Friday, December 31, 2010

Communicating With Thumbs - Not Tongues

  It hards to believe that 2010 is drawing to a close.  It seems like just a year or two ago since we celebrated the arrival of the year 2000 and anxiously waited with bated breath the anticipated fallout that Y2K was going to have on the technology that drive's much of our world.   
  Ten year's later and technology's impact has become even more prominent in our day-to-day lives.  You don't think so?  Well ten years ago there wasn't a "Facebook" now it's home to what 500 million people? Ten years ago cell phones were widely used by many especially those of us in business, now you are in the minority if don't own one and some of us no longer have a land-line at home.  With younger generations a cell phone isn't for talking, it's texting.  Who would have thought back in 2000 that communicating with your thumbs would replace the use of our tongues.  Dial up Internet access is virtually a thing of the past with WiFi connections now being available in coffee shops, hotels and even on city streets.  Ten years ago amidst the threat of Y2K, I remember spending $4,000 on two new computers for a retail business I owned at the time, today I could buy vastly superior ones for roughly a tenth of that amount. 
  Yes a lot has changed technologically in the last ten years and the rate of change we will experience in the future will not only continue, it will escalate in terms of the amount of information we process, the speed at which it is done and perhaps most significantly how it is done.  Despite all of this, relationships still count.  Whether it's with family, freinds or in business, the fundamentals of what constitutes a strong relationship is still an integral part of our success as human beings.  Honesty, trust, integrity, ethics and other qualities that form our basic character make us successful as husbands, wives, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, employees, politicians and so on and can't be replaced by technology.  Technology can enhance those relationships or in some cases hinder them depending on how it is used.
As the year draws to a close, it's a great time to reflect on our relationships and how they can be made stronger with technology or without.  Have a very Happy New Year and a healthy, prosperous 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Patronizing Local Business

Given the state of our local economy and diminishing jobs in the manufacturing sector, I always try to patronize and support local business and I am pleased to say that all of my Christmas shopping this year was done at local merchants.  As a REALTOR® I am always being asked do I know a good handy man, painter, plumber or other service provider and in my blog from time to time I will recognize a local businesses that in my opinion provided great service.
  Earlier this week I was faced with a bit of a dilema.  I had rented a client's condo for the ski season and as the result of excessive snow build-up, the natural gas line leading from the gas meter to the house was damaged wherein Enbridge was forced to shut off the gas.  Consequently there is of course no heat for the tenant not to mention the threat of frozen pipes and other damage to the property.  As it goes, Enbridge doesn't repair the gas line, they said call Direct Energy.  Well Direct Energy doesn't repair gas lines either only furnances, water heaters and other "indoor" equipment.  The search then began for a local heating contractor that of course had to be a licensed gas fitter. 
  Well most everyone was closed until Wednesday to observe the statuatory holidays for Christmas and Boxing days.  No heat for two days wasn't going to work so I kept calling until I found a very obliging individual, Steve Hogg of Hogg's Heating Service.  Steve very quickly went to the property, ascertained the problem, obtained the necessary parts to repair the broken gas line, re-lit the gas appliances in the house (furnace, water heater etc.) and lastly completed the necessary paperwork for Enbridge certifying the repair had been done.  Here is a local business person that realized the need for fast and efficient service given the circumstances.  Holidays or not he went above and beyond the normal call or duty to rectify a potentially serious problem and did it quickly and at a reasonable cost.
  The tenants were impresssed with the quick response I was able to provide in getting their heat back on and most of that is due to the efforts of Steve Hogg.   I will surely use Steve again and will not hesitate to recommend him to others in need of heating service.  Thanks Steve and have a very happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Modest Real Estate Gains Seen Globally in 2010

As the year draws to a close, many Canadians are looking at 2011 with a degree of cautious optimism.  Scotiabank recently released a Global Real Estate Trends report wherein they tracked housing markets in 12 advanced economies throughout 2010. The overall summary of the report report stated that global residential property markets “experienced a modest but uneven recovery in 2010, supported by ultra-low interest rates and gradually improving economic conditions” but “lost some steam in the latter half of the year”.
  This was certainly very true in our market as well as in most parts of Canada.  We experienced strong sales activity in the first six months of the year with many buyers electing to purchase prior to the implementation of HST in Ontario and or amongst fears that mortgage rates would increase significantly.  At the end of June unit sales in the Georgian Triangle were up 28%, by the end of November that increase had slipped to just a 4% increase. 
  Sales in December have already surpassed December of last year so by year end we will no doubt see a year-over-year unit sales gain of 4% to 5% in terms of properties sold.  Sales revenue on the other hand will be up 10% to 12% thanks to increased sales activity at the upper end of the market.  To date we have seen 23 sales in 2010 over $1 million, more than twice the number of $1 million+ properties sold in 2009.  In 2010 there have been 4 sales over $2 million last year there were none.
It's anybody's guess as to what 2011 will bring, the overlook would suggest we are in for continued albeit modest economic growth including the real estate sector. The U.S. is still struggling with their economic recovery efforts although the auto sector seems to be turning the corner with stronger sales and a plethora of exciting new vehicles coming to market.  Like it or not, this season's early and abundant snowfall has been a great boost to the local economy.  As the saying goes, "an ill wind always blows someone some good."
Please take a moment to complete my online survey regarding your thought for our economy in 2011, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Ever Happended to "Real" Money

Well the Christmas shopping rush is over save for those Boxing week sales.  I took the sensible road this year and got all of my shopping done early.  I must admit it felt good to have my buying and wrapping done well before the 25th thus allowing me the opportunity to sit back and relax a bit.
  Having spent the early part of my career with Canadian Tire I find it interesting to note the changes that have taken place in the retail landscape over the past few years.  One of my pet peeves is the checkout lines especially in the grocery stores.  The so-called "express" checkouts are anything but largely due to the various methods of payments now being used by today's consumers.  We still have cash which appears to be used less and less, debit cards, some with chips some without and of course credit cards. Then there are the point-of-sale terminals themselves. Some you swipe the card with the stripe in, some the stripe is out. Have you noticed how confusing those diagrams are depicting how the card is to be inserted.  Maybe they are some form of a secret aptitude test?  With a chip card you insert the card in the bottom.  Some are touch screens others are not.  Some ask you if you want cash back and so it goes, on and on which ultimately leads to prolonged waiting in the check-out line.    The most recent cards featuring a chip for added security are in my estimation proving to be a greater headache and security risk than cards without the chip. Why?  Well numerous times over the holidays I have seen both debit and credit cards left behind in the bottom of the card reader by the unsuspecting user and I am sure many of you have seen this as well.  Unlike bank and other ATM machines, there is no audible warning to remind you to remove your card when the transaction is complete and there should be. 
It's a little late now I suppose but some degree of industry-wide standardization governing the design, features and security of point-of-purchase payment terminals would surely have offered consumers greater piece-of-mind if not a faster payment process at the checkout.  As far as the grocery stores, how about a true "express" line, 1 to 8 items CASH ONLY!  Okay it will never happen but I for one would welcome the no-muss, no-fuss opportunity of paying with cash when picking up a handful of items to get in and out of the store quickly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow, Snow and More Snow!

I first moved to Collingwood in 1985 having been transferred here with Goodyear from Toronto. The first couple of winters were pretty nasty, I can remember Mountain Road being closed for a couple of days (as it is today) and having to drive down Osler Bluff Road to Highway 26 in order to get to work at the Goodyear plant.  As cold and snowy those first couple of years were, I can't remember a time when it snowed consistently for the better part of a week as it recently has
Global TV did a segment on Collingwood last Friday and the impact the early snow is having on business at Blue Mountain, in Collingwood as well as a brief interview with myself regarding the real estate market.  As they say, "an ill wind always blows someone some good!"
  I love snow and winter but I must admit that spending an hour to an hour and a half every day blowing snow from my driveway is getting a little much.  Like many of you I find it irritating to be left with a wall of snow at the base of my driveway left by the plow.  It's heavy almost like sand and filled with junks of ice the size of small boulders making it tough to move with a snow thrower. When I was a kid growing up in Toronto our street was plowed with a road grader equipped with a hydraulically operated gate. The operator briefly lowered the gate at each driveway so as to prevent the snow from leaving the blade and filling the driveway.  It was simple yet effective and prevented a lot of cursing!  Maybe our public works department should look into something similar.
Speaking of cursing, I had some errands to run Monday including a trip to Town Hall to obtain some tax information. Low and behold they closed at noon due to "inclement weather." Every other place of business on Hurontario Street was open except our municipal offices. That hardly sets a good example but it's indicative of the liberties taken when you are not for profit enterprise. With so many businesses downtown allegedly struggling, none of them are saying hey, it's snowing let's knock off for the day at noon.  The recent municipal election was all about change, it's time to start the process and it begins with a change in attitude and leading by example.  Sure when the weather is bad there's nothing wrong with shutting down to allow employees the opportunity to get home safely but at noon when every other place of business is still open, that's a bit much.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Area Real Estate Sales Soften in November

Area real estate sales activity slipped in November compared to the same month last year with MLS®
 unit sales down 14% and dollar revenue off 18%.  Sales in the final 3 or 4 months of 2009 were very robust as the market rebounded from the dark recessionary days of late 2008 and early 2009 so this year's shortfall was somewhat expected.
Sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board (GTREB)
 in November totaled 142 properties compared with 165 in November 2009. In November 2008 only 87 sales were reported so we've come a long way back to stable market conditions. Sales revenue for the month was still a respectable $38.9 million compared to $47.7 million last year and was almost double the $21.9 million worth of properties sold in November 2008.  Despite the softening of sales in November, year-to-date MLS® sales activity continues to remain strong.  Unit sales for the year are up 4% with a total of 1,820 sales reported through the end of November.  Dollar revenue is up 12% and totals $513.5 million for the first 11 months of this year stemming from significantly stronger sales of higher-end properties in the area this year versus last.
 MLS® listing activity for the month continued to trend upwards as it has in prior months giving buyer plenty of properties to choose from.  A total of 420 properties were listed in November up 4% from the prior year, year-to-date MLS® listings total 6,046 and 8% increase over 2009.  With over 6,000 listings year-to-date and 1,820 sales, 1 out of every 3.3 properties or 30% of those listed are selling.
  In my next posting I will recap year-to-date sales by area and price range.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Despite the lingering uncertainty about our economy, we continue to see considerable strength with upper end property sales throughout our area in 2010.
  Through the end of October, property sales over $1 million reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board are up 92%, totaling 25 sales this year as compared to 13 in the first 10 months of 2009.  There have been 17 sales between $1 and $1.5 million so far this year, up from 10 last year representing an increase of 70%.  More significantly, sales over $1.5 million total 8 compared to just three last year a whopping 167% increase. 
  The highest sale to date was a post and beam ski home/chalet in the Blue Mountains which garnered a $2.55 million sale price was 94% of the $2.7 million list price.  If you think that's high, we have a long way to go to match the sale of a ski area property in Aspen Colorado.  A sale recently closed in Aspen for  West Buttermilk Ranch at $31.5 million, the highest price paid in 2010 for an Aspen area property. 
The 44 acre estate includes a 13,877-square-foot main house with two master suites, four guest suites, five full baths, and four half baths.  It also features a 4,517-square-foot, eight-stall horse stable a 1,112-square-foot guest house with two bedrooms and a one bath, a great room with a large fireplace, “old-world” wood, steel beams and large plank floor, a bar and service area for entertaining. a private office with fireplace, bath, shower and deck, a private guest suite with three bedrooms and a lower level media room including a wine room with a tasting table.
While million dollar sales are on the increase, I don't think I'll live long enough to see a sale of this magnitude in our area.  In ski country there seems to be a direct correlation between the size the mountain and the price of properties proving yet again, size does matter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Changes to the MLS® System Now Offer Sellers More Choice

As noted in my prior posting, forthcoming changes have been adopted and approved by the Canadian Real Estate Association and the Competition Bureau regarding the listing of properties for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®.)
Media reports have greatly exaggerated or misinterpreted the impact of these changes which appears to have confused both consumers and REALTORS® alike.  In essence, the most significant of these newly adopted changes is that should a seller so desire, a REALTOR® may for a modest fee or even at no charge, simply list a person's property for sale placing the listing on the national MLS® system, period!  In doing so, the REALTOR® will provide no other service(s) typically performed by a REALTOR® with respect to completing a real estate transaction. With no additional services being provided by the REALTOR®, no additional monies or "commission" will be payable other than the original listing fee should a sale take place unless agreed to by the seller.
  These changes now permit REALTORS® to offer perhaps a choice of services "cafeteria style" with the intent of giving consumers more choices and the opportunity to save money should they choose to handle all or some of the selling activities on their own.
  Contrary to some beliefs, sellers do not have direct access to the MLS® system meaning that the MLS® system is still a REALTOR® to REALTOR® service.  In order to protect consumers, REALTORS® will still be required to provide and verify all relevant information regarding a property that is being posted to MLS® such as its room sizes, the annual taxes, amenities, features and any other material information pertaining to a given property.  REALTORS® and home owners for that matter are also required to disclose any known defects regarding a property that may impact a buyer's decision to purchase. REALTORS® are in fact required by provincial law and through a Code of Ethics to be responsible for the accuracy of all information given to consumers and REALTORS® are also required by law to maintain errors and omissions insurance to cover themselves in the event a mistake is make.
  Should a seller wish only to have the their property listing "posted" on the MLS® for a fee, the seller will be responsible for any and all other activities related to the sale process. This may included supplying their own signage, property photos, holding their own Open Houses, incurring all advertising costs and lastly they will negotiate their own sale either with a buyer directly or with the buyer's REALTOR® should they have one to which they will pay a commission of some sort.
Should they elect not to do so, REALTORS® are not obligated to post a listing for a fee. "Posting" fees like commissions are not set and are completely negotiable between the seller and the REALTOR® providing that service.  At the end of the day commissions will be negotiable as they have always been.  Sellers merely have the option of selecting a REALTOR® that will handle as much or as little of the selling process as the seller(s) wants and are willing to pay for.
The ultimate change with these new rules is that sellers can as desired handle as much or as little of the selling process on their own.  Through the ongoing involvement of REALTORS®, MLS® listings will still be subject to the high standards of listing accuracy that have always been in place making the Canadian MLS® system the envy of many other regions in the world.  For further clarification of these new rules and how they affect you, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions or respond to comments.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Many Consumers Confused by the HST!

  Prior to implementing the Harmonized Sale Tax (HST) on July 1st, the province of Ontario did a very poor job of communicating what this new tax was all about and where it did and did not apply. 
  As consumers we were all loathe to the idea of yet another tax increase and rightly so.  The HST has taken a bite out of all of us and has no doubt played a role in slowing our economy in recent months.  Where I noticed it particularly was at the gas pump. Prior to the arrival of the HST, $20.00 worth of gas included $.95 for GST.  Put in $20.00 now and the HST portion is $2.30! 
Prior to the HST's arrival, I had numerous conversations with seller clients one of whose home is worth over $2 million, all bemoaning the impact HST was going to have on their net sale proceeds.  The Ontario Real Estate Association recently commissioned a survey via Ipsos Reid the results of which revealed that 56% of Ontarians mistakenly believe that the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) applies to the full purchase price of a resale home.
 The fact is, the HST is only applicable on the various transaction costs associated with the purchase of a resale home that has been previously occupied. Lawyer's fees, real estate commissions, home inspection and appraisal fees are all HST taxable.  The purchase price of the home itself is not!  With that said, we do have some unique examples in our maket where the HST may apply on the purchase price and this bears close scrutiny.  Many condominiums at Blue Mountain and particularly in the Intrawest Village may present some tax implications.  Many of these properties are titled in company names and are also in rental programs from which income is derived.  These specific situations require due diligence on behalf of a buyer and their REALTOR® with the appropriate clauses and or conditions included in an Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
  If you are a Buyer or a Seller contemplating a real estate transaction in the near future and have some reservations about the HST and other tax implications or require some assiatnce regarding current market conditions, please feel free to contact me without obligation with your questions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Voters Have There Way!

In watching the municipal election coverage on Monday night, the message across Ontario appeared to be that voters were not just looking for but were demanding change. Those candidates fortunate to be elected spoke to that in their victory speeches, now it's time for them to deliver.  Talk alone with no longer pacify today's voter or consumer.  Increasingly we see it in the real estate professional.  Retailers and other service providers do as well. People's tolerance has long since run out, especially for politicians and their inherent bungling. The time has come to deliver, walk the talk, provide expertise, knowledge, value, common sense and above all live up to the expectations that others have of you. It's time those same expectations were lived up to by politicians at all levels.
  In my prior post "Somebody- Please Stop the Madness" I rendered my opinion on the matter of Collingwood's stance re: patios on Hurontario Street.  Well the voters of Collingwood did as well and overwhelmingly threw those incumbents to the curb that voted in favour of approving the curbside patios.  It's ironic that such a non-issue, one that should have never commanded the time and consideration that it did of Council, cost so many their political careers. 
  For every decision each of us makes there is always a potential consequence and I have steadfastly preached that to my kids.  The political losers of Monday night's election learned this first hand and somewhat painfully.  How can the public-at-large entrust someone to responsibly govern the municipality's finances and other important assets when such foolish judgment has been used on an issue that isn't an issue at all.
  With a new Council soon to take command,  it is now time to get down to what matters most to the residents of Collingwood, financial restraint, debt reduction and subsequently taxes.  Those of us in the real estate profession hear first hand people's concerns over Collingwood's tax rates.  Newcomers looking to move to the area are typically aghast at the taxes on properties they view in their search for a home and I can say with certainty many have elected to buy elsewhere.
  The new Council needs to appoint a committee or taskforce that will review the entire operational efficiency of the municipality.  In my opinion, a minimum 10% reduction in operating expenses is attainable in almost any organization if you approach the matter with the right mindset and ask the right questions such as:
- What are we doing?
- Do we need to do it? ie: what's the value to the taxpayer?
- Is there a better more efficient way to to it?

The function of every municipal department should be thoroughly reviewed and senior staff should be challenged to find and attain targeted savings.  For profit organizations do it, non-profit ones need to as well.  Virtually every organization does things they have been doing for years and doing it the same old way without really asking themselves why. 
  For those that have been elected or re-elected the time to celebrate is over.  The four year municipal term goes by much quicker than you think and public tolerance for sub-par performance from the next Council will be much shorter than that. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Changes Forthcoming to Canada's MLS® Real Estate System

  For several months now you may have read media reports covering the ongoing allegations from the federal Competition Bureau regarding Canada's MLS® system.  The MLS® (multiple listing service) system and MLS® trademark are owned and as such managed by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).  In order for a home or other property to be listed on the MLS® system certain criteria must be met and this has meant that only licensed real estate practitioners (REALTORS®) can access the system for the purpose of listing properties for sale.  The Competition Bureau charges that this is anti-competitive as it thus far has prevented other real estate companies many of which are not licensed real estate practitioners from accessing the system  simply to post a property on the MLS® system without providing all of the other functions typically associated with the buying and selling of real property.
  After months of heated debate between CREA and the Competition Bureau, a tentative settlement has been reached that will bring about some changes to the MLS® system as we know it.  Executives from real estate Boards across Canada are meeting this weekend in St. John's NFLD and will be voting Sunday on proposed changes that will end the stalemate that has seen both CREA and the Competition Bureau deadlocked in heated and emotionally charged exchanges for months.
  Canada is one of the few countries that has a nationwide MLS® system.  The U.S. doesn't have one and most countries don't.  If you live in Vancouver and are moving to Halifax, you can begin your real estate house hunting online in the comfort of your own home before you ever step on a plane or hit the road for the trip east.  More importantly, MLS® rules help to ensure the accuracy and reliability of information that gets posted to a listing about any given property. That is great value to consumers and we are the envy of many countries for having such a system.
  So is the system anti-competitive?  I have followed for months the media reports and online comments made by consumers pertaining to this festering situation. Virtually every consumer complaint has been centred around  the lousy service they received from their respective REALTOR® for the commissions paid.  This is not a question of a system that it anti-competitive, rather, it's more a matter of REALTORS® proving poor service and subsequently poor value for the fees charged.
 Today's consumer looks for and demands greater value than ever before.  Let's face it, I do and so do you.  As professional REALTORS® we must first identify what it is that is important to consumers that are engaged in and or are contemplating a real estate transaction.  We must provide a level of knowledge, expertise and service that meets these needs in a way that clearly demonstrates the value a licensed REALTOR® contributes to the buying and selling process.  As humans we all tend to lay blame for situations rather than accept our responsibility for them.  Let's not fault a system that is the envy of many.
Following Sunday's vote I will elaborate in more detail the changes that you can expect to see coming to the rules governing organized real estate and more specifically the MLS® system.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Somebody - Please Stop the Madness!

  In less than a week we will have elected new Councils across our region and indeed across the Province to lead our municipalities over the next four years. 
  Four those of us living in Collingwood that have attended candidates meetings and followed the electoral process, the issue of the Town's debt and downtown patios have been the most contentious issues. Some  incumbents that voted in favour of moving the patios to the curb and tried to justify their decision at the meetings were literally booed.  Virtually everyone that was running agreed to either re-visit the matter if elected or to just move forward in having this ridiculous by-law repealed outright.
  Thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money have been squandered debating this frivolous issue for which the correct decision is one based on practicality and liability.  This matter deserved no more than an hour, not months of Council's consideration after staff reports outlining the pros and cons had been heard, and it will clearly cost some incumbents their positions next week.  One candidate's website shows before and after photos of the downtown core with patios against the buildings then moved to the curb, the after photo showing nice wide sidewalks with no people! It's incredible that this would be seen as an improvement.
  Last week's Collingwood Connection reported that Sean Cripps the owner of Duncan's Cafe has been charged not once but twice with having an "illegal" patio.  It's blatently obvious the decision to move the patios was wrong and the candidates running for Council heard this again and again during the course of this campaign.  Despite promises to revisit the matter if not to repeal this by-law altogether and with some candidates making promises such as "Now is the time to be open for business once again" somebody needs to step in and call off the dogs!  I think I speak for many in asking will someone please stop the madness!
Please take a moment to complete my online poll.  Given the circumstances with a repeal of the by-law potentially going to happen do you think it is appropriate to be laying these charges?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't Miss The Best Value in Skiing!

With the days getting shorter and the nights colder, people like myself start looking forward to the fast approaching winter and the accompanying ski season.  Yes, some of you may feel we're sick but hey, we can endure the ridicule equally as well as the cold in pursuit of one of our favourite sports. 
  I've yet to purchase season's passes for myself and kids at Blue Mountain, the early bird deadline is coming quickly (November 1st) for the discounted rates don't miss out on what is undeniably a great deal.  In this day and age where true value for a product or service is often hard to attain, Blue Mountain's 5X7 pass is a real bargain. For those of us fortunate enough to live in the area we can enjoy as much skiing as our aging legs and knees can stand for the modest price of  $179 + tax.  That's only $5 more than three regular day tickets which are now $58.  If you haven't gotten your's yet act quickly as November 1st is fast approaching.  Tickets can be purchased online, it's fast and easy.  See you on the slopes!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CIBC's Run For Ther Cure

  This past Sunday 1,000 runners/walkers participated in the local event for the CIBC Run For The Cure.  A team of us from Royal LePage Collingwood participated and in terms of money raised, our team placed in the top 10 Teams helping the local run generate almost $178,000 in donations, not bad for a smaller community.
  Our office has and continues to experience the impact Cancer has.  In the past year we've lost a good colleague and more recently another member of our office has had a brush with breast cancer while yet another has a spouse now undergoing treatment for the same.
  The weather conditions for this year's run couldn't have been better.  Event organizers had a 5km route that was well thought out taking full advantage of the town's trail system with minimal road contact. After not have run any significant distance in years and with a worn knee, I was pleased to have run the entire distance and I will look forward to next year's event.  A special thank you to those that donated to my efforts personally as well as those that made a donation to other members of the Royal LePage Collingwood team.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Area Real Estate Sales Volume Slips 11% in 3rd Quarter

Area real estate sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board slowed during the 3rd quarter of 2010 versus the same period last year. Lingering concerns about the strength of the current economic recovery, interest rate hikes by the Bank of Canada and the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario were no doubt all contributing factors to the 3rd quarter slow down

  MLS® statistics for the month of September reflect a softening in both listing and sales activity vs September 2009. A total of 584 properties were listed on the local MLS® system in September 2010 vs 616 in September 2009, a decrease of 5.2%, 169 properties sold in Sept. 2010 vs 188 in Sept. 2009, a decrease of 10.2%.  Overall sales volume was $47,189,150 in Sept. 2010 vs $51,358,520 in Sept. 2009 a decrease of 8.2%.
  During the 3rd quarter, MLS® unit sales activity dropped 14.7%, with 532 properties selling this year compared to 624 sales in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Total 3rd quarter MLS® sales volume was $149,135,752 which represents a 10.9% decrease over the $167,356,079 worth of properties sold in the 3rd quarter of 2009.  Virtually all price segments saw a drop in sales activity during ther 3rd quarter with the exception of the upper end of our market.  Properties in the $500,000 - $999,999 range exhibited an increase of 9.8% in number of sales while 3rd quarter sales in $1 million + range this year totaled 8 compared to 5 sales in $1 million+ sales during the 3rd quarter of 2009.  Sales below $250,000 posted the biggest decline year-over-year down 20.2% from the same quarter last year.  This segment of the market is the one perhaps most vulnerable to increased mortage rates and these results indicate that.
  For the first nine months of 2010, a total of 1,516 properties have changed hands year-to-date surpassing the 1,390 properties sold in the same period last year, an increase of 9.1%. MLS® sales volume for the first nine months of 2010 totals $430,145,706 which represents a 20.3% increase over $357,509,894 worth of properties sold in the first nine months of last year.  Again, year-to-date sales below $250,000 is the only segment of the market showing a decline with sales down 5.5% vs the same period last year.
  Market activity is forecasted to remain steady for the balance of the year.  The aforementioned statistics pertain to resale property activity reported throught the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board and do not include private sales, new home sales made by developers etc. These sales combined with the MLS® activity reported above reflects the strength we continue to see in our market despite the weaker activity of the 3rd quarter.  It would appear that we can expect interest rates to remain stable for the foreseeable future and there remains a good selection of properties on the market for buyers to choose from.  The biggest question that remains pertaining to future market activity is the the strength of our economy and the impact it will have on consumer confidence moving forward.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CIBC's Run For The Cure

Dear Friends, Family, Clients and Colleagues,

Cancer of all types has and continues to touch countless numbers of people across Canada. I lost my father to cancer and more recently my fellow REALTORS® and I here at Royal LePage in Collingwood have seen the impact of this disease on our fellow co-workers and or their families. In order to help arrest one aspect of this dreaded disease, my colleagues and I at Royal LePage here in Collingwood have formed a team to participate in this years Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure scheduled to run Sunday October 3rd.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure is Canada's largest single day, volunteer-led fundraising event dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research, and education awareness programs.

Each year, thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life unite to participate in the Run. Their reasons for participating vary, but they all have the same goal; to create a future without breast cancer.
Please support me and my fellow team members at Royal LePage with our fundraising efforts to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation during this year's walk.

If you feel so inclined visit my personal CIBC Run For The Cure Website to make a donation.  No matter what the amount given, together we can work to find a cure.
Rick Crouch

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Local Chalet Rental Firm Found Guilty

It may come as a surprise to many that as licensed REALTORS® we practice our profession under provincial law, specifically the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act 2002 (REBBA 2002). This Act has been in place for many years, 2002 merely denotes the date in which some significant changes and or revisions were added.
Under the "Act," are well defined stipulations that govern virtually ever aspect of what we do from the preparation of listing/sale agreements, financial matters, our signs, advertising guidelines and so on. One of the main requirements of the "Act" is that no one is to trade in real estate without being registered under REBBA 2002.  This means that no company or individual can charge a fee for listing, selling or even leasing a property.
  On September 16th, the Barrie court convicted a Collingwood company "Blue Mountain Chalets" of trading in real estate without being licensed under REBBA 2002, overturning a decision made two years ago wherein the company was acquitted.  At the time of the acquittal, I was President of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board and I was present in the Bradford court room at the time.  The earlier fate of Blue Mountain Chalets was presided over by a Justice of the Peace who although finding the company guilty of practicing real estate without being licensed, proceeded to acquit them anyway.  The company will now be sentenced on October 5th.
  While one may ask themselves what all the hullabaloo is about not being licensed, they fact is consumers stand at considerable risk.  For example, under REBBA 2002, real estate brokerages are required to maintain and place funds such as deposit monies into trust accounts where they are protected.  Non-registered parties can simple cash a deposit cheque and use it for what they want and should the company go under, those funds will most likely be gone. How would you feel about a $5,000, $10,000 or larger deposit of yours being lost?
Due to the recreational nature of our area, numerous individuals and or companies have and continue to exist in our area that are managing rental condominiums, chalets and cottages.  With this latest verdict against Blue Mountain Chalets, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is going to be pursuing all other non-registrants in the area in order to ensure that consumers are fully protected by law in their real estate transactions.  If you are not sure as to whether your are dealing with a licensed REALTOR® simply visit the RECO website and search for the party representing you to see if they are in fact a registrant under the "Act."

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Municipal Race Is On!

With just 38 days remaining until the 2010 municipal elections across Ontario, the race is now on amongst those looking to lead our area municipalities for the next 4 years.
  We could debate for hours (with no clear winners) the performance of the "incumbent" Council members throughout the various municipalities in our area and indeed the Province.  Throughout recent weeks, there has been community dialogue and letters to the various papers advocating the widespread removal of all incumbent members of Council here in Collingwood and I suspect the same sentiment exists elsewhere in Ontario as well. Taxes are spiralling out of control, decisions being made contravene not only good business sense but often plain common sense and residents here and across the Province have seemingly had enough. 
  If I were an incumbent candidate I would be judging the performance of myself and fellow Council members over the past 4 years on one very simple indicator. Merely look around the room at the shear magnitude of candidates now running against you.  That is as clear an indicator as you are ever going to get about the performance current Councils and their members have rendered to their respective municipalities over the past term.  Knowing the role egos play, no doubt some incumbents here and elsewhere will smugly claim what a wonderful job they have done pointing the finger of blame at either the Mayor or their fellow Council members for failures of the past.  Those are the ones I hope fall the hardest and fastest as it's the only way they'll ever get the message.  In Collingwood we have 21 candidates running for 7 Councillor positions. In the Blue Mountains and Wasaga Beach, 13 and 12 candidates respectively are running for 5 Councillor positions.  Similarly, in Meaford  13 are running for 5 Councillor seats, in Grey Highlands 10 candidates are vying for 5 Councillor positions. Clearview Township has a "ward" system in place nonetheless in many of the wards 3 or 4 candidates are running offering voters lots of choices.  Further afield, the City of Barrie has 8 candidates running for the Mayor's position. Too bad Collingwood does not have more choices for this important position as well.
  I suspect many incumbents in this area and others will get some tough questions and treatment at upcoming all candidate meetings with the final verdict of their past 4 year's performance rendered on October 25th.  As one local candidate proclaims: "It's Time For Change" and there no doubt will be a lot of that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What A Summer It's Been!

Well it's hard to believe that we are now into September, someone mentioned the other day there are only 15 or 16 weeks left for Christmas shopping, scary!  Nonethless we have had an excellent summer weather-wise and most people I talk to seem to have enjoyed it, feeling that the summer of 2010 has made up for a least 2 or 3 mediocre summers in the last couple of years.
I spent last week at my summer cottage on Manitoulin Island and at the risk of dating myself, this is the 58th consecutive year that I have spent time on Manitoulin, the largest fresh water island in the world.  Even during a 4 year stint living in Chicago, I still made the annual migration back to the cottage to spend a couple of weeks escaping the pressures of daily life. Real estate clients are always shocked to learn that I live in Collingwood and yet go further north to a cottage!  My answer is always the same, no matter where any of us live, we eventually all need a break from our daily lives including the place where we live.
   My mother was originally from Manitoulin hence their is a family connection to that area that goes far back long before I owned property there.  I spent many a Manitoulin summer on my grand parents farm, an experience that has played a significant role in who I am today. By most standards, Manitoulin is pretty primitive as a vacation destination which to me is perfect.  There are no go cart tracks, amusment parks, night clubs, four star restaurants or other such manner of entertainment.  What this is plenty of is water, (there are over 100 lakes on the Island), trees, rocks, wide open spaces and a naturally rugged landscape to drive, hike, bike and enjoy.  In particular I feel very fortunate to own almost 2 acres on the water, I am at the end of a dead-end road so it's private yet I also have full municipal services (sewer and water). My kids have grown up enjoying the cottage lifestyle and like me they also have a strong connection to Manitoulin Island due to family roots.  My daughter recently returned to Ontario after living for 2 years in Vancouver and what did she miss the most?  Her family? Nope, the cottage!
  Many people I come into contact with through my real estate practice are looking for the same experience and recreational lifestyle in this area that they too can share with their families, making a lifetime of memories of their own.  No one can appreciate those desires and objectives more than me and I'd be delighted to work with anyone looking to make a real estate investment in our area that will create for them what my cottage has provided me and my family. 
  As the summer of 2010 now draws to a close, I look forward to many more summers inwhich to enjoy my "island" escape. If you've never been to Manitoulin it's worth the visit and I'd be happy to share with you my knowledge of the area.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Area Real Estate Sales Strengthen - But Buyers Remain Cautious

Area real estate sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board during the month of August have rebounded strongly following disappointing sales in July. Sales on this last day of the month total $57 million have surpassed total sales for August 2009. 
Despite this positive level of activity, buyers remain cautious and are languishing over their purchase decisions forever fearful of overpaying should prices trend downward in the months ahead. Increasingly, we are seeing offers coming in well below the asking price.  Sellers are often offended by this but shouldn't be, it's just the nature of today's buyer(s) given the continuing uncertain economic and market conditions we face.
Typically the average list-to-sale price ratio for MLS® sales processed through the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board is 95% provided the property is realistically priced.  An initial offer significantly below that will typically generate one of two results.  One the sellers will elect not to sign the offer back or two, the sign-back will be close to the asking price just to send a message.  Either way, this tactic creates a very adversarial environment for further negotiations and nobody wins.
Whether you are a seller or a buyer, it is imperative that you are working with a REALTOR® that can provide you with hard factual information regarding current market pricing.  Fact and accurate information based decision making are crucial in today's real estate market.  If we as professional  REALTORS® cannot provide this level of service to our clients then successful real estate transactions will elude, buyers, sellers and REALTORS® alike. 
To help you in selecting a REALTOR®  that will best meet your needs whether selling or buyer please refer to  my Home Cents Help Tip article "Interviewing Potential Realtors®."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Area Real Estate Sales Soften in July

After several consecutive months of robust sales following the slowdown we experienced in 2008, area real estate sales weakened in July versus the same month last year.  Unit sales as reported in the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board declined 25% in July compared to July 2009. A total of 162 sales were reported during the month down from the 217 properties sold in July 2009.  Sales revenue declined even further during the month as MLS® sales totaled $42.8 million down from the $62.0 million worth of properties sold in 2009 a decrease of 31%
Year-to-date 2010 sales still remain well above the total for the first seven months of  2009 (up 16%) while sales revenue for the year totals $324.1 million up 28% from the $252.5 million sold during the same period in 2009.  Sales in the upper price ranges continue to remain very strong.  Unit sales between $500,000 to $800,000 total 77 properties, an increase of 64% over 2009.  Similarly, sales over $1 million are up 78% with 16 sales reported above $1 million in 2010 versus 9 during the first seven months of 2009.
  The reasons for July's softer sales are no doubt varied.  Many buyers bought in the first half of the year to avoid potentially higher mortgage rates which were predicted to increase but essentially haven't to the levels forecasted.  The implementation of the harmonized sales tax (HST) on July 1st may also have prompted some purchases in the first half although the HST by-and-large does not affect resale real estate.
July and August can be very unpredictable months relative to overall market activity.  Many potential buyers are in "holiday mode" and do not resume their house hunting seriously until late August or early September.  In the past 10 to 14 days our office has seen a 40% increase in showing activity relative to our office's listings, a clear indication that Buyers are indeed out there viewing properties with the intention to purchase.
The remainder of 2010 should bring with it steady albeit somewhat softer level of sales activity.  Interest rates remain at very low levels and there is a great selection of available properties for would-be Buyers to choose from.  For details more specific to your particular market area and or situation, please feel free to contact me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Condo Sales up 43%

Condominium resales have enjoyed a strong resurgence during the first half of 2010 with unit sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board (GTREB) up 43% to the end of June.  Dollar revenue is up even higher totaling $37.4 million for the first six months of 2010, an increase of 64% from the prior year. 
As noted on the accompanying graph, resale condo sales on an annualized basis have not historically posted consistent gains from year to year.  In general,  resale condominium unit sales have consistently totaled in the low 300 range annually with the exception of 2008 which was abnormally weaker.  These sales do not include the sale of new condo units in developments such as the Village at Blue, Cranberry, Lora Bay and others.
Through the first six months of this year, 101 resale condominium units have been sold in Collingwood compared to 75 in 2009, an increase of 35%.  Condo sales in the Blue Mountains total 51 units up from 35 last year, an increase of 46%.  Condo sales in other municipalities most notably in Wasaga Beach and Meaford make up the difference have have increased from 3 units sold in the first six months of 2009 to 13 units so far this year.
Condominium properties have always been popular with recreational buyers looking for an economical entry into our market either for ski season use or for use as a year round weekend retreat.  Increasingly we are seeing first-time home buyers looking at the condominium alternative to a single family home simply because they are more affordable.  As an example, a small war-time home 600 square feet in size recently sold for $121,000 and required a lot of work.  Conversely, $100,000 to $110,000 will buy you a similarly sized condo or for $120,000 to $130,000 you can buy a condominium with close to twice that square footage.  No doubt it is these first-time buyers that is helping to increase the area's condominium sales year-to-date and this trend will no doubt continue.  Even with a monthly condo fee, condo ownership can make sense for those on a strict budget without a lot of extra income to put towards maintenance and or renovation expenses. 
For additional information pertaining to the local condominium market please see the Summer 2010 issue of my Condo Communique´ condominium newsletter or to discuss your particular condominium buying and selling needs please do not hesitate to Contact Me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grey Highlands Leads Area in Sales Increases for 2010

Unit sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board for the first six months of 2010 shows that the Municipality of Grey Highlands leads the the Georgian Triangle in year-over-year sales increases 2009 versus 2010.  For the period ended June 30th, unit sales in Grey Highlands are up 69% for the first six months of the year totaling 49 as compared to 29 sales in the first six months of 2009.  The average residential sale price in Grey Highlands is also up almost 16% year-to-date reflecting the fact that many of the sales in 2010 are of greater value than those reported in 2009, a fact that is consistent across our market this year in general.  MLS® sales in both the Municipality of Meaford and the Blue Mountains are running 35% and 30% ahead of 2009 respectively.  Other area municipalities are all posting sales gains in the first six months of the year with the Town of Collingwood having the smallest gain of just under 12%.  The adjacent chart shows the level of sales activity in each of the various municipalities throughout our area. For additional market news please see the latest copy of my "Georgian Triangle  Real Estate News" or as always, feel free to Contact Me for a no oblogation consultation re: your specific real estate buying or selling needs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Half 2010 Real Estate Sales Revenue Up 48%

Area real estate sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board continued to show strength in the second quarter of 2010 with year-to-date sales to the end of June up 48% over 2009, despite the tightening up of mortgage qualification criteria and slight increases to the historically low mortgage rates. This, coupled with the arrival of Ontario’s Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) effective July 1st, may account for slower growth in sales during the remainder of the year. “According to the Conference Board of Canada’s index of consumer confidence, consumer sentiment lost some ground after having increased in the first quarter, and is now roughly back on par with levels reported at the end of last year. The decrease in confidence reflects weaker outlooks for household budgets and employment, and less enthusiasm about making major purchases.”

Statistics for the month of June 2010, reflect a slight softening in number of listings and number of sales versus June 2009: 503 properties were listed on the local MLS® system in June 2010, vs. 551 in June 2009, a decrease of 8.7%; 197 properties sold in June 2010, versus 206 in June 2009, a decrease of 4.3%. Sales volume, however, was $61,790,689 in June 2010, vs. $50,660,918 in June 2009: an increase of over 21% stemming from increased sales in every price category above $500,000.

For the first six months of 2010, 985 properties have changed hands year-to-date (YTD), surpassing the 769 properties sold same period last year, an increase of 28.1%. MLS® Sales volume of $281,255,054 (June 2010 YTD) represents a solid 47.6% increase over $190,541,815 (June 2009 YTD). As noted in the chart above, all price categories have seen an increase in number of sales June 2010 vs. June 2009: under $250,000 520 vs. 494, or 5.3% increase; $250,000 to $499,999 375 vs. 234, or 60.3% increase; $500,000 to $999,999 75 vs. 34 or 120.6% increase and in the over $1 Million category, 15 sales vs. 7 sales, or an increase of 114.3%.

The current Georgian Triangle MLS® sales-to-listing ratio shows a return to a more balanced market conditions. With the introduction of the H.S.T., the possibility of slightly higher mortgage rates and tighter qualification rules for mortgage financing, sales activity is expected to remain stable in the months yet may decrease slightly from the somewhat hectic pace experienced in the last quarter of 2009 and first quarter of 2010.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The World's Most Versatile Chair

Most home sellers today acknowledge that we are in competitive market conditions with many homes listed for sale all trying to capture the attention of potential buyers.  Sellers are on an ever increasing basis asking their listing REALTOR® for suggestions as to how they can prepare their home to show it to its best advantage including the correct placement or staging of furniture.  Well a Chinese entrepreneur may have the perfect solution as to how you can alter the look of your home's living or family room with a minimal of fuss and or investment.  Watch the video above to learn more.  Who says you need a room full of furniture to give your home a fresh new "look."  Home stagers beware!

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Street Reconstruction - The End is in Sight!

After several weeks of lane closures, residents and visitors alike will soon be able to enjoy the benefits that will be provided via the reconstruction of First Street.  The new format will include a much needed centre, left hand turn lane, a feature that has desperately been needed for years.  Commencing today (Monday June 21st) final paving is to begin on what has been a lengthy construction process that has often tested the patience of drivers and pedestrians alike. 
Westbound lanes, those on the north side of First Street will start to receive their final coat of asphalt starting tonight at 7:00pm continuing through to 6:00am tomorrow morning.  The schedule for this work is as follows:

Intersection of High and First Streets 7:00 to 9:30pm
High to Elm Streets 9:00 to 10:20pm
Elm to Spruce Streets  9:50 to 11;10pm
Spruce to Hickory Streets  10:40 to Midnight
Hickory to Walnut Streets  11:30 to 12:50pm
Walnut to Cedar Streets  12:20 to 1:40am
Cedar to Oak Streets  1:10 to 2:30am
Oak to Birch Street  2:00 to 3:20am
Birch to Beech Streets  2:50 to 4:10am
Beech to Maple Streets  3:40 to 5:00am
Maple to Pine  4:30 to 6:00am

The second phase of this final paving will begin tomorrow evening (Tuesday June 22nd) with working being done on the eastbound lanes or the south side of First Street. As with tonight, work will start at the far west end of First proceeding east to Pine Street.  The construction schedule for this segment of the work is the same as above.  During these time slots access to the respective side streets will be closed for the laying and compacting of the asphalt as well as to provide a safe working environment for the construction crew and their equipment.

Overall, construction for the first Street project is reported as being ahead of schedule.  Between the work in this area, the reconstruction of Huronatrio Street and other projects around town it seems at times that we are in a war zone and I can only imagine what visitors to the area must think.  The curb lanes on First Street have been effectively closed for a least two months now and while there were some unfinished sections of curbing plus some raised or exposed manholes, these lanes have for the most part been absent of workers during this time.  Perhaps with the right measures being taken, those lanes lanes could and should have been reopened at least on weekends.
Nonetheless, the finish line is in sight and none too soon.  In less than two weeks school will be out and the summer holiday season will be upon us bringing with it visitors which we hope with have a lasting and favourable impression of our revitalized downtown core and improved First Street (Highway 26) corridor.  We may not have had the same investment into our Town that Huntsville has had for the G8 Summit, but in addition to some noteworthy infrastructure improvements, at least we have a "real" lake.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real estate sales activity throughout the Georgian Triangle in 2010 continues to show dramatically improved results over the same period last year driven largely to a degree by Canada’s overall economic recovery resulting in improved consumer confidence, combined with continued low mortgage rates and a great selection of listed properties to choose from.
Unit sales for the first five months of 2010 as reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board are up 40% from the same period last year. Sales revenue has increased more dramatically with year-to-date sales totaling $219.4 million up 57% from the $139.8 million worth of properties sold in the first five months of 2009. This increase in sales revenue is being driven by significantly increased sales in the upper price ranges with unit sales in the $500,000 to $800,000 price range up 88% (49 versus 26) 2010 compared to 2009. Further, year-to-date sales above $1 million total 9 to the end of May versus 5 in the same period last year. During the month of March, two MLS® residential sales were recorded over $2 million whereas in the history of the local MLS® system there had only been two single family homes sold over $2 million ever.

Many people I meet and talk with comment on the seemingly large number of properties currently listed for sale. Year-to-date, a total of 2,768 new MLS® listings have come onto the market, up 9% from the 2,540 new MLS® listings recorded in the first five months of 2009. It is a fact, Buyers do have lots of choices and they are buying as is evidenced by the 40% increase in unit sales to the end of May. When choices are limited, my experience is that Buyers tend to stand pat waiting for a greater selection of properties to become available before they commit to buy. The number of expired listings May year-to-date have decreased from last year and they now stand at 1,166 properties, down 8% from the same period last year. Many Sellers, unrealistic in their asking prices have decided to remove their properties from the market hoping for a change in fortune at some future point in time.

Breaking the year-to-date unit sales activity down into the various local markets, results in order of the largest year-to-date gains is as follows: Grey Highlands up 95%, Municipality of Meaford up 69%, Clearview Township up 52%, the Blue Mountains up 46%, Collingwood up 28% and lastly Wasaga Beach has increased 16%. As you can see, sales results vary wildly from one municipality to another, please contact me for a no obligation detailed analysis of your particular property.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has lowered their 2010 forecast for MLS® home sales nationwide largely the result of weaker home sales in the first five months of the year in British Columbia. BC and Ontario weight heavily in CREA’s annual forecasts and even minor slippage in either of these provinces can significantly impact the overall market numbers. Changes in mortgage regulations are expected to have a marginal affect overall and perhaps even less so here locally. Many Buyer clients I regularly deal with are merely writing a cheque hence mortgage rates are a moot point. Sales across Ontario are predicted to increase by 10% in 2010, my belief is that we will see a significantly higher sales increase here in the Georgian Triangle.
Pricing across our area as well as in Canada overall remains relatively stable. The national average home price now stands at $325,400, locally were are just slightly below that at $312,529 to the end of May up 12% from one year ago. As I have stated in prior postings, the average residential price cannot be used to measure the pricing appreciation or depreciation. Increased or decreased sales activity at different price points can have a significant impact on the overall average price as we have seen here locally, given the aforementioned sales increases above $500,000. Again, for a detailed analysis of pricing for your property please feel free to contact me.

Overall, the future looks like we will be seeing more balanced market conditions for which everyone will benefit. Canada’s economy remains strong and with a history of solid mortgage lending and prudent borrowing by Canadian consumers it would appear that we will avoid the massive realignment of the housing market being experienced in the U.S.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Enough to Drive You to Drink

The debate regarding restaurant patios on Hurontario Street continues to rage on incessantly and it would appear that the people most affected by the potential change in the bylaw are largely being ignored. 
  By all reports the restaurant owners themselves are against it both for practical as well as financial reasons. From the numerous letters being written to the local papers, restaurant patrons also appear to be every bit as focused on wishing to see the patios remain where common sense would dictate, up against the respective restaurant building(s) itself.
  It doesn't take a lot of thought to envision the impracticality of having patios moved away from the restaurant out to the curb.  Wait staff having to dodge pedestrian traffic while manipulating trays of food hot or otherwise is at the very least inconvenient but more importantly represents a very real threat for reduced personal safety and increased liability.  From an aesthetics standpoint, sitting at a patio curbside places you amidst vehicles coming and going, exposes you to increased traffic noise from the street and places you squarely in the middle of a great deal of pedestrian commotion, hardly creating an intimate dining experience. For obvious reasons, Collingwood's own Fire Chief is against the concept.  In contrast I have not heard one reason to support this move that is anywhere as compelling as the reasons against.
This saga has gone on far too long and consumed far too much time of Council and Town staff not to mention legal expenses (apparently $11,000 to date) and consulting costs.  It is the perfect example of a person or group majoring in "minor" things.  What I find absolutely incomprehensiblele however is the fact that for months now, this subject has raged on with decisions being made without the most important information of all being brought to the table, that being what are the requirements and obligations for restaurant patios under Ontario's Alcohol and Gamming Commission?  (AGCO). If I were a member of Council, making an informed decision with respect to this matter, it would be absolutely impossible for me to do so without this crucial information before us.  The very decision itself might very well be made by the stipulations of the AGCO, Provincial legislation that will decidely take precedence over a municipal bylaw no matter how well thought out. 
  It is very unsettling to think about what other matters, bylaws and expenditures etc. are being debated and voted on around the Council table without all the relevant facts, information and legal information being known.  After months of debate, dialogue and anguish amongst downtown restauranteurs, Council have now deferred dealing with the existing bylaw until the governing legislation from the AGCO is brought forth June 14th.  Gee, what a refreshing idea!  It's about time some logic came to the forefront of this debate in terms of knowing in detail what the Province's legislation stipulates regarding patios and the serving of alcoholic beverages.
My predictiction is we will see one of two outcomes.  Patios will remain where they should be up against their respective building(s) or if Council proceeds to move forth against the wishes of the very people being affected we will see patios vanish off Hurontario Street altogether.  Let us know what you think in our current poll.

Monday, May 31, 2010

We Take Our Health Care System for Granted

  I've been negligent over the past couple of weeks in my postings, busy with a hectic real estate related scheduled and preoccupied with a caring for an elderly mother now hospitalized in Collingwood's General and Marine (G&M) Hospital.  Sooner or later many of us will be caught in the cross-fire of caring for our parents while still with kid's on the payroll and I am getting first hand experience as to what this means.     
  Fortunately we have a health care system that is (a) accessible and (b) is largely paid for by our tax system.  In 1991 my then 14 month old son had open heart surgery resulting in a 3 week stay at Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto. The cost to me? A few hundred dollars in accommodation expenses for my wife's stay in Toronto close to the hospital. Anywhere else other than Canada and I would have mortgaged everything I owned to pay what was probably a $250K tab. A recent stay two week stay in the G&M for my mother cost $45 for the ambulance ride to get there likewise a two week stay at a rehab facility in Penetang for her physical therapy cost $60 for the television rental the rest of which was paid for by tax dollars.
  We as Canadians truly take our health care system and its related costs for granted.  I lived in the U.S. for four years from 1992 to 1996 and despite having a company benefit plan, routinely had to pay out of pocket for deductibles or expenses not covered by our plan which amounted to a few thousand dollars every year.  Because it seemingly costs us nothing out of pocket, we as Canadians have lost sight of the fact that a 15 or 20 minute trip to see our Doctor is probably a $400 or $500 visit.  It's not just the Doctor's time you are taking it's all his other overhead and expenses for rent, heat, hydro, staffing, supplies etc. that need to be covered.
  I gain a keen perspective and appreciation for our system every day while visiting the G&M Hospital to visit my mother.  We are truly fortunate to have a facility with such caring staff in our community.  With an aging population and a significant influx of retirees migrating into the area, I can't help but think about the added pressure it will place on our hospital and medical community as a whole.  Amongst other priorities, the $1 billion being spent on security for the G20 Summit could clearly be better utilized, ensuring that our current and future medical needs are met.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pricing Your Property To Sell

Notwithstanding the fact that area real estate sales are up 65% in terms of units for the first quarter of 2010 indicating a strong demand, pricing your property to be in the market and not just on the market is key to achieving a sale.
For five consecutive years (2005 to 2009) the annual number of "expired" listings in the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board have exceeded the number of properties that have sold. That to me is a very telling number indicating that sellers and their REALTORS® are failing to price properties reflective of their current market value.
Factors that do not have a bearing on the value of your home are what you paid, what you may have spent on renovations/upgrades, what you owe, what you need to net out to purchase your next home and so on. The most fundamental factor that does serve to establish the value of your property is what have other properties similar to yours sold for?
When contemplating the sale of your home, condo or other property, it is absolutely imperative that the REALTOR(S)® you interview prepares a "Comparable Market Analysis" (CMA). I an increasingly competitive market, it's no longer effective for a REALTOR® to simply walk through a property shooting from the hip to throw out a price. Your response should be "show me!"
Not only will a well prepared CMA help to establish an accurate List Price for your home, it can also be used to illustrate and counsel a potential buyer(s) as to the property's value and what a credible offer price should be. Today's buyers are fearful of paying too much and with a good inventory of properties on the market they don't have to. Furthermore, thanks to the Internet, buyers today are much better educated and informed. They know what is on the market, how long it has been listed and they are readily able to compare various listings to one another quickly establishing a sense of which ones are over-priced.
Just as over-pricing is an issue, so is under-pricing a property. I recently secured a listing which another competing agent had priced $35K to $40K below my price, a difference of almost 20%. Their price represented little more than the "assessed" value which in many cases is still well below market value. Within three days the home in question received two offers and sold for in excess of 98% of the asking price.
Pricing is indeed everything and some good research and effort going in by the REALTOR® you are working with whether it is for a sale or purchase, will make the whole real estate selling/buying process more successful and less stressful for everyone involved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Full Steam Ahead at the Shipyards

With all of the construction activity going on around the area including the reconstruction of Hurontario Street, the completion of First Street, exterior finishes to the new library, the revitalization of Heritage Park to name a few, none is a more welcome site than the Shipyards. After languishing as a weed infested "no man's land" for the better part of two decades, this much anticipated re-development of the former Collingwood shipbuilding site is really taking shape. Sales/interest in the project is obviously good given the number of units currently under construction.
In my opinion, the highlight of the development will be the waterside promenade that starts at the foot of Hurontario Street and follows along the former side-launch basin out into the harbour. This is sure to be a major draw to both residents and tourists alike creating a waterfront atmosphere that will inject some excitement into our downtown core.
If there is anything about this project that is a bit of a letdown it's the architecture. I've heard many comments about how uninspiring the buildings look on the outside with nothing to differentiate them from any run-of-the-mill condo development you might see in Mississauga or throughout the GTA. This is one of the common shortcomings that we often see throughout the area where both builders and in some cases individual homeowners build the wrong thing resulting in a product that lacks the characteristics buyers are looking for and can be difficult to sell. This is not an "urban" environment and many buyers looking to the area expect if not demand something different to match the lifestyle change they are making by coming here in the first place. In this day-and-age of computer aided design, a little human imagination could be expended to create something truly different and unique. In the case of the Shipyards, something perhaps with a bit of a nautical touch would remind us of the former role this property played in the history of Collingwood.
I do not profess to be an architectural guru but I often read the comments of Christopher Hume the architectural critic for the Toronto Star. Mr. Hume has been to and spoken in Collingwood, perhaps at some point we may here his comments further regarding this particular project.
There are currently 5 MLS® listed Shipyards units for sale and at least one unit with a private for sale sign. No doubt some of the early buyers are looking to flip their properties for a profit others may have just had a change of heart. Whatever your take, this will be a very successful development and a welcomed re-birth of Collingwood's long neglected waterfront.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Collingwood's New Library Now Open

This past week I finally made a point and took the time to visit Collingwood's new public library.  Notwithstanding the fact that numerous details remain to be finished on the exterior, the library has now been open for a couple of weeks and by all accounts is receiving a positive response from the public. 
Libraries have often been the focal point in many smaller communities and hopefully ours will continue to be as well. The exterior stills lacks some final touches but overall, the faux heritage look fits in well with the downtown core.  Overall, I sensed a much more intimate feel on the inside as the interior dimensions seemed to create the feeling of a much smaller space than what the three storey exterior would suggest.  The children's area is well done and overall the building offers ample space to sit and relax in bright sun filled spaces.
  Perhaps it's a bit early to tell but I was anticipating more "gallery" space throughout the building that would serve to feature the work of local artists. As a budding artist myself I have always enjoyed viewing the various paintings that often graced the meeting room in the old library and this was a facet of the new building that I had hoped would be expanded.
This building came at a significant cost and there have been times when I questioned whether or not the municipality should be spending the money given the town's increased debt.  In this day and age of digital print media and devices such as Amazon's "Kindle" and Apple's new iPad, you really have to question the wisdom of spending millions on the bricks and mortar inventorying and delivery of reading materials. 
Every effort should be made to leverage this facility to its fullest extent the potential for which goes far beyond the loaning out of books.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

1st Quarter Real Estate Newsletter

Further to my prior post summarizing the year-to-date sales activity for area real estate, my Georgian Triangle Real Estate Newsletter is now available to download herein or via the link on our website at
In other news, I am pleased to announce the addition of a new member to my real estate team, Mary Ann Burgess who has recently become licensed as a real estate Sales Representative.  Mary Ann possess a keen business sense and an enthusiastic attitude which will be invaluable assets in executing her duties as a real estate sales professional.  

Mary Ann joins myself and Doug Brown as part of the "Real Value" Team.  Our mandate is to provice you with unparalleled service for all your real estate needs, be it a residential home or condominium, recreational property, rural farm/acreage or with a commercial  property for investment or business purposes.
Please feel free to Contact Us for a no obligation consultation regarding your real estate buying or selling needs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1st Quarter Real Estate Sales Jump 65%

Area real estate sales rebounded significantly in March with unit sales for the month increasing 89% over March of last year. Historically low mortgage rates, strong consumer confidence and a good selection of properties throughout the area during the 1st quarter of 2010 resulted in many buyers realizing it was the time to buy.

Unit sales activity during the 1st quarter rose sharply from the 1st quarter of last year with 388 properties changing hands this year versus 235 in the 1st quarter of 2009, an increase of 65%. The 1st quarter exhibited strong sales activity throughout most segments of the region, with sales volume of $106,750,950 up 91% over that of $55,234,868 in the first 3 months of 2009. Comparing 1st quarter 2010 to the strong 4th quarter results of 2009, unit and dollar volume are down 17% and 16% respectively, reflecting a typically quiet 1st quarter start in annual sales activity. Of the 388 sales during the 1st quarter, 200 alone occurred in March (51%) generating $57,114,570 (53%) of year-to-date 2010 sales volume. 1st quarter 2010 sales increased in every price range over the first three months of last year. Property sales below $250,000 increased 20%, 1st quarter sales between $250,000 - $500,000 increased a substantial 183% while sales from $500,000 - $1 Million increased 92%. Sales over $1 million totalled 2 properties versus 1 sale in the first quarter of 2009. Of significant note, the two sales over $1 million in March were in excess of $2 million, a price which has only been attained on two prior occasions in the MLS® sales history of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board. Unquestionably this spring has seen a seasonal upturn in market activity of unprecedented proportions.

The number of new MLS® listings during the 1st quarter of 2010 totals 1,457 units, up 33% from the last quarter of 2009 and 7% ahead of the 1,360 properties listed in the 1st quarter of 2009. In particular March 2010 reflected strong listing activity with 614 new listings which represents 42% of the year-to-date new listing total of 1,457 properties coming to market through the Georgian Triangle. To date, 723 listings expired in the 1st quarter of 2010 down 14% from the number of expired listings in the first three months of 2009.

While market conditions are expected to remain stable in 2nd quarter, sellers who are contemplating listing their property in the months ahead may want to do so earlier so as to avoid the added selling costs associated with the introduction of the H.S.T. on July 1st.  For additional market information specific to your area or to discuss your p[articualr real estate buying and selling needs please feel free to Contact Me with your questions.

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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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