Bidding Wars

May 27th, 2016

Most people like to avoid bidding wars but it's getting more and more difficult. In cottage country, we don't see it all that often but the market is pretty hot here and prices are good, so it is cropping up more and more.

I've been bitten by Realtors who don't understand the process of dealing with multiple offers on their listings. It isn't and it's very upsetting for my Buyer clients who don't understand why we weren't told they were competing. All parties with an interest in a property are supposed to be told there are competing offers. The Seller's representative is also supposed to inform Buyers about the number of offers submitted, if any have been prepared by the same brokerage that represents the Seller and whether or not any have special commission arrangements.

Special commission arrangements? Ah... that means, for instance, that one of the sales representatives has offered to reduce their commission if their clients' offer is accepted.

The whole thing is meant to level the playing field.

A new form (801) has been created in order to track competing offers and some brokerages are insisting that they are used with every Agreement. Others, not so much.

I'm preparing them with every offer... once bitten and all that.

A Busy Market

May 12th, 2016

It's a busy real estate market... and with busy markets Realtors need to slow down and THINK.

Many Realtors rely upon what is known as a Sellers Property Information Statement- SPIS for short. It's a document meant to provide disclosure about the subject property. The Ontario Real Estate Association advocates use of the form and some brokerages make them mandatory, while others think them voluntary.

The SPIS is a confusing document because it's most suited for people who are selling the home in which they reside. For instance, an estate can't really comment on the operation of the home, since the executors often have no first hand knowledge. Some lawyers advise Sellers not to complete a SPIS, even if they have been living in the home. Why?

When Sellers complete a SPIS, they are to provide information to the best of their ability and the SPIS isn't meant to replace due diligence on the part of the Buyers' representative. Some Realtors bank so heavily on the information provided in a SPIS, they include it as a schedule to an Agreement for Purchase and Sale. The problem is, the information provided may not be what it seems.

What happens in the case of the little old lady who can't get down the basement stairs, but to the best of her knowledge and belief there is no water leaking into her basement? In most cases, signs of water leaking into a basement can be readily identified- but not in all cases. If a prospective Buyer of that house has a home inspection and their home inspector doesn't see any signs of water leakage but it leaks in the spring- who is responsible?

...and this is a simple scenario.

The SPIS is a complex document, several pages in length. Some of the questions are technical and a lot of them can be confusing to the average person. A couple of years back, the Ontario Real Estate Association created another form which is supposed to explain the whole SPIS thing to Sellers.

So much for a paperless society.

My First Car

April 21st, 2016

I've been thinking about my first car. It was actually a hand-me-down from my mother which she sold to me, when I was 19, for a fraction of its worth. A standard transmission, orange, 1974 VW Beetle, Mom had named Adolph.
My mother always named her cars. They all had boys names.

I haven't followed that tradition.

In fact, I stopped calling Adolph by its name when it became mine.

I think it was because I started driving in that car and used to borrow it frequently, when I was in high school. Many of my friends were of Jewish descent and they'd ask me not to park outside of their home because it upset their parents.

I drove that car for years. I had a friend do body work, another replace the heaters and still another do brakes... which was a big mistake... but that's another story. I kept that car cobbled together for nearly a decade... because it was what I had.

I've never cared much about my vehicle... as long as it starts and gets me where I want to go. I don't know if that's part of having once been married to a car salesman and driving something different every other day... or if it's because of Adolph.

I suppose it doesn't really matter.

A Good Time to List

April 7th, 2016

My regular blog readers will know that I've always said the best time to list is when you are ready to sell. Well, I've got to let you know... if you've been contemplating, now is a really good time. Bar none, my colleagues are all searching for properties- for ready and willing buyers. I personally have people looking for properties of all descriptions and price ranges.

This isn't to say that you can ask the moon and the stars for something that isn't up to par. These days, Buyers are savvier than ever and while they will pay a premium for premium property, they won't be fooled. Sellers need to be realistic. A properly priced property is going to sell in this market and a real estate professional knows how to price a property.

A real estate professional will discuss what needs to be done to maximize a sale price because a Buyer isn't likely to pay very much for "potential", especially if it means there is a lot of work to do. If the Seller doesn't want to do the work, the price should obviously reflect that or the Buyer is forced to submit a low offer. This isn't the same as a "low ball" offer. A "low ball" offer is when a Buyer puts in an offer well below what they know the place is worth- it's usually an opportunistic move, when they think the Sellers might be desperate.

Right now, the problem is that there aren't many options for a ready Buyer. There are only a handful of properties available in most categories and Buyers want to have a selection from which to choose. That's what makes this a particularly good time to list!

The Weather may be cold... but the Market is hot

March 31st, 2016

Sold signs are popping up all around our area. We've had an early start to spring Real Estate sales... but there's something that I address. Blog after blog, news article after news article and blah blah blah, have been written about the differences between rural and urban living... and rural and urban real estate... but city people still tend to have unrealistic expectations of what they should expect from cottage country living.

I'm a transplant myself, so I understand that there's going to be some culture shock... however, it's important to realize that rural living must be a conscious choice and when you move here, in essence, you're agreeing to accept our "ways". There's usually a fairly steep learning curve for prospective buyers who come from a city. Most local real estate sales people have funny stories about dealing with city folk- and we're not making fun of people, we share the stories the same way that proud parents talk about how their kids stumble and fall, while learning to walk.

The cottage country Realtor has to do a fair amount of teaching- even with experienced buyers. Aside from obvious differences, like septic systems and wells, we frequently have to explain things like road & shore allowances (opened and unopened), assumed and un-assumed roads, township maintained versus privately maintained roads, rights-of-ways, encroachments, set backs, school bussing, postal delivery, garbage disposal facilities, the care and maintenance of hydro poles and why there are huge tracts of land that suspiciously look like subdivisions in the planning, that have looked like subdivisions in the planning for decades.

While many city dwellers have natural gas heating piped into their homes but gas isn't available here. We have many different types of heating systems, some are combinations of more than one type of heating- which may appear to be quite non-traditional to the city person, but are quite acceptable- if not envied- by the local folk. Some of the local homes have been updated with granite or marble counter tops... but we drive through granite walls, on the roads, every day and having granite isn't a priority. Most country homes don't have walk-in closets, because we don't really need them. We have a pair or two of good shoes, work shoes, rubber boots and winter boots... and they're all pretty sensible looking stuff and that's because the surfaces we walk on are quite rugged and uneven and we need to be practical. We tend to dress more casually at work- because we're in and out of snow and mud and wind and rain and it's far more practical to be tidy and comfortable.

Most residents were born here and the rest of us made a decision to live here. We came because of the trees and the rivers, the trails and the lakes and the wildlife and not because of a generous number of square feet, public transportation or access to shopping malls. We live in the town and the region- not in our houses.

& that's another thing... it costs the same, if not more, to build in the country. We don't have subdivision builders... in most cases, new construction begins with a raw piece of land that may not even have a basic driveway or a hydro pole yet. We have to get drawings and permits and opinions about what type of sewage system and water supply we need to have installed. All of our building material is trucked in, usually from a fair distance... and the costs associated with delivery get passed along to the consumer. What we do have, is relationships with the suppliers and service providers. They're our neighbours and they are there to help us. In the country, we learn how to make things work.

The people who have gardens really have put some effort into them. You can't just grab plants at the nearby nursery and expect them to grow in most of the soil and weather conditions here. Our property lines change with the season, as local waterways rise and subside with spring run off. Our lot lines are seldom straight and properties have strange shapes, because 100 years ago, someone swapped a chunk with a neighbour in order to get their livestock to some meadow or a water source. In some cases, a bit might have been severed off and given to one of the children and you really have to get to know the history of the property, to make sense of it.

Many of our citizens are retired and on fixed-incomes. We have a fair level of unemployment and a high level of entrepreneurship. We have a lot of government and non-profit agencies, sprouted from need and very savvy in assisting people who want to etch out a life here. Local clubs and associations hold suppers and dances, trivia nights and card games. Sometimes, there are movies on- at the local playhouse... but generally we travel an hour and a half to see a movie, in a theatre. Most of us have secret Netflix addictions... but you can't expect to get high speed internet everywhere... but that IS improving... so is our cell service.

In the meantime, many of us listen to the peepers and bird songs. We collect interesting rocks (after all, we're the Mineral Capital of Canada). We watch the clouds and the stars and the deer as they meander through the forest and into our yards. Sure, now and then you hear that a bear or moose has been spotted- but not really that often... and periodically, there's talk about bobcats or cougars, but some people still think that's a myth.

One thing we all share, is appreciation for the natural beauty of our surroundings. We talk about the trees and the leaves, water levels and the weather, road conditions and our health. We're really in it, together.
These are things that are hard to explain to the uninitiated. These are our priorities. These are the things one learns to love about cottage country living. They matter so much more than bricks and mortar.