WAYNE COCHRANE’S REAL ESTATE
INSIDER June 2012
Inside this Issue: What Buyers Want in a Condominium Six Musts Before Listing Your Home Xeriscaping Gardens That Thrive on Looking After Themselves The Changing Face of Canada’s Home Improvement Retailers A Buyer’s Wish list Why Spring Listings Blossom
Wayne Cochrane...www.mooving.ca Your Neighbourhood Real Estate Professional
What Buyers Want in a Condominium Written by Jim Adair
In Toronto, there are more condos being built than in any other city in North America. Across Canada, condos projects at all price ranges are grabbing home buyers' attention and down payments. What buyers want in a condo depends partly on where they live, but there are some common themes. A recent survey by TD Canada Trust says good building security and low condo fees are the top features that buyers want. In Toronto, energy-efficient building features and attractive interior design features rank first and second in preferences, while in Vancouver it's "show me the money" â€“ low condo maintenance fees are the No. 1 preference. Also showing up in the top five of the national wish list is a balcony, parking for a car and proximity to public transit. It seems Toronto condo buyers also want to party. Contrary to the popular opinion across the country that Toronto isn't the friendliest place, 55 per cent of condo buyers say they are looking for social activities between neighbours in their condo, and a group of neighbours similar to them. In the rest of the country, just 40 per cent were interested in social activities. Women were more likely than men to want a balcony and environmentally friendly features, while men were more interested in buying a new versus resale unit. A different survey, by RBC, found that women are more likely than men to be first-time home buyers in the next two years. Vancouver research firms Strategics and MPC Intelligence, in the Metro Vancouver Condo Market Opportunities Report, list the features that draw higher-than-average standardized revenue estimates for new
condo builders. They include laminate hardwood kitchen flooring, Viking and Liebherr kitchen appliances, quartz kitchen countertops, vinyl bathroom flooring, glass door bathroom cabinets and quartz bathroom countertops. The TD Canada Trust poll says most people are drawn to condo living because they require less maintenance, are more affordable than single-family homes and offer amenities you don't get with a house. Three-quarters of those polled said that condo fees are worth the extra money to pay for these benefits. How much are they willing to pay for those fees? About a third said they would pay up to $200 per month in condo fees, 44 per cent said they would pay up to $400 and 17 per cent said they would pay up to $800. Buyers in Toronto are willing to pay the most. Because of changes in the Strata Property Act in British Columbia recently, some condo corporations may need to contribute more to their contingency reserve fund for future maintenance issues, which may mean that condo fees will go up. The survey asked condo buyers if they have a buffer built into their budget so they can handle future increases. In Vancouver, 28 per cent of buyers said they had such a buffer built in, and 36 per cent said they could cut back in other areas if necessary to pay for an increase. The numbers were similar in Toronto.
budget>.That way, if fees go up, it won't be a major shock to your cash flow. If they don't increase, you have extra money to put aside in savings or towards your mortgage." Condo buyers in Toronto don't believe the doom-and-gloom reports that the market is oversupplied and prices will soon start to drop. Fortysix per cent say recent housing forecasts have made them more likely to buy, while only 17 per cent said they are less likely. Of those Canadians who are buying condos that will not be their primary residence, 46 per cent think they are a good investment to buy now and sell later to make a profit. Another 42 per cent see the condo as a longterm source of rental income, while 38 per cent plan to rent them now for rental income and then move into the units later in life when they want to downsize. Toronto residents are the most likely to say they would consider buying a condo as a home for their adult children.
"The possibility of a fee increase can be a little unnerving," says Farhaneh Haque, a director with TD Canada Trust. "While there's no way to 'lock-in' to a monthly fee like you can with a mortgage, you can prepare for a fee increase by building a buffer into your monthly housing
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WAYNE COCHRANE’S REAL ESTATE INSIDER Six Musts Before You List Your Home Written by Carla Hill Deciding to list your home for sale is a momentous time. It means you will be moving on to a new stage of life, no matter if you’re moving up or sizing down. Take a moment to look over these tips for what every seller should do before they put their home on the market. Organize Your Paperwork: Every homeowner should have a detailed list of all past repairs, updates, and upgrades they’ve made. This will help your agent know what should be mentioned on the MLS. Did you put on a new roof in 2010 or a install a new water heater in 2009? These are great selling features because they mean less work in the future for the prospective buyer. Also included in this list should be any home warranty information. These warranties will most likely transfer with title of the home. Get Ready to Declutter: Even before you’ve officially listed your home for sale, you should start getting rid of things you don’t need. Starting now will mean a more thorough and less rushed job of clearing things out. Start with one closet and work your way through the entire home. Sort items to toss, keep, sell, and donate.
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Having a yard sale is a wonderful way of making a little extra pocket change while reducing the amount of things you’ll have in your home during showings and that you’ll need to pack up and move. It’s a win-win! Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More: Dirty homes are a real buyer turnoff. Now is a great time wash down walls, spruce up paint, and give your entire home a thorough cleaning. Do your carpets need refreshing? Consider renting a carpet shampoo machine or hiring a professional carpet cleaning company to come in and revamp your carpets. Chances are buyers will ask for this anyway come closing time. You’ll beat them to the punch and have a shiny, sparkling home to show for it. Get an Inspection: Did you think inspections were only for buyers? Having a pre-sale inspection can mean identifying problem areas. Perhaps you’re unaware that your foundation needs repaired. This will severely affect your listing price. It’s best to be prepared and realistic in today’s market. Make Repairs or Get Estimates: Your inspection will likely leave you with a list of repairs, large and small, that need made. Keep in mind that prospective
buyers will also get an inspection of your home and will find these same issues. Head them off at the pass and do some fixing up. You may wish to go ahead with large repairs. If not, be sure to at least get estimates so you are fully prepared for negotiations (you’ll know what the real cost should be) or so you can provide the estimates for buyers. Start Staging: Staging is like prepping your home for its first date. You want to have it clean and well-dressed. This means amping up curb appeal with neat landscaping, fresh paint, and flowers. It means rearranging furniture and removing clutter. Congratulations on deciding to list your home for sale. Be proactive about making a good first step by following these tried and true tips. !
Xeriscaping Gardens That Thrive on Looking After Themselves Written by PJ Wade As a futurist, my efforts to help others see new possibilities in their future are often undermined by qwerty or "we’ve always done it this way" thinking. Sometimes, taking a fresh look at the familiar, the certain, is a great introduction to the benefits and ease of a shift in thinking in other areas. At this time of year, the garden is very familiar and much-loved territory for many property owners. In spite of the dazzling new plants and garden accessories that capture our imagination each year, qwerty may be the culprit that is keeping too many gardeners and their gardens in the 20th Century when watering was the big job. When you prepare to rethink something familiar, focus on limiting or rare resources first. They may physically or financially limit improvement, and, therefore, require the most creative problem-solving. Water is a limiting factor in many parts of the country already, but availability and cost of this taken-for-granted essential will be an increasing concern in this century. Qwerty in the garden materializes in many ways, including: Water has been the almost-free resource for so long, it is not automatically considered as financially-limiting. Homeowners on flat-rate billing will get a cost shock when their municipality moves them to increasinglyexpensive pay-for-use metering—which it will. The environmental issues related to using expensive drinking water to keep lawns and gardens flourishing has led to rain-barrel alternatives for some homeowners, but too many are still missing the conservation point. The current interior decorating mania distracts homeowners from nature-driven garden design. Applying interior colour scheme ideas to gardens, ignores an important water reality: plants of the same colour often have very different moisture requirements. Regularly soaking plants is considered essential to a beautiful garden. For most homeowners, one wilted plant signals it’s time to water everything. In fact, that wilted plant may be the only greenery needing a drink. The rest will suffer from over-watering. Gardens are not homogeneous environments. Most gardens
have wet spots and dry spots, and everything in between. Do you understand the water pattern of your garden? Do you deliberately plant water-loving plants in wet areas and droughtresistant in dry corners? Or, are you intent on how things look and will water like mad to artificially keep the plants happy? Xeriscaping Grows with Experience After experienced nursery worker Marjorie Mason took possession of the 2-acre country property she bought in the dead of winter in 1993, she discovered that key assumptions she’d made about the land were wrong. "I assumed good soil, and found 2 acres of sand," explains Marjorie. "The well, which I assumed was good, was only 13 feet deep, so I had to let nature do what she could do, and that was a garden without water." Necessity made Marjorie the mother of invention. "I spent all my money buying the property, so I had no money to buy anything else," she said. "So when people brought halfdead plants back [at work], I planted them on our compost heap and all survived without watering. I just realized plants don’t need copious amounts of water>Irrigation isn’t so necessary if you plant properly." Marjorie’s water-smart planting tip: Dig a hole in the sand or clay. Fill the hole with water. Let the water soak away. Spread out the root ball. Put the plant into the premoistened hole and fill it with soil. No need to add more water. Water during the first year for perennials to establish the plant. Then, stop watering to train the roots to search for moisture. Have faith in the roots’ ability to find water. The sand garden continues to flourish almost 20 years later. It has never been fertilized or watered. This water-efficient garden, which contains drought-tolerant or water-wise xeric plants, shrubs, and trees, is referred to as a xeriscape (pronounced "zeriscape") garden. These are gardens that take care of themselves. Visit the Uxbridge, Ontario, nursery, Mason House Gardens, now run by Marjorie’s son Jeff, to see first-hand how stunning and diverse the unwatered garden is. The principle behind xeriscaping is using plants that don’t need a lot of watering, but the choice goes beyond cacti and desert species. How can you tell if you have a drought-resistant plant? Marjorie shares these indicators:
Waxy leaf coverings like Sedum
Deep tap roots like day lilies
Silvery, finely-divided, or fragrant foliage like herbs
Compound leaves like locust trees
Jeff Mason recently spoke about xeriscaping to a standing-room-only meeting of North Toronto’s Leaside Garden Society. Using stunning photos of "dry" gardens to illustrate dramatic diversity, Jeff shared practical xeriscaping tips, including:
Build your lawn to fit the spread of your sprinkler system, so you’re not watering the driveway or sidewalk.
Surround the lawn with garden beds to catch run-off.
Mulching aids water retention. Mulch or chop up leaves with a mower, and add to sandy or clay soils to build them up and to keep weeds down.
Select plants which will survive in the micro-climates of your garden, not in conditions you must expend time, energy, and resources to create and maintain.
Group plants by moisture requirements, keeping the most water-loving likeAstilbe closest to the tap or eavestrough downspout.
Plant perennials, shrubs, and trees in early fall to take advantage of fall rains, winter snow, and spring melts to establish the root system to withstand summer drought.
Over-watering of drought-tolerant perennials and shrubs like junipers will cause them to flop over. Leave them alone.
Are you ready for a garden that loves to take care of itself? What will you do with the time and money you don’t spend watering this summer?
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WAYNE COCHRANE’S REAL ESTATE INSIDER The Changing Face of Canada’s Home Improvement Retailers Written by Jim Adair
Could big box home improvement stores be on their way out? Canada's largest home improvement retailer, Rona Inc., recently announced plans to turn 13 big-box stores into new, smaller "proximity" stores that will decrease the sales area by 30 to 50 per cent. Competitor The Home Depot has not opened any new big-box stores for a couple of years, leaving only Lowe's in big-box expansion mode. With 31 stores in Canada, Lowe's is sticking with its plan to eventually open 100 Canadian stores. Rona CEO Robert Dutton recently said that big-box stores are "not the right concept" for the future in the Canadian market. "For a number of years, Rona has foreseen the emergence in the market of proximity stores that meet the demands of consumers who want a higher level of service," the company says. "Rona pioneered in this area by reinventing the proximity store in the early 2000s, and these stores have been a great success." Luc Rodier, executive vice-president of Rona, says the stores, with an average area of 35,000 square feet, "will give consumers a completely new shopping experience." He says the stores "emphasize service, with more experienced staff and a central service counter that forms the heart of the store and is visible as soon as you enter, along with a more user-friendly layout, a regionally based offering and an optimal choice of products in key categories." Rona has more than 800 corporate, franchise and affiliate stores of various sizes and formats, ranging from big boxes to small storefront hardware stores. During the last 20 years, Rona purchased
many well-known smaller home improvement retailers across the country, including Cashway, Lansing, Revy and Totem. It also serves the professional plumbing and HVAC market, with a network of almost 60 sales outlets and four distribution centres. Recently the company has been losing money in the competitive home improvement market, prompting it to unveil its New Realities, New Solutions business plan. The plan includes rolling out a new website "to orient different types of consumers in their maintenance and renovation projects and support all of our retail operations." The proximity store concept will be used for about 20 per cent of the network, with sales volume from 10 big-box stores being redeployed to 15 new proximity stores and 10 new satellite stores. The big-box locations will then close. In the 13 stores that are being transformed into proximity stores, the extra space will be rented out. The company also plans to convert 20 Totem stores in Alberta to the new proximity store standards. "The primary objective of the plan is to bring us closer to consumers, which means being either just a click away, or no more than 10 minutes distance from a Rona store that perfectly meets their needs," says Dutton.
that it is not presently of the view that a combination with another corporation would be in the best interests of Rona and its stakeholders>" Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says that more than $22.8 billion was spent on home renovations in 2010 across 10 major centres in its survey. It says that 42 per cent of homeowner households did some sort of renovation work, spending an average of just under $13,000. Remodelling of rooms, painting or wallpapering and hard-surface flooring and carpeting were the most popular renovations. A recent survey conducted for RBC says that 83 per cent of Canadians would rather renovate their homes than find a new place to live. The survey found that bathrooms and kitchens were the rooms that most people are planning to renovate, and just under half of those surveyed plan to do the work themselves. Most plan to spend less than $10,000. Dutton says that he believes other retailers will soon be following Rona's example and moving toward smaller stores. Canadian Tire, which opened some big-box stores a few years ago, is now focusing on smaller stores, says the industry trade publication H a r d l i n e s H om e Im p r ov e m e n t Quarterly. In the U.S., even Walmart is opening smaller "express" stores, it says.
After the announcement of the new plan, rumours began to surface that Rona was for sale, and that Lowe's was the most likely purchaser. Rona issued a statement that it "is not for sale, and
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A Buyer’s Wish list Written by Carla Hill
It's always good to have a map when you're traveling unfamiliar roads. It's easy to get lost or to make a wrong turn. Having a good map is doubly important when you are traversing the roads of real estate. Having a real estate wish list ready before you venture into the market will help you avoid impulsive decisions, delayed decision making, and spending too much time looking at homes you'd never consider. Everyone wants something a little different when it comes to their dream home. Some people must have beautiful hardwoods while others prefer carpet. Some buyers want a home in a great school district while older couples may prefer to be near their favorite restaurants or theaters. Having a wish list is a great way to give your real estate agent a good idea of what you want. This will mean they can show you only the best homes for your needs. What sort of items should you add to your wish list? Consider the following items: Home Type: Are you a condo, townhome, or single-family detached kind of buyer? There are great resources all over the web that can show you the pros and cons of each of these living situations. What's right for one buyer may not be right for another. Condos are great for those looking for low maintenance homes. A townhome can give you lots of space, but you better like stairs! Single-family homes come in all shapes and sizes. What one are you looking for? School preferences: Do you
have children or plan on having them in the near future? The schools in the district are certainly something you want to inquire about. Neighborhoods: Whether you want a quiet suburban neighborhood or a bustling walkable downtown spot, there's something for everyone. Some people want to have a prestigious zipcode or a home in a gated community with a strict HOA. Do you want to stay in your current neighborhood or near family? Home Condition: Some buyers want a home that is move-in ready. They don't want to mess with messy repairs. Does this sound like you? Are you instead a buyer looking for a deal on a fabulous home that just needs a little work? A fixer-up might be more your speed. Architectural Style: Do you love the sprawling one floor plan of a Ranch style home? Does a charming French Country style home tickle your fancy? An easy way to learn more about home styles is to look at home plans online. Home Features: This is where you can really have some fun! Consider the following and what features are most important to you: garage, great room, formal dining room, mudroom, butler's pantry, home office/study, built-ins, master suite, first-floor master, floor-to-floor carpet, outdoor living space, stainless steel appliances, granite, and other finishes. Once you've written out your wish list, give some real thought to what items you're willing to compromise on. You may prefer to have a corner lot, but if an otherwise perfect home comes along without the corner
view, would you be willing to put in an offer? You may want a move-in ready home, but if you see a great home with a stellar price that needs an updated kitchen would you make a move?
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Why Spring Listings Blossom Written by Carla Hill
Nature is in full bloom across the nation. Many of today’s homeowners are unaware that Spring can be the ultimate time to list a home for sale. From beautiful lawns to temperate weather, it’s prime time to lure in buyers. Spring offers up a wide array of natural beauty. Green lawns, budding roses, and fragrant blossoms treat the eye and nose at every turn. This particular Spring, however, has a leg up on previous years. Interest rates are still near historic lows, hovering well below 4.0 percent for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. This translates to favorable terms for eager buyers. Jobs have begun to return in sectors all across the economy, which equals a larger pool of eligible and willing buyers. Finally, as home prices have stabilized, more homes are now within reach of more buyers. Affordability rates are at generational highs. Are you a seller who will be looking to buy? Today’s market conditions make for a great time to buy and move up (if you have equity built in your home.) Let Springtime showcase your home in the most natural light and “spring” a buyer into action.
Need a reason for selling this season? Consider nature’s paintbrush. Curb appeal is your home’s first impression. Many designers create this by painting the front door of a home, or adding a punch of color by painting the shutters or the porch, but Spring means that your punches of color need not end at the front step. Add flower beds around your mailbox, trees, and some to line your walkways. Prune back trees and shrubs to give a neat and orderly appearance. Finally, take a good, hard look at the exterior of your home. Spring is a good time to break out the paint and give your home a few touch ups. Clean out gutters and clean up any trash. Next, consider the beautiful weather. Who wants to look at
showing during beautiful Spring weather is always a plus. Instead of being too hot or too cold, your guests will be just right. Finally, most families prefer to pack up kids when school is taking a break. That means they want to move during the Summer months. What does this mean for sellers? It means families are looking to buy in the Spring. This gives them plenty of time to look at homes and then go to closing, which can take from a few weeks to over a month. Springtime is full of new growth opportunities. So, stop and smell the roses ... and list that home for sale!
WAYNE COCHRANE’S REAL ESTATE INSIDER
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Blue Mountain Estates
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177 Kingswood Drive
Wayne Cochrane Real Estate Professional 902-830-4761 firstname.lastname@example.org unless noted otherwise
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