44. It encourages more stakeholders to participate
Every added 10 minutes of commuting cuts community involvement 10%. In L.A., where commuters waste 64 hours a year in traffic, the city is building more participation by helping neighbors transform underused roads into pedestrian spaces.

45. It inspires civic responsibility
Walkability brings people together with other community members, which increases a sense of responsibility. Mexico City’s self-appointed pedestrian “superhero,” who defends pedestrians on city streets, helped build political support for the city’s new commitment to zero traffic deaths.

46. It promotes sustainable behaviors
In Canada, a study found that if people drove one less day a week, it could reduce 3.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. As cities become more walkable, it can enable a cultural shift away from driving. Though the report doesn’t mention it, taking one sustainable action can also lead people to take others.

If people drove one less day a week, it could reduce 3.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
47. It helps make cities more resilient
If people can easily walk, a breakdown in mass transit, or a gas shortage, is less of a problem. Walkability makes cities more resilient in disasters.

48. It’s a tool for urban regeneration
Making neighborhoods more walkable can spark urban regeneration. In Madrid, a walkable park along the river led to investment in new sports areas, plazas, cafes, and the renovation of historic landmarks.

49. It allows for flexible micro-solutions
A car-free or walkable street is more likely to support pop-up interventions and other cheap, simple, DIY solutions.

50. It supports cultural heritage
Pedestrianization around a cultural landmark can increase the number of people who visit, and help support efforts for preservation. As Beijing quickly modernized, the city decided to pedestrianize several ancient, narrow streets—bringing new visitors and saving part of the city that otherwise might have disappeared.

Edmonton’s Gren Living Guide

June 6th, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

Green Living Guide cover page

There are many ways we can help lessen our impact on the environment.

The Green Living Guide is a companion book to the Green Home Guide and features lifestyle changes to help you green your everyday life at home, at work and in the community.
Whether you own or rent, and whether you live in a house or an apartment, you’ll find some great tips that you can use to help reduce your environmental impact and maybe even save some money.
Get the complete Green Living Guide, or check out the sections that interest you.
Want to know how your carbon footprint rates? Check out the  Global Footprint Network.

Reality check: Keep on truckin’ – but hire a mover

February 5th, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

ColumnistsFeb 3, 2016 0
By Larry Kruger

Back in the day you and your buddies would think nothing of moving your lava lamp and all your worldly goods on a weekend. At that time you mirrored the Bob Seger song playing in the background. You “felt like a million, felt like number one, in the height of summer you never felt so strong, like a rock.”

Moving was done in an afternoon, in between a few pints and a lot of laughs. Well, time keeps trucking on and although in your mind you are still living in the glory days, the old rock may be getting a little weathered.

Having been in the moving business for more than 30 years, I am still amazed at the number of folks my age or older who want to move their own stuff. When I hear that they are thinking of moving themselves I always feel it’s time for an intervention. The reality is, back then, you hadn’t yet amassed the stuff you have now and your back, knees and shoulders are not in the same condition they were 20 or 30 plus years ago.

Today, when you can finally afford a mover, it is just not worth doing it on your own.

Reality check #1: Your stuff is heavy

Go over and grab the end of the sofa and give it a controlled slow lift, using your legs, keeping your back straight and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, be sure to drop it before you hear a pop. Now take a look around your home. The average weight of household goods in a three-bedroom home weighs in the area of 8,000 to 10,000 lbs. Yes, four or five tons. Your stuff weighs about the same as an African bull elephant. If you’re reading this Jane, tell Tarzan there is more to this than he may remember.

Reality check #2: You wouldn’t do this at the gym

Still want to eat that elephant? Let’s break it down into bite-size pieces. That weekend move you are thinking about doing equates into 100 squats using 100 lbs. to load the truck then you have to offload, so take that to 200 reps. Think about it – 200 dead lift reps using 100 lbs. (Give that a go at the gym next Saturday just to get limbered up a little, pre-move.)

Reality check #3: It’s not just lifting

Add a little cardio. Add in a 20-yard carry taking the goods out to the truck (if you can get the truck to the door). Now double that to offload (let’s round it down) to around 5,000 plus yard carry, so call it two miles or 3.22 km. It’s not over yet. Add an incline – yes, there is a walk board at the end or beginning of every trip. To put it in perspective, strap on a 50 lb. weight and take a two mile walk going uphill and downhill every 15 yards. How are the old knees these days?

Reality check #4: Who’s going to drive the truck?

Can you drive the truck? If not, is a day with your brother-in-law or old buddy telling you how to lift things really worth it? (The guy driving the truck instantly graduates to resident expert.) You will also owe everyone who helps or who just shows up and drinks your beer and eats your pizza. Besides, what impression do you make with your new neighbours when you roll up to your new digs looking like the Beverly Hillbillies?

There is a time in your life when moving yourself was just fine and then there is now. When selling your home and right sizing I would suggest you do a reality check, get some moving estimates in advance and budget that service into the selling or buying cost.

Keep on trucking but get someone else to do the heavy lifting. It is well worth it.

Green Energy Futures

January 27th, 2016 by Chris Greidanus

Have you heard the one about how renewables are too expensive and that they always need subsidies? Well, both wind and solar now compete with fossil fuel electricity generation purely on price, without subsidies.

But wind and solar aren’t just competitive and affordable options for generating electricity — in Alberta they’re actually driving prices down for consumers.

A study by our colleagues at the Pembina Institute confirms a direct relationship between wind and solar production and lower prices for consumers. And it’s all due to a couple of quirks in how Alberta’s electricity market is designed.

Solar subsidy

* Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet.
Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet.
Alberta has the only deregulated electricity market in the country. In this market the wholesale price fluctuates hourly depending on supply and demand. Since the highest demand for power is during the day when people are working, the price for electricity is highest exactly when solar panels are producing electricity.

* The Landmark Group of Builders unveiled their 120-kilowatt solar PV array in Edmonton on Thursday, August 28. The 510 solar panels are on the roof and installed as awnings. Kyle Kasawski is the general manager of Landmark Power Solar and was key to getting this project done.
The Landmark Group of Builders unveiled their 120-kilowatt solar PV array in Edmonton on Thursday, August 28. The 510 solar panels are on the roof and installed as awnings. Kyle Kasawski is the general manager of Landmark Power Solar and was key to getting this project done.
But due to Alberta’s micro-generator regulation, small microgenerators (those producing less than 150 kilowatts) get the retail price for any electricity they produce. That retail price is lower than the daytime wholesale price and as a result small solar generators have to sell their electricity at a discounted price.

That imbalance means people with solar panels on their roof are selling their electricity with anywhere from a 1.5¢/kWh to a 6¢/kWh discount.

To learn more we talked to Kyle Kasawski, the general manager of Landmark Power Solar. Landmark is an innovative homebuilder that we’ve featured on our series before and Kyle has been selling solar systems since 2002. They’re figuring out how to mass-produce net-zero homes, and Landmark itself has installed solar panels on 137 different homes.

“Once you clue in you go, ‘that doesn’t sound right’ and you realize there’s a fundamental disconnect. I’m sure economists would get around this and say markets shouldn’t work like this. So the market in this way is a little dysfunctional,’ says Kasawski.

He also believes that if solar producers got the full value for the electricity their solar panels produce then the “economics for solar improve to the point where I think a lot more people would adopt it for purely economic reasons, because it’s not only saving them energy, but it would be earning them money for the electricity they produce.”

Solar energy in Alberta is still a tiny fraction of the total electricity mix, only five megawatts, but it’s growing. Higher prices for solar electricity would certainly accelerate the process and get more clean solar energy on the grid more quickly, also helping Alberta with one of the biggest challenges it faces — reducing emissions in our fossil fuel economy.

Windy days mean lower power prices

* Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet. Data is from Alberta’s Electric System Operator.
Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet. Data is from Alberta’s Electric System Operator.
Alberta was the first province to install commercial wind projects, and we’ve featured wind entrepreneurs who’ve done incredible things. More than 1,400 megawatts of wind energy is up and spinning here and it’s already lowering power prices.

* Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet. Data is from Alberta’s Electric System Operator.
Graph from Pembina Institute factsheet. Data is from Alberta’s Electric System Operator.
“The long and the short of it is, whenever it’s windy the price always comes down in Alberta, which is ultimately good for consumers, but it’s not so good for the guys operating the wind plant because they always get the lowest price,” says Tim Weis, policy director with the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Wind energy producers end up selling to the grid at prices 30 per cent below the average grid price. Wind is the cheapest type of power produced in Alberta, with an average price of 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2013. The same per kilowatt-hour figure is 7.7 cents for coal and 8.3 cents for natural gas.

That fact sheet we referenced earlier found a direct relationship between high winds and lower electricity prices. With no fuel cost, wind farm operators bid into the system at zero as it doesn’t cost them anything to produce their power. But bidding in at zero drags the price of the whole system down. As you can see from the graph, when the wind blows electricity is cheap, and when it doesn’t the price goes up.

From the consumer’s point of view, the more renewable energy on the grid, the better. Renewables are cost competitive, they bring down electricity prices for the average Joe and they help Alberta with perhaps its biggest challenge, reducing emissions.

But both energy producers and the provincial government face a larger structural challenge — put enough clean energy on the grid and nobody makes any money.

The market also doesn’t recognize the value provided by the grid as an always-on source of backup power. Even if everyone had a net-zero home you’d still need the grid to turn the lights on after the sun went down.

But we take comfort in the fact that wind and solar are only getting cheaper, that more and more clean energy is being installed in Alberta and around the world, and that — in Alberta at least — wind and solar are putting a couple more dollars in your pocket.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.
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