Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Importance of Property Photos When Selling - Part 1

  In a prior post I ranted about REALTOR® photos and how unnecessary I felt they were from both a business branding perspective but more importantly they serve no real purpose in serving buyer and seller clients. The flip side of this argument is property photos and how important they have become in the marketing and sale of homes and other forms of real estate.

  When I started in real estate 15+ years ago, our MLS® system at the time allowed for a maximum of three photos with each listing.  Those were back in the days when a paper MLS® catalog was still in use by most agents and an Internet based MLS® system was gaining momentum. Subsequently the number of photos was expanded to nine then it jumped to thirty.  Thirty photos is not bad especially when a virtual tour can also be posted to a listing highlighting details of the property even further. As of this posting we are in the final stage of moving to an entirely new MLS® platform which has the capability of holding fifty photos per listing and photos can also be labelled.

Photos often make or break whether a consumer gives serious thought to a particular listing and or actually go to see the property first hand. Not only are the number of photos  important but also the quality. A recent study in the U.S. showed that listings with professional photos got on average 61% more views, yet many REALTORS® seemed more preoccupied with their personal photo versus those for their listing(s) which after all is where the money in this business is made. I know myself that when I go on a listing and see a lack of photos especially of the interior, right away I am suspect of how the property shows in person and typically it's poorly. The more ambitious and astute REALTORS are not only leveraging photos in their listings but they are talking it one step further on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and others.

  Every house tells a story and photographs play a big role in conveying that story.  Both quality and the quantity of photos comes into play yet too often these are ignored.  Today there is no excuse for poor quality pictures or a lack thereof other than REALTOR® laziness.  Newer smartphones and tablets take good quality photos including panoramas.  Personally I use a Canon DSLR camera, often with a wide angle lens which does a better job of capturing an interior room without any distortion.  In addition a separate flash is a must and often a tripod.  My photo arsenal also includes drone shots which I have had done by a fully licensed and insured professional.  I do own my own drone which I have flown extensively for recreational use but until such time as I am licensed, I am not going to break Transport Canada rules.

  In my next post I will comment on photo quality.  In the meantime, for those of you that may be thinking of selling and are interviewing prospective REALTORS®, make a point of asking them about their use of photos in the listing.  Next to the correct list price, photos are the next most important aspect of successfully marketing your home or other property.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

  In like a lion out like a lamb is a phrase typically used to describe the transition from winter to spring however it also applies to this year's real estate market across southern Georgian Bay.

  On the heels of record MLS® sales in 2016 when sales volume for the year topped $1 billion, 2017 started off like a lion with record sales, multiple offers and sale prices that were often well over the asking prices of the sellers.  June brought with it a much tamer market with sales in June marking the first time in 40 months when sales for a given month failed to exceed that same month in the prior year.

  Following a relatively slow summer, sales momentum picked up in the fall but not at the same frantic pace that we experienced earlier in the year.  At one point I questioned whether we would top the $1 billion mark again this year but as of November we have.  While MLS® sales activity in November was down 15% from the same month last year to just over $84 million for the month, year-to-date sales now stands at $1.047 million for the year and we have one more month to go.  Again these results do not reflect the sale of new homes and condominiums made by developers which are typically done outside of the MLS® system.

  While MLS® sales dollars have already surprised 2016, clients and others I speak with are surprised to learn that MLS® unit sales are below last year's level.  Through the end of November, 2,279 MLS® sales have been reported, a decrease of 13%  or 344 properties from the first eleven months of 2016 when 2,623 MLS® sales had been completed. 

  MLS® dollar sales in 2017 are being driven by a very strong demand for high-end properties most notably in the $1 to $2 million range where year-to-date sales are up 77% with 106 sales reported this year compared to 60 last year.  We have seen similar results under $1 million as well with sales between $800,000 and $999,999 up 36% for the year.

  As has been the case for the past 12 to 18 months, MLS® listing inventory continues to lag.  As of this posting, MLS® listings for the year are down 11% from one year ago, coinciding with the 12% decrease in MLS® unit sales.  Single family homes sales are down 18% from one year ago.  The Blue Mountains has been the only municipality all year where single family home sales have surpassed last year's results but as of the end of November, that increase has shrunk to just one more sale compared to 2016.  All other area municipalities have and continue to track well below last year with the results being as follows:  Clearview -29%, Collingwood -17%, Grey Highlands -7% Municipality of Meaford -27% and Wasaga Beach -23% .  The lack of available housing inventory has played a key role in the unit sales decreases we have experienced throughout 2017.

  Area condo sales have also softened from earlier in the year.  To the end of November, MLS® condo sales total 503 units for the year compared to 514 last year, a modest decrease of 2%.  MLS® vacant land sales have remained robust in 2017 driven by the fact there has been ample inventory.  Vacant land sales for the year total 332 properties up 9% from the 304 sales reported in 2016.

  Heading into the holiday season, sales in December traditionally start to slow then ramp up again in January.  I predict that in 2018, we will continue to see a market whereby demand exceeds the supply, inventory levels will remain soft and pricing stable.  With changes to the mortgages rules coming in January and  with cooler heads now prevailing, we may not see the crazy pace of sales that we experienced in the first four or five months of 2017 but that's okay.  Speaking both as a consumer and a REALTOR®, excess is never a good thing when it comes to real estate,  Only time will tell what market conditions we will experience in 2018.  The demand for area properties is not expected to diminish, hopefully we will see an increase in housing inventory resulting in more balanced market conditions of everyone. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Collingwood Loses The Enterprise Bulletin Newspaper

   The big news of the day is the news media itself.  Torstar and Postmedia have agreed to a non monetary swap of some 40 newspapers of which all but about five will be shutdown.  What does this mean for our immediate area?  The Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin and the Meaford Express will no longer cease to exist, driving by the Enterprise Bulletin today reflects that the door is already locked.
  For many, this comes as no surprise.  Declining advertising revenues stemming from more and more consumers both searching for and buying products and services online has taken a heavy toll on newspapers overall income.  I remember years ago the Toronto Star having a whole classified section just for cars.  Those ads quickly disappeared as the result of the Auto Trader publication and later  The same scenario has unfolded several times since affecting virtually every type of business I can think of.
  Back in August of 2012 I did a post titled Print Versus Online Advertising. I had attended a real estate conference and sat in on a session pertaining to advertising.  In 2010, online advertising expenditures across the U.S exceeded print advertising.  While this statistic was based on the U.S., Canada would be no different.  Canada has always been one of the global leaders in the adoption of Internet services so to think that print advertising was not already under severe threat in this country is foolish. 
  Real estate has remained one of the last strongholds for print advertising expenditures.  Home sellers are often impressed to see their property advertised in one of the local papers or in one of the many area magazines but the reality is, obtaining a buyer through a print ad is very very rare.  I cannot think of when I last had a call or email inquiry from a print property ad. No matter how nice or how many photos an add may contain, sites like allow for up to 30 photos plus virtual tours.  A postage stamp sized photo(s) with a bit of text in a print ad pales in comparison to how a property can effectively be marketed online and with a global reach versus just a local one.
  Whats broken in the newspaper industry is not the lack of news or the number of potential readers, its the advertising revenue model.  The print news industry needs to figure out how to better attract and monetize online advertising.  Websites such as Facebook and Kijiji offer free advertising but get revenue by selling upgraded ad options on their sites.  In the wake of declining ad revenues newspapers have been forced to increase the cost pf their papers. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a the weekend edition of the Globe and Mail with my groceries, little did I realize it was $6.00.  Never again will I buy a weekend paper.
  While its too bad to see an institution like the Enterprise Bulletin fold, the reality is papers such as these cannot financially sustain themselves by selling printed ad space, technology is a powerful foe and failing to adopt to an ever changing landscape driven by technology no matter what business you are in is a fool's game. 
  What is unnerving is the potential lack of local content in the news that will be available to us covering such things a municipal and community affairs.  Time will tell if the one remaining print newspaper, the Connection will survive in print or will it too face the same fate as these other publications?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Are REALTOR® Photos Really Necessary?

  One of my pet peeves about the real estate profession is the proliferation of personal photos that seems to be more important to the individual REALTOR® than the degree and quality of service they provide to their clients.
  Perhaps I am being just small minded and or unnecessarily picky but I know of no other profession where the mugshot of the person in that line of work is so prominently displayed on business cards, for sale signs, vehicles, bus shelters, bill boards, community garbage bins and more.  My looks are not enhanced when someone throws their unfinished Tim Horton's coffee in the trash container with some of the residual coffee dribbling down my face towards the pavement.
 Prior to real estate I held a number of senior management positions in both Canada and the U.S. often dealing face to face with large corporations such as Caterpillar, General Motors, Ford, John Deere and even Walmart.  I could not imagine handing them my business card as Vice President with my face on the front.  Nay, my company would not allow it.  Would my picture on the card reflect the company's brand and or image?  Would it be of value to the client?  The answer to both of these questions is no so why is real estate any different?
  I especially like the real estate cards with photos (which seem to be the most prevalent) where the REALTOR® is standing there with their arms crossed.  The psychological message being interpreted by many with this pose is that both arms are folded together across the chest as an attempt to put a barrier between the person and someone or something they don't like.  Great, that's just the message you want to send to attract clients.
  Many REALTORS® will argue their photo is their brand but in my opinion if that is all your brand has to offer it is little wonder consumers think we are over paid.  As REALTORS® we are dealing with clients helping them to complete the purchase or sale of what for many is the most important and valuable asset they will ever own.  That process takes knowledge and a variety of skills not the least of which is negotiation and in my opinion, our brand should reflect the varied skill set needed to successfully get the job done.  I have some particular clients (husband and wife) with whom I have done a lot of real estate business.  She is a prominent lawyer and during one transaction said: "Rick, we pay you for your knowledge."  That is my brand.
  In addition to being of little brand value, I feel that for female REALTORS® having their photos out there is dangerous.  There have been numerous incidents where female REALTORS® have been assaulted and even killed while on the job.  Meeting some stranger at a house at nine o'clock at night because he liked their photo is not necessarily a good thing.
  Perhaps at some point in the past, photos on business cards and for sale signs served a purpose in real estate but I feel those days are gone.  Consumers today are more sophisticated and the process of selling and buying real estate transaction is more complex.
  A couple of years ago I asked my twenty-nine year old daughter what she thought of real estate business cards with the REALTOR®'s photos?  Her answer, its tacky Dad.  Yes my photo is on this blog site but it will never be on my business cards or signs.
  I would love to hear your opinion on this topic and I invite you to comment and to weigh in on my poll to the upper right.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

10 Questions To Ask When Buying A Home

Given some of the irregularities we have seen in the real estate market this year with seemingly more buyers than there are homes for sale, buyers have often elected not to or did not have the luxury of doing a home inspection especially when faced with multiple offer scenarios.  Whether you are having a home inspection done or not, here are 10 questions that every Buyer or their REALTOR® should be asking about a prospective property the Buyer is interested in. 
  1. How old are replaceable portions of the structure (the roof, windows, guttering, siding, etc.) and the major appliances (HVAC systems, water heater, kitchen appliances, etc.)?
Older appliances, roofing, siding, etc., may mean large expenses are on the horizon, which should be considered before making an offer.
  1. How old are any major renovations?
If, for instance, any additions have been recently made, request the permits and related paperwork. You don’t want to find out after the sale that a beautiful new sunroom wasn’t approved and must be torn down or moved!
  1. Is there documentation on work done to the house?
If repairs have been made to appliances, mechanical systems, etc. a copy of the paperwork could mean that some systems are still under warranty after the sale. At the very least, you would know when the repairs were made and by whom, in case follow-up work is needed. It’s even a good idea to ask for details on the paint used throughout the home, as this information would make it easy to repaint walls should future repairs require touch-ups.
  1. Are there any water-related problems?
Have any of the pipes burst? Has the sewer ever backed up? Have there been any leaks between the water meter and the house? Has there ever been standing water in the basement or crawl space? Knowing what problems have occurred will keep you aware of any signs of a repeat performance… and will help you look for any mold or structural damage that may have resulted.
  1. Is there anything that’s NOT included in the sale of the house?
There may be a garden shed the owners intend to move, ceiling fixtures they plan to keep, or other seemingly “built-in” items the owner plans to remove, like bookshelves, mantles, etc. Be sure you know exactly what you are buying and have it written into the contract to avoid any nasty post-purchase surprises.
  1. How many times has the property changed hands?
If the home is very old and/or historic, there may be a long list of prior owners. What you want to know, however, is if there has been a rash of short-term owners. This may indicate problems you can’t see. Ask why the previous owner and the current owner are selling.
  1. How much is this property worth in today’s market?
An agent should be able to offer details on recent comparable sales on similar houses in the same, or similar neighborhoods. S/he should also be able to tell you how long it is taking for houses to sell and whether or not most sellers are getting more or less than their asking price. Additionally, they should be able to tell you how long a property has been on the market, which could indicate how much negotiation power you have.
  1. Is the seller willing to help with closing costs?
Closing costs can really add up. If it’s a buyer’s market, you may be successful in including this as a negotiating point on a purchase offer.
  1. May I speak with the current owners?
The current owners may be less guarded in what they say than their real estate agent. They will also know more about what it’s like to live in the house and the neighborhood and will have the best advice on everything from local restaurants to nearby mechanics.
Of course, the seller’s agent will likely discourage the owners from talking to you—and your agent may provide similar advice out of concern you’ll accidentally reveal details about your own situation that could hurt your negotiating position. This is why it’s usually better to work through licensed real estate professionals.
  1. Is there anything negative in the history of the house?
Has this house been the site of any crimes (murders, meth lab, illegal companion services, etc.)? Has it been the home of a negatively famous/infamous individual? Has it experienced a flood, fire, earthquake or other natural disasters? In some states, some of these items must be disclosed, while other states put the onus on the buyer to ask.
  A lot of this is common sense that shouldn't be overlooked while you ogle the new kitchen or the recently renovated bathroom.  Finding some major deficiency in a home after you have closed that take the shine off your purchase pretty quickly especially if there are some major repairs need to remedy them.   These tips were taken from an article published by the Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council of the National Association of REALTORS® in the U.S. of which I am a member.  
  As always I welcome your questions and comments.  If you have had an unfortunate real estate buying experience due to some unforeseen issues with a property and need some advice, I would love to here from you.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

  Following sluggish sales through the summer which resulted in three consecutive months of a year-over-year decline in sales, MLS® dollar sales across Southern Georgian Bay rebounded in October posting an increase over sales from October 2016.  MLS® dollar volume as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS totalled $99.4 million in October up 5% compared to $94.4 million in October last year.  MLS® unit sales for the month however were down 20% from October 2016 with 203 sales reported this year compared to 254 in October of 2016.

  As has been the case all year, strong sales activity in the upper price ranges is what is driving MLS dollar volume despite the reduction in MLS® unit sales.  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales of 2,135 properties reflects a 12% decrease from one year ago when 2,437 MLS sales had been reported.   At the same time, MLS® dollar volume for the year is up 8% and totals $976 million, driven by strong sales over $700,000.
  Demand for area properties continues to exceed supply which is at least partly to blame for the year-to-date reduction in MLS® unit sales.  The number of new MLS® listings that came to market in October totalled 251 properties, down 10% from the number of new listings that came to market in October of 2016. Year-to-date MLS® listing activity is down 11% from one year ago with 3,195 properties coming to market this year versus 3,592 in the first ten months of 2016. This market imbalance still favours sellers although not to the degree of what we saw in the first four or five months of the year when multiple offers and sale prices well over listed prices were very much the order of the day.

  MLS® single family home sales which total 1,459 properties through the end of October are down almost 30% this year.  These do not however include the sale of new homes sold by builders/developers that do not go through the local MLS® system.  The municipality of the Blue Mountains continues to be the only area municipality that has seen an increase in single family home sales year-to-date up a scant 1.6% from last year with 185 sales compared to 182 sales this time last year.  Single family home sales in other area municipalities round out as follows:  Clearview -26%, Collingwood -14%, Grey Highlands -7%, Municipality of Meaford -28%, Wasaga Beach -24%.  Meanwhile, year-to-date MLS condo sales total 461 units a decrease 24 units or 5% from this time last year.

  As covered in prior posts, 2017 has seen a resurgence of vacant land sales throughout the area.  Through the end of October there have been 322 MLS® vacant land sales which is an increase of 44 sales or 16% from one year ago.  With the absence of resale home listings on the MLS® system and with an abundance of vacant lots available, many buyers have chosen to build especially in close proximity to Blue Mountain where lots in the 3rd phase of the Nipissing Ridge development are sold out.

  Lastly it is again worth noting the significant number of sales that have taken place in the higher price segments of our market.  MLS® sales over $700,000 total 287 units, up 72% from this time last year and sales between $1 and $2 million have doubled with 99 sales reported year-to-date compared to 49 last year.
  In conclusion, with year-to-date MLS® sales to the end of October sitting at $976 million, we are once again going to break the $1 billion barrier this year and if the level of MLS® listed inventory was higher than it is, the results would be even higher.  When you factor in the sales of newly built properties being done directly by builder and developers, it is very clear that the demand for Southern Georgian bay area properties is higher than it has ever been and this will put us on solid footing for continued growth in our market as we head into 2018.

  In order to assist my clients and and followers with meaningful market information regarding their respective area, I now offer detailed quarterly reports by municipality.  3rd Quarter Monthly Market Reports by Area and now available to download on the "newsletter" page of my website or simply click on the following link: 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Collingwood's Proposed Sale of Its Public Utility - Collus

  One of the hot buttons in the Province right now is the whole issue of hydro and the skyrocketing cost of electricity that we have seen under the current Provincial Liberals.  Closer to home, is another seemingly controversial matter involving electricity, namely the Town of Collingwood's recent decision to divest itself of its remaining 50% ownership of Collus, our local and municipally owned public utilities operator that distributes electricity not only to Collingwood but also to Thornbury, Creemore and Stayner.

  As most of you know, the Town sold 50% interest in the company back in July of 2012 to Powerstream.  Since that transaction in 2012, much criticism has been heaped on the sale with most questioning why sell 50% thus losing control?  I am sure those involved at the time had their rationale.  During the last municipal election campaign of which I was a candidate, I thought the 50% sale would be a contentious election issue.  In preparation for such I made the point of meeting with then Co-Chair of Collus, David McFadden whom I knew personally as a real estate client to discuss the sale and the thought(s) behind it.  At that time this was seen as a strategic partnership that would create a more regional provider of essential services such as hydro, water and sewer.  Powerstream compared to Ontario Hydro, the other bidder at the time was seen as the ideal partner that could bring experience, training and other benefits to a company that was essentially a small time, small town  player.

  I am not going to question the validity, the relationship, the benefits financial or otherwise or the lack thereof of the 50% join ownership that has existed between the Town and Powerstream since the 2012 sale.  The details of the agreement are seemingly known to only a few anything else is pure speculation.  I will however weigh in on what I would be considering during the decision making process to sell the remaining 50% if I was sitting at the Council table.

  As of this writing there are 70 power distributions companies across the Province of Ontario with Collus being one of them.  To me that seems like a lot of players and I know it was part of the consideration that was given when the first 50% sale of Collus was being contemplated.  Having choice is a good thing.  It typically implies there is competition and competition for the most part is good.  At the same time too many of anything often leads to redundancies and inefficiencies resulting in potentially higher costs unless there is a clear, well defined and well executed value proposition. Since the 2012 sale to Powerstream for 50% of Collus, Powerstrteam itself has purchased Hydro One Brampton from the Province. Following that acquisition Powerstream then merged with two other electrical providers Enersource and Horizon Utilities in February 2017 to create a new company Alectra, touted as "second largest municipally-owned electric utility by customer base in North America, second only to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power."  Tell me there are not efficiencies and other improvements to be had here which can be of benefit to consumers.  Consolidation is happening in virtually every business that I know of including mine, real estate. 

  The other consideration which no one has even remotely mentioned with respect to this transaction and the future is that of technology and I am referring to the disruptive type.  In the past 10 to 15 years look at the industries that have fallen victim to sweeping changes in technologies.  Kodak ignored digital photography until it was virtually too late.  Consider the changes that have taken place in the music industry, followed by books and others.  Today the entire retail landscape is undergoing rampant change with 25% of mall space in North America expected to be vacant by 2020 all due to technology and consumer's buying/consumption habits.  Are we to believe that the electrical distribution business is immune to such change and impact?  Think again.  If I were a member of Collingwood Council the question I would be asking myself is this.  Is it wise to be in the conventional electrical distribution business long term erecting hydro poles and stringing wires or is it too going to be adversely impacted by technological change?  Notwithstanding nuclear power plants, the production and transmission of electricity is pretty old school.  Coal powered generating plants, wooden poles in the ground and wires strung everywhere.  In Puerto Rico their main electrical generating plant is run on bunker oil. Not very high tech in my books.

In the mean time, companies like Tesla are bringing out their Powerwall and roof shingles that are essentially solar panels.  Other companies are developing clear glass with solar power generating capabilities that can be incorporated into windows for your home and office allowing you to generate your own power.  Solar panels are quietly appearing on homes in our area I am willing to bet that before long we will see a developer bring forth a community that is totally off grid and buyers will be clamouring to get in.

  Don't get me wrong, we are not about to see conventional electrical distribution go away entirely any time soon but change is coming and faster than we think.  The 70 electrical distribution providers across Ontario (Collus being one) and elsewhere are going to have to change to stay relevant adapting if they can to new and better technology.  That may mean reinventing themselves, further consolidation among the current players as well as other changes and ultimately that costs money. In my opinion, this is the type of consideration that needs to be given at the Council table with respect to the Town divesting their other 50% interest in Collus and when. 

  Those that choose to rant and rave about the Town's decision to sell the reaming 50% of Collus often do so based on emotion and or out of fear that our hydro bills will rise even further.  This however is a business decision and one that needs to be made based on not what dividend payments have or haven't been over the past five years but rather what will the next five means for this company and others like it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

British Columbia Is Considering Banning Dual Agency

  Given the frenzied real estate market that existed across much of Canada earlier this year, we have experienced market conditions and situations unlike any I have seen in the 16 years I have been a REALTOR®.  Unfortunately, this is brought out or at least served to highlight the unscrupulous activities of some REALTORS® with both Ontario and British Columbia looking to tighten the rules with respect to how REALTORS® represent clients.

  Most consumers are probably not familiar with the term dual agency.  Dual agency, multiple representation or "double ending" as it is commonly referred to is when a REALTOR®
 lists and sells the same property.  In this instance, both the buyer and the seller are being represented by the same person.  This may mean the REALTOR® earns double the commission or at least more than they would if the property was sold by someone else.  It's not hard to see where the ability to earn more money can lead to some questionable actions by a REALTOR® whose interests may be more in themselves versus their clients.

  Let's back up for a minute.  First, REALTORS® are not agents, it is the real estate brokerage that we work for that is the "agent."  As such it is the brokerage that is representing the buyer and the seller and not just the REALTOR®. 

Example 1:  If I both list and sell a property representing the seller and buyer, then the brokerage is in a dual agency or multiple representation situation as the brokerage is representing both the seller and buyer.

Example 2:  If I list a property and one of my Royal LePAGE Locations North colleagues sells the property, the brokerage is once again  in a dual agency or multiple representation situation as the brokerage is representing both the seller and buyer.

Example 3:  If another brokerage say ReMax or Century 21 has a listing and I along with one of my Royal LePAGE Locations North colleagues both have offers on that same property, once again the brokerage is again in a dual agency or multiple representation situation as the brokerage is representing more than one buyer for the same property.

  With examples 2 and 3 the distinction between who is representing the seller and the buyer is fairly clear in that two or more different REALTORS® are representing their respective parties.  It's example 1 where one person is working with and representing both the seller and the buyer.  In those instances you must walk a very straight line in order to serve both parties without any compromise or prejudice.  It shouldn't be but for some REALTORS® that appears to be difficult hence the apparent need for government intervention.

  In the legal provision, individual lawyers are not allowed to represent two clients ie: in the case of real estate seller and buyer in the same transaction.  The seller or buyer must be handed off to another lawyer in their firm.  We have implemented a somewhat similar policy at Royal LePAGE Locations North.  If one of our REALTORS® has a property listed for sale and they have their own buyer but there are other offers on the property as well, they must turn that buyer over to another REALTOR with the brokerage.   Further, typically either myself or our broker/owner will sit in on the process to make sure everyone is treated fairly and honestly.  Earlier this year I oversaw the sale of a small condo in Collingwood we had listed for sale that had 17 offers.  Obviously there were 16 buyers that lost out but at least their respective REALTORS® left the table knowing that everything had been dealt with fairly and more importantly honestly.

  The Ontario Real Estate Association and the Real Estate Council of Ontario are currently looking at making changes to Ontario's Real Estate and Business Broker's Act aimed at addressing some of the issues I have outlined above. While not a widespread problem, with well over 50,000 REALTORS®
 in Ontario, some are obviously more concerned with maximizing their commissions than they are the the level of integrity and service they bring to their clients.

  Stay tuned for further updates on this contentious issue.  In the meantime if you have any questions or need advice with respect to your particular real estate situation, please feel free to Contact Me without obligation.

  Foir more information on what British Columbia has planned see the following "BC proposes to ban dual agency."

Friday, September 8, 2017

  For the second month in a row we have seen a significant drop in MLS® sales activity across southern Georgian Bay reflecting the same slowdown that has impacted the market in the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere.  The questions remains is this pause in real estate sales temporary or are we in a prolonged downturn?

  MLS® unit sales in August as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® totalled 190 properties, a drop of 37% from August of last year when 302 sales were reported.  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales of 1,752 properties are 10% below the first eight months of 2016 but remain 9% higher than the first eight months of sales in 2015.

  As I have stated in prior posts, one the factors impacting sales in our area is the lack of available properties listed for sale. Unlike in other markets where recent months have seen the number of MLS® listings coming to market ramping up as sellers look to take advantage of strong market conditions, we have not experienced the same phenomena here in our local market.  New MLS® listings through the end of August are down 12% from the same time last year.  I myself have several buyers looking in the $500,000 to $2,000,000 range and the selection of available properties is slim.  As the saying goes " can't sell from an empty wagon."

  Despite the reduced number of MLS® sales year-to-date, MLS® dollar volume has to this point remained ahead of 2016 fuelled by strong sales activity for homes priced upwards of $1 million and higher.  Year-to-date MLS® dollars sales for the area totals $796.3 million.  This is an increase of 11% from one year ago despite the fact that MLS® unit sales are down 10%.  In reviewing sales in various price ranges, we clearly see that MLS® dollar volume is being driven by an exceptionally strong demand for higher end properties.  The sale of properties priced between $500,000 and $999,999 are up 37% year-to-date with 417 sales this year compared to 304 last year.  More significantly, sales over $1 million are more than double those of last year with 91 sales reported through the end of August compared to 44 sales in this price range last year.

  The Blue Mountains is the only area municipality that is showing an increase in MLS® single family home sales year-to-date.  Through the end of August, 149 home sales have been reported, up a modest 9 sales or 6% from last year/  All other area municipalities have seen decreases in single family homes this year of 20% and greater.  MLS® single family home unit sales around the area are as follows: Grey HIghlands -4%, Collingwood -17%, Municipality of Meaford - 20%, Wasaga Beach -22% and lastly Clearview Township sales are down 25%.

  Overall, MLS® single family home sales total 1,091 properties to the end of August, down 192 units or almost 18% from last year.  MLS® condominium sales of 352 units reflects a 6% decrease from one year ago.  Conversely, we have seen a very strong demand for vacant land sales in 2017, year-to-date there have been 250 MLS® sales of vacant lots and acreages compared to just 169 last year, an increase of 48%.

  In 2016, MLS® dollar volume in our market exceeded $1 billion dollars which was the first time ever for us to exceed this level of sales  Through most of this year we seemed destined to reach the same dollar threshold of sales as in 2016 but following the back to back decreases in July and August I am not so sure.  As we head into the final four months of 2017, a 25% reduction in total sales from September to December will result in us falling short of $1 billion in sales for the year. Given the weak results we have seen over the past two months, I suspect we may well fall short of the record sales achieved in 2016.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

July MLS® Sales Drop 33%

 The frenzied real estate market we experienced back in the spring with multiple offers and properties selling for well over their respective asking prices has come to a screeching halt.
  Following a softening of MLS® sales in June which saw an 18% drop in MLS® unit sales, sales activity in July decreased by almost double that amount.  MLS® unit sales reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® totalled  177 properties in July down 33% from the 263 sales in July 2016.  MLS® dollar volume in July decreased by a more modest 18% and totalled $80.9 million down from $98.3 million one year ago.  This marked the first time in 40 months (March 2014) where monthly MLS® sales failed to exceed those of the previous year.
 Despite all the hype about how strong the market has been, due to a shortage of listings and a slowing of activity in June and July, year-to-date MLS® unit sales are now below where we were at this time last year.  Year-to-date sales total 1,564 properties compared to 1,641 for the first seven months of 2016, a drop of 5%.
  As stated in prior posts, our market has seen an unprecedented demand for higher priced properties this year which continues to drive increases in the total value of MLS® sales despite the reduction in unit sales.  For the first seven months of 2017 we have seen 82 sales over $1 million versus just 30 in 2016.  Year-to-date dollar volume now stands at $713.6 million compared to $598.2 million last year, an increase of 19%.  Baring a prolonged downturn in the market we are still well on the way to once again exceed $1 billion in MLS® sales in our area for 2017.  Add to this the sales being done of new homes and condominiums outside of the MLS® system and the demand for area properties still remains very strong regardless of the decline in sales over the past two months.
  A large part of the weakened sales picture remains the lack of inventory for sale.  Other markets across Canada particular in the Greater Toronto Area  have seen a significant increase in the number of new MLS® listings coming to market whereas we have not.  Year-to-date new MLS® listings through July are down 14% from one year ago.  Myself and many of my colleagues have buyer clients that are eager to purchase but we lack suitable properties for them to purchase.
  MLS® single family home sales are down 10% for the year while condominium sales are down just 4% from one year ago.  The Blue Mountains is the only area municipality to date that has seen an increase in single family property sales year-to-date with 133 MLS® sales representing an 18% increase while MLS® single family sales in Grey Highlands are unchanged from one year ago.  Single family home sales in other area municipalities are down year over year from between 8% to 23% as shown in the accompanying chart.
  What's surprising is the strength of vacant land sales.  Through July there have been 229 MLS® vacant land sales which marks a 63% increase over the number of lot sales last year.  There are perhaps several factors attributing to this strong demand for vacant lots.  First, buyers unable to find a suitable home or chalet to buy have elected to build.  Secondly, unlike the low inventory levels of single family homes and condominiums there has in recent years been a glut of vacant lots for sale.  Lastly the strong demand for homes in the upper price ranges has also played a part in the sales of lots particularly near the ski slopes where sales on lots in areas such as Nipissing Ridge 3 have been brisk with a lot of new builds underway most of which would be $750,000 projects and higher.  Personally, I sold one such lot on three separate occasions over a two year period.  Initially priced at $359,000 I resold it for my clients at $405,000 then several months later I resold it again for the second buyer for $445,000.
  No one knows for sure what the balance of the year is going to bring, sales thus far through August are tracking well below last year.  As long as our MLS® inventory level stays low, it will remain somewhat of a seller's market but we are certainly trending in the direction of a more balanced market which is good for both buyers and sellers.  The naysayers that continue to forecast a doom and gloom for the Canadian real estate market as a whole will no doubt be proven wrong.  Problems no doubt exist in specific markets like Toronto and Vancouver which were grossly "overheated," have cooled substantially and where there has also been a sharp increase in new listings thus quelling the multiple offer fires with properties selling way over their asking price.  These same conditions do not exist here in the southern Georgian Bay region where demand especially from retirees remains high while inventory levels are low.  One or two months does not signify a trend and I suspect we will see sales rebound through the fall especially in the recreational segment with another ski season fast approaching.
  For further in-depth details about our market please visit my website and see my latest monthly market report or Contact me for a confidential no obligation consultations about your specific buying or selling objectives.

Friday, August 4, 2017

What Is To become of the Steamship S.S. Norisle

Most people that know me know that I have family as well as a cottage on Manitoulin Island.  My first trip to Manitoulin was an an infant, six months old and the ferry crossing was made on the Steamship Norisle.  It was about a three hour crossing almost twice the time it takes for today's ferry the Chi Cheemaun and as kids it seemed to take forever.  It is somewhat ironic that I now live in Collingwood as the Norisle was built in the Collingwood Shipyards in 1946, several years before my birth.
  In the late 1970's I worked in the summer as a dock attendant at South Baymouth, tying up the Norisle and its sister ship the Norgoma when they came into port, driving cars off and on.  Unlike today's ferry the Chi Cheemaun which is a drive on drive off ship, the Norisle and Norgoma loaded from their sides and it was a challenge to unhitch and jocky around campers and trailers to get them loaded.  For vehicles that were slightly higher than the loading doors,  we would let air out of the tires and stand on the vehicle's bumpers to weigh them down in order for them to fit.  The Norisle held about 50 cars, a dozen or so went down an elevator to a lower car deck. In my slim youth I could easily squeeze in and out of the vehicles on the elevator as it was a tight fit.  When loading cars you followed the direction of one of the ships Mate's, never looking back but following their finger movements turning the steering wheel in sync with their finger to back into the designated parking spot. It was quite a performance.
  At the time of its retirement in 1974 the Norisle was the last passenger steamship operating on the Great Lakes.  It has since been berthed at the town of Manitowaning on Manitoulin, operating at times as a restaurant and museum.  In recent years however it has sat idle, a liability that the local municipality no longer wants or can afford.  Opposing groups have their eyes on acquiring the ship but for alternate if not controversial purposes.  One group envisions a restore vessel operating as a cruise ship while the other wants to sink it off Tobermory as a dive site.  It's ultimate disposition is now being challenged in court meanwhile the ship sits as you see it in these photos, rusting and forgotten.
  There has also been talk about returning the Norisle to its birthplace of Collingwood, where it would serve as a reminder of Collingwood's shipbuilding past.  Someone suggested it get parked in the former drydock with an atrium enclosure, a full size ship in a bottle that could be toured year round.
  Whenever it ends up,whether once again cruising the waters around Manitoulin, permanently moored in Collingwood or resting on the bottom of Lake Huron, The Norisle will always hold a lot of memories for me both as a means of transportation or as a source of employment allowing me to my summers at what is for me a very special place, Manitoulin.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Multiple Representation and You

  There has been plenty of controversy over the years in real estate circles about the issue of Multiple Representation commonly referred to as "double ending" or "dual agency."  Seemingly, a large majority of consumers do not know what Multiple Representation is yet it is something not to be taken likely with some REALTORS® failing to explain the implications.  This has become such a contentious issue that the Provincial Government has launched an investigation into the matter and I suspect we will see some changes coming in the future. In the next couple of posts I will bring some clarity to this matter.

  First and contrary to common belief, REALTORS® are not agents.  The Brokerage we work for is the "agent," we are either Salespersons or in my case I am a Broker.  Multiple Representation is when a real estate Brokerage and not just a singular Salesperson or Broker represents both a Buyer and a Seller in a real estate transaction and there are different examples as to how this can play out. 

 Few consumers understand that in legal terms there is a difference between being a client versus a customer.  When we enter into a Listing Agreement for a Sellers property, they become a client and we have a fiduciary duty to look out for their interest(s).  Similarly, when we enter into a Buyer Representation Agreement with a Buyer(s), we have established them as a client and similarly there is a fiduciary duty to protect their interest(s) as well.  If a party to a real estate transaction is merely a customer and not a client, no fiduciary duties exist.  Yes we must act honestly and truthfully with respect to dealings with a customer but we are not responsible for looking out for their best interests. 

  The simplest example of Multiple Representation is when I have a Buyer for one of my own listings. This is obviously Multiple Representation as not only myself but the Brokerage is representing both the Buyer and Seller in this transaction.

  If a Salesperson from my Brokerage represents a Buyer for one of my listings it is once again Multiple Representation as the Brokerage is representing both the Seller and the Buyer in the same transaction

  Here is where it gets a little trickier.  If two Salespersons from my Brokerage are representing two different Buyers for the same property that is listed with not only with our Brokerage but any other Brokerage such as ReMax or Century 21 etc. this is still Multiple Representation as our Brokerage is representing two different Buyer clients for the same property.

  When in Multiple Representation, the Brokerage must not share information or act in a manner that would compromise either party Seller or Buyer.  This includes not sharing the degree of motivation that a Seller or Buyer may have, why the Seller is selling, how much the Buyer is willing to pay or the Seller is willing to accept etc.  

  Every time I list a property for sale for a Seller client or when working with a Buyer Client I always make it a practice to explain in detail how these various representation scenarios may unfold.  It's not only a good business practice but disclosure of this information it essentially the law and it goes a long way to avoiding any misunderstandings during the transaction and or afterwards.

 In my next post I will delve into this matter further especially as it relates to situations when Buyers are in multiple offer situations which has become a regular occurrence in our market of late.  On the meantime if you should have any questions please do not hesitate to Contact Me.  My knowledge is always shared openly and freely.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Area MLS® Sales Soften in June

Over the past several weeks those of us in real estate have noticed the frenetic past of sales we have experienced in the first few months of the year market had slowed.  Fewer multiple offers, and when properties were listed with offers delayed to a future date, those dates came (and went) with no offers made. June's sales results would confirm that the market has slowed however it remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a trend. Personally I do not think so.

  MLS® unit sales as reported by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR) declined 18% from June of 2016.  A total of 254 sales were reported last month down from 308 in 2016 and 7% fewer than the 272 sales reported in June 2015.  Year-to-date MLS® unit sales total 1,392 properties, 14 sales or a mere 1% higher than last year.

  While sales activity may have cooled and perhaps only temporarily, the lack of inventory in our market is clearly having an impact.  New MLS® listings were down 13% in June and they remain 16% below the number of new listings that came to market in 2016.  Whereas new MLS® listings are said to have increased significantly in the Greater Toronto Area, we are not seeing the same trend here meaning it's still very much a seller's market.

 While MLS® unit sales are only marginally ahead of last year, year-to-dateMLS® dollar volume is up 27%.  This stems from the significant increase is property sales over $1 million.  To the end of June there have been 74 sales above $1 million versus just 2 such sales in the first six months of 2016.  Most of these higher dollar value sales are in the Blue Mountains which explains why single family home sales in that municipality are up 29% this year whereas most other area municipalities are showing a decrease in single family home sales year-to-date.  Through the end of June, MLS® dollar volume for the year totals over $634 million up from $499 million in 2016.  Baring a major slowdown in sales activity during the remainder of 2017, we are headed for another year of recording breaking MLS® sales that will exceed $1 billion and this does not include new home sales made by developers.

 See my next post for additional news about sales activity across the various municipalities in our region.  In the meantime, if you are thinking of selling or buying an area property, please feel free to Contact Me for a no obligation consultation about your specific real estate goals.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Redevelopment

  As a former candidate for Collingwood Council in the last municipal election, I have continued to follow the activities of the current Council. While I may not agree with every decision they have made, overall I feel they have done a good job of making sound, rational choices regarding the future of the community.

  Over the past few months I have followed the ongoing saga regarding the hospital re-development process and I did attend the recent public meeting at the Georgian Bay Hotel.  The media has published numerous stories about the alleged adversarial relationship that has existed between the Town and the hospital Board.  The hospital Board has seemingly been casting aspersions about Council's failure to support the Board's choice of Poplar Sideroad as the best if not only location on which to build a new facility.

  I do not profess to be an expert on this situation but my observations lead me to believe it is the hospital Board and not the Town that has impeded the process of advancing our case for a new medical facility with the Ministry of Health.  There is no question that our current hospital is struggling to keep up with the demands of the community and will continue to do so as more and more ageing Ontarians retire here.  From everything I have seen and read, the hospital Board seems to have been focused solely on location (Poplar Sideroad) versus selling the Ministry on the need for a new facility here.  It is my understanding that ultimately the Ministry of Health decides on location anyway so why spend time advocating one and only one location when it's not your call to begin with?  As with any effective sales pitch selling "why" something is needed comes first and in this case the "where" is secondary.

  Apparently I am not alone in my thinking. An article published on titled "Planner tells Collingwood Hospital Board: stop being combative criticises the Board for have a combative attitude when it comes to their preferred site.  In this article land use planner Don May is critical of the hospital Board's position on the Poplar Sideroad location and the adversarial approach they have taken in defending this location as their preferred site.

  There is no doubt that we need a new and or an expanded hospital in the area.  Needing one and getting one are two very different matters.  Let's face it, we are not the only community in Ontario that is facing challenges when it come to health care.   Every level of government including the Province is cash strapped, there is only so much money to go around and $300 to $400 million for a new hospital is not money that is just lying there for the taking.  On top of that millions of dollars in road improvements would be needed on Poplar Sideroad to create the appropriate access to a new medical facility there.

  When I ran for Collingwood Council one aspect of my platform was that many of the issues facing this area are "regional" in nature.  Economic development, transportation and yes health care all need a regional approach to find the proper and affordable solutions,  One group in Collingwood wants the General and Marine hospital to remain where it is while the hospital Board wants a new facility on Popular Sideroad.  Meanwhile, Wasaga Beach has offered "free" land hoping to attract a new hospital there.  That is not working collaboratively for the better good of the region, it's municipality versus municipality playing for the spoils and unless something changes and soon, we will not see a new hospital here in my lifetime and or perhaps yours.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Annual MLS® Dollar Sales Up 34% Year-To-Date

  Area real estate sales reached a new high in 2016 when for the first time, MLS® sales across Southern Georgian Bay broke the $1 billion barrier setting the stage for record sales again in 2017.  Attaining this however was seemingly in jeopardy stemming from the fact that new listings coming to market on the MLS® system of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® have been well below what is needed to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for area real estate.  Despite the fact that new MLS® listings are down 16% to the end of May,  MLS® dollar sales  thus far in 2017 are running 34% ahead of 2016 with year-to-date sales to the end of May totalling $519.3 million.  In essence year-to-date sales are at 52% of last year and we are less than 42% into the year so another $1 billion plus year would appear to be in the offing.
  The shortage of listing inventory is however impacting unit sales.  MLS® unit sales to the end of May total 1,139 properties, an increase of 6% from one year ago when 1,070 sales were reported.  The disparity between MLS® dollar sales being up 34% while MLS® unit sales are only up 6% stems from two reasons. 

  First, sales at the upper end of the market are running well ahead of 2016.  Single family home sales between $500,000 and $800,000 are up 63% to the end of May with 221 sales reported compared to 136 in 2016.  Sales between $800,000 and $1 million total 49 properties an increase of 75% over last year.  Lastly, MLS® sales above the $1 million mark are up an astounding 146% to the end of May with 59 sales reported in 2017 versus just 24 sales in the first five months of last year.  As one would expect, these significant increases in the sale of upper end properties are having a profound affect on driving MLS® dollar sales  at a time when MLS® unit sales are increasing only marginally.  This increase in the upper price ranges of the market is also having a impact on the "average" single family home price in the area which is why changes in "average" prices can be so misleading.  As of the end of May, the 12-month year-to-date average MLS® single family home price for our area has increased almost 35% in large part due to the substantial increases we are experiencing at the upper end of the market.  
  Another key issue driving the increase in MLS® dollar sales this year are the prices being paid across our region.  Multiple offers, once somewhat of a rarity in this market have now become quite commonplace.  When a listed property receives multiple offers, the final sale price is all but guaranteed to be at the full list price or in many cases higher.  A small condo listed for sale earlier this year in Collingwood attracted 17 offers and sold for $202,000 versus the listed price of $169,000.  Similarly, a single family home sold for $517,500, 29% over the $399,900 asking price.   Typically the average sale-to-list price ratio for properties sold through the local MLS® system has been about 95%.  This has now increased to 97%+ stemming from the  strong prices that sellers have been able to get in the current market.

   Year-to-date sales across the region vary greatly from municipality to municipality.  Total single family home sales are actually down 4% overall to the end of May.   Single family home sales in the Blue Mountains however are up 38% while in Grey Highlands, single family home sales are up a more modest 14% followed by Meaford  showing a 6% increase in home sales.  All other area municipalities however are posting decreases in year-to-date single family home sale activity.  Sales in Collingwood are down 9%, single family home sales in Wasaga Beach are down 14% followed by Clearview Township with 12% decrease year over year.  Keep in mind these numbers do not reflect new home sales made by developers which typically do not go through the MLS® system.  Many new home developments in the area are experiencing strong sales activity thus picking up the resale market slack where shortages in MLS® listings are leaving buyers no choice but to buy new.

  Total MLS® condo sales are up a modest 8% year-to-date with 233 units sold compared to 216 last year.  Meanwhile, MLS® vacant land sales have surged ahead 69% this year with 210 sales reported through the end of May compared to 124 one year ago.   For many buyers in this area the ability to build exactly what they want is attractive but the lack of available housing listed for sale on the local MLS® system is obviously having some impact here as well.

   As we head into the final seven months of 2017 we are already seeing a shift in the market.  While the demand for area properties remains strong, the frequency of multiple offers with sale prices well over asking and the hyper activity that we have experienced in the first five months of 2017 appears to be waning.  This may only be temporary but the real estate market in the Barrie area and the GTA is undergoing the same transition which in turn will impact market activity here.  This may not be a bad thing leading to a more balanced and sustainable market long term.   

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