Sunday, August 29, 2010

Le Seville, Standing Room Only

Artist's rendering of Le Seville. Courtesy of Prével.
You could be forgiven for thinking there was a hot double-feature at the  former Seville Theatre on Friday.
A couple of dozen people were queued up outside the old repertory palace as though they were waiting for the midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Hallow'een.
(There I go dating myself again.)
Turns out those lined up were getting a night-before jump on the official opening of the sales office of Le Seville, a condo project that will rise on the site.
CBC Radio reported that Montreal police put a stop to the overnight line-up by asking developer Prèvel to hand out numbered tickets so that people could come back on Saturday and still have a guaranteed spot in line.
 Prèvel began inviting people last year to get advance word on the project by signing up on its web site.
More than a thousand of them did and that gave Prèvel a chance to ask questions of the potential buyers and fine tune the project. The initial 99 units will be priced between $144,000 and $350,000 and aimed at young singles or couples. This is in the area that city is trying to rebrand as Cité Concordia. Right now, it's skid row, a neighborhood that had its heart broken with first the closing of the Seville in 1986 and then with the shuttering of the beloved Forum. Rubbies and papered-over windows line the three blocks between Closse St. and  Fort. St. Le Seville will be built smack dab in the middle, at the corner Chomedey.
Locals are delighted by the project, which is expected to be built in three phases over three years. A second building with 120 units is on tap, followed by a third featuring 230 more.
These won't be huge condos, ranging in size from a microscopic 450 square feet to a comfortable 950. Prèvel has gone down this road before. It's Lowney and Imperial loft projects both feature small open-concept units with barely enough room to swing a cat (Meeow!) To make up for it, the buildings feature roof-top "lounges" with panoramic views, barbecues, pool tables, pools and the like, so that owners can socialize in style.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Listed - Verdun Duplex

Amy Barratt and I have just listed this solidly built duplex at 1146-1148 Egan St. in Verdun.
The property was built in 1945 and features two two-bedroom units accessible by a common front door. The unfinished basement has a six-foot ceiling and part of it could be made into a family room with laundry.
Both units have front and back balconies, newer windows.
There is a back yard and parking space off a city-maintained lane.
The property has been inhabited by the same family for 50 years or so. It requires substantial renovation.
At $269,000, the price can't be beat.
There is a cute children's playground with jungle gym and sprinkler pad on the block. Buses 37, 108 and 350 are all about a block away at the corner of Woodland and Banantyne.
We're having an open house on Sunday, August 29, 2-4 p.m.
You can check out the complete MLS listing at Punch in MLS #8401901

Remembering the Veterans in Veteran's Cottage

I've been following my friend Connie's massive overhaul of her little one-and-a-half storey veteran's cottage in East York through the miracle of Facebook. She's been pretty good about posting photos - including more than a few of her buff and often shirtless contractors! - as the work progresses.
Yesterday she put up photos of specially designed stained glass windows she is adding to the home.

Pretty, right?

Here's her explanation for the design of the stained glass:
The houses in this neighborhood were built for returning veterans of the Second Word War. The poppy is a symbol for soldiers who have died in the line of duty. The window, and 2 others just like it, are a tribute to the original owners of the house.

Connie's parents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, a country that was liberated by Canadian soldiers in World War II.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Verdun Eco Condos Plaguued By Delays

Phase I is completed, Phase II, hoarding and a patch of dirt.
  Gazette real estate reporter Alison Lampert has dug into the story of Eco Cité' Development's award-winning but oft-delayed Abondance Montréal eco condos in Verdun.
I blogged about the development after taking a tour of Phase I of the project this summer.  The three-unit building, dubbed Le Soleil, has innovative features like solar panels, geothermal heating and gray-water recuperation systems.
For now, there are few signs of life  on the site of Phase II,  right next door on La Salle Blvd. The day that I toured Le Soleil, EcoCité's principal, Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes said the second phase of the project, La Terre, would be ready in January, 2011.
Lampert delves into some of the delays here. She also has a sidebar outlining financial difficulties that  scuppered Eco Cité projects on the Plateau and in Ottawa and may have cost buyers some of their deposits.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Verdun Restaurants Rated by Local Foodies, the online Bible for obsessive foodies, has been hosting an ongoing discussion about great places to eat in Verdun. The conversation started in 2006 but people continue to weigh in. Restaurants come and go - Naked Lunch, how I miss you! - but the momentum is definitely towards a broader range of gastronomical choices.
It is still easier to find a big, cheap breakfast, cut-rate pizza or hot dog steamé than it is genuinely gourmet fare, but times they are a-changing  in blue-collar Verdun. Tea shops and cheese mongers are creeping into the 'hood.
Take, for example, Hecho en Mexico (photo), a fantastic eatery on Wellington St. near 4th Ave. HdeM occupies premises once inhabited by the late, lamented Naked Lunch and showcases traditional Mexican eats prepared with market fresh ingredients.
MAS, is a cozy little boite specializing in bistro fare. Chef/co-owner Michel Ross used to be one of principals at Brunoise, a Plateau eatery known for its great food and affordable wine list.
I recently tried to dine at Su, a Turkish resto run by a gifted female chef, but it was closed for the construction hols.
Catch up on what you've been missing by reading the post.
Here's a map pinpointing some of those restos.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Never Know What You'll See on a Property Visit

The New York Times asked readers to send in their best open-house anecdotes, the oddest and most hilarious of which can be found here.
It's true, you never know what you'll find when you step through the doors of a building for sale.
Earlier this year, I was working with a client who was in the market for a bargain-priced fixer upper in southwest Montreal.  Our search took us to some pretty odd places.
The very first place we saw together was a duplex, where the top floor was vacant and the bottom floor was rented. It smelled a bit like cats as I fiddled with the key in the front door lock. That was nothing compared to the smell that hit us like a freight train once the door swung open.
The apartment was completely empty, except for a thick spackle of cat poop that seemed to cover the floor from front to back. All the windows were closed.
Another buyer would have taken a sniff and fled. To her credit, my client examined the whole place, taking photos in each room before deciding the litter box stench was a deal breaker.
That same buyer and I visited another duplex where we started upstairs, where the tenant had to lock his two pitbulls in the bathroom so that we could get in the door. The bedroom had no ceiling. That was odd. Odder still was the downstairs unit, where a guy with a hoodie obscuring his face let us in and then slouched back to the darkened living room. A thick cloud of hashish smoke enveloped the room and his roomamate, flopped on the sofa with his mouth agape, was so stoned he didn't even know we were there.
"Are those bullet holes in the ceiling?" I asked my client.
Our third odd visit togeher was yet another duplex, where the downstairs apartment had been divided into a rooming-house. There were cheap plywood doors everywhere, with multiple pairs of plastic flip-flops outside each room.  The listing agent had warned us to knock before entering any of the rooms becuase there might be people sleeping.
"How many people live here?" I asked.
She wasn't sure, 15 maybe 18.
We spent as little time as possible in the house. Just long enough to decide it wasn't what she had in mind.
We were careful not to slam the door as we beat a hasty retreat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What You Should Know About Getting a Mortgage

Making an offer to purchase a home includes successfully negotiating three key points: price, inspection and financing.
Financing can be the trickiest of the three and the one element over which the buyer has little control. Buyers wait for banks. Banks seldom hurry for buyers.
I recently had a client purchasing his first condo. He had a 20 per cent down payment. The inspection went quite well. The deal nearly fell apart as his bank dithered over whether or not to give him a mortgage.
As it turns out, the mortgage department was hung up on his credit report, which showed that he owed $700 to a cell phone company.  Their attitude was "Why should we take a chance on a guy who doesn't pay his bills?"
My buyer had paid his phone bill and had the monthly statements to prove it. As it turns out, he was the victim of identity theft. Someone used his name to take out a phone contract, ran up $700 in long-distance charges in one month and then disappeared.
It took some fast talking to persuade the bank that he wasn't a deadbeat. They wanted all kinds of  paperwork proving it, paperwork that would have taken him weeks, if not months, to sort out. He didn't have that much time. In most cases, buyers have 10 to 15 days to get their financing approved. If the time runs out before the bank given its approval, the vendor can back out of the deal. My guy had 15 days to get his mortgage approved. We were now 18 days into the process, with no answer in sight.
In this case, the vendors gave him a little extra time and he persuaded the bank that the phone bill was not his.
It was a needlessly nerve-wracking mess.
Here's the point. It's a good idea to have a look at your credit report periodically, just to make sure that everything is in order. You can correct errors that might be dragging your credit score down. It's always better to do this before you are in the process of seeking credit.
The higher your credit score, the better mortgage rate you'll be offered. 
Industry Canada walks you through the ins and outs of obtaining a copy of your credit report here
If you are buying a property and need a mortgage there are a few standard documents that any mortgage lender will want to examine. It's your job to collect and deliver them, electronically, by fax or in person, in a timely fashion.
Here's what your bank will ask to see:
*A letter of employment from your Human Resources department, stating how long you've worked for your employer.
*A recent pay slip.
*If you are self-employed, the bank will instead ask to see your Notice of Assessment from the federal government for the previous income-reporting year. Sometimes the bank will ask to see the last two NOAs.
*The last three monthly bank statements.
*A list of your assets, including investments.
*A copy of the property listing.

With these documents in hand, the bank will then determine your credit worthiness.  It all boils down to a few basic questions.

*How much of your gross income is used to service your debt each month?
*How much do you have for a down payment? How long has that money been in your account?
*How stable is your employment?
*How good are you at paying your bills on time?

All lenders have their own criteria for evaluating the information. You don't necessarily have to be perfect. Sometimes meeting three of the four criteria is good enough. Depends on the bank. Depends on the circumstances. It is not a bad idea to think about cleaning up your credit before you decide to start house hunting.
If you can't do that, why not consider working with a mortgage broker.  Brokers know the quirks of all the banks and they know how to push a file through the system. For example, if you have a bankruptcy in your past, a broker can steer you to a lender that won't automatically refuse you because of it.
I wish my first-time buyer had been working with a mortgage broker. It would have saved us all a lot of time and worry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Gazette's Green Life blog has a story about a couple of gardeners in St. Henri who turned what had been a garbage-strewn lot in their neighborhood into a vibrant and verdant urban oasis.
You can read it here.
These green-thumbed activists are part of a growing guerrilla gardening movement taking rootaround the world. The idea is to make blighted corners of the cityscape whole again by sowing seeds, planting flowers, herbs and the like.
The St. Henri lot had been abandoned for many years when locals decided to clean it up. The owner seemed to be okay with this, right up until they posted a sign inscribed Parc Jardin Communautaire Delinelle. As we used to say in my feminist student group back in the day, to name it is to claim it. He doesn't mind them messing in his vacant lot, as long as everyone is clear on who owns it.
A similar guerrilla garden was started in a tucked away corner of Point St. Charles about 15 years ago. Residents of Sebastopol and Congregation Sts. adopted a weedy little patchy at the end of their block and planted flowers under the shade of the weedy Manitoba maples. All was well, until the city decided to sell the lot for development.
The folks got together and raised a fuss, managing to catch the ear of Mayor Pierre Bourque. Bourque, as you may recall, used to run Montreal's Botanical Garden and has a big soft spot for things horticultural. The garden was saved. The city ceded the plot of land to the good people of the Point. The garden is still there, the black-eyed susans, sedum and echinacea more lush and lovely than ever. In fact, I took the picture above there today.

You can find out more by visiting the Guerrilla Gardening website. Check out their recipe for making seed bombs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Time Waster of the Day

 Sooner or later, someone was bound to come up with this.
Does it make me a bad person that I kinda want clothes hangers that look like dogs?