Blog entries will be posted in the language in which they were written.

Archive for February, 2009

February 19th, 2009

McGill Women’s Alumnae Association presents “Come and be Inspired: A Cocktail Rendevous with Jessica Trisko”

Posted by Joan McGuigan


Feb. 25, 2009 – 6:00 PM

  • 3425 University Street, Royal Victoria College, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Drawing on the theme of "compromise," Jessica will share her struggle as a young woman and as a student to balance personal interests and professional goals. Jessica will discuss her experiences in the media spotlight, in Canada and abroad, and how she has reconciled the fast-paced life of an international model with that of the solitary academic. Her message is that what may seem like completely unrelated goals, a Ph.D. and a beauty queen's crown, can be understood when we take a deeper look at what drives one person's journey through womanhood.

Jessica Trisko is currently a Doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. At 24 years old, Jessica has also studied at universities in Russia and the United States. Her dissertation research is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and REGIS.
Jessica has been involved in charitable work through alliances with organisations such as TRENDS and the Miss Earth Foundation. As Miss Earth International 2007, Jessica travelled throughout Asia to promote environmental conservation. She recently handed over her title as Miss Earth and has returned to her studies.

Cost: $5 CDN (students)

$15 CDN (non-students)

Online registration available on Alumnilife.

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February 14th, 2009

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Posted by Joan McGuigan

A very inspiring read! 

Canadian banks are typically leveraged at 18 to 1—compared with U.S. banks at 26 to 1.  
Fareed Zakaria 
From NEWSWEEK magazine issue dated Feb 16, 2009
The legendary editor of The New Republic, Michael Kinsley, once held a "Boring Headline Contest" and decided that the winner was "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Twenty-two years later, the magazine was rescued from its economic troubles by a Canadian media company, which should have taught us Americans to be a bit more humble. Now there is even more striking evidence of Canada's virtues. Guess which country, alone in the industrialized world, has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention in the financial or mortgage sectors. Yup, it's Canada. In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system the healthiest in the world. America's ranked 40th, Britain's 44th.
Canada has done more than survive this financial crisis. The country is positively thriving in it. Canadian banks are well capitalized and poised to take advantage of opportunities that American and European banks cannot seize. The Toronto Dominion Bank, for example, was the 15th-largest bank in North America one year ago. Now it is the fifth-largest. It hasn't grown in size; the others have all shrunk.
So what accounts for the genius of the Canadians? Common sense. Over the past 15 years, as the United States and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries, the Canadians refused to follow suit, seeing the old rules as useful shock absorbers. Canadian banks are typically leveraged at 18 to 1—compared with U.S. banks at 26 to 1 and European banks at a frightening 61 to 1. Partly this reflects Canada's more risk-averse business culture, but it is also a product of old-fashioned rules on banking.
Canada has also been shielded from the worst aspects of this crisis because its housing prices have not fluctuated as wildly as those in the United States. Home prices are down 25 percent in the United States, but only half as much in Canada. Why? Well, the Canadian tax code does not provide the massive incentive for overconsumption that the U.S. code does: interest on your mortgage isn't deductible up north. In addition, home loans in the United States are "non-recourse," which basically means that if you go belly up on a bad mortgage, it's mostly the bank's problem. In Canada, it's yours. Ah, but you've heard American politicians wax eloquent on the need for these expensive programs—interest deductibility alone costs the federal government $100 billion a year—because they allow the average Joe to fulfill the American Dream of owning a home. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own their own homes. And the rate of Canadian homeownership? It's 68.4 percent.
Canada has been remarkably responsible over the past decade or so. It has had 12 years of budget surpluses, and can now spend money to fuel a recovery from a strong position. The government has restructured the national pension system, placing it on a firm fiscal footing, unlike our own insolvent Social Security. Its health-care system is cheaper than America's by far (accounting for 9.7 percent of GDP, versus 15.2 percent here), and yet does better on all major indexes. Life expectancy in Canada is 81 years, versus 78 in the United States; "healthy life expectancy" is 72 years, versus 69. American car companies have moved so many jobs to Canada to take advantage of lower health-care costs that since 2004, Ontario and not Michigan has been North America's largest car-producing region.
I could go on. The U.S. currently has a brain-dead immigration system. We issue a small number of work visas and green cards, turning away from our shores thousands of talented students who want to stay and work here. Canada, by contrast, has no limit on the number of skilled migrants who can move to the country. They can apply on their own for a Canadian Skilled Worker Visa, which allows them to become perfectly legal "permanent residents" in Canada—no need for a sponsoring employer, or even a job. Visas are awarded based on education level, work experience, age and language abilities. If a prospective immigrant earns 67 points out of 100 total (holding a Ph.D. is worth 25 points, for instance), he or she can become a full-time, legal resident of Canada.
Companies are noticing. In 2007 Microsoft, frustrated by its inability to hire foreign graduate students in the United States, decided to open a research center in Vancouver. The company's announcement noted that it would staff the center with "highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S." So the brightest Chinese and Indian software engineers are attracted to the United States, trained by American universities, then thrown out of the country and picked up by Canada—where most of them will work, innovate and pay taxes for the rest of their lives.
If President Obama is looking for smart government, there is much he, and all of us, could learn from our quiet—OK, sometimes boring—neighbor to the north. Meanwhile, in the councils of the financial world, Canada is pushing for new rules for financial institutions that would reflect its approach. This strikes me as, well, a worthwhile Canadian initiative.

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February 8th, 2009

Lessons Learned at the International Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate Conference in Paris, France

Posted by Joan McGuigan


At the conference, held at the Hotel du Louvre, we had the pleasure of seeing old friends and meeting new ones from many countries around the world – Australia, Thailand, Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Poland, France, USA, United Arab Emirates, and Canada. These luxury real estate brokers shared their knowledge about their countries’ current market conditions and how they are dealing with it. 

It was a privileged opportunity to exchange experiences with the worlds’ top luxury real estate specialists and promote McGuigan Pepin Properties.  We also got to extol the unique rewards of living in Montreal – its cultural diversity, joie de vivre and hospitality.

They were astonished to learn that our sound banking system ranked 6th in the world and was the only major country not to have a bank failure. You would be surprised how many super power countries are suffering from the lack of available financing. Montrealers have plenty of mortgage money at their disposal and at very low interest rates.

Fractional ownership is gaining momentum for Lifestyle properties – homes that are traditional leisure or recreational residences. Anyone affluent enough to experience one of the world’s grandest residences can own as little as one tenth (1/10). For a fantasy Italian journey go to our website’s Partner Listings  and visit Timber Resorts in Tuscany.

It’s no secret that the world is changing and we need to revise our way of doing business. To thrive in this global economy, responsible, dedicated brokers have got to develop a powerful network. It has never been more important than now to nourish our international connections in selling Luxury Real Estate to the world.

After the conference we spent the next few days enjoying some of Paris’ legendary sights, savoring her French cuisine and falling in love with her amazing architecture. Despite the chilly weather we persisted to the top of the Eiffel Tower and braved the Champs Elysees. The glitter and pomp of Napoleon’s red and gold living quarters on display at Le Louvre was astonishing! A true highlight of our trip was falling into a Solemn High Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral! Our friends have always been amazed that Brian and I had never been to Paris and now we know why!

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February 8th, 2009

5 Common First Home-Buyer Mistakes (& How To Avoid Them)

Posted by Joan McGuigan


Okay, so you’ve saving your hard earned cash for a while, driving through the locale that you’re interested in, and doing your research on the internet. You decide you’ve found the property that you want to become your first home.

It can be an exciting, stressful and daunting process all rolled into one.

So, we’ve collated some common mistakes that first-time home buyers often so that, hopefully you can avoid them and make the process and positive as possible.

Mistake 1. Not being pre-approved for a mortgage

First-time home buyers sometimes mistake pre-approval by a mortgage lender with pre-qualification. Pre-qualification is the important first step. It will give you a great understanding of what you can realistically afford to buy. Pre-approval means that your have a written commitment from the mortgage lender for a maximum mortgage at a stated interest rate.

Mistake 2. Waiting for the perfect home

Many first-time home buyers make the mistake of searching for their perfect home – the home that will meet every single one of their needs, wants and desires.

Such buyers frequently pass up great homes that would meet 90% of their requirements and eventually give up and purchase a home they do not really want because they are worn out, or circumstances overtake them. Also, while waiting for the “perfect” home, market prices continue to rise which means you will have to pay more for a home. Determining your most important criteria will help you select a home that meets the majority of them. In other words, know the difference between your needs and your wants.

Mistake 3. Missing the home building and/or pest inspection

Either in an effort to save some money or because they are wrapped up in a multiple offer situation, first-time home buyers sometimes decide to skip having a professional inspect the home. Using competent inspectors can offer you peace of mind that you are making a sound choice or alert you to underlying problems that could cost you a lot of money.

If you know the home you are interested in is going to have multiple offers you can always do the home inspection before you present your offer. Having a home inspection under your belt will help you enter the negotiations with your eyes wide open and the advantage of having one less condition. This is not uncommon and most agents/brokers will happily accommodate this.

It is better to spend a couple of hundred dollars to get the inspections given the total cost you will potentially outlay.

Mistake 4. Over-buying

A large or beautiful home with little or no furniture is a very uncomfortable reality. When you spend all your earnings to support your house, it can quickly cause family stress. As mundane as it may sound “buy within your means” taking into account unforeseen circumstances (eg. Interest rate rises, unexpected costs etc).

Mistake 5. First-impressions

First impressions can be a very strong influential factor when searching for a home. First-time home buyers should remember to keep an open mind and to try to be as objective as possible when examining a home. Don’t allow the current style or look of the house, whether good or bad, to overly impact your decision. A messy or “ugly” house may be structurally sound and actually suit your needs. Don’t look at the interior, whether it be design or furnishings, and not see past this. These issues are cosmetic and easily changed to suit your requirements.

Alternatively, don’t rush to make an offer just because a home is beautifully decorated. A thorough investigation of the house will help you make a sound decision.

Embarking on the quest for your first home is exciting. But remember, do your homework before you begin and be careful to avoid mistakes that could prove costly. Be as objective as possible and your purchase will no doubt prove to be a sensible one.

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February 5th, 2009

Overview of Québec’s 2008 Resale Market

Posted by Joan McGuigan

Despite a pronounced slowdown at the end of the year, Québec's 2008 resale market recorded its second best year in its history in terms of the number of MLS® transactions. There were 79,402 sales, a 5 per cent drop compared to the record set in 2007. The metropolitan areas of Trois-Rivières (0 per cent) and Québec (-1 per cent) were spared, while those of Saguenay (-6 per cent), Montréal (-7 per cent), Gatineau (-9 per cent) and Sherbrooke (-11 per cent) saw a drop in activity. The average price of a single-family home, province-wide, grew by 4 per cent compared to 2007.

Remember – by all reports, Montreal is one of the highest-ranked cities for superb real estate. Nowhere else do you find such a unique and varied market. Montreal's great properties are synonymous with great value!

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February 5th, 2009

Key Interest Rate Drops Again

Posted by Joan McGuigan

On January 20, the Bank of Canada once again lowered its key interest rate in order to combat the weakening economic outlook. The one-half of a percentage point cut brings the key interest rate to 1%, its lowest level since 1958. According to the Bank of Canada, the country's economy is already in a recession and the real GDP will drop by 1.2 per cent in 2009.

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