THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK
The Official Krisztina Blogsite
Margarita Madness

As a Real Estate Agent working in the north Oakville area, I know houses. And even if the home you are looking for is not listed, I can sti ll find it for you. I can also tell you most of the restaurants in the Oakville and Oak Park area. But what I can’t tell you is who serves the best Margarita in the Oakville area ! I know, I know – Mojitos and Caipirinhas are all the current rage, but I confess, I still like a good Margarita. I’m a traditionalist or some might say a purist when it comes to my Margarita. Rock salt rim, real lime juice, triple sec (NO bar mix!), served on the rocks and – most importantly – premium tequila! I am not fan of the frozen Margarita, and having just learned some of them can have upwards of 800 calories, I say beware! I also say, for the ‘at home’ cocktail, Oak Park seems perfectly designed. Our quiet back patios are ideal for entertaining and our front porches are the place to sit, sip a drink, watch the world go by and invite a neighbour over for a cold beverage.

To date I have had 2 noteworthy Margarita experiences. The first was at Uncle Julio’s Hacienda on W. North Ave. in Chicago. They are a small chain hailing from Dallas and they custom-make their Margaritas from any of 15 tequilas! And, as an added bonus, they are located conveniently close to the Crate & Barrel Outlet and Z Gallerie, both go-to destinations for Home Décor. (And their website is darn fun!!) The second great Margarita was at Hotel California in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico. About an hour north of Cabo San Lucas this small artist colony town makes for a great day of exploring and Hotel California makes a great stop to recuperate from all that exploring! The actual Hotel California is incredible – it was renovated in 2005 and despite the fact that Don Henley denies any connection to his song, it doesn’t stop them from piping in The Eagles. The Hotel explodes in purples, reds, hot pinks, oranges, periwinkles and pulsating shades of green and golden yellows. (It’s amazing how well all the colours work – but I could only imagine doing it on a vacation property!) Breathing in the fragrance of the tropical flowers as you sit at La Cornela Restaurant and Bar makes anything taste great, but even my husband had to admit the margarita was superb.

So my hunt is on. Please feel free to make some suggestions for Oakville’s Best Margarita. I’m quite willing to do all the taste testing. As for the best home patio Margarita, I have to award that to my Office Manager, Cathy Braun. But if you would like my opinion on your own concoction, and try to oust her ranking, I would be happy to give it a try!! And thanks to many of my Real Estate Clients, who celebrate buying a new house by inviting me over and serving up their own cocktails – it’s always appreciated!
Oh, and a Margarita recipe I found that I’m going to try at home: 1 Container Frozen Limeade, 1 Container Triple Sec, 1 Container Tequila, 3 Containers Water…Serve over Ice. Yum!

Moving Up? Timing Is Everything

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

Timing is everything. It’s a cliché. An idiom. A saying. A proverb. The dictionary defines ‘timing’ as the selecting of the best time for doing something in order to achieve the desired or maximum result. In the current housing market, the best time is NOW. The desired result? A home upgrade (or ‘moving up’) for the best deal. This is because the lower housing price range has recovered faster than the higher housing price range, which is still ‘recovering’. Translation: a 4 bedroom, 2-car garage home in a nice area is sitting solidly at pre-recession prices. If that home was in the $450,000 range, you could easily move up to a home in the $600,000 range. Today that upgrade would cost you $150,000. By the Fall, I believe that gap will rise – meaning that $150,000 may be $200,000+ within just a few months. Since March, I have been advising my clients of this trend and encouraging them to buy ‘up’ quickly. Some of my clients didn’t put enough weight in the numbers, preferring to listen to the media (which, just like its stock market reporting, tends to be a little late on actionable information). And now those same clients have lost the opportunity to save $30-40,000 since March! If they continue to hesitate, another $50,000 in savings may be on the line.

When markets recover, the lower end recovers faster, but in the longer run, the larger homes will prove the better investment. Lower priced homes will recover and plateau, perhaps increasing in the range of 5%. Higher priced homes will eventually regain their value, increasing somewhere in the range of 10%. Put into real dollar terms, a 5% property value increase on a $400,000 home equals $20,000. A 5% property value increase on a $600,000 home equals $30,000. A 10% increase on that same home would be $60,000!!

We are currently experiencing more multi-offers. The housing inventory has been low, and sellers have been hesitant, driving the market up. As an example, a bungalow in southeast Oakville was listed for $639,000. It sold for $678,000!! But I believe that it will gain value over the next year and soon be worth $700,000+!! As well, in the same southeast Oakville area, homes in the $1,000,000+ range showed very little movement in the February/March/April timeframe. But those homes are now selling.

So the timing is working for you right now to move up. And given the numbers, you may be able to afford the move up today, but by October you may not. To top it off, the Oakville/Milton/Burlington housing history has shown that August is the slowest month for sales movement. Yet another reason to take advantage and buy that property you’ve had your eye on. And if you want to delay your move, go ahead and close the deal, just extend your closing.

What’s in a Recommendation?

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK
The Official Krisztina Blogsite

I recently added a Client Listing to my roster that gave me a moment of pause. It was the method he used for selecting me as his Real Estate Agent that was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. I found myself saying “Of course – that makes so much sense!” Now you’ll have to read to the end to find out what that was!!

First, let me say that a recommendation is a Real Estate Agent’s best marketing tool, and I have been lucky enough to work with a number of clients who found me through a friend or work colleague. This is especially rewarding because buying or selling a home can be a very stressful process. The term “Real Estate transaction” is like an oxymoron to me, because it is so much more than just a transaction. Buying a home is a matter of a most personal nature and is typically one of the biggest purchases you make in your lifetime. And if you are selling, the decision can be even more monumental as you choose to put the past and the memories behind you (the good or the bad…or both!!). The Agent you choose must be (at various times) a friend, a confidante, a teacher, a whip-cracker, a researcher, an investigator, a reality checker, a dream-maker, a dream-breaker and a treasure hunter. And it has always been my enjoyment in this industry to work in all of these capacities.

We all network our way through life every day using recommendations. A friend’s opinion, a review, a news article, word-of-mouth, a blog, an advertisement. Most of us want to hear someone else’s opinion before we check it out for ourselves. Whether it be a movie (I’m planning on making a date to see The Proposal and The Ugly Truth), a book (I just finished Book of Negroes and The Time Traveler’s Wife), a hair dresser (I’m always looking!), a clothing store (my sources are top secret), a quick lunch (I think I could live on the chicken shawarmas at the Pita Nutsy), a restaurant (who doesn’t love to treat themselves to Ruth’s Cris Steakhouse?)…or a handyman, a lawyer, a mortgage broker, a plumber, a home renovator, a painter (I know lots of them!!)…we all use recommendations. This is why Real Estate Agents work so hard to please every client…because word gets out. That is why I was so intrigued by my recent client’s decision-making process. Instead of selecting 3 or 4 Agents via recommendations or ads or area signage to come to a Listing Appointment, he chose to attend some Open Houses hosted by the Agents he was interested in working with. He found out a lot at these Open Houses – how knowledgeable the Agent was about the home and the area, if the Agent actually attended the Open House themselves, and especially to the point, how he was treated when he told the Agent he wasn’t interested in the Open House home. There’s my light bulb moment. It made so much sense to want to see a potential Agent at work instead of putting their very best foot forward at a Listing Appointment. Now agreed, this method probably takes a little more time in the reconnaissance department and in the end both your head and your gut have to agree on the Agent you want to work with, but it’s a lesson I’ll take with me to every Open House I host!

Patio Party Anyone?

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK
The Official Krisztina Blogsite

I’m feeling that summer has arrived (finally) and so thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about backyard patios – particularly since our Oak Park neighbourhood design gives most Oak Parkers a unique little backyard enclave. With careful planning and consideration, a backyard patio can be the perfect extra living space for the summer without building walls! OASIS. PARADISE. SANCTUARY. MEDITATION ROOM. HAVEN. If any of these words sound appealing to you, then that’s the first step in designing your open-air room! Everyone should have a space that provides an escape from the daily grind as well as a peaceful setting for hosting family and friends. Outdoor spaces have come a long way in recent years. Fade resistant and waterproof furniture, gazebos, outdoor fireplaces (check your local by-laws), ornate planter boxes, patio heaters, outdoor wireless speakers, speakers disguised as rocks and tin fence art (check out Winners/Homesense) are just some of your considerations. Start with a great foundation. Whether it’s brick, stone, concrete or wood, having a dream patio can be achieved by anyone! And if your patio consists of a hot tub or outdoor grilling area, you may want to consider different levels for your patio. Give some thought to your colour scheme. It seems the Romans knew a thing or two when it came to outdoor rooms and colour. Their surviving frescoes consistently use soothing water and earth tones. Although we may have more choices today when choosing furniture and accessories, aim for a uniform look that evokes a serene feel. If you want to create a cozy atmosphere for long evening conversations, lighting matters. Consider solar powered lamps in your flowerbeds and wall lanterns. Even small spaces can be split – think about creating an eating area and a sitting area (or as I like to call it, a cocktail area!!). One of my neighbours has done both, covering her eating area with a gazebo strung with lights and it looks stunning. Little things make a difference. Think about accessory pillows, planters and matching tableware and glassware. The more you love your space, the more you’ll use it. In this current economic environment, we’ll all be spending more time at home, so we deserve a great outdoor space. For more inspiration, invite friends over, try a new recipe on the grill, create a specialty drink for the evening and put a fun summer music mix on your iPod dock.

If you’re not currently in a position to upgrade your home with a move, then upgrading your home with a great outdoor living space is the next best thing this summer. And if you’re considering selling, finishing off your backyard space will increase the visual appeal, and ultimately the value of your home. Home Real Estate prices have been quickly returning to their pre-recession levels according to the latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (although number of transactions as well as number of homes on the market are down). This means that committed buyers and motivated sellers are the ones currently moving properties. And I can testify to that – all my listings have been moving quickly!