Archive for January, 2009

Twitter online social network signed on by millions, max 140 characters per message

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Gillian Shaw is The Vancouver Sun’s digital life writer, and a tweep. A relative newbie, she remembers the terror of her first ‘tweet’ — oh my goodness, what if someone is reading this? And her most embarrassing mis-tweet, although if you think she’s

Gillian Shaw
Sun

Twitter accounts are free and let you communicate — in brief form — with other people.Photograph by: .., Screengrab

Millions of people around the globe have signed onto the Twitter online network. The rest either have never heard of it or wonder why people would want to spend their time firing off tiny 140-character updates to everyone from their colleagues at the next desk to people they don’t even know in another country.

If you’re new to Twitter-speak, here’s our basic primer on getting started.

I am a Twitter novice, a factor that is helpful in writing this, since I remember how tough it is to get started on Twitter, plus I have first-hand experience in all the Twit bloopers and other embarrassing missteps that can trip you up.

Oops. Lesson one: That was way over the 140-character limit. Twitter cuts you off — leading to half-spoken thoughts and incomplete website addresses when you try to share information.

And did I mention? Never post anything on an open Twitter site you wouldn’t be comfortable reading on the front page of your local paper. Or having your partner, mother, neighbour, kid’s teacher or anybody else read, because Twitter is freely available to all who want to join.

Like many people who have tried Twitter, I signed up for an account, did nothing with it, and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then Stephen Jagger, a Twitter evangelist and partner in Reachd.com, a Vancouver company that trains businesses in using social media, came to the newsroom.

THE BASICS

Jagger’s first instruction: Turn off the “protect your updates” button. Twitter is a conversation. It can’t be a conversation if you make it hard for people to join by forcing them to put in a special request to follow you, which is what “protect your updates” does.

If you want friends and others to find you, use either your real name or a recognizable brand, as Vancouver’s Rebecca Bollwitt does with Miss604 — the name of her blog as well as her Twitter ID.

Next, lose the Twitter fill-in profile icon. That’s the default icon that Twitter puts on your page if you don’t upload your own photo or icon. It looks lame, and what are you trying to hide? Any tiny head shot will do, or be inventive and come up with an artier version. There’s a picture link under “settings” that lets you add your photo. Ask a friend or colleague or your eight-year-old to help if you have trouble getting a photo to fit.

Third step, look for people to follow who have things to say that you find interesting. There are a number of ways to add to your follow list, but I started with the simplest — plundering other people’s follow lists, starting with Jagger’s. That led me to @Miss604, @Hummingbird604 and @ColleenCoplick and other Vancouver “tweeps” — Twitter users — who were not only interesting to follow, they were also helpful and welcoming to Twitter newcomers.

TWEETS

The 140-character updates can range from what you had for dinner (admittedly not a big draw for followers) to profound thoughts on the state of the economy, or news of the latest plane dropping into the Hudson River. Following Twitter can be faster than getting a CNN newsfeed.

Bollwitt recommends you update as often as you can, and don’t rely only on automated posts, even if yours is a corporate Twitter account. Jagger recommends three rules of tweeting: Be authentic, transparent and helpful.

REPLIES

When you want to get someone’s attention, hit the “reply” button, or type “@” followed by their Twitter user name. That ensures that even if they don’t follow your updates, they’ll see what you have written. It’s kind of like addressing an e-mail to them but letting everyone in the world read it.

Also, everyone is known on Twitter by their user names, so that’s what you use when you are referring to them, prefacing every name with the “@” sign. If you want to get my attention on Twitter, try @gillianshaw in a tweet.

DIRECT MESSAGES (DMS)

If you want to talk directly to someone — and this is only possible if they are following you — you can hit the direct message button. That’s the Twitter equivalent of e-mail. It goes to the messages on the recipient’s Twitter page and also shows up in his or her e-mail. The bonus is that it’s also limited to 140 characters.

ADDING WEB LINKS TO YOUR TWEET

Twitter is all about sharing information. So you’ll want to send all your followers a link to a website — whether it’s a funny YouTube video or news that the stock market is crashing . . . again.

The trick here is to squeeze some of those humongous URLs into your message. There is no shortage of websites ready to do that for you, including www.tinyurl.com and others. There are also third-party Twitter applications like TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com) and Twitterific (iconfactory.com/software/twitterrific) that automate such tasks as shortening URLs and posting “retweets.”

RETWEETS

If someone you are following has a tweet that’s so brilliant that you simply must share it with your followers, Twitter etiquette dictates that you put RT in front of it, crediting the tweet to its original source.

TWITPICS AND OTHER FANCY STUFF

Now you have the hang of updates and you’ve posted a few Web links. Why not share a photo — like the Twitter user who tweeted a photo of the U.S. Airways plane floating on the Hudson? There are a number of ways to do this, one of the easiest being from a mobile Twitter application like Twitterific or Twittelator, which have an easy click option to add an existing photo to a tweet or take a new one. www.twitpic.com is another way to post photos.

FINDING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW

Once you’re ready to venture past your friends, family and colleagues, try Mr. Tweet, billed as “your personal networking assistant.” Find him at mrtweet.net. All you have to do is follow Mr. Tweet. He checks out your network and makes suggestions about people you might want to follow.

TWITTERGRADER

Not only useful for people who like to keep score. Twittergrader (at www.twittergrader.com) is also a great way to find interesting people to follow by checking the Twitter elite in your region or in an area that interests you — like celebrity Twitter profiles.

[email protected]

On Twitter: www.twitter.com/gillianshaw

IT’S ALL ABOUT SHARING INFORMATION

Vancouver social media expert Rebecca Bollwitt is a pro at encapsulating a lot of information into her 140-character tweets.

When I wrote on Twitter that I was working on this beginner’s guide, she shot back with: @gillianshaw – profile pic, bio, link, “@” people, and follow. Twitter startup basics :P

ROUGHLY TRANSLATED, THAT MEANS:

- Make sure you put a profile photo on your Twitter page. Bollwitt says people may even recognize a custom profile icon or image more than your profile name.

- Learn to correctly add Web links to your Twitter updates.

- Always use the @ symbol with user names when you are referring to people on Twitter. It’s also a great way to get the attention of new/potential followers.

- Focus on following other people on Twitter — don’t worry so much about who is following you. Bollwitt points out it’s all about communication and the stories, information and conversations you’d like to pay attention to.

- On the other hand, Bollwitt warns you don’t want to be the person following 1,000 people and only have 10 followers; that makes it look like you could be running a spam account.

Source: Rebecca Bollwitt: www.miss604.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Size matters in e-mail subject lines, but so do the words you choose

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The primary goal is to have your message read

Misty Harris
Sun

Size matters when it comes to an e-mail’s subject line, according to a new study of more than a billion e-mails, but it’s not the only consideration for Canadian job seekers, corporations and even parents who want their messages to stand out amid fierce inbox competition.

The research conducted over a one-year period by the world’s largest permission-based e-mail marketer found that while shorter subject lines generally outperform longer ones, word choice and order are also “vitally important” to decreasing the probability e-mail will be deleted before it’s even opened.

“Significantly more people will see a subject line than its accompanying creative,” says Thane Stallings, senior analytic consultant at Epsilon, which has offices in Canada and the U.S. “The way in which content and brand messaging are positioned can be as important to e-mail success as the number of characters in the subject line.”

The study, published this month, looks at roughly 1.1 billion e-mails sent by retail and consumer services companies between June 2007 and June 2008. In each of the two industry groups, an increase in subject-line length led to a decrease in both opening and click-through rates, though the correlation was much smaller than expected.

“The length of your subject line does have an impact,” says Stallings. “But it’s not the only thing to worry about.”

Since Sharon Houlihan was let go from her IT job last summer, she’s been using e-mail to contact prospective employers. For her, as for many others seeking work in a crippled economy, getting “e-noticed” has potentially life-altering implications.

“A place to live, food in my fridge and my car (are) all on the line,” says Houlihan, a Vancouver Island woman seeking Internet work. “At this point, no work means that all goes.”

Generally, Epsilon finds the best choice is to front-load a subject line by putting the most important information first — a strategy not lost on the top executive at Toronto-based Apex Public Relations.

“It’s important to be succinct and get to the point quickly,” says president Pat McNamara, who also favours the inclusion of “power words” such as change, move, surge, break, refuge and impact. “Something that reads like a catchy headline appeals.”

Carol Panasiuk, who as senior vice-president of brand marketing firm Cohn & Wolfe sends roughly 100 e-mails a day, is highly aware of subject-line techniques when crafting professional messages. With her personal correspondence, however, she admits to erring on the side of the dramatic.

“I sometimes put HELP! as my subject line when I need to get my husband’s attention,” says Panasiuk. “I don’t really like to mislead people with come-ons but if you can make it somewhat humorous, that’s great. My cousin sent me an e-mail with the subject line: ‘Recession is over.’ I opened it up to see pictures of him having fun on vacation in Arizona.”

Taking into account the ways in which people receive their e-mail is also important. Epsilon found that 57 per cent of e-mail recipients only see the first 38 to 47 characters of a subject line because of default settings by their e-mail domains and mobile devices.

“It has to work regardless of (which) e-mail tool I use,” says technology expert Cynthia Ross Pedersen, entrepreneur-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. “Worst case, a poorly chosen subject line won’t make it past the spam filters.”

But her real pet peeve is a subject line that’s disingenuous.

“Don’t send me one more insincere ‘Dear Cindy’ e-mail,” says Pedersen. “Personalization is more that putting my name on an e-mail — it’s delivering content that’s relevant to me.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

Size matters in e-mail subject lines, but so do the words you choose

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

The primary goal is to have your message read

Misty Harris
Sun

Size matters when it comes to an e-mail’s subject line, according to a new study of more than a billion e-mails, but it’s not the only consideration for Canadian job seekers, corporations and even parents who want their messages to stand out amid fierce inbox competition.

The research conducted over a one-year period by the world’s largest permission-based e-mail marketer found that while shorter subject lines generally outperform longer ones, word choice and order are also “vitally important” to decreasing the probability e-mail will be deleted before it’s even opened.

“Significantly more people will see a subject line than its accompanying creative,” says Thane Stallings, senior analytic consultant at Epsilon, which has offices in Canada and the U.S. “The way in which content and brand messaging are positioned can be as important to e-mail success as the number of characters in the subject line.”

The study, published this month, looks at roughly 1.1 billion e-mails sent by retail and consumer services companies between June 2007 and June 2008. In each of the two industry groups, an increase in subject-line length led to a decrease in both opening and click-through rates, though the correlation was much smaller than expected.

“The length of your subject line does have an impact,” says Stallings. “But it’s not the only thing to worry about.”

Since Sharon Houlihan was let go from her IT job last summer, she’s been using e-mail to contact prospective employers. For her, as for many others seeking work in a crippled economy, getting “e-noticed” has potentially life-altering implications.

“A place to live, food in my fridge and my car (are) all on the line,” says Houlihan, a Vancouver Island woman seeking Internet work. “At this point, no work means that all goes.”

Generally, Epsilon finds the best choice is to front-load a subject line by putting the most important information first — a strategy not lost on the top executive at Toronto-based Apex Public Relations.

“It’s important to be succinct and get to the point quickly,” says president Pat McNamara, who also favours the inclusion of “power words” such as change, move, surge, break, refuge and impact. “Something that reads like a catchy headline appeals.”

Carol Panasiuk, who as senior vice-president of brand marketing firm Cohn & Wolfe sends roughly 100 e-mails a day, is highly aware of subject-line techniques when crafting professional messages. With her personal correspondence, however, she admits to erring on the side of the dramatic.

“I sometimes put HELP! as my subject line when I need to get my husband’s attention,” says Panasiuk. “I don’t really like to mislead people with come-ons but if you can make it somewhat humorous, that’s great. My cousin sent me an e-mail with the subject line: ‘Recession is over.’ I opened it up to see pictures of him having fun on vacation in Arizona.”

Taking into account the ways in which people receive their e-mail is also important. Epsilon found that 57 per cent of e-mail recipients only see the first 38 to 47 characters of a subject line because of default settings by their e-mail domains and mobile devices.

“It has to work regardless of (which) e-mail tool I use,” says technology expert Cynthia Ross Pedersen, entrepreneur-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. “Worst case, a poorly chosen subject line won’t make it past the spam filters.”

But her real pet peeve is a subject line that’s disingenuous.

“Don’t send me one more insincere ‘Dear Cindy’ e-mail,” says Pedersen. “Personalization is more that putting my name on an e-mail — it’s delivering content that’s relevant to me.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

B.C. home inspectors to be licensed

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Sun

B.C. will become the first province in Canada to license home inspectors to protect buyers, Solicitor-General John van Dongen announced Friday in Vancouver. “A home is the single biggest investment most British Columbians make but financial risk can be the result of an incorrect or misleading report from an unqualified inspector,” van Dongen said in a news release. “Whether they’re buying their first condo or starter home, dream or retirement home, consumers need to have confidence that the person who is doing the inspection has the qualifications to make a professional assessment.” Up until now, home inspection training has been voluntary, and consumers have had no way of knowing if the inspector they hired were adequately knowledgeable.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

Recession; The Bottom appears closer as asset selling seems to be subsiding

Friday, January 30th, 2009

It’s official: We’re in a bad mood

Eric Beauchesne
Sun

The mood in Canada‘s business community is the darkest it has been since 9/11.

That comes amid an avalanche of bad economic news, which persisted yesterday with reports of further reversals in commodity prices and more grim news from the United States Canada‘s main export market — of plunging home sales, falling orders for durable goods and rising unemployment claims.

The Conference Board of Canada reported that its January survey of businesses found their level of confidence continued to slide through the final quarter of last year and into this year, the sixth-straight quarterly decline and to the lowest point since 2001.

The think-tank’s index of business confidence tumbled another 9.1 points to 68.9 points at the start of the first quarter, nearly 38 points down from its peak in the second quarter of 2007.

Only twice in the past — the third quarter of 2001 and during the 1990-91 recession — has the mood been darker, and in those cases, the drop in confidence preceded a contraction in business capital investment, which does not bode well for the economy, the think-tank noted.

“The latest survey . . . indicates that this pattern is set to repeat itself in 2009,” the board said.

“Faced with a progressively grimmer economic outlook, firms are significantly curtailing their investment intentions.”

The survey, however, preceded this week’s federal budget, which promises to inject $40 billion in stimulus into the economy over the coming two years, including measures to ease the credit crunch, which the board’s survey found is a major impediment to production.

But the economic news was not reassuring.

“The North American economic storm continues to roll across the continent, leaving a flood of soft economic data in its wake,” noted Mark Frey, vice-president foreign-exchange trading at Custom House, a Canadian international payments firm. Durable-goods orders in the U.S. “fell off a cliff” while continuing jobless claims increased, reflecting the persistent weakness in that job market, he noted.

Further, new-home sales south of the border plunged 14.7 per cent from November, way beyond the 2.5 per cent markets expected, leaving sales down nearly 50 per cent from a year earlier and at their lowest level on records going back before the early 1980s.

“The housing slump ain’t over yet,” observed BMO Capital Markets economist Jennifer Lee, noting that the inability to sell new homes is despite an environment of 30-year high affordability and falling mortgage rates.

And there was further evidence of global and domestic economic weakness in the Canadian economic reports.

Scotiabank, in reporting another steep fall this month in its commodity price index, noted that the “shift from ‘boom to bust’ in many commodities has been the most rapid in the history of the . . . index.

“For the fifth consecutive month, Scotiabank’s commodity price index . . . posted another sharp decline in December, falling 5.5 per cent month-over-month,” it said, noting that left the index down 39 per cent from its July peak.

However, there were signs that the bottom is getting closer.

“While commodity prices are not yet at a bottom, the pace of decline is now slowing and the forced, indiscriminate asset selling by funds appears to be subsiding,” said Scotiabank economist and commodity market specialist Patricia Mohr.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Stock, housing recovery seen by year’s end

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Home prices will drop at least 25% from 2008′s high, economist predicts

Scott Simpson
Sun

Stock and house prices will continue to tumble, but a general recovery could be underway in the United States as soon as August, veteran economic analyst Martin Murenbeeld told a mining conference on Thursday.

Murenbeeld told delegates to the Association for Mineral Exploration BC that he expects Canadian housing prices to drop at least 25 per cent from last year’s highs.

Murenbeeld, the B.C.-based chief economist for DundeeWealth, is a globally recognized commentator and expert on gold price trends, the subject of a separate seminar by Murenbeeld.

“Our house prices are going down,” he said in the lunchtime keynote address at AME BC‘s annual Roundup mining conference.

“In Vancouver and Calgary new house prices are negative year over year, and my off-the-cuff view on who caught the exact top of that housing market is that little company [Millennium Development] that bought that piece of land upon which the Olympic Games athletes village is going to stand. I think we will find out that these guys defined the top.

“House prices in Canada are still very much at the top of the range. They are going to come off.

“In terms of average house prices, we’ve got another 16 per cent to go. We are down already about eight to 10 per cent, so we are talking 25 per cent [overall] anyway. I thought that number was kind of obvious last year, but nobody wanted to face up to it.”

He said there is a 50- to 60-per-cent chance that a recovery will emerge in the U.S. as early as August but cautioned that Canada, because it fell into recession several months after the U.S., is not likely to follow suit until year’s end.

In the meantime, Murenbeeld said, U.S. housing prices are likely to suffer further declines — which would be bad news for B.C.’s struggling forest sector.

He has calculated they need to fall another 12 per cent to reach the absolute bottom barrier for long term fair prices.

That adds up to about a 30 per cent decline off the peak, he said.

Meanwhile, Murenbeeld is cautiously optimistic that signs of a recovery will emerge in the U.S. stock market, if not the economy, before summer.

“I think what’s going to happen is that we are slowly but surely going to eke out a recovery, and when I do this sort of counting up how many months equity markets lead the turn in the recession, it turns out to be about five months.

“If I’m right and the U.S. economy hits a bottom in August, then sometime soon, let’s say April-May, we should start to see more clearly that the equity markets are starting to eke out a rising trend. I do believe that later this year we are going to be okay.”

However, he cautioned that the average recovery of the S&P 500 index the year after a steep stock market plunge is 13 per cent — still far below last year’s market peak.

Meanwhile, he noted that the average drop in the Canadian stock market after a U.S. recession is 31 per cent.

Right now, the Canadian index is 35 per cent off its peak, he said.

“Unless this recession morphs into a depression, that is, we keep going on this depression cycle, this year we could potentially see some decent returns.”

He suggests investors looking for investment consider companies involved in gold exploration and mining, infrastructure development, alternate energy and defense contracts.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

It’s official: We’re in a bad mood

Friday, January 30th, 2009

But the bottom appears closer as asset selling seems to be subsiding

Eric Beauchesne
Province

’The housing slump ain’t over yet,’ says BMO Capital Markets Jennifer Lee.

The mood in Canada‘s business community is the darkest it has been since 9/11.

That comes amid an avalanche of bad economic news, which persisted yesterday with reports of further reversals in commodity prices and more grim news from the United States Canada‘s main export market — of plunging home sales, falling orders for durable goods and rising unemployment claims.

The Conference Board of Canada reported that its January survey of businesses found their level of confidence continued to slide through the final quarter of last year and into this year, the sixth-straight quarterly decline and to the lowest point since 2001.

The think-tank’s index of business confidence tumbled another 9.1 points to 68.9 points at the start of the first quarter, nearly 38 points down from its peak in the second quarter of 2007.

Only twice in the past — the third quarter of 2001 and during the 1990-91 recession — has the mood been darker, and in those cases, the drop in confidence preceded a contraction in business capital investment, which does not bode well for the economy, the think-tank noted.

“The latest survey . . . indicates that this pattern is set to repeat itself in 2009,” the board said.

“Faced with a progressively grimmer economic outlook, firms are significantly curtailing their investment intentions.”

The survey, however, preceded this week’s federal budget, which promises to inject $40 billion in stimulus into the economy over the coming two years, including measures to ease the credit crunch, which the board’s survey found is a major impediment to production.

But the economic news was not reassuring.

“The North American economic storm continues to roll across the continent, leaving a flood of soft economic data in its wake,” noted Mark Frey, vice-president foreign-exchange trading at Custom House, a Canadian international payments firm. Durable-goods orders in the U.S. “fell off a cliff” while continuing jobless claims increased, reflecting the persistent weakness in that job market, he noted.

Further, new-home sales south of the border plunged 14.7 per cent from November, way beyond the 2.5 per cent markets expected, leaving sales down nearly 50 per cent from a year earlier and at their lowest level on records going back before the early 1980s.

“The housing slump ain’t over yet,” observed BMO Capital Markets economist Jennifer Lee, noting that the inability to sell new homes is despite an environment of 30-year high affordability and falling mortgage rates.

And there was further evidence of global and domestic economic weakness in the Canadian economic reports.

Scotiabank, in reporting another steep fall this month in its commodity price index, noted that the “shift from ‘boom to bust’ in many commodities has been the most rapid in the history of the . . . index.

“For the fifth consecutive month, Scotiabank’s commodity price index . . . posted another sharp decline in December, falling 5.5 per cent month-over-month,” it said, noting that left the index down 39 per cent from its July peak.

However, there were signs that the bottom is getting closer.

“While commodity prices are not yet at a bottom, the pace of decline is now slowing and the forced, indiscriminate asset selling by funds appears to be subsiding,” said Scotiabank economist and commodity market specialist Patricia Mohr.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Do the renos now & get $1350 Tax Credit from The Federal Government – catch – you must do them in the next 12 months

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Other

THIS IS THE YEAR TO DO THOSE RENOVATIONS YOU HAVE WANTED TO DO!!!!!
INTEREST RATES ARE AGAIN AT 1958 YEAR LOWS, AND TAX CREDITS MAKE IT MORE AFFORDABLE THAN EVER!
 
  • As part of the 2009 budget you may qualify for the Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) of up to $1,350 for renovations completed within the next 12 months.
  • Did you know that you can apply for a 10% rebate on the mortgage insurance premium (CMHC/GE) if you refinance your home to make it more energy efficient?  Plus, the extended amortization without surcharge may be available to you. Note: this rebate also applies to customers who purchase an energy efficient home
  • In addition to the 10% rebate, you may be eligible for additional federal and provincial grants of up to $10,000 under the Canada ecoEnergy Retrofit grant

 Additional benefits of the above programs: 

  • Simple, energy efficient improvements are attractive because they offer lower monthly utility bills
  • This translates into income for you, allowing you to free up income to qualify or buy a more expensive home (increasing your borrowing power)
  • You’ll increase the resale value of your home—an official EnerGuide label proves you’ve done the work
 

 

Rebate/Grant Program

 

 

Description

 

 

1. Mortgage Insurer Premium Rebate

The rebate on the mortgage insurance premium applies to both Genworth and CMHC insured mortgages.

 

The rebate process is simple and can be done is 3 simple steps (see below):

 

1)       Determine how energy efficient the home is:

a)       If your client is purchasing a home:

§  An energy efficient R-2000 model or an energy rating of 77+

§  Documentation certifying your client’s home was built under either a Genworth or CMHC eligible energy efficient building program (Built Green Gold Label Homes AB, Novoclimat, Energy Star, Power Smart, R-2000) **Please refer to the CMHC and Genworth website for a more detailed list.

 

Click here for CMHC

Click here for Genworth

 

b)       If your client is renovating their existing home:

§  Contact an NRCan qualified energy advisor to obtain the current energy rating for your client’s home.  The NRCan energy advisor will provide a list of straightforward recommendations to increase your client’s energy rating.

§  Documentation certifying that the improvements to your client’s home has made to increase the EnerGuide rating by at least 5 points to a minimum rating of 40.

 

2) Apply for the Premium Refund

You will find attached both the CMHC and Genworth Premium Refund form attached to this email. 

 

3) Submit the application along with the below documents

a)       Purchasing a home:

Provide a copy of the first page of your client’s EnerGuide evaluation report or R-2000 certificate.

 

b)       Renovated existing homes:

Provide a copy of the first page of both your client’s pre-improvement and post-improvement EnerGuide evaluation report.

 

 

 

2. ecoENERGY Retrofit

 

Similar to the above Mortgage Insurer rebate, the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant is based on the type and number of energy efficient improvements made, and how energy efficient the improvements are.  (This grant is applied once per house).

 

The best part is that the improvements are not complicated!  For example, installing energy-efficient windows or basement insulation and purchase like high efficiency air conditioners and hot water heaters are eligible.

 

  1. Obtain a home energy assessment before and after your upgrades
  2. Complete the improvements either on your own or hire a contractor (Document your renovations with receipts, photos, product guides)
  3. Your client has 18 months from the date of the first assessment to complete the upgrades and complete a second energy assessment

 

Click here for more info on the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant.

 

 

 

3. Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC)

 

The 2009 federal budget provides a temporary incentive for Canadians to implement new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.

 

The temporary HRTC provides a 15% income tax credit on eligible home renovation expenses for work performed or goods acquired after January 27, 2009 and before February 1, 2010.

 

The credit may be claimed for the 2009 tax year on eligible expenses over $1,000 but not exceeding $10,000 and will provide up to $1,350 tax relief.

 

 

Examples of HRTC Eligible and Ineligible Expenditures*

 

Eligible

Ineligible

§  Renovating a kitchen, bathroom or basement

§  New carpet or hardwood floors

§  Building an addition, deck, fence ore retaining wall

§  A new furnace or water heater

§  Painting the interior or exterior of a house

§  Resurfacing a driveway

§  Laying new sod

§  Purchase of furniture and appliances (ex: refrigerator, stove and couch)

§  Purchase of tools

§  Carpet cleaning

§  Maintenance contracts (ex: furnace cleaning, snow removal, lawn care, and pool cleaning)

 

*Source: Canada’s Economic Action Plan Budget 2009 Jan 27, 2009

 

Click here for more info on the HRTC.

Attached is the official HRTC brochure.

 

 

Details on Rebates and Incentives for Selected Energy Star Qualified Products in Canada by click here
Energy Star – Home Appliances click here
Find out more about the EnerGuide and R-2000 ratings click here

Bullfrog Power click here

Federal Budget 2009 – Help for Home Buyers

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Bell Alliance
Other

INTRODUCTION

The 2009 Budget seems to have a little something for everyone. For people thinking about buying a home there are two important announcements. There is a increase in the amount buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs and a new First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit. The definition of a “First Time Buyer” is different from the definition under B.C.’s Property Transfer Tax – essentially the definition of a First Time Home Buyer under this new provision is the same for taking funds from an RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan.

HOME BUYERS’ PLAN

The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows first-time home buyers to withdraw amounts from a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to purchase or build a home without having to pay tax on the withdrawal. Budget 2009 proposes to increase the HBP withdrawal limit to $25,000 from $20,000.

For HBP purposes, an individual is generally considered to be a first-time home buyer if neither the individual nor the individual’s spouse or common-law partner owned and lived in another home in the calendar year in which the HBP withdrawal is made or in any of the four preceding calendar years. Special rules apply to facilitate the acquisition of a home that is more accessible or better suited for the personal needs and care of an individual who is eligible for the disability tax credit, even if the first-time home-buyer requirement is not met. These rules will also be modified to provide the same $25,000 withdrawal limit.

Withdrawn funds must generally be used to acquire a home before October of the year following the year of withdrawal. Amounts withdrawn under the HBP are repayable in instalments over a period not exceeding 15 years. To the extent that a scheduled repayment for a year is not made, it is added to the participant’s income for the year. A special rule denies an RRSP deduction for contributions withdrawn under the HBP within 90 days of being contributed.

This increase in the HBP withdrawal limit will apply to the 2009 and subsequent calendar years in respect of withdrawals made after January 27, 2009.

FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS’ TAX CREDIT

Budget 2009 proposes to introduce a new non-refundable tax credit of 15% of closing costs based on a maximum amount of closing costs of $5,000 resulting in maximum credit of $750 for 2009 for first-time home buyers who acquire a qualifying home after January 27, 2009 (i.e. the closing is after that date). The credit for a taxation year will be calculated by reference to the lowest personal income tax rate for the year and is claimable for the taxation year in which the home is acquired. Closing costs include provincial property transfer tax, legal fees, inspection fees, appraisal costs, etc.


 

An individual will be considered a first-time home buyer if neither the individual nor the individual’s spouse or common-law partner owned and lived in another home in the calendar year of the home purchase or in any of the four preceding calendar years. A qualifying home is one that is currently eligible for the Home Buyers’ Plan that the individual or individual’s spouse or common-law partner intends to occupy as the principal place of residence not later than one year after its acquisition.

Budget 2009 also proposes that the credit be available for certain acquisitions of a home by or for the benefit of an individual who is eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC). In particular, the credit will be available in respect of a home acquired after January 27, 2009 (i.e. the closing is after that date) by an individual who is eligible for the DTC, or by an individual for the benefit of a related individual who is DTC-eligible, if the home is acquired to enable the DTC-eligible individual to live in a more accessible dwelling or in an environment better suited to the personal needs and care of that person.

For the purpose of this credit, a “DTC–eligible” individual is an individual in respect of whom an amount is deductible under the DTC for the taxation year in which the agreement to acquire the home is entered into, or would be deductible if costs for an attendant or care in a nursing home were not claimed for Medical Expense Tax Credit purposes by or on behalf of that person. Where the home is acquired by or for the benefit of a DTC-eligible individual, the home must be intended to be the principal place of residence of that individual no later than one year after its acquisition.

The credit may be claimed by the individual who acquires the home or by that individual’s spouse or common-law partner. For the purpose of this credit, a home is considered to be acquired by an individual only if the individual’s interest in the home is registered in accordance with the applicable land registration system.

Any unused portion of an individual’s First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit may be claimed by the individual’s spouse or common-law partner. Where more than one individual is entitled to the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (for example, where two individuals jointly buy a home), the total amount of the credits claimable for the year by those individuals shall not exceed the maximum amount of the credit that would be claimable for the year by any one of those individuals.

QUESTIONS:

Bell Alliance would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about these programs. Do not hesitate to call at 604 873 8723 or email to [email protected]. Bell Alliance provides legal services in the areas of real estate, estate planning and business law. We are conveniently located at 201 – 1367 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., V6H 4A7.

Piato Estiatorio brings Greek food to the fore

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Restaurant breaks free from the stodgy, same old, same old fare of competitors

Mia Stainsby
Sun

Alex Graffos is the owner and operator at Piato Estiatorio on West Fourth, which has raised the bar for Greek restaurants in Vancouver. Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun

PIATO ESTIATORIO

Overall 3 1/2

Food 3 1/2

Ambience 3 1/2

Service 3 1/2

1835 West Fourth Ave., 604-568-2929. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. www.piato.ca.

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

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A few weeks ago, we visited my husband’s irrepressibly opinionated uncle in Washington and took some take-out souvlaki for a visit over lunch. He was not amused. The beef was tough and he was absolutely right. I’d found the place on the Web; it came with huzzahs and I was led astray, all right? We heard about the tough meat for the remainder of the visit and I do believe the owner of the restaurant probably did, too. One quarter Greek, the uncle has strong opinions on what Greek food should be and pressed me to write a scathing review of it.

I wonder what he’d say about Piato Estiatorio (“plate restaurant,” if directly translated) in Kitsilano?

It’s not the usual cookie-cutter Greek restaurant; it’s climbed out of the ditch Greek food has been stuck in since the ’70s in Vancouver. I’ve always held out for Harry Kambolis (of C, Raincity, Nu restaurants and possessor of Greek genes) or his mother (a very good Greek cook and restaurant operator) to do something about it.

I still hope the Kambolis family steps up to the plate, but in the meantime, we have Piato where checkerboard tablecloths, white-washed walls with azure trim and creeping ivy have been eschewed for a clean, modern look and yes, there are photographs of Greece on the wall, but these are more arty, in black and white.

Best of all, the food is not stodgy or the same old, same old fare. The menu circles around the old standards but dishes are tweaked and lighter; and there are surprises like mini-gyros filled with pulled short rib and tomato salsa; marinated ahi tuna with citrus fennel slaw; salt cod with skordalia and roasted beets; “Greek” fries; and zucchini and eggplant chips.

The cooking is family style — but a family of good cooks. A pleasant surprise was the wine list which featured about 17 Greek wines or about half the list. Yes, Boutari is on the roll call but it’s a much better grade than what the LCB had us believing to be typical of Greek wines.

Only one dish over two visits got a failing grade. That was grilled quail marinated in tzatziki, a wizened and unappealing dish. But Piato does the best tzatziki ever, so rich and creamy. We tried both the trio of dips (tzatziki, white bean hummus, and spicy feta) and a taster trio of soups (white bean, lentil with Greek spices, and avgolemono), which for $7 you can’t beat.

Southern spinach pie is different from the usual spanokopita — it’s called saites and is flatter and denser than the one we know. Grilled calamari were tender and fresh; bacalao (salt cod with skordalia and roasted beets) was tasty and the skordalia wasn’t made to fight off vampires. The garlic is tame. Vegetarian moussaka is assembled with a light touch. As for the pork and lamb souvlaki, I think the uncle would give it a passing grade but not a high one. It was a messy arrangement with the souvlaki skewers sitting atop tzatziki and tomato salsa which sat atop quartered pita which was pale and soft.

The drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on some of the plates were good quality, tasty products. For dessert, the rice pudding had a seductive creamy texture, but fussy me, I wanted just another note, maybe of vanilla or cardamom or even honey. Galaktoboureko is fancied up bougatsa. While you can eat bougatsa, with custard enveloped in protective layers of phyllo, walking down the street, you need a fork to eat this dessert with the big long name — it’s all about the custard.

Actually, I don’t know if the uncle would be happy here. There’s just not enough to complain about.

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