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Friday, October 28, 2005

Make Your Home Halloween Ready

Trick or treaters will soon be beating a path to your door, so its time to get your home ready for these Halloween visitors. While creating a fun atmosphere is a major goal, don’t forget that safety should always be your first priority. On the approach to your home, make sure your doorway is well lit and your front walk and porch are clear of toys, bikes or other obstructions. Remember that some of your visitors are wearing masks or hoods that can make seeing difficult.

When choosing the treats you’ll pass out at the door, it’s a good idea to read the labels and avoid any product that’s made with peanuts – the number one food allergy for children. If you’re making your own homemade treats, include a label with your family’s name and address and list the ingredients to reassure neighbourhood parents that your treats are safe for their children to eat. And remember to have a small dish of loose change beside the treats, so you’re ready for trick-or-treaters with UNICEF boxes.

One of the easiest ways to quickly add some Halloween atmosphere to your home’s interior or exterior is with lighting. Change your white light bulbs to gold or orange hued bulbs, or just use the amber “bug light” bulbs available from any hardware or lighting store. You can add to the effect by applying bat-shaped “cut-outs” to the outside of lampshades, and on glass doors, front windows and mirrors. If you have kids, you can even build the anticipation by having them cut out the shapes from black construction paper a week or two before October 31st. And if you don’t want the hassle and mess of cutting up a real pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern, you can still complete your lighting effects with a plastic or ceramic version that’s available from many retail stores that supply Halloween goodies.

Of course, sound can also play a part in setting your Halloween scene. Don’t forget to have a “boom box” close to the front door, ready to play a spooky sound effects tape (these can be found in most specialty record stores or party stores).

If you’re throwing a Halloween party, you can create a fast and easy centerpiece that conjures up thoughts of “bobbing for apples”. Start with a large but shallow bowl, fill it with water, add some apples, and finish with a few floating candles. Give your table some dazzle. Scatter small foil stars or glitter on the top of your tablecloth, add a couple of sequined or feathered masks and perhaps a few brightly wrapped Halloween candy kisses. You could also tie orange and black ribbon around the stem of your glassware or as napkin rings with a tied-on treat.

A special dessert can be a highlight of a party table or a gathering of friends at the end of the evening. You can create your own jack-o-lantern cake, by baking any recipe of yellow or orange cake in a round pan. Start with a batch of white icing and add yellow and red food colouring to make it orange. Use chocolate icing to add ‘triangle’ eyes and nose and a smiling mouth. Add kids and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hidden Cost of Doing it yourself...

There is this home in my neighbourhood that's been for sale with a "do it yourself" company for a while now. I've driven by it everyday for months and now its gone up for sale with an agent. Having been in this agent's position I don't envy him. As an agent we pretty much know that the first two weeks of a listing is pretty much the most exciting two weeks for a property. It's new and the level of interest is usually high. However, whenever I have taken over a listing like the one above it enters the market flat, even if we've reduced the price. Agents have seen it and figured other buyers have seen it and weren't interested or they might think that seller will be hard to deal with. Whatever the reason there is definitely a difference in bringing on a listing after the seller has tried to market it. In some cases I've talked to buyers who had gone through the home and for one reason or another the majority of them have not felt comfortable with the seller and how they showed the home and did not feel they could make an offer that was reasonable that the seller would accept without hurting their feelings.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mortgage Rate ALERT!

In the past 17 years I have had very little reason to caution people about rising interest rates. So guess what's coming. Yep, I'm recommending locking into some of the 5 year rates that are still available at 4.5%. So pay down the mortgage as much as possible over the next 5 years so that you can keep your payments relatively the same when you renew.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Edmonton area housing prices cool in seasonal fluctuation

Just before you get to the meat of the matter, this press release is put out by the Edmonton Real Estate Board, and I’ve often found that this comes with a slight agenda. There has been nothing but rosy news releases for the past 13 years. So much so that I stopped reading these,consideringg them propaganda and not worthy of serious consideration. It is noteworthy then that there are stats and finally a press release to rebuke that everything is perfect in real estate in this news release. I think it’s important to note as well that there are some very good fundamentals in the market, but there are some major price discrepancies to be aware of.

Edmonton, October 6, 2005: Housing prices cooled slightly in September, reports the Edmonton Real Estate Board, as home buyers and sellers ended their summer vacations and focused on back-to-school activities. Home prices typically slip slightly in the fall after peaking for the year in the first two quarters (see attached chart). The average* price for a single family home in September was $216,490 down 3% from August but up 6.9% from the same time last year. Condo prices dipped to $137,998, down 7.7% from last month and down 3% from last year.
“Decreased market activity makes the fall a good time to buy or sell a home,” said Jim Kulak, EREB President. “Prices are typically slightly lower and REALTORS® are less busy; yet high inventory levels still provide lots of choice.” There were 4,093 homes available for sale on MLS® on September 30, 2005 as compared to 4,693 at the same time last year.

There were 2,243 homes listed for sale in September with 1,547 sales completed during the month. Both sales and listings were up from the same month last year. Duplex and row house sales showed strength in September with sales up from 52 to 72 units with prices up from $150,814 in September 2004 to $193,165 in September this year (a 28.5% increase).
Total MLS® sales (including residential, commercial and rural sales) were 1,773 units in September for a YTD total of 17,041 (up 5% from last year). Total dollar volume in September was $347.7 million with YTD sales of $3.36 billion: both up over 12% from last year.

In the regional markets, average prices for single family homes were up year-over-year in all areas of Edmonton and the surrounding area except for West Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. In West Edmonton, average prices dropped from $283,653 in September 2004 to $253,295 this year. In Fort Saskatchewan, average prices dropped from $206,212 to $199,812 this year. The lowest priced housing is still in Central Edmonton where average prices were $129,010 in September 2005. At the other end of the scale, an average home in Southwest Edmonton sold for $305,671 last month.

“Like water, real estate prices find their own level,” said Kulak. “When prices fall in a particular area then demand increases and prices begin to rise again. There is certainly enough demand for housing in the overall Edmonton market that timing is always an issue. Home owners should always discuss marketing strategies with a REALTOR®.”

* Average prices indicate market trends only. They do not reflect actual prices, which may vary.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Room Without a View

What's a room without a view? Even the most attractive décor can rise or fall based on the view from the predominant windows in any given room.

Whether you're a seller who wants to show your home to its best advantage or a buyer considering the purchase of a home with a problem view, the outlook from your windows is a major consideration.

So, whether you're buying or selling, or even just want to enjoy your current home to the fullest extent, here are some tips for adapting windows that either overlook a poor view or have limited light.

  • If the view is unattractive throughout the entire window, try frosting the glass with an inexpensive window film available in most wallpaper or decorating stores. You simply cut it to size, and spray some soapy water on the window to allow you to slide the film around until it's positioned just right. Once you're in position, smooth out any excess water and air bubbles and you're done.
  • If the view is poor in just a part of a window, then shutters or blinds will offer the best solution. Roman blinds are made of a solid piece of fabric and are both modern and attractive. If you order them in a translucent material, they will still allow light to enter while you can adjust their height to obscure only the part of window with the unwanted view. Venetian or vertical blinds can be even more flexible, since in addition to height, they can also be adjusted to differing degrees of openness at various times of the day or year.
  • Is the view looking in to your house the problem? It's now an easy matter to keep the neighbours from watching your every move without having to resort to keeping the drapes drawn day. Tinted glass in your window panes, or a 2-way glass film could be the answer to your prayers. Talk to your local window supplier and see how to keep your privacy while you let the sun shine in.
  • Not enough light coming in through your windows? The solution may be as simple as a bit of landscaping, pruning or re-locating bushes and shrubbery. If you're still in the dark, so to speak, you can multiply the effect of the limited light coming in to your window by positioning a mirror on an opposing wall.
  • Want to introduce some additional light into your room, but the view is not desirable? Consider adding some small feature windows in positions other than traditional window openings. A small porthole effect high in a wall lets you enjoy the treetops, rather than staring into your neighbour's kitchen.
  • Stained glass or frosted glass panels can also be hung in front of your existing window panes to attract the eye and break up an undesirable view.

Cost-effective Improvements for Home Sellers

By Dian Hymer
Inman News

New paint, floor coverings, light fixtures bring high returns for minimal costs.
It's no mystery that listings that are in great shape usually sell for more than those that are in sub-prime condition. But, is it really necessary to fix up your home for sale? Won't the buyers want to fix up the house the way they want it?

Boost your selling power
Sellers are often resistant to the notion of investing time and effort in a property that will soon no longer be theirs. Yet, time and again, sellers who properly prepare their homes for sale reap the benefits in terms of a faster sale and a higher sale price.

Before embarking on a fix-up-for-sale project, you need to mentally move beyond the idea that you're fixing your home up for someone else. The sole purpose of sprucing up your home before selling is to net more money for yourself from the sale. Can you sell your home without fixing it up for sale? Yes, but you'll be selling to a more limited market. Most buyers have a difficult time envisioning what a home might look like with an updated décor, or a relandscaped yard.

Continued on MSN...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Buying A Home With Good Resale Value

When buying a home it is tough to think about selling it right away, but it is inevitable that some day you will sell it. Keep these tips in mind to maximize the resale value of the home you buy:

1. Location is Essential - It is very important to know if a neighborhood is in demand and also if there are areas in town that are increasing in desirability.

2. Who is Buying? - It is important to find out who the main buyers are in the area. Are they seniors? If so buy a home that is one level. If the majority of buyers are young families with children then consider a property with a large yard that is not fronted by a abusy street.

3. Dont sweat the cosmetics - Look for homes that need cosmetic update because it doesnot take too much to do minor updates, but if they need one they are often priced under market value.

4. What are buyers looking for? Popular features differ from region to region, so try to find out what is in demand in your town and make sure that your home has it.

The Model Home Effect

Whether you’re selling your home and want to appeal to prospective buyers, or you’ve just bought a new home and want to show it off to its best advantage when your first visitors arrive, you can learn a lot from how model homes are presented. The best way to make a viewer “feel at home” is to create an environment that appeals to the majority of people. That means avoiding highly personal styles of décor that, although they may make a bold statement about who you are, may not be welcoming to buyers and other visitors.

While you can’t recreate the feeling of a perfect display home without starting from scratch, there are some valuable techniques to be learned that can start you on your way. A feeling of spaciousness is one of the first impressions you get when visiting a model home. You can duplicate that same open and airy feeling in your home in a variety of ways. First, choose light and neutral colours as the basis of your décor. But what if you like bold and dramatic colours? No problem. You can introduce these colours as an accent in pillows, artwork, table or bed linens, and the occasional accessory such as a bowl or vase with bright flowers. Highlighting your favourite colour with accent pieces against a neutral background will give your décor that added punch, and a bright splash of colour will attract the eye rather than overwhelming visitors with wall-to-wall chaos. Introducing colour as an accent also gives you the option of making a major change in your décor quickly and inexpensively, simply by changing some key accessories.

Spaciousness can also be conveyed through opening up sight lines. Avoid furniture placement and drapery treatments that tend to block off your view of other areas of the house, or restrict the movements of your visitors. Remember, open and airy also means an easy flow from room to room.

‘Less is more’ is the standard when it comes to creating the model home effect. A common mistake that many homeowners make is having every collectible they own placed out in sight. While we all have personal treasures that we’d like to display, if you go overboard your prized possessions will simply get lost in what looks like a lot of clutter. Choose a select few pieces that complement each other and have a similar scale and just showcase these items. Professional decorators favour the ‘rule of three’, clustering pieces in groups of three for maximum effect. You can pack away your other fine pieces for the time being, and then have the pleasure of replacing some of your current display items every time you feel like a quick and easy change in your room’s look. You may even find that you enjoy changing your accessories with each change in season.

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Is your listing over-priced?

How does a seller know whether their house is listed too high? Here’s what to watch out for:The most obvious indication is when there’s no action on your house -- either website hits, calls, showings or offers. Or it may be that your listing is attracting attention in the form of calls and showings, but then no offers result. This can be a real indicator that there is demand for the type of housing you’re advertising, but when it is viewed, your property falls short. There may be other homes in the same listing price range that are perceived as offering greater value.

However, there’s another situation which may indicate that your house is overpriced. This happens when salespeople of other companies show your house to potential buyers on a frequent basis, yet no offers are ever received. They may have their own listings of similar houses that are priced below yours. After showing your house they may then take the buyers through their listing which is priced much more reasonably, thereby appearing to be a bargain! So watch for salespeople who regularly show your property without bringing you an offer. It just might be that you’re enabling them to sell their listing off your house.

If you think this may be happening, ask your salesperson to show you what other listings are currently for sale in a neighbourhood similar to yours. Then compare the list prices of these properties with your own. You, as a seller, are in competition with these listings for potential buyers. If your listing is not competitively priced, you and your salesperson can then decide on the next steps.

Your sales professional can also show you other valuable market data to help you evaluate the list price of your home. In addition to current listings, you can also review recent sales of comparable properties, to see what price is currently being commanded for similar homes in your area. Another helpful source of information is expired listings. These listings will show you what price the market will not bear. If your current list price is bordering on this range, you are risking the same unsatisfactory result if you keep your home priced at such a high level.

In a strong market, sometimes the best pricing strategy can be to offer a lower price to attract more activity and possibly even generate more than one interested buyer to compete for your listing.

Find out the value of your home.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Booming world economy leads to record year for Alberta exports

Edmonton...Alberta's exports of goods and services reached a record high of $73.2 billion in 2004. The banner year for exports reflects an increase of nearly 16 per cent over 2003.

The increase is largely due to a booming world economy, which saw its highest rate of growth in 28 years. The high rate of growth has spurred increases in both commodity prices and export volumes.

"Growth in exports means more jobs and more jobs mean a higher quality of life for Albertans," said Clint Dunford, Minister of Economic Development. "I'm especially pleased with the growth in Alberta's manufacturing exports which were up 22 per cent."

Out of 183 importing countries, the U.S. remained Alberta's largest trading partner in 2004 importing $59 billion worth of goods. China and Japan rounded out the list of Alberta's top three importers, importing $1.7 billion and $1.2 billion respectively. China surpassed Japan as Alberta's second largest market last year.

Click here to continue reading.

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Moving to and around Alberta

There are many wonderful places to live in this great province of ours. Whether you’re changing locations within the province or moving here from elsewhere, this page will direct you to the resources and information you need.

Clicking on this link will take you to an Alberta Government website that is loaded with information about governement services and what's required when moving to Alberta.

Thanks for visiting the Coldwell Banker Johnston resource centre at

Friday, October 07, 2005

7 Home Repairs You Can't Ignore

Homeowner procrastination can ruin a house. Don’t let water, pests, faulty wiring, dirty chimneys or old appliances get the upper hand.
By Liz Pulliam Weston

Owning a house is expensive, which is why so many homeowners procrastinate on repairs. Real-estate agents have a euphemism for this condition: It’s called “deferred maintenance.”

Some fixes, however, should never be delayed. Ignoring these problems can result in much more expensive repairs later on -- or even injury and death.
Here’s what home inspectors around the country say you should be on the lookout for:

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Surviving Renovations

No matter which way you look at it, buying your first house can be very stressful. The debt load of the mortgage is one thing, not to mention the monthly up keep, operating costs and yearly property taxes. Some people try to save a few bucks by getting into the game by buying an older house and renovating it themselves, by far the cheaper route, at least initially. But what about all the added expenses that inevitably crop up? And what about all the time and personal commitment involved? In the long run, is it all really worth it? For Emma Kelly, a project coordinator for a Toronto ad agency, it wasn’t. She and her boyfriend bought their dream home three years ago with the best intentions. It was a 100-year-old home in midtown Toronto, and it needed a lot of work- everything from new wiring, plumbing, and windows, to doorknobs, fixtures and walls. But the dream quickly turned into a nightmare after they moved in and tackled their first big project-the kitchen.

Continued on MSN...

Simplify your home search.

Grow Ops

Grow Ops

REALTORS® across Alberta are well aware of the effects of marijuana grow operations on homes and real estate transactions. REALTORS® also see first hand the impact of grow ops on a community. Illegal grow operations lead to increased criminal activity and pose fire hazards and health risks, among other concerns.

REALTORS® are committed to improving Albertans’ Quality of Life and have joined forces with other community stakeholders to combat grow ops.

The Calgary Real Estate Board is a of the City of Calgary Steering Committee, STOP Marihuana Grow Ops! (MGOs). The coalition took the lead in Canada with a multi-stakeholder approach to crack down on grow ops. The Alberta Real Estate Foundation supports the efforts of the Stop MGOs! Calgary Coalition.

The Edmonton Real Estate Board is also involved in a community-based task force that includes the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Police Service and Capital Health. Learn more at

Grow ops can cause serious damage to properties depending on the size of the operation and length of time it was active. If you are thinking of buying a property, here are just a few of the red flags to look for that could indicate that the property was used as a grow op:

  • Mould
  • Signs of roof vents or alterations to fire places
  • Circular marks on the floor (from plant pots)
  • Unusual/modified wiring or evidence of tampering with the electric meter

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at
  • Housing Bubble banished

    New study banishes real estate bubble
    Home prices are 'reasonable,' business schools say
    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Inman News
    Most U.S. cities show little evidence of a housing bubble as of the end of 2004, according to a study by two prestigious universities released today.

    Recent house-price jumps are largely explained by economic fundamentals such as low interest rates, strong income growth and unusually low housing prices in the mid-1990s, said a study of 46 single-family housing markets from 1980 to 2004 by researchers from Columbia Business School, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
    The study, "Assessing High Housing Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals and Misperceptions," found no evidence that buyers are bidding up the price of houses based on unrealistic expectations of future price increases.

    According to the study, conventional metrics for assessing the housing market such as price-to-rent ratios or price-to-income ratios ignore the effects of lower real, long-term interest rates, and thus fail to accurately reflect the state of housing costs.

    The study sought to dispel what it called common misperceptions, such as:

    Misperception #1: The rising price of housing necessarily means that ownership is becoming more expensive.

    According to the study, the price of a house is not the same as the annual cost of owning a house. The study calculated the actual cost of owning a house relative to rents and incomes, and found that these ratios were well within historical norms at the end of 2004.
    According to the study, during the mid-1990s, housing prices were somewhat undervalued, and at least part of the increase in house prices over the past 10 years reflects a return of these valuation ratios to long-run historical norms.

    Misperception #2: High house price growth implies a bubble.

    The study said that when the real cost of long-term borrowing is low, as it is today, changes in long-term interest rates have a disproportionately large effect on house prices. Thus, given the decline in real, long-term interest rates since 2000, it is not surprising that house prices have risen as much as they have, according to the study.

    However, the other side of the coin is that the housing market may be especially vulnerable to unexpected future rises in real, long-term interest rates or negative shocks to local economies, the study said.

    Misperception #3: The cities with the highest price increases (or the highest price-to-rent ratios) are the most overvalued.

    In some local housing markets such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Boston, house-price growth has exceeded the national average rate of appreciation for at least 60 years, the study said.

    But, according to the study, in cities with higher long-term rates of price appreciation, the annual cost of owning is lower; hence house prices should be higher (relative to rents or incomes). At the same time, house prices in high-priced cities are more sensitive to real, long-term interest rates because interest expense is a higher fraction of annual ownership costs, the study said.

    The study concluded that the current U.S. housing values are consistent with strong economic fundamentals. The reduction in ownership costs caused by lower real, long-term interest rates, in particular, has largely offset the rise in housing prices, the study said.

    However, the study also cautions that when real, long-term interest rates are already low, further changes in rates can have a disproportionately large impact on the housing market. An unexpected rise in real interest rates or a negative shock to household incomes could cause house prices to decline, according to the study. But this fact does not mean that today houses are systematically mis-priced, according to the study.

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    Working with an Agent

    Agency: The Relationship Between Agent and Client

    What Is Agency?
    Agency is a legal concept and the root of all agent/client relationships. The law of agency describes agency as a relationship where one party (the agent) accepts responsibility for representing another party (the principal or client) in dealing with a third party.

    Note: This article deals with the most common agency relationship. Information on dual agency is contained in a separate article.

    In a real estate or mortgage transaction, agency applies to the relationship that exists between a brokerage and its client. While the person the client typically deals with is commonly referred to as an agent, the legal relationship is actually between the client and the brokerage. For example, the parties to a brokerage agreement to sell a property will be the brokerage and the owner. An agent employed by the brokerage will usually be authorized by the brokerage to enter into such contracts on its behalf.

    How Are Agency Relationships Formed?
    Agency relationships can be formed in two ways:

    1. Express agency
    In express agency, the parties (brokerage and client) clearly express, in writing or orally, their intention to enter into an agency relationship and the agreed terms of that relationship.

    Consumers can choose to enter into a written agreement with a brokerage (written express agency) or a verbal agreement (oral express agency).

    Written express agency occurs when a consumer and brokerage enter into a written brokerage agreement contract. The contract authorizes the brokerage to represent the client in the necessary capacity and indicates the details of the relationship. In most situations a written agreement is preferred because it clearly establishes the formation of an agency relationship and offers better protection for both the consumer and the brokerage and its agents.

    Express agency can also be created orally. For example, a buyer and brokerage may discuss their agency relationship and agree orally that the brokerage may seek out a suitable property and represent the buyer/client in a purchase.

    2. Implied agency
    This form of agency relationship is less tangible than express agency. It is created by the conduct of the parties rather than their express written or verbal agreement. Therefore, when certain behaviour implies a relationship exists, such as when an agent acts like an agent or a consumer acts like a client their activities may still be subject to agency law whether or not they had entered into an agreement. Because implied agency is less clear than an express agreement, agents and consumers might unintentionally create an agency relationship and may be held liable for their actions toward the other.

    Examples of Implied Agency:

    a) Agent Creates Implied Agency
    Mary Agent acts for Mr. Seller. When she meets a buyer at Mr. Seller’s open house, she fails to disclose her role to a buyer. She also advises the buyer on a suitable offering price for the property. To encourage the buyer to make an offer, Mary says, “I’ll make sure you get a good deal on this house."

    Because Mary’s conduct is similar to that of an agent (offering advice, assuring the buyer’s interests will be protected by getting a good deal), Mary may be creating an implied agency relationship. If her advice causes the buyer to think Mary represents him (agency relationship) the buyer may have grounds for future legal action against Mary and the dispute may be subject to the interpretation of a court.

    b) Consumer Creates Implied Agency
    Seller Dave has a written agreement with Brokerage A to sell his house, but there is little activity and Dave is becoming frustrated.

    Dave meets Agent Bob of Brokerage B and tells him he is anxious to sell the house. He asks for Bob’s help, saying, “If you know a buyer, bring them over.” However, Seller Dave does not mention his agreement with Brokerage A because he fears Agent Bob will not help him if he knows another brokerage is involved. When Agent Bob asks Dave to enter into a written brokerage agreement with him, Dave says, “Not just now, but maybe soon.”

    Agent Bob tells a real estate colleague, Agent Banita about his potential new listing. Banita has a buyer and Bob arranges with Seller Dave for Banita to show Dave’s house to her buyer. The buyer offers on the property and Banita, believing Agent Bob will soon be listing the property, delivers the offer to him.

    Agent Bob meets with Seller Dave to review the offer. Dave asks many questions and Agent Bob offers his advice. Based on this advice, Seller Dave accepts the offer. Later, when Agent Bob asks Seller Dave for a commission payment, Seller Dave refuses to pay, claiming Bob isn’t his agent because Brokerage A is.

    Seller Dave failed to disclose his relationship with Brokerage A and sought Agent Bob’s help and advice. A court may view these actions as sufficient to have led Agent Bob to believe there was an implied agency relationship. If so, Seller Dave may be liable to pay Agent Bob. Additionally, Dave will also likely owe compensation to Brokerage A because he breached the brokerage agreement by dealing with another agent.

    Avoid the Pitfalls
    To avoid the potential pitfalls of implied agency relationships all parties should be clear about their roles in a transaction. The Real Estate Act, Rules, Code of Conduct requires Alberta industry members to clearly disclose their roles.

    However, consumers should also act honestly in their dealings. Seller Dave is an example of acting dishonestly. He should have told Agent Bob about his brokerage agreement with Brokerage A, to avoid creating an implied agency relationship.

    Duties of an Agent to a Client
    In agency relationships, the brokerage (including its broker, associate broker(s) and agents) owes certain duties to its clients. These duties are called fiduciary duties. They include:

    Undivided Loyalty: An agent must act in the client’s best interests. An agent must put the client’s interests ahead of anyone else’s, including his own.
    Obey Instructions: The agent must obey the client’s lawful instructions and not act beyond the authority granted by the client.
    Confidentiality: All information received from a client or obtained as a result of representing that client must be kept confidential.
    Reasonable Care and Skill: It is expected that agents will perform at a level reasonably expected of competent real estate professionals. An agent is not expected to have expertise beyond this, unless the agent implies or states such expertise.
    Full Disclosure: An agent must disclose to the client all known material facts which may affect or influence the client’s decision in the transaction.
    Full Accounting: An agent is accountable for all money or property entrusted to the agent by the client.

    Duties of a Client to an Agent
    A client in an agency relationship is obligated to fulfill the client’s responsibilities laid out in the brokerage agreement. This will usually include items such as dealing with paperwork in a timely fashion, payment of commission, reimbursement for certain expenses the agent pays on the client’s behalf, etc.

    A client must also conduct their dealings honestly. For example, if the property has a defect which seriously affects the property but is not visible, such as a cracked foundation behind drywall, the client must disclose it to a buyer. When an agent represents a client, he or she is also required to disclose the defect on the client’s behalf.

    source RECA

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    Who wins in a real estate market downturn

    Perspective: Many lose, but some win when housing market slows
    Friday, October 07, 2005
    Inman News

    If the housing market turns south, a lot of people will lose: homeowners, investors and real estate professionals, to name a few. But a lot of people would benefit from a slower real estate market. Inman News has compiled a list of beneficiaries:

    1. Foreclosure and pre-foreclosure investors:Marla Webb, a senior advisor to the Foreclosure Economic Advisory Council, a non-profit group affiliated with the for-profit, said experienced foreclosure investors and investment groups who are wise to long-term real estate cycles can profit in a downturn.

    "The folks who do best are those who are already engaged in foreclosure investing – people who are building a portfolio. It's not those who like to buy and flip," she said. "Much of the hot markets have been heated up by people who don't have a real understanding of long-term management aspects of real estate. People who are speculators jump in and out."

    Real estate speculators can boost a booming market higher and, similarly, drive a slumping market further down, Webb said. Rising foreclosure rates may scare some short-term speculators away while attracting the more seasoned investors, she added.

    "Investment in real estate, like in many other commodities, tends to provide momentum in the direction it started to go. I call it the 'greased rails syndrome.' I think investors are greasing the rails in the direction of less of a seller's market." As investors who rode the boom bail out, they may precipitate a faster downturn, she said.

    While foreclosure statistics don't yet indicate a significant turn in the U.S. real estate market, Webb said there are signs of cooling. And higher interest rates and higher energy costs could be a factor in a real estate downturn.

    2. Borrowers who took out conservative mortgages and didn't get in over their heads: Prudence wins in a slow housing market. While those buyers who took a risk with exotic products like interest-only, no-money-down loans could get hit hard, the ones who borrowed under more traditional terms and stayed within their buying power should have no worries.

    Likewise, lenders that kept tight underwriting standards during boom times shouldn't have to worry too much about excessive defaults or foreclosures coming their way.

    3. Tax lien investors: These investors would benefit if there's a rise in delinquencies, said Howard C. Liggett, executive director of the National Tax Lien Association, which represents lien investors. Investors buy liens on the property taxes, which are auctioned off by local governments, and profit from the interest that is set by the state. In some cases, investors can receive up to 18 percent return on investment, according to NTLA.

    The property tax lien market has prospered during boom years, with 32 states auctioning off $5 billion to $7 billion of unpaid cash bills per year, Liggett said. This segment also is expected to do well in a housing slump.

    4. The prognosticators: While most economists and academics have shunned the notion of a housing bubble, some have been talking about it and predicting it's downturn for years. Among them: Yale University Economist Robert Shiller, author of "Irrational Exuberance" and cofounder of real estate analytics firm Fiserv Case Shiller Weiss; Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and economists working on the Anderson Forecast produced by the University of California, Los Angeles.

    "Each month that goes by with higher and higher levels of spending on homes, and higher and higher prices of existing homes, we are building a larger and larger mountain of adjustment to come," according to an analysis by Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, said in a June forecast. "The next recession is highly likely to get started in the housing market, which has been made very fragile by very high levels of appreciation in some markets and by high levels of residential investment nationwide."

    5. Wait-and-see buyers: They shopped around for a home at the top of the market, but backed off because there were too many multiple-offer situations and the asking prices were too high. As long as interest rates for mortgages remain low, these wait-and-see buyers will benefit from a slowing market, which shifts the balance back from the seller's corner. Plus, real estate agents will be fawning over them and treating them much better than during boom days when buyers were a dime a dozen.

    6. Auction companies: Historically, auctioneers have done well in booming markets, and even better in slower ones, said Tony Isbell, president and CEO of RealtyBid International, an online auction company based in Gadsden, Ala. "Auctioneers as a whole had a record year last year in real estate, and it's anticipated that (the sector) will really explode as things slow down," he said.
    Auctions typically take less time than traditional selling methods, Isbell said, and especially during slower markets. The two main benefits of selling by auction are that sellers maintain more control over the terms of the process, and the process is expedited, he said.

    7. Lead generation companies: Companies offering up home buyer leads to real estate brokers and agents may see a surge in customers as more agents eye prospective buyers as clients. The listing agents who relied solely on listing properties for business during boom days will be looking for new ways to build up a network of buyer clients since listings will be scarce during a slowdown.

    8. REO companies: These companies will benefit because slower markets tend to churn out more real estate foreclosures. Banks that end up holding title to a bunch of property will likely hand it over to an REO outfit that can sell it off quickly so they don't have to waste any time holding ownership of the property.

    9. Wall Street: During the housing boom, many investors turned to real estate while the stock market slumped after the dot-com bust. If home-price appreciation rates slow or stagnate, many investors will pull out of Main Street and head back to Wall Street.

    10. Scam artists: They benefited from the boom and they'll benefit from the big chill too, but will switch their focus. Instead of offering people broad advice on how to get rich quick in real estate investment, they'll be offering to save troubled borrowers from foreclosure using dicey tactics that many times result in the borrower losing his or her home.

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    Is a For Sale sign enough?

    They say there’s a perfect match out there for everyone – and that goes for home buyers and sellers too! The right buyer is out there, but it takes time, expertise and resources to put them together with the right seller to make the sale.

    Real estate professionals know that there’s a lot more to selling a home than just putting a sign on the lawn and crossing your fingers that the phone will ring. There are many other sources of buyers, and a good real estate salesperson will utilize several different marketing approaches to find them. A customized marketing plan for your home might include such tactics as posting your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), holding Open Houses either for other real estate agents or potential buyers, direct mail, traditional media advertising, in-office promotion and most importantly, a strong online presence.

    Statistics show that the majority of home buyers now start their property search online, so the ability to attract web surfers to view your listing is a critical factor in not only getting your house sold, but more importantly, getting it sold for the best price that the current market can bear. Simply placing a sign on the lawn or posting your property on a little-used website that no one views won’t expose your property to the extensive number of potential buyers you need in order to achieve optimum results.

    The Internet is now one of the most effective sources for initially attracting potential buyers to a real estate company. But did you know that it’s an established fact that the vast majority of Internet searchers ultimately used a real estate agent for their home purchase? And despite the fact that most started their search on the internet, a large proportion of homebuyers first found out about the home they actually purchased through an agent. So what does all this mean to you? Simple! Although more and more people are using the internet in the early stages of their property search – particularly affluent, younger buyers -- buyers still need the help of an experienced and knowledgeable real estate professional to help them evaluate the wealth of information that’s available, and to guide them throughout the complex real estate transaction process.

    Even if your sign on the lawn attracts a buyer, how do you know if what you’re being offered is really a fair price in today’s rapidly-changing market conditions? How do you qualify that buyer to ensure they’re not wasting your time looking at a property they really can’t afford? How do you ensure that you minimize your potential problems at closing? What create financing options can you offer to make it all happen? You see, there’s much more to buying or selling a home than just placing a sign on the lawn. You need a skilled Coldwell Banker real estate professional to help you interpret the vast amount of information that’s available today so you can make an informed decision.

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    Consumer Best practises

    Consumer best practices are published by the Real Estate Council of Alberta. More information about RECA can be found at

    Consumer Best Practices
    1. Use the services of a licensed real estate brokerage. In order to assist another person in a real estate purchase or sale in Alberta, a license is required. Real estate brokerages and agents must be licensed by the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) and comply with the Real Estate Act. Consumers are protected when they deal with a licensed individual for several reasons: Education: To become licensed, an individual must complete a real estate course and pass an exam. Insurance: An individual must have errors and omissions insurance to quality for an Alberta real estate license.Assurance Fund: Consumers are protected against any loss arising from frauds or breach of trust by a licensed real estate agent by the Real Estate Assurance Fund, a fund financially supported by all licensees.Standards: When a licensee conducts business, they must adhere to business standards and comply with an industry Code of Conduct designed to protect consumers. Supervision: A licensed real estate agent must be registered with a licensed brokerage and can only trade on behalf of that brokerage. In accordance with the Real Estate Act, the broker supervises the business conduct of all the agents registered to the brokerage and ensures the business of the brokerage complies with the laws of Alberta. Many of these laws are designed to protect consumers. A consumer who deals with an unlicensed individual does NOT have these safeguards. Is your “agent” licensed?It’s simple to check for a licence. To check whether a particular firm or individual is licensed to trade in real estate in Alberta, click licence search on the right side of any page in this website. Alternatively, contact RECA’s information officer at 228-2954 (in Calgary) or toll-free in Alberta at 1-888-425-2754.

    2. Make an informed choice when selecting a real estate brokerage or agent.There are over 10,000 real estate licensees in Alberta and there are many marketing strategies used to obtain your business. It is important you select a real estate brokerage and agent for the right reasons.Tips to choose an agent/brokerage:
    Ask friends to recommend an agent they have worked with successfully.
    Ask the broker to recommend one of the agents of the brokerage who will be a good match for you and your needs.
    Interview several agents and discuss your needs and expectations.
    Ask for and assess their qualifications (education, experience, specialty areas, knowledge of the market place, etc.)
    Check for a disciplinary history with the Real Estate Council of Alberta.
    Request a written service and fee proposal.
    Ask for and check references from the agent’s past clients.

    3. The nature of the services you will receive should be discussed and agreed to in advance by both parties.Real estate licensees are professionals who want to provide you with the best service possible. Your relationship will be more successful if you clarify and understand the relationship between you, your agent and the brokerage. Clarify the nature of the services that will be provided by the agent. Ensure fees and costs are fully discussed and agreed to, in writing. Clarify what your options are if you are not satisfied with the services or quality of representation you receive. Also, discuss what your agent expects of you and your family. What are your obligations? What can you do to help your agent do a good job?

    4. Listing agreements or buyer agency agreements should be in writing.It is a benefit from a service aspect and a form of protection for consumers to have written service agreements. These may be called a listing agreement and/or buyer agency agreement, or a similar description. Often these documents are on standard forms. If there is not sufficient room to detail the terms of your agreement on the standard form, simply ask for an addendum to be added to the agreement. A seller should have a written listing agreement with a licensed real estate brokerage. The agreement should detail the authority of the brokerage and real estate agent to list, market and sell the property. The agreement should specifically detail the seller’s responsibilities, real estate agent’s responsibilities, the fees to be paid, and the duration of the agreement. For buyers, a written service agreement should also be considered, particularly when the buyer is seeking agency representation (see Sec. 5). A written agreement confirms there is a commitment between a buyer and a real estate agent to establish a working relationship and outlines the expectations, obligations and responsibilities of each party.

    5. Understand the concept of agency and representation choices when retaining the services of a brokerage and a real estate agent.When you retain the services of a real estate brokerage and agent to represent you, you become the client and they become your agent. As your agent, they must act in your best interests and fulfill all their fiduciary duties to you, including duties of good faith, full disclosure, competence, obedience, and accounting. Discuss these duties with your agent and ensure you understand them. In some cases, your agent may ask for you to authorize their actions as a “dual agent” and to sign a dual agency disclosure form (Note: for sellers, this authorization is often part of the “standard” listing form.)A dual agent is an agent who proposes to represent two parties in the same transaction at the same time (e.g. an agent who represents both a seller and a potential buyer on the same property).It is a challenge for one agent to represent the interests of two parties at the same time. Therefore, their fiduciary duties to each of the parties must be limited significantly. You should not authorize an agent to act as a dual agent unless you fully understand what this type of agency relationship means and what implications it has on your agent’s ability to represent you in a real estate transaction. The onus is on your agent to fully explain the meaning of dual agency and to obtain your informed consent in writing.

    6. Communicate honestly and clearly with your agent – disclose all relevant information.A real estate agent represents you (the client) in dealings with third parties. As your agent, they must act on your authorization and based on the information you have provided. In order to avoid misunderstandings in the relationship, it is important you do not make any assumptions. Ask questions in situations where you do not fully understand what the issues or choices may be and give your agent clear instructions. To provide you with effective service and protection from potential liability, your agent needs to be fully informed of all relevant information in your possession. If you are a seller, this is particularly important with respect to property defects. These property defects are described as “patent” or “latent”:
    A patent defect is a fault in the property that is readily observable to the untrained eye of a potential buyer (e.g. a broken pane of glass, old roof shingles or peeling paint).
    A latent defect is a material defect not readily observable by a potential buyer (e.g. a serious crack in the foundation that has been covered over with paneling or improper wiring covered by drywall). As a seller, you must disclose all latent defects about your property to a potential buyer, otherwise you may be liable to the buyer for the costs of repairing such defects. Therefore, ensure your agent is fully aware of any latent defects to the property. If you are a buyer, ensure your agent is aware of all of your property needs, transaction requirements (e.g. possession date) and any financial constraints. A fully informed agent is in a better position to provide you with timely, efficient and effective service. Be upfront and honest with your agent and discuss any issues or concerns you have. If you do not receive satisfactory responses from the agent, discuss the problem with the broker.

    7. Avoid signing a document you have not read, cannot read, or a document you do not understand.This is one of the most important responsibilities you have to yourself and your agent. Do not sign any document unless you are sure you know its meaning and its effect on your transaction. Take the time necessary to read any document you have been asked to sign. This may mean reading over the document several times at your own pace. Your agent should not interfere in this process or pressure you to sign a document you have not read. If the document has become difficult to read due to changes, counter-offers, or fax transmissions, ask your agent to prepare a new, clear contract that is easy to follow and legible. If you do not understand the nature of the document, a particular clause or term, ask your agent for clarification and assistance. While an agent cannot give you legal advice, they should be able to explain what a particular clause or term means and its effect on you. Do not hesitate to ask for or seek assistance legal advice at anytime.

    8. Avoid signing a document you do not agree with in all respects. Typically, the agent will prepare the document and present it to the client approval and signature. A real estate transaction is made by a contract. You will be legally bound by the contract and could be sued if you do not fulfill your obligations. Therefore, the contract should only reflect the terms you are in full agreement with. The entire contract is enforceable. If you agree with most of it and disagree with certain provisions, do not sign the contract. Advise your agent and seek changes to those provisions through further discussions or negotiations.

    9. Avoid signing a document that may be false or misleading. Often you will be asked to sign a document you have not personally created or a form you have not filled in yourself. Once you sign it, you are responsible for its contents, whether or not you prepared it. All signed documents must be truthful and factually accurate. Point out any errors in the document to the agent and correct any errors before signing.

    10. Support your agent in the performance of their duties. Real estate agents are not successful unless their clients are successful. They want to do their best to ensure their clients achieve their goals. However, the work of a real estate agent is challenging. The duties and responsibilities are many and not easy to accomplish. Therefore, in order for a real estate agent to successfully represent you, they need your support and cooperation. There are a number of ways you can do this:
    Be available to communicate with your agent at all reasonable times.
    If you are away for a period of time, advise your agent and indicate how you may be reached during your absence.
    Cooperate with all reasonable requests from your agent.
    Carefully consider information or advice your agent gives you. They are providing this to assist you in the transaction.
    Timeliness in real estate transactions is important. Provide informed and clear responses in a timely manner.
    If you receive any contact or inquiries from other agents or third parties, refer them to your agent. This will ensure your interests are protected and prevent confusion or misunderstandings in communications.

    11. Keep records of everything related to your transaction or services provided by the agent. A real estate transaction is a complex process that leads to a legally binding contract. For your own protection, it is important for you to maintain a complete record of the transaction. You are entitled to receive copies of all documents and contracts from your agent. Keep these, in addition to copies of any documentation you have provided to your agent together in one file. Make immediate notes of any verbal promises or representations made to you by your agent. Make immediate notes of any verbal directions you have given to your agent. Whenever possible, follow-up a verbal promise in writing.

    12. Provide feedback to your agent and the broker. Everyone needs feedback in the workplace. If you are satisfied with the services you have received and the quality of representation, let your agent and broker know! They appreciate knowing they have done a good job and met your expectations. If you have concerns about the services you received, communicate your concerns to your agent in a timely fashion. Give your agent a reasonable opportunity to address any concerns you may have. If you are not satisfied with the response of the agent, communicate your concerns to the broker. Pursue your concerns with the broker until there is a satisfactory resolution. Many agents and their clients have built a trusting relationship and work together through many real estate transactions over the years. A satisfied client will refer their agent as a trusted service provider to their friends, family and co-workers. This is what all agents strive to achieve. However, a real estate transaction can be stressful and problems can occur. By following these guidelines you can make a meaningful contribution to a successful outcome for you and a positive relationship with your agent.

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    Interior designers reshape real estate buying

    Advice helps match house to lifestyle
    Friday, October 07, 2005
    By Katherine Salant
    Inman News

    What makes a house purchase a 10? It rapidly increases in value, and it makes you feel great every day you live in it. If you only get money out of the deal, I'd give the purchase a five.
    What's so great about a feel-great house, and why should you want one? It fits your lifestyle, its colors ebb and flow through the house in a calming fashion, the room shapes and openings have a logic that makes furniture arranging easy, and it still looks good five years after you bought it – a period that also brought two more children and a dog into the household.

    So, how do you get from here to there and end up with a house that is a win-win both financially and personally? Engage some expertise in the "make my house work for me" department. If you are working with an architect, he or she will tailor the house to you. But if you're working with a custom home builder or purchasing a new house from a production home builder, you need to bring in an interior designer who specializes in residential work. Such a person is skilled in massaging and matching a house to a lifestyle, has a practical streak, and has expertise in the aesthetic nuances and durability of materials and finishes that goes far beyond that of a typical model salesperson and most custom builders.

    Arrange for a consultation with an interior designer in your current house, and he or she can make some quick and helpful observations that might lead you to redirect your housing search. For example, if she sees that the personal style projected in your smallish rooms is one of cozy comfort, she's likely to suggest, tactfully of course, that you might not be happy in the great big house with big rooms that you have set your heart on. A house that's only somewhat bigger might be a better fit because it's hard to have an intimate conversation or a small, friendly, informal dinner party in a breakfast area that's big enough to seat 12, and it's hard to feel cozy next to a fireplace that's in the middle of a 20-foot-long wall.

    When you've narrowed your search to a final two or three models, an interior designer can help you decide which house and which options are right for you. Someone who has merchandized furnished models for home builders can be especially helpful because she will have had experience in furnishing production-built houses – and know some of the pitfalls. For example, a sunroom that looks great in a model can often turn the adjacent living room into a "drive through" space with no sofa wall and no way to arrange the generous three-person sofa and overstuffed arm chairs that many people want to put there, said Carlyn Guarnieri, an interior designer who works with home builders in the Washington, D.C., market and has worked with individuals in the past.

    Matching the house to a household might also include finding alternate uses for conventional rooms. If the house has a living room that Guarnieri knows the owners will never use as a formal sitting area, she helps them figure out how to make it a functional space for their lifestyle. For example, if the household will always be in the family room area on the back of the house, the living room on the front could be used as a home office or as an adult lounge with a pool table by adding French doors.

    Once you've settled on the house and start dealing with specific colors and finishes, an interior designer can help you select these in a sensible manner. Many clients want to start with specifics like the dining room chandelier, Guarnieri said, but that's like starting with the icing instead of the cake. You need to nail down the overall look first, she said.

    For example, when a house has an open plan – that is, you can see the formal areas, kitchen and family room "in one eyeful" from the front door – you'll end up with a visual mish-mash if you don't determine an overall color scheme, Guarnieri said. With all those rooms many people want to put every color in the rainbow in there, but you need to limit yourself to only three or four in varying proportions to create a pleasing overall panorama and a nice "flow" as you pass from room to room. You might draw colors from your current furnishings or start fresh with a completely new palette, but this will be more expensive as it will entail new slip covers or re-upholstering or replacing the furniture you have now, Guarnieri added.

    Every room does not have to have the same color theme, however. In your "closed rooms" – bedrooms and a home office that will be closed off from the general view – you can be more freewheeling in your color choices, Guarnieri said. This can even be practical. A home office that markedly differs from the rest of the house in color and style reinforces the fact that this is a space for serious endeavor, not paper-clip basketball.

    When you're finally ready to weigh in on specifics, an interior designer can be especially helpful in sorting out the distinctions and nuances between the multitude of choices in cabinetry, countertops, faucets and flooring that most builders offer. It's easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of their durability and cleanability – critical characteristics that should guide your choices, said Ann Arbor, Mich., interior designer Jane Hughes, who has worked with families buying production-built houses for the last 40 years.

    Moreover, she added, the requisite degree of durability varies with each household, depending on whether it has teenagers, young children or no children at all.

    In some instances Hughes may recommend bypassing the builder's offerings altogether to get something more durable. For households with very small children, she likes a commercial grade of carpet because it's manufactured to withstand more abuse than children could ever inflict.
    Eventually you will get to the icing on the cake – the lighting. Some guidance at this point can be especially helpful because each type of lighting fixture creates a different mood that can range from "dramatic" to "conversational" and "focused on calculus homework, don't talk to me," Hughes said. Many of these effects can be created with lamps or torchieres; the ones to address initially are those that the builder will be installing.

    For those walls where you plan to hang artwork and want some drama, Hughes specs a recessed "eyeball." For food prep activities like chopping vegetables that require focused light on a kitchen counter, she specs xenon under-cabinet fixtures (the fixtures are mounted in the recess under the wall cabinets). For general lighting in the family room, especially if you have small children and don't want them tripping over electric cords, Hughes recommends wall sconces because they give better quality of light than the recessed ceiling fixtures that home builders typically offer. But Hughes does spec recessed ceiling fixtures for hallways, stairs and transitional areas where you move from one kind of flooring to another.

    One spot where almost no one thinks about the lighting is the linen closet, Hughes said. She always addresses it because inadequate lighting can make it irksomely impossible to distinguish common sheet and towel colors of similar hue and intensity, such as sky blue and lime green.