Google Street View now available for Saskatoon and on our home search tool

Google began rolling out its “Street View” functionality for Canada earlier this year but Saskatoon wasn’t included in the initial release. Well, today we got caught up with other major Canadian cities and Street View for Saskatoon is now functional.

You’ll probably want to start by checking out your own haunts to see if you can find yourself captured on a Google map. Start by searching for an address, click on the map placement pin that identifies the location and then select the “Street View” link for a closer look. If you find something fun please share it in the comments.

Click image for a larger view

Click image for a larger view

You can also find the Street View feature live and functional on all of the listings featured on our website, including the MLS listings database available under the Saskatoon Homes tab of the navigation bar. To use the Street View tool on any MLS listing, click the “Map/Walkscore” tab and then follow the “Street View” link just above the map image in the upper right hand corner.

Click image for a larger view

Click image for a larger view

The map placements seems to be less than perfect but it’s pretty easy to move around and it’s kind of a cool way to get a look up and down the block of any home that you might be interested in.

It just keeps getting better. Have fun!

A tip of the hat to @dcramps for the heads up on the availability of Street View for Saskatoon, and a big thank-you to @billskrypnyk, Technical Director at MyRealPage for making it all work.

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

Our Saskatoon homes search tool gets some nice updates

MyRealPage, the people who provide us with the ability to deliver MLS listings through our website are some of the industry’s best. They deliver a smooth and effective search product with regular updates to enhance the home search experience. Today, they added some nice improvements to the search functionality that I think make a huge difference for users of the search tool.

The updates are live and functional now, available behind the “Saskatoon Homes” tab at the right side of the navigation bar, just below the header image on this page.

Check out the “Show More Options” link highlighted in the image below where you can select certain styles of home (bungalow, two-storey, etc.) or specify the type of garage you most prefer.

Even better, notice the “Kitchens” drop down menu which allows you to easily identify homes with rental suites (both legal and non-legal), and just as easily eliminate them from your search results if you’re not interested in having a suite in your home.

If you’re interested in an easy and effective home search tool, you must take some time to explore ours. Here are just a few of the advantages over realtor.ca.

  • Updated far more frequently to give you quicker access to new listings from all real estate brands
  • Search by neighbourhood, map, MLS number or property address
  • More search fields for fully customized results
  • Many additional data fields displayed including taxes, days on the market and more Cooliris slideshow functionality
  • Mapping functionality for Google maps and Google Earth
  • Neighbourhood “Walk Scores” which maps amenities in each area
  • Save your favorite searches for easy access on return visits
  • Enable and disable email notifications for new listings and price reductions
  • Choose from numerous sorting and listing view options
  • Save your favorite listings for easy review
  • Mobile access to your account on an iPhone or a Google Android device
  • Easy contact options for additional information with our assurance that you’ll never be contacted unless you ask for assistance

Please check it out on our Saskatoon Homes page. You won’t be disappointed.

My thanks to Bill Skrypnyk, Technical Director for MyRealPage and everyone else who contributes to the hard work that goes into delivering a great product. You’ve been super to deal with every step of the way.

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

Canada’s Competition Bureau concludes CREA’s rules are anti-competitive

There’s a good chance that you’ve come across news stories like this one published in today’s Star Phoenix about the conclusions reached by the Competition Bureau of Canada following their investigation of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), owners of the MLS® trademark in Canada. The Competition Bureau has ruled that some of CREA’s policies that govern the operations of MLS® systems restrict consumer choice and limit the scope of alternative business models, which might be viable and beneficial to consumers if the policies didn’t exist. CREA has indicated to its members that it disagrees with the Bureau’s views.

For the record, CREA is a national association of REALTOR® members. All REALTORS® working in Canada are members of the association. CREA provides governance for the real estate industry at the national level and works in the interest of REALTOR® members. While I am a member of CREA, I do not a represent the organization and I have no authority to speak on their behalf. The following post reflects my opinions and understandings of what has transpired to date, based on a letter to members from CREA president Dale Ripplinger.

Here is a bit of a backgrounder and an overview of the policies, which the Competition Bureau has challenged CREA on.

In 2007, the membership of the Canadian Real Estate Association approved the “Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark” and Interpretations.

The Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark

1)    Membership – Only REALTORS® may place a listing on a Board/Association’s MLS® System.
2)    Agency – A listing REALTOR® must act as agent for the seller to sell the property and to assist the seller throughout the entire time of the listing contract.
3)    Compensation to Cooperating Broker – The listing REALTOR® agrees to pay to the cooperating REALTOR® compensation for the cooperative selling of the property.

The Interpretations of the Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark

1)    The listing REALTOR® shall receive and present all offers and counter offers to the seller.
2)    The listing REALTOR® shall be available to provide professional advice and counsel to the seller on all offers and counter offers unless otherwise directed by the seller in writing.
3)    The mere posting of property information in an MLS® system is contrary to CREA’s Rules. A “mere posting” occurs when the listing agreement relieves the listing member of any obligations under the Rules, including the obligation that the listing REALTOR® remain the agent of the seller throughout the term of the listing contract.
4)    The listing REALTOR® is responsible and accountable for the accuracy of information submitted to a Board/Association for inclusion in the Board’s MLS® system, and the Board/Association is responsible for ensuring that the data submitted to it meets reasonable standards of quality.
5)    Only REALTORS® are permitted to display the MLS® trademarks in signage, advertising, etc.
6)    Only the listing REALTOR® name(s) and contact information may appear on REALTOR.ca. The seller’s name or contact information shall not appear on REALTOR.ca or in the public remarks section of the MLS® system.
7)    In cases where a Board permits listings in which the seller has reserved the right to sell the property himself/herself, that fact shall be specified in the Board’s MLS® database.

The same year that these articles were passed, CREA was served a Section 11 Order, an investigatory order requiring CREA to produce documents related to CREA’s rules and the operation of an MLS® System. CREA has been engaged in regular discussions with the Bureau since the issuance of the Section 11 Order.

The Bureau ultimately concluded that specific aspects of CREA’s Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark and the accompanying Interpretations prevent innovative business models, and the potential “unbundling” of real estate services that could allow sellers to play a larger role in the home selling process, even while utilizing the limited services of a REALTOR®.

Specifically, the Competition Bureau has asked CREA to remove the “Agency” pillar, as well as interpretations 1, 3 and 6. Under the Bureau’s proposed remedy, the other two “pillars” would remain, and so would Interpretations 2, 4, 5 and 7.

It seems apparent, based on the articles targeted for removal that the Bureau would like to see REALTORS® having the option to offer limited services that do not bind the REALTOR® to meet fiduciary obligations that are normally assumed as a result of an agency relationship. Those obligations include accountability, confidentiality, full disclosure, competent care, obedience, loyalty, as well as protection and promotion of the client’s interests. If these obligations were removed, a REALTOR® could, on behalf of a seller, list a property for sale on an MLS® and then allow the seller to perform all of the other services normally provided by agents, for themselves. Some REALTORS have attempted to provide this minimum level of service and claim to have been ejected from membership as a result.

In the past, CREA has taken the position that “agency” is a key component of the service that a REALTOR® provides, and seemingly continues to believe that. I believe, that CREA would contend that all REALTORS® have the freedom to choose what levels of service they might provide to a seller, and determine the fee that they will charge for that service, but that the REALTOR® should continue to be bound as an agent, owing fiduciary duties of care to the seller.

CREA has also expressed concern that removing this particular pillar does not relieve the REALTOR® from agency obligations, as a matter of law and regulation. Even if the agency component were removed from the “pillars,” provincial and federal law and regulation would still bind REALTORS®. In fact, some of the interpretations which would remain if CREA agreed to remove those in question clearly imply the existence of an agency relationship, namely articles 2 and 4. In essence, the concern seems to be that REALTORS® could find themselves offering substantially limited services, which ultimately expose them to greater risk and liability resulting from a breach of fiduciary duty.

The Bureau has taken the position that if CREA does not remove the restrictions noted above, the Commissioner of Competition will initiate an application before the Competition Tribunal, a judicial body, which has authority under Canadian law to issue monetary penalties and prohibition orders.

CREA’s Board of Directors has agreed to work with the Competition Bureau towards a settlement, which would be presented to its membership for approval.

CREA is in the process of scheduling consultations with Boards and Associations across Canada to discuss the issue further.

Only time will tell how this all unfolds but we can hope that wherever it goes, it leads us forward and results in improvements to the real estate industry, for the consumer of real estate services.

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 still indicative of a buyer’s market: CMHC

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Fall Housing Market Outlook for the Saskatoon area is calling for a 2.7 percent price reduction in the average resale price of a Saskatoon home in 2009, followed by a more marginal gain of 2.1 percent in 2010.

“With sales on the rise and listings trending down, the sales-to-active listings ratio is trending up. The seasonally adjusted ratio has risen on a monthly basis for six consecutive months. Although the ratio is rising, the market characteristic is still indicative of a buyer’s market. Increasing sales and falling listings will result in a continuing trend toward a balanced market in the coming months.”

A summary of CMHC’s forecasts for 2009 and 2010 follows.

Read the full report for Saskatoon here.
Read CMHC’s national housing report 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

Saskatoon MLS listings inventory falls below one thousand homes

Saskatoon’s MLS listings inventory closed the day below one thousand units today for the first time since early May of 2008 when the total number of residential properties for sale initially crossed into four digit territory. At the close of business today, 999 Saskatoon homes showed an active status on the multiple listing service.

Saskatoon MLS listings reached their 2009 peak during the week of May 18-22 when total inventory climbed to 1,528 properties and have been declining fairly consistently since that time.

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.

If you live in Saskatoon we’d sure appreciate hearing your comments about your neighbourhood. Please visit our “Saskatoon Neighbourhoods” page and let us know what you love about your community.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate