Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Year That Was 2011

It is that time of the year again, where we look back at the year that was and plan for the year that is to come. 2011 was a remarkable year for Conasys, so we thought we'd share a few of the highlights as we wind down for the holiday season.

2011 marked the 5 year anniversary for Conasys as a company. It has been a wild ride, starting out with a tremendous amount of success, experiencing the "housing boom" and then surviving the market crash of 2008. In 5 short years we have gone from a local Vancouver supplier of new home manuals to Canada's largest supplier of Home Information Packages.

2011 was a year of growth, with major developers across the country such as Bosa Properties, Jayman MasterBUILT, Vandyk Group, Cove Properties, Ashcroft Homes, The Sorbara Group and the Unity Builders Group of Companies joining our list of clients. We now proudly call over 300 builders and developers in Canada clients.

Conasys went green this year, becoming members of both BuiltGreen and the Canada Green Building Council. Home Information Packages contribute points toward certification in both programs by providing product documents required for proper operation & maintenance to homeowners, thus reducing wasted energy. We are looking forward to the progression of green building practises in the coming year.

Our Home Information Package's became even more robust in 2011 with the addition of "Warranty Advisor" to the product. Not only will homeowners receive automated email reminders when their scheduled maintenance is due, they now receive reminders when major warranty milestones are about to occur as well as directly after with the notification of remaining coverage.

2011 was a social year for Conasys. Sharing new real estate information and technology trends, Conasys has been creating networks on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, LinkedIn and by Blogging. It has been a pleasure connecting with clients, homeowners and industry organizations and we look forward to sharing information with new connections in 2012.

Conasys rolled up our sleeves and helped Habitat for Humanity raise over $50,000 in two separate events this year. The Conasys team helped plan and organize the BBQ for Humanity in July, and participated in the Ride for Humanity in September. We also Partied for Humanity in November, but somehow that doesn't feel quite so charitable.

All in all, 2011 was a remarkable year for our company. As we head into 2012, many new and exciting initiatives are set to launch that will help us take the business to an even higher level. Strategic partnerships, product advancements and market expansions are just a few of the things we have on the go. We will continue to provide a world class product and superior customer service to our loyal client base, while at the same time advancing the standards in which information is disclosed to new home buyers.

Stay tuned, 2012 is going to be a big year!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Real Estate Roundup - December 15, 2011

TD Chief Executive Officer Recommends Stricter Mortgage Rules

Ed Clark, CEO of Toronto-Dominion Bank said this week in an interview that tightening existing mortgage rules would be a good idea to "slow" the rising household debt while avoiding triggering an all out crash.

"I think the government will pause here and not do any tweaks, because they're hoping that the housing market is slowing down on its own but not collapsing and they don't want to push it over and make it go down rapidly," Mr Clark told the Globe and Mail. "It's hard to know whether the economy can take another crank, but my own gut would tell me that it may turn out that we do have the absorption capacity."

Alberta Bucks National Trends, Unemployment Drops

Statistics Canada announced that during the past 12 months, employment across Alberta climbed faster than any other province; 97,100 jobs were created at a growth rate of almost 5% since November 2010.

Stante, President of the Calgary Real Estate Board is optimistic that the high job growth will continue to fuel the housing market. "The strength in our economy, combined with affordability levels that outperform most major centres, will continue to attract migrants to the city and spur further growth in our housing market."

November BC Home Sales Hold Steady: BCREA

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reported this week that unit sales in BC remained unchanged in November compared with last year. 5,640 units were sold last month compared to 5,647 in November 2010.

"After waning during the first half of the year, consumer demand has steadily increased since the summer months, bringing home sales within seven units of the November 2010 level," said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. "Low Mortgage interest rates remain a key driver in the housing market, helping to maintain affordability and purchasing power."

Monday, 12 December 2011

Customer Care is now "HIP" in Alberta

Alberta builders and developers are setting a new standard for customer care in Canada.

Even though there is no mandatory new home warranty in Alberta, most reputable builders and developers provide it regardless. The same can be said about the homeowner packages provided by builders to help new home buyers understand what is in their home. Although there is no mandatory information disclosure requirement, Alberta builders are going above and beyond, clearly demonstrated by the rapid adoption of Home Information Packages in the province.

Home Information Packages (HIP), the most comprehensive new home manual in the industry provides homeowners with a web-portal housing a product inventory with corresponding product documents from the manufacturer including Operating Manuals, Maintenance & Care Guides and Extended Warranty documents. The online portal proactively communicates to homeowners when their scheduled maintenance is due and how to do it, as well as notifies them when major warranty milestones are about to occur.

Unity Builders Group, Jayman MasterBUILT, Cove Properties, Carrington Properties, Bedrock Homes, Slokker Canada West, Landrex Developers, Knightsbridge Homes, Regency Developments, Birchwood Properties, Park Homes, and The Statesman Group are just a few Alberta builders providing HIP's for a better homeowner experience.

"We strive to be on the leading edge of innovation and creativity and are committed to enhancing the home buying experience at every step of the process," shared Larry Noer, Vice President of Jayman MasterBUILT. "Integrating this web based tool for our customers made perfect sense."

Ryan Doherty, Multi-Family Sales Manager for the Unity Builders Group of Companies adds "Post occupancy customer care is a key component in the overall satisfaction when buying a new home. Home Information Packages allow us to deliver a consistent and high level of customer service through the occupancy period and retain more customers as they transition to larger homes."

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Real Estate Roundup - December 8, 2011

New Home Building in Canada Drops 13% in November: CMHC

The Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation reported today that seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 181,000 units in November, down from 208,800 in October. The drop was due to the volatile multiple unit sector decreasing by 23%, while the single family market increased by 3.5%.

Although the drop is significant, it wasn't surprising to many economists who have long been warning the multiple unit sector was "too hot" and due for a correction. "While starts dropped to their lowest level since February of this year, the details of this report are hardly troubling. The market has corrected from a bout of surprising strength earlier in the fall," said Francis Fong of TD Economics.

GVA Housing Market Update for November 2011

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) released their GVA Housing Market update for November.

Among the highlights, 2,360 home sales which is a drop of 6% from November 2010, but up 2% from October 2011. November home listings increased by 3,222 which is up 2% from the 10 year November average, but down 26% from October 2011. Sales to active listings ratio is at 16%, well within the definition of a "balanced market."

World Class City AND Affordable Housing: Impossible?

Affordable Housing was in the news again this week, with several articles in major dailies dissecting the issue. It is a hot topic of late, specifically with the Vancouver mayoral elections and with the creation of the Canadian Rental Housing Charter to tackle the issue.

Vancouver promotes itself as a world class city, but the features that Vancouver has to make such boasts drive demand and subsequently prices up. Pete McMartin's article in the Vancouver Sun summarizes the argument quite effectively: "If you want to live in paradise, it will cost you."

Is affordable housing in Vancouver impossible?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Real Estate Roundup - December 2, 2011

Bubble vs. Balanced: What side are you on?

The Economist magazine released a very pointed article this week stating that several major markets including Canada, Britain, Sweden and France have home prices overvalued by 25% or more.

Using two measures of valuation, price-to-income ratio and price-to-rent ratio, the Economist compared them to long-term averages to draw their conclusions, calling the markets "more overvalued than it was in America at the peak of its bubble."

With interest rates holding at historically low levels, the speculation is bound to continue.

Georgie Awards Finalists Announced

The British Columbia annual Georgie Awards honoring builders and renovators in various categories was released this week.

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the industry award celebration.
Highlighting the event is the always popular High rise Project of the year award. Finalists are Bosa Properties' Jameson House, Concert Properties' Patina and Soleterra Development's Dolce at Symphony Place. The award ceremony will take place on February 25, 2012 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.

Hot Market: New Westminster's 258 Development sells out in 42 Minutes

Tridecca Development's 16-storey condo tower on Sixth Street in New Westminster sold out all 75 units in 42 minutes this past weekend.

Pilothouse Real Estate credits the innovative way the project was marketed for its success. A large empty room set up with computers and projectors showed life-sized floor plans and viewscapes from various units within the project.

"It took all the guess-work out of purchasing," said Craig Anderson, Project Manager for Pilothouse. "These people came in and were really comfortable, really quickly."

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What is a Home Information Package?

Home Information Packages are being provided by Canada's leading builders & developers to help new home buyers get the most out of their homes. So what exactly is a Home Information Package (HIP) and why is it important?
  • Tailored online manual for new homes.
  • The most comprehensive homeowner manual in the market.
  • Operating, Maintenance & Care, Warranty documents for installed products/components
  • Email reminders when routine maintenance must be done on the home
  • Email reminders when major new home warranty milestones are about to occur and remaining coverage directly after milestones

This is what it means for homeowners:

  • Understand how to operate and maintain the products in your home, from appliances to flooring to cabinets to lighting fixtures and everything in between.
  • Lower cost of homeownership. Operating & maintaining a home's components properly will reduce wasted energy and extend the life of the products.
  • Maximize Warranty. Many products come with extended manufacturer warranties that extend beyond the new home warranty; knowing what must be done to keep these intact will allow homeowners to reduce replacement costs of the home's components.
New homeowners need this information for successful homeownership. Don't buy a new home unless it's HIP.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Mobile Storm Is Coming

Home Builder Magazine released its annual "Industry Leaders Speak" edition (Vol.24 No.6) this week, and featured was Conasys CEO & President James Christensen.

Here is the article:

"We can all agree, the Internet changed how we do things and email changed how we communicate. Today, we have our corporate websites polished up and our smart phones feeding us emails wherever we go. Now, we need to get ready for mobile devices to change what we thought we had figured out.

At first, email replaced mail and that was great, but when email started to reach our cell phones, it created a communication revolution. Mail became instant; you could get it and read it anywhere. Companies figured this out and now marketing, sales offers and news can be sent out with immediate results. More recently, social media tools have made this communications even more focused.

A subtle but significant change is now upon us; Mobile Internet access. The handheld revolution we have seen to date has been about users receiving information anywhere. We are headed for users looking up information anywhere they want as tablets and smart phones take over the marketplace.

So be prepared to bring real time information to your customers and prospects. After all, they can now look up the competition's information or product details while they are in your showroom. Make sure your sales team has the right information or, better yet, has the same mobile tools in their hands. In 2012, it's time to get mobile ready."

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Canada's Housing Market to Stabalize: CMHC

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Q4 Housing Market Outlook Report is suggesting that 2012 will see a stabilized and balanced real estate market in Canada. The report focuses on 7 key factors that influence real estate and provides an outlook over the next 12 months. The key factors are:
  • Mortgage Rates: Short term and variable mortgage rates are expected to remain at historically low levels. The report assumes they will stay flat until late 2012, which will support housing demand.
  • Employment: In the past 12 months, employment has grown by 1.7% (+294,200). Full-time employment rose by 2.5%, while part-time work declined 1.5%. This overall increase and change to full-time positions will support housing demand.
  • Income: Growth in income improved in 2010 because of the economic recovery and the resulting improvement in the labour market. Income will continue to grow at a slower pace in 2011 and 2012, which will provide moderate support to housing demand.
  • Net Migration: The Canadian economy will continue to attract immigrants from struggling economies (net international migration) which will continue to push net migration up in 2012. This will support housing demand.
  • Resale Market:Market conditions in 2011 and 2012 are expected to be in the balanced market territory.
  • Vacancy Rates:Vacancy rates will remain relatively stable in 2011 and 2012. Modest rental construction and strong rental demand from immigration will be offset by increased competition from the condo market.
  • Natural Population: A low Canadian birthrate (births minus deaths) will lessen the demand for additional housing stock in the medium and long term. This is the only factor currently thought to have a negative affect on housing demand.

With any outlook there are assumptions made based on current market conditions which could impact the accuracy of the report. The US economic recovery is generally seen as the largest risk, as both a faster & slow recovery than expected could skew the results. Other factors are the assumptions made in the projected mortgage rates, GDP, Employment, Income and Migration levels.

All in all the Canadian real estate market appears to be relatively healthy and projected to stay that way for the next 12 months.

Monday, 28 November 2011

VANDYK Group Setting a New Customer Care Standard in the GTA

The Vandyk Group of Companies and Conasys are pleased to announce that all new homes built by Vandyk will be receiving Home Information Packages (HIP).

Delivered through a web-based portal, a HIP provides homeowners with operation, maintenance and warranty documentation for the products installed in their home. Automated email reminders when scheduled maintenance is due gives homeowners peace of mind knowing they will know exactly when and how maintenance must be done to maximize both their new home and manufacturer's extended warranties.

"The Conasys manual is the perfect tool to help us stand above the "pack" and a great extension to our "Red Carpet" treatment," shares Ron McMillan, Vice President of Residential Construction for Vandyk.

Watch the video for an overview of what Home Information Packages provide to new homeowners:

International Green Construction Code (IGCC) Established

After more than 2 years of development, The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is now finalized and will be released in Spring, 2012.

The IGCC is not a rating system, but an enforceable code which will require minimum mandatory requirements based on the following areas of construction:
  • Energy Use Conservation/Efficiency
  • Water Use Conservation/Efficiency
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Materials & Resource Conservation
  • Jurisdictional Requirements
  • Project Electives - Designers Choice
  • Existing Buildings & Sites
  • Commissioning, Operation & Maintenance

By setting a "floor" through enforcing mandatory minimums, the hope is that it will create an opportunity for optional certification programs such as LEED to push the "ceiling" higher and reward buildings that reach greater levels of performance.

The IGCC is the first significant step toward creating universal green construction standards, but still requires local governments to voluntarily adopt the code. It will be interesting to see how the program is adopted throughout 2012.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Real-Estate Round Up - November 24, 2011

Bank of Canada holds key interest rate at 1%

In a move that surprised no one, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney announced it will be keeping its interest rate at 1%, likely for the foreseeable future.

It wasn't all that long ago when Carney was hinting at possible rate hikes which likely would have already been implemented, but the US recovery stalled and the Euro Debt Crisis worsened. Carney called that situation "barely contained."

2011 GTA Condo Sales Break Previous Record

The Building Industry & Land Development Association (BILD) announced that the 23,747 condo sales in the GTA through the first 10 months of 2011 has broken the previous record high of 22,316 in 2007. Quite the feet considering there is still 2 months of sales to go.

High-rise sales have accounted for 61% of the sales, compared to 57% to this time last year. Joe Vaccaro, Acting President of BILD commented, "Ten years ago the split was 25% high-rise vs. 75% low0rise."

It would appear Toronto is "growing up."

NDP Leader Slams Liberals for Not Clarifying HST Transition

Adrian Dix is slamming the BC government for not transitioning back to the PST system immediately, or at very least clarifying the rules on the transition back to the old taxing system.

Dix wasn't the only one, as NDP Housing Critic Shane Simpson added "The Urban Development Institute, the Canadian Home Builders Association and the BC Real Estate Association have all said it's hurting their industries. The industry is looking for certainty and clear rules on the transition back to the PST."

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon admitted that the transition back is more difficult than he anticipated. "The PST is a stupid, inefficient tax. The issues associated with it are much more complex than I honestly could have ever imagined."

It doesn't appear as if there will be an answer for the situation anytime soon.

Conasys Parties for Humanity!

On Friday, November 18, Conasys team members attended the BILD GTA Party for Humanity. The event raised over $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity - Toronto. Everyone had a great time supporting a great cause. Watch the video below, or view the pictures on the BILD Facebook Page.

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