Doomsday? No Way!!

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK
The Official Krisztina Blogsite

On the front page of The Globe & Mail recently was a headline: “Spring brings sales thaw as brokers see new signs of life in housing market (Hints of recovery as volume of existing home sales up 7 per cent in March)” Month after month, housing activity continues to demonstrate that market fundamentals in Canada are different than those of the housing market recession under way in the United States. Inevitably some markets will be softer than others, but Oakville is proving to be quite resilient.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) provides a monthly overview of the housing market in Canada. They compile statistics of properties sold through MLS and tracks market trends for prices and properties sold. The average selling price of a home in Canada is still trending upwards, although volume sold is down. In February 2009, CREA declared that home activity is expected to decline in 2009 before rebounding in 2010. National MLS sales activity declined 17.1% in 2008 and sales activity is forecast to fall an additional 16.9% in 2009. This would be Canada’s lowest level since 2000. (Note – BC, AB and ON lead the decline.) The CREA then expects home sales to rebound by 9.9% in 2010.

We are caught in a cycle where consumer confidence has been eroded because of job losses. The essential selling ingredients in today’s market are: realistic pricing, marketing and preparation – the holy trinity of real estate, which I consider to be my best strengths. Supply will take time to adjust to lower demand, but sellers unwilling to accept offers below their expectations will remove their home from the market. Fewer active listings reduces buyer choice and, in time, puts a floor under prices.

The plus for us? Buyers are drawn in as Bank of Canada cuts interest rates. (And word is, another cut is on the way.) This allows improved affordability in most markets, especially from first time home buyers.

Despite the doom and gloom, there are multiple offers on some properties. My home sales movement has remained on the upswing and I am as busy as ever. My keys to maintaining sales in this tougher economy – consummate professionalism, looking at the big picture before I put a house on the market (back to the holy trinity – pricing, marketing and preparation) and always, of course, working my butt off!!!

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HST Hysteria

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK
The Official Krisztina Blogsite

Announced in our last fiscal budget, starting in June 2010 and creating quite a stir, Ontario will soon join Quebec and the Atlantic provinces in harmonizing the 5% GST and the 8% PST into a 13% HST. The move is getting mixed reviews, particularly in the housing sector, with headlines reading “Yet another demand on Ontario’s already overtaxed homeowners.” On a single detached house priced at $360,000, HST could add $2325.25 in new taxes to closing costs. Or it could add $1731 to the price of new homes. But let’s be realistic here. Is this really making resale less affordable? I say NO! Agreed, services currently only charging 5% GST (Home Inspections, Real Estate Commissions, Mortgage Insurance Premiums and Legal Fees) will now have to charge 13% in HST. But my position is three-fold. First, with the drop in mortgage rates, and the current environment of giving credit-worthy homeowners opportunities to renegotiate and shop their mortgages, inclusive of penalties, housing is already much more affordable. Secondly, housing demand and supply are equalizing – meaning those that really want to, or need to sell, are pricing their homes appropriately and fairly in order to attract buyers. Sellers who were looking for the quick investment turnaround are rethinking their positions. Thirdly (and probably most importantly), service pricing will adjust. Real Estate Agents will negotiate for a selling price that reflects the HST. Many lawyers will offer (or are currently offering) flat service fees. And so on down the line. The bottom line is that the harmonization of the taxes mean that small business owners will benefit and can pass on that savings. Take my own situation: I currently pay PST on a number of things for my business – gas, car maintenance, office supplies etc. Prior to harmonization, that 8% was considered a cost of doing business. It was an unrecoupable cost. With the harmonization, although I will have to cash flow the outgoing HST, I will be able to balance that with the incoming HST and recoup any difference. I feel that this is good for manufacturers, good for big business and good for small business. The Atlantic Provinces harmonized in 1997, and not much happened. The only issue was cash flow for paying the tax. Yes, businesses will have to change their accounting systems and Point of Sale systems to accommodate the new tax, but the government is offering up to $1,000 in Small Business Transition Credits (for those businesses with less than $2M in revenue). On an even more personal note, my husband works in the film industry where one project can be on the hook for thousands of dollars in unrecoupable PST. They pay it on rental cars, gas, service, props, set decorating pieces, wardrobe etc. The harmonization would allow a film to actually hire an extra person or two with the cost savings!

So in closing, I do not see this as a poison pill for the Real Estate industry. In the end it will be…as Shakespeare once said, ‘Much ado about nothing!!’

Oak Park Moms & Tots Fundraiser

WALKING THE WALK 2

I’ve been talking the last few weeks about nurturing the creative spirit in our youth and that is exactly what I am doing myself. I am so excited to announce that principal photography has begun on my new Web/YouTube Series, Krisztina’s Real Estate 411 (Real Estate Tips for Real People) – a fun, informative series of webisodes. And to show that I’m not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, I have hired 19 year-old Taylor Whittaker to shoot, direct, edit and score the series. I am pairing Taylor with an experienced Feature Film Producer (who has in fact spearheaded Project 411 on my behalf…thank goodness for best friends!!). I can’t wait to i) see the finished product and ii) watch Taylor grow as a film-maker.

Taylor is a 2005 Sprockets Kids Film Festival Finalist who is off to Film School at Confederation College in the Fall. He has directed and edited 7 Short Films, performed in multiple High School Theatre Productions and is an accomplished guitarist who currently teaches. He’s completely keyed up to be involved in Project 411 and I know that we’ll all be thrilled with his youthful, animated and energetic direction.

And just a quick note of thanks to all those who came out on May 2 to support Oak Park Moms & Tots Garage Sale Fundraiser. They successfully raised over $2,000. I have been supporting Moms & Tots for 4 years, and as a pledge of my ongoing support to this amazing local charity, I am donating $100 for every house I sell in Oak Park. As part of my philosophy of nurturing the creativity in youth (and walking the walk!), supporting this organization just makes sense. Moms and Tots runs Circletimes (Rhymes, Songs and Stories) for babies and toddlers. They also run them in Spanish, Japanese and German!! They hold Reading and Tutoring Clubs and have paid programs in ballet, printing, handwriting, music, sign language, art and yoga. What an amazing way to discover the creativity in your little one. If you’re interested in more info on Moms and Tots, visit their website, OakParkMomsAndTots.ca or check them out at the Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre at 2530 Sixth Line, Unit 9. Just a reminder – they serve all of Oakville, not just Oak Park. Watch my YouTube Channel (search ‘North Oakville Agent’) for a video of the Fundraiser, and keep reading my Blog, where I’ll announce the premiere of the first episode of Krisztina’s Real Estate 411 (or, as we call it for short, Project 411!).