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.

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Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

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