Saskatoon real estate week in review: August 23-27 2010

For the third consecutive week Saskatoon real estate sales picked up some steam as agents reported seventy-nine detached house and condominium sales to the multiple listing service, up eleven units compared to last week. It was the first week since early May that we actually saw sales grow on a year-over-year basis. Sixty-five Saskatoon homes changed hands during the same week in 2009.

New listings of the same two property types took a significant slide to just ninety homes, a drop of roughly forty percent from 141 last week and just below the ninety-one properties offered for sale on the Saskatoon multiple listing service for the same period last year.

Click the image for a larger version of the graph.

After a few weeks of growth, which is somewhat unusual for the final weeks of the summer season, the inventory of active MLS residential listings leveled off again, losing just one unit over the week to settle at 1386. Of course, at this time last year inventory was in steady decline and had already fallen from its annual peak of 1528 to just 1152 homes, so this year’s number is a little better than twenty percent above last year’s. Today, there are 818 single-family homes and 486 condos showing an active status on our system. Last year at this time there were 676 houses and 385 condominiums for sale in Saskatoon.

Click the image for a larger version of the graph.

Cancelled and withdrawn listings were firm at thirty-nine properties for the third week in a row, and like last week, twenty-one of those made a near immediate repeat performance as a “new listing,” returning for another attempt, most offered at a lower price. Fifty-six Saskatoon home sellers adjusted their pricing strategy this week in hopes of luring a buyer before summer closes.

The average sale price of a Saskatoon home (houses and condos) came in more than thirteen thousand dollars lower than last week at $313,122. The six-week average managed to push slightly higher, gaining about fifteen hundred dollars on the previous week to reach $298,732, an increase of roughly seventeen thousand dollars over the same week in 2009. The four-week median spiked to its highest point this year to pick up a gain of more than ten thousand dollars compared to last week and increasing twice that on a year-over-year basis. Is the growing median a sign that entry-level buyers are putting the brakes on home purchases?

Click the image for a larger version of the graph.

Overbid sales were few, and those that did sell for more than the asking price were mostly new homes that almost certainly included additional improvements not factored into the list price. Six Saskatoon home sellers struck a deal at their price while sixty-nine of seventy-nine firm sales closed below list by an average of $10,152, or 3.2% below the asking price.

Click the image for a larger version of the chart.

Highlights from the news this week

Recovery hopes slip as U.S. home sales tumble
Why America stopped buying houses
Canadian home prices continue to rise
High-end buyers smell a bargain
Home prices direction depends on measure
Rising resale home prices set to stall, Teranet National Bank index says
U.S. home sales continue slide
Four reasons to sell your cottage now

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

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.

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

Obtaining proper home improvement permits is the only way to go

When I first entered the real estate business in 1993 it was common to find improvements in homes that were completed without a required permit. At the time, it just wasn’t a big deal to move ahead with your basement development without one. Almost everyone did it.

In recent years, the failure to obtain proper permits has become a much bigger deal, and in fact, a point of contention that has caused many residential sale transactions to collapse at the last minute. In instances where the transaction can be salvaged (the seller agrees to obtain and close the required permits and the buyer agrees to complete the purchase), it often involves lots of “jumping through hoops” for homeowners and real estate agents. Occasionally, these hoops are hard, if not impossible to clear in a short period of time.

Let’s not debate whether the government has a place in regulating what we do with our private property. As a real estate agent, I’m likely at least as geeked up about your property rights as you are. Insisting that the government has no place to tell you what to do and refusing to play by the rules may be an example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” when it comes to the resale value of your home.

Building codes are intended to ensure safe construction standards are met to protect occupants from structural failures, potential fire hazards and electrical shock. When a Saskatoon home owner, or a contractor acting on behalf of a home owner obtains a permit for home improvements they commit to completing the work in accordance with current building codes. Ultimately, they allow access to a qualified inspector who inspects the work and verifies that the improvements meet the code. Where deficiencies exist, the inspector will require adequate repairs before the permit can be closed.

When a potential home buyer discovers that improvements were completed in your home without the required permits, they lose the assurances that the work was done correctly and safely. Even if the buyer is comfortable moving forward on that basis, a lender may refuse to provide financing, or an insurer may refuse to insure the home. On the other hand, if the proper permits were obtained everyone who has an interest in the purchase can have some reasonable measure of confidence that the improvements are durable, valuable, and most importantly, safe. Simply put, your home improvements add more value to your property when they are completed with a permit.

More and more, home buyers who discover missing permits after entering into a conditional purchase agreement are insisting that the proper permits be obtained and closed by the seller before the purchase is completed. In most cases, this is completely possible but it is almost always far more difficult and costly to do after the fact. It’s not something that you want to be doing when you’re trying to coordinate a move.

In a short series of future posts we’ll talk about which home improvements require a permit and how home buyers might discover that your home improvements were completed without one.

Mean time, here’s some building permit information from the City of Saskatoon and some electrical/gas permit information from SaskPower.

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.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Verbal contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

I’m a bit disturbed by the increasing occurrences of verbal negotiations in the real estate business in Saskatoon.

Verbal proposals are most often brought forward at the counter offer stage with comments like, “We really don’t want to waste your time, so would you speak with your client and find out if X is acceptable to them?”

Recently, an agent tried to sell me on the idea of presenting a complete verbal offer to purchase on one of our listings. She said, “My client has to leave town right away. Would you check with your seller to find out if they would take X?”

To her credit, at least she was clear and honest that she was concerned about wasting her time, and her clients, and not trying to convince me that a verbal offer was a courtesy she was extending to us, so as not to waste our time. Still, my reply was, “No, I won’t, but if you’d be kind enough to put it in writing I’d be happy to present it to them immediately.”

Why? Verbal negotiations are reckless and unprofessional. Where a real estate agent is involved, they’re actually illegal.

Section 58 (1) of Saskatchewan’s Real Estate Act

An offer to purchase obtained by a registrant:

(a) is to be in writing, dated and signed by the buyer in the presence of a
witness; and
(b) is to clearly show, prior to execution by the buyer:
(i) the date on which the offer is made;
(ii) the names and addresses of the buyer and seller;
(iii) the street address or legal description of the real estate;
(iv) the price offered by the buyer and the terms and conditions of the
offer;
(v) the amount of deposit, if any, made at the time of the offer and
whether or not that deposit is to form part of the price;
(vi) a brief description and list of any chattels that are to be included in
the price;
(vii) the date of possession by the buyer and whether possession is to be
vacant or otherwise;
(viii) the date of adjustments;
(ix) the time and date by which the offer is to be accepted;
(x) the name, address and telephone number of the brokerage; and
(xi) any other information prescribed in the bylaws.

We get paid good money to represent our clients and to protect their interests. Creating binding agreements, and avoiding misunderstanding and the squabbles that arise from them is part of that. With the standard forms that are provided for us it literally takes ten minutes to complete an offer to purchase. Web based forms can be tweaked and resubmitted for presentation in seconds. Surely, doing it right can’t be considered “a waste if time.” This is, in part, what agents are paid for. Trying to bridge the gap that exists between a willing buyer and seller is never a waste of time when the proper procedures are followed, even if the time spent only makes us aware of what isn’t presently possible.

If your agent is suggesting a verbal negotiation he or she either lacks respect for, or knowledge of the laws that govern our business. Either way, that should get you thinking.

Samuel Goldwyn said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

Samuel Goldwyn was right!

Let’s do this right. Let’s do it in writing.

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.

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

Station 20 West granted three-year construction extension

Officials for the proposed Station 20 West project appeared before Saskatoon city council last night seeking a one-year extension on the deadline to begin construction on the Pleasant Hill area project. Instead, they walked away with a three-year extension. The land located at 230 Avenue R South was sold by the City of Saskatoon for one dollar, and the city will have the right to purchase it back if the project fails to come to life.

Station 20 West is envisioned to house a number of food services including a community kitchen and a grocery store, a health services clinic and a community centre. These are all services that are desperately needed in an area that houses people who fall towards the lowest end of the income scale in Saskatoon and real challenges getting out of the area for such services.

More from the Star Phoenix here.