Archive for July, 2010

Salt Water Reef Aquarium: A Special Kind of Real Estate!

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Standard homes in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton region are not the only real estate I deal with!  Here are a few of the inhabitants of my salt water reef aquarium.

 Salt Water Reef Aquarium:  A Special Kind of Real Estate! |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

The deep blue fish on the left is known as the Achilles Tang Hybrid, a rare and special fish.  “It is a quark [sic] of nature where an Achilles Tang and a Goldrim Tang have merged together during conception. It is one of the few reef fishes in Hawaiian waters known to hybridize.”   (from the website   The long nosed fish on the right is a Copperband Butterfly fish.  I bought this fish because it has a highly specialized diet; it loves eating an aquarium pest known as Aiptaisa Anemones.  These pesky sea anemones are known to take over a saltwater aquarium.  The problem with Copperbands is that once they have eaten all the Aiptaisa, they will sometimes starve to death because they are such finicky eaters.  I have managed to get my Copperband to eat frozen brine shrimp (which I feed to all my fish).  Occasionally I find a rock with Aiptaisa growing on it in my quarantine tank.  Once I move the rock to my main tank, my Copperband will hunt down all the Aiptaisa and make a meal of it in very short order.

Salt Water Reef Aquarium:  A Special Kind of Real Estate! |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

This is a photo of my starfish.  It is currently wrapped around my blasto coral from Australia.  It always amazes me how gentle this creature is.  It never damages or knocks over any of the corals.  My wife Paulette calls him Gumby.

 Salt Water Reef Aquarium:  A Special Kind of Real Estate! |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

These are some of my favorite corals, the Australian Acans.  These corals are fully extended out with their feeder tentacles exposed.  This is the sign of a happy and healthy Acan.

Salt Water Reef Aquarium:  A Special Kind of Real Estate! |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

This is a photo of my main tank which I started in the fall of 2008.  It is now fully matured (this can take 6 plus months).  The photo shows most of the fish in my tank, along with my black and white clown fish.  Just below them is a living giant clam, which my clown fish have decided to “host”.  Clown fish, also known as anemonefish, usually host an anemone in the wild.  I can only describe this as a love affair between these two creatures.  Because having a poisonous anemone can be extremely detrimental to a reef tank, I choose not to have one.  So my clown fish have taken to hosting my giant clam, claiming it and defending it as their territory.  They are never very far away from this clam.  They nudge it in the morning to wake it up, sleep on it at night and do not like anything coming close to their clam, including my hand when I try to clean the inside glass.

Salt Water Reef Aquarium:  A Special Kind of Real Estate! |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Another picture from my main tank.  Pretty much everything you can see in this aquarium is alive:  the corals and fish, of course, but there is even life in the sand and rocks.  The rock, referred to as “live rock”, serves many purposes, and is probably the most popular material used for natural biological filtration in saltwater aquariums.  What surprises most people is how alive the corals are.  They expand and contract, react to touch, light and food.  What people may not know is that many corals are carnivorous, and many have long stinging tentacles used to protect their territory.  The winner of any coral conflict is usually determined by which coral produces the strongest poison.  Fortunately for us, human skin is too thick for most corals to penetrate. Although there is a lot going on in a reef aquarium during the day, plenty of interesting things happen after the lights are turned out at night.  A flashlight will expose the many night creatures and add a whole new dimension to a reef system.

Are you looking for a special kind of real estate?  I’d love to help you find your dream home.  Phone me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Hobbies and Your Home

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Hobbies and Your Home |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWherever we live, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or elsewhere, most of us have things we collect or activities we like to do in our leisure time.  These collections and activities often spill over into our homes, even if they are usually done elsewhere.  Without proper planning, this can sometimes be disastrous.  Think, for example, of current popular television programs on hoarding and decluttering.

If you have any sort of hobby, and you are in the market for a new home, it’s a good idea to give some thought about how that hobby will fit into the physical confines of the houses you look at, and what modifications you might have to make to a house in order to accommodate your hobby.

Let’s say you enjoy hiking and camping, or similar sports or activities that you normally practice away from home.  Where and how are you going to store the gear needed for these activities?

Maybe you are a serious collector of… well, almost anything!  Books, coins, model cars, sports memorabilia, dolls, antique furniture, teapots, clocks, insects….   More than three objects in any of these categories could rightly be called a collection.  The question for your home is where and how are you going to store and display your collection?

Or, maybe your hobby is some activity or craft you do, which may or may not result in a physical endproduct.  Some hobbies are fairly easy to fit into everyday life.  Gourmet cooking?  Your kitchen may be a little better equipped than the average but usually no major changes need to be made.  Enjoy reading, doing crossword puzzles, blogging, or watching vintage movies?  Again, easy to do at home without disrupting daily life.  Scrapbooking or sewing?  A table and a few storage containers in the corner of a guest bedroom will often be enough.

But suppose your hobby requires

  • a great deal of space (think model trains or weaving or woodworking or restoring old vehicles)
  • the use of toxic chemicals (oil painting or furniture refinishing)
  • structural changes to your home (pottery making with a home kiln, perhaps, where special wiring might be needed, or collecting wine, where special lighting and temperature controls may be required)

Can hobbies of this type be accommodated in your home?  Yes, with a little forethought and planning.  A good rule to follow is to do what you must but always keep the end in mind.  That is, consider what you will need to do to return your home to its original condition should you give up the hobby or when it is time to sell your home.

I recently developed the basement of our Spruce Grove home.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to incorporate a salt water aquarium into our home.  There is just something about the choice of fish and corals and all the colours available in a salt water reef system.  A fragile system that does not forgive neglect or ignorance, it has very specific needs that include water temperature, lighting, chemical control (e.g. calcium, PH balance, ammonia, nitrates, magnesium, etc.), water flow, salinity, and more.  There can be costly lessons during the learning curve.  But if one is passionate about a hobby, the work and expense are eventually well worth it.

Hobbies and Your Home |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamI brought in someone who is an expert in salt water systems and had him advise me on what was needed.  He suggested we add two dedicated electrical circuits to accommodate all the equipment, and a sink with hot and cold running water.  We built the tank into the wall so that it can be viewed from the family room.  All the equipment is located behind the main tank in an oversized closet just off the exercise room.  The system was installed so that it could easily be converted back to what the average home buyer would expect to find.  All that we need to do is remove the equipment, frame the opening where the display tank is, mount and finish some drywall, and no one would ever know there ever was an aquarium there. Except for maybe plumbing in the wall and a humidistat hooked up to an exhaust fan.

Hobbies and Your Home |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

 It is worth remembering that when you modify your home to accommodate your hobby or business, you may have to remove all evidence of it ever having been there as it may be viewed as a deterrent or expense to prospective buyers.   

For most people, hobbies and interests are a special but integral part of their lives and need to be considered when shopping for a new home.

Comments or questions about this article or about Spruce Grove Real Estate?  Email me at, phone me at 780-910-9669, or contact me here.

Is Real Estate a Good Investment?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Is Real Estate a Good Investment? |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWhether in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area or elsewhere, REALTORS® love statistics.  We like to know how many and what kind of properties are being listed and sold, and for how much.  We also like to examine trends over time because this helps us help our clients determine realistic property values when they buy or sell a home.

We often hear about the ups and downs of the real estate market, but what does this really mean?  Is real estate a good investment?  Does real estate always appreciate? 

Answers to these questions can be seen fairly easily by looking at a few statistics, especially when these are presented in graphic format.   If we look at the average residential selling prices for homes in the Edmonton area from 1962 to 2009, we’ll see some interesting trends.  Even more interesting is that these trends tend to repeat themselves.

From 1962 to 2009 the average selling price of a residence in Edmonton increased from $12,556 to $320,392 – an increase over 47 years of 24 times the starting value!  Does this mean that the value of one’s home doubles every few years?!  Well, sort of…  Examining the numbers year by year, we see that while the overall price trend has been ever higher, the movement is not always steady and not always upward.  There were a number of times during those 47 years when the average selling price in one year, or even for a series of years, was lower than the previous year.

Prices stumbled in 1964, recovering the next year.  Steady, and in some cases significant growth, continued until 1981.  Looking more closely at the gains during those 16 years, and doing a little math, we discover that double digit percentage gains over the previous year occurred in 1967 (12.3%), 1968 (12.9%) and 1969 (17.7%).  During the next 3 years prices continued to increase but at a more modest rate.  1973 saw prices take another leap (14.6%), and that was followed by 3 more years of huge year over year gains (1974 – 28.2%; 1975 – 26.4%; 1976 – 32%).  A house that sold in 1972 for $24,777 was suddenly “worth” $59,450 only 4 years later.  By 1981 the average selling price had risen to $91,438, a gain of 369% in just 9 years.  Many people buying and then re-selling property during this time made substantial financial gains.

But the sometimes cruel nature of the real estate market took over in 1981.  A person buying a home in 1981 would have seen prices drop for the next 4 years, and then increase modestly for another 4 years but still not rebound to the price paid in 1981.  A hard lesson perhaps.

By 1990 the average residence sold in Edmonton for $101,014.  Prices rose for 5 years, fell in 1995 and 1996, and then rose for the next 11 years, up to 2007.  This is eerily reminiscent of the trend mentioned above starting in 1964.  Several of the 11 years between 1997 and 2007 saw a price gain that was dramatic.  In 2002 and 2003 percentage increases were 12.6% and 10.2% respectively.  In 2006 prices rose 29.4%.  This was followed in 2007 by the largest one-year percentage increase since these statistics began:  34.7%, or a rise to a dollar value of $338,009.  Most people are probably aware of what happened to the housing market in the US during this period of time and its effect on house prices throughout North America.  The average selling price of a home in Edmonton dropped 1.5% in 2008 and 3.7% in 2009 but appears to be trending upward so far in 2010.

These trends are even easier to spot in a chart like this one:

Is Real Estate a Good Investment? |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Looking at the proverbial big picture, we see the following:

  • The average annual price increase is roughly 7.8%
  • The average 5-year price increase is about 49%
  • Only 9 years between 1962 and 2009 showed price decreases
  • If you held a property for 9 years, you would always see an increase
  • Edmonton values appear to double every 9 years, on average, since 1962

Statistics and facts suggest that yes, real estate is definitely a good investment, and yes, it does appreciate over time.  

What about right now in the marketplace?  Are we once again in the trend of a couple years of soft prices followed by a decade of increases?  Are prices going to continue to fall before they recover as they did in the 1980s and 1990s?  Is now a good or bad time to buy and sell?  Hard to predict and impossible to know.  This is, of course, exactly what makes real estate interesting!

Interested in learning more about the real estate market in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area?  Phone me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

“Location, Location, Location”: What Does It Mean in Real Estate?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Whether you live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, you have probably heard the phrase “location, location, location” used in real estate and wondered why the need to state it three times.  It is repeated to emphasize its importance.  It is one of those things in real estate that just is, and when you ignore its importance you will likely regret it.

As a buyer myself, I ignored it twice in the last 30 years.  One of those times was when I remustered to a Structural Technician (changed trades) while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.  My first posting was to Wainwright, Alberta where housing was pretty pricey, so we decided to purchase a major fixer upper in Czar, Alberta (200 people, 10,000 head of cattle), 50 km south of Wainwright.  My thinking was twofold:  we could buy a house a lot cheaper in Czar, and this would be good practical experience to experiment with my new construction trade.  We could add sweat equity to this house, making a really nice home and still be competitive with the Wainwright market.

My wife Paulette and I spent the next 3 ½ years gutting the house, including the interior walls, kitchen, basement, lighting, electrical…  In the end the house turned out beautiful.  But when we got posted to the north end of Vancouver Island, no one wanted to buy the house, because we could not compete with the buyers’ desire to live in Wainwright.  To make a long story short, we rented the house to the only person who applied, and that person trashed the house.  I took time off, came back to Czar, fixed the house up for sale and put it back on the market, selling it for what the market would bear. The lesson here:  Buyers will pay a premium to live where they want to live. 

"Location, Location, Location": What Does It Mean in Real Estate? |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam“Location, location, location” usually means attractive neighbourhoods close to schools, hospitals, and facilities for entertainment, recreation and shopping.  It can mean proximity to a lake or backing onto a park, green space or golf course.  Homes in undesirable locations might be next to commercial/industrial buildings, beside railway lines, under flight paths, or in neighbourhoods with high crime rates.  Also included are economically depressed areas, where neighbours show zero pride of ownership in maintaining their homes and yards.

Although you will pay a premium to buy in a desirable location, the payback is well worth the extra cost.  Desirable locations sell quicker, usually appreciate at a greater rate, and are likely to sell before less desirable locations even when the market is slow.

From my past experiences, if budget is an issue (and when isn’t it?), I would settle for a smaller home located in a desirable location, later moving up to a larger home when I could afford it.

Looking for a great home in a great location?  Let me help!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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