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Strait up advice for encouraging strong offers and a quicker home sale

A good cleaning and de-cluttering before the sign goes on the lawn is essential in setting the right tone with potential buyers who will be scrutinizing all aspects of your home when they visit. This alone though won't likely be enough to bring in maximum dollar potential from your home's sale. What then are the magic bullets that will bring the buyers to the table and keep them there to the rightful conclusion of negotiations? 
Cleaning, painting, purging and sticking a bouquet of flowers on the dining room table are all good, but buyers are most concerned with the bones of your house, not just the skin. You want them to be focusing on how their furnishing will fit in and how they will decorate as they walk through your home, not making a to do list and adding up the additional cash they are going to have to spend on improvements.

Things that often cause home buyers to pass on a home or try and use to negotiate a lower sale price:

Windows: Replacing windows that are more than 20 year old, especially wood framed windows that have deteriorated, will eliminate one of the bigger red flags buyers often raise. A compromise is to replace any panes that are broken or are fogged because the seals are broken. A scraper, some caulking, wood filler and a fresh coat of paint can give wood frames extended life. At the very least clean your windows! Dirty paint marked windows only leave buyers wondering what else is being ignored.

Roofs & eaves troughs: Buyers don't want to be putting out thousands of dollars for a new roof soon after buying their new home. If the condition of your roof is detracting from the appeal of the house, chances are you will pay for it regardless, as it is likely to impact on the quality of offers you receive. Your home's roof is one of the first things buyers notice as they pull up and it can set the tone for the rest of the showing. The majority of potential buyers will move on to the next home on their search list when the roof is in need of replacing. Additionally it is a good idea to replace or repair damaged or loose flashing, fascia and eaves troughs and insure that they are clean and doing their job protecting the interior of the house from the elements and diverting water away from the home.

Bannisters & deck rails: Aside from a potential safety issue, loose rails or bannisters can give many the impression of an uncared for home. Around a third of inspection reports I see list wobbly railings and bannisters as an issue. It doesn't take much to fix them and isn't worth the risk of having them impact on what a buyer is willing to pay.

Basements: I have had many good showings fall apart when we reach the basement and there is that unmistakable musty smell and damp feel. Often you don't see the source of the moisture which then leads to mould concerns with potential buyers. Moisture meters and infra red cameras that many of the better home inspectors use can usually pinpoint sources of moisture or water penetration into a homes foundation. It is best to have the source identified and the problem corrected before listing.Often the remedy is a reworking of sunk in ground around the home's parimetre so that water is directed away rather than towards the home when it rains. Repositioning or extending of downspouts may be all that is required. If left unchecked over time you may find yourself faced with a much more expensive task of having to trench the exterior of the foundation and install a membrane and or reparge the concrete. Many basements are just damp by nature. In this case, running dehumidifiers will eliminate much of the dampness and odor. If odors persists, you should be able to eliminate them completely (not just mask them) by running an ozone generator for a day or two. There are many companies that offer this service.


Flooring: A generation that represents more than half of all buyers today puts carpeting in the same category as 8-track stereos and wood paneling. New flooring can refashion your home from looking like the set of the Brady Bunch into a more stylish up to date pad that first time buyers can envision themselves living in. New hardwood or engineered flooring can be installed inside of a day in most average sized homes and there are always sales to be found on flooring materials.


Lighting: Replace the dim and burned out bulbs and brighten up your home with new energy efficient lighting fixtures that create a contemporary appeal. Dimly lit homes and original builders grade fixtures don't inspire buyers.


Summary

Think hard on replacing or repairing where required. Once we have lived in a home for a number of years there is a tendancy to see only the things we need to see day in day out. What lies between the bed, the bathroom and the coffee pot in the kitchen goes unnoticed at 7am and many of the things that may have slowly deteriorated or become outdated over time get filtered out.


Bring in some fresh eyes before you list. Get the advise and opinions of friends you trust to be strait up with you. Bring in a Realtor, a home stager/decorator, inspector and ask for their critiques. Make a list of the feedback and suggestions and set to work on making your home saleable, or be prepared to be given a list of fixes revealed in the buyer's home inspector report, and expected to be completed by you before closing. You will be able to absorb many if not all improvement costs within the price you can then ask for your home. The quality of offers you receive and the time it takes to sell hangs in the balance.


Barrie to downtown Toronto in under 30 minutes?

For some time a number of Asian and European countries have had passenger rail systems with top speeds of more than 280kph. If Barrie and Toronto were connected by way of high-speed rail, the entire stretch would effectively become a bustling economic corridor with business expanding along its length.

Barriers of time and distance that define our economic limits today in south central Ontario would become obsolete. Municipalities connected to this transportation system would evolve into a singular, economically stronger, more productive, more environmentally friendly entity. The cost to construct would be significant, but would pale by comparison to the socio-economic costs that lay ahead for us all without it.

High-speed rail lines are known to strengthen labour markets, broaden access and enrolment in post secondary education, smooth out and evolve housing markets, enable technology clusters and bolster the tourism and consumer markets of communities they link up. When correlated, the arguments supporting high speed rail and the issues that plague government which would be addressed or eliminated by it become so apparent one wonders where the collective heads of our political leadership have been for the past quarter century or longer.


Barrie and the GTA are connected by unpredictable 60 plus year old roadways and a resurrected diesel fuelled passenger rail line. Over the past 50 years the Barrie area's population and percentage of residents relying on the GTA for employment have increased many times over and will continue to climb. Toronto's growing housing crisis is pushing more people to live in outlying regions. All the while our government distracts itself with obsolete band-aide measures to keep our antiquated and overburdened transport systems functioning in Ontario.

A high-speed rail line between Barrie and Toronto will likely never happen in my lifetime. In the past century we built the Panama Canal, linked the Great lakes for shipping, connected our coasts with highways and railroads, went to the moon and made space our own backyard. We used to dream big and then we acted on those dreams. 

Today innovation and inspiration take a back seat in our political houses to bickering endlessly over what used to be mere distractions with simple solutions. At all levels it seems we have lost much of our ability to dream big. We have become more indifferent and cynical. The time to "do the other things" as JFK attempted to inspire more than half a century ago is long overdue.

Real Estate remains a solid investment in Barrie

Two long time investor clients of mine decided recently it was time to sell the four homes they had purchased in Allandale and East Barrie with my assistance over the past decade and a half. The properties this husband and wife team had purchased contained upper and lower registered two bedroom suites. Each one contributed to the leverage they required at the time, to purchase the next. 

The time and effort they invested in physical maintenance and best serving the needs of those who where their tenants over a 10 to 14 year span would be indemnified by market values of each property more than doubling, and mortgages all but paid out from rents collected. Their invested down payments of under one hundred thousand dollars collectively had reached a maturity value of over a million and a half. 

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Some would take the money and run as the song goes, my clients have higher ambitions with plans to roll that equity into building a 15 to 25 unit apartment. Historically with real estate investment in Canada, the numbers invariably appear more daunting with each new decade. Those having the right blend of poise, patience and prudence recognize this to be a filter rather than a barrier.

It is worth noting that the properties my clients bought, held, and then sold had each doubled in value over the time their previous owners held them as well. That first step into real estate investment can be as challenging as it is foreboding. Matching a good team of professionals to council and assist with one's own persistence are essential ingredients of successful real estate investment. Applied over time, momentum eventually takes hold and the seemingly unattainable can become yours.


Busy is always better

 A report I read this week disturbed me some, though it did not surprise me to any great degree. It was a third party breakdown of Realtor® activity by the 50,010 members of TREB, Canada's largest and possibly most active Real Estate Board. The report was a break down of licensed Realtors® by number of deals performed in 2017, which as many know, was one of the busiest years on record for real estate transactions in Southern Ontario.

The corresponding chart within the report showed that of the 50,010 TREB members, 38 of them did 100 or more transactions in 2017. That volume level is more often than not achieved by real estate teams working under the banner of one agent so the face value of this statistic is hard to gauge. None the less, those 38, and their team members had a rewarding year given the average price of homes within the GTA.

As the number of transactions decrease on the chart, the number of corresponding agents grows. The last line, the one that caused me to do a double take, was the number of TREB agents who did one or fewer trades in 2017, which was 25657, or roughly half of all licensed Realtors® working under the Toronto Real Estate Board. Broken down further, of those 25657 agents, 17,313, or 34.6% did not do a single transaction last year. 

Keep in mind this is a pretty expensive club to belong to if your best efforts amount to waiting for a divorce in the family or for your parents to transition to the seniors home in order to make a sale!

These numbers are representative of one real estate board but I would speculate this pattern repeats throughout the Province. As a consumer these numbers may seem inconsequential on the surface but consider that when selecting a Realtor® to represent you on your real estate needs, one of the priority qualifications is the level of experience that agent has.

I want to know my mechanic has serviced more than zero cars in the past year, and I would take some comfort in knowing as I settle back into the chair that mine is not the first mouth my dentist has peered into since before Barack Obama left office. The same standards should be applied when selecting a Realtor®.

Know the questions to ask when interviewing candidates to be your next Realtor®. Chances are this will be among the largest financial decisions you will make in a lifetime. Having someone with the experience to negotiate and guide you through the process is vital to the outcome.

Barrie to GTA commute has changed over the years

Throughout my school years my alarm clock went off about two hours after my father's. By the time my feet hit the floor Dad was far off somewhere in the GTA plying his trade until he got back in his car at the end of the workday to make the drive back to Barrie.

Five days a week, winter, spring, summer and fall, and I don't ever recall him complaining about the two or more hours each day he spent inside the bubble of a 72 Chevy Nova with just an am radio to keep him company, a commute that was quite different then, than it is today.

It was a common sight when I was a boy to see cars pulled off along the side of the highway, a driver standing arms folded in front of a raised hood with steam billowing out from beneath, or crouched in the gravel along side, jack in hand changing a tire as cars flew by just an arm's length away.

This is something we rarely see today with our intuitive and more reliable 21st century cars, and drivers that spring for new models every few years, sooner than run the same car until it gasps its last dying breath. Having an odometer with more mileage on it than an Apollo spacecraft is no longer the point of pride it was for my parent's generation.

High housing prices that drop dramatically as you get further away from the GTA are putting more distance between home and work for growing numbers. Barrie's commuter population is climbing, though that drive gets more comfortable for many with each new car model year.


Reliability aside, cars have evolved into pampering mobile living environments in my lifetime. Ergonomically correct, form fitting, heated leather bucket seats wrapping one in luxury that can be positioned countless ways at the push of a button or two, making that cold hard fabric bench seat Dad sat on ten or more hours a week seem like something from a Guantanamo Bay interrogation room.

The company of Dad's crackly am radio carrying CKBB Barrie until it began fading out just south of Bradford was no comparison to the 10 speaker full spectrum of studio quality sound and the convenience of voice command instant access to every song recorded since the dawn of time that rides along with me today.

Your road trip today is a moving concert venue, or a mind expanding mobile university if one prefers the countless spoken word options available by podcast, e-books and satellite radio. The idea of placing or receiving a phone call from within a car was not that long ago the stuff of science fiction; today we are connected to the world from within our horseless carriages where ever we go. A one or two hour drive is now an uninterrupted opportunity to connect with family, friends or clients.

Time spent commuting is still considered a chore by many though I would encourage all to take a moment to appreciate that one's car is now one of the more productive and stimulating week day environments to find ourselves within in our fast paced lives.