Thursday, October 22, 2009

229 Bain Avenue

We have a new listing. It's a beauty, in the heart of Riverdale. You can read all about it here, or better yet, come and see it. Open Houses this weekend (Sat./Sun. 2-4 pm, Oct.24 &25)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Other Hand: Staging, Stats, and Skipped Bits

Here I go again with my lectures about looking reasonably carefully before jumping to conclusions and "answers".

A good agent who is also a great marketer dropped a card in our mailbox the other day with a two-sided pitch on the benefits of home staging. We absolutely believe that staging has become almost essential for most homes in today's market.

I have a pet rant about staging, but it's pointless to bore you with it -- whether I "like" universal staging doesn't matter; it usually works if done right; and since everybody else is going to do it, you pretty much have to do it as well.

But the amount and type of staging depends on the market, the particular home and other circumstances.

Like selecting an agent and nearly everything else in real estate, staging has a whole bunch of "art" and "situation" about it.

A nice survey-based table showing how much you will "make" on a given staging activity looks very scientific and "factual". If only it were that simple. The piece in my mailbox gives examples such as "Update kitchen and bathrooms" at a cost of $1404-$1828 yielding a price increase of $3216-$3934. To the author's credit, a source is noted: "HomeGain survey of 2000 sales representatives nationwide..."

My bank account seems to drop more than $1828 by just speaking to a contractor, let alone actually doing a kitchen reno. Note it says "updating". They are probably talking about a countertop and sink, some paint and a few other bits. Now if you have to deal with solidly laid out-of-fashion ceramic tile on the floor, a nice 70's era "Florida ceiling" and avocado appliances ... well, start by adding another zero to the cost.

Then there's that HomeGain survey itself. HomeGain is an American real estate marketing firm. Their survey was of sales representatives in the U.S. and appears to have come out in 2007 as the market was beginning to badly misbehave down there. Not sure how big a difference any of those things make, but they give me pause.

[The HomeGain survey results can be found in a very useful HomeGain guide that you can download here ]

On the other side of the card, another survey result: professionally staged homes sell 80% faster!

Again, all credit to the agent for noting the source. is an organization involved in the training, accreditation and promotion of stagers.

The data was gathered during the period when BOTH Canadian and American markets were slumping. The bit not mentioned in the source-credit: 55% of the homes were vacant!

And the 80% differential is between 37 days to sell for the staged home vs. 6 months for the others! The average days-on-market for the entire Toronto area in September was a very-low 27 days.

To summarize, I'm not dissing staging. It's important and works when done right in the right situation. But the "proof" in these statistics and surveys is far from conclusive. Really I'm just illustrating a caveat for many things in real estate ... and life, for that matter:

Wiser people than I have warned about the tendency to try to make decisions and issues as simple as we want them to be, rather than dealing with the complexity that truly comprises them.

"If a string has one end, then it has another end"
"Policy [or rules] are for the guidance of wise men, and the strict adherence of fools".

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some things we still don't know...

We read the stories, we study the numbers, we talk to colleagues, we think (even when it hurts). We would love to just keep quoting the monthly amazing news out of the recent real estate market ... most sales ever for the month ... prices up ... recession bottomed out . But ... you knew there would be a "but" didn't you? . Back in the Fall of 2008, the headlines read "It's all going away ... hide in the basement ... the sky is falling". Down a couple of paragraphs, the story usually said something like "well, actually we're not in nearly as bad shape as the U.S., and even with the 6-10% price slippage we're still way ahead historically, and even that slippage is deceptive as it only applies to some market segments, and ...".
And if it didn't qualify the bad news, there would be a whole article a couple of pages on saying everything was going to be fine.

Nothing much happened early in 2009, even when it SHOULD have been happening ... Spring market and all that.

And then away we went. Maybe people just couldn't resist the low rates. Maybe they looked around and decided they were ok and could move ahead. For whatever reason, the buyers came back. Sellers were a little slower and that magnified the return to rising prices.

Traditionally it all slows down in the summer. Not this year. That led to the screaming headlines about some summer month having umpteen percent more sales than a year ago ... a new record!

Well yeah, July and August sales were way ahead of last year because hardly anything ever sells in the summer, but it did this year. What wasn't in the headline was that year-to-date roughly the same number of houses have sold in 2009 and 2008. Not very many in Feb., tons in August, in total up only 1.2%

And the standard two paragraphs into the articles about the end of the recession comes the comments about how long and hard the recovery will be and how jobs come back last.
Our own financial analyst, who I am beginning to hate despite what a good job he does, is pretty sure the hurtin' isn't over.

So, if you think the trouble is over and everything is cheery you are probably wrong. And if you think it's all insanity, everybody is drinking the KoolAid and we're doomed you are probably wrong.

The market IS currently healthy and active. Interest rates ARE amazingly low. So if you are thinking of a move and are reasonably secure with decent credit, go for it.
But don't forget how you swore you were going to be more sensible about spending, and you weren't going to step quite so close to the financial edge anymore, etc.
Take advantage of cheap money, reasonable prices and your personal stability. But leave a little wiggle room in case ... well, just in case.

If that made sense and you are looking, and you're looking for a great bright excellently-maintained 4 bedroom home in our part of the world, wander over to and have a look at our newest listing.