Monthly Archives: March 2009

Steam Whistle Goes Hawaiian! – Mayfair at Rosedale Park May 9

Rosedale Park will be the venue for the 63rd annual Mayfair on May 9, 2009, and this year’s theme is “Mayfair Goes Hawaiian.” Steam Whistle Brewing will once again be hosting the Beer Garden, and it will be great to see Cam Heaps, Tim McLaughlin, Meghan Mesheau and the Steam Whistle crew in their best Hawaiian outfits!

Things get underway on the Beer Garden Main Stage at 11:00 a.m., with an appearance by Hawaiian Pacific Magic, a team of talented Polynesian dancers. They will go above and beyond the call of duty by teaching the rest of us to Hula!

For the afternoon, the Main Stage is taken over by The Intended, who I think have earned the title of Mayfair’s house band. I don’t expect them to compete with the Hula lessons, but Matt Finlayson promises to get the band wearing some decent Hawaiian shirts. (There’s a guy with a must-see collection of vintage Hawaiian shirts online.)

What’s Mayfair got apart from the Beer Garden? A Midway with lots of rides and games, a great food court, tons of stuff for the kiddies… Admission to the park is free, and you can purchase ride-all-day bracelets ahead of time. It’s a full day’s fun for the family!

How to get there

Parking is very tight near Rosedale Park, so unless you have a friend who will let you use their driveway, you might want to take the local bus out of the Rosedale subway station.

Want to volunteer at Mayfair?

If you’d be willing to put together a team of eight volunteers (four two-hour shifts) to operate one of the kids games this year, email me and I’ll give you the details. It’s fun to volunteer at Mayfair… you get to say hi to old friends and neighbours, and it gives you a good feeling!


GTA Market Report – March 31, 2009

Why first-time buyers are out in force

In my earler post, Three Reasons to Buy, I quoted an example of how much money a Toronto buyer would save with a mortgage at today’s rates, compared with the rates from a year ago. I’ve just had a message from mortgage broker Paul Meredith, who updates his example:

Thank you for quoting me in your blog. You might want to update the info though as interest rates have dropped since that time. The current lowest rate is now 3.99% which would change the following numbers: monthly payment on $300k at 3.99% = $1576. The difference between this and the 5.99% example is $341/month, which would save a total of $20,460 over the term.

To sum up: Toronto buyers are now looking at record low interest rates, and prices that are 5% to 10% lower than the market peak. The interest rate opportunity creates a logical reason for a buyer to make a move, regardless of whether prices might soften a bit more this year. (Given the dynamics of house pricing, which was discussed in this entry, there’s no reason to expect anything other than small shifts in Toronto prices.)

The further consequence of this interest rate opportunity is a more balanced market for sellers. You’re not going to get what you might have a year ago, but you can expect an attractive property in Toronto to get respect in today’s market.

GTA Market Report – March 27, 2009

It’s OK to list your house

We went into 2009 knowing that it’s a buyer’s market. Statistically, there’s no doubt this is true. Nonetheless, by March things have begun to balance out. In most central MLS districts, about one house per day has been selling. Weekend open houses have been seeing lots of action, with newly-qualified first-time buyers out in force.

Fact: over 16% of the houses that sold in the last week went over list price! Again, this figure is for the Central Toronto MLS districts… samples for other areas of the GTA show less dramatic results (west of Toronto it was about 7%).

What conclusions to draw?

If you have a house to sell in central Toronto, there are plenty of buyers out right now, drawn by record-low interest rates. In the price ranges between $400,000 and $1.4 million, houses are selling daily. This is not the time to test the market to see if you can get a high price for a house… there are plenty of listings today which have been available for two, three or four months. But an attractive, well-priced house will sell. And often with multiple offers.

We’d be happy to provide you with the facts and figures that relate to your house. You can email us, or call us at 416-483-8000.

Guide to home renovation incentives

The federal government’s Home Renovation Tax Credit has focused many people’s minds on what might need doing around the house. Here’s our guide to the major rebates and tax incentives currently available to homeowners.

Home Renovation Tax Credit (Canada)

The HRTC is a temporary 15 percent tax credit that can be claimed on up to $10,000 of eligible home renovation expenditures between Jan. 27, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010. The credit will apply to the portion of eligible expenditures that exceeds $1,000 but does not exceed $10,000, up to a maximum credit of $1,350. You’ll find the FAQ page on the government’s web site here.

To gain some leverage, major companies are offering their own add-ons. RONA and Sears Canada are among the firms that have announced home renovation incentives of their own to complement the tax credit.

ecoENERGY Retrofit Program (Canada)

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is offering a new residential energy efficiency assessment service to owners of single family homes, including detached, semi-detached and low-rise multi-unit residential buildings that are no more than three storeys high. Under the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, property owners can qualify for federal grants by improving the energy efficiency of their homes and reducing their home’s impact on the environment. You’ll find a list of upgrades and available grants here.

PST Exemptions on appliances and lighting (Ontario)

Ontario is offering Provincial Sales Tax exemptions on selected appliances and lighting… till Sept. 1, 2009. Included are specific models of refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers (including inseparable clothes washer-dryer combinations), freezers, dehumidifiers and room air conditioners. You’ll find information about qualifying products here. Details about Energy Star products can be found here.

We can help you

Bring us in before you renovate! We’re always happy to assist our clients with advice on renovations. With most projects, there are aspects that add more to the resale value of your home. We can help you make appropriate decisions, based on what’s right for you.

Mayfair Goes Hawaiian

This year’s Mayfair takes us to a place that’s always warm and inviting. We’re delighted to have a featured performance by Hawaiian Pacific Magic, who will spread the Aloha spirit and teach fairgoers how to hula on our Main Stage. Even our midway attractions are getting into the Polynesian mood… The kids will be able to ride The Big Kahuna, and challenge their skills in the Finding Nemo Experience!

We’ll have a whole slew of rides brought to us by World’s Finest Shows. The history of this firm is the history of carnivals in much of Canada and the Midwest… have a look at this fascinating history of Patty Conklin, Jimmy Sullivan and the Jamieson family. This year, Worlds Finest Shows is bringing back one of their most popular attractions, the Giant Slide.

Steamwhistle Beer and Wine Garden patrons will relax to the sounds of The Intended (one of the great band titles… if you need a hint think of Lightfoot’s song, Go Go Round). The band’s leader and founder, Matt Finlayson, assures us that they have their Hawaiian shirts ready!

The 63rd annual Rosedale-Moore Park Mayfair takes place May 9th in Rosedale Park.

Want to volunteer at Mayfair?

Our midway has more games and attractions this year, and I’m looking for some volunteer crews to staff them. If you’d be willing to put together a team of eight volunteers (four two-hour shifts) to operate one of the kids’ games this year, email me and I’ll give you the details. It’s fun to volunteer at Mayfair… you get to say hi to old friends and neighbours, and it gives you a good feeling!

9 Free Real Estate Services

Looking at those stories about zero-price marketing (see The Power of “Free”) got us to thinking about our own work as real estate agents. It turns out almost everything we do for our clients is, in fact, free. The one big exception, of course, is listing a property… when it sells or leases, we receive a commission. But here’s a list of things we regularly do for free:

  1. Keeping clients informed about the market.
  2. Providing information on the value of their property.
  3. Helping people adjust to their new city (or neighbourhood).
  4. Helping parents choose schools.
  5. Looking after clients’ homes when they’re away.
  6. Providing recommendations for qualified tradespeople.
  7. Linking clients with mortgage brokers and lawyers.
  8. Helping diagnose the problem with the furnace (wiring, plumbing, roof, etc.)
  9. (And here’s the big one…) Organizing clients’ search for a new home, and negotiating the eventual purchase.

From an economic point of view one can argue that the last one isn’t really free, since we typically get a share of the commission that’s paid by the seller. But that’s exactly the point about “free” services or products. You set a price at zero in the expectation that you will attract business. The consumer’s question is whether the free service provides value. In real estate, the buyer’s choice is either to get independent advice, or to forego that advice and hope to negotiate directly. And frankly, we know from experience that the value added by our buyer services exceeds the cash value of the fees, regardless of who’s paying them.

The larger point here is that in our industry there’s a lot of free service being provided. And I’m sure that similar relationship efforts are typical in other service fields. Jeff Jarvis, author of WWGD (What Would Google Do?), makes the point that businesses across the entire spectrum need to reconsider their models of pricing and delivery in light of the Internet. He writes that what “we’re living through is … a great restructuring of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships – how we are linked and intertwined and how we act, nothing less than that.”