Happy New Year to all.  I hope you all enjoyed a safe and healthy holiday season.

While I’d prefer not to re-hash and re-live the last two weeks of extreme weather that’s surrounded us in the GTA, I did want to share a real estate anecdote for which weather, timing and a dash of experience played a role.

I’m a firm proponent of buying residential in the winter months.  Among the reasons are the following:

  • Limited competition among buyers.  I’ve known very prospective home buyers who have looked forward to the stress and frustration associated with multiple offers and bidding wars.  Unless you’re the last one standing, there’s little pleasure to be had from the experience.
  • Anxious sellers.  Although each case is unique, I will make it a priority to try and assess the motivation behind the listing of a home during a period of deep freeze particularly when the sellers include a family with school age children.  Understanding the seller’s position can often provide tactical leverage during negotiations.
  • Inspection of prospective home fighting the elements.  It’s no revelation that we live in a climate where Mother Nature can be ruthless during our winter months.   The efficiency and comfort of a home will often be at its most vulnerable state during this time.  For that reason, prospective buyers will be less surprised by potential inadequacies which can be readily uncovered during their inspections (think cold floors, drafts, under capacity of heat sources etc.)  That said, one would need to temper this strategy for the subject property.  The classic example is a subject property that includes a pool whose inspection will be often be limited to visual inspection at best.

Here’s an example.

Recently, I was fortunate to assist a referred couple with their first home purchase.  I say fortunate because these individuals had a clear unwavering objective that was based on thoughtful research, budgeting and planning.   We met on a Saturday, exchanged thoughts and opinions that evening and began our quest the very next day.   No surprise here that these are well educated and focussed professionals, a cohort I particularly appreciate when it comes to communication and expectations.

After a relatively brief courting period that lasted about a month, we landed upon a unique property of interest.  Admittedly, it was not a property that I would have expected to peak the imagination of my clients.   However, they were able to see the long term value of the property which was in keeping with their anticipated holding period.  There was no denying how smitten they were with the property.  My job was accordingly made easy and difficult at the same time.  On the one hand, it allowed me to laser focus and provide the requisite analysis and research of the subject on all levels.  On the other hand, I was charged with a duty of care to provide an unbiased viewpoint and opinion based on my findings and experience.    I never take this responsibility lightly and in that respect, I’m unabashedly guilty of being a poor “salesman”.    If it walks like an overpriced duck and quacks like an overpriced duck…I’m going to be the first to let you know it’s overpriced, foie gras and all.

My analysis established a price range that represented fair value.  In this particular case, the number of comparable properties that recently sold was very limited.  Hence the need to expand both the sales period and geographical radius.   Although I do review both current and expired listings, they are given very little weight particularly when I’m representing a buyer.

What was interesting about this experience was that we had engaged the seller at the beginning of December with an initial offer.  Unfortunately and as to be expected, it wasn’t as simple as that.  This case however was much different.  While my clients and I were constantly in discussion, the same could not be said for our experience with the vendors.  Suffice it to say, it was a challenge to communicate, engage and negotiate.  To the credit of my clients they stuck with we and the process, maintained patience and set aside their emotional frustrations in order to keep focussed on the prize.  I would suggest that 9 out of 10 clients would have moved on to other properties had they had the same experience.

Fast forward (if you can call it that) and we found ourselves in a stalemate going into the last week of Christmas, and certainly not for lack of trying.   We had no response in the way of counter and at this point and we had agreed to set the process aside.  Given the timing and the dipping temperatures, we did not feel there was a great risk of any competing offers.  More importantly, we felt we had done all that we could and essentially delivered an offer that effectively addressed the needs of all parties.

And then, this happens…

Ice Storm 2013


Can you guess what happens next?  That’s right, I get a call the afternoon of the ice storm directly from the seller advising me that “we’ve thought it through over the past week and I think we want to go ahead”.  I was at home at the time (as you can imagine) and I swear my wife’s eyes rolled into her head like cherries on a one-armed bandit in old town Las Vegas.  “I suppose the Apocalypse had no bearing on the decision”, she piped in.

I notified my clients who happened to be in the vicinity visiting on family and we agreed to meet at 8pm that night, at the subject home.