By Elden Freeman


It’s difficult not to get a case of the open-air crazies at this time of year. Everyone is pruning and seeding or fertilizing and mulching or aerating and planting. It’s infectious and perhaps a reaction to being cooped up indoors most winters.

While it’s fun to pretty up your outdoor space, it’s also important to be mindful of the impact beautiful gardens and lawns have on our environment. Perhaps the biggest consequence of this love affair with lawns is our unrestrained water consumption. Canadians are already big water abusers, using 350 litres per person per day. That amount jumps by 50 per cent in summer months thanks to outdoor water usage.

Ever heard of xeriscaping? It’s fuss-free gardening and landscaping that uses a minimal amount of water, time and effort. The concept, which is also known as drought-tolerant landscaping and smart scaping, was pioneered originally for desert regions but has spread to water – abundant places thanks to conservationists.

One of the most important things you can do when xeriscaping is to find plants that are native to your area. These are generally plants that sustain themselves on less water. Good selections are drought-tolerant plants that have long roots or succulents that store moisture in their leaves. Other good choices are plants that have fuzzy, waxy or silver leaves that either reflect the sun or lock in moisture.

Before you start planting, consider your soil. Improve it with organic matter. This encourages deep-rooted plants, which means plants can find their own sources of nutrients and moisture buried deep into the ground, unlike shallow-rooted vegetation.

Group plants based on their moisture needs with the more water-dependent plants closer to the water source. This limits the amount of water you need to spread around your grounds. Think about placing plants that are more water reliant in more shaded areas to limit evaporation of water.

Limit your lawn to flat areas that are easier to keep moist. Limit the size and number of these sections by using drought-tolerant plants to surround the areas of turf. For the grassy areas, take care to use drought tolerant species of grass rather than those that require much more water to thrive.

Water turf and garden areas no more often than once per week, but water deeply. This forces the plants to develop extensive root systems. Drip irrigation from a soaker hose reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation by sprinkler systems. Or collect water from your roof in rain barrels.

Mulch the soil to prevent water evaporation, maintain an even, cool soil temperature and prevent the germination of weed seeds. For ornamental gardens, choose mulch that is as natural in appearance as possible and that will eventually break down and become soil. Consider chopped leaves or pea gravel. The best time to lay mulch is in late spring after the soil has warmed, but before summer’s heat begins.

There is plenty of information online about what grasses, shrubs and plants are best for xeriscaping. Favoured perennials are the black-eyed susan and poppies, while good grasses include maiden grass and little bluestern.

The most obvious benefit of xeriscaping is lower water bills, but there are plenty more. Think of the neighbourhood cachet you’ll draw as the house with the eco-garden. Think of the extra time you’ll save cutting your lawn. When other garden beds begin to wither thanks to water restrictions, yours will flourish.

This is a type of gardening we’re sure to hear more about as the cost of water rises and more people warm to conservationist issues. Share this knowledge with your clients and you’ll be seen as – pardon the pun – cutting edge.


I have listed a new property at 207 4500 39 ST NW in CALGARY.
This 2 storey townhouse has an ideal location with quick access to schools, public transportation, the LRT at Brentwood Station/Brentwood Mall, Northland & Market Mall and the University of Calgary. Hardwood floors extend through the main floor kitchen, dining room, living room, 2 piece bath and upstairs into the 2 bedrooms. The spacious living room features a cozy wood burning fireplace and access to the fully fenced patio and garden area. Upstairs there are 2 bedrooms and a full bathroom. Downstairs is fully developed with a family room, 4 piece bathroom and a laundry/utility room. Call for your appointment today.

An informative article put out by a local Calgary Real Estate Lawyer

With interest rates steadily dropping over the past number of years, there hasn’t been much incentive or demand for buyers to assume existing mortgages from sellers. Since it appears that interest rates have “bottomed out” and most experts expect mortgage rates to rise in the near future, the demand for mortgage assumptions is likely to increase. As a result, this is a good time for a refresher on how to handle mortgage assumption transactions. 


First of all I need to dispel a couple of common misconceptions. The belief that: 

  • all mortgages are assumable in this province; and 
  • a seller’s liability under a high ratio insured mortgage ends upon the buyer making twelve consecutive payments or upon the renewal of the existing mortgage term. 

In the past, it was difficult for banks to prevent their mortgages from being assumed. However, for close to a decade the courts in Alberta have been enforcing “due on sale” clauses (the obligation of the home owner to secure the bank’s consent for a change of ownership) as part of the fight against mortgage fraud. What this means is that if a homeowner transfers the title without the involvement of the mortgage lender, the lender can foreclose on the property for that reason alone even if all the other obligations of the borrower (including all mortgage payments) have been honoured. 


It is for the foregoing reason that the standard AREA Residential Real Estate Purchase Contract was amended in 2006 to incorporate an automatic “mortgage assumability” condition in clause 8.3. This condition ensures that if the lender does not consent to the Buyer assuming the mortgage, then the contract will terminate. 


It should be noted that this condition is unique in a couple of respects. First of all, the condition is triggered automatically by the insertion of a dollar amount in the Assumption of Mortgage line of paragraph 2.2. Even if the parties overlook paragraph 8.3 and do not insert a Condition Date, the condition will still apply. Without a specified date, the condition will extend for a “reasonable” length of time. It goes without saying that the better practice is to insert a certain date for the expiry of the condition in order to avoid disputes. Secondly, this condition is specified to be for the mutual benefit of both the Buyer and the Seller and, as a result, has to be waived by both parties to firm up the contract. 


In order to avoid disputes respecting the terms of the mortgage being assumed (interest rate, payments, remainder of term) the relevant portions of the Financing Schedule should be completed and the Schedule incorporated into the contract by checking off the relevant box in paragraph 7.5. 


If the mortgage being assumed is conventional (non-insured), then this is as far as industry members need to go. The lawyers handling the closing of the transaction will order an assumption statement from the lender, adjust the purchase price and payments and handle the rest. 


If, however, the mortgage being assumed is high-ratio insured, then extra caution should be exercised by industry members. The Seller will remain personally liable for any deficiency on the mortgage for the remaining life of the mortgage (including all renewal terms). 


The twelve months payment rule, which was internal policy at CMHC only, no longer exists. The reality is that the Seller’s liability will only end upon the mortgage being repaid in full, and the Seller has to understand this risk prior to signing the acceptance of the offer. The only possible way in which the Seller would be protected against the risk of future default by the Buyer would be if the mortgage lender was prepared to “release” the seller from liability. While a Seller’s condition respecting the securing of such a release could be inserted into the contract, this is likely a waste of time as mortgage lenders have little or no incentive to grant it. 


To ensure that the Seller’s problems do not become the problems of the listing agent, a written acknowledgment confirming the Seller’s understanding of continuing liability under the high ratio insured mortgage being assumed should be obtained prior to the execution of the contract and kept in the Brokerage file. 



Lubos K. Pesta, Q.C. Walsh Wilkins Creighton LLP  


I have listed a new property at 10216 TUSCANY HILLS WAY NW in CALGARY.
Beautifully appointed and updated home, 3350 sqft of living space, a short walk to the schools and backs onto green belt. Updates and upgrades in the home include hardwood floors and tile flooring through out the main level, paint, many of the light fixtures, kitchen updates including huge new island with granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and more. The home features an open great room and kitchen with nook, a large dining room, stunning den with built-in desk and bookshelves, a bonus room, 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. The breakfast nook leads to a spacious and sunny balcony overlooking a beautifully landscaped, fully fenced south exposed yard. Master bedroom has a beautiful sitting area, large walk in closet, 5 piece ensuite with separate shower and a jetted tub to enjoy the views of COP and the mountains. The fully developed walkout basement has 2 bedrooms, a full bathroom, family room with the second gas fireplace and access to the lower patio and yard.

I have listed a new property at 51 RANCHERO GREEN NW in CALGARY.
OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY MAY 19, 12-2PM. Great location tucked away on a large pie lot, in a quiet cul-de-sac, across from a green space complete with a playground. An ideal opportunity for first time buyers or those looking for a revenue property. This home features a main floor living room with cozy stone faced fireplace, kitchen, dining room with access to the spacious and sunny south facing deck, laundry room and a 3 piece bathroom. Upstairs there are 3 bedrooms and a 3 piece bathroom with huge soaker tub. The master bedroom includes a generous walk-in closet and a balcony with views of Canada Olympic Park. Downstairs is partially developed with a family room, storage area and utility room. Recent upgrades include kitchen and main bathroom counter tops and back splash, carpet through out the main floor and upstairs, bathroom and kitchen faucets and both furnaces were replaced with mid efficient units in 1999. Call today to view this great home.

I have listed a new property at 8124 13 ST NW in CALGARY.
Well maintained and nicely updated home on a quiet street close to a green belt with quick access to Nose Hill Park. Main floor updates include tiled floors in the foyer, kitchen and bathrooms; full bathroom renovations including cabinets, granite counter tops, fixtures, toilets and in-floor heating. Other updates include many of the windows, lighting, a large 2 tier deck and newer carpet and paint in the lower level. The main floor has a living room, dining room, kitchen with breakfast nook, family room with built-in wall unit and wood burning fireplace, 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. The master has 2 closets and the 3 piece ensuite includes a fully tiled shower with body wash system and a glass door. Downstairs is fully developed with a huge recreation and games area, den, 3 piece bathroom and a spacious laundry, storage and utility area. The 2 sunny decks can be accessed from the family room and overlook the yard, garden and double detached garage.

I have listed a new property at 112 RANGE WAY NW in CALGARY.
OPEN HOUSE SAT May 19,2-4PM. One of the best ridge locations in Ranchlands, located on a quiet street with a sunny west exposed yard and panoramic mountain views, this 2 storey split with a fully finished walkout basement is a must see. Just steps to all of the amenities of Crowfoot shopping center and the Crowfoot LRT station. This meticulously maintained home still holds much of its original charm. Recent kitchen updates include granite counter tops with under mount sink, tile back splash, cabinet hardware and stainless steel appliances. Bathroom upgrades include granite counter tops in the half bath, huge shower in the ensuite, 3 of 4 bathrooms have efficient dual flush toilets and updated fixtures. The master bedroom has a sunny balcony to enjoy the fabulous views. The walkout basement is finished with a spacious games/recreation room with wet bar, second fireplace and 3 piece bathroom. Access from the basement leads out to the large deck and huge yard with mature trees for privacy to enjoy your yard.

By Elden Freeman

If the family room is the emotional centre of a house, the kitchen is its heart and soul.

It’s where we do a lot of living. As such, it’s one of the more expensive areas of a home to build, to renovate and to keep running smoothly and efficiently. It’s also an area we can easily overlook in our quest to raise our environmental know-how.

Installing faucet aerators and shopping at Whole Foods are great for our eco-consciousness but there is so much more homeowners can do to lessen their impact on the environment and to save money in the meantime.

About 30 per cent of your household energy use takes place in the kitchen. Because energy guzzling appliances are a big part of the kitchen, it’s important to rethink or relearn how to use them. According to Kate Heyhoe, author of Green Cooking: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen, this can be done without sacrificing your favourite recipes.

Your overall cookprint – which is what Heyhoe calls the environmental impact created when you eat and cook – is what we need to begin shrinking. You’ve heard this term elsewhere, more likely as sustainable eating.

The oven is an energy hog or as Heyhoe puts it, the Humvee of the kitchen. Since only about six per cent of the fuel used for an oven goes toward active cooking, try using a toaster oven or your cook-top instead. Try more passive cooking. Reconsider the length of time you preheat the oven and give it a try without any preheating time at all. Consider turning the oven off 10 or 15 minutes earlier than the prescribed cooking time, which allows the food to finish cooking from heat already built up inside the oven. Try softening noodles by soaking them first in boiling water.

Many green foodies abhor microwave ovens, but they probably don’t know that they consume far less energy than a stove. The beauty of a microwave is that it doesn’t heat up your kitchen and lead you to turn up your air conditioning. Try not to use them to defrost foods, though, because that’s simply wasteful. Thawing food overnight in your fridge is best.

Did you know that convection ovens produce 30 per cent less greenhouse gases than conventional ovens?

Many kitchen faucets are controlled by a single valve. If you leave the handle tilted to the hot side (usually the left) and turn that on, you fire up the hot water tank even when you don’t want hot water. Simply leaving it turned to the right saves energy.

Teflon cookware and single-serving containers are two of Heyhoe’s biggest pet peeves. Teflon is not only toxic but often poorly made and easily disposable. Single-serving containers of yogurt and individual bottles of iced tea add needless waste to our landfill sites. Consider instead brewing your iced tea at home or eating your yogurt from a bowl or lunch-box container.

Since kitchens generate the most waste of any room in the house, start by minimizing the excess packaging you purchase at the supermarket. Buy fresh, unwrapped produce, avoid buying in bulk and huge portions unless you eat in bulk or have a big family to feed. Reuse plastic bags, glass jars and packaging. And don’t forget to compost your organic waste.

The toxins that go into dishwashing soap, floor and glass cleaners, detergents and the gamut of household cleaners we use in our kitchens is frightening. There are solutions with cleaning products that are non-toxic, biodegradable and plant-based. Or consider making your own household cleaning products from such kitchen staples as baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar.

While we should celebrate the earth every day of the year, April brings us Earth Day on the 22nd as a reminder. Consider sharing some of these tips with your clients. The earth will thank you for it.

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