This is the best real estate market we’ve had in six years…for some.

If you ask your real estate agent if it’s “a good time to buy, or sell” and they simply say “yes,” you may be getting bad advice.

It’s interesting how markets that highly favour sellers are almost always characterized as “a good real estate market” while those that favour buyers are commonly referred to as a “bad market”. In fact, there are three kinds of real estate markets; those that favour sellers, those that favour buyers and those that are more balanced with neither the buyer or the seller having a distinct advantage, one over the other. Given that buyers and sellers have divergent interests, a good market for sellers is a bad market for buyers. The reverse is true when market conditions favour buyers. Crocodile tears for sellers (I wanted to use ‘dog lips’ here, but a quick look at Urban Dictionary said, “no!” Yikes! I am getting old and the meaning of things keep changing).

Often you can find more than one of these markets at play in a specific geographic region. For instance, through much of last year, small condos were in abundant supply, and as demand softened this created a buyer’s market for small condos. Buyers found a greater selection of properties to choose from and seller’s became more flexible in negotiations. Upper end condos (larger, finer finishes, underground parking, etc.) saw a better balance between supply and demand leading to more balanced conditions. A seller asking a fair price could expect reasonable offers. Finally, single-family homes valued at $350,000 to $400,000 (a bit on either side of the average for this area) were still in short supply and seller’s had more clout at the bargaining table, at some points, still experiencing a seller’s market. Let’s call these different markets, micro-markets.

For those of you inclined to buy or sell it’s imperative that you understand what kind of micro-market you’re operating in and how you can best leverage that knowledge. More importantly, you should understand that perceptions of a micro-market are often completely false, and you can use those false impressions to your advantage as well. For instance, a seller who owns a home that would still fit the “balanced market” supply/demand test might assume it’s a bad market for all sellers and agree to sell to you for less than he/she should (His or her agent may fall under the same false impressions due to a sudden reduction of caloric intake due to falling sales). Conversely, a seller who does an amazing job of preparing their home for sale can sometimes create a feeling of scarcity around their property by presenting it in a manner that makes it look better than all of the others for sale. You don’t need to have the only house for sale if you have what’s perceived to be the nicest, or the best one for sale.

Understand the micro-market that you’re operating in by learning exactly how much supply exists, relative to demand. Total available inventory, divided by sales in the most recent 30 days will produce a number known in the business as “months of supply”. If the months of supply are fewer than four, this is generally considered a seller’s market. You won’t find many seller’s markets in Saskatoon right now, though that could change as we move towards spring. If months of supply are between four and six, you have balanced market conditions. Finally, if months of supply is greater than six months, buyers are in the driver’s seat.

Got it?

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 Vidorra

How virtual reality will soon change the way you see the world forever


When my stepfather Clarence Fisher passed away in 1998 I recall marveling at all he had seen over his 80 years, from a time when he may have been more likely to travel by horse than by car, to the early development of the web. He saw the advancement of the automobile, the airplane, television, space craft, and digital imagery to name just a few; all technologies that would allow man to satisfy his curiosity about things and places that he might not otherwise see or experience.

Last week the world changed in a way that my dad couldn’t have ever imagined. A door was opened that will very soon allow you and I to experience virtually anything, and any place.

For most of us, virtual reality is a strange idea, something for the future, a future that we’ve been hearing about for a long, long time. Last week the future samsung_gear_vrarrived as Samsung, in cooperation with Oculus released Gear VR, the first virtual reality headset intended for the consumer market. There have been several developer prototypes released over the past few years, but now, for less than $150 users of select Samsung phones can strap on some gear that will transport their minds to another place.

The possibilities are endless, really. Your Gear VR headset can simulate a home theatre experience that few could ever imagine, or it could take you across the world to explore the ancient city of Machu Picchu all without leaving your home. I expect that before long virtual reality will allow you and a friend who resides on the other side of the globe to share a virtual space and experience, as if you’re actually together. Imagine, my son in London, England and me in Saskatoon, getting together to watch a Sunday Rider game in a virtual reality space that emulates my living room, or his dorm room, or our favourite pub for that matter.

Should virtual reality replace the actual real life experience of visiting Machu Picchu, or enjoying a Rider game (I know! It’s been difficult to enjoy a Rider game lately) in the presence of a friend or family member? Of course not, but it can really expand the numbers of people who have the opportunity to enjoy these experiences when they might not otherwise be practical. Soon, anyone with access to a smart phone will be able to enjoy experiences that they had only dreamed of.

Virtual reality can go a long way to simplify life in other ways. You could take a virtual walk through at your favourite clothing boutique and look at the fall fashion line-up from home. You could look around that new downtown dinner spot before you make your booking. You could shop for a new house.

House hunters will tour homes from the comfort of their own living room before heading out to see the one or two that they like best. The physical process of looking at prospective homes will be reduced from days to hours. Home sellers, I’m sure, will be equally appreciative of fewer disruptions at home.

The real estate business got its first serious look towards a virtual future when Matterport released a “3D-Scanner” in July of 2014. The renderings that it produces are mind blowing allowing buyers to explore interior spaces like never before. Of course, I bought one of these scanners and we shared that innovation with the Saskatoon market in the news story below.

I experienced a virtual reality tour made from a Matterport rendering through an Oculus Rift developer head set that a friend shared with me months ago. It was a bit crude, but remarkably effective. The Gear VR moves the experience from crude to spectacular and it won’t be long before our listings are also available to explore in a virtual reality environment, so stay tuned.

While I reflect with wonder on the breadth of my dad’s life experiences, and where we’ve come since then, I can’t help but think that we haven’t seen anything yet.

If only technology could find a way to reconnect me with my dad.


CMHC announces new rules making it easier to purchase homes with secondary rental suites

Finally! A rule change by CMHC that actually puts less resistance on the borrower. Effective September 28, borrowers aiming to purchase properties with legal, secondary suites, will have a bit of a boost qualifying for their purchase.

A release from CMHC said, “Many municipalities across the country now formally recognize secondary rental suites as a source of affordable housing. Rents in secondary rental suites are often lower than those for apartments in purpose-built rental buildings.”

These changes will allow homeowners to count more of the income from a property’s secondary unit when qualifying for a loan. Previously, 50% of a secondary unit’s rental income would be eligible to use for qualification. Canada’s largest mortgage insurer has now indicated that they will consider up to 100 percent of the gross rental income from (the subject property of a loan application) two-unit, owner-occupied properties.

CMHC has suggested this would target two unit owner-occupied homes and would likely include basement rental units, in-law apartments and garden suites known as laneway homes. They generally classify secondary units as “self-contained with separate kitchen, sleeping and bathroom facilities.”

The legality of the secondary suite is a key component. CMHC only recognizes units that are legal or conform to local municipal standards. The Crown Corporation says that it’s up to lenders to exercise judgment, when it comes to borrowers proving the units are legal.

Homeowners with less than a 20 per cent down payment and borrowing from a regulated financial institution must get government backed mortgage default insurance. Even financial institutions not regulated by Ottawa, like credit unions, must abide by CMHC rules to be covered by the government backing.

Questions? Call me at 306-341-3539. I’ll be happy to help.

Tawny Bley
OneSt Mortgage (Assoc #316137)

Real estate apps for Google Glass will change the way you see housing

Check this new application for Google Glass, created by a U.S. home search site, Trulia. The app notifies users when they’re near a home that matches their pre-selected home search criteria. It can read written descriptions aloud and allows house hunters to flip through images of the home with a simple swipe on the side of the internet enabled device. If you like the look of what you see, call up some directions and stroll on over. Naturally, the application can quickly connect you to the seller’s agent by phone or email for answers to your questions or to schedule a viewing.

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

Overheard: "I get more litigation work from private deals gone wrong…"

A brief twitter discussion that I picked up on this morning follows. The tweets that are repeated have a direct reply attached to them.

Brad raises an interesting point.

Digging a bit deeper, name one thing for me that you didn’t become better at with practice and experience. I can’t think of anything. At least anything that matters much.

I reflect back to my very first job. I washed dishes at Bonanza Steak House before I was out of school. I’ll never forget those busy dinner rushes and how the dishes would pile up behind me as I struggled to catch up. During my first few shifts buckets of dishes flowed off of the on-ramp and down the hallway. It was hot, messy and fast paced. It took some time to get a system down and to reach a point where I could push those dishes through as fast as the bus boys could carry them in. I eventually became a pretty good dishwasher but it wasn’t automatic.

Anyone can wash dishes but the guy who has been around awhile will do it faster, better and in a more cost-effective manner than the new man on the line.

The same thing applies to selling houses and everything else for that matter. Anyone can do it. The question is, how well can they do it and at what cost?

If you’re the least bit concerned about trading what’s likely your most valuable asset on your own, we’d like to talk to you and provide a complimentary consultation to explain precisely how we’ll help you meet your goals at a reasonable cost with as few inconveniences as possible. All of my contact info is here.

For our fee, we’ll utilize the experience we’ve gained through hundreds of real estate sales to ensure that your home is well presented to the largest number of buyers we can reach with the objective of generating stronger offers for you.

At the same time, we’ll give you our best advice on dealing with buyers, agents, offers, counter-offers, amendments, contract terms, conditions, deposits, adjustments, representations, warranties, disclosures, inspectors and inspections, appraisals and appraisers, municipal compliance issues, costs, mortgages, closings and disbursements with the objective of moving you through this experience with less stress and worry.

Most importantly, we’ll put our expertise to work to keep you out of court.

If you decide to go it alone I won’t hold it against you but allow me to recommend a good lawyer just in case. Brad Jamieson has a lot of experience litigating on behalf of private real estate traders. I would expect he’s gotten very good at it.

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.

Get the most current market intelligence with our FREE Market Snapshot including prices of homes recently sold in your area. Get it here, now.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate