It has been a busy week with lots of media hype about the real estate market in Calgary and across Alberta, to be sure. Hard to not notice, simply open a paper or catch a feed on social media, all pretty much claiming the same doom and gloom - humongous downturn in the Calgary housing market. Yikes. What to do now? This was not in the brochure… I spoke to a landlord a few days ago who asked me directly, “Not a buyer’s market, but isn’t it more a case of ‘buyer paralysis’?” Yes, I thought, that is an apt description, seems like there is a lot of fish out there, but people are frozen with (media) fear to bite… another property manager who I ran into was all smiles, some how coping with the uncalled for ‘shift’ in the rental market by literally grinning and bearing it, “Oh, definitely noticing a slowdown and not to mention that rental rates are down by 10% across our inventory”. Interesting, that means that the people who own the properties that he manages would have to have agreed to the reduction, too. Feels official in some very real way.
However, I am not convinced that this is going to last … I see it more as a calm in the market before a storm of buying takes hold. Yes, once the weather warms and the smell of spring is in the air. Not that we have had a nasty winter, just that we are still in February and the official first day of Spring in the Northern hemisphere is not for another 3 weeks - March 21st! Ok, so what, it’s a buyer’s market out there, according to the Conference Board of Canada (http://www.newstalk770.com/2015/02/26/calgary-now-in-a-buyers-market-conference-board-report/) meaning that more inventory is out there and it is the advantage of the buyer now, not the seller: a good time to negotiate the right price. Come summer, I call a flurry of buying activity across the city … what are you waiting for, let’s go!
Saturday afternoon was not supposed to be much different than any other Saturday for my daughter and I last weekend. However, after her 30 min ukulele lesson at near Value Village in the SE, she asked if we could go "do some open houses". Hannah is a very inquisitive 10 year old. She has been watching me and listening to me prepare for, return from and generally rave about open houses – big houses, expensive houses, furnished houses, unfurnished houses, condos (“What’s a condo, mom?”) – and so having never been before, she thought it was time and so I agreed to spend the next few hours open housing … visiting open houses with a client, or ‘previewing’ without a client, is a great way for a real estate professional to check on activity in a particular community, street, style and price range. Hannah was to be my previewing pal and so off we went.
Hannah was first in the door and first to leave, then directing me to the car so that we could head down the next street, eyes peeled to spot the telltale sign indicating an open house. She learned that not all signs are for open houses; have to read carefully, as some are indicating “Just Listed”. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Killarney – South Calgary – Altadore – Garrison Woods areas of SW Calgary, areas that are usually very popular with buyers and expatriate corporate rentals.
At the end of the afternoon, and boy there were a lot to choose from, I asked her to short list 2 or 3 of her faves, as I was curious to see if what we were seeing made the same impression on me as it had on her. We pretty much had the same top three; although she really liked the house in South Calgary that was not only serving up fresh cinnamon buns, but had a humongous storage closet, set about 2 feet off the floor, which Hannah had already in her mind decided that that would be the room for her stuffed animals and dolls. That was it, while I oohed and awed over gorgeous kitchens and engineered flooring, Hannah was about the room size and how to house her toys, what would be her room, and where everyone else would have bedrooms for our blended family of 5 – including the cats, she found areas for them, too. Not only was it a fun and engaging activity for this mom-and-daughter duo to do together on a lazy afternoon, it was also educational as Hannah is working on a Tiny Nation House in her class at Willow Park School this term - I would repeat open housing with Hannah any day, let's go!
Reflecting today as the sun streams in the window of my kitchen about how the weekend was truly about the family. An interesting time, recently, in Alberta, and specifically Calgary, as people are highly concerned about the drop in oil prices, the effected real estate market, the dwindling economy and perhaps eventual slip into a recession (ohh, I know, as very nasty word here in Alberta!). However, it is imperative to focus on what is important, and Family day this year could not have come at a better time: no alarm clock on Family day, just wake up naturally and, upon getting out of bed, shut off the devices, lock the office and head out the door for fun and being together. Hopefully, others like myself were able to get away from it all by spending time with family and friends. For my daughter and I, we headed out to Banff with some good friends and took in a day of sunshine in the mountains, a walk along the Bow River, and eventually ending up in the 39-degree warmth of the Banff Hot Springs. The three-hour drive there and back went by fast, as no better situation then to have one’s attention than to be sitting and engaging in conversation, aside from enjoying the scenery out the window. It was awesome, as I chose to be with in a special space and time, sharing it with friends and family. How did you spend this past Family day?
Recently, in fact ten days ago (judging by the ten images I have made), I took a huge step and opened an Instagram account. It’s new for me; despite I am not new to social media, as it has been a big part of my world for the past eight years or so. But adding an image to my Instagram gallery once everyday is new…back in the 90s I studied black and white photography – with an emphasis on dark room techniques. Heck, there was a separate course for anything color photography related. I was a staunch, diehard black and white, darkroom purist. Later, about five years after graduating from university with a major in cultural anthropology and a minor in fine art photography, I bought my very first Hasselblad medium format camera…I was living in southern China at the time and with easy enough access to Hong Kong, I was able to capture the world around me using 120 Ilford films and get them professionally developed into black and white contact sheets. I was in heaven. And the thought of anything digital was far from this lasses’ mind; in fact, I bought my very first digital camera in 2006, followed by my awesomely fun and groovy looking Panasonic Lumix G2 in 2011 in Hong Kong on my way to Thailand for some much needed RnR.
So the decision to open and make use of an Instagram account on a daily basis was in many ways a big deal, as it required a shift in how I thought of myself as a photographer and in how I thought of photography in general. When many had embraced the digital age years, if not decades, earlier, I was somehow holding on to the past, a time when it was a real process to go from image to tangible reality. The upside is that there is less of a chemical footprint. The downside is that it is much more difficult to get analog tools as before, not to mention, I miss the inherent beauty found in a black and white neg that has been perfectly hand printed on fibre based paper. The instantaneous filters available on Instagram such as Sierra, Ludwig and Inkwell are convenient alternatives at this time to analog dark room antics with fiber based paper. Instagram, I am here to stay.
Webrooming: "is the practice of looking at products online before buying them in actual brick-and-mortar stores. It’s the opposite of show rooming, where customers look at products in physical stores only to buy them online. Image-based websites and social networks such as Pinterest or Polyvore help perpetuate webrooming. Users see items that they like while browsing these sites and then go out in the real world to test or try them on".
quoted from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6565-webrooming-retail-stores.html
I have taken this term from retail sales and shifted it to apply, aptly I might add, to real estate. Webrooming as it applies to real estate, is the practice of looking at houses online before contacting a REALTOR® and actually looking at them, attending the open house or buying them in person.
Where did I find this term? I found it on a funky website that presents and explains new retail sales vocabulary, either for the public or for retail business owners. An interest of mine, retail, as I was a retail business owner in a past life, when I lived in China (bricks and mortar and online). As a real estate agent, I see distinct similarity here: it is the norm in any real estate market for interested buyers to first approach the internet and see what is out there and to nose around before or at the same time as actively looking with their REALTOR®. Webrooming: what a concept.
“Abundance is defined by what we give, not by what we have” - Richard Robbins
Last Wednesday February 4th 2015 I attended the ‘free’ speaking session given freely by none other than Canadian real estate genius and super star, Richard Robbins. Here in Calgary, it literally packed the Coast Pacific Hotel conference room in the NE to an amazing range and variety of real estate professionals in our province. My broker was very excited that I was going, however, I wasn’t sure as I had not heard of him before. I was expecting a distant, non-engaging event, where I would be constantly ‘sold’ something in return for snippets of his experience and advise. I was, I admit, pleasantly surprised. He delivered some real pieces that instantly made sense to how and why I had ended up in real estate and, ultimately, at his event. I summarize his points here, as they can be take always for anyone in business, working in a customer service career, or even working for anyone else – they are more about a lifestyle than about making a sale:
‘The way I see you do one thing is the way I think you do everything' - we forget sometimes that if we focus on doing a few things very well, almost excellent, is better than spreading our selves out too thin and just being mediocre at many things. It’s in how we drive a car, wear on a Sunday afternoon, deal with a waitress in a restaurant, and how we deliver a business card. If I like the way you do this action, chances are, I will like how you do an alternative action.
‘The more we give, the more we get’ - this made sense for me, as I have always tried to work at being a small business owner that if I love and enjoy and give at what I am doing, then the customers, clients and money will follow.
‘It’s ok to say no’ - it is ok to say no to many things in life, and this also applies to those we work with or want to work with. It is assumed that because I am in front of you, that I will work with you and accept your services. Educate me; don’t persuade me.
So, as much as Mr. Robbins was here as a hot speaker on the topic of real estate and selling in front of a mass of real estate agents, the few take-a-ways for me can apply to much more than my business practice: they are maxims that are well suited to a successful, happy and healthy lifestyle. I am glad I went and will definitely consider adding his book, Deliver The Unexpected (Wiley, 2013), to my reading list!