Monday, December 21, 2015

How To Win Fans & Succeed

  Being in the real estate profession is not an easy gig but in today's competitive world, nothing is. No matter what your vocation or line of business is, you no doubt have lot's of competition vying for the same customers as you.  Acquiring and retaining customers is not easy, so why do so many businesses put so little emphasis into providing good,customer service ? Throughout my varied career, I have always tried to be the best I can be and most of my employers have operated with the same philosophy and it has served me well.

  Meeting your customer's expectations is no longer good enough, you must exceed them.  In business, word-of-mouth can be your best ally or your worst enemy and this has never more important as it is today. In the non-digital era of days gone by, a customer's experience, good or bad was shared with family and or friends at the dinner table, the office water cooler or a cocktail party.  Today, that same experience good or bad is shared online and within minutes the whole world knows.  Residing in a small town, business can be even more difficult trying to capture customers, the level of business and revenue you need to be profitable.

  Living in a small town I have always tried to patronize the local merchants. This past week I visited a local retailer, a small specialty shop where I was looking to purchase a replacement part for a home appliance. The part is nothing special, it comes in a variety of sizes/styles and is sold in many stores around Collingwood.  Nonetheless, I chose to go to the speciality store thinking that they probably had the best inventory for what I needed. As it turned out, I was dead wrong.

  First, they did not have the specific part in question I required.  I asked if they could order it for me and they said yes but they they would need the model number of my appliance which is understandable although I had the old part with me which contained a part number.  Home I went to get the model number.  I then called the store not once but three times over the next half hour and every call went into voicemail which I thought odd for a retail store.  I returned to the store with the model number written on the back of my business card and asked them to order two of the parts for me so I would have a spare.

  Within 10 to 15 minutes I had a call from the store advising me that they couldn't get the part I needed claiming that the appliance manufacturer did not sell that piece alone and that you had to buy a whole assembly.  Bull---t! In less than 10 minutes I found the part I needed online and ordered two.

  The store in question resides in Collingwood's Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA).  Every year, the BIA spends thousands of dollars trying to attract customers to Collingwood's downtown core.  Ironically, for the sake of a $5.00 part, one of their members has alienated me to the point that I will never again darken their door.  I guess for a $5.00 part I am not worth much effort but the store in question sells products worth hundreds of dollars and someday I will need one.  When leaving the store on my second visit I helped an elderly couple with the door and they mumbled something about having to come three times from Wasaga Beach to get their issue looked after.  Obviously I was not alone in having some difficulty with this particular merchant.

  My personal belief is that you invest today for business tomorrow.  Facebook is not the only entity that needs "fans," we all do and that takes some effort.  Clearly not everyone or every business subscribes to this theory and they will ultimately be the victim by their own hand.

 Happy Holidays to one and all and Best Wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Beware of "Lease To Own" Scams For Your Home

  Over the past several years, home owners have been presented with "lease to own" schemes for everything from water heaters and furnaces to central air conditioners and more as an affordable way to acquire new and often costly components for your home. But beware, these offers come with a price and a steep one at that.

  Let's face it, not everyone has $4,000 or $5,000 lying around to purchase a new furnace when their quits in the dead of a cold January night.  As such, getting a new furnace for a low monthly fee seems very attractive and likewise when you'd love to have central air when the temperature is 30 degrees plus but your bank account is showing a minus balance.  I had a salesperson knock on my door one night offering me the opportunity to get a high efficiency natural gas furnace for a low monthly fee on a lease to own basis.  Just out of curiosity I listened to their pitch only to find more holes in the their proposal than a wool sweater housing a colony of moths.  In this case the salesperson was attempting to sell the whole concept on the natural gas that I would save with a new high efficiency furnace.  The natural gas savings were touted as literally paying the lease payments.  Upon further examination however a $4,000 furnace was costing in the end about $10,000.  Most of these programs offer no prepayment privileges if you want to buy out the lease fine but you have to pay off the remaining balance so there is no savings in interest.

 I have faced this issue more than once when listing and selling homes.  Two years ago as a member of the Ontario Real Estate Association committee that drafts and revises the real estate forms used across the Province, we revised the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to address this issue. Sellers are required to disclose any equipment on their property that is not owned.  Rented water heaters are typically not an issue but furnaces, central air conditioners and elaborate home security systems due to their cost are.  One home currently listed for sale by my office has an outstanding bill well over $10,000 for rent to own equipment in the house and this will have a real impact on the sale price.  

  The bottom line is if someone calls or comes knocking on your door with a proposal to replace your furnace or another critical element of your home on a rent to own basis, be very very careful of what you sign up for.  If you have any questions about this subject please feel free to Contact Me.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Has Collingwood Reached the Tipping Point For Affordable Housing

Last year at this time I was actively campaigning for a seat on Collingwood Council which I ultimately  lost by a very narrow margin.  I choose to throw my hat in the running for many reasons not the least of which was Collingwood's overall financial health.  This included taxation, spending, job creation and affordable housing.  As a full time REALTOR®  I am well versed in these matters and as I reflect on current real estate market activity, I can't help but ask myself has Collingwood reached a tipping point in terms of being both an attractive and affordable place to live?
 Year to date MLS® single family home sales in Collingwood to the end of September are up a mere 2.6% 278 this year compared to 271 in 2014 at a time when the total MLS® market is up 16.1%. By comparison single family home sales are up 12.7% in Clearview, 22.6% in the Blue Mountains and 30.2% in Wasaga Beach.  There have been 15% fewer homes MLS® listed for sale in Collingwood in 2015 but this is consistent with the market overall. The fact is 66% of MLS® listed single family homes in Collingwood have sold in 2015 compared to a list-to-sale ratio of 55% in the market overall so the weak sales performance can't be blamed on lack of inventory. Lastly, the 12 month average price for a single family home in our overall market has risen 7.2% whereas in Collingwood the increase is just 5.2%.  In every sense, MLS® real estate activity in Collingwood is lagging behind the overall market in a year when we are on track to have record MLS® sales activity.


  The 12-month average price for a single family home in Collingwood at the end of September was $365,000.  The 2015 tax bill for a house of this "assessed value" in Collingwood would be $4,543.  For a home with this assessed value that's a property tax bill that is 10.8% more than Cleaview Township, 25.8% more than WasagaBeach and 33.9% higher than in the Blue Mountains.  Could Collingwood's property taxes be playing a role in this year's lagging in-town real estate market?  You tell me, I look forward to your comments.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Are We Are Losing Our Rural Charm?

  A year ago at this time I was campaigning earnestly during the Municipal election for a seat on Collingwood Council.  Although I garnered over 3,300 votes, about 700 votes more than what was previously needed to get elected as a Councillor, I fell about 39 votes short and was needles-to-say disappointed.

  My desire to run for Collingwood Council and personal campaign platform was based on three main issues. Prudent fiscal management of the Town's finances, the need for a strong economic development plan and lastly, thoughtful and consistent land use planning. As a full time REALTOR® I have a keen awareness of what draws people to this area. Whether it's for recreational purposes or as a full time resident still working or retiring, the lifestyle features of the area are something we can't take for granted.  More importantly we can't lose the very reason why people want to come here in the first place and every effort needs to be made to preserve that.

  Most of you are aware that development is happening all around us.  It can't be stopped but it can and needs to be managed in order to preserve the very reason why so many choose to come here to live, work and or play.

The Town of Thornbury in the Blue Mountains is desperately in need of and is getting a new grocery store which is currently under construction.  Also in the construction phase is a new liquor store, convenience store and gas bar.  No one would argue the need for these new retail amenities but my question is why are they being built so close to Highway 26?
Short of the absence of razor-wire, the north wall of Loblaws along First Street in Collingwood looks like a federal correction facility and across the road we have the new Rexall drug store building towering over the street.

  As per these photos, the same transformation is taking place in Thornbury. These imposing new retail structures structures are literally on the shoulder of the road and with a gas bar under construction across the road I can't help but think it will be like driving through a tunnel.  Is this good planning by the developer or the municipality?  Will this enhance or detract from the small town rural atmosphere of Thornbury?  Notwithstanding the close proximity of these buildings to the road, I hope their exterior facades will at least reflect a look indicative of the area versus the repetitive big box urban design brand that we see in virtually every so called "Smart Centre" closer to the GTA.

There's a lot of creative talent out there and with computer aided design, I think we can and need to do better in both our planning and overall design standards.  I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Area Real Estate Sales Reach a New High For August

 While real estate activity typically slows somewhat during July and August due to family vacation plans and other summer activities, the demand for area real estate has nonetheless remained very strong.

 MLS® sales as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR) in August totalled $76.5 million a 13% increase over August 2014 setting a new high water mark for the highest dollar volume ever during the month of August.  Conversely, new listing activity in August was down as has been the case all year.  New MLS® listings coming to market in August reflected a 25% decrease over August 2014 with 350 listings reported compared to 469 last year. The only threat to the ongoing strength in area sales appears to be the lack of available housing inventory coming onto the market.  While we have seen significant sales increases every month during 2015, since the first
quarter these increases have continued to get progressively smaller
each month.

 MLS® dollar sales year-to-date of $546.6 million reflects a 22% increase over last year while year-to-date unit sales are up 15%. New listing activity has decreased 16% from 2014 with 3,247 new MLS® listings coming to market in 2015 compared to 3,880 last year.  The market has decidedly shifted more in favour of sellers with those listing their properties for sale finding themselves with far fewer competing listings for potential buyers to choose from.

 Year-to-date MLS® single family home sales are up 16% with Wasaga Beach posting the strongest demand out of all area municipalities. Single family home sales in Wasaga Beach through the end of August are up 30% compared to one year ago. Results in other parts of our market are mixed, with home sales in the Municipality of  Meaford up 14%, the Blue Mountains up 11%, and Clearview Township ahead 6% over 2014.  Single family home sales year-to-date are down roughly 2% in both Grey Highlands and Collingwood. Please keep in mind these results are for MLS® listed properties most of which are re-sales and do not include sales made by developers for new homes in the area.

  Area MLS® condominium sales are up 14% through the end of August with 324 sales reported in 2015 compared to 285 unit sales in the first eight months of 2014.  The demand for vacant land has made a strong resurgence in 2015 with vacant land sales up a hefty 32% over 2014's sales.

  As per the accompanying chart, sales in every price range are showing gains over 2014 but this is especially true from $300,000 to $500,000 where sales are up 35% from one year ago.  As area prices continue to rise, we are seeing fewer and fewer annual sales in the lower price ranges.  This speaks to the demographics of the buyers coming to this area with many coming from somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area in search of a secondary property for weekend use or those that are coming here for either a lifestyle change or to retire.  The 12-month average price for a single family home in our market has risen to $342,800 in 2015 compared to $324,900 this time last year an increase of 5.5%.  This increase in average price is being driven not so much by inflation but by the significant increase in the number of sales taking place in the upper price ranges of the market.

 Heading into the fall market and with another ski season approaching, I expect we will see further sales gains but at a slower rate than what we have experienced during the first 8 months of the year. As stated earlier, the only negative aspect affecting sales right now is not the alleged presence of a nation-wide or global recession, the uncertain outcome of the upcoming federal election or other far reaching factors but the sheer reduction in available housing inventory to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for Southern Georgian Bay area real estate.

  General market statistics such as those contained herein do not always tell the full story as it may pertain to your particular real estate situation.  For a no obligation discussion and review of your particular real estate goals please feel free to Contact Me.    

 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

CMHC Announces New Changes For Financing Rental Properties

With the Province of Ontario pushing the concept of intensification and the rising cost of home ownership especially in places like Toronto, many would-be buyers are looking at an accessory apartment in their home as being a way to help make higher mortgage payments.  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has just announced new rules that will make it easier for homeowners wishing to rent out a portion of their residence to obtain financing.

Effective September 28, 2015, homeowners will now be able to use 100% of their rental income when qualifying for a mortgage, prior to this just 50% of the rental income was allowed. In order to qualify for this new CMHC financing option the following conditions must be met.

  • The property must be owner-occupied.
  • The property being insured can have only two units (i.e., a duplex or a single home with a legal secondary suite). 
  • Rental income cannot be used if the suite is “illegal/non-conforming” but “legal non-conforming” is okay. (Non-conforming means that the suite was grandfathered in before zoning/regulations restricted such units. You can check with the city to confirm if a suite is legal.)
  • The suite must be self-contained with its own entrance.
  • Property taxes and heat must be factored into the borrower’s debt ratios (which is currently not the case when using rent from legal secondary suites).
  • For existing units, there must be two-year history of rental income from the suite. The maximum rental income allowed for qualification is a two-year average of the unit’s rent.
  • For new units, a market rent appraisal can be accepted if an appropriate vacancy rate has been applied to the estimated rental income.
  • Mortgage applicants must “demonstrate a strong history of managing credit” with a minimum credit score of 680.
  This new changes offer some great benefits for consumers.  Borrowers will now have easier access to mortgages when looking to buy a property that contains an accessory apartment.  This will make home ownership more affordable while also potentially increasing the number of rental units available for tenants.  As with every positive there is a potential negative.  Easier financing for properties with rental units could further heat up markets such as Toronto but overall I would have to say that this is a good example of public policy making.

 Locally in our market there is a strong need for good quality rental units.  As of the end of June, the 12 month average price for a single family home in our area was $338,000.  Being able to use 100% of any rental income you might have from a basement apartment etc. can go a long way in helping a buyer qualify for a mortgage while hopefully over the long term, providing for an increase in much needed rental units.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Area Real Estate Sales Up 22% In June

 The seemingly insatiable demand for and brisk pace of area real estate sales shows no signing of slowing down even as we head into the summer vacation period.

  MLS® sales in June as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS reflected a 22% increase over June 2014 with 275 properties sold during the month representing $89.1 million dollars in total value.  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales for the first six months of 2015 are 20% higher than last year with 1,145 sales reported compared to 952 during the same period in 2014.  Dollar volume for the year now stands at $384.5 million which represents a 27% increase year-over-year.

  Conversely to the sharp increase in sales activity that we have seen thus far in 2015 is not being mirrored when it comes to listings and available inventory.  The number of new MLS® listings coming onto the market in 2015 is running well below last year. For the first six months of 2015 there have been 2,518 new listings input to the local MLS® system compared to 2,917 new listings in 2014, a reduction of almost 14%.  Similarly, the number of expired listings has decreased 27% year-to-date stemming from (a) increased sales activity, (b) fewer listings coming to market.  Some sellers whose price expectations were overly aggressive had have elected to take their properties off the market which in turn has reduced the number of listings overall.

  MLS® single family home sales through the end of June are up 20% with 763 sales year-to-date versus 633 last year.  The demand for area condominiums has also continued remain strong with year-to-date sales of 227 units representing a 16% increase over 2014.  After a couple of years of weak demand, MLS® vacant land sales have rebounded quite strongly in 2015 with 89 sales through the end of June reflecting a 41% increase from the first six months of last year.

MLS® Single family home sales in most area municipalities are running well ahead of 2014 with one exception, Grey Highlands where sales are down 12%.  Sales in Wasaga Beach reflect the largest increase year-to-date up 37% from 2014 followed by the Blue Mountains up 16%, Clearview up 15%, Collingwood sales are up 13% while the Municipality of Meaford shows a 9% increase year-to-date.

  Properties in the $350,000 to $$500,00 range are in the greatest demand with year-to-date sales up 46% over last year.  Sales between $800,000 and $1 million are also very strong with 26 sales in 2015 reflecting a 44% increase from 2014 while sales between $200,000 and $350,000 are up 18%.  We have in fact seen multiple offers on some properties with a home in Collingwood selling for $295,00 versus a $259,000 list price while a chalet near Georgian Peaks sold for almost $60,000 over the $799,000 asking price.

  As we head into the second half of 2015, the biggest threat to a slowdown in our market may very well be the lack of available inventory to meet demand, only time will tell if that proves to be the case.



Friday, June 19, 2015

Electronic Signatures For Real Estate

As I have stated in prior posts, most of us are keenly aware that technology continues to have an impact on our daily lives and nowhere has this perhaps been more evident than with real estate.  MLS® catalogs ceased to exist several years ago replaced by Internet based MLS® systems allowing for the display of more information, multiple photos of a property, virtual tours and so on.

  On the transaction front, real estate forms in Ontario and elsewhere have been converted from legal sized documents to an 8-1/2" X 11" format thus allowing for easier transmission between parties first by fax and now more commonly via email.  The sale of desk top computers have fallen prey to notebooks or laptops and they too are loosing ground to tablets such as iPads and in some cases smartphones get the job done. To further the use of technology in daily business, some time ago the Province of Ontario created the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 (ECA).  The ECA was created to facilitate the exchange of electronic information  and sets out the rules for conducting business electronically. 

  In the Southern Georgian Bay region, we interact with a significant number of Buyers and Sellers that do not reside here.  Real estate transactions and the flow of paperwork is largely via email.  The one aspect of electronic commerce that has held back the practice of buying and selling real estate has been the use of electronic signatures.  Due to concerns as to whether electronically executed agreement are enforceable, the Provincial Government has been slow in reacting to and passing legislation that would fully allow electronic signatures to be used in real estate.  As of this posting, Listing Agreements can be signed executed with electronic signatures but not Agreements of Purchase and Sale but that is about to change.

  News has just been released that effective July 1st, electronic signatures will now be permissible for the execution of all real estate related documents including Agreements of Purchase and Sale. This is welcome news for many of us that use technology to effectively and efficiently serve our clients.  The change will now facilitate greater use of tablets and other mobile computing devices such as iPads etc.  It also dovetails very nicely with digital document storage both for ourselves and our clients. 

 At Royal LePAGE Locations North we have implemented a "paperless" system for document transmission and storage.  For years we have heard how computers would reduce the use of paper, that day may now finally be here.

 July 1st is bring forth another noteworthy legislative change affecting real estate from both a REALTOR® and consumer perspective.  I will cover that in detail in my next post.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New MLS Sales Record Set in May

  Area real estate sales in May continued to outpace the prior year by a wide margin and reflected an increase of 10% over the prior year.  Further, MLS® sales of $78.8 million in May as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® set a new record for monthly MLS® sales in the area, eclipsing the prior record set last June of $78.1 million.

  Unit MLS® sales in May of 240 properties marked a 7% increase over May 2014 when 225 sales were reported. Demand clearly appears to be out-stripping the supply as is evidenced by many area properties selling both quickly and in some cases with multiple offers.  Single family home sales which total 485 properties year-to-date are up 21%, Condominium sales appear to have slowed with year-to-date sales of 171 properties reflecting a modest 6% gain over the same period last year.

  We continue to see a considerable amount of strength in the upper price ranges of our market.  Year-to-date there have been 121 MLS® sales reported over $500,000 an increase of 31% during the same period last year.

 Year-to-date MLS® sales of $295.4 million reflects a 28% increase is dollar sales over the first five months of 2014 while year-to-date MLS® unit sales which total 870 properties reflects a 20% increase from one year ago.

  New MLS® listing activity this year is the polar opposite of what we are seeing from the sales perspective.  The number of new MLS® listings that came to market in May which totalled 553 properties represented a 16% decrease in the number of properties that were listed for sale in May 2014.  New MLS® listings year-to-date which total 2,082 properties reflects a 14% decrease from one year ago.

  The lack of available inventory overall coupled with a strong demand has had a profound impact on shifting conditions to more of a seller's market, a situation that we have not seen since prior to the last recession.  At the end of May last year, less than 30% of the properties listed for sale on MLS® were selling.  At the end of May this year, almost 42% of MLS® listed properties have changing hands.

  Perhaps the greatest threat to the ongoing strength of the current market may well be not the economy, an increase in mortgage rates or an erosion in consumer confidence rather insufficient supply to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for Georgian Triangle properties.

  Should you desire more information specific to your own real estate selling or buying needs, please do not hesitate to Contact Me.







Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kitec Plumbing - A Threat to Sellers & Buyers

Real estate is something that is ever-changing due to a variety of variable.  As REALTORS ®
we are expected and in fact have a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of our clients whether they be sellers or buyers.  New issues arise every day and while we are not expected to be experts on them all, we do have a duty to advise our clients to seek expert advice when we suspect something might be up with not just a property but also with the transaction itself.

  One of the latest issues that has reared an ugly head is a construction related matter involving plumbing and the use of plastic piping. Commencing in the mid 1990's, many builders began using plastic, instead of copy piping in home.  Plastic piping is easier to run as it requires fewer tees and elbows. It was also perceived as being quieter.  Copper piping had long been used which replaced galvanized pluming in older homes.  Galvanized piping would rust inside and corrode causing a reduction in water pressure over time.  Copper pipe did not have this issue however, the solder used in copper pluming contained lead and we all know that lead isn't good.

  Not all of the flexible plastic piping on the market is of questionable performance.  The brand/type that presents the largest threat is known as "Kitec."  The following is a quote regarding what Kitec is and how to identify it

"Kitec plumbing consists of flexible aluminum pipe between an inner and outer layer of plastic pipe (PEX pipe) with brass fittings. Marketed as a cheaper and easy-to-install alternative to copper piping, Kitec was sold between 1995 and 2007 for potable water, in-floor, and hot-water baseboard heating systems. The sizing of the pipe require fittings from its own manufacturer, IPEX, and these fittings were made with a high zinc content that caused dezinctifying in situations with aggressive water conditions. This in turn could either restrict water pressure or cause the fittings to fail completely, causing flooding and water damage to homes."

"Most Kitec plumbing can be identified by its bright orange (hot water) and bright blue (cold water), which were the most common colours; however, it was also sold in red, blue, gray and black. The pipe is typically marked with one of the following brand names; Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls or Plomberie Améliorée."

  We have seen Kitec pluming used in this area.  Some insurers will not insure a home with Kitec.  Other may with the stipulation that you replace it within a certain time frame. As you can imagine, re-pluming an existing home can be a costly affair, which is yet one more reason why most of us selling real estate recommend buyers obtain a home inspection from a qualified inspector before finalizing a purchase.

 For more information on this subject you see http://www.kitecsettlement.com/ and CBC news also has a good story on this.  Have any of you had experience with Kitec plumbing?  I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another Example Where Reginal Planning Is Needed

  As a candidate in last fall's Municipal election, I advocated that many of the issues facing this area are not simply relative to individual municipal interests but are in fact "regional" in nature.  Economic development, including job creation, transportation, environmental and many other issues are widespread in nature that need broad, regional based or thought out solutions to be effective for long term planning and growth.

  One of the issues that was discussed and for which there was a deputation at this week's Collingwood Council meeting was a development proposal for land at the northwest corner of Mountain and Osler Bluff Roads.  Development of the subject lands are already underway with a project known as Windfall.  The initial concept was essentially based on several phases of single family homes, detached and semi-detached with some town-homes.  The latest proposal (see the adjoining photo from the public meeting) before the Municipality of the Blue Mountains is a medium density project that would see approximately 242 condos built in buildings ranging from 2 to 4 storeys in height.

 A contingent of area residents attended Collingwood Council this past Monday night, looking to garner Collingwood's support in addressing public concerns that have been taken to Blue Mountain Council.  For the most part, their concerns fell on deaf ears of Collingwood's Council members with Councillor Lloyd being the only person to voice a concern.. Collingwood's planning department was quick to point out that (a) the project is outside their jurisdiction and (b) Collingwood itself has approved similar projects over the years so how could they stand in the way of this one?  I think the big issue being missed or shrugged off here is not the height of the condos proposed or even the density, it's traffic.

  Have you seen what Mountain Road is like late on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when visitors to Blue Mountain are heading home?  It's not uncommon for traffic to be stop and go from the roundabout at Blue Mountain all the way to the intersection of First and High Streets.  Arterial roads running through and around Collingwood which include Highway 26, First Street, Sixth Street, Mountain Road, Osler Bluff Road and others will all be impacted by this and other future development(s) near the base of Blue Mountain and it's a classic example where a regional approach needs to be taken with our neighbouring municipality in order to be effectively addressed.  Collingwood's Planning Department and Council can not simply throw up their hands on the basis it's outside of our municipal boundary.  To take a position such on this an other matters is short-sighted thinking and will surely lead to much greater problems, traffic and otherwise down the road.

As a REALTOR I am obviously not anti-development and that is not the point of this blog post.  I am however a proponent of managing growth and development in such a way that it preserves the very reason why people come here in the first place including addressing environmental issues.  In my opinion, one local area Council alone cannot meet those challenges hence my advocacy for a more regional approach to local governance.  I am hopeful that the new Councils now in place in Collingwood, the Blue Mountains, Clearview and Wasaga Beach will adopt this approach, only time will tell  

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Area Real Estate Sales Finish a Bullish 1st Quarter

Despite one of the coldest winters in many years, area real estate sales in the first quarter of 2015 have performed exceedingly well, far better than what is typically demonstrated for this time of year.

  Following in the wake of strong sales during January and February, MLS® sales as reported through the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® during the month of March totaled $64.0 million, an increase of 57% from March 2014.  MLS® unit sales during the month increased by 47% with 189 MLS® sales reported in March compared to 129 during the same month last year.

  Total MLS® sales of $149.3 million during the first quarter of 2015 reflects a 45% increase compared to the first quarter of 2014 while total MLS® unit sales are up 32%.  While the severe cold and excessive snowfall we experienced in the winter of 2013/2014 did suppress sales during the first quarter of last year, this winter has been harsh as well with seemingly little impact on MLS® sales activity overall.

  MLS® single family home sales through the end of March are up 30% with every municipality showing robust gains over the prior year.  Single family home sales in Collingwood are up 50% year-to-date while Clearview, the Blue Mountains, the Municipality of Meaford and Wasaga Beach are all posting sales increases of 36% to 38% year-over year.  Condominium sales which have been very strong over the past twelve to eighteen months are up 50% for the first three months of 2015 with 95 MLS® condo sales reported year-to-date compared to 63 sales one year ago.  

  Strong MLS® sales combined with a reduction in new MLS® listing activity has resulted in a reduction of available housing inventory.  Year-to-date, the number of new MLS® listings that have come to market totals 1,039 properties, a reduction of 12% from the 1,177 new MLS® listings that came to market in the first quarter of 2014.  Similarly, the number of “expired” MLS® listings has dropped substantially with 491 expired listing reported in 2015 compared to 628 last year, a decrease of 22%.  In some instances, we are experiencing a shortage of listings in specific price ranges and or locations which has resulted in an increase in multiple offers similar to the phenomena happening in the Greater Toronto Area.  Multiple offers typically result in sale prices close to or above the asking price.  A recent chalet sale in the area drew three aggressive buyers with a final sale price that was more than $59,000 over the asking price.  Statistically we have moved more into the realm of a “seller’s” market something we have not seen for several years, with a sales-to-listing ratio of 40%, as reflected by the fact that one out of every 2.5 MLS® properties listed have sold thus far in 2015.

  MLS® sales in virtually every price range are showing significant increases from one year ago.  Sales below $200,000 are up a modest 8% stemming from the fact that very little can be bought in this market for that price.  Sales between $200,000 to $350,000 reflect a 27% gain from last year while sales between $350,000 to $499,999 and $500,000 to $799,999 are up 54% and 57% respectively.  At the upper end of the market MLS® sales between $800,000 and $999,999 total 11 properties, an increase of 83% while MLS® sales over $1 million are double that of last year with 10 sales in the first quarter of 2015 compared to just 5 one year ago.

  As we had into the prime spring market, the outlook for area real estate sales looks very positive.  A relatively strong economy, positive consumer confidence and the continuation of low mortgage rates all bode well for the local and national real estate market overall.  

  If you are contemplating a real estate purchase or are thinking of listing your property in the coming months, please feel free to contact me for a qualified, no obligation assessment of your property's current market value or to discuss any of your specific real estate goals or objectives.   







Friday, March 27, 2015

Area Real Estate Associations Merge MLS Databases

The following press release was sent out yesterday by our real estate Association announcing the integration of three regional MLS® systems that was recently launched between our local Association here in Collingwood, the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® along with two Associations that geographically abut our trading area, the REALTOR® Association of Grey-Bruce Owen Sound and the REALTOR® Association of Muskoka-Haliburton-Orillia.


  I was pleased to have participated on the task force that spearheaded this project.  This was a monumental undertaking that took several months and numerous meetings, rationalizing three MLS® databases into one integrated system that offers benefits to REALTORS® and consumers alike.

  This integration does not impact the consumer website www.realtor.ca.  Consumers continue to confuse www.realtor.ca with the MLS® system, that is topic for my next post wherein I will explain the difference between the two.  

Three Ontario REALTOR® Associations Integrate MLS® Systems

The REALTORS® Associations of Grey-Bruce Owen Sound, Muskoka-Haliburton-Orillia (The Lakelands) and Southern Georgian Bay recently completed the database integration of their respective MLS® Systems providing a combined membership of over 1,500 with the ability to seamlessly search property listings across all three Boards.  The integrated systems are hosted by Millennium Real Estate Solutions, a subsidiary of Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies.

This project represents a huge benefit for buyers.  It removes the technology-imposed borders that previously restricted property search capabilities of Buyer Representatives to a single Board jurisdiction.  Property Sellers will also benefit, as their listings will now have greater exposure to potential buyers, without the added cost of placing listings on multiple MLS® Systems.

The data integration represents a substantial undertaking for the three participating Associations and Millennium Real Estate Solutions, who performed the integration. Unrestricted access for the REALTOR® members of these Associations now covers a vast area of central Ontario.  The searchable area includes properties in Bruce and Grey Counties, parts of Simcoe County, the District Municipality of Muskoka, Haliburton County and portions of Parry Sound District.  The boundaries include Lake Huron in the west from Point Clark in the South and Tobermory in the North; along the shorelines of Georgian Bay from Tobermory down to Collingwood and back up to Go Home Bay, Sundridge to the north; Wilberforce in Haliburton Highlands to the east, Gamebridge to the south-east of Orillia, with Clearview, Grey Highlands and upper Wellington County to the south.

The Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® represents close to 500 REALTORS® registered with its member offices.  The geographical area served by the Association includes the Towns of Midland and Penetanguishene, the surrounding communities of Elmvale, Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour, Coldwater, Port Severn, Honey Harbour and Tiny, Tay, Springwater, Oro-Medonte, Severn and Georgian Bay Townships, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, Clearview Township,

The Blue Mountains, Municipality of Meaford and Grey Highlands.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Despite The Cold Weather, Area Real Estate Sales Are Hot!

  Real estate sales activity across our market continues to reflect an amazingly strong demand for this time of year with multiple offers seemingly becoming more frequent on some properties.  Personally I have sold three properties this year for which there was more than one willing buyer.


  MLS® dollar sales for the first two months of the year are up 33% from this time last year while unit sales are showing a 20% increase.  Notwithstanding the fact that sales in the first quarter of 2014 were very weak due to the harsh winter conditions of 2013/2014, this winter hasn't been an easy one either yet it has not had a negative impact on sales.

  In addition to the strong MLS® sales activity, we have seen a significant reduction in the number of new MLS® listings coming onto the market.  To the end of February, MLS® listings are down 24% with 615 properties listed year-to-date compared to 812 in the first two months of 2014.  In some price ranges and or property types there is actually a shortage of available inventory which favours sellers and that too helps to substantiate why we are seeing multiple offers on some properties. 

 With the spring market just around the corner, we can expect to see sales activity ramp up even further along with an influx of new MLS® listings coming onto the market.  Seemingly the market has shifted more in favour of sellers so if it has been your intention to potentially sell your property in the near future, market conditions may now allow you to secure a buyer at the best price possible.  

 If you have any questions or would like a no obligation assessment as to the value of your property, please do not hesitate to contact me.


  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Picture Means Nothing

  Throughout my real estate career, I have for the most part been opposed to using my personal photo for promotional purposes.  You will never see my picture on my For Sale signs, business cards, on a bus shelter, garbage can or elsewhere in the community advertising my services.  Essentially, I do not regard my photo as being my "brand."  More importantly, my photo being plastered all over is of no value to my current or potential clients.

  For over 25 years I carried various business cards, many of them for executive and senior management positions that I held in both Canada and the U.S.  Never once was my photo on one of those cards.  Seldom do you see personal photos on any business cards other than for real estate Sales Representative and or Brokers.  Why? What makes real estate different than any other profession?  As REALTORS® we like to think of ourselves as being professionals, on the same level as lawyers, accountants and other trained or licensed service providers that are also involved with the real estate transaction process.  Does your lawyer have his or her picture on their cards?  What about your dentist or your accountant? 

  Last week I attended a one day session sponsored by the Ontario Real Estate Association in Toronto.  Part of this session included a panel of consumers, most of them younger that had recently purchased a home.  I asked them whether a REALTOR'S® photo on signs, a billboard or elsewhere influenced them in any way?  The answer..... absolutely not.  When asked how they wanted to be marketed to the answer was, not at all.  We'll find you was their answer.  I asked my 27 year old daughter what she thought about REALTOR'S® photos on their business cards, or on the back windows of their cars  etc. her answer....it's "tacky." 

  I believe through my own research and as confirmed by last week's panel of home buyers, today's consumers do not want to be "sold to."  They want to be helped. They want you to engage them with meaningful and helpful information that will assist them in whatever it is they are looking to buy be it a product or a service.  This blog is part of my brand as is my website, my newsletter, my Facebook business page etc. I follow the statistical results of our market very closely and publish those results online.  That too is part of my "brand." Through all these various media, my goal is to provide meaningful information illustrating my experience and my expertise in real estate and community related matters.  Hopefully this information will resonate with buyers and sellers so that when the day comes they are looking for a REALTOR® my name will be front and centre. 

  Do REALTOR'S® photos mean anything or influence you in any way?  Should I remove my photo from this blog?  I would appreciate your comments.

  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coming To A World Biosphere Near You

One of the greatest assets we have in the southern Georgian Bay area is the Niagara Escarpment. Traversing one of the most densely populated and heavily developed regions of Canada, the Escarpment is a unique geological formation providing a vital corridor of natural green space through south-central Ontario.  In our region, the Niagara Escarpment is the source of immense recreational pleasure for hiking, skiing, mountain biking and more.

In 1990, the Niagara Escarpment was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and was recognized as being "a landscape of rich biodiversity, home to hundreds of Ontario's Species at risk, vital watersheds, agricultural areas and 450-million year old geological history, the Niagara Escarpment is a treasure to protect for future generations of Ontarians."

  The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is an agency of the provincial government's Ministry of Natural Resources and is charged with the task of preserving the Niagara Escarpment on behalf of the people of Ontario.

  Having recently sold three properties that fall under the jurisdiction of the NEC, I am very familiar with the developmental restrictions that exist for owners of such properties relative to building, severing and or otherwise altering properties that fall with NEC governed areas.  As such, it is hard to fathom how a massive quarry expansion was allowed to proceed on top of the Escarpment west of Duntroon.  A lengthy Ontario Municipal Board appeal which ran for months and one where I testified on behalf of local property owners, resulted in a decision to allow the expansion by Walker Aggregates to proceed.  The approval was subsequently appealed by the NEC and that appeal was denied.

  It's hard to imagine how on one hand, a private land owner of property that resides within the NEC cannot build a home in the woods, cannot sever their property and may not be allowed to even cut down some trees yet a large for profit corporation is granted approval to essentially strip mine was is designated as being a significantly important natural area.

  Work has already begun clearly the site of this new quarry at the top of County Road 91.  A hardwood bush will soon be gone and the rustling of wind through the trees will be replaced by the sound of heavy equipment, scouring the landscape in the name of corporate profit.  It's a sad commentary on where our priorities lay and doesn't bode well for the generations that follow us.  




 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What A Difference A Year Makes

  One year ago, Collingwood and the surrounding area was under the influence of one of the most severe winters we had had in years.  Extreme cold and excessive amounts of snow made for great ski and snowboard conditions (provided you could get here) but it wrecked havoc with virtually every aspect of the local economy including real estate.  
  At the end of January 2014, MLS® real estate sales were down 27% to 28% both in terms of properties sold as well as dollar volume.  Fast forward to January 2015.  Despite the lackluster start to 2014,  the year ended with record sales and that has continued into 2015.  MLS® sales in January of $41.6 million represented a 61% increase in dollar volume compared to January 2014.  MLS® unit sales in January totaled 114 properties up from 82 sales in the 
same month last year, an increase of 39%.  
  
With the exception of Clearview, single family home sales in every other area municipality were up over January of last year.  Collingwood and Grey Highlands saw single family home sales up 50% in January.  Sales in Wasaga Beach were up 64% while the Blue Mountains experienced a modest 10% gain. The biggest surprise was the Municipality of Meaford which saw January sales almost triple that of one year ago.  One month does not make a year but we are  certainly off to a great start for 2015 and the same is holding true for many other markets across Canada.
  
Over the course of the past several months, we have experienced a significant reduction in housing inventory with some area and or price segments reflecting a shortage of product to meet the demand.  For the month of January, the number of new MLS listings was down 26% from January of 2014 with 363 properties coming to market versus 488 last year.  The number of expired listings is sharply reduced as well stemming from older listings selling, or in some cases, stubborn sellers are refusing to lower their asking prices to a level consistent with market value and they are simply taking their properties off the market.
 
 In my next post I will highlight what's selling the most in terms of property type and price range(s).

Monday, January 19, 2015

Area MLS® Real Estate Sales Exceed $700 Million in 2014!

Another record year was recorded for area real estate sales in 2014 with total MLS® sales as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR) topping $705 Million.  This marks a new benchmark high for annual MLS® sales volume and represents a 12% increase over 2013.

  Following the cold snowy weather of last winter, MLS® dollar sales at the end of the first quarter were down 6% while individual MLS® unit sales were 13% below the prior year.  As is often the case, slow sales activity in the first quarter of 2014 appeared to have created a pent-up demand as sales activity rebounded very strongly commencing in April.  This trend continued on into late spring and summer with MLS® sales in June 2014 exceeding $78 million, the
 highest level ever achieved in a one month period.
  Unit MLS® sales for 2014 were up 5% compared to 12% for dollar volume stemming from the fact that sales of higher priced properties were very robust throughout the year.  Sales from $300K to $500K were up 16% while sales in the $500K to $800 range posted a 13% gain over the prior year.  Sales between $800K and $1 million almost doubled from the prior year, with 47 sales reported in 2014 compared to 24 in 2013, an increase of 96%.  Lastly, sales above $1 million totaled 40 properties versus 34 in the prior year, a gain of 18%.

During the year we continued to see the market move into a balanced state stemming from the fact that new MLS® listings of 5,986 properties marked a reduction of 5% over 2013.  Expired listings also dropped with 2,734 expired MLS® listings in 2014 compared to 3,076 in 2013, a decrease of 11%.  Fewer new listings combined with increased sales resulted in less available MLS® inventory across the board thus leveling the playing field for sellers and buyers alike.  

  During 2014 we saw a very strong demand for area condominiums.  MLS® condominium sales in 2014 totaled 443 units, an increase of 18% over the 374 MLS® condominium sales reported in 2013.  Single family home sales for 2014 were up a more modest 6%  while the sale of vacant lots/land was actually below that of 2013 with 144 sales in 2014 compared to 154 the prior year.

 As we head into 2015, conditions point to another strong year in terms of the demand for area real estate.  For the most part there is a good selection of available inventory.  Prices and interest rates appeared poised to remain stable and with another great ski and snowboard season now underway, visitors are flocking to the area often resulting in their decision to make a property investment in the area.

 For a look at the luxury, high-end property market activity in 2014, see my Southern Georgian Bay Carriage Trade Homes blog.











    

Contact Me

Royal LePAGE Locations North (Brokerage)

330 First Street, Collingwood, ON L9Y 1B4



Email:
rickcrouch@propertycollingwood.com



Direct: 705-443-1037



Office: 705-445-5520 ext 230




Website:
www.rickcrouch.realtor















My Profile

Rick relocated to Collingwood from Toronto in 1985 through a transfer with Goodyear Canada. In 1987 Rick was recruited by a major client of Goodyear’s, managing their Canadian business based in Barrie before moving to Chicago in 1992 as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Upon returning to Canada in 1996, Rick ran an industrial products manufacturing company in Stratford, Ontario. In 1998 Rick returned to Collingwood with his two children. Rick is a licensed real estate Broker with Royal LePAGE Locations North in Collingwood and holds his MVA designation (Market Value Appraiser-Residential). He is an active volunteer in the community serving several years on the Board of Directors with the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, 6 years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® of which he is the Past President (2008) and currently serves on a committee with the Ontario Real Estate Association. Rick is a diverse executive manager with extensive experience in strategic planning, manufacturing, finance, human resources and quality assurance management.