Deceptive agent practice could cost Saskatoon home sellers money

There’s a disturbing practice occurring all too often, which is padding the pockets of some unethical agents at the cost of their sellers. If you’re considering selling a home you should know about it and make certain it doesn’t happen to you.

We are currently in a market of low supply and high demand. It doesn’t take an economist to understand that good homes that are well exposed to the market have the potential to draw multiple offers at or above the listed price. If agents and buyers are aware that your home is for sale there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be lining up to view your property. Of course, that’s good for you! The problem, in my opinion, is that some agents may be making an effort to ensure that buyers working with other agents are unaware that a property has been offered for sale, hoping to get the jump and sell the home themselves. On the surface, they may come off looking like a real go-getter. In fact, such practices are only good for the agent and potentially they could cost you thousands of dollars.

In a recent post titled, “Can’t Find a House? It’s Time to Get Ugly,” I shared a story of an agent who listed a fine little property for $239,900 which sold very quickly for $260,010. I’m sure that this agent probably had a buyer which would have been happy to purchase this home quietly before it actually hit the market. Had she behaved in a sneaky and deceptive manner, she would have brought her own buyer before anyone else knew it was for sale and written an offer herself. In a case like that, the dynamics of the negotiation would have been far different than they actually were. In all likelihood, the buyer would have offered somewhere below the list price and the seller may have been prepared to accept that. It’s very doubtful that the seller would have held out for more than the listed price. However, this agent understood her duty to act in the best interest of her seller and placed the property on the open market as she had promised to do and as a result, the buyer who was prepared to pay the most for the home was made aware of its existence and bought it. Both buyer and seller are pleased with the deal that they struck.

All too often, new listings are appearing on the MLS® with a note which says, “Sorry, this one is conditionally SOLD!” Well, I say, “How proud you are for selling your client’s home before 99% of the market even knew it was for sale.” Not something I’d want to brag about.

There have been many instances lately where homes are sold before the close of business on the day that they’re listed. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this unethical, I’m not sure that it’s sound strategy for the seller’s interests. The home is sold and most of the market is still stuck at work. It seems to me that we should at least allow some evening showings before we jump on an offer. Wouldn’t you think?

It’s time that agents came up with some kind of a pre-listing marketing strategy to expose upcoming listings to buyers so that more of them have an opportunity to see and consider the home. I plan to do that over the next couple of days and I will share the details with you when I do. Meantime, if you’re placing your home on the market, ask your agent to submit the listing to the Multiple Listing Service® immediately to ensure that as many buyers as possible know it’s for sale. Try not to be so eager to sell that you accept an offer before most buyers can even see it. Yes, you need to deal with offers in a timely manner, but late tonight is as timely as early today and if you give them a chance to see it, the best buyer for your home will step forward and put their money where their mouth is.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

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