Calgary’s slow but steady real estate recovery

Wed, 02 Aug by Scott Baker

Calgary’s real estate market has shown a slow but positive recovery in many areas in 2017. The latest stats from CREB (Calgary Real Estate Board) show that the number of transactions have increased year over year by 9%. July activity was off, but any given month can be up or down, depending on factors such as government announcements, inventory, and most definitely in Calgary, the weather, which we know was perfect in July this year (except for that rainout at the Stampede).As CREB President David P. Brown points out, patience is still key in this market. The current CIR REALTY stats show that the year-to-date median price of single family homes is $492,250, which is 6.43% higher than last year at this point. The weakest part of the market, and the one that is dragging down the overall averages, is the condo market. There is currently almost 6 months supply of condos. We consider a balanced market to be in the range of 2.5-4 month’s supply, so condos are definitely in a buyer’s market right now.

As always, location and price (value) are the key factors. The best locations and features sell in any market. If a property doesn’t stand out from the crowd, it can take time and patience, and a good marketing strategy to find that buyer and accomplish your goal.

I would characterize the recent stats as cautiously good news. One factor to watch is the increase in mortgage rates, and lender’s increasingly stringent parameters for approvals. Working with an experienced REALTOR and Mortgage Broker is even more important now, with all of the changes taking place over the past two years to our market. Slow and steady if you’re a seller. Opportunities abound if you’re looking to buy a condo.

 

We’ve Moved to ‘Team Blue’!

Sat, 18 Mar by Scott Baker

CIR_LOGOemailWe’re excited to announce that Scott Baker & Associates have made the move to CIR REALTY, Calgary’s largest real estate brokerage. Anyone who knows me, who has ever worked with me, knows that I do my research, consider options, and make informed decisions when it comes to life’s big decisions. I’ve personally had two doctors and two dentists in my entire adult life. I am loyal and slow to change, and a career move affects my clients, my family, and our business model. I can tell you that this was really a no-brainer. Here’s why:

 

Today’s real estate is fast paced. It requires the latest technology and tools to reach an ever-changing real estate owner’s demographics in a way that they want to respond to. Buyers and sellers have access to a great deal of information. Our role is still the same, it just appears to be different. Clients need us (even if they don’t know it) to protect their interests, give them accurate market information (fake news!), negotiate good deals, and provide them with marketing tools that allow them to accomplish their goals, in a noisy world of social media, click-bait, instant gratification. CIR REALTY has a ridiculous amount of tools to help us accomplish that. How you ask, is this different?

  • Technology–  CIR REALTY is always improving and evolving with today’s technology. Their virtual office allows us to connect to any resource we need, including marketing tools like brochures, signage, market  stats, live streaming weekly meetings, new listings in the office, training and professional development, and a connection to all of the over 650 REALTORS® in the four Calgary offices and 11 satellite offices. We win awards, locally and internationally for their innovation and support.
  • Local Focus, Global Reach- We are supporting the local and regional economies and charities, as a company that has been around since 1983. Our market share is number one, (others combine franchised offices to make that claim), and we connect to over 550 independent real estate offices globally, in 55 countries, with 128,000 agents, through the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, an organization that accepts only the best independent companies in the industry, and it’s exclusive to CIR REALTY in Alberta. We support local charities, and the owners live and work here.
  • Creating Excellence through Support- The motto is Support+ Innovation + Culture. The mandate  is to equip us with everything we need to provide the best experience possible for our clients. If we’re out showing a client homes, and we need management guidance, one click will connect us to a manager, within 10 minutes. You will be kept informed of every step of your transaction until, and after closing. While Scott Baker & Associates has always worked to do that, our new support team will take care of some of those little details for us, and you’ll always stay informed.
  • A place to market Luxury An elite home deserves special marketing touches to reach an international clientele. Luxury Portfolio International provides our clients with exposure in over 30 countries, translated in 9 languages, and marketed both online to high net worth website readers and in luxury magazines. Unsurpassed exposure to the right people. The typical website viewer makes $1.32 million in salary, and owns and home worth $3.5 million.
  • Exclusive Discounts to Service Providers- We offer our clients an exclusive membership to access to stores, services, and free seminars, ‘House Hacks’,  for the life of your home. Our clients can save and learn, through our connection to literally anything you might need to enjoy and improve your home.

Added to all of this, we’re excited to welcome Tim Puhlmann back to our team. Tim has been a trusted colleague for many years, and we’re thrilled to have his knowledge, energy, experience, and integrity as a key member of our team again. Welcome back, and welcome to Team Blue!

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be posting more news of upcoming changes and opportunities, as we are working on improvement to how we reach, inform and represent our clients, past, present and future. This kind of move feels a lot like moving homes and communities. In that respect, they are done for the same reasons; to improve your surroundings, and to allow for new opportunities. We know that this will be a huge benefit to our clients and our daily work lives. It’s the sole reason for our move, to be better.

Our website, CalgaryHomeListings.ca is the same, our contact information is the same, and our commitment to our profession and our clients, while feeling like a shot in the arm, remains the same. We look forward to hearing from you. You’ll definitely be hearing more from us. Stay tuned!

CIR_LeadingCoLogo2

Calgary’s Growing Deep South

Mon, 30 Jan by Scott Baker

hospitalThe population of Calgary’s Deep South communities is growing, and with that comes new schools, services and retail stores to support this rapidly expanding part of the city. The communities of Cranston, Auburn Bay, Mahogany, and Seton, New Brighton and Copperfield are seeing new amenities open nearby almost weekly, as their numbers continue to grow. The South Health Campus was the first major project completed. It was the beginning to a massive list of projects.

‘If you build it they will come’ was the line from the movie Field of Dreams. I would say that rather, in this case, people have already arrived, creating the demand for the development of new schools, numerous retail centres, and other amenities such as recreation and entertainment facilities. Take a look what has been happening in the Deep South:

Population

According to the City 2016 census, Cranston grew by almost 1000 people, to just over 18,000 people. That represents almost a doubling of the population in less than a decade. Auburn Bay grew by about 1400 to 14,559, and Mahogany to 7000 and rapidly growing. While Cranston and Auburn Bay are nearing the end of their growth phase from a new home standpoint, population will continue to grow simply from young families expanding. Mahogany will continue to gain population over the next decade, as it is the newest of communities. Look for other new communities south of Seton to begin next. This brings us to an vital component of any growing community; schools.

Schools

IMG_1914There has been an explosion of new schools opened or opening in all of these communities, in both the Public and Catholic systems. More than almost anything else, people are drawn to new communities where their children can attend local schools. New schools have opened last fall or this January in Cranston, Auburn Bay, McKenzie Towne, New Brighton and Copperfield. Here is a list:

Public schools

Auburn Bay School K-4, Copperfield School K-4, New Brighton School K-4, Dr George Stanley 4-8 (eventually to 9) in Cranston, Dr Martha Cohen 5-9 in Copperfield/New Brighton, and McKenzie Highlands School 4-9 in McKenzie Towne.

Catholic Schools

St Marguerite K-6 in New Brighton, Our Lady of the Rosary K-6 in Cranston, Prince of Peace K-9 in Auburn Bay.

In addition to these, there is a planned Catholic K-6 in Mahogany for 2018, the new Public High School is under construction in Seton for 2018, and plans for a Catholic High school for the Seton/Rangeview are under way. Wow. That’s a lot of schools, teachers and families, all badly needed. Cranston had two existing schools, so it now has four schools in total. McKenzie Towne also had two existing schools.

Retail

IMG_1919Auburn Station opened in the fall of 2016. It includes Coop grocery, gas and liquor stores, a pub, and other food and retail outlets. Across 52nd Street the much larger Mahogany Village Market is taking shape, with new stores about to open, and many more nearing completion. Numerous banks, restaurants, two pubs, medical practices, and a Sobeys are scheduled to open this spring. Deep services are in and construction will begin on a large retail area west and south of the current Seton shopping area. Already confirmed for this area is a MEC store. Seton will be the commercial and retail hub for the Deep South in the coming years, and this new construction is proof that it is taking shape.

 

 

 

IMG_1913 IMG_1908Other Amenities

The Seton Recreation Centre is due to be completed in 2018, and is located south of the South Health Campus. The new Public High School is next to it. There will be 2 rinks, a water park, lane and dive pools, a gymnasium, theatre and library within the 330,000 square foot facility, run by the YMCA.

Cineplex Odeon just recently broke ground on an 11 screen theatre complex, directly north of Superstore in Seton. This is a much anticipated addition to the Deep South, as residents have been driving to Chinook or Shawnessy to see a movie. Once the new LRT Green Line is built out to Seton, residents will have retail, services, schools, and public transit to add value to their lives and the homes they own.

 

Calgary’s Deep South communities have been growing for many years, and these additions are finally providing residents the services they needed to live, work and play in their communities.

What’s Next for Calgary Real Estate?

Tue, 10 Jan by Scott Baker

What happened, What’s Next?
crystal-ballOur market activity and prices were down from 10 year averages in 2016, and also from 2015, but sale prices are not off as badly as you may think. Real estate is always specific to your community and the product (type of home) you are buying or selling. City wide, apartments were off 15% in sales, but only 1.7% in median price. In other words, it took longer to sell and buyers had lots of choices. This is similar to 2008/2009, and it’s due to the over supply of new units built. Happens in every boom/bust cycle.

Attached homes were off 5.5% in sales and 0.9% in median price. Single family homes were off 2.6% in sales and 0.2% in price. It took 42 days to sell, compared to 38 in 2016. That stat really, really depends on your location. A softer market also depends on strong marketing and a realistic price. That’s where our knowledge and guidance comes in.

So that’s what happened. What’s in store for 2017? We don’t have a crystal ball either, but look for less uncertainty. Look for move-up opportunities, and more stable prices. Stability creates confidence, so buyers start to look around more. Layoffs may have peaked as well. We’ll keep you updated as we progress into the year.

One major change to the real estate landscape is the new (October 2016) insured mortgage rule changes. The government dumped this in everyone’s lap with little notice (two weeks), and they dramatically affect first time buyers, as it applies largely to those with less than 20% down payment (a conventional mortgage).

We’ve attached a link to a BNN article that explains some of the changes. Briefly, it means that buyers have significantly less buying power if applying for a mortgage through a traditional lender. Secondary lenders may step up to offer mortgages, but that will be at higher rates. Here is the link to the article:

BNN report on mortgage changes

Buyers with less than 20% down now have to qualify at the Bank of Canada Benchmark rate (currently 4.64%) instead of the lender’s posted 5 year fixed rate. In a nutshell, that reduces what they qualify for by 15-20%, no matter what rate our mortgage people can get you. The good news is that their payment is whatever rate they get at the lender.

Here are some examples of buying power before and after October 17, 2016 assuming 5% down payment and NO household debts. We have experienced, trusted mortgage advisors to assist you with specific questions you may have as there are other changes as well.

Annual Income $50,000: $266,400 reduced to $211,300

Annual Income $70,000: $384,500 reduced to $304,875

Annual Income $100,000: $561,300 reduced to $445,240

The other good news: If you own real estate already, you are grandfathered into renewals so you won’t have to come up with more money. If you’re looking to sell and buy elsewhere, you just need to make sure you have a 20% downpayment, or port your current mortgage to avoid that change. Our mortgage colleagues can advise you on your choices.
Of course, you can call us any time and we’ll help you with a plan to accomplish your real estate goals. We look forward to hearing from you. Stay warm!

Bad Listing Descriptions & Why They Matter

Tue, 06 Dec by Scott Baker

shcoolWe’ve all seen them. The cheesy, cliched descriptions that some real estate listings contain. Makes you want to reach through your monitor and hit ‘delete’ or ‘spell-check’. Having performed admirably in my youth at spelling bees and grammar, it drives me crazy to read some of the listing descriptions I see. It gives the reader very little confidence that anything is accurate if they can’t spell ‘dining room’ correctly. Add to that the cheesy cliches and you have a cringe-worthy description of your (likely) largest asset for all the world to see.Have you ever seen descriptions in ALL CAPS?!! It’s like the writer is shouting at you. What do you choose as important, when everything is HUGE? It’s fine to highlight a few items in caps, as it’s an easy way to see items the seller wants to emphasize, but STOP YELLING AT ME! What’s a ‘doll house’? I see that written occasionally, and I don’t know if it’s supposed to be cute, or the home is suited to people 10 inches and under. What exactly is a ‘motivated seller’? Isn’t that why they listed in the first place? Or maybe they just like strangers looking through their stuff at dinner time.

Some of my other favourites? Shows 10/10 (huh?) ‘Needs TLC’. To me that’s short for toilets, lights and ceiling. ‘Open House 2-4, Saturday.’ Umm, which Saturday? Or has the writer just forgotten to go back in and delete it? It wouldn’t be the first time people showed up at a open house, only to find it dark and locked, or worse yet, a guy in his velour housecoat at the door, wondering why you’re there. That reminds me, some people need to be taught that ‘their’, they’re’ and ‘there’ are three different words. How about the ‘this won’t last’ warning? It’s been on for 95 days, time to update your claim. Room descriptions can force me to suppress my gag reflex sometimes. ‘Country’, ‘chef’s’ or ‘gourmet’ kitchens abound. Hardwood gleams, master bedrooms are ‘enormous’, yards are ‘park-like’ settings. I’ve seen homes described as being steps from transit and playgrounds, when I know they are at least two blocks away. No one says ‘only 578 steps to the playground’.

So what’s the danger to a seller? To start with, it gives a buyer zero confidence that the agent is being honest about what the property is really like. I’ve shown many homes that the buyer was disappointed with, merely because the description exaggerated more than just a little. There’s nothing wrong with accentuating the positive, just don’t overdo it. Secondly, other agents that are sifting though listings to show their clients might just skip the listing that says it has a large ‘dinning room’ and is located in a ‘quit’ location.

Attention to detal (made you look) is important. So when you’re deciding who should sell your home for you, have a look at their marketing material. I always bring a copy of one of my feature sheets to show how I market homes. Creative writing should be about painting a positive but accurate picture, not a misspelled fairy tale.

Every element of your listing’s marketing matters. If you agree, I’m your guy. ( not ‘you’re guy’).

What’s all the noise about new Mortgage Rules?

Thu, 06 Oct by Scott Baker
house in human hands on the blue

house in human hands on the blue

There are no shortage of news articles regarding the Canadian Finance Dept’s rather significant changes to the rules surrounding insured mortgages and how buyers will qualify after October 17th. I should start by saying that I am not a mortgage expert. We work with some of the best in the business, so if you have specific questions, I would strongly recommend you contact our residential mortgage expert Sam Iaquinta, here. You can still qualify under the current rules until October 17th.So what are the highlights that will affect buyers? Anyone buying an insured mortgage (less than 20% down) will now have to qualify at the posted Benchmark interest rate, currently about 4.74%, rather than the actual approved rate of the lender (whichever is higher). Depending on the scenario, that means in real dollars that you will lose anywhere from 20-30% of your buying power. Or to put it another way, that $400,000 home you thought you could buy might become a $320,000 townhouse. That’s big. The other effect of this change is that because they are squeezing primarily first time homebuyers, prices will drop to find buyers that can afford lower prices. All in all, not good news for current homeowner’ equity situation in the short run. I urge you to read this article, that covers the changes as well as their implications.

Without getting political, this was directed at overheated markets in Vancouver and Toronto, with little regard to how it affects virtually everyone else in Canada, and it will, in a big way.  The people I feel bad most for though are the new buyers who were very close to having enough saved to buy their first home. That rug has been pulled out from under them. It may stimulate the rental market in some regions, but that’s little consolation to someone with a dream of owning their first home.

Stampede Breakfasts in Calgary’s Deep South

Tue, 05 Jul by Scott Baker

PancakesThe Calgary Stampede kicks off on July 8th this year. No Stampede would be complete without the pancake breakfast experience. Many communities around Calgary hold free breakfasts and BBQ’s during Stampede. Here’s a list of the scheduled Deep South community events for 2016. If you’re new to Calgary, these go rain or shine, and it’s a great way to meet your neighbours. Most are free and open to the public, but read on for details. If you would like to see a calendar of all available Stampede breakfasts around Calgary, click here to see if there is a breakfast on the day and in the area you are close to.

Happy Stampeding!

 

Cranston’s Annual Stampede Breakfast

http://cranston-connect.com/events/2016/07/09/family/cranston-s-annual-stampede-breakfast/

Date: Saturday, July 9, 2016

Time: 9:00 – 11:30

Location:  Century Hall Park

Face painting, petting zoo, bouncy castles, line dancing, professional ropers, music, and of course an unlimited number of pancakes! This event is free of charge and is open to the public. RSVP is not required,  Food lines will be cut off at 11am.

McKenzie Towne Stampede Breakfast

http://mtcouncil.com/events/2016/07/14/mckenzie-towne-hall-event/stampede-breakfast/

Date: Thursday, July 14, 2016

Time: 9:00 – 11:00

Location: High St. SE, McKenzie Towne

Live music, activities, pancakes. Free

 

Auburn Bay Community Association Stampede Pancake Breakfast

http://allevents.in/calgary/abca-stampede-pancake-breakfast/1797033203865479

 Date: Saturday, July 9, 2016

Time: 9:00

Location: 800 Auburn Bay Blvd SE

**Open to all Auburn Bay residents.** This year is better than ever, there will be a Kid’s bike parade at 11:00 am, games and activities, bouncy castle, and visits from the A&W Root Bear.   Food sponsored by A&W

 

 McKenzie Lake Residents Association Family Fun Day!

http://mlra.ca/news/2016/07/04/general/family-fun-day/

 Date: Friday, July 8, 2016

Time: 12:00 to 4:00 (BBQ)

Join us on Friday, July 8th from noon to 4pm. We will be selling hamburgers, ice cream and snacks. There will also be an assortment of free activities for kids of all ages – Inflatables, climbing wall, wagon rides, petting zoo and a balloon ride. McKenzie Lake Residents and guests.

 

Douglas Square Stampede Caravan

http://www.freestampedepancakes.com/ViewEvent/?eventid=7#.V3rFIkuI3nZ

Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time: 9:00 – 11:00

Location: 11520 24 Street S.E.

Free pancake breakfast! A live western band, visiting marching bands, traditional Native dancers, Stampede Royalty, petting zoo, pony rides, games and air brush tattoos for the kids.

 

New Brighton’s Annual Stampede Breakfast

http://newbrighton-connect.com/events/2016/07/16/main/new-brighton-s-annual-stampede-breakfast/?Main=Main

Date: Saturday, July 16, 2016

Time: 9:00 – 12:00

Location:  The New Brighton Club

Join us Saturday, July 16th and enjoy breakfast on us with pancakes, country line dancing, petting zoo, bouncers, photo booths, a live band and fun western games!

Please note this event is open to the public and RSVP is not required.

 

 

What Really Matters When Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Tue, 21 Jun by Scott Baker

Choosing an agent to represent you in either the sale or purchase of a home (we’ll include condos in the generic term of home) is an important part, perhaps THE most important part, of beginning your quest to sell or buy a property. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly put too much emphasis on things that they only think are most important. Home improvement and real estate shows have put predictably edited-for television versions of the truth into our psyches, so we associate reality TV shows with actual reality. ( You are allowed to look at more than three homes). So if you don’t want to end up with this guy, read on.bigstock-Pushy-salesman-with-an-oversiz-21273605

If you read much of what agents use in their marketing, words such as ‘Integrity’, ‘Trust’, and ‘ Experience’ are used extensively. Those are all admirable qualities in people, but I would opine that saying you have integrity should be a given. “I drive on the right side of the road’ is a nice trait as well, but we all should do that. So then, what should the average person put on their list when searching for someone to represent them in a very major event in their life? Sometimes, those of us in the industry forget that most people don’t pay much attention to real estate until they need to. Sort of like when you get a new vehicle and suddenly you notice every other one that looks just like yours. Perhaps it’s easier to start with factors that you should not base your decision on:

Someone tells you that they have a buyer for your home. This probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of selling a home. The odds of this happening is incredibly small. Why? Well, you are counting on a buyer wanting your home, on your street, in that size and style, with your amenities and features, approved for the price you want, at the time you want to sell, who is ready to buy it at the price you want. It’s the proverbial needle in the haystack. That is not to say that we can’t find you the buyer once we begin marketing your property, but at that point we have started to filter out those who don’t meet some of the criteria I just referred to. Don’t believe it, its a bait and switch technique. Those ‘buyers’ somehow magically disappear after the contract gets signed.

Commission. Ah yes, the elephant in the interview room. Many new real estate agents are petrified of this question. By law, commissions are negotiable, but offices and agents can set their own fees and stick to them if they choose. My point on this topic is that you choose someone based on what their skills are, their reputation, and their plan to accomplish what you set out to do. Savings can be real, or they can disappear in the blink of an eye, when you consider that agents are paid anywhere from one to three percent (per side) of the total price of the property. With Calgary homes selling currently at around 97% of list price ( my average is over 98%), it’s a very small piece of the overall pie, and can get absorbed pretty quickly in the sale of a home that went for much less than you were assured you could get. Put that down the list, not at the top. (Also true for lawyers, plumbers, electricians, dentists….)

‘I see their open house signs all the time’. Let me just say that open houses are not a bad thing. They can be a useful tool for getting feedback from buyers. But to be honest, they are fishing tools for agents to gain new clients. This relates to our first topic, having a ready buyer. The odds of someone coming in and wanting that exact house for that price, etc, etc are very, very slim. We sit open houses as part of our overall exposure, but we don’t do them week after week, as that isn’t marketing, and many do it because all it costs them is time. ‘Hope and a prayer’ isn’t marketing. I have NEVER sold a listing off of an open house.

‘I get recipes and a free pumpkin every year’. Everyone loves soft, warm and fuzzy touches in their life. That has nothing to do with how knowledgeable or proven an agent is in your market. Like having integrity, being a nice person is a fine attribute, but that’s one item of a long list that should be important when you’ve finally sold your home or purchased your dream home. Ok, so what should you be looking for?

Rapport. Does the person you are considering share some of your values, seem to understand what you are trying to accomplish, and have some ideas that you hadn’t considered? Does he or she tell you the ABSOLUTE truth, or do they sugar coat things in order to get your approval. As I tell every client, the truth is always there. It just takes time for it to reveal itself, and you don’t want to choose someone based on what you want to hear. Good or bad, you need someone who will tell it like it is.

A Plan. If you’re selling your home, you need a comprehensive marketing plan. What does it include, how long does it last, who are they targeting? More than a sign and an MLS® posting, you need to be found by the most people that could be interested in your home. I tell my clients that I have one adage to marketing; ‘Tell everyone’. This comes under the category of getting what you pay for. Keep in mind, if you’re selling you don’t pay if you don’t sell. These are my costs. If you are on the buying side of the equation, the plan comes down to filtering your wish list to find the right home without seeing every listing. It also means being prepared financially and discussing term and conditions to make it the right one. Which brings us to…

Communication. Seems simple enough, but as we all know, common sense isn’t very common, and communication skills didn’t seem to stick to everyone after high school. It’s very important to stay in touch, in whatever manner is most useful to you, as I can stay in touch by email, text, phone, and of course, in person. What matters is that you are getting valuable information on what is happening, what is selling, new listings, your competitiveness (if you’re selling), and either a broad perspective or narrower focus on what will help us accomplish your goal. Understanding and managing expectations is a key element to our ongoing communication.

The Price. This one is for sellers, and it is the most important part in listing your home. I tell clients that this is 80% of our marketing. This is done with a comprehensive evaluation, not a dart board or rainbows and unicorns. We want a price that will draw buyers, based on the current market, so that we get you the highest price the market will bear. This is a topic for another day, but it is largely why my sales to listing price ratio is higher than average, and why my selling clients are pretty darn happy at the end. I can create fist fights in the driveway if we price a property too low, and you’ll sell fast, but it may not be what you wanted to accomplish. On the flip side, I’m not in the business of listing, but rather selling homes. Getting it right, (or making it right if the competition changes) is paramount to success.

The Devil is in the Details. Preparing a home for sale, ( I use professional home staging as part of my service) writing good ad copy to accentuate the selling features, professional photography, and making sure everyone living there is ready to be part of the ‘team’ when selling is vital to the final price and a successful sale. For buyers, that means knowing what you have to do to get out of where you currently live (notice to a landlord, selling your current property to align with a purchase), getting a pre-approval for a mortgage, and making a list of wants and needs so that you don’t become overwhelmed with viewing properties. My average number of homes shown before writing an offer is twelve, which comes from listening, filtering and suggesting options as we go.

Knowledge of a Geographic area. This one can be misleading, as many good agents don’t necessarily know much about a community. Not as big of a deal if you’re buying, but much more important when selling. The caveat here (for me anyway) is that I was born and raised in Calgary, so I have a pretty good idea of most communities. Someone who came to Calgary in the last three years and started in the industry may not have that same comfort or knowledge of every quadrant of the city. If they call themselves ‘area specialists’, they better know a lot about what makes a community tick, the school names, HOA fees, peculiarities of certain streets, etc. I once had to tell an agent that the offer he brought was way off, as he hadn’t factored in that his comparisons were for homes that didn’t include lake privileges. What you don’t know can hurt you.

I have to constantly remind myself that clients don’t know what they don’t know. It’s easy to assume that everyone knows how to sell or buy a home, but in almost every deal I handle a question that gives me pause, and I realize that I bring value to them by having answers to questions that I may have answered many times. it’s just new to them. If you focus on these factors, your experience in buying or selling should be much more positive. We do this every day. You shouldn’t have to know it all.

How Important is a Walk Score?

Sat, 28 May by Scott Baker

IMG_1363Many real estate websites (including ours) use Walk Score to provide consumers with a metric to compare a community’s walkability. According to Walk Score’s own website, a one point increase in a community’s score can equal as much as a $3,000 increase in value to a property. While there is little argument that being able to walk to various amenities has value, it can be a rather subjective number that may have little to do with a community being able to deliver the quality of life a family or individual may desire.

Here is an example: My own deep south community of Cranston ranks 157th in Calgary for walk score. In other words, the scoring indicates that a vehicle is required for most things you would need to shop for or attend to, including work. We are a five mounts walk to one school, another three minutes to another, and about 3 minutes to one under construction. Unless you want to walk to high school, we’ve got it covered. We have a grocery store, pub, a few fast food places, doctors, dentists, a coffee shop, two gas stations, a bank, a vet, hair salon, dry cleaner and convenience stores within easy walking distance (5-10 minutes, depending on the street you might live on). We are next to the largest connected pathway system in North America, and the South Health Campus is a short drive (eek, a car!) over Deerfoot Trail. So why the low rating?

A walk score calculates the distance to downtown, as well as other amenities like theatres, restaurants, etc. So what if you work in Foothills industrial park, or perhaps at the hospital? We are admittedly about a 30 minute bus trip to downtown, and the new LRT line that is still a few years away will only cut a few minutes off of that time. Calgary planners have spent a great deal of time and money in the newest communities to build ‘work, live, play’ communities, so that traveling to downtown or across town to work isn’t necessary. How about if you have a home office or work virtually?

I guess I would opine that consumers should use the walk score carefully, understanding that it’s not a one size fits all grading system. I agree that it has value to compare communities and their ability to walk to amenities, to have access to transit, and to provide biking options. Many suburbs have been created or retro-fitted to improve citizen’s daily quality of life, keeping in mind that not everyone wants to live within smelling distance of the coffee shop or within walking distance to their office, if that’s how you make a living. Take a look at the whole picture. You might be discounting some great communities that fit your lifestyle.

Buying or Selling when you need to

Fri, 29 Jan by Scott Baker

There are daily reminders in the media, through friends and family, perhaps even your friendly Realtor that the market in Calgary and surrounding areas is slow, with prices down as well. The CREB forecast is for an overall drop in prices of 3.44% this year in a broad, across the board swipe at average prices. They are also predicting lower sales volume of just over 2%. But as I have said here before, real estate is local. It’s also specific. So what if you have to make a move this year?

The 2016 real estate market in Calgary will have some opportunities for buyers. I expect inventory to rise through the spring. That means more selection, particularly in multi-family and condos, where builders are finishing projects, creating a glut of units available. First-time buyers will have the luxury of shopping for the right home, with interest rates staying low. Insured mortgage rules changed, (meaning that buyers looking at homes above $500,000 will need to have 10% down payment on the amount over $500,000) but that won’t affect the first timer.Sold Home For Sale Sign & New House

This is an excellent year to consider a move up purchase. Prices will be flat or even lower in many areas. That means you have to be able to sell your current home or condo. Despite what you may read, that will still be happening. It just takes patience and a keen eye on what’s really happening in your area.

Sellers who absolutely have to sell will experience bargain hunters out there. It’s an unfortunate aspect of higher inventory and more competition. The key is to price your home for the market we’re in, to shine from the very first day, and to remain competitive with other homes in your community. Exposing the home to as many marketing avenues as possible matters more now than ever. It’s a major reason the my real estate company’s market share goes up in tough times, as people go to someone they trust and know, who will spend the marketing dollars to have success in the market.

If you are in this category don’t despair. Selling is not only possible but likely when marketed to the right people at the right price. As John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’