Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays to One and All!


Myself and all my counterparts at Royal LePage in Collingwood wish all of you a very happy holiday season and all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Mountain's Sister Resort Opens New Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Whistler Blackcombe one of the Intrawest sister resorts to Blue Mountain recently opened their new Peak 2 Peak condola system in BC. Spanning a recording breaking distance of 4.4KM or 2.7 miles, this span is 3 times greater than that of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Although this new gondola traverses a substantial horizontal distance, it gains little elevation and as such uses 50% less energy that some of the other lifts at the resorts. The new lift features 28 "Sky Cabins" that will ferry passengers between the top of Whistler and Blackcombe mountains in approximately 11 minutes allowing skiers faster access to more terrain without the need to drive from one mountain to the other. In addition, it will open up more areas of the mountains for non-ski season tourists to explore as well further expanding the resorts attraction as a four season holiday destination. If any of you have the opportunity to experience this amazing new attraction at Whistler Blackcombe this winter, we look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A New Local Industry is Born!

An intriguing new business is taking root in the Beaver Valley. Long known as one of the prime areas in the province for growing apples, the Beaver Valley is now home to a novel new crop, "grapes." Georgian Hills Vineyards, owned by one of my clients, local wine expert/consultant Robert Ketchin, and partners John Ardiel and Murray Puddicombe, have planted vineyards at two different locations outside of Thornbury with the ultimate vision of establishing a full fledged winery in the Georgian Bay area.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a wine tasting at their property located on Grey Road 2 at Victoria Corners. Several red and white wines were available to sample for those in attendance and in talking to the owners, you get a real perspective of what a science and art the wine making trade is. The accompanying photo shows the harvesting of grapes for the firm's "ice wine" which was done last Thursday. The firm currently has about 5,000 vines planted in 2004 on 5 acres at Ardiel's orchard property outside of Thornbury. These vines are now producing 12 tons of grapes each year. A further 14,000 or so vines were planted on 12 of the 50 acres owned by Georgian Hills at Victoria Corners and it is estimated that these vines will be producing a full vintage crop by 2010. The grapes are currently shipped to a winery in the Niagara region for the actual wine production handled by experienced winemaker Lindsay Puddicombe. For further information on this exciting new venture and the wines they have available. visit the Georgian Hills website or contact Robert Ketchin at: rketchin@georgianhillsvineyards.ca

Friday, December 12, 2008

Had Enough "Negative" News?

About this time last year, I took a two day media training course as part of my role as President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. The facilitators of this course were Fraser Kelly and Peter Feniak, two well known Canadian media personalitites. Both of these two men have extensive backgrounds in TV with CBC, Global TV, CTV and other media. They offer in-depth training to business leaders and others that are often thrust unsuspectedly into the "public-eye" whether you want to be or not. They made no bones about the fact that the media in general will focus on the negative as that's what sells and secondly that the media will attempt to put you on the spot and will twist and or distort the message you are attemtping to say.
There is certainly no shortage of negative fodder these days and one must question if journalists and other media types are having a much easier time of practicing their trade. The current issue of McLeans Magazine includes a second article pertaining to Canada's real estate market. Once again, author Jason Kirby is attempting to draw a parallel between Canada and the current real estate crisis south of the border saying it could happen here.
No doubt some Canadians are over-extended with their current mortgages but as has been noted before, Canada's financial system and lending practices have been more rigid than that of our neighbours to the south. Real estate in the Georgian Triangle has sold well over the past 4 or 5 years. Yes we have seen an increase in property values but nothing like the run-up in prices in markets such as Calgary and Vancouver. Buyers that are anxiously waiting for area prices to drop 10% or 20% may be disappointed. Year-to-date, the "average" residential price in our area has dropped just 2.9% stemming largely from the fact that higher-end home sales this year have fallen in excess of 20% over last year. Without significant unit sales of higher priced properties, the average price is not being articially propped up this year giving credance to the claim that prices in our market have yet to fall by any appreciable amount. For 2009 the Canadian Real Estate Association is forecasting a 2.1% decrease in the "average" home price nationally. Sure, some markets will see price reductions greater than that but given the fact that the number of homes for sale is predicted to drop creating a more balanced market combined with the ongoing demand for property in this area for retirement and or recreational purposes, I suspect that our market will not be one of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Town of the What?

Effective immediately the Town of the Blue Mountains has dropped the use of "Town of" in the municipality's name. When the Township of Collingwood and the town of Thornbury amalgamated a few years ago the combined municipalities became known as "Town of the Blue Mountains." This seemed like quite a mouthful then and has become no less cumbersome in the ensuing years. In a recent news release it was stated that the municipality had "matured" and as such the use of the phrase "Town of" was no longer appropriate. Thank goodness! When dealing with real estate clients from outside the area, it was always a challenge both in terms of language but also geographically, trying to define the area that encompassed this overly wordy phrase whereas everyone has heard of Blue Mountain. I believe Canada Post was also having trouble dealing with and trying to decipher the multitude of address variations they were seeing on mail destined for "what is the name of that place again?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are You Satisfied With Your 2009 Property Tax Assessment?

Property owners throughout Ontario have recently received their 2009 property assessment from The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC.) With these assessments, the date of valuation used for your 2009 assessment is January 1, 2008. The 2008 value will establish the basis of assessment from 2009 to 2012. Increases in value above the 2005 assessed values will be phased in over a four year assessment cycle using an increase of 25% per year. This phase-in period does not apply to assessment decreases. Decreases in property values are effective immediately for property tax purposes. This year’s assessment notice was revised to include additional information concerning the 2005 and 2008 values and phase-in details.
The average increase in property values across Ontario for the 2009 assessment was 20%. This will be phased in at a rate of 5% per year until 2012 for property tax purposes. Unlike in the past, the assessor now has the obligation to prove that their assessment is correct whereas in the past, it was the taxpayer that had to prove their assessment was inaccurate. The deadline date for application for Request for Reconsideration is now March 31, 2009. The deadline date for appeal of assessments is March 31, 2009. For further assessment information with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's website.

Friday, December 5, 2008

November Real Estate Sales Soften

Property sales throughout the Georgian Triangle continued to soften in November wherein monthly sales revenue fell 63% from the level reached in November 2007. MLS® sales for November totalled $20.7 million, down from the $56.1 million in sales for November last year. Year-to-date area sales to the end of November now stand at $424.6 million, a decrease of 22% from the $545.0 million reached in the first 11 months of last year.
In 2007 our area attained record MLS® sales of $572.1 million and I predict 2008 will see total sales dollars come in somewhere around $440.0 to $450.0 million which is still a respectable level given the fact that this does not include the sales of new homes and condominiums which are done directly by developers.
Collingwood this year continues to outperform all area municipalities in terms of sales activity. To the end of November, 236 properties have sold through MLS® versus 260 last year, a decrease of just 9.2% which is well below the overall market decline. All other area municipalities from Wasaga Beach through Clearview, Town of the Blue Mountains and Meaford are down anywhere from 10.7% to 33.3%. If you are in the market to sell you home, accurate "market pricing" is the key to your selling success.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Special Meeting of Collingwood Council

Scheduled for tomorrow evening at the Leisure Time Club, V.O.T.E. Collingwood's "Evening with Council" (see post "Do You Have Questions for Collingwood Council?") has now been elevated in stature to that of a "Special Meeting of Council" with a call to order by Mayor Carrier. This is the appropriate procedural approach as per the Municipal Act, 2001.
Notwithstanding this change in status Councillor Chadwick will not be attending the subject meeting citing what he feels is V.O.T.E.'s "special interest group" status.
I believe that all of us have "special interests." Between his love of animals, tequila and numerous other interests, Councillor Chadwick is no exception. I applaud him for them, we would be a pretty boring race without them and they do stop me from patronzing his buiness. As far as Council's participation in a meeting called by V.O.T.E.? First it is a meeting open to the public, free of charge to anyone wishing to attend. Secondly, two pre-determined questions were submitted in advance to the members of Council so as to not blind-side anyone. The most siginifcant of the two dealt with spending and taxation, topics not of a "special interest" nature nor ones of specific interest just to members of V.O.T.E.
Not withstanding all of the procedural arguements one might engage or hide behind to defend not participating in a meeting such as this, being in public office brings with it certain obligations. Should I decide to run and occupy such a postion, I for one would feel a certain degree of obligation to meet with my constituents regardless of the forum. If that meant meeting with every group in Town for some purposeful dialogue to better our community, so-be-it. Each and everyone of us contributes to the renumeration of our municipal officials. As such, should false allegations of having a "special interest" absolve anyone from being held accountable to the people they were elected to serve? You comments please.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Real Estate Consumers Drug of Choice

Initial users of http://www.realtor.ca/ had some fairly strong opinions regarding both actual and perceived shortcomings of this newly launched website which replaces http://www.mls.ca/. An article in the Toronto Star entitled "Messing with our real estate crack" highlights both the issues and steps being taken by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to resolve the issues.
The writer will be attending a CREA meeting in Quebec City next week during which time I am sure an update will be provided relative to the ongoing tweaking and modifications of the new realtor.ca website. This very effective tool for consumers has become in recent years, the drug of choice for real estate junkies or even those less addticted, looking to buy or sell property across Canada. As was the case in the past, REALTORS® are no longer the gatekeepers of information. Our job is now to provide what information consumers want and never has this been more important than in the changing market conditions we are now facing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MLS.ca Becomes REALTOR.ca

With over 3 million visitors monthly, Canada’s most popular consumer real estate website http://www.mls.ca/ was recently re-launched as http://www.realtor.ca/ featuring an entirely new use interface. These two websites and their respective domain names are the property of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) which has 97,500 REALTOR® members across Canada.
Increasing, consumers everywhere are user the Internet to search for properties, agents and other real estate related information. Studies conducted by CREA indicated that consumers were of the opinion that http://www.mls.ca/ was the actual MLS® system used by REALTORS®. In reality http://www.mls.ca/ now known as http://www.realtor.ca/ is a consumer only website that allows both buyer and sellers, online access to current MLS® listed properties across Canada of which the sellers have authorized their uploading to the site. Rebranding this website to http://www.realtor.ca/ was done to (a) avoid any confusion that consumers had with thoughts that is was the actual MLS® system they were accessing and (b) using the name http://www.realtor.ca/ was felt to better represent the many and varied services that REALTORS® provide to consumers, some of which are highlighted via links on the new site. Anyone using or that has bookmarked http://www.mls.ca/ in their web browser, will automatically be re-directed to the new http://www.realtor.ca/ site.This new site features a number of improvements over the old interface, the most significant of which is the interactive mapping of active listings that is accomplished via the use of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth software. Consumers searching for properties of a specific type, price range and location will continue to receive downloaded information and photos about the available properties but will also have their property selections mapped for them. Given the fact that a growing number of buyers for Georgian Triangle area property do not reside full-time and are not overly familiar with the area, this mapping function is a great addition to the new website.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of Detroit

As a self-confessed car buff it has been interesting to follow the plight of the Big 3 automakers. In following the news coverage as well as comments from letters to editors etc., it would appear that politcians on both sides of the border and consumers at large have little sympathy these days for bailing out Ford, GM and Chrysler. Claims abound that these three car manufacturers are the most mismanaged companies in North America and I can not help but agree.
For years, Ford, GM and Chrysler through the 70's, 80's and 90's turned out vehicles of poor design and inferior quality forcing them to rely on rebates and zero percent financing gimmicks in order to get them sold. Remember such engineering marvels as the Vega, Chevy Citatation, Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Volare, the Gremlin, Ford Fairmont, Granada and countless others? All the while Toyota and Honda slipped onto the scene, responding to consumer's demands for better quality, more fuel efficient vehicles, quietly gobbling up marketshare while the Big 3 focused on profiteering from the sale of gas guzzling pickups and SUV's. To make matters worse, they agreed to the ridiculous contract demands of the UAW and CAW, inflating their labour costs above what Honda and Toyota pay their North American non-union employees, while at the same time driving pension and health care expenses for retirees into the stratosphere.
With the price of oil reaching record levels this year taking gas prices to almost $1.50 a litre, GM and Chrysler spent what little remaining cash they have reviving nostalgia with a 6.2 litre Camaro and a 6.1 litre Hemi Challenger. Don't get me wrong as a car lover I'd like to have either one those in my garage but neither are going to win back the North American car buyer.
Bailing these guys out with billions in financial aid will not stop the bleeding. Only a change in senior management at all three will curb the insatiable appetite that these companies have for cash. I would highly recommend their replacements receive a copy of the book titled "The End of Detroit" by Micheline Maynard before they get started. It may not provide all the answers but it is a fact based account of why the Big 3 aren't so big anymore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Norisle's Engine "Good As New"


Further to my prior posting see "A Piece of Collingwood's maritime Past" the Collingwood built steamship Norisle has recently undergone an evaluation of ship's steam engine and auxilary equipment. Volunteer members from the Ontario Steam Heritage Museum in southern Ontario surveyed the ship and while the Norisle is over 60 years old, the engine (see photo) and other working components are 1/10th that age in terms of service life.

The Norisle went into service in 1947 and was retired in 1974 hence it has a working life of just 27 years. Further, since the ship ran only on a seasonal basis from spring to fall, the actual operating age is much less. Steam engines of the type found in the Norisle typically had a service life of 100 years. Given the limited hours of actual run-time, the Norisle's engine was deemed to be good as new. Ontario Steam Heritage Museum staff removed a variety of the ships components which will be shipped to the museum for diassembly, reburbishment where required, testing and prepared for re-installation of the ship.

Hopefully the preservation group spear-heading this initiative will develop a viable business plan which will see the ship returned into service as a cruise vessel. Volunteers of all sorts have offered their expertise and service in helping to make this potentially happen. Watch for future postings as I endeavour to keep those interested abreast of the latest progress to restore into service, the last steam powered passenger ship to cruise the Great Lakes or visit Friends of the Norisle.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Outstanding Waterfront Condo

This "just listed" Collingwood waterfront condo offers a panoramic view of Collingwood's harbour, outstanding sunrises and SOLD in 1 week." Totalling 1,500 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths this impeccably maintained unit features numerous upgrades including a custom finished 5 piece ensuite with a ceramic tiled and plate glass enclosed shower, soaker tub and double vanity. Situated in a quiet enclave with an onsite swimming pool, boardwalk, walking trails and adjacent conservation lands this property offers a care-free lifestyle second-to-none! Contact me directly anytime at 705-443-1037 to book your personal viewing.
MLS# 20085420 Market priced at $375,000.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do You Have Questions for Collingwood Council?

Members of Collingwood's Municipal Council are now approaching the halfway mark of their four year term in office. Much has been accomplished yet numerous challenges and issues still remain to be dealt with in the next 2 years.
On Thursday November 27th V.O.T.E. (Voices Of The Electorate) Collingwood is sponsoring "An Evening with Collingwood Council." This is a "no charge" event open to all residents of Collingwood and any other parties interested in attending. I have been asked to moderate the evening's discussion during which time Council members will be asked to comment on the following two questions:

1.) What pressing issues do they see the Town facing in their remaining 2 years in office?
2.) What are their plans for spending and taxation?

In addition there will be a question and answer period where members of the audience can ask their municipal representatives questions that are of importance to them. This promises to be a very informative and enlightening evening and everyone is urged to attend and bring a friend.
Details for the evening are as follows:
Date: Thursday November 27, 2008
Time: 7:00 to 9:00pm
Place: Leisure Time Club, 100 Minnesota Street, Collingwood

Monday, November 3, 2008

Area Real Estate Sales Decline Sharply in October

After regaining strength in September following two months of slower sales in July and August, area real estate sales declined significantly in October with unit sales declining 48% from the same month last year. Sales revenue for the month totaled $26 million, a 52% reduction from the $54 million worth of real estate sold in October 2007. These results are based on the MLS® statistics of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board.
As they say, one month does not make a year and the fact remains that year-to-date sales to the end of October are in excess of $402 million which represents a lot of real estate. Both unit and dollar sales down 18% from the same period last year. In conversation with other real estate board Presidents across the Province many are reporting sales decreases that are more significant with YTD declines of 20% to 30%. This is further evidence that due largely to the demographic make-up of real estate buyers in this area, the Georgian Triangle is somewhat insulated from factors affecting market conditions elsewhere.
Out of all local municipalities, residential sales in Collingwood have held up well in 2008 with 223 residential properties having sold this year versus 244 in 2007, a decrease of 8.6%. Keep in mind that the sale of new homes at sites around town such as Georgian Meadows, Creekside and others are not included in these MLS® sales results, so overall Collingwood real estate is continuing to sell well given the job losses of recent years and current economic uncertainties.
In my next posting I will report on the year-to-date sales activity in other area municipalities.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Real Estate "Lockbox" Caper

As a REALTOR® it surprises me how many local residents do not lock their homes. Gone is the "age of innocence" and while most area municipalities are safe environs inwhich to live, failing to lock you home and car is simply an open invitation for thieves to take advantage of you.
During the selling process, the real estate community as as whole goes to great extremes to protect your home from unauthorized entry. The Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board's MLS® rules require that all property showings must be booked through and confirmed by the listing Broker's office. During the listing and sale process, your home is essentially in the custody and care of the REALTOR® with whom you have your home listed. Late in 2007, the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board implemented the mandatory use of "electronic" lockboxes on all residential property listings where applicable. These lockboxes faciliate easy showings of seller's properties yet offer the ultimate in security as they are accessed with a "Smart Card" which must be updated every 48 hours in order to work. Further, the electronic lockboxes track those persons that have been in your home thus providing a paper-trail of all showings as well as any entry to the property that was not made with the listing Brokerage.
Recently a story emerged in the U.S. whereby two individuals were charged with multiple counts of theft. The accused gained entry to their victim's homes via the old "mechanical" style of lockbox. One of the accused acquired the lockbox access codes through her employment with a real estate company that set-up property showings. Due to the lack of security provided by mechanical lockboxes, their manufacturers do not support their use in the real estate application. The electronic lockboxes used by local REALTORS® is the best means by which your home can be secured during the sale process. Even of your home is not for sale, do yourself a favour and always lock your doors at night or at any time when you are away even if only for a short time. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pond of cure."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Demographics Continues to Shape Our Area

Noted economist and demographer David Foot was recently in Town as the keynote speaker at the annual development conference organized by the Georgian Triangle Development Institute. Mr. Foot is perhaps best known for his book, Boom, Bust, Echo in which he detailed significant trends in our society all of which are largely driven by demographics.

As a REALTOR® there is a significant quote from his book first published in 1996 that has remained with me and is something I have re-quoted myself during various speaking engagements. "Real estate is affected far more by demographics that it is by economics..." After his talk at the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Foot and asked him as to whether the current economic turmoil had any impact on on his beliefs relative to the aforementioned 1996 quote? His response was an emphatic no although he did quantify it by saying that economic condtions overall are now affected more by global issues rather than just domestic ones.
As I have reported in the past, during the past 3 or 4 years we have seen a significant increase in the number of larger homes being purchased in our market. Many of these purchasers are retired empty-nesters for which common sense would question why such a large home for primarily two people? The answer has typcially been that all the addtional and largely unused space is for visitiors such as kids, grandchildren and others that visit to enjoy the recreational activities in the area. In addtion to this, 3rd and 4th bedrooms are often used not as bedrooms but as his and her offices. I asked Mr. Foot as to whether the current economic turmoil resulting in 20% to 30% reductions in many persons investment portfolios combined with higher home energy costs etc. would curtail this buying trend by retirees for larger homes. Again he said no stemming from the fact that a large demographic pool exists of people who have made and or inherited large sums of money and that they will continue and can afford to reward themselves with luxury homes, travel and other amenities all of which are well within their financial reach whether the overall economy is good or bad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Sad State of Politics


During the 1990's I lived in the U.S. for a period of four years which was an opportunity that provided a great social/cultural experience for my family as well as offering irreplaceable business experience for myself. As much as we enjoyed our time there, it wasn't home, it gave me a greater sense of appreciation for what we have in Canada and consequently I had no desire to remain there long-term. Given the current state of affairs south of the border, I am even more grateful to be back yet I have followed the Presidential race closely.
The procedure to elect a new U.S. President is a long and onerous one taking the better part of two years. They are a country at war, their economy is in a mess and the banking/financial community, well what can one say? They desparately need new leadership in place and quickly. The process is too long, too costly and has dragged on to the point where they have thrashed over all the relevent issues enough so as to allow Americans to make an informed decsion as to whom is best capable to lead the country in these troubled times. In the last couple of weeks the process has now become nothing more than mud-slinging and inconsequential rhetoric that fails to address the real issues facing the U.S. and indeed the world.
Case in point, Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, now a mere eight days from the election is dwelling on the accusations about her alleged $150,000 wardrobe. At a political rally yesterday Ms. Palin who insists she is just a hockey-mom and typical housewife went into great detail to say that her wedding ring was purchased by her, in Hawaii for $35.00. Further, she said it was in her pocket because it hurts when she shakes hands. Everyone knows that you shake hands with your right hand and not your left which is where you wear your wedding ring. Come on Sarah. She is either (a) not very bright (b) is being completely mishandled by Republican strategists or (c) is typical of many politicians that believes you can indeed fool all the people all the time. Why she is in the position she is in is completely beyond me and can only lead you to question the competence of John McCain and the Republican party for selecting such a weak personality as a Presidential running mate.
Ms. Palin has repeatedly demonstrated thoughout the campaign that she is far from qualified and or experienced for the postion being sought. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against women in politics or power and one need only look at Hazell McCallion the Mayor of Mississauaga or Margaret Thatcher's role as Prime Minister of Britain to realize just how capable some women are in the political environment. But Sarah Palin? Let's hope our neighbours to the south use some sound judgement come election day next Tuesday. God help them (and us) if they don't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Piece of Collingwood's Past Maritime Past



A piece of Collingwood’s shipbuilding heritage is potentially poised to make a comeback. The steamship S.S. Norisle was built in Collingwood in 1946 and was used by the Owen Sound Transportation Company for their ferry service from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island from 1946 to 1974 when the Collingwood build Chi Cheemaun went into service. At the time of its retirement in 1974, the Norisle was the last steam powered passenger ship operating on the Great Lakes.
Destined to be scrapped, the Norisle was purchased for one dollar by one of the municipalities on Manitoulin Island. For the past thirty-four years the ship has been permanently moored in Manitowaning, Ontario during which time it’s primary use has been as a museum piece. With the ever increasing cost of upkeep, the ship was deemed to be a liability and thoughts were seriously given to sinking it as an attraction for scuba divers. Upon learning of the not so distinguishing end to this once proud ship, a group of volunteers have surfaced, intent on re-commissioning the ship as a cruise ship for tourists in the same vein as the steamship Segwin which plies the Muskoka Lakes out of Gravenhurst.
Work was started this summer to halt further deterioration of the vessel and a major environmental clean-up was completed to remove all the asbestos insulation used to wrap the extensive network of steam pipes. Much of the work has been completed at the hands of volunteers while some of the work required by professionals was provided at their cost. Further, steam power enthusiasts from across North American have offered to refurbish many of the various engine parts just for the sheer joy of doing so and seeing the ship pressed back into service.
Of particular interest to the writer is that I worked for the Owen Sound Transportation Company a couple of summers in my teens, docking the Norisle and its sister ship the Norgoma at the South Baymouth ferry dock on Manitoulin island where to this day I own a cottage. My duties also included driving vehicles on and off the ships a task done by car drivers themselves using the Chi Cheemaun ferry.
The Norisle may once again cruise the waters of Manitoulin Island visiting picturesque ports such as Killarney and others. I wish the volunteers every success in fulfilling their dream to bring back the romance and nostalgia of steam power passenger ship travel on the Great Lakes. For those interested in learning more about this project visit http://www.norisle.com/ or watch the You Tube video.

September Real Estate Sales Show Renewed Strength

Following significantly slower sales activity in both July and August, the month of September brought with it a renewed interest in Georgian Triangle area real estate. Sales during the month of September totaled $43.7 million, up 5% from the $41.7 million sold in September 2007. Most notably was the fact that higher-end property sales were much stronger in September which has not been the case for much of 2008. For example, there were 2 sales reported over $1 million in September as compared to none in that price bracket during the same month last year.
Year-to-date sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board now total $376.9 million, down 13% from the $434.7 million sold in the first nine months of 2007. In terms of units, residential sales are down 15% with 1,460 properties having been sold this year as compared to 1,710 in the same period last year. The number of new listings that have come onto the market this year has increased by 8% with 4,745 new listings being reported thereby giving buyers plenty of selection. At the same time, expired listings total 1,880 which represents a 16% increased in expired over last year. Many sellers are still over-pricing their properties with the result being that they linger on the market, which only serves to sell other comparable properties which are priced realistically to current market conditions.

The 12 month average residential price for our market stands at just over $280,000 up slightly from the $278,838 average of 1 year ago. Prices throughout are market are remaining relatively stable with only those properties that were over-priced to start with decreasing to any significant degree once the sellers come to realize where they need to be price-wise in order to attract buyers.
Sales activity for the remaining 3 months of 2008 is predicted to remain stable albeit at a slower pace than in prior years. The fast approaching ski season with no doubt stimulate the sale of recreational homes and condos primarily in Collingwood and Town of the Blue Mountains. For more detailed information on current market conditions throughout the area see my 3rd quarter Georgian Triangle Real Estate Newsletter.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Area Real Estate Sales Rebound in September

After much slower sales in both July and August compared to the same months in 2007, real estate sales across the Georgian Triangle rebounded in September. Sales for the month were virtually identical to September 2007 excceding just over $41 million. Of further note was the fact that the sale of higher end properties appears to be bouncing back as there were two sales over $1 million and one over $1.5 million reported throught the local MLS® system in September compared to none in September of last year. At the same time, September did see a slowdown in the number of new listings that came onto the market during the month albeit a modest reduction of just 13 properties or 3% compared to September of last year.
Year-to-date MLS® sales throughout the Georgian Triangle market area now totals $374.8 million down by 14% from the $434.7 million sold in the first 9 months of 2007. Listing activity for the year has increased by 8% year-to-date while expired listings are up 16%. Many sellers are continuing to over-price their properties something for which there is very little tolerance for given current market conditions. With the number of resale listings having increased 8% plus with a good selection of new home/condo developments, buyers have a vast selection of listed properties to choose from and need not nor will they over-pay. Unlike prior years where it has been the sale of higher end properties that has driven our increased sales activity, such has not been the case thus far in 2008. Unit sales for properties valued above $350,000 are down 12% as buyers appear to be taking a wait and see attitude before proceeding with any purchase decisions. In m y next posting I wilolo review the year to date sale across the various area municipalities.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Read

The current issue of McLean's magazine has a cover story pertaining to the Canadian real estate market. As is the usual posture of the media, negative, sensationalisitic headlines draws attention and generates revenues through the sale of newspapers and magazines. My written response sent to the Editor of McLean's in my capacity as the President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board is as follows:

Jason Kirby’s article pertaining to Canada’s real estate market entitled “It Could Happen Here” is another example of fear mongering media sensationalism that offers little relevance to current real estate market conditions here in Canada.

Much of his article is based on the so-called expert opinion of an economist and as we all know, economists have historically had a poor track record of accurately predicting what is going to happen and when as is aptly illustrated in the current real estate and economic mess south of the border. In this case it’s an economist with Merrill Lynch and given their recent write-down of $40 billion U.S. in bad debt over the past year, their past lending practices are arguably part of the problem.

Your columnist Mr. Kirby states that “…tighter lending standards affecting first-time homebuyers might not knock the foundation out from beneath Canadian house prices.” The fact is tighter lending practices exist for Canadians in general and not just first-time homebuyers which has resulted in a much more stable banking and financial environment in Canada overall. Sloppy credit management practices driven by the greed of both lenders and over-zealous buyers coupled with a weak U.S. economy are not conditions that loom ominously on the Canadian economic horizon as you would have us believe making the title “It Could Happen Here” somewhat of a reckless, unsubstantiated statement.

Too often the media is quick to make statements as does Mr. Kirby relative to “average” house prices without qualifying this information. Ultimately “average” house prices are typically impacted more by the mix of product being sold versus price appreciation or depreciation. The average house price throughout the market can be positively driven upward when there is a significant increase in higher-end home sales. Conversely, increased activity at the lower end of the market tends to exert downward pressure on the average price. Quoting in the article that “in 2000 the average selling price of a house in a major Canadian market was $158,082” followed by “Earlier this year it hit $327,620” suggests to your readers that based on this information homes have increased on average by 107% in less than 8 years and nothing could be further from the truth. Without question, housing markets in Vancouver, Calgary and other western Canadian cities have been grossly over-heated and are due for a correction. Such is not the case across much of the country. Further, quoting examples such as a trailer home in Fort McMurray originally purchased for $190,000 now allegedly worth half a million dollars or a boarded up home in Detroit which was vandalized and subsequently sold for $1 are again hardly examples of the Canadian real estate market as a whole.

Most markets across Canada have had an abundance of properties listed for sale during the past several years giving buyers ample choices so “…streets cluttered with For Sale signs…” is not a new phenomena. A high inventory of homes available on most MLS® systems across Canada in recent years, our strong economic performance and attractive yet prudently managed lending practices have helped to fuel sales activity in recent years. Comments made by Merrill Lynch’s economist that on a national basis “houses are 9.2 percent overvalued” is but one person's opinion, as market pricing is ultimately driven by what buyers can and more importantly are willing to pay. Unless our economy shrinks drastically and or interest rates spike significantly, there is no reason to think that real estate market conditions in general will not remain stable yet balanced for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the impact of demographics as author David K. Foot stated in his book Boom, Bust, Echo “…the real estate market is affected far more by demographics than it is by economics.” Baby boomers approaching retirement, first-time buyers looking to move-up and others who are perhaps able to and choose to work from home, are but many of the “non-economic” drivers that will affect future real estate market conditions. It certainly will not be the $1 foreclosure sale in downtown Detroit.


I look forward to McLean's printing this letter in a forthcoming issue. Further, a year-to-date summary of current market conditions here in the Georgian Triangle will appear in my next posting.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Canada's Top 20 Places to Live

Collingwood was recently selected as one of the top 20 places to live in Canada based on an analysis performed by the staff of Relocate-Canada.com . In selecting the places chosen, Relocate Canada's staff used the following as part of their selection criteria.
1. Is the community represented on the Relocate Canada website?
2. Are local residents getting involved with input and town support?
3. Does the information submitted make us want to live there?

Item #1 is a little biased perhaps although I am not sure what constitutes getting your city or town listed on the Relocate Canada website. Item #2 is interesting and certainly very timely. It's hard not to notice Collingwood's residents involvement in town input and support. The recent upheavel over Collingwood Ethanol and the arrival of the Calgary based Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB) are good or perhaps bad examples of community involvement depending on your viewpoint. Lastly, those of us that currently reside here are very conscious of the many reasons why we want to be here so it's not hard to imagine the staff of Relocate Canada after reviewing all the information on the area not wanting to live hear as well.
The Enterprise-Bulletin covered this award in their September 19th edition and prior to doing so contacted me for my opinion as President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. Collingwood residents should feel proud that our town has received this recognition. The criteria used is no doubt multi-faceted but it goes without saying that the Collingwood area offers a quality of lifestyle second to none. This is all the more reason why all area municipalities must work diligently and cohesively to preserve what we have. This will not be accomplished by stopping the pending growth we are expecting but by managing it responsibly. Hopefully the Collingwood Ethanol situation will be resolved in such a manner as to alleviate the noise and odour problems that have plagued the plant and surrounding neighbours for months as well as allowing the facility to continue operating, maintaining the employment level that it generates. Perhaps a more significant issue pertaining to the plant's ongoing viability is the likelihood of ethanol enhanced gasolines becoming the fuel choice of the future. More on this in my next posting.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why Now is a Great Time to Buy

Despite all of the negative media coverage pertaining to the investment world, real estate conditions in the U.S. uncertainty about our own economy and a forthcoming federal election, now more that ever is a great time to buy real estate. Here are some of the main reasons why.

1.) There is a huge selection of residential properties throughout the Georgian Triangle both resale and new for buyers to choose from.

2.) Pricing remains stable and with the odd exception there are no bidding wars to artifically drive prices higher.

3.) Buyers have time on their side. With so much to choose from and sales running at a slower pace, buyers need not jump to make an offer for fear of loosing out. Find a REALTOR® willing to spend the time to educate you about the market and prepared to afford you as much time as it takes to find what best suits your needs and budget.

4.) No pressure means you can insert conditions into your offer that protects your interests ie: a home inspection, financing condition etc.

5.) Although interest rates have risen somewhat, the lending market is still very competitive allowing you the opportunity to get some very attractive financing. A mortgage broker can shop both conventional lenders ie: the major banks as well as other sources of mortgage financing to get you a great deal!

Many buyers appear right now to be taking a what and see attitude towards purchasing. There is no reason to think that prices in our market are going to fall like in the U.S. as the mortgage meltdown south of the border has nothing to do with Canadian real estate market condtions. As I currently am advising buyer clients, the only properties out there that are coming down in price significantly are those that were over-priced to begin with and there is no inclination in our market right now where buyers are willing to over pay.

Happy house hunting!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Sweet Smell of S....

The situation surrounding the ongoing controversy involving Collingwood Ethanol took a bizarre twist this past weekend with both a staged picketing of the plant and a massive telephone campaign that included automated calls to both personal and business phones attacking Mayor Carrier for his alleged "anti-business" attitude. As reported in the media, the telephone campaign was conducted by a Calgary based organization the Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB) which bills itself as a "business club."
While I am not always in agreement with Mayor Carrier and yes he has made some mis-steps in judgement, the real issue at hand is not his alleged anti-business stance. It's the fact that we have an industrial entity in our community that is exceeding Ministry of the Environment (MOE) standards for odour emissons by 115 odour units. The aceptable level is one (1) odour unit whereas MOE measurements taken back on June 11th recorded a level of 116 odour units. In its 15 months of operation, Collingwood Etahnol has embarked on a program to meet the emission requirements as set out in the Certificate of Approval. No doubt, converting an aged starch plant over to ethanol production was not as easy perhaps as everyone thought. Collingwood Ethanol have yet to reach their targeted objectives, claim they need more time above and beyond the date invoked upon them by the MOE to install and or modify their equipment and frustrations on all fronts are running high.
Two things in this ugly ongoing mess are certain. First, the time has long since past when the world can afford to ignore environmental infractions even if only involving odour. Too much environmental damage has already been created for current and future generations to clean-up. Perhaps if being a good corporate citizen were truly put to the forefront of their agenda Collingwood Ethanol would take a voluntary shutdown in order to complete the necessary improvements that will render them compliant with their Certificate of Approval. And what is installing a taller stack going to accomplish other that pushing the odour higher in altitude sending it to where Wasaga Beach or Elmvale? In launching a campaign such as last weekend's telephone extravaganza Collingwood Ethanol merely attempted to deflect the real issue at hand and is ducking their morale environmental and community responsibilities.
Secondly, you must ask yourself, is it realistic or sensible for any of us to believe that a Mayor or any politician for that matter would have an "anti-business" mandate. Hardly and that's where the hilarity in PGIB's accusations begin and end.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Horsing Around!

A recent newsletter circulating throughout the area reports that “Cedar Run,” better known as The Thornbury Horse Park is progressing favourably and that a significant amount of development work has thus far been completed.
Peter Lush the principal stakeholder in the project reports that “a group of highly talented and experienced individuals” has been assembled “to support our efforts to create a great Park.” Located near the junction of Grey Road 2 and Clark Street (aka the Clarksburg Sideroad) this facility will consist of a world-class equestrian facility, residential condominiums and other club amenities with Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain and the Beaver Valley as a backdrop. Work that is scheduled to be completed this year includes the construction of jumps, the building of a fourth pond, further establishment of grass in the competition areas and the completion of trails throughout the grounds etc.
Cedar Run is being billed as Canada’s first world-class multidisciplinary equestrian facility offering something for both equestrian enthusiasts and the general public alike. Once completed, the facility will host a variety of equestrian competitions and will have the potential to accommodate up to 1,700 horses at a time. Facilities/activities such as this are having a tremendous impact on diversifying the area’s recreational amenities making the Georgian Triangle area an increasingly desirable location for people of all interests to come. I wish the organizers of this bold venture every success with this exciting initiative.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zebra Mussels


In recent years, a significant amount of focus has been directed on the declining water levels in parts of the Great Lakes including Georgian Bay. The joint International commission looking into the matter was recently in Collingwood and other communities bordering the Great Lakes providing the public with an update as to their findings and ongoing studies.
Not so long ago, zebra mussels captured much of the news headlines pertaining to the Great Lakes whereas now they are all but forgotten in the media but are still very much in existence. We are fortunate in southern Georgian Bay where their advancement seems to have slowed somewhat. Some feel the low water levels may have actually helped curtail their growth locally, while further to the north end of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron they continue to flourish. We are fortunate to have so many sandy beaches in the area as smooth, rock free lake bottoms do not present an ideal environment for the mussels to establish themselves. Zebra Mussels prefer underwater rocks which can typically be encrusted with dozens of them. As a waterfront property owner on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron) we continue to see large populations of this pesky mollusk. More surprisingly however are the growing piles of zebra mussel shells that are washing up onto shorelines. This summer while boating I discovered several piles of what looked like at a distance to be a white, fine crushed gravel only to have closer inspection reveal that it was zebra mussel shells one to two feet deep (see photo.) The magnitude of these empty shells reinforces just how prolifically this foreign invader has entered the Great Lakes system and established themselves by the millions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The End of Telemarketers?

Like many businesses, the real estate profession continues to be impacted on a variety of fronts thus creating the need to look at alternate ways in terms of how we as REALTORS® conduct ourselves in the day-to-day activities of marketing and selling properties. Technology, changing consumer/economic trends and government legislation, have all contributed in recent years to alter the role of REALTORS® and way in which the real estate profession operates.
Coming this fall is the “National Do-Not-Call List. Commencing September 30, 2008 consumers will have an effective new tool with which to wage war against the dreaded forces of telemarketers. With this new legislation, telemarketers will not be permitted to call any consumer(s) whose number is listed on the national Do-Not-Call List (DNCL). Real estate brokers and salespersons ie: REALTORS® making unsolicited telephone contact are deemed as being “telemarketers” within the meaning of this legislation. This does not however preclude a REALTOR® from contacting consumers via other means such as direct mail. If a consumer, including “for sale by owners” places their telephone number on the DNCL then REALTORS® are not permitted to telephone or fax those persons. The main exceptions to this rule are calls to consumers who have given consent to be contacted. The Privacy Act already made it illegal for REALTORS® to contact the owners of properties for which the listing had expired and listing documents were subsequently changed to allow consumers to give their written consent to such contact. Further, the DNCL does not affect calls to a consumer with whom the REALTOR® has an existing business relationship nor does it pertain to calls made to a business telephone number.
REALTORS® are consumers as well and we too fall victim to the dinner hour calls by telemarketers selling all manner of goods and or services. The Do-Not-Call List is long overdue and like many of the other legislative changes that have impacted our profession in recent years is just one more requirement that will continue to change the face of organized real estate.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

July 2008 Real Estate Sales Soften

The months of July and August can often be somewhat unpredictable in terms of real estate sales and this year has thus far proven to be no exception. After posting abnormally strong sales in July 2007, this year July sales reflected a 31% decrease in revenue over the same month last year. MLS® sales throughout the Georgian Triangle totalled $42.7 million last month compared to $61.9 million in July 2007. A total of 173 residential units sold during the month versus 231 sales in July of last year which reflects a 25% decrease.
The hardest hit municipality was Wasaga Beach which saw the number of residential sales drop 54% from 52 sales in July 2007 to just 24 this past month. Sales results in other area municipalities for the month of July compared to July last year are as follows: Clearview -26%, Collingwood -15%, Town Blue Mountains -16%, Municipality of Meaford +18%, Grey Highlands -45%.
Area wide sales year-to-date are down 12% both in terms of units and dollars. Listing activity for the year has increased with the number of new residential MLS® listings in 2008 up 9%. Buyers currently have a abundance of MLS® listed properties available to choose from and with prices remaining stable, now is a good time to buy. For a complete synopsis of area real estate activity for the first 6 months of 2008, see my 2nd quarter Georgian Triangle Real Estate Newsletter

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Water Level Update

I spent this past week at my cottage on Manitoulin Island and was pleasantly surprised upon my arrival to see that since the last week of June, the water level on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay had risen significantly. After dipping near record low levels this past January, water levels in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay have rebounded thanks in part to last winter's heavy snowfall combined with an abundance of spring rain. Environment Canada reports that Lake Huron and Georgian Bay water levels are up 20 centimetres or 8 inches over July 2007. At the same time however Lake Huron is still 33 centimetres or 13 inches below its long term average. For those that were living in our area in the late 1980's, we are still 5 feet below those record setting levels. Last year saw Lake Superior's water level drop drastically last fall to its lowest level since 1926. This in turn affects the outflow of water to replenish Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Lake Superior as well has seen its water level return this year to near normal levels.
A five-year study is currently underway being conducted by the International Joint Commission that oversees the regulation of the Great Lakes. As previously reported in an earlier posting, the deepening of the St. Clair River both via dredging and erosion has been identified as one problem area that needs to be potentially addressed in order to stem the increased outflow of water from Lake Huron. Addtional information with respect to these issues can be obtained from the Georgian Bay Association.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Councillor Chadwick "Flamed"

The article in the July 23rd edition of the Enterprise-Bulletin entitled "Chadwick's blog, speed bumps criticized at council" is long overdue. Councillor Chadwick's use of his personal blog to continually attack the Mayor and and now criticize Town staff is unprofessional to say the least. If this type of behaviour was exhibited by an employee in the private sector world, you'd get a severance package handed to you pretty quick. It's hypocritical to denounce his fellow Council membcrs and criticize Town employees via his blog while constantly claiming that the Mayor does nothing to promote a co-operative and cohesive "team" effort at the Council table. Congratulations to Mayor Carrier, Councillor Edwards and Public Works Director Ed Houghton for standing up to and "flaming" this Council member as the EB article stated. Unless I am mistaken, this two time Councillor was hardly given a ringing endorsment by the voters in the last two elections finishing last on the list candidates to obtain his place at Council. Hopefully should he elect to run again, the voters of Collingwood will be the ones to "flame" him the next time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Rules for Government Backed Mortgages

Although the Canadian real estate market has softened in recent months, its overall condition is nowhere near the current if not worsening plight of the U.S. market. The sub-prime mortgage mess south of the border is the result of lending practices that are not part of the Canadian mortgage landscape and the Government of Canada has annouced further rules to ensure that it never does.
Amongst the new lending measure that will come into effect are:

1.) The maximum amortization period for new government backed mortgages is capped at 35 years.
2.) A minimum down payment of five (5) percent is required for all new government backed mortgages.
3.) A new minimum "consistent" credit score requirement has come into effect along with new loan documentation standards.

While attending a real estate conference in the U.S. where considerable dialogue took place regarding the melt-down of the sub-prime mortgage market, it was learned that in many instances credit checks were not done on borrowers. Even worse, lenders granted mortgages without obtaining verification of the borrower's income. In many instances a borrower simply signed the mortgage application after which the lender filled in the person's income to whatever level was required to secure the desired mortgage amount.
The new regulations come into effect this October and only apply to new mortgages. Private mortgage lenders/insurers are still free to offer mortgages with amortization periods of 40 years and 100% mortgage financing should they so desire however the lack of government backing on these loans will result in higher risk and increased costs to consumers in order to insure these loans.
Through these initiatives, the government intends to ensure that the Canadian housing market remains strong while reducing the risk of a U.S. style housing castastrophy, something for which we will all benefit.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Buying A Recreational Property


A large segment of the Georgian Triangle treal estate market consists of buyers looking to purchase a recreational property. No longer known primarily for skiing, Collingwood and the surrounding area offers a true four season recreational lifestyle making it the ideal location to purchase a recreational condominium, chalet, waterfront home or other property to use year round.

Buying a recreational property differs significantly from the purchase of a full time home. If you are contemplating a recreational property purchase I am please to offer the following video via Royal LePage TV "Tips On Buying A Recreational Property" detailing some of the considerations you need to be familiar with regarding the purchase of recreational real estate. More importantly, utilizing the services of a competent REALTOR® will ensure that any Agreement of Purchase and Sale you submit, will contain the necessary conditions and clauses relative to the various issues that need addressing prior to firming up your purchase.
At Royal LePage, Helping YOU is What We Do!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ceating Curb Appeal

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but when it comes to houses, the exterior can be just as important as the interior if selling or buying.
When selling, it is the outside, or the home’s curb appeal that often determines whether the inside is ever seen. How a house 'shows’ from the street can tell a potential buyer a lot about what it may be like inside. Even if the inside is the sparkling, charming, structurally sound dream home they’ve been searching for, a buyer is not going to forget a cracked driveway, fallen shutters, overgrown grass and flower beds.
That’s why most REALTORS® recommend a house not be seen for the first time at night. If you have no choice but to view homes at night, always be sure to drive past them during the daytime before making any final decisions.
For sellers, there are many ways to enhance the exterior of a home to achieve the curb appeal necessary to attract prospective buyers. Start by taking a close, objective look at your home from the curb. Be sure to view it from different angles. Ask friends and neighbors for their unbiased opinions. What are the appealing features? What’s not so appealing? What can you do to improve its appearance?
Are the shrubs untrimmed? Are there broken doors and windows, loose screens and railings? Does the exterior trim, or entire surface, need a paint job?
The interior may be clean, without a leaky faucet, cracked floor or loose door hinge in sight. But if the exterior roof, gutter, walls, driveway, garage and yard look dirty and untidy, chances are you’re not going to get a lot of potential buyers knocking at the door.
Creating curb appeal is making your home inviting from the outside—where first impressions begin. This doesn’t mean spending a great deal of money remodeling and renovating. Adding a new front verandah might add a lot of curb appeal, but so will a couple of wicker chairs and potted flowers by the front door—at a lot less cost.
Here are some more tips for making the outside of your home attractive and inviting:

Clean up the yard
Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flower beds, get rid of dead trees and shrubs; get rid of any broken lawn furniture; shovel the walk and driveway in winter; rake the yard in the fall.

Repair any problems
If the roof is damaged, repair it. Also repair any doors and windows that have loose hinges or other damage; fix storm doors and window screens; caulk window exteriors; clean and repair sidings and other structural flaws.

Eliminate clutter
If you have yard and construction debris piled up along the side of the house, or elsewhere, get rid of it. The exterior of your home should be as uncluttered in appearance as the interior. This includes cleaning out the garage - a major breeder of clutter. Be ruthless. If you haven’t used something in a year, give it to charity or recycle it.

Give siding a fresh new look
Cleaning the exterior surface is all your home may need for a fresh new face. Before rushing to paint siding, try washing it. For painted wood siding and aluminum siding, use a solution of one cup strong detergent and one quart chlorine bleach in three gallons of water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, goggles and other protective garments. Work from the bottom up and rinse thoroughly.To spruce up vinyl siding, hose it down, sponge it with a mild liquid detergent and rinse.

Use paint to brighten, re-proportion exterior
A paint job can do wonders for the exterior of a home. A low house can look more graceful and tall from the curb by emphasizing its vertical features. Paint elements such as doors, shutters and corner trim in a color that contrasts with the siding material or color. On a high home, emphasize horizontal by using a contrasting paint color on window sills and fascia boards. You can also make a tall house look lower by painting it a dark color, provided that the roof is dark too. Conversely, a light color will make a home look larger.

Co-ordinate the exterior 'look’
The more co-ordinated your house looks from the outside, the more appealing it will be. Co-ordinate the 'look’ of your home by painting the garage, tool shed, playhouse and other outdoor structures with the same color schemes as the house. If your house is a mixture of conflicting textures - vertical siding, shingles and brick, for instance—try painting them all the same color, or in two related shades of the same color, to create a harmonious look. Dark tones work best when working with conflicting textures.

Use flower power
Well-placed flowers, trees and shrubs can really make the outside of a home look inviting. Not only does attractive landscaping invite buyers, it can increase the value of a home. Even without major landscaping, flowers can make a yard look colorful and pleasant. Plant them in garden beds, hang them from railings and porch ceilings, add flower boxes to window sills. There is no limit to the power of flowers.

At night, highlight garden features with spotlights and floodlights. Well-lit paths and entrances promote safety, discourage burglars and are an added feature to any home. A pretty wreath on the door and a welcome mat will finish things off.
Note: These tips are courtesy of the writer in conjunction with the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Area Sales Decline 28% in June.

Residential sales in the Georgian Triangle declined in June marking the 4th consecutive month in 2008 of decreased sales activity compared to the same period last year. Unit sales in June were 28% lower than in June 2007 while dollar revenue dropped 29% from $63 million in June 2007 to $45 million this past month. Listings in June increased by 11% and expired listings for the month increased by 22%.
Year-to-date sales of $248.5 million are now 7% below the first six months of 2007. Residential unit sales through the end of June total 952 versus 1,050 for the first half of 2007 a decrease of 98 properties sold or 9%. At the same time, listing activity has increased by 9% with 3,188 new properties coming onto the market in the first six months of the year. Expired listings have also increased as 1,086 listings have expired through the end of June a year-to-date increase of 10%.
At this mid-way point for the year, the Town of Collingwood is the only municipality in our area with a year-to-date increase in residential sales. Through the end of June, 136 MLS® residential sales have been reported in Collingwood compared to 134 in the first six months of 2007 reflecting a modest increase of 1.5%. Other municipalities in the area have seen residential sales decreases ranging from 7% to as high as 19%. The Summary of year-to- date residential sales by municipality is as follows:
Mulmur unchanged from 2007, Municipality of Meaford -7.1%, Clearview Township -8.2%, Tiny Township and Town of the BLue Mountains both down -14.3%, Wasaga Beach -15.6% and Grey Highlands -18.9%.
Unlike prior years which saw the upper end of the market driving sales activity, 2008 thus far has seen a decrease in residential sales across most pricing segments of the market above $350,000. A total of 159 MLS® residential sales above $350,000 have taken place in 2008 versus 171 in the first six months of 2007 a decrease of 7.0%. Eight sales over $1 million have taken place this year as compared to 11 in 2007 a decline of 27.3%. The 12 month average residential sale price is holding at $283,000 up slightly from $279,000 in June of 2007.
Residential sales activity is expected to remain constant for the remainder of 2008 with greater sales activity in the low to middle price segments of the market. The high number of active MLS® property listings has created a environment where buyers have plenty of choices and this will keep price increases to a minimum thus resulting in balanced market activity for 2008.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Money Laundering Terrorist Financing Bill Takes Effect

Effective June 23, 2008 new federal money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations came into effect which affects REALTORS® across Canada.
Since 2001 when the Canadian government first established anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation, we as REALTORS® have been legally required to report any cash transactions of $10,000 and more as well as any real estate transactions that appeared suspicious in nature. This latest legislation known as BILL C-25 the federal Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), adds significant new reporting requirements for licensed real estate Sales Representatives and Brokers.
REALTORS® are now required by law to ask for, verify and document the personal information of buyers and sellers including date of birth and occupation. This identification must be supported by some form of government issued documentation which includes a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or residency card. Provincial health cards are not acceptable and consumers are urged not to disclose their Social Insurance Numbers for the purpose of provding ID. Further, under this new legislation REALTORS® and their respective brokerage offices are required to complete a “Receipt of Funds Record.” This document must be completed for any amount of funds received whether it is cash, cheque or any other form and must include information pertaining to the individual real estate transaction to which the funds are being applied.
In order to comply with federal law, REALTORS® must retain your personal information on file for a period of five (5) years. It will not be used in any commercial way and will not be provided to anyone except to a request by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the federal agency responsible for compliance.
These new compliance requirements which supersede the Privacy Act, is Canada’s newest legislative attempt to curtail money laundering and terrorist financing. FINTRAC collects, analyzes and discloses financial information and intelligence on suspected money laundering and terrorist financing activities. Those of us engaged in the real estateb profession along with financial institutions, lawyers, accountants and others are now required by law to assist in combating criminal activities through the use of illicit, money laundered funds. Thanks to the proliferation of organzied crime and terrorist groups known to reside in this country, it would appear that the age of innocence for Canadians is over.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Information Highway


Back in November of last year I commented on the 50 kilometre per hour speed limt that had just been established on Highway 26 east and west of Collingwood. Earlier this week, one of my REALTOR® colleagues fowarded to me a website he discovered called "Speed Trap Exchange." I'm am a big user of technology and the Internet for both business and personal use. It continues to amaze me however the type and detail of information that is available to us online.

Speed Trap Exchange is a website that has been developed by someone with apparently too much time on their hands and includes a plethora of information pertaining to speeding including listing the common U.S. and Canadian locations for police to montior via radar, how to fight a speeding ticket and more. Yes, Collingwood has made the speed trap listings on this website and you guessed it, the 50 KM zones are front and centre.

I am not an advocate of speeding and with the high cost of both gas and insurance, I find myself more that ever watching the speed at which I drive. The point of this posting is merely to point out the vast array of information available to us online. In it's infancy, the so-called "information highway" was described as nothing more than a bumpy road. Now more than ever with the endless array of information available to us, it is progressing more and more towards being the information super highway that was promised. To visit "Speed Trap Exchange" click on the link below:

http://www.speedtrap.org/index.html

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top Renovations That Yield The Best Return

Although sales remain strong throughout our area, current market conditions are such that through the end of May, listings have increased 7% over last year while expired listings are up 25% both factors of which are above the 4% increase in sales. The end result is that there are a significant number of properties for sale both resale and new, giving buyers lots to choose from. When listing properties for sale, many clients seek input on what their home requires in order to present it to prospective buyers in such a manner as to obtain the best possible selling price in the shortest length of time.
Many sellers invest money on renovations or improvements that offer little or no return on their investment much less do they enhance their home in the eyes of prospective buyers. At the same time, sellers often ignore the basic improvements that will improve the salability of their homes, making them more difficult to sell. In my book, honesty is always the best policy and sometimes you have to be brutally frank with sellers when it comes to preparing their home to sell.
Royal LePage has recently conducted a study that identifys the top renovations which add equity to your home while making it more appealing to potential buyers. These include basics such as painting, decorating, updating light fixtures and more. To see the full Royal LePage report including estimated rates of return, please click on the following link:
http://www.royallepage.ca/CMSTemplates/AboutUs/Company/CompanyTemplate.aspx?id=1740

Monday, June 2, 2008

Area Real Estate Sales Off 21% in May.

Residential MLS® real estate sales for the month of May throughout the Georgian Triangle fell 21% compared to the same month last year. Sales for the month totalled $48.9 million versus $62.1 million in May 2007. After a strong start to 2008 with brisk sales activity in January and February, May marks the third consecutive month where sales have fallen below the same month last year. A total of 134 unit sales were reported in May as compared to 170 sales in May 2007, also a decrease of 21%. Residential sales during May were down in the municipalities of Clearview, Grey Highlands, Meaford and Wasaga Beach whereas Collingwood and Town of the Blue Mountains posted unit sales gains over May of 2007.
Despite significantly softer sales in May, year-to-date sales throughout the area continue to remain strong. Total year-to-date sales revenue is just over $202 million as compared to $204 million for the first five months of 2007. Residential unit sales through May total 765 properties compared to 797 sales for the same period in 2007, a decrease of 4%.
New residential listings in May increased slightly over May of last year totaling 621 versus 615 in May 2007. Year-to-date, new residential listings are up 7% to 2,576 properties while expired listings are up 9% to 856 properties as compared to 787 last year.
Please note that these results represent only the MLSC listings and sales reported through the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board and do not include the sale of new residential homes and condominiums done by developers. New development sales activity throughout many of the local municipalities such as Collingwood and Wasaga Beach is substantial, indicating that despite a slowdown for three consecutive months in MLS® resale activity, overall the local market continues to perform very well.
For further information or for a no-obligation consultation pertaining to your specific real estate needs, please feel free to contact the me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Home & Condo Buyers Beware!

Ontario's new home warranty program which is now known as Tarion Warranty Corp. has a provision within its warranty policy that has the potential to impact thousands of new home and condominium buyers in Ontario.
Most reputable builders are registered with TARION which provides buyers with various degrees of warranty coverage up to a maximum of 7 years on specific elements of the property. A problem arises however when the home is re-sold by the original purchaser(s) and never occupied. Despite a property all ready being registered under the TARION warrantry program by the builder, TARION requires that the "sellers" of the property must also become registered with TARION at a cost of $600, in those instances where they have not occupied the dwelling and are simply re-selling or flipping it. Failure to do so can result in the property's owners being fined up to $25,000 and or imprisoned for up to one year.
This little known caveat within the TARION warranty program appears to make little sense in terms of protecting consumers and serves only to fatten TARION's coffers with every $600 registration fee they collect from the resellers of unoccupied properties. If you are contemplating purchasing a new home or condo strictly as an investment to resell without anyone ever living in it, please note your obligation to register with TARION. The fee of $600 while seemingly nothing more than a money grab is much less than the consequences of not registering and getting caught!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Rules for Lawyers

On March 28th, the Law Society of Upper Canada passed an amendment to their Rules of Professional Conduct that will have an impact on most real estate transactions.
Unlike REALTORS®, lawyers are no longer able to act on behalf of both parties ie: Buyer and Seller in the transfer of title for real property. Two separate lawyers will be required to represent the parties to a given transaction. It is permissable for two lawyers from the same firm to act on behalf of the parties as long as the general rules pertaining to a conflict of interest are followed. After numerous consultations with members of the bar and real estate practitioners, it was felt that in order to minimize any chances of conflict of interest, this amendment should be adopted. In specific circumstances one lawyer can act on behalf of two parties ie: when the Buyer and Seller are one in the same or where property is being transferred from one spouse to another etc.
This recent change by the Law Society begs the question, how long will it be before similar legislation is brought forth with respect to the activities of REALTORS®? Real estate agents face the same potential for a conflict of interest when selling one of their own listings, representing both the Buyer and the Seller. It is an absolute necessity that all parties are aware of, understand and consent to in writing this form of agency relationship in a real estate transaction. I suspect the day will come when as is now the case within the legal profession, two REALTORS® will be required to handle a given transaction and there will be no more of what is affectionately known as "double-ending."
Being a customer or a client are NOT one in the same. If you have any questions with respect to whom is working for whom in a real estate transaction please do not hesitate to contact the writer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The High Cost of "FREE" Parking!


Today while my car was in for service, I walked from my office at First and Cedar Streets to Hurontario Street for banking and other errands. I realized that making the trip as a pedestrian was more convenient than driving. Ever since the Town of Collingwood implemented the two hour free parking on Hurontario Street it has become almost impossible to find a parking space during normal business hours especially in the first two blocks from First to Third Streets. While the rationale here was to encourage shopping in the downtown core, personally I find that free parking is in fact driving me away from downtown except for those needs where I simply have no other choice ie: to bank.
Donald Shoup a university professor at UCLA has written a book titled "The High Cost of Free Parking." It is estimated that in most municipalities across North America there is at least 4 parking spots for every 1 car making parking the biggest form of land use in most cities and towns. With so much land consumed for parking we have no business giving it away for FREE no matter what the duration. Think about it! You have a parking space at work, at your church, at the mall, at the theatre, at your doctor's office and yes in downtown Collingwood. Perhaps the number of spaces per car is a lot higher than 4, no one really knows.
While circling around downtown trying to find a place to park, we're burning increasingly expensive fossil fuels, discharging harmful emissions into the air all the while creating additional traffic congestion and wear and tear on our streets. I and I suspect most responsible citizens would gladly spend a few quarters to eliminate such waste and harm to our environment not to mention the lost time searching for a parking space. I for one would gladly PAY for the convenience of being able to find a space quickly when I need it. Spending more time to park compared to the purpose of my trip downtown is just ridiculous especially when the town is loosing some much needed revenue. The added irony also here is that we have an anti-idling bylaw to curb emissions which with the added driving being created by drivers looking for a place to park makes no sense at all.
In Shoup's book he uses Old Towne Pasendena California as an example. The downtown core was suffering with merchants claiming it was due to inadequate parking. The reality was people who worked in the area consumed most of the parking leaving customers to drive around searching for a space to park. Sound familiar? A new policy was adopted whereby parking rates were implemented that would maintain an 85% occupancy rate. Determining the appropriate rate to charge ensures that there is always a 15% vacancy rate with 2 or 3 empty spaces always available per block. Shoup also maintains that if you need to impose a limit on parking, you are simply not charging enough!
The parking revenues collected were not deposited into Pasendena's general municipal coffers but were used to enhance and maintain the downtown core. Once that happened the local business community rallied with improvements of their own resulting in the complete revitalization of the area into a bustling and vibrant economic sector of the city. Maintaining or worse, increasing the amount of parking available only serves to increase "sprawl" thus making public transit and pedestrian travel even more difficult to maximize.
The issue of parking should not be treated as a matter of politics. Town planners receive no formal training with respect to parking yet planning departments in most municipalities dictate to developers the parking capacity they must offer. It's time to stop this free parking boondoggle and I commend the Councillors that voted against it in the first place. The only free space the Town should be considering is parkland which we have far too little of especially along the waterfront.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the high cost of free parking, click on the following link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/06/03/EDGFGD1VQ61.DTL

How To Select A Good REALTOR®

Too often, REALTORS® and salepeople in other fields often earn themselves a negative image in the eyes of consumers. While on ocassion this is the result of a deliberate action(s) on the part of the salesperson, more often than not the intentions of the person involved are good but are poorly executed. When picking a REALTOR® to assist you with what may very well be the largest monetary purchase you will ever make, the following are a few key quality and or attributes to look for.

- REALTORS® hear what their clients say but a good REALTOR® listens.
- REALTORS® make deals, a good REALTOR® helps clients buy and sell properties.
- Some REALTORS® will get stressed over a sale, a good REALTOR® stays calm and never loses their composure.
- With some REALTORS® is all about "me," with a good REALTOR® their emphasis is always on their client(s).
- Some REALTORS® will claim that they entered the real estate profession to help people however the trusted REALTOR® will admit that they are in real estate to make a living but do so by putting their client(s) first.
- Some REALTORS® will admittedly and desparately work with anyone. Trusted professional REALTORS® will selectively work with clients that appreciate their hard work, knowledge and dedication to their profession.

These are but just a few of the attributes that makes for a good REALTOR® or saleperson in general. As a professional, full-time REALTOR® I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible. My Mission Statement concisely sums up that goal: Dedicated to protecting and placing my client's interests first, by providing a level of integrity, knowledge and professionalism that will exceed your expectations."
Whether buying or selling, I would be delighted to assist you in achieving your real estate objectives. To learn more, visit my website http://www.propertycollingwood.com/

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rural Property Septic Systems

Given the ongoing need as a REALTOR® to stay abreast of ongoing legislative and other changes pertaining to property ownership, I attended two seminars this week sponsored by the local real estate Board of which I am President. These seminars dealt with rural property ownership and covered issues pertaining to drinking water and water treatment systems as well as onsite residential wastewater systems more commonly referred to as "septic systems."
These excellent, highly information sessions were conducted by representatives from the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre. This organization was formed in 1998 by the University of Guelph's School of Engineering in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority as well as a variety of industry and government stakeholders. The organization's mission is: "To promote environmentally sustainable development of rural and unsewered areas through the effective use of wastewater treatment and dispersal technologies." This is done by providing training, reserach and demonstration(s) in areas of residential and small community waste water treatment as well as nutrient and agri-food wastewater management.
The Ontario Building Code is responsible for enforcing the proper construction, replacement, repair or expansion of all onsite sewage treatment systems. Once installed it is the property owner's responsibility to ensure that their onsite system is operated and maintained in such a manner as to not pose any threat to public health or contriubte to degradation of the environment. When a property is being sold, the seller is legally obligated to disclose any defects in their system which they may be aware of and it is the duty of both the seller's and buyer's REALTORS® to include the necessary clauses and or conditions in an Agreement of Purchase and Sale to protect all parties involved while satisfying all legal and environmental requirements.
The environment continues to play an ever-increasing role in the sale of property, rural or otherwise. Organizations such as the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre play an important role in public environmental education and awareness something for which we will all benefit. For further information visit their website at: www.orwc.uoguelph.ca/index.htm

Monday, May 5, 2008

April Real Estate Sales Update

Area real estate sales during the month of April were off slightly with MLS® unit and dollar sales down 2% from April 2007. A total of 187 properties were sold in April versus 190 during the same month last year and dollar volumn dropped from $48.5 to $47.4 million for the month. Based on strong sales through January and particularly in February, year-to-date sales throughout the area remain above last year's results for the first four months with unit sales up 3% (578 versus 560) and dollar revenue up 7% from $141.9 million in 2007 to $152.4 million this year.
The municipalities of Clearview and Meaford are showing the largest unit sales gains over last year with increases of 43% and 34% respectively. Residential unit sales in Grey Highlands are up 7%, whereas sales in the Town of the Blue Mountains are down approximately 5%, Wasaga Beach is down 11% with sales in the Town of Collingwood and Mulmur Township unchanged from last year. As in prior months, activity at the upper end of the market remains strong with sales over $350,000 up 18% and sales above $500,000 up 23%.
The number of residential new listings that have come on the market through the first four months of the year stands at 1,925 up from 1,803 last year, an increase of 7%. The number of expired listings has increased from 181 in the first four months of 2007 to 205 this year, an increase of 13%.
Note: The statistics quoted herein represent MLS® sales and listing activity as reported by the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. If you have a specific request for additional information, please contact the writer.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Street Reconstruction Started

The long standing joke is that Canada has two seasons, winter and road construction. Relative to Collingwood the latter is a good thing as the pace of growth in our town has certainly exceeded the implementation of infrastructure (road) improvements.
Collingwood Municipal Utility Services recently issued a "Construction Newsletter" summarizing the reconstruction of First Street from Minnesota through High Streets. In preparation of the forthcoming roadwork which will start later this summer (pending budget approval), utility companies including COLLUS, Bell and Rogers have commenced relocating their respective services hence the large trench in front of the LCBO. Trenching will be required along both the north and south sides of First Street for cable and wiring installations with other work including the removal and or relocation of utility poles etc.
With First Street essentially performing the role of a Provincial highway (#26) through town, this work is long overdue and when completed will be a welcomed relief to both motorists and pedestrians alike. According to the town's newsletter, every attempt will be made to minimize traffic disruptions and access to both businesses and residences alike, but they are bound to happen and everyone is urged to exercise both caution and patience during this period of construction.
Hopefully this reconstruction work will incorporate some of the suggestions brought forth in the Vision 20/20 document of a few years ago, suggestions that were intended not only to improve traffic flow but to also enhance the First Street landscape. As a community whose economy is increasingly tied to tourism and that of being an attractive and desirable place for persons to retire, it is imperative that a positve image and impact is made on both visitors as well as those just passing through on their way elsewhere.
If you wish to obtain a copy of the town's construction newsletter, please feel free to email me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Manufacturer Goes "Up-In-Smoke!"


Like the cranes that once towered over the shipyards property, another "pinnacle" of the area's industrial history in poised to come down. The smokestack at Kaufman Furniture is about all that remains of this once proud manufacturing entity that produced world renown high quality residential and commercial furniture.
Changes in both the domestic and global economy have changed the manufacturing landscape everywhere not only economically, but physically as this picture depicts. Domestic North American manufacturers typcially engaged in what was often referred to as "smokestack" industries such as the production of steel, paper, rubber and other commodity products have fallen victim to lower wage based economies like China and India. This shift in highly labour intensive commodity manufacturing is forcing Canada and other higher wage based countries to refocus and re-deploy their workforces in industries where technical and intellectual expertise supercedes basic "gruntwork" relative the the wages being paid.
With the odd exception, the area's economy has yet to benefit significantly from the shift to knowledge and technology based industries. We have no Research In Motion, Sandvine or Redline Communications all three of which are not located in a major city yet are amongst the 50 fastest-growing Canadian technology companies . Perhaps it's time we did? Perhaps the toppling of the Kaufman smokestack will symbolize the rebirth of industry in Collingwood. An industry not of flying sparks from a shipbuilder's welding torch or sawdust from a cabinet maker's saw, but an industry that will leverage the intellectual knowledge and technical expertise of today's employment pool. Or will the smokestack be replaced by the neon signs of retail outlets like Giant Tiger, Future Shop or that of another venue such as a convention centre?
The demolition of the Kaufman plant including the landmark smokestack signifies more than just the elimination of a building. As in many cities and town's across North America it symbolizes the changing landscape of today's economy and unlike Cheech and Chong's movie "Up In Smoke," this story-line is not very funny.

Contact Me

Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

330 First Street, Collingwood, ON L9Y 1B4



Email:
rickcrouch@propertycollingwood.com



Direct: 705-443-1037



Office: 705-445-5520 ext 230




Website:
www.rickcrouch.realtor















My Profile

Rick relocated to Collingwood from Toronto in 1985 through a transfer with Goodyear Canada. In 1987 Rick was recruited by a major client of Goodyear’s, managing their Canadian business based in Barrie before moving to Chicago in 1992 as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Upon returning to Canada in 1996, Rick ran an industrial products manufacturing company in Stratford, Ontario. In 1998 Rick returned to Collingwood with his two children. Rick is a licensed real estate Broker with Royal LePAGE Locations North in Collingwood and holds his MVA designation (Market Value Appraiser-Residential). He is an active volunteer in the community serving several years on the Board of Directors with the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, 6 years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® of which he is the Past President (2008) and currently serves on a committee with the Ontario Real Estate Association. Rick is a diverse executive manager with extensive experience in strategic planning, manufacturing, finance, human resources and quality assurance management.