Oct. 25, 2009

Canada's Economic Action Plan: Real Estate

With the economic slowdown internationally many countries as well as Canada have special policies to help with this. The Economic Action Plan is the name of these special policies in Canada. With 90% of the resources of the fiscal year 2009-2010 being implemented, it is time to have a closer look at it, spotlighting on the Canadian housing sector.

The Canadian economy is being supported with fiscal stimulus by the projects within the Economic Action Plan. The Gross Domestic Income (GDI/GDP) in Canada is at over 4%, due to the stimulus package, higher than the USA and one of the largest worldwide.

Ways to reduce Canada's Tax Burden

Possibly the most substantial part of the Plan is tax cutting. The tax lowering lures related to the property market are: - Home improvement tax credit: $2.5 billion (for the year 2009-2010). - Increase in Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limitation: $15 million. - $175 million allocated for First-time Real Estate Buyers' Tax Credit.

Millions of Canadians have profited from these tax reduction lures already. Since earlier in the year, whilst not the most conspicuous, the First-time House Buyer's Tax Credit helped energize a very quick property rebound all over Canada. Real Estate owners making use of the property renovation credit have noticed their positions strengthened when coming to sell their homes, along with a rise in the market value of the property.

Provoke housing development

In spite of the fact that some realtors specializing in resale real estate are not too inspired about new construction, in the long term it is definitely crucial for a healthy real estate environment and also for real estate agents themselves. Including the tax relief mentioned already to boost and encourage the construction industry and private property ownership, direct spending on construction has further added encouragement which benefits the whole economy.

The action plan has watched over 4,000 projects in the property market begin with a further 3,000 planned. These also involve around 300 social housing projects, which have funds of about $1.025 billion in the fiscal year 2009-2010.

There is nearly $10 billion budgeted for this area alone. Realtors are finding these moves interesting due to the property market impact. In one of our recent articles MoveOntario2020 we talked about the details on how infrastructure projects alter values of properties in their vicinity. Social housing broadens the supply of homes and alters both the resale and rental market, introducing more affordable housing for low income social groups.

The closeness of projects is something that some realtors find vital, when their business is directly affected by these sort of neighbourhoods. However, there is also more international impact on the labor market – construction projects support thousands of jobs and improve the financial situation of the workers, thus raising their ability to finance their own homes.

How effective is this action plan?

Canada's economy has seen the property market become it's driving force, hence it being one of the first areas that have seen a rebound in the current downturn. The monetary policy has been one of the driving forces behind the upward turn of the housing market so state realtors. Still, fiscal boosts plays its own part. Although the plan is very steep we can say it has a positive effect on the real estate sector and we know that a flourishing real estate market is an implication of a healthy national economy.

Oct. 18, 2009

How to Run a Garage Sale and Succeed

Garage sales take careful planning if you want a successful, stress free event. Let’s start by looking at the preparation to be done: Start off by choosing whether you want to hold it by yourself or join forces with someone else. The date and time are critical factors and you need to check your neighbours have no problems as well as any official rules surrounding garage sales in your neighbourhood.

Any goods you are selling need to be clean and in decent condition. Label goods such as clothing with the size and box goods such as books, with their titles exhibited. Any sharp items such as knives need to be secured carefully. Clear price stickers and incentive offers such as 'buy one get one free' all assist with sales. Last but not least, find tables to display your items and chairs for your buyers to rest on. Goods such as clothes hangers to show clothing to its best advantage are a brilliant idea as well as packaging so you buyers can take the items home. Make sure you obtain a decent amount of change in coins and notes. If you are not going to box up any left over goods then ask a charity shop to collect them.

Then you need to think about promotion. Free and attractive garage sale signs are offered for customers by some real estate companies. As the signs are the first thing your buyers will see, by choosing these attractive signs your sale starts off with a polished feel. Find out if your local paper offers cheap or free ads and place posters up in the church, school and local shops. Provide as much information you can, ranging from the times and directions to a summary of goods for sale.

Empty the area of sale of any bits and pieces not for sale and make sure its clean and tidy. To stop yourself being run ragged ask friends and family to help on the day. On the day of the sale if you haven’t put out your tables and chairs then this is the first thing you should do. Allot a rest area where you will be providing drinks, an empty trash can nearby is also a good idea. Directional signs along the route to your home from the main street need to be set in place. Appoint someone to deal with paying purchasers and packaging their goods. Some buyers will want to bargain with prices, so make sure your helpers are aware of your views on this.

Make the area attractive, alluring and obstacle free. Spare batteries and access to an electrical socket are a must to confirm your items work. Show your items appealingly and try to separate them into groups such as household, clothing or gardening. People driving or walking by can be encouraged to stop by Exhibiting your most appealing products nearer your property entrance. It has been known for purchasers to try and return merchandise days later, therefore erect a sign that says 'all sales are final'.

Early arrivals are an inevitable problem when you host a attic sale. Be polite, welcoming and engaging with all your customers and be predisposed to negotiate on the prices. At the designated ending time ask last minute stragglers to politely depart as you are clearing up and packing away any of those unsold goods. Put away tables and chairs and clean up any garbage left lying around also pick up the direction signs. It's officially completed and now you can wind down. Tally up your money while drinking that well earned coffee and deliberate on what you are going to do with it.

Garage sale signs and a more detailed tips can be found at our main site.

Oct. 15, 2009

Restaurant Reviews: Regal Heights Bistro (Toronto)

The windshield wipers of our car are attempting to slap away the pouring rain that's turned this part of Corso Italia into a place full of gravel and muck, as we make our way towards the Regal Heights Bistro on St. Clair, just east of Dufferin. The streetcar track/road improvement project on St. Clair Avenue West is still not finished, limiting the traffic to one lane. Fortunately the bad weather seems to have kept traffic light, and we're able to park just across the street from the restaurant. First we have to cross the no-man's-land of cracked pavement and orange cones, and then I can finally look at the building where I think the Regal Heights Bistro is housed. "There's no sign, there used to be a big sign, and it looks like a pub inside," I observe uneasily. "I hope this is still the right place." "Yep – Regal Heights Bistro," my partner confirms, pointing at a little hand-lettered sign inside the front window, and we see the trademark Jazz Brunch sign as well.

No sooner do we cross the threshold than a hostess is waiting to seat us, offering a choice of any table we want. At eight fifteen, most patrons are sitting near the bar, with the whole restaurant being about a third full. "Are you here for the fist time? The original sign blew down, and the new one we put out on a chalkboard was washed away by the rain." "Today you are in for a treat, we have a birthday celebration and a jazz band, it will be fun!" She reassures us that this is indeed the place we were looking for - though the interior looks more like in a pub than in an upscale bistro, and we can smell French fries in the air. Next we focus on our menus - a two-sided thing that quite disappoints my partner.

"They must've changed their menu," he remarks with a sad face. Maybe as an elitist jazz musician himself, he is just unhappy about the prospect of a live band. The name of the restaurant is written on the top of the menu. I check it again and again, just to make certain we are in the right place. Although I could find no website for the Bistro, and valuable little online information other than bare-bones positive reviews, I did dig up some posted menus: and these presented dishes like caprese salad, provencale escargots, chicken liver pate, smoked salmon crepes and black squid ink linguine. I don't need a menu to tell me that no homemade black squid ink linguine is coming out of this place. The actual offerings consist of normal pub food, perhaps gussied up a bit by special flavors and toppings, but pub food still.

Our hostess comes back to note our order and I note that the menus are very different from what we found online – what happened? Different ownership? "Oh no, same ownership," she assures us. "We haven't done anything on the website in a long time. Our menu has been this way for the last couple of years, we've just gone through a lot of different chefs. Our focus is always on fresh food; we shop every day, we cut our own meat, we make our own burgers, there’s no microwaves…we just want to have more of a casual dining feel." Although the whole pub is definitely casual, including the paper napkins, when I look at the wall signage from around the world, I would still expect a bit more sophisticated menu.

Our hostess smiles: "We shrink from that gastro-pub term," and puts us at her ease with a charming, friendly manner.

See the rest of the story at our original restaurant review

Oct. 14, 2009

Appraisals: Quince Restaurant (Toronto)

Quince is one of the Toronto must-try places - a Mediterranean-inspired bistro with reasonable prices and fresh, innovative flavors. It has been evaluated as extraordinary by the Eye Magazine and after getting some mixed reviews from Toronto Life, also one of the Toronto's Best New Restaurants of 2007. The founders of Quince are Jennifer Gittins and Michael van den Winkel, a husband and wife formerly known from the high-valued Stork on the Roof. Their new place, opened in fall of 2006, is located just a few blocks south of the busy intersection at Yonge and Eglinton.

Enclosed by a pretty patio graced with teak furniture and plenty of cushions in bright, primary colors, Quince is directly across the street from the abandoned hulk that was once Cheaters, an infamous nudie bar. Only two doors down, we can find the famous place Coquine and a neon sign saying "Adult Video & Novelties" - I bet you wouldn't expect this in a region famous for its blossoming business district and parks popular for families. But in the last twenty-five years, there has always been an eclectic mix of shops on this part of Yonge Street between Eglinton and Davisville. Clothing shops, bead and paper shops, home decor, but also adult venues - all this can be found around here.

Just at the door at Quince's, we are warmly welcomed by a hostess and offered a spot near the bar on one of the low, cushioned banquettes. Even though it's a Saturday evening and we are in this lively neighborhood, we can still choose a table, pleading excessive height. “What’s downstairs?” I ask. We get a reply from our hostess: "Oh, that's our private dining room." It is available for lunches and dinners and it has its own bar and lounge, all elegantly decorated (although the tile floor will tell you it's located in the basement). Tonight it's off limits to couples, being available for corporate or private groups of maximum 40 people or cocktail receptions of 70 people at most. For these events, the staff offers you a menu along with matching wines, so that you don't have to care about all the details yourself.

Our waiter is approaching with a brief list of specials, just a moment after we have picked our table. I want to say a brief list of specials consisting of a long explanation of ingredients and preparation methods, and how the meals go together. We can see that the waiter is apparently an expert, he doesn't even need to refer to his notebook as he explains us what is garnish vs. a side dish. The waiter could be best described as personable, friendly and efficient. Left alone to ponder if a whole sea bream (“Most people choose a side with it, it’s just the fish,” our waiter cautions apologetically) is a good idea, we take a look around. I notice the cleverly designed lighting that enhances the whole space of the dining room and adds lovely warmth to it. The space seems to be noticeably large but still somewhat intimate at the same time. The volume level is very comfortable too – despite almost all the tables around us being full, we can easily hear each other and the background music (think D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder). The interior is decorated with modern art in earthy colors, gracing the loft-style brick walls and adding balance to the exposed ductwork, painted in chocolate brown to ease off all traces of sterility. Amazing for voyeurs, a semi-open kitchen offers a glimpse of the wood-fired oven behind the bar.

If you want to see the rest of our review, see the original article, thank you.