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Win $1,000 shopping spree

One Kelowna businesses is giving local shoppers the chance to win a new wardrobe this holiday season--and all you have to do for a chance to win is stop by their store.

Maria Centuria may be one of the city’s most exciting hidden gems, but that’s not stopping them from giving a $1,000 shopping spree away to one lucky winner.

Nestled into a small location on Bernard Avenue, the designer boutique is stocked full of custom-selected clothes and accessories hand plucked from across Europe.

For the next four weeks, owner Olga Isakova will enter anyone who comes into the store into the draw, for a chance to win the substantial prize.

Isakova is a super-chic style fanatic, who says she wants nothing more than to share her love of clothes with anyone who comes through her door.

She says you’ll not only strut out of Maria Centuria looking like you’re straight off the runways of Milan, you’ll have a great time getting there, too.

“People come to the store and they have a great time,” she says. “Often they leave just as happy with their experience here as they are with their clothes.”

Isakova says her special, direct relationships with manufacturers and suppliers allows her to bring in the best European brands, without the absurd markups that often get slapped on high-end imports.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to shop at a boutique store,” she says.

Maria Centuria already sells its products for less than what you’d likely expect, but Isakova says they’ve heaped extra savings on top of that to help ring in the holiday season.

“You don’t need to wait until Christmas to get the best deals. We’ve got great sales on right now, you can come down and get an outfit to wear to your Christmas party, or other holiday events,” she says.

For a chance to get your hands on the shop’s $1,000 spree, simply head down to Marie Centuria--located in the Nesters complex at the corner of Gordon Drive and Bernard Avenue--and you will be automatically be entered.

Isakova will draw a winner Dec. 20.

For more information visit Maria Centuria in person, at 1131 Lawson Ave., or call 250-317-2117.

The thousand-sale gift

When Vantage West Realty helped its 1,000th buyer find a home this month, it was a big milestone for the firm, and one they wanted to mark with an appropriate celebration.

Initially, owner AJ Hazzi says he planned to mark the occasion by handing the client, Riley Weller, a check--but somehow the gesture didn’t seem quite right.

“My initial thought was to hand our client a cheque for being buyer 1,000, and after I raised the idea to the team, it evolved into doing something that has the potential to impact more lives,” Hazzi explained.

The firm decided instead to give back to the community, and make a donation in Weller’s name to a local charity.

When Vantage West approached him with their idea, Weller knew immediately where he wanted to money to go.

Weller’s mother lives with multiple sclerosis, and the electrician says he couldn’t think of a better way to use the donation than to support the MS Society of Canada.

Multiple sclerosis is a cause close to the hearts of many at Vantage West as well, so the team was thrilled with Weller’s choice.

“This particular cause is near and dear to our hearts,” Hazzi said.

Christian Rossi, the firm’s administrative assistant, recently lost her own mother to the disease, after the woman battled secondary progressive multiple sclerosis for 10 years.

“MS is a terrible illness that does not have a cure at this time. Hopefully with more awareness, this can lead to a cure in the future. The MS Society is such a supportive and generous organization. They are always striving to help patients with MS win the fight,” Rossi said.

Nick Hazzi, the realtor who sold Weller his new home, says the man’s decision also hit him hard, because he knows how difficult the disease can be on a family.

“It’s all too close to home, as a few people close in my world have also had to deal with the challenges of MS. However, I’m super happy that we are able to contribute to such a great cause,” he said.

Weller says having a family member MS has really helped him open his eyes “and appreciate this life.”

“Every day now, I strive to build genuine relationships and make the most out of my life,” he said.

Small start, big difference

Most of us know how important it is to save for retirement, or even just a rainy day, and we want to be able to do that both confidently and effectively.

But actually beginning to save--making sense of endless acronyms and contribution limits--can be confusing and intimidating.

The good news is, most of us will save for retirement through just two main vehicles: a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

Simply understanding the difference between the two, and how to best use them, can go a long way towards helping us get comfortable saving for the future.

Charmaine White, a senior manager of wealth and financial planning at Prospera Credit Union, explains that different savings tools will work better or worse for different people.

An RRSP allows you to put money away and avoid paying taxes on it until you’re ready to use it. This is great for people who make good money now, but will have less income when they retire.

A TSFA, on the other hand, allows you to deposit a specific amount of money each year, which you can not only save but also invest in mutual funds, stocks, etc. Any money you make through a TFSA (like interest on investments) is completely tax free.

White explains that, while an RRSP allows you to essentially postpone paying taxes on money you earn, the TSFA allows you to avoid paying them altogether.

So why even bother with an RRSP? White says the old-school saving tool still has its place.

Not long ago, one of White’s client sold her business, and was facing two years earning much more than she normally would.

“But she had almost $50,000 of unused RRSP contribution room that she had just sort of been accumulating over the years, and this year it actually made sense for her to use that,” White explains.

Now, she’s put herself in a lower tax bracket this year, but the money will still be there when she retires, or when she needs a financial boost.

“The RRSP still has its place, but these days I just think, more than ever, people need to speak to someone,” White says.

“When you’ve got someone who really knows their stuff on your side, they can guide you through all these complexities. Not only does saving for retirement become way less intimidating, you can be sure you’re getting as much mileage as you possibly can out of your hard-earned savings.”

Prospera is so convinced that they can help you reach your goals, they’re even willing to give a three per cent bonus on new TFSA or RRSP deposits.

White points out that, even a small start can lead to something great. With a professional on your side, and a little extra cash in the bank, that start will be a whole lot easier.


Downtown affordability

Finding affordability in Kelowna’s red-hot real estate market is tough, but one realtor says she has found the perfect solution for buyers looking for the conveniences of a new home in the city.

According to Taylor Musseau of Century 21, there has been a lot of buzz around new RU7 zoning over the last year, and she has spent the last year focusing in on it to find out exactly who is playing in this new and exciting development space.

The RU7 zoning allows certain city lots previously occupied by older, single-family homes to be re-developed into duplex, tri-plex and four-plex properties depending on the lot’s dimensions.

Musseau’s research into the zone is now paying off, as she has connected with a developer that has several of these townhome projects on the go.

“If you are looking for an affordable new home that’s in Kelowna’s core, where you can access

everything the growing city has to offer, without compromising on square footage or features, we now have it with the Kelowna City Living line of four-plex homes,” Musseau says.

Musseau says the majority of choices for new home construction downtown are larger multifamily developments, ranging anywhere between $500-$700 per square foot.

“While we have seen the prices for these older properties increase significantly over the last 18-24 months, the final price for these new homes, once they’re complete, is still far more affordable than the larger developments--like $70-$80 per square foot more affordable.”

Musseau has been telling her clients to get in now, because the price for this type of land is not going down anytime soon.

“Combined with the demand for skilled labor, and the ever increasing cost of quality materials, the price will inevitably keep going up,” she says.

The other enticing feature of these projects is privacy. Each unit comes with its own yard similar to garden-style townhomes, and the living-to-sleep space is separated over two floors.

Each unit also comes with its own detached garage.

There are two or three bedroom units, ranging between 1158 and 1260 square feet. They’re bigger than most new condos, but without the hefty price tag.

Timing is another huge factor for buyers looking into new construction pre-sales.

A buyer purchasing during pre-sales of a larger project can expect an 18-to-30-month delivery time, but these smaller  projects can be handed over in six to nine months.

Out-of-town buyers looking to invest in a city where our vacancy is under one per cent are jumping.

They like the idea of renting it out for a couple years, seeing some appreciation and rental income, then making the move to Kelowna or selling it for profit.

“With everything going on in this town right now, this is one of the most affordable ways

for anyone to get into the market, and with pricing starting at $499,000-$549,000 these homes may not last that long,” Musseau sats.

For more information, visit the Kelowna City Living website, or contact Musseau directly at 250-878-2541.

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