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COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases in Saskatchewan Over Time

NOTE: We have moved this post to a dedicated COVID-19 Landing Page. Please see that page for the latest up-to-date information!

With the talk of flattening the curve, we wanted to keep track of how we’re doing in Saskatchewan. We’ll be updating this graph every few days.

Today (Mar 23) there are 14 new cases in the province and wide reports of younger people continuing on as though there is nothing going on; 2 of these new cases are in the age group of 5-19. It doesn’t matter what your age is, we all have to do our part. Shops are closed, people have lost their jobs and many have lost or sacrificed a lot in the name of trying to prevent needless deaths as this virus spreads. This is NOT what “nothing to worry about” looks like. Labatt’s doesn’t stop producing alcohol to make sanitizer for fun. These are measures of war, and we are at war against this virus.

You may feel invincible thanks to good health or age, but house parties and get-togethers have got to stop now. We are a small province with extremely limited resources. Even one sick 25 year old requiring hospitalization can result in a 60-year old that can’t be put on a ventilator and may just die. Is a house party worth that cost? Is the total economic carnage worth that cost? If we are at war against this virus, those disobeying public health advice might as well be planting bombs for the enemy. Ignorance is not a defence.

I do not wish to live in a lock down but if people continue acting without care or regard for the well being of our province then it will be inevitable. Be responsible now. If you are NOT in quarantine or social isolation you still MUST practice social distancing. Go outside, but walk on your own or only with 1-2 people from your own households. Stay away from others, and if you see someone you know, stay at least 2 m apart. Wash your hands lots. We’re in this together.

If you haven’t yet, you may want to check out our guidelines on reducing the risk of spreading or catching coronavirus for renters and landlords/property managers. The key take away for both groups: minimize your exposure by pre-screening as much as possible. Use virtual tours or video tours (we can help), conduct FaceTime interviews and meetings, and really read the listing thoroughly before arranging in-person viewings (if at all).

Take care out there (and better yet, don’t be out there at all)!

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Reducing Corona Virus Spread in the Housing Rental Community

From Wuhan to Saskatchewan, the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is spreading across the globe. No matter where you live, the fact is that everyone needs somewhere to live. Renting can’t come to a stop, pandemic or no. So I’ve created this post to start the conversation about ways that we can all work together, property managers, landlords and tenants, to reduce the spread and stay healthy and safe. The content below is the opinion of the author and should be considered supplemental and secondary to any and all official guidelines from Health Canada and similar governmental agencies. Where possible, we’ve done our best to seek out guidelines and expertise already in place from official sources.

Disclaimer noted, we’ve developed some guidelines and points for consideration:

  1. Tenants
  2. Landlords and Property Managers

Before you branch off, though, here are some great resources and reading to help you understand the state of COVID-19 in Canada, the world, and the importance of precautions:

NOTE: The ORT (Office of Residential Tenancies or the Rentalsman) will be conducting hearings by telephone only, effective March 16, 2020 in Saskatoon and Regina. 

 

Guide to Reducing Corona Virus Spread for Landlords and Property Managers

The Institute of Real Estate Managers has released a Pandemic Guide which has some valuable information, particularly for multiplex managers.

Keeping Common Areas Clean

If you manage a multi-family dwelling, ensure that common areas are sanitized – particularly high touch points like door handles and bannisters – as much as possible and at least once daily. Encourage your tenants to avoid congregating in common areas at the same time and consider sending a notification of what you are doing and best practices for them to employ. If the common areas are not strictly necessary (party rooms, gyms, etc), consider closing them until the risk level has subsided. Consider a plan for if maintenance or cleaning staff are required to isolate themselves. If buildings include a concierge or anyone regularly in contact with tenants, consider ways that the risk to them is minimized.  

Viewings and Finding Renters

Best Practices for Viewings

The safest practice is to simply put off all tenant searching until the pandemic has broken and things have returned to normal. However, this is probably not practical for most so long as the bills keep coming in. It also could result in stranding a portion of the population that has given notice elsewhere but not yet found a place to rent, which would be disastrous. Be sure to maximize your distance and even conduct as much of the conversation outdoors as weather permits; avoid handshakes and contact. And this goes without saying: if you have a sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, or any other symptoms of coronavirus and have been in contact with anyone that has the corona virus in the past two weeks, stay home and isolate yourself.

So while we accept that in-person viewings are likely to continue, we strongly recommend against conducting viewings of occupied suites while the corona virus is spreading. It only takes one infected stranger in a home to contaminate and potentially infect multiple people – not to mention that those current tenants also need to leave and find somewhere safe to go during that time when we’re all being asked to remain home as much as possible. We recognize that this is not ideal and will likely result in at least one month of vacancy, but it is the right thing to do at this time. Consider it time to make some touch-ups, updates, and repairs.  If you simply will not or cannot halt viewings, consider a virtual tour to limit the number of times your tenants must have potentially infectious persons in their home.

If you must continue with viewings and your tenant search, we recommend that you do not conduct in-person viewings until as much pre-screening as possible has been completed.

Pre-Screening to Minimize Contact

If you are actively searching for a renter, then you are going to come into contact with people. You may meet multiple potential tenants, some of whom may become applicants and one of whom may become your new tenant. You may also be into a currently occupied suite and meet with your outbound tenants multiple times during this search. The best practice, aside from a complete stoppage in viewings, is to make the number of in-person interactions as close as possible to zero. Ideally, you would only meet the to-be-accepted applicant and the rest would be pre-screened before ever stepping foot on the property. How can we accomplish that?

  1. Have a complete listing with all necessary information available (allow tenants to pre-screen);
  2. Have clear, large photos that clearly show the suite, layout, and condition;
  3. Offer a virtual, online viewing: consider a virtual tour or film your own video tour with your cell phone and post on YouTube;
  4. Conduct an initial FaceTime, Skype, or other Video Chat meet-and-greet (you could even arrange this to be at the rental to show it);
  5. Share your application form online (Anikio allows you to save it to your listing) or use an online screening service;
  6. If the application is valid and the tenant is still interested, THEN organize an in-person meeting and viewing to make the application official.

We want to do our part and are offering free consultation on rental ads posted to Anikio during this pandemic. Simply contact us to get help making your listing as complete as possible. We are also happy to help those creating their own video tours or taking their own photos in any way we can, again at no charge. Finally, we also continue to offer professional-grade rental photography and virtual tour creation to maximize your pre-screening efforts.

Rent and Notice Considerations

Reach out to your tenants to let them know what steps is any you are taking to ensure their rental remains safe, and ask them to reach out to you should anything come up that could compromise their ability to fulfill their obligations as tenants. Everyone should have a contact in the city to help them should they need assistance during this time, if it is in your power to be a contact for your tenant then consider doing so. Regardless, keep the line of communications open and consider that a two-week absence from their work may be enough to severely limit their well-being and ability to pay rent. Consider extensions and partial payments but always be sure to have any arrangement in writing.

If a tenant has given notice, reach out to ask if they have found a place or would like to consider extending their tenancy until the corona virus threat has subsided. Be sure, again and always, to have any agreement in writing and consider putting a finite time (one month or two months) on the extension. As mentioned above, we strongly urge against conducting viewings of occupied suites while the corona virus is spreading.

Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that there will be relief measures to reduce the financial burden but hasn’t defined them at this point. Italy, for example, has instructed banks to not collect mortgage payments during their shut down and landlords not to collect rent. This can be more complex an issue when rent includes utilities but certainly can relieve some of the strain on individuals during a difficult time should it come into place. More likely in Canada, those that have tested positive for the virus or have been temporarily laid off will have access to emergency funding through the EI program but that remains to be seen.

Tenant’s Guide to Reducing Corona Virus Spread

Covid-19 Infographic

Stay in Contact with Your Landlord

No matter what, you should have a ‘buddy’ in the city that can assist should you be unable to leave your home (and vice versa). It’s also a good idea to keep in contact with your landlord or property manager. You’re under no obligation to notify your landlord or property manager if you have the corona virus but you definitely should. In addition to self isolation, it’s the responsible thing to do for you and any others in the same building. Maintaining an open line of communication can also help should a complication arise that leaves you, for example, unable to pay rent on time. A landlord informed in advance should be much more forgiving and willing to work with you than one that has to contact you to find out what happened to the rent. Moreover, being as straightforward with your landlord, even if you don’t expect them to be understanding, will be to your benefit should you end up at the rentalsman.

Roommates

Living with roommates, any one of you becoming sick is cause enough for all of you to self isolate. If you are the one to develop symptoms, self-assess (check the province’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if your symptoms could be coronavirus and to organize a test. The province notes that if you have not been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 or that has returned from an international travel, you currently do not need to test but expect this to change within the next week or two as more community cases are likely to arrive. If you are in a position where a test is merited, everyone in that house should isolate themselves until a negative test result is received (i.e. you do not have the virus). Your roommates will need to be notified immediately. Should you have the virus, everyone in the house should remain isolated for two weeks even if they do not have symptoms; it is possible for COVID-19 to spread even among asymptomatic people that have been exposed. In the meantime, all common areas must be sanitized regularly and any symptomatic roommates must isolate from healthy but at-risk roommates to avoid spreading. Consider scheduling use of common areas like kitchens to minimize contact. Sanitize shared surfaces and items thoroughly.

Apartment Dwellings

Even if your property manager hasn’t closed off common areas like gyms, stay away. Be cautious of door handles, keypads, bannisters, and any other frequent touch point and do your best to avoid or immediately wash or sanitize your hands if you must touch those surfaces. Do not touch your face until after you have cleaned your hands.

Searching for a Rental

The safest practice is to simply put off all rental searching until the pandemic has broken and things have returned to normal. If you’ve already given your landlord notice, consider contacting them to see about extending your tenancy until the outbreak has passed. As always, get anything relating to your tenancy in writing.

If you must move, do yourself a favour and screen meticulously before going to a viewing. Read the listings carefully, look at all photos, take the virtual tour or video walkthrough if available (ask for one if it’s not), and then contact the landlord or property manager to ask any questions you have if you’re still interested. Ask to see a copy of their application form in advance of meeting and consider having a video chat (FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, and so on) to have an initial face-to-face chat and ask any questions you still have. The point is to minimize your viewings and in-person contact with others. 

When you meet in person, don’t shake hands and maintain a bit of space to minimize contact. Bring your own pen to sign anything you may need to.

Viewings of Your Current Tenancy

If you’ve given notice and are determined to move, ask your landlord if they’d consider not having showings of your place during the outbreak. They are under no obligation to do so but it is best practice to minimize potential contamination of your home while you’re living there.

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Saskatoon Rental Market Update for 2020

Saskatoon Vacancy Rate Map By Area - 2018 and 2019

Last week, the CMHC released its annual Rental Market Report. The report, based on October 2019 data, has some good news for local landlords: a decrease in Saskatoon’s overall vacancy rate to 5.7%. That’s down from 8.3% last year, when Saskatoon had the highest vacancy rate of all major Canadian cities. The recent data brings Saskatoon’s vacancy rate below Regina’s for the first time since 2007 and below this year’s new high-vacancy capital: St. John’s, Newfoundland. Within that overall vacancy rate, condominium vacancy declined from 4.7% to 1.7%, even with a 4.4% increase in the number of condos. And townhouse vacancy, also 4.7% last year, dropped to 3.7% this year.

Average rents also increased 2%, bringing rents back to approximately what they were five years ago. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting, property taxes in Saskatoon have increased an average of 4.5% each year. Beyond those highlights, our full report looks at what’s happening in different areas of the city in detail. The full report adds some colour and more detail to the CMHC summary. Download the full report below (you must be a registered Anikio user):

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You Need More Video Content!

These days it’s more important than ever to have video content. Every person with a marketing background of any kind that I talk to says that. I think one of them even had it tattooed somewhere. While I’m a very visual person and definitely understand the importance, I’m not great at taking video of myself. Worse, I have perfectionist tendencies. So even when I DO take some video of day-to-day or clips showing what sort of work we do with our customers, it sits in my ‘not quite done’ pile just long enough to be irrelevant or out-of-date.

The solution? Have someone else that knows what they’re doing (and isn’t obsessive like I am) do it! I met up with Carter Johnson, a local cinematography student at the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon, and we filmed a few different video clips that I’m hoping will help explain a bit more about who we are at Anikio, what we do, and why we do it. I’m looking forward to seeing the end results!

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For Rent: Street (de)Signs

Anikio For Rent Street Sign

When it comes to finding rentals, our belief is that the internet provides the best tools for your search. Not only can you search from your desk, but you can use Anikio’s great search filters to only show properties that meet your criteria. Plus, you can see high-resolution photos inside and even take a virtual tour. But we also believe in serendipity – being in the right place at the right time for fate to intervene. The parent driving down the street that is thinking they really could use an extra bedroom. Driving across town to work and seeing a sign for a nice-looking home available to rent closer to the office. Or someone that happened to see a sign and then talks a friend looking for somewhere to live. Plus, not everybody has the quick, easy internet access that we take for granted. So with that in mind, we asked Darren – our graphical wizard – to whip up a design of For Rent signs for us.

We’re really happy with how it looks! We can’t wait to see it on the side of the road. We had some other ideas that we kicked around – we wanted a really unique sign. Could we have a QR code that would bring you right to the listing when you point your smartphone camera? Unfortunately for bulk printing, that’s not an option but we do have an idea to potentially make this work. Should we forgo the space for the phone number and instead have a few basic stats? Number of beds/baths? But then the sign might be too cluttered. In the end, as you can see, we stuck with a basic, clear (we hope) sign since people are more likely to be driving by than walking.

There was some internal debate. It’s really important as a startup that landlords know that Anikio helped them find a tenant. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful and those recommendations that “I found a great tenant on Anikio” are SO important. A phone call from a street sign is not likely to link back to Anikio. But we also let landlords post their phone numbers on the listing, and it’s the same issue there. At the end of the day, our job is to help connect great landlords and tenants, though, however that may be.

So, this morning, we just placed our first order for a small batch of For Rent signs to see how they look on the front lawns of rentals. And to get some feedback and real-world use out of them in case we need to make some tweaks. They should be here in a couple weeks and maybe, just maybe, you’ll pass one in your travels. Let us know what you think!

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2019 Canada Election Proposals Related To Housing, Mortgages, and Students

2019 Canadian Federal Election Parties

With the 2019 Federal Election approaching, the promises are flying fast and furious. Here is a look at some of the planks we think are going to be most important for our users, here in Saskatchewan, with an emphasis on issues related to housing, mortgages, and property ownership. As Saskatoon has a large proportion of student renters, we also included issues related to student housing, primarily around student finances, and public transportation.

So to summarize, the promises we’ve gathered below are those we feel are important for Saskatchewan landlords and tenants and related to:

    1. Mortgages;
    2. Housing construction, improvement, and retrofits;
    3. Income and taxes;
    4. Student financial issues; and
    5. Public transit

It’s still early and we’ll do our best to add proposals and platforms that fit in the above categories as they come in. We’re not advocating for one party or the other here, you can make up your own mind, the intent is just to lay out what is out there in a simple list.

 Liberal Party

  • Prioritize social infrastructure spending for affordable housing and seniors facilities
  • Eliminate all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing
  • Introduce a 1% annual tax on foreign-owned residential properties owned
  • Free energy audit to help homeowners and landlords determine ways to make more homes more efficient
  • Interest-free loan of up to $40,000 to help finance energy efficient renovations
  • Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5000 for homes that are certified zero-emissions
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Additional $3B/year in transit funding for cities

  Conservative Party

  • End stress tests on switching a mortgage to a different lender (i.e. rate shopping)
  • Institute a 2-year tax credit for energy-saving renovations
  • No more GST or carbon tax on home heating and energy bills
  • Lower the income tax on income under $47,630 from 15% to 13.75%
  • Restore the public transit tax credit of up to 15% on weekly/monthly transit passes

  NDP

  • Re-introduce 30-year CMHC-insured mortgages for first time home buyers
  • Double the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit (to $1500)
  • Create a 15% foreign buyers tax on purchases of residential property
  • Remove GST on the construction of new rental units
  • Target the green retrofit of all housing in Canada by 2050 using low-interest loans to incentivize upgraded better insulation, windows, heat pumps, etc.
  • Create 500,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years
  • Add $5 billion to spending on affordable housing in first 18 months in office
  • Invest $40 million over four years in the Shelter Enhancement Program
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Eliminate unpaid internships (except as part of an educational program)
  • Force equal compensation for part-time and contract workers to full-time workers
  • Eliminate interest on federal portion of student loans
  • Move away from loans by increasing access to Canada Student Grants
  • Modernize and expand public transit with an emphasis on electrification and funding

  Green Party

  • Mortgage, construction/retrofits, taxes, students, public transit
  • Get rid of the first-time home buyer grant
  • Improve Indigenous organization access to financing through CMHC
  • Restore tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing
  • Change the national building code to require new construction to meet net-zero emission standards by 2030
  • Remove “deemed” GST when a developer with empty condo units puts them on the rental market
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Establish a Guaranteed Liveable Income program to replace various income support programs
  • Allocate one per cent of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure
  • Appoint a Minister of Housing
  • Legislate that housing is a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents
  • Increase the National Housing Co-investment Fund by $750 million for new builds, and the Canada Housing Benefit by $750 million for rent assistance for 125,000 households
  • Eliminate post-secondary education tuition
  • Forgive existing student debt held by federal government
  • Fund the re-routing of tracks for freight and rail yards away from populated areas

 

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Christmas Light Tour

Saskatoon Christmas-Light-Map
Check out the Saskatoon Star Phoenix’s 2018 Christmas Lights Tour while you’re out looking at rental properties!

While you’re out looking at rental suites in Saskatoon, get yourself into the Christmas spirit with the Star Phoenix’s Tour Guide to some of the best Christmas light displays in the city! My favourite is always 2706 Clinskill Drive, where you tune your radio to 89.7 FM and see the lights set to music. As well, there are several other nice houses in the area that you will see. Hours for that house are from 5:30-10:30 PM 7 days/week. And of course, it’s always nice to take the family out to see the Enchanted Forest at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm if you’re looking around the University Heights area.

Here’s a direct link to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix Christmas Light Tour Map that you can keep open in your phone for your navigator on the road!