Edmonton’s Fall & Winter Green Shack Programs!

Fri, 25 Nov by Rob Smashnuk

Beginning September 17, Green Shack will be continuing in select locations during the school year!

Ages: 6-12 years
(children under 6 must be supervised by a parent or guardian)
Cost: Free

Join in games, sports, crafts, music, drama, and special events. You’ll find a list of upcoming activities and special events posted on the side of the Green Shack each week. If there’s a game or activity that you’d like to play, just ask the Program Leader. They are there to make your summer a fun one!

Programs are led by staff who:

Ensure participants play safely. Parents are responsible for their children at all times and must be available in the event of an emergency
Are easily identifiable by their blue shirts and name tags and may be assisted by volunteer leaders in training
Have completed a security clearance process, are trained in first aid and are certified specialists in FUN!

Programming is still available on rainy days but will be cancelled during severely inclement weather.

Thanks to all of our partners who contribute to the Green Shack Playground Program. Special thanks to Community Leagues for the use of facilities and assistance in funding.

7 Ways to Deter Burglars While You’re on Vacation

Mon, 21 Nov by Rob Smashnuk

The airline tickets are booked, bags are packed and your family is finally about to head out on a much-anticipated vacation, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about home sweet home just yet. Take a bit of time to follow these tips to deter a potential break-in and avoid home heartbreak.

Lighting

Deterring a potential intruder can be as simple as flicking on a switch. Mimic your daily routine by putting the interior house lights on a timer, that way from the outside it looks like business as usual inside. Installing external motion-detector lights also means sneaking up on the house is not an option.

Notes

While leaving notes on the backdoor (or on the counter that can be clearly seen from a window) for your dog sitter, gardener, caretaker or neighbour may be tempting when running out to catch your plane, don’t — it’s the clearest indication that no one’s home. The same goes for social-media sites. Do not broadcast your cool vacation plans online, as tempting as it is.

Sounds

If it looks and sounds like somebody’s home, burglars aren’t going to risk breaking and entering. Set up a radio or mp3 player on a timer so that it periodically plays music during normal waking hours. Place it by a likely entry point, such the backdoor or ground-floor window.

Phones

Intruders often check out a property a few times before making a move — a phone repeatedly ringing off the hook screams no one’s home. Put your landline on the lowest volume setting or call your telephone provider to see if they have a straight-to-messaging-system service that can be turned on while you’re out of town.

Mail

Newspapers piled on the lawn and flyers sticking out of the mail slot say, “I really like coupons and keeping up with current events but not right now because I’m on holiday.” Ask a neighbour to pick up any freebees that might be tossed into your driveway. Get your mail held at the post office and suspend your newspaper-delivery service while you’re away.

Snow

One of the reasons your family booked a trip to Hawaii (lucky you!) was to avoid that cold, white stuff for 10 days — but just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Keeping your paths clear of snow and ice is a clear sign someone’s at home, so arrange for prompt removal before heading out. Plus, in case of an emergency, crews can get to your front door easily.

Curtains

When leaving your home for an extended length of time, it’s a good idea to draw the curtains and blinds to the level you’d normally have them so nothing looks out of order. If you raise and lower them throughout the day, keep them closed at the back of the house in case a would-be burglar is looking for movement, but open them up at the front so neighbours can spot and report any suspicious activity.

5 Halloween Home Safety Tips

Mon, 31 Oct by Rob Smashnuk

The time of year has arrived where face paint flies off the shelves and spooky DIY The projects are well underway. From ghosts, goblins and witches to the latest pop-culture heroes and villains, this is the time of year where creativity hits an all time high as people far and wide celebrate the spookiest season of all, Halloween! While collecting candy and trying to get a scare out of your friends and family is all fun and games, worrying about the safety of your home and guests isn’t. See below for some Halloween home safety tips that will help you ensure the only thing scarier than your costume is the thought of your expanding waistline after consuming endless amounts of sugary treats!

Make a Clear Path for Guests

With costumes that include fancy wigs, complicated masks and endless accessories, eliminating obstacles is the main safety tip you need to keep in mind. Whether it’s clearing the walkway or eliminating debris from your lawn, a clear path to your front door will help you avoid any potential accidents and is one of our top Halloween home safety tips.

Avoid Accidents with Lighting

With the shorter days upon us, your guests will not be showing up until long after the sun goes down. Help them stay on course by lighting up the path to your door. Whether a couple pumpkins or some strategically placed string lights, a well-lit entryway will not only make it easier to choose your favourite costume, it will help keep everyone safe.

LED Candle vs. Real Candle

We just told you to ensure the pathway to your door is well lit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a candle! LED tea lights are a great option for your outdoor décor that will look just as spooky as a candle, but will take away the fear of lighting a pumpkin on fire! These are also a good option for your indoor décor since you may not have the opportunity to keep a close watch on a candle burning inside your home throughout the night.

Keep Furry Friends Safe

Halloween is an exciting time, and my Halloween home safety tips aren’t only for you, but also your pets! To avoid them escaping, getting into the candy, or getting scared of your visitors, keeping them locked away in a safe room for the evening is advisable. Since they don’t get to enjoy all the fun, leaving them a Halloween treat will keep them happy until the activity has subsided.

Be a Smarty with the “Smarties”

If you are unable to come to the door when Trick-or-Treater’s arrive, or you will not be home to handout treats, leaving a bowl full of treats is not a good idea. Not only will it encourage people to come to your door when you aren’t there, it increases the risk of someone trying to tamper with the treats you have left out. A quick sign at the bottom of your driveway may be a good option and don’t forget to remind them you will see them next year!

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The world will remain thirsty for oil

Fri, 28 Oct by Rob Smashnuk

Given the focus on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, you might think that global oil consumption has been falling and will continue to fall in the decades ahead. This is not the case.

No one has a crystal ball and things could change, but according to the US Energy Information Administration, global oil consumption is projected to rise to over 120 million barrels per day by 2040 compared to the current level of about 95 million barrels per day.

This bodes well for Alberta’s oil patch except that the growth will largely happen in Asia where oil consumption is expected to increase from 24 million barrels per day in 2016 to 39 million barrels per day in 2040. Alberta will need tidewater access via new pipelines in order to help meet this increase in demand.

Oil consumption in the United States and Canada is projected to be essentially flat between now and 2040.The good news for Alberta’s oil industry is that, despite the rapid rise in US shale oil production, the Americans still need to import millions of barrels of oil per day and Alberta remains a key supplier.

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80-storey tower proposed for downtown Edmonton

Wed, 19 Oct by Rob Smashnuk

Plans for an 80-storey condo tower proposed for the Quarters in downtown Edmonton were presented to the public Monday evening.

The Quarters Hotel and Residences would tower over Jasper Avenue and Grierson Hill Road, bordered on the west by the Shaw Conference Centre and on the east by 96th Street.

The building would be the tallest in Edmonton. The Stantec Tower stretches 66 storeys and is expected to open in 2018.

But the architect behind the new project, Brad Kennedy says despite the height, the river valley will still be in sight for people below.

“We designed the podium of the tower to be transparent, so the only piece of the tower that blocks six-and-a-half per cent of the view is the core for the elevators and the stairwells,” said Kennedy.

“Everything else is completely clear, so you can walk along Jasper Avenue and you can see down through the tower to the whole river valley.”

The project would include a hotel, condominiums, restaurants, fitness facilities, shops and two publicly accessible parks, stretching over 100,000 square feet.

Several amendments to the land-use bylaw would need to be made for the project to be approved, including removing a portion of the site from the North Saskatchewan River Valley Area Redevelopment Plan.

 

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Four major changes to Canada’s housing rules

Tue, 04 Oct by Rob Smashnuk

The Liberal government has announced sweeping changes aimed at ensuring Canadians aren’t taking on bigger mortgages than they can afford in an era of historically low interest rates.

The changes are also meant to address concerns related to foreign buyers who buy and flip Canadian homes.

Below is a breakdown of the four major changes Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Monday.

The current rules

Buyers with a down payment of at least 5 per cent of the purchase price but less than 20 per cent must be backed by mortgage insurance. This protects the lender in the event that the home buyer defaults. These loans are known as “high loan-to-value” or “high ratio” mortgages.

In situations in which the buyer has 20 per cent or more for a down payment, the lender or borrower could obtain “low-ratio” insurance that covers 100 per cent of the loan in the event of a default.

Mortgage insurance in Canada is backed by the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Insurance is sold by the CMHC and two private insurers, Genworth Financial Mortgage Insurance Company Canada and Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company. The federal government backs the insurance offered by the two private-sector firms, subject to a 10-per-cent deductible.

The change

Expanding a mortgage rate stress test to all insured mortgages.

What it is

As of Oct. 17, a stress test used for approving high-ratio mortgages will be applied to all new insured mortgages – including those where the buyer has more than 20 per cent for a down payment. The stress test is aimed at assuring the lender that the home buyer could still afford the mortgage if interest rates were to rise. The home buyer would need to qualify for a loan at the negotiated rate in the mortgage contract, but also at the Bank of Canada’s five-year fixed posted mortgage rate, which is an average of the posted rates of the big six banks in Canada. This rate is usually higher than what buyers can negotiate. As of Sept. 28, the posted rate was 4.64 per cent.

Other aspects of the stress test require that the home buyer will be spending no more than 39 per cent of income on home-carrying costs like mortgage payments, heat and taxes. Another measure called total debt service includes all other debt payments and the TDS ratio must not exceed 44 per cent.

Who it affects

This measure affects home buyers who have at least 20 per cent for a down payment but are seeking a mortgage that may stretch them too thin if interest rates were to rise. It also affects lenders seeking to buy government-backed insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

Why

The government is responding to concerns that sharp rises in house prices in cities like Toronto and Vancouver could increase the risk of defaults in the future should mortgage rates rise.

The change

As of Nov. 30, the government will impose new restrictions on when it will provide insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

What it is

The new rules restrict insurance for these types of mortgages based on new criteria, including that the amortization period must be 25 years or less, the purchase price is less than $1-million, the buyer has a credit score of 600 and the property will be owner-occupied.

Who it affects

This measure appears to be aimed at lowering the government’s exposure to residential mortgages for properties worth $1-million or more, a category of the market that has increased sharply in recent years in Vancouver and Toronto.

Why

Vancouver and Toronto are the two real estate markets that are of most concern for policy makers at all levels of government. These measures appear to be targeted at those markets.

The change

New reporting rules for the primary residence capital gains exemption.

What it is

Currently, any financial gain from selling your primary residence is tax-free and does not have to be reported as income. As of this tax year, the capital gains tax is still waived, but the sale of the primary residence must be reported at tax time to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Who it affects

Everyone who sells their primary residence will have a new obligation to report the sale to the CRA, however the change is aimed at preventing foreign buyers who buy and sell homes from claiming a primary residence tax exemption for which they are not entitled.

Why

While officials say more data are needed, Ottawa is responding to extensive anecdotal evidence and media reports showing foreign investors are flipping homes in Canada and falsely claiming the primary residence exemption.

The change

The government is launching consultations on lender risk sharing.

What it is

Currently, the federal government is on the hook to cover the cost of 100 per cent of an insured mortgage in the event of a default. The federal government says this is “unique” internationally and that it will be releasing a public consultation paper shortly on a proposal to have lenders, such as banks, take on some of that risk. The Department of Finance Canada acknowledges this would be “a significant structural change to Canada’s housing finance system.”

Who it affects

Mortgage lenders, such as banks, would have to take on added risk. This could potentially lead to higher mortgage rates for home buyers.

Why

The federal government wants to limit its financial obligations in the event of widespread mortgage defaults. It also wants to encourage prudent lending practices.

Five previous federal housing moves since 2008

Monday’s package of announcements is the sixth time since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis that Ottawa has taken policy action in response to concerns about Canada’s housing market.

July, 2008: After briefly allowing the CMHC to insure high-ratio mortgages with a 40-year amortization period, then Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty moved to tighten those rules by reducing the maximum length of an insured high-ratio mortgage to 35 years.

February, 2010: Responding to concern that some Canadians were borrowing too much against the rising value of their homes, the government lowered the maximum amount Canadians could borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent of a home’s value, down from 95 per cent. The move also set a new 20-per-cent down payment requirement for government-backed mortgage insurance on properties purchased for speculation by an owner who does not live in the property.

January, 2011: The Conservative government under Stephen Harper tightened the rules further, dropping the maximum amortization period for a high-ratio insured mortgage to 30 years. The maximum amount Canadians could borrow via refinancing was further lowered to 85 per cent.

June, 2012: A third round of tightening brought the maximum amortization period down to 25 years for high-ratio insured mortgages. A new stress test was also introduced to ensure that debt costs are no more than 44 per cent of income for lenders seeking a high-ratio mortgage. Refinancing rules were also tightened for a third time, setting a new maximum loan of 80 per cent of a property’s value. Another new measure limited the availability of government-backed insured high-ratio mortgages to homes valued at less than $1-million.

December, 2015: The recently elected Liberal government moved to tighten lending rules for homes worth more than $500,000, saying it was focused on “pockets of risk” in the housing sector.

The package of measures included doubling the minimum down payment for insured high-ratio mortgages to 10 per cent from 5 per cent for the portion of a home’s value from $500,000 to $1-million.

Alberta delivers on Edmonton LRT funding – Mill Woods to Lewis Farms

Tue, 20 Sep by Rob Smashnuk

The Valley Line LRT is a 27 km low-floor, urban line that will run from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms, crossing through Downtown. The Valley Line will be built in multiple stages, with the 13 km southeast portion being built first.

Phase one of the Valley Line will run from Downtown to Mill Woods, and will feature:

  • 11 street-level stops.
  • An elevated station with a 1,400-spot Park and Ride facility and a full transit centre located in the Wagner industrial area.
  • The new Tawatinâ Bridge across North Saskatchewan River.
  • A short tunnel from the north face of the River Valley through to the Quarters redevelopment.
  • An interchange point at Churchill Square to access the existing Metro and Capital LRT lines.

The southeast portion of the Valley Line has a capital cost of $1.8 billion, and will be delivered as a public-private partnership. Construction will begin this year, with the line scheduled to open to the public by the end of 2020.

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EDMONTON’S REAL ESTATE MARKET ON PAR WITH LAST YEAR

Wed, 14 Sep by Rob Smashnuk

Marginal dips in prices and unit sales signal a stable market!

Edmonton, September 2, 2016: August’s all residential average sale price in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) remains consistent with last August at $369,956, down 4% from July of this year. The price of single family homes in August dropped 4% relative to July from $450,366 to $434,362. Year-over year prices remained stable decreasing by less than 1%. The average condo sale price for August 2016 of $251,526 is down 2% month-over-month (m/m) and 1% year-over-year (y/y). The average duplex/rowhouse sold for $344,377; down 2% y/y and down 1% (m/m).

“Alberta’s economy has been under enormous pressure for some time, but the residential real estate market in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area continues to hold. Prices and unit sales for all residential homes are consistent with last year, down less than 1% and 2% respectively,” said Steve Sedgwick, Chair of the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton.

At 1,433 units reported sold, all residential sales in the Edmonton CMA were down 5% m/m and down 2% y/y. 861 single family homes were reported sold in August 2016, down 3% from the previous year. Reported condo sales at 406 were down 6% over August 2015. Duplex/rowhouse sales at 136 were up 11% over last year. New residential listings were down 5% m/m and over 6% y/y.

While this is one of the most active times of the year, we are seeing both listings and sales tapering off as we move into the fall months. This is standard in our local real estate cycle. While unit sales for condos have been impacted the most, prices remain stable. This is thanks in part to the continuing trend of unit sales of over $750,000 that are keeping average sales price of condos elevated by almost 3%.

The number of days the average home in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) took to sell in the month of August was 55. This is consistent with August 2015 and down one day from July 2016. On average, single family detached homes sold in 49 days in August 2016, while condominiums sold in an average of 62 days and duplex/rowhouses sold in 56 days.

There were 7,908 residential properties available in the Edmonton CMA at the end of August, down 2% from 8,048 in July 2016, but up 9.4% from the 7227 properties available on the MLS® System at the end of August 2015.

TOP 10 HOUSE HUNTING TIPS

Tue, 13 Sep by Rob Smashnuk

When looking for a place to call home, it’s easy to get sidetracked by thinking with your heart rather than your head. Although it takes less than seven seconds to make a first impression, a quick decision could lead to an unavoidable case of buyer’s remorse. In order to avoid this, I’ve listed a checklist for the top ten house hunting tips you need to know before you attend a viewing.

Location: There are many things that can be changed, upgraded, or improved after you have purchased a home, but the location isn’t one of them. You need to think about the proximity to work, schools, and other attractions you frequently visit and also research any new developments or upcoming changes to the area in the future.

Smells: While air fresheners and open windows can clear out certain scents, it’s important to pay attention in order to sniff out other potential issues. For example, if you notice a damp smell, it could mean the home has poor ventilation or issues with mold.

Even Floors: Noticing a slanted floor is one of the major hints that there could be a large structural issue with the home. If you do notice something, you can ask your Agent to inquire with the owners or make note of it for the home inspection if you decide to go that far in the purchase process.

Lighting: Natural lighting is something that is often overlooked in your house hunt, especially if you are viewing a home at night, or in the middle of winter. Think about how important natural lighting is to you, and plan your viewing times around when the lighting will be optimal.

Shape & Size of Rooms: It is important to take a good look at the layout to make sure not only you but also your furniture can fit comfortably in the space.

Parking: Is there enough space for everyone in your household to park or will this become an added expense? Additionally, if there is parking available, will your vehicle fit?

Laundry: If there is laundry in the home, you need to make sure it is in an accessible location. If there is no laundry, is it in a convenient location you can easily get to with or without a car?

Storage Space: Depending on how creative you can get with your storage, you will want to make sure that there is enough room to store your belongings without things becoming cluttered or unliveable.

It looks perfect, but are you missing something? Professional staging can sometimes fool buyers into thinking a property is perfect while diverting their eyes away from potential issues. Don’t let the professional décor and scent of fresh baked cookies take your attention away from the things that matter.

Assess the Kitchen and Bathrooms: The kitchen and bathroom are two of the most costly rooms in a home. Make sure you pay special attention to these rooms to avoid getting stuck with unwanted repairs or updates after purchasing the home.

While a home inspection will help advise you of any potential issues, it is still a good idea to pay attention to these things in the initial stages of your home search. This will also help ensure you don’t waste money on unnecessary home inspections.

WHY USE A REALTOR?

Fri, 09 Sep by Rob Smashnuk

A REALTOR’s Commitment to High Standards of Professional Conduct Works to the Advantage of Buyers and Sellers Alike.
The internet has ushered in an age of readily accessible information and with dozens of discount self-serve brokerages popping up each day, you can easily be swayed into thinking handling the sale of real estate is a simple affair. BUT, remember its been proved that up to 80% of all For Sale By Owners eventually turn to the services of a real estate professional. And with good reason.

Licensed REALTOR’s are professionally educated, and fully trained to guide you through the sales process with the least amount of risk possible. They are monitored and guided by their brokers and governed by real estate law. They are sworn to uphold to a strict code of ethics and have access to vast array of resources, including their strong network of real-estate-related professionals with whom they have worked with personally, often for decades. Successful transactions and happy clients are key to their livelihood and reputation. It is their business to know exactly what’s going on in their market, as well as in their community.

I have been in the business long enough to have been involved in the sales process of the same home more than once – I can anticipate issues with underground oil tanks, previously problematic roofing, zoning issues, flood zones and other un-disclosed situations which may affect the true value of your property. I have a database of experienced professionals to offer solutions that I have personally worked with in the past and have networks of affiliates to facilitate the sales process.
When Buying Your Property, I Will Help You With the Following:

Maximizing your Purchasing Power:
I will help you get the best possible property for your budget, notifying you of the newest well-priced properties on the market so that you don’t miss out on a great opportunity. I can put you in contact with the best lenders, who are up-to-date with the latest financing options and programs. I will also help you understand and be aware of the hidden costs associated with purchasing.

Home Search Resources:
REALTOR’s are the first to hear about properties as they come onto the market. Additionally, sometimes the perfect property for you is available but not actively advertised in the market. REALTOR’s have extensive networks of resources and knowledge that will assist you in finding the best property on the market. A real estate agent’s business is to know what’s going on in the market, have the network, resources and insider knowledge to assist you in finding the best property for you.

Objective Information:
I will provide you with valuable community information on utilities, zoning, schools, etc. They will help you determine whether the property will provide the right environment you want as a home or investment and will advise you on its resale value when you are ready to sell in the future. I understand the history of the property and the neighbourhood and can give you an honest assessment of what’s going on in the market and how this will affect your property as an investment. Depending on the area and property, this could include inspections for pests, mould, structural deficiencies, roof condition, septic or oil tanks and well tests, just to name a few. I can assist you in finding qualified responsible professionals to do most of these investigations and provide you with written reports. They will also assist you regarding the title of the property, which is the document indicates ownership of property, financial liens, legal issues, and details rights of access/easements. This knowledge can help you resolve issues that might cause problems at a later date.

Negotiating Skills:
Every deal requires patient and precise negotiating on such important factors as price, financing, terms, date of possession and often the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and furnishings or equipment. The purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. As your agent I can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

Contract Knowledge:
It is crucial to have a full understanding of the contract that you are entering into! I will explain the details, wording and meaning of these legal documents, and keep you aware of the deadlines, deposits, paperwork, etc. involved in the Contract of Purchase and Sale. I will make sure that your needs are protected, both now and in the future, and ensure that you get what you are paying for. Above all, I will guide you through the entire purchasing and closing process and make sure everything flows together smoothly.

When Selling Your Property, a I Will Help You With the Following:

Market Evaluation:
My business is to know what’s going on in the real estate market in your neighbourhood, and will provide you with accurate and up-to-date information on pricing and market activity, including details on the price, financing, terms and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in getting your property sold at the best price, quickly and with minimum hassle.

Advertising:
I have the right tools and know-how to get the word out to other real estate agents and to qualified buyers. I will help you with staging your property so that it shows in the best possible light. I can also recommend repairs or cosmetic work that may increase your property’s selling price and saleability. I can take advantage of the Multiple Listing Service, as well as their own websites and buyer networks. I can host open houses for other REALTOR’s and homebuyers, and will assist in coordinating appointments to show your home to pre-screened, qualified buyers and accompany prospects through your home to point out the properties strengths, answer questions and to ensure the security of your home.

Contract Negotiation:
I will objectively evaluate every buyer’s offer without compromising your marketing position. This initial agreement is only the beginning of a process of appraisals, inspections and financing –a lot of possible pitfalls. I can help you write a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through the process and protect you in the long run.

Closing Process:
Between the initial offer and the final closing (or settlement), questions and issues may arise. For example, unexpected repairs, financing snags or an issue in the title is discovered. The necessary paperwork alone is overwhelming for most sellers. I’m the best person to objectively help you resolve these issues and move the transaction to completion.

Don’t Be Fooled By Low Fees:
REALTOR’s and their related Brokers charge various fees for services. Some Companies will claim to offer the same services as their competitor for a lower fee. Make sure before you list with any company that you get a written marketing plan that details all of the services provided. The more exposure your property receives the more likely you are to achieve a higher selling price.
Can You Do It by Yourself?

Although it is true that a few people have been able to stick a For Sale sign on their lawn and sell it themselves in a reasonable amount of time, the level of effort, expense and hassle often isn’t broadcast. For both buyers and sellers, stop and think about how much you trust the honesty, abilities and legal knowledge of the layperson with whom you are about to enter into one of the most important transactions of your life. As with any profession if you decide to take on the role yourself, you must fully comprehend the potential legal and financial risks, as well as weigh up the potential savings against the extra work and time.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.