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Think Local  

Economist likes local market

The chief economist for Central 1 Credit Union predicts Kelowna’s housing market will see significant growth over the next 25 years.

Helmut Pastrick spoke at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon last month, outlining what he sees as the future of real estate in the city.

With the region’s population projected to increase by 40 per cent over the next two-and-a-half decades, Pastrick said the number of households here will increase by almost half.

That’s because demand for property in the Central Okanagan will almost certainly outstrip the available supply. Pastrick says that will mean a considerable upward trend in house prices.

“Prices will more than double in the next 25 years, and that’s probably a low estimate. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t’ surprise me to see something much higher than that,” he said.

Kelowna realtor A.J. Hazzi adds that, even in the short term, the market looks fairly solid.

“All of the major banks and economists have been consistently on the conservative side on market. They are predicting moderate growth for 2018, but I am more bullish. I expect to see between five and eight per cent growth by the time the mid year Vantage Report is released,” he says.

In the meantime, Pastrick said the Central Okanagan economy remains strong, with more than 10 per cent employment growth, and almost 9 per cent population growth from 2011 to 2016.

The population numbers almost double those of Canada as a whole.

Hazzi argues those factors have helped contributed to the strong real estate market in the region.

“The two biggest drivers of our real estate market are jobs and Inward migration, and the numbers shared by Helmut are strong enough to overcome the OSFI stress test and the rate hike by the bank of Canada,” he says.

Pastrick pointed out that all market booms will inevitably be followed by a slowdown, bue said he hopes to see the current market cycle end with a “soft landing.”

He said there’s a 30 per cent possibility that, as house prices continue to rise, federal regulators will “tighten the screws,” implementing stricter policy measures that begin to deflate housing prices.

If things go well, he says, the market balance will steadily shift towards buyers, and house prices will dip only slightly as the market corrects.

Hazzi says he believes the conditions exist to see such a scenario play out.

“Without the market influences of interest rates, new legislation and the negative media sentiment, our market would be what we call a ‘runaway market,’ like Vancouver or Toronto. Twenty per cent growth years are not sustainable, 5-8 per cent is the kind of sustainable growth we should all be cheering for,” he says.



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NHL legends hit Kelowna

A team of high-flying ex-Habs will glide into Kelowna next month to square off against a sturdy home squad of hockey heroes, and raise some money for a deserving cause.

The Montreal Canadiens Alumni Tour, presented by Canadian Tire, will take over Memorial Arena Feb. 17, giving hockey fans the chance to see some of the game’s biggest legends go stick-to-stick, in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The event is the biggest to grace Memorial arena in decades, bringing the old barn back to its glory days, and setting the scene for an incredible match.

The game is also a fundraiser for the Central Okanagan Hospice Association, helping the non-profit raise awareness and funds, and continue to support individuals and their families living with life‐limiting illness or grieving the loss of a loved one.

The ex-Habs’ will field a slate of superstars for the match, including big names like Patrice Brisebois, Stephane Richer, Chris Nilan and coach Steve Shutt.

Those greats will lace up against the COHA Knights, which boasts its own cadre of NHL talent, with players like Cory Cross, Quintin Laing, Wade Redden, Brent Gilcrest and Tyler Bouck.

Gilcrest, a Vernon boy who was drafted into the NHL by the Canadiens, says the game will be thrilling for any hockey fan.

“Lots of those Canadiens alumni are my friends, but they aren’t here just playing against a Junior team—they’re going to be up against some real pros,” he says.

“Here’s a Canadiens alumni team that’s quite expecting to win, because they’re the draw. It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters, where they’re supposed to come to town and win, but the COHA Knights are going to have some real surprises for them.”

Although the charity game will be mostly light-hearted, Gilcrest says professional athletes never lose their competitive spirit.

“As friendly as it is, and as much as we want people to come out and have fun, that competitive edge is still always there, so you’re going to see a fantastic game,” he says. “There are some players that still have some incredible skill, and can still really fly.”

Gilcrest says he’s always psyched to hit the ice, but that lacing up for such a worthy cause makes it that much better.

“COHA is a great organization that’s providing an amazing service, at some really tough times of need. A game like this can educate lots of the public that might not be totally familiar with the great work they do,” he said.

The puck drops Saturday, Feb. 17, at 2:00 p.m. The event will also feature a VIP reception, which will give fans the chance to rub shoulders with, and get autographs from the superstars.

Tickets are selling fast but are still available online, or by calling 250-862-2867. For more information on the vital and compassionate service COHA provides, visit the organization’s website.



New shop, innovative tech

Darren Pierce didn’t know what would happen when he pioneered a game-changing new service at his Kelowna Mr. Lube franchise, but he dove in headfirst anyway.

No-appointment-needed tire changes had the potential to open up a whole new world for his customers, he explains, and he just couldn't resist giving it a shot.

Now, after a season that saw some of the busiest months ever, the success of the project has lead him to open a second Mr. Lube location, on McCurdy Road, so he can offer another convenient location to meet the auto service needs of Kelowna.

“We were one of the very first quick oil change shops in Canada to offer this service, and after people found out about it we started getting a lot of interest,” Pierce explains. “We always knew we needed something else to better serve our customers, so I’m incredibly excited we’ve finally made that happen.”

According to Pierce, the machine can change a single tire in about two-and-a-half minutes. Not only that, it does it virtually on its own, without ever even touching the rim of the wheel.

“At the end of the day it only takes ten minutes to change four tires. It’s crazy,” he says.

Pierce gushes that you normally only find this kind of technology in places like high-end car dealerships, and that having it at his Mr. Lube shops has made tire changing a breeze for customers.

“The big key to success for us was, before we started doing this, nobody was able to just drive up without an appointment and get their tires changed. So we just took that and ran with it.”

“Anything we try to do we try to do for the customer,” he adds.

Pierce adds that he’s thrilled with the new McCurdy Road location, and that, as always, the community has been great to him.

“We’ve been very fortunate with people in the Okanagan Valley supporting the business,” Pierce, who first set up shop in Kelowna in 2006, says. “If it wasn’t for the community and the staff that we have, I wouldn’t be here.”

Mr. Lube offers no-appointment-needed, warranty-approved oil changes and tire services.More information on Pierce’s new Mr. Lube location is available online.



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Don't rule out RRSPs

Tax-Free savings accounts—those investment accounts that give you a certain amount of contribution room and allow you to grow your investment tax free—are becoming the investing vehicle of choice for many savvy savers.

Jill Diemer is a Certified Financial Planner at Prospera Credit Union’s Kelowna Mission Park branch. She often recommends that individuals set up a tax-free savings account, because it’s such a powerful and flexible investment tool.

“Even though it’s called a savings account, it’s not just a savings account—you can invest in stocks, mutual funds, and a whole lot more,” she explains. “In a lot of cases it makes sense to grow those investments in the tax-free savings account because then everything is tax free.”

But while the promise of ever-increasing tax avoidance is a tantalizing one, you may be able to save even more by strategically deploying an old-school investment vehicle: the RRSP. She says in certain circumstances, with careful planning, a Registered Retirement Savings Plan can compliment (and even enhance) financial plans.

An RRSP allows you to put money away today and avoid paying taxes on it until you’re ready to use it. Traditionally, it’s been a tool for people who have a higher income today than they will in retirement.

Diemer admits the uses of a RRSP are not as flexible as a TFSA, but says they can do wonders for people trying to achieve specific goals.

By strategically moving money from a TSFA into an RRSP, keyed-in savers can take advantage of lucrative government programs aimed at encouraging things like home ownership and continuing education.

The government’s Home Buyers Plan, for example, allows people purchasing their first home to take as much as $25,000 out of their RRSP—tax free—to put towards the purchase.

Meanwhile, the Lifelong Learning program allows adults returning to school to take as much as $20,000 out to use towards their or their spouse’s post-secondary education.

According to Diemer, making these kinds of moves can have a significant impact on your financial future. She points to one of her clients, Jacob, who is going back to school next year to upgrade his education.

Jacob makes decent money, so Diemer helped him funnel some of his savings from his TFSA into an RRSP to take advantage of the Lifelong Learning program.

“He’s going to make an RRSP contribution and receive a tax credit while he has a high income, and pull it out next year to support himself while he goes to school,” Diemer explains.

That means he’ll be able to use his RRSP contribution to get money back on his taxes this year, but still be able to use that money when he’s in school next year.

“It’s not easy knowing the ins and outs of various government programs, and the websites aren’t always friendly to navigate, so I recommend finding an advisor you trust, and you love, and who will help you achieve your goals,” Diemer says.

In Jacob’s case, he was doing a great job saving in his tax-free savings account, but now he’ll get several thousands back on a tax refund that will help him achieve that goal further.

“Your advisor will just help you navigate the waters.”

To contact an advisor, or for more information on RRSPs and TFSAs, contact Prospera Credit Union.

Right now, Prospera is offering special rates on flexible TFSA and RRSP options – including a 30-month term deposit at 2.5%, with the option to rewrite if rates go up. This investment provides peace of mind that if rates change, you’re still getting great value for money.



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