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.

1st Quarter Area Real Estate Sales Outpace National Trend

Although sales softened in March, real estate sales throughout the Georgian Triangle continued to show strength during the first quarter of the year, compared to a general slowdown across the country. Sales reported through the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board's MLS® system reflected a unit sales increase for residential properties of 4.6% to 387 units sold. By comparison, seasonally adjusted Canadian sales nationally in units were down 7.1% in the first quarter. Sales revenue for the first three months of the year in our area was $104.3 million versus $93.4 million in 2007 an 11.7% increase.
Listing activity for the first quarter saw 1,271 area properties come onto the market as compared to 1,253 during the same period last year. Expired listings however jumped 22.1% over the first quarter of 2007 totaling 177 properties. This statistic reflects that many properties are still being priced unrealistically above their true "market value" resulting in the property not selling and the listing expiring.
As in the prior year, we are continuing to see considerable strength at the upper end of the market with sales above $350,000 up 29.8% year-to-date. In other upper-end segments of the market, sales for the first quarter are as follows:
  1. Sales over $350,000 up 28.6% to 27 units
  2. $500,000 to $799,999 up 53.8% to 20 units
  3. $800,000 to $999,999 down 66.7% to 1 unit
  4. Sales over $1 million up 20% to 6 units

These sales of higher priced properties are continuing to exert upward pressure on the "average" residential price in our area which now stands at $290,362.
For further details on first quarter sales, listing and pricing activity throughout our area, my quarterly newsletter will be available shortly on my website at http://www.propertycollingwood.com/ or email me for your advance copy now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Quarter Sales Decline Across Canada

In the wake of all of the economic and real estate turmoil emerging out of the U.S. the first quarter of 2008 has seen activity in Canada’s housing market decline in most major markets across the country. Despite the negative effects of the slowing U.S. economy, a recent study by Ipsos Reid reflected that 84% of Canadians are not concerned with the economic recession south of the border. Further, most Canadians view their equity in real estate as a safe investment during times when the stock market and other investment venues are so volatile.
In February, seasonally adjusted MLS® sales activity across Canada edged downwards 6.4% while sales in March declined 18.7%. This decrease in March was the largest year-to-year monthly decline in sales since January 1998. The main contributor to this decreased sales activity is due in part to weaker sales in Toronto which represents about 25% of the major markets across the country. Sales in Toronto peaked in late 2007 prior to Toronto’s “municipal” land transfer tax kicking in, a tax that has added a significant cost to the purchase of a home. Further the heavy snowfall in Toronto this winter made both listing and showing properties very difficult.
For 2008 the Canadian Real Estate Association is forecasting a shortfall in sales to last year’s record levels. In March seasonally adjusted sales for the quarter declined by 7.1 % as compared to the last quarter of 2007. Further the number of new MLS® listings climbed during the first quarter by a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.8% over the last quarter of 2007 which marks the highest quarterly level ever recorded. Notwithstanding a decrease in sales with a sharpm increase in new listings, the average residential price increased nationally by 4% to $329,383. Locally, market activity throughout the Georgian Triangle in the first quarter displayed considerably more strength than many markets across the country and I will detail these in my next posting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Justin Trudeau - The Future of Canada?


As President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board, I attended the Canadian Real Estate Association's Annual Conference last week in Gatineau, Quebec. The keynote speaker for the event was Justin Trudeau. Justin is of course the eldest son of the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau. A little known fact is that Justin is only the second child in history to be born during a father's term as Prime Minister. The last was Sir John A. Macdonald's youngest daughter Margaret.

Like his father, Justin posseses a charismatic demeanor, is an adept public speaker and is passionate about his intent on "making a difference" in this world we live. To that end, he is currently teaching school in Montreal with the belief that playing a role in the education of today's youth will in fact impact our future. When asked about a future in politics Justin replied: "..it's not about if, it's when...." He did in fact win the nomination as Liberal candidate for the Montreal riding of Papineau in April 2007.

Justin is an advocate of several causes including safety in winter sports, stemming from the avalanche death of his younger brother Michel during a ski trip in 1998. Another passion he demonstrated during his speech is the environment. Upon walking to the podium, Justin promptly removed a previously placed (obviously on purpose) bottle of water noting that his refusal to drink "bottled water" was one small thing he can do to help the environment.

At this point in history, there seems to be a lacking of obvious or stand-out choices in terms of selecting a politician(s) to lead us, be it municipally, provincially or federally. The same can be said of the U.S. as is evidenced by the current Presidential race. Voter turn-out no matter what level of government is up for election continues to erode perhaps the result of having such a lacklustre field of candidates to choose from.

Perhaps it will take a Justin Trudeau to reinvigorate the public's faith in the political process and in politicians in general. If Justin truly does "want to make a difference" his chance to do so may be coming sooner than later.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blue Mountain Sets Record


Despite the never-ending reports pertaining to climate change and global warming, Blue Mountain has set a new record during the 2007/2008 ski season. As of today (April 13th) the resort has recorded 136 consecutive days of skiable snow conditions on the hills. This is the highest number of days of operation for skiing and snowboarding in the resort's history. The accompanying photo was taken today which saw 6 runs and 2 lifts open at Blue Mountain. In addition most of the private ski clubs continue to offer spring ski and snowboard condtions albeit on a limited basis.
Despite several mild spells throughout this winter, the generous natural snowfalls we received were complemented with significant amounts of man-made snow thus allowing most of the area's ski facilities to enjoy a longer than normal season. Conditions such as these have greatly benefitted the local economy. Visitors to the area that enjoyed the lengthy ski and snowboard season are more apt to return in the spring and summer to engage in the many other recreational activities the area has to offer. This continues to have a profound impact on area real estate so while not everyone is a fan of winter as the saying goes, "an ill wind always blows someone some good."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Am Not A "Schmo!"

With most products and services today, consumers have an ever increasing selection of choices when it comes to placing their business with someone. Real estate is certainly no different. With a multitude of real estate business models to choose from for both selling and buying a property(s), ranging from multinational franchises to companies that assist "for sale by owners," competition for your business is intense and that's great as competition is a good thing.
With over 30 years of progressive business positions behind me both in Canada and the U.S., I have learned a great deal about what it takes to lead and build a successful business. The one prerequisite however that stands out in my mind more than anything is the need for the utmost in integrity in all your business activities. As previously stated, competition is a very good thing for consumers. Not only does it provide consumers with a variety of pricing alternatives to choose from when making a purchase, it fosters an environment where companies strive to continually develop new products and or services or to re-design existing ones all in the name of capturing their fair share of the market. In all cases, it is ultimately this type of competitive market positioning that creates a win-win for consumers.
In an effort to capture business, some companies find it necessary to berate or belittle their competition. Doing so seldon benefits the party making the defamatory statements and it certainly shows a lack of respect to a fellow competitior hence a lacking in the detractor's own integrity. The unfortunate fact here is that these tactics can result in detracting from the image of the entire industry or profession where such initiatives are employed.
A relative new entrant on to the real estate scene which specializes in assisting home owners sell their own properties seems to feel the need to employ such tactics. Their radio and online media refers to traditional REALTORS® as "some Joe Schmo agent."
I for one resent being referred to as "Joe Schmo." I am a trained real estate professional. My credentials include that of being a "Broker" and "Market Value Appraiser" (MVA) Residential. These credentials must not only be earned through rigorous education and exams, they must be maintained on a 2 year renewal cycle via taking continuous education courses all of which assist me in providing to my clients the best service possible. Further, as professional REALTORS® our day-to-day activities are governed by the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act which is provincial law. These requirements would hardly suggest that REALTORS® should be referred to as "Schmos."
The real estate profession has come a long way in increasing both consumer awareness and confidence. Still, public surveys place REALTORS® well down the list of professions in terms of trustworthiness and professionalism. Companies in the business of selling such a valuable commodity as homes would do well to revise their marketing efforts eliminating the use of terms such as "Joe Schmo." A home represents most consumer's greatest asset. As such, this is no place to use such derogatory vocabulary when dealing with the sale of such a significant consumer owned asset. The reality is, slighting a fellow competitor only serves to lessen the image of all all parties engaged in the great profession we call real estate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Better Internet Experience For You!

With approximately 3.6 billion visitors in 2007, the Canadian Real Estate Association's website www.MLS.ca, is by far the most
popular consumer real estate website in Canada. In an effort to improve the Internet experience of today's real estate consumer, http://www.mls.ca/ is about to be launched under an entirely new format.
Effective May 28th, http://www.mls.ca/ will be found under the new domain name, www.REALTOR.ca. More than just a new name, the site has been re-designed and is intended to provide Canadian real estate consumers with an easier property search function along with other useful real estate related infomration that will assist them with their property buying and selling needs.
The name REALTOR.ca better reflects the overall service and value that we in the real estate profession bring to todays's consumers, both online and in person. The re-branded and re-designed site is intended to further the awareness and information that REALTORS® provide consumers when contemplating a real estate transaction. Amongst the many enhancements included with the new site is a "quick search" form located on the home page thus allowing you to readily search for the property type and location you are looking for. Also featured on the new site is interactive mapping using Microsoft's "Virtual Earth" integrated mapping software which will show the approximate locations of the properties you have downloaded in your search. Additional features will include related information about Canadian real estate news and more, all intended to better inform consumers thus demonstrating the value that REALTORS® bring to each and every real estate transaction.
Once the new site is launched, visitors to www.MLS.ca will instantly be re-directed to the new site. Watch for future postings on my blog once we get closer to the May 28th launch date for the new site.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Happened to Global Warming


As I write this post, hydro service has just been restored in Collingwood and area after a day filled with much milder temperatures, rain and severe winds. As shown in the accompanying photo of the Beaver River in Thornbury, the spring run-off is phenomenal, unlike any I can remember seeing in quite some some. Conversely, this past weekend saw the area basking in cold, sunny days with ski conditions more indicative of a day in mid-January on the calendar versus the end of March first of April. For the most part it's been quite a winter all across Canada with most people asking what's happened to "global warming?"
A recent article in the National Post entitled "Perhaps the climate change models are wrong" suggests that perhaps things are not as they seem or are being portrayed by the climate change "alarmists." As outlined in the article, there are currently 3,000 monitors cruising through the world's oceans, recording water temperatures at various depths, then surfacing 30 to 40 times per year in order to upload their collective data to satellites for transmission to research labs wherein the data is analyzed.
Data collected over the past five years has yet to detect and or confirm the theory of global warming. In reality, the combined data has detected a slight cooling of the world's oceans. Further, NASA has eight weather satellites collecting 300,000 surface temperatures over the earth daily the results of which equate to a 0.14 degree celsius change per decade, well within the natural variation of temperature and far less that what the climate change models are predicting.
One thing does appear certain, we are seeing much more eratic weather patterns than in the past with significant swings in temperatures and overall conditions from one day and or week to the next. The term "climate change" may in fact be accurate it just might not necessarily mean that global warming is in fact taking place. To read the full National Post article, click on the link below.

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.