Can’t find a house? It’s time to get ugly!

An agent I know listed a charming little home, in a beautiful location. The house had seen numerous upgrades in recent years including new windows, heating system and a host of cosmetic upgrades. The kitchen and bathrooms were renovated, hardwood floors refinished, it had been painted not long ago and the house is generally neat as a pin. The exterior has that dollhouse appeal and just looking at it from the street; you knew it was going to attract offers, most likely right away. It did. Now, I think that a one and one-half storey home with just 1,030 square feet of living space on its two upper levels, priced at $239,900 is pushing the top end of the market, regardless of its condition, but the buyers poured in to see this hot new listing and almost everyone who viewed it thought they’d like to live there. It attracted multiple offers. An offer was accepted and later firmed up at $260,010. Wowza!

You can probably appreciate how much fun this kind of situation is for a home seller. You have a number of buyers drooling over your home, knocking themselves out to try to beat the next ones offer. How delightful. However, it’s not so much fun for the buyers, is it? Been there? Yuck!

If you’re having trouble finding a house and you’re tired of participating in these kinds of bidding wars, perhaps it’s time to set your sites a little lower, to see ugliness as the beautiful thing that it is, or at least can be. Homes which have been neglected still attract very little attention. Buyers view them with indifference at best and total disdain at worst. They tend to linger on the market and fail to attract offers. Why is that? Most buyers are really unable to visualize and imagine what an ugly house could become. The truth is, there’s really only one thing that can’t be fixed if it’s bad, and that’s the location. Poor floor plans, ugly decors, and even structural defects can all be addressed, at a price.

The same home which I discussed above may have lingered on the market at $165,000 if the seller had not been so diligent in keeping the place up. A couple of weeks into the listing period, a savvy buyer could likely have bought it for $160,000 leaving them with $100,000 in potential renovation room. The buyer would have actually had as much leverage as the seller in this negotiation because in all likelihood they would be the only interested party. In all likelihood, an awesome renovation on a house of this size would be far less than the difference which was saved by buying a home which was not attracting much interest. Most mortgage lenders will allow you to work these kinds of renovations into the mortgage amount provided that the “as improved” value of the property doesn’t exceed the total purchase price and the renovation cost. So, you get to pick the new kitchen, the bathroom, the paint and flooring colours. Sounds like a winning move to me.

Try it! Have your agent show you some of the ugly stuff. Look at some properties that have been on the market for a week or two. Start by using location and size as the primary criteria and really think about how some of those dogs could look with a little bit of attention. Have fun! I’d love to hear how your agent responds the first time you say, “We really have our sights set a little lower than this. Have you got anything ugly that you could show us?”

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Wide wellness gap between Saskatoon’s rich and poor

We’ve always known that the poorest people living in our communities are much more likely to experience health problems when compared to the broad population base.

What may strike some as surprising, even shocking, is the extent of the health gap disparity which apparently exists between the wealthiest and the poorest Saskatoon residents. This morning’s Star Phoenix featured a story titled, Rich-poor Health Gap Shocking and gave us a sneak peek at some data which will be published Friday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health. The study’s data reveals that people who reside in some of Saskatoon’s poorest core neighbourhoods like Pleasant Hill, Riversdale, Westmount, Meadowgreen, King George and the Confederation Suburban Centre have significantly higher health and wellness challenges when compared to the city as a whole, and that the disparity is substantially greater when compared to residents of Saskatoon’s wealthiest areas like Erindale, Briarwood, Arbor Creek, Lakeridge, and College Park.

  • Suicide attempts are 3.8 times higher in these core neighbourhoods when compared to the city as a whole and 16 times higher when compared to Saskatoon’s most affluent areas.
  • Mental disorders are 1.9 times higher in these core neighbourhoods when compared to the city as a whole and 35 times higher when compared to Saskatoon’s most affluent areas.
  • Hepatitis C rates are 8 times higher in these core neighbourhoods when compared to the city as a whole and 16 times higher when compared to Saskatoon’s most affluent areas.
  • Chlamydia rates are 4.3 times higher in these core neighbourhoods when compared to the city as a whole and 14.9 times higher when compared to Saskatoon’s most affluent areas.
  • Diabetes rates are 4 times higher in these core neighbourhoods when compared to the city as a whole and 12.9 times higher when compared to Saskatoon’s most affluent areas.

Read the full Star Phoenix story for reactions from the health community.

Norm Fisher

Royal LePage Vidorra

Property condition disclosure

If you’re a fan of “The Colbert Report” you may recall a recent instalment of “The Word,” a regular feature on the show where Steven, in talking about the James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces defined the Latin term caveat emptor as “Tough Titty.”

All kidding aside the literal translation of the term means “let the buyer beware” and in general, it’s the position that the Canadian courts typically take when dealing with actions which arise over property condition disputes between real estate buyers and sellers.

It’s important to note that the law sees certain types of defects in different ways. The first type of defect is one known as a “patent defect.” A patent defect is one which would be discovered through a reasonably prudent inspection of the property by the buyer, or anyone else who inspects it on behalf of the buyer. The law is very clear that a seller has no duty to disclose such defects. It is assumed that the buyer conducts a reasonable amount of due diligence on their own behalf and would therefore be aware of these defects. The second category of defects is one known as latent defects. A latent defect is one which may not be so obvious to a buyer who is conducting a reasonable prudent inspection of the property. Now, the courts generally sees latent defects in two separate categories, some of which require disclosure by the seller, some of which may not require disclosure. A buyer is always entitled to disclosure of “material latent defects.” Of course, this is where shades of gray come into play but generally the courts consider a defect to be a material latent defect if it meets one of the following criteria.

  • Renders the property dangerous or potentially dangerous to the occupants;
  • Renders the property unfit for habitation;
  • Renders the property unfit for the purpose for which the buyer is acquiring it where the buyer has made this purpose known to the seller or broker;
  • Concerns local authority and similar notices received by the seller that affect the property; or
  • Concerns the lack of appropriate municipal building and other permits.

Finally, the law does not expect a seller to disclose problems which he or she is unaware of and the burden of proof is upon the buyer to prove that the seller had knowledge, or ought to have had knowledge of existing material latent defects.


The most prudent course of action for any buyer is to make inquiries of the seller on issues of property condition. A seller has a legal duty to not misrepresent and can be held liable for blatant attempts to mislead a buyer. Secondly; a professional inspection of the property by a qualified inspector is a must.


Sellers who have property condition issues with a property they wish to sell should be forthright with their real estate broker and their lawyer seeking advise on their duty to disclose. My experience suggests that most condition issues can be dealt with in a reasonable manner if they are brought forward in a timely fashion, before the seller has accepted the buyers offer. If a buyer discovers material defects after possession they are far less amiable at working towards a solution. No wonder.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Saskatoon real estate market continues at record pace

The Saskatoon Real Estate market continued to move at a “faster than normal rate” with buyer demand outweighing supply of good quality residential listings. The month of October saw resale activity reach 303 units, an increase of 26% as compared to October of 2005. Dollar volume soared close to 50% as compared to the same period in 2005 to close the month at $64,875,357.00. Average selling prices continued to rise. Saskatoon homes brought an average price of $166,766 in October, which represents an increase of 19% over October sales in 2005. A larger than normal number of sales in the luxury category skewed those numbers to some extent. Overall, average selling prices are up 11% taking sales activity in all categories and throughout the year into account.

The current state of active listings, combined with steady demand leads me to believe that we will continue to see upward pressure on home prices into the early winter months.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra