6 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Kelowna

6 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Kelowna

This post has been a long time coming and I honestly don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write it. Although my parents live in Edmonton, I’m lucky enough that they also own a second home in Lake Country just outside of Kelowna (in British Columbia, Canada) and I’ve spent a lot of time there over the last few years. Kelowna is absolutely stunning, and whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, spend your days boating around Lake Okanagan, hiking the many trails, or visiting some of the hundreds of wineries in that region… Kelowna has something for everyone. Although almost every corner of Kelowna is extremely picturesque, if you’re like me you’re always on the hunt for the most instagrammable spots to up your social media game, so I’ve rounded up some of my favourites in no particular order below!

By the way don’t forget to check out my post on 25 Awesome Things to do in Kelowna here!

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: The Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm

1. The Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm

Beautiful beyond belief and located just a 15 minute drive from the heart of Kelowna, the Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm is an absolute must visit. The garden itself is open May 18th – October 12th and you can take guided tours (at $15 a person) or wander at your own pace ($10 per person). There are so many great photo opportunities here, and beyond that they sell some amazing lavender products in their shop! Grab yourself a bunch of lavender to use for a prop and head out to take some photos in the garden.

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: The Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: The Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Summerhill Pyramid Winery

2. Summerhill Pyramid Winery

Although Kelowna (and the surrounding areas) has over 40 amazing wineries, one of my favourites to visit is always Summerhill Winery. There’s a reason why this is one of the top wedding venues in Kelowna and it’s not just because it’s beautiful. All the wines at Summerhill are organic & biodynamic, and their bistro boasts an amazing menu of delicious local & organic fare with plenty of vegan options. Summerhill is definitely a must visit – and besides, who doesn’t want a picture with a giant bottle of bubbly?

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Sweet Dee's Flower Truck

2. Sweet Dee’s Flower Truck

Possibly one of the cutest and most Instagrammable on the list is Sweet Dee’s Flowers. Sweet Dee’s is owned by entrepreneur and all around girl boss Diane who transformed a 1994 mini Japanese truck into a flower-poppin business. This flower truck (which is the first one ever in Canada) is an absolute must see. She travels around the Kelowna area parking at local wineries and farmers markets and you can check out her website here to see where she is located when you’re in the area!

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Sweet Dee's Flower Truck
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Blind Tiger Vineyards

3. Blind Tiger Vineyards

Up next is another winery (this one located in Lake Country just outside of Kelowna) that brings all of the vintage vibes. Blind Tiger Vineyards is a small family-owned organic vineyard that makes amazing wines and even has pizza, wine and live music nights on Fridays during their on season. Stop by Blind Tiger and take a photo with their cute retro truck before popping into the wine shop for a wine tasting.

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Blind Tiger Vineyards
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Blind Tiger Vineyards
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Okanagan Koi and Watergardens

4. Okanagan Koi & Water Gardens

Located 20 mins from the heart of Kelowna is the Okanagan Koi & Water Gardens. Okanagan Koi is actually the largest Koi importer in Canada and the largest full service Koi & Pond dealers in Canada. Located on the property is the Koi Water Garden and entry is by donation only. I love these arches in the Koi Garden, it’s like a little slice of Japan in Kelowna and makes for a great photo opportunity!

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Gray Monk Estate Winery

5. Gray Monk Estate Winery

Are you really surprised to see another winery on the list? Since Kelowna (and area) has so many it was only natural that I had to feature all of my favourites. Gray Monk Estate is located in Lake Country, a 20 minute drive outside of Kelowna and only a couple minutes away from Blind Tiger Vineyards (which I mentioned above). If you’re heading out to this area and visiting one of them I definitely recommend stopping at both! The Gray Monk wine shop is located in the cutest yellow building that makes for the perfect backdrop for a photo. Snap a couple pics outside before popping in to taste the wines and check out their patio!

Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Gray Monk Estate Winery
Looking for the most beautiful Instagrammable places in Kelowna? Check out this guide to find the best photography spots in Kelowna! Pictured here: Okanagan Lake

6. Lake Okanagan

As if I could write a post about Instagrammable places in Kelowna without including Lake Okanagan! The lake itself is over 135km long and between 4-5km wide and spreads . There are so many places to stop for photos along the lake and it makes for the prettiest backdrop. Stop by one of the many beaches, hike along one of the lakeside trails, or head to the downtown Kelowna marina for great photos!

Hope you enjoyed this post of some of my favourite Instagrammable spots in Kelowna! If you’re planning a trip there soon and need some recommendations feel free to reach out and don’t forget to check out my post on 25 Awesome Things to do in Kelowna here! :).

xox Kirsten

This is your wake-up call!

In these trying times, concentrate on what you can do to optimize your business and life to stay focused on the things you can control.

You need to be proactive in keeping your business going and still provide a high level of service to buyers and sellers. Here’s how to keep your business thriving while optimizing the time you’ve been gifted by COVID-19.


A leadership mentality is what we all need right now. We need to be strategic, proactive and responsive.

Everybody’s in a different place. Some have a positive outlook about getting through this trying time, while others are stuck with a negative outlook that is burdening them. No matter what you are feeling right now, if you develop a responsive mindset, you’ll be stronger, more positive and able to help others. It is absolutely vital for leaders to be responsive to what’s going on around us. When people are experiencing fear, or stress, you must adjust to an optimal mindset as soon as possible.

The formula for an optimal mindset is E+R = O. That stands for an Event that occurs, your Response to it and the Outcome you want to come from it.

The power of this equation is that the outcome is what we focus on. If we’re responsive, we’re focusing on the outcome we want.

If you’re not in an optimal mindset, you’re not responsive, you’re reactive. This means your decisions will be based on fear, stress and negativity rather than the ease and calmness you’ll find when your decisions are based on being responsive.

If you lose your power to impact an outcome in your life, you lose all power you have in the situation.


Realize that you can’t change everything, but you can change some things. Spending this time, whether it’s two weeks or 12 months waiting around for the market to get back to normal, for our lives to get back to normal, is not ideal.

You can’t fight what is. The world has changed, our circumstances have changed. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can adjust.

People are pivoting fast, using their adaptability skills. If you sit around and wait for change, you’re losing the momentum you can build now, and you won’t be prepared for the potential market change once this is all over.

You make do with what you have, to create more.

Your goal is to make sure you’re coming from positive energy. If the highest energy wins, you want it to be because you’re ready. You have educated yourself and you are a consultant and want to serve.

Sometimes when something is causing anxiety, you have to think how you’re going to be feeling after this is over and how it will be a memory in your past. Right now it feels like it’s never going to end but it will, and it’s important to focus on the small things you can do to put your future self in the best position.

We all have the ability to change and develop right now. After this storm has blown through, we can have a better quality of life, we can have better client services, we can absorb this tension to persevere. But only if we choose to.


There are concerns when it comes to communicating with clients right now. There are a lot of different ideas and guidance surrounding this issue. The danger is that all of these are getting put into the same pot.

You want to send communication that shows empathy, You can’t under-communicate with your client, you want to make sure they’re hearing your perspective and you are proactive with their immediate concerns. You want to bring care and concern for the market, to bring goodwill.

Teams and businesses are still getting leads and it is still necessary to respond to these leads.

If you’re calling a follow-up from before the outbreak, build a stronger rapport. Have a softer call, ask how they’re doing, if they need anything. Only then should you feel out talking about real estate. It would be very insensitive and tone deaf to call and only talk about real estate as if nothing in our world has happened or changed.

Don’t forget to stay organized and write detailed notes in your CRM.

Active buyers and sellers need to hear from you. They need to hear your new reformatted protocol for how you’re supporting buyers and sellers safely, and what requests you’re making for outside agents showing the property.

Sending out emails is a wonderful way to keep your clients connected, talking about the updates on tax deadlines, mortgage rates and emergency government programs, keeping them in the loop.

With so much happening, it’s important to keep your circle informed and proactive.

It’s nice to want to wait until we have all the information, but things are changing daily, sometimes hourly. It’s okay to realize that your strategy from yesterday doesn’t work today, and you need to update it.

Using these three categories will allow you to become more proactive and productive with your business, brokerage or team.

Remember, there are no hard stops with fast starts. We are creating our future outcomes now. Set your routine, focus on top priorities first and spend this time or “pause” creating the life and business you want in the future.

Only you can decide if this time will be an investment in your business or a cost. What if you woke up 12 to 18 months from now grateful for this wake-up call? What if you looked back and saw these moments as integral to a better quality of life and improved business?

Keep your hands on the wheel, look where you want to go and stay focused in that direction.

Stay safe and stay strategic.

Picture framers now in the virus-protection business

A West Kelowna business has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep its employees working, help other businesses protect their staff and customers and support local food banks.

Mouldings and More, a picture frame manufacturer that has been in business for over 25 years, now makes acrylic virus barriers.

The Stevens Road business was already using acrylic to make display cases to protect items such as sports memorabilia, glassware and masks.

It began when a customer whose wife had severe asthma was looking for a way to protect her at work and asked the business if they could make something that could go in front of her.

“It kind of snowballed from there,” said Tracey Spooner with Mouldings and More.

Moving to making the barriers was an easy transition as the company is using a product they already have on hand and employees are using the same skills with different results.

The acrylic, which goes by the trade name Plexiglass, has unique entities and can’t just be glued, cut or drilled in a normal manner.

The acrylic is mounted upright on a counter and creates a barrier to give distance between staff and customers when they’re doing face to face transactions.

“It gives peace of mind,” said Spooner.

The response to the virus barriers has been wonderful, she said.

Mouldings and More didn’t want to appear to be trying to prosper during the pandemic when so many people were not working.

Spooner said the business would have been closed if it wasn’t making something necessary to protect people from the virus.

Mouldings and More is giving 20% of their net profits to the food bank.

They have already made one donation that was matched by Lakeview Market, the first grocery store that worked with Mouldings and More.

The business is helping local employers whose businesses aren’t an essential service prepare to open.

“They are choosing to purchase from our company, we hope not only because we’re doing a good job and we’re giving a donation to the food bank but because we’re a local business,” said Spooner.

They are also getting queries from businesses preparing for if and when they can open and want to have some barriers ready to go.

As word of mouth has spread through communities such as Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton, Mouldings and More has committed that as businesses in those communities start to use their barriers, they will set aside their portion of the proceeds for those communities’ food banks or Salvation Armies.

The barriers from Mouldings and More are attached to the business’s counter with a two-sided tape.

Because they sit on the counter, customers are not changing what they already have and not drilling holes.

“We want to make it feel like it was there the whole time,” said Spooner, adding barriers are customized for each customer and can be easily removed down the line.

Dockside Marine on the Westside, which is open to the public, installed virus barriers from Mouldings and More at the reception desk, parts desk and service desk.

Michelle Cartmell with Dockside said they went with Mouldings and More to support a local business but also to support the local food bank.

“It’s an all-around win,” she said.

The New Normal: Why You Should Be Live Streaming Your Next Open House

The New Normal: Why You Should Be Live Streaming Your Next Open House

With the COVID-19 outbreak, many  industries were turned upsidedown. Meanwhile, as regulations are developed and implemented to help curb the sickness, businesses have also been forced to rethink how they conduct their daily activities.

This includes the entire field of real estate, and one of its key elements: the Open House.

Thankfully, technology comes to our rescue, and the answer comes in the form of Live Streaming Open Houses.

For those not yet familiar with how it works, here’s how it goes:

  • The agent sets up a time and date that they will be at the showcased property. They will also provide a link for people who wish to view the property.
  • On the scheduled date, the agent will be present at the property… by themselves (or possibly with one assistant). Using their video phone and the internet, they will then begin a live broadcast of themselves doing a tour of the property as one would at a regular open house.
  • On the same date, interested buyers will click on the link that was provided beforehand, in order to view the agent’s live broadcast.
  • During the broadcast, all the viewers can interact with the agent/s as they go through the property. They can ask or direct the agent to show them certain parts of the property, ask specific questions, focus on certain structural details, etc.

If you’re a technophobe, don’t worry. The process may sound complicated and technical, but trust us, it’s actually a lot simpler and more straightforward than it seems.

In fact, if you’ve ever taken a video recording using your phone, and/or you’ve ever had Skype or Zoom call, then congratulations! You’re already halfway there!

Now that you know what it is, here are just some of the key benefits of adopting this new way of conducting an open house during these extraordinary times.

What Are The Benefits Of Live Streaming My Open House?

There are many benefits to live streaming your open house, many of which are still valuable even without the current pandemic.

• Since there won’t be any commute involved, more people will be willing — and able — to take a peek at what you’re selling. Let’s face it, there are just simply days when the prospect of having to get dressed, spend money on commute or gas, and show up somewhere, is completely unappetizing. However, with a live streamed open house, clients won’t have to worry about any of that, as they can now participate from the comfort of their own homes.

No need to worry about gas! Or getting lost on the way to the open house! Or finding some place to park! Or bad weather! All they’ll really need to do is get on their device, grab a drink, and tune in to your live stream.

• Being able to host an almost unlimited number of prospects at each open house. Instead of just having ten or thirty people attend your open house, can you imagine having dozens, hundreds, or even THOUSANDS of people checking out your property tour? This is entirely possible with live streaming!

The only thing that will limit you at this point, will most likely be how much time you’re willing to spend live streaming, and/or your ability to handle comments from everyone all at once (which is why we recommend getting an assistant).

• Sellers will thank you for it. Being able to host thousands of prospects at a time is great. But what’s even better is that you can do this without worrying that the healthy foot traffic will damage the beautiful floors you’re trying to show off.

• Even buyers overseas can join in! Since having to be physically at the address is no longer a requirement for them, prospects from other countries can also join your open house. This creates opportunities for you to market to international buyers, as well as citizens who are currently out of the country.

• Live streaming is super cost-effective. In fact, it’s FREE on a lot of platforms, including the big social media sites, Facebook, Instagram, and many others.

• It’s savvy. Besides being able to help keep everyone safe from infection, hosting live stream open houses also shows that you’re adapting to the current world situation. As a bonus, this modern approach is also attractive to the millennial generation of home buyers.

These are just a few of the many benefits of conducting open houses over live streaming. In fact, to help out our clients, we’ve recently rolled out a function that makes it easier for agents to announce their upcoming live streams! You can check it out by clicking here.

Donate don’t dump!

If you’re looking to get rid of your old furniture donate it, don’t dump it!

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan Restores have opened back up after temporarily being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All four stores in West Kelowna, Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon are accepting donations between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And all locations are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the public to visit and shop.

“The stores were closed for a couple months and the staff were laid off,” says CEO Andrea Manifold. “We are happy to see everyone coming back to work and to see our volunteers once again.”

From the time the COVID-19 pandemic began, there were limited places for people to drop off unwanted items so many of them were brought to the dump. Now that the ReStores have opened again with new COVID-19 safety protocols, unwanted furniture can be reused.

“It is vital for our organization to generate funds through ReStore sales for our affordable housing program. We encourage everyone to shop local and to recycle usable products,” says Manifold.

Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide non-profit organization aimed at creating a world where everyone has a safe place to live. More funds generated means more homes can be built.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Okanagan or to volunteer, click here.

Creative real estate marketing during the lockdown

Lasswell says it’s all about leveraging what you have and making the most of it.

COVID-19 has forced a new reality as agents work from home and market their properties virtually. But what hasn’t changed is the importance of finding creative ways to make a property stand apart from the rest.

Eileen Lasswell, broker at Chestnut Park Real Estate in Toronto, says, “I’m trying to come up with unique ideas that allow the public to enjoy a particular house without having to leave their home. Most agents are doing 3D tours and videos and I am as well, but I think it is more important to be innovative to try and grab a buyer’s attention, to tell a story of the home and help the buyer visualize themselves living there.”

When marketing 44A Maple Ave. in South Rosedale, she went back to why her client bought the home in the first place. He loved the sunlight and that there are so many walls on which to hang art.

She decided to stage to attract high-end, art-loving young buyers or downsizing buyers who no longer need a 4,000 to 6,000-square-foot home but want a Rosedale location. She wanted to evoke a luxury feeling at the property.

Sensing a state of emergency might be coming, she had a real estate photographer shoot the empty, newly renovated house. She had it virtually staged – five times – because she says she “didn’t like the cheesy art” the virtual stager added.

She came up with the art exhibit idea when talking to friends about the challenges of the various industries in which they work. One person on the call was an art dealer and Lasswell decided an art exhibit would be perfect. As luck would have it, 44A Maple’s owner is a well-known, award-winning artist in his own right.

Two rooms adorned with art will be featured in the 3D art gallery.
Two rooms adorned with art will be featured in the 3D art gallery.

Owner/photographer Koray Erkaya and Lasswell worked in partnership. Erkaya, a photographer, has exhibited his work internationally, most recently in Tokyo, London and the Ukraine. One of his beach scenes was used by the Turkish government as part of a tourism campaign.

As Erkaya collected some of his works from family members living in Toronto, Lasswell had a security system installed.

Since tradespeople were not available due to the lockdown, it was lucky that Erkaya is handy enough to hang his art himself. Another stroke of luck – being a photographer, he took the photos of his house himself. Lasswell says it’s all about leveraging what you have and making the most of it.

Two rooms adorned with art will be featured in the 3D art gallery.

“It will offer art lovers a new exhibit and at the same time show how beautiful this completely renovated home is and how a potential art lover could adorn its walls.”

She is posting photos of the home in three stages – empty, virtually staged and complete with original art. It’s all about creating interest now in preparation for when restrictions are relaxed, she says.

The timing worked out well for this sale and having a homeowner who is not only a well-known artist but who could do a lot of the work himself was lucky.

Real estate is on pause, but Lasswell says it’s important to put the time to good use by preparing and looking forward.

Her clients are sending photos of their home and she provides room-by-room notes about what they can do to declutter and prepare their home for sale. “This gives the homeowners something to do at this time.” They also don’t have to rush.

Apartment For Sale in Main North, Penticton

Photo Link
Natural lighting in this home is splendid owing to 9 ft ceilings

•  1194 sqft , 2 bath , 2 bdrm apartment – FOR SALE  CAD299,900 . 1194 sq ft the rooms are spacious MLS® 183768

Top floor north facing unit with great mountain views at the Scottsdale offers a central location. At 1194 sq ft the rooms are spacious & professionally freshly painted. Lovely gas fireplace and cozy in floor radiant heat which is included in the strata fee. The natural lighting in this home is splendid owing to 9 ft ceilings & vaulted ceiling in the kitchen eating areas. There is also a separate formal dining area. A generous master bedroom with walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom. Second BD is at the opposite side of the suite which adds to the privacy as well as another full bathroom. Laundry room w front loading washer/dryer. All appliances & window coverings included. Large north facing patio is cool enough in the evenings that you can fire up your gas barbecue with the hook up provided. Storage locker is just down the hall. Guest suite available for your out of town visitors. One underground secured parking included. 55+ with no Rentals & small pet allowed upon approval.

Click here for: Property information

Get ready for net zero homes

At this disorienting moment in 2020, as our industry grapples with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to believe the dust will settle. But it will. For usually busy Realtors who are looking to fill the disquieting pause, there’s an unusual opportunity right now to get up to speed on emerging aspects of the market.

Take net zero homes for example. A decidedly niche category, when normal life resumes and fuelled by legislative change and changing consumer preferences, this is a space to watch, say industry observers.

Sonja WinkelmannSonja Winkelmann

“It’s coming. I have no doubt about that,” says Sonja Winkelmann, director of net zero energy housing for the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). “PV (photovoltaic solar panel) technology has improved so much and we’re getting so good at building these net zero homes,” she says.

Winkelmann says the Canadian home building industry is in a kind of sweet spot – tech costs have come down, builder capabilities have deepened and pricing will in turn become more attractive to consumers. For interested Realtors, here are five aspects of this emerging sector to explore:

The basics:

So what exactly qualifies as a net zero home? While they are sometimes equated with being “off the grid”, that’s actually not the case. Not all net zero homes are the same, but they do have basic commonalities. According to the CHBA’s definition, “Net zero homes produce as much clean energy as they consume. They are up to 80 per cent more energy efficient than typical new homes and use renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need.”

You may also hear references to “net zero ready” homes. These are homes built to comply with net zero standards, but that don’t yet have renewable energy systems installed.

Pending regulatory changes:
Dale Rott
Dale Rott

Announced changes to government legislation and Canada’s building code are a key reason why net zero and net zero ready homes are expected to surge. “We’re going to see things on the legislative front that are changing, so there will be more stock available and it will be more of a common item,” says Dale Rott, a co-founder of Edmonton-based Effect Home Builders, and also a member of the CHBA’s Net Zero Energy Housing Council.

Specifically, Canada’s federal government has indicated it is working with provinces and territories to develop net zero energy ready (NZER) building codes by 2030.

“They’re developing what’s called a tiered or stepped building code,” says Winkelmann. While the building code typically gets an update every five years, this time around, she says, “they’re telling builders they’re going to be developing tiers that go all the way out to 2030 and they’re progressively going to continue to specify more and more higher energy-efficiency targets.”

The value proposition:
A net zero townhome by Sifton Properties in London, Ont.
A net zero townhome by Sifton Properties in London, Ont.

On the real estate side, in terms of marketing net zero homes, getting familiar with the full range of benefits is a great start, says Rott.

Beyond sustainability, Rott says, there are multiple other benefits for homeowners. “One is you’re saving money from a home operating costs perspective. Secondly, your indoor environment is more comfortable. It’s hard to quantify, but it’s a ‘feel good’ thing, it literally is. It’s quieter, the heat is distributed much more evenly so you don’t have cold spots.”  Add to that superior indoor air filtering and, says Rott, “If you’re concerned about climate change, then you have an environmentally responsible building as well.”

Built to higher standards than conventional new builds, “This boils down to just a better quality product,” says Winkelmann.  When a house is built with better insulation, windows and mechanical systems, she says, “your utility bills will be lower and stay lower all year round. The more that energy prices go up, the more this house can buffer you from those prices.” Finally, she says the house will be more durable than conventional homes.

Shifting consumer preferences:
The Northgate by Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ont. was a Net Zero Home Award Winner in 2017.
The Northgate by Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ont. was a Net Zero Home Award Winner in 2017.

Increasingly, says Winkelmann, today’s home buyers value sustainability features. The CHBA’s annual consumer survey has been confirming the shift. In 2018, for example, Winkelmann says the CHBA’s Home Buyer Preference Study saw “certified by an energy program” make the top 10 list of consumer preferences, along with four other energy-efficient features (including appliances and windows).

When working with buyers, Rott says it’s important not to make assumptions but to really listen for their priorities.

At Effect Home Builders, one of several progressive Edmonton builders who’ve made that city a hotbed for net zero construction, Rott says buyers of net zero homes come with all sorts of motivations. They might have deep environmental concerns, geekiness about mechanical performance and solar panels, or be seeking fine details and luxury construction. “We get the broad spectrum of people.”

Industry changes:

Finally, for Realtors, a couple of additional things are set to make serving clients a little easier. First, there’s more net zero housing stock coming. Beyond the luxury sector where larger budgets have typically made it easier to wrap in energy-efficient materials and mechanical systems, Winkelmann says increasing affordability is pushing net-zero towards the mainstream. More builders, she says, are becoming trained and certified. And as a result, more houses today are being renovated to net-zero compliance and more affordable condos and townhome communities are sprouting up.

Winkelmann says CHBA’s Net Zero labelling program – which builds on existing federal programs like R-2000, EnerGuide and ENERGY STAR – supports broader adoption. “A lot of the builders in our industry were familiar with their programs,” she says, noting that through the program, CHBA provides not just building science training, but also sales training so they can articulate the unique features of net-zero homes. This is something she’d like to extend to the real estate industry too.

Speaking to the CHBA’s labelling program, Rott says clear standards make things easier for Realtors too. “The more this is taken on, it should help Realtors and the housing market to be able to know that a house is qualified. And so it would help on the marketing end, from a Realtor perspective, to know that they don’t have to do all the research.”

Canadian Tire partners with West Kelowna cafe

 Kekuli TireLocal Canadian Tire owner Don Cummins is buying his staff lunches from the Kekuli Cafe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on businesses. Those who remain open to the public as essential services are under pressure to try to keep up, while restaurants struggle to stay alive offering take-out and delivery.

On the Westside, Don Cummins, the Canadian Tire dealer, and Sharon Bond-Hogg, owner of the Kekuli Cafe, have formed a mutually beneficial partnership between their neighbouring businesses.

For more than a month, Cummins has been supplying daily meals to his staff from the Kekuli Cafe.

Cummins came up with the idea as he was heading home after a long day at the store and noticed the large ‘We are open’ sign painted on the Kekuli Cafe’s window.

“It dawned on me that with only take-out orders, small businesses like that were struggling to make ends meet,” said Cummins.

He had met the owners before.

“They are really great local folks,” he said and thought maybe he could help them and at the same time give something back to his team at the store that would lighten their daily stress.

“They make the best bannock in the world, so my staff was just as excited,” he said.

After Cummins got in touch with his general manager, they contacted Bond-Hogg, and together they came up with the plan.

Bond-Hogg said Cummins called her out of the blue asking if she would be interested in forming a partnership as he would be buying his staff lunch through the COVID-19 crisis.

It was good news for Bond Hogg, who said the partnership has allowed her restaurant to remain open. Restrictions during the pandemic had seen her sales drop 75 to 80%, and they were looking at cutting back hours, closing certain days or even closing their doors during the pandemic.

“We gained so many new customers and everyone has loved the food,” said Bond Hogg. “We almost have everyone’s name memorized and the staff there are positive, friendly and supportive.”

The partnership has also given people the chance to see what the Kekuli Cafe offers as the only Indigenous fast casual restaurant in Canada.

Popular items for the catered lunches include frybread powwow tacos, handmade bannock flatbread with homemade pebre salsa, sour creme, lettuce, cheese with a choice of venison, chicken, chorizo or corn/bean and the venison bacon cheddar on homemade baked bannock YeYe bun.

“My team loves it,” said Cummins, adding some of his staff have mentioned the catered lunches relieve a lot of stress related to getting groceries or making lunch every day.

“It feels good to help out our neighbours and employees,” he said.

Commercial tenants and landlords and COVID-19

My experience during COVID-19 drew upon two “laws” I learned early in my law career: what’s legal isn’t always fair and contracts are as good as the parties who sign it. Why am I telling you this?

Because COVID-19 showed me that, notwithstanding one’s legal rights, landlords and tenants can co-operate, especially since their survival was interdependent. This is especially true during the height of COVID-19, as replacing a tenant or moving to a better location simply wasn’t an option.  As such, if you find that you do not have the ability to suspend rent payment by invoking a contractual right or terminating the lease due to a common law principle, not all is lost. While the law may not be on your side, the economic reality of interdependence is.

Generally, there are two ways tenants may find relief from their contractual obligations – one under the force majeure clause and the other under frustrated contract principle.

Force majeure “rights” are derived from your contract and this right allows you to not perform a covenant under the contract because of circumstances that are beyond your control. This right doesn’t exist unless it’s in your contract and the nature of the right – that is, what obligations you don’t have to perform – depends on the language of the force majeure clause.

There are two types of force majeure clauses – specific and general.

The general type of clause typically states that a party will not be liable for failure to perform a covenant/contractual obligation due to an event of “force majeure”. General clauses typically reference “Acts of God” and will not provide detail as to what a force majeure event happens to be; these clauses are likely to give rise to the most amount of litigation as enterprising lawyers will attempt to expand the definition “Acts of God” to include pandemics.

The second variety of force majeure clauses – a specific clause – is identifiable because of the exhaustive list of events that are defined as “force majeure” events. A robust specific clause suggests, according to case law and general contract law principles, that the parties have turned their minds to what a force majeure event could be and have specifically decided to include and exclude certain events. As such, if your specific clause does not include a pandemic, you may not have the ability to rely upon the force majeure clause to get out of performing a certain obligation, such as paying rent. Of course, attempts will be made to shove COVID-19 into other listed events, such as “government intervention” and I suspect that today’s more sympathetic courts may agree.

Assuming that COVID-19 qualifies as a force majeure event, you must understand which obligations you don’t have to perform due to the event. Most leases specifically exclude rent payments, meaning that even if COVID-19 is a force majeure event, you still have to pay rent. Let’s say, however, that your force majeure clause allows you to not pay rent, you still have to prove that COVID-19 makes it impossible, not just inconvenient, to pay rent. This means that if paying rent just hurts your bottom line but isn’t impossible, then the force majeure clause doesn’t apply and you have to pay rent.

In addition to proving impossibility, you have to prove that the pandemic, along with the consequences that have affected your ability to pay rent, were beyond reasonable foresight and your skill to foresee when you entered into the contract. For this reason, if there is anyone who’s entering into an agreement in today’s economic climate, it would be unreasonable to assume that they’d be able to rely upon the force majeure clause as the economic impact on one’s business is simply obvious. But wait, there’s more…

The courts do not look favourably upon a party to a contract who is leveraging a certain situation in order to get out of performing an obligation. In other words, you have to try and make arrangements to ensure that you can reduce the impact of the intervening/unforeseeable event on your inability to meet an obligation under your lease. This means that you’d have to figure out how to change your revenue streams, take advantage of all government programs and negotiate with the landlord before you can rely upon the clause.

Finally, these clauses typically have strict notice requirements. A phone call, text or email may not qualify as proper notice and the notice may have to be provided within a specific number of days after the event. Timelines, as many of us in this business know, are critical to pay attention to as failure to meet the notice obligations will likely bar your ability to rely upon the clause.

Tenants who did not have a force majeure clause then asked if they could rely upon the doctrine of “frustration”. This common law doctrine applies when a situation arises, the parties have no clause in their contract to address this situation and performance of the contract becomes “a thing radically different from that which was undertaken by the contract.”

Unfortunately, this concept is much more difficult to prove than showing that a force majeure clause should apply. This is because “it is not enough that the contract become more onerous, or even significantly more difficult, but still possible to perform”.  In other words, “a party must show that the original purpose of the contract has been frustrated, and it would be unjust for them to be bound to the contract under the existing circumstances”.

Since what you’ve contracted to do – pay rent – hasn’t changed completely due to COVID-19, I suspect that paying rent during these times may be unjust, but the law won’t give you relief. And this is why it’s important to sign contracts with parties who are reasonable and willing to work towards a common solution, regardless of what the law says.