Tag Archives: The View from Inside

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Builders constantly improve energy efficiency of new homes

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Builders constantly improve energy efficiency of new homes

Energy efficiency is a concern for homeowners, for the obvious reason of saving money on utility bills, but also the impact on the environment. In the home building industry, the Ontario Building Code (OBC) is updated every few years, often resulting in increasing energy efficiency standards in new homes.

It is important, as an industry, to achieve and exceed OBC requirements to create homes with increased sustainability. Participating in voluntary third-party rating systems, such as Energy Star and LEED, is one way builders improve energy efficiency. In addition, numerous builders create their own specific programs to ensure their homes are better built than the OBC.

Undertaking their own research and reviewing new technologies and materials that are cost and time saving, as well as reducing environmental impact, is an ongoing process for residential builders. It is important to keep an open mind when presented with new products while ensuring they are effective. This often requires extensive testing.

For example, Geranium is testing a new liquid tar material to seal flat roofs. The substance is poured into place becoming a puncture-resistant rubber membrane that seals roof edges and penetrations on the exterior more effectively against inclement weather. It is a durable product, requiring less maintenance and repair and decreases drafts, thereby contributing to overall energy saving.

HOME ENERGY RATING

Many builders devote time and energy to enhance their construction techniques to make sure homes are well sealed, incorporate good air flow and have minimal air leakage. These efforts are being acknowledged through industry recognition. The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), for example, includes a Green Home Builder of the Year category in its annual awards. The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) holds a Cross Border Builder Challenge and gives awards for the lowest Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score. The lower the score, the better it is for the environment. Recently, Geranium proudly received the award for the lowest score (HERS 42) in the Canadian midproduction category for a home in our Whitchurch-Stouffville Bloomington Woods community.

There are different ways builders may address energy efficiency. Other examples include using raised heel trusses providing consistent thickness and more space for attic insulation, Tyvek Air Barrier (a home wrap that performs as a superior air barrier), sprayed-in-place expandable foam insulation and Energy Star qualified windows, all of which Geranium uses. To inform people of the benefits of how we build and the process behind it, we’ve created an online video and hold events such as Hard Hat Tours led by the construction team in a home being built prior to drywall installation to help educate our homeowners on the building process.

In the GTA, the push to design more functional smaller spaces is encouraging lowrise builders to create higher density housing forms, and as a result, seek out innovative products. For example, installing a tankless water heater in combination with an air handler for space heating means the equipment takes up less valuable space while improving energy efficiency; a benefit to the homeowner.

Ontario’s builders are focused on offering top-quality energy-efficient homes that will take owners into the future in comfort and with confidence.

Louie Morizio is senior vice-president, construction, housing division for Geranium and a director of RESCON. Since 1977, Geranium has built more than 8,000 homes in fine neighbourhoods and communities throughout Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside: It’s Time To Buy Your New Home

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The View From Inside: It’s Time To Buy Your New Home

Don’t let current chatter about mortgage rules and rates keep you from purchasing your dream home

By Stephanie Lane, Geranium

In a cyclical economic sector such as real estate, it is important to gauge your personal homebuying decisions with relativity and realism in mind. Whatever qualifies as your dream home, be it a modest condo, a five-bedroom mansion or something in between, avoid allowing the current chatter about mortgage rules and rates to keep you from realizing that dream.

Remember that the new rules on obtaining mortgages will affect each homebuyer differently. In addition, depending upon which institution you approach for financing, there may be a variety of outcomes. My advice is to visit a few lending institutions prior to making your purchase decision – or before you start shopping, ideally – so you know what you can afford. Should you not qualify for the amount you were hoping for, at a minimum, you might have to expand your geographic search to more affordable areas, consider an alternate home style, or save more toward a down payment.

Keep in mind, too, that in real estate, everything is relative. Looking at Canadian mortgage rates over the past four decades, our rates have remained amazingly low in comparison. Posted five-year mortgage rates peaked to double digits in the 1980s (when they reached over 20 per cent at one point) and the early 1990s. At that time, economic experts believed that we would never experience single-digit rates again.

Looking at the past few years, things have remained relatively stable since 2010, with bank rates fluctuating between 0.75 per cent and 1.25 per cent from then to early 2018, and prime rates from 2.25 to 3.45 per cent during that time period. The bank rate right now is 1.5 per cent, bringing a relatively small increment of the most recent five-year posted fixed mortgage rates from 4.99 to 5.14 per cent. Even with this moderate rate rise and potential increases in the near future, we are still hovering at the low end of historic rates compared to those of the 1970s through the early 2000s.

Yes, there are more stringent rules now to qualify for a mortgage, but keep in mind that Canada’s conservative financial practices kept us from reaching the devastating economic real estate lows the U.S. experienced years ago. These tightened rules are designed to ensure that buyers are, in fact, equipped to handle mortgage payments over time rather than getting in over their heads.

Rates and rules may change, but one thing that remains the same over the decades is that a well-researched homebuying decision is far more likely to result in happy homeowners than a rushed process. Be sure to consider all of the parameters and contemplate your options thoroughly. You owe it to yourself to make the very best decision possible.

During the past few decades, real estate has proven to be a worthwhile decision for those who ride out the highs and lows of the market. Now remains an excellent time to buy new homes in Ontario.

Stephanie Lane is sales and marketing manager for Geranium. Celebrating 40 years in business, Geranium has created master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside: Balancing Development With The Environment

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The View From Inside: Balancing Development With The Environment

By Farrah Ward, Geranium

Ensuring a harmonious approach to preserving the natural environment while efficiently using a diminishing land supply is key to developing infill or greenfield lands, particularly as populations and the demand for new homes grow. The benefits of preserving and restoring natural features are numerous and contribute to vibrant communities. These benefits must be weighed against the design requirements of the new development. Achieving the right balance can result in neighbourhoods that are more compatible with and complimentary to the existing community.

Geranium has strived to design and build communities that are sensitive to the environment, whether it’s enhancing, restoring, or preserving the existing natural features. Allegro in Aurora is the latest example of this. As an infill development of 159 detached homes set on a former golf course in a mature neighbourhood with approximately 400 adjacent homeowners, creating compatibility between the existing community and the future residents was a priority. This began by identifying natural features that were to be preserved, and those important to the community and working collaboratively through stakeholder consultation to preserve or enhance those features, where possible.

Significant wooded areas, tributaries and wetland habitat were identified through the Natural Heritage studies that were completed in support of the development applications. These features together with their associated buffers and further adjacent developable areas were preserved to create a community park which will include over 7 kilometres of trails, restored and naturalized tributaries and wetlands, and protected wooded areas. In total, approximately half of the 101-acre site will be conveyed into public ownership.

In addition to the creation of the significant park and open space system, tree preservation on the remainder of the property was a community priority. Hundreds of meetings were held on site with various stakeholders including individual homeowners to review and refine the design of the developable lands. Through this extensive consultation and design process, additional trees were preserved. Where mature trees line the former fairways today, they will be enhanced by the individual planting plans that were prepared for adjoining homeowners by our landscape architect.

Allegro will far exceed the required compensation for the trees which were removed through the planting of thousands of new trees. The completed Allegro neighbourhood will not only compliment but enhance the existing community and urban canopy.

As land developers, our goal is always to achieve a balance between preserving the natural features of each property and ensuring an efficient and best use of the land through a comprehensive consultation process and collaborative approach. Allegro will be an example of the benefits of achieving a balance, to be enjoyed by future homeowners, neighbouring properties and the community of Aurora.

Farrah Ward, P.Eng., is senior project manager, land development of Geranium. Celebrating 40 years in business Geranium has created numerous master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside: The Many Benefits Of Buying A New Home

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The View From Inside: The Many Benefits Of Buying A New Home

Even experienced homeowners realize buying a home takes a lot of forethought and research, especially when it comes to choosing whether to buy new or resale. There are many advantages to buying a newly built home, especially during the pre-construction phase when you often benefit from the best price and selection of designs and lots. Of course, this assumes your current lifestyle will allow you to remain living in your existing home while a new home is constructed; a period that could be from six to more than 18 months, depending on when you buy.

Contrast this with a resale purchase, which would typically close anytime from 30 to 90 days. However, unless the resale home you purchase is 100 per cent to your liking, once settled in, you may find you are making plans to undertake repairs, replace older items like windows, doors and appliances, or embark on a complete renovation. Over time, it can cost more to maintain an older home compared to a new home.

New builds also have the great benefit of coverage with Tarion Warranty Corporation, which is currently being revised to provide even more protection. Under this program, homes will be covered for significant repairs for at least seven years. This valuable peace-ofmind is not offered when buying older, existing homes.

Of course, you want what is both beautiful and practical for your family. New home designs reflect the way families live today with both flexible, open-concept areas as well as private spaces which may include an office or a library, rooms that are ideal for today’s work-from-home culture.

We hear time and again from our purchasers how much they value being able to choose the features and finishes for their home, which is a wonderful expression of their personal style, without the mess and inconvenience of a renovation. With guidance from a builders’ design consultant during a private appointment, hundreds of items are available to transform a house into a home. Also keep in mind that today’s standard features, such as 9- and 10-foot ceiling heights, are luxurious compared to what was offered decades ago. When you buy new, you know your home will be solidly built to the most stringent and up-to-date standards of Ontario Building Code. In fact, many builders set the bar much higher than code. Homes built now are also considerably more energy efficient, with higher levels of insulation, better quality windows and exterior doors, superior draft protection, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and many more construction practices that reduce energy use. Indoor air quality is often higher in a new home, which is healthier for everyone, especially those with allergies.

A mature neighbourhood setting is often cited as a reason to choose a resale home. With a little research, buyers are discovering that many new homebuilders are offering infill collections such as Geranium’s Allegro in downtown Aurora and Edgewood, coming soon to Pickering. This was not the case 10 years ago and is partially a result of constraints on land available for residential development in Southern Ontario. These infill communities provide a wonderful lifestyle in a new home on a mature treed lot in an already established neighbourhood with amenities at your door.

There’s a magical feeling when you are the very first person to live in a new home. You’re starting a fresh lifestyle painting on a clean palette in a home that will endure for many years.

Stephanie Lane is sales and marketing manager for Geranium. Celebrating 40 years in business, Geranium has created master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. GeraniumHomes.com

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The View From Inside: Cutting Through The Headlines

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The View From Inside: Cutting Through The Headlines

By Boaz Feiner, Geranium

There is a saying that perception is reality and, unfortunately, it appears that this is alive and well in today’s 24/7 news cycle. I say unfortunately because in our fast-paced world, many of us have little time to delve beyond the headlines and buzz words to find the information that explains the bigger concepts.

Take the housing industry for example. In the past few months, the provincial government has introduced Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan, the federal government has implemented a small increase in lending rates and there’s been a media frenzy of mixed headlines related to real estate. All of the above have contributed to uncertainty and caused many seeking to buy a home in the GTA to have second thoughts.

The latter example needs further emphasis. Conflicting messages on the complex topic that is the housing market, especially concerning supply issues, are being published leading to confusion. One day sales are reported as being low and prices are reported as dropping, while the next day sales are reported as strong. However, these messages relate to different aspects of the market of which it’s hard to distinguish without the benefit and understanding of a more fulsome market overview.

Unlike in 2008, when the biggest global financial crisis since the Great Depression hit, we are not experiencing the same conditions impacting the real estate market. Canada’s economic fundamentals remain strong. Interest rates are still at historically low levels even with a 25 basis point increase, unemployment is the lowest it’s been since 2001, job creation is robust with nearly 100,000 new full-time positions created within the past year, manufacturing is showing an increase over past four months and, most importantly, no resolution has been provided to solving the lack of supply of new homes to satisfy market demand.

In response to constricting land supply and the lack of detached home options, until May of this year, previous months showed signs of an over-heated market whereby availability was scarce and prices increased significantly. Sellers became accustomed to, and expected, multiple-offer scenarios (driven primarily by undervalued pricing), receiving above-asking prices and only having their homes listed on the market for just a few days. However, it’s important to remember that this is not the norm.

The real estate market is cyclical in nature. What we are experiencing now is an adjustment in the amount of appreciation from 25 to 30 per cent year-over-year in some red-hot markets, to more sustainable levels of between 5 and 10 per cent. For example, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), in July the average selling price for all home types combined was up by 5 per cent year-over-year.

People setting out to buy a new house have a lot to consider, but media headlines and the bandying about of various statistics have clouded the main reason for owning – having a home for your life, rather than a short-term investment. Keep your focus on that, and you can eliminate most of the guesswork in trying to time the market to your advantage.

Boaz Feiner is president of Geranium and a former member of the BILD Board of Directors. Celebrating 40 years in business, Geranium has created many superb master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside : Transforming A Golf Course

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The View From Inside : Transforming A Golf Course

By Cheryl Shindruk, Geranium

According to Golf Canada, The PGA of Canada and the National Golf Foundation in their report entitled “Golf Facilities in Canada 2017,” there are 805 golf courses in Ontario. Declining interest in the sport over the past few years translates to fierce competition among these clubs to attract golfers. In some cases, including within the Greater Toronto Area, golf course owners have had to decide whether it makes more sense to continue operating or sell their properties. When circumstances allow, these lands make great new home communities as they present an opportunity to build in an already established area.

An example of golf course redevelopment is Allegro, Geranium’s new neighbourhood on Golf Links Drive in Aurora, formerly the Highland Gate Golf Club, which became available for redevelopment.

Many circumstances worked in favour of development. The golf course lies within the built-up area of the Town of Aurora’s urban boundaries, an area where the provincial and municipal governments are directing growth. The built-up areas are where provincial policy encourages infill and intensification. From a planning and development perspective, the course had similar characteristics to many infill communities.

Sometimes, existing owners, after many years of enjoying the views to open green space behind, consider the golf course to be an extension of their lands and views. Yet residents must remember that these courses are private lands. In this type of situation, it’s important that the land developer liaise with existing neighbours.

To inspire harmonious interaction, we conducted a very extensive communications process that involved one-on-one discussions with more than 400 households, as well as group meetings. First and foremost, we wanted to let them know that we are taking extensive steps to protect — and enhance — the natural components of the property.

Geranium has designed the community and the homes to maintain the character and cachet of their prestigious surroundings..

We have set aside nearly half of the re-envisioned Allegro land as open green space with an extensive system of off-street trails that connect to the Oak Ridges Trail System. Where these open green space areas were formerly private, once the site is developed, they will be placed in public ownership.

We also pointed out that in other golf course transformations of this type, the impact on existing homes from a resale perspective has been positive. Toward this goal, Geranium has designed the community and the homes to maintain the character and cachet of their prestigious surroundings.

Our Allegro community will introduce a new vitality to this neighbourhood, with a combination of single-family detached homes on 51- and 62-foot lots and, later on, a sevenstorey condominium building closer to Yonge Street, near to transit and existing condos and shops. Another benefit is that adding new households to the area also positively impacts local businesses along Yonge Street.

New home developments have to meet the criteria, regulations, tests and approvals set out by all levels of government. In the case of a golf course, the master plan has to be innovative, as we may need to incorporate unusual shapes and sizes of individual lots. The installation of servicing and transportation must be done carefully, respecting the existing surrounding neighbourhood conditions. As with any new home community site, grading and ensuring appropriate soil conditions and water quality also affect development.

In all residential development, whether infill or not, developers must adhere to the stipulations set out by the government. In the end, we think long term to ensure a win-win situation, with homes and infrastructure that meet the needs of the existing community, governments and our future homeowners, today and in the many years to come.

Cheryl Shindruk is executive vice president, land development for Geranium. Celebrating 40 years in business Geranium has created master-planned communities including more than 8,000 homes in Ontario. Geranium.com

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The View From Inside – Engineering New Communities

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The View From Inside – Engineering New Communities

A science and an art

Many years before a new home is built, and often decades depending on the scale, location and complexity of a community, engineers are involved. Bringing our critical problem-solving abilities to bear, engineers play an important role in determining the functionality of a master plan and the details of making it work from below the ground up. Alongside our urban planning colleagues, we drive the timeline for selling and building the homes.

Once a property is secured, the team is pulled together to prepare the Concept Plan. Engineering technical support personnel help determine the constraints and opportunities of the property. The best way to explain our role is by sharing two of Geranium’s recent experiences, in Aurora and in Innisfil.

One redevelopment, now named Allegro, involves former golf course lands in Aurora. Here we are studying the geotechnical and hydrogeological components to understand how the soils and ground water function so that Allegro will not affect the existing built community. As this is considered an infill development, it must fit into existing servicing and transportation infrastructure and with its surroundings, which include more than 400 adjacent homes.

An infill property poses both constraints and creative opportunities for engineering. For example, bisecting the property are two creeks that were modified over the years in ways that caused temperatures to rise and a decrease in their functioning habitats. Today, we are re-engineering the Tannery Creek system to reinstate it to its original natural state with a healthier ecosystem. To help us with the realignment, we are working expert consultants fluent in fluvial geomorphology, who are studying and designing the form and function of the creeks and their surrounding landscape.

Our team is also interacting with consultants in municipal infrastructure, landscape architecture and civil engineering, as well as the Town of Aurora, Region of York, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Ministry of Natural Resources and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This is all occurring before a single home is started.

In Innisfil, Friday Harbour is a major new resort community on 600 acres on Lake Simcoe, and has been referred to as a feat of engineering because of the complexities of lakeside development.

The 40-acre marina development presented new and challenging opportunities; 1.8 million-cubicmetres of material was excavated, transported and reused in the golf course construction. To widen the lake entrance from 30 to 100 feet and develop marina, 9,000 fish were individually catalogued and safely relocated to Lake Simcoe.

When the 4.5 kilometre-long marina wall was complete, we slowly refilled the basin using a siphon system. Over one month, the water level rose daily without the use of power, the production of emissions or noise.

Over the past 15 years, Friday Harbour has engaged experts in design, storm water, hydrogeological, geotechnical, environmental, civil and marine engineering disciplines. We’ve also involved the Town of Innisfil, County of Simcoe, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, federal and provincial Ministries of Environment and Climate Change and Natural Resources, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and First Nations groups.

So you can see that it takes a village to raise a community! Engineers make a valuable contribution when it comes to creating attractive, livable, environmentally sensitive and sustainable places to live. I am proud to be part of it all.

Shauna Dudding is an engineer and senior vice president, development for Geranium. Since 1977, the company has built more than 8,000 homes in fine neighbourhoods and communities throughout Ontario. Geranium.com.

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