TeamFisher.com to undergo significant renovations

When I moved this blog from Community Server to WordPress back in June I was convinced that it would be easier to manage. I was wrong.

Forget the fact that Pamela and I lived in a virtual hell for two months moving and organizing content, but after all was said and done, I felt like a compulsive neat freak living with a messy desk (yes, I do know exactly how that feels). Stuff just feels out of place, and some of the better bits of content are hard to find, clumsy to navigate and poorly presented. I can see that. I just don’t have the time or the skill to fix it.

Alas, I shall admit that I am not a web designer, and that’s okay. ☺

Rather than continue to tinker with what I do not know, I have engaged the services of professionals to help me sort out my mess. We’ve just signed an agreement with 1000Watt Consulting, a company that specializes in helping real estate brokerages get their web stuff together. I am particularly excited about working with Joel Burslem, Marc Davison and Brian Boero on this project. All three of these guys made Inman’s 2009 “notable individuals” list. There’s a tremendous amount of knowledge and know how going on at 1000Watt so I’m excited to see what might happen here between now and February 4, the projected completion date for the “gutting and redesign.”

I’m most excited to see what develops on our Saskatoon neighbourhood pages. Over the years, these pages have proven themselves valuable to home buyers, especially those who are unfamiliar with Saskatoon. Recently, I’ve done a whack of work with my flickr account organizing more than 1,300 images of Saskatoon and our neighbourhoods. I think that this content, properly presented, will really add a lot.

I’m hoping you might give me a little feedback on real estate listings display on these pages. I have a few options available to me through MyRealPage, my listings service provider. Would you kindly take a look at the three I selected and let me know which you prefer? You’ll find the listings displayed just below the opening text on the following three pages.

Let’s call this one a film strip display.
This page features a map based display.
This one is sort of a grid.  (I ultimately see this being presented as a few rows of homes, rather than the six which currently display).

Thanks a lot for your suggestions, and thank you for continuing to visit.

On behalf of Pamela, Lyndon and myself we wish you the very best in 2010.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Saskatoon real estate week in review-December 21-25 2009

Saskatoon real estate sales took an expected tumble during Christmas week falling to just thirty units, down from fifty-five last week but trumping numbers for the same week last year when just fifteen single-family homes and condominiums were reported sold to the Saskatoon MLS system. Typically, this week and the next produce the lowest points on our chart at both the back end and the front end of the New Year.

New listing numbers came in remarkably strong given the season with thirty Saskatoon home sellers listing a property during the six days leading up to Christmas, down for fifty-five last week, but substantially higher than the same week in 2008 when just fifteen properties were offered for sale. Both sales and listings recorded a one hundred percent year-over-year gain.

Click the image for a larger version of the graph.

Active listings continued to slide as total residential inventory lost nearly five percent of its weight on a week-over-week basis and finished fifty-six percent lower than was one year ago. Total active listings are at 728 including 417 single-family detached houses and 264 condominiums. By this time last year there were 1,292 residential properties listed on the Saskatoon MLS system including 782 single-family homes and 429 condos. Last year, there were more houses available for sale than the total of MLS listings available this year. Nationally, as talk of growing home prices has been grabbing headlines residential inventory began to show some signs of turning around as the Canadian Real Estate Association reported a five percent month-over-month increase in residential MLS listings and posted the largest gain since January of 2008 with 69,110 properties being offered for sale during the month of November.

This week, there were just three cancelled and withdrawn listings and not a single one made a return bearing the new listing flag. Five sellers adjusted their price, four taking the traditionally practical downward approach. The other added ten percent to his asking price while visions of sugar-plums danced in his head.

Speaking of sugar-plums, it was nothing short of a plum week for high-end home sellers as five of the thirty home sales reported recorded a price between $642,500 and $795,000. The average selling price reached its highest point this year at $310,143 gaining nearly $100K over the same week last year when a run on low priced condominiums pushed the average price through the floor. The broader six-week average returned us to reality and slipped just under a thousand dollars from last week to $286,389 but showed strong gains over the same week in 2008 when it slid to $270,282. The four-week median took an upward direction once again gaining four thousand dollars on the week to finish at $284,000, well above last year’s number of just $245,000.

Click the image for a larger version of the graph.

The average underbid on the twenty-nine of thirty Saskatoon homes that sold for less than asking price was $10,420, up marginally from last week when it was $9,924. The average discount as a percentage of the asking price grew from 3.2% last week to 3.4%.

This week in the media

Flaherty raises specific actions he may take to cool housing
Cure for housing market carries risk
Just how big a mortgage can you carry?
Canada’s household debt still manageable: CIBC World Markets
Saskatchewan population breaks new records
Saskatchewan population growth is still too slow to reach 2030 goal
Saskatchewan earning and EI recipients up
A tricky dance of debt for home buyers
U.S. home prices continue to fall
U.S. move to cover Fannie/Freddie losses stirs controversy

As this year draws to a close let me just say thank you all for reading and contributing here. I’m looking forward to a great 2010 and hope the same for all of you.

A map displaying the boundaries of Saskatoon real estate areas is here.
An overview of data collection and calculation practices for our statistical reports is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Flaherty raises some specific actions he could take to cool Canadian housing

For the first time since he initially acknowledged concern over a potential bubble in Canadian housing markets, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has openly indicated in an interview for CTV’s Question Period that higher down payments and shorter amortization periods are both on the table “if” there is further evidence of a bubble.

“If we see further evidence that there’s excessive demand in the housing market, or that there’s an indication that people are taking on obligations that they will not be able to handle in the future when interest rates do rise, then we’ll take some action,” Flaherty told the CTV.

Historically low interest rates intended to spur economic activity have pushed demand for homes higher resulting in sharp price increases in many Canadian markets. Near record level activity in our largest and priciest markets, Vancouver and Toronto has helped push the average selling price of a Canadian home to $368,665 (according to the Canadian Real Estate Association) , roughly twenty-percent higher than it was at this time last year.

“The likely action we would take is to increase the size of the down payment from five percent to a higher amount and probably, once again, reduce the amortization period. So, bring it down from a maximum of thirty-five years to something less than that,” Flaherty said.

I’m going to guess that December’s sale numbers will continue to fuel concern and bring us closer to seeing at least one of these changes implemented. Also uncertain is whether these changes would take effect immediately or if they would be effective at some future date.

Thanks to @JenCT for the heads up.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Proposed Hampton Village re-zoning not popular with some area residents

A city of Saskatoon proposal to rezone a parcel of undeveloped land to accommodate high-density housing in Hampton Village has some area residents crying foul.

Joel Anderson, “a new resident of Hampton Village” is quoted in a story in today’s Star Phoenix. “It’s hard to say it without sounding a little snobbish. You want to live in a nice area that equals what your income is, and you don’t want to be surrounded by low-income housing. That’s why we didn’t buy something down in the Riversdale area.”

310 Hampton Circle

310 Hampton Circle (in red)

The undeveloped land located at 310 Hampton Circle is currently zoned RMTN and accommodates townhouse developments at low to medium densities. The proposal, which has already passed through the municipal planning commission and will soon be heard by council calls for a zoning change to RMTN1 which can accommodate higher density developments that can generally be sold for less, raising some concern that the homes may become a target for real estate investors seeking cheap rental property.

“If you look out my backyard and you see the tops of these cheap townhouses, it’s definitely going to take away. It may not hurt the value too much, but it will definitely make it harder to sell,” Anderson said.

UPDATE: On March 1, 2010 the proposed re-zoning of this property was passed by city council.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Saskatoon real estate week in review-December 14-18 2009

It was a surprisingly strong week for Saskatoon real estate sales given how close we are to Christmas. The phone rang a lot while offers and counter offers made their way back and forth, and by the close of the week a total of fifty-five Saskatoon homes were reported sold to the MLS system including thirty-four houses and twenty-one condominiums. That’s a decline of just three units compared to last week, and an increase of nine properties compared to the same week last year.

New listings slowed substantially, which seems reasonable given the season. Just thirty-three houses and condominiums came on the market, a drop of more than fifty percent compared to last week and well off of the sixty homes listed during the same week in 2008.

Saskatoon MLS listings (all residential) fell rather hard once again losing nearly five percent of total volume and slipping from 802 to 765 by the weekend including 437 single-family detached homes and 280 condominiums. At the present time, listings for 143 Saskatoon homes are scheduled to expire by the end of December, so I expect that we’ll see a fairly significant slide at the end of the month before listing inventory starts to grow again in anticipation of the spring market. It seems likely that our line of active listings for 2010 will come out on the left side of the graph someplace between 600 and 700. However, we only have to look back to 2008 to understand that regardless of where we start we can still peak at a pretty lofty number. I don’t get the sense that there will be an unusually large flow of listings in 2010, unless perhaps, we see a surge in prices that provides a window of opportunity for investors who bought at the peak hoping for a profit. I have no good feel for how much of that kind of inventory might exist today.

Cancelled and withdrawn listings were nearly non-existent at just eight homes, two of those quickly returning to the market bearing the “new listing” flag. Eleven sellers signed a price adjustment, though four of eleven went up in price, rather than down.

The average selling price of a Saskatoon home fell again for the second week in a row slipping less than three thousand dollars to $295,825, about five thousand dollars higher than it was last year at this time. The six-week average remained steady and very near the high for the year finishing at $287,587, a gain of over eight thousand dollars on a year-over-year basis. The four-week median price surged higher trumping last week’s number by nearly fourteen thousand dollars and reaching $280,000, a full twenty-five thousand dollars higher than it was for the same week in 2008. If it’s not already clear, I think it’s important to note that the year-over-year gains we’re seeing now result more from last December’s very tough conditions than they do from this year’s performance. Prices were essentially bottoming out at this time last year after several consecutive months of losses. This year, they’ve pretty much remained stable. The average price has come in between $280,000 and $290,000 more than fifty percent of the time this year. Prices are up year-over-year but they don’t seem to be increasing much more recently. I would say that there is some upward pressure under the $300,000 mark, and condos have inched up some, but the increases are very marginal.

Home buyers must have been in a giving mood this week as the average underbid on Saskatoon homes that sold for less than the asking price fell from $11,371 to just $9,924. That represents an average discount of approximately 3.2% of the asking price, down from 3.6% last week. Five home sales were reported as having traded above the asking price by an average of $750.

The bubble talk that began in October has continued to be a popular story for the national media. Gregory Klump, chief economist for the Canadian Real Estate Association insisted that Canadian real estate markets are balancing with increased listing activity. Meanwhile, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty issued a warning that the feds are prepared to act “if” a housing bubble occurs. Stuck between a bit of a rock and a hard spot on interest rates, Flaherty suggested that the preferred method of dealing with such a bubble would be by shortening amortization periods and raising minimum down payment requirements. Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure, but when the Bank of Canada is issuing repeated debt warnings, and the Federal Finance Minister starts asking people to cool their jets there may be reason to feel concerned. Aren’t these the people whom we expect to feed us the “all is well” side of the argument?

Again, the fact that we’ve seen very little price movement even though demand has been exceptionally strong and inventory has been falling like a rock may be a sign that people are paying about as much as they can afford. Higher down payments and shorter amortization periods will erode affordability further. If there’s no more free income to absorb those increases, prices have got to come down.

Will this overheated Canadian real estate market sort itself out before spring? Are exceptionally strong unit sale numbers the result of pent-up demand from last year’s downturn, and if so, will that pent-up demand be exhausted soon? Will the government intervene and take steps to cool the housing market? There are some tough calls to be made for anyone speculating this year.

A map displaying the boundaries of Saskatoon real estate areas is here.
An overview of data collection and calculation practices for our statistical reports is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate