Competition?…Bring It On!!

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

A lot of newspaper headlines have recently been devoted to the battle between The Competition Bureau and the CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association) regarding unfair competition and the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The CREA says consumers have plenty of choice when it comes to buying and selling real estate and I tend to agree. There are already Agents who offer a variety of packages for a variety of fees including Flat Fee Real Estate – that is, paying a fee of approximately $109 for listing on MLS only. Other packages are also offered by certain Agents depending on need, and of course there are a number of cut-rate Brokerages. Should the MLS system be opened up, my concern would be two-fold. First, I pay fees to the Burlington Board, the Oakville Board and the Toronto Board. For my dues, they manage the MLS system in that territory. So I question how a revamped MLS open to the public would be covered financially and as well, the various privacy issues currently attached even to our access.

That aside, I absolutely do not feel threatened by this current Competition Tribunal, no matter the outcome. It’s the difference between shopping at a No Frills and shopping at a Loblaws Superstore. It depends on your needs (and your skill-set) as a seller. Obviously, a Real Estate Agent brings their own skill-set to the table. There’s professional staging, Open Houses, Virtual Tours, Agent to Agent connections, marketing, ability to bring Buyers to the table, experience at the negotiating stage..and so on. We can shape up a shabby property and we often miss family occasions to make sure the sale goes through. We bring our knowledge of market trends, mortgage rates, property values and neighbourhood plusses to the table. Bottom line – there will always be a majority of homesellers and homebuyers willing to pay for that level of service. (And I’m willing to answer my Blackberry at all hours!!) Of course, on the flip side, a privately listed property on MLS may give little incentive for Real Estate Agents to bring their buyers in, and therefore the private seller may never even see Fair Market Value for their property.

And beware, even in this HOT HOT Market, we are still seeing price reductions and homes expiring on the market. Buyers are demanding. The tougher the market, the more people will depend on our professional services. So, as I said, I believe there are many options currently available to homesellers, but the best option is to go with a professional. And I’ll keep working my butt off to deserve the privilege of working for you.

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Great Skate!!

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

Thanks to all who came out on Saturday March 20th for my Free Community Skate held between 12 Noon and 1 pm at The River Oaks Community Centre. Check out my March Oak Park Report video (on my YouTube Channel: NorthOakvilleAgent) to see some of the fun. I had a great time handing out Easter chocolate treats and Cadbury clucking bunnies. (Both were very popular!!) I hope you all caught the photos of the event that ran in The Oakville Beaver! By the way, The Oak Park Report (with Krisztina Neglia!!) has now officially been launched as a monthly video series discussing Oak Park Real Estate and community events. I will link the video on all my websites. You may have also noticed that I launched another video series (which will be aired monthly), called “The State of Real Estate in Oakville” (again…with Krisztina Neglia!). This series will recap the previous month’s real estate housing sales statistics and compare numbers to the previous year. So if you’re interested in how Oakville real estate is doing by the numbers, this is the video you’ll want to check out. Watch for the April episodes of both series early next month.

Back to the Great Skate Event, I had such a good time, and the turnout was so great, that I’m planning another Free Skate in December. I’m even hoping Santa might drop by to take photos with your little ones…so stay tuned!! Now, make sure to mark Saturday May 1st on your calendars. This is the date of the annual Moms ‘n’ Tots Garage Sale Fundraiser. I have supported Moms ‘n’ Tots for many years and have watched them grow from a very local Oak Park organization to an Oakville citywide organization. I will once again be hiring my horse & wagon to give parents and their kids a ride around the Oak Park neighbourhood. So come down, snap up a bargain, buy some baked goods and…best of all…take a wagon ride.

As for the Real Estate Market – I may be sounding like a broken record, but…I HAVE BUYERS!! So if you’re thinking of selling or maybe moving up, ACT NOW. We can still close the deal before the July 1st HST kicks in. And watch for a big announcement coming soon regarding a special deal I will be offering my preferred clients on their mortgage rate. (I’ll be explaining it in the next video installments and on my BLOG…and I’m very excited!!) To all my readers (and viewers!), have a very Happy Easter holiday. (To mark the occasion, I’ve done my part – instead of an Easter Bonnet, I’ve purchased some Easter/Spring peep-toe pumps – watch for the red flower on my feet!)

Community

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

The dictionary defines “community” as: a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. As a Real Estate Agent working in the North Oakville area, I love our community. As a resident in the Oak Park area, I am particularly appreciative of our community-oriented neighbourhoods. Oakville is a popular residential destination because it is small, it is safe, it offers great accessibility to Toronto, the airports (Pearson, Hamilton & Buffalo and the highways and it has great schools, great shopping and great restaurants. (Mayor Rob Burton recently described Oakville as “Canada’s community of choice to raise a family or enjoy retirement.”) But what I really love about Oakville are the neighbourhoods. There’s the old (SE Oakville, Old Oakville, SW Oakville, Central Oakville, Glen Abbey, Bronte Creek, Bronte), the new (Joshua Creek, West Oak Trails, Westmount) and the in-between (Oak Park, River Oaks). Some have their own restaurants and shopping districts, but all offer good schools, parkettes for the kids and trail access for biking, hiking and blading. Older areas are getting refurbished with lots of new renovations. The population is turning over, and younger families are moving in. In the SW and Bronte, bungalows are being turned into million dollar homes. The Older areas are more established with lots of trees. The Newer areas have more young families and modern layouts. No matter what you’re looking for, Oakville has it!

Oakville is a city with a thriving arts community, lots of events and festivals and many unique small business districts. Ethnic diversity is growing. But mostly Oakville is community. My own sense of community is to get involved and to give back. (The Publisher of The Oakville Beaver called the citizens of Oakville “amazingly charitable with both their time and money…and committed to improving the lives of their neighbours.”) I strongly support Moms & Tots (which has grown from an Oak Park-serving to an Oakville-serving organization). But more on them in a future Blog. For the right here, right now, I want to remind everyone in my community that I am sponsoring a FREE PUBLIC SKATE this SATURDAY MARCH 20 from 12 NOON – 1 PM at THE RIVER OAKS ARENA, PAD B. Rumour has it the Easter Bunny may have visited and left treats for the kids. But you’ll have to come to know for sure!! So take a break from this amazing Spring Break weather, come down to the rink and strap on the skates with your kids. I’ll be the one handing out the treats! (Or eating them, depending on how many kids show up!!)

Dedication. Drive. Determination.

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

Our nation is basking in Olympic gold on home turf thanks to athletes such as Mogul Skier Alexandre Bilodeau, Ski Cross Ashleigh McIvor and most recently Ice Dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue. I applaud all the Olympic athletes for their achievements. As many of you know, I missed my chance to compete at the 1984 L.A. Olympics in Kayaking when Hungary joined Russia and other Eastern-bloc countries in boycotting the games. It’s an unrealized milestone that I’ll always feel some regret about. However, I’ll never regret how my competitive sport background continues to shape and influence my life. Sport (for me, gymnastics and then kayaking) taught me the 3 D’s – Dedication, Drive and Determination. There were some other D’s…Discipline, Decisiveness, Devotion and Doggedness. And of course, 2 special D’s – Dazzle and Dream!! I believe all the things that I learned and that made me a successful athlete at an international level have made me successful as an independent Real Estate Agent. As I look at my “D-List”, I can absolutely say I apply them all to my current career, as well as any new undertaking. Selling Real Estate involves operating your own small business, setting your own goals, structuring your own workday, creating and serving your client base and most importantly, continuing to educate yourself and keeping your learning curve fresh and sharp. I love achievement. I always have. That’s why it’s important to keep looking at the Real Estate business with fresh eyes and to continue to be innovative when it comes to my business. I believe my marketing materials, my multiple websites and my YouTube videos reflect this thinking outside the box.

It is interesting to look at the evolution of sport. Materials like graphite and carbon and Kevlar are now commonplace in equipment. Skis have gotten shorter, tennis racquets and golf clubs larger, swimsuits are sleeker, running shoes have air pockets and skates are molded to bare feet. Who knew 20 years ago that the Olympics would host events like Moguls or Snowboard Cross? And who knew 20 years ago that I could send a virtual tour of a newly listed property to your phone?!! Cutting edge in sport means embracing technology as a component of your training. Cutting edge in Real Estate means the same thing. It is another tool that we must embrace to make our business successful and relevant in 2010. But regardless of the tools that have become available to us, it’s essential to have the ability and desire to apply those 3 D’s – Dedication, Drive and Determination (and the rest of the “D-List”!!) to your business and often, to your every day life!! I, for one, thrive in a fast-paced energetic environment and know my clients recognize my continued use of my “D-List”!!

Accidents Do Happen!

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

Monday is Family Day here in Ontario and the day off will be marked by families out skating and skiing and possibly even biking!! Families are the essence of Oakville’s growth which brings me to the unfortunate building of the massive 900 Mega-watt natural gas plant by the Ford plant approved last September. I lend my voice to the near unanimous group of Oakville residents who believe the plant should be located in a less densely populated area, and specifically away from an area of the GTA already suffering poor air quality. It’s 380 yards from a school. It’s beside a railroad track where we worry about train derailments. It’s close to a hospital. The Power Authority expects the plant to run 40% of the time – when electricity demand is high, and to be operational by the end of 2013. The die has been cast and I believe this plant will be built despite ongoing legal gestures. It’s a bit disheartening in light of the February 7 Connecticut Power Plant explosion that killed 5 workers and injured dozens more. Employer negligence may have been involved in the blast of the 620 Mega-watt Kleen Energy Power Plant under construction in Middletown Connecticut. The force of the blast blew out windows and shattered the foundations of nearby houses. The plant, designed to burn natural gas, is one of the largest to be built in New England in recent years and was nearing completion, set to go online as early as June of this year. Workers had been complaining about grueling hours – 12 to 13 hour work days, 7 days a week – in a push to get the project finished. The accident happened during the procedure of using natural gas to purge the system’s pipes to remove air. (Workers had expressed concerns of a gas smell an hour before the explosion and were told to open the doors for ventilation!!) This procedure has been blamed for at least 7 major explosions in the United States since 1997 according to federal documents. In an odd twist, just 3 days before the fatal blast, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued an urgent recommendation for tougher safety codes governing the practice. It criticized current codes for strongly recommending, but not requiring, that gas lines being purged be vented outside. Nor do they explicitly require the evacuation of all non-essential personnel during the process or the use of gas detectors.

My hope is that Ontario has tougher codes in place, and that Oakville, in return for the $1 million in taxes it will receive annually, will do its part to ensure on behalf of all Oakville residents, that such codes are being stringently met. After all, we know that accidents can happen, and there can be horrible repercussions. That’s why kids have to wear bike helmets, and ski helmets, and hockey helmets. That’s why we have house insurance and car insurance and seat belt laws. So, in closing, to all Oakville families – have a great Family Day, but most importantly, stay safe in all your Family Day activities!!

The Ugly Duckling May Win The ROI Game

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

AKA: The house with your best Return on Investment (ROI) may not be the sexiest! They say in a wardrobe, build with the basics…you can never go wrong with the classics…flashy accessories and trends will come and go. When writing a script, structure is king. A great photograph demands great composition. And in the case of a great house, smart buyers in today’s market know what to look for. It’s important to look past the ‘pretty picture’. Go beyond the décor and buy based on location. Make sure the house has good ‘bones’. And especially in this market, ACT QUICKLY!!

I realize you’re buying a dream, but your dream lays in structure and layout, not the previous owner’s furniture and decorating skill. Visualizing is often the toughest part for potential homebuyers. Only about 10% of buyers can picture themselves living in the home when handed a Builder’s layout. That’s why they invented Builder’s Models. If a home lays empty while on the market, chances are it won’t sell for what it’s worth. That’s why we have Stagers. And here’s a thought: If you can’t visualize, but think you may have a gem, ask for a second showing ASAP and bring an Interior Decorator. He or she can sketch it out and bring it to life as ‘your’ home. Another thing I find is that Clients often ‘say’ they want a fixer-upper, but really they want something closer to picture perfect, so be honest with yourself before you begin the process of home shopping.

Remember, if you’re buying brand new, character will be missing – but that’s just window dressing. Any potential homeowner should buy based on the 3 L’s: Layout, Lot and Location. All the other stuff is easy to change. It’s the unsexy features that may just be your purchase decision tipping point – windows, roof, furnace and the like. So the bottom line: To get the best ROI on your home purchase, the Ugly Duckling may win in the end!

And now a quick word about the current market. Can I say “IT’S ON FIRE”? Or should I just say it’s hot hot hot. Either way, if you’re thinking about buying or selling, make your move NOW! Demand is high, supply is short – and that may just change in the second half of the year when we expect to see interest rates rise. Want a consult? I’m available. Need to know what you can get for your house? Just ask. If it’s in the right area (North Oakville), I will be coming to the table with a list of potential buyers looking to move in. (And for my buyers – I will knock on doors to find you the right home!!)

Krisztina’s 411 Back With New Episodes!!

THE VIEW FROM OAK PARK

The Official Krisztina Blogsite

A New Year and a new episode of Krisztina’s Real Estate 411 (Real Estate Tips for Real People).. Now let me catch you up…in Episodes #1 and #2 we covered Choosing a Real Estate Agent, discussing the qualities you should look for as well as other considerations such as Area Specialists, Commissions and Brokerages. In Episode #3, experts are interviewed about Staging and Home Improvements for Resale which I called Preparing to List. Episode #4 covered the Marketing Plan, The Open House, the Virtual Tour as well as Internet and Print Advertising. Which brings us up to date. Now I am pleased to bring you Episode #5: The Purchase (How to select homes to view, the Offer and the Home Inspection). Sadly there will only be one more Episode in my Real Estate 411 series which will concentrate on The Closing (the mortgage and the legals), so I hope you enjoy!!

As I mentioned, this episode concentrates on the 3 Key Steps to finding your dream home:

1) Selecting homes to view

2) The Offer

3) The Home Inspection

Before I go house hunting with any Client, I ask them to prepare 3 Lists: A ‘Would Like to Have’ List, A ‘Must-Have’ List and a ‘Dream’ List. Then we narrow the search by discussing areas, home styles and pricing. It is important for me to really listen to my Clients so that I may get to know and understand their home-buying needs. Once I have my Clients out looking at homes, I ask them to make notes and will typically limit a viewing day to 4-5 homes. It is essential that I have already narrowed the search and that they recall the details of each home they have seen.

When we move onto the next step, The Offer, I ensure that my Clients are educated in the housing market and understand current market trends. That means looking at recently sold homes in the area as well as considering upgrades and the location.

If an offer gets drawn up, I encourage my clients to put in 2 clauses: 1) A Home Inspection and 2) Financing (if it is required). In my mind, the Home Inspection is the best $3-500 you’ll spend for your safety and assurance. It is crucial to find out any deficiencies in your new home and to make sure it meets safety measures.. Adrian Guertin (APG Home Inspections) refers to this as the last step in the home buying process, but perhaps the most important. This is the only time you can really examine the house from the foundation up to the attic and insulation. You can look at all the major components from the HVac to Electrical to Plumbing and Small Hazards. I agree wholeheartedly with Adrian when he says a Home Inspection will eliminate any ugly surprises. Some dealbreakers Adrian has encountered: major electrical issues, foundation problems, previous flooding and asbestos. Personally, I have had a Client walk away from a deal when the Home Inspection revealed mold issues.

For smaller problems, you can approach Home Inspection issues with an amendment to the Offer by having the old homeowner fix certain things like roofing, windows or leaky basements. But be prepared for minor issues – you WILL have them. As a rule of thumb, I have been advised that if you have to spend 1% of the home’s value on minor home improvements, it’s a GOOD home. Less than 1%, then the home is in EXCEPTIONAL shape. If it is more than 1%, you should RENEGOTIATE THE PRICE OR TERMS.

I’ll finish here with another quote from Adrian: “A Home Inspection may be the least expensive part of the process, but it might be the most important!”

I encourage all of you to check out previous episodes on my YouTube channel, ‘NorthOakvilleAgent’ and I look forward to bringing you the final episode of Krisztina’s Real Estate 411 in 2 weeks.