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.

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Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

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