Monday, 14 October 2013

Fall Ottawa Housing Market Update

Here is the latest update from the Ottawa Real Estate Board:

OTTAWA, October 4, 2013 - Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,119 residential properties in September through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® system, compared with 995 in September 2012, an increase of 12.5 per cent. The five-year average for September sales is 1,121.
Read the rest of the article here.

View the 3-year market comparison here.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Ottawa Real Estate Stats for Spring

It is spring again and time for an update on the housing market.

OTTAWA, May 3, 2013- Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,573 residential properties in April through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® system, compared with 1,568 in April 2012, an increase of 0.3 per cent.

The average sale price of residential properties, including condominiums, sold in April in the Ottawa area was $371,565, an increase of 2.1 per cent over April 2012. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $266,596, a decrease of 2.3 per cent over April 2012. The average sale price of a residential-class property was $396,507, an increase of 2.9 per cent over April 2012. Click here to read the entire article.

And for those who like graphs, here is a comparison of the current year to the previous 3 years:

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Technology is My Friend!

We were living in the Greater Toronto Area when I first started in Real Estate.  The year was 1995...

Cell phones were just starting to make their rise in popularity, and with them, the fear of brain cancer.  Most of us did not own a cell phone and really, why on earth would you need a one anyways?

We all had pagers, large bulky heavy ones, about 3” long by about 2” wide. And they only paged you with a number. No name, no information other than a number.  And so as you drove around, you were always conscious of where the phone booths were and how many quarters you had, just in case you needed to stop to make a call. 

There was a computer in every office but this highly-praised box of headaches was only used by a few of the more tech-savvy people.  For the rest of us, the typewriter was seen as the better and logical choice. We didn’t even have a photocopier! 

We had books of listings and sales. Large heavy books. About the size of a yellow pages phone book. They came out on a weekly basis from the real estate board, and we would peruse the pages and circle listings and make appointments from it. We would even order extra books to lend out to our buyers so they could find the homes that they liked. Once a day a New Listing sheet came out so we would know what was current!

Lock boxes? Pretty much non existent. Keys were held in real estate offices or sometimes by agents and occasionally “under the flower pot at the back door”. So before showings you went around to every real estate office to collect the keys that you needed for the day’s showings and then returned them after the showings were through. Chances were you either had to dash back to that office right after a showing to return the keys so someone else could take them- or you had to wait at the property for the next agent to arrive so you could hand over the keys...

And of course a map was essential. A map book even better, with a compass in the glove compartment just in case!

Taking photos of a home was also a challenge. Taking the pictures was the easy part- mostly of the outside, as there was really no need for interior photos. Then the film was taken to the photo shop to have the pictures developed. Once developed and the best exterior shots chosen, 20-30 prints were ordered so they could be pasted individually on each feature sheet.

Doing up an offer was not a simple task either. It was mostly done by hand, since the typewriter was probably being used by someone else, and it was most likely faster to write than type for most agents. So the offer would be hand written, making 4 copies using purple tracing paper between the pages (remember to keep the tracing paper away from your clothes and hands, it was awful to wash off!). Learn to press hard or else you will be re-writing out the last page or so. And you can't use white-out for mistakes. Ink erasers, or cross-out and initial. Imagine all of the clauses that we currently put in an offer, all hand written out!

Since there were no fax machines, you drove the offer over to the client to sign or to the listing agent- or you had it couriered. That’s when there was a reason for an offer to run over several days- it really did take time to get back and forth! Then drive it to the lawyer’s and lender’s offices. And courier the deposit cheque or make another trip. And then do the same for any waivers or amendments.

Even on closing day there were trips to be made. Drive to the lawyer’s office at noon and pick up the keys and then later in the day, about 3-5 pm, once you got a call from the lawyer saying the property had closed, you drove to the property to open the door and hand over the keys. Now that’s completing a transaction with a personal touch!

You hear it said sometimes that technology complicates our lives, and while that may be true, I think of how many technology advancements have made my life easier. From the cell phone to computer, from photocopier to faxes to electronic lock boxes, my job now is a breeze! Next challenge- electronic signing! 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Home Inspections 101

Because a new home is always full of little surprises...

During the excitement of buying a home, it is sometimes tough to focus on the flaws of a home as you visit house after house. We tend to look at furnishings, the color of the walls and try to picture if our furniture will fit!  One condition that is always a good idea is have in your offer to purchase is that of a home inspection. For about 3 hours, you, the home inspector and your real estate agent will spend some “quality time” in the home. (So this is not the time to bring the family!) The inspector checks all of the major systems of the home- structural, electrical, heating, plumbing, ventilation, roof, grading- everything that can be seen without opening walls. From top to bottom! Not only is the home inspector looking for problems or deficiencies, he/she will tell you how to correct what is found, and give you tips on how to maintain the systems, how to keep your home running in tip top shape for years to come.
Once the inspection is complete, the home inspector will write up a report, including all of his/ her findings, as well as suggestions offered. They will go through everything with you and you will have a written report to keep.  The home inspector should not offer an opinion as to whether or not to buy a certain home, or what should be done if a problem is found. Those are matters to discuss with your real estate agent after the home inspection.
Oh no! The inspector found….

No matter what house you buy, there will always be something that needs to be fixed, repaired, replaced.  What happens when we find a problem at a home inspection?  Well, generally speaking, if we noticed a problem before we did the offer, many times we will include that in the offer for the sellers to look after prior to possession.  If we see a garage door that is older, and  we can see that the purchase price reflects the need for renovations, and we are still willing to purchase the home, we cannot come back later and ask for money off because now we want a new door.  A home inspector will rate the things he/ she finds as normal wear & tear, minor or major deficiencies. Major things are usually those over a $2-3000. fix.  When we find something minor, like a baseboard that needs to be tacked down, or a toilet that needs tightening- most times you, as the buyer will just have those things done once you move in.  But a major item, like if the roof is found to be leaking and we were not told that in the listing, then we may go back and re-negotiate to either have the seller do the repair or allow for some monetary adjustment so you can assume the repair.  Almost every home will have grading issues, small foundation cracks, calking that needs replacing.  As a buyer, from the day you move in there will be things to put on your “to-do “ list.  A home inspection is not a tool to automatically get the price you paid down to what you really wanted to pay!  Buy we are there with you, to help from start to finish. We are on your side!
Home inspection in New Construction? But it’s brand new!

There’s nothing like walking into a brand new home! It’s a special feeling indeed!  But not many people will tell you that their year long process during the build was an easy one.  There are time sensitive decisions to be made, adjustments in mindset because of what you wanted as opposed to what you can afford, costs of upgrades that keep escalating, worries over the completion date being on time, frustration from thinking you should be getting exactly what you want and being told it can’t be done or it would cost you…
During the construction process, you may or may not be able to go on site to observe the progress. And mistakes can happen, regardless of how conscientious the builder is!  Just before you take possession, the builder’s rep will walk through the home with you, and actively look for flaws that need to be fixed before you move in. They usually let you know at that time about the 30 day report and the one year report. These are times when you are able to make a list of deficiencies and hand them to the builder to be corrected / fixed. But they are under no obligation to remind you- and if you miss the deadlines of handing in the ORE reports, you quite likely will be out of luck!
Most builders will not allow a buyer to bring in a home inspector at the initial walk through. It is understandable for several reasons: they have liability issues; a home inspection takes about 3 hours to so they would have to pay an employee to be in the home for that length of time while the inspection is being done. And as well, it is not your home yet, and at that point, with them knowing there will be deficiencies, they don ‘t want someone listing the things they already know about.  Let’s take a moment to consider what happens without a home inspection before the 30 day time limit. The builder does the repairs  you and they have noted. But on that walk through, the electrical panel and the furnace were not opened, so nothing was noted about the improper hookup that the electrician meant to get back to… or the C02 leak from the furnace. And as well no one mentioned to you that the spindles on the banister were not to code, or that there was a GCFI outlet missing from one of the bathrooms. (These are but a few of the things that our buyers have found during their home inspections). And now it is 4 years later, life has changed and you need to move. The home is sold, and the new buyer does his home inspection. And now all of those little problems are found and the buyer wants YOU to pay to have them fixed, because, after all, it’s almost a brand new house, those things should have been fixed earlier. We can tell you that for every buyer who purchased brand new construction, and we have recommended having a home inspection done within the first 3 weeks - EVERY buyer has told us they were so glad they listened, that it was well worth the cost of the inspection.  So save yourself some aggravation, stress and extra costs down the road! Have a home inspection done by a qualified inspector, within the first 2 weeks that you move in. You won’t regret it!

First Impressions Count!

Because potential buyers DO judge a book by its cover.

A picture is worth a thousand words- remember that saying?  About 87% of buyers will start their search for a home online. It’s amazing how many times properties are discounted by an exterior photo. Not just because a buyer was wanting a bungalow and this home is a 2 story, but because the photo shows a home with a lack of curb appeal and most buyers lack a vision for what could be! There are those who prefer to drive by a home before making an appointment to see it. And a home that has uncut grass (or an un-shovelled driveway), no color  from gardens or potted plants, eaves that are drooping and a front door needing paint can turn away even the most motivated of buyers.

So here are a few tips to make the buyer come into the home and take a real look!

  • Do some landscaping. With garden centers around every corner, it seems, and annuals and perennials alike are reasonably priced, tear out a bit of grass leading up to the front door, or in front of the home and put in a bit of color and greenery. At the very least, buy some hanging or potted plants and brighten up the front door.
  • Wash the front windows, the front door and the door knob. If the door needs painting- do it! Make it look like someone cares about the home’s appearance.  Make it inviting!
  • Perk up the foyer. It is the window into your home.  Find an inexpensive colourful mat for inside the door. Put away shoes. Add a potted plant (even an artificial one) or some flowers. Ensure the front closet doors are clean and easily opened/ closed.
  • People really do get to the front of the house, take one look and do not want to look further; so take some time to make your home welcoming. Help set the buyers at ease and allow them to see themselves in your home. It all starts at the curb!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

To Renovate, or Not to Renovate?

Renovations can increase the value of your home, but be careful not go overboard.

It used to be that we were the ones who would offer suggestions as to how to improve a home’s look and therefore value prior to selling.  But with more and more renovation shows on TV now, more often than not we are asked to come and see the finished product! It always amazes us how folks have changed the look and feel of their homes since purchasing.

So should you renovate your home into something that suits you- or make changes that will suit the next buyer?  Before you jump in, sit and make a list of what’s important to you.  Do you know for sure that you will sell your home or is there the possibility that once it is all done, you will love it so much, you will want to stay?  If sprucing up is done with selling in mind, modern but neutral should be the guiding principle.

On the one hand, if you are thinking of moving because you need more space- but you love the location you are in, it might be a better idea to do an addition, move some walls to open up the space or finish the basement.  Remember- a home‘s look and feel can change but th
e location is permanent. An addition can be an exhausting process, costly and time consuming right from the start while
you get drawings, permits, approvals and consult with different contractors. Additions can take put a strain on daily family life as some parts of the home are unusable for a while, others are in constant disarray and dust is everywhere!  Even remodeling a kitchen or bathroom can take weeks or months to complete.  Finishing a basement can be less of a headache because the work is away from the main floor and life can continue without huge interruptions.

And then there is the cost.  As David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber Returns, says, the four most expensive words in housing renovation are: “ while we’re at it”!  Remember that one renovation inevitably leads to another.  Every wall opened creates another problem to be fixed. And because we are human, we tend to change our minds during the process.  Of course we all know that the more expensive one always just looks better and that our tastes almost always exceed our budget.  Don’t expect to have a contractor do his work for the same cost you would pay to do it yourself. The contractor also has trades to pay, and though they can get materials at a better cost than you can, their costs are still high. They like you, and every other person who works at a job- works to get paid a decent wage.  On the other hand, unless you are a skilled tradesman and have unlimited time to do the job- it is probably better to hire out than attempt a do it yourself “that’s good enough” project.  

It used to be that the majority of Buyers wanted to find a home that they could put their imprint on, a diamond in the rough that had potential!  But with the barrage of the home renovation and staging magazines and TV shows, we now find that most Buyers want to find a home already staged, a place that looks like it should be featured in a magazine.  And that’s where a smaller scale renovation comes in.  Paint, cabinet replacement/ resurfacing, countertops, backsplashes, hardware, lighting, flooring, and even new appliances can make a world of difference.

It’s a very common misconception that if you spend $20,000 in renovations, your house is now worth $20,000 more.  Almost always this is not the case.  $20,000 of renovations may only increase the value of your home by $10,000, depending on what renovations were done.  We have also seen that occasionally, that same amount of dollar value put in to a home can actually double, depending on the home’s location, features and the market itself.

So many times we have had Buyers who say that they will live in a particular home “forever”, and in 2 years time, life has changed and there is now a need to sell.  We caution homeowners that if they think they may be selling within just a couple of years, to be conscious of the cost of any given renovation.   A $20,000 kitchen makeover might be just as effective in procuring a sale as a $60,000 makeover.   And the extra amount in your pocket of course is a good thing.  Also remember that if you renovate now and sell in 7 years, the renovations are no longer “new”.  The trend we see these days in terms of real estate Buyers is that they want things clean, uncluttered and in “move-in” condition.   

So keep us in mind when you are contemplating renovating.  We’re always happy to offer an opinion on what to change, what colors & trends are current, whether a renovation is warranted and even whether it’s advantageous to sell or stay right where you are!