Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blowing in The Wind With Green Energy

The southern Georgian Bay area has seen its fair share of community uprisings over the years stemming from quarry expansions, unwanted developments and more.  Perhaps the most contentious of late has been the fight against wind farms, those massive turbines erected in the rural countryside.  Touted by the provincial Liberals via their Green Energy Act as being an integral part of Ontario's future energy, wind farms have ignited a civic protest through many parts of the province.
  South of us outside Shelbune, the landscape is dotted with dozens of wind turbines.  Last December while returning from a meeting in Stratford, I drove through that area late at night. In the dark you can't see them and you can't hear them but with their blinking red lights to fend off low flying aircraft, you know they are there! It was kind of spooky. 
  Another area where turbines are present in large numbers is along the Lake Huron shoreline to the west of us with further turbine installations slated to come.  A Goderich, Ontario couple have recently launched an injunction against the province to halt what is known as the Kingbridge 2 wind farm in that area.  As you recall Goderich was hit with a different wind problem last August in the form of a major tornado.  The latest ill wind to blow is residents looking to delay the project until such time as Health Canada completes a two year study to determine what if any health issues arise from living too close to these power generating behemoths.  Read more at CBC News.
  Closer to home, residents in the Township of Clearview are in their own fight against a wind farm project on the north side of County Road 91 west of Stayner by WPD Canada Corporation. Notwithstanding the unknown health implications the WPD wind farm allegedly impacts the flight path to the Collingwood airport.  Clearview Council has rejected the project on the same basis as the Goderich couples assertion that future projects should be put on hold until the Health Canada study is complete.
  In my next post I will discuss how the wind farms issue may impact a real estate transaction and what you need to do to protect yourself. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tightened Lending Rules Slowing Some Markets

  According to a recent article in the Toronto Star, tighter mortgage rules are starting to have an impact on real estate sales in some markets.  Home sales dropped 5.8% across Canada from July to August, the largest month-over-month decline since June 2010, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
  Sales activity was down almost 9% nationally in August over August 2011 “providing the first clear indication that the recent changes to mortgage regulations aimed at cooling the market are working as intended,” said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump Monday.
  Such was not the case in the Georgian Triangle last month as unit MLS®
sales in our market were up 17% in August while dollar revenue which totaled $60.1 million was up 25%.  In a market such as ours, a significant number of sales are for recreational purposes and we are seeing an increased number of retirees moving here.  Many of these sales are cash purchases with no mortgage so tighter lending rules may have less of an impact here than elsewhere.
  This is a good example of the divergence that can exist between markets and sometimes even neighbourhoods.  What happens in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary can be very different from a Collingwood area or Muskoka market which tend to be oriented towards a different market and or demographic.  A good example of different market conditions close to home is the condo market.  Collingwood MLS® condo sales thus far in 2012 are running almost dead even with last year with 127 units sold compared to 129 last year.  Meanwhile in the Blue Mountains, MLS® condo sales this year are down 30% so to make a broad brush statement amount market conditions in general is misleading. That's why a more focused look at a specific property type, area or even neighbourhood may be necessary in order to provide vital and accurate information to a seller(s) or buyer(s) in assisting them with making informed decisions about their real estate investment(s).  This is the type of critical information that we as REALTORS® need to provide our clients.  Anything less and we are simply not doing our jobs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Collingwood & Blue Mountain Makes News in the U.S.

  Those of us fortunate enough to live full-time in the Collingwood and Blue Mountain area appreciate how lucky we are.  Owning a vacation property here is one thing but residing here is another matter altogether.  Seeing the exodus of cars on a Sunday afternoon or evening as everyone heads back for another work week in the Greater Toronto Area or elsewhere further reinforces this fact.
  Not only are our fellow Ontarians appreciative of the opportunity they have to own property here and to come up on weekends or for a few days vacation but those further afield are as well.  A recent online article at North was very complimentary of the Collingwood and Blue Mountain area.  This article summarized one U.S. citizens experience of buying and owning some area real estate.  The article was very complimentary of the area in general but as with any success there comes a price and rising real estate prices were sited as one of the "drawbacks" stemming for all the interest the area receives.
  Having first moved here in 1985 I have witnessed the many changes that have taken place in the area.  At that time, there was not a single condominium at Blue Mountain now there are hundreds just in the Village alone.  Intrawest's influence on the area has transformed what was once predominently a ski resort into a year round tourist destination drawing more visitors in the summer than at any other time of year.     
  Let's hope all the success does not completely spoil what we have.  Resorts areas such as this need to maintain a focus on what draws people here to start with.  Loosing those attributes could have a disasterous affect long-term on an economy that increasingly has become dependent on the tourist trade and on the small town atmosphere that has more and more people choosing to retire here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Industry Regulation Isn't a Cure-All

  The key issue affecting any real estate transaction is price. Sure a property may be in need of repair or updating, its location is poor or worse it’s been stigmatized by a suicide or perhaps it was a grow house but ultimately these factors are ALL a function of price.
  As an active real estate Broker and Market Value Appraiser (MVA), I endeavour to take as technical an approach to pricing a potential property to list for sale as I can. This approach has served both my seller client(s) and myself effectively and after all our knowledge is a large part of why consumers call us. As REALTORS® we get paid for “results” not “effort” with the ultimate result being a closed sale. If I can’t demonstrate to a potential buyer why my listing is priced where it is, then I shouldn’t have the listing. Sometimes preparing a comparable market analysis is sufficient in arriving at a property’s current market value. On other occasions and this applies particularly to the luxury home market, commercial properties comparable properties simply do not exist so further analysis and calculations may be required. That being said, while all the investigation, analysis and math in the world is good, a property is ultimately worth what a willing buyer(s) is prepared to pay and what the seller(s) is willing to accept. Our role as REALTORS® is to act as a trusted advisor to these parties, providing the necessary facts for them to make informed decisions including that of price.
  Mike Holmes, long an advocate of regulating the home inspection profession recently commented on real estate appraisers in the National Post. One of his readers experienced some difficulty with respect to an appraisal re: obtaining a home equity loan to cover renovation costs. As he frequently does with home inspectors, Mr. Holmes took aim at the standards and qualifications of the appraisal profession suggesting. A nice rebuttal to the Mike Holmes article by a member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada was published in the Windsor Star. As REALTORS® we rely on market data to assist us in pricing properties as do appraisers. Further, replacement costs for a particular property are often considered as well. None of this is a perfect science because as mentioned above, it is the buyers and sellers that effectively determine market pricing. Mortgage rules have been tightening, banks have become more conservative and seem willing to accept less risk so there may be more than meets the eye behind the situation experienced by the party(s) in Mike Holmes article.  Recently I have noticed that banks are focusing on the assessed value of a property rather than an appraised value as assessments for the most part are lagging behind current market value.
 Licensing requirements for REALTORS® have been increased and I know the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors is working to improve the knowledge and quality of the home inspection profession.  As with any service provider there are the good, the bad and the ugly and time usually has a way of dealing with the latter two.
  Share your opinion by completing the online poll regarding increased regulation of service industries.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Share the Road

Driving around Collingwood and the surrounding area it is almost impossible to miss the growing number of cyclists taking advantage of the tremendous bike riding opportunities the region provides.  The current issue of On The Bay magazine has an extensive cover story on the cycling craze taking place in our area. We are blessed with not only some great scenery and roads for cyclists to enjoy but with amenities such as the Georgian Trail and the growing network of trails here in Collingwood the rides are not only enjoyable but also safe.
  I am a reasonably avid cyclist, not a fanatic mind you but I do like both the exercise as well as the solitude cycling provides.  Riding on a busy thoroughfare for me is not much fun and bike lanes are very much welcomed and appreciated.  A large portion of Highway 6 traversing Manitoulin Island where I have a cottage was re-surfaced in 2011 and a bike lane was added making cycling this summer a much more pleasant experience.
  Cars in and around Collingwood are sporting an increasing number of "Share The Road" stickers.  Obviously, cyclists and car drivers need to maintain a co-operative spirit with respect to using area roadways in a safe and responsible manner especially in areas where bike lanes are not present.
  Recently I followed two cyclists in the accompanying photo along the Clarksburg Side Road that seemingly don't have a grasp re: the concept of sharing.  They rode two abreast in an almost defiant manner for the 2 or 3 km I was behind them, forcing cars into oncoming lanes in order to get by.  These were not kids but adults. Such behaviour gives the cycling community a bad wrap.  For more on safe cycling visit the Share The Road website.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Luxury Home Sales Rebound Over The Summer

  As previously mentioned, real estate sales across southern Georgian Bay through July and August posted solid gains above sales last summer based on statistics produced by the Georgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® (GTAR).

  An increase of 10% in year-to-date MLS® unit sales through the first 8 months of 2012 continues to demonstrate the strong demand for area properties. With the exception of Clearview Township where year-to-date MLS® sales are down a total of just 4 units (4.7%), all other area municipalities that make up our market are showing strong gains in unit year-to-date sales activity. Grey Highlands which in August 2011 had a 23% decrease in year-to-date sales from the prior year is showing a 58% increase in sales for 2012 with 82 properties sold year-to-date compared to just 52 this time last year. As per the attached graph, other area municipalities are also reflecting double digit gains in year-to-date MLS® sales.
   The months of July and August have also brought renewed activity with respect to sales in the upper price segments of our market. Year-to-date MLS® sales between $500,000 to $800,000 total 97 properties, 28 of which (29%) sold in July and August. Similarly, in the $800,000 to $1 million segment, 8 of the 13 sales year-to-date (61%) and 5 or 24% of year-to-date sales above $1 million took place over the summer.
  It should be kept in mind that for the most part, MLS® sales reported by GTAR are typically “resale” properties and for the most part, do not include the sale of new homes and condominiums made by developers. With these additional “new” sales factored in, it is very evident that demand for area properties has rebounded significantly from the sharp decline we experienced during the market downturn of 2008.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No Summer Slowdown In Area Real Estate

  Despite the continuing great summer weather people have been enjoying, area real estate sales did not take a holiday either in July or August.

MLS® unit sales reported by the Georgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® (GTAR) in August was 17% higher than in August 2011 with a total of 200 properties sold. Dollar revenue for the month was up 25% totaling $60.1 million compared to $48.0 million last year stemming from increased sales activity in the upper price
ranges during the month.
  MLS® unit sales for the year through the end of August totals 1,352 properties, up 10% from the 1,234 properties that sold in the first 8 months of 2011. Dollar revenue for the year is $397.2 million, a 9% increase from one year ago.
  In June we experienced a 20% drop in MLS® dollar volume from a year earlier leading to speculation about the market moving forward. Often, real estate activity softens in the summer months with buyers preoccupied with family vacations and other activities. Such has not been the case as combined sales revenue for July and August this year is up 22% from 2011. One month does not make for a “trend” although swings such as this does perhaps indicate how fickle and or unpredictable business can be in these uncertain economic times.
  The number of new MLS® listings posted in August dropped 5% from one year ago. Year-to-date there have been 4,787 new MLS® listings in 2012 versus 2011 resulting in a modest year-over-year increase of just 4% compared to the 10% increase in unit sales. This is very much in keeping with the widespread prediction that market conditions will remain stable moving forward as we continue to move towards a more balanced ratio of available housing inventory versus sales.
  In my next posting I will review sales activity in the various municipalities that make up our market area.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Short-Term Rental Controls

Besides the obvious "lifestyle" advantages to be enjoyed via property ownership in the southern Georgian Bay area, local property owners often engage in some form of rental activity to help defray their ownership costs.  Rental opportunites in the area include formal rental programs available throught the likes of Blue Mountain Resorts and the Village at Blue, renting a property out for the entire ski season typically December through April for those that may head south for the winter and lastly short-term rentals ie: a week or weekend here and there.
  Often when speaking with potential buyers for the first time, they will mention the possible intent of renting their chalet, condo or other property out when not being utilized personally, not realizing that some stipulations may exist that could impact their ability to do so.  Some condominium corporations in the area have rental limitations in their rules and regulations for example and more recently, the Municipality of the Blue Mountains annouced plans to implement a potential licensing process to manage short-term rentals throughout the municipality.
  What is a short-term rental?  Typically these are rental periods for less than 30 consecutive days.  For example, a party may rent a chalet or condo for a weekend, then the following week another tenant(s) arrives for a 5 or 6 days.  In many instances these types of rentals have become problematic in certain neighoburhoods with reports of excessive noise and drinking, improper parking, garbage being strewn about and so on.  Obviously such behaviour from short-term tenants affects residents that live full time or vacation at their properties and this in turn can impact property values.
  Both the Ontario Municipal Board as well a recent court ruling have cleared the way for the Blue Mountains to draft a bylaw that would govern short-term rental housing thoughout the municipality.
  For those persons considering the purchase of a property regardless of the location and renting the property out to offset your ownwership costs is part of the plan, make sure that you and or your REALTOR® conduct the proper due diligence either prior to submitting an offer or as one of your conditions before firming up your purchase. For further information please do not hesitate to "contact me."

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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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