Kitchen progress.

We’ve had the cabinet boxes and gables installed.  Doors and remaining hardware can safely remain elsewhere.  At this point in the project there is too much trade damage that can occur on finishing item.   While some of this is unavoidable the amount of damage caused by either total negligence or carelessness is a real problem.   

 

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This kitchen will be ready to template for countertops.  Just need to clear off all those hardwood nosings.   

Hardwood nosing assembly

The part finished interior is also functioning as a warm and well lit place to act as a worskshop for trades to prep.  Right now the hardwood guys are assembling the about 80 nosing pieces.  Sure would be nice if the factory would do this and just sell them to us in a box.  These nosings will be a nice feature of our flooring job and stair job that will start in a couple weeks.

 

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Construction idiots continued - random vandals

This is the latest in an endless continuum of the random idiots that you encounter on the jobsite. The latest project hasn’t been immune to the role of idiots, these idiots seem to appear at the most inopportune moment to cause whatever grievance or harm they can manage to deliver and then they disappear.

Today the construction idiot award goes to some random individual that came off the street and entered into the unit the kitchen crew was working in. He then opened up his tool bag, grabbed a knife and proceeded to slash the fireplace exhaust pipe, essentially decapitating it, and then left as quickly as he arrived. Who was this random fart in the wind? We don’t know, we just pray his foul odour doesn’t return.

The damage left from the random idiot that entered the building and decided to slash the fireplace vent.  Who was this person, what did he want, why did he do this?  All of these questions remain unanswered.

The damage left from the random idiot that entered the building and decided to slash the fireplace vent. Who was this person, what did he want, why did he do this? All of these questions remain unanswered.

Interior door and trim spray lacquer

the painter continues to make progress in the first unit at the Richmond project.  The doors are all sprayed and the closets and trim will be up next.  The lacquer results in a spectacular smooth and durable finish but breathing protection is needed to apply it.  Worth the effort and hazard?  I’m not sure. 

 

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The entire house is now a spray booth.  Another few days and we will move on to the next stage of the project.  

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Closet work.  

 

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And more closet work. This is a lot of effort and labor to complete.   

When City Hall acts fast - any opportunity to fill its pockets

I’ve commented on the absurd manner in which City Hall assesses the value of property in the past. Basically it preferentially treats those in older homes that have likely resided there many years, consuming services, depreciating infrastructure, while enjoying artificial low assessments, and low annual tax bills (that increase slowly and marginally). Yet when it comes to any new development, it appears to aggressively inflate values in such a way as to maximize its annual take. It even now reassesses property extremely quickly and in such an efficient manner it can actually pre-emptively decide the amount of mid stream construction value that has occurred and find a way to tax that too, despite the new buildings are unoccupied and not using any City services. In my case we can’t even get a parking permit for the trades to use the street in front of the building. Yet, we’ve already been hit with a massive reassessment, that isn’t even valid based on the City’s own rules

‘your 2019 assessment reflects the estimated market value of your property on July 1 2018 and the physical condition as of December 31 2018’.

So now the City is hitting builders with large tax increases based on the condition of July 1, 2018 (building was vacant and ready to be demolished), thus worth land value only, and as of Dec 31, the physical condition was unoccupied and under construction. Its market value half built is not great, as the market of buyers for half done buildings is very limited. Regardless the value is supposed to be estimated as of the market in the previous summer.

Typical of how the City can act quickly when it benefits, but when you need a favour or service from the City it takes sometimes months to get anywhere, or you get into the bureaucratic runaround. Somehow that same bureaucracy can act to maximize its take from local businesses though.

City is somehow revising history to increase tax assessments.  maybe it should look at other property that it under assess and hit those owners with large increases too.

City is somehow revising history to increase tax assessments. maybe it should look at other property that it under assess and hit those owners with large increases too.

Weekend prep

The finishers installed the last of the closet built in material and the flooring guys sanded all the seams in the plywood subfloor.  With the sanding and dust removed plus the closets prepped the painter is in a good position to start the spraying of the doors and trim.  

 

Drawers are built in.  

Drawers are built in.  

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Subfloor is sanded and buckets of sawdust removed.  

2018 year in review bonus edition - evaluating the impact of government on inner city home builders

Each year I like to dedicate a special post, one to identify a significant factor worthy of special commemoration. This year, there was no greater factor impacting small business owner home builders than the harm caused by the various governments. Each level of government deserves specific scorn this year. 2018 will be remembered as such a colossal year of government idiocy its impact will linger on in infamy. The repercussions continue to ripple outward as collateral damage continues into the economy and future. So here we go with an evaluation of each of our levels of government.

Municipal - The City of Calgary began the year with an ambitious announcement that Killarney would be getting a desperately needed area redevelopment plan revision…until it changed its mind and decided to merge Killarney with a bunch of other communities into a much broader district level plan. This may be a better approach, but the delay isn’t. This decision should have been made much earlier as each year of delay is causing considerable harm. What has occurred is it is now way easier to rezone tiny parcels, and the building industry is doing this quickly, on only strategic locations. This means irreparable damage is done to streets destined to be rezoned as mixed use medium density redevelopment areas where land assembly will no longer be possible. It appears we are trading long term redevelopment potential for a bunch of scattered fourplex buildings on corner locations throughout the inner city. This is a massive failure of city planning that can only be blamed on the planning department.

In addition there seems to be more discussion on how to raise fees on inner city builders for everything from streetlights to underground infrastructure. There is no credit given for the massive tax increases the city permanently enjoys from redevelopment, nor any political capital to shift taxes in a way that would share the burden of suburban sprawl and congestion caused by the proliferation of new communities. The city has created a scenario where it wants to see more inner city development but it incentivizes and supports the sprawl it claims it cannot afford. The good news is there seems to be a growing awareness that you simply can’t run a city where 90% of development is sprawl, while choking off inner city development with excessive fees and regulation. It is a classic bureaucracy where the left hand is working in a way that undermines the right hand. Can this city untangle itself? It doesnt seem likely.

Finally we heard some publicity on a hushed up third level supposed ‘pension’ program for city executives where taxes are used to fully fund a gold plated scheme to enrich the retirement of already wealthy and highly paid city staff. It is totally unconscionable that taxpayers suffering in a long recession, with no hope of themselves ever getting a defined benefit pension are funding extremely rich benefits for certain staff, plus it does not appear the scheme was ever approved by any council. For these reasons, and others, the City of Calgary gets a failing grade for 2018. (C-)

Provincial - The NDP government always defaults to a nanny state anti business platform on any issue. For this reason alone it gets a failing grade. It is hard to place a lot of blame on the NDP for the pipeline failures, but it clearly hasn’t done enough with its social licence nonsense, and pandering to extreme environmentalists financially supported by those with an agenda to harm Alberta has contributed to the devastating western canadian select values. The massive financial losses caused by the discount on the bitumen product is now large enough the government wants to take the bizarre step of buying tanker cars to ship the product. The NDP gets a D, and hopefully is booted out of office this spring.

Federal - The feds earn the distinction this year of receiving the lowest possible grade, an F. Failure is the key federal strategy apparently. It created an untenable situation where no pipeline can be built anywhere, by anyone, not even itself. How can the greatest authority in the land not control the economic destiny of a country and instead allow judges, boards, and gender appeasement policy to dictate development? All of this has created a market sentiment devastating to the inner city builder that relies in part on buyer confidence to purchase major investments such as houses. In addition to the crushing blows received by the energy industry in 2018 caused by government, the policies brought in to toughen mortgage standards due to bubbles in the distant cities of Toronto and Vancouver (already 1.5 years past the peak and dropping quickly), have really piled on to the softer markets in the rest of the country. Clearly Alberta does not need the feds, and the feds have done massive harm to the business owners of Alberta this year. The liberals get an F and we hope they will be voted out of office this fall.

2019 - the prediction edition

Hi everyone, and happy new year. It is January 1, 2019, a fitting day to publish my annual prediction edition for what I think will or will not happen over the coming year. 2018 was a roller coaster type of year, and this makes it unpredictable, and, sort of like the stock market, what was shaping up to become a great year turned really dismal by the last quarter. In December, as is my usual practice, I will self evaluate my predictions.

  1. Killarney land prices will stabilize and increase slightly - the latter half of 2018 was awful for land sellers. Prices appear to have dropped by six figures. I think in 2019 the prices will recover a little. The heady days of 50 ft lots being sold for $675k will not return, nor should they. Of course a lot of this depends on factors we cannot predict, like government meddling, energy and pipeline related debacles, and market sentiment.

  2. The spring market for new inner city homes will be better than 2018. This seems possible, even in a soft market. The amount of inventory and attractive pricing will draw buyers into the spring market. Overall I expect the market to be a little better than 2018, but certainly below average of the past five years.

  3. Government meddling will be lower than 2018 - 2018 must be the high water mark for damaging government meddling in the housing market. I can’t imagine a year where more government harm is caused to small business owners, if it does get worse, 2019 will be a nightmare. It will be hard even for the deeply incompetent people we have in charge of society to do worse than they did last year, even by accident they should be better. Doing nothing at all would be the path of least resistance for the government, this would be a relief. I also think they may relax some of the arbitrary mortgage rules as a way to placate the industry pre-election. Of course, as an election year, that is a real wildcard, if housing becomes a factor that could sway a campaign, you could see some really bizarre policies or regulations enacted to buy votes. Frightening!

website summary stats - 2018

Throughout 2018 I continued with the regular news page updates (about 175 posts in total which is hard to believe), I shared a lot of valuable info (at least I think it is) on inner city building practices, comical diatribes against the usual villains, and opinion pieces on current events, from my admittedly biased perspective.  Now we have completed the second year of this site and it is time to review the website stats.

6623 - total page views in 2018, increased %12.5 year over year

807 - highest page views in single month (March)

3140 - most popular content page (news, which happens to be the landing page so not a surprise it is the most frequent viewed)

66.6% - desktop viewership, 28.75% mobile (viewers are a very studious group, you’d expect mobile to be the dominant platform)

2018 is now 'last year', and I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to check out my site, left comments, and emailed or called with special requests.  I find inner city building to be a fascinating topic, and it seems like many others do too. I posted a little less frequently in the latter half of the year, and expect this trend to continue. There isn’t a lot of need to post minor construction update photos as I have done a lot of this over the years and any person can look through the archive of posts to find what they are interested in.

I did get sidetracked with a project specific website for live33st.com. This was a fair bit of effort to set up and took energy to manage away from the integerhomes.com page. It was quite successful at attracting eyeballs, in fact it was a tremendous marketing tool in pre-leasing all of the units before it was completed. In 2018 the live33st site received 4113 page views, and in June, the heaviest month for traffic, it had 1089 page views. This is more than the main site has ever had, so quite a surprise. A lot of this traffic was attributable to the rent faster listing that directed tremendous traffic and interest to the site. We learned from this traffic there is a near endless desire for quality new rental accommodation in Killarney, and from the actual build, we learned how it requires an almost superhuman feat to actually get it built and financed as a viable business.

I'll be back at work tomorrow pushing for a productive January to get the Richmond semi-d rolling again, so feel free to stop in and say hi.

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2018 - the prediction review edition.

This is the post where I review specific predictions made last January. One of my personal favourites. My track record for 2017 was terrible, in 2018 my guesses were more on target. 

1.  City review of infill building guidelines will be difficult and controversial.   

- inconclusive.  The city didn't do that much here. It released a revised rcg set of rules but this was minor tweaking.  Other changes that would apply to larger zones were delayed or not forthcoming to the public.   

2.  Killarney land prices will moderate or drop slightly in 2018.   

- I was right up until the latter half of the year.  Prices did moderate and then dropped tremendously, probably by $100k.  A few motivated sellers got absolutely schooled by the market.  It was interesting and painful to watch ignorant realtors and intransigent and greedy sellers chase the market down. Lots of lessons here about educating yourself on how to operate in a market.   

3.  The spring Market will be very busy

- the all important spring market was a dud. The weather was awful until May and then market conditions softened due to other factors.  I was way off on this prediction. 

4.  Government meddling will negatively impact the market for Calgary real estate.  

- did I even need to make this prediction?  It is an unfortunate reality that every year the government causes a lot of harm. 2018 was the worst year I have ever seen for government policy, the lowlight being mortgage policy for Toronto being applied to hammer provincial markets barely recovering from the past recession.  While my prediction was correct, this is one I wish was wrong.  This year it seemed that every level of government was doing its best to harm small business, especially the key Alberta industries. 

2018 year in review - the business

2018 was an interesting year, very favourable (with the usual caveats, more on that later), and we still look at 2019 with some optimism. Here are the highlights.   

1.  Volume of building was up.  7 homes were either finished or started during the year.  That is my most productive year to date. 

2. Completion of the Live33st.com purpose built rental.  This six suite rental project was a tremendous effort and could feature its own website (and it does) to tell the complete tale. Nothing more to say here other than it was a humbling experience to get it built and financed, and many lessons were learned.  Will it ever get repeated?  Hard to know. 

3.  The market really changed in the latter third of the year.  Ouch.  I feel for the business owners who are experiencing terrible ppersonal losses and hope they can recover.  

4.  Oversupply is a real problem, costs went up a lot to build, and land prices actually started to adjust faster than in prior downturns. 

5.  I rediscovered how much leverage can kill a home builder and fortunately steps taken in 2017 allowed me to survive that part of the business cycle in 2018.  Leverage utilised was very carefully applied at the right time, in the proper amount and invested cautiously.   

6. Once again the network of supporters, suppliers and contractors came through.  Like they say, your network is your networth.   

So 2018 leaves me with a lot to be grateful for and plenty of opportunities to improve.  2019 is a real puzzle. Let's get to that in a future post.  

 

The year ends and the finsihing begins. A fitting conclusion for 2018.   

The year ends and the finsihing begins. A fitting conclusion for 2018.   

If you don’t like it change it.

One of the many lessons of custom home building. If you don’t like the way an installation is progressing, act decisively as early as you can and change it. This is particularly true when translating drawings into a three dimensional structure from a computer screen.  It is always easier to step in and change something sooner than leaving it and having to tear something out and cause other collatoral damage with a late stage correction.  

 

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Earlier fireplace framing wasn’t to our liking. Version 2 is better.  

Finishing is starting - Richmond project

With walls primed, the door and trim package dropped off and the crew hanging doors, we’ve officially started the finishing stage.  This is a nice phase to be in with a mild start to early winter a lot of outside work was done. Once the cold temperatures really hit we will be solely focusing on interior work, warm, dry and well lit.  

 

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We will feature a black hardware package in this project rather than the usual satin chrome.  Looks good so far.  

Pre Christmas paint job

Unseasonably warm weather and the siding crew was able to finish coat the paintable siding material.  That means it was somehow easier to work outside in mid December than early October.   It is great to work with guys that are flexible and opportunistic enough to take advantage of the weather windows. 

 

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Wet paint drying nicely at 9 Celsius December 17 th.   

Taping phase

With both houses wall board complete, the tapers have completed two of the first taping  steps.  More progress will hopefully lead to both houses being ready to prime at the end of next week. 

 

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The irrational and delusional decision making of the greed addled mind of the Calgary land seller

Land speculation is a hobby in Calgary, particularly in the areas of major urban renewal, and of the areas I monitor, Shaganappi is currently the epicentre. Land owners appear to lose their mind when they perceive the value of land has gone up, and the greed tinted madness really exhibits itself in the irrational asking prices of property listed on the local MLS.

There are very few buyers out there looking to assemble large multi family parcels in the inner city. Of those, Truman is the company most capable and willing to building large condo buildings in this area. One would assume that Truman is fairly shrewd when it comes to acquiring large groups of lots in order to assemble them into something big enough to develop. Truman must have a clear idea of what it can afford to pay for land given the massive holding and upfront cost of starting a big project. Our case study today is a recently listed lot that came onto the market at an utterly delusional $1.5M. While the lot is a good one, there is zero chance of this selling at any value remotely close to the list price.

Here is one of the most over priced lots ever to hit the MLS.

Here is one of the most over priced lots ever to hit the MLS.

Truman recently publicized its holdings in the area. It has a very interesting and significant position on 33 St adjacent to the LRT station (its own unique development debacle tale of woe), and along 14 ave. What will be the fate of this lot? Will the seller come to his senses or will the delusional greed factor continue to guide his decisions?



Truman has more that 18 50 ft lots in the Shaganappi area, this is a massive investment in land and the holding cost is enormous. Does Truman want any more land in this area?

Truman has more that 18 50 ft lots in the Shaganappi area, this is a massive investment in land and the holding cost is enormous. Does Truman want any more land in this area?

Pushing the envelope gets rndsqr targeted by the do gooder nimbys

Rndsqr is breaking new ground in its multifamily push into larger projects.  It hires great architects and the conceptual work often gains national attention.  It also raises the ire of the local nimby's, a pox on our fine communities. Everything Rndsqr does that goes beyond the typical condo building in Calgary seems to get appealed.  The crew over there must be exhausted by the endless costly battling at the appeal board.  The latest victim is the courtyard 33 project, one I really want to succeed. The nimby nonsense is now published at the appeal board for those who wish to browse the lengthy appeal paperwork. 

One of the few benefits of the appeals process is the appellant must publicise their names and addresses along with their written appeal. Many of them are just ill conceived nonsense and get tossed on jurisdictional grounds. You’d be surprised how unprofessional and amateurish appeals have successfully scuttled major projects such as courtyard 33.  Let's hope this round of the battle goes to Rrndsqr.   

 

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Hi Stacy, your appeal is nonsense.  Please stop now.  

Drywall stage

No step in the process impacts the interior as much as when the wallboard is hung. The volume created in the main floor is exceptional.  

 

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One side hung and the other being delivered.  

Insulation is complete

For the Richmond semi we are investing in considerably more sound wall insulation as a means of ensuring our future clients will have a better experience living in the homes. Sound mitigation is a tough issue. Basically any sound transfer is a failure in the perspective of our buyers.  They want a home completely removed from any neighboring noise. Having the crews on site actually detail the middle wall properly is an issue.  Despite the lab results on these wall assemblies, the actual practice of how the houses are built leads to inherently flawed sound mitigation.   I can only imagine how shoddy other builders sound performance must be vs the wall assembly we are using now.  On the main floor there are 4 stud framed walls, each cavity is filled with roksul and each of the four walls is detached from the next.  Various layers of drywall are used to prevent sound and fire transfer.  Once this wall is complete we will perform some tests to see how we’ve done.   

 

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Sound insulating wall is going in.   

New additions to the fleet

It was time to once again swap the construction truck in for another and also the long overdue snow blower was selected.  

 

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Best truck yet with ample gadgetry.  

 

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Finally decided that shovelling sucks.  This machine is fantastic.