Ontario Real Estate Market: Bidding Wars, Buyer's Remorse, Appraisals

June 15th, 2016

It's a crazy time for Real Estate in Ontario. Recent industry polls indicate the market isn't going to cool down and most people are highly optimistic about the economy right now... so there are more people interested in buying. Industry colleagues are pulling their hair out... they're nervous that people are getting caught up in bidding wars and paying too much for properties... but business is brisk and pundits are telling us to get used to it.

Most of the time, though, prospective Buyers are looking at comparable listings and making well-informed decisions. It's a lot easier to do that in cities, in subdivisions, where homes are very similar.

We don't have that luxury in cottage country. Seldom do you find two properties that are very much alike.

I often think of my first Real Estate Classroom... a couple of decades ago... and the instructor told us that there were several different values for property- the value assigned by way of the tax assessment, the value the owner sees, the value a buyer will acknowledge, the value a bank perceives (appraisal value) and the replacement value that an insurance company will place on a property. Then, there's what we call Market Value- that amount which an informed Buyer will pay for a specific property, when exposed to a fair and open market.

Many recent prospective Buyers have prefaced their interest in a property by saying, "We're not interested in getting into a bidding war". I have no doubt that quite a few of the people who get tangled up in a bidding war come out of it with a certain amount of Buyer's Remorse.

A good Realtor will ask their prospects to pre-qualify for a mortgage and then stick to their budget. Lately, I have seen a lot of Buyers inch up very close to their limits, with their hearts set on a place. Then, we wait for the bank's appraisal. And this year, we've seen a great number of appraisals that have been shockingly below the agreed price.

While this isn't a problem for some people, it is for most- especially first time buyers who are both anxious to purchase a home and nervous about finances. Banks are obviously being slightly more cautious about properties. For the first time in my career, I've heard the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp come back saying that they aren't prepared to lend on a particular property because it is dated- and they were talking about décor.

Dated? We're in cottage country here. We've got 100 year old farms. In most cases, they've got updated wiring and plumbing but they may have old cabinetry or old panelling on the walls.

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!