Posted by & filed under CREA, Uncategorized.

The end of the world never came, so here we are back to the grind at the start of what we’d like to hope will be another great year.

One of the biggest issues with the new year is getting back into work mode. Everybody suffers from this (you’re lying if you deny it) including ourselves, so we’ve decided to pass along a few tools that will help ease the blow and keep your productivity optimized. We’ve gathered a compilation of some of our favourite extensions for our favourite browser: Google Chrome.

Not a Chrome user? You should be. Here’s a few Chrome extensions and apps to take some of the pain out of your first days back at work.

Short Link Getter: Does it drive you insane when a colleague passes a link along that’s about as long as the first chapter of Lord of the Rings? Fear no more. The Short Link Getter is the perfect tool to add to your browser to have a short URL for whatever page you’re on with the click of a button. No more are the days of copying, pasting into a shortener, re-copying your tiny URL, and sending it off. Just click, copy, and paste.

Google Mail Checker and YouSendIt For Webmail: Like us, many use GMail to keep our e-mail in order; personal or professional. With these two plugins, GMail just got even better. Receive instant inbox updates right to your toolbar with the Google Mail Checker, preventing having to incessantly check your inbox to see if you’ve got mail. Now, you just know. Have trouble sending large files through GMail? Just download the YouSendIt for Webmail extension and watch your fears melt away. Easily attach large files right to your GMail to share them with colleagues and friends alike with the click of a button. No more need 3rd party sites/programs or “WHY WON’T THIS SEND? BE SMALLER!” moments, just a simplified process.

Highlight to Search: One of the smaller aggravations encountered around many offices is the highlight, copy, paste, and search process, which can be tedious when doing ample research. This extension allows for a quick and easy process. Just highlight the keyword, click, and Google it. It’s that easy.

TooManyTabs and Page Snooze: A predominant issue when conducting research is the eventual maelstrom of ‘tabs’ that consumes the top of your browser. Ever wished for a way to save some of these for later, or to organize them is an efficient way? These two extensions allow you to do just that. Organize and categorize your tabs with TooManyTabs, or simply put them to sleep for up to two weeks with Page Snooze. Happy tabbing!

Speed Dial: If you’re a frequent flyer to a set of specific sites, this is your dream. Speed Dial allows users to customize their ‘new tab’ to have a set grid of sites ready to go at the click of a mouse rather than a) remembering them all, and b) typing them in one after the other. Getting to your sources is now a total breeze.

Adblock for Youtube™: Last but not least, we present you the most handy gadget of the bunch. Not because it improves productivity, but because it’s the internet’s Advil when it comes to the ever-annoying ads that YouTube displays before, during, and after their videos. Now you can get back to how it used to be and skip all that garbage with the Adblock for Youtube™ extension.

Now, get out there, download Google Chrome, and start your year off the right way: as easy as possible.

Have some personal favourites that we missed? Be sure to share them in the comments below.


image courtesy of Lisa Brewster

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.


When I bought my first condo, many years ago, single home buyers, especially young female single homebuyers were unusual, but definitely on the rise. Thank heavens, times have changed a lot since then. According to a recent study by Genworth Financial, one-quarter of Canadian home purchasers in 2011/2012 will be single. While many of those buyers are purchasing condos, a sizeable proportion will be buying houses. And today, mortgage lenders and condo builders are eager to court the single’s business.

According to Jim Rawson, a broker with the mortgage company Invis, “A lot more single people are buying homes today, both condos and single-family houses.” Financially, it just makes a lot of sense, he says. “Rents, at least in Toronto, are not cheap. If you’re paying $1,000 to $1,500 or more a month in rent, you could be carrying a $250,000 mortgage for that same amount, and be building equity for the future.”

Interest rates, he points out, are at historic lows and likely to stay there, even if they do rise in the next few years, making mortgages more affordable than ever. Whether you choose a low-cost variable rate, or the security of a fixed rate, it’s still nothing like the 14.5% we witnessed in the 80′s! (The most recent predictions estimate that the prime rate could rise to about 6% by 2013, Rawson says, but that’s still a bargain by 20th-century standards.)

For Carla Sutton*, purchasing her first house about 10 years ago was, in part, a purely financial decision. “I’d been renting for the past 13 years, and I realized that if I bought a house and rented out part of it, it wouldn’t cost much more than my apartment did, and it would be a great investment for the future.” Both her parents and siblings owned income properties as well, so she had plenty of guidance. 

Carla had clear priorities when she went house-shopping, she says. Along with a firm price range, her must-have list included off-street parking, a garden, a neighbourhood she loved—and she was prepared to take her time choosing the perfect house for her needs. After looking at dozens of homes, she finally chose a pretty little mid-town semi, with a sunny main-floor space for herself and two self-contained apartments for what turned out to be excellent tenants.

The number-one piece of advice Jim Rawson gives potential home buyers is to sit down with a mortgage broker or a bank and find out exactly what you can afford, before you go home-shopping. Most lenders will either pre-qualify the mortgage, which means they do all the paperwork and guarantee the current rate, usually for 120 days, or if you’re not ready to commit just yet, at least calculate a ballpark figure for you. Once you know what you can afford, be prepared to stick with it, even if you see a house you love that’s just a little out of your price range. “You don’t want to be house-poor, especially when you’re young,” Rawson advises. “You want to have money to enjoy your life, not pay it all to your mortgage—and if your interest rate does go up, you could be caught.”

Still, there are several options for boosting “how much” house or condo you can afford. Carla took advantage of a government program that allows first-time buyers to borrow up to $25,000 from their RRSP to use as a down payment. The rules state that you must start repaying the loan within two years of the home purchase and pay off the balance by 15 years, or else pay income tax on the outstanding amount. (As Rawson points out, though, even on $25,000, the tax is not likely to be an onerous amount, especially compared to how much you’ve saved over that time in mortgage interest.)

Another option is to purchase a home that includes one or more rental units. There is an upside and downside to this idea; the upside is that if you play your cards right, your tenants can pay a large chunk of your mortgage for you. The downside is taking on all the responsibilities of a good landlord, which includes qualifying tenants, carrying out repairs and maintenance, and being prepared to carry the mortgage by yourself if the apartment stands empty for a time.

Nowadays, both banks and consumers themselves are much more sophisticated about buying and financing a home than they were back when I bought my first condo.  Even with the ups and downs of the last few years, real estate is still one of the safest investments you can make for the future. 

And for many Canadians, there’s just something indefinably satisfying about owning your own acre of ground—even if it’s several storeys up.  

There are many options out there and the more buyers I work with, the more options around town I find for buying a home.  There are programs builders have created to help with down payments so even if you’re credit is ok but you’re struggling with a down payment, call me and I can steer you in the right direction. 778 214 1773.

~Marika Rabczak

*changed name


Posted by & filed under CREA, Uncategorized.

You’d think that the market being down in the dumps would be something to worry about, but according to new theories put forth by several economists this could be somewhat of a God-send for real estate recovery.

Like we were saying in our post ‘Collaborative Recovery’, in order for the real estate market to recover, we need to see participation from all areas of society rather than the elite. Well, prices being as low as they currently are could in fact be what we’re looking for to jump-start the climb out of the market’s shriveled state. Couples, young families, or whomever else, have now been granted the opportunity of a low-cost housing index (for the most part) which is exactly the type of stimulus the market needs to recover. The low prices could very well be the icing on the cake for a lot of potential young buyers, who may otherwise not have been able to afford a home. Now that mortgage rates are so low and housing prices having practically never been lower (at least for quite some time), we may finally start to see the collaborative initiative required for a wholesome market recovery.

Through this, theories are also being put forth suggesting that the Canadian market won’t take a second dive like our neighbours to the South as statistics put forth suggesting a second crash were in fact misconstrued and did not account all factors, especially when compared to the US market. For example, the debt-to-income ratio, when compared to the US, didn’t take into account the amount of extra benefits Canadians receive through their debt such as healthcare and other subsidized services that the US doesn’t provide, therefore weighting economic predictions in a direction that may not be entirely comparable after all.

The only way to tell if any of these theories come true, is of course time. However, the prospects being put forth don’t seem shy of being on the right track…we hope.

image courtesy of USACE-Sacramento District

Posted by & filed under CREA, Uncategorized.

A short while ago we talked about how the real estate’s market recovery will more likely than not depend on full societal collaboration and participation within the market, in a post called ‘To Stabilize We Must Equalize’. If only those who are in good shape participate, then top-end properties circulate freely while mid-level properties stay put and depreciate.

Looking into the future, this concept is seemingly being applied to various markets already, which is a huge step in the right direction. Participation is going to be the key to market re-stabilization.  In the US, it’sshowing that dual-income households are helping largely in this aspect. Therein lies the example that multiple participants working towards a common goal within their own households are improving the market in its entirety. An annual study by NAR showed that about 65% of all buyers are married couples, as opposed to 58% the year before. This increase in efforts is exactly what we need to see.

According to a recent Scotiabank poll, an impressive 77% of Canadians view home purchasing as an investment as opposed to an expense. With this mentality, Canada will hopefully follow-suit with our neighbours to the South in investigating the proper investment methods that will not only benefit the buyers and sellers, but the market itself. Recovery is close, now it’s just a matter of harnessing interests and investment strategies to collaboratively force a market recovery.


image courtesy of Ken Jarvis Photography

Posted by & filed under Home Tips, Sellers Tips, Uncategorized.

How to: Sell your home in winter

This is a great article for all of our current clients. November is a time that any people like to take their home off the market but there are many of us who simply are not in the position to wait. Remember, if your home is not listed on MLS, with a Realtor, other Realtor’s across Canada do not know that you’re trying to sell.

Many people believe it’s harder to sell your home in winter than summer but I think there are a number of real advantages to selling during the cooler months. For one thing, removed from the sometimes frenzied action of the spring market, sellers can take a little more time to consider offers, and with fewer homes on the market, there’s less competition.

Okanagan winters are nothing compared to Calgary or Regina! Don’t worry, there are many things that lead people to make new home purchases — a new job, a growing family, up – or downsizing, these things happen all year round, and there are still plenty of buyers out there. In fact, winter is a great time for playing up your home’s cosy, family-friendly charm.

Start with the exterior
As with any time of year, make sure that the house looks well maintained and cared for, with eaves troughs clean and minor repairs taken care of. While you can’t paint in winter, washing paintwork and siding with warm soapy water on a mild day can make a big difference. Make sure the windows are freshly washed as well; winter light has a way of highlighting grime.

Tend to the Front
Make sure that shrubs and tree-branches bent down with snow don’t obstruct walkways or entrances; brush the snow off or prune if necessary. (It won’t hurt them.) Ensure that the walkway is shovelled and ice-free before every showing; not only is this a courtesy and crucial to making the home look well maintained, but if a visitor slips and is hurt, you could be liable for damages.

Adorn the entryway
A wreath on the front door, Christmas lights and a garland hung on the door frame or front porch present a welcoming entry. Plant urns with festive greenery, the fuller the better: along with cedar or pine boughs, tuck in sprigs of holy, dried berries, magnolia leaves, corkscrew hazel or red osier branches, with silver ball ornaments and perhaps gold wire ribbon woven through the arrangement.

Make a good first impression
Once a prospective buyer comes inside, remember that you may have only 10 to 15 minutes to make a lasting impression. (A small but crucial point for unoccupied homes: make sure the heat is turned on several hours before the showing. All the window-dressing and staging in the world won’t entice buyers to linger inside a home that’s freezing.)

Light candles
Romance visitors’ sense of smell by lighting fragrant candles or placing bowls of potpourri in main rooms. A time-honoured but still effective trick, especially on a cold winter’s day, is to have a pot of cider simmering on the stove, or cookies or fresh bread baking.

Protect the floors
To protect your floors, put down rubber mats by the door for snowy boots; buy a few pairs of comfy one-size-fits-all slippers from a department or discount store for visitors to wear while they view your home.

Light a fire
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, light a fire and let it glow during the showing. Put big, colourful poinsettias in each main room, including the kitchen; consider more modest winter flower arrangements or amaryllis blooms in other rooms, such as the bath and master bedroom. Decorate banisters and mantels with pine garlands (natural ones impart a delicious, nostalgic fragrance); a decorated and lit Christmas tree or menorah enhances an image of home and family.

After the holidays, seasonal decorations can be taken down, but urn arrangements and even the front door wreath can stay up for the rest of the winter, if it isn’t too Christmasy in design. Make sure you continue to maintain walkways clear of ice and snow, and think warm thoughts!

I hope this article takes away some of the hesitation of selling in the winter.  There is no need to wait and really depending on the situation, many of us do not have the time to wait.  Feel free to contact me any time with your questions.


Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Speculations around market recovery are many. The desolate state in which the property market resides is remaining stagnant, with fragments of measurable recovery being made. Therein lies the question of how to inject some life into the current market; enough to drive a full recovery.

A recent Vancouver Sun article highlighted a very interesting and probable theory put forth by Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson. The concept he proposes is that more low to middle-income housing must be implemented in order to develop an efficient housing market recovery. Reason being is similar to a concept we covered in a previous blog post - Here We Go Again - that covered the principle of a market recovery being impossible wherein the lower-income citizens couldn’t participate in the market themselves. If only the wealthy are purchasing and rotating properties, then the market only fluctuates above a particular income bracket, as opposed to that of a fluid recovery that encompasses the efforts of all classes within a particular society.

The concept of introducing affordable housing for the lower and middle-class is quite ideal. In order to stabilize the property market, we must first even the playing field. If implemented successfully, this methodology could quickly yield beneficial results, as a rounded market recovery rather than a weighted one would increase and stabilize real estate across the board instead of augmenting the values of high-value properties for relatively elite citizens to exchange amongst themselves like poker chips.

For more real estate and environmental news, follow us on Twitter @enviromint


image courtesy of Antanith


Posted by & filed under Kelowna Market Statistics, Who's Buying?.

This monthly information is a fantastic resource for our sellers!

Kelowna, BC – Ever wonder where home buyers come from? Since September 2010, the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) has been collecting information from our members with regards to where our buyers are coming from – both geographically and demographically.

September 2012 Home Buyers have been coming from:
- Within the OMREB Board area (58.1%)
- Alberta (16.8%)
- Lower Mainland/Vancouver Island (10.3%)
- Other areas of BC (8.0%)
- Saskatchewan/Manitoba (2.4%)
- Eastern Canada/Maritimes (2.3%)
- Outside Canada (1.4%)
- North West Territories/Yukon* (0.5%)

September 2011 – Home Buyers came from:

- Within the OMREB Board area (56.5%)
- Alberta (14.9%)
- Lower Mainland/Vancouver Island (11.1%)
- Other areas of BC (8.3%)
- Saskatchewan/Manitoba (3.1%)
- Eastern Canada/Maritimes (3.1%)
- Outside Canada (2.4%)
- Northwest Territories/Yukon* (0%)

Real estate markets can be driven by local demand, demand stemming from outside the region or province, by international sources, or by a combination of all three. Knowing how many homes are sold and at what price is an important part of the picture. However, understanding who your buyers are and where they come from can reveal not only market dynamics but also identify which factors actually drive local demand. For example, a change in entry level buyer activity can have a ripple effect throughout the entire market as many move‐up buyers rely on first‐time buyers to purchase their existing homes. First‐time buyers are a driving factor and they stimulate the chain of ownership.

Low interest rates and attractive pricing alone don’t necessarily mean increased sales activity. Many additional factors affect consumer confidence, including local employment opportunities and the overall economic environment. Real estate markets can also react differently depending on the influence of various buyer segments.

Housing markets in Vancouver, for example, have been bolstered by off‐shore buyers while the Alberta market is closely linked to  natural resource prices and their job market. Since a sizeable proportion of local sales come from buyers that originate outside our region, with about 40% being non‐local, we need to keep an eye on Alberta and the Lower Mainland. Our monthly Buyers Survey
helps to do just that.

So if you were curious as to what is moving our local real estate market, this is a bit of insight.  As always I am available to answer any questions about buying in the Okanagan.

~ Marika

Posted by & filed under All About Condos, Home Tips.

First-time condo buyers are sometimes confused by the monthly maintenance fee that condo buildings charge. Combined with property taxes and your mortgage payments, they can add up to a hefty percentage of your total housing costs. But what is a condo maintenance fee and what does it cover? And how does it compare to the costs of owning a house?

Sunset Waterfront Resort and Residence in Kelowna, BC

Condo maintenance fees are your percentage share of the costs to run the building as a whole.  Unlike rent, they are not a profit source for the management.  Generally these fees correspond to the individual utility bills you pay on a home, along with maintenance work such as window cleaning, snow shovelling, housecleaning, gardeners, and so on. Fees are calculated according to the size (square footage) of your unit – a two-bedroom’s fees are higher than a studio’s, for instance – and are recalibrated each year, up or down, according to the building’s annual operating budget.

A certain portion is also set aside as part of a “contingency fee,” which every condo must maintain by law. The contingency fund covers any special costs incurred as part of building upkeep, such as a new roof or repairs to heating or plumbing equipment.

The maintenance fees for townhouses within a complex are usually slightly lower. Often townhouses have their utilities separately metered, so these are not included in the fee; but townhouse owners still pay a share for maintenance of common areas, security and other general costs.

Beyond these basics, there’s a wide variation in the features each individual condo building offers, and the fees vary accordingly. One building might offer beefed-up security, concierge service and underground parking; another might have a fully equipped gym or pool with trainers and classes; or you may have access to special perks like a rooftop patio or guest suite. All of these are reflected in the monthly fee.

One last area to consider is a category known as “special assessments.” These are one-time fees for repairs not covered by the contingency fee, and can be substantial, especially with older buildings and conversions; once the bill is paid off, the maintenance fee will drop accordingly.

Overall, the costs of condo buying including maintenance fees, often work out to roughly the same as owning a house the same size, location and price. Would you rather have your own garden, or never have to shovel your side walk again?

Ultimately, it’s a lifestyle choice, rather than a financial one.  For More information on Condo fees or buying condos in Kelowna, send me an email:

~Marika Rabczak


Posted by & filed under New Developments.

And yet it is time to showcase another one of Kelowna’s finest developments… the ever enchanting SOPA Square.


Living in Kelowna, and driving by the construction of SOPA Square on South Pandosy, leaves all of us wishing it was time for the reveal.  The anticipation and excitement is unbearable, as this is truly going to be an amazing project fit perfectly for the chic Kelowna lifestyle.

Imagine living in a luxury rooftop townhome or sticking to the ever so conventional 3,000 square foot condo unit on one of the magnificent SOPA floors.  Don’t worry units start at 600 square feet so there is a little bit of SOPA for everyone.  If you are looking for an exclusive vacation condo or a posh property to call home, SOPA may be the answer.  Please contact me for information on units available and up to date project/construction information.

What is SOPA?

Architecturally sophisticated floor plans ranging from 600 to 3000 square feet, including the innovative and economical flex suite. SOPA Square has design solutions to provide you with a chic yet comfortable setting to call home.

Built with careful selection to create eco-urban interiors and earth friendly exteriors, SOPA is the leading edge of sustainable design.

Envision a trendy, pedestrian friendly streets cape just outside your home with boutiques, restaurants, and shops for all your daily needs. Open air garden courtyards, Juliet balconies and landscaped rooftops provide a stunning natural oasis in a trendy urban atmosphere where you can just feel home.

You have exchanged your carbon footprint for eco-conscious living. You have exchanged life’s chaotic pace for centered peaceful living. SOPA … exclusive, unrivalled, sustainable luxury living home.

Courtesy of