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Do you ever wonder . . . what does a real estate agent REALLY do for you when you’re buying a home?

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There’s a good reason why most buyers and sellers hire real estate agents when they’re looking to make a real estate transaction. This post is the first in a two-part series that looks at the finer details of the realtor’s function in the home-buying or home-selling process.

Here are 5 things your real estate agent does for you:

A real estate agent provides an expert appraisal. If you price your home too high, it may sit on the market for a long time and won’t attract buyers. An expert real estate agent has access to years’ worth of MLS data and will be able to use neighbourhood comparables and current trends to arrive at the right price for your home – and a marketing strategy to go with it.

A real estate agent markets your property to the right potential buyers. One of the most important aspects of the selling process is marketing – but not just to anyone. A knowledgeable real estate agent will know how to target their marketing efforts to the right potential buyers. They’ll understand how to use demographic and psychographic segmentation to build a buyer profile, and know how to reach those buyers via a variety of tools including flyers, print advertising and social media. They might even have one of their own buyers waiting in the wings to purchase your home!

A real estate agent project-manages the process. Selling a home is a process that involves a lot of moving parts and deadlines. It’s not just about taking photos and putting them up on the MLS. Here are some of the pieces your agent can project-manage for you: appraisal and pricing, pre-listing repairs on your home, staging, infrared floor plans, writing a compelling description of your home, professional photos, virtual tour, social media marketing, feature sheets, flyer delivery… the list goes on and on!

A real estate agent negotiates for you. Selling your own home is a bit like representing yourself in court: it’s possible, but most people don’t do it because they know there’s a good reason to have an expert on your side. Your real estate agent knows all the details of the law and government policy and is a trained negotiator. Even if you did decide to sell your home in a private sale, the buyer most likely has his or her own agent (it’s free to work with an agent as a buyer, after all), which puts you at a disadvantage.

A real estate agent manages the paperwork. From listing to offer to closing, any real estate agent knows that the process is paperwork-intensive. Your real estate agent will spend offer night negotiating the best price and terms for you, and ensuring that all paperwork is accurate, legal and binding. It’s a labour-intensive process that requires incredible knowledge and precision.

Has your real estate agent ever gone above and beyond for you? Let us know in the comments.

Toronto’s Modernist Trend

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It’s not just you – more buildings in Toronto really have gone modern. The clean lines, high-tech materials, and neutral colours that define the modern aesthetic have become more timeless as time goes on, and “modernism” in the architectural sense has developed a following all its own.

To what can we attribute this trend? Well, one influence may be Mad Men. The award-winning AMC drama series pays meticulous attention to mid-century modern fashion and design, and the results of its popularity are visible everywhere from boutiques to antique stores to interior design shows. Mid-century modern is simply everywhere, so it’s no surprise that it would arrive on the architectural scene, too.  Designers are advocating for cottages and other vacation properties to take on a more modern edge as a method of saving space and energy.[1]

So, how did this trend begin?  As a design movement, modernism’s history is more complicated than you might think. The distinctively American look that came to be synonymous with modern design was actually influenced by Jewish designers fleeing Germany during the Third Reich. The stars of American design during this period, such as Saul Bass, George Nelson, Anni Albers and others, were either immigrants or second-generation Americans whose parents and families fled the tyranny of Nazism – tyranny that extended to the art world and ranked modern art as “degenerate.”[2]

Examples of Toronto modernism are all over town. The Wolf House is one of the best known[3], because its designer Barton Myers received the Architectural Record House of the Year Award for Wolf House in 1977.  Even with its more recent design updates and upgrades, the house was still the Toronto Life House of the Week in November 2012, when it was represented by Donna and Nick Thompson of Harvey Kalles Real Estate.[4]

Another example is this luxury studio outfitted with a more modern redesign to help it function as a working and living space. Thanks to an update from Wonder Inc. and architect Anthony Provenzano, it now features a green rooftop and more sustainable materials.[5]

No discussion of Toronto’s modernist trend would be complete without mentioning Superkül, designers of some of Toronto’s most eye-catching properties.[6] From the SPLIT House[7] to SHIFT Cottage[8], Superkül is doing some of the most exciting design work in Toronto and the GTA to date.

So, the next time you think of a modern re-design for your home, don’t worry about how it will date. In truth, it may turn out to be more timeless and classic than you can imagine.

[1] http://aol.it/1l0gE9r

[2] http://bitly.com/1urRYhw

[3] http://thewolfhouse.ca/

[4] http://www.torontolife.com/informer/toronto-real-estate/2012/11/14/house-of-the-week-51-roxborough-drive/

[5] http://modto.com/settled-in-the-studio-an-artist-livework-space-by-wonder-inc-and-anthony-provenzano/

[6] http://superkul.ca/about/publications/

[7] http://superkul.ca/projects/split-house/

[8] http://superkul.ca/projects/shift-cottage/

What has happened to Toronto’s skyline? Condos!

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Every day, the rise of condo towers across the city continues unchecked.

In fact, 60% of housing starts in the GTA over the past five years have been high-rise developments.

With so many units on the market, it’s no surprise that buyers are building equity in a space they can call home. Toronto’s rental market has exploded and prices are high enough to make frustrated renters consider purchasing their own units. As well, Toronto’s pool of available semi- and detached homes, especially in the downtown core, is dwindling. The shrinking number of homes means that prices have risen. It’s basic supply and demand.

Experts have predicted that prices will continue to rise for the rest of 2014. TD Bank suggests an increase of up to five or six percent. That is great news for the condo market, and experts at Scotiabank expect an upturn in condo sales as a result.

Of course, that’s not the only way in which the escalation in housing prices has benefited the condo market. As downsizers take advantage of a seller’s market, they are moving into luxury condos. This situation creates a mix of demographics in condo buildings, and a change in the condo culture as more experienced homeowners join boards and community groups.

Condo prices in Toronto have remained stable and have not seen the stratospheric growth apparent in other areas of the market. This makes condo purchasing attractive, especially for first-time buyers who want modern, luxury amenities and access to transit-friendly areas downtown.

So, if you have been contemplating a condo, get out there and take a look! Hang up those rakes and shovels, and flex your fingers to push elevator buttons instead.

[1] http://www.thestar.com/business/real_estate/2014/06/20/new_home_condos_sales_see_pickup_in_2014.html

[2] http://bitly.com/1gRvSAZ

[3] http://bitly.com/1pOVQuz

[4] http://bitly.com/1oiFYuT

[5] http://on.thestar.com/PaDXFx

Holding Back & Bullies in the Real Estate Playground

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If you are familiar with Toronto’s real estate market, you are probably also familiar with the practice of “holding back” offers. What does “holding back” mean? And what are the pros and cons of doing so?

To “hold back offers” simply means to set a date on which offers will be reviewed.  When agents hold back offers, they usually list the home at a below market price in order to create market excitement. It is part of the strategy of under-pricing properties to encourage a multiple-offer situation in order get a higher selling price for the owner. It typically happens in markets like Toronto – sellers’ markets – where a small number of properties are available and multiple-offer situations for good homes are likely.

Holding back offers on a property often involves showing a home for a week or more when realtors and prospective buyers can view the property. This sometimes means staging the home and keeping it in “show ready” condition for a week or more, which can be hard for the owner to maintain – many owners move into a hotel for the week!  However, this strategy also means that prospective buyers can apply for mortgages and conduct home inspections in advance of the offer date so that they can bring their best offers forward.  It may reduce the chances of a deal falling through due to financing or other issues.

While this is primarily a marketing strategy designed to help sellers, prospective buyers can help themselves by asking their sales reps to present a “bully” offer with a quick expiration date before the offer hold-back period ends. This pressures sellers to make a quick decision on the bully offer.  The biggest risk of holding back offers is that it may backfire: potential buyers may be turned off by the strategy or may assume that the home will go for so much over asking that they won’t even bother putting in an offer.

However, if you are living in a high-value area or a market with limited supply, holding back offers can be the best strategy.  It’s a potent tool for creating buzz… and it may ensure you get a higher price for your home.

A decision as to whether or not to hold back offers should be made after discussion with a skilled real estate agent who knows the Toronto market, and who knows your specific micromarket[1] well. Luckily, we can help with that![2]

[1] http://www.harveykalles.com/what-real-estate-micromarkets-really-mean/

[2] http://www.harveykalles.com/agents/

Baby, it’s hot outside!!

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It’s July and as the first heat waves are rolling across Toronto, you may be wishing you had invested in last winter’s end-of-year deals on air conditioners.  But if you live in an older home, the question of how to cool it down is somewhat complicated. So, if you want to make your older home more livable in the summer months, what air conditioning method works best?

There are a few different options to consider: central air conditioning, window-mounted air conditioners, and wall-mounted ductless air conditioning.  All of them have pros and cons, and their value to you will depend on how much time you actually spend in your home over the summer months and what your budget will allow.

For example, a new central air conditioning retrofit to an older home will easily run over $10,000. You will recoup about 80% of the expense in your resale price should you choose to sell, but you’ll be spending additional money on duct cleaning, air filters, and general maintenance in the meantime.

Window-mounted air conditioners are noisy and a pain to install. They need to be changed with the season, which requires heavy lifting and often some shimming in the window unit itself.  They can make all the difference in isolated rooms of a house, but even the quietest models make some noise. The good news is that they are now more powerful than ever, and come with easy-to-read displays and a suite of controls that everyone can use. This Consumer Reports buying guide will help you get started.[1]

The compromise between these two methods is a wall-mounted ductless system, which patches into walls. You have probably seen units like these in hotels because they can heat or cool a room powerfully with very little energy.  They can also draw air in from the outside and de-humidify it.  Multiple models exist from companies like Fujitsu and Mitsubishi and most come with remote controls.

Bob Vila of This Old House is the definitive authority on how to retrofit older homes with newer technologies.   He points out that there are multiple factors to consider when installing a new air conditioning system into an older home.[2]

  1. The electrical system.  If your home has knob-and-tube wiring, it may not provide enough electricity to power newer air conditioning models. Central air conditioners need between 20 and 50 amps of power, which old-fashioned wiring is unable to provide.  So before you install a central air system, you should consult an electrician. And even if you’re installing a window or wall-mounted unit, an older home that sustains 60 amps of power total still might not be enough to meet those needs.
  2. The size.  No matter what type of air conditioning system you choose, it should be fitted tightly to the house with adequate sealing around all ducts, vents, and fittings.  Too many gaps and you have problems with humidity, noise, and loss of cool air.  This is especially important for wall-mounted units that are patched into existing walls. Wall-mounted units (or “ductless” air conditioners) can be used as fans, heaters or air conditioners, and while they may not pump heat or cool air throughout an entire house, they can make all the difference in any room where the need for comfortable temperatures is paramount.  Also, they use less electricity.[3]
  3. How the home holds heat or cool air. Installing a new air conditioning system will only get you so far if your home has leaky windows and poor insulation. It can be worth it to look at your home through a thermal camera to find hotspots or other areas where air is leaking in or out so you can repair the damage before installing one of these systems.

[1] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/air-conditioners/buying-guide.htm

[2] http://www.bobvila.com/articles/439-new-air-conditioning-for-old-houses/

[3] http://canadianhomeworkshop.com/6265/home-renovations/ductless-air-conditioning%E2%80%94a-better-way-to-keep-cool

 

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