Category: real estate (12)

IMG_0088My relationship to secondary suites began before I did. Ortona is a town in Italy that Canadian forces liberated and my parents were resided in the adjacent town of Fossacesia. WW2 left the area in ruins and it held little promise for a young couple to grow a family. When a relative sent news from Calgary and partly due to their fondness for Canadians, they set sail for Halifax. Arriving in Calgary with a few dollars to their name, they discovered accommodation was scarce and at a premium. They found a makeshift suite in the attic of a two storey home offered by a fellow immigrant. It was sparse and barely insulated, but in relative terms from the war-torn area they had just left, they were very happy to have the accommodation. My Mom would comment later in life that while living in that hobbled suite, they had some of the best times of their life.
Sometimes adversity is a blessing. During the war my father was interned in a prisoner of war camp, but the experience had taught him to speak and write English. As a result Dad got on quite well here and ultimately sponsored many of the Italian immigrants who wanted to start a new life in Canada. My parents would often share their suite with new arrivals until they landed on their feet and before long they were able to purchase a home on Child Avenue where I began my life. We always had a relative or friend living in the basement of that home which helped them all get started financially – it was just the perfectly normal thing to do.
A few years passed and my parents purchased a lot where they built a new home. It was a traditional raised bungalow perched high above Bridgeland with a walkout basement and a separate entrance for a secondary suite. At first we lived in the suite while my Dad finished the larger main floor area. In those days you paid for things as you had the money, so it took some time to build and pay for the home but in the meanwhile the suite provided comfortable accommodation. Once the main floor was finished we moved up and they set out to rent the suite. With no shortage of new immigrants moving to Calgary the suite hosted young couples from France, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Italy. As a child I was a curious participant in every activity around our home. I’m sure that I was mostly a nuisance to our tenants, but I always participated in their activities building or fixing everything imaginable. I fondly recall rebuilding engines, a ski-do (from scratch), and I was always made to feel like I was a big help. These wonderful people who resided in our suite became a part of my life and extended family. Outside our home our immediate neighborhood was almost entirely a community of new immigrants; Italian, Austrian, English, German, Polish blended with First Nations. We never thought twice about helping each other for any matter whatsoever. And it was more than perfectly normal to have a suite or let a room to someone who needed a place.
My parents always charged below market rent, so most of our basement renters stayed until they saved up a down-payment for their own home, which they all did. After they moved out we would see them nearly as often, as they frequently stopped by on weekends for dinner and a friendly game of cards.
In time, as the family aged, my parents preferred more privacy and the suite lent itself to teenage independent living. It was also a handy place for a rock-band to rehearse while shutting out those pesky parents. At times it just remained vacant, but always available for extended visitors or a returning child. Later still it would have provided perfect accommodation for a caregiver for my parents.
You see, I’ve always had nothing but good, positive experiences from secondary suites. To me they are a device that enables us to interact positively and directly with our neighbors – helping one another as we naturally would. It connects us and weaves a tighter fabric into our community. Suites provide adaptable spaces that can serve many purposes and extend the utility and value of our homes. (Did you know that the latest trend in home building is adaptable design?) They extend the life of our residence as an investment, allowing for greater return. They allow a new home buyer to purchase a home worth $200,000 more for the same monthly cost due to the rental income. They provide facility for people aging in place, saving both the resident and our government the cost of health care facilities. They provide affordable housing for new immigrants, students, temporary workers and caregivers. They provide elderly a resident eyes and ears to help look after the place (and help boost their retirement income).
When we look at affordable housing we often imagine a housing continuum from most to least affordable. It begins with shared accommodation and boarding houses (mostly extinct now); then secondary suites; apartments, townhomes and finally single family homes. Today, Calgarian’s have a dire need for affordable housing. With the cost of building at an all-time high it seems improbable that we will find a solution to construct apartments or townhomes that are affordable. If this accommodation does not exist, then the increased cost of living is passed on to employers and ultimately consumers and taxpayer – so we all pay or we simply don’t attract new workers and immigration and the accompanying burden this places on our economy.
We have a solution to affordable housing that exists today and costs little to implement. The answer has been right under our nose and yet somehow we have buried it, creating new rules that confuse and class existing suites illegal. And through nothing short of NIMBYism we have restricted the development of new suites. There is no question that the suites need to be safe and we would never argue on issues of safety, but somehow claims of unsafe suites and parking have been grossly exaggerated. A vocal minority has helped perpetrate these urban myths without substance and stymied an open debate where we lay the facts on the table. This issue over secondary suites now appears to have become a political dilemma for Councillors and we owe kudos to those who have shown leadership on this issue. Our City needs this accommodation and any outstanding issues can all be easily addressed but we all need to give our politicians the permission to do the right thing. The right thing now is to legalize suites in all zones. To appease the residents in single family zones, simply adding the provision that in existing single family areas suites shall be allowed only in owner occupied homes settles the score. Calgary is one of the only Cities in North America with such a restrictive secondary suite policy. It’s time we progressed back to our heritage, where suites are embraced as a vital and necessary part of our community.

MLS-listingsIt’s difficult for any Home Buyer to make a final decision until they have been exposed to ALL the available Real Estate Listings and be assured that they did not miss a better home. Today your real estate agent has a host of technology available to assist Home Buyers in their search. Properly deployed, these technologies ensure that all available listings are at your disposal and that a Buyer is not overburdened or confused by viewing property that does not fit their criteria. Your REALTOR® has access to your local Multiple Listing System (MLS®) where they post available listings for other cooperating agents to view and sell. This is a local private database which is available to REALTOR® members of organized real estate. For example, members of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) host a local database of available listings from their over 5,000 REALTOR® members. These REALTORS® are required to abide by rules governing their use of data, business ethics and how they cooperate. This system enables members to have access to all the new listings immediately when they are entered into the system . Access to this system ensures that you have the most up to date information and assures that you are seeing all the listings Real Estate Listings currently available on the MLS®.

Your agent should be able to set up a custom search for you that will email you this information immediately. Alternately, there are many sites that allow to you locate new listings manually or allow you to sign up for automatic updates. Armed with this information and a great Real Estate Agent, you can be assured to stay on top of all the new listings, the minute they come on to the market and not be overburdened by information on homes that do not fit your criteria.

13th-Avenue-CalgaryArthur C Nelson’s book “Reshaping Metropolitan America” is a enlightening read that lays bare the facts, trends and demographics that will shape real estate in North America. The data targets the year 2030 and describes in detail how our urban environment is destined to appear in the future and identifies opportunities to leverage positive change to create more vibrant, sustainable urban environments. The take away for me was how much obvious data we have that pretty clearly defines our future environment, how near this future scenario is in relative terms (2030), and that planners, builders and developers are still constructing developments that will be obsolete before the time that these homes requires a new roof (say 15 years). This to me, reeks of opportunity for any astute developer who is willing to change their mind.

If you accept his theory, and its hard to dispute the data, then here’s a synopsis of the opportunities that are presented:

urbrenewal

Key Trends:

  • Developers need to invent new products and financing tools that meet the needs of financially strained households.
  • Rising energy costs will drive the demand for locations that provide live-work opportunities.
  • Multifamily Development will be transit-centric. Single use commercial centers will be converted to mixed use.
  • Boomers will downsize to condos in walk-able neighborhoods.
  • Urban redevelopment is shifting to the suburbs where vast supplies of asphalt provide attractive opportunities for re-purposing.

A New Community Planning Paradigm
The large detached homes on large lots, miles from the urban centers that were once highly valued, will become so out of fashion that they may become our next affordable housing supply. Segregated land use has given way to mixed use development. The automobile is no longer the transport of choice and from all of this some major new planning themes emerge:

  • Sustainable and Healthier Communities is a topic unto itself focused on increased residential density, integrating transportation and land use, providing car-free areas, locally owned stores, walk-able neighborhoods, and accessibility. Design communities to link humans to nature including open spaces, and constructing high performance buildings and district energy.
  • Tearing up the Parking Lots and rebuilding Paradise  – the single largest opportunity for developers to participate in rebuilding sustainable, mixed-use communities.
  • Transit Oriented Developments are a leverage point for future successful urban centers
  • Reforming Land Use Regulation allows developers more latitude to construct mixed use developments and higher density developments where appropriate.

Then there are the more rigorous and equally important challenges that require modifying the tools and institutions to be responsive to market preferences. Here are a few highlights: Tear-down-your-home

  • Make Accessory Dwelling Units (Secondary Suites) Legal
  • Eliminate Social Engineering through incentives to home ownership, allowing rentals an equal footing (mostly applicable to the US but a fair warning for Canada)
  • Level the Home Purchase Playing Field to eliminate any discrimination in financing condos v/s single family homes (again, fair warning).
  • Eliminate Social Engineering through Exclusionary Zoning. Urban areas overly restrict housing types and lot size etc with the effect of steering lower income households into the few jurisdictions that allow high density housing and away from others.
  • Instill Permitting Discipline that restricts over-building more than the market can absorb in times of oversupply.

Its is hard to dispute the data  which describes how out of sync the current trajectory for our future urban centers is with our future needs. We could gripe about the discord or marvel at the opportunity. Builders and developers need to stop building yesterdays housing in outdated community models and start building energy and space efficient housing in communities with mixed use and walk-able amenities. Make provisions for a secondary suite to house an extended family or allow a senior to house a student or caregiver that would allow them to age in place. And our Civic and Provincial Governments needs to allow this development and remove the barriers that make it illegal to innovate and build new housing models.  If not, the home you build today may be obsolete before it’s time to replace your roof.

market value of home

Before you can make an informed decision about selling your home you often need to verify the Market Value of your Home. Market Value is defined as the price that you could expect to sell your Home on the open market given a normal period of exposure. Receiving an accurate estimate of the Market Value can be crucial if your next purchase depends on the equity in your existing home, or if your finances allow little margin for error. What then is the best method of obtaining the most accurate estimate of Market Value?

There are several routes to obtaining  an estimate of market value and a handful of methods which can be employed, most based on accepted appraisal practice. One method would be to simply hire a Certified Appraiser to complete a “market value” appraisal of your home.  Appraisers will prepare market value appraisals and are bound by guidelines to use similar comparable properties which have sold in the past six months. A market value appraisal is just that: an estimate of what the property would fetch on the open market and this typically is the most applicable. Other types of appraisals include income valuations, which are generally used in income producing property and replacement cost, which is applicable for insurance valuation. To have an appraisal prepared you would contact a certified appraiser from the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

Some homeowners base their value on their City Assessment and while this can provide a rough estimate, these values can range widely and should not be used as a reliable indicator or your current market value. City Assessments are based on a model of mass appraisal which estimates the broad value of your type of home based on similar homes in your surrounding area.

The third method would be to use the services of an experienced Real Estate Agent to evaluate the market value. The advantage of this method is that while Appraisers are bound to use historical methods to estimate the value of your home at the present time, an agent can draw upon the same broad base of comparable sales and can extrapolate into the the future based on current market conditions. This is very important in a rapidly changing market (of rising or declining values) where  you need to know the value based on the intricacies of a complex local market which is in flux. Using this local and up to the minute intelligence, an experienced agent can ensure that you extract every dollar of value and don’t leave any money on the table in an increasing market. Similarly when the market is declining, a good Agent will provide knowledge that will place you ahead of the market and allow you to sell before the market declines.
The disadvantage of using an agent is simply the nature of the industry where there are hundreds of agents with a variety of skill sets and competencies competing for your business. This makes it important that you use the most knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy agent to ensure that the agent does not simply “buy your business” by giving you a favorable number that appeases you and then lets you down later when the market provides you the stark reality of your homes value.

Sano Stante Real Estate  provides premium real estate service to discerning Calgary area clientele for over 30 years. If you are thinking of selling, call us to receive an expert market evaluation of your home.

Home Appraisal

Home Appraisal

Selling your home is only half of the process – after the sale is conditional your home needs to pass the appraisal test. Given the importance of this step many clients ask ” How can I improve my Home Appraisal”?
It’s a common myth that “bank appraisals” are always conservatively low, but is that really true? Understanding the appraisal process can shed some light on home values and show you how you can enable your appraiser to substantiate the highest value possible.
First it’s important to understand the rules of engagement. Appraisals are based on recent sales usually limited to the past 6 months sales of comparable properties. In a rapidly rising market this explains why it is often difficult for appraisers to find evidence that proves the current values. Of course the opposite is also true and in a declining market often appraised values can tend to be overstated.

Here are a few ways ways you can help to improve your home appraisal:

  • Ensure the Appraiser is knowledgeable about your area. Especially in inner city communities where there are a myriad of factors that affect value and where values are extremely diverse.
  • Do your own homework. Appraisers rely on MLS data so if you are aware of private sales or the unique circumstances behind any MLS sales be sure to provide this information to the appraiser. You’ll be doing some of the appraisers work, but the payback could be well worth it.
  • Boast about the Calgary Neighborhood Information  If there are unique amenities or attractions that locals covet, now is not the time to keep them a secret. Be sure to inform your appraiser.
  • Document your improvements. If you’ve spent money on improvements be sure to document and show these to the appraiser. Especially important to point out are those improvements that are not readily apparent such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, insulation and other improvements hidden behind the walls. Don’t be hesitant to show receipts to prove the work you’ve done.
  • Understand which improvements add the most value. Kitchens and bathrooms provide the greatest return on your investment. Paint and flooring are next in providing the best bang for your buck, followed by curb appeal and landscaping.
  • Clean up. Ensure that the home is meticulously clean and the entryway shows well. Removing excessive furniture can make a home feel larger. Manicure the walkway to the home. Remove clutter and excess of photos and nik-naks. Remove all the magnets off your fridge and pack loose items in boxes that can be stored in the garage.
  • Understand your home size. MLS and Appraisal rules state that measured size must be area that is above grade. If adding size to your home understand how this will be measured and accounted for in the future. If you add space below grade, it will not count as added living area.
  • Give the Appraiser some space. As in showing any home to a potential client, don’t follow them around breathing over their shoulder. Provide the appraiser some space to let them make their own assessment and take their time to absorb and appreciate the beauty and value of your home.

Remember that appraisers prove value based on sales values in the past, but may not be attuned to market trends going forward. Understanding the current market and trends could enable you to extract many thousands of dollars of value from your home. This is where an expert real estate agent can help a tremendous amount. To ensure that you receive the highest value for your real estate investment before you sell contact Sano Stante Real Estate.

 

 

Marketing-PlanSimply stated, the best marketing plan will achieve two things:

1. Expose your home to the highest number of targeted buyers.
At any particular period of time your marketplace will produce a slate of buyers for property. The goal of a good marketing plan is to ensure that every potential buyer for your home is made aware of it and that moving to the next step (whether it be viewing or writing an offer) is readily accommodated. Take for example a transferee moving into town who is here for the weekend. The first day is orienting themselves to the neighborhoods and then they wish to view homes on Sunday. Your home is at the top of the list, but you have a rule of no Sunday showings. This underlines the accommodation rule but beyond that consider the next step. The agent has shown several properties which the buyer is considering. They are weighing their decision on which home to offer on more information (for example, the energy costs of each home) and have requested this from each listing agent. One agent replies, providing detailed records while the other does not return the call. While the home was exposed to the market, it did not cross the finish line due to lack of response from the listing team. And while exposure is key, targeted exposure rules the day. The difference between shot-gun marketing and targeted marketing means that the perfect buyer for your home is fleshed out in advance and that the marketing message is targeted to that individual. While old school marketing would have you believe that you should blanket exposure to the entire market, the most effective marketing narrows the focus so that your home is more appealing to the target buyer while reducing appeal (and subsequent time-wasted showings) to the buyer who would never have purchased the home in any event. For example promoting the surrounding schools and kid-friendly neighborhood of a contemporary bachelor pad wastes resources that could be better utilized elsewhere, besides inconveniencing the seller with unnecessary showings.

2. Portray the benefits of your home in their best light.
In the past we imagined that any information (no matter the quality) trumped no information. In the current day of abundant information this is no longer the rule. For example when photos were difficult to produce and import to the web, any photo was better than no photo. Today with an overload of information available, we are better served to produce a few extremely high quality photos than a glut of low quality photos. The reason for this is that in the past the public was searching for information on the web, whereas today they filter information on the web – so to get noticed you need to stand out. Today’s buyers (and agents) have abundant listings available so the process consists of looking for a reason to filter the home off the short-list. A good marketing plan ensures that the photos and marketing information do not deter the right buyer from eliminating your home before they even get in the door. Two professional photos of HDR (high dynamic range) quality trump twenty pics from the agents iPhone.
The sister goal to portraying your home in its best light is to adhere to the rule “sell the benefit not the feature”. Many listing agents and sellers will list features of the home at length which often only serves to confuse the potential buyer. If you understand the target buyer and the “why” that buyers typically have you can speak to the “benefits” of the features that the homes boasts, and more effectively reach the buyers emotional decision center.

We’ve provided a few salient points to help guide you through all the claims that you’ll find in the real estate world selling you on their marketing plans. To be certain, there is much more involved, but we believe these are the two most important. Marketing your home using the best plan available is crucial to ensure you receive the highest dollar and sell your home in the shortest period of time. Be certain to ask any real estate professional to provide a detailed description of their marketing plan and compare their marketing plans with these points in mind to find the best value for you.

 

QuestionSometimes the best laid plans simply don’t work out and often for a myriad of reasons. When you are working with a real estate professional to sell your home, you enter into a service contract with the Brokerage that your agent is licensed with. The terms of the contract describe what duties and services the Brokerage will perform to sell your property and the remuneration that you will provide upon the successful sale of the property. Inherent in this contract is that both parties must perform their duties. The Brokerage agrees to market the property based on the marketing plan they committed to and you must allow the Brokerage to perform these services and pay them an agreed fee when the property sells during the term of the contract.

If the Brokerage does not perform their duties as agreed when the property was listed you may have reason to ask that the listing agreement be terminated, but both the Brokerage and you must mutually agree to the termination.

If you feel that you are not compatible with your chosen agent, one option may be to ask the Brokerage to provide another agent with the same brokerage to represent you. In this case you are honoring your original contract and, with another agent on the job, you may receive greater satisfaction.

Keep in mind that simply because your property has not sold is not valid reason to cancel a contract. There are many variables in the marketplace that your agent has no control over and the price that you agreed to to market the property may be the limiting factor. Marketing a home is a collaborative effort that you undertake with your agent as your guide – meaning that you are responsible to allow showings, stage the property, disclose all necessary information and price the property in line with the market based on your real estate agent’s advice. Only if you feel that you have performed all of your required duties, the Brokerage cannot provide an suitable alternate Agent and the Brokerage has not performed the services that you agreed would it be reasonable to request a termination. You may find that the Brokerage will accept that situation and be willing to move on, or if they have much invested and do not agree with your rationale they may decide to hold until the expiry of the contract.

During your listing term industry rules prevent any other REALTOR® from soliciting you to sell through them, however you are free to solicit and interview other agents if, for example, you are nearing the end of your term and hope to get a jump on listing with another agent.

The best solution is always to communicate with your agent about your expectations and then work collaboratively to achieve the best results together. When hiring any agent make sure that you obtain referrals and past reviews and ask them to thoroughly explain their marketing plan so you have full knowledge of what the expectations are. It’s important to ask your real estate agent to be honest with you about the condition (what improvements need to be done) as well as the real price they expect the market will bear. Often we chose the agent who tells us what we want to hear, over the agent who is more experienced and qualified or perhaps most honest in pricing your home. In our experience, this misguided selection is the most common cause of dissatisfaction later in the relationship.

Contact Sano Stante Real Estate Group if you have any questions about how to go about selecting the best real estate professional.

If the other company is a member of a cooperative Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®)  which your  Agent belongs, then they share listing information to all members. For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties are not listed in MLS® so an agent would be required to contact the Owner to receive the property information and if you are working with your Agent under a buyer agency agreement, your agent may be able to help you purchase a FSBO.

Sometimes if you call on a sign, an listing agent may entice you to work through them “exclusively”.  Be aware that the Listing Realtor may be obligated to provide fiduciary duties to you (look after your best interest) and you may be treated as simply a customer.  If you have an Agent or REALTOR® that you know and trust, you should always check with them first or simply insist that you will be represented by your REALTOR® and that your REALTOR® will contact them to obtain further information. Almost always the Seller has a commission or fee allocated to the Buyers agent. The only incentive for dealing exclusively is for the listing agent who hopes to be paid the buyer agent portion of the commission also. By insisting on represntation you can ensure that your interests will be best represented and that you agent is paid for his work further enhancing your working relationship with your chosen agent.