Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 & 2008 Real Estate Market Podcast

While attending various social functions over the holidays, many people upon learning I am in real estate were asking questions as to the local market conditions this year and what the outlook is for 2008.

This year has been one of the most robust markets we have seen in the Georgian Triangle over the past several years. Sales reported through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) are forecasted to reach approximately $570 million, a 17% increase over 2006. Watch for more detailed information in this regard next week after December's sales have been processed.
In the meantime, noted economic commentator Linda Leatherdale held an interview with Phil Soper, President and CEO of Royal LePage Services wherein they discuss overall market conditions across Canada. To access this informative podcast interview, please click on the link below and watch my blog next week for a recap of how the local market performed here in Collingwood and the surrounding area in 2007.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top 10 Must Haves for Multi-Million Dollar Homes

Working with a number REALTORS® across Canada that specialize in the marketing and sale of luxury homes, Royal LePage has just compiled a list of the top 10 unique and sought-after features that luxury homes across the country are being equipped with.

1. Elevator car lifts, indoor carwashes – Luxury homeowners spare no expense for their priceless automobiles. Avid car collectors, especially in city homes where property size is limited, install elevator car lifts to expand garage capacity. Keeping a fleet of cars clean is no small feat. In fact, for many it necessitates an on-premise indoor car wash.
2. Walk-in refrigerators – Professional kitchens akin to what one may find in a five-star restaurant have taken over luxury homes. With growing emphasis placed on home entertaining, walk-in refrigerators and multiple ovens, sinks and dishwashers are the norm for even the novice gourmet.
3. Spas, gyms and yoga and Pilates studios – The home gym has undergone a makeover and the focus now is on complete health and wellness facilities. Professional-style spas complete with steam rooms and massage rooms overtake the outdated sauna or whirlpool. Yoga and Pilates studios trump stair climbers, treadmills and rowing machines.
4. Wine cellars and tasting rooms – Grand wine cellars often found in Rosedale, Forest Hill or Westmount residences are the norm for today’s connoisseur. Individual cellars for red and white wines, as well as specialized tasting rooms equipped with various sinks and buckets for wine sampling are becoming all the rage.5. Concierge services – Concierge services are no longer limited to condominium owners or hotel guests. Today’s luxury homeowners utilize companies specializing in concierges. From making dinner reservations to picking up dry cleaning or purchasing opera tickets, concierge services are now a common trend within many luxury neighbourhoods. There are several companies that will provide typical concierge services to homeowners – essentially acting as a live-out butler.
6. Media rooms – Media rooms that rival the local public theatre are as prevalent in luxury homes as the family room. These windowless rooms typically boast a theatre-size screen, surround sound and rows of plush seats to accommodate large groups.
7. Wrapping and sewing rooms – Specialized rooms to accommodate particular hobbies or tasks, which are completely outfitted help to keep homeowners organized, are very popular. Dedicated rooms for gift wrapping boast everything from ribbons to paper varieties to bags and bows, while sewing rooms have every type of thread, button and zipper imaginable with tables and machines tailored to the homeowner’s needs.
8. Structured wiring and security – A wireless home is a thing of today. Many luxury residences feature security capabilities (e.g. door locking), entertainment options and light settings that can be accessed remotely throughout a home in various rooms. Some properties are even equipped to remotely control security features in far away cottages or second homes. Another innovative perk for those with deep pockets are security systems that allow property owners to view their home while at work, at the cottage or on holiday.
9. Home elevators – As homes are increasing in size, and are being built higher to accommodate several floors, home elevators are becoming an accessory of convenience as well as necessity.
10. Heated driveways, walkways and garages – Manual snow removal is a thing of the past for those in exclusive neighbourhoods that favour heated driveways, walkways and even garages. Built on top of heating coils, snow melts as soon as it touches these warm surfaces.

NOTE: To review the complete Royal LePage report which includes the estimated costs of these features, please click on the following link:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Going "Green" Comes with a Price

The Enterprise-Bulletin recently published a letter from Collingwood resident Rick Barrett slamming the town's latest public transit initiative. I am not about to get into Mr. Barrett's mathematics as without knowing the essential facts regarding the number of riders using the system and whether the ridership is based on a per head or per trip basis, it's hard to be critical. Further, the whole system itself is relatively new and like anything, wide-spread adoption does not happen over night.
Yes Collingwood has had a so-called public transit "system" in the past. A system that featured buses incapable of transporting the physically challenged. A system with a haphazard route system and with bus stops that for the most part were poorly identified and as such unknown to potential users.
The latest reincarnation of COLLTRANS is the most serious attempt the municipality has made yet at providing a public transit system that just might in time, work. Who said anything about it making money or even breaking even? Unlike in Europe where mass transit both of an urban nature and more importantly country-wide via train has been embraced for decades, I doubt there are many such systems in other countries where the ridership sustains the system financially through their fares. One need look no further than Toronto where the multi-billion dollar Sheppard subway line draws scarcely 40,000 riders daily when the balance of the TTC sees over 1 million riders a day. Or what about Barrie's new GO Train service? I suspect running four trains to Barrie daily is hardly going to pay for itself in the short-term but the alternative is to ignore the need of Toronto commuters and see highway 400 converted into a parking lot.
With user friendly buses for persons of all types, a redefined route system, bus stops that for the first time are well marked, and efficient bio-diesel equipped buses, COLLTRANS is approaching becoming a legitimate public transit system that will over time, continue to draw new riders. I would suggest that Collingwood and the Town of the Blue Mountains get together and talk about expanding the service to Blue Mountain and the Intrawest Village. Doing so might not only increase ridership and yes operating costs, but would also help to attract Blue Mountain visitors and guests to the downtown core.
For years the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was affectionately referred to as "Take The Car" and look what it got them. A city with an inefficient road system lagging years behind its growth and near the point of paralysis. Collingwood's traffic woes are only destined to get worse. Due largely to the absence of a center left turn lane, First Street is fast becoming a source of perpeptual gridlock and boosts an accident rate well above the provincial norm. As the driver of a V8 powered SUV I am by no means a tree-hugging environmentalist but I acknowledge that we must adopt a "greener" way of thinking and that costs money. Whether for individuals or organizations such as municipalities going "green" ever pays for itself much less turns a profit is questionable and immaterial. Mathematics aside, its simply something we all must do in order to sustain the environment and accompanying lifestyle as we know it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Market Outlook 2008

In a December 17th media release Royal LePage Canada has just released their annual market forecast for 2008. Generally speaking, the strong real estate market of 2007 is expected to carry over into 2008 albeit at a more moderate pace. The current overall strength of the Canadian economy is built on strong economic fundamentals including low unemployment, a high degree of consumer confidence thanks in part to the strength of the Canadian dollar, modest inflation and reasonably low lending rates. These economic conditions will continue to drive the demand for residential real estate throughout the coming year although a 4.0% reduction in unit sales is forecasted for the year with sales expected to fall slightly below 501,000 units. House prices are forecasted to rise by a more modest rate of 3.5% nationally which is expected to reduce the bidding wars that have characterized many urban markets across Canada is recent years.
It is predicted that 2008 will see an abundance of first-time buyers enter the housing market stemming from stable mortgage rates and longer amortization periods thus resultng in highly affordable monthly mortgage payments. For the full details of the Royal LePage Canada report click on the following link:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Municipal "Land Transfer" Taxes

One of the most contentious real estate issues in 2007 has been the City of Toronto's adoption of a "municipal" land transfer tax. Passed into law under the "City of Toronto Act" every home sold in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will now see a municipal land transfer tax applied to each sale in addition to the provincial land transfer taxes already in place. This newly created municipal tax was created primarily as a means to bridge the City of Toronto's budget deficit and is expected to add $300 million annually to the city's offers.
What impact does this new tax mean? Example: On a $300,000 home, the current Ontario land tax payable is $2,975. Under the City of Toronto Act, there is now an additional municipal land transfer tax of approximately $2,000 payable to the City as well.
The fear this new municipal tax brings to bear on the tax paying public is two-fold. First, for those living in the GTA, it brings an already high cost of living and home ownership to an even higher level. More importantly, for the rest of us living in Ontario it brings about the real possibility of having cash-strapped municipalities elsewhere passing their own land transfer taxes at the local level. Whether passed to offset a budget deficit or is done under the guise of financing mass transit expansion or infrastructure improvements etc., it is more money being extracted from taxpayers which more often than not stems from the financial need resulting from bad management.
Both the Canadian and Ontario Real Estate Associations lobbied hard to defeat Toronto’s proposed new tax, yet unsuccessfully so. Efforts by other municipalities to adopt a municipal land transfer tax will meet with similar opposition in additional to strong resistance at the local level. In the same vein however, the Ontario Real Estate Association has continued to fight for land transfer tax reform and has as of this week obtained a significant victory. A provincial initiative wherein first-time Buyers of “new” homes obtained a refund of the land transfer taxes paid has now been expanded to include the purchase of a “resale” home by first-time buyers as well. This new incentive takes effect immediately. Incentives of this type can only serve to strengthen the sale of homes both new and in the resale market.
Lobbying by REALTOR® Associations at all levels of government is yet one more way REALTORS® help Canadians obtain their dream of home ownership while at the same time generating significant benefits to the economy as a whole.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Customers Want

One of the challenges facing businesses today is attempting to figure out what their customers want. We have and continue to see a huge transition taking place in the real estate profession, much of it brought about from the impact the Internet has had on our business. In developing my personal real estate website I spent months researching exisiting REALTOR® websites both good and bad. Many of these sites (the bad ones) extolled the various awards that REALTOR® had obtained along with copious amounts of information all about THEM. I asked myself "who cares?" The more frequently visited and successful real estate websites were in reality all about the customer and I have endeavoured to develop both my website and the service I provide in such a manner as to best serve my valued clients.
Perhaps rather than attempting to find our what customers want, it's easier to determine what they don't want or to quantify the things they just don't care about. The following list summarizing "what customers don't care about" was compliled by Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller, two executive and business marketing coaches that work with business owners, entreupreneurs and salespeople in various fields. Thinking as a customer, how many of these ring true with you?

The Top 9 Things Customers Don’t Care About:
9. How good you are at what you do. They only care about how good you are at who you are and how you can help them get what they want.
8. Your education, your certifications or your designations. They only care about how what you know can help make their lives more enjoyable, simple and prosperous.
7. Your brand. They only care that the experience of doing business with you is sensational.
6. You saying you have great service. They only care about getting great service.
5. How much you charge. They care about getting value for their money.
4. How you feel today. They care about feeling good themselves and having a positive day.
3. Why you can’t do something. They only care about fast, easy solutions.
2. How long you’ve been in business. They only care about how you can solve their problems under today’s conditions.
1. How cool or slick your marketing looks. They care about how your product or service can save them time, relieve them of pain, help their family or put money in their bank account.

Essentially all of this boils down to delivering to your customers and clients exemplary service that offers them real value in satisfying their needs. Personally, I believe that doing the simple things extraordinarily well sets you apart from your competitors and will help to ensure your success in 2008 and beyond. Simply put, in business, I live by my motto "Helping YOU is what I do."

Good & Services Tax in Real Estate

When it comes to GST and the purchase and sale of real estate, both Buyers and Sellers need to be aware that many variables exist as to whether GST applies. The standard Agreement of Purchase and Sale document used in Ontario states as follows:

If this transaction is subject to Goods and Services Tax (G.S.T.), then such tax shall be
included in or in addition to (select one choice) the Purchase Price. If this transaction is not subject to G.S.T., Seller agrees to certify on or before closing, that the transaction is not subject to G.S.T.

Genreally speaking, resale real estate is not subject to GST. In this instance even with GST not being applicable, the above clause would read that "such tax shall be included in the Purchase Price." This stems from the premise that GST was paid at the time the property originally sold such as on a new home or on a newly created lot.
GST is payable both on new homes and on newly created vacant lots and typically the Builder/Developer has the GST factored into the asking price. Often in the case of a new home, if the Buyer is purchasing the property as their primary residence, then a GST rebate applies wherein the home Buyer is eligible for a partial rebate of the GST paid. In this instance, the Builder typically has the Buyer of the home assign the GST rebate back to them. Again this rebate has usually been factored into the Builder's asking price and profit margin on the home thus keeping the whole matter of price and GST simpler for the Buyer to understand and deal with.
Within our market area, we have numerous properties where GST becomes somewhat of a "grey" area. For example, in many instances, Buyers purchase a condominium or other property that is used on a part-time basis by the owner and the balance of the time it is rented out through a rental program ie: in the Intrawest Village and at Blue Mountain. Matters are complicated further when the Buyer for whatever reason, titles the property in a "company name." In any of these instances, even though the property is considered resale real estate, GST may very likely apply. Both the fact that (a) the property is in a "company" versus "personal" name and (b) that income (rental revenue) was realized from the property would in all likelihood trigger GST being applicable on its sale. It then becomes a matter of is the applicable GST going to be "included in" the Purchase Price meaning it is paid by the Seller, or is the GST "in addition to" the Purchase Price thus being paid by the Buyer.
When the matter of GST is questionable with respect to a property you are considering buying, the best professinal advice as REALTORS® we can give you, is that you seek qualified advice from either your lawyer or accountant. To this end, any Agreement of Purchase and Sale you enter into, should contain a "condition" whereby the offer is conditional on you obtaining such advice and satisfying yourself as to whether GST not only applies, but more importantly who is going to be responsible for paying it. With many recreational properties and vacant lots in the area now selling for prices well into the six figure range, GST on these properties can total into the thousands. Costly surprises can be avoided by having your REALTOR® insert a condition into your offer allowing you the opportunity to obtain the expert accounting and or legal advice you need to clarify the matter.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Real Estate 2008 - What's In & What's Out.

This has been another excellent year for housing sales throughout the Collingwood and surrounding region. The resale residential housing market has performed extremely well wherein 2007 will see total sales well in excess of $500 million. In addition one need only look around at the myriad of new home developments to realize the multitude of choices today's Buyers have. Whether you are a potential Buyer or Seller in 2008, it's important to understand the predictions for "what's in" and "what's out" in 2008. Below is a summary of some of the key factors that are forecasted to impact residential real estate in the coming year.

"What's In"
1-Despite strong sales, housing inventories are swelling. Buyers have lots of choices and are looking for "perceived value" reflected in homes that are in pristine condition with updated kitchens and baths.
2-Master bedrooms have become the home's in-house getaway. Bedroom TV's are being replaced by computers, sumpuous baths are a must and added bedroom amenities include serving bars, wine coolers and more.
3-Dedicated pet owners are demanding in-house showers for their dogs which are replacing the kitchen sink and laundry tub as the pet wash station of choice.
4-Outdoor living spaces and taking on an indoor feel with interior fabrics and finishes, heated floors, kitchen areas, fireplaces and more.
5-Green building is in as homeowners increasingly demand the use of recycled materials, alternate heating/cooling systems and other features that will save our planet including off-grid home solutions such as solar, windmills and other hybrid home energy options.
6-Non-smoking Home Owners Associations are demanding and implementing laws whereby smoke-free homes and common areas will reduce one's ability to smoke even in their own homes.

"What's Out"
1-A more informal living style is in as the traditional living room has been replaced by the "great" room which creates an open space for living, cooking and eating thus allowing family members and friends to congregate in various activities.
2-Home size matters less as square footage is taking a backseat to Buyers that are looking for more quality and less quantity.
3-Buyers in 2008 will have a preference for established, proven neighbourhoods versus those off the beaten path as a way to ensure a positive return on their investment with resale values perceived better in tried-and-true locations.
4-Excessive ceiling heights. Buyers prefer ceiling heights in the 9' to 11' foot range. Ceilings that soar two stories are useless energy wasters unless the installation of a loft is possible.
5-With the booming housing market slowing, double digit home appreciation is out in most areas and will be replaced with more moderate increases or prices increases may in fact remain flat.
6-"Order-taking" real estate agents. With a glut of agents in virtually every market, licensed real estate professionals must adapt to the changing demands of today's real estate consumer. We must leverage every available technology in order to provide relevent and timely information when and how consumers want it. Real estate agents must deliver a variety of services and information first before they can expect to capture the business of today's consumer.

These are but a few of the issues that will shape the real estate market in 2008 and beyond. Whether you are a Buyer, Seller or a real estate Agent, these and other factors will continue to impact the residential housing market as we know it in the year ahead.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Are We Collingwood Ontario or Anywhere USA

Kudos to Councilors Foley and Chadwick for the recent positions they have taken regarding the expansion of retail space in the west end of Collingwood. In working with some of my real estate clients I have come to learn that several notable franchises want nothing to do with the Collingwood market at the present time. These companies ultimately feel that this area has seen so much retail expansion in recent years that there is in fact an over abundance in shopping capacity which will only result in market share wars in which no one wins. Retailers in particular have a history of over-expansion. For example: Movie Gallery a large corporation engaged in retail video sales and rentals and with a location in Wasaga Beach recently announced the closure of some 600 unprofitable locations across the U.S. Bigger is not necessarily better and sometimes even the smartest of corporations find this out too late to avoid costly write-downs associated with store closures and corporate restructuring necessiated in order to improve shareholder value.
There is absolutely no argument that growth in our area is inevitable and is in fact well underway. As both a REALTOR® and President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board for 2008, I am pleased to report that 2007 will be a record year for sales reported through our real estate Board’s MLS® system wherein total sales for the year will be well in excess of $500 million. Residential unit sales in Collingwood for the first 11 months of 2007 are up just 1.6% compared to a 25.5% increase for Wasaga Beach and 27.6% for Meaford. For the first time, the 12 month average price for single family residential homes sold in Wasaga Beach is now higher than in Collingwood, $247,000 versus $242,000. While there are a number of new home developments slated to come on stream in Collingwood potentially boosting consumer spending and the demand for more shopping venues, these residential units have not as yet been built and more importantly they have not been sold! This, combined with a loss of some 500 higher paying industrial jobs this year alone (Alcoa and Goodyear) and it doesn’t take much to ask one-self can our market successfully sustain 400,000 square feet of additional big box retail space at this time?
From another perspective, if in fact the market potential is here for the larger retailers to establish profitable, sustainable locations in our community thus increasing their overall corporate revenues, income and market share, then what is the “entry fee” they are willing to pay in order to enjoy these economic benefits? We all acknowledge that most of these companies have a corporate “identity” they wish to maintain but what about the community “identity” we need to ensure our future success and sustainability as a place where people not only want to come and visit but more importantly want to live. To this end, participation in the community’s economic future should include an “entry fee” in the form of adherence to specific architectural guidelines and other requirements as deemed appropriate and reasonable to meet the sustainability of the vision we have for our community at large. With rampant commercial growth consisting of retail venues with little architectural differentiation from other areas, we are quickly becoming a municipal entity that can be labeled as having an “Anywhere” Canada or USA image and appearance at a time when we can least afford it.
Ultimately what we need from Council is the vision and more importantly the leadership to accurately assess the need and timing for commercial expansion, along with how this expansion can be accommodated so as to preserve the very reason why people want to come here in the first place. In reality, the economic growth potential of our area offers significant leverage for Council to negotiate the terms of participation by the large retailers and or commercial developers rather than succumbing to any school yard style threats of “picking up their marbles” and playing elsewhere.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pricing Is Everything...Almost!

When the time comes to list their property for sale, many Sellers interview several REALTORS® and I would certainly encourage you to do so. Whether it's looking for the lowest commission rate, the degree of service and or marketing plan the prosepctive Agent has for your property or just someone with whom you can relate, Seller's reasons to select a specific Agent are as varied as the properties we sell.
The initiatives that a REALTOR® has to promote your property today are many. Open houses for other Agents and the public, print advertising, a direct mailer to your neighbourhood, virtual tours, brochures, numerous websites such as and more will certainly help to attract a willing Buyer(s). The undeniable truth however is that the most overlooked factors that ultimately affect your ability to sell boil down to just two simple issues, both of which fall under the control of NOT the REALTOR®, but YOU the Seller. What are these issues? "PRICE and MOTIVATION."
First and foremost is price. Your property must be priced consistent with what other similar properties are not listed for, but with those that have actually SOLD. Forget what the neighbours are asking, their home hasn't sold and their price has not yet been established. Their over-priced home may in fact sell yours for when you price your property too high all you will do is help sell other properties with whom you are competing. Tip: Ask every REALTOR® you are interviewing to provide a written Comparable Market Analysis outling the recommended price they have arrived at for your property and why.
The second most important factor which also has a bearing on pricing is the degree of motivation YOU have as a Seller. In order to effectively sell your property, the best REALTOR® with the most impressive of marketing plans will have little chance of success if you are not truly committed to selling. This commitment means everything from preparing and keeping your home ready for showings, to listening to and accepting suggestions from your Agent, to being flexible with the terms and conditions other than price, that may come to you from a prospective Buyer in their offer.
As a REALTOR® I embrace all of the latest in today's technologies and tools to drive my business and best serve my Seller and Buyer clients. This blog is a prime example. Nonetheless, as a Seller, failure to pay attention to the two most important of issues of "PRICE and MOTIVATION" will only result in the failure to meet your personal real estate objectives starting with the sale of your property. Despite all the high tech tools and inititiaves our there at our disposal to sell your property, as a REALTOR® the greatest attributes we can bring to the table are "INFORMATION and TRUTHFULNESS" regarding the sale of your property for without these, everything else is meaningless. The truth which all too often Sellers do not want to hear is that "PRICE and MOTIVATION" matter more than anything else when it comes to successfully selling your property.

Our "Creative Economy"

This past week I ran into a local arts patron and due to my involvement with the Chamber of Commerce we had a discussion on the growing economic impact that arts and culture is having on our area. Afterwards she emailed me some interesting information pertaining to a study that the Conference Board of Canada is undertaking on what is referred to as our "creative economy." To gauge the growing importance that creative, artisitic activity and its related products and services has on our economy please note the following:

"In Canada, this sector accounts for 3.8 percent of GDP and provides employment to nearly 600,000 workers. Arts and cultural industries are important drivers of creativity, innovation and job creation. It is predicted that the creative economy will continue to grow rapidly due to the lower costs in accessing technologies that are used to create and disseminate cultural products and experiences." Source: Conference Board of Canada

Our aging population is no doubt playing a significant role in the growth of arts and culture in Canada and closer here to home in the Georgian Triangle. In retirement, many people have both the time and financial resources to partake in artisitic endeavours and with the growing migration of such people into our area, one need only take note of the numerous businesses that have sprung up along Hurontario Street in the form of galleries and other organizations all related to arts and culture including: The Above Group- Level Gallery, Fishbowl, The Bay School of Arts and the Magic of Children in the Arts with their Magic Art Gallery above Saunders Office Pro amongst others.
Collingwood has had for years a very active cinema club and amateur arts following. Add to that organizations such as the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts, Theatre Collingwood's efforts to establish a new facility in town and the forthcoming new library and it's not hard to realize the growing impact arts and culture will play in the future of our local economy. We've all heard the term "starving artists" and know how hard it is to be economically successful utilizing one's creative talents. My hat goes off to those who have the passion and committment to bring such worthwhile creative additions to our communtities. Your efforts will benefit us all not only socially, but economically as well.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Area Real Estate Sales up 48% in November

Sales of area real estate reported through the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board's MLS® system in November posted a 48% gain versus November of last year. Sales for the month totaled $51.2 million as compared to $34.5 million in 2006 and $35.6 million in 2005.
Year-to-date sales for the first 11 months of the year now stand at $542 million, a 17% increase over the same period last year. These results reflect some of the strongest year-to-date sales results for MLS® listed property in the Georgian Triangle since 2004. Added to this are the significant number of sales for new homes and condominiums made directly by developers which are not included in these numbers, and you have a clear indication of the ongoing demand in our local market.
Unit sales are up 11% for the year which again surpasses what we have been experiencing in the last couple of years. As an example, year-to-date unit sales in November 2006 reflected a decrease of almost 8%. There continues to be a strong sales activity for properties at the upper end of the market with unit sales of properties valued over $500,000 up 18.5% year-to-date. Sales of area properties over the $1 million mark, a somewhat rare occurence not so long ago are now happening during 2007 at an average rate of 2 per month. After a somewhat slow start earlier in the year, area condominium sales have rebounded nicely with 326 units sold year-to-date versus 313 for the first 11 months of 2006.
The early arrival of winter has facilitated one of the earliest ski season openings at Blue Mountain in recent years and this will positively impact the sale of recreational properties in the area. As such sales in December should remain strong making 2007 the best year yet for MLS® sales of Georgian Triangle real estate. My year-end newsletters will feature a complete re-cap of sales and pricing results for the year, in the meantime, please feel free to contact me to discuss you specific real estate questions and or objectives.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Changing Consumer Trends

Any of you on this site are probably avid Internet users nonetheless the following information will no doubt be of interest. While recently attending the National Association of REALTORS® conference in Las Vegas, many of the sessions I participated in dealt with changing consumer trends. Most of these were focused to a degree on technology and how it continues to impact our lives and the habits of today's consumers. Recent studies reflect that computers have and will continue to replace televisions in the bedroom. It is estimated that on average, most households have 26 electronic devices of some sort in the home.
Traditionally, advertisers have spent on average 42% of their advertising budgets on TV ads and we've all heard reports of companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars to secure a 15 second ad during the Super Bowl. The second greatest advertising expenditure has been on newspaper or other print advertising and this represents 30% of all ad budgets. More and more whether buying everything from books to collectibles or cars to real estate, consumers are using the Internet not only as their primary source of information, but also to make a direct purchase. Personally, I am a semi-regular online buyer. I have purchased numerous items from online sources the largest of which was a boat on eBay.
To date, online advertisng accounts for only 6% of all advertising budgets versus over 70% for TV and print ads (combined) yet on average, 30% of consumers are using the Internet to satisfy their information and purchasing demands. With real esate that number is much higher as reports indicate that 75% to 80% of consumers contemplating a real estate transaction are using the Internet to find an agent, obtain meaningful real estate information or to look for property etc. This would suggest that a huge shift is forthcoming in how companies of all sizes allocate their ad budgets and this is where Google, Yahoo, eBay and the likes see huge potential for increased revenues in the future.
Hardly a day goes by that I do not receive email inquires about my listings. At the same time, I can not recall when I last had an inquiry as the result of a print ad for a property either in a local paper or from one of the area's many magazines all of which are excellent publications. The fact is, today's consumer wants information that is current, they want it 24/7, they want it personalized for them and they want it for FREE! No where can these demands be better met that online. Personally, I embraced the importance of having a strong online presence some time ago. Local real estate activity continues to be driven in a large part by consumers whose primary residence is outside the area. Again, reaching these buyers and sellers is best accomplsihed not via print media but online. This blog and my personal real estate website reflect my committment in this regard.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Where did all the water go?

One of my real estate associates and I spent some time recently discussing a topic that is becoming increasing more frequenct both within and outside the real estate community, the declining water levels in Georgian Bay and indeed the Great Lakes in general. Locally, the barometer I use to monitor levels in the Bay are the shoals, or should I say newly formed "islands" off Northwinds Beach. Not so many years ago, one could gaze northwards across Georgian Bay and see nothing but blue water. Today, the horizon is punctuated with numerous shoals which seemingly protrude higher above the surface of the water with each passing month. Another scale I use is at my own cottage on Manitoulin Island, where in the spring of each passing year I am pushing my dock further and further out from shore in order to gain enough depth to dock a boat. Not long ago, the water level in the photo above was at the tree line along the shore.
This fall, Lake Superior which by and large has enjoyed water levels relatively constant in recent years as compared to the declining waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron saw its level drop to one of the lowest on record. While climate change may be responsible for some of these dramatic declines, many people are pointing the finger at other causes such as the outflow of water from Lake Huron via the St. Clair River.
Years ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the St. Clair River to enhance the shipping lanes which was necessitated in part by the increased size of great lakes ships. Some of these larger vessels were constructed right here in Collingwood. Add to that is the fact that the St. Clair River bed is eroding thus increasing its depth and the transfer of water from Lakes Michigan and Huron to Lake St. Clair which is in fact rising as the former two decline.
To grasp the severity of the problem I recommend viewing part of a CBC report accessible via the Georgian Bay Association website at This website also offers some excellent historical and other information pertaining to the cycles affecting the levels in the Great Lakes.
This is an issue that has an enormous impact on our area including waterfront property values, recreational activities and many aspects of our economy in an area which is becoming increasingly driven by tourism. While one might argue the cause, declining water levels in the Great Lakes are a reality and affects us all. Immediate action is required if we are to preserve the lifestyle we all too often take for granted. If you have or are feeling the affects of this situation please post comment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is 'MLS®?

Real estate buyers and sellers have seen or heard the term 'MLS® but do you know exactly what MLS® is? Even those familiar with the term MLS® may not understand the important role it plays in the the buying and selling of real estate or how it works.
MLS® is a registered trademark owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association and stands for "Multiple Listing Service." When sellers list their property for sale with a REALTOR®, most choose to do so with an MLS® versus exclusive listing. Properties listed on the MLS® system are done so in a spirit of cooperation. With an MLS® listing, the listing Broker commits to "cooperate" with other Broker members giving them equal opportunity to show and sell the subject property. Traditionally this has benefitted the seller by given their property added exposure to all REALTORS® within a given market. With the advent of the Internet and the Canadian Real Estate Association's website properties for sale on MLS® are now accessible online to potential buyers everywhere.
In Canada we are extremely fortunate to have a nation-wide MLS® system as such is not the case in the U.S. Like their banking industry, MLS® in the U.S. is very fragmented with several MLS® systems typically existing in each state. These systems are not linked thus making it difficult for today's online real estate consumer to gain full access to all properties currently listed for sale. Current estimates put the possibility of a nation-wide MLS® in the U.S. similar to what we have in canada as 3 to 5 years away. In the meantime, several 3rd party websites in the U.S. such as have filled this void by accepting property listings on behalf of both licensed REALTORS® as well as For Sale By Owners.
Consumer visits to typically number 2.5 to 3 million a month making the most popular real estate consumer website in Canada. With this post is a survey asking: Have you ever visited Please take a moment to complete the survey and if you have any comments or questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Highway 26 Speed Limit

The recent articles pertaining to the newly posted speed limts on the east and west side of Collingwood were certainly brought home to me yesterday. While travelling west to Thornbury on Highway 26 I couldn't help but feel how painfully slow it has become leaving Collingwood. I was beginning to wonder if my transmission was slipping but realized I was keeping up with the traffic ahead. With the newly posted speed limit of 50 km per hour I swear the trip to Thornbury is 10 minutes longer and this will become worse once the new traffic light is installed west of Georgian Manor Resort. With the ever increasing traffic we are seeing in the area it hardly seems appropriate to be restricting it further with ridiculously low speed limits especially on an artery this is essentially a "highway."
No one, myself included will argue the need for reduced speeds in school zones such as the Pretty River Academy to the west of Collingwood. One might ask however is why would a municipal government allow for a school to built on what is a provincial highway, one that is only going to get busier and should in fact be widened. We could ask the same question of our municipal planners as to why we have commercial businesses on industrial land, a courthouse and grocery store on the waterfront of a town whose economy is significantly tourism based but that is for another post. Unless for a special event the students are not typically at school during the evening or weekends or for two months in the summer, yet the 50 km per hour zone exists 24 hours a day 365 days of the year. Many school zones have reduced speed limits before classes commence, at the end of the day when students are leaving and during lunch hours all these times are duly noted with "flashing signs" which probably garners more driver attention anyway. Perhaps this option was considered but I suspect it wasn't.
The reduced limit will no doubt be a cashcow of revenue for the local constabulary but is that what we want visitors to the area to remember us for? Like them or not, Intrawest as a corporation has based their success on drawing visitors to their resorts not just once but again and again with the focus on extending their visitor's length of stay and creating valued memories. I am afraid and in fact hear regularly from clients that with all of the growth and traffic congestion in Collingwood, they are looking elsewhere ie: Thornbury for their next place of residence. The problem is at 50 km per hour they can't leave town fast enough! Hey, maybe that's the strategy behind all this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

U.S. Real Estate Market vs Canada

Many of my clients and potential buyers are inquiring as to what impact the U.S. sub-prime mortgage fiasco will have on the Canadian real estate market. As President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board for 2008, I just returned from the National Association of Realtors annual conference in Las Vegas where I participated in a number of forums pertaining to this matter.
As is often the case, media coverage of the sub-prime mortgage collapse is somewhat over-stated and real estate Boards and Associations in the U.S. are actively trying to counter the exaggerated "negative" press. The basic facts are as follows: The sub-prime mortgage debacle is the result of a "perfect storm" set of economic factors all converging at the same time. The economic destruction caused by the fall-out of sub-prime mortgages is serious and will cost in excess of $400 billion, more than the U.S. savings and loans mess of a few years ago. The situation stems from thousands of mortgages having been processed on behalf of borrowers with no or bad credit histories. In addition, over 90% of appraisers in the U.S. reported that properties were over-valued yet despite this, mortgages were granted and often for as much as 105% of a property's value. The situation was further aggravated by the fact that many of these sub-prime mortages were interest only loans and or were with issued with "zero" money down.
It is estimated that only 1 out of every 195 properties are affected, not a bad ratio. In excess of 35% of American homes are "mortgage free." The states most impacted by this situation are Florida, California, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Florida no doubt contains the greatest number of properties that are secondary homes which are often the most vulnerable and first to be sold when values start to fall. California is notoriously expensive with $400,000 and $500,000 mortgages not uncommon even for modest homes. The three northern states hardest hit were already experiencing depressed real estate markets much the result of huge job losses created by the restructuring of the Big 3 auto makers. By all accounts, the U.S. real estate market in 2007 will be their 5th best year on record and barring the onset of a major recession, it is forecasted that 2008 will see continued improvement to their domestic housing market with normal conditions resuming in 2009. Canada's economy continues to out perform that of our U.S. neighbours and consumer confidence remains high. Although interest rates have increased, home ownership in Canada is still very affordable. The Canadian Real Estate Association forecasts that national home sales will increase by 8.1% in 2007 and many provinces will enjoy record sales for the year. The Georgian Triangle is no exception. Sales through the the local real estate Board's MLS® system in 2007 will exceed $500 million. Much of the real estate activity in our area is being driven by the influx of people relocating to our area for recreational and retirement purposes and this trend is only just beginning. In his book Boom, Bust, Echo, author David Foote demonstrates that "real estate is affected far more by demographics that it is by economics." No where is this more evident than in the Georgian Triangle and while nothing is certain, the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market should have little or no impact on area real estate values and or sale.

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