Monthly Archives: January, 2013

Home Energy Assessments: Still a Good Idea!

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by Guest Post, Home Energy Audit No Comment yet

The federal ecoENERGY program ended last spring, leaving many people disappointed at having missed the opportunity to get financial rebates for recommended improvements.  However, you can still have an energy efficiency consultation, and benefit financially through significant energy savings and lower operating costs for your home.

Chris Thompson was a certified energy auditor for four years, and conducted hundreds of assessments of houses throughout Toronto and southern Ontario. Chris offers his expertise through his business, Portico Home Inspections. He has provided the following comments about his experiences, illustrated by an example, of what homeowners can do to make their home more energy efficient.

“My experience as a certified energy auditor was that a great many homes were under insulated and not well sealed. They were drafty or uncomfortable, and were expensive to operate. Some homeowners had been literally spending upwards of 20-30 per cent of their heating bill providing warm air to the outdoors! They were at a loss as to where the heat was going and wondered how to solve the problem.

Understandably, homeowners want to know that their hard earned money will not be wasted. The cost of an investment or improvement has to be justified before people will make expensive upgrades, and few people want(ed) to make the initial effort to improve efficiency without the help of that government rebate. There’s a trust issue, and that is why often nothing gets done: if the government doesn’t validate the program (and give money as an incentive) many homeowners don’t see the value, so they simply do nothing. At the same time, many people seem willing to pay $50,000 to $100,000 dollars more when purchasing a new ‘energy efficient’ home….

Fortunately, many of the improvements that my clients made were relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone was willing to make the investment once they understood that the payback in savings over time would more than compensate for the expenditure. This is still true today. Many improvements are worth the effort and money, even without financial rewards from the government.

Here’s an example of the benefits of an energy assessment: I evaluated a house in which the owners had recently spent over twenty five thousand dollars on new windows. It was a fairly typical 75-year-old, two storey home. My clients had gone through a winter with the new windows and were discouraged that the house was still cold and drafty.  A blower door test was conducted and found the following:

  • headers (the ends of the joists spaces) in the basement were not well sealed or insulated;
  • the walls were uninsulated (double brick with a 1 1/4” air gap), which allowed lots of cold air to move behind the walls and up to the attic (which had less than R12 insulation);
  • the home had many leakage points.

The gaps in the basement were providing a good source of nice, cold air that pushed the warm air away from where it is needed (i.e. the living space), up into the attic and out (via the stack effect). An investment of about $2500.00 was made to blow cellulose insulation into the attic, and the headers were foam-sealed. Some air sealing of doors, outlets and interior trims was completed by the owners.

A second blower door test showed that the air leakage was drastically improved. As a result, we estimated that the money invested would be recovered within 3 to 4 years. Also, for the first time the house was cozy and the owners were content. Ultimately, a set of relatively inexpensive fixes made a big difference – and this could be true for many other houses across the GTA.”

Chris’ story serves as an example of why it can be a good idea to have your house assessed before making a large investment (e.g. new windows). Take time – and spend a bit of money – to determine your priorities. Relatively small investments to add insulation and seal gaps can make a big difference. This can be especially true if you purchase an older home. Consider getting an energy assessment by a qualified energy efficiency consultant (like Chris!), and find out if there is a way to generate savings that help pay for some home improvements. If your home is more comfortable and you are spending less money to heat (and cool) it, then it’s already a win-win. Down the road, when you want to sell, you’ll have another positive feature to market – and that’s another win!

The bottom line is that maintaining an energy efficient home is both environmentally friendly, and financially rewarding. You might want to consider getting one done at your house. 🙂

 

2012 – My Year in Review

January 16th, 2013 Posted by Commentary No Comment yet

As I have written before, real estate is a funny business. In this case, I mean that there is a constant need to prove success (thus competence, to clients and prospects), and a concurrent resentment among the public for Realtors who show the trappings of success. How often do we read or hear about ‘cheesy’ agents with their fancy cars and annoying, loud phone calls? I have always taken a modest approach to my business – without pulling any punches, mind you – but this time I’m going to talk about my recent successes more that I usually would. Bear with me!

As I wrote at this time last year, I spent a bit of time on a real estate team. The idea (so I thought) was that shared success would mean greater success all around. That turned out to not be the case, so I struck back out on my own. After a brief time away, I returned to RE/MAX Hallmark and resumed my career as a solo agent. As relieved and excited as I was about that, I was prepared for a bit of a struggle as I regained my independent footing. Somewhat to my surprise, though, the year was an absolutely roaring success.

The first (and, I’ll admit, arguably the best) part was a dramatic decrease in unproductive emails and phone calls, and that meant a lot less running around. As planned, this allowed me to focus more on my own clients. It also meant less unnecessary stress, and more time for my family. Talk about a win-win! The result was a more focused approach to my business, and a steady stream of sales throughout the year – and that translated into the most financially rewarding year of my career.

Some of my success last year has to do with being at a large, dynamic Brokerage that conducts a fantastic amount of business. I am directly connected, professionally and socially, to the largest real estate network in Toronto, which allows me to learn, share and do business with like-minded producers. While that sounds great for me, what I really mean is that it’s great for my clients who are, after all, the primary beneficiaries of all that.

However, just as much has to do with being able to deal directly with my clients, and to give them my own best advice without having to worry about any complicating dynamics. The client comes first, period. How awesome is that?! I found my return to that format very liberating, and very satisfying. At the end of a fantastic year in business, I saw that it was also best for my buyers and sellers – and that’s the most rewarding element of the whole year.

Every entrepreneur wants to grow his or her business each year. That’s one of the best things about being self-employed – the freedom and the power to greatly expand one’s horizons each year. Naturally, I expect big things for my business in 2013. With more than ten years experience in the Toronto real estate market, I feel well-positioned to help my buyers and sellers hit their own goals for this year. So, if you are planning a move this year, call me and let’s get to work on that. Together, we’ll make 2013 an even better year!

November-December 2012 Market Review

January 8th, 2013 Posted by Market Commentary, Market Review No Comment yet

With the month of December being chock-a-block with seasonal activities (including a couple of birthdays in my family), I neglected to post about November market activity, so I’m combining November and December. 🙂

November

November was not a super-busy month. Sales activity (volume) added up to 5,793 units sold, down 16% from the previous year. Prices were up about 1.6%, which I read as basically flat. Of note, TREB’s Home Price Index, which compares like house types (thus minimizing the effect of having more or fewer million-plus sales to influence the average) was up 4.6%. That 4.6% is meant to be the more reliable indicator.

November is busier than December, but by about half-way through, attention starts to shift to the rapidly approaching holiday season, and the real estate market starts to tail off. That said, I took a new listing in the last week of November; it sold in 11 days!

December

Typically a quiet month, December saw 3,690 sales, down a fair bit from the 4,585 reported in  December, 2011. However, the average sale price was up 6.5%, which is good – up enough to show some capital appreciation (after inflation), but not so much as to stretch affordability.

The number of active listings declined significantly from 18,311 to 13,241 in December. That’s most likely due to the season. While November saw 9,838 new listings, December had only 4,295 as many Torontonians turned their attention to Christmas, New Year’s Eve, etc. With the market slowing for the season, and with kids off school, some soon-to-be sellers keep their house off the MLS until the New Year. Plus, some un-sold houses simply go off the market for the month. This tightening of supply always means that the good houses that are on the market get plenty of serious attention from active buyers, so those listings sell (like 9 Gowan Ave). Overall, it puts a bit of pressure on the buyers!

TREB reported that the average sale price in Toronto was $497,298 in 2012, up about 7% from 2011. I’d say that stands in stark contrast to the (many, many) dire predictions for the Toronto real estate market produced by various prognosticators last year. (By contrast, I said this a year ago: “The market is ‘hot’, and will stay that way for the foreseeable future.” Read the whole post here.) I don’t feel like we are being bombarded with negative news now. Maybe those ‘experts’ are getting tired of being wrong. 😉

2013

Watch for some houses that were taken off the market in December to be re-posted in the coming weeks. Other houses, perhaps belonging to folks who bought in late November or December, will be brand new listings. Still others will be just a part of the continuous cycle. Either way, we’ll see a gradual increase in the supply of available listings over the next few weeks and into the spring, when I expect things to really pick up.

If the public mood moves past the general negativity we’ve experienced in the last couple of years, we’ll be back to a strong real estate market in Toronto – which in my books means increased supply to help keep the pressure off prices. Interest rates aren’t going anywhere until the end of next year, maybe later. That will help with affordability in the short-to-medium term, and if the average Canadian heeds the warnings of the government and central bank and pays off some debt while debt is cheap, we’ll all be ready for the inevitable (and likely gradual) rate increases after that. In short, I’m expecting another good year for Toronto real estate.

By the way, check out my Facebook page, where I regularly post interesting bits of information, links, etc. The media, which loves the doom and gloom, has actually produced a few relatively balanced reports about the year ahead, some of which you’ll find there. Plus, if you are not already following me on Twitter, do it now!