19 – The Marshall Report – Episode 19

Today is Thursday, May 12, 2016. This is the 19th episode of the Marshall Report. In this week’s episode:

1. Early May tasks

2. One house or two

3. Food Trucks

4. April real estate statistics

5. Economics 101

6. It’s the telephone

7. The spill-over effect

8. Bad advice

9. Skydiving

10. A parting thought


Early May tasks

I finally got the snow tires off the car. I waited until the first week in May. Someone told me that we had the coolest April on record. I believe it.

poolI also cut the grass for the first time and opened the pool.

I’ve been a little concerned with ants. Seems like we have carpenter ants in the house. It is always something with houses. Sometimes I think it would be pretty sweet to live in a condo and not have a car. But what would I do with my free time if I didn’t have to do maintenance?


Question of the week: 

Is it better to buy two small houses or one big house? Which will generate greater ROI.

I answered that question here.


Food Trucks: More than just food from a truck.

Food trucks are rolling again on Waterloo Region roads and parking again in Waterloo Region parking lots.

What is it with food trucks?

Why do we love them so much?

It is more than just getting food from a little window cut into the side of a truck. Food trucks are open air eating. They are a community events. They make us nostalgic for simpler times. Food trucks are primal, taking us back to our early civilizational times of hunting and gathering. Well maybe not that far back, but they are like a quest for the Great White Buffalo, a pagan pilgrimage to Stonehenge, or when the circus used to come to town. We get giddy with the guilty pleasure, the thrill of low-level danger.

Your mother would never approve.

Food trucks of course aren’t what they used to be. They have websites and facebook pages. They show up at festivals and at certain spots at certain times.

They have their own festivals.

Here is a link but her are some highlights:

Every Monday Food Truck Frenzy is being held at Forest Hill United Church. 4:30-8pm

Every Wednesday 3:30-8pm food trucks are at Parkminister United Church

Every Thursday at the old Waterloo Train Station and near the Spur Line Trail on Roger Street.

And then there are six or more food truck festivals you can join.

Hot dog!


Stats for April

The Kitchener Waterloo real estate board released the statistics for April. The statistics tell us what anyone who is out looking for a home already knows. There are more buyers and few listings this year. More buyers, few listings means price appreciation.

Our year-to-date sales are almost 20% higher than last year’s numbers and 20% higher than the five year average. 20% more homes have sold this year than last year or than the average year. 20% that is astounding. This is not a blip, comparing a warm February this year to a cold one last year. This is a five year average comparisons on the first 120 days of the year.

As well, at the end of April, there are almost 30% fewer listings. When I got my real estate license back in 2007, that year in April, there were 42% more listings than we have now. I had some clients wanting to buy a house over in Vista Hills. We visited most of the builders over there and they were completely sold out. If you want a new home in Vista Hills, there is a good chance you will have to wait until the spring of 2017. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of bus tours from Toronto, coming in and buying everything. It is the wild west.

So prices are up in April. Single detached homes sold for and average of $425,000. That is 5.7% higher than last year. I remember only a few months ago when the average was just over $400,000.


Economics 101

There is a certain amount of cockiness and arrogance with realtors this year. I had a phone call from a client who came to town and toured some open houses. He said that real estate agents have become like new home builders. Our attitude is, if you don’t buy it, someone else will. It’s true, but sad, the state of over-demand and under-supply.

At the same time, home buyers are getting emotionally too. Anticipation has turned into desperation. Eagerness has become exasperation. I visited a house on Locust Street last week. One day on the market and there were thirty business cards lined up on the dining room table. While I was there, chatting with my clients, lingering on the sidewalk, more than a dozen, a dozen – I’m not embellishing, agents with their clients showed up. It was like a cocktail party.  Except without the cocktails or anyone you really wanted to talk to.

Open houses have become like reverse networking events, mixers for people who don’t want to mix.

My client who visited from Toronto commented that the prices of houses has risen sharply since his last visit here a month and a half ago. He noticed. He wants what everyone else wants – a modern home in a good school zone.

“Yes. I know”, I said, “price are up. And competition is fierce”, I added. I’ve lost more than I’ve won this year.

We are in the middle of May and I am essentially a buyer’s agent. What my clients are experiencing, I am experiencing twenty times over.  Oh poor me. I got into this business so I could have some control over my schedule. Not this year. This year, we are all overworked and under duress. We are starving for new listings and when they arrive, we are swarming them like food trucks.



I’ve noticed something about my telephone. When it rings, someone usually wants something and they usually want it now. What’s more, it is usually a disruption that not only takes me away from the important work that I’m doing, it is usually not important to me at all. It is usually only important to the other person, the person calling.

I don’t know why I’ve never noticed this before. People never call to just say “hi” or to invite you out for lunch. That is what email and maybe texting is for. Facebook messaging is for checking in too. For the record, I’m not sure what twitter is for.

Maybe phoning people is on its way out. Actually talking on the telephone will become like reading the newspaper or subscribing to cable TV.

And voicemail? I’m sure that 90% of the voicemail that gets left is never responded to. It is just not convenient. Or relevant. Voicemail is asking me to do something too. Please call back. Please put this in your calendar. Please let me know.

Some big companies like Coca-cola and Citigroup Bank have gotten rid of voicemail for most of their employees. Some people don’t even have telephones on their desks.

I suppose telephones are going to go the way of telephone books. When was the lsat time you opened one of those?


The spill-over effect

Our real estate market in Canada is bifurcated, split into two. We in KW, are part of the fast moving stream. In Canada, Australia, Denmark, and New Zealand, home prices are rising the fastest in a few major ‘gateway’ cities that act as powerful magnets for people and money, while prices elsewhere remain on low simmer, running alongside growth in local income.

If you cut Ontario and British Columbia — which between them claim six of the fastest-appreciating markets in the country, the average price of a Canadian home last month falls year-over-year by 1%. With those provinces included, the average price was up 15.7%.

I wrote about this and the spill-over effect here.


Bad Advice

There is lots of bad advice out there and like most things, the internet only amplifies it.  I was reading a story called “student housing the next big investment opportunity?’. It was short on facts. Big on vagueness.

I was talking with a Remax agent the other day. He said he had just come from a marketing seminar where they told the agents to start embedding youtube videos into their emails.

I thought. Hmm thats a good idea.

And then he said “I’m not doing that. I never click on links in emails, especially not marketing emails.”

He’s right. I don’t either.

So I guess that seminar was bad advice. Especially when you think about the content and the execution of these youtube video embedded emails. They are going to be bad and self-serving. It will be low quality content that is not going to add any value at all. And everyone is going to be afraid to click on them.

Bad advice.


Letting go

I’ve never gone bungie-jumping but I have jumped off the 10 meter platform at the pool. That’s 33 feet; high enough for a thrill for sure. You get a ground rush. There is no time to think. I went skydiving once, parachuting really, we were all tethered to the inside of the plane, ripcords. We trained for a week, jumping off chairs. “Keep your knees bent, roll when you land”, the instructor said. Then the day came, we climbed into a little plane and when my time came, I got out and stood and stood on the wheel, hanging on to the strut. The wind was rushing by. My feet got that tingly feeling. When the instructor said “go”, I went. I was suppose to let go, arch my back, look up, count to five and wait for my shoot to open. I did let go and my shoot did open. That’s all I remember about that.

The real estate market this year is a lot like that. If you want to buy, there is no time to think. You just have to let go and hope your parachute opens. That’s my call to action.


Parting thought

Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.

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