Monday, June 29, 2009

Print versus Digitial Promotion

Last week I attended a seminar regarding what is commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is a variety of connected online initiatives all of which are designed to give today's consumer what they want in terms of news and other information, how and when they want it. If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you obtain much of your day-to-days news and information online. Newspapers across North America and elsewhere are in trouble. Some predict that by 2012, there will be no major print newspapers in the U.S. and the same might be said of Canada. Every morning I receive an email from the Globe and Mail with the day's top news stories. It's not a matter that news is going away, the fact is there is probably more news being generated on a daily basis worldwide now more than ever. What is changing is the way in which news is being delivered, digital versus print.
That being the case, advertisers are abandoning newspapers and other forms of print media, instead redirecting their ad budgets to other forms of promotion most of which is focused online.
We have certainly seen this shift within the real estate profession. Print media has become increasingly ineffective in terms of promoting and selling property. Even the most artfully crafted print ad with multiple photos on glossy paper pales in comparison to what can be accomplished online via virtual tours, photo galleries and more. Many MLS® systems have also been tailored to now permit the uploading of documents such as surveys, aerial photos, well records, brochures etc. and many of us routinely upload these in order to make them available online. The bottom line is that thanks to digital technology more information is now available than ever before and it's available how and when you want it.
If you are contemplating the sale of your home or other property, you would be wise to ask REALTORS® you are interviewing what their online marketing strategy with be. If they can't provide you with a good overview of how your property will be marketed online, then move on and I'm not talking about your furniture. Without a strong online marketing presence, you and your furniture may not be going anywhere, anytime soon.
The same may apply to your particular business, if you are routinely using print media to promote your products or service, what steps are you taking to adapt your promotional and marketing initiatives in the age of the digital consumer? Now is the time to refocus your efforts in synch with what your customers expect. I am a big proponent of this and this blog is just one way in which I provide information to my clients.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Schools Out For ?

One of the more controversial issues affecting our area of late is the potential closing of some area high schools, notably Stayner and Elmvale. Earlier this year an accommodation review committee was struck by the Simcoe County School Board to determine the future needs regarding five area high schools with the two aforementioned facilities being called into question. Parents and students have anxiously been awaiting the final decision regarding the fate of the Elmvale and Stayner schools for some time. A decision, scheduled to have been reached a week or so ago was deferred until June 22nd, prolonging the agony of all concerned. Now, the Board has announced that a decision will not be made until late September which seems to be at the very least, insensitive to those persons being affected. Students, many of which dearly love these schools and are upset over their potential closure, have no idea as to their future. Parents, some of whom may be contemplating a change in address, may need to factor in the educational needs of their kids before making a move and are being held in limbo. Given this latest delay, one can only question the rationale of the entire process and the quality of thought that has gone in to assessing the area’s needs for education. To make rumblings about school closings without definitive plans would appear at the very least to have been premature. Forcing parents and students to wait, until beyond the start of yet another school year is quite inconsiderate.
As a parent that has lived in other areas and experienced other school boards, I quite frankly was always disenchanted with the operation of the Simcoe County Board. Don’t get me wrong, the schools themselves and the teachers are great, but I always called into question other aspects of the Board’s operation.
Through complications resulting from open heart surgery as an infant, my son was to some degree academically challenged. While living in the Kitchener – Waterloo area, my son’s educational needs were assessed and responded to accordingly. During his school years in Collingwood, additional help was always promised but never delivered and I was always told that “he was doing fine.” He wasn’t doing “fine,” at one point my son was so discouraged with his progress that he was resigned to the fact that he may have to be content with some menial job as an adult. Subsequently, he relocated to Aurora to live with his Mother. The York Region Board quickly assessed his needs and responded with some initiatives including furnishing him with a laptop computer to aid with his particular learning “style.” The result? Well upon graduating from grade 8 he was given an award as the most improved student. This past week, he graduated from high school with honours and he has ambitious career plans for the future. Would he have performed academically as well had he remained a student within the Simcoe County Board? Personally I do not believe so and it’s not because of the quality of teachers or facilities. It would be due to the top down management of the Simcoe Board and their ability to respond to the needs of their students, especially those that require added attention. Their inability to reach a timely decision on the fate of these two area high schools speaks to this and I am thankful that I am not the parent of an Elmvale or Stayner Collegiate student(s) that will now endure several more months of uncertainty before the future of these two schools is decided. I sympathize with their predicament and hope that whatever decision is reached, it will ultimately benefit the area’s youth in preparing them for the future in what is becoming an increasingly competitive world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Amaizeingly Green aka Collingwood Ethanol Pleads Guilty

Amaizeingly Green previously known as Collingwood Ethanol has pleaded guilty to numerous charges laid by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for violating the Environmental Protection Act and was fined $300,000. These charges relate to the adverse effect their operation has had on nearby residents stemming from both odour and noise. The company also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of operating odour-causing equipment with respect to their fertilizer production and bagging without obtaining necessary operating approvals from the MOE and was fined a further $25,000. The fertilizer production aspect of their business has been a substantial source of odour. Upon further investigation by the MOE it was determined that the company did not have the necessary approval for such an operation. Amaizeingly Green must now submit the appropriate applications for approval of the fertilizer bag house operation which will be subject to the customary public appeal process.
Amaizeingly Green also pleaded guilty to charges laid by the Town of Collingwood for sewer discharges that exceed by-law limits. CE was fined $15,000 plus costs for these charges. Amaizeingly Green has a plant shut down scheduled for June 30th during which time the plant will be completely idle until some 27 odour and noise abatement corrections have been installed and confirmed by the MOE.
After blowing into Town from Alberta over a year ago with their smear campaign against the Mayor, the Progressive Group For Independent Business has in recent months been amazingly quiet! I wonder what they will have to say now about these guilty pleas.
While this area is in dire need of higher paying jobs, employment should not come at the expense of the environment and in laying these charges, the MOE has clearly demonstrated a strong commitment to enforcement of the Environmental Protection Act.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Homes & Illegal Building

Virtually everywhere you look around our area, there is a vast array of new homes being build both on a mass scale by developers of larger subdivisions as well as by smaller independent contractors building individual homes here and there. Questions have recently arisen regarding new home warranties which in Ontario are governed by the Tarion Warranty Corporation.
Every new home in Ontario is protected by a mandatory warranty that is provided by the individual builder and guaranteed by Tarion. It is illegal for a builder to enter into an Agreement of Purchase and Sale or a construction contract with a buyer(s) if the builder is not registered with Tarion. It is also illegal to begin construction of a home or condominium without first enrolling it with Tarion. Offenders will be charged by Tarion under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act.
Under this act there is Statutory Warranty that clearly stipulates what is covered with respect to new home construction and defects. Tarion employs a team of seasoned investigators to uncover builders and vendors in Ontario who fail to register and/or to enrol new homes with Tarion. The investigators partner with municipalities and building officials in Ontario to find and prosecute these offenders. Under the Act, fines of up to $100,000 can be imposed by Ontario Courts. In addition, convicted offenders may be imprisoned for up to one year, placed on probation and/or required to pay Tarion any monies owed.
If you are contemplating the purchase a new home whether directly from a builder or when using a REALTOR®, one of the first questions you should confirm is whether or not the builder is registered with Tarion. You can begin this process by using the "Find A Builder" feature on the Tarion website or contact a local REALTOR® to learn more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tomahawk Recreation Complex

One of this area's best kept secrets is a recreational complex on the outskirts of Thornbury simply referred to by locals as "Tomahawk."
This 51 acre parcel of land was developed a number of years ago as an 18 hole "pitch and putt" style golf course by a local businessman and real estate client of mine. The course was maintained privately and was open to the public with green fees consisting of a donation to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. In May 2007, the property was subsequently sold to the municipality the Blue Mountains and under the municipality's ownership, the property has been further developed to consist of three soccer pitches along with the golf course.
Since taking the property over, the facility has been formally named the Tomahawk Recreation Complex and in addition to building the three soccer pitches, the municipality has continued to improve the golf course as well. This year has seen a dramatic improvement to the grounds as the greens have been aerated and fertilized, the sand traps are being refurbished with new sand and new benches have been installed at many of the tees along with other improvements.
This is just a terrific complex that is open for all to enjoy and the Blue Mountains deserves a lot of credit for undertaking the acquisition and improvement of this property. This past weekend the soccer pitches hosted a regional kid's tournament and the golf course is a great place to introduce your kids or grandchildren to the game of golf without breaking the bank. The municipality gratefully accepts donations to help offset maintenance costs.
Actually I visit the course regularly as it's a good place to work on your short iron game, bunker shots and putting. This past week I carded my first ever hole-in-one. Sure, it was only a 90 yard hole but it was over a pond to a sloping green and a hole-in-one is a hole-in-one, it may be my last! Click on the following link to obtain a course scorecard and layout. "Tomahawk Scorecard"
To reach the facility, take Highway 26 west past Thornbury to Peel Street. Head south on Peel (away from the Bay) and it will take you right into the complex. The street address is 417230 the 10th Line.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Luxury Homes Sales in Toronto Hit Record High in May

According to a recent news report by CTV Toronto sales of high-end luxury homes in Toronto reach a new record during May. According to the report, there were 273 sales over $1 million in Toronto during the month as compared to 258 in May 2008, an increase of 2008.
We have certainly seen a resurgence of higher-end residential sales here in the Georgian Triangle as well. During the month of April, there were 4 MLS® sales reported over $800,000 including one over $1 million. By comparison there had only been one such sales in the 4 months prior to April. During May we had 2 sales between $1 to $1.5 million and one property sold over $1.5 million, a power-of-sale at just over $1.8 million.
As much as we have seen an increase in upper-end home sales throughout the Georgian Triangle in recent years, $2 million is a barrier that few properties can command or on the other hand, few buyers seem willing to enter. In the last 3 years we have seen just two residential sales over $2 million. Both properties were larger acreages with homes offering 6,000 square feet of finished space.
The resurgence of the Toronto luxury home market signifies perhaps two things. The first is that perhaps the worst of the recession is behind us. If that is not the case, then at least this trend points to the fact that buyer confidence in this segment of the market has returned which is true of the real estate market in general. Purchasers have come to realize that prices are at their lowest level and with a good selection of inventory in all price ranges including the upper-end, now is the time to buy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Provincial Wind Turbine Guidelines Announced

On Tuesday of this week, the Ontario government announced proposed requirements for the approval of renewable energy projects, including wind turbines. These proposed changes include minimum setbacks (distances) which wind turbines would have to maintain relative to their location from residential dwellings.
The ministry is proposing a minimum setback for wind turbines of 550 metres or 1,804 feet which is roughly 1/3 of a mile in order to ensure noise levels do not exceed 40 decibels from a dwelling. Forty decibels is approximately the noise level experienced in a quiet office or library.
The applicable setbacks would rise with the number of turbines to be installed and would also be determined by the sound level rating of the turbines selected as each make is different. For example, a turbine with a sound power level of 106 decibels would have to meet a setback of 950 metres, 3,116 feet or approximately 2/3 of a mile from the nearest dwelling. A facility with eight turbines with a sound power level of 105 decibels would need to meet a setback of 1000 metres etc.
All wind turbines with a sound power level greater than 107 decibels, regardless of the number, would require a noise study, as would projects involving more than 26 turbines within 1.5 km of any dwelling.
The Ministry is also proposing that as a condition of approval for wind turbine projects, proponents would be required to monitor and address any perceptible infrasound (vibration) or low frequency noise as a condition of the renewable energy approval.
The Government of Ontario remains firmly committed to expanding renewable energy in this province and these proposals are one more step at attempting to appease those that are against have these towering giants dot the landscape.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Commercial Vehicles Part II

Further to my prior post entitled "Commercial Vehicles May Invade the "Burbs" this past Monday night, Collingwood Council was presented with details by the planning department regarding proposed By-law changes that would permit the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas. During the meeting, two deputations were made to Council by residents, one for and one against this proposed change.
The one party in favour of this change, owns a large commercial vehicle which has been at the centre of the controversy. Now faced with parking the truck away from their home, Council and spectators heard pleas from said party claiming it was inconvenient to park the truck away from their home and that they had to purchase a $20,000 vehicle for the daily commute back and forth to retrieve the truck for work purposes. Their self-serving solution to this dilemma would be to have their neighbours endure the sight of a large and lettered cube van adorning the neighbourhood daily.
Those of us engaged in the sale of real property deal with people on a regular basis that are self or otherwise employed and work from home. Their choice(s) when making a real estate purchase are typically governed by their work needs ie: is high speed Internet available, it there municipal water and sewer and yes, will the zoning allow me to operate my business and or park my commercial vehicle there. Verifying facts such as these is part of the due diligence process that we as REALTORS® do on a client's behalf and Agreements of Purchase and Sale will typically have clauses and or conditions pertaining to this.
In the particular case outlined to Council on Monday night, verifying the ability to park their commercial vehicle at home was obviously not part of the purchase process. This is somewhat like the kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar only now the kid not only wants forgiveness, they want the rules changed so they can have a cookie whenever they want.
This By-law change still has a long way to go before being passed by Council and those concerned about the aesthetics of their neighbourhood best speak-up before waking some day to find a large commercial vehicle over shadowing their home.
NOTE: please let us know your thoughts regarding this matter by responding to my online poll above.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

BMFA Studio Tour Showcases Area Talent

This past weekend the Blue Mountain Foundation For The Arts hosted their 21st annual Studio Tour at various venues throughout Collingwood, Clearview and the Blue Mountains. As a budding painter, I took some time off my real estate duties over the weekend and visited a number of the locations that featured works of particular interest to myself.
One of the many attractions that draws people to this area for recreational and more significantly retirement purposes are not only the active sports at our disposal but the many forms of cultural activities for persons to engage in. Concerts, live theatre, garden and other clubs plus a very active and talented arts community have developed in recent years creating yet another reason why the Georgian Triangle has become a mecca for retirees. In making the rounds throughout various homes and galleries over the weekend it became readily apparent that the area is home to a variety of talented artisans. The paintings, sculptures, and jewellery that were on display and for sale are a product of both their creator's talent and no doubt of the inspiration they derive from residing in such a beautiful area. Landscapes of Georgian Bay, the Beaver Valley and Niagara Escarpment were highly prevalent throughout the weekend, a further testament as to why so many have sought to reside in this picturesque part of Ontario. Living in a small town often means giving up the social and cultural amenities that many have become accustomed to living in places like Toronto and the GTA. Not so in the Georgian Triangle. With a year-round plethora of varied activities, there is something virtually for everyone.
Although two or three hours spent touring the various studios over the weekend was far too short, I came aware from the experience both thankful for having the opportunity to live and work in this area but more importantly, I was inspired to pull out my paints and brushes on a more frequent basis to indulge in creating some works that depict the landscape we all too often take for granted.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Commercial Vehicles May Invade The "Burbs!"

On May 19th, Collingwood Council passed a number of motions (#'s 288 to 293) pertaining to a By-Law change that will permit commercial vehicles up to a designated size ie: cube vans etc. to be parked in residential areas around Town.
The proposed change would permit a maximum of one (1) commercial vehicle similar to the one pictured here to be parked at a residential dwelling provided that it is not higher than 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) or longer that 7.5 meters (24.6 feet). Although this pending By-Law change is not widely known amongst Collingwood residents, those that are aware of it are vehemently opposed.
Notwithstanding the significant size of these vehicles, most are typically lettered or as is the trend now, wrapped with large pictures and other graphics hardly of which can be said to "enhance" neighbourhood aesthestics. Other concerns also exist. As one citizen has pointed out, many residential areas in Collingwood do not have sidewalks and the presence of large commercial vehicles creates a safety issue for children as well as for physically challenged and or wheelchair bound residents etc. Many communities throughout the province have via way of municipal by-laws, subdivision covenants and or condo corporation rules, restirctions with not only the parking of commercial vehicles in residential zones but also other large items such as boats, motorhomes etc.
Two years ago, the real estate community was under pressure from the Town regarding the use of "Open House" signs. Their use did not conform with the Town's sign By-Law and some apparently felt that real estate signs were an unsightly addition to the Town's landscape. The local real estate Board ultimately reached an agreement with the Town limiting the use and placement of Open House signs around the community. Open House signs as most will agree are rather small innocuous signs that are up for a few hours mostly on weekends. On the other hand, permitting a large commercial vehicle which may contain lettering and other graphics, to be parked in residential areas is like erecting a small billboard which under this new By-Law is okay. I don't get it.
This contentious issue comes before Council again on Monday June 8th and I would encouraged any residents concerned with this issue to attend. I know that I will.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Royal LePage Sales Strong in May

After showing renewed strength in April with total MLS® sales of $43.0 million, area real estate sales softened slightly in May with MLS® sales for the month of $42.3 million. Monthly-to-date sales volume during May 2009 sales was 18% below last year. Unit sales during May totaled 168, down from the 192 sales in May of last year, a decrease of 12%.
Year-to-date sales as reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board total $140.6 million compared to $203.6 million sold in the first 5 months of 2008, a decrease of 31%. Unit sales for the year stand at 565 as compared to the 772 properties which sold in the same period last year a decrease of 27%. Sales at the upper-end of the market continue to languish in 2009 as unit sales above $500K for the year total 35 units as compared to 55 for the first 5 months of 2008, a decrease of 36%.
Throughout the various municipalities that make up the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board, market conditions in Collingwood continue to show the greatest strength with year-to-date sales down by just 11.3% while the average Collingwood residential price has actually increased by 1.2% to $257,704. The municipalities of Meaford and Grey Highlands are showing the greatest decreases in residential sales activity with year-to-date unit sales in those two municipalities down in excess of 45%. Year-to-date sales in other area municipalities are as follows: Clearview -35.2%, Wasaga Beach -35.2% and the Blue Mountains -21.4%. Overall the average residential price for our entire area has decreased by just 2.9% to $277,422. This decline in the average residential price is largely the result of the aforementioned decrease in sales activity above $500K.
At Royal LePage, sales through our Collingwood office in May were very strong. Of particular note was that fact that our sales in May represented a good cross-section of properties across all price ranges. I was pleased to have sold 3 condominiums in May along with a single family home in the Blue Mountains at $748K. I remain very bullish about our market and I anticipate we will continue to see a strengthening of market conditions throughout the balance of 2009.

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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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