Sunday, January 27, 2008

Selecting and working with a REALTOR®

Buying or selling a home in today’s market requires a lot of work and a lot of knowledge about sales and real estate. It’s one of the largest purchases or biggest business transactions many of us will ever make. It doesn’t pay to depend on blind luck.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, there are distinct advantages to using a local REALTOR®. A local REALTOR®, is a licensed real estate professional who is a member of the Georgian Triangle Real Eastate Board, as well as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and, in Ontario, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
This individual has the experience and qualifications needed to successfully conduct a purchase or sale. In Ontario, you can expect strict adherence to provincial law and a code of ethics. This ensures you receive the highest level of service, honesty and integrity.

If you are a Buyer

In today’s busy, complex world, purchasing a home can be a lot more time-consuming and complicated than other business transactions. First-time buyers, especially, quickly discover that there’s a lot more to buying real estate, than deciding what vacation to take or what car or suit to buy.
Using a REALTOR® from the start can provide you with the sound , effective advice and professional services you need to get the best deal possible. Once a REALTOR® has a clear understanding of what you want and what you can afford, their knowledge can save you a lot of time looking at homes that aren’t right for you.
A local REALTOR® can pre-screen properties so that you should only have to visit a handful of homes to make an informed and wise selection.
Much of the early search with a REALTOR® can be done through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) and preliminary discussions. As you visit and react to each home you see, the REALTOR® will have an increasingly better idea of what you want and don’t want.
A REALTOR® will also be able to advise you on the various options available for financing a home and tell you when to bring in other experts such as a lender, home inspector, lawyer and insurance agent.

If you are a seller

Sometimes a seller will be tempted to sell their home on their own, believing it will save them the cost of the real estate commission. But, selling a home is a very complex procedures, involving large sums of money, stringent legal requirements and the real potential for very costly mistakes.
Just as most of us lack the knowledge to do a major repair on the family car, most sellers lack the depth of knowledge, experience and amount of time needed to sell a home on our own. A REALTOR® not only has the qualifications and expertise, but is committed to spending the time it takes to get the best deal possible.

Selecting a REALTOR®
Before you make a REALTOR® part of your team, it pays to shop around and sharpen up those interviewing skills. The REALTOR® you select should be someone who knows the neighborhood you live in or want to live in; who can provide you with sound, effective advice; and who has broad and current knowledge of today’s real estate market.
Begin by identifying several candidates and interviewing at least two or three before making a final decision. If you were pleased with the services provided by the REALTOR® who helped you make a previous sale or purchase, he or she may be your best choice.
Jot down the names and telephone numbers printed on “For Sale” signs you notice around the neighbourhood, in local real estate ads or publications. Also, ask friends, family and business associates to recommend some names.

Interviewing REALTORS®
The REALTOR® you select should be someone who shows genuine interest, knows the current real estate market and has a good track record in the sale and purchase of properties you’re interested in. This individual should make you feel comfortable and that they have your best interest in mind.

Be sure to get a resume and references and to ask questions such as:

- How long have you and the firm been in business? How many homes have you sold in the last six months? How close were the sale prices to the asking prices? What price range of homes do you generally handle?
- Do you provide multiple listing of your property through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®)? (This service provides access to a much broader base of potential buyers.)
- If selling: How will you market my property? Will the marketing plan include an open house for other REALTORS® and regular open houses for prospective buyers, advertising and flyers? How did you establish the suggested selling price for this home? Was my home compared to those sold recently in the neighborhood and to those currently on sale? What tips and hints can you offer to make my home show better.
- What will using your service cost me?

If the REALTOR® looks enthusiastic about selling your home or helping you buy one, and appears confident in their ability, consider hiring them. But first check their references or talk to people who have recently sold or purchased property through them. Most people who have had a positive experience will be quick to express it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Intrawest Has a New Boss!

A shuffling of senior management within the executive ranks at Intrawest received front page coverage this past week in the Enterprise-Bulletin. Earlier this month, Intrawest announced the appointment of William (Bill) Jensen to the postion of Chief Executive Officer. As stated in their press release, Jensen brings to the position over 30 years of ski resort management experience including Vail, Breckenridge and several resorts in California. As within any business, appointing a senoir executive with a strong background in the business at hand can only be perceived as being a good thing.
Locally Intrawest has and continues to have a profound impact on the development of our area as a full four season resort area. Visitors attracted to the Village at Blue provide a much needed stimulus to the local economy and not just in winter. As President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board, I was contacted by Shawn Gillick of the Enterprise-Bulletin to comment on the executive changes at Intrawest relative to what changes if any they would have at the local level more specifically at Blue Mountain. The following was my reply which was subsequently published in the Friday January 18th edition of the paper.

As the President of our Board, I would certainly not expect to see any significant impact good or bad on the MLS ® sales activity that we report though the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board stemming from corporate changes within the Intrawest organization. Their new CEO is a seasoned ski area management executive. His in depth knowledge of the ski resort industry can only serve to further enhance Intrawest’s leadership and progress including Blue Mountain. Intrawest have done an outstanding job of creating with the Village at Blue, an outstanding four season attraction for the area and changes at the executive level will certainly not alter this. The draw created by the Village at Blue certainly helps to attract people to the area, some of which may choose to purchase area real estate which is to the benefit of the entire Georgian Triangle economy. The Intrawest resort condominiums at Blue Mountain as at their other resorts are somewhat of a unique property and resale activity within this segment of our market is less than 1% of the total unit sales that were reported through our Board in 2007.
Overall there are far more overriding issues that can or will affect real estate in the area. At this point we see a more modest pace of growth for 2008 with several good years ahead, as the migration north by those to the south of us looking for an active retirement lifestyle continues to have a profound impact on our market.

To read the Enterprise-Bulletin's complete story click on the following link:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Market Forecast Update

Continued economic difficulties south of the border which triggered this weeks turmoil in the stock market, has many consumers somewhat apprehensive about our economic and real estate outlook for the year ahead. Canada's economy continues to show considerable strength quelling fears that the real estate "bubble" is about to burst. Continued strength in the Canada dollar is continuing to drive a strong sense of consumer confidence which will translate into further consumer spending. Employment levels across the entire country remain at very high levels driven by several segments of our economy including natural resources and the overall service sector. Interest rates continue to remain attractive which will bode well for first-time home buyers this year.
After an exceptionally strong real estate market in 2007 which saw average gains in pricing and record high unit sales in most markets across Canada, 2008 is expected to deliver steady yet moderate growth. The national average residential price is forecasted to rise by 3.5% this year to just over $317,000. As mentioned in a prior posting, unit sales are anticipated to decline slightly from 2007's record high to forecasted residential property sales for 2008 totalling 500,927 units. Despite the anticipated reduction in unit sales this year, it is expected total residential sales for 2008 will exceed that of any year prior to 2007.
For a complete summary of forecasted 2008 sales activity by Royal LePage Canada, please click on the following link:

In my next posting I will provide my personal outlook for the local real estate market in 2008.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Kind of Homeowner Are You?

Homeowner Quiz
What kind of homeowner are you?
Take the quiz and find out your personalized tips for preparing your home for sale.

1) After finishing your dinner do you:a. Leave everything on the table and come back to clean up later.b. Take the dishes off the table, put away the leftovers and pile the dishes in the sink or dishwasher for later.c. Clean the table, put away the leftovers and wash the dishes right away.

2) Your home office has a desk that is:a. Covered with papers, receipts and random objects. b. A pile of stacks. There is enough free space to do your work and you can still find what you’re looking for.c. Clean and neat. Everything has its place and papers are filed right away.

3) You’ve just finished your laundry, do you:a. Leave the clothes in a pile on a chair. It’s easier to find them later this way.b. Fold and put the clothes in any drawer with available space.c. Fold and put away your clothes in their appropriate drawers.

4) In your household you have:a. A dog or cat that is allowed indoors.b. A smoker who often/always smokes indoors.c. None of the above.

5) How do you accessorize your home?a. I like to display personal mementos, souvenirs and family photos around my home.b. I love decorative accessories and like to feature eclectic ethnic artifacts and antique items around my home.c. I prefer clean and tidy surfaces and display few decorative or personal items around the house.

6) Which of the following best describes your home?a. My home is eclectic and fun with bright colours and accessories throughout.b. My home is traditional with warm paint colours and lots of dark wood.c. My home is in a modern and simple style with neutral colours and few accessories.

7) Spring has arrived and your yard is in need of some maintenance, do you:a. Rake the yard and generally get rid of debris.b. Clean the yard of debris and mow the lawn.c. Clean the yard of debris, mow the lawn, clear the weeds, apply fertilizer and plant new flowers.

8) Which best describes your home:a. I haven’t had the time to properly decorate most of my home and a couple of the smaller rooms are used only for storage. Some minor repairs are still waiting to be done around the house.b. The main areas of my home are decorated and furnished but I never got around to properly decorating and furnishing the basement or guestroom. Some minor repairs are still waiting to be fixed around the house.c. I have taken the time to properly furnish and decorate every room. I have also undertaken several renovation projects throughout the years.

Give yourself a score of 1 for every “a”, a score of 3 for every “b”, and a score of 5 for every “c” answer.

If your score is between 8 and 16, you need to roll up your sleeves and get working to prepare your home for sale. Based on your responses, your home will need deep cleaning and de-cluttering before showings start
Deep clean your home making sure each room and surface is spotless. Make sure to remember your appliances and windows too.
Get rid of the clutter to allow buyers to properly see your home. Pack away unnecessary items and make sure counters and tables are free of appliances and personal items. If any rooms are used for storage alone, pack away the items and properly furnish the rooms. Don’t leave them empty as buyers will have a hard time visualizing living in a space without any furniture.
Put away collectibles and family photos to help de-personalize your home. Buyers will be able to imagine themselves in your space better without your personal items around.
Although your fun sense of décor and colour may suit your personality, go neutral for the sale. Adding a fresh coat of neutral paint and getting rid of unusual accessories will ensure that your home appeals to a larger pool of buyers.
If pets or a smoker reside in your home, remember that you probably won’t notice the smell if you’re around them all the time. Have a trusted friend give you an honest opinion and deep clean to get rid of the odour.
And lastly, don’t forget curb appeal. First impressions count, and buyers begin to form an opinion as soon as they pull into your driveway. Keep your yard neat and tidy with your lawn and shrubs trimmed, and flower beds weeded. Store away your children’s toys and garbage bins, and give the exterior of your home a good wash or a fresh coat of paint.

If your score is between 17 and 32, there are a few easy steps you can take to make your home more appealing to buyers.
Clean your home from top to bottom, making sure you pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms. Make sure to de-clutter and reorganize your home. Remove any excess furniture to enhance the feel of openness and space. Storage space is a top priority for buyers, so clean and organize your closets and storage areas. Get rid of anything you don’t need and make sure your closets are not overflowing with items.
Brighten and lighten up your home with a fresh coat of neutral coloured paint. Soft neutrals such as pale yellows and grays can give a house a nice sophisticated look that appeals to most buyers.
Store away your eclectic accessories and create more room on your counters and tabletops. Your unique items may be an expression of your personality but they might also make it hard for buyers to visualize themselves in the space.
And last but not least, fix that leaky faucet and any other minor repairs that you’ve been neglecting around the house.

If your score is between 33 and 40, your home is in top shape and will only need a little bit of work to bring in that sale.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Area Real Estate Sales Up 17% in 2007

As in most major markets across Canada, real estate sales in the Georgian Triangle for 2007 were much higher than initially forecasted. Sales of area properties reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board during 2007 exceeded $572 million, an increase of $83 million or 17% over 2006 results. Virtually every municipality in the region enjoyed an increase in sales activity with the largest unit sales increases reported in the municipalities of Grey Highlands, Meaford and Wasaga Beach all of which saw their residential unit sales increase from 20% to 30%. Collingwood and the Town of the Blue Mountains had the most modest of gains, with unit sales up 4.5% and 3.6% respectively followed by Clearview at 8.5%
Average prices in the area continue to increase and have effectively doubled in the last 8 to 10 years. The following is a summary of the 12-month "average" prices throughout the various local municipalities and their respective increases over 2006.

Clearview $311,442 4.8%

Collingwood $244,873 4.8%

Grey Highlands $358,644 28.9%

Meaford $257,714 5.2%

Town Blue Mountains $460,840 12.8%

Wasaga Beach $248,392 8.2%

For the first time ever, the 12-month average price in Wasaga Beach now exceeds that of Collingwood. Please keep in mind that increases in average prices are affected largely as the result of increased sales at the upper end of the market.
For a complete summary of market results for 2007, you can download a PDF file of my Georgian Triangle Real Estate News at:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

There No Business Like Snow Business

After the earliest start to the ski season in a decade with one of the busiest Christmas/New Year's holidays ever, things have taken a sudden turn for the worst. Skiing on New Year's day gave me the opportunity to enjoy one of the rare occassions to enjoy "powder" skiing in Ontario. Now a week later and after several days of record breaking temperatures followed by today's near gail force winds, the ski slopes are suffering and green lawns prevail in town. Gusty 100+ kilometer per hour winds forced the closure of Blue Mountain's Silver Bullet chairlift with scarely a skier or pedestrian to be seen in the Intrawest Village.
Global warming is no doubt playing a role in the freakest weather we have experienced this week but January thaws have been a regular occurrence for as long as I can remember. While temperatures reached 12 and 14 degrees throughout the province in the last few days it was interesting to note that similar highs and previous records were set in the 1930's and 40's. Global warming or not, we have a lot of winter yet and snow making crews will no doubt be hard at work over this coming weekend restoring the slopes when temperatures once again return to a January norm.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Create A Sneeze-Free Home

Living with stuffiness or asthma? Here are a few simple strategies for reducing allergy-causing problems in your home.
Rule #1: Keep things cool and dry. Dust mites and mold love moisture and heat. To keep your air clean:
- Run the A/C. It dehumidifies the air, filters out pollen and discourages mold and dust mites.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels between 30 and 50%.
- Use the exhaust fan in the bathroom to vent moisture.
Rule #2: Banish dust mitesThe waste they leave behind is what triggers most allergies.
- Cover your mattress and pillows with allergen-impermeable covers, and wash your linens, curtains and slipcovers in HOT water (at least 130ºC). It's the only way to kill mites.
- Try a no-frills approach to decorating. Use blinds instead of heavy curtains, avoid upholstered headboards, and get rid of knick-knacks that collect dust.
- Stick with hardwood or tile floors if you can, but if you have to have carpeting, go with low-pile and invest in a good vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Keep the air clean with an air filtration system.
- Wash stuffed toys regularly, and store them in covered plastic bins.
Rule #3: Say goodbye to mold.
- Check your plants. If you see or smell mold, put aquarium gravel over the dirt, or find them a new home.
- Wallpaper traps moisture and grows mold. Get rid of old wallpaper, and never put new wallpaper over old - that just masks the problem.
- Wash your shower curtain regularly, or buy one that's antifungal.
Rule #4: Tame pet dander.If your best friend is making you itch and sneeze, saying goodbye isn't your only option. Try these ideas first:
- Minimize dander by washing your pet's bedding often, and vacuuming the spaces where s/he hangs out.
- Keep your pet out of the bedroom, and limit him to certain parts of the house.
- Talk to your vet about dander-resistant products.
Rule #5: Breathe clean air.
- Avoid smoking in your home and limit using the fireplace, since smoke can irritate allergies and asthma.
- Go natural. Forget scented sprays and harsh chemical cleaning products. Stick with simple, natural ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
Keep your house dry, cool and clean, and you'll be on your way to being healthier, happier - and sneeze-free!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Charts and Graphs Won't Attract Jobs

In my last posting I commented on the area’s employment outlook with particular emphasis on Collingwood as it is the regional economic hub of the Georgian Triangle. 2007 was yet another year of heartbreak with not one but two local manufacturers closing their doors eliminating in the process approximately 500 jobs. Having come from a manufacturing background, one with one of the last year’s casualties Goodyear, I consider myself reasonably qualified with respect to my beliefs regarding the future of industrial/manufacturing jobs in Collingwood.
Two or three years ago, my personal prediction was that Collingwood would loose several of its larger industrial employers in a 3 to 5 year time span and unfortunately this has in fact unfolded. This is not a situation unique to Collingwood and area. A recent article in McLeans magazine suggested that as many as 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Canada in recent years stemming from a variety of factors including cheap labour in countries such as Mexico and China, the ongoing restructuring by the North American auto manufacturers and more recently, the meteoric rise of the Canadian dollar. Whatever the reason, higher paid industrial/manufacturing jobs are disappearing yet Canada’s economy as a whole is performing very well and unemployment figures are at near record lows. Why? Because manufacturing jobs are very quickly being replaced by positions in other sectors such as resources (oil and gas), construction, technology and knowledge based industries.
As with any business, a strategy for growth must be based on the fundamental principle of going after business based on where the opportunities exist. For example, I am not going to expand my real estate practice by target marketing to an area(s) where properties are not being listed and sold. Instead, an assessment of the local real estate market will highlight where the opportunities for sales are. Following that, a strategy needs to be developed to effectively go after that business. Pursuing job creation initiatives is no different. First, identify what the strong growth industries today are. Secondly, determine what type of employment opportunities can “realistically” be attracted to Collingwood given our geographic location and other amenities attractive to those businesses such as taxes, utility costs, the available human resources, housing etc. Lastly, you develop a strategy to aggressively pursue the job creation opportunities before you that present the best chance of success. I am not for an instance suggesting that this is easy. It requires research followed by a well thought out aggressive campaign that will attract new business to the area for which the area is best suited to support.
Frankly, I question if Collingwood has such a defined strategy. Since the closure of the shipyards in 1986, the municipality has been grossly ineffective in attracting any significant new employment to backfill the jobs being lost in the manufacturing sector. What’s even more disconcerting are the apparent beliefs coming from the Town’s Economic Development department. In reviewing the Town’s Economic Development website, I note the following quotes:
- “Existing businesses will account for as much as 90% of economic growth in a community.”
- “70% of growth will come from within the industrial sector.”
Both of these statements would appear to be grossly inaccurate given the number of industrial jobs lost in recent years by the closures of “existing businesses” that are not expanding, but leaving. Further, in visiting the Town’s Economic Development website, even a cursory glance yields access to a multitude of studies and analysis’ quoting all matter of facts and figures. While worthwhile in its content, this proliferation of research has yet to and will not on its own, effectively deliver meaningful job creation opportunities to Collingwood. The phrase “paralysis by analysis” comes to mind. Another quote from the website is as follows:

"The Town must move quickly to replenish the inventory of employment lands within the community in order to help re-balance residential to non-residential development."

Can we possibly embark on a plan to acquire and develop additional employment land when the needs of potential new employers have not be accurately identified? A "build it and they will come" attitude alone will not bring employment expansion to Collingwood and area without first determining what is required to satisfy the needs of potential businesses coming here.
During the three years remaining for the current Council, I expect we will unfortunately see yet another plant closure, or two. As a real estate practitioner, I am no different than any other local business, retail, service or otherwise. My livelihood and yours, depends on a strong local economy and that is one of the fundamental roles of government, municipal or otherwise. With Canada’s current economy performing so well in a variety of sectors, it’s time for Collingwood to take a proactive position with respect to creating some meaningful employment opportunities before the next recession arrives. It's going to take more than a website full of charts and graphs to draw business to the area and the time to act is now!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Our Future Economy

I consider myself fortunate to have had a demanding and varied corporate management background with the experience gained now serving me well as a real estate broker. I first arrived in Collingwood in 1985 as the result of a corporate transfer with Goodyear Canada. The following two plus years of my tenure at Collingwood's hose plant were tumultuous ones which included the failed hostile takeover attempt of Goodyear by British financier Sir William Goldsmith which cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to fight off. Predicting the ultimate demise of the Collingwood plant in 1987 (I was 20 years ahead in my prediction) I left the company and subsequently spent the next 11 years in Canada and the U.S. managing two companies, both clients of Goodyear neither of which remain in Canada, one in fact has been swallowed up not once but twice in corporate acquistions.
The business environment has indeed changed and survival these days depends on a number of factors not the least of which is a firm, well founded corporate strategy and sound management amongst other things. Collingwood has seen more than it's fair share of plant closures and job losses the most recent being Goodyear and Alcoa. Based on what I feel is a combination of business acumen, experience and just plain common sense I have my own opinion as to the area's future as a viable provider of jobs. As a real estate broker I deal with clients every week that have chosen to migrate to and live in this wonderful area. For certain, it's not the area's job market that is bringing people here. Those coming here to live are not university graduates or young families taking up residence as the result of medium to high paying jobs be they manufacturing or otherwise. Today's arrivals are retirees or those near it, looking to settle in an area where they can live out their "golden" years on the ski slopes and golf courses.
Just as a company needs to develop a sound business strategy, so do the local municipalities and in the case of Collingwood's future economic development, I have yet to see one. The shipyard closed in 1986. In the following 20 years we have seen a host of other plants shut the doors including Harding Carpets, Bendix, Kaufman Furniture, Backyard Products and Nacan. With a qualified effort, more than enough time has elapsed to develop a strategy to backfill at least a portion of these lost positions.
The Alcoa facility has been sold and according to the Town's website is eventually going to create 60 jobs. The arrival of Barber Glass while greatly welcomed and appreciated is a minor victory and small step towards where we need to grow. My next posting will delve into the matter further. In the meantime, I'd like you opinion. Please complete the survey above which asks the simple question. "Do you believe the Town of Collingwood is doing enough to attract new employment?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Women Want

Today, more single women than ever are taking the plunge and entering the real estate market with the purchase of their own home. Professional careers with higher levels of income, the relatively low cost of borrowing, marital discord and or the simple desire to experience the pride of ownership for themselves are all factors contributing to why many women are searching for their perfect residence.
Unlike a decade or so ago, women today no longer feel that a stigma exists buying "alone" and regard the purchase of a home as a smart investment. Women tend to be more thorough than their male counterparts and spend a lot of time researching the market, neighbourhoods and pricing. First-time female buyers tend to rely heavily on the Internet for their search needs and often opt for maintenance-free living provided by a condominium which represents to them, an "alluring" lifestyle. On the other hand, mature female buyers tend to lean towards a "freehold" or single family home partly due to the fact they have more equity and can afford a larger more expensive property. Another factor entering into the equation is that many women buyers are self employed and often work or would like to work from home. Therefore a property that can accomodate both their living and working requirements is often the main driver when searching for a home.
Most women are keen to add thier own personal touch but the majority do not want to enter into significant renovations especially those of a structural nature. Painting, changing out floor coverings and outdoor improvements such as landscaping all projects that most female buyers are willing to undertake.
Overall, women buyers represent a growing segment of today's real estate market and as clients are knowledgeable, asture buyers and a pleasure to work with.

Contact Me

Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

330 First Street, Collingwood, ON L9Y 1B4


Direct: 705-443-1037

Office: 705-445-5520 ext 230


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