My Real Estate Book Articles

Not Just an Inside Job

Written by Terry Smith

Published in the Real Estate Book, June 2016

Our culture talks about real estate a lot. We read about it, watch TV shows about it, talk about future plans. Have you ever noticed that most of the attention is on what’s inside, rather than outside? We love big open kitchen/family rooms, stainless steel appliances, en-suite bathrooms, hardwood floors, granite counters.

We’ve all heard the phrase location, location, location. Like many of life’s truths, this one often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Maybe we’ve heard it so many times it doesn’t mean anything to us any more. But deep down we understand it. When we visit other countries, we focus on location. In Italy we visit Venice, Rome, Florence. In the US we go to New York City, Napa Valley, the Grand Canyon.

Yet when it comes to buying a home, we think more about room sizes, layout, bells and whistles. Maybe it’s easier to compare properties on number of bedrooms or quality of finishes than on the pluses and minuses of location.  Location is less tangible. It’s harder to see what you might like or not like about a certain neighbourhood unless you’ve spent a lot of time there.

And yet, I have noticed an increasing trend.  The more homes have the “I wants” built-in, the more clients are starting to shift focus to location. Maybe they now sense a certain “sameness” on the inside, but whatever the reason, more people want to find the right location, even if it means some compromise on the inside.

This seems to reflect a broader notion of lifestyle, beyond just inside creature comforts. Ability to walk rather than drive, entertainment options, streetscape and architectural environment, proximity to hiking trails, feeling of community. If location is key for you, make sure your agent understands this and guides your search accordingly. When you view a home, park the car and go for a walk. Check out the local park; stop in at a store or coffee shop. Take the time to really get to know the areas that interest you and you’ll choose a home that’s perfect for your lifestyle, both inside and out.

Please call me any time at 647-405-8057 to discuss your real estate needs.


Have your cake and eat it too?

Written by Terry Smith

Published in the Real Estate Book, April 2016

Home shopping is an interesting experience. No two homes are alike and each has its own personality. Even two identical new homes will have a different sensibility, perhaps in backyard exposure, interior finishes or even the way each owner uses the rooms. Compare the search to buying a car – in a car search, the choices seem daunting and it is often hard to zero in on the best combination of options. Yet the choices in car buying are in fact much more limited than in a home search, where the combination of features – lot size, exposure, landscaping, location, home size, finishes, features, etc. - are virtually unlimited!

Most people start their search with a fairly clear general idea of their wants. Off they go scanning listings, booking appointments with their agent and visiting open houses, gung ho and excited. In many cases, however, this initial excitement gives way pretty quickly to confusion, second guessing their priorities and general “home shoppers fatigue”. Even a clearly defined list of wants falls prey to the reality that hardly any homes tick all the boxes.

I am reminded of this often, especially when working with younger buyers, who are just starting to understand their preferences, or older buyers who have a general interest in a change to their living arrangement but no intense pressure to make a decision (as would be the case for a transferee, for example). In home buying, it’s hard to have your cake and eat it too, especially when the reality of price limitations enters the mix.

So it is a good idea to go in understanding that trade-offs will likely be inevitable. This truth usually hits hard and encounters resistance. None of us likes it – can’t we have everything we want? But if you come to terms with this early, your search will be more efficient, fun and fruitful. After each outing, try to assess what you saw and learn which wants are immovable and which you might be willing to give a little on. This takes some effort, but the effort is worth it in bringing focus and easing the decision making process.

As you go along, continue to use and refine this “self-needs analysis” to adjust your search criteria. Ask your agent to keep you honest on this. You’ll save frustration and end up with the home of your dreams, even if you miss a tiny bite or two of the cake…

Please call me any time at 647-405-8057 to discuss your real estate needs.


Soul Food

Written by Terry Smith

Published in the Real Estate Book, February 2016

Staging has been around a long time now. When the concept first started, people would ask, “What’s staging?”. We’re now at the other end of the pendulum, where even your great uncle, who is mostly out of the loop on trends, knows what it is! 

It has become so pervasive, that a staged home now looks more “real” to some buyers than a normal, lived in home. But has it really come to that? Are there any downsides to this thing that we all now take for granted?

While staging may make a home look neat and clean, there are many instances where it really doesn’t do much to add to the appeal. There is often something pretty clinical about a staged home. Kind of fake. It can run the risk of looking like, well, a stage!

Real homes have a certain soul, an individuality that stems from the personalities of the owners. Special touches unlike the home next door. Granted, not everyone is going to win a design award from Canadian House and Home, so some tweaks are almost always in order when listing a home for sale. But there is an honesty to a real home that gives a sense of place, and an appeal that can easily be lost in an over zealous staging binge.

The goals of most staging are to make spaces look larger and brighter, emphasize attractive features, and de-emphasize less attractive ones. But this does not mean that the home has to end up looking like a Home Sense ad! The best staging is an act of subtlety. It should achieve the benefits of staging, without appearing to have been staged.

Aside from a fair dose of de-cluttering, it is often just a case of carefully assessing and rearranging items already in the home. There may be pieces in one room with scale better suited to another. Or art hiding in the bedroom that would be a perfect feature piece in the front hall. It is amazing how a home can be transformed using it’s own items, with a bit of strategic and fresh thinking. Then you can add staging pieces from outside to fill the gaps and finish the job. The result is a home freshened up for sale that is still full of soul, rather than looking like it just came from the staging factory!

Please call me any time at 647-405-8057 to discuss your real estate needs.


A Book and It’s Cover

Written by Terry Smith

Published in theReal Estate Book, December 2015


Most of us are pretty attuned to the real estate market. We might watch “Million Dollar Listing”, check MLS regularly, or perk up when we see real estate articles in the Globe. I’m sure you’ve heard about the steady rise in real estate prices over the last several years.

This can bring on shouts of joy, or pangs of worry, depending on your perspective. But it’s worth noting that you can’t necessarily judge a book by its cover. 

We have all heard that the Vancouver and Toronto markets are rising most rapidly, with the prairies and east coast up more modestly, and Alberta prices actually dropping. 

Being in Oakville, I sometimes have sellers salivating because they assume everything they hear about the rising Toronto market must be true for their home (and maybe a little more to boot!) But, alas, it’s usually not that simple. The truth is that real estate price growth is far more local than you might imagine. Prices can rise at very different rates in different parts of town and even between blocks! The key driver is underlying buyer preferences.

In Oakville, we have an influx of affluent buyers, looking for the latest in luxury and convenience, driving custom home and redevelopment lot pricing in certain parts of south Oakville. We also have lots of buyers wanting larger homes at a “reasonable” price, so homes in some areas north of the QEW are now over $1 million from just $6-700,000 only a few years ago. Surprisingly, older resale home prices in some pockets near downtown Oakville are generally growing more slowly. But, what goes around comes around, so in my opinion these homes represent a good buying opportunity. 

So when thinking about the value of your home, don’t assume that what you hear in the news, or what Bob a few blocks over says about the market, necessarily applies to you. Get some input from an agent who really knows the nuances of the market.

Please call me any time at 647-405-8057 to discuss your real estate needs.


Seller Beware

Written by Terry Smith

Published in the Real Estate Book, October 2015

Selling a house can produce a mixed brew of emotions – “This is a great house, who wouldn’t love it?”  “They only looked for 5 minutes when I spent hours cleaning!”  “Why hasn’t anyone given me an offer yet?” 

One of the things I hear the most from homeowners who have had challenges selling in the past is that they didn’t understand what the problem was.  “Everyone seemed to like the house; just no offers.”  This can be a case of selective listening…  Or maybe a legitimate absence of feedback, which can be frustrating to an anxious homeowner.

Aside from the keys to selling a home – preparing and staging the home to maximize appeal; pricing correctly; advertising well; networking for buyers - the most important thing an agent can do is to carefully monitor and communicate showing feedback.  When feedback is good, this is easy.  When it’s not so good, it can be challenging to convey and discuss.  Nevertheless, feedback is critical, since you can’t address concerns you don’t know about.

Some buyers get a feeling about a property, but can’t express why.  Some agents show so many properties that obtaining specific feedback becomes difficult.  As a result, the feedback process needs to be very actively managed.  I seek specific feedback from all showings, both positive and negative.  I record this feedback and review with my seller regularly through the listing period.

This allows for adjustments to improve appeal.  Perhaps expansion opportunities for the home need to be more clearly communicated.  Maybe development plans in the area need to be better understood by the buyer.  Maybe room configurations need adjusting.  (I had a listing with a client who had previously been unsuccessful selling, who had never been told that the unconventional layout of the master bedroom was simply not computing with buyers.  We changed the layout before my listing and it sold in a few days.)

While the goal is to optimize the presentation of a listing from the outset, where a listing is not moving as expected, obtaining and using feedback to make adjustments, can be critical to success.  Not to mention giving the seller peace of mind during the sale process.

Please call me at any time to discuss your real estate needs at 647-405-8057.