Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of October 20)

It’s time for another edition of the A-Team’s weekly Fort McMurray column. It was a busy week, as the town elected a new mayor and council. That wasn’t the only event of note, though. Here are some other important happenings of the week.

Community rebuilding is progressing quite nicely, but the housing market suffered a dip last month, according to Fort McMurray REALTORS® latest report. The average selling price last month compared to September 2016 was down 7.89 percent. From My McMurray:

Housing market dips in September

The housing market was down throughout September.

In the latest statistics released by the Fort McMurray Realtors, the average selling price last month was $633,532 down 7.89 per cent in comparison to September 2016.

The average selling price last month did increase compared to August 2017 which was $557,174.

The number of homes sold in the region decreased last month compared to the same time last year, from 55 to 32. Via

It’s common for numbers to fluctuate from month to month, so this shouldn’t be taken as a long-term sign.

Credit: Jenna Hamilton of My McMurray

Mental health has been getting increased attention in recent months. Wood’s Homes, a Calgary-based mental health care center, received a donation of $400,000 from the Inter Pipeline last Tuesday to acquire a permanent residence for youth and family services in Fort McMurray. The donation ends the need for the lease that the care center has been paying since 2009, according to Brandon Piper of Mix News:

$400K Donation Helping Set Up Permanent Home for Youth and Family Services in Fort McMurray

On Tuesday, Inter Pipeline donated $400,000 to Wood’s Homes – to secure a permanent home for youth and families in crisis.

They had been leasing the property since 2009 providing mental health care.

“This generosity allows us to build a lasting legacy for the youth and families of Fort McMurray who find
themselves in crisis, needing help to repair family disruption and in search of a place to stay,” said Jane Matheson, CEO of Wood’s Homes, in a release. h/t

Wood’s Homes is a shelter for both youth and families who need a place to stay, and this donation ensures the facility will remain a fixture in the community.

Last Tuesday, at a ceremony in Edmonton, Alberta, five firefighters of Wood Buffalo’s Regional Emergency Services received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, the highest national honour for volunteers in Canada. From Cullen Bird of Fort McMurray Today:

Five firefighters awarded top volunteer honour

Five Fort McMurray firefighters have received the highest national honour for volunteers in Canada.

At a Tuesday ceremony at Government House in Edmonton, Lieutenant-Governor Lois Mitchell presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers to Pat Duggan, Scott Germain, Brad Grainger, Ryan Pitchers and Dana Allen for their volunteer work in the community.

Out of 18 recipients from across Alberta, they were the only ones from the Wood Buffalo region. Read more at

The article goes on to provide short descriptions of each of the recipients’ volunteer work, and their contributions to the community.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

The following post Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of October 20) was first published to


Buying Wood Foundation Homes: Are They a Good Idea?

No, I’m not here to “convince” you to buy a wood foundation home. But I will ask you to keep an open mind until you’ve heard me out…

There are tons of horror stories about wood foundation homes. So much so that, of all the people I help purchase homes, I’d say over half will not consider them (regardless of my input).

Are some of these horror stories true? Yes

Should you rule out wood foundation homes altogether? That’s up to you. But, I certainly don’t rule them out in my own personal life.

What Is a Wood Foundation Home?

The technical term for these homes is “Preserved Wood Foundation” or PWF for short.

Here is a diagram from Wood Preservation Canada that will give you a really good idea of what a PWF is:

pwf homes fort mcmurray

In layman’s terms, the basement walls are made of pressure treated lumber, but not the floor (that’s made of concrete). This is easily the most common design for PWFs in Fort McMurray.

The amazingly informative pamphlet that this diagram came from can be downloaded from Wood Preservation Canada here and we highly recommend you give it a read if you are serious about purchasing or selling a wood foundation home.

How Many PWF Homes are There in Fort Mac?

I have no idea, but let’s try to estimate!

We know that there are approximately 26,000 dwellings in Fort McMurray, of which about 15,000 are single family homes.

In the last 6 years 4,664 single family homes have changed hands through the MLS®.

Of these, 149 had wood foundations. That’s 3.2% of the total stock.

Based on these numbers we can guesstimate that there are approximately 480 PWF single family homes out there, as well as a smattering of PWF duplexes. So, something like 500 homes.

Where Are the PWF Homes in Fort McMurray?

693 PWF listings have actually sold in the history of the Fort McMurray MLS® (homes don’t just sell once!)

These sold listings[note]Areas with less than 10 sold listings have not been included in this table.[/note] give us a nice picture of where the PWFs are in Fort McMurray:

table showing pwf homes sold in fort mcmurray

As you can see from the table, the majority of PWFs can be found in the three neighborhoods of Thickwood, Old Timberlea and Dickinsfield. The part of Abasand that was built 2000-2006 also has a significant number, as well as Saprae Creek.

Let’s look at those top three neighborhoods more closely:

homes for sale timberlea


thickwood homes for sale

homes for sale dickinsfield

As you can see the greatest concentrations of PWFs are in some of the most popular areas. Namely: Old Timberlea, Dickinsfield and the area of Thickwood found inside Cornwall Drive. In fact, those areas contain 394 of all the PWF listings ever sold through the MLS®.

3,666 dwellings of all foundation types have sold in those areas through the MLS®. By dividing 394 by 3,666 we estimate that approximately 11% of homes in those neighborhood subsections have wood foundations.

Benefits of Wood Foundations

Some of these benefits are commonly known, some less so:

  • Warmer
  • More comfortable
  • Will not crack (unlike concrete)
  • Possibly cheaper to build
  • Cheaper to buy
  • Adaptable
  • More energy efficient

Easily my favorite one of these benefits is that they are cheaper.

Depending on other features of the home, generally, wood foundation homes can be purchased for approximately $40,000 to $50,000 less than a comparable concrete foundation home. In some cases (for example, luxury homes) this number can be much larger.

This means that you will have smaller mortgage payments over your period of ownership, and that, for me as a buyer’s agent, is huge.


If water sits on a wood foundation for years and years, they can bow inwards, and eventually, they may need to be strengthened or replaced. This can be extremely costly, especially if it involves renovating downstairs kitchens and bathrooms as a result. The most common numbers we have heard are from $5,000 to $30,000 but that’s not a limit, just an average, and of course, this would depend on the house and the market for skilled trades at the time.

When the time comes to sell, you will have to appropriately discount your home for the foundation type. This is because, even with proper education, only about 50% of buyers are willing to consider purchasing a PWF. That’s a reality you can’t get around. Less demand means lower prices. End of story.

Due Diligence Before Buying & Taking Care Afterwards

Here are some hints and tips when buying:

  • Number ONE is to insist on a PWF Certificate from an engineer
  • Have a property inspection with an expert like Brian Slaney [note]We also recommend Rob Routhier and Eddie Dicks[/note]
  • Perform your own visual inspection to look for bowing and water management
  • Look into the history of the property at the RMWB planning and development office
  • Ask the neighbors what they know
  • Have a professional buyer’s agent price the house for you and negotiate to ensure that you don’t overpay. This will enable to you to sell the home for a discount in the future without losing any of your hard-earned money.

And some ideas for once you are an owner:

  • Number ONE is water management. According to engineers and home inspectors, this is THE KEY to a long-lasting, healthy PWF. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that a dry wood foundation is expected to last 119 years (I can’t find the source though, so don’t quote me!)
  • Save your money. Wood foundation issues are not an insurable risk, so a financial advisor may advise you to “self-insure” by putting money to one side in case you need it one day.
  • Keep in regular contact with an engineer with experience certifying PWFs.
  • Keep your home beautiful. Homes struggle to sell if they have more than one feature that can hinder demand. Therefore, make sure your house is AMAZINGLY kept up. We have sold PWF homes in days, and we plan on doing it again.

When it Comes Time To Sell…

As you prepare for your listing, there are important elements to take care of. One of the first steps is the contacting an engineer with experience certifying PWFs. We can refer you to one if you like. This is an important early step, as there are often smaller items to be taken care of before they will certify your home (for example grading…get your shovel ready!) Some of this work can only easily be done outside the winter months.

Another thing to do is to get in touch with a team of superstar listing agents who have experience in selling lots of homes, and selling lots of PWFs specifically. As you can see from this blog, we have the required knowledge to sell these homes. We will give you an accurate price for your home before you draw too many of your own conclusions regarding the value of your home. This way our specialist can get you the absolute top dollar, but also sell your home in a timely manner.

The following article Buying Wood Foundation Homes: Are They a Good Idea? is available on The A-Team LLC

When Should You Lower the Asking Price of Your Home?

In a buyer’s market, it can be difficult to sell a home. While you can’t control the market, there are a few things that you do have power over, the principal one being your asking price. It’s not something many sellers would like to do, but sometimes it’s the best course of action. Here are a few signs that you might consider reducing your asking price.

One of the most blatant signs that something is wrong is a high amount of interest in the home, but a low amount of offers. You might get a lot of lookers at your open houses and showings, but no offers. In that case, lowering price is likely a good idea. A recent article from Houston Neighborhoods demonstrates that a lack of offers doesn’t always mean a lack of interest:

High traffic but no offers

Yes, you’re not getting any offers for your home and that’s obviously a clear sign that no one’s interested, right? Not exactly. You should definitely dig deeper when you get high traffic during open houses and private showings and you have yet to receive an offer. High traffic indicates that people find your property appealing but the asking price is simply too high.

There are also cases when there are no scheduled showings because local brokers think the property is overpriced and are not showing it to their clients. Real estate agents suggest that you should reduce the selling price if a month has passed without a scheduled showing. Via

Overpricing is most likely why traffic isn’t doing you any good. This is why it’s worth reducing the price: if offers start coming in, you know you’ve made the right decision.

Deadlines are good reasons to lower your asking price

If you’re selling your home because you’ve been transferred to another location by your employer, or any other time-sensitive event, it can be difficult to sell your home at the price you want in time. Lowering price will generate the interest needed to sell the home before it’s too late:

You have a deadline

Home not selling? That could happen for a number of reasons you can’t control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage.

If you’ve got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you’ve already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It’s not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it’s how much money a buyer is willing to spend. Read more at

When you just need the house sold quickly, it’s advisable to consider lowering price, especially if your house is more expensive than other homes in the neighborhood. That brings us to the next point.

Before listing, it’s worth checking what other, similar homes in the area are selling for, or have sold for. There’s little reason for buyers to choose an expensive version of the same house, and in a buyer’s market, they have the benefit of choice:

Lower Prices for Comparable Properties

No matter when you put it on the market, if there are a lot of listings of similar properties with lower prices, you should rethink your price. If you are in a rush to sell the property, lowering your price will keep you competitive. However, if you aren’t in a rush, just let the price sit where it is and let the competition sell off (although, waiting for this to happen may take many months or even years).

If the area you’re selling the home in is experiencing a lot of new home construction at lower prices, you will probably not be able to wait out the market and be forced to sell at a lower cost. For example, if a buyer is looking at a brand-new home with the same features as yours with a lower price point, why would they choose the older and more expensive version? h/t

If the difference in price is just too high, it’s unlikely the house can sell at that price point. In that case, we recommend lowering price, or simply waiting for the market to improve (which could take a while).

Overpricing is just one reason why a house may not sell. Sometimes, with the right marketing, reducing the price may not even be necessary. If you’re looking to sell your home at the price you want, contact us at the A-Team.

The article When Should You Lower the Asking Price of Your Home? is republished from

“Special Homes” in Fort McMurray: Should You Buy One?

Okay, so this is another thing I’ve really just made up. But it’s useful!!

There isn’t a real thing called a “special home”; it’s a phrase I use to describe a home that is, well… special…and in a good way.

It’s not a euphemism for a weird house (I call those weird houses), or any other type of house for that matter (we tell it how it is here at The A-Team).

What is a Special Home?

They are AWESOME homes that usually have a few of the following features:

  1. Large lots: 7,000+sqft
  2. Larger homes: 2,300+sqft 2-story or 1,600+sqft bungalow/bi-levels.
  3. Unique, positive features
  4. Located on a park, pond or woods
  5. A great street: Burns Place, Wood Buffalo Way, Torrie Bay/Crescent, Westwood Drive, Woodward Lane/Bay, Becker Crescent, Berard Crescent, Brosseau Crescent, MacLaren Crescent, Burton Place, Lindstrom, Wild Rose, Trillium Road, Castle Ridge Lane. Or these lesser known ones: Sicamore Place, parts of Thicket Drive, Marten Place, Dickins Close, parts of Brett Drive.
  6. Well built: Try jumping up and down and seeing if the house makes a noise or moves. Silence is golden.
  7. I find a lot of special homes are 2-story homes with front attached garages.
  8. Additional garages/shops
  9. Generally built before 2000, though there are some newer gems hidden out there (for example on Wild Rose, Trillium, Eagle Ridge)
  10. Custom built or high-quality builder

…these are the homes that drive Facebook crazy.

Here are some images of special homes that we have sold in the last few months (we don’t have photos of the ones we’ve helped our clients buy):

fort mcmurray luxury homes

In summary, a “special home” is the home that everyone wants because it has a combination of features that make it stand out from the crowd. Executive homes are different, but there’s a lot of overlap.

Like executive homes, these are the homes in which you would quite like to spend the rest of your life.

That leads me on nicely to the next section…

Should YOU Buy a Special Home?

Let’s assume you’ve decided to buy a home.

At our buyer consultation we help by providing you with lots of information so you can make the best decisions for you and your family (whether to buy, when to buy, budget, types of homes) etc. There are a few important things to consider when deciding on the type of home. Here are some examples:

  • Budget
  • Needs/Wants
  • Your family (is it changing?)
  • Your lifestyle
  • How long you plan to live in the home for
  • Your risk tolerance
  • How much you are putting down as a down-payment

Let’s look at perhaps the most important three considerations:


One thing about special homes is that, because they have popular features, they do tend to be more expensive than entry-level homes. Today, we find them starting in the $600k’s and $700k’s (in the past they started at $800,000). Entry level homes are found in the $400k’s and $500k’s.

It is quite possible that you simply don’t want to pay that much money, even if the bank pre-approves you for it. That’s okay. We always encourage our buyer clients to be faithful to their budgets. It may be an option for you to move up later (sell and buy when you feel more financially comfortable) – but do also be aware that this is a costly process.

Either way, we’ll be coaching you to purchase a home that meets your needs, but is also really resaleable.

Risk Tolerance

Buying a special home is an example of making a luxury purchase. You are buying something awesome because you love it. Do be aware that the value of luxury goods tends to vary slightly more than the value of basic goods, over time. This is especially the case when we are talking about really special homes with high price tags.

On the flip side, however, there is a lot to be said for buying something that everyone wants, especially if those features are enduring, like street, location, underlying build quality, lot size etc.

How Long You Will Stick Around

If you are here for 5 years and your family today doesn’t need the features of a special home, there is a lot to be said for avoiding a home like this and keeping things basic (save that money!)

However, if you are a “lifer” with housing benefits from your employer, these homes were literally built for you so you might want to think seriously about going for it. Your kids (and possibly your kid’s kids, will love that backyard and thank you for it).

Consider a special home if you are planning to start or grow your family over that long time period. It may seem a way off now, but when you have teenagers of your own, it’s highly likely that you will enjoy them living in the basement.

What Now?

That’s it really.

Know that if we help you or your loved ones buy, we will look after them and coach them to get a great deal and a fantastic home. As buyer’s agents, if someone comes to us with a high budget we systematically target special homes so that they can have an awesome life AND an easy journey when it’s time to one day sell.

Please enjoy reading/sharing our blogs. We’ve written about pretty much everything related to Fort McMurray real estate at this point, so type something into the search box and see what comes up!

“Special Homes” in Fort McMurray: Should You Buy One? Read more on: The A-Team, RE/MAX Fort McMurray

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of October 13)

It’s time for another edition of our weekly column from the A-Team. We hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Here is some important news for this week.

Community recovery from the wildfire is underway, as the number of home rebuilds completed reaches 150 as of September 22. Building permits have also been rising since the month of April, according to Jaryn Vecchio of Mix News:

Finished Homes Rise Over 150, Around 1,100 Building Permits Issued

As of September 22, 158 homes have been completed – up 41 when the numbers were updated on August 11.

Nearly one-third of the completed rebuilds have been in Stone Creek – a total of 51.

Abasand, 29, Waterways, 27, Beacon Hill, 25, and Wood Buffalo, 15, are the other neighbourhoods with at least 10 rebuilds.

Meanwhile, the number of started rebuilds are also rising.

Right now, 1,110 building permits have been handed out, a number which has risen ever month since April, 2017. Via

If these homes are listed for sale, it will have the effect of increasing supply in the market. So far, however, we have been surprised by how few of these homes have actually been listed for sale.

Credit: Jaryn Vecchio of Mix News

18 may be the legal voting age, but the Youth Voices Rising action research project is aiming to give youth a way to voice their opinions and influence decision makers. Specifically, through social media. From My McMurray:

Research project give RMWB youth a voice

The campaign is part of the Youth Voices Rising action research project with the ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab at Royal Roads University.

Tamara Plush, with the Resilience by Design Lab told MyMcMurray that they chose to do the project in Wood Buffalo because of the long-term effects of the 2016 wildfire.

“We are looking at how young people are engaged in the post recovery decision making,” said Plush.

The campaign was launched on Sept. 29 and runs through until Oct. 27. To follow along and engage in the conversation you can check out #youthvoiceswb on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. h/t

Running alongside the municipal elections, the campaign is a fitting opportunity for youth to have their say on what they believe the community needs to do to improve.

Finally, a First Nation south of Fort McMurray is set to receive piped water and sewer services after an agreement with the RMWB. The installation costs will be $25 million in funding over five years by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. From Cullen Bird of Fort McMurray Today:

First Nation to get piped water, sewage

Fort McMurray #468 First Nation, located near Anzac and Gregoire Lake Estates, has reached an agreement with the RMWB to connect to the municipality’s water and sewer lines once its own water and sewer infrastructure is completed. The First Nation’s installation costs for the reserve’s piped water and sewer infrastructure will be covered by $25 million in funding over five years from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

“If I had to identify one thing that helped make this successful, it was a great relationship that the nation and the municipality committed to building between those two entities,” said Roni-Sue Moran, director of the Industry Relations Corporation, which reports to the FMFN 468’s chief and council.

The First Nation has 708 members, 262 of which currently live on reserve, Moran said. The partnership was partially made possible by the fact that Highway 881 – and the municipal utilities corridor that runs alongside it – crosses right through the middle of the reserve. Read more at

This partnership will lead to more business opportunities for the residents, improved utility services for on-reserve school and better roads for the First Nation.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

The blog post Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of October 13) was originally published to The A-Team Real Estate Blog