A picture is worth 1,000 words!

kitchenGOODBADTake a look at the two pictures of my kitchen, above. Both were taken from roughly the same angle, under the same lighting conditions, with two different cameras.

I took the top photo with a professional-grade DSLR camera, carefully selecting the lens, settings, attachments and accessories.

I took the bottom photo with my iPhone 6S. Not a bad camera for a smartphone, but even the untrained eye can easily tell that it pales in comparison to the pro equipment.

The unfortunate fact is, many agents are relying on consumer-grade, point-and-shoot cameras with little knowledge of photo composition, lighting, equipment and technique.

It’s easy to see that “you get what you pay for!” The top photo is more attractive and eye-catching. Research has shown that properties with professional-grade photos see more showings and sell quicker at higher prices than their competitors. 

Just another consideration when choosing your listing agent. Make sure your listing rises above the sea of monotony in a cluttered market!

Understanding Easements

When purchasing any property, it is important to look into any easements that may exist. Easements such as right-of-ways can be common in rural areas in particular, and should be carefully explored to ensure they do not negatively affect your enjoyment of the property.

What Are Easements?

An easement is a legal right that is granted by one property owner to someone (usually another property owner nearby) to utilize his/her land for a particular purpose. This term defines a legal arrangement that will likely carry over to new owners when the property changes hands. Easements are sometimes noted in real estate listings, but many do not include mention of them, which is why you should always double-check with your REALTOR® and Lawyer.

How Are Easements Created?

Most easements are created through a binding written document that becomes part of the title to the property. The law prefers easements that are written and consider all practices, habits, and customs related to the property.

Examples

The most common example of a an easement is a simple right-of-way. This may have been created to allow access to an adjoining lot. For example, if a land-locked parcel exists behind your property, and the only way to access it is via your land, a right-of-way may exist to allow access. This is a common arrangement in the Annapolis Valley, where many parcels were created and subdivided in “creative” ways over hundreds of years. Easements of this nature are less common in modern developments, but may still exist. Other types of common easements include water rights (e.g. a shared well) and utility easements (for access to sewer, water or power lines).

Get an Expert Opinion

To find out if there are any easements associated to a given property, and the implications of them, it’s best to hire the services of an expert. Your REALTOR® can obtain preliminary information from the deed and the current property owner(s); however it is best to seek the opinion of a real estate attorney to explain the ramifications in great detail.

The Pitfalls of Buying a Privately Listed Property

People generally have a misconception of what REALTORS® actually do, and how much work is involved in arranging a sale. In fact, REALTORS® do quite a bit for their buyer clients. An experienced REALTOR® should be an expert negotiator, able to pin a fair price on the property you want to buy, and make an effective argument for this. A good rapport with other agents and sellers is critical: you want your offer to be taken seriously and responded to in a timely fashion. Arranging financing, assistance with inspections, correspondence with other professionals such as insurance brokers, lawyers, surveyors & notaries, and in general, making sure all documentation is in order.

A good REALTOR® should identify problems before they arise. Here are some common issues and misconceptions associated with the purchase of a privately listed property.

  • Don’t expect a discount price. Buyers often mistakenly assume that by buying a privately listed property, they are automatically going to get a bargain price and save money. Despite the fact the seller isn’t paying fees to a REALTOR®, it doesn’t mean they will bring down the price of their home or property. The seller is still taking on a lot of extra trouble, and will expect something in return.
  • Legal risks. If you are not savvy when it comes to legal matters and if you lack the experience to recognize potential problems in an agreement to purchase, a REALTOR® can help. A boilerplate, standard agreement is rarely enough to cover your best interests. Each property must be approached on a case-by-case basis and terms evaluated based on your specific needs.
  • Overpricing & Overpaying. Proper pricing is one of the major services REALTORS® provide, on both sides of the transaction. Prior to writing an offer, your REALTOR® should be providing a detailed market analysis on the property, to ensure the deal is fair.
  • Negotiation and Stress. If you are not skilled in negotiation, it’s best to leave it to a professional. A your REALTOR® should be a skilled negotiator, work in your best interests above their own, and check emotions at the door when advising you. If you’ve never negotiated a real estate transaction, be aware that you could encounter sellers who enter real estate deals on a regular basis and know how to get their way. You may be outclassed if you’re not practised in the art of the sale.
  • Access to Information. In addition to market and pricing assistance, information about neighbourhoods, schools, amenities, and even the neighbours themselves may be withheld by the seller. This is information your REALTOR® should have and will volunteer when looking out for your best interests. You can (and should!) do your own research, but advice from someone who’s watching the market every day, tracking trends and hearing the “inside scoop” from an unbiased perspective is invaluable.
  • After sale services. The seller won’t be there to help you after the sale if something goes wrong. Your REALTOR® will be; the duty of service extends beyond handing you the keys on closing day!

It’s worth it to consider protecting yourself from the troubles often associated with buying privately. Let a professional step in and take care of all the negotiation, issues, small fixes and questions for you. And keep in mind that “hiring” your own representative usually won’t cost you a penny! For more information, contact Colin Crowell, BBA, REALTOR® today at 902-840-3999.

Giving Back to Our Community

Beginning in late 2014, RE/MAX Banner Real Estate began donating a combined total of $500 to local charities and causes every month. If you have an organization in need, it’s easy to apply! Submit your application here. All applications are considered the last week of each month, with the winners announced shortly thereafter.

This month, we are pleased to announce contributions of $250 to two well-deserving local charities: the Annapolis East Elementary School Breakfast Program and the Bridgetown Lions Club Winterfest 5km Fun Run. 

We are proud of the communities we serve; please spread this news to those in need and keep the applications coming!

commuity CCP

Review of the 2014 Annapolis Valley Real Estate Market

2014 has come to and end, and it’s time to reflect on the year. Curious to know how the real estate market performed versus prior years, I ran the numbers (sourced from the Annapolis Valley Real Estate Board MLS® & the Canadian Real Estate Association). First, let’s take a look at a good indicator of overall market health, Total Number of Sales:

total number of sales

This chart shows year-to-date number of sales for 2012 through to 2014 across the Annapolis Valley (roughly Digby to Windsor). We are seeing a downward trend; the number of sales has decreased over 15%.

Not so rosy. So let’s take a look at another indicator of market performance, Total Sales Dollar Volume:

sales dollar volume

Another downward trend, on par with total number of units sold. As before, we compare 2014 against the previous two years, and find ourselves off over 16%.

Bad news right? Not necessarily. Here’s where things get interesting: the Average Sale Price of a property in the Annapolis Valley remains relatively stable, having decreased only about 1% over the past 2 years!

average sale price

What’s going on here? We have lower sales volume (i.e., fewer people looking and/or taking action), yet buyers are still paying prices in line with years gone by. Does this mean we’re headed for a pricing correction? Not so fast.

These trends suggest that even when buyers have more selection and less competition from their peers, they will still pay for quality. Factors such as overall condition, location, and general “move-in readiness” apparently trump the desire to spend less. This is a very important consideration for both buyers and sellers.

Sellers: you have more competition than in years past. Inventory is high, and buyers more scarce. As always, pricing competitively is critical (this will help attract more buyers into your home); however, once they’re in, the condition and presentation of your home is just as important.

Buyers: current conditions make purchasing a property very favourable this year. Lots of selection, less competition, low interest rates and competitive sellers are the key ingredients for a “buyer’s market,” through and through. Despite this, it’s important to balance your desires against risk tolerance – things could indeed head lower. Thankfully, markets are usually cyclical as suggested by the old adage, “buy low, sell high!”

Regardless of your position – best of luck with your real estate goals, and remember that expert advice is only a phone call away. I’m always on at (902) 840-3999.

Market Update: May 2014

We’re almost halfway through 2014; let’s take a moment to look at how the Valley housing market has been performing this year compared to last. The chart below shows year-to-date sales for 2014 (left) versus 2013 (right) across the Annapolis Valley Real Estate Board (roughly Digby to Windsor); this snapshot was taken on June 1.

We can see that total unit sales are off 19.8% over last year (521 vs 418 sales). But perplexingly, average sale price is up slightly (about 0.8%; $163,719 vs $165,055). In other words, despite the fact there have been fewer sales this year (and presumably, higher inventory), buyers are still willing to pay prices in line with last year’s numbers. What does this mean?

This trend suggests that since buyers have more selection, they are more likely to purchase a home that is move-in ready (i.e., factors such as condition & location of a property will trump the desire to spend less). This is a very important consideration for both buyers and sellers.

Sellers should bear in mind that there is a glut of properties on the market, so competition is stiff. Pricing competitively is critical as this will help attract more buyers into your home; however, once they’re in, the condition and “show-ability” of your home is just as important.

Buyers, on the other hand, should act while conditions are so favourable! First time buyers who sit on the fence may miss their opportunity to find the perfect house at a reasonable price & great interest rates if they choose to wait much longer. Markets are cyclical; keep in mind the old adage, “buy low, sell high!”

But that’s just my interpretation – open for debate! Remember that stats on the Annapolis Valley market are always available from the AVREB: http://creastats.crea.ca/anna/marketJune2014

Do tenants hurt marketability?

Many people who are selling a vacant home will explore the idea of renting it on a short-term basis, while on market. It’s easy to see why this is an attractive idea: expenses including mortgage payments, taxes, utilities and insurance can potentially be covered by having a tenant in place. However, many sellers don’t think about the effect this may have on the marketability of their home. This article will explore some of the drawbacks of becoming a landlord when trying to sell a vacant property.

  1. They don’t want to move. Tenants usually will have no incentive to keeping the property clean and “show-ready,” which can impact a buyer’s first impression. They don’t want the inconvenience of moving again, so why get out the broom before a showing?
  2. They stick around for showings. On many occasions, when arriving for a showing of a tenant-occupied property, I will find that the tenants are either on their way out the door, or simply refuse to leave. This can have negative implications if they decide to start interacting with the buyers – anything can come out. Seemingly innocent statements regarding perceived defects or other “problems” with a home could have a serious impact on a buyer’s offer.
  3. They can be difficult to remove. Once a tenancy agreement has been formed; whether written or not, tenancy laws come in to play. In Nova Scotia, tenants on a month to month lease need to be provided with a minimum of 90 days notice ONE YEAR’S NOTICE* to vacate – this in itself would become a deal breaker for buyers who need a quick closing. (* NS law changed in Dec 2014. There may be ways around this – ask me.)
  4. Becoming a landlord can be costly. Your property insurance rate could rise, damage caused by unruly tenants may not be covered by their damage deposit, and your buyer could request a professional cleaning after tenants vacate. These expenses can add up over time.

Despite these downsides, having a good tenant who is sympathetic to your plight could be a good thing. I’ve worked with many sellers who managed to find mature house-sitters or family friends to rent, and it worked out fine. As long as the tenants understand the process and know that their presence could have an impact on the saleability of your home, it might turn out to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. If finding a tenant is a must, be sure to clearly outline the ground rules regarding showings, cleanliness, and time to vacate. All of these considerations could factor greatly into the quantity and quality of offers you receive! At the end of the day, ask yourself if the risks outweigh the rewards. Do all of the things that good property managers do: interview your prospective tenants, ask for references, and try to get a feel for how they will behave once in place. We’ve all heard horror stories about bad tenants; if renting is a must, don’t let this happen to you!

Eco-living Dreams Come True in the Annapolis Valley

In 2012 I helped a wonderful couple immigrate to Nova Scotia from Saskatchewan. They had dreams of building a home on a peaceful acreage and living in a more self-sustained and environmentally-conscious manner. I caught up with them the other day, and I was happy to learn they are well on their way to achieving this dream. They told me a heartwarming story. With their permission, I am posting it here for the world to see.

Hearing stories like this makes me love what I do! 🙂

Colin,

I can say with complete honesty that there isn’t a day which passes in which I am not truly thankful for being here. Every day I see something beautiful, every day I learn something new and every day is something to which I look forward. We now have a few laying hens, some ducks and a couple guinea fowl. This summer I hope to build a simple, rustic barn. Hopefully this will eventually house a horse and a cow and provide shelter for my beloved tractor! We have reserved two pigs for May and will be doing our own meat this year (we’ve been getting pork and beef from friends, who have taught me so much about subsistence farming).

It’s been a wonderful change of pace for us and although the property has some challenges I can’t imagine us being anywhere else. Our son and I often talk about the property while we gaze dreamily at our hill while waiting for the school bus. We owe you much, thanks again!