Thursday, February 11, 2010
Friday, August 7, 2009
Home Owner's Guide to Sewer Surcharging Clean-up
How does sewer main surcharging affect basement flooding?
Sewer main surcharging can happen during heavy rainstorms or spring run-off; the sewer system may not always be able to handle all the extra water flow. Water and/or sewage may back up into the basement through floor drains, unsecured clean-out caps on the sewer lateral piping system in the basement, or other plumbing fixtures that are below ground level. It mainly occurs in areas where surface water and sanitary wastewater share common piping systems. This is usually the case in the older neighbourhoods of the City of Ottawa.
Surcharging could also occur if the sewer main located downstream from that area is
collapsed or blocked by waste and debris. Sometimes pumping stations break down or
construction activities in the area may cause problems.
If you have a back up of water and/or sewage in your basement, please…
1. Check the toilets, sinks, waste pipes and any installed backflow preventing device in your residential sewage system. Clear any blockages to ensure that the water on the floor is not due to an internal plumbing problem or that internal plumbing problems are not contributing to the situation.
2. Call 3-1-1 if that does not solve the problem, and City staff will come out to determine the cause of the problem.
3. Don't use toilets and sinks unless it is absolutely necessary. (Any water sent down the drain will likely end up in your basement.)
4. Be patient! City staff will respond as soon as possible.
5. Make sure someone will be home to let City staff in.
6. Locate the building sewer clean-out caps. They are usually located in the basement floor near
the front wall, close to the water meter. In older homes, the cap may be located at the base of
the waste stack, which is the main internal drainage pipe coming down to the basement. This pipe goes through the basement floor and leads to the underground sewer main located beneath the street. Make sure that the cleanout caps are not blocked by furniture or other items and that they are accessible to City staff. Do not attempt to open the clean out.
7. Contact your insurance company to advise them of the back up into your basement.
Bacteria / viruses
Water contaminated with sewage may contain a number of bacteria and viruses, which can affect health. The major health concern is related to organisms that affect the gastrointestinal tract causing vomiting and diarrhea (gastroenteritis), and those that affect the liver (Hepatitis A, yellow jaundice). You can contract these illnesses by consuming contaminated food or water, or by putting contaminated hands or articles into your mouth. These bacteria and viruses may be present in the water backing up into your basement; they are not transmitted through the air. Skin irritation or infection can also occur from contact with contaminated water, particularly if open cuts or sores are present.
* Immediately add small amounts of household bleach (approx. two litres) tostanding water.
* Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Whenever floodwater reaches or is threatening to reach gas-fired equipment (furnace, hot water heater, stove, etc.) immediately call Enbridge 24-hour service line (1-888-447-4911). A technician will be dispatched to turn off the gas service to any affected buildings. Enbridge is responsible for the gas distribution piping up to the valve feeding the home.
If the gas supply needs to be shut off at an individual gas-fired appliance, you must call the service company from which you rent your gas-fired equipment or a heating contractor certified to work on gas-fired appliances. Either will dispatch a technician to the site as quickly as they are able. Please ensure that when you place your call with the service provider that you explain that you are experiencing a back up of the sewer lateral in your basement and that your request is urgent.
It is not safe to enter your basement if the water level has reached any plug, electrical outlet, extension cord or baseboard heater. If the water has not yet reached any plug, electrical outlet or baseboard heater and your distribution panel and main switch are still above water, you may be able to shut off the power yourself. Wear rubber boots when walking on a wet surface. If you plan to shut off the electricity at the main switch, first make sure the surface you are standing on is dry and that you are not touching metal (pipes, ladder, etc.). Since dry wood is not a good electrical conductor, stand on a wooden stool or chair, and then shut off the main switch using a dry wooden stick such as a broom handle. If it is not possible to safely shut off the main switch, or if the water has reached the panel or any electrical source, do not touch anything. Instead, call
an electrical contractor licensed to work in the City of Ottawa.
Before turning the power back on after the water subsides, call an electrical contractor to check your installation and confirm that there is no risk of electrocution or fire if the power is restored.
Hydro Ottawa (613-738-6400) can shut off the power at an outside source if required (meter, stand pipe, pole or transformer). Hydro Ottawa will only restore power after the customer (or your electrical contractor) obtains a permit number from the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) and someone with access to the home is present at the time of power restoration. The ESA can be reached at 1-877-372-7233.
Record the details of damage with photos or video, if possible. Contact your insurance agent. You may also want to record the dates and times of your calls to the City and your tracking number in case your insurance adjuster needs that information.
Never mix ammonia-based cleaning products and household bleaching agents as toxic fumes are generated when they are mixed together.
Water damage in your home can increase health risks if the water is not removed quickly and mould develops. Exposure to elevated levels of indoor moulds can affect your health by triggering allergic reactions, or causing eye, throat, and skin irritations, toxicity, or infection.
One species of indoor mould, Stachybotrys atra (or Stachybotrys chartarum), has been linked to severe illness. It grows on cellulose-based materials like wood, paper, and drywall when damp or wet for prolonged periods. This type of mould is dark-green to black in colour and produces toxins that are released into the air. If you or a family member experience symptoms associated with indoor mould exposure, consult your physician to determine if moulds are a possible cause.
Anyone can be affected by mould, but some people are more susceptible than others, including:
* people with asthma or allergies to moulds
* infants and young children whose lungs are still developing, and
* people with weakened immune systems.
Mould will grow in humid conditions. The best way to prevent mould contamination is to ventilate and dry your basement as quickly as possible. Items, such as waterlogged drywall (gypsum board) should be removed and discarded to prevent mould growth. Structural members (wall studs) should be dry before closing cavities in walls, crawl spaces, etc. Discoloration of surfaces and structures may be a sign of mould. Mould may be any colour: black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet. Dab a drop of household bleaching agent onto a suspected spot. If the stain loses its colour, it may be mould. If there is no change, it is probably not mould. If you suspect mould growth, seek professional guidance on proper cleanup
procedures. The local Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) office can refer you to certified Indoor Air Quality Investigators (IAQs) in your area.
The following agencies can provide information on indoor moulds, their health effects, proper mould clean-up procedures, and advice on health problems related to indoor air quality:
* Ottawa Public Health, Environment & Health
Protection division: Tel: 613-580-6744
* Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
(CMHC): Tel.: 613-748-2367, TDD: 613-748-2447
* The Lung Association CAN-DO Program: Tel.: 1-800-97-CANDO
What to keep or discard
Subject to confirmation with your insurance company's adjuster's evaluation, the following may have to be discarded if they have been in contact with wastewater:
* All insulation materials and all less expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys and pillows.
* Electrical or gas-fired appliances that have come in contact with water or wastewater.
* Furniture coverings, padding and cushions. The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but must be cleaned, disinfected, rinsed and dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat.
Separate valuable papers. You may wish to ask a lawyer whether to save the papers themselves or just the information on them. Items of particular value that show no visible contamination pose a minimal risk once they are completely dry.
Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times in water and detergent treated with household bleach, and dry quickly.
* Throw out canned goods and other foods that may have been affected by floodwaters. This would include contaminated herbs and vegetables from your garden, if it were covered by floodwater from the sanitary sewer system.
* A full chest or upright freezer will keep food frozen for up to two days if there is no power. A half-full freezer will keep the food frozen for about one day if the freezer is kept closed. If your freezer will be without power for a long period of time, move the frozen food to a family member's or neighbour's freezer. Discard any thawed food that has remained at room temperature for two or more hours.
* A refrigerator will keep food cool for four to six hours, depending on the kitchen temperature and original temperature of the refrigerator. Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry or fish in the coldest section of the refrigerator. If available, place ice in the refrigerator to help keep it cool.
* Discard any food that has an obvious strange colour or odour.
* Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
* Articles such as stuffed toys and paper goods contaminated by floodwaters should be discarded because they cannot be properly sanitized.
* Minor debris can be left out for regular garbage pick-up.
Equipment to have on hand
It is advisable to have the following equipment on hand in sufficient quantity for the number of people who will be cleaning up the basement following a back up. If practical, store the items in a container near the top of the stairs to the basement so they will be easily accessible when you need them. (It is not a good idea to store these items at the far end of the basement).
* Rubber boots, rubber gloves, dust masks
* A rubber-backed rug or mat that can be used to transfer in and out of your boots so that any potential contamination is limited to the basement area. You should be prepared to discard this mat following the clean up.
* Household bleach
* Old clothing that can be discarded after the cleaning operation
* An old mop and pail to wash down walls and floors
* Heavy duty garbage bags
* Rags and old towels
Recommended procedures during clean up
* Wear protective clothing overalls, rubber gloves, protective eyeglasses, rubber boots and a facemask.
* Stay clear of electrical equipment and do not attempt to change any fuses if you are standing in water or on damp ground.
* Never mix ammonia-based cleaning products and household bleaching agents as toxic fumes are generated when they are mixed together.
* Follow proper lifting procedure when lifting or moving objects in order to prevent back injury.
* Open windows to allow fresh air in.
* Ventilate and ensure that there is adequate cross ventilation to remove any fumes. Begin dehumidifying the house and continue through the cleaning process until the house and its contents are completely dry.
* Immediately add small amounts of household bleach to standing water.
* Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
* Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
* Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove wall materials at least 500 millimetres above the high-water lines.
* Wash and wipe down all surfaces and structures with household bleach, ensuring that there is adequate cross ventilation to remove fumes. Then rinse again.
* Disinfect the walls and the floor using a household bleach and water solution. Wait for the area to dry completely before re-using it.
* Wipe down surfaces that have not been directly affected with a solution of one part household bleach to four parts cold or tepid (not hot) water, mixed with a small amount of non-ammonia dishwashing detergent (household bleach and ammonia, when mixed together, produce toxic fumes). Then rinse.
* Scrub affected furniture with antibacterial soap and water and place outside to dry away from direct sunlight (weather permitting), or steam clean.
* Rinse and then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Replace flooring that has been deeply penetrated by floodwater or sewage.
* Wastewater-soaked (sewage) carpets must be discarded.
* Storm water-soaked carpets must be dried within two days. Homeowners can't effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves. Qualified professionals are required.
* Clean and deodorize storm water-soaked carpets or have them professionally cleaned.
* To minimize the occurrence of mould it is important that materials are thoroughly and rapidly air-dried without application of direct heat. Items can be dried more quickly if they are set outside, protected from direct sunlight (weather permitting).
* Clean all interior and exterior surfaces of walls, cupboards, etc. with a solution of water, household bleach, and non-ammonia dish detergent and dry thoroughly, checking often for mould and killing it with household bleach. Ensure that structural members (wall studs) are dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities in walls, crawl spaces, etc.
Taking care of yourself: Stress resulting from basement flooding
The trauma of basement flooding can be overwhelming. Taking care of yourself is essential to coping emotionally during a flooding event. The following tips will help you and family members deal with stress from basement flooding:
* Take the time to eat; you will need to keep up your strength for the clean up.
* Take small breaks during clean up to re-charge. Take this opportunity to relax and stretch your muscles and back.
* Help children deal with stress by providing them with healthy food and talking to them about how they feel.
* Whether you require physical or emotional help, be sure to reach out and ask others for help. Do not hesitate to seek aid from family, friends and community support services.
* Stay informed; unnecessary fears can often lead to panic. Avoid this by finding out as much as you can about what is happening. Take things day by day and rely on your social network.
Before re-occupying your basement
If electrical appliances, outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels have been flooded, do not energize or return to service until they have been inspected by a licensed electrical contractor or Hydro Ottawa. If they have been soaked, replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return-duct pans
and have them cleaned out or replaced. Replace insulation inside water heater, refrigerators and freezers if it has been wet. If insulation replacement is not practical, these appliances may have to be replaced or specialized cleaning services may be required in order to ensure that mould will not grow in the affected appliances. Inspect the basement for the presence of mould and that all material in the basement is completely dry.
Flush and disinfect floor drains and sump pits using diluted household bleach, and
scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime.
Work with your insurance company to select a reputable contractor for restoration and remediation of your property. The City recommends that you include a statement in your agreement (contract) that the contractor will ensure that all work performed will conform to the Ontario Building Code, and that a building permit will be obtained from the City when required by the Ontario Building Code Act.
Any work performed on the plumbing system requires a building permit. Please consult the City's Web site for more information on building permits:
To find out if the work you are planning requires a permit, please contact Building Services branch through the Contact Centre at 3-1-1.
The Ontario government also has established a
Web site for the Building Code. For specific
information on the Building Code, please refer
to their Web site: www.obc.mah.gov.on.ca
Level of City service
The City regularly cleans its sewer main systems. We also inspect and monitor the city sewers using closed circuit television and other methods. When we find an operational problem, we follow up with the required maintenance, repairs and rehabilitation. Large-scale re-engineering of infrastructure related problems can take longer to solve.
However, unanticipated problems can occur and occasionally this can result in the back
up of water and/or sewage. The City has expert staff on duty at all times to respond to
What City staff will do
City staff will first check the City main sewer system adjacent to your property to make sure that it is working properly. If the problem is operational in nature, it will be fixed as soon as possible. Systemic problems require more time to resolve.
Extended pick up of damaged materials
Following a sewer surcharge event, the City will arrange for additional curbside collection of items that must be discarded, if required. The City will provide affected residents with a schedule of the additional collections and warning labels to be placed on those items to deter other people from salvaging them.
If the events dictate that some materials have to be temporarily stored in residents' driveways, the City will work with the residents to ensure that traffic and parking issues are addressed. The process could involve issuing temporary parking permits.
The Environment & Health Protection division of Ottawa Public Health is available to answer questions and provide public health information about safe clean up after a basement back up. In addition, in the event of a large sewer surcharge, public health inspectors will provide important information and facts concerning safe clean up to the residents.
The City will use all available methods of communication (door-to-door, automated voice messages, media releases) to provide residents with information during a major sewer surcharge event.
Property owners who have incurred damages to buildings or contents should contact their insurance companies for assistance. Their insurer normally submits a claim to the City for investigation and response, on their behalf.
Correspondence regarding sewer-related damage claims against the City of Ottawa should be forwarded to:
Risk Management Section
City of Ottawa
100 Constellation Crescent, 4th floor West,
Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
Telephone: 613-580-2655, Fax: 613-580-2654, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Claims Office of the Risk Management Section will ensure that the claims are
acknowledged, investigated, tracked and evaluated, and will then determine the
Friday, July 24, 2009
renting an apartment
buying a home
looking after your home
The link is the following:
Saturday, March 21, 2009
So what to do? Remodel or buy a new home?
Experts say that if the cost to remodel is higher than 10% of your home’s current value, it may be wise to sell the property and buy a new one, just like the one you want... and in the location you want.
But it is always a good idea to have some remodeling before listing your property. Most buyers—like you—pay close attention to kitchens, flooring, bathrooms, siding, windows and roof.
An important consideration before formulating your home renovation plan is remodel cost. Your budget will define how extensive the renovation project can be and whether your plan is feasible or not.
In some regions there are possibilities of qualifying for a renovation rebate program (like upgrading your old windows to Energy Star® products).
And do not forget to check the local building codes!
· Investment in home improvement is a key point in the competitive housing market.
· 79% of sellers made improvements to their homes in a period of two years prior to listing (39% of them did so with selling in mind).
Homeowners look to boot resale value by renovating. Doing so they bring their home up to today’s standards.
· According to Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President and Regional Director of RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada, “...with buyers visiting an average of nine properties before settling on the one they want to call their own, sellers need a distinct advantage over the competition. Location is still the primary factor for buyers, but a property’s condition also plays an important role. Our Survey found properties with updated kitchen cabinetry, hardwood flooring, new windows, an open-concept and a finished basement appeal most to today’s selective purchaser.”
· The most appealing upgrades were:
1) Kitchen cabinet
2) Hardwood floor
3) New windows
4) Removing walls and create open concept living
5) Finishing the basement
6) Kitchen appliances
7) New shingles
8) New bathroom taps and plumbing
Remodeling can make your home more valuable and saleable but it does not mean that you will have a return on investment higher than 100%. If in your neighborhood all houses have hardwood floors, buyers will expect to find this feature in your home. If you don’t have it, your house may be ignored at the time you put it on the market. But have in mind that if you spend $10,000 with the hardwood, the value of your house may increase in only $7,500. But the most important fact is that buyers may become interested on it.
The Appraisal Institute of Canada has interesting studies about renovations and expected returns on the investment. You can find it at the following address: www.aicanada.ca/e/resourcecenter_renova.cfm . The following table is an adaptation of the data from the site:
Kitchen renovation 75% ~100%
Build a fence 25% ~100%
Exterior / Interior painting 50% ~100%
Install central air conditioning 25% ~75%
Roof shingle replacement 50% ~80%
Landscaping 25% ~50%
Install a fireplace 50% ~75%
Bathroom renovation 75% ~100%
Basement renovation 50% ~75%
Friday, March 20, 2009
Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC)
Home renovations can represent a smart investment in the long-term value of a home and generate broad-based economic activity. They can also reduce energy consumption and the long-term cost of owning a home. To support economic growth during these challenging times, Budget 2009 proposes to introduce a temporary Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC). The HRTC will provide a temporary incentive for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects, thus providing timely stimulus to the Canadian economy while boosting energy efficiency and the value of Canada’s housing stock.
How the Temporary HRTC Will Work
The proposed HRTC will provide a temporary 15-per-cent income tax credit on eligible home renovation expenditures for work performed, or goods acquired, after January 27, 2009 and before February 1, 2010, pursuant to agreements entered into after January 27, 2009. The credit may be claimed for the 2009 taxation year on the portion of eligible expenditures exceeding $1,000, but not more than $10,000, and will provide up to $1,350 in tax relief.
Who Can Claim the HRTC
The HRTC will be family-based. For the purpose of the credit, a family will generally be considered to consist of an individual, and where applicable, the individual’s spouse or common-law partner. Family members will be able to share the credit. The amount eligible for the credit will be based on the total value of eligible expenditures incurred across all eligible dwellings. A dwelling will generally be considered eligible if it is used for personal purposes. This will include a house, a cottage, and a condominium unit. It is estimated that about 4.6 million families in Canada will benefit from the HRTC .
Benefits of the Temporary Home Renovation Tax Credit Examples
The following examples illustrate how homeowners can benefit from the HRTC.
1. Sally and Ed are a couple who have recently purchased a house. To take advantage of the temporary HRTC, they decide to replace their windows and improve the insulation in their home in 2009, instead of waiting, incurring $10,000 in expenditures. After taking account of the $1,000 minimum threshold, a 15-per-cent credit will be available on $9,000 in eligible expenditures, providing tax relief of $1,350.
2. William and Marie are a couple who are planning to purchase a more energy-efficient furnace for their home, and build a deck at their cottage sometime later. To take full advantage of the temporary HRTC, they decide to do both projects in 2009 rather than waiting. They pay $5,000 for the furnace and $3,500 for the deck. They also decide to have the area around the deck landscaped for $2,500, bringing their total costs to $11,000 ($5,000 + $3,500 + $2,500). Marie claims a credit of $1,350 on the maximum allowable amount of $9,000. This credit is in addition to the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant that William and Marie expect to receive for installing a more energy-efficient furnace.
3. Karen and Heather are sisters who share ownership of a condominium unit. They each incur $7,500 in expenditures renovating the kitchen in the condominium, in part to provide access for Heather’s wheelchair. Karen and Heather each claim a $975 credit on eligible expenditures of $6,500 ($7,500 – $1,000). This credit is in addition to the Medical Expense Tax Credit that Heather may claim on the portion of expenses eligible for that credit.
Expenditures Eligible for the HRTC
It is proposed that the HRTC be claimed for renovations and alterations to a dwelling or the land on which it sits that are enduring in nature. For example, homeowners will be able to claim expenditures for major renovation projects such as finishing a basement, renovating a kitchen, or building an addition. Costs associated with such projects will be eligible for the credit, including permits, professional services, equipment rentals and incidental expenses. Routine repairs and maintenance normally performed on an annual or more frequent basis (e.g. cleaning, lawn fertilization, and snow removal) will not qualify for the credit. The cost of purchasing furniture, appliances, audiovisual electronics and construction equipment will not be eligible. Individuals will need to keep receipts for expenditures, and may claim the HRTC when filing their income tax returns for 2009. The HRTC will complement support provided by the Government for Canadians to undertake energy-saving improvements to their homes. Federal grants paid through the ecoENERGY Retrofit program will not reduce the value of claims made for these expenditures under the HRTC. Eligible renovation expenditures claimed under the Medical Expense Tax Credit may also be claimed under the HRTC. The effectiveness of the HRTC will be enhanced to the extent that retailers also encourage homeowners to undertake renovations to their properties. It is estimated that this measure will cost $500 million in 2008–09 and $2.5 billion in 2009–10.
Enhancing the Energy Efficiency of Our Homes
Promoting energy efficiency and conservation is an effective means of reducing energy demand. The ecoENERGY Retrofit program provides home and property owners with grants of up to $5,000 to offset the costs of making energy-efficiency improvements. Grants apply to a variety of measures that reduce energy consumption from increasing insulation to upgrading a furnace. Building on the success of the existing program, Budget 2009 provides an additional $300 million over two years to the ecoENERGY Retrofit program to support an estimated 200,000 additional home retrofits.
Increasing Withdrawal Limits Under the Home Buyers’ Plan
Saving the down payment for a home can be a challenge for many first-time home buyers. The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows first-time home buyers to withdraw up to $20,000 from a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to purchase or build a home. Unlike regular RRSP withdrawals, HBP withdrawals are not included in income when withdrawn. Amounts withdrawn under the HBP must be repaid over a 15-year period, starting the second year following the year of the withdrawal, or included in the individual’s income if not repaid. To provide first-time home buyers with additional access to their RRSP savings to purchase or build a home, Budget 2009 proposes to increase the HBP withdrawal limit to $25,000 from $20,000 in respect of withdrawals made after January 27, 2009. It is also proposed that the increase apply to HBP withdrawals made for the purchase of a more accessible or functional home where the individual making the withdrawal is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), or if the withdrawal is made for the benefit of a DTC-eligible person who is related to the individual making the withdrawal. This is the first increase in the withdrawal limit since the HBP was introduced in 1992. With the $5,000 increase to the withdrawal limit, two first-time home buyers purchasing a home jointly (e.g. a married or common-law couple) with sufficient RRSP funds in each of their names may now together withdraw up to $50,000 from their RRSP funds toward the purchase of a home in Canada. It is estimated that this measure will cost $15 million in each of 2009–10 and 2010–11.
First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit
The costs associated with purchasing a home, such as legal fees, disbursements and land transfer taxes, can be a particular burden for first-time home buyers, who must pay these costs on top of saving the money for a down payment. To assist first-time home buyers with the costs associated with the purchase of a home, Budget 2009 proposes to introduce a First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit—a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009. For an eligible individual, the credit will provide up to $750 in federal tax relief starting in 2009. It is also proposed that the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit be made available to existing homeowners in respect of a more accessible or functional home purchased by an individual eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), or for the benefit of a DTC-eligible person who is related to the individual purchasing the home. It is estimated that this measure will cost $30 million in 2008–09, $175 million in 2009–10 and $180 million in 2010–11.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The 2009 RE/MAX First‐Time Buyers Report, highlighting first‐time buying activity in 32 residential housing markets across Canada, found that improved affordability is prompting many first‐time buyers to get off the fence, out of the rental, and into the market. While a sense of caution still prevails, more and more firsttimers are finding it hard to pass up the chance to become homeowners in today’s buyer‐centric real estate climate. Increased inventory and longer days on market coupled with the lowest lending rates ever are presenting opportunities that have not been seen in almost a decade.
“While the current economic crisis has caused some first‐time buyers to either take it slowly or apply the brakes, home ownership remains a top priority for those who are able to take advantage of reduced carrying costs, rock bottom interest rates and lower house prices,” explains Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President and Regional Director, RE/MAX Ontario‐Atlantic Canada. “Affordability has greatly improved and buyers are firmly in the drivers’ seat in just about every market we surveyed. The new reality is that homeownership remains well within reach for most first‐time buyers.”
Although the year got off to a slow start, February home sales were well ahead of those reported in January.
The upward trending is expected to continue as more and more first‐time buyers enter the market in the weeks ahead. The flurry of activity in the lower‐end may also serve to kick‐start sales in the mid‐to‐upper end of the market, which have, as expected, been relatively sluggish in recent months. While inventory and days on market was up virtually across the board, it’s noteworthy that several markets reported tighter conditions in the lower end of the market, where demand and buyer activity remains quite healthy.
“Canadian markets from coast‐to‐coast are ripe for a reawakening as the weather warms up,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “First‐time buyers seem more acclimatized to economic factors, even though the barrage of bad news continues to flow. Those who are secure in their jobs, have accumulated good down payments, and have acceptable credit ratings are continuing to venture forward, undeterred by tighter lending criteria.”
According to the RE/MAX Report, buyers are clearly in control in most Canadian markets. Of the 32 markets surveyed, 22 (69 per cent) remain firmly in buyer’s market territory. These include Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Ottawa, Peterborough, London‐St. Thomas, Niagara Falls, Mississauga, Metro Toronto, Northern GTA, Kingston, Windsor, Hamilton‐Burlington. Barrie, and Halifax‐Dartmouth. Ten (31 per cent) report more balanced conditions: Winnipeg, Kitchener‐Waterloo, Sudbury, North Bay, St. Catharines, Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, St. John’s, and
Forty per cent of markets offered single‐detached homes priced under $200,000, including Charlottetown, Saint John, Moncton, Peterborough, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Windsor, Fredericton, Halifax‐Dartmouth, London, North Bay, Kingston, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. More than two‐thirds (71 per cent) offered condominiums starting under $200,000, (Moncton, Fredericton, Halifax‐Dartmouth, Sudbury, North Bay, Peterborough, Mississauga, Burlington, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Kitchener‐Waterloo, London, Windsor, Surrey, Chilliwack, Victoria, Kelowna, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg).
The most affordable markets for detached homes, based on starting prices are: Moncton ($115,000), Charlottetown ($120,000), and Saint John ($130,000) in Eastern Canada; Windsor ($75,000), Niagara Falls ($119,000), and St. Catharines ($125,000) in Ontario; Winnipeg ($185,000), Saskatoon ($190,000), and Regina ($210,000) in Western Canada.