Monday, December 23, 2013

Ontarians Optimistic About Real Estate Market in 2014

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has just released the results of a survey summarizing the feelings those living in Ontario have towards the real estate outlook within the Province.  The results of that survey are as follows:

  Ontarians seem hopeful about the provincial real estate market, according to new research conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). A third of Ontarians say the market will strengthen rather than weaken (21%) in 2014. Looking even further ahead – ten-year‟s time – significantly more Ontarians believe the Ontario real estate market will strengthen (50%) rather than worsen (20%), speaking to the long-term investment value of owning a home.

"The research comes on the heels of an optimistic forecast by the Canadian Real Estate Association,” says Sean Simpson, vice president, Ipsos Public Affairs. “Consumers seem to be echoing a similar sentiment for the 2014 real estate market. Prospective buyers and sellers in particular are also more likely to believe the overall economy is strong, which may be why they‟re considering buying or selling their home in the next two years.”

  Two in three (65%) Ontarians who are at least somewhat likely to buy a home in the next two years believe the economy is in good shape, compared to just 53% of Ontarians overall who think the economy is „good‟. Six in ten (59%) Ontarians looking to sell in the next two years believe the economy is „good‟.
The study, the first of its kind for OREA, examined public opinion in Ontario on a variety of matters pertaining to consumer sentiment of the Ontario real estate market. The findings include:

  • Six in ten (59%) Ontarians believe the current real estate market in Ontario is „favourable‟. Two in ten (18%) Ontarians believe the market is „not favourable‟.
  • Two thirds (67%) of homeowners believe the market is „favourable‟, compared to 47% who currently don‟t own a home. Ontarians who said they are somewhat likely to buy or sell a home in the next two years are even more likely to believe the market is favourable (70% and 77%, respectively).
  • Homeowners are more likely to believe the market has improved in the last year (31% stronger vs. 21% weaker), looking ahead to the next year (34% stronger vs. 16% weaker), and in the next ten years (55% stronger vs. 18% weaker). Prospective buyers and sellers are most optimistic with a majority saying the market will be stronger in the next year (54% and 50%).

Regional Survey Highlights

  • Residents in the 905 area of the GTA are most likely to say their market is favourable (71%), followed by those living in Toronto proper (61%), Eastern (58%), Southwestern (54%), Northern (47%) and Central (45%) Ontario.
  • When looking at local economies, the GTA (63%) and Eastern Ontario (54%) have the most positive outlooks, while Central (37%) and Northern Ontarians (42%) are most pessimistic.
  • GTA residents are most „likely‟ to buy (16%) and sell (17%) a home in the next two years. Residents in Northern Ontario are least likely (4%) to buy a home in the next two years, while Central Ontarians are least likely to sell (5%) a home in the next two years.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Changes Announced Affecting Real Estate Commissions

In recent years, real estate commissions have become a topic of frequent discussion with many consumers of the opinion that commissions charged are too high or perhaps it’s a matter that the perceived value they received from their REALTOR® was not commensurate with the commission or fee charged.

  Contrary to what consumers may have been lead to believe, real estate commissions are and always have been negotiable.  The only real restriction that has been placed on commissions is not the amount that can or cannot be charged but rather the format of how commissions are calculated but that is about to change.

 The real estate profession is governed by Provincial law, specifically the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA 2002) Previously as per REBBA 2002; a real estate brokerage could charge either a flat fee to list and sell a property or a percentage of the sale price, but not a combination of the two.  Recent amendments to REBBA 2002 have removed this restriction, allowing brokerages to have the option of developing fee or commission structures that may include a combination of a flat fee and a percentage of the sale price.

  This now gives brokerages the additional flexibility in how they structure pricing to suit their business needs and desires of their specific clients.  Personally I view this as a win win situation for REALTORS® as well as consumers.  Every property and every selling circumstance is different and this change as to how real estate fees/commissions are derived provides greater freedom to address each situation in a manner that will garner the best results for everyone involved.

  Ultimately, market forces will determine which fee structures are attractive to consumers. It is more important than ever for consumers to understand what services their REALTOR® will provide and how or who will pay for those services.

 If you are contemplating the sale of your property and are not certain as to how the new rules affect you, please feel free to contact me and without obligation I would be happy to discuss and clarify the issue for you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Area Real Estate Sales Destined For Record Year in 2013

Following slightly weaker sales activity in October compared to the prior year, area real estate sales in November regained the momentum we experienced in through much of the late spring and summer.

Area real estate sales reported through the MLS® system of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® reflected a 9% increase in unit sales during November with a total of 147 properties being sold.  Dollar volume for the month totaled $44.0 million, up 11% from $39.5 million sold in November 2012.  The higher increase in dollar volume is due to the fact that several high-end sales took place during November.  I will point out that two sales which combined totaled just over $3 million were for properties outside of our market area and I have subtracted these to arrive at the net sale number above.

  Year-to-date MLS® sales now total 2,009 properties up 7.5% from the 1,869 individual sales reported in the first 11 months of 2012.  This marks the first time since 2007 that MLS® sales in our area have surpassed 2,000 units sold in annual sales.  Year-to-date dollar volume of $594.9 million (which excludes the two out of area sales mentioned above) is up 8.4% from 2012 so we will for the first time crack the $600 million dollar barrier for annual sales volume in 2013. 

  The following is a summary of the key price ranges where most of the sales activity is taking place in 2013.  Year-to-date sales under $200,000 are up 9.8%, sales between $350,000 to $500,000 are up 18.1% while sales in the $800,000 to $1 million and over $1 million price ranges are up 20.0% and 11.5% respectively.

  The municipalities of Clearview and Meaford continue to outpace all other area municipalities in terms of MLS® sales.  Sales in Clearview Township are up 15.7% in terms of units sold while the Municipality of Meaford is up 26.4%.  Year-to-date MLS® sales in the Town of Collingwood are essentially equal to last year while MLS® sales in Wasaga Beach and the Blue Mountains are up 2.2% and 5.2% respectively.  The Municipality of Grey Highlands shows a 15.3% decrease is residential sales during 2012 and I maintain that the closure of Talisman Resort has had some impact on the demand for real estate in that area. 

  Single family home sales through the end of November total 1,306 homes sold, an increase of 3.6% over last year.  Meanwhile condominium sales are up 8.5% with 358 units sold year-to-date through the local MLS®  system.  Vacant land sales have also rebounded in 2013 from prior years with 140 vacant lots or land parcels sold though the end of November, an increase of 20.7% from this time last year. 
  While sales in 2013 have been very strong and the available housing inventory remains high, we continue to see a reduction both new and expired listings.  Year-to-date the number of new MLS® listings that have come to market in 2013 reflects a 2.0% decrease totaling 6,109 properties.  Through the end of November effectively 1 in every 3.0 listings sells whereas by comparison, at the end of the 1st quarter of this year the listing-to-sales ratio had just 1 in every 3.8 properties listed for sale selling.

  As the market starts to wind down with the approaching holidays, MLS® sales and listing activity will taper off only to regain momentum in January.  We will certainly set a new level for MLS® dollar volume in 2013 and all indications are pointing to a continued strong demand for area real estate in 2014 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Canadian Real Estate Association MLS® Sales Statistics

For the most part, REALTORS ® are often accused of looking at the world through rose coloured glasses, forever optimistic about the real estate market in terms of sales and prices almost to the point of exaggerating the situation.

  For the past several years, some media pundits have been critical of Canada's real estate market claiming that properties in Canada are over-valued, the market is doomed and headed for a major correction.  Adding to these claims, recently there have been media articles about the Canadian Real Estate Association's (CREA's) monthly resale housing information that question the accuracy of the data. These articles have been generated by completely unfounded and uninformed accusations from observers outside of the real estate industry. CREA catagorically states that "They are wrong and we want to assure our membership that you – and your clients – can count on the statistical information we publish."

These observers point to duplicate listings on as their evidence of "double-counting" without acknowledging that is simply a consumer marketing site. The statistics used by CREA's economics team for analysis and reporting do not come from, rather they are generated by various Real Estate Board and Association MLS® Systems across the country and are provided to CREA by those Boards and Associations.  

  The issue at hand is the question of what are commonly known as "duplicate listings."  A duplicate listing arises when a REALTOR® such as myself, lists a property for sale on the MLS® system of both our local real estate association the Southern Georgian Bay Associations of REALTORS® and say also on the MLS® system of the Toronto or Barrie Real Estate Associations.  The claim being made is that when an MLS® sale is reported, that sale is duplicated by its presence on other Real Estate Association's  MLS® systems thus inflating the sales being reported.  First, duplicate listings represent less than 0.8 per cent of all residential listings listed for sale.  In many areas, including where these are heavily concentrated, they are managed or deleted by the Boards and Association involved and as such, are not double counted for the purpose of statistical reporting of monthly MLS® data.  If any such duplicate listing were to slip through the cracks, it represents a fraction of a fraction of one per cent. This is not statistically significant, particularly as it relates to the identification of trends.

  CREA maintains absolute confidence in the quality and accuracy of statistics it receives from Boards and Associations that are generated from MLS® Systems across Canada.  The numbers are what they are, good bad or indifferent.  As previously reported, the local real estate market is headed for a record year in terms of MLS® sales.  As of this posting, we have already surpassed the MLS® sales volume for November 2012 and we still have five reporting days yet to go.  By the end of November we may very well break the $600 million barrier is terms of MLS® sales for 2013, a level never before attained and with one month still remaining in the year.  That is no exaggeration, it is a fact.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BELL CANADA - A Company I Have Come To .....

  One company that I have come to loathe is Bell Canada. Based on my experience they are the epitome of lousy customer service and poor value for the services they provide. 

  At one time my business with Bell consisted of my home and cellular phones along with their satellite television.  All that remains is my cellular phone and based on my most recent experience, that too may be short lived when my contract is up for renewal.

  On November 6th I visited the new Bell store on Hurontario Street in Collingwood.  That location is in fact not a “Bell” store, but a franchise and in my opinion it should be clearly indicated as such.  Real estate offices are essentially the same.  My office is in effect not Royal LePAGE per say, but an independently owned and operated Brokerage and by law, it must be identified as such but I digress. 

  The purpose of my visit was (a) to see if my current cellular plan was the best one based on my usage and (b) I wanted to purchase a roaming package for a trip I was making to the U.S.  In all fairness the salesperson in the store was helpful.  She verified that there was a more cost effective cellular plan for me to be on but I would have to contact Bell themselves to make the switch.  Has Bell ever called to offer me a better plan based on my cellular phone and data usage?  No.  Why not?   My bank calls periodically to advise me of a better package for my banking needs and good for them.  That’s how you build a stronger relationship with your valued clients.

  After returning to my office I called Bell direct, verified that the plan recommended to me was in fact better, made the switch and also purchased a roaming package at a cost of $60 to take effect the following day, November 7thBell’s roaming packages are for 30 days in duration only.  Why?  How many people take a holiday or are otherwise away for 30 days.  Why are they not available say on a per day basis?  Because they essentially have you under contract, a monopoly so-to-speak and can get away with it that’s why.
  Six days later while in Santa Barbara, California I received a text message from Bell advising that me I was exceeding my data plan suggesting I call them for a roaming package, which I had already bought.  I called them only to find that my roaming package had inadvertently been applied to my son’s cellular phone (he is on my bill).  After some 25 minutes on the phone I got the mess sorted out or so I thought.  The following day I had no network access for data so no emails either in or out.  Despite two more calls to Bell I remained unable to send or receive emails for the remaining 5 days of my travel as they had effectively suspended my data access.

  Upon returning to Canada thus ending my roaming, my network access started again but only after I powered my phone off and on.  Two days later (yesterday) my emails ceased coming yet again and once again I found had no network access.  Yet another call was necessary to Bell today to have the problem resolved.  All tolled I’ve made 6 calls to Bell in the past week which consumed well over an hour of my time.  In the end, my $60 roaming plan was of no use to me as (a) I did not have one for the first six days of my travel the result of a Bell employee setting it up on the wrong phone and (b) once the roaming package was on my phone I had no network access. 

  One more call will now be required upon receiving my next bill in order to get a credit for all the data roaming charges that I racked up while away.  I will also be requesting a refund for the $60 roaming package I paid for yet effectively never had use of. 

  Life’s best lessons are best learned by experience.  Will I ever buy another roaming package?  No!  While out of the country my best advice to you is to turn off the roaming feature on your phone.  Free Wi Fi is quickly becoming available everywhere.  It was available free at the real estate conference I attended, free at my hotel, free in restaurants, coffee shops such as Starbucks etc.  Using the Wi Fi feature on my phone or iPad I will simply send and receive email messages that way thus avoiding the cost and aggravation that I have endured over the past week dealing with Bell.  It’s not hard to see why the CTRC is clamping down on the mobile phone carriers.  They have had it too good for too long and Canadian consumers deserve better service and better value.  

 If like me you have had a similar frustrating experience I would like to hear from you.      

Monday, November 18, 2013

REALTOR® Skills & Knowledge Need Constant Enhancement

I just returned from a week away attending the National Association of REALTORS® Conference in San Francisco.  This is an annual event that draws thousands of REALTORS® from not only the U.S. but also from around the world.  This year there were approximately 1,400 from other countries with several hundred of those from Canada.  Both the Canadian Real Estate Association and Royal LePAGE Canada held evening events for those of us in attendance.

  The real estate profession has undergone dramatic changes and it continues to be transformed by consumer’s expectations, ever changing market conditions, new business models affecting the traditional MLS® system  and perhaps most significantly by technology.  All of these factors are continuing to impact the role of real estate professionals.   Real estate is no different than any other industry or profession.  While the traditional 80/20 rule has applied with 20% of the REALTORS® doing 80% of the business, it’s now more like 90/10 and with further consolidation of the business sure to happen, 95/5 is ultimately how the distribution of listings and sales will invariably end up.

  In order to effectively meets the changing demands of clients, I view attending conferences such as this as being imperative to both understanding the market changes that are happening as well as learning the necessary skills and initiatives that you need to implement in order to be of relevant importance.  In the Home Cents Help Tips section of my website I have a piece titled "Education Keeps REALTOR® Standards High.  Over the three days I attended 11 different seminars and while it is a somewhat intense learning environment it is also very invigorating and stimulating.  Many of this year’s sessions dealt with the increasing importance that social media is having on our business.  This blog is in fact the result of my attending the NAR Conference back in 2007.  Since that time I have tried to provide content that will be of some material value to my readers whether it is a real estate related matter, community/municipal affairs or just some odds and ends that I feel may be of interest.   Recently I started a second blog pertaining to the luxury home market titled “Southern Georgian Bay Carriage Trade Homes,” be sure to check it out.

  The keynote speaker at this year’s conference was Hilary Clinton.  Mrs. Clinton shared with us her and husband Bill’s experience with real estate from their first home to occupying the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas to the White House.  It was interesting to learn that since leaving the White House, the Clinton’s real estate purchases have all been made conditional on approval by the Secret Service as they are the ones tasked with guarding and defending the home of the former President and his family forever.    

  As I have mentioned in prior posts, the U.S. does not have a nation-wide MLS® system such as what we have in Canada.  It is not uncommon for one state to have severalMLS® systems and our American REALTOR® counterparts are envious of what we have and the ease with which it allows consumers to find properties virtually anywhere in Canada.  Sometimes it’s nice to have one up on our neighbours to the south.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Area Real Estate Sales On Track For Record Year

 While area MLS® real estate sales in terms of dollars during October were slightly below October of last year, we are still on track to having a record year in terms of MLS® dollar sales volume sold for 2013.  If sales during November and December are nothing more than the same level as 2012,  we will see in excess of $600 million worth of MLS® listed properties change hands this year.

October sales of $65.9 million reported through the MLS ® system of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR) was 3% less than in October 2012 however MLS® unit sales during the month were up 1% with 220 properties selling in October versus 217 in October of last year. 

  Year-to- sales MLS® of 1,863 properties marks a 7% increase over the number of MLS® listed properties sold in the first 10 months of 2012.  Year-to-date dollar volume now totals $551.5 million reflecting an 8% increase over last year.  During 2013 we have seen a consistent increase in unit sales in many of the price ranges over $500,000 which has resulted in a slightly higher dollar volume versus unit volume sales increase year-to-date.  While sales between $1.0 and $1.5 million are down 3 unit sales from last year, sales above $1.5 million total 9 properties, more than double the number sold in 2012.

  As per the accompanying graph, year-to-date single family home sales are running slightly ahead of last year up 2% while condominium sales are
essentially even with last year.  Vacant land sales total 131 properties up 21% from one year ago.

  As has been the case throughout the year, the number of new MLS® listings coming to market decreased in October as did the number of expired listings.  Year-to-date there have been 5,681 new listings entered into the SGBAR MLS® system a decrease of 3% from last year.  The number of expired MLS® listings year-to-date which total 2,454 properties represents a decrease of 5% from the number of MLS® listings that expired in the first 10 months of 2012.  What does this mean for consumers?  Fewer active and fewer expired listings has resulted in a more balanced market where the ratio between the number of properties listed versus sold is decreasing.  In October 2012 there were 3.4 MLS® properties listed for every property sold.  As of the end of October this year the ratio is 3.0 to 1.  

 In my next posting I will review sales activity in the various municipalities that make up our market area.       


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"This Old House" - Collingwood Version

  I will be the first one to admit that I like “projects.”  Projects of all types, business projects, volunteer & community projects and projects around my home and cottage both indoors and out.  I am an fan of home renovation shows both from a personal interest standpoint but also because of my real estate business.  Often, clients are looking for ideas or are asking questions about a home they may be considering and it helps to have some construction and renovation knowledge.  I am also fortunate to have been born with some natural skills which were further developed in my youth working with two of my uncles that were carpenter contractors.  I am just finishing a renovation of my kitchen done with my own hands and skills which I will elaborate on in a future post, with before and after photos.

  Almost daily I see and marvel at the scope of a "project" that someone has undertaken with a property in Collingwood.  The house in question sold in early 2012 and I had the opportunity to show the property to clients prior to that.  The property in question “was” a lovely century or so old six bedroom, 3.5 bath red brick home. It had received at some point, a family room addition somewhat contemporary in design which to me was totally out of character with the rest of the house.  In total it was over 3,000 square feet, it had a double car garage and an in-ground swimming pool.  This is the before photo.

  The buyer(s) of this home obviously like “projects” as well.  The house has been gutted including removing the entire the original roof structure.  The double car garaged?  Gone!  The in-ground swimming pool?  Gone!  Once the demolition work was completed, all that remained of the house was the four brick walls of the home's original footprint.

   Notwithstanding the obvious cost, this is a project of a magnitude that few would have the intestinal fortitude and or patience to undertake.  It would in fact make for a great home renovation TV show that could runs for weeks.  I commend the buyers taking on such a project and for preserving a piece of Collingwood’s history.  Too often older homes especially in places like Toronto, are bought, leveled and replaced with something while lovely, often lacks the character of the home they replaced.   

  It will be interesting to watch this “project” as it progresses.  Having been in the home previously, I would be delighted to have the opportunity to view the finished product.  If not, it may very well end up as a story in one of the area’s numerous magazines. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Record Dollar Sales Projected for Area Real Estate in 2013

MLS® sales activity reported by the Southern Georgian BayAssociation of REALTORS® have been very strong during 2013 and it would appear that we are heading for a record year in terms of dollar sales volume as reported through our local MLS® system.

  Attached is a graph I have prepared which summarizes MLS® unit sales on an annual basis over the past 10 years.  Despite the fact that we had seen a significant increase in annual dollar sales volume during this period, annual MLS® unit sales of individual properties have for the most part remained flat and are in fact trending downward.  For the most part, MLS® sales do not include the sale of new homes in the various subdivisions around our market area.  These sales are for the most part, handled by sales personnel working strictly on behalf of the builder/developer.  Many of the area’s larger subdivisions such as Creekside and Georgian Meadows in Collingwood have enjoyed very strong sales activity.  For every new home sold, that is essentially one less resale home sale going through the local MLS® system.  Eventually these new homes will change hands and no doubt as the result of a MLS® sale transaction, but for now, new homes sales are to a reasonable degree, stifling any significant increases in annual MLS® sales.

  Where we are seeing significant growth is in the sale of higher priced homes and this is what is fueling the dollar volume increases we are seeing through our MLS® system.  Year-to-date sales of homes above $1.5 million during the first nine months of 2013 total 7 properties whereas last year during the same time there were just 3.  Similarly there has been a significant increase in sales between $350,000 to $500,000, and also between $500,000 to $800,000 with sales in both of these price ranges up 17% year-to-date.  With the migration of retirees to our area just in the early stages combined with further expansion of the recreational housing market, I expect we will continue to see sales in these upper price ranges increase annually thus driving both higher MLS® sales volume as well as continued increases in the average residential price for homes in the area.

  What I have outlined herein is of significant importance to both Buyers and Sellers especially the latter, and in my next post I will explain further.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quebec Real Estate Boards Threaten to Jump Ship!

Unhappy with the current direction of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the Montreal and Quebec Real Estate Boards
are threatening to leave CREA and will strike out on their own. 

What does this mean? With a combined membership of approximately 24,000 REALTORS®, the Montreal and Quebec City real estate boards are amongst the largest in the country.  Should they opt to leave CREA, it will mark the departure of upwards of 25% of CREA’s total membership.  Leaving CREA is no small task.  CREA owns and operates the Multiple ListingService® (MLS®) as well as the MLS®, REALTOR® and other trademarks.  With no further association/membership with CREA, the Montreal and Quebec City Boards would be forced to establish their own property listing “system(s)” as they would no longer have access to the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®).

  The MLS® system we have in Canada is the envy of many other countries including the U.S.   I lived and travelled extensively throughout the U.S. for four years and I can attest to the fact that they have a very fragmented MLS® system with some states having multiple systems in which to search for properties.  This makes it very difficult to search for a home as effectively there is no one online site whereby you can access all of the properties for sale in a given region.  Should the Montreal and Quebec City real estate boards follow through with their departure from CREA, this could well open the door for other large boards such as Toronto to do the same.

  There is no one specific reason for the dissatisfaction being expressed by the provincial REALTORS® in Quebec.  Among their concerns are the regular increases of annual dues that CREA thrusts upon us as members.  At the same time, CREA’s expenses are being called into question with expensive meeting locations and other costs being looked at that ultimately do not add value to the efforts of individual REALTORS®.  Just as consumers question our commissions and the value we bring to their real estate needs, we too question the costs that we incur as licensed REALTORS® relative to the day-to-day operation and success of our individual businesses.

  The most significant complaint however maintains CREA’s direction with respect to the MLS® system itself.  Many REALTORS® across Canada feel that CREA failed to adequately protect the MLS® trademark and the overall integrity of the MLS® system when challenged by Canada’s Competition Bureau.  As the number of monthly visitors to reflects, Canadian consumers have enjoyed the benefits of a well established nation-wide MLS® system for many years.  Upwards of 5 million visits per month are made to by Canada’s real estate hungry consumers.  Whether you live in Toronto and are relocating to Vancouver, or you are looking to move from St. John’s Newfoundland to Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, you can from the comfort of your home, your car or while sitting in your favourite Wi-Fi  equipped coffee shop, search for property from one end of the country to the other.  That to me is an invaluable asset that Canadians consumers have with respect to buying and selling real estate that few other countries offer.

I hope the two Quebec based real estate associations can resolved the sticking points that have resulted in their dissatisfaction with CREA and their desire to leave.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Area Real Estate Sales up 15% in the 3rd Quarter

  Area real estate sales reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® (GTAR) (which includes the municipalities of Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview, The Blue Mountains, Grey Highlands and Meaford) totaled $187.9 million in the 3rd Quarter reflecting a 15% increase in sales over the 3rd Quarter of 2013.  Sales during the month of September were particular strong with unit sales and dollar volume for the month up 28% and 35% respectively from one year ago.  

  Year-to-date sales volume for the first nine months of 2013 now totals $485.8 million, reflecting a 9.8% increase over MLS® property sales of $442.5 million during the same period in 2012.  A total of 1,644 properties changed hands during the first nine months of 2013 versus 1,517 during the same period of 2012, an 8.4% increase year over year.
  The number of new listings for the first nine months of 2013 now totals 5,168 properties, a decrease of 2.8% over the same period in 2012.   The strongest month for new listings in 2013 was April, when 706 new listings came onto the market. This sharp increase in new listings during April is consistent with the arrival of the spring selling season.  The number of expired listings has decreased this year, down 5.0% through the end of the 3rd Quarter.  As the result of fewer new and expired MLS® listings year-to-date, there has been a reduction in the overall available housing inventory listed for sale.  This is effectively leading to more balanced market 
conditions overall for both buyer and seller.  

Following several months of very soft sales activity, the Municipality of Meaford and the Township of Clearview are now exhibiting the strongest demand for residential homes in our area.  MLS® unit sales in the Municipality of Meaford and Township of Clearview through the 3rd Quarter are up 24.1% and 16.5% respectively.  Sales in other area municipalities are as follows: Wasaga Beach up 2.4%, The Blue Mountains up 2.3%, while the Municipality of Grey Highlands and Collingwood showed weaker units sales with decreases of 12.2% and 3.0% respectively.

 Year-to-date MLS® unit sales through the 3rd Quarter shows increases in every price range: under $200,000 price range reflected a 12.9% increase over third quarter 2012 year-to-date, while sales between $200,000 and $350,000 were up a modest 1.5% increase.  Sales between $350,000 and $500,000 are up 17%, while sales between $500,000 and $800,000 increased 16.7%.  Sales between $800,000 and $1 Million showed the greatest increase at 35.7%, while year-to-date sales over $1 Million are up by 1 unit (4.5%.)

 Given the current pace of sales activity, 2013 is shaping up to be a record year for MLS® sales activity in the Georgian Triangle.  I anticipate we will see over $600 million worth of area properties being sold through our local MLS® system before the end of the year.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Announcing - New Area Real Estate Association

  It’s official!  The merger between the Georgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® and the Southern Georgian Bay Real Estate Association in Midland is now complete.

  The new “merged” organization based out of 243 St Marie Street in Collingwood is now known as the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR).  Total SGBAR membership is approximately 480 REALTOR® members.

  The accompanying map outlines the geographical boundary for which SGBAR has Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) jurisdiction.  It covers the areas that previously fell under the Southern Georgian Bay Real Estate Association which includes the Towns of Midland and Penetanguishene, the surrounding communities of Elmvale, Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour, Coldwater, Port Severn, Honey Harbour and Tiny as well as Tay, Springwater, Oro-Medonte, Severn and Georgian BayTownships.  Also included are those areas previously within the Georgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® which included the municipalities of Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, Clearview Township, The BlueMountains, Municipality of Meaford and Grey Highlands.  As you will note, the new Association essentially covers the entire bottom portion of Georgian Bay.

  From both a recreational and a retirement standpoint, Southern Georgian Bay continues to attract a growing increase from those potentially looking to acquire property.  This merger will result in a stronger Association of local real estate experts, better positioned to adapt to the ongoing changes in technology and other issues that continue to impact the real estate profession, while at the same time allowing us to meet the increased demands from consumers for more comprehensive information and improved overall service.    

Friday, September 27, 2013

Majority of Baby Boomer Looking to Downsize

  In a recent survey done by our provincial association the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), more than 900 REALTORS® reported that a majority of baby boomers are looking for properties that will allow them to downsize.

  According to the June survey, responding REALTORS® indicated that their clients between the ages of 48 and 67 are searching for smaller properties.  REALTORS® were asked, “Generally speaking, what types of properties are your baby boomer clients seeking?”  Multiple responses were permitted, and a majority (61%) said their clients were seeking smaller houses such as bungalows.  Almost half (47%) included condos or apartments, 25% included investment properties, 22% included land or cottages, and 21% included townhouses.  Only 15% of respondents said their boomer clients sought larger homes.

  This is certainly very much the case in the southern Georgian Bay area where many buyers we deal with are looking for a retirement property or perhaps a recreational property that will be their retirement residence down the road.  Bungalows, or at least homes with a main floor master are very much in demand as are condominiums with the same type of floor plan.

  These survey results very much reflect the accuracy of one of my favourite quotes.  In his book Boom, Bust, Echo, Dr. David Foot said "real estate is affected more by demographics than it is by economics."  Although his book was first published in 1996, this quote is proving to be timeless and still holds up as accurately today as it did 17 years ago.

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Blog - "Southern Georgian Bay Carriage Trade Homes"

With luxury, upper end properties becoming a significant aspect of the southern Georgian Bay real estate market, I have started a separate blog devoted solely to this distinctive segment of our market.
  Through my blog "Southern Georgian Bay Carriage Trade Homes"  I will keep you updated on not only just local market activity, but also on trends affecting the luxury home market as a whole.  Through my attendance at the National Association of REALTORS® conference held each November in the U.S.  I have met and regularly receive information from two of the top REALTORS® south of the border that specialize in luxury property sales.  The luxury home and condominium market is as unique as the high net worth buyers and sellers that occupy this small niche.   Understanding their wants and needs of a REALTOR that participates in this area of real estate sales is very important to them and via my blog, I hope to share with you and them the nuances of buying and selling luxury properties.

  To access Southern Georgian Bay Carriage Trade Homes from this my primary blog, simply click on the luxury home picture to the right of this post.  For additional information on luxury properties visit the luxury homes page of my website www.carriagetrade  Enjoy.        

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wreck of The Mary Ward

In addition to the Nottawasaga lighthouse, another part of Collingwood's storied maritime history is the wreck of the Mary Ward which is located about 2KM off Northwinds Beach at Craigleith.

 The Mary Ward was a 120 foot steamer that sank back in 1872.  I first visited the wreck site back in May of this year and saved the geo-coordinates in my GPS chartplotter enabling a return visit. With summer quickly fading and the water getting cooler I decided the time was now or never for a return this year to do some snorkeling around the wreck along with some underwater filming.

With the water on Georgian Bay relatively calm I ventured back to the wreck site yesterday afternoon launching my boat in Thornbury.  I find approaching the site from the west seems somewhat easier, nonetheless the water leading into the site is very shallow for quite a distance varying up and down from less than three feet to six feet and back as you get closer to the wreck. Currently the water depth around the wreck itself is about 7 feet or so.

  Yesterday's water temperature was about 66.5 farenheit, allowed us to thoroughly examine the wreck in relative comfort.

 Some parts of the ship such as the boiler are scattered further afield, next summer I'll go back and see if we can located those.

 As you can see in the accompanying photos, water conditions yesterday were very clear enabling me to get some good photos and video.  This is just another aspect of the rich maritime history that exists around Georgian Bay.  Looking at the development and other aspects of the area today, it's hard to imagine what life was like back in 1872 when the Mary Ward went down.  Travel by rail and by water were very much the main modes of transportation. Collingwood's shipyard is long gone as have been the train tracks that ran west from Collingwood Thornbury and beyond.   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Saving The Nottawasaga Lighthouse

As most of you already are aware, Collingwood has a storied history much of it based on its geographic waterfront location.  In 1986 we lost the shipyards, which was a unique landmark and a major contributor to the economic development of the town.  Seemingly, we are getting closer to losing another important aspect of the Town’s water based history, the Nottawasaga Island lighthouse.

  The Nottawasaga lighthouse was one of six “Imperial” lighthouses constructed in the latter part of the 1800’s.  I travel past one of them regular in the summer on the way to my Manitoulin Island.  The Cove Island lighthouse as shown in the photo to the right, is located north of Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula and marks the entrance to Georgian Bay from Lake Huron.  You can readily see the similarity to this structure compared to our own Nottawasaga lighthouse.  The Nottawasga lighthouse now decommissioned, is in grave disrepair with its stone facade crumbling and falling to the ground leaving the interior stone walls exposed to the weather and further deterioration.

  Locally, a group that sees the value in maintaining this important historical landmark is attempting to drum up enough interest and support to save the Nottawasaga lighthouse thus serving to preserve Collingwood’s marine heritage.

  As you might have already noted, as an avid boater I love spending time on the water so lighthouses have a special place in my heart.  I am also fascinated by the history they represent.  The lighthouse pictured to the right is one of two that marks the channel into South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.  It was first manned by my great grandfather so I also have a family connection with these unique structures. 

During the last week of August, I took a trip from my cottage one day by boat, a 65 mile round trip out to Lonely Island which is remotely situated in the northern portion of Georgian Bay.  Lonely Island is aptly named.  Imagine living in total desolation on an island infested with Massssauga rattlesnakes.  Apparently no one ever stayed there very long hence the name.  There is no protected harbor on the island leaving the docking facility for supply and maintenance vessels totally exposed to winds, waves and ice.  The Canadian Coast Guard eventually gave up trying to maintain a dock so the light situated high atop a hill is now accessed via helicopter.  All that remains of the various lighthouse keepers’ days on Lonely are crumbling stone foundations belonging to what was once their residence and other outbuildings.  My companion and I made our way ashore and with sticks in hand to beat off any rattlesnakes attempted to hike up to the light.  With the path petering out, increasingly overgrown and with our attire consisting of shorts with bare feet in boating shoes, we thought the better of proceeding further.  Better to return I thought dressed in long pants and hiking boots.

  Lastly, the lighthouse to the right is another one I see regularly during my water bound travels on Manitoulin.  It’s located in a somewhat remote location on the southern shore of Manitoulin in a place called Michaels Bay.  Michaels Bay was a thriving community with a logging based economy until it was wiped out by a forest fire around the turn of the last century.  Ships would arrive to load and transport the logs south to parts of southern Ontario and the U.S. and this lighthouse played an integral part in their safe passage.  The lighthouse pictured herein is actually a replicate, built by volunteers one being my Uncle, at their own expense to commemorate its historical significance.

  Not all of the lighthouses around Georgian Bay such as the Nottawasaga light here in Collingwood are in active duty.  They nonetheless are worth saving.  I commend those trying to drum up enough support to save the Nottawasaga lighthouse and I invite you to visit the Help Save the Nottawasaga Lighthouse Facebook page at  A Volunteer signup and brief meeting will be held Sunday, Sept. 22nd at 9:30 am sharp at the Collingwood Legion 490 Ontario Street.    

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Condo Insurance - Do You Have The Coverage You Need?

  Historically, condominium sales are often one of the more volatile aspects of the real estate market. Anyone that lived and or owned a condominium in the Collingwood or Blue Mountain area in the late 80’s or early 90’s can relate to this.  Condominium sales and prices can change quickly and dramatically based on either the overall economy and or changes in buying and ownership demographics. 

  In 2008, MLS® unit sales of condos in the southern Georgian Bay area dropped 23%.  Since that time, sales have rebounded to their pre-recessionary levels and with 250 individual sales to the end of August; sales in 2013 are running 21% ahead of last year.  At this pace we are headed for what could be a record year for condo sales in our market with well over 350 units being sold.  MLS® sales typically do not include the sale of new condominium units made by developers of which ion this area there are many.  When these too are factored in, the local condominium market is indeed healthy and I will report on this in more detail in the upcoming issue of my Condo Communique´newsletter.

  The condominium lifestyle offers a unique lifestyle from that of single family home ownership and with this form of ownership comes characteristics and responsibilities that condo owners and buyers need to be aware one and one of these is insurance. 

  Condominium corporations maintain a master insurance policy on the building(s) they are specifically responsible for and premiums for this coverage are a part of your monthly condo fee.   This insurance covers damage to the building, the common elements ie: hallways, lobbies, parking garages as well a liability insurance in the event someone is hurt on the property. This leaves most owners and or buyers believing all they require are contents insurance similar to renters that will cover the personal belongings in their respective unit and nothing could be further from the truth.

  In the event a condominium corporation is faced with an insurance payout stemming from lawsuit, the insurance deductible on such a claim may be spread amongst the owners via a special assessment.  I suspect that in an effort to keep condo fee increases to a minimum, some condo corporations are increasing their policy deductibles in order to maintain or reduce premiums.  If your bathtub were to over flow casing damage to a unit below, those damages may very well be charged against you.  I have in fact been into local condos where the pipes froze and burst, causing extensive damage not only to the unit in question but also to the one beneath it.  Any changes or additions that you have made to your unit, such as the installation of an elaborate home entertainment system which can run into tens of thousands of dollars needs to be protected.  Any of these scenarios could cost a condominium owner significant money and insurance coverage should be taken to cover these potential risks.

  If you currently own a condominium it might be advisable to review your coverage.  For those looking to buy a condo. Make such that your REALTOR® includes a condition in your Agreement of Purchase and Sale enabling you to investigate the various insurance policies that are available to you and their respective costs before you commit to that purchase.   If you have any questions please feel free to Contact Me
and I’d be glad to assist you.    

Friday, September 6, 2013

Area Real Estate Sales Down Marginally in August

While the Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets saw a substantial increase in sales activity during August, (21% and 54% respectively) that same momentum was not reflected in real estate sales across the southern Georgian Bay region.

MLS® unit sales in August totaled 196 properties, down just slightly from the 198 sales reported in August 2012.  Dollar volume for the month of $58.5 million reflected a 2% drop from the $59.7 million worth of area MLS® sales in August of last year.  The slightly weaker MLS® sales activity experienced in August came on the heels of three consecutive months May through July, where MLS ® sales of $189.1 million represented a $30.5 million or 19.2% gain in MLS® sales during the same three month period last year.

  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales to the end of August totals 1,442 properties, an increase of 6% over the 1,359 MLS® sales during the first eight months of 2012.  MLS® dollar volume year-to-date of $424.1 million is up 7% and we are still on track to a record sales year through the local MLS® system which should exceed $600.0 million.   

  It is worth noting that after over a year of very weak MLS® sales activity in the Municipalities of Clearview and Meaford, sales have rebounded during the past two to three months and are now 11% and 18% ahead of 2012 respectively.  The BlueMountains is the only area Municipality that has consistently exceeded 2012 sales during much of 2013.  Collingwood MLS® sales are down 4%, Grey Highlands is off 19% while MLS® sales in WasagaBeach are dead even with last year.

  During the past couple of months we have also seen a resurgence in upper end sales between $1 and $1.5 million which had been lagging earlier in the year.  Sales in this price range are slightly behind 2012 with 13 MLS® sales year-to-date compared to 16 last year.  Meanwhile sales above $1.5 million are more than double 2012 with 7 sales thus far in 2013 compared to just 3 last year.

   The number of new MLS® listings year-to-date totals 4,623, a decrease of just over 3% from last year.  The number of expired listings is also down from one year ago (2%).  These two factors combined with the increase in sales has resulted in more balanced market conditions favouring neither buyers or sellers  to any significant degree.  Nonetheless, with slightly over 1 out of every 3 listings sellers, buyers still have ample resale inventory to choose from within the local MLS® listings.

  As we head into the fall selling season and with another ski/snowboard season fast approaching, I forecast we will see some strong sales activity between now and mid to late November.  In the event we get a good jump on the 2013/2014 winter season, this should put us on a strong footing with which to start the new year. 

  For more detailed information pertaining to your specific real estate situation, please feel free to contact me, I am always happy to assist you without obligation.        

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

  Boaters in the southern Georgian Bay area looking to increase their knowledge and skills can do so by taking one of the many courses being offered this fall and winter by the Blue Mountain Squadron of the Canadian Power and Sale Squadron. (CPS).

  I have been boating on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay for decades, primarily from my cottage of Manitoulin Island.  This summer I spent time on portions of the North Channel I had not previously been visiting the Benjamin Islands and westward as far as the town of Spanish.  I also covered a portion of the  top of Georgian Bay visiting five smaller islands between Manitoulin and Tobermory including Fitzwilliam, Club, Lonely, Rabbit and Wall Islands.  

  Georgian Bay is nothing short of an inland sea.  The day I visited the five above mentioned islands the water surface on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron was little more than a two foot chop.  The following day there were six foot swells with white caps clearly indicating how quickly conditions on such large bodies of water can change. Rapidly changing weather conditions combined with an abundance of rocks and shoals make these other wise beautiful boating waters no place for the inexperienced, under-skilled boater.

  Over the past two winters I have both taken and taught some of the Power Squadron's courses here in Collingwood.  Besides improving your boating skills, membership in the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron can provide you with discounts on your boat insurance and other services such as hotel accommodations with Delta Hotels and car rentals with National Car Rental.  

  For a complete list of courses available this fall and winter visit Blue Mountain Squadron and click on "course information" in the navigation menu.  Registration can be done in person on Tuesday September 10th, 2013 at Collingwood Collegiate Room 213 or contact Cam Thomson, Training Officer at 705-446-1305 or  As as an alternative please feel free to contact myself as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Area Real Estate Sales Up 23% in July

  Despite the somewhat cooler summer weather we have been having of late, it certainly has not dampened the demand for Southern Georgian Bay real estate.

  Sales reported through the MLS® system of theGeorgian Triangle Association of REALTORS® (GTAR) for the month of July reflected a 23% increase with 227 properties sold during the month.  Dollar volume in July of $67.4 million marked a $10.0 million dollar or 17% increase from July of 2012.  We have now had three consecutive months (May through July) where sales activity has been well above the same time last year.

  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales now total 1,248 properties, an increase of 7% over the first seven months of 2012.  Meanwhile, year-to-date MLS® dollar volume stands at $366.0 million, 9% ahead of last year.  More significantly perhaps is that we are firmly in track to exceed $600.0 million in MLS® sales for 2013, a level never before attained.

  Single family MLS® home sales which have been lagging behind sales in 2012 and now 2% ahead of last year.  MLS® condominium sales continue to remain very strong in 2013 with unit sales 15% ahead of last year.  Vacant land sales are also well ahead of 2012 with 91 sales thus far in 2013 versus 78 in 2012, an increase of 17%.

  Following 4 or 5 years when local conditions could technically be deemed a “Buyer’s” market, we are now witnessing a shift wherein the market is in a more “balanced” state favouring neither “Buyers” or “Sellers” to any meaningful amount.  The total number of new MLS® listings year-to-date is down 4% with the number of expired listings also showing a decrease from one year ago.  Approximately 1 in every 3.3 properties listed on the local MLS® system has sold year-to-date, down from a ratio of 1 to 3.8 earlier in the year. 

  None of the above mentioned data includes new home or condo sales made by developers.  When you factor in the added real estate sales activity that takes place outside of the MLS® domain, it is not hard to see that the local real estate market has and continues to make a strong comeback following the downturn we experienced during the recent recession. 

Contact Me

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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