Friday, September 20, 2013
Sleep Your Way To Success!
The internet series of TED talks is a fascinating diversion these days. The series consist of experts in various fields sharing leading edge ideas and discoveries. The other evening I was scrolling through the latest of the TED talks and came across Russell Foster speaking on the subject of sleep. Foster is a circadian neuroscientist who studies the sleep cycles of the human brain.
While listening to Russell Foster’s lecture, it occurred to me that having a successful real estate career can be greatly aided by paying attention to one’s sleep habits and improving on them. This may seem contrary to the image of a hard working agent who never rests, but research suggests that spending quality sleep time is actually time well spent.
Sleep is the single most important physiological activity of the human brain. In fact, a person living to the age of ninety will have spent 32 years asleep. Interestingly enough, the brain does not shut down during sleep, quite the contrary. There are some areas of the brain that are more active during sleep. Some genes are only turned on during memory consolidation periods of sleep. However, sleep remains complicated. Researchers have theories on what sleep really is, but they don’t really know why we sleep.
The need for sleep is not restricted to humans. Other mammals and birds share with humans the two broad types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM). However, the sleep process seems to have a greater impact on human brain activity in the areas of memory consolidation, and the creative areas of the brain. An adult reaches the REM stage of sleep every 90 minutes, but the function of REM is uncertain. What is certain is that without proper REM sleep the ability to learn and retain information is clearly impaired, according to scientific research into the subject.
Our society is sleep deprived. We live in an aura of artificial light that affects natural sleep cycles. As a result we keep strange hours. We suffer from jet lag, shift work, late night computer addictions, and any other of various factors that limit the time resting. Margaret Thatcher famously said, “Sleep is for wimps”. According to Foster and other neuroscientists, Thatcher couldn’t be more wrong.
So, what happens when we don’t get our 8 hours of proper sleep? Lack of sleep has a real nasty downside. For starters, things like mood change, stress, anger, impulsive actions, chemical dependence, lack of concentration, poor memory, and lack of creativity will result from sleep deprivation. Heart problems, obesity, and even mental health problems like bi-polar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia have been linked to lack of sleep. For a REALTOR® any one of these side-effects of the lack of sleep can really impair the ability to fulfill the job description.
On the other side of the coin, getting proper sleep will give you many of the attributes for a successful career. Sleep increases concentration, attention, decision making, creativity, social skills, maintaining a healthy weight, and overall cardiovascular health. A study conducted in 2007 by researchers Turner, Drummond and Brown showed that working memory was clearly reduced by 38% when one was sleep deprived. Another University of California psychiatry study of more than one million adults found that people who live the longest reported a regular sleep habit of 7 to 8 hours. Having good regular sleeping habits pay big dividends in health and effectiveness.
Some cultures have the accepted practice of taking an afternoon nap after lunch. Despite stereo types and social bias this is not a sign of laziness. In fact, studies have demonstrated that taking a short “power nap” actually helps in overall wellness. In fact, the “siesta” has been associated with a 37% reduction in heart disease.
The idea of the “power nap” is not new. Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter would often sleep in a chair while holding a spoon. When he went into the sleep phase, his hand would loosen, and the spoon would fall. The noise would awaken him, and he felt refreshed and ready to work again.
Recent studies have proven that short naps during the day can be as good for some types of memory tasks as a solid night of sleep. NASA has conducted numerous studies and research into the effects of sleep patterns as part of their interest in the effects of space travel. Their research has confirmed the importance of naps for memory, alertness, response time, and other cognitive skills. This is a far better outcome from a sleep deprived individual having his brain shut down into the phenomenon known as micro-sleep. Many industrial accidents and traffic tragedies have been caused by micro-sleep. We have all experienced the uncontrollable experience of micro-sleep during a boring lecture, an overly long sermon, or an early morning sales meeting. It’s that feeling when your eyes begin to close and your head slowly begins to drop despite your best efforts to engage your attention.
So, how do we create the atmosphere conducive to healthy sleep? Russell Foster suggests reducing exposure to light a good half an hour before sleep. Have a dark room with a slightly cool temperature, and don’t drink coffee after 3 pm.
Perhaps Brokerages should provide a quiet dark room for those that need a power nap in the mid-afternoon, and remove the stigma of short rest periods during office hours. It might provide as much benefit as an in-house gym, or café style office area. That being said, having a power nap during a quiet open house is not recommended practice!
The conclusion in all of this is; if you want to be your absolute best in the Real Estate business, and achieve greater success through capitalizing on your full potential, remember that quality sleep is a scientifically proven, valuable and important tool in achieving your goals. The plus side of developing and maintaining good sleep habits far out-weight the negative results of sleep deprivation, regardless of what our current social mores may be.
Writer and journalist, Tim Butcher once wrote, “Sleep is God. Go worship.”
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Vancouver Market Mirrors the Chinese Economy
Vancouver Housing Markets Cannot Fully Escape The Chinese Dragon
March 11, 2013
Senior Economist, Centre for Municipal Studies
The ebbs and flows of Chinese commerce have strongly affected housing markets around the Pacific Rim, including Vancouver’s. Although discussion of this relationship has focused on its recent behaviour, the bond stretches back much further. Moreover, casual observation and statistical tests both hint that China’s influence rivals that of three key domestic factors: Vancouver’s population growth, changes in its employment and Canadian mortgage interest rates. The chief implication is that observers need to pay attention to China’s economic health when assessing the outlook for Vancouver’s housing market.
Despite a decent local economy and favourable demographics, Vancouver’s housing market was relatively sluggish during the 1990s. Employment increased an average of 2.3 per cent annually and the population advanced 2.5 per cent per year, both solid figures. Nonetheless, the average resale price rose less than three per cent annually, ending the decade up 24 per cent. The market performed much better during the following ten years. Annual sales of existing homes exceeded 36,000 units, a previously-unheard-of volume, for five straight years between 2003 and 2007. The average transaction price doubled between 2000 and 2009 with a 20 per cent spurt in 2006 alone.
One obvious contributor to the market’s improvement was the big drop in mortgage interest costs. The posted rate for a five-year term mortgage declined from 13.2 per cent in 1990 to below 7 per cent in 1998, before edging up in 1999. Rates were generally lower and continued easing during the 2000’s. The five-year mortgage rate fell to an average of 5.1 per cent by 2009. Cheap financing clearly helped people buy homes.
But, Vancouver’s housing market performance can also be viewed through an Asian prism. The 1990’s started poorly for China, whose economy grew only 3.8 per cent in 1990, following a tepid 4.1 per cent advance in 1989. This represented a big shock since annual expansion had averaged roughly 12 per cent in the prior 5 years. The 1990’s also ended on a weak note, with an annual GDP growth of 7.8 per cent in 1998 and 7.6 per cent in 1999. The 2000’s were significantly better: annual Chinese GDP growth never dipped below 8 per cent.
Now the pendulum has swung again. Despite slightly faster growth in employment (2.1 per cent on average in 2010-12) and population (1.6 per cent), along with even lower mortgage interest rates, Vancouver resale volumes fell 23 per cent in 2012 and the average resale price dropped 6.4 per cent. One clue to this tepid performance is that China’s real GDP growth fell to a 12-year low, estimated at only 7.8 per cent, in 2012.
Statistical analysis confirms the importance of China’s economic health to Vancouver’s housing markets. Standard tests find significant correlations between the country’s real GDP growth and three important market yardsticks: existing home sales, existing home price growth and total housing starts. By contrast, local employment growth is significantly correlated to none of these and the five-year rate related to only the resale variables. This could mean that a substantial proportion of Vancouver real estate purchasers do not need local jobs to buy any home (new or existing) and that many do not need a mortgage to buy a new home. On the other hand, better economic health in China gives its residents wealth to spend on Vancouver housing.
This analysis suggests that Vancouver’s housing markets would perhaps welcome a pickup in Chinese GDP growth more than a rise in local employment and roughly as much as lower Canadian interest rates. If the Chinese economy is indeed improving, this could help rekindle both new and resale demand in the lower mainland.
Friday, January 4, 2013
Economic Update for BC
Canadian and US Employment - January 4, 2013
On the heels of a surge in employment in November, Canadian employment posted a strong increase again in December, growing by 40,000 jobs. December's increase in jobs was entirely due to gains in full-time employment. The Canadian economy added just shy of 100,000 new jobs in the final two months of 2012, which pushed the national unemployment rate to 7.1 per cent, its lowest level in 4 years.
Job growth in the BC economy was essentially flat as an increase of 4,300 in full-time employment was mostly offset by declining part-time employment. The BC unemployment rate fell 0.3 points to finish the year at 6.5 per cent. Despite some softness towards the end of the year, the story of the BC labour market in 2012 was overwhelmingly positive. BC employment grew 1.7 per cent in 2012, a marked improvement from just 0.8 per cent in 2011, while annual growth in full-time employment was 2.8 per cent in 2012 compared with just 0.5 per cent in 2011. The provincial unemployment rate averaged 6.8 per cent in 2012, the first time in 4 years that unemployment fell below 7 per cent.
Finally, the US economy continued its slow and steady recovery, adding155,000 jobs in December following job growth of 161,000 in November. The US unemployment rate remained constant, finishing the year at 7.8 per cent.
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Friday, December 28, 2012
Turn on the Motivational Drive
According to research, the three things that turn on our motivational drive are: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. This is according to Daniel Pink in his book, Drive. Here is how he details these drivers:
Autonomy – Seek autonomy over some (or all) of the aspects of work. Lookf for the freedom to tackle projects in a way that you see fit rather than having to follow a strict procedure.
Mastery – Seek the passion to become better at something that matters to you.
- Create an environment where mastery is possible – to foster an environment of learning and development, four essentials are required – autonomy, clear goals, immediate feedback and Goldilocks tasks.
Purpose – take steps to fulfil your natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than yourself
In the new year, let's try and find those areas where our passion for mastery can fuel our actions in a more proactive way. Also, let's try an find a purpose for contributions that is deep and meaningful for our greater goals.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
8 new studies in psychology reveal some interesting truths
1. If you have to choose between buying something or spending the money on a memorable experience, go with the experience. The things you own can’t make you as happy as the things you do.
2. First impressions are all about value. We’re all hardcore value processors even before “Hello” comes out of our mouths. The subjective evaluation we make when meeting someone new includes–to put it bluntly–what’s in it for us.
3. The “money illusion”—the tendency to allow the nominal value of money (amount of currency) to interfere with the real value (value of goods the money can buy)—is all in your head. Think about what you can buy with your bucks, not just how many you have in your wallet. Most of don’t process the effects of inflation.
4. Playing video games could be an unlikely cure for psychological trauma. Researchers at Oxford University hypothesized that playing Tetris after witnessing violence would sap some of the cognitive resources the brain would normally rely on to form memories. Memory research suggests that there’s about a 6-hour window immediately after witnessing trauma during which memory formation can be disrupted.
5. All of us spend time riding the moral self-regulation see saw. Feelings of negative self-worth can predispose us to acting morally in an effort to fill up the self-worth bank account. If the account is already full, we might be predisposed to choosing not to act morally, or just not act at all.
6. If you’re preparing for a specific challenge, make sure you prep for that challenge and not just ones like it. Title says it.
7. If someone is trying to sell you something, be extra careful to keep your psychological distance. People not emotionally engaged, were significantly better at identifying liars and thus were harder to fool with the old flim flam sales routine.
8. Turns out, saying you’re sorry really is important—and not just to you. Receiving an apology makes the recipient feel better by affecting his or her perception of the wrongdoer’s emotions. Knowing that the other person agrees that what he/she did was the wrong thing to do reaffirms our view of the world as just and predictable.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The REALTOR CODE
The REALTOR® Code
In my role as a Managing Broker, it is not unusual to hear complaints from agents about other agents acting “unethically”. On occasion I have to deal with members of the public expressing concerns about one of our associates acting in a manner which was considered unethical in their eyes. These allegations tend to stem from the complainant imputing motives on the actions of the agent. They interpret what they have experienced as unethical when the results of a transaction, or negotiation do not conform with their expectations nor provide for their well-being. The insinuation is that the agent manipulated circumstances into their own interest, rather than the interest of the client or customer. What comes into play is the subjective nature of our understanding of the ethical boundaries of our business.
Ethical behavior is described in the Dictionary as follows:
1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.
3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
4. ( usually used with a singular verb ) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.
Ethics are, in a nutshell, the often unwritten, but internalized, rules of conduct that allow for the well-being of others. While many maintain that it is the religious imprint of our current or past affiliations of faith that give us a moral compass, there is a growing understanding that we all have an innate sense of fairness and communal responsibility. This inborn awareness of what is fair has even been demonstrated in studies with primates that associate in groups.
We all have slightly different points of reference when it comes to acting fairly. Although the “golden rule” is a universal axiom, we are also influenced in what our ethical boundaries are through our upbringing, (including where we are in birth order comparative to our siblings), our cultural background, and our religious influences. Due to these variants in one’s personal experience, it is important to set an objective guideline to overcome the elastic nature of moral and ethical boundaries. The statement that there is “honour among thieves”, suggests that even within groups that might be seen as lacking in moral fibre, a certain ethical standard is upheld. One might be tempted to respond to an accusation of unethical behavior with a question of which standard is being referred to!
CREA developed a code of ethics in 1913 for the real estate industry with the specific reason of ensuring that a standard of conduct be adhered to. They created 28 guiding principles help to determine when someone is acting unethically. This code has a higher standard than the existing legal requirements in many cases. The local real estate boards have taken these guiding principles and applied them to their professional standards doctrines. Boards also appoint professional standards committees to police the actions of agents based on the rules of conduct built around the code of ethics.
CREA describes the code this way:
CREA’s REALTOR® Code has been the measure of professionalism in organized real estate for over 40 years.
A REALTOR’s® ethical obligations are based on moral integrity, competent service to clients and customers, and dedication to the interest and welfare of the public.
The REALTOR® Code, by setting high standards of professional conduct for REALTORS®, helps to protect Canadians' rights and interests. It also creates a level of trust between REALTORS® and their clients.
There have been instances where a member of the public contacts me with a complaint, and it becomes evident that the designated agent they were dealing with did not instill a level of trust in their relationship with their client. As a result, as soon as something did not go as planned, the agent was seen as acting outside of the standards and values of the client. Even if nothing was done wrong in a technical sense, the client is left with a bad taste regarding their dealings with the agent.
When someone complains about unethical behavior to me, I will step back and picture the scenario from every angle possible. In most cases, after getting the details, it becomes clear that the agent was not acting unethically but rather, outside circumstances conspired to create that impression to someone that didn’t have the full details. As the saying goes, “There is always at least two sides to every story”. It is a rare occasion that I have found a REALTOR® acting intentionally against the well-being of others. It is for those occasions that the REALTOR® Code becomes a valuable tool in organized real estate.
Understanding the 28 articles in the CREA Code of Ethics is invaluable toward building a solid reputation as a REALTOR®. It is the ethical standard that sets us apart.
Monday, July 16, 2012
7 reasons to remember Dr. Steven R. Covey
As I write this, word has been released that Steven Covey has passed away. I am sure a lot will be written and remembered about this key figure in the world of self-help and motivation.
While Dale Carnegie may have been the God Father of the motivational book, Steven Covey was certainly this generation’s leading prophet, and one of the most influential writers in the genre. I can’t count the number of times that I have listened to “motivational” speakers and realize that they are simply regurgitating Covey’s concepts.
The great thing about Covey was his ability to take ideas and apply stories and thought pictures to help his audience understand how the idea is implemented into daily life. His seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, detailed a process with which to improve one’s business, attitude, and life in general. It was named the #1 most influential business book of the twentieth century.
Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People are:
1. Be Proactive
2. Start with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think Win-Win
5. Seek first the understand, then to be understood
7. Sharpen the saw
These habits have been often mistakenly referred to as “Success Habits”. Covey was very careful to establish that these habits are meant for living a life that has an effective impact, not necessarily one that is traditionally measured as successful. Roles models that Covey felt reflected an effective life were people like Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Canadian heroes that embody his principles would include the likes of Terry Fox or Rick Hansen.
The principles that Covey outlined in his books were not original, but the way that he compiled examples and process was. He introduced scores of readers to people whose writings helped to shape his principles of life. People like Viktor Frankl were Covey favorites because they provided key insights based on overcoming dramatic trials in real life.
Steven Covey’s website outlined his bio this way…
Recognized as one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans, Stephen R. Covey has dedicated his life to demonstrating how every person can truly control their destiny with profound, yet straightforward guidance. As an internationally respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, organizational consultant, and author, his advice has given insight to millions.
Some of Stephen R. Covey's milestones:
- Over 20 million books sold (in 38 languages)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century
- Authored four titles with sales exceeding one million copies each: First Things First , Principle-Centered Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Latest book, The 8th Habit , has sold nearly 400,000 copies
- International Man of Peace Award
- National Fatherhood Award (father of 9, grandfather of 44)
- Author of the best-selling nonfiction audio in history (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
- No. 1 best-selling hardcover book on family (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families)
- MBA from Harvard, doctorate degree from Brigham Young University
- Board of directors for the Points of Light Foundations
- Co-founder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, the leading global professional services firm with offices in 123 countries
- International Entrepreneur of the Year Award
- Awarded eight honorary doctorate degrees
In my career as a Broker, Steven Covey has been a compass to help steer decisions in the right direction, and navigate through difficult interactions. I haven’t always been diligent enough to follow his advice or to prioritize my life in the way that he advised in his time management books, but at least knowing what needs to be done takes one part of the way there.
Steven Covey may now be gone in the sense of the material world, but his writings and insights will remain. His works will continue to be my recommendation to anyone looking to better their life.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Vancouver Market Favours Buyers Currently
The number of residential property sales hit a 10-year low in Greater Vancouver for June, while prices remained relatively stable.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties reached 2,362 in June, a 27.6 per cent decline compared to the 3,262 sales in June 2011 and a 17.2 per cent decline compared to the 2,853 sales in May 2012.
June sales were the lowest total for the month in the region since 2000 and 32.2 per cent below the 10-year June sales average of 3,484.
“Overall conditions have trended in favour of buyers in our marketplace in recent months,” Eugen Klein, REBGV president said. “This means buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from compared to earlier in the year.”
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,617 in June. This represents a 3 per cent decline compared to June 2011 when 5,793 properties were listed for sale on the MLS® and an 18.9 per cent decline compared to the 6,927 new listings reported in May 2012.
At 18,493, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 22 per cent from this time last year and increased 3.7 per cent compared to May 2012.
“Today, our sales-to-active-listings ratio sits at 13 per cent, which puts us in the lower end of a balanced market. This ratio has been declining in our market since March when it was 19 per cent,” Klein said.
The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 1.7% and declined 0.7% compared to last month.
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in June 2012 reached 921, a decrease of 37.4 per cent from the 1,471 detached sales recorded in June 2011, and a 19.1 per cent decrease from the 1,139 units sold in June 2010. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 3.3 per cent from June 2011 to $961,600.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,026 in June 2012, a 19 per cent decrease compared to the 1,266 sales in June 2011, and a decrease of 18.4 per cent compared to the 1,258 sales in June 2010. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 0.3 per cent from June 2011 to $376,200.Attached property sales in June 2012 totalled 415, a 21 per cent decrease compared to the 525 sales in June 2011, and a 27.8 per cent decrease from the 575 attached properties sold in June 2010. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 0.1 per cent between June 2011 and 2012 to $468,400.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Summer BBQ Tips
Now that the summer season is kicking off, it's time to get back in the grilling groove. According to the National Fire Protection Association, gas and charcoal grills cause more than 8,000 house fires each year. Before firing up the grill, homeowners should consider these safety tips:
Grills should be located no closer than 10' (3m) from any structure. Never use a grill under a porch, deck, overhang, carport, or in a garage. Make sure the grill rests on a stable surface and can't be tipped over.
Never use a propane or charcoal grill indoors.
Check hoses and connections on gas grills periodically throughout the grilling season. Replace any cracked or brittle hoses before using the grill. Propane cylinders should never be stored inside a garage or other structure at any time.
Start charcoal fires using a chimney starter instead of charcoal fluid. Not only is a chimney starter safer, but your meal will taste better. If charcoal fluid is used, never add it to the coals once the fire has been lit.
Once the grill is lit, never leave it unattended. It can take just a few seconds for a serious fire to erupt.
While lighting and cooking on the grill, do not wear clothes that are loose-fitting or that have wide sleeves that could catch fire. Use long-handled utensils to handle food while cooking. Wear close-toed shoes while at the grill - you can always change to flip flops later.
Control flare ups by lowering the heat on a gas grill. On charcoal grills, remove the food from the grill and distribute the coals more evenly. If necessary, a flare up can be put out with water from a spray bottle, but remove food from the grill first to avoid smoke contamination.
To help prevent grease fires, remove any accumulated grease and residue from inside the lid of the grill at least every 5-6 uses. Baking soda can be used to extinguish a grease fire still contained within the grill unit.
Always keep young children and pets away from the grill during and after cooking. The grill's exterior can remain hot long for a long time.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Gardening Tips for Home Owners
Spring and summer are when yards and gardens retake their rightful places at the center of attention. This month, Pillar To Post takes a look at several steps that homeowners can take to make their outdoor spaces and their home live compatibly.
Keep water away from the house
Be sure that the ground slopes away from the house all the way around the perimeter. This ensures that any moisture from rain and sprinkler systems will be directed away from the foundation.
The base of shrubs and other plantings should be kept at least 2' away from the foundation to avoid potential problems with roots and drainage. In addition, window wells should be kept free of debris and lined with gravel to help water drain out of the well and into the ground.
Do not leave sprinklers on for too long. Excessive water will not do plants and lawns any good, and may cause problems if there are drainage issues in certain areas.
The right plant in the right place
When a tree is growing very close to a structure, there can be potentially serious problems if the tree grows too tall or too wide for the space. Damage to eaves and roofs can be caused by overgrowth, and there is even a danger of branches or an entire tree falling onto the home. Existing trees should be professionally pruned to lessen the potential for hazard. When planting new trees, homeowners should research potential "candidates" to find how large the tree will eventually grow and make decisions accordingly.
Homeowners should also consider grouping plants that have similar water requirements to avoid overwatering plants that don't need as much. Not only will plants do better, but water bills will be lower over time as well.
Choose plants with maintenance in mind
Some plants end up requiring more maintenance than a homeowner expects. When selecting new planting material, homeowners should seek advice from qualified personnel at a local nursery who will know what plants will do well in their area, their growth habits and maintenance requirements.
Lawns should not be mowed too short or too frequently. Allowing the blades of grass to shade one another helps with water retention and allows grass to grow in more fully. Many newer turf grasses require less mowing than older varieties, and should be considered for new lawn installations. Homeowners can find out more at their local agricultural or extension office.
These are just some of the ways homeowners can increase the enjoyment of their outdoor spaces while ensuring that home and yard are in good shape.
Monday, May 28, 2012
RE/MAX Delivers a New Tech Tool to Help
Did you know that RE/MAX has launched a new tech tool that is a first in the real estate market in Canada? RE/MAX of Western Canada has recently launched its new Augmented Reality feature, ‘Live View’ on the free RE/MAX mobile real estate search app. This new feature is available on iPhone and Android devices.
How does it work? When looking through the camera view on your GPS enabled iPhone or Android phone you will be able to locate properties for sale and displays the listing information on top of the physical property that you are standing in front of. The app allows you to save the property in a list of ‘Saved Listings’ which can be connected your remax.ca account making it easy to reference while in the application or on a computer. You can also request more information on the property and have a RE/MAX agent contact you.
This app will be particularly helpful when one is looking for active condo listings in the larger buildings in the Vancouver Downtown area!
Download the free RE/MAX application onto your device. Visit www.remax.ca/wc/mobile.htm or the iTunes App Store or Google Play store.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The Year of the Dragon
According to the Chinese calendars, we are now into the new lunar new. This year is the zodiac sign of the Dragon. More specifically, it's the year of the Water Dragon.
Dragon years are believed to be years that are very strong in business and in starting families. To have a Dragon year baby is considered good luck under Chinese traditions. It is also a good time to engage in business ventures. While relying on zodiac mythology might not be the best business model to follow, how can one argue with thousands of years of traditional experience?
If indeed the 2012 Dragon Year is to be a prosperous one for families and business...we are off to a great start in the Real Estate Industry! Interest rates continue to be at historic lows, and the demand for housing in the BC lower mainland doesn't show any signs of letting up it's frantic pace in the near future. The basic economics of supply and demand continue to energize the market. So far, in the early weeks of this new year we are seeing multiple offer situations ocurring, and lots of activity at open houses. While the listing inventory is beginning to stock up after the Christmas lull,with these favourable conditions the supply will be outweighted by the demand in short order.
If you have been sitting on the fence about acquiring some real estate, this is the year to make that decision. I doubt that we will see another moment like this for decades to come. The Dragon is speaking to us!
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Balance was the name of the game in 2011
Balanced real estate market prevailed through much of 2011
The 2011 Greater Vancouver housing market began with heightened demand in regional hot spots and concluded with greater balance between seller supply and buyer demand.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2011 reached 32,390, a 5.9 per cent increase from the 30,595 sales recorded in 2010, and a 9.2 per cent decrease from the 35,669 residential sales in 2009. Last year’s home sale total was 6.3 per cent below the ten-year average for annual Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) sales in the region.
The number of residential properties listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver increased 2.7 per cent in 2011 to 59,549 compared to the 58,009 properties listed in 2010. Looking back further, last year’s total represents a 12.8 per cent increase compared to the 52,869 residential properties listed in 2009. Last year’s listing total was 11.1 per cent above the ten-year average for annual Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) property listings in the region.
“It was a relatively balanced year for the real estate market in Greater Vancouver with listing totals slightly above historical norms and sale numbers slightly below,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said.
Residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,658 in December 2011, a decrease of 12.7 per cent from the 1,899 sales recorded in December 2010 and a 29.7 per cent decline compared to November 2011 when 2,360 home sales occurred.
More broadly, last month’s residential sales represent a 34.1 per cent decrease over the 2,515 residential sales in December 2009, a 79.4 per cent increase compared to December 2008’s 924 sales, and a 12.6 per cent decrease compared to the 1,897 sales in December 2007.
The overall residential benchmark price, as calculated by the MLSLink Housing Price Index®, for Greater Vancouver increased 7.6 per cent to $621,674 between Decembers 2010 and 2011. However, prices have decreased 1.5 per cent since hitting a peak of $630,921 in June 2011.
“Our market remained in a balanced state for most of the year, although higher levels of demand for detached properties in the region’s largest communities caused prices in certain areas to rise higher than others,” Setticasi said. “For example, the benchmark price of a single-family detached home experienced double-digit increases in nine areas within the region over the last 12 months.”
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,629 in December 2011. This represents a 4.1 per cent decline compared to the 1,699 units listed in December 2010 and a 49.4 per cent decline compared to November 2011 when 3,222 properties were listed.
Sales of detached properties in December 2011 reached 630, a decrease of 18.1 per cent from the 769 detached sales recorded in December 2010, and a 30.2 per cent decrease from the 902 units sold in December 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 11.2 per cent from December 2010 to $887,471.
Sales of apartment properties reached 774 in December 2011, a decline of 4.6 per cent compared to the 811 sales in December 2010, and a decrease of 32.9 per cent compared to the 1,154 sales in December 2009.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.7 per cent from December 2010 to $401,396.Attached property sales in December 2011 totalled 254, a decline of 20.4 per cent compared to the 319 sales in December 2010, and a 44.7 per cent decrease from the 459 attached properties sold in December 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 4.2 per cent between December 2010 and 2011 to $511,499.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Why list your property during the "Quiet" Holidays
1. Holiday house hunters are typically serious home buyers, they aren’t going to be looking during the holiday season unless they really want/need to buy.
2. Your home will likely feel very homey during this season (as long as you don’t go Clark Griswald on the neighborhood).
3. Showing may actually be easier than you think if you are planning on spending any time away visiting others during the holidays…your home becomes a “go and show” when you are out of town and is always show ready.
4. Many of your neighbors will be having family and friends over for parties and such…if they love the neighborhood and see your for sale sign…you might just get some interested buyers.
5. Let’s not kid…your house will smell amazing with all the pumpkin pies, sugar cookies, and breads you will be making
6. Lots of people get Christmas bonuses and some will likely plan to use theirs as a down payment…get those folks interested now, while they have the money!
7. You don’t have to worry about any yard maintenance or up keep because your yard is likely dead, your leaves are already raked and flowers won’t be blooming for a while.
8. You can always ask Santa for a ready, willing and able buyer.
9. People are generally happy during the holiday season, happy people make happy home buyers.
10. The majority of folks will think this is a bad time to sell a home so they will take their homes off the market or wait to put them on the market….this means you will have much less competition.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Reality of Ownership
What is home ownership in Canada? We speak of the bundle of rights that comes with ownership, we detail different types of rights to a described piece of land, even the air above a piece of land, and the depth to which ownership rights sink into the soil and minerals below. What does it really mean to own real estate in this country? Why is it important to us as a culture and a society to be able to claim ownership on real property? What are REALTORS® really selling?
It is fascinating to ponder what ownership of property really is. What I have seen is this; the homeless on Hastings Street in Vancouver, clutching their cardboard, garbage bags, and shopping carts. Their sense of security and shelter differs greatly from the general population that surrounds them. Looking up from Hastings Street one can see the condominiums looking down. These monolithic structures contain layers of strata owners claiming ownership to what is essentially a piece of air for over half a million dollars or more. The condos hang over a mere footprint on a piece of land. It’s a far cry from what property owners a few generations back would have considered ownership of real property. Seeing this dichotomy raises the question: who has a more defined de facto ownership of property, the street person with their nomadic and unfettered existence on their stake of a piece of public property or the de jure property owners in the apartments above?
If the aforementioned strata owners don’t pay the mortgage, they could lose their right of ownership. If any property owner in Canada doesn’t pay their taxes to the crown, or the local governing body, they could lose their rights of ownership as well. The fact that the sovereignty can come and reclaim property ownership due to unpaid taxes is a throwback to the feudal system of ownership in practice. Despite the words, paper trail, and legal constructs, in many respects ownership of land is really just a fabrication of our society. One could argue that despite the protection of modern terms and conditions, the average Canadian can only rely on the security of ownership as long as regular dues are paid to the sovereignty. That in addition to the concept of Government appropriation, does lead to the question of what we really purchase when we claim title to real property. If home or property ownership in our Canadian cultural context is nothing more than a legal construct based on Medieval foundations, what are the rights that one “buys” when a name is printed onto a deed of land?
Ownership in a property can take a number of forms, such as sole ownership, joint ownership, communal property, or leasehold. These different types of ownership may complicate an owner's ability to exercise their bundle of property rights. For example, if two people own a single piece of land as joint tenants then, each may have limited recourse for the actions of the other. This is often the problem in divorce settlements. Traditional principles of property rights include: the control of the use of the subject property; the right to any benefit from the property; a right to transfer or sell the property; and a right to exclude others from the property.
In his book, The Common Law, Oliver Wendell Holmes describes property as having two fundamental aspects. The first is possession, or de facto property, and the second is title, or de jure property. In Manitoba a buyer will first claim possession of a subject property, and then a few weeks later, the title will finally be registered. In BC it is not uncommon to see different dates, usually just a few days apart between possession and completion of the transfer of title.
In every culture ownership and possession are built upon custom and regulation, both legal and social. Many tribal cultures balance individual ownership with the laws of the specific collective be it tribal, family, associate, or national. For example the 1839 Cherokee Constitution frames the issue in these terms: “The lands of the Cherokee Nation shall remain common property; but the improvements made thereon, and in the possession of the citizens respectively who made, or may rightfully be in possession of them, (shall be respected)”.
Different societies have different theories of property for differing types of ownership. It does appear universal that property ownership is not a relationship between people and things, but a relationship between people with regard to things. What someone purchases in Canada when they “buy a home” is not the physical property, but rather a bundle of rights. It is the legal permission from society and the crown, to have the prescribed usage of a defined “place” for whatever the set term is.
Despite the abstract notion of modern ownership and the ubiquitous tax bills and operating expenses, we are driven by the hunger to have something that we can truly call our own. This desire to own real property is not a universal need, as the nomadic tribes in the arctic or the desert demonstrate. However, the need for safety and shelter is a primal and instinctive motivator.
In his 1943 paper entitled, A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow introduced the conceptual model for the importance of certain basic needs that a person is instinctively driven to obtain. In the mid-fifties, he expanded on his theory in his book, Motivation and Personality. It has become a well received and respected theory that has had a substantial impact on many other theories of human developmental psychology. Abraham Maslow’s theories focus on describing what the drivers are in our motivation in various stages of our development.
It’s interesting that Maslow studied well adjusted and exemplary people to arrive at his concept of a Hierarchy of Needs, rather than people that were psychologically damaged. In some respects this fact helps to cement the universal nature of the motivational strata that he envisioned.
Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs is usually depicted as a pyramid, with a human’s most basic needs on the bottom platform, and as the pyramid narrows the needs become more esoteric. He placed self realization needs at the top of the pyramid, while physiological needs were foundational. Some have criticized his placing self realization as a “top tier need” as being ethnocentric, or possessing some cultural bias; but no one argues that needs such as food, shelter, and safety are basic motivations in life.
So according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need for shelter is a foundational driver. It is a fundamental motivation in life along with food and safety. These are the ingredients that fuel the hunger for real estate. One could postulate that this primal need accounts for the wars over borders, and the arguments over hedges and fence posts. Countless neighbours have done each other harm over a few inches of lawn, alongside with countries arguing over rocky islands that are inhabited primarily by gulls and clams. History is full of unfortunate battles over real estate. It’s no wonder that dealing with competing offers in a real estate transaction can be so volatile.
The indigenous peoples that had the embarrassment of riches in their unfettered use of large tracts of land seemed to take its availability for granted. The nomads and the gypsies also had an abundance mentality that saw the countryside not as a series of parcels of separate ownership rights, but rather as a shared resource. For these social groups the need for safety and shelter did not tie itself to a quantified lot or acreage, but was shared in a larger global sense. Maslow in studying the elite Europeans and Americans in his theory did not delve into how the pyramid of needs may motivate responses based on cultural elements.
The need for safety and shelter, while it can claim its roots inside the development of the legal constructs of real estate is not the only motivational driver in building a real estate industry. Canadian culture and social convention have added to the primary need for shelter with the notion of self-esteem associated with property ownership. As most Canadians find their primary needs of food, safety and shelter satisfied, they climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the upper tier motivational level of self-esteem. As we place our sense of self-worth into the equation, the desire for ownership of property increases. There is no greater flag of conspicuous consumption than the deed to a piece of property in a desirable location.
Considering all of this makes one appreciate that this business is a complex one, built from a primal need to claim a nest,(and then possibly a castle for our self-esteem needs), but it is all for something that can be called “home”. Our cultural and societal motivators drive the real estate industry. This industry will remain strong for years to come because its foundations are primal motivators. The REALTOR ® that appreciates and responds to this will always find a livelihood and a deep satisfaction in knowing that they are fulfilling a deep rooted hunger.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Written by Kevin Marron Issue Date: May 2011
|Illustration: Matt Daley|
It’s an uncomfortable fact of life that anyone buying into a new condominium development must sign a contract and put down a deposit, sight unseen, years before they can move into a completed building. That’s because pre-sales are routinely required by banks and other lenders that don’t want to advance funds without the security of knowing units will be sold. But the uncertainties involved in this practice are a frequent source of frustration for purchasers and developers alike all over Canada, often leading to disputes and lawsuits.
The old adage of “buyer beware” goes out the window, says Mark Thompson, a partner with Singleton Urquhart LLP in Vancouver. “The property is simply an idea, a business plan, a concept, a set of architectural drawings, which could be changed in the actual building. And it’s only possible to say to a purchaser ‘Do your own due diligence on this,’ if you have a completed property.”
Nowhere is this issue as hot as it is in British Columbia, where a boom and bust in the property market, together with concerns about leaky condos and other construction defects, has ratcheted up the risks for all concerned. These risks were recently highlighted by a B.C. Supreme Court decision that will make developers evermore cautious of the stringent disclosure rules imposed by the province’s Real Estate Development Marketing Act (REDMA). This legislation, introduced in 2004 to protect consumers buying pre-sale condo units, places strict requirements on developers to provide purchasers with full disclosure statements and allows purchasers seven days to rescind after signing an agreement. It also gives them the right to get out of the contract at any time if the developer has not met all obligations imposed under the act. “The act is clearly designed to make sure that the buyer who is pre-buying is given the full goods and the onus is definitely on the developer here to be very stringent with disclosures,” says Thompson.
Christopher Johnston, assistant chairman of the pre-sale condo litigation group at Harper Grey LLP in Vancouver, has been tracking case law on the legislation and observes that there were very few cases before 2009, while there has been a series of court rulings since then “all dealing with different issues but all finding in favour of the retail purchaser and their rights to disclosure.”
The reason for the renewed interest in REDMA litigation is obvious. Before the market slumped in 2008, condo prices were soaring and purchasers were happy to hang onto or profit from a great investment. Now, it’s the opposite. Condo prices have dropped dramatically and purchasers are finding their units are no longer worth what they agreed to buy them for in the pre-sale contracts. So many people “are looking for whatever means they can to get out,” says Thompson.
The decision in Ulansky v. Waterscape Homes Ltd. Partnership
will make it easier for purchasers to get out of their deals, according to Damon Chisholm, an associate specializing in commercial real estate at McMillan LLP’s Vancouver office. The case involved a dispute over whether the developer of an 18-storey building, part of a nine-phase condo development in Kelowna, B.C., provided full disclosure regarding the risk that owners may decide to rent out their units on a short-term basis. The developer had provided assurances in the pre-sale disclosure statements that the building was not designed for, or intended to be used for, hotel-style short-term rentals. In the municipal development permit it was described as a multiple-unit residential dwelling tower. But the court found the disclosure statement failed to point out that a secondary permitted use under the municipal zoning was “hotel/motel accommodation within a multiple residential unit.” This would make it possible for owners to rent out their units and for the strata board to allow this practice.
The court accepted the evidence of the 12 plaintiffs in the case showing that short-term rentals were occurring and were permitted in the building — and that building permits were being issued for that purpose. The pre-sale contracts were ruled unenforceable and the developer ordered to return all deposits to the plaintiffs.
Chisholm does not question the plaintiffs’ motives. He says he understands owners of condo units may feel that vacant landlords or transient occupants of a rental unit will not take good care of the building. However, he says, the ruling will “open the floodgates” to other people who don’t necessarily care about short-term rentals but want to walk away from their contracts for other reasons.
What the ruling does, according to Chisholm, is clarify the position of the B.C. courts on how much detail must be provided in a disclosure statement. Until now, he says, many developers have presented details that they considered relevant and not necessarily followed all of the formal requirements set out for disclosure statements under the act. In this case, the developers apparently overlooked the possibility that secondary uses permitted under the municipal bylaw could be a material fact that should be included.
The risk to developers of missing some relevant detail is particularly serious because REDMA does not require that purchasers prove they were relying on the misrepresentation contained in the disclosure statement. “None of these purchasers who got out of this contract need to argue, ‘Had I known short-term rentals would be allowed I never would have bought.’ That’s irrelevant. The fact that the developers missed doing something required by them under the act allows a purchaser to get out,” says Chisholm. As a consequence of this ruling, Chisholm says he is advising developer clients to “list everything” in their disclosure statements. For example, he says they would be better off “actually copying and pasting the zoning, as opposed to paraphrasing and running the risk that you get it wrong.”
Developers are beginning to get the message, says Johnston: “They’re disclosing everything because they’re so nervous of being offside of the act.”
Meanwhile, in Ontario, where pre-sale disclosure rules are embedded in the province’s Condominium Act, purchasers are having much less success when they take developers to court, according to Gerald Miller, managing partner and head of the real estate practice at Toronto-based Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP. “There’s lots of litigation over this type of thing and the consumer generally loses,” he says. But Harry Herskowitz, senior real estate counsel at DelZotto Zorzi LLP in Toronto, says this is probably because purchasers didn’t review their documents carefully enough or failed to retain a solicitor when they originally signed the pre-sale agreement. When they get to court, he says, they are likely to find that the matters they are complaining about were adequately addressed in the disclosure documents. “Requiring even more disclosure will not necessarily add to the ultimate level of the purchaser’s true understanding or comprehension of the condominium issues involved,” he says.
Johnston, in Vancouver, agrees that longer, more detailed disclosure documents could be harder for purchasers to understand — if they bothered to read them. He says only two out of 200 clients he has seen on pre-sale matters actually brought him the pre-sale documents before locking themselves into a deal. “People are, unfortunately, putting more thought into buying rain gear to go hiking than they are to a half-million-dollar condo,” he says.
That may not matter so much in B.C., however, because REDMA’s consumer protection provisions are strong enough that it is the seller, rather than the buyer, who has the greatest reason to beware.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
The Trust Continuum
Over the years I have watched real estate practitioners come and go. Some have built amazing careers that seem to have no limit their growth, and others never find any type of appreciable trajectory. The difference between those that reach the pinnacles of success, and those who remain mired in dark valleys of defeat seems to be almost unappreciable.
The long term success of a REALTOR® in the business of real estate doesn’t appear to have anything to do with educational levels, physical attributes, ethnic background, or social class. I have seen many instances of agents with poor grooming, lack of social graces, even with speech or other physical impediments reach truly stellar levels of success, while others that seem complete on the surface are left behind. So, the question is; what is the magic powder, the key to success in real estate?
The one attribute that appears to weave itself into every successful agent I have ever encountered is the ability to instill trust. The ability to present oneself in a genuine and competent manner, a manner that says, “I am reliable, honest, and will protect your interests at all costs”. The aura of trustworthiness crosses boundaries of race, class, education, and even health. For those who have the trust continuum built into their character, a long term career in real estate is guaranteed.
So, if developing a trust continuum is so vital to a real estate career… what is it really?
The definition of trust in psychology is based on believing that the person who you trust will do what you expect. It starts at the family level and grows to others after the early years of development. The ability to place trust in others is a key element to a healthy socialization process.
Trust is also integral to the idea of social influence. The fact of the matter is that it is easier to influence or persuade someone who has developed a sense of trust in you. The real powerhouse REALTORS® create that sense of trust in their clients. Perception of honesty, competence and common values are essential. Once trust is lost, however, it is very hard to regain.
Being and acting trustworthy should be considered the only sure way to develop a trust continuum with your clients. Stephen Covey has a great way of describing trust. He calls it the emotional bank account. One puts in deposits of trust, or makes withdrawals, based on responses to perceived actions. Where trust is absent, projects can fail, especially if this lack of trust has not been identified and addressed. Individuals that are in relationships characterized by high levels of social trust are more apt to openly exchange information and to act with caring benevolence toward one another than those in relationships lacking trust.
A key element in developing a trust continuum with your clients is being reliable. Philosopher Annette Baier has made a distinction between trust and reliance by saying that trust can be betrayed, while reliance can only be disappointed. Nonetheless, being reliable is a powerful tool in building trust with a client, while the reverse can destroy trust and empty out the emotional bank account.
In the discipline of economics, trust is seen as an economic lubricant, reducing the cost of transactions, enabling new forms of cooperation and generally furthering business activities, employment and prosperity. This observation created a significant interest in considering trust as a form of social capital and has led to research into a closer understanding of the process of building trust. It’s been claimed that higher levels of social trust are connected to economic development. It is widely accepted and demonstrated by economists that social trust benefits the economy while a lower level of trust inhibits economic growth. Trusting less leads to the loss of economic opportunities, while on the other hand trusting more creates the risk of unnecessary vulnerabilities and potential exploitation.
It’s worth noting that when someone says, “trust me” most people won’t. Trust can’t be forced. Building trust is something that must be demonstrated in many little ways. The subtle clues like eye contact, and body language play an important initial impression of trust worthiness. Even something as simple as showing up on time for appointments helps to demonstrate to others that they can rely on you and hence create the building blocks of a trust relationship.
The life of a REALTOR® becomes much easier when you have won the trust of clients, and peers. The majority of the calls that a manager or broker will receive are based on agent to agent or agent to consumer mistrust. Gaining and retaining trust makes the job easier, and makes life less stressful. It’s clear that the one ingredient that makes the secret sauce for all top producers is the trust continuum.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Supply and Demand
Vancouver continues to be one of the most interesting case studies in North America for Real Estate activity. Predictions abound about the vulnerability of the Vancouver market. Many call the hot market, "a bubble", but from where I stand, I don't see Russia...only the horizon.
The unique Vancouver combination of being the primary Pacific port in Canada, locked into a narrow crease of land between mountains and waterways, and being the most temperate climate in the country make it a compelling location for migrants. In deed many point to the "investor class" migrants who see Vancouver as a destination of choice in Canada as being a primary factor in rising house prices. This is just one factor among many for the climbing sticker price on Vancouver properties.
A year ago Vancouver was the host city to the Winter Olympics. This cast a concentrated focus on this mountain city by the sea. Not surprisingly since then, prices have continued to climb. Some neighbourhoods have seen double digit growth in already comparatively high prices. The Vancouver westside neighbourhood has some of the most expensive "dirt" in the country. Builders and investors look to purchase lots in some of the more mature neighbourhoods in the hope of tearing down the older home and building a newer luxury class dwelling. The problem continues to be that demand outpaces supply.
Multiple offers and bidding wars continue to push prices skyward. As long as affordability remains in reach, Vancouver will continue to demand the highest property values in Canada. Scarcity of supply that meets an overabundance of demand is always the recipe for accelerated prices. That fact doesn't appear to change anytime soon in Vancouver. Not surprising...given that this is best place on earth!
Monday, January 17, 2011
Changes to the Canadian Mortgage Rules
New federal rules have come into play as a result of government concern over rising consumer debt levels. Three new changes to Canada's mortgage rules are an attempt by Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty to create some “moderating” impact on the Canadian housing market.
These new federal rules will reduce the maximum amortization period to 30 years from 35 years for government-backed insured mortgages with loan-to-value ratios of more than 80 per cent.
Secondly, Ottawa will lower the maximum amount Canadians can borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 85 per cent from 90 per cent of the value of their homes.
Thirdly, Ottawa will withdraw government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes.
Though longer amortization periods reduce monthly payments, they greatly increase the amount of interest paid over the life of the mortgage and make it harder to build up equity.
The average Canadian resale home sold for $344,551 in December. Assuming a five-year mortgage at 4 per cent interest, and the minimum 5 per cent down payment of $17,227, a 35-year mortgage would have monthly payments of $1,441. Shorten the amortization period to 30 years, and the monthly payment increases to $1,555.
Mr. Flaherty said his concern is not Canada's mortgage default rate - which is less than 1 per cent. Rather his concern is those who are borrowing as much as possible.
"We're seeing people borrow to the max, and borrowing to the max at low interest rates," he said. "Most Canadians are not doing that."
He said the changes will not take effect immediately because of a requirement to give the industry 60 days notice before making policy changes of this nature.
He said past experience suggests there is no need to fear a rush on 35-year mortgages before the new rules take effect.
In addition to cutting mortgage terms, Ottawa is taking action to reduce the rapid rise in home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs. The government will do this by clamping down on the insurance that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. offers to the lines of credit.
Home-equity lines of credit and loans have surged in Canada, rising at almost twice the pace of mortgages over the past decade to account now for 12 per cent of overall household debt.
The third measure that will reduce how much Canadians can draw on their home equity. Last February the Finance Department announced that it would lower the maximum amount Canadians could withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes. It is now reducing that maximum to 85 per cent from 90 per cent.
Friday, December 10, 2010
The Problem Cognoscente
The Problem Cognoscente
If nothing else, Realtors® are skilled problem solvers. The one trait that glues together all of the successful agents across Canada, it is the ability to work through the myriad of roadblocks that confront what seems like a simple task, that of bringing buyers and sellers together on a transaction within a given time frame.
Keeping a real estate deal together, and navigating through the increasingly complex minefield of laws, and restrictions that surround the real estate industry is not a task that can be accomplished effectively without logical and creative problem solving skills, along with a strong emotional foundation.
I commented to one of our seasoned agents on how unflappable he seemed in the face of the activity that surrounds him. His response was a shrug of the shoulder and the comment, "If there is an obstacle, you just have to work around it, that's all." That sums up nicely one of the key skill sets to an effective long term real estate career.
It is so very true that although you can't control the circumstances around you, you can control their impact on you. There is nothing more valuable than clear headed thinking in the time of crisis. The ability to not throw up your hands in surrender, or run away when the bullets are flying around you can come only with experience, training, and mental attitude. The storybook and film maker image of the steady handed protagonist that guides the frightened hoards through a crisis is not entirely fictitious. The hero of the real estate deal is a real life agent who doesn’t allow emotional pressure to impact on their rational and logistical task of serving their client’s best interests through to the completion of the transaction.
Problem solving is a mental process. Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as a higher-order cognitive process. It is a process that has been studied by psychologists over the last hundred years, as well as by computer programmers trying to perfect the latest artificial intelligence algorhythms. In fact the key to internet giant googles success is in the top secret A.I. code that they have perfected to solve the problem of searching the internet for information that is not tainted by spammer tricks. Make no mistake, problem solving is an intelligence market of the highest order.
Early experimental work centered on simple tasks so that researchers could analyze and capture real-world problems by understanding the cognitive processes involved. In clinical psychology, researchers have focused on the role of emotions in problem solving. D'Zurilla, Goldfried and Nezu published findings in the early seventies and eighties demonstrating that poor emotional control can disrupt focus on a target task and impede problem solving.
Human problem solving consists of two related processes: problem orientation, (the motivational/attitudinal/affective approach to problematic situations) and problem-solving skills,( the actual cognitive-behavioral steps, which, if successfully implemented, lead to effective problem resolution). Researchers in neuropsychology have found that frontal lobe injuries will cause deficiencies in emotional control and reasoning. Those findings have concluded that one’s emotional state can impact on the ability to solve problems.
Researchers have also learned that the problem solving process differs across domains and levels of expertise and emotional wellness. There can be no universal answer to why one can resolve problems under a crisis management mode more efficiently than another. It is clear however, that experience in problem solving in a given discipline helps to calm the emotional impact of confronting problems.
Difficult problems have some typical characteristics such as; lack of clarity of the situation, multiple objectives, decisions hierarchy, communication breakdown, and dynamic unpredictability. In all of these characteristics the resolution of difficult problems requires a direct attack on each that is encountered.
"A solution, to be a solution, must share some of the problems characteristics." - Richard L Kempe.
Even more than the emotional steadiness and expertise that a skilled problem solver must have is the creative mental process of creating a solution to a problem. Creative problem solving is a special form of problem solving in which the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.
Creative problem solving always involves using the creative side of the brain. To qualify as creative problem solving the solution must either have value, clearly solve the stated problem, or be appreciated by someone for whom the situation improves. These are all traits that apply readily to the real estate trade. The situation prior to the solution might not even be recognized as a problem. Alternate labels for hidden problems include words like a “challenge, an opportunity, or room for improvement”.
A good REALTOR® knows from experience that one must be aware of the unintended consequences in any action or inaction. Sometimes a small detail can impact on many elements of a successful transaction with a ripple effect. This is pre-emptive problem solving that can only be done through experience or training.
The value of a real estate professional is much deeper than the average consumer sees on the surface of a problem free transaction. It could be stated that a good agent is a problem cognoscente in the best sense of the word.