TRUST Your Realtors’ List Price!!

Maximum Impact Plus

Maximum Impact Plus

The Realtors I work with are true professionals. They go into a complete, full depth analysis of your property before they give you a valuation or recommended asking (list) price. This number is what they feel the “market will reasonably offer” given the features of your home and the current market conditions in your immediate area. Keep in mind, I’ve been selling investment homes for over 20 years, so I am very familiar with the process and being on the sellers’ side. I’m not only a Home Stager, I sell a couple of houses a year on average myself! 

First of all, there will always be Realtors who will start off suggesting a higher list price than other proposals you receive. Their “sales” strategy is to lock you in to a listing agreement for as long as possible and then convince you to keep dropping the price until the home sells! These are NOT the Realtors I work with or recommend to my clients. However, as with every industry, there will also be some less than desirable people looking for a quick buck. Just beware, once you sign a listing agreement with someone it is not as easy to fire them and hire someone else. When you are presented with an offer to list your home and the price is substantially higher than other proposals, get the dollar signs out of your eyes and start asking hard questions. Such as why so much higher? Marketing strategy? Expected days on the market at this price? Comparable properties that have sold IN YOUR IMMEDIATE area at this price, and HOW MANY and WHAT YEAR? The comparable should be within the last 6-8 months and in your immediate neighborhood and be a similar age to your home and have similar upgrades and should consist of more than just one property that sold over list in a bidding war. Beware, the goal is to dazzle you with a BIG number and lock you into a listing agreement contract and then drop the price until it sells.

The number one lesson is to choose your Realtor very wisely! It would be reasonable for you to ask for a list of their sales over the last 3 or 6 months and find out what the list price was and what the home actually sold for! This will weed out the Top Professionals in their field! Thankfully there are many excellent Professionals to choose from! 

When it comes to setting the list price, tryst your Realtor. Now if your Realtor recommends a price of $450,000 and you insist on $460,000, you are basically fishing. Some Realtors will proceed at the higher list price in order to appease their clients. However, they usually set a time limit on it, say 2-3 weeks. If there is no interest at the higher price, then the agreement is to drop it to the Realtors’ recommended price. This accomplishes 3 things: First, the Seller won’t spend the rest of their life wondering “could we have sold it for a higher price”? Second: When as offer does come in, it’s likely to be that much closer to the price the Realtor recommended in the first place! Third: When a property sits on the market for a long time, people begin to think there is “something wrong with it”. This turns people away and can in fact encourage low ball bids from investors. Neither option is particularly great for the seller.

Finally, the recommended list price is the price!!! That is the sale price your Professional Realtor feels your home will best attract a buyer and potentially sell somewhere in that price range. Please, please, please DO NOT add Realtors commissions onto the recommended list price! If you Realtor suggest $499,000 – keep it at that number! Don’t bump it up to $514,000 to cover the cost of Realtor fees!!!! Search engines use price as one of the MOST critical screening factors. If a couple is looking up to $500,000, your property will never come up in the searches!!! The valuation of your home is what it is worth! Buyers will not pay more than it is worth because you listed with a Realtor! This is just another common example of over pricing yourself! Don’t’ do it! Realtor commissions are a cost of the sale process and need to be included in the sale price. 

By pricing your home at Market Value + Commissions, you are telling all other Realtors and Buyers that you expect the BUYER to pay for the Realtor commissions! You’ve just turned off a lot of buyers who may have been interested in your home.  Let’s face it the market has become much more competitive. Buyers would rather deal with a Seller who is reasonable and will be easy to work with. Setting your price + Commissions just tells everyone you are very demanding of the buyer and very inflexible. Off they go to look at the house down the street while yours sits with no showings…..sigh. Chances are, when you receive an offer it will be below asking price anyway, because your home isn’t worth that much. For the months you’ve kept it listed at the higher price, you continue to pay mortgage, utilities, insurance, taxes, interest on your mortgage, plus any staging costs… so did you really end up any further ahead after taking these costs into account? Once you take the additional carrying costs into account, did that extra $14,000 in asking price make you money or cost you money with the additional time it took to sell, if it did sell?!! 

When it comes down to it, TRUST your Professional Realtor! They understand the conditions in the market and can best advise you how to get a reasonably quick sale for the best possible sale price. After all, that’s what they do every day. You would never dream of going to the grocery store and having a “mark-up” for the transport company that delivered the groceries! Yes, the cost of transporting your groceries is built into the sale price, just like the Realtors’ cost of selling your home is built into the sale price of your home! Remember, you want to attract Buyers and keep them away. Trust your Professional Realtor for a quick and happy sale process.

 

Set Realistic Expectations for Time to Sell Home

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Most people realize that homes are taking longer to sell. Although, as recently as September 2015, we had a home sell on the first date of showings. We had a number of homes sell in less than 2 week over the summer. To generate this outcome, many factors must come together perfectly! In most cases, bidding wars are now very rare. A majority of houses are not receiving multiple offers. It’s critical to set realistic expectations for how long your home will be on the market. How it compares to others in your area for sale and home it’s priced (for what it offers) in comparison to others in the immediate area!

Days on the market is a statistic that tracks real estate sales in great detail. Depending upon the area of the city and the price of your home, the average DOM (days on the market) will change. Before you list your home. Find out what the average DOM is for homes in your area and in your price range. Ensure your Realtor uses the DOM for your immediate neighborhood and selling price and not the average overall for the City of Winnipeg. Get detailed information where it affects you most, in your own neighborhood! Obviously “average” indicates there are homes that sell faster and there are homes that take much monger to sell. However, once you have the accurate “average DOM” you have a statistical number to base your expectations on.

Statistics tell us that the homes selling fastest are those that have been well maintained and/or recently updated. Most buyers are looking for a “move in ready home” rather than a “project”. They want to move in and enjoy and settle into their new life and home and get back to normal life routines as quickly as possible. So before you decide to sell, ensure you take the time to make your home as appealing as possible. Take care of the mechanicals – routine maintenance goes a long way to peace of mind. Touch up paint in areas where it may be dated or in need of repair. Replace old worn or dated flooring. Replace out of date counters and flooring and a quick paint job can give new life to a room at a fraction of the cost of a complete reno job! I never recommend a complete kitchen or bath gut and redo before sale. Statistics tell us you rarely get more than 58-64% for baths and 78 – 84 % for kitchens ROI in these cases, depending on how high end you go. However, I have never seen someone lose money when doing just the basic maintenance and updates to make a home more appealing. It is critical to know what to do and how much is necessary for a fast sale, without overspending and leaving good money behind!

We have been in a number of homes in the last few months that have spent BIG money on brand new kitchens and luxurious baths but have windows that do not open or with broken seals that steam up. Windows is a huge expense to replace. Mechanicals is one of the most important upgrades people can do. Newer shingles; windows, furnace; plumbing; etc – these are important and costly repairs. People want to purchase a home with confidence that mechanicals are in order. Even if you have a fabulous kitchen but the roof leaks – buyers will look elsewhere. At bare minimum replace the windows that have obvious problems or be prepared for your home to sit longer than the average number of days to sell in your area before you receive a discounted offer. Buyer will always discount offers if they have “repairs or work” required upon possession! One additional word of caution, know the features and benefits as well as the potential negatives of your home. If you have an older home, with windows that do not open well, and has no air conditioning, it’s better to list your home in the fall, winter or spring rather than in the oppressive heat and humidity of summer. If you have any seasonal features of your home that YOU do not like, that is the WRONG time of the year to sell your home! If you don’t like your home then, chances are pretty good other buyers will not either! On the other hand, if you have a time of the year when you LOVE your home and find it most appealing that is the time of the year to show your home for sale! If you LOVE it best then, chances are the buyers will too! That’s why I’m always amused that people sell seasonal cottages in the fall or homes with swimming pools after summer. Everyone wants to enjoy one last year …. But I always wonder if they would get a better price if buyers were sold on how much fun they could have if they saw you enjoying it?

Finally price is a key factor. If you have your home priced at the top of the comparables for your area but your home actually compares better to those in the mid-range or lower range of homes in your area, then it will sit for a long time. The market has changed and we must re-adjust our thinking for the new market we now have, not the one we’ve enjoyed for a number of years. The reality is, there are a lot more homes to choose from than in past years.  Many of these homes are in all different price ranges. Buyers can look at your over priced home, with few updates and older mechanicals or they can look at a brand new home for the same price. Which do you think is more appealing? If you are not prepared to update and maintain your home to make it comparable, you’ll have no choice but to settle for a lower price or a long time on the market and then eventually a lower price than what you hoped for. It’s less frustrating and costly if you are just realistic with the price from the start. That’s why it is so important to review the comparable DOM of properties in your area. Your Realtor can analyze and tell you why they’ve been sitting too long. They can also tell you why your neighbors sold so quickly. One last work on price, the higher the price, the longer it takes to sell. There are simply fewer buyers who qualify to purchase a home in the upper price range and they tend to be very picky! They have a lot of inventory available to choose from so you had better be offering them something fabulous and keep the price reasonable!

There are a lot of factors that affect how quickly your home will sell. Time of year if your home has any very positive or very negative features. The asking price you list it for must be appropriate for its condition. Know what the average DOM is and prepare for the average Days on the Market as a realistic time to wait. If it’s less that fabulous – but if the average DOM in your neighborhood is 100 and you begin to panic after 2 weeks – that’s just not realistic! Especially if you have not taken into account any other factors. So do your due diligence. Know what the competition has to offer and at what price. How does your compare? What is a realistic average number of days to sell in your area and price range? Then with your expectations realistic, let your Professional Realtor do their job and listen to their feedback! The right buyer always comes along!

Fall Decorating Ideas

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Fall has always been my favourite time of year. The colors are beautiful. There are almost no bugs. Weather can still be quite warm and pleasant. The crunching of the leaves and the smell of fall in the air – all bring a sense of calm and deep appreciation for the beauty around us.

I am often asked about decorating tips. I still enjoy decorating my home for the changing seasons. Pumpkins are a must! They suggest a celebration of a successful harvest but they also symbolize a happy and well enjoyed summer for me! I use gourds and pumpkins both inside and outside my home. I have planters in front of our garage and by our front door. In winter I have Christmas trees lit up; in spring I’ll put branches with pussy willows; summer of course is a profusion of flowers all around my home; fall has pumpkins and occasionally dried corn stalks, bales of straw, and a few scare crows for good measure. At Halloween I usually add my witch and ghost and large spiders for some additional character! You have to have fun and enjoy the changing seasons!

Decorating inside the home can be just as simple. Changing décor to coincide with the season is not only fun, it is festive! I love my pumpkin soup tureen which is the centerpiece on my buffet table this time of the year. I have ornamental leaves and plastic gourds to compliment my soup tureen. A few small dried stalks of corn on the cob add just the right touch for a beautiful fall arrangement. 

I have lovely fall centerpieces on my kitchen and dining table. As well as many scented fall candles throughout my home. Everything from pumpkin spice to apple cider and every other wonderful fall scent I can find. The candles not only add beautiful accents with their colors and the candle holders, I love the fall smells wafting through my home when I burn the candles, which is almost every evening!

Decorating a festive table can be done at any time for any occasion. Many of us get very creative with our table décor for holiday gatherings, but the truth is you can enjoy a creatively decorated table at any time and for any occasion. Better yet, you can surprise your family and guests with no occasion at all.  Just for “fun”. Between the different options for plate colors, napkins and their holders, a multitude of creative options for centerpieces, there is really no limit to how creative you can become. 

Another of my favourites are accents and throw pillows. If your décor is neutral it is easy to change up small inexpensive decor to add a festive touch to any room! Whether its fall themed candles and towels in the bathroom or Christmas décor and throw pillows to match your tree skirt or bright spring colors after a long winter, adding a touch of seasonal décor to your home is fun. The best way to ensure you can easily change up seasonal décor is to ensure your basics are neutral. Then it’s a simple matter of changing your seasonal décor so you are always “in season” and current.

My fireplace mantle is another of my favourite decorating tools. There is always seasonal décor on my mantle! Right now its pumpkin scented candles and pumpkins candle holders and metal owls and the odd Halloween piece. I will bring out my Witches’ house and ghost candle holders and Gourd tealight house and my black cat décor pieces and spiders this weekend for that lovely touch of Halloween. 

If you enjoy cooking, there seem to be an endless assortment of festive dishes usually found at Home Outfitters, Pier 1 or Homesense. So many beautiful accents to choose from for just the right dish! I bake a lot of pies and love to experiment with different themes and ingredients and fall is harvest time! So many fun options for me to bake!

There is something about the change of the seasons that always signifies a new start for me. It’s fresh and new and is always something to look forward to. To me, the changing of the seasons is cause for a little extra celebration! After all life is busy and stressful enough. Relax and have a little fun with some well-chosen décor to make your home that much more enticing. Say good-bye to the season we just completed and hello to a bright new season full of promise and new opportunities! 

 

 

Staging Should be the Final Touch

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Many of the homes we stage have been renovated or at least had some minor updates or repairs done prior to sale. When paying for the rental of furniture, it is in the clients’ best interest to ensure that staging is the final touch prior to photographing and listing a property.

We have been in some situations where work is still on-going and we are requested to stage a property. This raises a number of issues. Once furniture is set up, there is that much more to clean once thee “dust settles”. We always wipe down all furniture and polish mirrors etc. once they are set up. However, if there is drywall patching going on in another part of the home the dust travels and then you end up having to hire a cleaner to clean the house and all the furniture! Takes longer and costs the client more. 

There is also the risk of damage as workers are moving materials in and out of the home. If something is broken or damaged, the client then becomes responsible for replacement cost.  

Moving in and setting up when there are workers all over the place and materials and tools lying around is quite a hazard. We’ve often had to go through and move building materials and tools so we could move in our supplies and place our furniture. We arrive first and ensure the areas we are staging are clear and clean! On a few occasions I’ve had to ban workers from the area until the move in was complete for the safety of all concerned. When you are carrying large furniture and concentrating on marking walls and doorframes, the last thing you need to worry about is a ladder of tool bag someone left in the middle of the hall!

There is also the concern about potential damage. I’m always amazed at how many contractors and workmen will work with no drop sheet. They wear heavy boots and there is construction debris on the floor and they drop paint splatters on the floor and scratch the floor by walking on the debris. It’s unbelievable! The boys at KAT Reno would never do this – if they were ever caught by my husband or myself they would be on their hands and knees cleaning their mess and apologizing to the customer. Our guys know better and show respect to other people’s homes!

There have been numerous occasions when we arrive and I have to sweep and mop the floors of construction debris before we can bring in furniture. The last thing I want is to have our guys walk over something on the floor and cause damage because someone else left a mess. 

One word of caution to my Realtors who pay for staging. Wait until the client is ready to list.  If they still have a “few things to do” that can drag on for a week or more and the whole time you cannot show the home and are paying for staging for nothing. When the client pays, they are insistent that showings start as soon after staging as possible! Same day or following day at the latest. When the Realtor pays, there is always the odd client that will drag their butts getting the home ready. They’re not paying for it so they don’t have the same urgency to complete the “to do” list! Make them wait for staging until they are done. Then everyone is happy!

The fastest and easiest for all involved is to have the work completed and the area cleaned and ready for staging. This allows us to come in quickly and complete the job, wipe everything down and you are instantly ready for pictures and showings can start in hours! It’s very common for us to stage a house in the morning. Have pictures taken mid-afternoon and showings start that evening.  It’s beautiful when it moves along like a well-planned process!  We’ve even had a number of homes obtain offers that same day showings started! Pretty cool!

Fall Has Arrived!

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Fall is my favourite time of the year! I officially have my fall décor out and am burning my fall “pumpkin spice” candles in my office as I catch up with my paperwork. I’m enjoying a breather the last 2 days catching up on 3 months of paperwork! Looking back I can’t believe we made it through the craziness and last few months of spring/summer.

Back in the spring we were staging/de-staging every day. Many days we were doubling up and de-staging one and staging another in the same day. Logistically, this is very challenging keeping straight what’s coming back and what’s going out without mixing anything up! We did have a few times when we grabbed the wrong bin/ bag of goodies and someone would have to chase back to the shop for the right décor. Thank goodness we moved into the new warehouse earlier this spring before things got really crazy! We had the space to sort multiple jobs and keep them packed and ready to go days in advance if necessary.

Things very briefly slowed down right around the end of the school year then we were going non-stop until the end of July. As fast as were setting up and completing a stage another one would sell! It’s really been non-stop for months now! We completed 9 stage jobs in the last few weeks before school started and we have already had 3 of those sell! 2 sold within hours and one sold the following day. One sold for $15,000 over list price on the first day showings started! Yes, bidding wars are still happening. Fast sales are still happening. On a street of 7 listings, our staged home was the first to sell. Others are still for sale months later and a few have been removed from the market, unsold. Homes have to be fairly priced and in very good condition for a fast sale. Of course, staging is a huge benefit. The staging makes the buyers connect emotionally with the home when they see it! As the number of listings increases, competition continues to grow, and sellers are making more of an effort to get their homes sold.  

Small repairs or improvements that sellers previously refused to complete, now are done without question if they want the home sold fast. Staging is becoming much more common is all price ranges. Literally we’ve staged homes anywhere from $200K all the way up to the 1.5 Million price point. As always homes in the lower price ranges sell faster. There are just a much higher number of qualified buyers below the $350K mark than there are in the $500K price point. As a result higher priced homes often take longer to sell.  Add the number of available new builds in that price point and the market is highly competitive for sellers in the mid – upper price points.

If you are thinking of selling this fall/winter or spring take the time now to complete all exterior work.  Pressure wash stucco, siding, eaves and fascia. Get you exterior windows cleaned. Trim back and shrubs or overgrown trees/plants. Pressure wash driveways and sidewalks. Repair and old decks boards and treat with a new coat of paint while the weather still allows! Exterior maintenance goes a long way to showcasing a well maintained home and sends a fabulous first impression! The key is to get that fabulous first impression and then continue to impress the buyers more with each new room they explore! Get all the outside work done this fall while you still can. The impression it makes on Buyers in the winter months will be well worth the effort now.

Home staging is about getting people’s attention! It’s about making them want to see your house rather than the one down the street. More importantly, it’s about all the preparation that goes into getting your home ready for buyers to see! From the first time we come in for a consult, we address all exterior and interior aspects of preparing a home for sale. Everything from trimming trees/shrubs for a great street appeal to pulling weeds and washing driveways and sidewalks. Cleaning windows and a complete cleaning inside the house. Interior cleaning is everything from lights to walls to baseboards. I even insist Sellers wipe down the dust on the hot water tank and furnace. Mechanical equipment that is caked with years of dust does not look well maintained. Mechanical equipment that is sparkling clean looks well maintained and gives sellers a sense of confidence. Of course, any repairs or maintenance issues that need to be addressed before the home is listed. Once the home has been de-cluttered, cleaned inside and out, it is ready for staging. We then come in with the final touches and leave your home ready for the photographer and for the Buyers to fall in love with!

Home staging is not just about furniture and accessories – it’s the whole package! Everything you need to do to get your home sold fast and for the best possible price! 

 

 

 

Summer’s End and the Fall Market is in Full Swing

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This is always the saddest time of the year for me. When my girls go back to school and we all head back into a normal routine again, I always wish for just a few more weeks to do the things I didn’t get a chance to. The summer market historically slows down a bit in July and early August before picking up again for the fall. This year we saw very little down and a very early start to the fall market!

I love the lazy hazy days of summer. However, it seems those days are long gone for me. The last few years we have spent more and more time staging in the summer. In past years, I could work 3-4 days and take the rest of the time off and enjoy the cottage or the pool. This last year we’ve been working 5 days a week with the exception of a few days where we took the Friday. To say thing have been busy would be a severe understatement! In the last 9 days we’ve done 8 staging jobs! We’ve been de-staging “solds” and as fast as we get the stock back it’s out again on the next job! Our warehouse has been a revolving door! Biggest challenge has been keeping 3 jobs packed and ready and separate so we don’t mix things up and take stuff for the wrong job! It all worked and we did a beautiful job! Even when the movers truck broke down one day and we had to improvise cause we had another job the next day and couldn’t afford the delay! Panic…. But it all worked out and I earned my glass of wine that night!

We’ve done some pretty amazing projects this summer. Quite a few new builds in the $550K – $1,000,000 + as well as a number of show homes. It’s been challenging at times, finding the right furniture in the right color and size to fit the space. Other times, we’ve had to scramble to find the time to plan and shop and design on a very short time line. Thank goodness for my wonderful teal this summer! Tanis, Jess, John, Doug and Danny, couldn’t have done it without you guys! When you consider I had major surgery in April and was supposed to be in bed for 8 weeks, actually only took 10 days off including the day before the surgery! Looking back now I can’t believe we pulled off such a fabulous job this summer!

We had so many weeks where we were staging 4-5 days a week! Occasionally, we might have a day off for plan and shop. Too many days we were planning other jobs as we were working on others. We would discuss what pieces we were going to use for the different projects and have the next one all planned and designed while finishing the current project! Then it was just a matter of pulling and packing stock for the next job! It worked beautifully but seemed to be quite a production line at times!

We had a number of huge successes. Still generated a number of bidding wars. We had one property with 7 other houses for competition on the street and ours was the only home staged and it was the only one to sell, finally a fixer upper sold shortly afterwards. We had another home staged on a Friday, showings started at 5:00pm and it was sold by 7:00 pm that day! 2 HOURS!!!! Enjoyed a glass of wine and did a happy dance for that one!

One project was my favourite. It was a joint collaboration between KAT Reno and Maximum Impact Plus. We provided all the design, KAT completed a full interior and exterior reno job and we staged it a few days ago. Showings start right after the long weekend! 

We’re off to relax and spend the final weekend of summer with my precious hubby and darling daughters! Wishing you all a wonderful Labour Day weekend and Hope you all had a Fabulous Summer! 

Selective Discrimination

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After spending 20+ years working in the Real Estate Industry, we’ve seen enough to shock even the hardiest individuals. I’ve always found it extremely frustrating to see constant stigma and open hostility and discrimination if someone was a property owner/landlord. Discriminating against someone based on their “source of income” is a clear violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the clear and open hostility, from government officials, police, Media, The Residential Tenancies Branch, and the general public would never be accepted if it was directed at any other minority group! If fact, we see examples of the media addressing issues of racial discrimination on a daily basis in either newspaper or TV.  Yet, for some unfathomable reason, society feels it’s acceptable to take a stand against the mean, nasty, greedy property owner. For one and one reason only – their “source of income”. This is a clear violation of Human Rights Act! Yet no media have EVER (that I have seen) raised the issue of how unjustified this discrimination is.

Last time I checked, statistics said that approximately 50% of all rental units in the city were owned by small “Mom and Pop” operators. These numbers may have changed, with all the new building in the last year or so. However, these are the people that work hard at a regular job, scrape together the savings for a down payment on an investment property, in the hopes that it will give them a better return on their savings than a bank interest rate that is often less than the rate of inflation! They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your family and your friends. They are generally good honest people who work hard just like you do. Yet, the outright hatred and open hostility they face is so overwhelming, that many become frustrated and sell off their property to eliminate the stress of the discrimination.

One recent seller told me that after a tenant literally shot up the suite with a gun; walls, ceiling, everything has to be replaced. No way to collect the damages from the tenant. It’s the owner’s responsibility to track the tenant down and attempt to impose a Queen’s Bench garnishment order on their bank account or place of employment in order to collect the damages. They can close their bank account or leave it inactive. They can quit and work somewhere else, if you can’t track them down, you don’t collect. 

On the flip side, our Provincial Government openly discriminates against the landlords solely because of their source of income. If a landlord owes a tenant money, the RTB can redirect the rent from that house to pay the judgement to the tenant, if the landlord doesn’t pay. If that isn’t enough, they can order rent re-directed from ANY other property you own to pay that settlement. So, they do the work of collecting for the benefit of the tenant, but the landlord is left taking time off work to continually chase down a tenant that keeps changing jobs, and banks. The only difference between the two groups is the source of income. 

The misguided and WRONG attitude by our illustrious Government and Media is that Landlords are all rich, savvy, with lawyers and employees and lots of time on their hands to have someone else look after chasing down tenants who refuse to pay their debts. The REALITY is they are hardworking people with full time regular jobs they cannot afford to take time off from because they are left with $20,000 repair bill! Where is the fairness? Where is the justice? If you, as the Government, are going to collect for one group of people (tenants), how can you LEGALLY discriminate against the other group (Landlords)?! If you can re-direct a landlord’s income to pay a tenant, why can you not redirect a tenants’ income to pay the Landlords what they are owed?! There is something seriously wrong with this system. 

Yes, there was a well-known Property Management Company that was recently disciplined by the Manitoba Securities Commission. The individuals responsible have been held accountable and are no longer in a position where they can cause further issues. However, the overall public and media attitude has become that much more hostile towards Landlords and Property Management Companies as a whole as a result. Why are we judging the group by the actions of one or two? Why do we allow people to get away with this type of generalized hatred? When it comes to discrimination based on race, color, sexual preference, etc…, open discrimination like this would be front page news and people would be protesting in front of the Legislature. Yet it seems discrimination by source of income, painting all Landlords with the brush of a few bad apples, is acceptable and commonplace and everyone turns a blind or critical eye. 

For the record, we used to own a number of rental properties and a property management company. I’ve seen and experienced this discrimination first hand and it is extremely stressful and so full of hate – just because we owned/managed rental property. We rarely collected from tenants when the RTB issued a judgement. When we finally sold our last property we were left with approximately $50,000 – $60,000 in unpaid judgements and considerably more for those that never made it to a hearing as they disappeared before you could ever serve them paperwork. Just before I retired I had an experience that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I was filing paperwork at the RTB offices downtown. There was a middle aged ethnic couple there with a RTB officer and they were crying. They couldn’t get a tenant out of their house and the RTB wouldn’t explain the correct procedure to them. “It’s all online – it’s all on the paperwork”. They obviously did not speak English well and no one would help them. I spoke to them and found out the tenant had been there for more than 6 months without paying rent. Utilities were being unpaid and they could no longer pay for the mortgage on the rental house and their own house. They were being ordered by the RTB to pay the utilities on the rental property. They had tried 3 times to evict the tenant, but they didn’t serve the paperwork in the right order, or the right form, etc. They had filed and had a number of hearings but because their paperwork was “not in order” the tenant was allowed to stay rent free, and they were told they had to refile and start again and wait for a new hearing. They were behind on their home mortgage and were at risk of losing both homes if they couldn’t get this sorted out. They both worked full time and couldn’t continue to take time off work, they needed the income. They were recent immigrants and had put all their savings into the 2 homes. I spent some time with them and the worker, showed them what they had to do and in what order. They were very grateful and I can only hope things turned out well for them. I couldn’t understand why our Government can offer language interpretations services to tenants in multiple languages but will not make any effort for the Landlord. That day I returned to my car and cried. It was so unfair and there was nothing I could do to change it. The hatred and stigma and unfairness of it all was more than what I was prepared to continue living with. That day I decided I wanted out of the business and began selling off every last property. I’ve never been happier!

We saw everything. A client was thinking of purchasing a property and requested we go have a look at it. We walked in with the realtor to find water pooling through the kitchen, living room and to the front door. There were 2 young boys, maybe 6 – 8 years old. They were sitting on the sofa playing video games and the electrical cord and video box was on the floor and was centimeters from water pooling around it. I had rubber soled shoes and ran to the electrical outlet and unplugged everything seconds before the water surrounded the electronics. The kitchen faucet was left running, dishes and empty alcohol bottles were overflowing. The children hadn’t eaten, mom was passed out on a mattress with a baby maybe 6 months old crying beside her. The milk in the baby’s bottle was curdled and chunky. We called social services and police. Another image I will always remember. We’ve seen piles of human feces in homes where the water was turned off for non-payment. It’s hard to get rid of that image!

We’ve seen suites where there have been murders; suicides and attempted murders and attempted suicides. People just angry and frustrated with life and think it’s Ok to take out their frustrations on other people’s property. The amount of damage we have seen over the years is well into the millions of dollars. This never reaches the news. The odd time someone hears about it they think “rich property owner can afford it”. Really?! Then why do we hear about it when someone goes on a vandalism streak and smashes car windows in a neighborhood?! Why doesn’t the same attitude apply? You’re a “rich car owner” after all… The number of people who contact me selling their rental properties, always with the same horror stories and frustration is insane. This is such a black eye on Manitoba. It’s time someone took notice and began working for change!

Years ago, after evicting a tenant for not paying the rent, he called our home and threatened my 6 year old daughter in the most foul language, and told her he was coming to kill us all. I grabbed the phone away and blocked his number instantly and called police. There was nothing they could do because “it was a Landlord/Tenant issue” call the RTB. The RTB doesn’t deal with issues like that – they told me to call the police! Unbelievable! He threatened my 6 year old child! No one gave a damn cause I was a Landlord! Didn’t matter, but someone can be sitting taking pictures in a park and everyone hears about it for fear they “might” be a child molester. My daughter was terrified and traumatized and I couldn’t do a thing except change our telephone number and set the alarm! Why? Because we were “landlords”! Just so very sadly wrong in every aspect. Just wrong!

The reality is that right is right and wrong is wrong. It is not right to destroy another person’s property, regardless of the circumstances. It is not alright to utter threats or assault others. It is not okay to discriminate against anyone, based on ANY of the categories under the Human Rights Act. It’s not okay to fight for someone’s rights while you openly stomp on another’s. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally based on who they are and what they have or have not done. Putting people into “groups” and judging them based on their belonging to this “group” is inappropriate and unfair and unjust. I’ve always been fair and dealt with people as individuals. I just wish our Provincial Government and our Media could do the same and stop championing some groups while slaying others. Discrimination happens in many ways – it is never right or acceptable! People are not all of the same character, regardless of the “group” we “belong” to.

Highly Competitive Fall Market

Homes-sold-home-for-sale-report

Back in the spring I wrote a blog about my concerns with the number of new builds and potential over saturation of the market. Well, it seems the National and Local Media have recently come to the same conclusion and the repercussions are being seen almost instantly! Basic rules of supply and demand are in effect. The more supply, the more fussy buyers can become. As the supply continues to grow, we have seen a correlating increase to the number days on the market it takes a home to sell.

There are a number of factors that can dictate when the fall market picks up. Weather is the biggest factor, but this year it seems once the media released its observation that the market is over saturated in Winnipeg, everyone suddenly wants to get their home on the market “now”. Sellers who have been waiting for the market to peak so they can get the best dollar for their homes are suddenly rushing to get their homes listed. Others who have been slowly getting their homes ready for months, are suddenly in a panic to get the house listed ASAP. The number of calls and booked stage jobs in the last week is more than 5X what we saw last year at this time! We’re scrambling! Sellers and Realtors are all looking for an edge to get their homes sold!

I have had a number of sellers ask me what we’ve observed of the market. It all depends on where the property is located and what the price range is. Homes in the lower price ranges in the well-established, mature neighborhoods are still selling relatively quickly. Usually in anywhere from 2-5 weeks. Rural and higher priced homes can take longer; anywhere from 2-4 months is common. Homes that have been updated and look good, sell faster than those that are outdated. Homes that are in serious need of updates will sell quickly as investments, if they are at the right low price. Yes, believe it or not, we have still seen bidding wars on staged and updated properties. Not nearly as many as in past years but we have still had a number of homes sell in bidding wars.

Homes that tend to sit longer are those that are in rural areas, which typically are in lower demand due to the additional travel to the city. I personally do not understand this. I grew up in West St. Paul. It is 20 minutes to Portage and Main. I now live about half way between Winnipeg and Lockport and still it takes me 30 minutes to get to the south end (using the perimeter) and only 20-25 minutes to get to Portage and Main. Our property taxes are 25 – 33% of what you pay in the city and we have 2-3 times the lot size. We played baseball in our back yard and still had tonnes of room for a pool and multiples decks! It’s quiet and peaceful and my grocery store is only 5 minutes away! Driving home every day – getting out of the city, is a wonderful feeling as we leave the stress of the city behind and head out to the “country”! 

Homes in the newer developments also tend to sit longer. Many are priced higher so that rules out a big section of buyers. That is normal is any market! Higher priced homes just take longer to sell as there are fewer qualified buyers. Buyers expect more from a home in that price range and they can afford to be very selective. There are quite a few “knock down” and “build new” in well-established neighborhoods like Tuxedo or River Heights. Money isn’t so much as issue as the area itself and the detail that goes into the new home. These buyers are not interested in a new development. They prefer the new completely custom build in the old neighborhood!

Many new builds in developments were built as an investment and can take longer to sell. Unfortunately, walking through some of these homes (not all but enough to take notice), it’s obvious these homes were built on the quantity and not quality principle.  Drywall seems are cracking, flooring is shrinking leaving large visible gaps, stucco is falling off a home not even a year old, windows are leaking inside because they weren’t installed properly. It’s really pretty sad. When buyers walk through and see this, it scares them off not only that house but potentially the neighborhood. They are paying top dollar for a brand new home that they can see has issues. Their Realtor will point these things out to them and then they start to think, what else is wrong that I can’t see….? There’s just no way buyers will pay top dollar for that kind of shoddy workmanship! I cannot count the number of repairs KAT Reno has been called in to do repairs on New Builds! Our home may be older, but the drywall seams and the stucco are as solid as the day they were put on! No surprises for us!

I have been shocked at the number of out of town investors that have built new homes here to take advantage of the housing boom. I didn’t realize that many out of town investors were building here. Ironically, not one was actually moving here, and they were all coordinating the building process from out of town. I’ve worked with many investors over the last 20 years and some will do what needs to be done and what is right, others will always cut corners to save money. There is simply no way you can stay on top of the building process and ensure the quality of the work being done from afar! How can you possibly stay on top of a complete new build from another province? When we do major renovation work for clients, we request they are available every few days if not daily to review the work and respond to questions. That just can’t happen with an out of town investor. Add a Builder who may be a little lax on his quality and knows there’s no one inspecting…. Let’s just hope if you are purchasing, you know who you are buying from!  Will they stand behind their Build?  Only time will tell…

Tire Kickers Vs. Genuine Clients

dining room 

We’ve all been there. Someone calls and is in a panic to get something done NOW! As soon as possible, it’s urgent. We do our best to accommodate, without taking time away from already scheduled clients. You meet with the individual, go over all the details. They are in full agreement, have you book a time and date. Then, between the time they book and when they are to issue a deposit they change their minds. In some cases, they don’t even have the courtesy to let you know until you start to chase them to find out what is going on. It is very frustrating.

It’s so difficult to distinguish the “tire kickers” from the serious clients who are just busy and can’t get to it right now. Often clients misjudge how long it will take to get everything completed before we can stage. They genuinely want to proceed, but need more time to get things done. This is not unusual. De-cluttering is a big job and often takes longer than anticipated.

The biggest frustration are the ones who demand you drop everything and come out today or tomorrow. I always give an estimate over the phone based on the size of the space and how many rooms are to be staged. If they are comfortable with the estimate, than I set up a meeting to provide a firm quote. I explain terms and conditions and explain our booking procedures. 

It’s really quite simple. I provide our next available date for staging. I ensure we allow time to source, pull, and pack the necessary stock. Depending on the job, this may require a few hours to a few days if we need to source items outside our warehouse or shop for specific items. Then we require a deposit at the time of booking, before we will commence any work. This protects our time against the “tire kickers” who absolutely “want” to stage, insist you book them in and then change their mind the day before. We’ve had a few times over the years where we’ve trusted people, only to have them change their mind after we’ve pulled all the stock and packed everything. Interestingly, these are also the ones who refuse to pay anything for your time. Very dishonest people. Then I’ve had clients who decide to take an offer, they cancel but are more than happy to pay for the time we’ve spent on planning/packing their job. I just LOVE these clients. They are the reason I trust people! Unfortunately, not all people are like this. 

Without a deposit, all the time spent planning/packing is wasted and I’ve just paid my employees hours and hours for absolutely nothing!!! It didn’t take long for me to change that policy! If you are serious, you will give me a deposit to reserve the time and to pay for the time required for designing, pulling stock and packing. If you sell or decide not to stage after the work has been completed, you will be billed for the time and work that have been put in. Sorry we simply do not work for free. We are running a business and have to cover the cost of the time involved in planning and preparing a job.

If you receive an estimate today with a booking date next week when we are available, please do not take a week to decide and then expect it staged the very next day. When I give a booking date for staging, that allows us time before that date, once we have approval and a deposit, to get everything, designed, planned, sourced and packed. If you do not give me the go ahead until the day before, you’ve just lost a week! Keep in mind, you are not our only client and our only estimate. I always tell people, that date is available right now, but we have multiple estimates out and clients who are in the process of getting their homes ready. The first one to confirm a booking with a deposit is the one who will receive the time slot. I simply cannot reserve time slots for people in the “hope” that they will be ready and will decide to go ahead. Basically if someone is serious, they have no problem confirming a date and issuing a deposit to reserve the date. I understand delays happen, and if someone needs to push us back a few days or week, that can often work in our advantage and we can use the time to plan another job. I rarely bill someone for a reschedule, but if we have costs involved that incur losses, those are billed back to the client. 

We try very hard to accommodate our clients and meet their deadlines. However, just as we respect our clients time and meet their deadlines, we request mutual respect from our clients. Please do not treat us like we “owe” you something for nothing. I do not know you and I owe you nothing. If you choose to hire us, we do a great job, are friendly and accommodating, however, we do require a deposit upon booking and the balance of the payment the day of staging. I’ve never had someone unhappy with our design on a job. So Tire kickers, who want to waste people’s time can go kick someone else’s tires. I have some pretty awesome clients waiting for my time.

How to Keep Staging Costs Down

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Everyone has a budget. We respect this. I always ask the client what their budget is. Then we identify the most important areas to be staged and allocate the budget accordingly. There are a number of ways to keep the staging costs down.

First, if we can work with your large furniture pieces, it saves the biggest part of the rental costs and moving costs. The furniture must be in good shape and be an appropriate color and style. We may rearrange furniture within your home from room to room and may still require you to remove excess pieces. However, we often try to use existing pieces as much as possible if we are working with a tight budget. If we are supplying an accessory package with smaller accent pieces of furniture and accessories, these packages can start as low as $650 and can go up to around $1500+ for a large home. Basically if we can move it without the additional expense of hiring movers, we can help stretch you’re staging budget and give you more.

Next, we identify the most important rooms to be staged. This usually includes main areas like living room/great room; dining rooms and kitchens; and master bedrooms. Normally we also stage the main bathrooms and ensuite bathroom. Quite often we will be asked to stage the main floor or main living area of a home if bedrooms are on an upper level.  In rare cases, clients request we stage the lower level as well. When we are dealing with specific budget, we usually eliminate staging the basement, then eliminate secondary bedrooms and focus on the main areas of the home. 

Depending upon the size of the home, we can also eliminate secondary furniture pieces. In a smaller home with smaller rooms, we can easily stage a bedroom without the expense of bringing in a dresser/mirror. This does not work as well in a large room where there is too much empty space in the bedroom. For secondary bedrooms, using a single bed is less costly than a double or queen bed. Using an accent chair in place of a dresser, can also help keep costs down. Sometimes setting up an office in a secondary bedroom is faster and more cost effective than setting up a bedroom. In a living room we may be able to use a sofa and chair rather than a sofa loveseat and chair. In a dining room we may be able to get away without bringing in a buffet table. Allowances for secondary furniture pieces allows us to work with a specific budget and still attain a beautifully staged room. One of the benefits of eliminating secondary furniture pieces is that a space always feels larger with less furniture in it. However, if the space is larger it simply doesn’t work. In this case, I will always let the home owner know that it would just look too sparse and not do the space justice. 

The amount of accessories we bring in also plays a role in the cost. When spreading out a budget, we need to ensure we have the key pieces in place but may be able to get away with enough accessories to complete a look, without the additional pieces we usually use. If we eliminate some secondary accessories, or minimize those required we can also help keep the costs down.

Finally, the most important way to save staging costs is to inform us when you have an offer on the home, do NOT wait until it is SOLD. If you let us know when you have an offer and what date the conditions are to be removed, usually anywhere from 3-5 days from accepted offer date, we can schedule the de-stage within a day or 2 of the sale be finalized. If you wait until Friday at 5pm to notify us the home is sold, we may already be booked with other stages and de-stages the first few days of the following week. That means you’ll be paying for almost and extra week of staging rental before we can de-stage the home! Let us know Monday when you receive an offer, we can schedule a de-stage date the next working day, or next available date after the conditions are removed. Please keep in mind we do not work weekends. So please do not expect to call us on Friday at 5pm and have us in Saturday morning to remove furniture. Sorry, that will not happen and it simply isn’t realistic. Rental costs apply for as long as you have the furniture, not the date the home is sold. No different than a rental car, you pay from the time you leave the dealer until you return it. We are very fair and only charge back what we are charged when we have to rent furniture, and will prorate the cost for rental of our own furniture and accessories. 

We do everything we can to make your staging experience as cost effective and successful as possible. Many homes are selling after 30 – 40 days on the market. However, we still have almost half our staged properties that sell in the first month.