What The Heck Is Going On Out There?

Whew! It's been such a crazy couple of weeks that it's been hard to settle down, get my thoughts organized & write about what's going on out there right now!

It's been a roller coaster ride of wins & losses, crazy bidding wars (did you hear about the semi that had 25 offers on it in Oshawa? Bonkers!) the Target shutdown, falling oil prices, falling loonie, the Bank of Canada rate cut & now the start of the annual Mortgage rate wars that we always see in late January/February....did I miss anything, lol? Oh ya, and lots of conversations with would-be Sellers if only there was something for them to buy, lol!!

Part of my daily schedule is door knocking in the areas where I've sold homes recently, this month I've been handing out Year-In-Review market information specific to each neighbourhood, plus I'm also canvassing other neighbourhoods where I have Buyers looking for homes... so that means I'm talking to A LOT of people every single day! And the reoccurring theme of those talks is what do all of these things mean for our real estate market here in Durham?????

There's so much conflicting information out there & I certainly don't have a crystal ball but I DO know that things are hopping here right now...lots of Buyers & not a lot of inventory! The mortgage rate wars will continue to fuel Buyer demand & so naturally that's going to keep pushing prices higher! 

Here in Ontario apparently we're feeling richer due to the price of gas (I know that I'm saving about $40 each time I fill up my beast) & we may also see some savings at the grocery store as lower transportation & energy costs for manufacturers & farmers eventually trickle down to the consumer level. It's been suggested that our overall cost of living may actually decrease by 2-3% in general this year. It's certainly not all good news as there are also negative effects in other areas but consumer confidence plays a key role in the overall state of the economy & the good news is it's back on the rise!

The cost of borrowing is also a big factor when it comes to real estate but don't just focus on that rate! What we've seen in the past during these rate wars is that those crazy low rates also have a downside...no flexibility, no portability, high penalties if you have to break your mortgage for any reason etc...Please make sure you're working with a professional! Your best bet is a mortgage broker rather than the person sitting behind the desk at your local branch! A broker will find you the best combination of rate & terms for YOU & YOUR circumstances out of hundreds of lenders & not just the handful of mortgage products that 1 bank is offering.

So we have the fact that we feel richer in our everyday lives, our consumer confidence is on the rise which spurs big ticket spending like houses & cars (this is totally rhyming, lol!!) & high demand coupled with low inventory. It's a wonderful time to be a Seller, that's for sure! But don't get greedy when it comes to your listing price! I've seen a couple of homes recently that started off too high that had no offers come in on offer night! That hurts your bargaining power....we're talking about your largest asset, don't be a cautionary tale for your neighbours! If you haven't already, read my post on pricing your home right the first time HERE

The general consensus out there is that the Spring Market has already sprung...so if this is your year to make a move & you want to talk about getting into the market or how to coordinate a move up or down the property ladder then call or text me at 905-447-4077 or email Kelly@HomeInDurham.ca & put me to work for YOU!

Related Reading:

Multiple Offer Strategies For Buyers

While doing my research for an appointment a few days ago I found that 10 homes have already sold in Courtice so far this year. 5 of them were listed either on January 6th or later & all had sold firm, on average, after 5 days on the market for 103% of the asking price!
Hello Multiple Offers...and further evidence to what I wrote about last week that Google Says January is Hot, Hot, Hot!

So let's talk about multiple offers today!

Let's face it, it's tough being a Buyer these days! Here are a few stories of strategies that I've used for my clients:
Geez...why does YouTube always pick the worst frame to capture...sigh ;)

Ask any REALTOR® to tell you about their war stories & chances are you'll get an earful when it comes to multiple offers!
I've had Buyers tell me that they won't even consider a home that has or could get multiple offers...but in a tight inventory market that's not really realistic. 
Set your boundaries ahead of time & decide what your "No Regrets" offer will be...if it sells for 1 more dollar than that you'll be OK with it because...it's your "No Regrets" offer, lol! And remember that you may only get 1 kick at the can, you won't necessarily get a chance to improve that offer later!

You can't control the whole process but you CAN be in control of your own strategy within the process! In the words of the great Wayne Gretzky "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

Happy Househunting! 
(And if you're looking for a great agent to help you through the process...don't hesitate to get in touch!)

The True Costs Of Home Ownership Series - Special Features

Special Features are the focus of this week's installment about the costs involved in owning a home.  You can read all about Utilities (heat, hydro, water) HERE, Property Taxes HERE & Insurance HERE

This is going to be a catch-all for anything & everything that I can think of that could be property-dependent....as in some properties will have them & some won't...& they all require some sort of special care & additional expense that should be considered. 
The intent here is not to go too in-depth into each of them but rather identify certain features which should cause you to do further investigation or at least be aware that there will be costs associated with having them. When it comes to home ownership, it should come as no surprise that making informed decisions is better than flying by the seat of your pants, lol!

To start off with, all of the special features I have listed will require special clauses & conditions in an offer to purchase. These will range from representation & warranties that the installation was done correctly to conditions of inspection & insurance to ensure that the feature is in good working order & that the property can be insured in its current condition.

Pools & Hot Tubs

When it comes to pools, some people love'em & some people hate'em! Personally I love a pool! Sometimes it's enough for me to just to look at the pool & not actually go in it...which drives my husband bonkers since he has to maintain it, lol ;)

Costs to consider: Electricity to run the pump & filter, if there's a heater then you're also looking at electricity or gas (natural or propane) to run it, chemicals to keep the water clean (unless it's saltwater), misc equipment like vacuums, brushes, leaf skimmers, leaf nets, solar blanket, winter cover, opening/closing it professionally, pool toys etc. Having a pool is not cheap & the costs are going to depend on what type of pool it is as well as the size of it. Having a hot tub is somewhat less involved but some of the expenses listed here still do apply.


If a property is not hooked up to the municipal water supply then you're going to be dealing with a well. Preventative maintenance is the key with wells & you really should watch your consumption. Having a well means always being aware & mindful of things that can affect your water supply. Did you know that you will not be able to get a mortgage without proof of a potable water supply? You can read more HERE, HERE & HERE 

Costs to consider: While you may be saving money on your water bill each month by having your own private source, ongoing maintenance by a professional, add-ons like filtration systems etc...are all expenses that should not be overlooked.

Septic Systems

If a property is not hooked up to the municipal sewer system then you're going to be dealing with a septic system. Just like with a well, maintenance is the key here as well as knowing what NOT to do in order to keep your septic system running smoothly. You can read more HERE, HERE & HERE 

Costs to consider: Again, there are savings to be had when you're not paying the municipality monthly sewage fees but you will need to factor in some maintenance costs & be very vigilant in keeping your system in good working order otherwise dealing with septic problems can cost you thousands of dollars.

Solar Panels

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to solar panels is what happens when something goes wrong! Repairs can be costly! If you're considering purchasing a home with panels already in place you're going to want to do your due diligence ahead of time & know exactly what you're getting yourself in to! You could also check out my blog post called Are Solar Panels Hurting Home Values? for some additional information & things to consider.
Costs to consider: This one could save you money but if that savings gets eaten up by repairs then it's best to know that that's a risk ahead of time.

Oil Tanks

Some people swear by oil heat & oil furnaces are actually less expensive to purchase than natural gas ones but unfortunately they are less efficient & cost more to run. If you have an oil system then you've got an oil tank. There are rules when it comes to those tanks. You can read more HERE, HERE & HERE Your insurance company will have questions for you & their policies may differ from government standards...it's all about risk management for them!
Costs to consider: Filling the tank & the higher cost of home heating oil, depending on the age of the tank, you may need to replace the tank & if you're considering converting to natural gas, if it's available, then know that that's a big undertaking & it's a significant cost as well.

Wood Burning Appliances

I love my wood burning fireplace even though there are times when I wish I could just flip a switch to enjoy the cozy ambiance of a roaring fire & not have all the work! As with everything, preventative maintenance is going to keep your overall costs down. Read my post on Insurance for some issues to watch out for when it comes to wood burning appliances.
Costs to consider: annual cleaning & the cost of firewood is about it if your fireplace is in good working order. If it's not, then you're going to run into additional costs depending on what the issues are.

Other "Stuff"

There are also a number of optional items that you may find in a house...monitored alarm systems, rented water softener units & most common are rented water heaters. Rent-to-own furnace & air conditioning units are also something to watch out for as they seem to be popping up more & more often these days & some Buyers have been caught unawares by them... These babies come with conditional sales contracts & they definitely deserve their very own blog post (soon!) Until that blog post is written, just make it one of the questions you ask...and your REALTOR® should gathering all that information for you anyways!

Google Says January Is HOT, HOT, HOT!

I first saw this image at a RE/MAX conference I attended back in November & it really caught my eye! 

In fact, it was this picture that inspired me to resurrect my blog that I never really got off the ground 2yrs ago! My philosophy in Real Estate has always been to educate...and if this is the time that people are searching for information then I figured it's the perfect time to share what I think is useful information based on the experiences I've had with my clients over the years.

What I've found as I've been doing my research is...all the studies are US-based. I haven't been able to find any Canadian equivalent to the studies that were conducted in the US. It's not that I don't believe that Canadians are also doing a lot of real estate searches in December & January, it's just that I can't link to Canadian content to prove it! 

I believe that the above statistic comes from the joint study done by Google & The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR®) called "The Digital House-Hunt Study" & there's another study that was done by Redfin (US on-line brokerage) who did a 2-year analysis that indicated that listing in the winter, between December & March, is the most advantageous time for Sellers. The Redfin study IS making the rounds here in Canada but nevertheless it's still based on US data.

When it comes to local data what I CAN speak to in a relevant way is the current real estate climate here in the Durham region. According to The Durham Region Association of REALTORS® (DRAR®), we've just come off the best December in the last 3yrs in terms of sales within our MLS® system.

December 2014 - 478 sales
December 2013 - 400 sales
December 2012 - 410 sales
December 2011 - 517 sales

2014 was a record year in Durham, not only in the number of homes sold, but also for the average selling price, up 9.6% across the region. To see the full housing report for 2014 & how YOUR particular area performed, click HERE

DRAR® President Sandra O'Donohue has this to say about what we can look forward to in  2015...

"Durham Region continues to expand, our 407 extension is well underway, new development in both residential and commercial continues to grow and all indicators are positive for our marketplace in the coming year."

Not exactly the most exciting statement ever, lol, but good to know that the outlook for the coming year is strong & stable here in our region!

So back to the subject at hand...if the next 3months are supposed to be prime-time in real estate, just like the US studies suggest, then how do you capitalize on that? Well, it depends on WHO you are!

If you're a Seller:
Anytime you can get a leg up on your competition it gives you an advantage...be the first out of the gate in your neighbourhood & the odds are good that the Buyers will flock to you...if you list it they will come, lol. Supply & demand puts YOU in the driver's seat & that's never a bad thing! 
Know that without a doubt, the right strategy WILL put more money in your pocket! How do you know what the right strategy is for your home? Interview local REALTORS® for the job! Everyone should be coming to the table with a plan to maximize your largest asset & have the "juice" to back it up! If you haven't already, read my blog post called "The Importance of Pricing Your Home Right...The First Time!" for more on this key piece of the puzzle.

If you're a Buyer:
Basically, be ready! If you're serious about purchasing a home then you need to have all your ducks in a row because it IS a Sellers' market. Have your financing in place & be prepared to look at properties as soon as they become available. In order to do this, please, please, PLEASE, find yourself a LOCAL REALTOR® to assist you in your search! The WHY is a future blog topic for sure! If there's not an offer date then more often than not, by the time you see a new listing come up on realtor.ca it will already be tied up! This is not a scare tactic, it's just reality. Another advantage to working with a REALTOR® (at least in my brokerage) is that we have the RE/MAX Jazz "Exclusive Program" where our clients have access to many homes BEFORE they hit the MLS®
Another thing to keep in mind is just like with selling a home, using the right strategy when it comes to offering on properties will increase your chances of being successful whether you're a First-Time Buyer who has flexibility on your side or a Move-Up Buyer who is challenged with coordinating both a sale & a purchase! Strategy=Success (well not always, lol...but your odds are definitely better when you're strategic in your actions!) 
The typical sales cycles that we're all used to don't always apply anymore...those original cycles came to be based on the school calender & not only does that calender not apply to ALL of the Buyers & Sellers out there, but in today's low inventory market if a great house comes on the market sometimes you just have to bite the bullet & move on it! And if you're the Seller of a great house, know that there are those out there waiting for you to make your debut...so make it a good one!

Ready To Get Started?

Sellers: Click HERE to schedule an evaluation of your home! Whether you're moving up, moving on, or it's time to downsize, I can help you achieve your goals!

Buyers: Click HERE to receive my e-book which will walk you through the home buying process from start to finish. Let's make your dreams of home-ownership a reality!

Interesting Reading:

I like some of the tips in this article HERE, what day of the week to hit the market & don't end your list price with a zero...whether it really helps or not, it's all about being intentional with your choices!

I especially like this one HERE for a great explanation about so-called "shadow demand" & how the number of sales that firm up each month do not speak to the actual demand out there...if there's not enough inventory to satisfy the demand then those unsuccessful Buyers represent the shadow demand.

Some good stuff HERE on Real Estate Myths which coincidentally line up with my thoughts on those issues, lol ;)