Monday 8 December 2014

November 2014 Housing Starts in Hamilton CMA

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 8, 2014) - Housing starts in Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) were trending down at 2,903 units in November compared to 3,270 units in October, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The trend is a six month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR)(1) of housing starts.

"The trend in Hamilton CMA total housing starts declined in November 2014, mostly due to weaker apartment construction. In fact, no apartment starts occurred anywhere in the Hamilton CMA. Meanwhile, townhouse starts were up significantly in November 2014. This month marked the seventh consecutive monthly gain in townhouse starts. A tight resale market, with listings of affordable homes in short supply, is encouraging home buyers to buy new townhouses, which are a more affordable ground-oriented home type," said Abdul Kargbo, CMHC's Senior Market Analyst for Hamilton and Brantford CMAs.

Thursday 13 November 2014

What makes a good home inspector?

When you're looking at a list of home inspectors - whether from your agent or from a Google search - and making some calls to see who you feel comfortable using, there are some very basic criteria you'll probably be looking for.

One of the obvious ones is their education and certification. Do they have specific and sufficient education related to inspecting homes or are they just a general contractor moonlighting ion te inspection business?  Do they belong to a professional home inspection association with a published set of standards, both in terms of practice and educational requirements?  While you'll still get a mix, just like in any business, industry-specific education and certification go a long way in ensuring an inspector will know their stuff.

The next obvious one is experience.  Do they have enough experience to put things in context?  An inexperienced home inspector may not be able to adequately judge the seriousness of an issue.  Of course, there is no guarantee, but an inspector who has more than a few inspections under their belt will have seen enough to be able to pick up on things that a brand new inspector might not.

One final point, though, which is not as obvious and somewhat difficult to judge ahead of time is their ability to communicate and explain issues.  If an inspector does not adequately explain just how serious something is or give an idea of what is involved with fixing the problem, then even little issues can be magnified by the human imagination to be very serious and expensive issues.

If you're working with an agent you trust to take care of your best interests, then ask them to recommend a couple of inspectors to call.  After being on an inspection or two with a specific inspector, an agent will have a feel for how well they fit these three general qualities.

(Side note:  if you're not working with an agent you trust to take care of your best interests in recommending an inspector, what on earth are you doing?)

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Do listing photos matter?

Do listing photos matter?  Well, of course they do, right?  Everyone wants to see as many pictures as they can before they go see a house.

From seller perspective, I would definitely agree that pictures matter. Buyers browsing listings on the internet are far more inclined to skip a listing that has only an exterior front shot, so some real estate companies even have an internal policy that they won't accept a listing without a minimum number of interior pictures. 

There are exceptions, of course, such as rental properties with tenants who would prefer not to have their privacy violated with interior pictures including all their belongings.  But other than logical explanations like that, buyers will assume there is some reason you are not including photos, such as poor condition of the interior.

The only thing you have to remember about interior pictures is that they are not likely to sell the house on their own.  Few buyers will put in an offer without seeing a house first, so bear in mind that the intent of any marketing material is to get buyers into the house to make a decision. To that end, quality of pictures matters at least as much as quantity. 

But from a buyer perspective, I would advise some caution in putting too much stock into listing pictures.  While there are not too many situations with really deceptive modifications going on, there is getting to be a lot of "processing" on listing photos.  This can range from simple image quality adjustments or HDR photography to photo-shopping in blue skies because it was a grey and cloudy day when the agent or photographer was at the house.  Some of these photos can appear a bit surreal (to borrow a word actually used by a buyer client of mine).

Have a look at the pictures, but try not to prejudge too firmly- if the listing matches your budget, needs, and wants, go and have a look at it.  You have no idea how many times I have gone on showings with a buyer client and the house we thought best based on the pictures turned out to be the worst, and the worst ended up being the one they loved the most.

Monday 10 November 2014

October 2014 Housing Starts in Hamilton CMA

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 10, 2014) - Housing starts in Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) were trending at 3,257 units in October, remaining stable compared to 3,293 units in September, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The trend is a six month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR)(1) of housing starts.

"While the trend in Hamilton total housing starts remained unchanged in October 2014, strength varied by dwelling type. A tight resale market, with listings of affordable homes in short supply, is encouraging home buyers to buy new. Townhouse starts were up for the sixth consecutive month in October, indicating that those buying in the affordable price ranges are turning to this more affordable ground-oriented home type in the new home market," said Abdul Kargbo, CMHC's Senior Market Analyst for Hamilton and Brantford CMAs.

Friday 10 October 2014

No down payment? No problem!

Everyone "knows" you absolutely have to have a down payment now because 100% mortgages are not available anymore, right?  Wrong!

While banks can no longer offer 100% mortgages because of restrictions on the mortgage insurance program, credit unions can.  The key difference is that banks are federally regulated while credit unions are provincially regulated, and this affects what the federally-regulated mortgage insurers can and can't do for each.  This small difference allows credit unions to use a cashback mortgage to give buyers the full purchase price at the time of closing, while banks can not.

A cashback mortgage for the full price is where the registered mortgage is 95% and then the credit union loans you the 5% down payment. There are terms in the mortgage requiring repayment of this loan if you sell of course, and the interest rate may be a bit higher -- but with where interest rates are today, the rate on a cashback is still better than the best rate was when I bought my house.

Unfortunately, the credit unions do expect their regulation to be changed and there is no definite timeframe on it, but for now these cashback mortgages as 100% financing are still available.

If you don't want to keep paying rent and have been thinking about buying a new house but don't have a down payment, get in touch with me and let's talk.  I would be happy to put you in touch with a mortgage professional who can help you explore this option.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Selling real estate and personal safety

Thinking about selling your own house?  Ever thought about how you're going to ensure personal safety?  Probably not, but personal safety is an often overlooked concern in the real estate market.

Every day you're going to get calls from people who want to have a look at the house, and if you're selling on you're own, it will have to be you.  You don't know who these people are, but you'll be meeting with them and taking them into your home out of the public eye, putting yourself into a potentially more dangerous situation then you might realize.

It's not like something bad happens every day, but because we are regularly meeting complete strangers in non-public settings, personal safety is enough of a concern in this business that the real estate associations have member guides specifically for personal safety.  Many real estate professionals have strict policies in place for personal safety, such as insisting on meeting new buyers at their office before showing them any properties.

For-sale-by-owner companies might prefer you to believe that this is just self-interested fear-mongering.  But you better consider some of the personal risks as well as the strictly monetary side of things.  Don't take my word for it, though, look at some real stories that have happened.

There is the recent kidnapping and killing of Beverly Carter that has left her family and community devastated; Lindsay Buziak's still-unsolved murder; and the brutal slaying of Devinder Kumar that traumatized police involved with the case.  And although it is not real estate related, we have a local example of tragic results from the private selling process with the Tim Bosma case.  All he did was advertise g a truck for sale on Kijiji (something many private real estate sellers might do as well!), and his life was ended by complete strangers.

If you'd like to talk more about personal safety in the real estate business, or any other aspect of the home-selling process, give me a call or email and let's have a chat.

Friday 3 October 2014

New Monthly Record Set

(October 3 – Hamilton, Ontario)  The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) reported 1286 property sales processed through the RAHB Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) system in September.  This represents a seven per cent increase in sales compared to September of last year.   

There were 2017 properties listed in September, an increase of 2.3 per cent over the same month last year.  End-of-month listing inventory was 10.3 per cent lower than last year at the same time.

“Sales were the highest we’ve seen for the month of September, ever,” said RAHB President Tim Mattioli. “The strong market seen through the summer is continuing into the fall.”

Seasonally adjusted* sales of residential properties were less than one per cent higher than the same month last year, with the average sale price up 5.3 per cent for the month.  Seasonally adjusted numbers of new listings were 1.7 per cent lower than the same month last year.

Seasonally adjusted data for residential properties for the month of September, 2014:

Seasonally Adjusted                                        Percentage change compared to
Residential Only        Sep/14         Aug/14       Jul/14         Jun/14           May/14         Sep/13
New Listings
Average Sale Price

Actual overall residential sales were 6.7 per cent higher than the previous year at the same time.  Residential freehold sales were four per cent higher than last year while sales in the condominium market saw an increase of 19.9 per cent. 

“The condominium market in particular saw a big jump in sales,” said Mattioli.  “With new listings at about the same level as last year and sales being almost 20 per cent higher than last year, there were considerably fewer condo listings in inventory at the end of the month.”

The average price of freehold properties showed an increase of 4.8 per cent compared to the same month last year; the average sale price in the condominium market increased 17 per cent when compared to the same period last year.

The average sale price is based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold in the RAHB market area.  Average sale price information can be useful in establishing long term trends, but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value.

The average days on the market decreased from 44 to 38 days in the freehold market and increased from 42 to 44 days in the condominium market when compared to the same month last year.

Year to date, listings are 1.9 per cent higher than the same January-to-September period a year ago.  Sales are 6.4 per cent higher and the average sale price is 5.5 per cent higher for the period.

The numbers for the month of September, 2014 compared to September, 2013:

All Property Types                                    2013                      2014                 % Change 
Average Sale Price
End of Month Listing Inventory

Residential Only
Median Sale Price
Average Sale Price
Average Days on Market

End of Month Listing Inventory

Freehold Only
Median Sale Price
Average Sale Price
Average Days on Market

End of Month Listing Inventory

Condominium Only
Median Sale Price
Average Sale Price
Average Days on Market

End of Month Listing Inventory

Commercial Only

Every community in RAHB’s market area has its own localized residential market.  Please refer to the accompanying chart for residential market activity in select areas in RAHB’s jurisdiction.

*Seasonal adjustment removes normal seasonal variations, enabling analysis of monthly changes and fundamental trends in the data. 

Established in 1921, the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) represents more than 2,700 real estate brokers and sales representatives from Hamilton, Burlington and outlying areas. Members of the association may use the REALTOR® trademark, which identifies them as real estate professionals who subscribe to a strict code of ethics. The association operates the local Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) and provides ongoing professional education courses for its members. In addition, RAHB is an active participant in the Home Ownership Affordability Partnership (HOAP) and holds an annual auction in support of local charities. Advertisements of local MLS® property listings and information about the services provided by a REALTOR®  can be found at  More information about RAHB is available at

Blowing bubbles

Many of us remember blowing bubbles as children (or more recently with our own children). It's a fun activity with no lasting results, inspiring contests to see who can blow the biggest bubble.

I would like to thank the Financial Post for comparing this childhood activity to the writings of authors looking to cash in on consumer fear in an article examining the phenomenon of  books predicting a real estate market crash.

In a very similar fashion, the authors seem to compete for who can make the scariest predictions and sell the most books off of the resulting "ohmygosh" moment they get for it.   But so far, these doomsayers have been a flash in the pan every time.

Folks like this have been calling for a imminent market crash since 2007.  They have been wrong.  And wrong.  And wrong again.  They'll keep going until a downturn that would be common in any kind of marketplace comes and they can point and say "aha!".

The really sad thing is that fear can drive an open market, so when that normal cyclical downturn comes, it maybe exaggerated because people will start to think these economic prophets are right.

Don't buy the hype.  Ignore them.  Or at least take it all with a grain of salt.  Make wise investments if you're an investor, focusing on cashflow.  When it comes to personal home ownership, you have to live somewhere, so don't worry excessively about what the market is going to do to short term values - in the long term there is no reason to think they will not recover.  Just work with a buyers' agent that will give you solid advice and an informed opinion on current market value.

And remember: in the end, as long as you have a roof over your head, you're doing better than a lot of people so why fret unnecessarily?

Saturday 2 August 2014

#HamOnt Market Snapshopt: July 20-26

Greater Hamilton Area* stats this week
Total Sales: 193
Average Price: $339,112
Avg Days On Market: 33

Sales continue at a high pace, similar to typical Spring market conditions, with average price continuing to hover midway between $300,000 and $350,000.  Average time on market also continues to be a bit quicker-than-usual at 33 days for the average sale (typical balanced market conditions are 40-45 days).

*GHA includes Hamilton, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Stoney Creek, Waterdown.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

What is the difference between a condo and a co-op?

We need to clarify between the terms co-op and condo, because many people interchange them and they are similar in some ways, but very very different animals in the end.

While both are incorporated entities, the big difference is that with a condo you actually own a portion of the property as per the condiminium's design. You OWN the unit, and it is registered on title at the land registry office. You also own a share in the corporation, and thus you effectively own the rest of the property "in common" with the other owners. This is why it is known as the "common element".

With a co-op, however, you do not own any property. You only own shares in the corporation, and those shares come with a right to use a certain unit. But you do NOT own the unit, as the units are not legally distinguished from the overall property the way they are in a condo. The co-op corporation owns the entire property, and you are given rights to use a portion of it. The most significant challenge is that because you can't register the ownership in land titles, you can't get a standard mortgage.

Unless you have a line of credit big enough or other collateral, the only financing you can get is basically a personal loan secured against the value of the shares. There are not a lot of lenders that do this, and of course it's harder to qualify than with a mortgage that is secured on title. I feel that this is a big reason why a co-op tends to be cheaper than a similar condo - the financing makes it harder for most to buy, thus reducing the market for them. This may also hold back the appreciation in the long run.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Does it matter if you use a local REALTOR® to sell?

Does it matter if you use a local REALTOR®, as opposed to an agent or company from out-of-town? I would answer this question in two parts.

First, there is the general “buy local” argument – local real estate agents are essentially local small businesses. Because they are far more likely to spend their money locally than an out-of-towner, when you support them you support your local economy.

But beyond the intangible “buy local” philosophy, there is one very good reason why you need to be careful about listing with a company based outside of your area, regardless of whether it is a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) company or a full service agent. 

Friday 4 July 2014

Listings and Sales Up But Inventory Still Low

(July 4, 2014 – Hamilton, Ontario)  The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) reported 1572 property sales were processed through the RAHB Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) system in June.  This represents a 15.6 per cent increase in sales compared to June of last year.   

Thursday 3 July 2014

Guest blog: Getting a Mortgage Pre-Approval

If you are looking for a new home, be sure you are pre-approved. With a mortgage pre-approval, a licensed mortgage professional can do a more complete verification prior to sending you shopping for a home, and with that done, the dollar figure you are going shopping with is actually what you can spend.

The mortgage professional that you work with to get pre-approved will let you know what you can afford based on lender and insurer criteria, and what your payments on a specific mortgage will be.

Thursday 19 June 2014

New Listing @ 30 Edgehill Dr

Listed at $519,900
MLS® # H3135657
4 Bedroom, 2/1 Bathroom
Detached 2 Story House

Like new. Aprx 2676 sq ft. Corner lot on prime west mountain w/lots of windows & natural light. Oak stairs, hardwood floors ...

<More Information>

 This listing advertised co-operatively, courtesy of
RE/MAX Escarpment Realty Inc, Brokerage 

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Buy or Sell First?

"Should I buy first or sell first?" 

This is a regular question that comes up when people are planning to move, and there is both selling and buying involved.

Many real estate agents will automatically say "sell first", because that is the way they have been trained - just get the listing.  But I don't think the answer is that clear cut and can depend on your situation.

There are some definite advantages to selling first.  You will know exactly how much money you have from the sale to use as a down payment.  And you will not have to include any conditions on selling your property when you make an offer to purchase.  This can sometimes be the one negative that gets you beat if there are competing offers on the table.

The big drawback to selling first is that the pressure is on you and the clock is ticking.  If, for whatever reason, you don't find a property in time then you may find yourself forced to rent for a while.  This is certainly not the end of the world, but not everyone is okay with that outcome.  And you may find yourself paying more than you might like or settling for something less than what you had in mind.

The market conditions can play a big role in how you proceed.  If you are in a strong sellers' market, it will be easy for you to sell, theoretically making the condition on sale less of a concern. But at the same time, the sellers you want to buy from may be more reluctant to accept the condition because they know the market favours them. Then you are faced with the difficult decision as to whether you want to commit to buying without having your house sold and no condition to protect you.  (I don't recommend it, no matter how confident you are you can sell)

If you are buying in a buyers' market, then it might be easier to pitch a condition on sale on your purchase.  You just won't want to be highly speculative on your pricing to sell, or you might find the other side being less cooperative about extensions.

As always, I strongly advise discussing your strategy with a real estate professional you can trust.  And if you are going to list and sell first, you should at least be looking in the market before that happens to make sure you are seeing properties that meet your needs in your affordable price range. 

Tuesday 17 June 2014

New Listing @ 1019 Upper Wellington St

Listed at $292,000
MLS® # H3135606
3+2 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom
Detached 1 Story House

There's plenty of room in the updated central mountain bungalow. Tile floors in the kitchen, laminate in the living room & rec room ...
<More Information>

 This listing advertised co-operatively, courtesy of
RE/MAX Escarpment Realty Inc, Brokerage 

Monday 16 June 2014

New Listing: 148 Tollgate Dr, Ancaster

Listed at $699,900
MLS® # H3135437

4 Bedroom, 2/1 Bathroom
Detached 2 Story House

This spectacular executive home was built in 2007, and is approx, 3,200 sq ft of luxury living. This home is ...

<More Information>

This listing advertised co-operatively, courtesy of
RE/MAX Escarpment Realty Inc, Brokerage 

Thursday 5 June 2014

New Sales Record Set in May

(June 5, 2014 – Hamilton, Ontario)  The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) reported 1660 property sales were processed through the RAHB Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) system in May.  This represents a 4.1 per cent increase in sales compared to May of last year and sets a new record for sales in any month.