WHY MOVE TO THE COUNTRY POLL

“honey lets go see an acreage…it’ll be fun”

Calgary, Red Deer & Edmonton…these are all beautiful cities to make home-base, don’t get me wrong.  But I grew up in small-town Alberta and spent a ton of time on acreages as a result of having most of my friends live out there.  I spent my summers THERE…rural Alberta in all its scorching glory &  winters in all its Alberta blizzard chaos:  Those memories I would not trade for the world.  Yeah, we did teen stuff, gossip, painting nails, talking about boys, even out in the middle of nowhere…but summers out in the country giggling & riding horses & up to no good are a LOT different than being up to no-good in the city.  But up to no good in rural Alberta kept me out of trouble city-life would have… that is guaranteed.  I enjoyed the lazy hot days of summer jumping on friends’ trampolines, riding bikes on gravel roads, sleepovers in tents & hay-bales (which isn’t a good idea bye the way).  Something about being surrounded by golden wheat fields or bright yellow canola fields or being able to get through the troubled teen years with no means of transportation to the city (pre-licence age), are memories that are amongst my most treasured.  Winters spent snow-mobiling, skating on acreage ponds & just plain learning to be comfortable in my own skin when I got bored (pre-texting/cell phone/Internet age, well… it just IS a different way of life.  There is no better time than now to raise children out in the country, away from the temptations & stress of city-life.  Oh sure…a teen will find trouble anywhere…but it takes more creativity to GET to the trouble & a lot more embarrassment afterwards to get OUT of it too (every neighbour between your place & the Rockies knows too).  There is also a natural progression of respect for the land, the animals, the food, the work; values I argue we are so quickly losing in our culture of technology & fast-paced 9-5 jobs.

There are so many acreages between Calgary, Didsbury, Red Deer & Leduc as we travel North along Highway 2 from Calgary.  If you’re looking for an escape from the rat race…there is something for everyone and any budget.  Our equestrian community is strong and once you get a taste of country-life (or even a small 2 acre acreage), living in the confines of a city…is just claustrophobic & downright crazy.  In a recent opinion poll I took of people’s life on acreages, here were the results.

WHY MOVE TO THE COUNTRY OPINION POLL (thanks to Kijiji!! And the many responses from this question posted)

“Raising kids to respect nature, responsibility & self sufficiency …that’s what we have all learned since moving to our Cochrane acreage.  There’s a rule that all phones/ipods/ipads/iwhatevers need to be turned into a bin by 9pm nightly.  This keeps my teen boys from straying to Internet sites they need avoid (boys will be boys) & keeps me realizing, that our move to the acreage was worth the conveniences of Calgary.  Their friends are even asking to come here to hang out here instead of in town (they go to school in Cochrane).  Fine by me, so long as all the chores are done & there’s no swearing”                 Jim & Darlene Smithwyck, Cochrane, AB

“ I moved because I was stressed out with my lifestyle where I worked in downtown Calgary, got off at 5, meandered my way towards the Deerfoot just to creep along at a snails pace to my home I couldn’t afford in the suburbs an hour (if I was lucky) later, just to make dinner go to bed, wake up drop kids off at the day home, and do it all over again.  I asked my boss if there was a way to work from home. He said yes.  I phoned my realtor & put my house on the market.  I did the most irrational & irresponsible thing and bought a 4 acre property outside Beiseker & have never regretted it.  It was 50,000 cheaper than my home & we decided to cut things we don’t need for a year to see if we could catch up on debt. We paid off all credit cards/no cable/started growing our veggies in the summer, and now after things are financially fine…my son said he doesn’t miss the tv channels anyhow.  HOW COOL IS THAT?!”            Sandy P, Beiseker, AB

“My daughter was invited to a 4H club event with a friend from school (i was newly divorced).  Then came riding lessons. Then came having to meet the other parents at 4H (I am a born & raised city-girl) and newly divorced, they opened their hearts to us, like I had never experienced & very much needed at that difficult time. They were a different kind of people, and I felt cared for & made life-long friends at 4H. Country families are more generous with their time & hearts and within 2 years I sold our Edgemont home in NW Calgary & moved to a High River acreage where we spent so much time anyhow.  Wish I had done it sooner.” – Cindy F., High River, AB

“I am born & raised a farm-girl, but married a city boy.  He wouldn’t move to the farm & I had no interest in taking over my Dad’s ranch, so we compromised with a small acreage in Didsbury (well about 10 mins outside of town). I have 2 little girls that have never eaten store-bought vegetables or fruit and we teach them to respect the resources that we can save or recycle or grow.  We grow it all.  They respect animals & the work it takes as part of the enjoyment of them. My city-boy loves our acreage too and we aren’t too far from Calgary that we can’t go into enjoy the bigger amenities of it”       S. Holdt, Didsbury, AB

My son was being bullied in our Calgary area school & he found comfort in his weekly riding lesson out in Airdrie, just being with the horse.  This was the only time he seemed to truly love his life without being conscientious about being teased.  We are a middle-class family & thought that moving to an acreage would be costly, however we budgeted the things that were important and were able to sell our home in Cranston and move to a small acreage in Balzac.  My son turned 16 last January & got a job at an Airdrie grocery store and bought his own horse last month with his savings.  We have agreed to pay for the boarding costs if he bought his own horse(as this is his only activity) & he is thriving and home-schooled.  Rural living does not have to mean farm living…my husband still works downtown Calgary & is able to catch up on his favorite pod-casts on the 30 min drive home.  PS…thanks for this opinion poll…!!.”     A & K Lovas, Balzac, AB

This featured rural property is a small acreage outside of Didsbury (about 15 mins east), it is a nicely renovated 2 storey home situated on 7.81 acres of land complete with paddocks & shelters.  Perfect place for the family wanting to buy a few horses & escape the city.  The buyer can enjoy not only the use of their own land for riding, but that of the remainder quarter section of land that is owned by a central Alberta-based cattle rancher, who does not use the land much of the year.  For more details, please go here: http://ronaelepound.com/listing/starter-acreage/

STAGES OF AN AMERICAN FORECLOSURE: A Canadian Perspective

 

1. Short sale/pre-foreclosure:

The owner is issued a warning, because they are late on payments. If the owner can sell the property-it is called “short sale” and their credit score is not affected.  Websites like www.realtytrac.com advertise short sale homes or you will see them in the local papers.  If you have the guts to approach an owner in this phase, take him out for a nice coffee, and tell him you are interested in buying his home and NOT kicking his family out, which he knows will happen anyhow if he can’t repay his default.  This way he can rent it (and you can do an inspection, unlike in the Bank Auction phase below).  Obviously approaching someone going into foreclosure is a feat for the brave, and if he doesn’t throw his coffee at you, you may be able to work out a deal. This will be something to consider if you want to go into an investment to rent the home anyhow…and remember, the bank still needs to approve the short sale, which can be months in the making.  Plus, tax on rent is 30% gross rent income, and 15% of your monthly rental income will automatically be withheld…so beware…your monthly CASHFLOW is affected!!

2. Bank Auction (approx. 30% savings from market value):

if it doesn’t sell in short sale time, it goes here: done at the county courthouse or outside the home itself.  Buyers pay cash or cashiers cheque from US Bank.

a)    There could be multiple mortgage/liens on the property (DO A TITLE SEARCH!!!)

b)    The bank sets a starting bid, which is considered the 1st bid.  This way if the home has no other bids thereafter, it is sold back to the bank and goes on to the next phase (REO).  For those who are savvy in foreclosure investments know this can be a lucrative investment, HOWEVER…bidding on a home in this phase has its down side. Not only can the home be in bad shape, but the laws surrounding who can renovate that home can complicate your plans.

**Remember…homes in this phase are “AS IS WHERE IS (get title insurance!!), and you are not allowed to do an inspection before you purchase so before you bid…think…think…think…then think again!

3. REO:  Once the home is here, the bank has 2 choices…

a)    Chances are the homes that are sitting in this phase are NOT going to be any lower priced than those on the local market…but there are exceptions. The nice thing here though, is the bank will clean up the title, maybe fix the home & put it on the MLS.

b)    Send it to an auction house (NOTE): this auction is different than a bank auction, because the house has a clean title & potential buyers are allowed to see inside the house, do an inspection (etc).  Often, you will notice there are open houses in this phase.

c)    Mortgage can be arranged, and Canadians should work with a Canadian Bank in the US or things can get really complicated.

TIPS:

*Study the laws of the state you are purchasing in!!! They are not all the same.  I advise people to hire a cross-border tax advisor.

* Have a plan.  Know the purpose of your investment.

-JUST A SECOND HOME: only property taxes to worry about. The catch is, when you sell, capital gains tax is hefty & maximum US tax rate (after 12 months ownership) is…yikes…15%!  There are rules around lowering this, but this is a whole other blog, so consult your accountant…

-RENTING IT OUT: US taxes are 30% on gross rent income. You need to hire a property manager if you are not American to renovate & manage the rental. So much as driving a nail into a wall can cause you considerable trouble so account for this before you purchase. In addition 15% of the monthly income will be withheld for year-end tax purposes, so your cash flow WILL BE AFFECTED!!!

*Get your title insurance policy & have your Canadian tax advisor review it. If you need a referral to local cross-border accountants, just holler!!

* GO SEE PROPERTIES IN PERSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Internet picture is not the whole story.  If the entire street has been riddled in foreclosure homes & they are vacant, you have issues: (property value, condition of the home, squatters etc). No research in the world can compare to actually being able to see the property in person & touch brick & mortar with your own 2 hands.  Trust NO ONE except you! Be prepared to take a plane trip.  On the bright side…what Canadian doesn’t want to do THAT in mid-winter right?

Homebuilders! WAKE UP! Baby Boomers need you!

Can you hear that?  If you can’t, you will soon.  The thunder as baby-boomers who soon begin their mass exodus out of the single family real estate market & into, for most, a condo, before the move to something more assisted.  But if a condo is not your gig, then you, like I, know some things in local building trends need to change.  Builders need to stop building according to market whims & think market needs.  10 million Canadian baby-boomers, all wanting to take out their pensions & sell of their homes in the course of the same 15 year span will do more than slightly dent the Canadian economy. What economists are noticing however, is that many don’t WANT to sell their homes now…boomers are just not ready emotionally. However when there is this many in one age bracket, there are not enough of their offspring to BUY their homes from them.  Net worth has no where to go but south, and that is just the laws of supply & demand whispering this warning.  Such a strain on the economy is going to have a massive impact on the housing market.    Waiting a decade until their situations become desperate & they CAN’T go down the stairs or shovel the walks because the osteoporosis or arthritis kicks in full tilt, may not just be a bad judgement call, but crippling to a culture so used to a high standard of living.  With nursing homes in short supply & already long wait lists for the best retirement communities, local homebuilders have a very lucrative opportunity if they begin to shift business plans to house this generation.   This shift in building design will (help) alleviate the housing crisis ahead, and is called UNIVERSAL DESIGN (UD).  Life happens, and all it takes is one little-bitty rear-ender to make that decision for you.  The smart one’s will sell now, even in a recession, knowing their net worth is higher now, and not in 10 years when the boomers try and sell off their biggest investments…all at once. There are tons of+50 condo’s, however, not all people are suited for condo living, and certainly not enough to house everyone.  There needs to be more choice to be able to build a house that can see the boomers through right up until their last years, if not last breath.   My father was diagnosed at the age of 30 with MS, so I have not known any different than this & it is the envy of many of their friends now, who are being forced to move lickety-split due to their (ahem) aging bodies.  New Era Homes (bankrupt now) was the only builder in 1987 that accommodated a wheelchair, however, it implemented for that day & age, cutting edge design that is going to prove my parents’ saving grace.  What builders need to forecast, is the housing crisis that looms.  YESTERDAY, was the time we needed to implement large scale building of Universal Design Homes, if not communities.  Homes built around Universal Design architecture & products are homes that can transcend through the stages of life…and not just an able-bodied life.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN (new construction)

“ACCESSIBILITY FOR
ONE…FOR ALL”

BEST DESIGN: BUNGALOW

-POURED SIDEWALK FROM STREET – DOOR (and no door step or lip)

-WIDER DOORS (34-36”) & WIDER HALLWAYS (for wheelchair to
be able to turn without hitting walls)

-TALL BASEBOARDS (wheelchairs are notorious for drywall
damage)

-SWITCH PLATES: Lights, thermostats, electrical panel (main
floor) Lower & Wider

-BATHROOMS:  Spacious enough for wheelchair to go in & comfortably shut the door behind, turn
around

-DRIVE IN-SHOWER: and can allow wheelchair to go into &
out of with no floor lips.

-REINFORCED WALLS for GRAB BARS

-RAISED TOILET (for easy transfer from wheelchair)

-“SUPERPOLE”  bar at toilet area (SuperPole System is one I am familiar with)

-SINGLE (Vertical)  KNOB FAUCET (hand impairment/arthritis)

-LEVER DOOR HANDLES:

-KEYLESS ENTRY: “Open Sesame Door Systems” (however there lots of great brands)

-REINFORCED ROOF: to accommodate hoist (if needed)

-KITCHEN: Stoves with side or front mounted controls

-LOWER COUNTERS in kitchen & bathroom.

-LAUNDRY: front load washer & dryer with front controls.

-WALL MOUNTED IRONING BOARD

-HARDWOOD THROUGHOUT: no carpets, or avoid plush carpet.  Also hard on wheelchair battery life ! If
using rugs, use berber or low pile.

LOWER WINDOWS: to an able bodied person this may mean
nothing, but to someone else it could mean the world.  For further discussion on Universal Design in
new home construction, or accommodating existing homes to implement UD, feel
free to contact me at ronaele@fancyshacks.ca
.

A RECESSION THROUGH ROSE-COLOURED GLASSES

FIRST TIME HOMEBUYERS -BEST TIME TO BUY A HOME – the recession has lowered the exaggerated real estate prices brought on from the boom.  First time home buyers…here’s your chance to invest in a home, wait…and sell later for a profit.  Remember…real estate is cyclical.  Do not be discouraged by a recession.  It is a great opportunity to leverage yourself personally & financially.  If you need mortgage approval or advice to get in on the current market, I have wonderfully honest mortgage brokers that will bend over backwards to help you realize home-ownership. email me anytime to get in touch with a broker: ronaele@fancyshacks.ca

START THAT NEW BUSINESS: buckle down, prioritize & start that new business – FINALLY.  Nothing more luring to an entrepreneur than low(er) start up costs.  Force the intangible dream to become a reality…but don’t quit that day job just yet.  Just get the ball rolling & take advantage of lower start-up costs.

UNEMPLOYED?  GO BACK TO SCHOOL! Student loans, grants & scholarships are plentiful here in Alberta.  Researching through the thousands of them does take time, but they are there for the taking – SO TAKE THEM.  College, university or starting a new business pays dividends. Stop whining about the recession, and DO SOMETHING PROACTIVE with your life.

PURCHASE AN OLD FARM – Aging farmers need out & prices are low.  Gone are the days when children of farmers automatically took over the family farm.  Generation X is opting to head to University instead of take over Dad/Grand dad’s farm.  This is sad on so many levels, however, Southern Alberta has some of the countries prime land.  The disappearance of the family farm coupled with a recession is the time to seriously think about making your move to buy land now, when the price is low.Then be patient  & sit on it, maybe apply for rezoning for subdivision & sell later.  Balzac, Airdrie, Bearspaw, Cochrane, Chestermere have some great raw parcels of land at low pricing.

Click HERE to see the current featured Alberta investment opportunities.

BUY REITSReal Estate Investment Trusts sell like a stock on all the exchanges .  In essence it is a real estate mutual fund;  it purchases real estate & mortgages exclusively.  Because Real Estate is cyclical, investing in these (there are low AND high risk REITS you can choose from), over time, turns a profit that is proportionate to it’s risk however typically give investors high(er) yields.  You can stick with low risk REITS, venture out into higher risk REITS for higher yields, or do a hybrid combination of both.  REITS are a way of purchasing shares into real estate, yet not be bogged down by property that won’t sell.  REITS are highly liquid & a way of getting into real estate investing without deep pockets.

LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS – the futility of keeping up with the Jones’ really puts a perspective on our human nature & how greed can put people in terrible situations.  Skyrocketing foreclosures purchased during the boom (thanks in part to the accessibility of loans & mortgages most had no business getting), has flooded the real estate industry with listings, many of which are simply that…just listings.  Many homeowners are being forced to cut their losses & learn a harsh lesson in eating humble pie.  The big house, boats, motorhomes, BMW’s, designer clothes…easy to get sucked into, but deadly on the bank account.  The recession has given people perspective that all the STUFF, is not necessary.  Buy real estate, just don’t go over-the-top to fill it with STUFF.  Buy low, sell high.

TRIMMING THE FAT – a recession has this extraordinary ability to gobble up the greedy & less than honest businesses that are born of the Alberta economic boom.  What we have now, is the real deal business that have what it takes to squeak through the hard times.

CHEAPER TO BORROW – Just don’t go out & get a bunch of stuff…buy real estate – it is, for now, a buyers market & most likely will pay dividends later on down the road.  Leverage your finances & personal situation & buy land.  Click HERE for current opportunities or call me direct at 403-919-3394.  Many of these properties, the sellers are willing to stay on and rent the home on long-term leases: THIS = LEVERAGE. Borrow now, buy land low (have tenants to live in the home & care for the land – many farmers are willing to accomodate this-bye the way, then reap your rewards & sell it later). CLICK HERE for investment opportunities with possible rental tenants to leverage your investment at full potential.

CHEAPER TO BUY EVERYTHING ELSE – all of the factors that have forced real estate prices down, also have that same effect on gas, retail, vacation costs etc.  Just don’t go nuts.  Treat yourself occasionally & enjoy lower pricing on all the necessities, like food.  If you are an investor, trades are cheaper…so get that investment approved for municipal rezoning for subdivision.  If you already have it…now is the time to build while supplies & trades are cheaper.  There is a massive market for high-end country residential 1, 2 & 4 acre lots.

ENJOY YOUR FAMILY –  the best reason to love a good old dose of recession blues…reconnect with your kids, board games, bike rides, date nights…and…wait for it:  Eating dinner together as a family!  Can you imagine making your meals at home with all the chairs full with the people we love??  Cease the day…these days are gone before you know it.

So there we have it…a recession through rose-coloured glasses.  Go out there and be smart with your money.  It is a real estate smorgasbord out there, so buy a piece of Alberta instead of the shiny new car & if you can…buy locally & not through the big box stores.  Supporting small business is the best way to help see ourselves out of a global recession.  When you scratch the backs of local businesses, they tend to do the same in return.  INVEST IN LAND, INVEST IN PERSONAL & FINANCIAL GROWTH, INVEST IN YOUR FAMILY.  Everything else will find its place.

Click HERE for all current featured Alberta Investment Opportunities

  • © 2011 Ronaele Pound. All rights reserved. www.fancyshacks.ca email: ronaele@fancyshacks.ca
  • All information on this page needs written permission by Ronaele Pound to be used or published in either print or digital formats.

     

    A little dash of Venice in Calgary

    Venice. I think of the meaning of Venice to me, and I think romance. Young lovers travelling the venetian canals by boat, and the post-card famous architecture, aged limestone buildings and cobblestone streets…ahh yes, I admit, I am infatuated with the Venetian way of life. I have a love for the Italian culture that continues to inspire my work as a decorative finisher. Most of my work involves my being elbow deep in plaster, and it has become a much-loved opportunity for me to become acquainted with such a beautifully rich history that Venice boasts. The countless rounded stone arches and the eerily romantic gothic edifices that are historic of the renaissance architecture. The secret? Well , using the blessings of the land as their materials for one. What we have come to term “Venetian Plaster”, is actually a misnomer here in North America. It is actually not a product, but rather a technique(s). Many of us that do this for a living import it, mix it ourselves, tint it ourselves and the best part…play in the mud all day. What do I love about it? The smell, the texture, the beauty of applying something as simple as plaster to create something beautiful. The techniques are endless and the beauty unmatched. Venetian plaster walls grace some of the world’s most beautiful architecture, from the Vatican to the Louvre that houses the Mona Lisa. Venetian plaster techniques remain unmatched in beauty, durability and have a history of almost 10,000 years.  It is slowly making a revival here in Canada, as builders become aware of the benefits of using it both in exterior and interior applications. Authentic plasters are made from slaked limestone and marble flour & are the top choice for commercial finishes due to pH levels in lime making it a mold resistant finish. Residential popularity is gaining momentum locally too giving unique, durable and environmentally options for the home. From old world rough textures to highly polished contemporary finishes, there is something for everyone in it’s flexibility and endless array of creative expression. I will begin a series on venetian plaster techniques including history, health benefits, creative flexibility and a further look into the rich architecture it has given it’s namesake; Venice.

    Balzac, AB…Lexus, meet John Deere

    I’m heading into Balzac today, to talk listing a house for someone frustrated with our recession and slower market.  Trying to sell privately turned out to be harder than initially thought.  As a Realtor® I remain optimistic as high-end home sales remain strong.  All one needs to do for a bit of head-clearing is take a jaunt north of Calgary to Balzac; a small slice of paradise regardless of the season.  The autumn Alberta sunshine warm on my left cheek, but this week different from last…there’s a bite in the air to remind us of the imminent winter just weeks away.   The mountains in all their glory: life is good, even if winter seems to have come too soon. I pass Cross Iron Mills mall and  turn towards Balzac, Bass Pro Shop® calling my name (and what looks to be half the population of Calgary also), I can’t help but reminisce about my first year here in 1996.  I moved to Airdrie that same year; dating a local who had a father who farmed in Balzac.  He was a kind, genuine farmer that loved his land, his cowboy hats & his prairie air. There is something to be said about the old Balzac but its new face-lift is also impressive. It has transformed from lazy pass-through farm hamlet to, well, a knock-dead bustling oasis of wealth & prestige.  I’m not sure which I like best, because if you drive through it now, it is a different kind of beautiful.  The wealthy acreage’s north of the Cross Iron Mills mall greet you with the happy screams of kids throwing water balloons at their dads’ (in OCTOBER!), a well-dressed, laid-back kind of people who look out for one another.  Another yard to my right, kids riding their horses; man I wish I lived out here.  I’m intrigued with this place: Clearly this is Alberta’s Wisteria Lane.

    One mom balancing herself on a fence…in (HIGH-HEELS) – say what??!!.  I hear a rendition of the 80’s Full House Jesse Kotstopoulos’ famous “HAVE MERCY!” ringing in my ears.  Is this place for real??? Her daughter is in a dressage lesson; the other mom in her cowboy boots.   Welcome to Balzac… where it is Calgary Stampede all year long-minus the hangovers.  Where Lexus® meets John Deere®, Jimmy Choo® & Lammles® boots sit side-by-side on the rubbermaid mat in the bootroom, Tiffany® bracelets & spurs, sometimes on the same body; anything goes here in Balzac.   Two world’s collide: and yet nothing feels out-of-place.  I find my client’s house, and go up the winding driveway to a massive home with (surprise-surprise) 2 Lexus cars. The dichotomy of country western & urban luxury.  I notice the manicured landscaping & antler decor in the garden and no word of a lie; the Shetland Pony& perfectly trimmed shi-tzu are on the front lawn soaking in the sun.  I can almost hear my daughter’s (OMG and LOL!!!).  The dog & horse’s carefree & very sleepy eyes blinking in the October sun… unaware of the strange friendship they have & the hilarity of their slumber together this afternoon.   This home-owner is eager to talk staging and re-listing, so she can move on with life:  an all too common kids-grown-house-too-big-syndrome.  I promise to send in a miracle of a stager, to help get this house OFF the market.   As she walks me to my vehicle, I tell her of my admiration on how far Balzac has come, not mentioning a tinge of sadness from the lazy farm community I once knew.  However, Balzac is on my bucket list for sure of places to live.  She asks me if I want some eggs since they now raise chicken’s.  “Excuse me? ” I ask her with a laugh-snort.  Once again, a reminder of why people love it here.  She calls to her grand-daughter to go get a dozen.    Minutes later, we say our good-byes & once out of sight, clumsily kick off my high-heels into the passenger seat & I place the little box of eggs beside them.  Driving myself out of her winding driveway, I am keenly aware of my blessings, living here & be able to call this almost undiscovered slice of paradise “home”. Except here, people can deliver home raised chicken eggs to friends in their Lexus’.  Where the downtown Calgary skyline of wealth to the south, the Rockies to the west and prairie farmland to the east is nothing out of the ordinary.  Balzac is exactly what downtown Calgary is at Stampede, everyday (minus the beer-tub or Cowboys shooter girls).    Balzac is where cowboys marry uptown-urban girls & they meet in the middle, hopefully;  Balzac is that compromise.   Cell phone ringing at me, I pull over on the now gravel road and answer.  I lean over to pick the straw out of the sole of my high heel which sits on the passenger seat,  realizing this would be unheard of in Toronto,Milan & New York, but here…completely normal.  This day I will never forget.  A Cowboy hat is calling my name.  And yes, I LOVE my Alberta, my Calgary, my Rocky Mountains in all it’s bi-polar weather & changing seasons.  You truly, can live the best of both worlds here.  AMEN.